Frankincese Trees in Peril
The scented treasue is produced by tapping Boswellia trees, which grow in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian peninsula, yet these trees are declining so steeply in number that within only 50 years over 90% could have disappeared if preservation action is not taken
Frankincese Trees in Peril
Over the next 15 years, frankincense production could fall by 50% because the number of the trees that make the resin, researchers have warned, is in steep decline. Used obviously in the production of both incense and perfume this wonderful stuff was said to be one of three gifts presented by wise men to the newborn baby Jesus.
The scented treasue is produced by tapping Boswellia trees, which grow in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian peninsula, yet these trees are declining so steeply in number that within only 50 years over 90% could have disappeared if preservation action is not taken.
British Ecological Society Journal of Applied Ecology conducted a study of twelve different location Boswellia tree plantations in Ethiopia, which resulted in their realising that the species suffers losses through fire, over-grazing and attack by insects.
6% to 7% a year of adult trees are dying annually, the two-year study showed, reasons being mainly the increased incidence of beetle attacks, because of reduction in tree numbers, damage through fire resulting from a slash-and-burn policy adopted by farmers making trees more insect-susceptible.
Seedlings fail to grow into saplings because larger herds of cattle graze them amongst the new fodder plant growth planted after the burning. Young trees never get to develop, though in one more remote location, not subject to burning or grazing, the trees appeared much healthier all round.
Dutch Wageningen University Dr Frans Bongers maintained that, if things carry on as they are currently doing, in respect of farming practices, then even though Frankincense extraction is not the cause of population decline, production of the spice could, within 50 years, be merely a memory.
Efforts are needed now to stop the indiscriminate use of fires, in order to prevent high adult tree death rates, and more research needs doing into controlling the offending beetles. Also essential are long-term management plans, some areas needing to be protected long enough to allow saplings to establish themselves and grow into mature specimens.
It may not matter to many that this iconic spice is under threat, but once again that danger is being posed by a thoughtless human population, and one cannot help but wonder how much longer it will be before nature decides to bite back, letting the human race know for once and all just how fragile and insignificant we truly are in the greater scheme of things.