About Task Force

Established by the IUFRO Board in August 2005 for a term of 5 years.


Forests are the most extensive vegetation type on earth and harbor most of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity.  Forests affect the lives of people everywhere, especially those who are poor and dependent, or semi-subsistent, on forests for food, wood and non-wood forest products, and ecological services that they provide.  Large forest areas are the traditional homes of local and indigenous communities.  They manage their forests independently, or sometimes in collaboration with government agencies.  The increasing emphasis being placed on sustainable forest management, which includes ecological, social, cultural, spiritual, and economic sustainability, should encourage greater collaboration among government agencies, forest managers, local and indigenous communities, and the scientific community in the definition of forest management objectives and forest management practices that meet diverse criteria for sustainability. With greater public interest and involvement in forest management decision-making, there is a growing need for decision-makers and managers to consider all relevant knowledge about forest ecosystems and the impact of forest management options in the development of forest policies and operational practices.

Traditional forest-related knowledge (TFRK) [1] is recognized and respected by the international community. Indigenous peoples throughout countries all over the world have continued their historical and cultural management of forests, and these practices are widely recognized as a form of sustainable forest management in the international arena.  For instance, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) encourages State parties to:

"Protect and encourage customary use of biological resources in accordance with traditional cultural practices that are compatible with conservation or sustainable use requirements." [2](CBD Article 10c).

Likewise, CBD Article 8(j) emphasizes:

"the need to respect, preserve and maintain knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and [promotion of] their wider application with the approval and involvement of such knowledge, innovations and practices and encourage the equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of such knowledge, innovations and practices."

TFRK also is also explicitly considered in CBD's expanded programme of work on forest biological diversity. The TFRK issue is also an important element of discussions within the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). WIPO’s Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore, the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights all consider TFRK.

Similarly, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (1994) requires parties to:

"…protect, integrate, enhance and validate traditional and local knowledge, know-how and practices" and that "…owners of that knowledge will directly benefit on an equitable basis and on mutually agreed terms" (CCD, Article 18[a]).

The IPF/IFF [3] proposals for action include numerous references to TFRK, related to the use of TFRK for sustainable forest management; development of intellectual property rights for TFRK and promotion of equitable benefit-sharing; technology transfer and capacity-building; and promotion of participation of people who possess TFRK in the planning, development and implementation of national forest policies and programs.

At the present time, there is a need for a systematic global effort to explore and strengthen the linkages between TFRK and formal (i.e., western scientific) forest-related knowledge (SFRK) systems, and to develop effective synergies between TFRK and SFRK in forest management applications. The Task Force will review and synthesize experiences and examples of how the two different knowledge communities work at various geographic and temporal scales, seek to identify significant knowledge gaps, and to promote research and collaboration based on trust and mutual respect to address these gaps.


[1]Traditional forest-related knowledge: "a cumulative body of knowledge, practice and belief, handed down through generations by cultural transmission and evolving by adaptive processes, about the relationship between living beings (including humans) with one another and with their forest environment".  Definition from the UNFF4 Report of the Secretary-General on Traditional forest-related knowledge (United Nations doc. E/CN.18/2004/7 (2004), adapted from Berkes et al. (Ecological Applications 10(5): 1251-1262.
[2] The CBD Secretariat notes that this implies that governments should ensure that national legislation and policy account for and recognize, among others, indigenous legal systems, corresponding systems of governance and administration, land and water rights and control over sacred and cultural (Traditional Knowledge and Biological Diversity UNEP/CBD/TKBD/1/2 (1997).
[3] Intergovernmental Panel on Forests/ Intergovernmental Forum on Forests

Terms of Reference

The primary aim of the Task Force on Traditional Forest Knowledge is to increase understanding of the inter-relationships between traditional and formal (scientific) forest-related knowledge and catalyze potential synergistic application(s) to sustainable forest management.

In developing this Task Force, we recognize the importance of facets of this topic that relate to issues such as intellectual and cultural property rights and interests, land and access rights, and benefit-sharing. The Task Force will strive to clarify and increase understanding of the importance and relevance of these issues through its activities, and will conduct its work in a way that respects these concerns and principles, in particular in its handling of information related to traditional knowledge that is not already in the public domain and/or protected by appropriate means.

Towards these ends, the Task Force, during the period 2005-2010, will:

Prepare a State-of-Knowledge report.

