Forest conservation


Financial incentives to retain forest cover

South African forests © Michael Lambert

Conserving our forests has become a critical factor in the fight to reduce carbon emissions and slow climate change. As awareness of the importance of forest ecosystems grows, economic incentives have been increasingly used to promote forest conservation.

A strategy known as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) has been developed to provide a financial incentive to governments, agribusinesses and communities to encourage them to maintain rather than reduce forest cover. This later became known as REDD+ whose strategies go beyond deforestation and forest degradation and include the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in reducing emissions. REDD+ is supported by the UN-REDD programme.

At the UN climate summit in New York in September 2014 the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) announced a public-private partnership of multinationals, governments, civil society and indigenous peoples pledged to cut the loss of forests by half by 2020 with a plan to end it a decade later in 2030.

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Used mobile phones defend the rainforest

Global forest cover © Robert Simmon, data MODIS Land Cover Group Boston University

Rainforest Connection (RFCx) is installing a technology that uses discarded mobile phones to create a real-time alert system against logging and poaching in endangered rainforests.

Used mobile phones are recycled to produce autonomous, solar-powered listening devices that can monitor and pinpoint chainsaw activity.

The solar-powered phones are placed high up in the tree canopy where they are difficult to spot and are powered by solar panels that are designed for the low-light conditions. They capture and transmit ambient sounds and when the sound of illegal activity is detected an alert is automatically sent to local authorities who can take action to stop any logging.

“It’s clear that real-time awareness and intervention is a major missing piece in protecting the world’s last remaining rainforests,” said Topher White, the founder of Rainforest Connection.

The system was tested with success against illegal logging operations in Sumatra in 2013.

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Tree canopy height, global homolosine © NASA Earth Observatory Jesse Allen, Robert Simmon, data from Michael Lefsky Colorado State University

Silviculture is a branch of forestry concerned with the cultivation and development of trees for specific objectives, such as: wildlife habitat, timber, water resources and recreation.

One objective of Silviculture is to manage the composition and structure of forests in order to alleviate climate-related stresses and improve forests’ capacity to resist, tolerate and adapt to changing environments.

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References:University of Michigan; UN-REDD programme; United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); National Geographic; World Wildlife Fund;; Rainforest Connection (RFCx); The Forestry Commission UK; Forestry, An International Journal of Forest Research; US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service; The Woodland Trust;; US Environmental Protection Agency; Cornell University; Cornell University; Food & Agriculture Organization of the UN; Institute of Chartered Foresters; Botanical Gardens Conservation International; International Plant Sentinel Network (IPSN); Zac Goldsmith in collaboration with The Countryside Restoration Trust, The Threat to England’s Trees; United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service.