By Rhett A. Butler Last updated Aug 14, 2020
A Place Out of Time: Tropical Rainforests and the Perils They Face - information on tropical forests, deforestation, and biodiversity
BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON THE RAINFOREST
Rainforests are forest ecosystems characterized by high levels of rainfall, an enclosed canopy and high species diversity. While tropical rainforests are the best-known type of rainforest and the focus of this section of the web site, rainforests are actually found widely around the world, including temperate regions in Canada, the United States, and the former Soviet Union.
Tropical rainforests typically occur in the equatorial zone between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn, latitudes that have warm temperatures and relatively constant year-round sunlight. Tropical rainforests merge into other types of forest depending on the altitude, latitude, and various soil, flooding, and climate conditions. These forest types form a mosaic of vegetation types which contribute to the incredible diversity of the tropics.
The bulk of the world's tropical rainforest occurs in the Amazon Basin in South America. The Congo Basin and Southeast Asia, respectively, have the second and third largest areas of tropical rainforest. Rainforests also exist on some the Caribbean islands, in Central America, in India, on scattered islands in the South Pacific, in Madagascar, in West and East Africa outside the Congo Basin, in Central America and Mexico, and in parts of South America outside the Amazon. Brazil has the largest extent of rainforest of any country on Earth.
Rainforests provide important ecological services, including storing hundreds of billions of tons of carbon, buffering against flood and drought, stabilizing soils, influencing rainfall patterns, and providing a home to wildlife and Indigenous people. Rainforests are also the source of many useful products upon which local communities depend.
While rainforests are critically important to humanity, they are rapidly being destroyed by human activities. The biggest cause of deforestation is conversion of forest land for agriculture. In the past subsistence agriculture was the primary driver of rainforest conversion, but today industrial agriculture — especially monoculture and livestock production — is the dominant driver of rainforest loss worldwide. Logging is the biggest cause of forest degradation and usually proceeds deforestation for agriculture.
Organization of this site
The rainforest section of Mongabay is divided into ten "chapters" (the original text for the site was a book, but has since been adapted for the web), with add-on content in the form of special focal sections (e.g. The Amazon, the Congo, REDD, New Guinea, Sulawesi, Forests in Brazil, etc), appendices, and other resources.
There is also a version of the site geared toward younger readers at kids.mongabay.com.
ABOUT THE RAINFOREST (SUMMARY)Chapter 1:
RAINFOREST DISTRIBUTION AND CHARACTERISTICS
Each rainforest is unique, but there are certain features common to all tropical rainforests.
- Location: rainforests lie in the tropics.
- Rainfall: rainforests receive at least 80 inches (200 cm) of rain per year.
- Canopy: rainforests have a canopy, which is the layer of branches and leaves formed by closely spaced rainforest trees some 30 meters (100 feet) off the ground. A large proportion of the plants and animals in the rainforest live in the canopy.
- Biodiversity: rainforests have extraordinarily highs level of biological diversity or “biodiversity”. Scientists estimate that about half of Earth's terrestrial species live in rainforests.
- Ecosystem services: rainforests provide a critical ecosystem services at local, regional, and global scales, including producing oxygen (tropical forests are responsible for 25-30 percent of the world's oxygen turnover) and storing carbon (tropical forests store an estimated 229-247 billion tons of carbon) through photosynthesis; influencing precipitation patterns and weather; moderating flood and drought cycles; and facilitating nutrient cycling; among others.
The global distribution of tropical rainforests can be broken up into four biogeographical realms based roughly on four forested continental regions: the Afrotropical, the Australiasian, the Indomalayan/Asian, and the Neotropical. Just over half the world's rainforests lie in the Neotropical realm, roughly a quarter are in Africa, and a fifth in Asia.
These realms can be further divided into major tropical forest regions based on biodiversity hotspots, including:
- Amazon: Includes parts of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Venezuela
- Congo: Includes parts of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Republic of Congo
- Australiasia: Includes parts of Australia, Indonesian half of New Guinea, Papua New Guinea
- Sundaland: Includes parts of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore
- Indo-Burma: Includes parts of Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam
- Mesoamerica: Includes parts of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama
- Wallacea: Sulawesi and the Maluku islands in Indonesia
- West Africa: Includes parts of Benin, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Togo
- Atlantic forest: Includes parts of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay
- Choco: Includes parts of Colombia, Ecuador, Panama
Dozens of countries have tropical forests. The countries with the largest areas of tropical forest are:
Other countries that have large areas of rainforest include Bolivia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Ecuador, Gabon, Guyana, India, Laos, Malaysia, Mexico, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Congo, Suriname, and Venezuela.
