Influenced by WRI’s Coastal Capital: Belize — an economic valuation of the nation’s coral reefs - the government of Belize took momentous steps over the past 18 months to protect this unique ecosystem. For example, after the container ship Westerhaven ran aground on a reef in January 2009, the government decided to sue for damages—something that had not occurred with past groundings. The suit was premised on the forgone economic contribution of the damaged reef’s ecosystem services, a first-of-its-kind approach in Belize history. In a landmark decision, the Belizean Supreme Court ruled in April 2010 that the ship’s owners must pay the government ~US$6 million in damages.
In addition to the ruling, the government tightened a number of fishing regulations, including:
Restricting the size limit of Nassau groupers and banning the harvest of parrotfish;
Mandating that all fish fillets brought to landing sites retain a skin patch, facilitating species identification for law enforcement;
Banning spearfishing within marine protected areas.
These outcomes, especially the ecosystem service-based fine, are landmarks for Belize and the Caribbean region, and perhaps for other reef-rich areas too. They should help relieve threats to the Mesoamerican Reef, which underpins a significant portion of Belize’s GDP. For example coral reef- and mangrove-associated tourism contribute to 12 to 15 percent of Belize’s GDP. Reefs and mangroves also protect coastal properties from erosion and wave-induced damage, providing an estimated US$231 to US$347 million in avoided damages per year – or 20% of Belize’s annual GDP.
WRI played an important role in making these outcomes happen. In November 2008, WRI released Coastal Capital: Belize. NGO partners put our findings in front of national legislators. Belize’s Prime Minister attended the launch gala and later cited videos featuring our economic valuation results as key to his decision to approve the new fishing restrictions. Furthermore, days after the Westerhaven incident, the Belize Fisheries and Environment Departments and NGO partners contacted and worked with WRI to calculate compensatory ecosystem-related damages of the grounding which were used in court. The Supreme Court’s ruling even included verbatim language from Coastal Capital: Belize.
Canada’s majestic boreal zone stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific, covering 307 million hectares of forest and woodland and another 245 million hectares of natural landscape. One of the world’s most important ecosystems, it harbors biodiversity, provides livelihoods for local communities, stores large quantities of carbon, and produces paper and timber for use across the world. While much of it remains intact, industrial activity has been invading the old-growth forest.
In response, 21 forest products companies and nine leading environmental organizations, together with Canadian First Nations, signed an historic agreement in 2010 to protect a large swath of this forest and its species at risk, such as the Boreal caribou. The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement suspends new logging in 29 million hectares of forest land until 2013, and calls for the highest environmental standards of forest management within an area of 72 million hectares – twice the size of Germany. Additional forest will be added as the agreement broadens.
WRI and its Global Forest Watch network first put the issue of Canadian old-growth forest loss on the map – literally. We produced a ground-breaking set of maps documenting old-growth forest loss and areas of surviving intact forests. Global Forest Watch Canada’s maps were accepted as objective, accurate, and credible by activist groups, government officials, and companies. They supported advocacy efforts by explaining the global significance of the forests at stake. And they provided key data for the development of the Boreal Forest Agreement, part of an ongoing effort among environmental groups to fully protect 50 percent of Canada’s boreal forest from industrial development.
On May 20, 2011, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono issued a two-year moratorium on new permits for use of natural forest and peatland on 74 million hectares of land - about three times the size of Great Britain. The bold initiative is the pillar of a $1 billion Indonesia-Norway partnership agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and degradation (often referred to as REDD+).
Indonesia is the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitter, due mainly to deforestation. The country has major timber and paper industries and is a leading producer of palm oil, aiming to double production of the commodity by 2020. The moratorium will allow time for Indonesia’s government to review and improve national processes for issuing new permits for forest concessions.
Its operation will be monitored via a map to be published by the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry and a REDD+ Task Force. This will be reviewed every six months and open for public comment, including by civil society groups and the media. This openness and transparency is vital for the partnership’s credibility and accountability.
For seven years, WRI and its Indonesian partners have worked to strengthen the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry’s capacity to document the country’s extensive forest resources and concessions. WRI’s work in support of Indonesia’s new national strategy for palm oil production on degraded land has included mapping, economic and legal analysis, and a pilot project designed to divert planned oil palm concessions away from virgin forests onto nearby degraded land. This strategy provided a powerful argument for the government to use with industry in pushing for the moratorium. WRI’s forestry and climate experts also worked with the Indonesian and Norwegian governments to make data and maps related the moratorium publicly available.
