This Is Not A Rainforest!
    By Bente Lilja Bye | December 30th 2012 03:27 PM | 14 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    This is not a rainforest!

    A story wherein I reveal resistant and deliberate ignorance.

    This is not a rainforest! I was told in a bar at Mabu Thermas and Resort, Foz do Iguazu, Brazil. 'This' referred to the National Park Iguazu wherein the resort we stayed at was situated. Admittedly that last sentence could lead you to believe I was enjoying an exotic vacation. I was not. I was attending the Group of Earth observations (GEO) annual plenary and a long series of other meetings. So after one of the never ending days of official and non-official meetings we finally gathered in the bar for some refreshments.

    For the record, I was not under the influence of the local drink Caipirinha  although I might have tasted it. We, at this particular event, were a small group of people from Brazil, The Netherlands, Canada and myself from Norway. Brazil is for many of us almost equivalent to the Amazon, the biggest rainforest on Earth. Canada and Norway have both boreal forests, only Canada has a lot more of it than we do. And The Netherlands? Well, The Netherlands is all flat and situated below sea level. That is all I, a 'mountain monkey' (a derogative synonym for a Norwegian invented by jealous flatland Danes), can say.

    Not fair, but true. My lack of knowledge about forests in The Netherlands, that is.

    Global forest cover
    Forests cover 30% of the planet's surface. Credit: NASA

    Returning to the bar scene. This is not a rainforest! was the Brazilian's spontaneous reaction to my casual but very favourable description of the surrounding rainforest. I proclaimed that I planned to take a stroll in this paradise rainforest at some point of time, no matter how busy our schedule was. I am not so easy to correct so I insisted it was a rainforest - relatively speaking.

    I based my allegations on the fact that the forest, to me - a woman literally living in a boreal forest, looked just like the rainforest where one of my cousins live. In the rainforest slightly north of Cairns, Australia. The forest around Foz do Iguazu could easily be mistaken for the one around Cairns and it was definitely not remotely resembling my home forest. Ergo.

    Atlantic vs rainforest Cairns
    To me the two forests in this picture look very similar. The Atlantic to the left and the rainforest in Cairns to the right. Credit: BLB

    My relativism was not accepted. The Brazilian expert stubbornly upheld it was an Atlantic forest and that this area was way too cold to be a rainforest! That last part did definitely not make any sense to me whilst it was warmer than 35 C outside. . But of course the Brazilian was right. The GEO plenary was held in one of the Alto Paraná Atlantic forests. In my defence though, I will add that I was not the only one at that meeting who described the area as a rainforest.

    Foz do Iguazu
    Foz do Iguazu is very much like paradise. Only it isn't in a rainforest but in an equally beautiful Atlantic forest. Credit: BLB

    Fortunately, not all Norwegians are as ignorant with respect to forests as I am. The Norwegian government donates tons of money for the purpose of preserving the rainforests – the real ones. In 2007 the Amazon Fund was established with Norway as the first and biggest contributor. Currently tons of money equals a whopping 447 Million US $ in the Amazon Fund (out of a total of 478 Million US $) supporting numerous projects run by experts. 

    This is not a rainforest – anymore. Or deforestation if you like.
    In his welcome address at the GEO plenary in Foz do Iguazu, Director General Leonel Fernando Perondi (Brazil's National Institute for Space Research - INPE) obviously mentioned deforestation. The issue being of great importance not only to Brazil but to the entire world.  Deforestation in the Amazon is still not combated, but a significant drop in the yearly rates, from 27000 km2 in 2004 to 6500 km2 in 2011, has been achieved thanks to programs run by organizations such as INPE. Dr. Perondi expected GEO to contribute to better management of the rainforests. Personally, I'd say that not only will GEO contribute to the work of INPE and their rainforest management programs in the future, but it has already played a significant role.

    Amazon 2000Amazon 2010
    Deforestation of the Amazon 2000-2010. Credit: NASA

    Global Forest Observation Initiative – GFOI
    The link between rainforests and climate change is well known. But it is not only the rainforests that are important for us. In general healthy forests are critical for human well-being. Forests, which covers about 30 % of the land surface, support local communities and provide numerous essential ecosystem services, including clean air, flood control, biodiversity protection, food and medicines, materials and of course carbon storage. Acknowledging this fact GEO facilitates a number of activities supporting forest management. Significant efforts have been made to establish the Global Forest Observation Initiative – GFOI.  The ultimate goal of this initiative is to establish operational systems that are tailored for each nation/region. The development of the GFOI is being led by Australia, Canada, Japan, Norway and the United States. We are not quite there yet, but steadily approaching as reported at the GEO plenary in Brazil

    Space based observations are pivotal for global monitoring of the planet, but so are in-situ or ground based observations. A key challenge for GEO and its members in the coming years will be increased access to and sharing of in-situ data. With this very article I might have disqualified myself as a reliable in-situ forest observer, insisting that an Atlantic forest is a rainforest and all. Luckily, there are plenty of others who are qualified and more open to reduce their ignorance!

    boreal forest Krokskogen
    I may lack knowledge about rainforests, but I certainly know my boreal forest. This is from a magical moment at Krokskogen, the forest I actually live in. You'll see plenty of Trolls here at dusk and dawn, rest assured. Credit: BLB

    More reading for those of you willing to reduce your ignorance:
    About GEO and its Global Earth Observing System of Systems
    Global mapping of forest NASA.
    GEO plenary – presentations
    CEOS Global Forest Observations for Carbon Tracking (The Earth Observation Handbook)
    Forest Carbon Tracking Portal
    Norwegian Space Agency leads the GFOI
    GEO activities contributes to REDD  and REDD+

    The author works at BLB and with support from the Norwegian Space Center she contributes to GEO in capacity of being a Task Coordinator for one of the 26 tasks of the GEO Work Plan, building the Global Earth Observation System of Systems.


