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Nontimber forest products (NTFP) are considered as any commodity obtained from the forest that does not necessitate harvesting trees. It includes game animals, fur-bearers, nuts and seeds, berries,mushrooms, oils, foliage, medicinal plants, peat, fuelwood, forage, etc..


Some definitions also include small animals and insects. A few examples of the many thousands of different kinds of NTFPs include mushrooms, huckleberries, ferns, tree boughs, transplants, cones, piñon seed, and Brazil nuts, moss, maple syrup, rubber, honey from bees raised in or near forests, vines, oils, resins, cascara bark and ginseng.

Products are commonly grouped into categories such as floral greens, decoratives, medicinal plants, foods, flavors and fragrances, fibers, and saps and resins.

Other terms synonymous with non-timber forest product include special forest product, non wood forest product, minor forest product, alternative forest product and secondary forest product. These terms are useful because they help highlight forest products that are of value to local people and communities, but that have often been overlooked in the wake of forest management priorities such as timber production and animal forage. In recent decades interest has grown in using NTFPs as an alternative or supplement to forest management practices such as clearcut logging. In some forest types and under the right political and social conditions forests could be managed to increase NTFP diversity, and consequently biodiversity and economic diversity.


Since pre-history, humans around the world have relied on products derived from forest species for their survival and well-being. NTFP harvesting remains widespread throughout the world. People from diverse income levels, age groups, and cultural backgrounds harvest NTFPs for household subsistence, maintaining cultural and family traditions, obtaining spiritual fulfillment, maintaining physical and emotional well-being, scientific learning, and earning income. Other terms synonymous with harvesting include wildcrafting, gathering, collecting and foraging.

NTFPs serve as raw materials for industries ranging from large-scale floral greens suppliers and pharmaceutical companies to micro-enterprises centered around basket-making, woodcarving, medicinal plant harvesting and processing, and a variety of other activities.

Economic Importance

Estimating the contribution of NTFPs to national or regional economies is difficult due to the lack of broad-based systems for tracking the combined value of the hundreds of products that make up the various NTFP industries. The exception to this is the maple syrup industry, which in 2002 in the United Statesmarker alone yielded 1.4 million gallons worth $38.3 million USD. In temperate forests such as those in United States wild edible mushrooms such as matsutake, medicinal plants such as ginseng, and floral greens such as salal and sword fern are multimillion dollar industries. While these high value species may grab the most attention, a diversity of NTFPs can be found in most forests of the world. Their economic, cultural, and ecological value when considered in aggregate makes managing for NTFPs an important component of sustainable forest management and the conservation of biological and cultural diversity.

See also


Further reading

  • Emery, Marla and Rebecca J. McLain; (editors). 2001. Non-Timber Forest Products: Medicinal Herbs, Fungi, Edible Fruits and Nuts, and Other Natural Products from the Forest. Food Products Press: Binghamton, New Yorkmarker.
  • Guillen, Abraham; Laird, Sarah A.; Shanley, Patricia; Pierce, Alan R. (editors). 2002. Tapping the Green Market: Certification and Management of Non-Timber Forest Products. Earthscan
  • Jones, Eric T. Rebecca J. McLain, and James Weigand. eds. 2002. Non Timber Forest Products in the United States. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press.
  • Delang, Claudio O. 2006. ‘The Role of Wild Food Plants in Poverty Alleviation and Biodiversity Conservation in Tropical Countries’. Progress in Development Studies 6(4): 275-286

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