tagged w/ Forests
Recent, unprecedented, climate-driven forest collapses in Western Australia show us that ecosystem change can be sudden, dramatic and catastrophic. These collapses are a clear signal that we must develop new strategies to mitigate or prevent the future effects of climate change in Australian woodlands and forests. But society’s view of forests is ever-changing: are we willing to understand ecosystems and adapt to changing conditions?
The south west of Western Australia has experienced a long-term climate shift since the early 1970s, resulting in dryer and hotter than average conditions. This shifted baseline, or average, has also led to more frequent extreme events. In 2010, the region experienced the driest and second hottest year on record.
These climate changes have resulted in significant decreases in stream-flow and groundwater levels. For example, formerly permanent streams now stop flowing for considerable periods. Groundwater levels have fallen up to 11 meters in some forested areas, with larger decreases in populated areas. Clearly, soil water reserves have dried out substantially and will likely continue to do so; we are now starting to see the implications of this. Although most of the West Australian society, particularly those in urban environments, may be well-buffered from these changes, ecosystems are not.
The climatic changes occurring in the south west of Western Australia are contributing to deteriorating woodland and forest health. In the past 20 years, insect infestations and fungal diseases have plagued many iconic tree species, including tuart, wandoo, flooded gum, marri, and WA peppermint, increasing their mortality rates. Many of these disorders are likely triggered or incited by changing climate conditions.
In extreme climate conditions, woodland and forest health suffers most. For instance, during the record dry and hot period in 2010 and 2011, large patches of trees throughout the region suddenly collapsed, with little recovery in some areas. Along the coastal plain surrounding Perth, some areas of Banksia woodland suffered losses as high as 70-80%, while over 500 ha of tuart woodland collapsed and over 15,000 ha of exotic pine plantations (~70% north of Perth) were destroyed. In the northern jarrah forest, over 16,000 ha of forest suddenly collapsed, with mortality rates 10.5 times greater than normal.
In several ecosystems, species have died out and not been replaced, permanently shifting vegetation structure and ecosystem function. Some believe that species and ecosystems will transition slowly in response to climate change. But following the extreme conditions experienced in 2010-11, we now know the transition in many West Australian woodlands and forests will likely occur in sudden, catastrophic, step changes. Many species may not have time to adapt.
These often sudden and dramatic shifts in vegetation health, structure and function have profound consequences on associated flora and fauna, including many critically endangered species. The Mediterranean type-ecosystems of the south west were recently named among the top 10 ecosystems most vulnerable to climate-induced tipping points and degradation by a panel of 26 leading Australian ecologists. The region is one of 35 global biodiversity hotspots, harbouring approximately 1500 plant species, most of which aren’t found anywhere else.
Among the most well known animal species is the near-extinct Carnaby’s Black Cockatoo, which relies heavily on Banksia and pine food resources made scarce by habitat conversion. Tree collapse on the coastal plain in 2010-11 likely played a role in the 34% decline in the Carnaby’s Black Cockatoo population in the Greater Perth Region between 2010 and 2011.
Many more plant and animal species are susceptible to similar collapses given the current climate trajectory and future climate predictions. Indeed, many of the traditional values that forests have provided could well be under threat.
Historically, Australian forests have been valued for the resources they provide: timber, charcoal, water, recreation, sequestered carbon, and biodiversity amongst others. With failing forest health, all of these resources are affected. The threats to forests from climate change cross ideological boundaries: this isn’t just a “green” issue. The management of forests is at a crossroads, where decisions about their future need to be made.
To do this, society needs to answer some basic questions:
*Do we still value forests?
*What do we want forests to look like in the future?
*What are we doing now to preserve forest health in this period of climate change?
*Should additional strategies and methods be developed to help forests have time to adapt to these changes?
Although the recent forest collapses in WA are tragic, they are also a valuable opportunity to understand forest susceptibility, stress thresholds, interactions among stress factors (such as insect pests and fungal pathogens) and forest tipping points. Better understanding these aspects is critical if we want to prevent future collapse.
By George Matusick, Giles Hardy and Katinka Ruthrof of Murdoch University
5 June 2012, 3.09pm AESTRecent, unprecedented, climate-driven forest collapses in Western Australia show us... more
Trees provide a service to the life of all species on Earth. They are considered the lungs of our planet, and to some scientists now its heart as well. By continuing the rapacious rate of deforestation we are now sustaining globally we are contributing not only to the destruction of the natural beauty of our only home, but the exacerbation of CO2 levels that are contributing to the following effects of climate change that can be brought down to an acceptable level through the proper remediation process of providing carbon sinks:
1. Glacier melt causing floods, mudslides, and what is now considered a dangerous effect on water supplies for billions of people who depend on those glaciers for sustenance. Also, destruction of the Arctic ice caps at a rate three times faster than scientifically predicted by the IPCC which act as the mirror and climate balance of our planet. Current CO 2 levels have now been read at 400 PPM. Without this mirror to reflect the rays of the sun we are risking passing what scientists call a "tipping point" of runaway climate change which will have catastrophic effects on this planet and our relationship to it.
2. Sea level rise due to melting ice caps and oversaturation of CO2 in our oceans. Forty eight islands have already seen the effects of sea level rise regarding destroying their homes, their traditions, and their ability to live. Many of these low lying islands are located in the Pacific and are only the first wave of islands and states to feel these effects. Scientists predict that within fifty years the Northeast coast of the United States may also be feeling these same effects due to sea level rise and some states are already seeing this happening. If we do not curtail the rate of emissions of CO2 in our atmosphere to an acceptable level (350 PPM) we risk putting millions of people in danger of experiencing the same fate. Hundreds of millions of climate refugees would be catastrophic and cause the breakdown of society as we know it.
3. Wildfires due not only in part to normal conditions we see in certain areas yearly, but now more pervasive and destructive wildfires brought on by excessive drought. Scientists now predict that wildfires will become more intense and destructive as the world warms, which will then contribute to the greenhouse gases and lack of carbon sinks that precipitate climate change causing a positive feedback loop.
