Flagship 2: Management and conservation of forest and tree resources

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Research under Flagship 2 focuses on developing and testing new forest and tree management paradigms. It builds on existing knowledge and practice, while considering the multiple uses and users of trees as well as the range of forest products that contribute to the wellbeing of rural people. Power structures constitute an important aspect, including the role of women and other marginalized actors in decision-making.

El Pantanal, Brazil. Carlos Alayeto for GLF 2014 Photo Competition/CIFOR

Forests are over-exploited and their biodiversity continues to decline rapidly, while millions of people living around biodiversity-rich forests continue to suffer from poverty. Many important but vulnerable tree species are not conserved in protected areas, and it is essential that viable populations be maintained in production forests.

Silviculture and harvesting of timber have to consider long-term productivity. The availability of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) is threatened due to loss of forest cover, as is the case for the Brazil nut. This is a largely unexplored research area – one that the FTA Flagship project 2: Management and conservation of forest and tree resources seeks to address.

Research is needed to understand why accepted principles and practices – such as sustainable forest management – are either not implemented or do not produce expected outcomes when applied. It is equally important to explore new management approaches at multiple scales to achieve sustainable production from forest and tree resources in order to benefit the rural poor.

Complex problems involving human interactions with degrading ecosystems cannot be solved without addressing the system as a whole. Social and biophysical approaches to problems must be merged, and research must include multiple scales from landscapes to genes.

A key problem is the extent of degraded forestland – some 500 million hectares – found throughout the tropics. Some of these forests can recover without human intervention, others must be actively restored to provide ecosystem services and to benefit the poor. Clarification is needed on how and when to invest both financial and human resources to actively rehabilitate degraded areas, and which species and seed sources within species are best adapted to particular ecological conditions. This is especially important in the context of agreed global commitments to rehabilitate degraded ecosystems within the next decade.

Characteristics of the project are:

Cross-sectoral, global, comparative approach that includes collaboration with private sector, research and civil society organizations, from timber producers to conservation NGOs. This is intended to foster the transfer of tested practices and experiences from settings where they are well established to those where they are not.

Integration of local values and needs: The development of management approaches for production forests and for the conservation of tree genetic resources across forest–farm landscape mosaics includes local communities’ values and voices.

Gender-sensitive participation: All relevant user groups, including both men and women, are involved in the research from planning to implementation and sharing of benefits. The aim is to give all stakeholders equitable opportunities to contribute knowledge and to define priorities for conservation and sustainable use of forests and trees.

Use of new and emerging technologies, such as genomics, modeling tools and the latest GIS applications.

Strengthening local capacity: FTA researchers foster and guide the development of young scientists in priority countries by supporting a network of PhD student fellowships associated with research at sentinel landscapes.

Research is structured along four themes:

1)  Understanding the threats to populations of important tree species and formulating effective, efficient and equitable genetic conservation strategies

2)  Conserving and characterizing high quality germplasm of high-value tree species in the forest to-farm gradient

3)  Developing improved silviculture and monitoring practices for multiple-use management of forest ecosystems

4)  Developing tools and methods to resolve conflicts about distribution of benefits and resource rights in the use of forest and tree resources.

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