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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.

Tree farm

Did You Know – What is Silviculture?

Women In Wood

TIL – The Women In Wood Group

In the field or in the office, women are a positive force in forestry

Women are an integral part of the forest and forest products eco-system. Their impact in every area, from science to recreation, to corporate and government, has propelled the forest and wood industries to new places and perspectives.

In this post we celebrate Women’s History Month in March, Nature’s Packaging has reached out to the Women In Wood Network to learn more about their history, why they came together and what the future holds for women in wood.  

Please explain what Women In Wood is and how the group came about.

Women in Wood (WIW) is a network for women who work in, with and for the woods. It brings together passionate women from around the world to share their love for forests. Through a private Facebook group, Twitter, Instagram, our website, blog, newsletter, and LinkedIn group, it helps women find mentors, seek career advice, and meet other passionate women in the forest sector.

We met because, at the time – more than 10 years ago – we were often among the only young women at forestry events and conferences. We joke that we were united by never having to wait in line for the bathroom.

For years, we talked about starting a “rebuttal to the old boys club” and decided to make it official in 2016 by creating a private Facebook group for women we knew in the forest sector.

Although we both have had excellent and encouraging male colleagues, we recognized that there was definitely room for more women around the table. At that time, we added the 20 or so women we knew, and it just started growing.

The group now has 2,200 women from all over the world. It turned out that there was a gap to be filled, and women really appreciated having a safe space to go to for support and comradery.

*Please note-the Facebook group is reserved for women only, but the rest of their social media is open to all.

Can you elaborate on the 3 objectives listed on the Women In Wood website and how they guide the group and members in networking and collaborating with each other?

Our objectives are:

1. Build a community of women who work with, in and for the woods. This happens mostly in the private Facebook group. Not a day goes by without several posts from women sharing job opportunities, asking for advice or encouraging one another. We have also had many events – both in person, and more recently, virtual – for men and women to network and share stories.

2. Encourage women to pursue careers in the forest, wood and related sectors. Our blog and social media have featured many inspiring Women in Wood over the years – from the first female forester in Ontario to students about to the enter the field. Many students in the group report that seeing the success of and getting insight from women already in the sector has encouraged them. We even had an event sound technician’s young daughter who listened in at a panel event follow up with one of the panelists about how to pursue a career in forestry!

3. Help Women in Wood succeed in their career goals by collaborating for success, sharing information, improving skills, and navigating the workplace. This also happens through lots of sharing within the group, and we have had some skill-building webinars recently, delivered to WIW by other WIW. It’s really something to see a WIW pose a question, for example, about how or if to negotiate a salary, and see more than 50 other women respond with their experience and advice. That’s the power of a network!

What are some of the recent events that Women In Wood have created or participated in that bring women in the industry together?

During COVID, we’ve had several virtual get-togethers, and a few learning webinars – preparing for interviews, for example. We’ve also been having WIW Chats on our Insta channel, giving insight into the roles and pathways of various WIW. We are grateful to have had many opportunities to speak to groups and at events about the evolution of WIW. The conversations that follow are always rewarding.

What are the different ways that women are creating leadership roles for themselves in forest industries today?

We’re seeing more and more women in leadership in the forest sector, but there’s definitely still progress to be made. One of the most powerful ways to inspire women is to have other women who are in leadership share their stories and advice on how to work up to leadership positions. When you see women leading, it inspires you.

What is the role of a mentor in the Women In Wood network?

We don’t have a formal mentorship program, but mentor/mentee relationships have developed organically through the relationships built in the group. There’s a good mix of women new to the sector, middle-career, late career and retirees. It can mean so much to just have someone to chat with who may have had a similar experience as you, but is on the other end and can offer you what they learned.

What is the most common path today for women to enter the forest industry workforce? How has that changed over the last several years?

Lately, many forestry and related programs (degree and technical) are reporting impressive numbers, with great representation from women. This is quite a shift from even 15 years ago.

The key will be ensuring these women successfully navigate getting their first jobs and finding employers who will continue to support them early in their careers. A challenge many WIW report is “falling behind” their male counterparts when they take time off to have a family or not being given the same training or growth opportunities.

