About this Research Topic
The global pandemic associated with the SARS-CoV-2 virus has elicited extraordinary responses from governments worldwide. In order to contain the spread of the disease, individual and economic mobility has been increasingly restricted, with country to country mobility all but halted. One consequence is a drastic reduction in the consumption of fossil fuels, with obvious consequences for global carbon flows. Emissions of anthropogenic pollutant gases are declining, and air and water quality is improving many urban and suburban areas. These rapid and large changes in regional and global cycles of greenhouse and trace gases open up the possibility of ‘real-time’ study in ‘real laboratories’. The dynamic adaptability of forests and trees to changing climates (e.g. heat waves and extreme drought) and other stressors now has a new dimension.
The pandemic has arguably already had direct impacts on forestry. European forests have for the past two years suffered significant drought. Sawmills and the timber industry are already carrying full inventories. Some mills have now closed due to Covid-19, as have furniture factories. The oversupply has seen timber prices collapse across Europe. In the United States (US), hording of hygiene products has caused in spike in demand for pulp wood, while economic uncertainty has reduced demand for lumber. The combination of regional climate extremes and changes in demand for wood driven by Covid-19 will influence forest use in the medium to long term, with impacts on nature conservation and biodiversity, vulnerability of forests to pests, and forest restructuring towards more climate-resilient forests.
Furthermore, the pandemic has clearly changed the value placed on urban and peri-urban green spaces and forests as recreational and leisure areas at a time when international travel is severely restricted. In the US, urban residents seeking refuge from Covid-19 infection hot-spots are flooding into rural areas placing increased pressure on ecosystem services. The lessons we learn from this pandemic will influence future land use planning and management. Securing the future of protected and recreational areas under increasing population pressure and changing human behavior will likely rise in government priorities.
In this Research Topic, which clearly intersects with many of the sections and topics already present in Frontiers in Forests and Global Change, we aim to incorporate a wide range of observational, experimental and special modelling studies that address key aspects of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on our forests. Authors are invited to submit original papers, reviews/mini-surveys, methodologies and opinion articles that relate to, but are not limited to, the following questions:
• What are the impacts of reduced pollutant emissions on biogeochemical feedbacks and processes, such as carbon sinks and aerosol formation in forest ecosystems and urban forests?
• Does the large-scale reduction of air pollution lead to improvement of forest ecosystems’ health and advanced urban greening?
• Do the reduced management activities in forests lead to an increased incidence of diseases, e.g. bark beetle calamities?
• What are the short-term and long-term economic consequences of the pandemic for forestry enterprises and forest owners?
• Are observed improvements in water quality associated with reduced economic activity only temporary or are they associated with restoration?
• How could changes in forest management impact biodiversity?
• How are the socio-economic consequences of the pandemic reflected in ecosystem services provided by forests?
• Does the use of forests as recreation areas change due to changed behavior of urban residents in the long-term?
• How has the pandemic lockdown affected land use and economics, conservation and deforestation in forest frontier regions?
• How are forest goods and services (bushmeat, food resources) used during economic lockdown: is there evidence of a forest safety net?
• What are the interactions and spread of Covid-19 between humans and other species in forest regions?
Keywords: Recovery Capacity, Resilience, Physiological Acclimation, Global Change, Pollution, Forest Dynamics, Forest Growth, Forest Management, Forest Health, Climate Feedbacks
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.