These factors along with other factors such as species invasion, species extinction, change in rainfall patterns which are affecting agriculture and food production/prices and evaporation of soil moisture and lower water tables in many rivers around the world must now lead us to formulating solutions that are timely, simple, economically viable and that can improve the climate balance of our planet as well as provide much needed nutrients for our soil, water, food, sustenance, shelter, and a way to fight deforestation.
While governments of the world continue to argue and debate over the best course of action to take to mitigate and adapt to climate change that will best profit them, it is the people of America and globally who must now look beyond political solutions to moral solutions that will surely bring more positive and timely results.
Looking for only technological solutions that require too much time to bring up to standards necessary to stabilize CO2 emissions and may not even be viable at all are not the answer now. We must have a solution now that is natural, simple, virtually inexpensive and that can give us guaranteed results. Reforestation is then the one natural method of stabilizing atmospheric CO2 that is already available to us.
More at the linkTrees provide a service to the life of all species on Earth. They are considered the... more
Last year, India asked the International Olympics Committee (IOC) to discontinue Dow Chemical’s sponsorship of the upcoming London Olympics, citing the American corporation’s links to Union Carbide, the company responsible for the 1984 Bhopal gas leak that killed 2,500 people.
Now Vietnam is calling for Dow to quit the games because of the company’s record in producing the toxic defoliant Agent Orange, writes the Thanh Nien News, an influential newspaper in Ho Chi Minh City.
The United States military used Agent Orange extensively in the Vietnam War. Contained in drums with orange stripes (hence the name), the defoliant was sprayed on farms and forests to deprive the communist North Vietnamese and their allies of food and cover.
The systematic dumping caused death, disease and genetic deformities among millions of Vietnamese, including generations born 40 years after the war ended in 1975. The poison continues to contaminate Vietnam’s ecosystem and food chain, the newspaper reports.
The News says Vietnamese government recently sent a letter to the IOC expressing “profound concerns” about Dow’s involvement in the Olympics, which are due to start in less than two months.
“What is worth condemning is the fact that despite [international opinion], Dow Chemical expressed their indifference and refused compensation for the victims of Agent Orange produced by the company, as well as their responsibility to clean up contaminated areas,” according to the letter.
The paper quotes a Dow spokesman dismissing the letter as “misguided” and wrongly focused,” while the IOC said it carefully studied the history of the company and found it “committed to good corporate citizenship.”
But leftist American political author Noam Chomsky is siding with Vietnam, saying it is “entirely appropriate” for the government to object to Dow’s sponsorship, the paper reports. “The use of Agent Orange was a major war crime. The victims have been largely ignored, another crime,” Chomsky said.
Washington has largely rebuffed efforts to be held responsible for the ill effects of Agent Orange in Vietnam, though the U.S. government has promised to help clean up contaminated airports formerly used by American troops.
Ironically, Dow and Monsanto, another Agent Orange producer, are now conducting business in Vietnam.
But if the chairman of the Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange could have his way, the two companies would pack up and leave, the paper reported. “My ultimate goal is to push the government to get both Dow and Monsanto out of Vietnam,” he said.
More at the linkLast year, India asked the International Olympics Committee (IOC) to discontinue Dow... more
Reforestation and afforestation often involves planting trees that have a proven history of commercial success, fast growth and ease of cultivation. This copies the same pattern that has seen biodiversity in crops decline around the world, as most agriculture revolves around a limited number of species. At La Pedregoza one of our objectives is to practice multispecies cultivation that includes native trees. The importance of this is obvious when one visits large teak plantations in Costa Rica, as they are usually devoid of insects, birds and local wildlife, because teak is a tree from south Asia that is not part of local niche habitats.
At La Pedregoza we rapidly focused in on the vast variety of native tree species to be found in the Orinoco River basin of Vichada, Colombia. Many of these trees have exotic qualities, be that wood, termite resistance, fruits, nuts, oils, resins or natural medicines. We soon discovered that some native trees appear to be fast growing, but that there is virtually no data available on seed germination, propagation, planting methods or best cultivation practices. During this process we learned that many species of native trees are listed in the red books of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as endangered, vulnerable or threatened.
One of the reasons it was easy for La Pedregoza to associate with Tree-Nation is a shared concern and desire to preserve biodiversity on our planet. Some 90% of terrestrial biodiversity lives in forests. Many of those animals are niche dependent, for example everyone learns in school about Koala bears needing eucalyptus trees and giant Pandas depending on bamboo forests. At La Pedregoza we have birds, amphibians and mammals that depend on certain types of native trees for food, shelter and nesting areas. Planting native tree species soon became not just an objective for La Pedregoza and for Tree-Nation, but a passion.
Due to our wet and dry seasons we are able to collect most of our native tree seeds in the second half of the dry season and the early part of the wet season. Most trees flower in the first half of the dry season, so the best time for us to collect most native tree seeds is predictable. This does not mean it is an easy process. Monkeys, macaws, parrots and ants compete with us for the fruits and seeds of several trees that are on the endangered list. Once the rains start we experience flooding in the rainforest, with seeds falling into the water and washing away. Climbing the trees can be dangerous, as many seeds can only be found high in the rainforest canopy. This makes the seed collection process expensive, time consuming and often disappointing when seeds have already been lost.
This March and April of 2012 our foreman, Bertoldo Aldana, our plantation administrator, Oscar Forero Azabache, and I were able to collect native trees seeds from a variety of species. Some of what we collected includes 3000 Congrio seeds (Acosmium nitens), 1100 endangered Sassafras seeds (Ocotea cymbarum), 6000 Saladillo blanco (Vochysia obscura), 1200 latex producing Pendare or Salivón seeds (Parahancornia oblonga), 800 threatened latex producing Madroño seeds (Rheedia madrunno), and several hundred Moriche palm seeds (Mauritia flexuosa) to plant for use by local indigenous artisans.
The long term goal shared by La Pedregoza and Tree-Nation is to become a seed bank for native tree species. This is especially important for species that are endangered, vulnerable or threatened. It is our believe that if we can commercialize those species, by providing access to seeds, germination and planting instructions and information on growth expectations and carbon sequestration, then other plantations will start to cultivate these species. That in turn will reduce or remove the pressure the species is experiencing in natural forests, by reducing illegal logging and allowing for the species to recover over time. Commercializing a species may appear to some to be an unwelcome development, but it is a process that is most likely to prevent a species’ extinction and to have an impact on maintaining and conserving biodiversity.
Dexter B. Dombro is one of the founders of Amazonia Reforestation and of the Reserva Natural La Pedregoza in Vichada, Colombia.Dexter is a member of the IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas and is dedicated to biodiversity conservation in the Orinoco River basin.
More at the linkReforestation and afforestation often involves planting trees that have a proven... more
Chut Wutty, a dedicated Cambodian activist, was shot dead at an illegal logging site by military police, on Thursday. At the time Wutty was driving with two journalists, who wrote a shocking eyewitness account of his death, revealing that he was physically and verbally abused, then shot whilst trying to drive away, and left to die. His death reveals the brutal power of logging syndicates and companies, which are looting the country’s natural wealth, and employing the military to silence their opponents.
Wutty was the director of the Natural Resources Protection Group. He was the most vociferous activist speaking out against illegal logging, particularly active in the Cardamom mountains and in Prey Lang forest. He played a major role supporting the Prey Lang Network, a grassroots forest protection movement that spans four provinces.
Local authorities and officials offer little support in the fight against illegal logging. As Wutty explained, “civil servants, in their uniform, have not performed their role according to their mandate. The only role they play is facilitating business deals to make personal profit. With this they earn from more than one source. First, they get their salary from government, second, they get direct income from selling timber, and third, they make money facilitating business deals.”
“I understand that wealth is important and I want to be wealthy as well. But I also want to see people live with freedom, to be able to maintain their culture, their traditions, to be able to pursue their own life style.”
Deforestation in Cambodia is driven by a juggernaut of powerful interests. Collusion between officials, concessionaires, logging syndicates and the military creates a powerful front. The number of land concessions in Cambodia is rapidly increasing: rubber, mining and dams are major causes of large-scale deforestation. Despite losing out on valuable timber revenue from illegal logging in concession areas, the Cambodian government aims to expand rubber plantations to 400,000 hectares by 2020. Forest dependent communities face losing their land and independence, becoming poorly paid laborers in plantations owned by the wealthy.
Few activists or NGOs have the courage to voice their concerns about this widespread dispossession. Wutty was perfectly aware of the risks he was taking but he was determined to speak out. Sitting next to him as the military approached at the Prey Lang protest in November, Wutty was composed. "They are coming to catch me; should I run away? But where to go?" He looked around for a second, then mildly commented, "Well, I'd like to see what they do."
On Thursday, Wutty’s death showed just how far those people would go in the face of his courageous and untiring dedication to stop the destruction of Cambodia's forests. It is a triumph that he kept pursuing justice in the face of threats and violence.
The question now is, who sent the soldiers to apprehend Wutty?
Human rights groups have launched inquiries pursuing precisely this question. Cambodian Centre for Human Rights president Ou Virak said yesterday that his organization had strong leads on which company asked the military police to stop Chut Wutty.
Read more: http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0502-chut-wutty-oped.html#ixzz1tkKKo753
More at the linkChut Wutty, a dedicated Cambodian activist, was shot dead at an illegal logging site... more
please share the article with others they really need the support
Call it the beetle baby boom. Climate change could be throwing common tree killers called mountain pine beetles into a reproductive frenzy. A new study suggests that some beetles living in Colorado, which normally reproduce just once annually, now churn out an extra generation of new bugs each year. And that could further devastate the region's forests.
Pine beetles (Dendroctonus ponderosae), which scuttle from New Mexico north into Canada, are trouble for trees, says study co-author Jeffry Mitton, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Beginning in late summer along high altitude sites in the eastern Colorado Rocky Mountains, for instance, swarms of hundreds or even thousands of these small black bugs will single out individual lodgepole pines (Pinus contorta) or related trees, then advance on them en masse. Females dig deep burrows inside the pines' trunks and drop down their eggs. They also deposit a special type of fungus that the insects carry with them that grow inside the trees, eventually helping to kill them. Beetle larvae feed on that same fungus throughout the winter, escaping their burrows the following August.
Recently, pine beetles have inexplicably exploded across their range. In British Canada alone, the insects gutted and killed about 13 million hectares of trees in about a decade. Mitton says it's possible to fly in a small plane over pine forests here for an hour or more and see almost no living pine trees.
Four years ago, Mitton and his graduate student Scott Ferrenberg discovered a possible explanation for this epidemic—almost by accident. While hiking in mid-June to survey pines along Niwot Ridge, due east of Boulder, they saw something strange: adult beetles out and flying. Many even landed on the researchers' clothing. The insects, Mitton says, were swarming close to 2 months too early that year. It seemed so implausible that when he told colleagues about the encounter, some didn't believe him. "This would really upset the apple cart," Milton remembers thinking.
So he and Ferrenberg spent the summers of 2009 and 2010 tracking the growth of pine beetles. They even cut observation windows into the bark of dead pine trees so they could look at larvae hiding in their nests. At first, the insects seemed to be developing as normal. But then, the beetles did the unexpected—they morphed into adults and, beginning in mid-June or even earlier, escaped from their trees. The cue for this early flight seemed to be unseasonably hot weather, the team will report in an upcoming issue of The American Naturalist.
But the beetles weren't just bursting out early, Mitton adds. June-emerging bugs attacked nearby pines almost immediately, laying their own eggs. Those offspring developed speedily, becoming adults, by August or September, just in time to infest another round of pine trees—the second that season. Many Colorado beetles, then, have been able to fit a whole new generation—and an untold number of extra young—into their summers, the team found.
This reproductive explosion could be one reason why the insects have been cutting a deadly swath through North America, Mitton suggests, causing enormous losses both to mountain habitats and to the logging industry.
