In situ conservation of indigenous tree species in Southern Cameroon
Host Country Institutions:
ICRAF - International Centre for Research in Agriculture, IRAD - Institut de Recherche Agricole pour le Developpement, IITA - International Institute of Tropical Agriculture
The principal development problem of this project is the loss of forest and tree cover, and of tree species diversity in the Cameroonian humid forest zone. Of additional concern is the immediate threat posed by the loss of tree cover and diversity to the sustainability of local land use systems, due to the breakdown of traditional interdependencies between on-farm and off-farm environments, such as in the use of off-farm non-forest tree products to support farm livelihoods.
Past research in the Forest Margins Benchmark Area (FMBA) of southern Cameroon has revealed a South-North gradient of resource use intensification associated with increasing demographic pressure and better market access. Whereas the social and economic implications of such changes have been extensively studied, their consequences on the environment, though broadly acknowledged, are yet still not entirely understood. In particular, the impacts of changing land use mosaics on the distribution and abundance of plant diversity in various land use types are uncertain. Predictions of future biological diversity on shortened fallow lands and other anthropogenic habitats range widely, and the uncertainty makes it extremely difficult to take effective policy action and to communicate the scientific issues to policy makers, the media and the public. One of the major causes of uncertainty is inadequate knowledge of how and why changing land use mosaics have adverse effects on biodiversity components, particularly the distribution and abundance of indigenous species which local poor farmers value for many purposes. Although various research programmes conducted in the area have acknowledged the need to give more attention to the development of tools and approaches for assessing the effects of resource use intensification on the global environment, current scientific understanding of these processes does not permit adequate design of effective strategies.