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January 20 2014

22:45

Forest Management, Cultivation Key for Sustainability and a Healthy Planet

By Stephen Roshy

Well maintained forests play a vital role in controlling and mitigating the effects of global warming. Forests not only help slow down climate change, but also provide a sustainable means of living for many living beings. Forests have a multitude of benefits that are often overlooked by many; it is more than just a wood commodity or natural beauty (though natural beauty is important to human health).

A well managed forest is essential for a healthy planet and sustainable futureForests Promote Sustainable Living

In many countries, forests are home to some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. Well-managed and preserved forests play an important societal and economic role for these people, and are key to alleviating poverty. A healthy forest ecosystem provide indigenous people with goods for household consumption as well as items for trade.

The Urgent Need for Forest Cultivation

Even under the best of circumstances, climate change is expected to increase in the coming decades. This requires increasing cultivation of forests and green habitats. According to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), billion of people are at risk from water and food shortages and poor health from deforestation and climate change. Preserving and restoring forest habitat is urgent and essential for these communities.

Forests Conserve Nature

It is generally well-understood that forests act as a carbon sink, absorbing CO2 in the process of photosynthesis. A major concern is how warming temperatures causes more rapid decomposition of organic material in soils, leading to an increase in CO2 released into the atmosphere.

A recent study done by Harvard University produced the surprising finding that these same warming temperatures may stimulate the ability of healthy trees to absorb carbon, thus offsetting some of the increased CO2 released from decomposition.

Forest Restoration

The benefits of reforestation - or avoiding the destruction of forests in the first place – are numerous; from helping to mitigate climate change, protecting habitats and species, and as an economic lifeline for communities dependent upon them. Forest restoration is urgent and vital to preserve vital ecosystems and reduce global warming.

Decrease Carbon Footprint by Forests and Trees

While the rate of deforestation may be decreasing, millions of hectares of forests have been – and continue to be – lost to mismanagement, disease and wanton destruction. These forests can be restored with dedication and rehabilitated to restore and preserve biodiversity and help stabilize CO2 in the atmosphere .

Forests are the lungs of the planet, greatly influencing the global climate. Increased reforestation can prevent temperatures from rising, increase sustainability and ensure a healthy livelihood for forest-dependent people across the globe.

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Stephen Roshy is a professional writer and he writes quality and informative content on Feeney’s Garden Center . You can find him on Facebook , Twitter and Google+

Image credit: ? is for äp?L, courtesy flickr

 

The post Forest Management, Cultivation Key for Sustainability and a Healthy Planet appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

September 19 2013

18:26

The Vital Role of Forests: Carbon, Rain and Food

Forests provide ecosystem services vital to all lifeWe are coming to a better understanding of the vital role that forests play in the general health of planetary ecosystems.  However, alongside our burgeoning awareness, we are also destroying forests in our quest for more land and lumber.

Deforestation is eliminating the Earth’s forests on a massive scale. Each day at least 80,000 acres (32,300 ha) of forest disappear and another 80,000 acres (32,300 ha) of forest are degraded. Overall, FAO estimates that 10.4 million hectares of tropical forest were permanently destroyed each year in the period from 2000 to 2005. About an acre of tropical rainforests are lost every second. If the current trend continues, the world’s rainforests could completely vanish in a hundred years

Forests are being destroyed largely for agricultural purposes and logging. Forests are also cut down as a result of growing urban sprawl. Deforestation results in habitat loss for millions of species that depend on them for their survival. Deforestation undermines the water cycle which can lead to desertification.

Deforestation also drives climate change as trees play a critical role in absorbing or sequestering the greenhouse gases that fuel global warming. The clearing and burning of rainforests are responsible for approximately 15 percent of global carbon emissions. In the U.S., forests absorb 13 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions each year. Based on the most recent satellite data, emissions from deforestation account for 10 percent of global carbon emissions. However, a January 2013 study just out of Dartmouth College shows that deforestation impacts on soil and may release even more carbon than previously thought.

Forest management policy

Wealthy countries have promised to help poorer nations to protect their forests through programs like The Natural Capital Project, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) and The Partnership for Wealth Accounting and the Valuation of Ecosystem services (WAVES). While the developed world has pledged more than 5 billion dollars for this purpose, the money promised has not lived up to these promises.

One recent example involves the country of Ecuador, which has started cutting down its forests for oil drilling operations after the international community failed to provide necessary funding. Conversely, Costa Rica is one of the best examples of successful forest management. The country has managed to double the size of its tropical forests in the last 20 years through national conservation policies. As reported in the journal Environmental Research Letters, Costa Rica’s ban on clearing of mature forests appears to be a key success factor in encouraging agricultural expansion on non-forest lands.

