Thursday, 20 March 2014

Celebrating the role of acacias on International Day of Forests

The United Nations has proclaimed 21 March as the International Day of Forests. It encourages countries to use this day to promote the role of forests in sustaining our environment while providing multiple values for everyone on the planet and direct livelihood benefits for an estimated 1.6 billion people.

ACIAR researcher with 1-year old acacia hybrid
trees in Vietnam 

ACIAR plays an important role in supporting forestry research projects that help 12 partner countries to protect, sustain and enhance the role that forests and trees play in their countries. To celebrate the International Day of Forests, let’s take a look at the role that one genus of Australian tree, Acacia, is playing in many countries.

This week ACIAR is supporting an important international meeting in Vietnam, involving scientists from around the world researching aspects of the growth, management and processing of acacia trees. Most of these trees are derived from Australian germplasm. In Australia, some species of acacia – such as Acacia melanoxylon – produce beautiful timbers that are prized for furniture making. However, most Australian acacias provide conservation and aesthetic benefits rather than commercial benefits.

In Indonesia and Vietnam the situation with Australian acacias is very different. After two decades of collaborative research and development, several acacia species now make very important contributions to rural livelihoods by providing wood resources for pulp and paper industries. In Vietnam they are also being used in some areas to provide sawn timber and veneers for furniture production.
Acacia pulpwood in Sumatra, Indonesia

The main focus of ACIAR’s forestry research on acacias is related to improving the productivity of tropical species, such as Acacia crassicarpa, Acacia mangium, Acacia auriculiformis and hybrids between these. It is estimated that over 940,000 hectares of tropical acacias are now grown in Vietnam, and more than half of these are grown by smallholder farmers. Vietnam is now the world’s largest exporter of hardwood woodchips and some 90% of the 5.4 million tonnes exported in 2011 was acacia, valued at US$600 million.

Acacia outdoor furniture in Hanoi, Vietnam
ACIAR-funded research on tree breeding has improved the wood yields of acacias grown on 7-year rotations by 15-25%. Research in both Indonesia and Vietnam on improved site-management practices and using improved germplasm indicates that wood yields could be enhanced up to four-fold. 

Growing acacias in plantations and farm woodlots is not without risks, particularly from pests and diseases. Significant areas of acacia plantation in Indonesia are suffering tree deaths as a result of infestations of root rot pathogens and stem canker and wilt diseases. ACIAR’s research in Indonesia is helping to try to find ways to limit the spread and severity of root rot pathogens and promoting attention to sustainability issues.

Acacia mangium silviculture trial in northern Vietnam
Collaborative research between Australian and in-country scientists on acacia has helped transform the livelihoods of many smallholder farmers, particularly in Vietnam. Many farmers now adopt short-rotation forestry as a primary income generation strategy and use these funds to cover significant financial commitments such as school and university fees, weddings and medical costs. They see the trees as assets that they can turn into cash when the need arises.

So on the 2014 International Day of Forests we celebrate the way that these Australian acacia trees are now helping to improve livelihoods for so many people while providing enhanced environmental benefits in rural landscapes in many Asian countries.

By Tony Bartlett, Forestry Research Program Manager

More information:

ACIAR projects on acacias:
FST/1992/027 Australian acacias for sustainable development in China, Vietnam and Australia 7
FST/2003/002 Development and evaluation of sterile triploids and polyploid breeding methodologies for commercial species of Acacia in Vietnam, South Africa and Australia
FST/2003/048 Management of fungal root rot in plantation acacias in Indonesia
FST/2006/087 Optimising silvicultural management and productivity of high-quality acacia plantations, especially for sawlogs 
FST/2008/007 Advanced breeding and deployment methods for tropical acacias
FST/2008/039 Enhancement of production of acacia and eucalypt peeled and sliced veneer products in Vietnam and Australia 
FST/2009/051 Increasing productivity and profitability of Indonesian smallholder plantations

ACIAR reports on acacia research:
FR2013-26 Optimising silvicultural management and productivity of high-quality acacia plantations, especially for sawlogs (2013)
FR2012-06 Management of fungal root rot in plantation acacias in Indonesia (2012) 
FR2011-07 Realising genetic gains in Indonesia and Australian plantations through water and nutrient management (2011)
PR124 Heart rot and root rot in tropical Acacia plantations (2006) 
PR082 Recent developments in acacia planting (1997)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for taking the time to comment!

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.