This study "helps to explain something that's been a big problem in the West," says David Inouye, an ecologist and specialist in Rocky Mountain ecosystems at the University of Maryland, College Park. The pine beetle is hardly the only insect to take advantage of warmer spring weather in Colorado, he adds. Inouye and a colleague previously showed that Mormon fritillary butterflies (Speyeria mormonia) flourish when snow melts later in the mountains.
by Daniel Strain on 16 March 2012,
More at the linkCall it the beetle baby boom. Climate change could be throwing common tree killers... more
First gorilla genome map offers clues to human evolution
By Matthew Knight, CNN
updated 12:17 PM EST, Thu March 8, 2012 | Filed under: Innovations
Scientists have completed the DNA map of an African western lowland gorilla
Research hopes to shed light on human evolution and biology
Western lowland gorilla population estimated to be 100-200,000 individuals in the wild
(CNN) -- The first complete gorilla genome has been mapped by scientists giving fresh insights into our own origins.
Gorilla are the last of the genus of living great apes (humans, chimpanzees, gorillas and orang-utans) to have their DNA decoded, offering new perspectives on their evolution and biology.
"The gorilla genome is important because it sheds light on the time when our ancestors diverged from our closest evolutionary cousins around six to 10 million years ago," says Aylwyn Scally, postdoctoral fellow at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Cambridge and lead author of the report.
"It also lets us explore the similarities and differences between our genes and those of gorilla, the largest living primate," he added.
A team of researchers examined more than 11,000 genes in humans, chimpanzees and gorillas, looking for evolutionary clues.
Initial findings have revealed that 15% of the gorilla genome is closer to human DNA than to our nearest evolutionary relative, the chimpanzee.
Researchers found that genes relating to sensory perception, hearing and brain development showed "accelerated evolution" in all three, but particularly in humans and gorillas.
Having the entire length of the gorilla genome now means scientists can start to compare all the four great apes at every position on the genome, Scally says.
It forms the baseline, he says, from which to move forwards and really explore why and when our genes and those of the great apes diverged.
"Did it happen quite quickly or was it something that gradually happened? At the moment we don't know," he said.
"It could have been some climatic change that separated humans in the east of Africa from chimpanzees in the forest -- that's an idea some have floated. If we can see some imprint of it in the genome that would very, very useful information."
Scientists used the DNA of a female western lowland gorilla (called Kamilah) who resides at San Diego Zoo.
In the wild, it is the most widespread species of gorilla, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), with a estimated population of 100-200,000 individuals.
The majority are found in Cameroon, Central African Republic, west Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Angola.
It's cousin, the eastern lowland gorilla is less prevalent (fewer than 20,000 individuals) and can only be found in the rainforests of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, says WWF.
The research is published in the science journal Nature.
The complete DNA of a female western lowland gorilla called Kamilah (left) has been mapped by scientists, completing the set of genomes for all great apes (humans, chimpanzees, gorillas and orang-utans).
.CNN... First gorilla genome map offers clues to human evolution By Matthew... more
“It would be immoral to leave these young people with a climate system spiraling out of control.”
by Dan Miller
NASA climate scientist James Hansen gave a talk at the TED conference in Long Beach, CA on February 29th where he laid out the case for taking urgent action to reduce greenhouse emissions.
Dr. Hansen’s talk began by describing his personal journey, originally studying Venus under Prof. James Van Allen and then working at NASA on an instrument to study Venus’ atmosphere. But after being asked to do some calculations of Earth’s greenhouse effect, Dr. Hansen resigned from the Venus mission to work full time studying Earth’s atmosphere “because a planet changing before our eyes is more interesting and important – its changes will affect all humanity.”
Dr. Hansen and some colleagues published a 1981 paper in Science Magazine that concluded that “observed warming of 0.4C in the prior century was consistent with the greenhouse effect of increasing CO2, — that Earth would likely warm in the 1980s, — and warming would exceed the noise level of random weather by the end of the century. We also said that the 21st century would see shifting climate zones, creation of drought prone regions in North America and Asia, erosion of ice sheets, rising sea levels, and opening of the fabled Northwest passage. All of these impacts have since either happened or are now well underway.”
Dr. Hansen went on to explain that, after speaking out for the need for an energy policy that would address climate change, the White House contacted NASA and Dr. Hansen was ordered to not speak to the media without permission. After informing the New York Times about the situation, the censorship was lifted and Dr. Hansen continued to speak out, justifying his actions with the first line of NASA’s Mission Statement’: “To understand and protect the home planet”. But there were consequences… the reference to the home planet was soon struck from NASA’s Mission Statement, never to return.
Dr. Hansen then went on to describe some of the recent science, including a detailed look at the Earth’s energy imbalance that was made possible by data from 3000 “Argo” floats that measure ocean temperature at different depths. Dr. Hansen said that the current imbalance of 0.6 watts/square meter (which does not include the energy already used to cause the current warming of 0.8°C) was equivalent to exploding 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs every day, 365 days per year.
Favorite denier myths such as “it’s the Sun” and “CO2 lags temperature” were addressed by Dr. Hansen and shown to be wrong or irrelevant. He also discussed how amplifying feedbacks in the past took small changes in temperature due to slight changes in the Earth’s orbit and either initiated or ended ice ages. He then said these same amplifying feedbacks will occur today if we do not stop the warming. ”The physics does not change.”
Besides the impacts that are already occurring, Dr. Hansen said that if we do not stop the warming, we should expect sea levels to rise this century by 1 to 5 meters (3 to 18 feet), extinction of 20 to 50% of species, and massive droughts later this century. He said that the recent Texas heat wave, Moscow’s heat wave the year before, and the 2003 heat wave in Europe we “exceptional” events that now occur 25 to 50 times more often than just 50 years ago. Therefore, he concluded, we can say with high confidence that these heat waves were “caused” by global warming.
More at the link“It would be immoral to leave these young people with a climate system spiraling... more
NOTE: A highly informative appeal for support from the STOP GE Trees Campaign - a great organisation. For more on their work and how to get involved: http://globaljusticeecology.org/stopgetrees.php?tabs=0
Our plans for the STOP GE Trees Campaign in 2012 and our accomplishments from 2011
The years 2012 and 2013 could be the most important yet for our campaign to ban the release of genetically engineered trees (GE trees) into the environment.
* Countering Phony Sustainability Criteria: The timber industry is moving forward with plans to develop phony so-called "sustainability criteria" for GE trees. This is crucial if they want to get GE trees certified by bodies like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which would make it easier to get investors. Right now the FSC will not certify GE trees.
GE trees are not now and never will be "sustainable." They deplete soils and water, require huge inputs of toxic chemicals, replace native forests, displace biodiversity and forest dependent communities, kill beneficial insects, and worsen climate change. So in order to combat the sustainability lie, we are increasing our work to expose the social and ecological dangers of GE trees.
* GE Eucalyptus Trees in the US South: In January 2011, GE tree company ArborGen applied for permission from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to sell billions of their GE eucalyptus trees for commercial plantations across seven states in the US South--from Texas to South Carolina.
We are mobilizing to ensure this never happens.
* GE Poplars in the Pacific Northwest: GE poplar trees are emerging as a major threat in California and the Pacific Northwest. Scientists at the University of Oregon and the University of Washington have received large federal grants to develop genetically engineered poplar trees for bioenergy plantations.
GE poplar trees are extremely dangerous because native wild poplars grow in forests in California and the Pacific Northwest. These native poplars could easily be contaminated with pollen from the GE poplars. This irreversible contamination would be disastrous for forests, wildlife, soils, insects and songbirds. And once GE tree contamination begins, there is no way to stop it from continuing to spread.
We will be escalating our work in the Pacific Northwest in 2012 to stop GE poplars. Let us know if you can help!
The good news--we can still stop the disaster of GE trees before it is too late. Since 1999 we havesuccessfully prevented commercialization of GE trees because of the support of people like you. You enable us to stand up against the largest timber corporations on the planet. Thank you.
Because of our success, the promoters of GE trees name GJEP as the main obstacle to their forward progress.
After we filed a lawsuit against the USDA in July 2010 over their approval of a large field trial of GE eucalyptus trees, Biomass Magazine stated that our lawsuit was scaring away investors from supporting GE tree research because no one wants to invest in a technology that is going to be tied up for years in legal battles. As a result, GE tree company ArborGen decided not to go public with their stock only days before they were scheduled to do so.
The victories of the STOP GE Trees Campaign over the years show the power of grassroots organizing, alliance building, non-violent action and our refusal to compromise.
This is the documentary, A Silent Forest, narrated by Dr. David Suzuki that lays out the threat of genetically engineered trees which are still a threat to the U.S.NOTE: A highly informative appeal for support from the STOP GE Trees Campaign - a... more
I have been a member of Tree Nation for going on five years now. Tree Nation is a free Internet community/organization where you can be a part of planting thousands of trees in four separate forests globally to help counter deforestation and desertfication right from your modem. Their original forest in the heart of Niger has now planted over 52,000 trees on their way to the goal of 100,000 for 2012! All total over 397,000 trees have been planted. I have several trees planted there in my name as well. There are other forests in Columbia, Nicaragua and their newest in Madagascar. This article is about a new moringa park being introduced in Niger and also about beginning to use agroforestry in their Niger plantation.
We see so much deforestation taking place in our world and so many negative effects from our behavior. This is one bright spot proving that people globally can join together in good spirit to work to make the world a better place.I hope you check it out and maybe even become part of the solution in planting trees in places where they are most needed now.
"Alongside planting trees, we are beginning to farm fruits and vegetables as we cultivate the trees planted. Our goal is twofold: to enhance the quality of the soil and the growth of the trees through agroforestry and to take advantage by selling the products farmed in the process.
So far, we have planted tomatoes, aubergines and cucumbers. While the first two have yielded good results, many cucumbers have been lost owing to the pest of caterpillars. We are, however, going to continue farming the vegetables and we hope to make the most of distribution outlets in the capital of Niamey and in local markets to sell them alongside our production of Moringa leaves.
The Moringa plantation:
We have also decided to reorganise our site to open a new Moringa park. 15 metres wide, it runs alongside the channelling strip used for channelling the irrigation from the basin, which is a round 200 metres long. It will be ideally placed to take advantage of the water well and our soon-to-be-in-place micro irrigation system, by using the border irrigation technique, which involves irrigating a whole area of land at one time. As for our old park, until the irrigation system has been expanded it will only be being farmed on a seasonal basis.
In all, over the last few months we have harvested around 200 kg of Moringa leaves. And, while we’re on the subject, we thought you might want to know that we’ve just collected our first Baobab leaves since they were planted 4-5 years ago!"I have been a member of Tree Nation for going on five years now. Tree Nation is a free... more
The biggest trees in the world, known as the true ecological kings of the jungle, are dying off rapidly as roads, farms and settlements fragment forests and they come under prolonged attack from severe droughts and new pests and diseases.
Big trees may comprise less than 2% of the trees in any forest but they can contain 25% of the total biomass and are vital for the health of the whole forest. Credit: us-parks.com
Long-term studies in Amazonia, Africa and Central America show that while these botanical behemoths may have adapted successfully to centuries of storms, pests and short-term climatic extremes, they are counter-intuitively more vulnerable than other trees to today's threats.
"Fragmentation of the forests is now disproportionately affecting the big trees," said William Laurance, a research professor at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia. "Not only do many more trees die near forest edges, but a higher proportion of the trees dying were the big trees.
"Their tall stature and relatively thick, inflexible trunks, may make them especially prone to uprooting and breakage near forest edges where wind turbulence is increased," Laurance said in this week's New Scientist magazine.
Big trees may comprise less than 2% of the trees in any forest but they can contain 25% of the total biomass and are vital for the health of whole forests because they seed large areas. "With their tall canopies basking in the sun, big trees capture vast amounts of energy. This allows them to produce massive crops of fruits, flowers and foliage that sustain much of animal life in the forests. Their canopies help moderate the local forest environment while their understory creates a unique habitat for other plants and animals," Laurance said.
"Only a small number of tree species have the genetic capacity to grow really big. To grow into giants, trees need good growing conditions, lots of time and the right place to establish their seedlings. Disrupt any one of these and you lose them."
In some parts of the world, Laurance said, populations of big trees are dwindling because their seedlings cannot survive or grow. "In southern India an aggressive shrub is invading the understorey of many forests, preventing seedlings from dropping on the floor. With no young trees to replace them, it's only a matter of time before most of the big trees disappear."
