Effects of logging on roadless space in intact forest landscapes of the Congo Basin.
Forest degradation in the tropics is often associated with roads built for selective logging. The pro- tection of intact forest landscapes (IFL) that are not accessible by roads is high on the biodiversity conservation agenda and a challenge for logging concessions certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). A frequently advocated conservation objective is to maximize the retention of roadless space, a concept that is based on distance to the nearest road from any point. We developed a novel use of the empty-space function – a general statistical tool based on stochastic geometry and random sets theory – to calculate roadless space in a part of the Congo Basin where road networks have been expanding rapidly. We compared the temporal development of roadless space in certified and uncertified logging concessions inside and outside areas declared IFL in 2000. Inside IFLs, road-network expansion led to a decrease in roadless space by more than half from 1999 to 2007. After 2007, loss leveled out in most areas to close to 0 due to an equilibrium between newly built roads and abandoned roads that became revegetated. However, concessions in IFL certified by FSC since around 2007 continuously lost roadless space and reached a level comparable to all other concessions. Only national parks remained mostly roadless. We recommend that forest-management policies make the preservation of large connected forest areas a top priority by effectively monitoring – and limiting – the occupation of space by roads that are permanently accessible.