Cover and loss by rainforest region
|Primary forest extent||Tree cover extent|
|Primary forest loss||Tree cover change|
|Rainforest region||M ha (%)||M ha (%)||M ha (%)||M ha (%)|
|Amazon||-13.18 (-2.4%)||-17.28 (-3.2%)||-14.7 (-2.2%)||-29.8 (-4.5%)|
|Congo||-1.46 (-0.8%)||-4.68 (-2.7%)||-0.8 (-0.3%)||-12.7 (-4.2%)|
|Australiasia||-0.29 (-0.5%)||-0.86 (-1.3%)||0.2 (0.2%)||-1.4 (-1.5%)|
|Sundaland||-2.22 (-5.5%)||-3.67 (-6.4%)||-1.5 (-2.3%)||-9.5 (-7.8%)|
|Indo-Burma||-1.62 (-10.5%)||-2.14 (-5.0%)||-0.6 (-1.6%)||-6.4 (-4.2%)|
|Mesoamerica||-1.10 (-2.5%)||-2.51 (-14.4%)||-7.3 (-4.6%)||-13.9 (-25.6%)|
|Wallacea||-0.66 (-3.6%)||-1.36 (-8.9%)||-1.9 (-3.3%)||-4.6 (-17.5%)|
|West Africa||-0.30 (-3.1%)||-0.50 (-4.6%)||-0.1 (-0.8%)||-1.2 (-2.4%)|
|Atlantic forest||-0.24 (-2.1%)||-0.62 (-6.4%)||-0.7 (-1.5%)||-6.8 (-7.0%)|
|Choco||-0.33 (-3.3%)||-0.35 (-4.1%)||-3.5 (-3.5%)||-7.3 (-46.0%)|
|PAN-TROPICS||-23.11 (-2.2%)||-37.34 (-3.7%)||-68.9 (-3.4%)||-120.3 (-6.1%)|
Tropical forest cover and loss by country
|Units: million hectares||Primary forest extent||Tree cover extent|
|Central African Republic||7.4||7.3||7.2||46.9||47.1||46.6|
|Papua New Guinea||32.6||32.4||31.9||42.9||42.9||41.9|
|Republic of Congo||21.2||21.1||20.8||26.4||26.6||26.0|
|Rest of the tropics||59.6||58.0||53.9||210.1||203.5||183.3|
|Primary forest loss||Tree cover change|
|Country||M ha (%)||M ha (%)||M ha (%)||M ha (%)|
|Brazil||-11.37 (-3.3%)||-13.15 (-4.0%)||-18.25 (-3.5%)||-29.93 (-6.0%)|
|DR Congo||-1.16 (-1.1%)||-3.67 (-3.5%)||-0.37 (-0.2%)||-10.50 (-5.3%)|
|Indonesia||-3.63 (-3.9%)||-5.85 (-6.5%)||-2.09 (-1.3%)||-15.98 (-10.1%)|
|Colombia||-0.54 (-1.0%)||-0.96 (-1.8%)||0.17 (0.2%)||-2.43 (-3.0%)|
|Peru||-0.60 (-0.9%)||-1.37 (-2.0%)||0.68 (0.9%)||-2.10 (-2.7%)|
|Bolivia||-0.90 (-2.2%)||-1.84 (-4.6%)||-1.67 (-2.6%)||-3.75 (-6.0%)|
|Venezuela||-0.15 (-0.4%)||-0.33 (-0.9%)||0.86 (1.5%)||-1.14 (-2.0%)|
|Angola||-0.03 (-1.2%)||-0.09 (-3.8%)||-1.37 (-2.8%)||-1.51 (-3.1%)|
|Central African Republic||-0.05 (-0.6%)||-0.11 (-1.5%)||0.15 (0.3%)||-0.49 (-1.0%)|
|Papua New Guinea||-0.19 (-0.6%)||-0.55 (-1.7%)||0.04 (0.1%)||-1.05 (-2.4%)|
|Mexico||-0.20 (-2.1%)||-0.40 (-4.4%)||-0.81 (-1.9%)||-2.22 (-5.2%)|
|China||-0.03 (-1.9%)||-0.04 (-2.4%)||-1.67 (-3.9%)||-2.66 (-6.5%)|
|Myanmar||-0.19 (-1.4%)||-0.38 (-2.8%)||-1.90 (-4.4%)||-2.70 (-6.6%)|
|India||-0.13 (-1.2%)||-0.20 (-2.0%)||-3.67 (-10.5%)||-1.18 (-3.8%)|
|Cameroon||-0.11 (-0.6%)||-0.50 (-2.6%)||-0.96 (-3.1%)||-1.02 (-3.4%)|
