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World’s Forests Going Up in Smoke

A forest of Nothofagus antarctica trees burned in a fire that covered 40,000 acres in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile in 2012. (Photo by Dave McWethy) Posted for media use

A forest of Nothofagus antarctica trees burned in a fire that covered 40,000 acres in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile in 2012. (Photo by Dave McWethy) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

CONCEPCION, Chile, August 23, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Chile has replaced many of its native forests with plantation forests to supply pulp and timber mills that produce paper and wood products. As a result, highly flammable non-native pine and eucalypt forests now cover the region.

Eucalypt trees, which are native to Australia, and pine trees native to the United States contain oils and resins in their leaves that, when dry, can easily ignite.

Researchers have discovered some reasons why massive fires continue to burn through south-central Chile. Their results were published August 22, in “PLOS ONE,” an online scientific journal published by the Public Library of Science.

Lead author Dave McWethy, an assistant professor in Montana State University’s Department of Earth Sciences, received a Fulbright grant that sent him to Chile from 2015-2016 to research the wildfires and teach at the University of Concepcion.

“Chile replaced more heterogenous, less flammable native forests with structurally homogenous, flammable exotic forest plantations at a time when the climate is becoming warmer and drier,” said McWethy. “This situation will likely facilitate future fires to spread more easily and promote more large fires into the future.”

Besides low humidity, high winds and extreme temperatures – some of the same factors contributing to fires raging elsewhere in the world – central Chile is experiencing a mega-drought and large portions of its diverse native forests have been converted to more flammable tree plantations, the researchers said.

Co-author Anibal Pauchard, professor at the University of Concepcion and researcher at the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity in Chile, said wildfires have been a part of the Chilean landscape for centuries, but they have grown larger and more intense in recent decades, despite costly government efforts to control them.

“Unfortunately, fires in central Chile are promoted by increasing human ignitions, drier and hotter climate, and the availability of abundant flammable fuels associated with pine plantations and degraded shrublands dominated by invasive species,” Pauchard said.

In 2016-2017 alone, fires burned nearly 1.5 million acres of Chilean forests, almost twice the area of the U.S. state of Rhode Island. It was the largest area burned during a single fire season since detailed recordkeeping began in the early 1960s.

The devastation prompted the Chilean government to ask what land-use policies and environmental factors were behind these fires, McWethy said. That led to a national debate about preventing and reducing the consequences of future fires.

McWethy said wildfires in south-central Chile and the western U.S. are affected by many of the same conditions, but the main difference is that native forests in the western U.S. are well-adapted to fire. In Chile, most native forests in the central and southern regions are not.

To better understand the Chilean fires, the researchers compared satellite information with records from the Chilean Forest Service for 2001 through 2017. They studied eight types of vegetation, climate conditions, elevation, slope and population density across a wide range of latitudes in Chile.

“Now we have compelling evidence that after climate, landscape composition is crucial in determining fire regimes. In particular, exotic forest plantations need to be managed to purposely reduce fire hazard,” Pauchard said. “Which forestry species we plant and how we manage them matters in terms of fire frequency and intensity.”

The researchers recommend that Chile move away from exotic plantations toward more diverse, less flammable native forests.

“Protecting and restoring native forests would likely buffer the negative impacts of fires that are projected to continue to increase into the future,” McWethy said, but that will be difficult to do. “So much of the landscape has changed in south-central Chile,” he said, “that it’s going to be difficult to restore,”

Firefighter overlooks the Donnell Fire, which started from unknown causes on August 1, 2018 near Donnell Reservoir, burning into the Stanislaus National Forest. August 18, 2018 (Photo by Josiah Dewey) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Firefighter overlooks the Donnell Fire, which started from unknown causes on August 1, 2018 near Donnell Reservoir, burning into the Stanislaus National Forest. August 18, 2018 (Photo by Josiah Dewey) Creative Commons license via Flickr

North American Forests Drying and Frying

Rising average temperatures have led to forests in Western North America drying out, increasing the risk of fires.

There are 129 million dead trees in California alone. Across California, the total number of fires is trending downward, but the size of fires is going up.

The West Coast of the United States is shrouded in smoke. Currently, more than two million acres have burned in 111 large fires in 13 states. Over 1.9 million acres (768,900 hectares) are or have been ablaze.

Six new large fires were reported in Idaho, Nevada and Oregon over the weekend and eight large fires have been contained, including the Ferguson Fire near Yosemite National Park in California.

The weather concerns in the area include warmer than average temperatures that will continue in the west with daily winds and overnight humidity recoveries that are just marginal.

The Province of British Columbia on Canada’s West Coast has declared a state of emergency as thousands of firefighters battle more than 560 wildfires.

Fifty-eight large wildfires are destroying forests across the province, filling the skies with smoke. Overall, 565 fires are threatening more than 20,000 people who are on evacuation alert or under evacuation order.

“We’re going to throw everything we’ve got at these fires, but in a lot of cases, Mother Nature is going to be in the driver’s seat,” Kevin Skrepnek, the province’s chief fire information officer, told reporters.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet with first responders and British Columbians displaced by the wildfires on Thursday.

Trudeau met with B.C. Premier John Horgan in the British Columbia town of Nanaimo late Tuesday afternoon, ahead of a retreat with his newly-shuffled cabinet.

“Our thoughts are with the first responders, the firefighters and the residents who are struggling through the wildfires that are raging across the province,” Trudeau said.

In eastern Canada, firefighters from across the continent, from Wisconsin and Mexico are assisting Ontario forest firefighters in their battles with one of the worst fire seasons on record.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry reports 1,108 fires across Ontario this year, compared to 618 in 2017. The 10-year average is 643 fires in the province.

Fires Sweep Europe

England’s peatland moors, Ireland, Sweden, Scandinavia and even areas north of the Arctic Circle experienced major fires over the past two months.

At least 15 EU countries have experienced more wildfires than usual for this time of year, according to figures from the European Forest Fire Information System.

The number of wildfires ravaging Europe this year is 43 percent higher than the average for the last 10 years.

Several European countries are in the grip of unprecedented wildfires. While the deadly fires in Greece now are under control, dozens of fires are blazing across Turkey, Italy and Cyprus.

With Europe in the grip of a heatwave and with little rain to ease the drought, fires have now broken out as far north as the Arctic Circle, in Sweden.

An estimated 50 fires are now burning in Sweden. Through July there were three times as many fires during this period as last year.

Jonas Olsson from the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute said, “It’s very, very dry in most of Sweden. The flows in the rivers and lakes are exceptionally low, except in the very northern part of the country. We have water shortages.”

“Rainfall has only been around a seventh of the normal amount, the lowest since record-keeping began in the late 19th century,” Olsson said.

European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides said, “The devastating forest fires in Sweden have highlighted once again the impact of climate change and that we are facing a new reality.”

The number of forest fires in the European Union more than doubled from 2016 to 2017, figures obtained by Euronews show. Experts blame climate change for the increase, saying it has lengthened the traditional wildfire season and raised the frequency of fires.

There were 1,671 blazes in 2017, a huge increase over the 639 the EU saw annually on average during the previous eight years.

Russian Fires Not Extinguished

This year, fires have already affected an estimated area of more than 90,000 hectares in Siberia and the Russian Far East.

Lakes in Yakutia were still frozen at the end of May, but that ice has been replaced by fire after persistent heat over Siberia.

For example, on July 29, a total of 66 wildfires covering an area of 14,888 hectares were put out over 24 hours across Russia, the press service of the Federal Aerial Forest Fire Service (FAFFS) reported.

The hardest hit by wildfires were the Krasnoyarsk Region and Yakutia, where 39,600 and 21,000 hectares of woodland respectively were engulfed in flames. About 3,200 hectares were hit by wildfires in the Magadan region, and more than 2,300 in the Irkutsk region.

These fires were not put out as the firefighting expenses exceed the forecasted damage, FAFFS stated.

The northern part of the world is warming faster than the planet as a whole, says the World Meteorological Organization. That heat is drying out forests and making them more susceptible to burning. A recent study found Earth’s boreal forests are now burning at a rate unseen in at least 10,000 years.

Featured Image:  Polish firefighters in action combating the wildfires Sweden. July 24, 2018 (Photo by Pavel Koubek / European Union) Creative Commons license via Flickr


MAXIMPACT_TRAINING

Hammering Out a Global Platform for Forests

Native forest was cleared for a small oil palm plantation in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. February 20, 2010. (Photo by Moses Ceaser, Center for International Forestry Research) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Native forest was cleared for a small oil palm plantation in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. February 20, 2010. (Photo by Moses Ceaser, Center for International Forestry Research) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, November 29, 2017 (Maximpact.com  News) – A new action platform to build momentum for implementing the New York Declaration on Forests debuted earlier this month at the UN Climate Change Conference, COP23 in Bonn, Germany.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) introduced a Global Platform for the New York Declaration on Forests – an innovative partnership of multinational companies, governments, civil society and indigenous peoples pledging to cut natural forest loss in half by 2020 and to end it by 2030.

