In Central America, long-term research at CATIE (Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza, Tropical Agriculture Research and Higher Education Center) has focused on developing technologies for sustainable management of natural forests. Researchers have recently created models to predict and simulate growth and yields of natural forests and have generated quantitative and qualitative information on ecological and economic feasibility of natural forest management systems in the region (Montagnini et al. 2002).
A financial analysis of sustainable management in a harvested forest was recently conducted at the Tirimbina Rain Forest Research Center, located in Costa Rica's Atlantic zone. The Tirimbina forest is part of a network of key sites for long-term research by CATIE on sustainable forest management in tropical America. Based on studies of economic feasibility and impacts on plant biodiversity of timber extraction, it was found that at least 30 ha with 10-15 m3 of timber/ha should be harvested at each intervention if management is to be economically attractive and ecologically sustainable (Campos et al. 1998).
In these forests, post-harvest silvicultural treatments increased growth, especially for commercial species. Simulations using SIRENA, a growth and yield model (De Camino 1997), suggested that sustainable management can be achieved when harvesting is kept to moderate levels, when post-harvest treatments are applied to maintain an appropriate composition of commercial species, and when a cutting cycle of at least 20 years is used.
Other management systems in Latin America follow similar guidelines. It is still too early to know whether these systems are indeed both ecologically and economically sustainable. However, their chances are highly increased if they follow the criteria and indicators of sustainable management described in Section 5.4.1.
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