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Forests, Biodiversity
and People

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Chapter 1

INTRODUCTION

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Chapter 2

THE STATE OF FOREST ECOSYSTEMS

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Chapter 3

FOREST SPECIES AND GENETIC DIVERSITY

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Chapter 4

PEOPLE, BIODIVERSITY AND FORESTS

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Chapter 5

REVERSING DEFORESTATION AND FOREST DEGRADATION

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Chapter 6

CONSERVATION AND SUSTAINABLE USE OF FORESTS AND FOREST BIODIVERSITY

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Chapter 7

TOWARDS BALANCED SOLUTIONS

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REFERENCES

TABLES

1. Annual rate of forest area change

2. Other land with tree cover, 2020

3. Vulnerability status of forest plants, animals and fungi in the IUCN Red List as of December 2019

4. Examples of forest-associated infectious diseases

5. Global forest types and their protection status in 2015

6. Tree cover within protected areas in 2015, by global ecological zone

7. Financial instruments for conservation

8. Finance mobilized by ten large PES programmes

FIGURES

1. Global distribution of forests showing the ten countries with the largest forest area, 2020

2. Net forest area change by region, 1990–2020

3. Trends in global tree cover, 1992–2015

4. Global forest expansion and deforestation, 1990–2020

5. Percentage of naturally regenerating and planted forest by region, 2020

6. Percentage of plantation forests comprising native and introduced species, by region, 2020

7. Global forest area by climatic domain, 2020

8. Forest by global ecological zone

9. Proportion of forest area by patch size class and global ecological zone, 2015

10. Average forest patch size by global ecological zone, 2015

11. Forest area density index, 2015

12. Proportion of forest area by forest area density class and global ecological zone, 2015

13. Average forest area density by global ecological zone, 2015

14. Most-intact forests by global ecological zone, 2015

15. Most-fragmented forests by global ecological zone, 2015

16. Annual change in area of naturally regenerating forest, 1990–2020

17. Ten countries with the most tree species

18. Top ten countries and territories in terms of number of endemic tree species

19. Forest biodiversity significance, 2018

20. Forest biodiversity significance for areas of forest loss during 2000–2018

21. Forest biodiversity intactness, 2018

22. Bivariate map of forest biodiversity significance and intactness within forest biomes, 2018

23. Details of bivariate maps of forest biodiversity significance and intactness within forest biomes, 2018

24. Overall decline in a forest-specialist index for 268 forest vertebrate species (455 populations), 1970–2014

25. Overlay of forest cover and poverty rate

26. Forest cover, forest area density and poverty in Malawi

27. Number of tree species providing food of importance to smallholder livelihoods

28. Production of forest nuts, 2017

29. Drivers of deforestation and forest degradation by region, 2000–2010

30. Interactions between processes, policy and drivers of resource use influencing local responses and outcomes for forest conservation

31. The complex drivers of deforestation and forest degradation: problem tree from an analysis in Zambia

32. Priority action areas to reduce deforestation and degradation as identified in 31 national REDD+ strategies and action plans

33. Proportion of land in a degraded state between 2000 and 2015 by region

34. Progress towards Goal 5 of the New York Declaration on Forests

35. Increase in forest area through forest restoration, reforestation and afforestation activities 2000–2019 by region and type of restoration

36. Commitments to the Bonn Challenge as of February 2020

37. Percentage of forest in legally protected areas, 2020

38. Trends in area of forest within protected areas by region, 1990–2020

39. Increase in forest area within protected areas by forest type, 1992–2015

40. Increase in forests within protected areas by global ecological zone, 1992–2015

41. Percentage of forest within protected areas by global ecological zone, 2015

42. Trends in forest area primarily designated for conservation of biodiversity, 1990–2020

43. Number of companies that have and have not made deforestation-related commitments, by commodity, 2020

44. Sources of financing for reversing deforestation

BOXES

1. What is forest biological diversity?

2. The first global assessment of biodiversity for food and agriculture

3. The rise, fall and rise again of the Selva Maya

4. International instruments for conservation and use of forest-related biodiversity, and related targets and goals

5. Key goals, targets and indicators relevant to forest area

6. Forest versus tree cover: What is the difference?

7. Two examples of animal species that depend on primary forest for their survival

8. Challenges of monitoring and reporting on primary forests

9. Dryland forests – a first global assessment

10. Wetland forests: the example of the Cuvette Centrale

11. Tidal areas: mangrove forests

12. Key goals, targets and indicators relevant to decreasing forest degradation

13. Growing risks from invasive pests and pathogens associated with global changes

14. Causes and impacts of forest fragmentation

15. Key goals, targets and indicators relevant to conservation of forest species and genetic resources

16. More than half of Europe’s endemic tree species face extinction

17. Heritage trees

18. Forest-dwelling pollinators

19. Saproxylic beetle diversity in Mediterranean forests

20. Primate populations in forest regenerating from farmland, Costa Rica

21. Conservation, management and use of forest genetic resources

22. Assessing threats to conservation of the genetic resources of food-tree species in Burkina Faso

23. Implementation of the Global Plan of Action on forest genetic resources

24. Development of a regional strategy for conserving forest genetic resources in Europe

25. The challenge of defining forest-dependent people

26. Forests supporting inland fisheries in tropical countries

27. Issues associated with use of woodfuel for cooking

28. Links of forests and tree-based systems to dietary diversity

29. Examples of forest foods consumed in West Africa during the lean season

30. Brazil nut: a cornerstone of Amazonian forest conservation

31. Economic value of forest wild pollination services to smallholder farmers in the United Republic of Tanzania

32. Forests as a key element for climate change resilience and agrobiodiversity conservation in the Hani rice terraces, China

33. Forest Europe’s recommendations for integrating human health into sustainable forest management

34. Complex drivers leading to different forest outcomes on Mount Elgon, Uganda

35. REDD+ under the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement

36. The UN-REDD Programme

37. Deforestation-free commodity chains: Integrating cocoa and forests in West Africa

38. Halting deforestation: recommendations of a global conference

39. Monitoring wildlife management in production forests in Cameroon

40. Key goals, targets and indicators relevant to forest restoration

41. Restoring forest landscapes through assisted natural regeneration

42. Rewilding and the reintroduction of keystone species

43. The Economics of Ecosystem Restoration initiative

44. Examples of new forest restoration and tree-planting pledges made in 2019

45. Key goals, targets and indicators relevant to protected areas and other area–based conservation measures

46. Protected-area categories

47. Labelling initiative supports stingless bee honey produced by Bolivian women

48. Territories and areas conserved by indigenous peoples and local communities

49. Mainstreaming biodiversity conservation in sustainable management of forest landscapes in Mongolia

50. Forest conservation and restoration by pulp and paper companies in the Atlantic rainforest, Brazil

51. Human–wildlife conflict

52. Key goals, targets and indicators relevant to sustainable forest management

53. Mainstreaming biodiversity into agriculture

54. Examples of regional activities for the conservation and sustainable use of forest-related biodiversity

55. Harnessing volunteer power to tackle invasive species

56. Tree Cities of the World

57. Wild for Life

58. FAO remote-sensing platforms and tools for forestry

59. Collecting information on biodiversity in Papua New Guinea’s forests

60. Advances in remote sensing for biodiversity monitoring

61. The Singapore Index on Cities’ Biodiversity to monitor urban biodiversity conservation efforts

62. Riparian habitat assessment tools

As we were putting the finishing touches to The State of the World’s Forests 2020 (SOFO), the world came face to face with the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the immediate global priority is to tackle this public health emergency, our long-term response must also address the underlying causes of such a pandemic. The degradation and loss of forests is one such contributing factor, disrupting nature’s balance and increasing the risk and exposure of people to zoonotic diseases. Understanding and keeping track of the state of our world’s forests has never been so important.

This year marks the end of the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity and the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020. All countries are coming together to review progress towards the Plan’s five Strategic Goals and the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets to shape the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.

This framework must be underpinned by evidence: evidence of the current state of the world’s biodiversity and recent trends; evidence of the linkages between biodiversity and sustainable development; and evidence of successful actions taken to conserve and sustainably use the many products and services that the world’s biodiversity provides to support food security and human well-being.

The vast majority of terrestrial biodiversity is found in the world’s forests – from boreal forests in the far North to tropical rainforests. Together, they contain more than 60 000 different tree species and provide habitats for 80 percent of amphibian species, 75 percent of bird species and 68 percent of mammal species. About 60 percent of all vascular plants are found in tropical forests. Mangroves provide breeding grounds and nurseries for numerous species of fish and shellfish and help trap sediments that might otherwise adversely affect seagrass beds and coral reefs, habitats for marine life.

The conservation of the majority of the world’s biodiversity is thus utterly dependent on the way in which we interact with and use the world’s forests.

This edition of SOFO examines the contributions of forests, and of the people who use and manage them, to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. It assesses progress to date in meeting global targets and goals relating to forest biodiversity and describes the effectiveness of policies, actions and approaches for conservation and sustainable development alike, illustrated by case studies of innovative practices and win-win solutions.

This volume does not aim to be a comprehensive treatise on forest biodiversity, but rather to provide an update on its current state and a summary of its importance for humanity. It is intended to complement The State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture, released by the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in 2019, last year’s Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

For the first time, this edition of SOFO is a joint effort between two United Nations entities: FAO and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Building on our ongoing collaboration and comparative advantages, we bring together new information generated by FAO’s Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020 with analyses of the status and representativeness of protected forests over time undertaken by the UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC).

SOFO 2020 confirms that deforestation and forest degradation continue to take place at alarming rates, which contribute significantly to the ongoing loss of biodiversity. Agricultural expansion continues to be one of the main drivers, while the resilience of human food systems and their capacity to adapt to future change depends on that very biodiversity.

SOFO 2020 also identifies signs of hope. The rate of forest loss is decreasing globally and solutions that balance conservation and sustainable use of forest biodiversity do exist. To turn the tide on deforestation and biodiversity loss, we urgently need to see these solutions being scaled up as well as instill transformational change in the way we produce and consume food. We also need to conserve and manage forests and trees within an integrated landscape approach and reverse the damage done through forest restoration efforts.

Critical to these transformations are effective governance, policy alignment between sectors and administrative levels, land-tenure security, respect for the rights and knowledge of local communities and indigenous peoples, enhanced capacity for monitoring of biodiversity outcomes, and by no means least, innovative financing modalities.

Ultimately, we need to foster a new relationship with nature, and we can achieve that together. SOFO 2020 contributes to that vision. We hope you will find it interesting, valuable and inspiring.

Qu Dongyu
FAO Director-General

Inger Andersen
UNEP Executive Director

The State of the World’s Forests 2020 (SOFO 2020) was prepared by the FAO Forestry Policy and Resources Division in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC).

The development of the report was guided by a core team of five senior staff members of FAO and UNEP-WCMC and led by the FAO Divisional Director, who assumed overall coordination for the publication.

Progress towards goals and targets related to forests and their biodiversity was assessed based on existing literature and commissioned studies. A series of case studies were compiled to provide practical examples of the conservation and sustainable use of forest biodiversity from around the world.

This issue of SOFO draws on the results of FAO’s Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020 (FRA 2020), which will also be published in 2020.

FRA 2020 examined the status and trends of more than 60 variables related to the extent, characteristics, condition, management and uses of forest across 236 countries and areas over the period 1990–2020.

The backbone of FRA 2020 is official data provided by a well-established network of officially nominated National Correspondents through a consolidated transparent and traceable reporting process. The application of a standardized reporting methodology enables monitoring changes over time and aggregation of data at regional and global levels.

Only data relevant to forest biological diversity were used for SOFO 2020. Most of these were at the global level and drawn on the Key Findings of FRA 2020, which were released shortly before SOFO 2020. Readers can explore more detailed information at regional and country level in the upcoming FRA 2020 report (FAO, 2020). Terms and definitions used in FRA 2020 can be found at http://www.fao.org/3/I8661EN/i8661en.pdf.

Three new studies were specifically commissioned for SOFO 2020:

A UNEP-WCMC analysis of annual land-cover data from 1992 to 2015 provided new information on how the area under tree cover varies significantly from year to year. This was further investigated in relation to FAO’s global ecological zone map, the World Database of Key Biodiversity Areas (WDKBA) and the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) providing new insights on the representativeness of protected areas and on changes in the protection status of forests over time.

The Joint Research Centre of the European Commission in collaboration with the United States Forest Service applied an existing methodology for analysing spatial patterns of forests to the global Copernicus Land Cover map for 2015, overlaid with FAO’s global ecological zone map. This provided new data on forest intactness and fragmentation by broad forest types.

The World Bank contributed a study on the links between forests and poverty. This was based on a literature review and overlaying forest maps with poverty data held by the Bank.

All chapters benefited from the support of staff and consultants for data-collection and/or writing. The final document was assembled and edited by a senior consultant.

Internal peer reviewers from different units and departments in FAO and UNEP and external peer reviewers provided extensive comments and suggestions on the draft versions of the document.

The State of the World’s Forest 2020 was prepared under the overall direction of Mette L. Wilkie, who led a core team comprising Anssi Pekkarinen, Ewald Rametsteiner, Andrew Taber and Sheila Wertz-Kanounnikoff from FAO and Will Simonson from the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC). Andrea Perlis assisted the core team in compiling and editing the publication. Additional contributors and reviewers are listed below.

FAO:
Contributors: Hitofumi Abe, Safia Aggarwal, Astrid Agostini, Damien Bertrand, Simone Borelli, Marco Boscolo, Pierre Bouillon, Amanda Bradley, Anne Branthomme, Vito Brito, Lyndall Bull, Malgorzata Buszko-Briggs, Benjamin Caldwell, Laura Cerioni, Michela Conigliaro, Jose Diaz Diaz, Yoshihide Endo, Aurelie Fernandez, Serena Fortuna, Julian Fox, Sarah Fumey, Monica Garzuglia, Emma Gibbs, Marta Gruca, Abdel Hamied Hamid, Daphne Hewitt, Sooyeon Jin, Örjan Jonsson, Adolfo Kindgard, Jarkko Koskela, Arvvdas Lebedys, Thais Linhares Juvenal, Erik Lindquist, Yuka Makino, Peter Moore, Giulia Muir, Azdad Mustapha, Scott Newman, Maria Isabel Ochoa, Chiara Patriarca, Peter Pechaek, Clelia Maria Puzzo, Sara Casallas Ramirez, Kristina Rodina, Moctar Sacande, Shiroma Sathyapala, Kenichi Shono, Bianca Sipala, Simona Sorrenti, Elaine Springgay, Ashley Steel, Tiina Vähänen, Martina Venturi, Pedro Vivar, Anni Vuohelainen, Sven Walter, Zuzhang Xia and Daowei Zhang.

Reviewers: Julie Belanger, Lorenzo Bellu, Nora Berrahmouni, Jeffrey Campbell, Frederic Castell, Ana Paula De la Ocampos, Michael Euler, Adriana Ignaciuk, Lourdes Orlando, Dafydd Pilling, EranRaizman, Selvaraju Ramasamy, Kostas Stamoulis and Carlos Vaquero.

UNEP and UNEP-WCMC:
Contributors: Andy Arnell, Abigail Burns, Lauren Coad, Alexander Gangur, Joe Gosling, Samantha Hill, Lisa Ingwall-King, Valerie Kapos, Steven King, Edward Lewis, Calum Maney, Emma Martin, Ana Paula de la O Campos, Barbara Pollini, Marieke Sassen, Emma Scott, Arnout van Soesbergen and James Vause.

Reviewers: Abdelkader Bensader, Neil Burgess, Katherine Despot-Belmonte, Satu Glaser, Kelly Malsch and Susan Mutebi-Richards.

Joint Research Centre of the European Commission (Study on forest fragmentation):
Peter Vogt.

United States Forest Service (Study on forest fragmentation):
Kurt Ritters.

World Bank (Study on forests and poverty):
Contributors: Shun Chonabayashi, with support from Yulin Chen, Shanjun Li, Luming Tan and Ziye Zhang.

Reviewers: Benoît Blarel, Timothy H. Brown, Susmita Dasgupta, Martin Heger, Minh Cong Nguyen.

Case studies and boxes:
Case studies and boxes were provided by FAO and UNEP-WCMC staff and the following external contributors:

Case study on Dana Biosphere Reserve, Jordan: Qamar Almini, Nashat Hamidan and Amer Rfou’, The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, Jordan, and Mohammad Alnsour, Watershed and Development Initiative, Jordan.

Case study on the North American model of wildlife conservation: Shane Patrick Mahoney, President, Conservation Visions, Inc.

Case study on the Singapore Index on City Biodiversity: Lena Chan, National Parks Board of Singapore.

Box on the regional strategy for conserving forest genetic resources in Europe: Michele Bozzano, Forest Genetic Resources Programme, European Forestry Institute.

Box on assessing threats to the genetic resources of food tree species in Burkina Faso: Hannes Gaisberger and Barbara Vinceti, Bioversity International.

The State of the World’s Forests 2020 also benefited from external peer reviews by David Cooper and Lisa Janishevski (CBD Secretariat), Christel Palmberg-Lerche (ex-FAO) and Fred Stolle (World Resources Institute), as well as comments on specific sections from many colleagues in other technical divisions within FAO.

The FAO Meeting Programming and Documentation Service provided printing services and carried out the translation. The Publishing Group in FAO’s Office for Corporate Communication provided editorial support, design and layout, as well as production coordination, for all six languages.

AAD
Action Against Desertification

ABS
access and benefit-sharing

ADB
African Development Bank

AU
African Union

BESNet
Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Network

BGCI
Botanic Gardens Conservation International

CAFI
Central African Forest Initiative

CATIE
Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center

CBD
Convention on Biological Diversity

CBI
City Biodiversity Index

CBNRM
Community-based Natural Resources Management

CEPF
Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund

CFS
Committee on World Food Security

CGRFA
Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

CIFOR
Center for International Forestry Research

CIRAD
Agricultural Research Centre for International Development

CITES
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna

COMIFAC
Central African Forest Commission

CONAFOR
National Forestry Commission of Mexico

CONAP
Consejo Nacional de Áreas Protegidas of Guatemala

CPF
Collaborative Partnership on Forests

CPW
Collaborative Partnership on Sustainable Wildlife Management

CRITFC
Colombia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission

DBR
Dana Biosphere Reserve

DFSC
Danida Forest Seed Centre

EC
European Commission

ESA
European Space Agency

ESA CCI
European Space Agency Climate Change Initiative

EU
European Union

EUFGIS
European Information System on Forest Genetic Resources

EUFORGEN
European Forest Genetic Resources Programme

FAO
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

FAOSTAT
FAO statistics database

FCPF
Forest Carbon Partnership Facility

FERI
Forest Ecosystem Restoration Initiative

FLD
Forest and Landscape Denmark

FLEGT
Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade

FONAFIFO
National Forestry Financing Fund of Costa Rica

FPIC
Free, Prior and Informed Consent

FRA
Global Forest Resources Assessment

FSC
Forest Stewardship Council

GBP
pound sterling

GCF
Green Climate Fund

GDP
gross domestic product

GEF
Global Environment Facility

GEZ
global ecological zone

GPFLR
Global Partnership on Forest and Landscape Restoration

HLPE
High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition of the Committee on World Food Security

HWC
human–wildlife conflict

ICCA
territory or area conserved by indigenous people and local communities

IDS
Institute of Development Studies

IFAD
International Fund for Agricultural Development

IFPRI
International Food Policy Research Institute

IIED
International Institute for Environment and Development

ILO
International Labour Organization

IMF
International Monetary Fund

INAB
Instituto Nacional de Bosques of Guatemala

INBAR
International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation

INTERPOL
International Criminal Police Organization

IPBES
Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

IPCC
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

IPGRI
International Plant Genetic Resources Institute

ITC
International Trade Centre

ITTO
International Tropical Timber Organization

IUCN
International Union for Conservation of Nature

IUCN WCPA
International Union for Conservation of Nature World Commission on Protected Areas

JRC
Joint Research Centre of the European Commission

KBA
Key Biodiversity Area

MAP
medicinal and aromatic plant

MEA
Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

MEF
Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Republic of Indonesia

MERECP
Mount Elgon Regional Ecosystem Conservation Programme

MINEF
Ministry of Environment and Forests, Cameroon

MINEPDED
Ministry of Environment, Nature Protection and Sustainable Development, Cameroon

MINFOF
Ministry of Forests and Wildlife, Cameroon

MIPAAF
Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry Policies, Italy

MNRT
Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, United Republic of Tanzania

MoE
Ministry of Environment, Jordan

MoP
Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, Jordan

MPP
Mountain Partnership Products

NACSO
Namibian Association of CBNRM Support Organizations

NCED
National Conservation Easement Database

NDC
Nationally Determined Contribution

NGO
non-governmental organization

NGS
National Geographic Society

NWFP
non-wood forest product

NYDF
New York Declaration on Forests

OECD
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

OECM
other effective area-based conservation measure

OIE
World Organisation for Animal Health

PES
payment for ecosystem services

PFM
participatory forest management

PNAS
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

PREDICTS
Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity in Changing Terrestrial Systems

REDD+
reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries

RNZ
Radio New Zealand

RRI
Rights and Resources Initiative

RSCN
Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, Jordan

SADC
Southern African Development Community

SDG
Sustainable Development Goal

SEEA
System of Environmental Economic Accounting

SEGeF
Suivi de la gestion de la faune dans les forêts de production

SEPAL
System for Earth Observation Data Access, Processing and Analysis for Land Monitoring

SI
Singapore Index on Cities’ Biodiversity

SMFE
small and medium-sized forest enterprise

SOFO
The State of the World’s Forests

SPDA
Sociedad Peruana de Derecho Ambiental, Peru

SVLK
Sistem Verificasi Legalitas Kayu of Indonesia

TFCA
United States Tropical Forest Conservation Act

UAESPNN
Unidad Administrativa Especial del Sistema de Parques Nacionales Naturales

UN
United Nations

UN-REDD
United Nations Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation

UNCCD
United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification

UNCTAD
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

UNDESA
United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs

UNDP
United Nations Development Programme

UNEP
United Nations Environment Programme

UNEP-WCMC
United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre

UNESCO
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

UNFCCC
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

UNICEF
United Nations Children’s Fund

UNODC
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

USAID
United States Agency for International Development

USD
United States dollar

USDA
United States Department of Agriculture

US/ICOMOS
United States Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites

VFR
Village Forest Reserves

WCMC
World Conservation Monitoring Centre

WCPA
World Commission on Protected Areas

WCS
Wildlife Conservation Society

WDPA
World Database of Protected Areas

WHO
World Health Organization

WRI
World Resources Institute

WWF
World Wide Fund for Nature

ZSL
Zoological Society of London

As the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity 2011–2020 comes to a close and countries prepare to adopt a post-2020 global biodiversity framework, this edition of The State of the World’s Forests (SOFO) takes the opportunity to examine the contributions of forests, and of the people who use and manage them, to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. It is intended to complement The State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture, released by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in February 2019; the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the draft of which was released in 2019 and the Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), released in 2020.

Forests harbour most of Earth’s terrestrial biodiversity. The conservation of the world’s biodiversity is thus utterly dependent on the way in which we interact with and use the world’s forests. Forests provide habitats for 80 percent of amphibian species, 75 percent of bird species and 68 percent of mammal species. About 60 percent of all vascular plants are found in tropical forests. Mangroves provide breeding grounds and nurseries for numerous species of fish and shellfish and help trap sediments that might otherwise adversely affect seagrass beds and coral reefs, which are habitats for many more marine species.

Forests cover 31 percent of the global land area but are not equally distributed around the globe. Almost half the forest area is relatively intact, and more than one-third is primary forest. More than half of the world’s forests are found in only five countries (Brazil, Canada, China, Russian Federation and United States of America). Almost half the forest area (49 percent) is relatively intact, while 9 percent is found in fragments with little or no connectivity. Tropical rainforests and boreal coniferous forests are the least fragmented, whereas subtropical dry forest and temperate oceanic forests are among the most fragmented. Roughly 80 percent of the world’s forest area is found in patches larger than 1 million hectares. The remaining 20 percent is located in more than 34 million patches across the world – the vast majority less than 1 000 hectares in size.

