The logging of tropical forests is widespread, but it is not necessarily environmentally catastrophic, according to a team of international researchers.
A new study shows that under current timber harvesting intensities, Amazon forests logged with reduced impact logging techniques can recover their initial carbon stock in seven to 21 years. This means that sustainably logged tropical forests continue to play a key role in global carbon sequestration, or the capture and long-term storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide, with important implications for global climate.
“These results suggest that tropical forests can be managed sustainably, producing timber and maintaining the important environmental service of carbon storage,” said Christopher Baraloto, director of the International Center for Tropical Botany, a collaboration between FIU and the National Tropical Botanical Garden. Baraloto helped lead the study, which was published in Current Biology in September.
Forest management regulations vary among Amazonian countries, but less than 5 percent of tropical forests are under some form of recognized, sustainable management. Poor logging practices continue to degrade many forests, while others continue to be cleared and converted into more profitable pasture and plantations.
“Our results underline the importance of sustainable forest management practices for carbon storage, and continued monitoring will be necessary to determine how logging impacts other environmental services and local biodiversity,” Baraloto said.
These results provide forest managers and policy makers with a new tool to make informed decisions on how to promote the harvest of forest products while preserving the essential environmental services within forests.