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Adapting to Climate Change
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Significant progress is being made in bringing the English forestry sector together to ensure that forestry practice will adapt effectively to climate change. The Forestry Climate Change Working Group (FCCWG) is aiming to publish an Action Plan for Forestry and Climate Change Adaptation in early 2018.

Fcc Delegates 2
Members of the FCCWG meet to discuss the net steps to developing an Action Plan for  Forestry and Climate Change Adaptation

FCCWG met on 11 October 2017.  Hosted by Forest Research at Alice Holt Lodge, chaired by Simon Lloyd, Chief Executive, Royal Forestry Society, and attended by senior representatives from 24 organisations it focussed on the next steps in developing the Draft Action Plan.

Below, Dr Gabriel Hemery FICFor, Chief Executive of Sylva Foundation, and a member of the Forestry and Climate Change Working Group, reviews what has happened so far, and the  progress made at the meeting. A full version of his report and more on the Cllmate Change Accord are available here.

The UK Forestry Standard (UKFS), updated in 2017 (4th Edition), lays out the ‘factors’ of importance for climate change relating to both mitigation and adaptation. For adaptation these factors are: Forest Planning, Adaptive Management, Tree & Shrub Species Selection, Landscape Ecology, and Environmental Protection. In total, there are 18 specific 'themes' spread across these five factors, for example: reviewing species suitability, considering alternatives to clearfelling, considering benefits of woodland and trees in urban situations, etc.

The challenges we face in the light of climate change are familiar to us all, in every area of society. In relation to our trees and forests, and within the forestry sector, it is well accepted that we need to take action to adapt to a changing climate. The UKFS (see box right) clearly articulates key measures we should be implementing, but how well are we meeting the challenge?

Willingness and Evidence

Two seminal moments during 2015 kick-started positive action relating to climate change adaptation in England. The first was the signing of the Climate Change Accord and the second was the response by 1,500 stakeholders to the 2015 British Woodlands Survey which indicated that the resilience of the UK’s forests is currently poor, although there are a number of positive aspects which could be built upon. 

Taking action

During 2016 the FCCWG started working towards an Action Plan for the forestry sector. It has been following a simple five-step approach:

  • What should we be doing to support adaptation to climate change? √ UKFS Adaptation Factors
  • How do our actions measure up?  √ British Woodlands Survey 2015
  • What is being done currently?  √  Organisations submit evidence to FCCWG during 2016/17
  • What could we do better (or less of)?
  • Priorities: what we need to do, by whom, by when?

Steps 1-3 formed the basis of a Draft Action Plan (see here), yet to address the important steps of what we should improve, and our priorities for taking action, it was necessary to convene a stakeholder workshop on 11 October.

After an opening address by Forestry Commission Chairman Sir Harry Studholme, an introduction by Chair Simon Lloyd and an overview of the changes ahead from James Morison (Climate Change Science Group Leader, Forest Research), Gabriel Hemery and Gill Petrokofsky, both from Sylva Foundation, managed a café-style brainstorming with small groups tackling each of the 18 UKFS factors in turn.

Next steps

The FCCWG will be reviewing the outcomes of the October workshop and aims to publish, in early 2018, an Action Plan for Forestry and Climate Change Adaptation. This is intended to be a rolling five-year plan, which will be reviewed annually.

The FCCWG is keen to hear from those who may be interested in being actively involved in its work. In particular, we are aware that the interests of tree nurseries, timber processors, and urban forestry are under-represented.