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    30 August 2011
  How effective are protected areas in conserving biodiversity?
  By Terry Sunderland
  Senior Scientist, Center for International Forestry Research
  Traditional means of conservation have entailed the annexation of land where human activities are strictly controlled or curtailed: so-called "fortress conservation". There remain today strong advocates of biodiversity conservation through the establishment of protected areas where the social and economic costs of exclusion are regarded as a necessary means of protecting biodiversity for the greater global good. However, such advocacy has also led to a highly contentious and polarized debate about the impacts of protected areas on local communities, where issues such as human rights, social justice and economic disenfranchisement are often brought to the fore.
  Are the trade-offs that result in excluding people from their lands and the resulting social and economic costs an acceptable price to pay in terms of achieving effective biodiversity conservation? Experience suggests not, but where is the data?
  A recent paper by Porter-Bolland et al. examines the effectiveness of strict protected areas (IUCN categories I-IV) compared to formally community-managed forests where "multiple use takes place under a variety of tenure, benefit sharing and governance schemes". In this instance, they define "effectiveness" as a change in forest cover over time.
  Although the authors admit that measuring land cover change is a crude indication of environmental integrity, changes in forest cover and the drivers of change have become a relatively robust indication of the effectiveness of land use types for conserving biodiversity, particularly as remote sensing technology has become more widely available and accessible.
  Porter-Bolland et al. compare case studies trawled from the literature that cover the three main tropical regions, Latin America, Africa and Asia. Their findings make for compelling reading. They also reinforce earlier findings by other scientists that show that greater rule-making autonomy at the local level are associated with better forest management and livelihood benefits.
  Porter-Bolland et al. provide clear evidence that on the whole, community-managed forests performed better than protected areas in having lower annual deforestation rates and experienced less variation in rates of forest cover loss. They conclude that protected areas may not be the most effective means of biodiversity conservation, and are certainly not the most socially equitable or economically advantageous means of preservation.
  What accounts for these findings, given that community-based forest management itself has recently been scrutinized in terms of its own relative effectiveness? Firstly, it may be telling that the majority of the protected areas cited in the case study (90% of them) are managed by national governments. Government support for conservation is often characterized by limited funds and capacity, leading to poor enforcement. As such, local non-compliance with protected area regulations is often the norm and many suffer some sort of encroachment.
  In addition, the majority of the cases used in the analysis are from Latin America where strong social movements have led to more "people-friendly" tenure and governance arrangements and, arguably, more effective community management of natural resources.
  Many researchers and practitioners have long recognized that a more resilient and robust conservation strategy should embrace a range of land use types in which social and economic needs of local people, as well as tenure rights and local capacities are recognized. However, as the size and extent of protected areas expands annually, the recognition of human needs and incorporation of rights into land-use planning processes are often not taken into account.
  With the onset of REDD+ projects, incorporating local people into the management of natural resources from design to implementation will be fundamental to achieving effective outcomes and where the hard trade-offs between biodiversity conservation and social equity are minimized.
 
    25 May 2008
  Amazon under threat from cleaner air
  The Amazon rainforest, so crucial to the Earth’s climate system, is coming under threat from cleaner air say prominent UK and Brazilian climate scientists in the leading scientific journal Nature.
  The new study identifies a link between reducing sulphur dioxide emissions from burning coal and increasing sea surface temperatures in the tropical north Atlantic, resulting in a heightened risk of drought in the Amazon rainforest.
  The Amazon rainforest contains about one tenth of the total carbon stored in land ecosystems and recycles a large fraction of the rainfall that falls upon it. So any major change to its vegetation, brought about by events like deforestation or drought, has an impact on the global climate system.
  A team from the University of Exeter, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Met Office Hadley Centre and Brazilian National Institute for Space Studies used the Met Office Hadley Centre climate-carbon model to simulate the impacts of twenty-first century climate change on the Amazon rainforest. They compared the model to data from the 2005 drought, which caused widespread devastation across the Amazon basin. The researchers estimate that by 2025 a drought on this scale could happen every other year and by 2060 a drought could occur in nine out of every ten years.
  Co-author Dr Matthew Collins of the Met Office Hadley Centre puts this into context: “The rainforest is under many pressures. Direct deforestation is the most obvious immediate threat, but climate change is also a big issue for Amazonia. We have to deal with both if we want to safeguard the forest.”
  Co-Author Dr Carlos Nobre of the Brazilian Institute for Space Research adds: “Global warming, deforestation and increased forest fires are all acting in synergy to reduce the resilience of the Amazonian forests”.
  Sulphate aerosol particles arising from the burning of coal in power stations in the 1970s and 1980s have partially reduced global warming by reflecting sunlight and making clouds brighter. This pollution has been predominantly in the northern hemisphere and has acted to limit warming in the tropical north Atlantic, keeping the Amazon wetter than it would otherwise be. Chris Huntingford of CEH, another of the co-authors, explains: “Reduced sulphur emissions in North America and Europe will see tropical rain-bands move northwards as the north Atlantic warms, resulting in a sharp increase in the risk of Amazonian drought”.
  Lead author Professor Peter Cox of the University of Exeter sums-up the consequences of the study: “These findings are another reminder of the complex nature of environmental change. To improve air quality and safeguard public health, we must continue to reduce aerosol pollution, but our study suggests that this needs to be accompanied by urgent reductions in carbon dioxide emissions to minimize the risk of Amazon forest dieback.”
  This research was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
  Quelle:
  Exeter University 2008
Nature 2008
CleanEnergy Project 2008
 
    24 August 2006
  World's forests may have less than 100 years to live
  MORE than half the world's biggest forests will be lost if global temperatures rise by an average of 3 degrees or more, by the end of the century.
  The prediction comes from the most comprehensive analysis yet of the potential effects of human-made global warming.
  Extreme floods, forest fires and droughts will also become more common over the next 200 years as global temperatures rise owing to climate change, says Marko Scholze, of the University of Bristol in the west of England.
  Dr Scholze took 52 simulations of the world's climate over the next century, grouping the results according to varying amounts of global warming they predicted by 2100: less than 2 degrees, 2-3 degrees, and more than 3 degrees. He then used the simulations to work out how the world's plants would be affected over the next few hundred years. The results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
  Dr Scholze said the effects of a 2 degree rise were inevitable, and in this scenario Europe, Asia, Canada, Central America and Amazonia could lose up to 30 per cent of their forests.
  A rise of 2-3 degrees will mean less fresh water available in parts of west Africa, Central America, southern Europe and the eastern US, raising the probability of drought in these areas. In contrast, the tropical parts of Africa and South America will be at greater risk of flooding as trees are lost.
  A global temperature rise of more than 3 degrees will mean even less fresh water, he said. Loss of forest in Amazonia and Europe, Asia, Canada and Central America could reach 60 per cent. It could also present a yet more dangerous scenario where the temperatures induce plants to become net producers of carbon dioxide. His work shows that that the so-called "tipping point"could arrive by the middle of this century.
  In May, David King, the British Government's chief scientific adviser, also warned that the world's temperature would rise by 3 degrees, causing catastrophic damage around the world, unless governments took urgent action to reduce carbon emissions.
  Source: Copyright 2006, Guardian
Date: August 16, 2006
 
    30 July 2006
  Amazon rainforest could become a desert
  The vast Amazon rainforest is on the brink of being turned into desert, with catastrophic consequences for the world's climate, alarming research suggests. And the process, which would be irreversible, could begin as early as next year.
  Studies by the blue-chip Woods Hole Research Centre, carried out in Amazonia, have concluded that the forest cannot withstand more than two consecutive years of drought without breaking down.
  Scientists say that this would spread drought into the northern hemisphere, including Britain, and could massively accelerate global warming with incalculable consequences, spinning out of control, a process that might end in the world becoming uninhabitable.
  The alarming news comes in the midst of a heatwave gripping Britain and much of Europe and the United States. Temperatures in the south of England reached a July record of 36.3C on Tuesday. And it comes hard on the heels of a warning by an international group of experts, led by the Eastern Orthodox " pope" Bartholomew, last week that the forest is rapidly approaching a " tipping point" that would lead to its total destruction.
  The research ­ carried out by the Massachusetts-based Woods Hole centre in Santarem on the Amazon river ­ has taken even the scientists conducting it by surprise. When Dr Dan Nepstead started the experiment in 2002 ­ by covering a chunk of rainforest the size of a football pitch with plastic panels to see how it would cope without rain ­ he surrounded it with sophisticated sensors, expecting to record only minor changes.
  The trees managed the first year of drought without difficulty. In the second year, they sunk their roots deeper to find moisture, but survived. But in year three, they started dying. Beginning with the tallest the trees started to come crashing down, exposing the forest floor to the drying sun.
  By the end of the year the trees had released more than two-thirds of the carbon dioxide they have stored during their lives, helping to act as a break on global warming. Instead they began accelerating the climate change.
  As we report today on pages 28 and 29, the Amazon now appears to be entering its second successive year of drought, raising the possibility that it could start dying next year. The immense forest contains 90 billion tons of carbon, enough in itself to increase the rate of global warming by 50 per cent.
  Dr Nepstead expects "mega-fires" rapidly to sweep across the drying jungle. With the trees gone, the soil will bake in the sun and the rainforest could become desert. Dr Deborah Clark from the University of Missouri, one of the world's top forest ecologists, says the research shows that "the lock has broken" on the Amazon ecosystem. She adds: the Amazon is "headed in a terrible direction".
  Quelle:
  The Independent | 23.07.2006 By Geoffrey Lean in Manaus and Fred Pearce
 
    6 February 2006
  Must see to believe
  2002*: the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama) announces that in 'six months' the illegal commerce of Authorizations for Transportation of Forestry Products (ATPFs) will be extinct, thanks to the creation of the Forestry Origin Seal (SOF), based on bar codes.
  2006* : the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama) announces that in 'a few months' the Authorizations for Transportation of Forestry Products (ATPFs) will be extinct, thanks to the 'pilot program' of Forestry Origin Document (DOF), based upon informatics and bar codes.
  It seems that every four years, the same ritual takes place. The media registers and celebrates the news. The citizen feels relieved, aware that now things will change. The only one who does not believe in the new system is the bandit, who keeps putting his efforts in the maintenance of the old scheme.
  The few that remember the fact get astonished. Not only by the declarations, which seem to be copied. But also by the lack of consideration with the government's rendering of accounts.
  How much did Ibama pay for the planning of the SOF and the DOF? What is the difference between them, if there is one? How much time did it take to get the DOF planned? Four years, as SOF?
  These days announcement is only different because it seems to have been done with more precaution: instead of six months, it points to a generic deadline, of a few months and, instead of terminating for good with the ATPFs, it admits that first will take place a trial period. When will the referred document be extinct forever?
  Incurable optimists, specially in a World's Cup year for citizens in the soccer's country, we really want to believe in the new announcement. Under one condition: four years from now, there will not be a new report, on the launching of the Forestry Origin Promise (POF), terminating for good with the ATPFs and its corruption, and the endless patience of the Brazilian citizen.
  * News reported by one of the Brazilian major newspapers - O Estado de São Paulo. The first in 11/27/2002 and the second in 01/22/2006.
 
