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In this essay, the advantages and limitations of eucalyptus plantation on a large scale in order to maintain economic sustainability with regards to social and economic factors will be discussed and evaluated. Eucalyptus trees are a big part in our lives, it’s just that we never noticed them yet. Almost every time you use tissues, paper and cardboard you are having contacts with eucalyptus. Eucalyptus plantation also has been influencing the economy and living in rural areas hugely.
As the modernization develops in the world, efficiency was demanded, for example, the production of paper.
In Portugal, 1957, eucalyptus trees were first used in producing paper, and it came out pretty successful. One species of eucalyptus, the globulus’s properties were suitable for people’s demands for paper, it had short fiber which made the final product strong, soft, and bulk. As the efficiency is demanded, so does the sustainability. People also tried the eucalyptus for biomass, which worked by transferring biomass into thermal energy, can reduce greenhouse gas.
Eucalyptus trees are largely beneficial to the economy, also known as the opportunity for sustainable development for the industry. This includes the production of biomass, paper, and cosmetic products. China has the biggest production of eucalyptus oil in the world, producing almost 70% of them. Also, the leaves of eucalyptus trees are used to feed koalas in many zoos, approximately 10000 dollars are used for purchasing the fresh leaves for one single zoo in the US per year. The amount of biomass produced from eucalyptus trees and their growing speed is more than a lot of other tree species, but because of this Eucalyptus trees also consumes more water than many other trees as well (group).
That’s where the myths come in, “eucalyptus trees will suck up all the water in the soil, leaving nothing else for other species and water depletion in soil. The tall and thin branches will cause fire easily. Eucalyptus will consume all of the nutrients in the soil and obstructing other plants from growing..”. I would need to clarify my point, that those are not fully accurate. Some effects the tree makes actually depends on the way you handle it.
Eucalyptus trees grow the best in areas that have less than 400mm of rainfall per year, this can reduce the amount of water the trees consume from the soil, it also prevents allelopathy, which is also something people accuse of eucalyptus trees. It is not the branches’ fault for the fire, if the owner doesn’t take care of it well and water it every day there would be some problems. For the nutrient depletion myth, even though the trees grow very fast, but they would produce their own nutrients since they produce their own sprouts, plus the leaves and barks that fall to the ground would also supply the soil with nutrients, just like the mulching method that farmers use to protect the roots in winter times. Some controversies of eucalyptus trees are usually resulted from misconceptions and not spreading the equal amount of information in terms of the advantages and disadvantages. Now, let’s go back to discussing the biomass production of eucalyptus. The biomass productivity by eucalyptus trees affects the $/BDT(BDT, bone dry ton, refers to wooden materials that have 0% moisture in 2000 lbs) of delivering biomass. If the trees are very productive and have short rotation lengths, fewer areas of land would be required, which decreases the amount of money put into investment in the land, and can produce products much faster. Substances like wood which has more density than other alternatives for producing biomass like grass and crops have more cellulose and carbon-hydrates per unit of volume, which would require less mass of the resources, and finally results in less transportation cost. Therefore, eucalyptus trees are essentially suitable for the biomass industry regarding economic profits and efficiency.
The production of paper and cardboard worldwide is currently 410.9 metric tons, and the revenue of US paper production is approximately 96 billion dollars. However, the overuse of woods in natural forests had already caused a decline in production for some places, for example, Japan. I’ve made a graph of the changes in Japan’s paper production throughout the 17 years, and as you can see, it is decreasing from 2005. Probably because of the awareness of sustainability, and from more detailed data, the most decreasing part was in printing and communication. We don’t use as much paper to communicate nowadays since the development of technology gets more advanced. Eucalyptus trees contribute in the paper industry gigantically, becoming the majority of its resources.
As a result of the economic improvements made by eucalyptus, people who plant eucalyptus can use them as a resource for firewood instead of cutting wood from natural forests to reduce deforestation to natural environments. In certain places, collecting fire woods are often women’s job, with eucalyptus trees women can find resources much easier since the trees are all planted together, and since the tree trunks are thin, they can cut with less effort. Planting eucalyptus trees also improved a lot of farmer’s living qualities by providing them with another source of income, which increased job opportunities in the demanding of more workers (group).
Problems sometimes happen with small, unprofessional eucalyptus plantation areas. The quality of the wood isn’t always good, which would affect the quality of the final product. This issue could be reduced by providing the plantations more financial support since most are in rural areas, they don’t often have the facilities that can deal with their plants efficiently, and so that when they get more money, they would put the effort on the quality a little more. Issues people would deal with socially is that since the plantation areas are usually not placed in cities, there wouldn’t be too many regulations in subdivisions of land, there is a chance that people plant on public lands, which would be not fair for those who are landless or own the land without any specific boundaries. It will be better to consider everyone around the area and ask for their thoughts and would reduce this kind of social conflicts.
In conclusion, the economic benefits that eucalyptus plantation on a large scale has are enormous, by contributing to the biomass and paper industry. The eucalyptus planters are also affected economically from earning profits, but sometimes issues still happen when things aren’t explained clearly, like some myths and the issues with eucalyptus plantation land use. Overall, eucalyptus trees are quite good, some issues it has can be solved scientifically and by communicating.
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