No 01/2012

Untitled Document

No. 1/12

Welcome to the first issue of 2012 of FAO’s NWFP-Digest-L, a free e-mail journal that covers all aspects of non-wood forest products. Back issues of the Digest may be found on FAO's NWFP home page:

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A special thank you to all those who have sent me links to information and to Giulia Muir for her help with this issue.













  • Bushmeat: Closing in on Africa’s bushmeat trade

Source: The New York Times, 29 December 2011

For people in West and Central Africa, eating just one kind of bushmeat might be compared to dining on roast turkey night after night in the United States. People may enjoy eating it on Thanksgiving and Christmas, notes the conservationist John Fa, “but it is not something I want to eat every single day of my life.”
Recent studies of bushmeat consumption in Africa offer insights into potential ways of protecting threatened and endangered species.
Dr. Fa, the chief conservation officer for Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust on the Channel Island of Jersey, suggests that taste preferences could be critical to devising those strategies. In Africa, the rarity of a species does not necessarily confer gourmet or prestige status on its meat; it is the taste and the affordability that matter most. So even though Africans like bushmeat, providing tasty alternatives like frozen fish or chicken could easily alleviate pressure on threatened animals, Dr. Fa said.
“People like bushmeat simply because they have been consuming that sort of meat for millennia now,” he said. “However, if given the choice of cheaper meats, they will go for the cheaper stuff.”
Bushmeat markets and trade stations appear in practically every town and village in many parts of Africa. Preferred or rare products may fetch higher prices. For a study published in Conservation Biology, Dr. Fa and his colleagues surveyed 87 market and trading sites over a two-year period near the border between Cameroon and Nigeria.
Despite high rates of deforestation in the area, divided by the Cross and Sangha Rivers, expanses of tropical primary forest remain intact, and the jungles shelter populations of chimpanzees, forest elephants and lowland gorillas. Pressure on wildlife tends to be heavier on the Nigerian side of the border because of demand from more populous urban centres, although hunters will readily cross over to either side while pursuing their prey.
The researchers observed 61 267 transactions involving whole carcasses of animals ranging from birds to bats, monkeys to manatees. “Bushmeat refers to anything from land snails to elephants,” Dr. Fa said. “Anything that moves in the forest and can be eaten is bushmeat, but within bushmeat there are differences in taste and preference,” he said.
To test whether people prefer purchasing certain types of meat to others, the researchers recorded the price, size, species and condition of all of the bushmeat they encountered. Nearly all animals were already dead when sold. Even in humid, tropical conditions, smoking carcasses can ensure that an animal product will keep for months and not rot on its way to market.
Mammals made up about 90 percent of the animals found at urban and rural markets in both counties. Rodents like cane rats and ungulates like forest antelope accounted for about half the mammal catch, though there were some differences between the rural and urban markets. More carnivores were sold in rural markets, and more primates were found in urban ones.
Prices at urban markets were higher in both countries. As a whole, an animal’s size rather than its rarity or type determined its price. For example, when size is taken into account, the cost of most primate meat is comparable to that of rodents.
There were a few exceptions. Pouched rats were consistently cheaper than the researchers expected based on their body mass, whereas chimpanzees were more expensive. At around US$5/pound, the servaline genet, a type of small carnivore, was the most expensive species for sale at both urban and rural markets.
Endangered and protected gorillas, chimpanzees and elephants occasionally turned up at markets. The critically endangered red colobus monkey, a species that mostly exists only in isolated populations in national parks, also made an appearance on the trading table.
The spillover between hunting in Nigeria and Cameroon and the similar market results underline the importance of taking a broad approach to addressing conservation problems rather them tackling them country by country.
“We keep on looking at the whole bushmeat situation as if it were something outside the domains of governments within these regions,” Dr. Fa said. Even as conservationists urge governments to play a larger role in protecting endangered species, looking out for their citizens’ needs makes a big difference. Bushmeat is an important source of protein.
Solutions developed in one country could be applied to others. As more and more scientific studies on bushmeat are published, Dr. Fa said, resources should be pooled with the goal of addressing the big picture.
“I am not saying we should not hunt anything,” said Dr. Fa. “I am saying that some species are incredibly valuable and the commercial trade is going to finish them, and we must do something about it.”
For full story, please see:



  • Bushmeat in Madagascar: Endangered lemur hunting prevalent despite local taboos, laws

Source: PloSONE Blog, 14 December 2011

A study published today in PLoS ONE shows that despite conservation laws and taboo customs, there is a lot of illegal bushmeat hunting in Madagascar.
In one surveyed village, at least 96 indri lemurs were brought in over a period of 21 months — an average of four to five slaughtered lemurs a month. “That is an awful lot of indris for a very, very small village,” said Julia Jones, a conservation scientist from Bangor University (Wales, UK) and one of the paper’s authors. “Some of these villages have 20 households, 40 households. That is extremely worrying.”
Overhunting has already caused extinctions in Madagascar, and continued illegal hunting threatens to do more damage.
Enforcement against the hunting of protected species is not strict enough, and many Malagasy (people from Madagascar) are not fully aware of the law or of the need for conserving threatened species.
In addition, taboos that have long helped protect species like the indri are fading away. In Madagascar, taboos originate from a resemblance to humans, as with sifaka lemurs, or from some ancestral connection, as with indri lemurs. Taboos also vary from location to location.
The PLoS ONE study suggests that taboos are eroding partly from an increase in illegal gold mining. “It seems that when you have got these gold miners moving in, you have got some people willing to break the taboos,” said Jones. It only takes a few people to do a lot of damage to a threatened species, she said. Not only that, but the immigrant miners also bring in an increased demand for meat with their extra cash from gold mining.
Bushmeat is not even the most preferred meat in Madagascar, as domesticated meat often beats it in taste surveys. However, domesticated meats are more expensive, and many poorer households rely primarily or exclusively on bushmeat as their meat source, often turning to illegal and unsustainable hunting to acquire it.
Raising more domesticated animals may seem like a solution to decrease illegal bushmeat hunting, which is what researchers like Jones are angling for — chicken in particular.
However, while chicken ranks high in taste surveys in Madagascar, poultry husbandry in developing countries like Madagascar are often plagued by diseases that wipe out flocks of chicken.
Jones and the Madagasikara Voakajy, a conservation organization in Madagascar, are working to spread bushmeat conservation awareness among the Malagasy. One outreach effort involves a poster campaign depicting unsightly lemur carcasses, the words “’Lemurs are our national heritage, not meat!’” and a reminder of the hefty fine associated with killing lemurs.
Think twice before you go bushmeat hunting, the sign is telling the Malagasy.
For full story, please see: or



  • Bushmeat in Zimbabwe: Trade driving illegal hunting in National park

Source:, 12 December 2011

Bushmeat hunting is one of the major threats to mammals in sub-Saharan Africa. Although widely discussed and recognized as an issue in Central and West Africa, a new study in's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science describes a pattern of bushmeat hunting that is also occurring in southern Africa. Interviewing 114 locals living adjacent to Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe, Edson Gandiwa with Wageningen University found that the primary drivers of illegal hunting in the park were commercial bushmeat hunting and personal consumption (68 percent).
"Although law enforcement patrols attempt to control illegal hunting, the expected economic benefits from the sale of bushmeat, derived from wild animals, are far greater than the costs associated with a low probability of arrest and punitive fines; thus illegal hunting is a persistent, widespread problem for animal species conservation," writes the author.
One-quarter of all respondents had seen bushmeat or wild animal parts being sold in their village in the last six months. Most stated that bushmeat was hunted "as a source of protein to alleviate poverty."
Hunting was most often conducted with snares, while the use of dogs and bows-and-arrows came in second and third, respectively. Poisoning of big predators has also become a major issue.
"Poisoning, mostly using herbicides and pesticides, was reportedly used in revenge killings of large carnivores such as spotted hyenas and lions as a way to reduce livestock-carnivore conflicts," the author writes, noting that in one of the four villages surveyed, 38 percent of respondents listed poisoning as a hunting method. Overall 24 percent of respondents listed poisoning as a known method for hunting.
Impala (Aepyceros melampus), kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros), Burchell’s zebra (Equus quagga), and African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) were the most popular targets of hunters. But 10 percent of respondents also reported the hunting of spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta), leopards (Panthera pardus), and lions (Panthera leo).
In order to stem illegal hunting the author recommends more law enforcement with follow-through on punishments, environmental education and awareness, and better methods to reduce revenge killing of carnivores, including considering supplying "bushmeat from legal sources to affected communities."
For full story, please see:



  • Edible insects: Bugs turned into lollipops, bread and biscuits in Australia

Source: Deccan Chronicle (India), 2 January 2011

An insect breeder in Australia has come up with a recipe where worms are roasted and ground to make flour-like powder from which various foodstuff are made. Skye Blackburn is an entomologist, who breeds edible insects at an insect farm near Sydney. Blackburn sells the bugs as novelty gifts. She puts crickets and worms into lollipops or covers them with chocolate as a tasty treat.
"Eating insects is a fairly new concept. It is a little bit unique and most people would not expect to get a gift like this but they have been really popular this Christmas" Blackburn said. The entomologist said she has regular customers that include doctors and university professors. They buy the bugs in frozen form to mix them into curries and stews. "They use it in their everyday diet. They are really aware of the nutritional value of the bugs compared to some of the meat products people get," she said. Blackburn said she prepares the bugs in a way, which meets Australia's strict food hygiene laws. "We kill them ethically; we freeze them which puts them to sleep so they do not feel any kind of pain. We keep them in a very sterile environment feeding them organic grains and vegetables, which increases the flavour of the bugs themselves," she said.
The insects have reportedly become so popular that Blackburn is planning to expand her menu. "We are adding water bugs, scorpions and even tarantulas," she said.
For full story, please see:




  • Frankincense and myrrh

Source: Canton Daily Ledger (Illinois, USA), 17 December 2011

Frankincense and myrrh are both resins — dried tree sap — that come from trees of the genus Boswellia (frankincense) and Commiphora (myrhh), which are common to Somalia and Ethiopia.
The value of these products comes partly from their use, but also from the labour-intensive way that they are harvested. To collect the tree’s sap, the tree's bark is cut, causing the sap to ooze from the cut. The sap used to create both frankincense and myrrh comes slowly and is allowed to dry on the tree for several months. The hardened sap is collected and used as frankincense and myrrh.
Frankincense is used mainly for its lovely fragrance, although historically it also had medicinal uses. Frankincense is a leafy tree that grows without soil along the rocky shores of Somalia. The young trees furnish the most valuable gum — a milky white ooze that hardens to a translucent golden hue.
Myrrh is collected from a small 5-15 ft tall tree about 1 ft in diameter called the dindin tree. The tree looks like a short flat-topped hawthorn tree with gnarly branches. The whitish-green flowers appear before the leaves in the spring. The plant looks scrubby and desolate among the rocks and sands of the desert.
True myrrh is crumbly and dark red inside. The exterior is white and powdery. The best myrrh has little odour and no oily texture.
The most common use for frankincense and myrrh — past and present — is as incense. Myrrh is also used medicinally, as an embalmer, and in cosmetics, and today myrrh is found in some flavourings.
For full story, please see:



  • Frankincense and myrrh: An ethical nightmare?

Source: The Ecologist, 14 December 2011

The richly woody scent of frankincense and its close relative, myrrh, has become synonymous with Christmas. But with around 90 percent of the world’s myrrh supply originating in Somalia and much of its frankincense sourced from Yemen, how ethical can they really be? And with resinous frankincense and myrrh trees becoming ever more rare, is there anything eco-friendly about frankincense Christmas candles at all?
Native to desert ecosystems, frankincense and myrrh are crucial to the economic well-being of some extremely vulnerable regions. For thousands of years, people have collected the precious sap for use in beauty. But the Horn of Africa, where much of it originates, is plagued with conflict, human rights abuses and corruption.
East African population growth has also had a big impact on the landscape. Farmland expansion, overgrazing, bush encroachment and human-induced fires have all degraded what little fertile soil remains. Frankincense and myrrh can survive in harsh conditions but poorly managed forests and excessive tapping are hastening their demise, according to research conducted by the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). Desert regions are in a delicate balance; vulnerable to desertification and threatened by climate change. This year’s drought in the Horn of Africa, one of the worst in six decades, has only exacerbated the perilous conditions.
So what does that mean for international consumption of frankincense and myrrh? Essential oil producer, Lubanchem Limited, points to the holistic benefits of wild crafted organic essential oils, sourced ethically from Sub-Saharan Africa. But like other farmers in the region, their harvest of frankincense and myrrh were affected by the drought. “In order to produce the resin the trees need moisture during the night or rainfall for a few weeks. In the absence of rain there is not enough moisture or sap being produced and hence not enough gum,” comments Lubanchem’s Sadqa Haq. “This leads to unethical and methods of collecting tapping gum that are not sustainable.”
Yet, these countries depend on frankincense and myrrh for their livelihood and are the main suppliers of these raw resins. The frankincense region in northern Somalia, for example, is almost devoid of any other exploitable resources making the industry the third most important source of dollars. However, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) has found that due to a lack of a quality control and access to international markets, Somalia has become dependent on Gulf trans-shipment markets. Merchant cartels have pushed down demand due to international control and in turn reduced the price of this valuable commodity.
The international trade quantification of frankincense and myrrh is almost impossible, as they are not explicitly recorded in trade statistics. The Network for Natural Gums and Resins in Africa (NGARA) estimates that total world demand for frankincense and myrrh is around 2500 tonnes/year although this figure was reached using a significant amount of guesswork. Not recognizing the significance of separate classification, these sought after scents are part of the umbrella category of “gums and resin”. Further complicating the supply chain, political agenda, economic policy and external market forces have all impacted on production; forcing growers to increase harvest intensities to make their trade profitable.
Commercialization of sustainable NTFPs, including frankincense and myrrh, can help alleviate poverty and improve livelihoods. But organic certification and Fairtrade standards remain difficult or costly to introduce as the source of the commodity (the trees) is often hidden. Shrouded in secrecy, a sustainable supply of these scents is limited. With a severe lack of bargaining power, producers are often helpless. Communal ownership and management of resources through indigenous institutions has thus shifted to private businesses. A potential loss of centuries of insight, the sustainable management of forests can only be achieved through the preservation of native know-how.
Like other forest areas, frankincense and myrrh plantations have the potential to combat desertification, conserve biodiversity and sequester carbon. But woodlands must be managed in order to prevent overuse. The government and private sector should be involved in helping to protect this ancient tradition, helping it transition into the international market through improved production systems. Establishing a sustainable industry will improve quality of life so long as it considers contextual factors that marginalize livelihoods. Semi-nomadic communities where women supplement family incomes seem to be on the fringes of society, most reliant on the resin industry. Several importers are now working on organic and Fairtrade standards with these groups according to CIFOR but more could be done.
The contribution of gums and resins to local livelihoods is increasing. NGOs are intensifying their efforts to improve management of the resources for sustainable livelihoods. A growing interest from all stakeholders is likely to increase the economic and social benefits derived from these resources and consequently their management. Trade liberalization in Ethiopia has helped increase commercialization of frankincense. The global demand is growing and CIFOR found that commercial activity has created employment opportunities and income for an estimated 25 000 to 35 000 Ethiopians annually. Of these, about 90 percent are believed to be poor, rural people.
For full story, please see:



