Tag Archives: Carbon

Eat a plant and spare a tree

A less meat-intensive diet is essential for the sake of wildlife and forests and to slow climate change, says a report by UK-based researchers. LONDON, 31 August 2014 – Say goodbye to the steaks. Forget the foie gras. Put that pork chop away (assuming you can afford any of them). UK-based scientists say eating less meat is a vital part of tackling climate change. A study published in Nature Climate Change says that on present trends food production on its own will reach – and perhaps exceed – the global targets for total greenhouse gas emissions in 2050. Healthier diets – defined as meaning lower meat and dairy consumption – and reduced food waste are among the solutions needed to ensure food security and avoid dangerous climate change, the study says. More people, with more of us wanting meat-heavy Western diets, mean increasing farm yields will not meet the demands of an expected 9.6 billion humans. So we shall have to cultivate more land. This, the authors say, will mean more deforestation, more carbon emissions and further biodiversity loss, while extra livestock will raise methane levels.

Inefficient converters

Without radical changes, they expect cropland to expand by 42% by 2050 and fertiliser use by 45% (over 2009 levels). A further tenth of the world’s pristine tropical forests would disappear by mid-century. All this would cause GHG emissions from food production to increase by almost 80% by 2050 – roughly equal to the target GHG emissions by then for the entire global economy. They think halving food waste and managing demand for particularly environmentally-damaging food products – mainly from animals –  “might mitigate some” GHG emissions. “It is imperative to find ways to achieve global food security without expanding crop or pastureland,” said the lead researcher, Bojana Bajzelj, from the University of Cambridge’s department of engineering, who wrote the study with colleagues from Cambridge’s departments of geography and plant sciences and the University of Aberdeen’s Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences. “The average efficiency of livestock converting plant feed to meat is less than 3%, and as we eat more meat, more arable cultivation is turned over to producing feedstock for animals… Agricultural practices are not necessarily at fault here – but our choice of food is.”

Squandered resources

This measure of efficiency is based on the units used in the study, which are grams of carbon in the biomass material, plant or meat. The team created a model that compares different scenarios for 2050, including some based on maintaining current trends. Another examines the closing of “yield gaps”. These gaps, between crop yields from best practice farming and actual average yields, exist everywhere but are widest in developing countries – particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. The researchers advocate closing the gaps through sustainable intensification of farming. But even then projected food demand will still demand additional land and more water and fertilisers – so the impact on emissions and biodiversity remains. Food waste occurs at all stages in the food chain, caused in developing countries by poor storage and transport and in the north by wasteful consumption. This squanders resources, especially energy, the authors say.

“As well as encouraging sustainable agriculture, we need to re-think what we eat”

Yield gap closure alone still shows a GHG increase of just over 40% by 2050. Closing yield gaps and halving food waste shows emissions increasing by 2%. But with healthy diets added too, the model suggests that agricultural GHG levels could fall by 48% from their 2009 level. The team says replacing diets containing too much food, especially emission-intensive meat and dairy products, with an average balanced diet avoiding excessive consumption of sugars, fats, and meat products, significantly reduces pressures on the environment even further. It says this “average” balanced diet is “a relatively achievable goal for most. For example, the figures included two 85g portions of red meat and five eggs per week, as well as a portion of poultry a day.” Co-author Professor Pete Smith from the University of Aberdeen said: “Unless we make some serious changes in food consumption trends, we would have to completely decarbonise the energy and industry sectors to stay within emissions budgets that avoid dangerous climate change. “That is practically impossible – so, as well as encouraging sustainable agriculture, we need to re-think what we eat.” – Climate News Network

A less meat-intensive diet is essential for the sake of wildlife and forests and to slow climate change, says a report by UK-based researchers. LONDON, 31 August 2014 – Say goodbye to the steaks. Forget the foie gras. Put that pork chop away (assuming you can afford any of them). UK-based scientists say eating less meat is a vital part of tackling climate change. A study published in Nature Climate Change says that on present trends food production on its own will reach – and perhaps exceed – the global targets for total greenhouse gas emissions in 2050. Healthier diets – defined as meaning lower meat and dairy consumption – and reduced food waste are among the solutions needed to ensure food security and avoid dangerous climate change, the study says. More people, with more of us wanting meat-heavy Western diets, mean increasing farm yields will not meet the demands of an expected 9.6 billion humans. So we shall have to cultivate more land. This, the authors say, will mean more deforestation, more carbon emissions and further biodiversity loss, while extra livestock will raise methane levels.

