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The Future of Forests –Planted, semi-natural and urban forests to prevail in 300 years

Published: 05 June 2014

On 22 May, to celebrate the International Day of Biodiversity, the Acting Director General of UNOG and Acting Executive Secretary of UNECE, Mr. Michael Møller, buried a bottle containing a message to future generations under a tree, in the garden of the Palais. When the tree dies in 300 years, the time capsule will be found by a future generation.  

But how will the forests look in 300 years? Will there be any left? Will climate change have altered forests distribution and species? How will human population growth and migrations have impacted forest resources?  What will happen to primary forests?

In his lecture for the UNECE/FAO event organized at the Palais de Nations on the occasion of the World Environment Day, Dr. Jürgen Blaser, Prof. for International Forestry and Climate Change, Bern University of Applied School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences, tried to answer some of these questions, key to both forest and human survival.

“Natural forests will still exist,” said Dr. Blaser, “but, to a great extent, climax forest types, such as primary rainforests, will have disappeared, due mainly to shorter forest cycles caused by increased (climate-related) disturbance”. And he continued arguing that, “We expect that natural forests will cover about 0.5 billion ha, mainly in boreal and temperate areas in Europe, Siberia and North America, and in the tropics […] they will mostly be in protected areas, with minimal timber harvesting, and will provide important ecosystem services”.

The majority of the future forests, according to Dr. Blaser, will be “planted and semi-natural forests” that will provide readily renewable natural resources, such as wood and wood-based fibre. He also envisions a growth in urban forests, which will have a primary provide “recreational and spiritual benefits and serve as climate buffers”.

Dr. Blaser’s highlighted the crucial role of forests and forests management for future human survival with optimism.

In a similar fashion, Ambassador Manuel Dengo, Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the United Nations, talked about the importance of preserving forests putting a particular emphasis on the importance of preserving mangroves as they “provide a natural defence towards storm surges and other coastal disasters and prevent erosion. They have a key function to maintain coasts and islands safe and ecosystems resilient. Mangroves do not only protect nature, but also thousands of shoreline communities in tropical and subtropical regions”.

The hope remains that policy makers and foresters will work together to preserve world forests and, ultimately, human future.

The study of Dr Blaser and the presentations are available at: www.unece.org/index.php

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