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Archive for the ‘Amazon’ Category

Pioneering six-mile walkway to attract ‘eco tourists’ to Amazon rainforest

Posted by Lindy on January 24, 2012

23rd January 2012

A project to build a pioneering science centre with more than six miles of walkways will give tourists spectacular views in the heart of the Amazon rainforest. The £6.4m centre will be built by a British charity and will act as a research base for scientists from the Royal Botanic Gardens, provide jobs for Brazilian tribes and attract eco-tourists, according to The Sunday Times.

Tourist high-light: The walkway will give visitors a stunning view of the rainforest from high above the jungle floor. The ambitious walkway will be located in Roraima, a remote province of northeast Brazil, and will be designed by the same architects who created  the London Eye and Kew Gardens’ treetop walkway. Researchers will use the walkway to study the rainforest canopy while tourists will be able to enjoy stunning views from high above the jungle floor.

The project is being co-ordinated by the Amazon Charitable Trust and is expected to take two years to construct. Robert Pasley-Tyler, a managing partner of the Amazon Charitable Trust, said of the project: ‘It will employ the local river tribe, giving them a way of making a living without destroying the forest, and also boost awareness around the world. Visitors will also get to see the nearby pink dolphins and the giant otters before spending a relaxing day on a riverside beach.’

Roraima is the northernmost and least populated state of Brazil. It borders Venezuela and Guyana and renowned for its challenging hiking routes.


Posted in Amazon, Appropriate technology, Global warming, management, Solution to problems | Leave a Comment »

Rainforest: the problem with roads

Posted by Lindy on January 19, 2012

Taken from an article by William Laurance

Brazil is currently building 7,500 kilometers of new paved highways that crisscross the Amazon basin. Three major new highways are cutting across the towering Andes mountains, providing a direct link for timber and agricultural exports from the Amazon to resource-hungry Pacific Rim nations, such as China.

Despite their environmental costs, the economic incentives to drive roads into tropical wilderness are strong. They are:

  • a cost-effective means to promote economic development
  • give access natural resources
  • local communities in remote areas often demand new roads to improve access to markets and medical services
  • new roads can be used to help secure frontier regions

Roads that cut through rainforests can also create barriers for sensitive wildlife, many of which are ecological specialists. Studies have shown that even narrow (30 meter-wide), unpaved roads drastically reduce or halt local movements for scores of forest bird species. Many of these species prefer deep, dark forest interiors; they have large, light-sensitive eyes and avoid the vicinity of road verges, where conditions are much brighter, hotter, and drier. A variety of other tropical species — including certain insects, amphibians, reptiles, bats, and small and large mammals — have been shown to be similarly leery of roads and other clearings. And by bringing naïve rainforest wildlife into close proximity with fast-moving vehicles, roads can also promote heavy animal mortality. For some creatures, especially those with low reproductive rates, roads could potentially become death zones that help propel the species toward local extinction.

Although the direct effects of roads are serious, they pale in comparison to the indirect impacts. In tropical frontier regions, new roads often open up a Pandora’s box of unplanned environmental maladies, including:

  •  illegal land colonization
  • fires
  • hunting
  • gold mining
  • forest clearing.

“The best thing you could do for the Amazon,” said the respected Brazilian scientist Eneas Salati, “is to bomb all the roads.”

In Brazilian Amazonia, my colleagues and I have done studies showing that around 95 percent of all deforestation occurs within 50 kilometers of highways or roads. Human-lit fires increase dramatically near Amazonian roads, even within many protected areas. In Suriname, most illegal gold mining occurs near roads.

Paved highways are especially dangerous to forests. They provide year-round access to forest resources and reduce transportation costs, causing larger-scale impacts on forests and wildlife than do unpaved roads, which tend to become impassable in the wet season. The proposed routes of new highways often attract swarms of land speculators who rush in to buy up cheap forest land, which they then sell to the highest bidder.
Perhaps the most damaging aspect of paved highways is that they spawn networks of secondary roads, which spread further environmental destruction. For instance, the 2,000-kilometer-long Belem-Brasília highway, completed in the early 1970s, has today evolved into a spider web of secondary roads and a 400-kilometer-wide swath of forest destruction across the eastern Brazilian Amazon.

