Bamboo and rattan play a key role in biodiversity conservation and land restoration. They contribute to UN Sustainable Development Goal 15, which aims to protect terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests and combat desertification and biodiversity loss.
Bamboo and rattan are a key part of biodiverse landscapes where they grow, with many mammal, insect and fungal species dependent on bamboo and rattan for their survival. They are also key for the protection of several reptiles and Angonoka, the world’s rarest tortoise.
Bamboos and rattans can play an important role in primate conservation for three key reasons. Firstly, bamboo and rattans provide a direct source of nutrition for many primates such as the giant panda, mountain gorilla, the bale monkey, and the greater bamboo lemur. Rattans, with their relatively long fruiting seasons, can also provide an important source of food for primates at critical times in the year.
As well as this, bamboo and rattans also provide important shelter, dwelling and habitats for many primates across the world. Bamboo is a component of forest ecosystems across the tropics and subtropics, while rattans form a key element of some of the world’s most important biodiverse hotspots and primate habitats in South and Southeast Asia and West and Central Africa.
Finally, supporting communities to sustainably manage and utilise bamboo and rattan provides vital sources of income to poor smallholder communities, helping to reduce pressure on primate habitats. Today, bamboo and rattan are already among the world’s most valuable non-timber forest products, with an estimated market value of USD 60 billion. Rural smallholder communities benefiting from these markets can become an integral part of conservation efforts.
INBAR has worked across its Member States to create biodiverse habitats using bamboo and rattan. INBAR’s work on biodiversity includes:
- Mapping bamboo and rattan biodiversity. Most recently, INBAR is mapping the amount of bamboo across a number of countries, using innovative GIS technology;
- Developing management systems for bamboos that protect biodiversity without unnecessarily compromising productivity;
- Promoting the identification and protection of endangered bamboo and rattan species and habitats. INBAR and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, have categorised over 1600 identified species of bamboo and 600 species of rattan. Many of these are used for subsistence or for income generation, but are also threatened by over-harvesting and lack of management;
- Involving 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.
Bamboo is a strategic resource that many countries can use to restore their degraded landscapes and reverse the dangers of desertification. Its rapid growth and strong root systems make bamboo a powerful soil protection tool. Estimates show that a single bamboo plant can bind up to 6 metres cubed of soil. As well as this, most bamboo species form an evergreen canopy, dropping leaves year round and improving soil health.
Bamboo can also prevent deforestation by reducing pressure on existing forest resources. Farmers and foresters who can regularly harvest raw materials and fuel from bamboo stands are under less economic pressure to unsustainably exploit less renewable forests, especially if the bamboo is close to home. Strong, flexible and versatile, the plant has some 10,000 different uses, providing an opportunity for rural communities to participate in a growing global sector worth some USD 60 billion every year.
INBAR takes part in very varied work to help its Member States realise bamboo and rattan’s full potential for terrestrial ecosystems and environmental protection:
In Ethiopia, INBAR was part of a large World Bank project to restore degraded soils using bamboo. Previously, INBAR took part in an award-winning land restoration scheme in Allahabad, India, which converted degraded soil back into rich farm land. In the scheme, bamboo added 6-8 inches of humus to the soil per year, and increased the soil’s carbon content considerably. It also improved farmers’ incomes, and provided a new source of energy.
As part of INBAR’s ongoing Dutch-Sino-East Africa project, our project team has contracted suppliers to plant bamboo around two national parks in Uganda, in order to reduce the pressure on mountain gorillas’ source of food. According to recent reports, the project is also improving the lives of people: mountain gorilla poachers are now planting bamboo as a more sustainable source of income.
- CONTRIBUTING TO GLOBAL INITIATIVES
INBAR is an Observer at the three Rio Conventions: the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the UN Convention for Biological Diversity. INBAR’s Member States make sizeable contributions to global goals under this framework: at INBAR’s Ninth Council Session in November 2014 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, INBAR’s Council of 40 Member States agreed to work towards a plan to restore at least 5 million hectares of degraded land using bamboo. This is a huge contribution to the Bonn Challenge.