Climate Smart Forestry: the missing link

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Climate-Smart Forestry (CSF) is the missing link in global decarbonization strategies, according to a new paper by a team of authors led by Hans Verkerk from EFI.

The authors urge countries to consider CSF, and assess its potential contribution in their national mitigation and adaptation strategies as part of their Nationally Determined Contributions.

To achieve the objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement, a significant reduction in carbon dioxide emissions is needed, as well as increased removals by carbon sinks. Forests and forestry can play an important role in fighting against climate change; reducing deforestation and forest degradation lowers greenhouse emissions, forest management can maintain or enhance forest carbon stocks and sinks, and wood products can store carbon over the long-term and can substitute for fossil-intensive and non-renewable products, such as construction, chemicals, textiles or plastics, thereby reducing emissions.

Climate Smart Forestry takes a holistic approach and builds on the concepts of sustainable forest management, with a strong focus on climate and ecosystem services. It aims to connect mitigation with adaptation measures to increase the effectiveness of carbon removals and enhance forest resilience, and has three mutually reinforcing components:

  • Increasing carbon storage in forests and wood products, in conjunction with the provisioning of other ecosystem services
  • Enhancing health and resilience through adaptive forest management
  • Using wood resources sustainably to substitute non-renewable, carbon-intensive materials.

“CSF aims to have a mix of management strategies that are regionally relevant and that acknowledge all carbon pools simultaneously” says Hans Verkerk. “In this way, CSF can provide longer-term and larger mitigation benefits, while supporting biodiversity and other ecosystem services” he continues.

The authors point out that successful CSF requires a balancing act between wood production, biodiversity, and other important ecosystem services (for example water supply, storm protection, recreation, genetic resources etc). The optimal balance will vary from country to country and region to region depending on the socio-ecological and technological framework, climate change impacts, and cultural aspects.

For example, intact forest landscapes might be better preserved for their unique biological diversity, carbon storage, and other ecosystem services, while regions with planted forests (and with a long-term forestry tradition) can place more emphasis on wood production.

More information

P.J.Verkerk, R.Costanza, L.Hetemäki, I.Kubiszewski, P.Leskinen, G.J.Nabuurs, J.Potočnik, M.Palahí. Climate-Smart Forestry: the missing link. Forest Policy and Economics, Volume 115, June 2020.

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