Because of the lack of aggregate national forest plantation inventories for most countries, it is very difficult to compile detailed information about forest plantation age-classes at a global or even regional level. Consequently, FAO has not published a comprehensive age-class analysis since the 1980 Tropical Forest Resource Assessment. However, a large amount of uncoordinated information about the age of forest plantations exists in various forms across countries and regions. This information is very variable in terms of its reliability and how recently it has been produced.
Two of the main purposes of this paper are to address this information gap by collecting and collating whatever plantation age-class data is available and to utilise this information to produce a forecast of potential production from forest plantations. It should be emphasised that the age-class structures presented here have been developed using a significant amount of data manipulation. The intention of this work has been to produce estimated age-class structures that are broadly representative of the "shape" of the age-class distribution in countries. The methodologies used to collect and analyse all of this information are described in Appendix 1 and Appendix 2.
Industrial forest plantations are defined as plantations with the primary purpose of supplying industrial roundwood for the production of sawnwood, wood based panels and wood pulp. Assuming that all of the forest plantations in Europe and countries of the former USSR are industrial forest plantations,15 the estimated global area of industrial forest plantations in 1995 would be 103.3 million hectares or 84 percent of the total forest plantation area.
Figure 5 shows the estimated industrial forest plantation age-class structure by geographical region in 1995. This figure demonstrates two dominant features of the distribution of industrial forest plantations that are worth noting.
Firstly, the figure shows the substantial area of forest plantations in Asia compared with the other regions. The dominance of Asia in the global picture is particularly noticeable in the area of forest plantations established in the past decade. Forest plantations in Asia comprise 40 percent of the global total shown in Figure 5 and just under 60 percent of the forest plantations established since 1985.
The second conspicuous feature of Figure 5 is the very high proportion of industrial forest plantations under 15 years old, particularly in developing countries. Overall, 54 percent of industrial forest plantations are less than 15 years old, with 21 percent planted between 1990 and 1995. Conversely, only 2 percent of industrial forest plantations are estimated to be more than 50 years old, with a further 16 percent between 30 and 50 years old. This feature is largely the result of increased new planting in recent years, but also reflects the harvesting of mature plantations in the older age-classes and a general shortening of rotation lengths in many countries. A significant factor in the temperate and boreal zone is also likely to be the reclassification of industrial forest plantations as semi-natural forests under the definitions used in FRA 2000. Nonetheless, the area of industrial forest plantations over 50 years old is almost exclusively in temperate and boreal zone. Countries with significant areas of industrial forest plantations established before 1946 include: the Russian Federation; Ukraine; France; Portugal; Denmark; Ireland; and South Africa.
Non-industrial forest plantations include forest plantations established to produce wood for fuel, plus forest plantations established for reasons other than wood production. Such reasons include: soil and water protection; recreational purposes; and the production of non-wood forest products (e.g. plantations of Acacia senegal, which are used to produce gum arabic). The classification used in this analysis excludes plantations of agricultural tree crops, fruit orchards and "non-forest species", such as oil palm, rubberwood and coconut.16
Almost all non-industrial forest plantations are likely to be cut at some point, regardless of their original main purpose. The roundwood from such areas may be utilised for wood fuel or for industrial purposes. In some instances, forest plantations that were originally planted to produce wood for fuel are now being used to produce industrial roundwood. One such case is the Republic of Korea where, in the 1960s, more than a million hectares of forest plantations were established to supply wood for fuel. Today, however, wood fuel consumption in Republic of Korea is relatively low and these forest plantations are mainly being used for the production of pulpwood.
Following the assumption that all forest plantations in Europe and countries of the former USSR are industrial forest plantations, the total area of non-industrial forest plantations in the other five geographical regions completes the global picture of the forest plantation resource. The total estimated area of non-industrial forest plantations in 1995 is 20.4 million hectares, accounting for 16.6 percent of the total forest plantation area.
Figure 6 shows the estimated non-industrial forest plantation age-class structure by geographical region in 1995. The main features of the distribution of non-industrial forest plantations are the same as those described for industrial plantations above (see: Figure 5). That is, the preponderance of non-industrial forest plantations in Asia and the high proportion of non-industrial forest plantations that are less than 15 years old. However, in the case of non-industrial forest plantations, these features are even more pronounced.
Non-industrial forest plantations in Asia account for 74 percent of the total global area of non-industrial forest plantations. South America and Africa account for the majority of the remainder, with a 14 percent and 10 percent share of the global total respectively. The proportion of non-industrial forest plantations that are less than 15 years is just under 84 percent of the total.
There is greater uncertainty about the age-structure of non-industrial forest plantations given above, compared with the estimates given earlier for industrial forest plantations. Practices such as coppicing and the production of roundwood on a continuous thinning cycle make it difficult to estimate restocking from harvesting figures and may lead to inaccuracies in the estimation of age-classes. Such practices are probably more common in forest plantations grown for wood fuel and for non-productive reasons, than in industrial forest plantations. Therefore, these figures must be treated with a certain amount of caution.
