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Trends in forest management and utilization

Status and trends in forest management
Evolving patterns of harvesting, processing and marketing

Status and trends in forest management

Forest management encompasses the administrative, economic, legal, social and technical measures involved in the conservation and use of natural forests and forest plantations. It involves various degrees of human intervention to safeguard the forest ecosystem, its functions and its resources for the sustained production of goods and the provision of environmental services.

While the objectives of management vary widely and include the protection of resources in protected forests and nature reserves, the primary objective has often been the production of wood products. A basic tenet of forest management with emphasis on wood production is 'sustained yield', or harvesting the wood increment without drawing down on the forest capital.

Although sustained yield forestry continues to be widely practised, there is an increasing trend towards the management of forests as ecological systems with multiple economic benefits and environmental values, and with broad public participation in the decision-making process. This concept is generally termed 'sustainable forest management'. It aims to ensure that the benefits - both material and intangible - derived from the forest meet present needs, while at the same time ensuring their continued availability and contribution to long-term social and economic development. General acceptance of, and political commitment to, the principles of sustainable forest management have continued to grow, reinforced by the increased focus on forestry since UNCED. Chapter 11 ('Combating Deforestation') of UNCED's Agenda 21 and the 'Forest Principles' emphasized strongly the need to reconcile the productive functions of forests with their protective, environmental and social functions. Substantial effort has been made over the last two years to develop common criteria at national, regional and eco-regional levels by which sustainable forest management can be defined, and to specify indicators that can be used to monitor and evaluate it. These activities are described more fully in Part 3. The trend towards sustainable forest management is bringing considerable change in how forests are perceived and used. Forest management for production of non-wood forest products (NWFPs) is receiving more attention. Protective functions of forests are being given more emphasis, resulting in modified management practices. The needs of local, forest-dependent people are being given greater weight. The strict distinctions formerly drawn between production forests, protection forests and (nature) conservation areas have become more blurred today. For example: many rural development and conservation projects are focusing on increasing production of wood and non-wood forest products in 'buffer zones' as a means of taking pressure off conservation areas; the maintenance of protective functions is being given greater attention in production forests; and the role of forests outside protected areas in the conservation of biological diversity is being studied more intently.

Trends in forest management for productive purposes Not only is the long-standing basic principle of sustained yield not uniformly practised throughout the world (in some places it is notably lacking), but the means of applying the newer, broader concept of sustainability in forest management are still being developed in most countries.

The Forest Resources Assessment 1980 attempted to estimate the proportion of tropical forests under intensive forest management, defined as 'strict and controlled harvesting regulations, coupled with silvicultural treatments and protection against fires and diseases' and applying the concept of the 'annual allowable cut' (i.e., sustained yield) in harvesting. At that time it was estimated that less than five percent of tropical forests met this traditional definition of sustainable forest management. No attempt was made to quantify areas of managed forests in the temperate and boreal forests of developed countries and, although most were reported to be under management plans, the scope and intensity of management varied widely between countries. The Global Synthesis for the 1990 Forest Resources Assessment found that there had been an all-round improvement in forest management in developed countries, but that the total area under management in developing countries had declined, for although working plans existed for the forests, the prescriptions were often not implemented.

Several technical and policy issues related to management of production forests have been the subject of considerable scrutiny and, in some cases, heated public debate in many countries. The list includes: granting of harvesting concessions and concession terms; timber sales on public lands; clear-cutting and harvesting methods; salvage harvesting; and use of exotic vs. indigenous species. Development of sustainable management systems for production of many economically-promising non-wood forest products is still in its infancy (see 'Non-wood forest products' on page 58). While coverage of all these issues is not possible here, some technical and institutional issues and trends in forest management for production and conservation purposes are presented in Boxes 1, 2 and 3 below.

