Financial and ecological indicators of reduced impact logging performance in the eastern Amazon
Reduced impact logging (RIL) systems are currently being promoted in Brazil and other tropical countries in response to domestic and international concern over the ecological and economic sustainability of harvesting natural tropical forests. RIL systems are necessary, but not sufficient, for sustainable forest management because they reduce damage to the forest ecosystem during the initial forest entry. If conditions were identified where RIL costs were clearly less than conventional logging (CL) costs, then a strong incentive for RIL adoption would exist.
In this paper, a comparison of costs and revenues was made for typical RIL and CL operations in the eastern Amazon. An economic engineering approach was used to estimate standardized productivity and cost parameters. Detailed data on productivity, harvest volume, wasted wood and damage to the residual stand were collected from operational scale harvest blocks. Productivity and cost data were also collected using surveys of forest products firms.
The major conclusion of the study was that RIL was less costly, and more profitable, than CL under the conditions observed at the eastern Amazon study site. Full cost accounting methods were introduced to capture direct and indirect costs associated with wasted wood. The impact of wasted wood on effective stumpage price provided the largest gain to RIL. Large gains attributable to RIL technology were also observed in skidding and log deck productivity. In addition, investment in RIL yielded an "environmental dividend" in terms of reduced damage to trees in the residual stand reduction of the amount of ground area disturbed by heavy machinery. Developing institutions that can monetize the value of the environmental dividend remains a major challenge in the promotion of sustainable forest management in the tropics