Managing forests – managing climate?

Researchers, students, politicians and business representatives discuss the influence of forest management on climate change at the ongoing HENVI Science Days.

Managing forests – managing climate?

It is a well-known fact that mitigating climate change means the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Another well-known, but often neglected, phenomenon is that carbon dioxide is effectively bound by green plants through photosynthesis and eventually stored in biomass. In other words, the more forest covers our planet, the more carbon dioxide is ‘swallowed’.

“Consequently, the clear cutting of forests, particularly in the tropics, has been estimated to contribute about one fifth of the increase of atmospheric CO2 concentration,” reveals Kaisa Korhonen-Kurki, HENVI research coordinator.

“However,” Professor Eero Nikinmaa, the leader of the HENVI-funded research programme on forests and climate change adds, “The overall picture is complex. The dark canopies of boreal forests, for instance, have been estimated to warm the climate more than their carbon binding cools it because they absorb sunlight more efficiently than open fields.” Careful planning and sensible forest management on a local and global level is the necessary conclusion.

“This year’s HENVI Science Days discuss how these complex interactions could be taken into account in forest management practices,” explains Korhonen-Kurki.

Constance McDermott, Senior Research Fellow in Forest Governance from the University of Oxford, is one of the Science Days’ keynote speakers. “Even though it was already estimated in 2007 that reducing forest loss could make a significant contribution to mitigating climate change, regional and global actors vary in the priority they place on mitigating climate change, economic development, biodiversity conservation and a number of other objectives,” Mc Dermott explains. “Unfortunately, there is a lack of attention to what has and has not worked in the past and a lack of incentive to listen to and build upon already existing experience.”

Most concerning for McDermott in the mitigation discussion is the narrow focus on reducing emissions by developing country forests. “It is the urban consumers who are the actual leading drivers of global deforestation,” argues McDermott, “and changing this dynamic requires rethinking entire systems of production and consumption.”

The Science Days are arranged by the Helsinki University Centre for Environment HENVI, partly in collaboration with the Finnish Forestry Development Centre, TAPIO. The free-of-charge event is financially supported by the Maj and Tor Nessling Foundation.

HENVI Science Days »»

Research Database TUHAT: Kaisa Korhonen-Kurki »»

Research Database TUHAT: Eero Nikinmaa »»

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Text: Claudia Gorr
Photo: 123rf
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