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Anjali Nagpal Tropical Ecology & Conservation Dr S.

050737396 SBC 711 9th January 2009

The Impact of Logging and its affect on forests and biodiversity loss in the Tropics

With reference to Southeast Asia.

Tropical Rainforests are the world’s most valuable ecosystem, and are under threat because of
the need for farmland, timber, minerals and other resources. The forests span over more than sixty
countries which habituate over half of the world’s animal and plant species, (Grainger 1993).

Borneo was once the third largest island worldwide covered by a dense forest that is now
rapidly declining. Forests in Kalimantan, southern Borneo is a primary source for tropical timber. The
forests are priceless both for its unique wild life fauna and also the local community.

The Biological diversity, the plants and animals are severely

affected by the forest degradation. Deforestation not only threatens the
agrology of many important plants which originated from wild exotic
plants but also reduces are future in exploiting these plants for medicinal
purposes as well as destroying the main producers in the food chain and
leading to a catastrophic effect. The loss of trees will cause soil degeneration
and increase silt and sediment in rivers. The future of trees and tropical wood is becoming weaker and
weaker which will eventually contribute to the greenhouse effect, making deforestation a great
participator in global climate change.

The impact of humans on the tropical rainforests has changed in both speed and intensity over
time. 45,000 years ago humans arrived in Borneo and for nearly 50,000 they lived in hunter-gathers
societies. These societies lived in the forests feeding on the wild crops and hunting the animals with
no cultivation of crops they may have altered the forests but they did not destroy it and lived
sustainably off these natural resources. The hunter-gather societies are recorded to have lived in all
three rainforest regions.

Since the 1960s the human impact on tropical rainforest has been increasing through the
intensification of agriculture. Agriculture is one of the primary reasons for the clearance of the forest;
there are different forms of agriculture with different impacts depending on the area. The tropical
rainforests of Borneo are rapidly disappearing through the increasing need for timber and illegal trade
of wildlife. Borneo’s borders are shared with Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei and once the third
largest island with dense forest is now one of the most affected areas by deforestation worldwide. This
deforestation has been caused by illegal logging, large scale plantations conversions and open forest
fires as well as the pressure from local people for agricultural land. During the mid 1980s Borneo’s
forest cover was estimated to be 75% by 2005 only 50% of forests remained in Borneo. In these 15
years an estimated 850,000 hectares were lost annually, if the scale and intensity of deforestation
continues it is predicted that by 2020 less than 30% of forest cover will remain, (WWF, 2005).

Anjali Nagpal Tropical Ecology & Conservation Dr S. Rossiter
050737396 SBC 711 9th January 2009

With an increase in human populations and with the decline of forest areas in Southeast Asia
wildlife is being exploited at more than six times the sustainable rate, (Bennet 2002). In Malaysia it’s
been estimated that nearly 24000 tons of wildlife meat is consumer annually, (Bennet 2000). This
intense decline can lead to a great decrease in animal species in the Tropics.

Deforestation is the temporary or permanent clearing of forest for agricultural use or other
human resources, the forest needs to be cleared and be replaced by another use of land showing a clear
visible change, (Frey, 2002). Humans need for wood consumption and paper is positively correlated
with the growing economies of developing countries. The increasing populations of developing
countries need for agricultural food production is also continuously increasing and was recorded for
Asia there wood consumption from 15% to 21%. The poor economic policies in these developing
countries ignore all the long term factors and consequences when sustaining humans immediate needs
such as soil erosions and legal destructive logging contribute to the clearance and degradation of the
forests sometimes also leading to illegal logging.

Logging is the harvesting of timber or pulp used to produce wood and paper products and can
be subdivided into two categories, selective logging and clear cutting. Selective
is a common system where commercial and high value trees are selected to be
harvested and leaving the low value trees which are unsuitable for produce and
trade behind. Clear cutting is when no specific tree is more profitable and clear
area is logged in the forest for agricultural and land use purposes. Trees in the
tropics regenerate fast and the rainforests are continuously changing in a natural
way, however these trees that regenerate are of no ‘value’ to the loggers but these will eventually be
selected. Once all the valued commercial trees have declined from the rapid wood use by developing
and other countries, low valued trees will be targeted when no other is left. Selective logging may
appear to be a less damaging technique to the rainforest however the use of heavy machinery and
destructive methods can damage the surrounding trees and bio diverse wildlife fauna, the logging of
one tree can lead to the fatality of 40% of surrounding trees, (Kricher, 1997).

