Timber as a Renewable Resource

When managed properly, timber is a valuable renewable resource. By definition, “renewable” means that there is no depletion of the resource. Unlike solar energy and wind, timber is a resource that we can technically deplete when we don’t manage it properly. With this in mind as a consumer, it’s important to know where your timber comes from. Understanding the management practices of the the forests from which it comes is necessary. It’s also important to understand that trees are much more renewable than forests. Anyone can replant a tree but a forest is a mature ecosystem which is difficult to replace post-disturbance.

In the United States, clear cut harvesting is still the predominant harvest method. In recent decades, new laws have come into existence which attempt to save the overall health of the forest. These laws require that foresters leave a certain number of trees per acre of clearcut. However the end result is a fully dismantled forest. What’s left are a handful of remaining trees to act as a lifeboat for the wildlife whose homes were destroyed. Several challenges await the seedlings before they can grow into mature trees after clearcutting.

Much of the forest soil may become compacted during harvest. This leaves less soil porosity for the roots of the tree to grow. With a lack of mature trees providing shade, shelter, and irrigation; seedlings are often too exposed to the elements. These elements can include strong UV rays, wind storms, frost, flooding and deer browse. All of these contribute to a reducing rate of survival. These poorly formed forest management practices may be the reason why the US is losing forest cover each year. According to globalforestwatch.org, the United States’ forest cover has decreased by 16% since the year 2000.

Conversely, Japan uses selective thinning as the primary harvest method. This means that the forest remains fully intact, they select only certain trees for removal. The remaining trees in the forest benefit from reduced competition. This allows them to take up more nutrients from the forest floor and more easily capture solar radiation used for photosynthesis. As a result, these trees grow to be larger, and healthier. They still replant the seedlings after harvest.

The remaining trees in the forest allow for natural regeneration to occur. They drop seeds from cones onto the forest floor. The trees above protect the growing seedlings below. The rate of survival is typically higher than in clearcut areas. This harvest method ensures a constant inventory of trees. The forest remains healthy and mature, it captures and stores carbon effectively.

This all ties into Japan’s goal of achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This also includes sequestering 27.8 million metric tons of CO2 by 2030, as per their Forest and Forestry Basic Plan. This plan is similar to acts written into US law, but Japan’s forest plan creates an emphasis on increasing total forest area. The end goal is to capture atmospheric carbon- something we all should be doing!

Here at Nakamoto Forestry, we are very proud of where our shou sugi ban siding comes from and how responsibly we manage our forests. We maintain certifications with the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) and the Sustainable Green Ecosystem Council (SGEC). The Nakamoto family is continually working towards expanding forest area within Japan, and has thus far converted 2,000 hectares (8 square miles) into forestland.

When shopping around for siding for your project, be sure that you know where your wood is coming from and how the forest is managed. Understanding that timber is a renewable resource is vital when it comes to selecting a sustainable product for your home’s cladding. Forests play an essential role in our planet’s ability to support life, not only in the products that they provide (siding, paper, food, and medicine) but in their ability to clean our atmosphere, provide oxygen, sequester carbon, and filter water. If we don’t manage our forests responsibly, we are only hurting ourselves. As a consumer, you can help care for our forests by supporting companies who responsibly manage their forests in a sustainable way!

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