Published in Environmental Research Letters last April 1, the method takes into account all emissions from logging operations: the extracted timber volume, the damage caused by selective logging to the surrounding forest, and the logging infrastructure needed to transfer the logs from the forest to the mills.
Developed by researchers from Winrock International, a non-profit development organisation based in the United States, the accounting method was applied in Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Congo, Guyana and Indonesia. The study results revealed that the relative impact of carbon emissions from logging varies per country, depending on the amount of ongoing deforestation and the logging practices.
Until now, efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) in developing countries have so far focused on deforestation. According to Timothy Pearson, lead author of the study and Winrock senior project manager, it has been more difficult to measure forest degradation resulting from selective logging because the forest is still intact, unlike in deforestation where the cleared land can be easily detected by remote sensing.
The study calculated that in almost all the countries the damage to the surrounding forest caused by logging emitted more carbon than timber extraction itself, accounting for 38 per cent to 51 per cent of total emissions. But in Indonesia and Guyana, where bulldozed skid trails are combined with wide roads, logging infrastructure was the main carbon contributor.
Pearson says the study’s findings suggest there should be a unique way of reducing carbon emissions in each tropical country depending on which emission factor acts as the main contributor.
“Knowledge of these emission factors could help design possible actions for reducing emissions by improving logging practices. In most sites where environmental damage is the main contributor, emissions could be reduced by extracting more timber per felled tree and reducing incidental damage to the surrounding environment such as improving directional felling. In Guyana and Indonesia, reducing carbon emissions in logging could be done by planning infrastructure more effectively,“ Pearson notes.
Hari Priyadi, a research officer at the Centre for International Forestry and Research (CIFOR) which focuses on forest management in the tropics, believes the Winrock method is a breakthrough in terms of research coverage and methodology since for the first time it includes infrastructure as part of carbon emission factors in logging activities. This, he says, is valuable for computing incentives to countries implementing “sustainable forest management under REDD+ climate regime”.
Link to full paper in Environmental Research Letters
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's South-East Asia & Pacific desk.