3 April, 2014
Using more wood for construction can slash global reliance on fossil fuels
an established forest conservation theory holding that tree harvesting
should be strictly minimized to prevent the loss of biodiversity and to
maintain carbon storage capacity, the new study shows that sustainable
management of wood resources can achieve both goals while also reducing
fossil fuel burning. The results were published March 28 in the Journal
of Sustainable Forestry.
the comprehensive study, scientists from the Yale School of Forestry
& Environmental Studies (F&ES) and the University of
Washington's College of the Environment evaluated a range of scenarios,
including leaving forests untouched, burning wood for energy, and using
various solid wood products for construction.
researchers calculated that the amount of wood harvested globally each
year (3.4 billion cubic meters) is equivalent to only about 20 percent
of annual wood growth (17 billion cubic meters), and much of that
harvest is burned inefficiently for cooking. They found that increasing
the wood harvest to the equivalent of 34% or more of annual wood growth
would have profound and positive effects:
- Between 14% and 31% of global CO2emissions could be avoided by preventing emissions related to steel and concrete; by storing CO2in the cellulose and lignin of wood products; and other factors.
About 12% to 19% of annual global fossil fuel consumption would be
saved including savings achieved because scrap wood and unsellable
materials could be burned for energy, replacing fossil fuel consumption.
construction consumes much less energy than concrete or steel
construction. Through efficient harvesting and product use, more CO2 is saved through the avoided emissions, materials, and wood energy than is lost from the harvested forest.
study shows still another reason to appreciate forests -- and another
reason to not let them be permanently cleared for agriculture," said
Chadwick Oliver, the Pinchot Professor of Forestry and Environmental
Studies, director of the Global Institute of Sustainable Forestry at
F&ES and lead author of the new study. "Forest harvest creates a
temporary opening that is needed by forest species such as butterflies
and some birds and deer before it regrows to large trees. But conversion
to agriculture is a permanent loss of all forest biodiversity."
manufacture of steel, concrete, and brick accounts for about 16 percent
of global fossil fuel consumption. When the transport and assembly of
steel, concrete, and brick products is considered, its share of fossil
fuel burning is closer to 20% to 30%, Oliver said.
in fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions from construction will
become increasingly critical as demand for new buildings, bridges and
other infrastructure is expected to surge worldwide in the coming
decades with economic development in Asia, Africa, and South America,
according to a previous F&ES study. And innovative construction
techniques are now making wood even more effective in bridges and
mid-rise apartment buildings.
to Oliver, carefully managed harvesting also reduces the likelihood of
catastrophic wildfires. And maintaining a mix of forest habitats and
densities in non-reserved forests -- in addition to keeping some global
forests in reserves -- would help preserve biodiversity in ecosystems
worldwide, Oliver said. About 12.5% of the world's forests are currently
located in reserves.
historically have had a diversity of habitats that different species
need," Oliver said. "This diversity can be maintained by harvesting some
of the forest growth. And the harvested wood will save fossil fuel and
CO2 and provide jobs -- giving local people more reason to keep the forests."
The above story is based on materials provided by Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. The original article was written by Kevin Dennehy. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.