Forests in Our Changing World
6 x 9
6 x 9
Scientists tell us that climate change is upon us and the physical world is changing quickly with important implications for biodiversity and human well-being. Forests cover vast regions of the globe and serve as a first line of defense against the worst effects of climate change, but only if we keep them healthy and resilient.
Forests in Our Changing World tells us how to do that. Authors Joe Landsberg and Richard Waring present an overview of forests around the globe, describing basic precepts of forest ecology and physiology and how forests will change as earth’s climate warms. Drawing on years of research and teaching, they discuss the values and uses of both natural and plantation-based forests. In easy-to-understand terms, they describe the ecosystem services forests provide, such as clean water and wildlife habitat, present economic concepts important to the management and policy decisions that affect forests, and introduce the use of growth-and-yield models and remote-sensing technology that provide the data behind those decisions.
This book is a useful guide for undergraduates as well as managers, administrators, and policy makers in environmental organizations and government agencies looking for a clear overview of basic forest processes and pragmatic suggestions for protecting the health of forests.
"Forests in Our Changing World provides an insight and sobering look at the status of our forests. Forestry professionals, land managers, naturalists, ecologists, and students of these subjects will appreciate this work."
"In just seven chapters this readable book presents an overview of the whole gamut of forestry and forest-related activities today and looks to the future in a changing world."
BC Forest Professional
"The book offers much food for thought regarding the future of these ecosystems."
"Forests in Our Changing World is a useful primer that will introduce students and the interested public to the field of forestry."
San Francisco Book Review"
"A first-class introduction to current practices and emerging challenges in forestry."
"Based on a deep knowledge of the physiology and ecology of forests, with a focus on the tensions between managing for their ecosystem service values and immediate economic values, this is an excellent, authoritative book on what is needed to maintain and use forests in a rapidly changing world."
Brian Walker, CSIRO, Australia
"Global forests provide wood, but also ecosystem services such as clean water, carbon storage, and biodiversity. Forests in Our Changing World explains the complex interactions between forests and their environment and highlights the risks of nonsustainable management."
Sune Linder, Professor Emeritus of Forest Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
"Two experienced researchers and teachers bring together a deep understanding of how forests work and a sobering look at their status in a rapidly changing world. Landsberg and Waring combine history, science, and clear thinking about the future in a book that will be a valuable addition to introductory classes at the college level."
John Aber, Professor, Environmental Science, University of New Hampshire
Chapter 1. Introduction: Looking Back and Into the Future
-Forests in Human History
-Outline of the Rest of the Book
-A Look into the Future
Chapter 2. Forest Types around the World
-The Main Forest Types
-On Being Evergreen or Deciduous
-Plantations and Managed Forests
Chapter 3. Weather and Climate Determine Forest Growth and Type
-How Trees Grow
-Weather Factors: Temperature
-Weather Factors: Solar Radiation
-Weather Factors: Air Humidity
-Weather Factors: Precipitation and Hydrology
-Implications of Forest Clearance for Hydrology and Climate
Chapter 4. The Causes and Consequences of Rapid Climate Change
-The Causes of Global Warming
-Fossil Fuel Burning and Land Use Change
-How Fast Is the Earth Warming?
-A Word about Denialists
-On Variation and Uncertainty
-Extreme Weather Events
-TheImpacts and Implications of Climate Change
Chapter 5. How We Value and Use Forests
-Ecosystem Services and Universal Values of Forests
-The Uses of Forests
-Abuses of Forests
Chapter 6. The Economics and Practices of Forest Management
-An Outline of Relevant Economic Theory
-Microeconomics: Commercial Operations on State Land
-Microeconomics: Commercial Operations on Private Land
-Forest Growth and Yield Estimates
-Fire and Its Management
Chapter 7. The Future for Forests
-Conserve the Forests
-Management for the Future: Natural Forests
-Management for the Future: Plantations
Most people now accept that the world’s climate is changing rapidly as a result of human activities — mainly the direct emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that trap heat radiating from the earth, causing the temperature of our small blue planet to rise. This is leading to all sorts of political, economic and ecological problems.
The effects of climate change caused by rising global temperatures are increasingly well documented, and we know what we need to do to slow the process (halting it is, unfortunately, impossible in the foreseeable future) enough to give us, and the world’s ecosystems, time to adapt to it. The actions needed involve difficult decisions and changes that will affect our social and economic systems. The whole business is made more difficult by the fact that there are people — and politicians seem to be well represented in this group — who do not accept the reality of climate change.
Things are changing in this respect. Around the world there is widespread acceptance that climate change is real and serious, and of the fact that human activities are responsible for the speed at which it’s happening. However, we have just seen the election as (prospective) president of the United States, of a man who says climate change is a hoax, so it’s clear that the battle to convince as many people as possible of the reality and seriousness of the problem must go on. It seems that the best political outcome would be to persuade governments to tax carbon emissions. This would have all sorts of benefits for the economies of the countries that do it, as well as being the most effective measure anyone has thought of to check, and reduce, emissions while speeding the switch to more sustainable energy sources.
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2012
The economic and ecological problems created by climate change include rising sea levels, more frequent and severe droughts, affecting food production in some parts of the world, and more frequent severe weather – storms, floods and heat waves. Natural ecosystems such as forests are subject to increasingly frequent disease and insect attacks as well as severe fires. But, besides being strongly affected by climate change, forests have an important role in mitigating it.
