Restoring forests 1 tree at a time, to help repair climate

By Christina Larson
Destruction of the forests can be swift. Regrowth is much, much slower.But around the world, people are putting shovels to ground to help it happen.

They labor amid spectacular recent losses — the Amazon jungle and the Congo basin ablaze, smoke from Indonesian rainforests wafting over Malaysia and Singapore, fires set mostly to make way for cattle pastures and farm fields. Between 2014 and 2018, a new report says, an area the size of the United Kingdom was stripped of forest each year.

Rebuilding woodland is slow and often difficult work. And it requires patience: It can take several decades or longer for forests to regrow as viable habitats, and to absorb the same amount of carbon lost when trees are cut and burned.

And yet, there is urgency to that work — forests are one of the planet’s first lines of defense against climate change, absorbing as much as a quarter of man-made carbon emissions each year.

The impact could be great: A recent study in the journal Science projected that if 0.9 billion hectares (2.2 billion acres) of new trees were planted — around 500 billion saplings— they could absorb 205 gigatonnes (220 gigatons) of carbon once they reached maturity. The Swiss researchers estimated this would be equivalent to about two-thirds of man-made carbon emissions since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

Other scientists dispute those calculations, while some fear the theoretical promise of tree-planting as an easy solution to climate changes could distract people from the range and scope of the responses needed.

But all agree that trees matter. And in many places around the world, people are working to revive them:

Source: Restoring forests 1 tree at a time, to help repair climate – The Oregonian, 2019-10-01

Report: EU demand for wood pellets continues to grow

By Erin Voegele
A recent report filed with the USDA FAS’s GAIN predicts the EU market for wood pellets will likely grow this year but cautions future expansions could be limited by sustainability requirements introduced by individual member states.

According to the report, nearly half of the EU’s renewable energy is currently generated from the combustion of solid biomass, not including municipal solid waste. This includes wood chips and pellets. The EU consumes approximately 75 percent of the world’s wood pellets and accounts for about 50 percent of global production. In 2017, 40 percent of EU pellet consumption went to residential heating, with 33 percent to commercial power, 14 percent to commercial heating and 12 percent to combined-heat-and-power (CHP).

The EU consumed an estimated 27.35 million metric tons of wood pellets last year, up from 24.15 million tons in 2017. Wood pellet consumption is expected to increase to 30 million metric tons this year.

The EU is expected to produce 18.1 million metric tons of wood pellets this year, up from 18.85 million metric tons in 2018 and 15.3 million metric tons in 2017. Imports are expected to increase to 12.2 million metric tons in 2019, up from 10.355 million metric tons in 2018 and 8.692 million metric tons in 2017. EU exports of wood pellets are expected to remain at the 2018 level of 170,000 tons this year, down from 195,000 metric tons in 2017.

According to the report, the EU had 656 pellet plants in place in 2017 with a combined capacity of 22.75 million metric tons. Capacity increased to an estimated 24 million metric tons last year, and is expected to reach 25 million metric tons in 2019. Capacity use is expected to reach 72 percent this year, up from 70 percent in 2018 and 67 percent in 2017.

In 2018, the U.K. was the top EU consumer of wood pellets, with 8 million metric tons, followed by Italy with 3.75 million metric tons, Denmark with 3.5 million metric tons, Germany with 2.19 million metric tons and Sweden with 1.785 million metric tons. France, Belgium, Austria, Spain, the Netherlands and Poland were also among the top 11 EU consumers of wood pellets last year.

The U.K. imported 7.829 million metric tons of wood pellets last year, with 4.88 million tons of that volume imported form the U.S. Denmark imported 3.813 million tons of pellets last year, including 623 tons from the U.S. Italy imported 2.242 tons of wood pellets in 2018, including 88,000 tons from the U.S, while Belgium imported 1.137 tons, including 538,000 tons from the U.S.

Germany was the top EU producer of wood pellets in 2018, with 2.415 million metric tons, followed by Sweden with 1.845 million metric tons and Latvia with 1.575 million metric tons. France, Austria, Estonia, Poland, Spain and Portugal were also among the top nine EU pellet producers last year.

The U.S. was the top supplier of wood pellets to the EU last year, with 6.139 million tons, followed by Canada with 1.762 million tons and Russia with 1.365 million tons.

According to the report, a key factor in being able to capture the demand in the EU market and benefit from its growth potential is the sustainability of supply. “European traders and end-users of industrial wood pellets are calling for clear, consistent, harmonized and long-term government regulations,” said the authors in the report. “In the absence of EU-wide binding criteria for solid biomass, several EU member states, including Belgium, Denmark, and the Netherlands, developed their own rules in response to the growing use of wood pellets.”

