Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page


FOREST GENETIC RESOURCES IN THAILAND


V. Sumantakul[7]
Royal Forest Department, Bangkok, Thailand

Introduction

Thailand has a total land area of 513,115km2, or about 51 million hectares. The country is divided into five regions: the north, northeast, east, central and southern peninsula. The northern region, which lies on the fringe of the Himalayan foothills, is hilly and mountainous. These mountains give way to the plains which dominate the northeastern region of the country. The central region is formed by the fertile, alluvial floodplain of the Chao Phraya River. The natural vegetation of Thailand is extremely diverse. Natural forest vegetation ranges from upland pine forests on the border with Lao PDR and Myanmar in the north to lowland rain forests in the far south.

Most forest lands in Thailand are the property of the State. The government agency responsible for forests is the Royal Forest Department (RFD) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MOAC). Thailand's forests have been subject to clearance and degradation for many years, though the current situation is more stable. In 1961, forests covered over half of Thailand's land area but, by 1995, they had been reduced to just over 25% (RFD 1999). Between 1981 and 1990 the rate of deforestation was about 515,000ha, or 3.3%, per year. Demand for land for various uses, including subsistence farming and commercial agriculture, has been the main cause of deforestation. Rapid population growth has also increased the demand for wood products and the consequent exploitation pressures on forests. Deforestation has had a severe impact on Thailand's environment and economy. It has also seriously depleted forest genetic resources and other biological resources.

The government of Thailand, in an attempt to halt forest loss and degradation, imposed a logging ban in natural forests in 1989, and introduced a master plan for reforestation. This plan aims to restore forest cover to 40% of the national territory within the next 40 years. This target will consist of protected forests (25%) for nature conservation, recreation and environmental protection, and economic forests (15%) for timber and non-timber production (Sutthisrisinn & Noochdumrong 1998).

Owing to a scarcity of wood and attractive wood prices, illegal logging still continues despite the logging ban. Villagers also continue to clear new forest areas for agriculture. To date, national reforestation schemes have had little discernible impact on deforestation. The area of forest continues to decline and, at the same time, difficulties have arisen in promoting large-scale reforestation programmes. The area of plantations was about 887,000ha in 1999. Between 1981 and 1990 the annual rate of plantation establishment was about 40,000ha (less than 10% of deforestation) (RFD 1999). In recent years, the annual rate of plantation establishment has risen to 150,000ha, about half of which is in the private sector. Reforestation activities have taken place mainly in the north and northeast regions of Thailand.

Thailand adopted a national forest policy in December 1985. The policy signals the dangers of environmental deterioration, and the need to sustain wood supply in the future. These two aspects are being addressed through improved protection of remaining natural forests (Figure 1), and a more dynamic approach towards plantation forestry. Private plantation activities have also been emphasized.

Tree planting has been a feature of Thailand's National Economic and Social Development Plans since 1961. Planting is carried out by both the public and private sectors. The public sector comprises the Royal Forest Department and state enterprises. In the private sector, planting is done by companies engaged in the establishment of tree plantations for industrial purposes, and by community associations and individual farmers establishing woodlots and integrated land-use systems. The private sector is expected to dominate future tree-planting efforts.

In the past 30 years Thailand has gained considerable knowledge of tree improvement techniques for several priority species. The genetic resources of a number of species have been conserved and developed. Twenty-three seed exchange zones have also been demarcated (Figure 2). Inevitably, present and future planting programmes will use a more diverse range of species, including many indigenous tree species. Conservation of forest genetic resources, therefore, must be extended to include the genetic resources of indigenous species. The availability of appropriate planting material of these species will enhance any tree planting effort, whether in multipurpose forests, conservation forests or economic forests. These initiatives will contribute to environmental restoration and strengthening of the national economy, which will contribute in turn to the development of the regions.

Forest resources of Thailand

The forests of Thailand can be classified into eight types: i) tropical evergreen forest; ii) mixed deciduous forest; iii) dry dipterocarp forest; iv) swamp forest; v) scrub forest; vi) pine forest; vii) bamboo forest; and viii) mangrove forest. Table 1 shows the area of forest in each type in different regions in 1998. Table 2 (below) shows changes in forest area in each region between 1988 and 1998.

Table 1. Forest area according to type and region in 1998 (in square kilometres).

Source: Forestry statistics of Thailand (RFD 1999).


North

Northeast

Central

East

South

Total

Tropical Evergreen

21,161

7,107

7,435

6,428

10,066

52,198

Mixed Deciduous

32,325

6,285

4,673

771

-

44,056

Dry Dipterocarp

17,913

7,400

1,314

175

-

26,085

Swamp

-

170

-

-

564

734

Scrub

2

-

-

-

-

2

Pine

1,620

19

-

-

-

1,640

Bamboo

34

-

2,570

4

-

2,609

Mangrove

-

-

54

126

1,494

1,675

Total Forest Area

73,057

20,983

16,048

7,507

12,125

129,722

Total Land Area

169,644

168,854

67,398

39,502

70,715

513,115

Figure 1. Remaining forest area of Thailand, 2000

Figure 2. Seed exchange zones in Thailand

Table 2. Changes in regional forest area between 1988 and 1998 (in square kilometres). Source: Forestry statistics of Thailand (RFD 1999).

Region

1988

1991

1993

1995

1998

Area

%

Area

%

Area

%

Area

%

Area

%

North

80,402

47.39

77,143

45.47

75,231

44.35

73,886

43.55

73,057

43.06

Northeast

23,693

14.03

21,799

12.91

21,473

12.72

21,265

12.59

20,984

12.43

Central

17,244

25.59

16,616

24.65

16,408

24.34

16,288

24.17

16,049

23.81

East

7,834

21.46

7,691

21.07

7,634

20.91

7,591

20.8

7,507

20.57

South

14,630

20.69

13,449

19.02

12,808

18.11

12,455

17.61

12,125

17.15

Total

143,803

28.03

136,698

26.64

133,554

26.03

131,485

25.62

129,722

25.28

Some special types of forests are under more strict laws and regulations (the National Park Act of BE 2504 (1961) and Wildlife Conservation Act of BE 2535 (1992)) including national parks, forest parks, wildlife conservation areas, botanical gardens and arboreta. Forest genetic resources are generally well preserved in such areas (Table 3).

Table 3. Natural conservation and recreation areas, 1995-1999 (in square kilometres). Source: Forestry statistics of Thailand (RFD 1999).


1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

Units

Area

Units

Area

Units

Area

Units

Area

Units

Area

National Park

81

41,738

82

42,332

82

42,332

87

44,182

96

48,927

Forest Park

42

626

57

761

66

860

65

867

66

851

Wildlife

38

29,388

42

30,986

44

32,011

46

32,671

48

33,433

Conservation Area











No-Hunting Area

42

2,958

44

3,217

43

2,972

44

3,101

49

3,304

Botanical Garden

15

56

15

56

15

56

15

56

15

58

Arboretum

47

28

47

28

49

30

53

34

53

35

Total

265

74,794

287

77,380

299

78,261

310

80,911

327

86,608

Forest plantations

Forest plantations make up a relatively small proportion of Thailand's forest area (Table 4). Plantation programmes have been less successful than expected, though they have encouraged the creation of national tree seed centres and given rise to further tree improvement work.

Table 4. Annual reforested area by institution (in square kilometres). Source: Forestry statistics of Thailand (RFD 1999).


To 1996

1997

1998

1999

Total

Afforestation under government budget

6,415.84

62.03

65.92

92.83

6,672.62

Reforestation by concessionaire

1,468.97

-

-

-

1,468.97

Forest Industry Organization (FIO)

270.25

-

-

59.24

329.49

Thai Plywood Co. Ltd

11.74

7.01

6.19

6.94

31.88

Reforestation according to Ministry regulations

125.64

2.34

9.71

13.37

151.06

Reforestation under concessionaire budget

208.69

6.51

8.91

0.40

224.58

Total

8,537.13

77.89

90.80

172.78

8,878.60

The government of Thailand is now encouraging private reforestation and tree planting projects. These were first addressed in legislation approved in January 1983 which allows the private sector to invest in forest plantations on leased, degraded forest reserve land as well as private land. National forest lands can be leased for periods ranging from 5 to 30 years (Rajani 1999). This legislation also allows the use of wood harvested from private plantations.

