Imagine a world where all the forest lands were protected and cared for. What do you see?
Forests with healthy and protected biodiversity
Biodiversity refers to the variety of living species on earth. Plants, animals, bacteria, and fungi included. Healthy biodiversity in forests plays a fundamental role in maintaining the health and functionality of ecosystems, the well-being of people, and the sustainability of the planet.
Sustainable forest management practices would help prioritise the preservation of diverse ecosystems, protecting endangered species and promoting overall biodiversity. This means that our environment would be teaming with diverse communities of plants, animals, and microorganisms all interacting in complex ways to create resilience against diseases and climate fluctuations. Nutrient cycling and pollination would be abundant and native species could thrive.
Carbon sequestered and stored in trees
Certification increases the ability of our forests to act as carbon-storing machines. Making sure that more trees are replanted and regrown creates more growing trees storing more atmospheric carbon and mitigating the effects of our changing climate.
The rate of carbon sequestration in trees typically decreases with age, but if all the world’s forests were certified sustainable, each and every forest would exist as a crucial carbon sink, absorbing and storing large amounts of carbon dioxide. We could have more and more young trees planted and growing to store carbon from our atmosphere and continuing in a sustainable cycle.
Trees provide clean water
Sustainable forest management methods consider how trees interact with water systems and safeguard our water quality. Certified forests make sure trees are planted in a way that will prevent soil erosion and maintain the health of watersheds.
If all the world’s forests were certified, this would contribute to a more reliable and clean water supply for both humans and our natural systems.
Helping people – livelihoods, protecting workers, and Indigenous cultures
Certification of sustainable forestry supports communities and people dependent on forest resources by ensuring the practices can continue into the future. Fair and responsible management practices provide economic opportunities while ensuring the long-term health of the ecosystems. Some certification schemes even measure impact on workers and ensure safe and healthy conditions of the people who work along the entire supply chain. For example, the chain of custody standard from PEFC states that each organisation shall demonstrate its commitment to comply with the social, health, and safety requirements that the standard requires.
Insights gained from certified forests can be applied to agricultural settings too, this could foster the development of more sustainable and environmentally friendly farming methods. Integrating tree cultivation with traditional farming practice, known as Agroforestry, could enhance land use efficiency and provide additional sources of income for farmers.
What about Indigenous cultures and forests? In Australia and around the world, Indigenous communities have strong cultural and traditional ties to the forests. Sustainable management of certified forests would respect and integrate traditional values, preserving unique cultural practices, and knowledge passed down for many years.
Many Indigenous communities practice sustainable land management techniques that have been honed over generations. Adopting certified forest standards that recognise and respect these traditional practices, would allow Indigenous Peoples to continue managing and caring for their ancestral lands in a way that aligns with their cultural values.
Certification processes typically include measures to protect cultural heritage sites within forests as well. This practice safeguards artifacts, sacred places, and archaeological sites that are integral to Indigenous cultural heritage.
Recreation and tourism in our natural spaces
Certified forest practices are important for tourism and recreation as they protect the beauty of forested areas, provide recreational opportunities, offer educational experiences, support local communities, and contribute to the overall sustainability of tourism industries. A world full of certified forests could become packed with destinations that balance the needs of visitors with the imperative to preserve and protect natural ecosystems.
Certification ensures that tourism activities are conducted responsibly to minimise negative impacts on the environment. Forests that are cared for and are certified provide spaces for relaxation, stress relief, outdoor recreation and connectivity. Having certified forested areas around the world would leave a positive impact on the wellbeing of our population, and we could all rest assured that the lands we are enjoying are also managed for their own health and wellbeing.
Innovation and technology
The need for sustainable forest management could drive research and development of innovative technologies and practices, fostering a culture of environmental responsibility and technological advancement.
Like the invention of the catalytic converter or the portable defibrillator, could certified forests and the need to regulate their management create opportunities for growth and innovation that we haven’t yet imagined?
Forests and the globe – how global climate regulation might look
In this world where every forest is certified sustainable, could we create a harmonious balance between human needs and environmental conservation? Could we establish an abundant natural resource pool that would contribute to a healthier and more sustainable planet for future generations?
We could, and it might look like…
- International cooperation and agreements on a framework of standards for sustainable forest management. That framework might provide a universally accepted definition of sustainable forest management. One that encompasses ecological, social, and economic dimensions. This definition could guide policies and practices to maintain the health and resilience of forest ecosystems.
- A global agreement on carbon accounting could provide incentives for the conservation of our carbon-rich forests. The framework might also be inclusive and encourage meaningful participation in all decision-making processes, acknowledging Traditional Owners and their connection to lands.
- We might finally agree on carbon emissions targets and be transparent in our monitoring and reporting systems for our forests. These frameworks might be flexible and adaptable to be agile in our mission to address our changing climate.
So, what about Australia’s forests?
Australia already does a pretty good job of managing forested lands. Forests in Australia cover 134 million hectares, which is 17% of the country’s land area. This includes protected areas like national parks, state forests that are managed for multiple uses, and private forest land and plantations.
These Australian forests contain an estimated 10.5 billion tonnes of carbon captured by the removal, by forest plants, of almost 38.5 billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere. This represents around 77 times Australia’s annual net greenhouse gas emissions (emissions for the year to December 2021). Another 11.5 billion tonnes of carbon is estimated to be contained in our forest soils as well.
Choosing certified wood products does make a difference. It means that you are choosing materials and products that are regulated and renewable. Certified wood products consider our environment, our changing climate, and our communities too.