DESTRUCTION OF RENEWABLE RESOURCESJuly 22, 2012
Deforestation can rob a country of potential renewable revenues while replacing valuable productive lands with virtually useless scrub and grassland. Tropical forests provide important renewable resources that can significantly contribute to national economic growth on a continuing basis.
In theory, logging can be a sustainable activity, generating an ongoing source of revenue without diminishing the resource base—especially in secondary forests and plantations. However, most rainforest logging is not sustainable in practice, diminishing the potential revenue for tropical countries in the long term. The importance of forestry is decreasing in many former wood-exporting countries in Southeast Asia and West Africa due to overexploitation. While several countries have moved to restrict logging, some continue to struggle with illegal operations. The World Bank estimates that governments lose about US$5 billion in revenues annually as a result of illegal logging while overall losses to the national economies of timber-producing countries add up to an additional US$10 billion per year.
After logging, one of the largest "renewable resources" provided by tropical rainforests is ecotourism. The booming market brings tens of billions of dollars annually to tropical countries around the world. Ecotourism suffers with deforestation—few tourists, let alone ecotourists, want to travel in order to see polluted rivers, stumps of former forests, barren wasteland, gorilla carcasses, and relics of recently assimilated forest dwellers.
Forest products play a crucial role in the economy of developing countries, generating more than $120 billion in reported income in the late 2000s, according to the FAO. Roughly 20 percent of that value came from secondary forest products, although that number is likely a gross underestimate since it doesn't include the value to local, non-market consumers, who use timber to build houses and collect nuts and fruits from the forest for food. Short-term economic exploitation through deforestation can be devastating to the long-term economy of developing countries not only by annihilating vital ecosystems that afford important services, but also by destroying potential forest products. Accordingly, the volume of tropical hardwood exports has fallen since 1980. Malaysia has seen a 60 percent decline in log exports, while the Philippines (a major exporter of logs during the early 1980s) has seen a virtual cessation in log exports. In both cases, the declines are due to dwindling harvestable forest resources.
Is Indonesia losing its most valuable assets?
Deep in the rainforests of Malaysian Borneo in the late 1980s, researchers made an incredible discovery: the bark of a species of peat swamp tree yielded an extract with potent anti-HIV activity. But when the scientists returned to the site to collect more material for analysis, they were shocked to find the tree, and its promise, gone.
Besides timber products, tropical countries lose potential earnings from renewable forest products like Brazil nuts from the Amazon, durian fruit from Southeast Asia, and resin from Damar trees in Sumatra. A 2012 study by CIFOR estimated that forest products generate up to 20 percent of rural income and often provides the only means to access the cash economy. Many rainforest products cannot exist without a fully functioning rainforest system. Thus deforestation puts renewable forest resources at risk.
- Why are seconday forest products important?
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