After selective logging rainforest retains 76% carbon, >85% biodiversity

That is inferior to true conservation, but preferable over all other ‘forest options’.

forest selective logging
Selective logging risks to remain a theoretical phenomenon. Without clear incentives there is usually little reason to refrain from clear-cutting or selective logging as a single harvest stage prior to slash and burn and agricultural invasion. If however such logging is conducted in a sustainable cycle both carbon and biodiversity loss can remain comparatively small. Image by shows canopy scars after selective logging practice in northern Bolivia between 1999-2003.

The above numbers are derived from a study by researchers of the University of Florida, Utrecht University, Wageningen University and several other institutions, published in Conservation Letters.

Considering a large portion of the world’s rainforests simply do not lie in nature reserves, aim of the study was to investigate under what conditions the forests’ carbon store and biodiversity levels would be harmed the least.

And especially considering preserved biodiversity selective logging can be achieved in a relative harmless way, with anywhere between 85 and 100 percent of mammals, birds, invertebrates, and plant species remaining after logging, according to the study.

Forest economy

Only a clamp-down on the illegal timber market can sufficiently raise sustainable forestry revenues for that sector to compete economically over stretches of tropical forest that the hunt for financial profits would otherwise turn into plantations or cattle ranches.

Currently a complete harvest of selective logging creates – per acre – similar revenue to for instance a palm oil plantation, but the latter has this as annual income, whereas a full timber harvest takes 30 years to grow.

It is not that the forestry sector would therefore require a 30 times as large land area to get to the same income – after the initial full harvest, the annual logging – based on metastudy results – drops by 46 percent, and can be sustained at that level.

Apart from banning non-certified wood it would of course help to further gap the bridge if the favourable figures for preserved forest carbon and biodiversity could be credited too:

“Given that selectively logged forests retain substantial biodiversity, carbon, and timber stocks, this ‘middle way’ between deforestation and total protection deserves more attention from researchers, conservation organizations, and policy-makers. Improvements in forest management are now likely if synergies are enhanced among initiatives to retain forest carbon stocks (REDD+), assure the legality of forest products, certify responsible management, and devolve control over forests to empowered local communities.”

Always more harvest in healthy nature

The fact that sustainable selective logging should not hurt overall forest biodiversity too much can in the end also help the forestry sector achieve higher productivity and combat tree plagues – other recent studies suggest.

© Rolf Schuttenhelm |

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