Can’t See the (Bamboo) Forest for the Trees: Examining Bamboo’s Fit Within International Forestry Institutions


Over the centuries, governments and international agencies have developed a wide range of institutions to manage timber resources and conserve values provided by treed lands. Concerns regarding the sustainable supply of timber have provided opportunities for the development of substitute resources; however, bamboo and other non-timber forest resources have not been a part of the development of these institutions. Bamboo is a unique Non-Timber Forest Product, as it is often classified as forest or timber, and therefore must adhere to the same regulations as timber. Given the recent global expansion of bamboo, it is timely to examine the interplay between bamboo and the traditional institutions of forest governance. This paper aims to contribute to debates regarding cognitive institutional constraints on the development of substitute natural resources using bamboo as a case study, with specific focus on the applicability of Forest Stewardship Council certification, timber legality verification and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation to bamboos.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    Institutions can be divided into regulative, normative, and cognitive models (Scott 1995). Regulative aspects are based on legal sanctions; normative aspects are morally grounded and cognitive aspects of institutions refer to the collective construction of social reality embodied within public activity.

  2. 2.

    The first certificate dates from 2008.

  3. 3.

    The first certificate dates from 2011.

  4. 4.

    EcoPlanet Bamboo has FSC-certified plantations in Nicaragua, however, these are currently not listed on the database.


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With thanks to Paul Jepson, Graeme Auld and Constance McDermott for their input into the DPhil thesis version of this article.

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Correspondence to Kathleen Carmel Buckingham.

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Buckingham, K.C., Wu, L. & Lou, Y. Can’t See the (Bamboo) Forest for the Trees: Examining Bamboo’s Fit Within International Forestry Institutions. AMBIO 43, 770–778 (2014).

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  • Bamboo
  • Forestry
  • Forest certification
  • REDD+
  • Timber legality verification
  • Institutions