A sustainably managed forest offers more than sustainable timber and non-timber forest products. It can also provide other ‘ecosystem services’, such as locking up carbon, protecting water supplies and providing a habitat for rare species. Soon, FSC will allow you to certify that you provide these extra services.
In its Global Strategic Plan 2015–2020, FSC committed to finding a way for certificate holders to access ecosystem services markets. This was part of a broader strategy to help increase the revenue available for forest owners by increasing the market value of FSC-certified products.
NEPCon has been part of the FSC technical working group that’s been working out how forestry companies can make credible claims about the ecosystem services they’re providing. In spring 2017, FSC published a draft procedure for ecosystem services (FSC-PRO-30-006). A first-round public consultation was held on the new procedure and FSC has published the results. A second-round consultation was published in late 2017, and FSC plans to approve the procedure in March 2018.
The draft procedures have been piloted in several countries Nepal, Chile, Vietnam, Indonesia Canada, Kyrgyzstan and Italy, with the aim of verifying the ecosystem impacts. NEPCon conducted the Nepal pilot together with Rainforest Alliance and have participated in the pilot in Kyrgyzstan. The Kyrgyz pilot involves walnut forests owned by smallholders that wish to demonstrate that they are achieving sustainability, biodiversity, gender balance and responsible waste management. The Nepal pilot involves community-based forests selling non-timber forest products that wish to demonstrate that they are protecting biodiversity, water and the soil.
This article sets out what you are likely to need to do to get your forest certified for the ecosystem services that it provides. Doing so will allow you to make on-product claims about those services as well as to sell the services you provide.
What types of ecosystem service will I be able to certify?
Under the draft ecosystem services procedure, it will be possible to get certified for the following ecosystem services:
- carbon sequestration and storage
- biological diversity conservation
- watershed services
- soil conservation
- recreational services.
The list of which ecosystem services will be covered by the new procedure is in annex C of FSC-STD-60-004 (Additional requirements for ecosystem services).
What do I need to do to get an ecosystem service certified?
In order to get certified you will have to demonstrate how your forest management activities maintain or enhance a specific ecosystem service. You will have to (1):
Describe the ecosystem services you provide
- Declare what ecosystem services you are providing, from the five listed above.
- Describe the ecosystem service including:
- The extent of the forest you are managing maintain or enhance the ecosystem service.
- A justification of why this bit of forest is important for the ecosystem service.
- A description of what’s happened to the ecosystem service in the past.
- A description of who the beneficiaries of the ecosystem service are.
- Describe the threats to the ecosystem service, both inside and outside of the forest you are managing.
Declare what impact you will have on the ecosystem service
FSC has developed a draft list of possible ecosystem services impacts. For each of the five ecosystem services, possible impacts are:
- Maintaining, enhancing or restoring the ecosystem service
- Maintaining, enhancing or restoring native species, genetic diversity, water quality, water quality, forest carbon stocks, areas of importance for recreation and/or tourism, populations of species of interest for nature-based tourism
- Providing benefits to local communities and indigenous peoples from activities related to ecosystem services.
Develop a theory of change
A theory of change draws a causal link between your management activities and the ecosystem service. You do this by describing how your activities result in outputs which result in outcomes that result in the impact you declared above.
For all the outcomes you list, you will also need to specify an outcome indicator – in other words, a way of measuring whether you have had the impact you are aiming for. FSC provides a list of suggested outcome indicators in Annex D of the draft procedure. They include suggestions such as:
|If you are trying to have an impact on…||Then possible outcome indicators to measure this include…|
|Maintaining native species||
The richness of native species in the forest
|Enhancing forest carbon stocks||The volume of timber harvested decreases (e.g. by increasing the minimum harvest diameter or decreasing the annual allowable cut)|
|Providing watershed services to local communities||The availability of water for local communities (agriculture, fisheries etc) increases
The number of days local people are employed on water resources management increases
For each of these outcome indicators, you will need to:
- Specify a target value.
- Determine the current baseline value.
- Describe the methods you use to measure the indicator.
- Present all your data.
FSC’s draft definitions of these terms
Outputs: Immediate results from management activities implemented on the forest management area, for example practices, training, management systems, or infrastructure.
Outcomes: Ecological or social conditions on the ground that support or indicate the maintenance and/or enhancement of ecosystem services.
Outcome indicator: Measures of ecological or social conditions on the ground. FSC has developed a list of outcome indicators for each impact.
Impact: Maintenance and/or enhancement of ecosystem services, or benefits derived from them, that is attributable to the management activities undertaken. FSC has developed a list of possible ecosystem services impacts.
Theory of change: A diagram or model that defines the expected causal links between management activities, outputs, outcomes, and impacts.
State your results
For each impact you’re aiming to achieve, you will need to provide your results – i.e. the baseline and current values of your outcome indicators – and draw a conclusion about the causal links between your management activities and the outcomes.
You will be audited on all the above steps.
What can I do once I’ve got certified?
You will be able to:
- Make on-product claims about the ecosystem services you provide. FSC gives some example statements that could be made:
- For this FSC-certified forest, a positive impact has been demonstrated on watershed services.
- For this FSC-certified forest, water quality has been enhanced.
- This FSC-certified forest protected water sources for downstream communities from contamination leading to enhanced water quality.”
- Sell the ecosystem services you provide. For example, you may be able to sell carbon onto the carbon markets, or you may be able to sell the water you safeguard to a hydroelectric power plant downstream.
(1) This is a summary of the draft FSC procedure. For full details, see https://ic.fsc.org/en/what-is-fsc-certification/consultations/current-processes/fsc-pro-30-006