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Selective Clear Cutting 0708

Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 10 months ago


Sustainable Forestry in the Philippines
By Andy Zane

Description and Rationale



De-forestation is a difficulty that has plagued many of the Third World islands of the south-western Pacific. This problem has arisen due to the poverty that gives Third World countries their name and the ignorance that is associated with that poverty. The lack of eco-friendly trades forces them to pursue trades that exploit the environment and harm it. Heavy forestry is one of these trades, and on tropical islands plagued by poverty such as the Philippines it is a preferred way of escape.


So, what would occur if the variable of ignorance was eradicated, and forestry was kept as a feasible route out of poverty? The Philippine government has appointed the Catholic Church the task of discouraging its members of timber harvest completely, but what if ignorance was replaced with knowledge that would allow more profit for the foresters and re-forest the mountains of the Philippines?

Many of the farmers in the mountains will venture into the rainforest and selectively cut a number of valuable trees, such as the Swietenia macrophylla, or Philippine Mahogany, to make some quick pesos. This is a typically frowned upon method of selective logging, but there are other methods. One such alternative method is being used in North America, in which lower value trees are cut to reduce competition for the high value timber. In later years, a good crop of high value timber is growing and the older, larger ones can be harvested, thus allowing the smaller trees to reach the sunlight necessary for photosynthesis and grow rapidly. Could this type of method be incorporated with agro-forestry farms? What difficulties would this method present to the Philippines as it possesses tropical forests? Would the necessity of a canopy, forest strata and the huge amount of bio-diversity be an issue, or could this setback be easily worked around? Would the necessity for a large amount of land in which to “crop-cycle” be a difficulty for the farmers, or would it be possible for a Barangay to collaborate and acquire the needed land? Further research is necessary before any conclusions along these lines can be drawn, but imagine the drastic change in livelihood for the people and health to the forest if such a thing were to be accomplished.

The initial purpose of this project will be to research the biology and ecology of Philippine forests and to see what methods of logging would be most suited to the Philippines. The Philippine Mahogany and its place in the forest ecosystems will also be researched as a possibility for one of the high value trees for harvesting. First hand observations of the Philippine forests and the Philippine Mahogany is also a possibility. Through these observations an appropriate method or methods of more profitable forestry for the environment and the people will be created, possibly modifying or making known already used methods that attain the two functions stated above.

It is hoped that these new methods of sustainable forestry will allow the Philippines a new way of re-forestation and provide livelihood for the people.


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Common Names and Synonyms


Swietenia macrophylla is also known as the “big-leafed mahogany”, but for the most part its name differs locally. In Tagalog it is called “kamagong,” in Latin America it is referred to as “caoba” and in French speaking areas it is called “acajou.” The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) refers to it as Honduras Mahogany.






Kingdom Plantae – Plants

Subkingdom Tracheobionta – Vascular plants

Superdivision Spermatophyta – Seed plants

Division Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants

Class Magnoliopsida

Subclass Rosidae

Order Sapindales – Sappy trees

Family Meliaceae – Mahogany family

Genus Swietenia Jacq. – Gerard von Swieten

Species Swietenia macrophylla King – Honduras mahogany


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Morphology and Physical Description


The tree can grow fairly large, sometimes reaching a height of 60m and a diameter of 8m if the conditions are extremely favorable. The trunk is straight and has a swollen and buttressed base similar to other large, high level canopy trees of tropical rain-forests. The bark covering the trunk is smooth when the tree is young, but with age it roughens significantly and flakes off in small patches. This bark also possess’ a pleasant odor.

The leaves are light green and reddish on younger trees, when mature, the leaves darken and have a glossy covering of cuticle. These leaves are compound and paripinnate (protruding symmetrically from the center of the leaf in structure) and can reach up to 40 cm in length. Each leaf has about 3-6 pairs of leaflets, growing from 10-15 cm each.

The flowers of the big-leafed mahogany typically range in color from greenish-yellow to white. These flowers are relatively small and reach a diameter of around 6-8mm. Because of this small size and lack of bright colors, the flowers are rather inconspicuous, but the strong, pleasant fragrance put out by the flowers compensates for this. The fruits produced by the flowers are pear-shaped and can grow up to 20 cm in length. These large, hard shelled fruits contain a number of large, winged seeds. These winged seeds make up the entire interior of the fruit and are not edible; therefore the fruit has no value as a consumable resource.


Even though much of the tree is beautiful, it is the beauty of the wood that gives the mahogany its fame. The wood of Swietenia macrophylla has a reddish brown tint that welcomes the eye, and, with the right varnish, it is truly beautiful, the wood is also easily manipulated and therefore good for carving and furnishings. For these reasons the wood is coveted and valuable.


