Impacts of logging roads on tropical forests.
Road networks are expanding in tropical countries, increasing human access to remote forests that act as refuges for biodiversity and provide globally important ecosystem services. Logging is one of the main drivers of road construction in tropical forests. We evaluated forest fragmentation and impacts of logging roads on forest resilience and wildlife, considering the full life cycle of logging roads. Through an extensive evidence review we found that for logging road construction, corridors between 3 and 66 m (median 20 m) width are cleared, leading to a loss of 0.6-8.0 percent (median 1.7%) of forest cover. More severe impacts are increased fire incidence, soil erosion, landslides, and sediment accumulation in streams. Once opened, logging roads potentially allow continued access to the forest interior, which can lead to biological invasions, increased hunting pressure, and proliferation of swidden agriculture. Some roads, initially built for logging, become converted to permanent, public roads with subsequent in-migration and conversion of forest to agriculture. Most logging roads, however, are abandoned to vegetation recovery. Given the far-reaching impacts of the roads that become conduits for human access, its control after the end of logging operations is crucial. Strategic landscape planning should design road networks that concentrate efficient forest exploitation and conserve roadless areas.