The water budget of forest ecosystems depends heavily on climate, site and forest structure. Forest structure is strongly influenced by forest management measures such as tree species selection, stand structure and density management, and harvesting methods.
Although the water cycle in forest stands is well understood, the role of forests in sustainable management of water resources and flood mitigation is often debated, as is the development strategy of promoting afforestation.
To help ground the debate in reliable science, from 12 to 16 November 2007 the Chinese Academy of Forestry hosted the workshop “Water Management through Forest Management”, jointly organized with the Forest Ecosytems Research Center of Goettingen University, Germany under the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) Division 8.01.04 – Water supply and quality. Held in Beijing, China, it was attended by 77 participants from 11 countries.
The workshop explored relations of forest management to two important aspects of water supply: provision of high-quality water to humans and water supply to the forest itself. The balance between available water and the water demands of forests has been less researched but is of great importance as many countries step up forest planting for carbon fixation, energy and wood supply and environmental restoration.
Presentations were grouped in five sessions:
The rapidly changing climate and forestry development may put the water-related functions of forests at risk. Increased drought stress may weaken the stability of the forest itself. Although answers are still needed on how to integrate management of forests and water to solve the varied problems of different regions, this workshop identified gaps in knowledge to help shape future research in integrated forest-water management, and represents a positive step in overcoming the prevailing monosectoral approaches.
FAO/ FO-6585/M. Kashio
The fifth session of the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe (MCPFE), “Forests for Quality of Life”, concluded with a ministerial declaration and resolutions on promotion of wood as a source of renewable energy and forest’s role in water protection in the context of climate change.
The conference, held in Warsaw, Poland from 5 to 7 November 2007, was jointly organized by Poland and Norway and attended by delegations from over 40 European countries, including 16 ministers responsible for forests and forestry. Discussions emphasized the role of forests in modern life in the face of challenges from socio-economic development, human pressure on natural resources and the consequences of climate change.
Lech Kaczy´nski, President of Poland, opened the conference, drawing attention to the need to reconcile economic development with protection of the natural environment.
The report State of Europe’s Forests 2007, jointly prepared by the MCPFE Liaison Unit Warsaw, FAO and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN-ECE), was presented at the conference. It indicates that both the area of forests in Europe and their productive potential are increasing. Over the past 15 years, the region has gained 13 million hectares of forest, an area the size of Greece. The quantity of wood resources is also steadily growing.
Forty MCPFE signatories adopted two resolutions for implementation at the national level. Warsaw Resolution 1, “Forests, wood and energy”, obliges States to increase the forest sector’s role in energy production and the use of forest biomass for renewable energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Noting the increasing competition in demand for wood for energy and industry, it calls for enhanced partnership of public and private forest owners, wood industry and energy producers.
Warsaw Resolution 2, “Forests and water”, stresses the role of forests in protecting the quality and quantity of water, preventing floods, mitigating the effects of drought and counteracting soil erosion. Countries make a commitment to manage forests sustainably in relation to water; to coordinate policies on forests and water; to develop knowledge and strategies related to consequences of climate change on forest and water interactions; and to further the economic valuation of water-related forest services.
In the Warsaw Declaration, countries pledge to undertake further activities towards implementation of sustainable forest management as an indispensable element of sustainable development. The declaration recognizes the importance of forests in improving quality of life, and commits countries to enhance the contribution of forests and sustainable forest management in combating climate change, conserving biological diversity, providing renewable energy and wood products, ensuring quality water supply and mitigating natural hazards and environmental degradation. Furthermore, it emphasizes collaboration of MCPFE with other regional processes, with synergies to facilitate a consistent Pan-European input to international initiatives.
In addition, delegates adopted ministerial statements on forest fires in South Europe and on a Pan-European Forest Week, to be held in October 2008, organized jointly by FAO, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the European Union and MCPFE.
The previous Ministerial Conferences were held in Strasbourg (1990), Helsinki (1993), Lisbon (1998) and Vienna (2003).
The Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released in 2007, indicates that in the 1990s nearly one-fifth of greenhouse gas emissions resulted from land-use change, primarily deforestation. This awareness has raised the prominence of forest conservation and sustainable forest management in global climate change discussions, and in particular in recent negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The United Nations Climate Change Conference, which included sessions of the Conference of the Parties (COP-13) to UNFCCC, its subsidiary bodies and the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, was held in Bali, Indonesia from 3 to 14 December 2007. The combined meetings drew more than 10 000 participants. The role of forests was discussed intensively. COP-13 culminated in the adoption of the Bali Action Plan, which outlines actions to 2012 and beyond.
The Bali Action Plan specifies an area for action related to forests: “Policy approaches and positive incentives on issues relating to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries; and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries”.
The COP also adopted a specific decision on reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD), which emphasized the urgency of taking further meaningful action to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries. Parties are encouraged to explore a range of actions to address the drivers of deforestation, including through demonstration activities. The UNFCCC Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technical Advice (SBSTA) is requested to undertake a programme of work on methodological issues related to policy approaches and positive incentives.
Furthermore, the COP adopted a decision revising the limit for small-scale afforestation and reforestation project activities under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) – an effort to stimulate more small-scale projects of this type. The decision increases the upper limit of annual greenhouse gas removals eligible for emission reduction credits from 8 to 16 kilotonnes.
The conference approved an adaptation fund to improve the defences of poor and vulnerable countries against the effects of climate change. The fund is intended to finance adaptation projects such as improved water supplies for drought-prone areas and conservation and restoration of mangroves for coastal protection. The fund will be administered by the Global Environment Facility and overseen by representatives from both industrialized and non-industrialized countries. Funding will come from a 2 percent levy on revenues generated by the CDM and thus will not depend on aid budgets.
To draw attention to forest issues and inform the discussions related to forests under negotiation at COP 13, on 8 December 2007 the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) organized a Forest Day which was co-hosted by the partners of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF). Four main sessions addressed methodological challenges in estimating forest carbon; market and governance; equity versus efficiency; and adaptation. In addition 25 side events focused on diverse climate-change related topics, including carbon emission abatement costs from reduced deforestation; the future of the land-use sector in carbon markets; funding for REDD; biofuels for climate change mitigation; and national experiences in baseline analysis of deforestation. Forest Day was attended by more than 800 people, including scientists, policy-makers and representatives of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.
CPF presented key recommendations to the Executive Secretary of UNFCCC related to the role of forests in combating climate change, including the need for:
The World Bank launched the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), a ten-year initiative to establish a forest carbon market that economically favours forest conservation and benefits developing countries. Nine industrialized countries have pledged US$155 million to start. Currently, developing countries cannot sell carbon credits from avoided deforestation or degradation; however, FCPF will support pilot efforts intended to help inform related decisions for the post-2012 climate change regime and for a potential carbon market mechanism.
Also at Bali, the Government of Norway announced that it is ready to provide funding of 3 billion kroner (about US$570 million) per year over a five-year period to support REDD efforts.