Given what we know about the influence logging intensity on species richness and population sizes in tropical forests, we can try to help forest managers plan logging operations in a way that is less harmful to biodiversity. Should they try to, for example, maximize the logging intensity within one part of the logging concession, and leave the rest without any logging? Or would it be better to minimize the logging intensity, at an expense of having to log over a larger area? The answer is, as often, that it depends. I am trying to find out what the optimal design for logging operations is in terms of biodiversity, and together with a SNAPP (Science for Nature & People Partnership) group, we are trying to also consider this question in terms of ecosystem services, various economic, and social variables.
Our first paper has just been published in the journal Conservation Letters, you can read the full article here.
Methods: Forests take forever to grow, and so it’s not practical to just try a bunch of forestry things out, and then wait 50 years to see what happens. So instead, we made up a forest to play with by writing many lines of code in the program R. Our pretend-forest grew just like a normal forest would – some trees became bigger, other trees died, new trees grew. We then did different things to our pretend-forest, pretty much trying out, on different clones of our forest, various ways logging could be done. There were a lot of different things we wanted to try out, but the most important ones were just what you can see on the picture above – forest sparing, and forest sharing. We then let our forest be managed by our coded manager, sat back, and watched what happened for 60 (coding) years. Each time we wanted to grow a new forest and do new things to it, it only took about 10s for 60 years, even though we actually did each new forestry intervention 10,000 times, as sometimes more or fewer trees could have died by chance.
Results: It turns out that 1) in terms of how much carbon stays stashed away in the forest and how many species of animals will not run away or die because of the logging does NOT really change too dramatically regardless of whether we do forest sharing or sparing. But, 2) it turns out to be very important whether we have other people than our coded manager in the pretend-forest. If there are people that also need land for planting rice or other food crops, then forest sharing might not be such a good option, as building a lot of roads (for taking the logged trees out of the forest, and yes, our pretend-forest even has pretend-roads) might encourage the deforestation by farmers to spread faster and further.