    Gerhard Adam
    Ignorance?  Bah!

    I know that forests are made of up these big green sticky-up thingies [trees I think] and that they are quite heavy if they fall on you.  Beyond that, what's to know?  :)
    Mundus vult decipi
    Are you trying to compete with my ignorance, Gerhard? :-D

    We had a lot of fun in the bar though, with me refusing to accept the new information. hahaha I was in a rainforest. Basta! :-) Besides, an Atlantic forest should be more similar to a boreal forest - at least in my head. I tend to forget that the Atlantic is a lot bigger and go a lot further south! than the North-Atlantic that I know so well. :-)
    Bente Lilja Bye is the author of Lilja - A bouquet of stories about the Earth
    Gerhard Adam
    What competition?  A rainforest is a forest that is wet.  I'd be just as prepared to call your bottom picture a snow-forest [unless the Norwegian word for snow is "boreal"]  :)

    Anything more specialized than that is outside my area of expertise.
    Mundus vult decipi
    I have heard wooded areas on Dartmoor and in Wales described as rainforests.

    The caption to the painting A Devon Rainforest says:
    The haze on this skin of leaves hides a world of dank mosses, ferns&lichens that sheath bent and twisted trees which thrust through the piles of granite clitter that are in turn coated in this green living shroud.
    I suppose the Everglades would be an Atlantic forest.  I saw the Teutoberg Forest, where Arminius defeated the Romans, on televison.  My impression was “the Everglades with the central heating turned off”.   Thinks — global warming, and the Roman Legionaries being attacked by alligators.

    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Well, in my mind the combination of a lot of rain, continuous warm weather and plenty of vegetation equals a rainforest. So I guess I had the same definition as Gerhard only the hot temp in addition perhaps. :-)

    It looks like it is only in South-America we find the Atlantic forest. A bit odd, but there you go...

    Bente Lilja Bye is the author of Lilja - A bouquet of stories about the Earth
    Rain forests in Australia are broadly classified as Tropical, Sub-Tropical, Cool Temperate and Dry. Check this for a short overview:
    We live close to one of the few remaining Gondwana Rainforests in S.E Queensland, and on occasion enjoy the tremendous energy of its environment when doing some bush walking. Sadly, a lot of the old growth has been cut in the 1800's and early 1900's, but forests are now under government conservation protection.
    Similar forests in Tasmania have been the subject of decades long preservation efforts by 'Greenies' and other people who have seen the light (the Franklin Dam controversy 1978-83), and the subject remains on the political agenda irrespective of changes of government. A major logging/wood chipping company has been forced to close down most of its operations there as the result of more than 30 years of continuous 'green' action.
    So there is progress, if progress can be expressed as halting destruction. However, there is a long way to go
    to change perceptions and attitudes against the overwhelming power of capitalism and short-sighted self-interest.

    Thank you, Martin. For some more information about the forests in Australia. Australia is one of the leads in the GFOI that I mention in the article. They are particularly focusing on the forests in Tasmania, as far as I recall.

    Enhanced focus on preserving the rainforest will serve us all. :-)
    Bente Lilja Bye is the author of Lilja - A bouquet of stories about the Earth
    Johannes Koelman
    Bah! This article doesn't do any justice to the amazing forests in the Netherlands that tower as much as 110 meters above sea level. Have to admit we Dutch do avoid these places as they are known to cause severe forms of AMS...
    The Dutch get sick climbing trees now?  Clearly the fearless days of Henry Hudson are long gone!  :)
    This reminds me of a joke the Finns tell:

    “What do you do if you’re lost in an Icelandic forest?”

    “Stand up!”

    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    hahaha - sorry about my lack of knowledge about the AMAZING but DANGEROUS (deduced from you AMS) forests in The Netherlands. :-)

    I've seen the tulips...there were some trees there too, but I am not sure they ganged up to be a real forest. I am confident someone will correct me on this one too. :-)
    Bente Lilja Bye is the author of Lilja - A bouquet of stories about the Earth
    Canada and Norway have both boreal forests, only Canada has a lot more of it than we do.
    What's amazing about Canada with regard to forests is that we have far more than just boreal forests. This is what we call a rainforest; it's from Vancouver Island. It's like walking on carpet.

    And of course a Quebec temperate forest(Charlevoix region) is no eye sore, regardless of the season:

    Awesome Canadian forest pictures! Thanks, Enrico! :-) Did you take them?
    Actually, I might have heard about the forest at Vancouver island. I haven't been to the island, but I visited Vancouver once and liked the city and surroundings a lot. Explains why I would register and file information about Vancouver island. hehe
    Bente Lilja Bye is the author of Lilja - A bouquet of stories about the Earth
    No Bente, I don't presently have access to my personal collection of forest pictures, which are almost as good as the above ones. I'm glad you enjoyed Vancouver. Nearby Vancouver Island is just as enjoyable.