Shunchang, a state-owned forest plantation located in China’s southeast, became the first property in the country verified through FSC’s Ecosystem Services Procedure for the positive impacts of its forest management practices. With the help of the procedure, this group of FSC certificate holders has been able to quantify and make visible its impacts on watersheds, carbon and biodiversity. The verification refers to an area of 16,300 hectares of forest, within a 23,100-hectare management unit.
The value of ecosystem services
In recent years, greater emphasis has been placed on the value created by ecosystems. Forests and their ecosystem services provide us with clean water, richer soil, greater biodiversity, and the potential for revenues from tourism, to name a few. They also play a critical role in tackling climate change. Given the current global climate emergency, it is more important than ever to preserve these valuable services.
At a recent seminar, FSC China’s Director, Ma Lichao, commented on the importance of scientifically monitoring ecosystem services: “This has posed a challenge for very long – and at the same time, it is very important for both the public and the market to see the value of ecosystem services.” Mr. Ma continued, saying, “Over the past two years, the FSC Ecosystem Services Procedure has helped address this challenge, becoming a valuable resource for responsible forest managers. It allows them to receive acknowledgement from the market.”
Making ecosystem services quantifiable and more visible
The Shunchang Forest Farm first became an FSC forest management certificate holder in 2010. The 23,100-ha plantation, equivalent to 23,000 football fields, now has 16,300 ha of forest with verified positive impacts on biodiversity, carbon and watersheds.
Use of the FSC Ecosystem Services Procedure has revealed that in 2018, the forest’s carbon stock had increased by 426,294.9 tonnes of CO2 compared to 2009 – equivalent to the annual emissions of around 160,000 cars. The average carbon stock per unit of area also increased by 30.1 tonnes of CO2, a growth rate of 16.3%. Meanwhile, forest stands have grown more natural over the past ten years, in a process known as natural succession. This is considered very helpful in restoring biodiversity. The water purity of the forest’s watershed is also significantly higher than that of nearby non-certified land.
An economic incentive and inspiration for forest managers
Shunchang is already reaping institutional benefits as a result of their three-fold impact verification, concluded in December 2020. Besides increased credibility with its partners and buyers, they are now seeking monetary resources, both domestic and international, to sustain their valuable efforts in preserving ecosystem services.
The site has also attracted field visits from numerous forest managers in the region who are interested in adopting similar forest practices. The prospect of communicating such benefits to stakeholders up the supply chain has sparked their enthusiasm.
What is the FSC Ecosystem Services Procedure?
The FSC Ecosystem Services Procedure consists of seven steps. Each step helps FSC forest managers identify the positive impacts of their forest practices on ecosystem services. Once an independent certification body has evaluated the process, each verified impact produces an “ecosystem service claim.” Forest managers and their sponsors can then use these claims for promotion and communication purposes.
FSC certifies ecosystem service sites all over the world. It recently celebrated its 63rd successfully issued ecosystem service claim.