How to better tackle deforestation ?


Aerial view of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. Existing maps use satellite images to cover large areas, but don’t always see how much biomass exists. Neil Palmer CIAT for CIFOR

Aerial view of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. Existing maps use satellite images to cover large areas, but don’t always see how much biomass exists. Neil Palmer CIAT for CIFOR

Mapping the world’s biomass to better tackle deforestation

By combining satellite with on-the-ground data, new map offers more accurate biomass information.


One of the early successes in efforts to combat global warming has been a renewed push to tackle deforestation in some of the world’s last remaining tropical rainforests.

But, the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) program – a UN effort to improve forest management in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – has suffered from a lack of dependable data to assist policy makers in quantifying how much biomass is present in the forests of Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America.

There are several data sets available for countries looking to quantify their biomass and, in doing so, establish a baseline that would allow them to demonstrate they are making progress in reducing deforestation. However, because these maps depend heavily on satellite data, they have often been criticized as inadequate.

Read the full story : CIFOR

How ancient civilizations used and conserved water.



Photo credit : Science Daily

This is the base of an excavated depression showing evidence of limestone quarrying for building material.
Credit: Jeff Brewer

How an ancient civilization conserved water

Source: University of Cincinnati


High-resolution, aerial imagery bears significance for researchers on the ground investigating how remote, ancient Maya civilizations used and conserved water.

Collection, storage and management of water were top priorities for the ancient Maya, whose sites in Mexico, Belize and Guatemala were forced to endure seven months out of the year with very little rainfall. As researchers expand their explorations of the civilization outside of large, elite-focused research site centers, aerial imagery technology is helping them locate and study areas that are showing them how less urbanized populations conserved water for drinking and irrigation. The NSF-supported research by Jeffrey Brewer, a doctoral student in the University of Cincinnati’s Department of Geography, and Christopher Carr, a UC research assistant professor of geography, was presented at the 81st annual meeting of the Society of American Archaeology.

The UC researchers used a surveying technology called LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) — along with excavation data — to examine the spatial characteristics, cultural modifications and function of residential-scale water tanks — a little-investigated component of Maya water management by commoners versus the more powerful and visible elites, says Brewer.

LiDAR is a remote sensing technology that collects high-resolution imagery shot from an airplane at 30,000 points per second, allowing researchers to map ground surfaces through dense vegetation. The technology saves a significant amount of time in the field, compared with trekking through forests to locate these small depressions at ground level.

Read the full story : Science Daily

Indigenous Crops Contributing to Food Security


Photo credit: Food Tank

Food Tank has compiled a list of indigenous fruits, vegetables, and grains from across the globe, which may improve health while contributing to environmental sustainability.
Joseph Simcox

31 Indigenous Crops Promoting Health and Contributing to Food Security

According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), just twelve crops provide 75 percent of the world’s food. Three of these crops, rice, maize, and wheat contribute to nearly 60 percent of the protein and calories obtained by humans from plants. Since the beginning of the 20th century, some 75 percent of plant genetic diversity has been lost.

Restoring interest and investment in indigenous crops may offer a solution to food insecurity and the increasing loss of biodiversity. Some traditional plant varieties can help improve nutrition and health, improve local economies, create resilience to climate change, revitalize agricultural biodiversity, and help preserve tradition and culture.

For example, the World Vegetable Center (AVRDC)’s Vegetable Genetic Resources System and Slow Food International’s Ark of Taste are working to catalog indigenous species of fruits and vegetables around the world. And Bioversity International, a research organization in Italy, is delivering scientific evidence, management practices, and policy options to use and safeguard biodiversity among trees and agriculture to achieve sustainable global food and nutrition security.

Botanical Explorer Joseph Simcox travels around the world, documenting and tasting thousands of crops. He traverses the wilderness, interviews villagers, and searches markets across the globe for rare and indigenous crops. Joseph helps preserve species and varieties that are in danger of extinction, improving biodiversity and distributing rare seeds to the public.

Food Tank has compiled 31 indigenous fruits, vegetables, and grains from many regions across the globe. These foods are not only good for the environment, but delicious, too!

Read the full article: Food Tank

Water sources for smallholder farmers


Photo credit: CIAT

CIAT and The Zamorano Pan-American Agricultural School, in coordination with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)/Honduras, began in March the validation and dissemination process of the geographic information system (GIS) tool AGRI (Water for Irrigation, by its Spanish acronym).

Visualización de resultados de AGRI con agricultores de Yamaranguila (Intibucá)


Identifying water sources for smallholder farmers with AGRI



From the office to the field: AGRI ‒ a tool with great potential

The first validations were made in March, the driest month in Honduras and after El Niño, and the tool identified water sources in rivers and streams with enough water flow and from where it is easy to conduct water by gravity to the irrigation systems.


