Renewable Resources are going to be imperative if we are ever to implement a truly symbiotic relationship with our natural environment. Among the issues that exist with CO2 buildup, with a sincere effort not to delve into the entire political realm, is the vast deforestation that has occurred across the globe. If there is to be any solution, it needs to include the potential for profitable, sustainable programs for the raising, harvesting and utilization of lumber across the globe. Such a program is not as impossible as it would seem as there is a single variety of tree that will allow for the implementation of just such a system.
The Paulownia tree includes a host of benefits making it an ideal solution to most of the issues concerning global deforestation. Quick to grow, easy to harvest, no need for constant replanting and other attributes in addition to the value for which the wood can be sold and the diversity of the possibilities for utilization of the lumber make the Paulownia tree virtually an ideal solution to many of the global issues, but as with everything, it is also a little more difficult than just heading out and tossing out some seeds. The Paulownia trees requires more management than many children and has to be properly cared for, tended and managed if it is to be a viable, long-term solution to so many of the ills of society.
No matter what may or may not be the real case with Carbon Dioxide, humans still have a direct responsibility for and vested interest in the care and maintenance of the environment that we live in. It would do the species well to consider the roles that methane and even common water vapor play in the global environment in addition to the fact that without greenhouse gases, there would be no greenhouse gas effect and thus, no atmosphere at all … meaning all humanity would die without it. As for Carbon Dioxide, it is substantially different than Carbon Monoxide, Carbon particulates and other types of carbon necessary for life … in fact, far too many are wholly unaware that humans are in fact, carbon life forms themselves … and also that Carbon Dioxide is a vital part of the symbiotic relationship between plant life and animal life that is equally important for the survival of life on this planet. Among the first lessons taught in the most elementary of science classes informs us that humans breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide while the reverse is true for the plant life that breathes in carbon dioxide and exhales oxygen for the animal life to breathe in. Despite all this, any “build up” of carbon dioxide can be severely inhibited with the introduction of sustainable forestry and lumber programs.
If there needs to be any caveat, it is that the Paulownia tree has such a prolific growth rate that it is considered an invasive species in many locations around the globe. Proper management is imperative if this plant is to be prevented from destroying local ecosystems and upsetting the natural balance in local environments. While there may be some locations where its natural growth is desirable and encouraged, care should be taken anywhere this tree is planted or it will over-run virtually everything else. Conversely, this same excessive rate of growth makes it ideal for the production of lumber and for other uses that require large quantities of trees to be grown at a fast pace.
The idea of Sustainable Lumber Growth or Timber may seem like an oxymoron to some but nothing could be further from the truth. The Paulownia tree is the very epitome of sustainable growth. There are nine different varieties of the Paulownia tree with the tropical varieties proven to grow inches per day. Full veneer logs can be grown in as little as eight years or often less with the proper management and care. There is some question in parts of Asia as to why Coco or Coconut Lumber remains so popular as the “cheap” wood to be used in construction and for other “disposable” uses. To put it all into perspective, full veneer logs in eight years or coconut trees that take an average of twenty-five years to reach full maturity for fruit production and are frequently chopped down long before they have the chance to bear fruit. However, the benefits of the Paulownia tree as a viable source for lumber do not stop there. Rapid growth rates do not make anything sustainable by any stretch of the imagination. Proper management is an absolute necessity but there is also the problems associated with the rotation of crops, re-planting and other considerations … most of which are also unnecessary when the Paulownia trees are grown … for whatever reason they are grown.
The Paulownia tree, like the banana tree (and no, no discussion here about it being a tree or a bush please as this is only an example) grows back after it has been harvested. When the tree is cut down, the room or stump will sprout another tree which, when properly managed, will grow back (in relatively short order in the tropics) into a strong, healthy and vibrant new tree. While that alone is impressive, it also means that the entire root system stays in place allowing it to be used for curbing erosion and in many cases, helping to prevent mudslides and even the erosion around many of the tropical farms where platforms or steps are a necessary part of farming practices. Thus, one reason for promoting the growth and proper management of the Paulownia trees is to aid in disaster mitigation. The lumber of course is also a very meaningful … and profitable reason for selecting the Paulownia trees but they also have benefits in other fields as well.
Under growth management programs, the Paulownia trees grown for the purposes of wood and lumber will have the majority of the branches removed as they grow in order to provide more knot-free, veneer-type lumber to be used for arts, crafts, musical instruments and even home construction and repairs. On the other hand, some of these trees should be grown allowing for the leaves and flowers to remain in place. The leaves of the Paulownia Tree are full of natural proteins. The leaves of the Paulownia tree have been shown to help with livestock production, increasing the weight-gain in fatteners and increasing egg production in chickens. Studies are also ongoing about their ability to reduce the levels of zinc and copper in the animal waste in order to increase the efficiency of methane production from the livestock in addition to their ability to work directly in the digesters for a more direct approach to the utilization of naturally produced and occurring methane that would otherwise be released unchecked directly into the atmosphere. The only real question remaining at this stage should be, is this all profitable? Is the Paulownia tree financially viable?
One of the reasons why illegally harvesting lumber is so profitable is because of the high cost of the wood and the lumber, especially from the hardwoods. While the lumber from the Paulownia tree is very soft and pliable when it is first cut, once properly dried and treated, it becomes every bit as dense (and hard) as some of the hardwoods on the market today. This is actually a characteristic trait that increases the value of the wood, not a detriment in any sense of the word. At present, the Paulownia lumber, especially the veneer logs, gain top dollar on the markets in Japan especially but also throughout China and other parts of the world. As the Paulownia lumber becomes more prevalent and saturates the markets, it is virtually inevitable that the prices will drop considerably. However, by this time, there should be a large enough market to easily compensate for the decrease in value for all but the smallest of Paulownia farmers and even then, with the additional uses of the Paulownia tree, there will still be a sufficient market to allow for these individuals to make a decent living even if they do nothing more to supplement their incomes.