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2.1 Categories Of Services
2.2 Relationship Between Services of Forests and Forest Production
2.3 Institutional and Policy Environment
2.4 Issues In Maintenance of Services of Forests
2.5 Summary of Issues Related to Services Provided by Forests

The Asia-Pacific region is marked by a wide range of geographic and biological diversity. It includes the world's highest mountain systems, the second largest rainforest complex, more than half the world's coral reefs, and a diversity of island systems. Additionally, the region includes segments of three biogeographic divisions. There is consequently a high level of species diversity and endemism (Braatz 1992). However, this diversity and endemism is coming under increasing threat. According to Braatz (1992:1), "unless immediate, decisive steps are taken to counter the effects of deforestation and other forms of natural resource destruction in the Asia-Pacific region, much of Asia's biodiversity will be irreversibly lost within this generation."

Biodiversity loss is occurring through a combination of factors such as poverty, population increases and models of economic development that incorporate nature as a resource for exploitation. In this region, conservationists face "the twin challenges of development and under-development.... The region's countries are grappling with difficult choices governed by geopolitical, economic and demographic forces" (IUCN Bulletin 1993:12).

This section provides an overview of the various services of forests available within the Asia-Pacific region. Its aim is to introduce this variety within the context of services of forests being contested. That is, services of forests, their use and their conservation, may mean different things to different groups across the region. An example of this is the question of protection from what and for what? For instance, when conflicts arise between uses, such as ecotourism and indigenous use, which should take priority?

Services provided by forests cover a wide range of ecological, political, economic, social and cultural considerations and processes. This diversity means that there are no easy management solutions, and management is not a technical, mechanical process but one that must necessarily incorporate a variety of competing interest groups and views.

2.1 Categories Of Services

Ecological services
Economic services
Sociocultural services
Scenic and landscape services and values
The relative importance of the various services

Broadly speaking, services of forests can be categorized according to a number of criteria that incorporate specific processes. It should be noted that these categories are not exhaustive, nor are they discrete.

Ecological services

There are a number of components to the broad range of ecological services that forests provide. According to Sousson, Shrestha and Uprety (1995), these include (c.f., World Bank 1997):

· the regulation of water regimes by intercepting rainfall and regulating its flow through the hydrological system;

· the maintenance of soil quality and the provision of organic materials through leaf and branch fall;

· the limiting of erosion and protection of soil from the direct impact of rainfall;

· modulating climate; and

· being key components of biodiversity both in themselves and as a habitat for other species.

Whilst these services are important, this report is more concerned with those that have a more specifically human dimension: economic and sociocultural services.

Economic services

Clearly, forests form the basis of a variety of industries including timber, processed wood and paper, rubber, and fruits. However, they also contain products that are necessary to the viability of rural agricultural communities. These products include fuel and fodder, game, fruits, building materials, medicines and herbs (Sousson, Shrestha and Uprety 1995).

Additionally, grazing occurs within forests, and local woodlands are used to satisfy basic needs. Rural people also grow crops on temporary plots within the forest, often on a rotational basis. These forest products contribute to a diverse rural economy and security when times are difficult. Therefore, the loss of these resources undermines the viability of agricultural practices in the developing world (Sousson, Shrestha and Uprety 1995).

Sociocultural services

Knudston and Suzuki (1992) have explored the protective function of culture within a comparative perspective. Others note that, for millennia, humanity has had a social and cultural basis for protecting nature. Forests are home to millions of people world-wide, and many of these people are dependent on the forests for their survival (Sousson, Shrestha and Uprety 1995). In addition, many people have strong cultural and spiritual attachments to the forests. Therefore, forest destruction undermines the capacities of these people to survive economically, culturally and spiritually.

The issue of indigenous knowledge is also important. Many local people understand how to conserve and use forest resources. It has been argued that forests currently are being destroyed, in part, because of the non-forest dwellers' lack of knowledge about how best to exploit the vast diversity of medicines, foods, natural fertilizers and pesticides that forests contain (Posey 1993).

Spirituality is important as well. The Hindu viewpoint on nature, for example, is based on a recognition that nature and its orders of life (such as trees, forests and animals) are all bound to each other. Thus we can understand services of forests within the Hindu cosmology to include religious values. Other indigenous cosmologies involve a highly-important role for forests and other components of the natural world. Thus, indigenous belief systems have a major protective role in a culture's relationships with the natural world, and in nature's relationship with a culture.

