MUSCAT: The Environment Society of Oman (ESO) presented new findings on sustainable harvesting of sultanate’s famous frankincense trees during a press conference held at Crowne Plaza Muscat, on Wednesday.

The ESO has successfully carried out a four-year project with the help of HSBC Bank Oman on frankincense trees in order to protect and preserve an important aspect of Oman’s heritage and environment for generations to come.

The study, which ended in 2014, took place in four experimental research locations in the governorate of Dhofar, where three meteorological stations were deployed to monitor the impact of climatic factors on resin production.

ESO’s project has resulted in important scientific findings. Dr Mohsin al Aamry, project leader and former ESO board member representing Dhofar, said, “I am delighted to share this new information about the sustainable harvesting of a tree that holds a special place in the Omani heritage. The challenge now is to put these new findings into practice and ensure the survival of the frankincense tree.”

Over the centuries, frankincense has been a large source of income for the people of Dhofar and is today an internationally-renowned commodity produced in this part of the world.

Frankincense trees also positively contribute to the environment by growing on marginal land that is not suitable for ordinary agriculture. They are also known to protect soil from erosion by producing substantial biomass.

Dr Aamry said that the ESO has designed an infographic poster to create awareness among people and advise those engaged in frankincense industry about the ways of sustainable harvesting of frankincense.

“It is vital for the survival of this endemic tree,” he said.

Frankincense is harvested by tapping the trunk and branches of the Boswellia sacra tree (commonly known as frankincense or olibanum-tree). However, it cannot be done throughout the year. Generally, harvesting is avoided from June to October.

In the past few years, after closely monitoring the growth patterns of frankincense trees, researchers have observed that excessive tapping has harshly affected trees, often leading to degradation that is beyond repair.

Researches have found out that the optimal size of tapping on the tree should not exceed a surface of 12sq cm, which means barely shaving the external layer of the trunk.

The number of taps should also depend on the height of the tree, size of its trunk and foliage cover.