Deforestation: Brazil is a success story for conservation

August 28, 2014

Eva Botkin-Kowacki – The Christian Science Monitor, 8/28/2014

Climate scientists link about 10 percent of annual global carbon increase to the effects of deforestation. But a new study points to a promising shift.

In the 1990s, tropical deforestation claimed 40 million acres each year, according to a report released in June by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Today, about 32 million acres of forests fall each year, a drop of about 19 percent.

Trees grow by absorbing carbon dioxide, locking it away in their roots, trunks, branches, and leaves, and emitting oxygen in return.

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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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Amazon be damned: deforestation undermines future viability of Brazil’s hydropower projects

May 16, 2013

Erin Brodwin – Scientific American, 05/15/2013

The Amazon Basin is the epicenter of the world’s hydropower plants—the same gushing rains that give the region its lush foliage make it a prime destination for developers seeking to capitalize on this allegedly renewable energy source. But the long-term sustainability of these projects, which use the natural flow of water to generate electricity, is now under scrutiny.

A new study of the Belo Monte Dam, one of the world’s largest hydropower energy complexes currently under construction on the Xingu River in the eastern region of the basin, found that large-scale deforestation in the Amazon poses a significant threat to a dam’s energy-generating potential.

Although many studies have examined the impacts of deforestation on the immediate vicinity of hydropower projects, less attention has been paid to its effects on a regional scale. In fact, earlier studies found that a loss of trees within the water basin of hydropower sites increased the energy-generating capacity of the dam in the short-term, because less trees were available to suck water from the ground and export it outside the watershed in a process known as evapotranspiration.

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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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Brazil undertaking a 4-year long study of biodiversity in the Amazoin rainforest

January 28, 2013

AP/The Washington Post , 01/25/2013

The Brazilian government says it’s undertaking a four-year, $33 million study of its vast Amazon rainforest to compile a detailed inventory of the plants, animals and people that live there.

Environment Minister Isabella Teixeira on Friday signed an accord with the country’s national development bank, which is funding the study. The government says the inventory will help in formulating environmental policies aimed at preserving the forest and preventing deforestation.

Last year, Brazil lost 4,656 square kilometers (1,797 square miles) of Amazon to deforestation. That’s the smallest amount on record.

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Brazil expands mines to drive future, but cost is a treasured link to its past

December 17, 2012

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 12/15/2012

Archaeologists must climb tiers of orchid-encrusted rain forest, where jaguars roam and anacondas slither, to arrive at one of the Amazon’s most stunning sights: a series of caves and rock shelters guarding the secrets of human beings who lived here more than 8,000 years ago.

Almost anywhere else, these caves would be preserved as an invaluable source of knowledge into prehistoric human history. But not in this remote corner of the Amazon, where Vale, the Brazilian mining giant, is pushing forward with the expansion of one of the world’s largest iron-ore mining complexes, a project that will destroy dozens of the caves treasured by scholars.

The caves, and the spectacular mineral wealth in their midst, have presented Brazil with a dilemma. The iron ore from Carajás, exported largely to China where it is used to make steel, is a linchpin of Brazil’s ambitions of reviving a sluggish economy, yet archaeologists and other researchers contend that the emphasis on short-term financial gains imperils an unrivaled window into a nebulous past.

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How illegal logging in Brazil’s Amazon turns ‘legal’

November 29, 2012

Sue Branford – BBC, 11/28/2012

Small settler communities are seeing their land targeted by loggers, BBC.

Deforestation in Brazil’s huge Amazon region has slowed in recent years, and this week the government said it was at its lowest level since monitoring began 24 years ago. But despite tougher regulations, unscrupulous loggers are still finding ways to get timber out of the jungle and selling it as legally felled wood, locals say.

Fabio Lourenco de Souza, a young Brazilian farmer, lives in a settlement known as PDS Esperanca (Hope), in the Xingu river valley in eastern Amazonia.

Although the land is rich in tropical timber, along with most of the 300 families in the settlement, he wants nothing to do with loggers.

“It makes no sense at all for us to start logging the timber on our settlement,” says Fabio, who stops work on the construction of a new wooden house for himself and his family to talk. “The logging companies would not pay us enough for the wood, and would destroy the forest, and we need it for the future of our children.”

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