Research Finds Responsible Forest Management in the Peruvian Amazon Can Help Preserve Wildlife

Low-impact logging practices in commercial tropical forests can contribute to wildlife protection and complement protected areas to provide habitat for many species in the Amazon, according to new research published in Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation.

The research, conducted in Tahuamanu Province, Madre de Dios region in Peru, evaluated the impact of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified forest management on biodiversity. The findings reveal that FSC-certified concessions have a greater richness of species such as amphibians, insects and monkeys than non-FSC certified logging concessions, and that the make-up of species in FSC-certified sites is more similar to undisturbed forest areas than non-certified logging sites.

Nearly one-third of tropical forest area globally is designated for timber production. Commercial logging in tropical forests, if poorly conducted, can degrade ecosystems and fragment habitats, threatening biodiversity, such as in the Amazon, which is significantly impacted by habitat loss, including deforestation and forest degradation. However, when logging is responsibly managed, it has the potential to support local livelihoods and economic development while conserving biodiversity and the other vital services that forests provide.

“We’re seeing proof that logging doesn’t have to negatively impact forest biodiversity when it’s done with conservation in mind, which is what FSC certification is all about,” said Naikoa Aguilar-Amuchastegui, WWF’s director of forest carbon science. “If we want to show the scale and pace of forest conservation worldwide, we need more studies like this that use innovative technology to monitor the diversity of all animals–from small insects to large mammals–in forests.”

The research analyzed the impact of natural forest management on local biodiversity within the logging concessions using acoustic technologies. The research team recorded hundreds of audio samples of birds, insects, amphibians and monkeys in three large industrial concessions, two FSC and one non-FSC certified.

A greater quantity and variety of sounds was recorded during the research in the FSC sites when compared to that recorded in the non-FSC concession, indicating a greater richness of acoustically active species, such as amphibians, insects and monkeys. Logged FSC sites also shared more similarity in species composition with undisturbed areas compared to non-FSC sites.

This new research complements an earlier study which found that densities of large and medium-sized animals, including jaguars and pumas, in FSC-certified logging concessions were similar or even higher than in protected areas, with healthy populations of large and medium-sized mammals.

“Advanced, cost-effective technologies such as acoustic analysis allow for large-scale monitoring of biodiversity even in relatively inaccessible forests,” said José Luis Mena, Scientific Director at WWF-Peru. “However, the results in Peru do not necessarily or automatically apply elsewhere because the impact of certification varies depending on the forest ecosystem, logging practices, forest governance, and other social and ecological factors. We need to better understand the impacts, including on different ecosystems, regions and different forest management regimes to be sure where and how forest management certification can be most effective. More long-term biodiversity monitoring and scientific research is urgently needed to develop solutions that work for both people and wildlife.”

A biodiversity monitoring paper published in Science earlier this year underscores the usefulness of bioacoustics to record, monitor and log background sounds – like animals, insects and human activity – and to provide data needed for more effective conservation.

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