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Environment, Carbon and Forests

19th Needle/Leaf Interlaboratory Comparison Test 2016/2017 - Final Report

GFIS - Mon, 16/01/2017 - 15:20

Dear colleagues,


the results of the 19th Needle/Leaf Interlaboratory Comparison Test are available on the FFCC homepage. Your qualification reports can be downloaded from the ringtest web-interface. You had to login here with your lab code and your password. The following ICP-Forests laboratories (=laboratories analysing…

REDD in the news: 9-15 January 2017

GFIS - Mon, 16/01/2017 - 13:03
REDD-Monitor’s round-up of the week’s news on forests, climate change, and REDD. For regular updates, follow @reddmonitor on Twitter. 9 January 2017 The Climate “Doomsday” is Already Here By Joe Brewer, Extra Newsfeed, 9 January 2017 What would you say if I told you that the climate crisis already happened? That real-world ecosystem collapse takes […]


GFIS - Mon, 16/01/2017 - 11:12

The recently-revised deinkability scorecard by the European Recovered Paper Council (ERPC) now includes an annex listing exemptions to the deinkability test. With this annex, the widely-used deinkability scorecard takes account of those printing technologies and material combinations that are sure to deliver good deinkability results, based on past experiences. Testing remains a requirement for processes and material combinations for which there is not enough experience on their deinkability behaviour. The annex will be subject to future revisions based on new data.

“The ERPC approach to deinkability, i.e. by testing and assessing results with a scorecard on the one hand and by exempting certain paper / printing technology combinations on the other hand is an effective way to secure high quality recycling while being cost-effective for the producers of printed products” says Henri Vermeulen, ERPC Chairman.

Recent suggestions that the European Commission would not extend EU Ecolabel for tissue paper and newsprint among others give reason to believe that other paper-related Ecolabels are also under threat. These could include the Ecolabel on printed paper products, where deinkability is one criterion. “Deinking is an important part of the recycling process and therefore a key issue for the sustainability of printed paper products. The EU Ecolabel is a strong supporter of their recycling and their recyclability. We urge the policymakers to recognise the tangible value of the EU Ecolabel” says Ulrich Leberle, ERPC secretary.

The new deinking scorecard is available here

For more information, please contact the ERPC Secretariat, Ulrich Leberle, at
+32 2 627 49 23, +32 479 90 59 21, erpc@cepi.org or visit www.paperforrecycling.eu

Notes to Editor:

• The European Recovered Paper Council (ERPC) was set up as an industry self-initiative in November 2000 to monitor progress towards meeting the paper recycling targets set out in the 2000 European Declaration on Paper Recycling. Since then the commitments in the Declaration are renewed every five years. In 2001 the ERPC committed itself to meeting and maintaining both a voluntary recycling rate target of 70% in the EU27 plus Switzerland and Norway by 2015 as well as qualitative targets in areas such as waste prevention, ecodesign, and research and development. In 2016, Members of the ERPC are ACE, CEPI, CITPA, EMFA, ERPA, ETS, FEPE, INGEDE and INTERGRAF. Supporters are Afera, EuPIA, FINAT and RADTECH Europe. The European Commission, DG Environment and DGGrow, are permanent observers to the ERPC.

African ESP conference: Natural capital accounting critical to sustainable ecosystem

GFIS - Mon, 16/01/2017 - 11:00

by Elizabeth Kahurani Kimani, originally posted at African Ecosystem Services Partnership ICRAF hosted the first regional African Ecosystem Services Partnership (ESP) conference on 21-25 November 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya. ESP is an international network of scientists and practitioners working together in robust thematic working groups to generate and share knowledge on scientific discourse related to ecosystem services. With the theme […]

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‘Green deserts’ or functional forests?

GFIS - Mon, 16/01/2017 - 10:47

By Catriona Croft-Cusworth, originally posted at CIFOR’s Forests News Natural forests support life in complex ways. Forest ecosystems are habitats for animals and humans, they regulate air quality, temperature and carbon cycling, protect soils and water quality, help mitigate climate change, and much more. ‘Planted forests’, “composed of trees established through planting and/or through deliberate seeding of native or introduced […]

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A role for gender in sustaining biodiversity

GFIS - Mon, 16/01/2017 - 10:25

Catalina Santamaria is the Forests Programme Officer for the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). She spoke to CIFOR on the sidelines of the 13th Conference of Parties to the CBD (CBD COP13), held from 4-17 December 2016 in Cancun, Mexico. Santamaria joined the Center for International Forestry Research at CBD’s first ‘gender day’, where diverse speakers shared […]

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Getting the facts on gender and biodiversity

GFIS - Mon, 16/01/2017 - 10:07

An interview with Catalina Santamaria at CBD COP13

ALERT Debate: Palm Oil in Africa

GFIS - Sat, 14/01/2017 - 02:20

ALERT’S first debate focused on the conservation of boreal forests.  For its second debate, two highly qualified teams—one with long-term expertise in Equatorial Africa, the other in Southeast Asia—lock horns over the vexing issue of oil palm. 