Socio-economic context

Thailand is a predominantly agricultural country, and about 60% of the Thai population are farmers. Industrialization in agriculture is limited, consisting mainly of primary processing units. Forests are used mainly as sources of fuelwood, posts and poles, food, timber, fodder, shade and shelter, as well as services such as recreation and soil and water conservation.

The main causes of deforestation in Thailand are rapid population growth, modern development and uncontrolled human activities. Forest genetic resources still face serious risks. The creation of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, however, has to some extent secured the conservation of these resources. Table 5 shows selected socio-economic indicators of Thailand and neighbouring countries of continental Southeast Asia.

Table 5. Socio-economic indicators of selected Southeast Asian countries. Source: DANCED (1996).

Country

Land Area ('000 ha)

Population 1990

Gross National Product

Total ('000)

Density People/km 2

Annual growth 1981-1990

Per capita (US$)

Annual growth 1981-1990 (%)

('000)

%

Cambodia

17,652

8,246

46.7

185

2.6

230 (1993)

8.5 (1994)

Lao PDR

23,080

4,071

17.6

87

2.4

220 (1991)

7.0 (1996/97)

Myanmar

65,797

41,675

63.3

785

2.1

n.a.

n.a.

Thailand

51,089

55,702

109.0

898

1.8

1420 (1990)

5.9 (1990)

Vietnam

32,549

67,171

206.4

1347

2.3

230 (1993)

8.5 (1994)

Continental Southeast Asia

190,167

176,864

93.0

3,302

2.1

1195 (1990)

5.6 (1981/90)

Half a century ago, when Thailand had much more forest than it does now, wood and wood-based products were two of the country's major exports. Today, however, forestry no longer makes a significant contribution to the economy (Table 6).

Table 6. Import and export value of wood and wood products, 1995-1999 (in millions of US$). Shaded figures denote export value; unshaded figures denote import value. Source: Forestry statistics of Thailand (RFD 1999).

Product

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

Log and sawn timber

606.7

528.1

418.4

200.3

253.3

49.7

43.7

50.0

57.8

92.2

Wood products: plywood, chips, furniture, etc.

212.6

211.6

204.9

82.0

64.1

331.5

340.7

415.7

573.5

659.9

Wood pulp

204.8

153.5

148.1

157.8

179.3

42.9

29.9

30.8

68.7

93.0

Paper and paperboard

435.8

389.5

393.4

345.2

366.6

186.7

106.6

255.9

460.9

471.9

Institutional framework

As most forests in Thailand are the property of the State, public institutions dominate the forestry sector. The private sector, however, is playing an increasingly important role. The main government agency responsible for forestry and forests is the Royal Forest Department (RFD), which is one of 13 departments under the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MOAC). Other departments of MOAC, as well as the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (MOSTE) and the Prime Minister's Office, are also involved in forest development. The private forestry sector consists of large private companies, community associations and individual farmers.

The Office of Agricultural Economics (OAE) is the lead agency within MOAC for providing direction, strategy and measures for agricultural development. The Office's work is guided partly by Thailand's 8th Agricultural Development Plan, which is included in the 8th Five-Year National Social and Economic Development Plan. The Agricultural Development Plan includes strategies for natural resources conservation and sustainable agriculture development, human resources and institutional development.

The Royal Forest Department is divided into two parts:

i) The Central Office for Administration, comprising 13 main functional divisions or offices and 21 regional forest offices, is responsible for protection and use of all forest resources at the national level, as well as research and development.

ii) The Territorial Administration, comprising 75 provincial forest offices under the provincial governors and 524 district forest offices. These administer the use and protection of local forests, issue permits, collect revenues and control the transport and flow of forest products.