New institutional arrangements and issues for forest management

Trends in forest policies and institutional arrangements are having direct impacts on forest management. (See Part 2 for a discussion of these policy, planning and institutional changes.) Following the general trend towards decentralization, government forestry administrations in many countries, developed and developing, are making efforts to decentralize control over forest resource management. This involves the gradual devolution of responsibility within the line agencies, from the central to the provincial or district level. Local officers are being given greater decision-making authority on local management issues. This implies changes in management practices to those which have a closer relation to local conditions. A second significant trend is in privatization, either of land or of forestry operations. This trend has obvious implications for forest management in terms of an increased profit motive driving management decisions and, in the case of leases and concessions, the need for government to monitor operations to ensure that agreed conditions related to management are met. A third trend is that of ensuring greater participation by a wide range of interest groups in the planning process. This requires that forest departments develop the institutional capacity and the capability to work with various groups (implying far more effort than in the past in communication, extension and mediation) and are able to modify management plans and practices effectively to meet the agreed objectives. Finally, there is a trend towards encouraging greater involvement of local communities in the management of forest resources. It is on this last point, and in particular the changes occurring in developing countries, that the following discussion focuses.

Box 1
Forest concessions: an emerging issue in Latin America

An increasing number of Latin American countries are considering the granting of extensive areas of forest concessions. Suriname considered granting 4.5 million ha in 1994, while in Guyana, one company has been granted a concession equivalent in size to half of Switzerland. Venezuela has granted nearly 3 million ha in forest concessions in the State of Bolivar, and is considering increasing the area to 12 million ha, and perhaps also opening up some Amazonian areas to forest harvesting. International companies interested in expanding their operations are actively seeking harvesting rights in Bolivia and Peru. Since 1995,

Belize has granted 17 long-term concessions covering 224 600 ha. Concessions have been a subject of controversy over recent years between governments and conservation groups. The increase in the number of concessions granted is a result of pressure for economic growth and of the economic globalization of companies with capital and know-how in forestry. Increasingly, some environmental groups and local organizations are concerned that the granting of forest concessions over large areas may result in forest degradation or deforestation and serious negative impacts on indigenous people.

Box 2
Reduced-impact logging in tropical moist forests: new impetus for adoption of known techniques

Harvesting is one of the most important of all management interventions, not only in meeting production objectives but also in shaping the composition of the future forest. Some harvesting techniques and operations (e.g., skidding, loading and reading) have, however, been destructive to the vegetation, to soil and, through erosion, to water bodies. Harvesting to extract even a small number of trees per hectare, if done carelessly, can damage not only the trees harvested, but a large proportion of the remaining trees. Given that the production of high-value veneer timbers is increasingly becoming a major production objective of managed tropical moist forest, improved logging to reduce damage to harvested trees and trees to be harvested at a later stage is important economically. The essential components of reduced-impact logging (RIL) to minimize these harmful effects have been known for many years. They include cutting of climbers well in advance of felling, stock mapping to plan road networks, limiting gradients for roads, directional felling, the establishment of stream buffer zones, careful skidding and reduced areas of log landings (see 'Evolving patterns of harvesting, processing and marketing' on page 28). The benefits include a reduction in damage to the logs in felling and to remaining trees, a shorter period before the next felling, better recovery of logged trees through easier location, and reduced soil erosion. The costs include a much greater need for supervision, provision of a substantial training programme for staff and operators at all levels, more pre-felling activities and reduced outturn (both in terms of lower volume per unit of time and per unit of forest area). The costs and the benefits are not easily quantified, even in financial terms. Preliminary estimates suggest that the direct additional costs compared with traditional logging are relatively low, but that the needs for capital investment in equipment and training to implement RIL may still be a disincentive to adoption.1 Increased environmental pressures and rising prices for tropical hardwoods over the long term could well provide impetus for increased adoption.

1 Moura-Costa, P, and Tay, J. 1996. Reduced-impact logging project in Sabah, Malaysia. Paper to the International Workshop on Integrated Application of Sustainable Forest Management Practices. Kochi, Japan, 22-25 November 1996.

Participatory management of forest resources is not only seen as a means to encourage sustainable forest management, but is also a pragmatic response to the constraints imposed on forest departments by their shrinking financial and human resources. The development of participatory management systems, in which local communities play an important role in the day-to-day management and protection of forest resources, has been rapid in many developing countries, resulting in a wide variety of management arrangements fashioned as appropriate to local conditions. These include: joint forest management; community forestry programmes; integrated conservation and development programmes used mainly in conjunction with nature conservation efforts; and village land management (referred to as 'amenagement des terroirs' in French), which is developing rapidly in West Africa (see the Africa regional highlights in Part 4).

