Degradation of Hardwood Forests Vs Pine Sustainability – The Implications For the Furniture Industry

Degradation of Hardwood Forests Vs Pine Sustainability – The Implications For the Furniture Industry

Imagine yourself as a landowner with enough of a hardwood forest that lumbering becomes an economic option. A lumber buyer approaches the landowner with the hopes of gaining access to those choice hardwood trees on his or her property. After a quick survey it is determined that there is enough of a hardwood stand to make it economically viable for the lumber buyer to make an offer to the owner and the owner to take that offer as an unexpected economic windfall.   Is it a win-win situation for everyone? Not necessarily.


When the cutting of a hardwood stand occurs it is usually done by what is called diameter-limit cutting, or select, high-grade cutting. Trees taken are those that are considered the choice trees with large diameters and taller trunks. It is these trees which naturally yield the highest amount of desirable lumber with the least amount of labour effort. At the same time it is often thought that the smaller trees are the younger trees and if the large, “older” trees are removed it will allow these smaller trees to grow and regenerate the forest. That may not be the case. Just because a tree is smaller does not mean it is younger. 

In the case of poor soil conditions the smaller tree may actually be older than the larger diameter trees. The large trees that were cut may have been the ones that were genetically superior and were better adapted to the soil and other conditions. Cutting these choice trees does not improve these conditions and the forest that is left is therefore compromised. The result will not be a strong regeneration of the forest but a sudden growth in “scrub” or undesirable brush that overtakes the floor of the forest and actually prevents strong new hardwoods from developing. Without intentional and costly management, then, the landowner is left with a forest that is no longer desirable.


In contrast, consider the stand of pine that is cut. It is now unusual to find a lumbering company that has not been forced to become environmentally friendly. When cut most pine stands are immediately replanted. Unlike our hardwood scenario, this is a win-win situation for everyone. Seedlings are inexpensive and the survival rate is quite high even if left unattended. They will grow to a harvestable age again in about twenty to twenty-five years. Unlike the degraded hardwood stand, the replanted pine plantation will grow to its former stature. 

In the meantime if it was a plantation stand, or one that was purposefully planted, all of the trees will be the same age and pretty much one will be as desirable as the next. The amount of usable lumber gained for today’s uses will be higher than a comparably sized stand of hardwoods and the cost will be considerably less expensive to the final user.


For the furniture industry the use of pine for its products becomes an attractive wood for all concerned. It is a sustainable resource with a relatively short regeneration period. It is less labor intensive to harvest and leaves less of a long term impact on the environment. These are all important considerations in today’s green conscious world. In addition, because of the already mentioned factors, pine is cheaper to produce and use as furniture; an important factor for the manufacturer and the consumer. All of these things, plus the fact that pine is a very adaptable wood for the many of styles of furniture on the market today, such as a pine wardrobe, make pine a very desirable alternative to hardwoods.