Global wood production from natural forests has peaked

An Erratum to this article was published on 14 March 2014

Abstract

Wood is considered to be a renewable resource. However, steep increases in production followed by a peak and subsequent decline have been characteristic of natural forest-based wood industries in many countries. An assessment was made to determine any discernible global trend in wood extraction from natural forests. This was done using published data on global production from various wood sources, including plantations, planted forests and trees outside forests. Global wood supply from natural forests peaked around 1989 and has been in decline since. A growing planted tree supply has been making up the gap between total roundwood demand and natural forest supply. These data suggest a declining role for natural forests in global wood production, with the long term sustainability of wood supply derived from purpose-cultivated trees rather than natural forest sources. Where these planted trees lower demand for wood from natural forests this will provide opportunities to reduce resource conflict in natural forests, apply more precautionary prescriptions where logging does occur, and increase the use of natural forests for biodiversity conservation and other ecosystem services such as carbon storage.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The term ‘planted trees’ is used here to include plantations, planted forests, and trees outside forests—that is, all significant sources of wood from trees outside natural forests.

  2. 2.

    See the subsequent section, Methods, for the specific definition of ‘natural forest’ used for this paper.

  3. 3.

    ‘Roundwood’ refers to the total wood removed from forests and from trees outside forests.

  4. 4.

    The terms ‘extraction’, ‘production’, ‘supply’, ‘demand’ and ‘consumption’ are all used in this paper in relation to global roundwood. At the scale of the annual global data points used here it is assumed that, as the world is a closed system, the quantities of these will be the same; that is, ‘extraction’, ‘production’, ‘supply’, ‘demand’ and ‘consumption’ will generally match one another.

  5. 5.

    Three main concerns addressed in the review were: country survey response rates for fuelwood were very low; per capita consumption rates had been considered to be static, but growing evidence contradicted this pointing to declining per capita consumption over time resulting from trends such as urbanisation and wealth increases; and prior estimations did not account for non-household use.

  6. 6.

    For example, if growth in plantation wood supply caused by government policy leads to reduction of demand for natural forest logging then there are potential conservation gains. Conversely logging bans or new forest reserves created over forests for which there is no commercially accessible wood might achieve little real conservation benefit.

  7. 7.

    Plantations in the 2000 FRA are a subset of the planted forest category. They represent only about a half of the extent of planted forests (Carle and Holmgren 2008).

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Acknowledgments

The author is thankful for the support of a scholarship from the University of Tasmania. Pete Hay provided much appreciated, and sure, guidance through the research and writing. Thanks to Christopher Dean, Jamie Kirkpatrick, Lorne Kriwoken and Andreas Rothe for reading drafts, conversations and suggestions. Arvydas Lebedys and Adrian Whiteman at the FAO provided useful advice and feedback. Six anonymous referees provided valuable critique and suggestions.

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Correspondence to Russell D. Warman.

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Communicated by Eckehard G. Brockerhoff.

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Warman, R.D. Global wood production from natural forests has peaked. Biodivers Conserv 23, 1063–1078 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-014-0633-6

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Keywords

  • Wood production
  • Forest
  • Conservation
  • Plantation
  • Ecosystem services