Separate targets for gross deforestation, reforestation would increase progress toward forest conservation

November 14, 2013

What exactly does "zero deforestation" mean? In an article published in the journal Science, authors Dr. Sandra Brown, of Winrock International, and Dr. Daniel Zarin, of the Climate and Land Use Alliance, posit that, while the idea seems simple and compelling, ambiguity surrounding global definitions and metrics actually creates risks for forest conservation and accountability.

Over the past several years, governments, corporations, and non-governmental organizations have paid significant attention to efforts to reduce , setting goals and targets for the achievement of zero . These targets, and the global discussions which precede them, are well-meaning and imperative. In fact, when it comes to mitigating the effects of climate change, the role played by reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) has received considerable attention. However, as Brown and Zarin point out, some of these global targets specify "net deforestation," some "gross deforestation," some do not specify at all, and others may actually use these terms interchangeably. This confusion over terms that each have their own meanings could lead to some perverse outcomes, they write.

"Until targets are clarified, and metrics agreed upon, zero may mean nothing at all," say authors Sandra Brown, chief scientist with Winrock's Ecosystem Services, and Dan Zarin, program director of the Climate and Land Use Alliance.

In their paper, Brown and Zarin further conclude that reducing gross deforestation will usually result in better outcomes "if the intent is to reduce carbon emissions, conserve biodiversity, and protect hydrological services" because net deforestation targets are often ambiguous in these areas. This points out the importance of clear targets, as well as a consensus on metrics, if, in the end, the goal is to be rendered achievable. Rather than a global target for zero deforestation, "governments, corporations, and nongovernmental organizations should instead set separate, ambitious targets for reductions in gross deforestation and for reforestation," write Brown and Zarin.

"Monitoring gross changes in forest cover—both losses and gains—is now not a technical challenge because there are many satellite data providers to choose from, robust methods for imagery interpretation, and increased computing power; what is needed is the global commitment to allocate the resources to get the job done," says Brown.

Brown and Zarin's paper examining the global policies surrounding "zero deforestation" will be published in the Policy Forum section of the November 15, 2013, issue of the journal Science.

Explore further: New data and methods paint clearer picture of emissions from tropical deforestation

More information: "What Does Zero Deforestation Mean?," by S. Brown, Science, 2013.

Related Stories

Trade emerging as a key driver of Brazilian deforestation

April 5, 2013

A new study published online April 4th in the journal Environmental Research Letters finds that trade and global consumption of Brazilian beef and soybeans is increasingly driving Brazilian deforestation. Consequently, current ...

Parts of Amazon on the verge of forest-to-grassland shift

September 3, 2013

The stability of the Amazon rainforest, and the ecosystem's resilience to widespread deforestation, may be much lower than previously thought. The replacement of stands of trees with grassland changes evapotranspiration rates ...

Historic trends predict future global reforestation unlikely

October 9, 2013

Feeding a growing global population while also slowing or reversing global deforestation may only be possible if agricultural yields rise and/or per capita food consumption declines over the next century, according to historic ...

Recommended for you

A cataclysmic event of a certain age

July 27, 2015

At the end of the Pleistocene period, approximately 12,800 years ago—give or take a few centuries—a cosmic impact triggered an abrupt cooling episode that earth scientists refer to as the Younger Dryas.

Researchers find reasons behind increases in urban flooding

July 27, 2015

Scientists at the University of South Florida's College of Marine Science investigating the increasing risk of 'compound flooding' for major U.S. cities have found that flooding risk is greatest for cities along the Atlantic ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.