Selective logging: pros and cons and implementation methods (2023)

Selective logging is the most profitable timber harvesting method, which explains its choice for economic reasons. However, this effect is short-term and disrupts forest health, among other negative environmental effects of selective cutting. Negative consequences can be mitigated by choosing a suitable logging method, which can also be used in combination, and by taking appropriate forest regeneration measures. Let's look at the pros and cons of selective slicing and how satellite technologies can help with monitoring and management.

What is selective cutting?

Selective logging (or cutting) is atimber harvestMethod to fell the selected trees. The method involves removing only the best wood and leaving the rest in the stand, which is why selective pruning has higher productivity. Typically, the choice is based on theirsDiameter, height, type and other parameters that contribute to their commercial value.

Selective logging in forestry is an economic strategy rather than a forestry practice. The best wood is felled for the highest profit (akahighly), and aging or weak remain in the forest as they represent little economic value. Nevertheless, the method leaves bad material for the forestRegenerationby pruning the best species before they produce seedlings or seeds and reducing wood quality in the future. With these factors in mind, selective cut logging should and can be implemented in asustainable way.

Selective pruningis often confused withSelection logging, which is actually not the same. With both timber harvesting methods, only specific wood is felled. The selective pruning style of harvest produces the best yields. However, selective logging partially removes the stand for proper ecosystem balance and forest health, while the first logging method only cuts the highest quality timber.

Selective logging vs. other forest management practices

The two fundamental aspects of forest management are timber harvesting and reforestation, so a sustainable approach relies heavily on the regeneration of the forest after logging. There are four basic timber harvesting practices: selective logging, seedless, protective timber,clearly.

Selective logging: pros and cons and implementation methods (1)

Selective logging vs. clear cutting

Clear-cutting is the removal of all or almost all of the trees in the stand. With selective logging, most of the trees are preserved.

Regeneration after clear-cutting is the growth of trees of nearly the same age, which is a forest management practice of the same age. The age of trees in the stand after selective logging is variable, which is uneven-age management.

What is environmentally friendly, selective logging or clear-cutting?

Some experts believe soSelective cuts support forest regenerationbecause younger trees get more sunlight to grow and pathogens get more sunlight to be destroyed. Regeneration after clear cutting begins either naturally or through replanting in a few years. However, the next timber harvest after clear-cutting is possible after sixty years on average.

Why is selective logging better than clear-cutting?

Clear cutting allows many trees to be felled at once, which saves operational time and is good for time management reasons. However, selective logging is still better than completely or mostly vacant land after clear-cutting because it leaves some wood to be harvested for years to come.

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Difference between shelterwood, seed tree and selective pruning

As the name suggests, the seed tree method leaves old trees to produce seeds for the development of new stock. Seed trees are pruned once the seedlings are properly established. Shelterwood practice provides some shade protection for the sun-intolerant species, and then mature trees are felled after 5 to 10 years. All of these methods are selective in nature, but the difference between them is the choice of wood. Seed tree and shelterwood practices encourage forest revitalization, while selective felling harvests the most expensive timber.

On an industrial scale, the most popular methods are selective straining and clear cutting.

Selective cutting methods

Compared to clear-cutting, selective logging is much more difficult to implement, and its methods have to follow a series of steps:

  • mark the trees;
  • Calculation of wood quantities;
  • Areas covered;
  • equipment used;
  • wood transport options;
  • protection of the remainder.

The last point implies the application of herbicides and the competition of the seedlings with the older trees.

Taking into account the above aspects, selective logging is carried out either by cutting down individual trees or their groups.

Selective logging: pros and cons and implementation methods (2)

Selective pruning of individual trees

With this method, foresters remove the selected trees one by one. Such logging mimics the natural ecosystem process when trees naturally die and ensures a continuous harvest. On the other hand, due to the limited sun exposure, single tree felling applies only to regeneration of shade-tolerant species and ensures frequent harvesting thanks to the availability of mature valuable trees.

Group selective cutting

This type of logging often involves felling groups of older trees. Although it still ensures profitable timber production, it creates larger gaps in the forest stock. It is similar to strong winds, floods and landslides ortree diseases. However, the logging method differs from natural methods because only the most valuable wood (often almost the same age) is selected. Surveillance from space, group cuts are easier to track compared to single tree felling.

Combination of selective group and individual tree pruning

Logging methods are often combined and economically valuable old trees are felled individually or in groups. All selected trees that meet the required criteria are felled along the entire perimeter of the forest area and transported using special logging machines.

What is Reduced Selective Logging (RIL)?

It is a sustainable timber harvesting method in forest management that aims to mitigate negative impacts on the environment. It combines selective logging and targeted felling of trees as well as building paths and roads as narrow as possible in order to disturb and damage nature as little as possible.

(Video) How sustainable logging in well-managed forests can help protect wildlife
Selective logging: pros and cons and implementation methods (3)

Advantages of selective cutting

Although the practice removes the strongest trees in the forest, there are certain advantages to such a practice. First, it leaves behind some important species. Second, forests are less susceptible to tree diseases. Third, this methodpromotes carbon sequestration, as a study by the University of California on Brazilian tropical forests shows.

