Introduction

People have managed tropical forests for extracting timber and other resources for millennia, but on a scale small enough not to damage the ability of the forest to recover its original structure and function. Today, many tropical forests of the world are being managed unsustainably, generally due to the intensity of the timber harvest and the lack of adequate techniques to preserve sustainability, that is, to preserve ecosystem structure and function and to ensure the ability of the forest to regenerate populations of desirable tree species. However, many management systems have been designed to avoid damage to the forest structure and to maintain the forest in production. In this chapter we examine management practices for long-term sus-tainability of natural forests, the way the practices have evolved, and current trends in forest management.

Systems for sustainable management of tropical forests should take into consideration features that are essential for the maintenance of the natural forests' structure and function:

• the maintenance of ecosystem biodiversity, including the mutualisms that are essential for forest reproduction;

• the maintenance of viable populations of wildlife;

• the maintenance of the nutrient retention and recycling mechanisms of the forest;

• the maintenance of soil organic matter.

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