A Critical Countdown
Tackling one of the leading threats to biodiversity loss through responsible forest management.
In 2010, the International Year of Biodiversity, the health of the world’s ecosystems comes into the spotlight like never before. Whether this recognition comes from the increased focus of this global attention or the mounting problems occurring across the world as a result of the humanity’s appetite exceeding the planet’s ability to sustain us, there is a growing understanding that something must be done to reverse this dangerous trajectory.
The battle to preserve the magnificent variety of life on Earth, the biodiversity that allows people to live and live well, will be won or lost in the world’s forests. The Global Forest & Trade Network is working to tackle one of the five greatest threats to biodiversity loss—habitat loss, alteration or destruction—by engaging with forest managers across the globe to ensure that forests are responsibly managed to the benefit of people, wildlife and our planet.
Impact on the Ground
By working with companies and communities across the world to achieve forest management certified to the standards of the FSC, the GFTN is implementing workable solutions that transform the forest products industry into a champion for sustaining biodiversity for future generations.
In Central Africa, GFTN has witnessed the profound impact of certification on the vital rainforests of the Congo Basin. By engaging seven companies operating in the area —who collectively manage more than three million hectares (ha) of forest, of which about two million ha are FSC-certified—in implementing environmentally and socially responsible forest management practices, the GFTN is helping to conserve ecologically significant habitat for elephants and great apes.
The GFTN is working with participating companies in the Congo Basin to implement reduced-impact logging (RIL) and management of high conservation values (HCVs) within their logging concessions. As a result of these efforts, wildlife inventories have been conducted and wildlife populations are being monitored regularly. These actions will ensure that the best forest practices are used to minimize the impact of logging on forest biodiversity while protecting HCVs, including threatened wildlife.
HCV is still a relatively new concept and is evolving. When the assessment is done comprehensively and is reflected in the management plan and procedures, the HCV approach is a powerful tool. An effective assessment is one thing, but much of GFTN’s work is focused on ensuring that the companies we work with know what to do next, both in actions that will take them closer to certification and in how they adapt their management plans to incorporate these findings.
Managing Forests to Protect Wildlife
GFTN is working with committed companies to ensure that forest management plans for their concessions include the preservation of habitat conditions for rare and threatened species. For instance, the FSC-certified concession of Danzer’s Industrie Forestière d’Ouesso (IFO), a GFTN-Central Africa participant in the Republic of Congo, was found to contain high population densities of gorillas, due to its proximity to the Odzala-Kokua National Park. IFO is cooperating with local NGOs and the Congolese government to prevent poaching and unsustainable hunting through the use of eco-guards.
By employing these eco-guards, IFO is controlling the illegal hunting of rare and endangered mammals such as gorilla, elephant, chimpanzee, bongo and forest buffalo in the forest concession. The company also reduces the demand for bushmeat on the part of their workforce by importing cattle and fish from a nearby village every week. By engaging with companies like this, GFTN aims to ensure that forests are responsibly managed in a way that maintains their high conservation values.
Applying this approach in the field, GFTN collaborated with PT Suka Jaya Makmur (SJM), a forest participating in Indonesia managing 171,340 ha in the Heart of Borneo, to conduct a HCV assessment. The assessment found an estimated population of 500 orangutans of the wurmbii sub-species (Pongo Pygmaeus wurmbii), discovering a myriad of their nests inside the canopies of the concession. Most of the orangutans are believed to have come from nearby forest concessions that have been heavily degraded by illegal logging.
The GFTN has provided input into SJM’s management plan to ensure that the company manages their forest in a manner that does not negatively impact this relocated population, specifying specific protection for fruiting trees that serve as major food sources for orangutans, a moratorium on logging within high population density areas and enforcing anti-poaching regulations within the concession area. Incorporating the findings of the assessment and prescriptive actions into their forest management plan is a critical step in SJM’s action plan and progress towards credible certification.
In the same way, GFTN is building capacity among forest management companies in Latin America to protect biodiversity in the Amazon. Providing support and guidance to participants attempting to achieve FSC certification, GFTN is training companies on measures such as RIL to reduce their environmental impact. A fauna monitoring study by WWF Peru confirmed that these practices are paying off.
The study compared large mammal diversity in the certified forest concession of GFTN-Peru participant Aserradero Espinoza with mammal populations along the Madre de Dios River in the Tambopata Natural Reserve, finding that large mammal species, such as jaguars, were equally prevalent in both areas. These findings demonstrate that when forests are responsibly managed they can maintain the species richness that might be expected only in a protected area.
Maintaining Ecosystem Integrity
The GFTN continues to witness examples of certification’s ability to transform forest management practices and consequently, their impact on the valuable and threatened species that depend on these forests for their survival. In our work with forestry companies and communities across Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe, we have seen firsthand the influence of industry in expanding the extent of certified forests, driving improvements in forest management worldwide. Currently, GFTN participants manage more than 27.4 million ha of forests, 20.6 million of which are now credibly certified.
By working with these companies to implement responsible forest management practices, GFTN helps industry to recognize the title and rights of indigenous communities, carefully manage forests with significant concentrations of biodiversity and endemic species and determine harvest limits that maintain ecosystem integrity.