Thursday, October 7, 2010

Saving tropical forests by valuing their carbon and improving farm tech

Seed Daily: In a warming 21st century, tropical forests will be at risk from a variety of threats, especially the conversion to cropland to sustain a growing population. A new report this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition shows that crop productivity improvements and carbon emission limits together could prevent widespread tropical deforestation over the next 100 years - but if relying on either one alone, the world is at risk of losing many of its tropical forests.

"We're often concerned with agriculture encroaching on forests," said research scientist Allison Thomson of the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. "This study shows that encroachment can be managed to a certain extent by increasing crop productivity - boosting the amount of food or energy that can be produced on a given piece of land."

But the study clearly shows that improving crop productivity alone will not prevent tropical deforestation. Also needed is some form of economic incentive to store carbon in forests, for example, a plan to limit all carbon emissions - from burning fossil fuels, biofuels or whole forests to make way for crops or other land uses - through economic methods such as a carbon tax or cap-and-trade program. Combined with farming improvements, this tactic not only preserves tropical forests but increases their extent….

Henri Rousseau, "In a Tropical Forest. Struggle between Tiger and Bull," 1908-1909

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