Does forest certification really work? [09/21/2017]
- Based on a review of 40 studies, we found that certified tropical forests are overall better for the environment than forests managed conventionally. - But there wasn't enough evidence to say if certified tropical forests are better than, the same as, or worse than conventionally managed tropical forests when it comes to people. - We also found that profits and other economic benefits are hard to come by for certified logging companies working in tropical forests. - This is part of a special Mongabay series on "Conservation Effectiveness".
When will cattle ranchers be proud to show their farms in the Amazon? (commentary) [09/21/2017]
- Consumers increasingly seek information on the origin of products. In Brazil, though, many cattle ranchers are reluctant to reveal the source of their cattle. - Environmental, labor, and fiscal problems explain this resistance. Currently, however, there is a battle to increase transparency about the farms to eliminate these problems, especially in the Amazon, which is responsible for 40 percent of the country’s cattle herd. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.
Amazon dam defeats Brazil’s environment agency (commentary) [09/20/2017]
- The term “controversial” is inadequate to describe the São Manoel Dam. - It is located only 700 m from the Kayabí Indigenous Land and has already provoked a series of confrontations with the indigenous people. - As with other dams, São Manoel can be expected to negatively affect the fish and turtles that are vital food sources for the Kayabí, Munduruku and Apiacá indigenous groups. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author.
Andes dams could threaten food security for millions in Amazon basin [09/19/2017]
- More than 275 hydroelectric projects are planned for the Amazon basin, the majority of which could be constructed in the Andes whose rivers supply over 90 percent of the basin’s sediments and over half its nutrients. - A new study projects huge environmental costs for six of these dams, which together will retain 900 million tons of river sediment annually, reducing supplies of phosphorus and nitrogen, and threatening fish populations and soil quality downstream. - Accumulating sediments upstream of dams are projected to release 10 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year, significantly contributing to global warming, and would contaminate waters and the aquatic life they support with mercury. - The construction of these dams should be reconsidered to preserve food security and the livelihoods of millions of people in the Amazon Basin.
Belo Monte dam installation license suspended, housing inadequacy cited [09/19/2017]
- A federal court has suspended the installation license of the Belo Monte mega-dam in the state of Pará, Brazil. The dam, slated to have the world’s third-largest generating capacity, became operational in 2015, but won’t see construction finished until 2019. - The court ordered further construction halted until Norte Energia met the commitments it made in 2011 to provide adequate housing for those displaced by the dam, including indigenous and traditional people that had been living along the Xingu River. - Among commitment violations cited were houses built without space for larger families, houses built from different materials than promised, and homes constructed too far from work, schools and shopping in Altamira, a city lacking a robust public transportation system. - The consortium continues to operate the dam, as its operating license has not been suspended.
Indigenous victory: Brazil’s Temer decrees 1.2 million Amazon reserve [09/18/2017]
- In a rare recent victory for Brazil’s indigenous people, President Temer has established the 1.2 million hectare Indigenous Territory of Turubaxi-Téa along the Middle Negro River in Amazonas state. - While NGOs and indigenous groups applaud the move, they note that the region has not been claimed by the Temer-backed ruralists, agribusiness and mining interests, who have aggressively disputed indigenous claims to ancestral lands in the southern Amazon region. - Two weeks ago, Temer reversed a decree establishing the 532-hectare indigenous Territory of Jaraguá in São Paulo state, ancestral home to 700 Guarani Indians. As a result, the indigenous group has now been squeezed into a reserve covering just 1.7 hectares. - Brazil also just established the 5,200-hectare Indigenous Territory of Tapeba, near Fortaleza, the capital of the northeastern state of Ceará. These indigenous victories do not seem to indicate a shift away from Temer’s wave of initiatives undermining indigenous land rights.
Local approaches to conservation may be the most effective, study finds [09/15/2017]
- Researchers compared deforestation and forest degradation rates in areas of the Peruvian Amazon that were unprotected to those protected through government and local management. - They found, on average, locally led conservation initiatives proved more successful in preserving forests than those that are government-managed. - The study adds to mounting evidence that letting local and indigenous communities officially manage their forests may often be a highly effective way to conserve them. - However, official recognition of land rights often stands in the way of community-based conservation initiatives. The researchers urge the process be simplified so that more indigenous territories can be established and managed by the people who live in them.
Amazon mining unleashed (commentary) [09/15/2017]
- On August 23, 2017, Brazil’s president Michel Temer issued a decree revoking the RENCA, an area the size of Switzerland in the Amazon. - The Ministry of Environment had not been consulted and Brazil’s environmentalists and public were caught by surprise - A firestorm of criticism in Brazil and abroad led Temer to “revoke” the decree on August 28th and replace it with a new one. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author.
Ecologist wins Heinz environment prize for airborne mapping that informs policy [09/14/2017]
- Ecologist Greg Asner of the Carnegie Airborne Observatory will receive a $250,000 award from the Heinz Family Foundation for his work to map rainforests and coral reefs around the world. - Lawmakers and other key decision-makers use Asner’s research to guide policy in the United States, South America and Southeast Asia. - Asner said he intends to put the funds toward marine education and outreach in Hawaii, where he began his career.
Transformance: Finding common ground in the Amazon (commentary) [09/12/2017]
- The Fórum Bem Viver (Good Life Forum) met earlier this month to bring together indigenous leaders, military police, a federal judge, television actors, musicians, journalists, scientists and activists from eight countries and 14 Brazilian states. - The event, organized by the eco-cultural education nonprofit Rios de Encontro, utilized arts performances and workshops to seek common ground between participants regarding sustainable solutions in the Amazon. - The event was held in Marabá, Pará state, which is home to the Carajás mine, the world’s largest iron ore mine, and the community sits beside the Tocantins River where a dam is proposed upstream. - Participants sought solutions for turning Marabá into an “example of sustainable development for the Amazon, the Americas, and the world.” This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Uncontacted Amazon indigenous groups reportedly attacked by outsiders [09/11/2017]
- Brazil is investigating possible violent incidents between illegal miners and farmers and two uncontacted indigenous groups in the Vale do Javari Indigenous Territory in Amazonas state bordering Peru. - One alleged case involved gold miners operating dredges illegally on the Jandiatuba River, a tributary of the Solimões. - In a second case, villagers in Jarinal, a Kanamari community on the Jutai River reported an attack against a Wakinara Djapar group, possibly carried out by people farming illegally in the Vale do Javari Indigenous Territory. - Both reports are under investigation, but so far no solid evidence confirming the attacks has been produced. FUNAI, Brazil’s indigenous services agency, has been hampered in enforcing protections of uncontacted groups due to drastic budget reductions. This year, the Temer administration cut the agency’s operating budget by nearly 50 percent.
Zero tolerance of deforestation likely only way to save Amazon gateway [09/07/2017]
- In a new paper, conservationists urgently call for a policy of zero deforestation and sustainable agroforestry in Maranhão, one of Brazil’s poorest states, before it’s remaining Amazon forests are lost. - The region’s forests are home to unique and endangered species, including the jaguar (Panthera onca), Black bearded saki (Chiropotes satanas), and kaapori capuchin (Cebus kaapori), one of the world’s rarest primates. - It is also inhabited by some of the most vulnerable indigenous groups in the world, including uncontacted indigenous communities. - Though 70 percent of remaining forest lies within protected areas, illegal logging and slash-and-burn agriculture are persistent problems, threatening already fragmented wildlife habitat and forcing indigenous tribes off ancestral land.
Indigenous communities resist Chinese mining in Amazonian Ecuador [09/05/2017]
- Last weekend, a tribunal held by indigenous communities in Gualaquiza, in the Amazon headwaters region of Ecuador, accused the nation’s first large scale mining operation of major human and environmental abuses. - The Mirador and Panantza-San Carlos open-pit copper mines are run by Ecuacorriente S.A. (ECSA) and owned by the Chinese consortium CRCC-Tongguan. The two mines are located in the Cordillera del Cóndor region and within the Shuar indigenous territory. - Charges lodged against the government and Chinese consortium include displacement of 116 indigenous people, the razing of the town of San Marcos de Tundayme, escalating violence including the death of Shuar leader José Tendetza, discrimination, intimidation, threats, and worsening environmental degradation. - President Lenin Moreno’s administration has so far made no response to the Gualaquiza accusations or the demand for redress of grievances filed by the tribunal’s leaders.
381 new species described from the Amazon over two-year period [09/04/2017]
- Between January 2014 and December 2015, scientists described 381 new species of wildlife from the Amazon in peer-reviewed scientific journals, a new report by WWF and a Brazil-based organization says. - These include 216 new species of plants, 93 fish, 32 amphibians, 20 mammals (two of which are fossils), 19 reptiles and one bird. - Many of the newly described species are already on the verge of extinction, the report says.
Temer’s Amazon mining decrees derided by protestors, annulled by judge [08/30/2017]
- In a seeming win for Canadian and Brazilian mining companies, President Michel Temer on August 23rd abolished a vast Amazonian national reserve — the Renca preserve, covering 4.6 million hectares — and opened the region up to mining. - The reserve, straddling Pará and Amapá states, contains large preserved areas and indigenous communities. Temer’s original Amazon mining decree was met with widespread condemnation, resulting in a second clarifying decree on August 28th. - On August 29th, federal judge Ronaldo Spanholo annulled both decrees, citing Brazil’s 1988 constitution, and ruling that the Renca preserve may not be abolished by presidential order but only legislative action. The Brazilian Union´s General Advocate said it will appeal the judge´s decision. - BBC Brasil reported that Canadian mining companies, who would likely profit from the Renca preserve´s abolishment, were notified that the region was going to be opened up for prospecting last March, five months before the original decree was issued.
Brazil rejects oil company’s ‘Amazon Reef’ drilling bid [08/29/2017]
- Ibama, Brazil's environmental regulator, today rejected Total SA's environmental impact study for proposed drilling near the mouth of the Amazon. - The environmental agency said the French energy giant failed to provide sufficient information on potential threats to wildlife and habitat. - Environmentalists have been fighting the project.
Intact forests crucial to Amazon ecosystem resilience, stable climate [08/28/2017]
- Three recent South American studies emphasize the importance of intact forests to healthy habitat and a stable climate — both locally, and at a great distance. - The first study found that forest integrity is crucial for habitat stability and resilience. Degradation makes it harder for Brazil’s Caatinga forest to recover from intensifying drought due to climate change. Protected forests are more resilient against drought. - Another study showed that intense land use change in central Brazil and northern Argentina has resulted in the dry season becoming warmer across South America, with changes in Amazon plant productivity 500 kilometers from the disturbed area. - A third study’s modelling found that major future deforestation anywhere in the Amazon will dramatically reduce rainfall in the Amazon’s southwest — accounting for about 25 percent of the Amazon basin — and the La Plata basin.
Quilombolas’ community land rights under attack by Brazilian ruralists [08/25/2017]
- Four million African slaves were transported to Brazilian plantations. Many fled into the wild, some as far as the Amazon, and established quilombos — runaway slave communities long ignored by the federal and state governments. - Brazil’s 1988 constitution gave the quilombos legal land rights, which were not, however, recognized by the ruralists, an elite of wealthy landholders that coveted the land for agribusiness, mining and other development purposes. - In 2003, the “marco temporal,” requiring Quilombolas to prove that they occupied the land they are claiming both in 1888 (the year slavery was abolished) and in 1988 (the year of the new constitution) was overturned. Quilombos were granted inalienable community land rights. - Now, a long dormant court challenge by the DEM political party has reached Brazil’s Supreme Court, threatening the 2003 landmark ruling, again putting the Quilombolas at risk. Meanwhile, violence is up, with 13 people living in quilombos assassinated this year.
Temer pays back ruralists: opens Brazil, Amazon to mining, say critics [08/24/2017]
- In a victory for transnational and Brazilian mining companies, President Michel Temer this week decreed the opening of a vast national reserve covering 4.6 million hectares in the Amazon to mining. The region contains large conserved areas as well as indigenous communities. - Late last month, Temer also decreed a new Brazilian mining code. Though the code still needs to be approved by Congress, it shifts responsibility for monitoring environmental standards away from government and to the mining companies — a move that risks major mining accidents. - It also replaces the National Department of Mineral Production with a new regulatory agency, the National Mining Agency — a bureau that critics say lacks the teeth and personnel to do the job. - Mining code opponents are also concerned it could weaken protections against mining on indigenous lands. They say that the new mining code and green lighting of mining in the Amazon is pay back for a House of Deputies vote in August to close a criminal investigation of the president for corruption.
