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Thailand’s forests and the forestry sector

Resources

Thailand is moderately forested, although its forest cover has roughly halved since 1960. Of Thailand¿s 51 million hectares of land, 14.8 million hectares, or 29 percent, are forested. Most of the forests are restricted to relatively inaccessible mountainous areas. The main forest types are evergreen montane rain forest; mixed deciduous monsoon forest; and open dry dipterocarp and savannah forests. Dipterocarpus spp., Shorea spp. and Hopea spp. are among the most prevalent species. Teak (Tectona grandis) has generally been the most important timber species. The country has about 4.9 million hectares of forest plantations (about half of which are rubber plantations). A network of parks and reserves encompasses more than 10 percent of the total land area. By 1999, 56 percent of the existing forest areas had been declared national conserved forests.

Thailand¿s forest resources have been subjected to continuing pressure and devastation. Between the 1960s and the 1980s, forest resources were reduced by shifting cultivation, land resettlement, dam and road construction and conversion to agricultural use. Demand for land for subsistence farming, commercial agriculture, physical infrastructure, tourism and other uses remains high.

Thailand banned all commercial logging in natural forests in 1988 and has instituted supporting measures to protect the remaining forests and to promote private-sector involvement in forest management and plantations. Nevertheless, deforestation and forest degradation have continued, and efforts to combat forest loss remain a leading issue in the country. From 1990 to 2000 forest cover decreased at an annual rate of 0.7 percent.

Reforestation has been practised in Thailand since the beginning of the twentieth century, when teak was planted in taungya plantations, but only small areas were planted annually until the reforestation programme was expanded in 1961. In 1988, the country undertook an accelerated reforestation programme after devastating floods destroyed two villages. During the mid-1990s, Thailand initiated various programmes to reforest 800 000 ha. Because of budgetary constraints, land-use conflicts and various structural impediments, the target has not been reached.

Products and trade

Thailand's primary sources of industrial wood are plantation forests, non-forest trees, agricultural tree crops (particularly rubberwood) and imports. The country produces significant quantities of sawn timber, wood-based panels and paper. Furniture manufacturing is an increasingly important industry. As a result of the logging ban, imports of logs, sawnwood, short and long-fibre pulp and recovered paper are important constituents of Thailand¿s wood processing sector. Thailand is one of the world¿s leading importers of tropical sawnwood. Nevertheless, the domestic wood industry is unable to meet the country¿s needs because of shortage of raw material. The household sector uses about 20 million tonnes of wood annually for woodfuel, which is met by local supplies (from home gardens, woodlots and public forests). However, there is a shortage of woodfuel in the industrial sector, which requires about 6.5 million tonnes annually.

At least 5 million forest dwellers depend on non-wood forest products, which include bamboo, rattan, edible and medicinal plants, bee products, lac, gums and pine resin.

Thailand's rapid economic growth (in early 2004 about 8 percent and among the fastest in the Asia and the Pacific Region) challenges the forestry sector to find ways to combine national economic growth with needs for forest conservation and environmental development.

Recently, Thailand has been cooperating closely with Cambodia to control illegal trade of timber from Cambodia.

 

Forestry policy, institutions and major programmes Policies


The main objective of Thailand¿s forest policy, as stated in the latest National Economic and Social Development Plan, is to increase the forest area to 40 percent of the total land area, with 25 percent set aside for conservation and 15 percent for production purposes. At least 160 000 ha are to be maintained as mangroves.

In line with the efforts to slow deforestation, the government submitted a request for assistance from the donor community to launch a Forestry Sector Master Plan (FSMP). The exercise began in 1991, assisted by the Asian Development Bank and the Finnish International Development Agency (FINNIDA). The lead institution was the Royal Forest Department. FAO provided data and technical reviews.

The FSMP aims to be sufficiently broad based and balanced to cope with various sectoral problems. The exercise aims at improving sectoral planning skills as an initial step towards institutionalizing long-term planning in the forestry sector.

There is broad agreement that the FSMP needs to be reviewed and revised to take into consideration the changed environmental and socio-economic conditions as well as the recent institutional restructuring of the Royal Forest Department. First steps towards this end were made in 2002 with funds provided by the National Forest Programme Facility.

