wild places | wild happenings | wild news
make a difference for our wild places

home | links | search the site
  all articles latest | past | articles by topics | search wildnews
wild news on wildsingapore
  BBC 14 Nov 06
Study hopeful for world's forests

Yahoo News 14 Nov 06
Trees reversing 'Skinhead Earth' may aid global climate: report

National Geographic 14 Nov 06
World's Forests Rebounding, Study Suggests
James Owen

PlanetArk 14 Nov 06
World's Forests are Making a Comeback - Study

WASHINGTON - Many of the world's forests appear to be making a comeback, and some are more thickly forested now than they were nearly 200 years ago, a new study reported on Monday.

The United States and China had the greatest gain in forests over the last 15 years, while Brazil and Indonesia lost the most, according to the study published in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The research by an international team took a new look at what makes a forest.

Rather than defining it simply as the area covered with trees, the scientists also considered how big the trees were -- how many of them were large enough to be considered timber, also known as growing stock -- how thickly they grew and how much atmospheric carbon was tied up in them.

Releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere spurs global warming. Trees absorb carbon dioxide.

In addition, the scientists took into account the amount of organic material, known as biomass, present in the forest.

By this standard, the researchers found that despite widespread concerns about deforestation, the number of timber-size trees increased from 1990 to 2005 in 22 of the 50 countries with the most forest.

The reasons to care about healthy forests are legion: forests foster biodiversity, anchor soil, slow erosion, and, when trees are allowed to grow to timber size, contribute to the economy in the form of lumber and paper.

In the United States, the transition from deforestation to reforestation took place first in the northeastern state of Connecticut in the early 1900s. Some states, including Texas, made the change only in 2002.

FROM DEFORESTING TO REFORESTING

"The United States is doing quite well, but we've done quite well for a period of time," said co-author Roger Sedjo of the Washington-based group Resources for the Future. "Our forests have been more or less stable for the last 100 years."

Other countries made the transition much earlier: Denmark's shift came in 1810, France in the 1830s, Switzerland in the 1860s, Portugal by 1870, Scotland in the 1920s and European Russia in the 1930s.

Sedjo said in a telephone interview that the transition often comes when countries begin to prosper, and are better able to put policies in place that preserve forested land.

Almost every country with a per capita gross domestic product over US$4,600 has moved to reforestation, the study found.

Why are the forests returning?

Co-author Paul Waggoner of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station noted a set of events that seem to feed on each other.

When countries protect forests, they can grow; at the same time, when farmland is preserved, farmers are less likely to encroach on forests, Waggoner said in an answer to e-mailed questions.

In Europe, timber imports, energy technology, and economic development that sent country people to the cities also played a role, Waggoner said.

As farm technologies improved, farming concentrated on fertile lands and left marginally fertile forests alone, even as urban migration depleted rural populations.

Yahoo News 14 Nov 06
Trees reversing 'Skinhead Earth' may aid global climate: report

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A growing list of countries have reversed deforestation by planting trees, which absorb carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas behind global climate change, a report said.

The report shows a 15-year increase in forests, which give off oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide scientists believe causes global climate change.

"This great reversal in land use could stop the styling of a Skinhead Earth and begin a great restoration of the landscape by 2050, expanding the global forest by 10 percent -- about 300 million hectares, the area of India," said Jesse Ausubel, an environment expert at Rockefeller University in New York.

Carbon dioxide released from cars and power plants collects in the upper atmosphere and prevents heat from escaping Earth, much as glass keeps heat inside a greenhouse.

"Forest area and biomass are still being lost in such important countries as Brazil and Indonesia, but an increasing number of nations show gains," said the report in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, chartered by Congress to advise the United States on science policy.

"The forests of Earth's two most populated nations no longer increase atmospheric carbon concentration: China's forests are expanding; India's have reached equilibrium -- changes due in large part to urban migration, agricultural yield increases and reforestation policies," said the report released by the academy.

Among the 50 countries studied, forests shrank fastest in percentage terms in Nigeria and the Philippines, and expanded fastest in Vietnam, Spain and China, during the 15 years covered in the study, 1990 to 2005.

