How to preserve forest biodiversity without losing livelihoods

Scientist Francois Bapeamoni studies an African Pygme Kingfisher (Ispidina picta) in the Yoko Forest Reserve, Kisangani, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo by Ollivier Girard/CIFOR

Forest biodiversity loss can be halted without impacting livelihoods — if steps are taken to halt and reverse deforestation, tackle illegal and unregulated forest activities, and prevent the conversion of natural forests to forest plantations, experts say.

Speakers at the 26th session of the Forestry Committee (COFO26) also called for a concerted effort to recognize forest tenure rights of indigenous peoples and local communities as an effective strategy to combat illegal forest activities, especially when local communities are the de facto forest managers.

The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), together with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), published a comprehensive study on mainstreaming biodiversity in forestry and best practices in solutions that balance protection and sustainable use of forest biodiversity.

“We have an increasing demand for timber, and the balance between meeting that demand and conserving the forests – which host most of the Earth’s terrestrial biodiversity – is critical,” said Robert Nasi, Director General of CIFOR. “This is possible with an appropriate legal environment and the participation of the indigenous communities who derive their livelihood from the forests.

“Well-managed forests can support biodiversity while generating income,” he added.

Launched in the margins of COFO 26, the study entitled “Mainstreaming Biodiversity in Forestry” was initiated on the occasion of the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) Biodiversity Digital Conference: One World – One Health, held on October 28, 2020, thanks to the concerted efforts the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) and the FAO. It examines the process of embedding – or “mainstreaming” – biodiversity considerations in the policies, strategies and practices of key public and private actors to promote the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.

CIFOR-ICRAF Latin America Director and former FTA Director Vincent Gitz said forest biodiversity information remains a critical element in combating threats to biodiversity.

“Mainstreaming biodiversity in forest management requires more knowledge about management fundamentals, including measuring impacts. The indigenous community needs an awareness of the importance of biodiversity, the impact of their actions on biodiversity in a simple way, and the care and knowledge of what they can do to conserve forest biodiversity,” said Mr. Gitz.

One of the focus areas of the study was to prioritize forest policies, plans, programs, projects and investments that have a positive impact on biodiversity at the ecosystem, species and genetic levels, and to integrate biodiversity concerns into daily forest management practices. The study also confirms that deforestation is the most important factor behind the loss of forest biodiversity, with around 10 million hectares of forest being cleared for other land uses, mainly for conversion to agriculture, each year.

Eight countries participated in the study, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Finland, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru and the United Kingdom. Case studies aimed to identify success factors and assess progress in integrating biodiversity into the forest sector in different national contexts.

Thomas Hofer, FAO senior forestry officer, said the rate at which forests are being destroyed requires a balance between conservation goals and meeting human needs.

“We hope that the wealth of information and recommendations provided in this study will inspire action by those involved in forest management and conservation. The release of this paper is the beginning, not the end, of forest biodiversity management,” said Dr. Hofer during publication.

The study also examined other threats to forests and biodiversity, such as B. Disturbances that do not necessarily lead to deforestation but nonetheless have devastating effects on the health and vitality of forests – and consequently on their ability to provide a full range of goods and ecosystem services.

“In 2015, for example, insects, diseases and storms damaged around 40 million hectares of forest. Another 98 million hectares were affected by fires in 2015, mostly in the tropics.

Complicated and poorly harmonized legal and regulatory systems, particularly those with unclear and conflicting institutional roles, can contribute, among other things, to the proliferation of illegal activities. High levels of corruption and weak law enforcement have also increased illegal use of forests and disrupted biodiversity.

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