“Improved agricultural practices is a key solution to deforestation, and is therefore a critical issue for companies like ours,” said Diane Holdorf, chief sustainability officer at the Kellogg Company, an American multinational food manufacturer.

“To achieve our shared ambition to slow and halt the loss of our forests, we need to accelerate our work to build partnerships, strengthening policies, and create incentives to drive outcomes,” said Holdorf. “The NYDF Platform will help us get there.”

The New York Declaration on Forests was first endorsed at the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit in September 2014, and by October 2017 the number of supporters grew to include over 191 entities: 40 governments, 20 sub-national governments, 57 multi-national companies, 16 groups representing indigenous communities, and 58 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

The declaration points to ambitious targets: to end natural forest loss by 2030, with a 50 percent reduction by 2020 as a milestone toward its achievement.

In addition, the declaration calls for restoring 350 million hectares of degraded and deforested lands by 2030, supporting the private sector in eliminating deforestation from the supply chains of major agricultural commodities by 2020, and providing financial support to reduce emissions related to deforestation and forest degradation.

The Global Platform aims to accelerate achievement of the 10 ambitious goals expressed in the New York Declaration on Forests, a voluntary, non-binding commitment to forest protection and restoration.

Goal 1: At least halve the rate of loss of natural forests globally by 2020 and strive to end natural forest loss by 2030.

However, to date, there are no signs that tropical deforestation is slowing. In 2016, tropical deforestation was a larger source of emissions than the European Union’s entire economic activity.

In fact, 2016 saw the highest loss of tree cover globally in more than 15 years, driven in part by a strong El Niño event in 2015 that led to unprecedented droughts and wildfires, as well as by the continued expansion of agricultural production for commodities like palm oil in Southeast Asia and soy in Latin America.

For instance, Brazil achieved steep reductions in deforestation for over a decade, but official government data indicate that deforestation rates in the Amazon were 29 percent higher in 2016 than in the previous year.

Goal 2: Support and help meet the private sector goal of eliminating deforestation from the production of agricultural commodities such as palm oil, soy, paper, and beef products by no later than 2020, recognizing that many companies have even more ambitious targets.

In response to the need for clear and consistent guidance on definitions, implementation, monitoring, verification, and reporting on supply-chain commitments, a coalition of environmental and social NGOs is developing the Accountability Framework in close consultation with companies, governments, and other stakeholders.

Designed for companies, financial institutions, government agencies, reporting and tracking initiatives, implementation service providers, advocacy organizations, producers, and communities affected by commodity production. The Accountability Framework is being developed in late 2017 and 2018, beginning with the global framework to be followed by more detailed good practices and guidance in an accompanying manual.

Goal 3: Significantly reduce deforestation derived from other economic sectors by 2020.

A new wave of infrastructure development – mines, oil and gas production facilities, hydroelectric plants, and road networks – is creating new deforestation hotspots, such as one in the Western Amazon. While such development is not new to the region, there is a growing number of projects that mobilize large amounts of funding and access previously undisturbed forests.

At the same time, new sustainability standards are being developed. The World Bank has created a new Environmental and Social Framework applicable to all economic sectors, including mining and infrastructure, that is intended to increase the coverage and harmonization of policies and improve monitoring and accountability efforts.

Set to be applied from 2018, the Environmental and Social Framework includes prevention of critical habitat conversion and sustainable forest management.

Goal 4: Support alternatives to deforestation driven by basic needs, such as subsistence farming and reliance on fuel wood for energy, in ways that alleviate poverty and promote sustainable and equitable development.

This goal seeks to address forest loss by supporting economically sustainable alternatives to slash-and-burn farming and unsustainable harvesting of fuel wood from natural forests.

Farming to meet basic needs is estimated to contribute nearly a third of total deforestation in the tropics. In many developing countries the level of fuelwood collected for basic needs such as cooking and heating exceeds regrowth by trees and contributes roughly one-third of forest degradation.

The problem of fuelwood collection is particularly acute in East Africa and South Asia, with hotspots in Brazil, Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Malaysia.

The forest impact of fuelwood collection can be reduced by shifting from open fires to more efficient cookstoves or solar cookers and heaters.

Goal 5: Restore 150 million hectares of degraded landscapes and forestlands by 2020 and significantly increase the rate of global restoration thereafter, which would restore at least an additional 200 million hectares by 2030.

To date, 45 private and public entities have pledged to restore over 156 million hectares of forest under the Bonn Challenge.

Twenty-six parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change have submitted Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement on climate containing quantified forest and land sector restoration targets totalling 42.5 million hectares. Additional mitigation and adaptation measures listed in the NDCs add another 39.5 million hectares of planned forest restoration.

Three of world’s largest conservation organizations – BirdLife International, the Wildlife Conservation Society and WWF – have just launched an unprecedented 25-year tree planting and restoration effort they are calling the Trillion Trees program.

The planet is losing 10 billion trees every year, the groups warn, leading to widespread impacts on biodiversity, carbon sequestration, local economies and human health.

The partner groups say one trillion is the number of new trees needed to reverse the global decline in tree cover.

Goal 6: Include ambitious, quantitative forest conservation and restoration targets for 2030 in the post-2015 global development framework, as part of new international Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs are a set of 17 goals agreed to by the member states of the United Nations, and adopted in September 2015.

The conservation target adopted in SDG 15.2, specifically the aim to “halt deforestation,” is both quantifiable and highly ambitious.

Goal 7: Agree in 2015 to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation as part of a post-2020 global climate agreement, in accordance with internationally agreed rules and consistent with the goal of not exceeding 2°C warming above pre-industrial levels.

Written before the Paris Agreement on climate was adopted in December 2015, this goal aimed to get forest-related mitigation measures included in the that agreement. The Paris Agreement, which entered into force in November 2016, includes a full article, Article 5, dedicated to land use and forests, cementing the role of forests and other carbon sinks in achieving its overall mitigation goal.

Goal 8: Provide support for the development and implementation of strategies to reduce forest emissions.

International forest finance remains in short supply and has not grown substantially in recent years, according to OECD data.

Many middle-income countries invest substantial amounts of domestic finance into forest protection, in many cases exceeding what they receive from international public sources.

“There is a substantial amount of grey finance in the private sector that has the potential to be greened,” says the New York Declaration on Forests’ most recent progress report Forest Declaration.

Goal 9: Reward countries and jurisdictions that, by taking action, reduce forest emissions, particularly through public policies to scale-up payments for verified emission reductions and private-sector sourcing of commodities.

Results-based REDD+ payments, the financial incentives for reducing forestry emissions, are only beginning to reward countries and jurisdictions that reduce forest emissions, as called for by Goal 9.

Roughly US$4.1 billion has been committed in the form of results-based REDD+ payments, and about one-third of this amount has been disbursed, mostly to Brazil.

REDD+ stands for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries.

REDD+ aims to mitigate climate change through reducing net emissions of greenhouse gases through enhanced forest management in developing countries. Researchers estimate that land use change, including deforestation and forest degradation, accounts for between 12 and 29 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Goal 10: Strengthen forest governance, transparency, and the rule of law, while also empowering communities and recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples, especially those pertaining to their lands and resources.

New data from Global Witness shows a record number of killings of people who tried to defend their land or the environment against industries in 2016 – 182 people died. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has been taking steps to highlight the issue, and is expected to release a special report next year.

The Global Platform for the New York Declaration on Forests provides a central coordination mechanism to increase political ambition, accelerate action, forge new partnerships, and monitor progress towards replaining and restoring the world’s degraded forests.

The NYDF Global Platform will be convened by UNDP, which will serve as its secretariat, in partnership with Meridian Institute and Climate Advisers.

The NYDF Platform will also collaborate closely with the NYDF Assessment Partners, a network of civil society groups and research institutions that annually publishes the NYDF Progress Assessment, an independent evaluation of progress toward meeting the NYDF goals.

“Without a doubt, protecting, restoring and sustainably managing the world’s tropical forests is one of the most important climate solutions available to us today. We cannot achieve the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees [above pre-industrial levels] without focused collaborative efforts on forests,” said State Secretary Jochen Flasbarth of the German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety.

“Germany intends to support the launch of the NYDF Platform as a signal of real intention by NYDF endorsers to accelerate action to protect and restore the world’s forests,” Flasbarth said.

