Criteria and Indicators of Sustainable Forest Management in a Changing Climate: An Evaluation of Canada's National Framework

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Abstract

Sustainability is now woven throughout forest management and policy. Criteria and indicators (C&I) provide a means of defining the concepts of sustainability in the context of forest management and establishing goals to gauge progress. There have been no major research initiatives to determine the implications of climate change for C&I. We evaluated the 46 indicators of the 2003 Canadian Council of Forest Ministers framework. Indicators were evaluated for their relationships with climate, relationships with other indicators, robustness and utility under climate change, and future prospects, including abandonment, improvement, or continued use. An evaluation framework was developed to analyze indicator linkages, direct and indirect climate-change influence, and potential modifications. 12 indicators were considered unaffected by climate change. The remaining 34 indicators were considered to be influenced by climate change. No modification seemed warranted for 23 of these indicators, while modifications for the remaining 11 indicators were recommended. Six new indicators were identified for monitoring forests sustainably under climate change. The difference between action and state indicators had implications for the influence of climate change on indicator effectiveness. State indicators were more prone to declines in their tracking ability, while action indicators were often unaffected, or even improved under climate change, as measured by several key traits of indicator effectiveness. The most prevalent theme in the evaluations was a decline in indicator predictability. We suggest moving from predominantly retrospective analysis to a balance of retrospective and prospective analysis, given that monitoring is inherently backward-looking and the threats and uncertainties of climate change are impending.

Keywords: criteria, indicator, C&I, climate change, sustainable forest management, adaptation, Canada

1. Introduction

The theme of sustainability is now globally woven throughout forest management and policy. Commitments to sustainability and the sustainable development of forests became internationally accepted after the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992, also known as the Rio Summit, and the statement of Forest Principles and Chapter 11 of Agenda 21 of the conference's action plan (UNCED, 1992). A key initiative to emerge from the Forest Principles commitments to sustainable development in forestry was the development of criteria and indicators (C&I; UNCED, 1992). C&I provide a means of defining the broad and ambitious concepts of sustainability in the context of forest management and establishing measurable goals to gauge progress towards sustainable forest management (SFM; Wijewardana, 2008). Several international agreements and initiatives for C&I-SFM exist, which combined have involved almost 150 countries. Notable examples include the Montréal Process, the Helsinki Process (now Forest Europe), and the International Tropical Timber Organization Process (Duinker, 2011; Hall, 2001). The use of C&I-SFM to define and measure SFM progress has also been refined and implemented at the local, forest-management-unit level (Duinker, 2001). Local-level applications of C&I include industrial forest management planning, model-forest initiatives, and forest certification standards, such as those provided by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC; Duinker, 2011). There have been two significant national/international-level C&I-SFM initiatives in Canada: the Canadian Council of Forest Minister's (CCFM) national framework of C&I-SFM (CCFM, 1995; 2003) and the Montréal Process and Santiago Declaration (Montreal Process, 1995).

Prior to the formation of the Montréal Process (Montreal Process, 1995), the CCFM initiated a C&I Task Force to develop a national framework of C&I-SFM and meet Canadian commitments to SFM made at the Rio Summit and in the 1992 national forest strategy (CCFM, 1992). …