Launch of the Global Expert Panel Report

Led by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO), the Collaborative Partnership on Forests’ Global Forest Expert Panels (GFEP) initiative undertook a comprehensive scientific assessment of the state of knowledge on the forest-water relationship. The panel’s report was formally launched last 10th July at the UN Headquarters in New York. Dr Julia Martin-Ortega, Associate Director for water@leeds, was one of the authors and panel members whilst University of Leeds together with University of Cambridge and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (Rome, Italy) hosted the expert meetings.

The publication, entitled “Forest and Water on a Changing Planet: Vulnerability, Adaptation and Governance Opportunities. A Global Assessment Report” constitutes the most comprehensive systematic scientific syntheses on the interactions between forests and water on the global level to date. Presenting the results of the sixth global scientific assessment undertaken in the framework of GFEP, the report provides a structured synthesis on the state of the knowledge on the forest-water relationship.

Blue Nile falls in Tis Abay, Ethiopia – © iStock: Joel Carillet

The report also focused on the following key questions: Do forests matter? Who is responsible and what should be done? How can progress be made and measured?” Panel co-chair Meine van Noordwijk, of ICRAF and Wageningen University (the Netherlands), explains, “Natural disturbances and human activities influence forest and water relations with their impacts, depending on their timing, magnitude, intensity and duration“. Panel co-chair Irena Creed (University of Saskatchewan, Canada) adds, “Under a changing climate, these influencing factors vary more than ever, sometimes in unanticipated ways. Forest management for the future must therefore factor in uncertainty.”

The report concludes that international governance can play a key role in optimizing climate-forest-water relations by creating norms such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), by providing forums in which norms can be discussed, negotiated and agreed upon, and by providing opportunities for assessing progress. Similarly, new levels of collective action – especially across sectors and across spatial scales – as well as stronger participatory approaches are needed to shift policy goals away from more profit-oriented toward more sustainability-oriented strategies.

The launch of the panel report aims to provide guidance to the United Nations High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF 2018) regarding the linkages between forests (SDG 15) and other SDGs. During the event, IUFRO launched a global assessment report and accompanying policy brief on the interactions between forests and water. GFEP is a joint initiative of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) led by IUFRO.

Read the Panel Report