1.02.03 - Ecology and silviculture of dry forests in the tropics


Sven Günter, Germany

State of Knowledge

Tropical dry forests cover 0.5 to 1.1 billion hectares which is about half of the tropical moist forest area. These ecosystems are particularly threatened by human disturbances and climate change. They are affected by fuel wood extraction, exploitation of high value timber species, grazing and browsing, and conversion into agricultural land. Additionally, they are heavily threatened by fires, with an increasing trend due to climate change. Worldwide more than 2 billion people depend on wood fuel for their daily cooking and heating. Thus, by far the most important use in tropical dry forests is firewood collection and charcoal production. Management systems and silvicultural tools face the problem of adressing fuelwood and sustainable timber production of frequently threatened tree species under generally slow growing conditions.  Management systems have to account for this strong demand in combination with livestock production and NTFPs for food security. Additionally, tropical dry forests have positive impact on climate, nutrient and water cycles in an environment under permanent threat of water scarcity. These cycles are crucial for the prevention of desertification with consequences on rural exodus and migration. In this research unit we aim to address future challenges for science and practice which are rooted in understanding how ongoing trends of deforestation, degradation and climate change affect ecological processes. Emphasis is set on contributing to the development of management strategies and silvicultural tools for sustainable provision of multiple ecosystem services, including fuel wood, timber, biodiversity conservation, and control of soil and water fluxes. A central issue is to identify ecological research gaps, and assess the potential for multipurpose use, increased resilience and restoration.

Schröder JM, Ávila Rodriguez LP, Günter S (2021): Research trends: Tropical dry forests: The neglected research agenda? (Forest Policy and Economics 122, 1-5)