Indonesia Peatland Swap Plan Questioned Over Deforestation Risk

Indonesia Peatland Swap Plan Questioned Over Deforestation Risk

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Forest fire wipes out vegetation on Varushanadu hill

Forest fire wipes out vegetation on Varushanadu hill

Focus on threat due to man-made forest fire: Experts

Focus on threat due to a man-made forest fire: Experts

THE ASIAN AGE. | SONALI TELANG
Published: Mar 29, 2018, 1:17 am IST
The organisation has written to the state government stating that there has been over 250 instances of forest fire in areas from Panvel to Ratnagiri destroying more than 1,000 acres of forest land over past few months.
The organization has written to the state government stating that there have been over 250 instances of a forest fire in areas from Panvel to Ratnagiri destroying more than 1,000 acres of forest land over past few months.

Mumbai: The Draft National Forest policy focuses on preventing natural forest fires and upgrading the warning process but it makes no mention of the threat posed by man-made forest fires. In Maharashtra, which has the highest cases of forest fire registered in the country, environmentalists have claimed that most of the cases are of man-made fire incidents. The same has been observed in Mumbai and Thane.

The Draft National Forest Policy states, “Adequate measures would be taken to safeguard ecosystems from forest fires, map the vulnerable areas and develop and strengthen early warning systems and methods to control fire, based on remote sensing technology and community participation.” It also mentions that awareness will be created about causes and impacts of fire on forests and local livelihoods.

“Although there has been an acknowledgment on the increasing cases of forest fires, not much has been considered for the prevention of man-made fire in forests. In fact in forest areas of Raigad, there have been consistent cases of deliberate fire by arsonists. As such, apart from regular monitoring, we need better convictions for such miscreants,” said Godfrey Pimenta, Trustee of Watchdog Foundation. The organization has written to the state government stating that there have been over 250 instances of the forest fire in areas from Panvel to Ratnagiri destroying more than 1,000 acres of forest land over past few months.

As per the data submitted in the Lok Sabha last December, around 3,487 incidents of forest fire were recorded in Maharashtra alone in 2017.

While the policy has also highlighted on afforestation activities in the catchment areas for improving the health of rivers, not much focus has been given on the reasons behind the deterioration of these areas, claimed the NGO. “Apart from afforestation, there is an immediate need to check upon soil erosion and denudation in catchment areas of rivers, lakes, and reservoirs,” added Mr. Pimenta.

Mysterious smoking elephant emerges from a forest fire

Mysterious smoking elephant emerges from a forest fire

The Times

Wildlife experts are puzzling over a video of a wild Indian elephant exhaling a small cloud of ash it had picked up from the remains of a fire, which appeared to resemble smoking.

The video, which has only just come to light, was shot in Nagarhole forest in the southern state of Karnataka two years ago by Vinay Kumar, a scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society. The society said that it was the first known evidence of an elephant exhibiting such behavior.

(more…)

Bac Lieu bird sanctuary faces high risk of fires

Bac Lieu bird sanctuary faces high risk of fires

Last update 11:24 | 14/03/2018
The Bac Lieu Bird Sanctuary in the Mekong Delta province of Bac Lieu is facing a level-4 risk of fires, which is likely to be raised to level 5, the level of extreme danger, said the sanctuary management board on March 13.

The lengthy hot spell brought high temperatures to the Bac Lieu Bird Sanctuary that dry canals and make plants more flammable, putting it on high alert for fires

In response to the situation, the management board has worked on shifts round the clock to watch out for the possible fires, cleared bushes and dredged canals over the past month.

It has also mobilized about 40 local residents living nearby to stay ready for any emergency while households living around the park’s buffer zone have been provided training on forest protection and asked to sign commitments that they will not set a fire in the forests.

On March 13, the board teamed up with the local firefighter police to conduct a firefighting exercise with more than 100 people in attendance.

Located in Nha Mat ward, the Bac Lieu Bird Sanctuary is only 7km from downtown Bac Lieu city. The 130-hectare park is home to over 60,000 birds, belonging to about 100 species, many of which are in danger.-VNA

Up in smoke: We need to pay more attention to disappearing trees

Up in smoke: We need to pay more attention to disappearing trees

Trees are dying at unprecedented rates. Can we rethink conservation before it’s too late?
ERIC HOLTHAUS, GRIST03.12.20185:00 PM
This post originally appeared on Grist.