According to Laurance, it is not just the biggest trees in the world that are suffering, but also the biggest in their communities. Dutch elm disease killed off many of the stateliest trees in Britain in the 1960s and 70s, and new exotic organisms and bacterial infections, often brought in from other continents via garden centers, are threatening oak, ash and other species.
Longer lasting and more intense droughts, which are becoming more frequent in many tropical areas with climate change, are also taking their toll. Studies in Puerto Rico and Costa Rica suggest that big trees also suffer more in droughts than most other organisms.
"In rainforests droughts promote surface fires that burn through leaf litter on the forest floor. Larger trees were initially thought to survive these fires but, in fact, many die two to three years later. In cloud forests, big trees use their branches and crowns to rake the mist and capture water droplets. Global warming could push clouds up to higher elevations depriving them of sources of moisture," Laurance said.
"The danger is that the oldest, largest trees will progressively die off and not be replaced. Alarmingly, this might trigger a 'positive feedback' that could destabilize the climate: as older trees die, forests would release their stored carbon, prompting a vicious circle of further warming and forest shrinkage."
more at the linkThe biggest trees in the world, known as the true ecological kings of the jungle, are... more
December 22, 2011
"PETER CAVE: The Prime Minister's peace deal was supposed to end decades of conflict in Tasmania's forests. But protests are continuing and now AM can reveal that a London company is boycotting timber products from the island state.
Last month it emerged that timber from Tasmanian forests was being used on London's Olympic building sites."December 22, 2011 "PETER CAVE: The Prime Minister's peace deal was... more
A U.N. climate conference reached a hard-fought agreement Sunday on a far-reaching program meant to set a new course for the global fight against climate change.
The 194-party conference agreed to start negotiations on a new accord that would ensure that countries will be legally bound to carry out any pledges they make. It would take effect by 2020 at the latest.
The deal doesn't explicitly compel any nation to take on emissions targets, although most emerging economies have volunteered to curb the growth of their emissions.
Currently, only industrial countries have legally binding emissions targets under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Those commitments expire next year, but they will be extended for at least another five years under the accord adopted Sunday — a key demand by developing countries seeking to preserve the only existing treaty regulating carbon emissions.
The proposed Durban Platform offered answers to problems that have bedeviled global warming negotiations for years about sharing the responsibility for controlling carbon emissions and helping the world's poorest and most climate-vulnerable nations cope with changing forces of nature.
The United States was a reluctant supporter, concerned about agreeing to join an international climate system that likely would find much opposition in the U.S. Congress.
"This is a very significant package. None of us likes everything in it. Believe me, there is plenty the United States is not thrilled about," said U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern. But the package captured important advances that would be undone if it is rejected, he told the delegates.
Sunday's deal also set up the bodies that will collect, govern and distribute tens of billions of dollars a year for poor countries. Other documents in the package lay out rules for monitoring and verifying emissions reductions, protecting forests, transferring clean technologies to developing countries and scores of technical issues.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the deal represents "an important advance in our work on climate change."
But the deal's language left some analysts warning that the wording left huge loopholes for countries to avoid tying their emissions to legal constraints, and noted that there was no mention of penalties. "They haven't reached a real deal," said Samantha Smith, of WWF International. "They watered things down so everyone could get on board."
Environmentalists criticized the package — as did many developing countries in the debate — for failing to address what they called the most urgent issue, to move faster and deeper in cutting carbon emissions.
"The good news is we avoided a train wreck," said Alden Meyer, recalling predictions a few days ago of a likely failure. "The bad news is that we did very little here to affect the emissions curve."
Scientists say that unless those emissions — chiefly carbon dioxide from power generation and industry — level out and reverse within a few years, the Earth will be set on a possibly irreversible path of rising temperatures that lead to ever greater climate catastrophes.
Sunday's breakthrough capped 13 days of hectic negotiations that ran a day and a half over schedule, including two round-the-clock days that left negotiators bleary-eyed and stumbling with words. Delegates were seen nodding off in the final plenary session, despite the high drama, barely constrained emotions and uncertainty whether the talks would end in triumph or total collapse.
The nearly fatal issue involved the legal nature of the accord that will govern carbon emissions by the turn of the next decade.
More at the linkA U.N. climate conference reached a hard-fought agreement Sunday on a far-reaching... more
Take note US law enforcement: no pepper spray, no raids, no beatings.
This is it. This is the crux of the global economic and environmental crises we face and this was the place to take it. It is always the 1% that is heard even at these conferences above the voices of the poor, the indigenous peoples and those in this world who are being disproportionately affected most by climate change. It is our time now. Failure here is a failure of and for humanity, our water, our land, other species and our economies. The science is indisputable. The effects to water, agriculture and social structure are now a reality and becoming more severe. It is time to put humanity first.
Occupy climate justice.Take note US law enforcement: no pepper spray, no raids, no beatings. This is it.... more
A bill proposing a complete overhaul of the current Forest Code in Brazil was approved by the lower House of Congress last May. The text has now been sent back for a final vote - to be completed in the coming days - and then it will go to Dilma for presidential signature before final approval.
The changes in the forest code would open the Amazon up for dangerous deforestation.
If confirmed by Dilma, the new law will also compromise the international agreements Lula signed during the Climate Conference in Copenhagen, in December of 2009, committing Brazil to ambitious CO2 emissions reduction targets.A bill proposing a complete overhaul of the current Forest Code in Brazil was approved... more
More than half of the timber now shipped globally is destined for China. But unscrupulous Chinese companies are importing huge amounts of illegally harvested wood, prompting conservation groups to step up boycotts against rapacious timber interests.
by william laurance
In Chinese folklore, a dragon symbolizes strength. It is an apt icon for a nation whose rise as an economic superpower has been nothing short of meteoric.
While China’s stunning economic advances have come at significant environmental cost, the boom has been a plus in a few realms. The country is investing avidly in green technologies, such as solar energy and high-tech car batteries. It has also undertaken an ambitious national reforestation program, while cracking down on illegal forest clearing and logging inside its borders. According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, forest cover in China, including large areas of timber plantations, increased from 157 million hectares in 1990 to 197 million hectares in 2005.
Counter-intuitively, the expansion of Chinese forests has occurred at the same time the country has been developing an immense export industry for In its fervor to secure timber, China is increasingly seen as a predator on the world’s forests.wood and paper products. China is now the “wood workshop for the world,” according to Forest Trends, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, consuming more than 400 million cubic meters of timber annually to feed both its burgeoning exports and growing domestic demands. Production of paper products has also grown dramatically in China, doubling from 2002 to 2007.
But the rise of the Chinese dragon has a darker side. As much as half of the timber and much of the paper pulp consumed by China is imported, primarily from tropical nations or nearby Siberia. In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with this — China has every right to grow economically and seek the kind of prosperity that industrial nations have long enjoyed. However, in its fervor to secure timber, minerals, and other natural resources, China is increasingly seen as a predator on the world’s forests.
China is now overwhelmingly the biggest global consumer of tropical timber, importing around 40 to 45 million cubic meters of timber annually. Today, more than half of all timber being shipped anywhere in the world is destined for China. Many nations in the Asia-Pacific region and Africa export the lion’s share of their timber to China.
China faces three criticisms by those worried about the health and biodiversity of the world’s forests. First, the country and its hundreds of wood-products corporations and middlemen have been remarkably aggressive in pursuing timber supplies globally, while generally being little concerned with social equity or environmental sustainability. For instance, China has helped fund and promote an array of ambitious new road or rail projects that are opening up remote forested regions in the Amazon, Congo Basin, and Asia-Pacific to exploitation. Such frontier roads can unleash a Pandora’s Box of activities — including illegal colonization, hunting, mining, and land speculation — that are often highly destructive to forests.
China is also a major consumer of wood pulp, which is helping to drive large-scale deforestation in places like Sumatra and Borneo. During a recent visit to Sumatra, I witnessed the felling of large expanses of native rainforests, which are being chopped up and fed into the world’s largest wood-pulp plant, located nearby, and replaced by monocultures of exotic acacia trees.
Second, China, in its relentless pursuit of timber, almost exclusively seeks raw logs. Raw logs are the least economically beneficial way for developing nations to exploit their timber resources, as they provide only limited royalties and little employment, workforce training, and industrial development. As a result, most of the profits from logging are realized by foreign timber-cutters, shippers, and wood-products manufacturers. A cubic meter of the valuable timber merbau (Intsia bijuga), for instance, yields only around $11 to local communities in Indonesian Papua but around $240 when delivered as raw logs to wood-products manufacturers in China, who profit further by converting it into prized wood flooring.
Finally, China has done little to combat the scourge of illegal logging, which is an enormous problem in many developing nations. A 2011 report on illegal logging by Interpol and the World Bank concluded that, among 15 of the major timber-producing countries in the tropics, two-thirds had half or more of their timber harvested illegally. Globally, economic losses and tax and royalty evasion from illegal logging are thought to cost around $15 billion annually — a large economic burden for developing nations. Forest ecosystems suffer serious impacts as well, because illegal loggers frequently ignore environmental controls on cutting operations.
According to a 2010 analysis by Chatham House, a respected UK think tank, illegal logging is slowly declining globally but this is despite, rather than because of, China’s influence. The report concluded that, from 2000 to 2008, China imported 16 to 24 million cubic meters of illegal timber each One report said that China imports 16 to 24 million cubic meters of illegal timber each year.year. This is an incredible figure — twice the total amount imported annually by leading industrial nations.
More at the linkMore than half of the timber now shipped globally is destined for China. But... more
Luis Garcia was close to tears. For three days, he had guided eight international journalists through a tract of Amazon so thick with wildlife that experts are yet to fully catalogue its riches. At a small Ecuadorian airport, Garcia gave a final, wet-eyed pitch on the threatened Yasuni National Park and, as he spoke, they appeared: the flashy watches, slick sneakers and logo-stitched chambray shirts of the oil industry.
In Coca, an industrial smudge of a town on the Amazon's western edge, two types of passengers use the airport - oil executives and eco-tourists. The oil executives are Spanish, Chinese, American and South American corporates extracting, or eager to extract, the heavy crude beneath the emerald forest. The eco-tourists - birdwatchers and backpackers sporting expensive waterproofs and zip-off trousers - are headed to the biodiversity haven of the Yasuni. Two industries are feeding from the Amazon; but only one is likely to prevail.
Ecuador, and the wider international community, faces a quandary in the Yasuni. It is, scientists believe, the most species-rich spot in the western hemisphere. But an almost irresistible thing lies untapped in the park's underbelly: one-fifth of Ecuador's oil.
In his hands ... Ecuador's President, Rafael Correa, has threatened to renege on a proposal to leave $3.6 billion of oil under the Amazon.
To solve this dilemma, this poor South American nation has come up with a unique idea that, if successful, could change the way the world deals with its most precious places and provide a concrete way to reduce carbon pollution in developing nations.
Ecuador wants the world to pay compensation for leaving 846 million barrels of oil under the park. The asking price, $3.6 billion over 13 years, or half the oil's value when the proposal was conceived, will help switch Ecuador from oil to renewable energy, halt deforestation, boost scientific research and support Yasuni's indigenous communities, two of which live deep in the park in voluntary isolation. The deal would ensure 407 million tonnes of carbon dioxide stays in the ground (Australia's annual emissions: 542 million tonnes).
The trust fund, set up last year by the United Nations Development Program, already has $52 million in donations and pledges from countries, including Australia, which recently committed $500,000, Italy, Turkey Colombia, Peru, France and Belgium. A New York investment banker has donated her annual salary and Bo Derek, Leonardo DiCaprio, Edward Norton and Al Gore have lent their support. The only problem now, besides the global financial meltdown tightening Europe's purse strings, is Ecuador's left-wing President, Rafael Correa, appears to be holding the Yasuni as an environmental hostage.
