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3.1. Forest resources

The Forest Resources Working Group was introduced by Mr Claus Eckelmann, Forestry Officer, FAO Sub-regional Office in Barbados. Under the Chairmanship of Mr. Oswaldo Sabido, who was assisted by Mr. Owen Evelyn as rapporteur, the group was given a hand-out which described specific objectives, methodology, and expected outputs, to guide its work.

The objectives of the group were to:

a) analyse the current situation regarding information about forest resources;

b) identify possibilities for common approaches for forest resources data management; and

c) identify the existing needs and likely information gaps in relation to forest resources.

The methodology consisted of reviewing the status of forest resources information in Caribbean countries (on the basis of country reports and FAO/IITF preliminary results of an information survey) with a view to identifying information gaps and opportunities for improvement.

The expected output was an assessment of the status of:

· forest cover;

· development of information management;

· definitions (national and regional); and

· training needs.

The working group on Forest Resources reached a number of conclusions and drafted recommendations. These are presented in the report of the working group in Appendix IV and are summarised below.

The question of forest cover classification was one of the main concerns expressed by participants. Jamaica presented an example of problems encountered during their national forest inventory and mapping and how they tried to resolve them. Dr. Eileen Heimer and Peter Weaver, IITF, offered to describe the more general problem and a copy of their statement is reproduced in Box 1 below.

The group concluded that forest cover in the Caribbean was shrinking and that forest quality was decreasing. Inadequate land use policies, shifting cultivation, forest fires, industrialisation, tourism and hurricanes were identified as the main responsible factors.

Concerning the status of information management, forest resources information is being gathered on a case by case basis. Most countries have no systematic approach to continuous assessment. The group recommended that information collection should be designed to address country-specific needs. This information is needed for policy formulation, planning, management and education as well as for use by policy makers at the level of Heads of departments/agencies, forest/watershed managers, investor, researchers and general stakeholders.

As for data collection methodology, the forestry institutions in each country are mainly responsible for the collection and analysing data. However, various other local and foreign agencies contribute to the process of field data collection and remote sensing. All countries except Cuba have some capability for GIS but certain constraints still exist throughout the region, in particular with reference to modern information technology.

The group finally recommended that the importance of data collection and management should be given more emphasis by institutionalising such tasks and by improving inter-agency coordination/ communication.

Box 1 - Statement on FAO Forest Assessment Classes by Dr. Eileen Heimer and Peter Weaver, IITF

One problem identified during the workshop concerned the FAO Forest Assessment Classes (FAO classes). First, the FAO classes did not seem entirely compatible with the forest and secondary vegetation classes that occur in the Caribbean and other neotropical regions. Secondly, and as a result of this incompatibility, lands with similar woody vegetation were inconsistently translated into the FAO classes. Two needs were therefore identified:

i. In the short-term, regional consistency in the translation of various woody vegetation classes to FAO classes (using "cross-walk" tables); and,

ii. A longer-term revisitation of the FAO classes.

The inconsistencies mainly occurred because of uncertainty in how to classify secondary vegetation developing on previously forested lands and uncertainty in the interpretation of tree density classes on forestlands.

Specific examples of the vegetation types that were inconsistently translated to FAO classes included:

(1) Dry formations occurring on limestone-derived soils, with >40% woody vegetation cover and height >5m. This forest type was classified as open forest by some countries and closed forest by others. This discrepancy probably occurred because tree crowns are not always intact in this forest type, and its canopy volume is far smaller than that of moister forest formations occurring in some countries. Strict FAO classification of this forest would be closed forest.

(2) Modified and regenerating dry forests in this region with canopy height ranges from 1-5m, and tree density >40%, would be classified as closed dry shrub-lands in the FAO classification using a height of 5m to distinguish between shrub-lands and forest. This vegetation type was classified as open dry forest by some countries and closed dry forest by others. Although the GOFC height cut off 2m would classify most of this vegetation as forest, it would not distinguish it from the older dry forest described in example (1).

(3) Abandoned agricultural lands (including pasture), and active pasture with 10-40% tree cover, would be classified open forest using the FAO classes. Especially in moist environments and active pasture with trees, this highly modified "open forest" is distinctly different from a natural savannah that would occur in other regions.

(4) Another problem is that when the vegetation type described in item (3) has an under-story of shrubs and young trees, or when pioneer tree species have formed a closed tree canopy, these vegetation types may not be distinguished from well-developed forest lands when using Landsat Thematic Mapper satellite imagery, which has been described as the "workhorse" of land-cover mapping.

A rationalisation for accepting the uncertainty in these definitions is that abandoned agricultural lands, whether classified as forest or shrub, will eventually become forest if left to continue to regenerate. In addition, FAO has accommodated these lands by including a section on modified forestlands. In conclusion, the current FAO classes must be viewed with caution and in conjunction with more detailed definitions of the translation from forest classes in each region.

3.2. Forest products

The Forest Products Group was briefed by Mr. Yves C. Dubé, FAO Forestry Officer (Planning) in Rome, on the main objective of forestry information, type of forestry information compiled by FAO and the new global framework (questionnaire) for forest products collection and analysis. The proposed FAO definition of non-wood forest products, a list of wood energy issues and a Note on Trees outside Forests (TOF) were also distributed to participants for their consideration (see Appendix III).

