Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page

Chapter V

As part of the present assessment, special studies were made on the current status of forest conservation, management of natural forests, timber harvesting and plantations. The WCMC provided inputs in the area of forest management and conservation through Tropical Managed Area Assessment 1990 Project. Based on their data the extent of legally notified forest areas for various purposes are given in Table 17.

Conservation forest: areas within the forestry sector designated for conservation by law or other regulations.
Conservation area: The term conservation area is used instead of protected area with which it is synonymous.
Production forest (forests for wood production): forest having terrain and soil conditions suitable for the production of wood and other products on a sustainable basis. The distance to consumption or export centres is not taken into account, which means that economically inaccessible forests are included in this class.
Forestry sector: that part of government responsible for the management of forest land.
Notified forest: forest land that is notified as reserved. N.B notified forests are usually demarcated, the boundaries being given in the notification.
Protection forests: areas within the forestry sector located on terrain that is too steep or rough, or subject to periods or permanent inundation, which makes forest management impractical due to physical non-productivity (FAO, 1990).
Wildlife sector: that part of government responsible for nature conservation.

Forest management in a wider sense, as used here, includes management of forests for wood production, soil and water conservation as well as management of conservation areas.

Forest management could be said to begin when a forest area is demarcated and set aside to be managed for future production of forestry goods and services. Further progressive steps include: inventory of site and stand, preparation of a management plan and control, application of silvicultural treatments, all activities implying the development of the needed institutions and capacities. Thus, forest management should be considered as part of a developmental process with a goal to enhance the capacity of the forest site and stand to produce intended goods and services on a sustained and, if possible, on an increased basis.

It is worth noting that the term “protection” used in the table refers to forests set apart to conserve soil and water, whereas the term “conservation” refers to biological (e.g. wildlife) conservation. The legal notification is only the starting point of management. This must be followed by proper measures for conservation, management and development of forests.

Table 17
Extent of notified forest in the tropics classified by forest function at end 1990

Region Land areaWood productionProtectionConservationTotal
million hamillion ha% land areamillion ha% land areamillion ha% land areamillion ha% land area
West Sahelian Africa528.
East Sahelian Africa489.
West Africa203.813.
Central Africa398.
Trop. Southern and Insular Africa616.323.
South Asia412.259.414.
Continental S.E. Asia190.
Insular S.E. Asia244.471.729.333.
Latin America1,650.
C. America & Mexico239.612.
Trop. South America1,341.687.06.516.


The term “conservation area” has been used instead of “protected area” and is defined as an area of land managed through legal or customary regimes so as to protect and maintain biological diversity and natural and associated cultural resources. (This definition was agreed at the IV World Congress on National Parks and Protected Areas, Caracas, 10–12 February 1992).

Based on the survey of WCMC, Table 18 summarises the findings at regional and global levels and provides a breakdown of area by types of managing institutions, e.g. national forest administrations, national wildlife administrations and other institutions. The figures referring to the area under control of the forestry sector are obtained by adding the areas under protection and conservation.

Table 18
Number and extent of conservation areas in the forestry, wildlife and other sectors

RegionConservation areas in forestry, wildlife and additional sectors
Area million haArea million haArea million haArea million haLand proportion %
Asia & Pacific70.555.60.8126.914.2
L. America & Caribbean116.5118.4120.7355.621.5

Source: Assessing the Conservation Status of the World's Tropical Forest;
WCMC, a contribution to the FAO FRA 1990 Project

The results of the assessment suggest that a significant proportion of the tropics is under management for conservation or protection. The quantitative information must be tempered, however, by a realistic appraisal of on-the-ground management effectiveness and the threats to existing sites. Throughout the tropics there tends to be inadequate legislation and ineffective application of the legal measures that do exist. Weak institutional support, management that is frequently deficient or even non-existent and inadequate funding are also ubiquitous. Consequently, there is a strong tendency towards ‘paper parks’ whose existence is largely theoretical and not reflected by substantive and durable conservation reserves on the ground. Furthermore, those sites that do exist are under increasing pressure from competing land uses.

Despite the seemingly encouraging picture that emerges from the data, it is often impossible to know whether or not a conservation area network is representative, particularly in terms of biodiversity. A special survey conducted by WCMC shows that out of 8,715 conservation areas only 5 percent are known to have been inventoried for one or more taxonomic groups. Conservation areas have frequently been established with little or no regard to ecological criteria for their selection. Continuing and growing pressure on land throughout the tropics, particularly in densely populated Asian nations, has forced the selection of conservation areas to be made on pragmatic and not necessarily scientific grounds.


