Posted: January 14, 2020

In 2016, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI) launched a large-scale effort to quantify the conservation benefits of SFI’s work, and the connection between sustainable supply chains and important conservation outcomes.

The SFI Conservation Impact Project focuses on developing metrics for climate change mitigation, water quality, and biodiversity to encourage forest health, conservation, and sound management. Quantifying the environmental benefits will also enable the SFI community to understand and promote the conservation values associated with sustainably managed forests and will facilitate continual improvement.

To the best of our knowledge, SFI is the only forest certification system in North America that has taken on the task of comprehensively quantifying the environmental benefits of their system from a scientific standpoint. According to Paul Trianosky, chief conservation officer at SFI, "SFI's Conservation Impact Project will ultimately facilitate continual improvement in forest management practices, help ensure that these forests contribute meaningfully to conservation goals, and help build confidence in the users of sustainably sourced forest products about their connection to conservation outcomes."

The Conservation Impact Project consists of numerous smaller projects, generated by partnerships within the academic, conservation, and research communities, and including SFI's own Program Participants. While many research projects are still underway, there have been some exciting project announcements and results over the last three years. Below are just a few examples.

  • NatureServe has worked with SFI-certified private forestry companies to develop quantitative metrics for evaluating conservation value of sustainably managed forest lands with a focus on biodiversity value/measures. With support from SFI's Conservation and Community Partnership Grant Program, NatureServe led a pilot effort to develop and assess metrics in four broad categories for three locations. Results indicate that lands certified to the SFI Forest Management Standard in the three study areas provide important biodiversity and conservation value by 1) sup¬porting habitat and confirmed occurrences of critically imperiled or other species of concern, 2) supporting a diversity of ecosystem types and successional stages that support a suite of animal species that rely on these various successional stages and ecosystem types, and 3) contributing large, connected areas of undeveloped lands, with positive implications for species dependent on extensive intact landscapes. NatureServe is ready to expand this research to all North American forests.
  • The University of Northern British Columbia is partnering with SFI to develop an Airborne LiDAR Survey that can consistently and accurately measure biodiversity on lands certified to the SFI Forest Management Standard.
  • American Forests is working to develop an approach for including soils in forest carbon calculations so that we can better understand whole-ecosystem carbon dynamics as well as the impacts of forest management on the entire forest carbon pool. This is important because soils often hold more carbon than a forest's aboveground biomass. Ultimately, this research will lead to a menu of forest management practices and guidelines that are beneficial for soil carbon, allowing SFI-certified forests to better protect existing forest soil carbon and enhance it as a climate mitigation tool.
  • Keeping Maine's Forests (KMF) studied current carbon credit programs to determine the degree to which forests managed under the SFI Forest Management Standards meet their criteria, and develop recommendations to SFI Program Participants to improve alignment. KMF found that, although SFI Program Participants have resources and systems in place for designing and maintaining a carbon project, the auditing processes for SFI certification and carbon verification are not similar and represent additional costs for landowners.
  • Virginia Tech is evaluating the implementation and efficacy of best management practices (BMPs) for water quality. Initial results broadly indicate a significant and negative relationship between BMP implementation and erosion rates. Results support the premise that BMP implementation rates can provide an index of water quality protection.
  • The University of Georgia analyzed the role of SFI's Fiber Sourcing Standard in influencing the implementation rate of forestry BMPs within the wood purchasing area of mills certified to that standard. Results suggest that the implementation rates are on average higher on those harvested sites located within the wood purchasing area of mills certified to the SFI Fiber Sourcing Standard as compared to those harvested sites located outside the wood purchasing area of mills certified to the SFI Fiber Sourcing Stand.

A large part of these conservation efforts are driven by SFI Program Participants. SFI certification standards require them to collaborate to support research to improve forest health, conservation understanding, productivity, and sustainable management of forest resources. SFI is the only forest certification program in North America with a research requirement, resulting in nearly $1.7 billion of investments from SFI Program Participants since 1995. In 2018 alone, 423 different conservation and research projects were reported by SFI Program Participants.

For more information on the SFI Conservation Impact Project and related research, please visit the SFI website.

Center for Private Forests

Address

416 Forest Resources Building
University Park, PA 16802

Center for Private Forests

Address

416 Forest Resources Building
University Park, PA 16802