The Ancient and Endangered Forest Debate – Why Exclusion Doesn’t Serve Sustainability

Sustainable Forest Management Policy (SFMP 2.0), APRIL is committed to no deforestation and to the protection and active management of conservation and restoration forests. Key to this is APRIL’s 1 for 1 commitment where the company conserves a hectare for every hectare of plantation. To date, the company is at 81% of this target, with a total conservation and ecosystem restoration area of almost 370,000 hectares. The company’s performance of this and other commitments under the SFMP 2.0 is independently overseen by the Stakeholder Advisory Committee and verified annually by KPMG PRI whereby audit results are made publicly available.

APRIL’s policy also embeds the company’s adoption of the High Conservation Value (HCV) and High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA), both widely accepted methodologies across the agriculture and forest industries and supported by global NGOs, including Greenpeace and WWF. HCV is also incorporated in global forest management certification standards such as the Forest Stewardship Council, and both HCV and HCS were developed through a comprehensive process of multi-stakeholder consultations.

Canopy’s Ancient and Endangered Forests

Canopy, Canada-based NGO, through its CanopyStyle Audit, seeks to eliminate all fiber sourced from what it calls “Ancient and Endangered Forests” (AEF) and which it considers to be a controversial or high risk source.

Canopy broadly defines AEF as intact forest landscape mosaics (as per HCV 2), naturally rare forest types (as per HCV 3), forest types that have been made rare due to human activity (as per HCV 3), forests with high species richness, forests containing high concentrations of rare and endangered species, forests of high endemism, core habitat for focal species, or forests exhibiting rare ecological and evolutionary phenomena (as per HCV 1, 2 & 3).

Based on this definition, Canopy has mapped what it considers to be Ancient and Endangered Forest (AEF) using 9 background layers – listed below – that when overlaid determine the application of AEF. If an area is classified as Ancient and Endangered Forest (AEF), it means that at least one of the many ecological components or ecological values is found in the region. This includes layers with a spatial resolution of 100km x 100km or 10,000km2 – a much lower resolution than is required for defining the complicated nature of forest landscapes globally.

It is important to clarify that APRIL does not question the source data or consider there to be any ‘factual’ inaccuracies or errors per se with the AEF Mapping. However, APRIL does believe that the low level of precision created by the lack of detailed spatial resolution critically undermines the applicability of AEF in the Indonesian context. As a result, virtually the entire island of Sumatra, for example, with a population of more than 50 million people, is considered to be AEF (see Map 1).

Canopy Ancient and Endangered Forests Indonesia

Map 1. Canopy AEF (source:

This low resolution map has also categorised the majority of Indonesia and Malaysia as AEF. It is also worth noting that there is general lack of AEF as defined by Canopy in Europe or other OECD countries (see Map 2)

Canopy Ancient and Endangered Forests Global

Map 2. Canopy AEF Global (source:

What does it mean?

Based on its interpretation, Canopy suggests that there are high risks associated with sourcing in areas defined as AEF. This infers that any sourcing from developing economies such as Sumatra, Indonesia is inherently risky, which neglects current realities and distinctions on the ground. Clearly following the principle of exclusion, the approach does not reflect the complexity of various landscapes where multiple land uses, community rights and a country’s socio-economic needs must be recognized and balanced with ecological imperatives.

While we support the development of mapping and other tools that can guide and enable the sustainable management of forests in Indonesia and globally, we believe these tools can only be effective if they:

  • Incorporate detailed, robust, peer reviewed scientific analysis that has supported the development of sustainable forest management policies, practices and operational outcomes on the ground in Indonesia and around the world.
  • Use higher spatial resolution that improves the precision and credibility of the tool.
  • Emerge from a process of open, transparent multi-stakeholder consultation.
  • Have broad traction and strong support from global forest certification or assurance frameworks and civil society organisations.

In our view, only with the fulfillment of these criteria can a tool like the Forest Mapper and its concept of AEF be considered credible, relevant and balanced in its assessment of Indonesia, Malaysia and other areas as sustainable producers of viscose and other commodities.

APRIL acknowledges that protecting High Conservation Value Forest in Indonesia is of critical importance and makes specific commitments to protect such areas as part of its SFMP. Such protection also forms the basis of APRIL’s Conservation Management Framework in plantation landscapes and its commitment to restore and conserve 150,000 hectares of ecologically important peatland forest as part of the Restorasi Ekosistem Riau program. These initiatives demonstrate to stakeholders and to Canopy that APRIL does indeed ‘undertake robust conservation planning processes’ and that the company takes its conservation obligations seriously.

Mapping Source Data

  1. Tiger Distribution (Wildlife Cons. Soc, WWF, Smithsonian Inst. Save the Tiger Fund, 2017);
  2. Elephant Distribution (WWF via The Guardian, 2012);
  3. Biodiversity Hotspots (Conservation Intl, 2011);
  4. Mammal Species Richness (Biod. Map Org, 2013);
  5. Threatened Mammals (Biod. Map Org, 2013);
  6. Bird Species Richness (Biod. Map Org, 2013);
  7. Threatened Birds (Biod. Map Org, 2013);
  8. Soil Carbon Density (WRI, 2017)
  9. Forest Carbon Density (various, 2016)


“Endangered Forests: Priority High Conservation Value Forests For Protection. Guidance For Corporate Commitments” (Forest Leadership Forum, 2002)
Canopy Ancient and Endangered Forest:
Intact Forest Landscapes:

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