Forestry practices and high rates of land clearance for agriculture are causing genetic erosion of valuable tree species in the Peruvian Amazon, thereby endangering the economic sustainability of rural communities and limiting Peru's opportunities for the development of new timber and non-timber forest products. The potential utility and limitations of six low-input interventions to help forestall further genetic erosion in the region are discussed, with a focus on local community involvement. Improved agroforestry systems may help reduce deforestation by increasing farm productivity, although methods to increase the currently low adoption rate of these technologies need to be developed. Use of strategic tree domestication techniques can also improve farm productivity and prevent inadvertent genetic drift and inbreeding associated with traditional domestication practices, although to have a major impact, current programs need to be extended across the region. Woodlot forestry could supplant selective extraction of timber and offers an attractive opportunity for poverty alleviation if appropriate credit and land tenure policies can be developed. However, it may also result in increased deforestation if activities on public land cannot be controlled. The implementation of improved seed collection systems and simple seed transfer guidelines would help to reduce the collection of seed of poor quality and low genetic diversity, and avoid maladapted plantings, although such programs are difficult to monitor and seed costs may increase. Strategic identification and design of in situ conservation areas would help to ensure the viability of conserved populations, but requires the forfeiture of significant revenue from timber concessions.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Many of the ideas expressed in this article were developed at the workshop ‘Conservation of Tree Genetic Resources in the Peruvian Amazon Basin’, held in Pucallpa, Peru, in July and August of 1998. The authors thank the workshop participants for their thoughtful contributions. The Canadian International Development Agency, the European Union, Netherlands Development Assistance, the Peruvian Ministry of Agriculture, and the Alternative Development Programme of Winrock International and the United States Agency for International Development are thanked for their generous financial support for the workshop. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for suggestions that improved this manuscript.
- Genetic conservation
- Genetic erosion
- Peruvian Amazon
- Tree genetic resources