Forest ecosystems provide a wide range of services that benefit humans locally and globally. In particular, healthy forests have the capacity to shield communities from the impacts of climate change. BirdLife is involved in projects around the world to conserve and restore degraded forest ecosystems and promote sustainable forest use. Two examples from Haiti and Ecuador / Peru are presented here.
Forests are home to much of the world’s biodiversity and many of the world’s indigenous peoples. A large proportion of the world’s poor depend on forests for their livelihoods and direct needs. Forest ecosystems provide a wide range of services that benefit humans locally and globally. In particular, the preservation and restoration of natural forests can aid communities in adapting to climate change.
As a result of climate change, Caribbean hurricanes are predicted to become more severe, with increased precipitation and higher peak wind speeds (Day 2009). Such events have already caused much damage and loss of life in Haiti, especially where highly degraded watersheds have resulted in flash flooding and mudslides down denuded hillsides. BirdLife and Haiti Audubon Society are working with local communities in the buffer zone of the Macaya Biosphere Reserve (that encompasses Bois Musicien and Aux Bec-Croisés Important Bird Areas) in south-western Haiti to conserve and reforest the areas around the primary water sources with native plant species. This stabilises the slopes and ensures continued supplies of drinking water to local communities. The project is building organisational capacity by supporting watershed management committees to produce management plans that recognise adaptation, mitigation and biodiversity co-benefits, and utilise traditional knowledge. These activities are all contributing towards alleviating the pressure on local forest resources and biodiversity.
The Tumbesian dry forests of south-western Ecuador and north-western Peru are an area of extraordinary biological wealth. They provide major ecosystem services, including protection of the largest river catchment west of the Andes, promotion of fog-drip that lengthens the growing season by two months, and forest resources for local livelihoods. Climate change-related impacts, such as floods, landslides (exacerbated by soil loss), and intense precipitation often associated with El Nino, will affect these services (Magrin et al. 2007). The Nature and Culture International (NCI) project ‘La Ceiba-Pilares’ is working to retain the essential services the forest provides. Through the work of NCI to strengthen local community land rights, community-based organisations have formed to improve sustainable management of forest resources and to provide microcredit for sustainable livelihood diversification. Benefits include improved food security and greater diversity of natural resources, as well as a social network which will help identification of, and adaptation to, climate change impacts. Due to the shared watershed, bi-national transboundary co-operation for development and natural resources management is essential. In Ecuador, NCI is supporting the implementation of the Watershed Conservation Programme, FORAGUA, which aims to establish municipal watershed reserves in forested areas. In Peru, it is working with the Provincial Government of Piura and the Environment Ministry on biodiversity conservation aspects of the Climate Change Adaptation Strategy. This work enhances local and regional capacity to adapt to climate change, and it ensures that people have the knowledge and skills to make their livelihood activities compatible with their natural, social and cultural environment.
BirdLife International (2009) BirdLife Partners are restoring forests that will help buffer communities against climate change. Presented as part of the BirdLife State of the world's birds website. Available from: . Checked: