by Eric Meier

The issue and ethics surrounding the utilization of trees for lumber is oftentimes both expansive and ambiguous. Not only are there questions of sustainability (i.e., given the current rate of harvesting, can a particular species continue to reproduce at a sustainable rate so that demand will not outstrip supply?), but there’s also the matter of habitat destruction (i.e., even if a tree species can be sustainably harvested from the wild, would doing so destroy or endanger other species in the same habitat?).

Further mixed into this murky cocktail is the fact that for some countries—especially poorer third-world countries—lumber is big business, and placing a restriction on such a lucrative sector of their commerce would be seen as counter-productive, and consequently actual or potential levels of exploitation may not be easily or readily discovered.

However, despite the complexity of the issue, and the incomplete or even possibly faulty data, some information is better than no information. With these shortcomings in mind, there are two international entities that will be used and cited on this website, CITES and the IUCN.

CITES

An international agreement between governments was formed in 1973, called the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species, or CITES for short. CITES has three different levels of protection for species, known as Appendices.

Appendix I – This appendix represents species that are in the most danger and are considered to be threatened with extinction, and are consequently the most restricted in international trade.

Appendix II – This appendix contains species that are at risk in the wild, but not necessarily threatened with extinction. Species in this appendix are closely regulated, but are typically not as restricted as Appendix I.

Appendix III – This appendix contains species that a certain country (called a “party” within CITES), has voluntarily requested to be regulated in order to help preserve the species in question. Appendix III species regulation is only applicable for the specific party that has requested its inclusion, and is therefore much less restrictive than Appendix I or II.

Although there are literally thousands of plant species protected under CITES, only a portion of these species are trees, and of the included tree species, only a relatively small portion of them are actually used as lumber. Thus, the list below is a condensed and simplified version of the CITES Appendices, including only the species of trees that are typically used or harvested for lumber.

CITES Listed Species

Common Name

Scientific Name

CITES Status

Listing Date

mm/dd/yyyy

Afrormosia Pericopsis elata Appendix II 6/11/1992
Ajo Caryocar costaricense Appendix II (including finished wood products) 7/1/1975
Almendro Dipteryx panamensis Appendix III (including finished wood products; wood from Costa Rica, and Nicaragua only) 2/13/2003
Bois de Rose Dalbergia louvelii Appendix III (wood from Madagascar only) 9/28/2011
Brazilwood Caesalpinia echinata Appendix II 9/13/2007
Cedar, Spanish Cedrela odorata Appendix III (wood from Brazil, Bolivia, Columbia, Guatemala, and Peru only) 6/12/2001
Cocobolo Dalbergia retusa Appendix II 6/12/2013
Ebony, Madagascar Diospyros spp. Appendix III (wood from Madagascar only) 9/28/2011
Lignum Vitae Guaiacum spp. Appendix II (including finished wood products) 2/13/2003
Mahogany, Cuban Swietenia mahagoni Appendix II 6/11/1992
Mahogany, Honduran Swietenia macrophylla Appendix II (wood from Neotropics only) 11/16/1995
Mahogany, Mexican Swietenia humilis Appendix II (including finished wood products) 7/1/1975
Monkey Puzzle Araucaria araucana Appendix I (including finished wood products) 7/1/1975
Podocarp, Black Pine Podocarpus neriifolius Appendix III (including finished wood products, wood from Nepal only) 11/16/1975
Ramin Gonystylus spp. Appendix II (including finished wood products) 8/6/2001
Rosewood, Brazilian Dalbergia nigra Appendix I (including finished wood products) 6/11/1992
Rosewood, Honduran Dalbergia stevensonii Appendix II 2/12/2008
Rosewood, Madagascar Dalbergia madagascariensis Appendix III (wood from Madagascar only) 9/28/2011
Rosewood, Siamese Dalbergia cochinchinensis Appendix II 3/13/2013
Sandalwood, Red Pterocarpus santalinus Appendix II 2/16/1995
Stinkwood, Red Prunus africana Appendix II (including finished wood products) 2/16/1995
Verawood Bulnesia sarmientoi Appendix II 6/23/2010

 

Note that a listing generally means that trade of the raw wood, either in log, board, or veneer form, is restricted. On some species, the restriction is even greater, and includes even finished products made of or including a protected wood: one of the most common instances of this is with guitars made of Brazilian Rosewood. In these instances, it is illegal to take such items across international borders without a proper export permit.

