Forests play a major role in the global carbon cycle, contain a substantial proportion of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity, and are valued for the services they provide to society1,2. Forest products alone are estimated at $120 billion annually3, although this estimation disregards the value of regulating, cultural and supporting services3. Importantly, forests are major carbon pools and play a critical role in mitigating climate change4, while harboring the majority of the world’s biodiversity2.
Unfortunately, the rate of biodiversity loss is still alarmingly high and accelerates5, which is worrisome considering emerging close links between biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, and human well-being.
A large body of evidence now suggests biodiversity loss affects the functioning of ecosystems. Likewise, high species diversity is often associated with high productivity and ecosystem service (ES) provisioning, including carbon storage and sequestration. Protecting forests and managing them sustainably is therefore important both to preserve biodiversity, and the services it underpins. However, our ability to understand the consequences of biodiversity loss on the supply of a portfolio of multiple ES is still incomplete.
Managing forests for multiple objectives requires a thorough scientific understanding of the trade-offs and synergies between the multiple contributions of forests to human wellbeing. Testing how carbon and biodiversity can be jointly maintained or enriched in forest landscapes is particularly important in this context, since it would allow forest-management strategies that jointly address climate change mitigation and biodiversity loss. This would also untap unrealized potentials to increase carbon and biodiversity gains in managed forests, or maximize the outcome of forest conservation and sustainable forest management (SFM) measures.
The overarching goal of FORESTS and CO is to assess whether measures designed to protect forest biodiversity and to increase carbon stocks are mutually consistent or conflicting in European forests. Using primary and old-growth forests to estimate baselines for carbon storage and biodiversity conservation potential for different forest types, FORESTS and CO will model the relationships between carbon storage and biodiversity, and assess potential co-benefits or conflicts between them. Subsequently we will test whether the same co-benefits or conflicts occur in managed forests, since most forests in Europe are managed, and forest biodiversity therefore critically depends on these forests. To achieve these goals, we will apply an interdisciplinary approach, bridging geography, forest ecology and remote sensing, and we will bring together a network of forest researchers working on European Forests.
FORESTS and CO is composed by three work packages (WP) that will focus on both unmanaged, old-growth forests, representing a baseline for key ecosystem functions, and managed forest, constituting the majority of Europe’s forests (Fig. 1)
- WP1 will build a network of forest researchers to gather existing data on old-growth forests in Europe, and create the first map of their distribution.
- WP2 will use plot-level data to model the relationship between forest biodiversity and carbon storage, and assess whether this relationship differs between old-growth and managed forests.
- WP3 will test whether carbon/biodiversity co-benefits vary, when scaled up to broader extents, using satellite products and vegetation-plot databases.
To have further details on the objectives, methods and expected results of each WP, please refer to FORESTS and CO’s institutional website.
1. Parrotta JA, Wildburger C & Mansourian S (eds.) 2012. Understanding Relationships between Biodiversity, Carbon, Forests and People: The Key to Achieving REDD+ Objectives. A Global Assessment Report, Vienna: IUFRO World Series Volume 31.
2. MEA 2005. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Synthesis, Washington, DC, Island Press.
3. FAO 2010. Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010. Main report. FAO Forestry Paper. Rome: FAO.
4. Pan YD, Birdsey RA, Fang JY, et al. 2011. A Large and Persistent Carbon Sink in the World’s Forests. Science, 333, 988-993.
5. Cardinale BJ, Duffy JE, Gonzalez A, et al. 2012. Biodiversity loss and its impact on humanity. Nature, 486, 59-67.