Forests and forestry in Small Island Developing States
Prospects for forest production intensification and diversification in support of improved forest security
The short term prospects for forest production intensification in terms of wood production in natural forests is limited in most SIDS. Although many of the larger SIDS boast large areas of forests, not all forest are accessible and harvesting of commercial species is, in many places, already undertaken at levels which are unsustainable. In many of the smaller SIDS, forest cover does not exist or is insignificant. In the medium to long term, increase in production from natural forests depends on the adoption of environmentally sound forest harvesting practices and the application of appropriate silvicultural practices - in many cases including enrichment planting of previously harvested areas.
An increase in wood production from plantations is possible in some of the larger SIDS. Fiji is an example of a country which already has a well-developed plantation development programme, and plantation-based timber production is planned to become a major growth sector in the national economy. It is planned that, by the year 2000, more than 70 000 ha of mahogany plantations will be harvestable at a rotation age of 35 years. However, the competition for limited land area, at times combined with customary ownership (see under 'contraints'), limits the potential for large-scale plantation establishment in many states. Lack of good soils is also a limiting factor in some SIDS (particularly those which are coral-based).
Agroforestry systems with coconut as the main wood resource seem to hold the most promising prospect as a sustainable land-use system for atoll states and territories with low soil fertility and for smaller states where availability of land is a limiting factor.
Where planting of trees is undertaken in areas prone to cyclones, species which exhibit good resistance to wind damage should be promoted. 1
Value-added wood processing, in particular of local hardwoods, offers good prospects for diversification in SIDS with many forests. Good prospects also exist for diversification in terms of the provision of non-wood goods and services:
- Non-wood forest products (plant products collected from the wild or cultivated in plantations or agroforestry systems, and animals hunted in the wild or raised in captivity) should be promoted where a niche market exists or can be developed.
- Tourism is one of the most important income earning industries in many SIDS and interest in eco- or nature-based tourism is increasing. Whereas the forests on these islands rarely are the primary attraction for overseas visitors, they may contribute to the tourism appeal. Various islands have made special efforts to develop the tourist potential of their forest areas, including Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia, Dominica, Jamaica and Saint Lucia.
Enhancement of indirect support to improved food security
Conservation, enhancement and sustainable use of forest resources is not only important for the direct benefits to improved food security, but also for the indirect benefits in terms of support to other sectors and the protective functions of forests (see above).
Special efforts may be needed in terms of reforestation of degraded areas (e.g. watersheds) and in most islands, planting in coastal areas is necessary to protect against coastal erosion. Protection of mangrove areas, which are highly resistant to storm damage, is particularly important in this regard.
In addition to the maintenance and enhancement of forest cover, conservation of biological diversity is of economic importance both from a productive (forestry and agriculture) point of view and to support nature-based tourism activities.
1 Areas of Intsia bijuga and Pometia pinnata in western Samoa suffered only minor damage from cyclone Ofa in 1991. Whitewood (Endospermum medullosum), kauri pine (Agathis spp.), Terminalias richii are other examples of indigenous species in the South Pacific which are well adapted to withstand cyclone-force winds. Research is being carried out on the crossing of Pinus Caribea var. hondurensis with P. caribea var. caribea in an attempt to improve resistance to stem snap in high winds.