Ecological and Economic Feasibility of Methods of Management of Natural Tropical Forests

As seen from the description of the methods of management of tropical forests throughout the world, a variety of factors can affect their ecological, economic, and social feasibility. A key factor associated with the nature of tropical forests is the wide range of silvicultural characteristics of the desired species. Foresters need to have knowledge of the ecology and silviculture of several species in order to be able to design treatments that should be applied to suit the preferred species. For example, foresters need to know the light requirements for growth of the preferred species, so that they can apply the proper refinement and liberation techniques. There needs to be an adequate knowledge on tree species composition of the forest, both for performing pre-harvest inventories, as well as for evaluating the status of natural regeneration. Knowledge of the reproductive ecology of species is also needed; for example, if some of the harvested species are dioecious, care must be taken to ensure that other individuals of both sexes are present to ensure proper regeneration. Following initial treatments or canopy openings, additional silvi-cultural treatments (such as liberation and refinement) generally are needed to stimulate seedling regeneration in response to canopy opening and increased light availability.

Success of a management system lies in answering the following questions: are there enough seedlings, saplings, and advanced growth of merchantable species at time of exploitation to provide adequate stocking for the next harvest? What are the silvicultural characteristics of these species? What treatments will be necessary? What are probable growth rates and merchantable volume expectations of different species? What are the costs of the treatments? What is the cost of RIL?

In addition, in order for a management system to make sense from an economic point of view, an integrated land use policy is needed, where forest management is only part of the economic activities in a region. Forest management makes more sense economically when it is complemented by agriculture, tourism, or other activities. Socially, a successful forest management system has to provide safe employment to local people and suit their needs and preferences. For example, some successful forest management schemes are practiced by people who own forests in a communal system (explained in Chap. 7).

Given the wide variety of methods employed to manage natural forests in the tropics, efforts have been made to standardize the principles and criteria used to determine if a management system is ecologically, economically, and socially sustainable. A set of indicators has been defined to aid in the evaluation of the management systems suited to the particular conditions of each region, as explained in the next section.

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