Football fields of deforestation. But what does that mean?

A recent newspaper article stated that Indonesia lost 4.6 million ha of forest between 2009 and 2013. This was equated to an area of three football fields ever minute.

I understand what journalists are trying to do with their frequent reference to football fields. Presumably it makes that obscure, ivory tower world of weird units like hectares and square kilometers more visible by comparing it to something everyone is apparently familiar with through their weekend television shows: 22 football (soccer) players running up and down those revered green pitches.

But how helpful is this comparison, especially when it is so inaccurate?

I searched the internet for football field – deforestation comparisons over the past few years and found that Indonesia is being deforested at a rate of: 1) 300 football fields every hour (=300 fields/hr); 2) 12 football fields every day (=0.5 field/hr); 3) 10 football fields every minute (=600 fields/hr); 4) 6 football fields a minute (=360 fields/hr); 5) 7 American football fields every minute; while also 6) Indonesia loses 300 football fields of forest every hour to palm oil alone (=300 fields/hr because of oil palm).

Based on the above statements and the variation in the size of European and American football fields, deforestation rates in Indonesia vary from 0.2 ha per hour at the lowest to 648 ha per hour at the highest. Or in the more usual measurements, between 1752 and 5.7 million ha per year. That’s a 3,000-fold difference! And at least one source ascribes most of that deforestation to oil palm.

The size of football pitches in the English Premier League already varies quite a bit with the largest, Manchester City’s, being 16% larger than the smallest (West Ham). And American football fields are 25% smaller than their soccer cousins.

Humans took the wise decision to standardize their length and area measurements to get rid of the bewildering variety of Rijnland Inches, four-inch hands, and mornings (the amount of land tillable by one man behind an ox in the morning hours of a day).

Can we just stop dumbing down the public and provide people with proper scientific measurements and units?

Deforestation is a serious enough issue affecting everyone in this world. Reducing clarity about its magnitude is unhelpful.
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(Photo : Reuters)

European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2015

EGUEuropean Geosciences Union
General Assembly 2015
Vienna | Austria | 12 – 17 April 2015

New Session on “Biogeochemistry and ecohydrology in the terrestrial tropics”

Abstract submissions for the EGU General Assembly 2015 are now open and we would like to bring to your attention the following session which we hope – with sufficient interest – may become an annual event. Some young scientist support may be available (see http://www.egu2015.eu/support_and_distinction.html)

Title: “Biogeochemistry and ecohydrology in the terrestrial tropics”

Conveners: Jonathan Lloyd (Imperial College London), Gustavo Saiz (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology)  Elmar Veenendaal (University of Waginingen)  Sarah Batterman(Princeton University)

Outline: A strong diversity in climate and soils across the tropics is associated with a wide range of vegetation types varying from sparse shrubland to high forest. Yet, how the current myriad of different vegetation types will be affected by future changes in climate remains virtually unknown. This is because, even for the most intensively studied systems, we have an only fundamental understanding of the way that carbon, nutrients and water interact with soil physical conditions and disturbances such as fire to influence tropical vegetation structure and function.
With an emphasis on comparative studies, the session will present synthesis and the reporting of new results investigating the integration of biogeochemical, ecological, and hydrological processes across the terrestrial lands. Contributions are welcome from a wide range of relevant scales from organelle to region with joint observational-modelling studies of both natural and managed ecosystems especially encouraged.

To submit an abstract:

http://meetingorganizer.copernicus.org/EGU2015/abstractsubmission/17672

Detailed information on how to submit an abstract can be found at: http://egu2015.eu//abstract_management/how_to_submit_an_abstract.html

The deadline for the receipt of Abstracts is 07 Jan 2015, 13:00 CET.

Further information about the EGU General Assembly 2015 can be found at: http://egu2015.eu/

GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS FOR THE AMAZON

How is the world’s greatest rainforest faring? It very much depends where you look…

In the Brazilian Amazon, the rate of forest destruction has plummeted to historic lows. For example, last year the deforestation rate was only about a quarter of what it was in the 1990s and early-mid 2000s, when 2-3 million hectares of forest were being felled each year — comparable to a country the size of Belgium.

