The global market for rainforest goods and services is worth many billions of dollars. This includes forestry, fisheries, mining, pharmaceutical plants, and tourism.
a. Potential revenue loss: Even in forests where only a few trees per hectare are removed, many trees of other species are destroyed or damaged. Utilizing these less-valuable trees rather than destroying them would be economically beneficial, and would reduce the need for further deforestation to obtain the few individuals of the highest value species. Tropical timber prices have generally stayed high, and, as the more valuable tree species are being depleted, logging contracts are being obtained for less-popular ones. The incidental loss of previously less-desirable species and the loss of other forest products through clear cutting, ancillary damage and careless extraction has been an incalculable financial disaster, as well as an ecological one. For instance, if only one-sixth of forest fruit trees were damaged by logging activity, the net financial gain of logging (over the long run) would be zero. In Peru, the fruit of the aguaje palm of Amazonia is in great demand for eating, ice cream and other products, and gives considerable income to local people. Forest fruits and rubber are worth more per hectare in the long run than timber, but no one saves the forest for these products.
b. Loss of forest resources to local inhabitants, and for export: Export revenues for forest products can be substantial. The value of non-timber forest products may be much greater than the value of the logs which could be obtained from a forest. In addition, local people stand to benefit from these products, as opposed to the timber trade, which is so often controlled by the wealthy or by foreign companies. People near logged forests also lose fuelwood and other forest resources – meat, hides, fruits, oils, resins, fibers, construction materials and medicines.
c. Costs of environmental destruction: Flooding, erosion, soil nutrient loss, damage to fisheries by sedimentation, are all part of the costs of deforestation. In Ghana, the removal of forests increased soil erosion rates by 100-fold, leading to a nutrient loss 40% greater than the nutrient levels of fertilizer later applied to the converted forest land. There are many similar examples throughout this document (Repetto, 1990).
d. Depletion of timber: Logging companies are putting themselves out of business. Many commercially-valuable species of timber trees are becoming extinct, either locally or globally. Teak, which once covered much of northern Thailand, is virtually gone there and logging companies are now harvesting the last teak forests in Burma and Laos as well (with the complicity, indeed, the collaboration of the governments). Mahogany, which is found scattered throughout the Amazon forests, is almost gone in many local areas, and logging companies are seeking pristine areas. The hardwood Virola surinamensis, the most valuable tree in the eastern part of the Amazon, is nearly extinct because of logging. Cutting rainforests has not provided tropical countries with a panacea to poverty, or a certain road to prosperity; rather, deforestation has led to depletion of an invaluable natural resource.