Jair Bolsonaro: looming threat to the Amazon and global climate? [10/18/2018]
- Jair Bolsonaro is poised to win the Brazilian presidential runoff on 28 October – currently polling with 58 percent of the vote. He holds strong policy positions in opposition to the environment, indigenous rights and traditional land claims. - Bolsonaro has pledged to open the Amazon to economic exploitation, greatly expand energy production, abolish Brazil’s environmental ministry, relax environmental licensing and regulation, open indigenous reserves to mining, and back out of the Paris climate accord. - Moreover, Bolsonaro’s once tiny PSL Party elected 52 new federal deputies and four senators in the 7 October election. It is very likely that these ultra-right PSL representatives will caucus with the right-wing bancada ruralista agribusiness and mining bloc in Congress, giving them a majority. - As a result, analysts say that if Bolsonaro is elected president, he will probably have the full support of Congress in fulfilling his agenda, with only the Supreme Court likely standing in the way of significant Amazon deforestation and other environmental harm.
Fate of the Amazon is on the ballot in Brazil’s presidential election (commentary) [10/17/2018]
- In the late 20th and early 21st century, Brazil set policies that made it a world leader in reducing deforestation, helping safeguard the Amazon. - However, the gains made over those years are now at risk due to the proposed environmental policies of far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro, who analysts say is highly likely to become Brazil’s president in a runoff election on 28 October. - Bolsonaro has pledged to shut down Brazil’s environmental ministry, relax environmental law enforcement and licensing, open indigenous reserves to mining, ban international environmental NGOs such as Greenpeace and WWF from the country, and back out of the Paris climate accord. - A study by this commentary’s authors estimates that Brazilian deforestation and carbon emissions under Bolsonaro’s policies would cause unprecedented Amazon forest loss, and contribute to destabilizing the global climate. This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.
For an Amazon tribe, phone cameras shine a light on their wildlife [10/15/2018]
- Armed with smartphone cameras, teams of indigenous Matsés people have partnered with North American herpetologists to inventory the reptiles and amphibians of their territory along the remote divide between Peru and Brazil. - The easy-to-use cameras are robust, small enough to carry while climbing a tree or crossing a stream, store thousands of images, and can be recharged with low-cost solar panels. - The teams have built a database of more than 2,000 photos, including several new species, and they have expanded the known distributions of other species. - The long-term project complements rapid ecological assessments of a poorly studied region and empowers Matsés elders to pass on their knowledge of the region’s forests to both their families and the outside world.
Landless movement leader assassinated in Brazilian Amazon [10/15/2018]
- Landless movement leader Aluisio Sampaio, known as Alenquer, was murdered last Thursday in his home in Castelo de Sonhos in Pará state – an area that has become increasingly violent as land grabbers take over, clear forest, and sell the land for high profits to cattle ranchers. - When Mongabay interviewed Alenquer late in 2016, he was helping defend the land rights of a peasant settlement along the BR-163 highway. At the time, he had been receiving death threats, and wore a bullet-proof vest provided to him by the government. The peasant settlement was later visited by armed gunman. - Following that confrontation, Alenquer published a Youtube video accusing two prominent local citizens of threatening to kill him. Authorities have so far arrested two suspects in relation to Alenquer’s murder, while another man was killed in a police shootout on Saturday. The police investigation is on going. - Alenquer’s murder comes as Brazil sees an uptick in violence that some analysts tie to the strong showing on 7 October of Brazilian far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro, projected to win a 28 October runoff. Bolsonaro, a law-and-order candidate, has made inflammatory statements regarding violence.
Amazonia and the setbacks of Brazil’s political moment (commentary) [10/12/2018]
- In the October 7 Brazilian election, far right candidate Jair Bolsonaro won 46 percent of the vote, not enough to earn the presidency, but triggering a runoff election October 28 with Fernando Haddad who came in second with 29 percent. Analysts say that, barring surprises, Bolsonaro could be Brazil’s next leader. - Bolsonaro was elected based on several issues, including reaction to government corruption and his stance on crime. However, says analyst Philip Fearnside, Jair’s most lasting impacts will likely be on the environment, especially the Amazon, indigenous and traditional peoples, and destabilization of the global climate. - The candidate has promised to abolish Brazil’s environmental ministry, expel NGOs such as Greenpeace and WWF from the country, slash science and technology budgets, “sell” indigenous lands, and “relax” licensing for major infrastructure projects such as dams, industrial waterways, roads and railways. - But his most impactful act could be a pledge to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, ending Brazil’s global commitment to reduce deforestation, triggering massive Amazon forest loss, and possibly runaway climate change. This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Fire fundamentally alters carbon dynamics in the Amazon [10/12/2018]
- With higher temperatures and increasingly severe droughts resulting from climate change, fires are becoming a more frequent phenomenon in the Amazon. - New research finds that fires fundamentally change the structure of the forest, leading it to stockpile less carbon even decades after a burn. - The research also shows that the burning of dead organic matter in the understory can release far more carbon into the atmosphere than previously thought.
Brazil scraps 11 new Amazon protected areas covering 2,316 square miles [10/08/2018]
- In recent months, the state deputies of the Legislative Assembly of Rondonia had moved to create 11 new protected areas in the Brazilian Amazon, covering about 600,000 hectares (2,316 square miles) of forest. - However, the bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby, bitterly opposed to the action, launched a counter legislative measure, attaching the scrapping of the protected areas to an emergency state funding bill. On 25 September, that funding bill passed, effectively killing the conserved areas. - Thirty years ago, only 2 percent of Rondonia’s forested land had been felled. That has increased to 28.5 percent today, the highest level in any Amazonian state due to a massive influx of land-hungry families, relocation encouraged by the government, along with the uncontrolled expansion of logging and land clearing for ranching. - Conservationists fear that continued illegal incursions into conserved areas could result in escalating violence as land grabbers, illicit loggers and cattlemen conflict with indigenous groups and Brazilian law enforcement over Amazon land claims.
8,100-square-mile indigenous reserve recognized in Brazilian Amazon [10/05/2018]
- There are 462 government-declared Indigenous Lands (TIs) in Brazil, but of these only 8 percent have been demarcated, a boundary-marking process vital to preventing and to prosecuting illegal incursions by land grabbers, loggers, miners and other outsiders. - On 19 September the Kaxuyana-Tunayana TI on the border of Pará and Amazonas state received Ministry of Justice approval for demarcation of its 2.1 million hectares (8,108 square miles). However, drastic budget cuts at FUNAI, Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency, leaves the date at which the demarcation process will begin unknown. - At least 18 different indigenous groups live within the remote Kaxuyana-Tunayana TI, including four isolated uncontacted groups. In the 1960s, the Brazilian government removed many indigenous people forcibly from the region, transporting them in Air Force planes. Some returned, walking all the way back to their home territory. - Indigenous advocates, and indigenous people living in the Kaxuyana-Tunayana TI, worry that the growing political strength of the bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby in Congress will result in the abolishment of FUNAI and prevent the demarcation process from ever happening. But they remain hopeful.
Pasture expansion driving deforestation in Brazilian protected area [10/04/2018]
- Climate scientists were wary when the Brazilian government announced in August that its 2020 goals for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions had already been met. Lending credence to those concerns, it appears even protected areas in the country aren’t currently safe from forest destruction. - Brazil’s Triunfo do Xingu Area of Environmental Protection has become a deforestation hotspot over the past few months, with more than 14,000 hectares of the protected area impacted by the expansion of pasture since May. - Though deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon peaked around 2004, the Triunfo do Xingu protected area has lost more than 350,000 hectares (nearly 865,000 acres) of tree cover since its founding in 2006.
Scientists urge greater protection of Brazil’s secondary forests [10/04/2018]
- New research indicates that even after 40 years of recovery, fast-growing tropical forests in Brazil house far fewer species and sequester less carbon than their primary counterparts. - The study finds the most-recovered secondary forests surveyed had around 80 percent the biodiversity and carbon of nearby primary forests. - To allow greater recovery of secondary forests and the wildlife and carbon they house, the researchers say policies should be put in place to better protect these forests and give them the time they need to mature properly. - However, they caution that enacting policy is only one part of the solution, and urge more funding and attention be given to monitoring and enforcement of forest protection regulations.
Identifying Zika-transmitting mosquito fast, cheaply, and on the go [10/03/2018]
- A team at University of Texas Austin has developed a new method for identifying whether a mosquito is of the Aedes aegypti species, which is responsible for transmitting Zika, dengue and other deadly diseases. - The method can easily be conducted while out in the field and does not need much more than a cell phone, a 3D-printed box and a few chemical solutions. - This toolkit can also determine whether a mosquito has been exposed to the Wolbachia bacteria, which infects mosquitoes and prevents them from transmitting dangerous pathogens. - Although portable tools and “biopesticides” such as Wolbachia are currently effective, adaptive dengue and Zika viruses will likely evolve past these tactics just as they have for countless other methods. Constant attention and funding is needed to stay ahead of such pathogens in this ever-lasting battle.
Cerrado towns terrorized to provide toilet paper for the world, say critics [10/02/2018]
- A Mongabay investigation has found that global consumers who buy brand name toilet paper and tissues may unwittingly be fuelling land conflicts, environmental crimes and the loss of native vegetation in Brazil. - Residents of Forquilha, a traditional community in Maranhão state, allege that an agricultural entrepreneur used armed gunmen to try and force them out in 2014. The businessman took land claimed by the community and converted it to eucalyptus plantations, intending to sell the trees to Suzano, Brazil’s biggest pulp provider. - Kimberly-Clark confirmed to Mongabay that it sources a significant amount of eucalyptus in Brazil from Suzano and Fibria, with pulp used to make “tissue and towel products like Scott, Cottonelle, Kleenex and Andrex.” Critics dispute industry claims that most pulp used is properly certified to prevent deforestation and protect local communities. - This year, Suzano moved to buy competitor Fibria. If the deal goes through, Suzano will become the world’s biggest pulp provider. Suzano runs large-scale eucalyptus plantations, and buys trees from suppliers’ plantations, and according to NGOs, has displaced traditional populations, driven land conflicts and cleared large swathes of forest.
Purus-Madeira: journey to the Amazon’s newest deforestation frontier [10/01/2018]
- In August, Mongabay contributor Gustavo Faleiros and filmmaker Marcio Isensee e Sá visited the unique biodiverse Amazon forests located on the divide between the Purus and Madeira river basins, where a decades-delayed plan to improve the BR-319 highway is gaining momentum, bringing environmental transformation. - The introductory video and story presented here, along with a series of feature articles to follow in coming weeks, shows how federal road improvements are bringing outsiders, entrepreneurs and outlaws to the region — all eager to profit by reducing the forest via logging operations, cattle production and other businesses. - In this first dispatch, we profile Realidade, a small village in the Brazilian Amazon where loggers, businessmen and land grabbers are still in the early stages of occupation. - Although deforestation here isn’t yet as fast or serious, as in Pará, Mato Grosso and other states, business growth rates are among Brazil’s highest. With scientists warning that further Amazon deforestation could worsen climate change, bringing extreme drought and a shift from rainforest to savanna in the region, analysts urge that the vast Purus-Madeira moist forest ecoregion be conserved.
Ahead of election, deforestation continues to climb in the Brazilian Amazon [09/30/2018]
- Newly released analysis of satellite data by Imazon, a Brazilian NGO, shows that deforestation in the Amazon is continuing to climb. - Imazon’s deforestation alert system detected 545 square kilometers of forest clearing in August, a tripling of the area deforested the same month a year ago - The Brazilian government’s own deforestation detection system, run by the national space research institute INPE, also shows a recent rise in deforestation, albeit a substantially less dramatic increase relative to Imazon. - The apparent rise in deforestation this year in Brazil is not unexpected due to current political and economic trends.
Massive loss of mammal species in Atlantic Forest since the 1500s [09/28/2018]
- A new study examined the loss of mammal species in the Atlantic Forest, which is currently only about 13 percent of its historical size. - Forest clearing for agriculture, along with hunting, has cut the number of species living at specific sites throughout the forest by an average of more than 70 percent. - The researchers call for increased restoration efforts in the Atlantic Forest to provide habitat and allow the recovery of these species.
‘Predatory agribusiness’ likely to gain more power in Brazil election: report [09/28/2018]
- 248 candidates, about two-thirds of federal deputies seeking re-election to the Brazilian congress this October either introduced, or voted for bills harmful to the environment, indigenous peoples, and rural workers, according to a survey conducted by Repórter Brasil. - The survey compiled the voting records of Brazilian deputies up for re-election, a record then assessed for negative or positive impacts by eight socio-environmental organizations. The results are presented online as the Ruralometer. - Out of the 248 candidates running for re-election, 138 (or 55 percent) are part of the Parliamentary Agricultural and Livestock Front – the bancada ruralista agribusiness caucus, well known for its strongly negative socio-environmental agenda. - Analysts say that the current Congress is the most conservative since the end of Brazil’s military dictatorship in 1985, but they expect it will move further right after the 7 October election. Experts blame the conservative makeup of Congress on the wealth and influence of ruralists and agribusiness, and on campaign finance laws.
New species of neon-colored fish discovered off Brazil [09/26/2018]
- While diving in the waters surrounding Saint Paul’s Rocks, an archipelago off Brazil, in June last year, researchers discovered a stunning pink-and-white neon-colored fish that’s new to science. - The researchers were so taken by the colorful fish that they did not notice a large six-gill shark swimming very close to them. For its “enchanting” beauty, they named the fish Tosanoides aphrodite, or the Aphrodite anthias, after the Greek goddess of love and beauty. - Aphrodite anthias is the only known species of the genus Tosanoides found in the Atlantic Ocean. All the other known species of Tosanoides live in the Pacific Ocean.
Connect the dots: Cerrado soy drives inequality to provide EU with chicken [09/19/2018]
- For nearly a century, traditional communities in the Brazilian Cerrado raised small livestock herds and planted sustainably on lands to which they lacked deeds. The savanna was largely ignored by industrial agribusiness, which lacked the technology to farm and water the semi-arid land. - That changed about 30 years ago, when agricultural advances made large-scale soy production possible there. Wealthy entrepreneurs flocked to the Cerrado and began laying claim to the lands worked by traditional communities. Deprived of their livelihoods, and sometimes forced from their homes, many people moved to cities newly built to service the soy boom. - Campos Lindos was one of those new cities. While many large-scale soy growers say they’ve brought prosperity to the Cerrado, Campos Lindos has poverty levels far higher than the Brazilian average, lacks many basic social services such as clean water and basic healthcare, and suffers high infant and maternal mortality rates. - Some blame these worsening social problems on the soy growers, whose crops analysts have traced to transnational commodities companies like Cargill and Bunge, and on to soy-fed chicken in the U.K., retailers like McDonalds, Tesco and Morrisons, and ultimately to consumers in the developed world.
Slave labor found at Starbucks-certified Brazil coffee plantation [09/18/2018]
- Brazil Labor Ministry investigators have raided the Córrego das Almas farm in Piumhi, in rural Minas Gerais state, and rescued 18 workers who were laboring on coffee plantations in conditions analogous to slavery. - The Córrego das Almas farm holds the C.A.F.E. Practices certification, owned by Starbucks in partnership with SCS Global Services. After hearing of the raid, the two companies responsible for issuing the seal said they would review the farm’s quality certificate. Starbucks says it hasn’t bought coffee from the farm in recent years. - The farm also holds the UTZ seal, a Netherlands-based sustainable farming certificate prized by the coffee industry. That seal of approval was suspended after the certifier was questioned by Repórter Brasil regarding the Ministry of Justice investigation. - Another inspection in Minas Gerais, in the town of Muzambinho, rescued 15 workers in conditions analogous to slavery from a farm owned by Maria Júlia Pereira, the sister-in-law of a state deputy, Emidinho Madeira.
Brazilian elections and the environment: where top candidates stand [09/17/2018]
- The Brazilian elections are just weeks away, scheduled for 7 October. The five leading candidates are Jair Bolsonaro, Marina Silva, Ciro Gomes, Geraldo Alckmin, and Fernando Haddad, though none appears to have sufficient voter backing to win on election-day. A runoff with the top two will occur on 28 October. - This story offers an overview of the environmental stance of the top five. Jair Bolsonaro, leader in the polls, would pull Brazil out of the Paris Climate Agreement, abolish the Ministry of the Environment, and open the Amazon and indigenous lands for economic exploitation. - Marina Silva, a former environmental minister, established policies that reduced Amazon deforestation. She would keep Brazil in the Paris Agreement and use it as a means of shifting the nation’s agribusiness sector to be more sustainable, competitive and equitable. Ciro Gomes supports hydroelectric dams and the Paris Agreement. - Geraldo Alckmin supports agribusiness over environmental. Little is known of Fernando Haddad’s environmental positions, though he’s a strong proponent of bicycling to reduce car use. As important for the environment: the bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby looks poised to grow stronger in congress in the coming election.
World’s first indigenous carbon offset project suspended due to illegal mining [09/11/2018]
- In 2009, the Paiter-Suruí of Brazil became the first indigenous group in the world to design and implement a major forest conservation and carbon storage and offset project, a set of initiatives financed by selling carbon-offset credits.. - On Monday, the Paiter-Suruí announced the project is being suspended indefinitely due to an onslaught of diamond and gold miners and loggers which has caused a dramatic surge in deforestation within their 248,147 hectare (958 square mile) territory. - In its early years, the project – designed to prevent at least five million tons of carbon emissions in 30 years – was incredibly successful. Illegal logging in the indigenous territory dropped to almost zero from 2009 to 2012, a period during which surrounding regions saw deforestation rates more than double. - Analysts cite multiple reasons for the project suspension: the intrusion of external, powerful, self-interested actors; the lack of law enforcement in the indigenous territory; and the lack of state investment in indigenous education, health, and livelihood programs that could have alleviated individual economic and social pressures to secure short-term financial gain.
Brazilian legislators break law, attack Amazon, trade freely with world: report [09/11/2018]
- A new Amazon Watch report offers evidence showing that six prominent Brazilian politicians are charged with, and/or guilty of, a variety of environmental, social, and economic crimes. All six are active in the bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby of congress, and all but one are up for election in October. - According to the report, the six have been strident advocates of the ruralist policies that are slashing environmental protections, exacerbating Amazon deforestation, and rolling back indigenous land rights. - Yet their agricultural commodities, and those of their political and business allies, are being sold to the U.S. and EU, with importers including soft drinks manufacturers Coca Cola (U.S) and Schweppes (Switzerland), the poultry producer Wiesenhof (Germany) and others. - The report says that transnational companies and consumers are thus unwittingly empowering the ruralists’ drastic legislative environmental attacks, and it calls for importing countries and companies to take responsibility for their actions. Mongabay profiles two legislators featured in the report: Adilton Sachetti and Nelson Marquezelli.
Aligning forces for tropical forests as a climate change solution (commentary) [09/08/2018]
- Tropical forest governments need help to achieve their commitments to slow deforestation and are not getting it fast enough; companies could deliver some of that help through strategic partnerships, especially if environmental advocacy strategies evolve to favor these partnerships. Aspiring governments also need a mechanism for registering and disseminating their commitments and for finding potential partners. - Climate finance is reaching most jurisdictions, but not at the speed or scale that is needed. Tropical forest governments need help making their jurisdictions easier to do business in and more bankable; they are beginning to develop innovative ways to use verified emissions reductions, to create industries and institutions for low-carbon development, and to establish efficient, transparent mechanisms for companies to deliver finance for technical assistance to farmers. - Partnerships between indigenous peoples and subnational governments have emerged as a promising new approach for both improving representation of forest communities in subnational governance and delivering greater support, unlocking climate finance in the process. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
A Brazilian mourns what was lost in the National Museum fire [09/06/2018]
- Last Sunday, the Brazilian National Museum burned, with an estimated 90 percent of its priceless collection destroyed. In this story, co-published by ((O))eco and Mongabay, noted Brazilian science writer and journalist Peter Moon enumerates those losses and what they mean to Brazil and the world. - The museum’s Paleontology collection housed practically all fossils of plants and animals, vertebrates and invertebrates, discovered in Brazil from 1800 into the 20th century. The fire consumed the accumulated fossil record of tens of millions of years of evolution in Brazil and South America. - The Anthropology collection was also burned, a heartbreaking, irreplaceable loss of Brazil’s indigenous legacy. Gone is the entire Ethnology collection, which kept masks, weapons, utensils and other artifacts documenting the cultures of numerous Brazilian indigenous peoples, collected over two centuries. - Saved were the collections of vertebrates, and the botany collection, all installed 30 years ago in an annex. While the scientific value of those collections preserved is immense, Peter Moon laments the loss of the vast natural history archive: “Scientific collections, once lost, are forever.”
Improving rural credit in Brazil: More production, better environment (commentary) [09/06/2018]
- One of the biggest challenges for the global economy is to use natural resources more efficiently, increasing food and energy production while preserving the environment. - Brazil is at the center of this process, since it has abundant natural resources and is one of the largest agricultural producers in the world—the fourth largest according to FAO (2016). Controlling deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions and strengthening the agribusiness should occur together. - The primary public policy for Brazilian agriculture is rural credit. A thorough analysis of the rural credit system shows the need to reform the policy, simplify the rules, improve distribution channels, and more closely align it with the Brazilian Forest Code. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Brazil mourns ‘incalculable loss’ in National Museum fire [09/04/2018]
- A massive fire that may have started from a small flame on the roof gutted Brazil’s National Museum in Rio de Janeiro on the night of Sept. 2. - It’s not yet known how the museum’s more than 20 million scientific and historical items fared, but the blaze that destroyed the building’s roof and blew out every single window on the 200-year-old structure. - The priceless artifacts known to have been lost include Luzia, believed to be the oldest human remains ever found in the Americas. - The museum had been struggling to meet maintenance needs due to budget shortfalls, and experts had warned of fire risk.
The secret life of the southern naked-tailed armadillo [09/03/2018]
- The southern naked-tailed armadillo spends 99.25 percent of its time underground. If by chance you locate one above ground, it can dig away in a matter of seconds. - The air of mystery surrounding this species led Desbiez and his team to seek out any information they could about its day-to-day activities and its natural history in Brazil’s Pantanal region. - Unlike other species that Desbiez studies, such as the giant armadillo and the giant anteater, the southern naked-tailed armadillo is rated as being of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.
Will protecting half the Earth save biodiversity? Depends which half [08/30/2018]
- Adding large swaths of “wild areas” to the current network of protected areas in order to protect half of the Earth doesn’t mean more species will be protected, or that a larger portion of species’ ranges will be covered, a new study has found. - Researchers say it’s important to not be seduced by the idea of protecting areas simply because they’re big and politically easier to protect, but instead to prioritize areas because they’re special and/or have key species in them. - The study also revealed a surprising trend: existing protected areas around the world are good at covering at least some of the range of most of the world’s birds, mammals and amphibians.
Deforestation continues upward trend in Brazil, says NGO [08/28/2018]
- Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon continues to trend higher, reports Imazon, a Brazilian NGO that independently tracks developments in Earth’s largest rainforest. - Data from Imazon’s monthly deforestation tracking system indicates 778 square kilometers of forest were cleared in July, a 43 percent increase over a year ago. - Imazon’s findings contrast with official data from Brazil’s national space research agency INPE, which shows a comparably flat trend line.
Brazil’s pesticide poisoning problem poses global dilemma, say critics [08/27/2018]
- Brazil is second only to the U.S. in its use of chemical pesticides, with many of the chemicals sprayed in Brazil on soy and other crops banned by the EU and the United States. Pesticide poisoning is a major Brazilian problem. In 2016, 4,208 cases of intoxication by exposure to pesticides were registered across the nation – the equivalent of 11 per day (killing 355 people). - The ruralista bancada, the powerful agribusiness lobby, is currently pushing an amendment through congress that would significantly weaken Brazil’s 1989 pesticide law. Analysts say the legislation (6.299/2002), dubbed the “Poison Bill” by critics, would make the approval of new pesticides far easier. - Brazil’s lax pesticide rules aren’t just a threat to farmworkers. Many toxins are persistent in the environment and in the food we eat. A Brazilian analysis of pesticide residue in foods such as rice, apples and peppers found that of 9,680 samples collected from 2013 to 2015, some 20 percent contained pesticide residues that exceeded allowed levels or contained unapproved pesticides. - Transnational pesticide makers such as Syngenta, Bayer and BASF produce pesticides in the EU which are considered highly hazardous – so hazardous, they are banned in their countries of origin – but the firms also sell these pesticides in high quantities to Brazil and other developing nations. Experts say that sprayed Brazilian exports of fruit, vegetables and coffee could be contaminated.
Drone used to confirm existence of uncontacted Amazon tribe (video) [08/24/2018]
- The Brazilian government used a drone to help confirm the presence of an uncontacted indigenous group deep in the Amazon rainforest. - FUNAI, Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency, undertook an expedition to an area near the Brazilian border with Peru to confirm the presence of voluntarily isolated peoples along the Juruazinho River. - To confirm the presence of the group without encroaching on their territory, FUNAI flew a drone over the forest and photographed huts and crops amid a section of felled trees. - The drone also filmed two individuals walking, one of whom was carrying a spear or pole.
A river runs through it — and keeps the Amazon’s bird species diverse [08/24/2018]
- A new genetic analysis shows that rivers in northeast South America rarely give rise to new bird species, but are important in maintaining existing biodiversity. - Researchers found that 86 pairs of the more than 400 endemic bird species in the Rio Negro basin have range boundaries that meet but never overlap, many of them coinciding with either the Rio Negro or the Rio Branco. - Amazonian rivers, they conclude, can play two distinct roles in species evolution: their formation may separate populations and create new species directly, and their presence can prevent hybridization or competition between related species that evolved independently and meet at the river. - Understanding how the size of a barrier influences its ability to isolate populations genetically will have major implications for how conservationists try to mitigate the effects of habitat fragmentation caused by human activities.
Community-run trading posts help Amazon forest people reverse rural exodus [08/23/2018]
- Riverine communities along the Xingu River basin in the Brazilian state of Pará are running their own trading posts that are significantly boosting the income of their members. - By eliminating middlemen, the community-run posts are paying families up to twice as much for their Brazil nuts, rubber and other products collected in the forest. - By buying in bulk, the posts are also able to sell essential household goods, such as salt, coffee, soap and boots, more cheaply to their members. - These improvements mean that it is now economically viable for the families to go on living sustainably in the forest, and the rural exodus is being reversed.
Brazil hits emissions target early, but rising deforestation risks reversal [08/23/2018]
- The decline in deforestation between 2016 and 2017 saved emissions of the equivalent of 610 million metric tons (672 million tons) of carbon dioxide from the Brazilian Amazon and 170 million metric tons (187 million tons) from the Cerrado, Brazil’s wooded savanna, according to the Brazilian government. - The emissions reductions, announced Aug. 9, eclipsed the targets that the Brazilian government set for 2020. - However, amid rising deforestation over the past few years, particularly in the Amazon, experts have expressed concern that the reductions in emissions might not hold.
In Brazil, a forest community helps seed new trees far and wide [08/21/2018]
- Brazil’s Atlantic Forest is dotted with quilombos, communities originally founded by former slaves, some of which have been around for more than 300 years. - Following the example of indigenous communities in the Xingu area of Mato Grosso state, quilombos in São Paulo state’s Vale do Ribeira region are collecting and selling seeds as a source of income. - They ship the seeds by mail, in mixed batches called muvuca, to landowners who use them to reforest degraded lands through direct seeding. - The project has not only helped financially empower the quilombos, but also raised the communities’ understanding and appreciation for the native trees and plants of their land.
Fake logging permits undermine Amazonian conservation, say experts [08/17/2018]
- System in Brazil for issuing permits found to intentionally overestimate high-value timber species. - The system for issuing these fraudulent permits has created a fake “surplus” of licensed timber. - Experts now say that the falsified numbers are contributing to the widespread forest degradation that comes with illegal logging and the overexploitation of Amazonian timber species.
Earth has more trees now than 35 years ago [08/15/2018]
- Tree cover increased globally over the past 35 years, finds a paper published in the journal Nature. - The study, led by Xiao-Peng Song and Matthew Hansen of the University of Maryland, is based on analysis of satellite data from 1982 to 2016. - The research found that tree cover loss on the tropics was outweighed by tree cover gain in subtropical, temperate, boreal, and polar regions. - However all the tree cover data comes with an important caveat: tree cover is not necessarily forest cover.
South American soy fed to EU livestock drives Gran Chaco deforestation [08/15/2018]
- European fast food firms and supermarkets often obtain the meat they sell from chickens, pigs, and cows raised in Europe. However, the feed, especially soy, consumed by the livestock often comes from South America, where the Cerrado biome and Gran Chaco ecosystem are rapidly being deforested by soy producers. - The Gran Chaco is a unique biodiverse region covering 1.28 million square kilometers and encompasses parts of Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia and a tiny portion of Brazil. It is home to an estimated 3,400 plant species, 500 birds, 150 mammals and 220 reptiles and amphibians. - While many large fast food companies and supermarkets have vowed to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains, these companies still buy soy grown with large amounts of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and often grown on South American land recently converted from forest and native vegetation. - The soy grown in the Gran Chaco and Cerrado is purchased by Bunge, ADM, Cargill and other transnational and Brazilian commodities traders who then sell most of it to the EU and China. While the 2006 Amazon Soy Moratorium largely eliminated new deforestation due to soy in the Amazon, no such agreement protects the Gran Chaco.
Brazil austerity policies devastating to rural communities: analysis [08/14/2018]
- Since taking power in 2016, Michel Temer has drastically cut Brazil’s social programs, especially impacting poor rural families. These austerity measures also adversely affect the natural world, with one social program linked to sustainability eliminated, and with struggling rural families less likely to protect, and more likely to exploit, natural resources to meet minimal economic needs. - In 2013, the Bolsa Familia benefit program benefited 14 million Brazilian families, with its success recognized internationally. In 2016, President Temer committed to reducing the number of people receiving Bolsa Família aid by 10 percent. By July 2017, 1.5 million fewer people received the benefit than in July 2014. - Launched in 2011, the Bolsa Verde program’s goal was to give financial incentives to people in poverty who were behaving in an environmentally conscientious way. Traditional river-dwellers, indigenous populations, Quilombos (communities of runaway slave descendants) and other rural communities benefited. The Temer administration has zeroed out the program’s budget. - Other social programs seeing draconian funding cuts are the Food Acquisition Program (PAA), a federal initiative that buys produce from small-scale family farmers and then offers it to public institutions such as schools and hospitals; and the National Cisterns Program, which brings cutting edge rainwater management and storage technologies to poor communities in need.
