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  • World Forestry Congress: Upper Mekong Sentinel Landscape

World Forestry Congress: Upper Mekong Sentinel Landscape


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  • Forests, Trees and Agroforestry: Landscapes, Livelihoods and Governance Pre-proposal 2017–2022

Forests, Trees and Agroforestry: Landscapes, Livelihoods and Governance Pre-proposal 2017–2022


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In the pre-proposal for the next phase of the CGIAR Research Program for Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA),  scientists from the six collaborating centers have outlined their vision of research to make an impact for a sustainable future and to tackle climate change. Please send your comments and feedback to cgiarforestsandtrees@cgiar.org


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  • How women and men sculpt landscapes – and why this matters for restoration

How women and men sculpt landscapes – and why this matters for restoration


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  • International Day of Forests: Experts highlight critical role of forests for SDGs, climate change

International Day of Forests: Experts highlight critical role of forests for SDGs, climate change


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  • How are trees good for us? ‘Sentinels’ may hold the answer

How are trees good for us? ‘Sentinels’ may hold the answer


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Alto Mayo, Peru_2 Photo by Bruno Locatelli/CIFOR

NAIROBI, Kenya—It’s a unique, massive—and massively ambitious—research initiative, spanning nine landscapes across 20 countries on three continents.

It involves scores of scientists and practitioners from 60 organizations, and employs a panoply of research methods from household surveys to soil sampling, from vegetation inventories to satellite imagery.

And it’s all to answer an unusual, perhaps counterintuitive question:

Are trees “good” for landscapes—and “good” for us? (And if so, how much?)

“What we hope to achieve is to find out when trees in landscapes lead to better livelihoods, better nutrition, better income, happier people,” said Anja Gassner, a researcher with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). Gassner leads the Sentinel Landscape initiative, a component of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), led by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). “Can we quantify their contributions to a healthier environment, a more sustainable environment?”

The purpose of looking at “landscapes” for such analysis, according to Gassner, is to move beyond the limitations of the ecosystem approach, which emerged around conservation and biodiversity work. “We use the term ‘landscapes’ because people can relate to that,” she said. “It’s where we as humans interact with the environment, where we shape the environment and the environment shapes us.”

The “landscape approach,” experts contend, can help achieve the right balance between conservation needs in the landscape, oriented primarily to nature, and the development needs of people. It can help bring to the discussion different groups with competing interests to find common ground and complementary interests in a landscape.

The landscape approach is, as CIFOR Director General Peter Holmgren recently wrote, “not about achieving pre-defined biophysical performance targets, but rather about negotiating multiple values.”

As for the term “sentinel landscape”—that’s what makes the initiative unique.

FROM MEDICINE TO FORESTRY

A “sentinel landscape” is one that is monitored over time for changes—and for the effects of those changes on the environment and on local people’s livelihoods. Gassner explained that the term “sentinel” is borrowed from medical science, where it refers to clinical indicators used to monitor health over time.

Launched in 2011, the Sentinel Landscapes initiative is intended to test the hypothesis that there is a measurable relationship between environmental and rural livelihood outcomes independent of the environmental and cultural context. But it also responds to calls for broader-based research: In order for findings to be useful for policymakers, particularly at regional and global levels, site-specific case studies were not nearly as useful as ones showing global patterns, a 2009 review of social science in the CGIAR found.

Thus, lessons from one sentinel landscape could help to inform development projects in other places, with high-resolution global and long-term datasets.

FTA and its work on landscapes is a truly collaborative effort, engaging six international research organizations: CIFOR, ICRAF, Bioversity, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the French research center CIRAD, and the Costa Rican institute CATIE.

During the first phase of FTA, the Sentinel Landscapes initiative established interdisciplinary research teams that tackled the process of selecting seven priority landscapes with geographical boundaries, two each in Latin America and Africa and three in Asia. For practical purposes, they then identified four specific “sentinel sites” in each landscape, where data is collected. They also developed a standardized methodology and set to work collecting livelihood, environmental and institutional data across the network of seven landscapes.

Alto Mayo, Peru, in the Western Amazon region–one of seven “sentinel landscapes” being monitored over time by scientists. Bruno Locatelli/CIFOR photo

Regional sentinel landscapes

  1. Borneo – Sumatra
  2. Central Africa Humid Tropic Transect
  3. Mekong
  4. Nicaragua – Honduras
  5. West Africa (includes Niger Basin in southeast Mali and Volta Basin in Burkina Faso, northern Ghana and northern Togo)
  6. Western Ghats in India
  7. Western Amazon (Peru, Bolivia and Brazil)

COMMODITIES AND LANDSCAPES

As FTA also comprises a research theme focusing on the effects of global trade and value chains on landscapes, the researchers recognized the need for two additional “theme-based” landscapes on all three continents that had in common a particular commodity.

One, the Tropical Managed Forest Observatory, focuses on timber. It links 24 experimental sites comprising 462 sites and a total of nearly 1,000 years of monitoring data collected by timber companies and researchers over many decades, which are used to assess the impact of selective logging on forest dynamics, carbon storage and tree species composition. Forty-five researchers are involved in this meta-analysis of data in the Amazon and Congo Basins, and in Southeast Asia.

If we can actually quantify the environmental and institutional constraints that enable people to value trees in forests and on the farms, then we can give recommendations to policymakers to enable local people as well as politicians to harvest the best benefit out of those trees in landscapes

The Oil Palm Value Chain Landscape looks at one of the world’s fastest growing commodity crops. Although oil palm originated in West Africa, it has been primarily in Malaysia and Indonesia that it has been cultivated in large-scale plantations as a global commodity. One of the most controversial crops of our time, it is also the most efficient oil-producing plant, with very attractive revenues for smallholders. Its rapid expansion has been very localized, destroying one unique habitat, which has led to an environmental outcry, Gassner says.

“I have done helicopter surveys over the Malaysian state of Sabah,” she said. “And you don’t see anything but oil palm for miles and miles and miles.”

While oil palm has been the backbone of Malaysia’s impressive economic growth, it did come at a price. Today, Sabah’s famous lowland dipterocarp forests, home to flagship species such as orangutan and Sumatran rhino, can be found only in protected areas; traditional smallholder farms that supported diverse livelihood strategies and the backbone for domestic food production have been replaced by monoculture oil palm stands. So we want to learn from that for places where oil palm is just starting to expand on a massive scale.”

For this reason, the sentinel landscape teams are looking both at established oil palm landscapes in Indonesia and Malaysia and at new ones in Colombia, Peru, Cameroon and Nigeria.

“The objective,” Gassner said, “is to see how the local settings in each of these landscapes actually influence a global commodity value chain and shape different oil palm business models and their impacts at the landscape scale.”

The Sentinel Landscapes teams are in the final stages of data collection, aiming to provide answers to many questions about the interactions between trees and the environment and trees and people.

“If we can actually quantify what are the environmental and institutional constraints that enable or disable people to value trees in forests and on the farms, then we can give recommendations to policymakers to enable local people as well as politicians to harvest the best benefit out of those trees in landscapes,” Gassner said.

“So by June 2015 we hope to be able to tell you whether a tree is good for you.”

For more information about sentinel landscapes, contact Anja Gassner at a.gassner@cgiar.org or Robert Nasi at r.nasi@cgiar.org.

CIFOR’s work on sentinel landscapes forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

Source: CIFOR News


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  • Nine suggested SDG indicators for forestry and landscapes

Nine suggested SDG indicators for forestry and landscapes


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My previous blog post provided some context to how forests may fit into the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) framework. The timing of this discussion is important, as the UN Open Working Group on SDGs will discuss forests in its final meeting on 3-7 February 2014. Following this meeting, member countries of the working group will hand over recommendations for a future development framework that will replace the Millennium Development Goals to the UN Secretary General and the General Assembly.

In the following, I explore some further thoughts on suitable indicators for forestry and landscapes. These have crystallized through an intensive dialogue over the past year on the need for new partnerships and cross-cutting solutions that are not restricted by sectoral silos, governance layers or political boundaries.

