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Symposium 2012

Background Paper - Beyond carbon: Redefining forests and people in the global ecosystem services market

The Challenge

Forests are one of the world's major sources of ecosystem goods and services, including timber and water provision, carbon sequestration and biological diversity. Yet, destructive logging and increasi ...

Forests are one of the world's major sources of ecosystem goods and services, including timber and water provision, carbon sequestration and biological diversity. Yet, destructive logging and increasing global demand for agricultural area for food, feed and bioenergy production continue to put pressure on forests, leading to loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystem services. Without any action, this contributes to the development that future generations might inherit a planet with a much poorer life web and unstable climate than today, which turns the protection and restoration of World's forests into one of the prominent ethical issues of our time.

The need to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation is more urgent now than ever. International efforts through REDD+, CDM and voluntary carbon markets aim to encourage complementary activities of forest preservation, reforestation, afforestation and sustainable forest management. Many existing programs for sustainable forest management, agriculture and development dovetail with payment for ecosystem services (PES) programs in their similar concerns regarding the allocation of rights and responsibilities, agreements on service provision, and the verification and quantification of benefits. Recent efforts to link biodiversity conservation with national scale REDD+ initiatives depend on the explicit regulatory linkage of biodiversity preservation goals with carbon targets. We emphasize the need to include biodiversity conservation and sustainable development as integral components of forest carbon projects. As fundamental social, political and cultural issues have yet to be addressed in the current market structure, we urge a better understanding of the tradeoffs between the full suite of ecosystem services provided by different forest types. Here, we provide a conceptual framework for the integration of payment for ecosystem services programs with biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.