The latest State of the World’s Forestsreport, from the UN FAO, analyses how forests and trees contribute to 28 targets across ten Sustainable Development Goals. Echoing the urgency of the recent IPCC report, UN FAO emphasise that swift action is needed to avoid damaging consequences.
A new study finds that illegal logging, coupled with weak state-run timber licensing systems, has led to massive timber harvesting fraud in Brazil, resulting in huge illicit harvests of Ipê trees. Ipê wood is largely shipped to the U.S. and Europe with the high value (up to $2,500 per cubic meter at export). Buyers all along the timber supply chain turn a blind eye toward fraud, with sawmills, exporters, and importers trusting the paperwork they receive, rather than questioning whether the lower prices they pay for Ipê and other timber may be due to timber laundering. This process is doing major damage to the Amazon. To reduce document fraud, the Brazilian federal government required that all states register or integrate their timber licensing systems within a national timber inventory and tracking system known as Sinaflor. While this should reduce fraudulent paperwork, better oversight of forest management plans and more onsite inspections of timber operations are needed also.
Many tropical forests around the world have been severely fragmented as human disturbance split once-contiguous forests into pieces. Previous research indicates trees on the edges of these fragments have higher mortality rates than trees growing in the interiors of forests. Researchers used satellite data and analysis software they developed to figure out how many forest fragments there are, and the extent of their edges. They discovered that there are around 50 million tropical forest fragments in the world today. When they calculated how much carbon is being released from tree death at these edges, they found a 31% increase from current tropical deforestation estimates.
According to the new report released by The international policy organization (Interpol), corruption in the forestry sector globally costs about $29 billion annually, with bribery as the most common form. The study finds that the forestry sector is particularly vulnerable to corruption as many forests since many forests are located in placed where governance and regulatory regimes are poor. Also, the point when corruption occurs most frequently is at the harvest, identified in another study Interpol collaborated with TREES project. Recommendations including policy and legislative reforms, capacity building, financial investigations, and Interpol anti-corruption investigators were provided to reduce the risk of corruption in forestry operations.
Two organizations, Woodland Trust and Confer, warn that England now is cutting down more trees than planting in the possibly 40 years. They pointed out that England is already one of Europe’s least wooded countries, and the government is missing its target to plant 11 million trees in the UK in the lifetime of this parliament. The UK government responded that the woodland cover was at its highest level since the 14th century, and planting rates vary from year to year. The Woodland Trust, Confor and large commercial forestry groups call on the government to commit to planting 7,000 hectares of woodland every year until 2020 and then to increase planting to 10,000 hectares a year.
According to satellite data analysed by researchers at Michigan State University, tree cover increased significantly on about 1.6% of China’s territory between 2000 and 2010, while tree cover dropped on only 0.38% of China’s land. The researchers attributed the forest gain to China’s Natural Forest Conservation Program, which has banned logging in many of the country’s forests and set up systems to prosecute illegal logging. The NFCP also compensates businesses and households for monitoring forest health and conserving trees rather than cutting them down.
The World Resources Institute released a new study, which finds that nearly all of the recent tree cover loss in several “frontiers of plantation expansion” is happening outside established plantation boundaries. The author hopes that the study can help in land-use planning that directs plantation development and expansion to already-degraded areas rather than supplanting forests.
Environmental Investigation Agency, London-based, released a report saying that an alarming escalation of timber flowing into China has been there over the last three years. The majority of trees being cut down was driven by very wealthy Chinese people, who consider luxury products as a status symbol. 153 Chinese nationals were arrested for illegal logging in Myanmar, but were released in July after receiving a presidential pardon.
Google has flown one of its Street View cameras down a zip wire for the first time. It set up a wire in the Amazon rainforest to capture new 360-degree images of the trees from root to tip. The new images have been released on Google Maps and the hope is that “environmentalists will use it as a tool to go and see what's there." The images have also captured lots of previously unrecorded wildlife.
Despite government plans to eradicate illegal logging that have been in place over the past five years, encroachment on the country’s forests remains rampant, a recent report says. The report, released by a number of NGOs grouped under the Coalition against Forestry Mafia and the Washington-based Forest Trends, said that more than 30 percent of the timber used by the country’s industrial forest sector could be considered illegal. According to the report, while the source of this illegal wood was unclear, it was likely from trees harvested during the clear-cutting of natural forests from new oil, palm and pulp plantations. In order to meet the demands from the industrial forestry industry, the government had pledged to boost the number of industrial forestry plantations as the primary source of legal wood in Indonesia. The plantations produce fast-growing species of trees like acacia. However, the report found that the plantation sector was dramatically underperforming. In 2007, the forestry ministry predicted that by 2014, plantations would be producing at almost twice the rate reportedly achieved.
Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) is working with environmentalists to combat illegal logging in the country’s Far East. Activists from WWF described long term collaboration with officials from Russia’s former KGB service in the effort to combat corruption and illegal timber exports as “unusual” but also unavoidable. WWF has been providing training for local customs officials on how to spot illegal species. A 2013 report by the Environmental Investigation Agency estimated that 96% of the valuable hardwoods harvested in the Russian Far East end up in China, while at least 80% of all felled trees have been logged illegally.
PEFC Italy, along with Conlegno, RiSSC, Risk Monitor and CNVP have launched a project aimed at preventing criminal organizations infiltrating into the EU timber market. The TREES project (Timber Regulation Enforcement to protect European wood Sector from criminal infiltration) aims at promoting standard procedures to prevent the risks of criminal infiltrations into the European market. By the end of the project, a standardized set of guidelines, actions and strategies to overcome difficulties in Due Diligence implementation will be developed, providing market operators with suggestions on how to carry out risk assessments and risk procedures.
Liberia is to become the first African nation to stop cutting down trees in return for development aid. Liberia is the home to a significant part of West Africa’s remaining forest, with about 43% of the Upper Guinean forest, and it is also a global diversity hotspot, home to the last remaining viable populations of species. Illegal logging in Liberia stared from 2003 after the civil war ended, and some researchers have connected the outbreak of Ebola with the widespread deforestation, which brings people into contact with natural reservoir of the virus. Now Norway has reached agreement with Liberia government that Norway will help Liberia to build up the capacity to monitor and police the forests. With widespread corruption and a government struggling to impost its authority, it should be recognized that stopping all the logging in Liberia will not be easy.
A new report by Forest Trends, a US based NGO, found out that around five football fields of tropical forest have been illegally cleared every minute between 2000 and 2012, which losses have been driven by consumer demand for beef, leather and timber in Europe and US. The values of this trade in commodities including timber, leather, beef, soy and palm oil, accounting for $61bn a year. The majority of the illegal deforestation for commercial agriculture has been in Brazil and Indonesia. The local governments are lack of capacity to enforce laws to against illegal logging. Report found that licences and permits to cut the trees are often acquired through corruption. Authors believe that consumer countries in EU could have done more to tackle the problem. Strong regulations rather than voluntary actions is the better solution. The biggest concern for campaigners now is the spread of illegal deforestation to new countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia.
Following a two year investigation, Greenpeace have uncovered evidence of systematic abuse and a flawed monitoring system in Brazil, a country whose government claims to be coping with deforestation. The loggers use a variety of techniques, including over-reporting the number and size of rare trees and logging trees that are protected by law. Greenpeace’s new report, entitled “The Amazon’s silent crisis” can be accessed here.
A new report titled ‘Logging Concessions Enable Illegal Logging Crisis in the Peruvian Amazon’ has found that the Peruvian Forest Law is being exploited for illegal purposes. Loggers are required to declare which individual, GPS-referenced trees will be cut in a one or five year period. As a result many have invented the existence of trees, they then log in other areas and claim trees came from inside their concessions and use the paperwork from these concessions to “prove” it. In over half the cases violations have related to CITES-listed cedar species. Nearly 70% of the concessions inspected have been suspected of “major violations”. This follows what was supposed to be a strengthening of the law through a trade agreement between Peru and the United States in 2009. The report’s authors say the root of the problem is that the authorities only check the regulatory documents in transport or at port arrival well after the logging has taken place. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has previously been highly critical of Peruvian logging practices highlighting the abuse of migrant workers and strategies designed to confuse the authorities in order to cover up illegal logging.
New logging roads are helping to spread the Spiked pepper tree (Piper aduncum), native to the American tropics, to areas further afield. It was first introduced to Indonesia in 1952, and at first its spread in Borneo was slow. However new observations have shown these trees are advancing along logging routes at a minimum rate of 5km each year. At this pace, the pepper trees threaten one of Borneo’s richest areas of flora.
Monks and villagers in Ubon Ratchathani’s Khemmarat district of Thailand have teamed up to protect their 100-year old Siamese rosewood forest from illegal logging gangs. The rosewood trees in this area have grown naturally for 100 years, and most are more than six metres high. By closing the temple doors during the night, the monks are preventing illegal logging gangs from entering the temple and cutting down the trees. Most illegally cut rosewood trees are transferred to China via Laos and Vietnam. During 2008 – 2014, over 27,000 pieces of Siamese rosewood have been confiscated by police and some 395 offenders arrested.
A study by the Universities of Exeter and Oxford has found that forests are better protected when local communities manage them locally. The research was undertaken in Cambodia, a country that has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world. Alternative methods of forest protection, such as community forestry, are needed in countries that have high levels of corruption. The study found that sites maintained by locals had fewer signs of man-made damage, such as stumps and burned trees.
Google Earth has helped to create a new high-resolution global map of forest loss and gain, with a resolution of 30m. In the twelve years that the map spans (2000 – 2012), the Earth lost enough trees to cover the UK six times. It isn’t all bad news however - Brazil cut their annual forest loss in half between 2003-4 and 2010-11.