Special Issue "Systematic Methods and Techniques Applied to Forestry and Land Use Management"

A special issue of Forests (ISSN 1999-4907). This special issue belongs to the section "Forest Ecology and Management".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2021).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Gillian Petrokofsky
E-Mail Website1 Website2
Guest Editor
Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3RB, UK
Interests: systematic review; environmental evidence; forestry; land use management; participatory research
Dr. Sini Savilaakso
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Forest Sciences, University of Helsinki, 00100 Helsinki, Finland
Interests: land use change; systematic review; forest Management; quantitative social research

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Evidence is a much-used, and misused, word in science and policy, and evidence-based initiatives have emerged in many subjects in recent years, following 30 years of success in medicine. Systematic reviews, as powerful evidence synthesis tools, emerged in environmental conservation as recently as 2006, to address questions of great complexity, where many of the possible land management actions are contested or expensive. In such cases, it is important that actions are informed by the best available evidence, and not simply by the assertions or beliefs of special interest groups, or even ill-defined 'experts'. The rigorous approach to evidence inclusion in systematic reviews often highlights deficiencies in primary research, such as badly reported or missing methodological details, which result in substantial gaps in the reliable knowledge available for decision-makers. Systematic reviews and systematic maps were introduced to forestry and related land use disciplines in 2013, through a collaborative project funded by the UK’s Department for International Development, and led by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), in collaboration with five partner research institutions: the World Agroforestry Centre, the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development, the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center, the International Union of Forest Research Organizations, and the University of Oxford. Since then, there has been great interest in commissioning systematic evidence syntheses, and the number of syntheses published has increased rapidly.

This Special Issue of Forests is focused on systematic approaches to evidence synthesis in the area of forest management, restoration, ecology, economics, genetics, engineering, bioenergy, soils, recreation, conservation, human dimensions of forests, urban forests, and related land use management. Studies can be systematic reviews, systematic maps, rapid reviews and other types of systematic evidence evaluation, supported by detailed methods. Cross-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary studies will be particularly welcomed.

Dr. Gillian Petrokofsky
Dr. Sini Savilaakso
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • systematic review
  • systematic mapping
  • evidence synthesis
  • forestry
  • land use management

Published Papers (11 papers)

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Editorial

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Editorial
The Value of Systematic Evidence Synthesis in Forestry, Land Use and Development to Improve Research, Decision-Making and Practice
Forests 2021, 12(10), 1355; https://doi.org/10.3390/f12101355 - 05 Oct 2021
Viewed by 485
Abstract
Despite well-established procedures for using systematic evidence-informed approaches to policy and practice in fields as diverse as medicine, crime and justice, education, and conservation, the uptake of these rigorous methods of synthesising relevant literature has been disappointingly slow in forestry and related fields [...] Read more.
Despite well-established procedures for using systematic evidence-informed approaches to policy and practice in fields as diverse as medicine, crime and justice, education, and conservation, the uptake of these rigorous methods of synthesising relevant literature has been disappointingly slow in forestry and related fields [...] Full article

