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Whose perspective counts? A critical look at definitions of terms used for natural and near-natural forests

Savilaakso, Sini, Lausberg, Nik, Waeber, Patrick O., Hillgén, Oona, Isotalo, Anna, Kleinschroth, Fritz, Djenontin, Ida N.S., Boul Lefeuvre, Nastasia and Garcia, Claude A. (2023) Whose perspective counts? A critical look at definitions of terms used for natural and near-natural forests. One Earth, 6 (11). 1477 - 1493. ISSN 2590-3330

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Identification Number: 10.1016/j.oneear.2023.10.003


The way forests are defined, using terms such as ancient, old-growth, primary, sacred, or intact forest landscapes, has far-reaching impacts on how, why, and where forests are conserved and managed. Definitions of terms such as “old-growth forests” have been discussed individually but not collectively assessed. Here, we review the definitions and uses of terms associated with natural and near-natural forests using systematic mapping methods and critical analysis. Our findings reveal a variety of definitions for different terms, although a few frequently cited ones prevail. Our results also highlight the dominance of Western institutions and scientific knowledge in shaping global discourses on forest conservation, often at the expense of Indigenous and local perspectives. Despite the increasing recognition of the value-based benefits that forests provide, definitions that explicitly incorporate values are scarce. This omission of the voices of forest-proximate communities and a lack of consideration for their local values and needs result in recognition, contextual, and procedural inequities when employing mainstream terms to define natural and near-natural forests.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2023 The Authors
Divisions: Grantham Research Institute
Subjects: S Agriculture > SD Forestry
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Date Deposited: 19 Feb 2024 12:36
Last Modified: 22 May 2024 18:57

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