Forest Biodiversity

What Needs to be Done?

Forest biodiversity has been a controversial topic at the international level, yet forests have been a priority issue for many governments and organizations.

Forests have been on the international political agenda since the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. As a result of the intensive negotiations during this meeting, governments agreed to the Non-legally Binding Authoritative Statement of Principles for a Global Consensus on the Management, Conservation and Sustainable Development of all Types of Forests, also known as the “Forest Principles."

Since this meeting, considerable progress has been made regarding forest biodiversity, with several international meetings being held and numerous processes being created. For example, the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe (MCPFE) is a political initiative involving 40 European countries as well as the European Community. The MCPFE promotes the protection and sustainable management of forests in Europe.

Increasingly, much of the work on forest biological diversity is focusing on the creation and refinement of forest indicators. For example, in 1994 The Montréal Process, a Working Group on Criteria and Indicators for the Conservation and Sustainable Management of Temperate and Boreal Forests, was formed in Geneva, Switzerland. The Montréal Process promotes the development and implementation of internationally agreed criteria and indicators for the conservation and sustainable management of temperate and boreal forests. Indicators are important information tools as they allow for the assessment of the status and trends of forest resources globally as well as the 2010 Biodiversity Target. As such, indicators have come to be recognized as a vital component of sustainable forest management and, more recently, the ecosystem approach.

The issue of climate change has resulted in considerable attention being devoted to forests. As forests act both as a carbon sink and are likely to be greatly affected by climate change, they have become a growing issue of consideration for many governments and organizations. You can read more about efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries (REDD-plus) on the REDD-plus pages.

Given the importance of forests the Conference of the Parties decided at its sixth meeting in 2002 that an expanded programme of work on forest biological diversity was needed to address the issues confronting forest systems. The Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity assists Parties in implementing this programme of work.