Sustainable Intensification is Needed

“The demand for wood and wood-derived products is expected to increase, possibly double, within the next 30–50 years.”

These were remarks from Dr John L. Innes, Dean, Faculty of Forestry, University of British Columbia, at the Sustainable Intensification side event.

“The consumer demand for forest products is likely to continue to rise. The challenge is that wood is only one of many goods and services provided by forests and the extraction of it is not compatible with some of the other values that need to be observed in forestry,” added Dr Innes.

He said that there are many solutions to sustainable intensification, which include planting trees on degraded land, taking a landscape approach, and developing a balanced approach to wood supply including intensification.

“The basic principle for sustainable intensification is to get more from less, that means focusing on afforestation, reforestation, and improved management of existing forests, depending on local situations and the values that are expected from a particular forest,” he continued.

He added that an investment in plantations is needed, and David Brand from New Forests estimates that an amount of USD100–500 billion is needed in the next 20–30 years to meet the forecast levels of needed timber. Analysis suggests that, globally, the intensive timber plantation areas could exceed 100 million hectares by 2030 and produce more than 2 billion m3 of timber by 2050.

“We need to continue asking ourselves ongoing questions about how much forest needs to be reserved, how intensive does intensive forestry have to be, and will such systems produce more wood? There’s a need to be sufficient and allow ecosystem processes to persist and to be connected to cope with effects of climate change,” Dr Innes pointed out.

He concluded by saying that there is a need for better use of existing forest, increased productivity of plantations, and that all intensification will need to be sustainable in the long term.

Forestry of the 21st century

Mr Don Roberts, Chief Executive Officer of Nawitka Capital Advisors Ltd, said that there is consensus among both public and private forecasters of rising long-term demand for wood fibre, primarily driven by growth in packaging, paper tissues, and construction.

“The consumption of communication paper will continue to weaken and the relative cost of bio-power will continue to rise. Structural changes in the supply of forest products like competition for land base and the need social license from local communities will likely stop pulp capacity expansion in areas like Africa, and others are looking at other profitable alternative uses of land like palm oil,” said Roberts.

He added that it is unclear whether there will be future disruptive shocks in technology like advance processes for biofuels and biochemicals, nanotechnology, 3D printing, and biotechnology, and therefore the net impact on the demand for fibre from the global forest industry is also unclear.

“The outlook for the global forest products industry is more complex that consensus views may suggest and, given the scope of structural changes impacting the industry, we expect there to be major winners and losers,” concluded Roberts.

Ciao Zanardo of Planted Forests said that for intensification to be sustainable, knowledge management, people, process, and technology need to work together to increase yields, and protect forests, rural development, and the environment.

“FSC has a major role to play in gathering stakeholders to dialogue on emerging issues and provide a way forward in an open and transparent manner,” said Zanardo.

FSC Managing Director, Kim Carstensen, said the side event provided a platform to engage on existing challenges that are faced by the forest industry, and that FSC was open to all the dialogues that will take place around contested issues such as pesticides and genetically modified trees, forest governance, and landscape approaches.