Thailand¿s government forestry institutions have been restructured, with more than 7 000 Royal Forest Department staff transferred to the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry to form the National Parks Flora and Fauna Department and the Department of Coastal and Marine Resources. The Bureaucratic Restructuring Act 2002 has left 1 100 staff in the Royal Forest Department, which retains the role of promoting forestry to boost national revenues. The reduced Royal Forest Department also retains responsibility for enforcing the Forestry Act, the Forest Reserve Act and the Forest Plantations Act, and will also enforce the Community Forest Bill when it is enacted. The details of the new structure are still under discussion.

International activities


In early 2004, the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, with support from the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), initiated a project to develop a national monitoring information system for the effective conservation and sustainable management of Thailand¿s forest resources. The department is also closely involved in organizing the third IUCN World Conservation Congress, which will be held in Bangkok from 17 to 25 November 2004, under the theme ¿People and Nature, Making the Difference¿.

Several regional forestry programmes, projects and activities have offices located in Bangkok, including FAO¿s Regional Project on Assistance for the Implementation of the Model Forest Approach for Sustainable Forest Management in the Asia-Pacific Region (Thailand is a project country), the Regional Community Forestry Training Center (RECOFTC), a Regional Office of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT)

 

Geographic description

 

The designations employed and the presentation of material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

Map source: Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000, base map: ESRI

The Kingdom of Thailand, located in south-east Asia, covers an area of 513 120 km2 between latitudes 5° 45´ and 20° 30´ N and longitudes 97° 30´ and 105° 45´ E. It is bounded by Myanmar on the north and west, by Laos on the north-east, by Cambodia and the Gulf of Thailand (Siam) on the south-east, by Malaysia on the south and by the Andaman Sea and Myanmar on the south-west.

The main geographic regions are:

  • The Northern region consisting of a series of parallel and longitudinal fold mountains extending through peninsular Thailand into Malaysia. The average height of the peaks is 1 600 m with some above 2 000 m. Between these ridges lie relatively flat basins in which flow the four major tributaries of the Chao Phraya, Thailand´s main river-the Mae Ping, Mae Wang, Mae Yom and Mae Man. The alluvial soils of these basins are fertile. The region has a mild dry climate;
  • The North-eastern region with the Khorat plateau is separated from the Central plateau by the Don Phraya mountains. The elevation of the plateau varies between 130 and 200 m. The mountains in the west are between 800 and 1 300 m and the southern edge of the plateau averages about 400 m with peaks up to 700 m.

The plateau gently slopes eastwards towards the Mekong River but fairly abruptly northward towards the Mae Nam Mun. Most of the plateau is sandstone, which is the parent material of the sandy soils. Some alluvial areas are scattered along the courses of the two major rivers, the Mae Nam Mun and Mae Nam Chi and their tributaries, and they constitute the major agricultural areas;

  • The Central plain region is the largest and can be subdivided into three physiographic subregions:
  • The south-eastern subregion is much dissected by southerly flowing rivers and flanked in the east by hills. The alluvial streams are utilised for rice cultivation, the higher and well-drained grounds for plantations and orchards;
  • The northern rolling plains subregion where the northern rivers flow together into the Chao Phraya. This area is, in general, fertile;
  • The Chao Phraya delta subregion is generally flat and usually flooded in the wet season. It is the largest and most fertile lowland area of the country, almost completely under cultivation except for the mangroves, and is composed of silt brought down by the rivers. Bangkok is situated in this delta;
  • The Southern region is peninsular Thailand and is composed of mountains, in the west, up to 1 000 - 1 500 m, and flat land. Streams flow eastward toward the Gulf of Thailand and have often built up deltas suitable for wet rice cultivation.

Thailand has a monsoonal climate with a wet season (90 percent of the annual rainfall) from April to September during the south-western monsoon and a dry season from October to May with dry continental northerly winds.

During the dry season, Thailand is also influenced by the southern Asiatic cyclonic storm belt that brings irregular amounts of additional rain. Annual rainfall is highest in the southern and western parts of the peninsular region and in the south-eastern region (from 2 000 to more 3 000 mm). It is lowest (less than 1 000 mm) on the central plain that, in fact, lies in the rain shadow of the western mountains.

The north-eastern region has an average rainfall from just more than 1 000 mm in the west to more than 2 000 mm in the north-east. Temperature variations are small in the southern and south-eastern regions, around an average of 28° C. Temperatures in Bangkok vary between 16° C in December and 35° C in April. Winter temperature in the north can fall to approximately 10° C or lower.

