Dear Members and friends,
For this November 2011 edition, we will talk about forests. An evaluation report was just published by the UN. The Office National des Forêts is supposed to sell more wood to become more “profitable”. The WWF is ringing an alarm for New Caledonia. According to the NGO, it is our planet’s most endangered tropical ecosystem.
International news bring us to Russia. The Vavilov Institute, where unique collections of 320,000 plant species are kept, is in danger because of promoters. In Great Britain, seals are victims of noise generated by human activity. China, after damming the 3 gorges in 2006, has decided to bring fish back into the Yangtze.
Finally, our agenda will remind us of the Shark Alliance’s actions and a recent decision made by the hotel group Peninsula. Then we’ll conclude with our carnet rose.
2011,International Year of the Forest: some statistics
According to the UN evaluation of world forest resources in 2010, the most complete one made up until now, the world forests represent a little more than 4 billion acres, or 31% or the total surface of land mass. The 5 countries that represent more than half of the world surface area of forest are Russia, Brazil, Canada, the United States and China. The rate of deforestation and forest loss at a world level remains alarming, although it has gone from 16 million acres a year in the 1990’s to 13 million from 2000-2010.
According to an international study, the world’s forests absorb one third of CO2, emitted by fossil fuels in the atmosphere. This also alerts us on the dramatic consequences of deforestation in the context of climate warming.
If we were to stop deforestation tomorrow, the existing forests and those in the reconstitution stage would absorb one half of the emissions by fossil fuels, Joseph Canadell states (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation), co-author of a study published by the American review Science. According to this first statistical study, the planet’s forests absorb 2.4 billion tons of carbon every year. All forests, Northern, tropical, and temperate contribute to the carbon cycle.
Deforestation itself is responsible for 2.9 billion tons of carbon emission each year, that is, 26% of total emissions. The emissions from fossil fuels amount to 8 billion tons of carbon a year.
Between 1990 and 2007, the date was compiled in two years by a team of research experts on climate warming.
One of the main lessons learned from this study is that the forests are not only very important reservoirs of carbon but they also actively absorb CO2 from human activities. According to Canadell, forests are also taking center stage in climate protection.
The second lesson is the growth of economies made possible by better forest management, and who are exploiting the profits made by deforestation, will be greater than expected.
The head of Global Carbon Project reports the financial advantages brought forth by the carbon market and compensations in the REDD mechanism (Reduction of Emissions through Deforestation and Degradation).
This mechanism was formally adopted during the UN climate summit in Cancun (Mexico) in late 2010. Its goal is to influence countries with tropical forests to avoid cutting them down and manage them sustainably, by giving them financial compensation.
Forest management in France: a contract of objectives to improve the ONF finances
Source AFP -11/22/2011
The Office national des forêts (ONF), the public forest manager, signed a “contract of objectives and performance” for the next five years with the State and the forest communes. The public institution is aiming to balance their budget by 2016.
Among the main measures, this contract, presented on Wednesday, November 2011 during the 94th congress of mayors, unsurprisingly ratified layovers a as high as 7%: 700 out of 9000 ONF employees.
This is a sensitive subject for this institution, founded in 1964. It has absorbed a slump of 20% of its personnel in 15 years, and had to confront a wave of suicides, 6 since last June. The ONF manages one quarter of French forests (4.7 million acres), that is 15% of forests belonging to communes (2.9 m acres) and 10% to the State, owner of dominial forests (1.8 m acres).
You can read more on:
Disappearing dry forest in New Caledonia
Source : JDLE du 09/16/11
The surface of the dry forest in New Caledonia has gone from 4.500 square kilometers to 45 today. In a report on September 14, 2011, the WWF made a call for urgent action.
Dry or “sclerophyllus” forest (“coriaceous leaves”) develops in dry climates (less that 1,100 mm of rain in a year), and is subject to drying trade winds and a dry season during 6 months out of the year. “The dry forests are situated on the West coast of New Caledonia and extend to the coast up to 300 or 400 meters of altitude, very often on sedimentary rocks and more rarely on basaltic rocks”, the program of dry forest preservation states.