Gas is flared off from an oil facility near Yasuni National Park in Orellana Province, Ecuador. Photo: Theresa Ambrose
Correa has driven the proposal to save the park, but has now issued a deadline: if pledges do not reach $100 million by December, he will reconsider Plan B - drilling for oil. ''We are renouncing an immense sum of money,'' Correa said on his September trip to the UN in New York. ''For us, the most financially lucrative option is to extract the gasoline.'' This is why the Herald and other journalists, were, courtesy of the Ecuadorian government, on a canoe in a small creek, deep in the Yasuni: Correa wants the world to see how special this national treasure is before he changes his mind.
The jungle sounds hit first. It's a twittersphere of chirps and odd calls, one like a car alarm, another the trill of a mobile phone, yet another like the yap of a small dog. The smell is like a Queensland night, frangipani-sweet and tropical. Above, a butterfly ballet: electric-blue morphos the size of small birds lope past. Strange dragonflies, like bright-red-winged matchsticks, hover above the creek and water-walking river spiders, like long-legged huntsmans, sun themselves on logs. These are just the small things.
Capuchin monkeys, the most intelligent of American monkeys, and olive-and-turmeric squirrel monkeys (our guide Luis Garcia: ''Oh nice, nice, I love these monkeys! Perfecto!'') trapeze and bungee-jump along the creek, while red howler monkeys release their unsettling horror-movie roars. But it was Yasuni's birds, creatures gilded with gold, azure, crimson and jade, that put on the most extraordinary show.
Last year, a team of scientists who want to save Yasuni compared the richness of the park to other parts of the Amazon and globally. They found the park was one of the planet's most biodiverse places because of the concentration of species across all taxonomic groups - amphibians, birds, mammals and plants.
This is partly because of Yasuni's isolation (canoe is the main form of access) but mostly because it was a refuge for plants and animals in the last major climate upheaval, the Pleistocene epoch, which ended 12,000 years ago. Yasuni is known as ''core Amazon'' because its position near the Andes' eastern flank guarantees reliable rain. For these reasons, scientists believe it will become a species refuge in the next major climate upheaval brought to us by global warming, while much of the Amazon may become drought-affected.
But there's more to the Yasuni than its potential for a David Attenborough documentary. The director of Harvard's Centre for Health and the Global Environment, Eric Chivian, a Nobel peace prize winner, has made a plea to save Yasuni in science's name. Yasuni's potential in unlocking a cancer treatment or amphibian-based painkiller or antibiotic should not be lost, he says. ''If we destroy the Yasuni it will not just be a tragedy for those species and the people that live there, it will be a tragedy for all mankind, for human health,'' he told a government-made documentary. Ecuadorian professor of biological science David Romo told us in Quito it would take 400 years to identify Yasuni's insect species.
The development of Yasuni's Ishpingo, Tambococha and Tiputini (ITT) oil blocks is also likely to affect the ''uncontacted peoples'' of the Tagaeri and Taromenane tribes. In 2007 the park's southern area was declared a no-go zone or intangible, after a series of murders and massacres involving illegal loggers and tribal reckonings. In 1987, an oil helicopter dropped a priest and nun into a Tagaeri camp; they were later found dead with multiple spear wounds. No one knows how viable these tribes are long-term (they are thought to number between 400 and 500 people) but their wish to remain in isolation is now recognised under the Ecuadorian constitution. ''Obviously we are afraid that any of the oil activity will be the end for these people,'' says Professor Carlos Larrea, an economist at Ecuador's Andean University, and a technical consultant to the so-called Yasuni-ITT initiative.
Ecuadorians already know the costs of oil extraction. In February, an Ecuadorian court fined American oil multinational Chevron $US8.6 billion ($8 billion) for polluting the Amazon. The action was brought by 30,000 people. In a country that relies on oil for 57 per cent of its export income, not even Yasuni has remained untouched. The Spanish company Repsol has wells in one area of the park, which unleashed oil spills and road damage. The day this development came to Yasuni in 1993 was a day the 47-year-old Luis Garcia never forgot. ''It was so sad to see a bulldozer on this side of the river,'' he said, referring to the great Napo River, which runs along the park's flank.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/meet-cash-deadline-or-the-drillers-move-in-20111028-1mo86.html#ixzz1cCjLFhPMLuis Garcia was close to tears. For three days, he had guided eight international... more
In July I attended a public debate in London on the potential for REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) to make international forestry more just. The debate brought together a wide variety of stakeholders in REDD in order to assess its possibilities and its frailties. The panel leading the discussion included John Vidal from the Guardian and representatives from DFID, ODI, and FERN among others. What became increasingly clear during the debate is that although the international community appeared to be pushing on with REDD, it remains a highly contested and confused idea.
For those still unsure of what the initiative is, REDD is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests. It offers incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development. However, the discussion highlighted fears that REDD may perpetuate, or even deepen, forest people’s historical dispossession from their forests.
The discussion focused on the concept of justice within REDD and the focal point of the evening turned out to be “local justice”. The question was - what is happening to the local people on the ground where these initiatives are implemented? It became increasingly clear, by hearing arguments from members of FERN and from those on the ground, that it is forest people that often are the ones who are most negatively affected by these projects. There is an overriding fear that REDD may not be dissimilar to other big money projects affecting the forests. For instance, a member of the audience, who had worked on a REDD project in Peru, stated that it was seen as more dangerous than palm oil plantations. The fear is that these projects can potentially, and almost by nature, take over entire forests, leaving indigenous people to lose the land earmarked for these REDD projects.
During the evening, several other members of the audience stated it was governments, and not large corporations, who were taking control of the forests. The ODI representative feared that REDD projects will reaffirm the ownership of the forests by the state. For example, as the government controls the carbon it trades, the forests fall under their control. This will go on to reinforce highly centralized, top down decision-making, something GBM works to move away from.
The panel was in agreement about what must be done, forest peoples and local communities must be included and able to make decisions for the future of forests in all REDD projects. Increasing evidence from Brazil and elsewhere indicates that tenure reform, that is placing control of forest resources into the hands of indigenous and other forest-dependent communities, contributes to local well-being and forest protection.
More at the linkIn July I attended a public debate in London on the potential for REDD (Reducing... more