Harvesting tropical forests for timber may not be the arch-enemy ofconservation that it was once assumed to be, according to a newstudy led by a University of Florida researcher. Selective loggingmay be one of the few feasible options left for conserving tropicalforests given the huge financial incentives pushing tropicallandholders to convert primary forests into cash-generatingagricultural plantations. The report analyzed data from more than 100 studies of tropicalforests on three continents that had been harvested for timber.Results suggest that while biodiversity and carbon retention take ahit from selective logging, the losses are survivable andreversible to a degree if the forest is given adequate time torecover. The study appears in the online version of the journalConservation Letters.
That’s not the case when forests are converted to rubber or palmoil plantations, said the study’s lead author, Jack Putz, a UFprofessor of biology. Once a forest is gone, it is hard to get itback in any semblance of its former glory. “We aren’t advocates for logging,” he said. “We’re justacknowledging that it is a reality – and that within that reality,there is a way forward.” The study found that on average, 85 to 100 percent of the animaland plant species diversity present before an initial harvestremained after the forests were selectively logged. Forests alsoretained 76 percent of their carbon after an initial harvest.
The authors concede that the reports they analyzed could be overlyoptimistic portrayals of forest health. They nevertheless maintainthat even moderately well-managed forests provide valuablebenefits, and that badly managed forests can recover many of theirmost valuable attributes over time. The continued existence of indigenous people culturally bound tothese forests depends on forest survival, Putz said. Other peoplebenefit from the eco-services that forests provide like soilerosion control, carbon sequestration and habitat for wildlife. The problem, he said, is that there are powerful economic forcesdriving developing nations to convert their forests to cash cropsand cattle ranches. Handmade False Eyelashes
A forest sustainably managed for timber andbiodiversity might earn $2,000 per acre every 20 to 30 years. Incontrast, a palm oil plantation can bring in the same amount inless than a year. But there are ways to tip the balance sheet in favor ofconservation, according to the study. Programs that root out illegal logging operations protect forestsby raising the price of legitimately harvested timber, he said. Andthat makes sustainable logging a more economically viable optionfor cash-strapped nations. Glitter False Eyelashes
The study also suggests that climatechange mitigation programs designed to prevent logging could bemodified to include support for environmentally sustainable timbermanagement plans. Many conservation biologists and ecologists in developed countriesnorth of the equator seem reluctant to get behind these policies ina public way, he said. A chronic lack of oversight has madeprograms that allow for selective logging a risky ecologicalproposition in the past. That makes people involved in conservationhesitant to be seen as aligning themselves with timber harvest inany capacity. But logging is going to happen anyway, Putz said. Lower False Eyelashes
“Conservationistsshould be working to make sure it is carried out in the mostenvironmentally and socially responsible ways possible,” he said.