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Rate of tropical timber harvest a concern

Jan. 24, 2012 at 3:46 PM   |   Comments

CANBERRA, Australia, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- Timber production in the world's tropical countries is exceeding the forests' ability to replace the felled trees, an Australian report says.

Researchers at Australian National University and James Cook University said the standard cutting cycle of 30-40 years is too short to allow trees to grow to a volume required by commercial loggers, the BBC reported Tuesday.

This would result in ongoing pressure to harvest primary forests, leading to deforestation, they said.

Researchers cited the Solomon Islands, where timber had been a major source of government revenue, as an example for being "a microcosm of the challenges facing sustainable forest management in the tropics."

"For nearly a decade, the nation had been warned that the volume of timber annually harvested from native forests was too high and, if unchecked, that timber stocks would be seriously depleted by 2012," the researchers said.

"In 2009, the Central Bank of the Solomon Islands asserted that exhaustion of timber stocks had arrived even earlier that predicted and its economic consequences were likely to be severe."

The report compared the logging practices to exploitation of non-renewable resources such as oil.

"It has become common these days to speak of 'peak oil," it said, referring to a rapid increase in production, followed by a peak and then a decline.

"In the tropics, we assert, we should also begin to seriously consider the implications of 'peak timber.'"

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