Mono-crop timber tree plantations certainly aren’t forests. A true forest has biodiversity and is a complex web of life where all the elements within the system work together in a wide range of complex ways. When we hear about ‘sustainable forestry’, all too often, this is sadly a misnomer. Simply replacing sufficient trees after some have been felled is not enough to say that the system is ‘sustainable’.
A sustainable future for forestry does not just mean making sure that we replace more trees than we chop down. It involves holistic systems thinking. It means creating truly resilient systems which can provide for our timber needs and other needs, but which can also deliver so, so much more, adding value in every sense of the word.
In my opinion, a sustainable future for forestry means looking at how we can integrate different sectors. We do not automatically have to choose between forests managed for timber, rewilding schemes and food production. By thinking holistically, we can potentially create systems which deliver all three.
Sustainably managed forests and woodlands can potentially provide for timber needs and deliver a wide range of other needs without any clear felling. Trees thinned for ecological reasons or coppiced may sometimes be viewed as a yield from a conservation scheme. And even when there is no timber gained, non-timber forest products may generate income and offer a range of yields. Commercial timber production can be managed in such a way that it also creates healthy and biodiverse ecosystems. And agroforestry schemes, too, can cater for wildlife and help ecologically while also delivering a range of diverse yields.
Creating a sustainable future for forestry, and for agriculture, yet again involves one simple thing – a bit of joined up thinking. We can deliver for nature and deliver for people too.