Almost 90 percent of Guyana’s roughly 750,000 residents live in coastal areas outside of the forests, which contributes to the preservation of the country’s intact forest landscape. Over the past two decades, deforestation rates in Guyana have ranged from between 0.02 percent to 0.079 percent – far less than many other tropical countries. The full article is available here…
A new study finds that Reduced-Impact Logging (RIL) techniques in Guyana have only minimal effects on the regeneration of trees. The study conducted in the logging compartments of the Iwokrama Forest by the University of Kent, counted seedling regeneration in forest that had been logged and in areas that had not been affected by logging. Few differences were found, in both the commercial and pioneer trees species that were sampled.
New research conducted in the Iwokrama Forest in Guyana has highlighted the value of a modern logging technique for maintaining biodiversity in tropical forests that are used for timber production.
Researchers at the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) at the University of Kent say that with over 4 million km2 of tropical forests harvested for timber worldwide, improving the way logging impacts on wildlife is essential for global biodiversity conservation.
Members of DICE conducted the most comprehensive study of Reduced-Impact Logging (RIL) to date, surveying wildlife communities over a five-year period before and after timber harvesting.
The research team, comprising Dr Jake Bicknell, Dr Matthew Struebig and Dr Zoe Davies, discovered that RIL had very little effect on the birds, bats and large mammals in the rainforests of Central Guyana. In fact, they found that the natural rates of change in the wildlife communities were greater than those resulting from this type of modern, best-practice logging technique.
Now the researchers hope the new evidence, showing the benefits of adopting RIL over conventional logging, will encourage governments and timber companies to make the switch in their timber industry practices.
Dr Bicknell said the research demonstrated that RIL is a ‘cost-effective option’ that will ensure the long-term sustainability of biodiversity-rich tropical forests around the world. It is better for wildlife because it ‘minimises collateral damage to unlogged trees in the forest, and reduces gaps in the forest canopy which are associated with conventional logging’.
The paper, titled Reconciling timber extraction with biodiversity conservation in tropical forests using reduced impact logging, is published in the current issue of the Journal of Applied Ecology.
When it comes to logging, it may be possible to have our timber and our tropical forests, too. The key, according to a report in the journal Current Biology on December 1, is careful planning and the use of reduced-impact logging (RIL) practices that avoid unnecessary damage to the surrounding forest.
“Four million square kilometres of tropical forest are designated for logging globally,” says Jake Bicknell of the University of Kent in the United Kingdom, noting that this represents an area larger than the size of India. “Even if we could improve timber harvesting operations across a proportion of this area, the benefits for biodiversity and its conservation would be very substantial indeed.”
RIL practices reduce the level of damage within the forest that is caused by tree harvesting, Bicknell explains. Those practices include well-planned logging roads, directional felling so that cut trees do not crush those that should be left standing, and cutting vines that might otherwise pull nearby trees down along with those marked for cutting.
The researchers conducted a meta-analysis of studies, including some conducted in Guyana, and compared diversity in primary tropical forest using conventional logging and RIL. They found consistently lower effects of RIL in comparison to conventional logging practices, with smaller shifts in species abundance following RIL logging. RIL logging appears to cause less harm to birds, arthropods, mammals, and especially bats.
The new study comes as welcome news following another report in Current Biology showing that even the removal of very few trees can have a devastating impact on forest animals, and on mammals and amphibians in particular. The latest study suggests that this is because “harvest intensities are not always indicative of actual disturbance levels resulting from logging.” In many cases, plenty of unnecessary damage to the forest is being done.
Consumers can do their part by demanding wood that is RIL certified, although it may be hard to come by for now. Currently, less than five percent of timber production forests meet that standard. Bicknell nevertheless sees reason for optimism.
“The guidelines are already in place, the logging techniques are available, and the expertise exists, so there is little excuse for timber companies not to implement RIL,” he says. “Economically, RIL can bring greater profits to timber companies over the long term, although the initial expenses may be slightly greater than with conventional practices.
“The issue is now advocating the diverse benefits of RIL to stimulate widespread uptake of the techniques. If policy makers and companies respond to the growing scientific evidence-base and move away from the business-as-usual scenario, then I am confident that future prospects for tropical forests and the biodiversity they contain will be much improved.”