A new platform has been launched to help develop, implement and manage adaptation solutions in a drastically changing climate through forests, trees and agroforestry.
The TreesAdapt partnership platform aims to offer a complete suite of support for countries, public and private actors all along the climate change adaptation process, said Vincent Gitz, Director of Program and Platforms at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and World Agroforestry (ICRAF) and coordinator of the TreesAdapt platform. This initiative was launched at the Global Landscape Forum (GLF) Climate 2022 event on the sidelines of the COP27 climate conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt 6–18 November 2022.
“A one-stop shop is necessary to provide the solutions with regards to the roles of forests and trees to the adaption agenda, because forests and trees have many things to contribute,” said Gitz, who introduced the partnership platform at the GLF event.
“Adaptation of forests and trees, adaptation with forests and trees, and mitigation with forests and trees are intrinsically linked,” he added. The TreesAdapt launch is especially timely: the adaptation agenda is a key theme of the entire COP27 event, and given the breadth and acceleration of climate change, that will have dire consequences for agricultural and other systems.
“Globally, we are on a track to reach a 1.5 degrees C increase in temperatures by 2030 and probably close to 2 degrees above preindustrial levels by 2050. What does this mean for forests, for agriculture systems, for cities? How can trees help cope and adapt, beyond just incremental change, but in devising new systems towards transformational change?” Gitz said.
He emphasized the importance of forests and trees to food and nutritional security for millions of smallholders; and how, by providing ecosystem services and products, trees are critical to successful adaptation of farming systems, households, and landscapes. That includes the shading and cooling effects from trees – essential for plants, animals, humans and cities – their contribution to water availability, infiltration and storage in the soil, as well as water quality and management of such risks as floods and droughts.
Put another way, if forests, tree-based systems and overall crop and livestock systems, and how these are managed, are not adapted to the drastically changing climate, they may collapse with terrible consequences for livelihoods, landscapes, food security, the environment, water and soil.
Forests fires are a significant risk worldwide to such a vital asset, said Susan Onyango, Global Communications Coordinator at CIFOR-ICRAF. Thus, sustainable forest management and the involvement of local communities is essential to the prevention and management of risks such as wildfires, as well as pests and invasive species.
This is closely linked to biodiversity, ecosystem-based adaptation and, in addition to the mitigation co-benefits, adaptation with trees also provides multiple economic and social benefits, said Gitz.
Although there is no scarcity of climate change projects, a massive scale-up of efforts is necessary. Furthermore, the gap between strong commitments and real action must be closed, moving to feasible and bankable proposals informed by strong business cases; and actually applying knowledge to scale solutions and achieve transformation. TreesAdapt can help to provide these concrete steps, including actual implementation, establishing learning loops, and identifying enabling conditions.
Forests and trees are key to food security for millions, by providing food and livelihoods that are particularly important for the most vulnerable groups, including Indigenous populations and women, especially in times of crisis such as when a crop fails.
The needs of women – particularly rural and Indigenous – must be a top priority in trees for adaptation work because women and their families rely on agroforestry services such as smallholder farms with trees that provide important livelihoods and nutritional security for families, said Cécile Ndjebet of the African Women’s Network for Community Management of Forests (REFACOF).
“Seeing the interaction between trees, forests and livelihoods of women will be key to achieving sustainable development, to achieving sustainable management of forests, to achieving biodiversity conservation and addressing climate change,” she said in a video message to the GLF event. “For rural and Indigenous women, TreesAdapt should take into account three main issues: tenure security for women, value chain development of their activities; and connecting, networking and learning exchanges among women worldwide.”
Fruit trees can be a part of a broad portfolio of complementary trees, ensuring that important micro-nutrients and overall food security are available throughout the year, including between crop harvesting seasons, particularly for women and children.
This is just one of the critically important measures that TreesAdapt tools will help to address, said Peter Minang, a principal scientist at CIFOR-ICRAF and moderator of the launch event. The Provision of Adequate Tree Seed Portfolios (PATSPO) project in Ethiopia is another example, demonstrating potential for expansion of landscape restoration and enhancing adaption through use and provision of the right trees for the location, Minang added. He emphasized the importance of good quality genetic resources with sufficient diversity to fit local needs, in order “to produce the right trees in the right way” to ensure these trees can thrive.
Resilience of people and communities is at the heart of TreesAdapt. Its four tracks cover different socio-ecological systems: adaptation of forests, adaptation of tree-based systems and value chains, role of trees in adaptation of farming, and role of trees and forests in adaptation of landscapes, watersheds, local and regional climates, and cities. Cross-cutting those areas are three subjects to support implementation: genetic resources for adaptation, the enabling environment, and knowledge for adaptation.
TreesAdapt supports countries and actors all along the adaptation process, added Onyango. That includes identifying climate-change impacts, conducting vulnerability assessments, identifying adaptation options, selecting and prioritizing options (including cost–benefit analysis), implementing measures, and monitoring and assessment, she said.
Amy Duchelle, Senior Forestry Officer and Team Leader of Forests and Climate at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), emphasized the partnership element of the platform, applauding TreesAdapt as a “very timely initiative,” that will support a focus on the multiple “adaptation services that forests and trees provide for local people, as well as the adaptation and resilience of forests and trees themselves – including their ability to store and sequester carbon.”
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