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The importance of the private sector for forest sector development is increasingly recognised by governments and international organisations. Industry is more and more involved not only in timber extraction, but also in medium and long term forest planning and management.

Long term sustainable wood production over a number of cutting cycles requires a well-planned venture that includes minimisation of damages to the remaining stand. In the past, the main concern has been with the performance of the harvesting techniques and the equipment. With growing awareness of the limited resources and the fragility of forest systems, it has become obvious that the knowledge of harvesting impacts on forests is very limited.

The FAO Forest Products Division therefore initiated a series of case studies on harvesting techniques and impacts in tropical forests. Field work for the first study was carried out in February and July 1995 in close collaboration with a private forest industry enterprise and the Ministry of Water and Forests of the Republic of Congo. The work was done jointly by Albert Essereke and Pierre Ekiama with the Ministry of Water and Forests in Brazzaville, Congo and by Robert Scharpenberg with the FAO Forest Products Division in Rome, Italy. This report was prepared by Robert Scharpenberg.

Objectives and scope

The overall objective of this case study is to contribute to the development of sustainable forest management in the tropics through the establishment of credible data on forest harvesting practices and harvesting impacts in tropical high forest.

The study consists of three parts: (a) study inventory, (b) harvesting performance study, and (c) harvesting impact assessment. A wood recovery analysis is included in the harvesting performance study. The harvesting impact assessment includes an evaluation of the road and skidtrail network, a harvesting damage survey, and a simple soil disturbance evaluation. A felling time analysis is also presented.

The case study presents a ground harvesting system as currently applied in closed forests of the Congo. The study was conducted on a 150 ha closed broad-leaved forest that is part of a 140,000 ha concession area located in southern Congo.

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