By Agustín del Castillo
For 20 years, the Colima fir tree (Abies colimensis) has been at the heart of many disputes to conserve the temperate forests of southern Jalisco, a state in central Mexico. Today, the future of this tree rests upon whether the area's avocado crops will advance further and whether neighboring communities will unite to protect it.
The Nevado de Colima volcano stands 4,260 meters (13,976 feet) above sea level. Agustín del Castillo<p>According to biologist José Villa Castillo, the director of Nevado de Colima National Park and Nevado de Colima Cloud Forest State Park, it is imperative to stop the commercialization of the tree's timber and to create policies that conserve the forests in which it lives. Villa Castillo also supported the inclusion of the tree on the endangered species list.</p><p>Villa Castillo acknowledged the enormous challenge of conserving this tree, and he said the pressure to exploit its timber without sustainable management is far from the only problem. The expansion of the nearby avocado industry also threatens its survival.</p><p>When allowed to grow, the Colima fir tree can become monumental: It can reach 60 meters (196 feet) in height and 2 m (6.5 ft) in diameter. To protect this giant, specialists and communities often promote ecotourism and conservation projects inside the national and state parks that surround the Nevado de Colima volcano.</p>
Fires That Clear Land for Avocado Crops<p>In 2012, a group of researchers from the University of Guadalajara proposed to the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) the recognition of the <em>A. colimensis</em> as a unique species to differentiate it from the sacred fir (<em>A. religiosa</em>), which is the dominant fir tree in the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, a collection of volcanoes in central Mexico.</p><p>The Colima fir tree "has extremely low genetic diversity; it has the lowest known genetic diversity among all the species in the Abies genus in Mesoamerica and one of the lowest among all the species of trees on the planet," according to the authors of the proposal to recognize the tree as an endangered species. The area it occupies "is very limited": just 15,002 hectares (37,071 acres), or 0.007% of the territory of Mexico.</p><p>The Nevado de Colima volcano, which stands 4,260 meters (13,976 feet) above sea level, is one of only eight peaks that exceed 4,000 m (13,123 ft) in Mexico. It is only 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Pacific Ocean and is considered an "evolutionary island" because the ecosystems in its high-altitude areas drive unique adaptations in species and are cut off from other ecosystems by hundreds of kilometers. The Colima fir tree is an example of the area's biological differentiation, according to Libertad Arredondo, a researcher and expert on the ecology of high mountains.</p>
The fir forests are mainly located in the middle of slopes or in ravines. Agustín del Castillo<p>Even though the tree has remained on that "evolutionary island," its situation has become increasingly complicated by the impact of deforestation, which was propelled by the issuance of permits for forest exploitation. Fires, started to convert the land to agriculture or other uses, also present a threat to the ecosystem, according to the experts who suggested the tree should be considered endangered.</p><p>The researchers said the tree's future prospects are further complicated by its slow growth rate, its high degree of genetic erosion, the effects of climate change, and the movement of clouds to higher altitudes. The position of clouds is crucial because they act as an essential source of moisture for fir trees.</p><p>Villa Castillo, an expert in pine genetics and reproduction, said the Colima fir tree has never been successfully reproduced in nurseries, which would likely make it impossible to conduct reforestation efforts to help repopulate the species.</p><p>The forests that contain the Colima fir tree are in cold, humid climates, with very little light reaching the understory, and they're mainly located in the middle of slopes or in ravines. The species thrives when surrounded by oak trees, coniferous trees and other types of vegetation common in mountainous cloud forests. The tree also requires a primary habitat with little disturbance from humans.</p><p>According to Villa Castillo, fire kills most Colima fir tree seedlings, as it kills seedlings of other species in the <em>Abies</em> genus. In recent years, more fires have been started in the forest to clear the way for avocado trees.</p>
A tree and other vegetation in the cloud forest surrounding the Nevado de Colima volcano. Agustín del Castillo<p>Sonia Navarro Pérez, a researcher from the University of Guadalajara who has monitored and conducted biological inventories in the area, has seen firsthand how the growth of the avocado industry has led to the loss of important forested areas.</p><p>She described the case of the indigenous community of San José del Carmen, which is in the municipality of Zapotitlán de Vadillo, near one of the patches of forest.</p><p>"We were working with them to establish productive alternatives that are good for nature," Navarro Pérez said. "But when the avocado came, it overwhelmed us completely."</p><p>Since 2013, the coniferous forests around the Nevado de Colima volcano have lost nearly 6,600 hectares (16,300 acres) due to illegal logging, livestock rearing and intentionally set fires, according to Mexico's deforestation risk index developed by the <a href="https://www.gob.mx/inecc" target="_blank">National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change</a>.</p>
A section of cloud forest in San José del Carmen, inside the state park created in 2009. Community members have been protecting the forest voluntarily for over two decades. Agustín del Castillo<p>"[What was once] an original area of 7,000 hectares [17,300 acres] of fir-specific forest is now cut in half," said Villa Castillo, the director of the Nevado de Colima national and state parks.</p><p>The expansion of the avocado crops is the most recent threat in a series of events that have negatively impacted the conservation of the forests in the area.</p><p>Between the 1940s and the 1990s, the Atenquique Industrial Company had exclusive rights to use the timber from these forests under a concession from the Mexican government. The result was "that the forests were skimmed — that is, they took the best parts," Villa Castillo said.</p><p>When the concession expired in 1995, the forests did not experience a transition to a sustainable timber extraction method. Those who, along with landowners who held small plots, had rights to the shared land were limited to selling the forested areas, at very low prices, to the new logging industries located in Ciudad Guzmán. "Then, there were many abuses against the communities. The money was given to the caciques" — families who have always controlled the shared land — "alms were left for the community, and our forests were very poorly managed," said Rafael González Merín, the former president of Huescalapa, a collective of communally owned farmland known as an <em>ejido</em>.</p><p>As a result, many residents of the community believe the solution is to conserve the forests with productive projects.</p>
Communities Pitch in to Save Their Trees<p>Unlike the communities that have been overtaken by the avocado industry, Huescalapa has largely managed to resist its arrival. The community of shared land, which spans more than 1,200 hectares (3,000 acres), is home to pine and fir trees within its shady temperate forests.</p><p>The residents of Huescalapa have also set aside the proposals they've received from the forestry industry, which has expressed interest in buying their trees.</p><p>According to Gerardo Bernabé Aguayo, logging activity in this area of Jalisco "has been very negative because the industry has managed delicate areas — with very limited species — poorly, so we are supporting and launching projects with the communities." Bernabé Aguayo is the president of the board of trustees of Nevado de Colima and Adjacent Basins, a civil association created about 20 years ago after being promoted by the government of the state of Jalisco. To support the conservation of the national and state parks, the board has financing from the regional private sector.</p><p>The board manages about 6 million pesos ($268,000) contributed by the federal government in 2020. With resources from the private sector, it has been able to access an additional 1.5 million pesos ($67,000).</p>
An area of fir trees that has been destroyed by logging. Agustín del Castillo<p>Rodrigo Cantera Hernández, the president of the El Alcázar Ecotourism Center, said that in Huescalapa, the caciques removed timber from the fir forests, "but they did not report any money to the other community members, so we fought to eject them and were able to do so a couple of years ago."</p><p>In Huescalapa, three main conflicts over timber have taken place in the past 20 years. First, in 1999, a group of community members sold part of the forest to a forestry industry from Ciudad Guzmán. A movement led by citizens put an end to the logging five months later.</p><p>Next, in 2012, environmental authorities granted permission for forest exploitation in these areas, so fir trees continued to be cut down. An opinion by the <a href="https://www.ideaac.org.mx/" target="_blank">Institute of Environmental Law</a>, a civil society organization, cited scientific evidence that demonstrated the uniqueness of mountain fir trees and forced SEMARNAT to withdraw these permissions.</p>
