NAIROBI, Kenya, May 11,
2004 (ENS): Half of the world's 1,200 woody bamboo species
may be in danger of extinction as a result of massive forest destruction,
according to a joint United Nations-commercial study, the most comprehensive
ever conducted on bamboos.
The study, produced by the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan
(INBAR) and the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation
Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), uses novel analyses to combine data
on the distributions of bamboo species and on existing forest cover.
As a consequence many vulnerable species such as lemurs, giant pandas
and mountain gorillas that depend almost entirely on bamboo for
food and shelter face a greater struggle for survival.
It shows that many bamboo species, including relatives of those
cultivated commercially, have tiny amounts of forest remaining within
their native ranges. Some 250 woody bamboo species have less than
2,000 square kilometers of forest remaining within their ranges
- an area the size of the city of London.
Nadia Bystriakova, the report's lead author, says, "The study
recommends recognizing the 'at risk' status of many bamboos and
developing new strategies and efforts to slow the loss of forest
and secure the survival of important forest species like bamboos."
Individuals of each species of bamboo flower once simultaneously
every 20 to 100 years and then die, and this pattern makes bamboos
vulnerable to rapid deforestation that is restricting the areas
in which they can survive.
Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the United Nations Environment
Programme (UNEP), said, "Bamboos are some of the oldest and
most fascinating life forms on Earth with high economic and conservation
value. Many curious and unique species depend on bamboo. Trade in
these plants is worth as much as bananas or American beef. Yet until
now, their status and condition have been largely ignored with many
species taken for granted."
The new report highlights how vital it now is for the international
community to take a far greater interest in bamboos, Toepfer said.
Millions of people use wild bamboo for construction, handicrafts
and food, and international trade in bamboo products, mostly from
cultivated sources, is worth more than $2 billion annually. But
humans are not alone in depending on bamboos.
In Asia, endangered species that depend on bamboo are the the giant
panda, the red panda and Himalayan black bear.
In Africa, mountain gorillas depend on bamboos for up to 90 percent
of their diet in some seasons. The survival in the wild of the mountain
bongo depends on conservation of the bamboo thickets to which it
migrates during the dry season.
In Madagascar, the critically endangered greater and golden bamboo
lemurs depend on bamboo for much of their diet, and the rarest tortoise
in the world, the ploughshare tortoise, is also connected with bamboos.
||" Trade in these plants is worth as
much as bananas or American beef. Yet until now, their status
and condition have been largely ignored with many species taken
In South America, the spectacled bear, the mountain tapir and many
endangered bird species are connected with bamboo in the Andes,
Amazon and Atlantic forests.
Ian Hunter, director general, International Network for Bamboo
and Rattan said, "The report is the first step towards quantifying
existing resources of bamboo. The survival of many potentially important
bamboo species may be threatened as they grow in forests that are
shrinking under human pressure."
"INBAR is greatly concerned about this potential loss of biodiversity
and wishes to encourage both in-situ and ex-situ conservation,"
This study shows locations of high forest bamboo diversity and
the areas where deforestation risks are highest, creating a valuable
planning tool for conservation action.
Mark Collins, director of UNEP-WCMC, explains that the researchers
used unique mapping techniques to identify for the first time the
worldwide distribution of bamboos and this has revealed some surprising
findings. "Woody bamboos are important world-wide. Many people
will be surprised to learn they are found not only in Asia but also
in the forests of the Amazon and the Andes and even in African cloud
"Governments at the World Summit on Sustainable Development
two years ago agreed to reduce the rate of loss of biodiversity,"
Toepfer said. "This new report makes it clear that conserving
bamboo, for the sake of people and for the sake of wildlife, should
have a high priority in this global effort."