Impact of FSC Certication on Deforestation and the Incidence of Wildfires in the Maya Biosphere Reserve.
In 1990 the government of Guatemala created the Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR) with over 2 million hectares in northern Petén to guarantee the preservation of the natural and cultural patrimony for future generations. For administrative purposes the MBR is divided into three zones with varying degrees of resource management: 1) Core protected area (CPA), designated for strict protection; 2) Multiple use zone (MUZ), designated for managed and sustainable low impact agriculture and the extraction of timber and non-timber forest resources; and 3) Buffer zone (BZ), a 15 km wide zone at the southern limits of the MBR where agriculture and land ownership are permitted. This move was controversial as many environmental groups lobbied for complete protected area status for the area and expressed concerns about allowing extractive activities within the reserve. In response, the Consejo Nacional de Areas Protegidas (CONAP) required that new forest concessions within the MUZ become Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified within three years of the initial concession grant. Rainforest Alliance (RA) has been active in the MBR for over 11 years, beginning with FSC training courses by RA's SmartWood program in 1996 and the first FSC certified community concession in the MBR in 1998. Currently, RA's Training, Extension, Enterprises and Sourcing (TREES) program is working to build links between FSC certified operations in the MBR and buyers of FSC-certified timber. By late 2007, RA had certified 478,000 hectares in the MBR, representing 60% of the multiple use zone and 23% of the total land base. To better understand the impact of FSC forest certification on forest conservation, we calculated the deforestation rate and examined the occurrence of wildfires on FSC certified concessions, and compared those with deforestation rates and wildfire occurrences on the other land use zones within the MBR.We found that:• From 2002 to 2007, the average annual deforestation rate for the entire MBR and the core protected areas was twenty times higher than the deforestation rate for the FSC certified concessions.• Since 1998 the incidence of wildfires in the MBR has been variable (7% to 20% of forest area burnt annually), while the area burnt on FSC certified concessions has been a fraction of that and steadily dropped from 6.5% in 1998 to 0.1% in 2007.