Regrowth of Logged Amazon Forests is Much Slower than Previously Thought

Regrowth of Logged Amazon Forests is Much Slower than Previously Thought

SOURCE: Yale e360 DATE: December 30, 2019 SNIP: As deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon soars under President Jair Bolsonaro, a new study warns that the regrowth of logged Amazon forests, and the amount of CO2 they store, is far less than previously believed. The study, published in the journal Ecology, said that after 60 years of regrowth, the secondary Amazon forests studied by researchers stored only 40 percent as much carbon as undisturbed woodlands and had only half as much biodiversity. The study — conducted by scientists at the Federal University of Pará, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, and Lancaster University in the United Kingdom — also showed that secondary forests absorbed less carbon dioxide during droughts than undisturbed forests. The scientists said it could take more than a century for the logged Amazon forests to begin sequestering as much CO2 as untouched forests and that the ability of these disturbed forests to store carbon dioxide may have been greatly overestimated. “We must be cautious about the ability of secondary forests to mitigate climate change,” said lead researcher Fernando Elias. The study underscores a growing consensus among forestry experts and climate scientists of the key role that preserving intact forests can play in the fight to slow global...
Planting trees is only a good news story if it’s done right

Planting trees is only a good news story if it’s done right

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: December 25, 2019 SNIP: On the one hand, huge amounts of energy are going into reforesting the world. The amount of tree cover is actually rising. The 2011 Bonn challenge aims to bring 350m hectares (864.5m acres) of degraded land into restoration by 2030, and countries have already signed up 170m hectares. A impressive number of sometimes surprising countries have increased their forest cover by more than 20% over the last 25 years: China, Belarus, Chile, France, Greece, India, Iran, Morocco, the Philippines, Spain, Thailand and Turkey. It can really, at moments, seem like some kind of success story. But the ancient forests, the original, complex, messy forests, continue to disappear, and some of the most enthusiastic signatories to the Bonn challenge have seen some of the worst losses. Argentina, for example, has committed to planting 1m hectares, but meanwhile the ancient Gran Chaco in the north continues to vanish, replaced by huge fields of soy to feed the farm animals of the world. Cameroon, which holds part of the precious Congo basin rainforest, is offering to create 12m hectares of tree cover by 2030, but since 1990 more than 20% of Cameroon’s forests have been cut down to make way for subsistence farmers and now, increasingly, for banana and palm oil plantations, to create products that end up in our supermarket shopping baskets. Nigeria may feel better about itself after pledging to plant a million hectares, but the fact is that over the last 25 years it has lost more than 10 times that amount, more than half its forests. For a number of...
Top scientists warn of an Amazon ‘tipping point’

Top scientists warn of an Amazon ‘tipping point’

SOURCE: Washington Post DATE: December 20, 2019 SNIP: Deforestation and other fast-moving changes in the Amazon threaten to turn parts of the rainforest into savanna, devastate wildlife and release billions of tons carbon into the atmosphere, two renowned experts warned Friday. “The precious Amazon is teetering on the edge of functional destruction and, with it, so are we,” Thomas Lovejoy of George Mason University and Carlos Nobre of the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, both of whom have studied the world’s largest rainforest for decades, wrote in an editorial in the journal Science Advances. “Today, we stand exactly in a moment of destiny: The tipping point is here, it is now.” Combined with recent news that the thawing Arctic permafrost may be beginning to fill the atmosphere with greenhouse gases, and that Greenland’s ice sheet is melting at an accelerating pace, it’s the latest hint that important parts of the climate system may be moving toward irreversible changes at a pace that defies earlier predictions. In interviews, Lovejoy and Nobre said they decided to sound a dire alarm about the Amazon after witnessing the acceleration of troubling trends. The combination of rising temperatures, crippling wildfires and ongoing land clearing for cattle ranching and crops has extended dry seasons, killed off water-sensitive vegetation and created conditions for more fire. The Amazon is 17 percent deforested, but for the large portion of it inside Brazil, the figure is closer to 20 percent. The fear is that soon there will be so little forest that the trees, which not only soak up enormous quantities of rainwater but also give off mist...
The Amazon Is Completely Lawless: The Rainforest After Bolsonaro’s First Year

The Amazon Is Completely Lawless: The Rainforest After Bolsonaro’s First Year

SOURCE: New York Times DATE: December 5, 2019 SNIP: When the smoke cleared, the Amazon could breathe easy again. For months, black clouds had hung over the rainforest as work crews burned and chain-sawed through it. Now the rainy season had arrived, offering a respite to the jungle and a clearer view of the damage to the world. The picture that emerged was anything but reassuring: Brazil’s space agency reported that in one year, more than 3,700 square miles of the Amazon had been razed — a swath of jungle nearly the size of Lebanon torn from the world’s largest rainforest. It was the highest loss in Brazilian rainforest in a decade, and stark evidence of just how badly the Amazon, an important buffer against global warming, has fared in Brazil’s first year under President Jair Bolsonaro. He has vowed to open the rainforest to industry and scale back its protections, and his government has followed through, cutting funds and staffing to weaken the enforcement of environmental laws. In the absence of federal agents, waves of loggers, ranchers and miners moved in, emboldened by the president and eager to satisfy global demand. Deforestation soared, up almost 30 percent from the year before. “It confirms the Amazon is completely lawless,” Carlos Nobre, a climate scientist with the University of São Paulo, said of the data. “The environmental criminals feel more and more empowered.” He warned that the Amazon may soon cross a tipping point and begin to self-destruct. “Law enforcement has reached its minimum effectiveness in a decade,” he said. “It is a worrying warning for the future.” Agribusiness, always...
Amazon deforestation ‘at highest level in a decade’

Amazon deforestation ‘at highest level in a decade’

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: November 18, 2019 SNIP: Deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon has hit the highest annual level in a decade, according to new government data which highlights the impact the president, Jair Bolsonaro, has made on the world’s biggest rainforest. The new numbers, showing almost 10,000 sq kms were lost in the year to August, were released as emboldened farm owners scuffled with forest defenders in Altamira, the Amazonian city at the heart of the recent devastation. The assault on the planet’s biggest terrestrial carbon sink by land-grabbers, agribusiness, miners and loggers is accelerating. In the year until 30 July 2019, 9,762 sq kms were lost, an increase of 29.5% over the previous 12 months, the Brazilian space agency INPE said. The clearance rate – equivalent to about two football fields a minute – is the fastest since 2008, pushing Brazil far off course from reaching its Paris agreement goals to cut carbon emissions. The annual numbers are compiled with information from the Prodes satellite system, which is considered the most conservative measurement of deforestation. Although less steep than the rise suggested by monthly alerts from the Deter system, it confirms an upward trend that Bolsonaro and his ministers said was a “lie”, which the former head of the space agency was fired for repeating. Environmental groups blamed the government for “every inch of the increase because it weakened environmental protections, supported loggers and encouraged...