Among other benefits, selective logging also provides:

  • Provides more light that kills fungi and is necessary for shade-intolerant species.
  • Encourages seed growth in the cleared areas.
  • Leaves some valuable trees for future logging.
  • preventedForest fires.
  • Produces no problems with smoke and air pollution compared toprescribed burning.

How does selective logging prevent forest fires?

Like any other method of forest thinning, it does not literally prevent forest fires, but it does reduce fuel levels, which slows the spread of fire if ignited. For this reason, selective deforestation stabilizes the ecosystem and reduces the risk of fire.

Selective cutting Negative effects

This logging system has a number of negative consequences as all or most of the economically viable trees are cut down in one season. Let's look at the main ones.

Financial Impact

Although the logging method selects the most expensive trees with the highest profit, this effect is temporary. Cutting down older trees eventually spoils the wood quality and quantity, so forest owners should not expect a stable income over time. Selective logging doesn't apply when it comes to thisforest sustainability, and this method cannot ensure continuous profit in the long run.

Selective logging: pros and cons and implementation methods (4)

Future management options

High-quality logging brings the highest profit only on the first cut. However, removing the best wood will reduce wood quality in the future. The second harvest will be possible when valuable wood recovers, but subsequent high-quality logging will be limited. Because of the low economic value of the remaining trees, foresters need to refresh the stock to increase their profits. In this case, forest regeneration includes two options:

  • cut off the whole stock and plant better species;
  • Allow the forest to revive naturally until the trees are mature enough to be harvested.

Some tree species regenerate poorly after selective pruning. It refers to pines, firs and redwoods, among others.

Selective logging and deforestation

At first glance, the selective logging is gentle, since the stock is not completely felled, but only thinned out. However, there are certain disadvantages. First, logging can cover vast tracts of forest and remove thousands of cubic meters of productive forest. Second, selective pruning requires activities to collect and transport the harvested wood, which negatively affects the remaining trees. The movement of logging machines disturbs the forest floor and topsoil, and haulage routes widen over time, contributing to deforestation.

(Video) Best-Practice Selective Logging Halted, By Greenie

Environmental impact of selective cutting

By harvesting the best wood, selective logging encourages the growth of weeds and low-grade trees such as red maple, beech and hemlock, negatively impacting biodiversity and reducing carbon sequestration. The method also affects stand symmetry and proportion, since logging can cover larger areas in one part of the forest and smaller ones in the other.

Selective logging for wildlife

Cutting down the trees that produce many poles negatively impacts wildlife as it reduces the availability of food sources. Red oak or black cherry, for example, provide food for deer, squirrels, bears, turkeys and other birds, while the fruits of chestnut, beech or oak are eaten by wild boar. Therefore, when it comes to biodiversity, the forest fauna should be given favorable living conditions suitable for each species. The density of the vegetation canopy is also important, so poor canopies do not provide enough food for wildlife and their specific habitat.

Selective logging: pros and cons and implementation methods (5)

Satellite technologies for implementing selective cutting

Compared to clear-cutting, selective logging is much more difficult to monitor because it does not involve large-scale deforestation of large areas of forest.

EOSDA Waldüberwachunguses satellite imagery to detect illegal logging, warn of wildfire risks and report on overall forest health. ThatNDVI-Indexon the platform shows whether the selected AOIs regrow sufficiently after selective cutting.

EOSDA Forest Monitoring offers the possibility to create tailor-made solutions that our team can implement specifically for your forest areas and that can be actively used in forest and selective logging.

Deforestation function to detect forest deforestation

One of the methods of selective logging is group cutting. Thanks to satellite images and their processing by our system, our product shows the cut surfaces in the forest. There are also additional features that need to be implemented. Tailor-made solutions are based on higher accuracy of data processing and take into account the characteristics specific to your forest: tree species, vegetation density, historical data from the area and more. Advanced forest data can be used to assess the effectiveness of forest management companies. For example, foresters have marked the area for logging. Upon completion of the tree felling operations, they will see if the contractors felled more trees than planned and will be able to uncover illegal selective logging.

Selective logging: pros and cons and implementation methods (6)

Thermal anomaly function to prevent forest fires

Selective logging means exposing the forest floor to sunlight by cutting down a few rows of densely leafed trees.

With this type of logging, forests are more vulnerable to wildfires because sunlight penetrates the sparse canopy, drying out and heating the forest floor, making it much more vulnerable to fires. High temperatures increase the likelihood of spontaneous combustion of the remaining trees. It is important to monitor areas of high risk of fire, whether seasonal or on extremely hot days. For this purpose there is a weather section in EOSDA Forest Monitoring; In addition to temperature and precipitation forecasts, it also offers access to historical weather data.

