FSC has sent a "come clean" ultimatum to APP and its billionaire Indonesian owners, the Widjaja family, following evidence it continues to cut down tropical forests and operate through corporate proxies. A letter was sent to the pulp and paper giant on Monday which sets out the demands FSC expect APP to meet if they want to be readmitted to the council. The ultimatum comes after Greenpeace ended a five year truce with the company earlier this month following an investigation that revealed the company had been destroying tropical forests the entire time the two parties were cooperating on conservation. FSC have demanded APP respond to their letter by Monday, stating publicly their high level commitment to the council’s standards and proposing remedies to Greenpeace’s evidence of deforestation. By June 11th the company will also have to fully disclose their corporate structure and any other violations of the standards.
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.
A new research published by the journal Conservation Letters studies the industrial palm oil plantations and regional greenhouse gas emissions levels. The paper summarizes the results of a case study focused on an oil palm operation in Gabon, and suggests that tropical African countries could largely offset the emissions created by converting the land to palm oil plantations if they enact mandatory policies regulation which forests can be cleared and how much remaining forest must be set aside for conservation. If those mandatory measures are lack, unsustainable levels of climate-warming carbon emissions could be created by converting Africa’s tropical forests into monoculture palm plantations.
Researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK analysed data from 824 harvest areas in private and community-owned forests scattered throughout the 123 million hectare Brazilian state of Para, which is the source of almost half of all timber production in the Brazilian Amazon. The results demonstrate that it is crucial to manage yields of selectively-logged forests for the long-term health of forest biodiversity as well as the financial viability of local industries. The analysis shows that even so-called ‘reduced-impact logging’ in tropical forests can rarely be defined as sustainable in terms of forest composition and dynamics in the aftermath logging.
A group of scientists questioned whether sustainable forest management (SFM) is an effective way as commonly believed to protect tropical forests and the habitat and carbon reserves. They published a study in the journal Land Use Policy arguing that SFM may not actually lead to less deforestation based on the their analysis of timber concessions in the Central African nation of the Republic of Congo. According to their research, timber concessions operating under forest management plans (FMPs) showed higher rates of deforestation than concessions without them. The research was criticized by some scientists as overly simplistic. One of the authors was hesitant to extend the findings beyond the borders of the Republic of Congo.
The importance of tropical rain forest for addressing climate change was formally recognized in the Paris Conference of Parties (COP) of the UNFCCC. The Paris Agreement advocates countries to incorporate forests and ecosystems protection into country plans for reducing emissions. To combat climate change, except protecting and restoring forests, it is also essential to maintain the full faunal composition to ensure long term survival and maximize full capacity. Last but not least, recognizing the role of maintaining core areas of intact primary forest through parks, reserves, indigenous territories and other protected areas to ensure that restoration of forests takes place in a way that fully restores those forests to their many ecosystem service roles is also important.
A new report by the Rainforest Action Network provides further evidence of the benefits of greater local land rights in conserving tropical forests. The research follows a separate report published in 2014 by the World Resources Institute, an international environmental NGO. That study showed deforestation rates were 11 times lower in zones licensed to local communities than in other lands.
The Mongabay article reports that Indonesia targeted 2.5 million hectares of land for community-based forest management between 2009 and 2014 but only 13% of this had actually been allocated for community-based forest management by the end of 2013. The article points to criticisms by some that many licenses vulnerable to abuse with one commentator claiming that some loosely organized communities will simply sell their land to the highest bidder – often industrial companies.
Scientists at UCL have defined three phases of global forest loss, the third of which we are living through now. They believe this third phase poses dangerous consequences if not correctly managed at a global scale. They believe the first phase happened over 6000 years ago when hunter-gatherers moved into tropical forests. The second phase saw the emergence of tropical agriculture. Despite altering the forest both of these phases maintained its overall health. The third phase – known as ‘Global Integration’ - has much greater impacts and is defined by distant decision-makers directing forest and agricultural land use. There have been positive moves, such as the UN’s New York Declaration of Forests agreeing to halt deforestation and restore 150 million hectares. But moves to expand the palm oil industry in to Africa are concerning and the study worries about the implications for the continent’s natural forests. The report calls for a renewed attention on forests at the Paris climate talks, where commitments to reduce deforestation and secure alternative finance are essential to success.
Orbital Insight is a start-up founded by James Crawford, a former Google and NASA robotics and artificial intelligence expert, to track changes in tropical forests over time through the collection of satellite images. Orbital Insight aims to use deep learning, a technique used by Google and Facebook, to analyse data from a wide range of satellite image sources. The company will set its machine vision algorithms loose on the images to detect small alterations in the landscape that could be missed by the human eye. Having worked for private companies before using this technology, Orbital Impact hopes that the company will be able to help anticipate the damage of deforestation before it is done.
A report from Prince Charles' International Sustainability Unit has found that we are still some way from realising the full potential of tropical forests in stabilising global climate, agricultural yields, ecosystem services and local livelihoods. The report, Tropical Forests: A Review, argues that forests have such incredible potential because of their dual role as carbon sinks. Less deforestation means less carbon is released and as the forest continues to grow, more carbon is locked in to the biomass. The report also highlights the importance of tropical forests to regional and global rainfall cycles. This is particularly relevant for Brazil where a severe drought has impacted cities and major agricultural areas. Modelling has shown that deforestation in the Amazon and Congo Basin could affect rainfall patterns across Europe and North America. The report urges forests be prioritised as a significant solution as we approach binding international agreements on climate change.
While estimates from various UN bodies claim “decreasing deforestation rates and increased afforestation” over recent years, a new study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters indicates a 62% acceleration in net deforestation in the humid tropics from the 1990s to the 2000s. The new study used satellite images to examine the tropical forests of 34 countries, including Brazil, Indonesia and Thailand, that collectively house 80 percent of the world’s tropical forest area. Brazil “dominated” tropical forest losses, according to the study, showing a 33 percent acceleration in the amount of forest that was lost over the time period. According to the researchers the difference is because the UN mostly uses country based self-reporting rather than analysis of satellite data. The drought currently hitting Brazil has in part been blamed on deforestation.
A study recently published in Forest Ecology and Management examines the carbon stock value of forests in Guyana, finding dramatic differences between different kinds of cover and land-use types. Tropical forests are among the most valuable in terms of carbon stocks. Globally, tropical forests sequester about 2.4 billion metric tons, according to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2011. The new research found that carbon values differ according to forest type and usage pattern; for instance, carbon values from undisturbed forests cannot be applied in inhabited community lands.
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.
New research due to be published in the journal ‘Global Change Biology’ has revealed that the amount of carbon lost from tropical forests is being significantly underestimated. The degradation of tropical forests by selective logging and fires causes large amounts of ‘hidden’ emissions. Degradation is a slow moving process and hard to measure, adding to the fact that it is underestimated. This new study attempts to overcome these limitations by using on-the-ground assessments.
Communities living alongside the world's tropical forests can estimate an area's carbon stocks as effectively as hi-tech systems, according to findings published in the journal Ecology and Society. The study found that community members in four South-East Asian countries using sticks and ropes were able to gather the same results as satellites. The research team aim to convince policy makers of the vital role local communities can play under the UN’s Redd+ programme which aims to curb GHG emissions from deforestation and land-use change.
BBC One's Panorama investigates illegal logging in the tropical forests of West Africa and the timber's journey as it makes its way to Western Europe.
The UK government is backing the Tropical Forests Alliance (TFA) 2020. TFA 2020 is a business-led initiative launched by the US government and the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) which is a group of over 400 retailers and manufacturers. Although there are no regulatory implications, TFA 2020 aims to provide a forum ‘in which to share best practice with major private companies’ committed to adopting ‘sustainable supply chains’ and to ‘encourage other governments and companies to take similar steps’.