|Technology scenarios in the Asia-Pacific forestry sector. (1997)|
The Asia-Pacific Region is experiencing significant social and economic changes which affect forestry in various ways. The Region's forest resources are of crucial importance to the global forestry sector. They provide raw material for globally, and perhaps more important, regionally increasing wood consumption. Forestry provides employment for millions of people and the natural forests harbour resources which more than 100 million people depend on for their daily subsistence and income generation. At the same time, the Region's forests are recognized as a critical component of the planet's natural heritage and environment.
The Region is extremely diverse: the countries' populations are confronted by an endless number of issues - reaching from forest conversion, urbanization, pollution, economic growth, industrialization, increased market orientation, impact of global trade, etc. - and have very different capacities to respond to such issues. As far as Southeast Asia is concerned, until very recently the general conception has been one of abundant resources, sparse populations, and the necessity of taming the wilderness, by opening up the frontier to development. High population growth rates were viewed as essential for national development. Supporting population increase belongs to the past, yet it still has a marked impact on forest conversion and wood consumption.
The changes that affect the future perspective of forest resources and forestry have not only been brought about from within the Region. For example, World Bank lending in the forestry sector has shifted from lending for industrial forestry to greater emphasis on social forestry and environmental issues (Cassells and Rietbergen, 1995). Global attitudes about forests, forestry and forest products have changed in unprecedented ways (Whaley, 1995). Environmental issues such as biodiversity erosion and anticipated global warming have stimulated the discussion on sustainable forest management not only in the Region but world-wide.
To date there has been no apparent diminution of the overall global wood supply and consumption of wood has continued to increase over the last several decades. In the absence of interventions to increase forest productivity or to promote end-use efficiency, wood consumption has already exceeded the sustainable supply capacity of the Region's forests. This may even be more so the case because available consumption figures give no indication of the damage caused to standing trees by current harvesting activities. Concerns over the widening supply and demand gap have been raised before but recently there is a more general agreement that the forestry sector will be significantly affected by the shortage of raw materials. This raises the question of how the sector in the Region will react, and what the role of advances and technological changes are in shaping forestry during the first decade of the next century.
Significant changes have already been made during the recent past. Rubberwood, formerly viewed as a waste product, is today a valuable raw material fuelling a multi-million dollar industry. Technological advances have been made by manufacturers of boards and reconstituted wood panels to accommodate smaller-sized timber. The private sector has assumed an increasing role in plantation management and the use of higher quality planting stock is becoming more widespread. In addition, the forestry sector has been strongly influenced by patterns of globalization of fibre production, consumption and trade. Today, other forestry sectors are influenced by the same developments. The recent strengthening of trade between Asian and Latin American economies will improve the access of the Region's multi-national corporations to raw material supplies overseas as conservation measures and more stringent forest policies are imposed in their own countries.
The evidence of rapid economic growth of the ASEAN countries suggests that industrialization in countries such as Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia is leading to substantial changes in rural areas. Labour shortages have led to formerly agricultural land being left idle. While this has not led to a general reversal of forest conversion trends (in fact, some countries are still planning to convert forests to other land uses) it opens opportunities for reforestation and investments in forest plantations which, in general, require lower labour inputs than agriculture. Furthermore, as economic growth proceeds, society's perception of the benefits of retaining forests rises, while the perceived benefits of clearing the forests diminish (Byron and Ruiz Pérez, 1996).
The contemporary developments raise many issues concerning forests and forestry. Questions have been asked whether we are running out of wood and which technological changes are needed in the forestry sector to bring about productivity increases and improvement in end-use efficiency. As Sayer and Byron (1996) rightly remark, technological change neither occurs randomly nor haphazardly. Instead it is usually a rational response to real or perceived constraints and opportunities. However, only very little is known about how forest managers, industries and farmers have reacted and even less about how they might react in the next decade.
This review is designed to provide an overview of the current forestry and wood processing practices to assess what forestry in the Region might look like in the year 2010. It provides an account of technologies and practices currently available, their extent of application, where possible, and the constraints that have obstructed a faster adoption and adaptation of available knowledge and research results. Following the review of technological changes in individual forestry sectors it will provide an outlook of potential developments.
There are two main reasons for assessing technological changes in the forestry sector. First, no up-to-date assessment exists. Second, the information that is available usually addresses only individual sub-sectors without providing a more comprehensive outlook. Since individual sub-sectors influence each other there is a need for a more comprehensive approach. The review and assessment outlined in the report do not provide definite answers to all the questions that policy makers, industries and managers may have. In fact, some speculation may be viewed as contested or controversial. The report therefore serves a third purpose, i.e. to stimulate the discussion on which way forestry is heading and what to do about correcting its direction, if any correction is deemed necessary.
A brief glance at the issue of technological change reveals that the number of aspects that might be a addressed are infinite. Products to consider range from timber to non-timber forest products including the potential of forests to provide eco-tourism benefits. Wood is produced in agroforestry systems by farmers, harvested by major corporations in the natural forest and derived from the growing plantation sector. Wood processing spans the areas of solid wood products to reconstituted wood panels and pulp and paper. The recognition of the multiple local to global benefits of forests accounts for the diversity of reforestation objectives ranging from watershed conservation, to job creation, subsistence support and fuelling growing industrial demands.
The present study is divided into five parts covering the sub-sectors of natural forest management, plantation management, agroforestry, use and management of NTFPs and wood processing. For each of the sub-sectors technological changes and their impacts on productivity and use efficiency are reviewed. The accessibility of information has shaped the report in that some aspects receive more attention not because they are viewed as more important but because the availability of information allowed for a more in-depth analysis. Furthermore, there is a country bias in that information from some countries (such as Malaysia and Indonesia) was more easily available than from others. Keeping these limitations in mind the review attempts to answer the following questions.
How will natural forest management be affected by the introduction of timber certification and the growing pressures to raise timber harvesting standards? To what extent will better forest management be achieved? Which technologies exist to reduce the impacts of logging practices and what is their rate of adoption? Which factors explain adoption rates? How will silvicultural treatments and logging intensities develop? To what extent will natural forests fulfil the demand of the processing industries and will the geographical distribution of wood production shift? Will eco-tourism provide an impetus for sustainable forest management?
How will the shift from public to private ownership in plantations affect their management? Will plantations become more complex or will their management rely on intensively managed monocultures? What will be the impacts of tree breeding, biotechnology, pest and disease management and silvicultural treatments on productivity? How will harvesting operations change? What will be the main objectives of plantations, which industries will they supply? What is the role of small-scale investors and farmers in plantation establishment?
Have new technologies changed agroforestry systems over time? Which systems have been widely adopted by farmers, which have been the most successful innovations and which factors have determined adoption? Will agroforestry systems become more complex? What is the farmer's main objective in adopting agroforestry? What will be the impacts of rural transformation on agroforestry technologies and aerial extent of agroforestry? How much will agroforestry systems differ from simple small-scale plantations or is there, in fact, a need to differentiate between those two systems?
How has the demand for NTFPs and technological changes affected their management and availability? How will their commercial role change and what will be their role in supporting the subsistence economy of the rural population? Will the natural forest remain the main source of NTFPs or will domestication replace naturally occurring raw materials?
Has wood processing changed during the last decades? In which way? How has the reduced availability of large diameter trees affected the industry? Has the raw material supply diversified? What has been the development regarding recovery rates and the use of logging waste? Are wood products substituted by alternative products such as steel and cement? What has triggered technological changes in the industries?
