Forests, considered to be a major partner in fighting greenhouse gases, are now at the center of a new study being released to the United Nations Forum on Forestry over the next two weeks. The United Nations Forum on Forestry will meet April 20 - May 1 at UN Headquarters in New York City to discuss various forest related issues.
Slated for discussion is "Adaptation of Forests and People to Climate Change - A Global Assessment". The report, coordinated by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) and conducted through an alliance of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF), will outline the role of forest "sinks" related to absorption of greenhouse gases.
Study results state, "The critical role of forests as massive "sinks" for absorbing greenhouse gases is "at risk of being lost entirely" to climate change-induced environmental stresses that threaten to damage and even decimate forests worldwide."
In a press release (pdf) issued by the IUFRO last Friday, Finnish professor Risto Seppälä, states that, "We normally think of forests as putting the brakes on global warming, but in fact over the next few decades, damage induced by climate change could cause forests to release huge quantities of carbon and create a situation in which they do more to accelerate warming than to slow it down." Seppälä chaired the expert panel that produced the report.
Deforestation accounts for approximately 20% of greenhouse gases. But forests also currently absorb more carbon than they emit. More than a quarter of the world's carbon emissions are captured and stored by the world's tress and soil. Authors of "Adaptation of Forests and People to Climate Change" fear that an overall temperature rise of just 2.5 degrees Celsius (4.5 degrees Fahrenheit) could reverse that trend.
Forestry experts agree that more needs to be understood regarding forests and their capacity to absorb greenhouse gases in the face of global warming. Lead author of the report Andreas Fischlin (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) concludes that, "Even if adaptation measures are fully implemented, unmitigated climate change would, during the course of the current century, exceed the adaptive capacity of many forests. The fact remains that the only way to ensure that forests do not suffer unprecedented harm is to achieve large reductions in greenhouse gas emissions."
The report represents the first true global assessment of the ability of forests to adapt to climate change. Approximately 35 of the world's top scientists in the field of forestry contributed to the completion of the report.
Climate change negotiations will continue in Copenhagen in December of this year. Scientists and concerned parties hope that discussions at this week's forum will spearhead further discussion and policy.
To read more about the study, please visit eurekalert.org