Achieving the NYDF goals could reduce the global emissions of greenhouse gases by 4.5 to 8.8 billion metric tons every year – equivalent to the United States’ annual emissions or equivalent to removing the carbon emissions produced by one billion cars.

“Meeting the world’s climate and forest goals will only be possible through the collaborative action of all forest stakeholders—countries, companies, indigenous peoples, and civil society included,” said Jamison Ervin of UNDP.

“The New York Declaration on Forests is a prime example of this much-needed collaboration in action, and UNDP is proud to host the Global Platform for the NYDF to accelerate partnership and action to end deforestation.”

César Rey, director of Forests, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services at Colombia’s Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, remarked, “The challenges we face in addressing deforestation are daunting, yet with strong and committed partnership among governments, industry, indigenous and local communities as well as the international community, I am confident we can achieve the ground-breaking vision of the NYDF.”

“By facilitating synergies among the range of activities and stakeholders involved in protecting forests, transforming supply chains and improving forest livelihoods and governance,” said Rey, “the NYDF Platform can only help advance our collective efforts.”

“For indigenous peoples, forests are the center of our cultural and spiritual lives,” said Mina Setra, deputy secretary general of the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago.

“Because of our commitment to protect our forests, indigenous peoples face ongoing threats to our lives, our rights and our livelihoods,” she said. “We look forward to working with the NYDF Platform to strengthen forest governance, transparency, and rule of law, and to advance recognition of our rights as indigenous peoples.”


Featured Image : An aerial shot shows the contrast between forest and agricultural landscapes near Rio Branco, Acre, Brazil. February 24, 2013 (Photo by Kate Evans/Center for International Forestry Research) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Precious Sites Awarded World Heritage Status

Part of the newly inscribed World Heritage natural site Qinghai Hoh Xil on the Tibetan Plateau (Photo by Mark Meng) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Part of the newly inscribed World Heritage natural site Qinghai Hoh Xil on the Tibetan Plateau (Photo by Mark Meng) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

KRAKOW, Poland, July 13, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – The world has three new sites of outstanding natural value designated for protection by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, which just concluded a 10-day meeting in Krakow.

During the session, the Committee inscribed a total of 21 new sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List – the three natural sites as well as 18 cultural sites. The new inscriptions bring to 1,073 the total number of sites on the World Heritage List.

The new World Heritage natural sites are on the Tibetan Plateau; in an Argentinian national park; and landscapes shared by Mongolia and Russia.

The Committee also extended or modified the boundaries of two natural sites already on the World Heritage List. The Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe, spanning 12 countries, were expanded; and so was the W-Arly-Pendjari Complex in West Africa.

The W-Arly-Pendjari ecological complex is an expanse of intact Sudano-sahelian savanna, important for its wetlands and its bird habitat. The two core areas of the complex are the W Regional Park straddling the borders of Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger, and the Arly Total Faunal Reserve and Pendjari National Park in Benin and Burkina Faso.

During its 10-day session, the World Heritage Committee also approved the withdrawal two African sites from the List of World Heritage in Danger – the Simien National Park in Ethiopia, and Comoé National Park in Côte d’Ivoire.

One of the largest protected areas in West Africa, Comoé National Park, was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2003 due to farming, illegal gold mining, poaching and political instability.

Comoé National Park is the first World Heritage site to be removed from the Danger List in more than 10 years in West and Central Africa, a region where half the 20 natural World Heritage sites are considered to be in danger.

Now, species populations in Comoé National Park are on the rise for the first time in nearly 15 years, due to effective management of the park following stabilization of the political situation in 2012.

A field mission by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) earlier this year confirmed encouraging numbers of chimpanzees and elephants, which were thought to have disappeared from the park. Around 300 chimps and 120 elephants are believed to live in Comoé National Park today.

“Comoé National Park serves as an inspiration, and shows that the recovery of World Heritage sites impacted by civil unrest is possible,” said Badman.

Water buffalo in West Africa's newly expanded W-Arly-Pendjari Complex (Photo by Gray Tappan courtesy U.S. Geological Survey) Public domain

Water buffalo in West Africa’s newly expanded W-Arly-Pendjari Complex (Photo by Gray Tappan courtesy U.S. Geological Survey) Public domain

The three new natural World Heritage sites are:

Qinghai Hoh Xil on the Tibetan Plateau

In China, the committee inscribed Qinghai Hoh Xil, located in the far northeast of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, the largest and highest plateau in the world.

This extensive area of alpine mountains and steppe systems is situated more than 4,500 meters (14,763 feet) above sea level, where average temperatures never rise above zero.

More than one third of the plant species, and all the herbivorous mammals are endemic to the plateau, found nowhere else in on Earth.

The World Heritage designation secures the complete migratory route of the Tibetan antelope, one of the endangered large mammals endemic to the plateau.

Landscapes Of Dauria, Shared by Mongolia and Russia 

This site is an outstanding example of the Daurian Steppe eco-region, which extends from eastern Mongolia into Russian Siberia and north-eastern China.

Cyclical climate changes, with distinct dry and wet periods lead to a wide diversity of species and ecosystems of global significance.

The different types of steppe represented, such as grassland and forest, as well as lakes and wetlands serve as habitats for rare species of fauna, such as the White-Naped crane and the Great bustard, as well as millions of vulnerable, endangered or threatened migratory birds.

It is also a critical site on the migration path for the Mongolian gazelle.

Argentina’s Los Alerces National Park

The Los Alerces National Park is located in the Andes of northern Patagonia; its western boundary is at the Chilean border.

Successive glaciations have moulded the landscape in the region creating spectacular features such as moraines, glacial cirques and clear water lakes.

The vegetation is dominated by dense temperate forests, which give way to alpine meadows higher up under the rocky Andean peaks.

This new World Heritage Site is vital for the protection of some of the last portions of continuous Patagonian Forest in an almost pristine state. It is the habitat for many endemic and threatened species of plants and animals.

Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Italy, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Ukraine.

This transboundary extension of the World Heritage site of the Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany stretches over 12 countries.

Since the end of the last Ice Age, European beech spread from a few isolated refuges in the Alps, Carpathians, Mediterranean and Pyrenees over a short period of a few thousand years in a process that is still ongoing.

This successful expansion of beech forest is related to the tree’s flexibility and tolerance of different climatic, geographical and physical conditions.

Yet another European forest is at great risk, the World Heritage Committee warned.

One of the few remaining primeval forests on the European continent, Bialowieza Forest was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1979 as one of the first World Heritage sites. The site was extended twice, in 1992 and 2014 until today it covers 141,885 hectares across the Polish-Belarusian boarder.

During its 2017 session, the committee adopted a decision urging Poland to immediately halt all logging in the old-growth forests of Bialowieza. These forests are inhabited by the European bison, more than 250 bird species and over 12,000 invertebrate species.

The committee’s warning follows the advice of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN, the official advisory body on nature to the World Heritage Committee.

“The old-growth forests of Bialowieza are one of the main reasons why it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list,” said Tim Badman, director of IUCN’s World Heritage Programme. “It is critically important – and a global responsibility – that the Outstanding Universal Value of this ancient forest be preserved for future generations.”

Poland has been logging in Bialowieza Forest although the site is protected under the European Union’s Natura 2000 initiative. The forest was the subject of European Commission’s announcement of an infringement procedure against Poland, which declared that increased logging in Bialowieza is likely to cause irreparable biodiversity loss.

“IUCN remains concerned with the activity in Bialowieza and will work with Poland to find the right management solutions to preserve this unique European site,” said Luc Bas, director of IUCN’s European Regional Office.

IUCN plans to engage with Poland to carry out a monitoring mission to Bialowieza to assess the situation and identify and agree on adequate measures to conserve the site.

Should danger to the site’s Outstanding Universal Value be confirmed, the Bialowieza Forest will be considered for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2018.

UNESCO regards World Heritage sites as being important to the collective interests of humanity.

The sites are legally protected by an international treaty, the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO on November 16, 1972, it came into force on December 17, 1975 and now includes nearly all countries in the world.

What makes the concept of World Heritage exceptional is its universal application. World Heritage sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located.

But the IUCN warns that illegal fishing, logging and poaching are affecting two-thirds of the 57 natural World Heritage sites monitored by the organization this year, putting some of the world’s most precious and unique ecosystems and species at risk.

“It is alarming that even our planet’s greatest natural treasures are under pressure from illegal activities,” says IUCN Director General Inger Andersen. “World Heritage sites are recognized as the planet’s most unique and valuable places, for nature and for people. If destroyed, they are lost forever.

