Researchers urge sustainability as palm oil tightens its grip on Latin America [11/20/2019]
- Hindered by deforestation restrictions in Southeast Asia, palm oil producers are looking farther afield to West and Central Africa, and Latin America, where conditions are conducive to oil palm cultivation and land is easier to come by. - Four Latin American countries already fill out the list of the world’s top 10 palm oil producers, with Colombia coming in at number four, and Ecuador, Brazil and Honduras placing seventh, ninth and tenth, respectively. Mexico may soon join the list, with a plan to cultivate an additional 100,000 hectares of the crop in the coming years. - While these countries have vast areas of land that have previously been deforested for agriculture and are suitable for growing oil palm, plantation expansion is still coming at the expense of rainforest. Researchers and the residents of areas that have been turned into plantations also allege human rights violations at the hands of palm oil producers. - Researchers and conservationists call for tighter regulation of the industry and more study of how oil palm production may impact the surrounding environment.
Brazil works behind scene to greenlight Manaus-Boa Vista transmission line [11/20/2019]
- The long-delayed Tucuruí Transmission Line extension, providing energy autonomy to Roraima state, appears to be moving ahead rapidly under the Bolsonaro government, with federal institutions carrying out secretive political maneuvers to speed construction at any cost, regardless of opposition, say critics. - The project’s environmental license has been suspended since 2014. One sticking point: the impact of the project on the Waimiri-Atroari Indigenous Territory. Of the 721 kilometers (450 miles) of extension envisaged for the transmission line, 125 kilometers (78 miles) with 200 electrical towers would cross through the reserve. - Another obstacle is ongoing negotiations with Transnorte, the selected construction consortium, which has demand what are viewed by many as excessive returns on the project. The Bolsonaro government has reportedly pressured the National Electric Energy Agency to accept the conditions demanded by the company. - Analysts say the transmission line isn’t necessary, as solar power could be utilized to serve the needs of Roraima state, and implementation could be faster. However, some experts suspect that the powerline is connected to plans to open the region to industrial mining, which requires huge amounts of electricity to operate profitably.
Brazil’s new deforestation numbers confirm the “Bolsonaro Effect” despite denials (commentary) [11/20/2019]
- Just released preliminary figures for “2019” Brazilian Amazon deforestation (covering the August 2018-July 2019 period) show a 29.5 percent increase over the previous year, with 9,762 square kilometers (3,769 square miles) cleared, more than double the rate when Brazil’s famous deforestation decline ended in 2012. - Despite this deforestation surge, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro government claims the increase is not unusual and equivalent to high deforestation rates seen several times since 2012. However, critics point to the administration’s rhetoric and environmental deregulation as part of the “Bolsonaro Effect,” leading to rampant deforestation. - The government’s assertion of innocence fails to note that the new data only covers through July. In August 2019 the deforestation rate was 222 percent above the 2018 value; in September it ran 96 percent higher. The full “Bolsonaro effect” on deforestation won’t be on view until the complete “2020” numbers are released next November. - To date, the administration has done nothing to change its inflammatory rhetoric or its anti-environmental polices, so there is every reason to expect that Brazilian deforestation levels will continue to soar. This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Illegal logging persists in Cambodia’s Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary: Report [11/20/2019]
- Cambodia’s Prey Lang forest was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 2016, but illegal land clearing within the protected area continues, a new report has found. - Members of the Cambodian Youth Network (CYN), who recently patrolled 1,761 hectares (4,352 acres) of forest in Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary, found that several hundred hectares of dense, evergreen forest had been cleared, and hundreds of trees had been marked for logging in the near future. - CYN worries that if the clearing continues, the government could grant economic land concessions on those lands in the future. - CYN has called on the Cambodian government to crack down on the illegal encroachment and stop any more forest from being cleared.
Indonesian politician at heart of permit scandal dies ahead of graft trial [11/20/2019]
- Darwan Ali, a former politician from Borneo who was charged in a corruption case and at the center of a palm oil licensing scandal, died on Nov. 18 before he could stand trial. - Darwan’s death in Jakarta at age 64, from heart disease, came a month after he was charged in connection with embezzlement of district funds for a port construction project in Seruyan district, which he led from 2003 to 2013. - Darwan was also the central figure in an extensive investigative report by Mongabay and the Gecko Project in 2017, which uncovered how he presided over an elaborate scheme to use shell companies as vehicles for selling oil palm plantation permits to firms owned by the billionaire Kuok and Rachmat families for millions of dollars. - His children, who participated in the palm permit scheme, continue to hold key positions in local political office.
Madagascar regulator under scrutiny in breach at Rio Tinto-controlled mine [11/20/2019]
- A breach at an ilmenite mine in Madagascar that came to light earlier this year is drawing attention to possible lapses on the part of the country’s environmental regulator. - A group of civil society organizations has asked the Malagasy government to intervene in the matter and to hold consultations to strengthen regulatory oversight of the extractive industries. - In response, the Malagasy government said it will look into the actions of the National Office for the Environment (ONE), the agency responsible for overseeing the mine, which is owned by London-based mining giant Rio Tinto. - However, two months on, the government has shared no updates about its inquiry with the civil society groups that requested its intervention.
Mozambique’s newly empowered rangers, courts catch up with poachers, loggers [11/19/2019]
- Mozambique has recorded a measure of success recently against wildlife poachers and illegal loggers, thanks to stronger enforcement. - Nearly a quarter of the country’s area has been designated as conservation space, helping wildlife numbers recover after a 15-year civil war that decimated animal populations. - One of the remaining threats to the country’s protected areas is illegal logging. - In addition to better training and equipment for rangers, the recent introduction of new conservation laws and extensive training of prosecutors and judges is helping deliver swift and heavier sentences for poaching and illegal logging.
Rabbit-sized, deer-like species of fanged ungulate rediscovered in Vietnam [11/18/2019]
- The silver-backed chevrotain is about the size of a rabbit and was first described to science in 1910 based on four specimens. A joint Vietnamese-Russian expedition to central Vietnam undertaken in 1990 collected a fifth specimen, which had been killed by a hunter. That was the last any scientist saw of the species. - However, local villagers and government forest rangers reported seeing a gray chevrotain in the vicinity of Nha Trang, a city in southern Vietnam. The gray coloring was the key, because that’s what distinguishes the silver-backed chevrotain (Tragulus versicolor), also known as the Vietnamese mouse-deer, from the far more common lesser chevrotain (T. kanchil). - Based on those survey results, a team of researchers set up three camera traps in the most promising locations and ended up recording the first evidence that a species not seen in nearly 30 years is still very much in existence.
Amazon deforestation rises to 11 year high in Brazil [11/18/2019]
- Official data published today by Brazil’s National Space Research Institute INPE shows deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon between August 1, 2018 and July 31, 2019 amounted to 9,762 square kilometers, an increase of 30 percent over last year. - The increase in deforestation was expected given global attention to large-scale fires that blackened the skies above Brazil’s largest city this past August. Deforestation tracking systems had been showing increased forest clearing throughout 2019. - Deforestation in 2019 was the highest since 2008 and represents a doubling in forest loss over 2012. - Environmentalists fear that deforestation could continue to accelerate given Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s push to open the Amazon to more logging, large-scale mining, and industrial agriculture.
Sugarcane threatens Amazon forest and world climate; Brazilian ethanol is not clean (commentary) [11/18/2019]
- On November 6, 2019, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro signed an administrative decree abolishing the environmental zoning of sugarcane which has until now restrained the advance of this crop — largely used to produce ethanol — into the Amazon rainforest and Pantanal wetlands. - Sugarcane expansion into these two ecologically sensitive biomes will generate unprecedented impacts — including deforestation and carbon emissions adding to climate change — meaning that Brazilian biofuels can no longer be claimed to be environmentally “clean.” - In 2018, the European Union imported more than 43 million liters of Brazilian cane ethanol. As with all commodities, importing countries need to assess the environmental impact that the production of these commodities have on the global climate via the destruction of Amazon and Pantanal native vegetation. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Indigenous-wildlife ranger collaboration conserves rare Australian rainforests [11/18/2019]
- A collaboration between Indigenous ranger groups and ecologists is working to conserve a rainforest system in northwestern Australia. - Monsoon vine thickets are remnant, scarcely distributed rainforests located in the Kimberley region of Western Australia and are susceptible to wildfire, land clearing and weed infestation if not properly maintained. - Yawuru, Nyul Nyul and Bardi Jawi Indigenous ranger groups have partnered with Environs Kimberley’s Kimberley Nature Project for over a decade to conserve monsoon vine thickets through revegetation and fire management. - Due chiefly to this collaboration’s efforts in maintaining, documenting and promoting the importance of these forests, monsoon vine thickets have been granted ‘Nationally Endangered Ecosystem’ status in Australia. The rangers and ecologists continue to maintain these unique forests.
‘Timebomb’: Fires devastate tiger and elephant habitat in Sumatra [11/15/2019]
- Another heavy fire season in Indonesia has taken a toll on the country’s remaining forest. In Sembilang National Park, on the island of Sumatra, fires raged into primary forest that provides vital habitat for critically endangered Sumatran tigers and elephants. - Satellite data and imagery indicate the fires may have had a big impact on tigers in the park. In total, around 30 percent of tiger habitat in Sembilang burned between August and September. The fires also encroached into the park’s elephant habitat. - Fires have also reportedly ravaged elephant habitat in Padang Sugihan Sebokor Wildlife Reserve, which lies southeast of Sembilang and serves as a corridor for wild elephants in South Sumatra. One report estimates that half of the reserve has suffered fire damage. - Researchers say slash-and-burn clearing techniques likely started most of fires in the area, which were then exacerbated by drier-than-usual conditions and underground peat stores left unprotected by policy rollbacks.s
Mexico plans huge increase in palm oil production in sensitive ecosystems [11/14/2019]
- The government seeks to plant an additional 100,000 hectares (almost 250,000 acres) in the state of Campeche, half of which is under conservation protection. - Scientists, conservationists, and residents say existing oil palm plantations have already damaged important wildlife habitat and water sources, and worry what may come from an influx of many more. - Local organizations have filed a complaint before the Latin American Water Tribunal, saying the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food is promoting the program to plant 100,000 hectares of oil palm, “without consideration for the researchers, academics, environmentalists, indigenous people, and communities who live in the area where they intend to impose this crop as a development alternative.”
Rapid expansion of protected areas around the world failing to reduce human pressures on land [11/14/2019]
- A little over 20 million square kilometers, or about 15 percent, of Earth’s terrestrial surface is currently protected. It is likely the world will achieve the goal set out in Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2010-2020 to set aside “at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water areas” by 2020. - But a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) last month finds that the emphasis on rapidly scaling up protected area coverage to meet Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 has led to the establishment of many PAs that are not successfully reducing anthropogenic pressures on the land. - Most strikingly, in South America, Southeast Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa, average pressures from human activities inside PAs, especially conversion of land to agriculture, was found to be significantly higher than in unprotected areas.
Brazil adds deforestation monitoring for all biomes, so long as money lasts [11/14/2019]
- Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) has long monitored the Amazon rainforest biome for deforestation; in 2014 the agency gained funding from the World Bank to pay for similar monitoring in Brazil’s Cerrado savanna biome, which is fast seeing its native vegetation converted to crop and pasture by industrial agribusiness. - However, the government and others sources failed to fund monitoring in Brazil’s other four biomes — the Pantanal, Atlantic Forest, Caatinga and Pampa. Then, in 2018, the Amazon Fund (which is largely backed financially by Norway), allotted R$ 49.8 million (US$ 12.1 million) to perform deforestation monitoring in all Brazil’s biomes. - That appropriation is expected to last until 2022. After that, funding again becomes uncertain, because at present Norway has frozen all Amazon Fund financing for future projects in protest over Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro’s anti-environmental policies. - The first data sets for the four additional biomes (tracking forest loss between 2016 and 2019), are due to be released in December 2019. Annual reports will be published from 2020 forward.
Deforestation preceded fires in ‘massive’ area of Amazon in 2019 [11/14/2019]
- Deforestation watchdog Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project found that 4,500 square kilometers (1,740 square miles) of the Brazilian Amazon was deforested between 2017 and 2019 and then burned. - The team’s analysis revealed that 65 percent of that deforestation occurred in 2019 alone. - The research points to the need for policymakers to address deforestation as well as fires.
In surprise move, Brazil has removed restrictions on Amazon sugarcane production [11/13/2019]
- Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has signed a decree revoking a zoning regulation for the sugarcane industry, effectively allowing for cultivation of the crop in the Amazon and other areas of primary forest. - The measure is controversial because it wasn’t requested by the industry, which, under the previous regulation, was permitted to expand onto degraded land and cattle pasture covering six times the area currently planted with sugarcane. - The government has justified the move as necessary to boost the ethanol industry in Amazonian states, but experts warn the end of the zoning restriction could present an obstacle to ethanol exports to the European Union, damaging the biofuel sector. - To date, the sugarcane industry has remained dissociated from the deforestation linked to the cattle and soy industries. Environmentalists say this new decree could end that exception, while also sending the message that the government sees no value in protecting standing forests.
