Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Governments, Business Must Unite In Joint Action To Stop Forest Loss

27/04/2011 (WWF International) - Policymakers and business leaders must quickly back a bold target to stop forest loss as part of efforts to conserve biodiversity and fight climate change, according to a new WWF report.

The first chapter of WWF’s Living Forests Report, released today, examines the drivers of deforestation and identifies the opportunities to shift from business as usual to a new model of sustainability, which can benefit government, business and communities.

Based on a new global analysis showing that more than 230 million hectares of forest will disappear by 2050 if no action is taken, the report proposes that policymakers and businesses unite around a goal of zero net deforestation and forest degradation (ZNDD) by 2020 as a groundbreaking global benchmark to avoid dangerous climate change and curb biodiversity loss.

“We are squandering forests now by failing to sort out vital policy issues such as governance and economic incentives to keep forests standing,” said Rod Taylor, WWF International Forests Director.

Business and governments need forests

The first chapter of the report comes as business and political leaders meet this week in Jakarta, Indonesia, for the Business 4 Environment Global Summit (B4E). The conference will be addressed by His Excellency Mr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of the Republic of Indonesia.

“The dual imperatives of ZNDD and meeting global demand for materials and energy pose both challenges and business opportunities for the forest products sector,” the report states. “Forest products are renewable and, when sourced from well-managed natural forests and plantations, tend to have a lower footprint than alternatives like steel, concrete and plastic based on fossil sources.”

On the first day of the conference, businesses from the forestry, mining and palm oil sectors operating on the nearby island of Borneo will meet as part of WWF’s Heart of Borneo Green Business Network.

At the summit, WWF will call on forestry companies to join the organization’s Global Forest & Trade Network, and also on other business sectors to support our goal in achieving certification of 75% of key global commodities in the region by 2020. More than 40% of the island’s forests are under concession to the private sector, with around 23% (6 million hectares) under management by the forestry industry.

Carrefour, a leading retailer in Indonesia is answering this call by endorsing WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN). Today, the group’s two biggest suppliers for tissue paper in Indonesia, PT Graha Kerindo Utama and PT Graha Cemerlang Paper Utama are pledging to implement sustainable business under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

"Our ambition is both simple and strong: to become the preferred retailer. This can only be achieved by managing our retail business in a responsible and sustainable manner," said RM Adji Srihandoyo, the Corporate Affair Director PT CARREFOUR

Heart of Borneo – a model for collaboration

More businesses than ever before are working toward sustainable forest management, and governments are strengthening land use criteria and developing groundbreaking economic and fiscal incentives on the island, one of the most forest-rich places on the planet.

On the ground, WWF and its local partners are developing pilot projects to demonstrate the feasibility of these approaches.

“In the Heart of Borneo, tangible examples of how these systems work are emerging. WWF-Indonesia acknowledges that sustainability does not occur overnight. We call on the business sector to join with us as we make the first steps on the road to a green economy and low carbon future, not just in Borneo, but in Sumatra and Papua as well – step by step,” said Dr. Efransjah, WWF-Indonesia CEO.

Right now on the island of Borneo in a 220,000km2 area designated for conservation and sustainable development called the Heart of Borneo, these are the ideas being put into practice.

ZNDD no barrier to sustainable forest-based business

Zero net deforestation and forest degradation by 2020 means no overall loss of forest area or forest quality, so a new monoculture plantation does not offset the loss of primary natural forest. The target requires the loss of natural or semi-natural forest to be reduced to near zero, down from the current 13 million hectares a year, and held at that level indefinitely.

To understand what this would mean in practice, WWF developed the Living Forests Model with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), which forms the basis for the Living Forests Report.

The Living Forests Model projects that by “doing nothing” we could lose more than 230 million hectares between now and 2050.

“The Living Forests Model shows that conserving our forests is possible – and urgent. But it won’t be easy,” said Taylor.

Making a difference now and towards 2050

“Better governance and economic incentives will enable sound stewardship of forests and more productive use of already- degraded land,” Taylor said. “This would ensure enough farming land, timber plantations and well-managed forests to meet current global demand for wood and food without further forest loss.”

The report concludes that maintaining near zero forest loss in the longer term will require responses to rising pressures on forests due to demand for food, materials and fuel for a growing population, expected to hit 9 billion people by 2050.

“In the short term, halting deforestation is all about better governance,” said Taylor, “But as we get out towards 2050 and the population passes 9 billion, we will need to cut over-consumption and waste of food and energy, and boost productivity of farms and forestry to keep forest loss at near zero.”

More to come

Held in partnership with WWF, Global Initiatives and the Government of Indonesia, the B4E Summit hopes “to generate collaborative solutions to address the most urgent environmental and climate issues facing the world today.”

Additional chapters of the Living Forest Report will be released throughout the year to form a comprehensive analysis of the choices and decisions that must be made to secure a forested future for people and nature.

Forest and Climate Change 
Climate Change and Forests: Emerging Policy and Market OpportunitiesBoreal Forest and Climate Change (Advances in Global Change Research)Fate of the Forests, 1985Carbon Sinks and Climate Change: Forests in the Fight Against Global Warming (Advances in Ecological Economics)Payments for Environmental Services, Forest Conservation and Climate Change: Livelihoods in the REDD?Climate Change and Forest Management in the Western HemisphereCarbon Mitigation and Climate Change Through Forest Management (Climate Change and Its Causes, Effects and Prediction)Mountain World in Danger: Climate Change in the Forests and Mountains of Europe (Earthscan Library Collection: Sustainable Development Set)Managing Forest Ecosystems: The Challenge of Climate Change 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Palm oil planters get wise with bird of prey pest control

21/04/2011 (Reuters) - The palm oil industry has gone bird crazy by drafting owls to combat the menace of rodent pests, hoping in the process to burnish its green credentials and save money.

Leading Southeast Asian producers of the vegetable oil have tried different pest control schemes over the years, from snakes to poisons, but the high success rate -- and low cost -- of owls has prompted more planters to turn to them for help in reducing damage.

Some even have designated "owl trainers" who tend the birds from when they are still in the shell.

"We are using owls in our South Sumatra estates," said Michael Kesuma, head of investor relations at Indonesian palm oil producer Sampoerna Agro, which has taken such pains to introduce the birds that houses have been built for them in some areas.

"In those problem areas, I personally have seen the results of having owls. At the bottom of the owl houses, which are on a trunk, you see rat or rodent bones -- they are doing their job."

Malaysia and Indonesia account for more than 90 percent of the world's supply of palm oil, while other smaller producing nations include Colombia, Benin, Kenya and Ghana.

The edible oil, which originates from Africa, is used to make everything from biscuits to ice cream.

But according to the green group Deforestation Watch, crop losses caused by rats feeding on the palm fruit has been estimated to be around 5 percent of the oil yield.

Enter the owl, usually a nocturnal bird of prey, which eats mainly small mammals like mice, voles and shrews -- prime palm oil pests.

Barn-owls, the breed most commonly used on palm plantations, have a large heart-shaped face but have suffered declines over the past fifty years due to intensive agricultural practices.

They first appeared on palm plantations more than 20 years ago and have proved quite effective, palm associations say.


"The (plantations) say it's cheaper because they can decrease costs by 50 percent compared with using chemicals," said Chaerul Saleh, a biologist at WWF-Indonesia.

"They are barn-owls ... they can eat three to five rats every day. It is using a natural predator."

Indonesian palm oil producer BW Plantation (BWPT) says owls now save the firm about $300,000 each year that would otherwise have been spent on poisons.

"We have an owl trainer who takes care of our owls, starting from the egg until they mature and are then released into the field," said Kelik Irwantono, corporate secretary at BWPT.

"When an owl egg is found, the owl trainer will monitor this and eventually take the young owl to be placed in our owl training camp," added Irwantono.

The firm introduced owls in 2009 and now has about 250 barn owls on its estates.

"After being released into the field, the owl is naturally free to control the rat population," Irwantono said.

And there's an additional side benefit unseen with either snakes or poisons, palm associations said.

"Investors who visit our plantation all want to take an owl home with them," said Sebastian Sharp, head of investor relations at BWPT. "They are very beautiful."

