Skip to main content


Log in

Reconciling certification and intact forest landscape conservation

  • Perspective
  • Published:
Ambio Aims and scope Submit manuscript


In 2014, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) added a new criterion to its principles that requires protection of intact forest landscapes (IFLs). An IFL is an extensive area of forest that lacks roads and other signs of human activity as detected through remote sensing. In the Congo basin, our analysis of road networks in formally approved concessionary logging areas revealed greater loss of IFL in certified than in noncertified concessions. In areas of informal (i.e., nonregulated) extraction, road networks are known to be less detectable by remote sensing. Under the current definition of IFL, companies certified under FSC standards are likely to be penalized relative to the noncertified as well as the informal logging sector on account of their planned road networks, despite an otherwise better standard of forest management. This could ultimately undermine certification and its wider adoption, with implications for the future of sustainable forest management.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

Similar content being viewed by others


  • Brandt, J.S., C. Nolte, J. Steinberg, and A. Agrawal. 2014. Foreign capital, forest change and regulatory compliance in Congo Basin forests. Environmental Research Letters 9: 44007.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Burivalova, Z., F. Hua, L.P. Koh, C. Garcia, and F. Putz. 2016. A critical comparison of conventional, certified, and community management of tropical forests for timber in terms of environmental, economic, and social variables. Conservation Letters 10: 4–14.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cerutti, P.O., and G. Lescuyer. 2014. The domestic market for small-scale chainsaw milling in Cameroon: Present situation, opportunities and challenges. Occasional Paper, vol. 61. Bogor: Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

  • Cerutti, P.O., L. Tacconi, R. Nasi, and G. Lescuyer. 2011. Legal vs. certified timber: Preliminary impacts of forest certification in Cameroon. Forest Policy and Economics 13: 184–190.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cordero-Sancho, S., and K.M. Bergen. 2018. Relationships of agricultural land use to an expanded road network within tropical forest landscapes of Cameroon and Republic of the Congo. Professional Geographer 70: 60–72.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Forest Stewardship Council. 2017a. Advice Note for the interpretation of the default clause of Motion 65. FSC Directive on FSC Forest Management Evaluations, FSC-DIR-20-007.

  • Forest Stewardship Council. 2017b. International Generic Indicators. FSC-STD-60-004 V1-1 EN.

  • Griscom, B.W., R.C. Goodman, Z. Burivalova, and F.E. Putz. 2017. Carbon and biodiversity impacts of intensive versus extensive tropical forestry. Conservation Letters.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gullison, R.E. 2003. Does forest certification conserve biodiversity? Oryx 37: 153–165.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Haurez, B., K. Daïnou, C. Vermeulen, F. Kleinschroth, F. Mortier, S. Gourlet-Fleury, and J.-L. Doucet. 2017. A look at Intact Forest Landscapes (IFLs) and their relevance in Central African forest policy. Forest Policy and Economics 80: 192–199.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Karsenty, A., N. Bayol, P. Cerutti, D. Ezzine de Blas, and E. Forni. 2010. The 2008–2009 timber sector crisis in Africa and some lessons for the forest taxation regime. International Forestry Review 12: 172–176.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kleinschroth, F., and J.R. Healey. 2017. Impacts of logging roads on tropical forests. Biotropica 49: 620–635.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kleinschroth, F., S. Gourlet-Fleury, P. Sist, F. Mortier, and J.R. Healey. 2015. Legacy of logging roads in the Congo Basin: How persistent are the scars in forest cover? Ecosphere 6: 64.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kleinschroth, F., J.R. Healey, P. Sist, F. Mortier, and S. Gourlet-Fleury. 2016a. How persistent are the impacts of logging roads on Central African forest vegetation? Journal of Applied Ecology 53: 1127–1137.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kleinschroth, F., S. Gourlet-Fleury, P. Sist, V. Gond, and J.R. Healey. 2016b. Logging roads in tropical forests: Synthesis of literature written in French and English highlights environmental impact reduction through improved engineering. Bois et Forêts des Tropiques 328: 13–26.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kleinschroth, F., J.R. Healey, and S. Gourlet-Fleury. 2016c. Sparing forests in Central Africa: Re-use old logging roads to avoid creating new ones. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 14: 9–10.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kleinschroth, F., J.R. Healey, S. Gourlet-Fleury, F. Mortier, and R.S. Stoica. 2017. Effects of logging on roadless space in intact forest landscapes of the Congo Basin. Conservation Biology 31: 1–24.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Laporte, N.T., J.A. Stabach, R. Grosch, T.S. Lin, and S.J. Goetz. 2007. Expansion of industrial logging in Central Africa. Science 316: 1451.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Laurance, W.F., M. Goosem, and S.G.W. Laurance. 2009. Impacts of roads and linear clearings on tropical forests. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 24: 659–669.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lawson, S. 2014. Illegal logging in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. London: Chatham House.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lescuyer, G., P.O. Cerutti, and V. Robiglio. 2013. Artisanal chainsaw milling to support decentralized management of timber in Central Africa? An analysis through the theory of access. Forest Policy and Economics 32: 68–77.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Miettinen, P., D. Franco Gil, and M. Karmann. 2017. High conservation values and intact forest landscapes—changes and challenges for certified operation. In IUFRO 125th Anniversary Congress, Freiburg.