|Republic of Congo||-0.07 (-0.3%)||-0.25 (-1.2%)||0.28 (1.0%)||-0.60 (-2.2%)|
|Argentina||-0.19 (-4.4%)||-0.21 (-5.0%)||-3.31 (-10.7%)||-2.69 (-9.8%)|
|Gabon||-0.08 (-0.3%)||-0.16 (-0.7%)||0.02 (0.1%)||-0.29 (-1.2%)|
|Malaysia||-0.98 (-6.2%)||-1.65 (-11.0%)||-0.47 (-1.6%)||-4.84 (-16.9%)|
|Mozambique||0.00 (-1.6%)||-0.01 (-7.5%)||-1.60 (-6.0%)||-1.95 (-7.8%)|
|Tanzania||-0.01 (-0.9%)||-0.02 (-2.8%)||-1.21 (-5.5%)||-1.31 (-6.3%)|
|Guyana||-0.03 (-0.2%)||-0.09 (-0.5%)||0.07 (0.3%)||-0.14 (-0.8%)|
|Ecuador||-0.05 (-0.5%)||-0.12 (-1.2%)||0.20 (1.1%)||-0.43 (-2.3%)|
|Thailand||-0.07 (-1.2%)||-0.05 (-0.9%)||-0.75 (-3.8%)||-1.31 (-6.9%)|
|Philippines||-0.05 (-1.1%)||-0.09 (-2.1%)||-0.18 (-1.0%)||-0.80 (-4.4%)|
|Paraguay||-0.46 (-13.3%)||-0.53 (-17.7%)||-3.69 (-15.4%)||-3.60 (-17.8%)|
|Zambia||0.00 (-1.0%)||-0.02 (-6.5%)||-1.07 (-5.8%)||-0.77 (-4.4%)|
|Laos||-0.23 (-2.7%)||-0.55 (-6.8%)||-1.15 (-6.0%)||-2.58 (-14.4%)|
|Suriname||-0.02 (-0.2%)||-0.10 (-0.8%)||0.05 (0.4%)||-0.14 (-1.0%)|
|Rest of the tropics||-1.59 (-2.7%)||-4.04 (-7.0%)||-6.59 (-3.1%)||-20.17 (-9.9%)|
|Grand Total||-23.11 (-2.2%)||-37.34 (-3.7%)||-50.27 (-2.5%)||-120.27 (-6.1%)|
Rainforests are characterized by a unique vegetative structure consisting of several vertical layers including the overstory, canopy, understory, shrub layer, and ground level. The canopy refers to the dense ceiling of leaves and tree branches formed by closely spaced forest trees. The upper canopy is 100-130 feet above the forest floor, penetrated by scattered emergent trees, 130 feet or higher, that make up the level known as the overstory. Below the canopy ceiling are multiple leaf and branch levels known collectively as the understory. The lowest part of the understory, 5-20 feet (1.5-6 meters) above the floor, is known as the shrub layer, made up of shrubby plants and tree saplings.
Tropical rainforests support the greatest diversity of living organisms on Earth. Although they cover less than 2 percent of Earth’s surface, rainforests house more than 50 percent of the plants and animals on the planet.
THE RAINFOREST CANOPY
In the rainforest most plant and animal life is not found on the forest floor, but in the leafy world known as the canopy. The canopy, which may be over 100 feet (30 m) above the ground, is made up of the overlapping branches and leaves of rainforest trees. Scientists estimate that more than half of life in the rainforest is found in the trees, making this the richest habitat for plant and animal life.
