First of all, as we know in project management, estimation is big part of our work. I think it is 34.2228% of work. Approximately. That’s just an estimate.
As for this blog post series - I estimated this to be a 3 part series. Looks like I was optimistic (or pessimistic, depending on your viewpoint). The latest issue of Nature, which arrived as I started this post, has a cover story, Tree Dimensions. And, to top it all off, as I was realizing that there was at least one more post justified by the topic, the BBC show, “Science Hour” featured a segment called “The World Wood Web” on roughly the same topic as Tree Dimensions. So there is definitely going to be one further post on this topic – a total of four. At least, that’s my new estimate.
This post, as promised at the end of Part 1, talks a bit more about how forests play a role in sustainability. It’s a big role with a lot of big numbers, so get out your seat belts and fasten your calculators.
In the way of full disclosure, much of the inspiration for this came from a commentary piece in the April edition of Scientific American, written by Han de Groot, CEO of the Rainforest Alliance.
The article is called “A Low-Tech Climate Fix”. It’s a one-pager, but it’s loaded with resources.
De Groot begins by affirming that climate change is asymmetrical in its effects on the world population. It affects the world’s most vulnerable people, he says, “particularly poor rural communities that depend on the land for t heir livelihoods and coastal populations throughout the tropics”. We’ve seen this with hurricanes and floods in particular, and sea-level rise in poor island nations (we’ll see more in the next decades, but already it’s a life-threatening situation).
So how can we use forests to help?
Forests have an amazing capacity to absorb and hold (sequester is the preferred word) carbon. Forests, says de Groot, can help us achieve 37% of our climate target – limiting global warming to a maximum of 2 degrees C above benchmarked levels before the rise of industry.
A single tree can sequester an average of almost 50 pounds a year.
The policies recommended by de Groot – ones that would launch many ‘green projects’:
- Prevent deforestation
- Foster reforestation of degraded land
- Promote the sustainable management of existing forests
Why? Again, forests are capable of:
- Producing oxygen
- Filtering Water
- Supporting biodiversity
…all good things!
Despite the Bonn Challenge that I covered in the last post, not all countries are keeping their commitments. So what can we do to re-invigorate these efforts?
One technique that de Groot mentions, and on which I did a little research, is Agro-forestry.
What is this? Actually, the US Government’s USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) has some very good information on this – recently updated. Have a look at these two links, if you are interested:
The basics are below (extracted from the links above if you don’t feel like following them):
Agroforestry Farming Systems
Alley cropping means planting crops between rows of trees to provide income while the trees mature. The system can be designed to produce fruits, vegetables, grains, flowers, herbs, bioenergy feedstocks, and more.
Forest farming operations grow food, herbal, botanical, or decorative crops under a forest canopy that is managed to provide ideal shade levels as well as other products. Forest farming is also called multi-story cropping.
Silvopasture combines trees with livestock and their forages on one piece of land. The trees provide timber, fruit, or nuts as well as shade and shelter for livestock and their forages, reducing stress on the animals from the hot summer sun, cold winter winds, or a downpour.
Linear Agroforestry Practices
Riparian forest buffers are natural or re-stablished areas along rivers and streams made up of trees, shrubs, and grasses. These buffers can help filter farm runoff while the roots stabilize the banks of streams, rivers, lakes and ponds to prevent erosion. These areas can also support wildlife and provide another source of income.
Windbreaks shelter crops, animals, buildings, and soil from wind, snow, dust, and odors. These areas can also support wildlife and provide another source of income. They are also called shelterbelts, hedgerows, or living snow fences.
The article asserts that increased investment in agro-forestry could help sequester up to 9.28 gigatons (!!!) of CO2. And while accomplishing this ecological bottom line, it also doesn’t look too shabby in the economic bottom line – it would save almost $710 billion by 2050. This would also help communities work their way out of poverty. Boom! You now have the triple bottom line (TBL) effect, all through efforts to keeping and growing our forests.
Here’s an article (and a corresponding video) on one success story of an agro-forestry project from Bolivia involving cacao production.
In (approximately) Part 3, I will shift to some interesting projects surrounding enforcement of illegal logging and deforestation, featuring a cleverly-titled article from Nature magazine called “Cops and Loggers”.