New report examines drivers of rising Amazon deforestation on country-by-country basis [05/23/2019]
- A new report examines the “unchecked development” in the Amazon that has driven deforestation rates to near-record levels throughout the world’s largest tropical forest. - The main drivers of deforestation vary from country to country, according to the report, a collaborative effort by the Inter-American Dialogue and the Andes Amazon Fund. - While the causes of Amazonian forest destruction vary, one thing that is common throughout the region is a lack of adequate resources for oversight and enforcement of environmental regulations. And “signs suggest this problem is only growing,” according to the report.
Former Brazilian enviro ministers blast Bolsonaro environmental assaults [05/23/2019]
- A new manifesto by eight of Brazil’s past environment ministers has accused the rightist Bolsonaro administration of “a series of unprecedented actions that are destroying the capacity of the environment ministry to formulate and carry out public policies.” - The ministers warn that Bolsonaro’s draconian environmental policies, including the weakening of environmental licensing, plus sweeping illegal deforestation amnesties, could cause great economic harm to Brazil, possibly endangering trade agreements with the European Union. - Brazil this month threatened to overhaul rules used to select deforestation projects for the Amazon Fund, a pool of money provided to Brazil annually, mostly by Norway and Germany. Both nations deny being consulted about the rule change that could end many NGOs receiving grants from the fund. - Environment Minister Riccardo Salles also announced a reassessment of every one of Brazil’s 334 conservation units. Some parks may be closed, including the Tamoios Ecological Station, where Bolsonaro was fined for illegal fishing in 2012 and which he’d like to turn into the “Brazilian Cancun.”
‘Resisting to exist’: Indigenous women unite against Brazil’s far-right president [05/20/2019]
- Brazil today is home to 900,000 indigenous people, speaking 274 languages and with widely differing cultural traditions. Indigenous rights were enshrined in Brazil’s 1988 constitution, including the demarcation and protection of indigenous ancestral lands. - But indigenous people have felt seriously threatened since Jair Bolsonaro took office in January, as illegal invasions of indigenous territories have rapidly escalated, and as the administration threatens to put policies in place to limit further indigenous demarcations, eliminate indigenous comments on infrastructure projects, and cut back on health services. - Many of the leaders in the fight against Bolsonaro’s policies are women; in this story, they give voice to their outrage at the danger to their homelands, communities and families.
’Green’ bonds finance industrial tree plantations in Brazil [05/16/2019]
- The Environmental Paper Network (EPN), a group of some 140 NGOs with the goal of making the pulp and paper industry more sustainable, released a briefing contending that green or climate bonds issued by Fibria, a pulp and paper company, went to maintaining and expanding plantations of eucalyptus trees. - The report suggests that the Brazilian company inflated the amount of carbon that new planting would store. - The author of the briefing also questions the environmental benefits of maintaining industrial monocultures of eucalyptus, a tree that requires a lot of water along with herbicides, pesticides and fertilizer that can impact local ecosystems and human communities.
The heat is on: Amazon tree loss could bring 1.45 degree C local rise [05/14/2019]
- A new modeling study finds that largely unrestricted “business-as-usual” Brazilian Amazon and Cerrado deforestation could result in the loss of an estimated 606,000 square kilometers of forest by 2050, leading to local temperature increases of up to 1.45 degrees Celsius, in addition to global rises in temperature. - Under a Brazil Forest Code enforcement model, researchers predict deforestation would be limited to 79,000 square kilometers, with reforestation occurring over 110,000 square kilometers, leading to an average local increase of just 0.02 degrees Celsius. - Researchers say loss of tree cover must be halted and reforestation program begun to protect people and wildlife, and curb regional warming. - Reptiles and amphibians would be especially vulnerable to deforestation-triggered temperature rises and loss of humidity.
UK supermarkets implicated in Amazon deforestation supply chain: report [05/13/2019]
- Deforestation due to cattle ranching has increased in Brazil since 2014. With between 60 and 80 percent of deforested Amazon lands used for pasture, European retailers who source beef from Brazil risk amplifying Amazonian forest destruction unless international action is taken. - A report from the UK organization Earthsight finds that UK supermarket chains — including Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons and Lidl — are still importing corned beef from Brazil’s largest beef producer, JBS, despite the company being implicated in a long string of corruption and illegal deforestation scandals over the last decade. - JBS, one of the largest food companies in the world, has faced multiple corruption charges leading to the arrest of two of its former CEOs and was fined $8 million in 2017 for illegal deforestation in the Amazon. - Many hope the forthcoming EU Communication on Stepping Up Action to Halt Deforestation will propose legislation to ensure EU companies and suppliers are not contributing to deforestation and human rights abuses. However, experts say such an agreement will only work if corporate standards are mandatory not voluntary.
Pressure mounts on EU to curb Brazilian deforestation, human rights abuses [05/09/2019]
- Concern is rising among Brazilian socioenvironmental NGOs and internationally over the new threats to indigenous people and rising deforestation seen under President Jair Bolsonaro — his administration completed its first 100 days in office in April. - The EU is Brazil’s second largest trading partner, but currently lacks any binding trade regulations on agricultural goods linked to eliminating deforestation, reducing environmental degradation, and protecting against human rights violations. - A new report by more than 20 NGOs — including FERN, Forest Peoples Programme, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, and Amazon Watch — is calling on the EU to include provisions in trade agreements now under negotiation, such as the EU/MERCOSOR agreement, that would fully protect forests and indigenous rights.
Dismantling of Brazilian environmental protections gains pace [05/08/2019]
- In his first 100 days in office, Jair Bolsonaro has moved fast to change personnel and reduce the authority of IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental agency, and ICMBio, which manages its conservation areas. His actions are seen as most benefiting ruralists — wealthy elite agribusiness and mining interests. - Presidential Decree No. 9,760 creates “conciliation centers” to investigate environmental fines, and provides multiple new ways for appealing fines, while also preventing funds gathered via penalties from being distributed to NGOs for environmental projects. - Some worry the government may use the new decree as a precedent for forgiving the hefty R$250 million (US$63.4 million) fine imposed by IBAMA on Brazil’s gigantic Vale mining company for environmental law infractions related to the Brumadinho tailings dam disaster, in which 235 people died. - A large number of IBAMA staff have been fired, including 21 of its 27 regional superintendents, responsible for combating deforestation. Many of Bolsonaro’s replacements within the top ranks of the Environment Ministry, IBAMA and ICMBio are coming from the military.
China, EU, US trading with Brazilian firms fined for Amazon deforestation: report [05/06/2019]
- Soy, cattle, timber and other commodity producers fined for Amazon illegal deforestation in Brazil continue to sell their products to companies in China, the European Union and United States according to a new report. The document names 23 importing companies, including giants Bunge, Cargill and Northwest Hardwoods. - Large international investment firms, such as BlackRock, also continue to pump money into Brazilian firms, despite their being fined for illegal Amazon forest loss by the Brazilian government, according to the report. Many Brazilian producers deny the accuracy of the Amazon Watch document. - Forest losses in the Brazilian Amazon jumped 54 percent in January 2019 compared to a year ago, and are expected to increase under the Bolsonaro administration which has announced plans for extensive environmental deregulation, and is making an aggressive push to develop the Amazon rainforest for agribusiness and mining. - With Brazilian government checks on deforestation diminishing, many analysts feel that the only way to limit the loss of Amazon forests now will be to shed a bright light on global commodities supply chains in order to make consumers worldwide aware of the participation of international companies in deforestation.
Bolsonaro administration authorizes 150+ pesticides in first 100 days [05/02/2019]
- With Brazil’s Bolsonaro administration in power for just 100 days, it has already approved 152 new pesticides for use, a record in such a short period of time, while another 1,300 pesticide requests for authorization from transnational companies await action. Most requests are from U.S., German and Chinese companies. - Brazil is already the world’s largest user of pesticides and has an acknowledged pesticide poisoning problem, with 100,000 cases reported annually, with likely many more not reported. Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina denies that pesticide fast tracking will cause any serious environmental or health problems. - Newly authorized this year are the fungicide mancozeb (mostly banned in Canada), pesticide sulfoxaflor (associated with bee colony collapse disorder), and insecticide chlorpyrifos (banned in the U.S. in 2018 and associated with development disabilities in children). - The control of both the executive and legislative branches of the Brazilian federal government by the bancada rualista agribusiness lobby means that it is very likely that bill PL 6299/2002 — called “the poison package” by critics — will be voted up this year. The legislation would greatly deregulate the approval process for pesticides.
EU holds the key to stop the ‘Notre Dame of forests’ from burning (commentary) [04/30/2019]
- Brazil’s President vowed to rip up the rainforest to make way for farming and mining, threatening the lives of Indigenous people. - European scientists and Brazilian Indigenous groups say that the EU can halt the devastation. In ongoing trade talks, the EU must demand higher standards for Brazilian goods. - EU citizens care about our planetary life support systems. Their leaders should reflect this on the global stage. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Amazon fish kill at Sinop spotlights risk from 80+ Tapajós basin dams [04/29/2019]
- Evidence shows that a 2019 fish kill in which 13 tons of dead fish were found in Brazil’s Teles Pires River was likely caused by anoxia (lack of oxygen) created by the filling of the Sinop dam’s reservoir by the Sinop HPP consortium (which includes French and Brazilian firms responsible for construction and operation). - Scientists and environmentalists had warned of this and other ecological risks, but their calls for caution were ignored by regulators and resisted by the builder. Only 30 percent of vegetation was removed from the area of the reservoir, rather than the 100 percent required by law, which helped cause the die-off. - The concern now is that similar incidents could occur elsewhere. There are at least 80 hydroelectric plants planned for the Juruena / Teles Pires basin alone — one of the Brazilian Amazon’s most important watersheds. - Of immediate concern is the Castanheira dam on the Arinos River to be built by the federal Energy Research Company (EPE). Critics fear that, under the Jair Bolsonaro government, environmental licensing and construction will advance despite serious threats posed to indigenous reserves and the environment.
Brazil Supreme Court land demarcation decision sparks indigenous protest [04/26/2019]
- On January 1, the first day of his presidency, Jair Bolsonaro issued a provisional measure (MP 870) shifting decision-making power regarding indigenous reserve demarcations from Funai, Brazil’s indigenous agency, to the Ministry of Agriculture. - MP 870 was quickly challenged as unconstitutional in Brazil’s Supreme Court, but on April 24 Supreme Court Justice Roberto Barroso rejected that challenge, though he did agree that if the Agriculture Ministry failed to carry through with indigenous demarcations in future, further legal action could go forward at that time. - At their annual encampment in Brasilia from April 24-26, approximately 4,500 indigenous people from across Brazil protested Barroso’s demarcation decision by marching on the Supreme Court building. During the three-day encampment, indigenous groups also protested Bolsonaro’s plan to allow mining and agribusiness within indigenous reserves. - Of special concern to indigenous people is the administration’s move toward adopting a policy of assimilation, which could result in the erosion of indigenous autonomy within ancestral reserves, and the absorption of indigenous cultures and traditions into Brazil’s predominant culture.
Stinging ants: Amazon indigenous group girds itself to hold ancestral lands [04/25/2019]
- The ancestral home of the Sateré-Mawé indigenous group is the Andirá-Marau Indigenous Reserve, an officially demarcated, heavily forested region covering 780,000 hectares (3,011 square miles) in Amazonas and Pará states, Brazil. - The reserve itself — along with indigenous villages around it that were not included in the demarcated area — are increasingly under attack from illegal loggers and land grabbers. - To steel themselves against the challenges posed by invading outsiders, and to create unity among their tribal groups, Sateré young men participate in a ritual known as Waumat, in which they endure the painful bites of stinging ants. - They also renew their commitment to active resistance through dances and songs that celebrate myths, past wars, victories, losses, and terrible exploitation by the colonial Portuguese. The Sateré are feeling especially challenged today by the anti-indigenous rhetoric and policies of the rightist Bolsonaro administration.
Bolsonaro draws battle lines in fight over Amazon indigenous lands [04/24/2019]
- Parintins, site of Brazil’s big annual indigenous festival, is typical of towns in the Brazilian Amazon. The Sateré, and other indigenous groups living or working there, often endure discrimination and work analogous to slavery. Civil rights are few and indigenous populations inhabit the bottom rung of the economic ladder. - Now more than ever, indigenous groups fear the loss of their cultural heritage and land rights as guaranteed under the 1988 Brazilian Constitution. New president Jair Bolsonaro wants to achieve indigenous societal “assimilation,” a process by which an ethnic minority group’s traditional way of life and livelihoods is erased. - The strongest advocates of indigenous assimilation are the ruralistas, rural wealthy elites and agribusiness producers, who have the most to gain via access to the timber, land and mineral wealth found within indigenous territories. The bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby is strong in Congress, and it supports Bolsonaro. - The Sateré, along with other indigenous groups, have endured a long history marked by extermination and exploitation. Brazil’s 900,000 indigenous people are increasingly joining together to fight the anti-indigenous policies proposed by the Bolsonaro administration and supported by the ruralists.
Camera trap study finds a threatened high-elevation mammal community in Peru [04/23/2019]
- A new camera trap study, the results of which were published in the journal Oryx last week, seeks to fill in the gaps in our knowledge of the Cerros del Sira’s mammalian inhabitants. - An international team of scientists from Peru and the UK led by Ruthmery Pillco Huarcaya, a biologist at Peru’s National University of Cusco, deployed 45 camera traps from 2015 to 2016 in the Sira Communal Reserve, part of the Oxapampa-Asháninka-Yánesha Biosphere Reserve. - Aside from revealing the distribution of and threats to the Cerros del Sira’s mammal community, the results of the camera trap survey led to a number of other insights.
Shade or sun? Forest structure affects tree responses to Amazon drought [04/17/2019]
- Large-scale satellite data has shown that while large trees expand their crown during the dry season, small trees drop leaves – possibly due to limited light availability in the shaded understory. A new study finds that tree response to dry weather is far more complex, influenced by exposure to the sun and root depth. - Detailed measurements of leaf growth and leaf loss during the annual dry season and extreme drought events shows that small trees respond differently to water deprivation depending on their surrounding environment – shaded trees gain leaves but exposed trees tend to lose them, a possible sign of dehydration stress. - Two novel study approaches revealed a complex pattern of leaf growth and loss in response to dry weather: ground-based lidar imaging that produced high-resolution 2D image slices of forest structure, and statistical division of data based on an understory tree’s distance from the canopy top, rather than from the ground up. - Losing leaves could spell death for individual trees, but these small-scale changes can also impact transpiration and have consequences for regional weather patterns and regional climate change. Also, importantly, degraded forests, with many open clearings, could be less resilient to worsening Amazon drought.
Amazon could be biggest casualty of US-China Trade war, researchers warn [04/16/2019]
- The US is the world’s largest soy producer and historically has exported the majority of its soybeans to China. - But after President Donald Trump’s high China tariffs resulted in a Chinese retaliation of a 25 percent import tariff on US agricultural goods last year, United States soy exports to China dropped 50 percent, and Chinese imports of Brazilian soybeans increased significantly. - Soy production has been linked to large-scale deforestation in the Amazon rainforest and Cerrado savanna — Brazil’s two largest and ecologically most important biomes. - If the US/China trade war continues, new research suggests that the amount of land dedicated to soy production in Brazil could increase by up to 39 percent in order to fill Chinese demand, causing new deforestation by up to 13 million hectares (50,139 square miles) of forest, an area the size of Greece, researchers estimate.
New Amazonian species of short-tailed whip scorpion sheds light on ‘the mating march’ [04/12/2019]
- A new species of short-tailed whip scorpion has been discovered by two arachnologists, Gustavo Ruiz and Roberta Valente of the Universidade Federal do Pará in Brazil, who described the new species in an article published in the journal PLOS ONE last month. - The new species belongs to the genus Surazomus in the Hubbardiidae family of the order Schizomida. Schizomids are small arachnids who can typically be found in leaf litter and caves or in the cavities beneath tree bark, logs, and stones in humid tropical and sub-tropical forests; they are commonly known as short-tailed whip scorpions because of the short flagella possessed by both males and females. - More than 200 Schizomids have been discovered around the world, but the order has not yet been widely studied.
Brazil soy trade linked to widespread deforestation, carbon emissions [04/03/2019]
- Recent data released by the Brazilian government’s Prodes deforestation satellite monitoring system found that 220,000 square kilometers in the Amazon and Cerrado biomes were deforested between 2006 and 2017. - Roughly 10 percent of that land was then used to grow soy, a native vegetation conversion of at least 21,000 square kilometres (with over 17,000 of that in the Cerrado), according to the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and Global Canopy’s Trase platform, which analyze commodities supply chains. - Clearing native vegetation releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, while crop plantations store less CO2 – a one-two punch hindering efforts to curb climate change. About 140,000 square kilometers of Cerrado were lost from 2006-2017, releasing 210 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions (CO2e). - The majority of Brazil’s soy is produced for export. So experts say the best way to protect the Cerrado under the Bolsonaro administration will be for commodities companies and NGOs to create market incentives. Plans now under consideration suggest momentum is building to protect Brazil’s most vulnerable ecoregion.
Leading Amazon dam rights activist, spouse and friend murdered in Brazil [03/27/2019]
- Dilma Ferreira Silva, long time regional coordinator of the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB) in the Tucuruí region of Pará state, was brutally murdered last Friday at her home, along with her husband, Claudionor Costa da Silva, and Hilton Lopes, a friend. - Silva was one of 32,000 people displaced during the construction of the Tucuruí mega-dam. The internationally recognized activist has in recent years been pushing the Brazilian government to adopt legislation establishing the rights of those displaced by dams, providing them with compensation; the government has so far done little to create such laws. - The killers of public officials, environmentalists, landless movement and indigenous activists in the Amazon are rarely found or brought to justice. However, in this case, Civil Police have arrested a large landowner, farmer and businessman, Fernando Ferreira Rosa Filho, known as Fernando Shalom. - While the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and deputies in the Brazilian Congress, have condemned the killing of dam activist Silva, her husband and friend, the Bolsonaro administration has failed to issue a statement of any kind.
Brazil fails to give adequate public access to Amazon land title data, study finds [03/25/2019]
- Brazil possesses vast tracts of public lands, especially in the Amazon, which exist in the public domain. Traditional peoples, landless movements, quilombolas (communities established more than a century ago by Afro-Brazilian slave descendants), and other homesteaders have the legal right to lay claim to these lands. - It is the job of state land tenure agencies to keep track of these public lands, regulating the allocation of land and property rights to secure protection for individuals and communities against forcible evictions, and to monitor against illegal deforestation, large illegal land grabs and other illicit activities. - However, a recent study found that none of eight Amazonian states met all the mandated transparency criteria. Active transparency indicators (data accessible on the internet or via public documents) were missing 56 percent of the time. Passive transparency indicators (data available on request) fared poorly as well. - The inefficiency of land tenure agencies in providing land titling information contributes to numerous land conflicts, and increases insecurity in the countryside. The lack of transparency also enhances the possibility of fraud. When the poor are deprived of rightful land title data, the wealthy often have the upper hand if land disputes go to court.
Madeira River dams may spell doom for Amazon’s marathon catfish: Studies [03/25/2019]
- Independent monitoring of a giant Amazon catfish population in the Madeira River, a major tributary of the Amazon, confirms that two hydroelectric dams have virtually blocked the species’ homing migration upstream — the longest known freshwater fish migration in the world. - Research completed in 2018 indicates a serious decline in catches of the gilded catfish (Brachyplatystoma rousseauxii) and other key commercial species on the Madeira, both upstream and downstream of the two dams. - New monitoring techniques show that the disruption of the migration route raises the risk of extinction for this species, for which researchers have recommended the conservation status be elevated from vulnerable to critically endangered. - If the gilded catfish and other migratory species are to survive, mechanisms to assist their migration past the dams must be improved, researchers say.
Tapirs could be key in helping degraded rainforests bounce back [03/20/2019]
- A new study has found that lowland tapirs spend more time in degraded forests than in pristine Amazon rainforest. - They also defecate and deposit three times more seeds in these degraded areas. - The results indicate that tapirs may help human-affected forests recover and grow back.
Bolsonaro on the move: International meetings push agribusiness agenda [03/20/2019]
- On his first trip outside Brazil to meet with a head of state, Jair Bolsonaro met with Donald Trump at the White House this week. Bolsonaro also visited the CIA and dined with Trump former strategist Steve Bannon, believed to have had a role in helping Bolsonaro get elected. - Bolsonaro and Trump are known to have discussed trade, but their meeting was conducted in secret. Bolsonaro, dubbed the “Trump of the Tropics,” has long expressed his interest in stronger U.S. relations, though Brazil’s agriculture minister is also courting China (U.S./China trade relations remain frosty, and Brazil hopes to sell more of its soy to the Asian nation). - In a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Bolsonaro stated that the Brazilian government wants more agreements with the United States in a number of areas, especially mining and agriculture. He added that there is much to be discovered in the Amazon, a likely reference to untapped resources and agribusiness possibilities there. - During the visit, a letter of intent was signed between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Ministry of the Environment (MMA) “to work toward the launch of the first-ever biodiversity-focused impact-investment fund for the Brazilian Amazon,” with the US$100 million fund to be financed largely by the private sector.
Brazil’s key deforestation drivers: Pasture, cropland, land speculation [03/19/2019]
- New research shows that the expansion of cropland (row crops) in Brazil nearly doubled between 2000 and 2014, from 26 million hectares (100,387 square miles) to 46.5 million hectares (179,538 square miles). - 80 percent of new cropland in Brazil came as a result of the conversion of pastures, while only 20 percent resulted from the direct conversion of native vegetation to croplands, especially soy. - However, while pastureland “absorbs” cropland expansion, and displaces it away from forests, studies show Brazilian deforestation to be most highly driven by land speculation, whereby land speculators deforest an area, possibly selling off the timber, then converting the land to pasture, and then again quickly selling the land to a soy producer at a much increased price. - Study data also confirmed a strong correlation between the implementation of the 2006 Amazon Soy Moratorium and declines in forest-to-soy direct conversion. However, Amazon conversion to pasturelands remains high. Meanwhile, the Cerrado savannah has seen rapid deforestation due to both pasturelands and soy plantations.
Investors warn soy giants of backlash over deforestation in South America [03/18/2019]
- Investors have called on the world’s biggest soy companies to make firm commitments to end deforestation in wildlife-rich areas of South America such as the Cerrado and Gran Chaco. - Those that fail to do so risk being exposed by environmental activists to consumer boycotts, legal action and falling profits, experts warn. - Investors are leading the way as companies fail to appreciate the scale of the crisis, campaigners say.
Brazil to open indigenous reserves to mining without indigenous consent [03/14/2019]
- New Minister of Mines and Energy Admiral Bento Albuquerque announced on 4 March that he plans to permit mining on indigenous lands in Brazil, including within the Amazon. He also said that he intends to allow mining right up to Brazil’s borders, abolishing the current ban along a 150-kilometer (93-mile)-wide swath at the frontier. - The Bolsonaro administration’s indigenous mining plan is in direct opposition to indigenous land rights as guaranteed under Brazil’s 1988 Constitution. The indigenous mining initiative will likely be implemented via a presidential decree, which will almost surely be reviewed, and possibly be rejected, by Brazil’s Supreme Court. - Mining companies stand ready to move into indigenous reserves, if the measure goes forward. Brazil’s mining ministry has received 4,073 requests from mining companies and individuals for mining-related activities on indigenous land. Indigenous groups are outraged and they plan to resist in the courts and by whatever means possible. - Brazil’s mining industry has a very poor safety and environmental record. As recently as January, Brazil mega-mining company Vale saw a tailings dam collapse at Brumadinho which killed 193 and left another 115 missing. Public outcry is strong against the industry currently, but how the public will respond to the indigenous mining plan isn’t yet known.
Brazil to build long-resisted Amazon transmission line on indigenous land [03/13/2019]
- The Brazilian state of Roraima is currently dependent for 70 percent of its power on Venezuela’s Guri hydroelectric dam. But socioeconomic chaos in Venezuela, and deteriorating political relations between the two nations, have caused Brazil to fast-track a 750-kilometer transmission line to replace the imported energy. - General Otávio Rêgo de Barros, using a national security justification, has announced that construction will begin at the end of June on a powerline running between the cities of Manaus and Boa Vista, connecting Roraima with Brazil’s national electrical power grid. - 125 kilometers of the planned transmission line will run through the Waimiri Atroari reserve, and the indigenous group has long resisted its construction. The Waimiri Atroari are concerned about detrimental impacts on the environment and on wildlife, as hunting is a primary way for their communities to obtain food. - Roraima state has done viability studies showing that wind and solar power offer cheaper alternatives to the transmission line. But the Bolsonaro administration has ignored those alternatives. “The Indians will be consulted, but national interest must prevail,” said the general.
Combined effects of fire, fragmentation, and windstorms leave Amazonian trees particularly vulnerable [03/11/2019]
- Recent research finds that Amazonian trees in fragmented forest landscapes remain especially vulnerable to windstorms for several years after being impacted by fire — and that, in particular, larger trees that store more carbon are most at risk. - The research, the results of which were detailed in the Journal of Ecology last September, builds on the findings of a 2014 study that was based on data gathered during a decade-long field experiment involving three 50-hectare rainforest plots on the edge of agricultural fields in southeastern Amazonia — one plot was burned every year, another was burned every three years, and one control site was left unburned. - The researchers found that trees in the burned plots were not only more likely to be uprooted or to have snapped off, usually at the same height as the fire damage the tree had sustained in the past, but that those fire-and-windstorm-damaged trees were much more likely to die in ensuing years.
Can jaguar tourism save Bolivia’s fast dwindling forests? [03/07/2019]
- Few countries in the tropics have seen trees chopped down as quickly as Bolivia did between 2001 and 2017. - Within Bolivia, nearly two-thirds of that loss occurred in just a single state—Santa Cruz—as agribusiness activity, namely cattle ranching and soy farming, ramped up. - This loss has greatly reduced the extent of habitat for some of Bolivia’s best known species, including the largest land predator in the Americas, the jaguar. On top of habitat loss, jaguars in Santa Cruz are both persecuted by landowners who see them as a danger to livestock, and targeted in a lucrative new trade in their parts, including teeth and bones. - Duston Larsen, the owner of San Miguelito Ranch, is working to reverse that trend by upending the perception that jaguars necessarily need be the enemy of ranchers.
Saving the Cerrado: Six commodities traders to disclose supply chain data [03/07/2019]
- The Brazilian Cerrado once covered two million square kilometers (772,204 square miles), an area bigger than Great Britain, France and Germany combined, to the east and south of the Amazon. But today, more than half its native vegetation is gone largely due to a boom in soy production – with the valuable beans exported to the EU and other nations. - The Amazon Soy Moratorium, a voluntary agreement, while reducing soy-caused deforestation In the Amazon biome, resulted in intensified deforestation in the neighboring Cerrado savannah biome. And until recently, transnational commodities firms have resisted a similar deforestation agreement in the Cerrado. - Now 6 commodities companies and members of the Soft Commodities Forum – Cargill, Bunge, Louis Dreyfus Company (LDC), Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Glencore Agriculture, and COFCO International, a Chinese firm – have announced a new agreement to monitor soy supply chains in 25 Cerrado deforestation “high risk” municipalities. - This new voluntary industry agreement, while a step forward, is seen as partial by critics. They say that more measures are needed to achieve zero forestation, stop farmworker exploitation, conserve land and water, and reduce over-usage of toxic pesticides.
Audio: Scott Wallace on the importance of protecting uncontacted indigenous groups in the Amazon [03/05/2019]
- On this episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we speak with Scott Wallace, a journalism professor at the University of Connecticut, National Geographic writer, and author of the New York Times best-selling book, The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon’s Last Uncontacted Tribes. - The Unconquered tells the story of an expedition into remote Amazon rainforests undertaken by the head of Brazil’s Department of Isolated Indians in order to gather information about an uncontacted tribe known as “the Arrow People” and use that information to better protect the indigenous group from the ever-advancing arc of Amazonian deforestation. - Wallace discusses his travels in the Amazon, the latest developments affecting the Arrow People, his reporting on the threats facing isolated and uncontacted indigenous tribes, and why allowing these uncontacted indigenous groups to go extinct would be a “great stain” on our humanity.
The hidden costs of hydro: We need to reconsider world’s dam plans [03/05/2019]
- As thousands of hydroelectric dams are planned worldwide, including 147 in the Amazon, a new study finds that the true socio-environmental and cultural costs of dams are rarely evaluated before construction. Were such factors counted into the lifetime cost of the dams, many would not be built. - Dam repairs and removal at the end of a project’s life are rarely figured into upfront costs. Nor are impacts on river flow reduction, loss of fisheries, and aquatic habitat connectivity, destruction of productive farmlands drowned by reservoirs, and the displacement of riverine peoples. - Lack of transparency and corruption between government and dam construction companies is at the heart of the problem preventing change. Researchers recommend that environmental impact assessments (EIAs) and social impact assessments (SIAs) be granted enough weight so that if they turn out negatively it will prevent a bad dam from being built. - EIAs and SIAs should be done by third parties serving citizens, not the dam company. Better governance surrounding dams needs to be organized and implemented. There needs to be increased transparency about the true financial, social, cultural and environmental costs of dams to the public. Maintaining river flows and fish migrations is also critical.
Brazil’s New Forest Code puts vast areas of protected Amazon forest at risk [03/04/2019]
- A still controversial 2012 update to the Brazilian Forest Code that reduced the area required for legal reserves on rural private properties is endangering more than 15 million hectares (57,915 square miles) of Amazon forest, an area roughly the size of the U.S. state of Georgia, according to a recent study. - Under the 2012 New Forest Code changes, Amazon states that have protected at least 65 percent of their territory as conservation units or indigenous reserves can reduce the percentage of native vegetation required to be conserved on private lands, which could lead to even larger increases in Amazon forest loss in those states. - The updated 2012 code also pardoned illegal deforestation that occurred prior to 2008, leading to concerns among conservationists that such amnesties give private landowners a greenlight to clear native vegetation on their properties with impunity. Some analysts expect more deforestation pardons in the future. - Rather than changing Brazil’s laws, say experts, what is needed to curb Amazon deforestation is a sea change in Brazilian culture – ceasing to prioritize industrial agribusiness above conservation and other socioeconomic goals. Such a shift seems unlikely under President Bolsonaro, except via international market forces.
Video: scientists capture giant spider eating an opossum [03/02/2019]
- For the first time, researchers have documented a giant spider eating an opossum in the Amazon rainforest. - Writing in the February 28th issue of the journal Amphibian & Reptile Conservation, a team of scientists describe several rarely observed cases of invertebrates eating various vertebrates, including frogs, lizards, snakes, and even a mammal — a mouse opossum. - The mouse opossum incident occurred in 2016 in the Peruvian Amazon and was captured on film by biology students. - The sighting was the first of a mygalomorph spider — a group of large spiders that includes tarantulas — preying on an opossum.
Brazil wants to legalize agribusiness leasing of indigenous lands [02/21/2019]
- It is currently illegal under the 1988 Brazilian Constitution for outside agricultural producers to lease land within indigenous reserves from indigenous groups in order to grow commercial commodities crops there. It is also illegal for indigenous groups to convert forests within their reserves to commercial commodities crop production. - However, the Bolsonaro government, utilizing public events and public statements, has made it clear that it condones such activities. Brazil currently knows of 22 indigenous reserves in violation of the law, with areas illegally leased to agricultural producers totaling 3.1 million hectares (11,969 square miles). - Bolsonaro’s Agriculture Minister stated last week that she wants to see Congress move forward with new measures to make commercial commodities growing legal within indigenous reserves, provided the indigenous people living there agree to the crops and make land leasing agreements with producers. - Up until now, indigenous groups have been renowned as the best protectors of the Amazon rainforest. However, the Bolsonaro administration’s moves seem aimed at dividing indigenous groups into two camps, one that favors agribusiness conversion, and one that wants to protect reserve forests and indigenous traditions.
