Timber, paper demand contributing to destruction of rainforests

mongabay.com
September 06, 2012




Logging truck in Borneo. Photo by Rhett A. Butler


Demand for timber and paper is contributing to destruction of the world's most biodiverse rainforests and worsening climate change, argues a new report issued Tuesday by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

The report, "Wood for Good: Solutions for Deforestation-Free Wood Products," says that certified wood products, timber and fiber from plantations on non-forested lands, and government policies to encourage less-damaging practices are three paths toward reducing deforestation and forest degradation for paper, packaging, furniture, and construction materials.

"The demand for tropical wood is growing globally, while more and more of the world’s tropical forests are disappearing," said Pipa Elias, UCS consultant and the report’s author, noting that international trade in forest products is expected to reach $450 billion per year by the end of the decade, up from $257 billion in 2005. "It is 100 percent possible to harvest timber in the tropics profitably and sustainably. The main roadblock is a lack of political will. Businesses and consumers must demand responsibly manufactured products – giving governments and wood producers an incentive to expand sustainability efforts."


Logged-over forest being converted for oil palm plantations in Borneo. Photo by Rhett A. Butler


While logging in the tropics typically doesn't involve clear-cutting, a series of studies have shown that it often leads of outright deforestation. Logging roads provide access to farmers, ranchers, and others who seek to exploit the forest. At the same time, persistent degradation of forest stocks caused by harvesting of the most valuable trees, can eventually create strong financial incentives for converting natural forests to timber plantations. Nowhere is this more evident that Southeast Asia where millions of hectares of logged-over forest have been converted for pulp and paper plantations.

Although it highlights forest certification as a means for reducing deforestation, the report cautions that current standards don't necessarily prevent ecological degradation of forests, a concern for environmentalists. Some standards are also stricter than others.

"While these programs do not prohibit logging from old growth forests, they are the best option currently available for maintaining the profitability of the wood industry while protecting forests," UCS says in a statement.

UCS says consumers can do their part by making smarter purchasing decisions.

"Consumers certainly have an important role to play in safeguarding tropical forests," said Pipa Elias. "Small, everyday choices like recycling and reducing the demand for new wood absolutely help to protect tropical forests."

"Wood for Good" is third report UCS has issued in recent months on goods linked to tropical deforestation. The first, “Recipes for Success,” looked at feedstocks for vegetable oils like palm oil and soy. The second, “Grade A Choice?” looked at beef.











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mongabay.com (September 06, 2012).

Timber, paper demand contributing to destruction of rainforests.

http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0906-ucs-good-wood.html