By Jonathan Mason

In this update, Global Forest Watch publishes a roundup of top forest news from around the world. Many of these stories demonstrate the power of spatial analysis and open data in monitoring and analyzing forest change and improving forest landscapes.

To learn more about GFW, a dynamic online forest monitoring and alert system, click here, or follow us on twitter at @globalforests.

Top Reads of the Week

  • Primary forests a primary concern. Research led by scientists at the University of Maryland and WRI found that Indonesia is losing primary forests at an unprecedented rate. In 2012, Indonesia lost almost twice as much primary forest as Brazil, the former leading tropical deforester. (via Global Forest Watch)
  • Legal approval for a closer look at the Earth. DigitalGlobe is one of the top high-resolution satellite imagery providers for the U.S. government and private buyers. Now, after gaining approval from the Department of Commerce, the Colorado-based company will be able to sell images with 25-centimeter resolution to all of its customers. (via Geospatial World)
  • Finding the recipe for reducing deforestation.Followers of Global Forest Watch have long known that the use of satellite monitoring systems contributed to the rapid decrease of Brazil’s deforestation rate. A recent article published in Science explores how technology, along with government interventions, environmental advocacy, and changes in public policy, contributed to the 70% decline in the country’s deforestation rate. (via The Economist)
  • Tasmania’s rainforests keep World Heritage status. A UNESCO committee recently rejected a controversial bid to strip Tasmania’s rainforests of their World Heritage status. Australia’s current Liberal Party government proposed delisting the site only one year after it had gained the status under the previous Labor government. Logging interests had claimed the site was heavily degraded.  (via The Guardian)
  • Communities key in restoring landscapes. Using satellite imagery along with other methods, scientists have confirmed the positive impacts of community-based forest management in Nepal. The findings show that sparse forest under community management in Nepal was converted into dense forest at a rate of up to more than 3% between 1990 and 2010. (in Journal of Environmental Management via ScienceDirect)

 

Land-use change and deforestation

  • Illegal logging devastates Balkans forests. Lack of enforcement, poor governance, and huge profits from illegal logging allow for thousands of acres of primary forests to be destroyed every year in the Balkans. The black market for illegal logging in Romania alone is $350 million. (via GlobalPost)
  • Controversy deepens around oil palm operation in Cameroon. In Cameroon, only commercial loggers can sell timber. But Greenpeace is claiming that the oil palm company Herakles Farms coordinated with Cameroon’s Ministry of Forestry to set up a shell company, so that Herakles Farms could sell timber from one of its concessions. This recent development complicates an already-controversial operation. (via Mongabay)
  • Rats, disease, and deforestation – oh my! A study in Kenya demonstrates how deforestation displaces large species, which could increase disease in humans. In the experiment, scientists removed large wildlife from a tract of land. Compared to the control area, the tract without large wildlife doubled its population of rodents, which are known to be fertile hosts for flea-borne diseases. (via Mongabay)

 

Land tenure and indigenous rights

  • Forest management as community mediation. Senegal’s 30-year civil war ravaged the country’s people and its forests, creating last tensions throughout the country. Now, warring factions have found a platform for meaningful dialogue through conservation. The project, led by British-based charity Concern Universal, has resulted in greater community ownership of forests, increased forest density, and opportunities for community mediation. (via The Guardian)
  • We’re losing languages, tree by tree.  A report released by WWF correlated forest cover and biodiversity loss to the global loss of linguistic diversity. The link is clear: as economic activity threatens forests where species diversity thrives, it also threatens the culture and habitat of indigenous peoples. Two separate indices that track both languages and species diversity show a decline in both areas by 30% since 1970. (via The Guardian)
  • A census for forest-dependent communities in India. The Indian government will begin a new survey of people living in and near forests. The survey will focus on community livelihoods and reliance on forest products with the purpose of developing a countrywide plan for forest management. (via The Times of India)

 

Industry and forests

  • RSPO urges participation to achieve goals. The Forest Trust (TFT) left the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil in 2012 because of perceived weak standards for limiting deforestation. RSPO has now written a public letter to TFT calling for more collaboration to assure palm oil sustainability. (via Mongabay)
  • Company-sponsored forests patrols: effective. The New York Times exploresa Vietnamese law that requires hydropower companies to fund community-led patrols of watersheds. Though officially called Payments for Forest Environmental Services, the program doesn’t measure its effects on water quality or forest health. (via The New York Times)
  • Public data reveal oil contamination in the Peruvian Amazon. Scientists have now used previously disaggregated water sampling data to study the effects of oil exploration on Peru’s rainforests. 70% of the 4,500 samples of river water exceeded the legal limits of contamination. These findings reinforce claims by indigenous peoples that they had been suffering from negative health impacts brought on by oil companies’ operations in the rainforest. (via Yahoo News)

 

REDD+, forests and climate change

  • Effective data-sharing key to REDD+.  A recent report by the Center for International Forestry Research shows that poor information flows between different levels of government pose major challenges to REDD+ activities. Since multiple government levels need to share large amounts of data for monitoring, reporting, and verifying carbon emissions reductions, hindrances to data flows stall the uptake of and sharing of incentives of REDD+ programs. (via CIFOR)
  • USAID throws green behind green fund. Announced by Secretary of State John Kerry at the Carbon Expo in Germany, USAID will, if necessary, back half of all losses of the Althelia Climate Fund. The organization will provide funding to businesses whose models reduce deforestation in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. USAID says the program will help communities improve forest management and alleviate poverty. (via The Hill)

 

Spatial analysis, remote sensing and crowd-sourcing for the environment

  • Imazon remains sustainability pioneer in Brazil. Imazon, a Global Forest Watch partner, has a long history of promoting sustainable development in the Amazon. Recent collaboration with the Brazilian police and army relied on Imazon’s satellite data to conduct raids on logging operations that encroached upon indigenous lands. With a $6 million investment from outside donors, Imazon will now be able to expand its monitoring system. (via Christian Science Monitor)
  • Google acquires space in space.  Earlier this year, Google bought Titan Aerospace, a maker of solar-powered drones.  Now, the tech giant has purchased Skybox, which makes small image-capturing satellites. By 2016, Skybox’s satellites will capture the entire surface of the Earth twice a day and help improve Google Maps with high-resolution imagery. (via The Wall Street Journal)