Forest certification as a policy option in conserving biodiversity: An empirical study of forest management in Tanzania
Forest certification management standards aim at maintaining forest ecosystem integrity, including for-est biodiversity conservation. However, studies from the Amazon and Congo basin find that forest certi-fication may not protect forest biodiversity and ecosystems, and may therefore be unsustainable. Thisstudy evaluates the influence of forest certification on conserving biodiversity. Specifically, we (a) esti-mate tree (adult and seedling) species richness, diversity and density among different forest managementregimes; (b) assess the relationship between environmental and human forest use variables, and speciesrichness, diversity and density among the forest management regimes; and (c) assess the influence of for-est governance of villages adjacent to the forests on tree (adult and seedling) species richness, diversityand density among the forest management regimes. This is achieved in a comparative study of ForestStewardship Council certified community forests, non-certified open access forests, and non-certifiedstate forest reserves in the Kilwa District in Tanzania.Our results show that forest certification standards and implementation processes are positivelyrelated to biodiversity conservation. There are significantly higher tree (adults) species richness, diver-sity, and density in certified community forests than in open access forests and state forest reserves.These findings suggest that forest certification may be a good policy option to conserve biodiversity.The present study is one of the first studies in tropical Africa, which contributes to the limited data onthe influence of forest certification on conserving biodiversity. Our results may also serve as baselinefor further research on the contribution of certified forests in conserving biodiversity at both temporaland spatial scales.