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Sustainable Forestry

Sustainable forest management aims to ensure that there is a continuous supply of timber and non-timber forest products. Sustainability also means preserving the processes and structures that create, support, and sustain forests by integrating conservation and development goals. To accomplish these goals, sustainable forest management combines principles from forestry, agriculture, environmental protection, economics, ecology, and sociology.

The Role of Sustainable Forest Management

The role of sustainable forest management is to ensure that forests continue to provide the ecosystem processes that society depends upon. Forests are important for a wide variety of reasons: they prevent soil erosion, regulate water resources, purify the air, and protect biodiversity (by providing wildlife habitat).

Moreover, they have an enormous capacity for carbon storage. Currently, about 350 billion tons of carbon are stored in the world’s forests, which is about 65% of the global total. As an alternative to deforestation, sustainable forest management allows for harvesting timber while maintaining its ecological, economic, and social functions.

Forest Management

The term “forest management” refers to a range of activities required to care for the forest from conception to harvest. These activities include planning the harvesting schedule, silviculture, and road building. Forest management requires up-to-date information about the forest’s standing stock of timber and non-timber products such as herbs, resins, fibers, and its connectivity with other forests to ensure a continuous flow of products into the marketplace. To maintain these connections, a clear understanding of the forest needs to be developed; this requires an analysis of how the forest functions.

Sustainability Indicators

Indicators are used to measure changes in forests and determine whether they are being managed sustainably. Changes can be measured by collecting data on indicators such as carbon storage or biodiversity over time. These indicators are vital for measuring progress toward sustainability goals. The key sustainable forest management indicator is the change in biomass or carbon storage over time.

Researchers measure carbon storage using above-ground biomass combined with estimates of deadwood densities at different ages. This approach allows them to calculate the amount of total stored carbon in a forest, which varies with tree size and age class distribution within a forest.

Sometimes, a change in carbon storage is also viewed as an indicator of governmental policies because ‘how’ a society uses its forests impacts the total amount of carbon stored. For example, if deforestation increases while reforestation and afforestation decrease this may indicate that it will not be easy for countries to achieve their greenhouse gas emission reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Forests play an integral role in mitigating global warming by sequestering large amounts of atmospheric carbon and increasing biodiversity, protecting watersheds and reducing erosion. Because forests account for about 46% of all terrestrial photosynthesis they remove significant amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2).

Trees use CO2 from the atmosphere in photosynthesis, converting it into wood and leaves. When the trees die, decomposition returns this carbon to the atmosphere where it is available for re-uptake by plants during subsequent growth. Reducing forest cover and biodiversity will result in lower levels of stored carbon.

Carbon Sequestration Capacity

Forests can sequester more than 1 million metric tons of carbon per square kilometer (km2) over long periods (100 years or more), with the amount varying depending on factors such as climate, soil conditions, and tree diversity. The Taiga, for example, stores the most carbon per unit area. However, tropical rain forests may contain more carbon overall because they tend to exhibit more biodiversity and density than forests in other parts of the world.

The primary aim of sustainable forest management is to increase biomass through active management rather than natural processes such as fire or disease. Depending on the type of land-use management, a country can achieve either negative net emissions from its forestry sector by slashing tree numbers and allowing forests to mature until harvesting starts some years later, or positive net emissions by increasing levels of biomass through practices like reforestation. In fact, afforestation has become one of the most successful tools in reducing net emission levels globally.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, a country accounts for carbon sequestered from its forests within its national greenhouse gas emissions account. This calculation is based on data submitted by each country to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Carbon Emissions Reductions

As well as storing carbon, forests also reduce greenhouse gas concentration by acting as a sink for atmospheric CO2 emissions. The most effective way to reduce net emissions from the forestry sector is to ensure that trees are planted faster than they are being cut down, at least until this balance is achieved. Increased tree planting will result in accompanying social and environmental benefits like maintaining biodiversity and increasing water quality.

