By Dana M Bergstrom, Euan Ritchie, Lesley Hughes and Michael Depledge
In 1992, 1,700 scientists warned that human beings and the natural world were "on a collision course." Seventeen years later, scientists described planetary boundaries within which humans and other life could have a "safe space to operate." These are environmental thresholds, such as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and changes in land use.
The Good and Bad News<p><span>Ecosystems consist of living and non-living components, and their interactions. They work like a super-complex engine: when some components are removed or stop working, knock-on consequences can lead to system failure.</span></p><p>Our study is based on measured data and observations, not modeling or predictions for the future. Encouragingly, not all ecosystems we examined have collapsed across their entire range. We still have, for instance, some intact reefs on the Great Barrier Reef, especially in deeper waters. And northern Australia has some of the most intact and least-modified stretches of savanna woodlands on Earth.</p><p><span>Still, collapses are happening, including in regions critical for growing food. This includes the </span><a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/importance-murray-darling-basin/where-basin" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Murray-Darling Basin</a><span>, which covers around 14% of Australia's landmass. Its rivers and other freshwater systems support more than </span><a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/latestproducts/94F2007584736094CA2574A50014B1B6?opendocument" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30% of Australia's food</a><span> production.</span></p><p><span></span><span>The effects of floods, fires, heatwaves and storms do not stop at farm gates; they're felt equally in agricultural areas and natural ecosystems. We shouldn't forget how towns ran out of </span><a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/issues-murray-darling-basin/drought#effects" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">drinking water</a><span> during the recent drought.</span></p><p><span></span><span>Drinking water is also at risk when ecosystems collapse in our water catchments. In Victoria, for example, the degradation of giant </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/logging-must-stop-in-melbournes-biggest-water-supply-catchment-106922" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mountain Ash forests</a><span> greatly reduces the amount of water flowing through the Thompson catchment, threatening nearly five million people's drinking water in Melbourne.</span></p><p>This is a dire <em data-redactor-tag="em">wake-up</em> call — not just a <em data-redactor-tag="em">warning</em>. Put bluntly, current changes across the continent, and their potential outcomes, pose an existential threat to our survival, and other life we share environments with.</p><p><span>In investigating patterns of collapse, we found most ecosystems experience multiple, concurrent pressures from both global climate change and regional human impacts (such as land clearing). Pressures are often </span><a href="https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1365-2664.13427" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">additive and extreme</a><span>.</span></p><p>Take the last 11 years in Western Australia as an example.</p><p>In the summer of 2010 and 2011, a <a href="https://theconversation.com/marine-heatwaves-are-getting-hotter-lasting-longer-and-doing-more-damage-95637" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">heatwave</a> spanning more than 300,000 square kilometers ravaged both marine and land ecosystems. The extreme heat devastated forests and woodlands, kelp forests, seagrass meadows and coral reefs. This catastrophe was followed by two cyclones.</p><p>A record-breaking, marine heatwave in late 2019 dealt a further blow. And another marine heatwave is predicted for <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/24/wa-coastline-facing-marine-heatwave-in-early-2021-csiro-predicts" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">this April</a>.</p>
What to Do About It?<p><span>Our brains trust comprises 38 experts from 21 universities, CSIRO and the federal Department of Agriculture Water and Environment. Beyond quantifying and reporting more doom and gloom, we asked the question: what can be done?</span></p><p>We devised a simple but tractable scheme called the 3As:</p><ul><li>Awareness of what is important</li><li>Anticipation of what is coming down the line</li><li>Action to stop the pressures or deal with impacts.</li></ul><p>In our paper, we identify positive actions to help protect or restore ecosystems. Many are already happening. In some cases, ecosystems might be better left to recover by themselves, such as coral after a cyclone.</p><p>In other cases, active human intervention will be required – for example, placing artificial nesting boxes for Carnaby's black cockatoos in areas where old trees have been <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/factsheet-carnabys-black-cockatoo-calyptorhynchus-latirostris" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">removed</a>.</p><p><span>"Future-ready" actions are also vital. This includes reinstating </span><a href="https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/a-burning-question-fire/12395700" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cultural burning practices</a><span>, which have </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/australia-you-have-unfinished-business-its-time-to-let-our-fire-people-care-for-this-land-135196" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">multiple values and benefits for Aboriginal communities</a><span> and can help minimize the risk and strength of bushfires.