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TEAK VS TERMINALIA

April 30, 2013

TEAK VS TERMINALIA

Deep in the Panama Canal watershed are three stands of trees. One is a teak plantation where STRI scientist Jeff Hall is toiling to produce the best timber possible

Deep in the Panama Canal watershed are three stands of trees. One is a teak plantation where STRI scientist Jeff Hall is toiling to produce the best timber possible. Another is a stand of Terminalia amazonia, a hardwood that grows well on the nutrient-poor soils. A third has Terminalia mixed with other native species that cycle nutrients, effectively making the plot fertilize itself.

This component of the 700-hectare Agua Salud Project addresses practical tropical forestry questions. Teak accounted for around two-thirds of trees planted between 1992 and 2007 in Panama. In spite of widespread use, little is known about how it impacts the hydrological cycle. For the Panama Canal, which relies on fresh water, teak might not be ideal if it uses more water than native trees.

The plots compare other ecosystem services like carbon sequestration and restoration of biodiversity. Jeff also wants to find out if a native hardwood like Terminalia can be a viable alternative to teak - if, indeed, it proves to have few benefits beyond its valuable wood.

“People trash teak without any data,” says Jeff. “That it’s bad for biodiversity or bad for water. We’re testing that. The idea is to get the best teak plantation possible so we can study the hydrology and its relative impacts on other ecosystem services like biodiversity and carbon sequestration.”

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