Selective logging is where a small range of special target marketable trees are cut down
within ‘logged area’, (Conceic 2008). There are ongoing studied on the affect and extant of selective
logging and its impact on the surrounding environment. Selective logging causes guaranteed
destruction to the remaining surrounding trees which are not logged and has a great impact on
hydrological process and species diversity.

Logging, deforestation and other human impacts such as hunting, threaten the biodiversity in
three main ways, firstly they reduce the abundance of species by habitat loss, thus reducing the
genetic diversity of plants which leaves effecting the survival of the species to be threatened by

Anjali Nagpal Tropical Ecology & Conservation Dr S. Rossiter
050737396 SBC 711 9th January 2009

Timber and wood products both illegal and unsustainable trade is one of the main drivers to
this catastrophic deforestation worldwide costing the global economy billions of dollars annually.
Tropical rainforests accommodate between 50%-90% of all organisms 90% of which are primates
with up to 50million species unable to survive else ware but the dense rainforests. (World Rainforest
Movement 1990). By destroying these rainforests we are not just putting the species at risk but
ourselves too. The world Rainforest Movement stated that 25% of medicines come from the forests,
with the decline of the rainforests has a huge impact on the carbon cycle, trees which are cleared that
usually take up the excess CO2 from the atmosphere are no longer present thus releasing the carbon
dioxide into the air and increasing its concentration, becomes a major contributor to the green house
effect and global climate change and no longer affecting the biodiversity of species in forests but
worldwide. The water cycle is also affected where trees normally take up water from the soil
transpiring into the atmosphere with fewer trees the cleared areas accumulate the water and can lead
to a drier climate, changing the climate of the forests can lead to the decline in species alone. Some
animals and plants may not be able to adapt to these sudden changes in their surroundings. These
species which depend on the forests for survival no longer have a habitat after being destroyed and
sold illegally.

Deforestation is the greatest threat to the survival and maintenance of the forests ecosystems
and biodiversity, but there are many factors involved in the destruction of habitats which all contribute
to the loss of biodiversity and destruction of the forests; road building, logging, plantation
conversions, illegal wild life trade and forest fires.

In the 1950s new technology was introduced to Borneo with a new industrial road under
construction where the chainsaw and caterpillar tractor were first introduced. The roads were
constructed quickly with dense trees being cleared and no area hidden from trade and industry. Before
these road were introduced the forest was untouched and areas were really only reachable by foot or
boat where only few products could be harvested. However after the development of these roads they
were primarily used for logging, hunting and spectators.

` There are four major factors threatening the forests of Borneo and it species; the conversion of
land, bad forest management, fires and illegal logging. Within Borneo the roots of these causes differ
from country to country, in both the Malaysian and Indonesian areas there is an ongoing debate
between the local community and the government’s claim on the land. The economy in Borneo is run
by companies which solely rely the exploitation of natural resources there is no long term
management for these exploited resources.

Now the majority of Borneo’s forests although declining at a rapid rate are under forest
management. It has been studied that in pristine forests a maximum of 2% of sunlight reaches the
forest floors in the cleared logged forests this may increase up to a 90% having a huge impact on the

Anjali Nagpal Tropical Ecology & Conservation Dr S. Rossiter
050737396 SBC 711 9th January 2009

surrounding climate. However those forests which are selectively logged and with a careful technique
by not being further disturbed or destroyed can retain much of their bio diverse fauna and flora.
Species which are the most threatened by logged areas are those which have localised distributions
and specialised diets with marked territories. Although they may show a very similar species diversity
in primary forests their composition differs. Some species may adapt and can locate in new areas but
some may not, but these new habitats may already hold their carrying capacity so no more individuals
can locate their so this is another problem, the loss of habitat and the decline of the availability of a
new niche.

