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Sustainable Forest Management

by:Annika Keeley.

Garden furniture, hardwood floors, cutting boards, house frames, doors, rocking chairs, ceiling beams – we all use and like wood in our lives. In the tropics, there are numerous tree species that can be used to make beautiful and useful wood products. Because wood is a renewable resource we have the option to manage and harvest it in a sustainable and ecologically friendly way. Harvesting timber trees can also be a source of income for local landowners. In Costa Rica, many private landowners manage a small forest and selectively harvest some trees, either to sell for additional income or use as building material themselves.

There are different ways in which a forest can be managed. Clear-cutting is, from an ecological perspective, the least favorable option. Alternatively, trees can be logged selectively, where only desirable trees are extracted. After logging, the forest can be left alone until the next logging, let’s call it the logging-only management. To improve the growth of desired trees, the forest can be managed after logging. One way to do this is to remove all large trees that do not have economic value and are not important for wildlife, as well as trees crowding the trees that are determined for harvest. Let’s call this the liberation-management. A technique to improve conditions for the regeneration of light- demanding timber trees consists of removing all undesirable trees from the middle storey of the forest and only leaving desirable trees and trees that form the upper canopy of the forest. Let’s call this the shelterwood-management.

Bryan Finegan and Marlen Camacho from the Tropical Agricultural Centre for Research and Higher Education (CATIE) in Turrialba, Costa Rica, examined in a study conducted in the Tirimbina Biological Reserve how the favored trees grew under the different management styles . They found that the diameter of the economically valuable trees increased fastest with the liberation strategy. Florencia Montagnini and Bryan Finegan from CATIE together with several other colleagues then investigated how the management techniques influenced the number of plant species in the first years after logging . Both, the liberation and the shelterwood managements reduced the number of tree and palm species in the study plots. Understory plant richness, however, did not change, except where the soil was disturbed through the tree felling operations and the logging roads. Finegan, B. and M. Camacho. 1999. Stand dynamics in a logged and silviculturally treated Costa Rican rain forest. Forest Ecology and Management 121, pages 177-189.

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Montagnini, F., B. Finegan, D. Delgado, B. Eibl, L. Szczipanski, and N. Zamora. 2001. Can Timber Production Be Compatible with Conservation of Forest Biodiversity? Two Case Studies of Plant Biodiversity in Managed Neotropical Forests. Journal of Sustainable Forestry 12, pages 37-60.

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