The conditions of the canopy are markedly different from the conditions of the forest floor. During the day, the canopy is drier and hotter than other parts of the forest, and the plants and animals that live there have adapted accordingly. For example, because the amount of leaves in the canopy can make it difficult to see more than a few feet, many canopy animals rely on loud calls or lyrical songs for communication. Gaps between trees mean that some canopy animals fly, glide, or jump to move about in the treetops. Meanwhile plants have evolved water-retention mechanisms like waxy leaves.
Scientists have long been interested in studying the canopy, but the height of trees made research difficult until recently. Today the canopy is commonly accessed using climbing gear, rope bridges, ladders, and towers. Researchers are even using model airplanes and quadcopters outfitted with special sensors — conservation drones — to study the canopy.
The rainforest floor
The rainforest floor is often dark and humid due to constant shade from the leaves of canopy trees. The canopy not only blocks out sunlight, but dampens wind and rain, and limits shrub growth.
Despite its constant shade, the ground floor of the rainforest is the site for important interactions and complex relationships. The forest floor is one of the principal sites of decomposition, a process paramount for the continuance of the forest as a whole. It provides support for trees responsible for the formation of the canopy and is also home to some of the rainforest's best-known species, including gorillas, tigers, tapirs, and elephants, among others.
Tropical rainforests support some of the largest rivers in the world, like the Amazon, Mekong, Negro, Orinoco, and Congo. These mega-rivers are fed by countless smaller tributaries, streams, and creeks. For example, the Amazon alone has some 1,100 tributaries, 17 of which are over 1,000 miles long. Although large tropical rivers are fairly uniform in appearance and water composition, their tributaries vary greatly.
Rainforest waters are home to a wealth of wildlife that is nearly as diverse as the biota on land. For example, more than 5,600 species of fish have been identified in the Amazon Basin alone.
But like rainforests, tropical ecosystems are also threatened. Dams, deforestation, channelization and dredging, pollution, mining, and overfishing are chief dangers.
Tropical rainforests have long been home to tribal peoples who rely on their surroundings for food, shelter, and medicines. Today very few forest people live in traditional ways; most have been displaced by outside settlers, have been forced to give up their lifestyles by governments, or have chosen to adopt outside customs.
Of the remaining forest people, the Amazon supports the largest number of Indigenous people living in traditional ways, although these people, too, have been impacted by the modern world. Nonetheless, Indigenous peoples' knowledge of medicinal plants remains unmatched and they have a great understanding of the ecology of the Amazon rainforest.
In Africa there are native forest dwellers sometimes known as pygmies. The tallest of these people, also called the Mbuti, rarely exceed 5 feet in height. Their small size enables them to move about the forest more efficiently than taller people.
There are few forest peoples in Asia living in fully traditional ways. The last nomadic people in Borneo are thought to have settled in the late 2000's. New Guinea and the Andaman Islands are generally viewed as the last frontiers for forest people in Asia and the Pacific.
Every year an area of rainforest the size of New Jersey is cut down and destroyed, mostly the result of human activities. We are cutting down rainforests for many reasons, including:
In recent decades there has been an important shift in deforestation trends. Today export-driven industries are driving a bigger share of deforestation than ever before, marking a shift from previous decades, when most tropical deforestation was the product of poor farmers trying to put food on the table for their families. There are important implications from this change. While companies have a greater capacity to chop down forests than small farmers, they are more sensitive to pressure from environmentalists. Thus in recent years, it has become easier—and more ethical—for green groups to go after corporations than after poor farmers.
Rainforests are also threatened by climate change, which is contributing to droughts in parts of the Amazon and Southeast Asia. Drought causes die-offs of trees and dries out leaf litter, increasing the risk of forest fires, which are often set by land developers, ranchers, plantation owners, and loggers.
While rainforests may seem like a distant concern, they are critically important for our well-being. Rainforests are often called the lungs of the planet for their role in absorbing carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, and producing oxygen, upon which all animals depend for survival. Rainforests also stabilize climate, house incredible amounts of plants and wildlife, and produce nourishing rainfall all around the planet.
- Help stabilize the world’s climate: Rainforests help stabilize the world’s climate by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Scientists have shown that excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from human activities is contributing to climate change. Therefore, living rainforests have an important role in mitigating climate change, but when rainforests are chopped down and burned, the carbon stored in their wood and leaves is released into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.
- Provide a home to many plants and animals: Rainforests are home to a large number of the world’s plant and animals species, including many endangered species. As forests are cut down, many species are doomed to extinction.
- Help maintain the water cycle: The role of rainforests in the water cycle is to add water to the atmosphere through the process of transpiration (in which plants release water from their leaves during photosynthesis). This moisture contributes to the formation of rain clouds, which release the water back onto the rainforest. In the Amazon, 50-80 percent of moisture remains in the ecosystem’s water cycle. When forests are cut down, less moisture goes into the atmosphere and rainfall declines, sometimes leading to drought. Rainforests also have a role in global weather patterns. For example researchers have shown that forests in South America affect rainfall in the United States, while forests in Southeast Asia influence rain patterns in southeastern Europe and China. Distant rainforests are therefore important to farmers everywhere.
- Protect against flood, drought, and erosion: Rainforests have been compared to natural sponges, moderating flood and drought cycles by slowing run-off and contributing moisture to the local atmosphere. Rainforests are also important in reducing soil erosion by anchoring the ground with their roots. When trees are cut down there is no longer anything to protect the ground, and soils are quickly washed away with rain. On steep hillsides, loss of forest can trigger landslides.
- Are a source for medicines and foods and support forest-dependent people: People have long used forests as a source of food, wood, medicine, and recreation. When forests are lost, they can no longer provide these resources. Instead people must find other places to get these goods and services. They also must find ways to pay for the things they once got for free from the forest.
Rainforests are disappearing very quickly. The good news is there are a lot of people who want to save rainforests. The bad news is that saving rainforests will be a challenge as it means humanity will need to shift away from business-as-usual practices by developing new policies and economic measures to creative incentives for preserving forests as healthy and productive ecosystems.
Over the past decade there has been considerable progress on several conservation fronts. Policymakers and companies are increasingly valuing rainforests for the services they afford, setting aside large blocks of forests in protected areas and setting up new financial mechanisms that compensate communities, state and local governments, and countries for conserving forests. Meanwhile, forest-dependent people are gaining more management control over the forests they have long stewarded. Large international companies are finally establishing policies that exclude materials sourced via deforestation. People are abandoning rural areas, leading to forest recovery in some planes.
But the battle is far from over. Growing population and consumption means that rainforests will continue to face intense pressures. At the same time, climate change threatens to dramatically alter temperatures and precipitation patterns, potentially pushing some forests toward critical tipping points.
Thus the future of the world's rainforests in very much in our hands. The actions we take in the next 20 years will determine whether rainforests, as we currently know them, are around to sustain and nourish future generations of people and wildlife.
The Latest News on Rainforests
Indonesia, Malaysia deploy ministers to push back on EU palm oil restrictions (May 27 2023)
- Indonesia and Malaysia will send top officials to Brussels to voice concerns over a new regulation that bans the trading of commodities associated with deforestation, including palm oil.
- The officials will meet with European policymakers to discuss ways to minimize the regulation’s impacts on palm oil producers, particularly smallholders.
- The world’s two biggest palm oil producers have long protested EU policies against palm oil, calling them discriminatory and protectionist of Europe’s own oilseeds industry.
Flooding for hydropower dams hits forest-reliant bats hard, study shows (May 26 2023)
- Researchers have found that bats specialized to feed on insects within the dense canopy of tropical forests are disproportionately affected by hydropower development.
- The study in Peninsular Malaysia adds to a growing body of evidence demonstrating how hydropower developments impoverish tropical ecosystems.
- Although forest-specialist bats were lost from the flooded landscape, bats that forage along forest edges and in open space were still present.
- To minimize localized extinctions, the researchers advocate a preventive rather than mitigative approach to hydropower planning that prioritizes habitat connectivity and avoids creating isolated forest patches.
Forest behind bars: Logging network operating out of Cambodian prison in the Cardamoms (May 26 2023)
- A Mongabay investigation has uncovered a logging operation being run out of Koh Kong provincial prison that gets its timber from the site of a new hydropower dam being built in Thma Bang.
- Old-growth forest in Central Cardamom Mountains National Park is being cleared to make way for the Stung Tatai Leu hydropower dam, but the environmental impacts remain opaque.
- NGOs and the Ministry of Environment provide minimal oversight to prevent illegal loggers from exploiting the project site, and former loggers detailed how bribes facilitate the illicit timber trade.
- Prison officials maintained that the timber is used in a skills development program, but former inmates alleged that officials have been exploiting prison labor to craft luxury furniture.
