New report estimates that one-third of tropical lumber trade is illegal

The most comprehensive scientific analysis of illegal logging to date, entitled “Illegal Logging and Related Timber Trade – Dimensions, Drivers, Impacts and Responses” is the result of the joint efforts of more than 40 scientists from around the world, coordinated by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) within the Global Forest Expert Panels (GFEP) initiative on behalf of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF). It presents the results of the fifth global scientific assessment undertaken by the GFEP initiative. It provides a structured synthesis of available scientific and expert knowledge on illegal logging and associated timber trade. Forestry crime including corporate crimes and illegal logging account for up to $152 billion every year. It is estimated that almost one-third of tropical timber traded globally is illegal conversion timber. The study points out that most of the forest conversion has occurred in the Amazon and Southeast Asia, however forest conversion in the Amazon has been curtailed to some extent in recent years. A large part of illegal forest conversion is for commercial agricultural production, particularly export-orientated agricultural goods like palm oil, soybeans, and beef. According to the study, in some parts of the world organized forest crime may be extremely violent and has also been associated with the financing of wars and conflicts.

Illegal logging includes
1. Large-scale illegal logging – by large companies leads to larger interventions in forests with important short-term revenues, but also high state losses and forest degradation.
2. Small-scale and artisanal production – produce impacts that are difficult to generalize but generating short-term economic benefits and a slow process of forest degradation.
3. Illegal forest conversion to agriculture – produces highly variable impacts depending on whether conversion is to develop large-scale plantations or more traditional small scale farming systems. Illegal forest conversion is likely to produce significant negative impacts on forest goods and services, while having both negative and positive impacts on local people’s livelihoods and food security.

Environmental impacts of illegal logging can be significant, but are difficult to separate from those of legal logging. Environmental impacts that can be attributed to illegal logging, in particular to illegal forest conversion, include a rapid loss of carbon, biodiversity loss and an increase in water runoff and soil erosion.

The International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) is the only worldwide organization devoted to forest research and related sciences. Its members are research institutions, universities, and individual scientists as well as decision-making authorities and other stakeholders with a focus on forests and trees. The IUFRO-led Global Forest Expert Panels (GFEP) initiative of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) carried out a scientific rapid response assessment on illegal logging and related timber trade with the aim to provide a high-quality synthesis report and an accompanying policy brief on the topic by December 2016, and to inform relevant policy decision-makers at the CBD COP 13 meeting in Cancún, Mexico.

Illegal Logging and Related Timber Trade – Dimensions, Drivers, Impacts and Responses: A Global Scientific Rapid Response Assessment Report Editors: Daniela Kleinschmit, Stephanie Mansourian, Christoph Wildburger, Andre Purret