iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry


Does degradation from selective logging and illegal activities differently impact forest resources? A case study in Ghana

Gaia Vaglio Laurin (1-3), William D Hawthorne (2), Tommaso Chiti (1-3), Arianna Di Paola (1), Roberto Cazzolla Gatti (1), Sergio Marconi (3), Sergio Noce (1), Elisa Grieco (1), Francesco Pirotti (4)   , Riccardo Valentini (1-3)

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 9, Issue 3, Pages 354-362 (2016)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor1779-008
Published: Jan 29, 2016 - Copyright © 2016 SISEF

Research Articles

Degradation, a reduction of the ecosystem’s capacity to supply goods and services, is widespread in tropical forests and mainly caused by human disturbance. To maintain the full range of forest ecosystem services and support the development of effective conservation policies, we must understand the overall impact of degradation on different forest resources. This research investigates the response to disturbance of forest structure using several indicators: soil carbon content, arboreal richness and biodiversity, functional composition (guild and wood density), and productivity. We drew upon large field and remote sensing datasets from different forest types in Ghana, characterized by varied protection status, to investigate impacts of selective logging, and of illegal land use and resources extraction, which are the main disturbance causes in West Africa. Results indicate that functional composition and the overall number of species are less affected by degradation, while forest structure, soil carbon content and species abundance are seriously impacted, with resources distribution reflecting the protection level of the areas. Remote sensing analysis showed an increase in productivity in the last three decades, with higher resiliency to change in drier forest types, and stronger productivity correlation with solar radiation in the short dry season. The study region is affected by growing anthropogenic pressure on natural resources and by an increased climate variability: possible interactions of disturbance with climate are also discussed, together with the urgency to reduce degradation in order to preserve the full range of ecosystem functions.


Tropical Forest, Remote Sensing, Degradation, Logging, Guild, Africa

Authors’ address

Gaia Vaglio Laurin
Tommaso Chiti
Arianna Di Paola
Roberto Cazzolla Gatti
Sergio Noce
Elisa Grieco
Riccardo Valentini
Impacts of Agriculture, Forests and Ecosystem Services Division, Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change (IAFES-CMCC), v. Pacinotti 5, I-01100 Viterbo (Italy)
William D Hawthorne
Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3RB (United Kingdom)
Gaia Vaglio Laurin
Tommaso Chiti
Sergio Marconi
Riccardo Valentini
Department for Innovation in Biological, Agro-Food and Forest Systems (DIBAF), University of Tuscia, I-01100 Viterbo (Italy)
Francesco Pirotti
Interdepartmental Research Center of Geomatics (CIRGEO), Land, Environment and Agriculture and Forestry Department (TESAF), University of Padova, I-35020 Legnaro, Padua (Italy)

Corresponding author

Francesco Pirotti


Vaglio Laurin G, Hawthorne WD, Chiti T, Di Paola A, Cazzolla Gatti R, Marconi S, Noce S, Grieco E, Pirotti F, Valentini R (2016). Does degradation from selective logging and illegal activities differently impact forest resources? A case study in Ghana. iForest 9: 354-362. - doi: 10.3832/ifor1779-008

Academic Editor

Matteo Garbarino

Paper history

Received: Jul 26, 2015
Accepted: Nov 06, 2015

First online: Jan 29, 2016
Publication Date: Jun 01, 2016
Publication Time: 2.80 months

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