Upgrading the degraded: forest restoration receives boost

5 February 2001, Yokohama, Japan

The selective logging system employed on Peninsular Malaysia could be revised as a result of a recently completed ITTO project on forest restoration.

The project, which was undertaken by a team of Malaysian scientists led by Professor Basri Hamzah at the University of Putra Malaysia, determined the distribution of natural regeneration in degraded forest and the response of these to various silvicultural options. It then made recommendations of the most appropriate regimes for different sites and suggested changes to the selective logging system.

Degraded forests are widespread throughout the tropics and restoring them to productivity is seen as an essential element of sustainable development and forest conservation. ITTO has several projects under way to help catalyse forest restoration, as well as to help reduce damage caused in the first place by logging operations.

The project site, which was located in Korbu in Perak state, covered 5 forest compartments varying in size between 300 and 800 hectares. It contained areas of forest subjected to shifting cultivation and both recent and past logging.

The project generated a database on the response of degraded forest on different site types and with different land use histories to various silvicultural treatments, including a range of species and planting approaches, and determined the most appropriate treatment for such areas. Economic analyses were also carried out to identify those treatments that were most cost-effective in their rehabilitation functions.

The outcomes of the project will be used to refine the selective cutting system commonly applied in Asian tropical forest. Specific recommendations have been forwarded to forestry authorities for various forest restoration objectives. For example, restoration aimed at high-quality timber production should favour the more productive dipterocarps. In those areas of high community use, the well-known traditional role - particularly among the 'orang asli' community - of species such as durian and petai should be properly recognised.

The project has had several local benefits. It has generated greater capability, know-how and expertise amongst local forestry staff in formulating and implementing suitable silvicultural treatments in degraded forest. By employing members of the local 'orang asli' community and introducing new and effective agroforestry practices, the project has been a positive influence at ground level.

The results of the project (PD 115/90 (F)) have been submitted to the ITTO Secretariat as a draft final report, which will be considered by the Committee on Reforestation and Forest Management when it meets next May. For more information contact: itto@itto.or.jp