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Concept: Forestry


New plantations can either cause deforestation by replacing natural forests or avoid this by using previously cleared areas. The extent of these two situations is contested in tropical biodiversity hotspots where objective data are limited. Here, we explore delays between deforestation and the establishment of industrial tree plantations on Borneo using satellite imagery. Between 1973 and 2015 an estimated 18.7 Mha of Borneo’s old-growth forest were cleared (14.4 Mha and 4.2 Mha in Indonesian and Malaysian Borneo). Industrial plantations expanded by 9.1 Mha (7.8 Mha oil-palm; 1.3 Mha pulpwood). Approximately 7.0 Mha of the total plantation area in 2015 (9.2 Mha) were old-growth forest in 1973, of which 4.5-4.8 Mha (24-26% of Borneo-wide deforestation) were planted within five years of forest clearance (3.7-3.9 Mha oil-palm; 0.8-0.9 Mha pulpwood). This rapid within-five-year conversion has been greater in Malaysia than in Indonesia (57-60% versus 15-16%). In Indonesia, a higher proportion of oil-palm plantations was developed on already cleared degraded lands (a legacy of recurrent forest fires). However, rapid conversion of Indonesian forests to industrial plantations has increased steeply since 2005. We conclude that plantation industries have been the principle driver of deforestation in Malaysian Borneo over the last four decades. In contrast, their role in deforestation in Indonesian Borneo was less marked, but has been growing recently. We note caveats in interpreting these results and highlight the need for greater accountability in plantation development.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Forestry, Forest, Borneo, Malaysia, Malay language


Agarwood is the fragrant resin-infused wood derived from the wounded trees of Aquilaria species. It is a valuable non-timber forest product used in fragrances and as medicine. Reforestation for Aquilaria trees in combination with artificial agarwood-inducing methods serves as a way to supply agarwood and conserve of wild Aquilaria stock. However, the existing agarwood-inducing methods produce poor-quality agarwood at low yield. Our study evaluated a novel technique for producing agarwood in cultivated Aquilaria trees, called the whole-tree agarwood-inducing technique (Agar-Wit). Ten different agarwood inducers were used for comparison of Agar-Wit with three existing agarwood-inducing methods. For Aquilaria trees treated with these ten inducers, agarwood formed and spread throughout the entire tree from the transfusion point in the trunk to the roots and branches of the whole tree. Agarwood yield per tree reached 2,444.83 to 5,860.74 g, which is 4 to 28 times higher than that by the existing agarwood-inducing methods. Furthermore, this agarwood derived from Agar-Wit induction was found to have a higher quality compared with the existing methods, and similar to that of wild agarwood. This indicates Agar-Wit may have commercial potential. Induction of cultivated agarwood using this method could satisfy the significant demand for agarwood, while conserving and protecting the remaining wild Aquilaria trees.

Concepts: Forestry, Tree, Wood, Branch, Trunk, Agarwood, Aquilaria, Aquilaria sinensis


Quantification of global forest change has been lacking despite the recognized importance of forest ecosystem services. In this study, Earth observation satellite data were used to map global forest loss (2.3 million square kilometers) and gain (0.8 million square kilometers) from 2000 to 2012 at a spatial resolution of 30 meters. The tropics were the only climate domain to exhibit a trend, with forest loss increasing by 2101 square kilometers per year. Brazil’s well-documented reduction in deforestation was offset by increasing forest loss in Indonesia, Malaysia, Paraguay, Bolivia, Zambia, Angola, and elsewhere. Intensive forestry practiced within subtropical forests resulted in the highest rates of forest change globally. Boreal forest loss due largely to fire and forestry was second to that in the tropics in absolute and proportional terms. These results depict a globally consistent and locally relevant record of forest change.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Climate, Tropics, Ecosystem, Forestry, Forest, Rainforest, Köppen climate classification