RFD's Forest Research Office is responsible for research and developing forestry technologies. The Silviculture Research Division includes a seed section, a tree improvement section and several field stations. The seed section undertakes seed research and development work, and is responsible for a continuing seed management programme. The Tree Improvement Section coordinates tree improvement and gene conservation activities, including the Teak Improvement Programme, the Pine Improvement Programme and the Hardwood Gene Conservation Programme. The Silviculture Research Division manages seed production areas established under these programmes.

RFD's Natural Resources Conservation Office is responsible for the conservation and management of the protected area system in Thailand. This encompasses the bulk of Thailand's remaining State forests. Protected areas are also the primary source of planting material for the future.

In addition to RFD, two of the eight state enterprises under MOAC are involved in reforestation, namely, the Forest Industry Organization (FIO) and Thai Plywood Company Ltd (TPC). FIO's current work focuses on reforestation throughout the country. FIO plantations in the north of the country are planted mainly with teak; those in the south with rubber; and those in the west and northeast with eucalypts. FIO has reforested an area of about 160,000ha, but its reforestation programme is currently suspended because of a lack of funds. FIO produces seedlings for its own use and for sale to the public and private sectors.

TPC has reforested an area of about 8000ha to supply raw material for its plywood and fibreboard operations. TPC's current reforestation work focuses on fast-growing species such as Acacia spp., Eucalyptus spp. and Melia spp. TPC has established five plantations in eastern Thailand and a seed centre. At present, the supply of wood from the company's plantations is unable to satisfy internal demand, but expansion of these plantations is limited by land availability. The company is trying to promote reforestation by farmers in order to ensure a steady supply of wood. Farmers cooperating with TPC are offered free seedlings of good genetic origin.

The Agricultural Land Reform Office is responsible for the Agricultural Structure and Production System Adjustment Project, an integrated land-use approach which involves allocating land, soft loans and a subsidized supply of tree seedlings to farmers.

The Office of Environmental Policy and Planning (OEPP) in MOSTE is responsible for environmental policy and planning at national level and for ratifying international conventions. The NGO and Private Sector Section of the Public Education and Extension Division in the Department of Environmental Promotion of MOSTE provides support to integrated community forestry activities. The National Research Council under MOSTE prepares plans and policies for research, and plays a general role in conserving plant genetic resources.

In general, the Prime Minister's Office does not deal directly with forestry matters. A reforestation campaign in commemoration of the Royal Golden Jubilee, however, has been partly monitored by this Office. The Prime Minister's Office also oversees the Botanic Garden Organization of Thailand (BGO). BGO and in particular the Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden play an important role in ex situ conservation and in research and development.

The Faculty of Forestry at Kasetsart University provides education in forestry at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, conducts research and disseminates information.

Tree improvement activities

Plantation programmes led to the establishment of national tree seed centres in 1997 with assistance from DANCED. Tree improvement work, however, began in 1965 with teak (Tectona grandis), and was assisted by Danida. This work was extended to tropical pines and eucalypts in 1969. Depending on the availability of resources more species will be taken into consideration in future improvement programmes. Table 7 lists priority species for tree improvement.

Table 7. Value and use of priority species. Source: FORGENMAP (2000).

Species

Value Codea)

Present, future or potential useb)

ti

po

wo

nw

pu

fo

fd

sh

ag

co

am

xx

Acacia auriculiformis

1



Ö


Ö



Ö

Ö

Ö

Ö


Acacia mangium

1

Ö




Ö




Ö

Ö



Afzelia xylocarpa

1

Ö

Ö

Ö





Ö

Ö

Ö

Ö


Alstonia scholaris

1


Ö


Ö

Ö



Ö



Ö


Azadirachta excelsa

1

Ö

Ö



Ö



Ö

Ö

Ö

Ö


Azadirachta indica

1

Ö


Ö

Ö


Ö



Ö

Ö



Bambusa spp.

