- LKTS can often substitute for better-known species in terms of performance and aesthetics in most applications, but they are generally more cost effective because they are abundant and underutilized.
- The many LKTS available with rich, truly exotic colors and textures provide new design opportunities for homeowners as well as architects and designers.
- The use of LKTS can alleviate pressure on well-known timber species and increase the economic viability of sustainable forest management.
Developing markets for lesser-known timber species
A key to responsible forestry in Bolivia
For example, of the hundreds of tree species that occur in Bolivia’s forests, only a relative handful are commonly used for wood products and fewer still are recognized abroad. Well-know woods like mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) are quickly snapped up by buyers.
In the natural forests of Bolivia, mahogany and other valuable trees tend to grow widely dispersed: it is common to find only a few harvestable trees in a given area of forest. The problem is that the fixed costs of responsible forest management – training workers, completing forest inventories and management plans, buying necessary equipment and building access roads, obtaining FSC certification, etc. – are considerable.
Well-known species are rarely available in sufficient quantity to cover all of these costs, and this means that markets must be developed for LKTS in order to make good forestry economically sustainable over the long term.
To illustrate the point, in the Chiquitano Dry Forest of eastern Bolivia, there are about 120 tree species, only about two dozens of which are useable for lumber. Of these dozens, a few are highly valuable, a few more are moderately valuable, and the remainder is currently lesser-known and low value.