</span></p><p>It might also include replanting banks along the Murray River with species better suited to <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/my-garden-path---matt-hansen/12322978" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">warmer conditions</a>.</p><p>Some actions may be small and localized, but have substantial positive benefits.</p><p>For example, billions of migrating Bogong moths, the main summer food for critically endangered mountain pygmy possums, have not arrived in their typical numbers in Australian alpine regions in recent years. This was further exacerbated by the <a href="https://theconversation.com/six-million-hectares-of-threatened-species-habitat-up-in-smoke-129438" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2019-20</a> fires. Brilliantly, <a href="https://www.zoo.org.au/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Zoos Victoria</a> anticipated this pressure and developed supplementary food — <a href="https://theconversation.com/looks-like-an-anzac-biscuit-tastes-like-a-protein-bar-bogong-bikkies-help-mountain-pygmy-possums-after-fire-131045" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Bogong bikkies</a>.</p><p><span>Other more challenging, global or large-scale actions must address the </span><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iICpI9H0GkU&t=34s" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">root cause of environmental threats</a><span>, such as </span><a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-018-0504-8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">human population growth and per-capita consumption</a><span> of environmental resources.</span><br></p><p>We must rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero, remove or suppress invasive species such as <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/mam.12080" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">feral cats</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-buffel-kerfuffle-how-one-species-quietly-destroys-native-wildlife-and-cultural-sites-in-arid-australia-149456" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">buffel grass</a>, and stop widespread <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-reduce-fire-risk-and-meet-climate-targets-over-300-scientists-call-for-stronger-land-clearing-laws-113172" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">land clearing</a> and other forms of habitat destruction.</p>
Our Lives Depend On It<p>The multiple ecosystem collapses we have documented in Australia are a harbinger for <a href="https://www.iucn.org/news/protected-areas/202102/natures-future-our-future-world-speaks" target="_blank">environments globally</a>.</p><p>The simplicity of the 3As is to show people <em>can</em> do something positive, either at the local level of a landcare group, or at the level of government departments and conservation agencies.</p><p>Our lives and those of our <a href="https://theconversation.com/children-are-our-future-and-the-planets-heres-how-you-can-teach-them-to-take-care-of-it-113759" target="_blank">children</a>, as well as our <a href="https://theconversation.com/taking-care-of-business-the-private-sector-is-waking-up-to-natures-value-153786" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">economies</a>, societies and <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-address-the-ecological-crisis-aboriginal-peoples-must-be-restored-as-custodians-of-country-108594" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cultures</a>, depend on it.</p><p>We simply cannot afford any further delay.</p><p><em><a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dana-m-bergstrom-1008495" target="_blank" style="">Dana M Bergstrom</a> is a principal research scientist at the University of Wollongong. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/euan-ritchie-735" target="_blank" style="">Euan Ritchie</a> is a professor in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life & Environmental Sciences at Deakin University. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lesley-hughes-5823" target="_blank">Lesley Hughes</a> is a professor at the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michael-depledge-114659" target="_blank">Michael Depledge</a> is a professor and chair, Environment and Human Health, at the University of Exeter. </em></p><p><em>Disclosure statements: Dana Bergstrom works for the Australian Antarctic Division and is a Visiting Fellow at the University of Wollongong. Her research including fieldwork on Macquarie Island and in Antarctica was supported by the Australian Antarctic Division.</em></p><p><em>Euan Ritchie receives funding from the Australian Research Council, The Australia and Pacific Science Foundation, Australian Geographic, Parks Victoria, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC. Euan Ritchie is a Director (Media Working Group) of the Ecological Society of Australia, and a member of the Australian Mammal Society.</em></p><p><em>Lesley Hughes receives funding from the Australian Research Council. She is a Councillor with the Climate Council of Australia, a member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists and a Director of WWF-Australia.</em></p><p><em>Michael Depledge does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/existential-threat-to-our-survival-see-the-19-australian-ecosystems-already-collapsing-154077" target="_blank" style="">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Beverly Law and William Moomaw
Protecting forests is an essential strategy in the fight against climate change that has not received the attention it deserves. Trees capture and store massive amounts of carbon. And unlike some strategies for cooling the climate, they don't require costly and complicated technology.
