Planning forest plantations for the future
TIMBER IS one of the most versatile resources in the world. It is used for everything from housing to tools and even energy. This begs the question, can the demand for timber keep up with Earth’s natural forests? It is imperative that the forestry industry in Australia as well as locations such as Indonesia and Brazil, who rely heavily on forest as a resource, adapt to maximising smaller areas while still producing quality outputs.
The development and management of forest plantations are unavoidable if we are to save natural forests and bring a halt to deforestation. It is important for the global forest industry to focus on how plantations are developed, sustained, and protected in order to keep the forestry industry as well as the natural forests protected.
The development of forest plantations has positive effects in not only lowering the carbon count and providing more oxygen into the environment but, Eucalyptus Pellita plantations in Indonesia create renewable raw material which are used to produce pulp and energy. On top of that, Eucalyptus Pellita trees are of great value to the environment due to the efficient use of water. Plantations provide new natural spaces, recover degraded or unusable soils and enrich landscapes.
Plantations in Australia are developed similarly to other regions in the Asia-Pacific with the main difference being the preparation of soil and the climate. For example, Eucalyptus plantations in Indonesia are always very high in productivity. This is because all the conditions necessary for a tree to grow are present - well distributed rain and hot temperatures throughout the year. These conditions are what makes Indonesia such a viable location for plantation development. In Australia, the winter season brings a sharp drop in temperature and during summer a dry period in which there are weeks without rain, slowing down the growth of trees. This is evident in the growth of Eucalyptus trees that take about five years to mature in Indonesia, whereas the same tree would take about seven years in Australia.
Another aspect of the environment that can cause issues and damaging impacts for forest plantations is forest fires. During the Australian summer, forest plantations suffer from extremely hot weather and little rain, the dry conditions make bush fires a common and dangerous reality. This threat is not only relevant in Australia but also in other forest regions such as Indonesia. In addition to natural climate causes such as El Nino conditions, “slash and burn” practices used in farming, land clearing, arson, and accidental fires are all concessions that relate to fires affecting forest plantations. These fires and the risk of future fires have forced the forestry industry to take action.
Prevention, detection, and suppression are three techniques that many forest plantations have adopted. With burn bans and the monitoring of plantations from above as well as from the ground is an important aspect of detecting fires before they get out of control. Asia Pulp & Paper Group (APP), in Indonesia, continuously research and trial technologies such as thermal cameras, infrared cameras and mini satellites that provide high level data in detecting fire “hot spots”. This gives firefighters the ability to take immediate action and sometimes stop a fire before it happens. Firefighters use different techniques, equipment, and training depending on the type of forest, the size of the fire and terrain.
The pulp and paper industry’s most important raw material is pulpwood. APP, relies on the principles of sustainable forest management in managing pulpwood plantations to ensure continual production and growth within a healthy forest ecosystem. Companies strive to maximise their plantations and in doing so practice zero deforestation.
As the world continues to gain a better understanding of the impact climate change and deforestation is having on the planet it is obvious that actions need to be taken. Organisations should strive to put policies in place which commit to only developing areas that are not forested, as identified through independent assessments. Organisations also need to play their part in supporting private and government targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
With continued global demand for timber and products made from trees, the forestry industry remains integral. It is imperative that the industry invests in sustainable practices within forest plantations. By strategically developing, protecting and managing plantations in a sustainable way, they can be the crutch for the forest industry to meet demands and support zero deforestation.
With continued global demand for timber and products made from trees, the forestry industry remains integral.