The report will attempt to provide a broad overview and synthesis of current knowledge and experience on:

  • Context and history of the relationship between western scientific forest knowledge and TFK with respect to forest management.
  • Development of good practices for including both traditional knowledge and western science in forestry education, research and forest management activities. This may be based on studies of how this has been done successfully, or how and why attempts have failed;
  • Develop and facilitate a protocol for the exchange of information between traditional and western scientific forest knowledge in forest management;
  • Addressing indigenous priorities for scientific study and other considerations in relation to forest resource management.
  • Methodologies (e.g., decision support tools) that include and facilitate the appropriate study, documentation, and use of TFK by scientists, forest managers and policy makers;
  • Application of traditional forest-related knowledge to forest ecosystem assessments and management;
  • Experiences related to resolution of conflicts regarding TFK in relation to forest science and forest management, and evaluate lessons learned from case studies on ways effective collaboration, particularly related to the documentation and acknowledgement of information shared by elders and other holders and users of TFK;

Organize regional meetings and workshops to explore the above topics and to encourage/facilitate improved dialogue and information exchange among and between forest scientists and holders/users of traditional forest-related knowledge;

Promote contacts and collaboration between IUFRO and other organizations on scientific, technical, cultural and spiritual issues related to traditional forest-related knowledge.

Prepare publications and other information products
for use by the President and Board, as well as the scientific community, traditional communities, the holders and users of traditional forest-related knowledge, and relevant local, national and international organizations.

Liaise with IUFRO’s Special Programme for Developing Countries in development of Task Force meetings and of training programs, data sharing, technology transfer and the enhancement of research capability in the developing countries in relation to the focal topics of the Task Force. In particular, increased participation of scientists and holders of traditional knowledge from Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Asia and the Pacific Islands will be sought.

Report to the IUFRO Management Committee and Board twice a year until 2010.

Propose to the IUFRO Board: (a) ways of disseminating the information obtained in order to furnish an informed and equitable basis for decision-making in research planning, forest management and environmental policy that considers different intellectual and cultural traditions, and (b) follow-up activities that may be taken up by existing or new IUFRO units within the Divisional Structure or through IUFRO Special Projects and Programmes.

Task Force Membership & Organization

The Task Force consists of a core group that includes a balanced representation of forest scientists, holders/users of traditional forest knowledge, and other experts from different regions of the world. The Task Force is developing larger regional networks of contributing members representing the forest science community as well as individuals and organizations that represent and/or promote the interests of holders and users of traditional forest-related knowledge.

Task Force members and network members/organizations will be invited to contribute to the State-of-Knowledge report,  jointly organize and participate in regional meetings, to provide reviews of material prepared on behalf of the Task Force and, on occasion, to represent the Task Force at meetings. In developing both the core group and group of contributing members, emphasis will be placed on broad representation of both traditional and scientific streams of forest knowledge, as well as geographic, cultural, and gender diversity.

The members of the Task Force’s core group are listed below. The Task Force welcomes the participation of a broader group of contributing members who may wish to be involved in supporting and otherwise becoming involved in the preparation of the State-of-Knowledge Report and the regional workshops.


John Parrotta. USDA Forest Service, Washington DC, USA: jparrotta(at)fs.fed.us

Core group members:

Mauro Agnoletti
. Università di Firenze, Florence, ITALY: mauro.agnoletti(at)unifi.it

Casiano Aguirre Escalante. Universidad Nacional Agraria de la Selva, Tingo Maria, PERU: aviriri@yahoo.com

Vladimir Bocharnikov. Russian Academy of Sciences, Vladivostok, RUSSIA: Vladimir.Bocharnikov@vvsu.ru

Manuel Guariguata, CIFOR, Bogor, INDONESIA: m.guariguata(at)cgiar.org

Elisabeth Johann. Österreichischer Forstverein, Arbeitsgruppe Forestgeschichte, Vienna, AUSTRIA: elis.johann(at)utanet.at

Cheryl Kitchener. Indigenous Outcomes Pty Ltd., The Junction, NSW, AUSTRALIA: cki23701(at)bigpond.net.au

Andrei P. Laletin. Friends of the Siberian Forest. Krasnoyarsk, RUSSIA: sibforest(at)akadem.ru

Jesús García Latorre, International Environmental Affairs, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management, Vienna, AUSTRIA. jesus.garcia-latorre(at)lebensministerium.at

Alfred Oteng-Yeboah. CSIR, Accra, Ghana: otengyeboah(at)yahoo.co.uk

P.S. Ramakrishnan. Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi INDIA: psr(at)mail.jnu.ac.in

Ronald Trosper. University of British Columbia, Faculty of Forestry, Vancouver,     BC, CANADA: Ronald.Trosper(at)ubc.ca

Youn Yeo-Chang. Seoul National University, Seoul, KOREA: youn(at)snu.ac.kr

For more information please contact John Parrotta (jparrotta(at)fs.fed.us).