Can the environmental impacts of tropical roads be minimized? In theory, the answer is “Yes, partially.”

  • Frequent culverts can reduce the effects on streams and hydrology.
  • Impacts on animal movements can be reduced by keeping road clearings narrow enough so that canopy cover is maintained overhead, providing a way for arboreal species to cross.
  • In high-priority areas rope-bridges are being used to facilitate road crossings of monkeys and possums.
  • For small ground-dwelling species, culverts beneath roads can allow road-crossing movements

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World pays Ecuador not to extract oil from rainforest

Posted by Lindy on January 3, 2012

Friday 30 December 2011

Governments and film stars join alliance that raises £75m to compensate Ecuador for lost revenue from 900m barrels. Supporters of the Yasuní ‘crowdfunding’ initiative say it could change the way important places are protected.

An alliance of European local authorities, national governments, US film stars, Japanese shops, soft drink companies and Russian foundations have stepped in to prevent oil companies exploiting 900m barrels of crude oil from one of the world’s most biologically rich tracts of land. According to the UN, the “crowdfunding” initiative had last night raised $116m (£75m), enough to temporarily halt the exploitation of the 722 square miles of “core” Amazonian rainforest known as Yasuní national park in Ecuador.

The park, which is home to two tribes of uncontacted Indians, is thought to have more mammal, bird, amphibian and plant species than any other spot on earth. Development of the oilfield, which was planned to take place immediately if the money had not been raised, would have inevitably led to ecological devastation and the eventual release of over 400m tonnes of CO2.

Ecuador agreed to halt plans to mine the oilfield if it could raise 50% of the $7.6bn revenue being lost by not mining the oil. While the world’s leading conservation groups pledged nothing, regional governments in France and Belgium offered millions of dollars – with $2m alone from the Belgian region of Wallonia. A New York investment banker donated her annual salary and Bo Derek, Leonardo DiCaprio, Edward Norton and Al Gore all contributed.

The idea of asking people to pay for something not to take place was widely dismissed by national treasuries as holding the world to ransom. The German development minister, Dirk Niebel, said that the principle of paying for the oil not to be exploited “would be setting a precedent with unforeseeable referrals”. However, Germany has now contributed $48m in “technical assistance”. The former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was widely criticised after he wrote off $51m of Ecuador’s $10bn external debt as Italy’s contribution. Other governments pledging support were Chile, Colombia, Georgia and Turkey ($100,000 each), Peru ($300,000), Australia ($500,000) and Spain ($1.4m).

Supporters of the scheme argued that it could be a model for change in the way the world pays to protect important places. The money raised is guaranteed to be used only for nature protection and renewable energy projects. Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon and other countries with oil reserves, have investigated the possibility of setting up similar schemes as an alternative to traditional aid.

The biological richness of Yasuní has astonished scientists. One 6sq km patch of the park was found to have 47 amphibian and reptile species, 550 bird, 200 mammal and more species of bats and insects than anywhere in the western hemisphere. According to Ecuadorean scientists, it would take in the region of 400 years to record Yasuní’s 100,000 or more insect and 2,000 fish species.

Posted in Amazon, Climate change, Energy sources, Fragile environments, International action, Solution to problems, Sustainability | Leave a Comment »

What is Inga alley cropping?

Posted by Lindy on May 17, 2011

Alley cropping is the growing of crops between rows of trees.  Inga alley cropping consists of growing crops between rows of Inga trees.  This has been found to increase yields. It is sustainable as it enables the same plot to be cultivated over and over, thus eliminating the need for the continual burning of the rainforest to get new fertile plots  (slash and burn or shifting cultivation). Rainforest Saver is supporting Inga projects in Honduras and Cameroon.

The inga tree is native to many parts of Central and South America, but has been found to grow well in other parts of the world in the tropical rainforest belt.

The Inga is suitable because

  • it grows well on the acid soils of the tropical rainforest and former rainforest soils,
  •  is a leguminous tree that fixes nitrogen (converts nitrogen into a form usable by plants), has mycorrhizae  (special fungi that grow with its roots) that take up phosphorus allowing it to be recycled instead of being washed out from the soil,
  • grows fast,
  • has thick leaves that when left on the ground after pruning form a thick cover that protects both soil and roots from the sun and heavy rain,
  • branches out to a thick canopy so as to cut off light from the weeds below,
  • and  withstands careful pruning year after year.

For Inga alley cropping the trees are planted in rows (hedges) close together, with a gap, the alley, of say 4m between the rows.  When the trees have grown, usually in about two years, the canopies close over the alley and cut off the light and so smother the weeds.

The trees are then carefully pruned.  The larger branches are used for firewood.  The smaller branches and leaves are left on the ground in the alleys. These rot down into a good mulch (compost).  If any weeds haven’t been killed off by lack of light the mulch smothers them.

The farmer then pokes holes into the mulch and plants his crops into the holes. The crops grow, fed by the mulch. The crops feed on the lower layers while the latest prunings form a protective layer over the soil and roots, shielding them from both the hot sun and heavy rain.  This makes it possible for the roots of both the crops and the trees to stay to a considerable extent in the top layer of soil and the mulch, thus benefiting from the food in the mulch, and escaping soil pests and toxic minerals lower down. Pruning the Inga also makes its roots die back, thus reducing competition with the crops.

Research found that the main reason for the soil losing its fertility with slash and burn farming was that the rain was washing out phosphorus. The special fungi that grow with the Inga roots take up spare phosphorus, which then goes to the roots and into the tree. As the crops grow, so does the Inga.  When the crops are harvested the Inga is allowed to grow back.  Once more it closes the canopy, is pruned, and the cycle is repeated, time and again. When the tree is pruned the leaves fall on the ground and rot down and phosphorus is released for the crops.  The fungi again take up spare phosphorus.  Thus the cycle is repeated time and again. An initial application of rock phosphate has kept the system going for many years.

Not only do the farmers grow their basic crops of maize and beans, but also they now grow cash crops, such as valuable vanilla, with this system.  Previously this was not possible because when the plot was a good distance from the farmer’s home he would not have been able to guard it, or give the crops all the attention they might need.  But with the same plot being used continuously it can be near his home, thus allowing his family to  help to tend and guard it, even when there are young children.

Posted in Amazon, Appropriate technology, Food supply, Fragile environments, IGCSE, Solution to problems | 2 Comments »

Why More Species Live in the Amazon Rainforests

Posted by Lindy on May 4, 2011

Released: 5/3/2011 9:00 AM EDT

For more than two hundred years, the question of why there are more species in the tropical rainforest than anywhere else has been a biological enigma. A particularly perplexing aspect is why so many species live together in a small area in the tropics, especially at some sites in the rainforests of the Amazon Basin in South America.

Treefrogs may hold the answer (yes those treeforgs Margays!).  Treefrogs are really important because they can make up nearly half of all amphibian species in some rainforest sites. At some sites in the Amazon rainforest, there are more treefrog species in a small area than there are across all of North America or Europe.”

What they found was that it was NOT the  wet, tropical climatic conditions alone. In fact in some other tropical rainforest areas, there were no more different species than anywhere in Europe. It was just in the Amazon where there were so many.

Instead, the researchers realized that the difference between the Amazon and other places, was that it had been more or less in the same part of the earth for more than 60 millions years, since before most dinosaurs became extinct.

In contrast, those sites in tropical rainforests that have relatively few treefrog species are in areas that were colonized by treefrogs much more recently.

This would explain why there are more species of other animals but plants as well in the Amazon than anywhere else.

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Protected areas cover 44% of the Brazilian Amazon

Posted by Lindy on April 24, 2011

Protected areas now cover nearly 44 percent of the Amazon — an area larger than Greenland. The report, published in Portuguese, says that by December 2010, protected areas in the Brazilian Amazon amounted to 2,197,485 square kilometers. Conservation units like national parks accounted for just over half the area while indigenous territories represent just under half.

But there have been problems in the past. Damage was heaviest in designated “sustainable use” reserves, which are less protected than conservation or indigenous areas. One problem is that there are too few people protecting these areas, e.g.the state of Pará has only one officer per 1,817 square kilometres of forest. The report cites illegal logging and mining as threats to protected areas.

But the report comes as Brazil has been experiencing a decline in deforestation. Annual clearing is down more than 75 percent since 2004.

