Halting the destruction of the rain forests
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CTA. 1990. Halting the destruction of the rain forests. Spore 27. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/45278
workshop was held on the management and development of the tropical rainforest ecosystem on 12-16 March in Cayenne, Guyana
Each year 7.5 million hectares of tropical rainforests disappear as a result of the twin pressures of foresters and farmers who want more land. If this continues, half the present total area of tropical forest will have disappeared by the end of the century, and with it an enormous and unique genetic heritage. A workshop was held on the management and development of the tropical rainforest ecosystem on 12-16 March in Cayenne, Guyana. It was organized by UNESCO's Man and Biosphere (MAB) Programme. One hundred and thirty participants from 35 countries met under the aegis of three large international bodies: UNESCO, FAO and the International Union of Forestry Research Organizations (IUFRO), with the aim of evaluating the methods currently available for learning about this ecosystem, for developing it, and for stopping its destruction. Huge variety of species The meeting brought together all those interested in the rain forest be it for the animals and plant life, the soils and the whole ecological system, as well as its human inhabitants. Preserving the enormous diversity is seen as the key to safeguarding the forest heritage. It is not very easy to strike a balance in the face of the divergent interests. For example, the production of timber is at variance with the task of maintaining this diversity. 'We must favour the species which are of commercial value, even if it means sacrificing the trees which compete with these', was the stated opinion of the foresters, to which the botanists replied, 'Yes, but please take great care. For 20 years now in Guyana we have discovered three or four new plant species every year. And it's the same in Africa and Asia. We must not lose them'. Gaps to be filled and work yet to be done Preserving the forest and all its riches over vast areas is a very considerable task. To simplify it, the participants compiled a list of their needs: well-trained forestry workers; finance adequate for this great task; research laboratories with wide-ranging potential; an exhaustive inventory; and reliable modern maps of the remaining forests were the principal requests. The forest managers defined the research areas on which they would like scientists to concentrate in the next few years. The improvement of the quality of wood; this would mean that fewer trees are cut to obtain the required amounts of timber, and more economic and efficient cutting methods found (at present half of the wood is lost between felling and processing), and the development of simpler and easier sylvicultural techniques were some priorities. 'We must concentrate our efforts on the dynamics of growth and regeneration', the Centre Technique Forestier Tropical (C l i-l ) engineers emphasized, 'for these are relatively unknown to us, but could prove to be a tremendous force in halting the destruction of the forests'. Political will is paramount No-one claimed that all the problems were solved during the course of the few days in Guyana, although everyone accepted the FAO prediction that half the tropical forests would be cleared by the end of the century. However, much can be done with the remaining 500m ha. For example, forests could be classified in order to preserve their genetic diversity and blocks could be created for timber production and similarly for the supply of village and agroforestry products. The workshop closed by emphasizing the role of the politicians, for, despite the current lack of knowledge, the development and conservation of the dense tropical rain forests is technically possible and economically viable. What is now called for is that the decisions should be both respected and applied.