Bernhard Wolfslehner, Harald Vacik, Manfred J. Lexer, Andrea Würz, Eduard Hochbichler, Raphael Klumpp and Josef Spörk
Resolution L2 including the Pan-European Operational Level Guidelines (PEOLG) for Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) was adopted at the Third Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe in 1998. The PEOLG form a common framework of recommendations that can be used on a voluntary basis and as a complement to national and/or regional instruments to further promote sustainable forest management at the field level in forest areas in Europe. Based on these guidelines this study aims to identify and clarify the implications of an implementation of the guidelines at forest management unit (FMU) level. The implications are analysed with regard to varying economic targets, as well as to different spatial, socio-economic and bioregional frames.
A system analysis approach is presented for the development of a criteria and indicators (C&I) set from these guidelines and the theoretical evaluation of SFM. Within a Delphi survey an expert panel consisting of representatives of science, administration, forest enterprises and non-governmental organizations evaluated the C&I set with regard to validity, practicality, relevance and importance of the indicators. Possible threshold values for the quantitative indicators and the relative importance of the indicators had been derived from expert opinions. Multi-criteria analysis (MCA) was adopted to structure the assessment of SFM. The Analytic Network Process (ANP) is proposed to evaluate the overall cumulative importance of all indicators within the assessment model for SFM by integrating linkages and feedbacks into the decision system.
The theoretical framework will be evaluated through its practical use in several case studies. Findings from these case studies will feed back into the model development and improvement process. Forest managers might use the evaluation model as in integrated part of an ecosystem-management decision-support system to improve decision-making based on a better understanding of the effects of SFM techniques at strategic and tactical planning levels.
1.1 Sustainable forest management in Europe
European forest ecosystems grow in a wide and diverse range of ecological conditions, from boreal to Mediterranean and from alpine to lowlands. These forests have been influenced by human settlement and action over the centuries, and in some countries forest plantations constitute a major part of the resource. Negative ecological effects caused by past agricultural utilization especially of mountain forests (excessive grazing, pruning and litter harvesting, browsing of sheep and goats, cultivation by burning over), inhibited natural regeneration, deforestation or unstable forests followed by erosion and landslide especially at steep slopes are the main problems in European forests. Additionally there is growing demand for recreation facilities and alternate earning capacities by urban society which has various impacts on forest ecosystems especially in the Alpine Region.
Forest management in Europe is characterized by a high significance of private, fragmented, small-scale farm-related ownership structures in the majority of countries. As forests especially in the mountains fulfill a broader range of functions than those in flatlands while having to face particularly difficult climatic and economic constraints, multi-functionality and the increasing demands are an important issue frequently raised in relation to sustainable forest management.
The concept of sustainability, in particular of timber production, has a long tradition in forestry in Europe. Since the 1990s sustainable forest management (SFM) has become a highly relevant topic both in forest and environmental policy. In the wake of UNCED Conference in 1992 the concept of sustainability became a public interest. In Europe, this trend was topped at the 2nd Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe (MCPFE) in Helsinki, 1993 when SFM was defined and adopted at a politically binding level (Resolutions H1 and H2). Facing the 1990´s the traditional meaning of sustained yield was realized to get radically expanded (Glück 1995). It is now more precisely defined as stewardship and use of forests and forest land in a way, and at a rate, that maintains their biodiversity, productivity, generation capacity, vitality and their potential to fulfill, now and in the future, relevant ecological, economic and social functions, at local, national and global levels [...] (MCPFE 1993).
1.2. The Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe (MCPFE)
The establishment of the MCPFE results both in the will for a concerted effort at political level to protect and further improve the sustainable management of European forests as well as since Helsinki 1993 in a follow-up of the UNCED-Conference.
Within the Follow-Up Process the pan-European national level criteria and indicators were adopted. They are a policy instrument for evaluating and reporting progress towards sustainable forest management, in individual European countries and in Europe as a whole.
While the indicator set has just been revised and improved for the 4th Ministerial Conference in Vienna (April 2003) the six criteria were agreed to be steady in terms and meaning:
- C 1: Maintenance and Appropriate Enhancement of Forest Resources and their Contribution to Global Carbon Cycles
- C 2: Maintenance of Forest Ecosystem Health and Vitality
- C 3: Maintenance and Encouragement of Productive Functions of Forests (wood and non-wood)
- C4: Maintenance, Conservation and Appropriate Enhancement of Biological Diversity in Forest Ecosystems
- C 5: Maintenance and Appropriate Enhancement of Protective Functions in Forest Management (notably soil and water)
- C 6: Maintenance of other Socio-Economic Functions and Conditions
Based on these criteria the Pan-European Operational Level Guidelines (PEOLG) have been elaborated to further promote sustainable forest management in Europe by translating the international commitments down to the level of forest management planning and practices and have also been adopted in the frame of Resolution L2. They represent a common framework of recommendations to be used on a voluntary basis and as a complement to national and/or regional instruments to further promote sustainable forest management at the field level, on forest areas in Europe (MCPFE 1998). Within Resolution L2 European countries commit themselves inter alia to promote the PEOLG and to adapt them to the specific national, sub-national and local economic, ecological, social and cultural conditions.
