Concerns around the future of our planet are at an all time high. Following on from 2015’s major climate summit in Paris, the world’s leaders have come to an agreement to limit global CO2 output and attempt to course correct our planet. Sustainable forestry in the UK has been of intense interest as a source of renewable energy, but that’s not the only thing wood is being earmarked for in the battle against climate change – it’s also taking off in the manufacturing.
Wood is chosen by window replacement companies because it looks great, has many environmental characteristics, which include renewability and it proves easy to work with. Added to that the fact that trees absorb carbon dioxide form the atmosphere as they grow, absorbing and storing the carbon whilst producing oxygen; this in turn reduces greenhouse gasses and improves air quality.
Forests also provide other benefits including clean air and water, a natural habitat for wildlife, they are also commercially viable through the provision of work for local communities.
International agreements and national policies currently require foresters to demonstrate that their forestry practices meet independent criteria of sustainability. In Britain, as elsewhere, there has been an increasing emphasis on sustainability, this has led to the promotion of “multiple-use” management which generally means developing varied forests containing different species, ages and structures, according to the forestry commission.
These developments will present a challenge to foresters because most of the existing forests comprise regular stands of a small number of species which are designed to maximise wood production.
New approaches to forest management or to woodland establishment are supporting policies aimed at increasing the species and structural variability of forests. The areas that are under scrutiny include: greater use of natural regeneration; the role of continuous cover forestry; the potential for restoring and enhancing native woodlands.
Research into the management of upland native woodlands is currently underway. Research objectives are to study the structure, composition and dynamics of upland native woodland ecosystems in order to evaluate the potential for utilising natural woodland processes, and mimicking natural woodland structure.
Of interest to the construction industry is the investigation into the reproductive biology of Scots pine, Birch and Oak. This research is being carried out and is funded by the Forestry Commission regeneration and sustainable silviculture programme.
One of the dilemmas facing forest managers currently is the need to decide whether or not to intervene to respace naturally regenerating trees to a density and pattern closer to that found in conventional stands. Natural regeneration is often variable so that when tress are around 2-3m tall, stands can appear as clumps of closely spaced saplings interspersed with lightly-stocked areas and gaps. This decision requires assessing the benefits from respacing. This is a complicated area, the aim of re-spacing is to reduce tree density and increase the stability of the stand. This in theory will help limit the number of small-sized dead and suppressed stems that have little chance of survival.
Companies that invest in sustainable forests are investing in the future, there are no short term solutions.
Smaller businesses that produce products such as wooden casement windows up to the multibillion pound conglomerates who build large commercial properties, should be looking at sustainable forests to help secure future projects. It is a new challenge (in historical terms) for all of us, resilience to climate change hopefully is now at the top of everyone’s agenda.