April 28, 2009

The Future Of Mediterranean Forests Seems Uncertain

The future of Mediterranean forests seems unclear because of the major environmental and social changes now and in the future. However, as the recently published article by Palahí et al. states, action can be taken to prevent further damage to the forests and to improve their image. After all, Mediterranean forest ecosystems provide multiple goods and services, including an exceptional richness in terms of biodiversity, which are crucial for the socio-economic development of rural areas as well as for the welfare of the urban populations of the Mediterranean region. They are very vulnerable and fragile to numerous threats such as forest fires, over-exploitation, deforestation, and degradation. These threats are nowadays accentuated in a context of climate and land use changes.

The authors point out the importance of improving the information regarding all non-market forest benefits, characterizing their economic nature, assigning values and positioning them within a total economic value framework. In addition, they emphasise designing and implementing an appropriate mix of policy instruments at different levels to correct the existing market failures related to the provision and internalization of non-marketed forest services. In a Mediterranean context, institutional reforms are also crucial if policy instruments are to be effectively implemented, since poor and weak administration services might prevent the correct application of the various instruments.

Finally, Palahí et al. remark that any forest policy or measure should be designed and implemented within the framework of wider rural development strategies and policies. Due to their unique character, improving the state of the Mediterranean forests requires a joint territorial approach between all concerned parties: agriculture and rural development, urban societies, tourism, industry, environment, transport, etc. With the current limited resources allocated to forest management, research and education, sharing knowledge, know-how and experience at the international scale around the Mediterranean basin is becoming increasingly important.

The authors conclude that to a large extent, the future of Mediterranean forests depends on the collective political willingness and commitment to tackle the problems. They raise the question if it would be possible to envisage a permanent high political process on Mediterranean forests similar to the Ministerial Conference on Protections of Forests in Europe (MCPFE) within the Euro-Mediterranean framework?


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