How working forests can support people and planet

Green Solutions

Sustainable forestry and forest conservation go hand in hand with a landscape approach for working forests.

Denis Popov, group natural resource manager, Mondi explains.

Today is International Day of Forests – a great opportunity to talk about how we can ensure the future of the world’s forests, for the benefit of a living planet.

To say that forests are important for life is an understatement. We depend on them for food, medicines, shelter, biodiversity, fuel, pulp and paper, jobs, recreation, fresh water, clean air, and even the climate.

The biggest threats to the world’s forests today are deforestation and forest degradation. Both can be drivers of accelerated global warming, loss of biodiversity, and disruption of livelihoods, among other negative impacts.

In my work as natural resources manager for Mondi Group, and in leading the Ecosystem Stewardship workstream of our global partnership with WWF, the team and I work to demonstrate how forestry operations in different natural and socio-economic settings around the world can be sustainable.

A ‘working forest’ aims to ensure long-term availability of a wide range of forest products and services. So that forests are protected and continue to function and provide benefits in the long term, we have to take into account the entire landscape, with its different land uses and numerous stakeholders.

This landscape approach – a well designed, multi-layered network of significant conservation areas, plus productive ‘wood harvesting’ areas, linked together in a mosaic landscape – is how we at Mondi practice forestry and is what we advocate for our industry and others.

We call our model the ‘sustainable working forest’, and you can learn more about it in our latest sustainability report.

In productive forest areas, as soon as trees are harvested, young trees are regenerated naturally, or they are planted, if necessary. The young trees are protected from disturbances to allow them to grow to maturity. Soil health and hydration are also managed, to support effective nutrition cycles for the young trees. Consequently, the landscape is a mosaic of different forest stands, with trees of different ages and species.

As long as harvesting does not exceed annual growth, and conservation areas are respected, the forest can thrive and support a continued supply of wood and other forest products and services, without loss of forest area (deforestation) or loss of biodiversity (degradation).

Crucially, local stakeholders have to work together and agree on acceptable uses (or non-uses) for particular forest areas in a landscape.

It is important to think beyond boundaries and engage all land users – foresters, farmers, civil society, local communities, authorities, and others – in collective action to create sustainable benefits for all stakeholders and the natural environment.

In Mondi’s South African forestry operations, for example, we have been working with WWF South Africa (WWF-Mondi Water Stewardship Partnership) and Stellenbosch University (Mondi Ecologic Networks Programme) to design a robust ecologic network for plantation forestry landscapes.

In our Russian forestry operations, we are working with WWF-Russia and the Silver Taiga Foundation for Sustainable Development to develop a network of protected, high conservation value forest areas. We have recently signed a landmark agreement to protect the cores of Intact Forest Landscapes with local and national NGOs in Russia.

We continue to share and review existing and new good practice in sustainable forestry through the WWF platforms, New Generation Plantations and Boreal Forest Platform, which Mondi co-founded.

As a member of Climate Savers, WWF's climate leadership programme, we have committed to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions across our value chain and to work to positively influence the packaging and paper industry.

Forests support human life with diverse natural capital – plants, animals, soil, water and air, to name a few. However, social capital – human networks and relationships of mutual respect – are the basis for sharing that natural capital fairly and preserving it for future generations.

Ultimately, our goal is to maintain and even increase the natural and social capital encompassed in the forest landscapes on which we all depend.

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