Where wood comes from.

Where wood comes from.

Depending on how you interpret those four words, wood, as hopefully everyone knows, comes from trees!  Rather, it is where trees come from that is where we should start.  And a good place to start to find out more about that is the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) from where the maps below originate.

 

Global Forest Cover

Global Forest Cover

UK Forest Cover

But just considering the heading again for a moment; let’s look at it in terms of where wood comes from to the UK.  UK forests, find out more at the Forestry Commission , are growing – and increasing utilisation as a wood resource is being spearheaded by the Grown in Britain campaign supported by a whole host of UK partner companies – but they are unlikely to ever supply more than 25% of our wood requirements.  That, together with the enormous variety of wood species available from the global forest resource, is why the UK imports wood, as it has been doing for centuries, from some 80 or so countries worldwide. 

The UK Timber Trade Federation produces an annual Statistical Review including some information on UK imports.  

Global Climatic Regions

Although climatic regions have a number of sub-divisions, commercial availability of wood is generally categorised by the main climatic zones, i.e. tropical, temperate and – but to a lesser degree as it tends to be lumped with temperate – boreal.  Compare the tree cover map above with this climatic zone map.

Global Climatic Regions

Softwoods or hardwoods

Whilst not entirely so, trees from tropical forests are predominantly broadleaf species (hardwoods), from boreal forests predominantly coniferous species (softwoods) with the temperate forests in between a varying mixture of broadleaf and coniferous species.  The most numerous tree ‘family’, with somewhere in the region of 120 species worldwide, is the pine (genus Pinus; family Pinaceae), the softwood which grows almost everywhere!  It also has remarkable, other-than-wood, utilisation!

It is also worth bearing in mind that the number of readily available commercial wood ‘species’ is considerably lower than the estimated total of some 100,000 tree species worldwide.  There is much information widely available on commercial tree/wood species and their use. In more recent years a concerted effort has been made to introduce lesser known species (LKTS), particularly tropical hardwoods, into the market to help control exploitation of historically favoured widely used species.