The citizens of Huescalapa formed a cooperative to launch the El Alcázar Ecotourism Center. El Alcázar Ecotourism Center<p>Then, in 2015, a federal judge suspended a new authorization to exploit timber in the cloud forest.</p><p>For communities like Huescalapa to have economic options that do not involve the use of timber because of the detrimental effects that this may have on the remaining population of Colima fir trees, ecotourism and similar activities are promoted.</p><p>According to Bernabé Aguayo, the goal is for the natural forest to be conserved as "a key area for contemplation, enjoyment, the preservation of environmental services, and research."</p><p>In 2019, the cooperative in El Alcázar received 1 million pesos ($44,600), which allowed it to have the basic infrastructure for the ecotourism center. The cooperative may receive an additional 3 million pesos ($133,800) in 2020 to purchase more equipment and improve the roads, but support for this funding was blocked in a community assembly. "They have not understood that it is for the benefit of everyone, that it is not money for our pockets," said Cantera Hernández, the president of the cooperative.</p><p>In Huescalapa, one of the challenges that interferes with efforts to promote the ecotourism center is the division that exists between community members. Many seek to use the timber, but others are already convinced of the importance of conservation.</p><p>Villa Castillo, the director of the Nevado de Colima national and state parks, emphasized that projects similar to the El Alcázar Ecotourism Center are being promoted in San José del Carmen and Zapotitlán de Vadillo, which are very close to the border between the states of Jalisco and Colima.</p>
María de la Luz Cortés Reyes, the leader of the Amixtlán cooperative, which was created in San José del Carmen. Agustín del Castillo<p>The Amixtlán Ecotourism Center is located in the community of San José del Carmen. A cluster of cabins marks the entrance to the cloud forest, designated a state park since 2009.</p><p>"We decided to protect our forest long before they declared the state park, 20 years before then," said María de la Luz Cortés Reyes, a community leader in San José del Carmen. She recalled that when loggers came with offers to buy the forest, members of the community believed that they offered very little payment and that "the damage [that the loggers left] was too much." For that reason, they decided "not to touch the forest, because it produces water for the crops and for our houses."</p><p>Cortés Reyes said the community was able to construct the ecotourism center because it had resources managed by the Nevado de Colima Cloud Forest State Park and by the Board of Trustees of Nevado de Colima and Adjacent Basins. However, she said it is important that more promotion is given to the area and that urgent problems, such as those with the water supply system, are resolved.</p>
A view of the Nevado de Colima volcano from the Amixtlán Ecotourism Center in San José del Carmen. Agustín del Castillo<p>In the community of Zapotitlán de Vadillo, citizens also promoted the Puerta de la Hacienda Ecotourism Center, where administrators support the biocultural production of mezcal, an alcoholic beverage made from agave. The drink is made by two <em>mezcaleros</em>, or people who are experts in creating mezcal: Marcario Partida from Zapotitlán de Vadillo, and Rosario Pineda from Tetapán, a small community in Zapotitlán de Vadillo.</p><p>Other productive projects that are promoted in the communities include the organic production of eggs, such as by Efigenia Larios, a small producer from the community of El Tecuán. Additionally, the shared land communities of Zapotitlán de Vadillo, San José del Carmen and Huescalapa are provided with equipment for fire prevention and materials to help restore the forest soil.</p><p>Artists have painted murals that shine a spotlight on forest conservation in San José del Carmen and Zapotitlán de Vadillo.</p><p>The intention of these efforts is to allow those who own land or have rights on this fragile mountain to "understand that there are other options besides logging, and that they, too, can generate development," said Arredondo, the researcher who specializes in the ecology of high mountains.</p><p>Despite the strong pressure for land use changes brought by the avocado agroindustry and fostered by the high level of impunity that often prevails in rural areas, many of the area's landowners continue to search for a model in which their forests can remain standing.</p><p>"Many neighbors say that we are foolish for not wanting to sell this beautiful forest that we have, but that money only lasts for a short time," said José Avalo Lino, a farmer in San José del Carmen. "We are so certain of [the importance of] preventing logging that, long before the declaration of the natural protected area, our community assembly had already decided to save this forest. We will continue to be 'foolish' in this decision."</p>
On hot summer days, trees help cool city neighborhoods. And during extreme storms, they help absorb stormwater and reduce flooding.
