Global Forest Watch News Roundup: Week of September 29-October 4, 2015

GFW News Roundup: Forest stories from around the world that demonstrate the power of spatial analysis and open data in improving management of forest landscapes.

This News Roundup was in collaboration with the Forest Legality Alliance

Top Reads of the Week:

Could forests store more carbon as the climate warms?,” 28 September,

Public lands are considered one of America’s best defenses against rising greenhouse gas emissions because the forests there pull vast quantities of carbon from the atmosphere and store it in tree trunks and roots. As the climate warms, public lands may become even more valuable in America’s effort to fight greenhouse gas emissions because climate change may increase the amount of carbon federal public lands in the lower 48 states are able to store by nearly 20 percent by 2050, a new study shows.

Palm oil plantations devouring forests in West Africa,” 29 September, Frost Illustrated

A newly released study has found that trees covering an area twice the size of Maine were cut down worldwide in 2014. But, the biggest threat to forests is looming over West Africa.

The Cambodian tightrope between growth and conservation,” 29 September, Deutsche Welle

Spanning an area of a million acres, the richly biodiverse Central Cardamom Protected Forest in southwest Cambodia faces all manner of conservation threats. Including the country’s economic future.

How to Log a Forest Without Hurting Birds,” 30 September, Audubon

It’s understandable that when the forest is cut down, the birds don’t do so well. In fact, they do terribly: Recent research in Ghana’s Upper Guinea region shows that since the mid-1990s, more than half the birds there have died … Illegal logging is most likely to blame (even though it’s tough to prove this kind of cause-and-effect scientifically).

African nations and donors agree plan to protect Congo forests,” 2 October, Reuters

Six African nations have agreed with donors on a plan to protect the tropical forests of the Congo basin, the second biggest in the world after the Amazon’s, to help ease poverty and combat climate change. Norway, the first donor to announce a pledge for the project, said it would give up to 400 million crowns ($47 million) annually from 2016-20, from funds it had previously earmarked for tropical forests.

Forest policy off track” (Opinion), 2 October, Bangkok Post

The ministry sees itself as sole owner of the forests with absolute authority to manage them as it sees fit. It sees the locals who are long-time forest dwellers as its enemies to be evicted. Yet it endorses state policies that aggravate deforestation, be they cash crop plantations on forested mountains, big dam construction, or mining in forest areas. Meanwhile, they can do little or nothing at all to punish rich and powerful encroachers, out of fear of retribution — or simple greed through corruption.

The Global Impact of Forests,” 2 October, Huffington Post

So, food, we are making slow but definitive progress with, but there is another issue that is even more damaging, and we Brits are a big part of the problem. Deforestation sadly wasn’t solved by Sting in the 80s. The planet loses an area of forest the size of England every year, a football field-sized area every two seconds. While much of that is from slash and burn clearance for crops, Forestry is a massive part of it. We get 60% of our wood products from outside of the UK, 14.3 billion pounds worth in 2013 alone, and a disturbingly high proportion of that wood and fibre has been illegally harvested. Demand for this wood is set to triple by 2050, and unless we do something massive now, then we can kiss goodbye to our planet’s greatest natural resource.

Amazon Tribe Fights Back Against Illegal Logging,” 2 October, living on earth

The Ka’apor tribe of Maranhao, Brazil depends on the Amazon rainforest for its livelihood, but illegal logging threatens to raze what little forest remains. Guardian correspondent Jonathan Watts tells host Steve Curwood about the situation and how the tribe is using both traditional and high-tech methods to defend its trees.

In the ‘new North,’ forest fires are permanently altering the landscape,” 3 October, Public Radio International

Scientists are warning that intense wildfires in the northernmost areas of North America are changing the composition of the tundra ecosystem, degrading permafrost and contributing to a northward migration of trees, all of which have serious implications for the future of the climate.

Blakiston’s fish owls depend on Russian loggers for survival,” 4 October, Examiner

A new study conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the University of Minnesota has found that not only is it possible for owls and loggers to exist together, when it comes to the Primorye in the southern part of Asian Russia it is “not only possible, but essential for endangered Blakiston’s fish owls to survive there.”


BANNER PHOTO: Education for future progress, Laxmi Magar studying during her holiday in Syang, Nepal. Asia Development Bank (Flickr).

Guest Post: The Amazon Rots Away in New Hydroelectric Power Plant Reservoir

By Piero Locatelli

This report originally appeared on Repórter Brasil and is part of the 2015 Small Grants Fund cycle.

