Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon Increases for 13th Consecutive Month
by Rhett A. Butler
Despite the global economic slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon appears to be continuing largely unabated with forest clearing over the past 12 months reaching the highest level since monthly data started being released publicly in 2007, according to official data released Friday by the country's national space research institute INPE. Forest loss in Earth's largest rainforest has now risen 13 consecutive months relative to year-earlier figures.
INPE's deforestation monitoring system, DETER, detected 406 square kilometers of forest loss in the "legal Amazon" during the month of April. That brings the extent of deforestation measured by the system to 9,320 square kilometers for the year ended April 30, 2020, 40% higher than where it stood a year ago and more than twice as high as it was in April 2018.
5,606 square kilometers of forest have been lost since the "deforestation year" began August 1, 2019, the highest on record for this time of year.
Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of the Amazon rainforest, has been trending upward since bottoming at 4,571 square kilometers in 2012. Prior to that, deforestation had been declining in the region thanks to better forest monitoring and environmental law enforcement, public and private sector efforts to curb forest clearing, the creation of new protected areas and indigenous territories.
According to a 2014 study published in the journal Science, the drop in deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon between 2004 and 2013 avoided the greenhouse gas emissions equivalent of taking all cars off American roads for three years — 3.2 billion tons.
Official Brazilian government data showing annual deforestation (Aug 1-Jul 31 year) in the Brazilian Amazon since 1988.
The rise in deforestation has been particularly sharp since Jair Bolsonaro assumed the presidency in January 2019. Bolsonaro has rolled back environmental regulations, granted amnesty from fines for illegal deforestation, cut budgets for environmental law enforcement, diminished the role of scientists in the government, blamed environmental NGOs for deforestation and claimed without evidence that Leonardo DiCaprio funded last year's fires in the Amazon, and opened protected areas and prospective indigenous territories for extractive industries and agribusiness. He's openly called for more deforestation in the Amazon, while his administration has sacked officials charged with protecting forests and indigenous peoples against illegal land invasions.
Amazon rainforest canopy in Brazil. Rhett A. Butler / Mongabay
The combination of rising forest clearance and abnormally dry conditions across vast swathes of Brazil is setting up the region for an active fire season. Last year, fires in the Amazon made international headlines when the resulting smoke billowed over Sao Paulo, blocking out the sun mid-day. Widespread condemnation from NGOs, human rights groups, business leaders, celebrities, and European political leaders as well as global calls for boycotts of Brazilian companies and products prompted Bolsonaro to mobilize the army to help with fire-fighting efforts. Yet Bolsonaro pressed forward with policies and actions that will increase deforestation and fires nonetheless, say experts.
Accelerating deforestation, forest degradation, and drought in the Amazon is of great concern to scientists who warn that the entire biome may be near a tipping point where large areas of wet rainforest could transition to dry tropical woodlands and savanna. Such a transition could have dramatic implications for regional rainfall, with the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone potentially shifting northward, leading to drier conditions across South America's breadbasket and major urban areas. The impact on regional economies could be substantial, while the impact on ecosystem function and biodiversity of the Amazon could be devastating, according to researchers.
Reposted with permission from Mongabay.
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By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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