And this year the news is even better. The current rate of deforestation in Brazilian Amazonia is 18% lower than it was last year.

Long-term Amazon watchers can scarcely believe it. The falling deforestation rate in Brazil is being chalked up to better enforcement of environmental laws, new protected areas, a moratorium on forest clearing for soy, and an important role for indigenous lands in limiting forest loss.

International carbon funds — led by Norway’s contribution of up to $1 billion to Brazil — have also helped.

Read more…

TWO FACULTY POSITIONS IN ECOLOGY AT NANYANG TECHNOLOGICAL UNIVERSITY, SINGAPORE

Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore new Asian School
of the Environment seeks two full professor level positions in ecology
as part of a terrestrial and marine initiative in Southeast Asia. The Asian
School of the Environment, a new interdisciplinary School, focuses on
Asian environmental challenges. The school integrates Earth systems,
environmental life sciences, ecology, engineering, humanities, and the
social sciences to address key issues of the environment and sustainability.

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GROWING EVIDENCE THAT FORESTS REDUCE FLOOD RISK

(Re-post from ALERT)

Working in Peninsular Malaysia, Jie-Sheng Tan Soo and colleagues have found strong evidence that areas with more native rainforest are less prone to damaging floods in the wet season.

Specifically, the authors found that conversion of native rainforest to oil palm or rubber plantations increased the number of days of downstream flooding in 31 different areas.

Collectively, these findings are important because they provide another key economic justification for conserving native forests — including pristine forests and those that have been selectively logged but still retain much of their original tree cover.

Read more…

Ashton Award for Student Research

SUBMIT APPLICATION ONLINE BETWEEN NOVEMBER 5, 2014 AND FEBRUARY 1, 2015

The Ashton Award for Student Research supports investigations by graduate and advanced undergraduate students working on Asian tropical forest biology.

Awards of up to $2,000 are granted to support student research expenses.

Application Information

Awards are granted through a competitive review process. Selection of recipient(s) will be based on the educational background of the student and their readiness to conduct the proposed research; the quality of the proposed research; and the relevance of the proposed research to the mission of the Arnold Arboretum.

To be considered for an award, online applications should include the following:

  • Cover letter.
  • Research statement. The statement should be 1 to 2-pages and describes your research project and how additional funding via the Ashton Award would further your research aims. Include the names of other collaborators (in addition to your advisor). References should be included but do not count as part of the page limit.
  • Research budget. Applicants should submit a simple, 1-page budget that itemizes the research and travel costs associated with the proposed project.
  • Project time-line. Applicants should submit a time-line of the project and anticipated start and end dates.
  • Curriculum vitae.
  • Two letters of recommendation. As part of the online submission, you must send a request to the two referees to submit a letter of recommendation (via the request section). The referee will be automatically sent an email with a link to an online submission form where they will upload a letter of recommendation. It is highly recommended that you contact your referee prior to sending the request. Please inform the referee to expect an email from Admin@communityforce.com with instructions for submitting a recommendation letter. Each referee must upload his/her letter of recommendation via the link by February 1.

Special Eligibility Requirements

Award available to advanced undergraduates and graduate students.

Additional Information

For questions about the award, Arboretum resources, research proposal or submission process, contact the selection committee (Email).

The Ashton Award for Student Research is made possible by the generosity of Professor Peter Ashton and his wife Mary Ashton through the Peter and Mary Ashton Training Fund.

Submit Application

Earth Expeditions graduate courses and Master’s Program from Miami University

EE

Miami University’s Project Dragonfly is accepting applications for its master’s degrees and graduate courses that take place at conservation sites internationally and at U.S. zoos. The deadline to apply to the Global Field Program is January 28, and the deadline to apply to the zoo-based Advanced Inquiry Program is February 28. Learn more at http://masters.df.miamioh.edu/14-15_news.

