Reduced-Impact Logging: Challenges, Opportunities and Strategies in the Emerging Forest Carbon Economy



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A workshop entitled “Reduced-Impact Logging: Challenges, Opportunities and Strategies in the Emerging Forest Carbon Economy” was held in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia on 3-4 May 2012. The workshop was jointly organised by FAO and USAID’s LEAF Program, with support from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, UN-REDD and GIZ. It was attended by 28 international experts in the fields of reduced-impact logging (RIL), forest carbon and REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation). 

Key messages from the workshop were as follows-

1. RIL is an important component of sustainable forest management (SFM), but we should not forget the importance of other key criteria such as ample forest regeneration, sustained yields, and the maintenance of biodiversity.

2. Implementation of RIL can substantially reduce the environmental impacts of timber harvesting and reduce the emission of CO2, by as much as 40% compared with conventional logging (CL). Much of the carbon gain from RIL is associated with the retention of forest in buffers (streams, steep country etc), as well as through less waste and damage to residual growing stock.

3. Whether RIL is more profitable than conventional logging (CL) depends upon the spatial and temporal scales of analysis. Financial cost savings and long-term economic benefits of RIL derive from better planning and training of workers in felling and bucking techniques as well as from the careful design and use of logging roads and skid trails. Short-term profit margins are reduced when RIL protocols require the protection of riparian buffer zones and the avoidance of logging on steep slopes. Research on this issue has suffered from lack of replication and the use of sample plots that do not capture much topographic heterogeneity. Although logging roads are costly in both financial and environmental terms, research on the economics of forest engineering and road development in tropical forests is particularly scarce.

4. The wider uptake of RIL continues to be hampered by concerns over its higher cost and loss of resource compared with conventional logging. However, there are encouraging signs of progressa. In Indonesia, many concessionaires are voluntarily adopting RIL and participating intraining programsb. RIL is widely seen as a first step towards forest certification c. Sabah intends to make RIL and certification compulsory for all concessions by 2014.

5. RIL has a key role to play in reducing forest degradation under REDD+. 

6. Mechanisms for carbon accounting under REDD+ are most likely to apply at the national or regional scale, with monitoring systems based on combinations of remote sensing and field data. 

7. Practical methodology has been developed for measuring forest carbon and for monitoring the losses and gains from harvesting and post-logging regeneration. Several permanent plots that could yield much important data on the longer-term impacts of selective logging remain to be remeasured or the data analysed. 

8. Carbon markets alone are unlikely to be a major driver for RIL, but can be bundled with other incentives from improved forest management including forest certification and legality verification. 

9. Future actions to promote the wider uptake of RIL within the Asia-Pacific region include:

a. Further demonstration areas across the region

b. Promote the benefits of RIL to local communities and to logging companies through industry associations

c. Promote the environmental and carbon benefits of RIL to policy-makers and lobbyists

d. Promote further RIL training and incorporate RIL into training curricula at all operational, technical, academic and professional levels

e. Promote the development of national standards for SFM that include RIL as well as key elements such as the maintenance of a permanent native forest estate and sustained yield.

f. Promote the ongoing development and adoption of regulatory frameworks for the implementation of RIL and for monitoring and reporting on the operational standards that are being achieved. 

The findings of the workshop will be used to develop an action plan that will detail the strategies by which RIL can be promoted to international and national bodies, negotiators and the media as a key component of measures for reducing forest degradation and CO2 emissions under REDD+. This plan will include a series of briefs that summarise the potential roles of RIL in reducing forest degradation and CO2 emissions and the potential magnitude of financial costs and benefits of applying RIL in a forest carbon economy.


Wilkinson, Graham
Putz, Francis E.