Predicting the impact of logging activities on soil erosion and water quality in steep, forested tropical islands

Amelia S. Wenger, Scott Atkinson, Talitha Santini, Kim Falinski, Nicholas Hutley, Simon Albert, Ned Horning, James E. M. Watson, Peter J. Mumby, Stacy D. Jupiter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)
261 Downloads (Pure)


Increasing development in tropical regions provides new economic opportunities that can improve livelihoods, but it threatens the functional integrity and ecosystem services provided by terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems when conducted unsustainably. Given the small size of many islands, communities may have limited opportunities to replace loss and damage to the natural resources upon which they depend for ecosystem service provisioning, thus heightening the need for proactive, integrated management. This study quantifies the effectiveness of management strategies, stipulated in logging codes-of-practice, at minimizing soil erosion and sediment runoff as clearing extent increases, using Kolombangara Island, Solomon Islands as a case study. Further, we examine the ability of erosion reduction strategies to maintain sustainable soil erosion rates and reduce potential downstream impacts to drinking water and environmental water quality. We found that increasing land clearing-even with best management strategies in place-led to unsustainable levels of soil erosion and significant impacts to downstream water quality, compromising the integrity of the land for future agricultural uses, consistent access to clean drinking water, and important downstream ecosystems. Our results demonstrate that in order to facilitate sustainable development, logging codes of practice must explicitly link their soil erosion reduction strategies to soil erosion and downstream water quality thresholds, otherwise they will be ineffective at minimizing the impacts of logging activities. The approach taken here to explicitly examine soil erosion rates and downstream water quality in relation to best management practices and increasing land clearing should be applied more broadly across a range of ecosystems to inform decision-making about the socioeconomic and environmental trade-offs associated with logging, and other types of land use change.

Original languageEnglish
Article number044035
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018


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