Natural forest disturbances and the design of REDD+ initiatives

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Basing ecosystem management and conservation on the best available science is essential to meeting intended goals and minimizing surprises. To design effective, efficient, and equitable policies for the REDD+ initiatives, requires that drivers of deforestation and forest degradation are correctly identified, and that the ecological context of those drivers is correctly understood. Contemporary forest ecology and management are based on the recognition that forest ecosystems are dynamic, and that those dynamics are often driven by both anthropogenic- and naturally induced disturbances. Here we examine the degree to which the dynamic view of ecosystems is incorporated into the design of REDD+ initiatives. We conducted content analysis of the World Bank's Forest Carbon Partnership Facility's 36 REDD+ participating countries' Readiness Plan Idea Notes and/or Readiness Preparation Proposals. Across the 36 countries, drivers of deforestation and forest degradation could be grouped into categories of institutional policies, political-economic contexts and social settings. The result of our content analysis indicates that there is a lack of discussion of the dynamic character of ecosystems and of the potential influence of natural disturbances on the identified drivers of deforestation and forest degradation. We argue that REDD+ initiatives must take into account knowledge of natural disturbance regimes (including the size, frequency and severity of key disturbances) in their framing of the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation in order to better understand the ecological stage on which these projects will be implemented after the piloting phase. This paper proposes four approaches to integrate understanding of natural disturbances with the socio-political and economic drivers of deforestation and forest degradation within REDD+ participating countries. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.

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Environmental Science and Policy

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