Source: Report: EU demand for wood pellets continues to grow – Biomassmagazine.com, 2019-08-05

Kauri trees share roots with other trees, AUT research shows

A bizarre insight from our kauri means we should view forests as ‘super-organisms’.

Kiwi scientists have been astonished to find how kauri stumps can keep themselves alive by feeding off water from neighbouring trees.

The AUT researchers behind the ground-breaking discovery say it should mean we view trees not as individuals, but members of a forest ecosystem that’s essentially a “super-organism”.

Further, their findings could have big implications for tackling the disease killing kauri across the upper North Island.

In the new study, published in iScience this week, AUT’s Dr Martin Bader and Associate Professor Sebastian Leuzinger described how trees surrounding kauri stumps offer them a form of life support, possibly in exchange for access to larger root systems.

It was an insight the pair stumbled across while hiking in West Auckland, and spotting an unusual-looking stump.

“It was odd, because even though the stump didn’t have any foliage, it was alive,” Leuzinger said.

They decided to investigate how the nearby trees were keeping the tree stump alive by measuring water flow in both the stump and the surrounding trees belonging to the same species.

They found that the water movement in the tree stump was strongly negatively correlated with that in the other trees.

These measurements suggest the roots of the stump and surrounding conspecific trees were grafted together, Leuzinger said.

Root grafts can form between trees once a tree recognises that a nearby root tissue, although genetically different, is similar enough to allow for the exchange of resources.

“This is different from how normal trees operate, where the water flow is driven by the water potential of the atmosphere,” Leuzinger said.

“In this case, the stump has to follow what the rest of the trees do or else use osmotic pressure to drive water flow, because since it lacks transpiring leaves, it escapes the atmospheric pull.”

But while root grafts are common between living trees of the same species, the pair were interested in why a living kauri tree would want to keep a nearby stump alive.

“For the stump, the advantages are obvious— it would be dead without the grafts, because it doesn’t have any green tissue of its own,” Leuzinger said.

“But why would the green trees keep their grandpa tree alive on the forest floor while it doesn’t seem to provide anything for its host trees?”

One explanation, Leuzinger said, is that the root grafts formed before one of the trees lost its leaves and became a stump.

The grafted roots expand the root systems of the trees, allowing them to access more resources such as water and nutrients.

They also increased the stability of the trees on the steep forest slope.

Source: Kauri trees share roots with other trees, AUT research shows – NZ Herald, 2019-08-05

Ethiopia Just Set the World Record for Most Trees Planted in a Day

By Evan Nicole Brown
ON JUNE 22, 2013, PAKISTAN’S Sindh Forest Department set a Guinness World Record when 300 people planted 847,275 trees in 24 hours. Three years later, on July 11, 2016, India eclipsed that mark, planting 49.3 million tree saplings (comprising 80 different species) in the same amount of time.

But yesterday, the arboreal record was shattered again—in half the time. A nationwide planting spree in Ethiopia saw volunteers plant more than 350 million trees across 1,000 designated sites—in just 12 hours.

This latest eco-challenge was designed as part of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s “Green Legacy Initiative,” a reforestation plan to address Ethiopia’s rapid tree loss. At the start of the 20th century, 30 percent of the country’s land was forested. Now, less than 4 percent of it is.

Ethiopia is not alone when it comes to tree loss. In 2015, 10 African countries launched the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative, which aims to restore 386,000 square miles of the continent’s land by 2030.

The benefits are legion.

“Restoring our landscapes brings prosperity, security, and opportunity,” Vincent Biruta, Rwanda’s minister of natural resources, said at the time. “With forest landscape restoration, we’ve seen agricultural yields rise and farmers in our rural communities diversify their livelihoods and improve their well-being. Forest landscape restoration is not just an environmental strategy; it is an economic and social development strategy as well.”

As part of this effort, Ethiopia pledged to tackle 57,915 square miles of its landscape. On July 29, Prime Minister Ahmed encouraged millions of Ethiopians to each plant a minimum of 40 seedlings. The citizenry took him very seriously. Some schools and government offices closed to encourage full participation.

Source: Ethiopia Just Set the World Record for Most Trees Planted in a Day – Atlas Obscura, 2019-07-30

UNESCO adds Iranian forest to World Heritage List

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.

