In Forests News last week:
Earth Day: Can Sumatran elephants and people coexist?
This multimedia story equipped with beautiful shots of Sumatran elephants, takes you on a journey through their past to present day. A new study aims to help the forest giants on the brink of extinction coexist with humans, by introducing bioenergy and protecting the surrounding peatlands. Read/watch here.
Collaborative monitoring from the get-go
A new diagnostic tool helps practitioners track progress at local, national, and global scales. Read here.
Deforestation on upward trend, despite international efforts
The world lost around 30 million acres of its tropical forests last year, making it the fourth highest loss since records began in 2001, major press titles reported last week. What’s more, almost nine million acres of that loss- equivalent to the size of Belgium- was primary forest. The findings came from an analysis of satellite imagery of tree canopy cover by Global Forest Watch of The World Resources Institute. The software doesn’t however differentiate between permanent deforestation and temporary loss between natural (e.g. hurricanes) and human (e.g. mining) causes, the Huffington Post reports. Brazil made up the lion share of losses in 2018, whilst Ghana and Ivory Coast saw the biggest increase. The BBC reports that primary forests are home to jaguars and orangutans, as well as millions of indigenous peoples, They also threaten ‘runaway climate change’ for releasing the high levels of carbon stored in trees over hundreds or even thousands of year when they are cut down. The New York Times reports that Indonesia experienced a decline in deforestation for the second year running is in part thanks to ambitious forestry policies working. According to the article, the public health emergency caused by 2015 / 2016 fires spurred the Indonesia government into action, showing ‘how efforts to reduce forest loss are most effective when they originate within countries, rather than outside pressure.’
Major biodiversity study to declare social and ecological emergency
The Intergovernmental Panel for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) have joined in Paris today to analyse the first key assessment on humanity’s relationship with nature since 2005. Leading biodiversity researchers are meeting representatives of 132 governments, before they publish their conclusions in a Summary for Policymakers on 6 May. The sub 2000 page report will be published alongside it. According to the BBC, for three years, 150 experts from more than 50 countries have looked at 15,000 sources of information. The study not only takes into account mainstream scientific studies, but also indigenous and local knowledge too. The report is expected to take a broad account of how deforestation, farming and energy demands are thrusting the planet into both a ‘social and ecological emergency,’ and will address population and economic growth as drivers.
Another BBC article on the same IPBES study reports how soil loss is helping to drive climate change, as it stores three times more carbon than the earth’s atmosphere. What’s more, climate change is expected to bring heavier rainfalls, increasing the chances of fertile soil being washed away. The chair of IPBES, Prof Sir Bob Watson, told BBC News that 3.2 billion people are suffering from soil degradation, impacting food security of half the planet: “We are losing from the soil the organic carbon and this undermines agricultural productivity and contributes to climate change. We absolutely have to restore the degraded soil we’ve got.”
Two cyclones hit Mozambique in one season for the first time on record
Still a long way off recovering from the devastating Cyclone Idai, Mozambique has been battered by Cyclone Kenneth. 160,000 people have been displaced by the storm, 30,000 have had their homes destroyed and 24,000 are in need of shelter, according to the World Food Program. Residents fear landslides and floods, as heavy rainfall causes rivers to swell. Vox reports that this is the first time on record that two cyclones have hit in one season, before outlining the intensity and proximity of the storms could point towards climate change. Climate change is allowing storms to hold more water making rainfall heavier, sea level rises are making storm surges worse, which could explain the rapid intensification of Kenneth from a category one to four in one day, the article claims.
Borneo: No rainforest equals no rain
Mongabay walks through a brief 50 year history of Borneo’s forests- some 150 million years old- to introduce a new study that found deforested areas on the island experienced higher temperatures than those with their forests intact. While deforested lowlands experienced a sub 2 degree Celsius temperature increase, palm oil plantations ratcheted up to 6.5 Celsius higher on the thermometer than that of primary forests. What’s more, the island has seen a decrease of rainfall of 20 percent during this period. Leading author, Douglas Sheil, noted that farmers planting away from tree cover suffered more from the increased droughts and heatwaves, before warning that the change in climate will likely lead to more forest fires. Ironically oil palm yields could suffer, as the thirsty plant responds to a shift from a wet climate to a hot and dry one. The island’s forests cover has been decimated by half in just fifty years, with logging then palm oil the driver.
