Tag Archives: Indonesia

Borneo’s mystery trees guzzle carbon

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Scientists discover that the unique and mysterious trees of  Borneo’s tropical rainforest − being felled at an alarming rate − soak up even more carbon than those in Amazonia and have a vital role to play in slowing down global warming LONDON,  11 May −  If there was just one place in the world where it would make sense to protect trees, maintain the rainforest and damp down global warming, scientists have confirmed that it would be the island of Borneo. A new research report published in the Journal of Ecology says that while the Amazon rainforest might be the biggest and most important area of green canopy on the planet,  Borneo soaks up, tree for tree, more carbon from the atmosphere. Lindsay Banin, an ecologist at the UK-based Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEU), and colleagues from Malaysia, Brunei, the US, Brazil, Taiwan, Peru and Ecuador investigated what is called above-ground wood production  – the most visible, tangible indicator of carbon uptake – to see how forests in Amazonia and Indonesia measured up as consumers of atmospheric carbon. The tropical rainforests cover only a tenth of the planet’s land surface, but they account for about a third of the terrestrial primary production – that is, about a third of the conversion of sunlight into greenery happens in the tropical forests – and they soak up about half of all terrestrial carbon.

Vigorous consumers

However, it turns out that some tropical forests are more vigorous consumers than others. The Amazon and the Borneo forests have similarities – for example, neither has an annual dry season, and each has a range of soil types. So if there is a difference, it must be in the trees. The researchers examined data from 17 plots in Amazonia and 11 in Borneo, with a total of 12,000 trees − all of which have been monitored for more than  two decades. They found that the woody growth in north Borneo was almost half as much again (49%) as in the north-west Amazon. South-east Asian trees of a given diameter were taller than Amazon trees, which meant they amassed a greater volume of wood. On average, the south-east Asian plots grew 3.2 tons of wood per hectare more than the South American plots. The research matters because climate scientists still have an uncertain picture of the carbon cycle. Simulations of future temperatures depend on what happens to carbon dioxide emissions, and how vigorously the natural world responds to all that extra potential fertility. There has been recent concern that higher temperatures and changes in rainfall pattern could drastically alter the rainforests in the Congo and in the Amazon rainforests. But there is also evidence that mature forests, with a high population of elderly giant trees, can still soak up surprising quantities of carbon dioxide.

Alarming rate of loss

On the debit side, Borneo has been losing its primal forest cover at an alarming rate. More than half of the lowland forests of Kalimantan – the equivalent of an area the size of Belgium − were felled for timber between 1985 and 2001. If trees in Borneo grow faster than anywhere else in the tropics, then any loss of those trees is likely to accelerate global warming. The next step in the research is to try to figure out what Borneo has that Amazonia hasn’t. The difference can be linked to local evolutionary history and the types of trees that flourish in each region. “In Borneo, dipterocarps – a family of large trees with winged seeds – produce wood more quickly than their neighbours,” said Dr Banin, lead author of the CEU report. “This means that they have evolved something special and unique – and what this is exactly remains a mystery. “Dipterocarps are known to make special relationships with fungi in the soil, so they may be able to tap into scarce nutrient resources. Or they may be trading off growth of other plant parts.” – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Scientists discover that the unique and mysterious trees of  Borneo’s tropical rainforest − being felled at an alarming rate − soak up even more carbon than those in Amazonia and have a vital role to play in slowing down global warming LONDON,  11 May −  If there was just one place in the world where it would make sense to protect trees, maintain the rainforest and damp down global warming, scientists have confirmed that it would be the island of Borneo. A new research report published in the Journal of Ecology says that while the Amazon rainforest might be the biggest and most important area of green canopy on the planet,  Borneo soaks up, tree for tree, more carbon from the atmosphere. Lindsay Banin, an ecologist at the UK-based Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEU), and colleagues from Malaysia, Brunei, the US, Brazil, Taiwan, Peru and Ecuador investigated what is called above-ground wood production  – the most visible, tangible indicator of carbon uptake – to see how forests in Amazonia and Indonesia measured up as consumers of atmospheric carbon. The tropical rainforests cover only a tenth of the planet’s land surface, but they account for about a third of the terrestrial primary production – that is, about a third of the conversion of sunlight into greenery happens in the tropical forests – and they soak up about half of all terrestrial carbon.

