How Do Tropical Forests Recover After Logging?


Most tropical forests have been logged or will be in the near future. While a forest in a temperate part of the world will have a dozen different kinds of trees, an equivalent area of tropical forest will have several hundred different species of trees. The same is true of bird species, plants, insects, fungi: all forms of life are more diverse in the tropics than in temperate regions. This is one reason why conservationists are so concerned about tropical forest losses. Logging a tropical forest not only takes out the trees but the habitat for a multitude of different species. Managers, governments, and conservationists are making decisions about how to use and/or conserve tropical forests when very little is known about what kind of trees and other life forms are in them, or how they all work together to form ecosystems.

In Indonesian Borneo, Chuck Cannon studied the forest diversity that remained after a mahoganydominated forest was logged. He and his coworkers were surprised to find that selectively cut forests had a diversity of tree species similar to unlogged forest. This should not give comfort to those who want to log tropical forests, rather it points out that much of their biological value remains, even after their commercial value has been extracted; that is, logged over forests could be valuable as buffers and corridors for existing parks and conservation areas.

We spoke with Chuck about his work in Indonesia and its implications for tropical forest management and conservation efforts.

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