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Costa Rica’s Endangered Jaguars

One of the largest of Central American, and Costa Rica’s largest, carnivores, an endangered species, it was once fairly common in coastal mangroves, lowland savannas, and wet and dry shrub lands and forest up to about 1000m elevation. But because its conspicuous tracks, the high value of its pelt, its reputation as a stock killer, and its vulnerability to hound pursuit and still hunting, this cat is now rare except in parts of large unhunted reserves. It occurs in Costa Rica on the Tortuguero, Santa Rosa, Corcovado and Rio Macho National Parks, and lower levels of Cordillera Talamanca.

Jaguars are rarely seen in daylight, but occasionally one suns on a cliff or log . They scratch tree trunks, but its not sure that they urine-mark objects or make territorial scratches on the ground. They are fairly aquatic and easily swim rivers, small lakes, and straits between mangrove islets. They favor damp sites such as streambeds in gallery forests, where footprints often reveal jaguar’s presence, approximate size , and travels. At any season jaguars of any sex may roar at night.

Although jaguars seem to prefer peccaries as prey, they also take monkeys, agoutis, deer, birds, fish, lizard, turtles, and other animals. Mud tracks reveal feeding on dead fish, alligators, iguanas and any other carrion left by receding waters.

Jaguars seem not to avoid the scent of a man, and one may follow a man walking in a trail. Although unprovoked attacks on men are rare, in Panama a jaguar recently charged a man who was carrying a bag of trapped birds.

The season of births probably varies regionally. Gestation is about 3 months, and the usual litter is two. Apparently males take no part on the rising of the young, which may accompany the mother for a year. Females reach sexual maturity at about 3 years of age and do not breed in successive years if their young survive. The main threat to the remaining jaguars in Central America is the clearing of forest for crops and grazing. When roads penetrate a primitive zone, the jaguar and white-lipped peccary ( Tayassu pecari ) are the first mammals to disappear. Jaguars seem to be poor colonizers of cutover lands or new areas regardless of the abundance of prey there. Jaguars range from northern Mexico to northern Argentina. The puma has much greater ecological and geographic range and occurs along with jaguars throughout Costa Rica.

Rare film of a Costa Rican Jaguar in the wild

Also see:
Saving Mono Titi – The Documentary

Filed under: Wildlife Conservation, , , , , , , , ,

Part 4 – Planting Trees in Cities.

( We would like to invite all of those interested in this subject to join our ongoing discussion at Treehugger.com . )

In a report from Reuters (“Trees take on greenhouse gases at Super Bowl”, 30 January 2007), Dr. Ken Caldeira, a Carnegie Institute climate scientist, was reported to say, “It’s probably a nice thing to do, but planting trees is not a quantitative solution to the real problem.” Dr. Philip Duffy of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory said, “If you plant a tree (CO2 reductions are) only temporary for the life of the tree. If you don’t emit in the first place, then that permanently reduces CO2.” Dr. Caldeira had made similar arguments previously in an op-ed in the New York Times (“When Being Green Raises the Heat, 16 January 2007).

A New Scientist article (“Location is key for trees to fight global warming,” 15 December 2006) reports results from a study by ecologist Dr. Govindasamy Bala of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The model developed by Bala and colleagues indicates that, while trees planted in tropical regions have a clear net cooling effect, trees planted in mid-latitudes may absorb so much heat from the sun that they actually contribute to warming.

These stories fail to capture the complexity of the role that city trees play in fighting global climate change. Trees reduce carbon dioxide in the air, thereby reducing the warming “greenhouse” effect of the gas, in two main ways. First, as they grow, they take carbon dioxide out of the air and transform it into roots, leaves, bark, flowers, and wood. Over the lifetime of a tree, several tons of carbon dioxide are taken up (McPherson and Simpson 1999). In fact, trees are the only known feasible way to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Even if we were able to switch immediately to fuel sources that do not emit carbon dioxide, the current levels in the air are higher than at any time in the past 400,000 years, according to the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change, and because of the long “lifetime” of carbon dioxide, will remain so for decades or even centuries.

