by Eric Meier
The ethical issues surrounding the harvesting of trees for lumber are both expansive and ambiguous. Concerns about sustainability and habitat destruction prompt many of these ethical questions. For instance, can a given species continue to reproduce at a sustainable rate given the current rate of harvesting? Even if a tree species can be sustainably harvested from the wild, would doing so destroy or endanger other species in the same habitat? Will harvesting encroach upon indigenous peoples’ rights and/or local communities’ well-being?
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 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. A brief way to distinguish the two is to think of CITES as dealing more on the legal side of the issue, while IUCN pertains to the environmental side.
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. (For wood, this also includes finished products made of the wood too.)
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 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.
|Afrormosia||Pericopsis elata||II||1992.06.11||Includes “transformed” wood such as edge-shaped millwork|
|Agarwood||Aquilaria spp.||II||1995.02.16||Includes wood chips, beads, prayer beads and carvings|
|Ajo||Caryocar costaricense||II||1975.07.01||Includes finished wood products|
|Alerce||Fitzroya cupressoides||I||1975.07.01||Includes finished wood products|
|Almendro||Dipteryx oleifera||III||2003.02.13||Only wood from Costa Rica and Nicaragua; includes finished wood products|
|Aloewood||Gyrinops spp.||II||2005.01.12||Includes wood chips, beads, prayer beads and carvings|
|Ash, tamo||Fraxinus mandshurica||III||2014.06.24||Only wood from Russia|
|Ayuque||Balmea stormiae||I||1975.07.01||Includes finished wood products|
|Brazilwood||Paubrasilia echinata||II||2007.09.13||Includes unfinished wood bow products|
|Bubinga||Guibourtia spp.||II||2017.01.02||Includes finished wood products exceeding 10 kg; musical instruments exempt|
|Cedar, Mulanje||Widdringtonia whytei||II||2019.11.28||Includes finished wood products|
|Cedar, Spanish||Cedrela spp.||II||2019.11.28||Includes all Cedrela species from Neotropics because of similarity to C. odorata|
|Cipres de las Guaitecas||Pilgerodendron uviferum||I||1975.07.01||Includes finished wood products|
|Ebony, Madagascar||Diospyros spp.||II||2011.12.22||Only wood from Madagascar|
|Fir, Guatemalan||Abies guatemalensis||I||1975.07.01||Includes finished wood products|
|Gavilan||Oreomunnea pterocarpa||II||1975.07.01||Includes finished wood products|
|Kosso||Pterocarpus erinaceus||II||2016.05.09||Includes finished wood products|
|Lignum vitae||Guaiacum spp.||II||1975.07.01|
|Lignum vitae, Argentine||Bulnesia sarmientoi||II||2008.02.12|
|Macacauba||Platymiscium parviflorum||II||1975.07.01||Includes finished wood products; only P. parviflorum protected, other Platymiscium species unrestricted|
|Magnolia, egg||Magnolia liliifera var. obovat||III||1975.11.16||Includes finished wood products|
|Mahogany, Cuban||Swietenia mahagoni||II||1992.06.11|
|Mahogany, Honduran||Swietenia macrophylla||II||1995.11.16||Only wood from Neotropics|
|Mahogany, Mexican||Swietenia humilis||II||1975.07.01||Includes finished wood products|
|Monkey puzzle||Araucaria araucana||I||1975.07.01||Includes finished wood products|
|Oak, Japanese||Quercus mongolica||III||2014.06.24||Only wood from Russia|
|Pau rosa, Brazilian||Aniba rosaeodora||II||2010.06.23|
|Pine, Korean||Pinus koraiensis||III||2010.10.14||Only wood from Russia|
|Pino del cerro||Podocarpus parlatorei||I||1975.07.01||Includes finished wood products|
|Podocarp, black pine||Podocarpus neriifolius||III||1975.11.16||Only wood from Nepal; includes finished wood products|
|Ramin||Gonystylus spp.||II||2001.08.06||Includes finished wood products|
|Rosewood, Brazilian||Dalbergia nigra||I||1992.06.11||Includes finished wood products|
|Rosewood, Siamese||Dalbergia cochinchinensis||II||2013.03.13||Includes finished wood products|
|Rosewoods||Dalbergia spp.||II||2017.01.02||Includes finished wood products exceeding 10 kg; musical instruments exempt (except for Brazilian and Siamese rosewoods)|
|Sandalwood, East African||Osyris lanceolata||II||2013.06.12||Only wood from Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda|
|Stinkwood, red||Prunus africana||II||1995.02.16||Includes finished wood products|
|Tetracentron||Tetracentron sinense||III||1975.11.16||Only wood from Nepal|
|Yew, Chinese||Taxus chinensis||II||2005.01.12||Includes all subspecies and varieties|
|Yew, Chinese||Taxus fuana||II||2005.01.12||Includes all subspecies and varieties|
|Yew, Himalayan||Taxus wallichiana||II||1995.02.16||Includes all subspecies and varieties|
|Yew, Japanese||Taxus cuspidata||II||2005.01.12||Includes all subspecies and varieties|
|Yew, Taiwan||Taxus sumatrana||II||2005.01.12||Includes all subspecies and varieties|
|Zitan||Pterocarpus santalinus||II||1995.02.16||Only restricts logs and wood chips|
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.