Bolsonaro government takes aim at Vatican over Amazon meeting [02/20/2019]
- The Catholic Church has scheduled a Synod for October, a meeting at which bishops and priests (and one nun) from the nine Latin American Amazon countries will discuss environmental, indigenous and climate change issues. - Members of the new rightist Brazilian government of Jair Bolsonaro are eyeing the event with suspicion, seeing it as an attack on national sovereignty by a progressive church. - To show its opposition to the Amazon Synod, the Brazilian government plans to sponsor a rival symposium in Rome, just a month before the Pope’s meeting, to present examples of “Brazil’s concern and care for the Amazon.” - At issue are two opposing viewpoints: the Catholic Church under Pope Francis sees itself and all nations as stewards of the Earth and of less privileged indigenous and traditional people. Bolsonaro, however, and many of his ruralist and evangelical allies see the Amazon as a resource to be used and developed freely by humans.
Brazil sees growing wave of anti-indigenous threats, reserve invasions [02/19/2019]
- At least 14 indigenous reserves have been invaded or threatened with invasion, according to Repórter Brasil, an online news service and Mongabay media partner. Threats and acts of violence against indigenous communities appear to have escalated significantly since President Jair Bolsonaro assumed office. - Indigenous leaders say Bolsonaro’s incendiary language against indigenous people has helped incite that violence, though the government denies this, with one official saying the administration will “stop the illegality.” Indigenous leaders point out that, so far, the government has failed to provide significant law enforcement assistance in the crisis - Among recent threats and attacks: a top indigenous leader, Rosivaldo Ferreira da Silva of the Tupinambá people, claims to have detected a plot by large-scale landowners and military and civilian police to murder him and his family. The Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau and Karipuna reserves in Rondônia state have been invaded by land grabbers and illegal loggers. - Another five indigenous territories near the city of Altamira in Pará state have also reportedly been invaded.
10 reasons U.S. must hold Peru to trade deal and protect Amazon (commentary) [02/15/2019]
- Peru’s pioneering forest inspection agency OSINFOR has taken the lead in exposing the rampant illegalities that have dominated Peru’s timber trade for decades, but it has done so only because it has been independent of other government ministries. - In December 2018, Peru moved OSINFOR into the Ministry of Environment, effectively stripping it of its independence, a decision that could gravely compromise OSINFOR’s effectiveness in the future. - This move also arguably violates the Trade Promotion Agreement between Peru and the United States, which entered into force 10 years ago and stipulates that OSINFOR must be “independent.” - The U.S., a top importer of Peruvian timber, has a major responsibility for ensuring that it is produced legally and therefore must insist Peru respect the Trade Promotion Agreement by making OSINFOR independent again. – This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Invaded Uru-eu-wau-wau indigenous reserve awaits relief by Brazil’s new government [02/14/2019]
- On January 12, Brazil’s Uru-eu-wau-wau Indigenous Reserve in Rondônia state, which covers 1.8 million hectares (6,950 square miles) and includes significant intact rainforest, was invaded by 40 land grabbers, some of them armed, who began cutting down trees, cut 15.5 miles of trails, and started subdividing cleared land into lots. - Detected, challenged and videotaped by indigenous men, the invaders said they came from “outside” and that 200 more invaders would be coming soon. Indigenous inhabitants made an immediate appeal to the new Bolsonaro administration for significant law enforcement assistance to repel the invaders. - While federal police in high numbers have not been deployed as requested, the federal and state governments did send in a high level official delegation to investigate the situation including new FUNAI National Indian Foundation president General Franklimberg de Freitas. - The government says the situation is being watched closely, but is under control for now, and that the administration will “stop illegality.” But indigenous leaders fear “the invaders believe they have support” from the Bolsonaro government. The incident is ongoing. There have been two arrests, but to date the invaders have not been completely expelled.
Amazon at risk: Brazil plans rapid road and rail infrastructure expansion [02/12/2019]
- New Minister of Infrastructure Tarcísio Gomes de Freitas is considered one of President Jair Bolsonaro’s most capable ministers. The former army engineer wants to streamline Brazil’s infrastructure agencies, root out corruption, and is seeking foreign investors, especially China, to finance a rush of new transportation construction. - Conservationists and indigenous groups worry that Tarcísio Freitas’ plans to push forward with new roads and railways – including Ferrogrâo (Grainrail) and FIOL (the Railway for the Integration of the Center-West) – could open the Amazon and Cerrado biomes to land grabbers, illegal loggers, illicit ranchers and industrial agribusiness. - While Tarcísio Freitas says that new Amazon transportation routes can help industrial agribusiness grow without causing new deforestation, in a Mongabay interview last year, he failed to address how all of this new infrastructure could be accomplished without also degrading Amazon forests or impacting indigenous communities.
Six new catfish species, facial tentacles and all, described in Amazon [02/11/2019]
- Researchers have described six new species of catfish from the Amazon and Orinoco river basins in South America. - All six species belong to the genus Ancistrus, and have tentacles sprouting from their faces, spines sticking out from their heads, and armor-like bony plates covering their bodies. - The newly described fish were once plentiful but are now scarce, the researchers say, largely due to habitat destruction from agricultural expansion, deforestation and gold mining.
Ecuador’s indigenous Cofán hail court-ordered end to mining on their land [02/11/2019]
- A court in Ecuador’s Sucumbíos province has ordered that the mining concessions already in operation on territory claimed by the Cofán indigenous people, and those currently in the process of being granted, must be canceled, affecting some 324 square kilometers (125 square miles) in total. - The ruling also requires that reparations be made for any impacts caused by recent mining. - For the community, the court’s decision is a victory that represents a milestone for the rights of all indigenous communities in Ecuador.
New appointments, new policies don’t bode well for Brazilian Amazon [02/04/2019]
- Jair Bolsonaro took office on 1 January. Since then, he has made appointments to his government, and there have been statements by people in his administration, that are causing grave concern among environmentalists. - New Environment Minister Ricardo Salles has come out strongly for an end to the demarcation of indigenous lands, and in support of entrepreneurs and companies being allowed to self-regulate the environmental licensing process for major infrastructure and development projects. - Salles also wants to hire a satellite firm to monitor Brazil’s forest fires, drought and deforestation. Brazil’s National Space Research Institute (INPE), a governmental agency, released a response explaining that it is already doing this work. While Salles plan isn’t clear, it could be a means of privatizing deforestation monitoring. - Franklimberg Ribeiro de Freitas has been chosen to head Funai, Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency. However, some fear a major conflict of interest. Freitas was most recently a consulting advisor for indigenous, community, and environmental affairs with the Belo Sun mining company, where he sided against indigenous land rights.
Will President Bolsonaro withdraw Brazil from the Paris Agreement? (commentary) [01/31/2019]
- Early in his presidential campaign, candidate Jair Bolsonaro stated that he planned to pull Brazil out of the Paris Climate Agreement. Then, just before his election, the media reported that he was committed to keeping the nation in the accord. - However, what Bolsonaro actually said was that he would keep Brazil in the agreement “for now,” but only if several conditions were met, allowances that would likely require alterations in the international accord. - As there is no one who can make these assurances, Bolsonaro’s conditions cannot be met. Meanwhile, Amazon deforestation is rising, and the new government has announced massive plans for Amazon development. Brazil has also withdrawn its sponsorship of the 2019 United Nations Climate Conference (COP25). - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Bolsonaro government reveals plan to develop the ‘Unproductive Amazon’ [01/28/2019]
- Bolsonaro administration Chief of Strategic Affairs Maynard Santa Rosa last week announced new Brazilian mega-infrastructure projects that include a dam on the Trombetas River, a bridge over the Amazon River, and an extension of the BR-163 highway from the Amazon River through 300 miles of rainforest to the Surinam border. - Santa Rosa, a retired general, said that these Amazon biome infrastructure projects had as their purpose the integration of what he called an “unproductive, desertlike” region into “the national productive system.” - The Trombetas region contains 4 indigenous reserves, 8 quilombo communities and 5 conservation units. - In his radio announcement the official provided few details on the projects, saying nothing about costs, where the money to build would come from, what the socio-environmental impacts might be, or the timeline for the construction.
Latam Eco Review: Some whales may benefit from Japan’s whaling commission exit [01/26/2019]
More than 2,000 illegal mining sites in the Amazon, a wetland in Chile threatened by a highway extension, and a possible new monkey species in Peru were among the top stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam. Interactive map shows more than 2,300 illegal mining sites across the Amazon A new interactive map shows 2,312 […]
Of concrete and corruption: Resistance kills Andes Amazon dams [01/24/2019]
- In 2010, the presidents of Peru and Brazil made a deal to build 22 major Andes Amazon dams on the Marañón River – the Amazon River’s mainstem. The energy generated by those dams would go to vastly expand Peru’s Conga gold and copper mine, making it one of the biggest in the world. - The Conga mine expansion would have dumped 85,000 tons of toxic, heavy metal-laden tailings into the Ucayali River watershed daily. The Marañón dams would have blocked vital nutrient and sediment flow, likely doing irreparable harm to Amazon River and Amazon basin ecology. - Odebrecht, a Brazilian mega-construction firm, was picked to spearhead building. The projects were strongly opposed by the rural people they’d impact, and by an international alliance of environmental NGOs and river adventure tourists who see the Marañón as Latin America’s Grand Canyon. - Nine years later, the Peruvian and Brazilian presidents and Odebrecht executives involved in the deal are in jail or charged with corruption. All but two of the dam projects have been abandoned. The result came about largely due to the astonishingly successful resistance of local rural people.
Latam Eco Review: Pirate fishers in the Caribbean and many new reserves created [01/19/2019]
The recent top stories from Mongabay Latam, our Spanish-language service, include a ‘pirate’ fishing vessel being welcomed in Panama, news of forestry officials indicted for illegal logging in Peru’s Amazon, and the loss of 11 protected areas in Brazil. Disease and drugs surround uncontacted peoples of Peru’s Amazon Infection, lack of culturally appropriate health services, […]
As Brazilian agribusiness booms, family farms feed the nation [01/17/2019]
- Brazil’s “Agricultural Miracle” credits industrial agribusiness with pulling the nation out of a recent economic tailspin, and contributing 23.5 percent to GDP in 2017. But that miracle relied on a steeply tilted playing field, with government heavily subsidizing elite entrepreneurs. - As a result, Brazilian agro-industrialists own 800,000 farms which occupy 75.7 percent of the nation’s agricultural land, with 62 percent of total agricultural output. Further defining the inequity, the top 1.5 percent of rural landowners occupy 53 percent of all agricultural land. - In contrast, there are 4.4 million family farms in Brazil, making up 85 percent of all agricultural operations in the country. The family farm sector produces 70 percent of food consumed in the country, but does so using under 25 percent of Brazil’s agricultural land. - Farm aid inequity favoring large-scale industrial agribusiness over family farms has deepened since 2016 under Michel Temer, and is expected to deepen further under Jair Bolsonaro. Experts say that policies favoring family farms could bolster national food security.
Brazilian hunger for meat fattened on soy is deforesting the Cerrado: report [01/16/2019]
- The Cerrado, Brazil’s savanna, covers over 20 percent of the nation’s territory, but it is seeing severe deforestation. A recent report uncovered links between municipalities with the highest levels of deforestation and with significant soy production. Soy is Brazil’s most important and profitable export, but is also used domestically as animal feed and as a biodiesel energy crop. - In 2017, Brazil produced 16.3 million tons of soymeal for its domestic market, and more than 90 percent of that became animal feed, with 50 percent used as chicken feed, 25 percent as pig feed, and 12 percent for beef and dairy cattle feed. - From 2013 to 2016, more than 75 percent of all direct soy crop expansion accomplished via native vegetation clearance occurred in the so-called Matopiba states (Maranhão, Tocantins, Piauí and Bahia). A third of the 2016 soy harvest coming from Matopiba was utilized as animal feed or biodiesel consumed domestically in Brazil. - More than 20 percent of all the native vegetation clearance occurring in the Cerrado in 2017 was located in just 20 out of 1387 municipalities. Forty percent of the soy produced in these 20 municipalities went to the Brazilian domestic market, with the soy processed mostly by Bunge, Granol, and Cargill.
Bolsonaro acts; Brazil’s socio-environmental groups resist [01/14/2019]
- The Bolsonaro administration is barely two weeks old, but the new president and his appointees continue to make incendiary statements and press forward with provisional measures and policies that could seriously infringe indigenous, quilombola and agrarian reform land rights, and environmental protections. - Protest has been loud against the government’s plan to shift the responsibility for indigenous land demarcation away from FUNAI, the indigenous affairs agency, to the Agriculture Ministry, which is dominated by agribusiness and far right ruralists who have long desired indigenous lands. Another proposal may “rent” indigenous lands to ruralists. - Amazon land thieves also have been emboldened since the election, with the invasion of the Arara Indigenous Reserve in southeast Pará state on 30 December, two days before Bolsonaro took office. On 11 January, land thieves invaded the Uru-eu-wau-wau reserve in Rondônia state. There has been no federal law enforcement response to either conflict. - On 5 January armed land grabbers attacked a landless rural workers agrarian reform encampment occupied by 200 families in Colniza in Mato Grosso state. One landless peasant was killed and nine seriously wounded. The landless peasants were awaiting a court ruling as to whether a nearby tract would be deeded to the group.
Community-based conservation offers hope for Amazon’s giant South American turtle [01/09/2019]
- Rural communities began protecting the threatened giant South American turtle (Podocnemis expansa) along a 1,500-kilometer (932-mile) stretch of the remote Juruá River in Brazil’s Amazonas state back in 1977 – becoming the largest community-based conservation management initiative ever conducted in the Brazilian Amazon. - A new study shows that these community stewards – who protect turtle nests and receive payment only in food baskets – have had incredible success not only in preserving endangered turtle species, but also in conserving riverine invertebrate and vertebrate species, including migratory birds, large catfish, caiman, river dolphins and manatees. - Today, the Middle Juruá River community-protected beaches are “true islands of biodiversity, while other unprotected beaches are inhabited by few species. They are empty of life,” say study authors. On the protected beaches, turtle egg predation is a mere 2 percent. On unprotected beaches on the same river, predation rates are as high as 99 percent. - The study also helps debunk a Brazilian and international policy that proposed the eviction of local traditional communities from newly instituted conservation units because they would be detrimental to conservation goals. Instead, researchers agree, traditional communities should be allowed to keep their homes and recruited as environmental stewards.
Brazil’s indigenous agency acts to protect isolated Kawahiva people [01/03/2019]
- On 14 December, FUNAI, Brazil’s indigenous agency, supported by law enforcement, launched an operation to clear invaders – land thieves, illegal loggers, miners and ranchers – from the Pardo River indigenous reserve in Mato Grosso state. They did so possibly because FUNAI expects President Bolsonaro to curtail such raids in future. - The reserve was established in 2016, after a 15-year effort by FUNAI to get it recognized. The territory covers 411,848 hectares (1,590 square miles) and is meant to protect the ancestral lands of the Kawahiva, a small beleaguered indigenous band that still lives there. - Giving the Kawahiva a reserve was controversial from the start, and strongly opposed by loggers and agribusiness who denied the Kawahiva existed. FUNAI expeditions have since filmed the Kawahiva, proving that they do in fact continue to inhabit the territory. - FUNAI officials fear that the Bolsonaro administration will refuse to demarcate the Pardo River Kawahiva reserve, and possibly even try to abolish it. Indigenous groups across Brazil say that if the government refuses to conclude the demarcation process for numerous indigenous reserves, and tries to dissolve some territories, they will resist.
Bolsonaro hands over indigenous land demarcation to agriculture ministry [01/02/2019]
- The new president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro has issued an administrative decree shifting the responsibility for indigenous land demarcation from FUNAI, the government’s indigenous affairs office, to the ministry of agriculture. - Also as part of the decree, Bolsonaro shifted authority over the regularization of quilombola territory (land belonging to runaway slave descendants), from the government’s agrarian reform institute, INCRA, to the ministry of agriculture. - Critics responded with alarm, seeing the move as a direct conflict of interest. But the bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby in Congress has long demanded this government reorganization, which analysts say will give agribusiness the political levers needed to invade and transform indigenous territories and treat forests as an industrial resource. - Brazil’s indigenous communities are known to be the best stewards of the Amazon. But Bolsonaro’s moves could signal the weakening, or even the dismantling, of the indigenous reserve system. The potentially resulting wholesale deforestation could be a disaster to indigenous peoples, biodiversity, and even the regional and global climate.
The biggest rainforest news stories in 2018 [12/30/2018]
- This is our annual rainforests year in review post. - Overall, 2018 was not a good year for the planet’s tropical rainforests. - Rainforest conservation suffered many setbacks, especially in Brazil, the Congo Basin, and Madagascar. - Colombia was one of the few bright spots for rainforests in 2018.
Brazil: Bolsonaro supporter works to imprison Dorothy Stang’s successor [12/28/2018]
- Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolsonaro is reportedly considering logger and politician Silvério Fernandes to head the Xingu, Pará, branch of the Brazilian Institute for Settlement and Land Reform (INCRA). Fernandes and other ruralists have accused Father José Amaro Lopes de Souza of serious land reform-related crimes. - Father Amaro is the successor of U.S. missionary Dorothy Stang, murdered in 2005. Amaro says he committed no crime, though admits to supporting landless worker settlements in Anapu, Pará state. Father Amaro was charged and imprisoned earlier this year and held in proximity to the man convicted of organizing Stang’s murder. - Land conflicts in Anapu began in the 1970s when Brazil’s military government invited outsiders to occupy land there, with the provision that they could keep it when they produced crops or livestock. Few succeeded, and the land reverted to the state. Later, agrarian reform communities were established which Stang supported. - She was killed in 2005. Land conflicts simmered after that, with violence erupting after 2015 when the nearby Belo Monte dam was finished and unemployed workers, allegedly prompted by loggers, poured into Anapu to claim land. If Fernandes gets the INCRA title, he’ll hold sway over workers’ settlement policy in the Xingu region.
Adapt to a changing Amazon now, or pay far higher price later, experts say [12/25/2018]
- A new study estimates the costs of delaying adaptation to a hotter, dryer Amazon would be orders of magnitude higher than acting now, despite uncertainties. - The study is the first comprehensive impact analysis of the Amazon Forest Dieback hypothesis, which posits that there exists a definitive climate-driven deforestation tipping point beyond which large swaths of the rainforest would be rapidly replaced with savanna. - The study’s authors estimate the costs of such a catastrophic loss of forest could be as high as $3.6 trillion over a 30-year period. - They also estimate that the cost of a series of adaptation measures taken now would be $122 billion, a fraction of the economic losses estimated if no actions were taken.
Ten years on, Amazon Fund receives applause, criticism, faces new tests [12/21/2018]
- Launched in 2008, the Amazon Fund became one of the first UN REDD+ initiatives, funneling money from developed nations (with Norway as the major donor) to forest sustainability projects in Brazil, a developing nation in the Amazon basin. - By creating a national framework to garner international resources based on results, the Amazon Fund established REDD+ as a legitimate way of achieving global cooperation to curtail greenhouse gas emissions through rainforest conservation. - With the Fund now 10 years old, Mongabay spoke to experts about its accomplishments, shortfalls and suggestions for the future. Analysts share the view that future projects could become more innovative, encouraging not only limits to deforestation, but offering economic incentives for local communities to create a sustainable forest driven economy. - The problem to date, say analysts, is that while the Fund has done good work, it has become the only major economic resource available for curbing deforestation in a nation where the government of Michel Temer has turned away from sustainable forestry goals, while Jair Bolsonaro, taking office in January, seems far less inclined to conserve Amazon forests.
Illegal mining in the Amazon ‘not comparable to any other period of its history’ [12/20/2018]
- A new study produced jointly by six Amazonian countries calls illegal mining in protected areas and indigenous territories of the Amazon rainforest “epidemic” due to its rapid expansion across the basin and lack of government planning to contain it. - The report features an interactive map, produced from satellite imagery and a suite of experts and published materials, showing more than 2,300 mining sites and 30 rivers destroyed or contaminated by illegal mining activities. - The vast majority of mining sites in the report were in Venezuela, followed by Brazil and Ecuador; the Madre de Dios department in southeastern Peru experienced the Amazon’s highest degradation caused by gold mining.
Amazon soy boom poses urgent existential threat to landless movement [12/20/2018]
- Brazil’s 1988 constitution and other laws established the right of landless peasants to claim unused and underutilized lands. Thousands, with the support of the landless movement, occupied tracts. At times, they even succeeded in getting authorities to set up agrarian reform settlements. - Big landowners always opposed giving large tracts of land to the landless but, until roads began penetrating the Amazon making transport of commodities such as soy far cheaper, conflict over land was less intense. - As new Amazon transportation projects are proposed – like the planned Ferrogrāo (Grainrail), or the BR-163 and BR-319 highway improvements – land thieves increasingly move in to steal the land, with hired thugs often threatening peasant communities, and murdering leaders. - An example: a landless community leader named Carlos Antônio da Silva, known as Carlão, was assassinated by armed gunmen last April in Mato Grosso state. The rise of Jair Bolsonaro, who has repeatedly threatened the landless movement with violence, has residents of Amazon agrarian reform settlements deeply worried.
Peccary’s disappearance foreboding for other Mesoamerican wildlife [12/20/2018]
- A multinational team of scientists met to discuss the current status and future of the white-lipped peccary, a pig-like mammal that lives in Central and South America. - White-lipped peccaries no longer live in 87 percent of their former range, driven out largely by hunting and habitat loss. - The scientists say the disappearance of this species, which requires large tracts of unbroken forest, could portend the extinction of other wildlife.
Amazon forests not changing fast enough to keep up with climate change: study [12/19/2018]
- Researchers analyzed three decades of Amazon basin data collected by a long-term international collaboration known as RAINFOR which individually monitors each tree in hundreds of forest plots across the region. - They found that over the past 30 years water-loving plants in the most drought-prone regions have been slowly replaced by trees that are better adapted to drier weather. - Of concern: these changes in tree composition lag about two orders of magnitude behind the change in climate. This suggests that the Amazon rainforest may struggle to adapt, and keep up with, ongoing, escalating shifts in climate. - In addition, some areas are seeing more drought, and more floods, creating multiple stressors. If the Amazon is to adapt to rapid climatic shifts, then forest fragmentation must be limited to allow species movement. However, croplands and pastures are shattering habitat connectivity, especially in the southern Amazon.
Bolsonaro shapes administration: Amazon, indigenous and landless at risk [12/18/2018]
- President-elect Jair Bolsonaro has chosen Ricardo Salles as Brazil’s environment minister. The former São Paulo state government environment secretary is under investigation for allegedly redrawing maps allowing protected lands to be developed for mining and factories. His statements are heavily pro-agribusiness and sometimes espouse violence. - The selection of ruralist Tereza Cristina as agriculture minister, and Ernesto Araújo as foreign minister, also almost certainly signals difficult days ahead for Brazil’s environment. Cristina has pushed hard for fast track approval of toxic pesticides. Araújo calls climate change a “Marxist” conspiracy. - Analysts say that, by choosing ministry appointees who hold extreme views on the environment, Bolsonaro is making Brazil vulnerable to economic reprisals from the international community – especially from developed nations and companies responding to voters and consumers who oppose harm to the Amazon and indigenous groups. - Former army officer Bolsonaro has chosen six retired generals to head ministries; other military men join him as VP and chief of staff. Activists fear these appointments will have a chilling effect on Brazilian democracy, leading to repression. Deforestation and violence against activists since the campaign, including assassinations, continue rising in Brazil.
Purus-Madeira: Amazon parks and extraordinary biodiversity at risk now [12/17/2018]
- The Purus-Madeira interfluvial – an Amazon region running south to north from Rondônia state through Amazonas state – has been little studied by science. It is very high in biodiversity and has been fairly well preserved up until now, thanks mostly to low human occupation and difficulty of access. - Studies indicate that more than 740 bird species occur regularly in the Madeira-Purus region representing more than 40 percent of all known Brazilian avifauna and approximately 60 percent of known Amazonian bird species. A new species, Campina’s Jay (Cyanocorax hafferi). with gaudy blue plumage, was recently recognized by science. - Eleven protected areas, including a new national park, created in 2009 to ensure conservation of endemic species near the increasingly improved BR-319 highway, were meant to serve as a buffer against unrestrained development in the Purus-Madeira region. - However, the Federal Attorneys Office accuses the Brazilian government of creating paper parks, without staffing or management plans. As a result, this diverse ecosystem is starting to see rapid negative change as plans to pave the BR-319 go forward, with the road offering access to illegal loggers, cattle ranchers and land grabbers invading protected areas.
‘Amazon Besieged’: Q&A with Mongabay contributor Sue Branford about new book [12/14/2018]
- From 2016 to 2017, Mongabay contributors Sue Branford and Maurício Torres traveled to the Tapajós River Basin, in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon, to report on the controversial plan to turn the region into a major commodities export corridor. - Branford and Torres wrote a 15-part investigative series (published in partnership with The Intercept Brazil) based on what they’d found during their travels for Mongabay in the Tapajós Basin, one of the most biodiverse and culturally rich places on Earth. Now, the reporters have turned those pieces into a book, Amazon Besieged, which was published by Practical Action Publishing this month. - Mongabay spoke with Sue Branford about what new perspectives she gained on the issues covered in the book while compiling her and Torres’ on-the-ground reporting for publication, what she hopes the average reader takes away from Amazon Besieged, and what she thinks the prospects are for the Amazon under the incoming Bolsonaro Administration.
COP24: Will they stay or will they go? Brazil’s threat to leave Paris [12/14/2018]
- In October, Brazil elected far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro to the presidency. During the campaign, he threatened to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, implement extreme environmental deregulation policies, and introduce mining into Amazon indigenous reserves, while also using incendiary language which may be inciting violence in remote rural areas. - Just days before his election, Bolsonaro contradicted his past utterances, saying he won’t withdraw from the Paris accord. At COP24, the Brazilian delegation has fielded questions from concerned attendees, but it appears that no one there knows with certainty what the volatile leader will do once in office. He begins his presidency on the first of the year. - Even if Bolsonaro doesn’t pull out of Paris, his plans to develop the Amazon, removing most regulatory impediments to mining and agribusiness, could have huge ramifications for the global climate. The Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest, stores massive amounts of carbon. Deforestation rates are already going up there, and likely to grow under Bolsonaro. - Some in Brazil hope that environmental and economic realities will prevent Bolsonaro from fully implementing his plans. Escalating deforestation is already reducing Amazon rainfall, putting aquifers and agribusiness at risk. Agricultural producers also fear global consumer perceptions of Brazil as being anti-environmental could lead to a backlash and boycotts.
A monitoring network in the Amazon captures a flood of data [12/11/2018]
- Cameras and microphones are capturing images and sounds of the world’s largest rainforest to monitor the Amazon’s species and environmental dynamics in an unprecedented way. - The Providence Project’s series of networked sensors is aimed at complementing remote-sensing data on forest cover change by revealing ecological interactions beneath the forest canopy. - Capable of continuously recording, processing and transmitting information to a database in real time, this high-tech experiment involves research institutions from three countries and the skills of biologists, engineers, computer scientists and other experts. - The monitoring system will connect to a website to disseminate the forest biodiversity data interactively, which the researchers hope will contribute to more effective biodiversity conservation strategies.
Belo Monte dam Xingu River Management Plan violates human rights: finding [12/10/2018]
- Construction on the Belo Monte mega-dam, on the Xingu River in Pará state in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon, began in 2011. Since then, the giant infrastructure project has met with a near constant flood of contentious protests from indigenous and traditional communities, and from the international environmental community. - Norte Energia, the consortium that built and operates the troubled project, has been fined or seen its operating license withdrawn by the Brazilian government for a variety of socio-environmental violations, including fish kills and the failure to provide compensation promised at the start of the project to local people and the nearby city of Altamira. - Local communities, with legal assistance from international civil society organizations, filed a motion to the UN Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) asking for the Belo Monte dam project to be officially labeled a Violation of Human Rights. In November, the Commission’s preliminary conclusions found repeated violations. - Indigenous communities “suffer from frequent incidents of violence and lack of attention from public services, in addition to increased difficulties and obstacles surrounding claims to their lands,” said Commissioner Antonia Urrejola Noguera, the IACHR Rapporteur for Brazil. Norte Energia has denied the charges.
Tropical forest conservation in the Bolsonaro era (commentary) [12/06/2018]
- Brazil’s President-elect represents a major threat to Brazil’s legacy of forest conservation and to the prospects of preventing extremely dangerous climate change. This legacy was achieved largely through command-and-control measures that were supported by consistently pro-environment presidents over the last three decades; these measures are now vulnerable to the abrupt decline in environmental political will. - A strategy to avoid major forest conservation setbacks and achieve new wins is possible under Bolsonaro if Brazil’s farmers and the broader society are convinced that they will be worse off if this legacy is dismantled. - Instead of escalating antagonism between conservation leaders and medium- to large-scale farmers and agribusinesses, dialogues and collaborations are urgently needed to deliver positive incentives to conservation-minded producers. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.
Amazon indigenous groups and truckers ally to oppose Brazil’s Grainrail [12/06/2018]
- It is well documented that the construction of new transportation infrastructure in the Amazon leads to an invasion by illegal loggers, illicit ranchers, and other land grabbers. Which is why indigenous people are opposed to Grainrail, a new railroad that, if approved, will penetrate the Tapajós basin threatening 20 indigenous territories. - The Baú Indigenous Territory has already been reduced in size by the government which gave into pressure from invading land grabbers. Now, the Kayapó people worry that the construction of Grainrail will bring an onslaught of new land invaders and further reductions of their territory. - This concern is especially strong as Jair Bolsonaro comes to power. He has made it known that he is opposed to the concept of indigenous preserves, while also being on the side of Amazon development and in favor of the fast tracking of environmental licensing for infrastructure projects – which means Grainrail could go forward quickly. - Indigneous groups have found an unusual ally against Grainrail: truckers who fear they will lose their livelihoods if the planned railroad goes forward. Indigenous groups and truckers are both known for their use of direct actions, such as roadblocks and strikes, to get their views heard – methods that could lead to conflict with Bolsonaro.
Peru’s Brazil nut harvesters learn to monitor forests with drones [12/06/2018]
- Brazil nut and ecotourism concessions in the Amazon maintain intact rainforest, but deforestation by illegal loggers, miners, and agriculturalists threaten the integrity of these lands and the Brazil nut industry. - The Peruvian NGO Conservación Amazónica – ACCA is training concessionaires and forestry officials in southeastern Peru to fly drones and monitor the properties they manage using drone-based cameras. - The resulting high-resolution aerial images enable concessionaires to detect and quantify deforestation within their Brazil nut, ecotourism, and other forest concessions and support their claims of illegal activity to the authorities.
Extreme floods on the rise in the Amazon: study [12/05/2018]
- Scientists and the media have documented deepening drought in the Amazon basin. But a new study finds that flood events are significantly intensifying too, becoming five times more common over the last century. - The effect is caused by a combination of factors, including an increase in strength of the Walker circulation – an ocean-driven pattern of air circulation that carries warm moist air from the tropical Atlantic across South America towards the Pacific, resulting in Amazon precipitation. - Human-driven climate change is a major contributing factor to this increased Amazon basin flooding. Intensifying flood events result in lives and property lost, and significant harm to croplands, pastures and livestock. - A better understanding of flood and drought dynamics, and better predictability due partly to this study, could help reduce this damage. How escalating changes in precipitation occurrence and intensity might be altering Amazon flora and fauna is uncertain, though new research shows that tree species composition is altering.
