Protecting Global Forests

Case Study from IIASA Annual Report 2011: 

IIASA is providing modeling support to initiatives to find the best ways of reducing deforestation and the degradation of forest land which, if unchecked, contribute to global warming

An international analysis of deforestation by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) indicates that over 230 million ha of forest will disappear by 2050 if no corrective action is taken. Research for the Report, “Forests for a Living Planet,” was based on IIASA’s G4M and GLOBIOM models developed by IIASA’s Ecosystems Services and Management Program (ESM).

The chapters are part of an ambitious WWF initiative to mark the 2011 International Year of Forests aiming for zero net forest loss deforestation and forest degradation (ZNDD) by 2020. They are being released on to the WWF Web site at regular intervals to maximize impact. Currently, three are available: the Introduction; Forests and Energy; and Forests and Climate, all of which are based on IIASA modeling.

ESM’s modeling for the Report allows various global land-use scenarios to be explored. It calculates the effect on forests of forces such as population growth and consumer demand, and describes possible consequences for key areas such as food production, climate change, biodiversity, commodity prices, and economic development. The Living Forests Model features a reference “Do Nothing” Scenario and shows how this would change if measures were introduced to curb deforestation and forest degradation.

All data in the IIASA models are spatially explicit, with each data point anchored to a point of reference on a 1–50 km grid of the Earth’s surface, and data derived from a number of different, frequently updated sources.

The Living Forests Model finds that achieving ZNDD is both possible and urgent, but a number of tough trade-offs will be required to make it happen. As well as the “big questions” such as maintaining biodiversity, safeguarding livelihoods, and mitigating global warming, individual choices on diet and lifestyle will also need to be questioned.

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Last edited: 19 July 2013

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