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Prospective carbon balance of the wood sector in a tropical forest territory using a temporally-explicit model

Derroire G., Piponiot-Laroche C., Descroix L., Bedeau C., Traissac S., Brunaux O., Herault B.. 2021. Forest Ecology and Management, 497 : 19 p..

DOI: 10.1016/j.foreco.2021.119532

Selective logging in tropical forests is often perceived as a source of forest degradation and carbon emissions. Improved practices, such as reduced-impact logging (RIL), and alternative timber production strategies (e.g. plantations) can drastically change the overall carbon impact of the wood production sector. Assessing the carbon balance of timber production is crucial but highly dependent on methodological approaches, especially regarding system boundaries and temporality. We developed a temporally-explicit and territory scale model of carbon balance calibrated with long-term local data using Bayesian inference. The model accounts for carbon fluxes from selective logging in natural forest, timber plantation, first transformation and avoided emissions through energy substitution. We used it to compare prospective scenarios of development for the wood sector in French Guiana. Results show that intensification of practices, through increased logging intensity conducted with RIL and establishment of timber plantations, are promising development strategies to reduce the carbon emissions of the French-Guianese wood sector, as well as the area needed for wood production and hence the pressure on natural forests. By reducing logging damage by nearly 50%, RIL allows increasing logging intensity in natural forest from 20 m3 ha-1 to 30 m3 ha-1 without affecting the carbon balance. The use of logging byproducts as fuelwood also improved the carbon balance of selective logging, when substituted to fossil fuel. Allocating less than 30 000 ha to plantation would allow producing 200 000 m3 of timber annually, while the same production in natural forest would imply logging more than 400 000 ha over 60 years. Timber plantation should be preferentially established on non-forested lands, as converting natural forests to plantation leads to high carbon emission peak over the first three decades. We recommend a mixed-strategy combining selective logging in natural forests and plantations as a way to improve long-term carbon balance while reducing short-term emissions. This strategy can reduce the pressure on natural forests while mitigating the risks of changing practices and allowing a diversified source of timber for a diversity of uses. It requires adaptation of the wood sector and development of technical guidelines. Research and monitoring efforts are also needed to assess the impacts of changing practices on other ecosystem services, especially biodiversity conservation.

Mots-clés : exploitation forestière; production du bois; modélisation environnementale; planification de la gestion forestière; forêt tropicale; aménagement forestier; plantations; Évaluation de l'impact; guyane française; france; bilan carbone; modélisation bayésienne; filière bois

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