Criteria and Indicators of Sustainable Forest Management in a Changing Climate: An Evaluation of Canada’s National Framework

  •  James Steenberg    
  •  Peter Duinker    
  •  Laird Van Damme    
  •  Ken Zielke    


Sustainability is now woven throughout forest management and policy. Criteria and indicators (C&I) provide a means of defining the concepts of sustainability in the context of forest management and establishing goals to gauge progress. There have been no major research initiatives to determine the implications of climate change for C&I. We evaluated the 46 indicators of the 2003 Canadian Council of Forest Ministers framework. Indicators were evaluated for their relationships with climate, relationships with other indicators, robustness and utility under climate change, and future prospects, including abandonment, improvement, or continued use. An evaluation framework was developed to analyze indicator linkages, direct and indirect climate-change influence, and potential modifications. 12 indicators were considered unaffected by climate change. The remaining 34 indicators were considered to be influenced by climate change. No modification seemed warranted for 23 of these indicators, while modifications for the remaining 11 indicators were recommended. Six new indicators were identified for monitoring forests sustainably under climate change. The difference between action and state indicators had implications for the influence of climate change on indicator effectiveness. State indicators were more prone to declines in their tracking ability, while action indicators were often unaffected, or even improved under climate change, as measured by several key traits of indicator effectiveness. The most prevalent theme in the evaluations was a decline in indicator predictability. We suggest moving from predominantly retrospective analysis to a balance of retrospective and prospective analysis, given that monitoring is inherently backward-looking and the threats and uncertainties of climate change are impending.

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