Under the Chairmanship of Ms. Marilyn Headley, Conservator of Forests, Jamaica, who was assisted by Mr. Lyndon John, Saint Lucia, as rapporteur, the Forest Products Working Group was given a hand-out with specific objectives, methodology and expected outputs, to guide its work.

The objectives of the working group were threefold:

a) to examine the current data coverage of national and regional statistics on forest products and validate - through individual discussions with country national experts - current FAO country forest statistics;

b) to identify emerging needs and priorities for their further development; and

c) to recommend priorities for country capacity building and institutional and human resource development to meet the requirements identified.

Concerning the methodology, the group was asked to first discuss the current country and regional data coverage of forest products statistics with regard to their availability, accuracy and relevance, highlighting any definitions, standards or methodology problems in collecting or comparing them. Second, the group was asked to identify needs and priorities for increasing the scope of the data coverage in particular with reference to non-wood forest products, fuelwood or the informal sector. Finally, the group was asked to identify priority capacity building and institutional and human resource needs with regard to required improvements in the ability to collect, process and report forest statistics at the national and regional levels.

The expected outputs were:

· a statement on the quality (accuracy) and relevance of current data coverage;

· a statement on the need to increase or not the scope of the data coverage; and

· recommended priority capacity building and institutional needs.

The working group on forest products and information technology reached some conclusions and recommendations. These are presented in the report of the working group in Appendix IV and are summarised below.

The group reported that there was infrequent (irregular) collection of data with inconsistent units and data were collected by many different unrelated agencies. It was also pointed out that collaboration between the various agencies was largely non-existent.

In many instances information is unavailable. When the raw data are collected, often there is no analysis done at all. There is no central repository for data storage and dissemination. The group therefore strongly recommended as a first priority the institutional strengthening for data collection, storage, analysis and dissemination.

The group also noted the need to increase the scope of coverage as certain products are not captured (e.g. fuelwood and non-wood forest products, ecotourism) and to have a comprehensive documentation of the value and contribution of forest resources as part of the national accounting systems (e.g. watershed, agri-planning, ecotourism, soil conservation and fertility, wildlife and biodiversity).

As regards capacity building, the group made specific recommendations for roundwood, fuelwood, non-wood forest products, trade and prices. For example, surveys were recommended to improve baseline information for fuelwood and non-wood forest products.

Mr. Adrian Whiteman also held one-to-one discussions with individual delegates about their requirements for follow-up activities in the field of data collection and analysis. Follow-up activities are currently being implemented as part of the Caribbean Forestry Sector Outlook Study (CFSO).

3.3. Outlook discussion group

Mr. Adrian Whiteman, Forestry Officer (Sector Study), from FAO HQs, made a presentation on FAO's Forestry Outlook Study Programme and gave an overview of a typical outlook study (see Appendix III).

The objective of this working session was essentially to discuss the preparation of a Caribbean Forestry Sector Outlook Study (CFSO).

The expected outputs were:

· a consensus on the State of Forests in the Caribbean today (2000);

· formulated objectives and identified priority policy actions;

· a revised draft Table of Contents.

On the basis of the above presentation and the results of baseline and thematic studies as well as country reports, the groups were asked to identify the main issues or constraints facing the development of the forestry sector in the Caribbean. Then, the groups discussed the prospects for the outlook for sustainable forest use and conservation. The groups formulated broad development objectives and identified priority policy actions to achieve them. Finally, the groups have reviewed and commented a proposed draft table of contents for the Summary Outlook Document.

The groups presented in plenary sessions the results of their findings and conclusions. Their report is presented in Appendix IV.

After discussing the current state of forestry in the Caribbean, the groups identified main issues, trends and corresponding feasible policy actions to address them. They also proposed the following mission statement for the forestry sector development in the future (see Box 2 below).

Box 2 - Mission Statement

· To provide for the conservation and management of the forest resources and its biodiversity while ensuring that the productive capacity of the forests for both goods and services is maintained or enhanced for the sustained development of the nation.

· Strengthened and sustained management of the utilisation and development of the forest resources and its biodiversity to ensure that the productive capacity of these resources is maintained and enhanced.

· To conserve and sustainably manage forest resources for the benefit of the national economy and citizens of the region.

The main policy actions proposed were:

· reviewing and formulating the appropriate legislation (rationalisation of legislation among different stakeholders and natural resources);

· assessment of current institutional capabilities within the Caribbean then recommend restructuring (roles and responsibilities) and formulate methods to access funding via private sector, donor agencies and government for capacity strengthening;

· public consultation process to become a mandatory part of the planning process;

· a public awareness campaign on the role of forestry in national development;

· introduce green accounting into the National Accounting System in order to serve as an indicator of the value of the natural resources in the country/region;

· collect and analyse data to provide management strategies for natural and plantation forests.

3.4 Pilot study project

Participants were informed that two pilot studies were being launched to develop methodologies to improve the collection of forestry information. One of them has already started in Haiti concerning non-wood forest products and the other study will be carried out in Suriname to estimate the growth of natural forests. Other pilot studies may be formulated and implemented in the coming year.

3.5 Other presentation

Mr. Benjamin White, University of Maryland, Institute for Advanced Computing Studies Global Land Cover Facility, volunteered a presentation on the available services provided by the Institute in the Caribbean of which the latest Landsat 7 ETM imagery. This can be accessed at the following internet address:

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