WORLD RAINFOREST

By Rhett A. Butler  Last updated Aug 14, 2020

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

 

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The Latest News on Rainforests

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.

Death of Umi sparks concern over electric threat to Sumatran elephants (Jun 12 2024)
- Electric fences are common deterrents in Africa and Asia to prevent elephants from accessing human settlements and agricultural land.
- A civil society organization has blamed the death of an elephant on the verge of a plantation in Indonesia’s Jambi province on an electric fence.
- A Mongabay review of local media reports indicate there have been at least three deaths since 2022 attributed to electric fencing, though it’s unclear whether the animals were killed by the current or ensnared by the wiring.
- Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry didn’t respond to several requests for comment.

Landmark ruling in Suriname grants protections to local and Indigenous communities — for now (Jun 11 2024)
- A court in Suriname approved an injunction filed on behalf of twelve Indigenous and maroon groups concerned about losing approximately 535,000 hectares (1,322,013 acres) of rainforest to agricultural development.
- The court said the government doesn’t have the right to grant land without free, prior and informed consent, a process in which developers meet with residents to explain how projects would impact daily life.
- Despite the ruling, there are new efforts to bring Mennonite communities from other parts of the region to develop Suriname’s agricultural industry.

Brazil police raid Amazon carbon credit projects exposed by Mongabay (Jun 7 2024)
- The Brazilian Federal Police arrested people and seized assets linked to some of the country’s largest carbon credit projects.
- According to the investigators, the group was running land-grabbing and timber laundering crimes in the Amazon for more than a decade and profiting millions of dollars.
- The projects were exposed at the end of May in a one-year investigation published by Mongabay, which showed links between the REDD+ projects and an illegal timber scam.
- Authorities and experts hope the findings will raise the bar for projects in the country and persuade lawmakers to create strict rules for the Brazilian carbon market, which is now under discussion.

#AllEyesonPapua goes viral to highlight threat to Indigenous forests from palm oil (Jun 7 2024)
- Two Indigenous tribes from Indonesia’s Papua region are calling for public support as the country’s Supreme Court hears their lawsuits against palm oil companies threatening to clear their ancestral forests.
- Large swaths of Awyu customary forest lie inside three oil palm concessions that are part of the Tanah Merah megaproject, in Boven Digoel district, while part of the forest of the Moi tribe falls within a concession in Sorong district.
- The cases now being heard mark the latest chapters in long-running legal battles by the tribes to prevent the concession holders from clearing the forests to make way for oil palms.
- Using the hashtag #AllEyesonPapua, in a nod to the #AllEyesonRafah campaign, the tribes and their supporters have gone viral with their cause as they seek to save the forests on which their livelihoods — and lives — depend.

Unrest and arrests in Sumatra as community fights to protect mangroves (Jun 5 2024)
- Police in Indonesia’s Langkat district, North Sumatra province, arrested three people in April and May over alleged criminal damage linked to a conflict over a local mangrove forest.
- Civil society organizations in North Sumatra allege that local elites have established oil palm plantations on scores of hectares zoned as protected forest.
- They also allege that these individuals have hired thugs to intimidate local residents who oppose the clearing of mangrove forests to plantations.

Amazon deforestation threatens one of Brazil’s key pollinators, study shows (Jun 5 2024)
- Orchid bees, which help pollinate species from at least 30 plant families and play a big role in Brazil’s agriculture, have long been under threat from land-use change.
- Data from 1996-1997 from the Amazonian state of Rondônia show the twin spread of deforestation and agriculture drove down orchid bee abundance and diversity in this region.
- Analyzed in a recent study, the data suggest that bee diversity and abundance decline after only a decade of land-use change.
- Scientists revisited the past data collected from more than 130 sites to provide a more comprehensive baseline of orchid bee biodiversity as the region continues to face deforestation.

