The Orbis Blog

There is More to Timber Than Cutting

If you have ever taken a science class, you learned how trees help our lives function on a daily basis by producing the oxygen that we need to breathe. In the same class, you learned how often trees are cut down for our personal use. And if so, how that can have a negative effect on oxygen levels and our environment. What your teacher probably did not mention is that depletion of some trees can actually be beneficial to a growing environment.

New research frontier

Many foresters foster the belief that timber is one of our world’s most valuable renewable resources. However, it is important to remember that timber can only grow so quickly. Therefore, it must be given ample time and conditions for renewal to full capacity.

When growing in a forest, trees provide a natural storage unit for carbon gas. Historically, it has been said that cutting down this storage unit can lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, however, new research has suggested that depleting excess timber can help regulate the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, especially in areas with heavy snowfall.

Aside from new research discoveries, harvesting timberland has a multitude of other benefits.

1. When compared to other substances that omit greenhouse gases, wood is better for the environment. For example, steel and concrete emit 15-30 % more greenhouse gases and pollutants than wood.

2. Wood helps reduce energy consumption compared to other structural building products which are often more difficult to acquire, create and distribute.

3. Since it is an excellent natural insulator, wood can help improve energy efficiency. It is able to do this since its cellular structure helps slow the heat conductivity.

What is sustainable forestry?

Despite the arguments about the benefits of timber use and depletion, it is important to remember how cutting down trees can only be good for an environment if it is done sustainably and ethically. The only realistic way to conserve our forests is to apply sustainable forestry practices. While it might sound like an oxymoron, practicing sustainable forestry means finding a balance between depletion and preservation. To do this, foresters have to understand the natural patterns of disturbance and regeneration. Through this process, they are able to essentially mimic the events that would take place naturally.

Finding a balance

Simply put: we cannot survive on this planet without forests. However, the benefits of timber as a supplement cannot be ignored. Current and future generations must learn to appreciate the importance of the many purposes of timber. Moreover, there must be respect for the knowledge required of forestry professionals to understand and replicate the delicate balance that is essential to keeping our forests healthy.

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