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3. Information requirements

Information on the forestry sector should cover the distribution and extent of forested areas, forest composition, actual and potential production of forest resources, and ecological factors that govern forest dynamics, as well as social and economic information related to the use of coastal forest ecosystems. The complex nature of natural coastal forest ecosystems and the links between these and other ecosystems call for expertise in disciplines such as forestry, ecology, wildlife management, geomorphology, hydrology, fisheries, agriculture, tourism, economics and social science.

Alternative uses of forested lands and their resources should be evaluated using biological, physical and socio-economic data, in particular with regard to the coastal forest resource base, environmental impacts caused by actions undertaken within and outside the coastal forest ecosystems, and the organizational and institutional structure within which management of coastal forests must be undertaken.


3.1.1 Information requirements

Information on land use.11 With respect to land-use systems, the biophysical information generally required on coastal forest ecosystems includes the geographic distribution of forests and their extent, and forest resources and their potential supporting sites.

Information on the present status of coastal forest resources. Assessment of wood and non-wood forest resources (including wildlife) includes: availability, productivity, management costs, and determination of carrying capacities and sustainable use levels. The carrying capacity of natural ecosystems is dynamic and can be reduced through human misuse or through natural catastrophes, or increased through improved management. For example, the wildlife carrying capacity in coastal national parks can be enhanced through strict control measures such as the reduction of the impact of visitors by limiting free access areas of the park. In addition to the carrying capacity for wildlife and for recreation and tourism, sustainable levels of harvesting of forest products must also be determined and compared with existing and estimated future demand levels.

Information on the level of utilization of coastal forest resources. This includes determination of existing and estimated future demand levels for coastal forest and wildlife products and services; more specifically: local, regional and/or national demand for forest products and services (including untraded products) and the export potential of traded products; current and estimated future supply and demand trends; price trends; and factors affecting demand for and supply of such products/services.

Information on the social situation and economic needs of the people living in the planning area includes: alternative economic activities and investments; practices/techniques used in the harvesting/collection of forest products; and social values placed on products and services provided by the coastal forest (see Table C.3).

Types of information required for coastal forest management



- Size of community (number of families/people)
- Composition of community (ethnic, age-class, occupation)
- Map of community0
- Changes in population

Ecological suitability (continued)

- For each plant-derived product:
What are the growth and regeneration requirements for the plants whose product(s) is/are harvested?
How many years does it take before the plant produces fruits or reaches the desired size?
Which resources are the most versatile (have the most different uses)?

- Ranking of products according to ecological suitability

Tenure and usufruct

- Who owns the forest land?
- Who owns the forest resources?
- Who uses the forest and for what purpose?
- Are permits needed for specific uses?
- Are any uses prohibited?
- Changes in rights and regulations over time

 Technical suitability

- For each forest product:
Previous management experience (silviculture, enhancement of yield, restriction on access, size, volume or time of harvesting, religious taboos)
Harvesting techniques employed

- Ranking of products according to ease of management and impact of harvesting technique


- Which products and services can be obtained from the forest?
- Priority ranking by different groups
- For each plant and animal product:
Which resource(s)/species is/are preferred?
How much is currently harvested for subsistence and/or for sale?
Is the supply sufficient to meet demand?
Changes in use over time and season

- Which forest products are currently bought?
- At what price?

Economic suitability

- For each product and direct-use service:
How many people are full-time/part-time employed?
Who? (any particular group? women, children, income group, ethnic group)
What are the costs involved in management (including harvesting and marketing of forest products)?

- For each product:
What quantity can be harvested per person/day/year?
What is the price obtained if sold?
Price changes over time and season

- For each service:
How many users per year/peak season?
What is the income to the community?
Are any problems encountered?
Which products and services are the most profitable?

Resource availability

- Where are the resources needed for products or services located? (scattered over the forest/in particular parts of the forest)

- For each product:
How many individuals of the preferred resource per hectare?
What is their status now compared with earlier?
Seasonal availability
Is availability a constraint?
If so, how can this be alleviated?

- Which resource is most abundant?
- Which resource is most scarce?

Markets and trade links

- For each commercial product:
Where is the product sold? (local/regional/national/international market)
Which trade links exist?

