Statement by the Delegate of Thailand on the Thung Yai-Huay Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuaries
I was somewhat disturbed by the statement in the first sentence in terms of the totality of the Wildlife Sanctuary. The forest fire that was referred to occurred only in a confined area of dry deciduous dipterocarp forest, where fire is a function of the ecosystem. Besides, last year's fire was much less in extent than the one of five years ago.
The World Heritage site is the largest in the mainland Southeast Asia, consisting of four ecosystems : Sundaic, Indo-Burmese, Sino-Himalayan and Indo-Chinese.
One of the Indo-Chinese forest types is the dry dipterocarp forest which is located on the rim of the eastern part of this site not far from the outside resort where the workshop was organized.
Forest fires in this type of forest are surface fires and the forest trees are fire resistant. In this type of forest ecosystem, surface fires reduce ground litter of leaves and branches and make it possible for the seeds of the trees to germinate. Surface fires also function as the natural and effective means of biological control of insects and disease infestations. The exposure of the soil by fires allows grasses and new brush to grow to feed the wildlife.
It is true that most fires in this area resulted from carelessness of the farmers outside the buffer zones and thus undesirable and haphazard.
It is my considered opinion that complete fire exclusion, which the text on page 23 seems to suggest, is most likely to bring about undesirable changes in vegetation pattern and will also certainly allow accumulation of fuel on the ground forest with increased potential catastrophic fires.
For the above ecological reasons, I have been advocating the use of fires as a tool in forest land management of the dipterocarp forest or even the mixed deciduous forests. In the management plan for such ecosystems, prescribed burning can be used under carefully controlled conditions to remove unwanted debris, to keep fuels from accumulating and to favour tree seedling. Since most grasses and shrubs grow well after fires, and animals are attracted to the tender and nutritious new growth, such prescribed fires benefit both wildlife and the mosaic vegetation of different ages that result from frequent fires and will favour a rich diversity of plant and animal life.