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Carbon emissions from tropical forest degradation caused by logging


The focus of land-use related efforts in developing countries to reduce carbon emissions has been on slowing deforestation, yet international agreements are to reduce emissions from both deforestation and forest degradation (REDD). The second ‘D’ is poorly understood and accounted for a number of technical and policy reasons.

This report introduces a complete accounting method for estimating emission factors from selective timber harvesting, a substantial form of forest degradation in many tropical developing countries. The method accounts separately for emissions from the extracted log, from incidental damage to the surrounding forest, and from logging infrastructure, and emissions are expressed as units of carbon per cubic meter of timber extracted to allow for simple application to timber harvesting statistics. The method was applied in six tropical countries (Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Guyana, Indonesia, and Republic of Congo), resulting in total emission factors of 0.99–2.33 Mg C m−3. In all cases, emissions were dominated by damage to surrounding vegetation and the infrastructure rather than the logs themselves, and total emissions represented about 3–15% of the biomass carbon stocks of the associated unlogged forests.

It then combined the emission factors with country level logging statistics for nine key timber producing countries represented by our study areas to gain an understanding of the order of magnitude of emissions from degradation compared to those recently reported for deforestation in the same countries. For the nine countries included, emissions from logging were on average equivalent to about 12% of those from deforestation. For those nine countries with relatively low emissions from deforestation, emissions from logging were equivalent to half or more of those from deforestation, whereas for those countries with the highest emissions from deforestation, emissions from logging were equivalent to <10% of those from deforestation. Understanding how to account emissions and the magnitude of each emissions source resulting from tropical timber harvesting practices helps identify where there are opportunities to reduce emissions from the second ‘D’ in REDD.

Read the report here: Carbon emissions from tropical forest degradation caused by logging