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Society of American Foresters

Principles of Sustainable Forestry (continued)

These forests are vital for life as we know it, and yield many benefits:

  • WATER: One-third of the land in the US currently has forest cover, and two-thirds of the runoff used for water supply comes from these forested lands; they offer extremely high-quality water.
  • WOOD/ENERGY: Wood products are derived from an environmentally superior material. A truly renewable resource (when harvested sustainably), products from wood typically are produced with less energy than an equivalent product made from non-wood resources (e.g. metal and cement).
  • BIODIVERSITY: Forests are a major component in Earth's life support system, and they provide essential habitats for innumerable organisms.
  • CARBON/OXYGEN: Less than 40% of terrestrial C stores are found in forests, but wood products account for even more. Forests, in addition to sequestering carbon, are net producers of oxygen.
  • HUMAN WELL BEING: Forests represent different things to different people; most people value forests in many different ways. Even in the new millenium we find jobs, a quality of life, recreation, subsistence living, and a myriad of cultural and spiritual values based on our forest resources.

Forests are as dynamic as the human societies dependent on them, however. There are many forces of global change that has made our search for sustainability even more imperative. Population growth, lifestyle choices, increasing demand, and human conflict all exact their toll on the resource.

These are some of the human impacts we can identify on forests. All of these are global in impact, while not all are major issues in Oregon:
  • Clearing of forest for agriculture
  • Fuelwood gathering
  • Livestock grazing
  • Altered fire regimes
  • Unsustainable harvests
  • Water diversions
  • Heavy recreation
  • Urbanization
  • Alien species introduction and native species extinction
  • Air and water pollution
  • Forest fragmentation

And forces of change will present an ever-changing context for sustainability. The challenge in forestry will be to keep forest lands in forest use and keep the diversity of values, uses, products, benefits, and services of forest ecosystems productive and resilient in the face of forces of global change.

"The challenge in forestry will be to keep forest lands in forest use and keep the diversity of values, uses, products, benefits, and services of forest ecosystems productive and resilient in the face of forces of global change."
Much of the pressure we place on our forest resources is the result of an ever-growing population. Notice the world population projections, from the year 1650 and projected through the first half of the 21st century: it shows a 33-to-50 percent increase. Graph: Global population from 1650 AD projected to year 2050 AD

Obviously we need to consider human population growth as we define sustainable forestry. With population growth we will be expected to produce more products from a smaller and smaller resource base. Notice in the the graph below, showing the change in global forest cover over time.