Inefficient converters

Without radical changes, they expect cropland to expand by 42% by 2050 and fertiliser use by 45% (over 2009 levels). A further tenth of the world’s pristine tropical forests would disappear by mid-century. All this would cause GHG emissions from food production to increase by almost 80% by 2050 – roughly equal to the target GHG emissions by then for the entire global economy. They think halving food waste and managing demand for particularly environmentally-damaging food products – mainly from animals –  “might mitigate some” GHG emissions. “It is imperative to find ways to achieve global food security without expanding crop or pastureland,” said the lead researcher, Bojana Bajzelj, from the University of Cambridge’s department of engineering, who wrote the study with colleagues from Cambridge’s departments of geography and plant sciences and the University of Aberdeen’s Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences. “The average efficiency of livestock converting plant feed to meat is less than 3%, and as we eat more meat, more arable cultivation is turned over to producing feedstock for animals… Agricultural practices are not necessarily at fault here – but our choice of food is.”

Squandered resources

This measure of efficiency is based on the units used in the study, which are grams of carbon in the biomass material, plant or meat. The team created a model that compares different scenarios for 2050, including some based on maintaining current trends. Another examines the closing of “yield gaps”. These gaps, between crop yields from best practice farming and actual average yields, exist everywhere but are widest in developing countries – particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. The researchers advocate closing the gaps through sustainable intensification of farming. But even then projected food demand will still demand additional land and more water and fertilisers – so the impact on emissions and biodiversity remains. Food waste occurs at all stages in the food chain, caused in developing countries by poor storage and transport and in the north by wasteful consumption. This squanders resources, especially energy, the authors say.

“As well as encouraging sustainable agriculture, we need to re-think what we eat”

Yield gap closure alone still shows a GHG increase of just over 40% by 2050. Closing yield gaps and halving food waste shows emissions increasing by 2%. But with healthy diets added too, the model suggests that agricultural GHG levels could fall by 48% from their 2009 level. The team says replacing diets containing too much food, especially emission-intensive meat and dairy products, with an average balanced diet avoiding excessive consumption of sugars, fats, and meat products, significantly reduces pressures on the environment even further. It says this “average” balanced diet is “a relatively achievable goal for most. For example, the figures included two 85g portions of red meat and five eggs per week, as well as a portion of poultry a day.” Co-author Professor Pete Smith from the University of Aberdeen said: “Unless we make some serious changes in food consumption trends, we would have to completely decarbonise the energy and industry sectors to stay within emissions budgets that avoid dangerous climate change. “That is practically impossible – so, as well as encouraging sustainable agriculture, we need to re-think what we eat.” – Climate News Network

Fungus governs soil's carbon content

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The soil stores the greater part of the Earth’s carbon. Just how much it stores is determined largely by what sort of fungi live in the roots of plants and trees, researchers have found.

LONDON, 28 January – Most of the planet’s carbon is neither in the forests nor the atmosphere. It is in the soil under your feet. US scientists think that they have identified the mechanism that keeps most of this awesome treasury of carbon locked away in the soil – or surrenders much more of it back to the atmosphere. The answer is: a fungus.

This answer matters because what happens to soil carbon is critical to predicting the planet’s future climate, according to Colin Averill of the University of Texas at Austin.

He and colleagues from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama and Boston University in Massachusetts report in Nature that the storage of carbon in soils is influenced by the mycorrhizal fungi that live in symbiotic relationships with plants.

