| Authors||J.G.S. Compton, F.A. Zich|
|Title||Gyrinops ledermannii (Thymelaeaceae), being an agarwood-producing species prompts call for further examination of taxonomic implications in the generic delimitation between Aquilaria and Gyrinops|
|Journal||Flora Malesiana Bulletin|
|Abstract||Field research conducted in Papua New Guinea (PNG) has recorded Gyrinops ledermannii Domke (Thymelaeaceae) as an agarwood-producing species for the first time.|
Aquilaria malaccensis Lam. (incl. A. agallocha Roxb.; Thymelaeaceae) or agarwood (also known as aloeswood, eaglewood, gaharu, and incensewood, and many other vernacular names) after infection by certain fungi develops a fragrant substance called agar in its wood. This has been traded since biblical times for its use in religious, medicinal, and aromatic preparations (see also Chadha, 1985).
Agarwood-producing species in the Thymelaeaceae [Aetoxylon sympetalum (Steen. & Domke) Airy Shaw, Aquilaria beccariana Tiegh., A. filaria (Oken) Merr., A. hirta Ridl., A. malaccensis, A. microcarpa Baill., and Gonostylus bancanus (Miq.) Kurz] are found from India eastwards to Hainan, S China, and New Guinea.
Agarwood is found naturally in only a small percentage of trees – with the highestgrade ‘product’ usually harvested from certain species of Aquilaria and despite the high levels of harvest and trade, only A. malaccensis is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). Over 1000 tonnes of agarwood were reported in international trade under the name A. malaccensis in 1998.
The island of New Guinea is the eastern border of the agarwood-producing species’ range, and could also be the world’s last frontier for substantial wild agarwood stocks. But even New Guinea’s agarwood faces the threat of unprecedented levels of harvest and trade that have expanded over the past five years.
On the PNG side of the border, harvesting has been prevalent since 1997 (O. Gideon, pers. comm. to TRAFFIC Oceania, 1999). At that time, PNG government authorities presumed that the species harvested for agarwood was A. filaria (Oken) Merr., which has been recorded from several locations in Irian Jaya (Ding Hou, 1960).
The catalyst for this ‘sudden’ discovery of agarwood in PNG is most likely associated with Asian traders visiting the Sepik provinces bordering Irian Jaya, but could also involve Melanesian clan groups whose traditional lands traverse both sides of the border. Prior to the past five years, most indigenous PNGeans had never heard of the agarwood tree, nor used it for any traditional applications. It was widely regarded as just another forest tree unsuitable for making canoes or houses.
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