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Boreal Forests and Global Change.

Boreal forests and global change is a collection of papers presented at the first International Science Conference of the International Boreal Forest Research Association (IBFRA) on "Boreal Forests and Global Change," held in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada in 1994. The IBFRA includes scientists representing Canada, Finland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States. The organization was formed to facilitate international research on the effects of global change on the boreal forest and the role of the boreal forest in the global environment.

The editors' stated purpose for assembling this group of papers in a special issue of Water, Air and Soil Pollution was to "provide some answers for the development of constructive policies for improving the management and conservation of global boreal forest resources in times of global change, as well as stimulating further research into boreal forest problems of international relevance." The book addresses two audiences. The first is the global environmental change research community, for which the book provides a valuable compilation of observational and modeling studies that explore a wide range of interactions between the boreal forest and the global environment. The collection also addresses government and private resource managers, presenting several studies that apply present knowledge of boreal forest systems to evaluation of the consequences of resource management strategies for the sustainability of boreal forests.

The papers fall into five categories: governmental and policy issues in forest management (15), modeling investigations of ecosystem response to global change (13), regional carbon inventories and inventory methodology (12), observational studies of biogeochemistry and ecophysiology (5), and reports on major scientific initiatives relating to boreal forests (3). Some of the forest management issues explored include biodiversity, sustainable forestry, environmental protection, international cooperation, and the consequences for forest management of the evolving legal and economic systems in Russia. While the issues presented in this suite of papers are certainly pertinent to evaluation of the effects of global change on boreal forests, it is disappointing that so few of them explicitly link their discussions to global change.

In contrast, the papers that discuss modeling investigations of ecosystem response to global change are well integrated with the theme of the conference. The editors have selected articles covering a range of topics, including the response of carbon dynamics and hydrology to climate variation, disturbance, and alternative forest management strategies. The reports on carbon inventories and inventory methodology provide clear documentation of the difficulty of obtaining accurate regional and global estimates of carbon stocks. Several very useful tabulations of Russian and Canadian carbon inventories are presented. Notably, these reports also contain some of the first peer-reviewed publications in the western scientific literature from Russian scientists on the status of Russian boreal forests.

The assembly of a complete and synthetic treatment of such a complex topic as boreal forests and global change is a challenging task, made especially difficult for the editors of this volume by the constraints of selecting from a diverse group of contributed conference papers. Generally, completeness and coherence are where conference books fall short of the expectations generated by their titles. This book is no exception. For example, the volume contains no papers reporting on forest-atmosphere exchange of carbon dioxide, water vapor, or other radiatively active gasses. A challenge for the editors of conference books is to more effectively weave the planning of the conference book into the orchestration of the conference. Invited speakers could be solicited to address a range of topics that would constitute the chapters of the book, and the volume could be supplemented with "examples" drawn from contributed papers. Such a conference book might do a better job of filling the void of secondary literature in emerging subject areas than the currently popular form. Special conference theme issues of journals do serve the important purpose of organizing primary reports presented at major conferences. Copies of special issues (paper-bound) should be made available to non-subscribing libraries and individuals at reasonable prices, rather than the hefty $199 price tag of Boreal forests and global change.

Boreal forests and global change serves as an important reference and outline, with varied and useful examples in the form of primary literature, rather than as a comprehensive overview of the subject. If your library does not subscribe to Water, Air and Soil Pollution, you will want to add a copy of Boreal forests and global change to the stacks.


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Author:Miller, Eric K.
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 1997
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