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By Fino Menezes
Imagine an information superhighway that speeds up interactions between a large, diverse population of individuals, allowing individuals who may be widely separated to communicate and help each other out. When you walk in the woods, this is all happening beneath your feet. No, we're not talking about the internet, we're talking about fungi. As a result of a growing body of evidence, many biologists have started using the term "wood wide web" to describe the communications services that fungi provide to plants and other organisms.
All trees all over the world form a symbiotic association with below-ground fungi These are fungi that are beneficial to the plants and explore the soil. The fungi send mycelium, a mass of thin threads, through the soil. The mycelium picks up nutrients and water, brings them back to the plant, and exchanges the nutrients and water for a sugar or other substance made by photosynthesis from the plant. AlbertonRecord.co.za
This Win/Win Is a Mutually Beneficial Exchange.<p>While researching her doctoral thesis some 20+ years ago, ecologist Suzanne Simard discovered that trees communicate their needs and send each other nutrients via a network of latticed fungi buried in the soil – in other words, she found, they "talk" to each other.</p><p>Simard showed how trees use a network of soil fungi to communicate their needs and aid neighboring plants.</p><p>Since then she has <a href="https://e360.yale.edu/features/exploring_how_and_why_trees_talk_to_each_other" target="_blank">pioneered further research</a> into how trees converse, including how these fungal filigrees help trees send warning signals about environmental change, search for kin and how they transfer their nutrients to neighboring plants before they die.</p><p>All trees all over the world form a symbiotic association with below-ground fungi. These are fungi that are beneficial to the plants and explore the soil. The fungi send <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mycelium" target="_blank">mycelium</a>, a mass of thin threads, through the soil. The mycelium picks up nutrients and water, brings them back to the plant, and exchanges the nutrients and water for a sugar or other substance made by photosynthesis from the plant.<br></p><p>It's this network that connects one tree root system to another tree root system, so that nutrients and water can exchange between them.</p><p>The word "<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mycorrhiza" target="_blank">mycorrhiza</a>" describes the mutually-beneficial relationships that plants have in which the fungi colonize the roots of plants. The mycorrhizae connect plants that may be widely separated.</p><p><em>Source: <a href="https://albertonrecord.co.za/182186/enviro-monday-trees-talk-via-wood-wide-web/" target="_blank">AlbertonRecord.co.za</a></em></p>
Check Out This Example of Networking Opportunities.<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQwNDY2My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMDQyOTU1NH0.gS6l5LALZ03XGZcpsu7tNdwva4CVVu24OWP-y8aoe7c/img.jpg?width=980" id="0753b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1b67821fe3e5fffa9f1e5f3524f1dd45" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b60fc5a18576b318f64ec14735adb6bd"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/yWOqeyPIVRo?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><span style="background-color: initial;">BBC News</span> <span style="background-color: initial;">Trees talk and share resources right under our feet, using a fungal network nicknamed the Wood Wide Web. Some plants use the system to support their offspring, while others hijack it to sabotage their rivals.</span> <span style="background-color: initial;"><em><a href="https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=yWOqeyPIVRo" target="_blank">YouTube/BBCNews</a></em></span></p>
