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FEATURE: Supporting the conservation of major timber species in Cambodia

03 Apr 2020

This article provides some field observations of activities carried out by the project team at Siem Reap, Cambodia, under the project ‘Establishment of Forest Genetics Research Center for Restoration of Major Timber Species in Cambodia’. The field activities discussed in this article include the selection of plus trees and the establishment of progeny test plantations and clonal seed orchards of essential timber species as part of the long-term tree breeding program of Cambodia.


Cambodia is one of the fastest-growing economies among the ASEAN Member States. The country has a growing population of around 16 million, and the majority of the people depend on agriculture. The 2016 forest cover assessment indicates that forest cover of the country stands at 8.74 million hectares, which is equivalent to 48.14% of the country’s total land area[1]. Forest cover dwindled from 73% in 1973 to 57% in 2010[2] due to rapid socio-economic developments in the country according to some reports. The leading causes of forest cover loss identified include increased incidences of forest fires, shifting cultivation, production of fuelwood and charcoal, and conversion into other infrastructure. One of the timber species native to Cambodia, Dalbergia cochinchinens, is reported to be at risk of extinction and is categorized as an endangered species in the IUCN Red List. Recognizing the urgent need to prevent further deforestation and conserve forest biodiversity, the government of Cambodia prepared and started implementing the National Forest Program of 2010-2029 to improve and manage forest cover through best practices of sustainable forest management principles.


National Forest Program (NFP) 2010-2029

The National Forest Program (NFP) 2010-2029 identified poverty alleviation and environmental protection, including the conservation of biodiversity and cultural heritage and livelihood improvements, as high priority areas. The promotion of tree planting and the development of the forest sector to restore degraded areas throughout Cambodia is one of the sub-programs under NFP.  In the last couple of years, a number of restoration projects were implemented by the donors and implementing partners to support NFP. The ASEAN-Korea Environmental Cooperation Project (AKECOP) supported Research on the Regeneration of Dalbergia species in degraded areas of Siem Reap in 2011. The Korea Rural Community Corporation (KRCC) contributed to Forest Restoration and the Established of Forest Research Facilities in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap in 2012. The Asia-Pacific Network for Sustainable Forest Management (APFNet) supported Multi-Functional Forest and Management of Degraded Forest Areas of Cambodia in 2011. In 2015, AFoCO supported the Promotion of Forest Rehabilitation in Cambodia through Demonstration Models and Improvement of Seed Supply System.


Restoration of major timber species in Cambodia in 2016

One of the areas of research interest, based on the need of the hour in the country, is quality seed sources for high-value major timber species like Dalbergia cochinchinensis, Dipterocarpus intricatus, and Pterocarpus macrocarpus. The quality of seeds in terms of its genetic purity, phenotype, and productivity, is not assured in the country.  In 2016, AFoCO, under the Landmark Program, provided support to conserve genetic resources of these important tree species with the objectives of implementing a long-term tree breeding program and to strengthen the restoration and tree breeding capabilities of the Forestry Administration of Cambodia. The Institute of Forest and Wildlife Research and Development (IRD) under the Forestry Administration of Cambodia was assigned to implement the said project.



Khun-Ream Forest Research Station, Siem Reap

The Khun Ream Forest research station in Cambodia was established in 2012 by the KRCC through the project titled “Forest Restoration and Establishment of Forest Research Facilities”. Located in Khun Ream Commune, Banteay Srey District, Siem Reap Province, some 60km away from Siem Reap City, the Research Station has been serving as a hub for knowledge and experience sharing among researchers, practitioners, students, and local communities in Cambodia. The station has a nursery, research plots for forest rehabilitation and memorial tree plantation sites. This research station has also been identified as one of the project sites of the AFoCO Landmark Program.


Ongoing field research efforts

The first tree seed orchard in Cambodia was established in 2016 through the Landmark Program. The objective is to provide high-quality tree seeds for forest rehabilitation in Cambodia. A clonal seed orchard (seedlings produced from asexual propagation), and a progeny test plantation (seedlings produced from seeds of selected plus trees) were established at the experimental sites of Khun Ream Forest Research Station.  The major tree species studied were Dalbergia cochinchinensis, Dipterocarpus intricatus, and Pterocarpus macrocarpus. Scions for clonal seed orchard and tree seeds for progeny test plantation were collected from 300 plus tree species across 11 provinces in the country. The coordinates, estimated age, height, canopy, girth, and health of plus trees were recorded at each site.

About 45,000 seedlings of the 3 timber species were produced in 2017, and 2,400 scions were grafted on the rootstocks at Khun Ream Forest research station.  The grafting of Dipterocarpus intricatus was not successful and a seedling seed orchard (seed orchard raised from seedlings) was constructed instead. Overall technical guidance and supervision were provided by scientists from the National Institute of Forest Science (NIFoS) of the Republic of Korea. The seedlings in progeny tests were planted at a distance of 3m x 3m with a sub-plot size of 6m x 15m, and seedlings in the seed orchard were planted at a distance of 5m x 5m with sub-plot of size 50m x 50m. The data collected from these plots on a regular basis include the height, girth, crown, and health status of the plants. By the end of 2017, 3 ha of seed orchard and 12 ha of progeny test plantation were established at the Khun Ream research site.


Observations

AFoCO supported the establishment of Cambodia’s first clonal seed orchard of high-value major timber species in collaboration with experts from the NIFoS of the Republic of Korea and the IRD of Cambodia. This experimental initiative has attracted many visitors to the station, including a visit by His Excellency Minister Mr. Veng Sakhon, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in 2019. The clonal seed orchard established through grafting is likely to produce early tree seeds compared to seedlings produced from seeds. It is also advisable to remove flowers or seeds from clonal seed orchard in the first 2 to 3 years of establishment.  At this point, it is too early to make predictions, but one can boldly state that the IRD of Cambodia is doing its best to run the experiments despite many field and technical challenges. A qualitative assessment of the project’s contribution to capacity development in the forest genetic resource management needs to be carefully approached.


[1] MoE. 2018. Cambodia Forest Cover 2016.
[2] Cambodia National Strategic Development Plan 2014-2018


Contributed by Soozin Ryang, Sokh Heng and Chencho Norbu


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