Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford


A major international conference on "Intact Forests in the 21st Century" took place in Oxford on 18 – 20 June 2018, hosted by the University of Oxford in partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The conference brought together leading scientists, researchers, policy experts and practitioners from around the world to review and debate the current state of knowledge relating to intact forests, their values, the threats they face, and the most appropriate responses.

We are currently preparing a special issue on Intact Forests in the journal Frontiers in Forests and Global Change, see below for more information.

Final Programme View presentations Conference summary report

A Declaration on Intact Forests in the 21st Century

The Declaration was a direct outcome of the conference and was developed with input from the attendees. The organisers are inviting additional signatories to join. Those interested can contact us through the conference email, ifc2018@ouce.ox.ac.uk, stating their name and affiliation or whether they wish to sign on as an individual.

Declaration on Intact Forests in the 21st Century

In June 2018, scientists, practitioners and members of the public gathered at Magdalen College, University of Oxford, to discuss strategies for protecting the world's remaining intact forests. The meeting defined intact forests as 'natural forests free from significant anthropogenic degradation'. Degradation reduces biodiversity, ecological function and the delivery of ecosystem services, and can be caused by industrial logging and other extractive industries, fragmentation by roads and agriculture, over-hunting and altered fire and flood regimes, among other pressures.

Many intact forests represent the bio-cultural heritage of indigenous and traditional peoples who have customary rights to these areas, and whose traditional management systems have often provided effective protection to them.

In the meeting the latest science was reviewed related to defining and mapping intact forests, their many values and the threats they face. We then discussed the management options, financial incentives and policy interventions available for maintaining intact forests into the future.

We hereby RECOGNISE that:

  1. Intact forests provide a diverse array of values to society, including carbon storage and sequestration, production of atmospheric moisture, climate regulation, watershed protection, the livelihoods and survival of traditional cultures, the maintenance of human health and the protection of biodiversity;
  2. Intact forests have intrinsic value in harbouring the inherited biological wealth of our planet and play a fundamental, irreplaceable role in supporting its healthy functioning; and
  3. The protection of intact forests should be seen as one of a set of urgent and complementary global priorities for action on forests, which also include preventing deforestation and supporting forest restoration, protection of other forests important for biodiversity, and ensuring the sustainable use of forests designated for production;


  1. Commitments by national and sub-national governments to maintain intact forests;
  2. The adoption of measures to maintain intact forests, such as protected areas and indigenous territories recognized by legal or other means, spatial planning at national and sub-national levels, and mechanisms to reduce threats from commercial activities;
  3. The use of climate finance, biodiversity finance and other forms of national and international funding to support measures to protect intact forests; and
  4. The collaboration of governments, the private sector, civil society, local communities and the research community to develop tools and criteria to identify, maintain and monitor intact forest.

Despite these positive steps we are CONCERNED that:

  1. Less than 20% of the world's forests are intact and this is declining at more than 0.7% per year, a rate which has accelerated in recent years;
  2. Amidst the necessary attention that is given to frontiers of deforestation, the extensive but often less visible degradation of intact forests is being neglected;
  3. Intact forests are insufficiently addressed by current policies and incentive mechanisms, with actions intended to address the drivers of degradation so far being inadequate to protect them; and
  4. Globally, there is still insufficient policy focus on, and political support for, ownership and management of intact forests by the people who live in them, particularly indigenous and traditional peoples, many of whom face ongoing threats, harassment and other human rights abuses.

Therefore, by this Declaration, we CALL for:

  1. All stakeholders to recognize the special importance of intact forests for the achievement of a wide range of environmental and social goals, and the need to minimise their loss and to avoid forest degradation more broadly.
  2. The scientific community to work with communities and other stakeholders to refine and enhance existing frameworks for measuring and mapping intact forests, and improving understanding of their multiple values and vulnerabilities;
  3. Greater attention be paid to the potential role of intact forests within international policy frameworks, including the UN Conventions on Climate Change and Biological Diversity;
  4. National and local stakeholders, including indigenous and traditional peoples and local communities, supported by the international community, to work together to ensure the creation and implementation of equitably designed and effectively managed strategies for maintaining intact forests;
  5. International policy makers and funding bodies to establish strong incentives and support for national governments, local communities and others to secure the immediate and lasting conservation of intact forest areas in their nations;
  6. The business sector, including private and public finance institutions, to establish more effective safeguards and due diligence mechanisms to prevent the loss of intact forest, whilst also scaling up models of sustainable investment that protect intact forests; and
  7. All stakeholders to respect human rights across all sectors of society, including the tenure rights of traditional forest peoples, when implementing these recommendations.

