Roundwood Production Plummets

Gary Gardner | Jun 17, 2010

Global roundwood production fell by more than 4 percent in 2008 to 3.45 billion cubic meters, as the global recession drove a severe slump in wood-intensive industries, especially housing.1 (See Figure 1.) The decline was the largest percentage drop since the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations began tracking production in 1961.2 Output fell to levels last seen in 2004.3

The 2008 drop in production was also large on a per capita basis, at 5 percent, in part because of the recession but also because of a long structural decline dating back to at least 1961.4 Many economic sectors have replaced wood with other materials, and wood use has become more efficient. (See Figure 2.) In 2008, roundwood production per person worldwide was about a third smaller than in 1961.5

Roundwood is felled timber, and it is the broadest category of wood harvested for human ends. It consists of two major subgroups. Industrial roundwood, which accounted for 45 percent of total production in 2008, is converted to commodities such as sawnlogs, veneer logs, pulpwood, and paper.6 Fuelwood, the remaining 55 percent of production, is used for heating and cooking in developing countries and for heating, typically in wood stoves, in industrial countries.7

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