“World Heritage status is designed to grant these places the highest level of protection, and we as the international community are responsible for the effectiveness of this protection,” said Andersen. “Only through strong international cooperation can we eliminate the illegal and unsustainable practices that are having such a devastating impact on these extraordinary places.”


CapacityBuilding

Featured Image: Lake Rivadavia is a lake of glacial origin located in Argentina’s Los Alerces National Park, a newly inscribed Worth Heritage site. Nov. 2016 (Photo by Linda De Volder) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Beetle Bitten Forests: Log or Leave Alone?

BeetleKillsColorado

Dead standing trees dot the hills of Grand County, Colorado, 2008 (Photo by Vicky Hamilton)

By Sunny Lewis

DENVER, Colorado, April 27, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – As another wildfire season unfolds across the Northern Hemisphere, billions of beetles of many species are burrowing into trees, laying their eggs, killing forests and leaving dead stands vulnerable to fire. And again the debate arises – should they be left alone or managed?

Japan’s world-famous cherry blossoms, which attract millions of tourists every spring, are under attack from a foreign species of beetle that experts fear could kill cherry trees across the nation.

The culprits, red-necked longhorn beetles, Aromia bungii, were imported into Japan in shipments of lumber from China, Vietnam and other parts of southeast Asia, the “Yomiuri Shimbun” newspaper reported in February.

“They have tremendously high fertility,” said scientist Etsuko Kagaya, chief of the planning division in the forest entomology department at the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute based in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture. “Unless something is done to prevent their fertility now, there will be irrevocable consequences.”

As a first step, the Environment Ministry of Japan has decided to have the red-necked longhorn beetle designated as an invasive alien species and ban its import or domestic breeding. But hundreds of Japan’s precious cherry trees are already lost.

The European spruce bark beetle, Ips typographus, found from Europe to Asia Minor and some parts of Africa, has destroyed vast areas of Germany’s Bavarian Forest Biosphere Reserve. This destruction in the early aughts, and officials’ decision not to intervene in the natural forest processes, generated local and international alarm.

By 2004, the bark beetles had destroyed close to 4,000 hectares, or nearly one-sixth of the Bavarian Forest Biosphere Reserve. But then the beetle attacks began to recede and destruction slowed.

The biosphere reserve is part of the Bohemian Forest situated on a long mountain ridge running along the Czech-Bavarian and Czech-Austrian borders in central Europe. This densely wooded landscape with mountain streams, marshlands, mires and bog woodlands is a refuge for many endangered species of plants and animals.

Nature is protected here in two national parks: the Bayerischer Wald National Park in Germany; established in 1970 and enlarged in 1997 to 24,250 ha and the Šumava National Park in the Czech Republic; established in 1991; 68,064 ha. There have been proposals to establish a national park in the Austrian part of the Bohemian Forest but so far they have not been accepted.

Less than six millimeters long, the spruce bark beetle only attacks spruce trees, burrowing through the bark and feeding on the next layer of tissues that transport nutrients and water. There the beetle digs tunnels to lay its eggs.

Just 50 beetles are enough to kill a fully-grown tree in eight weeks. The larvae laid in the tunnels hatch to produce tens of thousands of new beetles to attack neighboring trees.

The only effective way to stop destruction is to fell the tree and remove it from the park. But Bavarian park officials followed a policy of allowing nature to take its course, only felling beetle-damaged trees in the buffer zone between wilderness areas and commercial forests, and to keep the beetles from spreading across the border to the Sumova National Park.

But in 2011 the bark beetles did spread to Sumava. There the same controversy erupted, but this time environmentalists said leave natural processes to take their course, while Sumava Park officials wanted to fell damaged and dead trees.

The majority of Czechs sided with park and government officials, who see the action as a necessary to prevent a wider infestation, a poll by the Center for Analysis and Empirical Studies shows. Some 4,000 trees were marked for cutting.

Bark beetles can spread quickly over large areas. Some scientists say beetles originating on the Iberian Peninsula may have invaded the spruce forests of northern Norway.

In the Norwegian spruce forests beetles are transmitting fungal pathogens such as blue stain fungus, which kills healthy trees by blocking the upward flow of water. It stains the wood with blue streaks, destroying its commercial value, causing trouble for the lumber industry.

North America is also plagued by invasive beetles, both native and from other parts of the world.

In California, a pine tree planted in 2004 in honor of Beatles member George Harrison has died after being attacked by pine bark beetles.

During the five-year drought that parched California until heavy rains this year, pine bark beetles turned the state’s forests into a highly flammable expanse of dead wood.

The most recent data from 2015 estimates bark beetles have killed over 29 million trees, and Cal Fire Education Officer Amy Head said that number is now higher, increasing the fire risk even more.

“Bark beetles are always there,” Head told “SF Gate” last May. “They’re part of the environment in California, but because of the consecutive years of drought, the infestation has reached epidemic levels. We’re going into a fifth year of drought and we didn’t quite get enough rain fall this winter. The bark beetles are multiplying. They’re thriving on these stressed and dying trees.”

In June 2016, the U.S. Forest Service reported that 66 million trees had died since 2010 in California’s prolonged drought.

And beetles are killing vast swaths of forests from Canada to Mexico. They can be found at elevations from sea level to 11,000 feet.

In Colorado, on both the Front Range and Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains, the mountain pine beetle epidemic lingers, warns the U.S. Forest Service.

The spruce beetle infestations exist in the southern forests of the region including the Rio Grande, San Jaun, Grand Mesa, Umcompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests.

Currently, land management agencies are removing hazard trees and fuels to protect forest visitors and surrounding communities from forest fires. The Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests use both tree removal and spraying to respond to the issue in high value recreation areas such as campgrounds and trailheads and along roads and powerlines.

The core area of the epidemic remains in the Arapaho & Roosevelt, White River, and Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests and adjacent forest lands. Bark beetles affect all of the eight national forests in the Rocky Mountain Region.

Damaged power lines could cause wildfires and/or blackouts because electricity generated in western Colorado must be transmitted across beetle-killed areas to serve Front Range demands. The Forest Service also warns that essential water supplies are at risk because the heart of the epidemic in Colorado and Wyoming contains the headwaters for rivers that supply water to 13 western states.

But as in Europe, not everyone agrees that beetle damaged trees should be managed. Some even contest that they are susceptible to fire.

Scientist Sarah Hart and her colleagues from the University of Colorado who studied the states of the Mountain West said that contrary to the expectation that a mountain pine beetle outbreak increases fire risk, spatial analysis showed no effect of outbreaks on area burned during years of extreme burning across the West.

They concluded, “These results refute the assumption that increased bark beetle activity has increased area burned; therefore, policy discussions should focus on societal adaptation to the effects of the underlying drivers: warmer temperatures and increased drought.”

Scientists under the leadership of Garrett Meigs from College of Forestry at Oregon State University found this year that insects generally reduce the severity of subsequent wildfires because insects decrease the abundance of live vegetation susceptible to wildfire at multiple time lags.

“In such situation, native insects buffer rather than exacerbate fire regime changes expected due to land use and climate change,” they concluded.

Douglas Bevington, forest program director for Environment Now and the author of the 2009 book “The Rebirth of Environmentalism: Grassroots Activism from the Spotted Owl to the Polar Bear,” is of the school of thought that would leave natural processes, including beetle infestations, to take their course.

“Rather than allowing logging proponents to exploit fear and misinformation about fire, we have a collective opportunity to learn from the current pulse of tree mortality and develop a greater understanding of the full diversity of California’s forests,” he wrote in “EcoWatch” last August.

“Dead trees, including large patches of snags, are a vital part of the forest. We should appreciate them, along with the natural processes that create them, such as beetles and wildfires,” wrote Bevington. “While forest protection efforts have historically focused on green trees, forests come in a variety of colors that also deserve protection, including trees with brown needles and trees with blackened bark. Their diversity provides the basis for a diversity of forest life.”


Featured Image: European spruce bark beetles are destroying spruce trees across the continent. (Photo by Tõnu Pani via Wikipedia)

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Tropical Forests Thrive on Radical Transparency

ForestIndonesia

The Ulu Masen forest ecosystem in the northern part of Indonesia’s Aceh province forms part of the largest single forested area in Southeast Asia. (Photo by Abbie Trayler-Smith / DFID) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, February 15, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Commodity production drives two-thirds of tropical deforestation worldwide, asserts Trase, a new online information and decision-support platform aimed at improving the transparency, clarity and accessibility of information on the commodity supply chains that drive tropical deforestation.

Formally known as Transparency for Sustainable Economies, Trase is led by the Stockholm Environment Institute and the Global Canopy Programme.

Trase draws on deep untapped sets of data tracking the flows of globally-traded commodities, such as palm oil, soy, beef and timber, responsible for tropical deforestation.

