Climate change is always a big talking point, perhaps now more than ever. One of the huge challenges faced by society is how to manage the effects of climate change, and a big part of this is living more harmoniously with our natural resources. Trees are obviously one of these resources, which is why sustainable forestry is so important in ensuring our planet has a future.
Sustainable forestry, ensures the forest remains a forest and ensures trees regrow. Trees are the ultimate renewable resource, unlike other materials such as steel and plastic. So, it’s certainly desirable for us to continue building homes, using furniture and paper and much more from trees.
Sustainable forestry is all about ensuring ethical practices occur at each step of the supply chain and provides positive environmental outcomes. From how renewable forests are harvested and managed, all the way to the companies that use timber to build the products we all have in our homes.
We need trees for oxygen
Perhaps the most vital reason that we need trees on our planet is the fact that they produce oxygen. It’s a pretty simple concept – without trees to produce oxygen, the human race simply can’t survive. So, if that’s not a good enough reason to protect our world’s forests, we don’t know what is.
It’s important to remember though, that protecting forests doesn’t mean we never harvest trees. We need timber for so many things in the modern world, so we can’t just stop harvesting. What we can do, though, is ensure the timber is harvested in sustainable, ethically managed forests to protect the ecosystems on our planet.
Trees store carbon
Perhaps the single biggest issue in terms of climate change is our carbon emissions. Carbon damages the ozone layer and is the biggest contributor to climate change. This is why the measurements of our climate change efforts are often spoken about in terms of reducing carbon emissions.
In addition to reducing our emissions, we also must protect forests. Carbon is stored in the forest and wood product for the life of that product as embodied carbon, in fact about half the dry weight of wood is embodied carbon, so for example if you have a 100kg wooden dining table, you can be very satisfied eating your meals off that table knowing that about 50kg of that table is embodied carbon. Even after a tree is harvested and used for something else, it still stores carbon.
However, if trees are harvested unethically, left to rot or burned, the carbon held in those trees goes back into our atmosphere.
The sustainable management of our native forests is the best way to store carbon. According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “A sustainable forest management strategy aimed at maintaining or increasing forest carbon stocks, while producing an annual sustained yield of timber, fibre or energy from the forest, will generate the largest sustained mitigation benefit.” This high-level support represents part of a collective institutional view of the positive role that sustainably managed forests play in mitigating climate change, based on current science-based research.
Biodiversity is the entire ecosystem in which countless animals, insects and organisms thrive. Trees and plants are a source of food for animals and insects. Those animals and insects leave droppings, which ultimately results in more plant growth. It is truly incredible the way certain organisms work together to create a thriving, biodiverse ecosystem.
A lot of this biodiversity centres around trees, which is why they are such a precious resource for so many different species all over the world. Trees provide shelter, water and safety for so many creatures whose very existence would be threatened without biodiversity.
Sustainable forestry protects the forest
Australia’s native forests have adapted to active and adaptive management, through 60,000 plus years of management by Traditional Owners. It is well documented that Traditional Owners used fire as a friend not a foe, so they used fire to burn sections of the forest and by doing so intentionally cleared sections of the forest, this would allow grasses to grow and would encourage large animals such as kangaroos to graze in those grasslands. This was one of the earliest forms of agriculture, known as fire stick farming. Therefore Australia’s native forests have adapted to human disturbance over 60,000 plus years and require some type of human disturbance as part of their ecology to regenerate and regrow. Today there are 25 million people in Australia, we can’t just throw a match in the forest and let it burn, people live everywhere now. However native forest harvesting replicates this process, as trees are removed opening up the forest and a burn is introduced which creates a mineral ash seed-bed and the smoke from the burn induces seed-fall from the retained trees, this process also reduces the forest fuel load, therefore reducing the intensity of bushfires and mitigating climate change.
Trees as building materials
Let’s not forget about the fact that timber is a valuable, renewable resource for our planet. Most of the homes we live in have been constructed using timber from trees. Look around you right now, and you’re likely to see timber furniture items.
Embodied carbon emissions in the construction sector account for over 23 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions in Australia. Over and above operational processes like energy and transport, it is increasingly important to consider the embodied carbon emissions in building materials used in the sector.
In comparison, when we substitute timber with other building materials, manufacturing requires much more energy. The more energy we use, the more carbon we produce and the cycle goes over and over. Building and construction are responsible for 39% of all carbon emissions (UN Environment/IEA) so using a renewable resource like sustainable timber has a real impact.
So, timber is a valuable resource in our modern world – we just need to source it through more sustainable means.
Protecting water supplies
Without being too scientific, trees and forests play a key role in creating rain. A really simple analogy is to think of a tree as a water pump. It draws moisture from the ground and perspires it back into the atmosphere. But trees also help to keep the water clean.
A tree acts almost like a filter, removing impurities from the water before releasing it back into the environment. This is crucial for keeping the water that supports so much animal and human life, clean and free of impurities.
If you’d like to find out more about the sustainable timber industry and why Responsible Wood certification is so important, contact us today. Whether you need certification for your own business, or you just want to know where to buy sustainable timber products, we’ve got a wealth of information to share with you.