Book: A perfect storm in the Amazon (May 23 2023)
- Mongabay has begun publishing a new edition of the book, “A Perfect Storm in the Amazon,” in short installments and in three languages: Spanish, English and Portuguese.
- Author Timothy J. Killeen is an academic and expert who, since the 1980s, has studied the rainforests of Brazil and Bolivia, where he lived for more than 35 years.
- Chronicling the efforts of nine Amazonian countries to curb deforestation, this edition provides an overview of the topics most relevant to the conservation of the region’s biodiversity, ecosystem services and Indigenous cultures, as well as a description of the conventional and sustainable development models that are vying for space within the regional economy.
- Click the “Perfect Storm in the Amazon” link atop this page to see chapters 1-13 as they are published during 2023.
Indonesian project shows how climate funding can — and should — go directly to IPLCs (May 23 2023)
- Three of Indonesia’s largest Indigenous and civil society organizations have launched a new initiative that will be first to channel climate funds directly to Indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) on the frontlines of protecting forests, restoring land and ensuring food security.
- The initiative, called the Nusantara Fund, is part of a pledge by five countries and 17 private donors to distribute $1.7 billion, announced at the COP26 climate summit in 2021.
- The current climate investment model often excludes local communities, with only 7% of the roughly $322 million disbursed in the first year of the pledge going directly to IPLC organizations.
- The Nusantara Fund seeks to correct this faulty model by distributing funds directly to IPLCs and letting them manage and monitor the funding by themselves, based on the fact that they’re the ones who know best what their needs are.
Critics question causes behind major oil spill in Ecuadorian Amazon (May 22 2023)
- An oil pipeline operated by the state-owned Petroecuador ruptured earlier this month in the province of Sucumbíos, causing concern about contamination of rivers that extend to other parts of the rainforest.
- Petroecuador said the spill occurred after an attack on the pipeline. But environmental activists question those claims.
- Some communities reported seeing contamination downriver and expressed concern that the spill would have a long-term impact on the local ecosystem.
Study shows 10 million acres of Colombian rainforest at risk without new policies (May 22 2023)
- Researchers from the Amazonian Scientific Research Institute Sinchi analyzed the potential future of the Colombian Amazon Rainforest up until 2040; the results, based on analyzing 18 years of data from forest monitoring, show three possible future scenarios depending on deforestation policies.
- With current trends, loss could amount to 2.1 million hectares (5.2 million acres) of Amazon Rainforest. However, in the worst-case scenario — if extractivist policies are implemented — deforestation could reach 4.3 million hectares (10.6 million acres).
- On the other hand, if the cattle ranching industry is reduced and sustainable development achieved, at least 3.5 million hectares (8.6 million acres) of forest could be saved by 2040.
Second chance for Lula as controversial Amazon dam goes up for renewal (May 18 2023)
- In the biological and cultural hotspot of the Volta Grande in Brazil’s Amazon, Indigenous communities and scientists have teamed up to monitor the impacts of the Belo Monte hydroelectric project, one of the biggest in the world.
- The dam complex has diverted 80% of the Xingu River’s water flow, significantly affecting the aquatic life in the Volta Grande river bend and pushing the entire ecosystem toward collapse, along with the local communities who rely on it.
- The complex’s environmental license, which lasts six years and dictates the amount of water flowing through Belo Monte, is currently up for review by the federal environmental protection agency, IBAMA.
- President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva played a key role in pushing for the construction of Belo Monte, and now, back in power, can influence a new path for the environment and local communities, activists say.
Indigenous chief shot in head in Brazil’s ‘palm oil war’ region; crisis group launched (May 16 2023)
- On May 14, Indigenous chief Lúcio Tembé was shot by gunmen on an unpaved road in Brazil’s northern Pará state. This is the latest episode of violence in an area facing an outbreak of land conflicts between a major palm oil company and local communities, the so-called “palm oil war.”
- The Federal Public Ministry raised the possibility of the crime’s connection to conflicts with palm oil companies in the region and requested urgent measures of the Federal Police and Pará’s State Department of Public Security and Social Defense (Segup) in view of the intense level of conflict in the region “with concrete risks to the Indigenous peoples’ life and physical integrity.”
- A crisis committee to contain escalating conflicts in the region was announced on May 16; the crime is being investigated by the Federal Police and the Quatro Bocas municipal police station, urging that any relevant information be forwarded via the hotline 181 under guaranteed confidentiality.
