01 May 2012:
Fukushima Begins Restoration
Of Coastal Forests Destroyed by Tsunami
Fukushima Prefecture will soon begin a nine-year restoration of coastal forests devastated by last year’s tsunami
, including the planting of 4.6 million seedlings over a 90-mile stretch of coastline. With the financial assistance of other prefectures, the Fukushima government will begin collecting pine cones this year that officials hope will grow into the seedlings of new pine forests within two years. While the tsunami triggered by the March 2011 earthquake swamped coastal forests in six prefectures, none was hit harder than Fukushima, where 70 percent of flooded forests were destroyed, according to a report in The Asahi Shimbun
. Even trees in areas that survived the disaster are expected to die because of the high levels of salt that saturated the soil. In some areas, including Matsukawaura beach in the town of Soma, the presence of thick forests served as a breakwater, preventing even greater damage inland from tsunami waves and debris.
26 Apr 2012:
Borneo Oil Palm Plantations
Threaten Surge in Emissions, Study Says
A new study warns that the continued expansion of large-scale oil palm plantations in Indonesian Borneo, particularly on the island’s peatlands, will became a leading source of greenhouse gas emissions
without stricter forest protections. According to researchers from Yale and Stanford universities, about two-thirds of unprotected lands in the Ketapang District of West Kalimantan are now leased to agribusinesses. If those lands are converted to oil palm plantations at current expansion rates, palm stands will cover more than one-third of regional lands by 2020, and intact forests will decrease to about 5 percent, compared with 15 percent in 2008. In addition, researchers found that about half of oil palm development through last year occurred on peatlands, a process that involves draining and burning of peat soils — a major source of CO2 emissions. According to the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
, if current trends persist, about 90 percent of emissions associated with oil palm development will come from peatlands by 2020.
25 Apr 2012:
Urban Heat Effect Drives
Faster Tree Growth, Study Says
In a new study, researchers say native red oak seedlings planted in New York City grew far faster
than in cooler rural settings. After planting seedlings in two city locations, including Central Park, and in separate locations in the Hudson River Valley and the foothills of the Catskill Mountains, researchers from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory found that the city trees produced eight times more biomass than those planted in the country. According to their study, published in the journal Tree Physiology
, the city trees were exposed to maximum daily temperatures 4 degrees F warmer than the country trees, and minimum averages more than 8 degrees F warmer, driven largely by the well-known “urban heat island” effect. The warm city nights, in particular, allowed the seedlings to perform more of the chemical reactions needed for photosynthesis. The seedlings were planted in the spring and, after caring for all the trees with fertilizer and weekly watering, biomass was measured the following autumn.
19 Apr 2012:
151 Planned Dams Threatens
Balance of Andean Amazon, Study Says
A new study warns that 151 hydroelectric dams planned along six major rivers in the Amazon basin over the next two decades, including dozens of so-called mega-dams, could significantly disrupt the region’s ecological connectivity
. Writing in the online journal PLoS ONE
, researchers say 60 percent of the dams currently being planned would cause the first major break in river connectivity between the Andean headwaters and the lowland Amazon, possibly threatening the free flow of several Andean-Amazon rivers. The Andes provide most of the sediment, nutrients, and organic matter to the vast, species-rich Amazonian floodplain. The study also found the majority of the projects would increase forest loss because of new roads and transmission lines. “There appears to be no strategic planning regarding possible consequences to the disruption of an ecological connection that has existed for millions of years,” said Matt Finer of the Center for International Environmental Law and the study's lead author.
18 Apr 2012:
Destructive Emerald Ash Borer
Edges Closer to New England Forests
The emerald ash borer, an invasive beetle that has destroyed millions of ash trees from the U.S. Midwest to western New York over the last decade, has been found east of the Hudson River for the first time
, the closest the pest has comes to the forests of New England. New York environmental officials, who have undertaken an aggressive research and control campaign across 225 square miles since the pest was first found in New York state in 2009, say they found small infestations of the beetle in three “trap” trees east of the Hudson last month. Fortunately, they told the Associated Press, the colony was discovered less than a year after it was established, making it easier to curb the beetles’ spread. Typically, the beetle larvae tunnel under the bark and kill trees before foresters know the trees have been infested. While the main population of the beetle, which originated in China, has been moving toward the northeastern U.S. at a pace of about 2 to 3 miles per year since the beetle was first found near Detroit in 2002, smaller colonies have been leapfrogging ahead, most likely in truckloads of logs or firewood.
