Tropical forest management and climate change adaptation

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The links between tropical forests and global climate change have traditionally focused on mitigation. Much less emphasis, by contrast, has been devoted to how management activities may help forest ecosystems adapt to a changing climate. This article discusses how some kinds of forestry management practices can help maintain or enhance the adaptive capacity of natural and planted tropical forests to global climate change. It also outlines some challenges, as well as opportunities, for integrating tropical forest management into climate-change adaptation more broadly. In addition to the use of reduced-impact logging to maintain ecosystem integrity, other approaches, such as fire prevention and management as well as specific silvicultural options aimed at facilitating genetic adaptation, may be needed. The normally higher intensity of management in tree plantations (compared to natural forests) offers additional opportunities for implementing adaptation measures at both the industrial and smallholder level. Although the integration of measures aimed at enhancing adaptation to climate change may not involve substantial deviations from current practices, little action appears to have been taken on the ground. Up to what point have forestry research and national policies promoted the adoption of management practices (many of which do not need much additional investigation) that assist exploited forests adapt to climate change? Prioritizing adaptation in national development and forestry planning can serve as a first step towards incorporating climate change into tropical forestry management.

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