Forests & Wood Products

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Cover of Living Forests Report, Chapter 4.
© WWF-Canon / Simon Rawles
You don't have to walk in the woods to have forests in your life. In fact, forests touch our lives every day through the products we depend on: timber in our home and furniture, paper for our books – and new products yet to be developed from forest resources.
How can we meet the rising demand for wood-based products while conserving the world’s forests?

The amount of wood we take from forests and plantations each year may need to triple by 2050. This growing market for wood can motivate good stewardship that safeguards forests – or destroy the very places where wood grows, including many of WWF’s priority places.

So can we produce more wood without destroying or degrading forests, in a world where competition for land and water is increasing?

Our research suggests it’s possible, and that it could even be good for the planet. But it’s a challenge that spans the whole supply chain, from where and how wood is grown and harvested to how wisely and efficiently it is processed, used and reused.


 

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Wood is used to construct and furnish buildings, to make paper products for hygiene, writing, printing and packaging, and to produce energy. New technologies are creating many more ways to use wood.
© WWF

The role of plantations

Plantations carry potential risks and benefits, depending on their placement and management. With a projected 250 million hectares of new tree plantations needed between 2010 and 2050 to meet increased demand, these potential impacts – good or bad – are significant. Expansion of plantations should be focused on degraded land, while safeguarding the rights and livelihoods of indigenous peoples and local communities.

WWF leads a New Generation Plantations Project to identify and promote better management practices, strong policies, and legal controls, basing sound management around carbon storage and maintenance of water, biodiversity and soils.

Meeting rising demand sustainably

Expanding production in well-managed natural forests
Our models suggest that another 242-304 million hectares of natural forest would need to be managed for commercial harvesting by 2050 – up to 25 per cent more than today. There is no simple verdict on whether it’s better to log natural forests more heavily in a smaller area or conduct a lighter form of logging over a larger area. In either case, better forest management is needed, as well as improved governance and law enforcement, with stricter trade regulations and accurate tracing of wood along supply chains.

Forest certification
Forest certification provides assurance that the wood in a product comes from a well-managed forest, with an audited chain of custody running from the forest floor to the customer. Perhaps 30 per cent of the world’s production forest is certified, with around 13 per cent of this under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) – which WWF considers the only credible forest certification system in use today.

Reuse and recycling
Nearly all types of solid wood can be reused. Paper, for example, can be recycled and reused many times, taking the pressure of forests. In 2010, more than half the fibre used in global paper production came from recovered paper. Even with higher global paper consumption in the future, we would need less virgin wood than we do today if we recycled more.

Fairer distribution

Today, 10 per cent of the world’s population consumes over 50 per cent of the paper. This is hardly fair – paper is an important means to share knowledge and express ideas, improve sanitation and keep food safe. Reducing wasteful consumption in developed countries, like overprinting or overpackaging, would ease the pressure on forests and land use as paper use grows in developing countries.

Tools for sustainable forest management

 / ©: WWF
Forest Stewardship Council, the most credible forest certification system

WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network
promotes responsible forest management and trade in forest products

Through the Pulp and Paper programme, WWF works to bring about sustainable forestry, clean pulp and paper manufacturing and promote responsible paper consumption.

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