Earth Expeditions international graduate courses, which are discounted because of support from Miami University, can be taken for stand-alone credit or apply to a master’s degree. Applicants may reside anywhere in the world, regardless of U.S. state or country of residence. Course sites for 2015 include the Amazon, Australia, Baja, Belize, Borneo, Costa Rica, Guyana, Hawai‘i, India, Kenya, Mongolia, Namibia, and Thailand. Learn more at http://www.earthexpeditions.org/14-15_news.

AUSTRALIAN WORLD HERITAGE SITES IN PERIL

(Re-post from ALERT)

The world is struggling to protect its most crucial natural areas.  Poorer countries are faring the worst, but even a wealthy nation like Australia isn’t doing very well.

In total, 156 sites on the World Heritage List are recognized for their outstanding biodiversity values — they protect parts of 31 of the world’s 35 biodiversity hotspots, and a portion of all of its high-biodiversity wilderness areas.

But the first World Heritage Outlook Report — released last week at the World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia — found that many of these sites are struggling.  Nearly a tenth (8%) are in critical condition, and nearly a third (29%) of ‘significant concern’.

Read more…

Assistant/Associate Curator Arachnology

California Academy of Sciences seeks an inspirational scientist who exemplifies the Academy’s mission to “explore, explain, and sustain life on Earth.”  The candidate is expected to develop an internationally recognized research program on arachnids, communicate effectively with diverse audiences and address local or global sustainability issues.  We value innovation and creativity in both funding and engaging public audiences. The endowed position includes an appropriate start-up package, modest annual funds for research and a full-time postdoctoral position.

California Academy of Sciences

Application Instructions:

Applicants should submit a cover letter, curriculum vitae, a statement of their research interests (not more than 3 pages), a statement of their sustainability and outreach goals (not more than 3 pages), and contact information for three references.  Inquiries may also be directed to Dr. Brian Fisher (bfisher@calacademy.org), Chair of the search committee.  Review of applications will begin January 2015. We encourage submission before that date, but applications will continue to be accepted until the position is filled.

The California Academy of Sciences is an Equal Opportunity Employer and welcomes applications from all qualified applicants to apply, including women, minorities, veterans and individuals with disabilities.

Link: http://calacademy.snaphire.com/jobdetails?ajid=9LVs8

NEOTROPICAL RAINFORESTS UNDER ASSAULT FROM INFRASTRUCTURE & MINING

(Re-post from ALERT)

Everywhere you look across Central and South America, native ecosystems are being imperiled by an avalanche of new mining and infrastructure projects.

Forests under assault in Panama (photo by William Laurance)

Forests under assault in Panama (photo by William Laurance)

Consider just three examples:

– In Nicaragua, a massive interoceanic canal project threatens vast expanses of rainforest and other ecosystems.  It will imperil 4,000 square kilometers of forest and wetlands, slice across several key nature reserves, and cut through the MesoAmerican Biological Corridor.  This issue is so worrisome that the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, the world’s leading scientific organization devoted to tropical research, issued a special resolution of concern.

– In Brazil, many protected areas are under assault from mining.  A paper just published in the leading journal Science shows that at least 20% of all Brazil´s strictly protected areas and indigenous reserves — an area larger than the UK and Switzerland combined — are under consideration for mining projects.  More than 44,000 square kilometers of Brazil’s protected areas have been lost to mining and other developments since 2008.

– Across the Amazon basin and Andes, at least 150 major hydroelectric dams have been proposed or are under construction.  These projects will not only flood large expanses of forest but their associated road projects will imperil some of the basin’s most remote and biologically important areas.  For instance, it is estimated that 12 dams proposed for the Tapajós River in Brazil would result in nearly 1 million hectares of additional forest loss by 2032.

Who is responsible for this tsunami of forest-destroying projects?  There is no single cause, but China’s unquenchable thirst for natural resources, the aggressive Brazilian development bank BNDES, and ambitious regional development schemes such as IIRSA are all leading contributors.

No one wants to halt responsible economic development, but this is a feeding frenzy.  Unless scientists and conservationists have a louder voice, some of the world’s most important environments could be lost forever.