Each year, the Earth’s trees suck more than a hundred billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. That’s an impossibly huge number to consider, about 60 times the weight of all the humans currently on the planet.

Our forests perform a cornucopia of services: Serving as a stabilizing force for nearly all of terrestrial life, they foster biodiversity and even make us happier. But as climate change accelerates, drawing that carbon out of the air has become trees’ most critical role.

Absorbing CO2 is key in a time where each year matters greatly to our ability to avert the worst effects of climate change: Carbon “sinks,” like the wood of trees and organic matter buried in dirt, prevent the gas from returning to the atmosphere for dozens or even hundreds of years. Right now, about a third of all human carbon emissions are absorbed by trees and other land plants — the rest remains in the atmosphere or gets buried at sea. That share will need to rise toward and beyond 100 percent in order to counter all of humanity’s emissions past and present.

For trees to pull this off, though, they have to be alive, thriving and spreading. And at the moment, the world’s forests are trending in the opposite direction.

New evidence shows that the climate is shifting so quickly, it’s putting many of the world’s trees in jeopardy. Rising temperatures and increasingly unusual rainfall patterns inflict more frequent drought, pest outbreaks, and fires. Trees are dying at the fastest rate ever seen, on the backs of extreme events like the 2015 El Niño, which sparked massive forest fires across the tropics. In 2016, the world lost a New Zealand-sized amount of trees, the most in recorded history.

Read more: https://www.salon.com/2018/03/12/up-in-smoke_partner/

Fire destroys 40ha of forest in Gia Lai

Fire destroys 40ha of forest in Gia Lai

Update: March, 11/2018 – 13:00

Viet Nam News 
GIA LAI — A fire that broke out in the Ia Grai protection forest in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai was brought under control on Sunday morning.
However, more than 40ha of a forest, comprising pine trees planted in 2015, was destroyed.
Lê Tiến Hiệp, head of the forest’s management board, said that the fire occurred on Friday afternoon.
More than 200 people from the management board, provincial Border Guards and local residents from Ia Chía and Ia O communes were called to extinguish the fire.
The team managed to temporarily halt the fire on Friday night. However, due to dry conditions and strong winds, the flames reappeared. Ia Grai District authorities called for more firemen from Đức Cơ District to stamp out it.
Ia Grai District authorities kept a close watch on the scene to prevent the fire from re-occurring.
The cause of the fire is under investigation. — VNS

Read more: http://vietnamnews.vn/society/424149/fire-destroys-40ha-of-forest-in-gia-lai.html#Ta8Ig5jgRUbozGrX.97

Policemen, protesters hurt in Cambodian land dispute

Policemen, protesters hurt in Cambodian land dispute

At least seven policemen and two protesters were hurt Thursday in a clash after villagers in northeastern Cambodia blocked a national highway to protest being forced off land they have occupied for at least two years.

Officials and NGO workers said about 200 villagers in Kratie province who have been living on land that was given to a concessionaire to develop into a rubber plantation blocked the road for two hours.

Land disputes became a critical issue in Cambodia in the early part of last decade, as great blocs of land were granted as concessions for logging, rubber, and other economic development projects. Violent and sometimes fatal conflicts between villagers, who rarely held formal land titles, and the authorities, acting on behalf of the concession holders, became common to the point that they were considered to be a threat to political stability.

In 2012, Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a directive suspending new land concessions to private companies and ordering a review of existing ones, though it is not clear the order was effectively implemented.

When bogs burn, the environment takes a hit

When bogs burn, the environment takes a hit

The peat sequestered in the wet ground keeps much of Earth’s carbon out of the atmosphere

BY LAUREL HAMERS 12:00 PM MARCH 6, 2018

In 2015, massive wildfires burned through Indonesia, sending thick smoke and haze as far as Thailand.

These fires were “the worst environmental disaster in modern history,” says Thomas Smith, a wildfire expert at King’s College London. Smith estimates that the fires and smoke killed 100,000 people in Indonesia and neighboring countries and caused billions of dollars in damage. The fires were costly for the rest of the planet, too: At their peak, the blazes belched more climate-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each day than did all U.S. economic activity.

Two years later and 13,000 kilometers away, a fire smoldered on the fringes of a barren, northern landscape. The remote blaze could have gone unnoticed. But Jessica McCarty and other fire researchers actively monitor satellite imagery of Earth the way some people check Facebook. One Sunday in August, McCarty, of Miami University in Ohio, was surprised to see massive plumes of what appeared to be white smoke over a swath of Greenland. The giant landmass had not been on her fire radar. It’s mostly ice and the parts that don’t have sparse vegetation.

The settings of these two blazes couldn’t have been more different, but scientists suspect the two had something important in common: plenty of decaying organic matter known as peat.

Peatlands — which include bogs, other swampy wetlands and, yes, Greenland’s icy soil — are ecosystems rich in the decayed organic matter.

In their healthy, soggy state, peatlands are quite fire resistant. So when it comes to fire risk, peat-heavy landscapes haven’t historically gotten the same attention as, say, the dry pine forests of the western United States. But with those devastating peat fires in Indonesia, the spotlight has turned to the planet’s other peatlands, too.

Worldwide, peatlands store massive amounts of carbon in thick blankets of wet organic matter accumulated in the ground over centuries. And though they cover just 3 to 5 percent of Earth’s land surface, peatlands store a quarter of all soil carbon. That adds up to more carbon than all of the world’s forests combined.

But changes in land use — draining the water to plant acres of crops that demand drier soil, a common practice in tropical regions, or building a road through an area — can dry out the peat. And then, a single carelessly tossed cigarette or an errant lightning strike can ignite a fire that will smoke and smolder for months, releasing thousands of years of stored carbon as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Or fires set to clear land for agriculture can get out of hand like they’ve done in Indonesia: Over the last few decades, the country has drained many of its peatlands to grow oil palms and other crops. Now, the country is seeing the worst-case scenario of what can happen when peatlands are disrupted and desiccated. In northern latitudes, meanwhile, thawing permafrost exposes peat that has been buried for years, which can fuel fires like those seen in Greenland last summer.

In the short term, peat fires clog the air with deadly smoke and smog. In densely populated areas such as Indonesia, blazes can devour homes and businesses and claim lives. But the fires’ impact lingers long after the flames die down. Peat fires reshape entire ecosystems. Once the peat burns away, it can take thousands of years to build up again. And all of the carbon that was once neatly stored away is instead floating around in the atmosphere, contributing to climate change much like burning coal does.

Now, scientists are trying to get a better handle on peatlands and the effects of agriculture, development and a climate that’s shifting toward warmer and drier. Recent discoveries of hidden peatlands in Africa and South America expand the extent of peat around the world, and up the stakes for protecting those carbon stores. New research is making it increasingly clear that, without a shift in approach, humans might strip away healthy peatlands and get, in return, a lot of climate-warming carbon dioxide.

Read more: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/bogs-peatlands-fire-climate-change

Physics theory explains patterns of deforestation in the tropics

Physics theory explains patterns of deforestation in the tropics

Scientists get a handle on sizes of forest fragments using percolation theory

Predicting rising numbers is usually good news in ecology, but not if they are forest fragments. Current rates of deforestation could cause a 33-fold increase in forest fragments over the next 50 years, shows a study published in Nature.

Deforestation, fuelled by factors including habitat conversion and timber production, causes fragmentation. As large forests are cut into pieces, biodiversity suffers and carbon is also lost. To study patterns of tropical forest fragmentation, scientists at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (Germany) used remotely-sensed images to map more than 130 million forest fragments across 427 million hectares in the Americas, Asia, Africa and Australia.

They found that fragment sizes in three continents followed similar frequency distributions. The number of forest fragments smaller than 10,000 hectares, for instance, is similar in Central and South America (11.2 %), Africa (9.9 %) and south-east Asia (9.2 %).

“This is surprising because land use noticeably differs from continent to continent,” said mathematician and lead author Franziska Taubert in a press release. While habitat conversion is what plagues the Amazon, it is logging of commercially-important forest trees in south-east Asia.

Read more: http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/physics-theory-explains-patterns-of-deforestation-in-the-tropics/article22845393.ece