Iceland Recovering from Deforestation

Long ago, when the vikings first arrived in Iceland the land was forested. Something between 25-40% of the country was covered by trees and humans slowly cut down the trees to an extent that was harmful to local ecosystems. Efforts to replant trees in the country have failed since they brought seeds from outside the country and a warming planet hasn’t been friendly to those trees. Now they are using native species to grow their forests and it’s working.

Thanks to Trevor!

No Need to Deforest the Planet for More Food

One of the leading causes of deforestation right now is food production. As population levels grow we need more land to feed more people and this as resulted in the cutting down of forests for arable land.

We’ve already seen that a simple diet change can protect forests and save wildlife, and that one can slow deforestation by being vegetarian. But we know that people are often hesitant to make simple changes that can have large impacts, so what do we do?

Lucky for all of us, we don’t need to modify our behaviour as individuals. We do need to change our local legal policies. Some ecologists have proclaimed that there is no need to continue deforestation and have backed their claim with some strong evidence.

That’s why ecologists like Tilman support techniques for agricultural intensification, even though they often come with problems of their own. For example, in a 2011 paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tilman et al. took a close look at the use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer. Producing fertilizer in a factory creates greenhouse gas emissions; so does transporting it, and applying it to fields. Worst of all, some of it turns into nitrous oxide — a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide — and escapes into the atmosphere.

Nevertheless, all of this adds up to much less climate impact than clearing new land. Tilman found that if you try to minimize fertilizer use, you end up farming more land and emitting more greenhouse gases.

Tilman also points out that there are alternatives to synthetic fertilizer: Farmers could grow legumes and cover crops to add some nitrogen. But these techniques can be hard for farmers to implement, as Don Lotter has found, particularly if they are subsistence farmers.

Read more.

Google Launches Deforestation Watch

Global Forest Watch is a new project from Google to highlight the deforestation that has been happening around the planet since the year 2000. Google is working with a lot of organizations to bring this information to light (including the World Resources Institute).

Global Forest Watch’s most valuable feature, developers say, is that it can be updated with new information every month, detecting “changes in forest cover in near-real-time.”

“Now that we have the ability to peer into forests, a number of telling stories are beginning to emerge,” Google said in a blog post.

The tool could change the way forests are managed, said Andrew Steer, president and chief executive of the World Resources Institute, in a statement.

From the LA Times.

ForestWatchers Wants You to Look at Forests

Forests around the world are in danger and a new group, ForestWatchers, is looking to the average person to save all the trees. It’s a very simple idea: use people to scan tree lines from images to help scientists focus their efforts. Citizen science for the win!

We propose a new paradigm in conservationism based on the convergence of volunteer computing with free (or donated) catalogues of high-resolution Earth imagery.

This citizen science project aims at making possible to anyone (locals, volunteers, NGOs, governments, etc), anywhere in the world, to monitor selected patches of forest across the globe, almost in real-time, using a notebook, a tablet or a smart phone connected to the Internet.

Check out the ForestWatchers

Kayapó Tribe Fights Deforestation

The International Herald Tribune has a really nice article about a tribe in the Amazon that is fighting deforestation. The author recounts his previous experience of going into the Amazon and compares that to what it is like today. It actually starts off rather depressing since the environmental destruction is so prominent, but what makes the article so good is how hard the Kayapó is working to protect this invaluable natural resource.

“The Kayapó grand chief, Megaron, is leading the fight to preserve their lands that form the largest tropical rain forest reserve in the world.”

The tribe has had quite a few success in defending the forest from “development.” Let’s hope they never give up!

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