Forest Health and Global Change

Forest Health and Global Change


In addition to facing natural disruptions such as drought, windthrow, insect infestations, diseases, and fires, forests are increasingly grappling with intensified stressors of anthropogenic origin. These stressors arise directly through activities like logging and clearing or indirectly through climate change, air pollution, and invasive species. The pace of these human-induced disturbances surpasses the adaptability of evolutionary processes, thus shaping the future of global forests through intricate responses to multiple stressors spanning local to global scales.


This paper is centered on fundamental inquiries applicable to all forests: How do we conceptualize forest health and identify signs of its deterioration? How can we attribute widespread declines to interactions among the diverse stressors affecting forests today? What are the recovery time frames and trajectories for unhealthy forests, and can we pinpoint critical levels of change in global forest health?


The authors propose a strategy for globally monitoring forest health, attributing the causes of decline, and cultivating a mechanistic understanding of the underlying processes. This strategy involves: (i) observing naturally occurring forest conditions, with a focus on enhancing the detection of tree and forest mortality; (ii) conducting in situ experiments to confirm the attribution of hypothesized causes of decline in vulnerable ecosystems and ascertain the parameters of mechanistic relationships; (iii) conducting targeted research on underlying processes under controlled environmental conditions in laboratory facilities and greenhouses; and (iv) integrating this understanding with models capable of spanning spatial and temporal scales.


Trumbore S, Brando P, Hartmann H. Forest health and global change. Science. 2015;349(6250):814 - 818. doi:10.1126/science.aac6759.