IBFRA Insight Process: Sustainable boreal forest management – challenges and opportunities for climate change mitigation
The circumboreal forest is a vast region with considerable diversity in forest ecosystem types, drivers of carbon dynamics, vulnerability to climate change, and types and intensity of forest management. The impacts of global environmental changes are already affecting the boreal forest. At present, large scientific uncertainties remain about the magnitude and direction of the future contribution of boreal forests to the global greenhouse gas balance. This uncertainty has major policy implications for the level of mitigation efforts that will be required in other sectors, if future atmospheric CO2 concentration targets are to be achieved.
Many opportunities exist to enhance the contribution of the boreal forest to domestic greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, largely through enhancement of forest productivity and reducing natural disturbances, through the use of wood products to store carbon, and by substituting harvested wood products for fossil based products, steel and concrete to reduce emissions in other sectors. The most appropriate mitigation actions will depend on the current forest conditions, climate change impacts, and the socio-economic and institutional context for mitigation actions. Therefore, mitigation strategies need to be regionally-differentiated portfolios of activities designed to meet carbon and other forest management objectives. Impacts of climate change on the forests need to be considered so that mitigation actions can be designed to also yield benefits for enhancement of forest resilience to climate change impacts and for other adaptation objectives.
This insight process originates from the circumboreal ministerial meeting in June 2018 where the ministers adopted the Haparanda declaration with a view to strengthen cooperation between boreal countries. It will address climate change impacts, role of forests in mitigating climate change and the ways in which the forest sector can contribute to net negative emissions with the ambition to be an IPCC-like assessment of scientific consensus on selected topics.
The IBFRA Insight Process will be transparent and balanced and result in a scientifically-credible document, not to be a “promotional” or advocacy paper, but a scientific assessment of the potential of the boreal forest to contribute to climate change mitigation. The overall goal is thus to present a study endorsed by an international team of experts from six boreal countries, peer-reviewed, and based on science and analyses.
The Future Forests platform at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences will take the lead of this insight process. Together with a committee of members appointed by the board of IBFRA the Future Forest platform will share responsibility to find representative experts from the boreal countries and ensure transparency in the process. The Swedish Forest Agency will finance the process within the framework of its mission from the Swedish government.
The framework of the project takes departure in a systematic compilation of basic forest sector data from the boreal countries. These data will be used to address questions of climate change mitigation potential for the boreal region. We will draw upon already existing integrative frameworks to explore the relation between silviculture and climate change mitigation. We will then apply these results at regional and national scales to estimate the both the short- and long-term climate change mitigation potential of various changes in silviculture considering both the substitution effects and the effects of carbon stock changes in the forest and in harvested wood products. The method can also estimate mitigation effects of new product-use strategies or if large managed forest areas are set aside for safeguard of biodiversity, recreational values and other non-wood based ecosystem services. The availability of quantitative estimates of climate benefit will allow for improved estimates of the trade-offs associated with changes in land-use and forest production. Hence, our comprehensive lifecycle analyses approach integrating biological and technological processes will enable the identification and analyses of different short- and long-term strategies to carbon management through land-use in boreal forests.