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  • Jurisdictional sustainability report assesses outcomes for tropical forests and climate change

Jurisdictional sustainability report assesses outcomes for tropical forests and climate change

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A man drives a horse and cart through an oil palm plantation in Brazil. Photo by Miguel Pinheiro/CIFOR

Millions of people around the world live in or near tropical forests and rely on them for their livelihoods. Thus conservation and reforestation work needs to take into account existing land uses and seek solutions that serve local communities as well as bigger-picture goals. 

Conserving and restoring these forests could represent over a quarter of the near-term solution to addressing climate change.

An increasingly popular option for managing landscapes that takes social, economic, political and ecological considerations into account – which many researchers and policymakers are now turning their attention toward – is a jurisdictional approach (JA), in which a landscape is defined by policy-relevant boundaries, and a high level of governmental involvement is at the core.

According to the authors of a new study that assesses the effectiveness of JAs in a number of locations around the world, the approach “holds tremendous potential for advancing holistic, durable solutions to the intertwined issues of tropical deforestation, rural livelihoods and food security.” There are a number of jurisdictional “experiments” underway at present, so the authors hold that “the time is ripe” for a systematic assessment to begin drawing on early lessons from these experiments in locations across the tropics.

Read more: The State of Jurisdictional Sustainability: Synthesis for practitioners and policymakers

The fruit of a collaboration between the Earth Innovation Institute (EII), the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force (GCF-TF), the report comes on the 10th anniversary of the GCF-TF – a historical moment for acknowledging the progress that subnational governments have made as climate action leaders – and is being launched at the GCF-TF Annual Meeting on September 10 and 11 in San Francisco. The meeting precedes the Global Climate Action Summit, which aims to push for deeper worldwide commitments and accelerated action toward realizing the goals of the Paris Agreement and preventing dangerous climate change.

The report is the first comprehensive assessment of jurisdictional sustainability, and draws from evidence in 39 states and provinces in 12 countries where commitments to low-emissions development are in place, says lead author Claudia Stickler, who is a scientist at EII. She says that the majority of the jurisdictions in the study have made at least one pledge or commitment to reduce deforestation, and more than half of those have at least one policy, program or other action in place to achieve that commitment.

Amy Duchelle, a scientist at CIFOR who co-authored the study, hopes that the information will be used widely by subnational governments and the range of actors supporting these efforts toward JA.

Read also: Deep down in supply chains, zero deforestation commitments look different to what appears on paper

A farmer works with seedlings. Photo by Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

DECOUPLING GROWTH AND DEFORESTATION

The researchers evaluated the sites’ progress toward low-emission, sustainable development, taking into account their goals and commitments, monitoring and reporting systems and multi-stakeholder governance platforms, as well as innovative policies and initiatives that are key to jurisdictional sustainability. They also assessed deforestation and emission rates and trends in depth, and explored barriers to – and opportunities for – building sustainability.

On many levels, the results were heartening: the researchers found “considerable progress” in all of the jurisdictions they studied. Around half of the jurisdictions had reduced deforestation below their Forest Reference Emission Level (FREL) over the last five years. In Brazil, states using the approach made particularly impressive progress: they were shown to have reduced deforestation by around 44% relative to their FREL. The researchers also found that on average, GDP was increasing in the sites much faster than deforestation rates: in almost all the jurisdictions, they concluded that “economic growth (signaled by GDP) appears to be decoupled from deforestation.”

Already, there has been positive feedback. According to Rafael Robles de Benítez, Climate Change Director of Quintana Roo, Mexico (a co-hosting city of the GCF-TF Annual Meeting), “This report is really useful because jurisdictions can share fundamental information about their progress with each other and partners. It also helps with planning and identifying gaps that require attention and management.”

