Prof Kathy Willis CBE: The framing of the UK’s forests: past, present and future
The NDG James Memorial Lecture 2019 from the Royal Forestry Society
Thursday June 20 14:15 to 15:30
Policies to manage, conserve and enhance forests have seen a dramatic shift in their framing over the past decade. Terms such as “natural capital” and “nature’s contribution to people” are now commonly used. The focus of this framing is upon determining those aspects of forests that underpin important societal benefits. These range, for example, from identifying their role for carbon sequestration and equitable climates, to those that prevent soil erosion and reduce flood risk potential. There is also an emerging interest in the value of forests for underpinning important physical and mental well-being benefits.
Many countries, including the UK are now developing ‘Natural Capital’ registers to understand where their most important natural capital assets are located at national, regional and local scales and many of these are considering predominantly forested landscapes. They are also devising payment mechanisms to ensure that those aspects of nature that are important in this respect, receive funding to ensure no further degradation and their maintenance and enhancement.
Whilst the steps to undertaking these assessments appears relatively straightforward, in practice it is quickly becoming realised that one of the greatest obstacles to enabling a natural capital approach to become operational is a paucity of datasets and models that can understand the dynamics of forests in space and time. There is also almost no appreciation of the impact of current and future climate change upon the natural capital assets provided by forests and their flows.
This talk will illustrate, with examples, the huge potential of forestry data, from historical records to more recent satellite imagery and newly emerging models, to fill these knowledge gaps. It will discuss a number of excellent studies that have been published in the past few years that are starting to demonstrate the importance of these data from understanding natural baselines of the assets provide by the UK forests and their variability in time, to the ec
osystem services provided, and their resilience. Finally, the talk will discuss the important steps that the forest community at large needs to consider taking in order for the UK’s valuable forests to become firmly embedded within natural capital framing, and ultimately the shaping of our current and future landscapes.
Professor Katherine (Kathy) J. Willis CBE is Principal of St Edmund Hall and Professor of Biodiversity in the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford. Read more here
This event is the Day 2 keynote address at the Evolving the Forest international conference and is open for booking to the general public.
The NDG James Memorial Lecture is supported and presented each year by the Royal Forestry Society.
Tickets are limited.