How your Hardwood Flooring Destroyed a Habitat

sustainably harvested timber flooring orangutang

Using hardwood flooring from rainforests overseas can harm endangered animals like the Orangutan

Tropical forests support a wide array of species in many countries. Much of this is disappearing due to timber needs of rich countries for uses such as hardwood flooring.
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The Richness of the Tropical Rainforest

Much of the timber on sale in New Zealand comes from countries such as Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. The forests there and all over Southeast Asia are the oldest in the world, dating back to 70 million years ago. Their biodiversity is actually richer than that of the Amazon or rainforests in Africa. However, it has been projected that most of the rainforests in Southeast Asia will be destroyed over the next 10 years. As well as the trees themselves, there are many species that depend on the forests that could be wiped away such as the 2 horned Sumatran rhinocerous in Borneo and Sumatra. Currently, there are thought to be only 300-500 left. The Javan rhinocerous has already become extinct and the Sumatran will soon be gone. One of the main causes of this is logging.

The Situation in Indonesia

In Indonesia, political instability does not lend itself to rainforest protection. Back in 1992, locals who had previously supported President Suharto logged and farmed rainforests in Borneo and Sumatra because they felt betrayed by that figure. Indonesia, it should be noted, has the world’s 4th highest population and the 3rd largest tropical rainforest. However, between 1990 and 2010, 1/5 of its forest cover was felled. The United Nations Environment Programme reported in 2007 that the rainforest may all be destroyed by 2022 if action is not taken. Lowland forests are projected to disappear before that. There are many species that depend on hardwood trees in Indonesian forests, including the orangutan. Due to illegal logging as well as other factors, orangutans have been wittled down to 54,000 in Borneo and 6600 in Sumatra. Illegal logging accounts for 73-88% of the total timber exported from Indonesia. It occurs in 37 of 41 national parks in the country and it also costs the Indonesian government $3 billion US per year in lost revenues.

The Orangutan

The World Conservation Union classifies the orangutan, one of our closest primate relatives, as endangered in Borneo and critically endangered in Sumatra. Throughout the 20th Century, orangutan populations in Sumatra decreased by a staggering 91%. One of the reasons why orangutans have had their numbers drawn down to this extent is the fact that they have a slow rate of reproduction; only one birth generally occurs over 6 to 8 years. In addition, a female orangutan will only reach sexual maturity when they are between 11 and 16. Orangutans, as well as thousands of other species in rainforests, depend on trees for survival. Many of the trees in tropical forests however, are being used for various human applications.

Your Hardwood, Your Choice

There are many different types of hardwood trees that come from tropical rainforests such as merbau, teak, mahogany, rosewood, balsa, sandalwood, and sapele. They are used for furniture and flooring, among other uses. Merbau is highly sought after as a flooring material because of its golden hue. Only 40% of its historic range remains, according to a Greenpeace report. Given that so many of the wood products available on the market today are from tropical forests, we need to ask whether this is sustainable or not. After examining 138 studies from 28 forests, scientists have found that the highest biodiversity is found in tropical forests that are completely intact. As forests become smaller and smaller, animals are pushed into ever shrinking pockets and this cannot be sustained; even selective logging has an impact. In that report, it was shown that Asian rainforests have suffered the greatest losses in terms of biodiversity. For consumers who care about the future of our planet, it is best to find timber harvested under strict regulations in New Zealand for your flooring and decking needs.
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