By Paula Bayarte
Puerto Maldonado, Peru, Sep 19 (EFE).- The immense green canopy and massive torn-out roots of an ancient shihuahuaco tree lie felled on the forest floor in the Peruvian Amazon, but the trunk is nowhere to be found.
It’s a disturbing sight, yet one seen repeatedly in a country where indiscriminate logging is putting that slow-growing evergreen species (Dipteryx micrantha) at risk of extinction and leading experts to demand urgent steps to halt the sale of its wood in global markets.
“The shihuahuaco is a species that’s in high demand on the international market. And that’s why it’s being logged indiscriminately, putting its entire population and the ecosystem at risk. Felling one of these large trees leaves giant clearings, creates a great deal of destruction in the forest,” environmental defender Tatiana Espinosa told Efe.
Standing in front of the remains of a millenary tree that took 700 years to reach a diameter of one meter (3.3 feet) and was felled in an hour, the founder of Arbio, a non-profit Peruvian association that manages 916 hectares (3.5 square miles) of rainforest in the southeastern Madre de Dios region, said logging is the start of a chain of destruction and deforestation in the Amazon.
One of the main problems are the roads that must be built in the heart of the rainforest to transport a felled shihuahuaco, whose wood is so dense that it does not float.
The current wanton destruction of that species is reminiscent of what occurred with the mahogany, a tree whose heavy, brownish-red wood became highly prized by makers of elegant furniture and was logged so indiscriminately that it is now difficult to find in the Peruvian Amazon.
“It’s been scientifically proven that logging these species is unsustainable, not only the shihuahuaco but also other types of slow-growth hard wood trees, because they’re cutting down natural forests. We need for the forest to conserve its structure,” Espinosa said.
Buyers need to know where the wood they purchase comes from and be made aware that the felling of ancient trees is unsustainable, she said, calling for the development of a type of “black label” system that discourages consumption of these products.
“The wood doesn’t come from plantations, we’re not producing (wood). 100 percent of Peruvian wood is extracted from natural forests,” Espinosa said.
Alberto Suarez, global sustainability manager at Peruvian beverage company Grupo AJE, stressed to Efe the importance of supporting organizations like Arbio.
“We must understand the forest’s vital ecosystemic value,” which goes far beyond the wood that is obtained and includes essential components of human survival such as oxygen and water, he said.
Valuing and protecting these trees also is key to halting deforestation because logging gives way to monoculture farming that impoverishes the Amazon soil and to even more damaging activities such as illegal mining and the cultivation of drug crops. EFE