Plantations are evil!
There is no room for biodiversity in these [Pine]
plantations. They are “green deserts” that have lost
ecosystem multi-functionality, and the neighbours have
perceived this situation, baptising them “the forests of
silence” (WRM 2003)
Plantations are often linked to serious
Social (cheap labour, exploitation,
displace local people…)
Environmental (destroy forests, exotics,
Financial (debt, perverse incentives…)
What are really forest plantations?
Defining plantation is surprisingly
From monoclonal Eucalypt stands to
complex Damar agroforests
From trees on farm for fuelwood to large
estates for pulp and paper
For this work:
Forest stands established by planting and/or seeding in the
process of afforestation or reforestation. They are either of
introduced species (all planted stands) or intensively
managed stands of indigenous species, which meet all the
following criteria: one or two species at planting; even age
class; regular spacing
Are there environmental risks linked
to forest plantations?
Done at the expense of ‘primary’
ecosystems (forests or grasslands)
Monocultures based on a narrow
Exotic species that could become
Consume large quantities of water
Exhaust soils resources and increase
Are forest plantations taking
pressure off natural forests?
New Zealand being the archetypal example
Ghana, Uganda, Uruguay, Chile, Fiji
Not a replacement for most high value
Main cause of deforestation is agriculture
(incl. cash crop plantations)
‘Logging off’ is more the result of awareness
of acute natural forest shortage than of
compensatory effects from plantations
Do we need tropical forest
Yes, for various reasons
Evidence is against the idea of ‘demand
reduction’. Demand increases (as is recycling
but not enough to offset the demand)
By 2050 the World will need an additional 66101 million ha of forest plantations (54-81
millions for wood energy
Plantations are best suited to provide large
quantity of uniform material (industrial wood,
pulp wood) that is in increasing demand
The area of tropical natural forests that can be
economically or legally logged is going to
The potential for tropical forest
plantations to contribute to
The big principles
Maintain connectivity of the
landscape for animals
Maintain biological diversity both flora
Protect fragile or ecologically
Reduce necessary damaging
principles to a minimum
Landscape level management
Leave native vegetation as biological legacies
throughout cutting cycles (dispersed individual
retention trees, aggregated clumps, linear strips)
Maintain corridors or buffer strips along rivers and
Maintain blocks of native forests linked to the existing
corridor network or ensure that corridors are linked to
existing native forest reserves outside planting areas
Where exotics are used widely, begin or increase
planting of native species, increase emphasis on
retaining areas of native vegetation
Spatially and temporally juxtapose exotic and native
stands within a landscape
Stand level management (1)
When harvesting mature plantations, leave as many
snags and cavity trees as possible.
Delimb trees near the stump, and leave tops on site.
Manage some plantations on longer rotations.
Instead of clear-cutting all mature plantations,
manage some via irregular shelterwood, seed–tree
cuts, or selection silviculture.
Favor native species over exotics.
Retain underplant important plant species that
provide mast, fruit, nectar, or cavity resources.
Maintain genetic diversity. Avoid widespread use of
seed from a limited number of individuals, or clones.
Favor mixed species plantations either within or
Stand level management (2)
Avoid intensive site-preparation that disturbs soil
nutrients, promotes leaching and soil erosion
Leave some snags and downed coarse woody debris
after site preparation
Use controlled burning over part of the landscape to
promote native understorey plants
Thin some plantations earlier and heavier than
normal, to stimulate or maintain a diverse
understorey plant community.
Leave sections unthinned to create a mosaic of
relatively open areas and dense thickets.
Allow incomplete herbicide applications that skip
some areas, or thin competing vegetation to
acceptable levels instead of trying to clean stands
Are forest plantations evil?
Not by nature, even for fast growing
plantations (pulp, industrial wood)
It depends essentially on the management
practices applied both within stands and at
the landscape level
Good management practices are neither
complicated nor necessarily expensive to
There is however a “company cost / overall
society benefit” to biodiversity friendly
practices: good players should be
rewarded; bad ones should be punished
Cossalter, C. & C. Pye-Smith 2003. Fast-Wood forestry: Myths
and reality. Forest Perspectives, CIFOR, Bogor, Indonesia
Hardcastle, P.D. 1999. Plantations: potential and limitations.
Draft report for the World Bank Forest Policy Implementation
review and Strategy.
Hartley, M.J. 2003. Rationale and methods for conserving
biodiversity in plantation forests. Forest Ecology and
Poulsen, J., G. Applegate & D. Raymond 2001. Linking C&I to a
code of practice for industrial forest plantations. CIFOR,
World Rainforest Movement 2003. Plantations are not forests.