Source: UNESCO adds Iranian forest to World Heritage List – Business Standard, 2019-07-06

Woodland Revival: Rehabilitating Japan’s Forests with Small-Scale Harvesting

By Satō Noriko
Japan’s forestry industry has long suffered from low timber prices and a dwindling, aging workforce. Today loggers are increasingly letting woodlands revert to an untended natural state. Small-scale logging is gaining attention as a way to revive the timber industry and better manage the country’s forests.

Forests account for some 70% of Japan’s land area. Intimately tied with the nation’s development, woodlands since ancient times have provided residents with timber for building, raw materials for crafting tools and everyday utensils, and fuel for cooking and heating. Forests have also had a vital role in agriculture, with farmers plowing leaves and brush into fields as fertilizer. However, dependence has frequently resulted in overexploitation, and governments throughout Japanese history have struggled to balance demand for timber with the need to conserve forest resources.

Source: Woodland Revival: Rehabilitating Japan’s Forests with Small-Scale Harvesting – nippon.com, 2019-01-31

India eyes farm forestry to reduce carbon footprint

By Jayashree Nandi
India plans to partner with the private sector in scaling up its agro-forestry efforts. This is, however, a controversial subject because environmental activists are against India allowing any private or corporate forestry projects on forest land.

Agro-forestry or farm forestry will be India’s key strategy to reduce its carbon footprint so as to meet its goals under the Paris climate agreement according to the submission the country plans to make at the COP 24 climate conference that’s being held in Poland.

The forest conservation division of the union environment ministry has readied a document which will be presented during COP 24 underway at Katowice in Poland, as part of India’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) strategy.

India plans to partner with the private sector in scaling up its agro-forestry efforts. This is, however, a controversial subject because environmental activists are against India allowing any private or corporate forestry projects on forest land.

India, through various forestry projects including agroforestry, aims to sequester about 2.5 to 3 billion tones of carbon dioxide (CO2) by 2030.

Source: India eyes farm forestry to reduce carbon footprint – Hindustan Times, 2018-12-03

First tree planted in ‘Northern Forest’

By Thomas Barrett
The first tree has been planted in a new ‘Northern Forest’ that will connect five community forests across the north of England.

Over the next 25 years, the Woodland Trust and Community Forest Trust are aiming to plant more than 50 million trees from Liverpool to Hull, connecting the Mersey Forest, Manchester City of Trees, South Yorkshire Community Forest, the Leeds White Rose Forest and the HEYwoods Project.

Spanning more than 120 miles, the Northern Forest will help boost habitats for woodland birds and bats and protect iconic species such as the red squirrel, alongside providing a tranquil space to be enjoyed by millions of people living in the area.

Forestry minister David Rutley joined the Woodland Trust, Community Forest Trust, government Tree Champion Sir William Worsley and students from St Andrew’s CE Primary School in Radcliffe, where they began the planting of 200 saplings as part of the government’s £5.7m investment.

Tree planting rates are dramatically low with tree planting in 2016 being only 700 hectares against the Government’s target of 5,000 hectares a year.

Woodland cover across the north is at just 7.6%, below the UK average of 13% and far below the EU average of 44%.

Forestry Minister David Rutley said: ‘It is a privilege to be here to see the Northern Forest take root, and to plant the first of many government-funded trees which will contribute to what will one day be a great forest.

Source: First tree planted in ‘Northern Forest’ – Environment Journal, 2018-12-05

The State of Canada’s Forests 2018

The State of Canada’s Forests Annual Report provides a national snap shot of Canada’s forests and forest industry. We’ve been tracking our journey toward sustainable forest management for 28 years. This year’s report focuses on the theme “faces of forestry” and features the innovative ways people work and learn in forests.

Download the report

Source: The State of Canada’s forests report – Natural Resources Canada

Nepal: A Pioneer Country in Community Forestry Management

by Area Forester Manij Upadhyay
About a year ago, I transitioned from working in the Department of Forests in Nepal as a forest officer to the Virginia Department of Forestry. Here, I want to share some information about the community forest management system of Nepal, which is the most common practice.

Nepal is a beautiful landlocked country with a total population of 28.98 million people. The country covers a total of 56,827 sq. miles of land, which is approximately 40.4 percent forested.

The country is divided into three major geographic regions: the High Himalayas, the Middle Hills and the Lowland Terai. The elevation ranges from 230 feet above sea level to 29,028 feet. Two-thirds of the population live in the rural areas of Nepal and depend on agriculture and forestry for their daily livelihood. In these rural communities, firewood is the major source of energy to cook food. Also, rural people have to cut, collect and carry their firewood and livestock’s fodder and bedding materials from nearby forests.

Source: Nepal: A Pioneer Country in Community Forestry Management – Field Notes, Virginia Department of Forestry, 2018-09-17