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News articles on rainforest agriculture
Mongabay.com news articles on rainforest agriculture in blog format. Updated regularly.
(04/21/2008) Unilever has admitted to Greenpeace that it can't trace the origin of palm oil supplied by firms operating in Indonesia. The relevation suggests that efforts to improve the sustainability of Indonesian palm oil have stalled as large tracts of rainforest continue to fall for the establishment of new oil palm plantations on the islands of Borneo, New Guinea, and Sumatra.
Borneo's pygmy elephants are an alien species
(04/18/2008) A new study suggests that the Borneo pygmy elephant -- one of Borneo's best known and charismatic animals -- is actually an invasive species introduced from a neighboring island by a former sultan. The finding offers hope that in Borneo, the elephant can avoid the fate that befell it in its native Java: extinction.
Malaysian palm oil industry puts sustainability in the spotlight
(04/17/2008) Seeking to differentiate its palm oil from that produced less responsibly in other countries, the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) sponsored a three-day meeting this week in Kota Kinabalu, on the island of Borneo.
Amazon farming technique may fight global warming
(04/11/2008) Fifteen hundred years ago, tribes people from the central Amazon basin mixed their soil with charcoal derived from animal bone and tree bark. Today, at the site of this charcoal deposit, scientists have found some of the richest, most fertile soil in the world. Now this ancient, remarkably simple farming technique seems far ahead of the curve, holding promise as a carbon-negative strategy to rein in world hunger as well as greenhouse gases.
Asia Pulp & Paper destroying rare Sumatra forest
(03/27/2008) Companies linked to timber giant Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) are illegally building a road that runs through highly endangered peatland forest on the island of Sumatra, according to an investigative report published by Eyes on the Forest, a coalition of NGOs in Indonesia. The road would allow APP and its affiliates to log forests for timber and drain peat soil for the establishment of oil palm plantations. The action would release large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from one of the world's largest contiguous tropical peat swamp forests.
Half the Amazon rainforest will be lost within 20 years
(02/27/2008) More than half the Amazon rainforest will be damaged or destroyed within 20 years if deforestation, forest fires, and climate trends continue apace, warns a study published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. Reviewing recent trends in economic, ecological and climatic processes in Amazonia, Daniel Nepstad and colleagues forecast that 55 percent of Amazon forests will be "cleared, logged, damaged by drought, or burned" in the next 20 years. The damage will release 15-26 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere, adding to a feedback cycle that will worsen both warming and forest degradation in the region. While the projections are bleak, the authors are hopeful that emerging trends could reduce the likelihood of a near-term die-back. These include the growing concern in commodity markets on the environmental performance of ranchers and farmers; greater investment in fire control mechanisms among owners of fire-sensitive investments; emergence of a carbon market for forest-based offsets; and the establishment of protected areas in regions where development is fast-expanding.
Ancient Amazon fires linked to human populations
(02/20/2008) Analysis of soil charcoal in South America confirms that from a historical perspective, fire is rare in the Amazon rainforest, but when it does occur, it appears linked to human activities. The research, published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, is based on dating of soil carbon, which provides a good indication of when fires occurred in Amazonia, according to lead author Mark Bush, head of the Department of Biology at Florida Institute of Technology.
Small Amazon farmers especially vulnerable to climate change
(02/19/2008) Communicating the impact of climate change to small farmers in the Amazon will be key in helping them adapt to higher temperatures, more frequent and intense drought, and greater incidence of forest fires forecast for the region, according to a paper published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.
Fire policy is key to reducing the impact of drought on the Amazon
(02/19/2008) Gaining control over the setting of fires for land-clearing in the Amazon is key to reducing deforestation and the impact of severe drought on the region's forests, write researchers in a paper published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.
