The science community is at the heart of efforts aiming to address tropical deforestation. Scientific research has been an essential part in the conservation of the world’s forests; by providing scientific evidence of the need to protect tropical forests, related to the role forests play in providing ecosystem services and supporting life and livelihoods around the world, as well as by offering a scientific basis for effective initiatives to reduce deforestation and conserve tropical forests.
Scientific findings can influence policy makers’ decision making and the business practices of corporate actors. For example, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a scientific body that reviews the most recent scientific evidence relevant to climate change. Thousands of scientists contribute to the IPCC’s scientific reviews and resulting reports provide the most comprehensive assessments worldwide on the state of current knowledge on climate change, including on the role played by deforestation and land use change in greenhouse gas emissions. Sound policy making requires a flow of information from a variety of sectors and governmental decision makers are increasingly emphasising the need for the development of policies grounded in evidence. The scientific community should be actively involved in the development and implementation of policies as well as in ongoing reviews and subsequent amendments. The science community should therefore strive to conduct research that aims to drive effective policy implementation and ensure research is appropriately communicated to the appropriate decision making bodies.
Scientific evidence of the role forests play in global emissions has led to the development of a mechanism to incentivise reductions in deforestation by way of a policy instrument to compensate for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (REDD+), with reducing deforestation recognised as the largest opportunity for cost-effective and immediate emissions reductions. Furthermore, since its establishment, scientific research, such as that conducted by the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) has continually contributed to the implementation of related initiatives and increasing understanding of effective interventions, as well as research into other areas related to forest conservation.
Other examples of the contribution of science exist in how companies are changing their business practices in respect to commodity production and forest conversion and how adopted policies are translated into action. For example, many companies have recently integrated the concepts of high conservation value (HCV) and high carbon stock (HCS) into their policies, committing not to expand commodity production into forest areas designated as such. Research resulting in the development of such concepts and related tools is an essential part in effective policy implementation.
Finally, recent scientific and technological advances have drastically increased the amounts of data available to stakeholders in the scientific and public policy sectors. Harnessed in the right way this data can be used to generate increasingly analytic and reactive solutions to environmental issues. The recently released Global Forest Watch platform provides an example of this and in this case demonstrates how these advances can increase transparency and therefore the effectiveness of interventions to address deforestation. Global Forest Watch incorporates crowd-sourced data, satellite technology, open access data and cloud computing to provide a near-real time monitoring and alert system for the world’s forests, increasing understanding of global patterns of deforestation.
This assessment has been carried out following the methodology developed for the Forest 500 project, available here.
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