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A new approach to tropical forestry

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  • A new approach to tropical forestry

    Supporting a new approach to tropical forestry

    Reference: 08/61
    CSIRO is providing technical expertise in support of what US science magazine, Discover, has described as one of ?the six most important experiments in the world? ? the Planted Forests Project on the island of Borneo.
    29 April 2008
    ?This Malaysian project is visionary,? says the leader of the CSIRO team, David Boden.
    ?Around the world we?ve seen that conservation in developing countries will only succeed if there?s something in it for the local communities.
    ?The Sarawak State Government has allocated nearly half a million hectares. One third of the land will be set aside for conservation of Sarawak's rich biodiversity, one third for use by the traditional ethnic communities, and one third for the establishment of a sustainable and economically viable plantation forestry industry.?
    According to the Assistant Director of Forests, Sarawak Forest Department, Joseph Jawa, the project is unique in the region.
    ?This Malaysian project is visionary,? says the leader of the CSIRO team, David Boden.

    ?For example, under the project?s conservation plan, plantations are dissected by game corridors of undisturbed forest to help ensure wildlife does not become isolated and in-bred,? he says.
    ?Timber will be processed locally, bringing more jobs and, because the Project is under government control, illegal clearing and logging has been greatly reduced.?
    Warren Ellis, the General Manager of Grand Perfect ? the consortium managing the project ? says CSIRO is providing support in the form of its expertise in a wide range of areas from tree improvement, to forest health, silviculture and forest management.
    Mr Boden says that key to CSIRO?s involvement is its expertise in developing tropical acacia forestry plantations
    ?The Sarawak government has chosen selected Acacia mangium from Papua New Guinea and Queensland, Australia, for the plantations.
    ?A hectare of acacia plantation can produce more wood than 10 hectares of forest that had been logged and regrown naturally. That step up in production could be the difference that makes the whole project viable.?
    He says that during his travels through SE Asia he has witnessed the damage caused when rain forest is cleared for oil palm and other cash crops.
    ?This project offers a new direction ? well managed profitable and sustainable forestry that also delivers for conservation and for the local people.?
    With 90,000 hectares of acacia already planted, the first trees will soon be ready for harvesting.

  • #2
    Re: A new approach to tropical forestry

    One of the 6 Most Important Experiments in the World - Discover Magazine

    Planted Forests Project
    On the Southeast Asian island of Borneo, loggers, conservation biologists, and indigenous groups are coming together to test a new model of land use that gives everyone a piece of the pie. If their plan succeeds, it could be replicated in tropical regions around the world, protecting biological diversity while allowing the local people to enjoy the economic benefits of productive land.
    The Sarawak state government in Malaysia commissioned the Planted Forests Project in an attempt to have it all: economic development, wildlife protection, and land use by local people. Nearly 1,900 square miles have been allocated for the planted forests zone. Slightly less than half the land is earmarked for the logging of acacia trees?a fast-growing species that can be harvested for paper. More than 30 percent of the land will be set aside for conservation. Indigenous people will continue to live on the remainder.

    Biologist Robert Stuebing, who set up the conservation department of Grand Perfect (the government?s timber contractor), says the project was inspired by a map of the region showing where the government planned to plant acacia. Some areas would be used for the logging plantations, while others would be left alone. Stuebing realized that the network of undisturbed patches could serve as a haven for native plant and animal life. ?Even if less than the whole habitat is protected,? he explains, ?as long as you have enough bits and pieces and these are connected, you might be able to maintain a good sample of biodiversity.? Working with the loggers and the state forest department, he created corridors of land linking the forest conservation areas so wildlife can travel among them. Other conservation and development projects are also using protected passageways as a way to save native species. The question for all these initiatives is whether the corridors will actually allow enough movement to preserve populations of wildlife.
    Stuebing?s first priority was to begin an inventory of what was living in the forest zone. Researchers have counted bearded pigs, deer, small mammals, birds, frogs, fish, and dragonflies and are now in the process of surveying fungi. The department keeps a log of every species identified, where it was sighted, whether it is endemic (exclusive to the region), and what its international and local protection status is. Despite previous logging and farming in the planted forests zone, more than 400 vertebrate species, including bears, civets, macaques, leopard cats, mongooses, pangolins, and porcupines, have been spotted there. Researchers have even discovered 18 snails that have never been seen anywhere else on Earth. ?The beauty of the project was to see that there was such resilience and survivability of the fauna,? Stuebing says.
    How the giant new acacia plantations will affect this diversity remains uncertain. Some carnivores, frogs, and squirrels seem to have taken to the planted areas more quickly than birds, bats, and snakes. With a considerable financial stake in the logging project, the government is unlikely to give up on the acacia stands, even if monitoring shows that they are harming biodiversity. But in a part of the world where human livelihood depends on the forest, this experiment at integrating wildlife protection into the mix is a big step in the right direction, Stuebing says: ?It looks sustainable, and biologically, I really think this model will work well.?
    If he?s right, sustainable developers around the world may copy his strategy as they struggle to balance the needs of humans and wildlife.
    Jennifer Barone