Ecological suitability

- Are any uses of the forest incompatible?
- Are any of the resources presently used dependent upon other resources? (for food, shelter, pollination, seed dispersal)

- For each animal product or by-product:
What are the food and habitat requirements of the animal?
At what age does the animal reach maturity and how many offspring does it produce per year?

Final appraisal

- Analysis of constraints and opportunities
- Ranking of management objectives

An economic valuation of the direct and indirect benefits provided by coastal forest ecosystems is needed, especially: an economic quantification of both marketed and non-marketed products as well as intangible benefits (e.g. provision of detritus for the marine food web), improved environment, health, shelter, coastal protection, soil conservation, water, biological diversity, education, recreation and tourism, etc. (see Table C.4).

Valuation approaches in relation to type of forest product (good or service)


Techniques Examples
Direct market price technique This is used to value all market-priced goods and services from the forest, unless it is believed not to reflect adequately the willingness to pay (e.g. when there are effective minimum prices or price ceilings on goods and/or services). In such cases, the techniques below are used.
Indirect market price techniques

(value inferred from other market prices)

Residual value Stumpage value for timber is derived by looking at market prices for finished lumber and subtracting costs from stump through processing to lumber sale.
Increased production values Increased market value of crop production over what it would have been without the windbreak provides a proxy minimum gross value for the windbreak. Associated costs are subtracted from that to arrive at net value.
Surrogate price The value of fuelwood in a new market is estimated on the basis of the value of an alternative fuel (e.g. kerosene) in that market, after adjusting for calorific value of the two fuels.
Opportunity cost The minimum value of a wilderness park is estimated on the basis of the market-priced value of the goods and/or services foregone.
Replacement cost (or avoided cost) The maximum value of a watershed management programme focused only on containing sediment in a downstream reservoir is made equal to the alternative market cost of dredging the reservoir of the additional sediment that would occur without the watershed management programme.
Hedonic pricing The market value differences for similar forest properties are used to reflect the value of some environmental service or cost that varies across the properties.
Travel cost  
  Differences in market-priced costs of trips by different users to a reserve are used to value nature-based tourism based on differences in use rates in relation to differences in trip costs.
Non-market price techniques (value inferred from surveys of willingness to pay)  
Contingent valuation Value of a certain wildlife population is inferred from a survey of willingness to pay to save the population.

Source: Gregersen et al., 1995.

3.1.2 Tools for information collection, analysis and presentation

Collection, analysis and presentation of land cover and land-use information. Before a detailed classification of land cover within a forested area can start, the boundaries of the forest itself must be identified. A clear definition of vegetation categories must therefore be given in order to assure a consistent classification and, subsequently, to obtain reliable area figures.

Collection, analysis and presentation of information on the status and utilization of coastal forest resources. When the selection of management objectives for a given coastal forest is completed, a more intensive resource inventory is needed to determine the status and productive potential of the forest and the carrying capacities and sustainable level of resource use.

Participatory appraisal. The term is used here to include rapid rural appraisal (RRA), participatory rural appraisal (PRA) and related techniques aimed at gathering pertinent information by drawing on the experience and knowledge of local communities.12

Table C.3 shows the type of information that can be elicited using participatory appraisal techniques aimed at determining the suitability of different forest resources for exploitation.

Local demand for forest products for subsistence purposes is best ascertained through the use of participatory appraisal methods, rather than by employing lengthy questionnaires and surveys.

Examples of different valuation techniques and their application to forests are shown in Table C.4.13

Analysis of resource assessments and forest inventories is described in standard textbooks and will not be covered here. Analysis of the status of forest resources, socio-economic issues, potential benefits and constraints forms part of the participatory appraisal and will reveal the values of individual user groups. Finally, cost-benefit analysis is often used to appraise alternative resource uses.14


3.2.1 Information requirements

Of fundamental importance is a solid knowledge of the impact of human activities on coastal ecosystems. Multidisciplinary studies to determine the biological, physical and socio-economic effects of the major users of coastal forests and adjacent areas are required. The objectives are to determine the following, where relevant:

3.2.2 Tools for information collection, analysis and presentation

Environmental impact assessment. Environmental impact assessment (EIA)15 is increasingly required by law for the development of new projects (e.g. sawmills, paper mills and other forest industries) and for the extension of existing ones in the coastal area.