 

Ecological zones

 

The map below shows the ecological zones, as shown on the FAO global map of ecological zones produced as part of the FRA 2000. Please refer to FRA Working Paper 20 for further information on the Global Ecological Zone map.

 

The designations employed and the presentation of material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

Map source: Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000, base map: ESRI

 

Forest cover map

The designations employed and the presentation of material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

Map source: Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000, base map: ESRI

The above map is an extract from the Global Forest Cover map produced as part of FRA 2000. Please refer to FRA Working Paper 19 for a background to the production of the map.

Thailand has a variety of vegetation types ranging from tropical evergreen rainforest to dry deciduous forest and savanna forest that reflect a wide range of ecological and climatic conditions (Banijbatana, 1962 and 1968; de Backer. and Lopenshaw, 1972; Gartner and Beuschel, 1963; Neal,1967; Royal Forest Department,1962; Smitinand, and Pheng Khlai, 1971; Smitinand et al, 1980; and Whitmore 1975).

 

Extent of forest and other wooded land

FRA 2005 categories

Area (1000 hectares)

 

1990

2000

2005

 

Forest

15,965

14,814

14,520

 

Other wooded land

-

-

-

 

Forest and other wooded land

15,965

14,814

14,520

 

Other land

35,124

36,275

36,569

 

...of which with tree cover

-

-

-

 

Total land area

51,089

51,089

51,089

 

Inland water bodies

223

223

223

 

Total area of country

51,312

51,312

51,312

 

Data source: FAO, Global Forest Resources Assessment 2005.




Characteristics of forest and other wooded land

FRA 2005 categories

Area (1000 hectares)

 

Forest

Other wooded land

 

1990

2000

2005

1990

2000

2005

 

Primary

6,451

6,451

6,451

-

-

-

 

Modified natural

6,874

5,286

4,970

-

-

-

 

Semi-natural

-

-

-

-

-

-

 

Productive plantation

1,979

1,996

1,997

-

-

-

 

Protective plantation

661

1,081

1,102

-

-

-

 

Total

15,965

14,814

14,520

-

-

-

 

Data source: FAO, Global Forest Resources Assessment 2005.

 

Growing stock

Growing stock in forest and other wooded land

FRA 2005 categories

Volume (million cubic meters over bark)

 

Forest

Other wooded land

 

1990

2000

2005

1990

2000

2005

 

Growing stock in forest and other wooded land

659

611

599

-

-

-

 

Commercial growing stock

395

367

359

-

-

-

 

Data source: FAO, Global Forest Resources Assessment 2005.




Biomass stock in forest and other wooded land

FRA 2005 categories

Biomass (million metric tonnes oven-dry weight)

 

Forest

Other wooded land

 

1990

2000

2005

1990

2000

2005

 

Above-ground biomass

1,241

1,152

1,129

-

-

-

 

Below-ground biomass

335

311

305

-

-

-

 

Total living biomass

1,576

1,463

1,434

-

-

-

 

Dead wood

173

161

158

-

-

-

 

Total

1,749

1,624

1,592

-

-

-

 

Data source: FAO, Global Forest Resources Assessment 2005.




Carbon stock in forest and other wooded land

FRA 2005 categories

Carbon (million metric tonnes)

 

Forest

Other wooded land

 

1990

2000

2005

1990

2000

2005

 

Carbon in above-ground biomass

621

576

564

-

-

-

 

Carbon in below-ground biomass

168

155

152

-

-

-

 

Carbon in living biomass

789

731

716

-

-

-

 

Carbon in dead wood

87

80

79

-

-

-

 

Carbon in litter

-

-

-

-

-

-

 

Carbon in dead wood and litter

87

80

79

-

-

-

 

Soil carbon

-

-

-

-

-

-

 

Total

876

811

795

-

-

-

 

Data source: FAO, Global Forest Resources Assessment 2005.




Composition of growing stock

Rank

Common name

Scientific name

Growing stock in Forests (million cubic meters)

 

1990

2000

 

1st

-

-

-

-

 

2nd

-

-

-

-

 

3rd

-

-

-

-

 

4th

-

-

-

-

 

5th

-

-

-

-

 

6th

-

-

-

-

 

7th

-

-

-

-

 

8th

-

-

-

-

 

9th

-

-

-

-

 

10th

-

-

-

-

 

Remaining

 

 

-

-

 

Total

 

 

-

-

 

Data source: FAO, Global Forest Resources Assessment 2005.

