Literature review

A literature review was completed by May of 2013 yielding two science review papers – Climate change and forestry in the Asia-Pacific, and Climate change and forest policy in the Asia-Pacific. This work provided the background for all other project endeavors.

Climate change and forestry in the Asia-Pacific

Climate change and forestry in the Asia-Pacific (click here to download the complete review paper in pdf, 2mb) included the fundamental science of climate change and the impacts the Asia-Pacific may expect with regards to forest structure and function. The goal of the science review was to present an analysis of the current status of climate change studies in forest ecosystems and forest-dependent communities in this region. This was achieved through the examination of patterns of temperature/moisture changes and their associated impact on species and range shifts, as well as invasive species establishment and spread, wildfires, and various strategies for forest management. This review presented tools and practices for forest managers and users throughout the Asia-Pacific region to help manage their forest systems in light of uncertainties and challenges.

This review paper revealed unique patterns of climate change and its varying impacts across the region, such as temperature and precipitation pattern changes, forest species movement, and changes in abiotic disturbances. The report synthesized existing knowledge of forest processes and their climatic drivers in relation to a changing climate, which has increased the understanding of how changes in these climatic variables will differentially influence ecosystems throughout the Asia-Pacific. Additionally, forest management techniques and the anticipated effects of climate change were investigated for major economic species to understand how to improve management methods to ensure high levels of forest resilience to disturbance. The paper identified management strategies to improve the health of forests and indicated tools, such as the process-based models developed in this project, which managers can use in long-term forestry planning while accounting for the effects of climate change. Overall, forests in the Asia-Pacific region are faced with increasing temperatures, frequency of catastrophic fires and storms, pest and disease outbreaks, and overall niche or habitat shifts. However, these forests are resilient, and through appropriate management strategies can aid in climate change mitigation and continue to provide resources for the people that depend on them.

Climate change and forest policy in the Asia-Pacific

Climate change and forest policy in the Asia-Pacific (click here to download the complete review paper in pdf, 4mb) is a review of various policy measures in the Asia-Pacific region that have been implemented to either adapt to or mitigate climate change from a forestry perspective. The objective was to determine whether existing policies could enable the region’s inhabitants and forest managers to adapt their practices in order to limit climate change and its impact on forests and dependent communities. Additionally, this review summarized climate change related policy instruments used in forest management, including existing policy instruments used at various scales – global, multi-national, national, and domestic – throughout the Asia-Pacific for climate change mitigation or adaptation.

The review indicated that forest and climate policies are diverse regarding their goals and strategies, as well as their implementation and success, as they are often geared towards the jurisdiction in which they are developed. A single country’s efforts to protect forests and reduce greenhouse gas emissions cannot be looked at in isolation, as detrimental impacts associated with the extraction of forest resources may simply be outsourced. For forests to contribute successfully to the mitigation of climate change, the large-scale, regional balance will need to be considered to ensure environmental degradation is being reduced, as opposed to redistributed across the Asia-Pacific. Additionally, due to the diversity of forests throughout the region, forest-based climate change policies must be deeply rooted in science and must recognize the complexity and heterogeneity of forest functions and processes. Policies must account for the various economies and social differences between and within countries, and be enforceable, yet flexible, to changing perceptions and knowledge. Although existing policies appear insufficient to effectively mitigate climate change in the Asia-Pacific region, or globally, the integration of scientific research with effective forest management principles will enable the region’s inhabitants and forest managers to adapt their practices to limit the impacts of climate change on forests and forest-dependent communities.

Significance of the literature review

These reports highlighted the importance of this project for increasing the potential of the Asia-Pacific region to mitigate and adapt to climate change. They indicated several gaps in knowledge of the impacts of climate change on forest ecosystems, as well as inadequacies of current management and policy in addressing these issues. Many of these shortcomings were addressed by this project’s subsequent outcomes, such as the development of process-based models and interactive web tools to aid in forest management decisions. The comprehensive summary of how environmental factors influence forest ecosystems in the context of climate change is vital for future research and the development of tools and models to investigate climate change impacts in the Asia-Pacific.