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Individual Highlight

Sustainable Management of Big-leaf Mahogany in the Brazilian Amazon

Photo of Screen shot from the Big Leaf Mahogany Growth and Yield Model found at  <a href= target=_new></a>Screen shot from the Big Leaf Mahogany Growth and Yield Model found at www.swietking.orgSnapshot : Big-leaf mahogany is by far the most valuable timber species in seasonally dry forests across the southern rim of the Amazon Basin, but much of it is unsustainably managed. Our research supports sustainable management through better understanding of mahogany life history and population dynamics in natural forests. Local economies and livelihoods will benefit from forest industries invested in active management of long-term timber production from standing forests.

Research Station : International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF)
Year : 2011
Highlight ID : 312


The Mahogany Project seeks to understand what makes big-leaf mahogany tick in natural forests across southern Brazilian Amazonia by monitoring vital rates for all stages of its life cycle, from seeds to senescent adults, across temporal and spatial scales relevant to each life phase. With steady support from USFS-IITF since 1995, the Mahogany Project has addressed a long list of basic and applied research questions, as demonstrated by over 30 mahogany-related scientific articles and book chapters published to date.

Project researchers have contributed directly to Brazilian national forest policy through participation in working groups and seminars revising and improving industry harvest practices. Based on 16 years (1995-2010) of annual censuses of more than 600 trees and many thousands of seedlings and saplings scattered across nearly 5,000 hectares of forest, Project researchers have developed demographic models that simulate both short- and long-term population responses to forest management practices such as minimum diameter felling limits, commercial tree retention rates, and vine cutting.

One of these, the Big-Leaf Mahogany Growth and Yield Model, is a highly interactive and user-friendly computer application that can be operated on-line at or downloaded with complete instructions for use on office or home computers. The Model can be run based on pre-installed example populations from Project sites in southeast and southwest Amazonia, or forest managers can upload data from actual management sites. Transforming unsustainable harvest practices into sustainable management systems through better understanding of mahogany life history and population dynamics in natural forests will benefit local economies and livelihoods as forest industries invest in long-term timber production from standing forests under active management.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Dr. R. Matthew Landis, ISCIENCES, LLC and Department of Biology, Middlebury College, VT

    Christopher Free, Middlebury, VT

    Dr. Mark Schulze, Director, HJ Andrews Experimental Forest and Oregon State University, OR

    Marco Lentini, Director, Instituto Floresta Tropical-IFT,Brazil

    Dr. Edson Vidal, Associate Professor, Departamento de Ciencias Florestais, Universidade de Sao Paulo, Brazil

Program Areas