Alternative to Supplying the Worlds Timber Demand

Forest plantations are defined as forest stands established by planting and/or seeding in the process of afforestation (planting trees in areas where there have never been trees before) or reforestation (replanting in areas previously supporting natural forest). According to the FAO definition, forest plantations consist of introduced or indigenous species which meet a minimum area requirement of 0.5 ha; tree crown cover of at least 10% of the land (i.e., even a rather sparse stand qualifies as a plantation); and total height of adult trees above 5 m (FAO 2000a). In some instances, terms such as "human-made forest" or "artificial forest" are considered synonyms for forest plantations.

Forest plantations covered 187 million ha worldwide in 2000 (FAO 2001a). This represents a significant increase from the 1995 estimate of 124 million -ha. The reported new annual planting rate is 4.5 million ha globally, with Asia and South America accounting for 89% of new plantations (Table 6.1). These FAO statistics reflect not only increases in the rates of plantation establishment, but also the fact that plantations that had not been considered in previous reports, such as those of rubber trees, are included in the 2000 plantation data (Carle et al. 2002). Part of the plantation area statistics also include plantations that have been established with the purpose of rehabilitating degraded lands. Globally, half of forest plantations are for industrial use (timber and fiber), one-quarter are for non-industrial use (home or farm construction, local consumption of fuelwood and charcoal, poles), and one-quarter are for unspecified uses (Table 6.1).

During the past decade, while natural forest areas have continued to decline at the global level, forest plantations have increased in both tropical (+20 million ha) and temperate (+12 million ha) regions of the world (FAO 2001a). In 1995, tropical and subtropical plantations comprised 45% of the global net forest plantation area. The total area of tropical and subtropical plantations was between 40 and 50 million ha (Evans 1999). Hardwoods covered 32.3 million ha, 57% of all plantations in the tropics and subtropics, and 25% of the global area (Varmola and Carle 2002). In the last decade, the rate of conversion of natural forest to plantation forest in tropical regions was about equal to the increase in forest cover, resulting from natural re-establish-

Table 6.1. Forest plantation areas by region and purpose for the year 2000. (FAO 2001a)


Total area

Annual rate




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