Conifers dominate large areas of the world’s forests. They are especially abundant in the boreal and temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere and are also important components of many tropical and sub-tropical forest ecosystems. Conifers are capable of growing under a wide range of conditions. Many can tolerate moisture stress and, therefore are able to survive in semi-arid and arid regions. Others are capable of growing on barren or nutrient poor soils or in extremely cold climates. Some species have co-evolved with naturally occurring wildfires and can co-exist with these catastrophic disturbances. And, most important, many conifers are capable of producing both wood and non-wood products, which are of great benefit to human society.
The objective of this paper is to provide a global review of the non-wood uses of conifers. For the purposes of this paper, conifers are defined as trees and shrubs of the botanical orders Coniferales, Taxales and Ginkgoales (Rushforth 1987). Although some services are briefly mentioned, the focus of this paper is on products which conifers provide species, which are important sources of non-wood forest products, and places where these products are harvested. With the exception of essential oils, which can be obtained from several parts of the tree, the products described are organized by the part of the tree from which they are obtained (e.g. foliage, bark and roots, resin, seeds and cones). Where possible, data on levels of production and international trade are presented. Problems associated with the sustainable management of these products and compatibility or conflicts with other land uses are also presented. Both contemporary and historical or traditional uses of non-wood products from conifers are discussed.
This information is presented in order to assist
in identifying opportunities for management and production of non-wood
conifer products as an integral part of economic development and poverty
alleviation initiatives in economically depressed regions of the world
where conifer forests, either natural or planted, exist. In addition, this
information is also designed to help identify opportunities for special
management of conifer forests and woodlands where either traditional or
contemporary non-wood forest products are presently or potentially an important
economic or social resource.