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Will We Ever Run Out Of Trees And Timberland?

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The possibility of exhausting global timber resources, or running out of trees, is a complex issue.

This is influenced by a range of social, economic, technological, and environmental factors.

Here's a summary of findings from various research studies about the possibility of running out of timberland.

Global Timber Supply

The area of planted forests has increased globally, which has a significant impact on timber supply.

While there are concerns about the rate of increase in planted forest area, these man-made forests have the potential to meet a significant portion of the world’s timber and fiber needs.

This could be a deterring factor against the complete exhaustion of trees. 

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Timber Demand

Increased demand for mass timber, a sustainable building material, is projected to lead to increases in global softwood lumber production.

This demand will impact timber prices, forest growth, and forest stock, but the overall effect on global forest stock is relatively small, suggesting that forest resources can adapt to changing market demands.

It is unlikely that the global timber market will be caught off guard with a massive increase in timber demand.

Peak Timber

There is concern about reaching ‘peak timber' in tropical forests, akin to ‘peak oil', due to unsustainable logging practices.

This suggests that without fundamental changes, tropical forests will continue to be over-harvested, leading to a decline in non-plantation tropical timbers.

The verdict is still out on this, as the long term effects have yet to be seen.


In conclusion, while the potential for exhausting timber resources exists, particularly in tropical regions, global trends in forest management, plantation development, market dynamics, and conservation efforts should be able to mitigate that risk completely.

The balance between these factors will be crucial in determining the future availability of global timber resources.

Cited Research Articles

  1. Payn, T., Carnus, J., Freer-Smith, P., Kimberley, M., Kollert, W., Liu, S., Orazio, C., Rodriguez, L., Silva, L., & Wingfield, M. (2015). Changes in planted forests and future global implications. Forest Ecology and Management, 352, 57-67. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.FORECO.2015.06.021
  2. Nepal, P., Johnston, C., & Ganguly, I. (2021). Effects on Global Forests and Wood Product Markets of Increased Demand for Mass Timber. Sustainability. https://doi.org/10.3390/su132413943
  3. Shearman, P., Bryan, J., & Laurance, W. (2012). Are we approaching ‘peak timber' in the tropics?. Biological Conservation, 151, 17-21. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.BIOCON.2011.10.036

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