The High Carbon Stock Methodology: a novel approach to conserving forest ecosystems
The High Conservation Value (HCV) approach is often used as a tool for managing and protecting forest ecosystems. HCV has been successfully used for sustainable forestry management, the practice for which it was originally develop. However, more recently some groups, primarily the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, have begun to use HCV in a context of forest clearing for palm or pulp plantations. This is a misapplication of HCV, and no longer achieves that intent of the method as originally developed. In a forest management context, HCV areas are conserved as patches of untouched forests within a matrix of sustainably managed forests. These managed areas maintain many of the ecological functions of the forests and serve as corridors or buffers around the HCV areas. In a conversion context, such as clearing forests to establish palm or pulp plantations, the HCV areas remain as isolated patches in a matrix of plantations or bare land, which retains little to none of the ecological value of the cleared forests. The result is often that small patches of primary forest are protect but vast areas of secondary or degraded forest are destroyed. This approach ignores the potential of these degraded systems to recover via ecological succession.
In order to retain the intended ecological and conservation value in a conversation context a different methodology needs to be used. In years, a number of NGOs and businesses have begun to develop a methodology to identify what they have termed High Carbon Value (HCS) forests. The HCS methodology is allows companies to easily identify which areas are suitable for conversion and which are of high enough conservation value that they should be maintained. HCS not only protects are larger area of forest, but also accounts for succession by protecting degraded areas with the potential to naturally recover.