As scientists we have long been concerned with the general health and productivity of forests, with how to manage them to deal with the impacts of climate change and how forest management can help mitigate the problem.
Forests are huge sponges (or sinks) for carbon dioxide. Trees grow by absorbing CO2 and using the sun’s energy to turn the gas into carbohydrates—wood.
It has been estimated that forests fix, annually, about 60% of the emissions from fossil fuel burning and cement making — the latter a very large source of CO2. Young, actively-growing forests fix more CO2 than mature forests (although mature forests store more carbon). The bad news is that almost all the carbon fixed annually by forests is returned to the atmosphere by deforestation and burning. These statistics tell us that any management practice which increases (or just sustains) the growth rate of forests increases the amount of CO2 they take out of the atmosphere each year, while reducing deforestation rates will reduce the rate of accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere.
We mentioned earlier that climate change is making some forests more susceptible to disease and insect attack. Trees stressed by high temperatures and drought are less resistant to such attacks than healthy, unstressed trees. If a high proportion of the trees in a stand are killed, the stand becomes nothing more than a fire-storm waiting to happen. In the past year, across the western US, in Australia and Canada and Europe, these firestorms have happened quite frequently, with massive impacts on people and economies as well as regional ecosystems.
We can’t do anything about the high temperatures and droughts in particular areas, but forest management practices such as thinning which, in effect, makes more of the water in the soil available to the remaining trees, help keep stands vigorous and healthy and more resistant to disease and insect attack. Prescribed ‘cool’ burns, carried out when the forests are not dry enough for the fires to explode into out-of-control wildfires, offer another approach.
We have remote sensing tools, now, that allow us to monitor forests from space. We can detect and quantify the illegal logging, rampant in many parts of South America, in Indonesia and other Asian countries, and so bring pressure on those countries to curb the practice. We have developed models that use observations made by satellites, with weather data and information about soils, to predict forest growth and rates of carbon sequestration, by forests around the world. Models are also available that can predict when and where forests are most susceptible to fire, insects, and disease. We can use these, with data acquired from satellites, to assess the effectiveness of global management and plan how to improve it.
It may be that the battle against climate change cannot be won— at least, it seems unlikely that hopes for keeping average temperature changes to 2oC or less will be realized. That being the case, as well as continued efforts to restrain and reduce our carbon emissions, we have to learn to manage the situation in which the world finds itself. Resilience — the capacity to bounce back, to recover or to find a new acceptable route — has to be the operative word. For a resilient world we need very large areas of healthy forests.
For a long time we ecologists thought that we could predict not only how forests would grow but also how their composition was likely to change over time. And we could predict the effects of management actions: for example, If we chose to thin stands of trees in certain ways, we would expect predictable increases in the growth of the remaining trees, with more shrubs, grasses, and seedlings colonizing the gaps below the trees.
But those old expectations no longer apply. Changes in climate are making the growth patterns of forests in particular areas different from those they followed in the past. And the changes mean that established forests are less well adapted to their home range than they used to be. As a case in point, the rate of climatic warming is so rapid that ponderosa pine trees on the Canadian border will need to sprout legs to enable them to move north 60 miles a decade to keep up with climatic conditions to which they are adapted. That’s not going to happen, with or without a climate change denier in the White House.
Another surprise is that, where we might expect warming to increase the growth rates of subalpine forests, these forests are dying as they have become more vulnerable to insect and disease outbreaks, as well as to wildfires. Subalpine forests are squeezed between the more temperate species encroaching from below and barriers of rocky, infertile soils, or no land at all to migrate to, at higher elevations. Even more shocking, large trees have become more susceptible to climate change where they were once more resilient than smaller trees with less developed root systems.
What can we do to mitigate the effects of climate change on forests, besides planting different species in new places? One action would be to maintain a mix of tree species that exhibit a range of tolerances to climatic conditions as well as to insects and diseases.
Alternatively, where only one species now dominates, as is the case in the ponderosa pine forests of southwestern United States, controlled fires can keep fuel from accumulating and reduce competition among the larger trees for water.
Among the most valuable tools we have to pin-point where forests are thriving and where they are dying are nearly 60 years of satellite monitoring by NASA and NOAA government agencies. These records provide a way to separate intentional removal of trees from those killed by wildfires, disease and insects. They also provide the most efficient way to monitor carbon sequestration policies and to verify model predictions.
Perhaps the greatest danger to the work of scientists studying climate change is the Trump administration’s stated goal of abolishing NASA entire Earth Science Division. That’s one threat every citizen interested in our future can do something about today to affect the world our children and grandchildren inherit. Do it!
International Day of Forests was on Tuesday, March 21. While reflecting on the day, we asked Joe Landsberg and Richard Waring, authors of Forests in Our Changing World, if days like these have any meaning. Here's what they had to say: "Most specially designated days, beyond religious and memorialm days, have little meaning for the vast majority of people.We have arbor day in this country that involves the supervised action of planting trees. That probably makes an impression on kids, who, as they age, can return to see their plantings grow, and encourage their kids to appreciate urban trees, if nothing else."
Forests in Our Changing World discusses how to keep forests healthy and resilient in the face of climate change. Check out the Introduction from the book below.
Do you think days like International Day of Forests matter? Comment why or why not below.
Katharine Sucher is the Publicity & Marketing Assistant at Island Press.