10 Apr 2012:
Loss of Large Predators
Altering Forest Ecosystems, Study Says
A new study has found that the decline in large predators, particularly wolves, in forest systems across the Northern Hemisphere has triggered major ecosystem disruptions and loss of biodiversity
. In a survey of 42
studies conducted over the past 50 years, scientists at Oregon State University (OSU) found that the loss of mammalian predators in forest ecosystems across North America, Europe and Asia — including killings to prevent ranching conflicts — has allowed an increase in populations of moose, deer, and other large herbivore species, which in turn has impaired the growth of young trees. According to the researchers, population densities of large herbivores were six times greater in areas without wolves. The researchers say the presence of predators not only limits the size of herbivore populations but affects their behavior, a factor they call the “ecology of fear.” “There’s consistent evidence that large predators help keep populations of large herbivores in check, with positive effects on ecosystem health,” said William Ripple, a professor of forestry at OSU and lead author of the study, published in the European Journal of Wildlife Research
30 Mar 2012:
Scientists Clone Elm Trees
That Survived Dutch Elm Outbreaks
Scientists say they have successfully cloned American elm trees that survived epidemics of Dutch elm disease
, a fungal infection that has decimated the iconic tree species across eastern Canada and the U.S. Using tissue
samples collected from shoot tips and dormant buds, researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada employed in vitro
technology to produce genetic copies of trees that survived multiple Dutch elm disease outbreaks. From those clones, they are now working to isolate germplasm with desired traits — including resistance to Dutch elm disease, which impedes water transport and nutrient flow in the infected trees — for future elm breeding and biotechnology programs, which could lead to a revival of the species in its former habitat. “It may also serve as a model to help propagate and preserve thousands of other endangered plant species at risk of extinction across the globe,” said Praveen Saxena, a plant scientist and one of the authors of the study, published in The Canadian Journal of Forest Research
28 Mar 2012:
Brazil Policies Helped Drive
Decline in Deforestation, Report Says
Brazilian conservation policies were responsible for about half of the 70 percent decline in deforestation
within the Amazon rainforest from 2005 to 2009, according to a new study. In an analysis
conducted by the Climate Policy Initiative (CPI), researchers found that a series of government policies — including stricter monitoring and enforcement of land use laws, the expansion of protected areas, and stronger incentives for local governments to meet environmental standards — helped prevent the clearing of nearly 24,000 square miles (62,000 square kilometers) of forest and avoided 620 million tons of carbon emissions that would have otherwise occurred during that period, Mongabay
reports. Those policies — which included the creation of blacklists for municipalities with high deforestation rates — were enacted following a spike in deforestation in 2004, when a record 10,425 square miles were cleared. The study found that falling agricultural prices also slowed deforestation rates.
23 Mar 2012:
Google Street View Offers
Virtual Tour of Amazon Basin
Google this week expanded its popular Street View
feature to the forests of the Amazon basin, posting more than 50,000 photos that allow online users a virtual tour of the world’s largest tropical region. The photos,
taken last summer in the Rio Negro Reserve, provide a panoramic view of tropical forest trails and village pathways — and a “virtual board ride” down the Rio Negro. Like many areas of the Amazon, the Rio Negro Reserve is under strict government control and has restricted access to the public, Amazon project leader Karin Tuxen-Bettman wrote on the Google blog
. “We’re thrilled to help everyone from researchers and scientists to armchair explorers around the world learn more about the Amazon, and better understand how local communities there are working to preserve this unique environment for future generations,” she wrote. The project is part of a Google partnership with the Amazonas Sustainable Foundation.
