Timber Research Paper

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Timber, or lumber, is wood that is used in any of its stages—from felling through to processing— in the production of construction materials, or as pulp for paper. Timber has been a resource around the world for many centuries in the craft and construct of all manner of objects and utensils, from dwellings to ships to tables to toothpicks.

Since the Neolithic revolution, timber, with its many uses, has been an important commodity in the development of social life. Throughout human history from at least 3000 BCE onward, available forests have been used to meet the needs of an evolving world. Starting from the early urban communities, such as Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Harappa, timber has been a constant feature of economic life. Timber in its many forms has been used as a source of fuel and as a basic material for building construction, shipping, and for storage purposes, such as barrels). In addition to these uses, timber was important to other aspects of human activity, such as in manufacturing and for the extraction of other resources such as coal and ore (timber beams were used in shoring up mine shafts). The level of timber utilization grew in proportion to increases in urbanization, commerce, and population. The increasing size of urbanized communities and growth in population often led to the need to transport resources to feed the growing population centers of the ancient world. Shipping was the normal mode of transportation of these resources. With growing levels of trade, the increase in maritime shipping resulted in further timber consumption. Exuberant lifestyles also developed, leading to the construction of extravagant buildings, such as palaces and temples, which often required timber for their construction.

These tendencies were pronounced as long as 4,500 years ago. In the riverine valleys of Mesopotamia and the Indus, the Mesopotamians and the Harappans deforested their own hills and mountains, and conducted military campaigns and trade relations with their neighbors to secure a regular wood supply in order to meet their economic needs. The Egyptians, for example, sought timber in neighboring areas of Lebanon and parts of the Syrian coast.

Timber utilization on a similar scale also was practiced in other parts of the world. About 2500 BCE in northern China around the Hwang Ho river basin and in Southeast Asia timber was sought to meet socioeconomic needs. The use of wood intensified as the urbanization process progressed globally, with hinterland areas supplying the wood needs of the more economically transformed civilizations, empires, and nation-states. During different time periods, certain areas of the globe were effectively the wood yards of other regions. For example, the North American forests and those of the Baltic shores provided the timber supply for northwestern Europe in the mid-seventeenth century. By the late twentieth century, parts of Africa, Asia, Latin America, northern Europe, and Russia became the main timber sources.

With the advent of agriculture and the urban revolution, deforestation has been a constant feature for at least the last 5,000 to 6,000 years. It is literally as old as the hills. This level of deforestation reached epic proportions by the end of the twentieth century. The size of the world’s forests has shrunk by nearly half from 6 billion hectares 8,000 years ago to 3.6 billion hectares presently. According to the World Commission on Forests and Sustainable Development, forests have virtually disappeared in twenty-five countries, eighteen others have lost more than 90 percent of their forests, and eleven countries have lost around 90 percent. In an attempt to slow deforestation and to help reduce the environmental impact of cutting trees for timber, some states and timber producers have planted special plantations of fast-growing trees specifically so they can be cut for timber. When the trees are felled, new saplings are planted in endeavor to make plantation timber environmentally sustainable. Selective logging of mature trees in a forest of mixed age is another method of combating deforestation.

There is common agreement that deforestation has consequences for human communities. Negative outcomes such as soil erosion and the climatic changes that we are witnessing also occurred in the past. The “modern” problems of soil erosion leading to flooding and silting of rivers and canals also occurred in early Mesopotamia and had a severe impact on economic production. The effects of soil erosion and its consequences also appeared in northwestern India, China, Mycenaean Greece, and Minoan Crete, engendering pressures on these societies and civilizations. Deforestation also has engendered climate changes and precipitation. The removal of the forests cools the lower atmosphere while warming the ground surface. The reduction of evapotranspiration causes aridity. Forest loss also means that there is a reduction in carbon sequestration as the trees fix carbon and metabolize carbon compounds. This loss exacerbates the process of global warming. Recent studies have suggested that this process has been an ongoing for at least 6,000 years following the spread of agriculture that had facilitated the removal of the forests.


  1. Chew, S. C. (2001). World ecological degradation (accumulation, urbanization, and deforestation) 3000 bc–ad 2000. Walnut, CA: Alta Mira Press.
  2. Perlin, J. (1989). A forest journey. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  3. Marchak, P. (1995). Logging the globe. Kingston, Canada: McGill/ Queen’s University Press.
  4. Williams, M. (2003). Deforesting the earth. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  5. World Commission on Forests and Sustainable Development. (1999). Our forests, our future. New York: Cambridge University Press.

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