A separate layer in the thermal anomalies monitor allows viewing a map of abnormal temperatures that often indicate a fire. By adding forest stands to EOSDA Forest Monitoring, our users will also receive an automatic alert if an abnormal temperature is detected in any part of the forest, allowing for quicker response to fires and minimizing losses.

Selective logging: pros and cons and implementation methods (7)

Forest productivity to detect mature trees

Selective felling removes healthy and mature trees, and the Forest Productivity feature on our platform helps detect them by zoning forest areas based on their productivity. NDVI maps show green productive zones suitable for harvesting. Individual trees that meet the criteria can also be found in less productive zones. However, production zones are richer in valuable wood. Also, the advantage of having a high quality cut in a highly productive area is that a partial cut will not have a significant impact on the overall productivity of the zone. However, cutting down old, healthy trees in zones of intermediate productivity can lead to a permanent decline in productivity in that forest area.

Selective logging: pros and cons and implementation methods (8)

Forest productivity to track vegetation changes

Thinning can affect forest productivity. The Forest Productivity feature allows users to track changes in productivity and estimate the effects of thinning. Forest harvesting proposes various methods that differ in the intensity of logging. Therefore, it is important to assess the impact of logging on the stand. Aggressive thinning can result in forest decay caused either by the logging itself or by timber transportation. The effects are not always clearly visible, but can become apparent over time. By analyzing a productivity map, users can see the productivity of a forest plot at different points in time (e.g. before and after felling) and understand its impact on the forest. In this way, foresters can decide whether this approach is rational or whether they need to consider a different and more sustainable one.

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Article tags:

  • forestry
Selective logging: pros and cons and implementation methods (9)

Kateryna Sergeeva

Senior Scientist at EOS Data Analytics

Kateryna Sergieieva joined EOS Data Analytics in 2016. She has a Ph.D. in information technologies and 15 years of experience in remote sensing.

Kateryna is Senior Scientist at EOSDA. Her specialty is the development of technologies for satellite monitoring of natural and artificial landscapes and detection of surface changes. Kateryna is an expert in analyzing the condition of mining areas, agricultural land, water objects and other features based on multi-layer geospatial data.

(Video) Unit-V/ Logging and conversion of timber,ergonomics,PPE,felling rules,grading and storage of timber

Kateryna is Associate Professor and Researcher at Dnipro University of Technology. She is the author of over 60 scientific papers.


What are the pros and cons of selective logging? ›

Selective logging is the most profitable timber-harvesting method, which explains its choice for economic reasons. However, this effect is short-term and disrupts forest health, alongside other selective cutting negative impacts on the environment.

What is the disadvantage of selective logging? ›

“Selective logging, unless it is practiced at very low harvest intensities, can significantly reduce the biomass of a tropical forest for many decades, seriously diminishing aboveground carbon storage capacity, and create opportunities for weeds and vines to spread and slow down the ecological succession.”

What are the advantages of selective logging? ›

Selective logging is more sustainable than clear-cutting because other trees and plants do survive in the logging process and over time can allow the forest to recover.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of clear-cutting versus selective cutting? ›

Clear-cutting is usually quicker and cheaper than selective cutting. It may also be safer for the loggers. Clear-cutting can damage the environment and the soil where the trees were cut. The soil is exposed to wind and rain.

How effective is selective logging? ›

Logging and replanting - selective logging of mature trees ensures that the rainforest canopy is preserved. This method allows the forest to recover because the younger trees gain more space and sunlight to grow. Planned and controlled logging ensures that for every tree logged another is planted.

What are two negatives about logging? ›

Logging removes large trees that normally fall into streams and provide shelter and thermal cover, raises water temperatures and pH, and degrades the chemical and ecological conditions and food webs that fish need to survive.

Is selective logging more sustainable? ›

Choosing selective logging can become part of sustainable forestry practices. This practice involves the removal of one or two trees of the same species on the site instead of clear-cutting the whole area, after which the landscape is bare. The benefits of selective cutting are hard to overestimate.

Which logging method is best? ›

Selective Logging Is The Most Sustainable Method Of Harvesting Trees. Although there are many benefits of using selective logging as the most sustainable method of harvesting trees, there are also many disadvantages.

What is selective logging method? ›

Selective logging is the removal of selected trees within a forest based on criteria such as diameter, height, or species. Remaining trees are left in the stand, as opposed to clearcutting where all trees are felled.

What are the pros and cons of clear-cutting? ›

However, many maintain that clearcutting also produces benefits.
  • Pro: Financial Reasons. Clearcutting advocates argue that the method is the most efficient for both harvesting and replanting trees. ...
  • Con: Effects on Plant and Wildlife. ...
  • Pro: Increased Water Flow. ...
  • Con: Loss of Recreation Land. ...
  • Pro: Increased Farmland.
Apr 23, 2018

What are the disadvantages of illegal logging? ›

Illegal logging drives deforestation, biodiversity loss and climate change. It can deprive forest communities of livelihoods, and the natural resources they rely on, and lead to human rights violations, unrest and violence .


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