If you believe that the wood or finished wood product was harvested/made before the date of the CITES listing, you still cannot legally travel with or export the wood unless you have written proof or other evidence that it was obtained before the listing date. If you have the required evidence, and are willing to pay a processing fee and wait 2-3 months for processing, then you may be eligible for a Pre-Convention Certificate.

In most cases, importing/exporting raw wood listed on CITES Appendices I or II can be complicated and costly, and in most cases, is neither legal nor encouraged. Some wood is further restricted to include even finished wood products, and in all but the most exceptional cases, is not recommended.

If ever in doubt on such complicated issues, be sure to consult proper authorities to get a matter clarified.

 

IUCN

Founded in 1948, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (or IUCN for short) is both the oldest and largest network dealing with global environmental issues. Perhaps most notably for woodworkers, the IUCN publishes what is known as the The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™.

Species included on the Red List fall into one of three categories:

Critically Endangered: Reportedly facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future.

Endangered: Not critically endangered, but reportedly still facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future.

Vulnerable: Not endangered, but reportedly still facing a high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term future.

It should be noted that “the immediate future” here is relative: the IUCN uses the gauge of three generations to determine a species’ rate of depletion. With mammals and other shorter-lived organisms, this tri-generational window may only be a few years or decades. However, since trees can be extremely long-lived, (several decades or even centuries for a single generation), the overall timeline for endangered trees is generally more drawn-out than other endangered species.

In addition to the three listed categories above, there’s also a few other assessments that the IUCN makes on species:

Near Threatened: Technically doesn’t meet the Red List criteria of a vulnerable or endangered species, but is close to qualifying and/or may qualify in the near future.

Conservation Dependent: Currently the focus of a species or habitat-species conservation program. Cessation of such conservation programs would shortly result in the species being listed on the Red List.

Data Deficient: Either not enough data to make an accurate assessment, or a species’ listing has been disputed or challenged.

Least Concern: Species that aren’t near threatened, and are not dependent on conservation efforts.

It should also be noted that one unintentional shortcoming of the Red List is that it only considers the risk of extinction; broader issues dealing with habitat destruction or deforestation are not considered. Also, it doesn’t necessarily take into account the maturity of the trees (i.e., centuries-old trees are cut down, and subsequently replanted with saplings).

