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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2013 Jul 22;368(1625):20120302. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2012.0302. Print 2013.

Tropical forest recovery from logging: a 24 year silvicultural experiment from Central Africa.

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BSEF, CIRAD, 34398 Montpellier, France.


Large areas of African moist forests are being logged in the context of supposedly sustainable management plans. It remains however controversial whether harvesting a few trees per hectare can be maintained in the long term while preserving other forest services as well. We used a unique 24 year silvicultural experiment, encompassing 10 4 ha plots established in the Central African Republic, to assess the effect of disturbance linked to logging (two to nine trees ha⁻¹ greater than or equal to 80 cm DBH) and thinning (11-41 trees ha⁻¹ greater than or equal to 50 cm DBH) on the structure and dynamics of the forest. Before silvicultural treatments, above-ground biomass (AGB) and timber stock (i.e. the volume of commercial trees greater than or equal to 80 cm DBH) in the plots amounted 374.5 ± 58.2 Mg ha⁻¹ and 79.7 ± 45.9 m³ ha⁻¹, respectively. We found that (i) natural control forest was increasing in AGB (2.58 ± 1.73 Mg dry mass ha⁻¹ yr⁻¹) and decreasing in timber stock (-0.33 ± 1.57 m³ ha⁻¹ yr⁻¹); (ii) the AGB recovered very quickly after logging and thinning, at a rate proportional to the disturbance intensity (mean recovery after 24 years: 144%). Compared with controls, the gain almost doubled in the logged plots (4.82 ± 1.22 Mg ha⁻¹ yr⁻¹) and tripled in the logged + thinned plots (8.03 ± 1.41 Mg ha⁻¹ yr⁻¹); (iii) the timber stock recovered slowly (mean recovery after 24 years: 41%), at a rate of 0.75 ± 0.51 m³ ha⁻¹ yr⁻¹ in the logged plots, and 0.81 ± 0.74 m³ ha⁻¹ yr⁻¹ in the logged + thinned plots. Although thinning significantly increased the gain in biomass, it had no effect on the gain in timber stock. However, thinning did foster the growth and survival of small- and medium-sized timber trees and should have a positive effect over the next felling cycle.


above-ground biomass; moist semi-deciduous forests; permanent sample plots; silviculture; timber species

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