  • Morgan, D., R. Mundry, C. Sanz, C.E. Ayina, S. Strindberg, E. Lonsdorf, and H.S. Kühl. 2017. African apes coexisting with logging: Comparing chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes troglodytes) and gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) resource needs and responses to forestry activities. Biological Conservation 218: 277–286.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pearson, T.R.H., S. Brown, and F.M. Casarim. 2014. Carbon emissions from tropical forest degradation caused by logging. Environmental Research Letters 9: 34017.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Peres, C.A., J. Barlow, and W.F. Laurance. 2006. Detecting anthropogenic disturbance in tropical forests. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 21: 227–229.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • FSC Policy and Standards Unit. 2010. FSC forest stewardship standards: structure, content and suggested indicators. FSC-GUI-60-004 (V1-0) EN. Bonn: Forest Stewardship Council.

  • Potapov, P., A. Yaroshenko, S. Turubanova, M. Dubinin, L. Laestadius, C. Thies, D. Aksenov, A. Egorov, et al. 2008. Mapping the world’s intact forest landscapes by remote sensing. Ecology and Society 13: 51.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Potapov, P., M.C. Hansen, L. Laestadius, S. Turubanova, A. Yaroshenko, C. Thies, W. Smith, I. Zhuravleva, et al. 2017. The last frontiers of wilderness: Tracking loss of intact forest landscapes from 2000 to 2013. Science Advances 3: 1–13.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Putz, F.E., P.A. Zuidema, T. Synnott, M. Peña-Claros, M.A. Pinard, D. Sheil, J.K. Vanclay, P. Sist, et al. 2012. Sustaining conservation values in selectively logged tropical forests: The attained and the attainable. Conservation Letters 5: 296–303.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Romero, C., E.O. Sills, M. Guariguata, P.O. Cerutti, G. Lescuyer, and F.E. Putz. 2017. Evaluation of the impacts of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification of natural forest management in the tropics. International Forestry Review 19: 1–14.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smith, P., and P. Perreault. 2017. Are all forest certification systems equal? An opinion on indigenous engagement in the Forest Stewardship Council and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. Ottawa: National Aboriginal Forestry Association.

  • Stokes, E.J., S. Strindberg, P.C. Bakabana, P.W. Elkan, F.C. Iyenguet, B. Madzoké, G.A.F. Malanda, B.S. Mowawa, et al. 2010. Monitoring Great Ape and elephant abundance at large spatial scales: Measuring effectiveness of a conservation landscape. PLoS ONE 5: e10294.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Watson, J. E. M., T. Evans, O. Venter, B. Williams, A. Tulloch, C. Stewart, I. Thompson, J. C. Ray, et al. 2018. The exceptional value of intact forest ecosystems. Nature Ecology & Evolution 2: 599–610.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • WRI and MDDEFE. 2012. Atlas forestier interactif du Congo. Version 3.0. Document de Synthese. Washington, D.C.: World Resources Institute & République du Congo Ministère de l’economie forestière et du développement durable.

  • WRI and MINFOF. 2012. Interactive forest atlas of Cameroon. Version 3.0. Overview Report. Washington, D.C.: World Resources Institute & Ministère des Fôrets et de la Faune Cameroun.

  • Yaroshenko, A.Y., P.V. Potapov, and S.A. Turubanova. 2001. The last intact forest landscapes of Northern European Russia. Moscow: Greenpeace Russia and Global Forest Watch.

    Google Scholar 

Download references


Fritz Kleinschroth is funded by the DAFNE project of the European Union H2020 programme (Grant Number 690268). Sylvie Gourlet-Fleury, Alain Karsenty, and John R. Healey provided helpful discussion. Diana Franco Gil kindly helped with Fig. 1. The authors thank Peter Ellis and three anonymous reviewers for their useful comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Fritz Kleinschroth.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Kleinschroth, F., Garcia, C. & Ghazoul, J. Reconciling certification and intact forest landscape conservation. Ambio 48, 153–159 (2019).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: