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Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Tag Archive: forests

  1. ‘Keep it local’ approach more effective than government schemes at protecting rainforest

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    September 12, 2017 University of Cambridge  read full ScienceDaily article here

    Conservation initiatives led by local and indigenous groups can be just as effective as schemes led by government, according to new research. In some cases in the Amazon rainforest, grassroots initiatives can be even more effective at protecting this vital ecosystem

    …”Policy makers must focus on a more diverse set of mechanisms for protecting the rapidly disappearing tropical forests,” said Schleicher. “Our analysis shows that local stewardship of the forest can be very effective at curtailing forest degradation and conversion in the Peruvian Amazon. Local conservation initiatives deserve more political, financial and legal support than they currently receive.”

    “Our analysis shows that there is no single way of protecting tropical forests, and multiple approaches are required to stem the relentless tide of forest conversion and degradation,” said co-author Professor Carlos Peres from UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences.

    Judith Schleicher, Carlos A. Peres, Tatsuya Amano, William Llactayo, Nigel Leader-Williams. Conservation performance of different conservation governance regimes in the Peruvian Amazon. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-10736-w

  2. Warming may quickly drive forest-eating beetles north, says study

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    • Pines in Canada and much of US at risk

    August 28, 2017 Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University  read full ScienceDaily article here

    Over the next few decades, global warming-related rises in winter temperatures could significantly extend the range of the southern pine beetle — one of the world’s most aggressive tree-killing insects — through much of the northern United States and southern Canada, says a new study. The beetle’s range is sharply limited by annual extreme temperature lows, but these lows are rising much faster than average temperatures — a trend that will probably drive the beetles’ spread, say the authors. The study was published today in the journal Nature Climate Change.

    …Until recently, southern pine beetles lived from Central America up into the southeastern United States, but in the past decade or so they have also begun appearing in parts of the Northeast and New England…

    …”We could see loss of biodiversity and iconic regional forests. There would be damage to tourism and forestry industries in already struggling rural areas.” Coauthor Radley Horton, a researcher at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, said infested forests could also dry out and burn, endangering property and emitting large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere

    Corey Lesk, Ethan Coffel, Anthony W. D’Amato, Kevin Dodds, Radley Horton. Threats to North American forests from southern pine beetle with warming winters. Nature Climate Change, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate3375

  3. Paying people to protect forests is worth it to reduce deforestation, carbon emissions

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    Posted: 20 Jul 2017 11:23 AM PDT  see full ScienceDaily article here

    A new study suggests that paying people to conserve their trees could be a highly cost-effective way to reduce deforestation and carbon emissions and should be a key part of the global strategy to fight climate change. The study sought to evaluate how effective ‘Payments for Ecosystems’ (PES) is at reducing deforestation.

    …the study applies the method of field experiments, or randomized controlled trials, to the question of how effective PES is. The study design helped the researchers accurately measure the averted deforestation caused by the program…

    The findings highlight the advantages of focusing on developing countries when working to reduce global carbon emissions. While the benefit of conserving a tree is the same regardless of the location, paying individuals to conserve forests in developing countries like Uganda is less expensive, making it cheaper to reduce overall emissions

    Seema Jayachandran, Joost de Laat, Eric F. Lambin, Charlotte Y. Stanton, Robin Audy, Nancy E. Thomas. Cash for carbon: A randomized trial of payments for ecosystem services to reduce deforestation. Science, 2017; 357 (6348): 267 DOI: 10.1126/science.aan0568

     

  4. Adapting Forests to Climate Change- new UC guide

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    UC helps forest owners adapt to climate change

    By Jeannette E. Warnert April 5, 2017 University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Blog

    The new publication, Adapting Forests to Climate Change, can be downloaded free from the UC ANR Catalog. It is the 25th in the Forest Stewardship series, developed to help forest landowners in California learn how to manage their land. It was written by Adrienne Marshall, a doctoral student at the University of Idaho; Susie Kocher, UC Cooperative Extension forestry and natural resources advisor; Amber Kerr, postdoctoral scholar with the UC John Muir Institute of the Environment; and Peter Stine, U.S. Forest Service.

    The document provides specific recommendations for care of three common types of forest in California: mixed conifer, oak woodland and coastal redwood forests… see page 12 for specific management recommendations.

  5. Local cooling value of forests: fighting global warming more than previously understood

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    Local cooling value of forests affirms need for greater forest conservation, protection

    Posted: 27 Mar 2017 08:46 AM PDT  ScienceDaily article here

    Forests take up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. At the same time, forests promote the turbulent mixing of air near the surface and transpire large amounts of moisture to the atmosphere. A new study exposes the importance of these processes in keeping much of the planet’s surface cool….

    Ryan M. Bright, Edouard Davin, Thomas O’Halloran, Julia Pongratz, Kaiguang Zhao, Alessandro Cescatti. Local temperature response to land cover and management change driven by non-radiative processes. Nature Climate Change, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate3250

  6. Warming could slow upslope migration of trees

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    Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory 15 Dec 2016 see full article here

    Scientists expect trees will advance upslope as global temperatures increase, shifting the tree line—the mountain zone where trees become smaller and eventually stop growing—to higher elevations. Subalpine forests will follow their climate up the mountain, in other words. But new research suggests this may not hold true for two subalpine tree species of western North America….

    …Counter to expectations, they found that warming reduced seedling survival for both species at all three elevations during the first year of life. The scientists expected survival rates to dip at the lower elevation site, where temperatures rose above the trees’ normal climate, but not higher up, where warming was expected to help seedlings. They attribute this lower survival rate to drier conditions caused by warming, which negatively affected seedling survival….

    “Overall, our findings indicate that seedlings are highly vulnerable to climate variation, which should be taken into account as we predict what will happen to subalpine forests in a warming climate,” says Kueppers.

    Jeff Mitton et al. Warming and provenance limit tree recruitment across and beyond the elevation range of subalpine forest. Global Change Biology, December 2016 DOI: 10.1111/gcb.13561

  7. U.S. forests are so full of dead trees that some scientists want to burn them instead of coal

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    By Chris Mooney September 8 2016 Wash Post

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/09/08/so-many-u-s-trees-have-died-that-some-scientists-want-to-burn-them-instead-of-coal/?utm_term=.a5b7807304b5

    The state of California, wracked by drought, has 66 million dead trees across its landscape. They’ve been killed by both the drought itself and by voracious bark beetles, and now they’re just sitting there — destined to either decompose, burn in a wildfire, or be incinerated, for safety reasons, by state fire managers before the next blaze comes along.

    And it isn’t just California. Raging bark beetle infestations, fanned by warmer temperatures and droughts, have also struck forests in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho in recent years. “About 100,000 beetle-kill trees fall every day in Wyoming and northern Colorado, to give you an idea of the order of magnitude,” says Erica Belmont, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Wyoming.

    Belmont is studying an intriguing solution for what to do with all these dangerous dead trees — namely, burn them for energy. In a recent study in Energy Policy, Belmont and colleague Emily Beagle do the math on whether it would make sense to use the timber in existing coal plants, which can be “co-fired” with wood. In isolation, it probably costs coal plants too much money to go around rounding up dead trees, carting them back, and then burning them — a big endeavor, Belmont explained. But there are sources of possible funds. For instance, the U.S. Forest Service is currently spending considerable money to treat forests and rid them of these dangerous trees — money that, maybe, could be given to the companies that burn them for energy instead, the study suggests.

    Moreover, coal plants are facing strong climate regulations, in the form of the pending Clean Power Plan. In this regulatory context, burning trees that are already destined to decompose, catch fire, or be incinerated — and thus, give off greenhouse gases to the atmosphere no matter what — could conceivably supplant some of coal’s voluminous emissions.

    Large numbers of scientists have loudly protested recent legislative attempts to decree that biomass burning is “carbon neutral” based on the logic that, even though it gives off greenhouse gas emissions just as coal does (releasing the carbon that had been stored in the tree as it grew), future tree regrowth will one day sequester those emissions once again. A leading critique of this assertion is that it takes a long time for a tree to grow back, meaning that the biomass burning is still adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere for, at least, decades — a time period that can make a real difference for the climate and for climate policy. Moreover, there is not necessarily any guarantee that for every tree chopped down to provide electricity, another corresponding tree will regrow someday. Changing decisions about land use, for instance, could upset that assumption ….

    …”The commonly-made claim that burning wood for energy is ‘carbon neutral’ is at best an exaggeration and at worst completely wrong,” said Phil Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Center and a prominent critic of biomass energy, after reviewing the study for the Post. “Because beetle-kill wood will decompose anyway, however, this case comes closer to being carbon neutral than others.”

