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Features of Mediterranean forests
Forests and the law
A focus on Zaire
Improving tropical genetics

Features of Mediterranean forests

La forêt circumméditerranéenne et ses problèmes. A Seigue. Paris. Editions Maisonneuve et Larose and Agence de coopération culturelle et technique. 1985. 502 pp.

In his preface to this authoritative work, the fifth in the Techniques agricoles et productions méditerranéennes series, R.G. Fontaine (former Director of FAO's Forest Resources Division) offers some personal reflections on Mediterranean forests. Emphasizing their originality, whether they form "natural landscapes" or "humanized landscapes". Fontaine recalls how, in 1911, the Madrid forestry congress recommended the creation of an organization to cooperate in studying problems and possible solutions. This led to the birth in 1922 of the Silva mediterranea organization, whose activities were revived by FAO in 1948.

ANCIENT ROMAN OLIVE PRESS IN NORTH AFRICA evidence of a tree-filled past

It is the characteristic Mediterranean ecosystem that gives the landscape its typical appearance: plantations of fruit trees on terraces separated by low walls, plantations of poplars combined with vines, or the mixed agriculture Italians call promiscua, practised in hilly areas. This integration of agriculture, forestry and animal husbandry, as Fontaine says, means that it is difficult to solve the problems of forests without also tackling the human problems of the populations living in them.

Seigue devotes much of his effort to explaining these problems. They have, he says, no "radical solution" but they are not "totally insoluble".

By way of introduction, the author raises four questions. Is there a unity and uniqueness that make it proper to speak of Mediterranean forests? What are the climatic anti soil conditions that characterize them? What is the place of the Mediterranean forest in prehistory anti history? What are the limits of the Mediterranean forest'?

To answer these questions Seigue takes us with him through the maquis and the garrigue of Provence, the matorral of Spain, the xeronuvi of Greece, the ahrachd of the Arab-speaking countries, and the Italian macchia landscapes so characteristic that "in each country the Mediterranean native feels at home when encountering them".

Forest vegetation is closely linked to the complex Mediterranean climate, which explains its great variety. The author points to tropical influences in the summer, temperate and humid influences in the winter, the high pressure from the Atlantic which strengthens the cool rainy winds, the fairly frequent circulation of polar air - a climate, in short, not very favourable to forests. But al though flora is heavily dependent on climate, it also draws life from the soil, where lies "the hidden face of the Mediterranean forests".

A brief historical review dates the first appearance of the farmer - and therefor of the disturber of the Mediterranean forest - at 10 000 years ago in the Near East. Not only the rural people hut also the navigators made inroads the forest. Cretans, Phoenicians, Greeks - all timber producers - dominated the Mediterranean basin with their immense fleets, while people with little or no forest, like the Egyptians, depended on them. The author traces the major sea routes for the supply of timber from the exporter nations - the Maghreb, Spain and Sicily - to the shipyards in southern Syria, North Africa and Egypt.

Finally. Seigue defines the boundaries and the territorial distribution of the Mediterranean forest a delimitation that can be geographic, bioclimatic, or phytogeographic.

A major part of the work is devoted to Mediterranean flora: oaks, which have a chapter to themselves; other broad-leaved species, such as chestnuts, poplars, willows, ash trees, almond trees, olive trees and many others; and conifers (pines, cedars, firs, Junipers). The foreign species introduced are still quite frequently the subject of controversy, despite the fact that they have now become a familiar feature: eucalypts, with plantations covering 1 000 000 ha, and Australian acacias, usually constituting the understorey for eucalypts.

Seigue analyses the productive role of the Mediterranean forest, both for the people living on the edge of it and using it for subsistence, and for industrial purposes: fuelwood (mainly oaks, whose calorific value is very high, and olive trees); timber (eucalypts in Morocco, poplars in the Near East and Italy, conifers elsewhere); wood pulp, which some countries (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Tunisia) do not produce although they have a very active pulp and paper industry; and lastly cork, resin, essential oils (extracted mainly from eucalypts) and edible products, foremost among them the highly prized truffle.

Diagrams, maps, tables and a very full bibliography complete this study. If, however, one reservation may be made, it is about the presentation of the many photographs illustrating the book, whose reproduction leaves much to be desired. This is a pity considering the variety of subjects represented. This detail will not, however, prevent this work from interesting all those - whether lay readers, specialists or simply "Mediterraneans" - who would like to learn something more about these forests.

Forests and the law

L'environnement et la forêt. Strasbourg, Société française pour le droit et l'environnement (SFDE). 1984. 307 pp.

This volume consists of papers presented at the symposium organized jointly by SFDE and the Association internationale des entretiens écologiques and held in Dijon from 13 to 15 March 1984. Participants studied the subject from various angles, which can be divided into two categories: the forest's protective, economic and social functions, and the forest and the law. The first part of the book is mainly devoted to the study of wood as raw material and energy source, as well as to forest management - a concept that here goes beyond the somewhat simplistic notion "controlled felling" to include the "need" and the "obligation" to manage. Also studied are agriculture and livestock-raising in relation to the forest, and the question of customary rights and local customs, rights from the past which are now gradually disappearing. A sociological analysis of forest utilization envisages two concepts of the natural resources, one "essentialist", advocating its conservation, and the other "instrumental", wanting to see it transformed into a recreational area.

