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Tropical Conservation Science
Special Issue August 2013 | Vol. 6 | Issue 3 | pages 311-467

Proceedings of the Yale Chapter of the International Society of Tropical Foresters Conferences, February 2010 and January 2011
Guest Editors: Jeffrey Chow, Gabriela Doria, Rachel Kramer, Tina Schneider, and Jeff Stoike


    Forests under a changing climate and innovations in tropical forest management
    (Overview to the Proceedings of the Yale Chapter of the International Society of Tropical Foresters Conferences, February 2010 and January 2011)
    | pages 315-324
    Jeffrey Chow, Gabriela Doria, Rachel Kramer, Tina Schneider and Jeff Stoike
    The future of tropical forests and the global climate are inextricably linked. Recent studies demonstrate that intact tropical forests account for half of the total terrestrial sink for human-induced carbon dioxide emissions. At the same time, a substantial fraction of these emissions comes from the conversion of tropical forests to other land uses. Despite sustained efforts to curb deforestation, forest management that provides for both human livelihoods and biodiversity conservation remains an elusive goal in many parts of the globe. Finding lasting solutions to the drivers of deforestation in the tropics will require innovative problem solving, knowledge-sharing, and increased cooperation between civil society, government, local communities and agricultural producers. On February 11-13, 2010, and January 27-29, 2011, the Yale Chapter of the International Society of Tropical Foresters convened two annual symposia to explore “Tropical Forests Under a Changing Climate: Linking Impacts, Mitigation, and Adaptation,” and “Communities, Commodities, and Carbon: Innovations in Tropical Forest Management.” These symposia brought together keynote lecturers, Yale faculty moderators, academics, practitioners and invited panelists representing tropical regions in Central and South America, Asia, and Africa. The papers profiled in this collection consider potential ecological and socio-economic impacts of climate change on tropical forest countries, the role tropical forest management can play in climate change mitigation and adaptation, and recent ideas and successes in market interventions to conserve tropical forest areas. These proceedings show that there is reason for optimism. With external assistance, local communities highly dependent on tropical forests can not only adapt to climate change but can also contribute to the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, through innovations in governance, technology, supply chain management and cooperative action among stakeholders, alarming rates of deforestation can be slowed while allowing for economic growth.

Opinion Article
    Novel tropical forests: nature’s response to global change | pages 325-337
    Ariel E. Lugo
    We now live in a world dominated by humans (the Anthropocene), whose activities on Earth are resulting in new habitats and new environmental conditions including climate change. To many, the Anthropocene is an era of environmental doom that unless reversed, will result in catastrophic reductions in biodiversity. An alternate view is that the biota will adjust to the new environmental conditions and through processes of species mixing and self-organization will form sustainable novel communities of organisms. Using examples from Puerto Rico, I discuss the conditions that lead to novel forest formation and the characteristics of these forests including their species composition. Novel forests include native tree and animal species but also significant numbers of introduced and naturalized species. These introduced species dominate forest stands and their dominance is not incompatible with the regeneration of native species. I propose that these types of ecosystems might represent the natural response of the biota to the Anthropocene.

Research Articles
    Impact of climate change in Eastern Madhya Pradesh, India | pages 338-364
    This paper draws from experiences of a tribal community of central India to illustrate climate change adaptation strategies, with a focus on their forest, agriculture and livestock practices. Case studies presented in this paper were conducted in eastern Madhya Pradesh, a central Indian province, and underscore measures taken by the tribal community towards sustainable livelihood options. Broadly, livelihoods of tribal households in this region mainly revolve around agriculture and farm-based labour while forest and livestock play a supporting but critical role in the “livelihoods basket”. Erratic rainfall in the last fifteen years has had profound effects on the crop yields that directly impact food security in the region. Unsustainable extraction of most of the forest products over the years has resulted in a significant decline in their output. This situation points towards an insecure future for tribals whom, on average, earn less than 140 USD per year. However, tribals have developed a few alternate livelihood options and have expanded existing ones to prepare themselves to counter climate change-induced impacts. For example, commercial cultivation of horticulture species and vegetables is a new livelihood strategy in this part of the region. Other grassroots-level initiatives, such as modifications to rice planting to increase productivity, vermicomposting, and revegetating a hillock to meet future fuelwood and livestock fodder requirement, further represent departures from traditional tribal practices motivated by climate change.

    Putting the plus first: community forest enterprise as the platform for REDD+ in the Maya Biosphere Reserve, Guatemala | pages 365-383
    Benjamin D. Hodgdon, Jeffrey Hayward and Omar Samayoa
    Over the past fifteen years, community forestry concessions in the Maya Biosphere Reserve, in the Petén region of Guatemala, have helped improve forest management in the region. Local communities have implemented sustainable harvesting practices, and the concession areas certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) were shown to have lower deforestation rates than adjacent non-certified areas. However, while the forest enterprises created by the community concessions serve as a good basis for sustainable forest management, many challenges remain, including the need for continued capacity building in financial and administrative management, and diversification of income streams. One possible source of supplementary funding comes from international efforts to invest in reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+). Rainforest Alliance has been working with the community concessions in the Maya Biosphere Reserve for many years to foster sustainable forest enterprise, and now is collaborating with donors, local and national government institutions, private companies and the local communities to set up the GuateCarbon project. The project seeks to obtain REDD+ funding for 470,000 hectares in the multi-use zone of the Maya Biosphere Reserve. This area could offset up to 33 million tons of CO2-equivalent from avoided deforestation over 30 years, and produce an income of up to US$2 million per year, benefiting over 5,000 families in the concession areas. This initiative has successfully tackled some of the legal and political obstacles to REDD+ implementation in the Petén region, including discussing who owns the carbon in the trees, and which standards the project needs to adhere to. Also, the project has conducted participatory assessments of the potential benefits and challenges of REDD+ with the communities involved. The GuateCarbon experience shows that REDD+ funding could be better invested to support existing community-based sustainable forest management, rather than used to incentivize the shift towards good forest practices in the first place.

    REDD+, Adaptation, and sustainable forest management: toward effective polycentric global forest governance | pages 384-408
    Andrew Long
    The Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) program emerging as a part of the international climate change regime holds the potential to dramatically affect forestry in the tropics. REDD+ has demonstrated an ability to overcome the major political obstacles to earlier efforts to promote sustainable forest management (SFM) in the tropics, but key questions regarding its on-the-ground impact remain. This article suggests that REDD+ can become a successful vehicle for advancing SFM if it is re-conceived to include support for adaptation as one of its primary goals. Some degree of adaptation is necessary to effectively implement any form of REDD+, and SFM practices offer the core toolkit for securing forest adaptation in the context of REDD+. Re-envisioning REDD+ as a dual-focus program aimed at mitigation and adaptation builds upon the potential synergies between these two climate regime goals and calls upon experiences with SFM to provide the means of achieving them. Operationalizing this vision will require development of novel arrangements of authority and incentives across scales of governance that can provide opportunities for learning in support of a larger need for new approaches to governance of global environmental issues. Thus, integrating adaptation into REDD+ can advance not only climate change regime goals, but also long-standing SFM goals and the increasingly apparent demand for more effective international environmental governance generally.