Agroforestry systems and tree cover on agricultural land make an important contribution to climate change mitigation, but are not systematically accounted for in either global carbon budgets or national carbon accounting. This paper assesses the role of trees on agricultural land and their significance for carbon sequestration at a global level, along with recent change trends. Remote sensing data show that in 2010, 43% of all agricultural land globally had at least 10% tree cover and that this has increased by 2% over the previous ten years. Combining geographically and bioclimatically stratified Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Tier 1 default estimates of carbon storage with this tree cover analysis, we estimated 45.3 PgC on agricultural land globally, with trees contributing >75%. Between 2000 and 2010 tree cover increased by 3.7%, resulting in an increase of >2 PgC (or 4.6%) of biomass carbon. On average, globally, biomass carbon increased from 20.4 to 21.4 tC ha(-1). Regional and country-level variation in stocks and trends were mapped and tabulated globally, and for all countries. Brazil, Indonesia, China and India had the largest increases in biomass carbon stored on agricultural land, while Argentina, Myanmar, and Sierra Leone had the largest decreases.

Concepts: Climate change, Forestry, Remote sensing, Globalization, Global warming, Carbon capture and storage, Sierra Leone, Agroforestry


Many major corporations and countries have made commitments to purchase or produce only “sustainable” palm oil, a commodity responsible for substantial tropical forest loss. Sustainability certification is the tool most used to fulfill these procurement policies, and around 20% of global palm oil production was certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in 2017. However, the effect of certification on deforestation in oil palm plantations remains unclear. Here, we use a comprehensive dataset of RSPO-certified and noncertified oil palm plantations (∼188,000 km2) in Indonesia, the leading producer of palm oil, as well as annual remotely sensed metrics of tree cover loss and fire occurrence, to evaluate the impact of certification on deforestation and fire from 2001 to 2015. While forest loss and fire continued after RSPO certification, certified palm oil was associated with reduced deforestation. Certification lowered deforestation by 33% from a counterfactual of 9.8 to 6.6% y-1 Nevertheless, most plantations contained little residual forest when they received certification. As a result, by 2015, certified areas held less than 1% of forests remaining within Indonesian oil palm plantations. Moreover, certification had no causal impact on forest loss in peatlands or active fire detection rates. Broader adoption of certification in forested regions, strict requirements to avoid all peat, and routine monitoring of clearly defined forest cover loss in certified and RSPO member-held plantations appear necessary if the RSPO is to yield conservation and climate benefits from reductions in tropical deforestation.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Forestry, Forest, Rainforest, Tropical rainforest, Palm oil, Oil palm


Strategies to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions through forestry activities have been proposed, but ecosystem process-based integration of climate change, enhanced CO2, disturbance from fire, and management actions at regional scales are extremely limited. Here, we examine the relative merits of afforestation, reforestation, management changes, and harvest residue bioenergy use in the Pacific Northwest. This region represents some of the highest carbon density forests in the world, which can store carbon in trees for 800 y or more. Oregon’s net ecosystem carbon balance (NECB) was equivalent to 72% of total emissions in 2011-2015. By 2100, simulations show increased net carbon uptake with little change in wildfires. Reforestation, afforestation, lengthened harvest cycles on private lands, and restricting harvest on public lands increase NECB 56% by 2100, with the latter two actions contributing the most. Resultant cobenefits included water availability and biodiversity, primarily from increased forest area, age, and species diversity. Converting 127,000 ha of irrigated grass crops to native forests could decrease irrigation demand by 233 billion m3⋅y-1Utilizing harvest residues for bioenergy production instead of leaving them in forests to decompose increased emissions in the short-term (50 y), reducing mitigation effectiveness. Increasing forest carbon on public lands reduced emissions compared with storage in wood products because the residence time is more than twice that of wood products. Hence, temperate forests with high carbon densities and lower vulnerability to mortality have substantial potential for reducing forest sector emissions. Our analysis framework provides a template for assessments in other temperate regions.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Redox, Climate, Ecosystem, Carbon, Forestry, Global warming, Deforestation


