Scientists propose using lasers to map rainforests

September 6th, 2014

Forest map in the Peruvian Amazon developed from the Carnegie Airborne Observatory, an airplane-based platform that uses advanced LiDAR to measure forest carbon values and other properties. Photo courtesy of the Carnegie Institution for Science


  • A new Carbon Balance and Management paper argues that mapping the world’s tropical forests with a fleet of airplanes outfitted with advanced lasers, known as LiDAR, could rapidly and accurately assess global forest carbon stocks for $250 million, or less than the cost of a typical Earth observation satellite mission.
  • The paper says the system could be used to provide a baseline for REDD+, a program that aims to compensate tropical countries for reducing carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.
  • LiDAR would be faster and cheaper than current ground-based approaches and more accurate than satellite-based systems.

More: World’s rainforests could be mapped in 3D at high resolution by 2020 for under $250M

Activism: funds needed to replant forest for nearly-extinct loris

June 28th, 2011

Note: as a news organization mongabay.com does not endorse the action below, but believes its readers may be interested in taking action or discussing the issue in comments.


Horton Plains slender loris. Photo courtesy of EDGE.

Researchers estimate that only 80 Horton Plains slender loris (Loris tardigradus nycticeboides) survive in the world. After believed to be extinct ZSL EDGE rediscovered the subspecies in a dwindling Sri Lanka forest in 2009. Now EDGE is working to raise money to fund reforestation of a vital corridor for the Horton Plains slender loris. Already, the loris has lost 80% of its habitat.

From the EDGE blog: “This project will not only benefit the endangered loris, but also a host of other species found within the threatened montane forest environment such as the leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya), the ‘shaggy bear monkey’ (Trachypithecus vetulus monticola), the endemic Nillu rat (Rattus montanus), and the Sri Lanka spiny mouse (Mus ohiensis) amongst others.”

To donate money to the project: Reforestation Project in Sri Lanka for Horton Plains slender loris.

Wangari Maathai muses on trees, activism, and God (radio)

June 9th, 2011

Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of the Green Belt movement, Wangari Maathai, started a tree-planting campaign to create a better world for the impoverished and marginalized people of her native country, Kenya. For such views, she faced threats of assassination, violence, and censorship from the government.

Now 71, Maathai speaks to Krista Tippett, the host of the radio show On Being, about the importance of trees, how ecology and human well-being interact, and where she finds her faith.

For more information:

Restoring forests: an opportunity for Africa

(05/26/2011) Tropical forest news last week was dominated by Indonesia and Brazil. Forest clearing has surged over the past year in parts of the Amazon, the Brazilian Government reported. Meanwhile, Indonesia’s President signed a moratorium on cutting some intact forest areas, as part of a landmark billion-dollar deal with international donors. But new research shows that Africa offers some of the greatest opportunities globally for restoring forests.

Reforestation program in China preventing future disasters

(05/13/2011) China’s response to large-scale erosion with reforestation is paying off according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS). The 10-year program, known as Sloping Land Conversion Program (SLCP), is working to turn some 37 million acres back into forest or grasslands after farming on steep slopes in the Yangtze and Yellow River basins had made them perilously susceptible to erosion and flooding.

Women are key to global conservation

(03/03/2011) In 1991, my nine-year-old daughter Rachel traveled with me to Guatemala where we were struck by the heartbreaking rural poverty and mudslides worsened by widespread deforestation. We vividly remember holding a three-year-old child who was so listless and malnourished he could scarcely lift his arms. The worry and fatigue on his mother’s face and the child’s condition affected us both profoundly, despite Rachel’s relative youth.

Great Green Wall gets go ahead

(02/28/2011) Spanning the entire continent of Africa, including 11 nations, the Great Green Wall (GGW) is an ambitious plan to halt desertification at the Sahara’s southern fringe by employing the low-tech solution of tree planting. While the Great Green Wall was first proposed in the 1980s, the grand eco-scheme is closer to becoming a reality after being approved at an international summit last week in Germany as reported by the Guardian.

India commits $10 billion to expand forests

(02/25/2011) The Indian government has approved a bold plan to expand and improve the quality of its forests as a part of the nation’s National Action Plan on Climate Change. The reforestation plan, dubbed the National Mission for a Green India (NMGI), will expand forests by five million hectares (over 12 million acres), while improving forests quality on another five million hectares for $10.14 billion (460 billion rupees).

FSC-certified company clearcutting Swedish forests

June 8th, 2011

A German news show (with English subtitles) investigates clearcuts in the Swedish boreal by logging company Stora Enso, which has been certified as sustainable by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The FSC has come under heavy fire from a number of small green groups for what they deem as ‘greenwashing’ ecologically destructive practices, however the FSC remains supported by large conservation organizations who argue that problems with certification must be changed from within.

