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  • Archive for August, 2015

    Deforestation in Brazil threatens to rise again


    2015 - 08.31

    The fears of conservationists might have been confirmed as new data shows deforestation in Brazil has risen over the past 12 months.

    After years of steady decline, satellite data, released on a website run by the National Space Research Institute (INPE), shows that accumulated deforestation detected by the country’s short-term forest monitoring system (DETER) has risen by 69 per cent, compared to a year ago.

    The data supports research by Brazilian NGO Imazon, which stated that deforestation had increased by 63 per cent over the past year. However, it is still too early to make wholesale judgements; official figures will not be revealed until the end of the year – these will offer a bigger picture of how much rainforest is being cleared, rather than the year-on-year comparisons made by INPE and Imazon.

    Nevertheless, it raises more concerns that all the hard work that was done to curb deforestation in the Amazon is now either slowing or, worse, being reversed. This is something that a huge number of firms, including Greenwood Management, are working hard to prevent.

    According to Mongabay: "The climbing deforestation has been attributed to several factors, including Brazil’s flagging economy, which makes forest conversion for agriculture more attractive; the government’s steep cuts in funding for programs to reduce deforestation; a renewed push for large-scale infrastructure projects in the Amazon; and relaxation of the country’s Forest Code, which governs how much forest must be preserved on private lands."

    Prior to this blow dished out by INPE, Brazil had been widely praised for the work it had done in the battle against deforestation. Indeed, emissions from all sectors across the Brazilian economy have reportedly fallen by around 40 per cent in the last 10 years, spurred by an 85 per cent cut in carbon dioxide from deforestation.

    Amazon skyscraper to help monitor climate change


    2015 - 08.26

    A new skyscraper has been built in the heart of Brazil's Amazon rainforest with the aim of monitoring climate change.

    Christened the Amazon Tall Tower Observatory, or ATTO, the metal tower stands at 325 meters (1,066 feet). This makes it taller than Paris' Eiffel Tower and bigger than London's The Shard. However, unlike these city giants, this skyscraper has been built in an extremely remote location – 350 kilometres from Manaus, the nearest city – and it has been designed to serve an altogether different purposes: fight climate change.

    Meinrat Andrae, director of the Max Planck Institute of Chemistry, which is partnering with Brazilian research agency Inpa on the German-Brazilian funded project, explained the reasoning for the tower. "Being far from towns and man's influence ensures we can collect relatively pure data," he said.

    With the trees of the Amazon rainforest the world's best weapon to fight climate change, their protection is of pivotal importance. Located in the heart of the rainforest, this tower will gather atmospheric data on the surrounding area, therefore enabling conservation teams to better monitor global warming, Yahoo reported.

    Antonio Ocimar Manzi, one of the Brazilian scientists working on the ATTO, commented: "Thanks to this tower we'll be able to better understand the role of the Amazon, its effect on the local climate and also on the global climate."

    "The 325 meters height allows the monitoring of an unprecedented atmospheric area of nearly 1,000 square kilometres," the Brazilian government added in a statement.

    "This will fill holes in the monitoring and collection of data done by satellites and other instruments."

    Officially opened last week, the tower, which cost about $7.4 million and consists of 15,000 pieces, will not begin to collect data until later in this year. Once up and running, however, the tower is expected to be in operation for between 20 and 30 years.

    Satellite monitoring changes deforestation tactics in Brazil


    2015 - 08.24

    The use of satellite images to track and combat deforestation has changed the way trees are felled in the Amazon rainforest, research has found.

    According to a report by the Climate Policy Initiative and the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, while the felling of trees on a wide scale has been effectively curbed over the past decade, small-scale deforestation has increased in its place.

    In 2004 strict monitoring and enforcement was introduced – including using satellite images among other things – to cut down on deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. It proved successful; deforestation rates fell nearly 80 per cent from 27,000 square kilometres in 2004 to 5,000 square kilometres in 2012.

    However, in this same period there was almost a doubling of illegal tree felling of areas under 25 hectares, which is still the equivalent of between 15 and 20 football pitches. Though large, these plots are difficult to detect from satellites and thus can often go unnoticed by those monitoring the rainforest.

    Juliano Assuncao, the study’s author and a professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, explained: “It is clear that Brazil’s efforts to curb deforestation are working.

    “Our study shows, though, that there are still challenges. We need to step up forest protection strategies on smaller tracts of land.”

    The researchers suggest that further forestry investment will be required to help tackle the small-scale felling of trees, something that is endorsed by Greenwood Management.

    Brazil managed to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 41 per cent between 2005 and 2012, largely by slowing destruction of the vast Amazon rainforest. And, according to Paulo Moutinho, head of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute, the country “has all the elements in place to reach zero deforestation in 2025”.

    Half a million ants march in protest against deforestation


    2015 - 08.19

    They might be small, but ants are making their voices heard, metaphorically speaking, as they take a stand against deforestation.

    On Tuesday (17 August) half a million of the tiny insects took part in a rally at a zoo in Cologne, Germany in which they carried leaves on their back emblazoned with anti-logging messages. The unique demonstration – which was organised by concerned German ecologists from the WWF conservation group – comes ahead of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel's trip to Brazil to speak to the nation's president Dilma Rousseff, which is taking place on Thursday.

    The marching ants carried leaves with various slogans such as “Save the Amazon”, “Our homeland”, “Say no to saws” and “Help, Merkel”, which were all carved by activists.

    Christoph Heinrich, a board member of WWF Germany, commented: "The German government should use this meeting to redouble collective efforts at protecting the Amazon tropical forest."

    Merkel arrived in Brasilia on Wednesday to begin the two-day trip. As with most diplomatic visits to the South American country, climate change and more specifically deforestation is due to be on the high on the agenda, particularly ahead of the UN climate change conference taking place in Paris later this year.

    Reporting on the trip, Reuters stated: "German officials expect to work with the Brazilians to find common ground on climate policy before a UN conference in December, at which some 200 countries will try to agree on limiting the rise in global temperatures to two degrees Celsius."

    Also expected to be on the agenda for the talks between Merkel and Rousseff is how Brazil can provide better investment terms to German companies, which have poured over 19 billion euros ($21 billion) into the struggling economy but face rising energy costs.

    Tanzania looking for greater forestry investment


    2015 - 08.13

    Tanzania is promoting a collaborative effort between the private and public sectors to help protect the country’s forests while also boosting its economy.

    According to a recent report by the UN, if deforestation in Tanzania continues at its current rate, it could cost the national economy 5,588 billion Tanzanian shillings ($3.5 billion, based on 2013 exchange rates) between 2013 and 2033.

    The report focused on how one-off timber sales from felled trees are outstripped by the damage it does to the economy. The UN stated that by protecting the nation’s forests it would boost its agriculture, tourism and energy sectors.

    A Carbon Tanzania spokesperson, Jo Anderson, said his organisation’s efforts help prevent 350 hectares of deforestation every year, which saves around 30,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

    He added: “Our investment in forest conservation leads to the exact outcomes the report identifies, which is delivering biodiversity conservation that supports local livelihoods, regulating water services provision to local people and livestock, creating localised economic activity that leads to enhanced incomes for local community members and therefore contribute directly to poverty alleviation.”

    Al Gore has also recently come out and highlighted financial data showing that tackling deforestation will provide a major boost to the global economy.

    Tanzania is therefore promoting greater forestry investment, with the government hoping that private sector funds will provide a boost for sustainable forestry management and thus curb deforestation, something that Greenwood Management believes is both extremely important and worthwhile.

    Former director of forestry and beekeeping, Dr Felician Kilahama commented: “Definitely we have not invested enough in forestry; most of the natural forests and woodlands are not properly managed and they are under heavy human pressure for various reasons such as charcoal production.”

    Dr Kilahama added that natural forests and woodlands remain very important resources in the country not only because of energy needs but also construction, herbal and furniture manufacture, and called on greater investment in this area.