In the case of irrigation systems in operation, the tool identified actual water sources in a few seconds, whereas technicians looked for months for a source and the correct position from where to conduct the water successfully. Additionally, agronomists have highlighted the usefulness of the tool to guide pipe installation, a task that consumes a lot of time and resources in these system implementations.

In the case of water harvest, the tool has identified suitable sites for implementation. At the identified sites, their habitants have confirmed the water accumulation during the rainy season. In some cases, the places identified have evidence of water accumulation and small reservoirs now, in the dry season. Zamorano University currently continues the field validation and the results from this activity will be included in the final version of AGRI.

Read the full story: CIAT

On-field activities to restore over 800 thousand hectares of peatland


Photo credit: Antaranews

Photo document of the former transmigrant on peatlands that have been burned while monitoring hotspots reappear in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan, on Sunday (1 November 2015). (ANTARA/Saptono)

Agency to restore over 800 thousand hectares of peatland areas

Pewarta: Fardah

Two months after its establishment, the Indonesia Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) has claimed that it is now initiating on-field activities to restore over 800 thousand hectares (ha) of peatland areas spread across four districts.

“The (restoration) cost is estimated to reach Rp12 million per ha for five years,” BRG Head Nazir Foead informed the press here, Thursday.

The World Bank and the Center for International Forestry Research had estimated the restoration cost to reach between Rp6 million to Rp36 million per ha, he remarked.

Foead explained that the agency had completed the mapping of the peatland areas in the districts of Meranti Islands in Riau; Ogan Komering Ilir and Musi Banyuasin in South Sumatra; and Pulang Pisau in Central Kalimantan, which need restoration work.

Of the 834,491 ha areas, 77 percent lie within cultivation areas while 23 percent are located in protected areas.

During the last two months, the agency had been busy recruiting personnel and outlining ravaged peatland areas that should be prioritized for restoration and identifying 100 villages whose peatland areas need to be developed further, he explained.

The identification process was carried out in cooperation with the environmental affairs and forestry ministry, the National Development Planning Board (Bappenas), the Information and Geospatial Agency, and NGOs.

Moreover, the agency also continues to work on formulating standard operational guidelines and procedures for preparing infrastructure to provide water to restore and maintain peatlands and nurseries; to conduct replanting activities; and to install borewells.

The locations for conducting the restoration work have been identified and decided based on four criteria: peatland, condition of soil cover, the presence of canals and their impacts, and the history of forest fires over the past five years, according to BRG deputy in charge of planning and cooperation Budi Wardhana.

More detailed mapping of those locations is currently being carried out.

Read the full article: Antaranews

As forest returns in New England, so do inhabitants



Photo credit: Boston Globe

New England sees a return of forests, wildlife

These woods are lovely, dark, and back


A wilderness comeback is underway across New England, one that has happened so incrementally that it’s easy to miss.

But step back and the evidence is overwhelming.

Today, 80 percent of New England is covered by forest or thick woods. That is a far cry from the mere 30 to 40 percent that remained forested in most parts of the region in the mid-1800s, after early waves of settlers got done with their vast logging, farming, and leveling operations.

According to Harvard research, New England is now the most heavily forested region in the United States — a recovery that the great naturalist Henry David Thoreau once thought impossible.

Meanwhile, some creatures of fur and feather have returned at astonishing speed — herds and flocks where there were just remnant populations; clear evidence of ecosystem revivals occurring over decades or even years, instead of centuries.

Read the full story: Boston Globe

Various ways to conserve forests – while making an income from the indigenous communities in Peru


Forests in the Peruvian Amazon stand for far more than just tree cover for these indigenous communities.   Marco Simola  CIFOR

Photo credit: CIFOR

Forests in the Peruvian Amazon stand for far more than just tree cover for these indigenous communities. Marco Simola CIFOR

REDD+ and other imperfect solutions

Indigenous communities in Peru’s Amazon are trying various ways to conserve forests – while making an income from them too.


For Carolina Barbarán, leader of an indigenous Shipibo Konibo community near the Ucayali River, protecting local forests is a major concern – because here, in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon, the future of forests is the future of the people.

“A big threat comes from illegal loggers who steal our timber,” says Barbarán, as she enumerates the challenges she and her community face.

“They can sneak in because the managed forest is too far from the village for us to monitor closely.”

Such illegal activity undermines not only the local environment but also the local economy, which depends on forests and forest products.

Which is why villagers and supporting organizations are always looking for new approaches for conserving the forests and increasing their incomes – including the mechanism known as REDD+, or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.


Since 2012, Barbarán’s community has been involved in a REDD+ project led by the non-profit Association for Research and Integral Development (Asociación para la Investigación y el Desarrollo Integral, AIDER).

The basic idea of REDD+ is to place a monetary value on the carbon emissions that are saved through avoided deforestation.

Read the full article: Forest News CIFOR