For each of the six thematic elements, variables from the FRA 2005 reporting tables were selected based on relevance to the theme and on information availability for the variable. No relative weighting of variables was applied. An implicit weighting is, however, present, because one criteria in selecting the variables was that each thematic element should be represented by two to five variables.
Twenty-one variables were selected from 12 of the 15 reporting tables (Table 8.1). Some are derivations of the variables reported by countries: for example, carbon stock per hectare is derived from total carbon stock and forest area.
An increase in the value of a variable is generally interpreted as making a positive contribution to the thematic element (with the exception of area of forest affected by fire, insects and diseases or other disturbances) and thereby to sustainable forest management.
The extent to which this assumption holds depends on local or national circumstances.For example, an increase in forest area is likely to be seen as a positive development in most countries, but where it is a result of abandonment of agricultural land and declining rural populations, it may not be seen as positive by policy-makers or society.
Four variables were selected for analysis of the extent of forest resources: area of forest, area of other wooded land, total growing stock and carbon stock in forest biomass (per hectare).
The biological diversity theme is represented by the variables of area of primary forest, areas designated for conservation of biological diversity and total area of forest excluding productive forest plantations. While it is recognized that productive forest plantations may provide some biological diversity conservation values compared with other types of land cover, this is not the primary management purpose and these values are often limited. Primary forests are usually associated with high levels of biological diversity, particularly in tropical regions, but in temperate and boreal ecosystems, primary forests can present a limited number of species and may not be a good indicator of biological diversity per se. Yet area of primary forest is an important indicator of the status of the forest ecosystem as a whole.
Forest health and vitality is described by two variables indicating the area affected by fire, insects, diseases and other disturbances. Within this theme, stable or decreasing values are seen as a positive contribution to sustainable forest management. It is recognized that a number of forest ecosystems are dependant on fire to maintain their vitality and regenerative capacity (particularly in boreal zones). However, fires frequently run wild and destroy large areas of forest, resulting in soil erosion and desertification – a serious threat to sustainable use of resources.
For the productive functions theme, these variables are taken into account: area of forest designated for productive purposes, area of productive forest plantations, commercial growing stock, total wood removals and NWFP removals for the four categories of products for which information availability is highest (see Chapter 5). It seeks to address the need to maintain an ample and valuable supply of primary forest products, while at the same time ensuring that production and harvesting are sustainable and do not compromise the management options of future generations. Thus an increase in wood removals may not be positive in all cases, as the level of removals may not be sustainable.
The protective functions theme is depicted by two variables indicating the total area of forest used primarily for protective functions and the area of forest plantations managed for protective purposes.
Socio-economic functions cover a wide range of forest benefits to mankind. The variables selected for this analysis are: level of private ownership, area of forest designated for recreation, education and other social services, total employment in forests and total value of removals. The level of private ownership is a somewhat ambiguous variable. In some situations, an increase in this variable may be seen as a benefit for sustainable forest management, indicating devolution of management responsibility and control to individuals or communities. In other cases, it may mean that forest property rights are being transferred from state or communal ownership and concentrated in the hands of relatively few within the community.
Many countries have not been able to provide complete data for all variables or for each point in time. The extent to which countries can report on this limited set of variables also provides an indication of data availability and reporting capacity for the wider range of uses and values that societies expect of forests. However, presenting data as regional aggregations overcomes some of the limitations in data availability on regional and subregional scales. Poor quality, outdated or missing data are common problems in natural resource or environmental management. Effective analysis and synthesis can be used to expose weaknesses in data and identify those areas in which information collection efforts can be targeted to improve decision-making.
Rules were created for handling gaps in data in the regions and subregions as follows. Information availability was determined as the sum of the area of forest of those countries reporting on a given variable, expressed as a percentage of total forest area in the region or subregion. It is rated high if the reporting countries together represent 75–100 percent of the total forest area, medium if the countries represent 50–74 percent and low if the percentage is 25–49 percent. If the reporting countries together account for less than 25 percent of the total forest area in the region, no findings are presented owing to insufficient data.
Data analysis and presentation of results
The country data included in the calculations are those for which countries have reported a complete time series for the variable for all reporting years.
The change rate for variables on the subregional scale is expressed as the compound change rate in percent per annum for the period 1990–2005 (1990-2000 for area of forest affected by fire; area of forest affected by insects, diseases and other disturbances; total employment; and area of forest under private ownership). Thus the rate is based on two different estimates – the accuracy of which is unknown. An arbitrary threshold of +/-0.50 percent per year was selected for all variables in order to highlight large changes and to distinguish cases in which a difference between the two estimates may indicate an actual change from those in which the difference may not be statistically significant.
Simple, three-coloured ‘traffic light’ matrices were prepared to visualize change rates in the variables listed under each thematic area for a particular region. These indicate trends in the selected variables over time and the progress they reflect towards sustainable forest management. Trends can thus be positive, negative or with no major change (+/-0.50 percent per year) for each of the 21 variables.
Results are presented at global, regional and subregional levels and related to key statistics for each theme. For the subregional level, the number of positive and negative trends in each subregion was also related to two parameters – forest area and rural poor population – with the aim of illustrating progress towards sustainable forest management from different perspectives.
Table 8.2 summarizes trends in the selected variables at the global level. Extent of forest resources. The area of forest has decreased by an average of 8.4 million hectares per year since 1990, or 0.21 percent per year. The other variables under this theme also show a decrease over time, but none of the change rates exceed the threshold of 0.50 percent annually.
Biological diversity. The area of primary forest decreased by an average of 5.8 million hectares per year (excluding the Russian Federation, where large differences in the values for 1990 and 2005 were due to the introduction of a new classification system). On a positive note, the area of forest designated for conservation of biological diversity increased by about 6.4 million hectares per year during the same period – or a total of 96 million hectares.
Forest health and vitality. The area of forest adversely affected by insects, diseases and other disturbances shows an increase equivalent to 1.1 million hectares per year, while the area adversely affected by forest fires shows a small decrease. However, information was missing from many countries, particularly from Africa.
Productive functions of forest resources. The most prominent changes over time are a decrease in the area of forest designated primarily for productive purposes – an average of 4.6 million hectares per year – and an increase in area of productive forest plantations of 2.2 million hectares per year. This shift indicates that substantial areas of natural forests previously allocated for productive purposes are now designated for other uses, while the proportion of wood removals coming from forest plantations is likely to significantly increase in the future.
Protective functions of forests. Both variables under this theme show an increase since 1990. The area of forest designated primarily for protective purposes has thus increased by close to 3.4 million hectares per year or more than 50 million hectares during the last 15 years.
Socio-economic functions. The nominal values of removals of wood and non-wood forest products have increased, but less than the average rate of inflation. Employment in forest conservation and management has decreased by about 1 percent per year. The area of privately owned forests has increased by an average of 2.7 million hectares per year in the period 1990–2000 (2005 data not requested from countries). Area of forest designated for the provision of recreation, education and other social services has increased by more than 6.6 million hectares per year – or a total of 100 million hectares since 1990 – primarily due to a large increase in Brazil, which is partly offset by a much smaller decrease in the Russian Federation caused by a reclassification of forests.
Conclusions. Overall, the situation at the global level has remained relatively stable. Negative trends include decreases in area of primary forest and employment and an increase in area of forest adversely affected by insects, diseases and other disturbances. Positive trends were reported in the area of forest designated for biological diversity and social services, as well as for area of productive and protective forest plantations, value of wood removals and amount and value of NWFP removals, and area of forests under private ownership.