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Selective logging causes at least half of the emissions from tropical forest degradation. Reduced-impact logging for climate (RIL-C) is proposed as a way to maintain timber production while minimizing forest damage. Here we synthesize data from 61 coordinated field-based surveys of logging impacts in seven countries across the tropics. We estimate that tropical selective logging emitted 834 Tg CO2 in 2015, 6% of total tropical greenhouse gas emissions. Felling, hauling, and skidding caused 59%, 31%, and 10% of these emissions, respectively. We suggest that RIL-C incentive programs consider a feasible target carbon impact factor of 2.3 Mg emitted per Mg of timber extracted. Operational modifications are needed to achieve this target, such as reduced wood waste, narrower haul roads, and lower impact skidding equipment. Full implementation would reduce logging emissions by 44% (366 Tg CO2 year-1) and deliver 4% of the nationally determined contributions to the Paris Climate Agreement from tropical countries, while maintaining timber supplies.


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