Today I Learned

The 7 Essential Criteria of Sustainable Forest Management-Part 1

The Montreal Process Criteria and Indicators were created in 1992 during the Earth Summit. They addressed the sustainable management of forests to conserve the overall range of critical functions and characteristics like carbon cycles, forest health, water and soil protection, biodiversity, and forest productivity.

In February 1995, the member countries, including the United States, Australia, Argentina, Canada, China, Japan, and others, adopted these set of criteria for use by the working groups assigned to gauge their practicality and value.

The criteria dubbed-“The Montreal Process Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management”, were developed to focus on the challenge of assessing tangible progress towards forest conditions and sustainability.

The indicators are measurable components relating to a part of (or) the entire natural system, which can give insights into the condition of the forest ecosystem.

In today’s Nature’s Packaging post, we describe these essential criteria and explain their importance in sustainable forest management.

Criterion 1: Conservation of Biological Diversity

Biological diversity refers to the variety of life supported by Earth. It comprises distinct levels, including ecosystems, genes, species, and various creatures. The interactions of these levels make the earth habitable. However, in the wake of the climate change threats, the entire concept of biodiversity is under threat, which is why the first criterion focuses on the conservation of biological diversity.

Both harvest prepared and natural forests play a significant part in biodiversity. They are part of ecosystems where different life forms interact with the environment and allow the system to respond to changes, recover from disturbances, and ensure the sustainability of ecological processes.

Human activities tend to adversely affect biodiversity by altering habitats, extinction of species, reducing indigenous populations, and introducing invasive species. Conserving biological diversity allows the forest ecosystems to function properly and provide broader environmental and economic value (forest products).

In this criterion, there are a total of nine indicators. The first three are concerned with the diversity of the ecosystem, describing the type, amount, and organization of forests which provide insights into the ability of forests to support organisms and ecological processes. The other six indicators are concerned with the number and biological diversity of plants and animals supported in these habitats, focusing on the species and genes.

Criterion 2: Maintenance of Productive Capacity of Forest Ecosystems

Populations worldwide rely on forests directly for a multitude of forest-based products. The sustainability of these products is directly linked to the forests’ productive capacity, and if the requirements exceed the limit of that capacity, the ecosystem is depleted or damaged.

Thus, populations must ensure the sustainability of forests by determining acceptable levels of extraction of all the forest-based products that will not collapse the ecosystem. This must also account for the type of forest-based products in demand and how that demand changes due to social, technological, and economic trends advancements. Variations in a forests’ productive capacity can be a signal to modify those trends or other factors affecting the ecosystems.

The second criterion thus focuses on maintaining the productive capacities of forests. It has five indicators, where the first four indicators track conventional measures relating to the trends and status of the forests that support wood supplies. The last indicator focuses on the trends of non-wood products extracted from these forests.

Criterion 3: Maintenance of Ecosystem Health and Vitality

The expansion of a forests health and vitality is dependent on the functioning of the ecosystem’s processes and components. Any natural ecosystem, to maintain its functions and active processes, must have the ability to recover from external disturbances. While most disturbances and stress are natural, some extreme occurrences overwhelm the ecosystem, undermining its ability to function effectively.

As a result, there can be severe ecological and economic consequences, including environmental degradation and elimination of forests benefits to the society. Forest ecosystem health and vitality maintenance efforts can help minimize and mitigate these risks.

The criterion for maintenance of ecosystem health and vitality has three indicators. The indicators focus on the area and percentage of forests affected by circumstances beyond historic variations, lands affected by specific levels of air pollutants, and lands with significantly reduced biological components due to changes in critical ecological processes.

Criterion 4: Conservation and Maintenance of Soil and Water Resources

Soil and water are the core components of a functioning and productive forest ecosystem. These forest components are essential in the regulation of groundwater. Further, the health of underground water systems is directly impacted by topography, soil, and water interactions. The interdependence of soil and water and forest ecosystems makes their conservation an essential aspect of forest management.

The interactions involved can significantly affect habitats and poor management can result in the loss of riparian buffering capability, degradation of aquatic habitats, and soil compaction. Water flow changes can result in flooding risks which threaten the lives of humans and other organisms.

It is the fourth criterion and has five indicators. The first four indicators focus on soil and water resources protection and management practices. In contrast, the last indicator is the size of water bodies with the noteworthy changes in physical, chemical, and biological properties.


Join Nature’s Packaging next week as we finish up with the remaining criteria in our next blog post, “The 7 Essential Criteria for Sustainable Forest Management – Part 2”

Turning Wood Scrap into Useful Adhesive Tape

Turning Wood Scrap into Useful Adhesive Tape

Adhesive tape is generally made from petroleum-based products, but engineers working at the University of Delaware have figured out a way to use wood-based products to make adhesive tape of comparable quality, by using a throwaway component of processed wood. Paper manufacturers usually just discard lignin, since it has no value in the paper-making process, so until now it has generally ended up in landfills, or it has been burned as a heat source. Lignin is an inexpensive material which is very plentiful and sustainable, so it provides scientists with a perfect opportunity to create a useful product by recycling one which previously had little value.