15 Mar 2012:
Unusual Pine Beetle Breeding
Could Explain Tree Epidemic, Study Says
A new study has found that some populations of mountain pine beetles are producing two generations of tree-killing offspring each year
, a phenomenon that may help explain the scale of damage being done to vast tracts of lodgepole and ponderosa pines across western North America. After observing beetle behavior during the summer months, scientists from the University of Colorado, Boulder, were surprised to see that some beetles that had been hatched just two months earlier were already attacking trees. Typically the mountain pine beetles spend a winter as larvae within the trees before emerging as adults the following summer. According to the researchers, this extra generation could produce 60 times as many beetles devouring trees in a given year. Since the late-1990s, oubreaks of the mountain pine beetles — linked to warmer winters
— have devastated more than 70,000 square miles of forest in western Canada and the U.S., the largest known outbreak in history. “This thing is immense,” said Jeffry Mitton, a CU-Boulder professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and lead author of the study published in The American Naturalist
02 Mar 2012:
Some Scandinavian Conifers
Survived the Last Ice Age, Study Says
A new study has found that some Scandinavian conifers were able to survive the harsh conditions of the last Ice Age
, a finding that upends the long-held view that the region’s landscape was wiped clean by a massive blanket of ice. While scientists have long believed contemporary
University of Copenhagen
A Scandinavian pine
Scandinavian forests were populated by tree species that migrated from eastern and southern Europe after temperatures warmed, DNA evidence suggests some species of spruce and pine found refuge for tens of thousands of years. Indeed, the modern forests are comprised of “original” and “introduced” species, the researchers say. According to their study, published in the journal Science
, some tree species may have survived on Andøya Island, located in northwestern Norway, which was ice-free during the last Ice Age. They may also have found refuge in other more hospitable locations, such as atop nunataks — the exposed mountain peaks that protruded from glacial cover — or in more temperate zones along the Atlantic coast. These “original” species were then able to spread once the ice retreated, said Eske Willerslev of the University of Copenhagen.
‘Unprecedented’ Elephant Massacre
Continues in Cameroon Park
Poachers in pursuit of ivory have killed nearly 500 elephants inside a Cameroon national park in the last six weeks, a highly organized slaughter that appears to be one of the worst elephant massacres in recent memory.
An elephant killed at Bouba Ndjida National Park.
Officials at Bouba Ndjida National Park, located in northern Cameroon near the Chad border, said 458 elephant carcasses have been identified, but that number “may be an underestimate.” Bas Huijbregts, regional field program manager for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Cameroon, says that although the official number of dead elephants in the park is still unclear, “I wouldn’t be surprised if in the last six weeks that maybe more than half of the overall savannah elephant population in Cameroon has been killed.” The European Union has called for the Cameroon government to intervene, but so far no effective intervention appears to be occurring. Read more
24 Feb 2012:
Conservationists Launch Drone
To Monitor Forest Loss and Wildlife
A coalition of scientists and environmental advocacy groups has developed a camera-equipped drone they say could become a key conservation tool for monitoring
forest loss and endangered wildlife. The coalition — which includes The Orangutan Conservancy, the Denver Zoo, and two Swiss scientists — has already deployed a remote-control drone to map deforestation and count orangutans in the remote forests of North Sumatra in Indonesia, according to a report in Mongabay
. The drone, which was developed by ecologist Lian Pin Koh at ETH Zürich, is able to travel a pre-programmed flight route and take aerial photos and video footage. During 30 flights so far, it has collected hundreds of photos and hours of video, including images of oil palm plantings along the edge of a river.
21 Feb 2012:
Volcanic Rock Reveals
Composition of Ancient Forest
U.S. scientists say they were able to reconstruct an ancient tropical forest
, including long-extinct plant species, using fossil remains trapped beneath the ash of a volcanic eruption that occurred about 300 million years
ago in northern China. While palaeoecologists typically can only infer the density and composition of ancient forest ecosystems, researchers say the volcanic ash from the ancient eruption preserved the woodland in situ
, a sort of “forest Pompeii” that has revealed a “coal-forming swamp in its prime.” In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
, researchers from several U.S. universities describe a teeming peat forest ecosystem consisting of six plant groups, including trees resembling feather dusters, vines, and three species of a group known as Noeggerathiales — small, spore-bearing trees that may have been relatives of early ferns. “Many of these plant groups we knew from other places, but we had no idea that they actually grew together,” said Robert Gastaldo, a palaeobotanist at Colby College in Maine and a co-author of the study.
17 Feb 2012:
Large Area of New Guinea
Stripped of Protection for Agribusiness
More than 400,000 hectares (1 million acres) of land in Indonesian New Guinea — including 350,000 hectares of carbon-storing peatland — was stripped of its protected status
to facilitate the expansion of a
government-based agribusiness project, according to a new report. In an analysis of revisions to Indonesia’s moratorium
on new forest concessions — including a comparison of maps from when the moratorium was published in May 2011 and after revisions were adopted in November 2011 — the Jakarta-based NGO Greenomics-Indonesia found that 406,718 hectares of previously protected land have been excised for use by The Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE), a massive agricultural project in southwestern New Guinea. While government officials say the project will ensure the nation’s food and energy security, critics say the revised moratorium will mostly benefit agribusiness developers.
