* Forest degradation remains a leading environmental problem, given the scale of forest loss and the crucial role of forests to both climate change mitigation and adaptation.
* Initiatives from the climate change policy arena, especially REDD+, are opening new ways for a broader mainstreaming of forest management.
* While REDD+ is a new kind of policy, such initiatives need to draw lessons and best practices from decades of donor investment into developing tropical forests.
The global degradation of forests
Forests serve a range of key functions in an ecosystem, including many related to climate change, conservation of biodiversity, provision of water resources, and soil protection. Moreover, different estimates put the number of people who directly depend on forests for their livelihoods at between half a billion and 1.6 billion people.
Nevertheless, the forestry sector continues to be under intense pressure. Between 2000 and 2010, approximately 13 million hectares of forests were converted annually to other uses or were lost through natural causes. Moreover, many remaining forests are subject to relatively weak governance and mismanagement.
The general lack of global progress on improving tropical resource management is linked to widespread agricultural expansion, global demands for tropical hardwoods, a general lack of monitoring and enforcement, and environmental stresses that amplify natural hazards.
Lessons from past forest conservation and management
Forest conservation and management require long-term, stable funding. While the scale of foreign aid directed towards forests has increased dramatically in recent years, historical financing for sustainable forest management and forest conservation efforts have been inadequate.
Win-win solutions are commonly proposed in the forestry sector. For example, some solutions accommodate forest conservation, while at the same time allow for the harvesting of resources. However, win-win solutions are often unrealistic. In forest management there are trade-offs between carbon sequestration on the one hand and, on the other, biodiversity conservation, climate change mitigation and adaptation targets, as well as other conservation and development goals.
There is also growing recognition that while interventions at a specific site can have positive outcomes, broader-scale management is also necessary to maximize conservation and maintain diverse ecosystem functions. In the specific...