Module IV: Summary

In this Module, we have examined two further criteria for the sustainable management of forests. The productivity of forest ecosystems is closely linked to the material presented in the next Module, namely the social, economic and cultural benefits provided by forests. Much silvicultural practice is focused on the maintenance or enhancement of the productive capacity of forests, and there is a great deal of information available about this aspect of forestry. Most attempts to predict future forest productivity are based on models that rely on measurements of past growth for their calibration. Unfortunately climate change is taking into uncharted territory, and our ability to model future forest productivity under conditions of climate change is very limited.

We also examined the role that forests play in global carbon dynamics. This potential has raised the political profile of forests in recent years, and their future has been the subject of much debate. Problems associated with deforestation and forest degradation have been recognized, and considerable sums of money have been devoted to reducing the loss of forests around the world. Forests will continue to play a major part in discussions about climate change, and it is important that foresters play a greater role in these discussions. To do so will, however, require a sound understanding of the potential capacity of forests to act as a carbon sink and store, and how this will be affected by climate change.