Vigorous consumers

However, it turns out that some tropical forests are more vigorous consumers than others. The Amazon and the Borneo forests have similarities – for example, neither has an annual dry season, and each has a range of soil types. So if there is a difference, it must be in the trees. The researchers examined data from 17 plots in Amazonia and 11 in Borneo, with a total of 12,000 trees − all of which have been monitored for more than  two decades. They found that the woody growth in north Borneo was almost half as much again (49%) as in the north-west Amazon. South-east Asian trees of a given diameter were taller than Amazon trees, which meant they amassed a greater volume of wood. On average, the south-east Asian plots grew 3.2 tons of wood per hectare more than the South American plots. The research matters because climate scientists still have an uncertain picture of the carbon cycle. Simulations of future temperatures depend on what happens to carbon dioxide emissions, and how vigorously the natural world responds to all that extra potential fertility. There has been recent concern that higher temperatures and changes in rainfall pattern could drastically alter the rainforests in the Congo and in the Amazon rainforests. But there is also evidence that mature forests, with a high population of elderly giant trees, can still soak up surprising quantities of carbon dioxide.

Alarming rate of loss

On the debit side, Borneo has been losing its primal forest cover at an alarming rate. More than half of the lowland forests of Kalimantan – the equivalent of an area the size of Belgium − were felled for timber between 1985 and 2001. If trees in Borneo grow faster than anywhere else in the tropics, then any loss of those trees is likely to accelerate global warming. The next step in the research is to try to figure out what Borneo has that Amazonia hasn’t. The difference can be linked to local evolutionary history and the types of trees that flourish in each region. “In Borneo, dipterocarps – a family of large trees with winged seeds – produce wood more quickly than their neighbours,” said Dr Banin, lead author of the CEU report. “This means that they have evolved something special and unique – and what this is exactly remains a mystery. “Dipterocarps are known to make special relationships with fungi in the soil, so they may be able to tap into scarce nutrient resources. Or they may be trading off growth of other plant parts.” – Climate News Network

Forest peoples urge land rights action

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE There’s plenty of talk at the United Nations and in the corridors of international conferences on making land rights a realiy for forest people. But campaigners say there’s not much action to match. LONDON, 23 February – Forest people’s groups say many governments are failing to protect their right to their ancestral lands, and argue that this neglect is damaging efforts to slow climate change. Their argument is supported by campaigners. Research by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) says the pace of provision of new legal protection for indigenous communities has fallen, despite an increase in professions of support by industry, governments and international initiatives like REDD+ and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. RRI says fewer new laws have been passed to protect indigenous land rights since 2008 than in the six preceding years, and the legislation that has been enacted is weaker. Previous RRI research into 12 emerging market countries found that at least one out of every three hectares licensed for natural resource development overlaps with indigenous community land. When private companies acquire land and resources without first checking who lives there, it says, they expose themselves and their investors to substantial risk, as some level of conflict or business disruption often results. The ownership of almost half the developing world’s rural, forest and dryland areas is contested, according to RRI, directly affecting the lives and livelihoods of over two billion people. They often have no formal title to the lands on which they live and depend, and can seldom legally defend their rights.

Better stewards

An RRI report, Lots of Words, Little Action: Will the private sector tip the scales for community land rights?, examines how land rights and attempts to mitigate climate change through REDD are linked. One of its findings is that REDD+ initiatives are not yet translating into globally significant increases in the area under the ownership and control of indigenous peoples and local communities. Meanwhile, it says, the global forest area covered by industrial concessions is large and growing. Global climate change efforts have a key role to play in securing the land rights of indigenous people and rural communities, it says. And when they are secured, that means less deforestation and more climate change mitigation. Indigenous communities, it is argued, are unlikely to over-exploit forest resources. Their understanding of the forests as the place on which they depend encourages them to resist deforestation and the piecemeal exploitation and destruction of their fauna and flora. Indonesia is the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, chiefly because of deforestation for palm oil and other natural resource extraction. One group, the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN), says those it represents claim 40 million hectares of the country’s rainforests. If they are given stronger rights over their lands, AMAN says, they will help the country to fight deforestation and reduce climate change.

Wide regional variations

The head of AMAN, Abdon Nababan, is urging President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyon to formally implement a May 2013 Constitutional Court decision which declared unconstitutional a line in the country’s 1999 Forestry Law stating that customary forests are state forest. The Indonesian Government controls 96% of the country’s forests. The RRI report also highlights a number of regional differences:

  • In Latin America, communities own or control more than 39% of forests, a direct contrast with sub-Saharan Africa where less than 6% of forests are controlled by communities.
  • Of the recorded progress seen in Africa since 2002, 89% comes from the implementation of Tanzania’s Village Land Act (1999) and Forest Act (2002).
  • Only two African countries in the study – Liberia and Mozambique – have statutory frameworks that recognize community ownership of land.
  • Governments of the countries of the Congo Basin, which contains the world’s second largest rainforest, claim legal control of more than 99% of forest land.
  • By 2013, all 12 Asian countries surveyed had implemented some form of community tenure regime, but these laws affect less than 4% of forestland in seven of the nations.

One of  RRI’s campaigns seeks to double by 2018 the amount of land recognized worldwide as owned or controlled by indigenous peoples and local communities. Another effort is focused on REDD+, which RRI describes as “the world’s leading initiative to support forest conservation”. REDD+ promises to respect the rights of indigenous people and local communities to protect forests and to sell the carbon they contain as offsets to polluters seeking to meet emissions targets. The United Nations is leading the negotiations for new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) intended to guide economic development and poverty reduction for the next 15 years. But RRI is concerned that no specific target for land rights has yet been set for the SDGs. – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE There’s plenty of talk at the United Nations and in the corridors of international conferences on making land rights a realiy for forest people. But campaigners say there’s not much action to match. LONDON, 23 February – Forest people’s groups say many governments are failing to protect their right to their ancestral lands, and argue that this neglect is damaging efforts to slow climate change. Their argument is supported by campaigners. Research by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) says the pace of provision of new legal protection for indigenous communities has fallen, despite an increase in professions of support by industry, governments and international initiatives like REDD+ and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. RRI says fewer new laws have been passed to protect indigenous land rights since 2008 than in the six preceding years, and the legislation that has been enacted is weaker. Previous RRI research into 12 emerging market countries found that at least one out of every three hectares licensed for natural resource development overlaps with indigenous community land. When private companies acquire land and resources without first checking who lives there, it says, they expose themselves and their investors to substantial risk, as some level of conflict or business disruption often results. The ownership of almost half the developing world’s rural, forest and dryland areas is contested, according to RRI, directly affecting the lives and livelihoods of over two billion people. They often have no formal title to the lands on which they live and depend, and can seldom legally defend their rights.

Better stewards

An RRI report, Lots of Words, Little Action: Will the private sector tip the scales for community land rights?, examines how land rights and attempts to mitigate climate change through REDD are linked. One of its findings is that REDD+ initiatives are not yet translating into globally significant increases in the area under the ownership and control of indigenous peoples and local communities. Meanwhile, it says, the global forest area covered by industrial concessions is large and growing. Global climate change efforts have a key role to play in securing the land rights of indigenous people and rural communities, it says. And when they are secured, that means less deforestation and more climate change mitigation. Indigenous communities, it is argued, are unlikely to over-exploit forest resources. Their understanding of the forests as the place on which they depend encourages them to resist deforestation and the piecemeal exploitation and destruction of their fauna and flora. Indonesia is the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, chiefly because of deforestation for palm oil and other natural resource extraction. One group, the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN), says those it represents claim 40 million hectares of the country’s rainforests. If they are given stronger rights over their lands, AMAN says, they will help the country to fight deforestation and reduce climate change.

Wide regional variations

The head of AMAN, Abdon Nababan, is urging President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyon to formally implement a May 2013 Constitutional Court decision which declared unconstitutional a line in the country’s 1999 Forestry Law stating that customary forests are state forest. The Indonesian Government controls 96% of the country’s forests. The RRI report also highlights a number of regional differences:

  • In Latin America, communities own or control more than 39% of forests, a direct contrast with sub-Saharan Africa where less than 6% of forests are controlled by communities.
  • Of the recorded progress seen in Africa since 2002, 89% comes from the implementation of Tanzania’s Village Land Act (1999) and Forest Act (2002).
  • Only two African countries in the study – Liberia and Mozambique – have statutory frameworks that recognize community ownership of land.
  • Governments of the countries of the Congo Basin, which contains the world’s second largest rainforest, claim legal control of more than 99% of forest land.
  • By 2013, all 12 Asian countries surveyed had implemented some form of community tenure regime, but these laws affect less than 4% of forestland in seven of the nations.

One of  RRI’s campaigns seeks to double by 2018 the amount of land recognized worldwide as owned or controlled by indigenous peoples and local communities. Another effort is focused on REDD+, which RRI describes as “the world’s leading initiative to support forest conservation”. REDD+ promises to respect the rights of indigenous people and local communities to protect forests and to sell the carbon they contain as offsets to polluters seeking to meet emissions targets. The United Nations is leading the negotiations for new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) intended to guide economic development and poverty reduction for the next 15 years. But RRI is concerned that no specific target for land rights has yet been set for the SDGs. – Climate News Network