Verslag: Are We On The Right Track meeting 12 november 2015
“We know about the interrelation between climate, water and forests but we have seen that the current models are not as ‘right’ as we predicted” was one of the main statements at the seminar ‘Managing the climate-water-forest nexus for sustainable development – Are we on the right track?’ held in Wageningen, The Netherlands on 12 November 2015. Three presenters and three panellists shared their knowledge and tried to explain why the climate-water-forest nexus is so important in terms of environmental conservation and well-being of the society. Which are the new findings around the interrelations of these three topics, which are the misconceptions of the current models, and what can be done in order to head towards a more sustainable development?
An audience of 115 participants learned that there are some misconceptions around the existing models and the current understanding of the linkage between climate, water and forests. Most of the times they are studied as independent systems, and many aspects have been overlooked when making recommendations for policies and management.
The re-evaluation of the role of forests and their interrelated systems was the centre of the discussion. As stated by the Chairman, the Director of Tropenbos International René Boot, during the introduction of the seminar, forests are more than just a ‘storage’ of carbon.
We know what needs to be done
In the current context of climate change, hydrological models of forests still have a lot of room for research. Terrestrial moisture recycling has not yet been included on the current models. Huub Savenije explained why moisture is often recycled from ‘far-away’ land than conveyed from the sea. And he pointed that hydrological systems should be considered scale independent. Douglas Sheil remarked on the importance of continuous forests and how avoiding deforestation can bring positive feedbacks to the hydrological system and moisture cycling. Sampurno Bruijnzeel presented that better understanding of soil degradation is critical to understand the role of forests in global moisture cycles. The local availability of water is not just dependent on tree cover but also on soil conditions.
But interdisciplinary work still needs to be strengthened
During the panel discussion, the panellists highlighted that forests with stable hydrological cycles are not just important in terms of environmental benefits. Social benefits and the well-being of the communities and their livelihoods, either from a rural or an urban view, have to be considered as well. This is an important argument to involve the local communities in sustainable development initiatives. Furthermore, multidisciplinary scientific approaches that take the global to local interactions into account, are key when developing effective initiatives. Policies could best be initiated at national level while solutions should be address at local levels. The “traditional” mismatch between science and policy makers should be overcome, and participation of the private-sector, NGO’s and smallholders should be encouraged.
Are we on the right track?
Science is already moving towards the re-understanding of forests and its interconnection with water systems and climate change. But this ‘new nexus’ concept still has to be included in the climate change and sustainability agendas. Science, policy makers, communities and businesses need to work closely together to have a better knowledge on the global and local impacts of forest land-use and its hydrological cycles, using more complete systems models.
The meeting was chaired by René Boot, Director of Tropenbos International. Speakers and panel included: Hubert Savenije (TU-Delft), Jelle Behagel (WUR), Jullie van der Bliek (IWMI), Jan Willem de Besten (IUCN), Douglas Shiel (NTNU) and Sampurno Bruijnzeel (KCL).
‘Managing the climate-water-forest nexus for sustainable development. Are we on the right track?’ was organized by Tropenbos International, Utrecht University (Prince Bernhard Chair), Wageningen University (Forestry groups, Centre for Development and Innovation), the Dutch Association of Tropical Forests (VTB), and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Dutch government.