    6 January 2006
  Opening up the Amazon: The good and the bad
  SANTARÉM, Brazil Along hundreds of miles of the north-south highway that bisects the Brazilian Amazon, the canopy of rain forests has been wiped out. Where the road is paved, loggers, ranchers and commercial farmers have razed the landscape, removing valuable hardwoods and clearing fields for cattle and soybeans as far as the eye can see.
  The half-finished 1,770-kilometer, or 1,100-mile, highway known as BR-163 is the focal point of a bitter conflict that has cost lives, jobs and big money.
  In December, the Brazilian environmental agency granted a provisional license for paving the road. When it is completed, the highway will connect the farms and ranches of southern Brazil to overseas markets via Santarém, a deepwater Amazon River port that feeds into the Atlantic.
  Journeys that now take weeks on a 1,000-kilometer stretch of muddy, potholed track that is virtually impassable during the half-year rainy season will be cut to days or hours. The highway would save hundreds of millions of dollars in the cost of trucking commodities to the Atlantic, spurring growth for Latin America's biggest economy in its most significant export sector.
  But those opportunities come at a price.
  Supporters compare BR-163 to the transcontinental railroad that opened up the American West, saying it will bring jobs and development to one of Brazil's most undeveloped regions. But highways in the Amazon have also encouraged encroachment by loggers, land speculators, agribusinesses, charcoal producers and mineral prospectors. Deadly land conflicts have followed, pitting newcomers against local peasants and indigenous tribes.
  Some 17 percent of the Brazilian Amazon, the earth's most biologically diverse ecosystem, has been deforested over the past four decades.
  Three-quarters of the deforestation occurred within 50 kilometers of paved roads, according to government and independent studies.
  And more than a third of the 1,400 killed in land disputes in Brazil in the past two decades have occurred here in the frontier state of Para, where the highway lies unfinished and the unexploited forest alongside it has provoked protests, lawsuits, corruption and terror campaigns.
  Critics have accused President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of ignoring a burgeoning environmental disaster under pressure from agribusinessmen who produce one-third of Brazil's gross domestic product. But the killing last year of a 73-year-old American nun in Para provoked a dramatic shift in government policy that could have long-lasting effects in this part of the Amazon.
  Sister Dorothy Stang, an Ohio native who was organizing peasants to resist illegal land seizures by cattle barons, was shot and killed on Feb. 12 in an alleged contract killing by ranchers. The government responded by sending troops and slapping a seven-month moratorium on all tree cutting in a corridor surrounding BR-163 in southwestern Para, where Greenpeace estimates that 90 percent of the lumber produced is cut illegally.
  Two ranch hands were found guilty this month of murdering Stang and were sentenced to 27 years and 17 years in prison. Three ranchers have been charged with ordering Stang's killing, but are appealing the charges.
  In June, the government arrested scores of forestry officials and middlemen who were accused of forging logging permits that allowed companies to illegally clear-cut hardwoods from land surrounding the highway. Logging licenses, once distributed liberally, are now under review.
  Loggers, sawmill operators and commercial farmers blocked roads in protest, saying the logging freeze was paralyzing the economy and forcing them to lay off thousands of workers. The government refused to budge.
  The half-billion-dollar project to finish the road was scheduled to start next year, but before work can begin, the Department of Transportation must prove it will not endanger plant and animal species or indigenous communities. Contractors have put funding for the project on hold amid uncertainties about whether the land around the highway will be put to profitable use.
  Source: Copyright 2006, Boston Globe
 
    14 Dezember 2005
  Record Drought Cripples Life Along the Amazon
  MANAQUIRI, Brazil - The Amazon River basin, the world's largest rain forest, is grappling with a devastating drought that in some areas is the worst since record keeping began a century ago. It has evaporated whole lagoons and kindled forest fires, killed off fish and crops, stranded boats and the villagers who travel by them, brought disease and wreaked economic havoc.
  In mid-October, the governor of Amazonas State, Eduardo Braga, decreed a "state of public calamity," which remains in effect as the drought's impact on the economy, public health and food and fuel supplies deepens. But other Brazilian states have also been severely affected, as have Amazon regions in neighboring countries like Peru, Bolivia and Colombia.
  With hundreds of riverside settlements cut off from the outside world, the Brazilian Armed Forces have for three months mounted what officials describe as the biggest relief operation that they and civil defense agencies have carried out together. Nearly 2,000 tons of food and 30 tons of medicine have already been airlifted by plane and helicopter to affected communities just in Amazonas State, the region's largest.
  "There have been years before in which we've had a deficit of rainfall, but we've never experienced drops in the water levels of rivers like those we have seen in 2005," said Everaldo Souza, a meteorologist at the Amazon Protection System, a Brazilian government agency in Manaus, the nine-state region's main city. "It has truly been without precedent, and it looks like it is only going to be December or January, if then, that things return to normal."
  Scientists say the drought is most likely a result of the same rise in water temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean that unleashed Hurricane Katrina. They also worry that if global warming is involved, as some of them suspect, it may be the beginning of a new era of more severe and frequent droughts in the region that accounts for nearly a quarter of the world's fresh water.
  "The Amazon is a kind of canary-in-a-coal-mine situation," said Daniel C. Nepstad, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts and the Amazon Institute of Ecological Research in Belém.
  "We have no idea of the game we have played into by running this worldwide experiment of pumping so much greenhouse gases into the atmosphere," Mr. Nepstad said. Even more than in other parts of the world, people who live in the world's largest rain forest depend on water for transportation, food, sewage removal - in short, just about everything, so the drought has touched nearly every aspect of their lives.
  "I am very frightened," said Jair Souto, the mayor of a sleepy market town, Manaquiri, that started seeing signs of drought in September. "One thing goes wrong, and the entire system follows."
  In Acre State in western Brazil, parched trees turned to tinder, and the number of forest fires recorded tripled to nearly 1,500 at its peak in September compared with a year earlier. The resulting smoke, which may itself have intensified the drought by impeding the formation of storm clouds, was so thick on some days that residents took to wearing masks when they went outdoors.
  On the Madeira River, a main trade artery for products including soybeans and diesel oil, navigation had to be suspended when water levels fell to barely one-tenth of their rainy season level. Peasant farmers have watched their crops rot because they cannot ship them to market, and schools have shut down now that students can no longer get to class even in small boats.
  "The water level wasn't but two fingers high, and the channel was choked in the grass that sprang up, so you couldn't even paddle a canoe," Rivaldo Castro Serrão, a peasant farmer in a hamlet on the Purus River, São Lázaro, said in late November as an army helicopter was delivering supplies to the 41 families living there. "With the fish all dead and our watermelon and banana crop all rotted, we'd be starving if it weren't for the food packages the government brings."
  As water levels dropped, areas where the river normally flowed free instead became stagnant pools, the ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes. As a result, malaria, always a problem in the region, has become more prevalent and has further strained limited health care resources.
  A vast majority of communities rely on the river to carry away human waste. With sewage now accumulating near the settlements, the risk of cholera and other diseases is expected to rise with water levels when the rainy season, which is starting in some parts of the basin, finally arrives in earnest. Around larger towns like Manaquiri, peasants who fled the drought looking for aid and still cannot return home have formed floating slums. Horácio de Almeida Ramos, for example, has been marooned in Manaquiri since September, when river levels began falling as much as 20 inches a day. In October, the teeming schools of fish in the lagoon suddenly died off, and by November, the entire lagoon had dried up, leaving boats here stranded and outlying communities isolated.
  So Mr. Ramos lives, with his wife and their seven children, ranging in age from 2 to 15, in the canoe that brought them here and is now beached beside the pier. "We're stuck here until the lagoon fills up again, living off charity and whatever make-work I can find," he said resignedly. "We had to abandon all our crops, so I don't know what it's going to be like when we eventually go back."
  Even as the drought begins to subside, scientists are still debating what caused it. The explanation accepted most widely pins primary responsibility on higher water temperatures in tropical regions of the Atlantic Ocean, the same phenomenon being blamed for the increase in the number of hurricanes forming in the Northern Hemisphere this year.
  "A warmer Atlantic not only helps give more energy to hurricanes, it also aids in evaporating air," said Luiz Gylvan Meira, a climate specialist at the Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of São Paulo. "But when that air rises over the oceans in one region, it eventually has to come down somewhere else, thousands of miles away. In this case, it came down in the western Amazon, blocking the formation of clouds that would bring rain to the headwaters of the rivers that feed the Amazon."
  Whether the increases in deforestation registered in the Amazon in recent years have also played a role is less clear. The Brazilian government, often criticized for not doing enough to stop the depredations of loggers and ranchers, argues there is no direct connection, attributing the drought to larger external forces beyond the country's control.
  "There are a lot of peculiar things happening on a large scale, like the tsunami, hurricanes and now this drought without precedent," Ciro Gomes, the minister of national integration, said in October, during a tour of the affected region. "We should all be concerned and launch an alert to the world that irresponsible management of natural resources needs to cease, the sooner the better."
  In fact, some of the areas hardest hit by the drought are those that have done the most to limit or control deforestation. Here in Amazonas, which is larger than France, Germany, Britain and Italy combined, officials say that 98 percent of their forest remains intact but that they are suffering more than neighboring states where deforestation has been rampant.
  But river-dwellers old enough to remember the era before deforestation began on a large scale say that the cutting down of trees along rivers and lakes has aided in the accumulation of silt. As a result, they say, navigation channels that remained open even in the most severe of previous dry seasons are now blocked and choked.
  Research also suggests that the forest itself, and consequently the entire ecosystem, has been made more vulnerable by the drought. When deprived of an adequate ration of rainfall, trees instead drain water from the soil and curb the growth of their trunks, which are vital to their role in pulling immense quantities of carbon dioxide out of the air.
  "Because droughts remain registered in the soil for up to four years, the situation is still very critical and precarious, and will remain so," Mr. Nepstad said. Where there are "forests already teetering on the edge," he added, the prospect of "massive tree mortality and greater susceptibility to fire" must be considered.
  While scientists largely agree that higher temperatures in the Atlantic are responsible for the severity of this year's drought, they are still searching for an explanation for that phenomenon. It could be just a one-time disturbance, or it could be more permanent, perhaps brought on by greenhouse gas emissions.
  "Yes, a global warming effect would explain increases in ocean temperatures, but no one is saying that yet, because it is still very early, and we don't yet have enough data," said Carlos Nobre, director of Brazil's National Institute of Space Research, which monitors climatic patterns in the Amazon. "Droughts like this one are very rare, but one consequence of a warmer planet would be that they occur with more frequency, which is something we are going to have to be watching for."
  Local governments in the Amazon do not have the luxury of awaiting the results of that research, and they fear that the drought this year may not be an aberration. So they have already begun taking as many steps as their limited budgets will permit to prepare for a recurrence.
  In a region where water has always been abundant and taken for granted, programs are under way to build wells and cisterns. Warehouses to stock food, medicine and fuel are being built, in anticipation that communities may again be left isolated in the near future.
  "We have become the victims of a phenomenon we did not provoke," said Mr. Braga, the governor of Amazonas. "What is happening is not our fault. We didn't heat up the atmosphere or chop down our trees. But we are paying the price with the suffering of our people."
  Source: Copyright 2005, New York Times, Larry Rohter.
 
    29 August 2005
  Deforestation in the Amazon 2004-2005
  The annual deforestation rate during the period of August 2004 to July 2005 should register between 15,247 to 16,570 km2 (minimum and maximum values), with an estimated average of 15,909 km2. This data is offered by the Detection System of Deforestation in Real Time (DETER), based upon a collection of MODIS satellite images and processed by the Institute for Humans and the Environment of Amazonia (Imazon).
  The projection represents a possible decrease by more than a third (approximately 10 thousand km2) in relation to the deforestation that was registered during the 2003-4 period. Almost 92% of the decrease has occurred only in one month: June. For this month, it was estimated 835 km2 deforested in 2005, in comparison with 10,017 km2 from June 2004. In the other eleven months of this year (that is during the period of August to May and in the month of July), practically the same area was deforested as last year, that is, approximately 15 thousand km2.
  The estimated rate assumes as a variable the deforested areas that were not identified by DETER (areas smaller than 25 hectares) representing 18% of the detected total, an average of what occurred during the years 2000 to 2004. The deforestation areas that were not detected because of cloud coverage were evaluated at 2%. In this manner, Imazon evaluates that it is possible to compare this rate with the rate traditionally obtained based upon the Program for Monitoring the Brazilian Amazonia Forest by Satellite (PRODES) system (based upon LANDSAT satellite images), which will be released only at the beginning of next year. The Institute has not yet released each state's data.
  According to Roberto Smeraldi, the director of the Friends of the Earth- Brazilian Amazonia, the index remains alarming, despite the reduction. "This year was characterized by an abrupt fall in the price of commodities, by the valorisation in more than 20% of the Brazilian currency, by interest rates of 19%, by unprecedented indebtedness for the agricultural sector (more than R$ 30 billion reales) and by the absence of any type significant investment in infrastructure in the region. If, with these conditions, it still was possible to deforest an area of 16 thousand km2, this means that profound changes are necessary to constrain a phenomenon that does not depend solely upon economic players."
 
    25 August 2005
  Emergency solution
  The crisis of timber production in Para state has reached such a point that the Federal Public Ministry (MP) has decided to support a radical measure: it will liberate exploitation of public lands. Even with reservations and conditions, this establishes that the Terms of Conduct Adjustment elaborated by public environmental agencies and by INCRA and will receive support from federal prosecutors.
  The first reservation is that the solution is an emergency and temporary provision. TAC authorizes the extraction of timber from lands recognized as public to avoid that entire cities do not loose their only form of income, principally in the region of Novo Progresso, where land grabbing is the rule and not the exception.
  According to the MP, one cannot resolve a landownership problem of this proportion overnight. "We cannot close our eyes to the situation. There is a reality of known exploitation, a social structure surrounding this with which part of the state's GNP depends upon. The authorization to deforest in public areas will serve as a period of transition, "to not throw everyone into illegality", until the new law is created which will create concessions for exploiting public forests.
 
    11 July 2005
  New Brazilian forest law helps fights illegal deforestation
  Brazil's Congress approved a new public forest concessions law as an important step to fight illegal deforestation and to better manage public forests for sustainable production.
  Under the law, a Brazilian forest service will be created to establish an annual concession plan of public forests for private use. The duration of the concessions will be defined according to the harvest cycle, with contracts being renewable for a maximum of 40 years. There will also be an independent auditing of the concessions, and all certifiers must be accredited by the forest service.
  A National Forest Development Fund will also be created to manage funds derived from manging the public forest concession. The Forest Fund will receive 70 per cent of all income, with the other 30 per cent going to to Ibama, the country's official environmental agency, to be used for patrolling activities.
  The proposed law will now go to the Brazilian Senate for final approval. If all goes as expected, the first concessions may be signed in the second semester of 2006.
 
    17 April 2005
  Brazil authorises Indian reserve
  President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has signed a decree creating an Amazonian Indian reserve the size of a small country in northern Brazil. The reserve, Raposa Serra Do Sol, is called "the land of the fox and mountain of the sun" by the 12,000 Indians who live there.
  Its hills, rivers and forests cover 17,000 sq km (6,500 square miles).
  The move follows 30 years of campaigns by the Indians, which led to bitter conflicts with settlers and farmers. During that time, human rights groups say at least a dozen Indians were killed in conflicts with miners and settlers. Parts of the reserve, in the northern state of Roraima, are now planted with rice or grazed by cattle.
  Indian protests
  The decree for demarcation - the last step in a long process - has been sitting on the Brazilian president's desk for a couple of years. Whenever he has looked like signing, it has provoked fierce protests against the reserve from settlers and local politicians. Justice Minister Tomas Bastos said that over the next year, farmers inside the reserve would be moved to alternative land.
  Only roads, a frontier military base, and a small town inside the area have been excluded from the reserve. Lula, as the president is known, will be hoping the decree will head off anti-government protests planned for next week by Indian groups. They have been accusing him of not living up to promises over land.
  BBC News, Sao Paulo
 
    17 January 2005
  Exports blamed for Amazon deforestation
  New evidence that the rapid expansion of Brazil's export-fuelled agriculture sector is contributing to the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest is emerging from a study being finalised by a group of leading environmental organisations.
  However there are indications that the government may have indeed become more aware of the problem after years of denying such links.
  Soyabean farming, the leading crop, has expanded by more than 50 per cent since 2001 and earned Brazil more than $10bn (€7.5bn, £5.3bn) in foreign exchange last year. While soyabean farmers do not usually clear forest themselves, the authors of the report say, they fuel deforestation by driving cattle and rice farmers deeper into the forest.
  “Soyabean farming induces deforestation, it drives the agricultural frontier,” said Roberto Smeraldi, co-ordinator of the study conducted by the Brazilian Forum of 19 environmental organisations, including the WWF, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.
  Wary of environmental restrictions and international criticism, the powerful farm lobby and parts of the government for years rejected links between large-scale, mechanised agriculture and degradation in the world's largest rainforest.
  This week, Ipea, a government think-tank, argued that most soyabean production growth in recent years came from the expansion of existing farmland and the conversion of pastureland, not rainforest. Preparing forest for [soyabean] farming “requires time and infrastructure”, the report said.
  However, using aerial photography, the environmental groups showed that forest cleared in northern Matto Grosso state last year had been planted with soyabeans very soon afterwards. At the same time the area of cattle and rice farms in previously forested areas nearby actually increased, apparently displaced by soyabean farms.
  The researchers admit that the region may not reflect the entire Amazon region but many environmentalists are concerned that the advance of agriculture into the Amazon may spread. “The objective of the study was to make authorities aware of the problem and work with them towards solutions,” said André Lima, co-author of the study and forestry co-ordinator with the Socio-Environmental Institute (ISA) in Bras”lia.
  Roberto Rodrigues, agriculture minister, has now appointed a special adviser on Amazon affairs and produced a white paper including proposals such as higher taxes on legal deforestation and environmental criteria on farm loans.
  The government is also working on a map of land usage in the Amazon to better regulate farming. Some environmentalists are calling on traders to voluntarily adopt environmental criteria when they purchase grains.
  Source: Copyright 2005, Financial Times
 
    09 December 2004
  Secrets of the forest
  Walk through the Amazon rainforest today and you will find it is steamy, warm, damp and lush. But if you had been around 15,000 years ago, during the last ice age, would it have been the same? For more than 30 years, scientists have been arguing about how rainforests like the Amazon might have responded to the cold, dry climates of the ice ages, but until now, no one has come up with a convincing answer. Some scientists believe that the Amazon shrivelled up into small surviving pockets of rainforest (called refugia) separated by huge expanses of savannah grassland. Others think that the Amazon was tougher than that, continuing to flourish as a rainforest throughout every ice age.
  Rainforests like the Amazon are important for mopping up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and helping to slow global warming. Currently the trees in the Amazon soak up around 500 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year: equivalent to all of the UK's carbon dioxide emissions for one year. But how will the Amazon respond to future climate change? If it gets drier will it still survive and continue to draw down carbon dioxide? Scientists hope that by understanding how rainforests reacted to climate change in the past they will be able to predict how the rainforest will manage in the future.
  Unfortunately, getting into the Amazon rainforest and gathering data is very difficult. To study past climate scientists need to look at fossilised pollen, preserved in lake muds. Going back to the last ice age means drilling deep down into lake sediments, which requires specialised equipment and heavy machinery. There are very few roads and paths, or places to land helicopters and aeroplanes. Rivers tend to be the easiest way to access the forest, but this still leaves vast areas between the navigable rivers completely unsampled. To date, only a handful of cores have been drilled that go back to the last ice age and none of them provide really conclusive evidence of how the Amazon rainforest responds to climate change.
  Now a geologist from Bristol University may have discovered how rainforests react to climate change, by leaping to a different location and going back even further in time, to the Carboniferous period, 300 million years ago. Howard Falcon-Lang has been digging fossils out of a sea cliff in a remote corner of Canada to see how ancient rainforests coped when the Earth's thermostat went up and down.
  Along the north-east coast of Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, eastern Canada, tremendous cliffs tower over the beaches. Inside these cliffs lie the secrets of an ancient rainforest. About 300 million years ago, Cape Breton Island was part of a supercontinent called Pangea. This huge landmass sat over the equator, covered by tropical rainforest and crawling with gigantic insects, including millipedes that were nearly a metre long. Carboniferous literally means "coal-bearing", and most of the coal seams that we mine today were created from the thriving tropical rainforests of that time. But as the Cape Breton cliffs show, life didn't always flourish and the weather wasn't always warm and moist.
  Taking a closer look at Carboniferous rocks reveals distinct cycles in the rock layers, each covering around 100,000 years. The cycles usually start with limestone layers, full of shells, which formed in shallow seas. Next comes a muddy layer, which was deposited from an ancient delta system, a bit like the present day Mississippi delta. Finally the cycle is topped off by a red- coloured rock, which formed in riverbeds in very dry conditions. After the red layer the cycle slides back in the opposite direction, going into the muddy layer and then the limestone. Each of these cycles represents an ice age, with ice caps expanding and contracting and a corresponding fall and then rise of sea level, by up to 100m each time. Meanwhile, the climate swung from being damp and tropical to cool and dry.
  Previously paleobotanists have tended to ignore the glacial plants (in the red beds) in Carboniferous rocks because they are poorly preserved. Most paleobotanists assumed that the glacial plants would be similar to the interglacial plants. But better microscopes and new techniques to analyse rock cycles have meant that Dr Falcon-Lang has been able to show that there was more to the Carboniferous period than just lush rainforests and giant millipedes.
  He set to work with his hammer and chisel, collecting thousands of plant fossils from the rock cycles that he could see along the Cape Breton coast. Back home he spent many hours analysing each of these plant fossils under the microscope. To his delight he was able to see clear changes between the types of plants growing in tropical regions during the warm and wet phases, compared with those growing in the cool and dry phases. "Between the ice-ages, when it was warm and wet, I found lots of fossilised clubmosses [lycopods], which were part of a dense coal-forming rainforest," he says.
  Today's relatives of these plants are tiny, but in the Cape Breton cliffs the clubmosses were up to 30m tall. "When the climate swung into an ice age, turning cool and dry, the clubmoss-dominated rainforest collapsed and was replaced by shrubby, fire-prone types of vegetation that are extinct relatives of today's conifers," he explains. Without a doubt these tropical rainforests responded to climate change and were unable to survive an ice age unscathed.
  From just 50km of coastline Dr Falcon-Lang has been able to sample an area of about 1,000 square km (about the size of Moscow) and cover a time period of around 1.5 million years (13 ice-age cycles). "It is unusual to be able to learn more about really ancient times than the recent past, but that is exactly the case when it comes to studying how climate change affects tropical rainforests," he says.
  To make sure that he isn't just looking at an unusual pocket of Carboniferous rainforest, Dr Falcon-Lang now wants to investigate other rock sequences over a larger area. Next he plans to work with the United States Geological Survey, studying long sequences of Carboniferous rocks dotted up and down the Appalachian Mountains, in the north-east of America. "I'm hoping to match up some of the glacial/interglacial rock cycles over very long distances so that I can see what was happening to rainforests right across the supercontinent of Pangea," he explains.
  Dr Falcon-Lang believes that the dramatic changes in plant species and climate that he has seen in the Cape Breton cliffs support the idea of the rainforest "refugia" hypothesis. Applying this idea to more recent times leads him to think that the Amazon rainforest may have responded to climate change and ice ages. "It is certainly possible that the Amazon rainforest contracted into smaller refugia during the last glacial maximum, but this needs to be tested by sampling cores from more areas that were likely to have been drier at this time," he says.
  So what lies in store for the Amazon? Although Dr Falcon-Lang's work can't tell us how rainforests might respond to human interference, it does tell us that rainforests are likely to change quite dramatically with large swings in climate. Global climate models suggest that the Amazon rainforest area will become much warmer and drier in the future. The added impact of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and massive logging programmes are unlikely to spell good news for the forest. "It is a fragile environment and the rapid changes occurring right now are probably going to be disastrous," says Dr Falcon-Lang. Unless we take drastic action soon, fossilised plants may be all that remain of the Amazon rainforest in the not-too-distant future.
  Kate Ravilious, Independent
 