1


Ö

Ö

Ö

Ö

Ö




Ö

Ö


Casuarina equisetifolia

1


Ö

Ö


Ö






Ö


Casuarina junghuhniana

1


Ö

Ö


Ö






Ö


Dipterocarpus alatus

1

Ö

Ö


Ö




Ö

Ö

Ö



Hevea brasiliensis

1

Ö



Ö









Hopea ferrea

1

Ö

Ö

Ö


Ö



Ö

Ö

Ö

Ö


Hopea odorata

1

Ö

Ö

Ö





Ö

Ö

Ö

Ö


Leucaena leucocephala

1



Ö


Ö


Ö

Ö


Ö



Mangifera spp.

1

Ö

Ö


Ö




Ö


Ö

Ö


Mimusops elengi

2




Ö




Ö


Ö

Ö


Peltophorum dasyrachis

1




Ö

Ö



Ö

Ö

Ö

Ö


Pterocarpus macrocarpus

1

Ö

Ö






Ö

Ö

Ö

Ö


Samanea saman

1



Ö

Ö




Ö


Ö

Ö


Sandoricum koetjape

2



Ö

Ö


Ö


Ö

Ö


Ö


Toona ciliata

1

Ö




Ö



Ö

Ö

Ö

Ö


Xylia xylocarpa

1

Ö

Ö

Ö





Ö

Ö

Ö

Ö


a) 1= Species of current socio-economic importance; 2 = Species with clear potential or future value; 3 = Species of unknown value given present knowledge and technology.

b) ti = timber production; po = posts, poles, roundwood; pu = pulp and paper; wo = fuelwood, charcoal; nw = non-wood products (gums, resins, oils, tannins, medicines, dyes, etc.); fo = food; fd = fodder; sh = shade, shelter; ag = agroforestry systems; co = soil and water conservation; am = amenity, aesthetic, ethical values; xx = other.

Priorities in forest genetic resources conservation

Determining priority species for forest genetic resources conservation needs careful consideration. Only limited resources are available for forest genetic resources conservation in Thailand. However, a working group of forest experts at Kasetsart University has made a listing of priority tree species for conservation (8 May 2000, unpublished) (Table 8). Table 9 lists priority species for conservation, tree improvement or seed procurement.

Table 8. Priority forest genetic resource conservation actions for indigenous tree species. No information is available on ex situ actions.

Priority & Scientific Name

Research Needs a)

In situ conservation

Ex situ conservation

Taxonomy

Genetic processes & variation

Distribution & status

Species conserevation strategy

Current positioenb)

Additional sites c)

Current poesition

Additional staendes

TOP PRIORITY









Afzelia xylocarpa


3

3

3

xxx

S



Dipterocarpus alatus


3*

3

3

xxx




Hopea odorata


3

3

3

xxx




Pterocarpus macrocarpus


3+

3

3*

xxx




Tectona grandis


3+

2

+

xxx




VERY HIGH PRIORITY









Alstonia scholaris


2

2

2

xxx




Aquilaria crassna


2

3

2

xx




Dalbergia cochinchinensis


2+

3

2*

xx




Dalbergia oliveri


2

3

2

xx




Intsia palembanica


2

2

2

xxx




Mangifera spp. (wild species)

1

2

3

2

xxx




Millettia kangensis


2

3

2

x

N



Pinus merkusii


1+

1+

+

xxx

NE



Wrightia tomentosa


2

2

2

xxx




Xylia xylocarpa var. kerrii


2

2

2

xxx




OTHER PRIORITY









Azadirachta excelsa


1

1

1

xx




Chukrasia spp.

