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Chapter X: Criteria and Indicators

1. International initiatives
2. Concepts implemented: criteria and indicators
3. Criteria and indicators for dry tropical africa
4. Implementation

1. International initiatives

The debate on criteria and indicators for sustainable development and for monitoring the evolution of forest ecosystems is comparatively recent.

The first guidelines for sustainable management were proposed in 1990, at the initiative of the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO). They were completed in 1992 with the publication of 5 criteria and 27 indicators applicable at national level, as well as 6 criteria and 23 indicators designed for monitoring at the level of forest management units. Subsequently, the United Nations Conference on Environmental Development (UNCED) revived the debate, by adopting the forestry principles and Agenda 21, and setting the conditions for international mobilization.

Many initiatives have since taken place including the following:

- September 1993 - The Montreal Seminar where a working group proposed a formulation of 7 criteria and 67 indicators;

- June 1994 - The Helsinki Process concerned with the temperate boreal and Mediterranean forests, which proposed 6 criteria and 27 indicators;

- February 1995 - The Tarapoto Initiative dealing with Amazonia, which adopted 12 criteria and 77 indicators;

- November 1995 - The Nairobi Meeting, which was more specifically devoted to dry tropical forests, of which the conclusions shall be examined here.

Since 1995, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) has been co-ordinating a series of international experiments, to test the main criteria and indicators proposed.

Together with CIFOR, the organizations behind these various initiatives include the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS); ITTO; FAO; the International Union of Forestry Research Organizations (IUFRO); the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF); and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Their collective action around these debates and experiments corresponds to the need to mobilize:

- countries, because the effectiveness of the approach depends on having a broad international consensus;

- skills, because monitoring of forest ecosystems requires a multidisciplinary approach which makes it possible to deal with the many aspects of forest ecosystems and their uses; and

- interests, because the implementation will require the co-operation of researchers, developers, managers, politicians, etc. This wide range of potential partners means many different points of view and considerations need to be taken into account.

The process is just beginning, and will need to be taken further not only in terms of debate and negotiation, but it also in terms of making genuine efforts to implement what is today still in the stage of design and experimentation and constitute only agreements in principle.

2. Concepts implemented: criteria and indicators

In the strict sense of the term, a criterion is a principle to which one makes reference. In our framework it is defined above all by its nature. It can be geographical, biological, physiological, sociological, economic, institutional, etc. This being so, all the criteria that have been adopted to describe the forest are associated with its nature, functions and representation. This enables us to illustrate the character of these concepts which is both absolute and relative; absolute, because they belong to a principle and a consensus, and constitute a benchmark, and relative, because to the extent that the criteria depend upon the nature of the object under study, they can evolve, at least in terms of their hierarchies. This is what happens when one moves away from humid zones to dry zones, from a local to a regional viewpoint. Taking up these latter two cases (humid/dry and local/regional) the relevance of considering a criterion linked to a global function of the biosphere can be discussed in terms of different situations.

With regard to the different ways of judging the state of a forest ecosystem, the criteria considered generally refer to the following:

- forest ecosystem as a biological system, its integrity, diversity and vitality;

- ecosystem as the support for a certain number of production and protection functions of the environment;

- ecosystem as a centre of socio-economic activities, and its relations with the different parties involved; and

- administrative, institutional and cultural framework of which it forms part.

Reference to a criterion is made in order to judge, evaluate or measure. This means that the criterion must be the object of a representation. An indicator is what makes it possible to show accurately what a particular criterion covers. For example, climatic indicators are temperature, rainfall, etc. One can easily imagine from this example that for one particular criterion, there can be a considerable number of indicators, which are complex, reliable, synthetic, quantifiable, etc.

In this sense, not all the criteria are equally complete, and in order to be taken properly into account, some of them can only be used after a great deal of metrological effort. The choice of the indicators also depend on simple and reasonable considerations. They are required to be:

- Relevant. Their reference to the objectives of sustainable management must be pertinent.

- Clear. They must be easy to interpret.

- Sound. They must specify unambiguously what they are supposed to measure and/or evaluate.

- Applicable. They must be practical to measure, and preferably cheaply and rapidly usable.

- Reliable. They must be objective and the measurement they give should be able to be repeated consistently.

3. Criteria and indicators for dry tropical africa

The criteria and indicators proposed below are the outcome of the UNEP/FAO Nairobi meeting (November 1995). They are given as examples. They correspond to an approach which is geographically and politically national in scale. Each criterion is followed by a short commentary which is not intended to ascertain the soundness of one or other of the choices, but makes it possible to reinstate and illustrate the ongoing debate.

Criterion 1: Conservation and improvement of forest resources, including their contribution to planetary carbon cycles:

- the total area of forests, plantations and other woodlands (with changes across time);

- biomass (and changes across time).