Deforestation from gold mining in Peru continues, despite gov’t crackdowns [08/22/2017]
- A team of scientists from the Carnegie Institution for Science found that, between 1999 and 2016, gold mining expansion cost the region 4,437 hectares (10,964 acres) of forest loss per year. - Miners were working an area in 2016 that was 40 percent larger than it was in 2012. - The findings, along analyses by ecologists at the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project, indicate that increased enforcement by the Peruvian government has slowed the rate of deforestation.
Indigenous groups win key land rights victory in Brazil’s Supreme Court [08/17/2017]
- In a victory for Brazil’s indigenous groups, the Supreme Court Wednesday decided against the claims of Mato Grosso state, which wanted compensation for Indian reserves established in that state by the federal government. - Mato Grosso argued that the land on which the reserves were established belonged to the state, but the Court decided on the side of indigenous people, noting in one case that the Indians had been living on the territory that became a reserve for 800 years. - Indirectly, this week’s court decisions undermine a measure recently signed by President Temer, and backed by the bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby, known as the “marco temporal.” - The marco temporal sets an arbitrary 1988 date for Indian occupations as a legal basis for all indigenous land claims. The court, in its rulings, based its decision on far longer ancestral territory occupation. It’s likely Temer and the rural caucus will continue pushing marco temporal, or similar strategies to delegitimize indigenous land claims.
Brazil’s Indians on the march in last ditch effort to stop land theft [08/14/2017]
- Last week, indigenous organizations and civil society bodies demonstrated widely against what they see as the Brazilian government’s on going moves to reduce Indian land rights, and to demand the government open a dialogue with indigenous representatives. - Of greatest concern is President Temer’s recommendation to approve the “marco temporal” a 1988 cut-off date for Indian occupation of traditional lands. - Critics say the marco temporal is designed to deny indigenous land rights guaranteed under Brazil’s 1988 constitution, while legalizing claims of land thieves and wealthy elite ruralists who have long hungered for control of Indian lands. - Brazilian Supreme Court rulings that will help determine the legality of the marco temporal are expected this Wednesday, 16 August.
Brazilian firm wants to build new dams in Amazon’s Aripuanã basin [08/10/2017]
- With the bancada ruralista mining / agribusiness lobby in control of the Temer government and Congress, a Brazilian company, Intertechne Consultores, sees it as an opportune time to revive a shelved plan to build dams in the Amazon’s Aripuanã basin. - The company has asked federal officials to allow viability studies for 3 new dams in this very remote, biodiverse region — the Sumaúma and Quebra Remo dams on the Aripuanã River, and the Inferninho dam on its tributary, the Roosevelt River. - The Inferninho dam, if built, would highly impact the Cinta Larga Indians, the victims of Brazilian-inflicted genocide in the 1960s. The Roosevelt Indigenous Reserve contains one of the world’s five largest diamond reserves, a cause of past violent conflicts. - Moves may be afoot in Congress to end a ban of mining on indigenous lands. If passed, a new law could allow mining on Cinta Larga land, with new mines potentially powered by the new hydroelectric dams. These projects, if built, would likely be a source of intense new controversy and conflict in the Amazon.
Monkey rediscovered in Brazil after 80 years [08/09/2017]
- An Ecuadorian naturalist collected the bald-faced Vanzolini saki in 1936 along the Eiru River. His record was the first and last known living evidence of the species. - In February 2017, an expedition called Houseboat Amazon set out to survey the forest along the Juruá River and its tributaries, with the hopes of finding the Vanzolini saki. - After just four days, the team spotted one leaping from branch to branch in a tall tree by the Eiru River. - The saki's habitat is still fairly pristine, but the scientists worry its proximity to Brazil's "arc of deforestation" and hunting pressure may threaten the species in the future.
HydroCalculator: new, free, online tool helps citizens assess dams [08/07/2017]
- With mega-dams planned globally, especially in the Amazon and Mekong, the Conservation Strategy Fund (CSF), an NGO, has developed a new free tool for evaluating a planned dam’s economic viability, greenhouse gas emissions and more. - The HydroCalculator estimates the net economic value of a proposed dam, with and without the cost of greenhouse gas emissions factored in, number of years required before a project generates a profit, and years until net emissions become negative. - The tool has been used by CSF, International Rivers, and a development bank and found to be very useful. Its forecasts have been tested against the economic viability and carbon emissions of existing dams, and found accurate. - The HydroCalculator is meant for use by communities, researchers and activists who are often closed out of the technical dam planning process. It is available free online.
Sixth mass extinction ‘tsunami’ coming, but preventable [08/04/2017]
- Biologist Thomas Lovejoy writes in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that we can stop the current spate of biodiversity and species loss that the Earth is experiencing. - Pointing to a recent study showing that many animals are declining in numbers in addition to those facing the imminent risk of extinction, Lovejoy argues that we need to address all of the impacts that humans have on ecosystems. - He calls for the restoration of degraded forests and wetlands — activities in which everyone can participate — to facilitate the movement of wildlife between habitats and bring back the services that ecosystems provide.
Three new frog species found in Peruvian Andes with more to come [08/04/2017]
- Few biological surveys have been conducted in the Pui Pui Protected Forest in the decades since it was established in 1985, and “the potential for additional discoveries is enormous,” according to one researcher who helped discover the three new frog species. - The three new species all belong to a family of land-breeding frogs called Craugastoridae whose embryos hatch as froglets rather than going through a tadpole stage, which allows them to survive in a wide array of habitat types with sufficient moisture. - The researchers say they will describe three more new frogs as well as two new lizards they’ve discovered in the Pui Pui Protected Forest in future papers.
Study examines sex-specific responses of Neotropical bats to habitat fragmentation [08/02/2017]
- While scientists have long known that males and females of some species use their habitat in different ways, the various responses to habitat destruction that are sex-specific are less well understood. - Research published in the journal Biotropica this month looked at the different responses to the effects of fragmentation exhibited by male and female individuals of Seba's Short-tailed Bat (Carollia perspicillata) and the Dwarf Little Fruit Bat (Rhinophylla pumilio), both fruit-eating bats native to the Neotropics. - Researchers captured more than 2,000 bats of the target species in eight forest fragments of various sizes and nine control sites at the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project, a research forest about 80 kilometers north of Manaus in the Brazilian Amazon. - The authors of the study write that their results align with those of previous research in temperate areas, where male and female bats have been found to differ in their responses to habitat degradation at the local and landscape level.
Canopy bridges keep rainforest animals connected over gas pipeline [08/02/2017]
- Pipelines, roads, railways and transmission lines cause severe habitat fragmentation in the Amazon rainforest. A new study looked at canopy connectivity for large arboreal mammal populations using natural bridges above a new gas pipeline in Peru. - In 7,102 canopy camera trap nights, the crossing rate of natural bridges in the canopy above a new pipeline was surprisingly high: nearly 200 times that of the ground (3,100+ overhead versus 16 ground occurrences). - Researchers recorded 25 species from 12 mammal families using natural canopy bridges in 3,372 photo events, including night monkeys, kinkajous, olingos, dwarf porcupines, opossums and squirrels. - These results suggest natural and artificial canopy bridges could significantly improve habitat connectivity for rainforest arboreal species when new, or already existing, transportation, mining and energy corridors threaten fragmentation
Brazil’s Temer threatens constitutional indigenous land rights [08/01/2017]
- President Temer, influenced by the rural lobby in congress whose votes he needs to not be tried by the Supreme Court on corruption charges, has okayed new criteria meant to delegitimize indigenous land boundary claims, legal experts say. - One rule rejects any indigenous demarcation of land where Indians were not physically present on a traditional territory in 1988, which would disqualify many legitimate claims. - Another allows government to undertake “strategic” public works, such as dams and roads, without indigenous consent, violating the International Labor Organization’s 169 Convention, signed by Brazil. - The administration also introduced a bill likely to be passed by congress that reclassifies 349,000 hectares (1,347 square miles) of Jamanxim National Forest in the Amazon, gutting protections, allowing economic activities — logging, ranching, farming and mining — and legitimizing land grabs there.
The “dolphin who became man”: will the boto survive the catfish trade? [07/31/2017]
- Fernando Trujillo has spent more than 30 years studying the Amazon’s elusive river dolphin, under threat by the fishing trade. - Twelve years ago, locals started killing river dolphins to attract a lucrative fish to the carcasses, causing the animals to become endangered. - A new film, A River Below, explores the story of the river dolphin and how it relates to the larger tale of the millions of people who call the Amazon home.
Landless Workers Movement protest occupies farms of Brazil’s elite [07/28/2017]
- This week, Brazil’s internationally recognized Landless Workers Movement (MST) launched a coordinated protest against corruption, with thousands of its members occupying six farms affiliated with government officials and Brazil’s wealthy elite. - Farms were occupied by hundreds of protesting landless families in the states of Mato Grosso, Piauí, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Paraná and Minas Gerais. - One occupation occurred on a soy farm owned by the Amaggi Group and affiliated with Brazilian agriculture minister Blairo Maggi. Another occurred on the farm of João Baptista Lima Filho, a close friend of President Temer. Both Lima Filho and Temer are under investigation for alleged corruption. - At present, neither federal nor state authorities have made any known moves to end the occupations.
Amazonian city drags down fish stocks in 1,000-kilometer shadow [07/28/2017]
- A study of tambaqui, a popular table fish, in the Brazilian Amazon found that fish caught near the city of Manaus are half the size of those upriver. - Boats that buy the fish have brought the demand into the forest surrounding the city, and with holds full of ice, they’re able to travel further to bring tambaqui back to Manaus’ markets. - The fishers living in the relatively pristine forest along the Purus River reported that tambaquie are smaller and harder to catch than they were previously, a trend extended 1,000 kilometers from Manaus, the researchers found.
First ‘intrusions’ into unbroken forests drive pulses of biodiversity loss [07/28/2017]
- The study examined ‘initial intrusions’ into tropical forests and their effect on the threat status of species. - The researchers found that deforestation at current rates in high-priority areas such as Borneo, the Congo Basin, and the Amazon could push 121 to 219 species closer to extinction in the next 30 years. - While the authors point out that their conclusions are not a call to protect only intact landscapes, the data could help policymakers working with limited resources to decide where to place new protected areas.
Study links most Amazon deforestation to 128 slaughterhouses [07/27/2017]
- A new study by the NGO Imazon finds that just 128 slaughterhouses process 93 percent of cattle raised in the Brazilian Amazon. The areas of influence supplying the herds to those plants coincide with where the most Amazon deforestation occurs. - The total pasture area, or zone of influence, corresponding to the 128 slaughterhouses provided an 88 percent match with the deforested area that occurred in the Amazon between 2010 and 2015. - Based on a probability map created by the study, a 90 percent match was also found between the 128 slaughterhouse zones of estimated cattle supply and the Amazon areas projected to have a higher risk of new deforestation in future. - The study adds weight to the idea that the most effective deforestation enforcement strategy is not to regulate the Amazon’s 400,000 ranchers and farmers, but for government to enter into effective deforestation enforcement partnerships with the slaughterhouses.
Visualizing the impacts of human disturbance on tropical forest biodiversity [07/26/2017]
- Efforts to protect biodiversity often focus on keeping forests and the habitat they represent from being cut down. But research published in the journal Nature last year suggests that forest degradation resulting from human activities is perhaps just as urgent a threat to biodiversity as deforestation. - According to the study, man-made disturbances in Pará’s tropical forests have resulted in levels of biodiversity loss equivalent to clearing 92,000 to 139,000 square kilometers (around 35,500 to 53,700 square miles) of pristine forest. - If that kind of raw data is hard to wrap your brain around, that’s where Silent Forest comes in. Thiago Medaglia described it as “a journalistic data visualization project” in an email to Mongabay.
Conserving the World’s Remaining Intact Forests (commentary) [07/25/2017]
- Intact forests are among the few places on earth where native trees and animals can fulfill their ecological roles outside the influence of industrial humankind. - Some interpret “intact” to mean absent the influence of people, but people have lived within forests the world over for millennia and we are only beginning to understand how they have – and continue to – influence them. - We cannot solve our most pressing environmental and development problems by compromising the few areas that remain whole. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Brazil’s indigenous Munduruku occupy dam site, halt construction [07/19/2017]
- The Munduruku say their sacred sites were destroyed to make way for other hydroelectric projects. Experts say the dams are also blocking fish migration routes. - The Munduruku are making a series of concrete demands they want fulfilled before they end the occupation. - The director of São Manoel Energia, the construction consortium building the dam, said that construction work would be halted for the duration of the occupation. - A prosecutor and acting head of Brazil's FUNAI Indian agency will be visiting the site of the occupation this week.
Soy King Blairo Maggi wields power over Amazon’s fate, say critics [07/13/2017]
- Brazil’s Blairo Maggi made a fortune with vast Mato Grosso soy plantations in Legal Amazonia. Today, Amaggi Group, the family company, dominates the nation’s agribusiness sector — profiting from farm commodities, and the roads, railways, and industrial waterways that transport them. - Maggi rose through Brazilian politics, becoming Mato Grosso’s governor, a senator, and today, the Temer administration’s agriculture minister. He is also a leader of the bancada ruralista, the agribusiness lobby, that dominates Brazilian government. - Once known as the Soy King, Maggi has often pushed anti-environmental agribusiness policies, including those resulting in major Amazon deforestation, ending indigenous land demarcation, and harmful infrastructure projects putting biodiversity at risk. He has also, paradoxically, worked to end illegal logging and to reduce deforestation. - On Monday, 17 July, Maggi will meet with the Trump administration to urge the U.S. to lift its ban on Brazilian beef, a ban prompted by scandal involving a corrupt federal meat inspection service overseen by his ministry. Maggi was recently accused of corruption by federal Lava Jato investigators. He continues to shape Amazon policies.
Temer signs law that could see millions of acres lost in the Amazon [07/13/2017]
- MP 759, signed into law this week by President Temer, and little noticed by the media, significantly alters Brazil’s Terra Legal program, introduced in 2009 by President Lula — a program that has already been hijacked by land thieves, critics say. - The new law introduces further multiple loopholes to allow land thieves, who have illegally occupied and cleared vast areas of public land in the Amazon, to legalize their land holdings, and to do so both easily and cheaply. - MP 759, among other things, increases the land claimable via Terra Legal from 1,500 to 2,500 hectares; allows wealthy land thieves to go on paying very little for land; and offers what in practice is an amnesty for land grabbers who illegally seized public lands between 2004 and 2011. - With government regulatory and enforcement agencies hard hit by massive budget cuts, analysts fear that the passage of MP 759 will result in an alarming increase in rural violence, which is already running at very high levels.
Amazon infrastructure EIAs under-assess biodiversity; scientists offer solutions [07/06/2017]
- In a new paper, scientists assert that environmental impact assessments (EIAs) for major Brazilian Amazon infrastructure projects often fail in their performance of comprehensive biodiversity evaluations, so underestimate ecosystem risk. - Their proposed solution is the development and use within EIAs of multiple, complementary scientific methods they say would be cost effective, and make more comprehensive biodiversity assessments possible. - These methods include satellite imaging, near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy, and DNA metabarcoding to detect a wider range of species. The scientists propose these methods be implemented to improve pre-construction biodiversity surveys and EIAs. - A major concern by researchers is that Brazil’s Congress is currently considering legislation that would do away with the existing environmental licensing process, and reduce or eliminate existing EIA requirements.
Is Brazil’s Forest Code failing to reduce deforestation? [07/06/2017]
- Engagement with the land registration system that underpins the Forest Code was initially high, but the researchers found that it had little bearing on the amount of illegal deforestation. - Only 6 percent of farmers surveyed said they were actively restoring deforested parts of their land, while 76 percent said that they would only do so if forced by authorities. - After dropping off substantially in the late 2000s, deforestation rates are once again on the rise, reaching their highest levels since 2008 last year.
Study: Brazilian mega-dams caused far more flooding than EIA predicted [07/05/2017]
- A satellite study of the Santo Antônio and Jirau dams in the Amazon found the area flooded by their reservoirs to be much greater than projected by the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) done as part of the Brazilian dams’ licensing process. - Satellite images from 2006-2015 were analyzed, spanning the time immediately before, during, and after dam construction, and then these images were compared with the flooding predictions found in the EIA. - The total flooded area upstream of the dams was found to be 69.8 percent larger than projected by the EIA. The area of natural forest flooded exceeded EIA predictions by 52 percent. - Political considerations likely influenced the EIAs gross inaccuracy, with real world results. In 2014, Madeira River floods upriver from the dams impacted 75,000 people, killed a quarter-million livestock and caused over US $180 million in damage.
Norway vexed as Brazil sends mixed message on Amazon forest protection [06/27/2017]
- Last week, Brazil’s President Michel Temer fully vetoed MP 756, and partially vetoed MP 758, two provisional measures which he himself introduced and which Congress approved that would have cut conserved Amazon lands by 600,000 hectares (2,316 square miles). - Almost simultaneously, Brazil’s environmental minister, José Sarney Filho, announced urgent plans for the administration to introduce a new bill to Congress to dismember the same conservation units described in the vetoed MP 756. - Also last week, Norway gave a stern warning to Temer on his visit to Oslo, telling him that Brazil could lose millions of dollars from the Amazon Fund if Brazil’s deforestation rates continue rising. - 7,989 square kilometers of Brazilian rainforest were lost between August 2015 and 2016. A rise in annual Amazon deforestation to 8,500 square kilometers would reduce Norway’s funding to Brazil to zero. Brazil defended itself, claiming preliminary annual data shows a recent leveling off of its deforestation rate.
Is intensification of beef production really a solution to Amazonian deforestation? [06/23/2017]
- Beef production has become a major driver of tropical deforestation, responsible for as much as 65 percent of rainforest destruction caused by the global agricultural commodities trade in the first decade of the 21st century, according to a 2015 study. - One proposed means of slowing the rate at which forests are being destroyed to create pastureland for cattle in the Amazon and other tropical regions is intensification, or the adoption of technologies and practices that allow for the production of more beef on less land. - “Based on a historical comparison between the US, a fully intensive system, and Brazil, one moving in that direction, we suggest that cattle ranching will intensify as a result of conservation investments (reductions in capital and land subsidies) rather than intensifying in order to produce conservation results,” the researchers write in the article.
Unexamined synergies: dam building and mining go together in the Amazon [06/22/2017]
- 40 large hydroelectric dams are slated for the Amazon basin over the next 20 years, feeding the massive electricity needs of an energy-hungry mining industry — digging, processing and exporting iron, aluminum, manganese and gold. - But mining’s energy needs are rarely linked to plans for new dams or their environmental impact assessments. Amazon mining and dam building have repeatedly in the past resulted in major harmful environmental and social impacts, including displacement of indigenous and traditional communities. - Transnational mining companies and consortiums are major beneficiaries of government largesse through subsidies, tax breaks and the energy obtained from newly commissioned Amazon dams. - Brazilian infrastructure development in the Amazon, including dam building and mining, could — if environmental and social issues are not properly addressed — turn the Amazon into a national sacrifice zone where biological and cultural diversity are drastically diminished.
Illegal logging and hunting threaten Yasuní isolated indigenous groups [06/22/2017]
- A preliminary report on illegal logging in the Tagaeri-Taromenane Intangible Zone reveals a complete law enforcement abandonment of the eastern part of Yasuní National Park. - People living inside Yasuní National Park have denounced the presence of Peruvian timber and bushmeat traffickers in the Ecuadorian Amazon. - Experts fear the constant pressures to which the isolated indigenous groups are subjected in the Intangible Zone will trigger massacres and increase the likelihood of extinction of isolated populations. - Multiple NGOs are preparing to file official complaints against the violation of environmental and human rights by illegal logging and hunting pressures.
Brazil evicts 80 rural peasant families, awards land thieves parcel [06/21/2017]
- 80 families, hopeful of being granted land in the Amazon state of Pará, have instead been ordered by a Brazilian court to vacate their camp located on the parcel in just two weeks. - The land will then be turned over to members of the Vilela family, notorious convicted land thieves, illegal forest fellers and members of the wealthy Brazilian rural elite. - The judge’s decision has been called into question. Eliane Moreira, Justice Prosecutor in the Pará Public Ministry, has long criticized authorities for allowing land thieves to use the environmental register to legitimize land grabs, something the judge has now endorsed. - It will be very difficult for the peasant families to appeal the decision, as they don’t have the resources to hire a lawyer and cover other legal expenses.
Religious leaders: Rainforest protection a ‘moral imperative’ [06/20/2017]
- The three-day event, held in Oslo, Norway, includes discussions between NGOs, government agencies, universities, indigenous groups and major religions. - The event marks the launch of the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative, which seeks to build on the moral case for rainforest protection with tangible metrics and goals. - Indigenous and religious leaders from 21 countries attended the event, organized by the UN Development Programme, Rainforest Foundation Norway and Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative.
International action a must to stop irreversible harm of Amazon dams, say experts [06/19/2017]
- A study, published in Nature and led by Edgardo Latrubesse of the University of Texas at Austin, went beyond local impacts of individual dams to assess cumulative, basin-wide impacts that planned dams are bringing to 19 major Amazon sub-basins. - The team developed a new metric: the Dam Environmental Vulnerability Index (DEVI) which includes assessments of basin integrity (vulnerability to land use change and erosion, etc.); fluvial dynamics (influence of sediment fluxes and flood pulses); and the extent of the river affected by dams. - A score for each sub-basin from 0-100 was assigned, with higher values indicating greater vulnerability. The Madeira, Ucayali, Marañon and Tapajós sub-basins were found to be most threatened; all had DEVI totals higher than 60. - The researchers say that a collective, cooperative, multi-country Amazon region assessment of dams and their cumulative impacts is urgently needed to get a handle on the true magnitude of the threat to the Amazon, as well as means to a solution.
If Brazil okays Terra Legal changes, land grabbers win, Amazon loses, say environmentalists [06/16/2017]
- Provisional Measure (MP) 759, now converted into a bill called the Conversion Law Project (PLC) 12/16, would significantly alter the successful Terra Legal program, introduced originally in 2009. President Temer has until 22 June to sign the bill or veto it. - The original program enabled peasant families to gain ownership of their small land plots. The new version introduces multiple loopholes to allow big, wealthy land owners to use the program, threatening small land owners and the environment, especially the Amazon. - Analysts say the new law, if passed, will allow another 20 million hectares (77,200 square miles) of the Amazon biome and 40 million hectares (154,440 square miles) of the Cerrado (savanna) to be legally cleared. - The bill ups the acreage claimable via the Terra Legal program, ends a rule allowing peasant families to delay paying for plots until the land is supported by adequate infrastructure, allows one farmer to acquire multiple plots, and ends a rule allowing peasant families to pay far less for their land than big farmers.
Brazil on verge of legitimizing Amazon land theft on a grand scale, warn NGOs [06/15/2017]
- Brazil’s president has until 22 June to approve or veto two bills (PLC 4 and PLC 5) turning over more than 600,000 hectares (2,317 square miles) of federally protected Amazon forest to illegal loggers, illegal miners and land thieves. - The measures, initiated by Temer and already approved by Congress, are seen as a reward to the bancada ruralista (rural lobby of agribusiness and mining) for its aid in bringing Temer to power through the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff in 2016. - Large portions of the Jamanxim National Park and of the National Forest of Jamanxim would have their protections downgraded to an Area of Environmental Protection, where logging, mining and private property are allowed. - Mongabay recently went to the region to observe conditions there: we found major illegal mining operations underway within federal conservation units and interviewed miners who have been exploited by mine “owners” under conditions analogous to slavery.
