New Zealand Journal of Forestry (1980) 25(1): 11–14
©New Zealand Institute of Forestry
Wood is important as food
W. R. J. Sutton
Much effort is devoted to providing the world with food but the other major product of the soil (namely, wood) is just as important to man. Of the 2500 million tonnes of wood harvested annually, just under half is used directly as their primary fuel by the majority of the world's population. The other 1300 million tonnes of wood produced is used in innumerable ways. Even in advanced industrial countries the tonnage of wood used annually is greater than that of steel, aluminium, cement, and plastics combined.
Wood, like food, can be a renewable resource and like food requires skilled management to achieve optimum production. However, the management skills in forestry are still primitive, unlike those in food production, and the time scale is measured in decades and not seasons. With the long growth-period involved, over-exploitation of the world's wood resource is not immediately apparent; but, the effects on long-term supply can be disastrous, and once over-exploited there are very few short-term means of increasing production. At the same time, the total area of potentially productive forest is being reduced both through conversion of the land for agriculture and through pressures to reserve areas for protection and recreation.