Trase responds to the urgent need for a breakthrough in assessing and monitoring sustainability triggered by the ambitious commitments made by government leaders to achieve deforestation-free supply chains by 2020.

In Morocco last November, a Trase-led side event at the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP22), attracted experts in environmental policy, data analysis and commodity supply chains who strategized on upgrading supply-chain transparency to achieve trade that is free of deforestation.

The side event was hosted by the EU REDD Facility, which supports partner countries in improving land use governance as part of their effort to slow, halt and reverse deforestation.

REDD stands for “reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation,” a mechanism that has been under negotiation by the UNFCCC since 2005. The goal is to mitigate climate change by protecting forests, which absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Participants discussed how to bring about step changes in the capacity of supply-chain actors to meet zero deforestation and sustainability commitments. They examined incentives for encouraging governments in consumer and producer countries to cooperate.

Tools such as the platforms launched by Trase to collect and analyze data and information can help purchasers to develop better sourcing strategies and governments to develop policies in the forestry sector and commodity trade.

The international trade in commodities such as soy, palm oil and beef is valued at billions of dollars. These commodities trade along complex supply chains that often have adverse social and environmental impacts, especially in developing countries.

Over the past 10 years, participants acknowledged, agricultural expansion has caused two-thirds of tropical deforestation, which in turn has accelerated climate change and threatened the rights and livelihoods of indigenous peoples and communities that depend on forests.

Participants agreed that consumers and markets around the world are demanding greater sustainability in producing and trading agricultural commodities.

Nowhere is this demand greater than in the European Union, which has set a goal of halting global forest cover loss by 2030 at the latest, and reducing gross tropical deforestation by at least 50 percent by 2020.

The EU and several EU Member States have endorsed the 2014 New York Declaration on Forests .

In 2015, several EU Member States signed the Amsterdam Declaration , which recognizes the need to eliminate deforestation related to trade in agricultural commodities and supports private and public sector initiatives to halt deforestation no later than 2020.

The EU is also conducting a feasibility study for a EU Action Plan on deforestation.

Some of the most interesting deforestation transparency work is being done in Brazil.

Pedro Moura Costa, founder and CEO, BVRio Environmental Exchange, says his organization and Trase are piloting a program to bring more transparency to Brazilian timber supply chains, to assess the causes of illegally harvested timber and to find solutions to minimize risks.

Through the partnership, BVRio will upload data to the platform on the legal status of forest operations in Brazil. This will enable Trase to track legally and illegally harvested timber from sources to buyers at the end of supply chains.

On the banks of the Tapajós River, in Brazil’s Pará state, is a community forestry project that works with sustainable timber extraction in the Amazon.

Since 2003, Cooperativa Mista da Flona Tapajós (Coomflona) has been operating in the region and today employs 150 managers, as workers in this sector are known. The yearly production is around 42,000 cubic meters of timber, which Costa says could be fully commercialized if not for the competition with illegal timber products.

The issue of legality in supply chains is rarely considered in transparency initiatives, but is vitally important, Costa points out.

Legality is at the core of the EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan issued in 2003. The Action Plan sets forth a range of measures available to the EU and its member states to tackle illegal logging in the world’s forests by engaging with national governments on illegal logging.

BVRio Environmental Exchange in 2016 launched a Responsible Timber Exchange, a trading platform to assist traders and buyers of timber in sourcing legal or certified products from all over the world.

The platform is integrated with BVRio’s Due Diligence and Risk Assessment tools, designed to assist traders and buyers of tropical timber in verifying the legality status of the products purchased and their supply chains. The system is based on big data analysis and conducts more than two billion crosschecks of data daily.

Since their release in 2015, the tools have been used by traders and environmental agencies worldwide to screen thousands of timber shipments.

Costa says, “Compliance with local legislation is an essential requirement of any initiative to promote good land-use governance and, ultimately, to achieve zero deforestation supply chains.

Companies too are engaged.

Trase can help us move away from the blame game, to start a practical discussion around issues and solutions,” says Lucas Urbano, project management officer for climate strategy with the Danone, based in Paris, one of the world’s largest dairy and packaged food companies.

Danone has committed to eliminating deforestation from its supply chains by 2020. The company is a signatory of the New York Declaration on Forests as well as a member of the Consumer Goods Forum.

For a company like Danone, transparency and better information about the impacts and conditions in jurisdictions where its supplies originate from are hugely important, Urbano recognizes.

Transparency is the first major step in eliminating deforestation from Danone’s value chains, because supply-chain complexity and opacity are barriers to action, he says.

Transparency initiatives such as Trase help Danone to understand who to convene and engage with in strategic supply chains. At the same time,” Urbano says, “transparency will make it impossible for companies to hide behind the complexity and opacity of supply chains.

Trase is made possible through the financial support of the European Union, the Nature Conservancy, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Swedish Research Council FORMAS and the UK Department for International Development.


Featured Image: In Brazil, forest managers with the Cooperativa Mista da Flona Tapajós mark a tree for legal logging. (Photo courtesy BVRio Environmental Exchange) posted for media use

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Hopscotching Through Davos 2017

WECDavos

Snow on the peaks above Davos, Switzerland where just two weeks ago there was little snow. (Photo by Valeriano Di Domenico courtesy World Economic Forum) Posted for media use on Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

DAVOS, Switzerland, January 17, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – World Economic Forum Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab welcomed participants to the 47th Annual Meeting today with the thought that despite the “disruptive economic and political models,” now underway, the meeting is a way to construct a positive vision for the future.

Sometimes it seems that the world is overwhelmed by pessimism and cynicism,” said Schwab. “But we have to look in a confident way into the future.

Co-chair Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, called for optimism “amid a daunting wave of technological change,” offering hope that technology can help resolve the toughest problems.

Convening under the theme Responsive and Responsible Leadership, more than 3,000 participants from nearly 100 countries are taking part in over 400 sessions.

The meeting is focusing on critical leadership challenges for 2017 – strengthening global collaboration, revitalizing economic growth, reforming capitalism, preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and restoring a sense of shared identity.

Responsive means that we listen to and interact with those who have entrusted us with leadership,” Schwab said, emphasizing  values and ethics. “It is always important to prioritize the public social good over our own interests. We must emphasize humanization over robotization.

Networked sensors, machine to machine communications, and data analytics are just a few of the trends driving a global transformation of today’s cities into the smart cities of the future, Johnson Controls chairman and CEO Alex Molinaroli informed the participants today in Davos.

Around the world, governments are investing in innovative technologies and private-sector solutions to make their cities safer, smarter and more sustainable, he blogged at the annual event.

Yet, Molinaroli calls networked sensors a “foundational component of smart cities,” explaining that the technology exists today to “mimic all five of the human senses plus many additional ones” and use that data in computerized monitoring and management systems.

Whether “seeing” security incidents through video surveillance, “hearing” gun shots through audio processing or “smelling” polluted air through chemical and particulate detectors, networked arrays of sensors provide the basis for more accurate analysis and decision-making,” Molinaroli explained.

He points to one growing concern for highly interconnected systems, such as the electric power grid – the risk of cybersecurity breaches.

While individuals have always been at financial and privacy risk from their use of the Internet, interconnected devices and systems communicating and operating autonomously over networks raise significant safety and security concerns,” said Molinaroli. “The cybersecurity of critical infrastructure and the IoT [Internet of Things] is currently being addressed by a number of government bodies and business alliances.

Improving efficiency and resilience are two of the most important drivers of smart city investment, he said.

In 2016, Johnson Controls completed its 10th Energy Efficiency Indicator survey of more than 1,200 organizations with commercial, institutional and industrial facilities in Brazil, China, Germany, India and the United States. Of those polled, 72 percent said they were planning to increase energy efficiency and renewable energy investments in 2017.

From cities to forests, this year’s World Economic Forum covers a lot of ground.

Florian Reber, manager, Tropical Forest Alliance 2020, a global public-private partnership to reduce the deforestation associated with harvesting palm oil, soy, beef, and paper and pulp, told the Forum that, “Globally, the link between climate change, forests, land use and economic development is one of the most urgent challenges to solve if we are to avoid costly and irreversible impacts of climate change.

Climate change has already come to Davos, Reber points out. Switzerland is experiencing record low snow levels after the driest December since recordkeeping began in 1864.

The now snowy streets and frosty temperatures in Davos certainly meet the weather expectations of those participants who have travelled to the Forum’s Annual Meeting,” Reber said. “Yet, had they come to the highest town of the Alps just two weeks earlier, they would have experienced a very different backdrop: no snow at all up until high altitudes with only thin slopes made with artificially produced snow.

