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Volume 73, issue 4 | Copyright

Special issue: The trouble with forest: definitions, boundaries and values

Geogr. Helv., 73, 253-260, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Standard article 09 Oct 2018

Standard article | 09 Oct 2018

Introduction: The trouble with forest: definitions, values and boundaries

Muriel Côte1, Flurina Wartmann2, and Ross Purves1,3 Muriel Côte et al.
  • 1Department of Geography, University of Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland
  • 2Eidgenössiche Forschungsanstalt für Wald, Schnee und Landschaft (WSL), Birmensdorf, Switzerland
  • 3URPP Language and Space, University of Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland

Abstract. Forest is in trouble. The most recent (2015) FAO Forest Resources Assessment shows an encouraging trend towards a decrease in deforestation rates, but it also points out that since 1990 total forest loss corresponds to an area the size of South Africa. Efforts to curtail deforestation require reliable assessments, yet current definitions for what a forest exactly is differ significantly across countries, institutions and epistemic communities. Those differences have implications for forest management efforts: they entail different understandings about where exactly a forest starts and ends, and therefore also engender misunderstandings about where a forest should start and end, and about how forests should be managed. This special issue brings together different perspectives from practitioners and academic disciplines – including linguistics, geographic information science and human geography – around the problem of understanding and characterizing forest. By bringing together different disciplinary viewpoints, we hope to contribute to ongoing interdisciplinary efforts to analyse forest change. In this introduction, we propose that interrogating the relationship between forest definitions, boundaries and ways of valuing forests constitutes a productive way to critically conceptualize the trouble that forest is in.

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