More than one-third (34 percent) of the world’s forests are primary forests, defined as naturally regenerated forests of native tree species where there are no clearly visible indications of human activity and the ecological processes are not significantly disturbed.

Deforestation and forest degradation continue to take place at alarming rates, which contributes significantly to the ongoing loss of biodiversity. Since 1990, it is estimated that some 420 million hectares of forest have been lost through conversion to other land uses, although the rate of deforestation has decreased over the past three decades. Between 2015 and 2020, the rate of deforestation was estimated at 10 million hectares per year, down from 16 million hectares per year in the 1990s. The area of primary forest worldwide has decreased by over 80 million hectares since 1990. More than 100 million hectares of forests are adversely affected by forest fires, pests, diseases, invasive species drought and adverse weather events.

Agricultural expansion continues to be the main driver of deforestation and forest fragmentation and the associated loss of forest biodiversity. Large-scale commercial agriculture (primarily cattle ranching and cultivation of soya bean and oil palm) accounted for 40 percent of tropical deforestation between 2000 and 2010, and local subsistence agriculture for another 33 percent. Ironically, the resilience of human food systems and their capacity to adapt to future change depends on that very biodiversity – including dryland-adapted shrub and tree species that help combat desertification, forest-dwelling insects, bats and bird species that pollinate crops, trees with extensive root systems in mountain ecosystems that prevent soil erosion, and mangrove species that provide resilience against flooding in coastal areas. With climate change exacerbating the risks to food systems, the role of forests in capturing and storing carbon and mitigating climate change is of ever-increasing importance for the agricultural sector.

The net loss of forest area decreased from 7.8 million hectares per year in the 1990s to 4.7 million hectares per year during 2010–2020. While deforestation is taking place in some areas, new forests are being established through natural expansion or deliberate efforts in others. As a result, the net loss of forest area is less than the rate of deforestation. In absolute terms, the global forest area decreased by 178 million hectares between 1990 and 2020, which is an area about the size of Libya.

The biodiversity of forests varies considerably according to factors such as forest type, geography, climate and soils – in addition to human use. Most forest habitats in temperate regions support relatively few animal and tree species and species that tend to have large geographical distributions, while the montane forests of Africa, South America and Southeast Asia and lowland forests of Australia, coastal Brazil, the Caribbean islands, Central America and insular Southeast Asia have many species with small geographical distributions. Areas with dense human populations and intense agricultural land use, such as Europe, parts of Bangladesh, China, India and North America, are less intact in terms of their biodiversity. Northern Africa, southern Australia, coastal Brazil, Madagascar and South Africa, are also identified as areas with striking losses in biodiversity intactness.

Progress on preventing the extinction of known threatened species and improving their conservation status has been slow. More than 60 000 different tree species are known, more than 20 000 of which have been included in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, and more than 8 000 of these are assessed as globally threatened (Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable). More than 1 400 tree species are assessed as critically endangered and in urgent need of conservation action. Some 8 percent of assessed forest plants, 5 percent of forest animals and 5 percent of fungi found in forests are currently listed as critically endangered.

The forest-specialist index, based on 455 monitored populations of 268 forest mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds, fell by 53 percent between 1970 and 2014, an annual rate of decline of 1.7 percent. This highlights the increased risk of these species becoming vulnerable to extinction.

On a positive note, the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization has been ratified by 122 contracting Parties (an increase of 74 percent from 2016) and 146 Parties have ratified the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

All people depend upon forests and their biodiversity, some more than others. Forests provide more than 86 million green jobs and support the livelihoods of many more people. An estimated 880 million people worldwide spend part of their time collecting fuelwood or producing charcoal, many of them women. Human populations tend to be low in areas of low-income countries with high forest cover and high forest biodiversity, but poverty rates in these areas tend to be high. Some 252 million people living in forests and savannahs have incomes of less than USD 1.25 per day.

MEXICO
Millions of the Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) migrate annually from Canada to Mexico where they spend the winter in the forest.

©FAO/Andrew Taber

Feeding humanity and conserving and sustainably using ecosystems are complementary and closely interdependent goals. Forests supply water, mitigate climate change and provide habitats for many pollinators, which are essential for sustainable food production. It is estimated that 75 percent of the world’s leading food crops, representing 35 percent of global food production, benefit from animal pollination for fruit, vegetable or seed production.

Worldwide, around 1 billion people depend to some extent on wild foods such as wild meat, edible insects, edible plant products, mushrooms and fish, which often contain high levels of key micronutrients. The value of forest foods as a nutritional resource is not limited to low- and middle-income countries; more than 100 million people in the European Union (EU) regularly consume wild food. Some 2.4 billion people – in both urban and rural settings – use wood-based energy for cooking.

Human health and well-being are closely associated with forests. More than 28 000 plant species are currently recorded as being of medicinal use and many of them are found in forest ecosystems. Visits to forest environments can have positive impacts on human physical and mental health and many people have a deep spiritual relationship to forests. Yet, forests also pose health risks. Forest-associated diseases include malaria, Chagas disease (also known as American trypanosomiasis), African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), leishmaniasis, Lyme disease, HIV and Ebola. The majority of new infectious diseases affecting humans, including the SARS-CoV2 virus that caused the current COVID-19 pandemic, are zoonotic and their emergence may be linked to habitat loss due to forest area change and the expansion of human populations into forest areas, which both increase human exposure to wildlife.

Solutions that balance conservation and sustainable use of forest biodiversity are critical – and possible. Not all human impacts on biodiversity are negative, as shown by the many concrete examples in this publication of recent successful initiatives to manage, conserve, restore and sustainably use forest biodiversity.

Actions to combat deforestation and illegal logging have gathered pace over the past decade – as have international agreements and results-based payments. So far, seven countries have reported reduced deforestation to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and countries are now accessing payments based on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation from the Green Climate Fund and similar financing mechanisms. Efforts to address illegal logging are spearheaded by trade regulations in consumer countries that require importers to demonstrate that timber has been harvested legally. Many tropical timber-producing countries are making corresponding efforts to strengthen legal compliance and verification. Fifteen of them are developing national systems to assure legality of timber operations under the EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade mechanism. As part of this mechanism, countries are required to also implement measures to prevent illegal hunting.

Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 (to protect at least 17 percent of terrestrial area by 2020) has been exceeded for forest ecosystems as a whole. However, protected areas alone are not sufficient to conserve biodiversity. Globally, 18 percent of the world’s forest area, or more than 700 million hectares, fall within legally established protected areas such as national parks, conservation areas and game reserves (IUCN categories I–IV). However, these areas are not yet fully representative of the diversity of forest ecosystems. A special study conducted for SOFO 2020 on trends in protected forest area by global ecological zones (GEZs) between 1992 and 2015 found that more than 30 percent of tropical rainforests, subtropical dry forests and temperate oceanic forests were within legally protected areas (IUCN categories I–VI) in 2015. The study also found that subtropical humid forest, temperate steppe and boreal coniferous forest should be given priority in future decisions to establish new protected areas since less than 10 percent of these forests are currently protected. Areas with high values for both biodiversity significance and intactness, for example the northern Andes and Central America, southeastern Brazil, parts of the Congo Basin, southern Japan, the Himalayas and various parts of Southeast Asia and New Guinea, should likewise be given high priority.

Limited progress has been made to date on classifying specific forest areas as other effective area-based conservation measures, but guidance on this category is being developed and has significant potential for forests.

Aichi Biodiversity Target 7 (by 2020, areas under agriculture, aquaculture and forestry are managed sustainably, ensuring conservation) has not been met for forests, but the management of the world’s forests is improving.The area of forest under long-term management plans has increased significantly in the past 30 years to an estimated 2.05 billion hectares in 2020, equivalent to 54 percent of the global forest area.

Current negative trends in biodiversity and ecosystems will undermine progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The world’s biodiversity underpins life on Earth, but despite some positive trends, the loss of biodiversity continues at a rapid rate. Transformational change is needed in the way we manage our forests and their biodiversity, produce and consume our food and interact with nature. It is imperative that we decouple environmental degradation and unsustainable resource use from economic growth and associated production and consumption patterns and that land-use decisions take the true value of forests into account.

Ensuring positive outcomes for both biodiversity and people requires a careful balance between conservation goals and demands for resources that support livelihoods. There is an urgent need to ensure that biodiversity conservation be mainstreamed into forest management practices in all forest types. To do so, a realistic balance must be struck between conservation goals and local needs and demands for resources that support livelihoods, food security and human well-being. This requires effective governance; policy alignment between sectors and administrative levels; land-tenure security; respect for the rights and knowledge of local communities and indigenous peoples; and enhanced capacity for monitoring of biodiversity outcomes. It also requires innovative financing modalities.

We need to transform our food systems to halt deforestation and the loss of biodiversity. The biggest transformational change is needed in the way in which we produce and consume food. We must move away from the current situation where the demand for food is resulting in inappropriate agricultural practices that drive large-scale conversion of forests to agricultural production and the loss of forest-related biodiversity. Adopting agroforestry and sustainable production practices, restoring the productivity of degraded agricultural lands, embracing healthier diets and reducing food loss and waste are all actions that urgently need to be scaled up. Agribusinesses must meet their commitments to deforestation-free commodity chains, and companies that have not made zero-deforestation commitments should do so. Commodity investors should adopt business models that are environmentally and socially responsible. These actions will, in many cases, require a revision of current policies – in particular fiscal policies – and regulatory frameworks.

Large-scale forest restoration is needed to meet the SDGs and to prevent, halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity. While 61 countries have, together, pledged to restore 170 million hectares of degraded forest lands under the Bonn Challenge, progress to date is slow. Forest restoration, when implemented appropriately, helps restore habitats and ecosystems, create jobs and income and is an effective nature-based solution to climate change. The United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021–2030, announced in March 2019, aims to accelerate ecosystem restoration action worldwide.

Forests are increasingly recognized for their role as a nature-based solution to many sustainable development challenges, as manifest in strengthened political will and a series of commitments to reduce rates of deforestation and to restore degraded forest ecosystems. We must build on this momentum to catalyse bold actions to prevent, halt and reverse the loss of forests and their biodiversity, for the benefit of current and future generations.

  • Forests cover 31 percent of the global land area. Approximately half the forest area is relatively intact, and more than one-third is primary forest.

  • The net loss of forest area has decreased substantially since 1990, but deforestation and forest degradation continue to take place at alarming rates resulting in significant loss of biodiversity.

  • The world is not on track to meet the target of the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests to increase forest area by 3 percent worldwide by 2030.

  • Forests harbour most of Earth’s terrestrial biodiversity. The conservation of the world’s biodiversity is thus utterly dependent on the way in which we interact with and use the world’s forests.

  • The biodiversity of forests varies considerably according to factors such as forest type, geography, climate and soils - in addition to human use.

  • Progress on preventing the extinction of known threatened species and improving their conservation status has been slow.

  • All people depend upon forests and their biodiversity, some more than others.

  • Feeding humanity and conserving and sustainably using ecosystems are complementary and closely interdependent goals.

  • Human health and well-being are closely associated with forests.

  • Agricultural expansion continues to be the main driver of deforestation and forest fragmentation and the associated loss of forest biodiversity.

  • Actions to combat deforestation and illegal logging have gathered pace over the past decade - as have international agreements and results-based payments.

  • Large-scale forest restoration is needed to meet the SDGs and to prevent, halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity.

  • Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 (to protect at least 17 percent of terrestrial area by 2020) has been exceeded for forest ecosystems as a whole. However, protected areas alone are not sufficient to conserve biodiversity.

  • Aichi Biodiversity Target 7 (by 2020, areas under agriculture, aquaculture and forestry are managed sustainably, ensuring conservation) has not been met for forests, but the management of the world’s forests is improving.

  • Solutions that balance conservation and sustainable use of forest biodiversity are critical - and possible.

  • Current negative trends in biodiversity and ecosystems will undermine progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

  • Ensuring positive outcomes for both biodiversity and people requires a realistic balance between conservation goals and demands for resources that support livelihoods.

  • We need to transform our food systems to halt deforestation and the loss of biodiversity.

  • Forests are increasingly recognized for their role as a nature-based solution to many sustainable development challenges. We must build on this momentum to catalyse bold actions to prevent, halt and reverse the loss of forests and their biodiversity, for the benefit of current and future generations.

As the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity 2011–2020 comes to a close and countries prepare to adopt a post-2020 global biodiversity framework, this edition of The State of the World’s Forests (SOFO) takes the opportunity to examine the contributions of forests, and of the people who use and manage them, to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity (Box 1). By focusing specifically on forests and their biodiversity, it is intended to complement The State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture, released by FAO in February 2019 (FAO, 2019a) (Box 2), the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services of the IPBES, the draft of which was released in 2019, and the forthcoming Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 of the CBD.

Forests harbour most of Earth’s terrestrial biodiversity (MEA, 2005) and provide habitats for 80 percent of amphibian species, 75 percent of bird species and 68 percent of mammal species (Vié, Hilton-Taylor and Stuart, 2009). The GlobalTreeSearch database (BGCI, 2019) records more than 60 000 species of trees, more than 20 000 of which have been included in the IUCN Red List and over 8 000 of which are assessed as globally threatened (IUCN, 2019a). About 60 percent of vascular plants are found in tropical forests (see Chapter 3). Along tropical coasts, mangroves provide breeding grounds and nurseries for numerous species of fish and shellfish and help trap sediments that might otherwise adversely affect seagrass beds and coral reefs, habitats for many more marine species.

In both low- and high-income countries in all climatic zones, communities that live within forests rely the most directly on forest biodiversity for their lives and livelihoods. However, nearly all people today have at least some contact with forests and/or the products of their biodiversity and we all benefit from the functions provided by components of this biodiversity in the carbon, water and nutrient cycles and through the links with food production.

The deep relationship between people and forests and their associated biological diversity has a long history, reflecting the roots of the human species in forests and savannahs (Roberts, 2019). Fossil records date human use of plants to at least the Middle Palaeolithic, some 60 000 years ago (Solecki, 1975). For millennia, the myriad species of flora and fauna of forests have provided vital sources of raw materials for food and feed, construction, clothing, handicrafts, medicines and other daily livelihood needs (Camara-Leret and Denney, 2019). Scholars going back at least to Charles Darwin have recognized the influences of the ecological characteristics of forested regions and their biodiversity on the nature of human societies, human distribution across landscapes and the history of civilizations. Harvesting of and trade in many forest plants have supported and in some cases driven the spread of human societies around the globe: for instance, trade in the wood and highly valued red dye of Paubrasilia echinata on the eastern coast of South America, and nutmeg from Myristica fragrans in Indonesia had major influences on European colonial activity from the fifteenth century on.

Archaeological and ethnobotanical evidence suggests that human activities have influenced forest ecosystems and their biodiversity since ancient times (Roosevelt et al., 1996; Peters, 2000) (Box 3). This is true even in some of the most remote forests, such as in the heart of the Amazon, where the diversity and distribution of some species reflect a long history of plant domestication (Kareiva et al., 2007; Dourojeanni, 2017; Levis et al., 2017). The distribution of valuable timber species across the tropics, such as mahogany (Swietenia spp.), is in part due to ecological impacts associated with ancient communities that disappeared centuries ago (Vlam et al., 2017). The same is true for fruit trees and other sources of forest foods.

Forest biodiversity continues to face challenges today, through overexploitation but above all through agricultural expansion – the main driver of deforestation and forest fragmentation and the associated loss of forest biodiversity. Ironically, the resilience of human food systems and their capacity to adapt to future change depends on that very biodiversity, including dryland-adapted shrub and tree species that help combat desertification, forest-dwelling bee species that pollinate crops, trees with extensive root systems in mountain ecosystems that prevent soil erosion and sedimentation, and mangrove species that provide resilience against flooding in coastal areas, to name just a few examples. Forests have an essential role in the maintenance of biodiversity as a gene pool for food and medicinal crops. With climate change exacerbating the risks to food systems, the role of forests in capturing and storing carbon and mitigating climate change is paramount.

However, not all human impacts on biodiversity are negative, as shown by the many concrete examples in this publication of recent successful initiatives to manage, conserve, restore and sustainably use forest biodiversity.

This volume of SOFO does not aim to be a comprehensive treatise on the subject of forest biodiversity, but rather to provide an update on its current state and a summary of its importance for humanity. It assesses progress to date in meeting global targets and goals (Box 4) and illustrates the effectiveness of policies, actions and approaches, in terms of both conservation and sustainable development outcomes, through a series of case studies aimed at identifying innovative practices, success factors and win–win solutions.

The two chapters that follow address the biophysical status of forest biodiversity – the ecosystems (Chapter 2) and the species and genetic diversity (Chapter 3). Chapter 4 looks at the importance of forests and their biodiversity for people, for their livelihoods and well-being. The relationship between poverty and forest biodiversity is explored, as is the socio-economic role of forest resources in supporting livelihoods, food security and nutrition and human health. Chapters 5 and 6 address actions to ensure the continued contribution of forests to the health and well-being of the planet and all its occupants. Chapter 5 looks at means of reversing forest losses. It first reviews the underlying causes and drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, and then describes some successful forest restoration efforts. Chapter 6 focuses on conservation and sustainable use of forest resources and biodiversity. It looks at the role of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures; it also examines other management systems that permit and encourage sustainable forest use in support of the livelihoods and well-being of the people of forest areas. Chapter 7 emphasizes the importance of bringing together these actions in an integrated and innovative way. It acknowledges that trade-offs are sometimes inevitable in managing forests for both conservation and socio-economic development and the difficulties of monitoring the results and taking necessary follow-up action. Despite these challenges, it demonstrates that synergies are possible, summarizing a number of interventions that have achieved them.

Key messages

1 Forests cover 31 percent of the global land area. Approximately half the forest area is relatively intact, and more than one-third is primary forest.

2 The net loss of forest area has decreased substantially since 1990, but deforestation and forest degradation continue to take place at alarming rates resulting in significant loss of biodiversity.

3 The world is not on track to meet the target of the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests to increase forest area by 3 percent worldwide by 2030.

This chapter presents new data on the state of forest ecosystems. These are drawn from FAO’s Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020 (FRA 2020) and two new analyses prepared for SOFO 2020 by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) and by the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) using satellite imagery. It focuses on the global level and broad biomes (global ecological zones). More detailed information at the regional and national levels is available in FAO (2020).

2.1 Status and trends in forest area

Forest ecosystems are a critical component of the world’s biodiversity as many forest are more biodiverse than other ecosystems. The area covered by forests is thus one of the indicators of Sustainable Development Goal 15 “Life on land”.

According to FRA 2020, forests currently cover 30.8 percent of the global land area (FAO, 2020). The total forest area is 4.06 billion hectares, or approximately 0.5 ha per person, but forests are not equally distributed around the globe. More than half of the world’s forests are found in only five countries (the Russian Federation, Brazil, Canada, the United States of America and China) and two-thirds (66 percent) of forests are found in ten countries (Figure 1).

FIGURE 1
GLOBAL DISTRIBUTION OF FORESTS SHOWING THE TEN COUNTRIES WITH THE LARGEST FOREST AREA, 2020 (MILLION HECTARES AND % OF WORLD’S FORESTS)

Forest area as a proportion of total land area, which serves as SDG Indicator 15.1.1 (Box 5), decreased from 32.5 percent to 30.8 percent in the three decades between 1990 and 2020. This represents a net loss of 178 million hectares of forest, an area about the size of Libya. However, the average rate of net forest loss declined by roughly 40 percent between 1990–2000 and 2010–2020 (from 7.84 million hectares per year to 4.74 million hectares per year), the result of reduced forest area loss in some countries and forest gains in others (Table 1) (FAO, 2020). Forest loss is primarily caused by agricultural expansion, while an increase in forest area may occur through natural expansion of forests, e.g. on abandoned agricultural land, or through reforestation (including through assisted natural regeneration) or afforestation. These natural and human-induced changes have different impacts on forest biodiversity.

TABLE 1
ANNUAL RATE OF FOREST AREA CHANGE

Africa had the highest net loss of forest area in 2010–2020, with a loss of 3.94 million hectares per year, followed by South America with 2.60 million hectares per year (Figure 2). Since 1990, Africa has reported an increase in the rate of net loss, while South America’s losses have decreased substantially, more than halving since 2010 relative to the previous decade.

FIGURE 2
NET FOREST AREA CHANGE BY REGION, 1990–2020 (MILLION HECTARES PER YEAR)

Asia showed the highest net gain in forest area in the period 2010–2020, followed by Oceania and Europe. Both Europe and Asia reported a net forest gain for each ten-year period since 1990, although both regions show a substantial reduction in the rate of gain since 2010.

Other land with tree cover

As part of the reporting to FRA 2020, countries were asked to report on “Other land with tree cover”, defined as “Other land [i.e. land not classified as forest, other wooded land or inland water] spanning more than 0.5 ha with a canopy cover of more than 10 percent comprising trees able to reach a height of 5 m at maturity” (see Box 6). “Other land with tree cover” was split into five categories (Table 2). Fewer than half the countries were able to report on this parameter, and even fewer to provide trends over time. However, the reported figures indicate that the world has at least 162 million hectares of land with tree cover that is not classified as forest, and possibly as much as 300 million hectares, judging from the gap in data. The only category that did not show an increase over time was trees in urban settings.

TABLE 2
OTHER LAND WITH TREE COVER, 2020

Annual trends in overall tree cover

A UNEP-WCMC analysis of annual land-cover data at around 300 m resolution from 1992 to 2015 from the European Space Agency (Bontemps et al., 2013) indicates that global tree cover (including palms and agricultural tree crops) amounted to around 4.42 billion hectares in 1992 but had fallen to 4.37 billion hectares by 2015, a decrease of approximately 50 million hectares; however, the area under tree cover varied significantly from year to year (Figure 3). The rate and scale of net change in tree cover are also highly variable between countries and between forest types. While the global area with tree cover in this study corresponds well to the combined forest area and area of other land with tree cover reported to FRA 2020, the average net loss is considerably lower, in part owing to an expansion of other land with tree cover during this period and in part owing to different assessment methods.

Rate of deforestation

For FRA 2020, countries were asked for the first time not only to report on the total forest area at different points in time, data which are used to report net change in forest area, but also to provide information on the rate of deforestation, i.e. the forest losses due to conversion to other land uses or the permanent reduction of canopy cover below the minimum 10 percent threshold that defines forest. Since 1990, an estimated 420 million hectares of forest has been lost through deforestation, but the rate of deforestation has decreased substantially since 1990–2000. During 2015–2020, the rate of deforestation was estimated at 10 million hectares per year, down from 16 million hectares per year in the 1990s. Figure 4 illustrates the trends in the average annual rates of deforestation and forest expansion which, combined, equal the net change in forest area.

FIGURE 4
GLOBAL FOREST EXPANSION AND DEFORESTATION, 1990–2020 (MILLION HECTARES PER YEAR)
2.2 Forest characteristics

Naturally regenerating and planted forests

For the purposes of FRA 2020, forests are categorized into naturally regenerating forests (further disaggregated into primary forests and other naturally regenerating forests) and planted forests (further disaggregated into forest plantations and other planted forests). At the global level, naturally regenerating forests account for 93 percent of the world’s forest area. The remaining 7 percent is composed of planted forests (Figure 5).

FIGURE 5
PERCENTAGE OF NATURALLY REGENERATING AND PLANTED FOREST BY REGION, 2020

Primary forests. FAO defines primary forests as naturally regenerated forests of native tree species, where there are no clearly visible indications of human activities and the ecological processes are not significantly disturbed. They are sometimes referred to as old-growth forests. These forests are of irreplaceable value for their biodiversity, carbon storage and other ecosystem services, including cultural and heritage values. Large extents of such forests now occur only in tropical and boreal regions. A coordinated response to their protection should be a fundamental priority under the CBD’s post-2020 global biodiversity framework, and this needs to be underpinned by a sound knowledge base on their current status and condition.

Forested ecosystems harbour most of global terrestrial biodiversity, and primary forests in particular are home to species that are unique to these ecosystems. In the Amazon, a study of the species richness and community similarity of primary forests, secondary forests (here used to describe forests established through natural expansion and around 14 to 16 years of age) and plantations found that 25 percent of the species studied were unique to primary forests and almost 60 percent of tree and liana genera were only present in primary forests (Barlow et al., 2007). In more fragmented landscapes, primary forest patches have a key role in ensuring the survival of species in the long term, even if species can persist in the short term in younger forests and plantations (Watson et al., 2018) (Box 7).

