Forestry – a certification perspective

Below is a post Dr Gavin Jordan wrote, starting a discussion on the linked-in ‘forest management and Wood Sourcing’ group site. Although it does not directly tie-in with ISO 9001 or ISO 14001, and does has some implications for forest certification.

When I studied wood science/forest products at the University of Wales, Bangor, back in the mid-1980s, we spent a lot of time analysing trade flows and timber production, using the TRADA ‘little red books’ and other sources explaining what timber was produced where in the worlds natural forests. Most of that trade has now stopped, and the books are of historic interest today, just 30 years later, due to economics or environmental concerns.

Current sustainability tools – primarily forest certification, have proved too demanding for much of the production in natural forests in countries with weak governance, hence ‘Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) , which likewise have proved very demanding (no licensed timber has yet been produced) and from a wood production perspective have been ‘disappointing’.

Environmentally, as natural forest has become scarcer, it has become more valued as a resource in its own right (i.e. standing) for multiple benefits rather than as a timber resource.

I would argue that these two factors combined spell the death of traditional (i.e. natural or ‘old-growth’ ) tropical forestry. Going into an area of forest that has not been previously silviculturally managed and harvesting will increasingly become an impossibility. The standing forests of south east Asia, central and (limited in extent already) west Africa, and south America will increasingly become reserves, too expensive/difficult to manage under FSC/VPA, and too valuable to global society to harvested without certification.

I suspect that by 2030 logging natural tropical forest will be viewed the same way as slavery now is – a historical aberration to be regretted and apologised about.

Tropical forests will be managed as a mixture/blend of community-forests and protected areas. Tropical forest resources with higher biodiversity or special values will increasingly become national or international reserves, drawing down funding for their management from international development/climate funds.Tropical commercial production will by almost solely from plantation forests. The rural landscape will be a mosaic of farmland, woodlots and community forest, plantation and isolated reserves with connectivity being attempted.