In this paper we want to present a system analysis approach for assessing sustainable forest management at FMU level based on the PEOLG by using an C&I approach. Results of a Delphi survey are described.
2.1 Recent C&I approaches
The demand to assess SFM has generally evolved to the use of criteria and indicators because they appear to be highly capable of measuring aspects of SFM at national, regional and forest management unit level. The strength of an C&I approach is that it can collect and report information in a (SFM) system which is characterized by a lack of knowledge, uncertainties and information about impacts, dependencies and feedbacks. Raising thus awareness and political commitment to SFM builds a sequential benefit. It must not be concealed that the pouvoir of C&I is limited when they are unclear defined, they lack reliability, they fail in providing target values or they lead to a too strong simplification of a complex item (Brang et al. 2002). However, using C&I sets has become a very common way to assess or evaluate aspects of SFM. According to Prabhu et al. (1999) a criterion is a principle or standard that a issue is judged by and an indicator is defined as any variable or component of the forest ecosystem used to infer the status of a particular criterion. Different approaches used for certification issues or assessment of forest conditions are described in scientific literature (e.g. Brang et al. 1999, Mendoza et al. 1999, Mendoza and Prabhu 2000a-c, Varma et al. 2000, Mrosek & Balsillie 2001). Recently there is a shift to a more scientific point of view regarding C&I based assessment of SFM (Mendoza and Prabhu 2002).
2.2 System analysis approach for assessing SFM
SFM is not just an ecological issue, in fact there is a network of ecological, economic and socio-economic aspects which increases problem complexity and analysis of the system. SFM at a local level is embedded in a network of external and internal relationships. Due to the intrinsic complex nature of assessing sustainability, it is difficult to develop a framework that has universal applicability (Mendoza and Prabhu 2002). Desirable characteristics of a well defined framework could be described as holistic and systematic. The analysis of all system-wide elements should be comprehensive and interactive (Bell and Morse 1999). Forest management problems regarding to SFM can hardly be solved, or even addressed, when a fragmented approach to indicators is taken. Within a system analysis approach indicators should allow to refer to the context of forest management, measure the quantity and quality of actions taken in forest management and the responds of the forest system to these actions (Duinker, 2001). A systematic framework implies a structured process employing the principles of dynamic system analysis.
Fig. 1: Evolutionary system analysis approach from PEOLG to the assessment of SFM at FMU level
This study aims to assess SFM at forest management unit (FMU) level by using C&I for different spatial scales and shaping of forest management objectives with regard to the Pan-European Operational Level Guidelines. The PEOLG have been developed to cover all SFM relevant measures concerning forest management planning and practice within European forestry. This induces that they are just quasi-operational and have to be adapted at specific national, sub-national and local conditions. The PEOLG will be operationalized for the specific situations faced in mountain forest ecosystems. The principle of SFM is holistically addressed by using a system oriented approach in examining interactions, connections, linkages and relationships between indicators which might have direct and indirect consequences on sustainability at FMU level. To provide a structure for the generation of indicators, multi-criteria analysis (MCA) is proposed. MCA is a general approach that can be used to analyse complex problems involving multiple criteria. Consequently, an indicator catalogue was developed by an expert panel using a Delphi survey which is expected to be an applicable background for analysis and evaluation of SFM at FMU level. Findings from this case studies will feedback into model development and improve the assessment process (Figure 1).
2.3 Delphi survey for deriving expert opinions
Delphi method is an approach of choice when aiming at synthesizing expert knowledge and opinions on complex issues. It is appropriate for problems where detailed data are lacking, uncertainty is large and informal judgments are a fundamental source of information (Linstone and Turoff 1975; Hess and King 2002). For a reliable result anonymity, iteration, controlled feedback and statistical aggregation of group response are the key features and of highest concern.
Within this study a Delphi survey was used to induce and guide a negotiation process on SFM amongst experts and stakeholders at a scientific level. The expert panel (41 persons) consists of representatives of science (39%), forest administration (22%), forest stakeholders (20%), forest enterprises (17%) and ENGOs (2%). The results of the survey are to come up with the major items:
- identify relevant items of SFM (indicators) with regard to the PEOLG
- aggregation and determination of optimal areas (targets/thresholds) for specific features of SFM contributing to ecological, economic and socio-cultural aspects of a forest enterprise
- weighting criteria and indicators due to their relevance in a network system of ecological, economic and socio-economic aspects
- describing the linkages and feedbacks of indicators with regard to SFM
- check of validity, practicality, measurability of the indicator set.
3.1 Indicator set
The expert panel of the Delphi survey helped to work out 43 indicators based on the six criteria of the PEOLG including definition of specific target levels, data investigation methods as spatial and temporal scale of measurements. For each indicator the relevance with regard to the PEOLG in the context of SFM, the practicality (indicates a measure for available or easily obtainable data), the importance with regard to SFM and the influence on other indicators in the set was assessed (Table 1). Interrelationships of SFM indicators influencing each other are pointed out in a coordinate system following Ulrich and Probst (1995) (Figure 2). For instance indicator possibility to access forests by forest roads (24) is of medium relevance with regard to the PEOLG, a highly practical indicator but was rated as critical element. Indicator number of old tress (30) is of medium importance with regard to SFM and was rated as rigid element in the forest management system.
