Bamboos: great benefits for people but a possible threat to plant communities?
Dr. Panadda LarpkernCollege of Bodhivijjalaya, Srinakharinwirot University
Bamboos are perennial grasses in the family Poaceae, sub-family Bambusoideae. They are thefastest growing plants in the world and well known as “pioneer species”. There areapproximately 87 genera and about 1,500 species of bamboo worldwide (Zhou et al. 2005).Bamboos are widely distributed in tropical, subtropical and temperate forest ecosystems,especially found in Asia and South America (Söderström and Calderon 1979; Li and Kobayashi2004; Zhou et al. 2005). Bamboos spread by underground rhizomes, and culms (stalks) arisefrom the rhizomes to form the aerial parts. The culms sprout branches from nodes, and leavesgrow from branches. The flowering habits of bamboo are not well understood. Some bamboosflower annually or within short intervals, while some flower simultaneously after long intervalsof several decades (Söderström and Calderon 1979). Rhizomes are an important structure usedin bamboo taxonomy. There are two basic types of bamboos, according to the rhizome systems:monopodial (running); and sympodial (clumping) types. Tropical bamboos are mostly of theclumping type, while temperate bamboos are the running type (Söderström and Calderon1979).Bamboos are very important for the culture and economy in Asia. In Thailand, there are13 genera and 60 species of bamboos recorded (Pattanavibool 2000). They are used for basicliving, including food, household construction, basket making, musical instruments, medicine,firewood and furniture. Although, bamboos have great benefits for people, they may threatenother plant species in forest communities.Bamboos are important components of many forest types in Asia (Bystriakova et al.2003; Zhou et al. 2005), and they have been increasing in their cover in disturbed forests(Garner et al 2000; Forest Restoration Research Unit 2006). Disturbances, both natural andanthropogenic, have been related to a shift in bamboo dominance (Söderström and Calderon1979; Griscom and Ashton 2003). Recently, Franklin et al. (2010) suggested that bamboos maynot be facilitated by disturbances, but instead they can persist and be resilient to disturbances