The Gulf of Mexico has the largest dead zone in the United States and the second-largest in the world. Dead zones form when excessive amounts of nitrogen and phosphorous wash into waterways and spur algal blooms, depleting the water of oxygen and killing fish, shrimp, and other marine life. The Gulf of Mexico dead zone can range between an astounding 3,000 and 8,000 square miles. At its largest, it’s about the size of Massachusetts.
Reducing this growing dead zone problem is a huge scientific, technical, economic, and political challenge. It’s a conundrum that agricultural and environmental experts from across the United States will deliberate this week at the Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force meeting in Louisville, Kentucky.
Our future is inextricably linked to forests. The social and economic benefits they provide are essential to realizing a sustainable century. A key litmus test of our commitment to this future is our response to a growing, global threat: illegal logging and the criminal timber trade.
Forests are a vital source of biodiversity and livelihoods. More than 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods, including 60 million indigenous people who are wholly dependent on forests. They are also natural carbon storage systems and key allies in combating climate change. They are vast, nature-based water utilities assisting in the storage and release of freshwater to lakes and river networks.
While deforestation is slowing in some places – most notably Brazil – it still remains far too high. The loss of forests is responsible for up to 17 percent of all human-made greenhouse gas emissions, 50 percent more than that from ships, aviation and land transport combined.
As the old adage suggests, it is important to see the forests for more than just the trees. While an estimated 500 million people depend directly on forests for their livelihoods, the entire world depends on them for food, water, clean air, and vital medicines. Forests also absorb carbon dioxide, making them critical to curbing climate change.
Despite some encouraging anti-deforestation efforts in places like Brazil, Indonesia, and Africa, globally, forests are under threat, particularly in the tropics. Between 2000 and 2010, nearly 13 million hectares of forests were lost every year. About 30 percent of the global forest cover has been completely cleared, and 20 percent has been degraded.
This dilemma begs the question: What is the outlook for forests in 2030? Are we missing the opportunity to preserve forests and ensure they continue to deliver the goods and services we need for a growing global population? How can we use forests to build a thriving global green economy?
Asking these questions is important. Finding answers to the challenges they raise is imperative.
Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), one of the world’s largest paper companies, announced earlier this month that it will no longer cut down natural forests in Indonesia and will demand similar commitments from its suppliers. The announcement was received with guarded optimism by Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, World Wildlife Fund, and other NGOs who have waged a persistent campaign to change APP’s forest policies.
Indeed, APP’s new policy—which includes sourcing all material from plantation-grown trees, ceasing clearing of carbon-rich peatland, and engaging more with local communities—is significant, both for the business world and forest conservation. APP and its suppliers manage more than 2.5 million hectares of land in Indonesia and produce more than 15 million tons of pulp, paper, and packaging globally every year. Strong action by APP could indicate that the industry is heading for a more sustainable future.
The question is whether APP will follow this positive announcement with action. The company does not have a strong track record, having defaulted on past commitments to end deforestation.
But APP has something else going for it this time around. A rapidly evolving world of improving corporate practices and powerful technology could provide the right enabling environment for APP’s commitment—and others like it—to succeed.
The world is on track to become a very different place in the next two decades. Per capita income levels are rising, the global middle class is expanding, and the population is set to hit 8.3 billion people by 2030. At the same time, urbanization is happening at an accelerated pace—the volume of urban construction over the next 40 years could equal that which has occurred throughout history to date.
While these projections would bring benefits like reduced poverty and individual empowerment, they have serious implications for the world’s natural resources. Global growth will likely increase the demand for food, water, and energy by 35, 40, and 50 percent respectively by 2030. Add continued climate change to the equation, and the struggle for resources only becomes more intense.
These are just a few of the estimates included in the new Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds report from the U.S. National Intelligence Council (NIC) that was released last month. The assessment, which the NIC puts out every four years, reflects in-depth research on trends and geopolitical changes that may unfold in the next 15-20 years—everything from urbanization to conflict to resource scarcity.
Assessments like the NIC’s are invaluable in providing decision makers with forward-looking insights and analysis. But while the report offers a glimpse into the future, what’s more important is how we respond today to the questions these “megatrends” raise.
Water is a scarce resource in India, especially in the state of Maharashtra, where most rainfall is limited to the monsoon season from June through September. The Government of India has long promoted a Participatory Watershed Development (PWD) approach to deal with this scarcity.
As we enter 2013, there are signs of growth and economic advancement around the world. The global middle class is booming. More people are moving into cities. And the quality of life for millions is improving at an unprecedented pace.
Yet, there are also stark warnings of mounting pressures on natural resources and the climate. Consider: 2012 was the hottest year on recordfor the continental United States. There have been 36 consecutive years in which global temperatures have been above normal. Carbon dioxide emissions are on the rise – last year the world added about 3 percent more carbon emissions to the atmosphere. All of these pressures are bringing more climate impacts: droughts, wildfires, rising seas, and intense storms.
All is not lost, but the window for action is rapidly closing. This decade--and this year--will be critical.
Against that backdrop, experts at WRI have analyzed trends, observations, and data to highlight six key environmental and development stories we’ll be watching in 2013.
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.
Cecelia Song, Ariana Alisjahbana, Kemen Austin, Andrew Leach, Anne Rosenbarger, James Anderson dan ahli lainnya di WRI juga berkontribusi dalam artikel ini. Translation by Andhyta Utami, Andika Putraditama, and Ariana Alisjahbana
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.
