Tree plantations, when well planned and managed, are more productive than natural forests, and thus have a potential to supply the increasing demand for timber worldwide. The total area of plantations worldwide is still relatively small. However, the area and importance of plantations for supplying timber and other tree-based products is increasing. Apart from their productive functions, plantations have important environmental roles, including carbon sequestration and recovery of biodiversity. As wood from native forests becomes more scarce, prices for tropical timbers will rise, and plantations will become more economically attractive.
Agroforestry systems can contribute to accelerate the return of economic investment and serve social and environmental services as well. Several types of agroforestry systems are practiced worldwide, especially in subsistence economies and for restoration of degraded land.
Restoration and rehabilitation of degraded forest lands also are important for re-establishing production and conservation values. The following strategies can be used with good results in restoration of degraded primary and secondary forests:
• enrichment planting;
• improving soil quality through tree plantations;
• ensuring that species that attract seed dispersers are present;
• using mixed species plantations to accelerate natural succession;
• establishing windbreaks, especially with species that offer habitats for animals that disperse seeds.
Plantations, agroforestry systems, and forest restoration can all contribute to solving social and economic problems as well as environmental problems of developing tropical regions by providing economic opportunities for local people. The various ways that natural resource development programs can be implemented, and the strengths and weaknesses of the alternative approaches, are the subjects of the next chapter.
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