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Rotary International learns about reforestation

Dr. Stephen Elliott of CMU (far right) is joined by Jenny and Yvonne before the start of the talk held at the River Market on September 12, 2013 (Photo courtesy of CityNow!)

By Shana Kongmun
Chiang Mai Rotary International Club held their third meeting at the River Market on Thursday, September 12, 2013 to hear a most informative and interesting talk by forestry expert Dr. Stephen Elliott of FORRU at the Biology Department Science Faculty, Chiang Mai University
Steve is one of the co-founders of FORRU or the Forest Restoration Research Institute and has been lecturing ecology and conservation at Chiang Mai University since 1986. He co-ordinates and manages FORRU’s research and education programs. FORRU was initially set up as a research unit to encourage wildlife back into Thailand’s forests. It has since grown to include reforestation projects, tree seedling nurseries and research.
Steve started out the lecture by informing members and guests that Thailand’s forests had declined from a nationwide coverage of 53.3% in 1960 to fall precipitously until logging was banned in 1990 and at 2006 it stood at 24.5%, noting that the peak of logging hit 1975. He said one of the issues in counting forests is that the National Forest Department counts plantations of certain kinds of trees, but he noted that that if we were to count only natural forest the forest cover of Thailand would most likely be around 19%.
He pointed out the species loss including the Javan Rhinoceros, and Eld’s Deer along with soil erosion and degradation that leads to flash floods and landslides. Not only does the destruction of the forest end up in the loss of habitat for animals but also removes free products that villagers could once obtain from the forest. Steve used the example of firewood; where once villagers could gather firewood for cooking from the forests now they were forced to purchase gas and while it may add to the economy it does not actually help the villagers.
Steve then went through the process of regenerating a forest, mentioning the need for what are called framework trees, those trees that are native and fast growing with good spreading crowns. He added that it was necessary to not only remove risk elements such as fire, cattle, drought and invasive plants. 30 different species are necessary per hectare to get started and once planted they require care; water, weeding and fertilizer for 2 years.
FORRU has been working with villagers in a deforested area off Doi Suthep to not only keep from burning but to also help in planting, weeding and watering. They noted great success in the return of bird species, as well as the return of mammals but he said it is important that locals do not hunt the seed dispersers such as birds and bats.
Such work does not come cheaply, costing around US$6,000 per hectare for two years, but he noted that the value of a hectare of tropical rain forest, when all things are considered such as carbon credit, water resources, ecotourism etc is US$6,200 hectare per year. Unfortunately, not all governments see the benefits of doubling their investments he added.
FORRU can always use people to help plant trees in mid-June, they often enlist local schools to help, and then fertilize and weed. Alternatively, sponsor tree planting or sponsor and educational event for a local school. More information on FORRU can be found on


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Rotary International learns about reforestation