  • Frankincense fit for a king

Source: The New York Times, 7 December 2011

The holiest plant of the Christmas season may be a raggedy shrub with peeling bark. This is Boswellia sacra, better known as the frankincense tree. The shrub’s gum resin is one of the three biblical gifts that the wise men bestowed on the infant Jesus.
Marc Hachadourian, who manages the Nolen Greenhouses at the New York Botanical Garden, describes frankincense seed as hard to find and harder still to grow. “In horticulture, there are a few plants that we joke about that have a miserable life,” he said. “Boswellia is only happy in its native environment. And even then, it is not as happy as it could be.”
Today, in a nursery called the Miniatree Garden, near Arizona State University, lies an oasis for more than 3 000 exotic plants representing 300 species. One of these is frankincense. Another is a rangy assemblage of vicious thorns, called myrrh, a second gift of the Magi. (Commiphora myrrha is “scruffy” and “not very personable,” Mr. Hachadourian said.)
This oasis is the vision of a 61-year-old architect named Jason Eslamieh. It has been no mean feat to assemble all 19 species of the genus Boswellia. Five or six of these species are endemic to the island of Socotra (Indian Ocean), a Unesco World Heritage site, near the mouth of the Gulf of Aden, with a ban on botanical exports. Other Boswellia reside in the anarchic hinterlands of Yemen and Somalia.
Having summoned the Boswellia to his sanctuary, he now has to keep the plants contented.
Boswellia sacra is not much of a looker. Mr. Eslamieh appreciates the plant less for its pulchritude than its deeper botanical riddles. He can predict rain from the swelling of the nodes along the branches. When the barometric pressure drops, he said, the Boswellia “take every opportunity to grow, to flower, to set seeds.”
Mr. Eslamieh hypothesizes that the tree may have been overharvested for its valuable fragrant resin. Harvesters slash the trunk with a hatchet and collect the dried beads of sap. Researchers in Eritrea, writing in the Journal of Applied Ecology, observed that frequent resin-tapping in another Boswellia species (B. papyrifera) lowered the number of seeds and lessened their viability.
In their native range, mature Boswellia turn into firewood. The seedlings become fodder for marauding goats. Mr. Eslamieh has concluded that one way to rescue Boswellia sacra from obsolescence is to boost its vigour and commercial output.
Mr. Eslamieh would love to see his “super sacra” tree become a commercial staple in Somalia, India and Yemen. But he does not intend to patent the plants. Though the garden sells more than 100 000 seeds/year (at US$25 for 100), neither Mr. Eslamieh nor his two business partners draw any salary. In other words, the plants are not making money for Mr. Eslamieh; he is making money for them.
For tips on cultivating Boswellia, read his new book, “Cultivation of Boswellia: Sacred Trees of Frankincense.”
For full story, please see: or



  • Medicinal plants in Egypt: Scientists to make diabetes drug from bitter fruit

Source:, 28 November 2011

Bitter gourd, a plant long held to have anti-diabetic properties, is to be turned into tablets that Egyptian scientists hope will provide an alternative to insulin injections.
A national pharmaceutical company and the National Research Centre (NRC) signed a contract last month for the manufacture of a drug based on an extract from the fruit, which is also known as balsam pear (Momordica charantia).
The deal follows research done by the Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Department of the NRC. Souad El Gengaihi, professor of medicinal and aromatic plants at the NRC, and lead researcher on the new treatment, told SciDev.Net that balsam pear, which grows in Asia and parts of Latin America in hot, sandy locations, is traditionally used in Asian medicine.  
"Its most basic use is to help with gastrointestinal issues, but many studies done in different countries have shown that it can help people who are coping with diabetes," she said.
Balsam pear extract has a chemical structure similar to bovine insulin. The NRC's innovation was to devise a new method for extracting the active ingredient and turning it into pills, say researchers.
"Insulin is broken down by stomach enzymes if taken orally, which is why diabetic patients have to take it through injection," said Moushira Abd Al Salam, a researcher in the NRC's Medical Research Division. "The active ingredient in balsam pear has a special coating that prevents stomach enzymes from breaking it down."
Salam said that, in unpublished studies, balsam pear extract controlled the blood sugar levels of diabetic volunteers.  
Khaled Abd El-Wahab, professor of internal disease at the University of Zagazig, Egypt, said that the tablets would be "an important step", as they have been scientifically tested, unlike the many untested medical herbs sold in markets. "This plant well grows well in hot weather and on sandy lands so it does well in Egypt’s deserts and could be grown in most of the Middle East and North Africa," El Genhaihi added. 
But Yasser Abdel-Wahab, an expert in natural anti-diabetic drugs at the UK's University of Ulster, said: "Of the 800 known traditional remedies for diabetes, none can be used as a complete treatment in their natural form. Prescription drugs are needed in addition to successfully manage the disease".
For full story, please see:



  • Medicinal plants in Peru: Scientists examine toxicity of medicinal plants

Source:, 14 December 2011

Many developing countries rely on traditional medicine as an accessible and affordable treatment option for human maladies. However, until now, scientific data has not existed to evaluate the potential toxicity of medicinal plant species in Peru. Accordingly. scientists from the William L. Brown Center of the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis (USA) led a study to determine the toxicity of 341 Northern Peruvian plant species commonly ingested in traditional medicine.
Their findings indicated that over 24 percent of water extracts made from these plant species and 76 percent of alcoholic extracts from the plants contained elevated toxicity levels. The results reinforce the need for traditional preparation methods to take different toxicity levels into account when choosing the appropriate solvent for the preparation of a medicinal remedy. The study was published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology.
Peru is a country rich in biodiversity with a millennia-old tradition of curers using the native flora in medicinal remedies. Traditional medicine is a common practice in the Andean region, where the same plants used years ago are still relied upon today for their healing powers.
"Traditional medicine is an important way to address health issues, but through this study wanted to show that remedies could contain potentially harmful ingredients and need to be prepared with correctly collected, identified and prepared ingredients," said Dr. Rainer Bussmann, William L. Brown Curator for Economic Botany and director of the William L. Brown Center at the Missouri Botanical Garden.
The plants used in this study were collected in the field, at public markets and at the homes of traditional healers, or curanderos, all in Northern Peru. Botanists gathered material from each of 341 traditional medicinal plant species, dried the material and processed it in an industrial grinder.
"Preparation methods by curanderos are taking this into account, and most traditional remedies such as medicinal teas are made with simple water extracts instead of alcoholic ones, thus avoiding potential toxic effects in patients," said Bussmann. "However, traditional knowledge about medicinal plant use is rapidly eroding and many of these plant species are threatened with extinction. Roughly four out of five people in developing countries rely on plants for their primary health care, so studies such as this are vital to ensure that the knowledge base of traditional healers is reinforced and expanded for the benefit of future generations."
"Importantly, during this study, we also discovered that while most cases of extracts made from different collections of one plant species showed the similar toxicity levels, other plant species collected at different times varied from non-toxic to highly toxic," added Bussmann.
Humans consume thousands of species of plants to meet their basic nutritional needs but only a handful of these plants have received significant study through international agricultural centres. Many remain poorly understood and largely undeveloped, and their wild relatives are threatened with extinction and in need of conservation attention. Stewardship of these valuable plant resources will require rigorous science combined with an approach that respects and values traditional knowledge systems; supports intellectual property mechanisms that equitably compensate all parties; and includes local participatory methods to ensure culturally-sensitive solutions.
For full story, please see:



  • Palm hearts and sustainable extraction in Colombia

Source:, 12 December 2011

Long eaten by indigenous populations, palm hearts have also been popular abroad, usually in fine dining establishments. However, palm hearts are cut-out of the inner core of various palm tree species, in some cases killing the tree. A new study published in's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science looks at the sustainability of palm heart extraction from the palm species Prestoea acuminata in the Colombian Andes. While harvesting from Prestoea acuminata does not kill the host tree, better management is needed to ensure the practice does not become unsustainable.
The researchers found that it took Prestoea acuminata 23-40 years before it reached a suitable size for palm heart extraction. Given this slow growth, and the fact that over-harvesting from a plant can impact sexual reproduction, the authors recommend that only 10 percent of any population be harvested annually.
"Our results show that the sustainable harvest potential of Prestoea acuminata under natural conditions is too low to be economically viable. However, sustainable household extraction, as for traditional consumption by Indians and campesinos, is possible, "they write.
In the Colombian Andes, palm hearts are extremely popular during Holy Week when eating meat is not allowed. The authors say future research should look at the size of this practice and whether it is unsustainable.
For full story, please see:



  • Wildlife: Gorillas threatened by climate change, UN

Source: (New Zealand), 5 December 2011

Gorillas are lazing in the sun in the lush mountains of Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park. They might seem relaxed, but as the climate is heating up these great apes are finding it more difficult to find food.
Climate change is pushing the vegetation these gorillas prefer further up the mountains, where temperatures are cooler.
FAO warned over the weekend that Rwanda's gorillas are just one example of how ecosystems are being affected around the world by climate change.
A new study by the UN body, released during climate talks in Durban, warns that up to one-third of all animal and plant species worldwide are at the risk of extinction due to climate change.
"With this study, we wanted to focus on the wildlife, showing where the first symptoms show that we are having problems (and) where we are most likely have much bigger (problems) in the future," head of the FAO's forestry department, Eduardo Rojas, said after an address for the International Forest Day. "They are normally related — the most critical cases — to mountains and to coastal lowlands where the effects are very evident even today."
Rwanda is Africa's most densely populated country. Most people are subsistence farmers, who compete with wildlife for land and resources. Erosion and deforestation is widespread, putting the population and wildlife at further risk to climate change.
The FAO report stresses that only healthy ecosystems may be able to withstand and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
The Batwa community, living on the outskirts of the Volcanoes National Park, has already started taking action. A tree planting campaign has seen one-quarter of a million seedlings sown over the last four years. The trees help shelter crops and stop erosion as well as act as a carbon sink to help combat climate change.
Firewood will also be provided by the new forests, helping protect the habitat of the community's neighbouring gorillas.
For full story, please see:



  • Wildlife: Species and threats grow in Mekong Region

Source: AFP in AsiaOne (Singapore), 1 December 2011

Scientists identify a new species every two days in the Greater Mekong region, the WWF said Monday, in a report detailing unusual finds such as a leaf warbler and a self-cloning lizard.
But the conservation group warned some species could disappear before they are ever recorded because of man-made pressures in the Southeast Asian area, described in the report as "one of the last frontiers" for new discoveries.
More than 200 species were newly recorded last year in the Greater Mekong, which includes Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos and the south-western Chinese province of Yunnan.
Some, such as the snub-nosed monkey found in Myanmar's remote Kachin state, were already known to local communities but never previously identified by the scientific community.
Sarah Bladen, spokeswoman for WWF Greater Mekong, based in Hanoi, said despite the number of new species found, the region faced "an extinction crisis".
"Unless these countries start to see biodiversity as something to be valued and invested in, we risk losing wild places and wild species at an extraordinary rate," she told AFP.
The list, dominated by plants, included 28 reptiles and seven amphibians, such as a vibrantly-spotted newt species and a psychedelic gecko.
The only new bird found last year was the tiny limestone leaf warbler, so-called because it breeds in limestone karsts in Laos and has a loud, unique call — the sign that alerted researchers to a potential new find.
"While these discoveries highlight the unique biodiversity of the Greater Mekong they also reveal the fragility of this region's diverse species and habitats," the WWF report said.
It noted "urgent reminders" such as the dramatic 70 percent drop in wild tiger numbers in little over a decade and the extinction of the Javan rhino in Vietnam in 2010.
"Rapid, unsustainable development and climate change impacts are profoundly affecting biodiversity and ecosystem services and consequently the millions of people who depend on them," it added.
The report comes days after Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos delayed a decision on a proposed hydropower dam on the Mekong river, which activists warn would seriously threaten several unique species in the waterway.
WWF called on the six leaders of the Greater Mekong Sub-region, meeting later this month in Myanmar, to prioritize biodiversity, warning that otherwise "the region's treasure trove of biodiversity will be lost".
For full story, please see: or



  • Wildlife: Orangutans digest their own muscles to survive

Source: New Scientist, 14 December 2011

Life on the edge of starvation has encouraged some orangutans to adopt a radical strategy. They gain their protein by digesting their own muscles. Halting the logging that is destroying their habitat could restore their food supply and rescue them from the brink.
Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) live in tropical rainforests, where the supply of fruit is erratic. To survive, the orangutans eat poorly digestible leaves and bark in fallow years.
Erin Vogel of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey (USA) monitored wild orangutans for five years. She found that when orangutans had gone without fruit for several months, their urine contained nitrogen compounds indicating the apes had begun to digest their muscles for protein.
Because there is so little pristine forest left for the endangered apes, Vogel says it is also important to protect partially logged forests, and even create new ones. "By planting more trees that the orangutans regularly consume in logged forests, you could potentially make the species less vulnerable," she says.
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  • Wildlife: Rare pygmy hippos threatened by habitat loss in Kenya

Source: Capital FM (Kenya), 14 December 2011

A rare and secretive female pygmy hippo has died at the Nairobi Safari Walk. Elizabeth was part of a pair of pygmy hippos donated by the President of Liberia, the late William Tubman, as a gift to Kenyans through the late President, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, in the 1970s. Kenya Wildlife Service veterinary doctors are conducting a post-mortem examination to determine the cause of the animal’s death.
Unlike the Nile hippo, which is indigenous to East Africa, the Pygmy hippo is found in isolated pockets of West African forests and swamps of the Ivory Coast, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, and possibly Nigeria and Guinea.
Pygmy hippos are severely threatened due to deforestation and bushmeat hunting with an estimated 2 000-3 000 individuals remaining, according to the World Conservation Union (IUCN).
Pygmy hippos are primarily threatened by loss of habitat, as forests are logged and converted to farm land, and are also vulnerable to poaching for meat and natural predators.
Two hippo species are found in Africa. The large hippo, found in East Africa, which occurs in large numbers in south of the Sahara. The other, much smaller species of hippo is the pygmy hippopotamus is limited West Africa, it is a shy, solitary forest dweller and now rare.
At first glance, the pygmy hippopotamus looks like a mini version of its larger relative, the Nile hippopotamus (also known as the river or common, hippopotamus).
But on closer examination there are other differences besides size. The pygmy hippo has adaptations for living in the water but is much less aquatic than the Nile hippo. Not only is the pygmy hippo much smaller, it is much rarer, found only in the interior forests in parts of West Africa.
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  • Brazil: Government says annual Amazon rainforest destruction level lowest recorded

Source: Associated Press, 5 December 2011

Annual destruction of the Amazon rain forest fell to its lowest recorded level this year, Brazilian authorities said Monday, hailing an enforcement crackdown for the drop.
The destruction between August 2010 through July 2011 was about 6 240 km², according to the National Institute for Space Research.
The institute has tracked Amazon destruction since 1988 by analyzing satellite images. The destruction peaked in 1995, when 29 060 km² were destroyed.
Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said the government’s fast action to reduce deforestation and carbon emissions led to the drop. “We will continue with determination to reduce the illegal deforestation in the Amazon,” she told a news conference in the capital of Brasilia.
Brazil’s government has stepped up enforcement of environmental laws in recent years, mostly by sending armed environmental agents into the jungle to carrying out large raids on deforestation hotspots.
The announcement of the drop comes as Brazil’s Senate prepares to vote this week on changes to the nation’s benchmark environmental laws that would loosen restrictions on how small farmers use their land in the Amazon.
Environmentalists fear the bill would bring increased deforestation and warn the current drop is likely due less to the government’s crackdown and more to the global economic downturn. They say that has reduced demand for products, such as soy, cattle raised in illegally cleared pastures, and timber that lead to the destruction.
The bill would let farmers and ranchers with small holdings work land closer to riverbanks and to use hilltops, practices that are currently outlawed. It also grants amnesty from harsh fines levied on farms and ranches of any size that cleared more tree cover than legally allowed before July 2008.
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  • Brazil: Forestry Bill splits nation

Source: Wall Street Journal, 6 December 2011

The country's Senate passed a controversial forestry bill sought by the powerful growers and ranchers of the country's vast interior — and opposed by activists who say it would quicken illegal deforestation in the Amazon forest and other wilds.
The new forest code would reduce the amount of forest preserves farmers are required to keep when deforesting land, and pardon some past illegal deforestation among other measures. The bill must be reconciled with another version if it passed in the lower house of Congress in May, and then signed by the president to become law.
The bill is the single biggest piece of legislation to hit the Brazilian Congress during the first year of President Dilma Rousseff's four-year term, and brings into relief concerns about the environmental costs of Brazil's strategy to employ its vast natural resources to drive economic growth.
In recent years, Brazil has opened up new Amazon mines and is spending tens of billions of dollars to build huge hydroelectric dams in the Amazon to harness the electricity-producing potential of rainforest rivers. Risks associated with Brazil's ambitions to become a global oil power were laid bare in November when a Chevron Corp. well off Rio de Janeiro leaked 2 400 barrels of oil into the ocean.
The Senate passage of the bill would create a new political dilemma for Ms. Rousseff, already scrambling to hold together a scandal-wracked coalition. The bill fits with Ms. Rousseff's pro-development economic outlook. But signing it risks alienating environmental groups in her left-wing party, which have vowed to press Ms. Rousseff to veto parts of it.
The bill could also become a flashpoint next year when Brazil hosts a high profile environmental conference in Rio de Janeiro.
Supporters of the proposed law say it is an important overhaul reflecting broad changes in Brazilian agriculture in recent decades. Much of Amazon forestland deforested in past decades has since become productive soy farms and cattle ranches. But under current law, some 90 percent of the farms are illegal, an awkward situation for a nation that boasts about being the world's biggest beef exporter, and the second, after the U.S., in soy. The new law would legalize them.
The bill's backers aided by an announcement Monday by Brazilian authorities that deforestation rates in the Amazon fell to its lowest rate in 2010 since the data was collected in 1988.
They point out that under a key compromise, farmers are still required to replant some past deforested land with trees. The new law provides some financing for the planting efforts.
But while recognizing a need for an overhaul of the forest code, many environmentalists say the proposal before the senate goes too far. By forgiving some past deforestation, it sends a signal that future illegal clear-cutting may be forgiven, too. The new law also would reduce the amount of forest set-asides required of farmers opening up new land.
Environmental groups also question how well the new law will be enforced. The bill would move significant regulatory authority from the federal government to states, where local governments are closely tied to the farm industry – and elected officials are often big farmers themselves.
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  • Brazil: Saving the Amazon, from forest floor up

Source: The Associated Press, 10 December 2011

Just three years ago, Paragominas was losing forest faster than nearly any other place in the Amazon. Today, the town has risen from those ashes to become a pioneering "Green City," a model of sustainability with a new economic approach that has seen illegal deforestation virtually halted.
Experts say the metamorphosis is the best hope for showing the 25 million people who live in the Amazon that the forest is worth more alive than dead.
The transformation came after Brazil cracked down on 36 counties responsible for the worst deforestation in the Amazon. A resulting economic embargo left the town with two options. It could fight against change, or it could embrace a new path and promote development with minimal harm to the environment.
Mayor Adnan Demachki is the unlikely environmental warrior driving the change, a plump 46-year-old bespectacled lawyer who grew up here, and was mayor when his town was one of the worst deforesters.
His "Green City" plan aims to halt all illegal deforestation through a mix of enforcement, the creation of the Amazon's only local environmental police force, and promotion of an economy that does not rely on clearing jungle. Instead, the focus is on sustainable development — using managed forestry for a wood industry, and introducing modern farming techniques to increase production while using less land.
"Paragominas is an example of how to successfully overcome deforestation and begin the transition to an economy that conserves the forest," said Mauro Pires, head of the Environment Ministry's department that fights Amazon destruction. "They changed their stance and followed their leaders down an alternative path, one that coexists with the forest."
The Paragominas experiment is significant, experts say, because it shows it is possible to convince people at the local level that saving the forest is in their best interest.
In 2008, the Brazilian government for the first time set a concrete goal to decelerate rain forest destruction, aiming to reduce it to 5 000 km² by 2017. Armed field agents targeted Paragominas and others on a blacklist of 36 counties, handing out massive fines, confiscating cattle herds and shutting sawmills. In Paragominas, 2 300 jobs were lost within a year and the federal government cut off agricultural credits.
Paragominas leaders knew they had to change. So they took an unheard-of leap of faith in the Amazon: They asked the very environmental groups that had been castigating them to help them go green. The strategy was both revolutionary and simple.
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  • Cote D’Ivoire: Locals key to saving primate-rich wetlands

Source:, 12 December 2011

Saved from being converted into a vast palm oil plantation by PALM-CI in 2009, the Ehy Tanoé wetlands and forest in the Cote D'Ivoire is home to three gravely endangered primates and as well as many other species. Since 2006, a pilot community management program has been working to protect the 12 000 ha area, and a new study in's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science finds that long-term conservation of the Ehy Tanoé wetlands and forest is, in fact, vital for locals who depend on the area for hunting, fishing, firewood, building materials, and medicinal plants. In addition, the study finds that the ecosystem has special cultural and spiritual importance to local people.
"Today, all over the world and especially in the global South, many people suffer from large-scale destruction of forest wealth depriving them of natural resources from which they have always drawn their livelihoods," writes the study's authors, who point out that the Cote D’Ivoire has one of the highest rates of deforestation worldwide, plunging from 15 million ha of forest cover in the early 20th century to around 3 million ha today.
"Decommissioning of some protected areas is even suggested by some authorities as a solution to the lack of arable land to meet the needs due to the increasingly growing population growth. The effect of deforestation and poaching of wildlife in general, is dramatic. Wildlife is scarce in most national parks and reserves," the authors write.
Examining the community management pilot program in the area, which includes input from NGOs, government, and researchers, the study found that the Ehy Tanoé wetlands' value "is not limited to the specificity of its biodiversity. In fact, maintaining such a forest preserves, at the same time, the livelihoods of riparian communities and essential values for social and spiritual balance within these communities."
The community management program has proven successful in combating major threats as well, including keeping loggers out of the wetlands and halting the palm oil project.
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  • Democratic Republic of Congo: How wars and poverty have saved forests

Source: BBC News, 5 December 2011

It is an uncomfortable fact that decades of conflict and poverty in the Democratic Republic of Congo have helped to protect the world's second largest rainforest, and by extension to slow the process of global climate change.
"Yes," says Thierry Bodson, who runs the WWF’s programmes in the east of the country from the town of Goma. "In some places the presence of rebels has protected some areas. A lack of development has somehow protected the Congo basin."
The vast, and almost pristine forest — which sweeps west from the Rift Valley to the Atlantic coast and covers an area roughly the size of Spain — acts as a huge capture and storage unit for carbon dioxide, one of the main contributors to global warming.
But there is a growing consensus that the Congo basin is now under imminent threat. As the region's conflicts appear to be ebbing, farming, mining and logging intensify, and China and other countries stand poised to build substantial roads through the jungle.
"We cannot say do not build roads, do not create economic activity. What we can do is to direct this development in a sustainable manner. Otherwise this very important forest can disappear," says Mr. Bodson.
Which is where the current COP 17 climate conference in Durban, South Africa, lunges into the picture. Among the many schemes fighting for space, attention, and action at the summit is something called REDD+, a giant and complex UN-backed programme trying to attach a solid financial value to the carbon stored in large forests. This in turn would lead to a sophisticated carbon "market", and ultimately to billions of dollars in incentives for governments and communities to manage and protect their forests.
"REDD+ is very important for the DRC," says Irene Wabiwa from Greenpeace's office in the capital, Kinshasa. "It will mean a lot of money.”
"We certainly need the money," says Ephraim Balole, who works with Congolese soldiers trying to guard the giant Virunga National Park to the north of Goma.
In the impoverished outskirts of Goma, a group of women push their fingers through soft clay as they build fuel-efficient stoves to sell for a small profit in the neighbourhood.
The scheme, supported by the WWF, is one tiny example of the sort of work that REDD+ is hoping to encourage on a far larger scale. The US$5 stoves use half as much charcoal as normal ones, and could eventually play an important role in preserving the nearby forests.
There is no doubting the ambition or the complexity of what REDD+ is hoping to achieve in DR Congo.
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  • Finland: Finns get fresh in forests on weekdays, too