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Getting Food


Swietenia macrophylla attains energy the same way all other green plants do, photosynthesis. However, being a large tree it needs a large amount of sunlight to flourish. It gets this sunlight by growing into the canopy level of its environment.

Nutrients in a tropical rain-forest come from a thin layer of topsoil; beneath this layer is unfertile claylike soil that lacks nutritional value for plants. Also, much of the water in a rain-forest is in this thin layer of topsoil. The water and nutrients are attained by the tree through roots, just like other plants and trees.




In all, Swietenia macrophylla’s reproductive system differs very little from other Plantae. The fruit of the mahogany are created through a common plant reproductive organ, the flower. These fruits dispel a number of large, winged seeds when they crack open, usually into four or five pieces at the apex opposite the point at which the fruit connects to the tree. Natural reproduction of the mahogany has been described as stochastic.


Environmental Factors


Swietenia macrophylla can thrive in almost any climate, “ranging from pine savannah to climax rainforest.” http://www.worldagroforestry.org/Sea/Products/AFDbases/AF/asp/SpeciesInfo.asp?SpID=1566 It tends to blossom in areas of rich fertility and near large water supplies. (E.g. Large amounts of rainfall, rivers, lakes, etc.)

The mahogany is a canopy tree in the rain-forest, and therefore is an environmentally significant organism. Much of the under story and undergrowth rely on it for nutrients (the dropping of leaves) and the regulation of sunlight. This important role in the ecology of the rain-forest is the main reason for the concern and problems presented by the selective logging of the tree.

The tree is very resistant and is called a pioneer species by the World of Agro Forestry (WAF), “In tropical America, it is among the pioneer species reoccupying degraded agricultural land.” http://www.worldagroforestry.org/Sea/Products/AFDbases/AF/asp/SpeciesInfo.asp?SpID=1566

WAF also says that in the Philippines the tree is one of the most cyclone and wind resistant in the country, thus giving it the advantage of natural selection and explaining some of its world wide distribution.


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Origin and Distribution


The mahogany does not have a specific point of origin, but rather grows in a variety of habitats and climates worldwide. For the most part, though, it grows along hardwood belts and riverbanks. It is well known, however, for its tropical presence, and its endangerment there due to deforestation.


Importance to People


Swietenia macrophylla is very versatile and grows in many places, but the demand for the prized wood surpasses even its ability to adapt and survive. For this reason and its stochastic reproduction the tree is on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species, and therefore its logging is being discouraged.


Survivability and Endangered Status


Swietenia macrophylla is very versatile and grows in many places, but the demand for the prized wood surpasses even its ability to adapt and survive. For this reason and its stochastic reproduction the tree is on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species, and therefore its logging is being discouraged.


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Potential Solutions


What ways are there to encourage and or spread the word about sustainable forestry in the tropics? If this could be done effectively, then the health of the Philippine forests in the mountains could be dramatically improved, but the benefit would not only be limited to the environment. The lumberjacks and their families would also earn more steady income due to the unending resource that would be created through sustainable forestry. There are a number of possibilities to help encourage methods of sustainable forestry. The methods described below are two of many previously devised and being used by environmentally conscious operations in the Philippines.


1. Agro-forestry: This type of sustainable forestry incorporates tree farms with agricultural crops such as livestock and or annual crops. This allows minimal land usage and does not further disturb the natural rainforests. It also allows the regular annual income of the agricultural farmers and adds the income attained from the valuable tree farms.


2. Selective Logging: There are many different types of selective logging. Overall, it is the cutting of specific trees to enhance the health of a stand or forest. There are some disadvantages to this though, one being the extensive residual damage in rainforests due to the large equipment and their roads commonly used in this process. The large equipment is not totally necessary though. A number of villagers in a barangay could be employed with hand equipment such as chain saws and pulley systems. (Possibly using a single piece of heavy equipment to run the pulleys) Thus removing the risk of residual damage and allowing more employees to earn a livelihood.


Below are two possibilities that would communicate and encourage the use of sustainable forestry.


Possibility 1




If the local dealers of cut lumber could be encouraged to purchase lumber from companies that use sustainable forestry then it would, in turn, force the timber harvesters to use sustainable forestry. This required going out into the surrounding city and discussing the local dealer’s lumber sources with the local dealers. The goal of these discussions was to identify the lumber suppliers of the dealer and attempt to uncover the supplier’s source. If possible, I also attempted to discover the dealer’s knowledge of timber harvesting practices used in the attainment of their product.