For more information on the video: FSC Watch

For more information on the FSC debate:

Locals clash with ‘sustainable’ FSC logging company in the Congo

(05/22/2011) Two separate protests against logging companies by local communities have turned violent in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), leaving at least one dead. According to Greenpeace, one of the companies involved in the violence, Sodefor, is sustainably certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Given that the industry in DRC is rife with social conflict and corruption, Greenpeace is advocating that FSC place a moratorium on certifying new industrial-style logging concessions in the central African nation.

Complaint lodged at FSC for plantations killing baboons

(02/20/2011) The African environmental group, GeaSphere, has lodged a complaint with the Forest Stewardship Council’s (FSC) for certifying tree plantations as sustainable that are culling baboons in South Africa, as first reported by FSC-Watch. The primates are trapped with bait and then shot. According to the complaint, “unofficial numbers from reliable sources state that more than 1000 baboons have been shot over the past 2 years” in Mpumalanga Province. Documents record permits given to cull 1,914 baboons in 13 separate plantations, however Philip Owen of GeaSphere says that plantations have refused to release official data on how many baboons have been killed.

Timber certification is not enough to save rainforests

(06/02/2010) In the 1980s and 1990s pressure from activist groups led some of the world’s largest forestry products companies and retailers to join forces with environmentalists to form the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a certification standard that aims to reduce the environmental impact of wood and paper production on natural forests. Despite initial skepticism on whether buyers would pay a premium for greener forest products, FSC quickly grew and by 2000 had become a standard in many markets, including Europe and the United States. Companies like Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Ikea are today strong supporters of the FSC. But the FSC has not been without controversy. In recent years some activists have voiced concern about FSC standards as well as the credibility of auditors that certify timber operations. Among the initiative’s supporters is the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), a group best known for its aggressive protest tactics. RAN says engagement with the FSC is better than the alternative: leaving the timber industry to devise its own sustainability standards.

Activism: save Southeast Asia’s last major primary lowland rainforest

June 2nd, 2011

Note: as a news organization, mongabay.com does not endorse the action below, but believes its readers may be interested in taking action or discussing the issue further.


Villagers from Prey Lang forest area rally in Cambodia’s capital against continuing destruction of their forest. Protestors dressed as ‘avatars’ to gain more attention to their plight. Photo courtesy of: Prey Lang Network.

Cambodia’s Prey Lang forest is one of Southeast Asia’s most important rainforests. Much of the forest has never been logged even though as as a lowland rainforest it should have been one of the first to see the axe. It sustains startling biodiversity including popular animals such as tigers and elephants, and provides vital resources to the surrounding communities. Yet, the Prey Lang forest remains unprotected and the forest is being handed over to corporations for clearcutting piece-by-piece. Locals are working to stop the destruction, but they face an uphill battle, including threats to arrest and intimidation for protesting. For Prey Lang to be protected, pressure may need to come from abroad as well as locally.

According to the petition: “Prey Lang is the last large primary forest of its kind on the Indochinese peninsula. Inclusive of seven distinct ecosystems including unique primordial forest, Prey Lang’s biodiversity is exceptionally high, including almost 40 endangered plant and animal species. As a primary watershed, regulating water and sediment flow to the Tonle Sap Basin, and as an important spawning area for fish, Prey Lang is vital for Cambodia’s long-term environmental sustainability and people’s food and water security. With among the highest carbon sequestration values in the region, it is a powerhouse for fighting global warming. About 200,000 people, mostly indigenous Kuy, live around the forest and our dependent on it for their livelihoods and culture.”

Prey Lang Forest petition: Help Save Cambodia’s Prey Lang Forest.

For more information on Prey Lang:

Photos: Cambodians rally as ‘Avatars’ to save one of the region’s last great rainforests

(05/31/2011) Two hundred Cambodians rallied in Phnom Penh last week to protest the widespread destruction of one of Southeast Asia’s last intact lowland rainforests, known as Prey Lang. In an effort to gain wider media attention, protestors donned dress and make-up inspired by the James Cameron film, Avatar, which depicts the destruction of a forest and its inhabitants on an alien world. The idea worked as the rally received international attention from Reuters, CNN (i-report), MSNBC, and NPR, among other media outlets.

Cambodians prevented from protesting destruction of their forest

(03/10/2011) Cambodian villagers fighting to save their forest from rubber companies have been rebuked by the local government. Two days in a row local authorities prevented some 400 Cambodian villagers from protesting at the offices of the Vietnam-based CRCK Company, which the villagers contend are destroying their livelihoods by bulldozing large swaths of primary forests. Authorities said they feared the villagers would have grown violent while protesting.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron visit indigenous community threatened by mega-dam (video)

April 26th, 2011

Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron visit an Arara village on the Big Bend of the Xingu River, which is imperiled by Brazil’s mega-dam Belo Monte.

