Biodiversity Conservation and Model Forests

Forests are the most biologically diverse land-based ecosystem and biodiversity represents the foundation for the health and vitality of forests and ecosystem services people rely on. Most Model Forests are biologically diverse, and often include landscape areas with significant conservation or preservation values, such as national parks and world heritage forests containing species at risk. By promoting a landscape-level approach, Model Forests foster a reduction in forest-fragmentation (Svensson et al. 2012), enhance wildlife habitat and support the development of collaborative strategies with local communities for managing biodiversity.
In conjunction with local stakeholders, the Kodagu Model Forest (India) revived 1,214 sacred grove sites (Devarakadu) that were losing their physical, social, cultural and religious significance. Although relatively small in physical size—varying from 0.5 ha to 300 ha—their distribution throughout the landscape has ensured that they conserve a significant proportion of biodiversity of Kodagu (Kushalappa and Raghavendra 2012).
On a different scale, the Komi Model Forest (Russia) helped create the 730 000 hectare Pechoro-Ilychsky Reserve, the largest reserve of pristine forest in Europe. Inventory processes developed by the Komi and Eastern Ontario (Canada) Model Forests have also been instrumental is identifying forest areas of high conservation value. In Central America, the Reventazón Model Forest (Costa Rica) has been used as a platform to explore options to promote and strengthen two biodiversity corridors as a way of fostering integrated planning with local institutions for issues related to environmental management (Moya et al. 2012). Additionally, building on a process initiated over 26 years ago, the Colinas Bajas Model Forest (Dominican Republic) brought together local stakeholders, the government and a mining company to extend a successful forest landscape restoration initiative and establish as biological corridor between two protected areas.
UNESCO’s biosphere reserves have a very similar approach to sustainable development with a focus on large landscapes and broad stakeholder participation although their origins in conservation and SFM respectively are different (Axelsson 2009). There are a number of Biosphere Reserves whose boundaries overlap those of Model Forests and both groups work cooperatively to achieve common objectives (e.g., Dja Biosphere Reserve/Dja et Mpomo Model Forest, Huai Tak Teak Biosphere Reserve/Ngao Model Forest, Yungas Biosphere Reserve/Jujuy Model Forest). In some cases, the Model Forest has facilitated the establishment of a Biosphere Reserve (e.g., Eastern Ontario Model Forest/Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve, Fundy Model Forest/Fundy Biosphere Reserve).
The Chiquitano Model Forest (Bolivia), with an area of approximately 20 million hectares, is a unique dry tropical forest with an extraordinary rich natural diversity. Through the Model Forest, the municipality, indigenous communities, an NGO and private landowners in the district initiated a participatory process to promote the creation of a protected area on municipal land.
The Convention on Biological Diversity recommends the use of an “ecosystem approach” to guide efforts in conserving biodiversity. Model Forests are an excellent example of collaboratively managed landscapes that incorporate an ecosystem approach. Model Forest stakeholders commit to developing, testing, and sharing tools and approaches to managing landscapes in a sustainable manner.
For more information on Model Forests and biodiversity conservation:
      IMFN Connections, 2010, Biodiversity and Model Forests |
     Bonnell, B., R. de Camino, C. Diaw, M. Johnston, P. Majewski, I. Montejo, M. Segur, and J. Svensson. 2012. From Rio to Rwanda: Impacts of the IMFN over the past 20 years. Forestry Chronicle, 88(3): 245-253 |
     Svensson, J., P. Sandström, C. Sandström, L. Jougda and K. Baer. 2012. Sustainable landscape management in the Vilhelmina Model Forest, Sweden. Forestry Chronicle, 88(3): 291-297 |
     Kushalappa, C.G. and S. Raghavendra. 2012. Sacred groves (Devakad) of Kodagu: Living tradition of community-based conservation. Forestry Chronicle, 88(3): 266-273 |
     Moya, J.A.C. L. Quiros, and M. Jimenez. 2012. Challenges in the implementation of conservation policies in the Reventazón Model Forest. Forestry Chronicle, 88(3): 261-265 |
     Axelsson, R. 2009. Landscape Approach for Sustainable Development: From Applied Research to Transdisciplinary Knowledge Production. PhD thesis. Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences |
     Landowners participate in management planning of a protected area, Reventazón Model Forest, Costa Rica |
     Indigenous communities and landowners cooperating on resource conservation, Chiquitano Model Forest, Bolivia|
     Establishing a biological corridor improves livelihoods, Colinas Bajas Model Forest, Dominican Republic |
     Sami reindeer herders use GIS to reduce land use conflicts, Vilhemina Model Forest, Sweden |

This article was adapted from Bonnell et al. 2012. From Rio to Rwanda: Impacts of the IMFN over the past 20 years. Forestry Chronicle, 88(3): 245-253.