Evidence-based knowledge versus negotiated indicators for assessment of ecological sustainability: the Swedish Forest Stewardship Council Standard as a case study
Assessing ecological sustainability involves monitoring of indicators and comparison of their states with performance targets that are deemed sustainable. First, a normative model was developed centered on evidence-based knowledge about (a) forest composition, structure, and function at multiple scales, and (b) performance targets derived by quantifying the habitat amount in naturally dynamic forests, and as required for presence of populations of specialized focal species. Second, we compared the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification standards' ecological indicators from 1998 and 2010 in Sweden to the normative model using a Specific, Measurable, Accurate, Realistic, and Timebound (SMART) indicator approach. Indicator variables and targets for riparian and aquatic ecosystems were clearly under-represented compared to terrestrial ones. FSC's ecological indicators expanded over time from composition and structure towards function, and from finer to coarser spatial scales. However, SMART indicators were few. Moreover, they poorly reflected quantitative evidence-based knowledge, a consequence of the fact that forest certification mirrors the outcome of a complex social negotiation process.