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REDD between Norway and Guyana:

Posted by Lindy on April 6, 2011

This week a further historic step is taken in the battle to hang on the world’s remaining tropical rainforests. It is unlikely to make too many headlines, but on Friday two countries will take forward the kind of arrangement that many have talked about but few have had the boldness to actually do. Guyana and Norway’s leadership is seen in the second stage of a ground-breaking deal through which one (Norway) makes annual payments to the other (Guyana) to keep its forests. The amount of money to change hands is calculated on the basis of how well Guyana has done in holding back deforestation, and the value of that in terms of avoided carbon dioxide emissions. A complex calculation is made to determine how well the recipient country has done but this year $40m is being transferred.

The money is all being invested in sustainable scheme, e.g funding solar panels on all the houses belonging to the indigenous people. These are the means for children to read books at night and mark the end of the kerosene lamps and candles which cause indoor air pollution and fire hazards.

There is also money to connect remote settlements to the internet, again powered with solar electricity. There is money to pay for the costly job of legally demarking Amerindian lands and there are plans for health, education and business support.

Without this support, Guyana would have undoubtedly lost forests. The country needs jobs, foreign exchange and tax revenues. And there are plenty of takers for the natural resources that await plunder in delivering these benefits. Since Brazil has cracked down on deforestation, the loggers, ranchers and soya farmers there have been looking for other places to expand their industries.

For more see

Posted in Amazon, Appropriate technology, Fragile environments, Global warming, IGCSE, solar, Solution to problems, Sustainability | Leave a Comment »

Amazon Drought Caused Huge Carbon Emissions

Posted by Lindy on February 4, 2011

A widespread drought in the Amazon rain forest last year was worse than the “once-in-a-century” dry spell in 2005 and may have a bigger impact on global warming than the United States does in a year, scientists said on Thursday. More frequent severe droughts like those in 2005 and 2010 risk turning the world’s largest rain forest from a sponge that absorbs carbon emissions into a source of the gases, accelerating global warming, the report found.

Trees and other vegetation in the world’s forests soak up heat-trapping carbon dioxide as they grow, helping cool the planet, but release it when they die and rot. “If events like this happen more often, the Amazon rain forest would reach a point where it shifts from being a valuable carbon sink slowing climate change to a major source of greenhouse gases that could speed it up,” said lead author Simon Lewis, an ecologist at the University of Leeds.

Last year’s drought caused rainfall shortages over a 3 million square km expanse of the forest, compared with 1.9 million square km in the 2005 drought. It was also more intense, causing higher tree mortality and having three major epicentres, whereas the 2005 drought was mainly focused in the south-western Amazon.

As a result, the study predicted the Amazon forest would not absorb its usual 1.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in both 2010 and 2011. In addition, the dead and dying trees would release 5 billion metric tons of the gas in the coming years, making a total impact of about 8 billion metric tons. The combined emissions caused by the two droughts were probably enough to have cancelled out the carbon absorbed by the forest over the past 10 years.


The widespread drought last year dried up major rivers in the Amazon and isolated thousands of people who depend on boat transportation, shocking climate scientists who had billed the 2005 drought as a once-in-a-century event. The two intense dry spells fit predictions by some climate models that the forest will face greater weather extremes this century, with more intense droughts making it more vulnerable to fires, which in turn could damage its ability to recover. As a result, large parts of the forest could turn into a savannah-like ecosystem by the middle of the century with much lower levels of animal and plant biodiversity. Although human-caused deforestation in Brazil has fallen sharply in recent years, the forest is still vulnerable.

The crucial question is: Is this an anomaly or is it driven by climate change? If it is the latter, possibly by mid-century the Amazon rainforest as we know it will be no more.

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Brazil’s Suruí Establish First Indigenous Carbon Fund

Posted by Lindy on December 10, 2010

When Brazil’s 1300-strong Suruí people embarked on a 50-year sustainable development plan, they did so without quick logging cash.  Instead, they will be protecting 240,000 hectares of Amazon rainforest in hopes of earning eight million carbon credits, and they’ve set up a unique carbon fund to administer the income and coordinate future development.
By 2006, that world beyond had engulfed them – a fact their young chief, Almir Narayamoga Suruí, saw all too clearly the first time he logged onto Google Earth.  “Like everyone back then, I was curious to see my home from the sky,” he says.  “But when I found the Suruí territory, it looked so lonely – like a little patch of green in a sea of brown and yellow.”
He believes, however, that in another half-century that little patch – their La Sete de Setembro in the state of Rondônia – will be more lush and green than at any time in recent memory, and his people will be healthier and better-educated than ever before, thanks to new schools and hospitals built with carbon cash earned by saving their forest and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD).
To achieve that vision, he and his people created the Suruí Fund, which the tribe’s marketing brochure describes as “a financial mechanism aimed at implementing the Management Plan of the Indigenous through principles of good governance and transparency, where representative indigenous advisers have a strong role”