Second, by providing shade and transpiring water, trees lower air temperature and, therefore, cut energy use, which reduces the production of carbon dioxide at the power plant. Two-thirds of the electricity produced in the United States is created by burning a fuel (coal, oil, or natural gas) that produces carbon dioxide–on average, for every kilowatt hour of electricity created, about 1.39 lbs of carbon dioxide is released (eGRID 2002). It is certainly true, as Dr. Duffy states, that not emitting carbon dioxide in the first place is a good strategy. Lowering summertime temperatures by planting trees in cities is one way to reduce energy use and thereby reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

To address the other claims made above: Are carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas reductions from tree planting temporary? In a sense, yes, greenhouse gas reductions are temporary if trees are removed and not replaced. To achieve long-term reductions, a population of trees must remain stable as a whole. This requires a diverse mix of species and ages so that the overall tree canopy cover remains intact, even as individual trees die and are replaced. Although sequestration rates will level off once an urban tree planting project reaches maturity, the reduced emissions due to energy savings will continue to accrue annually. Dead trees can be converted to wood products or used as bioenergy, further delaying, reducing, or avoiding greenhouse gas emissions.

Dr. Caldeira suggests in the Super Bowl article that tree planting projects are “risky.” They may appear more risky than reducing emissions by building solar or wind farms because the tree-related climate benefits are less easy to document and because the 50- to 200-year life span of a tree seems less permanent than a new power plant. This uncertainty can be offset by legally binding instruments such as contracts, ordinances, and easements that guarantee tree canopy in perpetuity. And, of course, trees and alternative energy sources are not mutually exclusive–both have a place in reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Will urban tree planting in mid-latitude cities result in zero or even negative climate benefits? Dr. Bala’s study in the New Scientist article describes two main ways trees lower temperature: they remove carbon dioxide from the air, reducing the greenhouse effect, and they release water vapor, which increases cloudiness and helps cool the earth’s surface. But because tree leaves are dark, they also absorb sunlight, which increases the temperature near the earth’s surface. The difference between trees in tropical latitudes and those in mid-latitudes has to do with the difference in how much sunlight forests reflect compared to other possible surfaces, especially during winter. Snow reflects more sunlight back into the atmosphere than forest vegetation, resulting in less heat trapped near the earth’s surface. Large-scale tree planting projects that replace highly reflective surfaces with forests will result in more heat trapped near the ground during winter.

In cities, this fact is less relevant. Asphalt, concrete, and roof surfaces account for 50 to 70% of urban areas, with the remaining area covered by trees, grass, and bare soil. The difference in the solar reflectances, or albedos, of the different urban surfaces is small. Vegetation canopies have albedos of 0.15 to 0.30, the albedo of asphalt is 0.10, that of concrete and buildings is 0.10 to 0.35, and the overall albedo in low density residential areas is 0.20 (Taha et al. 1988). In cities, increasing urban tree canopy cover does not appreciably alter surface reflectance, or increase heat trapping.

At the same time, as described above, a number of field and modeling experiments have found that urban trees reduce summertime air temperatures through evapotranspiration and direct shading (Akbari and Taha 1992, Rosenfeld et al. 1998, McPherson and Simpson 2003). This reduces energy consumption and the emissions related to energy generation. Recognizing the climate benefits of trees, the California Climate Action Team Report (2006) recommended planting 5 million trees in cities to reduce 3.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. Since 1990, Trees Forever, an Iowa-base nonprofit organization, has planted trees for energy savings and atmospheric carbon dioxide reduction with utility sponsorships (McPherson et al. 2006). Over 1 million trees have been planted in 400 communities with the help of 120,000 volunteers. These trees are estimated to offset carbon dioxide emissions by 50,000 tons annually.

