Inspiring Your Customers: The Difference Between Trees and Forests
We often hear reports that there are more trees in North America today than there were 100 years ago. We are fortunate not to be experiencing the rampant deforestation seen in tropical regions such as Indonesia, the Amazon and the Congo.
However, before we get too comfortable we need to step back and take a moment to see the actual forest through all our trees.
The fragmentation of natural forests and the degradation of healthy ecosystems in northern forests can be just as impactful as deforestation in tropical forests. This is especially true in forests like the great northern Boreal. When logged, North American forests are not often converted to other uses such as soy farming or cattle ranching as in the Amazon. But the impacts of ecosystem degradation are accumulating at an alarming rate nonetheless.
Canada, for example, has an annual deforestation rate of .02%, but this small number is misleading. Fragmentation and degradation of intact forests (areas never logged before) in Canada represents 21% of the entire global total.(1)
Some estimates suggest that degradation-related carbon emissions can even exceed those of deforestation. One study noted "Boreal forests account for 43% of carbon sequestered in all forests and their soils worldwide."(2) Logging, oil and gas development and other industrial activity releases carbon stored in the forests and soils, carbon that can’t be recaptured in a short period of time by replanting.
There are stark differences between new plantation tree cover and a healthy native forest ecosystem. When intact and natural forests are logged and replanted, the conversation of ‘natural forest’ to ‘managed forest’ impacts biodiversity, affects soil and water quality and leads to the loss of threatened and endangered species habitat; decreased forest structure such as a reduction in undergrowth; lowered productivity of wood and non-timber products and reduced carbon storage capability. This in turn impacts the livelihoods, food security and traditions of local and indigenous communities.
The precedent setting the Great Bear Rainforest agreement in British Columbia, which printers helped to secure, is proof that large scale protection, healthy communities and economic and supply chain certainty is achievable. Canopy continues to work with forest product customers, including mills and printers, to advance conservation solutions in the world’s remaining ancient and endangered forests. Many printers are partnering with Canopy and encouraging others to join us in securing conservation legacies in areas such as the Broadback Forest, a jewel in North America’s Boreal.
Together we can shape a stronger future for forests, communities and business. Printers and your customers wanting to source paper that reverses forest degradation trends can choose papers with maximized recycled content, wheat straw residue as it becomes available, and where virgin fibre is required, source FSC certified in areas where meaningful conservation planning is in place. These three approaches to responsible purchasing will see North America lead the world, not in forest degradation, but innovative solutions that secure strong communities, healthy forests and stable businesses.
For more information visit: www.canopyplanet.org
(2) http://climatechangeconnection.org/impacts/ecosystems-impacts/forest-impacts/ and Brown, S., 1996, The world’s forest resources, Unasylva, 43: 3-10
Catherine Stewart, a corporate campaigner with Canopy, an independent not-for-profit organization, has over 25 years of experience in the environmental movement on issues ranging from fisheries and forests conservation to water pollution and climate change. She was a lead negotiator on the Great Bear Rainforest campaign, brokering the moratorium in over 100 intact valleys and playing a pivotal role in crafting the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements in British Columbia.
Working with Canopy, an independent not-for-profit environmental organization, Stewart is continuing her efforts to increase conservation of the world’s threatened forests by assisting forest product customers in the development of sustainable purchasing policies.
Formerly a small business owner in a resource-based community, Stewart understands the importance of both jobs and a healthy environment to the viability and long-term future of rural communities.