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  • Calls for greater momentum on forest initiatives, from REDD+ to ecotourism, at APRS 2018

Calls for greater momentum on forest initiatives, from REDD+ to ecotourism, at APRS 2018

Tribudi Syukur village in Lampung, Indonesia, is seen from above. Photo by N. Sujana/CIFOR
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Tribudi Syukur village in Lampung, Indonesia, is seen from above. Photo by N. Sujana/CIFOR

Asia-Pacific is the fastest growing region on earth, and home to the world’s three largest cities. Yet it also contains 740 million hectares of forests, accounting for 26 percent of the region’s land area and 18 percent of forest cover globally.

More than 450 million people depend on these forests for their livelihoods.

Through the theme “Protecting forests and people, supporting economic growth,” the third Asia-Pacific Rainforest Summit (APRS) examined how the region’s economic and social development can better integrate with climate change and carbon emissions reduction goals.

Following the first APRS held in Sydney in 2014 and the second in Brunei Darussalam in 2016, this year’s was the largest yet, held in the Javanese cultural center of Yogyakarta, Indonesia. From April 23–25, more than 1,200 representatives from academia, civil society, business, government and research institutions gathered for panels, discussions, workshops and field trips.

Regional leaders formed the Asia-Pacific Rainforest Partnership (APRP) and its biannual Summit to help realize the global goal of ending rainforest loss by 2030, as well as reduce poverty through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), carbon emissions through REDD+, and climate change through the Paris Agreement – as discussed in the Summit’s first day of high-level panels.

Read also: FTA at the Asia-Pacific Rainforest Summit

“Since the summit in Brunei, I am happy to see substantial progress on REDD+ both regionally and globally,” said Australian Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg in the opening ceremony. “We need to maintain this momentum and step up the pace of change if we are going to protect our forests and our people while securing economic growth.”

As the host country – supported the Australian Government, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) – Indonesia highlighted its recent environmental achievements.

“In the last three years, we have managed to reduce the [annual] deforestation rate from 1.09 million hectares to 610,000 hectares, and 480,000 million hectares in 2017,” said Indonesian Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya.

“We realize that forests are a major contributor to carbon emissions, mainly due to forest fires – especially in peatlands. Forests represent 18% of our national emissions reduction targets and are expected to contribute to over half of our [Paris Agreement] targets.”

CIFOR’s Daniel Murdiyarso speaks during a session on restoration and sustainable management of peatlands at the Asia-Pacific Rainforest Summit 2018. Photo by U. Ifansasti/CIFOR

Minister Nurbaya also pointed to community and social forestry as a major theme of the Summit. Indonesia has set a target to allocate some 12.7 million hectares of land for use by communities partaking in five social forestry schemes. Nurbaya said she hopes other countries are similarly prioritizing community-based forestry management.

Community forestry was one of the sub-themes highlighted in the second day’s expert panels, alongside restoration and sustainable management of peatlands, mangroves and blue carbon, ecotourism and conservation of biodiversity, production forests, and forest finance, investment and trade. Issues in focus are detailed below.

PRIVATE FINANCE

Speakers throughout the Summit echoed the need for increased private-sector support for reducing greenhouse gas emissions – and policies that help enable this.

Companies need more incentives – and assurance of profitability – if they are to balance their business activities with ecological protection and support to local communities. Similarly, there needs to be proof of returns in order to increase private investment in environmental efforts.

The commitment of USD 500 million by the Green Climate Fund (GCF) was highlighted as a best-practice example. Announced in May 2017, the pledge is now being used to back select business proposals that creatively address climate change.

Juan Chang, a GCF senior specialist in forest and land use and panel speaker at the Summit, said the Fund’s forestry and land use portfolio of 10 funded projects around the world so far includes 2 REDD+ projects.

Within GCF’s portfolio as a whole, around a third of its USD 3.7 billion goes to projects in the Asia-Pacific region.

REDD+ AND FORESTS

This year’s APRS comes roughly a decade after the UNFCCC COP13 in Bali gave birth to REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation), an initiative that – much as its name says – seeks to lower global carbon emissions by preserving tropical forests.

As its goals broadened to give more attention to sustainable forest management and carbon stocks, REDD became REDD+, which now has numerous development and research projects running throughout the region.

Indonesia’s Minister of Environment and Forestry, HE Siti Nurbaya, opens the 3rd Asia-Pacific Rainforest Summit. Photo by U. Ifansasti/CIFOR

Around 2 billion hectares of Asia-Pacific forests are degraded, and research experts expressed that production forests – such as those used for bioenergy – hold new opportunities for REDD+ implementation.

Contrasting this, however, was the difficulty some countries’ delegates said they’re facing in setting the many pieces in place required to uphold such a detailed effort as REDD+.

While Indonesia and Papua New Guinea now have much of the REDD+ architecture up and running, both countries have met roadblocks in implementing emissions measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) systems as well as results-based payments mechanisms.

Emma Rachmawaty, Director of Climate Change at Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry, said, “We are in the process of establishing a financial institution to manage financing for REDD+. [Until then] we cannot implement results-based payments for REDD+.”

Danae Maniatis from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) analogized REDD+ framework construction with that of a building.

“Pillars for REDD+ need to be really strong at the readiness phase,” she said. “If you have a house that has a roof but nothing else, would you use it? No. You need it to be functional. So, the challenge that we face is: how do you take these elements and make them functional?”

Read also: Social forestry impacts local livelihoods in Indonesia

NEW WAYS TO MITIGATE CLIMATE CHANGE

Mangroves and blue carbon – carbon captured and stored in oceans and coastal areas – have been hot topics of late.

“There is one ecosystem that has been close to my heart for a long time, that encompasses all the issues you can think of for forests: peatlands and mangroves,” said CIFOR Director General Dr. Robert Nasi.

“Although they represent a small percentage of forests, they are probably the richest and most carbon-rich ecosystems in the world – and the most threatened. I can only encourage and commend Indonesia for all the efforts they’re doing in terms of restoring and rehabilitating peatlands and mangroves.”

Comparatively little research has been done on these ecosystems so far. But the vast carbon sinks of Indonesia’s mangroves – the largest in the world, spanning 3.5 million hectares – have begun to make their way onto the archipelago’s national agenda, potentially contributing to the country’s commitments to the Paris Agreement and becoming grounds for financial support to local communities through payment for ecosystem services (PES).

Another way to link local communities to financial institutions and global markets? Ecotourism – responsible recreational activities that encourage conservation and preserve biodiversity.

Panelists called for philanthropic foundations and development organizations to give this growing sector more attention. In the realm of sustainable development business ventures, ecotourism is an on-the-ground way to aid land rehabilitation and biodiversity conservation while still turning a profit – however small that profit may be.

This echoed Dr. Nasi’s opening ceremony statement that the Asia-Pacific region is “a region of superlatives and a region of many contrasts,” with a vast array of businesses, landscapes, socioeconomic levels and governments.

Yet, everyone attending the summit “comes together for one reason: because forests matter.”

By Nabiha Shahab, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.


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

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  • Getting down and dirty in degraded lands

Getting down and dirty in degraded lands

CIFOR's SWAMP project works at peatlands restoration sites in various parts of Indonesia. Outside Dumai in Riau, one site is now planted with rubber trees, which local residents tap to make additional income. Photo: Deanna Ramsay/CIFOR
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CIFOR’s SWAMP project works at peatlands restoration sites in various parts of Indonesia. Outside Dumai in Riau, one site is now planted with rubber trees, which local residents tap to make additional income. Photo: Deanna Ramsay/CIFOR

By Deanna Ramsay, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

Tropical peatlands are massive carbon sinks. But what happens when they are depleted of the water that sustains them, or subject to other land-use changes?

After fires raged in 2015 over Sumatra and Kalimantan in Indonesia, in part due to the widespread draining of peatlands, these wetland ecosystems and their environmental significance catapulted to the center of global discussions.

“Protecting tropical peatlands is essential to combating climate change. By monitoring the emissions from degraded peat and the resulting fires, we now know just how important they are,” says Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) scientist Daniel Murdiyarso.

At one of Murdiyarso’s research sites in Riau – a swath of Sumatra now covered in oil palm – he is looking into what happens after peatlands are drained, burned and then subject to restoration.

But what that restoration looks like varies, as is how it is defined.

CIFOR’s SWAMP project uses a variety of measurements to better understand peatlands, their degradation and their restoration. Photo by Deanna Ramsay/CIFOR

THICK DESCRIPTION

“There have been few studies of restoration of tropical peatlands. Boreal, yes,” he says, an indication of why this work off a bumpy road from Dumai is so important, and cutting-edge.

According to Murdiyarso, the restoration question is a complex one, involving not just ecological processes but also socioeconomic ones that likely led to degradation in the first place.

“We need to involve the local community, and use local initiative in these landscapes,” he says, work that is necessary if we want to protect peatlands and prevent further degradation.

On peatlands in Indonesia – which is home to most of the world’s tropical peat – the first step is to block the canals that had served to drain the land of its moisture, enabling the water table to rise again.

But does this allow the peat to return to its original state?

Dendrometer bands measure tree growth, here on a rubber tree planted on degraded peatland. Photo by Deanna Ramsay/CIFOR

“Re-wetting peatlands has to be combined with re-vegetating the landscape,” Murdiyarso says, adding that the organic materials present in peat are often forgotten amid the bigger restoration picture.

In order to determine how peatlands degrade and how best to rehabilitate them, CIFOR scientists have established research sites in Sumatra and Kalimantan with partners, including the University of Riau, Palangkaraya University and government agencies. The emerging scientific evidence is being used to inform the country’s Peatlands Restoration Agency (BRG), as well as global climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies.

WATERLOGGED

The work comprises a range of data gathering tasks, such as measuring carbon emissions, analyzing soil composition and monitoring tree growth.

A seven-hectare research site outside Tanjung Leban village in Bengkalis district, Riau, has peatland plots ringed by now-blocked canals, with watergates managed by the local community. The land is covered with a mix of peat swamp tree species, oil palm and rubber.

Sofyan Kurnianto, a PhD student at Oregon State University who works with CIFOR, researches water levels in intact and degraded peat.

Peatlands are important carbon sinks, and part of the study of degraded peatlands involves monitoring carbon emissions, as is being done here. Photo by Deanna Ramsay/CIFOR

“Canal blocking will influence how much water the peat can store. The big question among scientists is – after restoration – how much that storage capacity changes,” he says.

Draining and re-wetting causes peat to shrink and expand, resulting in changes in surface elevation. To monitor these kinds of changes, several rod surface elevation tables (RSETs) were installed to monitor subsidence.

And, in a pioneering move, Ground Penetrating Radar was employed. The innovative survey technique involves transmissions to receiving antennas, and is frequently used to study boreal peatlands, but used here in tropical peatlands for the first time.

PRETTY PEAT

The work resulted in peat depth mapping of each land-use type, offering valuable information about these rich, muddy landscapes.

In Riau, this groundbreaking research – in both the literal and figurative senses – is developing the science to impact these policy processes and the restoration they steer. Scientists are also training others to continue this necessary monitoring, data analysis and interpretation work.

“Research on peatlands is very important in Indonesia, especially in Riau as it is the dominant landscape. Management is important, and mismanagement will have a big impact on human life and the environment,” said Sigit Sutikno, a professor at the University of Riau who was visiting the research site with his students.

In the shade of trees dripping with fresh rubber, scientists and scientists-in-the-making practiced soil coring, jabbing a spear-like instrument into loamy soil over and over and collecting portions in plastic bags to be taken back to a Bogor laboratory. They measured ground-level carbon stocks, placing a small device into specific plots of peat and noting the results. Dozens of dendrometers were carefully fixed around tree trunks both small and large, with litter traps to collect forest debris adorning the area in bright orange.

Sutikno researches the effectiveness of canal blocking for ground water. His peatland research includes modeling to both estimate and predict peat water levels.

“Hydrological modeling in peatlands is not easy because peatland hydrology is unique,” he says, adding that an important element is understanding how to mitigate the risk of fire.

Charred pieces of wood are scattered about the site in Riau, remnants of fires that burned there years ago. Now planted with rubber trees tapped by nearby residents to earn extra income, and oil palm trees in a plot managed by a local landowner, the restoration that is underway has definitely taken its own shape.

When asked the tricky question of how to define “restored” peatlands, Murdiyarso said simply, “The return of original species and water regimes.”

Whether this is possible is another question, but we know at least one species has returned – humans.


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry and was supported by USAID and the US Forest Service.

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  • Blue carbon science for sustainable coastal development

Blue carbon science for sustainable coastal development

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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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  • Global Wetlands

Global Wetlands

Click to browse Global Wetlands Map
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  • A map of the world’s wetlands

A map of the world’s wetlands

Click to browse Global Wetlands Map
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The interactive Global Wetlands Map charts wetlands, histosols and carbon stocks around the world. CIFOR/SWAMP
The interactive Global Wetlands Map charts wetlands, histosols and carbon stocks around the world. CIFOR/SWAMP

By Catriona Croft-Cusworth, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

Wetlands are important ecosystems for climate change mitigation and adaptation because they can store huge amounts of carbon, while providing other essential services. Knowing where carbon is stored helps to identify which areas to conserve and enhance for maximum storage of carbon in the ground, rather than in the atmosphere.

