Does forest certification conserve biodiversity?

R. E. Gullison a1
a1 Centre for Biodiversity Research, University of British Columbia, 6270 University Blvd,Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada, and Hardner & Gullison Associates, LLC, 13810 Long Lake Road, Ladysmith BC V9G 1G5, Canada. E-mail: ted@hg-llc.com


Forest certification provides a means by which producers who meet stringent sustainable forestry standards can identify their products in the marketplace, allowing them to potentially receive greater market access and higher prices for their products. An examination of the ways in which certification may contribute to biodiversity conservation leads to the following conclusions: 1) the process of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certification generates improvements to management with respect to the value of managed forests for biodiversity. 2) Current incentives are not sufficient to attract the majority of producers to seek certification, particularly in tropical countries where the costs of improving management to meet FSC guidelines are significantly greater than any market benefits they may receive; available incentives are even less capable of convincing forest owners to retain forest cover and produce certified timber on a sustainable basis, rather than deforesting their lands for timber and agriculture. 3) At present, current volumes of certified forest products are insufficient to reduce demand to log high conservation value forests. If FSC certification is to make greater inroads, particularly in tropical countries, significant investments will be needed both to increase the benefits and reduce the costs of certification. Conservation investors will need to carefully consider the biodiversity benefits that will be generated from such investments, versus the benefits generated from investing in more traditional approaches to biodiversity conservation.

(Received November 7 2002)
(Revised January 15 2003)
(Accepted February 20 2003)

Key Words: Biodiversity; certification; tropical forests; forestry; Forest Stewardship Council; FSC.