REGIONAL EXPERT CONSULTATION ON EUCALYPTUS
4-8 October 1993, Bangkok
ROOT CAUSES OF THE EUCALYPTUS DEBATE
There is now recognition by all who attended the consultation that the problems and conflicts formerly blamed on species of the genus Eucalyptus arise more from the insensitive application of government policies on afforestation and from social injustice than from the eucalypts.
POTENTIALS OF EUCALYPTS
The consultation recognized that eucalypts can provide many benefits very quickly, ranging from industrial wood and fibre, to poles, posts, timber and fuelwood for household use, nectar, essential oils, tannin and many other products, as well as the provision of services such as windbreaks and shelter belts.
The various products obtained from manmade plantations can help to relieve pressures on natural forests.
PLANTATION PROGRAMMES WITH EUCALYPTUS
Decreased forest resources and increased demand for forest products mean that all 14 countries reporting to this Consultation expect to expand their plantation programmes; only two of the countries reporting did not expect to expand the area of Eucalyptus species within the plantation programme.
Land within forest reserves is generally neither sufficient nor (where it is under natural forest) is it always suitable for conversion to plantations. It will thus be necessary to find land outside forest reserves, leading to the conclusion that it will be necessary to involve people in forest plantation programmes. This involvement should include the representatives of the people, the media and pressure groups and other facilitators.
Recommendation: Governments should make provision in their policies for participatory approaches to forest plantation management.
It was recognized that sound policies on manmade forest development cannot be formulated in isolation. They must be considered within the framework of national forest policies, which are part of the broader framework of national economic and social development policies, especially those related to sustainable natural resource management, equity and poverty alleviation, employment creation, reduction of population pressures and peoples' participation in development.
Recommendation: The Consultation recommends that policies on manmade forests development should have four major aims:
1) to meet the increasing demands for timber, fuelwood, fodder, fibre, paper etc. (production issues);
2) to reduce heavy pressure on natural forests (protection/conservation);
3) to contribute to community development (social and economic issues);
4) to rehabilitate and restore damaged forest ecosystems in places where natural recovery cannot be foreseen in a short period (environmental aspects).
The group also recognized that national forest policies, including policies on manmade forests, have considerable areas of overlap, interconnections, and interaction among the main issues affecting the effective policy formation within and outside the forestry sector, especially with national land use and agricultural policies. Therefore, it may not be practical to find solutions to one issue without considering linked problems.
Recommendation: The Consultation recommends that a review and updating of national land use and forest policies should be undertaken to ensure that these policies are socially fair, economically viable and environmentally sound.
It was recognized (see above) that forestry could no longer be confined to forest reserves.
Recommendation: The Consultation recommends that the government agencies should give more freedom and responsibilities to local communities, user groups and private enterprises of various kinds in the management of manmade forests.
The Consultation recognized that institutional arrangements for incentives and financial support are essential in order to secure the development of manmade forests.
Recommendation. It is recommended that tree growing farmers' cooperatives and private companies should be provided with a package of incentives, which may include credit, grants, subsidies, or tax exemptions and insurance.
SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC ASPECTS
A review of the country statements shows that, while in certain circumstances there have been objections to the planting of eucalypts from a social point of view, in other places it has proved to be socially acceptable and economically viable. Problems have occurred where people have not been consulted before the establishment of plantations; where they have been driven off the land and/or where they have lost access to common lands that formerly provided them with various goods and services.
Recommendation: Plantation development should take due note of the requirements of existing populations for forest products and other goods and services. Furthermore, local communities should be encouraged to participate in plantation management and uses. Existing communities should be encouraged to participate in plantation development programmes.
It was noted that the incorporation of indigenous species in forest plantations increases their acceptability by local communities. Also, it was underlined that a shift of emphasis towards non-wood forest products may be advisable in communal plantations.
Recommendation: Those responsible for plantation developments on common land should incorporate mixtures with other species where appropriate, including indigenous species, as well as the inclusion of species yielding non-wood forest products.
It was recognized that in certain instances major obstacles to the promotion of eucalypt plantations on private land lay in land tenure and ownership arrangements, as well as in other disincentives, such as regulations.
Recommendation: Where such constraints exist, the governments and local authorities should take action to review existing arrangements for land tenure and other matters affecting the flow of goods and services from plantations, and rectify the situation as appropriate.
Misinformation and lack of information has adversely affected investments by farmers in eucalypt plantations.
Recommendation: All concerned in the private and public sectors should increase the flow of information on all aspects of eucalypt plantations, ranging from the environmental impacts to the bio-physical, economic and social ones. Extension services should be strengthened.
It was recognized that the existing national and international markets for forest products have not developed appropriate, sustainable mechanisms yet. They are often weak and unreliable in comparison with the market mechanisms of the agriculture or horticulture sectors.
Recommendation: The Consultation recommended that the government agencies should encourage the producers of forest products to establish and strengthen cooperatives and other associations. The government agencies should adopt policies, strategies and programmes to extend planning and advisory services for the sound development of the marketing mechanisms of forest products.
Fast growth and high biomass production of eucalypts require a high level of water consumption. This water consumption, though efficient in terms of biomass produced, must be balanced with other competing water requirements for the agriculture and livestock sectors, as well as those of human communities, in line with finite water supplies and availabilities.
Recommendation: Where water is scarce or demanded by other sectors, special care should be given to adjust the eucalypt biomass production to match the amount of water available. The water consumption needed for eucalypt plantations can be reduced by planting fewer trees per unit area or by thinning existing plantations. Such an operational adjustment should be sought under the integrated management of water, soil cover, and nutrients in the surface soils.