2.1 Sustainable forest management

The FAO/UNEP Forest Resources Assessment 1980 Project reported the following on the status of forest management by end 1980: Forest area under management was about 41.3 million ha which constituted 4.3 percent of the total reported forest area. Tropical Asia contributed 39.1 million ha and of this 32.5 million ha was located in one country, i.e. India. The rest of 8.8 million ha were distributed over 18 other countries. The term forest management was used covering only wood production and implying “controlled application of harvesting regulations, complemented by appropriate silvicultural and protective measures designed to maintain and improve the productivity of the forests”.

Since 1980 a number of intensive studies on forest management have been carried out by FAO (see FAO Forestry Papers No. 53,55, 88 and 89; Unasylva No. 156 and 159) and the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO). ITTO made detailed investigations on the current status of forest management and presented reports in several volumes by continent (see a summary in No Timber without Trees, 1989). The Project's FORIS database has collected information on a country basis.

According to an ITTO report published in 1988: “The area of tropical moist forest which is demonstrably under sustained yield management in the member countries of ITTO (excluding India) amounted, at the very most, to about one million ha and has now been reduced by about one fifth on environmental grounds. This is out of an estimated total area of some 828 million ha of productive tropical forest remaining in 1985 in all the countries in which it occurs. Under these circumstances urgent action is required, not only to ensure the proper management of previously unlogged forest, but also to assess the status of logged forest and degraded forest lands and to plan remedial action to bring these also under sustainable production as rapidly as possible”.

It may be mentioned that ITTO applied strict criteria to defining the term management for sustainable timber production: that it should be practised on an operational rather than an experimental scale; that it should include the essential tools of management defining objectives, working plans, felling cycles, yield control and prediction etc.; and that it should meet the wider political, social and economic criteria without which sustainability is probably uncertain.

As South Asia was a major subregion to account for managed area, a survey made by Forest Survey of India (FSI) was used as a reliable source of information. According to the State of Forest Report (1987), 59 million out of 75 million ha of land area under the control of the Forest Department were covered by working plans. Although, by and large, prescriptions of the working plans have been adhered to, it has been possible to secure adequate natural regeneration in only about 15 percent of the area covered by the working plans.

The reason is that grazing could not be controlled and forests could not be adequately protected from fire. In over 60 percent of area covered by the working plans, the annual cut exceeded the increment on account of unauthorised fellings, mostly for firewood.

The reports of ITTO and FSI present a bleaker picture of natural forest management in 1990 than in 1980. However, some positive developments may be interesting to note. In Malaysia, after transfer of intensively managed lowland Dipterocarp forests to other uses, (notably oil palm plantations and agriculture), efforts have been initiated to bring hill Dipterocarp forests under management. For this purpose an area of approximately 9.8 million ha has been set apart as permanent forest reserve for wood production. In Indonesia bans on log exports combined with development of local wood-based industry and setting of production reserves are expected to promote integrated forestry and forest industry development.

In India the Forest Conservation Act 1980 (with amendment made in 1988) had a salutary effect in slowing down the pace of deforestation. Logging bans in several parts of the country combined with a vigorous drive to raise agro-forestry plantations is expected to reduce the pressure on natural forests. There is, however, need for direct investment to rehabilitate and intensively manage the natural forests.

Initiatives to manage natural forests on a sustained basis are also reported in Ghana, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire and the Central African Republic.

In Mexico approximately 5.5 million ha are reported to be under management where silvicultural treatments are being applied to improve the growing stock. In South America several pilot scale applications have been reported (Unasylva No. 169) which could provide directions for development of forest management in the region.

2.2 Forest harvesting

Historical trend. The study of trends in timber harvesting was carried out by the Project in cooperation with the Forest Products Division of FAO Forestry Department using the FORIS database.

Figure 20 illustrates the trends in annual production of non-coniferous industrial roundwood (sawlogs and veneer logs) in the three tropical regions from 1961 to 1990. There is levelling off in Africa, slightly but steadily increasing in Latin America and the Caribbean and steeply and steadily increasing in Asia and the Pacific.

Table 19 provides information on harvesting intensity and harvested areas by region. All three regions (see Figure 21) exhibit a slow but steady increase in the share of harvesting operations that occur in secondary forest. This effect is due partly to the fact that less primary forest remains each year, but it also results partly from the fact that changing markets increasingly improve the economic feasibility of re-logging areas that were harvested two or more decades previously. This is especially true with respect to the increase in market acceptability of “lesser known” tree species. Although the increase is seldom dramatic, it is relatively steady and over a period of decades the effect is significant.

