Mexico’s Forests, Both Victim of and Solution to Climate Change

The Sierra Juárez forest in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca is vulnerable to the effects of climate change, but at the same time it can help fight the phenomenon. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The Sierra Juárez forest in the southern Mexican state of
Oaxaca is vulnerable to the effects of climate change, but at the
same time it can help fight the phenomenon. Credit: Emilio
Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
IXTLÁN DE JUÁREZ, Mexico, Jan 3 2019 (IPS)

“I dream of a healthy, sustainable, well-managed forest,”
says Rogelio Ruiz, a silviculturist from southern Mexico, who
insists that “we have to clean it up, take advantage of the wood,
and reforest.”

These activities are essential for the ecosystem, especially to
adapt to the impacts of climate change, the president of the La
Trinidad Communal Lands Commissariat, in the municipality of
Ixtlán de Juárez, in the state of Oaxaca, some 840 km south of
Mexico City, told IPS.

Forest habitats are precisely one of the best natural mechanisms
for mitigating climatic change, but at the same time they face the
consequences, such as rising temperatures, variations in rainfall
regimes and the spread of pests.

The ecoregion where La Trinidad is located, the Sierra Juárez
mountains, is well aware of this. Since 2017 it has been facing an
outbreak of the pine sawfly, which eats the needles of the pine
tree, the most common species in this area of central Oaxaca. Local
organisations estimate that some 10,000 hectares are at risk from
this pest.

Ruíz explained that 106 of his community’s 805 hectares have
been damaged. La Trinidad has a traditional Mexican system of
government for collectively-owned and worked land, which is
different from an “eijido” because the land here cannot be
sold.

In September, “we applied aerial fumigation” of a
biopesticide and now “we will use handpumps,” said the
community leader, one of those attending the celebration in Ixtlan
this month of the 35 years of struggle against the private forest
concessions that were once predominant here. The struggle gave rise
to community-managed forests like this one.

La Trinidad, made up of 291 community members and their
families, has a permit to annually extract 5,000 cubic metres of
wood during an eight-year management plan, in effect since
2014.

These undertakings exemplify the development of Mexican
community forestry, considered a global model, for its success in
generating social, economic and environmental benefits.

In 2016, Mexico, the second-largest country in Latin America,
with 1.96 million square kilometres (196 million hectares), had
20.3 million hectares of temperate forest, 850,000 hectares of
mesophilic mountain forest, 50.2 million hectares of scrubland, 7.9
million hectares of grasslands, 11.5 million hectares of rainforest
and 1.4 million hectares of other vegetation, according to the
National Institute of Statistics and Geography.

A truck unloads pine logs at the sawmill of the forest community of Ixtlán de Juárez, in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, which, like other local groups in the Sierra Juárez mountains, sustainably manages its community assets, including timber. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

A truck unloads pine logs at the sawmill of the forest community
of Ixtlán de Juárez, in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca,
which, like other local groups in the Sierra Juárez mountains,
sustainably manages its community assets, including timber. Credit:
Emilio Godoy/IPS

The non-governmental Mexican
Civil Council for Sustainable Forestry
lists 4,886 forest
communities and ejidos, of which some 2,100 commercially exploit
the forests.

But only seven million hectares, in the hands of some 600
communities, operate with a management and conservation plan, a
requirement for obtaining approval for the harvesting programmes
promoted by the state-run National Forestry Commission.

Mexico’s timber production totals seven million cubic metres
annually, of which Oaxaca in the south contributes just under seven
percent.

Forest ecosystems provide water to urban areas, regulate the
water cycle, provide food, and capture carbon dioxide (CO2), the
gas responsible for global warming, among other ecological
services, according to scientific studies.

As a result, in the face of the threats posed by climate change,
forests require public policies that generate better economic
incentives, offer legal certainty about land tenure, expand markets
and increase productivity, say silviculture organisations and
experts.

Ixtlan, which means “place of threads or fibers” in the
Zapotec language and where 600 hectares have been damaged, has
undertaken the fight against pests by experimenting with five
species of pine in the community nursery.

