Languages:
Home » Forests » Level 2 » Question 6

Forests

6. What products are extracted from forests?

  • 6.1 How much of the forest area has been set aside for production?
  • 6.2 How much wood is available for commercial exploitation?
  • 6.3 How much wood is harvested?
  • 6.4 What other products can be obtained from forests?

Forests are increasingly managed for a variety of uses and values, often in combination.

Earlier assessments emphasized wood for timber, but the concept of forest production has now grown to include other types of forest products. Forests and trees outside forests provide many different products, ranging from timber and fuelwood to food (berries, mushrooms etc.), fodder, and other non-wood forest products. An underlying objective of forest management is maintaining an ample and valuable supply of forest products while at the same time ensuring that production and harvesting are sustainable and do not compromise the management options of future generations. More...

6.1 How much of the forest area has been set aside for production?

Forest areas can be set aside for production, either by laws or by management decisions.

Overall, about half the world’s forest are designated for production of forest products (as either primary or secondary function). At the global level, 34% of total forest area has production designated as its main purpose. In Europe, some 73% of forest area has production as the primary function, while North America reported only 6% designated primarily for production –most of its forests being designated for multiple use.

Globally, there has been a slight decrease in the area of forests with production as the primary function. Some, but far from all, of these forests are productive forest plantations.

Table on area of forest designated primarily for production

Forest plantations are defined as forests of introduced or native species, established through planting or seeding, with few species, even spacing and/or even-aged stands.

‘Productive’ forest plantations are forest plantations predominantly intended for the provision of wood, fibre, and non-wood forest products, though they can also have protective, recreational and other functions. Some forests classified as semi-natural include planted trees of native species, most of which are used for productive purposes, but as these forests do not fall under the forest plantation definition, they are not included in this analysis.

Unfortunately, information is missing from many of the smaller islands and from some of the countries in the Congo Basin. Furthermore, some countries whose forest plantations are managed for multiple purposes could not differentiate between predominantly productive or protective functions.

In 2005, productive forest plantations represented about 1.09 million km2, which corresponds to 2.8% of the global forest area. The ten countries with the greatest area of productive forest plantations account for 73% of the total global area of productive forest plantations. China, the United States, and the Russian Federation together account for more than half the world’s productive plantations. Areas with the least area of productive forest plantations are Africa , the Caribbean, Central America and Western and Central Asia.

All subregions except Northern Africa show an increase in productive forest plantations, and productive forest plantations accounted for 1.9% of total global forest area in 1990, 2.4% in 2000, and 2.8% in 2005. However, the annual increase varied considerably from region to region. China, the Russian Federation and the United States, together account for 71% of the global annual increase in productive forest plantations. More...

6.2 How much wood is available for commercial exploitation?

Growing stock is a measure of the volume of stemwood in a given area of forest or wooded land, usually measured in solid cubic metres (m3). Forest growing stock has traditionally been a key indicator of wood production and is used as a basis for estimating biomass and carbon stocks in most countries.

Total global growing stock is estimated at 434 billion m3, of which about 30% is found in South America. The five countries with the greatest total growing stock account for almost 60% of the global total. Brazil alone accounts for 19% of the total.

Growing stock per hectare of forest area is a good indicator of how well stocked forests are. The global average for growing stock is 110 m3 per hectare (11 000 m3 per km2) and has not changed significantly over the last 15 years.

Commercial growing stock includes only species that are sold or could potentially be sold on domestic and international markets. Global commercial growing stock amounts to some 202 billion m3 , which represents nearly half of the total growing stock. Europe (including Russian Federation) and North and Central America account for about 64% of global commercial growing stock. Tropical forests are very rich in species of which only a few are considered commercial, and harvesting is usually carried out through selective logging, while temperate forests are dominated by a smaller number of species of which many are commercial.

Globally there has been a slight decrease in total growing stock between 1990 and 2005. Commercial growing stock has decreased slightly at a global level mainly due to a decrease in Europe while other regions show only small changes.

