For many developing countries, tropical forests represent an important resource base for economic development. If managed wisely, the forest has the capacity to provide a perpetual stream of income and subsistence products, while supporting other economic activities (such as fisheries and agriculture) through its ecological services and functions.
Tropical forestland may be utilised in many different ways. It can be used for commercial timber extraction, it may be converted for commercial agriculture purposes such as oil palm or rubber plantations, it may be used for traditional subsistence activities (for example, traditional agricultural practices such as agroforestry and shifting cultivation, and/or for the extraction of non-timber forest products or it may be afforded various levels of protection through the establishment of a Protected Area, a National Park or Wildlife Sanctuary (TIED 1994).
How best to manage tropical forests has become a growing concern for policy makers, interest groups and the public due to: the increasing scarcity of virgin forest land, greater awareness and understanding of the social and economic implications of destructive forest aractices; and, a growing realisation that the significant opportunities for economic Development based on forestry activities should not be wasted.