Do tree-planting projects give people a “feel-good illusion that they are slowing global warming?” The climate benefits of trees in mid-latitude cities are not an illusion, although they certainly feel good. Reductions in atmospheric carbon dioxide are achieved directly through sequestration and indirectly through emission reductions. Still, planting trees in cities should not be touted as a panacea to global warming. It is one of many, complementary bridging strategies, and it is one that can be implemented immediately. Moreover, tree planting projects provide myriad other social, environmental, and economic benefits that make communities better places to live. Of course, putting the right tree in the right place remains critical to optimizing these benefits and minimizing conflicts with other aspects of the urban infrastructure.

Part 1 – Does Reforestation Contribute to Global Warming?
Part 2 – Reforestation, Aldedo and Lawrence Livermore Study
Part 3 – Rain Forests: The World’s Air Conditioner
Part 4 – Planting Trees in Cities
Part 5 – Does Reforestation Contribute to Global Warming? – A second look at the Livermore Study
Part 6 – Getting Our Priorities Straight – Common Sense Solutions to Climate Change

Urban Tree Planting and Greenhouse Gas Reductions
Greg McPherson, Ph.D.
USDA Forest Service
Director, Center for Urban Forest Research
Davis, CA
March 12, 2007

Filed under: Carbon Offsets, Climate Change, Reforestation, Sustainable Development, Sustainable Living, Wildlife Conservation, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Part 3 – Rain Forests: The World’s Air Conditioner

( We would like to invite all of those interested in this subject to join our ongoing discussion at Treehugger.com . )

Tropical Forests Air Condition Planet Earth

Lawrence Livermore study has raised questions about reforestation in Northern Snowy regions, the is no question about the importance of our tropical rain forests. According to the Lawrence Livermore study tropical forests are very efficient at keeping the Earth at a happy, healthy temperature.

The conclusions of the study found were that tropical forests store large amounts of carbon and because they produce reflective clouds they are especially good at cooling the planet, a positive Albedo Effect.

In contrast, according to the study, forests in snowy areas my possibly warm the Earth, because their dark canopy absorbs sunlight that would otherwise be reflected back to space by a bright white covering of snow.

The work simulates the effects of large-scale deforestation, and accounts for the positive and negative climate effects of tree cover at different latitudes.

“Tropical forests are like Earth’s air conditioner,” Caldeira said. “When it comes to rehabilitating forests to fight global warming, carbon dioxide might be only half of the story; we also have to account for whether they help to reflect sunlight by producing clouds, or help to absorb it by shading snowy tundra.”

Forests in colder, sub-polar latitudes evaporate less water and are less effective at producing clouds. As a result, the main climate effect of these forests is to increase the absorption of sunlight, which can overwhelm the cooling effect of carbon storage.

However, Caldeira believes it would be counterproductive to cut down forests in snowy areas, even if it could help to combat global warming. “A primary reason we are trying to slow global warming is to protect nature,” he explains. “It just makes no sense to destroy natural ecosystems in the name of saving natural ecosystems.”

Part 1 – Does Reforestation Contribute to Global Warming?
Part 2 – Reforestation, Aldedo and Lawrence Livermore Study
Part 3 – Rain Forests: The World’s Air Conditioner
Part 4 – Planting Trees in Cities
Part 5 – Does Reforestation Contribute to Global Warming? – A second look at the Livermore Study
Part 6 – Getting Our Priorities Straight – Common Sense Solutions to Climate Change

Related Links
DOE/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Carnegie Institution
Save the Forests at Wood Pile


Filed under: Carbon Offsets, Climate Change, Reforestation, Sustainable Development, Wildlife Conservation, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Part 2 – Reforestation, Albedo and the Lawrence Livermore Study / Does Reforestation Contribute to Global Warming?

( We would like to invite all of those interested in this subject to join our ongoing discussion at Treehugger.com . )

The Lawrence Livermore study has created quite a buzz among bloggers and those that are concerned in Global Warming, Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Carbon Offset Programs. Acceptance of this report is widespread. To make matters worse and the findings have been consistently misinterpreted for the sake of attention getting headlines.

What those that have embraced this report have failed to realize is that the entire study is based on an unrealistic hypothetical predication.

The following is an analysis of the Lawrence Livermore study by M. J. Bradley and Associates

The Lawrence Livermore/Carnegie Institution study investigated whether converting ALL of the world’s grasslands and croplands to forests would cause warming or cooling.

Forests interact with the climate in a variety of ways, in some respects providing a cooling effect and in other respects, a warming one. This study tried to determine which of the effects would dominate.

Albedo

Albedo is a measure of reflectivity, quantified as a percentage from zero to 100. The higher the albedo, the more reflective a body is. A body with a lower albedo absorbs more energy and, therefore, will warm more than one with a higher albedo. Fresh snow has a high albedo-close to 90 percent-while the albedo of a dark object like a forest canopy is low.

Through changing land use patterns, human activities have altered the earth’s albedo from pre-agricultural times. According to the Lawrence Livermore/Carnegie Institution study, previous studies have concluded that by converting forest to cropland, humans have increased the albedo in the temperate (mid-latitude regions), thereby causing cooling in those areas before the twentieth century as compared to pre-industrial times. Other studies have shown that expanding forest cover in boreal (high latitude) regions can lower the area�s albedo and lead to warming, while studies of tropical (low latitude) regions have been inconclusive on the effect of forestation or deforestation on albedo.

The issue of latitude comes into the picture because a body’s albedo depends in part on the angle at which the light strikes it. Thus, the same plant at the same time of year but at a different latitude will have a different albedo. In addition, the ground at different latitudes has different albedo, as the snow typical in boreal regions has much higher albedo than the soil or rock in tropical regions.

Reduction of greenhouse effect through terrestrial sequestration

The removal of CO2 from the atmosphere by trees and plants is one type of carbon sequestration. (Another type is geological sequestration, involving the storage of CO2 underground.) Through photosynthesis, plants grow by converting sunlight and CO2 into carbohydrates. In the process, CO2 is taken out of the air and transformed into sugars and starches. So long as the plant remains intact (i.e., does not decay or get burned), the CO2 is sequestered-it is trapped in the plant rather than remaining in the atmosphere. The removal of CO2 from the atmosphere reduces the greenhouse effect, thereby cooling the earth.

Evapotranspiration

Evapotranspiration is the sum of evaporation and transpiration (the process of water loss from plants through stomata, the small openings used for gas exchange found on the underside of leaves). The U.S. Geological Service estimates that transpiration accounts for about ten percent of the moisture in the atmosphere, with oceans, seas, and other bodies of water (lakes, rivers, streams) providing nearly 90 percent. Evaporation and transpiration are endothermic or energy-absorbing processes, and therefore cool down their surroundings.

Findings

The Lawrence Livermore/Carnegie Institution study first looked at whether, in converting all of the world’s grasslands and croplands to forest, the albedo effect (warming) or evapotranspiration (cooling) would dominate. The study found:

  • Global temperatures rise 1.3° C, as the albedo effect dominates over evapotranspiration.
  • This effect is more pronounced in the northern hemisphere, where the conversion to forests would lead to a 3.8° C temperature increase.
  • The warming effect is more dramatic in the boreal (very high latitude) forests as compared to the temperate zone. A modeling exercise that looked only at replacing vegetation in the temperate region with trees showed a warming of only 0.27° C.
  • Although the albedo effect dominates over evapotranspiration in the temperate zone, leading to warming, this is not true in the tropics. There, the evapotranspiration effect dominates, leading to net cooling (because of the relationship between temperature and saturation water vapor pressure).
  • Reversing the experiment-i.e., replacing of all the world’s trees with grasslands-would result in a global cooling of 0.4° C.

The main finding-that converting the world’s grasslands and croplands to forests will lead to a 1.3° C temperature increase when only albedo and evapotranspiration are considered-is due to the fact that the albedo effect dominates over evapotranspiration, a result which fuels a self-reinforcing loop. Greater forest cover lowers the albedo, which leads to warming. The increased warming melts more snow (which has a high albedo), uncovering bare soil (which has a lower albedo). The decrease in albedo causes more warming, which melts more snow.

