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:
“How Indonesian forest law is being used against poor people,” 16 August, Jakarta Post
At A Glance: Indonesia’s Forest Law No. 18/2003 on Prevention and Eradication of Forest Destruction, ostensibly intended to protect the forests from organized crime and illegal logging, is instead being used to criminalize Indigenous Peoples and local communities.
“Commentary: Can Certification Save Borneo’s Forests?,” 16 August, Jakarta Globe
At A Glance: The future of Borneo’s environment lies in its forests. These harbor wildlife, provide free meat and products to people, prevent floods and erosion, and, oh yeah, they allow us to breathe oxygen and keep the rising global temperature under control to some extent. Whatever politicians, business people or others tell you, without forests, the island of Borneo as a functioning system would be lost.
“Trees at risk in warming Andes upland forests,” 17 August, RTCC
At A Glance: Scientists have known for years that, in a warming world, many living things try to move uphill to seek survival where the air is cooler. But not all species are able to move fast enough. Unlike animals, trees and other sorts of vegetation cannot move quickly to escape the heat. And for some of them, it seems, there is no survival option available. They simply die.
“Models for predicting carbon levels in Central African forests,” 17 August, phys.org
At A Glance: Researchers are developing models for predicting carbon levels in Central African forests based on measuring only 5% of all trees. In addition to being a lot more effective, their work is also revealing for the first time in Central Africa the key role played by “hyperdominant” species for storing forest carbon.
“Reclaiming the forest: a Romanian story,” 19 August, Open Democracy
At A Glance: According to an old Romanian aphorism, ‘the forest is the Romanian’s brother.’ This familial bond to the forest can partly be explained as stemming from the fact that the Romanian people often sought refuge in the woods during the numerous battles that took place throughout the country’s tumultuous history. The forest became a symbol of protection and life, helping perpetuate their nation. The woods served their shielding role not only in ancient and medieval times, but also during Romania’s most recent history, ensuring a safe haven for anti-communist fighters, who resisted and opposed the communist regime from the late 1940s to the mid-1950s.
“Like herding scientists: one man and many many trees,” 20 August, CIFOR
At A Glance: A recent study by a 143 international scientists revealed statistics that were surprising – mainly because they had never been collated before. Who knew that we have never been able to count tropical tree species properly? Who knew there were between 43,000 and 50,000 tropical tree species? And who knew there were that many scientists to count them?
“The forests of the world are in serious trouble, scientists report,” 20 August, The Washington Post
At A Glance: The planet’s forests are vital to us all. For one thing, without them, global warming would be a lot worse. Forests pull vast amounts of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. They also foster untold biodiversity and deliver large human benefits — close to one out of six people on Earth “directly depends on forests” for food and other services, according to a recent report by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations. If recent research is to believed, trees even improve people’s mental health and well being.
“Boreal forests threatened by climate change,” 21 August, UPI
At A Glance: Scientists at Austria’s International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) say boreal forests, or the taiga — a chilly biome characterized by coniferous forests of mostly of spruce and pine — are already losing out to shifts in temperature and precipitation. The climate is changing faster than trees can migrate.
“Scientists warn only ‘simplified’, degraded tropical forest may remain by end of century,” 21 August, Global Post
At A Glance: Impacts of human actions are threatening to simplify the diverse ecosystem of world’s remaining tropical forests leading to mass species loss, according to a new study released Friday by the University College London (UCL).
“Romania’s ‘occupy forests’ movement demands clampdown on corporate crime,” 21 August, The Ecologist
At A Glance: A growing protest movement is demanding strong controls on international investors and logging companies buying up Romania’s forests, writes Raluca Besliu. In its sights is Austria-based Schweighofer, which stands accused of criminal malpractice and accepting illegal timber shipments. The popular outrage stirred up by corporate misdeeds is now stimulating a wider democratic revival.
Bonus Video: “Special issue: Forest health in a changing world,” 20 August, Science
At A Glance: Even though modern forests are generally much altered from their natural state, their “health” still matters. It will dictate whether forests persist and function into the future, sustaining wildlife, producing timber, sequestering carbon, and performing other services.