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Renewable forestry - Gives both oxygen and energy from continued new growth.

Updated on September 4, 2016
Beautiful forest
Beautiful forest
Gallatin National Forest
Gallatin National Forest
Trees replanted after Mount  St. Helens eruption
Trees replanted after Mount St. Helens eruption
Wood pellets for clean renewable fuel
Wood pellets for clean renewable fuel
Wood chip for power stations
Wood chip for power stations
Gum Rosin for adhesives and chewing gum
Gum Rosin for adhesives and chewing gum
Tall Oil Fatty Acid for coatings, lubricants, cleaners and disinfectants
Tall Oil Fatty Acid for coatings, lubricants, cleaners and disinfectants

These days we are still wasting billions of pounds on hare-brained energy creation schemes such as wind power, wave power etc. that can only produce a tiny proportion of our energy requirements at huge cost to the nation.

For thousands of years one of the world’s greatest and most versatile energy resources has been timber. We have insufficient land in the UK to provide even a part of our overall energy requirements but we have the technology to utilise the basic raw material imported from countries with massive land areas and small energy needs.

Some while ago a study was carried out in the Northern States of America where abt. 10,000 acres of pinus elliotti (American Slash Pine) and pinus palustris (Long leaf pine) was cleared, in the normal manner, as part of an on-going managed timber programme. Normally the area would be immediately re-planted but due to the industry suffering severe criticism and an on-going campaign, by Friends of the Earth and the like, it was decided to leave it alone to see just what effect there was on a long-term basis. The various opposition groups were invited to take part and monitor the experiment.

To this end the ground was roughly turned over to release the underlying seeds which left the area scattered with trunk root bases and the usual post forestry debris. It looked horrendous and the whole area was photographed from a variety of fixed points.

A year later it was visited again, and it still looked terrible, but shrubs and saplings had started to establish themselves naturally. You would have observed this low-level flora had attracted animals and insects not normally found in deep forest habitat and the deer and raptors had, quite happily re-located into the adjoining untouched forest. Most people do not realise that the majority of animals cannot live in deep forest, the floor comprises of predominantly acidic pine needles with little nutritional value, in addition these smother any low level plant growth.. The crystal clear streams are exactly that because of their highly acidic nature which supports little life, either plant or fish.

It continued to be observed, documented and photographed each year over a period of 15 years. The saplings eventually dominated and the reduced light stunted the growth of the ground cover plants and shrubs. Eventually the fauna adapted, deer and raptors returned, other animals moved on to more suitable habitat. Today, 20 years later, you see only a beautiful forest, with no apparent evidence of man tampering. The same thing happened to an adjoining area of meadow, which was included in the original project. Once the grazing animals moved on the forest gradually spread and this land is now becoming part of the same forest, albeit much more slowly. Here, you would observe, there are some differences in the structure of growth, primarily due to soil, which had been fertilised by many generations of cattle.

I attended a conference in New Orleans at the latter part of 1999 and one of the speakers was Dr Patrick Moore of the Forest Alliance of British Columbia. This gentleman was originally a ferocious opponent of managed forestry when he was a member of Friends of the Earth. He had since carried out similar observations of managed forestry projects all over the world and was now of the opinion that wood, as a renewable resource, was the option of choice, rather than fossil fuels, petrochemicals and the like. Wood is one of the most versatile infinitely renewable resources we have. Apart from its obvious structural and paper uses, its abietic acid content (abt 90%) can be turned into anything from fuels, pharmaceuticals, disinfectants, paints, adhesives, vitamins, anti-corrosives, even foodstuff (cholesterol lowering margarine, food flavours etc.) and increasingly into new forms of medicines.

Processes such as pelleting and wood chip use the previously waste wood from branches and roots as fuel in previously coal-fired power stations. In the case of wood used for Kraft paper production only the cellulose portion is required. This amounts to about 55% with a liquid portion of around 45% most of which was previously unused. In 2003 a British scientist Chris Edgecombe developed a fuel using this material blended with several, previously waste, vegetable and tall oil fatty acids to act as a “drop-in” replacement for heavy mineral oil for energy production use. It was very successful, non-polluting, non-toxic and together with wood chip reduced the emissions from the old coal stations at a stroke, with only minor modifications needed.

As mentioned at the beginning unfortunately, due to the constraints of space in the UK, we cannot grow sufficient timber to sustain a paper pulp and associated industry, therefore most of our softwood timber is used only for lumber. The exception is a relatively small number of hardwood trees, which can be used for high quality veneers. It is, however, a heart-breaking decision to cut down such a tree and there would have to be a very compelling reason (such as road-building or widening etc. or more commonly damage or disease.) For similar reasons to above, a managed high quality slow growing hardwood tree management programme would be a good idea, but is very much a long-term project, with a slow return on investment.

Copyright Peter Geekie 2012


Since man first walked on two legs wood has heated our shelter, cooked our food, built our houses and ships and driven our industry giving us an ability to smelt metals. At the time of the industrial revolution wood, as a fuel, was largely replaced by coal and later still by oil. Apart from paper, some ships and timber framed buildings wood was considered yesterday's fuel by the end of the 18th century.

By the start of the 20th century, further investigation of wood found that it could provide fatty acids for coatings, adhesives and lubricating oils to meet the needs of the new technology.

In addition trees that had remained uncut had reached their maximum limit of carbon absorption and their effect as the lungs of the world was diminishing. What was needed was a system of managed forestry to provide raw materials, but at the same time renewing the natural process of carbon absorption necessary for the welfare of mankind. This need for a renewal programme seems to be a fact overlooked by those who criticise planned and managed forests and look upon trees as just the lungs of the world.

Importance of the forests

Were you ever taught about the importance of the forests ?

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© 2012 Peter Geekie


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    • Peter Geekie profile image

      Peter Geekie 5 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Many thanks Topaz Blue

      I spent a decade or two working with trees in the vast Canadian forests and never stopped marvelling at the wonderful peace and simple beauty. (Except one time when I disturbed a mother bear and her cubs - that tends to make your heart beat faster !!)

      Kind regards Peter

    • profile image

      topaz blue 5 years ago


      Yeap ! Echoing some of my thoughts too! Many thanks for a great hub!

      Topaz Blue

    • Peter Geekie profile image

      Peter Geekie 5 years ago from Sittingbourne

      I agree Grace, there is a huge difference between a tree grown in 9 or 10 years for its commercial value and a stately several hundred year old beauty. There shouldn't be, of course, but I have worked with trees for over 40 years now and don't underestimate the value they give to mankind. A tree used properly is much like the old quip in pig farming "there is nothing left but the oink". For 8 or 10 years we tap the sap and produce rosin to make everything from adhesives to foodstuffs, we further fractionate the sap to produce turpentine through to high grade perfumes and medical antiseptics. At the end of the life the tree is cut, chipped and kraft paper is produced with 50% of the remainder turned into lubricants, paints, anti-corrosives, cholesterol lowering sterols and finally the pitches are used as renewable fuels.

      It is easy to become sentimental and I feel that way sometimes as I stand in the middle of a forest and listen to the trees sigh and sing. However each tree begats 3 more and the flora and fauna benefits.

      Kind regards Chris

    • earthybirthymama profile image

      earthybirthymama 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      You Said "Wood is one of the most versatile infinitely renewable resources we have" I think I agree, we need at least in the short term consider the possibility that managed forestry might be necessary until better options are available. I still balk at cutting trees, but my issue is with old growth forests vs, renewable lumber managed as a source of energy, as long as it does not impact negatively on the environment.