Figure 20
Trends in average annual production of non-coniferous industrial roundwood
(sawlogs and veneer logs only) in the three major regions of the tropics, 1961–90

Figure 20

Table 19
Estimated harvesting intensities and areas of broadleaved forest harvested annually in the three major regions of the tropics, 1961–90

PeriodAfricaAsia and the PacificLatin America and the CaribbeanAll tropical countries
Average harvest intensity
Area of forest harvested annually
('000 ha)
Average harvest intensity
Area of forest harvested annually
('000 ha)
Average harvest intensity
Area of forest harvested annually
('000 ha)
Average harvest intensity
Area of forest harvested annually
('000 ha)
Primary forestSecondary forestPrimary forestSecondary forestPrimary forestSecondary forestPrimary forestSecondary forest

Table 19 and Figure 21 read together illustrate regional differences in the annual area harvested and the stocking density of commercial species. As an example, even though the volume of non-coniferous sawlogs and veneer logs produced annually in the Asia and Pacific region during 1986 to 1990 was 3.7 times the comparable volume produced in the Latin America and Caribbean region, the estimated total area harvested in tropical Asia is only 89 percent of that in tropical America. This is due to the fact that the average commercial timber harvest volume per unit area in the Asia and Pacific region during 1986 to 1990 is estimated to be about 33 m3/ha compared to an average of only about 8 m3/ha in the Latin America and Caribbean region.

Impact of timber harvesting on stand and site

Impacts associated with industrial timber harvesting in the tropics. Timber harvesting in the tropics, as in the temperate regions, is an inherently disruptive activity that intentionally changes the structure of the forest and can also significantly affect environmental values and non-timber forest resources. The impacts associated with harvesting are generally of two types: those that affect the stand which is intended to remain after the harvesting has been completed and those that affect the site itself.

Figure 21
Estimated areas of tropical closed broadleaved forests harvested annually in the three major regions of the tropics. The grey shaded portion refers to the primary forests and the blue to the secondary forests.

Figure 21

Stand Impacts

  1. Felling. Studies reviewed from all three major regions of the tropics suggest that between one-tenth and one-third of the advance regeneration and residual trees are commonly knocked over or broken during felling operations. Although this is a higher level of damage than would be expected, for instance, in temperate mixed forests, it appears on the whole to be relatively constant over time. However, studies suggest that felling damage tends to increase in proportion to the intensity of harvest, measured as the volume of timber removed per hectare. Thus, efforts to promote increased utilisation of “lesser-known” species in the future could have the undesirable side effect of increasing also the amount of damage directly attributable to felling operations.

  2. Extraction. In all three major tropical regions, transport of felled tree stems from the stump to a landing where they can be loaded into trucks is accomplished primarily with ground-skidding equipment. Studies show that on the whole, damage by skidding equipment to advance regeneration and residual trees tends to be as high or higher than that caused by the felling operation. Again, studies support a conclusion that the percentage of trees damaged or destroyed tends to increase as the intensity of harvest increases. On the basis of regional averages, the intensity of harvest has remained almost constant in all three major tropical regions since 1961. Keeping in view the fact that by 1990 the average area of closed broadleaved tropical forest harvested annually was 9.1 million hectares, compared to an average of only 4.0 million hectares harvested annually in 1961. Even so, this increase of 230 percent in the area harvested annually occurred during a period when the volume harvested annually was increasing by 265 percent.

Site Impacts. Most site impacts associated with logging operations in the tropics can be attributed to skidtrails or to haul roads, and for the most part these are soil-related impacts. A certain amount of site damage can occur when trees are felled, especially if they fall into streams or other sensitive areas. However, most soil disturbance and compaction within the stand itself results from the skidding operation, and nearly all soil erosion that results from timber harvesting is associated with roads.

Data from a variety of studies carried out over a span of several decades indicate rather strongly that soil disturbance associated with skidding operations tends to increase with increasing harvest intensity. Whereas early studies (e.g. Nicholson 1958) typically reported disturbed soils covering 10–15 percent of harvested areas, more recent studies (Schmitt 1989, FAO 1989, Costa Filho 1991) have reported disturbance levels in the range of 20–25 percent of the area harvested. This suggests that the total area of soil disturbed by harvesting operations in the closed broadleaved forests of the tropics is now approaching 2.3 million hectares annually. This is an area amounting to nearly 60 percent of the area actually harvested in 1961, and is probably three or four times the total area of soils that were disturbed annually by harvesting operations around 1961.


