Is Sustainable Tropical Decking a Myth?

Posted June 17th, 2013 in Amazon, Brazilian hardwood, Eco-friendly, Exotic Hardwoods, Green products by ipemadeira

Sustainable decking. Responsible forestry. These are a few of the buzzwords tossed around by lumber companies in response to accusations from environmentalist groups. But what do these terms mean? And do they actually translate to a healthier ecosystem like the lumber companies claim? After all, how can cutting down a tree lead to rainforest growth?

Sustainable forestry practices start with tree selection. Contrary to popular impressions, lumber companies don’t move through the forest chopping down every tree in their path. Rather, out of an entire acre of rainforest, only a few trees are felled. Further, these trees are often what are called wolf trees. These are old, large trees that consume resources but don’t produce seeds. Due to their size, they starve the surrounding growth without offering anything in return. You can think of a wolf tree as a sort of cancer, and removing it allows new trees to grow that would otherwise have died.

Once a tree is selected for harvesting, it isn’t just hacked down, either. Meticulous planning ensures that when the tree is cut, it won’t fall and damage smaller trees in the area. Additionally, several new trees are planted to replace the one that was harvested, in a ratio of 5 to 1.

If you take these facts together–removing cancerous wolf trees and replacing them with several seed-producing trees–it’s easy to see how proper forest management can lead to both a thriving rainforest and a thriving lumber industry.

But responsible forestry doesn’t stop there. Obviously, some heavy machinery is needed to move harvested trees out of the forest. Special paths are designated for this purpose, and each path is only used a few times before being abandoned. Sounds wasteful at first, but this practice actually prevents permanent damage and allows quick regrowth. In fact, these “skidding paths” disappear after just 3-6 months, reclaimed by fresh growth.

So, are the benefits of sustainable decking materials a myth? Not at all! From August 2008 to July 2009, the Brazilian Amazon saw a 46% decrease in deforestation–the greatest decline in 20 years.

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