The role of logging in the loss and degradation of tropical forest has become an issue of popular concern and political debate across the world. Over the years, the insight has grown that responsible management of forests for timber production may also make a positive contribution to biodiversity conservation. The promotion of socially and ecologically sound forest management through forest certification is now widely embraced as a strategy to conserve the world's forests and the biodiversity they contain.
Approximately 8% of global forest area has been certified under a variety of schemes but in African, Asian and tropical American forests this is less than 2%. Increasing the extent of certification in the tropics remains a goal for many organizations including some international conservation NGOs. So far, so good, but many details about certification's effectiveness remain uncertain, including those on biodiversity.
In this issue of ETFRN News on Biodiversity conservation in certified forests, a wide variety of authors involved in certification and/or the conservation of tropical forest biodiversity provide their views on the question whether certification is a good conservation strategy for tropical forests. The 33 articles report on practical experiences from concessions and community forests, on the challenges of monitoring biodiversity, high conservation value forests and a range of other subjects. The results of a dedicated on-line survey devised especially for this ETFRN News provide additional context to the views expressed in the articles.
The general message that emerges is a positive one, but not without qualifications. Most authors and respondents agree that certification has helped to improve management practices and to conserve forest biodiversity within certified forests in the tropics. However, the true extent of conservation benefits remains unknown due to a lack of rigorous and independent information. Many agreed that certification is not equivalent to full conservation and point at the limitations of certification in reducing deforestation rates.
This issue aims to inform and advance debates concerning the role of forest certification in biodiversity conservation, and to stimulate efforts to better demonstrate and explore these.
Individual chapters can be downloaded from the ETFRN website.