Annex 1

State-of-Knowledge Report

The State-of-Knowledge Report on traditional forest knowledge will build upon the outcomes of the series of regional conferences which the Task Force is organizing. This multi-authored book, “Traditional Forest Knowledge – Sustaining Communities, Ecosystems and Biocultural Diversity” will be published by Springer in 2010. The book will include a series of regional overviews and global syntheses (see book outline below).  The Task Force gratefully acknowledges the generous support of The Christensen Fund for the preparation of this publication

Book chapters will be based on existing literature and case studies derived from published sources and from our regional conferences. For each regional chapter, a coordinating lead author has been selected who will coordinate its preparation with contributing authors who have relevant knowledge and expertise on specific regional issues and/or country-level traditional forest knowledge experience. A similar approach is being followed for special topic chapters to be included in the publication.

Coordinating Lead Authors (topics/chapters of primary responsibility):

John Parrotta, USDA Forest Service, Research & Development, Arlington VA, USA (Overall project coordinator and Editor; Traditional forest knowledge in international forest policy processes; traditional forest knowledge and climate change)

Ronald Trosper, Professor of Aboriginal Forestry, Faculty of Forestry, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, CANADA (Co-Editor & North America regional chapter)

Vladimir Bocharnikov. Russian Academy of Sciences, Vladivostok, RUSSIA (Russia, Caucasus and Central Asia regional chapter)

Chee Yoke Ling, Legal Advisor, China Representative, Third World Network, Beijing, P.R. CHINA  (TFK, intellectual property rights and benefit sharing)

Suzanne Adele Feary, Planning and Aboriginal Heritage, Department of Environment and Climate Change, Queanbeyan NSW, AUSTRALIA (Western Pacific regional chapter)

Monica Gabay, Dirección de Bosques, Subsecretaria de Planificación y Política Ambiental, Buenos Aires, ARGENTINA (Southern Cone regional chapter)

Christian Gamborg, Center for Forests, Landscape and Planning, Copenhagen, DENMARK (Ethics and TFK research methodologies chapter)

Jesús García Latorre
, International Environmental Affairs , Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management, Vienna, AUSTRIA (TFK and globalization)

Elisabeth Johann, Österreichischer Forstverein, Vienna, AUSTRIA (Europe regional chapter)

Andrei P. Laletin, Chairman, Friends of the Siberian Forests, Krasnoyarsk, RUSSIA (Russia, Caucasus and Central Asia regional chapter; TFK and climate change)

Lim Hin Fui, Forest Research Institute Malaysia, Kepong, Selangor, MALAYSIA (Southeast Asia regional chapter)

Alfred Oteng-Yeboah, Emeritus Professor, Department of Botany, University of Ghana, Accra, GHANA (Africa regional chapter)

Miguel Pinedo-Vasquez, Center for Environmental Research and Conservation, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA (Amazonia regional chapter)

P.S. Ramakrishnan, INSA Honorary Senior Scientist , School of Environmental Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, INDIA (South Asia & Himalaya regional chapter)

Youn Yeo-Chang, Department of Forest Sciences, Seoul National University, Seoul, KOREA (Northeast Asia regional chapter)

Focal topics for each of the regional chapters will include:

  • Cultural and ecological context and history of traditional forest knowledge with respect to forest management (including community participatory approaches)
  • The influence of science based forestry (scientific forestry) on traditional forest knowledge and management practices. Evaluation of conflicts and benefits learned from case studies.
  • Best practices for including both traditional knowledge and western science in forestry, education, research, resource assessments and forest management activities.
  • The present role of traditional forest knowledge. Local and indigenous community priorities for scientific studies in relation to forest resource management. Societal  demands for scientific studies in relation to traditional forest-related knowledge.

