International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation

International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation

Ecosystems

There are over 1200 species of bamboo and 650 species of rattan, many of which are used for subsistence or for income generation — overharvesting and lack of management threatens the survival of some of these species. Some species of bamboo are themselves under threat due to over harvesting (eg Qiongzhuea tumidinoda in China), whilst others are known only from single locations and could be threatened if the habitat comes under pressure.

Bamboo offers an important habitat to numerous animals, birds, insects and plants which benefit from its presence through the provision of food, shade and shelter, nutrient recycling, and water (aquifer) storage. Bamboos are habitats to many endangered animal species, including the Giant Panda (China), Mountain gorilla (Uganda/Rwanda), lesser and greater bamboo lemurs (Madagascar), and bamboo bats (China). Thirty four species of birds are known to rely on bamboo in the Amazon. Over 1000 species of fungi have been recorded growing on bamboos, many of which are not found on any other species. As there are so many species of bamboos, details about their specific attributes and the services to biodiversity they provide is difficult generalize, as is their description and role within ecosystems. For example, some monopodial bamboo species are the dominant species in their ecosystem, and in parts of Southern China, India and South America these bamboo forests can cover thousands of hectares and host species which are indigenous only to them. Other bamboos grow as only one of many species supported by an ecosystem and have very different relationships with their surrounding environment.

INBAR’s work on biodiversity includes:

  • Mapping bamboo and rattan biodiversity.
  • Development of management systems for bamboos that protect biodiversity without unnecessarily compromising productivity.
  • Promoting the identification and protection of endangered bamboo and rattan species and habitats.
  • Involvement of bamboo in biodiverse landscapes, such as the UN Satoyama initiative.
  • Raising awareness of the plight of organisms that depend on bamboo for all or part of their lives.

Aside from climate change mitigation and biodiversity protection, bamboo provides a range of other environmental services:

  • Timber substitution
    • Bamboo is a renewable source of soft wood that can substitute for timber wood for many uses. Much of the logged wood goes for building/construction and paper and pulp industries and bamboo could substitute for a large proportion of this.
  • Watershed protection, soil erosion, sustainable land management
    • Bamboos maintain a permanent canopy over the soil and are excellent at reducing soil erosion, whilst providing a source of softwood for income generating activities — a three year-old plantation reduced soil erosion by 75% at an INBAR project site in China, this before canopy closure. They are also often used to stabilize riverbanks.
  • Eco-tourism
    • People connect with bamboo houses at a very basic level , and bamboo resorts are becoming popular in many countries — including Australia, India and China. Bamboo forests are a unique environment rarely encountered by most people, and many bamboo eco-tourism locations include well-tended bamboo species collections.