Plantations are defined as:
forest stands established artificially by afforestation on land which previously did not carry forests; or
forest stands established artificially by reforestation on land which carried forest within the previous 50 years or within living memory and involving the replacement of the previous crop by a new and essentially different crop.
They are distinguished according to function:
Industrial plantations are established totally or partly for production of wood for industry mainly as sawlogs and veneerlogs, pulpwood and pitprops.
Non-industrial plantations are established mainly for one or several of the following objectives.
 • Production of fuelwood or wood for charcoal (possibly as industrial energy source)
 • Production of small wood for domestic consumption (in particular rural plantation)
 • Non-wood products and soil protection.
The above definitions are consistent with FAO/UNEP Forest Resources Assessment 1980.

The study on forest plantations was conducted by the Project in cooperation with the Department of Forest Survey of the Swedish Royal College of Forestry. A detailed technical report is being separately published on which the following presentation is based.

3.1 Methodology

Establishment of the time series data of forestry plantations by country in a tabular form was the first step in the study, and formed the basis for reported area assessment. Available country reports were used as the main data source. Consistency was checked between different years of reports for each country. Since plantation areas for most of the countries were reported at 1989 or earlier, the data for 1990 were estimated in most of the cases on the basis of trend of annual plantation during previous years or planned plantation for 1990 and onwards.

The sources quoted in the time series data table refer to the plantation areas in the reference years and only in a few cases to the species composition. Additional references given in the case of a few countries were used to estimate areas occupied by main species.

The information about species composition of plantations is quite inadequate especially in the countries where large scale plantations are being established under community forestry. Composition of the main species was, therefore, estimated based on other reports, articles and in a few cases the composition as determined during previous years. Distinguishing industrial from non-industrial plantation proved to be particularly difficult in some countries due to ambiguous reporting and variation in classification. In such cases the UNEP/FAO assessment of 1980 (country brief) or other sources were used as a basis. Plantations established under community forestry were classified as non-industrial.

In order to assess the annual plantation rate during 1981 to 1990 at subregional, regional or global levels, the plantation area for each country was estimated at the reference year 1980, on the basis of time series data. Where time series data were inadequate for making a good reference year estimate, the area reported by FAO in 1980 was used if found to match with the general trend within the country. To arrive at reported plantation area figures at global, regional and subregional levels, total area, and area by end use and species, a “bottom to top” approach was followed treating the country as a study unit.

Estimation was done using available information on both reported and net plantation areas from plantation inventory and survival reports to derive a regression function. While reviewing the inventory reports it was found that some of the reports quote only the area actually determined (net area) through the inventory and not the reported area originally planted. In such cases, reported areas were estimated or extracted from the country reports. Similarly, where reports gave only survival percentage, net planted area was derived by multiplying reported area with survival percentage.

For estimation of net planted area, inventory results were treated as sample observations. The regression line between reported and net areas was drawn only to show the trend at global level and not for estimating the areas at regional or country levels. Estimation of total net planted areas and net annual plantation rates at global and regional levels were done independently.

3.2 Results

According to this study the total plantation area reported in 90 countries of the tropical zone amounts to a total of 43.8 million ha as at the end of 1990 (country-wise figures are given in Annex 1 and a region-wise summary in Table 20). Tropical Asia and the Pacific has the largest share with 73 percent and the remainder is distributed between tropical America (20 percent) and tropical Africa (7 percent). The five countries having the largest reported area under plantation, constituting about 85 percent of the tropical plantations, are India (18.9 million ha), Indonesia (8.8 million ha), Brazil (7.0 million ha), Vietnam (2.1 million ha) and Thailand (0.8 million ha).

Table 20
Reported and net forest plantation areas in the tropics at 1990 (in '000 ha)

RegionNo. of countries under assessmentReported plantation area at 1990Estimated net plantation areaArea planted annually
Industrial plantationsNon-industrial plantationsTotal reported areaReportedEstimated net
Asia & Pacific179,10023,10032,20022,6002,1001,470
Latin America & Caribbean335,1003,5008,6006,000370260

Source: FORIS database

During 1981 to 1990 there has been considerable development in non-industrial plantations in the form of tree planting and by agroforestry. Cultivation of trees with agricultural crops and growing woodlots outside gazetted forests has gained momentum in the last decade. In order to estimate the planted area outside the traditional forests, many countries have fixed ad hoc criteria to convert the number of seedlings raised in the nurseries and distributed or planted, into area. No entirely consistent estimate can be made at global level for these forms of tree planting.

