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In this report, analytical framework is understood to mean the various methods of analyzing and highlighting relevant features of forest-related definitions as well as their similarities and differences. An essential element of the framework is that the key elements are visualized, or presented in a tabular form to facilitate understanding of differences and shared features between definitions. In the tables where binary presentation is applied, `1' indicates that the instrument in question makes a reference to the concept, and `0' means that the concept is not explicitly mentioned.

The aim of the analysis is not to propose detailed formulations, but to point out optional approaches towards harmonized or more compatible formulations that would be practical and acceptable for use by various stakeholders. Harmonization relates, above all, to the process of making various definitions comparable and consistent with each other (see Box 1.1).

One of the principal approaches to harmonization is adjustment of data. In other words, data collected under one definition framework is adapted to the needs of another by applying conversions. These conversions may be a result of set logic, supplementary studies, scientific literature, statistics, or expert judgment. The method has been successfully applied e.g. in the context of FRA when data from national level is adjusted to global needs and vice versa. The same approach can be applied to harmonizing global definitions.

Box 1.1 Key Terminology (Countercheck with Oxford Dictionary)

In this report, the following definitions are used for key generic concepts related to harmonization. They are derived from the approach proposed in TBFRA 2000 (cf. Koehl, 2000)


Making existing definitions, which denote the same or closely related concepts, comparable and consistent.

Comparability of definitions

Definitions are set so that their possible differences can be identified and data based on one definition can be converted to meet the needs of another, related definition.

Compatibility of definitions

Definitions are aligned, congruous, and not conflicting with each other.

Consistency of definitions

Internal agreement of various elements of definitions, or agreement between systems of definitions.


Applying the same definitions for a concept within different contexts, or applying the same rules for how locally applicable definitions are defined.

Another approach is to decompose definitions denoting similar concepts into smaller elements. This makes it possible to identify both common and distinguishing elements based on which data can be collected and compiled to meet the requirements of various definitions (Figure 1.1). In this manner, comparability of definitions and data can be achieved.

Figure 1.1 Decomposing of Definitions

One of the most significant benefits of harmonization is that monitoring and reporting data on common elements could be shared by several processes without unnecessary data conversion. The analysis pays therefore special attention to compatibility with FRA definitions given its current role as the principal monitoring system at the global level. Priority areas for harmonization are those which would significantly facilitate and reduce the burden of separate data collection or laborious adjustments. A key area is land use dynamics, i.e. transfers between land use classes, which are a focal area of global monitoring.

It should be noted that standardization of definitions, i.e. using the same definitions for several frameworks, should not necessarily be the aim of harmonization. Only if differences between existing definitions are minor, it may be feasible to merge the various definitions by using common wordings. On the other hand, there may be instances, where new terms become important, and where it may be possible to standardize the respective definitions at the outset and avoid the need for later harmonization, e.g. in the new field of "carbon forestry".


The analysis is concentrated on selected core definitions related to four international processes: the UNFCCC, the CBD, the ITTO and the FRA (Table 1.1). Other Conventions and initiatives such as UNCCD, Tehran Process, UNFF, Millennium Assessment, C&I processes, etc. have chosen not to develop separate sets of definitions, and they are largely depending on formulations provided by others.

Table 1.1 Main Processes Providing Forest-related Definitions







Protection and enhancement of sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases ... [and] promotion of sustainable forest management practices, afforestation and reforestation

The objectives of this Convention ... are the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources

To promote and support research and development with a view to improving forest management well as increasing the capacity to conserve and enhance other forest values in timber producing tropical forests

Forest Resources Assessments

are to estimate the benefits from the forest, ultimately including all goods and services. ... the scope of FRA should be guided by the agreed criteria for sustainable forest management, i.e. including carbon stocks, biodiversity, and productive, protective and socio-economic functions of forests


Kyoto Protocol Art 2 (ii)

Convention on Biodiversity Art. 1

ITTA Agreement, Art 1 (f)

