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Reports (Research Report) Year : 2012

Using Forests to Enhance Resilience to Climate Change


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has gathered substantial evidence on current and projected impacts of climate change across geographies, ecosystems, and sectors. Even under the most stringent mitigation scenarios, the world’s temperature will continue to increase, rendering adaptation strategies a necessity for long-term local and national planning. A focus on long-term adaptation strategies must not, however, eclipse the need to address severe challenges posed by current, aggravated climate variability. Although there are significant sub- regional differences, rainfall in Africa has declined over the past half century and drought events are manifesting a trend of heightened annual and seasonal variability. Southeast Asia has endured climate extremes that include monsoons, tropical cyclones, El Niño/La Niña-Southern Oscillation events, extreme variability in rainfall, and very high temperatures. Future climate change, coupled with a variety of anthropogenic pressures on ecosystems (for example, deforestation due to land conversion, pollution, or human development in floodplains), will only exacerbate these effects. Human activity is having a significant and, at times, escalating impact on the world's ecosystems and their ability to provide those critical services that are becoming increasingly important for societal adaptation to climate change. Unsustainable logging and agricultural practices in areas with significant gradients, for example, make it possible for intensification of hurricanes or extreme rainfall events to result in disastrous flooding and landslides. In other contexts, anthropogenic impacts are mixed. Some land use changes may combine with increased periods of drought to facilitate large- scale transitions between ecological forms (ex. from savannah to desert or from humid to dry forest system). In others, agricultural intensification combined with out-migration to cities and/or conservation policies may actually result in increased/maintained tree cover and agricultural productivity despite decreases in rainfall. Forest ecosystems provide human societies with a wide range of provisioning (for example, wood and non-timber forest products) and regulating services (for example, base flow and storm flow regulation) that reduce vulnerability at the local and sectoral levels. Ecosystem-based adaptation (EBA) is a useful approach for conserving these ecosystem services and reducing vulnerability, because it encompasses adaptation strategies that explicitly value the roles of ecosystem services in adaptation to climate change across sectors and scales. Ecosystem-based adaptation strategies can be cost-effective and sustainable, and generate a wide range of environmental, social, economic, and cultural benefits. Furthermore, EBA has the potential to address both the immediate needs of society and those necessary to prepare for future hazards, and would be a useful conceptual framework for helping to develop triple-win climate-smart agriculture approaches. Effective use of EBA strategies requires (1) sustainable management and adaptation of forest ecosystems in order to (2) ensure their roles in facilitating the adaptation of people and sectors. This is necessary because land use pressures coupled with climate change will have significant impacts on forest growth, species diversity, and critical functions that underpin the delivery of services. At present, sectors most dependent on forest ecosystem services have little incentive to invest in forest adaptation. Mainstreaming forests into the adaptation policies of other sectors requires cross-scale (local to national, and ideally international) and cross-sectoral approaches, because ecosystem benefits and management costs generally occur in different locations and in different sectors of society. This will require a greater understanding of how forest ecosystems reduce other sectors’ vulnerability to climate change, and how management of forest ecosystems in certain landscapes can assist with adaptation of forest systems. Implementation of EBA will require adapting and developing institutional arrangements to support cross-sectoral approaches and providing necessary incentives.
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cirad-01103965 , version 1 (16-01-2015)


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  • HAL Id : cirad-01103965 , version 1


Aaron Russell, Bruno Locatelli, Emilia Pramova, Godfrey Jeff Alumai, Diji Chandrasekharan. Using Forests to Enhance Resilience to Climate Change. [Research Report] Program on Forests (PROFOR), World Bank, Washington DC. 2012. ⟨cirad-01103965⟩
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