Growth of Forests on Former Croplands

Planting forests on cropland is one way to combat climate change. Estimates indicate that if 10% of the world’s arable land were converted back into forests. This would be equivalent to removing half of all cars from roads or closing down 300 coal-fired power stations.

Similarly, successful governmental policies can be adopted around the world to help combat climate change afforestation, such as offering tax breaks to organizations that plant trees or providing subsidies for renewable energy.

Challenges in Sustainable Forest Management

  • Human activities impair the ability of forests to sequester carbon by either causing deforestation or altering the species makeup of existing forests. For example, if native species are replaced with non-native ones while replanting efforts are in place, then there will not be as many environmental benefits because the new plants do not support wildlife. These negative impacts can only be avoided through better education and stricter governmental policies.
  • Effective management of forests requires an understanding of the area’s history, as well as current policies that affect forest use. For example, if a country has under-reported past deforestation amounts and reforestation efforts are not successful, then carbon levels will not decrease and greenhouse gas levels will increase. Countries should be diligent in reporting accurate information on deforestation rates so that proper corrective action can be taken.
  • The success of sustainable forestry is largely dependent on the overall goals of both environmental protection and human economic entitlement. This approach to forest management can only work if all parties are committed to protecting the environment while also ensuring their economic interests are met.

Sustainable forest management employs the use of sustainable forest management indicators, such as monitoring biodiversity or measuring changes in carbon storage. Sustainable forest management is not only a set of techniques that can be applied to forests but also an ideology that encompasses all aspects of political, social, and economic life.

Recycling and Re-usable products

Today I Learned – Carbon Sequestration

Carbon is the most common GHG (greenhouse gas) produced in both natural ecological processes and in abundance by human being’s through various industries and technologies. The excess of GHG has an adverse effect on climate.

The overview of climate change is already familiar to us:  excess carbon production as a greenhouse gas leads to a rise in global climate temperature which in turn leads to climate events and patterns that can cause great suffering and cost.

Many countries, and once again the United States, are participating in The Paris Agreement to tackle the mitigation of climate change and global warming through science, technology and policy. The current President of the United States’ stated goal is a 50-52% reduction of emission by 2030 with net zero emissions by 2050. This is certainly a bold goal for climate mitigation and sustainability.

As a renewable resource-based industry, we must embrace the science and continually proclaim the contribution of our business practices to the greater good of sustainability goals as tied to the supply chain.

As an industry, we earn it by every pallet and pound of wood that is recycled and re-used, and contributes to a reduction in greenhouse gases through continued carbon sequestration.

In today’s Nature’s Packaging discussion, we take a look at carbon sequestration and how wood and pallets are capable of net positive impacts on sustainability goals for the industries serviced by the wooden pallet and container industry.

Carbon Sequestration

The chemical, physical, and biological processes of the earth capture carbon from the earth’s atmosphere. In carbon sequestration, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is absorbed by trees, grasses, and other plants via photosynthesis and stored as carbon in biomass (the trunks, branches, foliage, and roots) and soils.

Trees feed on the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. A truly efficient carbon capture system created by nature. As a renewable resource, forest management and tree planting are a core strategy to reduce carbon emissions and combat deforestation.

As long as that wood exists in some form, the carbon stays trapped inside. Thus, wood-based building materials keep the carbon trapped. Mass timber technologies is a great example here.

As far as wood pallets are concerned, the National Wood & Pallet Container Association in conjunction with the USFS-Forest Products Lab has developed a cradle-to-grave Life-Cycle Assessment that speaks directly to emissions and carbon capture. The Environmental Product Declaration is a great resource to share with customers and those that manage sustainability initiatives in their organizations.

Another great tool is the NP carbon calculator, which is available right here on the Nature’s Packaging website. The carbon calculator is an easy-to-use, easy-to-understand tool that allows you to demonstrate to customers, employees, and others just how effective pallet recycling is for reducing carbon emissions.

