Managing Forest Ecosystem Services to Combat Climate Change

22 May, 2022

By Akhilesh Singh, Technical Expert and Aashima Negi, Communication Expert

Since the onset of the industrial revolution, ecosystems are being impacted with an increased pace due to direct or indirect drivers of change. Climate change is one of the prominent drivers affecting ecosystems and their functions. As per the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report, change of forest to other land use and forest degradation has changed carbon-sinks to carbon sources in different forests across the globe. Further, the warmer and drier conditions have enhanced tree mortality and forest disturbances in many temperate and boreal biomes. These warmer conditions can further lead to potential probabilities of upslope shifting of forests at various locations across the globe. In 42 percent to 79 percent of the world’s watershed, the environmentally critical streamflow is projected to be affected by 2050. This will have severe consequence on the freshwater resources.

There is a prediction of rise in global temperature by 1.5º C in the near term thus resulting in multiple risks to ecosystems. Some of the observed impacts of Climate Change in Asia (IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, 2022) are as follows:

Impacts Impacts on Ecosystem Impact on Water Scarcity & Food Production
Terrestrial Freshwater Ocean Water Scarcity Agriculture / Crop Production Animal & Livestock Health & Productivity Fisheries Yield & Aquaculture Production
Confidence in Attribution to Climate Change High or Very High - - - -
Medium - - - -
Low - - - - - -
Impacts to Human Systems Increasing Adverse Impacts - - - - - -
Increasing Adverse and Positive Impacts - - - -

Source: IPCC Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability2022 SPM

Forests are one of the major ecosystems which play a crucial role in regulating global carbon cycle. Until 2050, forests can potentially mitigate the adverse impact of climate change by average 5,380 MtCO2/year worldwide (IPCC Third Assessment Report, 2001). Forestry related mitigation interventions including forest restoration are economical and with a potential of sequestering one tonne of CO2eq with financial input of USD 100 (Nabuurs & Mesera, 2001) thus putting forth a promising component of the multiple solutions to address climate change.

In India, the impacts of climate change on the country’s forests are increasingly visible. There has been an increase in the number of forest fires in the Himalayan states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. As per the Forest Survey of India, during the fire season (November to June), the number of fire points detected by MODIS and SNPP-VIIRS satellite data has increased from 1197 to 4293 and from 2719 to 26532 between 2016-17 and 2021-22 in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, respectively.

In view of above statements and datasets, the role of ecosystem services approach in tackling climate change is important and should cover both mitigation and adaptation strategies (Turner et al., 2009). To enhance the role of FES in addressing climate change, the building blocks should be institutionalised at higher levels in developmental policies. Some measures are as follows:

  • Revisiting the existing policies for land-based carbon stocks and forest ecosystems, establishing strong linkages of conserving and restoring forest ecosystem services and climate change.
  • Involvement of multi stakeholders at each step of development of plans and policies to increase ownership and active participation
  • Development of decentralised monitoring systems with authentic data set for ecosystem services flow measurement
  • Integrating trade-offs and synergies into the developmental policies balancing competing demands of various forest ecosystem services
  • Externally Aided Projects (EAPs) working on similar goals should develop convergence plans, adding value and identifying areas of convergence

Ecosystem‐based mitigation of climate change is gaining traction and is recognised in several international agreements and policy instruments. For example, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of Kyoto Protocol acknowledges the contribution of tropical afforestation and reforestation. Another initiative is REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) (Angelsen et al., 2012) which is an evolving mechanism.

Initiatives are being taken up in India as well. One of the fivefold strategies declared by the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi, at the 26th Conference of Parties (CoP26), suggested “India will reduce the total projected carbon emissions by one billion tonnes from now onwards till 2030”. The importance of bringing a third of its land area under forest cover for absorbing carbon sequestration is being recognised by India in various forums. Also, India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (as per the Paris Agreement) aims to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5-3 billion tonnes of CO2eq.through additional forest and tree cover.

GIZ is providing technical support through various bilateral projects in India to meet the above-mentioned goals. The “Sustainable Management of Forest Ecosystem Services” project being one of them is being implemented in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh by GIZ on behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development. The project aims to strengthen forest and agroforest management to integrate the Forest Ecosystems Services approach with emphasis on water availability. The project will help in building climate resilience through its mitigation (afforestation etc.) and adaptation (technical and institutional capacity building, awareness creation etc.) oriented interventions and participatory approach.

Telangana Forest in Himachal Pradesh ©Aashima Negi


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