10 Feb 2012:
Early Humans Played Role in
Central African Deforestation, Study Says
A new study says that the activities of early humans — and not simply a dramatic shift in climate — played a significant role in transforming the ancient rainforests of Central Africa into savanna
. In an analysis of sediment cores taken from the mouth of the Congo River, a team of scientists found evidence that weathering of clay sediment samples, which had been consistent for thousands of years, intensified abruptly about 3,000 years ago, indicating a significant increase in deforestation. According to their study, published online in Science
, this shift coincided with the arrival of Bantu-speaking farmers from present-day Nigeria and Cameroon. While this forest disturbance was likely triggered by prolonged dry spells that destroyed rainforest, as previous research has concluded, the Science
study indicates that climate change was exacerbated by human land use, including the clearing of forests for farming and iron-smelting. Germain Bayon, of the French Research Institute for Exploration of the Sea and lead author of the study, said the findings illustrate how a combination of climate and human activity can affect the environment. “Humans can have a huge impact on natural processes,” he said.
02 Feb 2012:
Harsh Roadside Environments
Creating Hardy Salamanders, Study Suggests
The old adage — “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” — seems to apply to salamanders evolving to survive in contaminated environments near roads
. Yale University researcher Steven Brady compared
Steven Brady/Yale University
A spotted salamander
salamanders breeding in roadside ponds with those breeding in woodland ponds, and he found that the roadside salamanders have a tough life. Only 56 percent of salamander eggs in roadside ponds survive the first 10 weeks, compared with an 87 percent survival rate for salamander eggs in woodland ponds. The roadside salamanders also experience higher mortality, grow at a slower rate, and are more likely to develop L-shaped spines and other disfigurements — all likely linked to roadside contaminants, especially concentrations of salt. Still, Brady found that when he transferred eggs from roadside ponds and woodland ponds to a neutral environment, the roadside eggs out-survived those of their forest cousins. “These animals are growing up in harsh environments where they face a cocktail of contaminants, and it appears that they are evolving to cope with them,” said Brady, whose study was published
in the journal Scientific Reports
01 Feb 2012:
New Gorilla Habitat
Discovered Using Satellite Images
Satellite and land surveys of the mountainous terrain along the Nigeria-Cameroon border have revealed that the world’s rarest gorilla, the Cross River gorilla, has access to more suitable habitat than previously believed
, including vital corridors that allow the gorillas to move
A Cross River gorilla
between regions in search of mates. Using satellite imagery and ground surveys, a team of researchers was able to map areas preferred by the critically endangered gorilla. To their surprise, researchers found evidence that the Cross River gorilla dwells in areas where there had been no recorded sightings, expanding their known occupied range by more than 50 percent. The study also found a high degree of connectivity between 11 areas where the gorillas are known to live. “The good news for Cross River gorillas is that they still have plenty of habitat in which to expand, provided that steps are taken to minimize threats to the population,” said the Wildlife Conservation Society's Andrew Dunn, co-author of the study, published in the journal Oryx
. The Cross River gorilla is considered the rarest of the four sub-species of gorilla, with fewer than 300 living in the wild.
31 Jan 2012:
Tropics Store More Carbon
Than Previously Believed, Study Says
A new analysis calculates that vegetation in the world’s tropical regions stores about 229 billion tons of carbon
, which is about 21 percent more carbon than previously
Click to enlarge
Woods Hole Research Center
Biomass in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
believed. Using remote sensing satellite data — including cloud-penetrating LiDAR — and field observations from forests, woodlands and savannas across Africa, Asia, and South America, researchers say they were able to create the first “wall-to-wall” map depicting carbon density. According to their results, Brazilian rainforests store about 53.2 billion tons of carbon, followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (22 billion) and Indonesia (18.6). “For the first time we were able to derive accurate estimates of carbon densities using satellite LiDAR observations in places that have never been measured,” said Alessandro Baccini of the Woods Hole Research Center
the lead author of the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change
. The results could help improve the accuracy of reporting carbon emissions as part of the UN-based REDD initiative, which provides incentives to developing nations to prevent large-scale deforestation.
