Forests play a significant role in climate change mitigation by acting as “sinks”, absorbing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in biomass and soils, but, when cleared or degraded, they are also significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Forests, therefore, are important components in strategies for adapting to climate change. Without direct management interventions, climate change is likely to jeopardize forest ecosystem health, resilience, productivity, biodiversity and carbon storage, and forest degradation and loss will continue to contribute to climate change.
The strong relationship between forests and climate implies that a dramatic change in one will influence the other. This feedback could be negative in some situations and positive in others. Sustainable forest management can help reduce the negative effects of climate change on forests and forest-dependent people, and it can help ensure that forests play their role in mitigating climate change. Forest management decisions made now will affect forests many decades into the future. Thus, it is important for managers to plan now for climate change.
FAO is publishing these guidelines to support forest managers in responding to climate change challenges and opportunities at the forest management unit level. Articulating specific goals and objectives for climate change can assist forest managers to incorporate climate change considerations into forest management plans and practices. These guidelines will also be of interest to a wider range of stakeholders concerned about forests and climate change.
The guidelines are complementary to the FAO publication Climate change for forest policy-makers, which sets out an approach for integrating climate change into national forest programmes to support sustainable forest management. Countries are invited to use the two documents and to adapt them, as necessary, to fit national and subnational circumstances.
Please cite as: FAO. 2013. Climate Change guidelines for forest managers. FAO Forestry Paper No. 172. Rome, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.