Comment 1: Within the framework of a silvo-pastoral approach, one can propose evaluating grazing land areas but a distinction may be drawn between their herbaceous or woody origins, specifying the periods of the year in which they are accessible.

Criterion 2: Maintaining and improving biological diversity in forest ecosystems.

Diversity of ecosystems:

- areas by type of vegetation (natural or artificial forests);
- areas under protection;
- forest fragmentation; and
- annual clearings in ecosystems where endemic species may not be affected.
Diversity of species:
- number of species linked to the forest environment (and their change across time);
- number of species, linked to the forest environment, threatened with extinction;
- land use systems for harvesting the resource used.
Genetic diversity:
- evolution in the average number of provenances (and their change across time);
- number of species linked to the forest environment with a limited distribution area;
- levels of key species populations in their distribution area;
- genetic resource management.
Comment 2: Some indicators, particularly those concerning ecosystem diversity can be reformulated (the notion of ‘station’) when applied in a local approach context. The indicators for animal diversity should also be introduced.

Criterion 3: Maintaining the health, vitality and integrity of forest ecosystems:

- Areas and percentages of forests (natural and man-made) modified by such processes or agents as:

- percentage of the area of natural forests with/without regeneration;
- changes in the balance of nutrients and soil acidity;
- crop yield trends;
- percentage of population working in agriculture and animal husbandry.
Comment 3: Within the framework of a silvo-pastoral approach, it might be interesting to specify the developments of the range lands associated with itinerant animal husbandry. Furthermore, wildlife stocking replenishment would be a real indicator of the health of the ecosystem (better than damage caused by wildlife). The same applies to the development of the soil fauna (termites, earthworms, etc.).

Criterion 4: Maintaining and improving the production functions of forests and other woodlands:

- percentage of forests and other woodlands managed according to a management plan;
- total stumpage volumes;
- balance between increment and extraction of wood (and evolution in time);
- average annual consumption of per capita fuelwood;
- extraction of non-wood forest products (and change across time):

Comment 4: Monitoring the extension of fuelwood extraction zones for the supply of urban areas could be considered as an indicator.

Criterion 5: Maintaining and improving the protection functions in forest management:

- areas and percentage of forests and other woodlands mainly managed to protect agricultural and/or grazing lands and/or to rehabilitate degraded lands; main infrastructure facilities relating to these objectives;

- areas and percentages of forests and other woodlands mainly managed for water production as well as the protection of watersheds and riparian zones against flooding;

- areas of forests and other woodlands managed for landscaping and leisure purposes.

Comment 5: It would be interesting to create economic indicators to ascertain the value of the investments effected.

Criterion 6: Maintaining the socio-economic benefits and advantages

Economic benefit economic indicators:

- the value of wood products;
- the value of non-wood products;
- the revenues from hunting and recreation (eco-tourism);
- the contribution of the forest sector to the GNP;
- promotion of the forest sector to primary and secondary industries;
- graduation of the biomass for energy purposes;
- the foreign trade balance of the forest sector;
- investment in the forest sector.
Indicators of shared benefits:
- job creation, particularly in the rural zones;
- degree of satisfaction of social, cultural and spiritual needs;
- benefits to the local communities (particularly women and young people);
- contribution to food security.
Comment 6: No economic indicator exists for animal husbandry, which might be a handicap. Furthermore, the level of taxation ploughed back into the services implementing the management scheme would also be a good indicator of appropriate benefit distribution.

Criterion 7: The relevance of the legal, institutional and political framework to sustainable forest management.

- the existence of a national forestry policy guaranteeing the integration of sustainable forest management in land use planning;

- the existence of a global legislative and regulatory framework;

- institutional capacity and the human and financial resources to implement forest policy, and the national and international laws, instruments and regulations;

- research/development capacity;

- the existence of economic and fiscal incentives to invest in the forest sector;

- exploiting local technologies, knowledge and know-how;

- the existence of measures to facilitate the transfer and adaptation of appropriate technologies;

- the existence of an administrative, political and legal framework which encourages the real participation of the local people, NGOs and the private sector in formulating, implementing and monitoring forestry policy.

Comment 7: Perhaps it could have been possible to better evaluate the local participation and organizations. Nothing is mentioned about substitute sources of energy. The legal, institutional and political framework for animal husbandry does not seem to have been taken into account (the same applies to non-wood products).

4. Implementation

The implementation of this strategy is only in its beginnings, and it would be an illusion to think that this list is sufficient as it stands. The next stages could include:

- further debate;

- an equitable consideration of the various criteria in a global approach to sustainable management;

- an extension of the criteria and indicators, which should include experimentation and adaptation to each main ecological, socio-economic and political framework;

- appropriation by countries and governments; and

- lastly, international recognition of each specificity to which the adaptation of general criteria to local particularities will not fail to give rise.

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