China’s insatiable lust for tropical timber

4 04 2010

If you’ve been following for the past few weeks, you’ll know that William Laurance was in town and gave a fantastic set of talks (download podcasts here). As a parting gift, he put together a brief post on one huge aspect of the tropical deforestation crisis we know face. Thanks, Bill.


I greatly enjoyed my recent visit to the University of Adelaide, and especially want to thank my host, Corey Bradshaw, for showing me a wonderful time there.

Corey asked me to contribute a brief blog for and so I thought I’d highlight a paper in Science last week by my old friend Jianguo “Jack” Liu at Michigan State University. In his paper China’s road to sustainability, Jack describes the battle to improve environmental sustainability in China–a battle that is not progressing very well, all factors considered.

China’s explosive economic growth and environmental deterioration is also affecting other countries, especially those with timber, minerals or other resources that China wants. Today, more than half of the timber shipped anywhere in the world is destined for China–some 45 million m3 per year, an incredible total.

China is an especially rapacious consumer of timber from tropical nations, such as Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Myanmar, as well as elsewhere in the Pacific, Central African and Latin American regions. If you want to read more about this, see my brief 2008 paper The need to cut China’s illegal timber imports, also published in Science.

Of course, there’s plenty of blame to spread around. Much of China’s timber is ultimately processed into furniture and other wood products and then exported internationally–to North America, Europe, Japan, Australia and elsewhere.

Think about that the next time you go shopping for furniture or wood products. If it says “Made in China”, I’d steer clear of it.

William F. Laurance, Distinguished Research Professor, James Cook University

ResearchBlogging.orgLiu, J. (2010). China’s Road to Sustainability Science, 328 (5974), 50-50 DOI: 10.1126/science.1186234

Laurance, W.F., Wang, G., Innes, J., Wu, S., Dai, S., & Lei, J. (2008). The Need to Cut China’s Illegal Timber Imports Science, 319 (5867), 1184-1185 DOI: 10.1126/science.319.5867.1184b

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9 03 2012
The World Inches Forward | Living History

[…] Legal foreign workers and illegal immigrants in Malaysia have rights in consumer tribunalMalaysia UNHCR Accused of Betraying RefugeesMalaysia’s history, sovereignty violated, semantics need truly national !Sarawak committed to sustainable forest managementLariat Letters: Lenient immigration laws liable to violently backfireThe Importance of Sustainable Forest Management for New Forestry ChallengesHutan di Sarawak masih luas, orang asing saja menuduh.TROPICAL TIMBERChina’s insatiable lust for tropical timber […]


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