Read also: CIFOR now hosts comprehensive REDD+ tool ID-RECCO

REWARDS REQUIRED

To realize the full potential of JAs, the political leaders putting the processes into practice need more support, the co-authors conclude. “Even the front-runners among jurisdictions [in terms of achievements in sustainability] have not seen a whole lot of benefits for their efforts,” says Stickler. Almost USD 15 billion has been pledged in support for sub-national jurisdictions (directly or via national or regional programs or funds) to pursue REDD+ and low-emissions development since 2008. But the study found that “substantially less has actually disbursed to jurisdictions in that same time period,” she says.

According to co-author and EII Executive Director and scientist Daniel Nepstad, this means that, with a few notable exceptions, “the political leaders of tropical states and provinces who want to take this on – who are ready to put the policies and programs in place to slow deforestation and support forest communities across vast regions – are not getting the partnerships that they need to make it happen.”

An oil palm smallholder in Brazil. Photo by Miguel Pinheiro/CIFOR

As such, Stickler advises that “jurisdictional governments and other actors need to continue receiving positive signals that their efforts are worthwhile and should be expanded.” They also need help accessing resources and building better processes and partnerships, she says, in order to move toward achieving their commitments to reduce deforestation and degradation, as well as to improve well-being for their citizens.

Without this kind of explicit support, these jurisdictional-level efforts risk fading into obscurity and failing to achieve the level of change required. At present, says Nepstad, “the fight against tropical deforestation is still a political ambition that is hard to get elected on if you want to be governor of a tropical forest state or province – and that is a problem.”

At the meeting, Mary Nichols, California Air Resources Board Chair, emphasized how the GCF-TF, which California helped create, has grown to include governments together holding a third of all tropical forests. She went on to highlight that “the GCF-TF has increased its inclusivity and its focus on real success stories involving science and traditional knowledge. To see the level of engagement and joint efforts by states and provinces with foundations, donor countries and, most importantly, indigenous communities, this gives me great hope for the future and our ability to really address the climate crisis.”

By Monica Evans, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

For more information on this topic, please contact Amy Duchelle at [email protected].


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

This research was supported by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB); and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD).

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  • Genetic diversity of Ceiba pentandra in Colombian seasonally dry tropical forest: implications for conservation and management

Genetic diversity of Ceiba pentandra in Colombian seasonally dry tropical forest: implications for conservation and management

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Seasonally dry tropical forests (SDTFs) are one of the most degraded vegetation types worldwide and in Colombia<10% of the original cover remains. This calls for urgent conservation measures and restoration efforts. Understanding the genetic diversity and structure of tree species is crucial to inform not only conservation measures, but also sourcing of planting materials to ensure the long-term success of tree planting efforts, particularly in light of climate change. We assessed the genetic diversity distribution and structure of Ceiba pentandra from twelve representative locations of SDTF in Colombia, and how they may have been shaped by past climatic changes and human influence. We found three different genetic groups which may be the result of differentiation due to isolation of the Caribbean region, the Upper Cauca River Valley and the Patía River Valley in pre-glacial times. Range expansion of SDTF during the last glacial period, followed by more recent range contraction during the Holocene can explain the current distribution and mixture of genetic groups across contemporary STDF fragments. Most of the sampled localities showed heterozygosity scores close to Hardy–Weinberg expectations. Only two sites, among which the Patía River valley, an area with high conservation value, displayed significantly positive values of inbreeding coefficient, potentially affecting their survival and use as seed sources. While the effects of climate change might threaten C. pentandra populations across their current distribution ranges, opportunities remain for the in situ persistence of the most genetically diverse and unique ones. Based on our findings we identify priority areas for the in situ conservation of C. pentandra in Colombian SDTF and propose a pragmatic approach to guide the selection of appropriate planting material for use in restoration.

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  • How effective are tropical forest conservation policies?

How effective are tropical forest conservation policies?

