FSC-certified forest management benefits large mammals compared to non-FSC



Zwerts JA, Sterck EHM, Verweij PA, Maisels F, van der Waarde J, Geelen EAM, Tchoumba GB, Donfouet Zebaze HF & van Kuijk M (2024) FSC-certified forest management benefits large mammals compared to non-FSC. Nature, 628, pp. 563-568.

More than a quarter of the world’s tropical forests are exploited for timber1. Logging impacts biodiversity in these ecosystems, primarily through the creation of forest roads that facilitate hunting for wildlife over extensive areas. Forest management certification schemes such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) are expected to mitigate impacts on biodiversity, but so far very little is known about the effectiveness of FSC certification because of research design challenges, predominantly limited sample sizes2,3. Here we provide this evidence by using 1.3 million camera-trap photos of 55 mammal species in 14 logging concessions in western equatorial Africa. We observed higher mammal encounter rates in FSC-certified than in non-FSC logging concessions. The effect was most pronounced for species weighing more than 10 kg and for species of high conservation priority such as the critically endangered forest elephant and western lowland gorilla. Across the whole mammal community, non-FSC concessions contained proportionally more rodents and other small species than did FSC-certified concessions. The first priority for species protection should be to maintain unlogged forests with effective law enforcement, but for logged forests our findings provide convincing data that FSC-certified forest management is less damaging to the mammal community than is non-FSC forest management. This study provides strong evidence that FSC-certified forest management or equivalently stringent requirements and controlling mechanisms should become the norm for timber extraction to avoid half-empty forests dominated by rodents and other small species.

Biodiversity; Conservation biology; Environmental impact; Forestry; Tropical ecology

Nature: Volume 628

Publication date30/04/2024
Publication date online30/04/2024
Date accepted by journal29/02/2024
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media LLC

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Professor Fiona Maisels

Professor Fiona Maisels

Honorary Professor, Biological and Environmental Sciences