The Conservation Values of Forests Project
Why This Project Matters
More and more people want to know that the things they buy are sourced and manufactured in a responsible manner. To satisfy this growing demand, companies that can demonstrate and communicate that their products are responsibly sourced are in a stronger position.
In the forest products industry, well-managed forest ecosystems can claim impact on a wide range of important ecological values, including habitat for high priority species, such as endemic and at-risk plants and animals; unique or at-risk ecosystems; and intact forest landscapes, matrix-scale ecosystems and their associated ecosystem services, such as timber products, pollination, carbon sequestration, and freshwater provisions. But metrics to quantify and transparently demonstrate this are currently lacking. In response, NatureServe is developing metrics for quantifying the condition of species, ecosystems, landscapes, and ecological processes on forest lands certified to SFI in the U.S. Southeast.
How the project helps brand owners and consumers
The metrics being developed by NatureServe will help SFI to translate the conservation value of forests certified to SFI to brand owners seeking to communicate the positive qualities of their supply chain choices. This work will also provide credible, defensible assurances that customers are receiving the sustainability attributes they desire when buying forest products. It will also help build understanding about the relationship between these products and the forest values we all care about.
Through an inclusive process with diverse partners, NatureServe will develop and apply a set of metrics for rapidly assessing the relative condition and function of ecosystems, enabling consistent and objective evaluation of biodiversity attributes. The biodiversity metrics will incorporate critical ecosystem values such as:
- locations of imperiled species and ecosystems
- rarity-weighted species richness
- fire regime condition classifications
- landscape condition and habitat connectivity
By enabling measurement of biodiversity on forests managed to the SFI Standard, brand owners, consumers, and everyone interested in supply chain sustainability can gain a sense of the important role of forest management. With standards that ensure conservation attributes ranging from watershed conservation to rare species protection, forests certified to SFI effectively conserve habitat for North America’s most iconic species, from caribou and grizzly bears to gopher tortoises and monarch butterflies.
An SFI Conservation and Community Partnerships Grant is supporting NatureServe’s leadership of a diverse and highly qualified team in a pilot study to develop and apply quantifiable metrics of the biodiversity value of lands certified to SFI. NatureServe will partner with the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI), the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the Florida Natural Areas Inventory, the Maine Natural Areas Program, as well as SFI Program Participants Hancock Timber Resource Group, Resource Management Service, LLC, Rayonier, and Weyerhaeuser. Together, they will help to test biodiversity, ecosystem- and landscape-conservation metrics on open pine forest stands on forestlands certified to SFI.
At the stand scale, all four SFI project partners have agreed to share existing data on biodiversity and forest condition for the focal stands that will be collaboratively selected for the pilot metrics applications, ensuring our ability to develop metrics that are relevant, practical, and ultimately scalable to other forest ecosystem types. The involvement of NCASI and three Natural Heritage Program forest ecologists will further ensure the scientific credibility of the final metrics and their broad applicability beyond the pilot effort in Coastal Plain pine forests.
How the Project Helps Forest Managers
This work will also help individual SFI Program Participants to better understand and manage forest lands in a way that ensures the conservation of biodiversity. The project will use an inclusive and iterative process to refine metrics for use in other forest ecosystems managed under SFI Standards. Ultimately, this work will contribute to SFI’s Conservation Impact Project, which will make the link between well-managed forests and the public benefits that each of us enjoy every day. Quantifying this link will give forest managers the hard data they need to make more fully informed management decisions, and it will provide brand owners and consumers with facts supporting forest sustainability.
This partnership of public agencies, conservationists and forest products companies will deliver scientifically credible metrics, which will be broadly applicable across North America’s forests.
- Project lead: NatureServe
- Sustainable Forestry Initiative
- Florida Natural Areas Inventory
- Georgia Department of Natural Resources
- Hancock Timber Resource Group (SFI Program Participant)
- Maine Natural Areas Program
- National Council for Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI)
- Rayonier (SFI Program Participant)
- Resource Management Service, LLC (SFI Program Participant)
- Weyerhaeuser (SFI Program Participant)
- An overview of the SFI Conservation Impact Project and how it focuses on carbon, water and biodiversity.
- A media release about the launch of the SFI Conservation Impact Project.
- NatureServe was a partner on a previous SFI-funded project — National Council for Air and Stream Improvement: Piloting a Habitat-Based Approach to At-risk Biodiversity Conservation on Lands Certified to SFI.
- NatureServe Canada and SFI partnered on informational webinars to enhance the level of knowledge about NatureServe and its role in the SFI Standard.