Pada pertengahan Juni, yakni puncak dari fenomena kabut asap tersebut, WRI mempublikasikan sebuah rangkaian tulisan yang terdiri atas tiga analisis mengenai kebakaran hutan di Indonesia, menggunakan peringatan titik api dari data satelit NASA dan peta resmi konsesi perkebunan HPH, kelapa sawit, serta HTI pemerintah Indonesia. Kami menemukan bahwa sekitar setengah dari peringatan titik api di Sumatera bertempat di dalam perkebunan kelapa sawit dan akasia, sekaligus mengidentifikasi perusahaan mana yang bertanggung jawab dalam pengelolaan area tersebut. Sejak penerbitannya, analisis dan temuan-temuan tersebut telah direplikasi, dikonfirmasi, serta dikembangkan oleh beberapa organisasi lainnya, termasuk CIFOR, Eyes on the Forest, Greenpeace, dan Union of Concerned Scientists.
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 claims. Instead, we need to look at the facts, learn quickly from the data, and ensure political leaders, companies and communities take appropriate action to prevent this crisis from recurring.
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.
Promoting forest protection and sustainable agriculture in the Amazon region is vital for local livelihoods and biodiversity, as well as for global climate regulation.
In early 2011, the state legislature of Mato Grosso, Brazil passed a controversial new state zoning law (ZSEE) that opened up 50,000 km2 of new forest areas for conversion to agriculture. In February 2012, following a high-profile civil society campaign and a public civil action suit, the law was suspended through an injunction by Mato Grosso’s State Court. The injunction states: “It is true that… there were… vices of form capable of undermining the law… However, more important is that by reason of these vices, there was impairment of natural goods and services and sustainable development, so there is a risk of impairment of human life. This is the strongest argument that… imposes the granting of the injunction.” In March 2012, Brazil’s Federal Zoning Commission ordered the state government to redraft legislation.
The Instituto Centro de Vida (ICV) – a founding partner of the Governance of Forests Initiative (GFI) – led the successful campaign by producing and distributing their analysis of the ZSEE / MT. This analysis was then used by civil society – including indigenous peoples, social movements, and researchers – as well as legislators and prosecutors in Mato Grosso. Civil society used all opportunities—such as seminars, public events, and protest letters—to denounce the new law. Meetings with more 250 people in attendance were convened.
Curbing Forest Loss
Within a month of the Governor sanctioning the new ZSEE, IMAZON, the other GFI partner in Brazil, documented a more than 500 percent spike in deforestation in Mato Grosso. The immediate public outcry, enforcement actions by the state, and the start of the state case in September, however, acted as immediate deterrents, and the rate of deforestation stabilized. However, without the decisions taken by the State Court and the Federal Zoning Commission, this increase in deforestation would likely have lasted longer, as the law effectively sanctioned past clearing and allowed new areas to be cleared.
These decisions marked an important victory for democratic decision-making and government accountability in a region where the rule of law relating to forests and agriculture is sometimes circumvented for political and economic gain.
Making Change Happen: WRI’s Role
GFI is a set of civil society organization partners in the United States, Brazil, Cameroon, and Indonesia dedicated to improving forest governance through evidence-based advocacy.
In 2010, WRI helped ICV to conduct a governance assessment of the Mato Grosso ZSEE process using a diagnostic tool, the GFI Framework of Indicators (v.1), developed by WRI, ICV, and IMAZON. ICV collected information and conducted interviews to compile a record of expert and civil society inputs into the bill’s drafting over 10 years, from 2000-2010. Armed with this evidence, ICV was able to quickly demonstrate the problems with the new law and start the outcry that led to this outcome.
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.
President Obama is in Africa this week to discuss development, investment, health, and, notably, food security. The trip comes on the heels of the president’s groundbreaking announcement of a U.S. Climate Action Plan. So it’s a fitting time for Obama and other global leaders to take notice of a strategy that addresses both climate change and food security in Africa—re-greening.
Re-greening—a process where African farmers manage and protect trees that grow on their farms, rather than cutting them down—is already beginning to transform the continent’s drylands. Supporting and scaling up the low-tech process can not only increase crop yields in drought-prone regions, it can mitigate climate change and reduce rural poverty.
The History of Re-greening in Africa’s Drylands
Re-greening in Africa first garnered international attention back in 2007, when the New York Times published a front page article entitled “In Niger, Trees and Crops Help Turn Back the Desert.” Lydia Polgreen, who was the NYT’s West Africa bureau chief in those days, had visited Niger and reported “at least 7.4 million newly tree-covered acres.” The NYT article revealed that this large-scale re-greening was not due to expensive tree-planting projects, but was the result of farmers protecting and managing young trees that regenerated on their cultivated land.
This re-greening did not happen everywhere. It was observed in particular in dryland regions with high population densities. Life in dryland areas presents many challenges, and farmers and decision makers are continuously searching for ways to restore their resilience and agricultural productivity.
Selama beberapa hari terakhir ini, WRI telah melacak lokasi peringatan titik api yang terjadi di Sumatera. Dalam perkembangan terbaru ini, WRI menganalisis tren historis kebakaran hutan yang terjadi di Sumatera. Baca analisa sebelumnya.
Kebakaran terus terjadi di Indonesia, menyebarkan kabut asap yang menyiksa ke penjuru negeri dan juga Singapura serta Malaysia. Hasil riset terbaru dari World Resources Institute menunjukkan tren yang mengkhawatirkan terkait fenomena kebakaran hutan ini:
Kebakaran yang terjadi saat ini tidak melampaui batas normal tren historis kebakaran hutan yang terjadi di wilayah Indonesia, namun hal ini mungkin berubah jika kobaran api terus membesar.
Kebakaran saat ini adalah bagian dari krisis endemik kebakaran hutan, lahan dan pembersihan lahan yang telah berlangsung sejak lama di Indonesia. Aksi nyata dan tegas jelas dibutuhkan untuk mencegah memburuknya krisis ini.