Forests under threat

Rather than using these woods blindly, it is vitally important that we stop and think about where they actually come from.

The great natural forests of the world fall into three main types:

  • Tropical rainforests – in Central America, Amazonia, Central and West Africa, Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea. These produce mainly hardwood timbers

  • Boreal forests – in colder, northern countries such as parts of Canada, Scandinavia and Russia. These produce softwoods from coniferous trees

  • Temperate forests – in Europe, the United States (except Alaska and Hawaii), Australasia, Chile and southern Brazil. These produce both hardwoods and softwoods.

All of these are under threat, mainly due to the extraction of timber for the wood, board and card and paper products that we have come to take for granted. So why should we be worried about the loss of our forests?

  • If we don’t look after our forests, there won’t be any wood in the future.

  • The forests are home to countless plants and animals, many of which might prove to be vital for humans e.g in conserving the gene pool, providing new drugs or new food sources).

  • The forests act as the Earth’s ‘lungs’, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Trees absorb most carbon dioxide when they are young; when they are mature they absorb and give out equal amounts; and when they decay, they give it out. Therefore it makes most sense to cut down trees when they are mature and to plant new ones.

  • Forests play a vital role in moderating weather patterns.

  • Although some logging companies replant a tree (or even two) for every one that they cut down, careless forestry can disrupt and permanently damage the finely balanced ecosystems on which so much depends. In addition, we are simply using too much industrial wood and paper. By 2010, consumption is expected to rise by 57% in comparison to 1990.