Conservation of genetic resources in tropical forest management-Principles and concepts


Based on the work of
R.H. Kemp
with scientific review by
G. Namkoong
F.H. Wadsworth

Reprinted 1995

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Growing populations and pressure for social and economic development are leading to increasing rates of destruction and degradation of natural habitats, including forests and woodlands. The loss of natural resources and the degradation of land are already affecting the economies and well-being of the people in many coun34tries, especially in the tropics. The loss of habitats are leading to accelerated rates of loss of genetic resources, which are fundamentally important in the adaptation and improvement of plant species presently under cultivation and those whose value is yet to be ascertained.

It is today widely recognized that the existing Protected Area system on its own is not sufficient to provide the necessary geographic and biological coverage to conserve either the exceptional diversity of tropical forests or the genetic resources of their main component species. It is also recognized that, to succeed, conservation must be seen not as a constraint but as an integral part of development.

Although forest management interventions will cause more rapid changes in the composition of ecosystems than natural forces and, at times, will also accelerate or alter successional changes, such interventions can be rendered compatible with the conservation of the genetic resources of the species under use. The sustained utilization of forests to meet present-day needs coupled with the maintenance of a network of areas dedicated to the protection of ecosystems and their functions, provides the only solution for lasting, genetic conservation.

In accordance with its mandate, FAO has for the past 40 years published a number of manuals on the sustainable management of tropical forests, complemented over the past 20 years by guides on the conservation of forest genetic resources. The technical feasibility of both tropical forest management and conservation have been stressed repeatedly in these documents.

The present book constitutes a first step towards a more systematic approach to the provision of guidelines for harmonizing sustainable utilization and conservation of genetic resources of tropical forest trees. Many presently prescribed forest management interventions could with minor adjustment be made less harmful to conservation concerns. Conversely, some compromises could be made in existing methodologies for the conservation of forest genetic resources which could help achieve the main aims of conservation while at the same time meeting pressing, present-day needs for the goods and environmental services provided by the forest.

This document outlines present forest management practices, illustrated by case studies from three tropical countries. It briefly reviews available strategies and methodologies for the conservation of forest genetic resources in the light of their compatibility with sustainable use of the resources targeted for conservation. It is planned to publish, in the near future, a companion volume to the present book, in which more specific guidance is given on the management of specific forest types and tree species, in situations in which varying degrees of priority are given to production and conservation respectively, while at the same time meeting at least some of the needs of both of these two complementary aspects.

J.P. Lanly
Forest Resources Division
Forestry Department


The present study is based on the work of Mr. R.H. Kemp of the United Kingdom and was carried out under the technical guidance of staff of the Forest Resources Division of FAO. Professor Gene Namkoong (U.S.A.) and Dr. F.H. Wadsworth (U.S.A.) provided scientific review of the document, which also benefited from the comments of Dr. J. Wyatt-Smith (U.K.) and colleagues in IUCN, Unesco, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (U.K.) and the Oxford Forestry Institute (U.K.). Thanks are due to Dr. D. Boshier for providing information related to Cordia alliodora (see Appendix 1), and to the Overseas Development Administration (ODA, U.K.) for providing information and material related to the Case Studies on Ghana and India. Valuable inputs were further made by J.R. Palmer, M.E.D. Poore and T.J. Synnott, among many others.

Greatest credit for achievements in the field on which information in this document is based, however, is due to the dedicated efforts of national forestry and other staff in the countries concerned. The deep interest of professional foresters in the nature, complexity and functioning of the natural forests and their openness and willingness to discuss these issues and to share their in-depth knowledge for common benefit, is gratefully acknowledged.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Rome, © FAO 1993

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This electronic document has been scanned using optical character recognition (OCR) software. FAO declines all responsibility for any discrepancies that may exist between the present document and its original printed version.


Executive Summary


Key to Abbreviations


2.The Nature of Forest Genetic Resources
2.1Levels and structure of genetic diversity
2.2Ecosystem conservation
2.3Conservation of target species
2.4Conservation of provenances
2.5Values of genetic diversity
2.6Use values and option values
2.7Precautionary values
2.8Existence value
2.9Location of conservation areas
2.10The link to production forests
2.11Size of conservation areas
2.12Dynamic conservation
2.13Disturbance and succession
2.14Logging and genetic diversity
3.Impacts of Management in Production Forests
3.1Continuity and control
3.2Economic and market influences
3.3Forest inventory
3.4Forest dynamics
3.8Non-timber forest products
3.9Involvement of local people
4.The Future of Tropical Forests
4.1Population and land use
4.2Timber demand and international trade
4.3Tropical forests and environmental concerns
4.4Protected Area systems
4.5Buffer Zone forest
5.Strategies for in situ conservation in procuction forests
5.1National policies
5.2Management information
5.3Management systems
5.4Management plans

6.1The economy
6.2The environment
6.4Management for timber production
6.5Policy: linking production and conservation
6.6Non-timber forest products
6.7Forest revenue systems
6.8Forest inventory
6.9Setting priorities
6.10Management and harvesting
6.11Regeneration and silviculture
6.12Reproductive biology
6.13Integration and security
7.Brazil: the Amazon forests
7.1Legal framework
7.2Setting priorities
7.3Management options
7.4Secondary forest and non-timber forest products
7.5Information, research and coordination
8.India: the Western Ghat forests, Karnataka
8.1National policy
8.2Western Ghat forests
8.3Strategy for integrated development and conservation

Appendix 1.Methodology of a study of the reproductive biology and genetics of Cordia alliodora
Box 1.The role of logged forests in the conservation of species richness and genetic diversity

Box 1.

Management of diversity through diversity of management
Cover photo:Recently logged forest, Sarawak (Malaysia).
R.H. Kemp