Competition for soil moisture
In dry climates, where it is desired to grow other crops along with eucalypts under rain fed conditions, there is a risk of the eucalypts causing suppression of those crops through the competition for soil moisture. In moist climates (rainfall above 1,200 mm/year), there appears to be no problem in this regard.
Recommendation: In general terms, under rain fed conditions, where annual rainfall is less than 400 mm, other crops may not be able to grow with eucalypts. Where the annual rainfall ranges from 400 to 1,200 mm, a careful planning of the water balance is recommended before growing mixtures of agricultural crops and eucalypts. After the establishment of such mixed plantations, careful assessment and management schemes should follow.
The growing of eucalypts as short rotation and high yielding crops, has a nutrient cost on the soil. Since soil nutrients are finite and may be naturally replenished at a slower rate than they are lost, measures may be required to ensure the sustainability of yields and maintenance of soil quality. The effects on soil nutrients caused by competition between the eucalypts and other agricultural crops can be lowered by reducing the number of trees per unit area, even in the dryer climates.
Recommendation: The foliage and bark of eucalypts should be left on the plantation floor after harvesting the wood, since these components have relatively high contents of nutrients. Soil nutrient balance and recycling efficiency should be continuously monitored from one harvest to the next.
The effect of allelopathy is highly selective being location and species specific, and the risk is higher in dryer climates.
Recommendation: Where annual rainfall is less than 400 mm, field trials should be conducted to demonstrate whether allelopathy is a factor to be taken into account with the specific eucalypt/crop mixtures planned. If it is proven, allelopathy can be minimized, even in dry climates, by cultivation methods, fertilization and irrigation, and also by the selection of compatible crops.
Eucalypts themselves cannot be singled out from other tree genera as causing soil erosion or being ineffective in preventing it. The focus needs to be on ground level aspects, such as i) ground vegetation, ii) litter condition, iii) soil permeability, and iv) soil wettability. Other considerations include activities, such as i) cultivation, ii) litter disturbance or removal, and iii) compaction by men, animals and machinery, including logging equipment.
Recommendation: If risks of soil erosion are present, disturbance should be minimized, and ground cover vegetation should replace mechanical weed control. Tree spacing may have to be widened to allow permanent living ground cover to develop. Contour ploughing must be adopted on sloping land, and physical barriers such as bunds or rock walls should supplement tree barriers on steep slopes.
Pests and diseases
Although eucalypt plantations are relatively free of pests and diseases, a few serious problems have appeared in certain localities and with particular species of eucalypts. Susceptibility appears to vary with species, provenance and local environmental conditions.
Recommendation: Incidents of pests and diseases should be closely monitored. Accurate site matching and selection of resistant eucalypt species, provenances and varieties can serve to reduce the incidence of pests and diseases. Further development of biological control measures should specifically be encouraged.
The biological diversity of eucalypt plantations cannot be compared with that of intact natural forests of most types. However, it was noted that eucalypt plantations have more diverse populations of fauna and flora than many types of degraded lands.
Recommendation. Eucalypt plantations should not be considered and used to replace healthy and undisturbed natural forests, if the conservation of biodiversity is a priority. The plantations may, however, have a value as buffer zones around nature conservation zones. It is further recommended to plant eucalypts in a mosaic fashion with native vegetation, where feasible.
While the genetic improvement of eucalypts has the potential to narrow their genetic diversity and thus to increase the risks of being attacked by pests and diseases, it also has the potential to greatly increase wood yields, essential oils and other products from a given area of land. It can create a new genetic diversity which can lead to the development of pest and disease resistant varieties, and varieties that are more efficient users of water.
Recommendation: The tree breeding programmes should be strengthened, including the programmes undertaken by the private sector. These programmes should cover the establishment of seed orchards and experimental plots, and the selection and protection of plus trees and hybrids.
KNOWLEDGE GAPS AND WEAKNESSES IDENTIFIED
The Consultation recognized that there are several gaps and weaknesses in knowledge regarding the sound management and utilization of eucalypt plantations.
Recommendation. The Consultation recommends that the following research and development activities be undertaken:
1) Site matching studies of species, provenances and varieties.
2) Studies on mixtures of eucalypts with other tree species and agricultural crops in various forms of land use, instead of, or as alternatives to, the monoculture of eucalypts.
3) Studies on nutrient cycling within poor soils vis-a-vis good soils.
4) Tree breeding programmes, leading to the production and supply of genetically improved seeds and vegetatively prepared planting materials.
5) Collection of growth and yield data on eucalypts and determination of their optimum stocking in order to monitor any adverse environmental impacts caused by high biomass production or removals, and thus to take action to reduce or avoid such adverse effects.
6) Studies on social and institutional issues of eucalypt plantations, including forest policies, legislation, land tenure, and the roles of producers (farmers, government agencies and private companies) and local organizations in establishment and management of manmade forests, especially those composed of fast growing species (including eucalypts) .
7) Studies on the economic impacts of eucalypt plantations, including costs and benefits, product diversification (e.g. honey, essential oils, etc.), processing and marketing mechanisms.
8) Development of monitoring and evaluation systems to measure the social, economic and environmental impacts of eucalypt plantations.
9) Development of mechanisms to collect, evaluate, analyze and disseminate the research results and other relevant information on Eucalyptus spp.
Eucalyptus seedlings planted in Sind province, Pakistan