Asia has by far the largest industrial forest plantation resource in the world. However, the bulk of the resource is concentrated in a handful of countries. The three countries with the largest industrial forest plantation resources - China, India and Japan - account for 77 percent of the total area of industrial forest plantations in the region.
It is also interesting to note that the composition of forest plantations in each of these three countries is very different. For example, Japan places a great deal of emphasis on the protection functions of forests (one-third of the forest area in Japan is classified as protection forest). However, this does not generally exclude the production of roundwood in Japan, so all of the forest plantation area in Japan has been classified as industrial forest plantation in this analysis. In contrast, two-thirds of the total forest plantation area in India has been planted for reasons other than industrial roundwood production (mostly for wood fuel production) and this area has been classified as non-industrial forest plantation in this study.
Figure 5 showed that the majority of the area of industrial forest plantations in Asia is less than 15 years old. This is largely accounted for by a very rapid acceleration in industrial forest plantation establishment in China in recent years and due to the short rotations generally used there. At the other end of the scale, industrial forest plantations in Japan account for most of the areas in the older age-classes (see Figure 7).
In Japan, around 45 percent of the total forest area (just over 1 million hectares) is classified as forest plantation and almost all of this area was planted in the period of post-war reconstruction. The main species in these forest plantations are Sugi (Cryptomeria japonica), Hinoki (Chamaecyparis obtusa), pine and Japanese larch (Larix leptolepis). A significant proportion of this forest plantation area is mature or close to maturity (e.g., 54 percent of the area is over 30 years old). However, as Ishihara (1998) notes:
(In Japan)... during the last three decades, the price of wood has been unable to keep pace with the costs of forestry activities. For example, in the past 15 years, plantation costs have more than doubled while stumpage prices for typical Japanese coniferous "Sugi" declined by almost half....At the current level of wood prices, it is estimated that 35.4% of private forests (6.1 million ha.) and 53.7% of national forests (4.2 million ha.) can be profitably harvested.
Ishihara suggests that a rapid increase in roundwood production from these mature forest plantations in Japan is highly unlikely given current levels of costs and prices. If the area of mature forest plantations in Japan were removed from Figure 7, then the figure would show that almost all of the remaining industrial forest plantation area in Asia has been planted since 1980.
The establishment of forest plantations in China has accelerated rapidly since 1980 in response to a Central Committee Directive on Vigorously Carrying Out Tree-Planting and Afforestation. Almost all of the area of industrial forest plantations in China has been planted since this Directive was issued. For example, Shi et al (1998) note that:
between 1988 and 1992, 16.17 million hectares of timber plantations were established, of which 2.5 million hectares were fast growing and high yield timber plantations.
More than 80 percent of the forest plantation area in China is planted with species that can be used by industry. Cunninghamia lanceolata is the predominant species, along with a variety of pine species.
India, the country with the second largest area of forest plantations in the Asia region, has very different objectives for the establishment of forest plantations. More than two-thirds of the forest plantation area in India is classified as non-industrial forest plantation and much of this area has been planted for the production of wood fuel. Not surprisingly, fast growing hardwoods, in particular Acacia and Eucalyptus species, dominate forest plantations in India. Teak (Tectona grandis) is the most important species planted in industrial forest plantations in India, covering a total area of around 1 million hectares.
As in India, a high proportion of forest plantations in Pakistan and Bangladesh has been designated for wood fuel production. Pakistan is also similar to India in that a high proportion of forest plantations have been planted with Acacia and Eucalyptus species, but a significant proportion of the forest plantation area has also been planted with Dalbergia sissoo. Forest plantations in Bangladesh are dominated by species that grow in mangroves, but Bangladesh also has around 70,000 hectares of Teak in forest plantations.
Other Asian countries with over one million hectares of forest plantations include: Indonesia; Democratic People's Republic of Korea; Republic of Korea; Turkey; and Vietnam.
Indonesia has around 3 million hectares of forest plantations, most of which are industrial forest plantations. A considerable range of species has been planted in Indonesia, the most common of which are: Tectona grandis; Acacia mangium; and Pinus merkusii.
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea has established 2.2 million hectares of forest plantations, with Larix leptolepis and Pinus koriaensis accounting for around 60 percent of the resource. The Republic of Korea has planted slightly more than 2 million hectares with Larix leptolepis and Pinus koriaensis also dominating the resource, although a considerable area has also been planted with populus species.
The forest plantation resource in Turkey amounts to 1.9 million hectares, comprised mainly of pine species. The most significant species planted in Turkey are Calabrian pine (Pinus brutia) and Stone pine (Pinus pinea).
Vietnam has established 1.05 million hectares of forest plantations containing a variety of species, of which Pinus and Eucalyptus species are the most common.
15 A few countries in Europe (e.g. United Kingdom; Netherlands; and Denmark) have established forest plantations for use as community forests. However, these areas are relatively small. It is also likely that even these areas will probably eventually be felled and are unlikely to be used much for fuelwood. This is, therefore, a reasonable assumption to make.
16 A separate thematic study in the Global Forest Products Outlook Study will specifically examine trends for these and other non-forest species and trees outside of forests.