logo1.gif (733 bytes)

Background Paper
List of Issue Paper
Streering Committee
List of Participant
Concept Paper
Forestry in IRAN
Agenda Of the Meeting
General Information


Based upon the information we can only make some general observations at this time. We need more information as to why we are producing the definition.  It seems that the purpose of having and applying the definition is to allow someone (decision-makers whereever) to take action when forest cover is deemed to be 'low' for a country.  The action could be internal to the country (remedial action to prevent further loss, action to extend forests, actions to address consequential problems of an environmental and or social nature), or they could be taken external to a country such as pressure to limit access to trade in forest products (exports) such as consumer pressure to limit sales or purchases of products from LFC countries, etc.

1. Definitions: We can define one or more definitions of what LFC could be and how to calculate and report it, and how to qualify it. However, understanding the purpose of the definition is important, because the technical / scientific expertise which can be brought to bear, can be used to produce many definitions which may serve some purposes better than others  Producing a definition of LFC, which seems to have at its core, the need/ wish to take action to change how forests are used, will be even more difficult.  Once a country is labeled as an LFC, it may be delighted because it may be an additional lever with which to obtain greatly needed resources, or it may be offended because it sees itself being controlled unduly by the nasty world outside.

2. Thresholds: As with the definitions, we need to get much greater clarification of just what the LFC figures are expected to be used for so that our efforts to set a threshold can be informed, rather than totally arbitrary; and can be focused on the kinds of outcomes that are desired.

Thresholds generally have a predefined set of conditions. These conditions occurred before the threshold, but not after, based on given variable(s). You may use a threshold only under a these conditions and only when these variable(s) are present to show that conditions have changed after the threshold.

The interest appears to be to identify countries that have potentially extreme problems with managing their forests and are in danger of losing most or all of them.  The idea appears to be that if a country is an LFC and is identified as such, then 'something' can be initiated to do something about it  Scientifically we know that if you have all of your forest cover and maintain it, then all biological and related activities should be OK, and similarly, if you have lost all of your forest then you have lost it all and nothing much can be done regarding the original biodiversity / ecosystems etc.  In between is a gradient with no scientifically justifiable boundaries that clearly mark out disaster on one side and 'OK' on the other. Having said this, it is clearly possible to select arbitrarily some threshold point.  The choice could come from an initial analysis of the country data.  It could have a strategic focus for example, such as: select the lowest 5% or 10% or X% of LFC countries and see whether we can activate programs and policies and actions that will change / improve the situation.  The choice might be based on what can be practically afforded in a 5-year period.

Because of the interaction between agriculture and forests where they compete for the same land, countries may well decide that they want, for whatever reason, to maintain as agricultural land, areas that were once forest.  In such circumstances, it is unreasonable to count such forest losses as losses contributing to LFC status. But then what is to be done with forest losses where permanent clearing or major ecological damage is done from expansion of subsistence agriculture as population increases, or as forests are turned into beef farms in order to earn foreign currency etc. Are we trying to deliberately set up a tension on land use decisions without setting up agreed rules on how the outcomes of a LFC classification will develop?  This interaction between science and policy is important to address at the outset.  It is not good enough to simply produce a definition and arbitrary thresholds and hand it over to the policy areas.  The definition and the threshold are virtually inextricably bound to the value systems of certain stakeholders.  Unless these are understood, then there will not be ready acceptance of the outcomes.

Scientific thresholds for area-based indicators should consider the variability of original forests and representativeness of remaining forests, not just the area of forests. Policy thresholds (e.g. a forest area ratio should exceed "xx" to avoid being labeled "low") for international application will rile those who wish to retain national sovereignty over "social" policy. UN agencies and processes may be the most appropriate "authorities" to set international thresholds.

3. Data availability: FAO has good harmonized estimates of forest land and forest and other wooded lands (FOWL). They also have good estimates of total land area and population per country. These data are currently being updated for the Global Forest Resource Assessment 2000 (FRA 2000). The World Conservation and Monitoring Centre and the World Resources Institute have estimates of "original" forest going back to 8000 years ago broken down on a country by country basis. The definition used for "original" forest differs from what FAO uses for its Global Forest Resources Assessment and, of course, no one knows for sure what was forested 8000 years ago. In spite of these shortcomings, the aforementioned forest data sets are the only ones we have on a country by country basis for the entire globe. A first cut at a global data set is given in Appendix 1. We either must rely on these global data bases or, as one contributor suggested, we ask each country for to provide new data both on the current situation and on its past.

The political difficulty is, of course, to get countries to find the resources to put into the data collection exercises initially. Even conducting reliable population censuses is difficult for many of them despite the very long history of attempts at doing it. Given the time frame specified by IUFRO, solicitation of data on a country by country basis is not a viable option.



[Introcuction][General Findings][An Analysis of Possible Definition]
[Some Final Notes
[Appendix 1-Basic Data For Low Forest Ccver Analyse]