The Teles Pires power plant violated its environmental plan and flooded the dam reservoir without clearing vegetation. The resulting decomposition will release large amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas at least 20 times stronger than carbon dioxide at trapping heat.

The Teles Pires hydroelectric power plant, built in the Amazon rainforest on the border of Mato Grosse and Para, will begin generating energy while trees rot in its reservoir. The debris, consisting of branches and logs from chestnut, mahogany, and other tree species, can be seen floating in the lake created by the plant. The rotting vegetation will likely result in increased fish mortality and methane gas emissions, which is at least twenty times more potent than carbon dioxide in contributing to the greenhouse effect. This impact is inexcusable for a company that presents itself as a “clean, renewable, and environmentally friendly source [of energy].”

stoantonio-800x533Wood cleared before flooding was not properly removed and ended up in the power plant’s reservoir. Standing forest was also flooded. Photo: IBAMA

That company is called Teles Pires Hydroelectric Company, a consortium formed by Neoenergia (50.1%), Eletrobras Furnas (24.5%), Eletrobras Eletrosul (24.5%), and Odebrecht (0.9%). The power plant is part of the Growth Acceleration Program, the flagship infrastructure program of the Brazilian government.

Photos taken of the plant site reveal the company’s failure to comply with the regulatory requirements for its operation as stated in the Deforestation Plan: namely the proper removal of vegetation from the area to be flooded. In addition to methane emissions, these violations result in large-scale timber waste. Eight, now flooded, log landing sites contained timber that should have been sold or used for the project itself but is now rotting in the river instead. Teles Pires Hydroelectric also left trees in areas that should have been completely clear cut, including on the banks of the Paranaíta River, and failed to remove the necessary vegetation on the islands and edges of the Teles Pires River. Continue reading

Global Forest Watch News Roundup: Week of September 21-28, 2015

GFW News Roundup: Forest stories from around the world that demonstrate the power of spatial analysis and open data in improving management of forest landscapes.

This News Roundup was in collaboration with the Forest Legality Alliance

Top Reads of the Week:

Battle Against Illegal Logging in Sarawak Begins,” 21 September, The Establishment Post

At A Glance: After years of battling claims of illegal logging and over-logging, Sarawak is rolling up its sleeves and getting down to making reforms. Its latest move is to review state forestry policies and to do this the state government is inviting foreign researchers, ecologists, conservationists and naturalists to study Sarawak forests for better forest management.

Selectively logged Amazon forests play important role in climate,” 21 September,

At A Glance: With careful management, selectively logged tropical Amazonian forests can recover their carbon stocks within a cutting cycle of 20 to 30 years, according to researchers who report their findings in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on September 21. The findings show that sustainably logged tropical forests continue to play a key role in global carbon sequestration, with important implications for global climate.

Planting to save Malawi’s national tree,” 22 September, The Guardian

At A Glance: Malawi’s critically endangered national tree, the Mulanje cedars, are a minuscule, dwindling fraction of the world’s 3tn trees. These rare trees grow atop a single imposing granite massif, Mount Mulanje, where illegal loggers are axing them to extinction.

Lao Officials Fail to Enforce Government Ban on Timber Exports,” 23 September, Radio Free Asia

At A Glance: A recent ban on the export of raw logs imposed by the Lao government to increase the value of processed wood products is not being enforced in the country’s southern provinces because some national leaders are involved in timber smuggling, a civil society official with knowledge of the situation said.

Why Partnerships for Forests are Critical to Achieving the SDGs,” 23 September, Huffington Post

At A Glance: As world governments meet this week to set goals for eradicating poverty and create sustainable development opportunities, we are marking Climate Week NYC with a particular focus today on forests. While forests feature prominently within a number of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), they are not just about environmental conservation but an integral part of the climate and development agendas.

UK and EU Consumers, and industry, want tighter EU rules to tackle illegal timber,” 23 September, WWF

At A Glance: UK consumers (76 per cent) want better laws that ensure the legality of wood products on the market in the UK and across Europe, a new survey finds. Major timber-related businesses from the UK and other EU countries, from producers to retailers, have also signed a new statement to the European Commission calling for the EU to tighten the current rules on illegal timber use.

Study shows new forests cannot take in as much carbon as predicted,” 24 September,

At A Glance: As carbon emissions continue to rise, scientists project forests will grow faster and larger, due to an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, which fuels photosynthesis. But a new study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom finds that these projections are overestimated.

Indigenous Community’s Fight to Save Canada’s Boreal Forest,” 24 September, EcoWatch

At A Glance: The pristine, clear water, miles of dense forest, bald eagles overhead and moose and bear along the shores—all of this special place is at the heart of Cree culture. This is the land the Waswanipi Cree community have fished and hunted on for generations. Elders in the community—including Don Saganash, one of our hosts—each manage areas of this forest delineated by traplines. This is a healthy place, shaped by local knowledge and stewardship over time. Clearcut logging threatens a connection to this land forged over thousands of years.

Indigenous group, Greenpeace partner to track illegal logging in the Amazon,” 26 September, Mongabay

At A Glance: When the Ka’apor people felt the Brazilian government wasn’t doing enough to protect their lands against illegal logging, they took matters into their own hands. Through a partnership with Greenpeace, the Ka’apor are deploying camera traps and tracking devices to track and document illegal logging. Studies have shown that indigenous control of territory provides the strongest deterrent to forest degradation and destruction.

An alternative to help companies fulfill zero deforestation pledges,” 28 September, Mongabay

At A Glance: Commercial agriculture causes more than two-thirds of deforestation worldwide, which has led to much scrutiny and numerous calls for change. Both private industry and governments have made many promises to tackle the problem. But according to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), neither is likely to achieve the goal of ending deforestation on its own — especially because public and private stakeholders interested in keeping forests standing rarely work together. So forest experts at EDF have come up with a new approach that helps them do just that.

Bonus: Estonian hipsters install giant megaphones in forests to amplify the sounds of nature


BANNER PHOTO: Education for future progress, Laxmi Magar studying during her holiday in Syang, Nepal. Asia Development Bank (Flickr).

Indonesian Fires Create “Hazardous” Levels of Air Pollution in Singapore

By Susan Minnemeyer

This post originally appeared on WRI Insights.

Fires in Indonesia continue to cause smog and haze across the region, with air pollutants reaching hazardous levels overnight in Singapore. As of 5am on September 25th, the country’s pollutant levels were the highest measured to date in 2015. At these levels, the entire population is likely to be adversely affected, and officials have already closed all primary and secondary schools until the situation improves.


The sudden rise in poor air quality is likely occurring due to a shift in wind direction that is transporting smoke and haze from land and forest fires in South Sumatra, Indonesia. The District of Ogan Komering Ilir continues to lead in the number of active fire alerts, with 423 high-confidence hotspots in the last week. As WRI recently reported, Indonesia’s forest fires have hit their highest point in at least three years, most likely due to illegal burning on agricultural and peat lands. The country saw more than 13,000 fire alerts last week alone. Continue reading

Global Forest Watch News Roundup: Week of September 14-20, 2015

GFW News Roundup: Forest stories from around the world that demonstrate the power of spatial analysis and open data in improving management of forest landscapes.

This News Roundup was in collaboration with the Forest Legality Alliance

Top Reads of the Week:

Protected Natural Areas to be monitored by satellite,” 14 September, Peru This Week

At A Glance: The National Service of Protected Natural Areas by the State (Sernanp) entered an agreement with the National Commission of Investigation and Aerospace Development of Peru (Conida, Spanish acronym) with the aim of protecting Peru’s natural areas. The satellite technology will protect 176 national, regional and private natural areas in Peru with photographic evidence to prevent the advancement of illegal activities.

The Science Behind 4FRI: Forest Restoration In Arizona,” 14 September, KJZZ FM

At A Glance: While held up by politics and economics, the nation’s largest forest thinning project is founded on partnerships and sound science. Even though it is well behind schedule, restoration of southwestern forests may be one of the region’s smartest investments.

Global Deforestation Slows But Forests Still Shrinking,” 15 September, Environment News Service

At A Glance: Over the past 25 years the rate of global deforestation has slowed by more than 50 percent, even though the world’s forests continue to shrink as populations increase and forested land is developed, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, reports. Some 129 million hectares of forest – an area almost equivalent in size to South Africa – have been lost since 1990, according to FAO’s most comprehensive forest review to date, “The Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015.”

‘Measured in human lives’: report finds EU and logging companies complicit in funding war,” 15 September, Mongabay

At A Glance: Europe’s timber imports from the Central African Republic (CAR) have helped fuel and prolong nearly three years of violence and instability, according to a new report from the organization Global Witness. In July the London-based NGO released Blood Timber: How Europe helped fund war in the Central African Republic, in which they revealed that logging companies operating in CAR throughout the crisis paid more than 3.4 million euros ($3.8 million) in the form of bribes and “payments for protection” to several armed groups. Continue reading