Week in Forests, Oct 15, 2010
Death toll rises in New Guinea flash floods linked to deforestation
The death toll from flash floods in Wasior, West Papua has now topped 150.
Environmentalists say heavy logging in the region contributed to the disaster, which blocked access to the town. Some of the injured were evacuated by helicopter.
Chalid Muhammad, chairman of the Green Indonesia Institute, an activist group, said logging, mining, and conversion to plantations in the province of West Papua currently accounts for roughly a quarter of Indonesia’s total deforestation.
Chalid said the West Papua government has granted logging concessions on 3.5 million hectares, mineral and coal mining concessions on 2.7 million hectares, oil and gas exploration licenses on 7.1 million hectares, and plantation concessions on 219,000 hectares.
Fragmented rainforests significantly drier than intact forest
A new study in Biological Conservation shows that edge forests and forest patches are more vulnerable to burning because they are drier than intact forests.
Using eight years of satellite imagery over East Amazonia, researchers found that desiccation penetrated anywhere from 1 to 3 kilometers into forests depending on the level of fragmentation, increasing the risk of fire.
According to a 2008 study, every year some 70,000 square km of forest in the Brazilian Amazon are degraded by logging or turned into edge forest.
Brazil to auction off large blocks of Amazon for logging
Brazil will auction large blocks of the Amazon rainforest to private timber companies as part of an effort to reduce demand for illegal logging.
The government will grant up to 11 million hectares of forest over the next 5 years.
Existing concessions cover only 150,000 hectares, yet Brazil is the world’s largest producer of tropical timber, mostly due to unlicensed logging.
The hope is private management can improve governance in a region where most logging is illegal. Supporters see reduced impact logging as a way for standing forest to generate revenue without compromising the resource base in the long-term. They hope it could stabilize the frontier, where most deforestation occurs.
Critics fear the plan, if not properly managed, could usher in a new wave of deforestation and leave the Amazon at greater risk of drought and fire.
Brazil to launch cloud-penetrating deforestation monitoring system
Brazil will launch a new high resolution deforestation monitoring system that will be capable of detecting forest clearing under cloudy conditions.
INDICAR – or the Imaging and Radar Deforestation Indicator – is being developed to improve Brazil’s already world-class deforestation monitoring capabilities. It will, in near-real time, identify areas of deforestation above 10 hectares, a significant improvement from the current system.
The system will use data from the Japanese Space Agency’s ALOS satellite, which is equipped with both cloud-penetrating radar and optical sensors. Currently, Brazil monitors deforestation year round but does its annual accounting at the end of July when cloud extent is at a minimum in the Amazon.
More than 7,300 climate action events took place on 10/10/10 after a campaign by 350.org, a group working to create political movement toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Dubbed the Global Work Party, participants were encouraged to dig community gardens, install solar panels, plant trees, clean up beaches, and the “good works” for the environment.
New carnivore (swamp beast) discovered in Madagascar
Researchers identified a previously unknown species of carnivore lurking in one of the world’s most endangered lakes.
Durrell’s vontsira, named in honor of the late conservationist and writer Gerald Durrell, was first photographed swimming in Madagascar’s Lake Alaotra in 2004.
Subsequent surveys by scientists confirmed the cat-sized, mongoose-like creature was indeed a new species.
Durrell’s vontsira is the first new carnivorous mammal discovered in Madagascar in 24 years.
Lac Alaotra is Madagascar’s largest, and most endangered lake. Sedimentation from deforested watersheds, pollution from pesticides and fertilizers, and burning and agricultural conversion of the lake’s reed beds have left its ecosystem in dire straights.
Massive logjam in Borneo blocks Malaysia’s longest river
A 50-km-long logjam blocked the Rajang river in Sarawak, a state in Malaysian Borneo, bringing river traffic to a standstill last week.
The source of the logs and debris is believed a major timber camp in the upper parts of the watershed. Heavy rain reportedly triggered a landslide or landslides at log ponds at the camp.
Irresponsible loggers in the region have been blamed for the incident.
Sarawak’s Minister Chief is currently implicated in a corruption scandal involving his ownership of millions of dollars’ worth of property in the United States and Canada. These properties are thought to be linked to payments from Samling, a Sarawak logging company.
Humanity consuming the Earth: by 2030 we’ll need two planets
A new report produced by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Global Footprint Network estimates humanity is living well beyond its means in terms of resource consumption.
The assessment, entitled the Living Planet Report, finds that humanity is currently consuming the equivalent of 1.5 planet Earths every year for its activities.
The report estimates that at current rate of consumption, humanity will need two planets by 2030.
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