Research

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Article
Forests, Water, and Land Use Change across the Central American Isthmus: Mapping the Evidence Base for Terrestrial Holocene Palaeoenvironmental Proxies
Forests 2021, 12(8), 1057; https://doi.org/10.3390/f12081057 - 09 Aug 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 758
Abstract
An ever-increasing demand for agriculture while conserving biodiversity, maintaining livelihoods, and providing critical ecosystem services is one of the largest challenges for tropical land management across the Central American Isthmus today. Climatic and anthropogenic drivers threaten to cause changes in the forest cover [...] Read more.
An ever-increasing demand for agriculture while conserving biodiversity, maintaining livelihoods, and providing critical ecosystem services is one of the largest challenges for tropical land management across the Central American Isthmus today. Climatic and anthropogenic drivers threaten to cause changes in the forest cover and composition for this region, and therefore, understanding the dynamics of these systems and their variability across space and through time is important for discerning current and future responses. Such information is of value especially for risk mitigation, planning, and conservation purposes. The understanding of the forests, water, and land use for this region through time is currently limited, yet it is essential for understanding current patterns of change, particularly with reference to: (i) forest fragmentation; (ii) water availability; and (iii) land management. Through the examination of biotic (e.g., pollen, diatoms, and Sporormiella) and abiotic (e.g., δ 18O, CaCO3, and magnetic susceptibility) proxies, extracted from environmental archives, evidence for longer-term environmental changes can be inferred and linked to drivers of change including climate, burning, and human activities. Proxy environmental data from terrestrial depositional archives across the Central American Isthmus were identified and mapped following best practice for systematic evidence synthesis. Results from the evidence base were summarised to show the spatial and temporal extent of the published datasets. A total of 12,474 articles were identified by a comprehensive search in three major bibliographic databases. From these, 425 articles were assessed for relevance at full-text, and 149 fully met inclusion criteria for the review. These articles yielded 648 proxy records in 167 study sites that were mapped on an interactive map with filters to allow full exploration of the evidence base. Just under half of the studies were published in the last decade. Most studies extracted their data from lake sediments, with a focus on moist tropical forests in lowland sites in Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico. The largest data gaps in the evidence base are Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, and El Salvador. There are also significant evidence gaps for dry tropical forests, coniferous forests, mangroves, and grasslands. Most of the studies assessed had methodological or presentational limitations that make future meta-analysis difficult and significantly affect the ability to draw conclusions that are helpful for future decision-making. A degree of standardisation, transparency, and repeatability in reporting would be beneficial to harness the findings of the existing evidence base and to shape future research in this geographical area. The systematic map of the evidence base highlights six key review topic areas that could be targeted, if the raw data could be obtained, including: (i) dating uncertainty and standardising reporting; (ii) land use change across space and time; (iii) dispersal pathways of agriculture; (iv) the role and impacts of fire and burning; (v) changes in hydro-climate, water availability, and the risk of tropical storms; and (vi) forest resilience and recovery. Full article
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Article
Implications of Temperate Agroforestry on Sheep and Cattle Productivity, Environmental Impacts and Enterprise Economics. A Systematic Evidence Map
Forests 2020, 11(12), 1321; https://doi.org/10.3390/f11121321 - 11 Dec 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1541
Abstract
The environmental impacts of ruminant livestock farming need to be mitigated to improve the sustainability of food production. These negative impacts have been compounded by the increased spatial and cultural separation of farming and forestry across multiple temperate landscapes and contexts over recent [...] Read more.
The environmental impacts of ruminant livestock farming need to be mitigated to improve the sustainability of food production. These negative impacts have been compounded by the increased spatial and cultural separation of farming and forestry across multiple temperate landscapes and contexts over recent centuries, and could at least in part be alleviated by re-integration of livestock and trees via agroforestry systems. Such integration also has the potential to benefit the productivity and economics of livestock farming. However, the delivery of hoped-for benefits is highly likely to depend on context, which will necessitate the consideration of local synergies and trade-offs. Evaluating the extensive body of research on the synergies and trade-offs between agroforestry and environmental, productivity and economic indicators would provide a resource to support context-specific decision making by land managers. Here, we present a systematic evidence map of academic and grey literature to address the question “What are the impacts of temperate agroforestry systems on sheep and cattle productivity, environmental impacts and farm economic viability?”. We followed good practice guidance from the Collaboration for Environmental Evidence to find and select relevant studies to create an interactive systematic map. We identified 289 relevant studies from 22 countries across temperate regions of North and South America, Australasia and Europe. Our preliminary synthesis indicates that there is an emerging evidence base to demonstrate that temperate agroforestry can deliver environmental and economic benefits compared with pasture without trees. However, to date measures of livestock productivity (particularly weather-related mortality and heat- and cold-stress) have received insufficient attention in many temperate agroforestry systems. The evidence base assembled through this work provides a freely accessible resource applicable across temperate regions to support context-specific decision making. Full article
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Review