List of signatories to the 'Oxford Declaration on Intact Forests'

Adam Gibbon and Althelia Funds, Mirova
Chris Eves and The Zoological Society of London (ZSL)
Tom Evans and WCS
Yadvinder Malhi
Alexandra Morel
Emily Read
Helen Buckland and the Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS)
Global Witness
Yunxia Wang
Jess Baker
Bernice Hwang
Franziska Taubert
Andreas Huth
Edna Rödig
Fritz Kleinschroth
Cécile Girardin
Sara Oldfield, co-chair of the IUCN SSC Global Tree Specialist Group
Gail Stride
Friedrich Bohn
Kris Murray
Renton Righelato
Andreas Langner
Ellen Watson, High Conservation Value Network
Ismael Nobre and The Amazonia Third Way Initiative
Miroslav Svoboda
Sabrina Akil
Simon Hoyte
David P. Edwards
Maritta Koch-Weser
David Coomes
Jeffrey Wells and the Boreal Songbird Initiative
David Ellison
Nathalie Butt
Edgar Cifuentes
Hannah Peck
Sean Maxwell
Francis E. Mayle
Sophia Carodenuto
Anand Osuri
Oliver Phillips
Erika Berenguer
Arabelle Hurlestone
Ellen Griffiths and Global Canopy
Ana Alonso, EUROMOZ
Sabrina Akil
Florian Zellweger
Boyi Liang
Jason Scullion
Elizabeth Green
Paolo Moreno
Sandra Nogue
Rachel Friedman
Jeffrey Silverman
Peter Potapov
Svetlana Turabanova
Ineej Manandhr
Peter Freer Smith
Adam Duncan
Nikolay Schmatkov
Helen Newing
Frances Seymour
Jason Funk
Dominick Spracklen

Download declaration in English | French | Russian | Portuguese | Indonesian | Spanish

Invitation to submit to a special issue on Intact Forests

Following the Oxford symposium on Intact Forests in the 21st Century, we would like to invite submissions to a special issue on “Intact Forests” in the open access journal “Frontiers in Forest and Global Change”.

The call is open equally to symposium participants and to anybody else interested in the topic. We welcome submissions of full articles, policy perspectives and methods papers, which directly address the threats, values, definitions and policy instruments available to protect, maintain and/or enhance intact forest areas. Please note that the scope of this topic goes well beyond the 'Intact Forest Landscapes' mapping approach (as popularized by Greenpeace, the University of Maryland and others) and so we would encourage submissions involving a wide range of other analytical frameworks too.

There are currently two deadlines, one for submission of abstracts to the conference email by September 15 for internal review before submission to the journal by September 30 and a full manuscript submission deadline of December 15, 2018. Invitations for full submissions will be made at the abstract stage. As this journal is open access there will be some publishing fees (around $US 900 for full papers, $400-600 for perspectives or methods papers); however, there will be some full or partial waivers available for authors based in developing countries and students as well as on a case by case basis for those who do not have access to other funds. The word limit for the abstract is 350 words (and 125 words for policy briefs), author guidelines are available here: https://www.frontiersin.org/about/author-guidelines

We are currently collating a list of potential lead authors to provide to the journal. If you would be interested to contribute to this special issue, could you please email ifc2018@ouce.ox.ac.uk, stating your name, contact details and a provisional title for the article so the journal will be able to follow up with you directly. At this stage the list is for planning purposes and is not binding.

We hope that this special issue will continue the momentum built by the symposium, and result in a valuable collection of the latest science and policy knowledge on the topic of the world's least-degraded forests, which will be freely available to the public.

Related articles

The exceptional value of intact forest ecosystems. This recently published paper in Nature Ecology and Evolution highlights many of the issues to be discussed at the conference.

National Geographic: Can We Protect the Last Intact Forests of the World in the 21st Century?

Conference Contact

For enquiries about the conference, please contact Emily Read.

ifc2018@ouce.ox.ac.uk | +44 (0)1865 285190

Conference Partners

Wildlife Conservation Society Environmental Change Institute OCTF