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Safeguarding reforestation efforts against changes in climate and disturbance regimes

Nolan, Rachael H., Drew, David M., O'Grady, Anthony P., Pinkard, Elizabeth A., Paul, Keryn, Roxburgh, Stephen H., Mitchell, Patrick J., Bruce, Jody, Battaglia, Michael, Ramp, Daniel
Forest ecology and management 2018 v.424 pp. 458-467
biodiversity, carbon, carbon sequestration, climate, climate change, decision support systems, defoliation, drought, emissions, environmental degradation, issues and policy, natural regeneration, phytophagous insects, protocols, reforestation, risk, risk assessment, temperature, vegetation, wildfires, Australia
Reforestation schemes, which encompass environmental plantings and natural regeneration of vegetation on cleared land, are increasingly being established for the purposes of mitigating anthropogenic carbon emissions. However, these schemes are themselves at risk from climate change and associated changes in disturbance regimes. Simultaneously, there is increasing pressure on reforested areas to achieve multiple co-benefits, e.g. maximizing carbon storage, ameliorating environmental degradation and promoting biodiversity objectives, all while not adversely affecting community values, such as agricultural production. Here, we review the myriad of biophysical risks posed by climate change to reforested areas while documenting management actions and policies that can enhance both the resistance and resilience of reforested areas to such risks. While it is difficult to buffer vegetation against the direct effects of climate change, such as elevated temperature and changed precipitation patterns, it is possible to manage some of the indirect effects, such as wildfire, drought and insect defoliation. Methods for reducing the vulnerability of reforested areas range from site-specific management actions, particularly around design and location, through to regional and national scale initiatives, such as vulnerability assessments and decision support tools. The complexity of objectives and risks posed to reforested areas means that it is vitally important to evaluate outcomes from across the current estate of reforested areas. However, there is currently no national protocol in place in Australia to track, monitor or evaluate the outcomes of reforestation. Thus, we recommend the establishment of a national framework for analyzing and supporting the growing range of reforestation activities.