The trade in tropical hardwoods is one of the main reasons for the destruction of the rainforests. Unfortunately, because the most valuable species do not grow close together, large tracts of forest are destroyed to obtain the wood from a few trees. Access is also difficult and the building of new roads has added to the level of forest losses, with settlers often following loggers into new areas. Forestry industry practices are generally still unsustainable, although many tropical countries are attempting to produce timber in a more sustainable way. As the profits are so high and the local populations often so poor, there is huge scope for illegal logging and trade in hardwoods.
What can we do?
It is now possible to buy tropical hardwood that has been grown sustainably (often in special plantations) by checking to see if the furniture has a certificate of ‘sustainable forest management’ such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo. This should guarantee that you are not adding to the forest’s destruction and that you will be helping the economy of some of the poorest countries in the world. However even this system is open to corruption, with false labelling being too easy. One way to help is to ask questions when buying tropical hardwoods and to continue to push for better regulation; another is to buy local, sustainably grown wood.
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