For more information on the Belo Monte:

Bill Clinton takes on Brazil’s megadams, James Cameron backs tribal groups

(03/28/2011) Former US President, Bill Clinton, spoke out against Brazil’s megadams at the 2nd World Sustainability Forum, which was also attended by former California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and film director, James Cameron, who has been an outspoken critic of the most famous of the controversial dams, the Belo Monte on the Xingu River.

World’s most controversial dam, Brazil’s Belo Monte, back on

(03/06/2011) A recent injunction against controversial dam, Belo Monte, in Brazil has been overturned, allowing the first phase of construction to go ahead. The ruling by a higher court argued that not all environmental conditions must be met on the dam in order for construction to start.

Half a million people sign petition against Belo Monte, Brazilian mega-dam

(02/08/2011) In a protest today in Brasilia, Brazil, indigenous people delivered a petition to authorities signed by 500,000 people calling on them to cancel the controversial Belo Monte dam. They hope the petition, organized by online activist group Avaaz, will help convince Brazil’s new president, Dilma Rousseff, to cancel the project. However, actions by Brazil’s first female president have pushed the dam forward.

Elementary school children urge KFC to stop cutting down forests (video)

April 25th, 2011

With 6,000 hand-drawn postcards, four elementary school kids travel from Charlotte, North Carolina to Louisville, Kentucky (350 miles) to urge KFC to use recycled paper and stop endangering forests on North Carolina’s coast.

Lead by 10-year-old forest activist, Cole Rasenberger, the group delivered the postcards to executives at KFC.

“I had a second grade project to be an environmental activist,” Rasenberger explains. “I found that the forests in North Carolina are being cut down and animals are being endangered and so I did [work to get] McDonald’s to change and they switched to 100% post-consumer recycled bags. Now I am doing KFC.”

Watch the video to see how it turns out!

KFC sources its paper packaging, including the bucket, from companies that are destroying endangered forests along the North Carolina coast, according to Dogwood Alliance, an NGO devoted to protecting forests in the southern US.

For more information on Cole Rasenberger: Meet The South’s Coolest 8 Year Old .

Celebrating ten years of the Great Bear Rainforest (video)

April 6th, 2011

Video by Greenpeace chronicling the fight to save the Great Bear Rainforest.

According to the description, the fight to save the Great Bear Rainforest should inspire work to save forests around the world: “The Great Bear Rainforest campaign demonstrates that out of conflict and peaceful resistance, it is possible to work towards solutions. It inspires our work in the Amazon, the Congo and Indonesia today.”

Trailer: When Two World’s Collide (video)

April 5th, 2011

When Two Worlds Collide (trailer) from Yachaywasi Films on Vimeo.

The film follows the struggle of indigenous people to save their Amazonian home from the Peruvian government and industrial corporations, especially focusing on the role of Alberto Pizango, hero and leader to indigenous people, who was arrested last year in Peru for sedition and rebellion.

According to the film’s website: “The hazardous journey of an Amazonian leader confronting rules of the globalization game created by developed countries in order to protect corporate interests. With the rainforest in jeopardy, this apocalyptic story presents two colliding visions that shape the climate future of our world.”

For more information see the film’s website: When Two World’s Collide

The film is currently listed as ‘in production’.

Girl Scouts question palm oil in their cookies

March 23rd, 2011


Forest clearing in Sumatra for palm oil plantation. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

Two Girl Scouts are asking their organization why palm oil is an ingredient in pervasive and popular Girl Scout Cookies. Madison Vorva and Rhiannon Tomtishen, after their concerns about the environmental and social impact of palm oil have long been ignored by the heads of the Girl Scout organization, have joined with the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) to widen the campaign and have their voices heard.

“After learning of the disastrous effects that palm oil has on the people, rainforests, and orangutans of Indonesia, we were shocked to learn that palm oil is an ingredient in Girl Scout cookies,” Rhiannon Tomtishen says in a video produced for the campaign.

The two scouts and RAN are asking the Girl Scout Organization to stop using palm oil altogether.

Palm oil is the world’s most productive oil seed (far outstripping soy, which has been linked to deforestation in the Amazon), but is responsible for a significant percentage of deforestation in Malaysia and Indonesia. For example, a study in Conservation Letters found that 55-59 percent of palm oil plantations in Malaysia built between 1990 and 2009 occurred on forested land. Such aggressive deforestation has contributed to an environmental crisis in the region: biodiversity loss in some of the world richest habitats, conflict with indigenous groups who depend on the forests for their livelihood, and substantial greenhouse gas emissions.

For more information on the scout’s campaign: Rainforest Heroes: Make Girl Scout Cookies Rainforest Safe.