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Jodi Brandt

A paper written by Jodi Brandt (first author) was published in the journal Land Use Policy and follows a study published last year in the journal Environmental Research Letters ( Arun Agrwal, a professor at the University of Michigan, was senior author on the study.

Their research shows that so-called sustainable forestry policies are increasing tropical deforestation in the Republic of Congo.

The findings contradict the claims of governments, environmentalists and corporations that have advocated sustainable forest management since the 1992 Rio Summit as vital for conservation and economic development. Such policies appear to be having a similar impact on tropical forests worldwide because of rising consumer demand, foreign investment and other factors.

The studies found that the problem isn’t clear-cutting by illegal operators, but primarily “indirect deforestation.” This includes logging roads built by timber companies that are spreading out their logging activities over larger areas and more interior forests in order to comply with sustainable forestry policies that prohibit intensive logging in limited areas. Findings also suggest that indirect deforestation is occurring from human settlements that follow legal timber operations deeper into the forest.

“The global conservation community has invested tremendous resources in sustainable forest management principles and has supported policy changes in its favor,” said Brandt. “But our results suggest caution and highlight a need for more rigorous and systematic scrutiny of commercial logging practices and sustainable forestry policies in tropical forest ecosystems worldwide. Human activities often have unintended consequences, so we need to regularly assess, in an unbiased manner, the impacts of our activities and policies. We hope these papers stimulate a conversation and more research about the sustainability of industrial logging not just in the Congo, but in other tropical forests around the globe.”