27 Jan 2012:
Wide Variety of Threats
Wiping Out World’s Big Trees, Expert Says
A litany of environmental threats, from forest fragmentation and logging to climate change and disease, are wiping out the world’s biggest trees
, according to a published report. In forest ecosystems worldwide, research shows that giant trees have become particularly vulnerable to a changing environment, ecologist and tropical forest expert William Laurance
writes in New Scientist
magazine. Increased fragmentation has left big trees exposed to stronger winds, while dry conditions and warming temperatures have forced the giants of the forest to consume more energy simply to survive, allowing less energy for growth, Laurance writes. Climate change is also promoting the spread of exotic pathogens, such as Dutch Elm disease, which are devastating native forests. “The decline of big trees foretells a different world where ancient behemoths are replaced by short-lived pioneers and generalists that can grow anywhere, where forests store less carbon and sustain fewer dependent animals, where giant cathedral-like crowns become a thing of the past,” Laurance writes.
Interview: Monitoring Grim Rise
In the World’s Illegal Ivory Trade
Last year was the worst year for ivory seizures since an international ivory ban went into effect in 1989. During 2011, authorities seized more than 23 tons of ivory,
which represented about 2,500 individual elephants killed. At the forefront of efforts to track this grim data is Tom Milliken, the elephant expert for TRAFFIC, the group that monitors the international trade in wildlife under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). Milliken attributes the spike in ivory seizures to a seemingly insatiable demand for ivory in Asia and the increasingly sophisticated network of criminal gangs that are feeding the market. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, he talked about the factors leading to the continued slaughter of Africa’s elephants and about the lack of strong law enforcement against traffickers.
Read the interview
20 Jan 2012:
Value of Conserving Habitats
Could be Worth $500B to World’s Poor
A new study says that compensating the world’s poorest communities for helping conserve the planet’s most vital habitats would help solve two major challenges: biodiversity loss and poverty. In fact, if global leaders were to put an economic value on the preservation of the world’s biodiversity hotspots
— including such benefits as providing food and water and absorbing carbon emissions — it could be worth more than $500 billion annually for 330 million of the world’s poorest people. Since the people who live near these resources typically don’t have the means to protect them, the urgency for such economic mechanisms becomes increasingly critical, according to the study, published in the journal BioScience
. “Developed and developing economies cannot continue to ask the world’s poor to shoulder the burden of protecting these globally important ecosystem services for the world’s benefit,” said Will Turner, vice president of Conservation International and lead author of the study.
10 Jan 2012:
Brazil Gains in Food Production
Coincided With Drop in Deforestation
A new study of land use in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso shows that deforestation rates decreased significantly from 2006 to 2010 even as agricultural production in the region reached an all-time high
. The study found that growers in Mato Grosso, where more than a third of forest loss in the Brazilian Amazon occurred in the 1980s, have increasingly used previously cleared pasture land. Using satellite data and government statistics on deforestation and production, researchers from Columbia University calculated that 26 percent of the increase in soy production within Mato Grosso from 2001 to 2005 was the result of cropland expansion into forested areas, accounting for 10 percent of total deforestation; during the second half of the decade, however, soy expansion accounted for just 2 percent of total deforestation. According to the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
, this shift coincided with a drop in commodity markets, as well as a series of high-profile policy initiatives to reduce deforestation and improved methods in monitoring illegal clearing, including satellite-based tracking systems.
09 Jan 2012:
Mountain Plants Disappearing
As The Climate Warms, New Study Says
A new study says that a warming climate is having a more profound effect on the world’s mountain vegetation than previously believed and that some alpine meadows could vanish altogether
within a few
The alpine species Nevadensia purpurea
decades. After comparing vegetation samples from 60 mountain summits in 13 European nations — collected in 2001 and then again in 2008 — a team of scientists found that cold-loving plants are being pushed out by plants that thrive in warmer temperatures. While earlier studies have made this conclusion at regional levels, researchers say this is the first time the phenomenon has been shown on a continental scale. And they say it is happening more quickly than expected. “Many cold-loving species are literally running out of mountain,” said Michael Gottfried, of the Austria-based Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments
, which coordinated the study, which was published in the journal Nature Climate Change
Interview: Putting a Price
On the Real Value of Nature
How do you put a price on the value of nature? That’s the question Indian banker Pavan Sukhdev and
his colleagues are seeking to answer in their international project on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), which published its latest report last month
. The challenge, as Sukhdev sees it, is how to address the “economic invisibility of nature.” In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, he cited crucial benefits from nature that are often overlooked, including the capacity of wetlands for filtering water, the role of forests in preventing erosion and flooding, and the importance of bees in pollinating crops. “When did the bees last send you an invoice for pollination?” he asks.
