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The diversity both within and among tree species is fundamental for livelihoods, maintaining ecosystem functions, supporting biodiversity and the resilience of forests and landscapes to environmental changes. More than 1.6 billion people depend on forests and trees for their livelihoods. Sustaining a diversity of tree species provides nutritious food in times of scarcity, and resilient livelihood options in times of uncertainty and climate change.

Yet multiple demands on forests and forest lands from different stakeholders, for example, agriculture, logging and hunting, often lead to conflict among users and the loss of tree species that people depend on for food and livelihoods.


Bioversity International forestry experts have sought to address the challenges of conservation and use of the diversity of forest trees by generating information about the intraspecific diversity of tree species, the benefits that these can confer on users, the threats to this diversity and the range of approaches that can be applied to support the sustainable use of native trees and their genetic resources.

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Beyond Timber: reconciling the divergent needs of forest stakeholders

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

Community forestry: a model for forest conservation and livelihood development

Almost a quarter of the world's tropical forests are managed by communities. Community forest management is an effective stratgey for conserving forests, as well well as providing sufficient income sources to lift rural families out of poverty.

Bioversity International has analyzed the benefits from community forestry for both househols and tree genetic resource conservation under different policy arrangements and examined how these are interrelated with social dynamics and gender relations. This research highlights how sustainable and effective management practices in community foresty can improve livelihoods, conserve forest resources and promote genetic diversity.

Blog:  Can local participation in community forestry foster social inclusiveness and gender equality?
Blog:  Community concessions bring newfound hope for forest conservation and socio-economic development

Forest Genetic Resources Training Guide

Available in English and Spanish, the Forest Genetic Resources Training Guide  is a tool for teaching and learning about forest genetic resources issues in formal education or on-the-job training. Through its modules, you will learn about the links between sustainable forest management and forest genetic resources, covering areas such as conservation strategies, trees outside forests, seed supply chains, and forest management, forest restoration and logging.


Bioversity International's research on forest genetic resources is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry and is supported by CGIAR Trust Fund Donors. We lead a cluster on safeguarding forest genetic diversity.

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