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Welsh forestry scientists are beginning to piece together a charter of climate change principles which could transform the face of woodlands across Europe.
Experts from FUTUREforest, the INTERREG IVC European project looking at how forests can adapt to climate change and provide opportunities for mitigation, have spent the last 12 months investigating all the latest thinking on the climate proofing of forests.
Now the Welsh team, working with their partners from Catalonia in the south to Latvia in the north are pulling together all the best practice in a piece of work which will be used to help guide policy makers at European and regional level.
And at a meeting in the Auvergne region of France this month, the Forestry Commission Wales delegation began the painstaking task of sifting through the lessons learned that can be applied in Wales.
"Collaborative work such as FUTUREforest helps reduce the time and cost of finding vital solutions to our shared problems," said Ff project manager Dr Helen Cariss.
"We in Wales are one of only a few countries to have sustainability enshrined in our legislation – and work towards a sustainable forestry sector is highly important to our future.
"To continue planning for the future we must ensure that our forests are best placed to thrive despite the expected changes in the climate," she said.
"Through working with our European partners we can achieve more together than if were to tackle common issues independently – none of us can afford to waste scarce time or resources."
Over the past 12 months climate change experts have met in each of the regions to look at and identify some of the major problems facing forestry. Now they are pulling together solutions which will help Government policymakers in their future planning.
"We believe that by pooling all the knowledge and initiatives from each of the seven regions we can bring together an authoritative document which can influence policy makers as they take their decisions on forestry policy." said Dr Cariss.
Already the team has seen how mixed age and species woodlands are thought to be the way forward from the Auvergne in southern France to Brandenburg in Germany.
The knowledge collated on water management, soil erosion, carbon management, biodiversity, timber production and natural risks is the focus of the second phase of the programme ‘Developing together’.
"We believe that all this shared valuable information can be used to find ways in which the forests of Europe can do even more to help mitigate against the effects of climate change – helping to reduce flooding, locking away more carbon, reducing soil erosion and potentially keeping more water in the land for those countries already experiencing shortages," she said.
The task now is for teams of specialists in each area to work together to develop a more holistic approach to forest management, working on transferable good practice guides, policy recommendations, strategic guidelines and forest programmes.
Once completed the FUTUREforest Framework will then move into the third and final phase of the programme – selling the experiences, good practice and policy ideas to European policy-makers, politicians and key stakeholders.
NOTES TO EDITORS
Contact: Helen Cariss, FUTUREforest, Wales project manager – Tel: 0300 068 0087 or Guy Pargeter, Taliesin Communications – Tel: 01970 832375
FUTUREforest is a three year INTERREG IVC programme funded by the EU and the Welsh Assembly government. It aims to identify the threats, weaknesses and strengths of Europe’s forest as they face up to climate change; developing best management techniques to guide policy makers and stakeholders.
It also aims to improve and adapt regional and local forest management policies and practices focusing on water balance, soil, biodiversity, timber and non-timber forest products, air quality including carbon sequestration, and natural risk like fires, pests and pathogens.
The objective is to improve the effectiveness of regional development policies and contribute to the economic modernisation and increased competitiveness of Europe through exchange, sharing and transfer of policy experience, knowledge and good practices in woodland management.
The project will provide political decision makers and other stakeholders in European regions with the knowledge, tools and approaches to enable effective forestry/regional development policies and forest management practices.
It also intends to identify opportunities resulting from climate change including increased biomass production - and therefore carbon sequestration - due to changes in rainfall pattern and higher temperatures.
The partners include Auvergne, France (biodiversity); Brandenburg, Germany (knowledge transfer); Bulgaria (soil protection); Catalonia (natural risks); Latvia (timber production); Slovakia (carbon sequestration).
Woodlands for Wales, the revised Welsh Assembly Government’s strategy for woodlands and trees was published in March 2009.
Originally published in 2001 it sets out a 50-year plan for woodlands and trees and how the people of Wales can benefit from them. The strategy looks at the role they play in delivering social economic and environmental benefits and also the contribution they can make towards addressing the impacts of climate change.
Forestry Commission Wales is responsible for FUTUREforest in Wales. It is the government department responsible for forestry policy and manages the 320,000 acres (130,000 ha) of public forests owned by the Welsh Assembly Government. More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on: www.forestry.gov.uk/wales