• Open Access

Over-harvesting driven by consumer demand leads to population decline: big-leaf mahogany in South America

Authors

  • James Grogan,

    1. Yale University School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, 360 Prospect St., New Haven, CT 06511, USA
    2. Instituto do Homem e Meio Ambiente da Amazônia (IMAZON), R. Domingos Marreiros, No. 2020, Bairro Fátima, Belém, Pará 66.060-160, Brazil
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  • Arthur G. Blundell,

    1. Center for Applied Biodiversity Science (CABS), Conservation International, 2011 Crystal Drive, Suite 500, Arlington, VA 22202, USA
    2. Biodiversity Neutral Initiative, 2102-1238 Melville St., Vancouver, BC, Canada
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  • R. Matthew Landis,

    1. Department of Biology, Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT 05753, USA
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  • Ani Youatt,

    1. Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), 1200 New York Ave. NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20005, USA
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  • Raymond E. Gullison,

    1. Center for Applied Biodiversity Science (CABS), Conservation International, 2011 Crystal Drive, Suite 500, Arlington, VA 22202, USA
    2. Biodiversity Neutral Initiative, 2102-1238 Melville St., Vancouver, BC, Canada
    3. Hardner & Gullison, Ladysmith, BC, Canada
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  • Martha Martinez,

    1. Center for Applied Biodiversity Science (CABS), Conservation International, 2011 Crystal Drive, Suite 500, Arlington, VA 22202, USA
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  • Roberto Kómetter,

    1. Intercooperation, Av. Ricardo Palma 857, Miraflores, Lima, Peru
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  • Marco Lentini,

    1. Instituto do Homem e Meio Ambiente da Amazônia (IMAZON), R. Domingos Marreiros, No. 2020, Bairro Fátima, Belém, Pará 66.060-160, Brazil
    2. Instituto Floresta Tropical (IFT), Caixa Postal 13077, Belém, Pará 66.040-970, Brazil
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  • Richard E. Rice

    1. Center for Applied Biodiversity Science (CABS), Conservation International, 2011 Crystal Drive, Suite 500, Arlington, VA 22202, USA
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Correspondence
James Grogan, 44 Cave Hill Rd., Leverett, MA 01054, USA. Tel: +1-413-548-8180. E-mail: james.grogan@yale.edu

Abstract

Consumer demand for the premier neotropical luxury timber, big-leaf mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla), has driven boom-and-bust logging cycles for centuries, depleting local and regional supplies from Mexico to Bolivia. We revise the standard historic range map for mahogany in South America and estimate the extent to which commercial stocks have been depleted using satellite data, expert surveys, and sawmill processing center data from Brazil. We estimate an historic range of 278 million hectares spanning Venezuela to Bolivia, 57% of this in Brazil. Approximately 58 million hectares (21%) of mahogany's historic range had been lost to forest conversion by 2001. Commercial populations had been logged from at least 125 million more hectares, reducing the commercial range to 94 million hectares (34% of historic). Surviving stocks are extremely low-density populations in remote regions representing a smaller fraction of historic stocks than expected based on estimated current commercial range. Our method could advance international policy debates such as listing proposals for CITES Appendices by clarifying the commercial and conservation status of high-value timber species similar to mahogany about which little information is available. The fate of remaining mahogany stocks in South America will depend on transforming current forest management practices into sustainable production systems.

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