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Exactly How Do Trees Fight Climate Change?

Tracey Li

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By Tracey Li*

Much is written about the need to reduce deforestation and replant the forests that have been logged for human use and economic development. This is because trees are needed for fighting climate change and vital to the very survival of the planet. But what is it exactly that makes trees and other plants so special?

Climate change is caused, at least partly, by man-made emissions of greenhouse gases which accumulate in the Earth’s atmosphere and trap heat. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), set up in 1988 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and endorsed by the General Assembly of the United Nations, is the leading international body for assessing this phenomenon. Read More »

The challenges of reducing deforestation and how scientific simulations can help

Ben GroomBy Ben Groom

To try to begin to save what’s left of the world’s forests it is important to first ask: Who deforests and why? While this varies considerably in different contexts, some broad patterns exist. Loggers and farmers or cattle ranchers are the ‘actors’ that typically clear forests, but what they do to their land is determined by the political and economic systems that they find themselves in: the prevailing institutions, markets and policies. Chief among the institutional determinants are property rights: that is who owns the rights to the land and timber and how this ownership is regulated and enforced. Of the many economic determinants, the nature of land markets, local labor markets, and migration in and out of the locale are key. Where institutions are weak and markets fail to reflect the full economic value of standing forest cause for concern is warranted. Read More »

Communities need more than money to stop clearing their forests, new research shows.

Valerie Giesen

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By Valerie Giesen*

According to a recent study funded by the World Bank and published in Science magazine, tropical land use change was responsible for 7 to 14 percent of gross human-induced carbon emissions between 2000 and 2005. Forests are valuable storage places for large amounts of carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming when it enters the earth’s atmosphere. This is because plants absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) and transform it into energy necessary for growing in a process called photosynthesis (for details, see the Exactly how do trees fight climate change article by Institute for Advanced Development Studies (INESAD) researcher Tracey Li). Land use changes such as clearing forests for agriculture or construction mean that forests are less able to extract COfrom the atmosphere and store it. Additionally, burning trees—which, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) are made up of around 50 percent carbon—to clear land releases the carbon that was previously stored in the them. Read More »

Policy Intentions and Policy Consequences

DianaWeinholdBy: Diana Weinhold*

Policies designed with the intention of making employment more secure tend to make employment less secure. Policies implemented to ensure that the poor can obtain housing often reduce residential options for low income families. Again and again, we observe that policy intentions and consequences are, at best, loosely correlated, and occasionally even completely at odds with each other.

Thus, we must take care to carefully think through the potential consequences of policies designed – with every good intention – to simultaneously reduce deforestation and improve human well-being. For example, two channels through which such policies could lead to unintended consequences are through its impact on the local labour market and its impact on rural-to-urban migration.

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Could REDD+ Revolutionize Policy to Conserve Forest?

CharlesPalmerBy: Charles Palmer*

Reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD+), if implemented and financed on a broad scale in numerous countries across the world, promises to revolutionise forest and conservation policy. Yet, there remains much uncertainty regarding long-term finance and the mechanisms by which it might be delivered. Uncertainty also plagues the precise form of any future REDD+ regime(s). Project-scale activities to manage, protect, and increase terrestrial carbon stocks are, however, likely to be co-ordinated and managed via national-level policy frameworks. Such frameworks have begun to emerge, for example, in Guyana. Thus, future REDD+ regimes may not lean towards the standalone, project-based approach of many NGOs operating in tropical countries nor follow that of the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

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The forest, protected areas and deforestation around Rurrenabaque

JuanCarlosLedezmaBy: Juan Carlos Ledezma*

In the year of 1971, the Regional Corporation for Development in La Paz Region (CORDEPAZ) was created. It’s main development proposal, with the name “March towards the North”, put forward three different production strategies: i) the creation of a regional development hotspot centered in the San Buenaventura municipality, ii) the construction of a hydro electrical dam in the Bala region, and iii) exploration for fossil fuels in the area for their further extraction. In order to implement these strategies, the construction of roads and promotion of colonization would be required. The main goals of the CORDEPAZ project were eventually not met. However, the construction of roads and the arrival of colonizers from the highlands did take place (nowadays know as intercultural peoples), leading to the occupation of important terrestrial surfaces that itself led to human settlements and the arrival of logging companies.

As a result of this process, by the year 2012, 124,764 hectares have been deforested in Ixiamas, San Buenaventura, and Rurrenabaque with increasing deforestation rates from 2001. In 2009, this region had 35,000 inhabitants out of which 47% lived in rural areas and earning a living through agriculture, cattle ranching, logging, and fishing. Land titles in the region are distributed among protected areas (Madidi and Pilón Lajas), TCOs (Indigenous territories: Tacana I and II, Araona, Uchipiamona, and Pilón Lajas), communal lands, privately owned lands, and public lands (figure 1).

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The Complex Causes of Deforestation

BenGroomBy: Ben Groom*

The causes of deforestation are numerous and vary considerably with the particular context at hand. Despite this some general statements can be made. The actors involved are invariably loggers, farmers or cattle ranchers, and the way in which their activities determine land use and deforestation is governed by the prevailing institutions, markets and sometimes policies. Chief among the institutional determinants are property rights, e.g. to land and timber, and their enforcement. Of the many economic determinants, the nature of land markets, local labour markets and in and out migration are key. Where institutions are weak and markets fail to reflect the full economic value of standing forest, which due to global concern for climate change and biodiversity conservation are in large part held globally, cause for concern is warranted.

Read More »


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