Early action needed to counter climate change

KARACHI: Early action and more investments are needed to respond to the threats of climate change on the world’s forests. It will probably cost less to adjust forest management strategies immediately to the impacts of climate change than to react to the aftermath of climate-inflicted damage, said Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the UN said in its new Climate change guidelines for forest managers.

Early action will also help to improve the livelihoods and food security of local communities. Decreased forest ecosystem services, especially water-cycle regulation, soil protection and the conservation of biodiversity, may affect millions of people in rural areas, who use forests for food, fuel, timber, medicines and income. For example, 4-5 million women in West Africa earn about 80 percent of their income from the collection, processing, and the marketing of nuts harvested from shea trees.

“Climate change is impairing the ability of forests to deliver critical goods and ecosystem services. Forest managers urgently need to respond to a wide range of threats posed by climate change. These guidelines will help them to assess and monitor the climate-change impacts applicable for each type of forest and region,” said Simmone Rose, FAO’s Forestry Officer.

“For example, Asia is affected by the increase of extreme weather events, in some parts of Latin America rising temperatures and lower rainfall have resulted in the increased incidence of forest fires, whereas more severe droughts in Africa in recent years threaten already scarce water resources in the region,” she said.

Climate change is altering precipitation and runoff patterns. While some parts of the world are experiencing reduced precipitation and drought, others are suffering from more intense rainfall and associated erosion and flooding. Forests in upper watersheds reduce storm runoff and erosion, and forests adjacent to water bodies help stabilize river banks, reduce the amount of sediments entering the water and filter pollutants.

Forests’ capacity to contribute to water availability and quality will be reduced if they are negatively affected by climate change. Forest managers should anticipate and respond to these threats by identifying watersheds that are most vulnerable to climate change. Maintaining healthy forests and restoring degraded ones in the watershed will help to reduce erosion, to increase slope stability and to ensure the availability of clean and regular water supplies.

Climate change, particularly extreme weather events, can affect forest pests and the damage they cause directly, by altering their reproduction and spread, and indirectly by changing the abundance of competitors, parasites and predators. Prevention measures may include the selection of species and varieties to suit the local conditions and thinning practices that reduce pest populations and favour natural enemies. The careful monitoring of pest populations will help determine when control activities are needed.

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