According to FRA 2020, approximately one-third (34 percent) of the world’s forests are primary forests (FAO, 2020). More than half of these (61 percent) are found in only three countries: Brazil, Canada and the Russian Federation.

Primary forests continue to decline globally. Since 1990, primary forest worldwide has decreased by 81 million hectares, but the rate of loss more than halved over the last decade. However, the status and trends are based on incomplete data, as the measurement, monitoring and reporting of primary forests present significant challenges (see Box 8). Only 137 countries reported full time series data for 1990–2020, and these together accounted for just over half (57 percent) of the global forest area. Further work is clearly needed to improve global and national estimates.

Drivers of deforestation in primary forests are context specific but include unsustainable industrial timber extraction, agricultural expansion and fires which are often associated with infrastructure and logging-site development (Potapov et al., 2017). See more on drivers of deforestation in Chapter 5.

Planted forests. The area of planted forests has increased by 123 million hectares since 1990 and now covers 294 million hectares, but the rate of increase has slowed since 2010. Approximately 45 percent of the planted forests (or 3 percent of all forests) are plantation forests, i.e. intensively managed forests, mainly composed of one or two tree species, native or exotic, of equal age, planted with regular spacing and mainly established for productive purposes. The other 55 percent of planted forests, “Other planted forests”, are forests that can resemble natural forest at stand maturity and include forests established for ecosystem restoration and protection of soil and water. South America has the largest proportion of planted forests that are plantation forests (99 percent of the planted forest area, or 2 percent of the total forest area); Europe has the smallest share (6 percent of planted forests, or 0.4 percent of the total forest area).

Globally, 44 percent of plantation forests comprise introduced species, with large regional variations (Figure 6). In South America, 97 percent of the plantation forests are made up of introduced species, compared with only 4 percent in North and Central America.

FIGURE 6
PERCENTAGE OF PLANTATION FORESTS COMPRISING NATIVE AND INTRODUCED SPECIES, BY REGION, 2020

Forests by climatic domain and ecological zone

Worldwide, there are five major climatic domains: boreal, polar, temperate, subtropical and tropical; the largest part of the forest (45 percent) is found in the tropics, followed by the boreal, temperate and subtropical domains (Figure 7). These domains are further divided into terrestrial global ecological zones, 20 of which contain some forest cover (Figure 8). The UNEP-WCMC analysis on changes in tree cover conducted for SOFO 2020 (see here) found that ten global ecological zones experienced a net reduction in tree cover between 1992 and 2015 and ten experienced net growth. The largest negative change in tree cover was seen in the tropical rainforest, which covers much of Central Africa, the Amazon Basin, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, while the largest positive change was found in the boreal tundra woodland, which is found in Canada and the Russian Federation.

FIGURE 7
GLOBAL FOREST AREA BY CLIMATIC DOMAIN, 2020
FIGURE 8
FOREST BY GLOBAL ECOLOGICAL ZONE

Forests can be found from arid zones (Box 9) to wetlands (Box 10) and tidal areas (Box 11).

2.3 Forest degradation

While there is no agreed definition of forest degradation, in a more general sense forest degradation entails a reduction or loss of the biological or economic productivity and complexity of forest ecosystems resulting in the long-term reduction of the overall supply of benefits from forest, which includes wood, biodiversity and other products or services.

To facilitate future reporting on relevant goals and targets related to forest degradation (Box 12), FAO asked countries reporting for FRA 2020 whether they were monitoring forest degradation and, if so, what methods they used. A total of 58 countries responded (together accounting for 38 percent of the global forest area) indicating that they were attempting to monitor the extent of forest degradation. However, many of those countries assessed only one or a few specific elements.

For the purposes of this report, the status and trends related to forest ecosystem health and forest fragmentation are examined as proxies of forest degradation.

Forest ecosystem health

Forests are subject to a number of natural disturbances (e.g. wildfires, pests, diseases, adverse weather events) that can adversely affect their health and vitality by causing tree mortality or reducing their ability to provide the full range of goods and services. The effects at national and local levels and/or for specific forest species can be devastating.

Forest fires. In some ecosystems, natural fires are essential to maintain ecosystem dynamics, biodiversity and productivity. Fire is also an important and widely used tool to meet land-management goals. Most fires are caused by people, and sometimes they get out of control. Every year, deliberately set fires and wildfires burn millions of hectares of forests and other types of vegetation. A global analysis of forest area affected by fire between 2003 and 2012 identified approximately 67 million hectares burned annually (van Lierop et al., 2015). In 2015, around 98 million hectares of forest were affected by fires (FAO, 2020). These fires occurred mainly in the tropics, where they affected about 4 percent of the forest area. More than two-thirds of the total forest area burned was located in South America and Africa.

About 90 percent of fires are readily contained and account for 10 percent or less of the total area burned. The remaining 10 percent of fires account for the other 90 percent of the burned area. These dramatic and high-profile wildfire events, such as those in Australia, Brazil, Greece, the Russian Federation and the United States of America (California) in 2018 and 2019, cause great losses of human and animal lives, property and infrastructure as well as immense environmental and economic damage, both in terms of resources destroyed and the costs of suppression. Firefighters can do little to stop such fires until weather or fuel conditions change.

In the future, climate change is expected to bring longer fire seasons and more-severe fires over much of the globe, including some areas where fire has not previously been a common problem. Forest fires cannot be avoided but their occurrence and impacts can be significantly reduced by applying integrated fire management and fire-smart forest management and by taking sociocultural realities and ecological imperatives into account in the landscapes where fire occurs (FAO, 2006).

Other disturbances. Disturbances other than fire affected 142 million hectares between 2003 and 2012. These included disturbances by insect pests, mainly in temperate North America; severe weather, mainly in Asia; and diseases, mainly in Asia and Europe (van Lierop et al., 2015). In 2015, around 40 million hectares of forests were affected by such disturbances, mainly in the temperate and boreal zones (FAO, 2020).

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
Lomako forest, a community reserve in Equateur, is part of the Cuvette Centrale peatland.

©UNEP/Joannes Refisch

Invasive species (non-native insect pests, pathogens, vertebrates and plants) and outbreaks of native insect pests and diseases pose an increasing threat to the health, sustainability and productivity of natural and planted forests globally (Box 13). Outbreaks of forest insect pests alone damage about 35 million hectares of forests annually (FAO, 2010b). Invasive plant and animal species are now considered one of the most important causes of biodiversity loss, especially in many island countries (CBD, 2009). However, except in some developed countries, very few quantifiable data are available on the total impact of invasive species.

Forest intactness and fragmentation

In the past century, forest fragmentation – the division of continuous habitat into smaller and more isolated fragments – has profoundly altered the characteristics and connectivity of forests and caused severe biodiversity losses (Haddad et al., 2015). Understanding the extent, causes and consequences of forest fragmentation is critical to conserving forest biodiversity and ecosystem functioning (see Box 14).

Some 34.7 million patches (99.8 percent of the total number of patches) are smaller than 1 000 hectares. Together, they account for 7 percent of the global forest area. The average size of all forest patches is a mere 132 hectares, but the average patch size varies significantly between ecological zones (Figure 10). The largest average patch sizes are found in the boreal coniferous forest and tropical rainforest zones.

FIGURE 10
AVERAGE FOREST PATCH SIZE BY GLOBAL ECOLOGICAL ZONE, 2015 (HECTARES)
FIGURE 11
FOREST AREA DENSITY INDEX, 2015

Almost half of the global forest area (49 percent) falls in the two highest forest area density classes (intact and interior) and thus has a high level of integrity (Figures 12 and 14). At the other end of the density spectrum, 9 percent of the world’s forests are in the rare and patchy classes, with little or no connectivity, and can be considered severely fragmented (Figures 12 and 15).

FIGURE 12
PROPORTION OF FOREST AREA BY FOREST AREA DENSITY CLASS AND GLOBAL ECOLOGICAL ZONE, 2015
FIGURE 13
AVERAGE FOREST AREA DENSITY BY GLOBAL ECOLOGICAL ZONE, 2015 (%)
FIGURE 14
MOST-INTACT FORESTS BY GLOBAL ECOLOGICAL ZONE, 2015
FIGURE 15
MOST-FRAGMENTED FORESTS BY GLOBAL ECOLOGICAL ZONE, 2015

Where are forests the most intact? Tropical rainforest and boreal coniferous forest – the ecological zones with the most forest – are the least fragmented and most-intact forest ecosystems. More than 90 percent of the forest area in these zones is in patches larger than 1 million hectares and the forest patches in these zones are much larger than the global average (Figures 9 and 10). Less than 2 percent of the forest area in these zones is in the rare and patchy classes, and more than 50 percent is in the interior and intact classes (Figure 12). These ecosystems are characterized by difficulties of access and low population density.

Half of the remaining tropical rainforest falls within the intact forest area density class and 94 percent of the forest area is well connected. Forests in the Amazon and Congo basins are the least fragmented and most contiguous (Figure 14). However, land-use conversion in these areas is causing rapid change. As these are forests of unique biodiversity, particular attention is required to conserve them and manage them sustainably.

In the boreal coniferous forest biome, 11 percent of the forest area is in the intact class, mainly in Canada and the Russian Federation. Boreal forest fragmentation is mainly linked to natural disturbances (fire and insect outbreaks). Increased severity of boreal-zone wildfires related to global warming (Walker et al., 2019) might increase fragmentation in the long term.

Mountain systems in boreal, temperate and tropical climates are also biomes with limited accessibility and low population density, and these biomes also have notably less-fragmented forest than other ecological zones. Their average patch size is larger than the global average (Figure 10), only 6 percent of their forest area is in the rare and patchy classes and more than 40 percent is in the intact and interior classes (Figure 12). The forest integrity in these biomes may also be linked to the considerable amount of protected areas in these zones that were established to safeguard water sources and avoid land erosion. Mountain forests with low fragmentation include temperate North America montane forests (Appalachians, Cascade Range), boreal Russian forests (Ural Mountains, Stanovoy range and Sikhote-Alin mountains, which host endangered species such as the Siberian tiger) and tropical mountains in the lake regions of Central Africa, which have an exceptionally high species richness and shelter most of the mountain gorilla population. Unfortunately, some of these forests are now facing high risk of encroachment and fragmentation at their edges because of growing population pressure.

Where are forests the most fragmented? Ecological zones with a limited area of forest (less than one-third of total land area), such as tropical shrubland, subtropical steppe, subtropical dry forest and temperate oceanic forest, have the highest fragmentation level and the lowest average forest area density (Figures 10 and 13). These zones have average patch size of less than 60 hectares and a high proportion of forest area (around 20 percent) in patches smaller than 1 000 hectares (Figures 9 and 10); they also have 20 percent of forest in the rare and patchy classes and less than 20 percent in the interior and intact classes (Figure 12). While some of these ecological zones have naturally fragmented landscape patterns (e.g. subtropical steppe), in others fragmentation is the result of past land-use conversion and forest utilization practices.

Boreal tundra woodland, tropical dry forest and tropical moist forest ecological zones have more significant forest cover (more than 40 percent of total land area) but the average patch size is much smaller than the global average (Figures 9 and 10) and more than 30 percent of forest is in the rare, patchy and transitional classes (Figure 12). These biomes have less than 30 percent of forest area in the intact and interior classes, and only 16 percent in the case of boreal tundra woodland.

Forest fragmentation in the boreal tundra woodlands is primarily a consequence of natural conditions and disturbances (climate, wildfire and pests). In contrast, tropical dry and moist forests, such as the Cerrado forests in Brazil, the South American Gran Chaco, the Miombo woodlands in southern Africa and the tropical dry forests in India and the Mekong region, have been affected by rapidly changing land-use dynamics. These forests are very important in terms of both biodiversity and livelihoods, yet only a few large continuous forest areas remain in these ecological zones.

Once a forest has been fragmented, it is very difficult to reverse the situation, especially in terms of biodiversity losses. Efforts are required to reconnect forest fragments through restoration, including the creation of corridors, buffers or stepping stones (see Chapter 5. Reversing deforestation and forest degradation).

2.4 Progress towards targets related to forest area

As is evident from section 2.1 Status and trends in forest area, there is some progress towards reversing the loss of forest cover worldwide, with the net loss of forest area having decreased from an average of 7.84 million hectares per year in the 1990s to 4.74 million hectares per year in the period 2010–2020 (Table 1). However, the world is not on track to meet the target of the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests (UN, 2017) to increase forest area by 3 percent worldwide by 2030 (relative to 2015).

Over the past 30 years, the area of naturally regenerating forest has decreased by 7 percent (301 million hectares) (FAO, 2020). The rate of loss of naturally regenerating forest has been decreasing (Figure 16) but not enough to meet Aichi Target 5 and Goal 1 of the New York Declaration on Forests, to at least halve the rate of loss of natural forests globally by 2020 (relative to 2010) (Box 5).

FIGURE 16
ANNUAL CHANGE IN AREA OF NATURALLY REGENERATING FOREST, 1990–2020 (MILLION HECTARES PER YEAR)

While the JRC study on fragmentation did not look at trends over time, indications, based on patterns of deforestation, are that fragmentation of forests is increasing in many countries. On a more positive note, 122 countries have committed to setting land degradation neutrality targets and more than 80 countries have already set their targets (UNCCD, 2019a).

Key messages

1 Forests harbour most of Earth’s terrestrial biodiversity. The conservation of the world’s biodiversity is thus utterly dependent on the way in which we interact with and use the world’s forests.

2 The biodiversity of forests varies considerably according to factors such as forest type, geography, climate and soils – in addition to human use.

3 Progress on preventing the extinction of known threatened species and improving their conservation status has been slow.

It is not only the trees that make a forest, but the many different species of plants and animals that reside in the soil, understorey and canopy. Estimates of the total number of species on Earth range from 3 million to 100 million (May, 2010). An estimate from 2011 puts the number at about 8.7 million (plus or minus 1.3 million), with 6.5 million species on land and 2.2 million in oceans (Mora et al., 2011), while IPBES (2019a) puts the number at about 8 million, of which 5.9 million species are terrestrial. Although it is widely reported that forests harbour 80 percent of terrestrial plants and animals, such a precise estimate is unlikely to be accurate given the changing state of knowledge of planetary biodiversity.

Tropical moist forests stand out as highly significant reservoirs of global biodiversity; examples include 1 200 species of beetle from a single tree species (Erwin, 1982), 365 tree species in a 1-ha plot (Valencia, Balslev and Paz y Miño, 1994), 365 plant species in a 0.1-ha plot (Gentry and Dodson, 1987) and an estimated half of the world’s species richness in just 6 to 7 percent of its land area (Dirzo and Raven, 2003). Tropical and subtropical forests (dry and humid) contain the ten hotspots with the greatest total number of endemic higher terrestrial vertebrates and the greatest number of threatened species (Mittermeier, 2004; Mittermeier et al., 2011, cited in IPBES, 2019b).

Thus, while trees are the defining component of forests and their diversity can give an indication of overall diversity, there are many other ways to determine the biodiversity significance of forests. This chapter looks at some of these aspects as it explores progress towards key targets related to the conservation of forest biodiversity at the species and genetic level (Box 15).

3.1 Forest species diversity

Trees

The GlobalTreeSearch database (BGCI, 2019) reports the existence of 60 082 tree species. This number includes palms and many agricultural tree crops (e.g. fruit trees, coffee and oil palm) not commonly found in forests.

Nearly half of all tree species (45 percent) are members of just ten families. The three most tree-rich families are Fabaceae, Rubiaceae and Myrtaceae. Brazil, Colombia and Indonesia are the countries with the most tree species (Figure 17). The countries with the most country-endemic tree species reflect broader plant diversity trends (Australia, Brazil and China) or are islands where isolation has resulted in added speciation (Indonesia, Madagascar and Papua New Guinea) (Figure 18). Nearly 58 percent of all tree species are single-country endemics (Beech et al., 2017).

FIGURE 17
TEN COUNTRIES WITH THE MOST TREE SPECIES
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FIGURE 18
TOP TEN COUNTRIES AND TERRITORIES IN TERMS OF NUMBER OF ENDEMIC TREE SPECIES
fig-3_18

As of December 2019, a total of 20 334 tree species had been included in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN, 2019a), of which 8 056 were assessed as globally threatened (Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable). A total of 32 996 tree species have a conservation assessment on some level (national, global, regional) and 12 145 of those have a threatened assessment. Of these, more than 1 400 tree species have been assessed as critically endangered and are in urgent need of conservation action (Global Trees Campaign, 2020) (see also Box 16). CITES listings of tree species have surged in recent years as a result of the concern that many commercially valuable tree species may be threatened by overexploitation; more than 900 tree species are now included in CITES appendices and have their trade regulated through CITES, including rosewoods, ebonies and mahoganies (CITES, 2019).

In some countries, efforts are made to recognize and protect individual trees outside forest that are notable for their size, age, historical significance or other qualities (Box 17).

Other forest plants, animals and fungi

About 391 000 species of vascular plants are known to science (including the 60 082 trees mentioned above and more than 1 600 species of bamboo (Vorontsova et al., 2016)), of which about 94 percent are flowering plants. Of these, 21 percent are likely threatened by extinction (Willis, 2017). Some 60 percent of the total are found in tropical forests (Burley, 2002). Some 144 000 species of fungi have been named and classified so far. However, it is estimated that the vast majority (over 93 percent) of fungal species are currently unknown to science, indicating that the total number of fungal species on Earth is somewhere between 2.2 and 3.8 million (Willis, 2018).

Close to 70 000 vertebrate species are known and described (IUCN, 2019a). Of these, forests provide habitats for almost 5 000 amphibian species (80 percent of all known species), close to 7 500 bird species (75 percent of all birds) and more than 3 700 different mammals (68 percent of all species) (Vié, Hilton-Taylor and Stuart, 2009). Iconic forest-dependent species include the jaguar of Latin America, the bears of North America, the gorillas of Central Africa, the lemurs of Madagascar, the panda bears of China, the Philippine Eagle and the koalas of Australia.

Some 1.3 million species of invertebrates have been described. However, many more exist, with some estimates ranging from 5 million to 10 million species (see e.g. Ødegaard, 2000). Most are insects, and the vast majority live in forests (see example in Box 18).

Globally, described species of soil bacteria and fungi exceed 15 000 and 97 000, respectively, compared with 20 000–25 000 species of nematodes, 21 000 species of protists (protozoa, protophyta, and moulds), and 40 000 species of mites (Orgiazzi et al., 2016). However, the identity of much of the soil biota remains unknown. Soil microbes, forest-dependent pollinators (insects, bats, birds and some mammals) (Box 18), and saproxylic beetles (Box 19) play very important parts in maintaining the biodiversity and ecosystem functions of forests.

Similarly, mammals, birds and other organisms can play major roles in forest ecosystem structure including on the distribution patterns of trees through their direct roles in seed dispersal, seed predation and herbivory, and indirectly through predation on such ecological architects (Beck, 2008).

Along tropical coasts, mangroves provide breeding grounds and nurseries for numerous species of fish and shellfish and help trap sediments that might otherwise adversely affect seagrass beds and coral reefs – the habitats of a myriad of marine species.

Assessing forest biodiversity significance and intactness

Forest biodiversity significance. The natural biodiversity of forests varies considerably according to factors such as forest type, geography, climate and soils. A study led by UNEP-WCMC (Hill et al., 2019) shows how the contribution of these factors to the distributions of mammal, bird, amphibian and conifer species varies around the world. This analysis uses the rarity-weighted richness of these species (chosen because they were the only groups with ranges that were comprehensively assessed at the time), based on data from the IUCN Red List; these include spatial distribution maps for each species. The biodiversity significance map (Figure 19) shows similarities with the distribution of endemic bird areas and biodiversity hotspots (Myers, 1990; Stattersfield et al., 1998; Mittermeier et al., 1998; Mittermeier et al., 2004) but is based on many more species.

FIGURE 19
FOREST BIODIVERSITY SIGNIFICANCE, 2018 (CONTRIBUTION OF EACH LOCATION TO THE DISTRIBUTIONS OF FOREST MAMMAL, BIRD, AMPHIBIAN AND CONIFER SPECIES OCCURRING IN THEM)
fig-3_19

Most forest habitats in temperate regions have low biodiversity significance values because they support fewer species than those in the tropics and the species that they do support tend to have larger geographical distributions than those in other regions of the world (Figure 19). The lowland tropical forests in the Amazon and Congo basins have intermediate biodiversity significance values; even though these forests are species rich, the species present often have large distributions, so the contribution of any individual location to the overall distribution of these species is low. Regions showing the highest biodiversity significance are those having many species with small geographical distributions, such as the montane forests of South America, Africa and Southeast Asia and lowland forests of insular Southeast Asia, coastal Brazil, Australia, Central America and the Caribbean islands.

Figure 20 indicates where the removal of forested habitats could have a disproportionate impact on the world’s forest-dependent species, based on an analysis of the forest biodiversity significance of tree cover loss from 2000 to 2018. Places where the impact would be highest include Madagascar, parts of eastern Brazil, Central America, Southeast Asia, West Africa, Australia and northern New Zealand.

FIGURE 20
FOREST BIODIVERSITY SIGNIFICANCE FOR AREAS OF FOREST LOSS DURING 2000–2018 (CONTRIBUTION OF EACH LOCATION TO THE DISTRIBUTIONS OF FOREST MAMMAL, BIRD, AMPHIBIAN AND CONIFER SPECIES OCCURRING IN THEM)
fig-3_20

Forest biodiversity intactness. Figure 21 shows forest biodiversity intactness, illustrating the impacts of forest change and human population density on species assemblages; it was developed based on the modelled relationship between anthropogenic pressures and changes in the composition of species communities. As expected, areas with dense human populations and intense agricultural land use, such as Europe and parts of Bangladesh, China, India and North America, are less intact. Southern Australia, coastal Brazil, Madagascar, South Africa and northern Africa are also identified as areas with striking losses in biodiversity intactness.

FIGURE 21
FOREST BIODIVERSITY INTACTNESS, 2018
fig-3_21

Overlaying the metrics for conservation planning. The biodiversity significance and intactness metrics have complementary relevance for conservation policy and practice. Safeguarding areas of high significance is important because their loss elevates species’ risk of extinction. Safeguarding areas of high intactness is important to maintain ecosystem functioning, to retain community resilience against pressures such as climate change and to help mitigate climate change (Steffen et al., 2015).

Overlaying the significance and intactness layers (Figure 22) highlights areas with high values for both metrics, for example the northern Andes and Central America, southeastern Brazil, parts of the Congo Basin, southern Japan, the Himalayas and various parts of Southeast Asia and New Guinea (Figure 23). Other areas are notable for having high values for one metric but not the other. Europe, for example, is dominated by large areas of biodiversity intactness in the northeast and areas of high-biodiversity significance in the south (Figure 23D).

FIGURE 22
BIVARIATE MAP OF FOREST BIODIVERSITY SIGNIFICANCE AND INTACTNESS WITHIN FOREST BIOMES, 2018
fig-3_22
FIGURE 23
DETAILS OF BIVARIATE MAPS OF FOREST BIODIVERSITY SIGNIFICANCE AND INTACTNESS WITHIN FOREST BIOMES, 2018: PARTS OF CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA (A), CENTRAL AND WEST AFRICA (B), CHINA AND SOUTHEAST ASIA (C), WESTERN EUROPE (D)
fig-3_23

Such overlays provide information relevant for conservation planning. For example, landscapes of high significance but low intactness may be appropriate targets for restoration efforts. Landscapes of both high intactness and high significance have a relatively high density of geographically restricted native species and may therefore be important to safeguard through broad-scale policy responses or site-scale conservation measures, such as designation of protected areas. The protected-area coverage of forests within the corresponding ecological zones is already relatively high (see Chapter 6. Conservation and sustainable use of forests and forest biodiversity), but where they are not already protected such areas should be considered priorities for protected-area expansion; an example is the montane forests of the northern Andes.