Joint forest management (JFM), a collaborative management approach that has been adopted in a number of states in India and in some Southeast Asian countries, has had some major successes. It is based on the principle that local communities become directly involved in the management of public forests and, in doing so, benefit directly from the use of the forests. In Nepal, the approach of the National Community Forestry Programme has been to negotiate a forest management agreement between the forest department and user groups (groups of people with a direct interest in the use of a particular forest and which claim user rights). The user groups are involved in the development of the operational plan and there is a high level of local control, although the ultimate authority remains with the District Forestry Officer. In both cases, there is a trend towards ever-increasing local control.

Box 3
Clear-cutting: a continuing controversy

Clear-cutting, or the felling of all trees over a considerable area at one time, is done for various reasons related to the economics of harvesting and features of forest regeneration. Clear-cuts, particularly those carried out over very large areas, have aroused strong opposition from environmental groups, notably in relation to harvesting in the northwest USA and British Columbia but also in the Nordic countries, not only because of their environmental effects - including impacts on the soil, increased soil erosion and effects on wildlife habitat - but also for their visual and amenity impact which may last for a considerable length of time after regeneration. Continued public attention and pressure have encouraged major policy shifts and changes in management prescriptions over the last few years. In some countries, e.g., Canada, there has been a move away from large felling areas towards smaller areas that are adapted more sensitively to the land form. Within these smaller areas, there is a greater attempt to retain advance growth, understorey species and even dead and dying trees. In the United States, it is the policy of the Forest Service to phase out clear-cutting as a standard practice on US national forests, and to use it only in exceptional circumstances. The debate on clear-cutting has outlined the complexities of the issues, not only of the difficulties and dangers of making comparisons where the size of area defining a clear-cut differs between countries, but also of the impossibility of giving a clear positive or negative answer to a generalized question of whether clear-cuts should be permitted; the answer will depend on local silvicultural, ecological, economic and aesthetic considerations.

Other arrangements being tried include: long-term leasing of forest land to communities and individuals, who gain full right to the products of the lands in exchange for applying sound management practices; participatory management of some specific part of a resource, such as game for eco-tourism in the case of some East and southern African countries; and the handing over of full rights to forest areas considered to belong, both historically and traditionally, to a particular indigenous or aboriginal population.

Recently, with the increase of free market economics and the move towards privatization, some attempts are being made to test the 'western' model, present in much of Europe, of small-scale private ownership of forest plots which are managed cooperatively, usually under government agency supervision of some sort. This appears to be the likely direction for the development of locally-based forest and tree management in the medium-term future, as more tenure regimes adopt legal structures based on the recognition of individual private property.

A number of issues have been identified in the course of implementing these programmes. Many are technical, but the most challenging by far are of a legal, administrative or socio-economic nature. These include the need to resolve contradictions between customary (i.e., traditional) and statutory laws and regulations governing land ownership and usufruct practices; to ensure sustainable management of what was previously considered common property in the face of increasing market demand; to resolve competing claims between different ministries; to develop conflict management mechanisms to address competing claims on resources; to adapt existing institutional mechanisms or develop new ones appropriate to the new conditions. In addition, gender continues to be a major issue in forest management. There is growing sensitivity to the need to involve women in decisions related to forest and resource management, and to address their specific needs relative to forests, as they are often those most negatively affected by reduced access to forest resources.

Trends in management for the conservation of forest ecosystems

In 1993, the total coverage of protected areas included in Categories I-V of the IUCN's classification system (see Annex 2 for definitions) was estimated at 306 million ha in developed countries and at 486 million ha in developing countries.2 This constituted some 6 percent of the world's total land area. Available global data do not, however, allow an estimate of the amount of forest land included in these protected areas in most regions of the world. This is available only for Europe, where it was estimated that the area of forests and other wooded lands included in the protected areas and nature reserves of 15 countries constituted some three percent of the total forest area. In the developing countries, almost half of the area under protection was found in Latin America (48 percent), some 29 percent and some 23 percent being located in Africa and Asia, respectively.

2 FAO, 1995, FRA 1990. Global synthesis. FAO, Rome. Reference is to a study carried out for FAO by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Information on protected areas by geographical region should be viewed in parallel with data on losses of forests by ecological zone. In this regard, mean annual deforestation during the period 1980 to 1990 amounted to 1.1 percent in tropical upland formations, 1 percent in moist deciduous forests, 0.9 percent in dry and very dry zone forests, and 0.6 percent in tropical rainforests. Furthermore, there were significant differences in the losses of various forest types and forest formations. Among those under greatest threat were the tropical coniferous forests (of which three-quarters were found in tropical America) and mangrove ecosystems (found in all tropical regions).

