Karen Mo leads monitoring, evaluation and research for WWF Global Forest Practice, as well as managing WWF’s global research and partnerships for forest conservation.
All views are the authors own, and not those of the Center for International Forestry Research.
Wood is one of the oldest materials utilized by humans. For hundreds of thousands of years humans harvested wood for shelter, fibre and fuel, propelling civilizations and prosperity. Today, forest products remain one of the backbones of our modern life, and it is safe to say that the present and future generations will continue to depend on them. But unlike our ancestors, we’re facing a major dilemma – climate change.
Nowhere is this dilemma more acute than in tropical forest regions. Unsustainable logging accounts for 30–70 per cent of forest degradation across Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America, changing forests from carbon sinks to carbon sources. Finding practical and effective ways to reduce emissions from logging while still sustaining timber yield for future generations is therefore imperative.
Can we keep our forests and log them too?
Tropical forests have countless tree species, but only a few can be sold commercially. Hence, logging in the tropics is typically focused on those few marketable species, in a process called selective logging. Emissions from selective logging come from clearing for haul roads and log yards, collateral damages around felled trees, and residuals such as branches and stumps left in the forest. Because selective logging occurs in tropical forests where logging in natural forest is permitted, their cumulative effects on the carbon cycle can be substantial.
Fortunately, there is a solution. A series of new research finds that emissions from selective logging in tropics can be halved by applying the “Reduced Impact Logging for carbon emission reduction” (RIL-C) method.