Mahogany, a Pillar of the Rainforest, Needs Support

Environmental News from India: 

  • Mahogany has been the wood of choice for furniture and cabinetry for centuries and is highly sought by guitar makers for its strength and resistance to changes in humidity and temperature.
  • But when it was last assessed in 1998, biologists categorized the tree as “vulnerable to extinction” — the same category as cheetahs and polar bears, iconic species that are well known to be threatened.
  • Economics must play a leading role in protecting mahogany, and all the species that depend on it, if we are to turn the tide on its decline and slow tropical deforestation, a new op-ed argues.
  • This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.

Mahogany is everything you would want in a tree: tall and majestic, with leaves up to half a meter wide that cast cooling shade on the forest floor below. It is a towering pillar of many tropical forests, and even tree plantations in the Philippines, but the commercial value of its reddish-brown wood, renowned for both beauty and strength, has been its undoing in the wild.

The bigleaf mahogany, Swietenia macrophylla, stands out in these forests, not just for its size and commercial value but also for its role in ecosystems. The species is important in reforestation efforts in Indonesia and worldwide, removes more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than many other tree species, and releases organic compounds that help prevent the sun’s heat energy from reaching the earth’s surface—further assisting in the fight against climate change.

As report after report continues to raise the alarm, tropical deforestation has taken center stage in the conversation around climate change culprits. In Brazil, Amazon deforestation exploded in the first quarter of 2022 after years of continuous growth, and the entire forest is getting perilously close to a point of no return. But forests throughout Central and South America, and the rest of the world, have long been threatened by the expansion of agriculture and mining developments, other land uses, and even organized crime.

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Source: Mongabay

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