    10 November 2004
  Deforestation without control
  Brasilia (AG) - The plan initiated in March by Lula to slow down devastation in Amazonia continues with public bureaucracy sluggishness. A report obtained by GLOBO press shows that in the program's first five months only 2% of 2004's 231 objectives have been reached in project co-ordinated by 13 ministries. Between August 2002 to August 2003, 16.32% of the Brazilian Amazonia was deforested and as a result, the government decided to implement the Plan for Action for the Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Legal Amazonia.
  The report indicates that 15% of the goals had not yet been implemented in August and another 11% were without information from the government. The report points to delays and classifies the project as still early in its execution stage. "A low capacity for implementation of the activities was verified, with the concentration of actions limited to planning and internal organisation". The disarticulation among those responsible for carrying out the project is pointed to as the principal motive behind the delay, followed by the delay in obtaining resources (the first funds were released in July) and the failure to identify who would be responsible for goal execution in each agency.
  Even though the goals provided for in the plan have not yet been reached, inspection activities in the Legal Amazonia have registered an increase in relation to previous years. Applied fines from March until October 6th have reached a total of R$ 61.4 million reals. IBAMA estimates that the number of citations will have increased by at least 15% in comparison to last year's number. However with inspections comes a increase in violent incidents. "The region is accustomed to survival without the presence of the law. If inspectors come, then a response is seen", commented the director of the Environmental Protection in IBAMA, Flavio Montiel.
  Pronaf Florestal
  To avoid these types of problems was provided for in the plan, as is the case of the recently created Forestry PRONAF, which offers training and financing for communities to explore the forest in sustainable manner. "The government has proposals but it lacks funding to put them into practice", criticises Flavio Garcia from the Movement for the Defence of Amazonia. Funding is not available until 2005 for this part of the project. "The plan is not functioning as it should be, but it is functioning an in an adequate manner", stated the national secretary of Forests, João Paulo Capobianco.
 
    4 September 2004
  The "hamburger connection" threatens forests today just as it did yesterday
  Between 1950 and 1975, the area of human-established pasture lands in Central America doubled, almost entirely at the expense of primary rainforests. The numbers of cattle also doubled, although the average beef consumption by Central American citizens dropped. Beef production was exported to markets in the United States and in other Northern countries.
  Between 1966 and 1978 in Brazil 80,000 km2 of Amazon forests were destroyed to give way to 336 cattle ranches carrying 6 million head of cattle under the auspices of the Superintendency for Amazon Development (SUDAM).
  Similar initiatives have been implemented in the Amazon territories of Colombia and Peru, although not on such a vast scale, promoted in some cases by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
  In every case, many ranches became unproductive within less than ten years, because productivity of artificial grasslands declines. However, very often the ranchers obtained another plot of forest to clear.
  During the eighties, two factors led to increased exports of beef from the tropical region of Latin America with the consequent aftermath of accelerated deforestation of the Amazon. On the one hand, increased consumption of beef in the countries of the North (particularly for fast food chains in the United States) and on the other, lower prices of land and labour in the tropical countries of Latin America, making the final product cheaper. As an example, in 1978 the price of a kilo of beef imported from Latin America averaged US$1.47, compared to US$3.3 a kilo of beef produced in the United States. This direct relationship between the advance of cattle ranching and deforestation was called the "Hamburger connection."
  At that time, Brazil was not a part of that "connection" because of its low rate of beef exports insofar as its production was mainly aimed at domestic consumption. However the country increased its heads of cattle from 26 million in 1990 to 57 million in 2002. The production was mainly concentrated in the States of Mato Grosso, Para and Rondonia -and over the same period, these states showed the highest rate of deforestation in the country. The new expansion of cattle ranching is not based in small or medium-sized farms but in large scale enterprises.
  For decades the cattle production sector was aimed at domestic consumption, but factors such as devaluation of the Brazilian currency, the successful efforts to free cattle from foot and mouth disease, the mad cow disease affecting beef production in the countries of the North, and the chicken disease in Asia leading to a swing towards the consumption of other meat products, enabled Brazil to have access to new markets in Europe, Russia and the Middle East. Between 1997 and 2003, the volume of Brazilian exports in this field increased over five-fold.
  A report published recently by the Centre for International Forestry Research -CIFOR- has identified this process of expansion of cattle raising as one of the factors responsible for the recent increase in the destruction of the Brazilian Amazon forest.
  According to this research, with respect to deforestation the accumulated area of the Brazilian Amazon increased from 41.5 million hectares in 1990 to 58.7 million hectares in 2000, of which most ended up as pasture lands. The authors of the report state that although in recent years the expansion of soybean crops in the Amazon has been a cause of deforestation, this is only a part of the process, which to a great degree is due to the growth of cattle raising.
  The CIFOR report was made known at the same time as new figures for deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, which have shown a second historical record of loss of tropical forest. The new data submitted by the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment show that the loss of forests over the period of August 2002 to August 2003 reached 23,750 km2. The historical record corresponds to 1995 with a little over 29 thousand km2. The new record represents an increase of 2 per cent vis-à-vis the previous year. Since deforestation started to be monitored in 1988, a total of over 270 thousand km2 of tropical forest have been lost, that is to say, approximately the size of Ecuador.
  The importance of consumption should be noted in this process, as one of the pillars of the current model of commercial agriculture and cattle-raising, and therefore another factor responsible for deforestation processes. This is not the production of large volumes of food to solve the hunger of many impoverished and underprivileged sectors. These are cash crops, ranging from coffee to beef, mostly aimed at consumers in the North who in many cases have been induced to change their food habits.
  Historically, the countries of the South, rich in biodiversity, have played the role of export producers. Very often, the inhabitants of these countries do not consume what they export. After being colonized by bloodshed and fire, they have later been colonized by dollars, debt and exclusion . in addition to bloodshed and fire.
  Article based on information from: "Conexión entre ganadería y deforestación Amazónica", CLAES, www.agropecuaria.org/sustentabilidad/ConexionHamburgerAz.htm
  "Hamburger Connection Fuels Amazon Destruction", Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), www.cifor.cgiar.org/publications/pdf_files/media/Amazon.pdf
  "Role of Cattle Raising in Conversion of Tropical Moist Forests", CIESIN, www.ciesin.org/docs/002-106/002-106c.html
 
    9 July 2004
  Fire and smoke already consume Mato Grosso State. Fires break record.
  In the 200 kilometres that separate Cuiaba from Caceres, the verdant pastures that support the region's principal economic activity, namely cattle ranching, have given way to the season's yellow dryness. In the air, the characteristic smell burns one's breath. In the background, small columns of smoke fill the landscape, and history repeats itself: Mato Grosso is already the leading state in Brazil for forest fires this year.
  The numbers from the Brazilian Institute for the Amazonian Environment and Natural Resources (IBAMA) leave no doubt that this year may be worse than all previous records. Just in the first half of this year, 11,709 hotspots have been registered by the NOAA-12 Satellite, with 7,804 only in the month of June.
  The period during which raze and burning is prohibited is July 15 through September 15. However, this prohibition had little impact last year when 11,616 hotspots were registered in July. The number decreased in August to 9, 233 but climbed once again in September with 16,338 hotspots. "It is not our fault"- states Idalino Pagiotto defending the plantations in the area. "The grass is dry. For us cattle ranchers, forest fires are also harmful."
 
    23 April 2004
  Bright Spots in the Rain Forest By Brian Kelly and Mark London
  The rallying cry, "Save the Amazon!" rang out again this month when the Brazilian government reported that clearing of the rain forest had reached near-record levels — with an area bigger than the state of New Jersey disappearing last year. This Earth Day, global environmental groups are covering their Web sites with the usual predictions of how long it will take for all the trees there to vanish (20 to 50 years). Recently, the Brazilian government announced yet another initiative to get serious about the problem.
  But the news was welcomed by others who also care deeply about the environment. Most of them actually live in the Amazon.
  The reasons for the surge in deforestation are a lot more complicated than they used to be, and the solution for saving the rain forest may be more development, not less.
  The facts have changed, as we discovered while traveling thousands of miles across the Amazon this year. At one time, use and abuse of the region were synonymous. In many instances, the best development was no development at all: there were few alternative uses of the forest that justified its destruction.
  Not anymore. Technically savvy Brazilian farmers have created profitable large-scale cattle ranches and soybean farms that reach to the horizon. Cotton, corn and rice, when rotated properly, flourish in the delicate soil. Last year, Brazil passed the United States in soybean exports.
  The facts on the ground give every indication that the Amazon can be used for multiple purposes. Perhaps 60 percent to 70 percent of the territory — as much as a million square miles — should be left untouched, set aside because the soil is too poor or the biodiversity too rich. The rest, however, can be used. There's a lot there: a promising new agricultural frontier, giant mineral deposits of iron ore and bauxite, fish farming, hydroelectric power, even some substantial oil and natural gas reserves.
  To take a do-not-touch position ignores reality and makes it impossible to work with those who have the capital to make productive changes to the environment. Though recent discussions among aid organizations, the private sector and the Brazilian government about new road development have been promising, too much of the debate remains locked in old mythologies. The World Bank and the European Community, for example, are intent on strict preservation or, sometimes, "sustainable development," a term that is so open to interpretation as to be meaningless.
  What's more, Western governments have been slow to help Brazil in an area of genuine importance: law enforcement. Brazil has progressive environmental laws, but lacks the resources to see to it that they are followed. Development is chaotic.
  Brazilians have long been conflicted about how to deal with the Amazon and become defensive when discussing it with outsiders. At the same time, they have a point. The Europeans and Americans "cry when we cut a tree, but they don't cry when children die or do not have an education," says Blairo Maggi, a large soy producer and governor of the southern Amazon state of Mato Grosso. "If they want to help us," he adds, "then help us help ourselves."
  And what do you say to the pioneer families slashing and burning their way through the forest in search of a better life? That the frontier is closed? That they should go home to the slums that ring Rio and São Paulo?
  The real news from the Amazon is that the news is not all bad. The region has the potential to be the next breadbasket of the world — and it can remain the earth's most important virgin rain forest. For that to happen, though, people will have to update their assumptions about the region, bringing them into line not with romance but with reality.
 
    10 March 2004
  UNDISTURBED AMAZONIAN FORESTS ARE CHANGING, SAY SCIENTISTS
  A research team of U.S. and Brazilian scientists has shown that rainforests in central Amazonia are experiencing striking changes in dynamics and species composition.
  Although the cause of these changes—in what are believed to be completely undisturbed, old-growth forests—is uncertain, a leading explanation is that they are being driven by rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
  Carbon dioxide levels have risen by 30% in the last 200 years as a result of industrial emissions, automobiles, and rapid forest burning, especially in the tropics. Much of this increase has occurred since 1960. Plants use carbon dioxide from the air for photosynthesis.
  "The changes in Amazonian forests really jump out at you," said William Laurance, a U.S. scientist with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. Laurance is the lead author of the paper, which appeared this week in the scientific journal Nature. "It’s a little scary to realize that seemingly pristine forests can change so quickly and dramatically."
  For the past two decades, the research team studied the fate of nearly 14,000 trees in the central Amazon, scattered across a landscape of 120 square miles in area. During the course of the study, most species of trees began growing faster. The forests also became more dynamic, with existing trees dying faster and being replaced by young new trees.
  Even more important is that the species composition of the forest is changing. "There clearly are winners and losers," said Alexandre Oliveira of the University of São Paulo, Brazil, another team member. "In general, large, fast-growing trees are winning at the expense of smaller trees that live in the forest understory."
  "The decline of many small trees is intriguing because they tend to be so specialized," said Henrique Nascimento, a Brazilian researcher at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. "They live in the dark interior of the forest, and are the only trees that can flower and reproduce in deep shade."
  The most likely reason for these changes, say the researchers, is that rising carbon-dioxide levels are fertilizing the forests, leading to faster growth and more competition among trees for light, water, and soil nutrients. Under these conditions, big, fast-growing species of trees probably have an advantage over small, slower-growing trees.
  "Sadly, this could be a signal that the forest’s ecology is changing in fundamental ways," said team-leader Laurance. "Tropical rainforests are renowned for having lots of highly specialized species. If you change the tree communities then other species—especially the animals that feed on and pollinate the trees—will undoubtedly change as well."
  "This appears to be yet another signal of effects on nature from increasing greenhouse gas concentrations and associated climate change," said Thomas Lovejoy of the Heinz Center for Science, Economics and Environment in Washington, D.C., who helped to establish the tree study in central Amazonian over two decades ago. "We really need more research to see if these remarkable changes are also happening in other tropical forests around the world. If they are, then it’s likely that even the world’s remotest forests are now being altered by human activities."
  Source: Copyright 2004, Nature
Date: March 10, 2004
Byline: Press Release
  For further information, contact:
  Dr William F. Laurance
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Balboa, Panama
Phone: 507-314-9206 and 507-212-8252
Email: LauranceW@tivoli.si.edu
 
    17 January 2004
  HOW TIMBER FUELS THE WORLD'S WORST CONFLICTS
  The logs of war
  We think of gold, diamonds and oil as the coveted precious resources traded illegally to generate revenue for corrupt governments and to buy weapons. But wrongfully logged timber funded the Khmer Rouge and many contemporary African conflicts.
  By ALICE BLONDEL *
  TIMBER fuels some of the world's most brutal wars, sustains the illegal arms trade and those mercenaries and militias who have tortured, detained, sexually exploited, intimidated and enforced the displacement of populations. Poorly enforced arms laws and trade laws and an almost unregulated shipping industry open to abuses bind together timber, weapons smuggling and war, and keep the business open to criminals.
  Timber, as an easily exploitable, valuable commodity, has become a resource of choice for warring factions, criminal networks and arms- dealers, providing finances and logistics. Host governments or rebel groups sometimes allocate timber concessions to reward supporters. This has gone relatively unchecked and timber fuels conflicts in Cambodia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burma and Liberia.
  Sierra Leone's civil war, which by 2001 had reduced average local life expectancy to 25.9 years, was partly financed by elements of the Liberian timber industry (1). In April 2003 the former Liberian president, Charles Taylor, indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by a United Nations special court, admitted to using timber funds to buy weapons in contravention of a UN arms embargo (2). Investigations revealed that the Liberian government also armed and supported rebels in western Ivory Coast, using a Liberian timber company's warehouse to store weapons and its bushcamp to house rebel fighters. Even in countries at peace, such as Cameroon, illegal logging has led to corruption and loss of revenue to the state (3).
  Elsewhere in Africa a few people coordinate the supply of arms in return for natural resources, including diamonds and timber. Leonid Minin, a Ukrainian-born international arms dealer, was awarded a logging concession in Liberia and brokered arms deals with connections that he brought with him, according to the UN (4). In 2000 he arranged the import of 10,500 AK47 rifles, 8m rounds of ammunition, RPG-26 rocket launchers and sniper rifles. The shipments were transported via Ivory Coast and sent by the Aviatrend Company based in Moscow.
  There are two problems: conflict timber and illegal timber. Conflict timber is defined by the NGO Global Witness as "traded in a way that drives violent armed conflict and threatens national or regional security". Illegal timber has been logged in contravention of national or international laws. In both cases, funds are siphoned from national budgets, mostly unnoticed by the international community. Due to lack of transparency, legislation needs to be targeted against the strong ties between conflict timber and the arms trade, and against the shipping industry.
  The timber trade is often abused by unscrupulous logging companies, governments and rebel groups to facilitate weapons imports and fuel conflict. It is estimated that 40-50% of world trade in small arms is illegal, but the figure is probably much higher as a significant number of legally traded arms end up in the illegal arena (5). Without proper controls, this trade will remain attractive and lucrative, and international agreements that have made unregulated cross-border trade easier will continue to be exploited. In 2002 only six countries had specific measures in place.
  Arms are transported by air and, increasingly, imported by sea. As the world is discovering after the 11 September 2001 attacks, the shipping industry, especially when operating under flags of convenience, provides a dangerously secretive environment with minimal regulation. Goods are shipped inside containers, while exporters create the cargo-manifests and individual containers are rarely screened. So shippers seldom know exactly what is being transported. Many ships can hold 5-7,000 containers and it is alarmingly easy to smuggle weapons in them.
  The term conflict timber was first coined in 2001 by a UN panel of experts investigating the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the DRC. Since 1998 timber there has helped fund a conflict that has killed 3.3-4.7 million people - the greatest loss of life since the second world war (6). The volume of wood removed by rebel factions, companies and government-armed forces of neighbouring countries is significant, so great that in neighbouring Uganda the market price halved. The panel found that the conflict was self- perpetuating, as each party had financial interests in its continuation. It uncovered extensive networks established and maintained by Uganda, Rwanda and Zimbabwe, and listed some 50 > Congolese and foreign nationals who should be sanctioned and another 85 companies judged in violation of OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises (7).
  Cross-border timber sales in the 1990s provided the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia with a monthly $10-20m during the dry season to fund its fighting. The trade not only sustained the Khmer Rouge's activities, but control of timber resources became a cause for conflict. In 1991 the Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot, said: "Our state does not have sufficient capital to expand its strength or enlarge the army. Resources [in liberated and semi- liberated zones] must be utilised as assets" (8).
  In Burma, ruled by a brutal, corrupt regime, the government relies heavily on its forests, its second most valuable export, accounting for approximately $280m in 2001. This figure does not take into account significant quantities of timber clandestinely exported by sea (9).
  While all governments have the sovereign right to use natural resources within their borders, they must follow their own laws and international regulations, extracting resources sustainably and for the benefit of all. Often, where timber has been used to fund conflict, governments, rebel groups or individuals have used war to loot natural resources, financing political goals or personal fortunes. Funds are taken from an already impoverished population and given to a small elite.
  Each logging company's circumstances are different, where they assist government forces and government-supported rebels, and their engagement varies in degree: some may have been directly complicit, while others might have been coerced. But either way the results for local people - abuses, corruption and destabilisation - are the same. In Liberia, according to the UN, offenders have included Minin, of the Exotic Tropical Timber Enterprise (ETTE); Gus Kouwenhoven, of the Oriental Timber Company (OTC); and arms dealers Victor Bout and Sanjivan Ruprah (10). All four are on the UN travel ban list for providing financial and military support to the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone's civil war.
  Companies that import conflict timber have claimed that if there is a problem it is within the supplier country; traders continued to buy from companies known to have been involved in arms imports. Several importing companies have launched extensive public relations campaigns: they proclaim their concern for human rights and the environment and give their buyers a false sense that their products have no link with environmental destruction and human calamity. This sells timber but hides the truth.
  The UN expert panel report on Sierra Leone in 2000 outlined the role of elements of the Liberian timber industry in sustaining the RUF; subsequent reports on Liberia have mentioned the role of some logging companies in arms purchases and imports (11). Global Witness and other NGOs have for years provided information to importers about the abuses and unsustainable practices of many in the Liberian logging industry. However, despite claims to import only from responsible, sustainable providers, many importers continued to purchase from Liberia; the Danish company DLH-Nordisk, which had halted imports from Liberian companies ILC and MGC, purchased Liberian products up to February 2003. It seems that only the recent UN ban on all Liberian timber products will stop importers.
  While companies along the chain of custody deny responsibility, the effects of the conflict timber industry on civilians are immediate. The people that governments, logging companies and importers claim to be concerned about rarely see the revenue improve their lives; the industry worsens conditions by facilitating arms imports, and there are human rights abuses committed by government and logging company militias, long-term destruction of forests and an infrastructure of violence and plunder. People who live in or near logging concessions have their way of life destroyed and lose access to forests. Because of deforestation and because they are often forcibly removed from their land, locals' non-timber resources such as medicines and vegetables become scarce. Changes to local ecologies often lead to floods and droughts. The argument that the timber industry betters lives is wrong and and usually only made by those who have a vested interest in the trade.
  The effects of conflict timber are long-term, since it destroys what could be a sustainable source of revenue for impoverished people; much of the revenue in the short term goes directly to an elite. The uncontrolled exploitation of the resource funds further conflict; the conflict creates a demand for timber, which worsens the conflict, and which then creates further demand for timber.
  The criminalisation of the timber trade has not been checked much by the international community. Shipping laws have not changed significantly and lack of transparency continues. The inter national community has also not taken proper action over trade laws, especially those covering the arms trade and conflict commodities, so trade in conflict timber appeals to corrupt governments, rebels, international criminal networks, small arms traders and unscrupulous companies.
  There have been some positive developments. In May 2003 the UN Security Council imposed a ban on all Liberian timber which came into effect on 7 July 2003. The latest expert panel report on Liberia is highly critical of the logging industry, including the lack of benefits for local populations and the potential for exploitation by armed outsiders. Reports by the UN expert panel on the DRC forced companies mentioned to rethink business policies, while many assets were frozen and several people in government positions were suspended. In Cambodia, Global Witness was introduced as an independent forest monitor to decrease the level of corruption and illegality of the timber trade.
  However, a lot of the expert panel's recommendations for the DRC were not heeded by the international community. In the case of Cambodia, the independent monitor has been dismissed despite doing the job properly, while the international donor community has sat back and watched a small hope for transparency there dwindle.
  The progress from the imposition of timber sanctions on Liberia is possibly threatened by a proposed wood-for-food programme, which would allow logging to resume to pay for humanitarian supplies, in contradiction of the most recent expert panel report that not only recommended that a moratorium on all extractive industries "should remain in place until such time as peace and stability are restored and good governance is established" but that "the Security Council must accept its responsibility for the negative impact of the timber sanctions and ensure that emergency relief aid is provided" (12). Moves to lift timber sanctions ignore the links between the Liberian logging industry and the arms trade, the abuses of company militia members, and the fact that both government and rebel groups have access to, and would profit from, logging concessions. It would be almost impossible to regulate the trade in a country so torn by conflict. Such a programme could further push Liberia's people towards catas trophe by enriching warring parties, mortgaging an important economic resource, and benefiting only a small elite.
  The international community, trade organisations and importers must take greater responsibility in fighting the trade instead of dismissing it so readily. Not taking action licences some of world's worst violence and human rights abuses. This inaction is unacceptable, as citizens and consumers of importing states, as well as their trading partners, have a right to expect that the goods they buy are not a cause of conflict.
  -----------------------------
  * Alice Blondel is a campaign manager for Global Witness, London
  (1) United Nations Human Development Index, 2000; Report of the UN Panel of Experts on Sierra Leone, 2000 (S/2000/1195); "The Usual Suspects: Liberia's weapons and mercenaries in Cote d'Ivoire and Sierra Leone" (.pdf 1,9 Mb) , Global Witness, March 2003. (2) "Liberia denies Ivorian rebel links", BBC News, 3 April 2003.

(3) "The Logs of War: the timber trade and armed conflict", Global Witness, November 2002.

(4) UN Expert Panel on Liberia report (S/2001/1015); "Gunrunners", PBS Frontline series, 2002.

(5) United Nations Small Arms brochure, 2001.

(6) "Mortality in the DR Congo: Results from a nationwide survey", International Rescue Committee, April 2003. (As founded on Relief Web )

(7) Final report of the Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 2002 (S/2002/1146).

(8) "The Logs of War", op cit.

(9) Ibid.

(10) UN expert panel report on Sierra Leone (S/2000/1195).

(11) UN expert panel on Sierra Leone report (S/2000/1195); UN expert panel on Liberia reports (S/2001/1015), (S/2001/1115).

(12) UN expert panel on Liberia report (S/2003/779).

 
    23 July 2003
  Lula government scrambles to slow deforestation
  Brazil, alarmed by new estimates suggesting a 40% increase in the annual rate of Amazon deforestation, has announced an ambitious though still-sketchy initiative to reduce destructive land-clearing in the region. Agreed on at a July 1 inter-ministerialmeeting, the effort seeks to promote a shift to sustainable development in three key Amazonstates, bolster the scope and sophistication offorest monitoring and tighten enforcement.The announcement came less than a week after Brazil's National Institute of Space Research (INPE) estimated that 9,836 square miles (25,476 sq kms) of Amazon rainforest was cleared from August 2001 to August 2002.40% more than during August 2000 to August 2001. The figures surprised President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's six-month-old administration. Its predecessor.the government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso.forecast last year that deforestation rates would fall. Reasons offered for the increase range from the ongoing expansion of soy farming in the Amazon to an election-year lag in enforcement.
  But causes aside, experts say the new estimates underscore an urgent need for action. The new figures are a red flag, says Paulo Adario, coordinator of Greenpeace Brazil 's Amazon campaign. If the government doesn't act now, it, like the previous government, will be part of the deforestation problem rather than being part of the solution.. The new steps were approved in a meeting of representatives of the Environment, Agriculture, Transport, Land Reform, Science and Technology and National Integration ministries. The ministries pledged to:
 
    Create an 11-agency working group charged with finding financial incentives to steer Amazon development in a sustainable direction. Currently, state bank loans to Amazon settlers often support slash-and-burn farming and ranching rather than such sustainable activities as rubber tapping, fruit and nut collection and selective logging.
 
    Focus these incentives on 60 municipalitiesin the southern Amazon states of Para, Mato Grosso and Rondonia, where slash-and-burn agriculture is rampant. In Para, Brazil's landre form ministry is helping settle landless peasants who then cut forests to plant crops. In Rondonia, cattle ranchers are turning forests into pastures. And in Mato Grosso, large-scale soy production is expanding fast.
 
    Give Ibama, Brazil¡¯s environmental-enforcementagency, $7 million in additional funds to monitor illegal deforestation in those three states. Ibama has asked the government for a total of $34 million in supplemental funding over the next nine months to monitor illegal deforestation in Para, Mato Grosso and Rondonia. Mary Allegretti, the Environment Ministry's national coordinator for the Amazon region, says the $7 million announced this month is the first tranche of that extra funding.
 
    Replicate a promising local surveillance andlicensing system developed in Mato Grosso so it can be used to regulate land clearing in otherAmazon states. (See State agency brings satellite data down to earth EcoAmericas, May 03.) Brazil's forest code allows Amazon landowners to clear up to 20% of their forested land, provided cutting doesn't occur on riverbanks, at headwaters or on the borders of indigenous reserves, forest-conservation areas and national parks. The replication effort is being carried out with money from PPG7, a forest- protection fund set up by G7 nations.
 
    Develop zoning strategies in Para, Mato Grosso and Rondonia states to ensure economic activity is appropriate for the ecology of the area in which it occurs.This economic-ecological zoning is needed particularly in MatoGrosso,according to Ane Alencar, research coordinator at the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (Ipam), a Brazilian green group.There,she says, soy farmers are claiming land they vecleared is Amazon cerrado, or savanna, when itactually is virgin transition rainforest borderingthe rainforest proper. The distinction is importantbecause while Brazil's forest code prohibits Amazon property owners from cutting more than 20% of their forested land, theceiling rises to 65% in the case of cerrado areas.
 
    Provide faster and more frequent analysis ofdeforestation data. Currently, August-to-August deforestation estimates are furnished nearly a year after the fact.The Environment Ministry's Allegretti says that by using data from more than one satellite and speeding analysis, the government will provide monthly estimates.
  She adds that radar-equipped planes operated by the System for Vigilance of the Amazon (Sivam), a new, $1.4 billion electronic policing network, will enhance monitoring further.
 
No euphoria yet
  Environmental advocates greeted the new policy with a mix of hope and skepticism, mindful of the seemingly implacable burning and cutting that has shrunk the Amazon rainforest by 16%, or 245,000 square miles (630,000 sq kms).an area twice the size of Poland.
  Adriana Ramos, a public-policy officer at the Socio-environmental Institute (ISA), a leading Brazilian green group, says the new measures mark a step forward in part because they were drafted by several agencies, not just by the Environment Ministry. But she adds: These ministries must work together if the measures are to succeed. For example, the Agriculture Ministry needs to ensure no government loans are given to farmers or ranchers engaged in slash-and-burn agriculture. If it doesn't, it will encourage deforestation.
  Greenpeace's Adario welcomes the emphasis on sustainable development, but says weaning settlers from traditional farming methods will require a great deal of time and money. Details on how the government plans to do this emain scant. This is a long-term policy shift that won'tt reduce Amazon deforestation in the short term, he says.Adario adds the $7 million in extra funding for Ibama is peanuts whenyou consider how big the Brazilian rainforest is and how much monitoring needs to be done.
  Marcelo Marquesini, Ibama's general coordinator of monitoring, says improvement willcome through replication of Mato Grosso state's surveillance and licensing system. The sy stem matches satellite surveillance data tothe local property grid so officials can determinewhether land owners meet the terms ofnew, state-mandated land-clearing licenses. Marquesini adds the approach isn't problem- free. For instance, he argues more field inspection is needed to check areas of legal clearing before the clearing occurs to ensure property is properly classified. Says Marquesini: Mato Grosso has come up with a model we can use to help curb illegal deforestation of the Amazon, but the model needs to be perfected.
  Michael Kepp
 
    10 January 2003
  Our Quality of Life Peaked in 1974. It's All Downhill Now. We will pay the price for believing the world has infinite resources - by George Monbiot
  With the turning of every year, we expect our lives to improve. As long as the economy continues to grow, we imagine, the world will become a more congenial place in which to live. There is no basis for this belief. If we take into account such factors as pollution and the depletion of natural capital, we see that the quality of life peaked in the UK in 1974 and in the US in 1968, and has been falling ever since. We are going backwards.
  The reason should not be hard to grasp. Our economic system depends upon never-ending growth, yet we live in a world with finite resources. Our expectation of progress is, as a result, a delusion.
  This is the great heresy of our times, the fundamental truth which cannot be spoken. It is dismissed as furiously by those who possess power today - governments, business, the media - as the discovery that the earth orbits the sun was denounced by the late medieval church. Speak this truth in public and you are dismissed as a crank, a prig, a lunatic.
  Capitalism is a millenarian cult, raised to the status of a world religion. Like communism, it is built upon the myth of endless exploitation. Just as Christians imagine that their God will deliver them from death, capitalists believe that theirs will deliver them from finity. The world's resources, they assert, have been granted eternal life.
  The briefest reflection will show that this cannot be true. The laws of thermodynamics impose inherent limits upon biological production. Even the repayment of debt, the pre-requisite of capitalism, is mathematically possible only in the short-term. As Heinrich Haussmann has shown, a single pfennig invested at 5% compounded interest in the year AD 0 would, by 1990, have reaped a volume of gold 134bn times the weight of the planet. Capitalism seeks a value of production commensurate with the repayment of debt.
  Now, despite the endless denials, it is clear that the wall towards which we are accelerating is not very far away. Within five or 10 years, the global consumption of oil is likely to outstrip supply. Every year, up to 75bn tonnes of topsoil are washed into the sea as a result of unsustainable farming, which equates to the loss of around 9m hectares of productive land.
  As a result, we can maintain current levels of food production only with the application of phosphate, but phosphate reserves are likely to be exhausted within 80 years. Forty per cent of the world's food is produced with the help of irrigation; some of the key aquifers are already running dry as a result of overuse.
  One reason why we fail to understand a concept as simple as finity is that our religion was founded upon the use of other people's resources: the gold, rubber and timber of Latin America; the spices, cotton and dyes of the East Indies; the labor and land of Africa. The frontier of exploitation seemed, to the early colonists, infinitely expandable. Now that geographical expansion has reached its limits, capitalism has moved its frontier from space to time: seizing resources from an infinite future.
  An entire industry has been built upon the denial of ecological constraints. Every national newspaper in Britain lamented the "disappointing" volume of sales before Christmas. Sky News devoted much of its Christmas Eve coverage to live reports from Brent Cross, relaying the terrifying intelligence that we were facing "the worst Christmas for shopping since 2000". The survival of humanity has been displaced in the newspapers by the quarterly results of companies selling tableware and knickers.
  Partly because they have been brainwashed by the corporate media, partly because of the scale of the moral challenge with which finity confronts them, many people respond to the heresy with unmediated savagery.
  Last week this column discussed the competition for global grain supplies between humans and livestock. One correspondent, a man named David Roucek, wrote to inform me that the problem is the result of people "breeding indiscriminately ... When a woman has displayed evidence that she totally disregards the welfare of her offspring by continuing to breed children she cannot support, she has committed a crime and must be punished. The punishment? She must be sterilized to prevent her from perpetrating her crimes upon more innocent children."
  There is no doubt that a rising population is one of the factors which threatens the world's capacity to support its people, but human population growth is being massively outstripped by the growth in the number of farm animals. While the rich world's consumption is supposed to be boundless, the human population is likely to peak within the next few decades. But population growth is the one factor for which the poor can be blamed and from which the rich can be excused, so it is the one factor which is repeatedly emphasized.
  It is possible to change the way we live. The economist Bernard Lietaer has shown how a system based upon negative rates of interest would ensure that we accord greater economic value to future resources than to present ones. By shifting taxation from employment to environmental destruction, governments could tax over-consumption out of existence. But everyone who holds power today knows that her political survival depends upon stealing from the future to give to the present.
  Overturning this calculation is the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced. We need to reverse not only the fundamental presumptions of political and economic life, but also the polarity of our moral compass. Everything we thought was good - giving more exciting presents to our children, flying to a friend's wedding, even buying newspapers - turns out also to be bad. It is, perhaps, hardly surprising that so many deny the problem with such religious zeal. But to live in these times without striving to change them is like watching, with serenity, the oncoming truck in your path.
  www.monbiot.com
 
    29 October 2002
  World mahogany specialist develops pilot management project in Acre
  The government of the state of Acre has contracted a mahogany specialist for the last yeats to oversee the implantation of the Forest Management Pilot Project in the Sena Madeireira region. Dr. Jimmy Grogan, an American forest engineer, has previously carried out research on the mahogany tree's reproductive cycle on three continents. He is widely respected by conservation groups.
  The project, located the Sao Jorge Farm, 22 kilometres from Sena Madeireira, is considered to be a future model for mahogany management. According to Grogan, extracting the mahogany with a low environmental impact increases its aggregated value and makes the process more economic as it does not damage the environment.
  'Green gold'
  In 2001, a cubic metre of sawn mahogany was sold for US$1,200, making it the most valuable species in the world. It has been intensively exploited in recent decades. Between 1971 and 2002, Brazil exported approximately 4 million cubic metres of sawn mahogany. Most of it, 75%, was exported to the United States and England. The gross value of this timber is estimated at US$3.9 million.
  The commercial importantance of mahogany and its ecological vulnerability have been the causes of intense debate about how to guarantee the conservation and sustained use of the species. For Jimmy Grogan, an important step towards solving this dilemma is understanding the natural history of the species and, principally, its proliferation patterns. He says that studies carried out in Central America and Bolivia have revealed that mahogany tends to regenerate itself after serious disturbances in the forest, such as fires.
  In Brazil, mahogany production has often been associated with predatory and illegal practices. The Federal Government has controlled the extraction of mahogany since 1996, when it banned the implementation of new management plans. In 2001, IBAMA suspended all management plans, considering them to be technically inadequate or fraudulent. However, these bodies have allowed research to be carried out in Acre, under the supervision of Jimmy Grogan, to better understand the species and how to rationally manage it.
 
    09 October 2002
  Miners pose a danger to the Yanomami Indians
  Threats to the physical and social well-being of the Yanomami Indians are not restricted to the presence of the military in their territory. Dr. Claudio Esteves de Oliveira, president of Urihi, an NGO which works to protect the Indians' health in partnership with the National Health Foundation, has warned that all outsiders pose a threat to the Indians, particularly miners.
  His comments were made in response to a report published in The New York Times which stated that the survival of the Yanomami people is being threatened by the presence of the Brazilian Armed Forces in the region. The reports alleges that Brazilian military personnel are having sexual relations with indigenous women, resulting in the spread of venereal disease.
  The doctor responded that this threat is not restricted to military personnel. He stated that the biggest threat is posed by 400-800 miners who live in the area, who maintain sexual relations with Yanomami women, distribute arms and stimulate conflict.
 
    12 August 2002
  The Effects Of Human-Caused Atmospheric Changes On Tropical Forests
  Panama City, Panama - For more than a century humans have been changing the composition of the world's atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels, agriculture, and other activities. The resulting climate changes may already be having far-reaching impacts on tropical forests. A symposium at the 2002 meetings of the Association for Tropical Biology, hosted by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), Panama, examined the evidence for these changes and their implications for the future. Organized by Yadvinder Mahli of the University of Edinburgh and Oliver Philips of the University of Leeds, the symposium included 12 presentations and four general discussion sessions. A selection of some of the results follows.
  Yadvinder Mahli provided an overview of ongoing climate changes as a result of increasing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Since the mid-1970s all tropical forest regions have warmed, although with regional variation in intensity. There has been even more regional variation in precipitation, but there appears to have been an overall global decline. However, no global trend in dry season intensity has been detected.
  Data analysis and models have suggested that increased temperature and atmospheric CO2 will increase the amount of carbon stored by tropical forests by stimulating tree growth. Deborah Clark of the La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica, re-evaluated the evidence to suggest that tropical forests may not be carbon sinks after all, but instead end up contributing even more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere as temperature rises. Data from La Selva show a strong negative correlation between tree growth and higher temperatures. Temperatures experienced by canopy leaves may be close to the point at which respiration exceeds photosynthesis so that net production of CO2 results. Positive feedback between higher temperatures and CO2 production by tropical forests could be catastrophic by resulting in accelerated increase in global CO2 levels.
  Tropical forests throughout the world appear to be changing significantly in structure, dynamics, and composition. Oliver Philips presented analyses (with collaborators T. Baker, S. Lewis, Y. Malhi, N. Higuchi, T. Killeen, W. Laurance, D. Neill, N. Silva, R. Vasquez, and B. Vincenti) of data from permanent plots in mature forests throughout the tropics. Tree turnover (the difference between mortality and the recruitment of new individuals into the population through growth) has doubled throughout the tropics in recent decades, from 1% annually in the 1950s to 2% in the 1990s. Basal area (the total area of the plot occupied by tree stems) has increased in Amazonia, but not in the rest of the tropics, and large lianas have increased in western Amazonia. Such widespread changes over such large areas suggest that a common mechanism is at work.
  How resistant are tropical forests to declining precipitation? Daniel Nepsted (with collaborators P. Motinho, M. Dias-Filhod Ray, D. Ray, L. Solorzano, G. Gardinot, and I. Tohver) experimentally reduced the rainfall reaching the ground in forest plots in Amazonia by 40%. The growth of smaller trees declined within a few weeks, and their mortality increased three-fold over two years. However, litter fall increased only after two years of treatment. This forest apparently avoided drought-induced leaf-shedding and adult tree mortality for two years by tapping soil moisture to a depth of 20 meters.
 
    23 May 2002
  World at Environmental Crossroads, Says U.N. Report
  Human influences are leaving an ever clearer mark on the planet.
  The choices this generation makes will be crucial for our descendants, according to a United Nations report. The UNEP-report is the most authoritative assessment of where we have been, where we have arrived, and where we are likely to go.
  Dr Klaus Toepfer, UNEP Published by the UN Environment Programme (Unep), established 30 years ago, the report details some real improvements since then. But it says the overall trend is adverse, especially in poor countries. By 2032, it predicts a planet likely to have been largely affected by human hands.
  The report is Unep's Global Environment Outlook-3 (Geo-3), the work of more than 1,000 authors. It records some significant achievements since the 1972 Stockholm environment conference which led to Unep's establishment. Not fast enough. In North America and Europe there have been improvements in river and air quality. The international effort to halt the chemical damage to the ozone layer is another success, with recovery to pre-1980 levels likely by mid-century. But generally, the report says, there has been a steady environmental decline, especially in much of the developing world. It says this is increasing people's vulnerability to natural hazards like cyclones, floods and droughts.
  Geo-3 says: "There is a growing gap between rapid rates of environmental degradation and the slow pace of social response. "The evidence suggests that many areas of the world are on trajectories that will lead them into crisis, and that little time is left for creating effective responses."
  Dr Klaus Toepfer, Unep's executive director, said: "Geo-3 is neither a document of doom and gloom, nor a gloss over the acute challenges facing us all. There are 2,220m more people alive today than in 1972. Around 2bn ha of soil, 15% of the Earth's surface, is now classed as degraded by human activities. About half the world's rivers are seriously depleted and polluted. Serious water shortages were affecting 40% of the world's people by the mid-1990s. Since 1990 they are estimated to have declined by 2.4%. Nearly 25% of mammal species and 12% of birds are regarded as globally threatened. Just under a third of global fish stocks are defined as depleted, over-exploited, or recovering from over-fishing. "It is the most authoritative assessment of where we have been, where we have arrived, and where we are likely to go."
  Dr Toepfer told BBC News Online a lot had changed for the better in Unep's 30 years. "Willy Brandt used to demand 'blue sky over the Ruhr'", he said. "It is blue now. So Europeans can feel there's been real action, even if security, health, globalisation and immigration have now moved close to the top of their agenda." Given the wrong decisions today, within 30 years we could be living on a drastically impoverished planet, Unep believes. By then, it says, more than half the world's people could be living in areas of severe water stress.
  More than 70% of the Earth's land surface could be marked by the impact of cities, roads, mining and other human developments. Yet Geo-3 is emphatic that the future does not have to be like that. By 2032, it thinks, the proportion of hungry people could be just 2.5% of the world's population. Levels of carbon dioxide, which many scientists think is intensifying natural climate change to dangerous levels, could be starting to stabilise.
  The report examines four scenarios which it says "tell strongly contrasting but plausible stories" about how the world might develop. They are: Markets First, where the industrialised world's values prevail through market-driven developments Policy First, where governments take strong action to reach specific goals Security First, "a world of great disparities, where inequality and conflict prevail". Sustainabilty First, a world with a new model of development, and more equitable values and institutions. Dr Toepfer said: "Without the environment there can never be the kind of development needed to secure a fair deal for this or future generations. "We need concrete actions, concrete timetables, and an iron will. It cannot be the responsibility of politicians alone. We are all shareholders in this enterprise."
 
    28 February 2001
  Oil Pipeline Threatens Ecuadors Rainforest Reserves
  Title: Ecuador , Clouds Over The Forests
Source: The Ecologist Magazine, Vol 31 No 2, March 2001
www.theecologist.org - date: February 26, 2001
  There has been much in current news coming from Ecuador to concern conservationists. To make things worse, a multinational consortium is proposing to build a crude-oil pipeline through an area of prime forest habitat and protected reserves.
  Fundamentally related to these environmental threats is the critical economic condition in which that country finds itself and both the World Bank and the IMF have been heavily involved in the "dollarisation" of the economy whilst making the government accept a number of drastic measures. In return these forces represent a permanent and systemic threat to Ecuador's environment and conservation efforts.
  Oil exports account for 40% of the governments income and in Ecuador, oil and minerals belong to the government, not to the land owners. The government can therefore issue concessions to whomever they choose in order to exploit the resources. The World Bank and the IMF have consequently been pushing for an expansion of the country's mineral and oil production.
  As a result of such policies, a consortium of multinational companies led by Occidental Petroleum, Alberta Energy and Chase Manhattan Bank is proposing to build an oil pipeline through pristine cloud forests in the Mindo valley of northwestern Ecuador. The project would destroy a habitat of incredible beauty that is home to over 450 species of birds as well as a host of endangered plants and animals. The affected area protects the endangered Spectacle Bear and the endemic and critically endangered Black-breasted Puffleg (hummingbird).If the companies get their way, the result would be nothing less than a disaster for both the environment and local communities.
  The Ecuadorian government has approved two of the proposed routes to pump heavy crude oil from the Amazon to Ecuador's Pacific coast. The so-called Northern route is proposed by OCP Ltd., a multinational consortium that includes Occidental Petroleum, Kerr-McGee energy, Agip Oil, Alberta Energy Corporation, Repsol-YPF. Chase Manhattan is providing the finance, and Techint, an Argentine company with an abysmal environmental record, will do the construction. The government has also approved a southern route, which follows the pathof an existing pipeline. The northern route, which is the more costly of the two proposed routes, is estimated to cost $594 million; carrying up to 350,000 barrels of crude oil per day. However the area through which this pipeline would go bears an additional danger; it is a ticking time bomb. The proposed route, where trees have already been illegally cut by the consortium's surveyors, traverses steep, forested ridges in an area of frequent earthquakes. Volcanic activity occurred along the proposed northern route only two years ago when the Volcano Pichincha above the Mindo valley erupted.
  Local Landowners, over one hundred NGO's and other environmentalists and professionals have formed a committee to fight against the northern route. The Ecuadorian Congress carried out impeachment hearings against Energy Minister Pablo Teran on charges of corruption related to his approval of the consortium proposal. He was acquitted by the majority who voted to support the pipeline construction no matter what the consequences.
  Make a difference:
  Write to these multinational companies demanding that they reject this illegal and destructive plan. You could use information from this article, or a suggested short letter is included below. The committee in Ecuador believes it is not possible to stop the project from within Ecuador, so the only hope is to put pressure on the consortium members. Please copy your letters to CEDENMA, an umbrella group of Ecuadorian environmental campaigning against the pipeline.
  CEDENMA:
Vincente Polit, Presidente CEDENMA, Italia 832 y Mariana de Jesus, Quito, Ecuador
email:politpo2@ecnet.ec
  CHASE MANHATTAN BANK:
William B. Harrison, Jr., Chairman & CEO The Chase Manhattan Corporation
270 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
Brian D. O'Neill - Latin America Division Head (same address)
email: brian.oneill@chase.com
  ALBERTA ENERGY CO:
Gwyn Morgan, President & CEO, Alberta Energy Company Ltd., #3900, 421 - 7 Avenue S.W., Calgary, Alberta T2P 4K9
email: BrianFerguson@aec.ca
  ENI/AGIP:
Gian Maria Gros-Pietro, Chairman
Vittorio Mincato, CEO, Eni S.p.A, Piazzale Enrico Mattei 1, 00144 Rome, Italy
email: agippetroli@agippetroli.eni.it
  Sample letter:
  I am writing to express my concern regarding your proposal to construct the new Ecuadorian oil pipeline through pristine cloud forest and rainforest, much of it in protected reserves, in violation of Ecuador's environmental law. The area that will be affected by your proposal is both biologically unique and enormously fragile. The actions carried out by your consortium partners so far have done nothing to encourage confidence. They have trespassed on public reserves and private lands and cleared forests to conduct preliminary surveys without permission. Under these conditions and with these precedents, severe and irreversible impacts are assured if the northern route is followed. I urge you to insist on following a law-abiding and less destructive route, or withdraw your participation. You should act quickly to make sure that this project does not tarnish your environmental record or involve you in costly lawsuits.
  Sincerely yours,
  (your name)
 
    30 January 2001
  Death sentence for the Amazon
  Source: The Independent (UK), 19 January 2001
  The most detailed investigation of the fate of the world's greatest tropical rainforest estimates that as little as 5per cent of the Amazon may remain in its pristine, wild state by 2020. This pessimistic scenario is painted by a team of Brazilian and American scientists who have analysed how the delicate Amazon ecosystem will respond to a new $40bn road development project. Although the Amazon now accounts for about 40 per cent of the Earth's rainforest, the scientists believe that within 20 years this will have dwindled alarmingly as a direct result of an ambitious scheme, known as Avanca Brasil, to "Advance Brazil" by building roads, railways and hydroelectric dams.
  The scientists accuse the Brazilian government of fast-tracking the project by keeping out environmental agencies ­ including its own Environment Ministry ­ thus accelerating logging and deforestation. "Once a road or highway is built, a Pandora's box is opened which is almost impossible for a government to control," said William Laurance, of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, who led the study. "Once you build a road into a pristine forest you start an inevitable process of illegal colonisation, logging, land-clearing and forest destruction."
  Using satellite pictures, the team developed computer models to predict the course of forest destruction based on what has happened to the Amazon over the past 20 years of road building and development. "We used the past as a guide to the future. We looked at the entire network of roads and highways in the Amazon to see how deforestation occurs in the region of a new road," said Dr Laurance. "There's really nothing that has been done that approaches the scale of what we've done. Our computer model is very comprehensive."
  The study, published today in the journal Science, shows two possible scenarios: "optimistic" and "non-optimistic" futures. Both suggest that the Amazon will be drastically altered by current development schemes. Under the less optimistic scenario, more than 95 per cent of the Amazon will lose its untouched status and 42 per cent of the forest will be totally denuded or heavily degraded by 2020. Even under the more optimistic view, well over half of Amazonia will no longer be in a pristine state and about 30 per cent will be lost forever. The Amazon is already experiencing the most rapacious destruction seen in any rainforest in the world, with the loss of almost 5 million acres a year. However, the Avanca Brasil plan will increase this rate of loss by between 14 per cent and 25 per cent each year, according to the study. "At stake is the fate of the greatest tropical rainforest on Earth," the scientists say. Dr Laurance said that road building is by far the most potentially destructive aspect of the development programme because of the way it fragments the rainforest into smaller and increasingly unviable segments. "To eat a pie efficiently you chop it into smaller pieces, which is what these development projects have been doing to the Amazon," he said.
  Several international and domestic attempts are under way to preserve the Amazon, including a $340m grant from the G7 nations, but these efforts "pale in comparison to the scale of the ongoing and planned development activities" ­ currently funded to the tune of $40bn from 2000 to 2007, the scientists say.
 
    24 January 2001
  Urgent warning on global warming
  By Vanessa Houlder in London
  The world's leading climate scientists will on Monday sound an urgent&xnbsp;warning about the threat posed by global warming, in a report which&xnbsp;predicts that the planet could heat up by nearly 6°C this century.&xnbsp;The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a panel&xnbsp;of experts established by the United Nations, is significantly&xnbsp;harder-hitting in its conclusions about the extent and causes of climate&xnbsp;change than previous official assessments. The verdict of the world's most&xnbsp;authoritative voice on global warming is likely to have a powerful impact&xnbsp;on the debate about climate change, which is still viewed with scepticism&xnbsp;in some quarters.&xnbsp;Many scientists and policymakers hope the report will bring an added&xnbsp;urgency to attempts to rescue the climate change talks that collapsed in&xnbsp;The Hague in November.&xnbsp;The international effort to finalise the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on curbing&xnbsp;greenhouse gas emissions is due to be resumed at a meeting in late spring&xnbsp;or summer.&xnbsp;Several hundred experts and government reviewers gathered in Shanghai last&xnbsp;Wednesday for four days to approve the final wording of the 1,000-page&xnbsp;report and its summary, which will be published today.&xnbsp;The review, known as the IPCC's Third Assessment Report, will predict an&xnbsp;increase in surface temperatures of between nearly 1.5°C and 5.8°C by 2100.&xnbsp;A previous IPCC assessment in 1995 estimated the increase would be between&xnbsp;1°C and 3.5°C.&xnbsp;The deterioration in the worst-case forecast is largely a perverse side&xnbsp;effect of an expected improvement in air quality. Researchers are expecting&xnbsp;a fall in emissions of sulphur dioxide, which offsets global warming, as a&xnbsp;result of attempts to curb smog and acid rain.&xnbsp;The projected temperature increase, which would be the most rapid change in&xnbsp;the last 10,000 years, is expected to result in rising sea levels and&xnbsp;greater incidence of floods, droughts and fires.&xnbsp;The review also goes further than previous reports in pinning the blame for&xnbsp;global warming on greenhouse gas emissions. It reports that "new and&xnbsp;stronger evidence that most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is&xnbsp;attributable to human activities". By contrast, the 1995 assessment&xnbsp;described "a discernible human influence" on global warming.&xnbsp;
 
    12 January 2001
  Tropical parks need more support
  North American researchers say tropical parks, despite widespread&xnbsp;doubts about their utility, are an effective way of protecting&xnbsp;species and habitats.&xnbsp;&xnbsp;They say that parks are a good strategy for conservation, and deserve&xnbsp;more support. And they argue for the establishment of new parks to&xnbsp;help to meet the threats to biodiversity.&xnbsp;&xnbsp;Tropical parks have been surprisingly effective at protecting the&xnbsp;ecosystems and species within their borders, better at guarding&xnbsp;against some threats than others.&xnbsp;&xnbsp;
  The team, from the Washington-DC based group Conservation&xnbsp;International and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver,&xnbsp;Canada, publish their findings in the journal Science.&xnbsp;&xnbsp;They looked at conservation areas ranging in size from the small&xnbsp;Bomfobiri Wildlife Sanctuary in Ghana (5,300 hectares) to the vast&xnbsp;Serengeti National Park in Tanzania (1,476,300 hectares).
  Broad improvement&xnbsp;
  In total, they assessed the impacts of human threats on 93 protected&xnbsp;areas in 22 tropical countries to test the parks' effectiveness in&xnbsp;protecting biodiversity, using a questionnaire to collect data on a&xnbsp;number of issues.&xnbsp;&xnbsp;These included land-use pressure (land clearing, logging, hunting,&xnbsp;grazing and fire), local conditions (for example, the presence of&xnbsp;human settlements and the degree of access to the parks), and&xnbsp;management activities, such as the number of guards and the level of&xnbsp;community involvement in the park management.&xnbsp;&xnbsp;All the parks they studied had been in existence for at least five&xnbsp;years.&xnbsp;&xnbsp;Part of the study involved assessing the parks' effectiveness at&xnbsp;preventing land clearing by comparing the current extent of clearing&xnbsp;with that at the time the park was established.&xnbsp;&xnbsp;
  Substantial achievement
  The authors write: "We found that 43% of the parks have had no net&xnbsp;clearing since establishment. In an additional 40%, land formerly&xnbsp;under cultivation was incorporated into park boundaries, and had been&xnbsp;able to recover, leading to an actual increase in vegetative cover.&xnbsp;This is a substantial achievement."&xnbsp;&xnbsp;A comparison of the human impacts within the parks with those in the&xnbsp;10-km belt surrounding them showed that "the parks in our sample are&xnbsp;under great pressure from clearing, hunting and logging, and, to a&xnbsp;lesser extent, fire and grazing".&xnbsp;&xnbsp; Yet the researchers conclude: "A comparison of the conditions inside&xnbsp;the parks with the surrounding area shows that for all five threats,&xnbsp;parks were in significantly better condition than their surrounding&xnbsp;areas."&xnbsp;&xnbsp;Parks, though, are rather less effective at withstanding some&xnbsp;pressures, like logging and hunting, than land clearance, where most&xnbsp;remain either intact or only slightly cleared.&xnbsp;&xnbsp;
  Guarding influence&xnbsp;&xnbsp;
  The research team also investigated what model of park management&xnbsp;appeared to work best. "Park effectiveness," they say, "correlated&xnbsp;most strongly with density of guards.&xnbsp;&xnbsp;"The median density of guards in the 15 most effective parks was more&xnbsp;than eight times higher than in the 15 least effective.&xnbsp;&xnbsp;"However, enforcement capacity (a composite variable of training,&xnbsp;equipment and salary) was not found to correlate with effectiveness,&xnbsp;suggesting that these characteristics are less important than the&xnbsp;presence of guards."&xnbsp;&xnbsp;The authors also found a "significant" correlation between&xnbsp;effectiveness and the level of deterrents applied to illegal&xnbsp;activities, though deterrence seemed less effective against hunting&xnbsp;than other threats.&xnbsp;
  Source: Copyright 2001 BBC News Online&xnbsp;Date: January 5, 2001&xnbsp;Byline: Alex Kirby, environment correspondent&xnbsp;&xnbsp;
 
    12 December 2000
  Global Climate Change may dry out Amazon Rainforests
  LOGGERS and gold miners have done their worst, but the Amazon rainforest may be facing an even more formidable adversary--global warming. A new global model developed in Britain shows that if warming continues apace, whole swathes of the Amazon will die off by the end of the century. Richard Betts, a biosphere modeller at the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, and his colleagues developed a model which takes into account how different types of vegetation respond and contribute to climate change. They then used it to track the changes in global climate from 1860 to 2099 in response to so-called "business as usual" increases in greenhouse gas emissions. Betts was not surprised to see the Amazon getting hotter and drier--that effect has shown up in earlier climate simulations. But he was shocked to see that the Amazon would dry radically and warm by more than 6 °C, changes that would decimate parts of the rainforest. "We saw quite an extreme die-back in the north-eastern Amazon. It surprised many people," he says. While all of the Amazon will be affected to some degree, the extremely hot, dry conditions could turn a third of the rainforest to grassland or bare soil by the end of the century. "This region is tending toward desert," Betts says. The researchers can't, however, pin the changes on a single cause. All their models show the band of rainfall that normally hugs the equator moving farther north as global warming increases. But in their vegetation model, broadleaf trees become less competitive and begin to die back. As the trees pump less water from the soil into the atmosphere, rainfall in the Amazon decreases even more. "But we're still not completely clear why the rainfall decreases so much," Betts says. The researchers are quick to point out the limitations of their simulation. "Nobody would treat this result as an actual prediction," says Betts. "It's more of a possibility, the kind of thing that could happen." But Andrew Friend at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in Greenbelt, Maryland, is impressed by the study. "It's extremely important for climate models to include vegetation," he says. If climate change speeds up later this century as predicted, feedback from soils and vegetation may dwarf the direct effect of burning fossil fuels. He says Betts's study "should really highlight how sensitive these processes are."
 
    30 October 2000
  Brazil and Venezuela – Yanomami mortality rate dropping
  Although half of all 32 Yanomami deaths during the first six months of 2000 were still from malaria or pneumonia, the incidence of the most deadly form of malaria has now been dramatically reduced. This is largely a result of the Brazilian government handing over its Yanomami health budget to the independent organisation, Urihi, which now provides medical assistance to most Brazilian Yanomami as well as some from Venezuela. However, illegal goldminers operating within the Indians' territory remain a major problem. They disrupt the medical teams, and the pools of stagnant water made by their mining remain important breeding grounds for the malarial mosquitoes – a disease many miners already carry.
  Brazil – tribunal upholds Yanomami genocide conviction
  The five goldminers convicted of genocide for massacring 16 Yanomami in Haximú village in 1993 have lost their appeal to have the conviction overturned. On 12 September, five judges unanimously agreed to uphold the genocide conviction. According to a legal expert this ruling is a landmark, as the collective killing of tribal people in Brazil can now be prosecuted as genocide.