The second most important environmental issue on Earth to day is the proper management of forest lands. The first is farm lands.
Forest need management because they are both a private and community resource and the tendency to permit the owner of title to more or less do what he wants is highly inappropriate for forest lands, not least because the owner will not live to benefit from his best efforts but his community will.
It is inappropriate for any resource, including farmland, but the short term nature of farm land has in fact created management protocols that more or less do the job well enough. That is just another way of saying that good management pays for itself.
A similar economic model needs to be developed for the forests as well. Yield must support the forest management process and the management process must be mandatory.
The exigencies of modern heavy equipment have created exploitation models that are often biologically weak but economically convenient. This will likely devolve into privately owned managed forests and more sustainable harvest practices.
This will be greatly enhanced by the arrival of electric tractors in particular. The reason for this is that we bring back the economics of horse logging to the ordinary forest. There is no pressure to keep the equipment working when it does not waste energy when idle. The wood can be cut and prepared at the operator’s leisure as in horse logging and then skidded out when ready with a fairly small machine whose weight is not overly detrimental to the forest floor.
Before we get there though, it is necessary to properly map the earth’s forests and areas of potential forest restoration. We need to do better than that actually. We need to map individual water sheds so that a full water shed strategy can be developed. The community then needs to create a forest management plan that engages all stakeholders and optimizes the resource for the community.
Such a water shed plan can provide for the all critical riverine refugia that supports the native biology and important riverine fisheries. It can establish detailed tree inventories and audit processes to penalize outright cheating. This rather easy to accomplish if you have a valid tree count to begin with and mill records that fail to jibe. It really hurts to buy back the tree you just cut down.
The plans can be a large as a whole river system or as small as a short tributary. They are naturally assembled.
And yes, in the end it is a global enterprise that will be supported by millions.
World Forest Observatory Needed
Dr Alan Grainger's research shows that a World Forest Observatory will not just need to monitor how deforestation rates decline in future. "To prove cuts in deforestation in a REDD scheme you must know the present deforestation rate accurately. This requires two recent forest surveys, but my research shows that only half of tropical countries at most meet this criterion. So a World Forest Observatory will also have to measure current deforestation rates to provide a reliable baseline."
by Staff Writers
Leeds, UK (SPX) Dec 03, 2009
A new scientific organization is needed to monitor the commitments that will be made by developing countries at Copenhagen to cut their deforestation rates, according to research at the University of Leeds.
Existing government agencies and research groups have failed to make full use of the thousands of satellite images of the Earth's surface collected each week to monitor tropical forests.
Now, a paper published by Dr Alan Grainger in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences outlines how a new body - named the "World Forest Observatory" - could use satellite images to map the world's forests and how they are changing.
The paper also contains the first inventory of national forest surveys for tropical countries - the current method of documenting deforestation. It shows that in the last 40 years only half of countries have had the two surveys needed to construct a deforestation trend. A third have had only one survey, and a tenth no survey at all.
The study follows a timely statement by Gordon Brown at a Commonwealth summit press conference in Trinidad on Friday 27th November, that satellites will be needed to monitor implementation of a Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) scheme.
"The Prime Minister's commitment is vitally important," said Dr Grainger. "But satellites are not a magic pill, and so far we have failed to use them properly."
"We have the technology, but not the organization. In my plan an international network of scientists, collaborating in a World Forest Observatory, would use satellites to measure the world's forests just as astronomers use telescopes to observe the stars. We could ensure that taxpayers' money is wisely spent on REDD and make major discoveries about how carbon and biodiversity are distributed in forests across the world."
His research shows that a World Forest Observatory will not just need to monitor how deforestation rates decline in future. "To prove cuts in deforestation in a REDD scheme you must know the present deforestation rate accurately. This requires two recent forest surveys, but my research shows that only half of tropical countries at most meet this criterion. So a World Forest Observatory will also have to measure current deforestation rates to provide a reliable baseline."
Dr Grainger is part of an international team carrying out a feasibility study of a World Forest Observatory, with funding from the Sloan Foundation in New York. He has also advised the UN Convention to Combat Desertification this year on how to establish a global desertification observing system.
"There is growing interest across the world in making full use of the satellite technology at our disposal to measure the planet so we can manage it better", he said.
"If governments at Copenhagen give their backing to a World Forest Observatory it could be a major outcome of the conference and be the first in a network of global environmental observatories which will make a big difference to our planet.