Ruralists in Brazilian congress put nation’s protected areas at risk [08/14/2018]
- Bill PL 3,751 / 2015, moving through the Brazilian congress, would set a five-year deadline for the resolution of land issues and disputes, such as land ownership conflicts, in protected areas. If issues were not resolved within that timeframe, a protected area could have its protected status removed. - There are currently more than 100 protected areas that have not had their permanent status implemented, and they would all be at risk. If this bill was applied retroactively to these areas, over 17 million hectares (roughly 66,000 square miles) — over half of all currently protected areas in Brazil — would be threatened. - In a letter published in Science, Brazilian scientists denounced the bill, calling it an attack on the networks of conserved lands that support biodiversity and arguing that the legislation conflicts with the Brazilian constitution. - The bill has passed in the Brazilian Environment Committee and awaits a vote in the Finance and Taxation Committee. Though presidential elections could delay the process, it is likely the committee vote will occur in 2018. Analysts think passage is likely, which could threaten preserved areas in the Amazon, Cerrado, Atlantic Forest, Pantanal, and Caatinga.
Trase.earth tracks commodities, links supply chains to deforestation risk [08/13/2018]
- Launched in 2016, Trase is an innovative Internet tool, available to anyone, which tracks commodities supply chains in detail from source to market, and can also connect those chains to environmental harm, including deforestation. Until the advent of Trase, knowledge of supply chains was sketchy and difficult to obtain. - The Trase Yearbook 2018 is the first in an annual series of reports on countries and companies trading in such commodities as soy, sugarcane and maize, which also assesses the deforestation risk associated with those crops, making it a vital tool for environmentalists, governments, investors and other interested parties. - The Yearbook shows that in 2016 the Brazilian soy supply chain was dominated by just six key players – Bunge, Cargill, ADM, COFCO, Louis Dreyfus and Amaggi – accounting for 57 percent of soy exported. In the past ten years, these six firms were also associated with more than 65 percent of the total deforestation in Brazil. - Trase shows that zero-deforestation commitments (ZDCs) have so far not resulted in greatly reduced deforestation risk for the commodities companies and countries making them. Between 2006 and 2016, soy traders with ZDCs, as compared to non-committed firms, were associated with similar levels of deforestation risk.
Death foretold? A courageous Amazon peasant couple resists illegal loggers [08/10/2018]
- The Terra do Meio (Land in the Middle) is a continuous mosaic of protected areas, 20 indigenous territories and 10 conservation units covering 28 million hectares in the heart of the Amazon and intended as a buffer against illegal deforestation and land theft. As big as Colorado, it represents one of the world’s largest areas of conserved tropical rainforest. - Today, this vast conserved area in Pará state is under great pressure from organized crime and illegal loggers, with the Riozinho do Anfrísio Extractivist Reserve one of the most assaulted by illicit timber harvesters in all of Amazonia. The Areia settlement, created by the National Institute of Agrarian Reform (INCRA) in 1988, lies adjacent to the reserve. - Areia’s residents have suffered for decades from threats of violence and murder from the illegal loggers, with many locals abandoning their land or giving in to the criminals. Organic farmers Osvalinda Maria Marcelino Pereira and Daniel Pereira have resisted, holding onto their plot, with Osvalinda founding the Association of the Women of Areia. - Hounded by hired gunmen and threatened with death, the two have become isolated and are now seeking outside support for their cause. Federal agencies have offered little help, and there are allegations that the illegal loggers are being shielded from prosecution. Similarly desperate situations are occurring among peasant farmers across Amazonia.
More companies sign on to Cerrado Manifesto [08/06/2018]
- APG and Robeco are two of the most recent companies to sign on to the Cerrado Manifesto, which calls for an end to deforestation in Brazil’s Cerrado biome. - The Manifesto is a two-page document that puts the onus on soy and meat producers and traders, as well as other companies in the commodities supply chain, to prevent runaway destruction of the Cerrado savannah. - According to experts, about half of the biome’s native forests and vegetation have already been cleared for agricultural expansion. - While more than 70 companies have signed the Cerrado Manifesto, including large fast food companies and supermarkets like McDonalds and Walmart, experts say the initiative won’t likely be successful without participation by large commodities firms, such as Cargill, ADM and Bunge.
Fire, more than logging, drives Amazon forest degradation, study finds [08/06/2018]
- Forest degradation has historically been overlooked in accounting and monitoring carbon stocks. - A recent study combined ground-based inventory, satellite and LiDAR data to record the loss of carbon due to forest degradation in areas exposed to logging, fire damage, or both, in the arc of deforestation of the southeastern Amazon. - The study revealed that fire damage causes greater losses than logging, and fire-damaged forests recovered more slowly than logged forests. - Accurate depictions of both deforestation and degradation are necessary to establish emissions baselines used to inform programs to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+).
Chinese / Western financing of roads, dams led to major Andes Amazon deforestation [08/01/2018]
- International development finance institutions (DFIs) invested heavily in large-scale infrastructure projects that triggered significant deforestation in the Andes Amazon especially within the nations of Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia between 2000 and 2015, according to recent research published by Boston University’s Global Development Policy Center. - Using satellite data, the study analyzed 84 large infrastructure projects and determined that the area around them experienced tree cover loss at a rate of over four times the average seen in comparable areas without such projects in those countries. That’s a forest carbon-sink loss equivalent to the combined annual CO2 emissions of Colombia, Chile and Ecuador. - Infrastructure now accounts for 60 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, yet DFIs want to increase future lending from billions to trillions to meet global demand. This could imperil national Paris Climate Agreement goals (which in countries like Brazil are linked to preventing deforestation), and also could add to potentially catastrophic global carbon emission levels. - The study isn’t merely academic: More than $70 billion in infrastructure projects, supported by development banks and the private sector, are planned for the Amazon basin between now and 2020. The researchers hope lessons learned from past infrastructure projects and highlighted in their study will improve future project oversight to help curb deforestation.
Researchers are looking into the past to help ensure a future for tropical forests [07/30/2018]
- As we seek to reverse global trends of deforestation and forest degradation, researchers are peering into the past to help chart a course forward for imperiled tropical forests. - A study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution earlier this month found that, prior to the arrival of European colonists, indigenous peoples in the cloud forests of Ecuador cleared even more of the forests than we have cleared today. - By studying this history, researchers hope to aid in the restoration of the forests that have once again been degraded for human purposes.
Deforestation skyrockets in the Amazon rainforest [07/25/2018]
- Deforestation is mushrooming in the Brazilian Amazon, according to Imazon. - Imazon’s data shows deforestation hit 1,169 square kilometers in June 2018, the highest level since the NGO began monthly tracking in April 2007. - While month-to-month data from short-term deforestation tracking systems is notoriously variable, June’s number comes on the heels of 634 square kilometers of forest loss in May. - Scientists have warned that Brazil seems to be reversing course after a historic drop in deforestation.
Brazil’s plant biodiversity still not fully present in its seed banks [07/25/2018]
- Seed banks are a cheap and effective way of protecting species against extinction and securing genetic diversity. - The most important seed banks in Brazil are devoted to agricultural species and varieties. Seeds from native species and species that are threatened of extinction are still a minority. - The Global Strategy for Plan Conservation, a program from the Convention on Biological Diversity, establishes that every country should keep 75 percent of its endangered plant species in off-site collections, such as seed banks, by 2020. - Brazil will not meet the target and experts argue for the need of a national policy.
Temer’s deforestation policies put Paris goals at risk, scientists warn [07/24/2018]
- A letter in the journal Nature Climate Change penned by ten prominent Brazilian scientists is making a splash in major Brazilian media outlets. They warn that weak environmental governance by the Temer administration and the bancada ruralista, agribusiness and mining lobby, is resulting in policies that are increasing deforestation. - The scientists especially singled out Temer, noting that: “the President of Brazil has signed provisional acts and decrees lowering environmental licensing requirements, suspending the ratification of indigenous lands, reducing the size of protected areas and facilitating land grabbers to obtain the deeds of illegally deforested areas.” - The scientists say that these policies are undermining attempts to reduce deforestation and the CO2 emissions that clear cutting causes. As a result, Brazil may need to spend US$2-5 trillion additionally to curb its carbon emissions by other means in order to hit the nation’s Paris Climate Agreement targets. - The warning comes as Brazil gears up for October national elections. Environmental issues rarely have a great influence on Brazilian voters, but the scientists hope that knowledge of the severe and costly consequences of the current government’s policies could help better inform Brazilians as they go to the polls.
Brazil’s political storm driving Amazon deforestation higher [07/09/2018]
- Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon was dramatically reduced between 2005 and 2015, surged in 2016, then fell in 2017. Preliminary figures from IMAZON suggest the trend has now reversed, with deforestation up 22 percent between August 2017 and May 2018, compared to the same period the prior year. But, so far, official confirmation from INPE of this surge is lacking. - Experts say the source of the uptick lies with land-grabbers emboldened by the bancada ruralista, the agribusiness lobby, which has won many recent legislative and administrative victories, drastically cutting environmental and indigenous agency budgets, and pushing bills to shrink conservation units and erode indigenous land rights. - A recent Forest Code Supreme Court ruling may have further encouraged wealthy land-grabbers, when it granted billions in amnesty, forgiving fines against many guilty of illegal deforestation. Today, Pará’s Triunfo Xingu Area of Environmental Protection and the Indigenous Territory of Apyterewa are especially threatened by land-grabbing. - So is Pará’s Jamanxim National Forest; land thieves there hope congress will pass a bill to dismember the preserve, along with other Brazilian conservation units. Environmentalists worry that the election of right-wing populist Jair Bolsonaro as president, dubbed “Brazil’s Trump,” in October could send deforestation rates soaring.
Cerrado: traditional communities win back land from agribusiness firm [07/05/2018]
- Traditional communities, which have inhabited rural lands sometimes for centuries but without land deeds, are protected under Brazilian law. However, a variety of elite land grabbers, ranging from cattle ranchers to large agribusiness companies, have used intimidation and other methods to seize community lands. - Rural communities in Formosa do Rio Preto in Bahia state are a case in point. They are in conflict with Agronegócio Estrondo, an agribusiness firm which the communities say illegally seized their lands on the Black River. A state court has now ruled in the communities’ favor, ordering the land returned and fines paid. - However, the communities say Estrondo, which has a documented history in Bahia as a land grabber, has continued its tactics of intimidation, recently digging a 1.8-mile trench to hinder movement of local people and livestock, and using a private security force and police to seize the rural community of Cachoeira’s cell phone tower. - Also, in Cachoeira, in June, local police and private security, allegedly from Estrondo, entered the home of Adão Batista Gomes, arrested, then released him. He is the community leader whose name appears first on the judicial action against the agribusiness firm. Estrondo seems likely to appeal the court ruling.
Implicit gender, racial biases may hinder effectiveness of conservation science, experts warn [07/04/2018]
- Implicit gender and racial biases are just as prevalent in the conservation science community as elsewhere, experts say, and could be harming the effectiveness of the work being done, particularly in developing countries. - The mostly male and Western scientists working in this field may be shutting out important contributions from local researchers and practitioners in tropical developing countries, as well as preventing a diversity of perspectives in the scientific literature. - Having a diverse team and being inclusive at every step, especially in the decision-making process for a conservation project, are some of the ways to resolve these biases, the researchers suggest.
Global frog pandemic may become even deadlier as strains combine [07/03/2018]
- Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis – Bd for short – causes a disease called chytridiomycosis that affects a frog’s ability to absorb water and electrolytes through its skin. By 2007, Bd had spread around the world and had been implicated in the decline or extinction of some 200 species. - A new study finds that hybridization between a native strain of Bd and the one that’s caused the global pandemic can lead to greater infection rates and illness strength than either can alone. - It was conducted by researchers from universities in Brazil and the U.S. who looked at infection in several frog species in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest. They chose that region because of its high amphibian biodiversity (despite being one of the most deforested ecosystems on the planet), as well as because it is the only known region in the world where multiple strains of Bd coexist and hybridize. - The researchers say their results indicate frogs may face a future even more dire than anticipated as different strains of Bd spread around the world and combine into more harmful forms. They call for increasing global monitoring efforts to detect these shifts before they lead to new outbreaks.
Leprosy prevalent among Amazon’s armadillos, study finds [06/29/2018]
- Researchers have found a high prevalence of leprosy among nine-banded armadillos in Brazil’s western state of Pará. - They also surveyed 146 people in the region and found that people who ate armadillos more than once a month showed higher signs of exposure to leprosy infection compared to people who consumed armadillos less frequently or not at all. - Overall, the study found that frequently handling armadillos, such as hunting or cleaning or cooking armadillo meat, puts people at higher risk of getting infected with leprosy.
The world lost an area of tropical forest the size of Bangladesh in 2017 [06/27/2018]
- According to new data, tropical countries lost 158,000 square kilometers (39 million acres) of tree cover in 2017 – an area the size of Bangladesh. The 2017 number is the second highest since the dataset began in 2001, and only a bit lower than the record high in 2016. - Brazil came out on top for the most tree cover lost of any tropical country, a reversal from the country’s deforestation reductions over the past 14 years. Tree cover loss also rose dramatically in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Colombia. However, Indonesia’s numbers dropped by nearly half between 2016 and 2017. - Experts attribute the upward trend in tree cover loss primarily to continued land clearing for agricultural purposes. - The new dataset was discussed at the Oslo Tropical Forest Forum, which is taking place this week in Norway.
Winning farmer support to reduce deforestation (commentary) [06/24/2018]
- It is critical to win farmer support for strategies to address deforestation if they are to succeed; in Brazil, farmers are economically powerful, increasingly sophisticated as a political block, and they own or control half of Brazil’s native vegetation. - They have grown weary of being vilified as criminals, of unmet promises of positive incentives for shifting to sustainable production systems, and of the chronic challenges of changing and inefficient regulations. To gain the support of conservation-minded, responsible farmers for the deforestation agenda, a new narrative and set of actions is needed that recognizes, applauds and rewards them for their efforts as it effectively includes them in dialogues. - A shared agenda is needed between environmental groups and farm sectors in Brazil to help restore collaboration; there is strong potential to build that collaboration around core issues faced by the farm sector–transportation infrastructure and inefficient and changing licensing procedures. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Scientists find surprising genetic differences between Brazil’s mangroves [06/21/2018]
- Mangrove forests occupy tropical costal areas and provide important habitat for wildlife, as well as ecosystem services for human communities. They’re also carbon storage powerhouses, pound-for-pound capable of sequestering four times more carbon than a rainforest. - Researchers analyzed the genes of mangrove forests along the coast of Brazil. They found that trees in different forests show “dramatic” differences from one another, even when they belong to the same species. - They think these differences arose because an ocean current separates mangroves in northern and southern Brazil, making it so they can’t exchange genes. - The researchers suspect the genetic distinctiveness of mangrove populations extends beyond Brazil. They say their results highlight the importance of enacting conservation plans that give a higher priority to the preservation of genetic diversity – an endeavor they say is becoming more and more critical for mangroves as they continue to disappear and climate change ramps up.