Criteria for selection of parks and protected areas vary widely. Many have been established primarily for recreation and tourism and have limited significance in terms of conservation of biological diversity. In addition, pressure on land for other purposes has forced the selection of conservation areas to be made on pragmatic rather than scientific grounds. Many important forest ecosystems are either unrepresented or under-represented and management of many protected areas is weak, reinforcing the need to complement conservation in parks and protected areas with increased effort to address conservation outside protected areas.

Increased public awareness and revision of policies favouring conservation have resulted in the expansion of the size of protected area systems in many countries. At the same time, countries have undertaken to reform legislation related to parks and protected areas. There have also been continued efforts to strengthen the capacity of protected area managers through education and training programmes. Far more, however, is needed to be done in all of these areas.

One of the areas receiving considerable attention is the relationship between development needs and conservation objectives. New management modalities have been developed to ensure that conservation in protected areas is effective, particularly in developing countries where basic survival needs of the rural poor are putting intense pressure on forest lands and could undermine conservation efforts. A similar approach to that governing participatory forest management is used in many current conservation programmes; greater emphasis is being placed on taking local people's needs into consideration and, in many places, involving them in planning and management itself. This has given rise to a number of management arrangements, including buffer zone management and integrated conservation development projects (ICDPs). The ICDP approach encourages sustainable resource management by providing incentives to local people to manage their resources effectively. While the rights for timber production are often not given to the community members, the utilization of other resources, especially for subsistence, is usually allowed.

Many international NGOs, such as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN - also known as the World Conservation Union) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), have been actively involved in developing the ICDP concept and supporting activities on the ground. The foundation for this approach is based upon the principle that local involvement in management decisions will lead to improved natural resource management. The Asian Development Bank and the World Bank are also adopting the ICDP approach for protected area projects. Although implementation of these projects is not problem-free, this approach is expected to continue to gain momentum.

Evolving patterns of harvesting, processing and marketing

Just as forest management is evolving in response to changes both within and outside the forestry sector, harvesting and post-harvest activities are adapting to new conditions. These activities are responding to: The impacts and demands of environmental concerns; changing quantity, quality and sources of raw materials; economic pressures; technological developments; and changing market conditions which have both caused, and been caused by, changes in marketing approaches and marketing structures.

Changing patterns of forest harvesting The major worldwide trend in forest harvesting over the past 30 years has been increased mechanization. While maximizing economic efficiency continues to drive changes in forest harvesting, more recently it has been linked with efforts to minimize negative environmental impacts. Many improvements in tree-felling operations, extraction systems and forest road construction have come about as a result of efforts to minimize the negative environmental impacts. Evidence from studies done in various countries suggests that environmentally-sound forest harvesting practices may be only marginally more expensive than traditional methods. There are, however, clear economic and ecological benefits arising from the reduced damage of both felled and residual trees, smaller areas needed for roads, skidtrails, and loading areas, and reduced wood waste.

Box 4
FAO Model Code of Forest Harvesting Practice

The FAO Model Code, published in 1996, is intended primarily to serve as a reference for countries considering adoption or revision of their own codes of practice. Its overall purpose is to promote harvesting practices which will improve standards of utilization, reduce negative environmental impact, and help ensure that forests are sustained for future generations. The Code is to assist those dealing with forest operations involving road engineering, felling, extraction, landing and transport operations.

The Model Code identifies four ingredients of forest harvesting operations essential to sustainable forest management. These are:

· comprehensive harvest planning;

· effective implementation and control of harvesting operations;

· thorough post-harvest assessment and communication of results to the planning team and to the harvesting personnel; and

· a competent and properly-motivated workforce.

The Model Code can serve to draw attention to policy-makers that forest utilization techniques and systems do exist to manage forests sustainably. It can also be used as a source of information to apply environmentally-sound forest practices supporting sustainable forest management, as well as providing guidance in training, education and extension.

