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Wood, the most important resource for 40% of the world’s population

Wood is the primary source of energy for 40 per cent of the world’s population; in underdeveloped areas it is often the only source of energy there is. This is all too often forgotten by the developed world. In terms of quantity, this demand accounts for around half of all the wood harvested worldwide. Of the remainder, around one half is used for the construction industry and related areas (such as carpentry, furniture, do-it yourself markets) and the other for the paper industry.

Yearly production of timber and its use in 1996:

However, the significance of the world’s forests lies not only in the wood they contain but , equally important, in their vital function as natural biotopes, atmospheric purifiers, source of drinking water and habitats for a huge variety of natural species. These ecological qualities are becoming even more highly valued in the world’s industrialized regions. And yet the facts of the matter offer a strong contrast to these ecologically minded attitudes. Today, less than 1 per cent of the total forested area of Western Europe is natural forest, and the only extensive are of primeval forest in Europe, in the Russian republic of Komi, is under immediate threat of destruction by the timber industry – from the industrialized nations, of course.

The ”State of the World’s Forest 2001” report by the FAO lists the forest’s uses as the most important once:

Wood fuel

Industrial fuel

Non-wood forest products

Soil and water conservation

Biological diversity conservation

Mitigation of climate change

Support to agricultural systems

Employment generation

Provision of recreational opportunities

Protection of natural and cultural heritage

Copyright picture: Rotex