Forests perform a huge range of functions critical to a healthy biosphere

Photo credit : WVC 1999 PENRITH1 copy.jpg

Field work for the Olympic Games in Sydney (Australia) – The Penrith area.


Research helps forests adapt to and mitigate a changing climate

“Resilient and diverse forests are critical to maintaining a livable planet.” This simple statement encapsulates both a potential tragedy, if underestimated, and a critical imperative for humanity if fully accepted: which is to conserve and restore the planet’s forests in the face of rapidly growing threats.

Forests perform a huge range of functions critical to a healthy biosphere. They stabilize soils, maintain moisture levels and fertility and are home to a vast diversity of plant, animal and microbial species, many of which sustain nearby human communities. Forests also sequester carbon and produce oxygen, and so are critical to a stable climate and a breathable atmosphere.

Maintaining and expanding natural forest cover is therefore an essential component of an intelligent response to the climate crisis. However, given the rapidity with which the climate is changing and the impacts of these changes on tree populations, it also presents a complexity of challenges.

Research spanning two decades and multiple continents, which has been reviewed in the recent article, The role of forest genetic resources in responding to biotic and abiotic factors in the context of anthropogenic climate change — part of the Forest Genetic Resources series in a special edition of the Forest Ecology & Management journal — sets out these challenges and points to strategies for addressing them when undertaking conservation and restoration projects.

Dr Judy Loo, Leader of Bioversity International’s Forest Genetic Resources and Restoration Science Domain, who made the above statement, is one of the authors of the article. “Resilience,” she explains, “comes from the ability to adapt to change; that ability comes largely from genetic diversity.”

Species respond to a changing environment by means of one of three processes. The first is migration, in which a population moves over time to a more amenable environment.


Read the full article: Bioversity International

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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