Long-Term Impacts of Fuelwood Extraction on a Tropical Montane Cloud Forest

Abstract

Fuelwood extracted from natural forests serves as a principal energy source in rural regions of many tropical countries. Although fuelwood extraction (even low intensities) might strongly impact the structure and species composition of natural forests, long-term studies remain scarce. Here, we estimate the potential long-term impacts (over several hundred years) of such repeated harvesting of single trees on tropical montane cloud forest in central Veracruz, Mexico, by applying a process-based forest growth model. We simulate a wide range of possible harvesting scenarios differing in wood volume harvested and preferred tree species and sizes, and use a set of indicators to compare their impacts on forest size structure and community composition. Results showed that the overall impact on forest structure and community composition increased linearly with the amount of harvested wood volume. Even at low levels of harvesting, forest size structure became more homogeneous in the long term because large old trees disappeared from the forest, but these changes might take decades or even centuries. Although recruitment of harvested species benefited from harvesting, species composition shifted to tree species that are not used for fuelwood. Our results demonstrate that fuelwood extraction can have marked long-term impacts on tropical montane cloud forests. The results also offer the possibility to support the design of management strategies for the natural species-rich forests that achieve a balance between economic needs and ecological goals of the stakeholders.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Miguel Ángel Muñiz Castro and Guadalupe Bárcenas from the Instituto de Ecología, A.C., Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico, for providing data on forest regeneration and wood density, respectively. Omar Masera and Adrián Ghilardi from CIECO, UNAM, Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico, kindly shared socio-economic data. We also thank Geoffrey M. Blate, Raymundo Dávalos, Jürgen Groeneveld, Francis E. Putz, and one anonymous reviewer for critical comments and helpful suggestions that greatly improved the manuscript. This research was funded by the European Community under the INCO program (ICA4-CT-2001-10095).

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Correspondence to Nadja Rüger.

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Rüger, N., Williams-Linera, G., Kissling, W.D. et al. Long-Term Impacts of Fuelwood Extraction on a Tropical Montane Cloud Forest. Ecosystems 11, 868–881 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10021-008-9166-8

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Keywords

  • disturbance
  • ecosystem dynamics
  • fire wood
  • forest model
  • FORMIND
  • Mexico
  • logging impacts
  • selective logging
  • sustainable forest management
  • tropical montane cloud forest