How satellite maps can halt Amazon deforestation

June 19, 2014

Rachel Huguet – Christian Science Monitor, 6/18/2014

In the heart of the Brazilian Amazon, a group of scientists have become unconventional crusaders in the battle to halt deforestation. They are the engine behind Imazon, one of the most prolific research groups based in the Amazon.

Imazon is now collaborating with the government of the Brazilian state of Pará to combine real-time satellite imagery and advanced mapping techniques with a system of incentives and penalties to embolden indigenous communities, local governments, and farmers to protect the rainforest.

Until recently, Pará was the epicenter of unchecked rainforest devastation. Known locally for its rural corruption and banditry, the region had been losing 6,255 square kilometers of rich biodiversity annually – an area roughly the size of Delaware. The assault threatened the territory of some of the last untouched tribes in the world, and chipped away at the Amazon’s ability to absorb 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year, a critical factor in regulating the earth’s climate cycle.

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Brazil’s rainforest is going up in smoke. Again.

June 5, 2013

Mac Margolis – Newsweek, 06/05/2013

As Brazil’s skyscrapers and silos rose, it seemed the most impressive quality of this 21st-century Latin American powerhouse was its ability to grow without trashing the environment. Just last year, Brasilia was boasting about a steep decline in deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, a feat that President Dilma Rousseff trumpeted as “impressive, the fruit of social change.” What would she say now?

After nearly a decade of steady decline, forest cutting has spiked again the world’s largest rainforest. The nonprofit Amazon watchdog organization, Imazon, released a study reporting that deforestation at the hands of farmers and ranchers jumped 90 percent in the 12 months since April of last year. And since burning always follows felling, another 88 million tons of carbon dioxide and other gases hit the atmosphere- a 62 percent increase on the year.

For decades, Brazilians were told that ruin in the Amazon was the price of development. But recent research has imploded that assumption. A paper published by the National Academy of Sciences shows that continued deforestation threatens not just the trees but the progress and riches their removal were though to guarantee. The paper bolsters an old theory by Brazilian climate scientist Eneas Salati, who argued that the Amazon actually produced half its own rainfall. The takeaway: remove too much of the forests and the Amazon could dry out. And more than the jungle is at stake. Reduced rainfall from forest cutting could dry up the water that powers hydroelectric dams, thus slashing Brazilian power-generating capacity by 40 percent by mid century. It could also rob the food larder, cutting soybean productivity by 28 percent and beef production by 34 percent.

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Brazil supermarkets ‘to avoid Amazon meat’

March 26, 2013

BBC News, 03/25/2013

The main group representing supermarkets in Brazil says it will no longer sell meat from cattle raised in the rainforest.

The Brazilian Association of Supermarkets, which has 2,800 members, hopes the deal will cut down on the illegal use of rainforest for pasture.

Deforestation in the Amazon has slowed over the past years but invasion of public land continues to be a problem.

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Brazil wants to count every tree in the Amazon rainforest

February 11, 2013

Channtal Fleischfresser – Smart Planet, 02/11/2013

Brazil is home to roughly 60 percent of the Amazon, about half of what remains of the world’s tropical rainforests. And now, the country has plans to count every one of its trees.

A vast undertaking, the new National Forest Inventory hopes to gain “a broad panorama of the quality and the conditions in the forest cover”, according to Brazil’s Forestry Minister Antonio Carlos Hummel.

The census, set to take place over the next four years, will scour 3,288,000 square miles, sampling 20,000 points at 20 kilometer intervals and registering the number, height, diameter, and species of the trees, among other data.

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Amazon deforestation destroyed area almost as big as the United Kingdom in 10 years

December 6, 2012

Associated Press/The Washington Post, 12/04/2012

Deforestation in the Amazon destroyed an area almost as big as the United Kingdom between 2000 and 2010, environmental watchdog agencies said Tuesday.

The study prepared by the Amazon Information Network was released in Bolivia. It showed that close to 93,000 square miles (240,000 square kilometers) of Amazon rainforest were devastated in the 10-year period, the network said in a statement.

The main culprits are illegal logging, the construction of highways, mining, farming and ranching, the construction of hydroelectric dams and oil and gas drilling and exploration.

Sixty-three percent of the rainforest’s 2.4 million square miles (6.1 million square kilometers) are in Brazil, and 80.4 percent of the 2000-2010 deforestation occurred in that country, the study said. Peru was responsible for 6.2 percent of the deforestation, and Colombia came in third with 5 percent.

The pace of Amazon deforestation in Brazil and the other countries, with the exception of Colombia and French Guiana, has slowed, the study said.

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Brazil’s Amazon rangers battle farmers’ burning business logic

November 15, 2012

Jonathan Watts – The Guardian, 11/14/2012

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/video/2012/nov/14/brazil-halting-deforestation-amazon-video

As his helicopter descends through the smoke towards an Amazonian inferno, Evandro Carlos Selva checks the co-ordinates via a global positioning satellite and radios back to base a witness testimony to deforestation.

Flames lick up from below the canopy, smoke billows across the horizon, and down below, the carbon that has been stored in the forest for hundreds of years is released into the atmosphere.

Skeletal trees are charred grey, others burnt black. Nearby, what was once forest is reduced to an expanse of ash, dust and embers. Trudging through the debris, Carlos Selva points to a soya farm: “They’ve been paid to do this. Forty per cent of next year’s harvest on this land has already been bought.”

The clearance is illegal and Carlos Selva – a ranger with Brazil‘s environmental protection agency, Ibama – sets in motion the process of levying fines, business embargos and other penalties that have helped to slow the pace of deforestation by almost 80% in the past eight years. This represents impressive progress, but it is at risk. The pressure to convert more Amazonian forest is growing stronger due to drought in the US, rising world food prices and a weakening of Brazilian laws.

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Brazil’s leader faces defining decision on bill relaxing protection of forests

May 17, 2012

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 05/16/2012

President Dilma Rousseff is facing one of the defining moments of her presidency as pressure builds on her to veto a bill that would open vast protected areas of forests to ranching and farming, potentially reversing Brazil’s major gains in slowing Amazon deforestation.

The Forest Code, which Congress approved in April at the urging of powerful agricultural groups, is an effort to overhaul Brazil’s 47-year-old legislation providing forest protection. The bill has emerged as a very delicate issue for Ms. Rousseff ahead of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, scheduled to be held here next month.

The bill would effectively give amnesty to landowners who illegally deforested areas before 2008, drawing the ire of environmentalists. If the legislation goes into effect, it could allow landowners in the Amazon to reduce obligatory forest cover to 50 percent from 80 percent, and could lead to the loss of as much as 190 million acres of forest, according to the government’s Institute for Applied Economic Research.

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