Conserving Central Asia’s fruit and nut forests

The ancient fruit and nut forests of Central Asia contain the living ancestors of many now domesticated fruit and nut varieties, including the apple, apricot, pear and walnut.

The Global Trees Campaign has been working in the region since 2005, catalysing greater awareness and action for threatened trees in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

The fruit and nut forests of Central Asia contain the living ancestors of domestic apples, pears, walnuts, almonds and other important food trees. These wild varieties of domestic crops may contain resistance to pests and plant diseases important for meeting the challenges of food production in the future.

However these forests have declined by 90% in the last 50 years and are threatened by destructive activities such as overgrazing and the unsustainable collection of fire wood.

This region is home to 67 threatened tree species and the Global Trees Campaign (GTC) has been working with several species within this landscape since 2006, with projects in both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Present work in Kyrgyzstan is focussing on two key forest blocks; Kyzyl Unkur and Sary Chelek and through the support of the University of Bournemouth, in the Tien Shan region.

Surveys have revealed the presence of a fragmented and vulnerable population of the threatened Niedzwetsky apple (Malus niedzwetzkyana), with only 117 individuals remaining in Kyrgyzstan.

GTC is working with rural communities and government staff to improve the long-term survival of key species and support local livelihoods by:

  • Running training sessions for the state forestry service and reserve staff to help with identification, monitoring and protection of rare tree species
  • Supporting nurseries to grow seedlings of threatened tree species to reinforce wild populations
  • Working with the local communities that surround these forests to agree plans for more sustainable forest use
Projects in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are supporting the conservation of a wide range of wild fruit and nut trees.  Credit: Jason B Smith.

Projects in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are supporting the conservation of a wide range of wild fruit and nut trees. Credit: Jason B Smith.

In Tajikistan, surveys in Childukhtaron forest have confirmed populations of the critically endangered Bukharan pear (Pyrus korshinskyi).

Our partner Zan va Zamin is pioneering forest restoration activities with local communities. They are building tree nurseries in local schools and setting-up eco-clubs of school children to oversee the planting of young trees into the forests, boosting populations of these rare trees and increasing pride and awareness of their importance.

Did you know?

Roasted seeds from the Critically Endangered Paraná pine are a popular winter snack in Southern Brazil.