REDD+ follows on from the United Nations REDD programme, which finished in 2013. The aim of REDD+ is to go beyond deforestation and forest degradation, and to include conservation and enhancement of forest carbon stocks, and sustainable management of forests. The situation, and hence the solutions, are different for every country.

For example, in Indonesia the greatest carbon savings could perhaps be achieved by tackling illegal logging, while in Tanzania expanding the electricity network and reducing people's reliance on firewood for cooking might have a greater impact. To date there has been very little information about what kind of interventions each country is planning, given its analysis of the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation. Additionally, questions still remain about how the effectiveness of these interventions will be measured.

To fill this knowledge gap, Giulia Salvini from Wageningen University in the Netherlands and colleagues comprehensively assessed the interventions proposed by 43 REDD+ countries, by analysing 98 readiness documents. They looked at the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation in each country, and assessed if interventions refer to the drivers that they aim to address. Based on these findings, the team considered how the effectiveness of the proposed interventions could be monitored.

Interventions fall into two categories: direct interventions, which result in a direct change in the carbon stock, and enabling interventions, which facilitate the implementation of direct interventions. Salvini and colleagues found that the most common direct interventions were sustainable forest management (proposed by 62% of countries), followed by fuel wood and cook stove efficiency, and agroforestry. The most common enabling interventions, meanwhile, were good governance (83%), policies (51%), stakeholder involvement (46%), and tenure and rights (43%).

Most of the proposed direct interventions focus on reducing forest degradation rather than deforestation. “This might be due to the fact that deforestation is much more difficult to tackle since it is mostly caused by large commercial actors, which often are capable of lobbying the government for favourable decisions about the use of land,” said Salvini.

Designing interventions to address forest degradation – such as sustainable forest management, efficient fuel-wood use, agroforesty and protected areas – is important because even if these interventions have a relatively low carbon impact per unit area, when considered over large areas they can still play a valuable role.

“It is important to monitor these interventions over a wide area and better understand drivers of deforestation and forest degradation,” said Salvini, whose findings are published in Environmental Research Letters (ERL). “This would allow the redesign of REDD+ policy interventions, which are more appropriate to the local conditions and hence more effective.”

But monitoring the impact over vast tracts of forest is no easy task. Salvini and colleagues recommend that ground-based surveys are used, as well as satellite monitoring. “Satellite images provide a detailed overview of the land use change processes, but they do not tell a story of why local people make decisions and how these decisions could be steered by interventions to reduce forest degradation,” said Salvini. Unlike deforestation, forest degradation often doesn't show up on satellite images because the degradation activities, such as collecting fuel wood, are hidden from satellite view, under the canopy cover of the taller trees.

Finally, the team noted that many of the drivers of forest degradation come from outside the forest. “The focus should not be only on the forest stand itself, but also – and I would say mainly – on what happens outside the forest. So REDD+ monitoring should be extended by looking at the effectiveness of REDD+ activities outside the forest sector, including agriculture and other land use changes,” said Salvini.

Related links

Related stories