In a symbiotic relationship, creatures benefit from each other, and in this case the fungi extract nitrogen from the soil, and make it available to the roots of the growing plant. Plants take carbon from the air to make their tissues; when a tree falls, or a branch breaks, or a shrub dies, most of the carbon gets back into the atmosphere through decomposition. But some gets buried, and stays in the soil

Averill and colleagues decided to look at the respective roles of two kinds of mycorrhizal fungus: one group known as ecto- and ericoid mycorrhiza (EEM), and another called arbuscular mycorrhiza (AM). The first produce enzymes that degrade nitrogen.

Out-competing microbes

That means that whenever there is organic nitrogen in the soil, the fungi take the greater share: they compete with soil microbes for the soil nutrients.  So the scientists predicted that if the EEM type was dominant, then there would be greater proportions of carbon conserved in the soil.

They then looked at all the known data about soil carbon and nitrogen in various ecosystems: the boreal forests of the north; the temperate woodlands, the tropical forests and the grasslands.

Where the proportions of arbuscular mycorrhiza were highest, the levels of soil carbon tended to be lower. In an EEM world, there could be 70% more carbon stored in the soil. Unexpectedly, they found that the relationship was independent of, and mattered far more than, the effects of net primary production, temperature, rainfall and levels of soil clay. What mattered most was the type of fungus dwelling in the roots of the forest trees, or the savannah grasses.

“Natural fluxes of carbon between the land and atmosphere are enormous and play a crucial role in regulating the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and in turn, the Earth’s climate”, said Averill.

“This analysis clearly establishes that the different types of symbiotic fungi exert major control on the global carbon cycle, which has not been fully appreciated or demonstrated until now.”

Complex relationships

The research, once again, is a reminder that climate models depend on an understanding of how the world works, and that there is still much more to understand about planetary workings. Fungi are mostly invisible. Ceps, morels, chanterelles, truffles and field mushrooms are edible prizes that pop up from the soil, but most of the fungal action is below the soil.

The biggest single creature on the planet is not the blue whale but a fungus that covers 10 square kilometers of soil in the Blue Mountains of Oregon, in the US.

The research is a reminder of a secret kingdom buried in the first metre or so of the world’s soils, a kingdom with profound influence on the machinery of the planetary carbon cycle.

“The research is not only relevant to models and predictions of future concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases, but also challenges the core foundation in modern biogeochemistry that climate exerts major control over soil carbon pools,” said Adrien Finzi, of Boston University, one of the authors. – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The soil stores the greater part of the Earth’s carbon. Just how much it stores is determined largely by what sort of fungi live in the roots of plants and trees, researchers have found.

LONDON, 28 January – Most of the planet’s carbon is neither in the forests nor the atmosphere. It is in the soil under your feet. US scientists think that they have identified the mechanism that keeps most of this awesome treasury of carbon locked away in the soil – or surrenders much more of it back to the atmosphere. The answer is: a fungus.

This answer matters because what happens to soil carbon is critical to predicting the planet’s future climate, according to Colin Averill of the University of Texas at Austin.

He and colleagues from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama and Boston University in Massachusetts report in Nature that the storage of carbon in soils is influenced by the mycorrhizal fungi that live in symbiotic relationships with plants.

In a symbiotic relationship, creatures benefit from each other, and in this case the fungi extract nitrogen from the soil, and make it available to the roots of the growing plant. Plants take carbon from the air to make their tissues; when a tree falls, or a branch breaks, or a shrub dies, most of the carbon gets back into the atmosphere through decomposition. But some gets buried, and stays in the soil

Averill and colleagues decided to look at the respective roles of two kinds of mycorrhizal fungus: one group known as ecto- and ericoid mycorrhiza (EEM), and another called arbuscular mycorrhiza (AM). The first produce enzymes that degrade nitrogen.

Out-competing microbes

That means that whenever there is organic nitrogen in the soil, the fungi take the greater share: they compete with soil microbes for the soil nutrients.  So the scientists predicted that if the EEM type was dominant, then there would be greater proportions of carbon conserved in the soil.