Red List Species

Common Name

Scientific Name

IUCN Red List Status

Abura Mitragyna spp. Vulnerable
Afrormosia Pericopsis elata Endangered
Afzelia Afzelia spp. Vulnerable/Endangered
Balau Shorea spp. Critically Endangered
Bois de Rose Dalbergia maritima Endangered
Bosse Guarea cedrata Vulnerable
Brazilwood Caesalpinia echinata Endangered
Brownheart Vouacapoua americana Critically Endangered
Cedar, Port Orford Chamaecyparis lawsoniana Vulnerable
Cedar, Spanish Cedrela odorata Vulnerable
Cocobolo Dalbergia retusa Vulnerable
Ebony, Brown Caesalpinia paraguariensis Vulnerable
Ebony, Gaboon Diospyros crassiflora Endangered
Ebony, Macassar Diospyros celebica Vulnerable
Ebony, Mun Diospyros mun Critically Endangered
Etimoe Copaifera salikounda Vulnerable
Idigbo Terminalia ivorensis Vulnerable
Imbuia Ocotea porosa Vulnerable
Iroko Milicia spp. Vulnerable
Keruing Dipterocarpus spp. Critically Endangered
Koto Pterygota macrocarpa Vulnerable
Lignum Vitae Guaiacum spp. Endangered
Mahogany, African Khaya spp. Vulnerable
Mahogany, Cuban Swietenia mahogani Endangered
Mahogany, Honduran Swietenia macrophylla Vulnerable
Makore Tieghemella heckelii Endangered
Meranti Shorea spp. Critically Endangered
Merbau Intsia spp. Vulnerable
Moabi Baillonella toxisperma Vulnerable
Monkey Puzzle Araucaria araucana Endangered
Narra Pterocarpus indicus Vulnerable
Nyatoh Palaquiuim spp. Vulnerable
Okoume Aucoumea klaineana Vulnerable
Peroba Rosa Aspidosperma polyneuron Endangered
Pine, Longleaf Pinus palustris Vulnerable
Pine, Norfolk Island Araucaria heterophylla Vulnerable
Pine, Parana Araucaria angustifolia Critically Endangered
Pine, Sumatran Pinus merkusii Vulnerable
Ramin Gonystylus spp. Vulnerable
Redwood Sequoia sempervirens Vulnerable
Rosewood, Brazilian Dalbergia nigra Vulnerable
Rosewood, Burmese Dalbergia oliveri Endangered
Rosewood, East Indian Dalbergia latifolia Vulnerable
Rosewood, Madagascar Dalbergia baronii Vulnerable
Rosewood, Siamese Dalbergia cochinchinensis Vulnerable
Sapele Entandrophragma cylindricum Vulnerable
Satinwood, Ceylon Chloroxylon swietenia Vulnerable
Satinwood, West Indian Zanthoxylum flavum Vulnerable
Utile Entandrophragma utile Vulnerable
Walnut, African Lovoa trichilioides Vulnerable
Walnut, Claro Juglans californica Vulnerable
Walnut, Peruvian Juglans spp. Endangered
Wenge Millettia laurentii Endangered
Zebrawood Microberlinia brazzavillensis Vulnerable

 

Borderline IUCN Species

Common Name

Scientific Name

IUCN Status

Amendoim Pterogyne nitens Near Threatened
Andiroba Carapa spp. Endangered (single species)
Anigre Pouteria spp. Conservation Dependent
Araracanga Aspidosperma megalocarpon Near Threatened
Blackwood, African Dalbergia melanoxylon Near Threatened
Blackwood, Burmese Dalbergia cultrata Near Threatened
Camphor Cinnamomum spp. Endangered/Vulnerable (three species)
Ebony, Ceylon Diospyros ebenum Data Deficient
Greenheart Chlorocardium rodiei Data Deficient
Juniper, African Juniperus procera Near Threatened
Kempas Koompassia malaccensis Conservation Dependent
Macacauba Platymiscium spp. Endangered (single species)
Mango Mangifera indica Data Deficient
Mesquite, Black Prosopis nigra Data Deficient
Muninga Pterocarpus angolensis Near Threatened
Padauk, Andaman Pterocarpus dalbergioides Data Deficient
Pau Ferro Machaerium spp. Vulnerable (single species)
Paulownia Paulownia spp. Critically Endangered (single species)
Pine, Huon Lagarostrobos franklinii Conservation Dependent
Pine, Radiata Pinus radiata Conservation Dependent
Pine, Sand Pinus clausa Near Threatened
Pistachio Pistacia vera Near Threatened
Quebracho Schinopsis spp. Vulnerable (single species)
Rengas Gluta spp. Vulnerable (single species)
Teak, Rhodesian Baikiaea plurijuga Near Threatened
Verawood Bulnesia sarmientoi Conservation Dependent
Yew, Pacific Taxus brevifolia Near Threatened

 

IUCN 2014. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <http://www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 21 April 2014.