Lesser Known Timber Species

(c) FSC Denmark - Brian KyedThe demand for tropical timber in the UK and Europe is very high, with most of it focusing on a few well-known species. High quality timber in some popular species can be difficult to source and some species are threatened with extinction due to over-harvesting. 

Tropical forests hold a multitude of lesser-known wood species. A great number of these species are potentially valuable timber species i.e. they hold the promise for unfulfilled sustainable production. 

In natural tropical forests certified to FSC standards, a wide variety of timber species is harvested, all in lower volumes. The species composition of the forest would be adversely affected if only the popular species were harvested.

Increasingly, architects and manufacturers are considering using lesser known timber species (LKTS) in place of the more common woods but there are barriers to the use of LKTS.  Some of the reasons cited for LKTS not yet being incorporated into the international market include poor knowledge of the physical wood properties and possible end-uses of the lesser-known species.

A number of campaigns are underway to increase awareness of the benefits of LKTS, which aim to increase the knowledge of LKTS and further distribute existing knowledge to manufacturers and wood buyers.

Further Information

Lesser Known Timber Species Database - collated by FSC Denmark, this site aims to collect and facilitate the existing knowledge on some of the most commercially relevant lesser-known species. Here you will find a wide range of technical data and possible end-uses for several lesser-known species:  www.fsc.dk/lesserknown

The Lesser Known FSC Timber Species Consortium - this project launched by FSC Netherlands has been developed together with the three Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) tropical timber programmes: The Borneo Initiative, Congo Basin Program and The Amazon Alternative. The objective of the project is to identify, promote and market at least 5-10 Lesser Known Timber Species from the three different regions. FSC Netherlands will use its large network of companies for these actions.  A recently formed consortium of Dutch hardwood importers will contribute by providing specific knowledge, access to the market and financial support: www.theamazonalternative.org/news/en/news-july-lks

WWF's Guide to Lesser Known Timber Species - a guide developed to inform buyers and decision makers about the availability and benefits of lesser known timber species.  The guide lists the key mechanical and physical properties, and potential suitability of 75 timber species from Central and West Africa, Central and Latin America, and Southeast Asia.  You can download the guide below and further information can be found here:  http://gftn.panda.org/?212135/Guide-to-Lesser-Know […]

Useful Links

  • Good Wood Guide - Greenpeace (a guide to help you specify timber from environmentally and socially responsible forestry): click here.
  • International Tropical Timber Association: www.itto.int
  • Assessment of Lesser Known Hardwood Timber Species for Use in Marine and Freshwater Construction - Environment Agency: click here.

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