 

Thailand’s Forest Resources

The designations employed and the presentation of material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

Map source: Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000, base map: ESRI

Extent of forest and other wooded land

FRA 2005 categories

Area (1000 hectares)

 

1990

2000

2005

 

Forest

15,965

14,814

14,520

 

Other wooded land

-

-

-

 

Forest and other wooded land

15,965

14,814

14,520

 

Other land

35,124

36,275

36,569

 

...of which with tree cover

-

-

-

 

Total land area

51,089

51,089

51,089

 

Inland water bodies

223

223

223

 

Total area of country

51,312

51,312

51,312

 

Data source: FAO, Global Forest Resources Assessment 2005.

Products and trade

Forest Products

 

Trade of Forest Products

Production Year

 

 

1998

 

 

Roundwood
Industrial Roundwood
Fuelwood and charcoal

 

Imports

 

Exports

 

US $83,767,000

 

US $31,485,000

 

Sawnwood (m³)
Wood-based panels (m³)
Wood pulp (MT)
Paper and paperboard (MT)

 

 

 

 

Description of plantation resources

Introduction

Estimated forest cover in 1990 was 12 000 073 ha, constituting about 25 percent of the country's land area (FAO, 1993). All forestlands are state-owned. In 1989, the Royal Thai Government imposed a total ban on logging in natural forests; thus, plantation forestry has been given more emphasis, especially private afforestation.

Development of forest plantations

The first forest plantations of Tectona grandis are reported since 1898. Until 1960, the establishment of plantations remained a sporadic activity with a total area of 8 500 ha. Regular planting started in 1961.

Most of the plantations are located in the northern and northeastern region. The Royal Forest Department (RFD) and the Forest Industries Organisation (FIO) originally implemented plantation programmes. Later on, a state owned enterprise, the Thai Plywood Company, and other private concessionaires joined in.

The three divisions of the RFD - National Forest Land Management, Silviculture and Watershed Management - have been working in three different types of areas. The Silviculture Division concentrates on establishing industrial plantations whereas other two divisions establish plantations on denuded and watershed areas, mainly for non-industrial purposes.

Industrial plantations by the Silviculture Division to 1980 were 133 800 ha, 55 percent of which were planted to Tectona grandis (RFD, 1980). The total planted area up to 1985 was 542 100 ha, of which 110 000 ha were planted in the last three years (RFD, 1985). The pace of planting remained the same and the total area planted up to 1994 rose to 827 677 ha, of which the major area was planted by RFD.

In addition, private plantations, woodlots and agro-forestry plantations are reported to have been widely established in Thailand but the extent of these is not known.

Rubber plantations constitute a major supply of roundwood in Thailand. The total area of rubber plantations in 1999 was 1 913 865 ha.

Species composition

Information about the composition of species in plantations is highly inadequate and incomplete. Native Tectona grandis has been the most favoured species for industrial plantations. Other broadleaved species such as Pterocarpus macrocarpus, Dipterocarpus spp., Swietenia macrophylla and Hopea odorata are planted on a smaller scale for industrial purposes.

Among conifers, the native pines, Pinus merkusii and P. kesiya occupy a sizeable area. In addition, P. caribaea, P. oocarpa, Eucalyptus camaldulensis, Acacia auriculiformis, A. mangium, Casuarina spp., Melia azedarach and Azadirachta indica are planted both for industrial and non-industrial purposes (Zabala et al., 1993, RFD, 1980 and Kaosa-ard, 1995).

Trend

A Special Forestry Extension Fund has been established to support tree planting by farmers on land to which they have legal rights over a period of 5 years. It is proposed to plant 800 000 ha in the next five years through this fund. Another 800 000 ha is to be planted in watershed and conservation areas (RDF, 1996a). The manufacture of rubber-wood furniture is expanding rapidly due to its growing demand overseas, mainly in Japan and the USA.

Issues

On the basis of long-term provenance trials, Thailand has identified suitable provenances of Tectona grandis and Pinus kesiya and made significant advancements in tree improvement.

A national inventory of plantations has not been done. As a result, the actual area of existing plantations at any point in time is not known.

 

 Web site FAO Forestry - part of World Agricultural Information Centre

© FAO 2003 




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