Life on this planet cannot survive without forests. Trees breathe for the earth by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and offering us the oxygen we need. Forests help regulate the global climate by absorbing carbon. They also provide fuel for warmth and cooking, food, medicine, clean water, wildlife habitat, and so much more.
Despite their essential presence in the ecosystem, we continue to sacrifice forests for unsustainable human consumption. This planet cannot sustain our current wood consumption level. This problem brings up the question, “How to preserve forests while fulfilling human consumption requirements for wood, forest resources, and pulp?”
This is where environmentally friendly logging enters the picture. At first, it might sound like an oxymoron. After all, the premise of logging stands on chopping down trees. How can that be environmentally friendly? Let’s explore the concept in detail!
What Is Environmentally Friendly Logging?
Environmentally friendly logging or sustainable forestry is a conservation-and-livelihoods approach that involves forestry practices that mimic the natural patterns of disturbance and regeneration. Sustainable forestry aims to meet the environment’s needs, humans, and wildlife while preserving forestland for our future generations. The crux of this concept lies in striking the delicate balance between consumption and new growth.
Sustainable Logging Practices
The concept of sustainable logging ensures that we don’t lose our ecosystems by taking necessary steps to protect the health and longevity of our forests while profiting from the production and sale of trees and their byproducts.
Here are some crucial sustainable logging guidelines:
Cut Trees based on Natural Disturbance Occurrences
In forests where natural disturbances ensure the succession and renewal of life, clear-cutting is needed to harvest trees. It boosts the availability of nutrients and plant diversity, promoting wildlife’s proliferation. As part of sustainable forestry, you need to cut cleared areas to ensure they have irregular edges, leave patches of trees standing, and manually plant seedlings to speed up the process of propagation and regrowth.
Each Logging Cycle Should Last 80 Years
You can calculate the percentage of logging-available trees that can be harvested every year. Cutting around 1% to 1.25% of the forest is the optimal range to ensure the recovery of local fauna and animals between each harvest. Each logging cycle across all forests should be at least 80 years.
Moreover, the logging cycle should also depend on the growth of mature trees in each forest. After all, different tree species grow at varied height, density, and width rates. A harvester needs to conduct due research on the wood-producing trees in the forest for environmentally friendly logging.
Only Reduced-Impact or Selective Logging Should Be Performed
An essential aspect of sustainable forestry is that the harvester should only use reduced-impact logging techniques to preserve most of the forest. So, instead of running a bulldozer through a forest and leaving behind a denuded landscape, harvesters need to harvest timber without any collateral damage.
Through reduced-impact techniques, loggers can cut and extract trees to ensure no harm to the other trees, understory clearance, and residual vegetation. This approach also helps minimize waste, erosion, and carbon emissions.
Minimized Gaps between Natural Growths
In clear-cut regions, loggers should not cut expansive areas as that will go against the directive of stimulating natural disturbances and hindering the recovery process of natural succession. By limiting the size of clear-cut areas, harvesters will enable the spaces to be re-seeded quickly and prevent the animals in the forest from getting overexposed. Moreover, loggers must also set aside sanctuaries in areas that have not yet been harvested to promote better biodiversity.
Keep Endangered Species Safe
An essential tenet of sustainable forestry is to ensure that the needs of endangered species are taken care of instead of being threatened by the harvesting. These species maintain the balance of the ecosystem and are essential for the continued growth of the forest. So, the harvester should only log those parts of the wood, which will not impact the species.
Use Logged Areas for Commercially Viable Tree Plantations
Environmentally-friendly logging practices include converting large, logged areas into plantations for commercially viable trees instead of chopping and eradicating the few remaining old-growth forests. This way, you can continue to use the harvested land sustainably while ensuring the protection of old forests.
Thwart Human Invasion into Logged Areas
Sustainability in the logged areas also depends on the natural process of succession and renewal. If you let human disturbances occur in these areas, it will damage the chances of the forest recovering to a mature state. It’s why you need to limit human entry into these logged areas and protect them from poachers.
Prevent Soil Erosion from Logged Areas
If harvesters need to spread sustainable logging, they will have to create and maintain buffer strips of about 30 meters between clear-cut or logged land and waterways. It’s because erosion is a common problem faced by massive clear areas. Even though loggers leave root systems behind in the soil to hold it in place, such areas face significantly more erosion than forests with thickets of trees.
Soil erosion leads to the loosening of the surface soil, causing mudslides and pollution. You need to prevent this soil from being washed into streams, lakes, and rivers. The only way to do that is by creating these buffers of untouched forest around the waterways.
The Bottom Line
No one can deny the importance of environmentally friendly logging at a time when our wood consumption far exceeds our plant’s natural wood production rate. If we continue to consume wood without thinking of conserving our forests, we will quickly run out of it. It’s why both large and small-scale loggers need to adopt sustainable forestry practices to ensure the preservation of our forests. With sustainable logging, we can continue to use wood and its byproducts in everyday life without worrying about running out of it!