Source:, 9 December 2011

Nine out of ten everyday outdoor activities take place in areas and routes where there is forest, says a recent study by the Finnish Forest Research Institute.
Forests continue to be the important place of recreation for Finns. The majority of everyday recreation both in cities and rural areas take place in forested environments, says a study published last week by the Finnish Forest Research Institute.
During the second National Outdoor Recreation Demand and Supply Assessment or LVVI 2, the recreation activities of nearly 9 000 Finns were researched in 2009–2010. A previous, similar study was carried out in 1998–2000. The sample size of 9 000 is considerable in the Finnish conditions.
On average, the nearest forest is just 700 m away from one’s home. For half of the population, the trip to close-to-home forest is just 200 m and the nearest bigger forest area is situated within 1 km.
The most popular recreation activities are walking and Nordic walking, walking the dog and running. The popularity of running and cross-country skiing had increased since the previous study.
Forest land covers around 66 percent of Finland’s land area. Around 70 percent of it is owned by private persons or companies.
The LVVI 2 study found out for the first time how much Finns rely on “Everyman’s rights” for recreation. The tradition of everyman’s rights means that anyone can move about and stay for a short time on privately-owned lands in the Nordic countries. According to the study, private land is heavily used for recreation in Finland.
Forty percent of Finns get their outdoor recreation at least once a week on privately owned-lands, says Mr. Harri Silvennoinen, Researcher at the Finnish Forest Research Institute. The most common activities are walking and picking mushrooms or berries, he adds.
According to Silvennoinen, the majority of respondents felt positively about everyman’s rights. The most significant related problem is the commercial use of everyman’s rights. Some have taken paying groups of tourists to trips to private forests, without discussions with the landowners. Some companies bring foreign pickers to pick berries and mushrooms every year.
One-third of those who have met guided tours or commercial berry or mushrooms pickers, felt these activities were disturbing. On the other hand, only one-fifth had met a tour group and one in four commercial pickers on private land.
Land ownership affects attitudes. Land owners were more critical than others towards  everyman’s rights- based use of their land for these kinds of commercial activities. Some were also prepared to restrict the scope of everyman’s rights.
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  • India: Ecotourism offers new hope for tribals

Source: Times of India, 15 December 2011

You may not have to travel all the way to Africa to relish a barbeque dinner by a riverside in a dense forest. Just pack your bags and head to Narmada district where four tribal villages, Vishalkhadi, Saggai, Malsamot and Zarwani, are ready to welcome tourists with their ecotourism initiatives.
A new chapter in the life of these tribal families began in 2008-09. The development of tourism has brought an influx of tourists to these forest areas and given these families new hope. It has not only provided them permanent shelter but also given them employment opportunities that have brought stability in their life.
Talking to Times of India, forest ranger HV Patel said, "Four villages are running these ecotourism spots.” These groups are put to work on different projects like drip irrigation, vegetable farming, forest protection and others. All the basic infrastructure like tents, equipment and cottages are built by state government and they are run by these tribals and revenue is shared equally, he added.
The 12 families running the ecotourism spot of Vishalkhadi lost their homes in 1980s. "After migrating for few years, they were scattered and now have come back and settled here for good. Every family earns at least Rs 25 000 annually from tourism." said Patel.
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  • India: Saffron and silk wither in Kashmir

Source: IPS News, 9 December 2011

Srinagar — The saffron and silk industries in Kashmir have been dying a silent death over the last decade, with production rates for both commodities witnessing up to 50 percent declines in some areas of the Kashmir Valley.
A growing market for cheap, fake saffron — either chemically manufactured or “cut” with additives to increase its weight — has dealt a harsh blow to traditional, world renowned saffron producers and sellers in Kashmir.
Meanwhile, a mismanaged government monopoly over the silk industry coupled with an invasion of cheap Chinese silk has choked local production, pushing thousands of producers out of business.
As a result, Saffron farmers and silk rearers are facing hard times in the lush Kashmir Valley.
Kashmir is one of a handful of places on this earth that grows natural saffron, along with Iran and Spain, and has long been considered to have the best quality saffron in the world, with rich plantations in Pampore, Pulwama, Budgam and Kishtiwar.
But Saleem Shakeel Mir, managing director of Kashmir Kesar Leader, Kashmir’s leading saffron producer, told IPS that the influx of false saffron has lacerated the market for honest producers.
"Chemically-altered and synthetic products are being sold for a fraction of the price of organic Kashmiri saffron, both within and outside the Valley," he said.
Since laymen are unable to differentiate between pure and artificial saffron, the cheaper product is selling fast, Mir added.
"If pure Kashmiri saffron costs 110 rupees/gram (or just over US$2), synthetics cost as little as 30 rupees. As a result, traditional Kashmir saffron growers have suffered an almost 70 percent loss."
Mir also blames saffron growers’ hardships on the rampant industrialisation in the valley, including the proliferation of residential houses in the area, which eats up swathes of land that could otherwise be used for crops.
"A decade ago, 10 kanals of land (that is, just over 6 000 yards²) were under saffron cultivation; today just 4 kanals, less than half the original amount, are used," Saleem said.
            According to Malik Farooq, Director of the Sericulture Department of State, government efforts to save the silk industry have gained much less ground, possibly because a decades-long government monopoly over the silk industry contributed to its decline in the first place.
Silk is one of Kashmir’s oldest trades. In 1855, Europe was Kashmir’s biggest silk trading partner, purchasing 70 kg of silkworm seeds every year. The period immediately following the end of British rule opened a glorious phase for Kashmiri silk.
"After the1980’s there was a sudden decline in silk production and the industry began to suffer," Farooq told IPS. The rigid state monopoly that had once boosted the industry became its greatest impediment. The government bought all the silk cocoons from the locals but managed every other stage of the production process themselves.
According to official government statistics, the number of silkworm rearers shrank from 60 000 in 1947 to a mere 7 161 in 1995.
The area of land under mulberry cultivation shrivelled from thousands of ha in the early 1900s to less than 2 000 ha in 1990.
From employing 1830 labourers on 584 silk production units, the silk industry now only has the capacity for 200 workers on 30 silk production units.
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  • India: Return of Snow leopards

Source: Tribune India in Headlines Himalaya, 28 November 2011

A snow leopard with two cubs has been sighted in the Kargil area, in the Kashmir district. Due to the Kargil War in 1999, most of the wildlife species, including snow leopards, had abandoned their habitats in Kargil. With peace in the Kargil sector, snow leopards are again being spotted in the area.
Jigmet Takpa, Regional Wildlife Warden, Ladakh, told The Tribune that these big cats, with tails as long as their bodies, which had almost abandoned their habitats in Kargil after 1999, were returning to the area.
“Though Leh and Kargil are the best suitable habitats for this endangered species, the snow leopards were not seen in Kargil during the past few years,” said Takpa.
He added, “Poaching was a major problem.”
Takpa said there were nearly 400 snow leopards in the region comprising Leh and Kargil districts. “We have one national park and two wildlife sanctuaries here. These animals move about freely in an area of 97 000 km²,” he said.
Takpa added that the Wildlife Department had launched various projects in association with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and other agencies to save and attract more snow leopards. “The results are very positive. The situation has improved in Leh also, where these big cats can be easily seen,” he said.
Takpa lauded the role of the Army in the return of the snow leopards to Kargil. “The Army has played a major role in controlling poaching, which was the biggest threat to the animal. No one can move freely with a weapon, without the permission of the Army. These animals face no threat from poachers now.”
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  • Japan: Wild monkeys in Fukushima to measure contamination levels in forests

Source: The Telegraph (UK), 12 December 2011

The new project, conducted by researchers at Fukushima University (Japan) will involve monkeys being fitted with collars containing radiation meters and GPS transmitters.
Scientists will be able to monitor radiation levels deep across forest areas in Fukushima, home to the nuclear power plant severely damaged in the 11 March earthquake and tsunami.
The collars will detach at the end of the experiment, which will last up to around two months, according to a team of scientists led by Professor Takayuki Takahashi.
We decided to use monkeys for this project because the territory they cover is very well known to us," Professor Takahashi told the Telegraph. "It is the first time such an experiment has been carried out with monkeys."
Forests in the Fukushima region are currently being monitored for radiation levels primarily from the air, with testing taking place most commonly from helicopters.
However, scientists are keen to obtain more detailed data in relation to radiation levels in forest habitats and the subsequent contamination exposure of wild animals in the region.
The range of elevations at which monkeys spend their time will also enable scientists to obtain a broad spectrum of radiation level data, from the forest floor to the treetops.
The project will launch in Minamisoma, an area hit hard by the tsunami and earthquake and located just outside the exclusion zone, around 16 miles north of Fukushima Daiichi power plant.
As many as 14 groups of monkeys are believed to reside in the mountains forests to the west of Minamisoma city, which is where the study will focus.
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  • Madagascar: Walking the Vanilla Trail, video

Source: The Canopy (Rainforest Alliance Newsletter, 21 December 2011

Take a stroll along the vanilla trail with Rainforest Alliance. Meet communities working to harvest the fragrant spice sustainably, and see how Rainforest Alliance certification is helping them to live and work in harmony with their environment.
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  • Rwanda: Climate talks offer last hope for Rwanda's rainforest

Source: Deutsche-Welle, 2 December 2011

The Gishwati forest in western Rwanda, not far from Lake Kivu, is one of the country's last remaining patches of rainforest.
Logger Silvestre Bariyanga is only permitted to fell selected trees. In the past, local authorities charged loggers 200 Francs/tree. Now it does not cost anything. But they are expected to pay taxes if they sell the wood, Bariyanga explains.
He sells wooden slats to carpenters and furniture producers. "It is a good job," he says. "Almost all the men who live around here are loggers. This is the only real source of income we have around here."
The loggers are only permitted to cut down eucalyptus trees, which are not native to this area. Farmers planted a lot of eucalyptus here because it grows quickly and is profitable when converted into timber. But eucalyptus also drains water from the other trees of the forest.
The government is allowing it to be removed, with an eye to re-establishing the area as a protected natural reserve later.
Faustin Gashakamba has made it his life's mission to protect the Rwandan rainforest.
On a hike through the last remaining hectares of this centuries old jungle, he takes slow, thoughtful steps. He knows every tree in this stand, every fern, every bird batting its wings in the cover overhead.
The young environmentalist works for a conservation group called the Great Ape Trust, which coordinates projects with the Rwandan government to preserve the forest.
The Gishwati once streched over 28 000 ha, but starting in the 1970s, much of this region was clear-cut to make way for cattle ranches and tea or timber plantations.
The deforestation is also a legacy of the Rwandan genocide. Hundreds of thousands of people, displaced in the violence, were permitted to return to Rwanda and settle in natural reserves, like the Gishwati. They cut down the trees for fuel and timber to make homes.
Only 600 ha of the forest remain — less than 2 percent of the original stand.
Gashsakamba says it is an enormous challenge to preserve even this last remaining corridor of trees and wildlife. He heads up a team of six eco-guards tasked with protecting the forest against illegal timber harvesting or the theft of fruits.
Gashakama's organization, the Great Ape Trust, and the Rwandan government are now working on the Gishwati Area Conservation Program.  So far, they have restored some 800 ha of forest. Gishwati conservationists say the new flora is thriving and animal populations are starting to rebound. Rehabilitation of the rainforest is likely to increase Rwanda's chances of participating in global carbon trading through the establishment of new carbon sinks in Gishwati.
The forest can absorb 200 000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Valued at about US$5/ton under UN guidelines, this means the Gishwati can already generate around US$1 million/year.
This could be the forest's saving grace — such a high amount of carbon absorption is something Rwanda can trade for funds on the carbon market.
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  • Sierra Leone: From war to peace, Sierra Leone eyes ecotourism

Source: BBC News, 14 December 2011

Sierra Leone is trying to change its image as a war-torn country by promoting ecotourism, writes journalist Paige McClanahan at the launch of the new Gola Rainforest National Park.
If you are looking to plan a bird-watching holiday, Sierra Leone might not be the first destination that jumps to mind. But that could change soon, if the government of this small West African nation gets its way.
Earlier this month, Sierra Leone opened the Gola Rainforest National Park, a 71 000 ha protected area that is home to more bird species than can be found breeding in all of the UK.
The government hopes that the new park might help nature-loving tourists see beyond the battered image that defines the country overseas.
The reason for that image is a brutal 11-year civil war which claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people. But Sierra Leone has been at peace since the conflict ended in 2002.
"The great news is that despite the area being one of the worst hit during the war, the biodiversity survived relatively intact," said Jonathan Barnard, the head of the tropical forest unit at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which has been doing conservation work in the Gola region since 1989.
The park is Sierra Leone's largest remaining piece of the Upper Guinea Forest Ecosystem, a region that the environmental group Conservation International has identified as one of the world's critical biodiversity hotspots.
The new national park is home to over 500 butterfly species, 300 bird species and 45 species of mammals. More than two dozen of those animals are under threat globally, including the pygmy hippo, the Diana monkey, the chimpanzee and the white-necked picathartes - a charismatic bird that the government has picked as the park's official symbol.
The government hopes that such species will lure wildlife enthusiasts from overseas.
The national park "is already receiving a modest number of adventurous tourists", Sierra Leone's President Ernest Bai Koroma said at the official opening of the park. "With further development, ecotourism will continue to grow and generate economic benefits for the country."
A few walking trails have been set up inside the national park, and more are on the way. Soon tourists may be able to take canoe rides down the Mano River and go on guided nature walks to spot nesting birds.
But tourism-wise, there is still a long way to go. Not even 100 tourists visited the Gola Rainforest in the last year. Few people outside the country have even heard of it.
Cecil Williams, the general manager of Sierra Leone's National Tourist Board, called Gola Forest an "ideal attraction" given its rich flora and fauna.
"The difficulty I see is accessibility," Mr Williams said. "But in the next five to 10 years' time, all of these infrastructure problems will have improved."
A more stubborn obstacle might be the country's international reputation.
The government is betting that ecotourism could be the way to boost Sierra Leone's tourist numbers.
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  • UK: Warning on future of mistletoe

Source: UKPA, 17 December 2011

The future of mistletoe in parts of Britain's countryside continues to look bleak, experts have warned. Despite a campaign to preserve the traditional symbol of Christmas, it is still threatened and there are fears it could disappear from woodland within 20 years.
Most of the mistletoe bought in Britain comes from traditional orchards in the cider-producing counties of Somerset, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire. But wildlife experts say the orchards are rapidly disappearing, along with the knowledge of mistletoe management and harvesting techniques.
The Sussex Wildlife Trust warned that if the loss continues, there could be a threat to species linked to orchards such as bees, butterflies, moths and dead wood invertebrates.
The decline in orchards may also lead to people having to rely on more expensive European imports of mistletoe for their Christmas kisses.
Mistletoe has long been associated with Christmas and mid-winter customs, believed to date back to pre-historic times as a symbol of ongoing life during the winter months.
According to the National Trust, traditional orchards have declined by more than 60 percent since the 1950s, and by up to 90 percent in Devon and Kent.
Its disappearance is proving a concern because it helps support wildlife, providing winter food for birds such as the blackcap and mistle thrush. It also supports six specialist insects, including the scarce mistletoe marble moth, some sap-sucking bugs and the affectionately-named "kiss me slow weevil".
A project was launched in 2009 by the National Trust and Natural England to help reverse the loss of the habitat by restoring traditional orchards, supporting small cottage industries producing cider and juices and promoting the growth of community-run orchards.
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  • USA: Our native trees include shagbark hickory

Source: The Mystic Press (CT, USA), 1 January 2012

Shagbark hickory (Carya ovata) is native to most of the Eastern United States and much of Ontario and Quebec, Canada. It is found in a variety of sites, most often on upland sites in the north in association with oaks and other hardwoods.
Young seedlings and saplings can survive in the shady understory for many years until the older trees die, exposing them to sunlight; then they grow more rapidly.
Hickories do not generally dominate a site; they are usually in mixtures.
The common name of shagbark hickory comes from the distinctive peeling bark on mature trees that give it a shaggy appearance. Other common names include shellbark, scalybark, and upland hickory. The bark of young trees is smooth and gray.
Hickory comes from the Algonquian Indian word for the tree's nutmeat — pawcohiccora. The nuts are edible and sweet-flavoured. They can be used in place of pecans in baking. Many wildlife species eat the nuts of shagbark hickory including squirrels, chipmunks and to a lesser degree, black bears, foxes, rabbits and mice, and birds such as mallards, wood ducks, bobwhites and wild turkeys.
Nuts are round to ovate with a thick husk. The husk is green at first, browning as it matures. When the husk dries it splits open along four grooves exposing the nut. The shell of the nut is fairly thin and light brownish white.
The wood of the shagbark hickory is very strong and resilient. It was, and is, used for axles, axes, ploughs and other tool handles. Native Americans used it for bows. Other uses include furniture, cabinetry, flooring, and specialty products like ladder rungs, dowels, and athletic equipment. It is a desirable firewood because of its high heat value and because it burns evenly. Charcoal made from hickories can be used to give food and smoked meats a hickory-smoked flavour.
The bark of the shagbark hickory can be used to make a syrup. It is much like maple syrup but with a unique flavour. Unlike maple syrup, the extract used comes from the bark, not the sap. Hickory syrup is only available from a few places and one of them is in Connecticut.
Shagbark hickory is a tall tree, growing to a mature height of about 120 ft with a width of about 40 ft, Shagbark hickory is adapted to a variety of sites and soil types.
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  • Biodiversity: Endangered and in demand

Source: Nature, 22 December 2011

With an ingredients list that includes rhino horn and tiger bone, traditional Asian medicine is on a collision course with wildlife preservation.
It looks innocuous enough: a small vial bearing a white and orange label with the words “Shi-He Ming Yan Wan”. Yet the pills contained within are said to hold great healing powers, able to cure just about anything, from a mild fever to a brain haemorrhage; from cancer to AIDS. The pill's power, it is claimed, comes from a small amount of rhinoceros horn. Little wonder then that people pay as much as US$50 000/kg, roughly the same as the price of gold.
The rhino and its horn are not alone: powdered tiger bone is used to treat rheumatism; the scales of the toothless, anteater-like pangolin are believed to reduce swelling and improve blood circulation; and guilinggao, a jelly derived from the shells of freshwater turtles, was used to treat smallpox in a nineteenth-century emperor, with little success. It is a similar story for many other endangered species whose commercial use is restricted — or banned outright — by the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
The illicit trade in wildlife is a booming industry, estimated by the US congressional research service to be worth as much as US$20 billion globally each year. Although this figure includes trade in bushmeat, skins and exotic pets, in the expanding Asian market, estimated to be the largest in the world, a significant driver is traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Indeed, despite showing signs of decline in the 1990s, the poaching and trade of endangered animals such as tigers and rhinos is once again on the rise. Yet cheaper and more potent alternatives are available. Organizations such as the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine say that sustainable substitutes have been used successfully for nearly two decades. So why is there still a burgeoning market to use these precious animals in traditional Asian medicine?
One likely factor driving this demand is the rise in the wealth of China, says Sabri Zain, director of advocacy for Traffic International in Cambridge, UK, which was established in 1973 to monitor wildlife trade. “Currently China is the biggest market,” he says. This dominance is not just a consequence of China's population, or the fact that traditional Asian medicine has its roots there, but to the country's rapidly rising incomes. “There are more people who can afford it,” Zain says.
The market for these substances also seems to be expanding. A range of new products has emerged over the past decade, available as black market products or through online stores. “Tiger bone is now being used in wine,” says Debbie Banks, a senior tiger investigator with the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), a campaign group in London.
Indeed this association with status is a major issue, reflected in the demographic of the modern-day user of these products, says Zain. “It Is a myth that these products are only being consumed by an older generation. It is also young, wealthy professionals,” he says. “It may be a way of showing their peers that they can afford these very expensive medicinal products.”
In Vietnam, which is one of the largest markets for TCM outside China, traditional remedies are sought after. If incomes were to increase, so too would consumption of products containing endangered species. This is hardly surprising, says Zain, given the perception that products such as rhino horn are capable of curing cancer — a medicinal property previously unheard of in traditional Asian medicine.
But perhaps the most disturbing notion is the prospect that people might trade in endangered animals as a means of “investing in extinction”. This is the idea that by actively buying up and stockpiling rare animal parts, one can not only push up the price, but also encourage further poaching that will eventually force the species into extinction. In cold-blooded business terms it makes an awful lot of sense, says John Scanlon, secretary-general of CITES in Geneva, Switzerland. “If something is rare it becomes more attractive,” he says. “And the rarer something is, the more valuable it becomes.”
Scanlon concedes that he only has “rumour and anecdotal evidence” that anyone is actually 'investing' in the demise of a species. “It is still speculative,” he adds. According to the EIA, however, tiger farms are stockpiling the bones and skins of tigers that die. Indeed, Chinese authorities have set up two operations — one in Guangxi and one in Geilongjiang — to dismember the carcasses of dead tigers and destroy all but the bones and skins. The Chinese authorities say this is to ensure there is adequate supervision of the carcass and body parts, but why the bones and skin are then not destroyed is not clear. So although there is no proof of people stockpiling wild tiger parts, it is certainly happening in farms.
There is no simple solution to tackle illegal trade in these endangered animals, says Scanlon. But the hope is that progress can be made by adopting diverse tactics, including controlled delivery, tracking illicit substances to the buyer.
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  • Book on Amazon plants puts science in the hands of people

Source: FAO Newsroom, 20 December 2011

A new FAO study released today shows how plants and fruits from Amazonian forests can be used to improve people's diets and livelihoods. The book — which is written in easy-to-grasp, accessible language — seeks to take science out of the ivory tower and put it to work on the ground, in the hands of people.
Fruit Trees and Useful Plants in Amazonian Life was co-produced by FAO, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and People and Plants International. It was unveiled today during a ceremony at FAO marking the close of the International Year of Forests.
"During the International Year of Forests we have managed to highlight close ties between people and forests, as well as the numerous benefits that forests provide if they are managed by local communities in a sustainable way," said Eduardo Rojas-Briales, FAO's Assistant Director-General for Forestry.
"Some 80 percent of people living in the developing world rely on non-wood forest products such as fruits and medicinal plants for their nutritional and health needs. This new book provides comprehensive information on Amazon fruits and plants, and is a perfect example of how to make our knowledge accessible for poor people to help them maximize the benefits from forest products and services and improve their livelihoods. While the International Year of Forests is almost over, our efforts on promoting sustainable forest management and the importance of involving forest communities in development initiatives will continue," added Rojas-Briales.
The layout of FAO's new book aims at allowing readers lacking in formal education to extract knowledge using pictures and numbers. 25 percent of people in developing countries are functionally illiterate — in rural areas this figure can reach close to 40 percent.
"Some 90 Brazilian and international researchers who were willing to present their research to rural villagers in alternative formats — including jokes, recipes and pictures — collaborated in the production of this book," said Tina Etherington, who managed the publication project for FAO's Forestry Department. "And a number of farmers, midwives, hunters and musicians contributed valuable insights and experience as well. The book is of interest to a worldwide audience because of its truly innovative way of presenting science and how those techniques can be transferred to other areas in the world."
Patricia Shanley, Senior Research Associate at CIFOR and lead editor of the publication, said: "This is an unusual book. Written by and for semi-literate rural villagers, it weaves together a tapestry of voices about the myriad values forests contain."
"The book enables nutritional data and ecology to coexist alongside music and folklore making the forest and its inhabitants come alive," she added.
The Amazon is the largest contiguous tropical forest remaining in the world, with 25 million people living in the Brazilian Amazon alone. However, deforestation, fire and climate change could destabilize the region and result in the forest shrinking to one third of its size in 65 years, according to the publication.
In addition to the environmental services they provide, forests like the Amazon are also a rich nutritional storehouse. Fruits provide essential nutrients, minerals and anti-oxidants that keep the body strong and resistant to disease. Buriti palm fruit, for example, contains the highest known levels of vitamin A of any plant in the world. And açaí fruit is being hailed as a "superfood" for its high antioxidant and omega fatty acid content. Brazil nuts are rich in a complete protein similar to the protein content of cow's milk, which is why they are known as the "meat" of the plant kingdom, said the publication.
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  • Community mapping of African rainforests could show way forward for preservation

Source: in Traditional Knowledge Bulletin, 1 December 2011

A new initiative to place community mapping of central African rainforests online could prove key to local rights in the region, says the UK-based NGO Rainforest Foundation. Working with forest communities in five African countries, Rainforest Foundation has helped create digital maps of local forests, including use areas, parks, and threats such as logging and mining. The web site builds on the results of many years’ work to map the existence of forest dwellers in the forests of the Congo Basin.
By showing the areas where community traditional ownership and use of forest is overlapped by other users or claims, the web site could potentially help avoid or resolve conflict, which is endemic to many African forest areas. But the clear identification of community forest areas also potentially helps to resolve one of the biggest challenges facing the concept of “REDD”; the problem of who actually owns or controls the forest, and who should be paid to protect it under any future climate protection scheme.
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  • Dead trees in the Sahel

Source: in Environmental News Network, 12 December 2011

The Sahel is the ecoclimatic and biogeographic zone of transition between the Sahara desert in the North and the Sudanian Savannas in the south. It stretches from west to east across the North African continent between the Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea. It is a sort of coast line for the arid Sahara desert to the north. There is an on-going long term drought in this region.
A new study, published on 16 December, in the Journal of Arid Environments, looked at climate change records, aerial photos dating back to 1954, recent satellite images and old-fashioned footwork that included counting and measuring over 1 500 trees in the field. The researchers focused on six countries in the Sahel, from Senegal in West Africa to Chad in Central Africa, at sites where the average temperature warmed up by 0.8ºC and rainfall fell as much as 48 percent. They found that one in six trees died between 1954 and 2002. In addition, one in five tree species disappeared locally, and indigenous fruit and timber trees that require more moisture took the biggest hit. Hotter, drier conditions dominated population and soil factors in explaining tree mortality, the authors found. Their results indicate that climate change is shifting vegetation zones south toward moister areas.
"In the western U.S., climate change is leading to tree mortality by increasing the vulnerability of trees to bark beetles," said study lead author Patrick Gonzalez, who conducted the study while he was a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley's Center for Forestry (California, USA). "In the Sahel, drying out of the soil directly kills trees. Tree dieback is occurring at the biome level. It is not just one species that is dying; whole groups of species are dying out."
The new findings put solid numbers behind the anecdotal observation of the decline of tree species in the Sahel.
"People in the Sahel depend upon trees for their survival," said Gonzalez. "Trees provide people with food, firewood, building materials and medicine."
It was once theorized that the drought in the Sahel primarily was caused by humans over-using natural resources in the region through overgrazing, deforestation and poor land management. In the late 1990s, climate model studies suggested that large-scale climate changes were also triggers for the drought.
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  • European forest database provides information on carbon balances, biodiversity, etc.