They then looked at all the known data about soil carbon and nitrogen in various ecosystems: the boreal forests of the north; the temperate woodlands, the tropical forests and the grasslands.

Where the proportions of arbuscular mycorrhiza were highest, the levels of soil carbon tended to be lower. In an EEM world, there could be 70% more carbon stored in the soil. Unexpectedly, they found that the relationship was independent of, and mattered far more than, the effects of net primary production, temperature, rainfall and levels of soil clay. What mattered most was the type of fungus dwelling in the roots of the forest trees, or the savannah grasses.

“Natural fluxes of carbon between the land and atmosphere are enormous and play a crucial role in regulating the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and in turn, the Earth’s climate”, said Averill.

“This analysis clearly establishes that the different types of symbiotic fungi exert major control on the global carbon cycle, which has not been fully appreciated or demonstrated until now.”

Complex relationships

The research, once again, is a reminder that climate models depend on an understanding of how the world works, and that there is still much more to understand about planetary workings. Fungi are mostly invisible. Ceps, morels, chanterelles, truffles and field mushrooms are edible prizes that pop up from the soil, but most of the fungal action is below the soil.

The biggest single creature on the planet is not the blue whale but a fungus that covers 10 square kilometers of soil in the Blue Mountains of Oregon, in the US.

The research is a reminder of a secret kingdom buried in the first metre or so of the world’s soils, a kingdom with profound influence on the machinery of the planetary carbon cycle.

“The research is not only relevant to models and predictions of future concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases, but also challenges the core foundation in modern biogeochemistry that climate exerts major control over soil carbon pools,” said Adrien Finzi, of Boston University, one of the authors. – Climate News Network

What happens when the world dries out

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE A warming world carries many threats, and now scientists have discovered that a change in atmospheric conditions could have serious consequences for soil chemistry LONDON, 1 November – A warmer, drier world will be bad news for those people who already live on the edge. Higher temperatures will do more than evaporate the soil moisture: they will alter the natural soil chemistry as well. Manuel Delgado-Baquerizo of the Universidad Pablo de Olavide, in Seville, Spain, and fellow scientists report in Nature that they looked  at soil samples from 224 dryland ecosystem plots in every continent except Antarctica. Drylands matter: they account for more than 40% of the planet’s land surface and they support more than 38% of its population. Drylands add up, in the dusty language of science, to the largest “terrestrial biome” of all. And even though on average more warmth will mean more evaporation, and therefore more water vapour in the atmosphere and more precipitation in some of those zones that already have ample rainfall, the pattern could be different in the arid lands. All the calculations so far indicate that these drylands will increase in area, and become drier with time. Already 250 million people are trying to scrape an increasingly meagre living from lands which are degrading swiftly, either because they are turning to desert, or because they are overgrazed.

Hard on microbes

But to make things worse, climate scientists predict that between 2080 and 2099, soil moisture will decrease by between 5% and 15% worldwide. And that in turn could have a profound effect on the levels of carbon and nitrogen nutrients naturally in the topsoils. What keeps soils alive, and productive, is the compost or humus of leaf litter, animal dung, withered roots and other decaying vegetation in the first metre or so of topsoil: this in turn feeds an invisible army of tiny creatures that recycle the nutrient elements for the next generation of plant life. But these microbes also need water to thrive. The consortium of researchers predicted that as the soils got drier, biological activity would decrease, but geochemical processes would accelerate. That is, nutrients that depended on little living things in the soil would drain away, but other elements – phosphorus among them – would increase, because they would be winnowed from the rock by mechanical weathering or erosion. The research team tested this argument with samples from 16 countries, including the Negev desert in Israel, the woodlands of New South Wales in Australia, the Altiplano of Peru, and the Pampas lowlands of Argentina.

Balance upset

These regions could all expect from 100mm of rainfall a year to 800 mm; all soil samples were analysed in the same laboratory in Spain. And as predicted, they revealed an increasing imbalance: more phosphorus, less carbon and nitrogen as they became drier. Such a trend would actually feed back into global warming: ideally, more vigorous plant growth would absorb more carbon dioxide. But if vegetation wilts, and soils turn to dust over large areas of already parched land, then the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere will increase even more. “Plants need all of these elements, in the correct amounts, and at the right times, but increasing aridity will upset this balance, leading to a breakdown in essential soil processes,” said David Etheridge, of the University of New South Wales, one of the authors. “As the world’s population grows, people will increasingly rely on marginal lands – particularly drylands – for production of food, wood and biofuels. But these ecosystems will be severely affected by imbalances in the cycle of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus.” – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE A warming world carries many threats, and now scientists have discovered that a change in atmospheric conditions could have serious consequences for soil chemistry LONDON, 1 November – A warmer, drier world will be bad news for those people who already live on the edge. Higher temperatures will do more than evaporate the soil moisture: they will alter the natural soil chemistry as well. Manuel Delgado-Baquerizo of the Universidad Pablo de Olavide, in Seville, Spain, and fellow scientists report in Nature that they looked  at soil samples from 224 dryland ecosystem plots in every continent except Antarctica. Drylands matter: they account for more than 40% of the planet’s land surface and they support more than 38% of its population. Drylands add up, in the dusty language of science, to the largest “terrestrial biome” of all. And even though on average more warmth will mean more evaporation, and therefore more water vapour in the atmosphere and more precipitation in some of those zones that already have ample rainfall, the pattern could be different in the arid lands. All the calculations so far indicate that these drylands will increase in area, and become drier with time. Already 250 million people are trying to scrape an increasingly meagre living from lands which are degrading swiftly, either because they are turning to desert, or because they are overgrazed.

Hard on microbes

But to make things worse, climate scientists predict that between 2080 and 2099, soil moisture will decrease by between 5% and 15% worldwide. And that in turn could have a profound effect on the levels of carbon and nitrogen nutrients naturally in the topsoils. What keeps soils alive, and productive, is the compost or humus of leaf litter, animal dung, withered roots and other decaying vegetation in the first metre or so of topsoil: this in turn feeds an invisible army of tiny creatures that recycle the nutrient elements for the next generation of plant life. But these microbes also need water to thrive. The consortium of researchers predicted that as the soils got drier, biological activity would decrease, but geochemical processes would accelerate. That is, nutrients that depended on little living things in the soil would drain away, but other elements – phosphorus among them – would increase, because they would be winnowed from the rock by mechanical weathering or erosion. The research team tested this argument with samples from 16 countries, including the Negev desert in Israel, the woodlands of New South Wales in Australia, the Altiplano of Peru, and the Pampas lowlands of Argentina.

Balance upset

These regions could all expect from 100mm of rainfall a year to 800 mm; all soil samples were analysed in the same laboratory in Spain. And as predicted, they revealed an increasing imbalance: more phosphorus, less carbon and nitrogen as they became drier. Such a trend would actually feed back into global warming: ideally, more vigorous plant growth would absorb more carbon dioxide. But if vegetation wilts, and soils turn to dust over large areas of already parched land, then the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere will increase even more. “Plants need all of these elements, in the correct amounts, and at the right times, but increasing aridity will upset this balance, leading to a breakdown in essential soil processes,” said David Etheridge, of the University of New South Wales, one of the authors. “As the world’s population grows, people will increasingly rely on marginal lands – particularly drylands – for production of food, wood and biofuels. But these ecosystems will be severely affected by imbalances in the cycle of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus.” – Climate News Network

Forest people 'can gather carbon data'

Researchers say the people who live in some of the world’s most fragile forests can establish how much carbon they contain as accurately as scientists equipped with hi-tech measuring instruments.

LONDON, 29 October – You don’t have to be a sophisticated scientist equipped with all the latest gizmos in order to work out just how effective a particular forest is as a carbon sink, a critical way of soaking up greenhouse gases

The job, researchers believe, can be done just as accurately by the people who live in the forests, most of whom probably have neither modern instruments nor scientific training.

And the forests themselves will probably gain as well, because the local people will have more reason to feel they are buying into the trees’ conservation and so will have an incentive to protect them and work with conservationists from outside the forests.

The study, Community Monitoring for REDD+: International Promises and Field Realities, was published in a special issue of the journal Ecology and Society and was carried out by researchers at the Nairobi-based World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and colleagues from Europe and south-east Asia.

It is on the agenda at the Oslo Redd Exchange, which aims to improve the workings of the UN’s Redd+ programme (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation).

Promise – and reality

The team studied some of south-east Asia’s most complex, carbon-rich forests: lowland forest in Indonesia, mountain rainforest in China and monsoon forest in Laos and Vietnam.

They report that they found that local communities – using simple tools like ropes and sticks – could produce forest carbon data on a par with the results obtained by professional foresters using high-tech devices.

The UN says its Redd+ projects must ensure local communities’ “full and effective participation.” But the study found that nearly half of official Redd+ projects, which depend on the accurate measurement of carbon stored in the forests, do not engage communities in this data gathering.

Finn Danielsen, the study’s lead author and senior ecologist at the Nordic Foundation for Environment and Development in Copenhagen, Denmark, says: “Saving the world’s forests requires us to close the massive gulf between international promises and realities on the ground.

“Our research shows that if more Redd+ projects were to include community monitoring, we would see a more just global effort to fight climate change that meaningfully incorporates insight from people who depend on forests for everything from their incomes to their food – and are eager to protect these precious natural resources as a result.”

Similarities ‘striking’

To establish whether forest dwellers could provide accurate monitoring of above-ground forest carbon stocks, the researchers trained community members in simple measuring techniques and sent them to 289 forest plots to measure the trees’ number, girth and biomass per hectare. They then compared the community measurements with those gathered by professional foresters using handheld computers and other elaborate aids.

The community monitoring was done with some basic equipment, apart from GPS devices: measuring tapes, ropes marked at intervals, paint and pencils.

The researchers say: “The results showed strikingly similar results between community members and professional foresters across countries and forest types.

“This corroborates a small but growing body of research suggesting that, when armed with the simplest of techniques and equipment, community members with limited education can accurately monitor forest biomass – previously thought to be the domain of highly-trained professionals.” They say the community data also met the standards of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Subekti Rahayu, an analyst at ICRAF who conducted fieldwork for the study, says: “We’re convinced that engaging communities is ultimately the most cost-effective approach. The small extra cost would be largely offset by its benefits to both local people – who would earn wages and gain training from these activities – and larger global efforts to address climate change.” – Climate News Network

Researchers say the people who live in some of the world’s most fragile forests can establish how much carbon they contain as accurately as scientists equipped with hi-tech measuring instruments.

LONDON, 29 October – You don’t have to be a sophisticated scientist equipped with all the latest gizmos in order to work out just how effective a particular forest is as a carbon sink, a critical way of soaking up greenhouse gases

The job, researchers believe, can be done just as accurately by the people who live in the forests, most of whom probably have neither modern instruments nor scientific training.

And the forests themselves will probably gain as well, because the local people will have more reason to feel they are buying into the trees’ conservation and so will have an incentive to protect them and work with conservationists from outside the forests.

The study, Community Monitoring for REDD+: International Promises and Field Realities, was published in a special issue of the journal Ecology and Society and was carried out by researchers at the Nairobi-based World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and colleagues from Europe and south-east Asia.

It is on the agenda at the Oslo Redd Exchange, which aims to improve the workings of the UN’s Redd+ programme (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation).

Promise – and reality

The team studied some of south-east Asia’s most complex, carbon-rich forests: lowland forest in Indonesia, mountain rainforest in China and monsoon forest in Laos and Vietnam.

They report that they found that local communities – using simple tools like ropes and sticks – could produce forest carbon data on a par with the results obtained by professional foresters using high-tech devices.

The UN says its Redd+ projects must ensure local communities’ “full and effective participation.” But the study found that nearly half of official Redd+ projects, which depend on the accurate measurement of carbon stored in the forests, do not engage communities in this data gathering.

Finn Danielsen, the study’s lead author and senior ecologist at the Nordic Foundation for Environment and Development in Copenhagen, Denmark, says: “Saving the world’s forests requires us to close the massive gulf between international promises and realities on the ground.

“Our research shows that if more Redd+ projects were to include community monitoring, we would see a more just global effort to fight climate change that meaningfully incorporates insight from people who depend on forests for everything from their incomes to their food – and are eager to protect these precious natural resources as a result.”

Similarities ‘striking’

To establish whether forest dwellers could provide accurate monitoring of above-ground forest carbon stocks, the researchers trained community members in simple measuring techniques and sent them to 289 forest plots to measure the trees’ number, girth and biomass per hectare. They then compared the community measurements with those gathered by professional foresters using handheld computers and other elaborate aids.

The community monitoring was done with some basic equipment, apart from GPS devices: measuring tapes, ropes marked at intervals, paint and pencils.

The researchers say: “The results showed strikingly similar results between community members and professional foresters across countries and forest types.

“This corroborates a small but growing body of research suggesting that, when armed with the simplest of techniques and equipment, community members with limited education can accurately monitor forest biomass – previously thought to be the domain of highly-trained professionals.” They say the community data also met the standards of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Subekti Rahayu, an analyst at ICRAF who conducted fieldwork for the study, says: “We’re convinced that engaging communities is ultimately the most cost-effective approach. The small extra cost would be largely offset by its benefits to both local people – who would earn wages and gain training from these activities – and larger global efforts to address climate change.” – Climate News Network

Forest people ‘can gather carbon data’

Researchers say the people who live in some of the world’s most fragile forests can establish how much carbon they contain as accurately as scientists equipped with hi-tech measuring instruments. LONDON, 29 October – You don’t have to be a sophisticated scientist equipped with all the latest gizmos in order to work out just how effective a particular forest is as a carbon sink, a critical way of soaking up greenhouse gases The job, researchers believe, can be done just as accurately by the people who live in the forests, most of whom probably have neither modern instruments nor scientific training. And the forests themselves will probably gain as well, because the local people will have more reason to feel they are buying into the trees’ conservation and so will have an incentive to protect them and work with conservationists from outside the forests. The study, Community Monitoring for REDD+: International Promises and Field Realities, was published in a special issue of the journal Ecology and Society and was carried out by researchers at the Nairobi-based World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and colleagues from Europe and south-east Asia. It is on the agenda at the Oslo Redd Exchange, which aims to improve the workings of the UN’s Redd+ programme (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation).

Promise – and reality

The team studied some of south-east Asia’s most complex, carbon-rich forests: lowland forest in Indonesia, mountain rainforest in China and monsoon forest in Laos and Vietnam. They report that they found that local communities – using simple tools like ropes and sticks – could produce forest carbon data on a par with the results obtained by professional foresters using high-tech devices. The UN says its Redd+ projects must ensure local communities’ “full and effective participation.” But the study found that nearly half of official Redd+ projects, which depend on the accurate measurement of carbon stored in the forests, do not engage communities in this data gathering. Finn Danielsen, the study’s lead author and senior ecologist at the Nordic Foundation for Environment and Development in Copenhagen, Denmark, says: “Saving the world’s forests requires us to close the massive gulf between international promises and realities on the ground. “Our research shows that if more Redd+ projects were to include community monitoring, we would see a more just global effort to fight climate change that meaningfully incorporates insight from people who depend on forests for everything from their incomes to their food – and are eager to protect these precious natural resources as a result.”