There has already been wide interest in the Code, from forest companies, forest administrations and non-governmental organizations. For example:

· in June 1996, a draft code of practice for forest operations was prepared in Guyana based on the FAO Model Code;

· the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission recommended that FAO establish an ad hoc working group to strengthen the Commission's work in developing environmentally-sound harvesting techniques, possibly leading to the development of a regional code; and

· case studies sponsored by private enterprises have been undertaken in Brazil, Congo, Indonesia and Peru to test some of the applications suggested in the Code.

Environmentally-acceptable harvesting and forest engineering operations are gradually being adopted by forest owners and contractors particularly, but not only, in the developed world. Various 'Codes of Practice' for forestry harvesting have been developed for use at the international, regional and national levels to improve harvesting practices following concepts of low-impact harvesting. Examples include: the recently-developed FAO Model Code of Forest Harvesting Practices which provides general guidelines for adoption by countries worldwide (see Box 4); a regional code of practice for the Asia-Pacific region which is currently being developed; and a code for the South Pacific which has provided a basis for national codes which have been developed in the subregion (e.g., Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu).

Areas where progress has been made in reducing the negative impacts of forest harvesting operations and engineering include the following: reduction in the waste of wood residues; improvements in tree felling operations; low impact wood extraction systems; and improved forest road construction.

Reduction in the waste of wood residues

A recent study suggests that, of all the wood felled annually for timber in tropical forests, about half remains in the forest as unused wood residues.3 While leaving a certain amount of residues in the forest is environmentally beneficial, improved utilization would result in less timber felled for the same volume of industrial roundwood produced, thus allowing for harvesting on a smaller forest area.

3 Dykstra, D.R 1992. Wood residues from timber harvesting and primary processing: A global assessment for tropical forests. Manuscript to be published as an FAO Forestry Paper. FAO, Rome.

Improvements in tree-felling operations

Properly conducted cutting operations can help minimize damage to residual trees and maximize volume and value of logs harvested. Cutting of climbers and vines before tree felling, and directional felling, are now used in some tropical forests to reduce damage to trees. Recent studies indicate that improved felling operations can result in increases in wood volume recuperated of up to 30 percent, and that damage to the residual forest stand can be reduced by more than 20 percent.

Low impact wood extraction systems There has been considerable development of wood extraction systems and machines. Transport of timber from the felling site to the landing or road may be done with ground-based systems (i.e., manual, animal, ground skidding), harvester/forwarder systems, cable harvesting systems or aerial systems (i.e., helicopters and lighter-than-air balloons).

Although manual and animal wood extraction systems are less common than in the past, they are still used in some countries (e.g., oxen logging in Costa Rica, Malawi and Tanzania; and elephant logging in India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand), and fill an important niche in environmentally-sensitive harvesting. Ground skidding, the most commonly used extraction system, can cause major soil disturbance and compaction if not properly planned and executed. Recent developments include: the use of improved ground-based machinery, such as low ground-pressure skidders and tractors; portable bridges; and improvements in planning and designing skid trails to minimize soil disturbance.

The use of harvester/forwarder systems has increased rapidly in recent years in industrialized countries, particularly in northern and central Europe, due to their economic, ergonomic and ecological advantages over motor/manual (i.e., saw/skidding) harvesting. Their use is expected to continue to increase, as they are suited for medium- and smaller-sized timber which will become proportionally more important in forest production in the future.

Cable harvesting systems are most commonly used in mountainous regions of industrialized countries. Although not widely used in developing countries, efforts have recently been made to introduce them into tropical forests. They can significantly reduce environmental damage and be an ideal complement to a low density road network.

Helicopters are used in special circumstances for harvesting in forests which, due to environmental constraints or the remoteness of the area, do not have forest roads and skid trails. They have also been used effectively in salvage operations after typhoons or hurricanes. A few lighter-than-air balloon systems have been tested and research continues, but they have not yet proven to be viable. They have, however, the potential of being both very environmentally-friendly and much more cost-effective than helicopters.

Forest roads

Continued improvements have been made in methods for planning, construction and maintenance of forest roads. It has been found that good road and skid trail planning can reduce considerably the area disturbed by construction and also lower costs for timber extraction and transportation. Recent improvements in forest road construction technology include the use of excavators, proper drainage facilities and modern blasting methods in hilly and steep terrain. Although the know-how exists to carry out appropriate forest road development, adoption continues to be slow, particularly in many developing countries, due to the costs involved in implementing many of them.

