...exploring how people shape the world's forests

Do Forest Management Plans in Congo Lead to Greater Deforestation?

Karsenty, A., P. Cerutti, J.-L. Doucet, F. E. Putz, C. Romero, C. Bernard, R. Eba’a Atyi, P. Douard, F. Claeys, S. Desbureaux, D. Ezzine De Blas, A. Fayolle, T. Fomete, E. Forni, V. Gond, S. Gourlet-Fleury, F. Kleinschroth, F. Mortier, R. Nasi, J.-C. Nguinguiri, C. Vermeulen, and C. De Wasseige. “Do Forest Management Plans in Congo Lead to Greater Deforestation?” Forets D’Afrique Centrale, 2016. Web.

(In response to the article by J.S. Brandt, C. Nolte, and A. Agrawal, “Deforestation and timber production in Congo after implementation of sustainable management policy” published in Land Use Policy 52, 2016)


An article in Land Use Policy early 2016 concluded that deforestation in Congo were highest in forest concessions with forest management plans (FMPs) than in those without. The impact assessment analysis which led the researchers to such a result is based on matching randomly selected plots in concessions with and without management plans. These researchers suggest that the network of forest roads more developed in managed concessions is one of the explanatory factors. The other would be local development connected with specifications of FMPs, which would lead to an increase in population in these concessions and increased deforestation.

Our group of twenty researchers, familiar with the problems of forest management in Central Africa, decided to analyze deforestation at concessions level over the same time interval. Our results show, this time, that deforestation is lower in concessions with FMPs than in the others. In a comparative analysis of deforestation with production remaining constant, concessions with FMPs are approximately twice as efficient as those without: per cubic metre produced, gross loss of forests cover was lower by half in concessions with FMPs. We do not argue that forest management planning reduces deforestation because we understand that there are other factors which play essential roles. The dynamics of these other factors need to be analysed so as to avoid systematically attributing to forest management planning a greater role in deforestation trends than deserved.

Finally, any assessment should remember that forest management is a long-term process, with long-term objectives that include sustained timber yields and avoidance of forest conversion.

Link to full text