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It can be surprising to learn how many commonly used objects are derived from tree bark. Cork, cinnamon, paper, rope, baskets, aphrodisiacs, anti-parasitic and anti-tumor medicines, industrial tannins, lathering agents – just a handful of the uses humans have found for trees whose bark has certain structural or chemical characteristics.
Unfortunately, some trees are too useful for their own good. While the impacts of timber production have been well documented, by comparison our understanding of bark production and trade is developing. Here, prominent researchers fill that gap with 15 papers that address bark in these ways:
- Ecological and Ethnobotanical Context
- Case Studies: Ecology and Bark Harvest
- Small-Scale Resource, Large-Scale Trade: The International Economic Context
- Local, Social, and Economic Context
ln his introduction, Tony Cunningham invites the reader “to get to know trees – and the landscapes they characterize – through a botany that uses all your senses.” Science offers a succinct description of baobab tree bark, for example, but those who accept Cunningham’s invitation will also observe it “gleaming silvery-gray in the morning sun; the sweet taste of the inner bark (bast), chewed by elephants and thirsty people, or the white edible fruit pulp, tart on the tongue.”
More effective conservation and resource management need good science, of course; but the emotional ties forged by direct experience, Cunningham says, are what allow us to augment the ability of science to induce policymakers and the general public to pay attention to what we need to do to keep bark safe.