Amazon deforestation at highest level in 10 years, says Brazil

Amazon deforestation at highest level in 10 years, says Brazil

SOURCE: Mongabay DATE: November 24, 2018 SNIP: Deforestation in Earth’s biggest rainforest reached the highest level in a decade, reports the Brazilian government. On Friday Brazil’s national space research institute INPE released its annual preliminary estimate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. The data shows some 7,900 square kilometers (3050 square miles) of rainforest were cleared between August 1, 2017 and July 31, 2018, a 13.7 percent rise of over the 6,947 square kilometers cleared a year earlier. The loss represents an area 134 times the size of Manhattan’s land mass. The increase in deforestation was widely expected. Monitoring systems from both the Brazilian government and Imazon, a Brazilian NGO, have been showing deforestation trending upwards for months. Imazon’s deforestation alert system projected forest loss in the Amazon hitting a ten year high, which is now confirmed by the official data. The rise in deforestation this year in Brazil is likely linked to current political and economic trends. U.S. President Donald Trump’s trade war with China has reduced the competitiveness of American agricultural products, boosting soy and beef exports from Brazil, including the Brazilian Amazon, which is a major producing region. Brazil’s weak currency is also increasing the profitability of agribusiness in the country at the same time that Brazilian lawmakers are pushing through measures to weaken environmental regulations and protections for indigenous peoples. President elect Jair Bolsonaro has sharply criticized environmentalists and promised to further roll back conservation initiatives across the country. Rising deforestation bucks a long-term trend of declining rates of forest loss in the Brazilian Amazon. But Brazil has now missed the deforestation target it set...
New global study reveals the ‘staggering’ loss of forests caused by industrial agriculture

New global study reveals the ‘staggering’ loss of forests caused by industrial agriculture

SOURCE: Science DATE: September 13, 2018 SNIP: A new analysis of global forest loss—the first to examine not only where forests are disappearing, but also why—reveals just how much industrial agriculture is contributing to the loss. The answer: some 5 million hectares—the area of Costa Rica—every year. And despite years of pledges by companies to help reduce deforestation, the amount of forest cleared to plant oil palm and other booming crops remained steady between 2001 and 2015. The finding is “a really big deal,” says tropical ecologist Daniel Nepstad, director of the Earth Innovation Institute, an environmental nonprofit in San Francisco, California, because it suggests that corporate commitments alone are not going to adequately protect forests from expanding agriculture. Nepstad says that despite the success of corporate commitments slowing deforestation in the Amazon, the larger picture is disheartening. Many companies have pledged to support “zero-deforestation” by not purchasing palm oil or other major commodities from plantations or farms that were recently cleared of forest. But out of 473 such pledges the Earth Innovation Institute recently analyzed, just 155 actually set targets of zero deforestation from their supply chains by 2020. Only 49 companies have reported making good...
Eight bird species are first confirmed avian extinctions this decade

Eight bird species are first confirmed avian extinctions this decade

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: September 4, 2018 SNIP: Spix’s macaw, a brilliant blue species of Brazilian parrot that starred in the children’s animation Rio, has become extinct this century, according to a new assessment of endangered birds. The macaw is one of eight species, including the poo-uli, the Pernambuco pygmy-owl and the cryptic treehunter, that can be added to the growing list of confirmed or highly likely extinctions, according to a new statistical analysis by BirdLife International. Historically, most bird extinctions have been small-island species vulnerable to hunting or invasive species but five of these new extinctions have occurred in South America and are attributed by scientists to deforestation. Stuart Butchart, BirdLife International’s chief scientist, said the new study highlighted that an extinction crisis was now unfolding on large continents, driven by human habitat destruction. “Our evidence shows there is a growing wave of extinctions washing over the continent driven by habitat loss from unsustainable agriculture, drainage and logging.” More than 26,000 of the world’s species are now threatened, according to the latest “red list” assessment, with scientists warning that humans are driving a sixth great extinction...
Why BECCS might not produce ‘negative’ emissions after all

Why BECCS might not produce ‘negative’ emissions after all

SOURCE: Carbon Brief DATE: August 14, 2018 SNIP: Model scenarios that limit warming to 1.5C or 2C typically rely on large amounts of “negative emissions” to extract CO2 from the atmosphere and store it on land, underground or in the oceans. Bioenergy crops with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) is, perhaps, the most prominent of the various negative emissions techniques. There are many attractive features, since this technology would provide energy – thus reducing our need for fossil fuels – and remove CO2 from the atmosphere at the same time. In our new study, published in Nature Communications, my colleagues and I find that expansion of bioenergy in order to meet the 1.5C limit could cause net losses in carbon from the land surface. Instead, we find that protecting and expanding forests could be more effective options for meeting the Paris Agreement. Removing trees to plant biofuels as a way of mitigating climate change clearly seems counterintuitive. So we looked more closely at the effectiveness of the land-use patterns in the two scenarios. Overall, we found that in a majority of the areas where forests would be replaced, more carbon was stored by keeping the forests than with employing BECCS. Forests accumulate and store carbon in vegetation and soils and this is lost when forests are converted to crops. We found that this had a very big impact on the net carbon balance of land converted from forest to bioenergy crops. In high latitudes, for example, significant losses of soil carbon meant the “payback” time for the carbon lost in replacing forests with BECCS could be more than 100...
Mangroves and their deforestation may emit more methane than we thought

Mangroves and their deforestation may emit more methane than we thought

SOURCE: Mongabay DATE: July 13, 2018 SNIP: Mangroves, the dense tangled forests that buffer land from sea in many coastal areas of the tropics, are renowned for their ability to store carbon and help fight climate change. But new research finds mangroves may emit more carbon as methane than previously estimated – emissions made even worse by deforestation. The ability of mangroves to sequester carbon in the ground – termed “blue carbon” – is unparalleled, with previous research finding a tract of mangrove can bury 40 times more carbon than a similarly sized area of rainforest. Their results, published in Science Advances, reveal that mangrove soil carbon doesn’t remain stored in perpetuity. Some of it is transformed from carbon dioxide (CO2) to methane (CH4) by tiny microorganisims called archea, and is then released back into the atmosphere. Methane has a much bigger warming impact than carbon dioxide – 34 to 86 times more powerful – so even a bit of methane has the potential to offset mangrove CO2 storage. Ultimately, the team found that the methane released from mangrove soil carbon offsets blue carbon burial rates by an average of 20 percent. They say their results show that methane emissions should be factored into carbon accounting when evaluating the carbon storage potential of mangrove forests. The researchers say that deforestation has the potential to increase these emissions. Mangroves around the world are being deforested at a fast clip, with between 30 and 50 percent lost over the past half-century to agriculture, aquaculture and infrastructure...