BU logo and Conserving Eden: participatory forest management in the Tien Shan region

Conserving Eden: participatory forest management in the Tien Shan region
A project funded by the
Darwin Initiative

Project partners:

Centre of Conservation Ecology and Environmental Change at Bournemouth University, UK
Fauna and Flora International, UK
Botanic Gardens Conservation International
BioResources Public Fund, Kyrgyzstan

Other Kyrgyz organisations affiliated with the project include:

  • Institute of nuts and horticulture, Jalal-abad
  • State Agency of Environmental Protection and Forestry
  • Osh Technological University
  • Kyrgyz Agrarian University
  • National Academy of Sciences
  • Innovation Centre of Phytotechnology
  • Institute of Forestry
  • Botanic Garden of the National Academy of Sciences
  • TAZA
  • Regional Ecological Centre (CAREC), Bishkek
  • Kyrgyz State University

Project context:

The forests of southern Kyrgyzstan are of global conservation importance, being dominated by walnut (Juglans regia) and containing many other fruit- and nut-bearing trees, including a high diversity of apple (Malus), pear (Pyrus), cherry and plum (Prunus) species. These forests are the source of many domesticated fruit and nut trees that are cultivated widely in temperate countries, including apple (Juniper and Mabberley 2006). The area is referred to as ‘Eden’ in a recent account (Deakin 2008), reflecting the uniquely high diversity of edible fruit and nut species, together with their extraordinary role in human history and culture, involving dispersal along the Silk Road in antiquity. The many wild tree-crop relatives found in these forests are of exceptional commercial importance, yet 11 of these tree species are now critically endangered (Eastwood et al. 2009). Only 30,000 ha of this forest remains, less than 5% of its original area. The flora comprises 5000 species, of which 180 are trees, including many local endemics.

The Kyrgyz Republic ratified the Biodiversity Convention in 1996, and in support of its implementation, developed a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP), in which fruit- and nut-forests are identified as one of two key priorities. The NBSAP notes that these forests have declined by 50% in recent decades, as a result of unsustainable land use practices. The current project is designed specifically to address Strategic Component C (‘Sustainable Use’) of the NBSAP, and will directly contribute to the fulfilment of national obligations under the CBD.

Some 48,000 people live in the project study area, around 80% of whom live below the poverty line. Their livelihoods depend strongly on forest products such as fruits, nuts, firewood and honey. However, yields of forest products are declining rapidly because of unsustainable land use practices. Approaches are therefore required to improve the sustainability of forest management. This project will explore the development and application of participatory management approaches, with the active involvement of local communities.

Project Activities

This project will comprise the following activities:

  • Institutional capacity building. Capacity to undertake research is currently limited in Kyrgyzstan, because of a lack of financial and institutional support. This will be addressed through a programme of institutional strengthening, and through a programme of collaborative research, detailed below, involving partners from the UK and Kyrgyzstan.
  • Training. Training will be provided on forest survey techniques, monitoring and participatory management approaches, both in the UK and in Kyrgyzstan.
  • Research. A collaborative research programme will be developed focusing on the sustainable management of fruit- and nut-forest. This will involve: (i) Analysis of spatial distribution, stand structure and stand dynamics of threatened fruit and nut tree species. This will be achieved by field surveys supported by spatial analysis of remote sensing imagery, and will enable their conservation status to be assessed, and priorities for action to be identified. (ii) Analysis of the impact of current land use practices on the structure and composition of fruit- and nut-forest, with a particular focus on examining the potential impacts of harvesting and livestock grazing. This will be achieved by field survey supported by forest simulation modelling, to identify sustainable harvesting thresholds and management recommendations. (iii) Development of monitoring methods and indicators appropriate for implementation by local communities. This will strengthen capacity of forest users to monitor the impacts of their land use decisions, and to adjust their management practices accordingly, through a process of adaptive management.
  • Outreach. Results of the research will be used to (i) develop plans for sustainable management of fruit and nut forest; and (ii) identify implications for policy-makers at both local and national scales, to support the sustainable management of fruit and nut forests. The project will also provide: (i) a community outreach programme to be developed in the study area, to raise awareness of the need for sustainable land use practices; (ii) a workshop supported by policy briefs to present policy recommendations to relevant stakeholders, including national government agencies and CBD national focal point; (iii) an interpretation facility at the national Botanic Gardens, supported by a campaign in the national media, with the aim of raising public awareness of the national and international importance of fruit and nut forests; (iv) scientific publications.
    The project will be aimed directly at implementing the ecosystem approach, by supporting the development of forest management strategies that promote conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way. The integral role of humans in these ecosystems will be addressed through the development of participatory management approaches.


For further information about the project, please contact Prof. Adrian Newton, Centre for Conservation Ecology and Environmental Change, Bournemouth University.


Deakin, R. (2008). Wildwood: a journey through trees. Hamish Hamilton, London.

Eastwood, A., Lazkov, G. and Newton, A.C. (2009) The Red List of Trees of Central Asia. Fauna and Flora International, Cambridge, UK, with IUCN and BGCI.

Juniper, B.E. and Mabberley, D.J. (2006) The story of the apple. Timber press, Oregon.

Conserving Eden: participatory forest management in the Tien Shan region
A project funded by the
Darwin Initiative

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