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Sustainable Forestry As a Way to Face Climate Threats to UK Forests

February 29, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 171

At the end of January 2012, the UK Forestry Commission announced the publication of a national Climate Change Risk Assessment by the UK Government. The risk assessment looks into the threats which UK forests are going to face due to a warming climate. Adapting the UK's forests to the new climate challenges will require the implementation of sustainable forestry practices, both on an institutional level and on behalf of private sector participants in forestry and timber investments.

The purpose of the UK Government report is to provide a comprehensive analysis of the new threats to the UK's forests and woodlands. As the climate warms, severe weather conditions such as draught and storms are expected to occur and gradually lead to a decline in the productivity of commercial tree species. In consequence, investments in sustainable forestry will be needed in order to improve the resilience of trees. Without the appropriate measures, the risk assessment findings show that timber yield in South East England for instance could fall by between 10 and 25 percent by the 2080s.

Sustainable forest management is one of the most effective ways to face the severe weather conditions likely to pose unprecedented challenges to the survival of the UK's forests. In 2011, the Forestry Commission itself published guidelines related to the implementation of sustainable forest management practices as a way to address climate change. According to the document, "Forests and Climate Change: UK Forestry Standard Guidelines", ensuring that a forest is diverse is likely to endow forests with greater resilience to the changing climate. This objective can be facilitated with the help of investments in sustainable timber and forestry practices leading to increased forest diversity and encouraging the natural regeneration of forests.

Another climate change threat recognised in the UK Government report is the increasing problem of pests and diseases in the UK woodlands. This is a relatively new threat since the relative isolation of the British Isles has to a certain extent served as a natural defence against invasive pests. However, as the climate gets warmer, the weather conditions become much more favourable for pest activity. In addition, some "alien" species are being transported in the UK via the international timber trade.

The most recent instance of a new pest threat to the UK's forests was reported by the Forestry Commission on 9 February 2012, when a damaging plant disease, almost unknown in Britain until recently, was confirmed in rare native juniper bushes in a nature reserve in the North Pennines of England. The disease is caused by a fungus-like pathogen known as Phytophthora austrocedrae, and poses a serious threat to juniper, a rare species in the UK. According to the Forestry Commission, it is presently uncertain how the organism entered the UK, especially considering that it has not been reported in any other countries with the exception of Argentina and Chile.

Dealing with the new tree disease and pest challenges also requires investments in sustainable forestry practices. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) recommends the implementation of phytosanitary standards and in particular, the use of Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM is considered to be a part of sustainable forest management and is often defined as a combination of prevention, observation and suppression measures.

As well as strengthening forest resilience, investment in sustainable forestry will help address the issue of climate change on another level. Since forests act as carbon sinks, managing them in a sustainable manner will enhance their carbon sequestration potential, which in turn will contribute to climate change mitigation in the UK. And the Forestry Commission guidelines point out that forests also mitigate climate change by being a source of renewable energy and sustainable wood products.

The Government Risk Assessment discloses that, besides the risks, the warming climate will also create some opportunities for sustainable forestry enterprises in the UK. One such opportunity will be the growing of timber species which would not have been viable hitherto due to the UK's climate in the past.

As climate change is going to pose new challenges to as well as opportunities for the UK's woodlands, sustainable forest management practices will have to be adopted on a broad level. The UK's participants in timber and forestry investments should therefore also take notice of the UK's Forestry Commission guidelines and recommendations.

Source: EzineArticles
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Sustainable Forestry


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