Why these species?
The ancient fruit-and-nut forests of Central Asia contain the living ancestors of many now domesticated varieties, including the apple, apricot, pear and walnut. 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.
For both the Tajik and Bukharan pears, the greatest threat is low natural regeneration, which is mainly due to overgrazing and haymaking in the forest, causing high mortality of young saplings. Pests are reported to affect the pear trees and fireblight is an emerging disease for fruit trees in Central Asia. Additionally, climate change could negatively affect pear trees, directly through increasing temperature, increasing summer precipitation, longer periods of winter drought and natural disasters, or by making other threats more severe, for example by affecting grazing patterns.
Work to protect pears across the landscape and within the reserves is constrained by incomplete knowledge on the species’ population size and distribution, by insufficient resourcing of nature reserve staff and by low engagement and interest from local communities.
What are we doing about it?
FFI has been working to conserve the fruit and nut habitat in Tajikistan since 2008, principally focusing on Childukhtaron and Dashtijum nature reserves. Since 2016, we have also been working with Sary-Khosor reserve, identified as a third key area of fruit-and-nut habitat in Tajikistan.
We aim to increase the size and resilience of threatened pear populations by increasing their protection and natural regeneration and by planting seedlings in strategically located sites to increase the species’ area of occupancy. Throughout the project, we are empowering local villagers to develop sustainable livelihoods and enhance the skills and knowledge of reserve staff and local people to enable them to continue work to protect these key species in the long-term.
Building capacity of nature reserve staff to develop and apply essential skills for tree conservation has formed a major component of our work to date. We have trained staff to identify, monitor and instigate management actions for pear species, supported them to protect critical areas for pears from livestock through fencing and initiated population reinforcement for both target species.
Fenced plots have effectively demonstrated that protection from grazing significantly boosts forest regeneration and the number of pear seedlings in each plot increases year on year, compared to almost zero regeneration outside the fenced plots. We aim to replicate this success by fencing other important areas for the two pear species.
Alongside protection of wild trees, we are working with local stakeholders to grow, plant and care for seedlings. Over 13,000 seedlings across both species have so far been planted out, providing a boost to the small wild populations and improving resilience to emerging threats.
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