A convincing body of evidence shows that as it is presently codified, sustainable forest-management (SFM) logging implemented at an industrial scale guarantees commercial and biological depletion of high-value timber species within three harvests in all three major tropical forest regions. The minimum technical standards necessary for approaching ecological sustainability directly contravene the prospects for financial profitability. Therefore, industrial-scale SFM is likely to lead to the degradation and devaluation of primary tropical forests as surely as widespread conventional unmanaged logging does today. Recent studies also show that logging in the tropics, even using SFM techniques, releases significant carbon dioxide and that carbon stocks once stored in logged timber and slash takes decades to rebuild. These results beg for a reevaluation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change proposals to apply a Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation subsidy for the widespread implementation of SFM logging in tropical forests. However, encouraging models of the successful sustainable management of tropical forests for timber and nontimber products exist at local-community scales.

Authors: Barbara L. Zimmerman and Cyril F. Kormos

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