FRA homepage forestry/fo/fra/index.jsp

Purpose of forest-related definitions8

To enable assessment of carbon stocks and their changes

To enable quantification and characterization of forest biodiversity on multiple scales

To facilitate implementation of practical forest management

To enable comprehensive and integrated assessment of supply of goods and services from the forest

Available definitions

Kyoto Protocol/. Marrakech Accords/
Annex: Definitions, modalities, rules and guidelines relating to land use, land-use change and forestry activities under the Kyoto Protocol

UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA 2001. Indicative definitions taken from the Report of the ad hoc Technical Expert Group on Forest Biological Diversity

ITTO 2002. ITTO Guidelines for the Restoration, Management and Rehabilitation of Degraded and Secondary Tropical Forests, Draft Report/ Appendix 9 Glossary of main terms used

FAO 2000a. Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000 - Main Report - FRA 2000, Forestry Paper 140

While global consistency is sought, some parameters still need further harmonization documents/accords_draft.pdf

IPCC Guidelines and GPG programmes/areas/forest/definitions.asp ittcdd_ses/thirty_second_sessions.html forestry/index.jsp

Obstacles to compatibility with other schemes

Requirement of symmetry in accounting changes in carbon stock as well as the focus on carbon stock
Controversial aspects are due to differing political interests among parties

Concentration on environmental aspects

Focus on practical forest management with extensive requirements for data collection and reporting

Possible inconsistencies in long-term time series

Focus on national-level assessments

The observed differences among available definitions are mainly due to the purposes for which definitions have been formulated, but also unawareness of existing definitions and political interests have caused differences. For example, the definitions for Articles 3.3 and 3.4 of the Kyoto Protocol (KP) agreed upon after extensive negotiations are highly context-specific and related to the roles of forests in climate change and carbon accounting, reporting and verification. The differences of these definitions in relation to other schemes rise mainly from their focus on carbon, and the requirement for symmetry in accounting changes in the carbon stock.

The CBD treats forests as a functional ecosystem unit which should be conserved, used sustainably, and the benefits derived from it should be equitably shared. In this sense, CBD's view on forests is function and ecosystem oriented. The differences in relation to other frameworks are mainly due to their focus on environmental aspects.

The forest-related definitions developed by ITTO (ITTO 2002) serve, in particular, to complement ITTO's guidelines for sustainable forest management. The differences with other schemes are primarily attributable to the fact that ITTO definitions are not necessarily used as a basis for reporting, which is one of the primary functions for other schemes.9

The different sets of definitions overlap and related definitions can be found in several instruments. The terms included in the analysis and their grouping is provided in Table 1.2.

Table 1.2 Terms Included in the Analysis and Their Grouping

Terms/Group terms








(Degraded forest land)


Forest land

Forest land, forested land, non-forested land


Non-forest land

Revegetation (devegetation), grazing land, crop land


Other wooded land, trees outside forest, other land

Changes between forest and non-forest

Afforestation, reforestation, deforestation


Afforestation, reforestation

Afforestation, reforestation, deforestation, natural regeneration, natural expansion of forests

Forest degradation


Degraded forest


Forest degradation

Undisturbed forest

Unmanaged forests*)

Primary forest, old-growth forest


Forest undisturbed by man

Degraded forest*)


Secondary forest

Degraded primary forest, secondary forest

Natural forest disturbed by man

Managed forest

Forest management


Managed natural forest

Managed forest

Forest aggradation*)


(Forest) rehabilitation, (forest) restoration

Forest improvement



Forest fragmentation


Forest classification


Forest biome, forest type, forest ecosystem

Forest type

Ecological zone, domain

Human impact*)

Directly and indirectly human-induced

Human induced (forest degradation)


Forest plantation


Plantation forest

Planted forest

Forest plantation

*) These terms are discussed in Annex 1.

8 These formulations are an interpretation made by the authors of this document.

9 ITTO has also developed a reporting format how member countries should provide information on the progress made towards sustainable forest management. The format is derived from the ITTO C&I process.

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