A review of the forestry sector

However, it cannot be ignored that this has been the case in the past.

It was a wood based economy crisis which ultimately led to the decline of Classical Greece. The combination of indiscriminate cutting of trees, with drought and wildfires, led to a severe lack of timber, which in turn resulted in weak military and especially naval power, leaving the peninsular kingdoms of Greece at the mercy of invaders.

Easter Island / Rapa Nui saw the disintegration of its society without any external enemy, because of over population and environmental deterioration, notably deforestation and desertification, which led to war, famine and death.

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Composite image showing the global distribution of photosynthesis, including both oceanic phytoplankton and terrestrial vegetation.(1)

The latest Global Forest Resources Assessment (GFRA) 2010 from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) showed that forests cover c. 31 per cent of the world’s land surface, which is approximately 4bn hectares.

Before the industrial revolution forests occupied nearly 6bn hectares. 93 per cent of the world’s forest cover is natural forest and 7 per cent is planted. Primary forests, which are forests that have been around for thousands of years without much disturbance, account for 36 per cent of forest area, but have decreased by more than 40m hectares in the last decade.

Recent forest cover data, showing a slower pace of deterioration, may seem somewhat re-assuring. However this is a very crude measure as it makes all forests equal, which is not the case.

There is a big difference in terms of biodiversity, amenity and value of standing wood between natural forests, especially very biodiverse areas of woodland, many of which are protected areas and plantation forests.

When plantations replace primary or natural forest this is generally not a good thing. However, using existing cleared land for plantations, as opposed to clear natural forest for plantations, is required if we are to take the felling pressure off existing natural forests.

As they grow trees absorb CO2 and transform it into wood. There is around 290m tones of carbon in forest biomass according to the GFRA 2010. Forest loss contributes as much as 12 per cent to 15 per cent of annual greenhouse gas emissions, about the same as the entire global transportation sector, according to the World Resources Institute(2).

There is obviously much more to forest than trees, and the wood they produce. Non-forest products include among others, rubber from hevea trees, cork from oak, maple syrup and the list goes on. But, most importantly, a forest is a very rich ecosystem, offering a sheltered environment, and providing food to a wide array of animals, from microscopic organisms to large

mammals, which in turn will contribute to the forest’s maintenance and development by means of pollination and seed dispersion. Disregarding biodiversity and the length of the forestry cycle, has often led to disasters. Sustainable Forestry is the solution.