Top U.S. flooring retailer linked to Brazilian firm snagged in timber bust [12/04/2018]
- An investigation by Brazil’s environmental enforcement agency and the federal police led to allegations that Indusparquet, a prominent supplier of tropical wood flooring, was using fraudulent permits to hide illegally harvested wood. - Government authorities fined the company, made the largest seizure of timber ever in the state of Sãa Paulo, and shut down Indusparquet’s primary warehouse for three weeks. - Indusparquet has denied wrongdoing and appealed the sanctions, and U.S.-based flooring retailer Floor & Decor has continued to source tropical wood flooring from the company. - Timberleaks, which first reported the link between Indusparquet and Floor & Decor, contends that the Lacey Act requires companies like Floor & Decor to go beyond the documentation provided by their suppliers — which in this case was alleged to be fraudulent — to ensure the source of those products is legal.
Santo Antônio mega-dam on Brazil’s Madeira River disrupts local lives [12/03/2018]
- The Santo Antônio mega-dam built in the Amazon has heavily impacted the traditional communities displaced from their homes on the Madeira River. Many local residents were relocated from the riverside to cities, and seriously uprooted from their lifestyles, livelihoods and cultures. - These local communities say that neither the Santo Antônio Energia Consortium, which built the dam, nor the government have been responsive to their allegations of polluted water, lost fisheries, lack of jobs and difficult urban living conditions. - Analysts agree that the close relationship between the Brazilian government and large dam building consortiums, energy firms, mining companies and agribusiness – all profiting heavily from new dams – has resulted in local concerns being poorly addressed or ignored in the past. - Experts also say that the Amazon dam building surge of the past few decades is likely to continue as Brazilian funding sources like the BNDES development bank dry up, but China steps in to fund mega-dams, and smaller hydro projects. Socio-environmental harm could easily escalate.
Mega-dam costs outweigh benefits, global building spree should end: experts [11/29/2018]
- The environmental and social costs of hydroelectric mega-dams have been grossly underestimated, and will continue to grow further as climate change escalates, a new report finds. Dams have been linked to habitat degradation, harm to biodiversity and migrating aquatic species, and to negative changes in river ecology. - More problems: dams rarely live up to promoter pledges. Costs are often underestimated, and once built, big dams rarely generate the huge energy amounts promised. River sediment flow estimates are commonly downplayed in plans, and builders rarely take climate change, with its intensifying droughts, into consideration. - Despite evidence of harmful impacts and disappointing outputs, many more mega-dams are planned in developing nations in Asia, Africa and South America. But when mega-dam environmental and social impact assessments are conducted, they often underestimate harm, and their findings tend to be overlooked. - A re-vamp of an age-old technology – the water wheel – could offer a reliable energy supply to local communities. Instream Energy Generation (IEG) uses clusters of small turbines, enabling fish and sediments to pass freely while generating power. Wind and solar offer other alternatives to mega-dams.
New research quantifies ecosystem services provided by Amazon rainforest [11/28/2018]
- New research published in the journal Nature Sustainability this month attempts to establish the monetary value of the ecosystem services provided by the world’s largest tropical forest, the Amazon. - Researchers estimated that, in total, the Amazon contributes as much as $8.2 billion to Brazil’s economy on an annual basis. Some $3.3 billion of that total is generated from privately owned forest areas, they found, while areas under protection, sustainable use areas, and indigenous lands together contribute $3 billion. - In the study, the researchers write that their findings can help inform tropical forest conservation measures, such as Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes, that allow for sustainable use of forests — and that their findings show the importance of conserving the rainforest not only to protect its rich biodiversity but also to ensure the sustainability of agricultural production in Brazil.
Amazon deforestation at highest level in 10 years, says Brazil [11/24/2018]
- Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon hit 7,900 square kilometers for the year ending July 31, 2018, reports Brazil’s national space research institute, INPE. - The figure represents a 14% increase over last year and a 41% miss of the official deforestation target. Final figures will be released next spring. - The increase had been widely expected due to economic and political conditions in Brazil, as well as the American trade war that has increased the profitability of Brazilian agricultural products. - Scientists warn that ongoing destruction of the Amazon could have dire economic impacts across South America.
Climate change may turn Amazon peatlands from carbon sinks to sources [11/22/2018]
- A new study looked at peat in Peru’s Pastaza-Marañon foreland basin (PMFB) to see how carbon accumulation there responded to past changes in temperature and precipitation. They then used that information to predict how the peatland will respond to future climate conditions. - It finds that under expected future climate conditions, the PMFB peatland may lose more carbon than it sequesters, making it a carbon source instead of a sink. - In total, the study estimates that PMFB may release 500 million tons of carbon by the end of the century – roughly equivalent to 5 percent of the annual fossil-fuel emissions of the entire world.
Tax havens and Brazilian Amazon deforestation linked: study [11/21/2018]
- Tax havens are found in countries that demand no or low taxes for the transfer of foreign capital through their jurisdictions. Typically, tax havens, like those in the Cayman Islands, are very secretive and lack transparency. - This secrecy protects institutional or individual investors from being in the public spotlight when making investments that are controversial, such as those in agribusiness companies in Brazil known to have caused significant Amazon deforestation, or those investing in illegal fishing. - According to a recent study, between 2000 and 2011, 68 percent of all investigated foreign capital to 9 top companies in the soy and beef sectors in the Brazilian Amazon was transferred through tax havens. Soy and beef production cause major Amazon deforestation. Also, 70 percent of vessels known to be involved in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing were funded via tax havens. - Better transparency is needed so that investments moved through tax havens can be tracked so as to determine their impacts on the environment and on indigenous and traditional communities. This improved transparency would likely result in greater public scrutiny and force greater responsibility on investors who today remain largely anonymous.
Progress on jaguar conservation in Suriname [11/20/2018]
- Dr. Mark J. Plotkin is the Co‑Founder & President of the Amazon Conservation Team, which partners with indigenous peoples to conserve forests and wildlife in Suriname, Colombia, and Brazil. - In this post, Plotkin writes about a recent meeting in Suriname to discuss an emerging threat to jaguars across Latin America: poaching for traditional Chinese medicine. - He notes that representatives who attended the meeting are now deeply engaged in designing an action plan for jaguar conservation in Suriname.
Purus-Madeira: the Amazon arc of deforestation marches north [11/20/2018]
- For the past decade, the southern part of Amazonas state has seen some of the highest rates of deforestation increase in Brazil, threatening the unique moist forest ecosystem found on the divide between the Purus and Madeira river basins. - The municipalities of Apuí and Lábrea, on the Transamazon highway (BR-230) lead this destructive trend. But now a variety of land users, including legal and illegal loggers, cattle ranchers, entrepreneurs and land grabbers are moving north along the currently unpaved BR-319 highway, causing major deforestation. - Environmentalists warn that this new wave of Amazon destruction will continue sweeping northward, and intensify, if the Brazilian government continues investing in the BR-319, improving the 890-kilometer (550 mile) road linking the city of Porto Velho in Rondônia state with Manaus in Amazonas state and with the rest of Brazil. - The new Bolsonaro government is expected to prioritize infrastructure investments in the region, likely weakening regulations governing environmental impact assessments. That could mean the fast tracking of full paving for the BR-319 soon. Among listed Bolsonaro goals is the opening of the Amazon to “new partnerships.”
Bolsonaro pledges government shakeup, deregulation, Amazon development [11/19/2018]
- Events are unfolding rapidly in Brazil, as president elect Jair Bolsonaro selects members of his administration and continues to propose what many analysts see as sweeping and draconian changes to the Brazilian government and environmental regulations. - Bolsonaro, while stepping back from plans for a merger of the Environment Ministry with the Agriculture Ministry, still plans major government reorganization. Paulo Guedes, his chief economic advisor, for example, could lead a super ministry merging duties of the Finance, Planning, Industry and Foreign Trade ministries. - During the presidential campaign, Amazon deforestation rates rose by nearly 50 percent, possibly as Bolsonaro supporters and land grabbers anticipate government retreat from environmental protections. Analysts worry Bolsonaro will criminalize social movements and end the demarcation of indigenous reserves assured by the 1988 Constitution. - Bolsonaro also chose Tereza Cristina as Agriculture Minister. She is known for her intense support of pesticide deregulation, and for backing a bill to fast track socio-environmental licensing of large infrastructure projects such as dams, railways, roads, industrial waterways, and mines – a position Bolsonaro also supports.
Saving the Amazon has come at the cost of Cerrado deforestation: study [11/15/2018]
- In the early 21st century, Amazon biome deforestation decreased, as native vegetation loss began rising dramatically in the Cerrado savanna biome in Brazil. Now, scientists using a new research methodology known as telecoupling, have found that the Amazon deforestation decline and Cerrado increase are linked. - The effect, known as spillover, resulted as two zero deforestation conservation agreements – the 2006 Soy Moratorium and 2009 Brazilian Federal Prosecutors’ Terms of Adjustment of Conduct (TACs) – prompted commodities traders and ranchers to stop buying soy and cattle raised on newly deforested Amazon land. - However, a portion of this agribusiness activity simply relocated to the Cerrado. The research team notes that this deforestation spillover effect – resulting from regionalized conservation initiatives – had been neglected by conservationists in the past because the underlying mechanisms are difficult to identify. - The researchers suggest that telecoupling can be used in future research to understand the influences of conservation policies and supply chain agreements, whose impacts are displaced between biomes, countries and even continents. Telecoupling as a tool is especially important in a globalized, interconnected world.
California’s Tropical Forest Standard could be the state’s most important climate action (commentary) [11/14/2018]
- This week, the California Air Resources Board will meet to decide if it will adopt a set of comprehensive requirements for large-scale programs to reduce tropical deforestation emissions, known as the Tropical Forest Standard. - Approving this Standard, with its robust social and environmental safeguards, is the most important thing California can do right now for the climate (including its own climate), for the Amazon and other tropical forests, and for the people who live in them. - Adopting California’s Tropical Forest Standard, which doubles down on the most rigorous best practices for social and environmental safeguards, would send exactly the message that governments, farmers, and indigenous and local communities now most need to hear. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Merger of Brazil’s agriculture and environment ministries in limbo [11/12/2018]
- During his campaign, presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro repeatedly called for the merger of Brazil’s Ministry of Environment (MMA) and Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (MAPA). Bolsonaro strongly backs agribusiness, while seeing the work of environmentalists as undermining the Brazilian economy. - However, the president elect was met in recent days by a firestorm of resistance against the merger from environmentalists, NGOs, scientists, academics, the environmental ministry itself, and from eight former environmental ministers. - Even the bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby has come out against the proposal, calling it unworkable, noting that the two ministries have different, incompatible missions and agendas that would be compromised by a merger. Others note that a spirited dialogue between the two ministries is politically healthy for the nation. - Bolsonaro, in response to criticism, said he will reconsider his plan, making a final decision on the merger known after taking office in January. Despite being close during the campaign to extreme right ruralists (mostly cattle ranchers), Bolsonaro has selected Tereza Cristina, a somewhat less radical ruralist, as new agriculture minister.
China increasingly involved in Brazil’s ambitious Amazon rail network [11/08/2018]
- Brazilian commodities producers have long dreamed of a railroad network crisscrossing Amazonia and the Cerrado, able to cheaply move crops and minerals from the nation’s interior to South America’s coasts. But factors, including lack of investment, political instability and difficult terrain, have foiled those hopes – until now. - In recent years, Brazil and China have developed mutual interests: Brazil produces soy and other food crops that China needs to feed its 1.3 billion population. As a result, China has increasingly gotten involved in potentially investing in and helping build a number of Brazilian railroads. And Brazil is actively seeking that help. - Today, China has moved actively toward including Brazil in its global Belt and Road initiative, a plan to improve worldwide transportation and other infrastructure, in order to provide the Chinese with needed commodities. - However, railroad construction has so far been slow to get underway. How last month’s election of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro will impact Brazil-China relations is yet to be seen. While Bolsonaro has at times come out strongly against Chinese influence in Brazil, others within his administration may seek to actively court the Chinese.
Cerrado farm community fights for life against dam and eucalyptus growers [11/07/2018]
- A wealth of great rivers caused Brazil in recent years to pursue a frenzy of mega-dam construction in the Amazon and Cerrado, work that enthusiasts claimed would benefit Brazilians with cheap energy. Critics say otherwise, however, noting much of the power produced goes to large mining company operations. - Analysts also point to completed projects, such as the Belo Monte, Teles Pires, Santo Antonio, Jirau and other dams, that have resulted in significant environmental harm, the displacement of rural indigenous and traditional populations, and to generating massive corruption. - A case in point can be found in the small town of Formosa in Tocantins state. The building of the Estreito mega-dam, completed in 2008, flooded fields, pastures and homes. The most impacted half of the community was relocated by the consortium of companies that constructed the dam. - The rest remained and were denied the social and economic benefits they’d been promised by either the government or the dam building consortium, which includes two mining giants, Alcoa and Vale, and Suez Energy and Camargo Corrêa Energia. Many Brazilian mega-dams were planned to offer energy to large mines.
Deforestation-linked Brazilian beef still flowing into international markets: report [11/06/2018]
- More than 200 million cattle live and graze in Brazil, bringing US $123 billion into the country’s economy annually. However, 80 percent of new deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is caused by the conversion of forest to cattle pasture. - While international beef retailers have worked to decouple their markets from cattle-driven deforestation, a recent report shows that a lack of traceability and transparency of the cattle supply chain continues to thwart their efforts. - A major loophole: cattle are owned over their lifetimes by several ranches. But current policies only require slaughterhouses to assure that no deforestation occurred on the ranch from which the livestock was purchased. So ranchers who cause illegal deforestation “launder” cattle, by selling them to ranchers who don’t. - Experts say that Brazil needs to adopt Uruguay’s digital traceability system whereby every cow is electronically tagged at birth and tracked along the entire supply chain. But they say Brazil lacks the political will to establish a similar system, primarily because the government is dominated by the agribusiness lobby.
Deforestation continues upward trend in the Brazilian Amazon [10/31/2018]
- Deforestation is rising in the Brazilian Amazon, which contains the majority of forest in the world’s largest tropical rainforest. - The trend is evident in data released by both Imazon, a Brazilian NGO, and the Brazilian government. - The data is from both sources’ month-to-month deforestation tracking systems. - Official data for the deforestation year, which runs from August to July, is expected to be released next month.
The Brazilian government’s land war against rebel slave descendants [10/29/2018]
- Slavery wasn’t abolished in Brazil until 1888, but by then thousands of remote rural communities known as Quilombos had been founded by runaway slaves. Under the 1988 Constitution, these Quilombos, which lacked land deeds, were guaranteed land rights, and a process was devised to legitimize the settlements. - However, the Brazilian government has long dragged its feet to demarcate and recognize these communities. Meanwhile, land grabbers who typically obtain fraudulent land documentation, have laid claim to Quilombo territory, often in order to establish vast soy plantations and for other agribusiness purposes. - Today, the government has imposed numerous legal hurdles against Quilombos seeking their land deeds, using a convoluted bureaucratic process, draconian budget cuts to programs helping the communities, and imposing reparations that must be paid to agribusiness entrepreneurs who have seized traditional lands. - Across Brazil today, 3,123 Quilombos have been certified, and to date, more than 1,700 of these have called on INCRA, the federal agency, to title their territories. But just 40 have received titles. Legal attacks on Quilombos have grown fierce under the Temer administration, with president-elect Jair Bolsonaro threatening more severe policies.
Violence spikes during Brazil elections, rural minorities fear worse [10/24/2018]
- Brazil has seen a major upswing of violence in recent years, with 63,880 homicides in 2017, a trend that includes both urban and rural areas, and parts of the Amazon where land grabbing and other environmental crimes are common. - The highly polarized Brazilian presidential election between progressive candidate Fernando Haddad and far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro seems to have escalated threats and acts of violence across the country. In the period after the 7 October first round election, three land activists were murdered in the Amazon. - Critics have accused Bolsonaro of perpetrating “fake news” and of inciting violence, especially against minorities, including urban LGBT communities, and rural indigenous groups, Quilombos (descendants of runaway slaves living in remote rural communities), and the landless peasant movement (MST). - The runoff presidential election is scheduled for Sunday, 28 October, and polls show Bolsonaro with a significant lead over Haddad, with Bolsonaro expected to be Brazil’s next president, barring surprises. Whether Bolsonaro will carry through on incendiary promises made during his candidacy is unknown.
