Deforestation in Equatorial Asia has been increasing in recent decades, as oil palm plantations spread out into the tropical forests of Borneo and Indonesia . And as UBoC PhD student Laura Kiely has found from her research, while loss of habitat from this encroachment is often shown in the media, deforestation can have other, less well known impacts on the air quality and climate.
Fires are used to clear land for plantations, and the land is then drained, so it becomes more susceptible to future fires. 
Terrific Scientific was BBC Learning’s science project for 2017.
In May, UBoC and LEAF hosted the Trees experiment, in which children from the UK’s 25,000+ primary schools found out why trees are important for the climate, oxygen, biodiversity, flood prevention, air quality and more – and then surveyed the trees that grow in or around their school.
Bioenergy is expected to play a key role in the global energy mix over the next century. This is due to its potential for providing energy security and the advantages it has as a land-based mitigation strategy.
However, there are large uncertainties with regards to deployment levels of bioenergy and its impact on the land system. Bioenergy deployment could potentially reach around 324 EJ/year by 2100 which could correspond to an increase of up to 550 million ha of cropland used for second generation energy crops, equivalent to 35% of current total cropland. The introduction of another large land use sector could further accelerate deforestation and biodiversity loss, and may in fact increase GHGs. It is therefore important to assess the impacts that large-scale energy crop cultivation could have on global land use change (LUC), the emissions it produces from deforestation and its impact on climate change.
As part of our work exploring the application of the i-Tree natural capital valuation software to the UK and Leeds in particular, we are offering a community awareness/training day for environmental groups in Leeds tomorrow.
Places are limited, so please sign up here if you would like to attend.
Delta Energy & Environment is a research and consulting company that provides its clients with independent information, analysis, insight and advice into low carbon heat and distributed energy markets.
They have been offsetting their travel with UBoC for a number of years, and calculated that in 2016 they had been responsible for 172 tonnes of unavoidable carbon carbon emissions, which we were pleased to offset on their behalf using certificates for Plan Vivo’s Trees of Hope project in Malawi.
“At Delta-ee we produce high quality, client orientated research and consultation on distributed heat and energy, which inevitably involves national and international travel. We always choose the greenest options, but our company still produces some CO2 emissions. So we offset by various means, and this year have again offset all emissions from flights and train journeys with UBoC”.
The House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee published in March 2017. Their report makes for interesting reading:
Forests and woodlands provide many environmental, social and economic benefits to society. In order to continue to provide these benefits the creation of new woodland is essential. Private landowners clearly have the right to decide what they do with their land, however, the Government can provide incentives to landowners to use their land for forestry. We have found that woodland creation is reliant upon a well-functioning grant scheme to incentivise landowners to use their land for forestry.
Since this report seems to have sparked a wider debate in the media about the relative carbon benefits of biomass fuels, I thought that it might be helpful if I pointed out some of the ways that this is argued, to shed a bit of light on the subject.
First things first: trees absorb carbon as they grow, and typically release it when they die (through decomposition or combustion) though this is not automatically the case, and trees which are harvested for long lived timber products or which are left in low oxygen conditions (such as bogs) may retain carbon for many years. Taken in isolation, burning wood may look like a bad thing as it immediately releases carbon dioxide but this is certainly not the whole story. Continue reading Biomass and carbon: a climate disaster?→
Deforestation rates across the Amazon remain high, despite large reductions since the start of the 21st century. Assessing the climate impact of this is difficult, due to the complex interactions between the atmosphere and the biosphere.
Some of these interactions are clear and well understood, such as deforestation releasing stored carbon and removing a carbon sink. However, others are much more complex; trees emit various atmospheric trace gases and aerosols which react in the atmosphere in a number of ways, forming climate-warming gases, such as O3, and aerosols, which have a cooling effect through interactions with incoming radiation and cloud formation.
Currently, the project is assessing one of the physical impacts of deforestation, namely the change in brightness of the surface. Forests tend to have a darker colour when compared to open land and thus reflect a lower percentage of incoming radiation; we can describe this as a low surface albedo. Therefore, the removal of trees produces a slight cooling effect when examining surface albedo in isolation. Continue reading Albedo changes in the Amazon due to deforestation→
United Bank of Carbon is a not-for-profit collaboration between businesses and environmental scientists, which protects and restores forests and other greenery, through environmentally and socially-responsible partnerships with local communities. We undertake research, support forest and woodland projects in the UK and the tropics that deliver CSR/PR benefits, provide carbon reduction consultancy, and arrange offsetting for unavoidable carbon emissions