Although many countries provide information on growing stock, the quality of the information is variable. A few countries which regularly carry out national forest assessments have very reliable information, but many countries do not have good inventories. In many cases, a single estimate of growing stock per hectare has been used for all reporting years. Furthermore, the original data on which the estimates are based are often old and not representative of all forests in the country. Comparisons between individual countries become more difficult since definitions of growing stock may vary. More...

Table comparing forest area and growing stock

Table on commercial growing stock

6.3 How much wood is harvested?

The volume of wood removed for production of goods and services (industrial roundwood) and for energy production (fuelwood) provides an indication of the economic and social usefulness of forest resources. This information also helps monitor forest use by comparing actual wood removal with sustainable limits.

Wood removals are influenced by a number of factors:

  • organizational issues, such as legal constraints, ownership of forest, and availability of forest management plans;
  • harvesting systems and practices;
  • country specific institutional framework conditions in terms of timber extraction fees, forest law compliance, subsidies and incentives, and concession agreements;
  • governance issues and the ability to detect and prevent illegal logging.

In 2005, global forest wood removals amounted to just over 3 billion m3, of which about 60% were industrial roundwood and 40% fuelwood. An additional 7 million m3 of fuelwood were harvested from other wooded land. In Africa, the Caribbean, Central America and South & Southeast Asia, wood removals are mainly fuelwood for cooking and heating. However, in Central and North America, East Asia, Europe and Oceania, wood removals are mainly industrial roundwood.

Global wood removals remained relatively stable, without significant changes over the last 15 years. So did the proportion between industrial roundwood and fuelwood (60 and 40% respectively). Eastern and Southern African countries reported steadily increasing wood removals: from 153 million m3 in 1990 to 185 million m3 in 2005. Northern, Western and Central Africa also show a steady increase in the amount of wood harvested.

East Asia reported a decline in wood removals, mainly as a result of a logging ban in China. Decreases were also reported in India, Indonesia and Malaysia in the South and Southeast Asia region. Some European countries show a slight decrease, mainly due to reduced removals of fuelwood in certain countries.

Globally, quantitative data on wood removals, especially fuelwood, are often based on population figures and consumption estimates, and are weak for this reason. Also, countries usually do not report illegal removals or informal fuelwood gathering, which would make the figures higher. More...

Table on trends in commercial growing stocks

6.4 What other products can be obtained from forests?

Non-wood products provided by forests include food – such as berries, mushrooms, edible plants, game and bushmeat – fodder, and medicinal plants. These products perform a crucial role in meeting the subsistence needs of a large part of the world’s population living in or near forests and providing them with income-generating opportunities. Non-wood forest products are collected for local household use or trade, though some find export markets.

Understanding their potential contribution to sustainable rural development, reducing poverty and food security, requires good statistical data. Problems linked to sporadic and unreliable data are compounded by the lack of a uniform classification system and limited institutional resources. Even where national statistics exist, all removals are not always recorded, so the figures reported are in many cases considered underestimates. Asia and Europe show the greatest availability of information. In fact, Asia has traditionally used non-wood forest products and often includes them in official national accounts and international trade statistics, which is not generally the case in other regions. Asia accounts for the largest removals of non-wood forest products.

With a share of 74%, China reports by far the world’s largest removals of forest plant products for food, consisting mainly of oil seeds, nuts and bamboo shoots. Other countries with significant removal volumes for food are India, the Republic of Korea, and Pakistan in Asia; the Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, and Sweden in Europe; and Brazil in South America. China also accounts for 72% of removals in the category of exudates, such as tannin extract and raw lacquer. India accounts for half of reported removals of plant raw materials for medicinal and aromatic uses. India also has a 42% share of total removals of other plant products, such as tendu leaves and lac, followed by Brazil and Mexico. Fodder removals were reported by only 16 countries, which however reported very large quantities, showing that this is a very important product category. Ornamental plants like Christmas trees were reported in large quantities in European countries. More...

Table on removals of non-wood forest products


FacebookTwitterEmailDownload (62 pages, 1.0 MB)
Themes coveredLeaflets

Media