Sensible and equitable use of the world’s forests while ensuring sustainable delivery of forest-based goods and services devolves upon many interlinked social, economic, environmental and developmental issues. Increasing global population, rising standards of living with concomitant consumption of forest products, and widening expectations of the forests to provide environmental services and regulate water supplies, are placing huge demands on forest resources. While the yield from industrial and fuelwood plantations increasingly complements the harvest of wood products from native forests, the establishment of plantations is not offsetting the current rate of deforestation. Clearing for agriculture, often associated with uncontrolled logging and fuelwood collection, remains the major cause of net forest loss. Conversion of tropical forest to industrial plantations may have negative implications for biodiversity, but positive ones for carbon sequestration and wood production. Harvesting traditional nonwood forest products can have mixed outcomes on the forest, depending on the levels of exploitation and management. The level of exploitation of forest products is determined by need, demand and price. In general, forest commodity prices have steadily dropped over the last several years in line with many other commodity prices. This places pressure on producers to reduce costs, and this pressure is reflected in the level and effectiveness of forest management. Current forest valuation processes tend to ignore the value of forest services and goods other than wood; this leads to a restricted forest policy horizon and undervaluation of forests, and consequently to inappropriate pricing for goods and services and levels of investment in forest management. This situation is reflected in a lack of sectorally-integrated forest policies, rundown forest management authorities and inadequate R&D, and a lack of investment in training of staff. The capacity for ecologically sustainable forest management is inevitably severely compromised. The international development community needs to take stock of what past development assistance in the forest sector has achieved. A paradigm shift is necessary, focussed on governance, forest policy and capacity building if the pressures on forests are to be met and the expectations of the global community realised.


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