Source: IISD News, 20 December 2011

FOREST EUROPE and the Forestry and Timber Section of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and FAO have launched a web-based resource tool based on their joint State of Europe's Forests 2011 report that also contains new unpublished data on forests, forest management and forest industry in the pan-European region. 
The tool provides a comprehensive, up-to-date description of the status and trends of forests and forest management in Europe. In addition to characteristics of European forests and forestry data in general, one can access to information on the balance of carbon in forest ecosystems, forest health condition, status of forest biodiversity as well as information on wood energy. Aspects of production, including wood and non-wood products and services, are presented along with information on protected forest areas. The database also provides information on social and economic aspects of the forestry sector.
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  • European tree species map released

Source: European Forest Institute, 10 December 2011

The European Forest Institute (EFI) in cooperation with Alterra/Wageningen University has released a set of 1x1 km tree species maps showing the distribution of 20 tree species over Europe. Basic dendrometric data were received for 260 000 national forest inventory plot locations from 17 countries to compile these maps. Forest plot data collected in a European-wide network (ICP Level I) were used to extend the available data for the remaining European countries. Furthermore, forest inventory statistics were applied.
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  • Eye on Earth global mapping and information service now live

Source: European Environment Agency, 13 December 2011

A new global web service allowing users to create maps and visualize data on environmental issues is now live. The new Eye on Earth global public information service brings together vast amounts of data about the environment in a powerful, visual format.
Environmental problems are increasingly complex and interconnected. The good news is that there is now a huge volume of environmental data and information available, and it is growing continuously. The new Eye on Earth web service brings this data together in one place, enabling anyone in the world with an internet connection to combine and analyse information on their environment.
The online service has been developed jointly by the European Environment Agency (EEA), an EU body and a leading environmental network and information partner, the geographic information system developer Esri and Microsoft. The partners are showcasing the new service during the Eye on Earth Summit in Abu Dhabi from 12-15 December. Organizations across the globe are now invited to join the network and start adding data to the range of datasets already available.
The web service takes the form of online maps, which can be manipulated by users. Without the need for any technical training, people can choose to add a huge variety of layers to the map — for example showing pollution, social development, economic factors, land use, transport and so on — to create new insights. The creators of Eye on Earth hope to add other data visualisation functions in the future, alongside the mapping tools. Maps and other data can also be saved and shared through social media.
“Environmental problems are increasingly complex and interconnected,” EEA Executive Director Jacqueline McGlade said. “The good news is that there is now a huge volume of environmental data and information available, and it is growing continuously. The new Eye on Earth web service brings this data together in one place, enabling anyone in the world with an internet connection to combine and analyse information on their environment.”
The web service is aimed at everyone, from scientists to academics, NGOs to individuals. Moreover, Eye on Earth does not just display data — it is also a platform where individuals and organizations can upload their measurements and observations, filling crucial gaps. It aims to “crowd source” information from individuals across the world, and bring in data from many different groups, including “citizen science”, indigenous knowledge and lay expertise.
The Eye on Earth global public information service created by the EEA and partners is distinct from the Abu Dhabi summit of the same name (see next article), although the summit name is inspired by the EEA project and the substance of discussion is closely related. The summit will address environmental and societal information and networking, and its importance for decision-making.
The EEA is actively involved in summit preparations and discussions. It is hoped that the summit will provide an impetus for information sharing in the lead up to Rio+20, a sustainable development summit to be held next June on the 20th anniversary of the first historic Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
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  • Eye on Earth summit launches biodiversity initiative

Source: IISD News, 18 December 2011

As an outcome of the Eye on Earth (EOE) Summit, the "Eye on Biodiversity" initiative was launched, along with others of relevance to biodiversity. Eye on Earth took place 12-15 December 2011, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), hosted by the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD) in partnership with UNEP.
Eye on Biodiversity will seek to link several existing efforts to monitor the status and loss of biodiversity. It will also help researchers harness disparate datasets to better understand what makes ecosystems resilient and what threatens them, identify and fill major gaps, and assess the economic costs of losing biodiversity on the local, national, regional and global scales.
Under cross-cutting initiatives, the Eye on Global Network of Networks seeks to increase the collective impact of existing geospatial and other data networks, such as the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), on global decision-making by ensuring that they can identify and communicate with one another. The Eye on Environmental Education Initiative aims to create a global network that will support coordination, collaboration and resource-sharing among environmental educators around the world. The Eye on Access for All Initiative seeks to create an enabling environment to ensure maximum usage of available environmental and societal data and information by all who wish to access it.
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  • FAO raises alarms on consequences of mountain forests loss

Source: FAO Newsroom, 9 December 2011

The integrity and resilience of mountain forests is under threat from increasing temperatures and wildfires, population growth and food and fuel insecurity, warns a new FAO publication released today.
Population pressures and the expansion of intensive agriculture have forced smallholder farmers to move higher towards marginal areas and steep slopes, sparking a loss of forests, warns Mountain Forests in a Changing World ( It also notes that climate change is likely to facilitate more rapid expansion by pests and disease-causing organisms which may cause additional damage to mountain forests.
The report, jointly produced by the FAO-hosted Mountain Partnership Secretariat and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, was published in the lead up to the UN International Mountain Day on 11 December.
"Mountain forests protect local communities against natural disasters and they safeguard the natural resources and environmental services that billions of people rely on for their well-being and livelihoods," said Eduardo Rojas-Briales, FAO's Assistant Director General for Forestry. "Mountain forests are being affected by many global challenges, such as climate change, water scarcity, loss of biodiversity and desertification, but they also offer significant opportunities for solutions. Sustainable development of mountain forests requires and deserves a prominent place on the international agenda."
Mountains provide 60 percent of the world's freshwater resources despite covering only 12 percent of the Earth's surface, FAO's report says.  Mountain forests strongly influence both the quantity and quality of water supplies to mountain and lowland communities and industries.  When forests are removed from mountains and land is left unprotected, runoff and soil erosion increase, with water quality deteriorating in streams and rivers as a consequence.
Mountain forests store a vast quantity of carbon and have an important role to play in climate change policies, FAO's report notes. The loss of mountain forests would release large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, it says.
Mountain people — who are among the world's poorest and hungriest — are key to maintaining mountain ecosystems, adds FAO's report. They should have a say in the management of the local forestry resources upon which they depend, and share the benefits from forest use and conservation.
Together with the report on mountain forests, FAO also released two more publications focusing on the important role of mountain ecosystems for improving rural livelihoods and poverty alleviation: Highlands and Drylands: Mountains, a Source of Resilience in Arid Regions (, and Why Invest in Sustainable Mountain Development? (
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  • Foraging: Why all the attention?

Source:, 27 December 2011

Foraging, or more precisely using foraged ingredients, is nothing new. Wild mushrooms are menu staples in the autumn and, in modern times trailblazing chefs have been slipping other kinds of foraged food on to menus for nearly a decade. But in the past couple of years the trend has become mainstream, thanks to mentions beyond industry media.
A foraged ingredient is, in essence, a wild food — most often a plant or its seeds/fruit, from land or sea. In kitchen terms, it is something that is not cultivated, but which has culinary usage. Depending on the season, this includes chickweed, sea purslane, samphire, mugwort, elderberries and flowers, alexanders, ransoms, wood sorrel, nettles, wild mushrooms with weird and wonderful names, cobnuts, sloes and blackberries. The list is long and varied.
Why all the attention now? It certainly helps that a high-profile chef like René Redzepi, chef-proprietor of Copenhagen's Noma restaurant and the current darling of the world's culinary press, has used native Scandinavian wild plants as the building blocks to his unique, contemporary Danish cuisine. But others have been quietly using foraged food on their menus for years.
There is no doubt that the culinary rediscovery of Britain's wild food has resulted in some fantastic restaurant dishes and expanded the native ingredient larder significantly. Many wild plants have great spice-and-herb-like flavour profiles and inject punch on to the palate in surprising ways. But the wider use of foraged food in restaurants across the industry carries a certain amount of danger. At least according to some critics.
The problem is that when a culinary trend takes off, it does so for better or worse. Some chefs just jump on fashion bandwagons without bothering to fully understand the new techniques or ingredients they are utilising, merely because they see their peers cooking in a novel style. To be safe, we recommend going out foraging with an expert (such as Kent-based Miles Irving of Forager in the UK:, as a way of deepening culinary knowledge of wild food. This way, you get to see the ingredients in their natural habitat and build up an appreciation for them. You see the life cycle of a plant and how you can use it in different ways at different stages.
There are however issues floating around the use of foraged ingredients. Disturbing biodiversity by over-harvesting at sites is a potential problem. Knowledgeable and responsible foragers such as Irving are careful about how they collect their supplies. But increasing demand from chefs and amateur cooks means unscrupulous suppliers and over-keen amateurs can denude important habitats very easily. There have been problems in recent years, for instance, with mushroom collecting in Epping Forest in Essex (England).
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  • Forest Day 5 highlights African forests

Source: IISD Reporting Services, 4 December 2011

Forest Day 5 convened in Durban, South Africa, under the theme “From Policy to Practice,” with a special focus on the role of African forests in mitigating and adapting to climate change.
The 4 December 2011 event was co-hosted by the Government of South Africa, the Centre for International Forest Research (CIFOR) and the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF).
Discussion forums considered: how is REDD+ unfolding on the ground? an exploration of the social, political and biophysical issues biodiversity safeguards in REDD+; financing opportunities and issues for mitigation and adaptation with a focus on the private sector; and addressing gender considerations in climate change adaptation and REDD+ efforts.
According to Frances Seymour, Director General, CIFOR, discussions at Forest Day 5 addressed the specific opportunities and challenges of forest management in Africa, successfully launched the first informal market place, and showcased the innovative use of instant voting by participants to identify priority areas for future action. Seymour also highlighted the many tributes paid to the late Wangari Maathai’s work and legacy.             Following Seymour’s announcement that she will be stepping down as CIFOR Director-General in 2012, she was lauded the "mother" of the Forest Days for her inspiring leadership in bridging the science-policy gap and building broad consensus on REDD.
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  • “Forests cannot be sustained if people are hungry”

Source: CIFOR Blog, 6 December 2011

Agriculture will most likely be included in future negotiations on global warming, experts said at the U.N. climate change talks in Durban, which may help address one of the top drivers of deforestation amid a spike in demand for farmland.
South Africa’s Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries Minister, Tina Joemat-Pettersson “will be delivering a letter to COP17 negotiators”, said Rachel Kyte, Vice President of Sustainable Development at the World Bank at Forest Day 5, a side-event to the UN climate summit in its final week in Durban. She requested that negotiators approve “at a minimum, a decision to set up a work program on agriculture under SBSTA, without which, there should not be a deal”.  SBSTA is the scientific sub-committee of the UNFCCC.
The SBSTA draft text does mention the drivers of deforestation, said La Viña at Forest Day 5. The sub-committee has agreed to hold a broad agenda-setting discussion on agriculture at next year’s COP in Qatar, he said.
Forests around the world are under increasing pressure as the burgeoning global population, on track to hit 9 billion by 2050, demands more land for food production. Forests act as crucial safety nets for people struggling to avert famine in times of economic and climactic stress but this ability is being threatened by intense crop cultivation, high energy demand, soil erosion and nutrient depletion from agricultural practices.
Unsustainable land management practices have also contributed to creeping desertification in Sub-Saharan Africa, playing a major role in the famine now plaguing the horn of Africa and threatening the region’s remaining dry forests.
“Forests cannot be sustained if people are hungry,” said Kyte. “Hunger places a direct burden on forests when people are forced to push deeper into forested areas to grow crops. And when hunger and poverty take their toll, people resort to making and selling charcoal faster than the natural rate of forest regeneration in order to buy food.”
A recent FAO report identified the big challenges to balancing the competing pressures on global food system and called for an integrated approach to food security with a focus on “climate-smart agriculture”. But this cannot be achieved without forests, suggested Frances Seymour, Director General at the Center of International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
With the resilience of people and wildlife to adapt to changes in climate declining as vast areas of forest are wiped out, the world’s largest consortium of agricultural researchers this week launched a global research program devoted to forests and agroforestry. The US$233 million CGIAR research program on Forests, Trees, and Agroforestry aims to help countries expand their focus from dense canopy tropical forests to mixed agricultural forest landscapes where people and trees come into greater contact.
“We call it the triple win: mitigating climate change by building resilience in farming and forest systems while increasing yields and income. Farmers already understand that growing trees on farms can help fatten their livestock, break the impact of parchment, and improve soil conditions,” said Rachel Kyte, Vice President of Sustainable Development at the World Bank, speaking to CIFOR at Forest Day 5.
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  • Saving the forests with indigenous knowledge

