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News articles on south america
Mongabay.com news articles on south america in blog format. Updated regularly.
Researchers find 'hidden tapestry' of plant chemicals in Amazon forest
(07/03/2015) The Amazon rainforest might seem like a massive expanse of monotonous green. However, a recent study has found that within this monotony lies a kaleidoscope of chemicals unique to all the different plant species of the forest.
Brazilian police and scientists team up to crack down on illegal timber trade
(07/01/2015) Seven years ago, Brazil’s São Paulo State Environmental Police set out to crack down on the illegal timber trade. In 2011, during one of their most ambitious inspection operations, officers inspected nearly 350 trucks and more than 60 lumberyards in just two days. Discovering an array of violations, they responded by delivering 50 violation notices and issuing BRL $2.2 million (USD $1.4 million) in fines.
Palm oil plantations used to 'reforest' parts of Brazil despite being wildlife deserts
(06/30/2015) A recent study systematically documented bird biodiversity within oil palm plantations, finding they contain fewer species than secondary forest and even cattle pasture. As oil palm grows as a commodity in Brazil – and can legally even be used to "reforest" land – how can a country that has made big gains in reducing deforestation in recent years balance this powerhouse industry with environmental welfare?
Corporations rush to make zero-deforestation commitments, but is it working?
(06/29/2015) Every year, more companies pledge to stop using ingredients whose production cause tropical deforestation. Retailers and brands making voluntary commitments – mostly involving palm oil – include Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, Colgate and Wilmar, the world's largest palm oil trader. Among 2014 joiners were Cargill, Krispy Kreme, Dunkin's Donuts and Baskin' Robbins, with 2015 bringing the addition of McDonald's, Archer Daniels Midland and Yum! Brands (owner of Pizza Hut, KFC, and Taco Bell).
New reserve in Peru will protect nearly a million acres of pristine forest
(06/26/2015) A tract of Peruvian rainforest bigger than California's Yosemite National Park is officially more protected, with formal declaration of the Maijuna-Kichwa Regional Conservation Area (RCA) made last week in Lima. Those involved with the reserve's formation hope it will safeguard the area's biodiversity as well as the ancestral homeland and way of life of local indigenous communities.
Has Amazon deforestation reached a 7-year high in Brazil?
(06/18/2015) Analysis of satellite data suggests deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon may have reached a seven-year high.
It can be done! – Building better dams in the Andean Amazon
(06/18/2015) More than 150 dams are currently planned for five of the six major Andean tributaries of the Amazon River. Damming those large, free-flowing streams would provide hydropower to half a dozen South American countries – meeting their energy needs for decades to come, but with unknown, potentially calamitous environmental and social impacts.
Gold miners invade Amazonian indigenous reserve
(06/16/2015) Illegal miners have invaded an indigenous reserve in the Peruvian Amazon, reveals new analysis of satellite imagery.
Bolivia opens protected areas to oil companies
(06/16/2015) A new law has opened millions of hectares of protected areas in Bolivia to oil and gas extraction.
Rainforest parks cut malaria transmission
(06/16/2015) Strictly protected areas in the Brazilian Amazon are associated with lower rates of malaria transmission than extractive reserves, mining zones, and areas with roads, reports a paper published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The findings add to a growing body of data suggesting that conservation efforts contribute to human welfare.
90% of Amazon deforestation occurs outside protected areas
(06/13/2015) Ten percent of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon between August 2012 and July 2014 occurred in protected areas, reports new research from Imazon.
Inside The Toxic Tour: Not for prime-time Ecuador (PHOTOS)
(06/12/2015) Ecuador spent $4 million to promote itself during the 2015 Super Bowl as an ecotourism destination. The ad was backed by the Beatles' booming anthem 'All You Need is Love.' The Toxic Tour offers a different perspective: taking visitors into the belly of the beast, the epicenter of Ecuador's petroleum exploitation grid, a trip best accompanied by REM's anti-anthem, 'It's the end of the World.'
Tapajós and other Amazon dams not sustainable development say reports
(06/11/2015) Plans to build hydroelectric dams globally -- especially in the Amazon and other tropical locales -- are often touted as 'sustainable development.' However, according to a trio of new reports, these large infrastructure projects will do enormous harm to rainforest ecosystems and indigenous peoples, while also emitting far more greenhouse gases than the U.N. and other organizations officially estimate, with potentially disastrous results.
151 dams could be catastrophic to Amazon ecological connectivity
(06/10/2015) As South American countries begin to move beyond fossil fuels, many are looking to hydropower. The rivers flowing from the Andes Mountains down into the Amazon basin could provide a wealth of liquid potential to meet the energy demands of expanding populations, economies, and development.
Bolivia's aggressive agricultural development plans threaten forests
(06/08/2015) Bolivia's government, supported by some small and most large producers, pushes to expand agricultural lands at the expense of the nation's environment. In April 2015, small-scale Bolivian farmers gathered for a summit with stakeholders from a very different part of the agricultural sector: commercial farmers who oversee vast farms and watch international exchange markets just as closely as the weather.
Proposed Andean headwater dams an ecological calamity for Amazon Basin
(06/04/2015) High in the Andes Mountains, countless minor streams begin their pilgrimage downward, joining forces with the rain to form the tributaries of the Amazon River. The sediments and organic matter they carry with them on their journey seaward are the nutrient-rich lifeblood that nurtures and sustains the vast aquatic and terrestrial web of life in the Amazon Basin.
Cajamarca: Let them Eat Gold
(06/03/2015) Mega-dam projects on the main stem of the Marañón River would drown Peru's Breadbasket. The Marañón River is one of the mighty Amazon's most important tributaries. It runs through a region of northern Peru where two of South America's most important bioregions merge: the mountainous highlands of the Andes joining the dense tropical rainforest of the Amazon. It is one of the most biologically rich, rapidly changing and threatened areas of the world.
New bird uncovered in South American conflict region, researchers urge protection
(05/28/2015) For many years, study skins of a bird languished in a dusty drawer in the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, classified hurriedly (and erroneously,) as Scytalopus atratus nigricans, a songbird found in lower montane forests. Recently, scientists rediscovered the bird on the Venezuelan slopes of the Perijá Mountains, and were able to use twenty-first century techniques to describe its genetics, ecology and appearance. In doing so, they identified it as a new species: the Perijá tapaculo.
China unveils plans for huge railway in South America
(05/27/2015) China is looking to add another rung to its investment presence in Latin America, with an announcement of plans to build an expansive railway bisecting the continent from Brazil to Peru. The bid has raised the hackles of conservation groups, which are concerned the railway will run through sensitive ecosystems, harm threatened wildlife, and affect indigenous communities.
China defends trans-Amazon railway, says it will protect the environment
(05/27/2015) Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has defended a plan to build a railway across the South American continent as a way to protect the environment and grow the region's economy, reports AFP.
Amazon deforestation speeding global warming
(05/27/2015) Human activity has destroyed huge swaths of the Amazon rainforest's biomass as trees are cleared to make way for pasture, soy fields, and other developments. Now, a new study has determined how much that destruction has contributed to climate change.
Red tape or repression? NGOs fight for a place in the new Bolivia they helped Evo Morales create
(05/22/2015) For much of Bolivian history, environmental and human rights NGOs joined indigenous communities and the poor in an uphill battle against the entrenched old guard. Under the country's first indigenous president, these organizations face unexpected challenges.
62M ha of Latin American forests cleared for agriculture since 2001
(05/19/2015) Over 62 million hectares (240,000 square miles) of forest across Latin America — an area roughly the size of Texas or the United Kingdom — were cleared for new croplands and pastureland between 2001 and 2013, find a study published in Environmental Research Letters.
Peru eyes the Amazon for one of world’s most powerful dams
(05/18/2015) Peru is proposing a huge hydroelectric dam in the Amazon that, if built, will be one of the most powerful on Earth, do significant harm to the environment, and flood the homes of thousands of people. The proposed mega-dam would be constructed at the Pongo de Manseriche, a spectacular gorge on the free flowing Marañón River, the main source of the Amazon River.
China’s investment in Latin America taking toll on the environment, setting the stage for conflict
(05/18/2015) China has been investing heavily in Latin America’s natural resources and crude oil. Recently, the country even pledged to invest $250 billion over the next decade to strengthen its presence in the region, and compete with the U.S. But this increasing Chinese trade and investment in Latin America is also increasing environmental and social conflict, finds a new report published by Boston University.
What's the current deforestation rate in the Amazon rainforest?
(05/15/2015) Nearly two-thirds of the Amazon rainforest is located in Brazil, making it the biggest component in the region's deforestation rate. Helpfully, Brazil also has the best systems for tracking deforestation, with the government and Imazon, a national civil society organization, releasing updates on a quarterly and monthly basis using MODIS satellite data, respectively. Both the Brazilian government and Imazon release more accurate data on an annual basis using higher resolution Landsat satellite imagery.
New mapping project uncovers road networks in Peru’s primary forests
(05/13/2015) A research team unearthed a suspicious network of roads in northern Peru in early 2013. For two years, they watched the network grow to over 150 kilometers in length, split into two networks. The southern part of the network is located entirely in the protected buffer region of the Cordillera de Azul National Park, and is characteristic of roads meant for logging.
Zero deforestation commitments bearing fruit in the Amazon
(05/13/2015) A high profile pledge by the world's largest meat company to limit deforestation for cattle production in the Amazon appears to be working, resulting in a dramatic increase in compliance with environmental registries and reduced forest clearing among supplier ranches, finds a comprehensive study published in the journal Conservation Letters.
Brazilian firm's mega-dam plans in Peru spark major social conflict
(05/11/2015) 'I don't want to sell my land because I've lived here since I was 17,' declared 82 year old María Araujo Silva. 'This was where my children were born. I want to die here. That's why I'm not in agreement. I'm not in agreement with the dam.' Araujo Silva is outraged at plans by Peru's government and Brazilian company Odebrecht to build a hydroelectric dam just downriver from her village, Huarac, on the Marañón River.
Peru considers fate of Amazon wildlife paradise
(05/08/2015) The fate of La Sierra del Divisor, a 1.5 million hectare reserve lauded for its megadiversity of wildlife, will soon to be decided. According to El Comercio, next week the Peruvian government is expected to rule whether Divisor will be declared a national park. The designation, which was requested by local groups nearly a decade ago, would strengthen legal protection of the area, which faces logging, mining, coca cultivation, and agricultural encroachment. It would also establish rules for the buffer zone around the potential protected area.
World's critical habitats lost Connecticut-size area of forest in a decade
(05/08/2015) Many of the world's endangered animals live in only one place, making them hugely susceptible to environmental upset. One fell swoop, and entire species could disappear from existence forever. New analysis shows that possibility may be edging closer and closer to reality in some areas, with forests known to harbor high-risk species losing an area of tree cover the size of Connecticut in a little over a decade.
World on course to lose 1 in 6 species to climate change – South America, Australia, New Zealand face even more extinctions
(05/04/2015) Renowned biologist E.O Wilson, assessing Earth's sixth great extinction now underway, described the future as a shrinking keyhole through which all species must pass as humanity responds to, and hopefully averts catastrophe. A new study published in the journal Science shows that this keyhole could drastically narrow with each degree increase in global temperature due to climate change.
Ongoing overkill: loss of big herbivores leading to 'empty landscapes'
(05/01/2015) Ten thousand years from now, human historians—or alien ones—may view the current wave of biodiversity loss and extinctions as concurrent with the Pleistocene extinction. At that time, peaking around 11,000 years ago, many scientists argue that human hunters killed off the majority of the world's big species. According to a paper today in history may be repeating itself.
Lost and found, then lost again? Recently rediscovered hummingbird faces extinction
(04/30/2015) No one had seen a single living blue-bearded helmetcrest since 1946, and the species was known only from preserved museum specimens. But that all changed last month when researchers rediscovered the bird in the mountains of Colombia.
Featured video: the Uncharted Amazon trailer
(04/29/2015) The up-coming documentary, Uncharted Amazon, promises to highlight both the little-seen wildlife and the people of the Las Piedras River system in the Peruvian Amazon, one of the most remote wildernesses on the planet.
Peru's mega-dam projects threaten Amazon River source and ecosystem collapse
(04/28/2015) Peru is planning a series of huge hydroelectric dams on the 1,700-kilometer (1,056-mile) Marañón River, which begins in the Peruvian Andes and is the main source of the Amazon River. Critics say the mega-dam projects could destroy the currently free-flowing Marañón, resulting in what Peruvian engineer Jose Serra Vega calls its 'biological death'.
'Deforestation fronts' revealed
(04/27/2015) Environmental group WWF has released a new report projecting where the organization believes the bulk of global deforestation is likely to occur over the next 15 years. The analysis, published today, highlights eleven regions where 'the bulk of global deforestation is projected to take place' by 2030.
Deforestation in Brazilian Amazon continues to accelerate
(04/27/2015) Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon — the planet's largest rainforest — continues to pace well ahead of last year's rate, reveals data released by Imazon, a Manaus-based nonprofit.
Killings of environmental activists jumped by 20 percent last year
(04/20/2015) The assassination, murder, and extrajudicial killing of environmental activists rose by 20 percent last year, according to a new grim report by Global Witness. The organization documented 116 killings in 2014 across 17 countries with the highest number in Brazil, which saw 29 environmental and land defenders killed.
Lima to restore pre-Incan aqueducts to alleviate its water crisis
(04/16/2015) To tackle a looming water crisis, the city of Lima, Peru, is planning a series of green infrastructure projects, including the restoration of an ancient network of aqueducts in the mountains above the city. With a rapidly growing population of around 8.75 million Lima is the world's second largest desert city, and no stranger to water shortages.
A tale of two maps: Brazilian state won’t use new atlas to close Cerrado deforestation loophole
(04/13/2015) Farmers in north-central Brazil, where the savanna meets the Amazon rainforest, are clearing land at an unprecedented rate. The government hasn’t stopped the cutting, partly because it is using inaccurate, outdated maps that hugely underestimate the extent of its endangered dry forests.
Conservation and carbon storage goals collide in Brazil's Cerrado
(04/13/2015) Scientists are raising the alarm about the disparity between biodiversity goals and carbon goals in Brazil's Cerrado. New research is beginning to challenge the idea that the Cerrado is irrelevant to the battle to reduce atmospheric carbon.
Platform provides near-real time analysis of deforestation in non-Brazilian Amazon
(04/09/2015) A new platform will provide critical near-real time information and analysis on emerging threats to forests in the non-Brazilian Amazon. Officially announced today, the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP) in an initiative launched by the Amazon Conservation Association and Conservación Amazónica-ACCA.
Study finds abandoned pasture is 'a huge resource that is not being harnessed'
(04/09/2015) As tropical forests around the world are cleared for human development, scientists and conservationists are trying to find ways to both stem their loss and reclaim areas already deforested. In a recent study, researchers investigated restoration of abandoned agricultural land in Ecuador, finding that planting trees and even re-establishing pasture may help limit conversion of more forest to farmland.
Tiny Brazilian opossum could be farmers’ friend
(04/07/2015) André Mendonça pops open the spring-loaded door on the shoebox-sized trap and peeks inside. Two bulging, black eyes glare back at him. He pulls the trap off the tree limb and shakes the stunned, sopping wet creature into a clear plastic bag. “One more!” he says excitedly.
Brazilian farmers urge return of big cats to Cerrado to protect crops from rampaging peccaries
(04/07/2015) Margie Peixoto was driving her pickup across her farm in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul one February afternoon when she spotted some broken corn stalks and a trio of white-lipped peccaries ambling along the red-clay road as if they owned it. The moment these wild pig relatives spotted the truck, they snorted, snarled and disappeared into the head-high crop, where dozens more likely hid.
Illegal deforestation driven by EU appetite for beef, palm oil, soy, say new reports
(04/01/2015) A new report finds that the European Union is driving international trade in commodities grown on land cleared outside of the law. In 2012 alone, the report says, the EU imported $6.5 billion worth of illegally sourced beef, leather, palm oil and soy, which amounts to nearly one-fourth of all global trade and some 2.4 million hectares (59.3 million acres) of forest illegally cleared.
Here comes progress: what will planned megaprojects mean for an Amazon city?
(03/31/2015) The city of Itaituba, in western Pará state, is home to several construction projects of strategic interest for the Brazilian government. However, with local infrastructure fragile, residents are worried they will not share in the spoils.
9 months after Amazonian oil pipeline spill, effects and fears linger
(03/30/2015) When Peru's state-run oil company pulled out of this small Kukama Indian village in mid-December after cleaning up an oil pipeline spill, residents thought life could slowly return to normal. But more than three months later, wisps of oil floating down the Cuninico River—along with a larger spill in the neighboring community of San Pedro—are a reminder that the problems are not over.
Photos: expedition to Amazon’s white sands may have found new primate
(03/24/2015) Most people think of the Amazon rainforest as one massive, homogenous ecosystem—a giant castle of green. However, within the Amazon rainforest lie a myriad of distinct ecosystems, sporting unique characteristics and harboring endemic species. One of the rarer ecosystems in the Amazon is the white sands forest.
Road rage: scientists denounce $60 trillion infrastructure expansion
(03/14/2015) Last November, at the annual G-20 summit - for the 20 wealthiest of the world’s nations - in Brisbane, Australia, a staggering commitment was made to invest $60 to $70 trillion worldwide in new infrastructure over the next 15 years. This is akin to doubling the current value of all global infrastructure put together.
Indigenous leaders present plan to gov't for Suriname's largest official protected area
(03/13/2015) Indigenous leaders from southern Suriname took the first steps toward creating the South American country’s largest recognized protected area with a declaration to parliament on March 5.
Newly discovered Brazilian bird may number fewer than 10 individuals
(03/12/2015) In October 2002, a team of ornithologists at Murici in northeastern Brazil observed and recorded the call of a bird. At that time, the team believed they had chanced upon a rare bird previously described by other researchers as the Alagaos foliage-gleaner (Philydor novasei).
Endangered forests shrink as demand for soy rises
(03/10/2015) As battles over labeling genetically modified foods or displaying calorific breakdowns per serving rage on, it appears that a possibly more significant battle is in its infancy - where do all the ingredients on the package actually come from?
Photo essay: filming in the remote Amazon
(03/09/2015) You wake up at 4:30 AM, a little before the first rays of tropical sun begin to dance behind the treetops. You put on your wet clothes from the previous day, pack your bag, and pick up your tripod. The jungle is shrouded in a thick mist from the previous nights rain. As you walk, you recognize many of the strange calls that echo between the trees.
Newly described monkey species found in threatened Amazon forest
(03/06/2015) In 2011, Julio César Dalponte noticed a peculiar looking titi monkey on the bank of the Roosevelt River in Mato Grasso, Brazil. Titi monkeys, genus Callicebus, are common throughout South America, but this one had a flaming orange tail, light gray forehead stripe and ochre sideburns, which didn’t match any known titi species.
Colombia proposes protected corridor across South America
(03/03/2015) Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has announced plans to create the world’s largest protected area, stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Andes Mountains. Santos plans to propose the protected environmental corridor during the UN climate talks in Paris later this year as a means to combat global warming.
How the Sahara keeps the Amazon rainforest going
(03/02/2015) Scientists have just uncovered an incredible link between the world's largest desert (the Sahara) and its largest rainforest (the Amazon). New research published in Geophysical Research Letters theorizes that the Sahara Desert replenishes phosphorus in the Amazon rainforest via vast plumes of desert dust blowing over the Atlantic Ocean.
Biofuels are bad news for forests, climate, food security, says report
(02/27/2015) A new report from the World Resources Institute finds that dedicating land to the production of biofuels, a form of renewable energy made from plants, may undermine efforts to achieve a sustainable food future, combat climate change, and protect forests.
Researchers propose improvements for Peru's protected areas
(02/26/2015) In a study published recently in PLOS ONE, researchers examined Peru's network of protected areas. They found that many of these don't exist in the areas most important for preserving the country's biodiversity and addressing its threats, and suggest alternatives to make the system more effective.
One of Brazil’s rarest primates still holds out in single patch of rainforest
(02/26/2015) For many years, particularly after renowned naturalist Philip Hershkovitz of the Field Museum in Chicago published his valuable taxonomy of Neotropical Primates, Saimiri vanzolinii was considered to be a mere subspecies of the larger Bolivian squirrel monkey (Saimiri boliviensis). Today, it has the distinction of being one of the most range-restricted primates in all of the Neotropics.
Brazil arrests 'Amazon's biggest destroyer'
(02/25/2015) Authorities in Brazil have arrested a man they claim to be the single biggest deforester in the Amazon, according to a statement issued by IBAMA, Brazil's environmental protection agency.
Study finds Peru's protected areas aren't where they should be
(02/25/2015) Many of the world's protected areas may not be located in the areas that need them the most, according to a recently published study in the journal PLoS ONE. The study examined the effectiveness of Peru’s existing protected area system in holistically preserving the biodiversity in this megadiverse country, finding it inadequately protecting many of the country's species.
Partnering for conservation benefits Tacana people, Bolivian park
(02/25/2015) Kneeling in a small clearing amid tropical trees, Baldemar Mazaro skillfully arranges a circle of sticks and a noose of cord in the community of San Miguel de Bala. He hands a branch to a tourist and asks her to prod the sticks as if the branch were the nose of an animal snuffling around, looking for food.
Critically endangered bird gets new addition to its reserve
(02/24/2015) An unassuming brown bird, tiny both in body and population size, hovers on the edge of extinction as its habitat is cleared for agriculture and its nests are parasitized. In response, conservation organizations created a reserve expressly for the species' preservation in the late 1990s; now that reserve is being expanded to try to push one of the world's most endangered bird species farther back from the precipice.
Outgoing government wipes hard drives, slowing environmental progress in Peru
(02/23/2015) Non-profit organizations are working with the regional government of Loreto, in northeastern Peru, to replace documents and data reportedly lost or destroyed before newly-elected officials took office. Some hard disks had been removed from computers. Others had been deleted, password protected, or infected with viruses, according to regional government officials who took office at the beginning of the year.
Dams or indigenous land: the battle over the Munduruku frontier
(02/20/2015) The Munduruku indigenous tribe have begun to mark out the limits of their land, in an action that could halt the giant São Luiz do Tapajós hydroelectric dam, the apple of the Brazilian government's eye. Although sacred, this land will be flooded if the dam goes ahead. 'We are not leaving,' says the village chief.
Assessing carbon stock value of forests is tricky business, study finds
(02/19/2015) With financial incentives encouraging maintenance of carbon stocks and the increased popularity of carbon trading between countries, a forest has become economically a lot more than a clump of trees that supplements livelihoods. A forest now has an intrinsic value by just existing, a value that can be measured in economic terms.
Exclusive: Funai confirms that land threatened by dam projects belongs to indigenous tribe
(02/19/2015) The Brazilian government opposes granting traditional land to the Munduruku people since it would jeopardize seven proposed hydroelectric dams on the Tapajós River. For this reason, a year-old report by Funai that supports the Munduruku claim has not been officially published, but a copy of this report was obtained by the Brazilian publication Publica.
Brazilian indigenous populations grow quickly after first contact devastation
(02/18/2015) Indigenous communities in South America have long experienced devastating impacts from contact with Western society. In the Sixteenth Century, European colonists brought slavery, war, and violence, but disease proved the most devastating. In all, European contact destroyed over 95 percent of the native population.
How do parks affect the poor? Jury’s still out, some experts say
(02/13/2015) In Peru’s vast northeastern region, where roads are scarce and forests abundant, crackdowns on the illegal plundering of timber, fish, and wildlife are sporadic and expensive. To fill the gap, the Peruvian National Park Service and non-profit conservation organizations encourage community groups to patrol their lakes and forests and control fishing and hunting.
'Sustainable' cacao company allegedly defies government's call to halt plantation development
(02/13/2015) A company aiming to be the world’s largest producer of sustainable cacao, the bean used to make chocolate, appears to have ignored orders from the Peruvian government to cease operations for failing to provide justification for having razed what scientists say was more than 2,000 hectares of old-growth Amazonian rainforest.
Mining activist released after being charged with terrorism, rebellion in Ecuador
(02/11/2015) Yesterday, mining and environmental activist, Javier Ramírez, walked out of an Ecuadorian courtroom with his freedom. Ramírez, who has long fought against a massive state-owned massive copper mine in the cloud forest village of Junin, was arrested in April last year and subsequently charged with rebellion, sabotage, and terrorism among other thing.
Innovating Brazil nuts: a business with roots in the rainforest
(02/11/2015) Scientist and entrepreneur turn to Brazil nuts to protect Peru's threatened forests. Sofía Rubio was eight years old when she decided she wanted to be a biologist. 'I would skip school to go to the woods with my father or mother,' who did research in what is now the Tambopata National Reserve in the southeastern Peruvian Amazon, she says.
Recently discovered, critically endangered bird gets its first reserve
(02/10/2015) In an 11-square mile strip of forest on the slopes of a plateau in northeastern Brazil lives an entire species, considered by scientists to be one of the most endangered birds in the world. Now, 18 years after it was first discovered by scientists, conservation groups have acquired 140 acres of land to establish the first-ever reserve for the Araripe manakin.
Video: innovative tourism helps protect forests in Amazonian Peru
(02/05/2015) A new short documentary highlights the innovative, locally-grown tourist ventures sprouting up in the buffer zone around Peru's Tambopata National Reserve. Not only do these tourist adventures--some specializing in rehabilitating wildlife, others in finding out how locals live, and some even in jungle yoga--help provide jobs and income in a region dominated by extractive industries, but they are also help to keep forests standing.
The Amazon's oil boom: concessions cover a Chile-sized bloc of rainforest
(02/04/2015) Hungry for oil revenue, governments and fossil fuel companies are moving even further into one of the world's last great wildernesses, according to a new study in the journal Environmental Research Letters. The total area set aside for oil and gas in the Western Amazon has grown by 150,000 square kilometers since 2008, now totaling more than 730,000 square kilometers—an area the size of Chile.
Mercury fish: gold mining puts downstream communities at risk in Peru
(02/02/2015) Artisanal, often illegal gold-mining, has swept across portions of the Peruvian Amazon over last decade, driven in part by a rising price in gold. The unregulated industry has resulted in widespread deforestation leading to an environmental disaster. Now a new study finds that mercury pollution has moved rapidly downstream and could be impacting communities at least 560 kilometers away.
Scientists rediscover endangered Andean toad in Ecuador
(01/30/2015) In 1970 researchers uncovered the Tandayapa Andean toad, previously unknown to science, in the Pichincha Province of Ecuador. Given that only a single individual was discovered, even after further exploration in the following years, the toad was soon presumed to be extinct. Forty-two years later, however, a research team rediscovered the species in Manduriacu, Ecuador.
When is a forest a forest? How definitions affect monitoring
(01/29/2015) What exactly is a forest? With forest definitions differing from country to country, and primary forests, secondary forests, and even tree plantations all perceived collectively as "tree cover" by satellite data, how does one accurately keep tabs on land changes?
Community tourism fills niche around Tambopata National Reserve
(01/29/2015) When Víctor Zambrano retired from the military and returned to his family’s old homestead outside the fast-growing jungle town of Puerto Maldonado in Peru, he got an unpleasant surprise. Strangers had moved in and cleared the trees to raise cattle. As Zambrano tells it, he ran up the Peruvian flag, chased the invaders off, and set to work planting 19,000 native tree seedlings.
Video: camera trap catches jaguar hunting peccaries
(01/26/2015) Catching a jaguar on a remote camera trap in the Amazon is a rare, happy sight. But catching a jaguar attempting to ambush a herd of peccaries is quite simply astonishing.
Brazil's soy moratorium dramatically reduced Amazon deforestation
(01/23/2015) The moratorium on forest conversion established by Brazilian soy giants in 2006 dramatically reduce deforestation for soy expansion in the Amazon, and have been more effective in cutting forest destruction than the government's land use policy in the region, finds a study published today in the journal Science.
Indigenous territories play dual role as homelands and protected areas
(01/22/2015) Indigenous communities claim—and scientific evidence increasingly shows—that indigenous forested territories are as well protected as, or better protected than, government-designated parks. In areas under pressure from roads or development projects, deforestation rates are sometimes even lower in indigenous territories than in official protected areas.
Environmental wisdom: keeping indigenous stories alive
(01/21/2015) Enchanted lakes and magic hills: how traditional stories support conservation and abundance. 'Long ago, when animals were gente...' Those words, uttered countless times by indigenous Amazonian storytellers, blur the boundary between humans and other creatures in the forests and rivers, revealing a different view of the way human and non-human worlds intertwine.
A model forest? Regional park balances local needs and conservation
(01/21/2015) Regional conservation area safeguards subsistence and spirituality in the Peruvian Amazon. For Alfredo Rojas, the history of the remote villages along the Ampiyacu River is one of enslavement. Growing up here, Rojas listened to his parents tell stories of the rubber barons who beat and killed the Indians who failed to meet their latex quota.
Company chops down rainforest to produce 'sustainable' chocolate
(01/20/2015) A cacao grower with roots in Southeast Asia’s palm oil industry has set up shop in the Peruvian Amazon. The CEO of United Cacao has told the international press that he wants to change the industry for the better, but a cadre of scientists and conservation groups charge that United Cacao has quietly cut down more than 2,000 hectares of rainforest.
Amazon gold rush destroying huge swaths of rainforest
(01/14/2015) The rainforests of South America face many threats. The deforestation occurring on the continent is among the highest in the world and results in losses of habitat, biodiversity and massive amounts of sequestered carbon. While the usual culprits such as farming, ranching and logging are well known, gold mining is fast extending its destructive reach into some of the world’s most untouched landscapes, according to new research.
Road building spree hurts Amazon birds
(01/14/2015) A city-dwelling crow in Japan strategically drops a nut near a crosswalk into moving traffic. The bird then waits patiently for the light to turn before dropping down to the road and collecting the cracked nut in safety. While this type of animal behavior is fascinating, such adaptation to the human world is not possible for most bird species.
Deforestation climbing - along with fears - in the Amazon
(01/13/2015) Deforestation in the Brazil Amazon continues to pace well ahead of last year's rate, shows data released today by Imazon. According to the Brazilian NGO's analysis of satellite data, 1,373 square kilometers of rainforest was chopped down between August 2014 and December 2014, a 224 percent increase relative to the prior corresponding period a year before.
Time for a checkup: researchers examine the health of lowland tapirs
(01/07/2015) The Brazilian tapir may get a bad rap in Brazil, where referring to someone as a 'tapir' essentially equates to calling them an 'ass,' but history has shown that this species is deserving of a lot more respect. These hardy 'living fossils' have survived multiple extinction events since the Eocene, yet their ability to survive the ongoing Anthopocene extinction remains uncertain.
Peru’s first environment minister dies at 74
(01/07/2015) Born to a poor family of coffee farmers on the western slopes of the Andes in 1940, Antonio Brack Egg became one of Peru’s most respected ecologists and led the country in protecting its profound biodiversity. Completing his doctorate at the university of Wurzburg, Germany in 1973, Brack Egg started his life of Peruvian public service with the Ministry of Agriculture, working to reestablish threatened populations of vicuña (Vicugna vicugna), a relative of the llama, honored as Peru’s national animal.
Top 10 HAPPY environmental stories of 2014
(12/29/2014) In what was widely seen as a possible breakthrough in the battle to coordinate some kind of response to global warming, China and the U.S. announced joint actions this year. On November 12th, the world's two most powerful countries surprised pretty much everyone by announcing that they would work together to tackle the crisis.
Ecuador sends aid money back to Germany over planned rainforest visit
(12/23/2014) A visit to a rainforest slated for oil drilling has blown up into a diplomatic row between Ecuador and Germany. Ecuador has said it will no longer partner with Germany on environmental issues and will return aid money, after the South American government discovered that German legislators were attempting to visit the much-embattled Yasuni National Park.
How a frog with a strange name is helping improve conservation in Brazil
(12/23/2014) Protecting the biodiversity of the Amazon basin is an immense undertaking, and to its credit the Brazilian government has a set procedure for doing so. However, there are gaps in the process that may prevent the authorities from fully protecting the species that call this place home. To investigate this, a recent study uses as an example the brilliant-thighed frog, a species that is found across the Amazon Basin—including the area surrounding the soon-to-be dammed Xingu River.
Genetics study sheds light on Chile’s most endangered bird
(12/22/2014) A member of the Furnariidae family, the small brown and beige bird possesses rusty “spine-like” tail feathers and inhabits densely vegetated areas. Scientists estimate the total population to range from 140 to 500 individuals. In 2012 the IUCN declared the Masafuera Rayadito to be a Critically Endangered species.
Impacts of deforestation on Amazonian river ecosystems could be far-reaching
(12/18/2014) A study by researchers in Brazil published this week has found that deforestation in the Southern Amazon may impair significantly the structure and function of rivers, and make them less able to support life.
Amazonian peatlands store mega carbon
(12/17/2014) Peatlands in the Peruvian Amazon store ten times the amount of carbon as undisturbed rainforest in adjacent areas, making them critical in the battle to fight climate change, finds a new study published in Environmental Research Letters.
Indigenous communities 'among the very few best protectors' of Peruvian Amazon
(12/12/2014) A new report examines the effects of timber harvesting, gold mining, agriculture, and oil and natural gas drilling that have been on the rise recently in the Peruvian Amazon, and states that ensuring indigenous land rights is a key tool in the fight to protect it.
Indigenous leader murdered before he could attend Climate Summit
(12/08/2014) Days before José Isidro Tendetza Antún was supposed to travel to the UN Climate Summit in Lima to publicly file a complaint against a massive mining operation, he went missing. Now, the Guardian reports that the body of the Shuar indigenous leader has been found, bound and buried in an unmarked grave on the banks of the Zamora River.
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