Ecosystems at Risk as Demand for Wood Products Soars Worldwide
By 2050, rising population and demand, as well as an increase in use of wood for bioenergy, could triple the amount of wood society takes from forests and plantations per year, according to the latest installment of the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Living Forests Report. The report, presented today at the international paper conference Paperworld in Frankfurt, Germany, projects paper production and consumption may double in the next three decades, and overall wood consumption may triple.
“A scenario of tripling the amount of wood society takes from forests and plantations needs to motivate good stewardship that safeguards forests – otherwise we could destroy the very places where wood grows,” says Rod Taylor, director of WWF’s Global Forest Programme. “Wood, if sourced from well managed forests or plantations, is a renewable material with many advantages over non-renewable alternatives. The key challenge for forest-based industries is how to supply more wood products with less impact on nature. This challenge 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.”
WWF’s forest conservation target is zero net deforestation and forest degradation by 2020, which means no overall loss of forest area or forest quality. The target requires the loss of natural forests to be reduced to near zero, down from the current 13 million hectares a year, and held at that level indefinitely.
“WWF’s research suggests that it is possible to achieve zero net deforestation and forest degradation while sustaining a vibrant wood products industry that meets people’s needs,” says Emmanuelle Neyroumande, manager of WWF International's global pulp and paper work. “But the longer we delay our actions the more difficult and costly the solutions will be. We need wiser consumption, more efficiency, responsible forestry practices, good governance and more transparency.”
For paper in particular, the Living Forests Report outlines a variety of solutions:
More recycling in countries with low recovery rates: Even with higher global paper consumption in the future, society would need less virgin material than today if recycling rates increased. A 2020 scenario shows that an increase of paper production by 25 percent could still require less virgin fibre input if the current global level of 53 percent recycled fibre use is increased to 70 percent. Paper recovery rates vary greatly between countries. Therefore, efforts to increase recycling in countries with low recovery rates and high consumption growth have particular potential to reduce pressure on natural forests.
Resource efficiency and fairer consumption patterns: More efficient processing and manufacturing can help produce more products with a given amount of wood. Also, the current consumption patterns of rich nations (10 percent of the world’s population consuming 50 percent of the world’s paper) cannot sustainably be followed by developing countries. Richer nations can reduce wasteful paper use, while poorer nations need more paper for education, hygiene and food safety.
Plantations to reduce pressure on natural forests: Even with more frugal use and greater recycling and efficiency, net demand for wood is likely to grow. Maintaining near zero loss of natural forests after 2020, without significant reductions in consumption, would require up to 250 million hectares of new tree plantations by 2050, which is nearly double the amount of plantations today. Therefore, well-managed plantations, particularly on currently degraded land, contributing to restore ecosystems, will play an increasingly important role.
Well-managed forests: Growing demand will also certainly push production further into natural forests. The report indicates that by 2050 up to 25 per cent more forests might be commercially harvested than today. Forest certification will continue to be an important tool to improve forest management practices via a market driven mechanism.
The energy challenge: By 2050, annual wood demand for energy could reach 6-8 billion m3, which would require more than twice the wood removed for all uses today. This clearly poses a challenge for sustainable land-use planning. WWF sees an important role for bioenergy to provide diverse alternatives to fossil fuels, plus new incomes and increased energy security for rural communities. However, for these benefits to be realized, its use must be carefully planned, implemented and monitored for environmental and social sustainability. Badly managed bioenergy production can destroy valuable ecosystems, undermine food and water security, harm rural communities and prolong wasteful energy consumption.
Humanity will likely use more wood in more ways in the coming decades. Given the massive projected increase in wood and paper demand, forest-based industries are key to conserving forests. For wood to play a positive role in a “green” economy based on renewable resources, production forests need to be managed to the highest ecological and social standards, and the use and recovery of wood products must become more efficient.
Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY page for more related news on this topic.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
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