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News articles on threats to the rainforest
Mongabay.com news articles on threats to the rainforest in blog format. Updated regularly.
(03/12/2007) While there is considerable debate over the scale at which biodiversity extinction is occurring, there is little doubt we are presently in an age where species loss is well above the established biological norm. Extinction has certainly occurred in the past, and in fact, it is the fate of all species, but today the rate appears to be at least 100 times the background rate of one species per million per year and may be headed towards a magnitude thousands of times greater. Few people know more about extinction than Dr. Peter Raven, director of the Missouri Botanical Garden. He is the author of hundreds of scientific papers and books, and has an encyclopedic list of achievements and accolades from a lifetime of biological research. These make him one of the world's preeminent biodiversity experts. He is also extremely worried about the present biodiversity crisis, one that has been termed the sixth great extinction.
Deforestation causes species extinction in Madagascar
(03/07/2007) Deforestation has already caused the extinction of a large number of endemic insect species on the island of Madagascar, according to new research published in the March edition of the journal Biology Letters. The work suggests that only half the species confined to these forest areas will survive.
World's only blue lizard heads toward extinction
(03/07/2007) High above the forest floor on the remote Colombian island of Gorgona lives a lizard with brilliant blue skin, rivaling the color of the sky. Anolis gorgonae, or the blue anole, is a species so elusive and rare, that scientists have been unable to give even an estimate of its population. Due to the lizard&spod;s isolated habitat and reclusive habits, researchers know little about the blue anole, but are captivated by its stunning coloration.
Gold mining in Guyana damages environment, threatens Amerindians
(03/06/2007) Informal gold mining is causing environmental harm and human rights abuses in Guyana says a new report from the International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) of Harvard Law School's Human Rights Program. Wildcat gold mining has been a serious problem in the Guiana shield countries of Brazil, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. Rising gold prices in recent years have only worsened the problem, as illegal miners have flooded the region clearing forest, polluting rivers, and making threats against indigenous people.
2006 Indonesian forest fires worst since 1998
(03/01/2007) NASA has linked el Nino to the worst fires in Indonesia since the 1997-1998 conflagration that burned nearly 25 million acres (10 million hectares) of land across the country.
Global warming could trigger 8-degree temperature rise in Amazon rainforest
(02/28/2007) Tuesday the Brazilian government announced the release of a series of scientific studies, including one by the national space agency (INPE) that projects a 4 to 8 degree-Celcius rise in temperatures in the Amazon Basin by 2100 if nothing is done to combat global climate change.
Indigenous populations deforested New World rainforests before European contact
(02/28/2007) Indigenous populations used fire to clear large areas of tropical forest well before the arrival of Europeans reports a new study published in Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden. The research has important implications for understanding the impact of present forest development on biodiversity and forest regeneration in the tropics.
Brazil to allow large-scale monitored harvesting of the Amazon
(02/23/2007) The International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) reports the Brazilian government plans to allow large-scale monitored harvesting of the Amazon rainforest. The new plan expands on an initiative proposed last year by Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva that would allow sustainable logging across 3 percent of the Amazon rain forest.
Biofuels, logging may spur deforestation in Guyana
(02/15/2007) Growing timber exports and rising interest in biofuels are raising concerns that deforestation could accelerate in the South American country of Guyana. Guyana is a small, lightly populated country on the north coast of South America. About three-quarters of Guyana is forested, roughly 60 percent of which is classified as primary forest. Guyana's forests are highly diverse: the country has some 1,263 known species of amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles, and 6,409 species of plants.
Borneo's rainforest protected
(02/12/2007) An agreement to protect large areas of forest in central Borneo was officially signed by three governments that share the island. Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia will 'conserve and sustainably manage' the so-called 'Heart of Borneo', one of the most biodiverse, and threatened, tropical rainforests in the world. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) played a critical role in the initiative's creation.
Amazon deforestation damaging critical ecosystem services
(02/08/2007) Human disturbance of the Amazon rainforest is more extensive than previously thought say a team of scientists writing in the current edition of the journal Frontiers in Ecology. Reviewing recent research on the Amazon ecosystem, they note that human activities are affecting the health of the forest and impacting the ecological goods and services the Amazon provides mankind.