But not enough is known about where wetlands can be found, or how much area they cover, especially in the tropics.

To address this gap, an online, interactive map was launched last month that invites researchers and other experts to help map the world’s wetlands.

The Global Wetlands Map plots the distribution of wetlands, histosols – or peaty soils – and their carbon stocks around the world. Visitors can freely access the data via the online map or by download, while registered users can verify data and add their own.

The new initiative comes from the Sustainable Wetlands Adaptation and Mitigation Program (SWAMP), a collaborative effort between the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the United States Forest Service. It was launched last month on the sidelines of the 15th International Peat Congress in Kuching, Malaysia. Further discussion in this area is expected at this week’s meetings of the Blue Carbon Scientific Working Group in Manado, Indonesia.

To view the full map, click here

CIFOR Principal Scientist and Principal Investigator for SWAMP, Daniel Murdiyarso, explains:

What is the Global Wetlands Map?

The Global Wetlands Map is an interactive, web-based map showing global distribution of wetlands, histosols and carbon stocks. The map is based on satellite images using a Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, or MODIS. It covers tropical and subtropical regions up to 30 degrees North and 70 degrees South.

Monthly precipitation data was taken from the WorldClim global dataset, and evapotranspiration data was taken from the FAO-adopted monthly reference produced by the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. Topographic data was taken from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission Digital Elevation Model prepared by CIAT, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture.

Using all this, we provide users with a kind of ‘snapshot’ of a particular period.

What do you mean by ‘wetlands’, ‘histosols’ and ‘carbon stocks’?

‘Wetlands’ in this context refers to areas that maintain a wet soil surface over a certain period of time. The level of wetness can range from permanently inundated, such as in the case of a water body, to an area that is periodically drained and rewetted.

‘Histosols’ are the peaty soils that tend to form in wetlands. By definition, they are more than 40 centimeters thick and are contain 20-30% organic matter by weight. Organic matter, such as plant and animal remains, decomposes slowly where water is present. So histosols are full of these organic materials and are important reservoirs of carbon.

‘Carbon stocks’ refers to the amount of carbon stored in various compartments in the ecosystem, including biomass above and below ground, in woody debris and litter, and in soil at a measurable depth. It is measured by tons per hectare.

Why is it useful to map these things?

By mapping wetlands and histosols, which are mainly carbon-rich systems, one can have a better estimate of carbon stocks in spatial terms. It’s helpful to put the numbers in spatial terms, instead of in tables or whatever, so that everybody can see right away the area that they are focusing on.

For example, if a particular country wants to see in more detail where its wetlands are, this data can easily be found by looking at the map. The IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] recently published guidelines on how to conduct greenhouse gas inventories in wetlands, so countries with a huge amount of wetlands are now looking to define where those areas are and how to report them.

What’s the connection to climate change?

Knowing about carbon stocks in spatial terms will allow us to identify potential areas for climate change mitigation by conserving the existing carbon-rich pools and enhancing carbon sequestration and storage. The map is also a useful tool to locate and prioritize restoration activities, such as rewetting and revegetating, as measures for climate change adaptation.

Who do you think will be the main users of the map?

I don’t know what to expect from the users; they might be coming from many different schools of thought. They might not be soil scientists per se, or even interested in climate change. But if they are experts in their own right they can certainly contribute. Aside from hydrologists, soil scientists and climate change scientists, we may see other kinds of users such as land developers, infrastructure developers, conservationists and engineers.

Users can register with their existing Google account. All personal information will be treated as confidential, and will not be used for any purposes outside the Global Wetlands Map project.

How will the map support further research in this area?

The data used to make the map is available for free download by all users. This comes in a GeoTIFF format and can be used on geographic information systems programs such as ArcGIS to conduct further work.

Using the map itself, further research may be carried out to better understand carbon cycles and the factors affecting the process. Being able to easily contrast sites on the map will also help to transfer approaches from successful wetlands restoration initiatives to other parts of the world.

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  • What is the Global Wetlands Map?

What is the Global Wetlands Map?

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The Global Wetlands Map plots the distribution of wetlands, histosols – or peaty soils – and their carbon stocks around the world. Visitors can freely access the data via the online map or by download, while registered users can verify data and add their own.

The initiative comes from the Sustainable Wetlands Adaptation and Mitigation Program (SWAMP), a collaborative effort between the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the United States Forest Service, supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

To access the map, visit: www.cifor.org/global-wetlands


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