The outputs highlighted here are also relevant to international and national policy, including National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans under the CBD. In addition, mapping of forest biodiversity significance or intactness lost over time can be used to track progress towards goals and targets such as Aichi Target 5 (loss and degradation of habitats), Aichi Target 11 (areas of biodiversity significance) and Aichi Target 12 (preventing extinctions and declines of threatened species). Data on forest loss linked to biodiversity can also inform national planning to reduce deforestation and forest degradation, as well as investment policy.

It will soon be possible to develop tools that combine remotely sensed data with algorithms to show areas of forest loss and the consequences of forest loss for biodiversity in near real time, which would allow rapid responses and interventions on the ground. To this end, both the biodiversity significance intactness and biodiversity layers have been incorporated into the Global Forest Watch platform (www.globalforestwatch.org).

Measuring forest vertebrate population trends

Global processes for setting targets and monitoring progress generally use measures based on forest area as proxy indicators of forest biodiversity; for example, Aichi Target 5 focuses on halving the rate of loss of forests and other natural habitats by 2020. However, a recent study (Green et al., 2019a,b) questions whether changes in forest area are a reliable proxy indicator of forest vertebrate population trends.

The study used time-series abundance data from the Living Planet Database (ZSL and WWF, 2014) for 1 668 populations of forest-dwelling vertebrates to assess the possible influence of changes in tree cover on forest vertebrate populations. Satellite imagery was used to assess tree cover change over the period 1982–2016. The analysis was repeated for 175 populations of “forest specialists”, species that occur only in forests and in no other ecosystem.

Taking the global data set as a whole, the analyses did not reveal a statistically significant relationship between tree-cover change and changes in the population of either forest-dwelling or forest-specialist vertebrate species. It therefore seems that, at a global scale, vertebrate forest populations do not respond in a consistent manner to tree cover change in their vicinity. Areas that have gained tree cover do not necessarily see a recovery of other forest biodiversity, probably because of pressures not related to loss of habitat. However, at the local scale, a statistically significant relationship was evident in specific instances. Annual abundance values of 40 of the 175 forest-specialist populations were found to be positively correlated with tree cover changes, while others were negatively correlated or uncorrelated with changes in tree cover. Time lags between tree cover change and population change were allowed for, because forest vertebrates can take several years to respond to changes in their habitat. Source literature for the data on these forest-specialist populations also indicated other factors driving species population sizes at the local level (see the example in Box 20), demonstrating that relying on forest cover changes as the sole proxy for changes in vertebrate populations is inappropriate.

Development of a forest-specialist index. As part of the study of forest vertebrate biodiversity discussed above, Green et al., (2019a) developed a forest-specialist index as a possible global indicator of biodiversity trends below the canopy. The index was created by extracting information on forest specialists from the Living Planet Index (ZSL and WWF, 2014), which tracks the average change in abundance of thousands of vertebrate populations from around the world. Some 75 percent of the specialists were from tropical forests, the most biodiverse forests in the world.

The forest-specialist index declined by 53 percent between 1970 and 2014 from an initial value of 1.0 to an index value of 0.47 (Figure 24), indicating that 455 populations of forest specialists monitored, taken together, more than halved in number on average over the period, an annual rate of decline of 1.7 percent. The finding was consistent across mammals, amphibians and reptiles but less so among birds, especially those from temperate forests. The decline in the index was steepest between 1970 and 1976, after which the decline continued at a slower rate. In the final two years of the period, the number of species increasing exceeded the number of species declining. It is uncertain, however, whether that upturn is a sign of significant long-term improvement in the abundance of forest specialists given that previous improvements were all followed by declines. Individual species showed a mixture of positive, stable and negative trends in both tropical and temperate forests; negative trends were prevalent in the former and positive trends in the latter.

FIGURE 24
OVERALL DECLINE IN A FOREST-SPECIALIST INDEX FOR 268 FOREST VERTEBRATE SPECIES (455 POPULATIONS), 1970–2014
fig-3_24

The forest-specialist index could be useful to complement existing indicators in monitoring progress towards SDG 15, the CBD’s post-2020 global biodiversity framework and the goals of the Paris Agreement. The Biodiversity Indicators Partnership (2018) has put it forward as a means to measure progress towards Aichi Targets 5, 7 and 12.

Effect of wildlife hunting on forest biodiversity. Unsustainable wildlife hunting is one of the main drivers of biodiversity loss, second only to agriculture (Maxwell et al., 2016) (see also Chapter 5. Reversing deforestation and forest degradation). A global meta-analysis of threat information for 8 688 animal species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN, 2019a) estimated that the relative abundance of tropical mammals and birds in hunted areas was 83 and 58 percent lower, respectively, than in areas with no hunting (Benítez-López et al., 2017). Nearly 20 percent of the Red List’s threatened (critically endangered, endangered and vulnerable) and near-threatened species are directly threatened by hunting (Maxwell et al., 2016), including more than 300 mammal species (Ripple et al., 2016). Large-bodied species with low reproductive rates and long generation times are especially vulnerable to hunting (Ripple et al., 2015); as a consequence, vertebrate species assemblages in hunted forests have a higher proportion of smaller species, such as rats, birds and squirrels. Under heavy hunting pressure, forests can ultimately reach the point where the trees are standing but large mammals are absent – a phenomenon termed the “empty forest syndrome” (Redford, 1992). Most commonly hunted mammals in tropical forests are frugivores, and reductions in or extinctions of these species and of large birds and some fish in floodplain forests can have major consequences for seed dispersal and survival and for forest regeneration (Galetti et al., 2008; Peres et al., 2016; Gardner et al., 2017). Thus, in regions with a high proportion of large-seeded animal-dispersed tree species, such as Africa, Asia and the Neotropics, a loss or reduction in forest vertebrates can lead to a reduction in tree-species diversity (Poulsen, Clark and Palmer, 2013; Bello et al., 2015; Osuri et al., 2016). On the other hand, in many countries with high forest cover, sustainable hunting can be an income generator and an important recreation activity, and hence a motivator for maintaining forest (e.g. Reimoser, 2000; Bengston, Butler and Asah, 2008) (see section on Sustainable hunting and wildlife management in Chapter 6).

3.2 The state of forest genetic resources

Forest genetic resources are the heritable materials of forest trees and other woody plant species (shrubs, palms and bamboo) that are of actual or potential economic, environmental, scientific or societal value (FAO, 2014b). The first-ever State of the World’s Forest Genetic Resources (FAO, 2014a) assembled information from 86 reporting countries, accounting for 85 percent of the global forest area. These countries reported nearly 8 000 species of trees, shrubs, palms and bamboo, of which about 2 400 species were actively managed for products or services in forestry.

A total of nearly 1 000 species were reportedly conserved in situ and 1 800 species ex situ (see Box 21 for a discussion of the relative benefits of each type of conservation). Most in situ conservation of forest genetic resources takes place outside protected areas on a range of public, private and traditionally owned land areas, especially in forests managed for multiple uses. It is probable that more species were reported as conserved ex situ than in situ because ex situ conservation efforts are typically better documented than in situ ones. Countries also interpret in situ conservation differently. The mere presence of a given species in a protected area may sometimes be reported as in situ conservation, even though protected areas are generally established for conserving habitats or wildlife rather than for the conservation of forest genetic resources.

More than 700 species are included in tree improvement programmes around the world, focusing largely on traits of commercial interest, such as growth, wood properties and resistance to or tolerance of pests and diseases. More recently, however, climate-change-related traits such as plasticity and drought tolerance have been increasingly considered by tree breeding programmes (FAO, 2014b).

At the global level, the supply of tree germplasm for raising planting stock is still largely based on unimproved seeds collected from forest stands, but regions and countries differ considerably in their sourcing and production of tree germplasm. At one extreme, most seedlings planted in the forest sector are raised from improved seeds; at the other, almost all seed is sourced from existing forests or plantations of unknown origin or even from individual trees found in agricultural landscapes (FAO, 2014b). The seed supply for boreal, temperate and fast-growing tropical and subtropical trees has mostly met the demand for establishing new forests, but the seed supply for many high-value tropical hardwoods and for trees used in agroforestry systems has often been insufficient to meet the demand (Koskela et al., 2014). More recently, increasing forest restoration efforts have created a high demand for seeds of native tree species, and many restoration projects are already facing problems in obtaining a sufficient quantity of seed of good physiological and genetic quality to meet the needs of these efforts (Jalonen et al., 2017).

In 2019, FAO initiated the preparation of the second State of the World’s Forest Genetic Resources report, to be launched in 2023. It is expected that the second global assessment will increase awareness of existing gaps in knowledge and highlight the importance of obtaining better information and data on forest genetic resources to enhance the management of these resources at the national, regional and global levels (see example in Box 22).

3.3 Progress towards targets related to forest species and genetic resources

Progress towards Aichi Target 12, on preventing the extinction of known threatened species and improving their conservation status, has been slow.

Table 3 summarizes the vulnerability status of the forest-dwelling plants, animal and fungi that have been assessed in the IUCN Red List (2019a) as of December 2019.

TABLE 3
VULNERABILITY STATUS OF FOREST PLANTS, ANIMALS AND FUNGI IN THE IUCN RED LIST AS OF DECEMBER 2019
tab3

The Global Living Planet Index, calculated using data for 16 704 populations representing 4 005 species monitored across the globe, shows an overall decline of 60 percent in the population sizes of vertebrates between 1970 and 2014 (WWF, 2018). The forest-specialist index, modelled on this, declined by 53 percent between 1970 and 2014 (Figure 24), highlighting the increasing risk of 268 forest vertebrate species becoming vulnerable to extinction.

Progress towards Aichi Targets 13 (maintenance of the genetic diversity of cultivated plants and farmed and domesticated animals and of wild relatives) and 16 (implementation of the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization) has been more positive. As of January 2020:

  • the Nagoya Protocol had been ratified by 122 contracting Parties, including the EU (an increase of 74 percent from 2016) (CBD, 2020a);

  • 95 countries and the EU have submitted an interim national report on the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol to the access and benefit-sharing (ABS) Clearing-House (CBD, 2020b);

  • 44 countries submitting progress reports in 2018 reported having achieved, on average, two-thirds of the action points in the Global Plan of Action for the Conservation, Sustainable Use and Development of Forest Genetic Resources (Box 23);

  • a pan-European strategy has enhanced regional collaboration for the conservation of forest genetic resources in Europe (Box 24); and

  • 146 Parties had ratified the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (FAO, 2019d).

Key messages

1 All people depend upon forests and their biodiversity, some more than others.

2 Feeding humanity and conserving and sustainably using ecosystems are complementary and closely interdependent goals.

3 Human health and well-being are closely associated with forests.

Much of human society today has at least some interaction with forests and the biodiversity they contain and all people benefit from the functions provided by components of this biodiversity in the carbon, water and nutrient cycles and through the links with food production.

People’s relationships with forest biodiversity vary from region to region and country to country, and also differ widely depending on the context – from protected areas with limited human activities, to communities deep inside forests, to farmed and ranched landscapes, to towns and larger urban centres, to the world’s largest cities. This chapter examines the benefits that people derive from forests in terms of livelihoods, food security and human health.

4.1 People’s benefits from forests and biodiversity

In both developing and developed countries and in all climatic zones, communities that live within forests rely the most directly on forest biodiversity for their lives and livelihoods, using products derived from forest resources for food, fodder, shelter, energy, medicine and income generation. Other rural people, most of whom live in landscapes containing a mix of grasslands, farmlands and tree cover, often participate in the value chains of forest biodiversity, for example by collecting wood and non-wood products from nearby forests for personal use or sale, or engaging in forest-product industries or value addition (Zhang and Pearse, 2011). While the examples provided below provide some indication of the number of people dependent on forests for (parts of) their livelihood, a precise estimate of the number of forest-dependent people does not currently exist (Box 25).

In developing countries, woodfuel (fuelwood and charcoal) is particularly important, both for household use and for sale, with an estimated 880 million people worldwide spending part of their time collecting fuelwood or producing charcoal (FAO, 2017a). More than 40 million people – 1.2 percent of the global workforce – are engaged in commercial fuelwood and charcoal activities to supply urban centres. Production of woodfuel generated USD 33 billion of revenue globally in 2011. The sustainability of its production is hence extremely important.

Wood and non-wood forest products (NWFPs) provide around 20 percent of income for rural households in developing countries with moderate to good access to forest resources (Angelsen et al., 2014). Taking into account direct, indirect and induced employment, the formal forest sector provides an estimated 45 million jobs globally and labour income in excess of USD 580 billion per year (FAO, 2018b). Small and medium-sized forest enterprises (SMFEs) account for about 20 million of these jobs, generating value of USD 130 billion per year. Globally, the reported value of NWFP removals in 2015 amounted to almost USD 8 billion (FAO, 2020). These estimates are all likely to be significantly lower than actual figures, since much of the forest sector globally is in the informal economy and not well tracked in national statistics.

The informal sector – defined as non-commercial, subsistence or unregulated and unreported small-scale enterprises – was estimated to have generated USD 124 billion in revenue in 2011, providing employment for an additional estimated 41 million people (FAO, 2014c). NWFPs are particularly important in this sector, providing food, income and nutritional diversity for hundreds of millions of people around the world, notably women, children, landless farmers, indigenous peoples and others in vulnerable situations (see Box 25 and FAO, 2018b). The gathering of food, medicinal plants, craft materials, other NWFPs and woodfuel forms a significant component of women’s contributions to household livelihoods. In some remote areas, the sale of NWFPs is the only source of cash available to women (Shackleton et al., 2011).

Non-consumptive uses of forest biodiversity, such as recreation and tourism, are also a growing part of rural cash economies (Hegetschweiler et al., 2017). Each year an estimated 8 billion visits are made to protected areas, many of which are forest covered, and associated in-country expenditures are estimated to be in the order of USD 600 billion annually (Balmford et al., 2015).

In addition, forest biodiversity may provide a safety net for hundreds of millions of people as sources of food, energy and income during hard times (Sunderlin et al., 2005), although some authors (e.g. Paumgarten, Locatelli and Witkowski, 2018) note that this function may be limited by seasonal fluctuations and decreased availability during extreme events.

Urban populations have long benefited from a range of wood and NWFPs, from paper and furniture to mushrooms, forest fruits and wild game. A significant proportion of poor urban people depend on fuelwood and charcoal to cook their food, particularly in Africa (see e.g. Mulenga, Tembo and Richardson, 2019). In more prosperous economies, urban people are showing a growing interest in foods, cosmetics and other products from the forest, as illustrated by the appearance of products from forest species such as the Açai palm (Euterpe oleracea) and the baobab tree (Adansonia digitata) on supermarket shelves or in the recipes of cutting-edge chefs around the world (e.g. McDonell, 2019). In addition, an increasing number of economically well-off people in developed and developing countries are opting to live at least part-time in forested areas, with biodiversity being one of the main attractants, in what has been termed amenity migration (Gosnell and Abrams, 2011).

Indigenous peoples depend to a particularly high degree on forest biodiversity for their livelihoods, although this relation is in flux as their linkages with national and global monetary economies grow. Areas managed by indigenous peoples, currently approximately 28 percent of the world’s land surface, include some of the most ecologically intact forests and many hotspots of biodiversity (Garnett et al., 2018). Indigenous communities often have a deep cultural and spiritual relationship with their ancestral forest lands and age-old knowledge about biodiversity (Verschuuren and Brown, 2018), much of which is at risk of being lost (Camara-Leret, Fortuna and Bascompte, 2019). The intangible contribution of forests and their biodiversity to people’s identity and sense of well-being is undervalued in many economic assessments.

4.2 Forests and poverty

The world’s poorest people depend on forests to varying extents (Sunderlin et al., 2005; Camara-Leret, Fortuna and Bascompte, 2019), but are generally more dependent on biodiversity and ecosystem services than are people who are better off (Reid and Huq, 2005; CBD, 2010b). Human populations tend to be low in areas of low- and middle-income countries with high forest cover and high forest biodiversity, but poverty rates in these areas tend to be high (Fisher and Christopher, 2007). FAO (2018b) estimated that 252 million people living in forests and savannahs had incomes of less than USD 1.25 per day. Overall, about 63 percent of these rural poor lived in Africa, 34 percent lived in Asia and 3 percent lived in Latin America. The 8 million forest-dependent poor in Latin America represent about 82 percent of the region’s rural extreme poor.

Understanding the relationship between poverty and forest landscapes has critical implications for global efforts to fight poverty and to conserve biodiversity. The relationship between humans and forests is subject to complex, dynamic and sometimes opposing forces (e.g. Busch and Ferretti-Gallon, 2017). Identifying the causal pathways between social and economic variables and environmental outcomes is a formidable challenge (Ferraro, Sanchirico and Smith, 2019).

Poverty reduction and income growth can, on the one hand, increase the demand for land-intensive goods and production and intensify the human desire to convert forest to pasture, cropland and living space. On the other hand, rising income could change occupational patterns away from land-intensive production, increase the demand for recreation and environmental quality, and strengthen people’s ability and willingness to conserve nature. The impacts of these forces are filtered through and shaped by institutions and policy conditions (Deacon, 1995).

Studies by Alix-Garcia et al. (2013) in Mexico and by Heß et al. (2019) in the Gambia to determine the causal impact of income growth on deforestation showed that income growth induced by a conditional cash transfer programme and a community-driven development programme, respectively, increased forest loss. By contrast, other studies in Mexico and Uganda suggest that programmes offering payments in compensation for conservation activities have successfully reduced rates of deforestation (Alix-Garcia et al., 2015; Jayachandran et al., 2017).

A variety of social and economic factors interact with both forest cover and poverty, affecting their relationship. These factors include agricultural expansion, population growth, transportation infrastructure, technology change, credit access and international trade. Transportation infrastructure provides a good example of such interactions. Forest landscapes are generally remote and often have poor connections to markets for their products and poor provision of services from both governments and the private sector; the latter is exacerbated by the fact that many forest populations are socially marginalized groups such as ethnic minorities or indigenous people. New and better roads could reduce the cost of exploiting forest resources and expand the market for local forest products but could at the same time provide residents of forest areas with more economic opportunities and social services and reduce reliance on the forest.

A study by the World Bank commissioned for this volume found great heterogeneity in the relationship between poverty and forest cover (Figure 25). Central Africa has both high poverty rate and high forest cover, while many parts of Europe and North America exhibit low poverty rate and high forest cover. Malawi is shown as a specific case where district-level poverty data were available (Figure 26). Here the mapping exercise suggests a negative correlation between poverty and forest intactness, with the southern part of the country having lower forest density (used as a proxy for intactness) and higher poverty rates.

FIGURE 25
OVERLAY OF FOREST COVER AND POVERTY RATE
fig25
FIGURE 26
FOREST COVER, FOREST AREA DENSITY AND POVERTY IN MALAWI
fig26

Such results do not make it possible to infer causality but can still be useful to help identify priority intervention areas for national plans and strategies that aim to combine positive development and conservation outcomes. The availability of more spatially disaggregated poverty data in the future, ideally using multidimensional criteria that better reflect the forest context, may help to establish causal pathways.

4.3 Forests, trees, food security and nutrition

FAO (2009) defines food security as a situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Based on this definition, food security is understood to have four dimensions: availability, access, utilization and stability.

Forests and trees outside forests (including trees in agroforestry systems, other trees on farms and trees in non-forested rural and urban landscapes) contribute to all four dimensions of food security through the provision of nutritious food, income, employment, energy and ecosystem services (FAO, 2013a; FAO, 2017b; HLPE, 2017). Forest depletion or degradation can thus have a negative impact on food security and nutrition. Widespread conversion of forests to other land uses, particularly for agriculture, may increase food security of farmers and communities that depend on their products in the short or medium term but may also have negative long-term environmental, livelihood and food-security impacts on people; these impacts will primarily affect forest communities but also affect national and global populations. Furthermore, the aggregate long-term impact of the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services resulting from loss of forest is likely to result in reduced agricultural productivity. The contribution of forests to food security and nutrition therefore calls for more direct attention in the forest policies of most countries.

Contributions of forests and trees to the four pillars of food security

Availability (the actual or potential presence of food). Worldwide, around 1 billion people depend to some extent on wild foods such as wild meat, edible insects, edible plant products, mushrooms and fish (Burlingame, 2000). Some studies indicate that in developing countries these households tend to have the lowest incomes (Angelsen et al., 2014). Even though foods from forests have been estimated to represent less than 0.6 percent of global food consumption (FAO, 2014c), they are key to ensuring the availability of nutrient-dense foods and important vitamins and trace elements in many communities.

Forests and trees outside forests also support food availability by providing fodder for livestock, either as browse or as animal feed. The contributions of fodder to food availability are twofold: livestock are a source of meat and milk and also support agricultural production by providing draught power and manure, which can increase farm productivity.

Ecosystem services provided by forests and trees in agroforestry and silvopastoral systems support agricultural, livestock, forestry and fishery production through water and microclimate regulation, shade and windbreak provision, soil protection, nutrient cycling, biological pest control and pollination (Reed et al., 2017) (see the example in Box 26 and the section on Forest biodiversity and sustainable agriculture). Their role in countering and mitigating climate change risks is vital in ensuring availability of food in many areas (see Case Study 1 on large-scale dryland restoration for the resilience of small-scale farmers and pastoralists in Africa, in Chapter 5).

Access to food. As described in 4.1 People’s benefits from forests and biodiversity, the formal and informal forest sectors (including collection, processing and sale of timber, woodfuel and NWFPs) are an important source of employment and income, thus ensuring economic access to food. Although the cash contribution of forest products to household income may not be large at the global level, it is still critical for the livelihoods and food security and nutrition of the more than 80 million people employed in the formal and informal forest sectors. Secure forest tenure and resource rights are essential for the full realization of economic benefits from collection and sale of forest products, and thus for the food security of forest-dependent people.

Although gender-disaggregated data are limited, studies suggest that rural women have a central role in sustainable harvesting of NWFPs and collection of fuelwood and rely year-round on returns from their sales (FAO, 2014d; HLPE, 2017). Some efforts have been made to improve the data on NWFPs, but more information is needed to allow more precise estimates of where and for whom these products play a key role in food security and nutrition (FAO, 2017c).

Thanks to their strong linkages with forest communities and their focus on forest-related livelihoods, SMFEs have particular potential to enhance the food and nutrition security of many rural communities. Realization of this potential will often depend on overcoming challenges such as limited local capacity, bureaucratic regulations, inequitable local power structures, tenure insecurity and the capture of benefits by local elites.

Utilization of food (consumption of adequate nutrition and energy). Cooking is the primary way to ensure nutrients are absorbed from food, and around one-third of the world’s population (2.4 billion people) uses woodfuel for cooking, while, approximately one in ten people globally uses woodfuel to boil and sterilize water to make it safe for drinking and food processing (FAO, 2014c). As another example of the use of tree products in food utilization, powdered seeds of the drumstick tree (Moringa oleifera) are also used for household water purification, because of its antibacterial properties (Delelegn, Sahile and Husen, 2018). Woodfuel is also used in food preservation processes such as smoking and drying, which extend the supply of food resources during non-productive periods and enable their distribution over wider areas.

However, the use of woodfuel can be associated with negative impacts including forest degradation and human health risks from smoke (Box 27). As woodfuel is likely to remain the most affordable source of energy for a considerable share of the world population in the medium-term future, it is important to ensure that it is harvested sustainably and used efficiently.

Forests and the biodiversity they contain also help to support local people’s nutrition status by providing foods that contribute a wide range of macro- and micronutrients. Wild foods often contain high levels of key micronutrients. Forest fruits, for example, are rich sources of minerals and vitamins, while seeds and nuts harvested in the forest add calories, oil and protein to diets. Wild edible roots and tubers serve as carbohydrate sources, while mushrooms are a source of important nutrients including selenium, potassium and vitamins. Leaves from trees and shrubs (either fresh or dried) are among the most widely consumed forest products. They serve as a rich source of protein and micronutrients including vitamin A, calcium and iron, which are often lacking in the diets of nutritionally vulnerable communities. Furthermore, most of the global supply of vitamins C and A and calcium and much of the folic acid comes from crops pollinated by animals (Eilers et al., 2011). Research has shown strong links between forest cover and dietary quality (Box 28).