Monitoring and evaluation. The general concern over the progressive deterioration of tropical forests and the need for reliable information necessary for management decisions and conservation measures have led several countries to initiate national monitoring and evaluation programmes. Such programmes aim primarily at the assessment of forest cover changes over time and are thus particularly useful for the assessment of the cumulative impacts of forest degradation and conversion.

Many countries and organizations are presently developing criteria for sustainable forest management along with indicators to be monitored on a regular basis in order to ascertain that sustainable management is achieved.


Organizational and institutional information is here taken to encompass political and legal frameworks, institutional and administrative structures, cultural attitudes and social traditions.

3.3.1 Information requirements

Information on policy and laws. Coastal forested ecosystems are frequently overlooked in national forest policy. Specific provisions must be reviewed and included in the national forest policy in order to address adequately the complex issues of regulating the use of coastal forests.

Inappropriate fiscal and concession policies, together with lack of attention to the impact of other sectors' policies on the use of coastal forest resources, have recently been highlighted as negatively affecting the sustainability of coastal forests. Policy orientations, laws and regulations should provide effective incentives for sustainable forest management. For this reason, legal distortions and disincentives that discourage the wise utilization of forests, especially those related to landownership and tenure, should be correctly identified in the information collection exercise.16

Incentives and charges that are inappropriate and counterproductive in terms of achieving sustainable development of coastal resources should be identified. Recent examples of inappropriate fiscal policies affecting the forestry sector include: incentives for cattle ranches; clearance of forest lands in order to claim ownership of land (both in Amazonia); alienation of mangrove areas for fish pond construction purposes; and implementation of logging bans, which diminish the value of forested lands compared with other land uses (Southeast Asia). Subsidies leading to inefficient and wasteful forest industries or to the replacement of natural forests or other valuable ecosystems with monocultural plantations should also be identified.

The information requirements thus focus on existing legal obligations, rights and privileges, and policy guidelines and the need to revise these.

The objective is to obtain the information required to:

Institutional information. A good knowledge of the existing administrative structures and the capabilities of the institutions responsible for the conservation and management of forest and wildlife resources in the region is essential. Information on cultural attitudes and social traditions related to the use of coastal forests must also be obtained.17

3.3.2 Tools for information collection, analysis and presentation

Tools regarding the legal and institutional framework (policies, legal obligations, rights and privileges and the administrative framework) will include existing sources of information such as published records, laws, regulations and policies.18

Strategic environmental assessment (SEA) will make it possible to evaluate the effectiveness of various policy instruments and the impact of laws and policies on coastal forests and their inhabitants. SEA is basically an extension of environmental impact assessment to the more strategic tiers of decision-making, covering policies, plans and programmes.19

Participatory appraisal techniques will yield valuable information on local attitudes and traditions, and the impact of laws and policies.

11 The principles and basic concepts of land evaluation are extensively discussed in FAO, 1976 and FAO, 1984. FAO, 1993 provides useful guidance on the land-use planning process.

12 The different techniques or tools that may be used in participatory appraisal are described in Davis-Case, 1989 and Davis-Case, 1990. See also Part A, Box A.20.

13 For a more detailed description of the theory behind, and the mechanism of applying, individual techniques, refer to textbooks such as Winpenny (1991) and Hufschmidt et al. (1983). Benson and Willis, (1992) may also be useful because recreation and tourism are particularly important uses of many coastal forests. FAO, 1994a provides valuable information on which approaches may be usable and contains annotated references on valuation. See also Part A, and Box A.24.

14 See Part A, Boxes A.22 and A.23.

15 Refer to Wathern, 1988, Gregersen and Contreras- Hermosilla, 1992 and Gregersen et al., 1993 on the specific impacts of forestry activities. See also Part A, Box A.6.

16 See Part A, Section 1.6 and Box A.2.

17 See Part A, Section 2.4.3.
See Part A, Boxes A.4 and A.21 for evaluating the legal and institutional issues, respectively.
Refer to Therivel et al. (1994) for a discussion of SEA.

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