Scenic and landscape services and values

This more general set of services highlights ideas of aesthetics and beauty as components of services of forests. For example, the Himalayas provide a service within this context, and one within which ecotourism operates. From a tourist's perspective, these values may be high on their decision making priorities, which would indicate protection of these services are important for ecotourism. Scenic and landscape values also may be important for residents.

The relative importance of the various services

It is extremely difficult to compare the importance of the various services provided by forests. In part, this is due to the fact that there is no universally accepted common metric that can be used in such measurement. However, economists and others have tried to measure various services, economic and otherwise, using the metric of economic value. It should be stressed that non-economists often oppose the use of this metric and that the metric requires strong assumptions. Nonetheless, estimates of the economic value of various services of forests does provide one indication of their importance relative to each other and to timber production and non-timber forest products.

Recently, Costanza et al. (1997) estimated the economic value of various services of forests at the global level. These values should be considered extremely rough estimates 1) because of the assumptions involved in their calculation and 2) because they are based on global, rather than regional, evaluations. Their estimates of annual economic value for services of the forest are:


Value (1994 US$ ha-1 yr-1)

Nutrient cycling


Climate regulation


Raw materials


Erosion control


Waste treatment




Food production


Genetic resources


Soil formation


Water supply


Disturbance regulation


Water regulation


Biological control




Total value ($ ha-1 yr-1)


Though these estimates should be treated with caution and represent value that partly accrues to people living outside the region, they indicate the significant importance of services of forests.

2.2 Relationship Between Services of Forests and Forest Production

Conflicts arise between the relative importance of services compared to other factors, such as production values. In one respect, conflict can be seen as arising out of different values related to forests, some of which are subtle and relate to cross-cultural differences in interpreting protection or use. Issues surrounding rights of access by logging companies in countries, such as Papua New Guinea, with customary tenure systems provide examples of conflicts arising over competing values related to services of forests, the rights of indigenous people, and land tenure.

In the specific context of ecotourism, there have been some positive outcomes from forest production. For example, forestry roads enhance access to areas for ecotourists, and small clearcuts can enhance views and can be used as camping places. Moreover, harvest of selected trees within an area can enhance the experience for some visitors (further discussion of silvicultural effects on visitor experiences is provided by Brunson (1996) and Mattson and Li (1994)).

However, extensive clearcuts will reduce or eliminate demand for most types of ecotourism. Put simply, ecotourists are motivated to experience a natural environment that is perceived as intact and generally pristine. Though some level of environmental degradation may be overlooked or tolerated, noticeably degraded landscapes will be unappealing to most visitors. As dark (1987) suggests, the overriding question is not whether ecotourism should be integrated with other resource uses, but where, when and how such integration can be achieved.

2.3 Institutional and Policy Environment

Across the region, national and state governments largely determine how forests can be used. This is an approach to management that often has been implemented at the expense of indigenous or local management and control. This often has meant a loss of control at the local level, either by indigenous groups themselves or by local people who live in the forests or use its services, thereby potentially creating a situation in which certain services of forests (such as spiritual or religious values) are ignored or not recognized within the forest policy context.

However, there have been policy initiatives that reflect a movement away from a centralized top-down approach to management and government intervention. Two of examples of these initiatives are 1) the strengthening of protected area management and 2) a movement towards social and community forestry. These initiatives are described in Section 4.1.

2.4 Issues In Maintenance of Services of Forests

The wide range in services of forests highlights the diversity of forest "uses," and reinforces the idea that, for many people, forests have more than economic value. Thus, we are sometimes left with the tension between diverse forest uses, which is intertwined with priorities and the way forests are valued.

The immediate value of forests for timber continues to dominate considerations of forest management by individuals, corporate owners and even governments that represent the public trust. The reasons are many, and include tax policies, ownership of land, tenure issues, economic exigencies, greed, and corruption.

Dwivedi (1992) argues that viewing forests as a "resource" leads to an excessive weight being applied to economic value, and that it is crucial to now search out a new concept of forest "resources." There are signs that this is occurring. It is possible to see that the concept of "ownership" of forests is changing, in recognition that forests are an important part of the global commons. The public consequently has an important interest in forests and their conservation, not only because of the dependence of life on forests but for other interests such as ecotourism (Woodwell 1993).

