This policy brief, published by The Nature Conservancy, argues that including forest degradation in climate mitigation strategies is essential for any successor to the Kyoto Protocol in 2012.
Forest degradation — the gradual reduction of biomass within forests in the absence of land-use change — is a significant contributor to global emissions, representing at least 30 per cent of total forest emissions. It results for the most part from timber or fuelwood harvesting, and fires often associated with agricultural clearing. Degradation also negatively impacts biodiversity and is often an important precursor for deforestation.
Recent scientific advances can monitor logging and fires affordably and reliably, say the authors. For example, The Carnegie Landsat Analysis System automatically determines logging sites across large areas of forest using free satellite data and has been used successfully in Brazil to identify selectively logged areas.
Effective strategies for reducing emissions from forest degradation also exist. These include reduced impact logging, which can decrease carbon emissions per unit of wood extracted by 30–50 per cent, and forest certification to promote sustainable forest management.
Fire management can be used to reduce emissions by maintaining natural fire regimes and preventing fires in the lower forest. Improving forest governance by, for example, simplifying decision-making, building institutional capacity and using new technologies to provide information on forest resources, can also reduce emissions.
And many strategies can help alleviate the pressures of fuelwood collection, which is a major driver of forest degradation in many developing countries. These include promoting agroforestry, replacing or planting new trees, building windbreaks, and replacing wood-burning stoves.
This policy brief was prepared by The Nature Conservancy