    But Duffy also added by email that the research may have missed some key points that complicate the analysis, such as the amount of carbon that would be required to transport dead trees to coal plants before they are even burned. He also pointed out by email that “it is not clear if they accounted for the greater emissions from wood versus coal per unit of energy produced.” Ultimately, Duffy suggested, the research might be “pretty overoptimistic about the amount of emissions saved compared to the baseline scenario (letting the wood decompose and burning pure coal).”…

  8. Forest and watercourse interplay important for restorations

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    August 24, 2016 Umea University

    Humans utilise forests and watercourses in a way that depletes ecosystem habitats, biodiversity and ecosystem services. Many areas are restored to break the trend, but to succeed you need to consider not only the ecosystem in mind, but also surrounding ecosystems.
    ….”Despite evident correlations between land and water ecosystems, forests and watercourses are nearly always restored separately in small-scale projects. When a forest ecosystem abounding in water has been depleted, it

    can be a struggle to retain its original status by restoring only one part of it. Instead, both land and aquatic environments need to be integrated in the restoration,” says Christer Nilsson, Professor at the Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences at Umeå University.

    Riparian zones along forest rivers are environments where forests and water meet and benefit from each other. The line of trees along the riparian zones provides shade and wood. Leaves and insects falling into the water are favourable for aquatic insects and bugs and eventually also for fish. Floodings wash up sediment, seeds and other plant parts onto riparian forest zones. New plants grow, which increases production and diversity. Aquatic larvae make up a good food source for insects, spiders, crustaceans, lizards and birds on land. Decaying fish carcasses removed from the river by large animals encourage the growth of riparian trees by enriching riparian areas with nitrogen. That in turn helps trees to grow and to shed more branches and leaves into the water….Free-flowing rivers surrounded by natural forest are expected to be more resistant to climate change than streams surrounded by clearcuts or urbanised areas.

    Another problem is that most studies are conducted at a local level with focus on short-term effects. Long-term recovery is often unknown and in the few cases where restorations of watercourses and forests have been coordinated, they have rarely been evaluated. Both well thought-out, basic measurements and reference areas are needed for comparisons. Good knowledge on ecosystems and their functions in the landscape are necessary to evaluate and improve the measures taken in a restoration project.

    “There are complex correlations over large areas to take into account, which means that seeing the final results of small-scale projects take time. Large-scale restoration projects with a landscape perspective stand a much higher chance of succeeding. Researchers and practicians who undertake restorations are faced with immense challenges ahead,” says Christer Nilsson.

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/08/160824110856.htm

    Joakim Hjältén, Christer Nilsson, Dolly Jørgensen, David Bell. Forest–Stream Links, Anthropogenic Stressors, and Climate Change: Implications for Restoration Planning. BioScience, 2016; 66 (8): 646 DOI: 10.1093/biosci/biw072

  9. The solution to climate change — Healthy Forests

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    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/02/11/the-solution-to-climate-change-that-has-nothing-to-do-with-cars-or-coal/

    Washington Post February 11 2016

    …. Of all the components of the recent Paris accord on climate change, the one that probably got the least attention but could have the most immediate potential involves the world’s forests. ….

    In a section some hailed as historic, the document endorsed a United Nations mechanism for wealthier nations to pay developing countries like Brazil for reducing deforestation. …After years of progress, deforestation rates have increased recently in Brazil, and deforestation continues apace across much of the global tropics. The economic forces of agriculture and trade remain too strong to resist.

    Calls for saving rainforests have a long history, but including forests as a core part of the global climate solution is “very very recent,” said Naoko Ishii, CEO of the Global Environment Facility, an international body that invests in restoring tropical forests. “Without taking care of the forests, it’s going to be just impossible to achieve the Paris agreement.”…. In fact, recent estimates suggest as much as a third of climate emissions could be offset by stopping deforestation and restoring forest land — and that this solution could be achieved much faster than cuts to fossil fuels.

    Forests are a crucial “carbon sink,” living engines for absorbing and storing carbon. Tropical forests store the most carbon of all, and no tropical forest on Earth is bigger than the Amazon. It accounts for about half of all the carbon these forests store. But the Brazilian Amazon has lost nearly a fifth of its forest cover already — and the forest left behind also suffers because it is more fragmented and less continuous….

    Net greenhouse gas emissions due to tropical deforestation and forest degradation are about 8 to 15 percent of the global total, which doesn’t sound like that much. But a recent study in Nature Climate Change found that stopping deforestation could nonetheless be a huge piece of the climate solution. That’s because if tropical deforestation stopped, not only would those emissions go away, but on top of that, forests would start stowing away a significant part of the carbon from our fossil fuel emissions.

    “One could reduce total CO2 emissions by about 30 percent, just working in the land sector,” said Phil Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Center. “And that’s a lot.”.. Moreover, stopping deforestation could buy precious time to ratchet down fossil fuel emissions….