FOREST IS AN
With four changing seasons, comes changing colours of a temperate deciduous forest. The look can vary from month to month and with the autumn approaching in Europe, the leaves turn yellow and red. Before falling to the ground, they flutter around in the air as they start their decent and leave the tree tops naked during the winter. With the start of spring, small leaves start to sprout and a vivid green spreads throughout the blooming forest. Summer arrives and the forest is now fully dressed up in a deep green cover. A regular visitor of the forest will notice even the small changes as the forest grows older. However, there are other things that can impact the life of a forest. A hard winter can change the landscape or a heavy storm might create chaos and do a lot of damage. That’s all in the life of a forest.
At Global Timber, we feel these changes too. Our stock depends on the season and on what conditions the tree has been exposed to throughout its lifetime. In recent years, our log business has expanded significantly. Oak logs have been a strong part of our business for many years, and in the more recent years ash, beech, and red oak logs have seen a rise in demand. Last season we had a special request; we were asked if we could supply basswood and poplar logs and did so successfully. This coming fall, the log season is a little different because other species have come into play. We not only have to supply sycamore, but we also offer softwood on demand with species such as spruce and pine logs.
In general, the hardwood season runs from October to June with little variation from specie to specie, but softwood season is more of an all-seasons supply. It gives us better opportunities to offer a well-rounded wood supply, which hopefully leads to a beautiful symphony.
We focus a lot on the German forest where we buy from both public and private forest owners. Our forester buys logs at auctions and through seasonal deals. His team works with the local forest workers to arrange the harvested logs from appointed concessional areas into stacks where they are graded and tagged. Here, they are arranged according to purpose like veneer mills, local sawmills, export along with bulb and paper mills. The very best are AA and A grade veneer logs, which are sold to veneer mills at a high price and high-grade sawlogs are sold to domestic sawmill. Finally, export takes up a very large volume from A, AB and ABC grades.
Export logs are then cut in length to fit into containers, measured across the middle of each log, and tallied into the books. Hereafter comes the loading truck with its crane and moves the logs to the container loading area and places them carefully into containers. The process of loading a container with logs is a job that takes skills. Logs must be loaded in a specific order with big ends in opposite directions to secure and keep a safe weight distribution under the long transport.
For the last 300 years, the German forest has had a particular focus on sustainability and has been protected by law. With a size of about 11.4 million hectares (about the size of Ohio, USA), forests take up about 30% of the total area of Germany. This holds about 90 billion young and old trees and that’s a whole lot of well-managed trees. But managing, maintaining and commercialising existing forests is not simply a walk in the park; it is a well-planned discipline. You need to plant new trees to sustain the forest, so people will be able to enjoy the landscape and walk through it for many decades.
The ownership of the German forest land is shared between private and public actors. Shareholders of different sizes make up about half of the ownership, whereas the remaining belongs to the state. Even though the forests are owned by many different stakeholders, the species are fairly similar throughout the country. About 70% of the German forests consist of beech and oak in terms of hardwood along with pine and spruce in terms of softwood.
About two-thirds of German forest land is certified and most of these have a PEFCTM-certification while also complying with the EUTR-regulations. FSC®-certified German logs represent less than 10%, and, therefore, it is hard to supply them to customers, who have a specific request for this certification. However, as we wrote in our previous newsletter, sustainability and legality can be documented through many other certification programs.
When reading about forest life, it may all sound idyllic but there is always two sides to a story. The dry summers of 2018 – 2020 created the perfect conditions for several insects, especially an insect called the bark beetle. The conditions allowed the beetle to dig deeper into the barks on spruce trees, which damaged the wood beneath. Also, there has been an increase in droughts, storms, and forest fires in the past three years, which has also taken its toll on the German forest. Another topic that has been much debated in recent years is that of the emerald ash borer. This insect damages the ash tree’s ability to transport moisture and nutrients from the soil to the top of the tree and further onto the leaves. This causes the ash tree to decline and ultimately die. Therefore, the German ministry announced the largest ecological forest reconstruction program the country has ever seen. But with time the forest will survive and keep evolving. Remember that the world is always changing, and the forest is changing with it.
By: Per Friis Knudsen