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.
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.
“The world has never had such strong evidence of the role of indigenous peoples in conserving the forests that represent the one existing solution to climate change.”
Abdon Nababan, Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago
Local land claims must be protected to stop greenhouse gas emissions from tree felling, forum hears.
Indigenous people prevent carbon emissions through their stewardship of forests and pristine environments, a side event at the COP 21 summit heard.
A study presented at COP 21’s Global landscapes forum showed thatindigenous people oversee around a fifth of the world’s carbon stock, in the form of tropical forests. Altogether, 168 billion tonnes of carbon are stored on indigenous lands — around three times the world’s annual emissions — and this is in danger of being released if the societies looking after these lands are not strengthened, the study found.
“We know that the respect and recognition of indigenous people’s rights, land tenure and traditional knowledge have contributed to more sustainable use and management of various ecosystems and landscapes,” said Grace Balawag, the deputy coordinator of the Indigenous Peoples’ Partnership on Climate Change, Forests and Sustainable Development.
The study was presented at the 5 December event in Paris, France, by an alliance of indigenous peoples’ groups from Africa, Asia and Latin America. It was discussed alongside several research papers and initiatives highlighting the role that indigenous people play in preventing the destruction of forests and the release of large carbon stocks.
Large trees — key climate influencers — die first in drought
First systematic review of patterns, 38 worldwide forests studied
Source:DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory
Summary:In forests worldwide, drought consistently has had a more detrimental impact on the growth and survival of larger trees, new research shows. In addition, while the death of small trees may affect the dominance of trees in a landscape, the death of large trees has a far worse impact on the ecosystem and climate’s health, especially due to the important role that trees play in the carbon cycle.
In forests worldwide, drought consistently has had a more detrimental impact on the growth and survival of larger trees, new research shows. In addition, while the death of small trees may affect the dominance of trees in a landscape, the death of large trees has a far worse impact on the ecosystem and climate’s health, especially due to the important role that trees play in the carbon cycle.
“Previous studies at a few sites had shown that large trees suffer more than small trees during and after droughts, and our theory suggested this should be a globally consistent pattern, but this project was the first to test this hypothesis globally.” said Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Nate McDowell, a renowned forest ecologist and plant physiologist who coauthored a paper in the journal Nature Plants highlighting this research.
A new report shows how forests around the world can help eliminate malnutrition while fighting climate change.
Often, feeding the world’s growing population and protecting natural landscapes are pitted against one another. We know that much of the world’s deforestation, particularly in the tropics, is associated with the expansion of crops like palm oil and soy, as well as cattle and cocoa.
Yet a new report from the International Union of Forest Research Organizations shows that forests can play an important role in eliminating hunger and creating more food security. This is important, because protecting forests has been identified as a key and cost-effective means of fighting climate change. So, a better understanding of how forests help feed people may be another tool in the arsenal of their defense.
Over a billion people around the world experience chronic hunger, and twice as many suffer from periods of food insecurity. “Unfortunately, there is little current appreciation of the diverse ways in which these tree-based landscapes can supplement agricultural production systems in achieving global food security,” the authors write.
The report examines the nutritional benefits of both natural forests and agro-forests, where food trees are cultivated among other species of trees and are still part of a functioning ecosystem. They find that tree foods can help create more nutritionally balanced diets, particularly for developing areas in the tropics. Seeds, nuts and fruit can be important sources of vitamins and minerals, particularly for communities that are otherwise dependent on starchier staples. Non-tree foods can also add to a wider food portfolio, such as insects, edible greens, fungi and bushmeat.
Women from the Gunduribadi tribal village in the eastern Indian state of Odisha patrol their forests with sticks to prevent illegal logging. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS
Watch What Happens When Tribal Women Manage India’s Forests
“No one can cheat us of even one metre of our mother, the forest. She has given us life and we have given our lives for her.” — Kama Pradhan, a tribal woman from the Gunduribadi village
Unfolding out of sight and out of mind of India’s policy-making nucleus in the capital, New Delhi, this quiet drama – involving the 275 million people who reside in or on the fringes of the country’s bountiful forests – could be the defining struggle of the century.
At the forefront of the movement are tribal communities in states like Odisha who are determined to make full use of a2012 amendment to India’s Forest Rights Act (FRA) to claim titles to their land, on which they can carve out a simple life, and a sustainable future for their children.
One of the most empowering provisions of the amended FRA gave forest dwellers and tribal communities the right to own, manage and sell non-timber forest products (NTFP), which some 100 million landless people in India depend on for income, medicine and housing.
Women have emerged as the natural leaders of efforts to implement these legal amendments, as they have traditionally managed forestlands, sustainably sourcing food, fuel and fodder for the landless poor, as well as gathering farm-fencing materials, medicinal plants and wood to build their thatched-roof homes.
Under the leadership of women like Pradhan, 850 villages in the Nayagarh district of Odisha state are collectively managing 100,000 hectares of forest land, with the result that 53 percent of the district’s land mass now has forest cover.
Upland women weed their rice fields, an integrated method of agro-forestry in Mokpon Village, Laos. UN Photo/Lamphay Inthakoun
New UN-backed report emphasizes possible contribution of forests to ending hunger
A new United Nations-backed report on the link between forests and food production and nutrition says that woodlands could be the key to ending hunger and will be intimately linked to the global fight against climate change.
“What the report is trying to get us to focus on is the relatively neglected contribution that forests and trees make to food security and nutrition,” said Bhaskar Vira, who serves as Chair of the Expert Panel on Forests and Food Security. “Not necessarily neglected by the people who actually consume them but possibly neglected in some of the policy discourses.”
He stressed that it was understood in the report that conventional agriculture would remain the major source of people’s nutrition needs but underlined the complementary role that forests and tree-based systems would also play in feeding the world.
“We’re not trying to suggest that forests and tree-based systems will replace agricultural in relation the critical relationship between crops and food,” said Mr. Vira. “But what we document in extensive detail is the role that forests and tree-based systems already play in supplementing people’s diets and the important roles they play in supplying people with a nutritionally balanced diet.”
Apart from the importance of forests and trees to food security and nutrition, the report’s other key messages are that integrated governance is important in the interaction between different areas of land-use, that local control of forests are vital to their well-being and to food security as a whole, and that there is a need going forward to reimagine forests and food security.