Previous studies have shown that terrestrial Insectivores and Frugivores react fairly strongly
to timber trade more so than herbivores and omnivores out of which some benefit by logging.

The responses of birds to selective logging and other forest destruction and disturbances has
been thoroughly studied and are a useful species to evaluate the impact of deforestation on species
diversity. Birds have a well established taxonomy; with their ecology and biology extensively studied
they can be easily identified. They are more likely to be sensitive to the micro dynamic and
composition of the rainforest and play important roles in the pollination and seed dispersal of many
plant species. 1n 1998, Morden et al recorded 73 bird species in both logged and unlogged forests in
Seram, Indonesia. The study showed the bird community of the rainforest to have few losses directly
after logging took place, however there was sometimes a diversity decrease due to competition and
dominance hierarchies as some birds were more adapted to the change that their newly disturbed
habitat produced.

Julian et al (2000) carried out a study on mixed feeding flocks of birds as logging was believed to
increase the feeding efficiency and predator escape mechanisms. However due to the ability of birds
now able to detect predators more efficiently in the open areas the mixed feeding flocks were reduced
as this camouflage and group feeding was an aid to deter predators, ‘safety in numbers’.

Species with a more general diet such as Nectavories and generalist Frugivores are likely to
increase in numbers after timber harvesting as these species are prepared and well adapted to changes
in the environment. And in undisturbed areas after logging has occurred, the development of new
fruits and plants attracts these species increasing their species richness and diversity. Forest
fragmentation has been studied to have a larger impact on the avian species rather than selective
logging, (Lamber 2002). In destructive logged areas, birds are more likely to be exploited with an
abundance and diversity decline. In South American, a tree species Virola surinamensis, Baboon wood
its seed are dispersed and dependent upon six bird species and one monkey species. These species
interact in a seed dispersal mutualism where both species, the tree and bird benefit and due to logging
is now threatened by habitat loss. The tropical forests in the Amazon basin have a large varying range
on commercially tradable trees and due to their high economic value they are heavily exploited in

Anjali Nagpal Tropical Ecology & Conservation Dr S. Rossiter
050737396 SBC 711 9th January 2009

these unprotected areas. Those which are heavily logged are not replaced by new ones they are
cleared and destroyed and for this reason conservation management strategies are rapidly needed.

In Southeast Asia there have been various studies of selective logging and its impacts on
mammal diversity. However the study of mammals such as primates is much harder than that on birds
as their distribution is often patchy in undisturbed regions as well. Johns (1985) carried out a study on
primates in the tropics. He discovered that primates those that are generalist feeders are more
adaptable to selective logging techniques and the change in environment. Those that normally feed off
fruits may begin to feed off leaves. Their survival is really reliant on whether they have the
adaptability and capability to change nutritional feeding groups if there is a decline in their usual feed.
However this change of feeding group in primates can lead to lactating females becoming
energetically stressed foraging for food and abandoning their juvenile infants. Infants may be left to
forage alone where they are more prone to predation and be unable to forage alone, thus logging can
lead to an increase in infant mortality so not only having a huge impact on species today but also the
future and next generations of animals.

The figure on the left shows deforestation of

Borneo from the 1950s to 2020. Both the Borneon
orang-utan and Sumatran orang-utan are classified
by the IUCN as endangered and critically
endangered. The population f Sumatran orang-
utans has decreased by 91% since the 1990s from
the degradation of their habitat and loss of tropical
rainforest to logging and fragmentation.

The loss of habitat has had a great impact on them from the reduction of available food and
shelter from trees. They are also according to UNEP assessment forced to live in close approximation
to humans where they are often killed for their meat or captures and traded illegally, (Caldecot et al

It is evident that tropical

timber production is one of the
most significant factors threatening biodiversity and causing deforestation worldwide especially in

Anjali Nagpal Tropical Ecology & Conservation Dr S. Rossiter
050737396 SBC 711 9th January 2009

South East Asia. This method of trade referred to as logging alone has a damaging affect on the
structure and composition of the forests in the Tropics. Johns (1985) estimated that 31% of remaining
tropical rainforest is allocated to timber trade with nearly 10% under protection.

