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Category — Amazon

Ancient humans farmed the Amazon too

They were just way better at it than we are Tinde van Andel A modern harvest of the peach palm. When we think of the Amazon rainforest, we tend to think of one of two things; either a pristine tropical paradise bursting with biodiversity, or a threatened area that’s being devoured for agricultural purposes. The truth,… [Read more →]

March 7, 2017   No Comments

Congo forest feels bigger climate impact

Tim Radford

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The Congo rainforest, one of the biggest left in the world, faces damage from growing climate change and other threats. Image: Amcaja via Wilimedia Commons

Researchers say there is increasing evidence that climate change is among the factors causing serious damage to the rainforest of the Congo basin.

The Congo – one of the world’s greatest rainforests – is getting steadily less green. The slow change in colour during this century, recorded by a series of US satellites, has been matched by a rise in temperature and lower precipitation. And, researchers think, it could reflect a forest’s response to climate change.

Scientists from Australia, China, the US and France report in the journal Nature that they examined optical, thermal, microwave and gravity data collected by orbiting sensors between 2000 and 2012.

They concentrated on intact forested regions during the months of April, May and June each year, which span the peaks of growth and rainfall. They detected an intensification in the forest’s decline. This decline was consistent with lower rainfall, poorer water storage below the canopy and a gradual change in the composition of species.

“It is important to understand these changes because most climate models predict tropical forests may be under stress due to increasing severe water shortages in a warmer and drier 21st century climate,” said Liming Zhou, of Albany State University of New York. But other factors could accelerate this “browning” of one of the world’s greatest rainforests. [Read more →]

April 26, 2014   No Comments

Amazon forest loss threatens five states

Paul Brown

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Deforestation in the Amazon has accelerated again in the last year, with implications far further afield. Image: Ramonbicudo via Wikimedia Commons

Water, food supplies and energy production are all in jeopardy as the Amazon forest is felled for profit, campaigners say – and the damage is spreading beyond Amazonia itself.

The continued destruction of the Amazon to exploit its resources for mining, agriculture and hydro-power is threatening the future of the South American continent, according to a report by campaigning groups using the latest scientific data.

Five countries – Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru – share the Amazon, and for all of them the forest area occupies more than 40% of their territory. All face threats to their water supply, energy production, food and health.

In addition, the report says, because of the over-exploitation of the region rainfall will fall by 20% over a heavily-populated area far to the south of Amazonia known as the La Plata basin, covering parts of Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Last month it was reported that deforestation in Amazonia had increased by almost a third in the past year, with an area equal to 50 football pitches destroyed globally every minute since 2000.

The report, the Amazonia Security Agenda, authored by the Global Canopy Programme  and CIAT, theInternational Centre for Tropical Agriculture, says the prosperity of the region is based on the abundance of water.

There always seemed to be an endless supply of water, but the combination of industrial and agricultural pollution and droughts is creating a once unthinkable vulnerability for the five countries of Amazonia.

Profits syphoned off
The huge wealth being generated from the forests comes with large-scale environmental and social costs. Local people do not benefit, and the profits from minerals, mining and agriculture are syphoned out of the region.

The large-scale economic development of the region causes deforestation. That in turn is threatening not only the wellbeing of the local people but the economic stability of the industries themselves.

Climate change is adding to both the uncertainty and the instability. Increasing temperatures, as much as 3.5°C in the near future, changing rainfall patterns and more intense and frequent extreme weather events will have further impacts on the health and well-being of the population. Energy supply from hydro-electric dams will decline.

Big bill coming
Among those welcoming the report is Manuel Pulgar, Peru’s environment minister.  He will play a leading part when the country’s capital, Lima, hosts the 20th summit of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in December 2014. http://unfccc.int/2860.php

He said: “Climate change is a global problem, but one that will multiply local and regional problems in unforeseeable ways. In Latin America, we have taken Amazonia and its seemingly limitless water and forests as a given. But recent unprecedented droughts have shown us just what happens when that water security falters…”

The report says the impacts of environmental degradation that have so far been felt in other parts of the world are now likely to be felt in Amazonia, threatening economic development and security.

Governments in the region, it says, need to recognize that development cannot continue without recognising the damage caused to the water supply and the climate both globally and locally.  Policy makers need scientists to monitor changes to conditions and the economic risks they pose.

Trillions of tons of water
These findings must be shared between academic institutions and governments so that they can decide how to remedy the problem. Annual reviews of dangerous hotspots are also needed, and cross-border groups of experts who could help both national and regional development plans to be worked out.

Carlos Klink, Brazil’s national secretary for climate change and environmental quality, endorsed these findings. “We are understanding more and more how interdependent water, food, energy and health security are across our continent.

“There is also interdependence between the countries that share the Amazon, which recycles trillions of tons of water that all our people and economies rely on.

“The challenge that we are just beginning to recognise and act upon is one of transitioning to a more sustainable economy – one that values the role of a healthy Amazonia in underpinning long-term security and prosperity.”

December 31, 2013   No Comments

Climate imperils Peru’s poverty drive

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A garbage picker in Peru: Rising temperatures may endanger the country’s anti-poverty policies. Image: Alex Proimos from Sydney, Australia, via Wikimedia Commons

Peru’s efforts to reduce poverty are at risk from the effects of climate change, one example of the problems facing the wider Amazonia region in a warming world.

Peru is the country chosen to host the 2014 UN climate conference, a key meeting for trying to advance an ambitious plan to rein in greenhouse emissions which is planned for agreement in 2015.

But the country has recently earned a rather more dubious distinction. In 2012, for the first time, the Peruvian Amazon became a net emitter of carbon dioxide rather than oxygen, according to the latest human development country report of the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

The Amazon rainforest usually acts as a carbon sink, absorbing atmospheric CO2 rather than releasing it. Scientists think this reversal of its normal behaviour results from the droughts in the western Amazon in 2005 and 2010 and say it shows Peru’s vulnerability to climate change.

Peru has more than halved its poverty rate in the last decade, from 48.5% in 2004 to 25.8% in 2012. But the 2013 UNDP report said its vulnerability to a warming climate could cancel the progress it has made in directing economic growth into sustained poverty reduction. [Read more →]

December 26, 2013   No Comments