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Science needs management data to help forest managers adapt to climate change

The Boréon Pinus cembra / Larix decidua mixed forest in the southern French Alps. Credit: B.Fady/INRA

Open access data on forest management activities could bridge the gap between research and management at a relatively low cost. Data from past management would help to ensure that we can manage forests more sustainably in the future.

At the moment, climate-change science lacks natural habitat management data that would enable researchers to test, improve and validate their models and recommendations. This is a major drawback, which leads to skepticism from managers, policy makers and the public. If the scientific community had access to data from natural habitat management, particularly forest management, these data would help to build better models, leading to better recommendations.

The activities of forest management, such as selection of species and seed sources, plantation establishment and thinning, influence the dynamics of forest ecosystems at multiple scales. Managers regularly monitor these actions and their outcomes, using standardized procedures and protocols. Repeated thousands of times over different climates and habitats, these outcomes constitute massive amounts of data that, after suitable statistical analysis, could have far-reaching, general value. For example, the repeated failure or success of particular species, populations or genotypes in reforestation programmes across entire continents would offer precious insights into how climate affects species adaptation processes.