THINKING GLOBALLY, ACTING LOCALLY, FROM HERE…
The increase in global demand for wood requires increase in forest productivity. The alternative is to farm trees in plantations composed of fast-growing species with short rotation cycle (6-8 years). The rationale is that natural forests at the most produce about 3m3/ha/yr of commercial timber, whereas plantations can produce annually from 10m3/ha of hardwoods to 30m3/ha of softwoods and thus, decrease the effects of human pressure on our ecosystems while increasing the competitiveness of Sarawak’s forest industry.
Rapid socio-economic changes in the world are having profound impacts on all sectors, including forestry. While wood products demand is increasing, so is the demand for environmental services of forests. The increasing demand is triggered by population growth and rise in income (gross domestic income). Global demand for wood products is projected to increase from 3.5 billion m3 in 1990 to 6.4 billion m3 in 2020. Apart from that, the demand for environmental services of forest is also increasing whereby more natural forests will be excluded from wood production, and recently the bioenergy policy, the use of biomass, including wood is increasingly encouraged (Figure 1). Natural forests are unable to meet current global demand for wood due to the long generation intervals and slow growth rate, resulting in the loss and degradation of natural forests by logging. About 12 million ha of forests are lost every year. Africa, South East Asia and South America provide the best environment for tree growth but account for more than 75% of total losses.
Therefore, the increased demand for wood is likely to require increased forest productivity. The alternative is to farm trees in plantations composed of fast-growing species with short rotation cycle (6-8 years). With more research, particularly in the production of improved planting materials, tree selection and improvement, the plantations could produce more of the industrial timber by the end of the next 2 decades. The rationale is that natural forests at the most produce about 3 m3/ha/yr of commercial timber, whereas plantations can produce annually from 10 m3/ha of hardwoods to 30 m3/ha of softwoods. Furthermore, plantations are easier to manage due to the mono or double species mix compared to very diverse natural forest stands. Hence, plantations development will serve as a strategy for maintaining a sustainable supply of timber and at the same time, reducing the logging pressure on natural forests for wood production to an acceptable level.
In Sarawak, the state government has introduced the Forest (Planted Forest) Rules (1997) to encourage the development of commercial forest plantations and has set a target of 1.0 million hectares for forest plantations to be established by 2020. It is estimated that 30 million of high quality seedlings are required for the annual planting programme. Realizing the needs, a joint research programme (URL: http://fgilab.com) focusing on two selected fast growing indigenous tree species, namely Neolamarckia cadamba (Kelampayan) and Duabanga moluccana (Sawih) has been carried out to provide solutions, in addressing the shortage of quality planting materials for licensed planted forest areas in the state. The programme covers R&D activities on forest genomics, biotechnology and tree improvement geared towards enhancing commercial plantation forests as well as sustainable management of forest resources in Sarawak (Ho, 2008). Furthermore, the programme via the use of state-of-the-art technologies and approaches will help respond to the need to develop adequate tools for producing trees that are better adapted to local conditions, so that we may achieve economic benefits of great significance. Over the years, we have conducted projects with special focused on molecular genetic studies. Among others are the development of highly informative and polymorphic DNA markers specific for identifying the genetic makeup of two fast growing indigenous tree species, i.e. Kelampayan and Sawih; 2) the one step ‘Touch-incubate-PCR’ approach (aka fasTip-X Kit) for preparing plant tissues for high throughput genotyping, and 3) a genomic resource database, aka CADAMOMICS (10,368 ESTs) for wood formation in Kelampayan via high-throughput DNA sequencing.
Why Neolamarkia cadamba and Duabanga moluccana?
Neolamarkia cadamba (Roxb.) Bosser, locally known as Kelampayan belongs to the family of Rubiaceae, has been identified as a promising fast growing species for planted forest development in Sarawak. Kelampayan is a large, deciduous and fast growing tree species, thus with characteristics which guarantee early economic returns within 8 to 10 years. Under normal conditions, it reaches a height of 17 m and diameter of 25 cm at breast height (dbh) within 9 years. It is a lightweight hardwood with a density of 290-560 kg/m3 at 15% moisture content. Thus, kelampayan is one of the best sources of raw material for the plywood industry, besides pulp and paper production. It can also be used as a shade tree for dipterocarp line planting, whilst its leaves and bark have medical application. The dried bark can be used to relieve fever and as a tonic, whereas a leaf extract can serve as a mouth wash. Another plantation tree species, Duabanga moluccana Blume or Sawih from the family of Sonneratiaceae can grow up to 45 meters tall and 100 cm in diameter. This tree is of great economic importance for the production of various wood works and products such as plywood, veneer and pulping. Additionally, it is also suitable for interior paneling, matches, moulding and pulping (CIRAD Forestry Department).
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