Survival rates calculated from 56 plantation inventories of 18 tropical countries were used to determine the average rate at global level at about 70 percent. Applying this latter factor to the reported plantation area gives a net total plantation area in the tropics of 30.7 million ha as at end 1990.

About 60 percent of the reported plantations were established during 1981 to 1990, in other words the increase in plantation area during the ten years over the estimate of 1980 is about 150 percent. The average area planted annually in the tropics reported during the decade 1981 to 1990 was about 2.60 million ha, corresponding to a net plantation area of 1.82 million ha. Thus the ratio between the annual rate of deforestation and forest plantation is 1:8.5. Region-wise comparative figures are given in Figure 22.

Figure 22
Annual deforestation and reforestation rates of the period 1981–90, by region

Figure 22

3.3 Species composition

Area information at the species level in plantations is very scarce. In a few cases, there is also an element of uncertainty in the actual name of the species due to hybridisation and unknown seed source. Generally speaking, countries report plantation areas by genus/species group, and in many cases only the name of the main species used in plantations, without indicating the area and end use for this species. As a result assessment of area occupied by species and end use is subject to large uncertainty. Tentative estimates of plantation areas (million ha) under the main genus/species group in the tropics to the end of 1990 are given in Table 21.

Table 21
Estimates of reported areas of the main species (million ha)

Tr. Africa0.790.610.1450.251.2    3
Tr. America4.072.780.015-   1.77    8.6
Tr. Asia & Pacific5.201.202.03  3.1520.62  32.2
10.06  4.592.19  3.4023.59  43.8
23.0    10.5   5.0    7.7  53.8   100.0

3.4 Monitoring and evaluation

The study shows that the monitoring of the state of forest plantations is very limited in tropical countries. About four-fifths the of the current plantations have never been surveyed. The analysis of the available plantation inventory reports confirm that the actual area of forestry plantations is significantly less than the area reported.

A general tendency has been observed to overestimate the yield while preparing plantation feasibility reports. The actual yield obtained form plantations is generally much lower, often less than 50 percent, than the yield initially estimated. The principal factors for the low yield are wrong choice of the species on a given site, wrong site selection for a given species and lack of tending operations. Due to the increased emphasis on the target area to be covered, matching species with the planting site is often ignored or neglected. Most plantations have suffered from poor stocking due to initial casualty of seedlings and their non-replacement, illegal felling and damage due to grazing and fire. Non-application of fertilizer, recommended in a few cases to overcome the deficiency of soil nutrient, has also resulted in low productivity.

Barring a few exceptions, plantations suffer form lack of integrated planning. There is no match between what is required and what is produced. The spatial and temporal locations have not been kept in view to minimise the cost of production leading to a very paradoxical situation. In one situation there is a deficiency of fuelwood but pulpwood and sawlogs have been produced with heavy investment without pulp and saw mills. In other situations, the timber produced has no market guarantee to sell his produce at an economically viable price. Industrial plantations established near fuelwood deficit population centres could not be protected against illicit felling.

There appears to be a strong and urgent need to create national level plantation databanks to bridge the existing knowledge gap about growth and yield and site/species relationship of the plantations. Besides the research results based on permanent sample plots, the results of plantation inventories and reliable data on actual yield form harvested plantations can be pooled at one focal institution in each country and computerised. In addition to characteristics of plantations such as species, density, rotation and yield information about site factors such as climatic variables, soil conditions and local biotic factors, both human and animal, and brief history of plantations (damage due to fire, pests, disease and other factors) must be recorded to make the plantation data useful.

Such an information centre will not only help the country concerned but also other countries whose forestry research institutions are weaker and who have less experience in plantation forestry. There is a great hope that by organising and sharing the existing knowledge, there will be a major advancement in the plantation forestry.

3.5 Non-forest plantations

Non-forest plantations have become a potential source of wood due to increasing demand and improved technology. Area information about non-forest plantations is available essentially for tropical Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand) which contains most of the non-forest plantations of the tropical world (as is confirmed by the fact that about 85 percent of the world's production of rubber, coconut oil and palm oil comes from this region - FAO Production Yearbook 1991). Of the total area of 14 million ha, 7.2 million ha are occupied by rubber and the remainder by coconut (4.2 million ha) and oil palm (2.7 million ha).

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page