The key question is this: Oil palm has advanced like a tsunami across tropical Asia, and now is showing indications that it could do similarly in Africa and Latin America.  Can the tsunami be stopped?  Can nature conservation survive alongside it?

Our first perspective is led by longstanding ALERT members Joshua Linder and Thomas Struhsaker, along with Carolyn Jost Robison, all prominent environmental researchers:

Palm Oil and the Fate of Tropical Forest Biodiversity

The expansion of large-scale, industrial oil palm developments has promoted rapid forest loss in Indonesia and Malaysia.  Agribusinesses have recently turned their attention to Africa and Latin America, fomenting the conflict between conservation and human-rights communities on the one hand and oil palm growers and national governments on the other.  

A report by the Great Apes Survival Partnership, or GRASP, a conservation program of the United Nations, provides a great-ape-centered perspective for reconciling this conflict.

Based on studies in Southeast Asia, the GRASP plan argues that saying ‘no’ to oil palm is unlikely to yield positive conservation outcomes.  Instead, GRASP recommends that the conservation community collaborate with oil palm growers to identify suitable locations for plantations and implement best-management practices that limit the important indirect effects, such as wildlife hunting, of large-scale oil palm projects.

Such a proactive approach is commendable, in theory.  However, if implemented in Africa, we believe the GRASP plan will come at the expense of biodiversity, food security, local livelihoods, and human rights.  Here are our specific concerns with GRASP’s recommendations:

Don’t Just Focus on Apes

A strategy that focuses solely on great apes (gorillas, chimps, bonobos, orangutans), like GRASP’s report, belies the negative impacts of industrial oil palm production on whole ecosystems.

Such an approach may not adequately protect other elements of biodiversity, and also does not account for the unique environmental and political histories of the human communities inhabiting suitable oil palm lands.

Furthermore, while the oil palm industry touts its societal benefits, GRASP acknowledges that it is difficult to determine whether the benefits claimed by the industry outweigh its costs in terms of social conflicts, loss of ecosystem services, and reduced food security.  We therefore question how a United Nations program can defend and collaborate on the expansion of oil palm plantations when the socioeconomic and health risks to local people are so poorly understood.

Are Palm Growers ‘Responsible’?

GRASP recommends that conservationists collaborate with “responsible” oil palm growers to establish plantations in the forest “frontier” adjacent to priority ape habitat and enforce best-management practices to reduce negative environmental outcomes in and around the plantation-concession area. 

Unfortunately, the plan does not describe how an agribusiness becomes “responsible” nor how such responsibility will be overseen.  Furthermore, intentionally locating oil palm plantations on forested land, contiguous to priority great ape habitat, is a dangerous strategy. 

As with the effects of extractive industries, the development of plantation agriculture in forests results in infrastructure expansion and local increases in human population density.  This will undoubtedly intensify hunting for wild meat in adjacent forests.  In many cases, plantations will be established near to protected areas—often priority ape habitats—where the synergistic effects of increased bushmeat hunting and large-scale forest conversion may render existing conservation efforts ineffective.

Don't Write Off Conservation Campaigns

The GRASP plan is critical of “anti-palm oil campaigns” led by conservationists.  However, evidence shows that scientifically grounded campaigns that oppose large-scale agricultural land leases do lead to positive conservation outcomes.

For example, a multinational group of scientists and conservation groups joined local communities in Cameroon to prevent the American-based agribusiness Herakles Farms from obtaining a 99-year lease of over 70,000 hectares of land for oil palm development in a biodiversity hotspot inhabited by thousands of people.

Herakles Farms was a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an industry-led group attempting to promote sustainable palm-oil production.  Herakles also had a sustainability guide, had conducted environmental and social impact assessments, and had situated its plantation near priority great ape habitat.

However, Herakles’ assessments were invalidated by allegations from conservation scientists that Herakles repeatedly violated RSPO guidelines and Cameroonian laws, and failed to follow the process of Free Prior and Informed Consent with local communities.  Such campaigns are one of the few ways that the conservation community can influence an industry that has historically had little regard for biodiversity conservation.

Contrary to the GRASP plan, we do not accept that industrial oil palm expansion in the African tropical forest zone is inevitable and that to protect biodiversity we must acquiesce to the industry.  Rather, we agree with the former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, who argued that we need to examine whether land leased to agribusinesses could, instead, be used more productively, in ways that reduce environmental impacts and socioeconomic risks.

Take-home Messages

The conservation, development, and human-rights communities must confront the palm oil industry and be prepared to:

a) halt or limit conversion of intact forests into oil palm plantations

b) invest resources to oversee the industry and to investigate and publicize the social and environmental impacts of oil palm plantations

c) provide legal counsel to locally affected communities, who lack the expertise to effectively negotiate with agribusinesses, and

d) work with governments and local people to develop socially and environmentally responsible strategies for economic growth

In a time when we should be prioritizing the environment and human rights over ecologically and socially damaging economic development, the GRASP plan is more aligned with agro-imperialism and collaborating with an industry awash with human rights and environmental abuses.

We suggest that before GRASP commits itself to a global strategy for oil palm, it first evaluates its recommendations in Indonesia and Malaysia and then more closely examines how parts of their strategy could be adapted for Africa.

The rebuttal is penned by prominent authors of the GRASP report, including ALERT member Erik Meijaard as well as Marc Ancrenaz and Serge Wich:

Oil Palm Strategies: A Response from GRASP

We agree with Linder et al.’s views that our Palm Oil Paradox report, by focusing on great apes, neither represents all elements of tropical biological diversity nor the full range of social and political factors involved.  As in Southeast Asia, great apes in Africa overlap only partly with areas suitable for oil palm development.

Great apes, however, remain powerful symbols of the fight against unsustainable oil palm practices, and could play this role in parts of Africa where their ranges overlap with areas of high oil palm potential.

Great apes can also be icons for more-sustainable oil palm.  Such an aspiration has brought together palm oil and nongovernmental organizations to form the PONGO Alliance in Southeast Asia, where joint efforts are ongoing to improve practices in the oil palm industry.

Key Controversy

A major point of controversy—which we recognized when we developed our Palm Oil Paradox report—is our proposal to locate responsible oil palm companies on the forest frontier.  The idea is that this could help to stabilize the frontier and prevent deforestation—which would arguably have happened regardless, especially if no coordinated and responsible landscape plan was in place.

Our unpublished analyses show that, at least in Borneo, “responsible” oil palm has caused much less deforestation than has oil palm that is not certified by the RSPO.

RSPO-certified concessions mainly develop on already-degraded lands, which leaves unscrupulous companies to develop near the forest frontier.  Out of 815,000 hectares of land held in RSPO-cerfiied concessions, just 8.9 percent was deforested between 2000 and 2015.  However, the deforestation rate was about twice as fast, 18 percent, over the same period in non-certified concessions, which are very extensive in Borneo (9.6 million hectares).

Thus, responsible oil palm is not perfect, but it is a lot better than uncertified oil palm, which causes deforestation in the most critical areas for conservation.  We are currently seeing some individual oil palm plantations in Borneo setting aside more than 25 percent of their concessions for conservation.

For example, one company in Indonesian Borneo contains 150 orangutans that are currently safer than most other orangutans on Borneo.

We reiterate that our report states clearly that oil palm plantations should not be developed in priority great ape habitat, and that “no-go” areas for oil palm must be identified and classified.

Protecting the Frontier?

Linder and colleagues may assume that halting oil palm in the African forest frontier means the frontier will be safe.  But we cannot be sure what will happen on the frontier if no oil palm or other plantations are developed.

What we do know is that in Southeast Asia, any lands that are connected to the global-trade network through roads or other infrastructure are deforested through fires, land speculation, and small-scale agriculture unless some strong and coordinated form of management is in place.

This management could include protected areas under government or community control, or well-managed timber concessions.  Well-managed oil palm plantations can also partly fulfill this role. 

This previous point relates to the belief by Linder and colleagues that oil palm expansion can be stopped.  To counter that we ask, is this desirable?  Oil palm is a native African crop that produces far more oil than any other oil crop.  Given the growing global demand for oils, a prohibition on oil palm would mean the conversion of larger areas of land for oil crops elsewhere.

Linder et al. emphasize the potential for unknown socio-economic risks to local people.  We agree that the costs and benefits of deforestation are poorly understood.  The reality, however, is that local people in Southeast Asia generally welcome oil palm for its great profitability as a cash crop.  

In a recent survey in East Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo, for example, we found that just three villages out of some 75 had rejected oil palm—the remainder had all accepted oil palm companies on their lands.

Our Take-Home Messages

In Southeast Asia we have spent decades fighting oil palm but we have had virtually zero impact on the speed of the industry’s expansion.  In our view, the diametrically opposed camps in the oil palm debate have prevented the development of better practices in the industry.

