Future Forests - Chapter 3: Forests then and now: managing for ecosystem benefits, services to humans, and healthy forests across scales

Elsevier, Future Forests: Mitigation and Adaptation to Climate Change, 2024, Pages 49-64
Steel E.A., Hinckley T.M., Richards W.H., D'Amore D.V.

Forests are embedded in our cultural history, cover over a third of Earth’s surface, and provide essential ecological services, including water cycling, carbon cycling, soil development, nutrient cycling, and biodiversity maintenance. Forests also provide values directly to humans in the form of wood products, bioenergy, wild foods, recreation, human health, and cultural values. Future forest management must consider the impacts of shifting temperature and precipitation patterns across scales, from individual trees to entire landscapes, on these ecological processes, and on the values humans derive from forests. The hallmarks of past and current healthy forests across ecosystems, including adaptation to natural disturbance regimes, variability over time and space, and sophisticated underground root networks, can guide this future management. Future forest management may, therefore, be most effective by embracing the value of forest and water linkages; the role of variability in promoting resilience; the importance of past adaptation to natural resilience; the dependence of above-ground systems on below-ground complexity; and the need to consider forests within larger, shifting landscapes.