Stability of food security (access to and availability and utilization of food at all times without risk). Income and wild foods from forests provide a safety net during seasonal food shortages and during times of famine, crop failure and economic, social and political shocks (FAO, 2017b). Harvesting food from forests is an important strategy for coping with periods of food insecurity, especially for the vulnerable households living in and close to forests. Forest products are often available for extended periods, including during the “hungry” or “lean” seasons (see example of West Africa in Box 29), when traditional agricultural products are unavailable, when stocks have run out and when money is in short supply.

In addition to providing measures for coping with short-term instability in food supplies (which can lead to acute food insecurity), forests and forest diversity provide ecosystem services that are critical to ensuring medium- to long-term stability of food supplies (which can prevent chronic food insecurity), including through their support to sustainable agricultural, livestock and fishery production (described above under Availability; see also section on Forest biodiversity and sustainable agriculture). The role of forests in the maintenance of biodiversity as a gene pool for food and medicinal crops is essential to secure the diversity needed to promote long-term quality of diets.

Forest foods

Forest foods form a small (in terms of calories) but critical part of diets commonly consumed by rural, food-insecure populations, also adding variety to predominantly staple diets. In some communities that consume high levels of forest food, wild forest foods alone are sufficient to meet minimum dietary requirements for fruits, vegetables and animal source foods (Rowland et al., 2015).

The value of forest foods as a nutritional resource is not limited to the developing world. More than 65 million citizens in the EU collect wild foods occasionally and at least 100 million consume edible forest products (Schulp, Thuiller and Verburg, 2014). Wild foods, particularly wild game and other forest products, are also commonly consumed in North America (Mahoney and Geist, 2019). Some forest foods are widely traded. The global market for edible mushrooms, for example, many of which are collected from forests, is estimated to be worth USD 42 billion per year (Willis, 2018).

Forest foods are of particular nutritional (and cultural) importance to indigenous communities. A study of 22 countries in Asia and Africa, including both industrialized and developing countries, found that indigenous communities use an average of 120 wild foods per community (Bharucha and Pretty, 2010).

Across the globe, a substantial number of tree species provide important sources of food and nutrients (Figure 27). Many species provide foods from multiple parts of the tree. The baobab (Adansonia digitata), for example, is a multipurpose tropical tree used for both its fruits and its leaves, which are a staple food for many people in African drylands. The dehydrated pulp of baobab fruits contains up to 300 mg of vitamin C per 100 g of fruit pulp, close to six times the level of vitamin C present in oranges (Odetokun, 1996, cited in Manfredini, Vertuani and Buzzoni, 2002), as well as vitamins A, B1, B2 and B6. Daily consumption of 10 to 20 g of the fruit pulp can meet the vitamin C intake requirement of a child. Baobab leaves are also high in calcium, protein and iron (Mbora, Jamnadass and Lillesø, 2008).

FIGURE 27
NUMBER OF TREE SPECIES PROVIDING FOOD OF IMPORTANCE TO SMALLHOLDER LIVELIHOODS

Similarly, the leaves of the drumstick tree (Moringa oleifera) provide large amounts of vitamin B, vitamin C, beta-carotene, magnesium, iron and protein. They also contain phenolic and flavonoid compounds that have antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, immunomodulatory, antidiabetic and hepatoprotective properties. Just 5 g of powdered leaf can meet around 60 percent of the daily vitamin A intake requirement of children under the age of three (Institute of Medicine, 2001; Witt, 2013).

Nuts. Nuts are among the most nutritionally concentrated of human foods, being high in protein, oil, energy, minerals and vitamins. Despite being an energy-dense food, nuts strongly induce satiety and their consumption is associated with no weight gain (or with weight loss) and reduced risk of obesity in observational studies and clinical trials (see e.g. Liu et al., 2019). The EAT-Lancet Commission (Willett et al., 2019) noted that transformation to healthy diets by 2050 will require substantial dietary shifts, including more than doubling consumption of healthy foods such as nuts, fruits, vegetables and legumes. While consumption of nuts is traditionally high in some West African populations, in general nuts are the food group with the largest gap between actual dietary intake and a reference “healthy” diet as proposed by the EAT-Lancet Commission.

The annual production of nuts that originate primarily or exclusively from forests is substantial in many countries (Figure 28). Some nuts support subsistence for rural communities and forest dwellers, while others, such as the Brazil nut, are of considerable commercial importance (Box 30). Trees and shrubs bearing edible nuts are often left standing on farmlands and homesteads after land clearance.

FIGURE 28
PRODUCTION OF FOREST NUTS, 2017

Wild meat. Redmond et al. (2006) listed close to 1 800 species of insects, mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles used as wild meat around the world, many of these in tropical and subtropical forests. Given that only 45 percent of these (around 800) were insects (other sources indicate that 1 900 species of insects have been used as food, see below) and that fish and shellfish were not included, the total number of forest animals hunted for food is likely to be significantly higher. In rural forest communities and small provincial towns, where there is little access to cheap, domestic meats but still access to wildlife, wild meat is often the main source of macronutrients, such as protein and fat (Sirén and Machoa, 2008), and important micronutrients, such as iron and zinc (Golden et al., 2011). A recent survey of almost 8 000 rural households in 24 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America found that 39 percent of households harvested wild meat and almost all consumed it (Nielsen et al., 2018). Wild meat accounts for at least 20 percent of animal protein in rural diets in at least 62 countries worldwide (Nasi et al., 2008). In the Amazon and Congo basins, wild-meat consumption delivers between 60 and 80 percent of communities’ daily protein needs (Coad et al., 2019). Studies suggest that, where consumption of forest food is high, diets may include a higher proportion of meat, fish, fruits and vegetables from forests than from domestic livestock, aquaculture and agriculture (Rowland et al., 2017). In contrast, wild meat does not usually play a significant role in food security in established urban centres where relatively cheap domestic meats are available (Wilkie et al., 2016). However, in some poorer forested countries, urban centres may have significant demand for bushmeat, especially where domestic livestock sources of protein may be limited (Van Vliet et al., 2019).

Wild meat can be a particularly important source of protein, fat and micronutrients when other foods become unavailable, for instance during economic hardship, civil unrest or drought (Coad et al., 2019).

The sale of wild meat in urban centres could also be a source of income diversification for hunting communities, notably in areas where protein from domestic livestock is scarce or expensive (Nasi, Taber and Van Vliet, 2011). Similarly, trade in other wildlife products, such as hides taken as a by-product of harvesting animals for meat, can also provide a source of cash income for forest communities. Peru, for example, exports an average of 41 000 peccary skins annually under CITES permits for use by the fashion industry (Sinovas et al., 2017).

However, as the rate of urbanization accelerates, demand from cities for wild meat and wildlife products is driving increased hunting. Suppliers include both rural village hunters and professional commercial hunters from elsewhere. Even low per capita urban consumption can result in unsustainable levels of wildlife offtake in the supply catchment, especially when coupled with improvements in hunting technology, low wildlife productivity and habitat loss and fragmentation (Fa, Currie and Meeuwig, 2003; Coad et al., 2019).

In rural communities where wild-meat use is critical for local livelihoods but hunting offtakes have become unsustainable, decline in populations of wildlife species is likely to have significant impacts on human well-being unless sustainable management practices along the wild-meat commodity chain can be developed (Golden et al., 2011) (see Chapter 6. Conservation and sustainable use of forests and forest biodiversity). It is essential that management strategies be flexible, integrated and in harmony with different interests, needs and priorities (Coad et al., 2019).

Insects. It is estimated that insects form part of the traditional diets of at least 2 billion people. More than 1 900 species have reportedly been used as food, with beetles (Coleoptera) representing 31 percent of the species consumed, caterpillars (Lepidoptera) representing 18 percent of the species consumed, and bees, wasps, and ants (Hymenoptera) representing 14 percent of the species consumed (FAO, 2013b).

Though management of edible insects as a commercial food resource has great potential, overharvesting can pose conservation and food-security issues, as seen for example with commercialization of the mopane caterpillar (Imbrasia belina) (FAO, 2013b). Other challenges include lack of legislation and food-safety standards, although the situation is improving. As of 1 January 2018, for instance, the legitimacy of whole-insect foods has been recognized by the EU under the Novel Food Regulation, which facilitates the marketing of insect-based foods (Belluco, Halloran and Ricci, 2017).

Rearing insects for food and feed is being explored as a way to alleviate pressure on wild populations and to bolster food security at a larger scale. In Thailand, for example, small-scale insect rearing is already a well-established practice (FAO, 2013c). More recently, countries such as Kenya and Uganda have successfully established cricket and grasshopper farming models.

The value of farming edible insects goes beyond their nutritional and economic value, as farming edible insects for food and feed puts much less pressure on already limited resources such as land, soils, water and energy than does other forms of livestock production. For instance, it is much more environmentally friendly to produce protein from yellow mealworm (Tenebrio molitor) than from beef (FAO, 2013b). In recent years, farming of insects for food has also become environmentally, socially and economically accepted in some European countries such as Belgium, Finland and the Netherlands, where insects have not been part of traditional diets (e.g. Luke, 2018).

Forest biodiversity and sustainable agriculture

Forest and agricultural production systems often overlap to varying degrees; sometimes they overlap completely, as in agroforestry. Around 40 percent of global agricultural land has more than 10 percent tree cover (Zomer et al., 2009).

Forests have much higher levels of plant and animal biodiversity than agricultural fields. This contributes to their provision of ecosystem services that have positive effects on the productivity and resilience of agricultural production systems located near forests (Duffy, Godwin and Cardinale, 2017; HLPE, 2017). An estimated 75 percent of the world’s accessible fresh water comes from forested watersheds. This water is used for agricultural, domestic, industrial and ecological purposes (MEA, 2005).

Forests also have an essential role in mitigating and adapting to climate change, thus contributing to prevention of climate-related food insecurity. Sustainably managed forest ecosystems can also help minimize the likelihood of agricultural losses from soil erosion, landslides and floods.

Forests also provide farmers with a local supply of agricultural inputs (e.g. fodder, fibre and organic matter), thereby reducing the costs and negative externalities of producing and transporting such inputs from more distant locations.

The means of production of some forest plants have moved on-farm (e.g. coffee, cacao and groundnuts), but forest ecosystems still often provide vital genetic resources for adapting and improving existing crops. Forests are reservoirs of wild relatives (ancestral or related species) of many domesticated livestock and crop species that have since been bred for high yields and other characteristics. Domesticated varieties and breeds can be highly genetically homogeneous and hence vulnerable to biotic and climatic changes. Wild species, in contrast, continuously evolve and diversify under natural, diverse and sometimes extreme conditions; crossbreeding with wild relatives may offer a source of adaptation for domesticated species.

Forests provide habitats for many pollinators, which are essential for sustainable food production (see example in Box 31) (see also Box 18 on Forest-dwelling pollinators in Chapter 3).

Eighty-seven of the world’s 115 leading food crops (some 75 percent), representing 35 percent of global food production by volume, benefit from animal pollination in some measure for fruit, vegetable or seed production (Klein et al., 2007). Many of these pollinators are found in forests.

However, it is also necessary to address the threats that unsustainable agriculture poses to forest biodiversity. Agricultural transformations in the late twentieth century, which relied on large-scale intensification using high levels of inputs, helped to increase crop and livestock yields and improve food security but sometimes had severe environmental impacts such as pollution of water sources with agricultural chemicals. Currently, the agricultural sector is responsible for 73 percent of deforestation worldwide (Hosonuma et al., 2012), leading to serious decline in biodiversity (see Chapter 6). Failure to fully recognize the benefits of forests and forest services to agriculture, including biodiversity, has sometimes led to management choices that have a negative effect on biodiversity and result in even further losses. Biodiversity-friendly land-use practices help to maintain the benefits of forest ecosystem services and improve agricultural productivity. In this respect, indigenous and local knowledge can be an invaluable asset (IPBES, 2019a) (see example in Box 32).

Agroforestry, whether organized as trees in agricultural landscapes or farming in forest landscapes, optimizes the links between agriculture and forest and tree biodiversity. The increasing focus on landscape-scale approaches to agroforestry strengthens its role in biodiversity conservation. Agroforestry has five major roles in biodiversity conservation (Udawatta, Rankoth and Jose, 2019):

  • It provides habitats for species that can tolerate a certain level of disturbance.

  • It helps to preserve germplasm of sensitive species.

  • It reduces rates of conversion of natural habitats by providing a more productive, sustainable alternative to traditional agricultural systems that may involve clearing natural habitats.

  • It provides connectivity between habitat remnants.

  • It provides ecosystem services such as erosion control and water recharge, thereby preventing the degradation and loss of surrounding habitats.

4.4 Forests, biodiversity and human health

Forests, trees and their associated biodiversity provide a wide range of products and services that contribute to human health, including medicines, food, clean water and air, shade or simply a green space in which to exercise and relax (Nilsson et al., 2010). The more biodiverse a forest or tree system is, the wider the range of products and services it can provide.

Medicines from the forest

In addition to the contributions of forests and trees to nutrition and food security discussed above – which are in themselves vital for human health – forest biodiversity also encompasses an enormous range of plant, animal and microbial material with known or potential medicinal values. These substances are not only of local importance but are also commercialized on national and international markets or used as models to synthesize new medicines (the majority of active compounds that were originally derived from forest plants are now produced in laboratories). More than 28 000 plant species, many of which are found in forest ecosystems, are currently recorded as being of medicinal use (Willis, 2017).

Forest-derived medicines are prominent in Ayurvedic, traditional Chinese and other indigenous health care systems. Many of the drugs upon which western medicine depends are derived from forest plants and were discovered as part of the traditional health systems of forest peoples (Fabricant and Fransworth, 2001). For example, Jesuit’s bark (quinine), obtained from several Andean forest tree species of the genus Cinchona, was for centuries the most widely used antimalarial in the world. It was originally wild harvested but was later obtained from trees grown in plantations. Eventually quinine was displaced by an extract from sweet wormwood (Artemisia annua), which had been known in the Chinese pharmacopoeia for millennia. Other plant-derived drugs have been discovered through pharmacological screening; an example is paclitaxel, a bioactive compound originally derived from the bark of Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia) and considered one of the best anticancer agents developed from natural products.

Traditional medicine systems of forest peoples around the world are thus a key source of knowledge. The World Health Organization (WHO, 2019) defines traditional medicine as the “sum total of the knowledge, skill, and practices based on the theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in the maintenance of health as well as in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illness.” Such systems contribute to the resilience of forest-dependent peoples around the world, often as the most available, accessible, affordable and sometimes culturally acceptable source of health care. WHO (2002) states that up to 80 percent of people in Africa still rely on traditional medicine for their primary health care requirements. It is estimated that at least 1 billion people, not including those in Europe and North America, use herbal remedies to treat children’s diarrhoea (FAO, 2014c). In 2010, the world market for herbal medicines based on traditional knowledge was estimated at USD 60 billion (Nirmal et al., 2013).

Traditional knowledge of forest medicinal plants and their associated benefits is vanishing as a result of rapid industrialization and the major socio-economic and cultural trends affecting contemporary indigenous societies, coupled with the decline of the world’s biological, linguistic and cultural diversity (Reyes-Garcia et al., 2013). Rural populations are losing access to food and medicine as a consequence of deforestation, ecosystem degradation and the loss of this knowledge, increasing food insecurity, malnutrition and diseases.

Clearly, preserving and maintaining traditional knowledge associated with forest biodiversity and protecting the rights of rural people to share the benefits from the use of their knowledge and resources, as recognized in the Nagoya Protocol (CBD, 2011), is extremely important for the health and well-being of local communities as well as for the global community.

Benefits of forest for mental and physical health

There is growing evidence that exposure to natural environments has positive impacts on human physical and mental health across all socio-economic strata and genders, particularly in urban areas (Triguero-Mas et al., 2015) and particularly for socio-economically disadvantaged urban populations (Maas et al., 2006; Mitchell and Popham, 2008). In industrialized countries and urban contexts, green environments can enhance the motivation for physical exercise (Health Council of the Netherlands, 2004) and reduce health problems attributable to a sedentary lifestyle such as excess weight, chronic stress and attention fatigue. Green spaces have also been seen to reduce mental distress and improve well-being (Hartig, Mang and Evans, 1991; Groenewegen et al., 2006; White et al., 2013). It has been hypothesized that exposure to nature may reduce mental fatigue by inspiring unconscious cognitive processes that require little or no effort (Kaplan and Kaplan, 1989). However, some urban residents associate wilder green spaces with vulnerability, which emphasizes the need for careful planning of urban green spaces (Jorgensen, Hitchmough and Dunnet, 2006).

Visits to forest environments also appear to have positive physiological effects, such as reduced blood pressure and pulse rate (Tamosiunas et al., 2014), increased cognitive control (Berman, Jonides and Kaplan, 2008) and even strengthened human immune responses (Li et al., 2008). Several studies have shown that people living closer to natural and biodiverse environments have a more diverse and rich microbiota and less atopic sensitization (predisposition towards developing allergic hypersensitivity) (Ege et al., 2011; Hanski et al., 2012; Rook, 2013; Ruokolainen et al., 2015). The Japanese recognize the healing value of “forest bathing” or shinrin-yoku, the practice of simply being in nature and taking in the forest atmosphere (Park et al., 2010; Hansen, Jones and Tocchini, 2017).

“Forest schooling”, long popular in Scandinavian countries and now being adopted elsewhere, uses woods and forests as a means of developing physical, social, cognitive and life skills and building independence and self-esteem in children and young adults (O’Brien, 2009). Children enrolled in forest schools are less likely to be overweight or obese, to experience symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or to contract common infections (Isted, 2013; Blackwell, 2015).

More than 90 percent of the world’s population lives in places where air pollution exceeds WHO guideline limits (WHO, 2016), and WHO (2018b) estimates that 7 million people die every year from exposure to fine particles in polluted air. Forests benefit the entire population simply by improving air quality (Nowak, Crane and Stevens, 2006). Forests and trees help mitigate many of the problems of living in urban areas, for example by reducing the urban heat island effect (Bowler et al., 2010; Shisegar, 2014) – which can be lethal during heat waves – and buffering noise (Irvine et al., 2009; González-Oreja et al., 2010). Given these and other benefits of forests and trees, pioneering health policies have begun to recognize the use of nature to enhance urban population health in such countries as Australia, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America (Shanahan et al., 2015). Australia, for example, is pioneering “Healthy Parks Healthy People”, an approach that is part of a global movement that aims to unleash the preventative and restorative health and well-being benefits of nature and parks while conserving biodiversity.

Forests also indirectly decrease the occurrence of food- and waterborne diseases by filtering water and providing woodfuel for cooking food and boiling water. This is vital since waterborne diarrhoeal diseases, for example, are responsible for 2 million deaths each year, with the majority occurring in children under five (WHO/UNICEF, 2000). In addition, traditional diets based on diverse plant and animal-based foods gathered from woods and forests show promise for reducing diseases such as type 2 diabetes and obesity as these foods are mainly low in fat and high in protein and complex carbohydrates (Sarkar, Walker-Swaney and Shetty, 2019).

Cultural services of forests

Well-being is a condition not only of individuals but also of the broader community. Many people and communities, and particularly indigenous peoples, have long, multigenerational links with specific forest areas; they derive not only direct benefits from the forest but also intangible benefits resulting from a deep spiritual relationship with forested landscapes and native species, expressed in beliefs, customs, traditions and cultures (Fritz-Vietta, 2016).

Biodiversity conservation initiatives that fail to take cultural values into consideration may have adverse effects on the individual and societal health of forest dwellers. For example, restricting harvest or collection of some traditionally important food products might cause psychological unrest and affect well-being even if nutritional needs are met through other sources; this has been seen, for example, among several ethnic groups in the Congo Basin who suffer from psychological stress when bushmeat is unavailable (Dounias and Ichikawa, 2017).

Forest-related health risks

The abundant biodiversity in forests, particularly in the tropics, encompasses an astonishing range of pathogens, parasites and their vectors. The majority of new infectious diseases of humans are zoonotic, meaning that they originate in animals (Olival et al., 2017). Their emergence may be linked to change in forest area and the expansion of human populations into forest areas, both of which increase human exposure to wildlife (Wilcox and Ellis, 2006) and, in some cases, to the consumption of wild meat. Forest-associated diseases include malaria, Chagas disease (also known as American trypanosomiasis), African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), leishmaniasis and Lyme disease (Table 4). HIV and Ebola, both zoonotic and both focuses of global attention, have clear forest origins. Other lesser-known pathogens associated with trees and forests include Henipah viruses, and new pathogens are being identified all the time, such as the SARS-CoV2 virus that caused the current COVID-19 pandemic. While it is not yet possible to determine exactly how humans were initially infected, COVID-19 is also assumed to be of zoonotic origin (WHO 2020).

TABLE 4
EXAMPLES OF FOREST-ASSOCIATED INFECTIOUS DISEASES

Most pathogens found in forests do not represent immediate threats to people. Many potential pathogens have co-evolved with wildlife and do not cause health issues to their hosts, but may become problematic if they spill over to other host species such as humans. Forest alteration may result in modified abundance or dispersal of pathogen hosts and vectors, and altered hydrological functions may favour waterborne pathogens (Wilcox and Ellis, 2006). Thus, extractive industries, deforestation, habitat degradation and increasing encroachment of people into forest lands is increasing risks of novel pathogens affecting people. However, there is some evidence that high-biodiversity areas may buffer people from some infectious diseases through what is known as the dilution effect (Rohr et al., 2019).

Seventeen species of large mammalian carnivore are documented to have killed people. However, only five or six of these seem to do so on a regular basis, and predator attacks on humans are uncommon (Linnell and Alleau, 2016; Hart, 2018). In contrast, venomous animals attack as many as 2.5 million people each year, causing between 20 000 and 100 000 deaths (WHO, 2017). Snakebite is an occupational hazard in any forest activity. Other forest animals can also injure and kill people; in both Asia and Africa, conflicts with elephants result in hundreds of deaths each year (with India alone reporting annual deaths of 400 people and 100 elephants due to conflict incidents) (Shaffer et al., 2019). Considerable efforts have been made worldwide to reduce these events through innovative community-based natural resource management schemes, compensation systems and incentive and insurance progammes (IUCN, 2013) (see also Box 52 in Chapter 6).

Other potentially fatal health risks include accidents related to logging or other kinds of work in forests; falling trees or tree limbs, especially during storms; and wildfires, which are particularly destructive to people and their homes and businesses when they occur in forests in peri-urban areas such as those occurring in Australia in December 2019. Forests also harbour allergens (Cariñanos et al., 2019), fungi and other organisms that are toxic to people if consumed.

These issues suggest a role for responsible forest management in ensuring human well-being (McFarlane et al., 2019).

Managing forests for health

In view of the inextricable connection of human, animal and environmental health, the “One Health” approach aims to improve health and well-being through risk prevention and mitigation at the interface between humans, animals and their various environments. In Africa, for example, FAO, WHO and World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) are jointly implementing One Health programming that brings together professionals and policymakers in forestry, natural resources, agriculture, livestock and public health to ensure balance among all the relevant sectors and disciplines.

The aim of achieving optimal health outcomes for human communities should be taken into account in forest management and planning, not only for rural areas but also for peri-urban and urban areas and for both developed (e.g. Box 33) and developing countries. Land-use planning for urban or agricultural expansion should also take into account the importance of buffers that would mitigate potential impacts associated with higher contact rates between wildlife, livestock and people.

Key messages

1 Agricultural expansion continues to be the main driver of deforestation and forest fragmentation and the associated loss of forest biodiversity.

2 Actions to combat deforestation and illegal logging have gathered pace over the past decade – as have international agreements and results-based payments.

3 Large-scale forest restoration is needed to meet the SDGs and to prevent, halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity.

By far the greatest threat to forest biodiversity is loss of habitats and species due to deforestation and forest degradation.

This chapter looks at means of preventing, halting and reversing the forest losses described in Chapters 2 and 3. Understanding factors that lead to deforestation or forest degradation can assist understanding of how to prevent further forest and biodiversity loss. In the cases where the damage has already been done, forest landscape restoration can begin to reverse the losses.

5.1 Drivers of change affecting biodiversity and forest resources

Human population growth, demographic trends and economic development have long been acknowledged as the primary drivers of environmental change. In the past 50 years, the human population has doubled and the global economy has grown nearly fourfold. Economic development has lifted billions of people out of poverty in many countries. However, nature across most of the globe has been significantly altered in the process, with mostly negative consequences for biodiversity and often also for the most vulnerable of society, including indigenous peoples. The critical pressures are well known: habitat change, loss and degradation; unsustainable agricultural practices; invasive species; low resource-use efficiency and overexploitation, including illegal logging and trade in wildlife. Climate change and fluctuation increasingly exacerbates the impact of these pressures.