The authors then compared these results with another consequence of growing forests: the fact that trees sequester CO2, thereby reducing the greenhouse or warming effect of the gas. By itself, the lower CO2 levels resulting from tree growth would lead to cooling-by 3.5° C globally, with the replacement of all grassland and croplands by trees. However, as the authors have concluded, the albedo effect of forestation (net of evapotranspiration) leads to warming. So this leaves the question as to whether the change in albedo or the effect of sequestering CO2 would dominate.

The study concludes that the answer depends on the time frame. Over the short term (i.e., decades), planting forests is likely to have a cooling effect on the climate, as the trees sequester atmospheric CO2 and reduce the warming effect of the gas. This cooling overcomes the warming attributable to the decreased albedo (again, net of evapotranspiration) that results from the forest growth-but for only so long. According to the authors, although the albedo effect is permanent, atmospheric CO2 concentrations equilibrate over time (in part because of the interaction of ocean and atmosphere), so that after about 80 years global forestation would produce net warming.

The authors suggest that this study has important policy implications, “since incentives for tree plantations in mid- and high latitudes [i.e., temperate and boreal regions], may, on long time-scales, produce the opposite effect to that desired.” Yet although the study raises questions about the efficacy of planting trees as a strategy to address climate change, it is worth keeping at least three items in mind.

First, as the authors themselves observe, the simulations conducted in this study are entirely unrealistic. They write:

“Our goal here is not to reproduce the observed pattern of land cover change, nor to realistically simulate possible future scenarios, but rather to bracket the magnitude of temperature change that is possible in the climate system due to changes in land cover.”

Second, the study reaches significantly different conclusions as to tree planting in the boreal and temperate zones. The albedo effect appears to result in much more significant warming in the far North than in the temperate zones. The authors recommend further study to evaluate whether forestation in the mid-latitudes can actually mitigate climate change.

Third, the study, like some previous ones, suggests that forestation in tropical zones would lead to cooling because, unlike in temperate zones, evapotranspiration dominates over albedo in these areas, even in the long run. Therefore, even if it turns out that forests in temperate and boreal regions cause warming in the long term, that may not be the case in the tropics.

Part 1 – Does Reforestation Contribute to Global Warming?
Part 2 – Reforestation, Aldedo and Lawrence Livermore Study
Part 3 – Rain Forests: The World’s Air Conditioner
Part 4 – Planting Trees in Cities
Part 5 – Does Reforestation Contribute to Global Warming? – A second look at the Livermore Study
Part 6 – Getting Our Priorities Straight – Common Sense Solutions to Climate Change

Filed under: Carbon Offsets, Climate Change, Reforestation, Sustainable Development, Wildlife Conservation, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Part 1 – Does Reforestation Contribute to Global Warming?

As counterintuitive as the concept may seem, there is a growing number of environmentalist that believe that reforestation is a contributor to Global Warming. Eco Preservation Society has been researching this issue and will present a series of articles on the topic. In this series of articles we will explore the issues around Reforestation, Carbon Offsets and Albedo Effect.

We would also like to invite all of those interested in this subject to join our ongoing discussion at Treehugger.com .

The first article in this series comes from Mathew Feldman at the Carbon Neutral Digest and lays the groundwork for discussion. The second article will deal more closely with understanding Aldedo Effect and its importance to this discussion.

Trees

Planting trees is the most common way to offset carbon production and is the most controversial. The theory is that one tree over the lifetime of that tree destroy one ton of carbon dioxide.

Here are just a few problems with that theory. What is the lifetime of a tree? Will it take 75 years to remove a ton of carbon? Will it take 100 years to remove a ton of carbon?

