Study demonstrates value of sustainable forestry

Training, acceptance to boost profits

Conventional logging delivers a body blow to forests by stripping 80 to 90 per cent of target tree species. This shock erodes biodiversity, damages ecological function and contributes to climate change. Sustainable forest management (SFM), on the other hand, can profit landowners and deliver valuable timbers to market with minimised disturbance to ecosystems.

A project spanning more than 20 years on Fiji’s Viti Levu that has recently come to fruition is proving the point. It also shows the potential for sustainable forestry to coexist with conservation regimes that offer potentially lucrative royalties through the international REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) mechanism. In 1989, Fiji’s forestry department with financial support from the German Government leased 309 hectares of virgin forest in Nakavu.

Designated as the Natural Forest Management Pilot Project the site was comprehensively mapped and divided into lots that received different logging treatments. Some plots were intentionally left untouched, some were logged using conventional methods, and the remainder were logged at ‘light’ (15 per cent), ‘medium’ (33 per cent) or ‘heavy’ (50 per cent) intensities using the principles of SFM.

The mapping and logging operation was finished by 1994 and the forest remained undisturbed for 20 years, permitting regrowth. In 2013, a comprehensive scientific study began elucidating comparative results between the different forest treatment methods. It examined biodiversity and ecological function, forest carbon stock, and further log harvest potential.

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