Success in managing forests requires a sound economic plan in support of conservation. There are a number of steps governments can take to help with reduce deforestation including tax breaks, direct payments, and subsidies.

Water and hydro-electric companies can also charge customers through fees embedded in utility bills in order to generate income to pay forest managers. Governments can also legislate financial mechanisms that value natural resources like trees. Under such a scheme, companies are forced to pay for the pollution they generate.

Setting a mandatory carbon price may be the best way to protect forests as market driven programs seem to offer the best approach. Another approach involves projects like the Forest Footprint Disclosure (FFD) which is working with companies on their impact on forests. Initiated in 2008, this is a not-for-profit project of the Global Canopy Foundation that is backed by investors.

A more workable solution is to carefully manage forest resources by eliminating clear-cutting to make sure that forest environments remain intact. The cutting that does occur should be balanced by the planting of enough young trees to replace the older ones felled in any given forest. The number of new tree plantations is growing each year, but their total still equals a tiny fraction of the Earth’s forested land.

REDD

International efforts to curb deforestation are centered on a United Nations-backed scheme called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD). REDD+, emerged from the 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen, was developed to provide financial incentives to countries and landowners to protect and better manage forests.

Forests are not a renewable source of electricity

One of the most troubling trends involves the use of forests as fodder for energy production. To meet this growing demand, U.S. companies have become the world’s largest exporter of wood pellets in 2012. What makes this even worse is that this is being sold as a renewable form of energy production.

As explored by the NRDC, burning our forests is bad for our climate, bad for local ecosystems, and bad for our communities.  In response to this troubling trend, the NRDC and Dogwood Alliance launched a program to protect Southern trees called Our Forests Aren’t Fuel. This campaign is designed to raise awareness about the alarming and rapidly-growing practice of logging forests and burning the trees as fuel to generate electricity.

Carbon forestry

Supporting reforestration to offset carbon emissions is increasingly popular. This is done through the purchase of carbon credits that are linked with the forestry sector with the idea that these new trees will sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

As reviewed in Ecologist, a report by the monitoring and analysis agency Ecosystem Marketplace indicates that over 30 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) was contracted across forest markets in 2010.

Carbon forests can offer a variety of benefits for the environment, however, there is considerable doubt as to whether these planted forests enhance biodiversity. There is also growing support for research that suggests that planted forests may not be as effective as natural forests in inducing rainfall.

Forests are essential to rain

While the relationship between forests and carbon has received a lot of attention, research suggests that forests may also be the driving force behind precipitation which is so vital to overall ecosystem health. As explored in an article in Mongabay, forests may be the key to rainfall and as a consequence, global ecological restoration.

On September 12, 2013, the U.S. Forest Service published a final rule that is expected to improve the agency’s ability to restore land. “This rule will help us improve the resiliency, health and diversity of our forests and grasslands,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “We will now be able to move forward with our partners to focus more energy on action, and less on paperwork, to restore more acres in less time.”

The final rule includes reference to a paper titled “Where do winds come from?” This paper outlines a new meteorological hypothesis in which condensation, not temperature, drives winds. This paper highlights the importance of the world’s forests as the salient driver of precipitation from the coast into a continent’s interior. The theory, known as the biotic pump, was first developed in 2006 by two Russian scientists

This research explains why deforestation also brings a drop in precipitation. The condensation produced by forests creates zones of low pressure that suck in the air from the surrounding regions. Forests create persistent low pressure zones on land and this causes moist winds to blow from the ocean to land.

The theory put forth in this paper explains why there is so little rain in deserts and further posits that if we were to plant enough trees in these zones we could induce rainfall.

The paper’s authors, Victor orshkov and Anastassia Makarieva, explain that, “Preserving and recovering forest cover may prove to be the cheapest and most reliable means of ensuring regional environmental sustainability.” They also indicate that their research on biotic pumps suggests that industrial plantations do not move rain as effectively as natural forests.

One of the chief findings in this research involves the relationship between forests and agriculture. Put simply, the more forests we lose, the less rain will reach continental interiors.

Forests and agriculture

The relationship between forests and agriculture was also addressed in May at the International Conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition. At this conference, scientists and leaders from around the world largely agreed that forests are essenatial to sustainable food supplies. They concluded that forests contribute to food security including the provision of ecosystem services like the regulation of water flow, and the protection of soils against erosion.

The relationship between forests and agriculture is a tragically ironic vicious cycle. We destroy forests to make more room for agriculture, while deforestation appears to undermine agricultural productivity.  We then need more land to produce crops to make up for the reduced productivity.

The issues associated with food supplies will become even more important as we strive to meet the challenge of feeding an ever expanding population. A growing body of research indicates that forests are essential to agricultural productivity.

