5 September, 2016
Celebrating trees, wood and water this Arbor Week | 4 - 10
In South Africa, 1.3
million hectares (ha) of pine and eucalyptus trees are sustainably managed for
commercial processing into wood and paper products. Through modern science and
nanotechnology, wood fibre - cellulose - is used in automobiles, aerospace, defence
and even medicine.
While Arbor Week traditionally calls on all South Africans
to plant indigenous trees as a practical and symbolic gesture of sustainable
environmental management, timber plantations deserve due recognition for the
benefits they bring to the economy, society and the environment.
Wood and paper products touch our lives every day and it's a
relationship that often goes unnoticed, unless we were to take those same
products away. From furniture, roof trusses and timber poles to books, writing
paper, magazines, as well as boxes and packaging in innumerable shapes and
"When we grasp that trees are farmed for commercial use, we
are able to understand the important role they play," says Forestry South
Africa executive director Michael Peter. "Just like any agricultural crop,
trees are planted, harvested and replanted to ensure a sustainable supply of
wood. And like any crop, plantations have an impact on the environment."
Such impacts, Peter explains, are offset by the carbon
dioxide absorbed and oxygen released by trees, by the employment and
development benefits which forestry brings to communities, and by the
biodiversity that is conserved by land owners.
In commemoration of Arbor Week and the theme ‘Forests and
Water', Forestry South Africa shares the facts about timber plantations, water,
biodiversity and people.
Plantations are not irrigated
as trees get their water from rainfall. This means that there are none of the
high costs associated with delivering water to other users, such as dams,
pipelines, pumping stations and water purification plants.
Plantations also use a small
fraction of the fertilisers and herbicides used in other land uses and, as such,
negative impacts from these activities on biodiversity and water quality are
Plantations are one of the most
efficient and beneficial water users - both in respect of the timber produced
and the associated carbon dioxide sequestered (absorbed) in the process.
Plantations use both soil and
water resources but these can be measured against the returns they provide:
- Forestry uses just 3% of
available water in the country. This is just 5% of the water used by
agriculture (62%). (Strategic Overview of
Water Sector in South Africa, 2010. Department of Water Affairs)
- Forestry occupies about 1.2% of
the land used for agriculture
- Plantations and the forest
products sub-sector provide 22.5% of jobs in agriculture
forests are vital to the Earth's water supply as they influence how and where
rain falls, filtering and cleaning water.
The South African National Biodiversity
Institute concluded in a seven-year grasslands programme funded by the Global
Environmental Facility that the grasslands managed by plantation growers were
the most diverse and best conserved of all land uses in the programme.
There are more formally
protected grasslands and natural forests under management of the plantation
industry, than in any other commercial land use sector.
Some 80% of the land reserved
for plantation forestry is certified to the standards of the Forest Stewardship
Council. Approximately 25% of this land is not planted to trees and is
conserved for biodiversity.
The Living Planet Report
published in 2014 by the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of
London lauded the Mondi Wetlands Project among the four solutions to global
Apart from the 165,000 jobs in
forestry, there are an additional 551,000 forestry-related jobs in upstream and
downstream sectors (pulp and papermaking, furniture, timber for mining and
Forestry provides other social
benefits to about three million people in rural areas: access to education,
training, health care, housing, nutrition, transport, infrastructure and
business development and support.
Trees - in all forms - are
essential to life on our planet. They absorb excess carbon dioxide and
pollutant gases, and provide clean air, water and climate regulation. As a
renewable resource and a livelihood for many communities, forests are an
important part of the solution to meeting global needs for food, fuel, fibre,
medicine and other products essential to daily life.
Source: Forestry South Africa