Beyond reduced-impact logging: Silvicultural treatments to increase growth rates of tropical trees

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Forest Ecology and Management


Use of reduced-impact logging (RIL) techniques has repeatedly been shown to reduce damage caused by logging. Unfortunately, these techniques do not necessarily ameliorate the low growth rates of many commercial species or otherwise assure recovery of the initial volume harvested during the next cutting cycle. In this study, we analyze the effect of logging and application of additional silvicultural treatments (liana cutting and girdling of competing trees) on the growth rates on trees in general and on of future crop trees (FCTs) of 24 commercial timber species. The study was carried out in a moist tropical forest in Bolivia, where we monitored twelve 27-ha plots for 4 years. Plots received one of four treatments in which logging intensity and silvicultural treatments were varied: control (no logging); normal (reduced-impact) logging; normal logging and low-intensity silviculture; and, increased logging intensity and high-intensity silviculture. Tree growth rates increased with intensity of logging and silvicultural treatments. The growth rates of FCTs of commercial species were 50–60% higher in plots that received silvicultural treatments than in the normal logging and control plots. Responses to silvicultural treatments varied among functional groups. The largest increase in growth rates was observed in FCTs belonging to the partially shade-tolerant and the shade-tolerant groups. These results indicate that silvicultural treatments, in addition to the use of RIL techniques, are more likely to result in a higher percentage of timber volume being recovered after the first cutting cycle than RIL alone.

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