This paper has presented two approaches that could be applied at global and regional scales to deliver significant advances in assessment and monitoring of the status of forests and their biodiversity. The first of these is the evaluation of forest spatial integrity, which encompasses the size, configuration and isolation from each other of forest areas. Declining spatial integrity of forests is a consequence of many types of human activity, especially land conversion, and is likely to have adverse effects on the natural biodiversity complements of remaining forests.
Other impacts of human activity are less easily measured directly, and can be evaluated better by estimating the likelihood of human influence on the ecosystem. A naturalness indicator, such as the Australian wilderness index, permits the construction of a surface measuring remoteness from human influence that can be overlaid with forest cover data to derive indices of forest naturalness.
Both of these indices can be displayed in mapped form, with each unit of forest cover given its own index value. They can also be used to generate statistical summaries of forest spatial integrity and naturalness that can be used as baselines for monitoring if the same transparent methodologies are applied consistently through time.
The implementation of baseline assessments and subsequent monitoring of forest spatial integrity and naturalness as proposed in this paper would be a significant advance over current practice, and would incorporate biodiversity preservation as one of the multiple benefits of forests included in the periodic assessment of the world’s forest resources. This would make it possible to follow trends, not only in forest quantity, but also in its quality with respect to preserving biodiversity.