Brazil’s ‘coconut breakers’ feel the squeeze of Cerrado development [11/12/2019]
- These coconut breakers rely on the babassu palm and its harvest of oil-rich nuts for their traditional sustainable livelihood. - Many of these women live on the edge of the Matopiba region, dubbed by some as “the world’s last agricultural frontier” which has seen an almost 300 percent increase in soy expansion over the last two decades, most of which came at the expense of native forests and vegetation. - In recent years, industrial agribusiness has moved in fast, privatizing and fencing the commons, converting the babassu palm groves to soy and eucalyptus plantations and cattle ranches, and making it harder for the coconut breakers to access the palm from which they derive their living, and their social and cultural identity. - In addition, the women say they have been increasingly exposed to threats, intimidation, and physical and sexual violence by farmers and other male agribusiness workers. But the coconut breakers are determined to defend their palm groves at any cost, and to resist the enclosure of the commons.
New honeyeater species described from Indonesia’s Alor Island [11/12/2019]
- Scientists have described a new bird species found only on the island of Alor in eastern Indonesia. - The Alor myzomela is easily distinguished from other known members of the Myzomela genus of honeyeater birds thanks to its unique call and paler upper wings. - A growing human population on the island is already fragmenting the species’ only known habitat, prompting the researchers to recommend it be considered endangered on the IUCN Red List. - The bird’s scientific name, Myzomela prawiradilagae, is a tribute to prominent ornithologist Dewi Malia Prawiradilaga from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI).
Fires and greenhouse gases fuel drying of the Amazon [11/11/2019]
- New research reveals that fires in the Amazon rainforest, used primarily to clear land for agriculture and ranching, are contributing to drier conditions caused by the emissions of climate-warming gases into the atmosphere. - Fires release “black carbon,” which absorbs energy and causes temperatures to rise, as well as blocking the formation of clouds, creating drier conditions. - The researchers caution that the rising demand for water combined with scarcer supplies could threaten the forest’s survival.
FSC report on palm giant Korindo lists litany of violations, even with redactions [11/11/2019]
- The Forest Stewardship Council has released a batch of heavily redacted reports on violations carried out by an FSC affiliate, palm oil company Korindo, in the Indonesian region of Papua. - Korindo had earlier issued a cease-and-desist letter to stop the release of damaging information from the investigation, but the redacted reports still paint a “devastating” picture of the company’s wrongdoing, including massive deforestation, activists say. - Among the details omitted from the published reports is the estimated compensation owed to indigenous communities affected by Korindo’s forest-clearing activities, believed to be in the “hundreds of millions of dollars.” - The FSC has proposed remedial measures to be carried out by Korindo, but activists say these are far from commensurate with the company’s “extreme violations,” including the clearing of more than 50,000 hectares (123,500 acres) of rainforests.
Colombian town faces earthquakes, pollution, water shortage as industry expands [11/08/2019]
- Residents of the town of Puerto Gaitán say their water sources are being used for the cultivation of oil palm plantations and the extraction of crude oil. - Studies have found water quality near the town qualifies as “poor” and water reserves have dropped off for many areas, forcing residents to import water from elsewhere. - Locals say seismic tremors induced for oil extraction have damaged houses and soil. - Researchers say wildlife populations have been harmed by agricultural chemicals used for palm oil production and habitat loss caused by expanding plantations.
Philippine officials not spared as attacks on environmental defenders persist [11/08/2019]
- Days after participating in a raid on illegal loggers, government environmental officer Ronaldo Corpuz was shot and killed by unknown assailants. - Corpuz is the fifth environmental worker killed this year, with all the deaths linked to illegal logging, in a country that eco watchdog Global Witness has named the deadliest for environmental defenders. - The killings come amid a largely successful government crackdown on illegal logging activities across the country. - Environment department secretary Roy Cimatu has condemned the latest killing and renewed calls for lawmakers to approve additional funding to support the department’s enforcement bureau, which aims to arm rangers, among other measures.
Healthy ecosystems, healthy humans: ‘One Health’ broadens its scope [11/07/2019]
- At an Oct. 25 conference in Berlin, conservation and public health leaders issued 10 principles aimed at encouraging cross-disciplinary research and efforts to address both human health and environmental problems. - The principles, part of the One Health movement, grew out of the Manhattan Principles introduced in 2004. - The declaration acknowledges that the world’s poor often suffer the most as a result of environmental degradation. - However, the conference organizers point out that climate change has global reach and must be addressed from both the environmental and health perspectives.
Makers of Oreos, KitKats among brands linked to Indonesia forest fires [11/06/2019]
- Consumer goods companies behind major brands are getting some of their palm oil from producers linked to fires in Indonesia that have burned an area the size of Puerto Rico. - The findings, in a report by Greenpeace, identify Mondelēz, Nestlé, Unilever and Procter & Gamble as among the companies exposed to these producers, along with major palm oil traders Wilmar and Cargill. - These are companies that have committed to sustainable and ethical sourcing of palm oil, and in many cases have blacklisted problematic suppliers. - Greenpeace attributes their repeated exposure to tainted palm oil on the opacity of plantation ownership in Indonesia, which leads big consumers not to recognize that many producers are part of producer groups with a record of environmental and labor rights violations.
Saving the Gran Chaco: Conservationists demand protection before it’s too late [11/05/2019]
- The Gran Chaco is South America’s second-largest forest biome, and is home to thousands of species. - The Chaco has lost around 20 percent of its forest cover since 1985 as land is cleared for agriculture. The Argentine portion has lost 30 percent. - In response, a project called the Argentine Gran Chaco 2030 Commitment was created to demand more be done to protect the Chaco. As of Nov. 7, 80 organizations and institutions around the world had signed on in support.
Enforce Brazilian laws to curb criminal Amazon deforestation: study [11/04/2019]
- Recent research finds that a failure to track environmental infractions and to enforce environmental laws and regulations is aiding and abetting ever escalating rates of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon and Cerrado. - Researchers studied the failings of three environmental initiatives: the TAC da Carne, blocking cattle sales raised in deforestation embargoed areas; the Amazon Soy Moratorium, stopping sales of soy grown on deforested lands; and DOF timber permitting, which allows logging only in approved areas. - The study found that timber, soy and cattle producers often subvert Brazil’s environmental laws by illegally “laundering” harvested logs, beef and soy to conceal illegal deforestation. These practices have been largely helped by the weak governance of the Jair Bolsonaro administration. - The scientists recommend the closing of illegal soy, cattle and logging laundering loopholes via the strengthening of Brazilian environmental agencies, the improvement of monitoring technologies, better integration of policies and systems, and putting market pressure on producers.
Research points to low forensic capacity to tackle timber fraud in U.S. [11/04/2019]
- New research has found that more than 60 percent of a sample of 73 wood products in the U.S. had misrepresented or fraudulent species labels. - While not “statistically representative,” the findings do indicate that improperly labeled wood is a concern in the U.S. - The study also found that the U.S. does not have the capacity for forensic wood anatomy identification to address this issue.
RSPO questions effectiveness of Indonesian palm plantation moratorium [11/04/2019]
- There hasn’t been any quantifiable way to tell if a year-long moratorium on issuing new licenses for oil palm plantations has been effective, observers say. - Indonesia imposed the moratorium last year, but failed to define baseline data or publish permit details that would have been essential to measuring progress, according to an official from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. - As part of the moratorium, the government also ordered a review of existing plantation permits; however, a lack of sanctions sends the message that violators can keep “making mistakes over and over again.” - An industry watchdog has called on the government to stop thinking about the industry in terms of sheer production volume, and instead to find ways to ensure that the production is sustainable.
‘Guardian of the Forest’ ambushed and murdered in Brazilian Amazon [11/02/2019]
- Paulo Paulino Guajajara, a 26-years-old indigenous Guajajara leader was killed on Friday in an Amazon rainforest ambush allegedly by loggers in the Araribóia Indigenous Reserve, one of the country’s most threatened indigenous territories, which is located in Brazil’s Maranhão state. - Paulo was a member of “Guardians of the Forest,” a group of 120 indigenous Guajajara who risk their lives fighting illegal logging in the Araribóia reserve. The Guardians also protect the uncontacted Awá Guajá hunter-gatherers — one of the most at risk indigenous groups on the planet. - Indigenous leader Laércio Guajajara, also a Guardian, was hit by gunfire too, but was able to escape and was later taken to a hospital, said indigenous chief Olímpio Iwyramu Guajajara, the Guardians’ leader. All three Guardians have reportedly been threatened by loggers recently. - Federal Police and Maranhão state police are investigating the attack, which also reportedly resulted in a logger being killed; Paulo’s body was buried on Sunday. The killing is the most recent in a rising tide of violence against indigenous activists since Jair Bolsonaro took power in January.
Photos: Peatland fires rage through Indonesia’s Sumatra Island [11/01/2019]
- Aerial images taken last month in the southern part of Indonesia’s Sumatra Island show fires raging through peatlands and generating massive clouds of haze. - The fires this year are the worst since 2015, exacerbated by an unusually intense dry season and an El Niño weather pattern. - The fires are set deliberately to clear land for oil palm and pulpwood plantations, and the smoke they generate has sickened hundreds of thousands of people and spread as far as neighboring Singapore and Malaysia.
Lawsuit against Indonesian coal plant reveals permit irregularities [11/01/2019]
- Residents opposed to a newly built coal-fired power plant in Sumatra have alleged a list of irregularities that they say should have disqualified the developer from obtaining an environmental permit. - A key point is that the project violates provincial and municipal zoning regulations; the latter allows for a plant to be built, but at a different location, while the former makes no accommodation for a coal plant. - The project site, on Sepang Bay along the southwest coast of Sumatra, has also been identified as an area prone to earthquakes and tsunamis, while the developer hasn’t formalized plans for such contingencies. - The National Ombudsman has weighed in with findings of maladministration by the provincial government in issuing the environmental permit, but adds that the zoning regulations should be adapted to accommodate for the plant now that it’s been built and is undergoing a trial run.
Enough is too much: The growing case for investors to drop Golden Agri-Resources (commentary) [10/31/2019]
- Last year, when we published the report High Risk in the Rainforest, it was far from the first time that palm oil company Golden-Agri Resources (GAR) and its subsidiary Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL) were called out for illegal deforestation, land grabbing, and the destruction of critical wildlife habitats. Our report, which detailed the clearance of dense forests and chimpanzee habitats, came several years into the companies’ serial destruction. - Over a year later, both companies find themselves embroiled in controversies — and GAR’s investors continue to expose themselves and their beneficiaries to significant risks. - The time has come for GAR’s financiers to acknowledge that, despite their engagement, things have gotten worse. If they understand the real material risks of their investments — risks both to forests and to their bottom-line — they need to engage much more aggressively to make GAR change its course. If they can’t do that, they need to get GAR, and companies like it, out of their portfolios. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Carbon emissions from loss of intact tropical forest a ‘ticking time bomb’ [10/31/2019]
- When undisturbed tropical forests are lost the long-term impact on carbon emissions is dramatically higher than earlier estimates suggest, according to a new study. - Between 2000 and 2013, about 7 percent of the world’s intact tropical forests were destroyed, leading not just to direct carbon emissions but also “hidden” emissions from logging, fragmentation and wildlife loss. - Another key difference between the old and new estimates is that the latter take into account the diminished carbon sequestration potential of these forests. - The authors write that the indigenous communities who live in and protect about 35 percent of these forests will have a bigger role to play in the fight against climate change.
Finding hope in ‘extreme conservation’ (Insider) [10/31/2019]
- A Mongabay staff writer shares an account of his trek to see mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo. - From a low of 250 individuals in the 1980s, the mountain gorilla subspecies now numbers more than 1,000, making it the only great ape whose population is growing. - Those gains have come thanks to the “extreme conservation” practiced by a dedicated group of people who have worked to ensure the survival of one of our closest relatives in the animal kingdom. - This post is insider content, which is available to paying subscribers.
China, EU are importing soybeans from unregistered Brazil farms: report [10/30/2019]
- Considered one of the main drivers of deforestation in the country, soybean is Brazil’s main commodity, with exports valued at more than $33 billion in 2018. - Padding this figure, however, are soybean crops grown on unregistered farms skirting environmental regulations. - Twelve percent of soybean farms in the Amazon rainforest and Cerrado savanna lack land registration, but two-thirds of crops from the municipalities with the most blind spots are exported, mostly to China (39 percent) and Europe (12 percent), with 33 percent going to the domestic market. - U.S. commodities traders ADM, Bunge and Cargill are the biggest exporters of crops from these areas, along with Brazil’s Amaggi, the world’s biggest private soybean producer.
Controversial dam gets green light to flood a Philippine protected area [10/30/2019]
- The environment department has issued an environmental compliance certificate that allows the contested Kaliwa Dam project in the Sierra Madre mountain range to go ahead, part of a wider push to secure water supplies for Manila and surrounding areas. - The certificate is one of the last sets of documents required by the developers for the project being funded by a $238.3 million loan from the Export-Import Bank of China. - Yet its issuance comes despite a government-conducted environmental impact assessment showing that the dam’s reservoir alone will endanger endemic wildlife and plants, drive massive species migration, and pose risks to lowland agricultural and fishing communities with a history of flash flooding. - The site of the planned dam falls within the Kaliwa watershed forest reserve, which has been designated a natural wildlife park sanctuary and game refuge, and an IUCN Category V Protected Landscape/Seascape.