The building of forest roads may have environmental impacts well beyond those caused by the construction process itself; in some areas of developing countries, it has acted as a precursor of deforestation. Constructing roads in remote forest areas, which are otherwise poorly accessible, may facilitate spontaneous colonisation by land-poor farmers and lead to the conversion of forests to agricultural land. This phenomenon has been well documented, particularly in parts of the Amazon basin and Oceania. The influx of colonizers into previously isolated areas may also have significant socio-economic impacts, such as negative effects on forest dwellers, who in many places are indigenous peoples.

Changing processing technology and product development

The primary forest products industry is a dynamic sector which has responded to a range of changing conditions involving environmental, economic and market concerns, and changes in technology as well as the location and changing characteristics of its raw material. The industry has made significant advances in the past few years in developing more environmentally-friendly processing technologies, achieving higher recovery rates, improving product quality and diversifying the use of raw materials.

Changes in the quality, quantity and source of raw materials are having major impacts on forest products processing and product development. The industry is adjusting to changes in the supply of industrial roundwood (different species, smaller size wood, often poorer quality wood) and sources of supply (less from natural forests and more from plantations, woodlots and, in some countries, agroforestry systems). Localized shortages of wood are also a driving force behind greater efficiency of raw material use. Technological advances have been made in plywood and particle board manufacture and various reconstituted products in order to accommodate smaller-size wood. An increase in the use of mobile sawmills has occurred over the last decade, making wood from plantations, woodlots and agroforestry systems more accessible. Needs to make more efficient use of the raw material have also contributed to the growth of recycled paper production. Changes in the supply, characteristics and sources of raw materials, and in the processed products themselves, have created new markets and resulted in new marketing strategies.

Adoption of major advances in forest product processing and development by the leading industries has contributed to a widening gap between the modern and the less-developed industry within countries, and between developed and developing countries.

Pulp and paper manufacturing

Changing market demand and environmental concerns have been the driving forces behind the development of new technologies in pulp and paper manufacturing. This, the largest forest industry, has achieved remarkable progress in reducing negative environmental impacts from processing. Pulping and bleaching technologies have developed rapidly over the last few years, and recovery of bleach-plant effluent, although not yet achieved, is a realistic goal. Modern technologies for pulp bleaching and the treatment of effluents have resulted in reduced volume and toxicity of effluents. Increasing use of the elemental chlorine-free (ECF) bleaching technology and, more recently, the totally chlorine free (TCF) bleaching process in paper-making, is contributing to efforts to achieve closed-cycle mill operations in which no toxic pollutants are released to the environment. By the end of 1996, ECF production was expected to account for almost 50 percent of the world's bleached chemical pulp market. An additional environmental benefit of the ECF process is that, in yielding more pulp per unit of raw material, the pressure on forest resources has been reduced, at least temporarily, in some countries.

Box 5
Gains in efficiency and diversification of raw materials

In North America and Europe - both dominant industrial roundwood regions - an increasing share of raw materials for both panel products and pulp comes from residues rather than virgin roundwood or chips. The more complete use of roundwood yields more output for less input, thus reducing demand for forest raw material. According to the recent North America Timber Trends Study (NATTS),4 in Canada the amount of roundwood required to produce 1 m3 of sawnwood or plywood fell from an average of 2.67 m3 in 1970 to 2.14 m3 in 1984 and to only 1.98 m3 now. The same study reports that, as early as 1983 in Canada, consumption of wood residues surpassed consumption of roundwood in pulp manufacture. Reduced use of forest raw materials in all regions is also influenced by environmental pressures which are forcing an increasing share of fibre for paper-making to come from recycling of recovered (i.e., waste) paper.

4 Boulter D and Darr. D. 1996. North America Timber Trends Study. Geneva Timber and Forest Study Paper No. 9. UN-ECE/FAO Timber Section, Geneva. Doc. No ECE/TIM/SP/9. United Nations.

