Michalski, F., & Peres, C. A. (2013). Biodiversity depends on logging recovery time. In Science (Vol. 340, Issue 6127, pp. 1521–1522). American Association for the Advancement of Science.
In their Letter “Biodiversity despite selective logging” (8 February, p. ), D. P. Edwards and W. F. Laurance extol the virtues of selectively logged forests in capturing tropical biodiversity, but point out that they may be more vulnerable to clear-cuts or fires compared with unlogged primary forests. Their arguments are very pertinent in understanding the conservation importance of logging-disturbed forests, especially given the growing number of timber concessions in neotropical forests. However, we feel that by overlooking the interactions between logging and other anthropogenic perturbations, the authors have presented an overly simplified view. The world’s total forest area is just over 4 billion hectares, 30% of which is managed primarily for timber and nontimber production ([ 1 ]). It is true that selective logging is a lesser evil that results in less forest damage and higher biodiversity retention ([ 2 ]) than many alternative land uses. However, this assumes that once-logged forests can recover to approximate preharvest baselines of forest biomass and species composition, if they can be left largely undisturbed. Sadly, this recovery process is rarely allowed to run its course. Many postlogging forest areas inevitably enter an irreversible sequence of forest degradation events, as they are typically more likely to be subjected to a new cutting cycle ([ 3 ]), wildfires underneath the forest canopy ([ 4 ]), trees naturally uprooted by wind ([ 5 ]), and new settlements by colonists and land speculators ([ 6 ]). The Brazilian Amazon holds the largest remaining stock of tropical timber and is the world’s richest treasure trove of terrestrial biodiversity ([ 7 ]). However, the best approach to ensure the long-term persistence of Amazonian biodiversity remains intensely debated. Although the number and extent of Amazonian protected areas have increased in the past decades, most of these are sustainable-use reserves where timber and nontimber extraction is often poorly regulated ([ 8 ]). Meanwhile, since 2006, the Brazilian government has continued with a development program that allocates tracts of public lands as large-scale forest management concessions. Some 1.3 million hectares of forests have already been allocated to timber concessions in National Forests alone ([ 9 ]). This program may suppress illegal logging, but so far has been primarily concerned with the management protocol of the first logging cycle, with little or no concern for the prolonged postlogging recovery trajectory. Without a proper long-term forest management program that explicitly considers both the timber extraction and postlogging phases, the long-term coexistence of logged forests and their high biodiversity value will remain highly questionable.