Global market pressures, dietary preferences, and loss and waste along agricultural value chains drive demand for agricultural and forest products, which, in turn, drive deforestation and forest degradation (IPCC, 2019). The need to provide food and energy for a growing global population is, generally speaking, the leading cause of loss of forests and forest biodiversity. In Africa, population pressure and poverty are the main threats to forest conservation, driving poor farmers to convert forests to cropland (Uusivuori, Lehto and Palo, 2002; Lung and Schaab, 2010) and to harvest woodfuel at unsustainable levels. Elsewhere, deforestation is driven by changes in consumption patterns of more affluent populations. However, deforestation and forest degradation are really driven by many political and socio-economic forces interacting at the global to local levels (Lambin et al., 2001; Carr, Suter and Barbier, 2005).

An analysis of national data for 46 tropical and subtropical countries representing about 78 percent of the forest area in those climatic domains (Hosonuma et al., 2012) revealed that large-scale commercial agriculture (primarily cattle ranching and cultivation of soya bean and oil palm) is the most prevalent driver of deforestation, accounting for 40 percent of it. Local subsistence agriculture accounts for an estimated 33 percent of deforestation, urban expansion for 10 percent, infrastructure for 10 percent and mining for 7 percent. In some cases, land-use change was preceded by forest degradation, for example caused by unsustainable or illegal wood removal. This analysis also revealed that the drivers differed significantly between regions (Figure 29) and even within countries.

FIGURE 29
DRIVERS OF DEFORESTATION AND FOREST DEGRADATION BY REGION, 2000–2010
fig29

Importance of local context in determining drivers of forest loss

People’s use of a resource is largely determined by perceived benefits, weighed against costs incurred through access or institutional barriers (Schweik, 2000), but is also influenced by local and historical factors at different scales such as recognition of traditional forest tenure and customary management and use practices, local implementation of agreements for protected-area use, local road access, commodity prices and cultural preferences. Understanding the local contexts in which the drivers at different scales interact – including global and national political and economic processes, institutional frameworks governing access to resources, the values of stakeholders and the ecological characteristics of the resources (Figure 30) – can help to inform management decisions (Ostrom and Nagendra, 2006).

FIGURE 30
INTERACTIONS BETWEEN PROCESSES, POLICY AND DRIVERS OF RESOURCE USE INFLUENCING LOCAL RESPONSES AND OUTCOMES FOR FOREST CONSERVATION
fig30

As the example in Box 34 illustrates, simple models of forest change drivers do not reflect complex local social and ecological realities. They lead to simplified institutional prescriptions, and interventions based on these prescriptions therefore often do not meet their objectives (see also Nel and Hill, 2013 and Molinario et al., 2020). It is vital to take into account the dynamics of the underlying contexts and drivers of forest change and to recognize their importance in influencing local people’s decisions. Incentives that influence people’s motivation to support sustainable management of forests vary locally and can therefore not be designed globally.

A good understanding of human activities leading to forest disturbances is instrumental for the development of policies and actions in the context of REDD+ and the identification of drivers of deforestation and forest degradation is usually an initial step in developing REDD+ strategies and action plans. The example from Zambia in Figure 31 illustrates the multiplicity of interactions among drivers.

FIGURE 31
THE COMPLEX DRIVERS OF DEFORESTATION AND FOREST DEGRADATION: PROBLEM TREE FROM AN ANALYSIS IN ZAMBIA
fig31
5.2 Combating deforestation and forest degradation

Initiatives addressing deforestation and forest degradation

Actions to combat deforestation have gathered pace over the past decade, primarily because of awareness that the loss of forests and the use of fire to clear land is having negative impacts on the global carbon cycle. REDD+ (reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries) is now included as a recommended action in the Paris Agreement. A recent analysis of 31 national REDD+ strategies and action plans (FAO, forthcoming) highlights priority actions to reduce deforestation and forest degradation (Figure 32). So far, nine countries have reported reduced deforestation to UNFCCC representing close to 9 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide in emission reductions (Box 35). Countries are now accessing REDD+ results-based payments – rewards for emission reductions – from the Green Climate Fund and other similar mechanisms. A number of international initiatives have provided support to these efforts, including the United Nations Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (UN-REDD) Programme jointly operated by FAO, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UNEP (Box 36), the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and the Forest Investment Program of the World Bank.

FIGURE 32
PRIORITY ACTION AREAS TO REDUCE DEFORESTATION AND DEGRADATION AS IDENTIFIED IN 31 NATIONAL REDD+ STRATEGIES AND ACTION PLANS
fig32

The New York Declaration on Forests, a voluntary and non-binding international declaration to take action to halt global deforestation launched in 2014, now has over 200 endorsers, including national and subnational governments, multinational companies, groups representing indigenous communities and NGOs. Importantly, it specifically includes commitments from and support to the private sector to eliminate deforestation from the supply chains of major agricultural commodities by 2020 (see example in Box 37 and Figure 43).

Where the main driver of deforestation is subsistence agriculture or fuelwood harvesting, the development of forest-based livelihoods through a diversified portfolio of sustainably produced forest products and services; development of small and medium-sized enterprises; and the use of payments for carbon sequestration or other environmental services can help increase the value of forests to local communities and hence keep them intact.

In February 2018 the CPF convened a global conference to engage key stakeholder groups in a discussion on how to halt deforestation (Box 38), and in July 2019 the European Commission launched a communication on stepping up EU action to protect and restore the world’s forests (EC, 2019a). This sets out five priorities:

  • Reduce the EU consumption footprint on land and encourage the consumption of products from deforestation-free supply chains in the EU.

  • Work in partnership with producing countries to reduce pressures on forests and to “deforest–proof” EU development cooperation.

  • Strengthen international cooperation to halt deforestation and forest degradation and encourage forest restoration.

  • Redirect finance to support more-sustainable land-use practices.

  • Support the availability of, quality of, and access to information on forests and commodity supply chains, and support research and innovation.

While some progress has been made (see also Chapter 2), much more remains to be done.

Combating illegal exploitation of forest resources

Poaching, illegal exploitation and illicit trade in timber and other forest resources are global phenomena that have serious implications for biodiversity conservation (see Chapter 3 for its effects on species biodiversity), ecosystem services and national economies. They also have direct and indirect negative impacts on urban and rural communities that result from depleting the resource base on which these communities depend for their livelihoods and well-being.

Illegal forest activities include harvesting, transport, processing, purchase or sale of forest products in violation of national or subnational laws. The drivers behind the illicit exploitation and trade in forest resources are complex, varying greatly over time and by the location and type of commodity and illegal activity involved. Direct causes of illegal activities include weak forest governance in producer countries and a resulting lack of adequate law enforcement; unclear legal frameworks; and limited capacity for developing and implementing land-use plans. However, consumer countries contribute to these problems by importing forest products – including timber, wild plants and animals and derived products – without ensuring that they are legally sourced. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the main drivers of illegal wildlife trade include increasing demand in consumer countries (e.g. Southeast Asia), poverty and lack of alternative livelihoods in source countries, and cultural and colonial legacies (Price, 2017).

In addition to the environmental impacts of loss of and damage to species and ecosystems, illegal forest exploitation also has economic and social impacts. The African Development Bank (ADB) values the detrimental economic impact to Africa of illicit trade in natural resources at approximately USD 120 billion a year – an amount equivalent to 5 percent of the continent’s gross domestic product (GDP). Of this total amount, approximately 10 percent falls within the forest sector (ADB, 2016). Illegal trade entails significant loss of revenue from taxes, which has effects at both the national and local levels. Revenue loss undermines efforts to make the forest sector contribute sustainably to national production and society as lost revenue cannot be reinvested in the sector. Illegal activities also distort global markets and undermine incentives for sustainable forest management as illegal products are often cheaper than legal ones. In terms of the social impacts, illegal harvesting and trade are often associated with corruption and with lack of recognition of land and use rights of forest communities or indigenous peoples, which can have negative impacts on local livelihoods and result in conflict.

Illegal logging. Harvesting, transport, purchase or sale of timber in violation of national laws (commonly referred to collectively as “illegal logging”) is a persistent global issue, affecting many forested countries in both temperate and tropical zones despite the numerous efforts to address it. Quantifying illegal logging is challenging and potentially controversial, but the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) puts the value of forestry crimes including corporate crimes and illegal logging somewhere between USD 51 billion and USD 152 billion per year (Nellemann et al., 2016). Hoare (2015) estimates that in 2013 around 50 percent of illegal timber in global trade came from Indonesia (although Indonesia has made significant efforts to address the problem since then; see Addressing illegality) and 25 percent from Brazil – two of the ten countries with the largest forest area and that also produce significant volumes of agricultural commodities. Illegal logging in other tropical timber-producing countries may result in smaller total volumes but may account for a greater proportion of the country’s total timber production. The demand for timber is so great that illegal logging will remain a major concern for the future of forest resources unless consistent efforts are made globally to control it (Hoare, 2015).

Illegal logging may occur as a direct result of demand for the timber resource, including specific targeting of the most valuable timber species, or it may be the by-product of land clearance for plantations of commodities such as oil palm and soya bean. As noted above, the most significant driver of deforestation (both legal and illegal) is demand for land for agricultural production; this pressure is also the most likely to contribute to large-scale illegal logging.

In most developing countries, the forest sector is dominated by informal operators, primarily small or medium-sized enterprises producing mainly for domestic markets. In addition to this informality, the sector is characterized by low capacity, limited resources and continuous change in the availability of resources, which all make it vulnerable to illegal activities.

As it obviously occurs in the absence of forest management planning, illegal logging leads to the loss or degradation of forests, and the resulting habitat and biodiversity losses threaten the survival of some species, particularly primates and some large mammals. Illegal logging activities often target and jeopardize valuable timber species, which are consistently in demand and promise immediate revenues. Rosewood (Dalbergia spp.) is case in point. It is estimated that exports of rosewood to China increased 14-fold between 2009 and 2014, despite rosewood being listed in CITES Appendix II (Bolognesi et al., 2015; Ong and Carver, 2019). In Madagascar, illegal harvesting and trafficking of rosewood have resulted in serious forest degradation and biodiversity loss (Ong and Carver, 2019).

Illegal charcoal production is even more challenging to document than harvest and trade of high-value timber species, as the sector is very fragmented and informal; however, it too contributes to forest loss and degradation. For example, Bolognesi et al. (2015) estimate that illegal trade in charcoal in Somalia between 2011 and 2013 accounted for 24 000 tonnes of production and resulted in a 2.7 percent loss of tree cover.

Illegal wildlife exploitation. INTERPOL estimates that the annual value of illegal wildlife trade is between USD 7 billion and USD 23 billion (Nellemann et al., 2016). All regions of the world play some role as a source, point of transit or destination for contraband wildlife, although certain types of illegal wildlife trade are strongly associated with specific regions; for example, birds are associated with Central and South America, mammals with Africa and Asia, and reptiles with Europe and North America (UNODC, 2016).

The African elephant is arguably the best-known case of overexploitation of keystone species (those that have a disproportionately large impact on a particular ecosystem relative to their abundance), with the loss of approximately 90 percent of the total population within the last century (TRAFFIC, 2019). Forest elephants are of particular importance for forests and other natural ecosystems as they disperse large seeds, keep the forest canopy open and spread rare nutrients across the forest, benefiting numerous species throughout the African tropics (Maisels et al., 2013).

Addressing illegality. Over the past ten years, efforts to address illegal logging have been spearheaded by trade regulations in consumer countries that require that importers demonstrate that the timber has been harvested legally. Significant demand-side legislation includes the Lacey Act Amendment in the United States of America (2008), the EU Timber Regulation (2013), the Clean Wood Act, Japan (2016) and the amendment of the Act on the Sustainable Use of Timbers, Republic of Korea (2017). Many tropical timber-producing countries are making corresponding efforts to strengthen legality compliance and timber legality verification. Indonesia, notably, has implemented a national timber legality assurance system (Sistem Verificasi Legalitas Kayu, SVLK) and in 2016 issued its first Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) timber export licences in compliance with the import requirement of the European Union Timber Regulation (EU FLEGT Facility, n.d.). With strengthened law enforcement, official figures from Indonesia show an increased number of operations sanctioned, from 25 in 2015 to 88 in 2017 (MEF, 2018). Fourteen other tropical timber-producing countries are developing national systems to assure legality under the FLEGT mechanism (EU FLEGT Facility, n.d.). As part of this mechanism, countries are required to implement measures to prevent illegal hunting (see Box 39).

In July 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted its first-ever Resolution on Tackling Illicit Trafficking in Wildlife (69/314) (United Nations General Assembly, 2015b), which also addresses timber trafficking. Its fourth edition was adopted in September 2019 (UN, 2019b) and calls for enhanced national legislation, support to sustainable livelihoods, improved policy enforcement and anti-corruption measures, assistance in the deployment of information technologies and promotion of well-targeted demand reduction efforts.

The Collaborative Partnership on Sustainable Wildlife Management (CPW) (FAO, 2019f) provides a platform for addressing wildlife management issues that require national and supranational responses, including issues related to illegal wildlife trade. Established in 2013, CPW is a voluntary partnership of 14 international organizations with substantive programmes to promote the sustainable use and conservation of wildlife resources.

5.3 Forest restoration

The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2019 (UN, 2019a) indicates that 20 percent of the Earth’s surface was in a degraded state between 2000 and 2015 (Figure 33). On 1 March 2019, the United Nations General Assembly declared the decade from 2021 to 2030 the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, with the goals of preventing, halting and reversing ecosystem degradation, raising awareness of importance of ecosystem restoration and accelerating progress towards reaching existing global (Box 40) and regional ecosystem restoration goals.

FIGURE 33
PROPORTION OF LAND IN A DEGRADED STATE BETWEEN 2000 AND 2015 BY REGION (%)
fig33

Restoration is a key part of the CBD’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity and the Aichi Targets (CBD, 2010a) and forest landscape restoration has been recognized as a means by which to achieve Aichi Targets 5, 7, 11, 13 and 15 (Dave et al., 2019).

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification’s Land Degradation Neutrality Target Setting Programme has so far received land degradation neutrality commitments from 122 countries (UNCCD, 2019a). Regional land restoration goals include the Latin American Initiative 20x20 (Initiative20x20, n.d.), which aims to restore 20 million hectares of degraded land by 2020; the AFR100 (the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative), which aims to bring 100 million hectares of degraded land under restoration by 2030 (AFR100, n.d.); the Agadir Commitment for the Mediterranean, which aims to restore at least 8 million hectares of degraded forest ecosystems by 2030 (FAO, 2017d); ECCA30, an initiative of countries in Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia that aims to restore 30 million hectares of degraded land by 2030; and the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel initiative, which aims to restore 100 million hectares by 2030 (Great Green Wall, 2019a).

Forest restoration can have a variety of objectives relating to reversing land degradation or loss of productivity of ecosystem goods and services such as food, biodiversity and water. These include:

  • rehabilitation: restoration of desired species, structure or process to an existing ecosystem;

  • reconstruction: restoration of native plants on land used for other purposes;

  • reclamation: restoration of severely degraded land devoid of vegetation; and

  • replacement: the most radical form of restoration, in which species or provenances maladapted for a given location and unable to migrate are replaced with new vegetation as climates change rapidly (Stanturf, Palik and Dumroese, 2014).

Forest restoration, when implemented appropriately, helps restore habitats and ecosystems, create jobs and income and is an effective nature-based solution to climate change (see Case Study 1).

CASE STUDY 1
Large-scale dryland restoration for the resilience of small-scale farmers and pastoralists in Africa

Action Against Desertification (AAD), implemented by FAO and partners and funded by the European Commission and the Secretariat of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, provides on-the-ground support to the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel initiative. Its objective is to strengthen the resilience of dryland communities and agrosilvipastoral ecosystems critically affected by climate variability and change through large-scale restoration of degraded lands, thus reducing poverty and achieving food, feed and nutrition security and enhanced resilience. The programme contributes to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development by delivering multiple environmental and socio-economic benefits.

AAD’s blueprint for large-scale restoration of drylands emphasizes plant-based solutions and includes:

  • investment in large-scale land preparation through mechanized ploughing and enrichment planting;

  • obstruction of sand encroachment through biophysical and biological interventions for land stabilization;

  • promotion of natural regeneration wherever the soil seed bank and remnant plants allow it;

  • mobilization of high-quality seeds and planting materials from the rich dryland plant biodiversity;

  • development of NWFP value chains for income generation in rural areas, benefiting women, men and youth;

  • inexpensive, participatory systems for information dissemination; and

  • innovative biophysical and socio-economic monitoring systems for assessment of progress.

In five years, AAD has brought 53 000 hectares of degraded agrosilvipastoral lands under restoration, planting 25 million trees using native tree species commonly used by rural communities. A total of 100 tonnes of seeds of 110 woody and herbaceous fodder species have been collected and planted in nine countries, bringing huge positive economic and environmental returns. For instance, plots of planted herbaceous fodder in Burkina Faso and the Niger yielded an average of 1 200 kg of biomass per hectare just one year after planting, generating revenues of USD 40 per hectare, equivalent to half the country’s monthly minimum wage; thus, the 10 000 or more hectares under restoration in Burkina Faso could potentially yield USD 400 000 per year for local farmers. In Senegal, villagers that harvested fodder in the dry season (November to May) from about 4 000 hectares of degraded lands planted for restoration earned USD 2 per donkey cart or USD 4 per carload (about 100 kg of fodder). At an estimated biomass production of 1 tonne per hectare, this operation generated on average USD 80 000 per annual harvest for the communities from 2017 to 2019. Furthermore, it is estimated that restoring the land with native trees will sequester 7.15 tonnes of CO2-equivalent per hectare per year in the Sahel, based on an extrapolation of the results three years after planting to 20 years.

AAD’s approach to land restoration for resiliency places communities and plant knowledge at the heart of the interventions. Factors contributing to the success of ADD’s operations include:

  • social mobilization and the support of local communities for the interventions in their communal lands;

  • use of plant knowledge and expertise to prioritize well-adapted plant species useful to the communities, ensuring their buy-in; and

  • a combination of well-tested methodologies and traditional knowledge to overcome technical and research challenges, such as identifying and planting the right species in the right place and at the right time to obtain maximum benefit from rainwater and maximize the chance of plant survival and growth under harsh conditions.

This approach is highly adaptable to varying ecological and socio-economic conditions and therefore very suitable for replication and scaling up in Africa and beyond, sustained investments permitting. AAD has recently begun expanding its interventions to southern Africa, where the countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have launched a Great Green Wall under SADC coordination and with support from the African Union Commission.

SOURCE: FAO, 2019h.

The Global Partnership on Forest and Landscape Restoration (GPFLR, n.d.) has developed six globally agreed principles of forest and landscape restoration:

  • Focus on the landscape scale.

  • Engage stakeholders and support participatory governance.

  • Restore multiple forest functions for multiple benefits.

  • Maintain and enhance natural ecosystems within landscapes.

  • Tailor restoration approaches to the local context.

  • Manage adaptively for long-term resilience.

Numerous guidelines for forest restoration exist including a practioner’s guide to the restoration of forest landscapes (Stanturf, Mansourian and Kleine, 2017), specific guidelines for degraded dryland forests (FAO, 2015b), mangroves (Field, 1996), on the role of natural regeneration in forest and landscape restoration (Chazdon et al., 2017) and on integrating biodiversity considerations into ecosystem restoration (CBD, 2016a). The ITTO Guidelines for the restoration, management and rehabilitation of degraded and secondary tropical forests (ITTO, 2002) are in the process of being updated. See also Box 41.

Restoring forest ecosystems goes beyond the planting or assisted natural regeneration of trees. See e.g. Case Study 1 and the example of rewilding in Box 42.

The main challenge for restoration is to orient practitioners and policymakers to work together to ensure that it is planned well, implemented cost effectively and prioritized sufficiently among the range of development goals (Sabogal, Besacier and McGuire, 2015; FAO and Global Mechanism of UNCCD, 2015; Strassburg et al., 2019). This challenge is being addressed by a number of multilateral and bilateral programmes involving public- and private-sector actors. A second challenge is to engage producer organizations, farmers and small and medium-sized enterprises use in restoration, and to identify and enable business models that allow people to make a decent living through sustainable land management. To underpin the development of business models, a new initiative aims to facilitate access to information on the costs and benefits of ecosystem restoration, see Box 43.

Potential for forest restoration

A recent study estimated that there are some 1.7 billion to 1.8 billion hectares of potential forest land (defined as land that could sustain more than 10 percent tree cover) in areas that were previously degraded, dominated by sparse vegetation, grasslands and degraded bare soils (Bastin et al., 2019); this excludes existing forests and agricultural and urban land and would be equivalent to 0.9 billion hectares of continuous forest cover. This is more than 25 percent of the current forested area globally. It should, however, be kept in mind that this study looked only at the biophysical potential for establishment of forests, irrespective of the importance of the current ecosystems and existing land-tenure rights. More detailed assessments incorporating local knowledge are thus needed to identify the most suitable areas at national or local level.

FAO has developed a module in the System for Earth Observation Data Access, Processing and Analysis for Land Monitoring (SEPAL) that incorporates the algorithm for tree restoration potential, to assist countries in identifying areas that are potentially suitable for restoration. Use of the module will be piloted in Cambodia, Kenya, Myanmar and Uganda by FAO and the respective government institutions in 2020–2021.

As a complement to the Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology developed by IUCN, specific guidelines are available to incorporate biodiversity aspects into landscape restoration opportunities assessments (Beatty, Cox and Kuzee, 2018).

5.4 Progress towards targets related to forest restoration

A review of 62 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America found that more than half of countries in each region had an established or preliminary restoration target in their National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan or Fifth National Report to the CBD (CBD, 2016b). While establishing targets is a good first step, implementing commitments remains challenging (Figure 34). In addition, restoration efforts are difficult to measure, and at present there are no global data sets to measure progress in forest landscape restoration (NYDF, 2019). FAO is working with several partners to establish a global monitoring system for the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, and FAO and WRI (2019) have developed a guide to help countries and restoration practitioners identify priorities and indicators for monitoring forest and landscape restoration.

FIGURE 34
PROGRESS TOWARDS GOAL 5 OF THE NEW YORK DECLARATION ON FORESTS
fig34

Many targets lack quantitative elements and developing restoration activities is a complex process. However, there have been some good examples of restoration success (Figure 35). For example, forest cover has significantly increased in China, Costa Rica, the Republic of Korea and Viet Nam as a result of government-led forest policies or initiatives. In southern Niger, farmer-managed natural regeneration using local agroforestry practices over three decades led to an increase in productivity on 5 million hectares of land (Reij, Tappan and Smale, 2009). Another example, the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel initiative, launched by the African Union in 2007, aims to restore 100 million hectares of currently degraded land, to sequester 250 million tonnes of carbon and to create 10 million green jobs by 2030, while creating an 8 000 km green wall across Africa’s drylands (see Case Study 1). Progress since 2007 (Great Green Wall, 2019b; UNCCD, 2019b) includes:

  • 3 million hectares of land rehabilitated in Burkina Faso through local practices;

  • 15 million hectares of degraded land in Ethiopia restored and land-tenure security improved;

  • 5 million hectares of degraded land in Nigeria restored, 639 km of shelterbelt established in 11 states, 309 hectares of community orchard plantations and 293 hectares of community woodlots established;

  • 5 million hectares of land in the Niger restored; and

  • 12 million drought-resistant trees planted in Senegal in less than a decade.

FIGURE 35
INCREASE IN FOREST AREA THROUGH FOREST RESTORATION, REFORESTATION AND AFFORESTATION ACTIVITIES 2000–2019 BY REGION AND TYPE OF RESTORATION
fig35

As of October 2019, 61 countries had made pledges under the Bonn Challenge totalling 170.6 million hectares of restoration commitments for 2020 and 2030 combined (Figure 36) (Dave et al., 2019). However, since 2000 only 18 percent of the 2020 goal (restore 150 million hectares of degraded landscapes and forest lands by 2020) has been realized in terms of increases in forest or tree cover (NYDF, 2019). The Bonn Challenge Barometer (IUCN, 2018; Dave et al., 2019) is working to capture information on progress in substantive implementation more accurately, in terms of hectares brought into restoration and delivery of associated ecosystem benefits (including carbon sequestered and biodiversity conservation), as well as jobs created (Dave et al., 2019).

