A New Dynamics for Meditterean Forests
Mediterranean forests are interwoven with the lives of the people of the region. They provide wood, cork and other products, as well as being a source of income for many. They contribute to the conservation of biodiversity, capture and store carbon, protect soil and water, and offer areas for recreation. Yet they are under increasing pressure. This includes pres- sures from humans, whose needs are growing and shifting, and stresses due to climatic changes including temperature increases, reduced rainfall and prolonged periods of drought. This makes it all the more important to look holistically at the goods and services that Mediterranean forests provide and define sustained and integrated solutions. The positive message that emerges from this issue of Unasylva is that there is a strong technical basis and political will across the countries of the Mediterranean to find such solutions, and to tackle these issues collaboratively. A number of initiatives, born at different times and in different contexts, are coming together, in particular through the work of the Collaborative Partnership on Mediterranean Forests, to ensure that both research and policy are tying in with a regional approach and translating political will into action. In the first article, V. Garavaglia and C. Besacier present an overview of the current situation of forests in the Mediterranean region, drawing upon FAO's ground-breaking 2013 publica- tion, State of Mediterranean Forests. Requested by members of the Committee on Mediterranean Forestry Questions–Silva Mediterranea at a meeting held in Antalya, Turkey, in 2010, this body of knowledge sets a baseline for the gathering of relevant data over time in order to adequately monitor and manage forests in the Mediterranean. Both the article and publication highlight climate change as the major challenge affecting the region, and emphasize the importance of establishing regional strategies. The Strategic Framework on Mediterranean Forests, described in the second article, seeks to do exactly this. Besacier presents the main lines of the framework, which aims to provide a com- mon policy direction across the region and serve as a tool to improve coordination. Several case studies give insight into what different Mediter- ranean countries are doing today to meet the challenges they face. J. Suárez Torres and F. Navarro Baixauli describe measures being taken in the Valencia region, Spain, to deal with fires, over 75 percent of which are caused by human activities, from the burning of agricultural or gardening refuse to apiculture and recreational activities. In the case study on Montpellier, F. Besse, M. Conigliaro, B. Fages, M. Gauthier, G. Mille, F. Salbitano and G. Sanesi look at another important area, i.e. forests and trees in the urban and peri-urban setting, describing the innovative "green vision" of the City of Montpellier and its improvements to quality of life thanks to efficient planning and full involvement of civil society. M. Bugalho and L. Silva, in their article on the Green Heart of Cork project, highlight the specific problems affecting cork landscapes in Portugal, showing that the use of certification and economic incentives may be a viable means of improving sustainable forest management in this region. Three examples of Model Forest initiatives wrap up the case studies, each with a different perspective on the Model Forest approach, which combines the needs of local communities with the long-term sustainability of landscapes. In Tlemcen, Algeria, P. Valbuena, O. Aissaoui and M. Segur look at how the approach is being used to address changes in forest use and threats to cork oak. In the case of Ifrane, Morocco, M. Qarro, P. Valbuena and M. Segur describe how the Model Forest aims to safeguard the region's cedar forests while catering to the economic and subsistence needs of local people. M. Özdemir, P. Valbuena and M. Segur show that in Yalova, Turkey, the main focus of the Model Forest initiative is to sustainably develop income-generating activities including the production of non-wood forest products, recreation and tourism. The final section in this edition presents the Collaborative Part- nership on Mediterranean Forests and a series of related projects carried out by its partner organizations. The partnership, set up in 2010, brings together a range of regional actors concerned with improving forest management and enhancing forests' benefits. F. Ducci, V. Garavaglia and M.C. Monteverdi showcase the work of the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) framework in conserving and sharing knowledge on forest genetic resources and the adaptive traits of species popu- lations that manage to survive in marginal environments – of potential for climate-change adaptation strategies. C. Besacier and C. Gallo Granizo describe a regional cooperation project, funded by the French Global Environment Facility, that explores REDD+ opportunities in the Mediterranean Region. R.A. Kastl and L. Liagre present a GIZ (Germany Agency for International Cooperation) project on adapting policy framework conditions to climate change in the Middle East–North Africa region through capacity building and intersectoral collaboration. EFIMED (the Regional Office for the Mediterranean of the European Forest Institute) is also shown to have an important role in coordinating research across the region, through for example the Mediterranean Forest Research Agenda 2010-2020, produced via an extensive consultation process. L. Amandier, A. Khaldi and S. Vallée present two initiatives of the International Association for Mediterranean Forests (AIFM), which focuses on the exchange of knowledge, covering climate change and integrated land management. The issue closes with a report of the independent evalua- tion carried out on the Committee on Mediterranean Forestry Questions–Silva Mediterranea. The report highlights the history of this statutory body of FAO, created in 1948, and its poten- tial to play an even stronger role if the recommendations of the evaluation are taken into account. Many of the themes coming through in this issue of Unasylva will recall questions already raised in Unasylva No. 197, on Mediterranean Forests, published in 1999. Fifteen years later, it is timely to take a fresh look at these questions in light of the ongoing social and environmental transformations in the region, and the measures that are being taken to tackle them.