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Forest management for timber production: A sustainable use of the Brazilian Amazon

Forest management for timber production: A sustainable use of the Brazilian Amazon

Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciencias 64(Suppl. 1): 89-95

Logging in Amazonia is a source of wealth but also a cause of concern because of destructive harvest practices. Logging is practiced in both the upland and floodplain forests of Amazonia. The number of species cut varies from very few in the selective logging of floodplain forests to more than a hundred in the intensive logging of upland forests. Intensive logging in both upland and floodplain forests can cause severe damage, modifying, sometimes drastically, forest structure and composition. Roundwood production in Amazonia rose from 6.7 to 24.6 million cubic meters in the period from 1976-1988, and presently represents more than half of Brazil's total. Logging is lucrative: a typical sawmill, engaged in both logging and wood processing, realizes a net profit of more than 200,000 per year. Forestry and wood processing activities could create about one job per 200 hectares of forest -- more than twice the employment generated by cattle ranching on an aerial basis. World concern with the future of tropical forests has grown recently and has motivated environmental groups to contemplate campaigns to boycott tropical wood from non-sustainable sources. Meanwhile, there has been almost no effort to manage the Amazon forest sustainably, nor has there been much progress in the establishment of mixed-species plantations of native species on degraded Amazonian lands. However, there are no serious technological barriers to the practice of sustainable forestry. The scientific knowledge exists for the management of natural forests as well as the establishment of mixed-species plantations of native species. What is lacking is the political will to apply this knowledge. Agro-ecological zoning of Brazilian Amazonia is the necessary starting point for the implementation of a wise forestry policy. It is imperative to create forest reserves of sufficient size to guarantee the preservation of the principle forest ecosystems of Amazonia, as well as to demarcate areas for production forestry. Alternatives are presented for the sustainable use of Amazonia's forest, together with suggestions for how ranchers, farmers, and forest dwellers can integrate forest management and tree planting in their production systems.

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