“Secondary forests are a major terrestrial carbon sink and reliable estimates of their carbon stocks are pivotal for understanding the global carbon balance and initiatives to mitigate CO2 emissions through forest management and reforestation.” This is the first sentence of a recently published paper in Forest Ecology and Management.
The paper, “Estimating carbon stock in secondary forests: Decisions and uncertainties associated with allometric biomass models”, discusses the difficulties of estimating the amount of carbon stored in secondary forests. Regardless of how accurately the carbon stocks in the forests can be measured, the point is clearly made that the implications of excluding secondary forests from REDD are serious.
Yet, when Indonesia produced a two-year moratorium on new forest concessions, the moratorium applied only to “primary natural forest”.
Recently, the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, the world’s largest scientific organization devoted to the study and conservation of tropical ecosystems, agreed a Resolution on Secondary Forests. ATBC’s resolution strongly recommends that REDD should “include explicit land zoning and resource use considerations for existing primary forests as well as for secondary forests in different degrees of succession”.
ATBC Resolution on Secondary Forests
WHEREAS, Dynamic working landscapes -formed by large-scale conversion of forest to agriculture, harvesting activities, and secondary forest patches undergoing natural regeneration following abandonment from diverse land uses– have replaced continuous landscapes dominated by primary forests throughout most of the world’s tropical regions.
WHEREAS, Secondary forests are embedded in these working landscapes that may include severely modified habitats such as low-diversity agriculture, monoculture plantations, and highly degraded forests, all of which support rural livelihoods and some of the biodiversity conservation and environmental services we derive from primary forests.
WHEREAS, It is critical that we adopt a landscape, multi-use perspective in managing these forests for biodiversity conservation, environmental services, and rural livelihoods through appropriate spatial and land use planning.
WHEREAS, To enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of current and future public policy efforts aimed at conserving tropical forests and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation specific definitions of the different categories of forested landscapes (e.g., primary, secondary in different stages, and degraded) should be made explicit by interested parties.
WHEREAS, We recognize that tropical countries face tensions when attempting to make compatible both conservation and development/poverty alleviation goals, which in turn affects decisions related to the fate of forested landscapes.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, the world’s largest scientific organization devoted to the study, protection, and wise use of tropical ecosystems:
1. RECOGNIZES the conservation value of lightly and moderately disturbed forests and secondary forests in different stages of succession; and
2. URGES relevant parties to consider the ecosystem, social, and economic services provided by such forests when formulating land zoning and land and resource use policies; and
3. STRONGLY RECOMMENDS that any bilateral or multilateral agreements on forest conservation, such as REDD+ initiatives designed to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, include explicit land zoning and resource use considerations for existing primary forests as well as for secondary forests in different degrees of succession.
PHOTO Credit: Carnegie Airborne Observatory.