FIGURE 36
COMMITMENTS TO THE BONN CHALLENGE AS OF FEBRUARY 2020
fig36

Many countries announced new pledges to restore forest and plant trees at the Climate Action Summit held in New York, United States of America, in September 2019 (Box 44). In early 2020, the World Economic Forum launched a global initiative to grow, restore and conserve 1 trillion trees (WEF, 2020).

Key messages

1 Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 (to protect at least 17 percent of terrestrial area by 2020) has been exceeded for forest ecosystems as a whole. However, protected areas alone are not sufficient to conserve biodiversity.

2 Aichi Biodiversity Target 7 (by 2020, areas under agriculture, aquaculture and forestry are managed sustainably, ensuring conservation) has not been met for forests, but the management of the world’s forests is improving.

3 Solutions that balance conservation and sustainable use of forest biodiversity are critical – and possible.

This chapter looks at how to manage the world’s forest ecosystems in ways that will ensure the conservation and sustainable use of their biodiversity.

Creation of protected areas has historically been the forest governance instrument most often adopted to pursue biodiversity objectives (Watson et al., 2014). Many forested protected areas are managed to reconcile local livelihoods with biodiversity conservation. The protected-area approach has achieved positive results in terms of establishing barriers to the progress of deforestation and conserving species, although the evidence is not conclusive regarding most rare species.

However, from a biophysical perspective, evidence has shown that natural reserves alone are not sufficient to conserve biodiversity. They are usually too small, creating barriers to species migration and are vulnerable to exogenous factors such as climate change (Bennett, 2004; Fung et al., 2017). In addition, protected areas contain only a fraction of existing forest biodiversity. Thus, there is a need to look beyond protected areas and to mainstream biodiversity conservation into forest management practices.

Approaches that integrate conservation and socio-economic development goals, support sustainable resource use and devolve forest management to local people have emerged as alternatives or complements to strict conservation (Agrawal, Chhatre and Hardin, 2008; Lele et al., 2010; Mace, 2014). A variety of stakeholder-based governance approaches have emerged to negotiate multiple and sometimes conflicting uses of natural resources in such a way as to maintain the resources that local people use and value, as well as those that support broader societal needs (Kaimowitz and Sheil, 2007; McShane et al., 2011). Examples include areas managed and protected by indigenous communities, civil society organizations and private actors (Stolton et al., 2014; Drescher and Brenner, 2018), with increasing emphasis on rights-based approaches and landscape approaches. In many cases, reconciling forest use and forest conservation means reconciling local and global needs.

The importance of accounting for conservation beyond protected areas, including in productive forests, is recognized by the inclusion of other effective area-based conservation measures (i.e. conserved areas outside protected areas) and reference to sustainable use in global conservation goals (Box 45).

6.1 Forests in protected areas

Over the past few decades, the global network of protected areas has expanded rapidly, reaching almost 240 000 designated protected areas, of which most are on land. Collectively, these areas protect just over 2 billion hectares, equivalent to 15 percent of the Earth’s land surface (UNEP-WCMC, IUCN and NGS, 2020). Thousands of protected areas are specifically designed to protect forests; some of them are among the oldest protected areas in the world. For example, Marakele Forest Reserve in Sri Lanka has been protecting forest since 1875.

Protected areas are categorized according to their management objective (Box 46).

Status and trends of forests in protected areas

Globally, 18 percent of the world’s forest area, or more than 700 million hectares, is reported to fall within legally established protected areas such as national parks, conservation areas and game reserves (protected-area categories I–IV). The largest share of forest in protected areas is found in South America (31 percent) and the lowest in Europe (5 percent) (Figure 37) (FAO, 2020).

FIGURE 37
PERCENTAGE OF FOREST IN LEGALLY PROTECTED AREAS, 2020

According to FRA 2020, since 1990 the area of forest within protected-area categories I–IV has increased by at least 191 million hectares, but the rate of annual increase has slowed during the past decade (Figure 38). For FRA 2020, full time series were reported by only 129 countries, together accounting for 84 percent of the total forest area (FAO, 2020), so the actual increase in the area of forests in protected areas is likely to be slightly higher.

FIGURE 38
TRENDS IN AREA OF FOREST WITHIN PROTECTED AREAS BY REGION, 1990–2020 (MILLION HECTARES)

New studies on trends in protected areas by forest type and global ecological zone

For this report, UNEP-WCMC conducted new studies on trends in protected areas by forest type and by global ecological zone and on trends in forest area within Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs), i.e. sites contributing significantly to global biodiversity. These studies were based on four spatial data sets:

  • Protected areas: the June 2019 release of the World Database of Protected Areas (WDPA) (UNEP-WCMC and IUCN, 2019).

  • KBAs: the March 2019 release of the World Database of Key Biodiversity Areas (BirdLife International, 2019).

  • Land cover: annual land cover at ~300 m resolution from 1992 to 2015, from the European Space Agency Climate Change Initiative (ESA CCI) Land Cover product (Bontemps et al., 2013), version 2.0.7.

  • Ecological zones: the GEZ data set, second edition (FAO, 2012a).

It was not possible to exclude agricultural tree crops from the land-cover data, but since few of these fall within protected areas their inclusion is unlikely to significantly skew the key results presented below.

Note that while FAO asked countries to report on the area of forest in protected-area categories I–IV for FRA 2020, this study included also categories V and VI. The total area of forest in protected areas reported below is, therefore, considerably larger than that reported to FRA 2020.

Status and trends of protected areas by forest type. The area of tree cover within protected areas increased by an impressive 396 million hectares globally between 1992 and 2015, an average increase of 17 million hectares per year (Figure 39), reaching a total of 833 million hectares as of 2015 (Table 5). It is uncertain whether this increase is due to the widespread expansion of protected-area networks randomly overlapping with forests, or whether it represents the targeted protection of forest ecosystems.

FIGURE 39
INCREASE IN FOREST AREA WITHIN PROTECTED AREAS BY FOREST TYPE, 1992–2015 (MILLION HECTARES)
TABLE 5
GLOBAL FOREST TYPES AND THEIR PROTECTION STATUS IN 2015

The largest increase in area protected was of broadleaved evergreen (tropical) forest (Figure 39), which from 1992 increased by 226 million hectares to reach 397 million in 2015, the largest area of any forest type and the second highest percentage of forests in protected areas (Table 5). The growth in protected broadleaved evergreen forest represents over half the average global increase in protected forest each year since 1992. All other forest types experienced a markedly smaller increase during the 23-year period (Figure 39).

Status and trends of protected forest by global ecological zone. Worldwide, 20 terrestrial GEZs contain some tree cover. All zones had a greater proportion of their tree cover protected in 2015 than in 1992 (Figure 40). In three GEZs (tropical rainforest, subtropical dry forest and temperate oceanic forest), more than 30 percent of the tree cover is now in legally protected areas. In another three GEZs (subtropical humid forest, temperate steppe and boreal coniferous forest), less than 10 percent of the tree cover is in protected areas (Table 6). Areas having such a low proportion of forest in protected areas are mostly at higher latitudes (Figure 41). These areas should be considered priorities for further protection, given that representative protection of terrestrial ecosystems is a key component of Aichi Target 11.

FIGURE 40
INCREASE IN FORESTS WITHIN PROTECTED AREAS BY GLOBAL ECOLOGICAL ZONE, 1992–2015 (MILLION HECTARES)
FIGURE 41
PERCENTAGE OF FOREST WITHIN PROTECTED AREAS BY GLOBAL ECOLOGICAL ZONE, 2015
TABLE 6
TREE COVER WITHIN PROTECTED AREAS IN 2015, BY GLOBAL ECOLOGICAL ZONE

Interestingly, despite having the highest rates of forest cover loss, the tropical rainforest GEZ experienced the highest levels of growth in tree cover in protected areas. This may largely be due to the protected-area network of Brazil, which now has the largest such network in the world (UNEP-WCMC and IUCN, 2019).

As of 2015, temperate oceanic forest – found in Europe, Chile and parts of Oceania – had the greatest percentage in protected areas. This is partly due to the extensive protected-area network in Europe, which accounts for almost half the protected areas in the world (UNEP-WCMC, IUCN and NGS, 2020).

Trends in forest within Key Biodiversity Areas. KBAs are areas that explicitly meet at least one of 11 biodiversity criteria, for example representing more than 5 percent of the global extent of a globally endangered or critically endangered ecosystem type (IUCN, 2016). There are currently more than 15 000 KBAs in the world, covering a total area of over 1.9 billion hectares (Birdlife International, 2019). Approximately 95 percent of them are terrestrial, and more than 75 percent contain some forest cover.

The UNEP-WCMC study suggests that forest cover has marginally decreased in these KBAs between 1992 and 2015 – a result that aligns with what other sources have found for a subset of KBAs (Tracewski et al., 2016). KBA status in itself does not provide any formal forest protection, although KBAs that are fully or partly within protected areas or are in more remote locations have a lower likelihood of land-cover change than other KBAs. Despite the marginal reduction in forest cover in KBAs, protected-area coverage in these areas has been growing steadily over time, albeit with widely differing levels of protection in different countries (Ritchie et al., 2018).

Connectivity corridors

Increasingly, protected areas for biodiversity conservation are implemented following the so-called biological corridors or ecological networks approach (see e.g. Bennett and Mulongoy, 2006), which reconciles biophysical and human perspectives and contributes to the integrity of the broader agroecological landscape. Case Study 2 gives an example from Colombia, one of the world’s most biodiverse countries. Lessons learned from more than 30 years of implementing ecological corridors provide evidence on their benefits for conservation of forest cover, although not necessarily for conservation of the full range of species (Bennett and Mulongoy, 2006).

CASE STUDY 2
Connecting ecosystems to conserve nature and culture in the Caribbean Region of Colombia

Since 2016, the five-year BioCaribe Connectivity Initiative (Conexión BioCaribe) has been working to reduce the degradation and fragmentation of the valuable ecosystems in the Caribbean Region of northern Colombia. While exploitation of the region’s resources since precolonial times had driven economic growth, unsustainable practices were increasingly posing a threat to the region’s rich biodiversity, resilience of rural communities and food security (FAO, 2019i).

The core of the initiative is the design of 1.5 million hectares of connectivity corridors to link isolated protected areas (Figures A and B). These corridors are formed by environmentally friendly production systems that include silvopastoral systems, agroforestry, mixed orchards, water-source and shore restoration, mangrove restoration and wetland recovery with aquatic agriculture, combining species that support both biodiversity conservation and food production. The process includes territorial planning, social participation with an intercultural vision, effective management of existing protected areas, creation of new protected areas and creation of buffer zones connecting protected areas, and feasibility analysis of potential conservation incentive and certification schemes.

FIGURE A
PRIORITIES FOR SOCIO-ECOSYSTEM CONNECTIVITY IN THE CARIBBEAN REGION OF COLOMBIA
FIGURE B
PLANNED CORRIDORS FOR SOCIO-ECOSYSTEM CONNECTIVITY IN THE CARIBBEAN REGION OF COLOMBIA

The results (FAO, 2019i) have already included the following contributions to ecosystem connectivity and to the associated recovery of birds and mammals:

  • about 13 500 hectares of new protected areas, and another 116 000 hectares in the process of creation;

  • about 5 000 hectares farmed under alternative models of sustainable production, with more than 1 500 families having participated in farmer field schools;

  • 1 300 hectares of protected-area buffer zones established with sustainable production plans; and

  • 68 000 hectares of mosaics of conservation and sustainable use of natural resources established.

The corridors have been designed through a participatory process with local communities and institutions. This made it possible to design activities appropriate to the values and sociocultural traditions of ethnic communities. As a result, two indigenous and three Afrodescendant communities have incorporated the connectivity approach into their collective land-use plans.

The initiative also promoted the creation of a collective communication network for information dissemination and raising awareness of the activities of the communities, which has engaged children and young people in addressing the challenges facing each community. In 2020 the Colombian National System of Natural Parks is expected to take up responsibility for managing the network and maintaining cultural sovereignty in communication among these groups.

Integrating people’s cultural and livelihood needs in the management of protected areas

Nearly 40 percent of protected and ecologically intact ecosystems, such as boreal and tropical primary forests, savannahs and marshes, are under the custodianship of indigenous peoples (Garnett et al., 2018) and it is increasingly acknowledged that the needs, knowledge and values of local communities that are associated with biodiversity conservation sites contribute to biodiversity maintenance (Pretty and Smith, 2004; Sayer et al., 2017). This recognition has paved the way for win–win strategies for enhancing livelihoods while protecting natural heritage. Whether human-ecosystem interactions within a protected area are sustainable and whether the levels of protection are adequate are key questions, as it is often difficult to monitor the effectiveness of protection (Andam et al., 2008; Leverington et al., 2010). In many cases, allowing activities in protected areas that support local livelihoods, such as sustainable harvesting of timber and NWFPs (Case Study 3 and Box 47) and sustainable tourism (Case Study 4) have been effective in providing positive incentives to local people to conserve the resources.

CASE STUDY 3
Community concessions in the Maya Biosphere Reserve, Guatemala

The Maya Biosphere Reserve was created in 1990 to protect the largest area of tropical forest in Central America. It occupies about 2.1 million hectares, including 767 000 hectares under strict protection, 848 400 hectares under multiple use (including concessions) and 497 500 hectares of private holdings in the buffer zone. About 533 000 hectares of concessions have been awarded in the multiple-use area with explicit conservation objectives (see Figure A).

FIGURE A
FOREST CONCESSIONS IN THE MAYA BIOSPHERE RESERVE, PETéN, GUATEMALA

Between 1994 and 2002, 14 concessions were awarded in the reserve, including industrial timber concessions ranging in size from 2 hectares to about 130 000 hectares. Twelve concessions were awarded to communities following the Peace Accords of 1996, which specified that by 1999 the Government was to award 100 000 hectares in concessions to small- and medium-scale farmers. The remaining two were awarded to private timber companies. Since then, two community concessions have been cancelled and one suspended because of heavy farming pressure, low economic potential and the presence of drug trafficking. Concessions currently cover 485 122 hectares (Gretzinger, 2016).

Certification by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a requirement for maintaining any concession. It has functioned as a mechanism for accountability and complements the monitoring capacities of public institutions, which are limited.

The community concessions are managed in an integrated way for diversified uses, including collection of NWFPs and tourism. However, the bulk of the revenues are from timber, especially high-value species such as mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) (Rodas and Stoian, 2015). About one-third of the profits are reinvested in the forest through fire patrols and forest protection.

Overall, logging intensity is reported to be low in the community concessions. During 2012–2016, it was 0.7 m3 per hectare for mahogany (0.29 trees per hectare) and 1.6 m3 per hectare overall (Rodas and Stoian, 2015). The number of timber species harvested ranges from 4 to 19, with industrial concessions generally harvesting more species than community concessions.

Results in terms of biodiversity conservation in the concessions include sustainable levels of timber harvesting (Grogan et al., 2016), successful control of forest fires and reduced incidences of forest fires during El Niño and La Niña years (CONAP and WCS 2018), maintenance of jaguar populations (Polisar et al., 2016) and low to zero deforestation, which resulted in a 0.1 percent increase in forest cover between 2016 and 2017 (CONAP and WCS, 2018). In contrast, deforestation in the core-zone protected areas (not included in the concessions) has been more variable, averaging about 1 percent (Hodgdon et al., 2015).

Development-related outcomes include increased timber revenues, reduced outmigration, enhanced employment opportunities, social investments, capacity-building and improved access to bank credits as a result of the concessionaires’ increasing credibility:

  • Between 2012 and 2016, community concessions earned about USD 25 million from timber sales. In concessions with more diversified production (wood and NWFPs) and greater capacity for value addition, the forest income of participating households was 1.6 to 2.8 times the poverty line (Stoian and Rodas, 2018).

  • Forest income (which represents approximately 38 percent of family income) plus the social services provided by the concessions, such as scholarships and health care, have helped to reduce emigration. On average, remittances in the concession areas contribute only 2 percent of family income (Stoian et al., 2018).

  • Employment opportunities in production and commercialization of NWFPs, such as xate palm fronds (Chamaedorea spp.), ramón seeds from the breadnut tree (Brosimum alicastrum), honey and pimiento, are particularly important for women.

  • Concessions have invested their profits in community projects such as infrastructure (road construction and maintenance), health services and education (scholarships, teacher remuneration). Surveys showed that community members preferred in-kind distributions and reinvestment of forest income to cash (Bocci et al., 2018; Stoian et al., 2018).

  • Concession management and certification requirements provided opportunities and motivation to strengthen the technical and administrative capacity of the community enterprises.

  • Communities can access finance through banks that accept the Annual Operating Plan as collateral. Many communities finance logging operations through up-front payments (with interest incorporated in the payment).

CASE STUDY 4
Integrating local communities and their livelihood needs in the management of the Dana Biosphere Reserve, Jordan

Jordan is a semi-arid and drought-prone country. It has limited forest cover of 88 000 hectares, concentrated in the highland areas, which are characterized by a Mediterranean climate. The forests have a crucial role in conserving fauna and flora in Jordan, but forest and rangeland degradation has resulted in soil erosion, damage to watershed areas, loss of biodiversity and loss of valuable ecosystem services (MoP and MoE, 2008). In an effort to conserve its limited forest resources and forest-related biodiversity, the country has declared some of these forests as national reserves and delegated the authority to manage them to the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN), a national NGO.

The 32 000-hectare Dana Biosphere Reserve (DBR), established in 1989 (Figure A), is Jordan’s largest nature reserve. It embraces four different biogeographical zones and six vegetation types including an important patch of relatively intact juniper forest (Juniperus phoenicea). It is also home to the southernmost remaining forest community of cypress (Cupressus sempervirens). A total of 891 plant species have been recorded (of which three are new to science) (RSCN, 2018). The reserve is home to 449 animals, of which many are rare and some threatened with extinction; these include the sand cat (Felis margarita), the Syrian wolf (Canis lupus arabs), the Nubian Ibex (Capra nubiana), the lesser kestrel (Falco naumanni) and the Egyptian spiny-tailed lizard (Uromastyx aegyptia) (RSCN, 2018). So far, 25 animals listed as Endangered or Vulnerable have been found in the reserve, making it an area of global importance (RSCN, 2018). DBR is part of a larger area identified by BirdLife International as the Dana Important Bird Area. The most important tree species in this larger area is the Mediterranean cypress (Cupressus sempervirens).

FIGURE A
DANA BIOSPHERE RESERVE, JORDAN

RSCN’s flexible conservation approach integrates environmental, social and economic goals, local people’s livelihoods and the local economy. DBR is home to four ethnic communities, distributed in about 16 villages or settlements in and around the reserve, with a total population of 31 000 people who are all involved, in one way or another, in the management of the reserve. The reserve management plan is well integrated in the local plans for economic and rural development. The reserve provides the local communities with 85 permanent jobs and hundreds of part-time jobs. Local communities also earn income from the sale of handicrafts, medicinal and aromatic plant products and produce from hunting and from hosting visitors in their houses and serving them traditional foods.

Regulation of livestock grazing under the management plan that has had positive results. The plan includes a provision allowing community members to bring their animals to graze in some parts of the reserve in the dry season, when fodder outside the reserve becomes scarce. The communities are also trained in the practice of rotational grazing. Most of the local communities have nomadic and pastoral backgrounds, and the regulated grazing adopted in the management plan represents a significant support to their livelihood; this has contributed to a strong sense of ownership among local communities and commitment to protecting the reserve. The total monetary value of the feed that the reserve provides to the 17 500 head of livestock owned by the local communities is estimated at approximately USD 2 219 000 annually (RSCN, 2018).

The biosphere reserve is attractive to an array of local and international tourists because of its biological and archaeological significance. Development of ecotourism infrastructure, together with revenue from fees, sale of wood and NWFPs and tourist activities, has allowed RSCN to generate significant income to support the conservation and sustainable management of the reserve. RSCN has established a guesthouse, an ecolodge, a campsite with 30 tents accommodating up to 120 people and an array of hiking trails (RSCN and Wild Jordan, 2017). The success of tourism in the reserve has helped RSCN to gain the trust of the Government and local people and to generate additional finance from national and external financiers for use in conservation activities and in support to the livelihoods of the local communities. RSCN has also provided capacity-building opportunities for local communities in entrepreneurial skills for running small business projects and in organizing cooperatives with legal status to facilitate the procurement of loans from national lending institutions to fund community-based projects.

The iconic Nubian Ibex is a vulnerable species according to the IUCN Red List.

© Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, Amman, Jordan

Local women trained by RSCN on handicraft production as an alternative income-generation activity.

© Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, Amman, Jordan

Conservation effectiveness of protected areas

Protected areas have led to improved forest condition, particularly where the needs of local and forest-dependent people have been taken into account. Evidence from Brazil suggests that the performance of protected areas under different governance regimes (sustainable use, indigenous lands, strict protection and other variations) is closely related to location, deforestation pressure and enforcement (Soares-Filho et al., 2010). Studies suggest that extractive reserves in Brazil resulted in a dramatic reduction of annual deforestation from 2.78 million hectares in 2004 to 460 000 hectares in 2012 – a 74 percent decrease (Instituto Socioambiental, 2015, cited in RRI, 2015).

In Bhutan, where more than 50 percent of land is within protected areas, assessments conducted 20 years after the initiation of the first Biodiversity Action Plan, developed in 1997 (Government of Bhutan, 1997), show positive results for conservation of species and biodiversity awareness. However, they also identify challenges, such as lack of coordination across a broad range of stakeholders; uncertainties related to the financial sustainability of protected-area management and technical means of implementation; conflict between policies; and difficulties in monitoring status and progress and in supporting local stakeholders. Human–wildlife conflict has also become an important issue; the reduced authority of local people to manage the impact of wildlife on crops and livestock has at times triggered backlash against conservation policies (Mongbo et al., 2011; Lham et al., 2019) (See also Box 51 in Sustainable hunting and wildlife management).

There is strong evidence of benefits from rights-based approaches for conservation of forest cover in protected areas, but not necessarily for conservation of the full range of diverse species (Campese et al., 2009). For instance, tourism and sport hunting might have a positive impact on some species but not on others (Sayer et al., 2017). A successful rights-based approach to protected areas depends on availability of capacity to exercise monitoring, support to communities in their traditional practices and enforcement of rules and regulations.

6.2 Conservation outside protected areas

According to data provided by countries for FRA 2020, 422 million hectares of forests are primarily designated for the conservation of biodiversity, an increase of 111 million hectares since 1990. The area designated is now equivalent to 10 percent of the world’s forest area. Globally, the largest part was designated between 2000 and 2010; the rate of annual increase has decreased in the past decade (FAO, 2020) (Figure 42). Some of these areas are found within legally protected areas, while others are not. The reason this figure is well below the area of forest in protected areas reported above is that many protected areas are designated for multiple use (e.g. conservation of biodiversity combined with recreation or ecotourism) or for other primary purposes. Brazil, for example, reported almost all its protected areas as primarily designated for social services (for the protection of the culture and way of life of forest-dependent people) and only areas with restricted use as primarily designated for conservation of biodiversity.

FIGURE 42
TRENDS IN FOREST AREA PRIMARILY DESIGNATED FOR CONSERVATION OF BIODIVERSITY, 1990–2020

Other effective area-based conservation measures

The term “other effective area-based conservation measure” (OECM) was introduced into Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 of the CBD’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020 (CBD, 2010a) in 2010, providing a modality for recognizing biodiversity conservation outside protected areas, where biodiversity conservation may not necessarily be the primary management objective.

CBD Decision 14/8, adopted in 2018, defines an OECM as “a geographically defined area other than a protected area, which is governed and managed in ways that achieve positive and sustained long-term outcomes for the in situ conservation of biodiversity, with associated ecosystem functions and services and, where applicable, cultural, spiritual, socio-economic and other locally relevant values” (CBD, 2018a). The same decision defines four criteria for identifying OECMs: the area is not currently recognized as a protected area; the area is governed and managed; the area achieves a sustained and effective contribution to in situ conservation of biodiversity; and associated ecosystem functions and services and cultural, spiritual, socio-economic and other locally relevant values are maintained.

