Assessing interaction of forests and climate change

Tropical rain forests play a central role in the regulation of the earth's climate, both regionally and globally. They recycle vast amounts of carbon dioxide into oxygen, a process critical to all kinds of life and which, by removing carbon dioxide from the air, tends to cool the earth's average temperature. They recycle rainfall into new clouds, which provide further rainfall not only for the rain forest itself but for agricultural regions far outside the forest's borders. Both the cloud cover and the rain also keep temperatures cooler.

Vegetation influences climate at the macro and micro levels. Growing evidence suggests that undisturbed forest helps to maintain the rainfall in its immediate vicinity by recycling water vapour at a steady rate back into the atmosphere and through the canopy's effect in promoting atmospheric turbulence. At smaller scales, vegetation has a moderating influence on local climates and may create quite specific micro-climates.

The species composition of forests and other terrestrial ecosystems is likely to change - entire forest types may disappear. Although forest productivity could increase, the standing biomass of forests may not increase because of more frequent outbreaks and extended ranges of pests and pathogens, and increasing frequency and intensity of fires.

This strategy features in the framework of Agenda 21 as formulated at UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), now coordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and implemented through national and local authorities.

Agenda 21 recommends assessing the potential impact on forests of climatic change, as well as effects of forests on climate, and initiating in-depth studies on the carbon cycle relating to different forest types to provide scientific advice and technical support.

1. Forests are important to combat climate change and minimise its impact on the conservation of other ecosystems.
Protecting forests
Type Classification:
E: Emanations of other strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 13: Climate ActionGOAL 15: Life on Land