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[HYDERABAD] Impacts of actions under Reduction of Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) – a UN mechanism to stem deforestation  and degradation – on biodiversity and carbon vary across forest types and landscape conditions, a new global assessment shows.

Key findings of the preliminary assessment of links between biodiversity, carbon, forests and people, prepared by the International Union of Forest Research Organisations' Global Forest Experts Panel (GFEP), were released this week (16 October) at the international biodiversity meeting in Hyderabad.

The GFEP's expert panel on biodiversity, forest management and REDD+, launched in December 2011, made the assessment from peer-reviewed research reports, said Alexander Buck, executive secretary, International Union of Forest Research Organisations.

The final assessment of the GFEP expert panel – considered forestry's equivalent to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – will be presented at the international climate change meeting in Doha in November.

Christoph Wildburger, coordinator at GFEP, said that given that REDD+ actions were relatively recent, several knowledge gaps remained.

The assessment showed that biodiversity is a key determinant of a forest's ability to provide ecosystem services and to remain resilient to disturbances such as climate change.

A key finding was that REDD+ actions have variable impacts on carbon and biodiversity across different forest types and landscape conditions; and across space and time.

Tradeoffs between carbon, biodiversity and social outcomes, at both local and wider spatial scale, would remain. For REDD+ to be effective, local communities need to be engaged early on; social objectives should be pursued along with carbon and biodiversity goals; and tenure and property rights need to be clear, the review found.

Without sufficient emphasis on local community participation, there is risk that REDD+ "recentralises government decision-making and undermines community-based forest governance."

Valerie Kapos, senior programme officer at the United Nations Environment Programme’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre, said several biodiversity management actions have a role in REDD+.

Examples include protected areas, improved and sustainable farming practices, reducing impacts of extractive use of forests such as logging and use of non-timber forest products. Other actions include restoration and reforestation; and landscape scale planning.

The review also found that reducing deforestation and degradation offered "the greatest and most immediate benefits" compared to forestation programmes that had slower and smaller benefits.

Kapos said understanding the impacts on carbon and biodiversity are essential for applying safeguards and devising effective REDD+ actions.

Bhaskar Vira, senior lecturer at the department of geography, University of Cambridge, said synergies to promote carbon, biodiversity and social objectives are possible, but should not be taken for granted.

Vira said project planners should follow a policy of integrating social goals early, along with economic and environmental objectives.