Aerial view of a mangrove forest in Jaring Halus, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by: M. Edliadi/CIFOR
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Aerial view of a mangrove forest in Jaring Halus, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by: M. Edliadi/CIFOR
Aerial view of a mangrove forest in Jaring Halus, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by: M. Edliadi/CIFOR

By Sven Wunder and Jan Börner, originally posted at CIFOR’s Forests News

Numerous types of forest conservation policies are being implemented in the tropics today. Alongside traditional instruments like protected areas, other initiatives including development programs, certification schemes and payments for environmental services (PES) are also being carried out.

Yet rigorously-quantified knowledge about what works and what does not work remains highly-fragmented, especially for incentive-based tools.

A new collection of studies that evaluate the effectiveness of tropical forest conservation policies attempt to change this. Scientists compiled new evidence and insights from 13 evaluation studies of forest conservation initiatives covering eight countries across four continents. Considering how scarce the current evidence base is, this new research provides innovative food for thought.

Conservation effects were calculated in terms of annual forest cover change. Four studies in the collection looked at the effectiveness of protected areas in Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica and Indonesia. They showed incremental conservation effects in the range of 0.08 percent to 0.59 percent per year.

In the most effective protected areas (in this case the Brazilian Amazon), almost 6 percent more forest cover would be safeguarded in comparison to unprotected land in the span of just one decade. In the case of the least effective protected areas (in this case Indonesia), just 0.8 percent more forest cover would be preserved over a 10-year period.


Three additional studies from Brazil measured the effectiveness of other command-and-control policy tools within the mix of instruments that have jointly helped reduce Amazonian deforestation by more than two-thirds since 2004.

Forest law enforcement was found to reduce annual forest loss by 0.13 percent and 0.29 percent respectively. Meanwhile, a jurisdictional conservation approach that involved budgetary incentives with local governments in the Eastern Amazon contributed to reducing deforestation rates in some, but not all, years studied.

Kalimantan drawing of the future: his child foresees the forests of their area replaced by large-scale development of agriculture and roads. Photo by Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
Kalimantan drawing of the future: his child foresees the forests of their area replaced by large-scale development of agriculture and roads. Photo by Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

EVALUATING INCENTIVE-BASED CONSERVATION

The research collection also examines incentive-based approaches to conservation by looking at two PES schemes in Costa Rica and Mexico.

The Costa Rican program exhibited intermediate forest conservation effects of 0.32 percent per year, whereas the sub-national Mexican scheme boasted a strong 2.91 percent annual conservation increment. The long-term effects of PES were evaluated by a study on a sub-national payment scheme in Colombia where impacts were almost entirely maintained even after the program ended. Thus, where a previous meta-study had mostly found low environmental impacts from PES schemes, these new studies paint a somewhat rosier picture.

The overall largest forest conservation impact (4.56 percent annually) among incentive tools was measured when comparing forest cover changes between certified and non-certified timber concessions in Indonesia.

CONSERVATION AND LIVELIHOODS

Three studies featured in the research collection also examined the socioeconomic and development impacts of forest conservation policies. PES in Costa Rica were found to be welfare-neutral, whereas community-based forest management initiatives in Tanzania and Namibia exhibited significant positive effects on health and educational outcomes.

Apart from providing empirical evidence on the effectiveness of forest conservation policies, the research collection also features methodological contributions that focus on the challenges involved in evaluating area-based policy interventions and PES programs.

What works and what does not in forest conservation is more than a question of choice between policy instruments. Both instrument design and the implementation context matter significantly.

It is possible to design and roll out effective tropical conservation policies that do not hurt the welfare of rural populations. Effective conservation is not merely about choosing the right policy tool. It is just as much about identifying the adequate policy mix, and designing customized interventions that fit local and regional contexts.

To learn more from conservation impact evaluation in the future, we need more innovative studies that go beyond average treatment effects to link variable performance in space and time to variations in instrument design and in underlying environmental pressures.

For more information on this topic, please contact Sven Wunder at [email protected] or Jan Börner at [email protected].
This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.
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  • Diversity, commitment, challenges and shared goals: How CIRAD looks at FTA

Diversity, commitment, challenges and shared goals: How CIRAD looks at FTA

It is estimated that only a quarter of tropical forests are pristine. Photo by TmFO
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Plinio Sist is the Director of the Research Unit Forests and Societies at the French Agricultural Research for Development (CIRAD), one of the core partner institutions of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA). In this interview, he talks about CIRAD’s involvement in the program, key achievements and expectations for the new phase of the research partnership starting next year. Read more blogs on partnerships here.

Why did CIRAD become involved in FTA?

CIRAD and CGIAR centers, particularly the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and Bioversity International, had a long collaborative history with the research unit Forests and Societies, which was formerly part of CIRAD-Forêt. This research unit had, for example, seconded between four and six researchers to CIFOR in Bogor, Lima, Yaoundé, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia. The implication of CIRAD in FTA therefore came naturally, in order to strengthen our collaboration framework within a big challenging research program.

How did the partnership develop?

In phase 1 of FTA, the research unit Forests and Societies collaborated in Flagship 2 Management and conservation of forest and tree resources, coordinated by Bioversity. Forests and Societies brought in two projects dealing with Central African forest management and future Dynamique des Forets d’Afrique Centrale (DYNAFOR) and CoForTips for the Congo Basin.

Later, we participated in the Sentinel Landscapes research, launched in mid-2012, developing the Tropical managed Forest Observatory (TmFO), which now includes 17 different institutions.

Many landscapes in the tropics are now covered by forests that have been disturbed by logging. Photo: TmFO
Many landscapes in the tropics are now covered by forests that have been disturbed by logging. Photo by: Ervan Rutishauser

Forests and Societies also participated–with CIRAD’s research units Green and Selmet–in another pantropical Sentinel Landscapes project on the expansion of oil palm in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

Overall CIRAD researchers of five different units collaborated in all the five Flagships of FTA from 2011-2016. Because of its engagement, CIRAD became a member of the FTA management group and sits in the steering committee, and is involved in strategic decision making.

What was most valuable for you in working within FTA?

FTA showed to be an outstanding opportunity to work in groups of scientists from different disciplines and cultures, dealing with different research topics, but with common main objectives like poverty alleviation through sustainable management of forests and trees for the benefit of local populations and the society in general.

Could you give an example of a particularly good collaboration?

In 2012, we initiated the Tropical managed Forest Observatory. This network of 17 different forest research institutions and universities aims to assess the resilience of logged tropical forests in the context of climate change and high pressure of human activities towards the conversion of tropical forests to agricultural lands.

Although it is obvious that efforts are needed to preserve undisturbed primary forests by creating conservation units, these units alone will not be able to ensure the conservation of all species on a pan-tropical scale, due to economic and political reasons.

Plantation forest. It is estimated today that only a quarter of tropical forests are pristine. Photo: TmFO
Plantation forest. It is estimated today that only a quarter of tropical forests are pristine. Photo by: Ervan Rutishauser

It is estimated today that only a quarter of tropical forests are pristine. Therefore, it has to be accepted that the conservation of biodiversity and of the forest ecosystems of tomorrow will mostly take place within logged, domesticated forests, but only if they are well managed.

Currently, about 400 million hectares of tropical rainforests worldwide are designated as production forests, about a quarter of which is managed by rural communities and indigenous people.

However, there remains an important gap in the current knowledge: Are product harvesting and related ecosystem services in these tropical production forests sustainable in the long term?

Indeed, it is essential to assess forest regeneration capacities on a regional scale following logging, in terms of wood volume, biodiversity and carbon, and to make silvicultural recommendations that are adapted to the different types of forests encountered in a given region.

The TmFO aims to assess the impact of logging on forest dynamics, carbon storage and tree species composition at regional level in the Amazon basin, Congo basin and South East Asia. TmFO is unique as it is the only international network looking at logged tropical forests.

Another good example is the collaboration for a Forests special issue on global research questions such as forest landscape governance.

What do you expect from the next phase ?

The first phase of FTA was an exciting period. We worked with hundreds of colleagues in a new framework of cooperation that brought together different centers and addressed new global challenges.

The second phase must be considered as an opportunity to develop big projects with challenging objectives. One of them may be forest degradation, which is just as dramatic as deforestation in some regions like the Amazon and South East Asia.

Many landscapes in the tropics are now covered by forests that have been disturbed at different gradients by illegal and predatory logging, planned logging, and fire among others. In many of these regions, people are willing to stop deforestation and develop programs to restore forests.

But there are some challenging questions to ask that I hope FTA will help us to answer: How will these degraded forests be considered in such programs? What will be their role in providing both goods and environmental services and their contribution to restoration programs?

To make progress in finding the answers, we need to work together more closely and with more interactions between the clusters of activities within a research theme, but also with more interactions between the five Flagships themselves.

More on partnerships

Robert Nasi: Partnerships make forests, trees and agroforestry program work

Long-term relationships and mutual trust—partnerships and research on climate change

The best science is nothing without local voices: Partnerships and landscapes

Influence flows both ways: Partnerships are key to research on Livelihood systems

Partnership increases number of academically trained foresters in DR Congo from 6 to 160 in just ten years

Bringing in the development expertise: INBAR to join CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry

Connecting with countries: Tropenbos International to join CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry

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  • FTA event coverage: What does the Paris Agreement mean for the Asia-Pacific?

FTA event coverage: What does the Paris Agreement mean for the Asia-Pacific?

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On the sidelines of the 2016 Asia-Pacific Rainforest Summit: Peter Holmgren, Director General of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Josh Frydenberg, Australian Minister for the Environment and Energy, and Dato Ali Apong, Brunei Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism, talk about the importance of Asia’s forests for the climate.

Leaders in public, private and community sectors from across the Asia-Pacific gathered to discuss the future of the region’s forests at the Summit held from 3-5 August in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam.

The event was hosted by the Government of Brunei Darussalam, and supported by the Australian Government as the coordinating partner, with CIFOR as the science and engagement partner.

Visit the event website: http://www.cifor.org/asia-pacific-rai…
and join the conversation #APRS16

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  • FTA event coverage: Highlights from the 2016 Asia-Pacific Rainforest Summit

FTA event coverage: Highlights from the 2016 Asia-Pacific Rainforest Summit

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By Leona Liu, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

The Summit’s 300+ participants brought perspectives from across geographic and sectoral boundaries to discuss ways toward a more integrated approach to forests, people and the region.

Global momentum is building to sustainably manage forests and landscapes, as a key factor for mitigating climate change and promoting development.

The Asia-Pacific, a dynamic region with rich natural assets, will be a crucial focus of this movement going forward. Rainforests in the Asia-Pacific account for 26 percent of the region’s land area, and support the livelihoods of some 450 million people.

Building on global commitments under the Paris Agreement and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the 2016 Asia-Pacific Rainforest Summit, brought together stakeholders from government, business, civil society and the research community to catalyze practical action on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and achieving sustainable development in the region.

The Summit, held from 3-5 August in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam, was hosted by the Government of Brunei Darussalam and supported by the Australian Government.

In the video below, event participants including Peter Holmgren, Director General of CIFOR; Josh Frydenberg, Australia’s Minister for the Environment and Energy; and Dato Ali Apong, Brunei’s Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism, discuss the importance of integration- both across the region and between the private and public sectors – to achieve impact.

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  • A new method for tracking Ebola could help prevent outbreaks

A new method for tracking Ebola could help prevent outbreaks

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of Ebola virus particles (red) in extracellular space between infected African green monkey kidney cells. Photo: NIAID
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By Catriona Cuft-Cosworth, originally published at Forests News

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of Ebola virus particles (red) in extracellular space between infected African green monkey kidney cells. Photo: NIAID
Colorized scanning electron micrograph of Ebola virus particles (red) in extracellular space between infected African green monkey kidney cells. Photo: NIAID

The ongoing Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa has claimed more than 11,000 lives since March 2014. Yet we still know very little about the conditions in which the virus thrives and how it spreads to humans.

Some answers may be found in a groundbreaking new study that borrows techniques from biology and geography to map out hotspots where the virus may be lurking.

A research team led by scientists John Fa and Robert Nasi from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) together with Jesús Olivero and colleagues from the University of Málaga, including US virologist Jean Paul Gonzalez and Zoological Society of London wildlife epidemiologist Andrew Cunningham, took a biogeographical approach to mapping favorable conditions for the Ebola virus, both in terms of environment and the presence of animals as potential hosts.

The resulting map from the study suggests that favorable conditions for Ebola are more widespread than suspected, stretching across 17 countries throughout West and Central Africa, and as far as the East African Lakes Region.
Preconceptions that only bats are to blame for carrying the virus were disregarded, with analysis extended to 64 species including rodents, primates, hoofed animals, a civet and a shrew as potential reservoirs of Ebola virus. Photo: Daniel Tiveau/CIFOR
Preconceptions that only bats are to blame for carrying the virus were disregarded, with analysis extended to 64 species including rodents, primates, hoofed animals, a civet and a shrew as potential reservoirs of Ebola virus. Photo: Daniel Tiveau/CIFOR

It also finds a strong link between Ebola and tropical rainforests, and suggests a list of more than 60 wild animals that require further investigation as potential carriers of the disease.

The findings could help save lives. “This information is essential for the development of early warning systems aiming to optimize the efficacy of prevention measures,” said Olivero.

TRACKING A VIRUS

Olivero and his team are among the world’s leading researchers in the area of “biogeography”, or the science of mapping biological patterns across time and space.

Biogeographic mapping allows scientists to not only analyze the distribution of an organism, but also to predict where that organism may be found based on the existence of favorable environmental conditions.

As a virus, Ebola is in fact an organism. Recognizing this, Olivero and colleagues took biogeographic mapping techniques that are normally used for animals, and applied them to the case of a virus.

Geographical information system (GIS) software was used to map the distribution of favorable environments for Ebola to occur in, as well as the spread of mammals known to have died from, or been infected by, the virus.

“Our findings provide new information about how the Ebola virus is distributed in the wild, before it is transmitted from humans to humans,” said Olivero.

Preconceptions that only bats are to blame for carrying the virus were disregarded, with analysis extended to 64 species including rodents, primates, hoofed animals, a civet and a shrew as potential reservoirs ofEbola virus.

The resulting map found a wider than expected spread of Ebola both among mammal populations and across the African continent.

THE HUMAN CONNECTION
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Click to read the study

So what do the findings mean for humans? This is where the work of CIFOR scientists John Fa and Robert Nasi comes in. Fa and Nasi are experts on bushmeat, or wild animals harvested for food and non-food purposes.

One of the major causes of transmission for Ebola is the hunting, butchering and consumption of wild animals. But putting a blanket ban on bushmeat is not a viable measure – and neither is hunting all species suspected as carriers.

“We don’t want people to be alarmed that there are so many different species, and start killing as many as possible,” said Fa.

“We have to have very clear and realistic ways of trying to stop the transmission from infected animals to people without necessarily stopping people from doing what they’ve done, which is essentially hunting for food.”

Fa said that working with at-risk hunters and communities will be critical for stopping the spillover of infection from animals to humans.

Further research into the communities of animals identified in the study, and how their habitats are affected by human activities such as deforestation and urbanization, is also needed.

In the meantime, it’s hoped that the new method of mapping will help identify hotspots for Ebola and prevent contagion.

