With the rising global demand for renewable energy, the need for wood as an energy source is increasingly putting pressure on global forests. To ensure sustainability even under difficult circumstances, the consumption of timber requires a robust monitoring system. Researchers at the Wuppertal Institute and the University of Kassel in Germany have developed a method of global land use accounting for the consumption of primary timber between 2002 and 2011 in terms of both volume and forest area.
Published in an article in the journal Ecological Economics, the authors Dr Meghan O’Brien, Research Fellow of the Wuppertal Institute’s Research Unit Circular Economy, and Prof. Dr Stefan Bringezu, Director at the Center for Environmental Systems Research (CESR), University of Kassel in Germany have developed a method of global land use accounting for consumption of primary timber between 2002 and 2011 in terms of both volume and forest area.
The article “European Timber Consumption: Developing a Method to Account for Timber Flows and the EU’s Global Forest Footprint” takes the first step toward more systemic monitoring by asking how the global use of forests by EU consumers can be accounted for and assesses international trade flows for around 100 commodities, which are then converted into a volume of primary raw timber based on conversion values.
Results reveal that both imports and exports increased over the assessed time period, with primary EU-27 timber demand estimated to be around 1 m3 per capita in 2011. According to the authors, key challenges to further improving the robustness of the method relate to closing data gaps, raising data reliability and harmonising conversion values.
Future research may focus on improving the method to address in particular recycled and recovered flows as well as the question of whether area or volume is the most appropriate metric for further development of a forest footprint indicator.