The Wood Wide Web Is Earth's Natural Internet.<p>While mushrooms are the most familiar part of a fungus, most of their bodies are made up of mycelium. These threads act as a kind of <span style="background-color: initial;"><a href="http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20141111-plants-have-a-hidden-internet" target="_blank">underground internet</a></span>, now referred to as the "wood wide web" linking the roots of different plants and different species.</p><p>By linking to the fungal network they can help out their neighbors by sharing nutrients and information or by sabotaging unwelcome plants by spreading toxic chemicals through the network.</p><p>Fungal networks also boost their host plants' immune systems. Simply <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10886-012-0134-6" target="_blank">plugging in to mycelial networks</a> makes plants more resistant to disease.</p><p>Trees in forests are not really individuals. Large trees help out small, younger ones using the fungal internet. Without this help, Simard thinks many seedlings wouldn't survive. She found that seedlings in the shade, which are likely to be short of food, received carbon from other trees.</p><p>Learn more about the harmonious yet complicated social lives of trees and prepare to see the natural world with new eyes with Suzanne Simard's TED Talk, below.</p><p><em>Source: </em><em><a href="https://albertonrecord.co.za/182186/enviro-monday-trees-talk-via-wood-wide-web/" target="_blank">AlbertonRecord.co.za</a></em></p>
<iframe src="https://embed-ssl.ted.com//talks/suzanne_simard_how_trees_talk_to_each_other.html" width="100%" height="480" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="dc9f3e37a41679cf92091e0d3dde88a2"></iframe><p><span style="background-color: initial;">"A forest is much more than what you see," says ecologist Suzanne Simard. Her 30 years of research in Canadian forests have led to an astounding discovery -- trees talk, often and over vast distances. Learn more about the harmonious yet complicated social lives of trees and prepare to see the natural world with new eyes.</span> <span style="background-color: initial;"><em>Source: <a href="https://www.ted.com/talks/suzanne_simard_how_trees_talk_to_each_other" target="_blank">TED.com</a></em></span></p><p><span style="background-color: initial;"><em><a href="https://www.ted.com/talks/suzanne_simard_how_trees_talk_to_each_other" target="_blank"></a></em></span>Simard suggests four simple solutions for more holistic and sustainable forestry that could end the damage caused by clear cutting:</p><ul><li>We need to get out into our local forests more.</li><li>We must save old growth forests as they are the repositories of genes, mother trees and mycelium networks.</li><li>Where we do cut, we must save the 'legacy' mother trees and networks so they can pass their wisdom onto the next generation of trees.</li><li>We must regenerate our forests with a diversity of species.</li></ul><p>As more and more information comes to light about the complex relationships existing between trees, we are better equipped to save our forests and help them thrive. Scientists like Simard are helping us change our perspective so that we work in harmony with nature; something that could dramatically alter the trajectory of environmental disaster and bring harmonious outcomes for both humans and trees.</p><p><em>Source: <a href="https://upliftconnect.com/trees-talk-to-each-other-in-a-language-we-can-learn/" target="_blank">UpliftConnect.com</a></em></p>
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By Kimberly White
Ethiopia has set out to plant 5 billion tree seedlings this year. The planting is part of the country's larger reforestation initiative spearheaded by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c57b680fc8a76cad4a9f40a150052d7c"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/xKnui76uFEo?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
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By Lauren Waller and Warwick Allen
But there is ongoing debate about whether to prioritize native or non-native plants to fight climate change. As our recent research shows, non-native plants often grow faster compared to native plants, but they also decompose faster and this helps to accelerate the release of 150% more carbon dioxide from the soil.
