Forest Sustainability Reporting in the United States
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Indicator 7.64: Ability to predict impacts on forests of possible climate change

An indicator for Criterion 7: Legal, Institutional, and Economic Framework for Forest Conservation and Sustainable Management

What is the indicator and why is it important?

Climate change may affect forest distribution, extent, pathogens, and productivity. Capacity is needed to quantify the effects of climate change on forest productivity, plant and animal species range shifts, carbon sequestration, water yield, forest health, and changes in stand structure––as is the ability to integrate effects across atmospheric, ecological, and economic systems. Improved understanding of climate change effects will increase the capability to make better informed and earlier climate change mitigating actions, thus, improving the likelihood that forests will be managed on a sustainable basis.

What does the indicator show?

In addition to the moderate research on assessing the effects of traditional forest management practices on forest health, the United States is now devoting a considerable amount of scientific resources to analyze the effects of global climate change on forests, at an aggregate national and regional scale. The analysis uses likely climate change scenarios to predict the biological effects on forest distribution and growth and on pathogens, economic conditions, and possible policy responses. The analysis also uses several components of the MP C&I.

Most of these analyses of the effects of human intervention on forests in response to climate change or normal forest management activities occur as informational and educational policy mechanisms, through research, professional education, and planning. The analysis explores both the opportunities for forests to mitigate climate change through management actions to increase carbon storage, and management techniques that forests might need to respond to the impacts of climate change.

The private sector is becoming actively involved in these analyses in terms of risk analysis for management impacts, for opportunities to develop income streams through carbon storage, and for long range planning. Insurance firms are becoming involved in quantitatively estimating climate change impacts, as are agricultural and forest production firms, such as equipment manufacturers and herbicide and pesticide manufacturers.

Table 64-1: Policy and Governance Classification

What has changed since 2003?

Research about the ability of forests to adapt to climate change and to contribute to amelioration of climate change has occurred for nearly two decades. An emerging consensus among experts is that climate change is certain, that the loss of forests contributes to the severity of climate change effects, and that sustainable forest management can help reduce these effects by reducing forest loss and fostering resilient forest ecosystems while storing additional carbon. This premise was explicitly recognized in the 2007 Framework Convention on Climate Change, in Bali, Indonesia. The contribution of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) explicitly identified a role for forestry policy in developing, and developed countries. These international accords will call for the scientific improvements that are needed to achieve the goals of REDD and afforestation, through improved scientific methods, better forest management choices, and more effective extension and implementation of techniques.

Criterion 7 Indicators