In a normal year, the natural seasonal hazard would be avalanches,” he said. “This year, not far away from Davos in the southern parts of Graubünden, some of the biggest forest fires in the recent history of Switzerland happened between Christmas and early January. The now missing forest will increase the exposure of villages to future avalanche and rock-fall risk.”

President Xi Jinping spoke at the opening plenary this morning, offering Chinese remedies for the world’s economic ailments. It is the first time a top Chinese leader has attended the event.

The Chinese economy is experiencing “unprecedented and profound changes,” Xi said. He spoke of “innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared” development that offers solutions for China’s current economic problems and indicates a direction for its long-term development.

Xi said that efforts to promote deeper overall reforms, the simplifying of administrative procedures and the delegating of central government power to lower levels of government, along with innovation-driven development, the rule of law, and the fight against corruption, will carry the world’s most populous country into the future.

Big business rules, according to the McKinsey Global Institute.

Fewer than 10 percent of the world’s public companies account for 80 percent of all profits. Firms with more than US$1 billion in annual revenue account for nearly 60 percent of total global revenues and 65 percent of market capitalization. “The quest for size is producing a global bull market in mergers and acquisitions,” the McKinsey data shows.

One session coming up later today aims to explore what operating at this gigantic scale means for competition, collaboration and innovation.

Sir Martin Sorrell, who heads Great Britain’s WPP plc, the world’s largest advertising company by revenues, tweeted today, “Brexit and [U.S. President-elect Donald] Trump’s victory have generated a populist trend where big business is in the front line.

But Sorrell also gave an encouraging nod to small business, saying, “Leveraging the benefits of scale and size are crucial, but small businesses create jobs.

Ruth Porat, CFO of Google parent company Alphabet, believes that progress results when people take risks and push the frontiers. “Success is just as much about what you do, as what you stop doing,” she declared. “Competition is fierce, and you need to remain focused on that.

Brian Moynihan, CEO of the Bank of America, says inclusiveness and sustainability are important as the global economy grows.

We have to grow, no excuse, but you have to do it the right way,” Moynihan said. “The growth that has to take place has to focus on all participants, it has to include everybody, it has to deal with the ups and downs of market-based forces.”

Growth has to avoid excessive risk and be environmentally sustainable, he said, as well as being “sustainable in building safety nets around the world to make sure all citizens are dealt with fairly.

The World Economic Forum continues through January 20 at Davos.


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Carbon Budgets Ignore Trees on Farms

Agroforestry Iowa

Trees and grass established as part of a riparian buffer on the Ron Risdal farm in Story County, Iowa. The Iowa State University AgroEcology team has helped landowners along this stream, Bear Creek, establish miles of buffers and earn the stream recognition as a U.S. national demonstration site, June 6, 2016 (Photo by U.S. Dept. of Agriculture) Public domain

By Sunny Lewis

NAIROBI, Kenya, August 30, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Globally, 1.2 billion people depend on agroforestry farming systems, especially in developing countries, the World Bank calculates. Yet, trees on farms are not even considered in the greenhouse gas accounting framework of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Agroforestry systems and tree cover on agricultural lands make an important contribution to climate change mitigation, but are not systematically accounted for either in global carbon budgets or in national carbon accounting, concludes new research conducted by a team of researchers in Africa, Asia and Europe.

The scientists assessed the role of trees on agricultural land and the amount of carbon they have sequestered from the atmosphere over the past decade.

Their study, titled “Global Tree Cover and Biomass Carbon on Agricultural Land: The contribution of agroforestry to global and national carbon budgets,” looks at biomass carbon on agricultural lands both globally and by country, and what determines its distribution across different climate zones.

Robert Zomer of the World Agroforestry Centre in Nairobi, lead author of the study, said, “Remote sensing data show that in 2010, 43 percent of all agricultural land globally had at least 10 percent tree cover, up from eight percent in the preceding decade.

 “Given the vast amount of land under agriculture,” Zomer said, “agroforestry may already significantly contribute to global carbon budgets.

Large forest areas in the tropics are still being cleared for agricultural production to feed the world’s swelling population, now approaching 7.5 billion.

The researchers found that while tropical forests continued to decline, tree cover on agricultural land has increased across the globe, absorbing nearly 0.75 gigatonnes of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) every year.

Study results show that existing tree cover makes a major contribution to carbon pools on agricultural land, demonstrating the potential to add to climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts,” said Jianchu Xu of the World Agroforestry Centre.

If tree cover is accounted for, the total carbon stock is over four times higher than when estimated using IPCC Tier 1 estimates alone,” said Xu.

Agroforestry_MaVillage

Acacia tree seedlings in Ma Village, Vietnam, May 30, 2016 (Photo by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture) Creative Commons license via Flickr

In the IPCC system, a tier represents a level of complexity used for categorizing emissions factors and activity data. Tier 1 is the basic method; it utilizes IPCC-recommended country-level defaults. Tiers 2 and 3 are each more demanding in terms of complexity and data requirements.

Given the vast stretches of agricultural land where the potential for tree cover is not yet realized, the study suggests that a huge greenhouse gas mitigation potential exists and should be explored more systematically.

For this study, researchers mapped and tabulated regional and country-level variation in biomass carbon stocks and trends globally, and for each country.

Brazil, Indonesia, China and India had the largest increases in biomass carbon stored on agricultural land, while Argentina, Myanmar, and Sierra Leone had the largest decreases.

The results of our spatial analysis show that trees on agricultural land sequestered close to 0.75 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide globally per year over the past decade,” said Henry Neufeldt, head of climate change research at the World Agroforestry Centre.

If we can harness good policies to enhance positive examples and stop negative trends, trees in agricultural landscapes can play a major role in greenhouse gas mitigation,” Neufeldt advised. “But no one should say that this is already solving the problem for agricultural emissions as long as we do not know what is actually happening on the ground.

 The Global Tree Cover and Biomass Carbon on Agricultural Land analysis is part of on-going research at the Center for Mountain Ecosystem Studies, an applied research laboratory jointly managed by the Kunming Institute of Botany, part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the World Agroforestry Centre. Their research is focused on mountain ecosystems, biodiversity, traditional communities, and development pressures affecting natural and cultural resources.

Identifying which climate-smart agriculture practices should be supported for upscaling is an investment question, says Dr. Leocadio Sebastian, regional program leader for the CGIAR  Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) in Southeast Asia.

Answering this question can be most successful when it is the outcome of a participatory planning process during which local farmers share their knowledge in the development of a village-level land-use planning map to help improve community farming decisions.

As one of the most vulnerable regions in the world, Southeast Asia is on the front lines of the battle against climate change. Hundreds of millions of people are at risk as increasing temperatures, flooding, and rising sea levels threaten livelihoods, incomes and food security.

Ma Village, population 729, lies in Vietnam’s Yen Bai province. It is one of CCAFS’ six Climate-Smart Villages in Southeast Asia. These communities are prone to climate change impacts, so CCAFS has been introducing climate-smart agriculture practices to enhance food security and capacity to adapt to and mitigate climate change.

Despite its great agricultural potential, the sustainability and profitability of agricultural production in Ma Village remain inadequate as the climate-risk area suffers from the depletion of natural resources, land degradation, and water pollution.

During spring, water shortages due to deforestation compromise the supply of irrigation water, which affects agricultural production, with the rice paddies most at risk.

A community land-use planning activity this year concluded with the farmers’ decision to replace the cultivation of rice crops with drought-tolerant cash crops during the spring season and support reforestation in the upland area of the village.

In residential areas, farmers agreed to replace mixed gardens with fruit trees such as pomelo, lemon and banana.

Village leader Le Van Tam said, “Recovering natural forest and growing more trees within resident land is an option to solve water shortage, soil erosion, and many other unfavored weather events.

Community-based forestry may hold great promise for sustainable development, but it has not yet reached its full potential, according to a February report by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, “Forty years of community-based forestry: A review of its extent and effectiveness.

 While almost one-third of the world’s forested areas are under some form of community management, the approach has not reached its full potential.

 The FAO report recommends that governments provide communities with secure forest tenure, improve regulatory frameworks, and transfer to them appropriate and viable skills and technologies.

Indigenous peoples, local communities and family smallholders stand ready to maintain and restore forests, respond to climate change, conserve biodiversity and sustain livelihoods on a vast scale,” said Eva Müller, director of FAO’s Forestry Policy and Resources Division.

What is missing in most cases is the political will to make it happen,” said Müller. “Political leaders and policy makers should open the door to unleash the potential of hundreds of millions of people to manage the forests on which the whole world depends for a better and sustainable future.”