We are seeing many more women as foresters, technicians and other woodland roles, but still limited representation in mills, trucking and logging. There also seems to be a lot of variance geographically, and some companies have made major strides to encourage and successfully recruit women in the mill environment.

Where did the idea of the Women In Wood logo origination from?

We wanted a logo that was fun but powerful. We really left it to our graphic designer to come up with what would represent WIW, but hoped to have an image that would empower women and rally women together.

We think we have achieved that, as our logo is not only high in demand (our t-shirt sales speak for themselves!) but also well recognized. We can’t tell you how many times we have gone to events (pre-covid) and see women wearing the shirt with pride. It does exactly what we had hoped for – bring women together.

*Answers written by Lacey Rose and Jessica Kaknevicius

Urban Forests and Tree Cities

Photo by Cassie Gallegos on Unsplash

City planners around the world increasingly recognize the importance of trees and are working to increase canopy cover. Urban tree research tells us that green canopy can play an important role in the liveability of cities. Increased tree coverage contributes to lower city temperatures by blocking shortwave radiation and increasing water evaporation. Trees also help reduce air pollution, while absorptive root systems can help reduce the threat of flood during severe rains and storms.

No surprise, the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Agenda Council on the Future of Cities have listed green canopy cover in its ranking of top ten urban initiatives.To support cities in their efforts to implement green canopy, MIT’s Treepedia, in collaboration with WEF, has developed a metric —the Green View Index—by which to evaluate and compare canopy cover. It relies on calculations based on input from Google Street View. By using street view panoramas rather than satellite imagery, the GVI represents human perception.

The GVI Index is presented on a scale of 0-100, showing the percentage of canopy coverage of a particular location. The group cautions that its calculation is imprecise. It includes only street trees in its calculation due to the limitations of Google Street View. While forested parks are important, for example, they are not considered, aside from street visibility.

Treepedia developers stress that its rankings should not be construed as a competition. “Treepedia is not about rating cities to compete in a green Olympics,” it notes. “Treepedia aims to raise a proactive awareness of urban vegetation.”

Another important constraint that the study is not comprehensive. It includes only 30 cities, globally. It noteworthy that four of the top ten cities with the most tree cover are in North America, including Tampa (#1), Vancouver BC (#4), Montreal (#6) and Sacramento (#9).

A ranking of select North American cities, followed by the estimated proportion of urban canopy, are as follows:

Tampa, Florida — 36.1%

Vancouver, Canada — 25.9%

Montreal, Canada — 25.5%

Sacramento, California — 23.6%

Seattle, Washington — 20%

Toronto, Canada — 19.5%

Miami, Florida — 19.4%

Boston, Massachusetts — 18.2%

Los Angeles, California — 15.2%

Treepedia underscores that only selected cities have been included in its Green View Index. The group encourages other cities to calculate their GVI. More information can be found at this link: (https://github.com/mittrees/Treepedia_Public)

Tree Cities of the World

Leading North American tree cities are also recognized in the Tree Cities of the World program, sponsored by the FAO (The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations) and the Arbor Day Foundation. Their intention is to promote more resilient and sustainable cities.

Rather than a ranking of overall canopy or green cover, these cities are recognized for “demonstrating leadership in the management of their urban trees and are serving as part of the solution to many of the global issues we face today.” Of the 68 “Tree Cities of the World” recognized, nine of them are Canadian, and 27 from the United States.

Another useful source of information is the U.S. Forest Service. Its urban forest data are being collected from across the United States based on top-down aerial approaches and bottom-up field data collection. This site links to various data sets and reports for urban forest data at the state level, county level, county subdivision level and local community or place level. Users are encouraged to explore states or communities of interest to see what data are available.

Resources mentioned in this article:

Treepedia: https://senseable.mit.edu/treepedia

Tree Cities of the World: https://treecitiesoftheworld.org/directory.cfm

U.S. Forest Service Urban Forest Data: https://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/data/urban/

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