Read the interview
03 Jan 2012:
Return of Wolves Has Helped
Ecosystem Recovery in Yellowstone Park
The return of wolves to Yellowstone National Park has caused significant ecosystem recovery
by curbing populations of elk that for decades had over-browsed
U.S. Fish & Wildlife
young aspen and willow trees, according to a new study. In an analysis conducted by Oregon State University
, researchers found that tree stands and shrubs have recovered along some streams, improving habitat for beaver and fish and providing more food sources for birds and bears. In the 15 years since wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone after being killed off last century, northern elk populations have decreased from more than 15,000 to about 6,000, according to the study published in Biological Conservation
. By 2006, some aspen trees had grown tall enough that they were no longer susceptible to browsing by elk. As a result, along four streams in the Lamar River basin, less than 20 percent of the tallest young aspen sprouts were being browsed last year compared with 100 percent in 1998.
From NASA Satellites: The Year in Images
The past year will go down as one in which extreme weather, and major natural disasters, took a heavy toll
across the globe. Some of the most unforgettable images of these events — and of the planet’s natural cycles — were taken high above Earth by NASA satellites. In March, satellite photos captured the devastation of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Satellites also documented the continued melting of polar ice, the ever-widening footprint of human civilization, the beauty of a 500-mile-long phytoplankton bloom, and the enduring forces that have shaped the planet for eons, from volcanoes to wind storms. View some of the memorable images of 2011
Video Footage Shows Success
Of Thailand's Anti-Poaching Fight
Conservationists say video footage from a series of camera traps in western Thailand confirm that recent anti-poaching efforts are working in the biodiverse region. The footage, taken at several locations over the
last year, provides an intimate glimpse of numerous rare species within the region’s Western Forest Complex, including video of a tigress and her cubs feeding on a kill, the elusive clouded leopard, and a group of Asian elephants rumbling within inches of the camera. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which set up the cameras in coordination with the Thai government, said that the sheer quantity of footage shows that Thailand’s anti-poaching efforts have been making progress. Earlier this year, WCS trained and equipped park rangers who were able to arrest poachers found with cellphone images of a dead tiger. When the poachers said the tiger was captured in another country, WCS was able to use camera trap footage to show that the animal had lived in Thailand’s forests. The 18,000-square-kilometer Western Forest Complex, which contains 17 contiguous protected areas, is home to an estimated 125 to 175 tigers and one of the most endangered elephant populations in Southeast Asia.
19 Dec 2011:
Brazil's Forest Code Will Lead
To Rise in Deforestation, Critics Say
Environmental advocates say a controversial overhaul of Brazil’s Forest Code will lead to an increase in illegal deforestation
and send a mixed message about Brazil’s commitment to preserving its rainforests. While advocates of the legislation approved by the Senate last week say it will require property owners to preserve 80 percent of their forested land, opponents say loopholes will allow farmers to clear a significantly larger portion of forest and to replace as much as 50 percent of illegally cleared forest with exotic species rather than native trees. Nationwide, opponents predict, farmers will be required to restore only about half of the 212,000 square miles of forest they would have been required to restore under the current law. The changes come as Brazil pledges to reduce carbon emissions by nearly 40 percent below projected levels by 2020. “Brazil has positioned itself as a country that’s committed itself to saving the forest cover to the benefit of the world,” Christian Poirier, the Brazil director for Amazon Watch, told the Washington Post
. “The new forest code flouts all that.” According to a pair of Russian scientists, similar revisions to Russia’s forest code in 2007 produced a spike in illegal deforestation
08 Dec 2011:
Rampant Marijuana Cultivation
Is Damaging U.S. National Forests
U.S. officials say widespread marijuana cultivation in national forests has caused “severe” damage to some ecosystems and wildlife in 20 states. In testimony before the U.S. Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, U.S. Forest Service Director of Law Enforcement David Ferrell said federal officials have uncovered large-scale marijuana operations in 67 different national forests across the U.S. At these sites — which typically cover 10 to 20 acres and include armed guards and counter-surveillance methods — operators usually clear large areas of native vegetation; spray voluminous amounts of herbicides, rodenticides, and pesticides; and divert thousands of gallons of water daily from streams, lakes, and drinking water supplies. In California alone, Ferrell said, the Forest Service has removed more than 130 tons of trash, 300 pounds of pesticides, and nearly 260 miles of irrigation piping from 335 illegal cultivation sites. Cleaning and restoring the sites costs about $15,000 per acre, Ferrell says.