GAINESVILLE, Fla., May 10 (UPI) -- Logging in tropical forests may not be as damaging to those ecosystems as once assumed, a study led by a University of Florida researcher suggests.
Researchers said selective logging may be one of the few feasible options left for conserving tropical forests in the face of huge financial incentives driving tropical nations to convert primary forests into agricultural plantations.
While harvesting forests for timber has impacts on biodiversity and carbon retention, the losses are survivable and reversible to a degree if the forest is given adequate time to recover, they said.
But that's not the case when forests are converted to rubber or palm oil plantations, study lead author Jack Putz, a UF professor of biology, said.
Once a forest is gone, recovery becomes difficult if not impossible, he said.
"We aren't advocates for logging," he said in a university release Thursday.
"We're just acknowledging that it is a reality -- and that within that reality, there is a way forward."
On average, 85 to 100 percent of the animal and plant species diversity present before an initial harvest remained after the forests were selectively logged, the study found.
Moderately well-managed forests provide valuable benefits, the researchers said, and even badly managed forests can recover many of their most valuable attributes over time.
"Conservationists should be working to make sure [logging] is carried out in the most environmentally and socially responsible ways possible," he said.