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World’s primary forests on the brink, study concludes

Science Daily

Summary: The precarious state of the world’s primary forests has been outlined in new research by an international team of conservationist scientists and practitioners. Primary forests — largely ignored by policy makers and under increasing land use threats — are forests where there are no visible indications of human activities, especially industrial-scale land use, and ecological processes have not been significantly disrupted. The analysis reveals that only five percent of the world’s pre-agricultural primary forest cover is now found in protected areas.

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Mackeyetal fig1

New Global Analysis Reveals Extreme Vulnerability of Primary Forests

Contact: Stephen Sautner, Wildlife Conservation Society, 1-718-220-3682;

  • Authors say just 22 percent of primary forests are located in protected areas and that less than 5 percent of original primary forest is left on Earth
  • Half the world’s remaining primary forests located in U.S., Canada, Russia, Australia, and New Zealand
  • Analysis provides clear policy recommendations to safeguard primary forests into the future
  • Full Report

New York  – A team of conservationists has published a new global analysis and map showing the extremely precarious state of the world’s primary forests. The analysis is featured in a paper appearing in the early online edition of the journal Conservation Letters.

The analysis reveals that only 5 percent of the world’s pre-agricultural primary forest cover is now found in protected areas.

Primary forests – largely ignored by policy makers and under increasing land use threats – are forests where there are no visible indications of human activities, especially industrial-scale land use, and ecological processes have not been significantly disrupted. These forests are home to an extraordinary richness of biodiversity; up to 57 percent of all tropical forest species are dependent on primary forest habitat and the ecological processes they provide for their survival.

Is Wildfire Severity Really Getting Worse?

It might seem like fire season is as bad as it’s ever been. But there’s a group of researchers who question that prevailing wisdom.The drumbeat about wildfires going from bad to worse reaches all the way to the White House. A few days ago, President Obama’s science advisor John Holdren said, “Climate change has been making the fire season in the United States longer and, on average, more intense.”

Now contrast that with three fresh science papers from separate institutions. Each makes the case that forest fires in the West today burn less than in historical times.

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New Studies Show Severe Fires are Natural and Ecologically Beneficial to Sierra Nevada Forests

August 8, 2014

Dominick A. DellaSala, Ph.D.; Geos Institute , 541-482-4459 x 302; 541-621-7223 (cell)
William Baker, Ph.D., University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY; 970-317-8162 

Ashland, OR – Two recently published scientific studies add to a growing body of research on the ecological importance of forest fires, even severe ones, to the integrity of fire-dependent forests in the western U.S, particularly California’s Sierra region.

One study, published in the Natural Areas Journal, documented the ecological importance of forest fires in regenerating unique habitat for numerous plants and wildlife in the Sierra, including rare and threatened ones. The other published in Ecosphere compared historical records of forest fires to today’s fires and concluded that today’s fires in the Sierra are burning in size and intensity similar to the way fires once burned. 

According to Dominick DellaSala, Chief Scientist of the Ashland-Oregon based Geos Institute and lead author of  “Complex early seral forests of the Sierra Nevada: What are they and how can they be managed for ecological integrity?,” “Post-fire landscapes are often falsely portrayed as “moonscapes,” but they actually have some of the highest levels of plant and wildlife diversity of any Sierra forest type with levels comparable to what we see in the region’s more appreciated old-growth forests.” 

Forest health crisis ends with a whimper

by Bob Berwyn in the Colorado Independent

‘We may be cutting down the very trees we need to save the forest’

FRISCO — Even here, in a cool forest hollow near Tenmile Creek, you can feel the tom-toms. It’s a distant beat, born in the marbled halls of Congress, where political forces blow an ill wind across Colorado’s forests. Nearly every Western elected official with a clump of shrubby cottonwoods in his or her jurisdiction claims to be a forest expert. And when senators and congress members make forest policy, rhetoric usually trumps science — as is the case with laws requiring new logging projects that may wipe out some of the very trees needed to replenish forests in the global warming era.

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Phase Out of Tongass Old-Growth Logging Can Begin Immediately

For Immediate Release on June 25, 2014

Contacts: Catherine Mater, President, Mater Engineering (541-753-7335); Dominick DellaSala, Ph.D., Chief Scientist, Geos Institute (541-482-4459 x 302, 541-621-7223); Nathaniel Lawrence, Natural Resources Defense Council  (360-534-9900); Jim Furnish, Retired Siuslaw National Forest Supervisor (240-271-1650)

A recently released study of second growth availability on the Tongass National Forest shows that the U.S. Forest Service can end industrial old growth logging there within 5 years while, if it chooses, still increasing the total volume of trees harvested. The Forest Service announced in May that it was considering transitioning timber sales from old growth to second growth but within 10 to 15 years. The new study shows that transition can begin immediately and finish in no more than 5 years, shifting logging to second growth in previously logged and roaded areas outside of sensitive resource lands.

A 2014 study update commissioned by Geos Institute and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) conclusively shows that there is immediate access to supplies of second growth trees that could be harvested in southeast Alaska as an alternative to harvesting old growth trees. The original study conducted by Oregon-based Mater Ltd. released in 2013 used Forest Service and Tongass Futures Roundtable data to estimate the number of second growth acres already pre-commercially thinned that could be harvested at 55-years of age.  Prior research financed by The Nature Conservancy determined the desired log characteristics for a dedicated small log processing operation on Prince of Wales Island could be obtained from 55-year old hemlock and spruce stands.

Scientists take aim at Wyden’s logging bill in new study, citing climate concerns

Elizabeth Harball, E&E reporter

Reprinted from ClimateWire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC.   202/628-6500

A bill proposed in Congress that would increase logging activities in Oregon jeopardizes the Pacific Northwest’s forests’ ability to capture and store carbon dioxide, scientists argue in a new study.

US biomass

U.S. Forests Are Pivotal in Efforts to Slow Climate Change

For Immediate Release on June 18, 2014

Contacts: Dr. Dominick DellaSala, Geos Institute (541-482-4459 x 302; 541-621-7223); Dr. Olga Krankina, Oregon State University (541-737-1780) 

Ashland, OR – Scientists today called on the Obama Administration to do more to protect the nation’s mature “high-biomass” forests because of their unique climate change benefits. While the President has taken bold steps to reduce carbon dioxide pollution from coal and other fossil fuels, he has sidestepped efforts to protect productive older forests that store massive amounts of carbon and are key to helping stabilize runaway climate change. The study of high-biomass forests was published in the July 2014 issue of Environmental Management

Older forests (mature and old growth) are a critical part of the global biological carbon cycle that contribute to climate stabilization by uptake and storage of atmospheric carbon in live and dead trees, foliage and soils. The oldest and most productive forests are where the trees are providing a long-term “sink” for atmospheric carbon, absorbing and holding on to it like a sponge for centuries.  Those forests are the primary target for logging and when they are cut down up to half of their stored carbon is released into the atmosphere as a carbon dioxide pollutant within just a few years. This loss is not made up for by planting trees or storing carbon in wood products as forest products have a short “shelf life” compared to mature forest that sequesters (absorbs) and stores carbon for centuries.


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