By Eric Hamilton
Deforestation dropped by 18 percent in two years in African countries where organizations subscribed to receive warnings from a new service using satellites to detect decreases in forest cover in the tropics.
The carbon emissions avoided by reducing deforestation were worth between $149 million and $696 million, based on the ability of lower emissions to reduce the detrimental economic consequences of climate change.
Those findings come from new research into the effect of GLAD, the Global Land Analysis and Discovery system, available on the free and interactive interface Global Forest Watch. Launched in 2016, GLAD provides frequent, high-resolution alerts when it detects a drop in forest cover. Governments and others interested in halting deforestation can subscribe to the alerts on Global Forest Watch and then intervene to limit forest loss.
By Shannon Brennan
Twenty-three years ago, a handful of people had a vision for preserving old-growth forests in Virginia. Not that we had many.
When Europeans first came here, the land was thick with old giants, but by the time of the Civil War, nearly the entire state had been clear-cut.
Less than one-half of 1% is truly old growth. Slowly, some larger areas are being allowed to regenerate.
Old-growth forests provide critical habitat for many species, including salamanders, soil invertebrates, small mammals, songbirds and black bears. Standing dead wood is important for many wildlife species.
Gaps in the canopy are a common occurrence in old growth, allowing greater sunlight to reach the forest floor and creating three to five layers of understory, rather than one to two layers in younger forests.
Ted Harris, a former member of the House of Delegates from Lynchburg, was founding president of the 500-Year Forest Foundation and one of six directors of the Virginia Urban Forestry Council who established the foundation.
Since its formation, the foundation has obtained no-cut easements on 10 forests. It requires a minimum of 100 acres of forest and defines old growth as having a significant number of trees at least 70 years old.
The 10th old-growth forest was established earlier this year and is the first to be bequeathed to the foundation. The 140-acre forest in Nelson County is located at the forks of the north and south Tye River and backs up to the Priest Wilderness Area, crossed by the Appalachian Trail.
By Chad Pawson
In what it’s calling a new approach to forest management in B.C., the province says it will protect 353,000 hectares of forest in nine old-growth areas throughout the province from logging.
The promise comes as the Ministry of Forests released a new report entitled A New Future for Old Forests, meant to guide an overhaul of forestry rules.
It’s based on the work of two foresters who travelled the province for months hearing about how B.C.’s massive, old-growth trees should be protected. The term old-growth in B.C. means trees that are generally 250 years or older on the coast and 140 years or older in the Interior.
“For many years, there has been a patchwork approach to how old-growth forests are managed in our province, and this has caused a loss of biodiversity. We need to do better and find a path forward that preserves old-growth forests, while supporting forest workers,” said Doug Donaldson, the minister of forests, lands, natural resource operations and rural development in a news release.
Donaldson said 23 per cent of the forested land base in B.C., some 13.2 million hectares, is made up of old-growth forest.
A majority of the hectares temporarily protected from logging announced on Friday are in Clayoquot Sound on Vancouver Island, an area known for its large trees, biodiversity and confrontations over development.
An international conservation group is warning that more than half of the European tree species that exist nowhere else in the world are threatened with extinction.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature said in a new report Friday that 58% of the continent’s 454 native trees are threatened and 15% are “critically endangered” – one step away from extinction.
More than 150 experts contributed to the report, which the conservancy called the first comprehensive assessment of the extinction risk of trees in Europe.
The findings in the “European Red List of Trees” come amid heightened concern about environmental issues and extinction risks in Europe and beyond. A U.N. report on biodiversity released in May warned that extinction looms for over 1 million species of plants and animals.
IUCN, a 71-year-old organization known for its “Red List” classification of threatened species, said that “invasive and problematic” species are the top threat to European trees, with urban development and “unsustainable logging” as other factors.
The group’s Europe director, Luc Bas, said “human-led activities” were resulting in population declines of important tree species.
Among the recommendations , the report’s authors called for the creation of protected areas, improved monitoring and increased research on the impacts of climate change on forests and individual tree species.
By Sudeshna Banerjee
National Forest Martyrs Day was marked by a programme at Banabitan on Wednesday in which a part of the Children’s Park in front of Banabitan was rechristened Shaheed Smriti Bon, in memory of the fallen foresters.
The day is being observed ever since the ministry of environment and forests made the declaration in 2013 to recognise the valour and sacrifice made the forest personnel for protection of forests and wildlife.
The day commemorates the Khejarli massacre in 1730 when Maharaja Abhay Singh’s army started felling khejri trees held sacred by the Bishnoi community in Khejarli village in Rajasthan. A woman named Amrita Devi had stepped up in resistance, offering her head instead. She was decapitated as were her three daughters, who took her place, followed by 359 Bishnoi men till the news reached the king.
“People think all the sacrifices made in the line of duty are by the armed forces. No one thinks of us. I have seen at close range how three lives were lost while I was posted in the Midnapore range. Two of my men died of tiger attacks while another was trampled by an elephant,” said Rabindranath Saha, deputy conservator of forests.
Forest minister Bratya Basu invoked the spirit of Suresh Biswas, the 19th century Bengali adventurer, in toasting the courage of the foresters. “Our pride is not just in our past but in our present too. It is unfortunate that even ministers are quoting epics as sources of scientific truth,” he said.