Image Attribute: Image sourced from Flickr; distributed under CC-BY 2.0 License

How it Works

Lignin is itself a natural polymer, and it shares some physical properties with the petroleum-based polymers which are currently used to make adhesive tape, and many other products as well. Since it has this similar molecular structure, scientists theorized that it could be used make some of the same products that petroleum derivatives are used for. To prove their theory, they had to find a way to systematically break down the lignin, which is extremely tough, because its chemical structure is very complicated.

After a little trial and error, scientists found a way to break down lignin using a commercially available catalyst, and once they had isolated the polymers in lignin, it was only a matter of creating new and useful polymers. The entire process consisted of a series of steps which called for separation, purifying, recombining into new polymers, and characterizing the new polymers, in order to create wood-based versions of commercially used products. During testing of their new wood-based adhesive tape, researchers found that it was just as sticky as some of the most popular brands of adhesive tape on the market today, without any additives being included in the development process.

Other possibilities

The University of Delaware engineers used lignin from poplar trees throughout all of their experimentation, but it was always apparent that using lignin from other trees as well could produce a wider range of other products. Even limiting tree selection to those which have high lignin content, there are still many tree types suitable for creating products which rival petroleum-based versions.

Of course, this is a highly desirable outcome, since trees are a renewable source whereas fossil fuels are not, and the wood-based versions are also much friendlier to the environment. Scientists fully expect to be able to produce other kinds of tapes such as electrical tape, duct tape, bandages, and sticky notes, but there is optimism about creating a whole new range of products as well.

For instance, products like seals, gaskets, rubber bands, O-rings, and even tires for automobiles are within the realm of possibility for wood-based versions to be manufactured. What chemical engineering has achieved so far using a discarded component of paper and pulp processing, has been remarkable, and it is highly likely that even greater accomplishments are on the horizon.

Nature’s Packaging is committed to the increased use of wood products, especially wood packaging, from sustainably managed forests. Forests sequester carbon from the atmosphere and this helps reverse the impact of climate change. Wood products are recyclable and continue to store carbon throughout their life cycle.


How Forest Certification Non-Profits Were Born

How Forest Certification Non-Profits Were Born

In 1992 the United Nations met in Rio de Janiero in what’s now known as the Earth Summit. At this meeting, 172 governments participated to discuss continuing effects of climate change and how to stop it. One of the non-legally binding documents created from this event, Agenda 21, made several recommendations regarding the need for sustainable forestry practices to limit deforestation. This meeting prompted the creation of forest certification non-profit organizations that currently oversee sustainable forest management practices around the world. There are three of these organizations prevalent in North America: FSC, SFI, and PEFC.

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

Photograph from Wikipedia, distributed under a CC-BY 2.0 license.

Photograph from Wikipedia, distributed under a CC-BY 2.0 license.

The first international non-profit created after the 1992 Earth Summit in response to the need of forestry oversight is the FSC. In 1990, informal meetings among environmentalists, lumber traders, timber users, and human rights organizations took place in California. According to the FSC’s website, these meetings “highlighted the need for a system that could credibly identify well-managed forests as the sources of responsibly produced wood products.”

After the 1992 Earth Summit, it became apparent that this group must evolve into the international non-profit entity it is today. FSC is the world’s second largest forest certification program and as of October 2016, has certified more than 191 million hectares of forest area among 82 participating countries (one hectare is equal to 100 acres). They’re endorsed by the Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund.

Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)

The SFI program launched in 1994 in the United States, also in response to the 1992 Earth Summit, to promote sustainable forestry practices. It was the US forest sector’s contribution to promote sustainable forestry practices. SFI founders believe that there are different ways to sustainably manage forests that allows them to be more competitive in the market. Since their inception, they’ve garnered a great deal of industry support. In 2005, they were endorsed by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), which is the largest international certification program in the world. To date, more than 30 indigenous groups across North America manage over 2.0 million hectares of forest land, certified to the standards of SFI.

To give back to the industry, SFI program participants are required to invest money in forestry research, technology, and science. Since 1995, program participants have invested $1.4 billion USD.

Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC)

The largest forest certification non-profit program on Earth is the PEFC. It was established in 1999 by national organizations from 11 countries. Whereas the FSC and SFI programs are audited by third parties in what’s considered to be a “top-down” process, the PEFC is considered a “bottom-up” process. The program enables “the development of national standards tailored to the political, economic, social, environmental and cultural realities of the respective countries, while at the same time ensuring compliance with internationally-accepted requirements and global recognition.” In other words, this system allows land owners within participating countries to use a forest management system that’s compliant with their local laws and international forestry standards.

The first countries to be PEFC certified were in the European Union. In 2004, forests in Australia and South America became certified, and in 2011, China came on board. As of June 2016, more than 300 million hectares are PEFC certified.

These programs were created to ensure forests will continue to sequester carbon and provide trees for future generations. Although each program is subject to criticism, their work has shown that there are different, effective ways to sustainably managing forests within the international community.



This is the third of a five-part series on forests and climate change.

Previous: The Carbon Cycle;  How Foresters Limit Their Carbon Footprint

Coming Next:

  • REDD+ and UN-REDD
  • The Future of Forestry


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