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Australia's Sustainable Forest Management Framework of Criteria and Indicators 2008
Forests are complex ecosystems that provide a wide and dynamic array of environmental and socioeconomic benefits and services. The essential aim of sustainable forest management is to maintain the broad range of forest values in perpetuity, but assessing progress towards this aim is difficult. Criteria and indicators are used to simplify the task by characterising the essential components of sustainable forest management. They are intended to provide a common understanding of what is meant by sustainable forest management and a common framework for describing, assessing and evaluating a country's progress towards sustainability at the national level.
Most methods of sustainability assessment follow a broadly similar approach involving an analytical hierarchy, in which information is organised so that each individual component contributes to the understanding of a larger theme or question. The individual components ('indicators') may then be examined in terms of their contribution to key sustainability measures, which, in Australia's approach, consist of the following criteria:
- Conservation of biological diversity
- Maintenance of productive capacity of forest ecosystems
- Maintenance of ecosystem health and vitality
- Conservation and maintenance of soil and water resources
- Maintenance of forest contribution to global carbon cycles
- Maintenance and enhancement of long-term multiple socioeconomic benefits to meet the needs of societies
- Legal, institutional and economic framework for forest conservation and sustainable management.
These criteria are the same as those developed by the international-level Montreal Process Working Group on Criteria and Indicators for the Conservation and Sustainable Management of Temperate and Boreal Forests, known as the Montreal Process Working Group, which was formed in 1994 by countries with temperate and boreal forests. Members of the working group are Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, the Russian Federation, the United States of America and Uruguay; the Montreal Process indicators are therefore applied across 90% of the world's temperate and boreal forests. Australia has accepted the criteria developed by the Montreal Process Working Group and adapted the indicators to better suit the country's unique forests.