Amazon and climate science threatened if Bolsonaro elected Brazil’s president (commentary) [10/23/2018]
- Fake news and pseudo-science have been used as propaganda by supporters of the far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro during his presidential election bid, according to a group of 17 Latin American scientists. - The lack of defined environmental positions within the candidate’s political platform is of great concern to the scientific community. - The pledge to fuse the agricultural and environmental ministries, expand agricultural and mining activities especially in the Amazon, and the promise made in the media to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, could make a Bolsonaro presidency dangerous not only for Brazil but for the world. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay. A full list of authors is presented at the end of the commentary.
Grainrail: ‘2nd revolution in Brazilian agribusiness’ and Amazon threat [10/22/2018]
- The BR-163 highway is being overwhelmed with truck traffic moving soy from the interior state of Mato Grosso to ports on the Tapajós River, where the cargo is moved to barges taking it down the Amazon for export to the EU and China. Soy farmers and transnational commodities companies say the answer is a new Amazon railway. - Ferrogrão (Grainrail) would stretch for 934 kilometers (580 miles), running parallel to the BR-163, from northern Mato Grosso to the port of Miritituba on the Tapajós River. Proponents argue the new rail line would cut freight costs, while reducing shipment times and backlogs, and even decrease greenhouse gas emissions due to transport. - Conservationists and indigenous groups strongly oppose the plan, saying that the railroad threatens the Amazon rainforest and the Cerrado, would likely have harmful impacts on three indigenous groups, and would open 14 protected areas to illegal intruders, including loggers and ranchers. - Grainrail has yet to be green lighted, maybe due to Brazil’s political and economic instability. Investors may be waiting to see how the election of Jair Bolsonaro might impact the nation – possibly opening the way for much longed-for Amazon industrial waterways. This story is the first in an exclusive Mongabay series about Grainrail.
Bolivian coca crops follow a planned highway through indigenous lands [10/19/2018]
- Bolivia’s Isiboro Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory hosts 33 hectares (82 acres) of illegal coca crops, despite being an ostensibly protected area. - Indigenous leaders blame the encroachment on the coca growers who formally occupy part of the park and are steadily expanding beyond their territory and into indigenous lands. - Central to the conflict is a planned highway that would cut through the park and has already splintered the indigenous community into camps opposing or supporting the project.
Jair Bolsonaro: looming threat to the Amazon and global climate? [10/18/2018]
- Jair Bolsonaro is poised to win the Brazilian presidential runoff on 28 October – currently polling with 58 percent of the vote. He holds strong policy positions in opposition to the environment, indigenous rights and traditional land claims. - Bolsonaro has pledged to open the Amazon to economic exploitation, greatly expand energy production, abolish Brazil’s environmental ministry, relax environmental licensing and regulation, open indigenous reserves to mining, and back out of the Paris climate accord. - Moreover, Bolsonaro’s once tiny PSL Party elected 52 new federal deputies and four senators in the 7 October election. It is very likely that these ultra-right PSL representatives will caucus with the right-wing bancada ruralista agribusiness and mining bloc in Congress, giving them a majority. - As a result, analysts say that if Bolsonaro is elected president, he will probably have the full support of Congress in fulfilling his agenda, with only the Supreme Court likely standing in the way of significant Amazon deforestation and other environmental harm.
Fate of the Amazon is on the ballot in Brazil’s presidential election (commentary) [10/17/2018]
- In the late 20th and early 21st century, Brazil set policies that made it a world leader in reducing deforestation, helping safeguard the Amazon. - However, the gains made over those years are now at risk due to the proposed environmental policies of far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro, who analysts say is highly likely to become Brazil’s president in a runoff election on 28 October. - Bolsonaro has pledged to shut down Brazil’s environmental ministry, relax environmental law enforcement and licensing, open indigenous reserves to mining, ban international environmental NGOs such as Greenpeace and WWF from the country, and back out of the Paris climate accord. - A study by this commentary’s authors estimates that Brazilian deforestation and carbon emissions under Bolsonaro’s policies would cause unprecedented Amazon forest loss, and contribute to destabilizing the global climate. This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.
Land rights, forests, food systems central to limiting global warming: report [10/15/2018]
- In the wake of the dire, just released UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, a climate advocacy group known as CLARA (Climate, Land, Ambition and Rights Alliance) has published a separate report proposing that the world’s nations put far more effort into land sector measures to store carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. - They suggest that these nature-oriented, land-based approaches could be far more effective, and more rapidly implemented, than relying on costly or largely untested high tech solutions such as bioenergy, carbon capture-and-storage, and geoengineering. - Among the approaches CLARA proposes are the establishment of far stronger land rights for indigenous peoples (who are among the world’s best forest stewards), as well as a serious reduction in deforestation and the restoration of forest ecosystems worldwide. - The CLARA report also calls for the transformation of agriculture (less tilling, less fertilizers, more support for small farms), and a global revolution in dietary habits, including a reduction in meat consumption and less food waste.
Landless movement leader assassinated in Brazilian Amazon [10/15/2018]
- Landless movement leader Aluisio Sampaio, known as Alenquer, was murdered last Thursday in his home in Castelo de Sonhos in Pará state – an area that has become increasingly violent as land grabbers take over, clear forest, and sell the land for high profits to cattle ranchers. - When Mongabay interviewed Alenquer late in 2016, he was helping defend the land rights of a peasant settlement along the BR-163 highway. At the time, he had been receiving death threats, and wore a bullet-proof vest provided to him by the government. The peasant settlement was later visited by armed gunman. - Following that confrontation, Alenquer published a Youtube video accusing two prominent local citizens of threatening to kill him. Authorities have so far arrested two suspects in relation to Alenquer’s murder, while another man was killed in a police shootout on Saturday. The police investigation is on going. - Alenquer’s murder comes as Brazil sees an uptick in violence that some analysts tie to the strong showing on 7 October of Brazilian far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro, projected to win a 28 October runoff. Bolsonaro, a law-and-order candidate, has made inflammatory statements regarding violence.
Amazonia and the setbacks of Brazil’s political moment (commentary) [10/12/2018]
- In the October 7 Brazilian election, far right candidate Jair Bolsonaro won 46 percent of the vote, not enough to earn the presidency, but triggering a runoff election October 28 with Fernando Haddad who came in second with 29 percent. Analysts say that, barring surprises, Bolsonaro could be Brazil’s next leader. - Bolsonaro was elected based on several issues, including reaction to government corruption and his stance on crime. However, says analyst Philip Fearnside, Jair’s most lasting impacts will likely be on the environment, especially the Amazon, indigenous and traditional peoples, and destabilization of the global climate. - The candidate has promised to abolish Brazil’s environmental ministry, expel NGOs such as Greenpeace and WWF from the country, slash science and technology budgets, “sell” indigenous lands, and “relax” licensing for major infrastructure projects such as dams, industrial waterways, roads and railways. - But his most impactful act could be a pledge to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, ending Brazil’s global commitment to reduce deforestation, triggering massive Amazon forest loss, and possibly runaway climate change. This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Fire fundamentally alters carbon dynamics in the Amazon [10/12/2018]
- With higher temperatures and increasingly severe droughts resulting from climate change, fires are becoming a more frequent phenomenon in the Amazon. - New research finds that fires fundamentally change the structure of the forest, leading it to stockpile less carbon even decades after a burn. - The research also shows that the burning of dead organic matter in the understory can release far more carbon into the atmosphere than previously thought.
Brazil scraps 11 new Amazon protected areas covering 2,316 square miles [10/08/2018]
- In recent months, the state deputies of the Legislative Assembly of Rondonia had moved to create 11 new protected areas in the Brazilian Amazon, covering about 600,000 hectares (2,316 square miles) of forest. - However, the bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby, bitterly opposed to the action, launched a counter legislative measure, attaching the scrapping of the protected areas to an emergency state funding bill. On 25 September, that funding bill passed, effectively killing the conserved areas. - Thirty years ago, only 2 percent of Rondonia’s forested land had been felled. That has increased to 28.5 percent today, the highest level in any Amazonian state due to a massive influx of land-hungry families, relocation encouraged by the government, along with the uncontrolled expansion of logging and land clearing for ranching. - Conservationists fear that continued illegal incursions into conserved areas could result in escalating violence as land grabbers, illicit loggers and cattlemen conflict with indigenous groups and Brazilian law enforcement over Amazon land claims.
8,100-square-mile indigenous reserve recognized in Brazilian Amazon [10/05/2018]
- There are 462 government-declared Indigenous Lands (TIs) in Brazil, but of these only 8 percent have been demarcated, a boundary-marking process vital to preventing and to prosecuting illegal incursions by land grabbers, loggers, miners and other outsiders. - On 19 September the Kaxuyana-Tunayana TI on the border of Pará and Amazonas state received Ministry of Justice approval for demarcation of its 2.1 million hectares (8,108 square miles). However, drastic budget cuts at FUNAI, Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency, leaves the date at which the demarcation process will begin unknown. - At least 18 different indigenous groups live within the remote Kaxuyana-Tunayana TI, including four isolated uncontacted groups. In the 1960s, the Brazilian government removed many indigenous people forcibly from the region, transporting them in Air Force planes. Some returned, walking all the way back to their home territory. - Indigenous advocates, and indigenous people living in the Kaxuyana-Tunayana TI, worry that the growing political strength of the bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby in Congress will result in the abolishment of FUNAI and prevent the demarcation process from ever happening. But they remain hopeful.
Pasture expansion driving deforestation in Brazilian protected area [10/04/2018]
- Climate scientists were wary when the Brazilian government announced in August that its 2020 goals for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions had already been met. Lending credence to those concerns, it appears even protected areas in the country aren’t currently safe from forest destruction. - Brazil’s Triunfo do Xingu Area of Environmental Protection has become a deforestation hotspot over the past few months, with more than 14,000 hectares of the protected area impacted by the expansion of pasture since May. - Though deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon peaked around 2004, the Triunfo do Xingu protected area has lost more than 350,000 hectares (nearly 865,000 acres) of tree cover since its founding in 2006.
Cerrado towns terrorized to provide toilet paper for the world, say critics [10/02/2018]
- A Mongabay investigation has found that global consumers who buy brand name toilet paper and tissues may unwittingly be fuelling land conflicts, environmental crimes and the loss of native vegetation in Brazil. - Residents of Forquilha, a traditional community in Maranhão state, allege that an agricultural entrepreneur used armed gunmen to try and force them out in 2014. The businessman took land claimed by the community and converted it to eucalyptus plantations, intending to sell the trees to Suzano, Brazil’s biggest pulp provider. - Kimberly-Clark confirmed to Mongabay that it sources a significant amount of eucalyptus in Brazil from Suzano and Fibria, with pulp used to make “tissue and towel products like Scott, Cottonelle, Kleenex and Andrex.” Critics dispute industry claims that most pulp used is properly certified to prevent deforestation and protect local communities. - This year, Suzano moved to buy competitor Fibria. If the deal goes through, Suzano will become the world’s biggest pulp provider. Suzano runs large-scale eucalyptus plantations, and buys trees from suppliers’ plantations, and according to NGOs, has displaced traditional populations, driven land conflicts and cleared large swathes of forest.
Purus-Madeira: journey to the Amazon’s newest deforestation frontier [10/01/2018]
- In August, Mongabay contributor Gustavo Faleiros and filmmaker Marcio Isensee e Sá visited the unique biodiverse Amazon forests located on the divide between the Purus and Madeira river basins, where a decades-delayed plan to improve the BR-319 highway is gaining momentum, bringing environmental transformation. - The introductory video and story presented here, along with a series of feature articles to follow in coming weeks, shows how federal road improvements are bringing outsiders, entrepreneurs and outlaws to the region — all eager to profit by reducing the forest via logging operations, cattle production and other businesses. - In this first dispatch, we profile Realidade, a small village in the Brazilian Amazon where loggers, businessmen and land grabbers are still in the early stages of occupation. - Although deforestation here isn’t yet as fast or serious, as in Pará, Mato Grosso and other states, business growth rates are among Brazil’s highest. With scientists warning that further Amazon deforestation could worsen climate change, bringing extreme drought and a shift from rainforest to savanna in the region, analysts urge that the vast Purus-Madeira moist forest ecoregion be conserved.
Ahead of election, deforestation continues to climb in the Brazilian Amazon [09/30/2018]
- Newly released analysis of satellite data by Imazon, a Brazilian NGO, shows that deforestation in the Amazon is continuing to climb. - Imazon’s deforestation alert system detected 545 square kilometers of forest clearing in August, a tripling of the area deforested the same month a year ago - The Brazilian government’s own deforestation detection system, run by the national space research institute INPE, also shows a recent rise in deforestation, albeit a substantially less dramatic increase relative to Imazon. - The apparent rise in deforestation this year in Brazil is not unexpected due to current political and economic trends.
‘Predatory agribusiness’ likely to gain more power in Brazil election: report [09/28/2018]
- 248 candidates, about two-thirds of federal deputies seeking re-election to the Brazilian congress this October either introduced, or voted for bills harmful to the environment, indigenous peoples, and rural workers, according to a survey conducted by Repórter Brasil. - The survey compiled the voting records of Brazilian deputies up for re-election, a record then assessed for negative or positive impacts by eight socio-environmental organizations. The results are presented online as the Ruralometer. - Out of the 248 candidates running for re-election, 138 (or 55 percent) are part of the Parliamentary Agricultural and Livestock Front – the bancada ruralista agribusiness caucus, well known for its strongly negative socio-environmental agenda. - Analysts say that the current Congress is the most conservative since the end of Brazil’s military dictatorship in 1985, but they expect it will move further right after the 7 October election. Experts blame the conservative makeup of Congress on the wealth and influence of ruralists and agribusiness, and on campaign finance laws.
Traditional groups sowing sustainable crops could save Venezuelan park [09/24/2018]
- Starting in 2009, Afro-Venezuelan and Indigenous peoples and Phynatura, an NGO, signed a series of conservation agreements which are helping safeguard 570 squares miles of largely pristine forest in the Venezuelan Amazon south of the Orinoco River from illegal mining, timber harvesting and wildlife poaching. In 2017, that area was absorbed into Caura National Park. - The new park conserves the region’s biodiversity and forests, but its founding didn’t automatically protect the ancestral homelands of the indigenous people living there. However, these 52 indigenous communities in El Caura are claiming a legal right to continue to live and pursue sustainable livelihoods within the park. The government has yet to grant their claim. - Some of these traditional communities are involved in the sustainable agroforestry livelihood projects, with a variety of innovative crops being grown. Agroforestry is seen by local people as offering an alternative income over mining and deforestation. - Among non-timber crops grown are tonka (a bean used as a flavoring and in cosmetics), quina (also known as cinchona bark, formerly used to treat malaria and now a common ingredient in cocktails), and copaiba oil (a folk medicinal credited with anti-inflammatory qualities). Cocoa, to be made into fine chocolates, and orchids are included among potential exports.
Connect the dots: Cerrado soy drives inequality to provide EU with chicken [09/19/2018]
- For nearly a century, traditional communities in the Brazilian Cerrado raised small livestock herds and planted sustainably on lands to which they lacked deeds. The savanna was largely ignored by industrial agribusiness, which lacked the technology to farm and water the semi-arid land. - That changed about 30 years ago, when agricultural advances made large-scale soy production possible there. Wealthy entrepreneurs flocked to the Cerrado and began laying claim to the lands worked by traditional communities. Deprived of their livelihoods, and sometimes forced from their homes, many people moved to cities newly built to service the soy boom. - Campos Lindos was one of those new cities. While many large-scale soy growers say they’ve brought prosperity to the Cerrado, Campos Lindos has poverty levels far higher than the Brazilian average, lacks many basic social services such as clean water and basic healthcare, and suffers high infant and maternal mortality rates. - Some blame these worsening social problems on the soy growers, whose crops analysts have traced to transnational commodities companies like Cargill and Bunge, and on to soy-fed chicken in the U.K., retailers like McDonalds, Tesco and Morrisons, and ultimately to consumers in the developed world.