The SDG process has, by and large, set out with such ambitions, and signals are strong for constructing an SDG framework that is integrated by design. This constitutes an inherent tension for sectors that traditionally define their goals within an established institutional landscape. The forestry sector is no exception to this, and it will be challenging to refrain from using the sector’s traditional boundaries as a starting point when defining targets and indicators. The SDG process provides an opportunity to step forward and raise the bar for the sector’s contributions by taking a broader view of the issues. This is possible through the landscape approach.

That is, in essence, why we should explore “Sustainable landscapes” as an SDG, owned by no sector, but with opportunities to strengthen the contributions to sustainable development by forestry, agriculture and other sectors.


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  • CRP6: Sentinel Landscapes - Program of work for 2011 – 2014

CRP6: Sentinel Landscapes – Program of work for 2011 – 2014


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  • Tropical Production Forests Observatory

Tropical Production Forests Observatory


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The Tropical managed Forests Observatory (TmFO) is a new project that aims to assess the impact of logging on managed forest dynamics, carbon storage and tree species composition at a regional level in the Amazon basin, Congo basin and South East Asia.


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  • Oil palm: Landscapes, market chains and investment flows

Oil palm: Landscapes, market chains and investment flows


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Over the past decades palm oil has become the first source of vegetable oil in the world. The growth in is mainly due to two Southeast Asian countries, followed others. The tremendous growth of palm oil was driven by an increasing demand for vegetable oil due to the global population growth, an increase of fat consumption and better living conditions.


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  • Western Ghats (India)

Western Ghats (India)


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Agroforestry systems (coffee, tea, rubber, pepper, arecanut, cardamom) shape much of Western Ghats in India. Commercial agriculture in this area has existed for centuries. Now, these commercial crops have reached the margins of protected areas. In many cases, the only forests left are small sections which are either community-managed (i.e. sacred forests) or privately owned.


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  • West Africa Sentinel Landscape (WASL)

West Africa Sentinel Landscape (WASL)


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The West Africa Sentinel Landscape is found within a transect that spans the NE of Mali, Burkina Faso, Northern, and Northern Togo. This transect also includes the Niger Basin and the Volta. The research will try to generate data on landscape performance over time, to permit identification and interpretation of these thresholds with respect to potential impacts on poverty, food security, human nutrition and sustainable natural resource management.


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  • Nicaragua – Honduras Sentinel Landscape

Nicaragua – Honduras Sentinel Landscape


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The Nicaragua Honduras Sentinel Landscape is characterized by a variety of land uses. Tree cover is therefore diverse, competition for land is high, and speculation and renting land are common, but these arrangements drive deforestation, hinder long term investments and exacerbate land degradation.


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  • Mekong Sentinel Landscape

Mekong Sentinel Landscape


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In the last two decades, Mekong economies have grown much faster than usual. Large infrastructure development has caused, and will continue to cause, dramatic changes in forest cover, land use patterns and regional ecosystem services.


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  • Central Africa Humid Tropics Transect Sentinel landscape

Central Africa Humid Tropics Transect Sentinel landscape


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Since Rio 1992, trees in Central Africa are influenced by several biophysical and socio-economic pressures. It is important to identify how to combine programs to meet the multidisciplinary and multi-institutional needs.


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  • Borneo – Sumatra Sentinel Landscape

Borneo – Sumatra Sentinel Landscape


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Western Borneo Sentinel Landscape: The three regencies this Sentinel Landscape is concerned with are: Kapuas Hulu, Sintang and Ketapang. These regencies represent a gradient of forest degradation balanced by traditional agroforestry systems, which are impacted by the development of monoculture plantations, mainly oil palm The potential impact of the growth of oil palm plantations remains unclear and presents a major challenge to the regencies.

Sumatra Sentinel Landscape: The transect includes large parts of Sumatra’s National Parks and protected areas alongside globally significant biodiversity, where local use of very rich flora and fauna is extensive. Hilly and lowland areas are mosaics of dynamics land uses by smallholder farmers. (more…)


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