How Non-Native Plants Change the Carbon Cycle<p>There is uncertainty in our climate forecasting because we don't fully understand how the factors that influence carbon cycling - the process in which carbon is both accumulated and lost by plants and soils - differ across ecosystems.</p><p>Carbon sequestration projects typically use fast-growing plant species that accumulate carbon in their tissues rapidly. Few projects focus on what goes on in the soil.</p><p><span></span>Non-native plants often <a href="https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/full/10.1146/annurev-ecolsys-102209-144650" target="_blank">accelerate carbon cycling</a>. They usually have less dense tissues and can grow and incorporate carbon into their tissues faster than native plants. But they also decompose more readily, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/51402506_Plant_species_traits_are_the_predominant_control_on_litter_decomposition_rates_within_biomes_worldwide" target="_blank">increasing carbon release</a> back to the atmosphere.</p>
Planting Non-Native Trees Releases More Carbon<p>We established 160 experimental plant communities, with different combinations of native and non-native plants. We collected and reared herbivorous insects and created identical mixtures which we added to half of the plots.</p><p>We also cultured soil microorganisms to create two different soils that we split across the plant communities. One soil contained microorganisms familiar to the plants and another was unfamiliar.</p><p>Herbivorous insects and soil microorganisms feed on live and decaying plant tissue. Their ability to grow depends on the nutritional quality of that food. We found that non-native plants provided a better food source for herbivores compared with native plants – and that resulted in more plant-eating insects in communities dominated by non-native plants.</p>
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By Shannon Brown
Hawaiian myth says that 'ōhi'a lehua trees were created by Pele, the goddess of fire and creator of the Hawaiian islands. Spurned by a handsome young warrior, ʻŌhiʻa, she turned him into a twisted tree; the other gods, out of pity, turned his heartbroken lover, Lehua, into a flower, so that they would be joined together forever.
Today, 'ōhi'a lehua trees are suffering for a different reason: a fungal disease called rapid ʻōhiʻa death (ROD) is spreading swiftly through Hawaiian forests and killing the trees.
Looking Ahead<p>Researchers are also working to understand more about the disease and how it spreads.</p><p>"One of the key principles that we study is called the disease triangle," Keith said. "You have your fungus, you have a susceptible host, and you have the environment." She is assessing each of these to determine whether there's a way to combat the pathogen.</p><p>In her lab, she is inoculating seedlings with the fungus and studying their response. Some show resilience against it, which means they might be able to be used for future replanting efforts.</p><p>The fungus seems to prefer humid, low-elevation environments. Keith has tested trees at various elevations and found that those higher up seem to be protected somehow. "They're susceptible, you have the pathogen, but because of the environment they don't actually get the disease," she said. "On the other hand, a tree at sea level could be dead in 45 days."</p><p>Keith is also involved in the testing of samples, and recently developed a molecular test that can determine within hours whether the fungus is present, and if so, which strain. Previous testing methods could take up to a month.</p><p>Scientists are studying ways to reduce damage to the trees' bark. Everyday human activity such as mowing grass or trimming trees can leave gashes, Friday said. "We've seen many cases where, for example, someone puts in a driveway and they prune all the trees along the driveway, and they'll all die," he said. And in areas without humans, natural events such as winds or storms can still cause branches to come down.</p>
Current Projects, Remaining Questions<p>New developments in eradication efforts include a remote-sensing system and a branch-sampling device that can take wood samples in remote locations. Both were created in 2019 by Ryan Perroy, an associate professor of geography and principle investigator at the UH Hilo <a href="http://spatial.uhh.hawaii.edu/home.htm" target="_blank">Spatial Data Analysis and Visualization</a> lab. For the sampling device, he modified an existing drone from Swiss researchers at <a href="https://ethz.ch/en.html" target="_blank">ETH Zürich</a>.</p><p>The branch sampler still has some technical problems to work out before it is fully operational.</p><p>Sometimes ROD doesn't spread all the way out to the tips of branches, or if it does, the branches become so brittle that they can't be transported. However, sawing off larger branches would create dust, which researchers want to avoid.</p><p>Still, the device would allow researchers to verify the presence of the disease. "We could then send people in if it was determined to be worthwhile to do so," Perroy said.</p><p>The scientists encourage residents to avoid transporting wood or injuring 'ōhi'a, and to clean tools, clothing, shoes and even vehicles before and after entering forests. They successfully implemented a program to decontaminate hikers and tour operators in sensitive areas, which tourists enthusiastically comply with, Friday said.</p>
More than a third of the world's old growth forests died between 1900 and 2015, a new study has found.
