Boost for Indonesian ‘ecosystem restoration’ forest


Indonesia’s forests  received a boost when the nation’s government announced plans to double the size of the country’s first forest for “ecosystem restoration”, according to a joint press release issued by the RSPB.

It says that Indonesian Forest Minister Zulkifli Hasan has announced that he will expand the 52,000 hectare concession held by Burung Indonesia, the RSPB (UK) and BirdLife International in central Sumatra to a total area of 98,000 hectares.

According to the RSPB, the restoration area now equals two-thirds the size of greater London and is greater than the size of Singapore.

The bird conservation group welcomed the news, adding that other applications for ‘forest restoration’ licences are being submitted to the nation’s forestry ministry.

In 2009, the ministry is reported to have received as many applications for forest restoration licences as it did for logging concessions.

Applications for forest restoration totalled a further two million hectares, and are now being assessed.

The 98,000 hectares where the minister announced he would grant “ecosystem restoration” is within Harapan Rainforest, one of the last remaining areas of dry lowland Sumatran forest and is one of the most threatened rainforests in the world.

It is home to a host of rare animal and plant species, including the critically endangered Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae), of which fewer than 300 remain in the wild.

It supports an amazing 55 mammal species, including the globally-threatened Asian elephant (Elephas maximus sumatranus) and Malayan tapir (Tapirus indicus), as well as the world’s rarest stork – the Storm’s stork (Ciconia stormi) – and a rich diversity of other wildlife.

An initial licence of 52,000 hectares was granted to the environmental consortium in 2008, allowing them to protect, nurture and restore the forest in a former logging concession.

Illegal logging has been significantly decreased and forest fires, which once released significant carbon dioxide emissions, have been all but stamped out. Not only is the forest an important carbon store, but the tree planting programme in Harapan Rainforest is capturing more carbon from the atmosphere.

Botanic experts from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in the UK have identified a plant growing in the forest, Emblemantha urnulata B. C. Stone, that is unique to the area and had only been recorded twice before.

Agus B. Utomo, the Executive Director of Burung Indonesia, said: “The Ministry of Forestry had the foresight to create a new form of forest management in 2004 with the ‘ecosystem restoration’ licence.

“We’re delighted that ecosystem restoration is now an integral part of forest management strategies in Indonesia. As a result, Burung Indonesia is already planning to expand our portfolio of ecosystem restoration concessions.”

Source : RSPB press release

Date: 18/06/2010

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Urban tree loss hitting sparrow populations


The population of house sparrows in Britain has fallen by 68% in the past three decades, according to the RSPB.

A report by the charity said the paving over of front gardens and removal of trees had caused a big decline in insects which the birds eat.

It suggests that sparrows are now disappearing altogether from cities such as London, Bristol and Edinburgh, the BBC News website reports.

Dr Will Peach, from the RSPB, said many gardens had become “no-go areas for once-common British birds”.

Scientists from the RSPB joined forces with De Montfort University and Natural England to investigate the decline of the house sparrow.

They studied numbers in Leicester over a three-year period and found that they fell by nearly a third.

Dr Peach said every pair of house sparrows must raise at least five chicks a year to maintain the population, but many were starving to death in their nests or were too weak to live long after fledging.

The study did find that chick survival was higher in areas where insects, such as aphids, were more abundant.

Dr Peach said: “Peanuts and seeds are great for birds for most of the year, but sparrows need insects in summer – and lots of them – to feed their hungry young.

“Honeysuckle, wild roses, hawthorn or fruit trees are perfect for insects and therefore house sparrows.

“The trend towards paving of front gardens and laying decking in the back, and the popularity of ornamental plants from other parts of the world, has made many gardens no-go areas for once common British birds.”

He said gardeners could help sparrows by “being lazy, doing nothing and allowing the garden to be a little bit scruffy”.

The study, published in the journal Animal Conservation, concluded that the decline in house sparrows in Britain began in the mid-1980s.

In London, numbers fell by 60% between 1994 and 2004.

The house sparrow has been added to the list of species identified by the UK Biodiversity Action Plan as in need of greater protection.

Source: BBC News website

Date: 20/11/2008

Scottish scheme ‘planting 1,149 trees a day’


A conservation partnership has planted the equivalent of 1,149 trees each day for the past eight years.

In a press release, the Scottish Forest Alliance (SFA) said that more than 3.3 million trees had been planted or had been allowed to naturally regenerate, as its decade-long project enetered its ninth year.

The The SFA is described as a “unique woodland conservation project” involving oil giant BP, Foresty Commission Scotland, the Woodland Trust Scotland and RSPB Scotland.

In 2000, BP pledged to invest £10bn over 10 years to support the SFA project, which has been described as Scotland’s biggest corporate commitment to the environment to date.

The goal is to help regenerate the nation’s fragmented native woodlands, helping to restore the rich diversity of flora and fauna that once flourished in these habitats.

It is also seeking to encourage local communities to become involved in the management of these areas.

Over the full 10 years, the scheme intends to create more than 8,400 hectares of new tree cover by planting almost 8.2 million trees.

“This successful project is playing a major role in creating significant new areas of native woodland,” said Andrew Fairbairn, development manager for the Woodland Trust Scotland.

“Across Scotland, we have planted millions of trees and encouraged millions more to naturally regenerate.”

He aded that the scheme had enabled  hundreds of thousands of people each year to enjoy the great outdoors.

“This in turn has a positive spin off for biodiversity and wildlife, as well as toruism and local communities.”

Source: SFA press release

Date: 09/10/2008

UK woodland birds ‘in decline’


The latest Breeding Bird Survey for the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), in partnership with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, has highlighted a significant decline in woodland bird species, writes the woodlands.co.uk blog.

It says that the annual survey has revealed numbers down by more than 50% in several species, the worst hit being the willow tit down by 77%.

The reason for the decline is not obvious, the blog adds.

“It isn’t due to loss of habitat – there is more woodland in the UK today than there has ever been, and, on the whole, modern woodland management is more sympathetic to environmental concerns.

“The Farm Woodland Scheme and Farm Woodland Premium Scheme have also encouraged the planting of small woodlands.”

It suggests the fall in breeding woodland bird species may be the result of a change to the composition and structure of the UK’s woodlands.

“Traditional methods of management such as coppicing provide a perfect habitat for warblers and nightingales, for instance,” woodlands.co.uk reports.

“The coppicing process whereby the wood is regularly cut back creates open woodland with plenty of undergrowth for nesting. Where coppice is left to grow unchecked, eventually the canopy closes and the undergrowth is shaded out.

“Mature woodland with a closed canopy supports tree-dwelling birds such as the woodpecker, but offers a less diverse selection of species overall.”

The blog highlights a possible connection between the fall in bird numbers and the growing population of deer: “Many woodland species like the woodland edges and open areas where there is shrubby, low-level cover.

“An explosion in the number of deer in the UK has had a noticeable impact on just this sort of habitat through grazing at the herb and low shrub level. It is quite likely that this is making a serious impact on woodland bird numbers.”

Migration has also been suggested as a factor.

Several British woodland birds, such as the wood warbler, are annual summer visitors that overwinter in sub-Saharan Africa. It has been suggested that drought in that region may be having an effect.

Citing studies in the Netherlands, the blog post by Catherine also suggested that reduction of habitat quality through traffic noise from nearby roads could have significantly affected local woodland bird populations.

Source: woodlands.co.uk

Date: 22/08/2008

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