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  • Spatial and seasonal variation in soil respiration along a slope in a rubber plantation and a natural forest in Xishuangbanna, Southwest China

Spatial and seasonal variation in soil respiration along a slope in a rubber plantation and a natural forest in Xishuangbanna, Southwest China

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Soil respiration is a key component of the global carbon cycle, and even small changes in soil respiration rates could result in significant changes in atmospheric CO2 levels. The conversion of tropical forests to rubber plantations in SE Asia is increasingly common, and there is a need to understand the impacts of this land-use change on soil respiration in order to revise CO2 budget calculations. This study focused on the spatial variability of soil respiration along a slope in a natural tropical rainforest and a terraced rubber plantation in Xishuangbanna, Southwest (SW) China. In each land-use type, we inserted 105 collars for soil respiration measurements. Research was conducted over one year in Xishuangbanna during May, June, July and October 2015 (wet season) and January and March 2016 (dry season). The mean annual soil respiration rate was 30% higher in natural forest than in rubber plantation and mean fluxes in the wet and dry season were 15.1 and 9.5 Mg C ha-1 yr-1 in natural forest and 11.7 and 5.7 Mg C ha-1 yr-1 in rubber plantation. Using a linear mixed effects model to assess the effect of changes in soil temperature and moisture on soil respiration, we found that soil temperature was the main driver of variation in soil respiration, explaining 48% of its seasonal variation in rubber plantation and 30% in natural forest. After including soil moisture, the model explained 70% of the variation in soil respiration in natural forest and 76% in rubber plantation. In the natural forest slope position had a significant effect on soil respiration, and soil temperature and soil moisture gradients only partly explained this correlation. In contrast, soil respiration in rubber plantation was not affected by slope position, which may be due to the terrace structure that resulted in more homogeneous environmental conditions along the slope. Further research is needed to determine whether or not these findings hold true at a landscape level.

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  • Estimating smallholder opportunity costs of REDD+: A pantropical analysis from households to carbon and back

Estimating smallholder opportunity costs of REDD+: A pantropical analysis from households to carbon and back

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Compensating forest users for the opportunity costs of foregoing deforestation and degradation was one of the original distinguishing features of REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation). In the early days of REDD+, such costs for tropical smallholders were believed to be quite low, but this has increasingly been questioned.

A decade after the concept was proposed, direct payments to forest stakeholders remain rare, while concerns about safeguarding livelihoods are increasing. Households facing restrictions on forest-based activities will have to be compensated, yet evidence on actual costs to households, their distribution, and implications for efficiency and equity is limited.

We estimate smallholder opportunity costs of REDD+ in 17 sites in six countries across the tropics. We use household data collected from multiple sites in multiple countries using a uniform methodology. We find that opportunity costs per tCO2 emissions from deforestation are less than the social costs of tCO2 emissions ($36) in 16 of the 17 sites; in only six of the sites, however, are opportunity costs lower than the 2015 voluntary market price for tCO2 ($3.30).

While opportunity costs per tCO2 are of interest from an efficiency perspective, it is opportunity costs per household that are relevant for safeguarding local peoples’ income. We calculate opportunity costs per household and examine how these costs differ for households of different income groups within each site. We find that poorer households face lower opportunity costs from deforestation and forest degradation in all sites.

In a system of direct conditional payments with no transactions costs to households, poorer households would earn the highest rents from a system of flat payments. Our findings highlight that heterogeneity and asymmetrical distribution of opportunity costs within and between communities bear important consequences on both equity and efficiency of REDD+ initiatives.

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  • World Wetlands Day: The human element of mangrove management

World Wetlands Day: The human element of mangrove management

Study on above-ground and below-ground biomass in mangrove ecosystems, part of Sustainable Wetlands Adaptation and Mitigation Program (SWAMP). Kubu Raya, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Kate Evans Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
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Study on above-ground and below-ground biomass in mangrove ecosystems, part of Sustainable Wetlands Adaptation and Mitigation Program (SWAMP). Kubu Raya, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Kate Evans Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
Study on above-ground and below-ground biomass in mangrove ecosystems, part of Sustainable Wetlands Adaptation and Mitigation Program (SWAMP). Kubu Raya, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Kate Evans Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

By Stephen Brooks, Land Tenure and Resource Governance Advisor for USAID, originally published at USAID Medium, from which it was adapted for CIFOR’s Forests News

As global climate change continues to threaten coastal communities in the tropics, governments have increasingly focused on the promotion and conservation of mangrove forests for their protective qualities.

Mangroves — trees and shrubs that grow in tropical estuaries — are among the world’s most productive ecosystems and, compared to other forest systems, have an impressive capacity to sequester and store carbon at high rates.

They also serve as an important physical buffer, protecting coastal areas from storm surges and acting as “bioshields.” Despite these clear benefits, since 1980 the world has lost approximately 20 percent of its mangrove forests.

With this in mind, there is a growing need to understand the factors- both biophysical and societal- that contribute to sustainable mangrove management.


Also read: Why should we care about coastal blue carbon?


To date, discussions around mangrove forest conservation and rehabilitation have been highly technical, and focused primarily on ecological conditions under which mangroves can be planted and promoted. Lacking from this conversation is a more robust analysis about the ways land governance, resource rights arrangements, and land use planning — the social aspects of the conservation challenge — affect mangrove conservation and rehabilitation.

Compared to terrestrial forests, mangroves’ unique placement straddling land and sea has led to great ambiguity as to the specific jurisdictional agency overseeing their management (i.e. Forest, Aquaculture, and Marine) in many countries.

Regardless, local land and resource governance systems often determine the ultimate success or failure of resource conservation efforts. Research and experience from around the world have increasingly shown that when communities are empowered and granted legitimate rights and authority to manage their own terrestrial forests, the community, the government, and the forest ecology benefit in numerous ways.

More rigorous research is needed, however, to explore whether coastal forests, given their unique and often ambiguous jurisdictional status, would experience similar benefits.

In 2016, the U. S. Agency for International Development (USAID) supported the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) to analyze mangrove governance conditions at the global scale, and through specific case studies in Indonesia and Tanzania.

Click to browse Global Wetlands Map
Click to browse Global Wetlands Map

THE IMPORTANCE OF JURISDICTIONS

Findings from the research show that mangroves generally fall under the management of national governments. In many countries, mangroves are under the jurisdiction of multiple ministries and agencies, creating a maze of overlapping and vague responsibilities that deliver little protection on the ground.

Mangroves are also often relegated to the periphery of forest sector management, with few practices or policies devised to specifically address their unique needs.

Typically, mangroves are classified as protected areas, but forest officials responsible for mangrove management often lack the resources and capacity needed to effectively protect them. Compounding this challenge are local communities who continue to be active users of mangrove forests, but who do not have clear or documented rights and incentives to sustainably use or protect them for the long term.

Countries are recognizing the importance of identifying mangrove management approaches that deliver results on the ground. In Tanzania, there is a growing recognition of the weakness of top-down mangrove protection approaches. Joint forest management and group rehabilitation schemes with local communities are increasingly being proposed in an effort to foster more community-led management processes.

In Indonesia, local community leaders are spearheading mangrove conservation efforts after understanding the ability of mangroves to protect their coastal homes and livelihoods. Intact mangroves can reduce the loss of life and damage caused by tsunamis, and during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, coastal areas that were protected by mangrove forests were better able to withstand the devastating impacts of that disaster.

Some countries, seeing the critical role of mangroves, have proved to be more forward-looking. Both the Philippines and Thailand have laws and policies that enable community forestry practices and management. Vietnam recently approved a Coastal Forests Decree that calls for an analysis on how coastal forests are measured, classified, managed, and protected. Sri Lanka has an ambitious plan to protect its mangroves through a mix of laws, sustainable alternative incomes, and mangrove nurseries.

THE IMPACT OF GENDER ON CONSERVATION

The recent analysis also explored the intersection of mangrove conservation and gender. To date, little research has been conducted on the unique ways that men and women use, participate in, and impact mangrove systems, nor the ways that current resource governance systems prevent women’s participation in decision-making around coastal community resources.

The research found that while women are often keen to engage in paid employment for raising mangrove seedlings in nurseries, planting mangroves, or setting up enterprises to prepare products from mangroves — such as honey, syrups, or natural dyes — they rarely have a seat at the table when it comes to mangrove management.

As countries consider how to support the important biophysical aspects of mangrove conservation, the role of people, rights, and governance institutions should receive equal consideration. Mangroves play a key role in mitigating and adapting to the impacts of global climate change. To conserve and sustain them, it is imperative that we establish and strengthen the right mix of socially inclusive and participatory governance institutions.

*This article was adapted from its original form as published by USAID on Medium.

For more information on this topic, please contact Stephen Brooks at [email protected] or Steven Lawry at [email protected].
This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

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