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  • Measure it and manage it: Terra-i forest monitoring goes global

Measure it and manage it: Terra-i forest monitoring goes global

Members of the Terra-i team discuss the Terra-i deforestation monitoring system, which can zoom-in on Latin America's forest to track deforestation in near real-time. Photo: Neil Palmer/CIAT
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By Ruben Echeverria, Director General, Center International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)

Members of the Terra-i team discuss the Terra-i deforestation monitoring system, which can zoom-in on Latin America's forest to track deforestation in near real-time. Photo: Neil Palmer/CIAT
Members of the Terra-i team discuss the Terra-i deforestation monitoring system, which can zoom-in on Latin America’s forest to track deforestation in near real-time. Photo: Neil Palmer/CIAT

The Amazon rainforest is often described as the ‘lungs of the Earth’. But the forests of South East Asia and Africa are also vitally important – and among the most at risk. That’s why a deforestation early-warning system that’s proving so successful in Latin America will soon be monitoring all the world’s tropical forests – from space. By combining detailed satellite images with a lot of number crunching, the deforestation monitoring system Terra-i harnesses the power of big data to help protect forests, biodiversity, ecosystem services and livelihoods.

With images updated and scrutinized every 16 days, it can distinguish between recent and historical deforestation back to 2004, giving a frighteningly accurate story of forest clearance. It also enables users to identify the drivers of forest loss – from agriculture to mining, road building, urbanization and more.

Launched in Latin America in 2012, the Government of Peru adopted Terra-i as its official deforestation monitoring system two years later. Since then it has been keeping watch over its share of the Amazon rainforest, and flagging new drivers in 2015. Several countries in Central America are poised to adopt it.

Last year also saw a lot of hard work to prepare for the launch of Terra-i in SE Asia and Africa – a move that means the system will soon be watching over all the world’s tropical forests. In SE Asia, we expect early adopters to be Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia – where deforestation rates are among the highest in the world.

The system will also track forest clearance and vegetation change Africa, specifically in the enormously rich, diverse and important Congo Basin.

While some of the images generated by the system can be unnerving, the team behind Terra-I know that when it comes to deforestation, if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it. By giving a clearer idea of where the hotspots are, and what’s likely to be causing them, Terra-i enables governments to develop more robust policies on forest protection.

It can also help them quantify the enormous carbon dioxide emissions generated by forest clearance, meaning they can put a more accurate price on conservation.

The private sector can benefit from Terra-i too, with businesses better able to assess the environmental impact of their activities, which in turn can feed into their corporate social responsibility programs.

These activities go to the heart of the important issues that the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry is committed to tackling.

The expansion of Terra-i to SE Asia and Africa represents a big step towards uniting scientists and policymakers across the tropics behind a common goal: the protection and management one of our most precious and vulnerable resources.


Terra-i is the result of collaboration between CIAT, Kings College London and the University of Applied Sciences of Western Switzerland (HEIG-VD). It is funded by The Nature Conservancy, The World Resources Institute, Global Forest Watch and the CGIAR Research Program on FTA.

http://geodata.policysupport.org/terra-i

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  • Multiple ways for Congo Basin forests to flourish

Multiple ways for Congo Basin forests to flourish

Agriculture, chainsaw logging and hunting were identified as the main sources of conflict with industrial timber exploitation. Photo: Ollivier Girard/CIFOR
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By Harry Pearl, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

View on the Congo river in DRC. Photo: Ollivier Girard/CIFOR
View on the Congo river in DRC. Photo: Ollivier Girard/CIFOR

Two hundred million hectares, and sixty million people. That’s the size and feeding power of the forests of the Congo Basin — the second largest expanse of tropical forest in the world. Yet this large resource area has often been a flash point for conflict, frequently because of poor forest management and illegal activity.

The problem is particularly serious in Central Africa’s concessions, where industrial timber exploitation has often been considered to have negative impacts on agriculture, hunting and small-scale logging.