Following record-breaking air pollution across Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, ministers from five Southeast Asian countries will meet in Kuala Lumpur this week for urgent talks on combating the haze.
New analysis of the patterns and causes of the fires in Sumatra that caused the haze highlights serious issues at the kickoff of this 15th meeting of the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze Pollution.
1. First, pulpwood and oil palm concessions have a more significant role in the fires that we earlier thought.
WRI’s analysis shows that that the number of fire alerts per hectare, in other words their density, is three to four times higher within pulpwood and oil palm concession boundaries than outside those boundaries.
Menteri dari lima negara Asia Tenggara akan berkumpul di Malaysia minggu depan untuk sebuah pembahasan penting mengenai usaha mengatasi kabut asap. Hal ini terkait terjadinya kebakaran hutan baru-baru ini yang telah memecahkan rekor polusi udara tertinggi di berbagai wilayah Indonesia, Singapura, dan Malaysia. Beriringan dengan dimulainya pertemuan ke-15 dari Komite Pengarah Tingkat Menteri Sub-Regional untuk Polusi Lintas-Batas (Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze Pollution), analisis mendalam mengenai pola dan penyebab dari api terus berlanjut. Semoga saja krisis terakhir ini dapat memastikan bahwa pertemuan tersebut dapat berlangsung lebih produktif dari 14 rapat sebelumnya, sekaligus mendorong kawasan untuk menemukan penyebab dari kebakaran dan kabut asap tersebut.
Singapore can help Indonesia untangle complex ownership structure of companies to figure out who’s legally responsible if crimes have been committed.
As Malaysia declares a state of emergency with over 200 schools closing, and residents of Indonesia and Singapore continue to suffer from the choking haze, it's time to move beyond the blame game of claims and counter...
Spanning six nations and 500 million acres of land in Central Africa, the Congo Basin contains the second largest contiguous tropical rainforest in the world and is home to a wealth of biodiversity and wildlife. More than 75 million people rely on it for food, fresh water, and shelter. Global demand for the region’s forest and mineral resources is high and growing.
Nowhere is the pressure more intense than in Gabon, a nation with 80 percent of its territory covered by dense tropical forest. With resource use demands spiraling in recent years, Gabon urgently needs better forest management planning if the government is to achieve its goal of becoming an emerging economy while preserving the country’s natural resources.
WRI’s forestry team has been working in Central Africa since 2002 to help nations collect and publish accessible information on forest concessions, logging infrastructure, and protected areas, thus improving transparency and governance in the forest sector.
With assistance from WRI and World Wildlife Fund, Gabon is improving transparency and access to natural resource information by combining forestry, mining, and conservation land use data into a single, public, information atlas. Recognizing the need for vastly improved coordination between various land allocation ministries, as well as the importance of reliable, high quality information for decision-making, the Ministry of Mines, Petroleum, and Hydrocarbons led the initiative in collaboration with the Ministry of Water and Forests. As a result, Gabon can begin to tackle conflicting land use claims and plan for comprehensive and coordinated land use allocation at the national level. In addition, industry and the public, armed with information, can participate more actively in decision-making and monitoring activities.
This multi-stakeholder, multi-sectoral, and transparent approach is setting the foundation for improved land use and management in Gabon.
Coral reefs are the “rainforests of the sea,” supporting a rich diversity of marine life. Globally, they face threats from overfishing, pollution, and human development, as well as from climate change.
The government of St. Maarten recently advanced conservation of these ecosystems when it established the country’s first national park, protecting 1,500 hectares of coral reefs and sea grasses. An analysis quantifying the economic value of the proposed park’s tourism, using WRI’s coral reef valuation method, played a key role in its establishment.
Protecting Nature for People
Reef-related tourism, including diving and snorkeling, is central to St. Maarten’s economy. Reefs and coralline beaches attract 2 million visitors a year, and tourism directly or indirectly employs 75 percent of the country’s population. Reefs and sea grass also nurture fisheries worth US$2 million per year, providing an important source of food and livelihoods for islanders.
Despite their economic value, St. Maarten’s reefs have been degrading for decades due to coastal development and overfishing. In 2010, the St. Maarten Nature Foundation began campaigning for a protected park, using a WRI methodology to show that marine ecosystems contribute US$58 million a year to the country’s economy through tourism and fisheries.
After a negotiation process, the government established Man of War Shoal Marine Park, protecting the island’s most ecologically, economically, and culturally important marine habitats from overexploitation. St Maarten’s conservation milestone also sets a precedent for the wider Caribbean region, where economies depend heavily on coastal ecosystems, yet human activity threatens 75 percent of coral reefs.
Making a Difference: WRI’s Role
WRI’s Coastal Capital project helped make the designation of St. Maarten’s first national park possible. Beginning in 2005, we developed a simple and transparent method for resource managers and conservationists to calculate the economic value of coastal habitats, including reefs.
Resource managers at the St. Maarten Nature Foundation downloaded the Excel-based tools from WRI’s website and used them to collect and analyze data on the economic value of tourism and fisheries within the proposed marine park. After the foundation made its findings public, the economic valuation provided the basis for political support.
To date, WRI and our local partners have conducted economic valuations of coral reefs and mangroves in five Caribbean countries: Trinidad and Tobago, St. Lucia, Belize, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica. As in St. Maarten, we are using the results to build support for policies that help ensure both healthy coastal ecosystems and sustainable economies.
In recent centuries, half the world’s forests have been completely cleared or degraded. Yet this loss is also a great opportunity: More than 2 billion hectares of deforested and degraded land worldwide may have restoration potential.
Recognizing this prospect, in late 2011, the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration (GPFLR) announced the first worldwide call for the restoration of deforested and degraded lands, with a target of restoring 150 million hectares by 2020. WRI is a member of the GPFLR and played a key role in building support for this target – the Bonn Challenge – by working with partners to quantify the restoration potential of the world’s forest landscapes. This work enabled a measurable restoration target to be set.
Restoring Forests, Improving Human Well-being
Forests provide hundreds of millions of people with food, fuel, fiber, and livelihoods. They also store carbon, conserve biodiversity, prevent soil erosion, improve water supply, and promote climate resilience. While international efforts to maintain forest benefits have largely focused on preventing deforestation, momentum is growing for complementary efforts to restore deforested and degraded areas.
In September 2011, a Ministerial Roundtable took place in Bonn, Germany, hosted by the German Government and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on behalf of the GPFLR. This event—in which ministers, private sector CEOs, and high-level representatives of international and non-governmental organizations participated—launched the Bonn Challenge.
The GPFLR is encouraging and assisting countries and companies to restore health and productivity to deforested and degraded landscapes, not just by planting trees, but through creating a mosaic of land uses that benefit both people and nature. A restored landscape can include sustainable agriculture, protected reserves, ecological corridors, agro-forestry systems, and riverside plantings that counter erosion.
In its first year, the challenge inspired pledges by the United States, the Mata Atlântica Restoration Pact of Brazil, and Rwanda to restore a combined 18 million hectares of land. When the goal of 150 million hectares (370 million acres) is reached, an area the size of Mongolia will be underway toward restoration.
Making a Difference: WRI’s Role
WRI played a leading role in the development of the first-ever detailed, global map of forest landscape restoration opportunities, working together with South Dakota State University and IUCN on behalf of the GPFLR. This assessment located more than 2 billion hectares of land with restoration potential worldwide. This map paved the way for the Bonn Challenge by answering three important questions that countries were asking:
“Where might restoration opportunities be located?” (thereby making restoration spatially explicit);
“Who could do restoration?” (thereby showing that most countries can play a role in and benefit from the Bonn Challenge); and
“How much restoration might be possible?” (thereby providing the quantitative basis for the 150 million hectare target).
WRI’s contribution was made possible by financial support from the governments of Germany, United Kingdom, and United States, and from the Program on Forests (PROFOR) and IUCN.
The global market for wood and other forest products is changing quickly. The industry has long struggled to address the problem of illegal logging, which damages diverse and valuable forests and creates economic losses of up to $10 billion a year. In some wood-producing countries, illegal logging accounts for 50-90 percent of total production.
But recent developments indicate that we may be turning a corner: Illegal logging rates worldwide have declined by about 20 percent since 2008.
This was the topic on everyone’s minds at the recent Forest Legality Alliance meeting in Washington, D.C. This meeting brought together nearly 100 members and experts representing a wide array of companies, trade associations, NGOs, and governments involved in the harvest, manufacturing, and trade of legally produced forest products.