The socio-political developments in the tropics during this century have led to the establishment of a large number of new states whose demands on natural resources for economic development has reached thresholds several times higher than the former economic needs of a largely subsistence-oriented indigenous population required. New guidelines for the exploitation, management and conservation of tropical ecosystems have evolved since 1950 on international, regional, national and local levels. Based on these concepts, the problems of tropical ecosystem use and conservation now require studies involving various different disciplines. Research methodologies and techniques need to be fine-tuned to answer specific questions relevant to a decision-making technocracy that is responsible for the management of tropical ecosystems. An example is the formulation of the ITTO guidelines included in this volume. Tropical ecosystem studies have thus entered a phase where they need to address local and regional issues and problems using innovative approaches that could contribute to the formulation of sustainable management strategies within a generally accepted international framework. The connection between scientific studies and decision-making processes will become increasingly indispensable in determining the success of strategies implemented for the management of tropical ecosystems.

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