Incentivise to keep primary forests intact

7 02 2014

The Amazon rainforest. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

I know – ‘incentivise’ is one of those terrible wank words of business speak. But to be heard by the economically driven, one must learn their guttural and insensitive language. I digress …

Today’s post is merely a repost of an interview I did for the new Mongabay.com series ‘Next Big Idea in Forest Conservation‘. I’m honoured to have been selected for an interview along with the likes of Bill Laurance and Stuart Pimm.

Consider this my conservation selfie.

An Interview with Corey Bradshaw

Mongabay.com: What is your background?

Corey Bradshaw: I have a rather eclectic background in conservation ecology. I grew up in the wilds of western Canada, the son of a trapper. My childhood experiences initially gave me a primarily consumptive view of the environment from trapping, fishing and hunting, but I learned that without intact environmental functions, these precious resources quickly degrade or disappear. This ironic appreciation of natural processes would later lead me into academia and the pursuit of reducing the rate of the extinction crisis.

I completed my first degrees in ecology in Montréal and the University of Alberta, followed by a PhD in New Zealand at the University of Otago. After deciding to pursue the rest of my career in the Southern Hemisphere, I completed my postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Tasmania. Multiple field seasons in the subantarctic and Antarctica probably assisted in a giving me a burgeoning desire to change gears, so I left for the tropics of northern Australia to begin a position at Charles Darwin University. Being introduced there to conservation greats like Navjot Sodhi (sadly, now deceased), Barry Brook and David Bowman turned my research interests on their ear. I quickly became enamoured with quantitative conservation ecology, applying my skills in mathematics to the plight of the world’s ecosystems. Nowhere did the problems seem more intractable than in the tropics.

I am now based at the University of Adelaide (since 2008) and have a vibrant research lab where we apply our quantitative skills to everything from conservation ecology, climate change, energy provision, human population trends, ecosystem services, sustainable agriculture, human health, palaeoecology, carbon-based conservation initiatives and restoration techniques.

Mongabay.com: How long have you worked in tropical forest conservation and in what geographies? What is the focus of your work?

Corey Bradshaw: I tend to take a broad-scale approach to my work, so the tropics in particular represent just one part of my focus. My team and I use large species datasets to test hypotheses about general ecological trends and processes. My interest in tropical forests in particular is based on their superior biodiversity value, high threat and, perhaps ironically, their sensitivity to climate change. My real interest in the tropics began when I first moved to northern Australia in 2004. Spending time there and in Singapore working with Navjot Sodhi, I became interested in the desperate plight of tropical biotas after seeing first hand how quickly they were disappearing.

Mongabay.com: What do you see at the next big idea or emerging innovation in tropical forest conservation? And why?

Corey Bradshaw: It has become clear to me that nothing can replace primary vegetation, both in terms of biodiversity value and other ecosystem services (e.g., flood mitigation and carbon storage). While restoration is essential given the extent and rate of primary forest loss, we need financial mechanisms to guard what’s left. While certainly not ‘innovative’ in terms of concepts, there has yet to be designed a globally effective financial incentive to protect existing forests of sufficient magnitude and quality to preserve biodiversity. From my own work and that of colleagues, even protected areas are under siege and can by no means ensure biodiversity maintenance. I therefore see the most promising innovation in tweaking existing carbon-trading rules to value primary forest above all other forms of land use, effectively erasing the unfortunate requirement of ‘additionality’ (providing more carbon benefits than would have happened anyway without investment) for any carbon market-financed incentives. This would need to be done at the global level (e.g., Kyoto 2) as well as incorporated into the national markets of emerging and established economies, both in the tropics and elsewhere.

Mongabay.com: What are the primary obstacles to “tweaking existing carbon-trading rules to value primary forest”?

Corey Bradshaw: The ‘additionality’ requirement. [Also] ensuring that no ‘leakage’ occurs, and that the forests are maintained in permanence – these three [leakage, permanence and additionality] make up the unholy trinity of carbon-financed forest protection. See associated blog post Unholy trinity of leakage, permanence and additionality.

Mongabay.com: Are you personally involved in any projects or research that represent emerging innovation in tropical forest conservation?

Corey Bradshaw: I mentioned that we’ve established some pretty convincing evidence that nothing can replace primary forests, and I have done some preliminary work on improving the financial incentives for protecting them. I have also been involved in setting up some of the world’s first biodiversity-carbon restoration experiments, both in the tropics and temperate zones of Australia. I hope to be able to expand these projects to provide sound restoration advice to other regions, but of course, money is always the limiting component.

Read the original post here.


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8 responses

9 02 2014
Dr Terry Moore

In 1991, the Cat Survival Trust saved 10,000 acres with 40 cats from 5 species already resident in the land the Trust purchased. At an average of £25,000 a year running costs, the numbers increased to 70 cats in seven years. As a bonus, 5 million trees, billions of insects and hundreds of thousands of plants, mammals, primates, reptiles, fish and birds are being protected at the same time in a reserve that has legal protection for ever. As cats are at the terminal end of the food chain, it is necessary to protect the whole ecosystem in order to preserve the cats.
The Reserve has many exceedingly rare species of fauna and flora. Also found in this reserve are over 50 locally used medicinal plants and the original genetic stocks of many fruit and vegetables, from which our commercial hybrid plants have been developed. A tree with a cherry without a pip grows wild in the reserve. How many additional new foods and medicines will be found in future years? Protection of forest with its vast diversity of life forms provides many benefits for man. Each organism processes the minerals within the forest and in the underlying rock structure, mineralising the streams and rivers. These essential minerals and trace elements are needed in our diets and are released into the water escaping the forest. The crops irrigated with this water and the water itself provides a constant source of minerals and trace elements for the humans buying these foods and drinking this water. This is why we have to save primary forest!

