What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Selective Cutting?

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Selective cutting allows ecosystems to support more wildlife than clear cutting and allows forests to retain some of their resistance to disease and pests. In addition, studies show that carbon uptake levels will quickly recuperate if selective cutting is done properly. Some of the disadvantages are that some species may not regenerate quickly, and thinning the forest may lead to increased damage from ice, storms or fires.

One of the biggest advantages of selective cutting is that the overall ecological impact on the forest is reduced. Although the process is invasive, a selectively cut forest is able to support many more species than a clear cut forest. In addition, clear cutting a forest leaves it much more vulnerable to disease than selectively cutting it. In some areas, cutting back old-growth trees may leave room for new species that are able to cope with shade better than the original trees. Finally, research done in the Amazon by Michael Goulden of the University of California at Irvine suggests that forests regain most of their capacity to take in carbon dioxide soon after they are they are selectively cut.

However, there are still disadvantages to selective cutting. There are some species of tree, in particular pines, firs and redwoods, that do not regenerate well after selective cutting. This means that the composition of a forest overall may change after selective cutting. Wind and ice storms can damage the open areas left by selective cutting. Fire is also a risk after selective cutting, because the soil dries out and fires are more likely to start. Finally, while a forest may be able to recover its carbon uptake quickly after selective cutting, a forest that has grown back after being cut does not have the full diversity of an old-growth forest.