Nowadays palm oil has become ubiquitous as an ingredient across our supermarket shelves, from peanut butter to crackers it is in almost everything. It is also found in nearly half of all household products in developed countries. However, this is a relatively recent trend and given that the demand has increased so quickly, you have to wonder how it is being supplied at such a rate. Continue reading →
A report published earlier this week by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) suggests that improving co-operation between the forestry and agricultural sectors could help to improve food security as well as reducing deforestation, highlighting the successful efforts of Chile, Costa Rica, Georgia, Ghana, Vietnam, Tunisia and the Gambia. According to the FAO, integrating land-use planning is vital to balancing land uses, supported by suitable policy instruments to promote both sustainable agriculture and forests.
In September 2011, at a high-level meeting of world leaders, the Bonn Challenge was launched, with an ambitious goal to restore 150 million hectares of the world’s degraded and deforested land by 2020. This target was recently supplemented by the New York Declaration on Forests, which added an further 200 million hectares to be restored by 2030, putting the total area at 350 million ha, equivalent to an area the size of India. Earlier this year, at the second Bonn Challenge conference, environment ministers discussed the progress that had been made. Over 60 million hectares have already been taken under active restoration, and further pledges are in the pipeline. With one-third of the world’s largest restoration initiative already within reach, there appears to be widespread recognition of the importance of forests in achieving multiple objectives such as tackling species extinction, climate change and restoring livelihoods.
Forests cover approximately 4 billion hectares of the Earth's surface, equivalent to a third of it's total land area. According to the WWF, between 12-15 million hectares of forests are lost every year due to human impacts, such as deforestation. It is estimated that forest loss is responsible for around 15% of global carbon emissions. Being able to accurately measure these emissions is important to develop a strategy to mitigate against the impacts of climate change. Until now, it has been difficult for researchers to monitor the world's carbon stocks and how they vary over time. However, a team of researchers from the Carnegie Airborne Observatory of Stanford University (CAO) have developed an airborne LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) system that can measure how much carbon is stored in forests and where human activities including deforestation are releasing it.
Wood has many different uses, including shelter, fuel and paper to write on, as well as having a key role in maintaining a healthy planet. More recently however, the development of engineered wood for use in the construction of tall buildings has led to a new generation of ‘ply-scrapers’. So is our attitude to wood changing? This was the subject of a discussion on The Forum of the BBC’s World Service yesterday morning (19 Jan 2015). The panel consisted of architect Michael Green, timber researcher and civil engineer Dan Ridley-Ellis, geographer Reginald Cline-Cole and cellist Steven Isserlis.
Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) is a key concept in trying to tackle climate change. The core idea is that a way can be found to fund the avoidance of deforestation and forest degradation, thus reducing carbon emissions. But will it work?
Rainforest, Santa Elena, Costa Rica Dirk van der Mad
Frances Seymour, Director-General of CIFOR, the Centre for International Forestry Research, has analysed the published studies, and concludes that there is “a giant optimisation problem, characterised by multiple objectives and ‘dilemmas’ to be resolved in the choice of alternative approaches to achieving them.”
In an article in CAB Reviews, Seymour looks at the practicalities. The studies generally anticipate that the “opportunity cost” of avoiding deforestation will be relatively low. However, establishing an internationally acceptable system that can achieve and monitor REDD objectives will be a substantial task.