Synthesis by H. Gyde Lund of concluding session for the conference ------------------------------------------------------------------ Disasters (fires, drought, insect and disease) and catastrophic events (earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, volcanic eruptions, etc.) for any given area are hopefully few and far between. When considered on a world-wide basis, however, such events occur with frightening frequency. Disasters and catastrophes not only immediately impact human lives and property, but when they affect natural resources, can influence the stability of the local economy over the long term. Any area can be hit by a catastrophe or disaster. Therefore inventory people may be called upon at any time to help assess the impact. General direction does not exist on how to assess damage from catastrophic events quickly, and information in the literature is widely scattered. Disasters and catastrophes present unique challenges that go beyond traditional inventory and monitoring techniques. Information is needed rapidly, but lines of communications are generally disrupted. Gathering new information may require considerable resourcefulness. Disasters may be "predicted" by long term monitoring programs (wetland decrease, fuel buildup, insect buildup, etc.). Catastrophes, on the other hand, represent a rapid change in the resource base. A prior inventory against which impacts can be measured is of great benefit in both situations. Specific events, however, will require different techniques depending upon the context, quality of prior information/knowledge, available staffing, access and equipment. Needs ----- a. We do not have all the information we need. The participants felt that we need continued and increased formal communications among scientists and managers who have had to cope with catastrophic events so that experience on successes and failures may be exchanged more effectively. b. Several agencies have continuing responsibility for monitoring status and trends of natural resources. Once status has been established, there is ample theory and empirical evidence to conclude that one or more networks of permanent points and/or plots form an optimal basis for accurate estimation of trends. Such networks are invaluable when it becomes necessary to evaluate change, damage, etc. as the result of catastrophes or disasters. c. Participants also felt that there is need for development of some general guidance on how others can better deal with possible future events. Preliminary recommendations --------------------------- a. To increase the exchange of information on the subject, IUFRO should create a new working party either under S 4.02 or 1.04. This possiblity should be explored with the IUFRO Division Coordinator. b. If a working party is established, one of the first charges will be to develop a set of guidelines (not directions) that others can follow for specific situations. c. Agencies charged with estimation of status and trends of natural resources should be encouraged to maintain permanent plot networks for establishing trends of those resources. It should be possible to develop pre- and post-event measurements of the plots when catastrophic impacts are to be evaluated. d. The organizers of the Conference should prepare an article on the outcome of the meeting for publication in the Journal of Forestry.