Thinking beyond the canopy

Enhancing the role of forests in adapting to climate change

Climate change poses multiple threats to poor rural people, who often live in areas where climate change is increasing the risk of floods, fires and other disasters. CIFOR helps governments and communities manage forests in ways that reduce these risks.

Climate change is already having dramatic effects on forests, natural resources and people's livelihoods. During the past century, the Earth has warmed by approximately 0.7°C. Unless we take measures to address climate change, temperatures could rise even more rapidly, by between 1.4°C and 5.8°C, during the next 100 years. Poor people in developing countries are particularly exposed to the effects of climate change, not least because they often live and work in the very areas where natural disasters most often occur: flood plains, mountainsides and deltas.

We face two major challenges. We must reduce the vulnerability of those sectors which are most sensitive to climate variability, namely forests, energy and water resources. And we must 'climate proofing' future development activities. Most countries have already defined adaptation plans or projects, but few are considering forests in adaptation. We need to include forests in climate change adaptation policies for two reasons:

  • because they are vulnerable
  • because the play a key role in reducing the vulnerability of society to losses from climate change.

Our twin goals are to ensure that forestry policy and practice adequately address the need to protect forest-dependent livelihoods from adverse climate change and to ensure that adaptation strategies adequately incorporate improved forest management. Within 5 years, CIFOR's research will have informed the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change on how it can adopt a set of tested methods for forest-related vulnerability assessments, set criteria for adaptive management of forests. We also will influence forest-related adaptation policies in at least five countries.

Research themes

  • Bringing climate change adaptation into forest management
  • Mainstreaming forestry into climate change adaptation

Research themes

  • Bringing climate change adaptation into forest management
  • Mainstreaming forestry into climate change adaptation

Framework proposal

Adapting forests and people to climate change
Conserving ecosystem services that reduce risk to the world's poorest

Download framework proposal (PDF, 1.6MB)

More information

Domain leader: Research theme leader: Adapting to climate change
Bruno Locatelli

CIFOR'S Strategy 2008-2018: A summary
Key features of CIFOR's strategy for the decade 2008-2018. To learn more about CIFOR's strategic directions and to read the full document visits

Current projects: Adapting to climate change
Locations, project duration, donors, and objectives for current projects within this research theme.