Developing national complementary indicators of SDG15 that consider forest quality: Applications in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru

Andrew J. Hansen, Jose Aragon-Osejo, Iván González, Jaris Veneros, Anne Lucy Stilger Virnig, Patrick Jantz, Oscar Venter, Scott Goetz, James E.M. Watson, Natalia Cordoba, Susana Rodriguez, Luisa Monroy, Juan Iglesias, Lenin Beltrán, Daniel Borja, Diego Ureta, Jossie Tingo, Carlos Oñate, Freddy Valencia, Holger ZambranoTatiana Pequeño, William Llactayo, Walter Huamani, Patricia Duran, Alexs Arana, Marco Arenas, Claudia Pasquel, Antonio Tovar, Patricia Huerta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goal 15, termed Life on Land, is monitored by indicators and sub-indicators that largely deal with forest extent. In countries with structurally complex and species-rich forests, indicators and sub-indicators of forest quality are also needed to effectively monitor and sustain ecological integrity. The goal of the paper is to demonstrate the use of complementary sub-indicators of forest quality for SDG15 reporting and conservation planning. Our objective is to apply these sub-indicators within Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru and evaluate spatial patterns and trends over time as a basis for revealing how the results complement the official indicators of forest extent and forest extent in protected areas in informing conservation. The sub-indicators of forest quality quantify naturalness, riparian forest, forest structure and integrity, forest fragmentation, and forest connectivity. We quantified change during 2000–2021 in these metrics and highlighted insights gained from the complementary sub-indicators of forest quality relative to the official sub-indicators based on forest extent, Forests covered about 60–70% of the forested ecoregions in each country in 2000 and this proportion declined in all three countries by approximately 4% by 2021. Only a subset of the forested area was of high forest quality. Natural forests represented about 40% of forests in Colombian and Ecuador in 2000 and 50% in Peru. Those proportions declined: by 6.3% in Colombia, 6.5% in Ecuador, and 3.4% in Peru. Even less of the forested area was Core Forest in 2013; less than 28% among countries. During 2013–2021, the proportion of forest that was Core decreased by 2.3% in Colombia, 4.5% in Ecuador, and 6.7% in Peru. Connected Forests were about 17–22% of forests among the countries in 2013 and declined 10.4% in Colombia, 1.6% in Ecuador, and 3.8% in Peru by 2021. Forests high in forest structure were 10–18% of forests in 2012 among the countries and increased by 1.1–2% by 2021. Forests of high integrity were 7–13% of forests in 2012 and increased by1.4–2% by 2021. Riparian forests represented less than about 7–9% among the countries and declined by 0.6–1.3% by 2021. Thus, the area of highly quality forest across the countries was substantially less than full forest extent and high-quality forest declined at a higher rate than forest extent during 2000–2021. Forest structure and integrity did increase slightly over this time period. Our results for trends in forest naturalness, riparian association, within stand structure, fragmentation, and connectivity demonstrate how consideration of forest quality provides a much stronger basis for evaluating success in meeting SDG15 targets than consideration of forest extent alone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number111654
JournalEcological Indicators
StatePublished - Feb 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • Conservation planning
  • Forest quality
  • National sub-indicators
  • Sustainable Development Goal 15

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Decision Sciences
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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