Logging can have low impact on Amazon rainforest says FAO
Modified FAO release
November 5, 2005

    The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has issued a response to a study that found selective logging in the Amazon is highly destructive. The research, conducted by scientists from the Carnegie Institution at Stanford University, was published in Science last month.

Rome, 3 November 2005 - Selective logging is not necessarily destructive and can be done with low impact on the remaining forests, if the proper techniques are applied, FAO said today, in response to a recent study on logging impacts in the Amazon.

Researchers at Stanford University have recently been successful in developing sophisticated methodologies and in applying them on satellite data from the Amazon to show the extent of selective logging in the forests, which had previously been missed in other assessments.

"The approach developed by the researchers helps to monitor the impacts of logging in the Amazon and shows us where forests are harvested unsustainably. However, selective logging is not in principle that destructive. Sound logging practices allows the use of the forest without losing it or risking its regenerative capacity," said Wulf Killmann, Director of the Forest Products and Economics Division at FAO. "The severe logging damage shown in the study is unacceptable and sustainable logging practices should be applied."

Reduced Impact Logging

Good forest harvesting practices or so called reduced impact logging should be applied when logging, according to FAO. By using reduced impact logging, forests can be harvested while providing economic benefits as well as protecting the soil, water and biodiversity.
Reduced impact logging
from FAO

The term "reduced impact logging" (RIL) began appearing in literature in the early 1990s and was quickly adopted and promoted in both scientific journals and news bulletins. The theory that it was possible to reduce the impacts of logging was embraced by both foresters and the general public but perhaps more importantly by leading environmental organizations.

Reduced impact logging is a method of harvesting trees with modest residual damage and degradation of the forest site through the use of pre-harvesting, harvesting and post-harvesting planning and design. The policy implications of reduced-impact logging include the incorporation of appropriate management practices into long-term sustainable forest management goals. RIL is not a fixed prescription but rather an adaptation of the best possible harvest techniques to local site and market conditions.

Some essential phases of RIL are:
  • pre-harvest inventory and mapping of individual crop trees;
  • pre-harvest planning of roads, skid trails and landings to provide access to the harvest area and to the individual trees scheduled for harvest, while minimizing soil disturbance and protecting streams and waterways with appropriate crossings;
  • pre-harvest vine-cutting in areas where heavy vines connect tree crowns; construction of roads, landings and skid trails so that they adhere to engineering and environmental design guidelines;
  • the use of appropriate felling and bucking techniques, including controlled felling, cutting stumps low to the ground to avoid waste, and optimal cross-cutting of tree stems into logs in a way that maximizes the recovery of useful wood;
  • the winching of logs to planned skid trails and ensuring that skidding machines remain on the trails at all times;
  • where feasible, using yarding systems that protect soils and residual vegetation;
  • conducting a post-harvest assessment in order to provide feedback to the concession holder and logging crews and to evaluate the degree to which RIL guidelines have been successfully applied.

Reduced impact logging refers to widely-accepted practical steps to be taken when logging. It includes specific measures such as assessments before and after harvesting, careful construction and maintenance of forest roads, and cutting down trees at a certain direction and of climbing vines.

According to a global study carried out by FAO, the University of British Columbia and the Lakehead University in Canada, reduced impact logging, if done properly, reduces not only disturbance to the remaining tree stand but also logging waste, compared to other conventional practices.

"Selective logging can sustainably deliver timber with minimum detrimental impact on forests. If forests do not generate income, forest owners tend to convert it to other land uses, which is worse than selective logging." Killmann said.

To help implement reduced impact logging, FAO developed together with countries, regional and national codes for forest harvesting for Asian and African countries. A regional code is now underway for the tropical rainforests of South America, including the Amazon.

This is a modified press release from FAO.

Modified FAO release (November 05, 2005).

Logging can have low impact on Amazon rainforest says FAO.