Forest Integrity Assessment Tool (FIAT)

HCV Network

A simple and user-friendly tool for assessing and monitoring biodiversity conditions in forests and forest remnants.

Assessing and monitoring forest biodiversity is a huge challenge, particularly for smallholders, communities and medium-sized entities. Populations of large, conspicuous and easily identified animal species, particularly those that are active during daytime, build characteristic nests, or leave large droppings, may be monitored through surveys in the field. However, organizing, conducting and interpreting such surveys is beyond the capacity of smaller operators. In fact, broader inventories of invertebrates, fungi, mosses and lichens – the bulk of forest biodiversity in terms of numbers – are very challenging even for well resourced, large organizations, as is evaluating the results and using them to adapt and improve management.

The Forest Integrity Assessment (FIA) tool is a simple and user-friendly checklist approach designed to overcome these constraints. Assessments focus on habitats as indirect proxies for biodiversity rather than on species, using natural
forest types little affected by large scale human activities as reference. The approach is applicable both to larger forests and to remnant forest patches interspersed in agricultural and forestry landscapes. The tool can be used for monitoring by companies, for self-assessment by smallholders and for participatory monitoring with community members – in fact almost anyone
with an interest can learn how to apply the approach. Some basic training is necessary to achieve reasonably consistent results: smallholders may learn how to assess and monitor their woodlots during a day of field training, while a couple of days may be needed to train people to consistently sample and monitor larger forests.

Forest Integrity Assessments may serve one or all of the following purposes:
• Self- or participatory assessment and monitoring over time of forest conditions for biodiversity in managed forests and/or in high conservation value (HCV) areas or set aside reserves.
• Guiding responsible forest management and forest restoration by identifying features and elements that are currently missing (gap-analysis). This helps managers to identify what they can do (or abstain from doing) in order to recreate such structures and so score better in the future.
• Raising awareness and educating non-biologists about forest conditions important for biodiversity.

The tool has been successfully adapted to different forest types and locations in collaboration with interested stakeholders.

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