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Scientists Say REDD May Pose Risks to Local Biodiversity

Jakarta Globe
Fidelis E. Satriastanti

Scientists have warned that mechanisms for cutting carbon emissions from the forestry sector may undermine long-term prospects for biodiversity conservation in tropical countries.

The UN-designed Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation scheme aims to provide financial incentives to developing countries that improve their forest protection to help mitigate climate change.

Parties at the 16th Climate Change talks in Cancun, Mexico, next week are expected to reach a binding decision on REDD.

Scientists from the University of Kent warned, however, that the bulk of REDD funds were targeted at peatland, where deforestation is high but biodiversity is low.

They fear that the implementation of REDD “could intensify pressures to establish oil palm and paper/pulp plantations in forests that are a higher priority for biodiversity conservation”.

In Biodiversity Conservation in the REDD, a study published in the journal Carbon Balance and Management on Tuesday, scientists used examples from Indonesia — one of the most biodiverse countries in the world but also the third-largest global carbon emitter — to highlight ways in which emission reduction strategies could turn sour for local wildlife.

The study was led by Gary Paoli of Daemeter Consulting, a firm in Bogor that specializes on sustainable development.

“Biodiversity and forest carbon are correlated at a global scale but we show that this is not the case at sub-national levels in Indonesia”, Paoli said.

“The highest carbon savings are not necessarily located in places with the highest levels of species diversity”.

The study said approximately 85 % of Indonesia’s estimated three billion tons of carbon emissions in 2005 originated from deforestation and degradation of peatlands.

However, the study shows that biodiversity levels in peat swamps are lower than those in lowland forests on mineral soils.

“The peat forest plan diversity is less than half that of forest on mineral soils”, the study said. “(There are) only 20 (species) of the country’s 140 critically endangered lowland plant species (15%) that have been recorded in peat compared to 104 (species) or 74% found in lowland forest on mineral soils”.

The study also revealed that peat forests also harbored significantly fewer bat species and support lower densities of birds and several keystone terrestrial and arboreal vertebrates.

“Peat swamp forests attract the bulk of REDD funds — they hold around eight times more carbon than other lowland forests, and provide habitat for high-profile species such as orangutans, tigers and Asian elephants.

“However, when we look at overall numbers of plants, mammals and birds, especially species of greatest conservation concern, we find that peat forests typically support lower densities and fewer species than other lowland forest types”, said Matthew Struebig, who works at the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology in Britain.

Heru Prasetyo, secretary of the Indonesian REDD task force, said the country’s REDD mechanism is still being drafted, but added that they would keep in mind the need to balance strategies.

Indonesia has received a $1 billion pledge from Norway for REDD, which forms a large chunk of the $4.5 billion pledged globally for the scheme.

Heru said the government did not want to sacrifice areas rich with biodiversity as a consequence of an unbalanced strategy.

“We don’t want to be trapped [in a condition] where we manage to protect our peatlands with low biodiversity content but we ended up cutting down biodiversity with high values”, he said.

“No way. We don’t want that. So, the strategy needs to be balanced”.

The REDD task force is to prepare institutions for the implementation of the Indonesia-Norway agreement.

“You need to remember that we’re not just talking about REDD, but REDD Plus where we need to also consider the biodiversity values, sustainable forest management and carbon enhancement”, said Heru.

Meanwhile, Paoli said it was crucial to also take a broader look at areas requiring conservation.

“Make a list of candidate sites important for biodiversity because, e.g. they are not represented in the protected area network, or because they have large populations of threatened species in the forest”, he said.

“Then use REDD finance to help offset costs of protecting areas that are deemed most important for protection. In that way, REDD funds will be directed to help protect areas most needed to deliver biodiversity conservation benefits for Indonesia”.

El contenido de las noticias que se presentan en esta sección es responsabilidad directa de las agencias emisoras de noticias y no necesariamente reflejan la posición del Gobierno de México en este u otros temas relacionados.


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