Forestry and ICAM

Forests are defined by the FAO Forestry Department as "all vegetation formations with a minimum of 10 percent crown cover of trees and/or bamboo with a minimum height of 5 m and generally associated with wild flora, fauna and natural soil conditions". In many countries, coastal areas such as beaches, dunes, swamps and wildlands - even when they are not covered with trees - are officially designated as "forested" lands and thus fall under the management responsibility of the Forestry Department or similar agency.

Forest resources (including wildlife) of coastal areas are frequently so different from their inland counterparts as to require different and special forms of management and conservation approaches. Mangroves and tidal forests for example have no parallels in terrestrial uplands. As a result, the information, policy and management requirements concerning integrated coastal area management (ICAM) for forestry are also different.


Special features of the coastal forestry sector include the following:

  • coastal forests comprise a large number of diverse natural and human-created ecosystems;
  • there are important links between coastal forests and other terrestrial and marine coastal ecosystems;
  • coastal forest ecosystems provide a large number of unpriced services;
  • the value of untraded forest products, social use values and indirect use values (environmental services) often far exceeds the value of traded forest products; consequently, option and existence values of coastal forests are likely to be high, although these values are often neglected in land-use and forest management decisions;
  • a lack of awareness of the total benefits provided by coastal forests and policy and management decisions are dominated by their direct economic value alone;
  • large natural and human-incurred factors threaten the existence of many remaining natural coastal forests and, coupled with a pervading uncertainty, make the management of these forests a complex task;
  • a long time frame is needed in forest planning and management;
  • certain forest-related actions are irreversible;
  • most coastal forests are owned by the state, but there is often de facto open access;
  • a large number of institutions have jurisdiction over parts of the coastal forest resources.


These issues have important implications for land-use planning and for the management of coastal forests. Recommended actions include:

  • sound and clear criteria, based on environmental suitability and on socio-cultural and economic valuation of direct and indirect benefits provided by different uses, must be employed in land-use classification and allocation;
  • an integrated, area-based approach must be taken to the planning and management of coastal forest ecosystems, and coordinated between agencies;
  • multipurpose management must be introduced for individual forests;
  • a precautionary approach to coastal forest management must be employed and strategies and plans must be flexible and must build on local knowledge and expertise;
  • responsibility for forest management must be devolved upon local institutions and the capability of these to manage forests for multiple purposes must be strengthened; where traditional forest management systems exist, they should be reinforced;
  • public participation should be encouraged in all aspects of coastal forest management planning and implementation;
  • research is needed on the interdependence of coastal forests and other coastal ecosystems and on the quantification and mitigation of negative impacts between sectors;
  • inappropriate subsidies and other policies adversely affecting the coastal forestry sector should be removed;
  • legislation on conservation and development of natural resources in coastal areas should be framed, revised or amended in line with agreed integrated management policies.
Extracted from:Integrated coastal area management and agriculture, forestry and fisheries, FAO Guidelines, FAO, Rome, 1998.
last updated:  Thursday, November 3, 2005