 Featured Images: Trees on a tea farm in China, April 2012 (Photo by vhines200) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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Wood Pulp Waste Transformed Into Biocrude Oil

LicellaTechnology

The Licella Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor (Cat-HTR™) at Somersby, NEw South Wales, Australia (Photo courtesy Licella)

By Sunny Lewis

 VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Canada, June 28, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Canfor Pulp Products Inc. has formed a joint venture with an Australian energy startup to convert biomass from its kraft pulping processes into biocrude oil that can be blended into petrochemical refinery streams to generate renewable fuels.

Publicly traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange, Vancouver-based Canfor Pulp is the largest North American producer of Northern bleached softwood kraft, used for manufacturing printing and writing paper and tissue products.

Based in Sydney, Australia, the startup Licella has developed the unique process in partnership with the University of Sydney. Their Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor (Cat-HTR™) technology converts low-cost, non-edible, waste biomass from pulping into biocrude oil.

The biocrude can then be used to produce next generation biofuels and biochemicals.

The ITQ laboratory in Valencia, Spain has demonstrated the upgrade of Licella’s biocrude to kerosene and diesel utilizing standard refinery infrastructure.

CanFor President Brett Robinson says Licella’s Cat-HTR™ technology could transform their company. “The opportunity to directly produce advanced biofuels from our existing streams could transition Canfor Pulp from being strictly a pulp and paper manufacturer to a bio-energy producer as well,” he said.

Currently, pulp and paper waste is burned for low-quality process heat. But now Licella’s Cat-HTR technology can theoretically process any form of lignocellulosic biomass, without the need to dry the feedstock before processing nor transport it over long distances at great expense.

 Sugars derived from lignocellulosic biomass already have been fermented to produce bio-ethanol, and other lignocellulose-derived fuels are of potential interest, including butanol, but the unique Licella process is not based on fermentation.

PulpBiomass

Biomass waste from the pulpmaking process at a Canfor pulp mill in Prince George, British Columbia. (Photo courtesy Licella)

Licella’s process uses a supercritical water-based technology and catalysts to break up the pulp waste biomass and reform it into biocrude. It uses all of the biomass, including lignin and provides all its own process heat and water. Uniquely, it is a net producer of water.

The Licella process produces a stable, blendable bio-oil that is expected to be competitive with petroleum fuel.

The Licella process has a small physical footprint compared to fermentation technologies because of its continuous flow design and a rapid processing time measured in minutes, not days.

Licella was co-founded by University of Sydney chemistry professor Dr. Thomas Maschmeyer, who saw a way to make use of the millions of tons of biomass waste left from the pulping process each year around the globe.

“Only 30 percent or so of a tree becomes paper, the rest is waste. We use this waste to make a new product – biocrude oil from renewable, already aggregated waste,” Maschmeyer explained.

Over the past nine years Licella has invested A$60 million in its technology development. “After nine years of very hard work by an amazing team of individuals at Licella and the university, it is extremely pleasing to see this Australian green technology going global; it will make a substantial impact,” Maschmeyer said.

“In the pulp and paper industry worth billions of dollars, this shift will have global impact for good,” he said.

Licella CEO Dr. Len Humphreys said, “Licella’s Cat-HTR technology may add significant value to Canfor Pulp’s kraft process by creating new products from Canfor Pulp’s waste streams. What we are potentially building towards is a bio-refinery to utilize the entire tree, rather than part of the tree.”

“Using the whole tree and not just a minor part will move the industry towards biorefining,” said Humphreys.

The Cat-HTR™ upgrading platform will be integrated into Canfor Pulp’s kraft and mechanical pulp mills in Prince George, British Columbia.

Licella is a subsidiary of Licella Pty. Limited, which in turn is a subsidiary of Ignite Energy Resources Ltd., an Australian public unlisted natural resource and energy technology development company.

In late May, Licella Fibre Fuels Pty Ltd. and the publicly-traded Canfor Pulp Products Inc. signed an agreement to form a joint venture under the name Licella Pulp Joint Venture.

The agreement follows a successful program of preliminary trials conducted on feedstock from Canfor Pulp’s Prince George pulp mill at Licella’s pilot plants located at Somersby, an hour north of Sydney in New South Wales, Australia.

In these trials, wood residue streams from Canfor Pulp’s kraft process were successfully converted into a stable biocrude oil.

CPPI chief executive Don Kayne said, “Biofuels and biochemicals represent the next frontier in the utilization of sustainable wood fibre to produce green energy and chemicals.”

“This initiative underscores Canfor Pulp’s commitment to innovation and the importance of green energy and chemicals in our future product mix, and we look forward to developing this potentially transforming technology with Licella,” he said.

Upon successful integration of the Cat-HTR™ technology, the Licella Pulp joint venture will look at offering this technology to other third party pulp mills.


Indonesia, EU License Legal Timber Trade

IndonesiaLogs

By Sunny Lewis                                                                      Follow us at: @Maximpactdotcom

BRUSSELS, Belgium, May 10, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Indonesian President Joko Widodo, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and European Council President Donald Tusk will promote trade in legally produced timber between the European Union and Indonesia through the start of the first Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) licensing plan.

The market effects of the plan are being monitored by the FLEGT Independent Market Monitoring mechanism, a multi-year project supervised by the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) and financed by the EU.

The April 21st announcement, on the occasion of President Widodo’s visit to Brussels, follows a joint assessment of Indonesia’s forest management.

Investigators found that illegal logging, which destroyed so much of Indonesia’s rainforest, has decreased since 2000, and Indonesia is fully ready to implement the Indonesia–EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement.

The EU can now complete the moves that will make Indonesia’s FLEGT licensing fully operational.

When these procedures are complete, the Indonesia–EU Joint Implementation Committee will recommend a date for FLEGT licensing to start, expected later in 2016, making Indonesia the first country to deliver licensed timber.

In a joint statement, presidents Widodo, Juncker and Tusk said, “Indonesia and the EU are close partners in addressing environmental challenges. We are committed to the sustainable management of forests and to fighting illegal logging and related illegal trade.”

“The EU welcomes the implementation for all types of wood products of the Indonesian Timber Legality Assurance System. We welcome the full implementation of the Indonesia-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade and agree to move expeditiously towards the start of the FLEGT licensing scheme. We look forward to the first shipment of FLEGT-certified timber from Indonesia in the coming months.”

“The EU is committed to ensuring the uniform and effective implementation of the European Union Timber Regulation,” the three presidents said.

FLEGT-licensed products automatically meet the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation, which prohibits EU operators from placing illegally harvested timber and timber products on the EU market.

With mandatory checks of the timber legality assurance system that meet international market requirements in place, the government of Indonesia expects timber product exports to increase, delivering more rural jobs, income and growth.

Indonesia’s rainforests are the third largest in the world, but they are also among the most endangered. Much of the country’s forests have disappeared into the country’s enormous timber processing mills.

A 2007 UN Environmental Program report estimated that 73 to 88 percent of timber logged in Indonesia was illegally sourced. More recent estimates place the figure at 40 to 55 percent.

Even forests in national parks are at risk. A 2010 report by five U.S. environmental groups quotes the Indonesian government as admitting that timber is illegally harvested from 37 of the nation’s 41 national parks

With EU support and in coordination with the Indonesian FLEGT Licensing authorities, the FLEGT Independent Market Monitoring mechanism is responsible for regularly assessing the impact of licensing on trade from Indonesia and the other 14 tropical countries engaged in the FLEGT VPA process.

Benefitting from support from the European Commission and EU Member States, the FLEGT VPA in Indonesia has strengthened forest governance by increasing transparency, accountability and stakeholder participation in decisions about forests.

Indonesia has boosted legal trade, modernized and formalized its forest sector, and improved business practices, enabling many thousands of businesses to meet market demand for legal timber.

With EU support, Indonesia has trained nearly 15,000 local government supervisors, sustainable forest management technicians, staff at regional forest management offices, and village heads.

Suar wood coffee tables at IndoGemstone Bali, Indonesia's rustic home decor and natural style furniture manufacturing company. (Photo by IndoGemstone) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Suar wood coffee tables at IndoGemstone Bali, Indonesia’s rustic home decor and natural style furniture manufacturing company. (Photo by IndoGemstone) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Indonesia has used its timber legality assurance system to audit the legality of more than 20 million hectares of forests and more than 1,700 forest industries, an unprecedented level of scrutiny.

Now over 90 percent of Indonesian timber exports come from independently audited factories and forests, and the remainder will be audited in the coming months.

To ensure that small businesses such as furniture-makers are not left out, Indonesia allocated seven billion rupiah in 2015 to help more than 1,200 small and medium-sized enterprises become certified legal under the timber legality assurance system.

