Forests are critical for sustainable development. They provide a wealth of goods and services that are essential for people's lives, livelihoods and the green economy. Maintaining and enhancing our planet's forest resources is essential if we are to succeed in the global efforts to alleviate poverty, address water scarcity and biodiversity loss, and mitigate climate change.
Forests are rich in species compared to other ecosystems, providing habitats for more than half of terrestrial species, from African gorillas to Asian tigers, from Scandinavian reindeers to American bald eagles. They also provide water for many of our rivers, helping to secure the quality and purity of what we drink and use every day.
An estimated 1.6 billion people rely on forests for their livelihoods to some degree, while more than two billion people - a third of the world's population - use biomass fuels, mainly firewood, to cook and to heat their homes. In fact, roughly a quarter of the world's poor and 90% of the poorest depend substantially on forests for their livelihoods, including some 60 million indigenous peoples and other forest-dwelling communities. Indeed, forests sustain nearly half of the population in the developing world, providing wood for fuel as well as non-timber products like mushrooms, nuts, rubber and medicines.
Forests are also of significant economic importance to rural development, with the forest sector contributing approximately US$ 468 billion to the global economy. In the Global South, in particular, forests play a major role in the national economies and livelihoods of local people. The forest sector contributes more than 8% of the gross domestic product (GDP) in some of the poorest countries.
Culturally and historically, the intrinsic value of forests, and the spiritual and sacred use of forests, is of great importance to local communities and our cultural identity.
Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) entails the management of forests to maintain their full range of environmental, social and economic values.
The concept of SFM has a long and evolving history in Australia. As our understanding of forest ecology has increased and community attitudes have changed, management practices have also changed to meet sustainable timber yields and maintain and protect other forest values.
There are a number of on-line resources which provide information on sustainable forest management in Australia and the benefits of using wood from sustainably managed forests (see below).
Certification of forest management against the Australian Forestry Standard (AS4708) provides an independent third-party assessment of an individual forest managers performance against the sustainability requirements established through an objective, transparent and inclusive standards development process.