Agarwood management in the Forests of New Guinea
A fading sweet fragrance
This fragrant resinous wood, formed in the trees of the genera Gyrinops, Aetoxylon, Gongystylis and, more commonly, Aquilaria, has historically been in great demand from places such as Japan and the Middle East. It continues to be widely exported from places like New Guinea and the Heart of Borneo.
Victim of its popularityHigh demand and decreasing supplies are pushing the price of agarwood up. Another side effect is the indiscriminate destruction of trees.
Now, populations of 8 species of Aquilaria have declined to the point where they have been categorized as threatened, according to the IUCN - The World Conservation Union. Adding to the problem is the inability of planted trees to produce the valuable resinous wood, making plantations to date worthless.
Redressing the tradeTRAFFIC, WWF’s and IUCN’s wildlife trade monitoring arm, has documented in detail the pressures on agarwood. Based on the trends suggesting over-exploitation of this heartwood, WWF has taken a range of steps in PNG to ensure trade is sustainable, including:
- Assessment of agarwood management areas
- Development of a framework to promote the sustainable management of agarwood resources
- Design of a community-based agarwood management plan
Agarwood management teams have been set up in selected locations around PNG to work directly with rural agarwood farmers in practising and promoting sustainable harvest and trade.
- Our knowledge of agarwood distribution has considerably increased over the past few years, as a result of biological surveys conducted by WWF and partners. These surveys have also resulted in the identification of at least 2 new species of agarwood in PNG.
- The Eaglewood Management Area concept will protect the habitat of at least 200,000 ha of agarwood forest.
- Training has been provided in low impact harvesting techniques for agarwood.
- A TRAFFIC study supported by WWF has identified that agarwood is improving village incomes in some areaS of PNG by up to 10-fold.
- Villages are receiving much higher prices for agarwood sales following training in harvesting and marketing conducted by WWF and partners.
As part of our work, we’re teaching [people] how to extract the agarwood resin without killing the trees. And, we’re making sure they know its’ real value, so they’re not ripped off by traders.