“In November and December, we do seed selection. We want
faster-growing, pest-resistant species. We are confident that the
new species will be more resistant,” explained Sergio Ruiz,
forestry advisor for the community enterprise Santo Tomás Ixtlán
Forest Union.

The community of Ixtlán, also in the municipality of the same
name, owns 19,125 hectares, of which 30 percent is used for
forestry.

Its activities also include ecotourism, a gas station, a shop, a
furniture factory and a water bottling plant. In 2018, the
community nursery provided 360,000 seedlings, 100,000 of which went
to reforestation while the other 260,000 were donated to nearby
communities. The hope is to create a seed orchard.

A study under preparation by the state-run Technical University of Sierra
Juárez
analyses climatic factors such as temperature, moisture
and soil conditions in Ixtlán.

Workers from the forest community of Ixtlán de Juárez inspect seedlings to be planted in the forest they manage within the municipality of the same name, in the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Their plan is to build a seed orchard to generate pine species more resistant to climate change. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Workers from the forest community of Ixtlán de Juárez inspect
seedlings to be planted in the forest they manage within the
municipality of the same name, in the southern state of Oaxaca,
Mexico. Their plan is to build a seed orchard to generate pine
species more resistant to climate change. Credit: Emilio
Godoy/IPS

In 2015, Mexico emitted 683 million tons of CO2, making it

the second largest pollute
r in the region after Brazil. Of that
total, 20 million tons came from the loss of forest lands.

This Latin American country adopted its own goal of zero
deforestation by 2030, a real challenge when average annual logging
represents 200,867 hectares lost between 2011 and 2016, according
to estimates by the Superior Audit of the Federation, the Mexican
government comptroller’s office.

Other sites in the Sierra Juarez mountains are also exposed to
climate change, although their height above sea level temporarily
protects them from insects. Such is the case in the municipality of
San Juan Evangelista, where silviculturists are preparing to adapt
their forests to the phenomenon.

“It is important to clean up the forest, because it takes away
combustion power and the risk of pests. In addition, managed
forests allow more carbon sequestration than unmanaged forests.
They can help prevent climate change from accelerating,” Filemón
Manzano, technical adviser to the forestry community in that
municipality, told IPS.

Analco, which means “on the other side of the river” in
Nahuatl, consists of 150 community members, the owners of 1,600
hectares, of which 1,000 are covered by forests and 430 of which
are exploited. The community operates a nursery for 3,000
seedlings.

Manzano and academics from the state-run Postgraduate College of Agricultural
Sciences
are preparing research on CO2 absorption by managed
forests, estimated at five tons per year per managed hectare.

Under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, Mexico pledged to
reduce, by 2030, up to 14 million tons of annual CO2 emissions from
land use, land use change and forestry, by promoting sustainable
forest management, increasing productivity in forests and jungles
and promoting forest plantations.

But the outlays needed to implement mitigation measures would
total 11.789 billion dollars up to that year, at a cost of 53
dollars per ton of CO2. Zero deforestation would require 7.923
billion dollars and sustainable forest management would require
3.861 billion dollars.

In July, the Mexican forestry sector proposed a long-term
policy, greater investment, an adequate legal framework,
strengthening community forest management, community participation
in the design of measures and a link to climate change, as part of
the “Forests with people, forests forever” campaign.

Rogelio Ruiz called for more support to better care for the
ecosystem and thus reap more benefits.

The study
“Toward a Global Baseline of Carbon Storage in Collective
Lands”
, published in September by the Rights and Resources
Initiative, a Washington-based global network of 15 partners,
estimated that Mexican community forests trap 2.8 million tons of
CO2.

Manzano called for more forest management. “We want to show
how managed forests contribute to the conservation of the planet.
It’s going to be important to have more resistant species and
create a good mix of species,” he said.

The post
Mexico’s Forests, Both Victim of and Solution to Climate
Change
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Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Mexico’s Forests, Both Victim of and Solution to Climate Change