The Cambodian Forest Protectors Risking COVID-19

Forest

Deforestation in Cambodia increased dramatically this millennium due to multinational corporations exploiting the country’s natural wealth. Obviously, this removal of trees has bothered people and damages entire ecosystems. As a reaction to the destruction in their area the Prey Lang Community Network (PLCN) launched to police the it local forests. They document and report on illegal logging operations and expose the activity to authorities and other non-governmental organizations.

The work they have done is great, and now with COVID-19 it’s more important than ever before. Cambodia has cut back on their enforcement of environmental laws (like the USA) which has led to an increase in illegal logging that the PLCN is trying to hold back.

The PLCN continues their fight despite the increased workload and risk from COVID-19.

Established in 2000, the PLCN has a core of about a dozen full-time activists across the four provinces spanned by the 432,000-hectare forest, and about 600 “volunteer” members.

Patrollers – many from indigenous groups that live in and around the forest – use GPS technology and a purpose-built smartphone app to log tree stumps, new roads and logging camps.

Their data is paired with publicly available satellite imagery – that has shown deforestation, timber stockpiles and sawmills – and is published periodically with researchers from the University of Copenhagen.

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Thoughtful Reforestation

Forest

Forests make for naturally wonderful carbon sinks and thanks to a myriad of efforts we should see reforestation efforts grow over the next few years. This is all good to witness and we can all help by planting a tree. There are ways to tend to a forest for maximum carbon capture which scientists are hoping to perfect. It’s one thing to have a forest and it’s an even better thing to have a resilient high-quality forest which attracts a diversity of animals.

There are a number of ways that we can ensure new forests are resilient to these impacts. First, having a diversity of species with a wide variety of traits in the forest landscape reduces the risk that a single event will wipe out large parts of the ecosystem. This is because tree species have different resistances and vulnerabilities.

For example, pests and diseases are likely to migrate as the climate changes. In a single-species plantation, that could wipe out the whole forest. But with many different species in the area, parts of the forest will be resilient.

We should also plant and introduce species that are adapted to the future climatic conditions projected for the area. For example, if climate models project a drier climate with increased droughts, then including native species with tolerance to drought would increase the chances of that forest staying resilient, and therefore maintaining its carbon store for longer.

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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!

1.2 Trillion Trees can Balance a Decade of CO2 Emissions

Forest

The anti-conservation “conservative” Ontario government recently announced they cancelled a program that helped plant 28 million trees. The goal of that program was to plant 50 million trees to reduce flooding (which parts of Ontario are currently suffering from), clean the air, and protect wildlife. Fortunately there are smarter governments outside of Ontario that realize we need trees to breath and live.

A study by ETH Zurich has revealed that if we plant 1.2 trillion trees we can essentially cancel out a decade of anthropogenic carbon emissions. That might sound like a lot of trees but we do have space for them and can easily reach that goal, as long as governments that care about people are voted in. You can act locally and plant a tree in your yard (if you have one).

There is enough room in the world’s existing parks, forests, and abandoned land to plant 1.2 trillion additional trees, which would have the CO2 storage capacity to cancel out a decade of carbon dioxide emissions, according to a new analysis by ecologist Thomas Crowther and colleagues at ETH Zurich, a Swiss university.

The research, presented at this year’s American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Washington, D.C., argues that planting additional trees is one of the most effective ways to reduce greenhouse gases.

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Urban Forests Suck up tons of Carbon

The lush, dense, quality of rainforests instantly make one think of how beautiful and efficient they are at making fresh air (and thus suck up carbon). As a result of the obvious wonderfulness of rainforests we’ve done a lot of work to try to protect rainforests from destruction. We need to the same in our cities. In London, researchers used LIDAR technology to better understand how much carbon urban trees soak up. Trees in urban centres love to absorb that carbon! The proximity to carbon sources like automobiles make urban trees really effective at air-cleaning so much that they are comparable to rainforests.

Thank your local tree for making your air cleaner!

The UCL team used publicly available airborne lidar data collected by the UK Environment Agency, in conjunction with their ground measurements, to estimate biomass of all the 85,000 trees across Camden. These lidar measurements help to quantify the differences between urban and non-urban trees, allowing scientists to come up with a formula predicting the difference in size-to-mass ratio, and thus measuring the mass of urban trees more accurately.

The findings show that Camden has a median carbon density of around 50 tonnes of carbon per hectare (t/ha), rising to 380 t/ha in spots such as Hampstead Heath and Highgate Cemetery – that’s equivalent to values seen in temperate and tropical rainforests. Camden also has a high carbon density, compared to other cities in Europe and elsewhere. For example, Barcelona and Berlin have mean carbon densities of 7.3 and 11.2 t/ha respectively; major cities in the US have values of 7.7 t/ha and in China the equivalent figure is 21.3 t/ha.

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