Tomorrow is the International Day of Forests, a day celebrated annually on 21 March to recognise and promote the many benefits that forests bring to our lives.
Forests play a very important role in New Zealand. The Forestry industry is the 3rd largest primary industry exporter, providing over 26 000 jobs and almost 5 billion dollars to the economy annually.
Forestry also benefits the environment by stabilising soil, lifting water quality, storing carbon and supporting biodiversity. Not to mention that most of our homes and much of our furniture are constructed from trees, or products derived from trees. But the benefits of forestry extend further still.
Scion, the Crown research institute dedicated to growing New Zealand’s economic, environmental and social wellbeing through trees, has a unique understanding of the role of forests in our past present and future. To mark the 2017 International Day of Forests, Scion staff have shared what growing New Zealand through trees means to them.
Doug Gaunt, wood and fibre science leader, pointed out the huge benefits the New Zealand economy receives from forests. “The wood processing industry is huge for New Zealand – and there is so much potential for increasing value onshore by converting trees into products like structural and appearance grade timber (doors, window framing etc), engineered wood products, chemicals, fibre based products, adhesives, buildings and so much more.”
Sustainability was top of mind for biopolymer and chemicals research leader, Dr Dawn Smith “We can make incredible things with chemicals and fibre derived from trees – from 3D printed items, to biobased glue, there’s so much potential. Forests as a renewable resource are well placed to be the heart of a biobased economy for NZ.”
Sustainability was also a priority Dr Paul Bennett, science leader of our clean technologies programme, “We could replace the coal in industrial processes and produce liquid biofuels from trees. Some of the most promising bioenergy production comes from forest biomass and there’s potential to use forestry and wood processing waste in the short term and have a big impact. But we need to plant more forests so we can use more bioenergy in the long term.”
Scientist Steve Wakelin said the role forests play in sequestering and storing carbon is also a huge benefit to New Zealand and the world. “In the post-Paris Climate Agreement environment, trees are more important to New Zealand than ever. They are likely to play a big part in meeting our target reduction in greenhouse gas levels while still providing a wide range of other benefits.”
Environmental economist Dr Richard Yao on what prosperity from trees - mai i te ngahere oranga, means to him, said “The clean, fresh air that forests produce is the first thing that comes to mind. And the recreational opportunities that come from spending time in forests; exercising and watching the bird-life. When you add the economic value from selling the timber and the environmental value of avoided soil erosion, then it’s easy to appreciate how forests contribute to our economic, social and environmental wellbeing.”
Forests provide a valuable way of using land while protecting it at the same time. They support life, protect soil, are climate friendly and provide renewable materials and energy for people to use. Scion’s work ensures that forestry continues to flourish so that all of New Zealand can prosper for a long time to come.
The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 21 March the International Day of Forests in 2012. The theme for 2017 is Forests and Energy.
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About ScionScion is a Crown Research Institute that undertakes research, science and technology development in forestry, wood products, biomaterials and bioenergy. Scion's work contributes to beneficial economic, environmental and social outcomes for New Zealand. Formerly the NZ Forest Research Institute, Scion employs approximately 340 people and has its head office in Rotorua. For more information, please visit www.scionresearch.com.
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