    The case for improved forest management (IFM) as a priority REDD+ strategy in the tropics | pages 409-425
    Bronson W. Griscom and Rane Cortez
    Should loggers in tropical countries receive incentives to shift from high-impact logging to sustainable low-impact logging? For some, the answer is yes because sustainable low-impact logging is one of the only land uses that maintains high diversity forests while providing local jobs and producing a global commodity in places where protection is not feasible. Others argue no, because scarce conservation funds should not be given to corporations that are cutting trees. New funding to reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by logging and clearing of tropical forests has stoked this debate. There are big implications for tropical forest conservation. Over 20% of all tropical forests are zoned for logging, and much more than are set aside for protection. As the human population and demand for wood continues to grow, halting logging is not a viable option. We argue that funding to reduce greenhouse gas emissions should be available to commercial loggers who adopt low-impact practices, as long as the climate benefits are carefully measured, and safeguards to avoid perverse outcomes are followed. Further, we argue that low impact logging should be advanced as a priority conservation strategy where full forest protection is not feasible because it is one of the few conservation strategies than can (i) achieve reliable climate benefits, (ii) generate real benefits to people in rural areas, (iii) maintain native plant and animal species, and (iv) reduce the likelihood of deforestation. The best examples of these linked outcomes are found when commercial logging enterprises are managed by local communities. To make this conservation strategy work well we need more research on credible and affordable methods for measuring outcomes, and we need refined safeguards to ensure that the climate benefits of low-impact logging also generate social and biodiversity benefits.

    Brazil’s Success in reducing deforestation | pages 426-445
    Doug Boucher, Sarah Roquemore and Estrellita Fitzhugh
    Since 2004 Brazil has reduced the rate of Amazon deforestation by more than two-thirds. This success has come despite economic pressure in the opposite direction, from high global prices for soybeans and beef, the two major drivers of deforestation in the Amazon. It represents the largest reduction in global warming pollution achieved by any country so far, and the majority of its cost was paid for by Brazil itself. It came during a period in which the country substantially reduced poverty and hunger and in which the economy and its agricultural output, including that of the soy and beef industries, grew substantially. This article analyzes the factors that have led to Brazil’s success. They include the leadership of the Lula government and its first Minister of the Environment, Marina Silva, at the federal level; strong enforcement of environmental laws by public prosecutors; major steps by state governments, and the incentive provided by Norway from the results-based funding it provided through its REDD+ program. The role of Brazilian civil society, in pushing both governments and the industries driving deforestation as well as changing the political dynamic, was a critical element. The pressure it exerted led to voluntary moratoria on buying soy and beef from deforested lands which have greatly reduced the economic incentives that had previously encouraged commercial farmers and ranchers to deforest. With continued progress in Brazil and other tropical forest countries, it is possible for the world to see an end to deforestation by the end of this decade.

    From Amazon pasture to the high street: deforestation and the Brazilian cattle product supply chain | pages 446-467
    Nathalie F. Walker, Sabrina A. Patel and Kemel A. B. Kalif
    While cattle ranching has long been recognized as the largest driver of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, many consumers are unaware that the beef and leather they buy may originate in Brazil. In 2009, civil society exposure of deforestation linked to the supply chains of major meatpackers, international leather brands and supermarkets led industry to take action. Many companies adopted “zero deforestation” policies and Brazil’s largest meatpackers agreed to reject any suppliers with recent deforestation. But implementation in the long-term will require continued market demand for deforestation-free supplies. In this study, we assess the Brazilian cattle product supply chain in order to identify key markets and the proportion of these markets that have expressed environmental concerns. We find that around three-quarters of Brazilian leather and one-fifth of beef is exported. The U.S. is the largest importer (both directly and indirectly) of Brazilian leather, and Russia is the largest importer of beef. Total cattle product export values tripled between 2001 and 2009 and are projected to continue to rise. Therefore, environmental demands of export markets are increasingly important. Overall, we find that around 40% of beef and 85% of leather production serves markets that have expressed concerns over environmental impacts of their purchases. We assess the size of the clandestine market in Brazil, and estimate it to comprise around one quarter of cattle slaughter. While market concerns about deforestation are supporting the “zero deforestation” policies of legal meatpackers, addressing the clandestine industry’s role in deforestation may require improved governance and other measures.

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   Tropical Conservation Science is an open-access e-journal that publishes research relating to conservation of tropical forests and other tropical ecosystems.

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