The Brazilian Biodiversity Fund (Funbio) structured the mechanism and will also administer it.  Funbio also oversees the Atlantic Forest Fund for the state of Rio de Janiero, as well as scores of other mechanisms for delivering environmental finance.

“Indigenous peoples have an outstanding track record in terms of forest stewardship, as has been demonstrated time and again by studies of conservation and deforestation rates, but they generally have less experience with managing the sorts of finance and investments that carbon market transactions entail,” says Jacob Olander, who is providing technical support .It is designed to help local groups around the world develop expertise in payments for ecosystem services (PES), which are schemes designed to reward good land stewardship by recognizing the economic value of nature’s services.

Over the first three years, Funbio will advise the Suruí on how to funnel carbon income into environmental projects – such as carbon-friendly agriculture and rainforest preservation.  Over time, as carbon opportunities wane, they will shift to other businesses and investments that can generate a sustainable economy. All decisions, however, will be made by a representative body that the tribe set up to administer environmental resources.

Funbio got the ball rolling with early legal assistance and PES training, then helped tribal leaders identify and vet local partners. It’s now helping find buyers for newly-trademarked “Suruí Carbon”. “An outstanding lesson of the Suruí is their ability to forge partnerships and adopt new tools and strategies where needed,” says Olander.  “They know what they’re good at and what they’re not good at, and they know how to harness outside expertise – whether that be creating an endowment fund, using Google and satellite technology, or harnessing carbon markets – in ways that keep them in control of the project and their forests.”

“Amazon Conservation Team”, or ACT Brasil,  has a long-standing relationship supporting the Suruí, complementing Funbio´s carbon market expertise. They makie sure the tribe understands what it’s getting into and are a communications link to investors.

Both these organisations are paying for the initial fund to pay for the rigorous measurements and documentation needed to qualify for certification under the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS) and the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standards (CCB).

“Everyone is watching this,” says Mauricio de Almeida Voivodic, Coordinator for Natural Forests with Brazil’s Program for Forest Certification (IMAFLORA). “The  Suruí and Funbio are at the front of everything that’s happening with REDD in Brazil, and other tribes see this as a template that they can use to save their own forests and earn income.”

In the first three years, the fund will channel money into environmental services, such as forest protection and climate-safe agriculture.  It will gradually shift to other livelihood activities and organizational strengthening. Beyond the first three years, the scheme becomes more flexible, with annual reviews by Suruí governors and advisers.

To read the brochure produced by the Surui, follow the link

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Cancun hopes to serve “oven-ready” REDD deal

Posted by Lindy on November 27, 2010

According to BusinessGreen (a green information service for businesses would you believe?) UK businesses should prepare for international climate change negotiators to strike a deal on how rich nations will pay to help reduce emissions from deforestation at Cancun.

Adam Gibbon from Rainforest Alliance said there was “great hope” negotiators will agree on the UN’s proposed reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation mechanism, known as REDD+. While some voluntary projects already exist, an international deal on REDD would boost investor confidence and scale up existing activities. He described the REDD element of negotiations as “oven ready”, citing comments made recently by the former head of the UN climate change secretariat, Yvo de Boer.

James Cameron, executive director of Climate Change Capital, said he too was optimistic a deal could be reached on forestry in Cancun, while the British delegation for Cancun is known to be similarly confident that progress on forestry protection can be delivered over the next two weeks.

Any agreement would throw up a range of commercial opportunities for UK businesses which could support rainforest projects by collaborating with local partners as project developers or offering technical services, such as accounting, satellite image analysis, and legal advice.

But there are still a number of issues that need resolving, including protection of indigenous peoples, and the need NOT to have deal through governments but to act directly with those who will be implementing the projects.

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