Forested areas fell fastest in Indonesia and Brazil, while gains were highest in China and the United States.

The study was written by six experts in forestry, environmental technology, ecology, geography, resource economics and agronomy in China, Finland, Scotland and the United States.

The study said that the scientists, "following independent lines of thinking, came to agree that forest transition on a major scale is underway and have now collectively demonstrated it."

"Without depopulation or impoverishment, increasing numbers of countries are experiencing transitions in forest area and density," adds Pekka Kauppi of the University of Helsinki.

"While complacency would be misplaced, our insights provide grounds for optimism about the prospects for returning forests," he said.

The study also said that tree planting for materials such as paper is an improvement over cutting old-growth forests.

The authors predicted that the share of industrial wood production in forest plantations will grow from an estimated one-third today to half by 2025 and to three-quarters by 2050.

"Plantations and the trade to make them effective reduce the impact of industrial pressures on the expanse of natural forests, which may be rich in soil carbon and biodiversity," added Roger Sedjo, an economist at Resources for the Future, a Washington think tank.

The study used data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, which measured area covered by forests, the volume and tonnes of biomass.

National Geographic 14 Nov 06
World's Forests Rebounding, Study Suggests
James Owen

Forests are branching out across the planet anew, raising hopes that an end to deforestation may be in sight, a new study claims.

The study suggests that deforestation is not as drastic as it once was and that forests are recovering in many countries.

The researchers say that over the past 15 years the amount of woodland has increased in 22 of the world's 50 most forested nations.

China and the U.S. have achieved the greatest overall forest expansion, the team says, while tree cover has spread fastest in China, Vietnam, and Spain. Asia as a whole is shown to have gained 2.5 million acres (1 million hectares) of forest between 2000 and 2005.

"Earth has suffered an epidemic of deforestation," said co-researcher Jesse Ausubel, from Rockefeller University in New York City. "Now humans may help spread an epidemic of forest restoration."

Ausubel said the trend identified in the study could "stop the styling of a skinhead Earth" and lead to a 10 percent increase in global forest cover--an area the size of India--by 2050.

The team reports its findings this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Forest Density

This encouraging picture of global forest growth comes from an international research team that studied data from a 2005 forest-resources assessment by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The team advocates "a more sophisticated approach" to measuring forest cover. This approach takes into account both tree density and overall tree cover to provide a new perspective of a country's total forest resources, the team says.

In Japan, for instance, tree cover is shown to be virtually unchanged since World War II, but tree density has risen, producing an average annual 1.6 percent increase in forest biomass.

Lead author Pekka Kauppi of the University of Helsinki, Finland, admits that the study does not distinguish between planted, homogenous tree stands and biologically richer old-growth forests.

However, he says, much of the recorded increase involves both natural regeneration and the effects of reforestation programs, particularly in developing nations.

The study notes, for example, that tropical forest in El Salvador expanded more than 20 percent between 1992 and 2001. Reforestation efforts in China have contributed to a 116-million-acre (47-million-hectare) increase in forest area since the 1970s, the study adds.

Increased human migration from rural to urban areas and higher agricultural yields may also have aided regeneration, the authors say. Similar factors may have helped in India, where forest cover was found to have increased since 1990.

The team says forest trends in these and other developing countries may be mirroring those seen in the past in industrialized Western nations. In the U.S., for instance, forests in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illinois have expanded by half since the 19th century.

The authors say factors behind reforestation in North America and Europe range from increased conservation and farming productivity to a decline in newsprint demand following the rise of electronic media.

Whether the transition from deforestation to forest expansion becomes a truly global phenomenon will depend largely on Brazil and Indonesia, where huge areas of tropical forest are still being cleared, Kauppi says.

Indonesia has recorded a 6 percent annual loss in forest biomass between 1990 and 2005. "But if China and India can do it, why not Brazil and Indonesia?" Kauppi said.

Carbon Sink

Kauppi also points out that forests act as important carbon sinks, tying up carbon that would otherwise appear in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.

