Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Slash-and-burn 'improves tropical forest biodiversity'

According to the Science and Development Network slash-and-burn a practice common among indigenous and small scale farmers and foresters, actually improves tropical forest biodiversity.
Slash-and-burn agricultural practices have been banned by many governments because of the risk of uncontrolled fires. However, it turns out that they provide better growing conditions for valuable new trees than more modern methods of forest clearance.

Testing three diferent methods: clear-felling, bulldozing, and slash-and-burn: researchers cleared 24 half-hectare areas of tropical forest in Quintana Roo state, in southern Mexico. Mahogany seeds and seedlings were then planted and after 11 years, the researchers compared the sites and found that slash-and-burn techniques had provided the best growing conditions for mahogany. Many other valuable species also thrived in the slash-and-burn plots, whereas in clear-felled areas more than half of each area contained tree species of no commercial value. In areas cleared by slash-and-burn 60 per cent of species were commercially valuable. Additionally, the largest trees in slash-and-burn areas were 10 percent bigger than those in bulldozed areas.

Results were presented at the annual conference of the International Society of Tropical Foresters at Yale University
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