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Species and Grade Selection

Synergies: Forest Certification; Social Forestry; Strategic Geography; Local Wood, Net Carbon Accounting

Species and Grade Selection (SGS) aims to reduce the pressure on forests that concentrated demand for only a few species incurs, while simultaneously meeting the needs of consumers and forest management plans. By utilizing overlooked or wasted tree species and grades of timber,  SGS can keep more carbon and biodiversity in forests at risk of degradation, strengthen business models, and create new opportunities for community stakeholders. Sustainable alternatives may include lesser-known temperate and tropical species, “character wood”, blighted wood or reducing the grade of a specification. Care should be taken to address unforeseen consequences of opening up markets for certain species, therefore it is important to consult with forest professionals and suppliers when using this pathway.

Species and Grade Selection Examples

WholeForest.comNaturallyDurable.comBeetle Kill Pine 

Sustainability Benefits

SGS allows cities to participate in sustainable forest management by using wood that improves yields, reduces forest impacts, or that may otherwise have been left to decay.

Measurable benefits of diversified species selection include:

  • Improves forest conservation outcomes by increasing the value of well managed, diverse forests.

  • Supports increased carbon storage in managed forests through species diversification.

  • City can drive demand and supply chain reform for lesser-known species and create improved market diversification through “early adoption” exposure.

  • Avoids overharvest of popular and threatened species.

  • Diversifying species specifications and forestry plantations can protect from risks related to pests and climate change.


  • Manufacturers currently often lack access to information or sources of alternative species.

  • Market barriers for producers of lesser-known species decrease their accessibility.


  • Make personal contact with a regional expert on lesser-known species to ensure that 1) the species sourced are a responsible choice, 2) verify the correct species was received and/or 3) advise on a definition of “lesser-known timber species” in specifications for tendering. (See Verification Matrix)

How to Evaluate?

  • Level One: On a given project, a Wood Needs Report (also see Verification Matrix) has been used to select wood species and grades that meet project needs while offering maximum sustainability benefits. Request for proposal (RFP) and/or tender is written to specify chosen wood species or grades. 

  • Level Two: The use of lesser-known timber species (ie. lesser-used species) or species chosen for their sustainability profile is promoted in city communications where appropriate. Build capacity and awareness of sustainable and climate outcomes of SGS.

  • Level Three:  Build private sector SGS incentives (e.g. include preferential SGS criteria) into the tendering process for construction and landscaping projects.

Iwokrama wood.jpeg

Example: Like many naturally rich forests, the Iwokrama Forest in Guyana has a variety of conservation timber options that are capable of being used in a number of different project applications.  

Actions to Include Pathway 

  1. Create a Wood Needs Report that outlines the anticipated demands of the project.

  2. Work with suppliers (retail, wholesale or direct from producers) to evaluate what species and grades are available to match the project needs see the Wood Species list to determine if these meet sustainability criteria.

  3. Create alternative wood species and grade matrix, and draft specification criteria.

Use in Policy Making

  1. Restrict the use of species on the CITES and/or IUCN Red List list in public applications.

  2. Specification of or preference given to the use of lesser-known wood species in tendering.

  3. Require consultation with local experts for appropriate species selection in project and tender development when wood and wood products are considered for use.

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