The Mulanje cedar has been heavily exploited in the past (3) (5) (9), with its wood used as timber and its sawdust distilled to obtain oil for local use as an insecticide (3) (5) (10). The wood is considered enormously valuable, being very fragrant and resistant to termites, borers and fungal disease. It is used locally for making carvings, boxes and furniture sold to tourists and is also sold abroad for light construction and flooring. The timber is thought to be particularly good for boat-building, to the point that fishery officials have urged that remaining supplies be reserved for the Lake Malawi fishing industry. The Forestry Department of Malawi have recently agreed to supply Mulanje Cedar to build 450 boats for this purpose (11). The tree's decline has been somewhat stemmed by a ban on felling, allowing exploitation only of dead trees, but illegal felling and killing of trees continues at an alarming rate. The Mulanje Mountain Forest Reserve is also generally threatened by encroachment and large-scale development, such as the continual threat of bauxite mining. Additionally, there is concern that mature individuals appear to be dying at a high rate, thought possibly to be due to their high sensitivity to forest fires and susceptibility to attacks by a species of aphid (3). Regeneration, on the other hand, seems to depend on fire and is extremely poor. In addition, Pinus patula (originally a commercial plantation species) has invaded a number of areas suitable for Widdringtonia colonisation (5) (9). All these threats have greatly impacted the Mulanje cedar; a 2007 study found that the remaining Mulanje cedar forests had been reduced by 40 percent over the previous 15 years (3). Out of the remaining 845.3 hectares of forest identified, over 32 percent of standing Mulanje cedar was found to be dead (3). As so much dead wood is available for utilisation, there should be no reason to cut live Mulanje cedar (3).
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