A 2005 Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory(LLNL) study using climate models examined the effectiveness of planting trees in different areas as a way to offset carbon production. What they found was nothing less shocking, snow is white and reflects heat. Trees are not white and absorb more heat then snow, hence heating the earth up. As the earth gets hotter more snow melts, more trees grow making the earth even hotter. You can see were this is going. LLNL ran simulation models comparing trees versus shrubs/grassland. Trees were shown to make the earth 1.6 C warmer when planted and grasslands were shown to make the earth cooler by 0.38C. So why would anyone plant trees as a carbon offset project?

There are some exceptions to this idea. The first exception is planting trees in the Amazon rain forest. The idea is that the rainforest works in a synergy and adding more trees to this synergy is beneficial. The other exception is planting trees in an urban area. Trees are cooler then pavement, and will provide a cooling effect to the pavement.

The Australia Institute also took a look at tree planting as an offset project. They found some rather interesting results. The first issue is that forestry projects cannot permanently store carbon. At some point the forest will be cut down or burned, when that happens the stored carbon is released into the environment. The forest soil can hold a vast sums of carbon from decaying leaves, trees, and branches. When the forest is cut down or burned the soil can release that carbon into the environment.

Tree planting can lead to carbon leakage. When trees are planted on land, the land use changes. If the land was being used for farms, houses, or recreational activities people may just clear new land and continue those activities. Where this happens, the apparent emission reductions from a forestry projects could ‘leak’ out of another forest area.

Climate change will have an impact of forestry offsets. With the current environmental change caused by global warming rain fall levels are not the same. Many tree planting offset projects are happening in areas that might not have enough rain to support a forest.

Part 1 – Does Reforestation Contribute to Global Warming?
Part 2 – Reforestation, Aldedo and Lawrence Livermore Study
Part 3 – Rain Forests: The World’s Air Conditioner
Part 4 – Planting Trees in Cities
Part 5 – Does Reforestation Contribute to Global Warming? – A second look at the Livermore Study
Part 6 – Getting Our Priorities Straight – Common Sense Solutions to Climate Change

Filed under: Carbon Offsets, Climate Change, Reforestation, Sustainable Development, Wildlife Conservation, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ten Reasons Not to Feed the Monkeys

You might find feeding the monkeys (and other wild animals) to be a thrilling experience, but you are not doing the monkeys a favor. In fact, you are actually harming them. Here’s why:

1.Monkeys are highly susceptible to diseases from human hands. They can die from bacteria transferred off your hand that has no ill effect on you.
2.Migration to human-populated areas to be fed increases the risk of dog attacks and road accidents.
3.Irregular feeding leads to an aggressive behavior towards humans and other species.
4.Contrary to the stereotype, bananas are not the preferred food of monkeys in the wild. Bananas, especially those containing pesticides, can be upsetting to the monkeys’ delicate digestive system and cause serious dental problems that can lead to eventual death.
5.Feeding creates a dangerous dependency on humans that diminishes the monkeys’ survival abilities.
6.Feeding interferes with the monkeys’ natural habits and upsets the balance of their lifestyle centered on eating wild fruits, seeds, small animals, and insects.
7.Contact with humans facilitates poaching and the trade in illegal wildlife.
8.Pregnant females who are fed nothing but bananas during their pregnancy will not give birth to healthy infants. The babies will be malnourished, or never develop to term, and die before birth.
9.Monkeys need to travel an average of 17 kilometers each day to be in good physical condition. If they know that food is available in a particular location, they will not leave that area.
10.Not only do we pass on diseases to animals when we feed them by hand, but they can pass diseases to us as well.

The monkeys do not realize any of this. Now YOU do. Don’t facilitate the extinction of one of Nature’s most amazing creatures for your own pleasure or financial gain. Please help save the monkeys by reporting anyone feeding the monkeys: 777-2592. If you are feeding the monkeys, you now know why you should stop. If you don’t stop we owe it to the monkeys to publish your name with the local media.

Text Courtesy of Jennifer Rice PhD
President
Kids Saving The Rainforest
Tel. 506.777.2592 Fax 506.777.1954
contact@kidssavingtherainforest.org
http://www.kidssavingtherainforest.org

Filed under: Family Eco Travel, Wildlife Conservation, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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