Prospects for sustainable logging in tropical forest

There is a convincing body of evidence shows that, as it is presently codified, sustainable forest-management logging implemented at an industrial scale guarantees commercial and biological depletion of high-value timber species within three harvests in all three major tropical forest regions.

The minimum technical standards necessary for approaching ecological sustainability directly contravene the prospects for financial profitability.

Therefore, industrial-scale sustainable forest management (SFM) is likely to lead to the degradation and devaluation of primary tropical forests as surely as widespread conventional unmanaged logging does today. Recent studies also show that logging in the tropics, even using SFM techniques, releases significant carbon dioxide and that carbon stocks once stored in logged timber and slash takes decades to rebuild.

These results beg for a reevaluation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change proposals to apply a Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation subsidy for the widespread implementation of SFM logging in tropical forests. However, encouraging models of the successful sustainable management of tropical forests for timber and nontimber products exist at local-community scales.

Article authors

Barbara Zimmerman

Barbara Zimmerman

Barbara is the Director Kayapo Project on behalf of the International Conservation Fund of Canada playing a key role in support of Indigenous Peoples in conservation of very large areas of forest in Brazilian Amazon.
Cyril Kormos

Cyril Kormos

Cyril is Founder and Executive Director of Wild Heritage, a project of Earth Island Institute. He also serves as IUCN-WCPA Vice-Chair for World Heritage, is a member of IUCN’s World Heritage Panel and chairs the IUCN-WCPA World Heritage Network.


Zimmerman, B. and C. Kormos. 2012. Prospects for sustainable logging in tropical forest. Bioscience 62(5): 479-487.

Request a copy of the article

If the download article link below doesn’t work, or leads to a page that requests payment, please click the link to the author profile above and request a copy directly and they will be happy to assist. Not all reviewed journal articles are published as ‘open access’, which are free to download.