Increased adoption of fibre recycling, which reduces the need for pulpwood, is reflected in the fibre supply mix for the manufacture of paper and paperboards. Wood pulp (i.e., fibre made from pulpwood logs or chips) used to account for more than three-quarters of raw material in 1970 but, by 1994, was only 56 percent, although in absolute terms the quantity had grown by more than one-half. Recovered paper input (i.e., used paper collected as waste for recycling) had more than trebled to nearly 100 million tonnes by 1994. The NATTS report gives the following recycling rates: Japan: near 50 percent; European Economic Community: 51 percent; United States: 33 percent (up from 25 percent in 1988). The high rates of recycling are reducing further the demand for virgin fibre from pulpwood or wood chips.

In Asia, a shortage of wood fibre in some key countries is said to explain the heavy use of non-wood fibre, mostly straw and bamboo pulp. Approximately 6 million tonnes of this was consumed in 1970, representing about 4 percent of world total furnish; by 1994 it had grown to 21 million tonnes or 8 percent of a much expanded furnish volume.

The above trends are effectively making the paper manufacturing industry less directly dependent on forests. They have reduced demand for small-dimension timber (such as silvicultural thinnings), and may in some regions be worsening forest management problems by reducing revenues from thinnings, which are often already unprofitable.

Closely allied to the above have been efforts to extend the useful life of wood-based materials. Regulations are increasingly being introduced which specify the type of material packaging can be made of, re-use and recycling targets, and systems of recovery or return that must be followed. Legislation related to the recovery and recycling of packaging waste has been introduced by national, regional and municipal governments in many western European countries, such as Germany, Austria, Belgium, France and the UK, while the European Commission is involved in efforts to harmonize national Acts in the European Union.

Japan promotes the recycling of logging residues and residues of dismantled houses, material which would otherwise be wasted. Efforts are also being made in Japan to increase the number of times sheets of plywood are used for concrete-forming before being discarded, and used concrete-forming material is being re-used in the manufacture of particle board.

Other changes have come about in response to shifts in the supply of raw material, including both the availability of new supplies and the reduction of traditional supplies. The development of new technologies to pulp mixed tropical hardwoods provides new opportunities. A reduction in supplies, and rising costs of raw materials for paper production, together with problems with solid waste disposal, have stimulated and maintained a worldwide increase in the use of recovered paper for the production of recycled paper (see Box 5).

Wood-based panels

An increase in the production of panels in recent years has been due primarily to product development and a sound marketing strategy. Improved technologies in the manufacture of OSB (oriented strand board) and MDF (medium density fibreboard) have boosted productivity and stimulated the opening of new production facilities. The world's capacity of MDF has increased from 4 million m3 in 1986 to more than 14 million m3 in 1995. OSB, traditionally a North American product, has experienced tremendous growth over the last decade. In 1981 there were 12 OSB plants producing a total of 710 000 m3 in the United States and Canada; but by 1994, the number of mills had increased to 45 and total production had jumped to 9.6 million m3. Production of OSB recently began in Europe, where it is recording rapid production volume increases. Production may also soon begin in Asia.

Some developments have come about as a result of a decrease in the quality of raw materials - especially those used for plywood production - in some cases actually resulting in improved board quality. For example, improvements in particles-spreading equipment have increased OSB's tensile strength, making it even more competitive with plywood.

The particle board and MDF industry has undergone a number of technical and technological changes in product manufacturing. The most salient innovation started more than a decade ago with the introduction of the continuous pressing process, replacing the traditional multi-daylight pressing system. This new technique has reduced processing time significantly. A number of high throughput-capacity plants have been set up in industrialized countries, leading to the closure of many small- to medium-sized particle board mills. In less industrialized countries, continuous pressing has rapidly become the standard for new plants, helping to stimulate the fast growth of this industrial sector, especially in Southeast Asian countries. This is not yet the case for OSB production which, due to certain technological limitations, is still commonly produced in multi-daylight pressing systems.

The panel industry has responded both to demands for higher quality products and to environmental pressure. For example, the industry has been able to reduce emissions generated during the drying process by installing secondary filtering equipment in the dryers. Another improvement is in the use of more environmentally-friendly binding chemicals, which have reduced emissions and, at the same time, improved product quality.

The plywood industry, although the largest wood-based panel sector in the world, has been the least dynamic. The plywood industry has, in the past, imposed strict requirements on the quality and size of the raw material it would accept, but shortages in wood supply have since forced it also to accept lower quality and smaller size logs. These changes have been successfully accompanied by technical improvements in the different manufacturing processes. For example, the so-called XY-Charger - sophisticated electronic equipment used in the peeling process for accurate centring of small-diameter logs - has been successfully introduced into large plywood mills, contributing to a higher throughput volume for veneer production and to a significant increase in the recovery rate.