Barn owl 
Barn Owls: Predator-Prey Relationships and ConservationBarn Owl's Wondrous CapersThe Illustrated Owl: Barn, Barred, & Great Horned: The Ultimate Reference Guide for Bird Lovers, Artists, and Woodcarvers (The Denny Rogers Visual Reference series)Handbook of the Birds of the World, Vol. 5: Barn Owls to HummingbirdsBarn Owls on Site: A Guide for Developers and PlannersBarn Owl HbOwls of the United States and Canada: A Complete Guide to Their Biology and BehaviorGrowing Barn Owls in My Garden

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Neiker-Tecnalia research to obtain more productive, resistant and sustainable oil palms

12/04/2011 (Basque Research) - (Neiker-Tecnalia (the Basque Institute for Agricultural Research and Development) is carrying out research, the objective of which is to improve oil palm crops through genetic enhancement. Its Biotechnology Department is currently working on the development of the technique known as Marker-Assisted Selection (MAS) with the goal of optimising the production and quality of this crop. This technique enables detecting new genes which have important characteristics, such as resistance to diseases, greater production of best quality oil and better adaptation to biotic and abiotic stress.

The research is being undertaken within the remit of the international Oil Palm Genome Project, which Neiker-Tecnalia is performing together with the International Cooperation Centre in Agronomic Research for Development (CIRAD), located in Montpellier, France.

The Most Produced and Consumed

Palm oil has become, over the past decade, the largest source of vegetable oil worldwide, in terms of production and consumption. Thus, it is necessary to complement the traditional improvement of crops with new biotechnological techniques which enable important genetic enhancements of the plant. The selection and use of new varieties adapted to market demand enables a more efficient use of the resources required for the growing of oil palm crops. In this way, more sustainable plantations (requiring less water and fertiliser) are enabled and, at the same time, higher production is achieved, thus avoiding extending areas under cultivation. Moreover, molecular genetic enhancement is seen as a very efficient alternative to using transgenics, which has sparked considerable social controversy.

The goal of the Oil Palm Genome Project, in which companies from Malaysia, Indonesia, Brazil and Colombia are participating, is to develop molecular tools for obtaining genomic resources, such as complementary DNAs and useful genes, molecular markers and functional genetic maps. To this end, the researchers at Neiker-Tecnalia used the Marker-Assisted Selection (MAS) technique. The wide-ranging international collaboration in this project opens up great possibilities for collaboration in other fields.

DNA-based Molecular Markers

The MAS method involves identifying a coding DNA sequence within a gene of agricultural interest, or at least near to this gene. These DNA-based molecular markers are relatively simple to use in any state of development of the plant and enable predicting the agricultural behaviour of a genotype, thus accelerating genetic breeding programmes.

Genetic selection enables detecting new disease-resistant genes, genes involved in the quality and production of oil, and genes related to the development of the plant and its tissues. Likewise it makes it possible to detect genes involved in the processes of water stress and fertiliser use; i.e. requiring less water and fertiliser for their sustainable cultivation.

In order to obtain molecular markers and their use in Marker-Assisted Selection, scientists at Neiker-Tecnalia used the differential cDNA-AFLP expression technique (Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphism). The specialists are also working on the construction of a reference functional genetic map, the idea being to optimise the efficiency of oil palm improvement programmes.

Food and Industrial Use

90 % of palm oil is employed for food purposes (margarines, cooking oils, fats), while the remaining 10 % is used for soap and manufacturing oleo chemicals (fatty acids, methyl esters, surfactants, detergents, and so on). Also, with the increase in energy prices, palm oil-based diesel fuels are increasingly being considered as an alternative source of renewable energy.

Oil palm has a yield of four tons per hectare a year, much greater than other oleaginous plants such as soy bean, rapeseed, sunflower or cotton. Given the increase in the world demand for this oil, both plantations and experimental stations are attempting to optimise their crops with the aid of new biotechnological tools, developing solutions for various factors limiting production.

New technologies are being acquired and implemented within the remit of this project, using the oil palm as a crop model species. These technologies will also enable the development of applications for other traditional Spanish crops.

Genetic Enhancement
 Wondergenes: Genetic Enhancement and the Future of SocietyMedical Enhancement and Posthumanity (The International Library of Ethics, Law and Technology)21st Century Complete Guide to Bioethics - Biotechnology and Public Policy, Life Extension, Cloning, Life Enhancement, Drugs, Behavior, Genetics, Health Care, Nanotechnology, Genome Research (CD-ROM)Novel Biotechnologies for Biocontrol Agent Enhancement and Management