1. Introduction – Measuring progress towards sustainable forest management
The world’s forests fulfill many roles. They provide renewable raw materials and energy, maintain biological diversity, mitigate climate change, protect land and water resources, provide recreation facilities, improve air quality and help alleviate poverty. At the same time forests are affected by fire, air pollution, pests and invasive species, and are often the primary targets of agricultural and urban expansion.
In view of competing interests in the benefits of forest resources and forest land, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations ( ) has carried out global forest resources assessments at five to ten year intervals since 1946. The most recent and most extensive assessment was completed in 2005 and aimed at measuring progress towards sustainable forest management.
The assessment focused on six themes representing important elements of forest management:
- Extent of forest resources
- Biological diversity
- Forest health and vitality
- Productive functions of forest resources
- Protective functions of forest resources
- Socio-economic functions
Box 1.1 Thematic elements of sustainable forest
Information was collected from 229 countries and territories for three points in time: 1990, 2000, and 2005. Many countries have not been able to provide complete data for all variables. However, presenting summed regional data overcomes some of the limitations in data availability at country level. The rate at which variables, such as the extent of forest area, change over time is expressed as a compound annual change rate (in percent).
Such an analysis provides information on overall progress towards sustainable forest management on the global or on the regional scale. It can shed more light on some of the complexities of forest management and lead to additional analyses and debate, thus promoting decision-making and action for further progress towards sustainable management. More...