Forests play a critical role in regulating the earth’s climate. In fact, they are the largest terrestrial store of atmospheric carbon. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), deforestation and forest degradation account for over 5 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year. This figure represents over 13 per cent of global emissions.
The Paris Agreement calls on countries to drastically reduce these emissions to keep global temperature rise under 2°C. In response, the FSC Ecosystem Services Procedure offers a solution to maintain, enhance and restore carbon storage in forests. It consists of seven steps to help FSC certificate holders show the positive impact of their responsible forest management on the preservation and restoration of specific ecosystem services. An independent certification body evaluates this process and, if verified, each proposed positive impact results in a so-called “ecosystem service claim.” The certificate holder can then use it for promotion and communication purposes.
Recently, two local entities in Italy successfully used the procedure in their publicly managed forests. The Regional Authority for Agriculture and Forestry Services of the Lombardy Region (abbreviated as ‘ERSAF’ in Italian) and the Union of Municipalities Valdarno and Valdisieve (abbreviated as ‘UCVV’ in Italian) both demonstrated beneficial impacts linked to the restoration of forest carbon stocks (as per the Ecosystem Services Procedure Annex B, Impact ES2.2). Additionally, ERSAF was also verified for the maintenance of water quality (see Impact ES3.1) and UCVV for the preservation of important areas for recreation and tourism (see Impact 5.1). Together, they have approximately 18,000 hectares of forest where ecosystem services have been verified.
“The maintenance and proper management of these forests, backed by a well-informed and responsible decision process, represents a unique opportunity to conserve and improve essential ecosystem services in Italy,” commented Ilaria Dalla Vecchia, Forest Management Technical Advisor at FSC Italy.
The procedure requires a comparison between present and past data to evaluate positive ecosystem service impacts. UCVV proved the total net carbon stock in their forest increased over 20 per cent since 2004, amounting to more than 650 thousand tons of CO2 absorbed (as of 2019). In turn, ERSAF’s net carbon stock increased over 18 per cent since 2009, reaching over 3 million tons of CO2 absorbed (as of 2019). This is equal to the average annual emission of 184,000 cars. Furthermore, they committed to maintaining the same growth trend in carbon stocks for the next ten years.
ERSAF has protected 30 freshwater sources in their forest from degradation, excessive human consumption and contamination. These measures significantly improved the pH and nitrogen levels of those sources. As a result, ERSAF has verified positive impacts related to the maintenance of water quality. UCVV has preserved an area equal to 2,400 football fields for over 15 years in Tuscany, a region internationally renowned for its scenic landscapes and beautiful vineyards. They have also improved their infrastructure and increased the number of annual guest visits to the property, with the aim of enhancing recreational and tourism activities through good forest management.
UCVV Director and Mediterranean Model Forest Network Secretary, Toni Ventre, said the Ecosystem Service Procedure has amplified positive governance impacts: “It is a powerful means to communicate these improvements, demonstrating the incredible complexity of forest ecosystems and attracting partners that are willing to contribute.”
ERSAF director, Massimo Ornaghi, also commented on the procedure, adding that “the verification of ecosystem services highlights a commitment of several years, whose scope [they] will certainly extend in the future.”
FSC certifies ecosystem service sites all over the world. It recently celebrated its 32nd successfully verified ecosystem service claim.
If you are a potential sponsor or partner interested in this initiative, please visit the ecosystem services webpage to find out how to get involved.
You can also directly contact ERSAF at firstname.lastname@example.org and UCVV at email@example.com.