An Interview with Natalia Lukina, Forest Ecology and Productivity Centre, Russian Academy of Science
Forests are among our planet’s most important human life-supporting ecosystems, and we have many expectations with regards to the ecosystem services they provide. But: How do major global challenges such as climate change and biodiversity loss affect forests globally, and what can forest governance and management do? How can we deal with rising and changing demands for forest products and ecosystem services due to global population and economic growth, and urbanization?
In order to discuss these questions, the conference “Governing and managing forests for multiple ecosystem services” brought together policymakers, practitioners and academic researchers from different fields on 26-28 February in Bonn. During this event, EFI in collaboration with the documentary filmmaker Patrick Augenstein, interviewed, Natalia Lukina, Forest Ecology and Productivity Centre, Russian Academy of Science.
Within the unique perspective of Russia, Natalia takes us through her first experiences with restoration 30 years ago to her current work investigating forest fires at the Russian Academy of Science. She starts with reflections of her first scientific work, developing restoration plans for the relatively small- scale degradation of the Russian Kola Peninsula, an area with heavy air pollution. She reflects on the outcomes of this work positively, explaining the success and positive change in restoration which can still be seen there today.
However, in her current position, Natalia is facing the restoration of much larger areas. In the last two years, Natalia and her colleagues at the Space Research Institute have seen fires affecting over 10 million hectares of Siberian forests, an increase from previous years which she attributes to climate change. She stresses that “we must adapt our management practices to climate change” and warns that if we do not, Russian forests may become a carbon source instead of carbon sink, a phenomenon that is happening currently in countries like Canada.
In addition to adapting our management practices, Natalia suggests we should move away from polarized debates of whether to segregate or integrate different ecosystem services. She says the debates should instead be replaced with the idea that separation between the two is not helpful: “We need integration with segregation and we need segregation with integration, it depends”. She points out for example that segregation is very important for biodiversity.
Natalia also says that local people are motivated to take part in restoration, which is why she recommends that we must begin to support ordinary people, as well as receive external political and financial support, in order to make progress. These restoration goals should not just be “empty chapters” she emphasizes, stating that the achievement of these goals is her hope for the future, as well as a circular bioeconomy.