The calculator will show not only the metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions that are saved per month, it also frames that calculation into how many equivalent cars are taken “off the road” per month. “This estimation is based on the EPA Waste Reduction Model (WARM) for “dimensional lumber”. It is derived by taking the difference between the net CO2 emissions produced by land-filling and the net CO2 emissions produced by recycling dimensional lumber”. *from the Nature’s Packaging carbon calculator tool

The WARM Model

The Waste Reduction Model (WARM) calculates and sums greenhouse gas emissions, energy savings and economic impacts of baseline and alternative waste management practices, including source reduction, recycling, combustion, composting, anaerobic digestion and land-filling. The model calculates emissions, energy units and economic factors across a wide range of material types commonly found in municipal solid waste in the following categories:

  • Metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2E),
  • Energy units (million British Thermal Unit – BTU),
  • Labor hours,
  • Wages ($), and
  • Taxes ($). *Basic Information about WARM

The EPA’s Waste Reduction Model (WARM) recognizes 54 material types. In situations where a material isn’t directly recognized, it is acceptable to use a proxy. To be considered a suitable proxy, a material should be similar in processes related to:

  • How materials are acquired
  • How the product is manufactured
  • How the materials are collected at the end of their lifecycle
  • What materials and processes are offset when the primary material is recycled

A proxy is rated as Acceptable, Good, or Very Good. In the case of wood pallets, they are rated as Very Good based on the components of a pallet being dimensional lumber.

The WARM and proxy information for dimensional lumber are utilized correctly in the carbon calculator tool on the Nature’s Packaging website, so feel confident you are using an important tool to help your customers.

Climate change mitigation and sustainability goals are fast becoming center stage in government and corporate policy initiatives around the world. The wooden pallet and container industry will continue to do our part through beneficial business practices and helping other industries achieve their recycling goals now and into the future.

Illegal Logging Stopped In Its Tracks

Illegal Logging Stopped In Its Tracks

Illegal logging is a serious issue that has a tremendous impact on the timber industry and our world’s natural wood resources.  It is believed that illegal logging is one of the leading causes for the degradation of the world’s forests.  Luckily IoT based technology might just change the effects of illegal logging and could even save our forests entirely.

Image supplied by Pixabay distributed under CC-BY 2.0 License

The revolutionary IoT-based technology

Scientists from the Institute of Wood Science and Technology (IWST) in Bengaluru have been hard at work addressing this problem. Their revolutionary system functions through the Internet of Things (IoT) technology.  The system involves installing a small device on high-value trees like sandalwood, rosewood and more.  The device is designed to send an alert whenever the tree endures any threats.  These threats can include cutting, chopping or uprooting the tree and the device.

Instant messaging the moment trouble arises

Using instant message technology, officials are notified through a special alert that is sent through the cloud from the IoT devices whenever disturbances are noticed in particular trees.  This is an astronomical advancement for forest lovers and protectors because it means that they will be able to capture culprits in action and could prevent a lot of trees from being cut off.

Trials in India

More than 45 sensors have already been installed at the campus of Malleswaram and these sensors are already supplying forest protectors and scientists with valuable information.  The Malleswarm campus plans on installing many more sensors in the near future and hopefully all forests will enjoy protection from these tech devices in the near future.

Forests are Carbon Sinks

The effects of illegal logging are devastating to our planet. According to the World Carfree Network, deforestation accounts for up to 15% of global carbon emissions. Forests are valuable resources and can be illegally logged for their resources or cleared so the land can be used for agricultural development. When forests thrive, they consume more carbon than they produce and are known as carbon sinks. When forests decay, they are a carbon source.

With the devastating effects of illegal logging the FDD and other forestry services are keeping their fingers crossed for speedily advancement of the IoT-based tech as well as similar anti-logging solutions that will prevent illegal deforestation.  If illegal loggers are faced with immediate consequences for their actions then we could hopefully see a tremendous reduction in illegal logging occurrences.

Nature’s Packaging supports North American wood packaging industries as sustainable as lumber harvested from North American forests is sustainably sourced. Sustainably managed forests are good for the environment as healthy forests sequester carbon from the atmosphere to fight global warming.

References

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