Outline of State of Knowledge Report on Traditional Forest Knowledge

Part I

1    Introduction
Overview of goals, objectives, the principal questions being addressed in the book. This chapter will provide a broad overview of the role of traditional knowledge and practices in shaping forests and cultural landscapes, the historical interactions between traditional cultures and knowledge systems and formal forest science, and effects of cultural, social, economic, and environmental (i.e., climate) change on traditional forest knowledge and its relation to scientific forest knowledge and current forest management.  Overview of TFK issues and programs in international organizations and policy forums, with an emphasis on global forums including the United Nations Forum on Forests, Convention on Biological Diversity, UN Convention to Combat Desertification, and the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Overview of intergovernmental, professional scientific, and NGO programs focusing on protection and development of traditional forest-related knowledge.  Acknowledgement of key organizations and persons supporting the development of the book.

2    Traditional forest knowledge, intellectual property rights and benefit sharing 
Summary and analysis of key ethical, legal and policy and issues related to the protection and utilization of traditional forest knowledge, specifically intellectual property protection and access and benefit-sharing.  This chapter will include a discussion of the evolution and current status of these issues in major international policy forums such as the World Intellectual Property Organization, the Convention on Biological Diversity, as well as policies and programs dealing with these issues in selected countries worldwide.

Part II - Regional Overviews

3    North America

4    Latin America – Amazon region

5    Latin America –  Southern Cone (Argentina, Chile & central Andes)

6    Europe

7    Russia, Caucasus & Central Asia

8    Northeast Asia

9    Southeast Asia

10    South Asia & Himalayas

11    Africa

12    Western Pacific

Part III

13    Globalization, local communities and traditional forest knowledge: impacts and adaptation

14    Climate Change & Traditional knowledge
These chapters will examine the actual and potential impacts of economic and cultural globalization and climate change on the status and roles of traditional forest knowledge. Discussion will focus on both the threats posed by economic, social and environmental change on the survival and development of traditional forest knowledge and practices, as well as the opportunities that these changes, such as efforts to promote traditional forest management systems in avoiding deforestation in tropical regions.

15    Ethics and research methodologies
Analysis of ethical issues and best practices for scientific study of traditional forest knowledge and exchange of information between holders and users of traditional and scientific forest knowledge related to forest management.

16    Synthesis and recommendations
This chapter will include cross-regional syntheses related to major topics addressed covered in regional chapters. It will explore commonalities and regional variations, and highlight significant gaps in current knowledge that merit further research and other collaborative activities by forest scientists and professional organizations working with local and indigenous communities and other stakeholders seeking to promote cultural, economic, and environmental sustainability in forest resource management.


Glossary of key terms


Annex 2

Regional Conferences

A series of regional conferences held between 2006 and 2009 have served as platforms for dialogue between the forest science community and the holders and users of traditional forest-related knowledge. The organization of each conference has been coordinated by Task Force members from the region, in collaboration with appropriate partners such as governmental and non-governmental organizations representing the interests of indigenous peoples, forest research institutes, universities, and others. These conferences have taken place or will be held in Florence, Italy - June 2006; Green Bay, WI, USA - June 2007; Kunming, China – December 2007; Accra, Ghana – October 2008; and in Kyrgyzstan – June 2009.

Specific topics covered in each meeting have varied depending on the regional priorities and needs, but all have explored current experiences related to many of the topics to be included in the State-of-Knowledge report, such as:

  • Application of traditional forest-related knowledge to forest ecosystem assessments and management;

  • Local and indigenous community priorities for scientific study (research) in relation to forest resource management;

  • Analysis of case studies on successful integration of traditional and (formal) scientific knowledge in forest management activities or programs at the local or regional level;

  • Experiences related to resolution of conflicts regarding TFK in relation to forest science and forest management, and evaluations of lessons learned from case studies on ways effective collaboration, particularly related to the documentation and acknowledgement of information shared by elders and other holders and users of TFK;

  • Development of good practices for including both traditional knowledge and western science in forestry education, research and forest management activities. This may be based on experiences of how this has been done successfully, or how and why attempts have failed;

  • Development of best practices the exchange of information between traditional and western scientific forest knowledge in forest management.

  • Please see "Activities and Events" for further information and reports on these conferences.


Send comments to John Parrotta (Coordinator)