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Review
Methods for Measuring Frost Tolerance of Conifers: A Systematic Map
Forests 2021, 12(8), 1094; https://doi.org/10.3390/f12081094 - 16 Aug 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 551
Abstract
Frost tolerance is the ability of plants to withstand freezing temperatures without unrecoverable damage. Measuring frost tolerance involves various steps, each of which will vary depending on the objectives of the study. This systematic map takes an overall view of the literature that [...] Read more.
Frost tolerance is the ability of plants to withstand freezing temperatures without unrecoverable damage. Measuring frost tolerance involves various steps, each of which will vary depending on the objectives of the study. This systematic map takes an overall view of the literature that uses frost tolerance measuring techniques in gymnosperms, focusing mainly on conifers. Many different techniques have been used for testing, and there has been little change in methodology since 2000. The gold standard remains the field observation study, which, due to its cost, is frequently substituted by other techniques. Closed enclosure freezing tests (all non-field freezing tests) are done using various types of equipment for inducing artificial freezing. An examination of the literature indicates that several factors have to be controlled in order to measure frost tolerance in a manner similar to observation in a field study. Equipment that allows controlling the freezing rate, frost exposure time and thawing rate would obtain results closer to field studies. Other important factors in study design are the number of test temperatures used, the range of temperatures selected and the decrements between the temperatures, which should be selected based on expected frost tolerance of the tissue and species. Full article
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Review
Do Review Papers on Bird–Vegetation Relationships Provide Actionable Information to Forest Managers in the Eastern United States?
Forests 2021, 12(8), 990; https://doi.org/10.3390/f12080990 - 26 Jul 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1012
Abstract
Forest management planning requires the specification of measurable objectives as desired future conditions at spatial extents ranging from stands to landscapes and temporal extents ranging from a single growing season to several centuries. Effective implementation of forest management requires understanding current conditions and [...] Read more.
Forest management planning requires the specification of measurable objectives as desired future conditions at spatial extents ranging from stands to landscapes and temporal extents ranging from a single growing season to several centuries. Effective implementation of forest management requires understanding current conditions and constraints well enough to apply the appropriate silvicultural strategies to produce desired future conditions, often for multiple objectives, at varying spatial and temporal extents. We administered an online survey to forest managers in the eastern US to better understand how wildlife scientists could best provide information to help meet wildlife-related habitat objectives. We then examined more than 1000 review papers on bird–vegetation relationships in the eastern US compiled during a systematic review of the primary literature to see how well this evidence-base meets the information needs of forest managers. We identified two main areas where wildlife scientists could increase the relevance and applicability of their research. First, forest managers want descriptions of wildlife species–vegetation relationships using the operational metrics of forest management (forest type, tree species composition, basal area, tree density, stocking rates, etc.) summarized at the operational spatial units of forest management (stands, compartments, and forests). Second, forest managers want information about how to provide wildlife habitats for many different species with varied habitat needs across temporal extents related to the ecological processes of succession after harvest or natural disturbance (1–2 decades) or even longer periods of stand development. We provide examples of review papers that meet these information needs of forest managers and topic-specific bibliographies of additional review papers that may contain actionable information for foresters who wish to meet wildlife management objectives. We suggest that wildlife scientists become more familiar with the extensive grey literature on forest bird–vegetation relationships and forest management that is available in natural resource management agency reports. We also suggest that wildlife scientists could reconsider everything from the questions they ask, the metrics they report on, and the way they allocate samples in time and space, to provide more relevant and actionable information to forest managers. Full article
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Review
Definitions of and Perspectives on Forests of High Value: A Systematic Map Protocol
Forests 2021, 12(7), 876; https://doi.org/10.3390/f12070876 - 02 Jul 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 940
Abstract
Forests are defined in many different ways. Apart from ecological and structural factors, associated values and provided ecosystem services are an important part of forest definitions. Typically, forest types are differentiated based on climatic regions and on degrees of human modification. A better [...] Read more.
Forests are defined in many different ways. Apart from ecological and structural factors, associated values and provided ecosystem services are an important part of forest definitions. Typically, forest types are differentiated based on climatic regions and on degrees of human modification. A better understanding of how to distinguish different forests on the basis of the values they provide is needed to advance global policies put forward by organisations such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), or the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These policies so far approach all forests in a similar manner, regardless of their condition. Without this distinction, benefits stemming from forest intactness and their contribution to global environmental challenges remain unaccounted for. Forest definitions provide the basis for policies and monitoring systems driving or enabling deforestation, degradation, reforestation, and restoration. Here, we provide a systematic approach to disentangle and synthesise different value classifications of forests. As part of a collaboration between ETH Zurich, the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD), the University of Liège and Biotope, Forest Stewardship Council International (FSC) commissioned a systematic map that aims to clarify how definitions of forests of high value are understood and described. Focusing on forests of high value, the systematic map will address three research questions: (1) How are various terms linked to forests of high value defined in the literature?; (2) Do definitions vary between different actors?; and (3) How common are the various definitions? Bibliographic databases and organisational websites will be searched, and internet search engines used to find relevant peer-reviewed and grey literature. The searches will be conducted in English, French and Spanish. Data extraction and coding will be performed at the same time when full texts are considered for inclusion. Definitions will be extracted as well as their respective sources and other study information. We will produce a catalogue of definitions for different terms associated with forests of high value, a narrative synthesis describing the evidence base, and visualisations illustrating the relationships between definitions and terms for forests of high value and their frequencies in the literature. Full article