Figure 2: SFM indicators influencing each other - categorization
A main task identified by the experts is the need to specify and adapt the C&I set to the preconditions of small scale forestry relevant in Central European forestry. It becomes evident that indicators on management planning and economics are of limited practicality within small scale forestry. Limited data availability is another main characteristic.
The question of potential target or threshold values has not yet been solved within the Delphi survey. Target ranges gained from rating distributions deliver a rather unspecific view. There is still a lack of adaptation for biogeographical use. It will be objective of several case studies to refine the C&I set to specifics of scale, data availability and bioregions.
Within the policy arena there are recommendations to a more qualitative evaluation up to refusal of quantitative values as heralds of new forestry norms.
Table 1: List of indicators and expert ratings
3.2 Network Model for assessing SFM
Multi-criteria analysis (MCA) is often used to analyze and evaluate C&I approaches. Most of the present sets of indicators are represented as hierarchies of concepts in which indicators are clustered and subordinated to criteria. It is conceivable that although individual indicators appear to be suitable interactions may not be apparent if indicators are assessed without examining their interrelationships (Mendoza and Prabhu 2002). Imaging and investigating a network structure as feature of an SFM evaluation model tries to compensate those limits. The Analytic Network Process (ANP) by Saaty (1999) is proposed to evaluate the overall cumulative importance of all indicators within the assessment model for SFM by integrating linkages and feedbacks into the decision system.
The structure of the model is described by its clusters and elements, and by the connection between them. These connections indicate the flow of influence between the elements. Indicators are clustered with regard to the Pan-European criteria (Figure 3). It is a characteristic of SFM that some of the indicators would fit to more than one cluster. Thus they are assigned to a cluster (criterion) due to their main connex. For instance there are only two indicators mainly assigned to criterion 5 (protective functions) but a lot of related indicators have an influence on this criterion (as indicated by the arrows coming into the cluster). This indicates cluster 5 as a very passive one (comp. Figure 2).
Figure 3: Network model describing the linkages and feedbacks of the C&I set
The importance of influences are estimated by the eigenvalue method based on pairwise comparisons between the indicators. All elements (indicators and alternatives) of the model are compared within and between clusters towards the goal (SFM). In a second step the influences among the elements and clusters are compared with respect to each (control) criterion (Saaty 1999). In this case we would come up with six supermatrices which are weighted by the priority of its control criterion and synthesized to one global stochastic supermatrix for preference analysis.
The proposed structure of the ANP model will allow decision alternatives (e.g. strategic forest management options at FMU level) thus be chosen according to their consequences instead of their attributes. It will be possible to identify elements with the highest impact on SFM.
The theoretical framework will be evaluated through its practical use in several case studies. The findings and results from this case studies will feedback into the model development and improvement process. After proving the general applicability of the evaluation system it will be possible to analyze the compatibility of existing management regimes with the PEOLG. It will also be possible to compare different management scenarios in order to find the best alternative.
The C&I system analysis approach will help to identify relevant items of SFM in Austria.
The implications are to be analyzed with regards to varying economics targets as well as to different spatial, socio-economic and bioregional frames.
This study is a contribution to the commitment at the MCPFE to generate and promote monitoring and evaluation tools in order to assess SFM at FMU level. It aims to build an evaluation model which is applicable for performance analysis in terms of operational indicators and reference values.
Despite the multitude of political initiatives to establish SFM in Europe there is still a lack of implementation tools especially at the field level. It appears to be very difficult to agree on target variables, i.e. performance standards which allow to assess the degree to which SFM remain off target from the objectives (Rametsteiner 2001, Glück 1995). On the other hand a veritable lack of scientific knowledge and data sources becomes evident.
There are growing expectations that managers can demonstrate SFM by quantifying progress towards goals and outcomes (Raison et al. 2001). To exceed the formulation and planning status of SFM initiatives it is of prime importance to develop operational guidelines and indicators to monitor and evaluate outcomes and processes of SFM.
Due to the complexity of the concept of SFM the enhanced network approach of including feedback and dependencies between the elements of SFM seems an appropriate way. In forest management this could lead to a new integral non-linear approach of strategic decision making and evaluation of forest management alternatives. Integrating information about interdependencies within a SFM system could lead to a more transparent and comprehensible decision making in forest management. It is intended to promote an enhanced understanding of the key factors influencing planning and decision making in SFM at the forest management unit level.
Forest managers can use the evaluation model to improve decision making based on a better understanding of the effects of SFM techniques at strategic and tactical planning levels of FMU. The evaluation model may be linked to a decision support system for sustainable forest management which allows owners to evaluate management strategy and practices with regard to SFM.
This study is supported by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management in Austria. It was made possible with the assistance and active participation of a wide range of experts in the field of natural resource management in Europe.
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