Brazil forest protection turns to digital world

December 17, 2012

Juliana Barbassa – ABC News/AP, 12/16/2012

Landowners who broke Brazil’s environmental laws by clearing their farms of native forest used to have just one way to make right with government inspectors: plant trees. Now, they can clear their names by just pointing and clicking.

After decades trying to protect rapidly shrinking forest, Brazil has turned to the digital world and launched a new platform called BVRio that allows growers with more untouched forest on their land than is legally required to sell “quotas” to farmers who fall short, one hectare at a time, for a price that will be determined by supply and demand.

From environmentalists to landowners, all sides agree the privately developed tool could revolutionize Brazil’s ability to protect the world’s biggest rainforest while enforcing the country’s just-enacted environmental law.

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Brazil’s coastal rainforest suffers widespread species extinction

August 15, 2012

Rosanne Skirble – Voice of America, 08/14/2012

The Atlantic forest in Brazil, once a part of the great Amazon basin on the South American continent, is suffering from widespread species loss according to a new study.

Ecologist Carlos Peres with England’s University of East Anglia and then University of Cambridge graduate student Gustavo Canale traveled through the region between 2003 and 2005.  They documented 200 of the largest and least disturbed old-growth forest fragments in the vast region of the Atlantic forest.

On average, they found only four of the 18 mammal species they were looking for. Canale, now working in Brazil at the State University of Mato Grosso, says he and Peres drew largely on information from wildlife surveys, camera traps, and interviews with local people.

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New to nature no. 62: Mycena lucentipes

January 9, 2012

Quentin Wheeler – The Guardian, 01/07/2012

One of the six new glow-in-the-dark Mycena lucentipes. Photograph: Arizona State University

The genus Mycena includes about 500 known species of gilled mushrooms. Six new species – all of which emit light – were found in old-growth forest in the state of São Paulo, Brazil, by scientists from San Francisco State University and the Instituto de Botânica and Instituto de Química in São Paulo, bringing the number of bioluminescent species to more than 30. All six were discovered in Atlantic Forest, one of the most threatened ecosystems on Earth, with less than 10% of its original land cover remaining. The forests continue to prove a gold mine for new species of plants, animals and fungi.

The authors believe the numbers of bioluminescent species of Mycena have been grossly underestimated: most have only been observed by day and nearly all luminescence in fungi has been detected only by the human eye, whereas scientists studying other organisms have used photometers to detect low levels of light production. Molecular phylogenetic studies, which look at evolutionary relationships, show that luminescence crops up in many sub-branches of the genus. The light production of white rot mycelia, for example, may be a biochemical byproduct or adaptation that affords antioxidant protection to the fungus as it degrades lignin in wood.

Mycologists have also speculated that luminescence might either attract fungivores that assist in spore dispersal or warn them off.

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Genuflecting plant discovered in Brazil

September 22, 2011

Red Orbit, 09/21/2011

A newly discovered plant species, appropriately named Spigelia genuflexa, displays a particular and rare characteristic that gives it its name. After fruits are formed, the fruiting branches “bend down,” depositing the capsules with seeds on the ground and sometimes burying them in the soft cover of moss. This ensures that the seeds end up as close to the mother plant as possible, facilitating its propagation the following season. Credit: Alex Popovkin

A new plant that buries its seeds, the first in its family, is discovered in the Atlantic forest of Bahia, Brazil, by an international team of scientists.

The new species, appropriately named Spigelia genuflexa, displays a particular and rare characteristic that gives it its name. After fruits are formed, the fruiting branches “bend down,” depositing the capsules with seeds on the ground and sometimes burying them in the soft cover of moss, a phenomenon called geocarpy. This ensures that the seeds end up as close to the mother plant as possible, facilitating its propagation the following season. A famous example of geocarpy—a rare adaptation to growing in harsh or ephemeral environments, is the well-known peanut from the legume family that buries its fruits in the ground.

The discovery of Spigelia genuflexa was published on Sept. 14, in the scientific journal PhytoKeys, in an open-access paper available for free.

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