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Sustainable forest management

Identifying the challenges to, and best practices for, the sustainable management of forests

The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), together with Cirad and CIFOR, initiated a new network, the Tropical-managed Forests Observatory (TmFO) in 2012 to examine long-term data on the resilience of logged tropical forests at regional and global scales.

The TmFO aims to assess the impact of logging on forest dynamics, carbon storage and tree species composition at the regional level in the Amazon basin, Congo basin and Southeast Asia.

Plinio Sist, a former Seconded Scientist to CIFOR, explains that looking ahead, the main challenge is to better understand the role of so-called “degraded forests”, which are now dominant in tropical landscapes. For this, new paradigms in tropical silviculture must be found. Huge forest restoration efforts at the landscape level are also needed.

Plinio stresses that the preservation of tropical forests must be done in an integrative way, in concert with other land-use systems, and by integrating the different stakeholders involved.

Featured scientist

Plinio Sist

Plinio Sist was a seconded scientist to CIFOR for three years, from 1996-1999. He is the Director of the Research Unit Forests and Societies at Cirad. He is the coordinator of the unit “Tropical and subtropical silviculture” of Division 1 at IUFRO and member of the ATBC conservation council. He is a tropical forest ecologist with more than 25 years’ experience in South America (Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Costa-Rica) and Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia). His main interest is understanding the impact of forest harvesting on the ecology of tropical forests in order to recommend sustainable forest management practices.

Follow Plinio on Twitter at: @pliniosist

Discover more about Plinio’s research at ResearchGate.

His professional website can be found here.
Interview

In conversation with Plinio Sist

  1. What was the main focus of your work when you were at CIFOR?

    In 1996, when I arrived at CIFOR, Jeffrey Sayer gave me the hard task of developing a research project in the Bulungan Research Forest area (BRF), an area that the Government of Indonesia dedicated to CIFOR to carry out research in the country. The area is located in North East Kalimantan in Malinau Kabupaten, which was at the time a remote area of 300,000 ha. In 1996, CIFOR was still a very young research center and the Bulungan area was still unknown to most CIFOR scientists. Based on my experience in the Silvicultural Techniques for the Regeneration of Logged over Forests in East Kalimantan project from 1991-1996, where Cirad introduced the first reduced-impact logging (RIL) experiment in experimental plots, I decided to scale-up the STREK experience by implementing RIL techniques at operational scale in a PT Inhutani II concession located in the BRF. The project was funded by the niternational Tropical Timber Organization and RIL techniques were implemented. Most of them are still present and were recently re-measured by a team led by Leeds last year.
  2. If you could choose one piece of work (output) that would be the highlight of the research you did at CIFOR, what would it be? Why is it a highlight?

    The article, “Towards sustainable management of mixed dipterocarp forests of South East Asia: moving beyond minimum diameter cutting limits”, published in Environmental Conservation, recommended new logging practices which nowadays are even more relevant than when it was published.
  3. Since being at CIFOR, how have you seen research in your field evolve?

    Logged tropical forests are dominant today, and their role in providing goods and services in the future in the context of climate change is a central question in tropical forestry research.

    While attention to logging in the tropics has been increasing, studies on the long-term effects of silviculture on forest dynamics and ecology remain scare and spatially limited. Indeed, most of our knowledge on tropical forests arise from studies carried out in undisturbed tropical forests. This bias is problematic given that logged and disturbed tropical forests now cover a larger area than so-called primary forests. To fill this gap, in 2012, within the FTA program, Cirad and CIFOR initiated a new network, the Tropical-managed Forests Observatory (TmFO), to examine long-term data on the resilience of logged tropical forests at regional and global scales. The strategy was to gather all the past experiments set up in the tropics to monitor the dynamics of tropical forests after logging, such as the Bulungan Research plots, in an international pan-tropical network able to provide regional and global data on the resilience of tropical-managed forests.

    The TmFO aims to assess the impact of logging on forest dynamics, carbon storage and tree species composition at the regional level in the Amazon basin, Congo basin and in Southeast Asia. For this, TmFO is carrying out a meta-analysis based on data provided by existing permanent sample plot networks in the three main targeted regions (see the figure below).



    In these three regions, permanent sample plots were set up and forest dynamics have been monitored for several decades now by research institutions involved in TmFO. The results are expected to provide important information on forest dynamics after logging to be used to recommend new forest management practices based on the conciliation of compromises between benefits and environmental services

    Given the importance of logged production forests in their role to provide goods and services to human populations, it is crucial to better understand the impact of logging on their capacity to recover key ecosystem services such as timber, biodiversity and carbon stocks.

    Click here for more information on TmFO.

    For more information on the Forests, Trees and Agroforestry Program (FTA), click here.
  4. What future challenges related to your research area do you foresee? How does your research address these challenges?

    The main challenge is to better understand the role of so-called “degraded forests”, which are now dominant in tropical landscapes. The timber industry still depends a lot on natural forests, but current forest management practices are the same as those applied 50 years ago in primary forests harboring high timber volumes and high biodiversity. Forests that have been logged in past decades have a much lower timber volume, a different species composition and have been submitted to high degradation such as unplanned and repeated logging or fire.

    These forests are unlikely to answer the growing demand for wood, which is expectd to double by 2050. Forest scientists must better understand their capacity and potential to provide timber, while ensuring the provision of key environmental services that were provided in the past by primary forests.

    The remaining natural “degraded” forests, as well as secondary forests growing on deforested lands, must be considered as ecosystems that are key to our future and therefore be conserved for the benefit of local populations and society in general. For this, new paradigms in tropical silviculture must be found. Huge forest restoration efforts at the landscape level are also needed.
  5. Why do you think that the work CIFOR does on forestry is key for the future of our planet and the people living on it?

    Forests are crucial for the future of humanity, and CIFOR is a key actor providing practical recommendations aimed at preserving tropical forests for the benefit of populations. The preservation of tropical forests must be done in an integrative way, in concert with other land-use systems, and by integrating the different stakeholders involved. For this reason, it is crucial to promote a landscape approach.
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