Why losing big animals causes big problems in tropical forests [06/14/2017]
- A team of scientists from Germany and Spain built a mathematical model to test the interplay between plants and animals that results in the distribution of seeds. - Field data collected from Peru’s Manu Biosphere Reserve formed the foundation of the model. - The scientists discovered the importance of matching between the sizes of seeds and the birds in the ecosystem. - As larger birds were removed from the forest, the forest’s biodiversity dropped more quickly.
Tropical forest diversity and carbon richness not linked, study finds [06/12/2017]
- Scientists theorize that increased forest biodiversity also increases productivity (growth), and therefore carbon sequestration. But, a new large-scale study found no consistent relationship in tropical forests studied in the Amazon, Congo and Borneo. - Research by 100+ scientists combines data from 360 1-hectare plots in Amazon, Congo, and Borneo forests, resulting in one of the largest datasets yet to examine the relationship between tropical tree diversity and carbon storage. - Tropical forests differ markedly between continents, researchers found: Borneo forests were a triple hotspot for biodiversity, carbon and threat, making a compelling global case for prioritizing their conservation. African plots tended toward higher carbon stocks and lower diversity; South American plots had lower carbon stocks. - The researchers urge conservationists not to generalize forest attributes when setting conservation strategies, but instead to measure the diversity, productivity, and carbon storage capabilities of each forest in order to make informed conservation decisions. This approach could enhance the success of REDD+ and other programs.
Financing sustainable agriculture possible, if terms fit farmers’ needs [06/02/2017]
- Worldwide, more deforestation results from the push for farmland than any other cause. - The Global Canopy Programme reports that funding aimed at encouraging a move away from deforestation-based agriculture and toward more sustainable methods must be designed to address the needs of farmers. - Loans with longer terms and lower interest rates can help farmers who are switching to sustainable agriculture survive the ‘valley of death’ – that is, the first few years of new methods before their production becomes profitable.
Brazil assaults indigenous rights, environment, social movements [06/01/2017]
- The Temer administration and Congress, dominated by the increasingly militant bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby, are encouraging violence, say critics, as attacks reach record levels against the landless peasants of the agrarian reform movement and against indigenous groups fighting for land rights assured by the 1988 Constitution. - In May a Parliamentary Commission of Enquiry, dominated by the bancada, recommended prosecution of 67 people, many of them serving in the federal government, who the commission claims have allegedly committed illegal acts by supporting indigenous groups and their land claims. - Also in May, Congress approved MPs (administrative orders), handed down by Temer, removing 486,000 hectares of the National Forest of Jamanxim and 101,000 hectares of the National Park of Jamanxim from protection, likely allowing land thieves to claim these formerly protected Amazon areas for private ownership, ranching and mining. - The Chamber of Deputies also rushed through MP 759, giving real estate ownership rights to hundreds of thousands of small land owners illegally occupying land in Brazil. Critics say the MP is also a massive gift to wealthy land thieves. Another bill, now on hold, could gut environmental licensing rules for infrastructure and agribusiness projects.
Amid life and death risks, Brazil’s land defenders stand firm [05/29/2017]
- They comprise a diverse range of people, from indigenous groups to fishing communities descended from rubber tappers. - In 2015, more land defenders were killed in Brazil than any other country put together, according to watchdog organization Global Witness. - Among land defenders, indigenous activists are the most-targeted for their work and activism.
Big animals can survive reduced-impact logging — if done right [05/22/2017]
- Employing camera traps to survey Amazonian mammals in Guyana, researchers found that large mammals and birds did not see a lower population of target species in reduced-impact logging areas as compared to unlogged areas. For some species, like jaguars and pumas, population numbers actually rose. - The research was conducted in an unusually managed swath of forest: Iwokrama. Spreading over nearly 400,000 hectares (close to 990,000 acres) – an area a little smaller than Rhode Island – Iwokrama Forest is managed by the not-for-profit Iwokrama organization and 16 local Makushi communities. - Looking at 17 key species in the area – including 15 mammals and two large birds – the researchers found that populations didn’t change much between logged and unlogged areas, a sign that Iwokrama’s logging regime is not disturbing the area’s larger taxa.
New soy-driven forest destruction exposed in South America [05/22/2017]
- Mighty Earth looked at updated satellite imagery from 28 sites in the Cerrado in Brazil and the Gran Chaco and the Amazon in Bolivia. - They found evidence of 60 square kilometers of land clearing for soy production since their September 2016 investigation. - Bunge and Cargill, the two companies that figure prominently in Mighty Earth’s latest report, argue that they are working to eradicate deforestation from their supply chains.
Rebel road expansion brings deforestation to remote Colombian Amazon [05/19/2017]
- The 138-kilometer road was carved illegally through rainforest and used by the FARC rebel group to transport coca, from which cocaine is produced. - Officials from city governments have begun a project to widen and pave the road, saying it will help communities transport agricultural goods to markets. - Conservationists decry the move, citing research finding road expansion opens “a Pandora’s box of environmental evils” that includes land-grabbing, illegal road development and accelerated deforestation. - A Colombian governmental agency recently ordered all construction on the road stop until further environmental studies could be performed and greater restrictions applied. However, an official said construction activity has not ceased.
A stubborn dreamer who fought to save Amazon’s Waimiri-Atroari passes [05/18/2017]
- As a young man in the 1960s, José Porfirio Fontenele de Carvalho decided to resist Brazil’s brutal military dictatorship by going into the Amazon to help indigenous groups in their struggles against the military’s assault on their way of life. - He made early contact with the warlike Waimiri-Atroari Indians, who were decimated in their struggle to block the BR-174 highway through their territory. The Indians tell of numerous atrocities committed against them by the government during this period. - With Carvalho’s help, a new indigenous reserve, covering 2.6 million hectares (10,000 square miles), was established, along with a conservation unit — the Biological Reserve of Uatumã. Through the years, Carvalho won other concessions for the Waimiri-Atroari. - Today, the group has increased its number to nearly 2,000, though the tribe continues fighting the government. President Temer is now determined to put a major transmission line through their lands. Most observers agree: without Carvalho’s assist, the Waimiri-Atroari would likely be extinct, and their forests gone. He died this month at age 70.
Indigenous lands ‘critical’ to forest protection in Peru, biodiversity maps show [05/05/2017]
- Indigenous lands account for 36 percent of protected forests in Peru. - In total, 42.6 percent of Peru's forest fall under some sort of protection, and the new biodiversity maps highlight forest types that are underrepresented in that figure. - The forests in the transition zone between the Andes and the Amazon appear to be the most in danger, as the forest types in this area are found at some of the lowest levels in Peru's parks, reserves and concessions. This area also faces some of the highest deforestation rates in the country.
“We don’t believe in words anymore”: Indians stand against Temer govt. [05/03/2017]
- Indigenous groups control large reserves in the Amazon and have the constitutional right to more, but agribusiness and land thieves are working with the Brazilian Congress and the Temer administration to prevent recognition of new indigenous territories, and to defund FUNAI, the federal agency representing Indian concerns. - In response, Brazil’s Indians are launching numerous protests. Last week more than 4,000 indigenous leaders from 200 tribes gathered in Brasilia to demonstrate. They were greeted in front of the Congress building with a police teargas attack. - Emboldened by government support, ranchers and their hired gunmen brutally attacked a peaceful land occupation by members of the Gamela tribe in Maranhão state in northern Brazil on 30 April with rifles and machetes; 13 Indians were seriously injured. - In the Amazon, the Munduruku have blocked the Transamazonian highway, creating a 40 kilometer backup of trucks loaded with the soy harvest. In an unusual twist, the truckers met with the Munduruku Wednesday afternoon and expressed solidarity with the Indians, agreeing that the government’s failure to meet the people’s needs is the real problem.
Land titling for indigenous communities leads to forest protection, peer-reviewed study finds [04/10/2017]
- Deforestation is responsible for as much as 10 percent of total global carbon emissions, which means that finding effective means of keeping forests standing is crucial to global efforts to halt climate change. - Previous studies have found that securing indigenous land rights is a successful path to keeping forests and the carbon sinks they represent intact, but the full effects of land titling for indigenous communities are still unclear. - Now the authors of a peer-reviewed study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last week say they found that forest clearance is actually reduced by more than three-quarters and forest disturbance by roughly two-thirds over the two-year timespan immediately following the granting of land title to an indigenous community.
Brazil slashes environment budget by 43% [04/07/2017]
- Brazil accounts for nearly two-thirds of the Amazon rainforest, the world's largest tropical forest. - After several years of decline, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is on the rise again. - Environmentalists say that the budget cut will "profoundly [impact] deforestation -- and, consequently, Brazil's climate targets."
Murky future for freshwater fish in the Amazon floodplains [04/07/2017]
- An extreme drought in 2005 decreased many freshwater fish species abundance in areas like Lago Catalão, and many haven’t recovered yet. - Drought overturned the ecology of the lake over time – big fish populations declined while little fish boomed. - The shift has direct impacts on diets in the region since many local people depend on fish for protein, meaning that climate change is already influencing food reserves here.
New research shows role ancient peoples might have played in shaping Amazon rainforest [03/31/2017]
- While the extent to which mankind has influenced the Amazon is a topic of much heated debate, a common assumption is that whether a species thrived in a particular area or not was determined mostly by the process of natural selection. - But a research team that used data from more than 1,000 forest surveys to study forest composition at over 3,000 archaeological sites across the Amazon found that species domesticated by pre-Columbian peoples were five times as likely to be "hyperdominant" as non-domesticated species. - "This lays to rest the long-standing myth of the 'empty Amazon'," said Charles Clement, a senior researcher at Brazil's National Institute for Amazonian Research (INPA) and a co-author of the study.
Two new clown tree frogs discovered in the Amazon [03/27/2017]
- Clown frogs are widespread throughout the Amazon region and get their name from their unique, bright coloration. - The two newly discovered clown frogs were previously considered to belong to other species, but researchers were able to show that they are their own distinct species after analyzing their DNA and the calls they make. - According to the international team of researchers who made the discovery, the conservation status of both clown frogs has yet to be determined — but it is likely that the species could already be considered threatened, especially given that both are reported to have particularly small distribution areas that are endangered by habitat destruction.
Crime and not enough punishment: Amazon thieves keep stolen public land [03/15/2017]
- Land grabbing and illegal ranching (even on public lands) has long been, and still is, big business in the Brazilian Amazon. Last year the Brazilian government launched its most ambitious crackdown ever. And some of the criminals caught up in the federal police net were members of Brazil’s richest families. - In June 2016, federal law enforcement pounced on a gang of land thieves. Antônio José Junqueira Vilela Filho, known as AJ Vilela, and Ricardo Caldeira Viacava, among others, were charged with clearing public lands — 300 square kilometers (74,132 acres) of forest, in total — an area 5 times larger than Manhattan, and of using slave labor to do it. - One of the gang’s innovations was to use sophisticated technology to work out just how much forest they could clear without being detected by monitoring satellites. Unfortunately for the offenders, they were spotted by Kayapó Indians who had their own sophisticated monitoring system (called radio!); they reported the crime to federal police. - But by October 2016, AJ Vilela was out of jail and awaiting trial. And unofficial reports from Pará state, gathered there by Mongabay in November, say that the gang is carrying on as before, illegally raising cattle on the public lands they illegally deforested. Question: why hasn’t the land been reclaimed by the government?
Suppliers of Lowe’s in the US and Walmart in Brazil linked to slave labor in the Amazon [03/13/2017]
- Slave labor-analogous conditions were revealed by investigation of logging camps in Pará, Brazil. - A supply chain investigation of the timber harvested through these camps has found links to markets in Brazil and the U.S. - Major retailers with links to intermediaries that sourced wood from logging camps found to use slave labor practices include Lowe's, Timber Holdings, and Brazilian Walmart stories. Timber Holdings has used wood from Brazil in major renovation projects for New York's Brooklyn Bridge and Central Park.
Slave labor in the Amazon: Risking lives to cut down the rainforest [03/13/2017]
- Investigations show conditions analogous to slave labor as defined by Brazilian law are not uncommon at small logging camps in Pará, Brazil. - A recent bust of one labor camp by a team headed by the Ministry of Labor led to the rescue several men living in substandard conditions. Interviews of the men and observations by Repórter Brasil indicate their lives were forcibly put at-risk at the camp. - Workers from other logging camps came forward to report instances of nonpayment, and being threatened by guns when they demanded their pay. - Although the job is life threatening and illegal, and wages aren't guaranteed, workers report often having no other choice but to work at the logging camps.
Investigation reveals slave labor conditions in Brazil’s timber industry [03/13/2017]
- The report was the culmination of an investigation into slave labor practices in the state of Pará’s timber industry led by the Integrated Action Network to Combat Slavery (RAICE). - The investigation found several conditions used by Brazilian law to define slave labor were occurring at logging camps, including forced work, debt bondage, isolation, exhausting working hours and life-threatening activities. - According to the report, workers at the camp often felt forced into illegal logging because of dire economic circumstances.
Big data timber exchange partners with FSC in Brazil [03/13/2017]
- BVRio pulls together data on the pricing, supply chain and certification of timber and wood products through its Responsible Timber Exchange. - Since opening in November 2016, the exchange has fielded more than 400 offers for 5 million cubic meters of timber. - The partnership with the Forest Stewardship Council is aimed at bolstering the market for certified forest products.
New bill aims to cut protection of 1M hectares of Brazilian rainforest [03/10/2017]
- State legislators presented the proposal early last month to President Michel Temer’s Chief of Staff, which included changes to five protected areas in the southern state of Amazonas. - When presenting the proposal, the legislators argued that the “protected” classification undermines the legal security of rural producers and economic investments that have already been made in the region. - Conservation groups worry that, if approved, the bid would put more than a million hectares of rainforest at risk to deforestation. - When surveying documents filed with Brazil’s National Department of Mineral Production, WWF reportedly uncovered a link between the proposed bill and applications for prospecting and mining in southern Amazonas.
Short film takes you into the Amazon with researcher who discovered a new frog species [03/08/2017]
- Back in January, biologist Jennifer Serrano and a team of researchers published a paper officially describing a new species of poison dart frog found in the Peruvian Amazon, which was given the name Ameerega shihuemoy, to science. - Finding Frogs, a short documentary by filmmaker Nick Werber, captures the sense of awe and discovery inherent in doing fieldwork like Jennifer Serrano’s. - In this Q&A, Mongabay speaks with Werber about his motivation for making the documentary in the first place, the difficulties of shooting a film in a humid environment like a rainforest, and why it’s so important for scientific discoveries to be more widely shared via media like film.
The changing face of Amazon development: from land grab to eco-lodge [02/23/2017]
- Ariosto da Riva was often described as “the last of the bandeirantes”, the violent adventurers who first penetrated the Brazilian Amazon in the 16th century in search of gold. Working with Brazil’s military dictatorship (1964-1985), he owned a million hectares of forest, pushed indigenous people from their lands, and brought in settlers. - His daughter, Vitória da Riva Carvalho, though wealthy, did not buy into his legacy. She is noted instead for her strong defense of the rainforest and for her world-renowned ecotourism destination, the Cristalino Jungle Lodge, located outside the town of Alta Floresta — which her father settled — in northernmost Mato Grosso state. - The evolution of the relationship between father and daughter helps trace the unfolding land conflicts that have smouldered and exploded in the Amazon between indigenous and traditional peoples on one side; and land speculators, land grabbers, loggers, settlers and soy growers on the other. - Today, most of the indigenous people who lived in the region where the Cristalino Jungle Lodge entertains its wealthy guests are gone — dead, pushed into indigenous reserves, or retreated elsewhere. But for now, the rainforest and much extraordinary biodiversity remains, with people like Vitória da Riva Carvalho as its stewards.
Judge halts excavation plans for largest-ever Brazilian goldmine [02/22/2017]
- The Belo Sun goldmine, to be Brazil’s largest, would use cyanide and other industrial processes to produce 5 million ounces of gold over 12 years. The company´s environmental impact assessment says it will process nearly 35 million tons of rock. The open-pit mine would leave behind gigantic solid waste piles covering many hectares, plus a huge toxic waste impoundment near the Xingu River. - A Brazilian judge suspended the project’s installation license this week, faulting the Canadian company that would be excavating Belo Sun with improperly acquiring federal land and potentially removing families from those lands to “reduce social costs.” - The proposed Belo Sun goldmine is within a short distance of the controversial Belo Monte dam, which has dislocated residents, caused deforestation, and harmed the environment, causing major fish kills on the Xingu River, a major tributary of the Amazon River. Residents are concerned that the addition of the nation’s biggest goldmine will do more severe harm. - Residents fear that a failure of the Belo Sun toxic waste impoundment dam would create a disaster on the Xingu River similar in scale to the Samarco Fundão dam collapse in 2015, which dumped roughly 50 million tons of toxic iron ore waste into the Doce River, polluting it for 500 miles, all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, and causing Brazil´s largest environmental disaster.
Protected areas found to be ‘significant’ sources of carbon emissions [02/17/2017]
- The researchers found 2,018 protected areas across the tropics store nearly 15 percent of all tropical forest carbon. This is because protected areas tend to have denser, older forest – thus, higher carbon stocks. - Their study uncovered that, on average, nearly 0.2 percent of protected area forest cover was razed per year between 2000 and 2012. - Less than nine percent of the reserves that the researchers sampled contributed 80 percent of the total carbon emissions between 2000 and 2012, putting this small subset of reserves on par with the UK’s entire transportation sector. - The researchers say their findings could help prioritize conservation attention.
Getting there: The rush to turn the Amazon into a soy transport corridor [02/15/2017]
- The development over the last 40 years of Mato Grosso state in Brazil’s interior as an industrial agribusiness powerhouse has, from the beginning, been hindered by a major economic problem: how to get the commodities to the coast for profitable export. - The first route of export from Mato Grosso was a costly and time-consuming southern one, with commodities trucked on a circuitous route to Santos in São Paulo state and Paranaguá in Paraná state on the Atlantic coast. - The paving of the northern section of BR-163, running south to north through Pará state, opened a much less expensive, faster route, with commodities now moved to Miritituba on the Tapajós River, then downstream to the Amazon, and on to Europe and China. - New infrastructure plans call for the channelization of the Juruena, Teles Pires and Tapajós rivers, creating a 1,000-mile industrial waterway. Two railways, one over the Andes, are also proposed. These schemes pose grave threats to the Amazon rainforest, biodiversity, indigenous and traditional communities, and even the global climate.
Counterintuitive: Global hydropower boom will add to climate change [02/14/2017]
- For many years new hydropower dams were assumed to be zero greenhouse gas emitters. Now with 847 large (more than 100 MW) and 2,853 smaller (more than 1 MW) hydropower projects currently planned or under construction around the world, a new global study has shown that dam reservoirs are major greenhouse gas emitters. - The study looked at the carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) emitted from 267 reservoirs across six continents. Globally, the researchers estimate that reservoirs contribute 1.3 percent of human-made greenhouse gas emissions, comparable to those from rice paddy cultivation or biomass burning. - Reservoir emissions are not currently counted within the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UN IPCC) emissions assessments, but they should be, argue the researchers. In fact, countries are currently eligible under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) to receive carbon credits for newly built dams. - The study raises the question as to whether hydropower should continue to be counted as green power or be eligible for UN CDM carbon credits.
Giant catfish clocks longest ever freshwater migration [02/08/2017]
- The dorado catfish uses the massive Amazon River as its roadway, beginning its journey at the river's headwaters. - It spawns in the far western Amazon, then drifts thousands of miles towards the estuary in the opposite direction. - After two to three years in the estuary, the catfish makes its way back towards the headwaters through the Amazon floodplain.
Audio: An in-depth look at Mongabay’s collaboration with The Intercept Brasil [02/07/2017]
- Branford is a regular contributor to Mongabay who has been reporting from Brazil since 1979 when she was with the Financial Times and then the BBC. - One of the articles in the series resulted in an official investigation by the Brazilian government before it was even published — and the investigators have already recommended possible reparations for an indigenous Amazonian tribe. - We also round up the top news of the past two weeks.
Scientists launch expedition to find missing monkeys [02/02/2017]
- Vanzolini's bald-faced saki hasn't been seen since scientists first discovered it in western Brazil in the 1930s. - Navigating along the Rio Juruá and its tributaries, the expedition will be the first comprehensive biological survey of the region. - Its international team of researchers hopes to uncover the saki, as well as other yet-undocumented species, while calling conservation attention to the river and surrounding rainforest.
Birds wanted: Recovering forests need avian assist [02/02/2017]
- Clearing swaths of rainforests can permanently drive away or kill off birds that are important partners in the regeneration of the forest, the study finds. - The study surveyed 330 sites in the Brazilian Amazon, turning up 472 species of birds. - The analyses demonstrate that recovering forests don’t have the diversity of birds needed to ensure their survival. - The authors say that their findings point to a need to preserve standing forests, even if they’re heavily degraded.
Brazil alters indigenous land demarcation process, sparking conflict [02/02/2017]
- In mid-January Brasília issued Ordinance 80, which moves decisions regarding indigenous land demarcation from Funai, the agency of Indian affairs, to the Justice Ministry. Large-scale landowners applauded the measure, while indigenous land rights activists are opposed to it. - Brazil’s population includes 900,000 indigenous people, of whom 517,000 live on officially recognized indigenous lands. About 13 percent of the country’s territory is set aside as indigenous lands — 98.5 percent of it in the Amazon. - The demarcation process has been fraught with controversy; demarcation of indigenous territory has been delayed for years by Funai, and in some places, by decades. Federal authorities argue that the shift of decision-making to the Justice Ministry will speed the resolution of land conflicts. - Ordinance 80 opponents say that the shift to the Ministry of Justice takes away Funai’s power to decide indigenous demarcation matters via consultations with technical experts and anthropologists, an authority that is enshrined in Brazil’s Constitution.
Introducing Mongabay news alerts [02/01/2017]
- Now Mongabay readers can keep up-to-date on the latest conservation and environmental science developments by subscribing to our free topic-based news alerts. - The alerts enable a user to sign up for daily or weekly notifications via email on topics they select. - Our current topic list includes dozens of topics and locations.
Battle for the Amazon: As Sinop grew, the Amazon rainforest faded away [02/01/2017]
- Sinop, a city of 125,000 people in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon in Mato Grosso state, is a modern success story. Prosperous and booming, the small urban center services a region dominated today by industrial agriculture. - Few remember how the city came to be. As recently as the 1970’s, the Sinop region was mostly rainforest and occupied by indigenous peoples. - At the time, Brazil’s military government highly favored large-scale land speculators. These men gained dubious title to millions of acres of rainforest, divided it into lots, and sold it off to poor Brazilian settlers. Many settlers found their transplantation into the Amazon very difficult. - Indigenous and traditional people who lacked land titles were driven out, often violently. The story of Sinop is a story of development, exploitation and conflict that has continued to play out across the Amazon region — especially in the Tapajós River basin today.
First-ever underwater photos of newly discovered Amazon Reef have surfaced [01/30/2017]
- Extending from French Guiana to Maranhão State in northern Brazil, the Amazon Reef is a 9500-square-kilometer (or nearly 3,700-square-mile) system of corals, sponges, and rhodoliths (a colorful marine algae that resembles coral) located where the Amazon River meets the Atlantic Ocean — a region currently threatened by oil exploration activities. - When the reef was discovered in April 2016, Fabiano Thompson of Brazil’s Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, who was part of the team of scientists who made the discovery, told Mongabay that “The oceanographic conditions (biogeochemistry and microbiology) of this system are unique, not found in other places of the planet.” - The mouth of the Amazon River basin also provides valuable habitat for a range of species, including the American manatee, the yellow-spotted Amazon river turtle, dolphins, and giant river otters, which are listed as Endangered on the IUCN’s Red List.
‘Revolutionary’ new biodiversity maps reveal big gaps in conservation [01/27/2017]
- The research uses the chemical signals of tree communities to reveal their different survival strategies and identify priority areas for protection. - Currently, the Carnegie Airborne Observatory’s airplane provides the only way to create these biodiversity maps. But the team is working to install the technology in an Earth-orbiting satellite. - Once launched, the $200 million satellite would provide worldwide biodiversity mapping updated every month.