A Sumatran forest community braces for battle against a planned coal mine [10/29/2019]
- The Pangkalan Kapas forest on the eastern coast of Indonesia’s Sumatra Island is important both to local communities and to the endangered wildlife of a nearby nature reserve. - But it faces what conservationists fear is an existential threat from a planned coal mine that has been granted a 3,000-hectare (7,400-acre) concession for open-pit mining there. - The project has met with resistance from local communities and environmental activists, including an online petition calling for it to be scrapped. - The company that holds the concession was also mired in a fraud and corruption case involving one of its owners — a common problem in Indonesia’s notoriously corrupt mining sector.
Indigenous and riverine communities unite to fight Amazon invaders [10/29/2019]
- The Brazilian Amazon basin, now under the administration of President Jair Bolsonaro, is increasingly a place of conflict, as loggers and land grabbers — many inspired by the government’s incendiary rhetoric — step up their invasions of indigenous and traditional lands. - One example can be found along the Mamuru River in Pará state. There the Sateré indigenous group (now living mostly inside the Andirá Marau Indigenous Reserve), and non-indigenous traditional riverine communities (living in the Mamuru State Agro-extractivist Project, known as PEAEX Mamuru), are resisting incursions. - Loggers and outsiders making dubious land claims are moving in on the disputed government-held common lands that lie between the indigenous reserve and PEAEX Mamuru, a cluster of 18 settlements. The Sateré say this land is part of their ancestral territory, but was mistakenly excluded from the Andirá Marau Reserve. - Another threat to indigenous and traditional land claims: a new Pará state law that no longer requires that outsiders live currently on the lands they claim, making it far easier for land grabbers to legitimize those claims. In response, indigenous and traditional riverine communities are now forming a unified resistance.
Indigenous communities ‘robbed’ as land grabbers lay waste to Brazilian rainforest [10/28/2019]
- Terra Indígena Ituna/Itatá in northern Brazil is home to several groups of uncontacted peoples who are dependent on the surrounding forest for survival. - But outsiders have been increasingly moving in and clearing land for agriculture and mining. Brazilian authorities estimate that about 10 percent of the territory has been illegally invaded and destroyed this year alone, and satellite data show deforestation is still ramping up. Because of the scale of these incursions, Ituna/Itatá is now believed to be the most deforested indigenous territory in Brazil. - While assaults on indigenous territories in Brazil have been happening for decades, activists say the sharp rise in deforestation and land-grabbing in Ituna/Itatá this year has been closely linked to the country’s controversial new president Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro has also launched an open attack on Funai, the government agency tasked with protecting indigenous interests in Brazil. The president signed a decree curbing Funai’s powers earlier this year, dealing a further blow to an agency already weakened by the previous government’s move to slash its funding in half. - Ibama, Brazil’s environment agency, has responded to the assault on Ituna/Itatá with at least five operations in the area in 2018 and 2019. Yet the long-term impact appears to be limited: just weeks after the latest crackdown, activists and local sources report that land-grabbers have gone back to clearing the forest.
10 takeaways from Indonesia’s grassroots #SaveAru success [10/28/2019]
- The Save Aru campaign is one of Indonesia’s most successful grassroots movements in recent years. - The people of Indonesia’s Aru Islands managed to defeat a plan to turn more than half of their archipelago into a massive sugar plantation. - This month, The Gecko Project and Mongabay published a narrative article about the movement. Here are 10 takeaways from how they did it.
As Bolsonaro meets with Xi, China silent on Brazil environmental crisis [10/28/2019]
- China is Brazil’s biggest trading partner, so it is uniquely positioned to influence the Brazilian agribusiness sector and to help limit the drastic reductions in environmental protections being carried out by the Jair Bolsonaro administration. - However, when Brazil’s Bolsonaro visited with China General Secretary Xi Jinping last week, the environment appeared to hold no place in their high-level talks which centered on trade and commerce agreements. - Bolsonaro has caused international concern over his anti-environmental policies with the EU and with international investors. Germany and Norway, in particular, have slashed their aid to Brazil for its deforestation programs. - Some conservationists hope that China, which has recently become vocal on the topics of sustainability and climate change, will move to brake Bolsonaro’s anti-environmental policy excesses, but other analysts believe China will maintain its primary focus on Brazilian trade.
Indonesian court fines palm oil firm $18.5m over forest fires in 2015 [10/28/2019]
- An Indonesian court has fined a palm oil company $18.5 million for fires that destroyed 970 hectares (2,400 acres) of forest on its concession in Borneo in 2015. - The judgment is the latest in a growing number of cases where courts have taken a zero-tolerance approach that makes concession holders liable for any fires that occur on their land, regardless of whether or not they can be proven to have started the fires. - Observers have welcomed the verdict, but say the challenge now will be to compel the company to pay up. Since 2015 the government has won $223 million in judgments in similar cases, but collected just $5.5 million. - The company in the latest case, PT Arjuna Utama Sawit, is a supplier to Singapore-based Musim Mas Group, a major oil palm trader whose customers include consumer brands such Unilever. Musim Mas said it was seeking an explanation from PT Arjuna Utama Sawit.
Bonobo conservation stymied by deforestation, human rights abuses [10/24/2019]
- The bonobo is a relative of the chimpanzee, and is found only in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) south of the Congo River. They are endangered, with habitat loss and the bushmeat trade their primary threats. The Sankuru Nature Reserve is the DRC’s largest nature reserve that is focused on bonobo conservation. However, deforestation rates have only increased in Sankuru since it was created in 2007. Meanwhile nearby Lomami National Park is experiencing almost no deforestation. - Researchers attribute the disparity in deforestation rates between Sankuru Nature Reserve and Lomami National Park to the lack of human settlements and clearer managerial strategy in the latter. They claim that Sankuru lacked buy-in from the local communities, and that conflicting land claims made conservation efforts more difficult to achieve. - However, there may be a dark side to Lomami’s success. Sources claim that the military, which is tasked with protecting DRC’s national parks, have engaged in torture of people suspected of poaching. There are also reports that a community within Lomami was displaced without proper consultation or a suitable alternative location. - Researchers say that to ensure effective engagement, indigenous forest-dwelling communities should be granted proper security of tenure over their lands, and community-managed forests should be set up and funded around the perimeter of the park.
Research outlines ‘roadmap’ for land use to slow climate change [10/24/2019]
- A new study finds that the land sector could account for nearly one-third of the climate mitigation necessary to keep global temperatures below a 1.5-degree-Celsius (2.7-degree-Fahrenheit) rise over pre-industrial levels as referenced in the 2015 Paris climate accords. - The research, drawing on other studies looking at the potential for various reforms, puts forth a roadmap for carbon neutrality in the land sector by 2040. - In addition to measures such as forest protection and restoration, the paper’s authors also call for human behavior change and investment in carbon capture technologies.
As 2019 Amazon fires die down, Brazilian deforestation roars ahead [10/23/2019]
- This year’s August Amazon fires grabbed headlines around the world. In response, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and his administration accused the media of lying and exaggerating the disaster, then finally sent in the army to combat the blazes. As of October, many of the fires were under control. - But experts note that the fires are only a symptom of a far greater problem: rampant and rising deforestation. Altogether, 7,604 square kilometers (2,970 square miles) of rainforest were felled during the first nine months of this year, an 85 percent increase over the same period last year. - Unscrupulous land speculators are growing rich, say experts, as they mine, log and clear rainforest — operations often conducted illegally on protected lands. Typically, the speculators cut valuable trees, burn the remainder, and sell the cleared land at a heavily marked up price to cattle ranchers or agribusiness. - So far, Bolsonaro has done little to inhibit these activities, while doing and saying much to encourage deforestation, mining and agribusiness. The government has de-toothed the nation’s environmental agencies and slashed their budgets, while hampering officials from enforcing environmental laws.
Malaria surges in deforested parts of the Amazon, study finds [10/23/2019]
- A recent study found that deforestation significantly increases the transmission of malaria, about three times more than previously thought. - The analysis showed that a 10 percent increase in deforestation caused a 3.3 percent rise in malaria cases. - The study’s authors analyzed more than a decade of data showing the occurrences of malaria in nearly 800 villages, towns and cities across the Brazilian Amazon. - They also controlled for the “feedback” from malaria, by which a rise in the incidence of the disease actually slows deforestation down.
Indonesia’s new cabinet a ‘marriage of oligarchs,’ environmentalists say [10/23/2019]
- Environmental activists have expressed disappointment with the new cabinet unveiled by President Joko Widodo for his second and final term in office. - Among those staying on are the environment minister, widely criticized for failing to crack down on companies violating environmental laws, and the coordinating minister for maritime affairs, who has extensive business interests in the mining industry. - The popular and effective fisheries minister, Susi Pudjiastuti, was replaced in favor of an aide to Widodo’s election rival, while the new energy minister has a record of championing fossil fuel and palm biodiesel projects. - Activists warn that the new cabinet consolidates power in the hands of oligarchs, political elites, and military and police generals, making it likely that environmental protections will be unraveled and violations more common in the name of investment and growth.
Uganda’s eco-feminists are taking on mining and plantation industries [10/23/2019]
- Like other protected areas in Uganda, Bugoma Forest has been threatened by encroachment for decades; now up to a fifth of what remains could be cleared to plant sugar cane. - Women, generally responsible for growing food, and collecting water and firewood, feel the impacts of forest degradation acutely. - Despite many obstacles, they are taking up a leading role in defending the environment, particularly against increasing pressure from extractive industries.
Area the size of Puerto Rico burned in Indonesia’s fire crisis [10/23/2019]
- A spike in fires in September has contributed to the razing of 8,578 square kilometers (3,304 square miles) of land across Indonesia this year, or an area the size of Puerto Rico. - More areas are expected to continue burning through to the end of the year, but the fire season this year isn’t expected to be as bad as in 2015, when 26,000 square kilometers (10,000 square miles) of land was burned. - The onset of rains has also reduced the incidence of transboundary haze that previously sparked protests from neighboring Singapore and Malaysia. - Almost all the fires this year occurred on deforested land that had previously been burned, where the vegetation has not had sufficient time to regenerate after the last fires.
A ‘sly’ species of leaf-tailed gecko uncovered from Madagascar [10/23/2019]
- Scientists have described a new species of leaf-tailed gecko, Uroplatus fetsy, believed to be found only in Madagascar’s Ankarana Special Reserve. - All Uroplatus species are endemic to Madagascar and are best known for their leaf-like tails and coloration that allow them to blend into the foliage. - Though newly described, U. fetsy may already be at risk: the dry deciduous forests of the reserve are severely threatened by illegal logging, cattle grazing, fires, and artisanal mining. - The authors of the paper describing the new species say it could warrant endangered status on the IUCN Red List because of these threats to its habitat.
Combining negotiation, legal backing and orchids to create ecotourism reserve [10/22/2019]
- In Ecuador, the Ceiba Foundation for Tropical Conservation has worked with local landowners to create conservation agreements and sustainable ecotourism ventures in areas otherwise fragmented by intensive human activity. - After nearly 20 years, the impacts of two small, family-based initiatives are rippling outwards into the rest of the Andean cloud forest and coastal dry forest. - Negotiation, relationship-building, and transparency helped Ceiba earn the landowners’ trust and enable the success of the initiatives.
Activists call for stronger environmental laws in Widodo’s second term [10/21/2019]
- Indonesian President Joko Widodo has kicked off his second and final term in office with a pledge to boost investment and economic growth, largely through deregulation. - Environmental activists say they fear this focus on investment at all costs will strip away the already scant environmental protections in the country. - They say that, if anything, the government must strengthen regulations protecting the environment and vulnerable groups. - Doing so will ultimately also benefit the economy, they argue, by ensuring that the country attracts high-quality investments.
Peru: Gold mine operating without license destroys primary forest in protected area [10/17/2019]
- A recent inspection conducted by the regional forest authority of Huánuco found a large area of forest has been cleared by gold mining in Puerto Inca Province in Peru. - The mine is located in the buffer zone around the El Sira Communal Reserve, affecting indigenous land and the basins of the Pintuyacu and Quimpichari rivers. - In response to these issues, the Regional Directorate of Energy and Mines ordered the suspension of activities in the Inca Dorado 2 mining concession in August. However, those who live nearby claim that the miners continue to mine gold at night.
Reforesting a village in Indonesia, one batch of gourmet beans at a time [10/17/2019]
- Deforestation in the village of Cibulao on the outskirts of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, left it prone to droughts in the dry season and landslides in the rainy season. - That changed in the early 2000s when a local tea plantation worker named Kiryono began replanting the slopes with seeds foraged from the nearby forest. - Among those seeds were coffee seeds taken from wild coffee trees, and with training and the help of his family, Kiryono today produces some of the most prized coffee in Indonesia. - The village is also greener now, thanks to Kiryono’s replanting efforts, and the local farmers’ cooperative hopes to expand on that work by applying for the right to manage a larger area of land.