Examples of potential OECMs in forest habitats identified by IUCN WCPA (2018) and Jonas et al. (2018) include:

  • territories and areas conserved by indigenous peoples and local communities that are not officially protected areas (see Box 48);

  • wildlife conservancies adjacent to national parks or protected areas;

  • privately managed areas with primary conservation objectives and demonstrated effectiveness that are not reported as protected areas in national reports;

  • areas of active habitat restoration to restore degraded ecosystems of high value for biodiversity and ecosystem services, e.g. restored coastal wetlands and mangroves;

  • hunting reserves that maintain natural habitats and flora and fauna as well as viable populations of hunted and non-hunted native species;

  • some areas of forest that are permanently set aside, such as old-growth, primary or other high-biodiversity-value forests, and that are protected from threats (see Case Study 5); and

  • other areas that may comply with the OECM criteria such as military areas, sacred groves or Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Sites (see Box 32 in Chapter 4).

CASE STUDY 5
Forests and freshwater biodiversity conservation in northwestern North America

Many inland fishes rely on freshwater habitats maintained and supported by forests. Upland forests provide soil stability, decrease destructive run-off during rainstorms and reduce the risk of landslides into downstream rivers. Healthy floodplain forests support natural river meanders, beaver ponds and slow-water side channels. Streamside forests provide shade, erosion protection, chemical buffering and nutritious terrestrial inputs to aquatic food webs. Across the Pacific Northwest of the United States of America and Canada, forests are being managed and restored to support freshwater biodiversity.

Many freshwater fishes historically found in forested habitats in this area are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (Government of the United States of America, 1973). Examples of large-scale and highly coordinated plans that have successfully supported aquatic biodiversity conservation and the associated socio-economic and cultural benefits of inland fish at least partially through forest management include the Northwest Forest Plan, Wy-Kan-Ush-Mi Wa-Kish-Wit and the Oregon Chub Recovery Plan.

The Northwest Forest Plan (USDA, n.d.a), one of the largest coordinated land-management plans ever implemented, brought an unprecedented shift from sustained timber yield to conservation aims. Initiated in 1994, the plan provides management direction for 10 million hectares of federal lands for 100 years by designating an extensive system of mature forest and riparian forest reserves, in combination with controlled timber harvest on other lands. The accumulated evidence suggests that over its first 20 years, the plan protected dense old-growth forests and successfully maintained habitats for threatened and endangered birds and a suite of aquatic organisms (Spies et al., 2018). Climate change and associated increases in wildfire activity have contributed to unexpected losses of old forests on lands covered by the plan; however, three essential elements of aquatic habitats for supporting inland fish biodiversity – water temperature, aquatic macroinvertebrates and physical conditions in riparian areas – have all shown improvements. These improvements are likely attributable to reductions in the extent of roads and to increases in the number of large trees in streamside riparian forests (Spies et al., 2018). Across low-gradient streams on public lands, improved stream conditions have been attributed to changes made in forest management standards and guidelines in the 1990s (Roper, Saunders and Ojala, 2019).

Wy-Kan-Ush-Mi Wa-Kish-Wit, meaning “spirit of the salmon”, is a plan created by the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs, and Yakama tribes and coordinated by the Colombia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission to restore culturally and nutritionally important anadromous Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) (CRITFC, 2020). Adult salmon returns in the Columbia River Basin had declined from more than 15 million a year before European contact to fewer than 500 000 by the late 1970s. The plan has led to improvements in over 1 000 km of streams through actions such as planting of riparian trees and coordinated forest management across watersheds, as well as reintroduction of salmon in areas with healthy forests, thanks to collaboration by state and national governments and up to 25 tribes. Fish counts at Bonneville Dam in the lower Columbia River indicated that abundance of adult Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) increased substantially beginning in 2001, peaking at 1.3 million fish in 2015. Unfortunately, Chinook abundance has declined sharply in recent years, probably because of poor ocean conditions and high riverine water temperatures in 2015 – a strong reminder of the work yet to be done. Where and when salmon returns have increased, tribal members have harvested more salmon from a more diverse mix of species and over more days, and more tribe members, including younger generations, have found employment and income from fishing. Pacific salmon also contribute to terrestrial biodiversity by transporting nutrients, e.g. nitrogen, from the ocean back to the forested streams where they spawn. The salmon also transfer nutrients to riparian soils, both directly, via their rotting carcasses, and indirectly, through the brown bear (Ursus arctos) (Hilderbrand et al., 1999) and other foragers that consume them. These soil nutrients support the growth and improve the vigour of Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) by increasing needle area and thereby increasing photosynthesis rates (Reimchen and Arbellay, 2019).

The Oregon Chub Recovery Plan was published in 1998 with a goal to reverse the decline of the Oregon chub (Oregonichthys crameri), a small freshwater fish endemic to the Willamette River Valley of western Oregon (US Fish and Wildlife Service, 1998). The plan included activities to protect existing wild populations, to reintroduce chub into suitable floodplain habitats throughout its historical range and to increase public awareness of this conservation issue. The cumulative efforts of agencies, industry, scientists and public citizens led to the removal of the Oregon chub from the list of endangered and threatened species in February 2015, making it the first fish in the United States of America ever to be delisted as a result of managed recovery. Forest habitats in the Willamette National Forest, managed under the Northwest Forest Plan, were essential to the recovery and maintenance of the habitats on which these fish depend.

The success of all three cases rests on multidisciplinary planning and management at the landscape scale, involving forest ecologists, hydrologists, freshwater biologists, fish biologists and others, as a foundation for local on-the-ground action. Coordinated efforts to manage and restore forests to support aquatic biodiversity were undertaken over vast extents and with an understanding of connections between upstream and downstream areas, between forests and rivers and between human-dominated and wildland areas. Collaboration between individuals from different and even sometimes competing agencies, as well as from differing cultural perspectives, was also a key success factor.

In summary, OECMs provide an opportunity for documenting the spatial continuum of areas managed for biodiversity conservation, from state-owned protected areas to other forms of management on other public, private or traditionally owned lands that can make important contributions to biodiversity conservation even if conservation is not the primary management objective. Specifically, an OECM can complement protected areas by filling gaps, connecting habitats and conserving species that occur outside formally protected areas. However, as pointed out by Dudley et al. (2018), OECMs can contribute to this end only if the key drivers of biodiversity loss are addressed and if key enabling conditions are in place, such as the respect for human rights, secure tenure and social safeguards.

Mainstreaming biodiversity in forest management

Biodiversity is already a well-recognized element of the concept of sustainable forest management. The role of forests in maintaining biodiversity is also explicitly recognized by the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests 2017–2030 (UN, 2017a).

The 2016 United Nations Biodiversity Conference, held in Cancun, Mexico, called for the mainstreaming of biodiversity across all agricultural sectors and the tourism sector. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) Scientific and Advisory Panel describes mainstreaming biodiversity as: “the process of embedding biodiversity considerations into policies, strategies and practices of key public and private actors that impact or rely on biodiversity, so that it is conserved and sustainably and equitably used both locally and globally” (Huntley and Redford, 2014).

Mainstreaming biodiversity in forestry involves prioritizing forest policies, plans, programmes, projects and investments that have a positive impact on biodiversity at the ecosystem, species and genetic levels, and on ecosystem services (see example in Box 49). This involves enhancing the sustainable use of biodiversity in forest and ecosystems and minimizing the impact of the forest sector on all other ecosystems.

Certification schemes (see example in Box 50) and REDD+ both have mandatory environmental and socio-economic safeguards that aim to conserve biodiversity. Several guidelines are available for mainstreaming biodiversity into forest management, including for production forests (ITTO and IUCN, 2009), planted forests (Carnus et al., 2006) and restoration efforts (Beatty, Cox and Kuzee, 2018).

Mainstreaming biodiversity in community-managed forests

An increasing amount of research show evidence that forests managed by indigenous peoples and local communities are at least as effective at maintaining forest cover as those under stricter protection regimes (Porter-Bolland et al., 2012, Stevens et al., 2014; Blackman et al., 2017; Blackman and Veit, 2018, Tauli-Corpuz, Alcorn and Molnar, 2018). Community-managed forests outside protected areas can deliver not only improved forest cover but also other conservation benefits such as maintenance or increases in wildlife populations, as has been demonstrated in Australia, Brazil and Canada (Schuster et al., 2019), in Nepal (Anup, 2017) and in the United Republic of Tanzania (Case Study 6).

CASE STUDY 6
Participatory forest management in the United Republic of Tanzania

The United Republic of Tanzania has about 48.1 million hectares of forests covering approximately 55 percent of the total land area. Woodlands provide 95 percent of the country’s energy, both rural and urban, and 75 percent of the country’s materials for construction. Forests also provide various non-wood products and are important for water catchment. However, the forests are under intense pressure from human settlements, illegal logging, charcoal production, fires, mining and infrastructure development, which is leading to an estimated 372 816 hectares of forests being cleared each year (MNRT, 2015).

In its Nationally Determined Contribution to address climate change, the United Republic of Tanzania has recognized the importance of forests for both climate change adaptation and reaching the country’s emissions reductions goal. The country’s NDC is one of the few that emphasizes upscaling participatory forest management (PFM), along with coordinated implementation of REDD+ actions and strengthened protection and conservation of natural forests.

The United Republic of Tanzania has one of the most progressive legal frameworks for customary land rights recognition and PFM in Africa. Customary land rights are recognized within the boundaries of villages, and PFM has been mainstreamed as a government programme. In total, communities own almost 22 million hectares of forest land. PFM is most prevalent in the Miombo woodlands, which are estimated to account for more than 90 percent of the country’s forested land (Lupala et al., 2015).

Areas under PFM have seen a reduction in uncontrolled logging and other forest disturbances; a noticeable recovery of forest condition; a decrease in soil erosion and overgrazing and an associated improvement in water quality and quantity; reoccupation of beehives; and an overall increase in wildlife abundance (Patenaude and Lewis, 2014). Open-access forest areas, in contrast, are subject to unsustainable practices such as agricultural expansion, wildfires, excessive livestock grazing and illegal harvesting of timber and NWFPs (Blomley et al., 2008; Burgess et al., 2010).

The recognition of customary lands and the framework allowing devolution of land and resource rights to the local level, in keeping with the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure (FAO, 2012b), have given local people the autonomy to manage their own resources. Allowing communities to form their own governing bodies and make their own rules is the first step in empowering local people to manage forests and other natural resources sustainably. For example, collective management of the coastal village forest reserves in Bagamoyo District has avoided a range of threats, including unsustainable hunting, mining and wood extraction for timber, poles, charcoal and handicrafts, and thus deforestation within the reserves has been limited (see Figure A).

FIGURE A
LIMITED DEFORESTATION OBSERVED WITHIN COLLECTIVELY MANAGED VILLAGE FOREST RESERVES, BAGAMOYO DISTRICT, UNITED REPUBLIC OF TANZANIA

However, the PFM programme in the United Republic of Tanzania has not yet met its full potential in terms of contributing to livelihoods. Challenges include delays in implementation, lack of recognition of indigenous peoples, limited devolution of rights (especially in joint forest management) and difficulty in engaging pastoralists. While advances have been made in recognizing collective tenure rights, some larger forest governance issues still need attention, including incentive systems, strengthening of community institutions and increased investment and human resources.

Members of the Chaga tribal community in Shamble Juu village, United Republic of Tanzania.

©FAO/Felipe Rodriguez

Many assessments have also been conducted on the impacts of conservation and development projects on local communities (Plumptre et al., 2004; West, Igoe and Brockington, 2006; Sayer et al., 2007). However, not many studies consider outcomes for both conservation and local communities, and in practice demonstrable win–win solutions are rare (Southworth, Nagendra, and Munroe, 2006; Chan et al., 2007; McShane et al., 2011). Some of the shortcomings that have been identified include predetermined conservation goals and non-negotiable reserve boundaries (Sharpe, 1998); limited transfer of powers to local institutions (Ribot, 2002); resource capture by elites when forest management is decentralized (Persha, Agrawal and Chhatre, 2011); limited exclusion rights; and vulnerability of such programmes to shifting government policies and uncertain support (RRI, 2015).

Sustainable hunting and wildlife management

The harvest and consumption of wildlife remain critical to the food security, health, cultures and livelihoods of millions of people. Unregulated hunting is a major cause of loss of certain species (see Chapter 3). However, contrary to the views of many, sustainable use is a proven mechanism for wildlife conservation. Indeed, in some places, consumptive wildlife users remain the primary contributors to wildlife management and state-run conservation efforts (Case Study 7).

CASE STUDY 7
Incentivizing wildlife conservation in North America

Wildlife in the United States of America and Canada was relatively abundant when the first European settlers arrived, but by the late nineteenth century many species had become endangered or extinct through commercial exploitation. Numbers of American bison (Bos bison), for example, were reduced from more than 20 million to about 1 000 by 1889. By 1902, the passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius), which had once numbered at least 3 billion, had become extinct in the wild. Other threatened species included elk (Cervus canadensis), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), wood duck (Aix sponsa) and pronghorn antelope (Antilocapra americana). A sense of social responsibility in the face of this resource crisis led to the rise of a resource-use philosophy based on citizen responsibility and natural limits, which eventually developed into a systematic arrangement of conventions, policies and laws known as the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation (US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2018; Mahoney and Geist, 2019). This model is based on seven main elements:

  • Wildlife is a public trust resource.

  • Elimination of markets for game: Commercial hunting and the sale of wildlife are prohibited to ensure the sustainability of wildlife population.

  • Wildlife is allocated to the public by law (and not, for example, by market principles or landownership).

  • Wildlife should only be killed for a legitimate purpose (food, fur, self-defence and the protection of property, including livestock); it is broadly regarded as unlawful and unethical to kill fish or wildlife (even with a licence) without making all reasonable effort to retrieve and make reasonable use of the resource.

  • Wildlife is considered an international resource.

  • Science is the proper tool for discharge of wildlife policy.

  • Democracy of hunting, i.e. open access – as a result of which, hunters are large contributors to conservation funding.

This model has facilitated significant recoveries of both harvested and non-harvested wildlife species alongside sustainable consumption since the early twentieth century. Striking examples of this recovery include the wild turkey and white-tailed deer, both of which were important resources for indigenous peoples prior to colonization and both once having populations estimated at 10 million or more.

By the early twentieth century, populations of wild turkey had been reduced to 200 000 through unregulated hunting and habitat loss. Hunting organizations pushed for early legislation that facilitated wild turkey conservation and research. Initial attempts at restoration based on release of pen-reared birds proved largely unsuccessful. Improved capture techniques were later developed to trap wild birds which could then be transferred to suitable, unoccupied habitats. Beginning in 1986, a complex system of state-to-state transfer of birds was initiated. Today, wild turkey populations have recovered to near precolonial abundance, estimated at 7 million birds in 2013. Wild turkeys are now found in self-sustaining populations in 49 of 50 states in the United States of America, six Canadian provinces and central and eastern Mexico (Hughes and Lee, 2015).

White-tailed deer was similarly vulnerable to market hunting and habitat loss, and its population was reduced to 500 000 animals by the end of the nineteenth century. Hunters responded by promoting and helping to enforce hunting regulations, transplanting deer and funding conservation and management programmes. Many deer hunters even bought or leased land on which deer populations could be protected or propagated. Early reintroductions of deer to unoccupied habitats in eight states in the United States of America were conducted by private individuals wanting to establish deer herds that could eventually be hunted. Today, there are an estimated 30 million white-tailed deer in the United States of America and approximately 400 000 in Canada. The species is now the most popular big game animal in North America and remains an important food source, especially in rural communities.

To complement CBD Decision 14/7 on sustainable wildlife management (CBD, 2018b), the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and CBD, in collaboration with members of the Collaborative Partnership on Wildlife, put forward the following set of recommendations for the sustainable use of wild meat (Coad et al., 2019):

  • Create an effective enabling environment. This may involve:

    • revision of national hunting laws, in consultation with a broad group of stakeholders, to ensure that they consider both food security and conservation concerns and can be fairly and practically enforced;

    • devolution of land tenure to indigenous peoples and local communities, with the support of a national enforcement agency; and

    • development of regional and national wild-meat monitoring frameworks to foster evidence-based policymaking.

  • Manage rural supply and reduce urban demand for wild meat. Interconnected interventions in the commodity chain can include community- or co-managed protected areas, wildlife ranching and community conservancies, payment for ecosystem services (PES) schemes and certification mechanisms. Companies involved in timber harvesting, mining or extensive agriculture in forest habitats must take steps to ensure the sustainability of wild-meat harvest and use within their concessions by providing food alternatives (such as meat from livestock) for their staff, helping to enforce equitable hunting regulations in collaboration with local communities and preventing the use of concession roads and vehicles by external commercial hunters. In newly urbanizing areas, where nearby wildlife populations are severely depleted but alternatives to wild meat are not widely available, governments and development agencies should help to develop viable alternative foods, such as meat from livestock. In large metropolitan areas where wild meat is generally consumed as a luxury product, interventions may include targeted campaigns to change consumer behaviour, alongside adequate enforcement of laws governing the trade of wild meat. One possible option for ensuring food security and nutrition, sustained local income and environmental health is to bolster the sustainable management of fast-producing wild species.

  • Promote evidence-based participatory management. Projects set up to manage wildlife for meat must be carried out with full community engagement and consent. Furthermore, they must be designed to incorporate a theory of change and monitoring and evaluation for adaptive management, so that project successes and failures can inform future management interventions.

Since October 2017, a consortium of partners, including FAO, CIFOR, WCS and the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD), has been implementing a seven-year Sustainable Wildlife Management Programme. This programme aims to halt unsustainable wildlife hunting, conserve biodiversity and natural heritage and strengthen people’s livelihoods and food security in 12 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. In each country, the programme aims to improve the institutional and legal framework for the sustainable use of meat from wild species resilient to hunting or fishing, as well as the management of these wild species; to increase the supply of alternative protein; and to reduce the consumption of wild meat to sustainable levels. The programme emphasizes the importance of monitoring, evaluation, learning and knowledge for eventual upscaling. The initiative is funded by the EU.

Wildlife management also entails dealing with human–wildlife conflicts, particularly when there are no fences around protected areas in order to allow for migration of wildlife species. See Box 51.

6.3 Progress towards TARGETS related to protected areas and other area-based conservation measures

At the global level, Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 (to protect at least 17 percent of terrestrial area by 2020) has been exceeded for forest ecosystems as a whole, as evidenced both in the figures reported to FRA 2020 and in the study prepared by UNEP-WCMC for this volume. No attempt has been made to assess the overall effectiveness of forest protected areas, but given the 53 percent decline in the forest-specialist index between 1970 and 2014 (see Measuring forest vertebrate population trends), there is undoubtedly room for improvement.

In terms of “ecologically representative and well connected systems of protected areas,” the analysis of protected areas by global ecological zone (see New studies on trends in protected areas) indicates that less than 10 percent of subtropical humid forest, temperate steppe and boreal coniferous forest is currently protected.

Other areas that should be given high priority include areas with high values for both biodiversity significance and intactness, such as the northern Andes and Central America, southeastern Brazil, parts of the Congo Basin, southern Japan, the Himalayas and various parts of Southeast Asia and New Guinea (Figure 22).

Limited progress has been made on classifying specific forest areas as OECMs given that this is a recent concept, but guidance on this category is being developed and it has significant potential for forests.

As seen in the case studies in this chapter, original approaches to forest biodiversity conservation, both within and outside protected areas, demonstrate some measure of success in achieving a balance of positive biodiversity and socio-economic outcomes, perhaps offering opportunities for upscaling or replication. Common elements underlying successful outcomes include participatory approaches, attention to property rights, cross-sectoral approaches (also referred to as territorial or landscape approaches) and capacity-building. Economic approaches that result, directly or indirectly, in positive effects on local revenues or business opportunities can also play an important role in incentivizing positive biodiversity outcomes.

6.4 Progress towards targets related to sustainable forest management

Sustainable forest management, as embedded in the United Nations Forest Instrument (United Nations General Assembly, 2008; UNDESA, 2016), includes forest biological diversity as one of its seven thematic elements.1 When successfully applied, it ensures positive results in terms of both conservation and socio-economic development outcomes. SDG Indicator 15.2.1 (Progress towards sustainable forest management) (see Box 52) is not easy to measure as no single quantifiable and measurable characteristic can fully describe the many social, environmental and economic dimensions of sustainable forest management. Recognizing this, FAO worked with partners to develop a methodology for reporting on this indicator, and a set of five sub-indicators was established to measure progress:

  • forest area annual net change rate;

  • above-ground biomass stock in forest;

  • proportion of forest area located within legally established protected areas (indicating actions taken to protect and maintain biological diversity and other natural and cultural resources);

  • proportion of forest area under a long-term forest management plan (indicating the intention to manage the forest for long-term purposes); and

  • forest area under an independently verified forest management certification scheme (providing further qualification of the forest management).

The first three address the environmental values of forests, while the last two consider all dimensions of sustainable forest management, including the social and economic aspects. Data for the first four sub-indicators are collected through the FRA country reporting process, while data on certified forest area are obtained from the main certification bodies. For each indicator, a detailed description of definitions and methodology is provided in the SDG metadata repository (UN, 2020). The result is presented as a dashboard showing progress for each sub-indicator. While progress has been made on the last three of the sub-indicators, the first two are showing negative trends at the global level due to the net loss of forest area.

With regard to Target 3.2 of the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests 2017–2030 (UN, 2017a) (see Box 52), figures reported to FRA 2020 indicate that the area of forest under long-term management plans has increased significantly in the past 30 years to an estimated 2.05 billion hectares (equivalent to 54 percent of the global forest area) in 2020 (FAO, 2020).

Key messages

1 Current negative trends in biodiversity and ecosystems will undermine progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

2 Ensuring positive outcomes for both biodiversity and people requires a realistic balance between conservation goals and demands for resources that support livelihoods.

3 We need to transform our food systems to halt deforestation and the loss of biodiversity.

4 Forests are increasingly recognized for their role as a nature-based solution to many sustainable development challenges. We must build on this momentum to catalyse bold actions to prevent, halt and reverse the loss of forests and their biodiversity, for the benefit of current and future generations.

While the previous chapters indicate that progress is being made in conserving forest and forest biodiversity, the widespread loss of biodiversity continues to pose a serious risk to human well-being and security. In assessing a range of interactions among SDGs, IPBES (2019a) found that current negative trends in the status of biodiversity and ecosystems will undermine progress towards 80 percent (35 out of 44) of the SDG targets assessed. Thus, at issue are not only the effects of economic development activities on biodiversity but also the effects of biodiversity (or rather, biodiversity loss) on economic development.

This chapter looks at the trade-offs and synergies between biodiversity conservation and other sustainable development goals and provides examples of successful approaches. It further outlines some of the key elements of an enabling environment for balanced solutions and presents some innovative tools to help monitoring progress.

7.1 Trade-offs and synergies

SOFO 2018 highlighted the potential contributions of forests to the SDGs, and a recent publication by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations’ Special Project on World Forests, Society and Environment (Katila et al., 2019) analyses the impact of the SDGs on forests. Both documents highlight the crucial role of forests in meeting the SDGs. While the different SDGs are interlinked and indivisible and actions that harness strong synergies between SDGs are mutually reinforcing, there may be trade-offs in the short term.

Three key messages in Katila et al. (2019) are particularly pertinent:

  1. Human needs shape the value people place on forests. Given that people and their interests are very diverse, the implementation of one or more SDGs will, in many cases, result in both winners and losers, depending on the impacts on forests.

  2. The assumption of an a priori positive correlation between forest conservation and societal development is misleading. Increasing the forest area is not always the best answer to complex development needs and while fulfilment of some of the SDGs might result in forest loss, this may drive social and economic development, e.g. through agricultural expansion or more space for housing and infrastructure.

  3. It is crucially important that potential trade-offs implicit in the SDGs with respect to forests and other land uses are understood and are fully accounted for in societal and policy decisions. This must include thinking across different scales and generations. It must also include giving voice to forest-dependent peo