Can logging help fight climate change?
Surprisingly, it can — if done in a sustainable way.
Reduced-impact logging — logging that ensures only the trees needed for commercial use are felled — can reduce carbon emissions from logging by up to 30 percent.
Here’s why it works: For every tree that is logged using traditional methods, 10 to 20 others are severely damaged. These trees are left to rot, producing carbon emissions as they decompose.
But the thoughtful planning and practices of reduced-impact logging can cut this collateral tree damage by 50 percent, thereby reducing emissions from the felled trees.
A Simple Way to Reduce Emissions
The beauty of reduced-impact logging lies in its simplicity: Only the trees that are commercially viable are cut down. Simple methods used to reduce impact to the forests include:
- Conducting inventories to determine where the most commercially-valuable trees are, thereby allowing for road design that minimizes forest damage;
- Clearly marking which trees are for harvest;
- Cutting vines that connect treetops to ensure that felled trees don’t pull down other trees;
- “Directional felling,” or cutting a tree so that it falls in a specific direction, which minimizes impacts to the rest of the forest; and
- Ensuring that logs are removed quickly to preserve the quality of wood and reduce the need for additional logging.
Reduced-impact logging is a way to combat poor logging practices which, in some countries, account for more carbon emissions than from deforestation.
Reduced-impact Logging, Reduced Forest Degradation
In Indonesia’s Berau District, more than 75 percent of emissions that come from land use change come from forest degradation — a decrease in the quality of a forest's condition, such as from poor logging practices — and not deforestation.
The Nature Conservancy has trained logging companies in Indonesia to use reduced-impact logging. While logging companies might need to spend additional money upfront in planning and training, the expenses are often far outweighed by the profits from greater timber yields, reduced equipment wear and lower operating costs.
The Conservancy is also working with government leaders to have all logging in Indonesia’s Berau District — covering nearly 2 million acres — conducted with reduced-impact techniques.
Worldwide, 865 million acres of tropical moist forest are designated as “production forests” — forests whose trees are commercially harvested. But forests that are certified as being sustainably managed — and that incorporate reduced-impact logging — comprise less than 5 percent of these lands.
Recognizing that some local communities depend on the logging of tropical forests for their economic stability, the Conservancy has found middle ground on a divisive issue: Reduced-impact logging can eliminate poor logging practices in production forests on which local communities depend.
If more sustainable forestry methods are used in tropical forests around the world, then carbon emissions can be reduced from poor logging practices.
And logging can help fight climate change.