Costs and benefits of forest management for timber production in eastern Amazonia

Paulo Barreto, Paulo Amaral, Edson Vidal, Christopher Uhl

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134 Scopus citations


Rain forest logging is spreading in eastern Amazonia, and logging practices are careless, resulting in much unnecessary damage. We considered the technical feasibility, efficiency and profitability of 'best' logging practices in this region by comparing planned and unplanned logging operations in side-by-side plots. We also calculated the medium-term economic performance of 'best' forestry practices under a selective harvest regime by comparing net present value for 20- and 30-year cutting cycles, with and without forest management. The cost to plan logging operations was estimated at US$72/ha or approximately US$1.80-2.05/m3 for harvests of 35-40 m3/ha (typical of study region). More than 90% of this cost was in tree mapping, vine cutting, and planning logging maneuvers (e.g., skid trail layout, felling angle determinations, etc.). The careful planning of tree felling operations resulted in a 15% increase in productivity (m3 felled/work h) over the unplanned operation. The machine time (min/m3 harvested) necessary to open logging roads and log landings was 37% less in the planned operation than in the unplanned operation, and the productivity of skidding logs to landings (m3 hauled/h) was 27% greater in the planned operation, using wheeled skidders compared to standard bulldozer-based operations in unplanned extraction. Moreover, in the absence of planning, 26% of the volume of timber that was felled was wasted: 7% lost to poor felling techniques and 19% lost simply because felled trees were never found by tractor operators. In the planned area, only 1% of the felled timber was wasted. Overall, increased work productivity and reduced waste in the planned logging operation resulted in financial benefits of US$3.7/m3, which was about two times the cost of planning. In addition to short-term economic benefits, carefully planned logging operations reduce damage to the forest, leaving a well-stocked stand. Good stocking, combined with the application of silvicultural treatments following logging, should result in greater timber production in managed forests. With management, we estimate that 68% more timber volume could be extracted over a 30-yr period than without management. Using discount rates ranging from 6 to 20%, our estimates of the net present value of timber extraction with forest management were 38 to 45% higher than without management. Although forest management appears to be economically attractive, there are various barriers to its widespread application in the region. Information on the technical aspects of forest management has not been transferred to land owners. Forestry regulations are not enforced. Additionally, any investment in forested land is perceived as risky because of frequent disputes over land ownership. Overcoming these barriers will require, at the very least, the implementation of a regional forest-use policy that is sensitive to both local economic conditions and forest ecology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-26
Number of pages18
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Aug 20 1998

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Forestry
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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