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

  • Hazing now illegal in parts of Southeast Asia. Last year, air quality in Singapore reached the worst level ever recorded due to huge fires consuming forests in neighboring countries. Now, thanks to a law passed earlier this month, Singaporean officials can sue parties who cause severe air pollution by burning lands to clear for agriculture. (via The Jakarta Post)
  • Mapping carbon in Technicolor. A research team just finished mapping the carbon stored in Peru’s vegetation. Using satellite data validated by field studies, the study’s results show that Peru’s aboveground biomass stores about twice as much carbon as the U.S. and China emit every year. The study also produced some stunning maps. (via Mongabay)
  • First, rats and now, Ebola?! Humans are increasingly encroaching onto the forests of West Africa, disturbing and dispersing wild animals. Scientists think that deforestation and these increasingly more frequent encounters with the wildlife could be behind the latest outbreak of Ebola. (via the Washington Post)
  • Sharpest eyes ever now looking down on Earth. Digital Globe, one of GFW’s partners, just launched a new satellite into space. Not only can the satellite, WorldView-3, see through clouds but it will also collect images 40% sharper than those currently available. Watch the rocket launch here. (via Time)
  • Climate change threatens Europe’s forests. A study recently published in Nature Climate Change reveals that climate change drove the twentieth-century’s intensification of natural disturbances in European forests—from beetles to wildfire to wind. The study’s authors conclude that this intensification needs to be met with improved forest policy and management. (via BBC News)

Land-use change and deforestation

  • GFW-Fires playing critical role in Indonesia’s fight against fires. GFW only recently launched a platform to monitor fires in Southeast Asia, but Indonesia’s REDD+ government agency says that GFW-Fires is playing an integral part to its fire monitoring system. Using the site’s high-resolution satellite imagery and fire alerts, law enforcement officials can more quickly identify and respond to illegal forest clearing. (via The Jakarta Post)
  • Pakistan’s 7,000 year-old juniper trees quickly disappearing. Low-income families living in Pakistan’s Balochistan province have been illegally felling the ancient juniper forest in Ziarat valley to establish fruit orchards and sell firewood. Now, due to isolation, the forest’s lack of genetic diversity has allowed bacterial and fungal infections to rapidly spread, threatening this ancient species. (via Thomson Reuters Foundation)
  • Two steps forward, one step back for wetlands. Experts have been working to restore the Everglades by reviving South Florida’s natural flow of freshwater. Now, though, a tiny beetle has spread a fungus known as laurel wilt across more than 300,000 acres of the severely degraded wetlands ecosystem, killing native trees and allowing exotic species to flourish. (via The Guardian)

Land tenure and indigenous rights

  • Can’t see the forest for the coal. The village council in Amelia, India, will soon vote on whether to support a long-disputed proposal to clear a forest for coal mine operations. A previous vote approved the project, which would clear nearly 1,200 hectares of forest, but suffered from allegations of corruption. (via Responding to Climate Change)
  • Illegal squatters and an inter-oceanic canal destroying communities’ protected forests in Nicaragua. Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities have relied for centuries on the Cerro Silva and Punta Gorda forests. Over the past decade, though, illegal squatters established cattle ranches and wiped away nearly 25% of the forest cover. Additionally, the government plans to dig a canal through the area to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, further threatening the forest. (via Mongabay)
  • Chile plans to return land, strengthen indigenous rights. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet recently announced several efforts to strengthen indigenous rights. This includes increasing indigenous representation in the country’s Congress and intensifying efforts to purchase disputed lands claimed by indigenous groups but held by private land-owners. (via Reuters)
  • Kenya’s constitutional protections not protecting indigenous communities. Kenya adopted a new constitution in 2010, including protections for “marginalized” groups such as indigenous communities. However, some claim that, four years later, parts of the government are still dispossessing indigenous peoples of their lands. (via Forest Peoples Programme)

Industry and forests

  • Japan is final stop in East Asia’s trade triangle for illicit timber. Illegal logging has stripped Siberia of up to 24 million hectares of forest since 2001, including habitat of the endangered Siberian tiger. Much of that illegal timber makes its way through China to Japan, which has yet to make any effort to prevent the importation of illegal timber. (via The Epoch Times)
  • America’s agricultural giant goes green of palm oil. Cargill, America’s largest private corporation by revenue, just announced its commitment to zero-deforestation palm oil. While acknowledging the breakthrough, environmental groups like Greenpeace are disappointed in Cargill’s lack of specificities in its plan. (via Mongabay)
  • Logging worsened Australian wildfires. In February 2009, bushfires in Victoria, Australia killed 173 people. New research published in Conservation Letters has found that logging practices contributed to the fires’ severity by increasing the likelihood of crown fire. (via Business Insider Australia)

REDD+, forests and climate change

  • Reducing local deforestation with a little international help. The governors of 13 sub-national districts from around the world just agreed to reduce deforestation in their states by 80% by 2020. The Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force is now calling on increased collaboration with donors, financiers, and companies to make that commitment a reality. (via Ecosystem Marketplace)
  • Alaskan carbon going on sale in California. Verified Carbon Standard has already issued offsets from an Alaskan forestry project, but up until now the government agency managing California’s carbon trading scheme had not allowed offsets from forestry projects in Alaska to meet compliance. That soon may change. (via Forest Carbon Portal)
  • Paying for Kenya’s ecosystem services. For years, the forests around Kasigau, Kenya, had been degraded by subsistence activities like fuelwood collection. Now, after planting trees and helping to restore habitat for large mammals, local communities are using money from the sale of carbon credits—their project was Kenya’s first REDD+ project—to build schools and water collection units. (via All Africa)

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

  • The world wide web is a breeding ground for citizen scientists. From identifying whale songs to reading captains’ logs to building drones, the internet offers non-experts a multitude of opportunities to get involved in scientific studies. The crowd-sourced data will inform environmental health assessments, further understanding of animal behaviors, and help develop environmental models. (via Yale e360)
  • Using satellite images to survey remotely-located people. A few years ago, the Brazilian government published captivating photos of an uncontacted Amazonian tribe. Capturing those images had clearly distressed the small population, as tribe members aimed arrows at the low-flying plane. Now, to study remote indigenous peoples, scientists are beginning to rely on satellite images not just to estimate population sizes but also to identify threats to their ways of life, such as deforestation and illegal colonization. (via Mongabay)
  • SMAP, Crackle, Pop! This winter, NASA will launch its Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite to monitor soil moisture conditions around the world, offering soil moisture estimates at a resolution of about 6 miles—more than 5 times sharper than best data now available. From drought assessments to crop planning, scientists, water managers, and farmers alike will benefit from the data. (via NASA)

  Think we missed a story? Let us know! All editorial choices, opinions and any mistakes are the authors’ own.