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Pre-print of Vanclay, JK 1996, Lessons from the Queensland Rainforests: Steps towards sustainability', Journal of Sustainable Forestry, vol. 3, no. 2-3, pp. 1-27.

The publisher's version of this article is available at


Commercial timber harvesting commenced in the tropical rainforests of north Queensland in 1873 and ceased in 1988 following their inclusion on the World Heritage List. The evolution of forest policy, management and research is reviewed, and strengths and weaknesses are highlighted. Between 1950-85, eight estimates of the sustainable yield varied ten-fold. Discrepancies were due to different assumptions regarding management, and to errors in estimating net productive areas and growth rates. During 1950-85, the allowable cut (130,000-207,000 m3/ann) exceeded sustained yield estimates (60,000-180,000 m3/ann), but the actual harvest (90,000-205,000 m3/ann) remained less than the allowable cut. The allowable cut was reduced to a sustainable level in 1986, and commercial logging ceased in 1988. It is not certain that the harvest during the 1980s was sustainable, but several indicators suggest that it probably was sustainable. Lessons for other tropical timber producers are highlighted.

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