IPCC and Sustainable Forest Management

The IPCC’s “Summary for Policy Makers” of its “Climate Change and Land” may offer guidance to the USFS and other forest managers:

B 5. Sustainable land management, including sustainable forest management, can prevent and reduce land degradation, maintain land productivity, and sometimes reverse the adverse impacts of climate change on land degradation (very high confidence). It can also contribute to mitigation and adaptation (high confidence). Reducing and reversing land degradation, at scales from individual farms to entire watersheds, can provide cost effective, immediate, and long-term benefits to communities and support several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with co-benefits for adaptation (very high confidence) and mitigation (high confidence). Even with implementation of sustainable land management, limits to adaptation can be exceeded in some situations (medium confidence). {1.3.2, 4.1.5, 4.8, Table 4.2}  [Emphasis IPCC]


 B5.3. Reducing deforestation and forest degradation lowers GHG emissions (high confidence), with an estimated technical mitigation potential of 0.4–5.8 GtCO yr. By providing long-term livelihoods for communities, sustainable forest management can reduce the extent of forest conversion to non-forest uses (e.g., cropland or settlements) (high confidence). Sustainable forest management aimed at providing timber, fibre, biomass, non-timber resources and other ecosystem functions and services, can lower GHG emissions and can contribute to adaptation. (high confidence). {, 4.1.5, 4.3.2, 4.5.3,, 4.8.3, 4.8.4}

B5.4. Sustainable forest management can maintain or enhance forest carbon stocks, and can maintain forest carbon sinks, including by transferring carbon to wood products, thus addressing the issue of sink saturation (high confidence). Where wood carbon is transferred to harvested wood products, these can store carbon over the long-term and can substitute for emissions-intensive materials reducing emissions in other sectors (high confidence). Where biomass is used for energy, e.g., as a mitigation strategy, the carbon is released back into the atmosphere more quickly (high confidence). {2.6.1, 2.7, 4.1.5, 4.8.4, 6.4.1, Figure SPM.3, Cross- Chapter Box 7 in Chapter 6}


8 thoughts on “IPCC and Sustainable Forest Management”

  1. Do we all agree on what “sustainable forest management” means? I assume in contrast to profit-maximizing forest management? And as I point out occasionally, the Forest Service has defined “ecological sustainability” as “ecological integrity,” which is determined based on the natural range of variation.

    • Well, “profit-maximizing forest management” can be “sustainable forest management” — if it isn’t sustainable, it’s not good forestry. The trouble is that, whatever you think of “industrial clearcutting,” it can be sustainable.

          • >> A cornfield is largely sustainable as a cornfield.

            And most cornfields were once prairie, woodland, savannah, forest, etc. They were “clearcut” in order to make way for corn production. Or wheat, oats, apples, oranges, grapes, etc. Sustainable agriculture. This is very similar to sustainable “industrial forestry” but isn’t reviled as an evil. There are few calls for restoring agricultural lands to a natural state. There are no protests at harvest time. Farmers (except perhaps “corporate” farmers) are widely admired. Foresters are derided for doing essentially the same thing, though in many cases with a much lighter effect on the land — selective harvests, thinning, “ecological forestry,” longer rotations, water quality BMPs, etc. — and with an eye to wildlife, fish, etc. Where are the protests or lawsuits aimed at halting the conversion of 80 acres of oak woodland to pinot noir grapes? Or the conversion of chaparral to a subdivision?

            Come to think of it, no one (as far as I know) is demanding the restoration of Portland (once known as Stumptown) or Seattle to the former old-growth stands they once were.

        • I would argue that lands that aren’t designated big ‘W’ wilderness or otherwise congregationally protected and also aren’t profitable are not sustainable. At some point society will decide they don’t want to pay and it will be subdivided and converted to the next highest value use (which likely won’t be recreation).

  2. Forest Service NEPA docs in Region 6 often say “This project does not fall within any of these main contributors of greenhouse gas emissions. … The main activity in this [forestry] sector associated with GHG emissions is deforestation, which is defined as removal of all trees, most notably the conversion of forest and grassland into agricultural land or developed landscapes (IPCC 2000).”

    All emissions are a problem. Categories do not really matter. The atmosphere sees each molecule of CO2 and other GHG equally. Climate authorities recognize “forest degradation” is just as bad as deforestation. In fact, the urgency to maintain and enhance biogenic terrestrial carbon stores has long been recognized and is reflected in the inclusion of the land sector in the report of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The official title of UN program related to reducing GHG emissions from land use includes the words deforestation AND “forest degradation” i.e., Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD). This clearly refutes the agency’s assertion that forest management activities that fall short of deforestation are not among the categories of concern regarding global GHG emissions.

    “Enormous amounts of carbon are released into the atmosphere when forests are cleared. ‘Forest degradation’ activities, such as selective logging, … are also significant emissions sources.” Boucher, D., and K. Belletti-Gallon, 2015. Halfway There? What the Land Sector Can Contribute to Closing the Emissions Gap. Union of Concerned Scientists. http://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/attach/2015/01/ucs-halfway-there-2015-full-report.pdf

    “Forest degradation should be defined from a climate change perspective to include any human land-use activity that reduces the carbon stocks of a forested landscape relative to its carbon carrying capacity. The climate change imperative demands that we take a fresh look at our forest estate. The carbon impacts of all land uses, including commercial logging, must be brought explicitly into our calculations in terms of their direct and indirect effects on forest degradation.” Brendan G. Mackey, Heather Keith, Sandra L. Berry and David B. Lindenmayer. 2008. Green Carbon: The role of natural forests in carbon storage. Part 1. A green carbon account of Australia’s south-eastern Eucalypt forests, and policy implications. Australian National University. http://epress.anu.edu.au/green_carbon/pdf/whole_book.pdf.


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