Tropical Hardwoods

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Since humans began building our own shelters from the elements, we have constantly been seeking ways to improve the appearance and comfort in our home. One of the oldest and most popular ways is to use aesthetically pleasing and high quality woods for construction and furnishings. As humans expanded beyond their immediate environments and discovered new technology and climates, the utilization of exotic tropical hardwoods became one of the most popular ways for noblemen and kings to show their wealth and give a sense of luxury to their homes. In the modern world, this luxury has become available to more and more people from all regions and economic statuses.

Known for their high strength, beautiful appearance, and resistance to water, tropical hardwoods have always been popular for the construction of furniture, joinery, luxury boats, and musical instruments. For centuries, Chinese emperors sought out and gathered rosewood to construct hand carved furniture, sculptures, and fixtures. The decks of the Titanic, the pinnacle of luxury at the time, were covered in teak for its water resistance and beautiful, even grain. Even though the ship sunk over a century ago, these decks remain in the same strong condition under the sea. These legacies and qualities have held true to today, and have even increased the popularity of tropical hardwoods as economies continue to grow. The increase of disposable income, growing middle class, and appreciation for high quality wood products has steadily increased its demand as well as its investment potential.

An unfortunate down side of this surge in popularity is the scarcity of the product. Tropical hardwoods owe their strong structure and closely grouped graining to slow growth that, in some cases, may have taken hundreds of years. Previously, lower demand and slower logging allowed the replenishment of trees, but recent advances in logistics, logging technology, and exponentially increasing demand have driven some species almost to extinction. The value of some of these species, such as rosewood, has made illegal logging so profitable that even five or six boards can be sold for thousands of dollars. Highly affected areas such as Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia have seen some species become almost extinct because of illegal logging practices. Many of these countries have gone so far as to ban the export of any tropical hardwoods that are not sourced directly from registered or documented sustainable tree farms. Despite these measures, the high demand of these trees has continued to drive illicit logging practices which may result in the extinction of these beautiful species.

 

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Reserves, both private and state sponsored, have become one of the last hopes for keeping these types of trees available for any human use. The sad fact remains, however, that wide availability of tropical hardwoods can never be restored. Private forestry reserves have become not only an environmentally friendly and safe way to invest in the future, but also very profitable. The need and demands for tropical hardwoods will never disappear, unlike their natural reserves. Tree plantations allow for the availability of wood while also allowing free growing trees to be protected and preserved for the future of the ecosystem. Meanwhile, after a growth cycle of twenty to forty years, the trees from reserves can be harvested and sold for high returns with no ecological damage to natural forests.

Creating and sustaining rare wood tree farms is not only good for the environment, but also good for the market as well as the investor. Our top priority should be to maintain our current levels of natural resources while investing in renewable wood to fulfill demand. Read more about sustainable forestry through these non-profit organizations:

Greenpeace: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/forests/amazon/amazon-and-sustainable-forestr/

PEFC: http://www.pefc.org/standards/sustainable-forest-management

Food and Agricultural Organization of the United States: http://www.fao.org/forestry/sfm/en/