Register for an account


Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.


Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.


Salvage the Trees, Spoil the Forest

By Lauren GravitzMay 1, 2003 5:00 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

The U.S. Forest Service often lets logging companies buy trees felled by storms, a practice intended to generate revenue and eliminate wood that could spawn bug infestations and fuel wildfires. A recent study shows that salvage logging may do more harm than good, however. Cristina Rumbaitis-del Rio, a graduate student at the University of Colorado at Boulder, examined patches of spruce-fir forest in the Rockies where a 1997 windstorm blew down trees. She focused on areas that had been logged and on others that were untouched, and then compared both with parts of the forest that were unaffected by the wind. "Salvage logging was more of a disturbance to the ecosystem than the blowdown itself," Rumbaitis-del Rio says. Windblown areas had become lush, covered with wildflowers and berries, but logged areas remained largely barren, prone to soil erosion and nutrient loss. Because spruce trees grow only in shaded areas, salvaged land had 93 percent fewer spruce seedlings than land where downed trees were left in place.

Greg Aplet, a forest ecologist with the Wilderness Society, sees an important policy lesson in these findings. "Decisions to salvage logs are often couched in ecosystem rehabilitation and restoration terms," he says. "Cristina's results show that salvage logging has a measurable, dramatic, additive effect on the environment. In the spruce forests of Colorado, at least, the effects of salvage logging are no different than the effects of logging."

3 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.


Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%


Already a subscriber? Register or Log In