According to WWF, this is the most threatened tropical ecosystem of the planet because of urbanization, livestock, agriculture, bushfires and invasive species. These forest have 4550 plant species, 6 to 10 of which cannot be found elsewhere in the world, as well as a very diversified fauna including insects (33 species of butterflies), mollusks, reptiles and birds.
Since 2001, several projects of restoration and reforestation have been carried out with the participation of local populations. The goal is to restore “close to 50 acres of dry forest and prevent the formation of tree cemeteries by protecting the existing priority parcels with private landowners, restoring the damaged parcels, eliminating invasive species and replanting endemic ones”. This action will continue in 2012, the NGO indicates.
A tree takes decades to be made into a tree; let us not cut them down just for our own comfort…
Russia: latest news from the Vavilov Institute
Sources : JDLE du 09/14/2011 et RSE du 01/15/2009
Approximately one century ago, Nikolaï I. Vavilov, Russian scientist, foresaw a risk of catastrophe that would deprive humanity from natural biodiversity. A botanist, agronomist and geneticist, his life was dedicated to the study of plant diversity and collecting seeds of cultivated and wild plants from all over the world. He developed this activity at the Russian Institute of Horticulture where he was director from 1921 to 1940.
Today the Vavilov Institute seed bank is ranked 4th internationally, after those in the United States, China and India. It contains grains and seeds from 322,000 plant species, 43,000 of which are vegetables and 5,000 are berries. For the experts, 90% of the collections from this “bank” cannot be found in any other institution of the same standing.
For comparison’s sake, the official seed catalogues, authorized for commercialization in Russia and France contain approximately 7,000 varieties each and the European catalogue about 35,000.
According to the operation established by N. Vavilov 80 years ago, each acquisition is studied for three years before it can become part of the collection.
The Institute possesses 260,000 specimens, as part of UNESCO heritage. Certain seeds, especially those of vegetables, necessitate regular renewal. They have to be planted and then harvested in order to be conserved again for several years. For this purpose, the Institute owns land in the periphery of Saint Petersbourg and 12 experimental stations distributed over the territory of the Russian Federation.
Indeed, this organization requires a lot of funds to operate well. And, to obtain these subsidies from public institutions, the Vavilov Institute must prove that the riches contained in the Seed Bank is not only passive heritage. It must hold a concrete role in Russia today.
However, the Institute of agronomic research is in the way. Its conservatory has the unfortunate inconveniency of being located in Pavlovsk. Situated only a few kilometers from Saint-Petersbourg, this town is where Peter the First built a wonderful palace. It has become a very fashionable suburb, where it is considered chic to own a house or a datcha.
At the end of Winter 2009, the Foundation for the development of Russian homes (Russian acronym is RZHS), the landowner of the lot, asked the law to move the conservatory legally in order to yield it to beautiful condominiums, reserved for the employees of the Academy of Sciences. At the end of July, the magistrates or the 9th court of appeal favored the land developer, and ordered the destruction of one of the most important conservatory orchards in the world (which extends to 90 acres) managed by the Vavilov Institute. They magnanimously give three months to the institution to find shelter for its collections and thousands of trees and bushes.
The affair caused uproar. The American Global Crop Diversity Trust began circulating an international petition addressed to Medvedev. The international press took over. And, sign of the times, the Russian president Dmitry Medvedev expressed his interest on his twitter account.
In a correspondence addressed to the Russian authorities, the heads of the Program of the United Nations for the Environment (PUNE) evaluated the collections of the Pavlovsk experimental station as “unequalled in the world” and must be protected. The lawyers from the institute try a last recourse at the high court of arbitration.
The legal battle continues. The President Medvedev works on preserving the two parties’ interests. By trying to make the “less important” portions of the conservatory made into lots, without touching the essential collections. Experts inspect while the scientists are audited. The goal of the RZHS was to categorize 70 acres, the number two plot (two thirds of the orchard), as wasteland, which would make them buildable.
In June 2011, the fourth inspection in less than 10 months concluded that a part of the collections (mostly grasses) was transferable. It would be also possible “but difficult” to transfer the trees and the bushes. These projects were contested by the directors of the Vavilov Institute. The transfer of the collections, trees a fortiori, is indeed possible, but technically difficult and exorbitantly expensive. The scientists also consider it ludicrous to promote an idea of cohabitation between a residential area, with all its various constraints (roads, energy and water connections, etc) and negative impacts (pollutants, grey water waste), with a botanical garden of international reputation.
It is now the Kremlin’s turn to act. But with 6 months away from presidential elections, there may be other short-term priorities...
Great Britain: humans are too noisy under water as well
- Since November 2009, a large number of seals (90 horribly mutilated carcasses) were washed up on British East coast with terrible injuries in “corkscrew,” as if they were passed through a giant pencil sharpener.
- © Universal news and sport Scotland - internet
The scientists of the unit of research on marine mammals from the Scottish University of St Andrews suspect that the female seal may be attracted to the buzzing of the boats’ propellers, which imitate the cry of the male during the reproductive period. The accoustic tests made by the Scottish researchers confirmed the hypothesis of the animals’ mistake: thinking they were joining a friend, the female pinnipeds were indeed sucked up by the boats’ propellers. "We have observed that deaths in the summer concern exclusively females, during the reproductive period and those in winter are younger grey seals, stated David Thompson. He is the head of the program that researches the type of propellers that provoke the most serious wounds.
The inspector Mike Brown, who directs the police investigation in the Norfolk, indicated:
“The seals suffered terrible wounds, which we think are the probable cause of their death. There is no sign that it was due to sickness or any type of predator. We work closely with the drivers of tugboats and local fishermen, but we like to hear anyone with information on the subject of these events.”
Human activity in open sea (such as leisure, fishing, energy production, military...) has considerably increased in the course of the last decades, and their impact has brought up the volume in the ocean. This sound pollution generated by human activities can affect the health and behavior of sea animals.
Another thing to point out is that since August 13, 2011, in Germany the builders and operators of off-shore wind farms are testing 5 different methods to reduce noise during construction and operation of wind farms. The German manufacturers wish to reduce the noise during the installation and operation of the sea wind farms. Germany is the only European country to build wind farms offshore without installing sonar buoys to keep the mammals at a distance.
China brings fish back to the Yangtze 
Source : JDLE of 07/15/2011
In order to reconstitute the ecology of the Yangtze (the blue stream), whose fauna and flora have suffered so much these last years (such as the extinction of the Yangtze dolphin in 2006), Chinese press indicated that the Chinese ministry of agriculture proceeded to add fish again to the regions of the Jiangzi, the Hubei, the Hunan, the Anhui, and the Jiangsu.
According to Xinhua, 1,3 billion fish and young fish have been released these last days. Unsurprisingly, the most favored species are cyprinids (the largest family of fresh water fish), such as the black carp (Mylopharyngodon piceus), the herbivore carp (Ctenopharyngodon idell) and the bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis).
At the same time, aquatic plants were planted on 9000 acres of riverbeds. 21 million shell fish and mollusks were brought into the water.
Let us remember that on June 6, 2006, the gigantic Three Gorges dam, situated on the Yangtse* river in the heart of China, has been set into motion. With 2.3 km lng and 185 m high, the dam now regulates the waters of the third largest stream in the world, 300 km long, the rate of flow of which is estimated at 22,000 m3 a second. The zone threatened by the damming was a biotope of 6400 plant species, 3500 species of insects, 600 butterflies, 500 land vertebrates, 100 some mammals, and 350 fish species. A large portion of these animal and plant species were endemic, that is, they only live in this region.
TENDUA and Shark Alliance: 2011 petition
In October 2011, TENDUA joined SHARK ALLIANCE, international coalition of more than 100 organizations concerned by the oceans, active in the areas of protection, science and leisure. It allowed for the go-ahead of the fifth European Week for sharks by appealing to the ministries of Fishing in the European Union to protect sharks from overexploitation and finning.
Sign the petition until January 8, 2012 on :
Victory for sharks!
On November 21, 2011, the Asian hotel PENINSULA decided to no longer serve shark fin soup in 9 of its establishments in Peking, Hong-Kong, Shanghai, Bangkok, Manila, Tokyo, New York, Chicago, and Beverly Hills. This will begin in January 2012.
Here are a couple of pictures of a young caracal polishing up a francolin meal.
Thank you for your attention and see you soon.