Sustainable forest management

The aim of sustainable forest management (SFM) is to ensure that forests supply goods and services to meet both present-day and future needs and contribute to the sustainable development of communities. The United Nations General Assembly in 2007 recognizes SFM as a dynamic and evolving concept that aims to maintain and enhance the economic, social and environmental values of all types of forests for the benefit of present and future generations, considering the following seven thematic elements as a reference framework: (1) extent of forest resources; (2) forest biodiversity; (3) forest health and vitality; (4) productive functions of forest resources; (5) protective functions of forest resources; (6) socio-economic functions of forests; and (7) legal, policy and institutional framework.


In its broadest sense, SFM encompasses the administrative, legal, technical, economic, social and environmental aspects of the conservation and use of forests. It implies various degrees of human intervention, ranging from actions aimed at safeguarding and maintaining forest ecosystems and their functions to those favouring specific socially or economically valuable species or groups of species for the improved production of goods and services. In addition to forest products (comprising both wood and non-wood forest products), sustainably managed forests provide important ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration, biodiversity conservation, and the protection of water resources.

Many of the world’s forests and woodlands are not being managed sustainably, especially in the tropics and subtropics. Many countries lack appropriate forest legislation, regulation and incentives to promote SFM. Many have inadequate funding and human resources for the preparation, implementation and monitoring of forest management plans and lack mechanisms to ensure the participation and involvement of all stakeholders in forest governance, planning and development. Where forest management plans exist, they are frequently limited to ensuring the sustained production of wood and lack sufficient attention to the sustainable production of non-wood products and ecosystem services and the maintenance of social and environmental values. Also, other land uses may appear more economically attractive to land managers (at least in the short term) than forest management, thus leading to forest degradation and deforestation.


FAO responds

©FAO/Salahuddin Ahmad

FAO helps countries overcome the constraints to SFM by providing information and policy advice and through institutional and technical capacity development. FAO collects, analyses and disseminates information; prepares manuals and guidelines; supports the implementation of field projects; and organizes workshops and seminars that facilitate the uptake of SFM best practices and the exchange of experiences. Field projects are implemented in all types of forests and offer opportunities for hands-on training. Some SFM-related projects address emergency situations caused by disasters and the adverse effects of human activities.

FAO helps countries define the elements of SFM in their national contexts and to monitor progress towards it, including through international instruments such as the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests and its Global Forest Goals; the Sustainable Development Goals; and various SFM-related global instruments, guidelines and criteria. At the field level, FAO helps identify, test and promote innovative, multipurpose forest management approaches and techniques that respond to the need for mitigating and adapting to a changing climate; increasing demand for wood and non-wood forest products and services; and the threat posed by fire, pests and disasters. Read more about FAO’s approach to SFM.

SFM Toolbox

The SFM Toolbox is a comprehensive technical package of tools and case studies to facilitate and guide the implementation of SFM in various contexts. In compiling the SFM Toolbox, FAO aims to make the wide body of collective knowledge and experience on SFM more accessible to forest managers and other stakeholders through an integrated and comprehensive approach tailored to their specific needs, contexts and areas of interest.

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