8 02 2014
Philip Martin

I agree with your points that mature forest should be targeted for protection before anything else for many reasons. My problem is this. You and I can agree that we would like this to happen, the average guy on the street doesn’t really care and so politicians have little will to change the status quo. This is a big question, but how would you deal with this? For me this is ultimately the reason we haven’t got a workable REDD+/CMD mechanism at the moment.

9 02 2014
Dr Terry Moore

The REDD process is basically sound but receives little support so it will fail. The World Bank and similar organisations only serve their private owners who appear to be holding countries to ransom. They lend money to governments knowing that the capital and interest will never be paid back. This enables them to force public utilities, services, properties and land to be privatised whilst taking ownership of all or part as ‘security’ against the loans. In effect these corrupt bankers just print money from thin air and then progressively take over ownership of more and more real assets. Printing more and more money enables mining companies to destroy more habitat to extract more of the earth’s resources and multinational farmers to destroy more natural habitat to produce palm and other crop based oils as well as more soya and similar crops to feed more animals for meat.

As far as the NGO’s are concerned, many of the good ones fail through lack of finance and exposure whilst the bad ones who are funded by the corporate multinationals obtain all the support and publicity they need to dispel the real truth and their bosses and staff are paid so well they will always toe the party line. The whole process is made worse since the corporate multinationals fund and control the media. Time and time again, we have visits from reporters who come to cover a particular item of unimportant news. Each time I explain issues like the real causes of climate change and these individuals enthusiastically understand and become inspired by what we have to say but nearly every time, the articles they produce for their editors are ignored and rejected! Oops, could these articles upset their corporate advertisers?

How many more climate disasters will the planet have to suffer before the real issues are tackled? This year like those before over the past twenty years has been worse than the year before. Millions have lost their homes, jobs and lives. In the past few years the loss of farmed food through climate disasters has almost reduced world food storage to 7 – 10 days supply. The civil unrest is growing….migration is at an all time high….we are close to a complete collapse.

9 02 2014
Dr Terry Moore

Hi Philip, and that is the real problem…the media fail to alert the masses of the folly of exponential primary forest destruction. As far as the NGO’s are concerned, many of the good ones fail through lack of finance and exposure whilst the bad ones who are funded by the corporate multinationals obtain all the support and publicity they need to dispel the real truth and their bosses and staff are paid so well they will always toe the party line. The whole process is made worse since the corporate multinationals fund and control the media and the destruction of natural habitat for oil and mineral extraction. Time and time again, we have visits from reporters who come to cover a particular item of unimportant news. Each time I explain issues like the real causes of climate change and these individuals enthusiastically understand and become inspired by what we have to say but nearly every time, the articles they produce for their editors are ignored and rejected! Oops, could these articles upset their corporate advertisers?

10 02 2014
Philip Martin

I might agree with some of your points, but could you try to be a bit more concise? This is the web, people don’t read big chunks of text.

And can you give me examples of these NGOs that are funded by multinationals?

And the climate disasters?

And migration caused by climate?

They might be fair points but without evidence they are not worth much.

8 02 2014
Lisa Crampton

Maybe you will enjoy this short video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FiYcvntog74

8 02 2014
Lisa Crampton

Corey, when are you going to turn your attention to Hawaiian (sub)tropical forests…we sure could use your skills!

7 02 2014
Dr Terry Moore

The cause is simple…less trees in the tropics each year….less to absorb the suns radiation = tropical warming. Higher temperature around the tropics = more moisture evaporated from the oceans producing much warmer denser and increased cloud production (hence more flooding in tropics where trees now missing)…..then more and denser ‘tropical rainforest clouds’ carrying more moisture escape the tropics as intense heat on cleared land creates lift to allow these clouds to escape the tropics on trade winds…hence cooling effect away from the tropics as cloud cover increases and greater rain and snow fall away from the tropics, whilst extra cloud cover also traps the extra heat travelling up from the tropics…..Less trees in the tropics each year = less biomass to sequester the CO2’….As the ocean warms, the warmer seas travel north to the Arctic and south to the Antarctic…as the warmer air from the tropics travels north….warmer air in the Arctic and warmer air to the Antarctic….simples!
The more trees are cut down, the worse it will get! The cumulative loss of forest around the tropics is the main cause for climate change. The continuous blanket of trees around the tropics used to control the Earth’s climate. As more trees are cut down, dense, heavily laden rainforest clouds are now escaping the tropics increasing the floods in some areas and altering the effect of trade winds in others causing droughts in other areas outside the tropics. In addition, without the historic continuous band of forest around the tropics soaking up the heat from the sun, there is an inevitable increase in temperature in some areas outside the tropics. It is time governments started to govern. No more trees should be cut down and reforestation must now be effected in the tropics before the world climate tips this planet into complete chaos!
Unless we preserve the remaining rainforest and allow deforested areas to regenerate, areas away from the tropics will receive more rain, storms and lower temperatures and the poles will continue to melt.
Only when the last tree has gone and the last river poisoned and the last fish caught will the last human realize he/she should have respected the planet!

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