Deforestation rate triples over past year

-First MRVS report blames mining

Guyana’s deforestation rate tripled over the past year and was calculated at 0.06%, compared to the average deforestation rate of 0.02% since 1990 and given recent trends it may continue to rise, according to a new report prepared under the Guyana-Norway forest protection agreement.

The Guyana REDD+ Monitoring Reporting and Verification System (MRVS), Interim Measures Report 2010 by Poyry Management Consulting Limited of New Zealand has been released for public comment until November 17 by the Guyana Forestry Commission. It reveals a 0.06% deforestation rate between October 1, 2009 and September 30, 2010, well below the 0.45% interim reference level set under the Guyana-Norway deal which was inked last year November and which could see Guyana receiving up to US$250M for preserving its forest. A first disbursement of US$30M has been released despite third party verification of the enabling activities under the Memorandum of Under-standing (MOU) not being completed as was outlined in the MOU.
Commentators have repeatedly questioned the 0.45% interim reference level, pointing out that it is higher than Guyana’s historical deforestation rate meaning that Guyana would continue to receive payments even if it increases deforestation. However, it has been noted that under the MOU, Norwe-gian financial support from 2011 onwards is also dependent on no national-level increase in deforestation compared to an agreed level that should be close to historical levels.

The Poyry Report on historical deforestation levels in Guyana is among a set of activities to be done under the MOU as Guyana establishes an MRV system. The first reporting period—Year 1—is set from October 1, 2009 to September 30, 2010. The methods and results of the assessment for this period will be subject to independent third party verification and is a requirement for the results-based financial support for 2011.The study also looked at forest change between 1990 and 2009.

It says that forest change of forest to non-forest excluding degradation between 1990 and 2009 is estimated at 74 917 hectares. Over the reporting period (1990 to 2009) this equates to a total deforestation rate of 0.41%. Over the benchmark reporting period (1990-2009) this represents a forest loss of around 3 800 hectares per year which when annualised is equivalent to 0.02%. As at the end of the benchmark period (September 30 2009) the area of forest is estimated at 18.39 million hectares. The report noted that the values differ from previous studies though it is unclear if these studies have split deforestation and degradation.

According to the study, mining, at 60%, was the main driver for forest change during the benchmark period, particularly between 2000 and 2005.  Other noticeable trends show that agricultural development remains stable with an area of 200 to 500 hectares developed annually. Forestry-related activity has decreased, which is mostly accounted for by forest road construction and log landings.

The report points out that based on the agreed performance indicators set out in the Joint Concept Note of the Guyana/Norway Agreement; the threshold for deforestation is determined by taking the current year rate (Year 1) and comparing this against the reference measure established for the interim period. In the Joint Concept Note the example provided illustrates the result if Guyana’s deforestation rate in 2009 is assessed to be 0.3% (of a forest area of 15 million hectares). This is 0.15% below the reference level of 0.45%, so it would correspond to 22 500 hectares of avoided deforestation. “It is envisaged that the reference measure as well as the interim performance indicators will only apply whilst the MRVS is being developed and will be replaced by a full forest carbon accounting system in the future,” the report says.

For Year 1, deforestation has increased to around 10 287 hectares per year.  This is equivalent to an annual deforestation rate of 0.06% per year which is a notable increase over the benchmark period (0.02% deforestation rate per year). “In this case, and given the combined forest cover of 15 504 000 hectares as calculated for the State Forest Area and State Land then the allowable threshold of area size allowable as a reference level is 23 256 hectares (0.15% of 15 504 000)”, the report says. “This therefore means that the current deforestation rates reflected at 10 287 hectares for the forest year October 1, 2009 to September, 30 2010, is well below the allowable threshold by 12 969 hectares”, it added.

The main deforestation driver for Year 1 is mining with this accounting for 91% representing 9384 hectares of the deforestation for this period. A majority (85%) of deforestation is observed in the State Forest Area. Additionally the temporal analysis of forest change post 1990 indicates that most of the change is clustered around existing road infrastructure and navigable rivers. This provides a useful basis for planning an ongoing monitoring programme that focuses on key hotspot areas, the report notes.

It says that the trend since 1990 suggest that deforestation rates have increased since 1990 and (if) recent trends continue then it may well continue to rise. “The findings of this assessment will enable targets for REDD+ activities to be designed that aim to bring about the largest positive impact in maintaining forest cover whilst enabling continued sustainable development and improved livelihood of Guyanese,” the report explains.