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The results of this case-study show that environmentally sound forest harvesting, as applied by Precious Woods in their F2M project, is superior to timber harvesting in the traditional way of the Amazon region in Brazil. The estimated short term costs per cubic metre for the traditional logging system may be slightly less than the environmentally sound forest harvesting system. After accounting for system changes recommended by this study the cost difference between the two systems is about 1%, which can be considered negligible due to the inaccuracy of the estimation.

This estimation of production costs shows that timber harvesting as carried out in the environmentally sound forest harvesting system, described in previous chapters, is not necessarily more expensive than timber harvesting in the traditional way. Furthermore, environmentally sound forest harvesting has the significant advantage of meeting social, economic, and environmental objectives.

The medium and long-term economic advantages become obvious through a comparison of characteristics of both systems:

environmentally sound forest

harvesting system


traditional logging system


only 33% of the volume of commercial tree species found for the cutting unit under review has been removed, so that a portion of the residual commercial trees can be harvested in the next harvesting cycle


69% of the volume of commercial tree species found for the cutting unit under review has been removed; the residual commercial trees are mainly rejected trees where internal decay is suspected


about 72% of PCTs, most likely to form the projected harvest in the next harvesting cycle, remain in an acceptable condition without any or with only slight damage


only 48% of PCTs remain in an acceptable condition without any or with only slight damage


timber losses amounted to 3.9% of the utilisable stem volume at the felling site, improved bucking practice will enable further reduction of losses


timber losses came to 8.5% of the utilisable stem volume at the felling site


due to a reliable decay investigation prior to felling, no occurrence of timber losses caused by internal decay


undiscovered internal decay was responsible for 1.5% in timber losses


application of silvicultural treatments to stimulate tree growth of commercial tree species will increase the commercial value of residual stands


no measures taken concerning damages to residual stands nor concerning future crops in general


environmentally sound forest

harvesting system


traditional logging system


sustainable forest management of the F2M project provides an assured timber supply to the company-owned sawmill


depletion of timber resources in the vicinity of mill centres will increase timber transportation costs and drive mill owners to move their mill closer to unexploited forest

Apart from the above mentioned economic advantages, social components are important aspects of consideration in the environmentally sound forest harvesting system:

environmentally sound forest

harvesting system


traditional logging system


fringe benefits provided to the employees


daily payment often based on timber volume felled


company housing with adequate standards of comfort and sanitation are provided for the employees


usually only field camps for the duration of logging operations


stable employment throughout the year provided for the employees


workers are frequently hired by a company for only a single job


consideration of basic ergonomic requirements including design of machines and tools, workplace time, rest patterns, and adequate nutrition (the company provided three meals per day)


working techniques, rest patterns and nutrition are the workers own responsibility


reduction of frequency and severity of accidents associated with harvesting operations by well-trained, competent personnel, outfitted with appropriate safety gear, and using properly maintained equipment


poor safety record since harvesting operations are often carried out by poorly equipped and unskilled workers insufficiently supervised


sustainable forest management integrated with a wood processing industry provides not only long-term employment for the rural population in harvesting operations and timber processing, but also employment for planning and administrative staff and therefore contributes to the development of the region as a whole and prevents migration


careless exploitation and degradation of forests near mill centres leads to short-term employment in the timber-producing industry and results in all kinds of problems related to accelerated migration as the short-lived timber processing industry moves on

Focusing on environmental impacts of harvesting operations, the advantages of the environmentally sound forest harvesting system are obvious:

environmentally sound forest

harvesting system


traditional logging system


about 1/3 of the project's forest area is set aside as preservation forest area; the majority serves as a genetic pool


randomly distributed non-harvested forest areas remain due to difficult site conditions rather than to considerations of preservation


soil disturbance associated with soil compaction remains restricted to the areas used for permanent forest infrastructure facilities, which cover on average about 4.5% of the cutting unit's area


area affected by forest infrastructure came to 20% of the cutting unit's area due to a criss-crossing network of skid trails caused by unplanned searching for and skidding of logs


canopy opening came to about 11% of the area under review; scattered distribution of individual canopy gaps keeps canopy openings reasonable in size


about 25% of the area under review was found in a gapped condition where canopy gaps formed by felling of several neighbouring trees became critical in size


climber cutting two years prior to harvesting enables directional felling in order to reduce felling damages


neighbouring trees are unnecessarily damaged during felling operation by interconnecting vines


rotten trees are not felled, but preserved as shade and seed trees in order to diminish environmental impacts


unreliable rot identification causes unnecessary felling of trees, increasing environmental impacts


a maximum of 80% of the volume for a tree species may be harvested, assuring the continued existence of all tree species


no restrictions in timber removal can lead to the disappearance of certain tree species associated with a loss in diversity of forests


forest is left in a condition that will permit the attainment of a desired future condition to assure sustainability


poor postharvest condition of the forest that does not meet the requirements of sustainable forest management


establishment of permanent sample plots prior to harvesting; enables monitoring of stand development and provides feedback about the quality of harvesting operations and silvicultural treatments


lack of assessments renders it difficult to predict the effects of the harvesting operations on future crop trees, regeneration, and other vegetation


undesired effects of canopy openings on the regeneration process will be corrected by silvicultural treatments to permit attainment of a desired future forest condition


regeneration is left to itself, poor harvesting practices will be continued accompanied by environmental degradation due to ignorance and neglect of impacts on the ecosystem


environmentally sound forest

harvesting system


traditional logging system


advances in knowledge of the tropical rainforest ecosystem from the establishment of monitoring systems will favour the refinement of silvicultural treatments


no attempt to mitigate unfavourable environmental impacts of the traditional way of timber harvesting

The great superiority of the environmentally sound forest harvesting system in producing tropical forest products is obvious. Use of the principles of sustainable forest management benefits the environment and the population as a whole. It is deemed necessary to promote the implementation of environmentally sound harvesting systems in the tropical natural forest of the Amazon. This serves the needs of the economy, the natural environment, and social integration policy.

The support of small scale sustainable forest management projects like the F2M project of Precious Woods is suggested (Kägi 1997). These projects provide desirable information on the ecological effects and the economic returns of sustainable timber production within the moist tropics. However, they are not able to compensate for the lack of large scale comprehensive land-use planning and management programmes within a region. They should be seen as only a first step in the right direction!

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