Welsh environment minister says lessons of Europe, outlined in FUTUREforest report, can help guide foresters as they plan for climate change

ABERYSTWYTH, Wales , November 15, 2011 (press release) – Welsh Government Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development John Griffiths is urging foresters to learn from the lessons of Europe as they plan for climate change and the future.

Speaking to leaders of the forestry sector in Wales at the Senedd this week, Mr Griffiths was highlighting findings in a new report from FUTUREforest, the Forestry Commission Wales three year INTERREG IVC project supported by the Welsh Government.

“Welsh woodlands and forests – European answers for the future” brings together all the latest best practice methods from across seven regions of Europe.

“By taking these examples on board, I am sure we can maximise the benefits of our commitment to increasing woodland areas in Wales.

“This will increase the number of recreation areas in Wales, help to ensure greater health benefits and better carbon management, and of course increase the availability of that unique renewable resource, timber,” said Mr Griffiths.

The document, which includes recommendations for a holistic approach to forestry, also highlights the opportunities that timber can provide to help tackle the challenges of changing weather patterns.

“But thanks to FUTUREforest we are aware of the threats that face us as we have seen some of the effects that have impacted other regions of Europe which are already dealing with the consequences of climate change,” said FUTUREforest project manager Dr Helen Cariss.

Forest Research in Wales is currently trialling ways in which green engineering, such as riparian tree planting and creating woody debris dams, can help reduce the risk of flooding in Wales.

Latest figures from Environment Agency Wales show that one in six properties in Wales is at risk of flooding - over 375,000 properties in total.

“This problem is not going to go away, and the green engineering methods of flood control can provide cheap, efficient and sustainable techniques to improve our flood defences,” said Dr Cariss. “Forests and trees also improve water quality by reducing erosion and by filtering pollutants and sediments.”

As well as sharing latest methods from Wales, lessons have been learned from the other six FUTUREforest partner regions.

In Brandenburg, for example, lower rainfall has resulted in water stress in their pine plantations, allowing pests to take hold and decimating forests. Foresters have responded by planting "plastic forests", a mix of species which are not all vulnerable to the same pests.

In the Auvergne, foresters are creating forests with mixed species and mixed age. Planting these diverse forests ensures the future of the forest whatever the climate – if some fail, others with different characteristics will survive.

Meanwhile, in Latvia forest researchers are breeding new strains of their traditional tree species with special characteristics which will enable them to adapt to the changes in climate.

These trees are also expected to lock away carbon more quickly, highly productive species which grow quickly, converting atmospheric carbon into timber which can then be used for construction, replacing high carbon emission concrete and steel structures.

“The Welsh Government is committed to its aim of creating an additional 100,000 hectares of new forests by 2030 partly through Glastir. We believe that the work completed by FUTUREforest can help to guide that afforestation for the maximum benefit of Wales,” Dr Cariss added.

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