Biofuels are worsening global warming
(02/07/2008) Converting native ecosystems for production of biofuel feed stocks is worsening the greenhouse gas emissions they are intended to mitigate, reports a pair of studies published in the journal Science. The studies follow a series of reports that have linked ethanol and biodiesel production to increased carbon dioxide emissions, destruction of biodiverse forest and savanna habitats, and water and air pollution.
How much would it cost to end Amazon deforestation?
(01/27/2008) With Brazil last week announcing a significant jump in Amazon deforestation during the second half of 2007, the question emerges, how much would it cost to end the destruction of Earth's largest rainforest?
7000 sq km of Amazon rainforest destroyed in late 2007 says Greenpeace
(01/25/2008) Brazilian government figures will likely show that more than 7,000 square kilometers of Amazon rainforest were destroyed between August and the end December 2007, said environmental group Greenpeace.
Amazon deforestation jumps in the second half of 2007
(01/24/2008) Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon rose sharply in the second half of 2007 as a result of surging prices for beef and grain, said a top Brazilian environmental official.
Sustainability mandated for biofuels used in the EU
(01/24/2008) Biofuels used in the European Union will have meet strict environmental requirements said the head of the E.U.'s energy program on Wednesday.
Palm oil industry prepares green initiative to counter criticism
(01/18/2008) Global food and consumer goods giants are backing a plan to certify that palm oil is produced in a way that doesn't drive destruction of tropical rainforests, reports The Wall Street Journal. The move comes as the palm industry is facing increasing scrutiny -- and consumer backlash -- for its practices which scientists say are driving large-scale destruction of forests across Indonesia and Malaysia, resulting in massive greenhouse gas emissions.
Amazon deforestation surging due to oil, soy prices
(01/17/2008) A Brazilian scientist has confirmed that forest clearing in the Amazon rainforest has surged in recent months, according to Reuters.
U.S. biofuels policy drives deforestation in Indonesia, the Amazon
(01/17/2008) U.S. incentives for biofuel production are promoting deforestation in southeast Asia and the Amazon by driving up crop prices and displacing energy feedstock production, say researchers.
Tropical islanders win battle against palm-oil
(01/16/2008) Mongabay has confirmed that the Milne Bay government has pulled plans to allow Vitroplant to log 70% of Woodlark Island for palm oil plantations. The Minister for Agriculture and Livestock, Hon John Hickey, stated in a press release that "Vitroplant did do a feasibility study and were keen to invest on the island. However due to landowner objections on the development of the oil palm industry on the island, the company has decided to pull out." Vitroplant has yet to comment.
E.U. may ban palm oil biodiesel
(01/15/2008) The E.U. may ban imports of certain biofuel feedstocks that damage the environment, reports The New York Times. Environmentalists say some biofuels like palm oil are driving the destruction of biologically-rich rainforests and may produce more emissions than conventional fossil fuels.
Palm oil developer abandons plan to log 70% of Woodlark Island
(01/14/2008) Vitro Plant, a developer that planned to log 70 percent of Papua New Guinea's Woodlark Island for oil palm plantations, has pulled out of the project reports The National, a Papuan newspaper.
Orangutan should become symbol of palm-oil opposition
(01/02/2008) In a letter published today in Nature, Oscar Venter, Erik Meijaard and Kerrie Wilson argue that proposals for conservation groups to purchase and run oil palm plantations for the purpose of generating funds for forest protection are unlikely to be successful. The concept was originally put forth by Lian Pin Koh and David S. Wilcove in a 2007 Nature article.
Brazil bans illegal soy and cattle production in the Amazon rainforest
(12/24/2007) The Brazilian government launched a new initiative to slow deforestation in the Amazon, setting the stage for the country to potentially earn billions from carbon trading schemes set in motion two weeks ago at the U.N. climate meeting in Bali.
Uganda renews plans to log rainforest reserve for sugar cane
(12/21/2007) Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni on Friday revived a controversial plan to grant a forest reserve to commercial sugar cane interests.
Rainforest destruction increasingly driven by corporate interests, not poverty
(12/18/2007) Tropical deforestation is increasingly enterprise-driven rather than the result of subsistence agriculture, a trend that has critical implications for the future of the world's forests, says Dr. Thomas Rudel, a researcher from Rutgers University. As urbanization and government-sponsored development programs dwindle in the tropics, industrial logging and conversion for large-scale agriculture -- including oil palm plantations, soy farms, and cattle ranches -- are ever more important causes of forest destruction.
Palm oil is a net source of CO2 emissions when produced on peatlands
(12/17/2007) Researchers have confirmed that converting peat forests for oil palm plantations results in a large net release of carbon dioxide, indicating industry claims that palm oil helps fight climate change are unfounded, at least when plantations are established in peatlands.
U.S. corn subsidies drive Amazon destruction
(12/13/2007) U.S. corn subsidies for ethanol production are contributing to deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, reports a tropical forest scientist writing in this week's issue of the journal Science.
70% of rainforest island to be cleared for palm oil
(12/13/2007) Mongabay.com received information this week that the Malaysian company Vitroplant has been granted the permit it needs to begin developing 70% of Woodlark Island into palm oil plantations. In an e-mail received by one of the opposition leaders to Vitroplant, Dr. Simon Piyuwes said that "the government granted the permit to the oil palm company despite a widespread campaign and pressure from NGOs". In an earlier article Dr. Piyuwes stated that "we [the islanders] do not have money to fight the giant. We only hope for the support from the NGOs, and the mercy of the government to withdraw the project." It seems the government has refused Dr. Piyuwes what he hoped for.
Rainforest destruction continues in tropical Asia
(12/09/2007) Tropical forests in Asia have been rapidly and extensively destroyed over the past generation, with significant implications for the region's biodiversity and global climate. A new study, published in the December volume of Current Science, finds that Asian forest loss has occurred mostly in poor, corrupt countries that have high population density and robust population growth rates.
REDD will fail if needs of forest communities aren't addressed
(12/07/2007) Initiatives to reduce emissions by reducing tropical deforestation (REDD) will fail unless policymakers adequately address the underlying drivers of forest degradation and destruction, argues a new report published by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
Merrill Lynch announces carbon credits-for-forest conservation partnership
(12/06/2007) Merrill Lynch is working with Carbon conservation, an ecosystem services firms, to explore opportunities in avoided deforestation and integrated sustainable land management. The partnership was announced Thursday in Bali, Indonesia, where more than 10,000 policymakers, scientists, and activists are meeting to discuss a post-Kyoto framework on limiting climate change.
Tropical forests face huge threat from industrial agriculture
(12/05/2007) With forest conversion for large-scale agriculture rapidly emerging as a leading driver of tropical deforestation, a new report from the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) suggests the trend is likely to continue with Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Peru, and Colombia containing 75 percent of the world's forested land that is highly suitable for industrial agriculture expansion. Nevertheless the study identifies forests that may be best suited (low population density, unsuitable climate and soils) for "Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation" (REDD) initiatives which compensate countries for preserving forest lands in exchange for carbon credits.
Kyoto pact ignores CO2 emissions from biofuels
(12/05/2007) The Kyoto climate pact, as it currently stands, ignores millions of tons of carbon dioxide emissions from the drainage of peatsoils for palm oil production in Indonesia and Malaysia, warnned Wetlands International, an international NGO, in a report released at the UN climate meeting in Bali.
Returns from carbon offsets could beat palm oil in Congo DRC
(12/04/2007) A proposal to pay the Democratic of Congo (DRC) for reducing deforestation could add 15-50 percent to the amount of international aid given to the warn-torn country, reports a new study published by scientists at the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC). The funds would help alleviate rural poverty while cutting emissions of greenhouse gases and protecting threatened biodiversity.
Cooking oil, palm oil biodiesel can reduce emissions relative to diesel
(11/28/2007) A lifecycle analysis of biodiesel by Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) shows that using palm oil derived from existing plantations can be an effective biofuel feedstock for reducing greenhouse gas emissions relative to conventional diesel fuel. However, palm oil sourced from rainforest and peatlands generating emissions 8 to 21 times greater than those from diesel.
UN says palm oil destroys forests, indigenous cultures in Indonesia, Malaysia
(11/26/2007) Europe's demand for supposedly eco-friendly biodiesel is fueling destruction of biodiverse rainforests in southeast Asia, warns a new report from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Palm oil industry announces "eco" standards for production
(11/26/2007) Palm oil producers -- under fire from environmentalists who say the industry is driving the wholesale destruction of biodiverse rainforests in Malaysia and Indonesia -- last week announced a new certification process to ensure greener environmental standards for palm oil, reports Reuters.
Is the oil-palm industry using global warming to mislead the public?
(11/23/2007) Members of the Indonesian Palm Oil Commission are distributing materials that misrepresent the carbon balance of oil-palm plantations, according to accounts from people who have seen presentations by commission members. These officials are apparently arguing that oil-palm plantations store and sequester many times the amount of CO2 as natural forests, and therefore that converting forests for plantations is the best way to fight climate change. In making such claims, these Indonesian representatives evidently are ignoring data that show the opposite, putting the credibility of the oil-palm industry at risk, and undermining efforts to slow deforestation and rein in greenhouse gas emissions.
Carbon offset returns beat forest conversion for agriculture in Indonesia
(11/21/2007) Conversion of forests and peatlands for agriculture in Indonesia has generated little economic benefit while releasing substantial amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, reports a new study from the the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and their Indonesian partners.
Large-scale agriculture 'compromises' forest's ability to recover
(11/19/2007) As deforestation of tropical forests continues unhindered, one of the future hopes for these damaged ecosystems is regeneration in secondary forests. Some areas that were once slash-and-burned for cattle ranching or subsistence agriculture have been abandoned, allowing scientists to study the possibility of recovery in the rainforest. If anyone has a clear idea of the potential of secondary forests it is Robin L. Chazdon. Dr. Chazdon, a full professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Connecticut, has been studying the regeneration of secondary forest for over twenty-five years. She has published over 50 papers on tropical ecology, currently she serves as an active member of the Biotropica editorial board and is a member of the Bosques Project, which measures secondary forest recovery in Northern Costa Rica.
Biodiversity conservation will only work if local people benefit
(11/19/2007) Biodiversity loss is already having an economic impact in Africa according to a 7-year monitoring project underwritten by Europeans and African governments. The project, known as the Biodiversity Monitoring Transect Analysis in Africa (BIOTA), relies on a network of biodiversity observatories equipped with weather stations, sensors and a monitoring program that includes remote sensing, data on soil fertility and agricultural indicators. Dr. Nina Farwig, a scientist at the Johannes Gutenberg-University of Mainz and a participating member of BIOTA-East Africa, says that conservation efforts in the tropics will only be effective if the local people benefit. Her work with BIOTA shows that even in the absence of extensive forest cover, a patchwork of agricultural landscapes can contribute to the biodiversity conservation.
7-year old nature guide becomes Belize environmental hero as adult
(11/16/2007) Each year hundreds of thousands of nature-oriented tourists visit Belize to see the Central American country's spectacular coral reefs, biodiverse rainforests, and ancient Mayan ruins. However few visitors realize that Belize's natural resources are at risk. Timber and oil extraction, agricultural encroachment, coastal development, pollution and unrestrained tourism are all increasing threats to Belizean ecosystems. Unless something is done to address these concerns, within a generation these pressures could present considerable problems for Belize. Dr. Colin Young, head of the environmental science program at Galen University in Belize, says that while he is greatly concerned about these issues, there is still time to ensure healthy forests and reefs in Belize.
Law enforcement key to saving Borneo's rainforests
(11/13/2007) In an interview with mongabay.com, Dr. Rhett Harrison, a Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) associate researcher and Secretary for the Asia-Pacific Chapter of ATBC, says that law enforcement could be the key to safeguarding biodiversity contained in Borneo's lowland parks. Harrison says there may be opportunities for conservationists to work with oil palm to developers to ensure that existing forests are not converted for plantations and that palm oil can be produced in a sustainable manner. He also adds that carbon offsets may eventually offer a means to fund conservation and sustainable development efforts in areas that still have standing forest.
Planned logging of Woodlark Island for biofuels opposed by islanders and scientists
(11/12/2007) On Woodlark Island, one-hundred and seventy miles from Papua New Guinea, a struggle is occurring between islanders and biofuel company Vitroplant Ltd. The company is planning to clear much of the island's forest for oil palm plantations to produce biofuels. Vitorplant Ltd.'s contract specifies that they would deforest 60,000 hectares of land for plantations; Woodlark Island is 85,000 hectares in total, meaning over 70% of the island would be converted. Last week, one hundred islanders (out of a total population of 6,000) traveled to the capital of Milne Bay Province, Alotau, to voice their concern over the plans to turn their forested island into plantations.
Greenwashing the palm oil industry
(11/12/2007) A new report from Greenpeace alleges that members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil -- an industry-driven initiative to clean up palm oil production -- are using palm oil derived by clearing endangered rainforests and draining carbon-rich peatlands on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
Oil palm does not store more carbon than forests
(11/08/2007) Officials from the Indonesian ministry of agriculture and the palm oil industry are distributing materials that misrepresent the carbon balance oil palm plantations, according to accounts from people who have seen presentations by members of the Indonesian Palm Oil Commission. Ministry of agricultural officials are apparently arguing that oil palm plantations store and sequester many times the amount of CO2 as natural forests and therefore converting forests for plantations is the best way to fight climate change. In making such claims, these Indonesian officials are ignoring data that show the opposite, putting the credibility of the oil palm industry at risk, and undermining efforts to slow deforestation and reign in greenhouse gas emissions.
Does palm oil alleviate rural poverty in Malaysia?
(10/23/2007) While it is often argued that the economic benefits of oil palm plantations outweigh the environmental costs of converting biodiverse ecosystems to monocultures, new analysis suggests that the role of plantations in reducing rural poverty may be overstated.
2007 Amazon fires among worst ever
(10/22/2007) By some measures, forest fires in the Amazon are at near-record levels, according to analysis Brazilian satellite data by mongabay.com. A surge in soy and cattle prices may be contributing to an increase in deforestation since last year. Last year environmentalists and the Brazilian government heralded a sharp fall in deforestation rates, the third consecutive annual decline after a peak in 2004. Forest loss in the 2006-2007 season was the lowest since record-keeping began in the late in 1970s. While the government tried to claim credit for the drop, analysts at the time said that commodity prices were a more likely driver of slow down: both cattle and soy prices had declined significantly over the previous months.
Uganda cancels controversial rainforest logging plan
(10/18/2007) Uganda's government abandoned a controversial plan to grant protected rainforest land to a sugar company, reports Reuters.
Environmentalists and palm oil producers should work together
(09/25/2007) Environmentalists and palm-oil producers are increasingly at odds. Greens groups say palm oil is driving the conversion of tens of thousands of hectares of peatlands and lowland forest in Indonesia, putting wildlife at risk, increasing the vulnerability of forests to fires, and triggering large emissions of greenhouse gases.
China urged to join sustainable soy efforts in the Amazon
(09/12/2007) Brazilian soy crushers have urged China to join an alliance to promote sustainable soybean production in the Amazon, according to Reuters. Brazil, soon to be the world's largest producer of soybeans, recently formed the Global Roundtable on Responsible Soy Association as concerns grow that global demand for biofuels will level the Amazon rainforest. Environmentalists say demand from China is playing an important role in surging soybean production in the region.
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