Visiting the village of Urumarav in the Adelbert Mountain Range of Papua New Guinea's Madang Province; Kelly Basebas, Vice Chairman of the Almami Local Level Government Conservation Advisory Committee and TNC partner, uses a map to discuss the region with the villagers. The Nature Conservancy has developed strong relationships with local landowners, the Provincial Government and non-governmental organizations in the Adelbert Mountain area to secure lasting conservation of Papua New Guinea’s tropical forests.

Working Group:
Forest Sharing or Sparing?

Logging is part of the present and future of many of the world’s forests, and loggers are gatekeepers to much of the remaining intact forests. So what is the best way to achieve conservation and benefits for people in tropical timber production landscapes?  Should we encourage intensified timber production in order to reduce selective logging pressure on remaining native forests (sparing), or should we promote reduced impact selective logging to reduce deforestation for timber plantations, or some combination of the two? This working group seeks to provide science to illuminate answers for policy and industry.

Photo: Mark Godfrey © 2008 The Nature Conservancy | More Info
Photo: ©Bridget Besaw

Working Group Summary

Developing Science-based Tools to Guide Forest Management Decisions

Native tropical forests under selective logging timber production already cover more than twice the area of those under strict conservation protection. Meanwhile, a smaller but growing proportion of tropical forests are being converted to high-intensity timber plantations. The Forest Sharing/Sparing Working Group aims to develop an empirical, science-based framework to answer the question: How do people and countries achieve the greatest conservation and human well-being outcomes in landscapes with target levels of timber production?

Learn about the Challenge

Photo: © Ana Garcia/TNC

The Challenge

Achieving Lasting Conservation Outcomes in Tropical Forests Given Demands for Food, Fiber and Fuel

Humans now actively manage the majority of land on Earth, and our footprint is found in nearly all remaining natural landscapes. It is no surprise that a debate about how to mix people and nature has emerged — dubbed “land sharing vs. land sparing” — that asks the question: How do we achieve the greatest conservation outcomes in a landscape given demands for food, fiber and fuel? Should we intensify production in one part of the landscape so that we may strictly protect (“spare”) the remainder? Or is it better to integrate (“share”) production and conservation in the same areas?

Answering this question is especially complex in tropical timber production landscapes, where many countries have new forest climate emissions reductions policies and goals that appear to conflict with increasing timber production targets. Timber production also has tremendous implications for human well-being in the tropics — for instance, forestry jobs are major sources of high-risk employment, and timber harvest impacts flood risk and water quality. The ultimate outcomes for both nature and people of these activities vary greatly depending upon logging practices and production systems.

Conservation organizations, along with corporate and government partners, are investing in both “sharing” (e.g., low-impact logging in Mexico, Guatemala, and Borneo) as well as “sparing” approaches (e.g., intensification of cattle ranching in Brazil). Yet none of these initiatives seem to have considered the empirical basis for choosing one approach over the other.

The long-term sustainability of large-scale conservation efforts depends upon achieving not just carbon outcomes, but also human well-being and ecosystem service outcomes for local communities. The complexity of tropical timber production landscapes demands focused analysis. The urgency of this analysis is amplified by the advance of forest-carbon financing (e.g., the FCPF Climate Fund, now at ~$460 million) and processes (e.g., UNFCCC) that are driving policies in tropical countries to achieve forest conservation outcomes by 2020, in the midst of growing demand for tropical timber.

Read about this Inquiry

Harvest timber in a log yard. Using conventional logging methods, the P.T. Inhutani Timber company harvests timber in the Inhutani conventional logging concession situated in the tropical forest of East Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia.

The Inquiry

Maintaining Timber Production While Improving Outcomes for Carbon, Conservation and Water

The Working Group will synthesize a set of “best practices” across the range from low- to high- intensity timber production systems, and estimate carbon, water, biodiversity and human well-being benefits from the implementation of these practices. For these practices, the group will consider both (i) how to improve outcomes per hectare harvested, and (ii) whether an increase in harvest intensity paired with set asides that have high conservation value within a forestry management unit could improve conservation outcomes while maintaining timber production.

The Working Group will produce analyses, maps, extension reports, and peer-reviewed manuscripts that represent the best available knowledge to address the challenge of large-scale tropical forestry conservation planning, including:

  • A systematic review of the literature on the conservation and human well-being implications of sharing vs. sparing approaches in tropical timber production landscapes.
  • Analyses that model the conservation & human well-being benefits of improved design and distribution of timber production landscapes.
  • A synthesis of recommended best practices — including set asides and harvest intensity — across a range of timber production systems (native forests & plantations) that maintain timber production and improve outcomes for carbon, biodiversity and water.
  • Estimates of benefits from specific best practices. Reports will be the basis for meetings with government forestry agencies and certification bodies. These meetings will aim to integrate a new generation of best practices that achieve measurable conservation benefits into national and international policies and standards.

Results will be fed into landscape modeling analyses of “land sharing vs. sparing” scenarios. The group’s findings will be used to:

  • Test best practices with partnering land managers, integrate them into certification standards; and
  • Advocate for adjustments to forestry and climate policies to achieve an optimal balance of conservation, human well-being, and timber production outcomes.

Meet the Forest Sharing or Sparing? Team

Photo: ©Bridget Besaw | More Info

The Team

The Forest Sharing or Sparing? Team

SNAP