Over the years conserving and protecting the Tropic from further damage have been
undertaken by, either producing laws of protection on high-priority areas or promoting ‘sustainable’
natural forest management (NFM). The most favoured technique is the natural forestry method which
works my combining harvesting guidelines that also promote the growth and development of
commercial tree species with low-impact logging to lower the economical intensities of timber

However in order to develop an effective conservation strategy an assessment should be

initiated on the biological significance of a particular forest, (Rice et al 1997). Forests may differ in
species richness, the number of species in a given area, endemism, the degree to which the species
exists primarily in a given area and beta diversity which is a rate of change in species composition
across the forest landscape, (Frumhoff et al 1998). The loss of diversity in the tropics is greatly
influences by the poor logging techniques. Only a fraction of forests which are allocated for logging
activities are harvested sustainably (ITTO 2006). A primary reason for this is due to the fact that
unsustainable logging, ‘illegal’ logging gains much greater short term profits than the sustainable
techniques, an approximate 450% increase in profits through unsustainable timber trade.

In order for sustainable logging to occur it needs the support of all markets, development
agencies and the public. It needs long term commitment, volunteers and equipment to manage the
forests. Selective logging techniques need to be improved and not destructive to conserve the
biodiversity as much as possible. The impact of selective logging can be decreased by reducing skid
trails and damage to residual vegetation. Logging cycles should be more than 80 years and minimum
diameter cutting limits should be based on each individual structure at reproduction of species. The
species of greatest conservation concern should be identified by IUCN status to ensure during logging
they remain out for danger. Excessive human invasions into cleared forestry areas should be
prevented and kept to a minimum.

The overall affect of logging and deforestation on species biodiversity is still slightly unclear
however the IUCN produces lists of threatened species ranging from intermediate to endanger. The
dynamic ecosystem of the tropics is constantly altered and disturbed by the creating of canopy gaps
and clearance in the forests. Their great biodiversity and species richness compared to other forests
will lead to a greater number of extinctions and with the future of timber trading rapidly increasing,
more areas will be logged and logging cycles will exploit further smaller trees with the rapid decline
of commercial trees and poor management. In order to sustain what we have left of the once most
diverse and beautiful area of the world management techniques and laws on logging need to be

Anjali Nagpal Tropical Ecology & Conservation Dr S. Rossiter
050737396 SBC 711 9th January 2009

instigated. The natural extinction rate of one species was once every two years but due to our greed
for timber and forest products, humans have intensified this rate by nearly a thousand times. Humans
are irreversibly destroying biodiversity on the planet and urgent action is essential. Scientists have
predicted that there are between 10-30 million plant and animal species worldwide most of which still
remain unidentified. Every year nearly 50, 000 species are recorded to be lost through habitat loss and
human impacts, from the forests to the oceans, (Olsen 2005).

There are many national conservation lands which lack definition in priorities for natural
vegetation cover, the prevention of converting protecting land to other uses leading to illegal logging
and the protection of high endangered taxonomic species.

With the rapid decline in resources and timber becoming a primary limiting factor, the
consequences of our own actions management techniques for sustainability are needed. Activities and
methods needs to be assessed in terms of conservation and managing resources and protecting
declining biodiversity. Threats need to identified and quantified so that organisations can draw up
good conservation strategies taking by addressing al
problems. The risk of fire, illegal exploitation and with the aid
of local communities we can identify areas that need the
greatest protection from further damage.

Logging and Deforestation has not only lead to a

decline in species richness but has also led to local
communities losing their habitats and natural environments by logging and the timber harvesting

Biodiversity surveys showing distribution models for tree species and specie richness and
abundance can help researchers develop questions and strategies in conservation and what factors are
causing this rapid decline. By predicating the areas which are most likely to be exploited by timber
harvesting and logging causing permanent fragmentation and ‘patchy’ affect, organisations can than
locate the areas which should be primarily legally protected from further harvest.

By analysing how environmental changes occur from land degradation, the loss of habitat and
forests and its affect on its species biodiversity, and quantifying the physical and biological properties
between the interactions of species and its niche, organisations such as Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and World Wildlife Funds, (WWF)
promoted programs to the conserve the world wide forests and biodiversity.


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050737396 SBC 711 9th January 2009

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