Cutting Trees and Cutting Corners

by Patrick Shore

Around the world, deforestation is exacerbating climate change and disrupting the lives of people living in forested areas. Since the Paris climate meetings in 2015, multiple schemes and policies have been created to protect more forested areas around the world and to help forest residents displaced by deforestation. While these schemes seem mostly beneficial and functional on paper, they are well short of ideal. For example, in Madagascar have revealed that that the World Bank compensation funds intended for displaced people, are not reaching a large portion of them. The primary receivers of the money are the people easiest to reach physically who also tend to be wealthier and more well-connected; poverty-stricken people living in the deeper regions of forests where much of the logging is done are least likely to receive funds. Continue reading

How a Crucial Tropical Forest is Responding to Climate Change

by Pushan Hinduja

How are Mangrove forests throughout tropical areas of the world responding to the rising sea levels attributed to climate change? Daniel M. Alongi, of the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences, analyzed historic responses to changes in sea levels in Mangrove forests as well as current data to determine how well these forests are reacting to the climate crisis (Alongi 2015). Mangrove forests tend to occupy the border between land and sea in low latitudes, making them especially susceptible to the effects of climate change. Fortunately for mangroves, they have an outstanding ecological stability, in part due to their large subterranean storage capabilities. However, despite responses to develop resilience to environmental disturbances, mangrove forests are still suffering. In terms of human impact, mangrove forests are being deforested at a rate of 1-2% per year, leaving only about a century before these forests disappear entirely. Mangroves are crucial to the environment; they serve as breeding and nursery grounds for fish, birds and other animals, prevent erosion and damage from natural disasters like tsunamis, serve as a renewable source of wood for fuel, and are key components in filtering ocean contaminants. Continue reading

Large Forest Blocks are Essential for Biodiversity Protection and Carbon Storage

by Stephen Johnson

Habitat loss is the primary threat to the survival of most tropical biodiversity. Typically, this habitat loss is driven by deforestation for agricultural use. However, deforested landscapes are rarely homogenous fields with low diversity; most often, forest fragments are left embedded in a matrix of varying types of agriculture, from open field monocultures, to pastures and forest-mimicking shaded plantations. The process of fragmentation has a significant negative effect on the biodiversity present in the area; however, fragments are often able to support a variety of species, as are some types of agriculture, such as agroforestry. Less is known about the capacity of such landscapes to sequester and store carbon. What little has been done has focused on carbon in agroforestry systems, with promising, though mixed, results. Continue reading

Deforestation Restrictions: Observations from Acre, Brazil

by Lazaros M. K. Chalkias

In light of climate change and species conservation efforts, “Reductions in Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation” (REDD) is becoming an increasingly important mechanism in conservation policy. Deforestation may affect water quality, forest services and local economies; its impact, as Pfaff et al. (2014) explore, depends on governance and location of protected forest areas. The researchers’ work focuses on the forests of Acre, Brazil, which includes over 1 million hectares of protected areas. They evaluated deforestation in the periods of 2000–2004 and 2004–2008, and separated the protected forest areas in question in three categories (sustainable use, indigenous and integral). They used “remotely sensed pixel data” from the INPE (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais) to examine covered and cleared forestland and understand the potential effects of policy in a region. Continue reading

Analyzing the Vulnerability of Rainforest Birds to Deforestation

by Maithili Joshi

In South East Queensland, Australia Pavlacky et al.(2014) conducted a study on the vulnerability of birds, rainforest ecosystems, and the biological impacts in response to deforestation in local and regional areas. The central idea is the to investigate the life history and forest structure to rank the vulnerability of avian species, while also looking at species loss along different kinds of forest structure and landscape change. The objectives are evaluating the effects of life history traits on the patch occupancy and vulnerability of rainforest birds, determining the relative effects of stand, landscape, and patch structure on species richness, and evaluating the relative contributions of deforestation and fragmentation to species richness. Continue reading

Implications of Land-Cover Changes and Fragmentation For Biodiversity Conservation

by Maithili Joshi

Deforestation can have substantial impacts on the vast biodiversity within tropical rainforests. In Hainan, China, importance is placed on trying to protect the habitat and biodiversity in the natural forests, specifically in the Changhua watershed. The Changhua watershed is an important area for China because it has been identified as the “center of endemism for plants and birds”, so conserving this area is particularly important for maintaining biodiversity. In the last few years, biodiversity has been threatened by new rubber and pulp plantations causing forest fragmentation and larger patch distances. In this study, Zhai et al. (2014) looked at the implications of deforestation on biodiversity, especially of endemic species and the ecosystems surrounding using land cover data. Continue reading

More Benefits of Reversing Deforestation than Meet the Eye

by Caroline Chmiel

A seemingly simplistic method to battling rising temperatures may be one of the most effective. Saving tropical forests, largely through natural growth, has proven an immensely important and promising strategy to limit climate change impacts. Saving the forests that are left and allowing new ones to grow, or regrow, will impact our planet in many positive ways. Forests play a huge role in the carbon cycle of Earth because trees pull main greenhouse gases, CO2, out of the air and lock carbon away in wood and in soil beneath them. When forests are destroyed, typically through burning, CO2 is pumped back into the air, substantially contributing to raising temperatures and climate change. Burning of coal, oil and natural gas moves carbon out of the ground and into the active carbon cycle causing the globe to warm more rapidly now than in any similar period. Research displays a hopeful method for the control of CO2 cycle: if forests around the globe are reclaimed and burning comes to a halt, forests will evermore naturally help pull dangerous emissions from the air, preventing quick, out of control, temperature growth. Continue reading