Forest fire and forest protection
Land use and watershed management
Agroforestry is not so much of an 'issue' as it is an alternative often proposed for dealing with specific land use issues. Traditionally, forestry and agriculture have been viewed as opposites, competing for the same property in many instances. On-site conflicts in use have largely resulted in land use classifications that place particular lands into 'forest lands' or 'agriculture'. Further, the integration of interdependent uses such as forest plantations for timber and livestock grazing, watersheds and recreation, wildlife and livestock is most frequently passed over in preference to simpler 'single or dominant' use land allocations. Agroforestry in the broadest sense is simply an approach to promote joint management of resources for multiple purposes based on the specific requirements of each option, with the outcome neither the maximization of any single use but a combination of uses. Where much of the land base is rural and tied to local populations, integration of local responsibility for a greater degree of management direction seeks to involve those who are impacted by decisions and to internalize the incentive systems to promote cooperation rather than opposition to government mandated 'rules'. Much of Asia Pacific forestry takes place in the context of mixed land use, with relatively less forest in large, undisturbed tracks. Efforts to confront the realities of population and the legitimate needs for economic benefits point to the need to look at all options and combinations of management including new and innovative tenure arrangements. Local farmers on the land are the obvious starting point. While a large number of government-controlled schemes in agroforestry, social forestry, community forestry, etc. have been implemented, success in Asia is mixed at best with a widespread view that local people cannot be trusted with resources without central government controls and ultimate responsibility. This perceptions is discussed further in relation to broader issues under Socio-Economic and Environmental Issues.
Forest Management is conceptually oriented to bringing the forest to maturity in a productive and healthy state, allowing for the maximum extraction of product and value for society without diminishing the future productivity of the land resource to sustain future flows of benefits of the same or modified form. Where timber products are involved, the measure of output is typically expressed in the 'sustainable allowable cut' or sustainable harvest level. Throughout the Asia Pacific Region, questions are seriously raised regarding the appropriateness of current and/or recent levels of harvest. As discussed earlier in this review, the Asia Pacific Region as seen total roundwood production increase from 891.3 million cubic meters in 1980 to over 1,131.8 million cubic meters in 1994. To many, the answer is obvious - this level cannot be sustained.
Past levels of harvest based on the exploitation of natural forest stocks is, in this view, out of balance with the productive capacity of a shrinking forest land base. Large stocks of mature timber on existing natural forest areas are greater than the comparable volume on the same areas under prudent and economic management. Hence it is entirely possible to remove more timber in the short run than can be replaced under a planned, managed forest regime appropriate to the specific site conditions. Further, if management is not optimal, yields will be less than under ideal management regimes. Finally, if the available land base is reduced a lower level of harvest is dictated because of the smaller productive base.
This is true for both even-aged and uneven-aged (selective) forms of management. Widely differing perspectives as to the appropriate land base, the appropriate intensity and form of management, and the phasing of use of the accumulated natural timber stocks during the period of transition from natural forest exploitation to forests managed on sustainable principles affords great uncertainty regarding 'appropriate' harvest levels now and for the near term. Pressures for significant land use changes for environmental and conservation reasons have the potential for reducing the long term production potential even further. Constraints on managed forests to assure multiple outputs and environmental protection will likewise reduce future yields. The magnitude of these adjustments have yet to be fully understood and displayed in a manner that the public and decision-makers can comprehend the options available. It is highly likely that there will be less forests available for purely production management in the future, and that added environmental and conservation constraints will be placed on that management. The degree to which these actions and their impacts can be offset through higher yield intensive management, fast growing plantations, or other alternatives is quite unclear. Consensus views, however, seem to suggest reductions, potentially large reductions, from current and recent harvests in several key countries of the Asia Pacific Region. Malaysia, as a dominant producer and trader of forest products is central to this debate, and the outcome will largely shape the dynamics of the Region into the next century.
Growing a forest, unfortunately, is only one step towards maintaining a highly productive forest estate in the Asia Pacific Region. A large but unknown amount of otherwise productive timber is lost through fire and other destructive agents including pest and disease. Although some salvage or recovery of such losses is possible (for example the huge 1987 fires in China), such losses reduce the volume of useful timber entering the economies of the region. Forest protection is a fundamental component of forest management, from the earliest stages of plantations to the efficient harvesting and removal of usable materials from logging sites. Reductions in such losses or damage directly translate into higher yields. Protection from fire and other sources of damage is a costly investment, and must be weighed against the potential gains. Addressing issues surrounding wasteful forms of management and the lack of forest protection is in the end one of the most promising forms of timber conservation and efficiency. Under conditions of exploitation of stocks of natural forests perhaps such losses were consistent with the marginal costs of extended mining of available stocks. However, with the transition to tree farming, the cost of growing incremental volumes of timber over relatively long periods of time at the margin may well exceed added costs for gains in forest protection.
Many issues of land use have been mentioned in the previous sections. Withdrawing forest lands wholly or partially from timber production obviously impacts productivity and ultimate harvests. Land conversions may be detrimental to the calculated forest productive base, yet may sustain greater social benefits in alternate use. Foresters have been reluctant to acknowledge this fact, and generally perceive land use changes as detrimental. In part? this may be attributable to un-stated beliefs that forests also simultaneously contribute multiple 'intangible' and environmental benefits beyond the measurable timber yields.
Forest management, at least from the traditional planning perspective, has given way to integrated 'unit management' or 'watershed level' planning in many parts of the world. This concept both raises the scale of planning to larger land units, often taking in to account multiple ownership's and/or land uses, but also seeks to integrate multiple goals and objectives for management beyond timber. Forests, and timber management, become part of the fabric of goals for the larger integrated unit. Agriculture, livestock grazing, wildlife, recreation, soil and water conservation, and other objectives are seen as a multiple-goal planning process, each legitimate but yet subject to constraints and tradeoffs with the management scope as a whole. Separate, discrete land use classifications, each independently pursued (often by different local authorities) increasingly is viewed as too limiting and often failing due to ignoring the claims and goals of competing interests.
Competition for land in the Asia Pacific region is frequently intense. As forests are under pressures from other uses, the need to recognize non-timber outputs and values will increase in importance. As a result, timber dominant management can be expected to give way to constrained management whereby forests are managed for multiple benefits. Debates regarding the extent, scope, and condition of forests will require broader definitions and more inclusive measurement variables than simple area and volume statistics. Questions of forest health, biodiversity, productivity for multiple uses, etc. will be increasingly based on 'natural' land units such as watersheds which will blur the distinctions of 'forest' and 'non-forest' as traditionally used in forestry analysis and planning.