How can tropical rainforests be managed sustainably?

In order to manage the rainforest sustainably a variety of management techniques have been used in Malaysia. Make sure you can explain each of these strategies with specific detail on why it is or isn’t sustainable.

National Forest Policy

Widespread logging in Malaysia started after the Second World War due to improvements in technology (e.g. chainsaws, trucks etc). The government responded by passing the National Forestry Act in 1977. The Act paved the way for sustainable management of Malaysia’s rainforests and had the following aims:

  • develop timber processing to increase the profitability of the exported wood and reduce demand for raw timber. THe export of low-value raw logs is now banned in most of Malaysia.
  • encourage alternative timber sources (e.g. from rubber trees)
  • increase public awareness of the forests
  • increase research into forestry
  • involve local communities in forest projects

One of the main initiatives of the 1977 Act was to introduce a new approach to forest management known as Selective Management System. This is recognised as one of the most sustainable approaches to tropical forestry management in the world.

Stage Actions 2 years before felling Pre-felling sutdy to identify what is there 1 year before felling

Commercially viable trees marked for felling.

Arrows painted on trees to indicate direction of felling to avoid damaging other valuable trees

Felling Felling carried out by licence holders 3-6 months after felling

Survey to check what had been felled

Prosecution may result from illegal felling

2 years after felling Treatment plan drawn up to restore forest 5-10 years after felling Remedial and regeneration work carried out by state forestry officials. Replacement trees planted. 30-40 years after felling Cycle begins again.

But, a lack of trained officials to enforce and monitor the system across the country has led to the continuation of abuses and illegal activities. Remedial measures, such as replanting, have not always been carried out satisfactorily. Deforestation is still taking place in Borneo where land is being converted into oil palm plantations.

Permanent Forest Estates and National Parks

The government to identify Permanent Forest Estates. These are areas which are protected with no development or conversion of land use allowed. Large areas of forest however, are used for commercial logging. Some 10% of the forested land (mainly primary forest areas) have special conservation status ensuring the survival of the rainforest habitats and species.

Forest Stewardship Council

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an international organisation that promotes sustainable forestry. Products that have been sourved from sustainably manged forests carry the FSC label. The FSC aims to educate manufacturers and consumers about the need to buy wood from sustainable sources. It also aims to reduce demand for rare and valuable tropical hardwoods.

Developing Tourism

Malaysia has promoted its forests as destinations for ecotourism. This aims to introduce people to the natural world without cauisng any environmental damage. The great benefit of ecotourism is that it enables the undisturbed natural environment to create a source of income for local people without it being damaged or destroyed.