Court dismisses Ecuadorian government bid to shut down environmental NGO [01/26/2017]
- The San Carlos-Panantza copper project in the Cordillera del Cóndor, south of the Ecuadorian Amazon, has given rise to numerous conflicts between the Chinese mining company EXSA and the Shuar indigenous community, which both claim rights to the land. - Ecuador’s leading environmental group, Acción Ecológica, has raised concerns about the government’s actions in dealing with the conflicts that have arisen from the San Carlos-Panantza mine. - The Ecuadorian Government attempted to close Acción Ecológica, generating criticism from the international community. - On January 11, a hearing was held against Acción Ecológica at the premises of the Ministry of Environment; a day later, the request for dissolution was dismissed.
Primates face impending extinction – what’s next? [01/24/2017]
- Nonhuman primates are on the decline almost everywhere. - The third most diverse Order of mammals, primates are under the highest level of threat of any larger group of mammals, and among the highest of any group of vertebrates - 63% of primates are threatened, meaning that they fall into one of the three IUCN categories of threat—Critically Endangered, Endangered, and Vulnerable. - This post is a commentary - the views expressed are those of the authors.
Guyana focuses deforestation prevention efforts on conservation and management [01/24/2017]
- Almost 90 percent of Guyana’s roughly 750,000 residents live in coastal areas outside of the forests, which contributes to the preservation of the country’s intact forest landscape. - Over the past two decades, deforestation rates in Guyana have ranged from between 0.02 percent to 0.079 percent – far less than many other tropical countries. - Gold mining appears to be the biggest threat to Guyana's forests, driving approximately 85 percent of the country's deforestation in 2014.
New species of poison frog discovered in Amazonian slopes of Andes in southeastern Peru [01/17/2017]
- The species was found in just nine locales in the buffer zones of Manu National Park and the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve, at the transition between montane forests and the lowlands, from 340 to 850 meters (1,115 to 2,788 feet) above sea level. - The region that the Amarakaeri poison frog calls home is considered one of the most biodiverse on the planet for herpetofauna, but it is also threatened by human activities, including agriculture, gold mining, logging, and an illegally constructed road meant for the transport of fuel for illegal miners and loggers in the area. - Based on IUCN Red List criteria, the research team that made the discovery propose that A. shihuemoy likely qualifies as Near Threatened.
‘Day of Terror’: Munduruku village attacked by Brazil’s Federal Police [01/11/2017]
- On November 7, 2012, Brazil’s Federal Police launched the Eldorado Operation with a raid aimed at destroying an illegal gold mining barge at Teles Pires, a Munduruku village. During the attack, an Indian was killed by police — “executed,” according to a Federal Public Ministry (MPF) investigation. - The gold mining barge that was destroyed that day — and others in indigenous territory along the Teles Pires River in the Tapajós Basin — had been allowed to operate illegally by the government for years previously. - The income earned from the gold mining barges had recently been used to fund indigenous opposition to the Belo Monte mega-dam, and resistance to more than 40 dams proposed for the Tapajós Basin. The extreme violence of the Eldorado Operation has shaken Munduruku trust in Brazil’s government. - According to the Indians, the police told them to lie about these events, or face persecution. Mongabay’s videotaped eyewitness interviews have resulted in the MPF opening a new investigation into the Eldorado Operation; MPF is seeking US $2.9 million in damages for the Munduruku.
New maps show how our consumption impacts wildlife thousands of miles away [01/06/2017]
- The study identified 6,803 threatened species, pinpointed the commodities that contribute to threats affecting those species, then traced the implicated commodities to final consumers in 187 countries. - The maps revealed some unexpected linkages. - These maps can help connect conservationists, consumers, companies and governments to better target conservation actions, researchers say.
The end of a People: Amazon dam destroys sacred Munduruku “Heaven” [01/05/2017]
- Four dams are being built on the Teles Pires River — a major tributary of the Tapajós River — to provide Brazil with hydropower, and to possibly be a first step toward constructing an industrial waterway to transport soy and other commodities from Mato Grosso state, in the interior, to the Atlantic coast. - Those dams are being built largely without consultation with impacted indigenous people, as required by the International Labor Organization’s Convention 169, an agreement which Brazil signed. - A sacred rapid, known as Sete Quedas, the Munduruku “Heaven”, was dynamited in 2013 to build the Teles Pires dam. A cache of sacred artefacts was also seized by the dam construction consortium and the Brazilian state. - The Indians see both events as callous attacks on their sacred sites, and say that these desecrations will result in the destruction of the Munduruku as a people — 13,000 Munduruku Indians live in 112 villages, mainly along the upper reaches of the Tapajós River and its tributaries in the heart of the Amazon.
What to expect for rainforests in 2017 [01/04/2017]
- Will deforestation continue to rise in Brazil? - Will Indonesia continue on a path toward forestry reform? - What effect will Donald Trump have on rainforest conservation?
Battle for the Amazon: Tapajós Basin threatened by massive development [01/03/2017]
- The Brazilian Amazon has systematically been deforested, dammed and developed by the federal government, river basin by river basin. The most recent to be so developed was the Xingu watershed. The next target, where road and dam construction has already begun, is the Tapajós Basin. - Plans by agribusiness and the government call for the paving of the BR-163 highway (almost complete); the building of a new railroad, nicknamed Ferrogrão or Grainrail (just given approval); and the building of the Teles Pires-Tapajós industrial waterway, requiring dozens of dams, plus canals. - As Mato Grosso soy plantations creep north deeper into the Tapajós region, agribusiness hopes to benefit from the rapid development of transportation infrastructure that will provide a cheap, fast northern road, rail and water route to the Atlantic for the export of commodities. - Indigenous groups, traditional river communities, environmentalists and social NGOs oppose the mega-infrastructure projects, which they say will bring deforestation, cultural disruption, and quicken local and global climate change. The conflict is over no less than the fate of the Amazon.
The year in tropical rainforests: 2016 [12/31/2016]
- After 2015's radical advancements in transparency around tropical forests between improved forest cover monitoring systems and corporate policies on commodity sourcing, progress slowed in 2016 with no major updates on tropical forest cover, resistance from several governments in releasing forest data, and some notable backtracking on zero deforestation commitments. - But even without the pan-tropical updates, we know that deforestation increased sharply in the Brazilian Amazon, which accounts for the world's largest area of tropical forest. - Low commodity prices may have bought some relief for forests.
Protest against oil pollution ends with accords on pipeline inspection, remediation, compensation [12/28/2016]
- Protesters from Marañón, Corrientes, Pastaza, Tigre and Chambira watersheds began river blockade September 1. - Three Peruvian Cabinet ministers led negotiating sessions in the village of Saramurillo, on the Marañón River, which ended the night of December 15. - Government officials say accords do not conflict with agreements reached in recent years with other indigenous federations in affected watersheds.
What do experts have to say about Latin American wildlife trafficking? [12/23/2016]
- In Peru, the 67,874 animals have been confiscated from traffickers over the last 15 years. A national strategy to combat wildlife trafficking exists on paper, but it has not yet been approved by the government. - In Bolivia, wildlife trafficking threatens jaguar populations (between 2014 and 2016, 337 fangs were seized). Awareness campaigns have been launched by the Ministry of Environment and Water, local governments, and NGOs; however, a comprehensive strategy does not exist. - In Colombia, 5,060 wildlife traffickers have been detained so far in 2016. To identify confiscated wildlife species, the Humboldt Institute has generated DNA barcodes, a valuable tool not only for environmental and judicial authorities but also for the academic community. - In Ecuador, about 8,000 animals were seized in 10 years. State and private institutions have joined forces to address this problem and apply a landscape-management approach to the conservation of threatened wildlife.
Temer government set to overthrow Brazil’s environmental agenda [12/21/2016]
- A catastrophic setback to environmental and indigenous protections was narrowly averted last week when quick action from two federal deputies prevented the agricultural lobby from forcing passage of bills to authorize construction of three mega-industrial waterways in the Amazon and elsewhere. - The Congress will likely pick up the bills again after the recess in February. They would authorize building many dozens of dams and industrial waterways in three river basins — PDC 119/2015 on the Tapajós, Teles Pires and Juruena rivers in the Amazon; PDC 120/2015 on the Tocantins and Araguaia rivers, also in the Amazon; and PDC 118/2015 on the Paraguai River. - In 2005, a similar bill was passed, fast tracking the Belo Monte dam and bypassing proper environmental evaluation. Today, Norte Energia, the consortium that built the Amazon mega-dam has been charged with environmental crimes, ethnocide and is under investigation for corruption. - Another bill working its way through the National Congress would completely gut the environmental licensing process for most infrastructure projects, while still another would take away hard won protections guaranteed to Brazil’s indigenous people in the 1988 Constitution.
Wildlife for sale: More than 5,000 traffickers arrested this year in Colombia [12/21/2016]
- Five departments in the Colombian Caribbean supplied nearly half of the animals trafficked: Magdalena, Sucre, Bolívar, Cesar and Córdoba. - Official figures from the National Police confirm that 5,060 traffickers were arrested between January and September 2016. Police have also confiscated 6,878 Colombian sliders, 1,505 iguanas, 1,144 red-footed tortoises and 2,837 alligators or caimans. - Researchers at the Humboldt Institute have generated DNA barcodes to identify nearly half of the commonly trafficked bird species.
Wildlife for sale: Jaguars are the new trafficking victims in Bolivia [12/20/2016]
- Until 2009, the biggest threat to jaguars was habitat loss; today, they are endangered by Chinese demand for their fangs. - 337 jaguar fangs were seized between 2014 and 2016. The authorities estimate that at least 85 felines were killed in just two areas: Madidi National Park and the Pilón Lajas Biosphere Reserve and Communal Lands, both located in the department of La Paz. - Measured by the number of individuals, the most trafficked species in Bolivia are plateau lizards, water turtles and various species of parrots. - The hyacinth macaw is the most highly valued bird in the Bolivian market; people pay up to $1,000 for one individual.
Wildlife for sale: Is it possible to win the fight in Ecuador? [12/16/2016]
- The most trafficked wild animals are macaws, parrots, parakeets, monkeys, turtles and boas. - These species can be trafficked alive. Body parts like skin, fangs, claws and even tissues are also traded, especially abroad. - According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the illegal wildlife trade generates revenues ranging between $7 billion and $23 billion per year.
Resource wars: Brazilian gold miners go up against indigenous people [12/15/2016]
- Violence in the Brazilian Amazon is on the increase. Last year, Brazil ranked as the most dangerous nation for environmentalists worldwide. Indigenous people are especially at risk, with 137 killings in Brazil reported in 2015. - One cause of this violence arises from the conflict between indigenous people and small-scale mineral prospectors, especially gold miners, who lay claim to the same lands. - Lack of government action to demarcate indigenous lands, along with an inadequate federal law enforcement presence in the Amazon, have exacerbated the problem. - Many worry that violence will escalate if the federal government doesn’t step in to help mediate the claims made by indigenous groups and prospectors. However, some indigenous people see the small-scale prospectors as potential allies in the face of large-scale mining operations moving into the region and as the Tapajós Basin is progressively industrialized.
‘Where do you draw the line?’: Q&A with director of documentary about Amazonian community fighting oil extraction [12/14/2016]
- The documentary was filmed in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, and in the community of Sani Isla, which lies deep in the Ecuadorian Amazon on the banks of the Napo River, a tributary of the Amazon River. - Sani Isla is located between the borders of Yasuní National Park and the Cuyabeno Natural Reserve, a region that biologists have called one of the most biodiverse places on Earth. - The community is home to hundreds of indigenous Kichwa villagers who have fought the Ecuadorian military and one of the largest oil companies in South America for years in a bid to protect their ancestral lands and traditional way of life.
Wildlife for sale: An illegal activity out of control in Peru? [12/14/2016]
- In the last decade, 383 species have been trafficked in Peru, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). - Peru has about 64 species of animals in danger of extinction. Some of them can be found smoked, grilled or being slaughtered in the market of Belen, the river port of Iquitos. - Animals are not only eaten but are also sold as exotic pets. - Between 2000 and 2015, more than 11,000 animal body parts including feathers, eggs, shells, bones and skins were seized and 156 metric tons of wild meat were confiscated.
