75% of a Hardwood in Balconies, Stairs May Be Illegally Logged

A new study highlights concerns over Ipê and its connection to Amazon deforestation.

Fri 27 Oct 23


A new report has found that up to 75% of Ipê exported from the top-producing areas in Brazil is at high risk of being harvested illegally.

It calls for more action to stamp out illegal logging, including improved laws banning deforestation and embracing forest certification.

The study from the Swedish-based Chalmers University of Technology reveals for the first time where the most significant risk of deforestation and illegal logging lies. 

“It can be a tool to counteract illegal logging,” said Caroline S.S. Franca, the paper’s lead author.

One of the world’s hardest woods, Ipê is suitable for balconies, stairs or piers; however, rampant harvesting led to the inclusion of the timber on the Cites list of threatened species.

According to Forest Trends, more than 45% of Ipê is exported to Europe (including the UK), whilst 36% ends up in the United States.

Since 2017, at least 525,000 tonnes, or 470,000 cubic metres of ipê, have been exported from Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru.

In Brazil, the country of origin for 96% of all Ipê sold on the global markets, exports have increased by over 76% over the past decade.

“Some products from the rainforest are more valuable and therefore more vulnerable to illegal logging,” according to Ms Franca, with “Ipê is at the top of that list.”

Because Ipê trees grow slowly, the regrowth cannot keep track of the volume of current harvesting, according to the research.

“The risk of extinction is real, and today, there are no reliable figures on the number of remaining trees and the damage to existing stands.”

In the study, Ms Franca analysed data to determine where in the supply chains there are significant risks that logging has taken place.

 The researchers developed a spatial map highlighting the distribution of issued logging permits and the associated volume entering the supply chain. (Image Credit: Nature Sustainability Journal)

The conclusion is that more than three-quarters of all Ipê from Pará deep in the Amazon, the top-producing state of this wood in Brazil for the decade until 2019, “may have been illegally harvested.”

It found that 16% of the Ipê was cut without permits, with landowners claiming more Ipê was felled on properties than trees identified in forest inventories.

“We can also show that there is more wood in circulation than the official production figures indicate,” Ms Franca said.

The hope is that the research can contribute to greater awareness around illegal logging, and the actors in the supply chains can assist consumers in making informed decisions.

According to Marco Lentini, the study’s co-author, the study “explored patterns in the data for transactions and approvals of Ipê exploration.”

He said there is enormous scope to improve forest control systems in Brazil and support supply-chain actors in making timber sourcing more responsible and sustainable.

The World leaders at the Amazon Summit pose for a group photo. (Photo Credit: Eraldo Peres from The Associated Press)

In recent months, Wood Central has reported that Amazon deforestation declined as Brazilian Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has committed Amazon countries to the Belém Declaration – an alliance to combat the deforestation of the Amazon.

“This declaration is a welcome expression of renewed political will to reduce deforestation,” according to Martin Persson, co-author of the study.

But the danger is far from over, and the declaration will not lead to change.

“Halting deforestation and forest degradation requires concrete policy measures. And what we point out in our study is that there is already data and information that authorities can use to get to those who harvest forests illegally.”

The key for the researchers is certification, with PEFC and FSC ensuring supply chains are subject to third-party scrutiny.

 But regardless of whether the wood has certification, Ms Franca emphasises the importance of a few basic questions:

“Where exactly does the wood come from? Is there documentation of the origin of the wood and its path through the production chain? As a consumer, you have a greater opportunity to make an informed decision if you get answers to those questions.”


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