Speaker: Forrest Fleischman, Associate Professor, University of Minnesota
Chaired by Prof Yadvinder Malhi, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford
A wide variety of global initiatives now advocate for increasing carbon storage through changing land management. The focus of these initiatives is often on planting trees or otherwise restoring forests. In this talk, Prof Fleischman will draw on evidence from his recent research in India, as well as associated work around the world, to show that these initiatives often fail because they are not grounded in a social scientific understanding of the dynamics of land systems. Using a combination of remote sensing, participatory mapping, reviewing government records, and an extensive household survey it was found that decades of tree planting initiatives in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh produced little meaningful change in land cover. This was the result of failing to understand and address the underlying human dynamics that determine land cover change. New initiatives being proposed in India follow the same pattern and are thus likely to produce similarly disappointing results. While these findings lead to pessimism about the prospects for global nature based climate solutions, they also point towards the potential for success when initiatives ground their work in understanding & collaborating with local people.