Forests are far more than an important source of carbon sequestration, they are essential to the water and food on which all life depends.
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Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: CIFOR, courtesy flickr

The post The Vital Role of Forests: Carbon, Rain and Food appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

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September 04 2012

19:58

Illegal Logging Deals Rife in Liberia, Group Reports

A report says that control of one-quarter of Liberia's land has been granted to logging companies in just two years through permits that were illegally or fraudulently awarded.

August 14 2012

21:05

In Fragmented Brazilian Forest, Few Species Survive

New survey methods indicate that computer projections of surviving species vastly overstated their presence. And five large mammal species had essentially been wiped out.

August 03 2012

18:22

On Our Radar: Hunger in North Korea

Floods have swept away crops and damaged wells and pumping stations, leaving many without food or clean drinking water, a United Nations agency said.

July 26 2012

19:04

Will Climate Change Trip Up Punctual Songbirds?

By attaching trackers to small songbirds, researchers discovered that individual ones are highly faithful to their yearly migration schedules. Within a species, though, the departure times can vary significantly.

May 01 2012

18:15

A Grim Portrait of Palm Oil Emissions

A new study suggests that, if anything, a recent E.P.A. finding underestimated the greenhouse gas emissions related to palm oil production in Asia.

April 24 2012

17:25

To Find Diversity Hot Spots, Follow the Ants

Data crunching suggests that the presence of many ant species has yet to be documented in remote areas threatened by habitat loss.

April 19 2012

17:39

On Our Radar: Rising Seas

After heavy pressure from some Republicans, President Obama has apparently decided to renominate a member of the often-divided commission.

March 30 2012

17:40

March 27 2012

19:04

February 21 2012

15:12

Post-Industrial Age Black Carbon Deposits Help Accelerate Loss of Glacial Ice, Marine Ecosystem Changes


Black carbon is accelerating the shrinking of glaciers around the world Burning fossil fuels and biomass are the primary sources of “black carbon” in the earth’s atmosphere, and deposits of black carbon are building up on glaciers, accelerating ice loss, according to a research team that includes Robert Spencer of the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts. Black carbon deposits in these remote, “pristine” locations provide direct evidence of the impact human activity is having on the environment.

“We are finding this human derived signature in a corner of the U.S. that is traditionally viewed as being exceptionally pristine,” Spencer was quotes in a Eurekalert news release. “The burning of biomass and fossil fuels has an impact we can witness in these glacier systems although they are distant from industrial centers, and it highlights that the surface bio-geochemical cycles of today are universally post-industrial in a way we do not fully appreciate.”

Glaciers, Black Carbon & Dissolved Organic Matter

Glacier ice loss is accelerating globally, and deposition of black carbon is contributing to it. Black carbon deposits darken the surface of glaciers and increases their absorption of light and heat. Spencer and his fellow researchers have been studying this phenomenon at the Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau, Alaska.

Glaciers pick up a lot of carbon as part of dissolved organic matter (DOM) as they grind their way over land, including “natural” DOM from ancient plants, trees and animal life forms. This is transported to downstream ecosystems in meltwater and taken up at the base of aquatic food webs by microorganisms.

Adding to the DOM taken up and distributed by glacial cycles are black carbon deposits from rain and snow, which include carbon from burning fossil fuels and biomass. Distinguishing the original source of the carbon in DOM has been an obstacle to gaining better understanding of the carbon cycle in glacial regions. New evidence from radiocarbon dating and ultra-high resolution mass spectrometry has led Spencer and his colleagues to believe that the carbon comes mainly from the burning of fossil fuels and modern-day biomass, however.

The same process of DOM uptake and distribution occurs in environments around the world, where rivers and other waterways carry DOM to the sea. Whereas carbon-rich DOM in tropical and temperate environments is quickly taken up in the food web, DOM in glacial environments persists longer, which makes glacier ecosystems such as the Mendenhall Glacier unique, “sentinel” locations to study the carbon cycle and the extent to which anthropogenic – man-made – carbon from burning fossil fuels and biomass contributes to the cycle.

“In frigid glacier environments any input stands out, making glaciers ideal sentinel ecosystems for the detection and study of anthropogenic perturbation,” Spencer explained. “However, the deposition of this organic material happens everywhere and in vibrant ecosystems such as those found in temperate or tropical regions, once this organic material makes landfall it is quickly consumed in the general milieu of life.”

Post-Industrial Age Phenomenon

Glacier ecosystems cover 10% of the earth’s surface. Together with ice sheets they are the second largest reservoirs of freshwater on earth. Nonetheless, the carbon cycle in glacial areas is poorly understood.

“Improving our understanding of glacier bio-geochemistry is of great urgency, as glacier environments are among the most sensitive to climate change and the effects of industrial pollution,” Spencer stated.