Source: IPS, 9 December 2011

For the Laibon community, a sub-tribe of Kenya’s Maasai ethnic group, the 33 000-ha Loita Forest in the country’s Rift Valley Province is more than just a forest. It is a shrine.
"It is our shrine. Our Gods live there. We gather herbs from the place. We use it for beekeeping. It therefore forms part of our livelihood," said Olonana Ole Pulei, who is in Durban, South Africa, to represent his community at the 17th Conference of Parties under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
According to Nigel Crawhall, the Director of Secretariat for the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee (IPACC), different African communities have incredible indigenous knowledge that they use in the conservation of forests and biodiversity in general, and this should be recognised during the negotiations in Durban.
"Different communities have different practices that they use in forestry conservation," he said.
Crawhall gave an example of how the Bambuti and Batwa pygmy communities, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, conserved the forest using traditional methods. Both communities depend on the biodiversity of animal life in the equatorial forests in order to survive.
"Usually, they know how to identify particular trees that can be cut down in order to create a unique opening on the canopy, which attracts light in the closely-packed Congo forests. The light then attracts animals, birds and insects, thus giving them an opportunity to hunt," Crawhall told IPS.
This helps conserve the biodiversity, as well as the forests because this method can only work if the forest canopy is intact.
In Kenya, the Maasai culture forbids any community member from cutting down a tree, either for firewood or any other purpose. People are also forbidden from interfering with the taproots or removing the entire bark of a tree for herbal extraction.
According to their cultural belief, one can only use tree branches for firewood, and fibrous roots for herbs. If the bark of a tree has medicinal value, then only small portions of it can be removed by creating a "V" in the bark. The wound is then sealed using wet soil.
"We believe that the soil helps in healing the wound on a tree. This is cultural, and we all believe that it is an abomination for one to injure a tree, and not help it heal," said Ole Pulei.
"All logging activities observed on Maasai land, including the destruction of the Mau Forest, are done by foreigners because the Maasai culture does not allow such activities. This is the indigenous knowledge that helps in forest conservation," Ole Pulei told IPS.
"We have several other communities all over the continent who co-exist with forests. They include the Tuareg community in Algeria, Yiaku community in Kenya’s Laikipia region, the Ogiek community also in Kenya, the Kung community in Botswana among others," said Crawhall.
"We believe that African traditional ecological knowledge is the foundation for appropriate and effective national adaptation policies," said Crawhall.
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  • UN Climate talks end with late deal

Source: BBC News, 11 December 2011

UN climate talks have closed with an agreement that the chair said had "saved tomorrow, today".
The EU will place its current emission-cutting pledges inside the legally-binding Kyoto Protocol, a key demand of developing countries. Talks on a new legal deal covering all countries will begin next year and end by 2015, coming into effect by 2020.
Management of a fund for climate aid to poor countries has also been agreed, though how to raise the money has not.
Talks ran nearly 36 hours beyond their scheduled close, with many delegates saying the host government lacked urgency and strategy. Nevertheless, there was applause in the main conference hall when South Africa's International Relations Minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, brought down the long-awaited final gavel.
"We came here with plan A, and we have concluded this meeting with plan A to save one planet for the future of our children and our grandchildren to come," she said. "We have made history."
The conclusion was delayed by a dispute between the EU and India over the precise wording of the "roadmap" for a new global deal. India did not want a specification that it must be legally binding.
Eventually, a Brazilian diplomat came up with the formulation that the deal must have "legal force", which proved acceptable.
The roadmap proposal originated with the EU, the Alliance of Small Island States (Aosis) and the Least Developed Countries bloc (LDCs). They argued that only a new legal agreement eventually covering emissions from all countries — particularly fast-growing major emitters such as China — could keep the rise in global average temperatures since pre-industrial times below 2ºC. the internationally-agreed threshold.
"If there is no legal instrument by which we can make countries responsible for their actions, then we are relegating countries to the fancies of beautiful words," said Karl Hood, Grenada's Foreign Minister, speaking for Aosis.
Aosis and the LDCs agree that rich countries need to do more.  But they also accept analyses concluding that fast-developing countries such as China will need to cut their emissions several years in the future if governments are to meet their goal of keeping the rise in global average temperature since pre-industrial times below 2ºC.
Once the roadmap blockage had been cleared, everything else followed quickly.
There has also been significant progress on REDD. Environment groups were divided in their reaction, with some finding it a significant step forward and others saying it had done nothing to change the course of climate change.
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  • UN Climate talks: Durban deforestation agreement promotes transparency, scientific verification

Source: Nature, 5 December 2011

Deforestation is responsible for roughly 15 percent of global carbon emissions, and the idea is that some of the money spent on reducing global greenhouse-gas emissions could be funnelled into forest-protection programmes. As envisioned, such initiatives would reduce emissions while preserving biodiversity, protecting freshwater resources and putting some money in the pockets of the rural poor. Pretty much everybody likes the idea, but to make it happen, we first need baselines so that all parties agree on how many trees are coming down — and, more importantly, how much carbon dioxide is going up.
This is where the new agreement comes in. Among other things, the language proposed by a technical working group on Saturday says that developing countries must calculate their baselines in terms of carbon-dioxide emissions — as opposed to hectares — and then submit them for a kind of international peer review before they become final. Assuming the language moves forward, both requirements would increase transparency and make it easier for scientists, investors and other countries to verify the numbers.
"It is the best thing that has been done since Bali," says John O. Niles, Director of the Tropical Forest Group in San Diego, referring to the 2007 climate talks in Indonesia that formally put deforestation on the agenda. "Before countries would submit reference levels, but now the text says countries will submit proposed reference levels," he adds. "That one word makes a huge difference."
In UN-speak, the concept is known as REDD and it has been one of the few bright spots in difficult negotiations in recent years. Environmentalists say that the new agreement could have gone further to spell out various environmental and social safeguards, but there was nonetheless a collective sigh of relief after a week of difficult negotiations that went down to the deadline. This is just a first step.
REDD cannot go anywhere within the UN climate system unless countries can mobilize monetary resources to make it happen, and that means progress on forestry could once again fall prey to disagreements about how to raise and spend the money — ramping up to US$100 billion annually by 2020 — that industrialized countries have committed to help developing countries deal with climate. At least for now, however, all of the major action on REDD is taking place through bilateral partnerships, and many think that the new agreement could lead to an international standard that will apply even outside the UN process.
As it happens, the Brazilian Amazon has been the topic of much discussion here in Durban. Brazil has made remarkable progress in reducing deforestation over the past several years, but many now fear that the country could be facing a major backslide in the years to come, thanks in part to a rural backlash against the nation's forest-protection code.
On Tuesday the Brazilian Senate is scheduled to vote on — and presumably approve — new forest-code legislation, and then the question is whether President Dilma Rousseff will use her veto power to eliminate troublesome provisions in the bill. Environmentalists say that the bill could spell disaster in the Amazon, and the Rousseff administration has long opposed the legislation as well. Speaking in Durban, however, Brazilian officials say that the worst provisions have already been removed and argue that the legislation will not affect Brazil's commitments to reducing deforestation.
For a nice analysis of how all of this might play out, check out the new essay in Conservation Biology by scientists at the Brazilian Amazon Environmental Research Institute. Led by Dan Nepstad, the essay authors call for "systemic conservation" and go on to analyze two possible futures of the Amazon basin. The treatment of carbon proves to be one crucial factor in determining whether we will see an end to deforestation by 2020, or an acceleration of forest destruction.
For full story, please see:



  • UNEP shifts management of Billion Tree Campaign to Plant-for-the-Planet Foundation

Source: IISD Reporting Services, 7 December 2011

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) formally handed over the management of the Billion Tree Campaign, which has led to the planting of 12 billion trees in 193 countries, to the youth-led environment organization Plant-for-the-Planet Foundation. The handover ceremony occurred on the sidelines of the Durban Climate Change Conference.
Noting that the Campaign always had been considered finite, UNEP explains that it had a choice between bringing the Campaign to a close, or transferring it to a partner. According to UNEP, the Plant-for-the-Planet Foundation's emphasis on young people, its academies on climate change and existing commitment to the Billion Tree Campaign will allow the Campaign to continue as a supportive element in a wider youth initiative.
The Billion Tree Campaign was inspired by the work of the late Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai and the Green Belt Movement. It aims to improve quality of life and limit environmental degradation through the benefits provided by trees, including mitigating climate change through the sequestration of carbon, contributing to local economies through products such as timber, and providing ecosystem services such as soil regulation, erosion control and cultural values.
For more information, please see:



  • UN launches “Decade on Biodiversity”

Source: Press TV (Ireland), 18 December 2011

The UN has launched 'Decade on Biodiversity' 2011-2020 to prevent loss of species and ecosystems and encourage humanity to live in harmony with nature.
The initiative, launched in the Japanese city of Kanazawa with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, is trying to preserve the nature and manage its riches for the prosperity of current and future generations.
“Ensuring truly sustainable development for our growing human family depends on biological diversity and the vital goods and services it offers,” said Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information on behalf of Ban in his message to opening ceremony of the event.
The General Assembly had previously declared the period 2011-2020 as the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity programmed to establish an overall vision of living in harmony with nature. The Decade also aims to encourage governments to develop and communicate the results of national strategies for implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity.
“Human activities have caused the extinction of plants and animals at some hundreds or thousands of times faster than what the natural rate would have been, “Akasaka pointed out.
“We cannot reverse extinction. We can, however, prevent future extinction of other species right now. For the next 10 years our commitment to protecting more than eight million species, and our wisdom in contributing to a balance of life, will be put to a test,” he said. For full story, please see:




  • INBAR seeks Project Evaluation Consultant in Ethiopia and Ghana

From: FU Jinhe, INBAR, December 2011

The International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) is recruiting a short term consultant for a mid-term evaluation of the EU — funded Project: “Bamboo as sustainable biomass energy: A suitable alternative for firewood and charcoal production in Africa”.
The assignment will take place as soon as possible, preferably in the second half of January 2012 and is for a maximum of 22 working days plus 3 travel days to and from Ethiopia and Ghana.
Minimum required education/skills/experience:

  • Advanced degree in development studies, business studies, social studies or similar relevant disciplines.
  • Ten years professional experience in the relevant field (specify relevant areas such as renewable energy, agriculture, SME, VCD, capacity building etc.).
  • Demonstrated experience with project management and monitoring/evaluation of projects financed by international donors, preferably the EU.
  • Excellent English writing and presentation skills
  • Literate in MS Office (word, excel, PowerPoint) and other data processing software
  • Fluency in written and spoken English, knowledge of one or more local languages is an asset.

            Please send your CV/resume with a cover letter by email to:
Dr. Fu Jinhe: [email protected], indicating “Mid Term Project Evaluation” in the email subject line.
            Deadline for application: 9 January 2012.
For more information, please contact:
FU Jinhe, Ph. D
Senior Programme Officer & Regional Coordinator of East Africa
Coordinator of IUFRO 5.11.05 Bamboo and Rattan
Project Manager of EU Bamboo Biomass Energy
International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR)
8, Futong Dong Da Jie, Wangjing, Chaoyang District
P. O. Box 100102-86, Beijing 100102, P. R. China
Tel: +86-10-64706161 ext. 208
Mobile:+86-1364 1234 213
Fax: +86-10-64702166
Email: [email protected]



  • PhD in Forest Modelling Complexity

From: Lucy Rist, Umea University (Sweden), 28 December 2011

The University of Quebec and Montreal (UQAM), Oregon State University, and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Umeå, Sweden; are looking for a motivated PhD student to work on a modeling project that investigates the potential tradeoffs between managing forests for efficient provision of goods and services and adaptability and resilience in relation to global change factors, in the context of complex adaptive system theory. The student will be based at the UQAM, but travelling among the three universities. Required qualifications include a basic training in forestry, forest ecology, and forest economics and a strong background in quantitative sciences and modeling. To apply or for further information, send a letter of interest outlining suitability and motivation, a CV, and a list of references to Klaus Puettmann ([email protected]), Christian Messier ([email protected]) or Jon Moen ([email protected]). The candidate’s acceptance will depend upon successfully obtaining a scholarship from the Forest Modeling Complexity program.
For more information, please see:



  • IIED seeks a Senior Researcher for its Forest Team

From: IIED, 14 December 2011

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) is recruiting a Senior Researcher to its Forest Team. This is a full-time, permanent post and its purpose is to help develop and steer a programme of policy research on tree-based enterprise, on and off-farm, to meet growing demands for food, fodder, fuel and fibre within sustainable and equitable landscapes.  
The closing date for applications is Friday 13 January 2012. Interviews are scheduled to take place on Tuesday 31 January 2012.  Please send all enquiries and applications to [email protected].
For further information, please contact:
International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)
80-86 Gray's Inn Road
United Kingdom
Tel: + 44 (0)20 3463 7399
Fax: + 44 (0)20 3514 9055




18th Session African Forestry and Wildlife Commission
Benin, Cotonou
16-20 January 2012
Created in 1959, the African Forestry Wildlife Commission (AFWC) is one of six Regional Forestry Commissions established by FAO to provide a policy and technical forum for countries to discuss and address forest issues on a regional basis. It meets every two years.
FAO encourages wide participation of government officials from forestry and other sectors as well as representatives of international, regional and subregional organizations that deal with forest-related issues in the region, including NGOs, and the private sector.
For more information, please contact:
Regional Office for Africa (RAF)
FAO Building
#2 Gamel Abdul Nasser Road
Accra, Ghana
P. O. Box GP 1628, Accra, Ghana
Tel: +233-(0)302 675000/7010930
Fax: +233-(0)302 668427
E-mail: [email protected]]



“Solutions for a sustainable planet” International conference
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
16–17 June 2012
The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) will host a major international event immediately before the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) is held in late June 2012.
“Solutions for a sustainable planet” will present a set of recommendations for action drawn from 40 years of work on sustainable development. It will showcase the expertise and perspectives of practitioners and researchers from around the world working to make sustainable development a reality in a diverse range of contexts. It will provide space for dialogue on current and emerging challenges in moving towards sustainability. And it will enable alliances of willing actors to explore how they can work together towards agreed goals, benefiting from mutual learning and accountability.
Solutions for a sustainable planet include:
1. Means to pay for sustainable development.
2. Ways to live within planetary boundaries, particularly climate limits, while also addressing social and economic limits and aspirations.
3. Approaches for addressing rapid urbanisation.
4. A fair ‘green economy’ that helps to reduce poverty.
5. Tools and tactics to promote business models that move us towards sustainable development.
IIED will contribute inputs to the summit preparations around the five sets of “solutions” above, and ensure that the analysis and recommendations for action are widely available. IIEED aims to engage a wide set of organizations in leading and contributing to sessions during the conference. IIED staff will publish a detailed schedule by the end of February 2012, alongside a conceptual framework for the event.
“Solutions for a sustainable planet” will be open to all participants. Advance registration is required.
For more information, please contact:
Tom Bigg
80-86 Gray's Inn Road
London, England
Tel: +44 (0)20 3463 7399
Fax: +44 (0)20 3514 9055
E-mail: [email protected]




52.       Request for information on wood density values
From: Benktesh Sharma, 28 December 2011

I am looking for some assistance in finding some wood density values for a number of tree species in the context of Tropical Mountain Forests in Africa. I would need to site a source of information if it is available. Thank you.
The species include: Rytigynia kigeziensis, Galiniera coffeoides, Sinarundinaria alpine, Balthasarea schliebenii, Schefflera goetzenii, Psydrax sp.
Thank you.



