Forestry: A globally important market
There are natural growth forests and forestry plantations. The main goal of forestry management is to create and implement systems that allow forests to continue a sustainable provision of environmental supplies and services. The challenge of forestry is to create systems that are socially accepted while sustaining the soil and safeguarding nature. In many regions the forest industry is of major ecological, economic and social importance.
Growing market demand
The present demand for tropical hardwoods is relatively large (90 million m3/year), is mostly based on unsustainable supply sources (natural forest) and is forecast to rise in line with population growth. In the future, plantations will have an increasing role to play in hardwood production as natural forest areas available for wood supply decrease due to deforestation, degradation, inaccessibility or designation for conservation or other uses.To satisfy current hardwood demand totally from plantations would require about 9 million ha (equivalent to 80% of the world’s coffee area). This would be in addition to the present area of about 3 million ha of teak. Therefore, there are ample opportunities for investments in teak and other tropical hardwoods for the foreseeable future as the market demand for sustainably produced hardwoods is likely to increase. At the same time the total market demand is forecast to rise as well.
The need for teak plantations
The most obvious supply trend is a continuing decline in the quality of natural forest teak, resulting in the blurring of differences between teak originating from well managed plantations and natural sources. Logging bans in natural teak areas are likely to continue for some time but if they are lifted the volume contribution will be relatively small. Besides, high demand for teak in Asia should absorb most material originating from new sources and local plantations, except for the higher quality material, which is likely to fetch attractive international prices. Many plantations being created in Asia represent replacement of cut areas rather than new cultivation, thus not contributing to a net expansion of area or satisfying increasing demand.
As the demand for hardwood, like teak, continues to increase, when natural forests are threatened and the quality of naturally grown teak descreases, plantations provide both an economic possibility as well as a sustainable solution for growing environmental issues.
Forestry as a vital element for the worlds climate control
Investment in forestry and timber infrastructure on a global scale is highlighted as a vital element for the worlds climate control. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) states that countries which make investments into their own natural environments will likely be rewarded in future years. Also should deforestation be highlighted as one of the major priorities as the depletion of forests accounts for almost 20 percent of the world’s carbon emissions (higher than the transport sector).
“In the long term, a sustainable forest management strategy aimed at maintaining or increasing forest carbon stocks, while producing an annual sustained yield of timber, fibre or energy from the forest, will generate the largest sustained mitigation benefit”
IPCC, 4th Assessment Report, 2007
Trees play a critical role in absorbing the CO2 gases that fuel global warming. Fewer forests means larger amounts of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere and increase the speed and the severity of global warming.
Forests planted on cleared agricultural land can remove 5-30 tonnes of CO2 per hectare from the atmosphere annually.
Alleviating pressure on our natural forests
To meet the world’s demand for wood, it has been suggested by the forestry specialists Botkins and Sedjo that high-yielding forest plantations are suitable. It has been calculated that plantations yielding 10 cubic meters per hectare annually could supply all the timber required for international trade on 5% of the world’s existing forestland. By contrast, natural forests produce about 1-2 cubic meters per hectare; therefore, 5-10 times more forestland would be required to meet demand if natural forests would be used. Forester Chad Oliver has suggested a forest mosaic with high-yield forest lands interpersed with conservation land. Forest plantations, generally intended for the production of timber and pulpwood increase the total area of forest worldwide. Commonly mono-specific and/or composed of introduced tree species, these ecosystems are not generally important as habitat for native biodiversity. However, they can be managed in ways that enhance their biodiversity protection functions. Furthermore, they are important providers of ecosystem services such as maintaining nutrient capital, protecting watersheds and soil structure as well as storing carbon. They may also play an important role in alleviating pressure on natural forests for timber and fuelwood production.
Timber is a renewable, natural resource that can provide ecosystems with benefits such as clean air, clean water, wildlife habitat and carbon sequestration. Conservation ensures the preservation of forest lands for future generations.