Forest Stewardship Council: first ecosystem services certification in Portugal

Photo: FSC GD/Milan Reska

The process of creating a sustainable and balanced model to manage forests is constantly changing. Forest stewards require new approaches to secure their livelihoods and protect the health of their forests. 2BForest, a Portuguese forest management group, understands the need to implement new tools that show the full value of their forests and make their model more sustainable. In working towards these goals, they became the first Portuguese organisation to achieve certification for their Ecosystem Services (ES) impacts.

2BForest implemented the ES procedure with three group members in Arouca, a region with rich forests that are part of the Natura 2000 network. These forests owners certified the impact of their activities on biodiversity, carbon storage, and recreational services, showing the diverse benefits that these forest ecosystems generate. The ES Procedure developed by Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has been a key tool in their transition towards value-oriented forest management.

2BForest model of forest management

2BForest consists of a large number of forest managers in Portugal, totaling more than 20,000 hectares and 400 forest owners. They provide different services to forest owners, aimed at fostering the best possible practices in forest management, to protect their forests and develop a solid business model.

As part of this approach, 2BForest has developed an online platform called ForestSIM, where forest owners can find tools that will help them design and implement a forest management plan. The combination of this platform and the ES Procedure is the mechanism that 2BForest will use to create a balanced model of forest management for their group.

The Ecosystem Services Procedure

The FSC Ecosystem Services Procedure consists of seven steps to help forest managers show positive impacts of forest practices on ecosystem services. Once an independent certification body evaluates the process, each verified impact results in an “ecosystem services claim”. These impacts measure the value of excellent management practices, and can be used by forest managers and their partners to communicate a verified story. For Susana Brígido, general director of 2BForest, the ES certificate “acts as an incentive for the protection and restoration of forest ecosystem services, which will allow biodiversity to be considered as an asset with economic and social recognition of ecosystems and services they provide”.

2BForest’s commitment to protecting ecosystem services has already brought them visible results. In July 2021, they secured the first sponsorship of ecosystem services in Portugal, in a collaboration with partners committed to the sustainability of Portuguese forests. This agreement was reached through a voluntary platform, designed to leverage contributions to climate initiatives. This partnership will help 2BForest continue their mission of conserving of Portuguese natural heritage, increasing the resilience of rural territories, and improving the landscape of forest areas.

Plans for the future

This certification is just the beginning of the plans that 2BForest has for the future of their forests. They are planning on certifying all the forests that have conservation areas and integrating the ecosystem services approach with the innovative tools of ForestSIM. This will help them to improve the business model of their group members, while also aligning with national and regional strategies of nature conservation.

“Understanding ecosystem services is key to seeing our vulnerability to the effects of climate change,” said Sofia Ferreira, head of the Forest Unit at FSC Portugal. She explains that businesses face increasing pressure to ensure the sustainability of their supply chain, and consequently need tools to channel their support of positive initiatives. Similarly, all of us as citizens depend on ecosystem services, making it essential to support forest owners committed to ES protection.”

“Fortunately, this is becoming clear in Portugal!” Ferreira added. “This is why about half of our forest stewards are preparing to implement the ES Procedure and verify the impacts of their responsible forest management, a key step in securing healthy ecosystems for future generations.”