53.       Request for contributions: Biomes and Ecosystems Encyclopaedia
From: Joseph K. Golson [[email protected]], 8 December 2011

We are inviting academic editorial contributors to a new reference work about biomes and ecosystems to be published by Salem Press in 2013. With approximately 600 articles in four volumes, Biomes and Ecosystems: An Encyclopaedia is a comprehensive review of key biological and geographic classifications tied to the high-school and college curriculum. The reference work will cover the broad scope of biomes and ecosystems around the world, from puddles on the street to coral reefs in Australia to rain forests in Brazil to the tundra in Siberia. Each article will delve into the properties that make the subject a biome or ecosystem, and how those features work together. Especially targeted toward high-school students, this outstanding reference work is edited to make the content readily accessible as well to patrons of public, academic, and university libraries. Pedagogical elements include a Topic Finder, Chronology, Resource Guide, Glossary, Appendix, and thorough index. Presented in an A-to-Z format, Biomes and Ecosystems: An Encyclopaedia is richly illustrated with photos, charts, and tables, all comprising an unprecedented and unique resource produced by Golson Media for Salem Press.
We are now making new article assignments with a deadline of 13 January 2012.
For more information, please e-mail: Joseph K. Golson at: [email protected]




54.       Nature Outlook: Traditional Asian Medicine, Vol. 480, No. 7378
From: Nature E-alert, 22 December 2011

Using scientific techniques to investigate the claims of traditional medicine as practised in countries such as China and Japan can help sort effective treatments from unfounded superstitions — and perhaps give modern medicine a few insights into holistic approaches borne from thousands of years of herbal remedies.



55.       New Forest Peoples Programme Report
From: Forest Peoples Programme, December 2011

This report, entitled: The reality of REDD+ in Peru: Between theory and practice. Indigenous Amazonian peoples’ analyses and alternatives and compiled by national and regional indigenous organisations in Peru (AIDESEP, FENAMAD, CARE) and the Forest Peoples Programme (FPP), collates indigenous peoples’ experiences with REDD policies and projects in the Peruvian Amazon.
The report analyses the policies and strategies of the Peruvian government, examines the roles of international agencies and scrutinises pilot REDD initiatives already underway in indigenous territories. Amongst other conclusions the report finds that existing REDD policies and programmes are undermining the rights of indigenous peoples and are likely to lead to conflicts over land and resources.
The report calls for alternative rights-based approaches to forest and climate protection based on recognition of land and territorial rights of indigenous peoples and support for community-based climate initiatives.
To read the report, please see:



56.       Managing Forest Resources for Sustainable Development
From: The Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) of the World Bank Group, 12 December 2011

The Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) of the World Bank Group has recently released its approach paper for the evaluation “Managing Forest Resources for Sustainable Development.” The paper is available for download at:



57.       Other publications of Interest
From: FAO’s NWFP Programme

Al-Quran, S. 2011. Conservation of medicinal plants in Ajlun woodland/Jordan.
Journal of Medicinal Plants Research. 5: 24, 5857-5862. 17 ref.

Brus, et al. 2011 “Statistical mapping of tree species over Europe.’ European Journal of Forest Research. Vol. 131 (1): 145–157.

Fuashi, N. A. Popoola, L. Mosua, I. S. Wehmbazeyi, N. F. 2011. Evaluation of Carpolobia species (Hausa sticks) trade in the forest zones of South West Cameroon and Cross River State of Nigeria. Journal of Ecology and the Natural Environment. 3: 11, 351-359. 44 ref.
Abstract: Carpolobia trade evaluation was carried out between 2003 and June 2010 in the Ejagham Forest Reserve of South West Cameroon and the Cross River State of Nigeria, with the objective of examining the harvesting, marketing and the economic contributions of Carpolobia trade to the National and International economies of Nigeria and Cameroon. Carpolobia, as a NTFP, is the stem of an evergreen shrub from the family Polygalaceae that is harvested from the forest ecosystem, processed into a cattle control and walking stick (locally known as Hausa sticks), and marketed in Cameroon and Nigeria. In order to achieve the set objectives of the study, the line transect was used to assess species level of abundance while questionnaire and a selection of Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) tools were employed to gather information on the species season of occurrence, harvesting and trade/marketing from Carpolobia species harvesters and other forest user groups in the study area. Analysis of collected data revealed that two species of Carpolobia are found in the study area (Carpolobia lutea, and Carpolobia alba). C. lutea was the most economically valued species for the Carpolobia species trade. The sourcing and processing of C. lutea for the market was found to be characterized by the use of locally made tools that destructively cut the plant below the ground level with little room for natural regeneration. Market prices for C. lutea were found to be determined by the contractors who acted as cartel. ANOVA and t-test analysis showed significant differences in product quantities within and between zones and the two seasons of the year at the P<0.05 level of significance. A total of 16 103 065.2 tons of C. lutea were produced and traded between 2003 and June 2010, valued at about 24 076 915 F CFA (US$ 48 153.83) as internally generated revenue (IGR) to the economies of Cameroon and Nigeria. The natural stock of Carpolobia species in the study area is on a sharp decline due to unsustainable harvesting.

Gamba-Trimiño, C., Bernal, R. and Bittner, J. 2011. Demography of the clonal palm Prestoea acuminata in the Colombian Andes: sustainable household extraction of palm hearts. Tropical Conservation Science. Vol. 4(4):386-404.

Gandiwa, E. 2011. Preliminary assessment of illegal hunting by communities adjacent to the northern Gonarezhou National Park, Zimbabwe. Tropical Conservation Science. Vol. (4):445-467.

Jenkins RKB , Keane A , Rakotoarivelo AR , Rakotomboavonjy V , Randrianandrianina FH, et al. 2011 Analysis of Patterns of Bushmeat Consumption Reveals Extensive Exploitation of Protected Species in Eastern Madagascar. PLoS ONE 6(12): e27570.

Nasi, R. and Van Vliet, N. 2011. Empty forests, empty stomachs? Bushmeat and livelihoods in the Congo and Amazon Basins. International Forestry Review. Vol.13, No.3. 355-368.

Price, M. F., Gratzer, G., Duguma, L.A., Kohler, T., Maselli, D. and Romeo, R. (eds) 2011. Mountain Forests in a Changing World — Realizing Values, addressing challenges. Rome: FAO/MPS and SDC.

Rist, L., Shanley, P., Sunderland, T., Sheil, D., Ndoye, O., Liswanti, N. and Tieguhong, J. 2011 The impacts of selective logging on non-timber forest products of livelihood importance. Forest Ecology and Management. publication/3520.html

Shanley, P., Cymerys, M., Serra, M. and Medina, G. (eds). 2011. Fruit Trees and Useful Plants in Amazonian Life. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Center for International Forestry Research and People and Plants International. (No.20 in FAO’s NWFP Series).
Abstract: Fruit Trees and Useful Plants in Amazonian Life, a collaboration between CIFOR and FAO, serves two main purposes: it provides rich information on Amazon fruits and Amazon communities, illustrating how local peoples have adopted and adapted to the plant kingdom around them to distil vital nutrients, medicines and other products fundamental to their survival; it also shows how scientific information can be presented in an innovative and more inclusive way, one that can be adapted accordingly by actors worldwide.
The publication is a testament to the enormous potential that integrating traditional and scientific knowledge can have for both local communities and development professionals alike. It also serves as a reminder to the scientific community that science should be shared with local people and not confined to journals and closed circles of technical experts. From Brazil nuts and Cat’s claw to Copaiba and Titica, this publication shares a wealth of information on a wide range of plant species that only close collaboration between local peoples and researches could possibly breed.

Sunderland, T.C.H. and Pottinger, A.H. (eds).2011. The International Forestry Review: Special Issue: Forests, Biodiversity and Food Security. Commonwealth Forestry Association, Vol. 13(3).

Zadou D. A., Koné I., Mouroufié V.K., Adou Yao C.Y., Gléanou K.E., Kablan Y.A., Coulibaly D., and Ibo J.G. 2011. Valeur de la Forêt des Marais Tanoe-Ehy (sud-est de la COTE D’IVOIRE) pour la conservation: dimension socio-anthropologique. Tropical Conservation Science. Vol. 4(4):373-385. [French]



58.       WEB SITES and E-ZINES
From: FAO’s NWFP Programme

Community-based Forest Enterprise Development
FAO assists people in developing income-generating tree and forest product enterprises while also having greater incentive to sustainably manage and protect those resources. This web site features some of FAO’s work on Community-based Forest Enterprise Development.

Global Open Access Portal
The open access (OA) movement — which campaigns for free scholarly information via the Internet — has welcomed a web site that aims to be the first port of call for checking the status of OA around the world.
The Global Open Access Portal, launched last month by UNESCO (UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) at its general conference, will provide policymakers with information on the global OA outlook and situations at country level. It will also point to examples of successful OA initiatives.

The Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) of the World Bank Group: Facebook Page
The Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) of the World Bank Group would like to invite you to join its Facebook page, which is used to share updates on the evaluation's progress, solicit feedback from beneficiaries and stakeholders, and create a space where users can find news and resources on forest related issues.
Visit the IEG’s Facebook page and share it with your networks to:
• Provide inputs to the evaluation
• Stay abreast of upcoming field visits and share information or advice with the team in advance of their visit
• Highlight relevant lessons and case studies from previous forest work
• Find and share knowledge on forest and environment related issues that may be helpful for your upcoming studies
• Share your personal experiences and images/videos of sustainable forest management from around the world

Mapping for Rights
Working with forest communities in five African countries, Rainforest Foundation has helped create digital maps of local forests, including use areas, parks, and threats such as logging and mining.




59.       Arduous life of Wolverines documented in Yellowstone National Park, USA
Source: Yale Environment 360, 2 December 2011

Yellowstone National Park’s wolverines live a harsh life high in the Rocky Mountains, with females giving birth in snow caves at 9 000 ft, males ranging over territories covering 500 miles², and the scrappy animals doing battle with grizzly bears many times their size, according to a new study.
Biologists from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) used radio-tracking technology to observe 30 wolverines over eight years. While other species either hibernate or move to lower terrain in the winter, WCS biologists found that wolverines continue to patrol their high-mountain terrain throughout the coldest months. With large feet that allow them to walk atop deep snow, wolverines — the largest member of the weasel family — are able to move from one side of Wyoming’s Teton Range to the other in just hours, according to the study, published in the Journal of Wildlife Management.
For full story, please see:



  • Spider musical patterns

Source: MIT University (MA, USA), 8 December 2011

There is something about beautiful music and pretty spider webs. Using a new mathematical methodology, researchers at MIT have created a scientifically rigorous analogy that shows the similarities between the physical structure of spider silk and the sonic structure of a melody, proving that the structure of each relates to its function in an equivalent way. The step-by-step comparison begins with the primary building blocks of each item — an amino acid and a sound wave — and moves up to the level of a beta sheet nanocomposite (the secondary structure of a protein consisting of repeated hierarchical patterns) and a musical riff (a repeated pattern of notes or chords). The study explains that structural patterns are directly related to the functional properties of lightweight strength in the spider silk and, in the riff, sonic tension that creates an emotional response in the listener.
While likening spider silk to musical composition may appear to be more novelty than breakthrough, the methodology behind it represents a new approach to comparing research findings from disparate scientific fields. Such analogies could help engineers develop materials that make use of the repeating patterns of simple building blocks found in many biological materials that, like spider silk, are lightweight yet extremely failure-resistant. The work also suggests that engineers may be able to gain new insights into biological systems through the study of the structure-function relationships found in music and other art forms.
"This work is very exciting because it brings forth an approach founded on category theory to bridge music (and potentially other aspects of the fine arts) to a new field of materiomics," says Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering Joyce Wong of Boston University, a biomaterials scientist and engineer.
Materiomics is defined as the holistic study of material systems. Materiomics examines links between physiochemical material properties and material characteristics and function. The focus of materiomics is system functionality and behaviour, rather than a piecewise collection of properties, a paradigm similar to systems biology. While typically applied to complex biological systems and biomaterials, materiomics is equally applicable to non-bilogical systems.       
Materiomics investigates the material properties of natural and synthetic materials by examining fundamental links between processes, structures and properties at multiple scales, from nano to macro, by using systematic experimental, theoretical or computational methods.
For full story, please see:




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last updated:  Monday, April 30, 2012