In particular, the collaboration will explore forest landscapes, forest climate, forest biodiversity and forest peoples’ resilience. To do this, the group will seek a data-driven approach to identify high value forests, their values and their proposed management.

As a first step in the collaboration, a concept and definition for the term “high value forests” will be developed. This concept will include primary, old growth, ancient, endangered, and high conservation value forests, as well as forest biodiversity hotspots and Indigenous cultural landscapes.  It will consider existing related concepts and will be based on best scientific knowledge and professional practice. A map of where these forests are will be produced, the characteristics of their values identified, and what they mean in their respective landscapes explored. Landscapes will be considered in their entirety, together with global challenges such as biodiversity protection, climate resilience, food security, Indigenous cultural landscapes, and so on.

The completed mapping exercise will be used to look at different research recommendations for the management of high value forests. In turn, these will help the organizations involved to organize innovative ways to engage members and stakeholders to develop scenarios on landscape use, which will be tested in pilot projects.

Among other things, the research recommendations will aim to provide a new basis for the discussions on intact forest landscapes (IFLs) in FSC. Since the approval of Motion 65 on IFLs at the FSC General Assembly in 2014, the topic has been highly controversial and divisive in the organization.

Although there is a wide acknowledgement in FSC’s membership that IFLs need to be identified and protected, strong concerns with Motion 65 have been raised consistently by certificate holders, governments and members of FSC. One of the main challenges identified is whether it is feasible to strictly protect the majority of IFLs inside already existing forest concessions, and what the alternative is if FSC certification of these areas is no longer an option. Stakeholders have questioned whether it would be possible to take the status of nature protection in the wider landscape into consideration in the decisions related to protection and management inside the FSC certified forest management unit.

Another challenge is the fact that FSC certified concessions are often relatively small parts of a wider landscape with high values. Responsible management in the certified concessions will not be sufficient in the search for nature-based solutions to critical global challenges, such as biodiversity protection, indigenous and social resilience and climate change mitigation. The research effort will work with the FSC membership and stakeholders to explore ways of engagement with other partners to identify solutions for the wider landscape in which FSC certified areas are found.