S3.SKJ at ISUMVS.IASTATE.EDU
S3.SKJ at ISUMVS.IASTATE.EDU
Thu Oct 13 13:54:34 EST 1994
From: eccoord at wamani.apc.org (Coordinador Ecologia)
Subject: THE DANGERS OF MONOCULTURE TREE PLANTATIONS
Date: Thu, 29 Sep 1994 06:12:16 GMT
From: Third World Network <twn>
THE DANGERS OF MONOCULTURE TREE PLANTATIONS
This article highlights the ecological and social impact of
large-scale monoculture tree plantations which service the
export-led strategy of many Third World countries. A global
network of NGOs has been formed to address this issue.
By Ricardo Carrere
Third World Network Features
During the past two decades, tree planting has been
increasing on a global scale. This has been encouraged by a
number of multilateral financial agencies, as well as by
national and international advisory and support agencies.
Transnational corporations (TNCs) have also become directly
involved through the implementation of large-scale forestry
projects in diverse areas of the world.
The reasons underlying these tree-planting activities may be
very different; for example, tree planting for fuelwood
needs at local community level, to halt desertification, and
to supply raw materials for local timber and paper
industries. Nevertheless, the main thrust arises from large
wood and pulp transnationals attempting to secure a
homogeneous, abundant and cheap supply of raw materials.
To do this, TNCs are trying to locate plantations in regions
which exhibit appropriate characteristics for achieving
their goal: cheap land and labour force, foreign currency
hunger, and environmental conditions that guarantee fast
tree growth. Most Third World countries fulfil all these
conditions, thus becoming potential suppliers of this raw
The terms 'afforestation' and 'reforestation' lead to
confusion because they are used to define extremely diverse
situations. They are used to refer to monoculture
plantations of exotic or native species, (in areas which
were either previously covered by forest or used for some
other purpose), and also to refer to native or exotic tree
planting within agroforestry systems. This is why many
people are surprised when environmentalists support certain
types of afforestation but oppose others.
In order to understand the problems, it is therefore
important to define more precisely the concepts being dealt
with. The term 'reforestation' should be applied only to the
operation of planting local species, with the aim of trying
to recover a degraded or clear-felled native forest.
The term 'afforestation' should be replaced by 'tree crops'
when referring to monocultures that include soil
preparation, selected genetic material, agrochemical inputs,
a high degree of mechanisation and market-oriented
Agroforestry systems also imply tree planting, but these are
part of the agro-ecosystem, having both directly productive
functions (timber, fruits, leaves, resins etc) and support
functions (nutrient recycling, shelter and shade etc).
Finally, there are other possible types of afforestation,
different from the above: protective landscaping,
recreational afforestation. What matters then is not to be
Tree planting in itself is not the problem. What has
triggered concerns from both environmentalists and local
communities has been, and still is, the establishment of
large-scale mono-culture tree plantations, mostly composed
of fast-growing eucalyptus and pine trees. These plantations
are being promoted and established in vast areas throughout
The present pattern of industrial tree crops is leading to a
number of negative environmental and social impacts.
Environmentally, the adverse impacts of these large
plantations on hydrological basins are being exposed. This
is because the fast-growing species of trees commonly used
in timber plantations consume huge volumes of water.
Secondly, there are concerns about the possible irreversible
changes of soils under plantations of exotic species, which
could lead to desertification processes.
Furthermore, these large plantations modify the native
wildlife substantially . This could lead to a chain of
adverse impacts on the different ecosystems involved.
The above may also be aggravated by the polluting
processes derived from transforming large volumes of wood
into pulp and other wood products. It is likely that once
plantations become productive, these industries will move to
developing countries, given the growing trend towards
relocation of polluting industries from industrial countries
to the Third World, where standards in legislation for
environmental protection are much lower.
More information about the Ag-forst