Last week in Forests News:
The future of social forestry in Indonesia
How to propel community forest management by 750% Read
What Peru’s government thinks of collective titling
Bureaucracy, budgets, and a blank book on indigenous conflict resolution Read
In the news:
Half the planet needs to be in a natural state to meet climate targets, Notre Dame shows it can be achieved
For a chance to keep below dangerous warming of the planet, fifty percent of the earth’s surface must be in a natural state by 2030, say scientists interviewed in The National Geographic. The revelation was published as part of a science-based plan, A Global Deal For Nature: Guiding principles, milestones, and targets. The importance of grasslands, forests and other ecosystems in soaking up carbon from the atmosphere is not widely understood, says its lead author, adding that tropical forests sequester double the amount of carbon than that of monoculture plantations. Countries who have signed the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)– not the USA the article highlight- have committed to protecting 17 percent of terrestrial land and 10 percent oceans by 2020, though most are not on track to achieving their targets.
The study estimates that measures to protect half the planet will cost 100 billion USD a year. National Geographic goes onto note that 1 billion USD was pledged within two days to rebuild Notre Dame after its devastating fire this month, and that 29 trillion USD was used in the USA bank bailout of the economic crash in 2008. ‘That could fund 290 years of conservation efforts that protect half the Earth and help stabilize the climate.’
Central banks promise to “lead by example” on climate change
In this BBC News report, leading bankers from the Network for Greening the Financial Services (NGFS) describe “the catastrophic effects of climate change”, and warn that industries that fail to adapt “will fail to exist”.
The NGFS is a coalition of 34 central banks formed in 2017. In their first major report published last week, they predict that climate change will lead to “disruptive events such as mass migration, political instability and conflict”.
According to the NGFS, the “massive reallocation of capital” necessitated by a transition to a carbon-neutral economy poses a particular risk to industry.
The report recommends that companies make climate change planning an everyday priority to avoid “a disruptive and costly” disorderly transition.
The NGFS also argue that the banking sector should “lead by example”, and that “climate change is a global problem, which requires global solutions, in which the whole financial sector has a crucial role to play”.
Study finds access to clean water hit by deforestation
Mongabay reports on a recent study into the effect of deforestation on household access to clean water in Malawi.
Originally published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study authors found that Malawi lost 14 percent of its forests between 2000 and 2010.
Comparing this data with Malawian Demographic Health Surveys, authors Naito and Mapulanga found that deforestation had the same negative impact on access to safe drinking water as a 9 percent decrease in rainfall.
As a result, the probability that an average Malawian has access to clean water decreased by more than 5 percentage points.
In a country where 17 percent of the population is already getting water from unsafe sources, further deforestation will have serious public health consequences.
Naito and Mapulanga suggest that a larger area of forest in countries like Malawi could act as a buffer against the higher rainfall variability expected in today’s changing climate. The effect that deforestation has had on water availability in Malawi has been the equivalent of an 18 percent drop in rainfall, the lead researcher claims.
GM plants to help reduce atmospheric levels of CO2
In a wide-ranging interview with the Guardian, Dr Joanne Chory explains how the Salk Institute’s Ideal Plant project could play an important role in bringing down atmospheric levels of CO2.
Using both ancient and modern gene editing techniques, the genes of Ideal Plants will include a new compound that makes them absorb more carbon from the air.
Then, when these Ideal Plants die, significantly less CO2 will be re-released, thanks to deeper roots that keeps the carbon fixed in the soil for longer.
The Salk Institute believe that their Ideal Plants could reduce excess CO2 emissions by as much as 46 percent.
Field-testing of the Ideal Plants begins later this year with wheat, soybeans, corn and cotton.
“We have to find a way to take CO2 out of the atmosphere and I think plants are the only way to do that affordably,” Dr Chory says.
Amazon deforestation increasing, environmentalists worried
According to CBS News, environmentalists are concerned that the rate of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest is accelerating again.
Scientists estimate that over the past 50 years almost 20 percent of the original Amazon rainforest has been lost to deforestation. Now environmentalists fear worse news ahead, as Brazil’s new president, Jair Balsonaro, is openly critical of environmental concerns, the article reports.
With each tree storing 3 or 4 tons of carbon, the Amazon rainforest contains the same amount of carbon that the entire planet has emitted over the past 10 years.
But when trees are cut down to make way for agriculture, the carbon they store is re-released and contributes to heat-trapping in the atmosphere.
The forests are also an essential part of the water cycle that keeps the planet cool and regulates the weather– indeed, scientist Mike Coe calls the Amazon rainforest “the air conditioner of the Earth.” Concerned that the areas being deforested are not being reforested, Coe believes resolve lies with the rainforest’s greatest fertilisers- its mammals, as well as its indigenous people. “It’s going to be really important to engage indigenous people in this whole discussion of how can we make a landscape that works for everyone?”
Study finds widespread air-bourne microplastic pollution in Pyrenees
USA Today reports on a new study that has found widespread microplastic pollution in the Pyrenees mountain range of southern France.
Results from the 5-month study, published in Nature Geoscience, found that 365 microplastic particles per square meter dropped from the sky every day.
It is well established that microplastics have polluted our rivers and oceans, but this is the first research to show that they also travel through the atmosphere – blown in from at least 60 miles away.
These miniscule fragments of plastic less than 5 millimetres in length are almost impossible to clean up. The only realistic solution, this report suggests, is to produce less.
WATCH: Earth from Space, satellite imagery to stop you in your tracks
If you thought the BBC’s natural history unit had reached its pinnacle with its Planet series, you could be in for a pleasant surprise. Earth from Space has been hailed for its “eye popping” approach, as the network gives our planet a health check, the Guardian reports. The production team has taken the art of timing to a whole new “three-level” approach, using satellites, drones and cameras on the ground. By doing so they have been able to track an animal from the heavens to the view of its mother. From space, Madagascar appears to be bleeding, as the red earth- no longer rooted by trees- seeps into its rivers.
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