Just how bad is the biodiversity extinction crisis?
(02/06/2007) In recent years, scientists have warned of a looming biodiversity extinction crisis, one that will rival or exceed the five historic mass extinctions that occurred millions of years ago. Unlike these past extinctions, which were variously the result of catastrophic climate change, extraterrestrial collisions, atmospheric poisoning, and hyperactive volcanism, the current extinction event is one of our own making, fueled mainly by habitat destruction and, to a lesser extent, over-exploitation of certain species. While few scientists doubt species extinction is occurring, the degree to which it will occur in the future has long been subject of debate in conservation literature. Looking solely at species loss resulting from tropical deforestation, some researchers have forecast extinction rates as high as 75 percent. Now a new paper, published in Biotropica, argues that the most dire of these projections may be overstated. Using models that show lower rates of forest loss based on slowing population growth and other factors, Joseph Wright from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama and Helene Muller-Landau from the University of Minnesota say that species loss may be more moderate than the commonly cited figures. While some scientists have criticized their work as "overly optimistic," prominent biologists say that their research has ignited an important discussion and raises fundamental questions about future conservation priorities and research efforts. This could ultimately result in more effective strategies for conserving biological diversity, they say.
98% of orangutan habitat in Borneo, Sumatra gone by 2022
(02/06/2007) A report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today warns that illegal logging is rapidly destroying the last remaining habitat for orangutans in Borneo and Sumatra. The report says that up to 98 percent may be destroyed by 2022 without urgent action.
Brazil calls out rich countries on global warming
(02/06/2007) Reuters reports that Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva criticized wealthy countries for their contributions to global warming and told them to stay out of Brazil's business when it comes to the fate of the Amazon rainforest.
Gold Rush Tears Up a Patch of the Amazon
(02/02/2007) It's a gold rush in the Amazon jungle, driven by the Internet. Speeding past unbroken walls of foliage, a motorboat packed with gritty prospectors veers toward the shore of the Juma river and spills its passengers into a city of black plastic lean-tos veiled by greasy smoke. All around them are newly dug pits, felled trees, misery and tales of striking it rich. This is Eldorado do Juma, scene of Brazil's biggest gold rush in more than 20 years.
Indonesia wants to be paid for slowing deforestation
(01/31/2007) Indonesia voiced support for a proposal by a coalition of developing countries seeking compensation for forest conservation, according to a report from Reuters. Rachmat Witoelar, Indonesia's minister of the environment, told Reuters that poor countries should be paid for conserving forests and the services they provide the world.
New maps reveal causes of Amazon deforestation
(01/26/2007) Brazil's National Statistics Office (IBGE) released a set of maps showing how farmers are converting the Amazon rainforest into cattle pasture and soybean farms. The maps show for the first time the impact of deforestation and agricultural expansion on the Amazon rainforest, according to the agency.
Biofuels could decimate environment, stymie developing countries, says report
(01/25/2007) In his State of the Union Address Tuesday night, U.S. President George W. Bush highlighted ethanol fuel production as a means to improve domestic security by reducing dependence on foreign oil while at the same time helping to fight global warming. His call echoes a broader shift in sentiment among business and political leaders who believe that biofuels -- liquid fuels produced 'energy crops' including sugarcane, corn, soybeans, oil palms -- are a key future liquid energy source. In fact, next week, biofuels are likely to take a prominent position at the European Union's 'Sustainable Energy Week' in Brussels when 650 delegates will listen to speeches by the likes of Al Gore and UK foreign minister Margaret Beckett. With all the enthusiasm it may seem that biofuels are the end-all solution. A new report argues that this is not the case. In its briefing, 'International trade in biofuels: Good for development? And good for environment?' the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) cautions policymakers not to get caught up in all the hype. IIED warns that serious concerns still remain when it comes to the widespread adoption of these renewable energy sources.
China invests in $5.5B biofuels project in Borneo, New Guinea
(01/18/2007) China has agreed to invest in a $5.5 billion biofuels project on the islands of New Guinea and Borneo. The plan promises to be controversial among environmentalists who say that it will destroy some of the world's most biodiverse -- and threatened -- ecosystems on the planet.
Satellite imagery to be used to detect illegal logging, determine sustainability
(12/21/2006) A new project aims to use advanced satellite imagery to monitor illegal logging activities and help certify the sustainability of timber harvesting in some of the world's most remote forests. The effort could reduce the cost of forest management and certification, while helping to crack down on illicit tree-felling.
Paraguay extends deforestation law that has cut forest loss by 85%
(12/20/2006) The government of Paraguay has extended a law has helped deforestation rates in the Upper Parana Atlantic Forest by more than 85 percent according to environmental group WWF.
Europe's largest tropical rainforest invaded by gold miners
(12/19/2006) As Europe frets over climate change and deforestation, threats to "Europe's largest tropical rainforest" are mounting, according to reports from French Guiana. While French Guiana is best known for its infamous Devil's Island penal colony and as the main launch site for the European Space Agency, which is responsible for more than 50% of the state's economy activity, most of the territory is covered with lowland tropical rainforest. French Guiana's forests are biologically rich with some 1,064 known species of amphibians, birds, mammals and reptiles, and 5,625 species of vascular plants according to figures from the World conservation Monitoring Center.
Time is running out for French Guiana's rainforests
(12/19/2006) Understanding relationships between plants and animals is key to understanding rainforest ecology. Dr. Pierre-Michel Forget of the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle in France is a renowned expert on the interdependency between rainforest trees and seed disperses. Author of dozens of papers on tropical forest ecology, Dr Forget is increasingly concerned about deforestation and biodiversity loss in forests of the Guiana Shield region of Northern South America. In particular he sees the invasion of informal gold miners, known as garimpeiros, as a significant threat to forests in French Guiana, Suriname, Guyana and Venezuela.
New Zealand implements 'green timber' policy
(12/19/2006) New Zealand's government will only buy timber and wood products only from legally and sustainably managed forests according to a new policy paper put out Monday by the minstry of forestry.
President Museveni needs to do what's best for Uganda
(12/15/2006) In recent months Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni has moved to destroy some of Uganda's last remaining primary rainforests to give land to politically-connected plantation owners. Personally intervening in two disputes, one in Mabira Forest Reserve and the other on Bugala island in Lake Victoria, Museveni has argued that his country urgently needs such projects to industrialize and bring a better quality of life to Ugandans. He would be wrong.
President Museveni again moves against Uganda's forests
(12/12/2006) Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni has again taken action against rainforest conservation in Uganda, moving to hand a protected forest reserve over to private agricultural interests intent on clearing trees, according to a report from Reuters.
Logging roads lead to disease, social breakdown in Ecuador rainforest communities
(12/04/2006) Logging roads are linked to increased incidence of diarrheal disease and new social problems among communities along the Ecuadorian coast, according to a new study published in the Online Early Edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) for the week of December 4-8, 2006. Lead by Joseph Eisenberg, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, an international team of researchers examined diarrheal infections and social networks in 21 villages recently connected to a new government-constructed road network in the Choco rainforest of coastal Ecuador. They found that the new roads bring colonists to the region and allow villagers to travel more easily between villages and larger cities. Increased mobility increases the spread of bacteria, viruses and parasites according to Eisenberg.
Sugar cane plantation threatens rare forest in Uganda
(11/30/2006) A plan to clear a protected forest reserve for sugar cane has sparked controversy in Uganda according to a report from Reuters. Uganda-based Mehta Group, owner of a sugar plantation that borders Mabira forest, a nature reserve since 1932, asked Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to consider a proposal that would level about 7,000 hectares, or about a quarter of the reserve which is home to 312 species of tree, 287 species of bird and 199 species of butterfly.
Fragmentation killing species in the Amazon rainforest
(11/27/2006) Forest fragmentation is rapidly eroding biodiversity in the Amazon rainforest and could worsen global warming according to research to be published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "Rainforest trees can live for centuries, even millennia, so none of us expected things to change too fast. But in just two decades-a wink of time for a thousand year-old tree-the ecosystem has been seriously degraded." said Dr. William Laurance, a scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama and leader of the international team of scientists that conducted the research.
As presidential election approaches, Madagascar's lemur sanctuary burns
(11/23/2006) Forest fires are burning crucial lemur habitat and other hotbeds of biodiversity in Madagascar according to reports from the northeastern part of the island. The upcoming presidential election -- a bitterly contested poll -- may be partially to blame for the upswing in destruction says a leading local conservationist. Madagascar, a biologically rich, but economically poor island country located off the southeastern coast of Africa is almost as famous for its environmental problems as for its lemurs, a charismatic group of primates found nowhere else on Earth. The country is home to some 90 types of lemurs as well as a bonanza of other rare and unusual creatures including a puma-like mongoose, spiny hedgehog-like beasts called tenrecs, and absurdly colorful chameleons. But these creatures are highly threatened by habitat destruction, most of which results from slash-and-burn agriculture that has left less than 10 percent of the island's original forest cover standing.
Indonesia may seek rainforest conservation compensation to fight global warming
(11/16/2006) Indonesia may soon join the Coalition of Rainforest Nations in seeking compensation for rainforest conservation, according to a report from the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), a timber industry group.
U.S. stymies attempt to crack down on illegal logging
(11/14/2006) Monday the United States stymied an attempt by timber exporting and importing nations to establish new trade rules to tackle illegal logging, according to a report from Reuters. The news agency said that the U.S. may have neutered the initiative by insisting that all agreements had to be voluntary and failing to show up a Houses of Parliament meeting where proposals for the 2008 G8 summit in Tokyo were being developed.
New study confirms continuing forest loss in most countries
(11/14/2006) Forest cover continues to shrink in most countries around the world, though forest expansion in some countries gives hope that net deforestation may be peaking, according to a study published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Southeast Asian nations propose haze fund, but fail to address root cause
(11/13/2006) Southeast Asian nations agreed to create to a fund to help fight forest fires in Indonesian according to a report from Retuers. The pledge however stops short of addressing the root cause of the choking haze: deforestation.
Mining in Venezuelan Amazon threatens biodiversity, indigenous people
(11/09/2006) Troubles are mounting in one of Earth's most beautiful landscapes. Deep in the Venezuelan Amazon, among ancient forested tabletop mountains known as tepuis, crystalline rivers, and breathtaking waterfalls, illegal gold miners are threatening one of world's largest remaining blocks of wilderness, one that is home to indigenous people and strikingly high levels of biological diversity. As the situation worsens -- a series of attacks have counted both miners and indigenous people as victims -- a leading scientific organization has called for the Venezuelan government to take action.
Fires in Indonesia kill 1,000 endangered orangutans
(11/07/2006) 1000 orangutans perished this year in forest fires that raged across Borneo and Sumatra according to a conservationist interviewed by Reuters. Willie Smits, an ecologist at the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation in Indonesia, told Reuters that the fires forced hungry orangutans into agricultural areas where they were killed as pests. Orangutans are known for feeding on fruit of oil palm and other crops in fields adjacent to forest areas.
Avoided deforestation could send $38 billion to third world under global warming pact
(11/01/2006) Avoided deforestation will be a hot point of discussion at next week's climate meeting in Nairobi, Kenya. Already a coalition of 15 rainforest nations have proposed a plan whereby industrialized nations would pay them to protect their forests to offset greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, last month Brazil -- which has the world's largest extent of tropical rainforests and the world's highest rate of forest loss -- said it promote a similar initiative at the talks. At stake: potentially billions of dollars for developing countries. When trees are cut greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere -- roughly 20 percent of annual emissions of such heat-trapping gases result from deforestation and forest degradation. Avoided deforestation is the concept where countries are paid to prevent deforestation that would otherwise occur. Policymakers and environmentalists alike find the idea attractive because it could help fight climate change at a low cost while improving living standards for some of the world's poorest people and preserving biodiversity and other ecosystem services. A number of prominent conservation biologists and development agencies including the World Bank and the U.N. have already endorsed the idea.
Indians are key to rainforest conservation efforts says renowned ethnobotanist
(10/31/2006) Tropical rainforests house hundreds of thousands of species of plants, many of which hold promise for their compounds which can be used to ward off pests and fight human disease. No one understands the secrets of these plants better than indigenous shamans -medicine men and women - who have developed boundless knowledge of this library of flora for curing everything from foot rot to diabetes. But like the forests themselves, the knowledge of these botanical wizards is fast-disappearing due to deforestation and profound cultural transformation among younger generations. The combined loss of this knowledge and these forests irreplaceably impoverishes the world of cultural and biological diversity. Dr. Mark Plotkin, President of the non-profit Amazon conservation Team, is working to stop this fate by partnering with indigenous people to conserve biodiversity, health, and culture in South American rainforests. Plotkin, a renowned ethnobotanist and accomplished author (Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice, Medicine Quest) who was named one of Time Magazine's environmental "Hero for the Planet," has spent parts of the past 25 years living and working with shamans in Latin America. Through his experiences, Plotkin has concluded that conservation and the well-being of indigenous people are intrinsically linked -- in forests inhabited by indigenous populations, you can't have one without the other. Plotkin believes that existing conservation initiatives would be better-served by having more integration between indigenous populations and other forest preservation efforts.
Amazon deforestation rate plunges 41 percent
(10/27/2006) Today the Brazilian government announced a sharp drop in Amazon deforestation. Forest loss for the 2005-2006 year was 13,100 square kilometers (5,057 square miles) of rainforest, down more than 40 percent from last year. The figure is the lowest since 1991 when 11,130 square kilometers (4,258 square miles) of forest were lost. Deforestation peaked in 1995 when 29,059 square kilometers (11,219 square miles) of forest were cut. Deforestation has plunged by almost 50 percent since 2004. Falling commodity prices, increased enforcement efforts, and government conservation initiatives are credited for the drop. "We aggressively increased enforcement of environmental laws in the past years and it has worked," Joao Paulo Capobianco, Brazil's minister-secretary of biodiversity and forests, told the Associated Press.
Rain bring haze reprieve in Indonesia, Singapore
(10/27/2006) Rain has brought a temporary reprieve for areas affected by forest fires-caused haze in Indonesia according to a report from Reuters. Officials at Sultan Thaha airport in Jambi province, on the island of Sumatra, said that planes are again taking off and landing after a 10-day closure due to low visibility, according to Reuters. In Singapore, the pollution index was at 19, down from Thursday's reading of 38, and a high of 128 on October 7, its worst level since the 1997-1998 fires. In Kuala Lumpur, the Air Pollution Index stood at 24 on Thursday, down from 72 on Tuesday, according to local reports.
Brazil claims soy and beef not responsible for Amazon deforestation
(10/26/2006) Brazil rejected claims that soybean farms and cattle pasture were destroying the Amazon rainforest, according to a report from Reuters. At the opening of an organic food products fair in Sao Paulo, Agriculture Minister Luis Carlos Guedes Pinto said that only 0.27 percent of Brazil's soybean crop is grown in the Amazon region, while less than 1.5 percent of Brazil's beef for export comes from the rainforest.
World Bank says carbon trading will save rainforests
(10/24/2006) Monday the World Bank endorsed carbon trading as a way to save tropical rainforests which are increasingly threatened by logging, agricultural development, subsistence agriculture, and climate change itself. The World Bank report comes on the heels of a proposal by a coalition of developing countries to seek compensation from industrialized countries for conserving their rainforests to fight global warming. Brazil is expected to announce a similar plan at upcoming climate talks in Nairobi.
Global warming could cause catastrophic die-off of Amazon rainforest by 2080
(10/23/2006) For the Amazon, there is an immense threat looming on the horizon: climate change could well cause most of the Amazon rainforest to disappear by the end of the century. Dr. Philip Fearnside, a Research Professor at the National Institute for Research in the Amazon in Manaus, Brazil and one of the most cited scientists on the subject of climate change, understands the threat well. Having spent more than 30 years in Brazil and now recognized as one of the world's foremost experts on the Amazon rainforest, Fearnside is working to do nothing less than to save this remarkable ecosystem. Fearnside believes saving the Amazon will require a fundamental shift in perception where the Amazon is recognized as an asset beyond the current price of mahogany, soybeans, or cattle, where its value is only unlocked by its destruction. The Amazon is far worth more than this he says. It can play a key role in fighting climate change while providing economic sustenance for millions through sustainable agriculture and rational utilization of its renewable products. It can serve as a storehouse for biodiversity while at the same time ensuring reliable water supplies and moderating regional temperature and precipitation. In short, maintaining the Amazon as a viable ecosystem makes sense economically and ecologically -- it is in our best interest to preserve this resource while we still can.
Brazil says no to rainforest privatization plan, asks Gore for help
(10/18/2006) On Tuesday Brazil rejected a alleged British proposal to fight climate change by 'privatizing' parts of the Amazon rainforest, according to Reuters. In an editorial published on the opinion page of Folha de S.Paulo newspaper, Environment Minister Marina Silva and Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said that the Amazon was 'not for sale'. Their comments were expected since Brazil has long objected to internationalization of the Amazon, seeing such attempts as a threat to its sovereignty. The 'Amazon privatization' report, which originally appeared in Britain's Sunday Telegraph newspaper on October 1, 2006, said that David Miliband, Britain's Environment Secretary, planned to propose an initiative that would turn parts of the Amazon into an 'international trust' wherein credible buyers could lockup parts of the rainforest for preservation. However, shortly after the article was published, Miliband's office strongly rejected the story.
Rainforests face myriad of threats says leading Amazon scholar
(10/17/2006) The world's tropical rainforests are in trouble. Spurred by a global commodity boom and continuing poverty in some of the world's poorest regions, deforestation rates have increased since the close of the 1990s. The usual threats to forests -- agricultural conversion, wildlife poaching, uncontrolled logging, and road construction -- could soon be rivaled, and even exceeded, by climate change and rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Understanding these threats is key to preserving forests and their ecological services for current and future generations. William F. Laurance, a distinguished scholar and president of the Association for Tropical Biology and conservation (ATBC) -- the world's largest scientific organization dedicated to the study and conservation of tropical ecosystems, is at the forefront of this effort.
Malaysia adopts new remote sensing technology to detect illegal forest burning
(10/16/2006) Last month Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Sri Najib Tun Razak announced that Malaysia will use a new remote sensing technology to detect illegal logging and forest fires in the country.
Brazil proposes compensation plan for rainforest conservation
(10/16/2006) Last month Brazil proposed the establishment of a fund to compensate developing countries that reduce deforestation, a move that follows a similar initiative by a coalition of developing countries led by Papua New Guinea and Costa Rica. The scheme could help cut greenhouse gas emissions that result from forest clearing and conversion. Deforestation currently is responsible for 20-25 percent of such heat-trapping emissions.
China needs 5 million cubic meters more of tropical timber by 2010
(10/16/2006) China needs 5 million cubic meters more of tropical timber by 2010 according to the September 15-30 ITTO Tropical Timber Market Report, a publication published by the International Tropical Timber Organization. China is already the world's largest consumer of tropical wood, importing more than twice the volume of tropical logs as India, the second largest importer on the list.
Forest fires result from government failure in Indonesia
(10/16/2006) Indonesia is burning again. Smoke from fires set for land-clearing in South Kalimantan (Borneo) and Sumatra are causing pollution levels to climb in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Bangkok, resulting in mounting haze-related health problems, traffic accidents, and associated economic costs. The country's neighbors are again clamoring for action but ultimately the fires will burn until they are extinguished by seasonal rains in coming months
Borneo and Sumatra burn as forest fires rage
(10/05/2006) Forest fires are again buring across Borneo and Sumatra (Indonesia) according to satellite images released this week by NASA.
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