The International Forestry Review

Small island states feature prominently amongst the least developed nations, and many are economically vulnerable (McGillivray et al. 2010, Wittersheim 2011). Sustainable development may depend on adding value to local products to create employment, to displace imports and to generate exports. In many cases, especially in the tropics, opportunities that exist in the agricultural and forestry sectors are hampered by the poor state of knowledge of potential species and markets. Forest products are of particular interest because of their role in construction, in import substitution, and the relative simplicity of their transport and storage. Despite this potential role, there has been relatively little attention devoted to the process and practice of domesticating tree species for use in plantations, especially for non-industrial plantations. Planted forests may take many forms, spanning a wide range including extremes such as the near-natural Damar (Shorea javanica) forests in Sumatra (e.g. Torquebiau 1985, Michon et al. 2007), to short-rotation Eucalyptus monoculture plantations in Brazil (Campinhos 1999) and to agroforestry plantings such as Grevillea robusta over coffee in Kenya (Lott et al. 2000). So it is appropriate to examine the broad scope of silvicultural and industrial options available to support an emerging industry, particularly given the constraints of small island States (Briguglio 1995). Wilkinson et al. (2000) offered a useful classification of ‘plantation forestry’, and discriminated between woodlots, sequential and intercropping systems (such as taungya, Jordan et al. 1992), wide row intercropping, dispersed trees and land rehabilitation. This classification emphasises the reality that industrial plantations with trees in straight lines may not be the preferred approach, and that a broader range of options warrant consideration. Here, we examine domestication of forest tree species in the broad sense, considering the principles of domestication, reviewing case studies from several regions, and offering guidance specific to small island nations. We do not attempt a comprehensive review of all aspects of tree domestication, a considerable task not amenable to a journal article and addressed comprehensively elsewhere in the case of industrial plantations of exotic species (e.g., Libby 1973, Bradshaw and Strauss 2001) and multipurpose trees for agroforestry (e.g., Leakey et al. 1996, Leakey and Tomich 1999). Our focus is on domestication of native timber species in situ, in the humid tropics.  

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