A tale of two frogs: The tough uphill battle for rediscovered species (Jun 4 2024)
- Some scientists worry that widespread enthusiasm over rediscovering lost or presumed-extinct species can underplay the rocky road to recovery that these species often face. Research suggests many rediscovered species have restricted ranges and small populations and remain highly threatened after their rediscovery.
- Rediscovered amphibians are particularly at risk due to their often-small ranges and risk of amphibian disease. A recently rediscovered harlequin frog species in Ecuador (tentatively identified as Atelopus guanujo), exemplifies challenges which can include intense funding competition and little legal protection or government support for imperiled species.
- The story of the rediscovered dusky gopher frog in the U.S. state of Mississippi illustrates how amphibians can benefit from strong conservation laws and government funding. Thanks to a long-term effort to conserve the dusky gopher frog, the species is now enroute to population recovery.
- Globally, rediscovered species face a range of outcomes — from full recovery to declines so severe populations aren’t genetically viable, or risk extinction due to single events. Outcomes vary based on funding, interest in conserving a particular species, and how much communities and institutions get involved in conservation.

How real action on environmental justice comes from Latin America’s community alliances (commentary) (Jun 3 2024)
- Despite the regional Escazú Agreement coming into force in 2021 to ensure the protection of the environment and its defenders in Latin America, it is not being enacted and has still not been ratified by countries such as Peru, Brazil and Guatemala.
- Real action for environmental justice is rather coming from self-governed media and activism alliances forged between communities in different regions of Latin America, like the Black and Indigenous Liberation Movement (BILM), an Americas-wide network of grassroots groups working together to fight extractivism.
- “While we wait for states to act on environmental protection and to implement existing mechanisms like the Escazú Agreement and UNPFII goals, regional autonomous alliances like BILM are crucial for pushing this agenda forward and ensuring that strategies come from the grassroots,” a new op-ed argues.
- This post is a commentary, the views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.

Narco activity takes heavy toll on Colombia’s protected forests, satellite data show (May 31 2024)
- Deforestation inside protected areas in central Colombia appears to be picking up pace this year, suggesting the steep drop-off from 2022-2023 was just a blip, according to satellite data.
- The most affected areas include Llanos del Yarí Yaguara II Indigenous Reserve, two national natural parks — Sierra de la Macarena and Tinigua — and the surrounding La Macarena Special Management Area.
- Threats to the region and its protected areas include agricultural expansion, along with the cultivation of illegal crops such as coca and marijuana, and illegal gold mining.
- The region’s protected areas are increasingly falling under the control of armed groups emboldened and funded by the drug industry, according to monitoring agencies and local residents interviewed by Mongabay.

‘Non-market’ solutions to deforestation need more support, advocates say (May 31 2024)
- In a report released May 29, three environmental groups called for a shift away from carbon markets and toward “non-market” solutions to deforestation.
- The Paris Agreement has a clause calling for such solutions, which the groups said could include financing for Indigenous groups, payment for ecosystem services, and debt relief.
- The report criticized carbon markets, saying incentives for brokers and project developers are misaligned with global environmental priorities.

Elusive jaguarundi inspires biologists to share data across Latin America (May 30 2024)
- The jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi) is a little-known small felid with a range extending from northern Argentina to Mexico. The last confirmed sighting in the United States was in 1986.
- H. yagouaroundi is found in a variety of habitats, but is thought to occupy mostly rugged areas with good shrub cover, including near agricultural lands. Unlike most other felids, the jaguarundi is active during the day, which can easily bring it into conflict with farmers who don’t appreciate its habit of raiding chicken coops.
- Like most small, noncharismatic cat species, there’s little funding to learn more about the jaguarundi. But researchers are developing new tools, for example pooling sparse “bycatch” data gathered by many biologists from camera traps in widely scattered places and modeling it to predict habitat use and population size.
- An ongoing IUCN jaguarundi assessment is using a Google Forms questionnaire to reach out widely to researchers, governments and NGOs, while also using easily shared social media tools. A detailed understanding of jaguarundi behavior is needed to assure it is conserved both inside and outside protected areas.

Indigenous people and NGO grow a wildlife corridor in the world’s oldest rainforest (May 30 2024)
- Environmental charity Climate Force is collaborating with the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people and rangers to create a wildlife corridor that runs between two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Australia: the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef.
- Wildlife habitats in this region have become fragmented due to industrial agriculture, and a forested corridor is expected to help protect biodiversity by allowing animals to forage for food and connect different populations for mating and migration.
- The project aims to plant 360,000 trees over an area of 213 hectares (526 acres); so far, it has planted 25,000 trees of 180 species on the land and in the nursery, which can also feed a range of native wildlife.
- The project is ambitious and organizers say they’re hopeful about it, but challenges remain, including soil regeneration and ensuring the planted trees aren’t killed off by feral pigs or flooding.

Analysis: Michelin’s no-deforestation claims in Indonesia rubber plantation a stretch (May 30 2024)
- Rubber manufacturer Michelin claims to have avoided millions of tons of carbon emissions and saved thousands of hectares of primary forest in a sustainable rubber plantation project in Indonesia.
- Michelin joined the project in 2014 after buying a stake in the Indonesian rubber company RLU, which in 2018 raised $95 million in green bonds. In 2022, Michelin became RLU’s sole shareholder, and repaid the green bonds raised by the project.
- Reporting by independent media outlet Voxeurop, published in 2022, revealed that deforestation in the RLU concession surged immediately before the company made no-deforestation commitments in 2015, resulting in the loss of critical wildlife habitat.
- In this analysis, Voxeurop reporter Stefano Valentino looks at what has happened with the project since Michelin made its no-deforestation commitments, finding ongoing loss of forest within the company’s concessions.

New bill to expand farmlands in the Amazon may derail Brazil’s green efforts (May 29 2024)
- A bill that would reduce the amount of primary forest that landowners in the Brazilian Amazon must preserve may lead to the deforestation of an area twice the size of Rio de Janeiro state.
- The bill has been tailored for the interests of the agribusiness lobby by permitting an increase in legal deforestation and would bring regulation of the Amazon closer to that of the heavily deforested Cerrado savanna biome.
- For environmental organizations, its potential approval would undermine Brazil’s stated goals of reducing carbon emissions and putting an end to deforestation by 2030.

Honduran environmental defenders hit hard by human rights crisis, report says (May 28 2024)
- A new report from the Organization of American States documents the human rights crisis in Honduras, citing threats and violence against environmental defenders as one of the most alarming problems.
- The violence tends to involve agrarian land disputes in areas populated by the over 700,000 Indigenous and Afro-descendant residents of the country, including the Miskitu, Pesh, Tawahka, Nahua, Tolupán, Chortí and Lenca, as well as Garifunas.
- The OAS recommended the government improve land titling while strengthening and better organizing institutions that hold violent aggressors accountable.

What’s at stake for the environment in Mexico’s upcoming election? (May 27 2024)
- On June 2, in addition to president, Mexico will choose all 500 deputies in the lower house of Congress and all 128 seats in the Senate.
- The main presidential candidates are left-wing Claudia Sheinbaum and right-wing Xóchitl Gálvez, with center-left Jorge Máynez representing a third, dark-horse option.
- Both Sheinbaum and Gálvez want to invest more in renewable energy, but disagree about some controversial infrastructure projects.

Governments are ramping up actions to fight environmental crime across the Amazon, but is it working? (commentary) (May 27 2024)
- In 2023, Amazon deforestation rates declined after years of record-breaking losses, thanks to efforts led by Brazil and Colombia. However, these gains are fragile, and anti-deforestation efforts show signs of weakening, with persistent risks of a tipping point, argues Robert Muggah, Co-Founder of the Igarapé Institute.
- Government measures focus on forest conservation, green development, and strengthening the rule of law but face challenges due to underfunding and limited municipal support. Public security forces are overwhelmed by environmental crimes like illegal mining and wildlife trafficking, exacerbating forest and biodiversity loss.
- Environmental crime is gaining more attention from decision-makers, law enforcement, and civil society, leading to increased media coverage and public commitments. Despite this, interventions remain fragmented, with inconsistent political backing and funding, writes Muggah.
- “Ultimately, Brazil and other countries in the Amazon Basin cannot reverse environmental crime through police and prosecutions alone,” he writes. “A comprehensive strategy that combines law enforcement with nature-based development opportunities is critical.” This post is a commentary, so the views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.