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Approaches to Developing Sustainable Extraction Systems for Tropical Forest Products

Boot, Rene G. A., Gullison, R. E.
Ecological applications 1995 v.5 no.4 pp. 896-903
Brazil nuts, Meliaceae, demographic statistics, design for environment, economic analysis, ecosystems, environmental impact, mechanistic models, nontimber forest products, trees, tropical forests
There are few if any examples of the demonstrably sustainable extraction of either timber or non—timber forest products. Even well—known products such as brazil nuts and mahogany lack a sufficient knowledge base to design a sustainable extraction system. Potential extraction systems for timber and non—timber forest products from tropical forests should be evaluated both in terms of their sustainability and their impact at the ecosystem level. The impact of forest product harvest on the demographics of the target species can be explored with the use of mathematical models, although we still lack an adequate understanding of some of the basic processes that are structuring tropical tree communities. Matrix models are relatively quick to construct, and they may be appropriate for modeling the dynamics of populations that are harvested without introducing large changes to the ecosystem, while individual—based mechanistic models are more appropriate for modeling the effects of harvest that cause large changes in population and ecosystem structure. Once the maximum sustainable level of harvest has been identified with the use of models, an economic analysis of the range of harvest intensities between zero and maximum sustainable yield should be conducted, with the goal of identifying the range of possible harvest intensities that are both sustainable and economically viable. This range of harvest intensities should then be analyzed in terms of its impact on the ecosystem, so that the harvest intensity that is chosen will not result in impacts to the forest that are unacceptably high.