The Australian Forestry Standard (AFS) specifies economic, social, environmental and cultural criteria and requirements for wood production that support continual improvement towards sustainable forest management.
The following provides an overview of the current AFS Criterion for Sustainable Forest Management.
Criterion 1 - Forest management shall be undertaken in a systematic manner that addresses the range of forest values.
NOTE: The intent of the requirements under this criterion is to ensure that forest management is carried out within a framework that enables the forest manager to address the organisation’s management activities relevant to the forest management performance requirements, and is commensurate with the nature and scale of its business. It is designed to be compatible with the ISO International series of AS/NZS ISO 14001:2004 EMS standard. The management system framework is to be flexible and adaptable for forestry enterprises at all scales, and to provide for continual improvement in management.
Criterion 2 - Forest management shall provide for public participation and foster on-going relationships to be a good neighbour
NOTE: The intent of the requirements under this criterion is to facilitate effective and cooperative participation to support the implementation of this Standard by a local, informed and active stakeholder base.
Criterion 3 - Forest management shall protect and maintain the biological diversity of forests, including their seral stages, across the regional landscape
NOTE: The intent of the requirements under this criterion is to protect and maintain the elements of the biological diversity of forests, including where relevant -
- ecosystem diversity, by maintaining the range of ecosystems across the landscape;
- species diversity, by maintaining forest dependent species; and
- genetic diversity, by maintaining representative species populations across their range
While the criterion is largely focused on native forest management, it is relevant to some aspects of plantation management such as planning and establishment. Other issues relating to biological diversity are addressed under Criterion 5, which addresses forest ecosystem health and vitality.
Criterion 4 - Forest management shall maintain the productive capacity of forests
NOTE: The intent of the requirements under this criterion is to ensure that harvesting and utilisation of forest products is consistent with the objective of maintaining the long-term productive capacity of the land. Other issues relating to maintaining productivity in perpetuity are addressed under Criterion 5, which addresses forest ecosystem health and vitality, and Criterion 6, which addresses soil and water resources.
Criterion 5 - Forest management shall maintain forest ecosystem health and vitality
NOTE: The intent of the requirements under this criterion is to protect and maintain the health and vitality of forests through the good management of both external and internal damaging agents, such as insects, disease, vertebrate pests and competition from non-endemic species, which can affect basic ecosystem processes and cause significant changes to the nature and condition of forests.
Ecosystem health is the state of processes and natural cycles that maintains the forest’s vitality, or capacity to perpetuate itself.
Criterion 6 - Forest management shall protect soil and water resources
NOTE 1: The intent of the requirements under this criterion is to maintain the protective and productive functions of forests and their ecosystem services to society through good management of factors such as erosion, vegetation cover, and chemical pollutants and contaminants that affect a range of important soil and water properties (e.g., soil biology, structure and fertility, water quality and water flows).
While the requirements are specific for the forest manager, it should be noted that there are a number of landscape scale issues where the responsibility for stewardship is shared among a number of catchment or land users, and the forest manager’s responsibility is part of a broader community of land managers in the regional landscape.
NOTE 2: Other issues relating to protection of soil and water resources are addressed under Criterion 4, which addresses maintenance of long-term site productivity.
Criterion 7 - Forest management shall maintain forests' contribution to carbon cycles
NOTE 1: The intent of the criterion is to maintain the capacity of forests to act as a net carbon sink and to minimise the emission of greenhouse gases resulting from forest activities by good management of the forest ecosystem biomass and carbon pool (including standing vegetation, coarse woody debris, peat and soil carbon).
The criterion also recognises the possible future emergence of economic, social and environmental criteria in schemes to give credit for carbon sequestration in forests and provides a linkage to programs and activities that may emerge to address this.
NOTE 2: Other issues relating to forests’ contribution to the carbon cycle are addressed under Criterion 4 which addresses productive capacity, including the forests’ capacity to act as a carbon sink.
Criterion 8 - Forest management shall protect and maintain, for Indigenous and non- Indigenous people, their natural, cultural, social, recreational, religious and spiritual heritage values
NOTE: The intent of the requirements under this criterion is to recognise rights of forest users and to ensure protection of-
• sites of cultural heritage, ceremonial and spiritual affiliation, aesthetic and religious value (that is, cultural, religious, spiritual, and social heritage values); and
• ther natural heritage values not already catered for at Criterion 3 (biodiversity) and Criterion 6 (soil and water).
The requirements recognise that there is a connection between management of forests and forested lands and these values for the benefit of society
Criterion 9 - Forest management shall maintain and enhance long-term social and economic benefits
NOTE: The intent of the requirements under this criterion is to addresses the management of forests in meeting community needs, including the value and volume of wood production, recreation and tourism, employment, income, and social well being, in particular for regional communities with a high economic and social reliance on forests and forest-related industries.