It may be easy to measure the economic value of forest products, but the other vital services provided by forests can be harder to quantify. FSC Ecosystem Services (ES) impact verification builds on FSC Forest Management Certification by providing forest managers and owners with a framework for protecting these benefits and scientifically measuring the impacts of their efforts. It enables impacts to be verified for biodiversity conservation, carbon storage, water purification, soil regeneration and recreation provision.
This trailblazing partnership between the Mull and Iona Community Trust (MICT), who bought and began managing Ardura forest in 2019, and TreeStory, an ecologically focused forestry and green investment consultancy, has verified impacts both for biodiversity and recreation services.
“We are delighted to have worked with MICT and the UK Forest Certification Group to validate the first UK woodland under the FSC Ecosystem Services Procedure,” says Claire Wightman, Forestry Consultant at TreeStory. “It is a joy to work with innovative landowners like MICT who are willing to lead the way in developing new techniques to measure the benefits of woodland for nature and communities. The success of this project was very much a team effort, not only within TreeStory, but also with our certification partners and FSC UK. We believe that FSC ES impact verification will become an important mechanism for assessing, quantifying and auditing non-timber benefits of woodland at a time when these benefits are more critically needed than ever.”
Ardura Community Forest consists of some relatively small areas of intact ancient semi-natural native woodland, areas of plantation forestry and a range of open habitats including grassland, heathland and mire (swamp/bog). There are also numerous veteran trees, particularly oaks and hollies, still present across much of the footprint of the ancient woodland, although many are now surrounded and threatened by non-native Sitka spruce. Community volunteers undertake activities to protect these isolated veteran trees and restore native Atlantic woodland habitats and associated lichen communities.
Through their management, MICT has demonstrated restoration of natural forest cover and conservation of natural forest characteristics. MICT has also undertaken activities to support nature-based recreation in the Ardura area through the construction of paths and facilities as well as hosting forest school sessions.
One of MICT’s objectives for pursuing FSC ES impact verification is to facilitate access to public and private finance to enable restoration practices at Ardura and to generate an alternative revenue stream from the forest to fund wider community benefits on the Isle of Mull.
Moray Finch, MICT General Manager commented, “We're over the moon to achieve this verification and are so pleased that we chose TreeStory as our project partner, as they share our concern for the environment. We hope the impact verification will convince potential partners that our project is founded on sound principles for restoring biodiversity and providing recreational access to nature".
The forest became FSC certified in 2020, as part of the UK Forest Certification (UKFCG) group scheme (FSC®C112410), confirming that its management meets FSC’s globally recognised Principles and Criteria for responsible forest management.
“The audit process was relatively straightforward owing to the wealth of documentation and preparatory work completed by the TreeStory team", explains Simon Webb, UKFCG Lead Auditor. “We are thrilled to have assisted TreeStory and MICT in their groundbreaking achievement with FSC ES impact verification, and hope other forest managers will be interested in this new development”.
“We congratulate MICT, TreeStory and UKFCG in their collaboration to go the extra mile to verify impacts of their forest management. Celebrating the UK’s first FSC verified impacts is both a professional and personal highlight for me, and I hope that this will be just the beginning of a trend that sees forest managers, funders and financiers work together to protect and enhance the ecosystem services forests provide, using FSC’s verification to help ensure that their ambitions become reality”
- Amy Willox, Outreach Manager, Forests and Ecosystem Services at FSC UK.
Find out more about FSC Ecosystem Services impact verification here.