XIV World Forest Congress 2015

Questions and answers on planted forests

1) Does FAO include planted forests in its definition of “forest”?

  • FAO uses standard global definitions for the various categories of forest, including planted forests, enabling accurate measurement and comparability over time and across countries. 

2) Are planted forests good or bad?

  • When properly planned and implemented, planted forests can support rural livelihoods, produce a wide range of useful products and perform important environmental services.
  • Poorly designed and managed planted forests can have serious negative environmental impacts and alienate people from their traditional lands. 

3) Do planted forests use too much water?

  • Well-designed and well-managed planted forests can play a significant role in regulating water flows, rehabilitating degraded water catchments, and improving water quality.
  • FAO advocates the use of indigenous species adapted to local soil and water conditions, where possible, in preference to introduced or high-water-demanding species. 

4) Does FAO advocate replacing natural forests with planted forests?

  • FAO advocates the conservation and sustainable management of natural forests and integrated approaches to land-use.
  • On degraded or previously cleared lands, planted forests may constitute a legitimate land use as a way of restoring or increasing the productivity of the land and generating economic benefits.
  • Decisions on whether a planted forest is the right option in an area should be based on an economic, social and environmental evaluation conducted using a multistakeholder process.

5) Do planted forests cause the loss of biodiversity?

  • Planted forests should never replace primary forests, ecologically significant secondary forests, or other important ecosystems with significant conservation value.
  • Integrating the management of indigenous forests and planted forests at a landscape scale can help in the conservation of forest biodiversity by increasing the connectivity between ecosystems and habitat availability.
  • In some situations, planted forests can reduce logging pressure on indigenous forests by helping meet wood demand.
  • On the other hand, the establishment of planted forests using non-indigenous species risks the spread of such species into indigenous forests, and poorly managed planted forests can also increase the risk of wildfire, and pests and diseases, in indigenous forests.

6) What does FAO do to maximize the benefits of planted forests, and minimize the risks?

  • FAO’s “Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Management of Planted Forests” establishes 12 principles for the sound management of planted forests. FAO encourages the application of these principles.
  • FAO has many other tools to assist in the planning and management of planted forests, and methodologies for engaging stakeholders in land-use decisions involving planted forests.

7) Is FAO an advocate for the large-scale timber industry?

  • FAO serves as a neutral forum for policy dialogue, as a reliable source of information on forests and trees, and as a provider of expert technical assistance and advice to help countries develop and implement effective national forest programmes.
  • Among other things, FAO assists small-scale producers to form producer organizations to increase their voice in policy development and advocate on their behalf.

8) Do planted forests increase or decrease food security for the rural poor?

  • Planted forests can contribute to food security and nutrition by, for example: 
    • sustainably producing woodfuel, which can be used to prepare food;
    • providing incomes for local people through planted-forest-based enterprises;
    • producing edible non-wood forest products such as honey and mushrooms; and
    • increase the productivity of agricultural lands through agroforestry arrangements, while also diversifying diets.
  • On the other hand, planted forests can increase food insecurity if, for example, they:
    • replace productive indigenous forests (which communities may rely on to provide food products and medicines);
    • result in the displacement of local people; or
    • reduce the water supply for agriculture.
  • The broad nature of the definition of forests does not provide “cover” for replacing natural forests with industrial plantations, or for abusing the rights of indigenous peoples and communities.
  • Rather, it means that planted forests are more likely to be subject to governance frameworks emerging globally to increase oversight on forests, thereby helping safeguard the rights and interests of all stakeholders.
  • FAO supports participatory approaches to decisions on land use, including whether to establish industrial plantations, because such approaches best ensure that development meets the needs of stakeholders and provide socially equitable and environmentally sustainable outcomes.
  • The practice of “land-grabbing”, which implies the acquiring of land without proper process, is contrary to FAO’s view of good governance with regard to land and forest tenure.