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iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry
vol. 2, pp. 56-58
Copyright © 2009 by the Italian Society of Silviculture and Forest Ecology
doi: 10.3832/ifor0492-002


Change is in the air: future challenges for applied forest research

Roberto Tognetti (1)Corresponding author, Paolo Cherubini (2)


Recently, we visited a colleague, senior scientist working with an institute of the Italian National Research Council committed to biometeorological research. After our business meeting, during which we discussed about a possible common project on the impact of climate changes on forest ecosystems in the Mediterranean region, our colleague invited us to follow him in the underground floors of the building, where he proudly showed us his treasure: a recently acquired oven for heating the Institute, fed by wooden pellets. He told us that the whole building is now heated with some hundreds euros a month, against the several thousands disbursed formerly, and added that he is now doing research to understand how the process can be applied and ameliorated in a carbon sequestration context. Times have changed and forest research should focus on collaborative climate change mitigation strategies drawn up in parallel with measures to curb CO2 emissions.

Planning both the study of natural processes of long-term forest succession and the realization of guided management of short-term forest restoration is a wise thought. In this sense, a forceful (global?) forestation programme with fast-growing short-lived species would favour projects designed to provide carbon compensation. However, long-term carbon sequestration is better promoted by old-growth forests, with higher density and slower turnover of woody tissues. Plantations with fast-growing tree species on degraded lands can improve ecosystem services (including biological diversity conservation, climate change mitigation, and terra firma protection), whereas original forest succession is a dynamic process that can take centuries.

Restoring ecosystem services needs time and labour, which let us foresee for sustainable investments and knowledge communications. Efforts in regenerating forests should also re-establish new relationships between people and ecosystems. In tropical regions, for example, deforestation should be blocked to reduce carbon emissions. European countries should not go back to future forest over-logging for attaining biomass for energy. New forest plantation on former agricultural land combined with close-to-nature forest management and sustainable rural development would help our friend to heat his place while conserving forest ecosystems.

Global change incidence, as a matter of fact, is now broadly perceived (Obama helps…). What we should be doing now is research aimed at managing the consequences of climate changes. Nevertheless, the interest of scientists is still unbalanced towards studying impacts of global change, or struggling with adaptation strategies of forest ecosystems. Mitigation policy is in its infancy, at least in the perspective of forest researchers.

Global change is here and is the challenge for our efforts. Going back to our roots beyond global warming. Eventually, we are forest scientists faithfully committed to manage the forest ecosystems of the World. In a sustainable way.

Fig. 1 - Short rotation forestry of three-year-old poplar cultivated nearby Pisa, Tuscany (Italy).
Fig. 2 - Pinus pinaster plantations in southwestern France (Les Landes de Gascogne near Bordeaux).
Fig. 3 - The road to the Lonquimay Volcano (southern Chile) lined with marvellous Araucaria old-growth forests.
Fig. 4 - Magellan’s old-growth forest at the Navarino Island (antartic Chile).


Tognetti R, Cherubini P (2009).
Change is in the air: future challenges for applied forest research
iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry 2: 56-58. - doi: 10.3832/ifor0492-002
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Paper ID# ifor0492-002
Title Change is in the air: future challenges for applied forest research
Authors Tognetti R, Cherubini P
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