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An Approach to Assess Relative Degradation in Dissimilar Forests: Toward a Comparative Assessment of Institutional Outcomes

Catherine M. Tucker, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana
J. C. Randolph, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana
Tom Evans, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana
Krister P. Andersson, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado
Lauren Persha, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana
Glen M. Green, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana


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A significant challenge in the assessment of forest management outcomes is the limited ability to compare forest conditions quantitatively across ecological zones. We propose an approach for comparing different forest types through the use of reference forests. We tested our idea by drawing a sample of 42 forests from the Midwest USA, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Brazil, Bolivia, Uganda, and Nepal. We grouped these forests by shared characteristics and selected a reference forest to serve as a baseline for each forest type. We developed an index of disturbances using ratios of several forest measurements to assess differences between each study forest and its reference forest. None of the study forests was known to have been impacted by major natural disturbances during the past 50 years. Therefore, the disturbances in these forests appear to be largely related to human activities. The forests most similar to their reference forests have had limited human interventions. Our results indicate the potential of this approach to compare different forest conditions across biomes. We argue that development of this approach could facilitate analyses of forest management institutions, promote reliable indicators to compare management outcomes, and contribute to improved policies for conservation.

Key words

biophysical factors; comparative analysis; forest management; institutions; multidisciplinary methodology; reference forests

Copyright © 2008 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087