Articles Posted in the Conservation, Lifestyle category

Wine industry can help conserve cork forests

November 10, 2008
Posted in Conservation, Lifestyle

Photo: A cork oak tree in the mountains near Alcala de los Gazules, Andalucia. Spain
© WWF-Canon / Edward PARKER – WWF

The growing use of plastic and metal substitutes for cork in the wine industry is threatening the Mediterranean’s cork oak forests, says the WWF.

Cork comes from ancient Mediterranean forests. It is a totally natural, renewable and recyclable product. No trees are cut to harvest the cork, instead bark of cork oak trees are stripped every 9-12 years. This is one of the most environmental friendly harvesting processes in the world, the environmental group says.

The cork used in wine bottles and its role in sustainable forestry was an issue raised by the environmental organisation at the general assembly of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) held in Cape Town last week.

The WWF highlighted the vital role the wine industry plays in maintaining the economic value of cork and thus conserving the cork forests. Cork for wine bottle stoppers accounts for almost 70 percent of the total value of the cork market.

“cork forests are home and a source of income to thousands of people and support one of the highest levels of biodiversity in the planet. Decreasing demand from the wine industry for cork stoppers would force entire communities to leave, resulting in more forest fires, desertification and the permanent loss of 2.7 million hectares of forest,” the organisation says.

In its efforts to preserve cork oak landscapes, the WWF is using FSC certification as a market-based tool to drive best management practices on the ground while ensuring sustainable cork markets.

Wine bottles sealed with FSC cork are already available on the market. Three wine producers/ bottlers have certified their chain of custody and seal their wine bottles with FSC cork stoppers (South Africa, Oregon, and Spain). And wine retailers such as Woolworths in South Africa are showing a growing interest in FSC cork, says the WWF-SA.

The FSC is an independent, non profit organisation whose certification system helps consumers make more informed choices when buying timber products. The FSC label is an indication that a product comes from a sustainably managed forest. Although there appears to be disagreement over its certification of “monoculture plantations”.

UN launches plan to save tropical forests

September 26, 2008
Posted in Conservation

The United Nations launched a programme this week to help nine developing countries – among them three African states, Zambia, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo – to establish systems to monitor, assess and report their forest cover. The programme could lay the foundation for a system whereby poor countries could earn tradable carbon credits for protecting their forests. Indonesia, for example, has the potential to be compensated $1-billion a year for reducing its rate of deforestation, the UN estimates.

Deforestation accounts for 20 percent of global carbon emissions, say scientists. If the Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Programme, or UN-REDD, were to be incorporated into a post-Kyoto climate deal it would be a way rich countries would pay poor ones to slow climate change. Other countries in the programme are Bolivia, Indonesia, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay and Viet Nam.

Sources: Reuters, UNEP

Stressed forest plants emit their own form of aspirin

September 19, 2008
Posted in Green News

Plants in a forest respond to stress by producing a chemical form of aspirin, scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in the United States have discovered.

The plants were found to emit the chemical methyl salicylate, which is a form of acetylsalicylic acid, or aspirin, into the atmosphere in significant quantities in response to drought, unseasonable temperatures, or other stresses.

NCAR scientist Thomas Karl, who led the study, and his colleagues speculate that the methyl salicylate has two functions. One is to stimulate something analogous to an immune response to help the plants both resist and recover from disease.

The other may be a way for a stressed plant to communicate to neighbouring plants, warning them of the threat. Read more

Good news for slow-growing trees

March 7, 2008
Posted in Green News

tropical-forest-new.jpgA massive collaborative study of the world’s tropical forests, undertaken in an attempt to clarify what the effect of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and higher temperatures could be on tropical forests, has shown that biodiversity loss may not be as bad as previously thought. A group of 30 forest scientists joined forces to look at 20 year’s worth of tree-width measurements – more than 2-million in all – from 12 tropical forests, ScienceNow Daily News reports.

Previously, studies had suggested that higher carbon dioxide levels and warmer temperatures would benefit fast-growing trees, which would eventually crowd out the slower growing species, resulting in overall biodiversity loss. The results of the latest study show that this does not appear to be the case: fast- and slow-growing trees increased roughly equally in biomass during the years of study, the report said.

Another theory is that climate change could have a “fertilisation effect” that helps all forest species to grow faster. The study did not show clearly whether this is in fact the case, though. Overall forest biomass was found to have increased, but it may not be anything to do with carbon dioxide and warming temperatures, a co-author of the study said. The forest may have been recovering from other stressors such as logging or El Nino events. Another study is planned for later this year in the Amazon to look further at the fertilisation issue.

African Development Bank to fund Congo forest conservation

February 27, 2008
Posted in Conservation

The African Development Bank Group has announced that it plans to invest $814-million in biodiversity conservation and natural resources management in the Congo Basin.

The Congo Basin contains the second largest remaining humid tropical forest in the world, but it is threatened by commercial logging, mining and large-scale commercial hunting for bush meat and ivory.

Via:: Environment News Service