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By Hans Nicholas Jong
The Indonesian government has backed down from a decision to scrap its timber legality verification process for wood export, amid criticism from activists and the prospect of being shut out of the lucrative European market.
by Rhett A. Butler
Despite the global economic slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon appears to be continuing largely unabated with forest clearing over the past 12 months reaching the highest level since monthly data started being released publicly in 2007, according to official data released Friday by the country's national space research institute INPE. Forest loss in Earth's largest rainforest has now risen 13 consecutive months relative to year-earlier figures.
Official Brazilian government data showing annual deforestation (Aug 1-Jul 31 year) in the Brazilian Amazon since 1988.
Amazon rainforest canopy in Brazil. Rhett A. Butler / Mongabay
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By Richard Orange
The harvesting machine takes just one second to fell the towering spruce, and another to strip the branches and scan its trunk for defects.
Demand for Wood<p>According to the latest figures from the <a href="http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/1256261/icode/" target="_blank">UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)</a>, global forest production hit record levels in 2018. Up 11% on the year before.</p><p>"We see an increasing demand for almost all of our products," says Göran Örlander, strategist at Södra, Sweden's largest association of forest owners. "The most obvious demand is for biofuels at the moment. Everybody wants to have biofuels to replace fossil fuels."</p><p>The idea is that burning wood becomes close to carbon neutral if the forests from where it is taken are replenished at the same rate as they are felled for fuel.</p><p>But critics question whether this is the case in every country which claims to provide sustainable wood, and say some of what is supplying the current boom in biomass fuels comes from existing forests rather than sustainably managed plantations.</p><p>They also point to the carbon emitted from the soil of cleared forests, and to the emissions created in the felling and processing of wood products.</p>
Not Just for Heating<p>Södra has teamed up with Dutch airline KLM to explore the feasibility of producing jet fuel from forest biomass, and is also working with the Scandinavian airline SAS on plans for a pilot biofuel plant in the north of Sweden.</p><p>Bioplastic packaging — some of which relies on wood fibers — currently makes up just one percent of total plastics production. But that is expected to grow over the coming years. </p><p>Architecture firms are also racing to use cross-laminated timber to replace carbon-intensive concrete and steel, and wood-based fibers now represent about six percent of all textiles.</p><p>The attraction is clear. When wood is used in buildings, for example, carbon is taken out of the carbon cycle and stored for as long as the building stands.</p><p>But according to preliminary findings from a joint United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and UN Food and Agriculture Organization study into future supply and demand scenarios, even if every effort were made to maximize global forest cover, doubling the use of wood in buildings, furniture and other products would reduce rather than increase the amount of carbon sequestered globally.</p><p><span></span>"The projected increase in wood products carbon in this scenario was not enough to offset the loss in biomass carbon due to increased removals depleting forest stocks," the authors wrote.</p>
The Limits of Wood<p>There are also limits to the use of wood for heat and power.</p><p>Back in 2010, EUwood, a study led by the University of Hamburg warned that "even if all measures for increased wood mobilization" were implemented, by 2020 the European Union's domestic sources would struggle to satisfy wood demands and meet renewable energy targets.</p><p>By 2018 the EU was already supplementing its wood pellet consumption with imports to the tune of eight million tons. And some conservationists argue member states' use of biomass is driving deforestation and boosting carbon dioxide levels.</p><p>But at Växjö Energy, a Swedish heat and power plant, which became a 100 percent biomass facility in December, chief executive Erik Tellgren is not worried about supply. He says forest owners currently leave most of the branches and tops of trees they cut down to rot.</p><p>"There is still a potential of at least twice the amount of residue streams in the forest today that is simply left there," he says. </p>
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