Another example is the range of electronically-controlled rotary clippers, installed immediately after the lathe, which were developed to remove defects in wood efficiently and to speed processing. The first clippers of this kind were introduced in the mid 1980s. Today, they are key pieces of equipment, especially in the manufacture of softwood plywood.


The sawmilling industry is the oldest wood processing sector worldwide. It is highly diversified, ranging from mills operating with relatively simple tools and unskilled personnel, to processing plants using highly-sophisticated processing equipment. Technical developments in hardwood sawing machines over the last few years have been limited mainly to new electronic devices, such as those for scanning to determine size, quantity and quality in the different processing steps, and automatic stress grading machines.

Softwood sawing experienced an expansion almost two decades ago with the introduction of 'chippers' as the main sawing unit. Today, this technology is utilized in most countries that have large softwood resources and high processing volumes. The trend in integration of product lines into a sawing operation and in product diversification continues, following the example of mills in Scandinavian countries.

Small-scale sawmilling is an increasingly important element in industrial forest products development. An increase in the use of mobile sawmills, especially for operations in remote areas, has been evident in the last decade. Mobile operations play an important role in the utilization of wood from plantations and from trees grown outside of forest land, such as in small community and private woodlots, or in agroforestry systems.


The forest products industrial sector in most countries continues to adapt to current trends and to anticipate future developments. Recent advances in achieving higher recovery rates have, in some cases, led to a significant reduction in the amount of wood harvested from the forests. Increased consumption of forest products, demand for higher quality products, changes in the availability of raw materials, and public pressure vis-a-vis environmental aspects of forest management, production and processing, will continue to be major factors affecting technology and product development.

Changing needs and approaches to marketing

Major trends in both supply and demand of forest products are having a significant impact on marketing and marketing structures at both the industrial and community enterprise levels. Industrialized and developing countries, and countries in transition, are facing different challenges related to marketing of forest products. Industrialized countries are responding to the emergence of a range of new products (including those filling a small market niche for products from sustainably-managed forests and for speciality non-wood 'natural' forest products, and those resulting from new processing technologies), and an increasing number of products made from residues, recycled materials and plantation-grown timber. Decreasing availability of well-known, quality tropical hardwoods is directing them to high-value end uses. Marketing such wood products requires specialized information and capabilities in order to compete effectively with other materials.

Changes in the developing countries are due to more fundamental trends, both within and outside of the forestry sector, including: banning of exports of logs and a rapid move to manufacturing of value-added products in an increasing number of tropical and non-tropical countries; reduced availability of industrial wood from virgin forests with an increased supply of wood coming from plantations, woodlots and agroforestry systems; and a rapid rate of urbanization in many countries, which is changing, quite dramatically, the demand for forest products and the ways in which the products are provided to customers.

Countries in transition are facing a dramatically different marketing environment than in the past. Captive domestic markets are being replaced by competitive domestic and export markets. Parastatal organizations, previously responsible for marketing products in centrally-planned countries, have been replaced by privatized industries and their emerging marketing organizations.

All these changes have focused more attention on marketing issues, and various actions are being taken in many parts of the world to enable marketing to function more efficiently:

· marketing information systems are being invigorated or set up (e.g., the SIMSTRAT of the Fundación Chile);

· forest products marketing education and training programmes are being initiated and strengthened in many universities and training schools throughout the world (e.g., the College of Forestry at the University of the Philippines in Los Baños); and

· a number of international and regional workshops on marketing have been organized to facilitate exchange of information (e.g., sawnwood marketing in countries in transition).

As community forestry, agroforestry and local production systems for non-wood forest products have gained in importance, increased attention has been paid to marketing as an essential component of these activities. The emergence of these new sources of wood and other forest-derived products is resulting in the development of new, locally-based marketing structures. This trend is also reflected in increased attention being paid to marketing in community forestry and agroforestry education and training programmes (e.g., the Regional Community Forestry Training Centre, RECOFTC, at Kasetsart University, Thailand), and in efforts to build local capacities in marketing.

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