Brazilian elections and the environment: where top candidates stand [09/17/2018]
- The Brazilian elections are just weeks away, scheduled for 7 October. The five leading candidates are Jair Bolsonaro, Marina Silva, Ciro Gomes, Geraldo Alckmin, and Fernando Haddad, though none appears to have sufficient voter backing to win on election-day. A runoff with the top two will occur on 28 October. - This story offers an overview of the environmental stance of the top five. Jair Bolsonaro, leader in the polls, would pull Brazil out of the Paris Climate Agreement, abolish the Ministry of the Environment, and open the Amazon and indigenous lands for economic exploitation. - Marina Silva, a former environmental minister, established policies that reduced Amazon deforestation. She would keep Brazil in the Paris Agreement and use it as a means of shifting the nation’s agribusiness sector to be more sustainable, competitive and equitable. Ciro Gomes supports hydroelectric dams and the Paris Agreement. - Geraldo Alckmin supports agribusiness over environmental. Little is known of Fernando Haddad’s environmental positions, though he’s a strong proponent of bicycling to reduce car use. As important for the environment: the bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby looks poised to grow stronger in congress in the coming election.
World’s first indigenous carbon offset project suspended due to illegal mining [09/11/2018]
- In 2009, the Paiter-Suruí of Brazil became the first indigenous group in the world to design and implement a major forest conservation and carbon storage and offset project, a set of initiatives financed by selling carbon-offset credits.. - On Monday, the Paiter-Suruí announced the project is being suspended indefinitely due to an onslaught of diamond and gold miners and loggers which has caused a dramatic surge in deforestation within their 248,147 hectare (958 square mile) territory. - In its early years, the project – designed to prevent at least five million tons of carbon emissions in 30 years – was incredibly successful. Illegal logging in the indigenous territory dropped to almost zero from 2009 to 2012, a period during which surrounding regions saw deforestation rates more than double. - Analysts cite multiple reasons for the project suspension: the intrusion of external, powerful, self-interested actors; the lack of law enforcement in the indigenous territory; and the lack of state investment in indigenous education, health, and livelihood programs that could have alleviated individual economic and social pressures to secure short-term financial gain.
Brazilian legislators break law, attack Amazon, trade freely with world: report [09/11/2018]
- A new Amazon Watch report offers evidence showing that six prominent Brazilian politicians are charged with, and/or guilty of, a variety of environmental, social, and economic crimes. All six are active in the bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby of congress, and all but one are up for election in October. - According to the report, the six have been strident advocates of the ruralist policies that are slashing environmental protections, exacerbating Amazon deforestation, and rolling back indigenous land rights. - Yet their agricultural commodities, and those of their political and business allies, are being sold to the U.S. and EU, with importers including soft drinks manufacturers Coca Cola (U.S) and Schweppes (Switzerland), the poultry producer Wiesenhof (Germany) and others. - The report says that transnational companies and consumers are thus unwittingly empowering the ruralists’ drastic legislative environmental attacks, and it calls for importing countries and companies to take responsibility for their actions. Mongabay profiles two legislators featured in the report: Adilton Sachetti and Nelson Marquezelli.
Land hoarding: what Colombia’s new administration has inherited [09/10/2018]
- Local authorities say that they are no longer as trusting of the actions suggested by the federal government. - Humberto Sánchez, the mayor of San Vicente del Caguán, says that meetings carried out to stop the problem are completely useless. - San Vicente del Caguán is the most deforested municipality in Colombia.
Climate leadership means keeping fossil fuels in the ground in tropical forests and beyond (commentary) [09/07/2018]
- Ahead of next week’s Global Climate Action Summit, Amazon Watch’s Executive Director Leila Salazar-López argues that California Governor Jerry Brown can show true climate leadership by phasing out oil and gas production in the state. - She notes that large volumes of crude oil from the Ecuadorian rainforest are processed in California, making the state complicit in the environmental problems plaguing indigenous communities in the Amazon and local communities living near refineries in the state. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
A Brazilian mourns what was lost in the National Museum fire [09/06/2018]
- Last Sunday, the Brazilian National Museum burned, with an estimated 90 percent of its priceless collection destroyed. In this story, co-published by ((O))eco and Mongabay, noted Brazilian science writer and journalist Peter Moon enumerates those losses and what they mean to Brazil and the world. - The museum’s Paleontology collection housed practically all fossils of plants and animals, vertebrates and invertebrates, discovered in Brazil from 1800 into the 20th century. The fire consumed the accumulated fossil record of tens of millions of years of evolution in Brazil and South America. - The Anthropology collection was also burned, a heartbreaking, irreplaceable loss of Brazil’s indigenous legacy. Gone is the entire Ethnology collection, which kept masks, weapons, utensils and other artifacts documenting the cultures of numerous Brazilian indigenous peoples, collected over two centuries. - Saved were the collections of vertebrates, and the botany collection, all installed 30 years ago in an annex. While the scientific value of those collections preserved is immense, Peter Moon laments the loss of the vast natural history archive: “Scientific collections, once lost, are forever.”
Deforestation continues upward trend in Brazil, says NGO [08/28/2018]
- Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon continues to trend higher, reports Imazon, a Brazilian NGO that independently tracks developments in Earth’s largest rainforest. - Data from Imazon’s monthly deforestation tracking system indicates 778 square kilometers of forest were cleared in July, a 43 percent increase over a year ago. - Imazon’s findings contrast with official data from Brazil’s national space research agency INPE, which shows a comparably flat trend line.
Brazil’s pesticide poisoning problem poses global dilemma, say critics [08/27/2018]
- Brazil is second only to the U.S. in its use of chemical pesticides, with many of the chemicals sprayed in Brazil on soy and other crops banned by the EU and the United States. Pesticide poisoning is a major Brazilian problem. In 2016, 4,208 cases of poisonings by exposure to pesticides were registered across the nation – the equivalent of 11 per day (killing 355 people). - The ruralista bancada, the powerful agribusiness lobby, is currently pushing an amendment through congress that would significantly weaken Brazil’s 1989 pesticide law. Analysts say the legislation (6.299/2002), dubbed the “Poison Bill” by critics, would make the approval of new pesticides far easier. - Brazil’s lax pesticide rules aren’t just a threat to farmworkers. Many toxins are persistent in the environment and in the food we eat. A Brazilian analysis of pesticide residue in foods such as rice, apples and peppers found that of 9,680 samples collected from 2013 to 2015, some 20 percent contained pesticide residues that exceeded allowed levels or contained unapproved pesticides. - Transnational pesticide makers such as Syngenta, Bayer and BASF produce pesticides in the EU which are considered highly hazardous – so hazardous, they are banned in their countries of origin – but the firms also sell these pesticides in high quantities to Brazil and other developing nations. Experts say that sprayed Brazilian exports of fruit, vegetables and coffee could be contaminated.
Drone used to confirm existence of uncontacted Amazon tribe (video) [08/24/2018]
- The Brazilian government used a drone to help confirm the presence of an uncontacted indigenous group deep in the Amazon rainforest. - FUNAI, Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency, undertook an expedition to an area near the Brazilian border with Peru to confirm the presence of voluntarily isolated peoples along the Juruazinho River. - To confirm the presence of the group without encroaching on their territory, FUNAI flew a drone over the forest and photographed huts and crops amid a section of felled trees. - The drone also filmed two individuals walking, one of whom was carrying a spear or pole.
A river runs through it — and keeps the Amazon’s bird species diverse [08/24/2018]
- A new genetic analysis shows that rivers in northeast South America rarely give rise to new bird species, but are important in maintaining existing biodiversity. - Researchers found that 86 pairs of the more than 400 endemic bird species in the Rio Negro basin have range boundaries that meet but never overlap, many of them coinciding with either the Rio Negro or the Rio Branco. - Amazonian rivers, they conclude, can play two distinct roles in species evolution: their formation may separate populations and create new species directly, and their presence can prevent hybridization or competition between related species that evolved independently and meet at the river. - Understanding how the size of a barrier influences its ability to isolate populations genetically will have major implications for how conservationists try to mitigate the effects of habitat fragmentation caused by human activities.
From sink to source: Droughts are changing the Amazon rainforest [08/23/2018]
- Droughts are becoming more frequent in the Amazon rainforest, with three “100-year” droughts happening in the space of just 10 years. - A new study finds that, on average, the most affected parts of the rainforest lost around 35 inches (0.9 meters) in the years following the 2005 drought. - The researchers estimate that the loss of this tree cover means that drought-caused forest changes in the Amazon between 2005 and 2008 translate to 270 million metric tons of lost carbon annually.
New orchid species discovered in Peruvian Amazon [08/23/2018]
- SERNANP, Peru’s national parks service, announced that a new species of orchid was discovered on Bella Durmiente mountain, a prominent natural feature of Tingo Maria National Park in the Huánuco region of central Peru. - About 240 orchid species are known to occur in Tingo Maria National Park. The new species, which was described to science in a paper published in the journal Phytotaxa last month, was given the scientific name Andinia tingomariana in honor of the park where it was discovered. - A. tingomariana was found growing epiphytically — meaning it was growing on another plant, but not parasitically — among the mosses and vines on tree trunks in a humid forest at an elevation of 1,285 meters (about 4,216 feet).
Community-run trading posts help Amazon forest people reverse rural exodus [08/23/2018]
- Riverine communities along the Xingu River basin in the Brazilian state of Pará are running their own trading posts that are significantly boosting the income of their members. - By eliminating middlemen, the community-run posts are paying families up to twice as much for their Brazil nuts, rubber and other products collected in the forest. - By buying in bulk, the posts are also able to sell essential household goods, such as salt, coffee, soap and boots, more cheaply to their members. - These improvements mean that it is now economically viable for the families to go on living sustainably in the forest, and the rural exodus is being reversed.
Brazil hits emissions target early, but rising deforestation risks reversal [08/23/2018]
- The decline in deforestation between 2016 and 2017 saved emissions of the equivalent of 610 million metric tons (672 million tons) of carbon dioxide from the Brazilian Amazon and 170 million metric tons (187 million tons) from the Cerrado, Brazil’s wooded savanna, according to the Brazilian government. - The emissions reductions, announced Aug. 9, eclipsed the targets that the Brazilian government set for 2020. - However, amid rising deforestation over the past few years, particularly in the Amazon, experts have expressed concern that the reductions in emissions might not hold.
Earth has more trees now than 35 years ago [08/15/2018]
- Tree cover increased globally over the past 35 years, finds a paper published in the journal Nature. - The study, led by Xiao-Peng Song and Matthew Hansen of the University of Maryland, is based on analysis of satellite data from 1982 to 2016. - The research found that tree cover loss on the tropics was outweighed by tree cover gain in subtropical, temperate, boreal, and polar regions. - However all the tree cover data comes with an important caveat: tree cover is not necessarily forest cover.
Brazil austerity policies devastating to rural communities: analysis [08/14/2018]
- Since taking power in 2016, Michel Temer has drastically cut Brazil’s social programs, especially impacting poor rural families. These austerity measures also adversely affect the natural world, with one social program linked to sustainability eliminated, and with struggling rural families less likely to protect, and more likely to exploit, natural resources to meet minimal economic needs. - In 2013, the Bolsa Familia benefit program benefited 14 million Brazilian families, with its success recognized internationally. In 2016, President Temer committed to reducing the number of people receiving Bolsa Família aid by 10 percent. By July 2017, 1.5 million fewer people received the benefit than in July 2014. - Launched in 2011, the Bolsa Verde program’s goal was to give financial incentives to people in poverty who were behaving in an environmentally conscientious way. Traditional river-dwellers, indigenous populations, Quilombos (communities of runaway slave descendants) and other rural communities benefited. The Temer administration has zeroed out the program’s budget. - Other social programs seeing draconian funding cuts are the Food Acquisition Program (PAA), a federal initiative that buys produce from small-scale family farmers and then offers it to public institutions such as schools and hospitals; and the National Cisterns Program, which brings cutting edge rainwater management and storage technologies to poor communities in need.
Ruralists in Brazilian congress put nation’s protected areas at risk [08/14/2018]
- Bill PL 3,751 / 2015, moving through the Brazilian congress, would set a five-year deadline for the resolution of land issues and disputes, such as land ownership conflicts, in protected areas. If issues were not resolved within that timeframe, a protected area could have its protected status removed. - There are currently more than 100 protected areas that have not had their permanent status implemented, and they would all be at risk. If this bill was applied retroactively to these areas, over 17 million hectares (roughly 66,000 square miles) — over half of all currently protected areas in Brazil — would be threatened. - In a letter published in Science, Brazilian scientists denounced the bill, calling it an attack on the networks of conserved lands that support biodiversity and arguing that the legislation conflicts with the Brazilian constitution. - The bill has passed in the Brazilian Environment Committee and awaits a vote in the Finance and Taxation Committee. Though presidential elections could delay the process, it is likely the committee vote will occur in 2018. Analysts think passage is likely, which could threaten preserved areas in the Amazon, Cerrado, Atlantic Forest, Pantanal, and Caatinga.
Trase.earth tracks commodities, links supply chains to deforestation risk [08/13/2018]
- Launched in 2016, Trase is an innovative Internet tool, available to anyone, which tracks commodities supply chains in detail from source to market, and can also connect those chains to environmental harm, including deforestation. Until the advent of Trase, knowledge of supply chains was sketchy and difficult to obtain. - The Trase Yearbook 2018 is the first in an annual series of reports on countries and companies trading in such commodities as soy, sugarcane and maize, which also assesses the deforestation risk associated with those crops, making it a vital tool for environmentalists, governments, investors and other interested parties. - The Yearbook shows that in 2016 the Brazilian soy supply chain was dominated by just six key players – Bunge, Cargill, ADM, COFCO, Louis Dreyfus and Amaggi – accounting for 57 percent of soy exported. In the past ten years, these six firms were also associated with more than 65 percent of the total deforestation in Brazil. - Trase shows that zero-deforestation commitments (ZDCs) have so far not resulted in greatly reduced deforestation risk for the commodities companies and countries making them. Between 2006 and 2016, soy traders with ZDCs, as compared to non-committed firms, were associated with similar levels of deforestation risk.
Death foretold? A courageous Amazon peasant couple resists illegal loggers [08/10/2018]
- The Terra do Meio (Land in the Middle) is a continuous mosaic of protected areas, 20 indigenous territories and 10 conservation units covering 28 million hectares in the heart of the Amazon and intended as a buffer against illegal deforestation and land theft. As big as Colorado, it represents one of the world’s largest areas of conserved tropical rainforest. - Today, this vast conserved area in Pará state is under great pressure from organized crime and illegal loggers, with the Riozinho do Anfrísio Extractivist Reserve one of the most assaulted by illicit timber harvesters in all of Amazonia. The Areia settlement, created by the National Institute of Agrarian Reform (INCRA) in 1988, lies adjacent to the reserve. - Areia’s residents have suffered for decades from threats of violence and murder from the illegal loggers, with many locals abandoning their land or giving in to the criminals. Organic farmers Osvalinda Maria Marcelino Pereira and Daniel Pereira have resisted, holding onto their plot, with Osvalinda founding the Association of the Women of Areia. - Hounded by hired gunmen and threatened with death, the two have become isolated and are now seeking outside support for their cause. Federal agencies have offered little help, and there are allegations that the illegal loggers are being shielded from prosecution. Similarly desperate situations are occurring among peasant farmers across Amazonia.
