Among the climate change mitigation and adaptation measures to be put in place, forest management strategies play a more significant role than one might imagine. This is suggested by two studies carried out at the National Research Council’s Institute for Agricultural and Forestry Systems in the Mediterranean (CNR-ISAFOM) conducted by an international research team led by Daniela Dalmonech and published in the journals Science of the Total Environment and Agricultural and Forest Meteorology.
By analysing the carbon sequestration and storage capacity of forest ecosystems under different scenarios, the studies help to understand the effects of climate change and the anthropogenic impacts on forests.
“Both studies analyse different forest management scenarios, focusing on the possibility of managing forests more or less intensively ‒ and differently ‒ from now to the end of the century,” said Daniela Dalmonech. “Forests can absorb and store carbon in their tissues depending on how we decide to manage them.”
In the first study, published in Science of the Total Environment, the analysis of six different forest management scenarios focused on the experimental research site of the Bonis watershed in Calabria, one of the southernmost artificial laricio pine (Pinus nigra subsp. Laricio) forests in Europe. Forests this far south already show a high susceptibility to extreme events due to climate change and the study emphasizes the key role played by proactive management of laricio pine plantations, compared to abandonment or no management, in mitigating the impacts of climate change.
In the second study, published in Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, the researchers looked at whether an increase, or a decrease, in thinning intensity and frequency would automatically increase the capacity of forests to sequester and store atmospheric CO2, compared to current management practices. They concluded that intensifying forest management does not automatically increase forest sequestration and storage capacity.
“A comparison with common forest management practices reveals that more intensive management scenarios, i.e. higher thinning frequency, show on average a 30% decrease in carbon sequestration and a 5% decrease in biomass storage, while less intensive management scenarios show a 2% and a 7% decrease respectively. In the no management scenarios, the values of sequestration and stored biomass are lower (about 16% and 30% respectively) compared to common forest management practices,” explained Daniela Dalmonech.
The studies were carried out as part of the AlForLab (public private laboratory for the environment-wood-forest supply chain) project and of ISIMIP (Intersectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project). The studies also involved researchers from ETH Zürich, Joint Research Centre, European Forest Institute, CMCC Foundation, Northern Arizona University, and from the Universities of Bologna and Viterbo.