Biodiversity ‘not just an environmental issue’: Q&A with IPBES ex-chair Robert Watson [10/17/2019]
- The World Bank and IMF meetings from Oct. 14-20 will include discussions on protecting biodiversity and the importance of investing in nature. - A recent U.N. report found that more than 1 million species of plants and animals face extinction. - In a conversation with Mongabay, Robert Watson, who chaired the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services that produced the report, discusses the economic value of biodiversity.
Venezuelan crisis: Government censors environmental and scientific data [10/16/2019]
- Venezuela is among the most biodiverse nations in the world. But it has become increasingly difficult to measure, assess and protect the nation’s environment as the federal government spreads a dense cloak of secrecy over environmental and scientific statistics — concealing invaluable baseline, annual and long-term data. - When the country was experiencing prosperity in the first decade of the 21st century, data was readily available on the Internet. But from roughly 2011 onward, as the nation spiraled into economic and social chaos, statistics began disappearing from the Web, and being unavailable to the public, scientific researchers and activists. - Many important government environmental and social indices have been hidden from public view, including updated data on inflation, unemployment, crime, deforestation, ecosystem and wildlife endangerment, mining, water and air quality, pollution, climate change, energy, national fisheries production and more. - Compounding governmental restrictions on transparency are difficulties in collecting scientific data in a nation suffering economic and social freefall. For example, 70 percent of Venezuelan weather stations are inoperative, meaning that regional temperature and rainfall patterns are no longer being measured.
‘Bring it on,’ EU MP says of trade fight over palm biofuel phase-out [10/15/2019]
- A European member of parliament says the bloc isn’t concerned about threats by Indonesia and Malaysia to file a trade complaint over an EU policy to phase out palm oil-based biofuels by 2030. - The two Southeast Asian countries supply 85 percent of the world’s palm oil, and have denounced the EU policy as discriminatory. - The EU has justified its decision on the environmental impact of palm oil production, notably the large-scale deforestation to clear land for palm plantations. - Concerns have also been raised that Indonesia’s response of boosting its domestic production of palm-based biodiesel, which a minister calls “green fuel,” could actually result in a net increase in carbon emissions.
$65 million deal to protect Congo’s forests raises concerns [10/14/2019]
- The Central African Forest Initiative negotiated a deal with the Republic of Congo for $65 million in funding. - The aim of the initiative is to protect forest while encouraging economic development. - But environmental organizations criticized the timing and the wording of the agreement, which they argue still allows for oil drilling and exploration that could harm peatlands and forest. - Two companies in the Republic of Congo recently found oil beneath the peatlands that could nearly triple the Central African country’s daily production.
British armed forces supplied by Brazilian meat firm linked to Amazon deforestation, corruption: Report [10/14/2019]
- The British military sourced beef for ration packs from Brazilian meatpacker JBS despite its history of corruption, poor environmental record and links to human rights abuses. - Ration packs supplied to the UK armed forces between 2009 and 2016 were found to be manufactured by JBS and supplied by Vestey Foods. - The sources of JBS beef imported by Vestey into the UK could not be confirmed and may not have come from illegally deforested lands or suspect supply chains. - Cattle ranching is the largest single driver of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon and a significant contributor to tropical carbon emissions. A recent wave of forest fires in the region prompted a global outcry and calls for tougher action to curb environmental destruction.
Deforestation continues to rise in the Brazilian Amazon [10/11/2019]
- Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon continues its upward trajectory according to data released today by the country’s national space research institute INPE. - Monthly deforestation alert data showed that 1,444 square kilometers of forest in Brazil’s “Legal Amazon” — or Amazonia — were cleared during the month of September, bringing the area chopped down through the first nine months of the year to 7,604 square kilometers, an 86 percent increase over the same period last year. - INPE put the area burned in the Amazon year to date at 59,826 square kilometers, a 97 percent increase in the area burned relative to last year. - Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is on pace to be the highest in over a decade.
Madagascar calls for assistance as fires imperil its protected areas [10/11/2019]
- Between August and September 1,300 hectares (3212 acres) of forest land in Ankarafantsika National Park in northwestern Madagascar was burnt. - Bush fires from slash-and-burn cultivation, in which forestland is burnt and cleared to plant crops, caused the most damage. - The fires impacted forests not just in the buffer zone of the park but also the core area. - The Malagasy government has called on the international community to aid its fire-fighting efforts.
‘Witnessing extinction in the flames’ as the Amazon burns for agribusiness [10/10/2019]
- The vast and biodiverse Triunfo do Xingu protected area in the Brazilian Amazon lost 22 percent of its forest cover between 2007 and 2018, with figures this year indicating the rate of deforestation is accelerating. - The surge in deforestation, driven largely by cattle ranching, is part of a wider trend of encroachment into protected areas across the Brazilian Amazon under the administration of President Jair Bolsonaro, according to conservationists. - With the widespread clearing slicing up the larger protected area into smaller fragments of forest, human rights advocates worry that it will become increasingly difficult for forest-dependent indigenous communities to survive within it. - The deforestation is likely to have a far-reaching impact on the biodiversity of the region, which is home to countless species of plants and animals not adapted to living in areas with higher temperatures and less vegetation.
Toxic river: Mining, mercury and murder continue to plague Colombia’s Atrato [10/10/2019]
- Decades of internal conflict have fueled an unprecedented surge in illegal mining in Colombia’s Choco region, decimating the Atrato River basin and provoking an environmental and humanitarian crisis. - In a landmark ruling in 2016, Colombia’s Constitutional Court granted the Atrato environmental personhood rights just as the country signed historic peace accords, but three years on a new era of conflict is plaguing the Choco region. - Choco is home to one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, with an estimated 54,850 animal species living in its dense jungle. But open-pit mining operations and large-scale deforestation are a constant threat. - Mercury and cyanide contamination from industrial mining activities make it the most polluted river in Colombia and a clean-up operation promised back in 2016 has yet to materialize.
Seven elephants found dead as Sri Lanka’s human-wildlife conflict escalates [10/10/2019]
- Authorities have launched an investigation into the suspected poisoning deaths of seven elephants last month in Sri Lanka. - Human-elephant conflict caused by habitat loss has long been a problem on the country, with both the elephant and human death tolls climbing in recent years. - Investigations into previous elephant deaths have failed to hold anyone liable, and conservationists say they fear the recent spate of deaths will also go unpunished. - Conservationists say the root causes for human-elephant conflict need to be removed or mitigated, including through community-based electric fencing, increased manpower for the wildlife department, and conservation of elephant habitat.
Saving Aru: The epic battle to save the islands that inspired the theory of evolution [10/09/2019]
- In the mid-1800s, the extraordinary biodiversity of the Aru Islands helped inspire the theory of evolution by natural selection. - Several years ago, however, a corrupt politician granted a single company permission to convert most of the islands’ rainforests into a vast sugar plantation. - The people of Aru fought back. Today, the story of their grassroots campaign resonates across the world as a growing global movement seeks to force governments to act on climate change.
$750,000 prize seeks solutions to challenges from small-scale mining [10/08/2019]
- While the devices we carry around in our pockets everyday provide us with unprecedented convenience and levels of access to information, the materials they contain are often linked to the destruction of some of the planet’s richest ecosystems. - Yet small-scale mining is an important source of income more than 40 million people worldwide, generating livelihoods and, in some cases, creating paths to escape poverty. - For these reasons, last week a broad coalition launched a $750,000 global competition to identify ways to make small-scale and artisanal mining less damaging to communities and the environment. - The Artisanal Mining Grand Challenge is hosted by Conservation X Labs, a Washington, DC- and Seattle-based non-profit that has organized other prize-based competitions around difficult environmental problems.
CITES appeals to countries to watch out for trafficked Malagasy rosewood [10/07/2019]
- International wildlife trade regulator CITES has issued an advisory warning that $50 million in Madagascar rosewood logs being held in Singapore could find its way back into the black market. - The timber was seized in 2014 in Singapore, but a local court earlier this year acquitted the trader responsible for it on charges of trafficking, and ordered the release of the 30,000 logs. - Trade in rosewood from Madagascar has been banned by CITES since 2013 and under Malagasy law since 2010, but enforcing the embargo has proved difficult. - The Singapore case highlights the pitfalls in implementing the ban, with observers faulting the Malagasy government’s flip-flop during court proceedings as to whether the seized precious wood was legal.
The unrecognized cost of Indonesia’s fires (commentary) [10/07/2019]
- As Indonesia’s forests go up in smoke, the world may be losing a lot more than we currently understand, argues Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler in this commentary that was originally published in Singapore’s Straits Times on September 30, 2019. - In one instance, deforestation in Borneo nearly eradicated a potential anti-HIV drug before it was discovered. The near-miss with the drug, Calanolide A, provides one vivid illustration of what is at risk of being lost as Indonesia’s forests are cleared and burned. - Other local and regional impacts from continued large-scale destruction of Indonesia’s forests may include hotter temperatures, more prolonged droughts, and increased incidence of fires. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Vatican calls landmark meeting to conserve Amazon, protect indigenous peoples [10/04/2019]
- From October 6-27 Catholic Church bishops from nine Amazon nations, indigenous leaders and environmental activists will convene in Rome at the Vatican to develop a unified strategy for preserving the Amazon rainforest and protecting the region’s indigenous peoples. - The event is an outgrowth of Pope Francis’ 2015 teaching document known as Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home — an indictment of capitalism’s excesses, global extraction industries, industrial agribusiness, and our consumer society, which the pope mostly holds responsible for climate change, deforestation and endangerment of indigenous cultures. - The Vatican meeting to discuss the Amazon is seen as a direct threat to national sovereignty by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, whose spokesperson earlier this year said of the Amazon synod that “it’s worrying and we want to neutralize it.” - In a conference call this week, a few of those who will participate in the Amazon synod took a more positive view, saying that: “People are afraid that they’re going to have to change their own interests. But change has to come and the time is now.”
Demand for charcoal threatens the forest of Madagascar’s last hunter-gatherers [10/03/2019]
- The Mikea, who number around 1,000 people, are facing what many of them say is an existential environmental problem. - Their ancestral forest in southwestern Madagascar is partly protected inside a national park. - However, it is rapidly being chopped down to supply a growing demand for charcoal, the country’s primary source of cooking fuel. - Some Mikea, having lived their entire lives hunting and gathering, are facing a shortage of game and other food and are now considering whether they must abandon the forest, and their way of life, for good.
Brazil land reform head fired amid push to legalize cleared Amazon land [10/03/2019]
- Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has fired army general João Carlos de Jesus Corrêa as the head of the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA), a position he held since February of this year. - Critics say the move yields to pressure from the powerful farm lobby to push legalization of cleared land in the Amazon, which could lead to increased deforestation in the region. - According to news reports, Corrêa’s removal is tied to disagreements regarding the Bolsonaro administration’s plan to ease the process to regularize about 750,000 land deeds through the end of the year.
Study tracks first incursion of poachers into ‘pristine’ African forest [10/03/2019]
- Researchers logged the first evidence of elephant poaching in a remote, pristine section of Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the northern Republic of Congo. - The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Forests and Global Change, also revealed unique behavior changes between gorillas and chimpanzees as a result of selective logging. - The research highlights the need to incorporate the results of biodiversity surveys into plotting out the locations of areas set aside for conservation.
Brazilian beef industry plays outsized role in tropical carbon emissions: report [10/03/2019]
- Roughly 2.6 gigatons of carbon dioxide were released annually between 2010 and 2014 due to growth in tropical agriculture and tree plantations, say researchers; 40 percent of those deforestation-related emissions stem from Brazil and Indonesia, with oilseeds — especially palm oil and soy — accounting for most emissions in Indonesia. - The research shows that cattle ranching in Brazil is the leading driver of deforestation emissions across Latin America. Brazilian meatpacking giant JBS presents the highest deforestation risk of the nation’s leading companies, followed by other major firms including Minerva and Marfrig. Most beef raised in Brazil is consumed domestically. - The deforestation problem arises because monitoring linked to ranches is only done with the final slaughterhouse supplier, while most forest loss is taking place at the ranch where the animals originate, or at other ranches to which animals are sold, before being “laundered” at a last ranch. - The solution: barcode tag animals from birth, so livestock can be traced from source, through multiple sales, to the slaughterhouse, tracking deforestation along the way. But political will has been lacking, say analysts, under past administration and especially under President Jair Bolsonaro.
Indonesian enforcement questioned as fires flare up on the same concessions [10/03/2019]
- Indonesia says it plans to impose stricter punishment for plantation companies with recurring instances of fire on their concessions, including permanently revoking their permits. - Several of the companies whose concessions have been burning this year were also at the heart of the 2015 fires. - Activists say the fact that the problem is recurring on the same concessions highlights the government’s failure to adequately punish the companies. - A Greenpeace report has found no meaningful action taken against palm oil companies guilty of burning since 2015, and inconsistent enforcement against pulpwood companies during that same period.
Report links major brands to illegal oil palm plantation in orangutan haven [10/02/2019]
- Nestlé, Kellogg’s and Hershey are among several global brands sourcing some of their palm oil from an illegal plantation in an Indonesian forest that’s home to the highest density of orangutans anywhere on Earth, a report says. - The findings are based on an investigation by the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), which found that palm fruit in Sumatra’s Rawa Singkil Wildlife Reserve was being processed at nearby mills and sold on to global traders who supply global major consumer companies. - The companies and traders identified all subscribe to the practice of “No Deforestation, No Peatlands, No Exploitation” (NDPE); the companies have reportedly said they will verify the findings. - In the past 10 years, more than 3,000 hectares of critical lowland forest habitat within Rawa Singkil Wildlife Reserve has been cleared, largely for new oil palm plantations.
Audio: Traveling the Pan Borneo Highway with Mongabay’s John Cannon [10/01/2019]
- On today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we speak with Mongabay staff writer John Cannon, who traveled the length of the Pan Borneo Highway in July and wrote a series of reports for Mongabay detailing what he discovered on the journey. - The Pan Borneo Highway is expected to make commerce and travel easier in a region that is notoriously difficult to navigate, and also to encourage tourists to see the states’ cultural treasures and rich wildlife. But from the outset, scientists and conservationists have warned that the highway is likely to harm that very same wildlife by dividing populations and degrading habitat. - Cannon undertook his 3-week reporting trip down the Pan Borneo Highway in an attempt to understand both the positive and negative effects the road could have on local communities, wildlife, and ecosystems, and he’s here to tell us what he found.
Brazilian state complicit in violence against forest defenders, report says [10/01/2019]
- A report by Human Rights Watch details 28 murders and 44 murder attempts or death threats since 2015 in the Brazilian Amazon, in which the victims were targeted for reporting illegal loggers. - Impunity is the norm: very few cases make it to court, reports of intimidation are ignored by the authorities, the police make serious omissions in investigations, and the federal protection program for defenders is ineffective. The HRW report’s author says criminals “are empowered: they believe that they can do whatever they want.” - Indigenous initiatives to monitor and patrol their territories have compensated for cuts in funding and human resources for public environmental agencies, but have placed these communities at greater risk of retaliation. - Violence against defenders of the forest has been a recurring problem for many years, but it has increased under the Bolsonaro administration, which has sabotaged efforts to combat it, withdrawing from Brazil’s commitments assumed in the Paris Agreement to eliminate illegal logging in the Amazon by 2030.
Indonesia defers legislation seen as harming the environment — for now [10/01/2019]
- Indonesia’s outgoing parliament has decided to hold off passing a slate of new bills, including on mining and on land reforms, that have been criticized as being pro-business and anti-environment. - The decision comes amid massive student-led protests across the country in response to the earlier passage of another contentious bill widely seen as weakening the national anti-corruption agency. - The postponement means the incoming batch of legislators will decide on the bills, but activists point out that they won’t have to start their deliberations from scratch, thanks to a “carry-over” mechanism that will allow them to resume their predecessors’ work. - The prospect of the bills being passed swiftly appears even likelier given that nearly 60 percent of the new batch of legislators are the outgoing legislators who have been re-elected.
The climate crisis and the pain of losing what we love (commentary) [09/30/2019]
- World leaders came to the UN last week to decisively tackle climate change again. “This is not a negotiation summit because we don’t negotiate with nature. This is a Climate Action Summit!” declared the UN Secretary-General. But again, global leaders failed and committed to carbon cuts that fall far short of curbing catastrophe. - In doing so, our leaders committed us to an escalating global environmental crisis that is already unleashing vast changes across Earth’s ecosystems — with many sweeping alterations charted by our scientists, but many other local shifts and absences only noted by those who observe and cherish wild things. - The loss of familiar weather patterns, plants and animals (from monarchs to native bees) and an invasion of opportunistic living things (Japanese knotweed to Asian longhorned ticks) can foster feelings of vertigo — of being a stranger in a strange land — emotions, so personal and rubbing so raw, they can be hard to describe. - So I’ve tried to express my own feelings for one place, Vermont, my home, that is today seeing rapid change. At the end of this piece, Mongabay invites you to tally your own natural losses. We’ll share your responses in a later story. This post is a commentary. Views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
New app tracks down forest fires in Bolivia [09/30/2019]
- A new app uses aerosol data and recent satellite images to find fires in the forests of Bolivia in real time. - The application’s creators, from the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project, say the novel use of the aerosol data, originally intended to monitor air quality, represents a significant advance over traditional, temperature-related alerts. - According to the NGO Friends of Nature Foundation, more than 41,000 square kilometers (15,800 square miles) of Bolivia has burned in 2019.
Restoring Sumatra’s Leuser Ecosystem, one small farm at a time [09/30/2019]
- An initiative in Indonesia’s Aceh province is engaging local farmers in restoring parts of the biodiverse Leuser Ecosystem by allowing them to farm and reforest tracts of land previously used for illegal oil palm plantations. - The forest is the last place on Earth where critically endangered elephants, orangutans, rhinos and tigers all still exist in the wild, but is being lost to encroachment for illegal plantations. - Under the initiative, farmers are trained to plant tropical hardwoods as well as fruit and vegetable crops from which they can make a sustainable living. - Only long-degraded land from past encroachment qualifies, removing any incentive for someone to damage land then apply for a management license.
Nature-based climate action no longer ‘the forgotten solution’ [09/27/2019]
- At the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) held in San Francisco last year, nature-based solutions to the climate crisis — like keeping forests standing and restoring degraded ecosystems to enhance their carbon storage potential — were referred to as “the forgotten solution.” - Though conservation of forests and other landscapes could be playing a crucial role in mitigating global climate change, renowned conservationist and UN messenger for peace Dr. Jane Goodall, in a speech delivered last September at the GCAS, said she had personally attended a number of conferences where forests went unmentioned. “Saving the forest is one third of the solution,” Goodall said. “We must not let it be the forgotten solution.” - That message appears to have been heeded by a number of governments, companies, and civil society groups who committed to major nature-based climate initiatives at the UN Climate Summit held last Monday and the NYC Climate Week that concludes this weekend.
Top Madagascar beer maker supports investigation into its corn supply chain [09/27/2019]
- Madagascar brewer STAR, owned by the French Castel group, is under pressure for allegedly sourcing maize from a rapidly deforesting area in the country’s west. - It has agreed to support an independent study led by Malagasy NGO Association Fanamby to investigate whether the maize in its supply chain is linked to deforestation in the Menabe Antimena protected area. - The protected area hosts endangered and endemic species like the Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur (Microcebus berthae) and the Malagasy giant rat (Hypogeomys antimena). - More than one-fifth of the dry deciduous forest in Menabe Antimena was lost between 2006 and 2016, and there are no signs of the deforestation abating.
As the Amazon burns, Colombia’s forests decimated for cattle and coca [09/26/2019]
- The environmental corridor that connects the Amazon, the Orinoquía and the Andes mountain range is in danger as a result of the ongoing deforestation. - Tinigua National Natural Park lost 16,000 hectares (39,500 acres) between 2017 and July 2019, almost all of it primary forest, while the other parks also lost significant amounts of forest. - The analysis identifies the main cause of the deforestation as the conversion of forests to pastures for land grabbing and livestock ranching, by invaders taking advantage of the scant government presence in the region.
Wilderness cuts the risk of extinction for species in half [09/26/2019]
- Wilderness areas buffer species against the risk of extinction, reducing it by more than half, a new study shows. - Places with lots of unique species and wilderness with the last remaining sections of good habitat for certain species had a more pronounced impact on extinction risk. - The authors contend that safeguarding the last wild places should be a conservation priority alongside the protection and restoration of heavily impacted “hotspots.”
The sink and the safeguard: Benefits of protecting and restoring intact forests for people and planet (commentary) [09/25/2019]
- The need for protecting intact forests is pressing, and not just in the hotspots for rapid land use change like the Amazon or the Congo Basin. - Forests in countries and regions experiencing relatively lower rates of deforestation, such as Suriname and Gabon, are also at risk of future degradation. Yet these High Forest Low Deforestation (HFLD) countries receive a relatively small portion of climate finance, challenging the ability to conserve and maintain many of the last intact forests. - When it comes to climate action, we tend to think of adaptation and mitigation as distinct strategies: efforts either to cope with the impacts or to curtail them. But in fact, research indicates that a significant percentage of initiatives aimed at mitigation also have adaptation outcomes. This is particularly evident in the forest and agricultural sectors. The same holds true for intact forests. Including these forests in the country-level targets of the Paris Agreement is a win-win on both fronts. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Notes from the road: 5 revelations from traveling the Pan Borneo Highway [09/25/2019]
- Construction of the Pan Borneo Highway will add or expand more than 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) of roadway in Malaysian Borneo. - Mongabay staff writer John Cannon spent several weeks traveling the proposed route in July 2019 to understand the effects, both positive and negative, the road could have on communities, wildlife and ecosystems. - The project is designed to energize the economies of the region, and though officials have responded to entreaties from NGOs to minimize the harmful impacts of the road, they remain singularly focused on the economic benefits that proponents say the highway will bring.
Panthera: At least 500 jaguars lost their lives or habitat in Amazon fires [09/25/2019]
- The fires in the Amazon forest in Brazil and Bolivia this year have burned key habitats of at least 500 adult, resident jaguars as of September 17, experts at Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization, estimate. The numbers will continue to increase until the rains come, researchers say. - In Bolivia in particular, the fires have so far destroyed over 2 million hectares of forest in one of South America’s key “catscape”, a region that Panthera has identified as having the highest predicted density of cat species on the continent. - Panthera researchers also predict that many more jaguars will also likely starve or turn to killing livestock in neighboring ranches as a consequence of the fires, likely increasing conflict with the ranchers.
For one Indonesian village, mangrove restoration has been all upside [09/24/2019]
- Demand for firewood in recent years led to the depletion of the mangrove forest in the Indonesian village of Paremas. - But the local government and NGOs worked with the community to emphasize the importance of restoring the mangrove, with surprising results. - Today, the tidal pools on the coast provide food that can both sustain the locals and provide an income, allowing families to be less dependent on the remittances sent home by mothers and fathers working arduous jobs overseas. - In addition to protecting biodiversity, the mangroves also absorb energy from large ocean swells and stop garbage from piling up in foul-smelling sumps on the beach.
Greta and Mesoamerica’s five great forests (commentary) [09/23/2019]
- In New York’s Battery Park last Friday night, Greta Thunberg rightly said, “This is an emergency. Our house is on fire.” She continued, “This Monday, world leaders are going to be gathered here in New York City for the U.N. Climate Action Summit. The eyes of the world will be on them. They have a chance to take leadership, to prove they actually hear us.” - In Mesoamerica, leaders are listening and acting. During the Climate Summit, Mesoamerica’s leaders announced their commitment to protect the “Five Great Forests of Mesoamerica” and shared some of their governments’ lessons learned to date to reduce forest fires and tackle deforestation. - We are supporting them by promoting an initiative in which governments, Indigenous Peoples, and civil society are coming together to protect 10 million hectares and restore 500,000 hectares in these critical forest areas, thereby helping safeguard the world’s climate. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Prompted by Amazon fires, 230 investors warn firms linked to deforestation [09/23/2019]
- Prompted by the Amazon fires in Brazil and Bolivia, 230 global investors with $16.2 trillion in assets have issued a strongly worded statement warning hundreds of unnamed companies to either meet their commodities supply chain deforestation commitments or risk economic consequences. - The statement was published by Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), an international network of investors and Ceres, a U.S. non-profit which works with investors to promote sustainability. - Among the 230 signatories are CalPERS (the California Public Employees’ Retirement System), which manages the largest public pension fund in the United States, and some more unexpected firms, such as China Asset Management. - Elsewhere, consumer pressure has led the VF Corporation, a US apparel and footwear firm which owns Timberland and The North Face brands, to announce it has stopped buying Brazilian leather. It remains to be seen whether a global Brazilian boycott linked to deforestation will develop.
Bolsonaro’s Brazil unlikely to achieve Paris Agreement goals: experts [09/22/2019]
- Brazil is the eighth largest global economy, and the seventh largest national producer of greenhouse gases, with significant emissions due to deforestation, especially in the Amazon. - Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, Brazil committed to cutting 37 percent of its carbon emissions by 2025, and 43 percent by 2030. - However, the anti-environmental, climate change and deforestation policies of President Jair Bolsonaro are putting those goals at serious risks, say experts. - Environmentalists are especially suspicious of a September deal between Bolsonaro and US President Trump to promote private-sector sustainable development in the Amazon via a $100 million biodiversity conservation fund.
Gravely injured orangutan rescued near site of controversial hydropower project [09/20/2019]
- A severely injured and malnourished Tapanuli orangutan has been rescued from a plantation near the site of a controversial hydropower project in Sumatra. - The animal was found to have deep, infected gashes on its head and under its arm, which rescuers say were likely inflicted by humans. - The orangutan may have been fleeing forest-clearing activity near the project site, which is located in the Batang Toru forest, the only known habitat of the critically endangered Tapanuli orangutan. - This is not the first instance of orangutans apparently being driven out of their habitat by the project, which environmental activists and scientists say must be put on hold to protect the rarest great ape species in the world.
World’s biggest meatpackers buying cattle from deforesters in Amazon [09/19/2019]
- JBS, Marfrig and Frigol, among the world’s biggest meat producers, have been buying cattle from ranches associated with illegal deforestation and slave labor, an investigation by Repórter Brasil has found. - The ranches in question are located in southern Pará state, the epicenter of the fires currently ravaging the Amazon, providing further evidence of the link between deforestation for cattle pasture and forest fires. - The three companies say the information that would have flagged the ranches as problematic were not publicly available at the time they made their purchase, and point to their commitments to not source from ranches linked to environmental crimes. - But a lack of animal traceability allows ranchers to use legalized farms to conceal sales of cattle raised in illegal areas through false declarations of origin, in a practice known as “cattle washing.”
Palm oil giant Korindo silences critical report with cease-and-desist letter [09/19/2019]
- Korindo, a major palm oil operator in Indonesia’s Papua region, has sent a cease-and-desist letter to delay the publication of a report highlighting its various violations there. - The report was to have been published Sept. 5 by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), but the organization says it’s had to postpone publication indefinitely. - Mighty Earth, the campaign group whose focus on Korindo’s operations prompted the two-year FSC investigation, says Korindo effectively robbed local communities of hundreds of millions of dollars in land, natural resources and livelihoods. - Korindo says it issued the letter to seek more time to address some points, and denies that it’s threatening litigation over the report. It also says it’s working to address the findings of violations.
Pan Borneo Highway development endangers the Heart of Borneo [09/18/2019]
- The construction of the Pan Borneo Highway in the Malaysian state of Sabah could disrupt the connections between wildlife populations and appears to run counter to the state’s conservation commitments, according to a new study. - Passages under the highway and the rehabilitation of key forest corridors could lessen the impacts of the road, but the authors of the study caution that these interventions are expensive and may not be effective. - They argue that planners should consider canceling certain sections of the road with the greatest potential for damaging the surrounding forest.
Gran Chaco: South America’s second-largest forest at risk of collapsing [09/17/2019]
- Distributed between Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil, the Gran Chaco is a collection of more than 50 different ecosystems typified by dry forest. - The Gran Chaco is one of the most deforested areas on the planet. Every month, an area twice the size of Buenos Aires is cut down. - Chaco deforestation is driven by the expansion of the agricultural frontier and hunting, as well as climate change.
‘We’ve been negligent,’ Indonesia’s president says as fire crisis deepens [09/17/2019]
- Indonesia’s government has been negligent in anticipating and preparing for this year’s fire season, the country’s president says. - The fires, set mostly to clear land for planting, have razed huge swaths of forest and generated toxic haze that has spread as far as Malaysia and Singapore. - The president’s acknowledgement of the government’s lack of preparation comes in the wake of his own ministers apportioning blame for the fires to other parties. - Activists say the government has little moral standing to go after the companies that have set their concessions ablaze, noting that the government itself has refused to take responsibility for failing to do enough to tackle similar fires in 2015.
Indigenous communities, wildlife under threat as farms invade Nicaraguan reserve [09/17/2019]
- Nicaragua’s Bosawás Biosphere Reserve straddles the country’s border with Honduras and was declared a UNESCO site in 1997. It comprises one of the largest contiguous rainforest regions in Latin America north of the Amazon Basin and includes 21 ecosystems and six types of forest that are home to a multitude of species, several of which are threatened with extinction. - According to a report by the Nicaraguan environmental agency MARENA, a little more than 15 percent of the Bosawás reserve had been cleared and converted for agricultural use in 2000. But today, that number stands at nearly 31 percent. Satellite data show deforestation reached the heart of the reserve’s core zone earlier this year. - Deforestation in Bosawás stems mainly from migration, as people in other parts of the country move to the region looking for fertile land and space to raise cattle and grow crops. - Indigenous communities are allowed to own land within Bosawás. But sources say land traffickers are selling plots of land to non-indigenous farmers and ranchers, creating conflicts that have caused death on both sides.
Mexican officials battle a tide of fire eating away at a protected reserve [09/16/2019]
- Fires raged in the Mexican state of Campeche this summer, with NASA satellites picking up nearly 10,000 fire alerts the state so far this year — around twice the number recorded in 2018. This puts 2019 in third place (behind 2003 and barely behind 2013) for the highest incidence of fires in the state since data collection began in 2001. - Of these fires, 15 percent occurred in protected areas. Several afflicted Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, one of which burned through 3,087 hectares (7,628 acres) before being extinguished. - Stretching across the central Yucatan Peninsula to the Guatemalan border, the Calakmul Reserve, as well as the Balamku and Balamkin state reserves that sit contiguous with it, comprise more than 1.2 million hectares (3 million acres) of jungle. The reserves are home to some of the country’s most impressive biodiversity and provide vital habitat to threatened animals and plants. - The main driver of fires in Campeche is slash-and-burn agriculture. Officials worry that fire seasons will only intensify as more people set up farms in the region, and as state funding to fight fires continues to dwindle.
Why I support the California Tropical Forest Standard (commentary) [09/16/2019]
- Simply put, we cannot address climate change without stopping deforestation. If we don’t address climate change, and we don’t slow the destruction of Earth’s tropical forests, we will put much of the world’s species and ourselves in danger. - How do we support the indigenous communities in their fight to protect the forest — their home and a system that we all need? California provides one possible answer. This week, California’s Air Resources Board, or CARB, will vote on whether or not to endorse the Tropical Forest Standard. - The Standard would be a key step to allow funding to flow to regions and states partnering with indigenous communities of the Amazon and other rainforests to reduce deforestation pressures on indigenous lands and develop sustainable economic alternatives across their jurisdictions. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
A Papuan village finds its forest caught in a web of corporate secrecy [09/16/2019]
- Indonesian companies were given until March this year to disclose their “beneficial owners” under a 2018 presidential regulation, but less than 1 percent have complied. - In the easternmost corner of the country, investors hidden by layers of corporate secrecy continue to bulldoze an intact rainforest and have nearly finished building a giant sawmill. - The government is drafting new regulations to close loopholes in the rules governing anonymous companies, which could yet open a new front in the fight against deforestation and land grabs.
Facing a possible Climate Apocalypse: How should we live? (commentary) [09/15/2019]
- We live today under threat of Climate Apocalypse. But two world wars, genocides, the Bomb and untold suffering around the globe reported daily have all perhaps dulled our senses and our resolve; resulted in elders – especially our leaders – failing to face humanity’s ultimate existential crisis. - More than 30 years after the Climate Emergency was publicly declared by climatologist James Hansen, disasters multiply – record heat, drought, deluge, rising seas. But climate change deniers hold sway in the U.S. and abroad, with almost no nations on Earth on target to achieve their deeply inadequate Paris Agreement goals. - Now an even higher imperative has emerged, as new studies point not just to escalating risk, but toward potential doom. Understandingly, young people are angry and openly rebelling against their elders. The young point to a failure to act, and declare: there is no time for politics and business as usual. They’re right. - Humanity’s only way out – the path to saving civilization, and much of life on Earth – is to act as though our lives, and our children’s lives, depend on it. Because they do. And one more thing: we mustn’t give up hope. This post is a commentary. Views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Expand or Intensify? Balancing biodiversity and rising food needs: study [09/13/2019]
- A recent study shows that for a given rise in food production, the impact of cropland expansion on biodiversity is many times greater than that for cropland intensification. This is because expansion can be expected to occur in those regions with the highest existing levels of biodiversity, mainly in Central and South America, a new study finds. - Researchers estimated crop expansion and intensification potential for 17 major agricultural crops using socio-economic data as well as data on biophysical constraints. This information was overlaid with spatial data on biodiversity, specifically endemism richness to determine how each strategy would impact biodiversity in different locales. - Worldwide, there is a major gap between the amount farms are producing and potential yields that could be achieved if plants were grown in an optimal way on minimal land. Closing this yield gap by 28 percent through land use intensification would increase production equal to expanding cropland area by 730 million hectares. - In the future, we need to not only protect biodiversity on uncultivated wildlands, but also make the very most economically and ecologically of our existing croplands, encouraging biodiversity there as well, while maximizing food production.
Worldwide deforestation rising despite bold commitments, report finds [09/13/2019]
- In 2014, the New York Declaration on Forests set out bold commitments to stem deforestation, cutting it in half by 2020 and ending it entirely by 2030, along with global forest restoration targets. - But a new assessment finds that, globally, the loss of forests is on the rise, at rates that are around 40 percent higher than five years ago when the agreement was signed. - The report’s authors say that, despite the “sobering” findings, the assessment should serve as a call to action that more needs to be done to address deforestation and forest degradation.
Indonesian minister draws fire for denial of transboundary haze problem [09/12/2019]
- Indonesia’s environment minister continues to deny that fires in the country are sending toxic haze to neighboring Malaysia and Singapore. - An environmental activist warns that this stance, which goes against the data presented by Malaysia, risks undermining Indonesia’s credibility. - The haze is an annual irritant in diplomatic ties between Indonesia and its neighbors, with much of the burning taking place to clear land for oil palm and pulpwood plantations. - Malaysia has offered to help Indonesia fight the fires, which have sickened tens of thousands of people in Sumatra and Borneo, threatened an elephant reserve, and churned more than 100 millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
REDD+ more competitive than critics believe, study finds [09/12/2019]
- Critics have argued that the strategy known as REDD+, or reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, hasn’t adequately slowed emissions from forest loss in developing countries in the way it was intended. - Introduced in 2007, REDD+ is meant to help individual countries earn money for development when they lower the amount of released carbon from clearing and degrading forests. - In a recent paper focused on the South American country of Guyana, a team of researchers argues that the problems with REDD+ stem from its implementation at the project level. - REDD+ implementation across the jurisdiction of an entire country would address nearly all of the problems with individual REDD+ projects, and societies would benefit more financially than they currently do from commercial forest uses such as gold mining and logging, the researchers say.
Brazilian Amazon fires scientifically linked to 2019 deforestation: report [09/11/2019]
- A scientific report released today by the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP) reveals critical overlap between deforestation and fire alerts. Mongabay had exclusive access to the report ahead of release. - At least 125,000 hectares (310,000 acres) of the Brazilian Amazon — the equivalent to 172,000 soccer fields — were cleared through 2019 and then burned in August. The findings offer a base map overlapping 2019 deforestation and fire hotspots, and include 16 high-resolution time lapse videos unveiling newly cleared agricultural lands linked to fire occurrences. - MAAP’s findings show that the dramatic photos that garnered worldwide attention of smoky fires sweeping the Brazilian Amazon in August do not correspond with burning rainforest, but instead coincide with areas intentionally deforested this year, with the cleared land then set ablaze to finish the agricultural conversion process. - Although the report didn’t detect major forest fires in Brazil to date, the risk still exists, as the dry season deepens, given that many fire occurrences were detected on agriculture-forest boundaries. The study doesn’t say how much of the 125,000 hectares cleared in the first 8 months of 2019 were illegally deforested.
Photos: Forest fires rage on Sumatra oil palm concessions [09/11/2019]
- As Indonesia’s annual fire season gets underway, swaths of carbon-rich peat forests are being razed, and the subsequent toxic smoke has blanketed parts of Jambi province on the island of Sumatra. - Dozens of hotspots have been detected on farmland, oi palm concessions, and even inside a protected peat forest in the province, according to the local disaster management agency. - Mongabay visited one of the burning concessions, where minimally equipped workers are fighting to put out fires that have been burning for days without end. - The workers deny that the oil palm company set the fire on the concession, claiming it started in a neighboring village. In 2015, three company employees were charged with setting fires on the same concession, though none were ever convicted.
Camera trap study reveals Amazon ocelot’s survival strategies [09/10/2019]
- Ocelots suffered severe declines in the 1960s and 70s due to hunting, but populations have rebounded since the international fur trade was banned. Now, heavy deforestation and increasing human activity across their range threaten to put this elegant creature back on the endangered list. - Researchers collected images from hundreds of camera traps set across the Amazon basin and analyzed the effect of different habitat characteristics on the presence of ocelots. Statistical modeling revealed the cat’s preference for dense forests and a dislike of roads and human settlements. - Experts say ocelots may also be responding to human activity and forest degradation in ways that camera traps cannot easily detect, such as changing how and when they use a particular habitat. The study looked at ocelot behavior in protected and forested habitat, not in degraded landscapes. - Ocelots are considered ambassador species for their forest ecosystem, and studies like this give support to maintaining protected areas, which are increasingly under threat from agricultural expansion and other human activities.
Pro-deforestation policies could be ruinous for farmers (commentary) [09/10/2019]
- Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro claims to be a champion of farmers and ranchers, but his policies in the Amazon could be ruinous for them in the long-run, argues Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler. - While large-scale deforestation in Earth’s largest rainforest may offer short-term opportunities for ranchers and farmers to expand their holdings, scientists say the approach is a risky proposition in the long-term given the role the Amazon plays in sustaining Brazilian agribusiness through the rainfall it affords. - Note: this commentary was originally written August 27, 2019. Minor modifications have been made to reflect the discrepancy between time of writing and publishing. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Private sector could play outsized role in Cerrado conservation: study [09/09/2019]
- A recent study estimates the impacts of implementing a soy moratorium in the Cerrado savanna, Brazil’s second largest biome, which has already lost half of its native vegetation to agribusiness, much of it due to soy and cattle expansion. - The Amazon Soy Moratorium, seen as one of the most successful voluntary corporate conservation agreements ever, was implemented in the Amazon biome in 2006, and helped greatly reduce deforestation from soy there. - Now environmental NGOs and international retailers have called for a similar moratorium in the Cerrado, the biodiverse tropical savanna that borders the Amazon on its south and east. - Full participation by the private sector in a Cerrado Soy Moratorium starting in 2021 — including resistant companies such a Cargill — could prevent 3.6 million hectares (8.9 million acres) of native vegetation being lost due to soy expansion, an area larger than Belgium, researchers found.
Diplomatic row heats up as haze from Indonesian fires threatens Malaysia [09/09/2019]
- The number of fire hotspots in Indonesian Borneo and Sumatra has increased nearly sevenfold in a four-day period in early September. - The surge has prompted calls from Malaysia, which has historically been affected by haze from fires in Indonesia, for its Southeast Asian neighbor to get the burning under control. - The Indonesian government has refuted complaints that the recent increase in hotspots has resulted in transboundary haze. - Indonesia faces what could be the worst fire season since 2015, fanned by an El Niño weather pattern.
Loss of Madagascar’s biodiversity is a loss for Earth, Pope says [09/09/2019]
- On a visit to Madagascar this weekend, Pope Francis denounced the “excessive” forest loss in the country. - He was speaking at the presidential palace, during a courtesy call to President Andry Rajoelina. - The pope also visited Mozambique before arriving in Madagascar, where he addressed the ecological disaster faced by the African nation after it was hit by two back-to-back cyclones this year. - His seven-day tour which includes a day trip to Mauritius on Monday comes to a close on Tuesday.
State governors support Bolsonaro’s Amazon mining, agribusiness plans [09/09/2019]
- In a meeting with nine Amazon state governors called by Jair Bolsonaro to discuss the region’s wildfires, the president pushed the states to back his policies which seek to bring major mining and agribusiness operations onto indigenous lands. Doing so would be a direct violation of the 1988 Constitution. - Backing Bolsonaro were the governors of Acre, Roraima, Tocantins, Rondônia, Amazonas, Mato Grosso and Amapá states. Only the Pará and Maranhão governors opposed opening more forest areas to development and favored upholding current indigenous land use rights. - Most of the state governors agreed with Bolsonaro that indigenous groups hold control over too much Brazilian land that could be mined or turned over to agribusiness, greatly profiting the nation, while also bringing indigenous people into mainstream Brazilian society. - The federal Congress is presently crafting legislation that could open indigenous lands to mining and industrial agribusiness. It is also preparing to vote on a bill that seems likely to pass and would allocate R$ 1 billion (US$ 240 million) to combat deforestation and fires in the Amazon and carry out land regularization.
Disaster strikes in Bolivia as fires lay waste to unique forests [09/06/2019]
- Fires are raging in Bolivia, hitting particularly hard the Chiquitano dry forests of the country’s southern Santa Cruz region. - Officials say the fires are largely the result of intentional burning to convert forest to farmland. Sources say this practice has recently intensified after Bolivian president Evo Morales signed a decree in July expanding land demarcated for livestock production and the agribusiness sector to include Permanent Forest Production Lands in the regions of Beni and Santa Cruz. - Satellite data indicate 2019 may be a banner year for forest loss, with tree cover loss alerts spiking in late August to levels more than double the average of previous years. Most of these alerts are occurring in areas with high fire activity, with data from NASA showing August fire activity in Santa Cruz was around three times higher than in years past. - Human communities are suffering due to the fires, with reports of smoke-caused illnesses and drinking water shortages. Meanwhile, biologists are worried about the plants and animals of the Chiquitano dry forests, many of which are unique, isolated and found nowhere else in the world.
Amazon deforestation and development heighten Amazon fire risk: study [09/06/2019]
- The current fires burning in the Brazilian Amazon are helping confirm the findings of a new study published this July which shows a major connection between land use and fire incidence — with deforestation and development contributing more to fire occurrence than climate change. - New research shows that unrestrained deforestation, along with the construction of new highways, could expand wildfire risk in the Amazon by more than 70 percent by 2100, even inside protected areas and indigenous reserves that have relatively intact forests. - Scientist suggest that efforts to improve sustainable land management and reduce future deforestation and development could offer the best defenses against the escalating threat wildfires pose due to the increased heat and drought brought by escalating climate change.
Fires in Brazil’s Amazon have devastating consequences [09/06/2019]
- According to Brazil’s space agency, INPE, the number of fires between Jan. 1 and Aug. 20 of this year is up 85 percent from the same period last year. - It will take from decades to centuries for the forests to recover, and the impact on wildlife specifically is uncertain. - What’s clear, though, is that the region’s hydrological and climatic status will change drastically if the situation continues to worsen.
New monkey species found in Amazon forest area that’s fast disappearing [09/05/2019]
- From a stretch of the Amazon forest lying between the Tapajós and Jamanxim rivers in the Brazilian state of Pará, researchers have described a new-to-science species of marmoset. - The marmoset, with its distinct white tail, white forearms with a beige-yellowish spot on the elbow, and white feet and hands, has been named Mico munduruku after the Munduruku, an indigenous group of people who live in the Tapajós–Jamanxim interfluve. - At the moment, given the scarcity of information on M. munduruku, the researchers recommend listing the marmoset as data deficient on the IUCN Red List. - However, the Amazon forest that’s home to the newly described species is being rapidly cut for agricultural expansion, logging, mining, and infrastructure development.
New report reveals northern Ecuadorian region has lost 61 percent of forests [09/04/2019]
- The Mache-Chindul Ecological Reserve maintains only 61 percent of its original plant cover. The area’s ecological significance is partly due to its sitting in a transition zone between humid tropical forests and seasonally dry forests. - In Cotacachi-Cayapas Park, a high level of conservation success represents a source of hope. Now the challenge is to connect the park to private reserves to guarantee protection of the most-threatened lowland forests.
Giant Norway pension fund weighs Brazil divestment over Amazon deforestation [09/03/2019]
- KLP, Norway’s largest pension fund, with over US$80 billion in assets, is saying it may divest from transnational commodities traders operating in Brazil such as Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Bunge and Cargill, if they work with producers who contribute to deforestation. KLP has $50 million in shares and loans with the firms. - KLP is also reaching out to other investors to lobby them to use their financial influence to curb Amazon deforestation via supply chains. On August 28, Nordea, the largest asset management group in the Nordic region announced a temporary quarantine on Brazilian government bonds in response to this year’s Amazon fires. - International investment firms play a pivotal role in preserving or deforesting the Amazon. A new report found that mega-investment house BlackRock ranks among the top three shareholders in 25 of the largest public “deforestation-risk” companies, firms dealing in soy, beef, palm oil, pulp and paper, rubber and timber. - The Amazon deforestation process is complex. But it often proceeds by the following steps: land speculators invade the rainforest, illegally cut down and sell the most valuable timber, then set fire to the rest; they then can sell the land for 100-200 times its previous worth to cattle ranchers, who may eventually sell it to soy growers.
Brazil’s satellite agency resumes releasing deforestation data [09/01/2019]
- Brazil’s National Space Research Institute INPE resumed releasing deforestation data after nearly a month-long hiatus that followed the firing of the agency’s director. - The newly released data estimates that more than 1,400 square kilometers of forest were cleared in the Brazilian Amazon between August 1 and August 26, 2019. That rate is running well ahead of last August. - Year-to-date, INPE data puts forest loss in the Brazilian Amazon at 5,884 square kilometers through August 26, up more than 75 percent over last year. - INPE reported an increase in burn scars in the Amazon, rising from 794 square kilometers last August to 1,259 square kilometers for the first 26 days of last month. For the year, INPE has recorded 46,825 hotspots in Amazonia, more than twice the number of a year ago.
A tiger refuge in Sumatra gets a reprieve from road building [08/31/2019]
- Sumatra’s Kerinci Seblat National Park is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra (TRHS), which has been inscribed on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger since 2011. - UNESCO has noted particular concern about a spate of road projects planned for Kerinci Seblat and other protected areas within the TRHS. - According to park officials, Indonesia’s forestry ministry has refused permits for all new roads within the park; the sole project to receive permission is the upgrade of an existing road. - The park still faces immense pressure from encroachment for agriculture, logging, mining and poaching.
The end of the road: The future of the Pan Borneo Highway [08/30/2019]
- The construction of more than 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) of road for the Pan Borneo Highway across Malaysian Borneo holds the promise of spurring local economies for its proponents. - But from the outset, conservationists and scientists voiced concerns that the road would displace people, harm sensitive environments, and threaten Borneo’s splendid diversity of wildlife. - As construction moves forward, these groups are working with planners to find a way for the highway’s construction to avoid the worst environmental damage.
Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires grows [08/30/2019]
- As a result of international concern and media attention, along with pressure from within his own nation, Jair Bolsonaro decreed a 60-day ban on the setting of fires in the Brazilian Amazon on Wednesday, 28 August. The order came as experts warned that the worst fires this year may be yet to come. - To avoid international attention, Brazil’s House of Deputies put on hold a plan to pass sweeping legislation that would abolish significant existing environmental protections for 1,514 quilombolas (communities of runaway slave descendants), 163 as yet un-demarcated indigenous territories, and 543 protected areas. - Both the House and Senate proposed inquiries into the Amazon fires. Also, 400 IBAMA personnel signed an open letter demanding qualified professionals run the environmental agency, that past budget and staffing levels be restored, and that security squads again be deployed with IBAMA teams fighting deforestation. - Even as South American nations organized a meeting to combat deforestation, Bolsonaro moved ahead with a plan to privatize deforestation satellite monitoring in Brazil. The new system, experts warn, could end real time monthly monitoring, needed to apprehend illegal deforesters.
Humans have been transforming Earth for thousands of years, study says [08/30/2019]
- Some 3,000 years ago, our human ancestors were already substantially transforming Earth’s surface by farming and grazing livestock, according to a new study that crowdsourced the expert knowledge of more than 250 archaeologists from the around the world. - This massive collaboration, termed the ArchaeGLOBE project, has helped build the first ever global picture of how human activities were altering the planet’s surface from 10,000 years ago right up to 1850. - These estimates of the spread of agriculture and pastoralism suggest that humans were significantly transforming the planet earlier than what some recent studies and databases show, the researchers say. - The ArchaeoGLOBE project dataset, however, has several data gaps and presents only part of our planet’s history.
‘Not a pretty picture’: South China’s forests vanish as tree farms move in [08/29/2019]
- Forests in South China have been increasingly replaced by monoculture ecalyptus plantations grown for wood fiber for the pulp and paper industry. Even forests under official protection haven’t been spared. Xidamingshan Forest Reserve is one of these, losing so much of its native forest over the past decade that it was delisted by the World Database of Protected Areas in 2018. - Central government-led environmental inspections in 2016 found that the Guangxi region lost 6.9 percent of its nature reserve areas over a five year period between 2011 and 2015, with the loss primarily due to unclear borders and the ensuing environmental damage from economic activities such as plantation agriculture and mining. - The Guangxi government set about trying to determine the borders of the Xidamingshan Nature Reserve in 2016, with the final determination coming on Jan. 31, 2019. However, where those borders will actually be depends on the outcomes of negotiations between Guangxi and local governments, and their implementation is at the mercy of a protracted bureaucratic process. - Meanwhile, forests continue to be lost at a fast pace, with satellite data showing large areas of tree cover loss in 2019.
A remote Indonesian district juggles road building with nature conservation [08/29/2019]
- The Indonesian government plans to build or upgrade thousands of kilometers of roads in Kalimantan, the Indonesian portion of Borneo Island. - Proponents of the project say infrastructure upgrades are necessary to support a growing population, will boost economic growth, and will provide better access to services. - But conservationists are concerned these roads will fragment and degrade some of the island’s last remaining intact ecosystems. - This summer, Mongabay traveled the length of one such project in East Kalimantan province, into a remote region already undergoing changes as a result of current and planned road upgrades.
‘We have cut them all’: Ghana struggles to protect its last old-growth forests [08/28/2019]
- Deforestation of Ghana’s primary forests jumped 60 percent between 2017 and 2018 – the biggest jump of any tropical country. Most of this occurred in the country’s protected areas, including its forest reserves. - A Mongabay investigation revealed that illegal logging in forest reserves is commonplace, with sources claiming officers from Ghana’s Forestry Commission often turn a blind eye and even participate in the activity. - The technical director of forestry at Ghana’s Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources said attempts at intervention have met with limited success, and are often thwarted by loggers who know how to game the system. - A representative of a conservation NGO operating in the country says a community-based monitoring project has helped curtail illegal logging in some reserves, but additional buy-in from other communities is needed to scale up its results. Meanwhile, the Ghanaian government is reportedly starting its own public outreach program, as well as coordinating with the EU on an agreement that would allow only legal wood from Ghana to enter the EU market.
Misinformation and blame spread concerning sources of Amazon fires [08/28/2019]
- With the global spotlight on Brazil’s Amazon fires, those in and out of government are playing a blame game, pointing fingers and often using unsubstantiated claims to target those they say set the blazes. - Pres. Jair Bolsonaro, without evidence, has blamed NGOs disgruntled at losing international Amazon funding. He also accused state governors for not fighting the fires. One ruralist even blamed ICMBio (Brazil’s national park service) for setting the blazes, though she has since been charged with setting fires in a protected area. - Conservationists put the blame squarely on Bolsonaro and his deregulation and defunding of government institutions, including IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental enforcement agency, which used to regularly fight fires and arrest perpetrators. - IBAMA claims that, though warned days in advance of “A Day of Fire” in Pará state, it received no law enforcement backup from federal or state authorities. This allowed ruralists (radical agricultural advocates) in Altamira and Novo Progresso to set hundreds of fires on August 10-11, with little fear of fines or prosecution.
The Pan Borneo Highway on a collision course with elephants [08/28/2019]
- Out of the controversy surrounding the Pan Borneo Highway and its potential impacts on the environment has arisen a movement to bring conservationists, scientists and planners together to develop a plan “to maximize benefits and reduce risks” to the environment from the road’s construction. - The chief minister of the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo has called for the highway to avoid cutting through forests. - But a planned stretch would slice through a protected forest reserve with a dense concentration of elephants. - A coalition of scientific and civil society organizations has offered an alternative route that its members say would still provide the desired connection while lowering the risk of potentially deadly human-wildlife conflict.
A healthy and productive Amazon is the foundation of Brazil’s sovereignty (commentary) [08/27/2019]
- Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro likes to assert that foreigners deserve no say over the fate of the Amazon because it is a national sovereignty issue. In making the argument, Bolsonaro at times lays out a grand conspiracy under which a body like the U.N. tries to “internationalize” the Amazon, claiming it as the domain of the world. - As fires rage, some on social media are raising the idea of the Amazon being the domain of the world. But this discussion plays directly into Bolsonaro’s narrative, strengthening his hand. - Instead, concerned people of the world should talk about how a healthy and productive Amazon actually underpins Brazil’s sovereignty by strengthening food, water, and energy security, while supporting good relations with its neighbors. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Indonesia bans food labeled ‘palm oil-free,’ in move welcomed by industry [08/27/2019]
- The Indonesian food regulatory agency says there’s an implication that products labeled “palm oil-free” are healthier, which would constitute false advertising. - But the agency has also adopted a talking point of the palm oil industry: that the labeling is a ploy by critics and competitors to undermine Indonesian palm oil. - Authorities have already begun inspections at supermarkets to remove food products labeled palm oil-free, but an economist warns that the move could trigger a dispute at the World Trade Organization. - The actual question of whether or not palm oil is less healthy than other vegetable oils remains murky, in part because much of the research on the issue was authored by an industry lobby group.
Michael Shellenberger’s sloppy Forbes diatribe deceives on Amazon fires (commentary) [08/27/2019]
- Forbes columnist Michael Shellenberger gets a few things right about the Amazon fires, but he also spreads misinformation not founded in fact or science. - What Shellenberger gets right: The Amazon is being mischaracterized by the media as “the lungs of the planet”, the number of fires have been higher in the past, and there is a need to engage Brazilian ranchers and farmers to help curb deforestation and burning. - What Shellenberger gets wrong: According to scientists, the big issue is that the Brazilian Amazon stores a vast amount of carbon. Increased deforestation combined with climate change is pushing the Amazon ever closer to a forest-to-savanna tipping point, triggering a large release of carbon and worsening global warming. - Also downplayed: the role Jair Bolsonaro is playing in the crisis. Since January, he has dismantled environmental enforcement agencies and used incendiary language to incite ranchers and farmers to illegally clear forest. This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Companies sourcing beef, leather from China exposed to Brazil deforestation risk, researchers say [08/27/2019]
- An analysis of trade data reveals retailers and manufacturers using cattle products sourced from Brazil may be buying beef and leather linked to deforestation. - The research by NGO Global Canopy linked Brazilian and Chinese companies to major brands including Adidas, Nike, DFS, Ikea, BMW, Daimler, General Motors and Volkswagen. - Of the 15 importers in Europe and the United States included in the data, only three purchased products from Chinese companies that had made deforestation commitments.
DiCaprio joins $5M effort to combat Amazon fires [08/26/2019]
- In response to rising deforestation and fires in the Amazon, on Sunday actor Leonardo DiCaprio and philanthropists Laurene Powell Jobs and Brian Sheth announced the establishment of a $5 million fund to support indigenous communities and other first responders working to protect the Amazon. - The Amazon Forest Fund is the first major initiative of the Earth Alliance, which Global Wildlife Conservation, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, and the Emerson Collective formed in July. - The fund’s initial grants went to five Brazilian organizations: Instituto Associacao Floresta Protegida, the Coordination of the Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon, Instituto Kabu, Instituto Raoni, and Instituto Socioambiental. - The establishment of the fund comes amid global outcry over rising deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. After years of declining deforestation in the region, forest clearing spiked in July. Then last week, smoke from land-clearing fires blackened the skies above Sao Paulo, acting as a catalyst for worldwide awareness of the issue.
The Pan Borneo Highway could divide threatened wildlife populations [08/26/2019]
- Crews are set to begin construction on a stretch of Malaysia’s Pan Borneo Highway in eastern Sabah state, involving the widening of the road from two lanes to four. - The new divided highway will cross the Kinabatangan River and pass through a critical wildlife sanctuary that’s home to orangutans, elephants and proboscis monkeys, along with other wildlife species already hemmed in by the region’s oil palm plantations. - Planners and politicians hope the road will stimulate local economies and bring in more tourists. - Conservationists and scientists, however, are concerned that the highway could further section off animal populations and damage the current tourism infrastructure, unless certain mitigation measures are introduced.
Bolsonaro expresses ‘love’ for Amazon as it burns, offers no policy shift [08/26/2019]
- The number of fires in the Amazon biome topped 41,858 in 2019 as of August 24 (up from 22,000 this time last year). Scientists are especially concerned about wildfires raging inside protected areas, such as Jamanxim National Forest in Pará state and Mato Grosso’s Serra de Ricardo Franco Park. - While the Bolsonaro government blames hot weather for the Amazon blazes, others disagree. They point to the link between fires and their use to illegally clear rainforest by land speculators, who — emboldened by Bolsonaro’s lax enforcement policies —sell cleared land for 100-200 times more money than it would sell for with trees covering it. - Preliminary data shows deforestation rising under Bolsonaro. The rate in June 2019 was 88 percent higher than in June 2018; deforestation soared by 278 percent in July 2019 as compared with July 2018. The rise, analysts say, is due in part to the dismantling of IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental enforcement agency. - Bolsonaro has pledged to bring in the army to fight the Amazon blazes and deployed the first units over the weekend, while on Monday the G7 nations promised an emergency $20 million in aid to help Amazon countries fight wildfires and launch a long-term global initiative to protect the rainforest.
Sumatran elephant sanctuary under threat from bridge, port projects [08/26/2019]
- Both the planned bridge and private port in southern Sumatra would be built in an area that includes a key wildlife sanctuary that’s home to 152 critically endangered Sumatran elephants. - The bridge would link to an island being developed for tourism, while the port would serve a pulpwood mill operated by Asia Pulp & Paper. - Environmentalists have called for minimal disruption to the habitat if the projects go ahead, including elevated roads and strict zoning to ensure the elephants can co-exist alongside the anticipated influx of people. - An attempt was made in 1982 to relocate the elephants from the area to make way for a migrant colony, but the elephants moved back and the area was subsequently designated as a sanctuary.
81% of Indonesia’s oil palm plantations flouting regulations, audit finds [08/25/2019]
- An Indonesian government audit has found the vast majority of oil palm plantations operating in the country are in breach of a range of regulations. - These include a lack of permits, encroachment into protected areas, and non-compliance with national sustainability standards. - The findings echo the results of a 2016 audit by the anti-corruption commission that concluded Indonesia lacked a credible and accountable system to prevent violations and corruption in the palm oil industry. - Activists say the government needs to be serious about cracking down on plantation companies, some of which are owned by top government officials, and about boosting transparency in the industry.
Greenpeace releases dramatic photos of Amazon fires [08/25/2019]
- Today Greenpeace Brazil released dramatic photos of fires currently burning through rainforests and agricultural land in the Brazilian Amazon. - Some of the fires appear to be burning forests with well-developed canopy structure, suggesting that carbon-dense and biodiverse forests are being directly impacted by the fires. - Greenpeace says its own spatial analysis indicates that 15,749 of the 23,006 hotspots it recorded in the Amazon in the first 20 days of the month were in areas that were forest in 2017. - Those conclusions provide further evidence that the fires were set intentionally for forest-clearing purposes.
How many fires are burning in the Amazon? [08/25/2019]
- The fires raging in the Amazon are nearly double over last year, but remain moderate in the historical context. - The 41,858 fires recorded in the Amazon as of Aug. 24 this year are the highest number since 2010, when 58,476 were recorded by the end of August. But 2019 is well below the mid-2000s, when deforestation rates were very much higher. - However, this year’s numbers come with an important caveat: the satellites used for hotspot tracking in Brazil have limited capacity to detect sub-canopy fires. - The hazy, dark skies over São Paulo have focused worldwide attention on the soaring deforestation rates in the Amazon as well as the pro-deforestation policies of President Jair Bolsonaro.
Amazon fires trigger protests worldwide [08/24/2019]
- Tens of thousands of active fires are ravaging the Brazilian Amazon in recent weeks, sparking protests in cities across Brazil and around the world, urging effective action from far-right President Jair Bolsonaro to contain fires in the world’s largest rainforest. - On August 23, demonstrators blocked off roads, shouting slogans and holding placards reading: “Stop killing our Amazon” in cities that included São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasília, London, Geneva, Paris, Berlin and Toronto. Protesters also demanded Bolsonaro and Environment Minister Ricardo Salles to resign. - An online petition in the UK asked the European Union to sanction Brazil for its increased deforestation. Within a day, it collected over 65,000 signatures. If it reaches the 100,000 signatures mark, the petition will be considered for debate in Parliament. - French President Emmanuel Macron also have called for emergency talks at the G7 summit in Biarritz to discuss the record number of fires, calling the situation an international crisis and gaining the support of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Aimed at linking communities, Malaysian highway may damage forests [08/23/2019]
- Leaders hope that the construction of a road linking the Pan Borneo Highway between the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak will connect remote communities to markets and to each other. - But conservationists warn that the highway will cut through some of the last remaining dense forest in Sarawak. - In addition to the challenges of building in a rainy tropical environment, the mountainous terrain will make construction and maintenance difficult, skeptics of the road say.
Indonesia eyes palm oil export boost to China amid mounting U.S. trade war [08/23/2019]
- Indonesia has welcomed a move by China to remove palm oil from its import tariff quota management. - That would allow Indonesia, the world’s biggest producer of palm oil, to increase its exports to China, its No. 3 market. - A senior Indonesian official said there would be no forest-clearing to support any anticipated increase in exports, with higher yields expected to come from better technology and seeds. - The move presents a respite for Indonesia, which faces a biofuel phase-out in the EU and a likely increase in duties in India, its top two export markets.
Satellite images from Planet reveal devastating Amazon fires in near real-time [08/22/2019]
- While many of the images currently being shared on social media and by news outlets are from past fires, satellites can provide a near real-time view of what’s unfolding in the Amazon. - With near-daily overflights and high-resolution imagery, Planet’s constellation of satellites is providing a clear look at some of the fires now burning in the Brazilian Amazon. - Beyond dramatic snapshots, those images also provide data that can be mined for critical insights on what’s happening in the Amazon on a basin-wide scale.
The Pan Borneo Highway brings wildlife threats to nat’l park doorstep [08/21/2019]
- The southern terminus of the Pan Borneo Highway in Malaysia extends to the edge of Tanjung Datu National Park in Sarawak. - The highway’s proponents say the road is already bringing more tourists who are eager to see the park’s wildlife to the adjacent communities, helping to boost the local economy. - But one of the world’s rarest primates, the Bornean banded langur, resides in the park, raising concerns in the conservation community that increased access could bring poachers into the park.
Amazon rainforest fires leave São Paulo in the dark [08/21/2019]
- The number of forest fires in Brazil soared 85 percent between January 1 and August 20 compared to a year ago, according to data from the Brazilian National Institute of Space Research (INPE). Roughly half of fire occurrences of this year were registered in the last 20 days, INPE data showed. - In a technical note released in the evening of August 20, the Brazilian NGO IPAM (Institute of Environmental Research in Amazonia) said the occurrences are directly connected to deforestation as it didn’t find any evidence to argue that the fires could be a consequence of a lack of rain. - Fires in Brazil came to spotlight since the afternoon of August 19, when São Paulo’s skies suddenly turned black, spurring discussion about the linkage between the fires and the phenomenon. Since then, “Amazon Fires” are trending on Twitter under the hashtag #PrayforAmazonas. - Far-right President Bolsonaro reacted on August 21, raising suspicion that members of NGOs could be behind the fires in retaliation against the government for having caused the suspension of a $33.2 million payment from Norway to the Amazon Fund.