2

1*

1

1*

xxx




Cotylelobium melanoxylon


1+

1

1

xx

S



Dipterocarpus tuberculatus


1

1


xxx




Durio mansoni


1

1

1

xx

S



Fagraea fragrans


1

1

1

xx

C, E



Gmelina arborea


1+

1

1

xxx




Holoptelea integrifolia


1

1

1

xx

NE, E, W



Hopea ferrea


1

1

1

xxx

W, C



Manglietia garrettii


1

1

1

xx

W, C



Mansonia gagei


1

1

1

xx




OTHER PRIORITY









Azadirachta indica


1

1


xxx




Melientha suavis


1

1

1

xxx




Parashorea stellata


1

1

1

xx

E



Parkia speciosa


1

1

1

xxx

C



Pinus kesiya


1+

1+

1

xxx




Shorea henryana


1

1

1

x

S, E, C



Shorea roxburghii


1

1

1

xxx

C, E, W



Tetrameles nudiflora


1

1


xxx




Toona ciliata

*

1

1

1

xxx

C, W



a) 3 = Top priority - to be undertaken within the next three years; 2 = High priority - to be undertaken within the next five years; 1 = Medium priority - to be undertaken within the next ten years. (*) denotes a study in progress; (+) denotes a completed study.

b) xxx = very well conserved; xx = well conserved; x = partly conserved.

c) N = north; NE = northeast; C = central; E = East; W = west; S = south/peninsula.

Table 9. List of priority species for conservation, improvement or seed procurement

Species

End Usea)

Operations/Activitiesb)

W

NW

FW

O

Exploration/ collection

Evaluation

Conservation

Use for seed/ Propagation

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

Afzelia xylocarpa

1




2

2

1

3

1

3

1


Alstonia scholaris




1

3

3

1

1

1

1

1


Aquilaria crassna




1

1

1

1

1

1

1

2


Dalbergia cochinchinensis

1




2

2

1

1

1

1

2


Dalbergia oliveri

1




2

2

1

1

1

1

2


Dipterocarpus alatus

1




3

3

2

3

1

3

1


Hopea odorata

1




2

2

1

3

1

3

1


Intsia palembanica

1




2

2

1

1

1

1

2


Mangifera spp.

1




2

2

1

1

1

1

2


Millettia kangensis

1




3

3

3

3

3

3

3


Pinus merkusii

1




1

1

1

2

1

2

1


Pterocarpus macrocarpus

1




2

2

1

3

1

3

1


Tectona grandis

1




3

3

1

1

1

1

1


Wrightia tomentosa

1




1

1

1

3

1

1

1


a) 1 = Industrial wood (logs, sawn timber, construction wood, plywood, chip and particleboard, pulp etc.); 2 = Industrial non-wood products (gums, resin, oils, tannins); 3 = Fuelwood, posts, poles (firewood, charcoal, roundwood used on-farm, wood for carving); 4 = Other uses, goods and services (food, medicinal use, fodder, land stabilization/amelioration, shade, shelter and environmental values).

b) 5 = Biological information (natural distribution, taxonomy, genecology, phenology, etc.); 6 = Collection of propagation material for evaluation; 7 = In situ (population studies); 8 = Ex situ (provenance and progeny tests); 9 = In situ; 10 = Ex situ; 11= Semi-bulk/bulk seedlots, reproductive materials; 12 = Selection and improvement.

References

DANCED (1996) Project Document: Forest Genetic Resources Conservation and Management, Thailand. Danish Cooperation for Environment and Development, Copenhagen.

FORGENMAP (2000) Workshop Report No. 7. Identification of Priority Species for Biodiversity and Tree Planting Workshops 1998. Royal Forest Department, Bangkok.

Rajani, B. (1999) System Plan of Protected Area Management in Thailand. Royal Forest Department, Bangkok.

Royal Forest Department (1999). Forestry Statistics of Thailand 1999. Royal Forest Department, Bangkok.

Sutthisrisinn, C. & Noochdumrong, A. (1998) Country Report: Thailand Forestry Policy and Planning. FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok.


[7] Head of Tree Improvement, Silviculture Research Division, Forest Research Office, Royal Forest Department, 61 Phaholyothin Road, Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900, Thailand, Tel: +66-2-561 4292, Fax: +66-2-579 9576, E-mail: suman@forest.go.th

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page