Bioenergy from sustainably managed forest ecosystems could provide a renewable, carbon-neutral source of energy in many nations and communities throughout the world. In order for forest bioenergy to be an ecologically sustainable fuel source, woodfuel procurement systems must not adversely impact forest ecosystems or the environment. Sustainable forest management (SFM) certification schemes are one mechanism for applying standards and monitoring regimes to forest management systems to ensure ecological sustainability. This paper provides a global review of the main environmental risks to forest ecosystems that can arise from household- to industrial-scale woodfuel production systems, including forest soil quality and site productivity, water resources, biodiversity and carbon budgets. A set of regionally adaptable principles, criteria, indicators and verifiers of sustainable forest management were developed, based on criteria and indicators from existing internationally recognized certification frameworks and scientific literature and tailored to address issues relevant to producing and harvesting forest bioenergy feedstocks. A variable monitoring approach and a three-tiered certification approach are proposed as two methods for enabling the adoption of certification and associated monitoring requirements across a wide range of forest operations in regions with widely differing levels of development. The importance of the Adaptive Forest Management framework inherent in certification systems to ensuring the efficacy and continual improvement in woodfuel sustainability is stressed. The proposed principles, criteria, indicators and verifiers can be adapted to local conditions and incorporated into existing sustainable forest management and green energy certification schemes, as well as other criteria and indicator frameworks, to ensure the environmental sustainability of woodfuel production systems.

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