“The portfolio of goods and services from forests is now very different to that two decades ago; yet there is a disconnect between the institutional framework and these new forms of forest use, leading to efficiency, equity and legitimacy deficits,” said Dr. John Innes, Dean of the Faculty of Forestry at the University of British Columbia, Canada.
The changes – from forest planting and forest harvesting and operations, to forest use and forest products – occur at different levels. Today, forests produce a complex array of products from forest ecosystem services to timber and bio-products.
Market values are increasingly being attached to forest ecosystem services and this is changing the value systems associated with forestry.
Dr. Innes is coordinating a Task Force set up by IUFRO – Resources for the Future: Transformation in Forest Use – to better understand those changes.
“Globalization, population growth, resource scarcity and ecological degradation are all influencing forest use,” he said.
“For instance, a growing middle class requires more forest products accessible through global supply chains. At the same time, these supply chains are threatened by, and contribute to, resource scarcity and ecological degradation,” he said. “In another example, policy makers have identified forest products as important to climate change, so new products have been developed to meet the climate challenge.
“Both these examples have explicit implications for forests and are transforming forest use, yet the institutional response has been slow and inadequate in dealing with these drivers,” he said.
Dr. Innes further noted that humans now value, in monetary terms, the full breadth of forest ecosystem services including non-market values and that now we also view forests as feedstock for the bio-economy.
“These are distinct and relatively nascent changes in our relationship with forests,” he said. “For many Indigenous communities across the globe, the changing relationship with forests has been dramatic – particularly as they engage in the forest sector as market participants.
“Valuation of forest ecosystem services can run counter to holistic Indigenous values; but valuation also affords protection by adequately recognizing, quantifying and integrating these values into decisions, and policy makers can consider the full costs of their decision. These values in the past were typically ignored,” Dr. Innes added.
The Task Force will seek to generate insights about the pathways that can be adopted to encourage a sustainable transformation in forest resource use.
It will identify institutions, governance structures, policies and instruments that can help policy makers and stakeholders address problems and capitalize on opportunities brought about by rapid change and describe the potential benefits and implications from them in terms of equity, effectiveness and efficiency.
It will also develop recommendations for forest research institutions to build understanding for, and implementation of, those various tools to support successful transformation in forest use.
The Task Force also convened a roundtable of leading global experts from government, industry, academia, NGOs and Indigenous groups in Dehradun, India in April of this year to further discuss the sustainable transformation of forest use. A book elaborating on the outcomes of that roundtable is expected in the near future.
The Task Force on the transformation in forest use future is one of several established by IUFRO to advance knowledge under five research themes in accordance with the IUFRO 2015-19 Strategy.
The five themes are: Forests, Soil and Water Interactions; Forests for People; Forests and Climate Change; Forests and Forest-based Products for a Greener Future; and Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services and Biological Invasions.
Task Force website: http://www.iufro.org/science/task-forces/transformation-forest-use/
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