Companies need to do more to avoid deforestation, study finds [12/10/2016]
- The Carbon Disclosure Project tabulated the responses of 187 companies about their approaches to avoiding deforestation. - More than $900 billion in revenues is at risk from the decreased productivity and damaged reputations that accompany deforestation, according to the CDP's report. - Board-level involvement in the issue gives companies a statistically better shot at finding ways to avoid deforestation and the problems it poses to their businesses.
Brazil pledges ‘largest restoration commitment ever made’ [12/08/2016]
- Proponents of the pledge believe the restoration will help the country meet climate change and conservation targets as well as Brazil’s economy through the development of more productive agricultural lands and new jobs. - Twelve million hectares of forest land is slated for restoration, along with 10 million hectares of farmland and pastures. - The announcement follows a recent uptick in deforestation in the country, which contains 60 percent of the Amazon Rainforest. Deforestation levels in 2015-2016 were up 75 percent over the three-decade low reached in 2012.
Q&A with the creators of the ‘Amazonian Travels of Richard Evans Schultes’ story map [12/02/2016]
- Schultes first ventured into the Amazon rainforest in 1941 and spent the following decades researching how indigenous peoples use plants for a variety of purposes: as medicine, in rituals, and in more practical applications. - Throughout his career, Schultes collected more than 24,000 plant specimens — primarily in the Colombian Amazon — including at least 300 species that were then new to science. - The Amazonian Travels of Richard Evans Schultes is a new “story map” created by an Arlington, Virginia-based NGO called the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) that lets anyone explore Schultes travels, discoveries, and photos through an interactive online resource.
Brazil: deforestation in the Amazon increased 29% over last year [11/30/2016]
- Deforestation in the world’s largest rainforest jumped 29 percent over last year. - Deforestation from 2015-2016 reached the highest level since 2008. - Relaxed environmental regulation, dry conditions, and Brazil's economy may be factors in the rising rate of forest loss.
NYT explores life and impact of Chico Mendes, “a Fighter for the Amazon” [11/28/2016]
- The NYTimes has released a video looking back on Mendes’ life and untimely death, which, as the newspaper notes, is widely credited with having marked “a turning point in Brazil’s environmental consciousness.” - In the 1980s, the Amazon was being burned to make way for pastureland and other economic development projects at an alarming rate — the NYTimes video features one scientist showing off the latest remote sensing technology and noting that it allows researchers to track as many as 7,000 fires per day. - Two Brazilian men — a local rancher and his 23-year-old son — were convicted of murdering Mendes and sentenced to 19 years in prison in 1990.
Peru rainforest lost to illegal gold mining eclipses 10 Manhattans [11/24/2016]
- Most mining-related deforestation is occurring in southern Peru's Madre de Dios Department, but is moving northward. In addition to the loss of forest, gold mining activities have shifted the course and nature of rivers and released toxic levels of mercury into the surrounding environment. - In total, 62,500 hectares of forest were lost to illegal gold mining between 2012 and 2016. Researchers found forest loss from illegal mining activities peaked between 2010 and 2012, and has since been declining. They attribute this to an uptick in government interventions. - However, their analysis highlights several recent incursions into protected areas and primary forest. - Conservationists and scientists warn of the impacts of continued illegal mining, and say it's not likely to end any time soon.
Scientists discover the real vocalists behind the ‘singing snake’: tree frogs [11/23/2016]
- Natives from some parts of the Amazon region have long believed that a deadly pit viper, the bushmaster, can sing. - But the true vocalists behind the call are two species of large tree frogs that live in hollow tree trunks in the Amazonian forests. - The first frog is the little known Tepuihyla tuberculosa, and the second frog is a newly discovered species that has been named Tepuihyla shushupe.
Peru’s Manu National Park declared world’s top biodiversity hotspot [11/21/2016]
- The scientific study used 60 camera traps which photographed terrestrial species in 16 locations around the world. - Patricia Álvarez, Red Team-Network’s lead researcher, notes that Manu National Park exhibits an excellent conservation state. - There are 14 different ecosystems in Manu National Park, a defining characteristic of its high biodiversity.
Amazon oil spill impacts indigenous villages on Teles Pires River [11/21/2016]
- An oil spill was detected on November 13th on the Teles Pires River, a tributary of the Tapajós River, in a remote part of the Brazilian Amazon. The spill occurred near the under-construction São Manoel hydropower dam. The spill’s cause or extent is as yet unknown. - Roughly 320 indigenous people were affected in villages near the dam site. Empresa de Energia São Manoel, the consortium building the dam, has sent more than 4,000 liters of fresh water to affected indigenous communities. IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental agency, is investigating. - Indigenous leader Taravi Kayabi described the spill’s impact on his community: “All this is a terrible sadness for our people. This region is sacred to us. Now, along with the land being flooded [due to the dam], they´ve dirtied our water. The fish have disappeared, too. People are getting sick with diarrhea. Everyone is worried about their health.” - The Teles Pires River already has three other dams, which have to date been subject to 24 lawsuits. Most of these cases focused on environmental impacts and violations of indigenous rights. The dams are part of the Tapajós Complex, a gigantic infrastructure project aimed at turning the Tapajós River and its tributaries into an industrial waterway for soy transport.
Large branches fall from the western Amazon rainforest canopy at a surprising rate [11/18/2016]
- Scientists determine how climate change affects forests by monitoring how carbon cycles through trees. - Airplane surveys show that when trees in the western Amazon lose their branches, they release almost as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as when trees die. - Branchfall is now an important factor in accounting for how carbon moves in and out of forests.
Gold mining invades new areas of Peruvian Amazon [11/11/2016]
- Gold mining – much of it illegal – is commonplace in several spots in southern Peru's Made de Dios Department. The practice has resulted in vast deforestation and river degradation, and released harmful levels of mercury into water sources. - A recent analysis of satellite data indicates gold mining is spreading northwards, with three operations spotted in the Amazonas and Huánuco regions. Two of these are mining illegally in protected areas. - So far, the researchers estimate around 44 hectares of rainforest have been displaced by these operations. They write that there's still time to stop them before they get larger.
New talks on oil pollution could end indigenous blockade of Amazonian river in Peru [11/09/2016]
- In a November 3 letter, Fernando Zavala, who heads the Cabinet, made lifting the river blockade a condition for the meeting. Photos posted by protesters on social media show river boats and barges moored along the riverbank, unable to go upriver or down. - Leaders of the communities involved in the protest were meeting November 6 and 7 to discuss the proposal. While the back and forth between indigenous communities and government leaders was under way, four more oil spills occurred in communities upstream from Saramurillo, bringing to 10 the total number since January. - After four spills in less than six weeks along a 50-kilometer stretch of pipeline, which the company blamed on vandals, Petroperú announced that it was declaring an emergency, planning to obtain drones to monitor the pipeline, and asking the government to assign "security forces" to patrol it.
‘A man schooled in the Amazon:’ Q&A with director of new feature film about the fight to save the rainforest [11/09/2016]
- Carter is the founder of Aliança da Terra (Land Alliance), a Brazilian non-profit organization that works directly with ranchers in the Amazon to reduce the environmental and social impact of their operations. - Wortman, who previously won an Emmy for his documentary Nefertiti Resurrected, intends to cast “real life characters,” such as John Carter himself, alongside professional actors in order to tell the true story of “Those fighting to save [the Amazon] and those fighting to take it.” - As much as it’s a Western and a love story, Wortman says the film is “a snapshot of what is going on in Brazil right now, which is the first wave that comes through. That’s why it’s called Frontier."
Quantifying the ecological impacts of the 20th century trade in Amazonian furs [10/25/2016]
- A study published this month in the journal Science Advances comprises the first systematic accounting of the history, scale, and repercussions of the Amazonian hide trade throughout the 20th century. - An international team of researchers used previously unanalyzed historical documents and unpublished shipping records cataloguing the quantity and scale of the wildlife trade to determine trends in the vulnerability of different wild animal species. - They found widespread collapse of giant river otter, black caiman and manatee populations in the aftermath of commercial hunting, while terrestrial species such as collared peccaries, deer, and even jaguars were found to be much more resilient to hunting pressure even during peak international hide exports.
Another pipeline spill reported in Peruvian Amazon as indigenous protests enter eighth week [10/25/2016]
- Hundreds of people gathered since September 1 in Saramurillo, an indigenous community on the bank of the Marañón River in Peru's northeastern Loreto region, have blocked transportation on the river to press for their demands. - The protesters are calling for a state of emergency to be declared in two districts of the lower Marañón Valley where a series of oil spills has affected five indigenous communities. - Underlying the protest, however, is a call for a national debate on whether oil drilling should continue in the Peruvian Amazon.
Failed economic development plans drive deforestation in Andean Amazon [10/20/2016]
- Cultivation of coca, the plant from which the drug cocaine is extracted, has long been considered a “deforestation multiplier” in the Andean Amazon rainforests of Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru. - But a study published in the journal BioScience last month by a team of researchers with New York’s Stony Brook University found that most deforestation in Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru isn't caused by coca cultivation. - The researchers hope that their study will help us learn from the past in order to avoid repeating the same mistakes.
Lakes in community hands spur gains for people and fish [10/20/2016]
- In an 8-year study covering a 500-kilometer stretch of a tributary to the Amazon, a team of scientists from Brazil and England found that the often-overfished arapaima came back in community-managed lakes. - Protected lakes had populations more than 30 times those where commercial fishing was allowed. - The team estimates that each protected lake is worth about $10,000 per community in revenue from arapaima stocks annually.
The Guiana Shield, the ‘greenhouse of the world’ [10/19/2016]
- Covering 270 million hectares, the Guiana Shield encompasses Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Venezuela and small parts of Colombia and northern Brazil - Some experts are warning against 'commoditizing nature' in the case of the Shield - Indigenous populations could play a key role in the Shield's future health
Study finds Brazil isn’t counting all deforestation in official estimates [10/19/2016]
- A new study published in the journal Conservation Letters finds that, between 2008 and 2012, close to 9,000 square kilometers (about 3,475 square miles) of the Brazilian Amazon were cleared without being detected by the government’s official monitoring system. - Brazil’s Monitoring Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon by Satellite Project (known as PRODES) has played a key role in Brazil’s recent efforts to rein in deforestation. - But when researchers with Brown University compared data from PRODES with two independent satellite measures of forest loss — from the Global Forest Change project and the Fire Information for Resource Management Systems — they found an area of deforestation roughly the size of Puerto Rico was not included in the PRODES monitoring.
Tree biodiversity critical to forest productivity, study finds [10/14/2016]
- A team of more than 80 researchers collected data in 44 countries covering nearly all major forest ecosystems. - In natural forests, they were able to show accelerating declines in productivity as the forest loses more tree species. - Based on their calculations, the value of tree species biodiversity is $166-$490 billion.
A cost-benefit analysis of securing indigenous land rights in the Amazon [10/11/2016]
- According to the report, the investments required to secure land rights for indigenous communities would be modest, but could generate billions of dollars in returns economically, environmentally, and socially — a boon not just for local communities but the global climate, as well. - According to the report, between 2000 and 2012 the annual deforestation rates in tenure-secure indigenous forests were significantly lower than outside those areas. - “The estimated economic benefits for a 20-year period are: $54–119 billion for Bolivia; $523–1,165 billion for Brazil; and $123–277 billion for Colombia,” the report states.
Brazil pledges to cut carbon, but government policies say otherwise [10/06/2016]
- Brazil's Paris Agreement target calls for a carbon emissions reduction of 37 percent by 2025, and 43 percent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. These reductions are dependent on the nation’s ability to meet its forestry goals. Brazil’s vast forests are vital for carbon storage and for curbing the worst impacts of climate change. - However, Brazil’s government is moving to relax environmental licensing regulations in order to fast track large-scale infrastructure projects, including industrial waterways, dams, highways and railways; and is pursuing a major agribusiness expansion — all of which could work to increase carbon emissions. - In addition, new studies show that Brazil will likely fall well short of the billions in funding needed to meet the country’s ambitious forestry goals which were declared in 2015, just before the Paris Climate Summit. - The continued curbing of Amazon deforestation is key to Brazil’s achievement of its Paris carbon cut targets, but recent news from the Amazon is bad: after years of decreased deforestation rates, forest loss in the Amazon is again on the upswing.
Brazil revises Amazon deforestation 6% upward [10/04/2016]
- The Brazilian government has revised upward its estimate for the extent of Amazon rainforest destroyed last year. - Figures released last week by Brazil's National Space Research Agency (INPE) put Amazon deforestation at 6,207 square kilometers for the year ended July 31, 2015. - The upward revision in the prior year's deforestation rate is not unusual.
New film documents real-life Avatar story [10/04/2016]
- Yasuni National Park is the home to the majority of the world’s Waorani people as well as other indigenous tribes and even a couple small tribes of uncontacted groups. - It is also home to vast underground reservoirs of crude oil, which Ecuador has exploited for decades, leading to widespread pollution and vast roads that open up the forest to colonizers, illegal loggers and pillagers. - The film deals with the complex history and politics of the region, while also highlighting how daily life has changed – and stayed the same – for the Waorani across Yasuni.
U.S. imports of Amazon crude oil driving expansion of oil operations [09/30/2016]
- Oakland, California-based non-profit Amazon Watch released the report this week to highlight the impacts of oil operations on Amazonian biodiversity and indigenous peoples, as well as on refinery communities in the U.S. and the global climate. - U.S. crude imports are in overall decline, the report notes. But imports from the Amazon are on the rise, so much so that the U.S. is now importing more crude oil from the Amazon than from any single foreign country. - “Existing and proposed oil and gas blocks in the Amazon cover 283,172 square miles, an area larger than the state of Texas,” per the report.
Amazonian bat identification takes flight with new interactive guide [09/22/2016]
- Often small and flying at night, the more than 160 bat species found in the Amazon can be challenging to identify in the field by researchers and amateur enthusiasts. - To make identification easier, a free, open-access, interactive, downloadable, digital Field Guide to Amazonian Bats — designed for use with tablets or smartphones — has just been published by the National Institute of Amazonian Research. - The dynamic digital format allows the guide to be continuously updated as new research data becomes available, making the format particularly suited to less explored regions of the world where the rate of new species discovery is high. - The Amazon bat field guide is to be followed by digital bat guides for Madagascar and East Africa.
Scientists say Amazon biodiversity could help fuel Fourth Industrial Revolution [09/20/2016]
- A team of researchers led by climatologist Carlos Nobre of Brazil’s National Center for Monitoring and Early Warning of Natural Disasters published an article today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) arguing for “a new development paradigm” in the Amazon. - Nobre and his co-authors write that the dominant economic paradigm of today, which entails intensive use of the Amazon’s natural resources, has led to “significant basin-wide environmental alterations” over the past half-century. - Nobre is leading a multidisciplinary group comprised of science and technology experts who aim to set up public-private partnerships among key actors in Brazil and other Amazonian countries in order to bring together research and development centers, universities, and businesses to make economic use of the Amazon’s diversity of living plants, animals, and insects.
Interpol issues notice about illegal timber trading operation in Brazil [09/15/2016]
- The notice, issued on August 30, stems from an investigation by the Brazilian Federal Police that uncovered a technique employed by illegal timber traders in the country. - The method in question involves obtaining fraudulent forest management plans that declare a higher density of a high-value timber species within a timber concession than actually exists on the ground, allowing criminals to harvest timber from unauthorized areas and report it as if it was legal — in other words, to launder their illegal timber. - The Brazilian environmental agency IBAMA first notified the country’s federal police of suspected illegal logging activities carried out by a sustainable forest management project called JOVINO VILHENA - Fazenda Esmeralda, based in Santarém, Para State, Brazil, on February 6 of last year.
Global brands’ beef is putting South America’s tropical forests at risk: report [09/13/2016]
- A scorecard released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) graded 13 global fast food, retail, and food manufacturing companies based on a variety of criteria, including whether or not they have adopted deforestation-free purchasing commitments and and have established sufficient systems to monitor their supply chains for beef linked to deforestation. - Those consumer companies should be working with the meatpackers they buy from to ensure the ranches supplying their cattle are not associated with deforestation, but all of the companies graded by UCS could be doing more, the group says. - Even the top performers in UCS’s scorecard — Mars (37 out of 100 points), McDonald’s (48 out of 100), and Walmart (52 out of 100) — have a lot of room for improvement.
Operation license for Amazon’s Belo Monte mega-dam suspended [09/13/2016]
- A Brazilian judge has suspended the operating license of the controversial Belo Monte dam in the Amazon because the Norte Energia consortium, the dam’s builder and operator, failed to meet a key compensation commitment required by the federal government. - In exchange for the right to build and run the dam, Norte Energia originally agreed to install drinking water and sewage systems for the city of Altamira, with completion due in July 2014. The court allowed an extension to September 1, 2016, but the system is still not complete. - Norte Energia had argued that its commitment only extended to constructing water and sewer lines, not to connecting those lines to residences — a contention which the court has rejected. - The city currently dumps its sewage directly into the Xingu River, and waste is now building up behind the new dam. If the sanitation system isn’t quickly installed, officials worry that Altamira runs the risk of a collapse in sanitation due to the contamination of the city’s groundwater from domestic sewage.
Belo Monte dam compensation inadequate, say traditional fisherfolk [09/09/2016]
- The Norte Energia Consortium — the group of companies that built the Belo Monte dam — signed an agreement with the Brazilian government in 2011 to pay US $1 billion to Altamira residents, including indigenous people, in compensation for the impacts of the dam. But traditional fisherfolk complain they have not been adequately compensated. - The traditional fisherfolk say that the Amazon dam negatively impacted water quality and fish spawning in the Xingu River, and drastically reduced the area in which they could fish. Belo Monte also deprived them of the markets where they sold their fish — communities razed by the dam. - Belo Monte’s construction also forced them to move from rural villages to a gritty urban resettlement community in the city of Altamira with few amenities. The fisherfolk also no longer live on the river, and so must commute to the waterway to pursue their fishing livelihood. - Fisherfolk protests resulted in the creation of a new condition for Belo Monte’s operating license at the end of 2015. Norte Energia has been obliged to start a technical assistance project focused on improving fishing conditions on the Xingu River. IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental agency, is also studying the loss of income, along with the loss of identity and traditional practices to draft a compensation plan.
The alarming number of fires in the Brazilian Amazon [09/08/2016]
- The sharp decrease in the annual rates of forest loss in the Brazilian Amazon is celebrated worldwide. The trend started in 2005 after a peak in deforestation the year before. - However, the figures are not so bright when it comes to forest fires, and few people are talking about that. - The number of fires in the Brazilian Amazon is alarming, and that was especially true in 2015, when a sharp increase in forest fires occurred.
Negotiations and protests ongoing in wake of oil spills in Peruvian Amazon [09/05/2016]
- While the meeting was under way in Nueva Alianza, at the confluence of the Urituyacu and Marañón rivers in Peru's northeastern Loreto region, a protest over oil operations was brewing downstream in San José de Saramuro, where the troubled northern Peruvian oil pipeline begins. - The recent events underscore growing discontent among indigenous communities living in a region where decades of poorly regulated oil production have left hundreds of contaminated sites, and where residents who depend on rivers for drinking water and fish for protein worry about long-term health effects. - The Peruvian government regulatory agency for energy and mining, Osinergmin, had registered 190 spills from Petroperú’s pipeline and privately operated pipelines in the country since 1997.
Rainforest destruction rises in the Brazilian Amazon [09/03/2016]
- Newly released data suggest that rainforest destruction in the Brazilian Amazon has reached the highest level since 2009. - In the past week, Brazil's National Space Research Institute (INPE) and Imazon, a Brazilian NGO, have independently released data from their near-real-time deforestation monitoring programs. - The revelations raise concern that Brazil’s historic progress in reducing deforestation in the Amazon rainforest may be waning.
Protected areas are effective conservation tools, but even they can’t keep out rising temperatures [08/30/2016]
- While there is plenty of good news about the effectiveness of protected areas in combating deforestation and related impacts, they “are not a panacea” and “the current reserve system alone may be insufficient to conserve biodiversity in the face of rapidly rising temperatures,” the authors of a study published this month in the journal Diversity and Distributions write. - The study finds that somewhere between 19 and 67 percent of Amazon protected areas will not have any temperature analogs by the 2050s, depending on the actual rate of warming and the amount of connectivity between protected areas. - Since many tropical plant and animal species are not likely to be able to tolerate rising temperatures, they will need to shift their ranges and track the movement of “suitable” climates across the Amazon.
New ‘sleeping beauty’ frog discovered in fragmented Peruvian forest [08/25/2016]
- The new species belongs to the Pristimantis genus and is named after the central Amazon mountain range in which it was found. - Scientists found two populations of the frog: one in Tingo Maria National Park and another outside the park in an area heaviy deforested for agriculture. - The surrounding region has become a hotbed of cattle ranching in recent years, yet has hasn't attracted conservation attention given to other areas of Peru.
Raging Amazon forest fires threaten uncontacted indigenous tribe [08/23/2016]
- Small groups of Guajajara Indians, the Awá’s neighbors in the Amazon, reportedly battled the blaze for days without the assistance of government agents until Brazil’s Environment Ministry launched a fire-fighting operation two weeks ago. - Some 50 percent of the forest cover in the territory was destroyed by forest fires started by loggers in late 2015, and the Environment Ministry has warned that the situation is “even worse this year.” - Despite illegal loggers having destroyed more than 30 percent of the forest in Awá territory, the land contains some of the eastern Amazon’s last remaining patches of rainforest.
Five tools are better than one: determining deforestation drivers from above [08/19/2016]
- In part II of our interview with Matt Finer of the MAAP project at Amazon Conservation Association, he explains some of the rapid advances in remote sensing data becoming increasingly available to research and conservation practitioners. - These advances have allowed the MAAP team to not only detect and monitor deforestation hotspots, but also determine the drivers of forest loss. - Adapting monitoring procedures and taking advantage of opportunities to use and integrate new tools has allowed the project to remain well-informed of the complex array of drivers causing forest loss in the western Amazon.
Why is Brazil regressing in its fight against deforestation? [08/12/2016]
- Last July, the Brazilian Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, Blairo Maggi presented in Washington D.C. investment opportunities to expand Brazilian agribusiness. - Before deciding, investors are required to assess the risks of the investments. Given that the investments involve the Brazilian Amazon, investors certainly would focus special attention to environmental and social risks. - What analysts would find in the Amazon? - This post is a commentary — the views expressed are those of the author.
Illegal gold mining eats up more protected Peruvian rainforest [08/12/2016]
- Illegal gold mining has been ramping up in southern Peru for years, spurred by high gold prices and difficult enforcement. - Researchers discovered gold mining had entered Tambopata National Reserve late last year; by July, it had led to the deforestation of more than 350 hectares. - The deforestation has reached Tambopata's untouched tracts of primary forest. - Efforts by the government to stamp out the illegal mining have met with little success.
Promised US$1 billion in Belo Monte dam compensation largely unpaid? [08/12/2016]
- In a 2011 binding agreement with Brazil’s federal government, the Norte Energia Consortium agreed to pay US$1 billion to Altamira residents, including 9 indigenous groups, in compensation for the Belo Monte dam. Little has been paid to date, says the Instituto Socioambiental (ISA), an NGO watchdog group, while the consortium responds that it is meeting its obligations. - Belo Monte significantly impacted Altamira’s environment and people, requiring the diversion of 20 kilometers of the Xingu River, reducing the stream’s flow by 80 percent over a 100 kilometer stretch, and dislocating indigenous people and other area residents; 8,000 families were displaced by the dam. - According to critics, only 15 percent of required compensation to protect indigenous lands has been spent, while Norte Energia has failed to sufficiently secure entry points to indigenous lands, per their agreement, a failure that facilitated the entrance of illegal loggers who cut significant amounts of timber on Indian lands. - Promised Altamira garbage collection infrastructure has yet to be put in place. While an underground sewage system and water distribution system have both been completed by the consortium, no houses have been connected to the system. Norte Energia argues that it is the city’s responsibility to make the connections.