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

Drought-Fire Interactions in the Amazonian Rainforest Increase Tree Mortality

by Maithili Joshi

The relationship between fire-induced tree mortality and extreme weather remain poorly understood because it is restricted to post-fire observations of tree mortality. Studies done on the effects of forest fires and biodiversity remain understood on the patch scale, and do not consider the effects of fire on vegetation dynamics and structure. In the southeast Amazon forest, scientists established a large scale, and long term prescribed forest fire experiment in a transitional forest. Primarily, trying to determine if there are weather, and fuel, related thresholds in fire behavior associated with high levels of fire-induced tree mortality across two different fire regimes, and secondarily, what the effects of an intense forest fire are on forest structure, flammability, and aboveground live carbon stock. Continue reading

Quantifying the Implications Protected Area Downgrading, Downsizing, and Degazettement (PADDD) for REDD+ Policies

by Maithili Joshi

REDD+ policies address deforestation and degradation of protected forests. It is believed their implementation causes perverse effects leading to illegal activities, downgrading, downsizing, and degazettement (PADDD). This phenomenon challenges the idea of permanence of protected areas. The study was conducted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Malaysia, and Peru because of its extraordinary biodiversity. Forrest et al. (2014) aimed to quantify the implications of PADDD for REDD+ polices. First, a database that consisted of information on PADDD events since 1990 until 2011 was created. This included protected area name, location and area affected, type, and year. Protected area legislation in these three countries and administrative journals in DRC were reviewed, and also digitized historic maps of PADDD events from government sources. Second the amounts and rates of deforestation and carbon loss within PADDDed lands in peninsular Malaysia and Peru were assessed and compared to unprotected forests. 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

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

Emission Reductions from Indonesia’s 2011 Forestry Moratorium

by Maithili Joshi

The impacts of deforestation are clear; the destruction of our forests result in increasing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. In an attempt to curb this, in 2011, Indonesia implemented a nationwide moratorium on peat lands, such as oil palm. Although this enactment is regarded as widely important, there are many questions raised about the moratorium. For example: how effective is the moratorium? Does it cover enough land, or the “right” lands? By how much did deforestation occur with the moratorium in comparison to prior to the concessions being granted from the years 2000 to 2010, before the moratorium was enacted? And, finally, how much lower would Indonesia’s carbon emissions be if there had been no new concessions granted on primary forests and peat lands in those years prior? The answers to these questions are crucial for our understanding in carbon emissions and the effectiveness of the ban on deforestation. By estimating carbon emissions before the moratoriums enactment, using an empirical approach, and utilizing previously collected data to estimate carbon emissions, the evidence shows that it did not cover enough forest that is thought to hold large quantities of carbon. Continue reading

Amazonian Bacterial Communities after Ecosystem Conversion

by Caroline Vurlumis

The Amazon rainforest is the most extensive tropical forest worldwide containing the largest amount of plant and animal diversity. For years there has been deforestation to create agriculture and cattle pasture which greatly harms biodiversity and causes homogenization in bacterial communities. Rodrigues et al. (2013) tested the impacts of soil microbial biodiversity when land is converted from forest to agriculture. Using transects from forest and pasture, the authors took soil samples of each to test local (alpha) diversity and differentiation (beta) diversity by concentrations of taxonomy and phylogeny. The results showed an increase in alpha diversity and decrease in beta diversity indicating a significant difference in bacterial communities when conversion occurs. There was significant loss in endemic species diversity and an increase of homogenization in the soil which poses a higher risk for net loss of biodiversity in the future. As a result of this study the authors argue that microbial biodiversity loss should be strongly considered when engaging in land conversion due to its important role in tropical ecosystems. Continue reading