Depleting forest cover is more than 'carbon warehouses': study
World's rapidly dwindling forests should be valued as more than just "carbon warehouses" to mitigate the problem of climate change, a study done by International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) said.
According to reports, biodiversity is found to be a critical determinant of a forest's ability to absorb greenhouse gases. It also stressed that accounting for those who live in or near forests when implementing REDD+ increases the likelihood of achieving carbon and biodiversity goals.
"The study comes at a crucial point in time as climate negotiators and forest stakeholders ponder ways to move forward with REDD+ agreements reached at the previous climate summit in Durban," said Alexander Buck, executive director of IUFRO - the world's leading network of forest scientists.
Buck said the goals to secure social and environmental benefits, good governance and longterm financing are also critically important.
More than 60 scientists from around the globe collaborated on the peer-reviewed publication "Understanding Relationships between Biodiversity, Carbon, Forests and People: The Key to Achieving REDD+ Objectives. A Global Assessment Report," which was coordinated by IUFRO on behalf of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF).
The full report will be formally presented at Forest Day-6 on Dec 2 during the United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Doha, Qatar that is slated to be held from November 26 to December 7.
The report is a comprehensive scientific analysis focusing of the relationship between biodiversity, forest management and climate change mitigation in the framework of the UN-backed initiative REDD+ (reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and enhancing forest carbon stocks in developing countries).
It also examines the social implications of forest and land management interventions envisaged under REDD+, emphasising the need for an integrated landscape management approach and the fine-tuning of local strategies that involve people who have a stake in forests.
"Actions that reduce deforestation and degradation are likely to have the most immediate and greatest benefits for both carbon and biodiversity", said John Parrotta, an IUFRO scientist working with the United States Forest Service (USFS) and the chair of the global forest expert panel on biodiversity, forest management and REDD+, which prepared the study.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, the rate of deforestation, mainly resulting from the conversion of forests to agriculture, was estimated to be 13 to 16 million hectares per year between 1990 and 2010.
Forest loss is the second largest source of carbon dioxide emissions generated by humans. At the same time, it is a major cause of global biodiversity decline and could further reduce the ability of forests to effectively provide ecosystem services. As a result, human well-being, particularly for those people most dependent on forests and most vulnerable to poverty, could be significantly and adversely impacted.
The report, coordinated by IUFRO, notes that globally, some two billion hectares of Land, an area greater than that of South America, is potentially available for forest restoration.
"There is no one-size-fits-all solution to forest loss and degradation. Impacts of REDD+ interventions are likely to vary significantly across different forest types and landscape conditions. These impacts may occur outside the area of management or in the
future, and they can also evolve over time," said Parrotta.
He noted that the report stressed on how each REDD+ project must be designed to best fit the characteristics of the forest and surrounding landscape at hand. Potential trade-offs between climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation goals need to be carefully
"There is clear evidence that including objectives to improve the livelihoods of forest-dependent people and local communities will strengthen local involvement and acceptance, and thereby support REDD+ goals," said Christoph Wildburger, the coordinator of IUFRO's Global Forest Expert Panels (GFEP) initiative.
He said socio-economic impacts should therefore be considered early on in REDD+ planning and implementation.
The report further points out that the rights and livelihoods of the people potentially impacted by these activities need to be taken into account in any management decision related to forests and land use changes.
An innovative REDD+ pilot project in Tanzania, for example, demonstrated the value of engaging village councils and assemblies in the joint forest management of state reserved forests and the community-based forest management of village lands, it said.
The particular project successfully increased communities' revenues from forest management and generated new income streams to support community forestry while also bringing carbon benefits.