Tropical forests are globally significant for both biodiversity conservation and the production of economically valuable wood products. Two contrasting approaches have been suggested to simultaneously produce timber and conserve biodiversity; one partitions forests to deliver these objectives separately (sparing), the other integrates both objectives in the same location (sharing). To date, the ‘sparing or sharing’ debate has focused on agricultural landscapes, with scant attention paid to forest management. Here we explored the sparing-to-sharing continuum through spatial optimisations with set economic returns for the forests of East Kalimantan, Indonesia – a global biodiversity hotspot. We found that neither sparing nor sharing extremes are optimal, although the greatest conservation value was attained towards the sparing end of the continuum. Critically, improved management strategies, such as reduced-impact logging, accounted for larger conservation gains than altering the balance between sparing and sharing, particularly for endangered species. Ultimately, debating sparing versus sharing has limited value while large gains remain from improving forest management.
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