Policy ForumEcology

Importing Timber, Exporting Ecological Impact

Science  15 Apr 2005:
Vol. 308, Issue 5720, pp. 359-360
DOI: 10.1126/science.1109476

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Covering 32% of the planet, boreal forests are one of the last relatively intact terrestrial biomes, and are a critical carbon sink in global climate dynamics. Mature and old-growth boreal forests provide a large number of products that are culturally and economically important, from wood-based lumber, pulp, and fuel wood, to numerous nonwood products. Intensive wood harvest and conservation of naturally dynamic intact forests tend to be mutually exclusive; where biodiversity is highly valued, wood harvests are limited or banned outright. The authors of this Policy Forum advise that increasing domestic forest protection without decreasing demand for wood necessitates an increase in foreign imports, which introduces a negative impact on forest biodiversity elsewhere. In some cases, exporting impact across the border may cause negative impacts to boomerang back into the country's protected forests.