LONDON - Deforestation is endangering about a third of the world's 1,200 bamboo species and threatening rare animals such as giant pandas and mountain gorillas that depend on the plants for food and protection.
A joint report released on Tuesday by the United Nations
Environment Program (UNEP) and the International Network for
Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) warned that it would also harm a $2
billion a year bamboo industry and the millions of people who
use the plants for food, housing, furniture and handicrafts.
"There are about 1,200 species of bamboo in the world and
we think about a third of those may be threatened by the
reduction of forest habitat within their ranges," Valerie
Kapos, co-author of the study and ecologist at the UNEP World
Monitoring Center in Cambridge, eastern England, told Reuters.
The report entitled "Bamboo Diversity" is the most
comprehensive analysis to date of the impact of deforestation
on bamboo species.
"It is the first time anyone has done this systematic
assessment where they have worked all the way through a group
of species and worked specifically at distribution and
remaining habitat," Kapos explained.
The fates of Asia's giant pandas, which eat only bamboo,
Africa's mountain gorillas, Madagascar's golden lemurs and the
mountain tapir in South America as well as other animal and
bird species are linked to bamboo.
"All over the world there are animals that are very, very
closely connected with bamboo," said Kapos. "The mountain
gorilla in Africa, at some times of the year, get between 70-90
percent of their diet from bamboo shoots."
Bamboo, which is a giant, woody grass, is called the "wood
of the poor" in India and the "friend of the people" in China
because of its diverse use in everything from food and cooking
to furniture, paper, musical instruments, boats and houses.
A single bamboo clump can produce up to 9 miles of usable
pole in its lifetime, according to INBAR.
Kapos, who described the report as a global wake-up call,
used existing knowledge about the range of bamboo species and
combined it with current forest distribution to determine the
impact of deforestation on bamboo species.
She and her colleagues identified 250 woody bamboo species
that have less than 2,000 square km of forest remaining within
their growing range. It also pinpointed areas of high
concentrations of bamboo in southern China, Madagascar and
parts of the southeast Amazon and Atlantic forest of Brazil.
"Now we need to look much more closely at the dynamics of
what is going on. We need to look more closely at the processes
that are threatening the species, determine which species are
the most threatened and take conservation action in the areas
where those species are concentrated," Kapos added.
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