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According to new research from Simon Fraser University, over 50 years of logging on British Columbia’s central coast has targeted the most valuable places on the landscape. Systematic depletion of valuable environmental components raises concerns about future sustainability and intergenerational access to natural resources.

Under the leadership of SFU Ph.D. graduate student Jordan Benner and professor emeritus Ken Lertsman and published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencesstudies show that over time the cleaning work has shifted to the forest plantations of increasingly low productivity and availability, which they call “harvesting along the value chain.”

“While this approach, sometimes called ‘high scoring,’ is cost-effective, it runs counter to many of the notions of management ethics that are part of forest management” says Benner. However, the cumulative effects of this historical pattern, combined with policy changes beginning in the mid-1990s, have led to shifts in logging patterns that reflect a more management-oriented approach.

The study highlights the contrasting economics-based and management-based paradigms present in forest management and how political influences on management affect landscapeand their importance for long-term sustainability.

“Forestry planning is important to understand and consider the unique attributes of high-value old-growth remnants that represent increasingly rare ecological, economic and cultural assets,” says Benner. “We must work to empower and support communities seeking equity and benefit from their landscapes, especially indigenous communities who have historically not received a fair share of the value extracted from their lands.”

The forest management implications shown by Benner and Lertsman are similar to the observations of sequential depletion seen in fisheries and other natural resources, where less valuable species replace more valuable ones as they are used up.

“Humans have dramatically altered natural resources around the world with very specific consumption patterns: we don’t harvest randomly, we tend to take what’s best or most cost-effective first, leaving an ecosystem that’s depleted of those components,” Lertsman says. .

This has long-term consequences for landscapes and the people who depend on them. Banner notes that “indigenous communities are beginning to take on a more significant role in forestry and natural resource decision-making—a situation that is long overdue.

“But there is a long history of logging value chain in many areas has eliminated options for making such decisions, for example, through the depletion of culturally important large cedar trees. If they had a choice, I believe that many of these communities would prefer to make decisions about the higher value and diverse cultural landscapes that existed in their territories before industrial exploitation.”

Lertsman adds that the valley’s productive old-growth forests play a special ecological and cultural role in the landscape. “But in many areas we lost most of this type of forest in the early stages. One consequence is that our perception of what constitutes an expected state has changed—we tend to normalize this depleted state in a phenomenon known as “baseline shifting.” However, we cannot understand the environmental context of our decisions today unless we acknowledge the history that got us here.”

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Additional information:
Jordan Benner et al. Political interventions and competing management paradigms determine the long-term distribution of logging across the landscape, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2022). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2208360119

Citation: Logging in value chain raises concerns about future forest sustainability (2022, October 5) Retrieved October 5, 2022, from

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