US/China trade war could boost Brazil soy export, Amazon deforestation [06/21/2018]
- President Donald Trump is pressing hard for a trade war with China. So far, he has imposed $50 billion in tariffs on the Chinese, and threatened another $200 billion; the Chinese are retaliating. An all-out U.S./China trade war could have serious unforeseen repercussions on the Brazilian Amazon, including increased deforestation, intensified pressures on indigenous groups, and escalated climate change. - The concern is that China will shift its commodities purchases, including beef and soy, away from the U.S. to Brazil. The Amazon and Cerrado biomes are already major exporters of both commodities, and are creating a boom in infrastructure construction to bring those products to market. Even without a trade war, experts expect Brazil to edge out the U.S. this year as the world´s largest soy producer. - The U.S. tariffs may already be prompting a shift in trade. Trump first threatened China with tariffs in January. By April, U.S. soy sales to China were down 70,000 metric tons compared to the same period last year. Data also shows a surge in Brazilian Amazon deforestation between February and April of 2018, compared to 2017, a possible response by Brazil soy growers eager to profit from a trade war. - If the U.S./China trade war results in a significant surge in Brazilian commodities production, deforestation rates there could soar. Scientists worry that Amazon deforestation, now at 17 percent, could be pushed past a 20-25 percent climate tipping point, converting rainforest to savanna, greatly swelling carbon emissions, and potentially destabilizing the regional and even global climate.
Oil palm plantations in Amazonia inhospitable to tropical forest biodiversity: Study [06/18/2018]
- According to a study published in the journal PloS One late last year, the Brazilian Amazon has about 2.3 million square kilometers (nearly 900,000 square miles) of land suitable for oil palm cultivation, making it one of the largest areas in the world for potential expansion of the palm oil industry. - Researchers investigated the responses of tropical forest mammals to living in a landscape made up of a mosaic of 39,000 hectares (more than 96,000 acres) of mature oil palm plantations and 64,000 hectares (a little over 158,000 acres) of primary Eastern Amazon forest patches in the Brazilian state of Pará. - They write in the study that their results in the Amazon “clearly” reinforce “the notion that oil palm plantations can be extremely hostile to native tropical forest biodiversity, as has been shown in more traditional oil palm countries in South-East Asia, such as Malaysia and Indonesia.”
Community evicted by accused murderer seeks justice for Gabriel Filho [06/18/2018]
- Under Brazil’s 1988 constitution, all private land must serve a social function. So unused property without a social function can legally be occupied and claimed by landless communities. However, this law has created major land conflicts between large-scale landowners, who lay claim to vast properties, and landless communities seeking land. - One egregious case occurred in Tocantins state. Families began occupying, and homesteading on, an abandoned piece of land in 2007. Almost immediately, two landowners claimed the property, and began battling in court for ownership. The landless settlers stayed on the land, expecting the government to settle in their favor. - In 2010, according to witnesses, one of the landowners shot a community member through the heart, but a trial date has still not been set. In April, the alleged murderer convinced the courts of his land claim and the residents of Gabriel Filho (named for the murdered community member), were evicted, and denied access to their homes, crops and livestock. - Federal and state officials responsible for resolving the land dispute have stonewalled, and failed to take action on the community’s behalf. Legal experts say that Brazil’s landless movement typically receives little support in its land claims from government agencies or the justice system, and has gained limited sympathy from the general public.
Primate-rich countries are becoming less hospitable places for monkeys, apes and lemurs [06/15/2018]
- New research shows that many of the 65 percent of the world’s primate species found in four countries — Brazil, Indonesia, Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of Congo — face the threat of extinction. - The scientists involved in the study used maps of primate ranges and information on the threats they face to predict what might happen to the animals through the end of the 21st century. - They found that increases in the amount of land turned over for human food production could cause the primate habitats to shrink substantially in these countries. - However, the team also found that intensive conservation measures could dramatically reduce the loss of primate habitat by 2100 and potentially avert the mass extinction of these species.
Shark fisheries hunting dolphins, other marine mammals as bait: Study [06/13/2018]
- Global shark fisheries have for decades engaged in the deliberate catch of dolphins, seals and other marine mammals to use as bait for sharks, a new study has found. - The researchers found the practice picked up when prices for shark fin, a prized delicacy in Chinese cuisine, went up from the late 1990s onward. - The researchers have warned that the targeting of these species could hit unsustainable levels, and have called for more studies into the species in question as well as better enforcement of existing law protecting marine mammals.
Hunting, fishing causing dramatic decline in Amazon river dolphins [06/13/2018]
- Both species of Amazon river dolphin appear to be in deep decline, according to a recent study. Boto (Inia geoffrensis) populations fell by 94 percent and Tucuxi (Sotalia fluviatilis) numbers fell by 97 percent in the Mamirauá Reserve in Amazonas state, Brazil between 1994 and 2017, according to researchers. - Difficult to detect in the Amazon’s murky waters, both species are listed as “Data Deficient” by the IUCN. But researchers maintain that if region-wide surveys were conducted both species would end up being listed as Critically Endangered. - The team noticed scars from harpoon and machete injuries on the dolphins they caught. Interviews with fishermen confirmed the team’s suspicions: dolphins were being hunted for use as bait. The mammals also get entangled in nets and other fishing gear, are hunted as food, eliminated as pests, and suffer mercury poisoning. - Researchers believe the passage and enforcement of new conservation laws could save Amazon river dolphins, and halt their plunge toward extinction. But a lack of political will, drastic draconian cuts to the Brazilian environmental ministry budget, and continued illegal dolphin hunting and fishing make action unlikely for now.
$29 million deforestation fines: game changer for Brazilian soy trade? [06/01/2018]
- Operation Soy Sauce was launched by IBAMA, the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, and resulted in 105.7 million Brazilian reais (US $29 million) in fines to transnational soy commodities traders and farmers for illegal deforestation in the Cerrado, Brazil’s savannah grasslands east of the Amazon. - Five transnational commodities companies – Cargill Inc, Bunge Ltd, ABC Indústria e Comércio SA, JJ Samar Agronegócios Eireli, and Uniggel Proteção de Plantas Ltda – were fined more than 24.6 million Brazilian reais (US $6.5 million) for buying soy grown on lands without deforestation licenses. - The rest of the fines were against individual farmers. Non-compliance with environmental policies was found on 77 Cerrado properties, using geospatial data gathered via satellite monitoring. - The fines came at an inopportune time for IBAMA, with commodities traders and the pubic distracted by a Brazilian trucking strike. But some analysts say the fines are a wakeup call, and maybe even a game changer for the industry. Others say deforestation is built into the soy production model and that the fines will have little long-term impact.
Raid fails to stop gold mining, death threats on Amazon’s Tropas River [05/31/2018]
- Garimpeiros, gold miners, began arriving in large numbers on the Tropas River in the Tapajós basin in the 1980s. Driven out by Munduruku Indians, they returned in 2010, invading land occupied by 21 riverside indigenous communities. Despite protests by the Ipereg Ayu Movement, the Munduruku’s resistance group, the government has largely failed to act. - Today, the river is polluted as never before, and the indigenous people feel threatened. After repeated complaints by the Ipereg Ayu Movement, the federal authorities made a raid on a few mines in May, destroying some mining equipment. But the Federal Police failed to dislodge any miners currently occupying Munduruku territory. - The mine owners, in retaliation, took their protest to Brasilia. There, a federal deputy is urging passage of a bill to stop IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental agency, from destroying seized mining equipment onsite, forcing the agency to turn it over to local authorities, many who are sympathetic to miners, and who could return the equipment to the miners. - Another bill could open all indigenous land in Brazil to large-scale mining. Many Munduruku remain defiant, and have led Tropas River patrols in an attempt to negotiate with mine owners and force them to leave. Analysts fear that, if the miners are not forced off indigenous lands and out of Crepori National Forest, violence could be inevitable.
Dutch support soy transport mega-project, posing major risk to Amazon [05/29/2018]
- For more than a decade, the Netherlands has vigorously supported Brazil in development of the Northern Corridor, a mega-infrastructure transportation initiative that would transport soy and other commodities from Matto Grosso state via new road, rail and port projects to the Tapajós River in Pará state, then downriver to the Amazon, and to the Atlantic for export. - Although the Netherlands government publically says these projects will be constructed in a “sustainable” manner and reduce fuel used in transport, analysts — and even the Dutch government itself — say that the new harbors, roads and railroads would contribute significantly to deforestation, land grabbing and rural violence by bringing many new loggers, cattle ranchers, soy growers, and settlers into the Amazon region. - Internal documents from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, obtained through a FOIA request, show that the ministry is fully aware of these negative environmental and social impacts, but sees them as a mere public relations, or “reputation problem.” - Internal memos uncovered by Platform Investico, a Dutch collective of investigative journalists including Mongabay contributor Karlijn Kuijpers, alerted the public to Dutch participation in Brazil’s Amazon transportation infrastructure initiative and the environmental and social harm it could do. In response to these revelations, the Dutch Labor Party has requested a debate in parliament about Dutch involvement in the Northern Corridor.
Illegal loggers ‘cook the books’ to harvest Amazon’s most valuable tree [05/24/2018]
- A new study finds that illegal logging, coupled with weak state-run timber licensing systems, has led to massive timber harvesting fraud in Brazil, resulting in huge illicit harvests of Ipê trees. This process is doing major damage to the Amazon, as loggers build roads deep into forests, causing fragmentation and creating greater access. - To reduce document fraud, the Brazilian federal government this month required that all states register or integrate their timber licensing systems within a national timber inventory and tracking system known as Sinaflor. While this should reduce fraudulent paperwork, onsite illicit timber harvesting practices remain a major problem. - Better oversight of forest management plans and more onsite inspections of timber operations are needed to curb illegal logging practices and to prevent harvesting on public lands and in indigenous reserves. The high value of Ipê wood — selling for up to $2,500 per cubic meter at export — makes it very profitable for illegal loggers. - Ipê wood is largely shipped to the U.S. and Europe. Analysts say that buyers all along the timber supply chain turn a blind eye toward fraud, with sawmills, exporters, and importers trusting the paperwork they receive, rather than questioning whether the lower prices they pay for Ipê and other timber may be due to timber laundering.
Brazil has the tools to end Amazon deforestation now: report [05/18/2018]
- A coalition of environmental NGOs known as the Zero Deforestation Working Group has developed a practical plan called “A Pathway to Zero Deforestation in the Amazon.” First proposed at the COP23 climate summit in Bonn, Germany, last November, the NGOs propose workable strategies for ending deforestation quickly in Brazil, while also yielding significant economic and social benefits. - Deforestation continues, the report says, because cleared land is worth more than forested land in the Amazon, so there is a strong economic incentive to buy up large amounts of forestland and clear it. Also, enforcement of Brazilian forestry laws remains weak. Finally, markets have been slow to make, and implement, commitments to remove deforestation from their supply chains. - Deforestation solutions require a new development vision for the Brazilian Amazon, say analysts, with policies that promote the sustainable use of forest products, and policies that end the expansion of agro-commodities into native forests, and promote agribusiness growth on the nation’s surplus of 15-20 million hectares of already deforested and degraded land. - Law enforcement to curb illegal land grabbing also needs to happen, especially on the 70 million hectares of public land in Amazonia not allocated for specific uses. Also, government must start tracking cattle from point of origin with indirect suppliers, where deforestation occurs, to slaughterhouses. A key step to a solution: open talks between agribusiness and environmentalists.
Brazilian Amazon oil palm deforestation under control, for now [05/17/2018]
- Brazil’s Sustainable Palm Oil Production Program (SPOPP), launched in 2010, aims to prevent primary and secondary forest clearing for new oil palm plantations in Legal Amazonia. As part of the plan, a bio-physical suitability zoning map excluded legally protected parks, indigenous reserves and intact forest areas from those areas available for oil palm cultivation. - With 31.2 million hectares (120,463 square miles) of degraded land existing in Legal Amazonia that could be put into oil palm production without severe ecological consequences, it was thought at the time that there would be no need for deforestation by the industry. A recent study gauges SPOPP’s success from 2006 to 2014. - The study surveyed oil palm cultivation over a 50,000 square kilometer area in Pará state, finding that 90 percent of production expansion over that time occurred on former pasture, not forest. In fact, direct conversion of intact forest to oil palm declined 4 percent from 2006-2010, to less than 1 percent from 2010-2014 in the study area. - Researchers fear that major deforestation due to an oil palm production boom could occur in the near future if transportation infrastructure is markedly improved, and if Brazil’s economy, political and institutional stability increases. The study didn’t address escalating conflicts between Amazon oil palm plantations and traditional communities.
Study links malaria to deforestation in the Amazon [05/15/2018]
- A study published recently adds evidence to the argument that deforestation aids the spread of malaria. - Researchers compared deforestation patterns to malaria rates in nine states in the Brazilian Amazon. They found that places with the highest incidences of malaria were impacted forest patches between 0.1 and 5 square kilometers in size. - The researchers write that these forest patches contain the shaded, watery, forest-edge habitat preferred by the mosquitos that transmit malaria. - To keep malaria from becoming an even bigger threat, the authors call for better monitoring of mosquito populations, land planning, and income generation schemes for forest-dwelling communities.
Attack of the turtles: ruralists assault environmental laws, Amazon [05/15/2018]
- With the Brazilian public focused on the October elections, and many members of congress gone home to organize runs for office, the bancada ruralista, rural lobby, has launched a raft of amendments, attached to unrelated bills, that would undo many of Brazil’s environmental and indigenous protections. There is a strong chance of passage. - These stealth measures are known as “jabutis” or “turtles.” Two jabutis, attached to an energy bill, could lead to the privatization of Brazil’s electricity sector, and to allowing the ownership of land by foreigners, currently forbidden in Brazil, for the purpose of building dams, transmission lines, and other energy facilities. Passage could greatly benefit China. - Another rider, attached to a bill giving emergency humanitarian assistance to Venezuelan refugees, would abolish a legal requirement to consult with indigenous communities about new energy projects to be built beside roads and railways that already cross their lands. The rider would immediately impact the Waimiri-Atroari Indians in Roraima state. - Another jabuti would benefit Cerrado agribusiness by classifying all proposed irrigation projects as “projects of public interest,” making them easier to approve, with less rigorous environmental impact studies. Another jabuti would simplify the environmental licensing process for small hydroelectric dams, potentially harming both the Amazon and Pantanal.
Damming the Amazon unfettered after Brazilian purge (commentary) [05/14/2018]
- In January 2018, two key Brazilian officials, Paulo Pedrosa, executive secretary of the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME), and Luiz Augusto Barroso, the head of Energy Research Enterprise, an MME agency responsible for energy planning, announced a shift away from destructive Amazon mega-dam construction. - They said the reason for the shift was the heavy environmental and social impacts of such dams. - After the appointment of Moreira Franco, the new Minister of Mines and Energy, both MME officials were replaced. Franco is under investigation in the lava jato (car wash) corruption probe. Amazon dams are particularly prone to corruption. - There has been no mention since January that any planned Amazonian dams listed for construction by 2026 will be cancelled. This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Debate ensues over British supermarket chain’s decision to ban palm oil [05/10/2018]
- Iceland Foods recently decided to remove palm oil from its own-label products. The move follows a vote by the European Parliament to ban the use of palm oil in European biofuels. - An aggressive lobbying campaign spearheaded by actors from Indonesia and Malaysia, the world’s top palm oil producers, have framed the ban as an attack on small farmers, although the industry is dominated by large companies. But Iceland’s move has also spurred debate among scientists and conservationists, some of whom say Iceland would do better to source palm oil that has been produced “sustainably.” - Iceland says it doesn’t believe there is enough “truly sustainable palm oil…currently available on the mass market” for that to be a practical solution. The credibility of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, the world’s largest association for ethical production of the commodity, for example, is widely seen as questionable, as it has repeatedly failed to enforce its standards. - Greenpeace described Iceland’s move as a “warning shot from a tiny UK company, that could start to grow bigger if palm oil producers and governments don’t tackle the scourge of deforestation.”
A forgotten people: traditional Amazon hamlet fights for its territory [05/09/2018]
- In the early 20th century, rubber tappers established traditional communities along the middle reaches of the Xingu River in the Amazon. In the late 20th century these communities endured the threats of illegal loggers and land thieves. - In the early 2000s, São Sebastião do Xingu residents were told that a group of elite landowners had bought the land on which their hamlet stood, and that the community would be forced to vacate, which it did, moving upstream. Then, in 2005, the people were told again they would have to move to make way for Serra do Pardo National Park. - This time, the residents of São Sebastião resisted and stayed on the land, despite intense pressure from the Brazilian government to leave. They argued that they were not properly informed of the government’s plan to establish the park, that their livelihoods are sustainable, and that they live in harmony with the local ecology, rather than harming it. - São Sebastião residents continue to negotiate to stay on their land with officials from ICMBio, the Chico Mendes Institute of Biodiversity Conservation. And while those talks have been painfully slow, the traditional people hope that the conflict will be resolved soon, and that they will be able to keep their homes and territory.
Pleistocene climates help scientists pick out targets for conservation in Brazil’s forests [05/08/2018]
- A team of scientists looked for places in the Amazon and the Atlantic Forest that have had stable weather patterns for a long time — going back to the Pleistocene Epoch — but that don’t fall within the boundaries of existing parks or reserves. - They measured the efficiency of the current network of protected areas in these areas, and they also came up with a prioritization scale for conservation efforts that incorporated the locations of intact forest landscapes. - The team reports that protected areas in the Amazon are four times as efficient at safeguarding these “climatically stable areas” as protected areas in the Atlantic Forest.
In Brazil, an island laboratory for Atlantic Forest restoration [05/03/2018]
- Anchieta Island, just off the coast of Brazil near São Paulo, has seen the worst side of humans. Now, scientists and local authorities are laboring to restore its biodiversity. - The island is located 800 meters (about 874 yards) from the municipality of Ubatuba, in one of the few regions of Brazil where the Atlantic Forest still thrives. - Most of the island’s original forest was devastated over a long period of human habitation, and more recent attempts to introduce foreign mammal species have also had a significant ecological impact. - Scientists are now studying the complex interactions at play during environmental restoration, including removing some invasive species, as they embark on an intensive reforestation program.
Religious leaders mobilize to protect indigenous people and forests [05/02/2018]
- Religious leaders joined forces with indigenous peoples from Brazil, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Meso-America and Peru at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo in 2017 to launch the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative (IRI). - The IRI plans to mobilize high profile religious leaders to intervene in policy forums and advocate for forests and indigenous people with support from UN Environment. - It has been estimated that one third of climate change mitigation is from tropical rainforests and securing land rights for indigenous peoples is an effective and low-cost method of reducing carbon emissions.
New film shines light on cattle industry link to Amazon deforestation [05/01/2018]
- Approximately one fifth of the Amazon rainforest has already been cut down, and nearly 80 percent of this deforestation is attributable to the cattle industry, says a new nearly hour-long documentary, “Grazing the Amazon.” - Many ranchers are outspoken in their justification for deforestation, possibly because they feel safe from prosecution under Brazilian law because of the bancada ruralista, the powerful agribusiness lobby that has a huge influence in congress and on the Temer administration. - One of the major problems driving deforestation is “cattle washing,” illicit techniques for raising cattle on newly deforested land by falsifying records, or shifting the cattle from illegal pasture to legal pasture, before sending them to slaughterhouses. Better recordkeeping could help to illuminate and limit this practice. - Government and/or banking sanctions and incentives are also badly needed to motivate cattle ranchers to move away from deforestation, and to support already proven techniques for sustainable livestock production in the Brazilian Amazon.
3,000 indigenous people gather in Brasilia to protest ruralist agenda [04/30/2018]
- From 23-27 April, 3,000 indigenous people from a hundred groups all across Brazil came together in Brasilia for the 15th annual encampment to demonstrate against government policies and to demand justice. While last year’s event saw police crowd control with teargas, this year’s was peaceful. - This year’s encampment, like last year’s, was among the largest ever, catalysed by rising violence against indigenous leaders and activists, and by what participants see as the repressive and authoritarian policies of the Temer government and Congress, both of which are dominated by the bancada ruralista, the agribusiness lobby. - Among other demands, the demonstrators called for demarcation of ancestral lands, guaranteed under Brazil’s 1988 Constitution, but not yet carried out in many indigenous areas. Protestors also asked the government to obey International Labour Organization Convention 169, which Brazil signed, and assures pre-consultation of groups impacted by large infrastructure projects. - Indigenous women had an exceptionally strong presence at this year’s encampment, and there was further collaboration with traditional riverine group representatives, who in the past were sometimes indigenous opponents. Now, indigenous and traditional people are joining together to prevent the loss of their lands and cultures, and to preserve their way of life.
For the Caiçaras, environmental laws in Brazil at odds with tradition [04/25/2018]
- The origin of the Caiçaras trace back to the early mixture of indigenous tribes, European settlers and African slaves in Brazil. - For the last 300 years the Caiçaras subsisted on fishing and farming in one of the best conserved stretches of Atlantic Forest. - Confined between the Atlantic Ocean and the Serra do Mar mountain range, Caiçaras lived in relative isolation until the 1970s, when the creation of the BR-101 road opened the doors to mass tourism. - In just the last few decades, real estate speculation and the enforcement of strict environmental laws have threatened the Caiçara’s traditional way of life.
Conservation Effectiveness series sparks action, dialogue [04/23/2018]
- Our in-depth series examined the effectiveness of six common conservation strategies: Forest certification, payments for ecosystem services, community-based forest management, terrestrial protected areas, marine protected areas, and environmental advocacy. - We also examined how four of the biggest groups that dominate today’s conservation landscape — The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Conservation International (CI), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) — make decisions about which conservation strategy to employ. - Our series generated a lot of discussion and attracted a wide variety of feedback. - We hope to keep our databases of scientific studies and our infographics alive and relevant by developing a platform that allows researchers to update them by adding studies. We welcome ideas on this effort.
Save intact forests for humanity’s sake, urge experts [04/20/2018]
- The world’s largest forests can help solve some of the biggest problems facing humanity, but only if we move to safeguard them, argues a New York Times op-ed by Tom Lovejoy and John Reid. - Lovejoy and Reid make a case for protecting the planet’s last “intact forest landscapes” for the role they can play in addressing critical social and environmental challenges. - They argue that while the extent of intact forests have declined by 7 percent so far this century, there are “practical and affordable” options for protecting them. - “aving forests more than just a nice thing to do; it’s a survival skill we’re going to need over the next hundred years or more,” Reid told Mongabay in an interview.
Cerrado: abandoned pasturelands fail to regain savanna biodiversity [04/20/2018]
- A new study has found that abandoned pasturelands in the Brazilian Cerrado do not regain their former biodiversity even after as much as 25 years. The Cerrado biome once covered 2 million square kilometers, but its rapid conversion by agribusiness means that less than half the region’s native vegetation remains. - Researchers sampled 29 Cerrado pasture tracts that had been abandoned for between 3 and 25 years and found that native plants and animals largely didn’t return. Up to a quarter century after abandonment, restored savannas continued to lack 37 percent of their original species. - Brazil’s Forest Code requires that at least 20 percent of private rural Cerrado property not be cultivated. However the new study suggests that the code may not be fully achieving its goal of protecting and restoring native species if the conserved land is degraded pasture, since native vegetation will not come back. - The scientists suggest that one way of boosting biodiversity would be to use fire as a land management tool. Fire is a naturally occurring process in the Cerrado. Its artificial suppression allows trees to grow up, reducing biodiversity. So the reintroduction of fire could help restore native grasses as well as other species.
Brazil’s actual forest-related CO2 emissions could blow by Paris pledge [04/19/2018]
- Brazil is reporting its CO2 emissions within U.N. guidelines, but those rules ignore significant sources of national greenhouse gas emissions ¬by disregarding carbon emitting processes related to forests, say scientists. None of this underreporting is likely unique to Brazil, but it is perhaps more acute there than in other nations due to Brazil’s vast forests. - The U.N. doesn’t require Brazil and other developing nations to count certain greenhouse gas emissions in detail, especially sources it classifies as non-anthropogenic. This, for example, includes CO2 released from wildfires. However, most fires in the Brazilian Amazon are set by people clearing land, so those CO2 emissions are largely human-caused. - Forest degradation, methane emitted from reservoirs, and carbon released from soils where forests are converted to croplands or pastures go partly or totally untallied in emission reports, sometimes because data is lacking, or because the UN hasn’t included the source in its reporting criteria. Another problem: low-resolution satellite monitoring allows small-scale deforestation to go undetected, so is unreported. - As a result, Brazil’s actual carbon emissions are almost certainly higher than the figures reported to the United Nations — how much higher is unknown. But, experts say, that if this missing carbon were added to Brazil’s reported emissions, the nation would likely not meet its 2025 Paris Climate Agreement goal.
Anglo American iron ore pipeline suffers second rupture in Brazil [04/18/2018]
- A rupture of an Anglo American Brasil pipeline in Minas Gerais state spilled 318 tons of iron ore on 12 March. That has been followed by a second spill of 647 tons of mining material on 29 March into the Santo Antônio do Grama River and nearby pastureland. - The pipeline is currently waiting for licensing approval in order to begin expansion of the Sapo iron mine, part of the Minas-Rio Project. - The 529 kilometer (328 mile) mineral duct links the Sapo mine, located near the town of Conceição Mato Dentro, to the Atlantic Ocean export terminal Port of Açu, in São João da Barra, Rio de Janeiro. - IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental agency, has charged the company with several environmental violations and slapped it with a fine of R$ 72.6 million (US$ 21.1 million). The duct is currently shut down pending a report from Anglo American certifying the operation’s safety.
Audio: Impacts of agriculture on Brazil’s Cerrado region [04/17/2018]
- On today’s episode: the impacts of agriculture on Brazil’s Cerrado region. Incredibly biodiverse, the region supports more than 10,000 plant species, 900 birds, and 300 mammals. But it has long been overlooked by scientists and environmentalists alike, and as protecting the Amazon has become more of a priority, much agricultural production in Brazil has moved from the rainforest to the vast Cerrado savannah. - In February, Mongabay sent journalists Alicia Prager and Flávia Milhorance to the Cerrado region of central Brazil to report on the impacts of this rapid expansion of agribusiness on the region’s environment and people. - Prager and Milhorance filed a series of six reports and they’re here to tell us what they found.
Brazil’s high court curbs executive power to dismember protected areas [04/12/2018]
- Last week, Brazil’s Supreme Court (STF) ruled that MP 558, a Provisional Measure, was unconstitutional, making it unlawful for the executive branch to use the administrative decree to reduce seven conservation units by 100,000 hectares — five of those units were in the Tapajós basin. - In addition, the STF ruled that in future it would be unconstitutional for the executive branch to use MPs to alter the boundaries of already established conservation units. Such reductions can only be approved by the legislature. - MPs can continue to be used in setting other policies, some harmful to the environment. Past MPs approved the building of new coal burning power plants, and for dramatically revising the Terra Legal program, revising it not to benefit the landless poor, but wealthy elites and land grabbers, say critics. - In another win for conservationists, environment minister José Sarney Filho created five new Brazilian conservation units last week, covering 1.2 million hectares. Two were created in Bahia state, in the Cerrado savanna biome; and three in Maranhão state, in the Caatinga tropical dry forest biome.
NGOs acquire land in Brazil to create wildlife corridor [04/12/2018]
- The acquired land plot is located in a region of the Atlantic Forest, and will be connected to the Poço das Antas reserve by a bridge that will cross over a major highway. - Brazilian NGO Associação Mico-Leão-Dourado (AMLD), in collaboration with US NGO SavingSpecies and Dutch charitable foundation DOB Ecology, has acquired a 237-hectare (585 acre) plot of land next to the Biological Reserve of Poço das Antas, in the state of Rio de Janeiro. Currently, a four-lane highway separates the newly acquired land from the reserve. - The organizations now plan to restore the forest in the plot and build a bridge that will connect both areas over the highway. The bridge will allow animal species to circulate between the two regions, curtailing the negative impact of forest fragmentation. - One of the species that will benefit from the new corridor is the golden lion tamarin (Leontopithecus rosalia), an endangered primate which only occurs in this region. The tamarin has been the focus of conservation efforts in recent years.
NGOs denounce Tapajós basin intimidation, violence, Brazil inaction [04/04/2018]
- Thirty-eight national and international civil society organizations (CSOs), including social movements and NGOs, have condemned the Brazilian government and the builders of four Teles Pires River dams in the Amazon. The groups denounce the dam consortium for acts of intimidation against indigenous groups, especially involving the newly built São Manoel dam. - This dam was built by the Sao Manoel Energy Consortium, headed by the Brazilian subsidiaries of China Three Gorges Corporation, Energia de Portugal, and state company Furnas. The CSOs/NGOs say the Temer government sent in a national police unit as a “private security firm” to defend the dam builders and intimidate indigenous groups. - The CSOs/NGOs also say the government is in violation of numerous laws regarding the São Manoel dam, including a failure to properly consult with indigenous communities, threats made to those groups, incomplete environmental impact studies, and failure to implement agreed to “conditions” made by authorities in return for dam authorization. - Elsewhere, riverside communities on the Tapajós River, frustrated with government delays to meet a legal obligation to demarcate their lands, took action to mark the borders themselves. Illegal loggers and miners responded with threats of violence. The Brazilian government has done nothing so far to protect these traditional communities.
Yellow fever may threaten biophilia in São Paulo city (commentary) [04/04/2018]
- Reconciling biodiversity conservation and urban development is one of the biggest challenges for humanity, considering that by 2030, 60 percent of people globally are expected to live in cities. - There are currently numerous forest fragments rooted in an urban matrix. On the one hand, these remnant forests confer many benefits on human society. One the other hand, forests may cause biophobias related to human fear and avoidance of some animals, misconceptions about animals’ risks, and the association of forest with dangerous and unsafe areas. - A recent increase of yellow fever cases in highly urbanized cities in Brazil’s Atlantic forest – a tropical hotspot of biodiversity – can threaten the balance between biophilia and biophobia. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Calls for change in handling abuse allegations at top conservation group [04/02/2018]
- Information provided to Mongabay shows a history of employees at CI who feel twice victimized — first by what they describe as “bullying and harassment,” and a second time by consequences if they report up. - Although CI advertises myriad policies about workplace ethics and protections, many say they are still afraid to speak up for fear of retaliation. - Staff also say that they are crippled by uncertainty about privacy rights and fear possibly destroying their careers or being branded a “troublemaker.” Despite that, staff have found ways to tell management time and again that not enough is being done to protect people in their organization.
New study discovers 81 lost human settlements in the Amazon rainforest [04/02/2018]
- By looking at satellite images of a previously unexplored part of the Amazon in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, a team of archaeologists has identified 81 pre-Columbian human settlements. - The team also found that the settlements weren’t near major rivers, but closer to smaller streams and creeks, challenging a commonly held belief that pre-Columbian people tended to live close to fertile floodplains of large rivers, leaving the rest of the forest relatively untouched. - The researchers’ computer model predicted that the southern rim of the Amazon likely supported up to 1 million people in pre-Columbian times, a population that’s much larger than previous estimates.
Brazil creates four massive marine protected areas [03/30/2018]
- The four newly designated marine protected areas (MPAs) will cover an area of more than 920,000 square kilometers (355,200 square miles) in the Atlantic Ocean. - Two of the MPAs will cover waters around the archipelago of Trindade, Martin Vaz and Mount Columbia, located more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) east of the Brazilian mainland. - The remaining two MPAs will be located around the São Pedro and São Paulo archipelagos, some 900 kilometers (560 miles) off the northeast coast. - However, some marine biologists worry that these large, remote MPAs may do little to safeguard biodiversity.
Cerrado Manifesto could curb deforestation, but needs support: experts [03/29/2018]
- The Cerrado Manifesto, issued in 2017, calls for a voluntary pledge by companies to help halt deforestation and native vegetation loss in the Cerrado. The Brazilian savannah’s native vegetation once covered 2 million square kilometers that has been reduced by soy, corn, cotton, and cattle production by more than half. - A Manifesto Statement of Support (SoS) has been signed mostly by supermarkets and fast food chains, including McDonalds, Walmart, Marks & Spencer and Unilever. However, commodities firms such as Cargill, Bunge, and ADM, all active in the Cerrado, have yet to sign the SoS. Experts say big traders must join in to make the initiative effective. - The Cerrado Manifesto is a call to action, and is somewhat akin to the 2006 Amazon Soy Moratorium, which some say was effective in cutting deforestation due to the direct conversion of forests to soy plantations. Critics of the Manifesto say that its top down approach should also include major incentives to farmers to not clear native vegetation. - One concern is that the Manifesto and other deforestation mechanisms could force good actors out of the Cerrado, creating a vacuum into which entities unsupportive of environmental reform might enter. Among entities of concern is China, which already buys a third of Cerrado soy. China has not signed the Manifesto.
Cerrado: U.S. investment spurs land theft, deforestation in Brazil, say experts [03/28/2018]
- In Brazil, large swathes of land are owned by the state, but can be legally claimed by small-scale farmers if they cultivate crops and homestead on it, though they may lack legal title. In the 1990s, 240 small-scale farm families laid claim to lands in Cotegipe municipality, Bahia state. - Over time, local elites allegedly drove them off those lands, using intimidation and violence, and then laid claim to 140,000 hectares (540 square miles) — an area bigger than Los Angeles. That land was sold and resold. Today, it is occupied by the Campo Largo farm, a minimally productive operation owned by Caracol Agropecuária LTDA. - The capital that Caracol used to buy that land has now been traced to its foreign partners. Caracol is apparently owned by the endowment fund of Harvard University, via its Harvard Management Company: HMC, which oversees more than 12,000 funds, is believed to own Caracol through two subsidiaries: Guara LLC and Bromelia LLC. - Globally, HMC, TIAA-CREF and other financial firms began investing heavily in farmland in developing nations after 2007/08. Often, say analysts, these lands were originally obtained via land theft. In Cotegipe, 22 families are still fighting to reclaim the small farms they say were stolen from them — a Mongabay exclusive.
Cerrado: Agribusiness boomtown; profits for a few, hardships for many [03/26/2018]
- Luís Eduardo Magalhães (LEM) is a soy boomtown, built on Cerrado agribusiness. Its population has grown fourfold since 2000, to 83,000 people, and is one of Brazil’s fastest growing cities. But LEM has suffered growing pains as the people from rural areas have rushed there seeking jobs and opportunities. - Public services have failed to keep up, with most urban streets still dirt and sanitation services lagging behind population growth. Many new arrivals from the countryside, lacking specialized skills, have been unable to get good jobs or gain access to the highly mechanized and specialized industrial agribusiness economy. So they remain poor. - Many have ended up in Santa Cruz, an impoverished neighborhood where drug trafficking and gang violence are a constant daily threat. Those with better skills and more luck may end up in Jardim Paraíso (Paradise Garden), a nearby upscale neighborhood marked by security fences and security alarms as protection against crime. - Experts say LEM seems likely to follow the path of agribusiness boomtowns globally: population grows rapidly, but initial economic gains and urbanization aren’t followed by ongoing development and investment. Disorderly growth negatively impacts the environment, leading to more poverty and a concentration of land ownership and wealth.
Brazil ignored U.N. letters warning of land defender threats, record killings [03/23/2018]
- United Nations rapporteurs sent two letters to the Temer administration in 2017. The first warned of threats to human rights activists in Minas Gerais state. The second condemned the record number of environmental and land defender killings in Pará state last year. Brazil ignored both letters. - The State Public Ministry (MPE), the independent public prosecutor’s office in Minas Gerais, had requested the inclusion of six laborers and their families in the Protection Program of Human Rights Defenders, of the Secretariat of Rights of the Presidency in May, 2017. - The laborers say they were threatened by representatives of Anglo American Iron Ore Brazil S.A., a subsidiary of London-based Anglo American, a global mining company. In March Anglo American Brazil reported a mineral duct rupture which contaminated the Santo Antônio and Casca rivers, and riverside communities. - 908 murders of environmentalists and land defenders occurred in 35 countries between 2002 and 2013. Of those, 448, almost half, happened in Brazil. In 2018 so far, at least 12 Brazilian social activists and politicians have been slain — twice as many as compared to the same period in 2017.
How to build a Guardian: students learn about making technology work in the field [03/23/2018]
- Students in several science and tech schools in California are learning to design and build Guardians, acoustic monitoring devices to help protect rainforests from illegal logging while keeping a record of the sounds made by forest wildlife. - Led by the non-profit Rainforest Connection, the students are constructing the Guardians from old, recycled smartphones armed with solar power and Google’s open source machine learning framework, TensorFlow, which transforms them into field-tough listening tools. - The program also addresses the challenges of designing and developing technology for humid, rugged, remote field conditions typical of indigenous reserves and protected areas.
Cerrado: Traditional communities accuse agribusiness of ‘green land grabbing’ [03/22/2018]
- The Cerrado savannah includes many traditional communities. Among them are the geraizeiros who arrived in Western Bahia as much as 200 years ago. For those many years, they occupied small communal villages, and farmed, grazed, and harvested surrounding native lands held by the Brazilian government. - Typically lacking legal deeds to these lands, the geraizeiros have increasingly come into conflict with agribusiness expansion. Company-run plantations have, according to local people, laid claim to the natural lands, fenced them off, placed guards, then converted native vegetation to soy, corn and cotton monocultures. - Another conflict: in the Cerrado, a percentage of a land owner’s property must be kept in its natural state, as a Legal Reserve. However, these reserves needn’t be contiguous with croplands. As a result, say local people, agribusiness is laying claim to natural lands that the geraizeiros have long used sustainably for their livelihoods. - Conflict continues to escalate. The Cerrado states of Maranhão, Tocantins, Piauí and Bahia – known collectively as Matopiba – saw a 56 percent increase in reported land conflicts (400 in total) over the five year period, 2012-2016. In contrast, the national increase over the same period was 21 percent.
Brazilian lawmakers funded by donors guilty of environmental crimes: report [03/21/2018]
- The Brazilian Chamber of Deputies has 513 members. Of those, 249 received a total of 58.9 million reais (US$18.3 million) in official donations during the 2014 election from companies and people who committed environmental crimes, including illegal clearing of forests, says a recent report by Repórter Brasil. - Receiving these donations is not a crime, but it does provide insight into how environmental offenders are connected to, and potentially influencing, lawmakers and their decisions. Of the 249 deputies who received tainted donations, 134 are members of the Bancada Ruralista, the pro-agribusiness rural caucus that dominates the chamber. - Since the 2014 general election, Brazil’s election laws have been tightened. In 2015, the Federal Supreme Court passed a decree that made it illegal for companies to donate to candidates and political parties. These new rules will be in effect for the October 2018 presidential election. - Analysts still worry that money from those who have committed environmental crimes will go right on flowing to politicians — possibly illegally or utilizing newly discovered campaign finance law loopholes — risking the possibility of influence peddling.
Pearl Jam invests in Amazonian reforestation to offset emissions from current Brazil tour [03/20/2018]
- Rock band Pearl Jam has partnered with Conservation International (CI) in purchasing carbon offsets for the estimated 2,500 tons of carbon dioxide emissions that will be generated by its Brazilian tour dates taking place this month. - Proceeds from the offset purchase will be used to support a tropical forest restoration project that aims to plant 73 million trees in the Brazilian Amazon by 2023, said to be the largest reforestation effort in the world. - “As a band, it’s important for us to recognize the environmental impact of our tours and do what we can to mitigate that,” Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard said in a statement.
Cerrado: Agribusiness may be killing Brazil’s ‘birthplace of waters’ [03/19/2018]
- The eighth World Water Forum takes place in Brasilia this week, and World Water Day is this Thursday, 22 March. So Mongabay here takes a close look at the Cerrado as Brazil’s “birthplace of waters.” - The Cerrado savannah, despite its annual dry season, has in the past had water to spare. Eight out of 12 of Brazil’s major river basins and three aquifers — the Guarani, Bambuí and Urucuia — all rely on the Cerrado as a source for much of their water. - Traditional communities are also reliant on the Cerrado’s aquifers and streams. But as agribusiness has moved into the region, putting large-scale irrigation into operation, those communities have complained of a diminishing water supply. A major water conflict arose recently between the town of Correntina and large-scale farms, in Bahia state. - The diminishing Cerrado water supply has complex causes, including deforestation due to land conversion to agriculture; large-scale irrigation to grow water-intensive crops like soy, cotton and corn; and climate change. However, scientists say that addressing the problem proactively is critically important to local communities and all of Brazil.
Sharp-eyed Mongabay readers spot a jaguarundi (commentary) [03/16/2018]
- Last Monday, in an article about Brazil’s Cerrado, this Mongabay editor mistakenly identified an animal in a photo as a puma (Puma concolor). - Within hours multiple readers corrected that mistake, properly identifying the animal as a jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi). - Curiosity aroused, this editor went to work learning more about jaguarundis. - Most interesting find: these small cats of North, Central and South America, were until recently on track to be reintroduced to Texas, but a new president and his plan for a U.S. / Mexico border wall has put those plans in limbo.
Better agricultural planning could prevent 88% of biodiversity loss, study finds [03/16/2018]
- Results of a new study reveal that nearly 90 percent of the biodiversity that scientists expect will be lost to future agricultural expansion could be saved if more effective land-use planning directed this expansion to areas with the fewest species. - It found that 10 countries possessed the lion’s share of this potential, and could by themselves reduce the expected loss of the world’s biodiversity by 33 percent. - However, there are caveats. The researchers write that most of these countries are among the “20 worst-ranked” in terms of environmental impacts and have governance and political issues that would impede effective land-use planning at a national level. And they say global land-use optimization aimed at protecting the natural resources of the world’s most biodiverse countries may come “at the expense of their own production opportunities and economic development.” - The researchers write that in order for the world’s most biodiverse countries to reach their full conservation potential while providing for their human communities, global land-use policy and research need to better integrate the governance, political and economic challenges present in these countries.
Cerrado: can the empire of soy coexist with savannah conservation? [03/15/2018]
- With new deforestation due to soy production markedly reduced in recent years by Brazilian laws and by the 2006 Amazon Soy Moratorium, agribusiness, transnational commodities companies like Bunge and Cargill, and investors have shifted their attention to the Cerrado, savannah. - Four Cerrado states, Maranhão, Tocantins, Piauí and Bahia, known collectively as Matopiba, are seeing a rapid reduction in native vegetation as soy, cotton, corn and cattle production rises. Over half of the Cerrado’s 2 million square kilometers has already been converted to croplands, with large-scale agribusiness owning most land. - One reason for the focus on the Cerrado: Brazil’s Forest Code requires that inside Legal Amazonia 80 percent of forests on privately held lands be conserved as Legal Reserves. But in a large portion of the Cerrado, property owners are only required to protect 20 to 35 percent of native vegetation. - With little help coming currently from government, conservationists are responding with creative approaches for protection – developing partnerships with local communities, seeking signers for the Cerrado Manifesto to curb new deforestation due to soy, and restoring degraded lands to market the Cerrado’s unique fruits and other produce.
Camera traps nab crop-raiding animals near farms in the Amazon [03/14/2018]
- A team of scientists from the U.K. and Brazil used an array of 132 camera traps to snap more than 60,000 photographs around 47 farming communities in the Amazon. - They also conducted 157 interviews with local farmers about the animals that they found most frequently in their fields. - The researchers found that the animals that were most destructive to crops were also among the ones nabbed most frequently by their cameras.
Small hydropower a big global issue overlooked by science and policy [03/13/2018]
- Brazil recently announced an end to its mega-dam construction policy, a strategy other nations may embrace as understanding of the massive environmental and social impacts of big dams grows. - However, a trend long neglected by scientists and policymakers ¬ the rapid growth of small dams – has been spotlighted in a new study. - Nearly 83,000 small dams in 150 nations (with 11 small dams for each large dam), exist globally, while that number could triple if all capacity worldwide is used. More than 10,000 new small dams are already in the planning stages. But small dam impacts have been little studied by scientists, and little regulated by governments. - Environmentalists say that, with the rapid construction of new small dams, it is urgent for researchers to assess the impacts of different types of small dams, as well as looking at the cumulative impacts of many small dams placed on a single river, or on main stems and tributaries within watersheds.
Cerrado: appreciation grows for Brazil’s savannah, even as it vanishes [03/12/2018]
- The Brazilian Cerrado – a vast savannah – once covered two million square kilometers (772,204 square miles), an area bigger than Great Britain, France and Germany combined, stretching to the east and south of the Amazon. - Long undervalued by scientists and environmental activists, researchers are today realizing that the Cerrado is incredibly biodiverse. The biome supports more than 10,000 plant species, over 900 bird and 300 mammal species. - The Cerrado’s deep-rooted plants and its soils also sequester huge amounts of carbon, making the region’s preservation key to curbing climate change, and to reducing Brazil’s deforestation and CO2 emissions to help meet its Paris carbon reduction pledge. - Agribusiness – hampered by Brazilian laws in the Amazon – has moved into the Cerrado in a big way. More than half of the biome’s native vegetation has already disappeared, as soy and cattle production rapidly replace habitat. This series explores the dynamics of change convulsing the region.
Tropical deforestation: the need for a strategy adjustment (commentary) [03/08/2018]
- Ecologist Dan Nepstad is the founder and executive director of the Earth Innovation Institute. - In this commentary, Nepstad makes the case for building stronger government support to end deforestation in tropical countries. - Without this support, it may not be possible to further curb tropical deforestation. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Brazilian ‘quilombo’ community entitled with 220,000 hectares of rainforest [03/07/2018]
- Longtime residents of one of the country’s thousands of Quilombo communities have been given land titles for the first time. - Quilombo communities are Brazilian peoples of African descent whose ancestors were slaves – they have long lived in rural communities throughout Brazil. - The Cachoeira Porteira quilombo community of 500 people in Brazil’s Pará state was formally entitled with some 220,000 hectares of Amazonian rainforest earlier this month.
Analysis: the Brazilian Supreme Court’s New Forest Code ruling [03/07/2018]
- Last week Brazil’s Supreme Court rejected a legal challenge by environmentalists, upholding the constitutionality of most, though not all, of Brazil’s New Forest Code – legislation crafted in 2012 by the powerful bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby in Congress. - The 2012 code is weaker than the old Forest Code, which was approved in 1965, but never well enforced. - Many environmentalists have expressed concern that the high court ruling endorses legislation that prioritizes the economic importance of industrial agriculture over basic environmental protections. - Conservationists also say that the decision rewards those who have illegally infringed on environmental laws at a time when pressures on forests are growing more intense, especially in the Amazon. This story includes a chart that provides a detailed analysis of the environmental pros and cons of the Supreme Court decision.
Amazon forest to savannah tipping point could be far closer than thought (commentary) [03/05/2018]
- In the 1970s, scientists recognized that the Amazon makes half of its own rainfall via evaporation and transpiration from vegetation. Researchers also recognized that escalating deforestation would reduce this rainfall producing effect. - A 2007 study estimated that with 40 percent Amazon deforestation a tipping point could be reached, with large swathes of Amazonia switching from forest to savannah. Two newly considered factors in a 2016 study – climate change and fires – have now reduced that estimated tipping point to 20-25 percent. Current deforestation is at 17 percent, with an unknown amount of degraded forest adding less moisture. - There is good reason to think that this Amazon forest to savannah tipping point is close at hand. Historically unprecedented droughts in 2005, 2010 and 2015 would seem to be the first flickers of such change. - Noted Amazon scientists Tom Lovejoy and Carlos Nobre argue that it is critical to build in a margin of safety by keeping Amazon deforestation below 20 percent. To avoid this tipping point, Brazil needs to strongly control deforestation, and combine that effort with reforestation. This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Brazil high court Forest Code ruling largely bad for environment, Amazon: NGOs [03/01/2018]
- In a tight decision, the Brazilian Supreme Court (STF) upheld the constitutionality of much of Brazil’s 2012 New Forest Code, that had been created under the powerful influence of the bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby. The upheld 2012 New Forest Code is a weaker body of environmental regulations than the 1965 code created under Brazil’s military government. - The court ruling made constitutional a declared amnesty for those who illegally cleared their Legal Reserves (lands, by law, they must not clear) before 22 July 2008, eliminating required fines and tree replantings. It allows for the reduction of Legal Reserves in states or municipalities largely occupied by indigenous reserves or protected areas. - The STF decision also allows for the reduction in size of APAs (Areas of Permanent Protection), even when considered fundamental by environmentalists for maintaining water supplies and preventing climate disasters such as floods and mudslides. - The ruling allows farmers who have already illegally cleared protected APAs, to get authorization to clear even more land, and approves farming activities on steep slopes and hilltops. Environmentalists were critical of the high court decision, while agribusiness praised it.
Andes dams twice as numerous as thought are fragmenting the Amazon [02/28/2018]
- A new study identified 142 dams currently in operation or under construction in the Andes headwaters of the Amazon, twice the number previously estimated. An additional 160 are in the planning stages. - If proposed Andes dams go ahead, sediment transport to the Amazon floodplains could cease, blocking freshwater fish migratory routes, disrupting flow and flood regimes, and threatening food security for downstream communities, impacting up to 30 million people. - Most dams to date are on the tributary networks of Andean river main stems. But new dams are planned for five out of eight major Andean Amazon main stems, bringing connectivity reductions on the Marañón, Ucayali and Beni rivers of more than 50 percent; and on the Madre de Dios and Mamoré rivers of over 35 percent. - Researchers conclude that proposed dams should be required to complete cumulative effects assessments at a basin-wide scale, and account for synergistic impacts of existing dams, utilizing the UN Watercourses Convention as a legal basis for international cooperation for sustainable water management between Amazon nations.
Norsk Hydro accused of Amazon toxic spill, admits ‘clandestine pipeline’ [02/27/2018]
- Norsk Hydro’s Alunorte aluminum refining facility in Barcarena municipality, Pará state, has been accused by Brazilian authorities of contaminating the local waters of several communities with toxic waste that overflowed earlier this month from a holding basin. - The firm denied the allegation, but has agreed to provide water to local residents, and is investigating. - The government also accused the company of having a “clandestine pipeline to discharge untreated effluent,” an allegation that the Norwegian state firm has since admitted to being true. - Officials have yet to determine the full cause, scope or consequence of the spill, while locals complain that this isn’t the first time. According to IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental agency, Norsk Hydro has not paid fines set at R $17 million to date (US $5.27 million), after a toxic overflow in 2009 put the local Barcarena population at risk.
Belo Monte legacy: harm from Amazon dam didn’t end with construction (photo story) [02/26/2018]
- The controversial Belo Monte dam, operational in 2016 and the world’s third biggest, was forced on the people of Altamira, Pará state, and is now believed to have been built largely as payback to Brazil’s construction industry by the nation’s then ruling Workers’ Party for campaign contributions received. - The dam was opposed by an alliance of indigenous and traditional communities, and international environmentalists, all to no avail. Today, the media coverage that once turned the world’s eyes toward Belo Monte, has gone away. But that hasn’t ended the suffering and harm resulting from the project. - Tens of thousands of indigenous and traditional people were forced from their homes, and had to give up their fishing livelihoods. Meanwhile, the city of Altamira endured boom and bust, as workers flooded in, then abandoned it. The Belo Sun goldmine, if ever built, also continues to be a potential threat. - In this story, Mongabay contributor Maximo Anderson and photographer Aaron Vincent Elkaim document the ongoing harm being done by the giant dam. Belo Monte, today, stands as a warning regarding the urgent need to properly assess and plan for mega-infrastructure projects in Amazonia.
Drought-driven wildfires on rise in Amazon basin, upping CO2 release [02/22/2018]
- Despite a 76 percent decline in deforestation rates between 2003 and 2015, the incidence of forest fires is increasing in Brazil, with new research linking the rise in fires not only to deforestation, but also to severe droughts. - El Niño, combined with other oceanic and atmospheric cycles, produced an unusually severe drought in 2015, a year that saw a 36 percent increase in Amazon basin forest fires, which also raised carbon emissions. - Severe droughts are expected to become more common in the Brazilian Amazon as natural oceanic cycles are made more extreme by human-induced climate change. - In this new climate paradigm, limiting deforestation alone will not be sufficient to reduce fires and curb carbon emissions, scientists say. The maintenance of healthy, intact, unfragmented forests is vital to providing resilience against further increases in Amazon fires.
Brazil’s fundamental pesticide law under attack [02/20/2018]
- In 2008, Brazil became the largest pesticide consumer in the world – the dual result of booming industrial agribusiness and ineffective environmental regulation. - In 1989, the country established one of the then toughest pesticide laws in the world (7,802/1989), which included the precautionary principle in its pesticide evaluation and registration standards. However, limited staffing and budget has made the law very difficult to implement and enforce. - With its increasing power after 2000, the bancada ruralista, the agribusiness lobby, has worked to overthrow that law, an effort thwarted to date but more likely to succeed under the Temer administration and the current ruralista-dominated Congress. - Lax pesticide use regulation and education have major health and environmental consequences. Farmers often use pesticides without proper safety gear, while children are often in the fields when spraying occurs. Some experts blame pesticides partly for Brazil’s high cancer rate – cancer is the nation’s second leading cause of death.
Protected areas with deforestation more likely to lose status in Brazilian state [02/18/2018]
- A recent study finds that ineffective protected areas stand a lower chance of surviving if deforestation has occurred within their boundaries. - The research took place in the state of Rondônia in the Brazilian Amazon. - The team of scientists also found that protected areas that work are less likely to be carved up for development. - The authors argue that removing safeguards, even from degraded areas, does not take into account the benefits that we may derive from existing protected areas, including carbon storage and clean water.
Brazilian Supreme Court ruling protects Quilombola land rights for now [02/13/2018]
- Brazil’s Supreme Court has soundly rejected a lawsuit filed in 2003 by a right wing political party that would have drastically limit the ability of quilombolas (former slave communities) to legitimize claims to their traditional lands. - There are 2,962 quilombolas in Brazil today, but just 219 have land titles, while 1,673 are pursuing the process of acquiring legal title. Titled quilombola territories include 767,596 hectares (1.9 million acres); these settlements have a good record of protecting their forests. Brazil’s total quilombola population includes some 16 million people. - While advocates for quilombola rights cheered the Supreme Court decision, major threats to the communities loom: successive administrations have drastically slashed the budget for titling quilombola lands, almost completely stalling the demarcation process. Also, a constitutional amendment, PEC 215 is moving through Brazil’s Congress. - PEC 215 would shift authority from the Executive branch to Congress for giving out land titles to quilombolas, recognizing indigenous claims to ancestral lands, and creating protected areas. With Congress dominated by the ruralist caucus and agribusiness, PEC 215 threatens Brazilian forests and indigenous and traditional communities.
Carbon pricing could save millions of hectares of tropical forest: new study [02/05/2018]
- Recently published research in the journal Environmental Research Letters found that setting a price of $20 per metric ton (about $18/short ton) of carbon dioxide could diminish deforestation by nearly 16 percent and the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere by nearly 25 percent. - The pair of economists calculated that, as things currently stand, the world stands to lose an India-size chunk of tropical forest by 2050. - In addition to carbon pricing, stricter policies to halt deforestation, such as those that helped Brazil cut its deforestation rate by 80 percent in the early 2000s, could save nearly 1 million square kilometers (386,000 square miles).
Amazon rainforest hit by surge in small-scale deforestation, study finds [02/02/2018]
- A recent study used high-resolution satellite imagery to analyze deforestation events in Amazonia, uncovering a shift from large- to small-scale deforestation events across the region. Protected areas also appear to be affected. - The results indicate big new deforestation hotspots are opening up in Peru and Bolivia, likely caused by industrial agriculture. - The researchers found 34 percent of forest loss patches in the Brazilian Amazon were smaller than 6.25 hectares, which is the smallest size detectable by the Brazilian government’s deforestation monitoring system. - The researchers say higher-resolution monitoring systems are needed to combat the rising tide of small-scale deforestation.
Zero-deforestation pledges need help, support to meet targets, new study finds [02/01/2018]
- The study’s authors reviewed previous research to understand the impact that zero-deforestation commitments are having on reducing the loss of forests. - Nearly 450 companies made 760 such commitments by early 2017. - These pledges can reduce deforestation in some cases, but in others, they weren’t effective or had unintended effects, according to the study. - The authors advocate for increased public-private communication, more support for smallholders, and complementary laws that support these pledges.
Stranger than fiction? New spiders found in Brazil named after creatures from popular fantasy stories [01/24/2018]
- Seven recently discovered spiders all belong to the genus Ochyrocera and were found in the iron caves of Floresta Nacional de Carajás in the northern Brazilian state of Pará. - While all seven species can live and breed without sunlight, they’re not necessarily consigned to the deepest depths of the underworld. The same cannot be said for some of the new spiders’ namesakes, however. - Researchers with the Sao Paulo, Brazil-based Instituto Butantan have named the seven new spiders in honor of characters from fantasy works like The Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series.
New satellite data reveals forest loss far greater than expected in Brazil Amazon [01/18/2018]
- The Brazilian Amazon lost 184 km2 of forest in December 2017, 20 times more than was recorded in December 2016 (9 km2). - The massive increase reflects Brazil’s use of a more accurate satellite monitoring system that incorporates radar, which can see land cover at night and through clouds, and suggests prior deforestation rates were likely underestimates. - As the cost of radar and other satellite data decreases, continuous monitoring will enable officials and civil society to more accurately monitor and quantify forest loss over a broad range of spatial scales.
Record Amazon fires, intensified by forest degradation, burn indigenous lands [01/18/2018]
- As of September 2017, Brazil’s Pará state in the Amazon had seen a 229 percent increase in fires over 2016; in a single week in December the state saw 26,000 fire alerts. By year’s end, the Brazilian Amazon was on track for an all-time record fire season. - But 2017 was not a record drought year, so experts have sought other causes. Analysts say most of the wildfires were human-caused, set by people seeking to convert forests to crop or grazing lands. Forest degradation by mining companies, logging and agribusiness added to the problem. - Huge cuts made by the Temer administration in the budgets of Brazilian regulatory and enforcement agencies, such as FUNAI, the nation’s indigenous protection agency, and IBAMA, its environmental agency, which fights fires, added to the problem in 2017. - The dramatic rise in wildfires has put indigenous communities and their territories at risk. For example, an area covering 24,000 hectares (59,305 acres), lost tree cover within the Kayapó Indigenous Territory from October to December, while the nearby Xikrin Indigenous Territory lost roughly 10,000 hectares (24,710 acres) over the same period.
Ancient human sites may have distorted our understanding of the Amazon’s natural ecology [01/16/2018]
- Scientists have traditionally based their knowledge of the Amazon rainforest on surveys from fewer than 1,000 plots of land, which they had assumed were representative of the rest of the forest. - Research now shows that many of these sites were occupied and modified by ancient peoples, and the trees are still regrowing from those disturbances. - These recovering trees absorb carbon at a faster rate than mature trees, so estimates of how well the rainforest can absorb carbon dioxide may be too high.
Study: Amazon dams are disrupting ecologically vital flood pulses [01/10/2018]
- Flood pulses are critical to the way the Amazon, its tributaries and other tropical rivers function – and these seasonal flood pulses are a huge driver of ecological productivity and diversity. - Floodplain forests depend upon annual flood pulses to bring nutrients and sediment from river channels out into the surrounding terrestrial habitat. - Reductions to flood pulses, brought by Amazon dams both large and small, could lead to shifts in tree species diversity and composition, with implications for carbon storage and emissions. - Unreliable flood regimes, as created by dams of all sizes, significantly impact Amazon river systems and species’ life cycles, population dynamics, food sources, and habitats above and below the water line.
Brazil 2018: Amazon under attack, resistance grows, courts to act, elections [01/09/2018]
- While forecasts are always difficult, it seems likely that Brazilian President Michel Temer will remain in power for the last year of his term, despite on-going corruption investigations. - Elections for president, the house of deputies, and most of the senate are scheduled for October. Former President Lula has led the presidential polls, though right wing candidate Jair Bolsonaro has grown strong. Lula’s environmental record is mixed; Bolsonaro would almost certainly be bad news for the environment, indigenous groups and the Amazon. - During 2018, Temer, Congress and the bancada ruralista (a lobby representing agribusiness, cattle ranchers, land thieves and other wealthy rural elites) will likely seek to undermine environmental laws and indigenous land rights further. Potential paving of the BR 319 in the heart of the Amazon is considered one of the biggest threats. - However, grassroots environmental and indigenous resistance continues to grow, and important Brazilian Supreme Court decisions are expected in the weeks and months ahead, which could undo some of the major gains made by the ruralists under Temer.
Scientists surprised by orchid bee biodiversity near oil palm plantations [01/04/2018]
- A recent study finds orchid bee diversity is supported by forest patches along rivers near oil palm plantations in Brazil. - The study lends evidence that remnant patches of forest support the movement and survival of plant and animal species in deforested landscapes. - Brazil’s new forest code revisions greatly reduce or eliminate the requirement for some agricultural producers to maintain river forest patches.
Rainforests: the year in review 2017 [01/04/2018]
- 2017 was a rough year for tropical rainforests, but there were some bright spots. - This is Mongabay’s annual year-in-review on what happened in the world of tropical rainforests. - Here we summarize some of the more notable developments and trends for tropical forests in 2017.
Brazil announces end to Amazon mega-dam building policy [01/03/2018]
- Brazil’s government this week announced a major shift away from its policy of building mega-dams in the Brazilian Amazon – a strategy born during the country’s military dictatorship (1964-1985) and vigorously carried forward down to the present day. - The Temer government claims the decision is a response to intense resistance from environmentalists and indigenous groups, but while that may be part of the reason, experts see other causes as well. - The decline in political influence of Brazil’s gigantic construction companies caused by the Lava Jato (Car Wash) corruption investigation is likely a major cause of the change in policy. So is the current depressed state of Brazil’s economy, which makes it unlikely that Brazil’s huge development bank (BNDES) will invest in such multi-billion dollar projects. - While environmentalists and indigenous groups will likely celebrate the shift away from the mega-dam policy, experts warn that many threats to the Amazon remain, including pressure by Brazil’s ruralist lobby to open up conserved areas and indigenous lands to agribusiness, along with threats posed by new road, rail, waterway and mining projects.
Brazil 2017: environmental and indigenous rollbacks, rising violence [12/27/2017]
- The bancada ruralista, or ruralist lobby, in Brazil’s congress flexed its muscles in 2017, making numerous demands on President Michel Temer to make presidential decrees weakening environmental protections and revoking land rights to indigenous and traditional communities in Brazil – decisions especially impacting the Amazon. - Emboldened ruralists – including agribusiness, cattle ranchers, land thieves and loggers – stepped up violent attacks in 2017, making Brazil the most dangerous country in the world for social or environmental activists. There were 63 assassinations by the end of October. - Budgets to FUNAI, the indigenous agency; IBAMA, the environmental agency; and other institutions, were reduced so severely this year that these government regulatory agencies were largely unable to do their enforcement and protection work. - In 2017, Temer led attempts to dismember Jimanxim National Forest and National Park, and to open the vast RENCA preserve in the Amazon to mining – efforts that have failed to date, but are still being pursued. Resistance has remained fierce, especially among indigenous groups, with Temer sometimes forced to backtrack on his initiatives.
Scientists determine there are seven species of silky anteater, not one [12/22/2017]
- A study published earlier this month in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society describes six distinct new species of silky anteater, meaning there are now officially seven species of the elusive mammal, not just one. - Silky anteaters are small, nocturnal animals that live in the canopies of trees in the tropical forests of South and Central America. They are known as very discreet and thus difficult to find, which helps explain why Cyclopes didactylus, the common anteater, was one of the least studied anteaters in the world and had been considered to be a single species up until now. - The common silky anteater is listed as a species of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, but that may not pertain to all of the newly discovered species.
Selective logging reduces biodiversity, disrupts Amazon ecosystems: study [12/22/2017]
- Reduced-impact logging, also called selective logging, which gained popularity in the 1990s, aims to balance biodiversity impacts with global demand for timber by extracting fewer trees. But the success of this approach is coming under increasing scrutiny. - A new study in the Brazilian Amazon found that dung beetle communities, and their important role as “ecosystem engineers,” is severely disrupted by even low-level timber extraction, with sharp reductions in species richness. - Multitudes of studies on birds, mammals, amphibians and invertebrates around the globe demonstrate the same finding: that even low-levels of timber extraction have significant impact on species diversity. - This extensive research suggests that selective logging techniques should be shelved in favor of “land-sparing” timber extraction strategies, which create a patchwork of highly logged sites and intact forest reserves.
Amazon dam impacts underestimated due to overlooked vine growth: study [12/20/2017]
- New research on the rapid growth of lianas – native woody vines – on the artificial reservoir islands of the Balbina dam in the Amazon finds that forest communities there underwent a transformation as a result of severe habitat fragmentation, resulting in the altering of the carbon sequestration and emission balance. - Some tree species are severely impacted by this extreme form of habitat fragmentation and die, while native lianas — woody vines that climb to reach the forest canopy — thrive and rapidly fill the biological niche left by failing trees. - Trees, with their greater biomass, store more carbon in trunks and branches than lianas, so the carbon balance shifts as lianas dominate. Rather than sequestering carbon, these dam-created islands end up emitting carbon as the trees die. - The rapid growth of lianas further contributes to the degradation of remnant tree communities challenged by fragmentation. Amazon dam environmental impact assessments don’t currently evaluate increased reservoir island carbon emissions.
Mine tailings dam failures major cause of environmental disasters: report [12/19/2017]
- Between 2008-2017 it’s estimated that more than 340 people died, communities have been ravaged, property ruined, rivers contaminated, fisheries wrecked and drinking water polluted by mining tailings dam collapses. Estimates from the year 2000 put the total number of tailings dams globally at 3,500, though there are likely more that have not been counted. - A new United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report states that as mining production escalates globally to provide the minerals and metals required for a variety of industrial needs, including green technologies, it is urgent that nations and companies address tailings dam safety. - The UNEP report recommends that mining companies strive for a “zero-failure objective” in regard to tailings dams, superseding economic goals. UNEP also recommends the establishment of a UN environmental stakeholder forum to support stronger international regulations for tailings dams, and the creation of a global database of mine sites and tailings storage facilities to track dam failures. - One idea would be to eliminate types of tailings dams that are just too dangerous to be tolerated. For example, mining experts say there is no way to insure against the failure of “wet tailings disposal” dams, like the Samarco dam that failed in 2015 – Brazil’s worst environmental disaster ever. As a result, they recommend storing all future tailings waste via “dry stock disposal.”
EU-LatAm trade deal good for agribusiness; bad for Amazon, climate – analysis [12/18/2017]
- The EU-Mercosur trade deal, being concluded this month by the European Union and the South American trade bloc (Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay) is being negotiated in secret. However, part of the document has been leaked to Greenpeace, alarming environmentalists. - The leaked secret trade documents show that the accord would encourage the export of high-value goods, like automobiles, from Europe to Latin American, while encouraging the export of huge amounts of low-value products – including beef and soy – from South America. - This emphasis on production and international consumption could greatly increase the need for agricultural land in Latin America, and result in a major increase in deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon and Cerrado, and Argentine Chaco. - The conversion of forests to crop and range lands could significantly decrease carbon storage, leading to a rise in carbon emissions that could help push global temperatures more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century, with potentially catastrophic results for ecosystems and civilization.
Brazil / UK push offshore oil pact, a potential climate change disaster [12/13/2017]
- This month, as Brazil ratified the Paris Agreement, President Michel Temer and the Congress pressed forward with Provisional Measure 795, which must be approved by Friday or it will expire. PM 795 would offer billions in tax breaks to transnational oil companies seeking to tap into Brazil’s 176 billion barrel offshore oil reserve. - In November, Britain reaffirmed its Paris Climate Agreement commitments, but diplomatic telegrams released by Greenpeace show the UK was in clandestine talks with Brazil in 2017 to smooth the way for offshore drilling, massive tax incentives and relaxation of environmental licenses for transnational oil and gas companies, including British Petroleum (BP). - Brazil has also announced major auctions for oil and gas exploration blocks in its offshore pre-salt region. Ten rounds of bids have been authorized to occur between 2017 and 2019. The September and October auctions counted BP, Shell, Exxon, and Brazil’s Petrobras among the big winners. - Exploitation of Brazil’s offshore oil reserves could release 74.8 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere, compromising the Paris Agreement goal of keeping global temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100. UPDATE: Late on Dec. 13 Brazil’s House passed PM 795 in its original form. Now the bill goes to Pres. Temer. Court challenges may follow.
Latin America-Europe trade pact to include historic indigenous rights clause [12/12/2017]
- The Mercosur trade bloc (Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay) and the European Union are expected to conclude trade negotiations and put finishing touches on a trade agreement by the end of this year. - That pact will include landmark indigenous human rights clauses meant to protect indigenous groups from violence, land theft and other civil rights violations. - The human rights guarantees institutionalized in the trade agreement, if violated, could potentially lead to major trade boycotts, and are particularly important to indigenous groups in Brazil, where the agribusiness lobby known as the bancada ruralista wields tremendous political power. - Brazil’s ruralist elite has been engaged in a decades-long effort to deny indigenous groups rights to their ancestral lands. Violence by large scale farmers and land thieves has seriously escalated under the Temer administration, which strongly backs the ruralist agenda.
Forest Code falls short in protecting Amazonian fish [12/07/2017]
- A team of scientists reports that Brazil’s Forest Code doesn’t address significant impacts that agriculture can have on fish habitat in the rainforest’s streams and tributaries. - The study cataloged more than 130 species of fish, some of them new to science, in Brazil’s eastern Amazon. - The authors argue for protections that encompass entire basins and the complex drainage networks that together form the lifeblood of the Amazon rainforest.
Mammal diversity may increase carbon storage in rainforests [12/05/2017]
- Having a diverse mix of mammals may play a more pivotal role than expected in the carbon cycle of tropical forests, by feeding microbes that lock the carbon from food scraps in the soil. - Hundreds of indigenous research technicians collected data for this study across an area roughly the size of Costa Rica. - Conserving mammal species will become increasingly important in efforts to protect the health of rainforest ecosystems, researchers suggest.
Ferrogrão grain railway threatens Amazon indigenous groups, forest [12/04/2017]
- Michel Temer’s administration is fast tracking the Ferrogrão (Grainrail), a 1,142 kilometer railway to link grain-producing midwest Brazil with the Tapajós River, a major tributary of the Amazon, in order to more economically and efficiently export soy and other commodities to foreign markets. - The railway is seen as vital to Brazil’s agribusiness-centric economy, especially considering the country’s current economic crisis, but indigenous groups say they’ve not been consulted in project planning as stipulated by International Labour Organization Convention 169. - The railway will come near several indigenous groups: the Kaiabi in Indigenous Territory of Batelão, the Pankararu in Indigenous Territory of Pankararu, the Kayapó in Indigenous Territory of Kapot-Nhinore, and the Panará in Indigenous Territory of Baú. These groups say they’ve not been properly consulted by the government. - Ferrogrão will also pass near Jamanxim National Park and cut through Jamanxim National Forest, where the government is seeking diminished protections to benefit elite land thieves. Scientists worry that deforestation brought by the loss of these conserved lands, plus the railway, could significantly reduce the Amazon’s greenhouse gas storage capacity.
‘They want to occupy and take our land’: Land conflicts increase in Brazil [12/01/2017]
- Rondônia is one of the most-deforested states in the Brazilian Amazon, with vast tracts cleared for agriculture. - An investigation reveals that as deforestation of protected areas has risen in the state, so have allegations of attacks against the Indigenous communities. - As budget cuts deplete resources aimed at protecting these communities, many are worried this violence stands to worsen in the months and years to come.
Tropical deforestation is getting bigger, study finds [11/29/2017]
- An analysis of satellite data reveals the proportion of tropical deforestation comprised of medium, large and very large clearings increased between 2001 and 2012. - These larger clearing sizes are generally attributed to industrial agriculture like palm oil production. - South America and Southeast Asia had the biggest increases, with the exception of Brazil where large-scale clearing took a downturn during the study period. - The researchers say this downturn was the result of successful deforestation reduction policies, which may offer potential solutions to other countries with high rates of large-scale clearing.
Fundão dam criminal case moves ahead against 21 mining executives [11/29/2017]
- The Fundão dam rupture — the largest environmental disaster in Brazil’s history — unleashed 50 million tons of waste from the world´s largest iron mine, killing nineteen people in a flood of toxic mud and contaminating 500 miles of the Doce River. - A Brazilian judge has decided that the criminal case against 21 executives from the Samarco, Vale and BHP Biliton mining companies can again moving forward in the courts. The case had been put on hold in July. - Prosecutors have also announced an agreement with Samarco requiring that the corporation provide technical support to those affected by the disaster, along with an assessment of the socio-economic damage. - A just released study on the Doce River´s water quality revealed that nearly 90 percent of 18 test sites demonstrated bad or terrible water quality. The “terrible” designation, found at 7 test sites, indicates that the water is currently unfit for human consumption.
Culture keeps cattle ranching going in the Brazilian Amazon [11/23/2017]
- A recent study finds that financial incentives to move people away from cattle ranching don’t address cultural and logistical hurdles to changing course. - Even though ranchers could earn four times as much per hectare farming soy or up to 12 times as much from fruit and vegetable farming, many stick with cattle as a result of cultural values. - Ranchers, along with small-scale farmers, could benefit from targeted infrastructure investments to provide them with easier access to markets, according to the study. - The researchers argue that their findings point to the need for policies that take these obstacles into account.
From carbon sink to source: Brazil puts Amazon, Paris goals at risk [11/09/2017]
- Brazil is committed to cutting carbon emissions by 37 percent from 2005 levels by 2025, to ending illegal deforestation, and restoring 120,000 square kilometers of forest by 2030. Scientists warn these Paris commitments are at risk due to a flood of anti-environmental and anti-indigenous measures forwarded by President Michel Temer. - “If these initiatives succeed, Temer will go down in history with the ruralistas as the ones who put a stake in the beating heart of the Amazon.” — Thomas Lovejoy, conservation biologist and director of the Center for Biodiversity and Sustainability at George Mason University. - “The Temer government’s reckless behavior flies in the face of Brazil’s commitments to the Paris Agreement.” — Christian Poirier, program director at Amazon Watch. - “There was, or maybe there still is, a very slim chance we can avoid a catastrophic desertification of South America. No doubt, there will be horrific damage if the Brazilian government initiatives move forward in the region.” — Antonio Donato Nobre, scientist at INPA, the Institute for Amazonian Research.
As negotiators meet in Bonn, Brazil’s carbon emissions rise [11/07/2017]
- Brazil pledged in Paris to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 37 percent by 2025 over 2005 levels. But its emissions shot up 8.9 percent in 2016, largely due to deforestation and agriculture. That increase threatens Brazil’s Paris goal. - Pará, in the heart of the Amazon, was the highest carbon emitter state, with 12.3 percent of the national total (due almost exclusively to deforestation and poorly managed industrial agriculture), followed by Mato Grosso state (9.6 percent of national emissions), which has converted much forest to soy production. - Experts say that this emissions trend could be reversed through sustainable forestry and more efficient agricultural practices. However, the dominance of the elite ruralist faction in Congress and in the Temer administration is preventing progress toward achieving Brazil’s carbon pledge.
Indigenous lands at risk, as Amazon sellout by Brazil’s Temer continues (commentary) [11/06/2017]
- Brazilian president Michel Temer has twice survived National Congress votes to initiate impeachment against him on extensive corruption charges. - Temer did so by selling out the environment, particularly the Amazon, to the ruralists who largely control the assembly. - Among the concessions made or promised to ruralists are presidential decrees to allow agribusiness to rent indigenous lands, forgiving unpaid environmental fines owed by landowners, and ending any enforcement of restrictions on labor “equivalent to slavery.” - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.