Ghetto chimps, 4 billion trees for Ethiopia, while Amazon deforestation accelerates…fast!

Forests News delves into global headlines
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In Forests News last week:

Can forests and smallholders live in harmony in Africa?

Agriculture expansion presents the biggest threat to forests, but some say that food production needs to be doubled by 2050 to meet the needs of a growing population. To define a sustainable landscape, a team of scientists scope six African countries and present their three reflections. Read more

“Restoration belongs to the community”

In Central Kalimantan on Indonesian Borneo, CIFOR scientists are exploring ways of planting tree crops for bio-energy that deliver both short- and long-term benefits for local communities. Read more


In the news…

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Why is Amazon deforestation at its fastest rate in a decade?

South Atlantic news service MercoPress, reports that deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest has reached its fastest rate in a decade (also since the current recording system’s records began), according to data collected by a Brazilian satellite early-warning system.  This Reuters story points the finger at illegal loggers encouraged by the easing of environmental protections under new Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. The Guardian notes that despite this, fines given by the government’s monitoring agency has issued the least number of penalties in 11 years, and that inspection operations are down by 70 percent on last year. Since Bolsonaro was sworn into office in January, he has been criticised by environment agencies for encouraging the expansion of agriculture and mining interests, whilst weakening indigenous land rights and his own environment ministry. The Guardian article goes on to claim that Brazil’s environment minister has made moves to privatise the satellite monitoring of the forest, responsible for unearthing these new figures; whilst Reuters reports that Brazilian environmental protection agency IBAMA, has launched its biggest-ever operation against illegal logging, backed by police and the military. For a long read, Globe and Mail dug deep into the factors driving Amazon deforestation, from agribusiness to gold mining and logging to degradation in this resplendent multimedia feature. *Note: This was published in January 2018.


ethiopia, tree planting, ethiopia forest

Ethiopia aims to plant 4 billion trees

Africa News reports on Ethiopia’s ambitious target of planting 4 billion new trees – that’s 40 trees per head of population, set to cover more than a million hectares of land with forest. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched the National Green Development initiative, which will continue throughout the rainy season. Ethiopia has been affected by severe droughts in recent years caused by climate change.

Rainforest exploitation a factor in “new normal” health epidemics, says WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that the world is entering “a very new phase of high impact epidemics”, citing the current Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo, only three years after the last one ended. According to BBC News, WHO blame climate change, emerging diseases, exploitation of the rainforest, large and highly mobile populations, weak governments and conflict for making the outbreaks more likely to occur, and more likely to be on an epidemic scale.


5 step plan to protect and restore Indonesian forests

After Indonesia reported a notable reduction in forest loss for the second year in a row, the Jakarta Post reports on the Low Carbon Development Initiative’s five step plan to restore 1 million hectares of degraded land to forest every year until 2024. The plan includes obvious targets, such as extending the ban on agricultural expansion, resolving land disputes and offering financial rewards for communities that maintain their forests, but it also stresses the important role that forests play in addressing high rates of malnutrition and obesity by delivering a healthier, more diverse diet. Forests News has recently reported the impact of Indonesia’s deforestation on local diets, read: Agricultural intensification has fed the world, but are we healthier?


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Call to save our closest animal relative from “forest ghettos”

Phys.org report on an appeal issued by forty experts from around the world to save the chimpanzee, whose DNA overlaps with humans by 98 percent. Habitat loss caused by urban expansion and deforestation mean that humanity’s closest living relative in the animal kingdom is being pushed into shrinking forest ‘ghettos’. All four species of chimpanzee face extinction, with numbers of the western chimpanzee falling by more than 80 percent over three generations.


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Chernobyl exclusion zone “Europe’s largest experiment in rewilding”

This Guardian feature tours the Belarus side of the Chernobyl exclusion zone created after the 1986 nuclear reactor explosion. The area is now rich in wildlife, with wolves, bison and bears moving in after humans moved out, along with 231 of the country’s 334 bird species. Scientific research has found some evidence of fallout-related disease and mutation among the burgeoning population of wildlife, but according to Viktar Fenchuk, project manager for the Wilderness Conservation Program in Belarus, “the evidence so far is that on a population level, the effect of radiation is not visible”.


mangrove, mangrove forest

Rising sea levels will bring salt marshes and mangroves to Atlantic coast

Popular Science reports on how rising sea levels are poisoning forests on the Atlantic coast. Professor Matthew Kirwan of William & Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science, who recently published a review of these so-called “ghost forests”, describes them as “the best indicator of climate change on the East Coast”. Part of the challenge of climate change along the Atlantic coast is managing the landscape transition from economically important timber forests to ecologically important coastal wetlands, and in another piece on Phys.org Kirwan calls for policy-makers to ensure that landowners are rewarded for maximising the public benefit of the changing landscape.


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In pictures… Rising sea levels in Tuvalu

Meanwhile, this Guardian photo story shows the impact of rising sea levels on the low-lying Pacific islands of Tuvalu. The highest point in the country is only five metres above the sea level, which has been creeping up about 5mm per year since 1993.

Video of the week:

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The choreographer making farming cool again

In this Guardian video, Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” choreographer Sherrie Silver explains why she believes farming is empowering. Silver migrated from Rwanda to London when she was six and has launched a ‘dance petition’ to inspire young people to take pride in producing food for their communities, on behalf of UN financial institution for farming, IFAD. Rural migration in Africa is a relatively unexplored issue that CIFOR continues to research.

When ancestral lands fall victim to an international border.

The sixth and final part of our series, What The World Can Learn From West Africa’s Unheard, hears from Hansen Apewe Abaloori of the Ghanaian Akaa tribe who reveals how the international border with Burkina Faso has caused infertile soil and poor harvests. Watch here


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A.I., climate justice curriculums, and koala drinking stations: 3 climate change solutions

According to the New York Times, scientists are using artificial intelligence to analyse the impact of hurricanes on forests in Puerto Rico, helping them to identify the long-term effects of the storm in a fraction of the time.

Meanwhile, a new earth science curriculum in Cambodia means half a million secondary school students will learn about the unique climate vulnerabilities of their country, and possible mitigations and solutions. Students in Portland, USA, have also taken climate justice education into their own hands after schools failed to integrate climate change and climate justice into the curriculum.

Finally, encouraged by new research published last week, local councils in Australia are installing drinking stations for koalas to help the beloved marsupials manage heat stress in increasingly frequent heat waves.

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Topic(s) :   Blue carbon, mangroves and peatlands Climate change Food security Wetlands