Later, he regretted the recent attacks on foresters probing the death of a tiger in the Sunderbans. “We need peaceful cohabitation of wildlife and villagers in buffer zones,” he said.
For about a century, the Forest Service has paid people to sit at the top of mountains every summer and watch for smoke. Technology is taking their place, but what is being lost in the transition?
UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee voted Friday to add Iran’s Hyrcanian forests to its World Heritage List, praising the area for its “remarkable” biodiversity. The ancient Hyrcanian forests in northern Iran run 530 miles (850 kilometres) along the coast of the Caspian Sea, according to the global body. “Their floristic biodiversity is remarkable,” UNESCO said, with some 44 per cent of Iran’s known vascular plants found in the Hyrcanian area.
The forests, which date back up to 50 million years, are also home to the Persian leopard and nearly 60 other mammal species, as well as 160 bird species.
They were just one of two natural sites added to the UNESCO list on Friday, the other in China, when the World Heritage Committee met in Azerbaijan’s capital of Baku.
Iran’s only other natural site listed by UNESCO is the Lut Desert in the country’s southwest, which gained the status three years ago.
By Mark Johnson
This huge yet little-known South American wilderness is under threat. But plans to turn it into a sustainable tourism hub will help protect its people and wildlife.
In the far north of Argentina lies a vast and extremely hot lowland known as the Gran Chaco. Were you to find yourself in it, as I did, you might kayak across a lily-filled lagoon and stumble into a solitary mansion peeking out above an endless sea of green.
It was here, at Estancia La Fidelidad, that eccentric rancher Manuel Roseo lived until 2011, when he was brutally murdered by criminals hoping to take his large (and little-touched) property. Thanks to the quick actions of Argentinian conservationists, provincial officials and the federal government, that tragedy had a silver lining with the birth of a new national park that could just shine a light on a forgotten South American wilderness.
El Impenetrable national park opened to the public in August 2017, following a telenovela’s worth of drama that included not only Roseo’s murder but the hunt for his missing heirs and a long legal battle to expropriate his land. At 128,000 hectares, it’s now the largest national park in northern Argentina and a beacon of hope for the entire Gran Chaco, which fans out into Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil (where it is connected to the Pantanal region) and is South America’s second-largest forest ecosystem after the Amazon.
While the Amazon has become a rallying cry for environmentalists, the bulbous silk floss trees, towering cacti and bushy bramble of the Chaco are disappearing in relative silence. Never as well-known – or as protected – as the Amazon, the Chaco is fast becoming the domain of cattle ranches and soya farms.
Things are looking up in a swath of forest in southern Germany, thanks to innovative funding from the European Union for a project that aims to help policymakers better understand how the forest’s ecosystems work.
The ECOPOTENTIAL project uses satellite images for ecosystem modelling in 25 Protected Areas in Europe (as well as Kenya, the Caribbean and Israel) to address climate change and other threats to ecosystems. In the Bavarian forest, the images and mathematical models of ecosystems, or “Earth Observation tools”, are helping to assess the impact of climate change and pollution, and shape national protection policies.
UN Environment is one of many partners supporting the 2015-2019 ECOPOTENTIAL project, funded by the European Union to the tune of 16 million euros.
Within the ECOPOTENTIAL project, Earth Observation tools and “remote sensing”, including by aircraft and drones, are being used to better understand how vegetation is evolving across the park and over time.
Satellite and drone pictures are detecting patterns of dominant plant species, linking habitat characteristics with terrain, and tracking animal movements. The park administration is also carrying out intensive research on tree regeneration, the role of dead wood, and the impact of global warming and extreme climatic events on the future development of these ecosystems.
By Mike Gaworecki
New research provides yet more evidence that granting indigenous and other local communities formal title to their traditional lands can be a boon to efforts to conserve forests.
Deforestation is responsible for as much as 10 percent of total global carbon emissions, which means that finding effective means of keeping forests standing is crucial to global efforts to halt climate change.
Previous studies have found that securing indigenous land rights is a successful path to keeping forests and the carbon sinks they represent intact. A 2016 analysis by the World Resources Institute (WRI) focused on Bolivia, Brazil, and Colombia, for instance, determined that tenure-secure indigenous forestlands could help avoid the release of carbon emissions equivalent to taking nine to 12 million passenger vehicles off the road over the next 20 years.
According to another report released last year as part of a collaborative research project by the Woods Hole Research Center, the Rights and Resources Initiative, and WRI, there is a lot of carbon stored on indigenous lands, making increased land titling a significant opportunity for climate mitigation. But the research found that, while indigenous peoples and other local forest communities manage at least 24 percent of the carbon stored above-ground in Earth’s tropical forests, or some 54,546 million metric tons of carbon (MtC), more than 22,000 MtC of that is at risk of deforestation or degradation because it is found in regions where the local communities do not enjoy formal recognition of their claim to the land.
A more recent study not only found that well-trained indigenous technicians are every bit as capable of collecting the necessary data to monitor forest carbon stocks as professionals, but that in some cases, at least, they can do it quicker and cheaper than the professionals.
The efficacy of land titling as a forest protection measure are less clear, however. But now the authors of a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) last week say they found that forest clearance is actually reduced by more than three-quarters and forest disturbance by roughly two-thirds over the two-year time span immediately following the granting of land title to an indigenous community.