Jangal hei

Jangal = jungle

After net gains for several years, India’s forest cover is in decline. The full data is available now from the Forest Survey of India in its newly released State of the Forest Report 2011.

The government writes off any major backsliding, saying the reduction is due to shifting cultivation patterns in the rural northeast, plantation harvesting and Naxal rebels cutting trees. That last one is a dubious.

More likely, there are many factors at play in a complex dynamic that varies state by state. I’m in the process of designing a statistical research project looking for explanation among a number of variables, biological, economic, political and social.

The photo above comes from tropical forest in the Andaman Islands.

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Sunrise against the forest

Light reaching down into the woods

Every Wednesday I have to get up early enough to beat traffic. I have early class. Lately, when I’m just hitting the road, the dawn has barely arrived. The dark such that I keep my lights on.

By the time I get to campus, the sun has climbed just high enough to reach the tops of the trees.

What a glorious sight!

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More treetops

A great advantage of not owning a car. While riding, I have the luxury to look around so much more.

Of course people sometimes think I’m goofy. And I am, so I don’t care.

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Primary forest, sustainable life cycle

Old growth

At Arutam, the Shuar community where I worked, the villagers are responsible for a couple thousand hectares of Amazon, allotted to them by the government. Their model, with the hands and dollars of ecotourists and paying volunteers (me), is to develop a small portion of the forest — cutting for banana plantations and fish ponds and whatnot — while keeping pressure off the remaining primary forest.

The above photo shows a tree reaching into the upper jungle canopy. The tree, by the estimates of our guides, could be 200 years old. In the present model, it’s protected because of, not in spite of, the community clearing land nearer the road and their homes for agriculture and aquaculture.

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Falling stars

Chamrod flowers on Lodi Gardens

In March, the dying flowers of Chamrod, as it’s called in India, cover patches of Lodi Gardens and other green spaces in Delhi. Just another one of nature’s details.

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Lingering devastation of the tsunami

Dead, bleached trees are the most visible legacy of the tsunami

Dead, bleached trees are the most visible legacy of the tsunami

Hut Bay, Little Andaman, which was struck by a 30-meter wall of water five years ago, still carries a few scars: now-empty beaches where homes once stood. But photographing that dramatically is a bit akin to taking pictures of something that isn’t there.

The most stark reminder: sun-bleached trees along the forest line (above) that were stripped of their leaves by the force of nature.

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An eco-friendly mine?

Mining giant Rio Tinto has an ambitious conservation agenda in connection with its titanium mine near Tolagnaro, Madagascar. It has created conservation zones that it won’t mine and pledged to regrow the forests that it destroys.

Critics say it won’t succeed, in part because too little will be conserved. NGOs also say the mine has been detrimental to local people, but the government approves because it represents significant foreign investment.

The above photos were taken at the Mandena nursery, where plants are grown to one day repopulate the forest. A few shots are also from around Tolagnaro, also known as Ft. Dauphin. Rio Tinto does not allow photography of the mine itself.

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Saving a forest?

seeds

Saviors of the Mandena forest?

The hands belong to Johny Rabenantoandro, director of biodiversity and rehabilitation for Rio Tinto’s mine in southern Madagascar. Yes, you read that right. A mine, with a director of biodiversity.

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MBG: Development through conservation

Chris Birkinshaw (right) and Christian Camara (center), both of MoBot, inspect flora at the Ankafobe reserve

Chris Birkinshaw (right) and Christian Camara (center), both of MoBot, inspect flora at the Ankafobe reserve in Central Madagascar

Solofo, president of the local fokontany, shows off sohisika seedlings

Solofo, president of the local fokontany, checks sohisika seedlings at the nursery

Seedlings of sohisika, a tree endemic to only a few small stands of forest in central Madagascar

Seedlings of sohisika, a tree endemic to only a few small stands of forest in central Madagascar

Before leaving Madagascar, I took a day-trip with botanists Chris Birkinshaw and Christian Camara from the Missouri Botanical Garden to inspect a small nature reserve and several associated projects.

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