GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- When it comes to fixing deforestation and forest degradation, good intentions can lead to bad outcomes.
That's the take-away from a new study by two University of Florida researchers who say efforts to restore damaged and destroyed tropical forests can go awry if the people making the plans of action don't choose wisely.
"We need to be careful about what is it we're losing and gaining," UF biology professor Francis E. "Jack" Putz said. Putz worked with UF biology professor Claudia Romero on the paper, which will appear in the July issue of Biotropica.
Deforestation continues at a rapid pace in much of South America, Southeast Asia and the Congo Basin. Similarly, escaped agricultural fires and uncontrolled logging harm huge areas of tropical forest around the world. That destruction is linked to loss of habitat for wildlife, soil erosion and even accelerated climate change. Estimates of how much land is deforested run as high as 18 million acres a year an area nearly as large as South Carolina and a similarly large area is degraded.
The people deciding what to do in those areas range from villagers to large landowners to global stakeholders. Options include letting the forests recover naturally, assisting natural regeneration, or planting new trees so as to make the areas more wildlife-friendly and biodiversity-rich but each comes at a cost, Putz said.
So, when developing forest access and use policies, people need to consider several factors, including short- and long-term financial profits, biodiversity and local needs for timber and non-timber forest products such as medicinal plants. The authors say it's possible to minimize environmental impacts if decision-makers pay attention to ecosystem structure, composition and dynamics. They shouldn't base everything on a single statistic, such as the total land area occupied by forest, especially if the state of that forest is not specif
|Contact: Francis E. Putz|
University of Florida