9. BIOLOGICAL AND TECHNICAL CHALLENGES, AND RESEARCH PRIORITIES
The entire global community is concerned about the future of tropical forests. Despite lack of unanimity on the actual area that is being lost annually, there is consensus that this is a resource under increasing pressure. Available information shows that the survival of tropical forests depends on the development of sustainable management strategies and methodologies that would generate information on promising working packages. Despite notable progress recorded during the past century, the ecology and biology of SSA forest species are still poorly known. The situation in dry country forests is even more desperate. There is therefore a need for establishing a clear understanding of how species complexes relate to edaphic, hydrological, biotic and other environmental influences. Information on their adaptations to different niches, pollination and seed dispersal systems, and beneficial associations with micro-symbionts, are some of the critical issues for developing management operations. Current and future management challenges call for joint efforts between foresters (silviculturists and processors), ecologists, botanists, taxonomists, sociologists, economics and legal and policy experts, to develop and test appropriate and integrated resource management systems and models.
9.1 A summary of challenges to sustainable forest management
An assessment of the state-of-knowledge and experience on the management of secondary forests and the emerging challenges to SFM reveal a number of salient shortcomings, of which the following stand out as priority challenges that should be addressed through research and development:
- Determination of the precise area of secondary forests: Fairhead and Leach
(1998) observed that rates of deforestation in a number of West African
countries since 1900 is about half of what had been reported earlier.
- The taxonomy and ecology of the species complexes, particularly key
ecological and economical timber species, and the lower canopy trees and
shrubs, in terms of their distribution, regeneration and growth (and yield,
essential for predicting off-take levels).
- Regeneration ecology of target species in relation to silvicultural
management after logging.
- Development of non-complicated ecological tools and methods for use by
national resource managers and scientists, to support ecological studies at
national and regional level, particularly in the dry, arid and semi-arid
forests with respect to composition, biology of target species, wood resources
base, and techniques for improvement.
- Development of forest management models that integrate socio-economic,
policy and biophysical components and processes.
- Expansion of the utilization base of secondary forest species: Loggers
only take species in demand, hence strictly limiting off-take to a minority of
secondary forest trees.
- Promoting and marketing of promising secondary forest species and
fostering their systematic harvesting to ensure sustainability.
- Minimizing loss of secondary forests through excisions, unmanaged logging,
grazing and other agencies.
- Development of more robust and innovative economic valuation tools and
methods for making informed decisions and to forestall policy failure and
accurate assessment of contributions of forests to development.
- Improvement of the capacity of trained manpower for effective scientific
- Education of civil society and establishment of meaningful partnerships
with local communities who depend on the secondary forests, the private sector
and NGO partners, so as to enrich the momentum of advocacy and lobby for
sustainable forest development.