Some of the major issues related to services of forests are geopolitical. Though forests are physically located within nation states, issues surrounding their protection go well beyond borders (Maini and Ullsten 1993). This means global geopolitical relations play an important part in the policy context of forestry resource management in the Asia-Pacific region, whether through the calls for international treaties on the banning of hardwoods, green consumerism, or access to the genetic resources of forests by private companies. For Maini and Ullsten (1993), many geopolitical issues can be distilled into four contexts which set the scene for forest management and forest service maintenance:

· The industrialized countries, which are responsible for major deforestation, are advocating strong measures to conserve and protect the world's forests. Many developing countries are rightly concerned that the industrialized countries' preoccupation with tropical forest issues is inconsistent with the amount of attention being paid to global warming and forest decline in developed countries.

· Many developing countries view attempts to protect forests by locking up forest resources as an intrusion on sovereign rights.

· The capacity of developing countries to protect biodiversity is dependent on receiving additional funding and technologies from richer countries.

· Many developing countries have expressed concern at the desire of some industrialized countries to gain free access to genetic resources.

Many geopolitical issues are thus related to more general relationships between nation states. It is often suggested that the development of agricultural lands has been at the expense of forests. This process often involves privatizing communally owned forests and grasslands (Repetto 1993). Two major issues related to services of forests arise out of this. First, because the traditional land rights claims of indigenous and local communities frequently are ignored or not included, land at the frontier is often an open access resource. Because of this market failure, the private price of frontier land cannot and does not reflect the value of services performed by forests (Repetto 1993).

The second relates to the argument that one needs to clear-cut in order to open up agriculture. Because clear-cutting is associated with agriculture, and because in many countries of the Asia-Pacific there are high levels of rural poverty, it is relatively easy to suggest that poor people are the cause of some forest destruction. Just how much depends on the ways in which researchers interpret their information and the paradigms they use, the level of poverty and so on. But this approach, which has been highlighted in research in countries such as Nepal and India, often fails to look at the causes of poverty. Therefore, the emphasis on the relationship between agriculture and forest use may provide only a partial picture, and therefore a partial solution.

Social and cultural issues vary across regions and across cultures within regions. The Asia-Pacific region shares with other regions this diversity, only some of which can be addressed here:

· Issue: inter-generational responsibilities and the rights of forest dwellers, indigenous people and communities living in and around forests and who are dependent on them. There are a number of specific components under this issue, including relocation and resettlement of populations, perceptions by the state (that are reflected in policies) that local or indigenous people are "backward" because of their beliefs and/or level of socio-economic development, and the uses of indigenous knowledge and issues associated with the transfer of intellectual property rights.

· Issue: the impact of forest destruction on norms and values of indigenous and local cultures as well as the impact of cultural change on forest use by these people. In many cultures within the Asia-Pacific, shrines and initiation rite ceremonies, taboos and other cultural values have developed to protect trees, shrubs and the sacred places themselves. Whilst this protective function has religious or spiritual significance, it also acts as an important mechanism for the reinforcement of local cultural values and, often, as a mechanism for conflict resolution. The destruction of forests, the relocation and resettlement of forest dependent communities and broader processes of social change serve to undermine these value systems and their broader community function.

2.5 Summary of Issues Related to Services Provided by Forests

Dominant values of forests have come to be equated with economic resources in an extractive industry that has contributed to forest loss regionally. As part of this, the social, cultural and ecological components of services of forests have been largely unrecognized or ignored.

The search for economic development in the region is an important one, but pathways towards development have environmental and social costs in terms of the destruction of services of forests. In this context, one person or group's economic development can be another person's or group's loss of culture, religion or beliefs. Attempts at drawing some people into the economic mainstream may result in the marginalization of others.

What is needed is a mechanism whereby the diversity of services that forests provide can be protected, while forests can still provide economic benefit to local and indigenous people, countries and others within the region. Such an approach would need to recognize the diversity of services from forests, but would also need to recognize the sociocultural basis for these services, especially as they relate to indigenous and local people's rights. It would need to broaden out the predominant concept of forests that emphasizes economic considerations to include broader functions as well as provide a means to replace, at least partially, the economic benefits that have to be foregone to maintain the broad range of services of forests. It would also need to ensure that economic and social development occurs within the region by emphasizing the rights of local people. Ecotourism can be one such mechanism.

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