The Myth of Selective Logging: Carbon and Regeneration

The American Scientist presents a good review of the science behind the environmental assessment of selective logging in ancient forests. Many important scientific and policy points are made which fly in the face of industry and mainstream environmental rhetoric that “sustainable logging” (usually mixed with additional vague assurances such logging is selective, ecosystem based, follows best management practices, or has been certified) has environmental benefits and can contribute appreciably to forest conservation in the world's remaining large primary forest wildlands.
Carbon storage in selectively logged forests has been shown in numerous studies to be appreciably reduced (from 25-70%). It has also been found that tropical forests take much longer to regenerate than generally accepted – in many cases hundreds of years, far longer than most “sustainable logging” operation's cutting cycles.
The potential for truly reduced-impact logging, what I call “eco-forestry” that is not large scale or industrial, to surgically remove individual trees maintaining ancient forest composition, dynamics and structure is noted. But in reality such codes are rarely followed.

The reality is that after decades of efforts to support “sustainable forestry” in ancient rainforests in particular, selective eco-forestry logging practices have not caught on, and the highly intensive and extensive industrial selective logging that occurs remains problematic in terms of carbon storage and regeneration. Indeed, “'careful' or 'sustainable' logging have had next to no discernible impact despite years of effort and hundreds of millions of dollars of public and private investment.”
Where is the science that supports Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, The Nature Conservancy, WWF, Sierra Club, ForestEthics, Tides Foundation, MacArthur Foundation and others promoting “sustainable forestry” in the Amazon, Congo and Canada's Boreal Forests? Their feel good conservation sell-out has no science – just money and power and being seen as effective even as they abet the final dismantling of the Earth's terrestrial biosphere. An environmental crime is occurring.

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2 Responses

  1. Marcel says:

    Dear Glen Barry,
    Your opinion is my opinion: no other logging than maybe logging on a very selective scale without damaging the surrounding trees and the infrastructure of the ground.
    The pressure to come along with the employment business is an old one: pollution continues because 'we' need income and we do not care it causes pollution .As long as we get money in our hands it is allright, it seems.
    The caretakers of the environment are all to willing to search for a 'in between' in order to avoid conflict and to 'stay in business with nice talking, finding compromises”
    I was a member of WWF for about fifteen years, I quit because it is only a money rising organisation which only invested in glamorous projects.Greenpeace followed in its footsteps.I had hope for RAN before.
    Where there are many workers in a organisation it has to do first with money and secondly with principles I discoverd through the years.It is almost like a law.
    The love for money is the one and only underlying source of of the present rate of destruction of the biodiversity and its surroundings on this planet.It works permanently and invisibly.It is always the excuse for making more of it of instead of being a modest creature living of the interest that the earth provides.
    Since the oil prices went up, nations are very interested in nuclear energy. Nobody cares about the pollution/dangers it causes and the for ever dangerous garbage .We are only interested in short term gain.
    We are realy a hopless to the money economy addicted creature.In that way drifting far away from Nature.
    A minority seems to wake up and uses its energy and money in a more sustainable way.
    You belong to this minority and I am afraid that for the time being it will continue to be that way.
    But let's not get demoralised because of going/ thinking against the flow..
    My greetings, Marcel

  2. Tim Abbott says:

    Glen, I agree that selective logging in ancient forests deserves the aprobation and scrutiny you place on it. You also mention that eco-friendly silviculture does have a place outside of ancient forests but it currently constitutes a negligible part of overall logging activities worldwide. Perhaps you are aware of the work of the Forest Guild, one organization that is making strides to change mainstream forestry practices in the United States to put the forest first. The Forest Guild promotes ecologically, economically, and socially responsible forestry as a means of sustaining the integrity of forest ecosystems and the human communities dependent upon them. The Guild provides training, policy analysis, and research to foster excellence in stewardship, to support practicing foresters and allied professionals, and to engage a broader community in the challenges of forest conservation and management.
    Check out for more information on this group.

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