The most extensive area of habitat for tree genetic resources is known as the 'permanent forest estate' – the forests in most countries that are primarily used for timber production. Yet alongside timber, the forests also yield many other products to stakeholders. For example, local communities may depend on the same timber species that are felled for logging, for their food and medicinal resources.
A good example comes from the Congo Basin, the second largest expanse of tropical forest in the world. Multiple demands on its 200 million hectares of forests often lead to conflict among users. As some of the uses are informal or illegal, they are not accommodated within the framework of forest management administered by the State. Widespread timber concessions granted to industries compete with agriculture, hunting, small-scale logging and, it has been suggested, with the gathering of non-timber products by local people who live in or near the forests.
Bioversity International's 'Beyond Timber' research initiative has studied the way that communities and concessionaries manage and use forests, how these different uses interact, as well as analyzing the abundance of these species and how they are affected by these uses. This includes documenting the nutritional benefits they derive from specific food trees in the form of leaves, honey, fruits, seeds, nuts, roots, tubers, mushrooms, and the associated insects and wild animals. The initiative is carried out in Gabon, Cameroon and Congo DRC, in partnership with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and national institutes in each of the countries.
The research forms the foundation for developing tools and guidelines for concessionaires and government agencies to develop strategies for multiple resource management that safeguards both tree diversity and local people's access to non-timber forest products.
Reconciling multiple forest uses in the Congo Basin
Gender implications of forest product value chains in the Congo basin
Beyond timber: balancing demands for tree resources between concessionaires and villagers
Beyond Timber: forest management models for transforming conflict into cooperation
High selfing rate, limited pollen dispersal and inbreeding depression in the emblematic African rain forest tree Baillonella toxisperma – Management implications