A look at Intact Forest Landscapes and their relevance in Central African forest policy. Forest Policy and Economics 80, 192-199
Tropical forests are major providers of natural resources and ecosystem services but their ecological functions are at threat, due to increasing human pressure linked to economic development. The identification of priority areas for conservation is crucial for land use planning to ensure the protection of biodiversity and ecological function. Intact Forest Landscapes (IFLs), as defined by Greenpeace and World Resources Institute (WRI), are areas of the forest ecosystems not subjected to human activities. They have beenidentified by mapping human disturbances through remote sensing. Contrary to similar global-scale concepts, IFLs have been integrated into the standards of the certification body Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and therefore have practical implications for forest management policies. The Motion 65, approved in the general assembly of FSC in 2014, mandates the protection of IFLs located in FSC certified logging concessions. Until the implementation of national standards, forestry operations are banished from 80% of the IFL area within each forest management unit. To trace the history and evaluate the suitability of IFLs in the Central African context, we searched for documents related to the IFL method, and related approaches focusing on the identification of areas devoid of human disturbances. The IFL method is simple and cost-effective and allows for a global assessment of the influence of human infrastructures and industrial exploitation on forests However, the method does not consider the situation below the canopy and those forest components not visible by satellites. For example, hunting, one of the main threats faced by wildlife in Central African forests today, cannot be detected with satellite imagery. On the other hand, other anthropogenic activities which remote sensing may detect may be compatible with forest ecosystem conservation. To better tailor the IFL approach to Central African forests, we recommend (i) the consideration of wildlife communities in the intactness analysis, (ii) a thorough evaluation of the impacts of human activities on forest ecosystems, and (iii) the integration of local stakeholders and governments in the design of land management strategies to respond to social, economic and environmental needs.