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Mongabay.com news articles on latin america in blog format. Updated regularly.









Independent of climate, forest cover in southern Amazon may fall to 20% by 2016

(09/03/2008) Forest cover in the "Arc of Deforestation" of southern Amazonia will decline to around 20 percent 2016 due to continued logging and conversion of forests for cattle pasture and soy farms, report researchers writing in the journal Environmental Conservation. Analyzing high resolution satellite data from 1984 through 2004 for the Alta Floresta region in northern Mato Grosso, Fernanda Michalski, Carlos Peres and Iain Lake of the University of East Anglia found that forest cover declined from from 91.1 percent to 41.7 percent between 1984 and 2004. They note that while the deforestation rate has slowed to around 2 percent per year since peaking at more than 8 percent annually in late 1980s to mid-1990s, renewed expansion of road networks will enable loggers to increasingly exploit remaining forests, leading to degradation and likely eventual conversion for agricultural use. Overall Michalski and colleagues forecast that forest cover in Alta Floresta will fall to 21 percent by 2016, a decline of 77 percent since 1984.


Carbon market may fund dam in Panama that threatens natural reserve

(09/01/2008) The UN's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) — a scheme that provides funds to projects that reduce emissions in developing nations — may be used to finance a hydroelectric dam in Panama which, according to environmentalists, threatens a biologically rich World Heritage site and an indigenous tribe, the Ngobe.


Amazon deforestation jumps 69% in 2008

(08/31/2008) Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon increased 69 percent in the past 12 months as high commodity prices have driven forest conversion for ranches and cropland, according to preliminary figures released by Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE). The increase comes after three consecutive years of declining deforestation in Brazil.


Indian protesters win land rights battle against Peru's President Garcia

(08/31/2008) Peru's Congress rejected two decrees by President Alan García that made it easier for foreign developers to buy Amazon rainforest land. The repeal came just two days after lawmakers struck a deal with indigenous rights groups whose protests over the law had shut down oil and gas operations. The groups were worried that the laws weakened their land rights in favor of loggers, miners, and drillers.


Pre-Colombian Amazonians lived in sustainable 'urban' society

(08/28/2008) Researchers have uncovered new evidence to support the controversial theory that parts of the Amazon were home to dense "urban" settlements prior to the arrival of Europeans in the 15th century. The study is published this Friday in the journal Science. Conducting archeological excavations and aerial imagery across a number of sites in the Upper Xingu region of the Brazilian Amazon, a team of researchers led by Michael Heckenberger found evidence of a grid-like pattern of 150-acre towns and smaller villages, connected by complex road networks and arranged around large plazas where public rituals would take place. The authors argue that the discoveries indicate parts of the Amazon supported "urban" societies based around agriculture, forest management, and fish farming.


Biofuels 200 times more expensive than forest conservation for global warming mitigation

(08/27/2008) The British government should end subsidies for biofuels and instead use the funds to slow destruction of rainforests and tropical peatlands argues a new report issued by a U.K.-based think tank. The study, titled "The Root of the Matter" and published by Policy Exchange, says that "avoided deforestation" would be a more cost-effective way to address climate change, since land use change generates more emissions than the entire global transport sector and offers ancillary benefits including important ecosystem services.


The extinction of the baiji a 'wake-up call' to conserve vaquita and other cetaceans

(08/25/2008) In December of 2006 an expedition spent six weeks surveying the Yangtze River in China for one of the world's rarest cetaceans, the baiji. Also known as 'The Goddess of the Yangtze' the shy river-dolphin had roamed the river for millions of years locating fish with echolocation. The survey came back empty-handed without a spotting a single dolphin. Dr. Jay Barlow, a member of the surveying team, described his emotions on the expedition's findings in an interview with Mongabay.com: "I was stunned. I knew the species was in trouble, but I did not think they were already gone. We really had not seen the extinction of a large mammal species in 50 years, so we grew complacent."


Malaysia targets Africa and the Amazon for oil palm expansion

(08/25/2008) Facing land scarcity at home and environmental complaints, Malaysian palm oil producers should look overseas to expand operations, a high-ranking Malaysian agricultural minister said Monday.


STRI goes carbon neutral as Panama indigenous community to see carbon payments from forest conservation

(08/21/2008) The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), the Panama-based branch of the Smithsonian Institution, will offset its carbon dioxide emissions by working with an indigenous community to conserve forests and reforest degraded lands with native tree species. The agreement was announced Sunday, August 17, 2008.


In Peru, a showdown between the president and tribes over mining and drilling in the Amazon

(08/21/2008) In Peru indigenous rights groups and congressional leaders are pairing up against President Alan Garcia to revoke a controversial land law passed last week, reports Reuters.


Biofuel production in Brazil may not hurt Amazon, food supply

(08/21/2008) Biofuel production in Brazil will not affect food production or the Amazon rainforest in coming years, claimed a study released Tuesday by an economist in Sao Paulo.


Brazil may allow mining on indigenous lands in the Amazon

(08/21/2008) Lawmakers in Brazil are debating whether to allow mining companies to partner with indigenous groups to exploit mineral deposits deep in the Amazon rainforest, reports Bloomberg.


Brazil to establish oil palm plantations on degraded Amazon rainforest lands

(08/20/2008) Brazil will allow the establishment of oil palm plantations on degraded lands in the Amazon rainforest under a agreement signed between Brazil's ministers of agriculture and the environment, reports Folha de S. Paulo.


Markets could save rainforests: an interview with Andrew Mitchell

(08/17/2008) Markets may soon value rainforests as living entities rather than for just the commodities produced when they are cut down, said a tropical forest researcher speaking in June at a conservation biology conference in the South American country of Suriname. Andrew Mitchell, founder and director of the London-based Global Canopy Program (GCP), said he is encouraged by signs that investors are beginning to look at the value of services afforded by healthy forests.


Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon won't increase significantly for 2008

(08/15/2008) Brazilian Environment Minister Carlos Minc said Thursday that Amazon deforestation for the 2007-2008 year will likely be comparable to the prior year. The announcement marks an abrupt turn-around for the Brazilian government which in April said that forest destruction was expected to increase for the first time since 2004.


High mineral prices drive rainforest destruction

(08/13/2008) The surging price of minerals is contributing to degradation and destruction of rainforests worldwide, warns a researcher writing in the current issue of New Scientist.


Biologists attacked in Costa Rica

(08/12/2008) Two ornithologists were attacked by a machete-weilding group while surveying birds in Costa Rica, reports National Geographic.


Oil development could destroy the most biodiverse part of the Amazon

(08/12/2008) 688,000 square kilometers (170 million acres) of the western Amazon is under concession for oil and gas development, according to a new study published in the August 13 edition of the open-access journal PLoS ONE. The results suggest the region, which is considered by scientists to be the most biodiverse on the planet and is home to some of the world's last uncontacted indigenous groups, is at great risk of environmental degradation.


Account of 18th century Amazon adventurer to be published for the first time

(08/11/2008) After establishing his ingenious classification system in 1735, Carl Linnaeus, the greatest naturalist of his era, sent young and eager followers to all parts of the world to help him in the goal of collecting and cataloguing the world's species. It was a project unlike any before; Swedish naturalists, often referred to as Linnaeus's apostles, roamed as far as Japan, South America, Australia, and the Arctic with the same goal in mind—describing species according to Linnaeus's system.


7 steps to solve the global biodiversity crisis

(08/11/2008) Many biologists believe Earth is entering a sixth mass extinction event, one that has is the direct of human activities, including over-exploitation, habitat destruction and introduction of alien species and pathogens. Climate change — largely driven by anthropogenic forces — is expected to soon increase pressure on Earth's biodiversity. With population and per-capita consumption expected to grow significantly by the mid 21st century, there seems little hope that species loss can be slowed. Nevertheless, writing in the journal PNAS, Stanford biologists Paul R. Ehrlich and Robert M. Pringle suggest seven steps to help improve the outlook for the multitude of species that share our planet.


Climate change to hurt Brazil's farm exports by 2020

(08/11/2008) Climate change could have a significant impact on thye value of Brazil's agricultural exports according to a study presented Monday at an agribusiness conference in Sao Paulo, reports the Financial Times.


20% of the Brazilian Amazon's tree species to go extinct

(08/11/2008) A new study estimates the number of trees that will go extinct in the Brazilian Amazon due to habitat loss.


Aquarium fish trade linked to cocaine, timber smuggling in Brazil

(08/10/2008) Smugglers are using the ornamental fish trade to traffic cocaine and illegally logged timber according to a report from Sérgio Abranches of O Eco, a leading Brazilian environmental web site.


Brazil may ban new sugar cane cultivation in the Pantanal

(08/06/2008) Brazil would restrict sugar cane cultivation in the world's largest tropical wetland under a proposed plan to protect the Pantanal, reports Reuters.


Shift from poverty-driven to industry-driven deforestation may help conservation

(08/06/2008) A shift from poverty-driven deforestation to industry-driven deforestation in the tropics may offer new opportunities for forest conservation, argues a new paper published in the journal Trends in Evolution & Ecology.


Often overlooked, small wild cats are important and in trouble

(08/05/2008) While often over-shadowed by their larger and better-known relatives like lions, tigers, leopards, and jaguars, small cats are important indicators of the health of an ecosystem, says a leading small cat expert who uses camera traps extensively to document and monitor mammals in the wild. Dr Jim Sanderson, a scientist with the Small Cat Conservation Alliance and Conservation International, is working to save some of the world's rarest cats, including the Andean cat and Guigna of South America and the bay, flat-headed, and marbled cats of Southeast Asia. In the process Sanderson has captured on film some of the planet's least seen animals, including some species that have never before been photographed. He has also found that despite widespread criticism, some corporate entities are effectively protecting remote wilderness areas.


Corporations become prime driver of deforestation, providing clear target for environmentalists

(08/05/2008) The major drivers of tropical deforestation have changed in recent decades. According to a forthcoming article, deforestation has shifted from poverty-driven subsistence farming to major corporations razing forests for large-scale projects in mining, logging, oil and gas development, and agriculture. While this change makes many scientists and conservationists uneasy, it may allow for more effective action against deforestation. Rhett A. Butler of Mongabay.com, a leading environmental science website focusing on tropical forests, and William F. Laurance of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama believe that the shift to deforestation by large corporations gives environmentalists and concerned governments a clear, identifiable target that may prove more responsive to environmental concerns.


New Costa Rica guide offers insight on responsible tourism

(08/04/2008) Costa Rica is the world's most popular destination for rainforest tourism thanks to its spectacular biodiversity, relative ease-of-access and safety, and many natural attractions. In 2007 nearly 2 million tourists visited the country, generating almost 2 billion in revenue -- more than the combined income from bananas and coffee.


Brazil asks rich countries to fund Amazon conservation

(08/02/2008) Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva officially unveiled plans to raise a $21 billion fund for protecting the Amazon rainforest. The plan, which was originally announced several months ago, aims to be funded by foreign donations. Contributors will not be eligible for carbon credits that may be generated by reductions in deforestation.


Bush Administration moves to weaken endangered speices protection

(07/31/2008) The Bush administration's handling of the Endangered Species Act has put the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl in danger of extinction, according to the Centre for Biological Diversity. Even though less than 30 individuals exist in the United States—all in Arizona—the species was removed from the Endangered Species Act in 2006, after nine years of protection.


Researchers discover "artistic" moth in Panama

(07/29/2008) Researchers have discovered a new species of Bagworm Moth that wraps its eggs individually in "beautiful cases" fashioned from its golden abdominal hairs, according to a new paper published in the Annals of the Entomology Society of America. The behavior is unique among insects.


An interview a shaman in the Amazon rainforest

(07/28/2008) Deep in the Suriname rainforest, an innovative conservation group is working with indigenous tribes to protect their forest home and culture using traditional knowledge combined with cutting-edge technology. The Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) is partnering with the Trio, an Amerindian group that lives in the remote Suriname-Brazil border area of South America, to develop programs to protect their forest home from illegal gold miners and encroachment, improve village health, and strengthen cultural ties between indigenous youths and elders at a time when such cultures are disappearing even faster than rainforests. In June 2008 mongabay.com visited the community of Kwamalasamutu in Suriname to see ACT's programs in action. During the visit, Amasina, a Trio shaman who works with ACT, answered some questions about his role as a traditional healer in the village.


14 countries win REDD funding to protect tropical forests

(07/24/2008) Fourteen countries have been selected by the World Bank to receive funds for conserving their tropical forests under an innovative carbon finance scheme.


Brazil to send more police into the Amazon to fight illegal logging

(07/23/2008) Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva signed two decrees Tuesday to rein in illegal forest clearing in the Amazon, reports the Associated Press (AP).


Secret power plan would devastate Sarawak's rainforest with 12 new hydropower plants

(07/23/2008) Environmentalists have called on the Malaysian government to develop a comprehensive energy policy, following the discovery of secret plans to build a network of power plants across interior Sarawak on the island of Borneo.


600 species of mushrooms discovered in Guyana

(07/21/2008) In six plots of Guyanese rainforest, measuring only a hundred square meters each, scientists have discovered an astounding 1200 species of macrofungi, commonly known as mushrooms. Even more surprising: they believe over 600 of these are new to science — that's equivalent to a new species every square meter.


Mangroves are key to healthy fisheries, finds study

(07/21/2008) Mangroves serve as a critical nursery for young marine life and therefore play an important role in the health of fisheries and the economic well-being of fishermen, report researchers writing in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Implementing a butterfly farm: Iwokrama reserve's latest sustainable initiative

(07/20/2008) Iwokrama, which lies in the heart of Guyana's rainforest, is known worldwide for its innovative approach to preserving tropical rainforests and creating livelihoods for local communities. Their focus has been to create programs that utilize the forest sustainably, allowing for a mutual benefit between the people and the forest itself. Currently, Iwokrama has a number of initiatives under its umbrella, including eco-tourism, sustainable forestry, on-going research projects, and training programs. Amid these bustling projects, a new one has emerged: butterfly farming.


Destruction of wetlands worsens global warming

(07/20/2008) Destruction of wetland ecosystems will generate massive greenhouse gas emissions in coming years, warn experts convening at an international wetlands conference in Brazil.


Amazon timber industry declares ban on illegal logging

(07/18/2008) The Brazilian state of Pará today announced a ban on the sales of illegally logged timber from the Amazon rainforests.


Amazon deforestation forecast for 2008 revised downward

(07/17/2008) Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell sharply in the month of May (1,096 square kilometers) compared to May a year-ago (1,222 square kilometers), according to preliminary satellite data announced by the country's environment minister on Tuesday. Brazilian Environment Minister Carlos Minc said a preliminary analysis by the government's National Space Research Institute (INPE) showed 1,096 square kilometers (423 square miles) of rain forest were cut down in May, down from 1,123 square kilometers (434 square miles) in April.


Fruit bats frequent clay-licks in the Amazon rainforest

(07/14/2008) In the Peru new research finds that female fruit bats are frequent visitors to clay-licks.


Birds face higher risk of extinction than conventionally thought

(07/14/2008) Birds may face higher risk of extinction than conventionally thought, says a bird ecology and conservation expert from Stanford University. Dr. Cagan H. Sekercioglu, a senior research scientist at Stanford and head of the world's largest tropical bird radio tracking project, estimates that 15 percent of world's 10,000 bird species will go extinct or be committed to extinction by 2100 if necessary conservation measures are not taken. While birds are one of the least threatened of any major group of organisms, Sekercioglu believes that worst-case climate change, habitat loss, and other factors could conspire to double this proportion by the end of the century. As dire as this sounds, Sekercioglu says that many threatened birds are rarer than we think and nearly 80 percent of land birds predicted to go extinct from climate change are not currently considered threatened with extinction, suggesting that species loss may be far worse than previously imagined. At particular risk are marine species and specialists in mountain habitats.


Palm oil industry moves into the Amazon rainforest

(07/09/2008) Malaysia's Land Development Authority FELDA has announced plans to immediately establish 100,000 hectares (250,000) of oil palm plantations in the Brazilian Amazon. The agency will partner with Braspalma, a local company, to form Felda Global Ventures Brazil Sdn Bhd. FELDA will have a 70 percent stake in the venture. The announcement had been expected. Last month Najib said Malaysia would seek to expand its booming palm oil industry overseas. The country is facing land constraints at home.


Volunteering with Leatherback Sea Turtles in Galibi, Suriname

(07/08/2008) The northern coast of Suriname is one of the best places in the world to view the largest turtle, the marine Leatherback. Watching the turtle rise out of the tides onto the beach gives one the sense of meeting something ancient, rare, and more sea-monster than marine turtle. Yet, if I call it a sea-monster, I do not mean that it is frightening or ugly: far from it. But it is mysterious, terrible, and wondrous.


20% of Amazon timber illegally harvested from protected areas

(07/07/2008) 20 percent of Amazon timber is illegally harvested from protected areas according to a report published in O'Globo.


Good news for reefs: giant coral structure found off Brazil

(07/07/2008) Amid a series of dire reports on the status of coral reefs, scientists announced the discovery of a reef off the southern coast of Brazil's Bahia state that doubles the size of the Southern Atlantic Ocean's largest and richest reef system, the Abrolhos Bank.


Parks help people to the detriment of biodiversity, suggests study

(07/03/2008) The establishment of nature reserves in Africa and Latin America has been a boon to human settlement but comes at a cost to biodiversity, suggests a new study published in the journal Science. Analyzing 306 rural protected areas in 45 countries in Africa and Latin America, George Wittemyer and colleagues found that the rate of human population growth along the borders of reserves was nearly twice that of neighboring rural areas.


Brazil fines 24 ethanol producers for illegal forest clearing

(07/01/2008) Brazil fined two dozen ethanol producers accused of illegal clearing the country's endangered Mata Atlântica or Atlantic rainforest, reports The Associated Press.


Brazil signs sustainable ethanol deal with Sweden

(06/27/2008) A group of Brazilian ethanol producers has signed the first deal to export certified sustainable ethanol, reports Reuters.



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