Other

Commentary
Terrestrial and Aquatic Carbon Dynamics in Tropical Peatlands under Different Land Use Types: A Systematic Review Protocol
Forests 2021, 12(10), 1298; https://doi.org/10.3390/f12101298 - 23 Sep 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 665
Abstract
Peatlands are both responding to and influencing climate change. While numerous studies on peatland carbon dynamics have been published in boreal and temperate regions for decades, a much smaller yet growing body of scientific articles related to tropical peatlands has recently been published, [...] Read more.
Peatlands are both responding to and influencing climate change. While numerous studies on peatland carbon dynamics have been published in boreal and temperate regions for decades, a much smaller yet growing body of scientific articles related to tropical peatlands has recently been published, including from previously overlooked regions such as the Amazonian and Congo basins. The recent recognition of tropical peatlands as valuable ecosystems because of the organic carbon they accumulate in their water-saturated soils has occurred after most of them have been drained and degraded in Southeast Asia. Under disturbed conditions, their natural carbon storage function is shifted to an additional carbon source to the atmosphere. Understanding the effect of land-use change and management practices on peatlands can shed light on the driving variables that influence carbon emissions and can model the magnitude of emissions in future degraded peatlands. This is of primary importance as other peatland-covered regions in the tropics are at risk of land-use and land-cover changes. A systematic review that synthesizes the general understanding of tropical peatland carbon dynamics based on the published literature is much needed to guide future research directions on this topic. Moreover, previous studies of biogeochemical cycling in tropical peatlands have largely focused on terrestrial stocks and fluxes with little attention given to document lateral and downstream aquatic export through natural and artificial drainage channels. Here, we present a systematic review protocol to describe terrestrial and aquatic carbon dynamics in tropical peatlands and identify the influence of land-use change on carbon exchange. We described a set of literature search and screening steps that lay the groundwork for a future synthesis on tropical peatlands carbon cycling. Such an evidence-based synthesis using a systematic review approach will help provide the research community and policymakers with consistent science-based guidelines to set and monitor emissions reduction targets as part of the forestry and land-use sector. Full article
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Systematic Review
The Importance of Time-Saving as a Factor in Transitioning from Woodfuel to Modern Cooking Energy Services: A Systematic Map
Forests 2021, 12(9), 1149; https://doi.org/10.3390/f12091149 - 25 Aug 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 676
Abstract
Over half of the world’s population lack access to modern energy cooking services (MECS) and instead rely on locally harvested biomass for fuel. The collection and burning of such biomass for cooking have significant negative social, health, economic and environmental impacts and is [...] Read more.
Over half of the world’s population lack access to modern energy cooking services (MECS) and instead rely on locally harvested biomass for fuel. The collection and burning of such biomass for cooking have significant negative social, health, economic and environmental impacts and is a major sustainability challenge. The adverse development impacts from households’ continued dependence on polluting stove-and-fuel combinations are significant. Household Air Pollution (HAP) from biomass fuel use accounts for some 4.3 million premature deaths each year, disproportionately affecting women and children. Fuel harvesting and use represent a significant time burden for women and girls. Time savings can be realized through multiple pathways. Understanding the importance of timesaving as a factor in the adoption of clean cooking is thus important in informing the design of cookstove programs and their marketing approach. The systematic evidence evaluation of drivers of and barriers to adoption of modern energy systems undertaken for the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) was further analysed to create a systematic map of evidence relating to time-saving attributable to the adoption of modern energy systems by traditional fuel users. The umbrella ESMAP evaluation comprised 160 studies, of which 48 are relevant to the current systematic map. Time-saving was gained from (i) a switch from collection to buying fuel; (ii) urban market utilization; (iii) reducing collected fuel quantity; (iv) reducing the distance to fuel collection sites; (v) and reductions of meal preparation time were found as the key drivers/enablers of cleaner energy adoption across the evidence base. Perceptions and recognition of the time-saving benefits of cleaner fuel adoption across studies were reported to be understood for: (i) fuel efficiency; (ii) fuel collection time; (iii) buying fuelwood; and (iv) better household economics. Relatively few studies report on what the time saved was used for; however, those that do investigate timesaving use found that additional time was used for: (i) additional income generation; (ii) professional development; (iii) more cooking (iv) other domestic activities (e.g., learning to sew); (v) eating out; and (vi) leisure activities. While many studies speculate that time is taken away from education, none state that saved time was used for education, beyond employment opportunities or overarching claims of professional development. Full article
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Systematic Review
The Role of Remote Sensing for the Assessment and Monitoring of Forest Health: A Systematic Evidence Synthesis
Forests 2021, 12(8), 1134; https://doi.org/10.3390/f12081134 - 23 Aug 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 843
Abstract
Forests are increasingly subject to a number of disturbances that can adversely influence their health. Remote sensing offers an efficient alternative for assessing and monitoring forest health. A myriad of methods based upon remotely sensed data have been developed, tailored to the different [...] Read more.