On Borneo and Sumatra we are now nearly too late to make significant changes to how oil palm is managed.  In most African countries and in Latin America and parts of tropical Asia, we still have options to make important improvements.

What we call for is better planning and management in an industry that many governments and their electorates welcome.  National-planning processes should ensure that oil palm development is directed towards areas with the least impact on food security, away from floodplains, and in areas where its socioeconomic benefits and environmental and social costs are most balanced.

Such decision-making and its implementation are challenging and require the engagement of all relevant stakeholders, including responsible oil palm companies.

Forests Are a Treasure. But Are They Good Investments?

GFIS - Fri, 13/01/2017 - 21:49
University endowments and insurance companies own timberland. Ordinary people invest in forests, too — not necessarily to make a lot of money.

PhD scholar on REDD+ drivers, reference levels and incentives at CIFOR

GFIS - Fri, 13/01/2017 - 19:52

The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) is looking for PhD scholar on REDD+ drivers, reference levels and incentives.  Overview The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Bogor, Indonesia and the Faculty of Economics and Business, Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) are jointly offering a PhD scholarship on climate and forests (REDD+), focusing on the underlying causes (drivers), reference emission levels and incentive mechanisms. CIFOR advances human well-being, environmental conservation and equity by conducting research to inform policies and practices that affect forests in developingContinue reading

Artykuł PhD scholar on REDD+ drivers, reference levels and incentives at CIFOR pochodzi z serwisu Forest Monitor.

Weakened by drought, trees are falling in rainy California

GFIS - Fri, 13/01/2017 - 19:16

Drenching winter rains combined with the punishing effects of six years of drought are causing trees to topple across California, in some cases with deadly results. At least two people have been killed in the past month. Seemingly sturdy oaks, palm trees in Southern California and giant sequoias farther north have been collapsing. Experts say

Wyoming: Crandall logging to thin budworms

GFIS - Fri, 13/01/2017 - 18:57

It’s a tough time to be a tree in the Shoshone National Forest. Spruce beetles, Douglas-fir beetles, mountain pine beetles, mistletoe and Comandra rust have all been taking a toll on the forest’s vegetation. However, it’s now the western spruce budworm ravaging trees in the Sunlight/Crandall area. CONTINUE READING

Montana: Work to begin soon on Roaring Lion salvage sale

GFIS - Fri, 13/01/2017 - 18:05

Work could begin as soon as next week on cleaning up trees killed in the Roaring Lion Fire around three popular trailheads. Tricon Timber was high bidder on the 45-acre Roaring Lion Salvage Sale that’s expected to produce about 100 truckloads of timber for the St. Regis mill. CONTINUE READING

A Farewell Message from Secretary Tom Vilsack to Employees

GFIS - Fri, 13/01/2017 - 18:00
Today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack sent the following message to all USDA employees: I want to take this opportunity on my final day at USDA to express my profound gratitude to the people who work at USDA. Every day, nearly 90,000 people leave their families and the comfort of their home to do the people’s [...]

Dead tree problem in the Sierra has been turned into a hazard by storm

GFIS - Fri, 13/01/2017 - 16:41

If you look into the tree tops around Bass Lake you might just see a bald eagle– or a man with a chain saw. Tree trimmers are in a race against time to cut down the pine trees killed by the bark beetle infestation. CONTINUE READING

Why does Russ Vaagen blog?

GFIS - Fri, 13/01/2017 - 16:31

Do you ever get that feeling that you have things to say, but it’s not getting to enough people? That is what turned me on to blogging. I enjoy speaking to large groups and sharing the stories of our family business, forest collaboration, forest restoration, cross laminated timber, legislation, and others, but something was missing.

Low prices for wood

GFIS - Fri, 13/01/2017 - 15:07

The European Sawlog Price Index reached its lowest level in six years in the 3Q/16 because of lower lumber demand and reduced prices in both domestic and export markets, reports the Wood Resource Quarterly Declining demand and prices for softwood lumber, together with reduced log trade have resulted in lower sawlog prices in Europe over the past two years with the ESPI sawlog prices index reaching its lowest point since 2010, according to the Wood Resource Quarterly. Over the past two years, sawlog prices haveContinue reading

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CGIAR and CBD reinforce support for the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity and the Aichi Targets

GFIS - Fri, 13/01/2017 - 09:58

Forests play a key role in countering impacts from climate change, poverty and food insecurity. Recognizing the importance of forest biodiversity in agricultural production, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to strengthen support for implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity and the Aichi Targets was extended last month on the sidelines of the Thirteenth Conference of the Parties to the […]

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