Forests are essential to our attempts to tackle climate change, reduce biodiversity loss and live more sustainably — and yet they are being significantly impacted by everything from major infrastructure projects to expanding middle classes, potentially undermining efforts to tackle the current environmental emergency.
In an important step towards better understanding the dynamics which affect forest health, a group of researchers and practitioners have used advanced analytical tools to identify five major trends currently impacting forests on a global scale.
Breaking from previous research which has tended to focus on local drivers on forest health, the study paints a complex picture in which consumption in North America and Europe is driving deforestation, land-use change and environmental degradation in the Amazon, the Congo Basin and Indonesia – all areas which are home to Indigenous Peoples and local communities. Meanwhile smoke from forest fires can impact the health of populations in neighbouring countries and even the weather patterns of other continents.
The study, and the so-called “horizon scanning” approach it uses, offers a better chance of understanding the diverse and often global pressures being exerted on the world’s last remaining great forests, as well as developing approaches which can support sustainable forest livelihoods at a local level, helping to shape a more sustainable global relationship with nature.
" the requirement for functioning governance and decision-making systems only increases with increased demand/pressure on resources. Local institutions need to be recognised and given space in national and regional planning and policy making"
Within this, the need to secure tenure for forest-dwelling communities and ensure responsible management of forestlands have been identified as crucial steps, according to Margareta Nilsson, who co-authored the report, and is the Tenure Facility’s Head of Programmes.
“One conclusion from the study is how the requirement for functioning governance and decision-making systems only increases with increased demand/pressure on resources. Local institutions need to be recognised and given space in national and regional planning and policy making”, Nilsson said.
“Having your rights recognized is always the better starting-point when global trends are impacting your lands and resources.”
Within the research, five key mega-trends were identified in the study as being especially impactful on forest health:
Researchers hope that further study of these major trends could help lead to a better understanding of the causality behind forest destruction and biodiversity loss, which could in turn inform more nuanced policymaking to ensure both that forests are conserved, rights respected and that the livelihoods that depend upon them are protected.