Indigenous march in Brasilia to demand recognition of rights
Thousands of indigenous people from more than 300 tribes marched on Brazil’s capital to demand recognition of their rights, Al Jazeera reports. Since far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro was elected last year, indigenous people have reported an increase in land grabs and attacks. The article cites that the dismantling of National Foundation for the Indigenous, or
FUNAI, which previously was tasked with protecting native groups, as one of the reasons for the protests. Its portfolio had included the demarcation of land to indigenous groups, which has now been transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture. The Guardian reports how Bolsonaro- elected with the help of powerful agribusiness- has vowed to freeze demarcations of new reserves. In his campaign, Bolsonaro promised to revoke protected status and free up commercial farming and mining on protected reserves.
In a letter published in Science Mag, scientists call on Brazil’s second largest trading partner, the EU, to use current trade negotiations to demand better human and environmental protections.
Extinction Rebellion: 83 year-old protestor eats his sandwiches while awaiting arrest
Reports of the Extinction Rebellion protests in London spilled over into international press last week. The group have been causing disruption in the city through acts of peaceful civil disobedience, in a bid to motivate politicians to act on the multiple crises facing the planet. Sit downs on major bridges and roads blocked traffic, and protestors who glued themselves to local transport, helped bring the city to a standstill in some areas. 750 arrests were made on the weekend, according to the Independent. One of those arrested was 83 year old Phil Kingston, who went viral for eating his packed lunch from the roof of a DLR train after climbing atop. Mr Kingston said, “The more we take, the less there is for future generations.” Watch the video on ITV here.
Out of time-line: Earth’s mass extinctions
In response to a growing acceptance that we are now in the throws of a human generated sixth mass extinction, phys.org rewinds to 445 million years ago, and takes us on a journey of the proceeding five extinctions and their suspected causes.
16 million Indonesians to be caught up in Euro CPO ban, study says
According to Indonesia Oil Palm Network, Japbusi, over 16 million Indonesians will be affected by the European Union ban on crude palm oil as biofuel, the Jakarta Post reports. The new report claims that the policy, currently being contested by both Indonesia and Malaysia, would cause a large number of people to lose their jobs and trigger ‘social and economic tension in many parts of the country.’ Japbusi say that 3.78 million people work on oil palm plantations, including 2 million farmers.
Coffee waste: A circular economy answer to palm oil?
Closing the loop on waste are two hopeful Scottish entrepreneurs, who believe they have found an alternative to palm oil in used coffee grounds. On speaking to the BBC, Scott Kennedy and Fergus Moore came up with the idea while working in coffee shops when studying business in university. They are currently developing a way to purify the oil extracted from the used grounds, which have the same components as the widely used palm oil.
Instatree is a top hit!
Watch out Kardashians, there is a new Instagram star on the block…a tree! According to Wired, a post on planting trees has received over 14 million likes. Behind the tree love is ecofriendly apparel company, Tentree, who promised that every ten likes the post received, they would plant one tree in Indonesia. The article goes onto warn that reforestation is not as simple as just planting trees, citing natural regeneration- where areas are conserved and protected from logging, and assisted regeneration- where certain species such as fruit trees are planted to kickstart the system as alternative solutions. “You don’t need to plant anything, you just stop whacking the system,” says Bronson Griscom, director of forest carbon science at the Nature Conservancy. “Stop burning it, stop plowing it, stop cutting it.”
Video of the week:
A small town in North-western Finland is determined to be the first zero waste town. It seeks to reduce its emissions by 80 percent by 2030, 30 years ahead of the EU’s target. And it’s efforts are paying off. Having invested heavily in geothermal, solar and wind energy, it now generates a profit of half a million euros a year. The secret? Education from a very young age. Be prepared to ‘awww’, cue shots of children hugging trees: watch here.
Watch also: Can Sumatran elephants and people coexist?
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