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News on Brazil
Dilma disappoints with weak rainforest target
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff disappointed environmentalists with what they call weak commitments on reducing deforestation and supporting renewable energy announced today during her visit to the White House.
Palm oil plantations used to 'reforest' parts of Brazil despite being wildlife deserts
A recent study systematically documented bird biodiversity within oil palm plantations, finding they contain fewer species than secondary forest and even cattle pasture. As oil palm grows as a commodity in Brazil – and can legally even be used to "reforest" land – how can a country that has made big gains in reducing deforestation in recent years balance this powerhouse industry with environmental welfare?
Corporations rush to make zero-deforestation commitments, but is it working?
Every year, more companies pledge to stop using ingredients whose production cause tropical deforestation. Retailers and brands making voluntary commitments – mostly involving palm oil – include Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, Colgate and Wilmar, the world's largest palm oil trader. Among 2014 joiners were Cargill, Krispy Kreme, Dunkin's Donuts and Baskin' Robbins, with 2015 bringing the addition of McDonald's, Archer Daniels Midland and Yum! Brands (owner of Pizza Hut, KFC, and Taco Bell).
Has Amazon deforestation reached a 7-year high in Brazil?
Analysis of satellite data suggests deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon may have reached a seven-year high.
Rainforest parks cut malaria transmission
Strictly protected areas in the Brazilian Amazon are associated with lower rates of malaria transmission than extractive reserves, mining zones, and areas with roads, reports a paper published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The findings add to a growing body of data suggesting that conservation efforts contribute to human welfare.
90% of Amazon deforestation occurs outside protected areas
Ten percent of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon between August 2012 and July 2014 occurred in protected areas, reports new research from Imazon.
Tapajós and other Amazon dams not sustainable development say reports
Plans to build hydroelectric dams globally -- especially in the Amazon and other tropical locales -- are often touted as 'sustainable development.' However, according to a trio of new reports, these large infrastructure projects will do enormous harm to rainforest ecosystems and indigenous peoples, while also emitting far more greenhouse gases than the U.N. and other organizations officially estimate, with potentially disastrous results.
China unveils plans for huge railway in South America
China is looking to add another rung to its investment presence in Latin America, with an announcement of plans to build an expansive railway bisecting the continent from Brazil to Peru. The bid has raised the hackles of conservation groups, which are concerned the railway will run through sensitive ecosystems, harm threatened wildlife, and affect indigenous communities.
China defends trans-Amazon railway, says it will protect the environment
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has defended a plan to build a railway across the South American continent as a way to protect the environment and grow the region's economy, reports AFP.
62M ha of Latin American forests cleared for agriculture since 2001
Over 62 million hectares (240,000 square miles) of forest across Latin America — an area roughly the size of Texas or the United Kingdom — were cleared for new croplands and pastureland between 2001 and 2013, find a study published in Environmental Research Letters.
China’s investment in Latin America taking toll on the environment, setting the stage for conflict
China has been investing heavily in Latin America’s natural resources and crude oil. Recently, the country even pledged to invest $250 billion over the next decade to strengthen its presence in the region, and compete with the U.S. But this increasing Chinese trade and investment in Latin America is also increasing environmental and social conflict, finds a new report published by Boston University.
What's the current deforestation rate in the Amazon rainforest?
Nearly two-thirds of the Amazon rainforest is located in Brazil, making it the biggest component in the region's deforestation rate. Helpfully, Brazil also has the best systems for tracking deforestation, with the government and Imazon, a national civil society organization, releasing updates on a quarterly and monthly basis using MODIS satellite data, respectively. Both the Brazilian government and Imazon release more accurate data on an annual basis using higher resolution Landsat satellite imagery.
Zero deforestation commitments bearing fruit in the Amazon
A high profile pledge by the world's largest meat company to limit deforestation for cattle production in the Amazon appears to be working, resulting in a dramatic increase in compliance with environmental registries and reduced forest clearing among supplier ranches, finds a comprehensive study published in the journal Conservation Letters.
Satellite data shows how deforestation is impacting our weather and our food
The conversion of forests to cropland can drive local temperatures up or down by as much as a few degrees, according to a new report. Ironically, the authors write that these temperature fluctuations can lead to less productivity from the very same agricultural operations the forests were cleared to make way for.
Brazilian firm's mega-dam plans in Peru spark major social conflict
'I don't want to sell my land because I've lived here since I was 17,' declared 82 year old María Araujo Silva. 'This was where my children were born. I want to die here. That's why I'm not in agreement. I'm not in agreement with the dam.' Araujo Silva is outraged at plans by Peru's government and Brazilian company Odebrecht to build a hydroelectric dam just downriver from her village, Huarac, on the Marañón River.
Brazilian Amazon nears deforestation threshold past which wildlife may crash, says study
A study on the impact of forest loss on biodiversity, recently published in the journal Conservation Biology, shows that one-third of the Brazilian Amazon is headed toward or has just passed a threshold of forest cover beyond which species loss accelerates and is more damaging.
Giant Amazonian catfish threatened by dams
Giant catfish are among the most important commercial fishes in the Amazon Basin. A new study suggests that their sensitive life cycle may be interrupted by dams in their last remaining refuge on the Madeira River.
Deforestation in Brazilian Amazon continues to accelerate
Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon — the planet's largest rainforest — continues to pace well ahead of last year's rate, reveals data released by Imazon, a Manaus-based nonprofit.
Featured video: 'A river in dispute' documentary explores how a planned dam in the Amazon is affecting traditional communities
Under the threat of losing their lands to a hydroelectric power plant project strategic to the Brazilian government, communities along the Tapajós River, one of the most pristine in Brazil, prepare to defend what is theirs. A video documentary tells their story.
A tale of two maps: Brazilian state won’t use new atlas to close Cerrado deforestation loophole
Farmers in north-central Brazil, where the savanna meets the Amazon rainforest, are clearing land at an unprecedented rate. The government hasn’t stopped the cutting, partly because it is using inaccurate, outdated maps that hugely underestimate the extent of its endangered dry forests.
Conservation and carbon storage goals collide in Brazil's Cerrado
Scientists are raising the alarm about the disparity between biodiversity goals and carbon goals in Brazil's Cerrado. New research is beginning to challenge the idea that the Cerrado is irrelevant to the battle to reduce atmospheric carbon.
Tiny Brazilian opossum could be farmers’ friend
André Mendonça pops open the spring-loaded door on the shoebox-sized trap and peeks inside. Two bulging, black eyes glare back at him. He pulls the trap off the tree limb and shakes the stunned, sopping wet creature into a clear plastic bag. “One more!” he says excitedly.
Brazilian farmers urge return of big cats to Cerrado to protect crops from rampaging peccaries
Margie Peixoto was driving her pickup across her farm in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul one February afternoon when she spotted some broken corn stalks and a trio of white-lipped peccaries ambling along the red-clay road as if they owned it. The moment these wild pig relatives spotted the truck, they snorted, snarled and disappeared into the head-high crop, where dozens more likely hid.
Russia and Canada lead the world in forest loss in 2013
Russia and Canada led the world in forest loss, accounting for nearly forty percent of the 18 million hectares of forest lost globally in 2013, reveals a new analysis based on high resolution satellite imagery. The research — released today on Global Forest Watch, a forest monitoring and research platform — was led by Matt Hansen of the University of Maryland and involved Google, World Resources Institute (WRI), and other institutions
Illegal deforestation driven by EU appetite for beef, palm oil, soy, say new reports
A new report finds that the European Union is driving international trade in commodities grown on land cleared outside of the law. In 2012 alone, the report says, the EU imported $6.5 billion worth of illegally sourced beef, leather, palm oil and soy, which amounts to nearly one-fourth of all global trade and some 2.4 million hectares (59.3 million acres) of forest illegally cleared.
Indonesia, Brazil subsidizing forest loss far more than REDD+ slows it
International aid to protect forests in Indonesia and Brazil pales in comparison to domestic subsidies for commodities driving deforestation there. A study finds that while the countries received an annual average of $1 billion via REDD+, their agricultural and biofuel subsidies for palm oil, timber, soy and beef amounted to $41 billion per year.
Archer Daniels Midland to demand suppliers stop chopping down forests
Agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland (NYSE:ADM) will establish a zero deforestation policy for its global commodity supply chains, potentially forcing its soy, palm oil, and cattle suppliers to also eliminate deforestation from their operations or face losing business with the firm. The move, announced today and expected to be formally approved in May, came after a campaign by institutional investors and environmentalist groups.
Here comes progress: what will planned megaprojects mean for an Amazon city?
The city of Itaituba, in western Pará state, is home to several construction projects of strategic interest for the Brazilian government. However, with local infrastructure fragile, residents are worried they will not share in the spoils.
Low crop prices means time is ripe for new forest protection programs
Today, conservation compliance is a U.S. policy between governments and farmers that reward farmers with federal subsidies for good conservation practices on designated vulnerable lands. But economist Clayton Ogg believes it could now be used to save forests in countries like Brazil, China, India, and Indonesia. "The main drivers for deforestation in recent years are high crop prices. However, as crop prices fall to more normal levels, farmers depend very heavily on government subsidies, and the subsidies become the major driver for deforestation," Ogg told mongabay.com.
Seeing the trees but not the forest (commentary)
Understanding forest dynamics is necessary for the sound management of forests, for both production and conservation. This includes an understanding of the extent of forest area, information about what the forest contains and how the forest resource is managed. Forest monitoring provides this information.