the beneficiaries of sustainable forest management
The more the outcomes of sustainable forest management (SFM) are investigated and understood, the greater and more varied the benefits are seen to be. Nowhere more so than in the case of tropical forestry.
The SFM prizes are environmental, social and commercial. That’s why the STTC is committed to boosting sustainably sourced timber sales in the currently contracting EU tropical timber market initially to 50% above 2013 levels, then beyond.
Forest conservation First, of course, SFM helps maintain, and grow tropical forest cover – which globally is still shrinking at up to 15 million ha a year. SFM practices ensure forests remain forests. This maintains precious habitats and consequently biodiversity, not to mention a wealth of, as yet, undiscovered and untapped plant-based medical and other resources that could benefit mankind.
Save the climate With trees’ capacity to absorb CO2 as it grows and store it long-term as timber, the forest is also key to regulating climate change and mediating the potential impact of man-made emissions. Using timber also means not having to use alternatives such as steel, concrete and plastic; materials based on finite resources with much bigger carbon footprints . Moreover, the process of deforestation itself is a prime greenhouse gas generator, responsible for 15% of today’s total. Selective logging, however, keeps 76% of carbon stocks in forest, plus 85-100% of wildlife.
Buy sustainably sourced timber, support the forest Current concerns over deforestation and the environmental consequences deter consumers worldwide from tropical timber, where the problem is seen as most serious. This further undermines timber businesses in supplier countries, and increases the commercial attraction of forest clearance and land conversion to other uses. But if consumers are convinced the timber and wood products originate from sustainably managed sources, they will buy and sustainably sourced timber will gain market momentum. In turn SFM will be incentivised in supplier countries. So a negative, vicious market circle becomes a virtuous one. That is the goal of the STTC, and why it has launched its campaign to educate the market about SFM, and promote the all-round merits of sustainably sourced tropical timber. Its partners, participants and like-minded businesses in consumer countries can also benefit commercially, using certification chain of custody labels, such as FSC and PEFC, on timber and products to create a direct connection with SFM and actively attract consumers.
SFM – the business case
Another aspect of SFM is to maximise the output of a given forest area sustainably. This involves using under-utilised promotional species to minimise supply stress on better-known species. That’s why actively marketing tropical promotional species is another core STTC activity, backed by further research into their performance. The outcome will be more sustainable forest use and a palette of new materials with different properties and aesthetics, that could take tropical timber into all new applications. Another virtuous circle is complete.
In addition SFM increasingly spells market access. The USA, EU and Australia all now have market regulations to block illegal timber and all regard proof of certified supply from SFM sources as evidence of due diligence or due care to mitigate the risk of illegality. More countries and regions are set to follow suit, pushing sustainably sourced SFM timber even more into the market mainstream.
Social benefits SFM is shown to have significant social benefits in supplier countries too. Firstly it makes their timber more marketable and profitable. FSC-certified roundwood, for instance, earns US$1.80 more a cubic meter through price premiums, increased efficiencies and other financial incentives deriving from overall improved management and yield. In addition the certification process results in greater stakeholder engagement, improved social welfare, pay and conditions, development of community infrastructure and less conflict between loggers and local people.