He says global forest growth between 1990 and 2000 provided some 0.3 to 0.5 billion tons of extra carbon storage. "For comparison, that's more than the carbon emissions of Germany," he said.

But conservation groups say the study's findings are overly optimistic.

Mark Aldrich of WWF International's Forests for Life Program says increased wood production from tree plantations may reduce pressures on natural forests.

But he adds that the authors' suggestion that the "end of deforestation is in view" is not supported by other evidence.

Aldrich says the same FAO report on which the new study is based found that 32 million acres (13 million hectares) of forest is lost annually. "Whilst these losses are countered by an increase in forest growing stock in some countries, these forests do not have the same composition or provide the same variety of functions as natural forests," he said.

Aldrich adds that the European Environment Agency has reported that while the net area of forests in Europe is increasing, the level of biodiversity has shown a dramatic decline.

And where deforestation is fueled by agricultural expansion, such as in Brazil, Aldrich said, "there are few signs of this slowing given the huge and growing demand across the globe for products from palm oil and soy."

BBC 14 Nov 06
Study hopeful for world's forests

A new technique for measuring the state of the world's forests shows the future may not be as bad as previously feared. An international team of researchers say its Forest Identity study suggests the world could be approaching a "turning point" from deforestation.

The study measures timber volumes, biomass and captured carbon - not just land areas covered by trees. The findings are being published in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"The trend is better than previously thought," said Pekka Kauppi, one of the paper's co-authors. "We see prospects for an end to deforestation; we do not make a forecast but it is possible." Professor Kauppi, from the University of Helsinki, said data from the Forest Identity methodology offered a more sophisticated view than previous studies.

"Previously, the focus was almost exclusively on the size of a forest area," he told BBC News. "Now, we have included other components, including biomass and the amount of carbon stored."

He said this approach offered a better understanding of the natural resource: "When we look at changes in both area covered and biomass, we can get a more complete picture of the ecosystems."

When the technique was applied to data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation's (FAO) Global Forest Assessment report, the researchers found that forest stocks had actually expanded over the past 15 years in 22 of the world's 50 most forested nations.

They also showed increases in biomass and carbon storage capacity in about half of the 50 countries.

But the data also revealed that forest area and biomass was still in decline in Brazil and Indonesia, home to some of the world's most important rainforests.

Demand for land

The report also showed a correlation between a nation's economic growth and "forest transition", in other words, a shift from deforestation to net gains in tree cover.

The researchers found that when Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita reached $4,600 (2,400), many nations experienced forest transition and saw an increase in forestry growing stock (volume of useable timber).

Professor Kauppi said no nation intentionally destroyed forests, people did it out of necessity.

"Rural populations, which are poor and growing, have to convert new land to agriculture and subsistence farming," he observed. "So the pressures on the forests ease if people have other job sources. We are not saying that people, because they are wealthier, do not destroy forests but it is a sign that societies have good law enforcement and rural policies."

But there was a risk that a misleading picture was being created by rich nations importing raw timber or wood-based products from poorer nations, rather than destroying their own woodlands.

"This is a serious problem," Professor Kauppi said. "It is called 'leakage' or 'exporting ecological impacts' and it exists, unfortunately."

But he emphasised that, overall, international trade was not bad: "If agricultural production takes place in highly productive regions, then land elsewhere can be protected or saved."

Deliverable goals

He hoped the Forest Identity formula would be used as a tool to help governments and policymakers to formulate effective strategies.

"For example, you can set goals by analysing the changes in forest area and forest density and then make projections of alternative futures.

"You cannot change things overnight. Making promises and goals that are unrealistic is bad; you have to set demanding, yet achievable aims."

Professor Kauppi said he was hopeful for the long-term future of the planet's forests, but warned that appropriate action was essential.

"Critically, it is about how people live in rural areas in developing nations," he concluded. "Can their living conditions be improved? If they can, then there is reason to be optimistic."

links
Related articles on Forests
about the site | email ria
  News articles are reproduced for non-profit educational purposes.
 

website©ria tan 2003 www.wildsingapore.com