To date, 93 percent of Indonesia’s small and medium-sized furniture exporters have been certified legal, enabling them to export their products to an increasingly educated international market.

Indonesia is one of the world’s largest producers of tropical timber, accounting for around 17 percent of the global value of tropical timber trade in 2013, according to the IMM Baseline Report. The country exports sawnwood, plywood, pulp and paper, furniture and handicrafts.

The majority of Indonesian forest product exports are to China, Japan, South Korea and the EU. In 2014, the EU accounted for 8.9 percent of the value of all timber product exports from Indonesia, up from 8.4 percent in 2013.

EU imports of wood and wood furniture from Indonesia in 2015 had a value of €803 million, 17 percent higher than in 2014. In 2015, Indonesia was the second-largest tropical supplier of wood and wood furniture products to the EU, just behind Vietnam, and it accounted for 21 percent of all EU imports from tropical countries.


License Legal Timber Trade images:

Main image: A barge transporting logs in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. (Photo by Achmad Ibrahim for Center for International Forestry Research, CIFOR) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Featured image: These illegal logs were seized, while in transit, and are impounded at district police offices, Riau, Sumatra, Indonesia, 2010. (Photo by Sofi Mardiah for Center for International Forestry Research, CIFOR) Creative Commons license via Flickr

 

 

Paris Climate Pact Supports REDD+ Forest Credits

ColombiaForestCIATBy Sunny Lewis

GENEVA, Switzerland, March 29, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – When forests are cleared, climate warming is accelerated as the trees that were cut can no longer store carbon dioxide (CO2). Support for financial incentives that encourage the conservation of forested lands, known as REDD+, is included in the Paris Climate Agreement that 195 governments reached in December.

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is an international effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests through a market in carbon credits.

The UN-REDD Programme donors are Denmark, the European Union, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, Spain and Switzerland. To date, donor contributions total US$215.2 million. For an overview of current funds and budget allocations, see the Programme’s Multi-Partner Trust Fund Gateway

The UN-backed program encourages results-based payments for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development.

REDD+ goes beyond deforestation and forest degradation to include the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.

REDD+ was developed by Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to create an incentive for developing countries to protect, better manage and wisely use their forest resources, conserving biodiversity and assisting the global fight against climate change.

In addition to the environmental benefits, REDD+ offers social and economic benefits and is being integrated into green economy strategies. REDD+ projects have been opened in at least 47 developing countries.

The role of REDD+ in reducing climate change is recognized in the Paris Climate Agreement that 195 governments reached in December. The agreement will be opened for signature at UN Headquarters in New York on Earth Day, April 22, 2016.

The pact will enter into force after 55 countries that account for at least 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions have deposited their instruments of ratification.

Article 5.2 of the Paris Agreement is devoted to REDD+, capping a decade of negotiations. It cements REDD+ as a core element of the global climate regime.

The Warsaw Framework for REDD+, agreed in March 2014, outlines key UNFCCC requirements that must be met by developing countries in order to realize results-based payments for REDD+ actions.

“REDD+ can be put in place as an incentive system through which sustainable development can take place without having to cut down the forests,” said Mario Boccucci, who heads the UN-REDD Programme Secretariat.

In an interview with the International Institute for Sustainable Development, he gave examples that include: increasing agricultural productivity; shifting toward agroforestry practices; and finding, financing, investing in and rewarding land-use management practices that do not reduce the forest cover.

Boccucci called the Paris Agreement “a turning point for humanity and for climate change” because “it sends a very strong and powerful signal that a global transformation towards a low-emission economy is not only needed, but it’s possible and it’s underway.”

The agreement brings together in a very powerful way the climate change agenda with the sustainable development agenda, said Boccucci. “It says: You have to do these two things together to reach the level of emissions reductions needed to meet the climate change mitigation target of keeping this planet at a less-than-2°C temperature increase, or as close as possible to 1.5°C.”

The inclusion of REDD+ in the agreement, “really signals that there is both political and financial confidence in REDD+ as a climate change mitigation solution that can work at scale in the near future,” Boccucci declared.

“This signal will energize, catalyze and scale up actions that so far we have seen delivered on a more opportunistic or smaller scale, as the level of investment that will be required will start to flow,” he said.

“Countries are now able to implement forest management policy changes with the confidence that they will be rewarded through a climate change regime that recognizes the value of emissions reduction produced through the forest system.”

The UN-REDD Programme donors are Denmark, the European Union, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, Spain and Switzerland. To date, donor contributions total US$215.2 million. For an overview of current funds and budget allocations, consult the Programme’s Multi-Partner Trust Fund Gateway .

At an official COP21 side event on December 8 in Paris, Helen Clark, UNDP administrator and UN Development Group chair said, “The UN-REDD Programme can make a strong contribution to strengthening delivery of REDD+ support post-2015.”

“The new UN-REDD Strategic Framework for 2016-2020  will be important in this regard,” said Clark. “It prioritizes national-level actions, helping governments to craft and implement policies and measures for REDD+, supported by multi-stakeholder dialogues and partnerships to address key drivers of deforestation.”

One example is a REDD+ project that has been operating since 2014.

The Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project is reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation on 38,781 hectares of privately-owned land in Zambia’s Rufunsa District.

Known as the Rufunsa Conservancy, this is one of the last intact areas of forest within Lusaka Province. It provides a 60-kilometer buffer to Lower Zambezi National Park, a strategic protected area in Zambia in a globally significant trans-frontier conservation area.

Lower Zambezi National Park is adjacent to Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some 8,300 people live in 28 villages in the project area. The project proponent is BioCarbon Partners.

Carbon credits are authenticated by the Verified Carbon Standard Project Database, a global benchmark for carbon.

Every Verified Carbon Unit in the program can be tracked from issuance to retirement in the database, allowing buyers to ensure every credit is real, additional, permanent, independently verified, uniquely numbered and fully traceable online.

NoREDDProtestBut critics say financing reduction of deforestation through the trade of carbon credits is unworkable.

While the Paris agreement permits such trading in principle, it requires that the sale of carbon credits needthe consent of the country in which a project is located, dampening the enthusiasm of the private sector for this international trade mechanism, writes Jutta Kill in “German Climate Finance” of February 23.

“Even after almost ten years of ‘REDD+ Readiness,’ there is no evidence that REDD+ is an effective instrument against large-scale forest destruction,” writes Kill.

Problems in the implementation of REDD+ are increasingly apparent, according to the case book “REDD+ on the Ground” by the Center for International Forestry Research, which states, “Following the Bali COP in 2007, international funding for REDD+ quickly ramped up, with large pledges from governments and the development of voluntary markets. Since 2010, however, the flow of funds has been smaller…”

Also critical is the World Rainforest Movement, an international NGO and Indigenous Peoples’ Groups network. In 2014, this group published “REDD: A Collection of Conflicts, Contradictions and Lies,” an account of 24 controversial REDD+ initiatives.

“As offset projects, they all fail to address the climate crisis because by definition, offset projects do not reduce overall emissions: emission reductions claimed in one place justify extra emissions elsewhere,” claims the World Rainforest Movement.

Winnie Overbeek, international coordinator of the World Rainforest Movement, said in an August 2015 interview  “REDD is not only a false solution to climate change, REDD also represents a severe threat for communities that depend on forests. This is what we have learned from communities affected by REDD+ projects that we could visit and/or whom we have talked with over the years.”

Even so, UN officials still see the REDD+ mechanism as a sharp tool in the fight against climate change.

Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Programme, said, “REDD+ and the significant investments we are seeing can act as a catalyst for a green economy transformation. This is more true as we increasingly engage the private sector in our efforts. Like a rising tide that lifts all ships, investments into REDD+ readiness and implementation can also trigger broader policy changes.”

Boccucci said, “The Paris Agreement demonstrates an unprecedented level of ambition and commitment by global leaders to address climate change issues. The UN-REDD Programme stands ready and prepared in this post-Paris ‘era of implementation’ to continue to support developing countries to realize their reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation goals and harness the long-term social, environmental and economic benefits of REDD+.”


Featured image: An elephant in Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia, a REDD+ project, October 2014 (Photo by Naiyaru) Creative Commons license via Flickr
Header image: Measuring carbon in Reserva Natural El Hatico, familia Molina Durán, near Palmira, Colombia, as part of a workshop on REDD+ hosted by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), May 2011. (Photo by Neil Palmer / CIAT)
image 01: Friends of the Earth International, Alliance against REDD, Indigenous Environmental Network, Grassroots Global Justice, No REDD+ in Africa Network and Global protest in solidarity with the communities threatened by REDD+, December 8, 2015 at the COP21 climate conference, Le Bourget, Paris, France. (Photo by Friends of the Earth International) Creative Commons license via Flickr