Unmapped roads raise risk to Southeast Asian rainforests — study

An aerial photo of a road running through an palm plantation in Dumai, Riau, Sumatra island, Indonesia. (Antara Foto/Rony Muharrman/via REUTERS/File)
Updated 27 May 2018
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Unmapped roads raise risk to Southeast Asian rainforests — study

  • Researcher Alice Hughes found that roads have penetrated areas previously considered untouched and unreachable by vehicles.
  • An average of 75 percent of roads in five countries were missing from OpenStreetMap (OSM), a mapping platform widely used by researchers and academics.

KUALA LUMPUR: Forests in parts of Southeast Asia face greater threats than previously thought because researchers often rely on data that ignores new roads, which are precursors to deforestation and development, a study shows.
The paper, published this month by the journal Biological Conservation, showed that an average of 75 percent of roads in five countries were missing from OpenStreetMap (OSM), a mapping platform widely used by researchers and academics.
“Large-scale forest clearance is preceded by the growth of road networks, which provide a stark warning for the region’s future,” the study said.
Author Alice Hughes, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, studied a total of 277,281 square kilometers by analyzing satellite images and maps showing forest loss and coverage, as well as agriculture concessions.
She found that roads have penetrated areas previously considered untouched and unreachable by vehicles.
“We are deluding ourselves that we still have large tracts of inaccessible, pristine forest, when the reality is highly-fragmented, very accessible forests,” Hughs said on Friday.
Her research examined road networks in parts of Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
“In some parts of the region, up to 99 percent of roads on those global maps, which are used as the basis for a huge amount of further analysis, are not included,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Deforestation and development of forests in the area studied have occurred at a rapid pace since 2000, said Hughes, while maps used by researchers do not regularly update their road data.
“Most of the time these roads are just providing access to forests and up to 99 percent of deforestation is within 2.5 km of road,” she said. “They are clearly the access method.”
She added that the region urgently needs better protection and enforcement for its remaining forests.
Indonesia, which is the world’s biggest palm oil producer, introduced a forest clearing moratorium in 2011 to help reduce deforestation.
Hughes said the ban should be expanded beyond just land designated as natural, untouched primary forest to include all high biodiversity forests.
Hughes’ research methodology should be used to determine whether the same patterns exist in other parts of the world, said Christopher Martius, team leader for climate change at the Indonesia-based Center for International Forestry Research.
“It is surprising that nobody ever did that before, and it is shocking that the result shows we grossly underestimated the possible threat to tropical forests from road building,” he said by email. 


Farah the Falcon swoops in to predict World Cup results, but will Saudi Arabia win?

Updated 20 June 2018
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Farah the Falcon swoops in to predict World Cup results, but will Saudi Arabia win?

  • More than half her predictions have been accurate, although she was wrong about Egypt
  • Now see her make her swoop for the next Saudi Arabian match

DUBAI: South Africa’s World Cup had Paul the Octopus in 2010, Brazil’s World Cup had Big Head the loggerhead turtle in 2014, now Russia’s World Cup has Farah the Falcon.

However, the feathered flyer predicted Egypt to come out triumphant in Tuesday night’s game against host’s Russia - but the outcome was the opposite.

Farah guessed Saudi Arabia would lose its second game at the tournament against Uruguay on Wednesday.

This is not what any Saudi Arabia fan wants to see (Screenshot/Youtube: Dubai Eye 103.8 Sport)

It has been a rough group stage for Arab nations with all four countries losing their games so far.

Swooping in from her perch on the arm of her trainer, Farah – who is sponsored by UAE-based radio station Dubai Eye – glides towards one of two wooden flags bearing the colors of the countries playing against each other.

The flag she lands on is her predicted winner for the game.

So far, 10 of the 17 games played have been predicted correctly – with two of those ending in draws and seven ending with the predicted winner actually losing. This makes her accuracy at 58.8 percent.

Tunisia is predicted to lose its games on Saturday against Belgium, with Morocco set to suffer the same fate against Portugal on Wednesday according to the feathered foreseer.

Paul the Octopus was the most famous of the animal predictors, predicting 12 out of 14 matches correctly with an accuracy of 85.7 percent.

See how Farah made her Saudi Arabia v Uruguay prediction