Forest loss is one of the great threats to the world’s species. Every year, an area of forest is lost nearly as large as my home country, the Netherlands.
Forests disappear basically because someone cuts down trees — how’s that for deep analytical thinking? But interestingly, cutting down trees does not necessarily mean that forests will disappear.
In fact, one of our important strategies here in Indonesia is to work with timber concessions. In natural concessions, trees are selectively harvested for your tropical hardwood window frames and furniture. If that happens carefully, these forests can remain ecological intact and keep most of their conservation function.
We are trying to improve management of these forests to make sure that it is sustainable in the long-term. What we want to avoid is that forests lose their economic value because of overharvesting. Once that happens, the next step is often to convert them entirely to agricultural or forestry plantations. And these have much lower conservation values.
Of course, as you could suggest, why do we not turn this vast area of natural timber concessions into protected areas instead? Wouldn’t that be much better for the remaining tropical wildlife?
Unfortunately, it probably wouldn’t. Even if protected, these areas would still require management to cope with threats from illegal logging and mining, over-hunting, fire and other dangers. But who would pay for that management?
Without the resources to manage them, many protected areas are only protected on paper. There are a lot of examples of such paper parks that have lost their forest and many of the forest species.
With vast areas of forest remaining in Indonesia, a healthy, well-managed forestry industry is a crucial conservation strategy to ensure that more than one-half of the country’s land area can be retained as forests, providing economic revenues as well as significant social and environmental benefits.
(Image: A logged forest in the Lesan River area, East Kalimantan, which still retains high conservation values. Credit: TNC.)