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Should environmentalists fear logging or learn to understand its impact?

Should environmentalists fear logging or learn to understand its impact?

Should environmentalists fear logging or learn to understand its impact?
May 18, 2005

Environmentalists usually oppose logging, associating it with deforestation and biodiversity loss. A new report, Life after logging: reconciling wildlife conservation and production forestry in Indonesian Borneo, from CIFOR suggests that in reality, many logging operations have a lesser impact than than generally believed by conservationists. Further, since more forests in Borneo — the area of study — are allocated for logging than for protected areas it is imperative that we have a better understanding of how biological diversity and ecological services can be maintained in such areas and how they can be integrated with protected areas into “multi-functional conservation landscapes.” Conservationists, loggers, and policy-makers alike need to recognize that logged-over forests have conservation value and work to ensure that these areas are indeed used for this purpose especially when other options for biodiversity conservation are not available.

Life after logging notes that logging in tropical forests is often highly selective and sometimes just a few trees per hectare are cut and removed. The main problems with logging stem from road construction and hunting — both activities that can be curtailed through better management. Logged-over forests themselves retain much of their original biodiversity as long as they are not converted for agriculture, exhaustively hunted, or seriously degraded through other activities. Life after logging aims to emphasize that “logged forest is a vital component of any comprehensive approach to landscape-scale conservation” not argue that all forests should be opened up for timber harvesting. Since some interior forest species cannot survive the changes wrought by logging, it is critical that selected areas still be afforded wth strict protecton measures.

The CIFOR report looked at logging Malinau area of Indonesian Borneo (East Kalimantan) where biologically rich forests are being rapidly developed for industrial logging, mining and estate. Life after logging sees Malinau as an place to observe how well “protected forests, managed forests and more intensively developed agricultural areas could be combined in a mosaic to achieve both conservation and development objectives.”

The authors argue that before commencing any conservation and development plan it is imperative to “assemble enough information on the ecology of an extensive tropical forest landscape to enable predictions to be made about the impacts of different sorts of development scenarios.” This is just what they’ve done in Life after logging, which “shows that different combinations of logging and protection and different patterns of infrastructure development will have different impacts on biodiversity and that these in turn will have impacts on the livelihoods of the people who depend upon this biodiversity.”

The authors look at a variety of timber harvesting paths to measure the impact on local species:

as well as the economic impact on local people. From these scenarios, the authors develop a list of recommendations to help in the conservation of local speces which are increasingly threatened by deforestation, forest degradation and hunting. The authors note that while “the Indonesian government has pledged to do its best to control these problems … [through] laws and international agreements … achieving conservation goals remains fraught with challenges.” The authors argue that one way the government may be able to meet conservation targets is to establish policies and extend existing regulatons in logged-over forests and areas concessioned for timber cutting. Some of their recommendations include:

In developing these recommendations, the authors looked for a ideas that would enhance biodiversity preservation while addressing the needs of development interests. The future of Borneo’s wildlife depends on makin the best use of its remaining forest resources. Just because forest has been logged it can still be productive from a conservation standpoint.

This article uses information and excerpts from Life after logging: reconciling wildlife conservation and production forestry in Indonesian Borneo by Meijaard, E.; Sheil, D.; Nasi, R.; Augeri, D.; Rosenbaum, B.; Iskandar, D.; Setyawati, T.; Lammertink, A.; Rachmatika, I.; Wong, A.; Soehartono, T.; Stanley, S.; O’Brien, T. The report is available for download in PDF format at

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