Forest ecosystem management heads towards the use of partial cuttings. However, the wide variation in growth response of residual trees remains unexplained, preventing a suitable prediction of forest productivity. The aim of the study was to assess individual growth and identify the driving factors involved in the responses of residual trees. Six study blocks in even-aged black spruce [Picea mariana (Mill.) B.S.P.] stands of the eastern Canadian boreal forest were submitted to experimental shelterwood and seed-tree treatments. Individual-tree models were applied to 1039 trees to analyze their patterns of radial growth during the 10 years after partial cutting by using the nonlinear Schnute function on tree-ring series. The trees exhibited different growth patterns. A sigmoid growth was detected in 32% of trees, mainly in control plots of older stands. Forty-seven percent of trees located in the interior of residual strips showed an S-shape, which was influenced by stand mortality, harvested intensity and dominant height. Individuals showing an exponential pattern produced the greatest radial growth after cutting and were edge trees of younger stands with higher dominant height. A steady growth decline was observed in 4% of trees, represented by the individuals suppressed and insensitive to the treatment. The analyses demonstrated that individual nonlinear models are able to assess the variability in growth within the stand and the factors involved in the occurrence of the different growth patterns, thus improving understanding of the tree responses to partial cutting. This new approach can sustain forest management strategies by defining the best conditions to optimize the growth yield of residual trees.

Concepts: Forestry, Forest, Spruce, Taiga, Picea, The Stand, Boreal forest, Picea mariana


Expansion of Hevea brasiliensis rubber plantations is a resurgent driver of deforestation, carbon emissions, and biodiversity loss in Southeast Asia. Southeast Asian rubber extent is massive, equivalent to 67% of oil palm, with rapid further expansion predicted. Results-based carbon finance could dis-incentivise forest conversion to rubber, but efficacy will be limited unless payments match, or at least approach, the costs of avoided deforestation. These include opportunity costs (timber and rubber profits), plus carbon finance scheme setup (transaction) and implementation costs. Using comprehensive Cambodian forest data, exploring scenarios of selective logging and conversion, and assuming land-use choice is based on net present value, we find that carbon prices of $30-$51 per tCO2are needed to break even against costs, higher than those currently paid on carbon markets or through carbon funds. To defend forests from rubber, either carbon prices must be increased, or other strategies are needed, such as corporate zero-deforestation pledges, and governmental regulation and enforcement of forest protection.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Southeast Asia, Economics, Forestry, Forest, Philippines, Asia, Deforestation


Human exposure to green space and vegetation is widely recognized to result in physical and mental health benefits; however, to date, the specific effects of tree cover, diversity, and species composition on student academic performance have not been investigated. We compiled standardized performance scores in Grades 3 and 6 for the collective student body in 387 schools across the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), and examined variation in relation to tree cover, tree diversity, and tree species composition based on comprehensive inventories of trees on school properties combined with aerial-photo-based assessments of tree cover. Analyses accounted for variation due to socioeconomic factors using the learning opportunity index (LOI), a regional composite index of external challenges to learning that incorporates income and other factors, such as students with English as a second language. As expected, LOI had the greatest influence on student academic performance; however, the proportion of tree cover, as distinct from other types of “green space” such as grass, was found to be a significant positive predictor of student performance, accounting for 13% of the variance explained in a statistical model predicting mean student performance assessments. The effects of tree cover and species composition were most pronounced in schools that showed the highest level of external challenges, suggesting the importance of urban forestry investments in these schools.

Concepts: Education, University, Forestry, Tree, Standard deviation, Primary school, Primary education, School


The populations of light-demanding trees that dominate the canopy of central African forests are now aging. Here, we show that the lack of regeneration of these populations began ca. 165 ya (around 1850) after major anthropogenic disturbances ceased. Since 1885, less itinerancy and disturbance in the forest has occurred because the colonial administrations concentrated people and villages along the primary communication axes. Local populations formerly gardened the forest by creating scattered openings, which were sufficiently large for the establishment of light-demanding trees. Currently, common logging operations do not create suitable openings for the regeneration of these species, whereas deforestation degrades landscapes. Using an interdisciplinary approach, which included paleoecological, archaeological, historical, and dendrological data, we highlight the long-term history of human activities across central African forests and assess the contribution of these activities to present-day forest structure and composition. The conclusions of this sobering analysis present challenges to current silvicultural practices and to those of the future.

Concepts: Forestry, Forest, Silviculture, World Forestry Congress, Rainforest, Trees, 19th century