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Forests 2014, 5(7), 1777-1797; doi:10.3390/f5071777

Historical Patterns of Natural Forest Management in Costa Rica: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

1
Department of Geography, McGill University, Montreal, QC H3A 2K6, Canada
2
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269-3043, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 8 May 2014 / Revised: 9 July 2014 / Accepted: 14 July 2014 / Published: 23 July 2014
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Abstract

We present an in-depth analysis of natural forest management practices in Costa Rica based on a new historical forestry GIS database encompassing five conservation regions in the country where selective logging has been prevalent for the last 18 years. Natural forest management refers to the selective logging practices for the production of timber in natural forest ecosystems. The study considers natural forest management plans developed following a standardized format, based on Forestry Law 7575, established in 1996. Our results show a positive aspect of forest management where a large percentage of the managed forest is still standing, contrary to other tropical countries where selective logging promotes land use change. The negative finding is that managed forest areas occur in the last remaining forest fragments outside of protected areas, which challenges the continuity of selective logging in the near and mid future due to the potential impoverishment of the isolated forest stands. The most negative aspect is the recent establishment, by law, of a very short return logging cycle (10–15 years—minimum cutting cycle) as it contradicts ecological studies showing that tropical forests require over 60 years for the forest structure and composition to return to a state similar to pre-logging states. Our results should inform decision makers and managers in conservation areas to review current policies and establish new benchmarks for sustainable forest management in the country.
Keywords: selective logging; natural forest management; historical patterns; forest sustainability; REDD+; Costa Rica selective logging; natural forest management; historical patterns; forest sustainability; REDD+; Costa Rica
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Arroyo-Mora, J.P.; Svob, S.; Kalacska, M.; Chazdon, R.L. Historical Patterns of Natural Forest Management in Costa Rica: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Forests 2014, 5, 1777-1797.

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