Balancing timber and nuts

CIFOR’s research points the way to combining sustainable harvests of timber and non-timber forest products in Amazonian Peru

For many smallholders in Peru, Bolivia and Brazil timber extraction, farming and wild collection of non-timber forest products are all integral parts of their livelihoods. Each year, these countries export tens of millions of USD in Brazil nuts to the international market. But the prevailing vision of sustainable forest management has focused on timber. No scientific studies have teased apart the trade-offs between timber and non-timber production in Peru, and regulators have focused on one or the other product, with little integration.

“These findings will help to guide the design of sustainable, integrated management plans in Brazil nut concessions, benefiting many thousands of rural families who depend on forest product extraction.”

In Peru, the Forest Law of 2011 permits timber harvesting in non-timber forest product (NTFP) concessions, like those allocated for Brazil nut production, as long as the NTFP resource is not affected. But research was needed to discern what levels of timber harvesting can be sustained without affecting the Brazil nut production of neighboring trees.

A CIFOR study, published in August 2015, suggests that it is possible to extract 1–2 trees per hectare without affecting Brazil nut production; at 3–4 trees per hectare Brazil nut production may start to drop off. The research has wide implications for managing forests rich in Brazil nuts and timber species across the Amazon region.

Peru’s Forest Service has incorporated CIFOR’s research into the legal norms that govern timber extraction in Brazil nut concessions. For the first time since the Brazil nut concessions were created in 2000, the concurrent harvesting of Brazil nuts and timber is backed up by research generated by CIFOR.

study location: five Brazil nut concessions in Madre de Dios, Peru
area of forest rich in Brazil nut in Madre de Dios
estimated level of illegal timber harvesting in the region