The importance of forest plantations in meeting the needs for future wood supplies as well as providing other services is well recognized, but few issues are more contentious than that of the role of species of the genus Eucalyptus in forestry plantation programmes. Sometimes it seems, from the extreme statements that are made in its condemnation or defence, that eucalypts are either loved or hated.
The late Dr Y.S.Rao, formerly Regional Forestry Officer in the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (RAPA) and then Senior Programme Adviser of FAO's project to support forestry research in the Region, recognized the need to examine these polarized positions in a scientific manner so as to identify those situations where the eucalypts should, or should not, be used. Since one of FAO's most important functions is that of providing a neutral forum for countries, institutions and individuals to come together to discuss issues of common concern, Dr Rao and Mr. M. Kashio, Regional Forest Resources Officer in RAPA, arranged a Regional Consultation to bring together all those with an interest in the subject.
But while FAO may provide a neutral forum it is not aloof from the controversy; we in FAO's Forestry Department are committed to understanding the reasons for these extreme positions, to identifying the role for the species, and to disseminating the results of our investigations. The objectives of the Regional Consultation were therefore to review the evidence for or against the use of the eucalypts in given situations by bringing together the growers of eucalypts (whether in the public or the private sector), the users of the wood of eucalypts, those who research into all aspects of its environmental, economic and social effects, and (most important of all), those who are affected positively or negatively by Eucalyptus plantations, to discuss their experiences.
The meeting, held between 4 and 8 October 1993, attracted over 80 participants from 14 different countries. After listening to the invited papers of the discussion leaders and to a number of voluntary papers and country position statements, the meeting reviewed in discussion groups the various issues that had been highlighted. Thereafter, all came together to prepare a number of recommendations that serve both as guidelines for the growing of the eucalypts based on current knowledge and also identify areas where more research is required.
To some extent therefore the conclusions and recommendations update those of FAO Forestry Paper number 59, "The Ecological Effects of Eucalyptus", published in 1985, and indeed since the Consultation considered the social and economic effects of the genus it has gone further than FAO Forestry Paper number 59. Moreover, although the Consultation was restricted to Asia and the Pacific Region, it considered experience from elsewhere; thus the Proceedings are being published in sufficient quantity to disseminate the results widely.
The Proceedings are being issued in three volumes:
- Volume I (this document) includes the invited papers, a summary of the voluntary papers and country statements, the group reports and the conclusions and recommendations.
- Volume II will include the full texts of the voluntary papers and country statements; it will be published by FAO's Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.
- Volume III will feature annotated bibliographies of literature relevant to the subject published in English, French and Spanish between 1985 and 1994. It will be published by FAO Headquarters in FAO's Miscellaneous Papers series, in hard copy and on diskette.
The Consultation and these Proceedings are dedicated to the memory of the late Dr Rao, who conceived the idea of this meeting. We acknowledge the work of Mr M. Kashio, to whom fell the burden of organizing and running the meeting after the death of Dr Rao, and we thank Mr Kevin White and Ms Mette Løyche Wilkie for editing Volume I of the Proceedings.
It is hoped that the three volumes of the Proceedings will be useful to all those involved in the Eucalyptus controversy, to help them put into perspective the relations between plantations of the genus, the environment and their effect on society. As was to be expected, the Consultation did not provide all the answers and there will still remain "grey areas" not covered by the broad guidelines that have been given. Nevertheless, we believe that the outcome does mark a step forward in our understanding of the role of the genus in forest plantation programmes. Where doubt still exists, we have identified areas for further investigation.
David A. Harcharik