BRUSSELS, March 31, 2010 (RISI) -Despite the distances between them, forest plantations in the UK, Uruguay and China do have things in common.
Let's take a closer look:
- The Forestry Commission of Scotland purchased a large part of Glen Affric, situated in the northern highlands, in 1951. Plantations were established over much of the area, including Scots pine, but also various non-native conifer species such as lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) and Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis). In the decades since, Glen Affric has been designated a Caledonian Forest Reserve, a National Scenic Area and a National Nature Reserve (NNR). The bulk of non-native trees have now been removed, and regeneration of native woodland is ongoing. Because many local businesses depend on visitors to Glen Affric, community consultation and engagement is a very high priority.
- In Uruguay, UPM/Forestal Oriental has responsibility for 180,000 ha, of which 110,000 are classed as plantable. Detailed policies and guidance were developed to minimize environmental impacts of the plantation, including voluntary Environment Impact Assessments and monitoring. The evolution and testing of practices to minimize negative impacts from plantations has resulted in a suite of best practices at this site. Research will continue to evaluate technologies, techniques and products.
- In the Guangxi province of southwest China, Stora Enso began establishing plantations in 2002, aiming to establish 160,000 ha on rented lands, mainly by replacing existing non-eucalypt plantations. The Guangxi plantations are vital for local communities; the lack of good farming and forestry practices among village farmers is still one of the key reasons for rural poverty in China. Stora Enso has been working to establish a network of rural telecenters in cooperation with UNDP China, China's Ministry of Science and Technology and the local authorities. These telecentres aim to improve livelihoods by giving farmers access to information on markets as well as on better farming and forestry practices.
The common bond among these diverse locations is a set of principles - the same principles espoused by WWF's New Generation Plantations Project:
- Maintain ecosystem integrity and high conservation values
- Commit to effective stakeholder participation processes
- Contribute to economic growth and employment
The partners in the New Generation Plantations Project (NGPP) have come together around the premise that well-managed and appropriately located plantations can contribute positively to sustainable development. By bringing together companies, governments and market stakeholders, NGPP addresses the issues of biodiversity, climate and people's well-being around existing plantations and new plantations under development. It provides a platform for the forest products industry, regulators, financiers and other stakeholders to work collectively to develop and promote practices in plantation forestry that are environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable.
Stora Enso is aiming to establish 160,000 ha in China (© Luis Neves Silva, Guangxi, China)
Industrial wood plantations are expanding - more problems in sight?
Planted forests are estimated to supply around a third of the global industrial round wood supply and this is projected to increase substantially in the near future. A small proportion of plantations, often referred to as Fast Wood Plantations, are more intensively managed and it is estimated that in Asia, Africa and Latin America, 40% of industrial wood supply will come from such sources by 2010.
However, WWF understands that fast wood plantations remain controversial: some of their expansion has come from the conversion of natural forests and other areas of high conservation values such as grasslands and wetlands. In a number of cases, their establishment also resulted in significant social consequences due to a disregard for the rights and interests of local communities. But such impacts can be avoided, and that's why WWF is committed to promoting a new generation of plantations.
The organization recognizes that well-managed and appropriately located fast wood plantations can play an important role in healthy, diverse and multi-functional forest landscapes. It is this kind of approach that can provide conditions compatible with biodiversity conservation and human needs.
As with second and third generation mobile phones, the term "new generation" implies innovation and progress to eliminate faults and improve performance. When applied to plantations, the new generation can be contrasted with poor and outmoded plantation practices that, for example, disregard the rights or livelihoods of local peoples or destroy natural habitats. According to Rod Taylor, WWF's Forest Director, "An ‘upgrade' to the new generation involves progressing from worker relations to meaningful consultation with stakeholders; going beyond the design of tree compartments within a management unit to planning that takes into account how the plantation fits within the wider landscape; and voluntarily exceeding legal requirements to protect high conservation values."
Community consultation and engagement is a high priority (© Scotland, Forestry Commission)
Real world learning laboratories
NGPP collects examples of well-managed and appropriately located plantations. The project uses real world learning laboratories in different regions to get new insights on how to enhance positive impacts of plantations. With this project, WWF responds to a growing need for a better understanding of the future role that plantations can play in forest landscapes.
NGPP goes well beyond theory - the principles and recommendations are based on the actual experiences of the participant organizations. The project is committed to generating new knowledge and strategies through expert research, in-depth case studies and open dialogue with the various groups working on or affected by plantations. Through this mode of working WWF intends to:
- Identify examples of plantations that make positive contributions to conservation, restoration and social development;
- Favour the development of frameworks that can address the massive global variability in which plantations are developed;
- Promote a transparent, grounded and frank exchange of views while building trust between stakeholders.
According to Ms. Li Nuyun from China's State Forest Administration, "China has the world's largest area of plantations and it's our responsibility to put more emphasis on maintaining eco-integrity and conserving biodiversity in plantation development. We find NGPP concepts and case studies are very helpful for Chinese plantations as we move toward sustained eco-safety and economic development. It helps us to better protect natural forests by developing plantations in a more sustainable way. Now bioenergy plantations are developing quickly in China and we'll pay lots of attention to environmental protection in the process."
In addition to its work with plantation managers from the private and public sector, NGPP seeks to engage "the market" to recognize and promote good plantation practices. This will be achieved by participation in the project of selected financial institutions and downstream businesses reliant on raw materials from plantations. WWF is targeting these groups, as they can use "the power of the purse" to push responsible procurement and investment with respect to timber, paper, bioenergy and carbon.
A second phase of work, already underway, will develop additional elements of the new generation concept - the role of plantations in biodiversity conservation and water management at the catchment level, the supply of biomass for bioenergy, the role of plantations in the forest carbon market and improved recognition of the benefits of new generation practices by those buying pulp and paper products or investing in the sector.
NGPP's second phase will be underway during two very important years for the forest agenda: 2010 International Year of Biodiversity; and 2011 International Year of Forests. WWF considers this as a major opportunity for NGPP to contribute to both initiatives with an innovative message on forest plantations, so keep NGPP on your radar!
NGPP Partners:CMPC; MASISA; Mondi; Portucel; Sabah Forest Industries; State Forest Administration of China; Stora Enso; UK Forestry Commission; UPM.
All NGPP publications can be downloaded from:www.panda.org/sustainableplantations
- Synthesis Report
- Technical Papers: Stakeholder Engagement, High Conservation Value Forests, Ecosystem Integrity.
WWF NGPP Contacts
Luis Neves Silva - NGP Project Manager, WWF International (+351963970796)email@example.com
Harri Karjalainen, Pulp and Paper ProgrammeManager, WWF International, (+358 9 7740 1055)firstname.lastname@example.org