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 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™.
Species included on the Red List fall into one of three categories:
Critically Endangered: Facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future.
Endangered: Not critically endangered, but still facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future.
Vulnerable: Not endangered, but 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 are 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-specific 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.
Not Assessed: Obscure or uncommon species may still be unassessed. Absence from the Red List doesn’t always imply safety.
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 younger trees).
Red List Species
IUCN Red List Status
|Balau||Shorea spp.||Critically Endangered|
|Bois de Rose||Dalbergia maritima||Endangered|
|Brownheart||Vouacapoua americana||Critically Endangered|
|Cedar of Lebanon||Cedrus libani||Vulnerable|
|Cedar, Port Orford||Chamaecyparis lawsoniana||Vulnerable|
|Cedar, Spanish||Cedrela odorata||Vulnerable|
|Chestnut, horse||Aesculus hippocastanum||Vulnerable|
|Dorrigo waratah||Alloxylon pinnatum||Vulnerable|
|Ebony, Brown||Caesalpinia paraguariensis||Vulnerable|
|Ebony, Gaboon||Diospyros crassiflora||Endangered|
|Ebony, Macassar||Diospyros celebica||Vulnerable|
|Ebony, Mun||Diospyros mun||Critically Endangered|
|Fir, Fraser||Abies fraseri||Endangered (in the wild)|
|Fir, Spanish||Abies pinsapo||Endangered|
|Keruing||Dipterocarpus spp.||Critically Endangered|
|Kauri, East Indian||Agathis dammara||Vulnerable|
|Kauri, Fijian||Agathis macrophylla||Endangered|
|Lignum Vitae||Guaiacum spp.||Endangered|
|Mahogany, African||Khaya spp.||Vulnerable|
|Mahogany, Cuban||Swietenia mahogani||Endangered|
|Mahogany, Honduran||Swietenia macrophylla||Vulnerable|
|Meranti||Shorea spp.||Critically Endangered|
|Monkey Puzzle||Araucaria araucana||Endangered|
|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|
|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|
|Satinwood, Ceylon||Chloroxylon swietenia||Vulnerable|
|Satinwood, West Indian||Zanthoxylum flavum||Vulnerable|
|Walnut, African||Lovoa trichilioides||Vulnerable|
|Walnut, Claro||Juglans californica||Vulnerable|
|Walnut, Peruvian||Juglans spp.||Endangered|
Borderline IUCN Species
|Amendoim||Pterogyne nitens||Near Threatened|
|Andiroba||Carapa spp.||Endangered (single species)|
|Anigre||Pouteria spp.||Conservation Dependent|
|Apple, rough-barked||Angophora floribunda||Near Threatened|
|Araracanga||Aspidosperma megalocarpon||Near Threatened|
|Blackwood, African||Dalbergia melanoxylon||Near Threatened|
|Blackwood, Burmese||Dalbergia cultrata||Near Threatened|
|Camphor||Cinnamomum spp.||Endangered/Vulnerable (three species)|
|Ebiara||Berlinia 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)|
|Salwood, brown||Acacia aulacocarpa||Near Threatened|
|Sugi||Cryptomeria japonica||Near Threatened|
|Teak, Rhodesian||Baikiaea plurijuga||Near Threatened|
|Verawood||Bulnesia sarmientoi||Conservation Dependent|
|Walnut, English||Juglans regia||Near Threatened|
|Yew, Pacific||Taxus brevifolia||Near Threatened|
IUCN 2020. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2020-3. <https://www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 22 December 2020.
Are you an aspiring wood nerd?
The poster, Worldwide Woods, Ranked by Hardness, should be required reading for anyone enrolled in the school of wood nerdery. I have amassed over 500 wood species on a single poster, arranged into eight major geographic regions, with each wood sorted and ranked according to its Janka hardness. Each wood has been meticulously documented and photographed, listed with its Janka hardness value (in lbf) and geographic and global hardness rankings. Consider this: the venerable Red Oak (Quercus rubra) sits at only #33 in North America and #278 worldwide for hardness! Aspiring wood nerds be advised: your syllabus may be calling for Worldwide Woods as part of your next assignment!