These are the six dealers I talked to:


1. A no name furniture store on the south side of Ortigas between Brookside Gate 3 and Valley Golf intersection: The language barrier here made getting information nearly impossible. The extent of my findings was that the wood used here was of semi-high value. (Also, this being my first one and the fact that my interviewee stared blankly at me the entire time, I was slightly nervous)



2. Kaytikling Native Construction Supply located just south of Tikling intersection on the west side of the road: I managed to get the most information concerning suppliers from this dealer. The owner said that they purchased their coco lumber from large harvesting operations. She therefore had to order the lumber in large ten-wheeler truck loads of up to 7,000 board feet. She also said that their suppliers cut the lumber from the jungles, but was unaware of any agro-forestry practices being utilized.



3. Federal Hardware located just off of Tikling intersection on the way to SM Taytay: The man I talked to (Ronald) was not familiar with their suppliers or their timber source, but we did exchange contact numbers. I have not heard from him since.



4. Rodblock Trading located South of Taytay on the way to Angono on the East side of the road: Here I talked to Mr. Raul Tan, who claims he has a niece currently attending Faith Academy. He says that he buys their lumber from larger, mediating companies such as Matimco Incorporated and Agasanan Plywood. Mr. Tan was unaware of where the timber was grown or harvested or if any sustainable forestry practices were used in these operations. From a web search I did on Matimco Inc., I discovered that this company claims to be the largest, and most advanced lumber company in the Philippines. They also claim “environmentally friendly” operations as one of their missions, but this was the only environmentally related information I found on their website.



5. A door manufacturer located in Taytay just south of SM Taytay on the East side of the road: I talked with the owner, Ms. Zeny M. Martos, an elderly woman who seemed to know her business very well. She told me that they also purchased their lumber from mediating companies such as Ricor Lumber and PICOP (Paper Industries Corporation of the Philippines). PICOP has been known to assist poor Filipinos in ways relevant to wood and lumber manufacturing through employment, such as assisting with the tree farm movement in Mindanao. However, Ms. Martos was unaware of where or how the timber was harvested.



6. Cainta Trading Co. located just outside of Brookside Gate 3 on Ortigas on the way to Tikling: Here I talked with employee Riuna C. Buenviaye, she told me that they actually dealt in only Merante that was cut in Indonesia, she also was unaware of their Indonesian timber supplier’s harvesting practices. Unfortunately, she would not allow me to take a photograph of me talking with her.


The signatures and notes from all but the first these dealers are behind this page.




1. If the people closest to the producers could be convinced to buy only from producers using some kind of sustainable forestry practice, they would be forced to either conform or go out of business.


2. Once the primary harvesters begin to use sustainable forestry, other operations would see the positive outcome. They would realize that sustainable forestry not only helps the environment, but earns them more pesos, and soon after, they would follow the example. This essentially could be described as a domino effect.




1. Although most of the dealers that I talked with spoke English or had an employee who could, there were some who did not. This language barrier caused much difficulty in talking with some of the dealers.


2. I discovered that many of the local dealers bought their lumber from a larger, mediating company, and did not know specifically of any primary harvesters. There were a few though, who purchased their lumber directly from primary harvesters, but they also knew little about these operations. The dealer who told me the most about their supplier said only that she thought their suppliers cut the timber from the jungles and not tree farms. Also, this dealer dealt almost strictly in coco lumber, and was not aware of any silvicultural practices. This high level of ignorance of the local dealers concerning the habits of their suppliers alarmed me. Unfortunately, it was because of this unawareness that I was unable to discuss with any of the six local dealers the practices of their suppliers. In order for this to have been successful, I would have had to go to the large, mediating companies. Perhaps in the future a venture such as this could be explored and accomplished.


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Possibility 2


Communicate the advantages of Agro-forestry to farmers in the mountainous areas of the Philippines (possibly give the necessary seeds that they can use in this process)


This simple yet highly advantageous method would allow many farmers to make a considerable amount of added income. It might even be possible to assist the planting of a corporate farm that an entire village or barangay could benefit from. The idea is fairly simple, essentially creating a model rainforest containing a few, high-value, manageable species. A potential option would have a fast growing, high value tree such as teak as the “pioneer species.” This would be allowed to grow for a time until the necessary amount of shade appeared to grow a plant such as the coffee bean beneath it. A number of additional tree species would also be planted at different times so that there would always be mature, marketable timber. In addition, planting in this way would insure the constant existence of a canopy and shade. This method could also be used with animals. The most common way being to grow high value timber as a canopy and low value ground growth beneath that. The livestock then feed on this ground cover, and fertilizes the main crop of trees with their excrement.


In this example of agro-forestry in the United Kingdom, grazing grass, (for livestock such as sheep) hazel and poplars are all being grown together.