While the five topics are treated as separate entities, they are very interrelated and affect each other just like other sectors of the economies affect forestry. It is particularly obvious that the recent expansion of forest plantations and the developments in the wood processing sector are a response to real and perceived supply constraints from the natural forest. The supply of NTFPs depends very much on timber harvesting and agroforestry systems. Also, as will become apparent, there are no widely accepted definitions that allow for drawing a clear boundary between agroforestry and plantations. In fact, some agroforestry systems are so rich in species composition that they resemble a natural forest.
The final section of the review gives an account of the reasons for technological change in forestry in the Asia-Pacific Region. Providing an outlook for each of the five sub-sectors it discusses the factors that will most likely influence further technology changes. Before summarizing the main findings it also provides an overview of the limitations that have not allowed for a more in-depth analysis of certain issues as well as a comparisons between countries. The review should therefore be viewed as preliminary with updates to be made once additional information is available.
Looking into the future for technology partly involves assessing the past and the present. However, as other authors have observed, existing data as well as forecasts, for several aspects, are rather sketchy and in many cases not available at all (Nilsson, 1996). In addition, perceptions and information are, at times, conflicting and frequently represent authors' disciplinary biases. This makes a quantitative assessments and predictions difficult and quite unreliable.
The issues to be considered are numerous, ranging from the aspirations of rural people, to policy changes in the forestry sector as well as other sectors of the regional and global economies. Price changes and adjustments of various raw materials have profound effects on the forestry sector.
Any outlook study must also consider the heterogeneity of the Region's countries. The Asia-Pacific Region comprises some countries endowed with substantial forest resources. Papua New Guinea's, Brunei's and Cambodia's forest cover is above 70 percent, while that of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Singapore is below 10 percent. On a per capita basis forests reach from less than 0.1 ha to about 9 ha. Deforestation rates differ substantially just as the importance of forestry in the overall economy of individual countries. The countries of Northeast Asia are highly developed (as are Australia and New Zealand) while some of the South and Southeast Asian economies belong to the group of least developed countries. Economic as well as population growth rates are equally diverse.
In a sense this diversity prohibits the provision of a consistent picture of past and future developments. In fact, no two countries are alike, of which plantation developments in Australia and New Zealand are appropriate examples. Malaysia's and Thailand's economies have both experienced unprecedented economic growth over the last ten years. Wood products import and export as well as fuelwood use, however, differ considerably.
The diversity is compounded by the unreliability or unavailability of information in the forestry sector. Many new technologies have been described or are currently being tested. The use of skyline systems or clonal planting stock may serve as examples. However, the extent of their application is not know. With few exceptions even less is known about their impacts, including the impact of research on productivity and efficiency. This is not to say that it was possible to canvas all the existing information during the course of this study. More relevant documentation exists than what has been reviewed, but at the time it was not available.
Some readers may find that certain technologies did not receive any attention. Post-harvesting technologies and changes in transport operations have not been mentioned. Regarding the latter, it can be assumed that the expansion of road networks and the need to continuously feed manufactures with raw material will shift transport from water and rail to trucks. Advances in remote sensing, geographic information systems (GIS), and global positioning systems (GPS) technologies have also not been considered, even though progress has been impressive over the last decade. However, the scarcity of data and poor training support will render them inappropriate in the near to medium-term future for the purpose of improving forest management, as long as they cannot provide useful information on tree heights and species (Le Van Diem, 1995). However, they are likely to play an increasing role in national forest surveys, monitoring (such as logging progress) and map updating, and land use planning, and the case of GIS, management of geographically referenced data obtained through traditional on the ground survey methods. The cloud penetrating abilities of radar will also provide data for areas that have never been satisfactorily mapped and improve natural resource inventories.
The review also suffers from more in-depth comparisons among countries. This is mainly due to the skewed availability of information. For example, concerning reduced-impact logging in natural forests most information comes from the Sabah. There are few similar efforts towards improving timber harvesting in other countries, but they have just not received the same publicity. The review of other sub-sectors suffers from the same problems, and it is hoped that an updated version of this document can be more comprehensive and fill gaps.