Environmental Implications of Wood Production in Intensively Managed Plantations


  • Jim L. Bowyer


Environment, environmental impacts, tree plantations, forest plantations, wood, carbon sequestration, plantation productivity, wood consumption


Although many of the issues raised about forest plantations are non-trivial, there are a number of significant environmental advantages of plantation establishment that appear to outweigh concerns, if plantation management practices can be developed to address concerns regarding sustainability. Foremost among the advantages is that establishment of highly productive forest plantations can provide large quantities of wood and fiber from relatively small land areas, raising the possibility that pressures for harvesting within natural forests can be markedly reduced. Moreover, assuming that forest plantations are carefully established and managed, they have the potential to produce a continuous, renewable stream of industrial raw materials that results in less overall environmental impact than other types of raw materials. Assessment of total environmental impacts over product life cycles shows that structural and nonstructural wood and wood fiber products made from plantation-derived raw material yield markedly lower impacts than similar products made from metallic, cementitious, petroleumbased, or other raw materials. Similarly, examination of total environmental impacts of papermaking fiber production in forest plantations versus fiber production using annual agricultural crops shows significant advantages to wood fiber. Thus, forest plantations can yield environmental benefits that extend well beyond the geographic location in which they are located.


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