Forest day blog

To mark International Day of Forests, we brought together
three experts in the field to suggest their own thoughts on what lies ahead for
forests. Below they offer their hopes, and fears, for these vital ecosystems in
the years to come.

Roger Leakey – Vice-chairman of the
International Tree Foundation

Author of Living
with the Trees of Life

Agriculture has been one of the forces behind tropical
. It has left local people without a traditional source of food –
wild fruits and nuts and leaves from indigenous trees. Living with the Trees of Life – Towards the
Transformation of Tropical Agriculture
describes how these species are now
being brought into tropical agriculture in ways that promote food and
nutritional security, alleviate poverty through income generation and new
cottage industries engaged in product processing and value-adding, rehabilitate
degraded farmland and mitigating climate change – killing four or five birds with one stone. The upshot of this is
expected to be the resolution of the big environmental, social and economic
issues prevalent in the tropics and currently blighting our world. In addition,
because 38% of farmland is degraded, restoring farmland to health and
productivity could make deforestation and the loss of its wildlife a thing of the past. If this sounds good, we need
to act now to promote this role of trees in the sustainable intensification of
modern agriculture.


Peter Savill – Chairman of the
Future Trees Trust

Author of The
Silviculture of Trees Used in British Forestry

The value of
forests globally is recognized by politicians and others today more strongly
than any time in history, yet we still face serious problems of deforestation
and other issues that will influence the extent and quality of forests over the
next 300 years. They include greenhouse gas emissions and how these will affect
forests through climate change, including increased climatic variability. In
1700 the world’s population was about 0.7 billion, today it is 7 billion and by
2050 it will be 9 billion and will eventually stabilise at about 10 billion
Most of the increase will be in the tropics. This will result in huge pressures
for deforestation to make way for more food production. Demands for access to
vital resources, including water, energy and good living space will increase.
These challenges will require all the skills that politicians, foresters,
farmers and other land managers can bring to bear to maintain forest cover.


F. Ross Wylie – Entomologist for
Queensland Government

Author of Insect
Pests in Tropical Forestry

In forestry
circles, forest health specialists are often viewed as ‘prophets of doom’ and
peripheral to the main game. I would hate to step out of character
entirely with the prophesy bit so I predict that within the next decade or so
we will be up to our armpits in forest invasive species and almost totally at a
loss as to how to deal with them. Already, plantation forestry worldwide
is struggling with new pests such as the
blue gum chalcid Leptocybe invasa and the winter bronzing bug Thaumastocoris peregrinus which are sweeping the globe in much the
same way as the leucaena psyllid Heteropsylla
did in the 1980s
and 1990s with devastating effect. Some of the reasons for the
spike in invasives are the increasing volume of world trade, rapidity of
transport and associated strain on resources to inspect. There is also, I
feel, a measure of denial. Traditional forestry has relied on
silviculture, nutrition and genetics to get them out of trouble but the pace of
new introductions has picked up and significant investment is required in
forest health solutions to prevent or manage these problems as an integrated
package. I see a glimmer of awakening to this situation and hope we can act
before we ‘bleed’ too many forest health specialists and lose our capacity to

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