Sustainable Timber Supply

Posted: June 13, 2011

Source – USDA

Sustainable harvesting methodsA study by researchers at the U.S. Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory shows that the lowest rates of deforestation and forest carbon emissions occur in global regions with the highest rates of forest productoutput.

Counter intuitively global regions with the highest rates of deforestation and forest carbon emissions rank lowest in forest product output or what is referred to technically as industrial roundwood harvest.

These findings are significant when looking at forest management not only in terms of sustainable timber supply and demand but also from a climate change perspective. Global deforestation is a major contributor to carbon emissions and greenhouse gases, while forest management and growth is a major factor in the reduction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

This seemingly contradictory conclusion was made by U.S. Forest Service researcher Peter Ince in the recently published book “Sustainable Development in the Forest Products Industry.”

The historical data Ince and other researchers examined in this study supports the hypothesis that an economically vibrant industrial forest products sector has been key to forest policies and forestry practices that support sustainable timber supply and demand.

Based on his observations, Ince concludes that the future direction of forest products technology can have a large influence on the sustainability of forests and forest management.

“If future technology and wood demands generate sufficiently high values for timber as a raw material, then historical experience suggests that forests and forest management will thrive,” said Ince. “If the value of timber is cheapened, however, through low-value use or insufficient forest product technology development, then forests may face significant challenges regarding their future sustainability.”

Ince and his colleagues compared global data on timber harvest by region with data on changes in forest area and net forest carbon emissions (change in forest stock). The team used timber harvest and inventory data from the most recent United Nations Food and Agriculture Organizations’ Global Forest Assessment (2005) along with data on forest carbon emissions from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.