Forests cover about 4 billion ha globally, support most of the terrestrial biodiversity and supply a variety of goods and services to humans each year. Recent valuations of goods and services derived from forests place their value in the trillions of dollars annually to the global economy. However, many factors are altering forests and case studies showing clear changes with data support the hypothesis that forest ecosystems will be altered and that, as a result, the flow of goods and services will also be changed. Climate change, agricultural and shifting cultivation, bioenergy plantations, plantation forestry, illegal logging, poor forest management, and desertification are resulting in synergistic effects on the global forest estate. We lose forests at a rate of 10 to13 million ha/yr and likely close to that amount is also annually degraded. The consequent loss of forest biodiversity means that the capacity of forests to recover fully is impaired, often with insidious effects occurring in functions and functional relationships. The global forest regime under the UN is attempting to reach global consensus on actions to be taken under the Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Climate Change Convention framework. A major aspect is the REDD-plus initiative (reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation), largely in tropical countries. Nevertheless, improved forest management in developed countries can provide substantial benefits as well. All countries, including Canada, need to work rapidly towards mitigating and adapting forests to climate change to maintain resilience, if we want to continue to sustain the benefits we derive from forests.
Ian Thompson, PhD, is a forest ecologist and wildlife scientist who has worked in boreal ecosystems for more than 30 years and is the senior biodiversity scientist at Canadian Forest Service. He is active in several United Nations processes dealing with forest biodiversity issues and acts as an advisor to UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for their 2015 Forest Resources Assessment and forest degradation. He has represented Canada at numerous international forest science and policy initiatives, including the Convention on Biological Diversity, IPCC, IUFRO, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, and the North American Forest Commission. This presentation was given April 26, 2012 in Fredericton, NB.