A new era for science in Australian forest policy
Friday 6 Sep 2019
Australian forests are an important global asset. They are extensive, varied and complex and provide many different values, often generating conflict between those with different views on forest management. Forest governance is complex. Different processes have been used to bring science into decision-making with varying success.
Forests are facing new challenges, but also new opportunities, with growing global demand for wood products and recognition of the role of forests in addressing climate change. It is time for a new era of forest policy and better integration of science into policy to inform debate over the future management of our forests.
Australia has over 134 million hectares of forests, about 3.5 per cent of the global area. Forests continue to be cleared for agriculture or urban areas, or are lost due to fire or drought. From 1990 to 2008 there was a net loss of forests. Since then, however, there has been a net gain.
The forest products sector generates considerable benefits. For the last few years, timber harvest has been increasing. Australian forests produce about 33 million cubic metres of wood per year, 88 per cent coming from 2 million hectares of forest plantations.
The contribution of forestry and logging to the economy has doubled in the last 10 years, while the value of wood and paper manufacturing has dropped. In short, we are exporting more woodchips and raw logs and importing more manufactured timber products.
Clearly, forests and their management are important, but they face various challenges. More >>.
Rod Keenan is a Professor in the School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences at the University of Melbourne.
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