The U.S. has more than 800 million acres of natural and planted forests and woodlands, of which nearly 60% are privately owned. USDA / USFS
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Like many other plant-based foods and products, CBD oil is one dietary supplement where "organic" labels are very important to consumers. However, there are little to no regulations within the hemp industry when it comes to deeming a product as organic, which makes it increasingly difficult for shoppers to find the best CBD oil products available on the market.
Charlotte's Web<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDcwMjk3NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MzQ0NjM4N30.SaQ85SK10-MWjN3PwHo2RqpiUBdjhD0IRnHKTqKaU7Q/img.jpg?width=980" id="84700" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a2174067dcc0c4094be25b3472ce08c8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="charlottes web cbd oil" data-width="1244" data-height="1244" /><p>Perhaps one of the most well-known brands in the CBD landscape, Charlotte's Web has been growing sustainable hemp plants for several years. The company is currently in the process of achieving official USDA Organic Certification, but it already practices organic and sustainable cultivation techniques to enhance the overall health of the soil and the hemp plants themselves, which creates some of the highest quality CBD extracts. Charlotte's Web offers CBD oils in a range of different concentration options, and some even come in a few flavor options such as chocolate mint, orange blossom, and lemon twist.</p>
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By Nancy Harris and David Gibbs
- Forests are an important asset in the fight against climate change.
- New research has found that they sequester around twice as much carbon dioxide as they emit, classifying them as a carbon sink.
- Forests emitted on average 8.1 billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide and absorbed 16 billion between 2001 and 2019.
The world is getting a better understanding of just how important forests are in the global fight against climate change.
Forests are capable of both producing and absorbing carbon. World Resources Institute
Here’s a look at what else the new maps tell us about forests and carbon:<p><strong>Only One Major Tropical Rainforest Remains a Strong Carbon Sink</strong></p><p>Tropical rainforests are far and away the most important ecosystems for mitigating climate change. Tropical rainforests collectively sequester more carbon from the atmosphere than temperate or boreal forests, but they're also increasingly destroyed for agricultural expansion. The world's three largest tropical rainforests are located in the Amazon, Congo River basin and Southeast Asia.</p><p>Over the past 20 years, forests across Southeast Asia have collectively become a net source of carbon emissions due to clearing for plantations, uncontrolled fires and drainage of peat soils.</p><p>The Amazon River basin, which stretches across nine countries in South America, is still a <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2035-0?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+nature%2Frss%2Fcurrent+%28Nature+-+Issue%29" target="_blank">net carbon sink</a>, but teeters on the edge of becoming a net source if forest loss continues at current rates. The Amazon basin has experienced heightened deforestation in the <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/brazil-environment/deforestation-in-brazils-amazon-skyrockets-to-12-year-high-under-bolsonaro-idUSKBN28B3MV" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">last four years</a> due to clearing for cattle pasture and degradation from fires.</p><p>Of the world's three largest tropical rainforests, only the Congo has enough standing forest left to remain a strong net carbon sink. The Congo's tropical rainforest sequesters 600 million metric tonnes more carbon dioxide per year than it emits, equivalent to about one-third of the CO2 emissions from all U.S. transportation.</p><p>Protecting the remaining forests in all three regions is critical to mitigating climate change.</p>
Different forests absorb and emit different amounts. World Resources Institute<p><strong>Protected Areas Help Conserve Forest Carbon Sinks</strong></p><p>The precarious state of the Amazonian carbon sink highlights the need to protect the forests we have left in this region and elsewhere around the world. <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/107/24/10821" target="_blank">Protected areas</a> and indigenous reserves are some of our most valuable tools in the climate action toolbox, combined with command-and-control policies.</p><p>The new map reveals that 27% of the world's net forest carbon sink falls within protected areas. Looking at individual areas demonstrates just how effective these designations can be in keeping CO2 in forests.</p><p>For example, in Brazil, a stark contrast in carbon emissions is evident between the protected Menkragnotí indigenous reserve and the surrounding unprotected forest. Forests in the reserve continue to absorb approximately 10 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide more from the atmosphere than they emit every year — equivalent to the annual carbon emissions from more than 2 million cars. The area surrounding the Menkragnotí indigenous reserve has become a net carbon source due to clearing for mining, pasture and soy.</p><p>Recognizing Indigenous Peoples and local communities as owners of their lands, and enforcing those rights, is a <a href="https://www.wri.org/publication/climate-benefits-tenure-costs" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">proven strategy</a> to protect standing forests and enhance carbon stored in them.</p>
The Amazon rainforest absorbs lot carbon. World Resources Institute<p><strong>Forestry Carbon Flux Varies Based on Management Practices</strong></p><p>Nowhere is the bidirectional nature of carbon flux more apparent than in the world's managed forests, which are cut and regrown to produce timber and concentrated mainly in the United States, Canada, China, Europe and Russia. In these managed forest areas, some patches of trees are harvested or thinned at planned intervals, leading to carbon emissions, while others are left to regrow and absorb carbon.</p><p>Ultimately, whether managed forests are carbon sources or sinks depends on how they're managed — how much time elapses between harvest cycles, how much forest is cut, the age of the trees, and, importantly, the total area over which fluxes are calculated.</p><p>Zooming in on individual clear-cuts in the new map shows CO2 emissions from the abrupt loss of tree cover during harvest. But at the landscape scale, forestry becomes a patchwork of both CO2 emissions from harvest and carbon removals from previously harvested forests growing back. On the whole, most well-managed forests are net carbon sinks.</p><p>Logging in pristine primary forests, however, still represents a concern with respect to both climate and biodiversity. Unlike secondary forests or fast-rotation pine or eucalyptus plantations, harvesting in <a href="https://www.ancientforestalliance.org/caycuse-watershed-logging-2020/" target="_blank">old-growth forests</a> releases CO2 that has taken centuries to accumulate — carbon that, once lost, is irrecoverable in our lifetime.</p>
Forest harvesting is big contributour to emissions. World Resources Institute<p><strong>Protecting Standing Forests is Critical for Climate Mitigation</strong></p><p>Overall, the data show that keeping existing forests standing remains our best hope for maintaining the vast amount of carbon forests store and continuing the carbon sequestration that, if halted, will worsen the effects of climate change.</p><p>While planting new trees <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2020/02/want-grow-trees-consider-these-5-lessons" target="_blank">(the right way)</a> or <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2020/09/carbon-sequestration-natural-forest-regrowth" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">letting them regrow naturally</a> can play a role in mitigating climate change (and helping communities adapt to its effects), the new data show that forests that have sprouted up in the past 19 years represent less than 5% of the current global forest carbon sink.</p><p>Although important to give these young forests the chance to grow into old ones, protecting primary and mature secondary forests today is most important for curbing climate change.</p><p>With these new maps, we can identify with unprecedented detail those forests that are capturing and emitting the most carbon. The maps can also be continually improved as better data become available. This gets us one step closer to tracking progress toward reducing emissions from deforestation and identifying where forests are being successfully managed — and where they need more protection.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/02/forests-climate-change-carbon-absorb-environment-earth-trees/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em></p>
By Andrea Germanos
A group of more than 500 international scientists on Thursday urged world leaders to end policies that prop up the burning of trees for energy because it poses "a double climate problem" that threatens forests' biodiversity and efforts to stem the planet's ecological emergency.
But furniture giant IKEA is trying to reverse that assumption. The Ingka Group, the franchise's largest owner, just bought 10,840 acres of forest in southeast Georgia, Reuters reported. The purchase comes with legally-binding commitments to restore native trees and protect habitat for a unique species of tortoise.
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Deforested peat forest in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Rhett A. Butler / Mongabay
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Taking an unconventional approach to conduct the largest-ever poll on climate change, the United Nations' Development Program and the University of Oxford surveyed 1.2 million people across 50 countries from October to December of 2020 through ads distributed in mobile gaming apps.
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By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:[email protected]" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
- Catatumbo Barí National Natural Park protects the unique, remote rainforest in northeastern Colombia.
- Satellite data show the park lost 6.2% of its tree cover between 2001 and 2019, with several months of unusually high deforestation in 2020.
- Sources say illegal coca cultivation is rapidly expanding in and around Catatumbo Barí and is driving deforestation as farmers move in and clear forest to grow the illicit crop, which is used to make cocaine.
- Area residents say armed groups are controlling the trade of coca in and out of the region, and are largely operating in an atmosphere of impunity.
The Catatumbo River originates in northeastern Colombia's Norte de Santander Department and flows to Venezuelan Lake Maracaibo. For generations, it has provided passage for fishermen and small farmers; but increasingly, it is being used to transport illegal good like weapons, timber and coca crops, from which cocaine is produced.
Recently cleared land in Catatumbo Barí National Natural Park. Colombian Army Vulcano Task Force<p>In addition to a threatening environment for local communities, the illegal cultivation of coca and its manufacture into cocaine appears to be coming at the cost of the region's forests. Even areas given the highest level of protection are not immune – including Catatumbo Barí National Natural Park, where satellites are detecting <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/deforestation">deforestation</a> creeping deeper and deeper into the park's old-growth rainforest.</p>
The Rise of Coca<p>Today Pablo cultivates legal crops, but until a few years ago he was a coca grower. He said he has watched as coca fields have expanded to the edges of the roads and banks of the Catatumbo River with total impunity, thus breaking with the old practice of growers cultivating coca in more remote, hidden areas.</p><p>"Now people burn pastures to cultivate coca that used to be destined for livestock or growing fruit … They don't respect anything, not even the river," Pablo said.</p><p>Pablo says that since the arrival of coca in 1997, the region has not been the same and that the situation deteriorated further after the signing of the FARC peace agreement in 2016.</p><p>"There are almost no trees left and the wells in the creeks and river where I bathed when I was a child no longer exist because of the landslides," said Pablo, who has lived more than 50 years in the same region.</p>
Increasing Deforestation<p><span>Catatumbo Barí National Natural Park is nestled in the foothills of the eastern mountain range in the department of Norte de Santander and covers 158,125 hectares (390,735 acres) with elevations ranging from 70 to 2,000 meters (230 to 6,562 feet) above sea level. Orchids, bromeliads, lianas and heliconias predominate in the park, as well as trees over 45 meters (148 feet) tall. It harbors part of the Catatumbo Moist Forest ecoregion, which is the only area north of the Andes inhabited by Amazonian plants and animals – and which has been heavily degraded by agriculture and oil extraction.</span></p>
Much of the forest of the Catatumbo region has been fragmented. Colombian Army Vulcano Task Force<p>Catatumbo Barí is more than six hours from Cúcuta, the capital of Norte de Santander Department, and there is little, if any, passable road access. The best way to get there is by boat with the help of the Barí, the Indigenous group that occupies a sector of the park across two reservations: Motilón Barí which comprises 108,900 hectares (269,097 acres) and Gabarra-Catalaura of 13,300 hectares (32,865 acres).</p><p>Along the way to the park, fields of coca crops are easy to see.</p><p>"The crops are reaching Cúcuta," said an inhabitant of the region.</p><p>Tibú is one of the municipalities that has jurisdiction over the park. It's also the municipality with the highest deforestation rate in Norte de Santander. According to the latest report from the Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (Ideam), 7,103 hectares (17,551 acres) were cleared in Tibú in 2019, representing 72% of its area.</p><p>According to the United Nations' Integrated Illicit Crops Monitoring System (SIMCI), 41,711 hectares (103,070 acres) of coca crops were cultivated across the region in 2019, an increase of more than 76% over 2016 when SIMCI recorded 24,831 hectares (61,358 acres) of coca cultivation.</p><p>Norte de Santander lost 11% of its tree cover between 2001 and 2019, according to satellite data from the University of Maryland (UMD), while Catatumbo Barí National Natural Park <a href="https://www.globalforestwatch.org/map/aoi/5ff740a7cb55fc001ba83567/?category=summary&gladAlerts=eyJ3ZWVrcyI6NTJ9&mainMap=eyJzaG93QW5hbHlzaXMiOnRydWV9&map=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%3D&mapMenu=eyJtZW51U2VjdGlvbiI6Im15LWdmdyJ9%27" target="_blank">lost 6.2%</a>. In both areas, preliminary UMD data for 2020 showing several spikes of deforestation that were "<a href="https://www.globalforestwatch.org/dashboards/country/COL/22/?category=summary&gladAlerts=eyJ3ZWVrcyI6NTJ9&location=WyJjb3VudHJ5IiwiQ09MIiwiMjIiXQ%3D%3D&mainMap=eyJzaG93QW5hbHlzaXMiOnRydWV9&map=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&mapMenu=eyJkYXRhc2V0Q2F0ZWdvcnkiOiJsYW5kQ292ZXIifQ%3D%3D" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">unusually high</a>" compared to years past.</p>
Catatumbo Barí National Natural Park protects some of the last primary rainforest in the region. But satellite data show deforestation continued to whittle it away in 2020 — including inside the park.<p><span>National Natural Parks of Colombia (PNN) is the environmental authority that oversees Catatumbo Barí. The areas outside the park are overseen by the Regional Autonomous Corporation of the Northeast Frontier (Corponor), which manages renewable natural resources in Norte de Santander. Sandra Gómez, deputy director of Corponor, explains that high deforestation rates outside the park are due largely to the expansion of the agricultural frontier, illicit crops, illegal mining and timber trafficking.</span></p><p>"Entering is difficult and inaccessible because of (the lack of) roads, the ongoing conflict and security issues. All this makes illegal activities easier," Gómez said.</p><p>The latest report from SIMCI found 1,448 hectares (3,578 acres) of coca cultivation inside Catatumbo Barí in 2019, representing 15% of the area deforested between 2001 and 2019 and a 60% jump over 2018. However, this may pale in comparison to 2020; according to a government source who studies the area, and who spoke on condition of anonymity, 90% of the deforested land in Catatumbo Barí has now been planted with coca crops, with the remaining 10% used as cropland for plantains and yucca, or as livestock pasture.</p><p>According to SIMCI figures, coca crops had reached two indigenous reservations within Catatumbo Barí as of 2019, with 411 hectares cultivated in the Motilón Barí reservation and 43 hectares in the Gabarra-Catalaura reservation. Totaling 454 hectares (1,121 acres), this marks a 66% increase in coca cultivation in the two reservations compared to 2018.</p><p>Juan Carlos Quintero, president of the Catatumbo Small Farmers Association (Ascamcat), said that coca cultivation, as well as the expansion of large-scale oil palm plantations, is worrying. He added that the departure of government oversight after the signing of the 2016 FARC peace deal has created an atmosphere of impunity in the region.</p><p>"The national government is only present with the army," Quintero said, adding that armed groups soon invaded territory left vacant by the FARC and unprotected by the government.</p>
Long-Term Consequences<p>Catatumbo Barí National Natural Park has untouched areas of rainforest that are still unstudied by the scientific community. Carlos Herney Cáceres Martínez, a biologist who has done research in various Colombian parks, has tried to enter the protected area for years to conduct genetic sampling of the Andean bear (<em>Tremarctos ornatus</em>). The project aims to characterize the connectivity of Andean bear populations in Colombia, and from the eight different regions where its presence has been registered, Catatumbo Barí is the only area where sampling has not been yet possible due to the difficulty of accessing the park.</p>
The Andean bear (Tremarctos ornatus), also called the spectacled bear, is the last remaining species of short-faced bear. It is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN. Futureman1199 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0<p>Cáceres said deforestation like that which is happening in and around Catatumbo Barí has cascading repercussions that can ripple through ecosystems and the human communities that depend on them.</p><p>"When a humid forest is affected, everything is affected: the capture of carbon dioxide, oxygen leveling, water regulation, erosive processes (…) Not only are plants or animals lost, as a society we are losing a free service that the planet offers us to have a healthy life," Cáceres said. He added that fire – which is often used to clear land – can be particularly destructive to the region's forest.</p><p>"We know that it is very difficult for them to return to their natural state," he said. "For [a forest] to recover 50% they need at least 100 years."</p><p><em>This </em><em>is a translated and adapted version of a story that was </em><em><a href="https://es.mongabay.com/2020/12/cultivos-ilegales-y-deforestacion-asfixian-al-parque-nacional-catatumbo-bari-en-colombia/" target="_blank">first published by Mongabay Latam</a> </em><em>on Dec. 2, 2020.</em></p><p><em><strong>Editor's note:</strong> This story was powered by <a href="https://blog.globalforestwatch.org/places-to-watch" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Places to Watch</a>, a Global Forest Watch (GFW) initiative designed to quickly identify concerning forest loss around the world and catalyze further investigation of these areas. Places to Watch draws on a combination of near-real-time satellite data, automated algorithms and field intelligence to identify new areas on a monthly basis. In partnership with Mongabay, GFW is supporting data-driven journalism by providing data and maps generated by Places to Watch. Mongabay maintains complete editorial independence over the stories reported using this data</em>.<br></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2021/01/cocaine-production-driving-deforestation-into-colombian-national-park/" target="_blank">Mongabay</a>.</em></p>
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