Similarities ‘striking’

To establish whether forest dwellers could provide accurate monitoring of above-ground forest carbon stocks, the researchers trained community members in simple measuring techniques and sent them to 289 forest plots to measure the trees’ number, girth and biomass per hectare. They then compared the community measurements with those gathered by professional foresters using handheld computers and other elaborate aids. The community monitoring was done with some basic equipment, apart from GPS devices: measuring tapes, ropes marked at intervals, paint and pencils. The researchers say: “The results showed strikingly similar results between community members and professional foresters across countries and forest types. “This corroborates a small but growing body of research suggesting that, when armed with the simplest of techniques and equipment, community members with limited education can accurately monitor forest biomass – previously thought to be the domain of highly-trained professionals.” They say the community data also met the standards of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Subekti Rahayu, an analyst at ICRAF who conducted fieldwork for the study, says: “We’re convinced that engaging communities is ultimately the most cost-effective approach. The small extra cost would be largely offset by its benefits to both local people – who would earn wages and gain training from these activities – and larger global efforts to address climate change.” – Climate News Network

Researchers say the people who live in some of the world’s most fragile forests can establish how much carbon they contain as accurately as scientists equipped with hi-tech measuring instruments. LONDON, 29 October – You don’t have to be a sophisticated scientist equipped with all the latest gizmos in order to work out just how effective a particular forest is as a carbon sink, a critical way of soaking up greenhouse gases The job, researchers believe, can be done just as accurately by the people who live in the forests, most of whom probably have neither modern instruments nor scientific training. And the forests themselves will probably gain as well, because the local people will have more reason to feel they are buying into the trees’ conservation and so will have an incentive to protect them and work with conservationists from outside the forests. The study, Community Monitoring for REDD+: International Promises and Field Realities, was published in a special issue of the journal Ecology and Society and was carried out by researchers at the Nairobi-based World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and colleagues from Europe and south-east Asia. It is on the agenda at the Oslo Redd Exchange, which aims to improve the workings of the UN’s Redd+ programme (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation).

Promise – and reality

The team studied some of south-east Asia’s most complex, carbon-rich forests: lowland forest in Indonesia, mountain rainforest in China and monsoon forest in Laos and Vietnam. They report that they found that local communities – using simple tools like ropes and sticks – could produce forest carbon data on a par with the results obtained by professional foresters using high-tech devices. The UN says its Redd+ projects must ensure local communities’ “full and effective participation.” But the study found that nearly half of official Redd+ projects, which depend on the accurate measurement of carbon stored in the forests, do not engage communities in this data gathering. Finn Danielsen, the study’s lead author and senior ecologist at the Nordic Foundation for Environment and Development in Copenhagen, Denmark, says: “Saving the world’s forests requires us to close the massive gulf between international promises and realities on the ground. “Our research shows that if more Redd+ projects were to include community monitoring, we would see a more just global effort to fight climate change that meaningfully incorporates insight from people who depend on forests for everything from their incomes to their food – and are eager to protect these precious natural resources as a result.”

Similarities ‘striking’

To establish whether forest dwellers could provide accurate monitoring of above-ground forest carbon stocks, the researchers trained community members in simple measuring techniques and sent them to 289 forest plots to measure the trees’ number, girth and biomass per hectare. They then compared the community measurements with those gathered by professional foresters using handheld computers and other elaborate aids. The community monitoring was done with some basic equipment, apart from GPS devices: measuring tapes, ropes marked at intervals, paint and pencils. The researchers say: “The results showed strikingly similar results between community members and professional foresters across countries and forest types. “This corroborates a small but growing body of research suggesting that, when armed with the simplest of techniques and equipment, community members with limited education can accurately monitor forest biomass – previously thought to be the domain of highly-trained professionals.” They say the community data also met the standards of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Subekti Rahayu, an analyst at ICRAF who conducted fieldwork for the study, says: “We’re convinced that engaging communities is ultimately the most cost-effective approach. The small extra cost would be largely offset by its benefits to both local people – who would earn wages and gain training from these activities – and larger global efforts to address climate change.” – Climate News Network