How much is your forest really worth?

The nation’s 1.7 million hectares of planted forests provide a range of benefits, called ecosystem services (which include timber, avoided erosion, recreation, biodiversity conservation, water regulation, carbon sequestration and nutrient regulation). Most of these services have enormous value to the environment and society, but they can be difficult to quantify. Interest in understanding the worth of those services is increasing, and to help to consistently measure said services Scion is further developing and refining a tool called the Forest Investment Framework (FIF).

Over the past 12 months, the FIF has been used in conjunction with economic valuation techniques to assist in better understanding the full value of existing and prospective forests to inform policy and investment decisions. To date, the quantification of forest ecosystem services has contributed to discussions on the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, Emissions Trading Scheme, afforestation policies, forest investment, land use management and forest product certification.

We commissioned the ecosystem services report to demonstrate a commitment to quantifying non-timber benefits accruing from our forests. - James McEwan, Technical Manager, Wenita Forest Products

A new biodiversity valuation function has also been added to the FIF. This enables forest owners to calculate the private costs and public benefits of conservation programmes in existing planted forests. If the proposed biodiversity programme is to be undertaken in forests close to where people live, the value in the region would likely increase as these residents would benefit from the biodiversity programme. This biodiversity function can be used for valuing biodiversity investment programmes for North Island brown kiwi, karearea, green gecko, kākābeak, giant kōkopu and other native species.

FIF was also used to estimate key forest ecosystem service values provided by 20 forest blocks of the Wenita Forest Products Estate, the largest producer of timber in Otago. Estimated values suggest that the combined environmental value of carbon sequestration and avoided erosion can be greater than the timber profits, not including the recreational hunting and biodiversity conservation values.

James McEwan, Technical Manager at Wenita Forest Products, says, “We commissioned the ecosystem services report to demonstrate a commitment to quantifying non-timber benefits accruing from our forests. This is an area that (Principle 5: Benefits from the Forest) is covered in the FSC® Principles and Criteria.”

The ecosystem services report produced by Scion provided information for the criteria and indicators that ensure forest products are used efficiently for economic, social and environmental benefits.

At the conclusion of this research in September 2019, the FIF will include timber, carbon, avoided erosion, biodiversity, avoided nitrogen, water yield and recreation functions. As a final stage, the FIF project team will undertake a national analysis of the full value of New Zealand planted forests, both existing and potential, enabling better representation of the wider benefits provided by forests in land use management, policy and decision making.

Partners: Wenita Forest Products, Marlborough District Council, Ministry for Primary Industries
Investment: Forest Growers Levy Trust, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment