By Rhett A. Butler  Last updated Aug 14, 2020

The Tropical Rainforest - information on tropical forests, deforestation, and biodiversity




The Latest News on Rainforests

Space mission that maps forests in 3D makes an early comeback (Jul 17 2024)
- NASA’s GEDI mission, which maps the Earth’s forests in 3D using lasers, is back in operation from a hiatus, six months earlier than expected.
- Since 2018, GEDI has used spaceborne laser altimeters to help scientists gather data on forest structure, aboveground biomass and carbon stored in forests.
- Following resumption of operations, researchers have used GEDI data along with data from other missions as well as analysis tools to estimate the aboveground carbon stored in protected areas and Indigenous territories in the Amazon Rainforest.

‘Extinct’ trees found in Tanzania sparks hope for ecosystem recovery (Jul 16 2024)
- Conservationists in eastern Tanzania have found two specimens of a rare tree feared to be extinct.
- Millettia sacleuxii was only known from six specimens in forest reserves that have almost disappeared.
- Thousands of seeds have been collected and seedlings raised, and these are due to be planted out as part of a reforestation project in the Nguru Mountains.
- The two surviving Millettia “mother trees” were found near an area that conservationists hope to soon turn into a wildlife corridor.

Ugandan chimps are eating bat guano, raising concerns over human epidemics (Jul 15 2024)
- Wildlife like chimpanzees have started consuming bat excrement — guano — in the Budongo Forest, Uganda. After analyzing samples, scientists found that the guano not only held high concentrations of minerals but was also full of viruses, including a cousin to SARS-CoV-2.
- Researchers say the weird feeding behavior may be because the animals have lost a primary source of dietary minerals from native trees to tobacco farming.
- Worryingly, some of these viruses can be transmitted to humans, meaning that if wild animals become more exposed to bat-borne viruses, so could humans.
- The scientists underline that social forces like the market and resource extraction can lead to such unintended consequences.

Conservation pays and everyone’s benefitting from it (commentary) (Jul 15 2024)
- In this commentary, Diego Vincenzi, current chief of staff for the Minister of Environment and Energy in Costa Rica, highlights how Costa Rica halted deforestation, achieved 57% forest cover after reaching a low of 21% in the 1980s, and protected 25% of its land while becoming the top per capita agricultural exporter in Latin America..
- Costa Rica’s success stems from a shift in the 1990s towards greener environmental legislation, introducing the Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) scheme funded by a fossil fuel tax, which compensates landowners for forest conservation and now includes untitled lands, benefiting native populations.
- FONAFIFO, the institution managing PES, is expanding the program to cover 182,000 hectares annually and introducing biodiversity certificates for estates, aiming to broaden conservation efforts to include mangrove ecosystems, linking land and water for a more sustainable environment.
- This is a commentary and does not necessarily reflect the views of Mongabay.

Sumatra pulp & paper giants violate zero-deforestation pledge, activists allege (Jul 12 2024)
- An investigation by an NGO coalition in Indonesia alleges that two pulp and paper giants — Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) and Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Ltd. (APRIL) — have cleared natural forests and peatlands in violation of their zero-deforestation pledges.
- The allegations center on a concession operated by PT Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (RAPP) in Siak district of Riau province, a concession managed by an open market supplier to APRIL, PT Selaras Abadi Utama (SAU), in Pelalawan district of Riau province, and a block of land in Riau managed by a local cooperative that has a working agreement with an APP subsidiary, PT Arara Abadi (AA).
- APRIL reiterated its commitment to sustainability and zero-deforestation and APP denied that any illegal timber had entered its supply chain.

Panama’s ‘Caribbean Corridor’ highway threatens three protected areas, critics say (Jul 11 2024)
- Several legal challenges have temporarily stalled construction on a new, controversial highway project in north-central Panama, which allegedly bypassed environmental regulations and could damage several protected areas along the Caribbean coast.
- The highway, known as the “Caribbean Corridor,” is supposed to travel 28.4 kilometers (17.6 miles) from the towns of Quebrada Ancha to María Chiquita, with the goal of increasing tourism and local commerce on the coast of Colón province.
- The $91-million project could endanger Portobelo National Park, Chagres National Park, Sierra Llorona Private Reserve and the Panama Canal watershed that includes Gatun Lake and the Panama Canal.

“Game over” for the Amazon forest and global climate if Trump wins? (commentary) (Jul 11 2024)
- Both global climate and the Amazon Forest are near tipping points beyond which irreversible processes would lead to unprecedented catastrophes. A second Trump presidency would both boost greenhouse gas emissions and would risk a critical delay in global efforts to avert a runaway greenhouse.
- The various interrelated tipping points represent thresholds where the annual probability of a catastrophic change increases sharply, after which the risk of a disaster at some point in time increases constantly.
- Climate change threatens the Amazon Forest, and if the rainforest collapses it would push global warming past a tipping point in the climate system. This risk would be greatly increased by a second Trump presidency.
- This is a commentary and does not necessarily reflect the views of Mongabay.

Indonesia’s oil palm smallholders get a boost in bid for sustainability (Jul 10 2024)
- A new set of guidelines aims to help smallholder oil palm farmers in Indonesia, the world’s top producer of palm oil, ensure their products are deforestation-free.
- This would allow them a foothold in markets that are increasingly demanding, and requiring, sustainably produced goods.
- In particular, the smallholder toolkit aims to address the Indonesian government’s main grievance to a new European Union regulation prohibiting the import of deforestation-linked products, namely that smallholder farmers are least able to comply and will be affected the most.
- The toolkit could also contribute to Indonesia’s climate goals, by incentivizing smallholders to embrace more sustainable farming practices and choosing to conserve forests instead of clearing them.

As logging booms in Suriname, forest communities race to win land rights (Jul 4 2024)
- Despite its environmental track record, Suriname is still the only country in South America that hasn’t formally recognized the territorial rights of Indigenous and Maroon peoples.
- The Saamaka claim that a 2007 ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights should give them collective land rights, yet the government continues to grant forestry and mining concessions on their land.
- The Surinamese government has granted 447,000 hectares (1.1 million acres) of concessions on Saamaka land, or 32% of the territory, according to the International Land Coalition.
- In a letter to the president this month, Saamaka communities asked the government to stop granting land concessions and to officially demarcate their territory.

Climate surprises: Amazonia and the lessons of Brazil’s catastrophic flood in Rio Grande do Sul (commentary) (Jul 4 2024)
- Brazil’s catastrophic flood in the state of Rio Grande do Sul is helping to raise public awareness of climate change but has had no visible effect on the Brazilian government’s actions and plans on greenhouse gas emissions. The flood provides an example of “climate surprises,” which are expected to increase further in frequency and severity with projected global warming.
- Amazonia has already been the victim of a series of such surprises, and these threaten the Amazon forest with collapse and the consequent pushing of global warming beyond a point of no return.
- Except for the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, the rest of Brazil’s presidential administration is on the wrong side of the issue, expanding fossil fuel extraction and promoting deforestation in various ways. An immediate turnaround is needed.
- This is a commentary and does not necessarily reflect the views of Mongabay.

Protected areas benefit nature & people, study says — with caveats (Jul 2 2024)
- A new paper in the journal Current Biology that attempts to track how protected areas (PAs) fare on biodiversity protection and economic growth found that PAs “don’t have a negative impact on local economic growth.”
- However, experts say that the encouraging results must be interpreted with abundant caution because the study uses narrow definitions of conservation success and economic development.
- The top 10 countries that were most likely to report harmony between the two objectives included five African countries: Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Madagascar, Zambia and South Sudan.
- The performance of PAs in key biodiversity areas such as the Amazon and Southeast Asia was also lackluster, but this was in comparison with other areas, said Binbin Li, first author of the study. “It is not at the same level [as other regions], but it is not rare.”

Study says 40% of Amazon region is potentially conserved — more than officially recorded (Jul 1 2024)
- A new study reveals that more than 40% of land across nine Amazonian countries is under some form of conservation management, significantly higher than the 28% reported in official records.
- The research highlights the crucial role of Indigenous peoples and local communities in conservation, with Indigenous territories covering 16% of the total land area of the nine Amazonian countries and community-managed conservation areas adding another 3.5%.
- Despite these findings, the Amazon still faces serious threats from deforestation, fire and climate change, leading some experts to question whether the global “30×30” conservation target is adequate.
- The study’s authors propose a new inventory approach to conservation planning, emphasizing the need to understand existing conservation efforts and governance structures before creating new protected areas or allocating resources.

Study: A third of Africa’s great apes at risk from mining of transition metals (Jun 28 2024)
- Rising demand for the metals needed to power the global renewable energy transition potentially threatens more than a third of Africa’s great apes.
- Nearly 180,000 gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos face potential fallout from current and future mining projects for these transition metals, particularly in West Africa.
- Direct and indirect potential impacts from mining on apes include habitat destruction, health threats from light pollution and disease transmission, and safety risks from vehicle traffic.
- Transparent data sharing and a more robust mechanism to mitigate impacts before they materialize could go a long way to protect Africa’s great apes from becoming a casualty of climate action.

‘Miracle’ in miniature as rare new plant defies deforestation in Ecuador (Jun 28 2024)
- Botanists have identified a new plant species, Amalophyllon miraculum, in a small forest fragment in northwestern Ecuador, highlighting the importance of preserving even small patches of threatened ecosystems.
- The tiny plant, only 5 cm (2 in) tall, was found growing on a boulder in an area that has lost 70-97% of its original forest cover due to agricultural expansion and past government policies encouraging deforestation.
- The researchers say this new species represents hope for biodiversity conservation, showing that unique species can persist even in heavily altered landscapes.
- Conservation organizations are working with local landowners to protect remaining forest areas and cultivate rare species, emphasizing the ecological and human benefits of preserving these ecosystems.

Hydropower dams further undermine REDD+ efforts in Cambodia (Jun 28 2024)
- Five hydropower dams are currently being built in the Cardamom Mountains with reservoirs set to collectively span more than 15,000 hectares (37,065 acres) across protected forests.
- Three of these new dams encroach on forests where REDD+ projects are currently operating, pitting “green” energy infrastructure against conservation goals.
- Residents living nearby one of the dam sites fear that history may repeat as hydropower dams have typically been used to illegally extract valuable timber.

History repeats as logging linked to Cambodian hydropower dam in Cardamoms (Jun 27 2024)
- Loggers are targeting protected forests in Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains using the cover of a new hydropower dam
- The dam is being built by Ly Yong Phat, a wealthy Cambodian tycoon with ties to the top tiers of government and a long history of environmental vandalism in the Cardamoms
- Timber from the Stung Meteuk hydropower dam has already been sold via a government-facilitated auction, but some timber may have been illegally logged
- The dam also overlaps significantly with the Samkos REDD+ project which is still under validation and verification

Investigation confirms more abuses on Cameroon, Sierra Leone Socfin plantations (Jun 27 2024)
- Findings from a second round of investigations into allegations of human rights abuses on plantations owned by Belgian company Socfin have been published.
- Supply chain consultancy Earthworm Foundation found evidence of sexual violence and land conflict, following similar findings from other plantations in West and Central Africa published in December 2023.
- Around one plantation, in Sierra Leone, a mapping exercise may signal action to remedy some problems, but communities and their supporters elsewhere say it’s unclear how Socfin can be held to account.
- International NGOs point out that the findings are in conflict with Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certifications that Socfin holds.

Mongabay at 25: A Reflection on the Journey and Future (Jun 24 2024)
- 25 years ago, I founded Mongabay out of my love and respect for nature.
- The growth of Mongabay has greatly exceeded my wildest expectations: Today, we have more than 100 staff members and about 1,000 contributing journalists around the world.
- As Mongabay looks to the future, its strategy remains rooted in the belief that journalism can drive real-world change. This approach focuses on raising awareness about the importance of nature, generating opportunities for accountability in the face of environmental destruction, and inspiring collective efforts toward solutions.
- As Mongabay moves forward, its strategy remains steadfast in the belief that credible independent journalism is vital to addressing the planetary emergency. The window for preserving planetary health is closing, but taking such positive actions potentially makes us all part of a more vibrant and beautiful story.

Revealed: Illegal cattle boom in Arariboia territory in deadliest year for Indigenous Guajajara (Jun 19 2024)
- Commercial cattle ranching is banned on Indigenous territories in Brazil, but a yearlong Mongabay investigation reveals that large plots in the Arariboia Indigenous Territory have been used for ranching amid a record-high number of killings of the region’s Indigenous Guajajara inhabitants.
- Our investigation found a clear rise in environmental crimes in the region in mid-2023, including an unlicensed airstrip and illegal deforestation on the banks of the Buriticupu river, key for Guajajara people’s livelihood.
- With four Guajajara people killed and three others surviving attempts on their lives, 2023 marked the deadliest year for Indigenous people in Arariboia in seven years, equating to the number of killings in 2016, 2008 and 2007.
- Our findings show a pattern of targeted killings of Indigenous Guajajara amid the expansion of illegal cattle ranching and logging in and around Arariboia: we tracked several dozen illegal or suspicious activities; the hotspot killing areas coincide with the bulk of the tracked activities and with police operations curbing illegal logging in Arariboia’s surroundings. There’s no evidence that the owners of the businesses were responsible for the killings.

How effective is the EU’s marquee policy to reduce the illegal timber trade? (Jun 19 2024)
- The European Union’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan, adopted in 2003, is a unique regional attempt to rein in the burgeoning global trade in illegal timber.
- A key component of FLEGT is bilateral trade agreements between the EU and timber-producing countries, known as voluntary partnership agreements (VPAs), which provide economic incentives to producer countries to strengthen regulation of timber production within their borders.
- But how well do the VPAs work, and what kind of environmental, social and economic benefits do they provide? To find out, scientists reviewed the scientific research on FLEGT VPAs, and we detail their results below. The upshot, they found, is that it’s too soon to tell.
- This is the ninth installment of Mongabay’s long-running special series, “Conservation Effectiveness.”

If forests truly drive wind and water cycles, what does it mean for the climate? (Jun 18 2024)
- Theoretical physicists Anastassia Makarieva and Viktor Gorshkov developed the controversial “biotic pump” theory more than a decade ago, which challenges traditional climate and hydrological science.
- The theory posits that forests drive moisture-laden air currents, thereby governing wind and rain and implying that further global forest loss could have unknown effects on weather and water supplies.
- While yet to be disproven or validated, some scientists say it’s vitally important to study and test this theory, and potentially include it in climate-modeling scenarios.
- Makarieva joins Mongabay’s podcast to discuss the theory and its implications for future climate modeling with co-host Rachel Donald.

Brazil’s BR-319 Highway: The latest maneuver to obtain approval for an environmental disaster (commentary) (Jun 17 2024)
- Plans for “reconstructing” Brazil’s formerly abandoned BR-319 (Manaus-Porto Velho) highway would facilitate access to vast areas of Amazon forest from the AMACRO deforestation hotspot in southern Amazonia, argues Philip M. Fearnside.
- The researcher says Brazil’s federal environmental agency is under intense pressure to grant a license to allow the reconstruction to begin. This pressure has reached a new high due to a report just released by a Ministry of Transportation working group claiming the highway project is “environmentally viable.”
- The report ignores almost all of the project’s impacts and presents essentially no evidence that the highway would be “environmentally viable.” Extensive evidence to the contrary is ignored. The report’s deficiencies in no way diminish its effectiveness as a lever to force approval of this disastrous project.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of Mongabay.

Deforestation in Earth’s largest rainforest continues to plummet despite a rise in fires (Jun 15 2024)
- Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon dropped to its lowest level since March 2018, according to new data from the Brazilian government.
- Deforestation for the year to date is down 40% compared to 2023, with expectations for a significant annual decline when the “deforestation year” concludes on July 31.
- Despite declining deforestation in the Amazon, the region is experiencing a rise in forest fires due to a severe drought.
- Deforestation is rising in the cerrado, an adjacent ecosystem.

In Peru’s Madre de Dios, deforestation from mining brings huge economic losses (Jun 13 2024)
- Amazon Conservation’s Monitoring of the Amazon Project (MAAP) analyzed the environmental and economic impact of three local communities in the Madre Dios region of the Peruvian Amazon, where gold mining has torn apart the rainforest and created a public health crisis for residents.
- Results showed that across just three native communities, deforestation from mining and pollution caused a total economic loss of $593,786,943 only between August 2022 and 2023.
- The project was carried out using the Mining Impacts Calculator, a tool created by the Conservation Strategy Fund (CSF) to quantify the economic impact of environmental damage.

Solutions to avoid loss of environmental, social and governance investment (Jun 12 2024)
- ESG strategies pro-actively support the planet and societal well-being in order to maximize profits over the short and long term. The goal is to align a company’s strategies and operations with the growing demand for the sustainable production of goods and services.
- Critics on the left brand ESG investing as greenwashing, arguing that corporations view it through a public relations lens rather than as a true reform of business models.
- Supporters contend the emerging ESG schemes are different in both scope and scale from previous sustainability initiatives, where the power of consumers was dispersed via complex supply chains and political processes.
- A very large company may have a good ESG score overall, but a poorly conceived project in the Pan Amazon. Moreover, the global corporations that participate in ESG initiatives are not representative of the dozens of domestic mining companies that operate in the Pan Amazon.