Camera trap videos help protect biodiversity of Bigal River Biological Reserve in Ecuador [08/09/2018]
- Bigal River Biological Reserve is located in the southern buffer zone of Ecuador’s Sumaco Napo-Galeras National Park, a less-explored national park that the biological reserve helps to protect, according to Thierry Garcia of the Sumac Muyu Foundation, which founded and manages the reserve. - As part of its Bigal River Conservation Project, the Sumac Muyu Foundation has maintained camera traps in the reserve since 2014 and has collected hundreds of hours of footage showing big mammals like jaguars and tapirs as well as rare birds and other species going about their business in the foothill forests. - The main goals of the camera trap program run by the Sumac Muyu Foundation include documenting the mammals present in the reserve and which parts of the reserve they tend to roam, as well as monitoring those mammal populations and studying variations in their behavior due to natural forest dynamics or human pressures.
In Ecuador, a pipeline cuts a trail of misery through indigenous land [08/09/2018]
- The construction of an oil pipeline without the necessary permits has led to the destruction of the ancestral forests of the Siona indigenous community in San José de Wisuyá on the shores of the Putumayo River between Ecuador and Colombia. - The project has had far-reaching effects on the community’s long-held cultural traditions and practices, including the loss of medicinal plants and pollution of water sources. - For more than two years, the community has sought reparations from the companies that constructed the oil pipeline, but the state ombudsman and the Ministry of Environment have yet to provide a definitive resolution.
Fire, more than logging, drives Amazon forest degradation, study finds [08/06/2018]
- Forest degradation has historically been overlooked in accounting and monitoring carbon stocks. - A recent study combined ground-based inventory, satellite and LiDAR data to record the loss of carbon due to forest degradation in areas exposed to logging, fire damage, or both, in the arc of deforestation of the southeastern Amazon. - The study revealed that fire damage causes greater losses than logging, and fire-damaged forests recovered more slowly than logged forests. - Accurate depictions of both deforestation and degradation are necessary to establish emissions baselines used to inform programs to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+).
Chinese / Western financing of roads, dams led to major Andes Amazon deforestation [08/01/2018]
- International development finance institutions (DFIs) invested heavily in large-scale infrastructure projects that triggered significant deforestation in the Andes Amazon especially within the nations of Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia between 2000 and 2015, according to recent research published by Boston University’s Global Development Policy Center. - Using satellite data, the study analyzed 84 large infrastructure projects and determined that the area around them experienced tree cover loss at a rate of over four times the average seen in comparable areas without such projects in those countries. That’s a forest carbon-sink loss equivalent to the combined annual CO2 emissions of Colombia, Chile and Ecuador. - Infrastructure now accounts for 60 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, yet DFIs want to increase future lending from billions to trillions to meet global demand. This could imperil national Paris Climate Agreement goals (which in countries like Brazil are linked to preventing deforestation), and also could add to potentially catastrophic global carbon emission levels. - The study isn’t merely academic: More than $70 billion in infrastructure projects, supported by development banks and the private sector, are planned for the Amazon basin between now and 2020. The researchers hope lessons learned from past infrastructure projects and highlighted in their study will improve future project oversight to help curb deforestation.
Tracking the shift of tropical forests from carbon sink to source [07/31/2018]
- Improved maps of carbon stocks, along with a better understanding of how tropical forests respond to climate change, are necessary to meet the challenge of keeping the global temperature below a 2-degree-Celsius (3.6-degree-Fahrenheit) rise, according to scientist Edward Mitchard of the University of Edinburgh. - Currently, tropical forests take up roughly the same amount of carbon as is released when they’re cleared or degraded. - But climatic changes, which lead to more droughts and fires resulting in the loss of tropical trees, could shift the balance, making tropical forests a net source of atmospheric carbon.
Deforestation skyrockets in the Amazon rainforest [07/25/2018]
- Deforestation is mushrooming in the Brazilian Amazon, according to Imazon. - Imazon’s data shows deforestation hit 1,169 square kilometers in June 2018, the highest level since the NGO began monthly tracking in April 2007. - While month-to-month data from short-term deforestation tracking systems is notoriously variable, June’s number comes on the heels of 634 square kilometers of forest loss in May. - Scientists have warned that Brazil seems to be reversing course after a historic drop in deforestation.
Temer’s deforestation policies put Paris goals at risk, scientists warn [07/24/2018]
- A letter in the journal Nature Climate Change penned by ten prominent Brazilian scientists is making a splash in major Brazilian media outlets. They warn that weak environmental governance by the Temer administration and the bancada ruralista, agribusiness and mining lobby, is resulting in policies that are increasing deforestation. - The scientists especially singled out Temer, noting that: “the President of Brazil has signed provisional acts and decrees lowering environmental licensing requirements, suspending the ratification of indigenous lands, reducing the size of protected areas and facilitating land grabbers to obtain the deeds of illegally deforested areas.” - The scientists say that these policies are undermining attempts to reduce deforestation and the CO2 emissions that clear cutting causes. As a result, Brazil may need to spend US$2-5 trillion additionally to curb its carbon emissions by other means in order to hit the nation’s Paris Climate Agreement targets. - The warning comes as Brazil gears up for October national elections. Environmental issues rarely have a great influence on Brazilian voters, but the scientists hope that knowledge of the severe and costly consequences of the current government’s policies could help better inform Brazilians as they go to the polls.
Soy giant Louis Dreyfus pledges deforestation-free supply chain [07/16/2018]
- The Louis Dreyfus Company (LDC), a global commodities trader, has announced a plan to eliminate the destruction of native vegetation from its soy supply chain in Brazil and across Latin America. Particularly important to environmentalists, LDC pledges to avoid buying soy from producers who have caused new deforestation in the Cerrado biome. - The Amazon Soy Moratorium, instituted in 2006 via an agreement between Greenpeace and global commodities companies, has been credited with vastly reducing the cutting of forests to make way for soy planting there. But the companies, until now, have resisted making a similar commitment in the Cerrado, where soy-caused deforestation is rampant. - Many environmentalists are hailing LDC’s new deforestation commitment, though they note that the pledge has yet to be backed by implementation and timeline details. - Tesco, the UK’s biggest supermarket chain, has also just announced the planned launch this year of a certification system that will only source soy from areas that have been certified as deforestation-free. From 2025 onward, the company also plans to transition to sourcing only from “zero deforestation areas.”
Extractive industries threaten a million square kilometers of intact tropical forests around the globe [07/12/2018]
- According to a recent report, mining companies currently have claims on 11 percent of all intact rainforests left in the world, meaning 590,000 square kilometers (227,800 square miles) of pristine tropical forest ecosystems are at risk. That’s an area larger than France. - Oil and gas concessions, meanwhile, cover 8 percent of tropical intact forest landscapes (IFLs). That’s another 408,000 square kilometers (157,529 square miles), roughly the size of the US state of California. - The report, issued by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) last month, assesses the threats from extractive industries to the 5.2 million square kilometers, or just over 2 million square miles, of tropical IFLs left in the world. In total, nearly one million square kilometers (386,000 square miles) of those intact tropical forests are potentially threatened by extractive activities.
Brazil’s political storm driving Amazon deforestation higher [07/09/2018]
- Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon was dramatically reduced between 2005 and 2015, surged in 2016, then fell in 2017. Preliminary figures from IMAZON suggest the trend has now reversed, with deforestation up 22 percent between August 2017 and May 2018, compared to the same period the prior year. But, so far, official confirmation from INPE of this surge is lacking. - Experts say the source of the uptick lies with land-grabbers emboldened by the bancada ruralista, the agribusiness lobby, which has won many recent legislative and administrative victories, drastically cutting environmental and indigenous agency budgets, and pushing bills to shrink conservation units and erode indigenous land rights. - A recent Forest Code Supreme Court ruling may have further encouraged wealthy land-grabbers, when it granted billions in amnesty, forgiving fines against many guilty of illegal deforestation. Today, Pará’s Triunfo Xingu Area of Environmental Protection and the Indigenous Territory of Apyterewa are especially threatened by land-grabbing. - So is Pará’s Jamanxim National Forest; land thieves there hope congress will pass a bill to dismember the preserve, along with other Brazilian conservation units. Environmentalists worry that the election of right-wing populist Jair Bolsonaro as president, dubbed “Brazil’s Trump,” in October could send deforestation rates soaring.
Peru: How chocolate saved a community and a protected area from the drug trade [07/06/2018]
- In the forests surrounding Río Abiseo National Park, in the Peruvian Amazon region of San Martín, a burgeoning chocolate industry is gaining traction. - After dedicating more than twenty years to the cultivation of coca to supply cocaine trafficking, today the community of Mariscal Cáceres is committed to legal production of cacao that allows them to protect more than 300,000 hectares of forest. - Cacao growers in the community are partnering with Swiss dairy farmer to produce high-quality chocolate for markets in Europe and the U.S.
Smartphone app helps indigenous communities fight deforestation [07/02/2018]
- Using a system called ForestLink developed by Rainforest Foundation UK, members of the Masenawa community documented the presence of an illegal gold mining camp in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. - The police then responded by destroying the mining equipment at the camp and arresting five people suspected of participating in illegal mining. - The biodiverse Madre de Dios region of the Amazon has been besieged by illegal gold mining, which has caused widespread deforestation.
Leprosy prevalent among Amazon’s armadillos, study finds [06/29/2018]
- Researchers have found a high prevalence of leprosy among nine-banded armadillos in Brazil’s western state of Pará. - They also surveyed 146 people in the region and found that people who ate armadillos more than once a month showed higher signs of exposure to leprosy infection compared to people who consumed armadillos less frequently or not at all. - Overall, the study found that frequently handling armadillos, such as hunting or cleaning or cooking armadillo meat, puts people at higher risk of getting infected with leprosy.
Plant response to rising CO2 levels may alter rainfall patterns across tropics [06/28/2018]
- Stomata – the tiny pores through which plants take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen and water – are closing up everywhere on earth as atmospheric CO2 levels rise. This change in plant structure results in more water being stored within plants, and less being released to the atmosphere. - In a recent study scientists posit that the reduction in water released by stomata through transpiration will result in changing rainfall patterns across the tropics. Researchers used climate models to test the hypothesis, noting that while reduced transpiration will occur everywhere, tropical climates in different regions respond differently. - In South America, rainfall patterns are strongly influenced by changes in the amount of water that local plants release to the atmosphere. So if plants there retain more water, deeper droughts could result, consistent with most models. But Africa and Southeast Asia are protected from this atmospheric drying effect. - Forests in Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea are encircled by humid air over warm oceans. Reduced transpiration means more warm air rising from the islands, which draws in moist ocean air, increasing rainfall even as plants release less moisture. Some scientists dispute the study conclusions, noting that climate models poorly simulate water cycling.
Could El Niño and climate change spell the end for tropical forests? [06/25/2018]
- NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) allowed scientists to study the response of the world’s tropical rainforests to the 2015-16 El Niño in more detail than every before, potentially providing insight into the longer-term response of tropical forests to escalating climate change. - During the El Niño, OCO-2 recorded a sudden global surge in CO2 emissions (above 400 ppm for a full year, the highest in modern history), an effect significantly enhanced by tropical forest emissions in South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia – all responded to the El Niño by temporarily shifting from carbon sink to carbon source. - However, each region responded differently: El Niño brought extreme drought to South America, and trees there stopped absorbing CO2. In Southeast Asia, major forest fires raged in extremely dry conditions, quickly releasing stored carbon. In Africa, rainfall was normal, but high temperatures drove increased ecosystem respiration. - Scientists worry that a tipping point could be reached where tropical forests collapse, but more study is needed. Given the great uncertainties as to how tropical forests will respond to a warming world, taking action now to keep forests standing and healthy may offer the single best hope for mitigating negative impacts, say researchers.
Winning farmer support to reduce deforestation (commentary) [06/24/2018]
- It is critical to win farmer support for strategies to address deforestation if they are to succeed; in Brazil, farmers are economically powerful, increasingly sophisticated as a political block, and they own or control half of Brazil’s native vegetation. - They have grown weary of being vilified as criminals, of unmet promises of positive incentives for shifting to sustainable production systems, and of the chronic challenges of changing and inefficient regulations. To gain the support of conservation-minded, responsible farmers for the deforestation agenda, a new narrative and set of actions is needed that recognizes, applauds and rewards them for their efforts as it effectively includes them in dialogues. - A shared agenda is needed between environmental groups and farm sectors in Brazil to help restore collaboration; there is strong potential to build that collaboration around core issues faced by the farm sector–transportation infrastructure and inefficient and changing licensing procedures. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
New study provides blueprint to translate satellite data into conservation action [06/21/2018]
- A new paper offers a protocol to help conservation practitioners integrate forest-monitoring technology with policy to reduce illegal deforestation. - Public and private entities can more easily access the latest satellite-based remote-sensing technology to rapidly detect new deforestation, prioritize areas for action, identify the causes, and get the information to policymakers without delay. - The study calls for increased use of satellite technology to improve the monitoring, understanding and communication of deforestation events, as well as increase engagement between government institutions and civil society.
US/China trade war could boost Brazil soy export, Amazon deforestation [06/21/2018]
- President Donald Trump is pressing hard for a trade war with China. So far, he has imposed $50 billion in tariffs on the Chinese, and threatened another $200 billion; the Chinese are retaliating. An all-out U.S./China trade war could have serious unforeseen repercussions on the Brazilian Amazon, including increased deforestation, intensified pressures on indigenous groups, and escalated climate change. - The concern is that China will shift its commodities purchases, including beef and soy, away from the U.S. to Brazil. The Amazon and Cerrado biomes are already major exporters of both commodities, and are creating a boom in infrastructure construction to bring those products to market. Even without a trade war, experts expect Brazil to edge out the U.S. this year as the world´s largest soy producer. - The U.S. tariffs may already be prompting a shift in trade. Trump first threatened China with tariffs in January. By April, U.S. soy sales to China were down 70,000 metric tons compared to the same period last year. Data also shows a surge in Brazilian Amazon deforestation between February and April of 2018, compared to 2017, a possible response by Brazil soy growers eager to profit from a trade war. - If the U.S./China trade war results in a significant surge in Brazilian commodities production, deforestation rates there could soar. Scientists worry that Amazon deforestation, now at 17 percent, could be pushed past a 20-25 percent climate tipping point, converting rainforest to savanna, greatly swelling carbon emissions, and potentially destabilizing the regional and even global climate.
Oil palm plantations in Amazonia inhospitable to tropical forest biodiversity: Study [06/18/2018]
- According to a study published in the journal PloS One late last year, the Brazilian Amazon has about 2.3 million square kilometers (nearly 900,000 square miles) of land suitable for oil palm cultivation, making it one of the largest areas in the world for potential expansion of the palm oil industry. - Researchers investigated the responses of tropical forest mammals to living in a landscape made up of a mosaic of 39,000 hectares (more than 96,000 acres) of mature oil palm plantations and 64,000 hectares (a little over 158,000 acres) of primary Eastern Amazon forest patches in the Brazilian state of Pará. - They write in the study that their results in the Amazon “clearly” reinforce “the notion that oil palm plantations can be extremely hostile to native tropical forest biodiversity, as has been shown in more traditional oil palm countries in South-East Asia, such as Malaysia and Indonesia.”
Community evicted by accused murderer seeks justice for Gabriel Filho [06/18/2018]
- Under Brazil’s 1988 constitution, all private land must serve a social function. So unused property without a social function can legally be occupied and claimed by landless communities. However, this law has created major land conflicts between large-scale landowners, who lay claim to vast properties, and landless communities seeking land. - One egregious case occurred in Tocantins state. Families began occupying, and homesteading on, an abandoned piece of land in 2007. Almost immediately, two landowners claimed the property, and began battling in court for ownership. The landless settlers stayed on the land, expecting the government to settle in their favor. - In 2010, according to witnesses, one of the landowners shot a community member through the heart, but a trial date has still not been set. In April, the alleged murderer convinced the courts of his land claim and the residents of Gabriel Filho (named for the murdered community member), were evicted, and denied access to their homes, crops and livestock. - Federal and state officials responsible for resolving the land dispute have stonewalled, and failed to take action on the community’s behalf. Legal experts say that Brazil’s landless movement typically receives little support in its land claims from government agencies or the justice system, and has gained limited sympathy from the general public.