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.

Norway Pays to Protect Liberia’s Forests

Deforestation is killing the planet and has been linked to the current ebola outbreak. Still, many places (Canada included) cut down hectares of land as if it’s nothing. Norway is apparently sick of tho attitude and has made a deal with Liberia to protect their woodlands.

“We have funded efforts in Indonesia and Brazil, but I think this is the first time we have entered a deal on a country level.”

Under the terms of the agreement, Norway will help Liberia to initially build up the capacity to monitor and police the forests.

Liberia will refrain from issuing any new logging concessions until all existing ones have been reviewed by an independent body.

The country agrees to place 30% or more of its forest estate under protected area status by 2020. It will also pilot direct payments to communities for protecting the forest.

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

Ontario Chooses to Protect Old-Growth Forest

In northern Ontario there is a region called Temagami and it is absolutely stunning as it holds Ontario’s oldest old-growth forest and is the home to a diverse wildlife. In a tradition of profiteering, some people want to destroy the area and plans were set in motion in place to permit that – until now. The province has decided to commit to protecting the area from destruction.

Check the video below to see the region:

Wolf Lake from Rob Nelson on Vimeo.

The decision is a victory for the 300-year-old red pine trees, said Ontario’s environment commissioner, Gord Miller. He said the plan would have allowed logging of the ecologically treasured trees if the mining intensified.

“The essence of the ecological dispute in that area is whether or not we should preserve the red pine old-growth system,” Miller said.

“The trees are the key issue. The government has reconsidered and that means the trees stay, which is critical in the long term.”

Read more at the Star.

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