In the second category are a study of institutions and their role in the protection of wooded land, and a paper on the evolution of forest land-law structures and the ambiguity of the forest-soil relationship. Other authors consider the abuse of forests, against which "general penal law and forest penal law unite" to ensure the protection of the forest heritage, through fiscal provisions aimed at the conservation of wooded land. Other subjects covered are special systems of protection, particularly against large-scale exploitation, fires and natural disasters.

The symposium represented by this volume constitutes another laudable attempt to make the public more aware of its forests, not only for its own enjoyment but also, and above all, for the maintenance of the great biological balances.

A focus on Zaire

Premier Symposium sur Forêt: richesse nationale a préserver. Department of the Environment, Conservation of Nature and Tourism (DECNT), Republic of Zaire. 1984. 439 pp.

"By drawing on a mere 10 percent of our potential, we could become a giant among Africa's wood producers." It was with this statement, which reflects Zaire's concern about its forest resources - so little utilized as compared with its mines (only 1.15 percent of the country's total export earnings are derived from timber, as against 83.2 percent from the mining sector) - that the first symposium on Zaire's forests opened in Kinshasa on 15 April 1984.

This publication, which contains 31 contributions by Zairian and non-Zairian participants, gives the reader a very clear picture both of the extent of Zaire's forest resources - almost half the country's total area - and of the enormous problems involved in developing them. The papers presented at the symposium range from the development of the wood industry in Zaire to the problems of forest utilization; from the concept of the renewability and permanence of the forests to that of their vulnerability (e.g., the forest of Mayombe; from the energy crisis in Zaire to means of overcoming it by recovering wood waste.

The first part of the book relates to the economic role of the forest. It opens with a statement on the present situation and future prospects of the forest industry in Zaire by the Secretary-General of DECNT, who describes the past situation, culminating in the period between 1960 and 1973 when fellers' main concern was to export logs to the detriment of the processing of forest products. This trend contributed to a dramatic fall in the value-added of wood products. The restrictions on the export of logs which followed, together with the "Zairianization" of the industry - an attempt to redress the situation by transferring most forest enterprises to nationals - encountered several snags: inadequate capital, lack of management experience, unskilled and hence not very productive labour ignorance of wood markets, and so on. Not until 1978 was the forestry sector finally able to begin moving along the path to development.

As regards trade in wood products, one of the authors informs us that while the Ivory Coast exports 3 million m³ a year, wood exports from Zaire are barely 120 000 m³ - a ridiculous figure when it is remembered that 60 percent of Africa's tropical forests lie within the boundaries of Zaire. The reasons for the low export figures are the absence of infrastructure (port capacity, transport facilities) anti a lack of large, high-technology plants.

Another constraint, one participant points out, is the overpricing of valuable sawnwoods, the only commodity competitive on the world market. Construction companies are now showing an increasing tendency to use substitutes like aluminium. It would therefore be advisable, he says, to encourage the veneer and plywood industries, which would use lesser-known species whose less-expensive products could more easily be sold on the local market.

Several authors deal with the energy crisis. In Zaire, as in most developing countries, wood is the only source of energy for 80 percent of the population. A simple estimate of consumption is stunning - 20 million m³ per year equivalent to 20 times the annual output of Zaire's forest industries. But solutions do exist: the recuperation for energy purposes of sawmill waste and logging waste, selective felling, and the creation of fuelwood plantations. In addition, both the combustion and the gasification of this biomass can be used on an industrial scale.

The second part of the publication is devoted chiefly to the ecological role of the forest, including deforestation and the effects on the environment of the suppression of certain forest ecosystems - as, for example, the progressive destruction of the forest of Mayombe. These partly explain the climatic disturbances observed in the subregion of Bas-Fleuve, a forest "delicately maintained by the ocean mists". Under the Unesco Man and the Biosphere Programme. Zaire has set up two biosphere reserves, at Yangambi and Luki, to protect its forest and wildlife resources.

Improving tropical genetics

Provenance and genetic improvement strategies in tropical forest trees. R.D Barnes and G.L. Gibson, eds. Proceedings of a Joint Work Conference on Provenance and Genetic Improvement Strategies in Tropical Forest Trees, Mutare, Zimbabwe, 9-14 April 1984. Commonwealth Forestry Institute. Oxford/Zimbabwe Forestry Commission. 1984. 662 pp. Price: £15 stg.

These conference proceedings contain the papers presented at a joint meeting of IUFRO working parties on Tropical Species and Provenances (52.02.08), Breeding Tropical Species (52.03.01), and Breeding Southern Pines (52.03.13), held with the collaboration of the Zimbabwe Forestry Commission. In addition to 86 voluntary papers on species/provenance trials and tree improvement programmes in it number of tropical countries, seven invited papers are included in the proceedings.

Also included are four papers prepared as a result of discussions during either the conference itself or the training course held prior to it.

The proceedings provide a useful summary of present knowledge, and state-of-the-art utilization of forest genetic resources. During the conference, some time was set aside for discussion, in small groups, of some of the problems and questions raised in the invited papers, followed by a general discussion in plenary.

This way of working, which allowed full, active participation on the part of all 60 participants (representing 28 countries), was found rewarding and stimulating.

The next meeting of these active working parties is planned for 1987, with the venue to be decided.

Copies of the proceedings are available from the Commonwealth Forestry Institute, South Parks Road, Oxford OK1 3RB, UK.

Christel Palmberg

FAO, Rome

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