Key words: wood supply, Monterey pine, New Zealand forests, sustainability
Abstract. Ten thousand years ago our 5 million hunter-gatherer ancestors used, over the period of a year, about 200 species of local food items. Now, the nearly 6 billion global population gets 70 percent of its food from nine species of plants, one species of bird, and two species of mammals. This is despite global access to about 50,000 edible plants, as well as large numbers of bird and other animal species. We have concentrated our agricultural efforts on those species which are the most desirable, the most convenient, the most productive, and the most easily stored. Of equal importance, the species must be responsive to both genetic improvement and to management manipulation (i.e., domestication). Globally, very little of our food, except fish, now comes from wild sources. Although we use at least as much wood as we do food, wood supply (which still comes mostly from natural forests) is only now becoming limiting. There are no energy-efficient or environmentally acceptable substitutes for wood. The most likely means we have of satisfying the increasing global demand for wood is to obtain more of our wood from deliberately planted forests. Management of planted forests will increasingly parallel intensive agriculture. One consequence is that, of the 1,000 tree species we now use globally, we may eventually get most of our wood from four or five species. One of these tree species will be radiata pine (Pinus radiata D. Don). Radiata grows fast on a wide range of sites, has desirable wood properties, and responds well to both genetic improvement and stand management. The planted forest technology for radiata pine is probably the most advanced of any potential tree species. The evolution and success of radiata pine in New Zealand has major implications and lessons for the rest of the world.