When combined with the right policies, new monitoring capabilities may significantly enhance our capacity to manage forests. As an homage to the International Day
of Forests on March 21, here is a review of forest management policy
recommendations and new global monitoring solutions.
After a United Nations
General Assembly resolution in 2012, the International Day of Forests
was observed for the first time in 2013. The day is meant to
acknowledge forests, trees and climate change. On this day, people
raise awareness about the value of arboreal ecosystems and they
explore the different ways that we can protect them. The day is
specifically designed to incorporate forests into future climate
change mitigation and adaptation strategies.
Value of Forests
Last fall, the UN
announced that Sustainable
Development goals will replace the Millennium Development Goals
which will expire in 2015. In his 2014 International Day of Forests
message, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “As we
deliberate on the post-2015 development agenda, let us acknowledge
the vital role of forests and pledge to work together to protect and
sustainably manage these vital ecosystems.”
priceless ecological, economic, social and health benefits. According
to the UN,
forests cover one third of the Earth’s land mass and they are one the
most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet. They are home to
80 percent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity incuding a wide
range of animals, plants, insects and people.
contribute to the life and livelihoods of 1.6 billion people around
the world and they provide substantial economic benefits including
jobs. Wood production and associated industries account for nearly 1
per cent of global gross domestic product. Non-monetary benefits
from forests, such as water, energy, shelter and medicine, are
estimated to be two to three times as great.
and Climate Change
addition to the ecological, economic, social and health benefits,
forests play a pivotal role in the health of our planet, this
oxygen production, water shed protection, and food production.
Forests also combat climate change by acting as carbon sinks. While
the importance of forests to planetary health has been reviewed by
countless researchers, recent research
suggest this role may be even greater than previously imaged.
The “Trees Before Poverty Report,” reviews the destructive impact of deforestation on climate change. According
to this assessment, deforestation accounts for 12 to 20 percent of
the global greenhouse gas emissions.
deforestation at the 1990 to 1995 rates eliminated approximately
45-50 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) absorption per year. (This
is based on the very general assumption that 2.9 tons of CO2 are
absorbed per average hectare of “forest”). Reforestation at the
1990 to 1995 rates added back the capability to absorb only 5.5
million tons per year.
Deforestation and Reforestation
You would never know
just how vital forests are if you look at the devastating rates of
deforestation being recorded in many parts of the world. A total of
13 million hectares
(ha) of forest are currently being destroyed annually. Industrial
logging, agriculture (including slash and burn) and forest fires are
responsible for the bulk of global deforestation today.
An interactive world
map called Global
created by researchers at the University of Maryland shows that
between 2000 and 2012, 2.3 million square kilometres of the Earth’s
forest was lost. Indonesia’s deforestation rate doubled from 10,000
square kilometres per year to more than 20,0000 during this time.
to data derived from the “Forest
Resources Assessment 2005,”
assembled by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), we are
rapidly losing our forests. In 1990 there were 4,077,498 ha of forest
cover and as of 2005, that number shrunk to 3,953,063. Between 1990
and 2000, we were losing 8,885 ha per year and between 2000 and 2005,
we were still losing 7,317 ha per year.
day at least 80,000 acres (32,300 ha) of forest disappear from Earth.
At least another 80,000 acres (32,300 ha) of forest are degraded.
Overall, FAO estimates that 10.4 million hectares of tropical forest
were permanently destroyed each year in the period from 2000 to 2005,
an increase since the 1990-2000 period, when around 10.16 million
hectares of forest were lost.
primary forests, annual deforestation rose to 6.26 million ha from
5.41 million ha in the same period. Primary forests are being
replaced by less biodiverse plantations and secondary forests.
to United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural
Organization’s (UNESCO) “World Culture Report: 1998,” from
1990 to 1995 reforestation accounted for only 11 percent of the
deforestation amount, meaning the world regenerated only a single
tree for every ten burned down.
the past few decades the US contributed more to reforestation than
any other single country adding 29,000 net sq. km. of forest from
1990 to 1995 or 31 percent of the world’s total reforestation
the U.S. is a global leader in terms of reforestation, the nation is
still facing some serious problems. As reported by ecoRInews,
a two-year study entitled “Changes to the Land,” by Harvard
University’s Harvard Forest and the Smithsonian Institution,
development poses quantifiable threat. This research highlights the
problems and suggests solutions for U.S. forest management. The
research shows that the current rate at which forests are being lost
to development in Massachusetts will undermine significant land
conservation gains, jeopardize water quality and limit the natural
landscape’s ability to protect against climate change.
we found is that land-use decisions have immediate and dramatic
impacts on many of the forest benefits people depend on,” said
Jonathan Thompson, senior ecologist at Harvard Forest and lead author
of the study. “Massachusetts is an important place to study
land-use because it is densely populated, heavily forested, and
experiencing rapid change — much like the broader forested
landscape of the eastern U.S. The results of the study show that
sprawl, coupled with a permanent loss of forest cover in
Massachusetts, create an urgent need to address land-use choices.”
study’s findings point to three policy fixes:
Recommitting to land conservation
Promoting sustainable forestry
Redoubling land-use planning and smart-growth efforts
study further suggests that a number of benefits can be had through
“improvement forestry” and increased forest conservation focused
on priority habitat. Here are seven benefits that such efforts could
yield by 2060.
Limit flooding risks in virtually all of the state’s major
2. Protect water
by minimizing impervious surfaces such as roads and parking lots.
Grow 20 percent more high-value trees such as large oak, sugar maple
and white pine.
4. Double the amount of local wood
5. Maintain a 35 percent increase in the storage of
carbon that would otherwise warm the earth.
6. Reduce forest
fragmentation by 25 percent.
7. Protect a quarter-million more
acres of high-priority wildlife habitat.
study is going to be expanded to include five other New England
part of the quest to expand grape yielding vineyards, Grist
reports that wineries are cutting down trees in California including
the redwoods. Although they have been challenged by
environmentalists, Artesa Vineyards and Winery has already secured
permission from California’s Department of Forestry and Fire
Protection to cut down thousands of trees in Sonoma County.
it is widely known that illegal logging and poaching of trees is
rampant in many parts of the world it is also occurring in the U.S.
One of the most egregious examples involves California’s redwoods. As
reported in the New
poachers have been clandestinely cutting away at redwoods. The
poachers are removing burls and bunions which can be incredibly
damaging to the ancient trees and the local environment. To help
address the problem, roads through the Redwood forests are being
closed at night when most of the poaching occurs.
Forest Monitoring Tool
are promising new tools being developed that will help to manage
forests. An important part of managing forests involves being able to
monitor them. On February 20, 2014, World Resources Institute (WRI)
announced the release of a tool that may revolutionize forest
monitoring. The platform is called Global
and it draws on a wide array of big data. This is the first tool to
monitor global forests on a monthly basis which allows for a response
time almost as deforestation occurs.
Forest Watch crunches vast amounts of data and includes almost
700,000 Landsat images as well as data from other sources. The result
is a high resolution map that reveals changes in forest cover
anywhere in the world. The platform is similar to the system Brazil
has used to help reduce deforestation by nearly 80 percent since
2004. The site will be publicly launched later this year.
we are far from doing a good job at managing our forests, when
combined with responsible policy, these new monitoring systems give
us hope that we may be able to do a better job going forward.
The Vital Role of Forests: Carbon, Rain and Food
The Business of Forests: Primer, Tool, Guide and Best Practices
The Business of Responsible Forest Stewardship
Woodland Crops: Sustainable Harvests from Forests
International Day of Forests 2014
Global Deforestation/Reforestration and Climate Change
Video – Forests = Life
A Visual Representation of Global Forest Change
International Forest Day 2013
NASA Imagery Shows Trees are Dying in US Forests
Infographic – Forests and Land Use
2012 Review of Forests and Trees
The Economic and Employment Benefits of Forests
Study Shows Deforestation of Tropical Rainforest Decreases Precipitation
Study Shows that Climate Change is Killing Forests
Using Trees for Electricity is Not Green Energy
What The Business Community Can Do To Protect Forests
The Costs of Illegal Logging
The Lacey Act Combats Illegal Logging
Challenge to the Lacey Act
Scientists Defend the Lacey Act
Video: Reducing Emissions Through Forest Preservation with REDD
Arbor Day Business Partners