Aquilaria malaccensis 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Plantae Tracheophyta Magnoliopsida Malvales Thymelaeaceae

Scientific Name: Aquilaria malaccensis Lam.
Common Name(s):
English Agarwood, Aloeswood, Eaglewood, Lign-aloes
Aquilaria moluccensis Lam. [orth. error]
Aquilaria secundaria DC.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered A2cd ver 3.1
Year Published: 2018
Date Assessed: 2018-02-22
Assessor(s): Harvey-Brown, Y.
Reviewer(s): Fernando, E., Malabrigo, P., Randi, A., Irawati, N.F.N. & Anak Sang, J.
Contributor(s): Mohamed, R., Rivers, M.C., Brown, L., Barstow, M., Oldfield, T.E.E., L.S.L. & C.
Aquilaria malaccensis is a large evergreen tree which occurs in Bangladesh, Bhutan, northeast India, Sumatra and Kalimantan of Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Myanmar, Luzon Philippines, Singapore and southern Thailand. The species is targeted extensively for the valuable resin known as agarwood and it is now thought to be extinct in India and almost extinct in East Kalimantan. As a result of agarwood exploitation it is estimated the population for the last three generations has declined by over 80%. It is therefore assessed here as Critically Endangered. It is recommended that its population is monitored and species identifications procedures are implemented to enable its trade and use to be regulated with greater accuracy.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Aquilaria malaccensis is the most widespread species of the Aquilaria genus found in Bangladesh, Bhutan, northeast India, Sumatra and Kalimantan of Indonesia, Iran (although A. malaccensis presence in Iran is contested in CITES 2003), Malaysia, Myanmar, southern Philippines, Singapore and southern Thailand (Lee and Mohamed 2016). It is found at altitudes between 0 and 1000 m asl (CITES 2003). This species presence in Sarawak needs confirmation (J. Sang pers. comm. 2018).
Countries occurrence:
Bangladesh; Bhutan; India (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura); Indonesia (Kalimantan, Sumatera); Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah); Myanmar (Myanmar (mainland)); Philippines; Singapore; Thailand
Additional data:
Upper elevation limit (metres):1000
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The population density of Aquilaria malaccensis was estimated to be only one to two individuals per hectare in Indonesia (Turjaman et al. 2016). Mortality has also been found to be consistently higher than recruitment (germination rate between 0-19%). Research by Chamling (1996) found that A. malaccensis in Bhutan was considerably less abundant due to illegal harvesting and is now extremely rare. In 2003 only a few wild stands of A. malaccensis remained in India and it was almost extinct (CITES 2003). The species is considered virtually extinct in West Kalimantan by Soehartono and Mardiastuti (1997). Over the last decade mature individuals have not been found across forest plots in Papua, Kalimantan and Sumatra (A. Randi pers. comm. 2018). Seedlings are taken from the wild for home cultivation and agarwood harvesting (A. Randi pers. comm. 2018). In Indonesia, Aquilaria is indiscriminately targeted for agarwood harvesting which has resulted in an estimated decline of over 80%. The species is widespread in Malaysia but occurs at a low density (Chua 2008). It is estimated that that up to 89% of mature individuals were lost within Peninsula Malaysia between 1993 and 2004 (Chua et al. 2016). It is believed that similar losses have occurred across the rest of its range, therefore it is estimated here that over the last three generations A. malaccensis population decline has been over 80%.
For further information about this species, see 32056_Aquilaria_malaccensis.pdf.
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Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Aquilaria malaccensis is a large evergreen tree which is found in a variety of habitats including rocky, sandy or calcareous soils, well-drained slopes and ridges and areas near swamps (CITES 2003). In Indonesia this species can occur as an emergent tree (Page and Awarau 2012). In India it is found mainly in the foothills and undulating slopes of evergreen and semi-evergreen forests (Chakrabarty et al. 1994). In nursery conditions, seeds of A. malaccensis germinated rapidly and with a relatively high germination rate (>50%) (Soehartono and Newton 2001). Aquilaria spp. have been observed to have a low natural regeneration and to be slow growing (CITES 2015).
Generation Length (years):50-100

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Agarwood is a fragrant resin, which is produced by certain trees of the genus Aquilaria. Agarwood has multiple uses and has been utilised for over 2000 years for medicinal, aromatic and religious purposes (Lee and Mohamed 2016). The majority of the wood produced from A. malaccensis is processed to make oil to develop perfumes and cosmetics products, similarly, wood chips are processed into powder, which form the raw material to create incense, the remainder of the solid wood can be carved to create wooden sculptures, religious items and jewellery (Pearson 2008). Some local people in Indonesia have also utilised the fiber sourced from agarwood to create rope necklaces to be worn by children as religious symbols (CITES 2015).  In Thailand A. malaccensis is used as a blood and heart tonic (Lemmens and Bunyapraphatsara 2003).

