Around the world people rely on forests for wood, fiber, and income. Forests contribute an estimated 1% to Global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) through production of wood and non-timber forest products. The most well-known use of forests is for logging, or the cutting of trees which are then processed and converted into timber and paper, among other products. Logging can be done sustainably over long time periods with silvicultural practices to guide timber harvests and forest management, to ensure future forest regeneration, and attain both ecological and economic goals. Such practices are based upon in-depth understanding of climate, soil, species, and ecosystem processes, to guide management practices of forests. Additionally, conservation practices, such as reduced impact logging and “best management practices” are sometimes implemented when conducting timber operations so as to reduce long-term detrimental effects on trees and soils. However, not all logging is always sustainable, and in some regions illegal logging is a significant challenge to sustainable forest management. Illegal logging is defined as the harvest, transport, processing, and selling in violation of national laws, including harvest within protected areas and exploitation of endangered species.
In addition to wood used for timber and pulpwood, forests are also important sources of bioenergy, ranging from traditional utilization of wood and charcoal for cooking and heat, to the increasingly popular use of logging residues as a modern renewable energy source in the developed world. Charcoal production is an important cause of forest degradation, in Africa especially, as it requires larger trees compared to those used for firewood. The demand for charcoal is expected to surpass that of traditional firewood in Africa. Charcoal also continues to be a major source of energy in other parts of the world, such as Latin America and Asia. Interest in forest biomass as a renewable energy source is rapidly growing, and generating higher demands for biomass production from forest systems such as plantation forests.
In addition to timber, paper, and bioenergy, non-timber forest products (NTFPs) are important products in many local and global markets, which are dependent on forests and forest cover for production. Examples of NTFP’s include game, medicinal plants, resins, bamboo, fruits, fibers, and palms. NTFP’s may be for local use or international markets, and their use and extraction can either provide additional economic incentives to maintain forest cover, or can be exploitive when harvested unsustainably, or harvested to meet high market demands.
In general, logging and other forest uses (such as NTFPs) generate a large proportion of the economic value that forests represent around the world. Resource extraction from forests is important for livelihoods, as well as local and global markets, and can shape forest management practices. Learn more about trends and patterns in forest use and logging by exploring the links below:
Boucher, D., Elias, P., Liniger, K., May-Tobin, C., Roquemore, S., & Saxon, E. (2011). The root of the problem: What’s driving tropical deforestation today?. Union of Concerned Scientists.
CIFOR (n.d.) Forests and non-timber forest products. Retrieved from: http://www.cifor.org/publications/corporate/factSheet/NTFP.htm.
Nunez, C. (2014). The energy boom you haven’t heard about: Wood pellets. National Geographic. Retrieved from: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2014/12/141208-wood-pellet-energy-boom-driven-by-exports/.
WWF (n.d.) Economic uses of forests. World Wildlife Fund. Retrieved from: http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/about_forests/importance/economicforest/.
WWF (n.d.) Illegal Logging. World Wildlife Fund. Retrieved from: http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/about_forests/deforestation/forest_illegal_logging/.