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Forest Restoration in Landscapes

Forest Restoration in Landscapes

Section II The

Section II The Challenging Context of Forest Restoration Today

3 Impact of Forest Loss and Degradation on Biodiversity Nigel Dudley Key Points to Retain Assessment of current forest condition is a necessary precursor to restoration. Ecological assessments should consider issues related to biodiversity, level of naturalness, and more generally ecological integrity. A number of assessment tools exist, for national, landscape, and site-level assessments. They include: at national scale, frontier forests; at landscape scale, forest quality assessment; and a number of site-level tools including High Conservation Value Forest assessments. 1. Background and Explanation of the Issue 1.1. The Need for Assessment and Likely Impacts of Forest Loss Assessment of forest condition is an important precursor to the planning and implementation of restoration programmes. Restoration is a process that in the case of forests generally aims at rebuilding the ecosystem to some earlier or more desirable stage. There is widespread recognition of the need for restoration; for example, in its Programme of Work on Protected Areas the Convention on Biological Diversity advises governments to “rehabilitate and restore habitats and degraded ecosystems, as appropriate, as a contribution to building ecological networks, ecological corridors and/or buffer zones.” Given limited time and resources, restoration must be strategic, focussing on forests that have the highest importance to biodiversity or to society, and considering the four goals of conservation biology: representation, maintenance of evolutionary/ecological processes, maintenance of species, and conservation of large habitat blocks. Reasonably fine-scale analyses are needed to choose specific sites where restoration might bring the highest benefits. From a conservation perspective, this means evaluating the impacts of forest loss, including analysis of biodiversity, authenticity, and ecological integrity. Impacts on biodiversity: Complete forest loss has the clearest impact on biodiversity, with most forest-dwelling species unable to live in habitats that replace forests. However, it is harder to measure the impacts of changes such as fragmentation and loss of microhabitats. Management often simplifies forests, reducing biodiversity and age range; as older and dead trees disappear, so do many associated species. Conversely, pioneer or weed species may increase. Biodiversity monitoring is costly, and our knowledge of many forest ecosystems is still incomplete. One concept that has gained increasing recognition in the last few years is that of critical thresholds for particular species, that is, the population level below which further decline and eventual extirpation or extinction 17

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