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Facts on Forests and Forestry

  NEW: Read GreenFacts' new Digest on Forests:

1 Introduction – Measuring progress towards sustainable forest management
2 How much forest is there on the planet and at what rate is it disappearing?
3 How can forests affect climate change?
4 What is the biological diversity of the world’s forests?
5 How healthy are the world’s forests?
6 What products are extracted from forests?
7 What are the protective effects of forests?
8 What are the economic and social benefits of forests?
9 Are forests managed in a sustainable way?
10 Conclusions

  A faithful summary of the "Global Forest Resources Assessment"
  produced in 2005 by the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization). More...


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7. What are some of the ways in which forests are being managed today?

7.1. Does forest management have a long history?
7.2. What strategies could help protecting forests?

Forest management aims to derive products and services from forest ecosystems. It can take a passive or active form. Important factors include timely intervention, species mix and spacing between trees. More..

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7.1. Does forest management have a long history?

Forest management has a long history if one includes traditional or ‘indigenous’ forest management for instance. Traditional management varies across the globe, arising out of individual socio-economic objectives and forest types. Compare for instance Mayan agroforestry, in which multiple products are grown, with the intensive and sustainable timber production practiced in Japan between the 16th and 19th centuries. In many instances harvesting has been shown to be possible without forest loss. For instance, in the 19th Century deforestation was serious in Switzerland, but by the 20th century it managed to reach a 30% forest cover. More...

7.1.1. ‘Conventional’ forest management developed in the 17th and 18th centuries in northern Europe. This system focuses on the maximization of wood production and requires well-defined property rights and management responsibilities. It is designed for temperate forests, in which there are relatively few species. More...

7.1.2. The application of conventional forest management to other contexts has been difficult because of accessibility issues, species diversity, ownership disputes and the presence of local inhabitants. More...

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7.2. What strategies could help protecting forests?

7.2.1. To limit forest loss, logging bans have appeared in some countries. Thailand and China for instance in the 1990s imposed complete logging bans. Bans prevent excessive exploitation but results have been mixed. The livelihoods of local people may be hurt, and logging pressures may simply increase in neighboring countries. More...

7.2.2. Principles of sustainability have increasingly been included in forest management. This may include maintaining forest biodiversity, productivity and regeneration capacity. In practice though the principles are not always followed. The World Bank has been criticized for making loans which encourage deforestation. Although they are developing a Forest Policy Strategy, they’ve been accused of not enforcing it. More...

7.2.3. What are some alternative management technologies and systems?

• Alternative silviculture systems

‘Ecological forestry’ or ‘New forestry’ tries to mimic natural processes in forest ecosystems. In Germany the ‘Lübeck model’ has successfully harvested timber with minimal ecosystem interference, low costs, and community participation. The technique requires careful inventories of trees and habitat, and the preservation of some areas. The principles and techniques of ecological forestry have mainly been tested on a small scale but results have been positive. More...

• Agroforestry

Agroforestry is the inclusion of trees in a farming system. As it can reduce the pressure on remaining forests and has environmental benefits, it is considered to be an important regional strategy in forest management. The integration of trees on farms diversifies production, however, agroforestry is not a substitute for forest ecosystems. More...

• Revisiting indigenous forest management systems

There is a growing awareness of the way in which different ethnic and cultural groups have managed their forests. These non-conventional or indigenous forest management systems include agroforestry as well as selective harvesting, protection of trees for ritual purposes, and ‘enrichment planting’. These often included non-timber forest products such as herbs and plants for weaving. The UN’s ‘Intergovernmental Panel on Forests’ is encouraging interest in indigenous forest management systems and the University of British Columbia has introduced its study in the forestry curriculum. In Asia also, there is growing interest in the management of forests before the introduction of Western forestry systems. It has been noted that such forests can attract ecotourists. More...

• Joint Management / Partnerships

The concentration of decision-making about forest resources in state and government agencies far removed from the ground can lead to ineffective forest management. This can be worsened by conflicts with local communities. Hence there have been experiments with community partnering, in which communities partake in the management of forests, either independently or jointly with state agencies. These are meant to address social deprivation as well as deforestation by ensuring locals have a stake in the long-term survival and productivity of the forest. It is difficult to estimate the extent of community-based forest management given the number of different models. More...

• Carbon trading

Concern about global climate change is raising the prospect of managing forests as carbon reservoirs (or sinks) to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. If international trade in ‘carbon sink credits’ is realized, it would be an incentive to conserve forests. The Kyoto protocol of the UNFCCC includes targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by for instance establishing large-scale tree plantations to sequester the carbon dioxide. Critics of the protocol argue that trees and soils will release the carbon anyway and that the protocol undervalues old trees that store carbon more slowly. More...

• Certification

Timber production is often not sustainable when driven by normal market forces whereby producers maximize profits by minimizing costs. But consumers’ awareness of environmental and deforestation issues is growing and they are increasingly willing to pay a premium for sustainably produced timber and wood products. ‘Certified’ timber comes from a forest that meets certain environmental, economic and social standards. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) runs a credible and independently audited system. As of January 2003, it had awarded 466 Forest Management Certificates in 56 countries. The WWF and NRDC support certification because it promotes environmentally responsible forestry practices, protects the forest heritage and ensures the long-term health and productivity of forests. Other certification systems exist, like the PEFC or the SFI, but a key difference is that the monitoring is exercised by the forest and wood products industry itself. The ENN has compared the FSC and PEFC scheme and concluded that the latter, which was funded by the forest industry, only provides a framework for mutual recognition of national forest certification (it doesn’t accredit certifying organizations itself). More...

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