Reduced Impact Logging RIL

Harvesting and extraction operations are the activities that generally cause the most significant impacts on the forest (Fig. 5.1). They include all the activities necessary to fell trees and remove them from the forest to the log site for loading and transport. Selective logging leads generally to a variety of short-lived and long-lived effects including changes in the light regime and forest micro-climate, erosion, soil compaction, disruption of nutrient cycling, and possibly long-term changes in tree species composition. These changes can affect the recruitment of timber species and the diversity of forest fauna. Selective logging also increases the forest's susceptibility to fire through modification of the understory micro-climate and supply of fuel (Pereira et al. 2002).

To make forest management systems more "environmentally friendly", sil-vicultural and management schemes have concentrated on decreasing forest damage by lowering the intensity of timber harvests and improving logging

Fig. 5.1. Manual extraction of sawn wood decreases forest damage in this communal forest of the Toncontin Agroforestry Group in La Ceiba, Honduras. The wood is sawn to boards of various sizes in a small frame sawmill in the forest. They transport the sawn wood 6 km average distance to the community, sometimes using also mules or horses. (Photo: CATIE)

Fig. 5.1. Manual extraction of sawn wood decreases forest damage in this communal forest of the Toncontin Agroforestry Group in La Ceiba, Honduras. The wood is sawn to boards of various sizes in a small frame sawmill in the forest. They transport the sawn wood 6 km average distance to the community, sometimes using also mules or horses. (Photo: CATIE)

practices (Bertault and Sist 1997; Sist et al. 1998). The quality of planning and the execution of harvesting and extraction are crucial in determining the state of the forest ecosystem following harvesting. The components of the reduced impact logging (RIL) approach can be adjusted to fit the specific forest conditions of each region or management unit, but they generally include (1) inventory and mapping to reduce waste during logging; (2) planning of roads, log decks, and skid trails to minimize ground disturbance; (3) vine or liana cutting 1 year prior to harvest to improve worker safety and eliminate damage to neighbors of harvested trees; (4) planned directional felling and bucking to minimize damage to future harvests and reduce waste; and (5) planned extraction to minimize equipment time during skidding. These practices may be complemented by silvicultural treatments to improve the long-term prospects for forest stand productivity.

RIL practices significantly limit damage compared to conventional logging practices, particularly at low or intermediate harvest intensities (Boxes 5.2 and 5.3).

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