1. A corporate farm belonging to a barangay rather than private owners would allow a significant income with which the Barangay could improve itself. This central farm could also be used to plant other, private farms with seeds sold by the barangay. 


2. Other barangays and private farmers would see the benefits of a venture such as this and wish to participate themselves. Thus creating a domino reaction as described in possibility one.


3. This type of farm can be built on a fairly small plot of land. This is important because many private farmers and or barangays have only a few small plots of land available. This could be done in cities as well, where only small plots of land also exist. If in the city this would benefit in two ways, one being the financial benefit to the owner, and two being the reduction of smog due to the intake of carbon dioxide and the output of oxygen by green plants. 




1. This would take a somewhat significant amount of funding, but I am sure that a number of sponsors could be found.


2. The long growth period of some trees could cause somewhat of a problem, and therefore make the potential income less frequent. If a number of these farms were planted though, and each at different times, then the owner of the farms could have a steady income. But this would require more funding that might not be available to some barangays.


Biblical Rationale


The management of our resources on earth is very important. It says in Luke 16:11 that if we cannot handle worldly riches (the earth and its resources) then how can we be trusted with true riches? (God’s grace and the riches of heaven)

It is possible to use resources such as lumber in ways that will replenish it fully. So why should we stand by and watch it be cut down by those who are unaware of ways in which to sustain it when we could easily inform them? Would not sitting back as bystanders be unduly selfish? Would that not be caring only for our own resources? It is my thinking that God wants us to not only care for our own resources, but help others in caring for theirs. In this way we are not only being good stewards of what God has given us as mankind, but showing love and kindness (Fruits of the Spirit) to those around us, thus being a Christ like and good witness through example.


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An E-mail sent to four Filipino experts, unfortunately, none replied.


Email inquiry sent to four Filipino forestry experts in attempt to discuss current, workable, sustainable forestry methods in the Philippines. None of the four responded to my inquiry.



My name is Andy Zane and I attend Faith Academy international high school for missionary kids serving in the Philippines. I am currently working on a project involving modern methods of tropical silviculture and timber harvest that both increase the health of the rainforest as well as provide profit from logging.

I am familiar with many practices used in North American silviculture (such as thinning and selective logging) and that similar methods are used in tropical forests, but there are many differences between tropical rainforests and North American pine forests. These differences are substantial enough to make significant variations between the methods used in North America and those of the Philippines.

Some of these differences include but are not limited to:


1. The necessity of a canopy layer, and the many forest strata below it compared to the few (about 3) levels in coniferous forests.

2. The thin layer of topsoil on top of rocky strata compared to much thicker levels of topsoil and the lack of a rocky layer beneath that layer in North America.

3. The multitude of vegetation species compared to the few species of shrub and pine in North American Forests.


Any information or leads concerning modern and effective logging methods used in the Philippines would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance for your help.


Andy Zane


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"Agroforestry FAQ." Agroforestry Information Network. 2000. DOST. 3 May 2008 <http://www.pcarrd.dost.gov.ph/cin/AFIN/afin%20FAQ's.htm>. 

Agroforestry. UK Agricultrure. 5 May 2008 <http://images.google.com/imgres? imgurl=http://www.ukagriculture.com/countryside/images/agroforestry.jpeg&imgrefurl=http://www.ukagriculture.com/countryside/



Chudnoff, Martin. "Swietenia Macrophylla." Center for Wood Anatomy Research. 1984. USDA Forest Service. 12 Apr. 2008 <http://www2.fpl.fs.fed.us/TechSheets/Chudnoff/TropAmerican/html_files/swiete1new.html>. 

Friday, J. B. Swetenia Mahogani. CTAHR. 12 Apr. 2008 <http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/forestry/Data/photos/Swietenia_mahagoni_seed.jpg>. 

Kartasubrata, J., and K. F. Wiersum. "Traditions and Recent Advances in Tropical Silvicultural Research in Indonesia." FAO Corporate Document Repository. 1995. FAO. 3 May 2008 <http://www.fao.org/docrep/v5200e/v5200e08.htm>. 

"Swietenia Macrophylla." Agroforestry Tree Database. World Agroforestry Centre. 12 Apr. 2008 <http://www.worldagroforestry.org/Sea/Products/AFDbases/AF/asp/SpeciesInfo.asp?SpID=1566>. 

"Swietenia Macrophylla King." Plants Database. USDA. 12 Apr. 2008 <http://www.pcarrd.dost.gov.ph/cin/AFIN/afin%20FAQ's.htm>. 

Zane, Glenn A. Telephone interview. 19 Apr. 2008. 


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Selective Clear Cutting


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