Sustainable Forestry

Sustainability is the capacity to endure. In ecology the word describes how biological systems remain diverse and productive over time, and for forestry to be sustainable, it is obvious that it can only be accomplished on a small, human scale by those who are concerned about the forest as a total system rather than a mechanism for quick profit, which cannot be maximized in the short-term without injuring the potential of future growth and productivity.

Living on the land is the most beneficial way to practice sustainable forestry. Knowing your forestland, recognizing the millions of years of evolution that have gone into perfecting a system, understanding your biospheric life-support system, having a deep commitment to the land and dedication to preventing degradation, are key elements necessary for the future of forests. Learning about human community is vital, and this project serves as a model to create a viable, flexible, and  sustainable human community that enriches as it is enriched by its biome. The Las Casas de la Selva project has worked with a total systems approach for utilizing the forest, and the forestry enrichment project was undertaken with the goal of developing ecologically sound approaches to timber production on lands unsuited to agricultural use while maintaining or increasing forest cover and biodiversity.

Since 1983, the Puerto Rican Department of Natural & Environmental Resources (DNER) and USDA Forest Service have cooperated with the forest enrichment program, helping with seedling supply, partially covering planting costs and overall advice to encourage development of timber production in the island’s forests. The Las Casas de la Selva forestry project is registered as an Auxiliary Forest by the Department of Natural & Environmental Resources. With the assistance of the Forest Bureau of the DNER, in conjunction with the UDSA Forest Service, a Sustainable Forestry Stewardship Management Plan was developed for long-term use and conservation of the Las Casas de la Selva area. The land is valuable as it adjoins the Carite State Forest and thus expands the continuity of forest habitat.

The enrichment project was designed to test the efficacy of lineplanting enrichment in the wet forest life zone as a dual means of providing both economic return and protection of natural biological resources. Nelson et al. found that vegetation and amphibian biodiversity were similar in areas of line-plantings and unplanted secondary forest at Las Casas de la Selva 20 years after line planting. If valuable economic returns are achieved from lineplanting efforts, Las Casas de la Selva will provide a model for future sustainable forestry initiatives in secondary forest management. With the current global concern for tropical deforestation, the role that this project can play in improving the understanding of tropical forests’ biology and sustainable management is more vital than ever.

Forest cover stabilizes soils in areas such as the project is located, where there are erodible soils and frequently steep slopes. Forest cover keeps sediments from silting rivers, reservoirs, and from damaging coastal marine and coral reef ecosystems. Through hydrological mechanisms, forests deeply and directly affect many island economic activities, like fishing and all tourism that depend on healthy ecosystems. Puerto Rico’s forests provide ecotourism and recreational opportunities for a rapidly growing urban population, that currently exceeds 4 million people. The forests are increasingly under pressure, and it is our obligation to use our resources as wisely as possible.

Links of interest:
State of the World’s Forests 2012
From the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome 2012

“Aspects of our shared biological inheritance have grown and compounded into unstable cultures and societies. A sustainable future will be not be derived merely with the destruction of technology and infrastructure but in conscious behavioral adaptation to our emerging and rapidly changing environment – by applying technology in novel, creative, and radically different ways — all of which emerge only from an alternative awareness of ourselves and our roles in healthy ecosystems.”
Ryan King, mongabay.com, July 2008

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