Forests are increasingly subject to a number of disturbances that can adversely influence their health. Remote sensing offers an efficient alternative for assessing and monitoring forest health. A myriad of methods based upon remotely sensed data have been developed, tailored to the different definitions of forest health considered, and covering a broad range of spatial and temporal scales. The purpose of this review paper is to identify and analyse studies that addressed forest health issues applying remote sensing techniques, in addition to studying the methodological wealth present in these papers. For this matter, we applied the PRISMA protocol to seek and select studies of our interest and subsequently analyse the information contained within them. A final set of 107 journal papers published between 2015 and 2020 was selected for evaluation according to our filter criteria and 20 selected variables. Subsequently, we pair-wise exhaustively read the journal articles and extracted and analysed the information on the variables. We found that (1) the number of papers addressing this issue have consistently increased, (2) that most of the studies placed their study area in North America and Europe and (3) that satellite-borne multispectral sensors are the most commonly used technology, especially from Landsat mission. Finally, most of the studies focused on evaluating the impact of a specific stress or disturbance factor, whereas only a small number of studies approached forest health from an early warning perspective. Full article
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Systematic Review
What Is the Evidence Base Linking Gender with Access to Forests and Use of Forest Resources for Food Security in Low- and Middle-Income Countries? A Systematic Evidence Map
Forests 2021, 12(8), 1096; https://doi.org/10.3390/f12081096 - 16 Aug 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 621
Abstract
In nearly all parts of the world, an important part of people’s livelihood is derived from natural resources. Gender is considered one of the most important determinants of access and control over forests. It is thought that women and men within households and [...] Read more.
In nearly all parts of the world, an important part of people’s livelihood is derived from natural resources. Gender is considered one of the most important determinants of access and control over forests. It is thought that women and men within households and communities have different opportunities and different roles and responsibilities in relation to forest use. It is probable that when women have equal access to forests, better food security outcomes can be achieved for individuals and households that are dependent on forests for their livelihoods. A systematic evidence map of the evidence base linking gender with access to forests and use of forest resources for food security was undertaken. Ten bibliographic databases and 22 websites of international development and conservation organisations were searched using keywords suggested by stakeholders. Other articles were found by emailing authors and organisations to send potentially relevant publications. 19,500 articles were retrieved from bibliographic databases and 1281 from other sources. After iterative screening, 77 studies were included: 41 focussed on Africa, 22 on Asia, 12 on Latin America, 2 were global. Most indicators of food security measure access to food, measured by total consumption, expenditure, or income. Studies showed strong gender specialisation: commercial access and utilisation of forests and forest products dominated by men, whereas access for subsistence and household consumption is almost exclusively the task of women. Despite the large number of studies reviewed, limitations of the evidence base, including methodological heterogeneity, a dominance of case studies as the study design, and unequal geographical representation in study locations, make it difficult to generalise about the overall importance of gender and its effect on access to and use of forests for food security in developing countries. The critical gaps in the evidence base include geographical representation in primary research and a greater breadth of study designs to assess gender implications of access to forest resources globally. Full article
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Perspective
A Human Machine Hybrid Approach for Systematic Reviews and Maps in International Development and Social Impact Sectors
Forests 2021, 12(8), 1027; https://doi.org/10.3390/f12081027 - 02 Aug 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 952
Abstract
The international development and social impact evidence community is divided about the use of machine-centered approaches in carrying out systematic reviews and maps. While some researchers argue that machine-centered approaches such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, text mining, automated semantic analysis, and translation [...] Read more.
The international development and social impact evidence community is divided about the use of machine-centered approaches in carrying out systematic reviews and maps. While some researchers argue that machine-centered approaches such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, text mining, automated semantic analysis, and translation bots are superior to human-centered ones, others claim the opposite. We argue that a hybrid approach combining machine and human-centered elements can have higher effectiveness, efficiency, and societal relevance than either approach can achieve alone. We present how combining lexical databases with dictionaries from crowdsourced literature, using full texts instead of titles, abstracts, and keywords. Using metadata sets can significantly improve the current practices of systematic reviews and maps. Since the use of machine-centered approaches in forestry and forestry-related reviews and maps are rare, the gains in effectiveness, efficiency, and relevance can be very high for the evidence base in forestry. We also argue that the benefits from our hybrid approach will increase in time as digital literacy and better ontologies improve globally. Full article
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