The most commonly utilised agarwood species is A. malaccensis and is often considered by some countries such as Korea to be the only true agarwood producing species (Lee and Mohamed 2016). Agarwood is traded in a variety of forms including whole plants, chips, oil, logs and timber (Chua 2008). The value of agarwood is not dependent on the species however it is affected by factors including size, resin content, fragrance, colour and country of origin (Barden et al. 2000). Aquilaria malaccensis is the preferred source of agarwood for perfumery and religious traditions in the Middle East and India (Lee and Mohamed 2016). Some species of agarwood have been successfully cultivated in plantations on both small scale holdings utilised by local communities and large plantations, however there is uncertainty regarding the quality of the final products in comparison to their natural counterparts (Pearson 2008). In India, more specifically within the Assam region, agarwood is known to be cultivated at small scales within home gardens for economic purposes due to the low input and management required with growing this species and is providing a good incentive for protection and conservation of this species (Saikia and Khan 2012). 

Only eight species of agarwood appear in CITES Trade data, of which A. malaccensis is the most common species within trade (TRAFFIC pers. comm. 2017;  see Figures 1, 2 and 3 in the Supplementary Material). Aquilaria malaccensis was particularly heavily exploited to fulfill the global demand of agarwood products, which resulted in it being the first Aquilaria species to be subject to trade regulations under CITES (Rasool and Mohamed 2016). However due to difficulties in identification of Aquilaria spp. countries such as Indonesia were initially reporting all exports of agarwood species under A. malaccensis and therefore may attribute to over-reporting of this species within CITES Trade Data (CITES 2015).  Although all Aquilaria sp. are listed on Appendix II of CITES there are no species identification procedures in place. This make effective regulation and monitoring of the genus in trade extremely difficult (Soeharto et al. 2016).
In Indonesia the planting of Aquilaria has taken place since the 1980's and in more recent years this has also included small scale planting in which local people in Sumatra, Lombok, Java and Kalimantan plant trees in their gardens as a form of shade (CITES 2015). In Malaysia the primary collectors of agarwood are usually indigenous people that sell the produce to traders where it is transported to the larger towns to be sold, foreign nationals in Malaysia are reported to be involved in the harvesting of agarwood to supply illegal markets (Lim and Noorainie 2010). In Indonesia small-scale plantations have been created in order to supplement the demand from wild-sourced specimens, these are often small-scale plantations run traditionally by farmers. Sumatera and Kalimantan Islands were found to be the main providers of A. malaccensis contributing an estimated 85% of  the countries wild-agarwood (Turjaman and Hidayat 2017). In Malaysia A. malaccensis is the preferred agarwood-producing species for plantations and is often cultivated in both monoculture and crop rotation systems. Since the 1990's Malaysia has faced increasing issues with illegal deforestation of this species, especially from agarwood traders that cross the borders from Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines and Cambodia (Chong et al. 2015). Illegal logging activities within this region are indiscriminate on felling Aquilaria trees and trees of all shapes and sizes are cut down regardless of whether they are producing agarwood (Chong et al. 2015). 

Due to the high economical value of agarwood it has been recognised as a species that could aid sustainable development in certain areas. For example, BRAC, an international development organisation in Bangladesh started a 17 acre plantation at Kaiychara tea estate and planted an estimated 84,400 A. malaccensis saplings (Akter et al. 2013). It was recognised by BRAC that agarwood plantations present an opportunity to act as a carbon sink to reduce greenhouse gases in addition to income and alternative livelihoods for local communities and contributing to the country's economy. The high economical value of a non-timber forest product such as agarwood that can be cultivated on plantations combined with the high global demand that cannot be met from wild populations alone present potential opportunities for sustainable development in countries such as Bangladesh and warrant further investigation (Akter et al. 2013).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The predominate threat to Aquilaria malaccensis is unregulated harvesting and trade of its resinous wood known as agarwood (CITES 2003). Demand for agarwood is so high that specialist are employed full time to search for wild populations. The species is exploited heavily throughout its range apart from perhaps Singapore (CITES 2003) and the Philippines. Across its range A. malaccensis is also vulnerable to logging for timber (CITES 2003). In addition in Indonesia A. malaccensis is also threatened by forest fires and mining. Although seed production was reported to be high in Indonesia, its germination rate was found to be low and seed dispersal limited (Turjaman et al. 2016). In the Philippines the main threat for this species is habitat loss (E. Fernando pers. comm. 2018).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Aquilaria malaccensis is grown in plantations by the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia. The results of trial planting have found that the survival of tissue-cultured plantlets 24 months after planting was 66.3% whereas the survival rate of seedlings was 40.3% (Chua 2008). It is reported to occur in five ex situ sites worldwide (BGCI PlantSearch 2017). All species of the genus Aquilaria have been listed on Appendix II of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) since 2005. Aquilaria malaccensis is assessed as Vulnerable in Peninsular Malaysia (Lau and Chua 2012) and Endangered in the Philippines. It is recommended that its population is monitored and species identifications procedures are implemented to enable its trade and use to be regulated with greater accuracy. There needs to be a greater enforcement of harvesting quotas to ensure compliance with CITES Appendix II. It is also advised that species recovery programs are implemented to reintroduce this species back into its natural habitat.

Citation: Harvey-Brown, Y. 2018. Aquilaria malaccensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T32056A2810130. . Downloaded on 23 September 2018.
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