THE IMPORTANCE OF FOREST BIODIVERSITY TO DEVELOPING COUNTRIES IN ASIA
Keywords:Biodiversity, tropical forests, Asia, multiple use, timber, economics, values
Asia represents the cradle for about half of the forest biodiversity found in the tropics. Asia is also the most populous region in the world. As a consequence, its biodiversity is under great pressure from rapid conversion of forest land to other uses including agriculture. Uncontrolled logging too contributes to the eventual loss of biodiversity. Therefore, saving these forests poses a much greater challenge to mankind than that in any other biosphere on earth. The wealth of biodiversity, which has been the source of a high quality of life for a large population of rural people in the region, has not been accorded much economic value since most of it is consumed within a cashless economy. Instead, current forest usage practices are dominated by timber exploitation, accelerated by the strong demand in the international market for cheap tropical timber. This nullifies demands from the same consumer groups to conserve the rich biodiversity in the tropics. Neither have the profits from commercialization of some of the phytochemicals first sourced from tropical plants, preserved at a loss of opportunity, directly benefited the developing countries. Herein, lies a contradiction of values and interests. This should be resolved in order to conserve tropical forests. Additionally, there is a need to develop new valuation systems which take into consideration the true value of a forest, that include non-umber products as well as the environmental services. At the same time, multipleuse management systems should be given a higher priority.