Furthermore, post-industrial deposits of black carbon have changed the bio-geochemistry of the oceans. Marine and aquatic microbes that make up the base of the food web are very sensitive to the quantity and quality of carbon dissolved in water.

The researchers found that the organic matter in glacial meltwaters in large part originate as a result of human activities, which means that the supply of glacier carbon in Gulf of Alaska coastal waters is a modern, post-industrial phenomenon, they say.

“When we look at the marine food webs today, we may be seeing a picture that is significantly different from what existed before the late-18th century,” said Aron Stubbins a research team member from the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography. “It is unknown how this man-made carbon has influenced the coastal food webs of Alaska and the fisheries they support.”

 

Image credit: Alaska in Pictures

February 13 2012

17:05

Palm Oil and Scout Cookies: The Battle Drags On

Five years after their campaign began, two teenagers report that palm oil is still used to bake Girl Scout cookies -- even though palm oil is associated with deforestation.

February 08 2012

16:49

On Our Radar: A Subglacial Lake

Scientists say they have drilled down through ice and reached Lake Vostok, the largest of more than 280 lakes under the thick ice that covers most of the Antarctic continent. It has been sealed from light and air for millions of years. If evidence of life is found there, it could boost hopes of finding life in similar conditions in icy water on one of the moons of Jupiter.

February 01 2012

15:16

On Our Radar: A Crisp View of Earth

The Suomi N.P.P. satellite is carrying five instruments, the biggest of which, the "Visible/Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite," took the photos that were used to create a composite image.

January 25 2012

17:37

Is Brazil Backsliding on Deforestation?

A bill seeking to overhaul Brazil's 47-year-old Forest Code is the most serious test yet of the president's stance on the environment.

January 09 2012

12:38

Meet Madagascar's New Lemur

Researchers hope the discovery of a new species of mouse lemur will bring more attention to the struggle to conserve the island's forests.

December 19 2011

16:18

October 24 2011

20:22

Disposable Chopsticks Strip Asian Forests

Each year, 3.8 million trees go into the manufacture of 57 billion disposable pairs of chopsticks in China. But awareness is growing, and some restaurants and consumers are switching to reusables.

October 18 2011

18:55

Starbucks Exec Warns of Climate Change Impacts on World Coffee Supply


Coffee borer beetle and other impacts from climate change threaten the world's coffee cropRecent research results from Kenya’s International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) highlighting the threat from climate change to the world’s coffee crop has been spreading. The proliferation of the coffee berry borer, a major insect pest, threatens coffee growers and roasters in parts of East Africa and South America, as well distributors who source coffee berries from these areas. The number and distribution of the coffee berry borer is likely to increase out to 2050, according to an AllAfrica news report.

This and other threats to the world’s coffee producers has prompted Starbucks and others to take global warming and climate change as more imminent threats. In response, the coffee multinational is working a plan to generate carbon offsets through its sustainable agriculture initiatives.

The early stages of the process is already underway. Starbucks is expanding its existing coffee-carbon project to measure the carbon mitigation potential of operations at sites in Sumatra, Indonesia and Chiapas, Mexico.

More urgent action

Through the Coffee and Farmer Equity (CAFE) practices program, it’s also working with Conservation International to offer methods for farmers to sequester carbon and encourage reforestation and sustainable stewardship, Starbucks’ head of environmental impact, Jim Hanna, said in a ClimateWire interview.

“Eventually, we want to quantify that so that those coffee farmers can also become carbon farmers,” Hanna explained.

To date, Starbucks’ sustainability efforts have focused on its retail outlets, which include establishing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards for retail shops with the US Green Building Council.

Hanna realized that the company could have an even greater impact on its “carbon footprint” by developing the means to assist its farmer suppliers to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and adopt mitigation efforts. Deforestation accounts for some 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

“If you look at a map of deforestation around the world and you look at a map of coffee, it’s the same map,” Hanna was quoted as saying the ClimateWire interview. “We have a huge opportunity within our regions to also impact on deforestation.”

Mitigating business and climate change threats

Hanna noted that three more sites were added to Union of Concerned Scientists’ Climate Hot Map recently, while speaking at a UCS briefing last week on the effects rising temperatures and extreme weather has and could have on the world’s coffee crop.

“What we need to do is minimize business risks,” Hanna said.

Most of Starbucks’ premium arabica coffee beans are grown in Central and South America. Coffee farmers in Colombia are facing a reduced harvest this year as a result of heavy rains stripping off the crop’s coffee flowers.

Awareness of the business risk inherent in climate change and global warming are rising along with global temperatures and the frequency of extreme weather events. In August, institutional investors in the J.M. Smucker Co. demanded that management disclose risks to its supply chain as a result of climate change, ClimateWire noted in its report.

Image credit: Rodale.com
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