Ecology for tropical forest management

D. Sheil*, M. Van Heist

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


There is a considerable body of ecological information relevant to the management of tropical forests, but in practice, little of this is used. We demonstrate how ecology helps us understand forests and forest change and argue an urgent need for a wider appreciation and utilisation of current knowledge. We illustrate how forest managers must take a holistic, long-term landscape-level view, and how change in itself is inevitable. We start by considering familiar concerns relating to silviculture and canopy disturbance. From the basis, we move into the neglected biology of tree pollination and seed dispersal and the risks associated with animal loss. We identify the increasing threats from fire, exotic species, and habitat fragmentation. Finally, we consider the difficult balance between timber production and conservation related values: We then suggest how our ecological overview, with its mixture of common sense and more subtle insights, might be translated into beneficial actions and conclude that considerable progress is attainable, but requires collaboration between ecologists and forest managers. Initiatives that seek to reform forest practices in the tropics require a sound ecological basis to better address the many challenges facing modern forestry in these regions - such a basis is, in large part, already available for wider use. We provide some illustrations as to how management may be improved. Fundamental to these is the recognition that ecological knowledge is crucial to forestry but currently too often ignored, and that considerable and rapid progress is possible if ecologists, foresters, and others can find ways to work together and address this directly.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-270
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Forestry Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Biodiversity
  • Conservation
  • Education
  • Landscape ecology
  • Rainforest
  • Reduced impact logging
  • Tropical silviculture

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