Can allowing a forest concession to be used in multiple ways reduce or even resolve conflict and allow people to use the forest legally and peacefully?

Providing forest users with clear incentives to work together could reduce conflict and improve the management of Central Africa’s timber concessions, according to a new study.

Multiple-use forest management — using the forest in several ways (wood, gardens, bushmeat, wild food, environmental uses, tourism) — is seen by advocates as a more equitable and balanced use of resources among multiple users.

This form of management has been integrated into the forestry laws of Congo Basin countries since the mid-1990s, mainly through the management of timber concessions, but, according to the study, its application has had limited success.

There have been two main obstacles: not enough emphasis on local stakeholders, and a lack of financial incentives for different groups to take part.

CONFLICT, DEBATE, FORESTS

Providing forest users with clear incentives to work together could reduce conflict and improve the management of Central Africa’s timber concessions. Photo: Ollivier Girard/CIFOR
Providing forest users with clear incentives to work together could reduce conflict and improve the management of Central Africa’s timber concessions. Photo: Ollivier Girard/CIFOR

Guillaume Lescuyer, a scientist seconded to the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)  from the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD) and one of the report’s authors, says both issues need addressing.

“We have to look at the real conflicts among stakeholders and forget a little bit about the debate about international public goods, such as protecting biodiversity or storing carbon,” he says.

“The other issue is we have to deal with financial costs and benefits if we want to convince stakeholders to change their behaviors,” he says.

As part of the study, the authors assessed six timber concessions in Cameroon, Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Around each concession, five to seven villages were studied and 10 to 20 percent of households were sampled over a year — 308 households overall.

Researchers also interviewed key stakeholders who were not located in the sample area, namely logging companies and government representatives.

Agriculture, chainsaw logging and hunting were identified as the main sources of conflict with industrial timber exploitation. Once these were pinpointed, the researchers looked at ways to resolve the disputes and estimated the costs of resolution. The last step was crucial, as it gave stakeholders a clear idea of the costs and benefits associated with the implementation of a multiple-use scheme.

“We have to provide monetary costs and benefits,” Lescuyer says. “One of the issues is that there is no effective financial incentive to do multiple-use forest management.”

REALISTIC COMPROMISES

Agriculture, chainsaw logging and hunting were identified as the main sources of conflict with industrial timber exploitation. Photo: Ollivier Girard/CIFOR
Agriculture, chainsaw logging and hunting were identified as the main sources of conflict with industrial timber exploitation. Photo: Ollivier Girard/CIFOR

By providing a clear financial evaluation — in this case, over a 15-year period — stakeholders could accurately assess the cost of compromise against their incomes.

In the six timber concessions studied, all stakeholders put forward “realistic compromises” to implement multiple-use forest management in timber concessions, and possible compromises emerged.

Logging companies would finance local development in activities such as agroforestry or breeding. This would cost the companies money, Lescuyer says, but the trade-off would be a tax reduction as a means of compensation.

And because local people would benefit from these new activities, they would be required to reduce some illegal activities in the logging concessions.

“The state would accept reducing forestry taxes for the logging companies, but they can expect some new socioeconomic development because there will be new activities at the local level,” Lescuyer says.

The authors say that the fact that local communities, logging companies and the government could come to a consensus raises questions about the existing model for timber concessions in Central Africa.

In three of the case study areas, the promotion of multiple-use forest management needed input from outside the concessions, such as support for agroforestry and plantation initiatives.

This shows the importance of taking into account external factors that can influence change in concessions, such as commodity prices or the improvement of roads.

Lescuyer says the lessons of the study are applicable to timber concessions across the Congo Basin, and he hopes governments and logging companies take note.

“Ultimately, concessions shouldn’t be dedicated solely to timber exploitation,” says Lescuyer, “They should be seen as part of a broader landscape for sustainable development.”


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