- Some readers may find the images below disturbing, discretion is advised.
Targeting 3% of protected areas could accelerate progress on 30×30 goals, says Global Conservation’s Jeff Morgan (May 16 2023)
- In December, world leaders adopted the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, targeting the conservation of 30% of Earth by 2030.
- However, Jeff Morgan, founder of Global Conservation, points out that simply designating protected areas is not enough to safeguard nature. His organization, therefore, focuses on strengthening protection within UNESCO World Heritage Sites in lower and middle-income countries, utilizing cost-effective technologies for law enforcement against poaching, illegal logging, and more.
- Global Conservation currently operates across 22 national parks and 10 marine parks in 14 countries and aims to expand its work to 100 sites by 2033. Morgan believes that this focus on existing national parks and habitats is the most efficient and cost-effective way to achieve climate goals.
- Morgan recently spoke with Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler about Global Conservation’s approach.
Sarawak Indigenous NGO squeezed by defamation case, silenced from reporting alleged logging (May 16 2023)
- For the fourth time, the hearing of a defamation suit filed by Malaysia-based timber company Samling against Indigenous rights group SAVE Rivers has been delayed.
- According to the statement of claim filed by Samling plaintiffs, the case hinges on eight articles published on SAVE Rivers’ website between June 2020 and March 2021 involving allegations of illegal logging and a rush to gain sustainable forestry certification, which Samling says is untrue.
- Last month, 160 organizations signed a letter describing this suit as a strategic litigation against public participation, or SLAPP case, noting that the fine — plaintiffs are asking for 5 million ringgit ($1.1 million) — would bankrupt SAVE Rivers.
- The deferment of the trial comes days after the Forest Stewardship Council, an international organization that operates a certification scheme for sustainable forestry, said the company will be investigated for alleged violations of the council’s policies.
Despite landmark law, Europe faces tough test to end role in global forest loss (commentary) (May 15 2023)
- European Union governments are today expected to give a final go-ahead to a new law meant to prevent the bloc driving deforestation overseas through its consumption of beef, soy, palm oil and four other commodities linked to global forest loss.
- The groundbreaking rules could cut a vital cash flow to forest-destroying firms, with huge impacts for biodiversity and the climate.
- However, Sam Lawson, Director of London-based NGO Earthsight – which has been monitoring these issues for years and helped lobby for the new legislation – argues that the biggest challenge has yet to come: enforcement. And success is far from assured.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.
Amazon Rainforest loss could reach new height in just 5 years, study says (May 11 2023)
- A recent study has found that in the five-year period between 2021 and 2025, the Amazon could lose half the total forest cover it lost in the previous 20 years, amounting to a further loss of 237,058 square kilometers (91,529 square miles).
- From 2001-20, the rainforest lost more than 500,000 km2 (200,000 mi2) of forest cover, an area larger than Spain, mostly because of road development, agricultural expansion and mining.
- Deforestation rates continue to accelerate in almost all nine Amazonian countries, especially in Brazil, Bolivia, Peru and Colombia.
- Implementing efficient public policies and strengthening control and monitoring are essential to reduce rising deforestation rates, but experts warn economic interests often clash with conservation efforts in the Amazon.
‘I’m not distressed, I’m just pissed off’: Q&A with Sumatran rhino expert John Payne (May 11 2023)
- Rhino expert John Payne worked with Sumatran rhinos in Malaysia from the 1970s until 2019, when the country’s last rhino died.
- With no rhinos left to care for, Payne has started working with other species, and recently published a book in which he argues the strategy to save Sumatran rhinos from extinction was flawed from the start.
- In an interview with Mongabay, Payne speaks about his new book, moving on after the loss of the rhinos he cared for, and his frustration with officials and conservation organizations.
Bioacoustic analysis made easier: Q&A with Rainforest Connection CEO Bourhan Yassin (May 11 2023)
- Passive acoustic monitoring, or bioacoustics, has gained prominence in recent years as a noninvasive way of collecting large amounts of data to study and monitor biodiversity.
- However, the analysis of massive audio data sets is often expensive and labor-intensive; while artificial intelligence has made it easier, not everyone has the budget and expertise to use these tools.
- Arbimon, an online audio analysis platform developed by conservation technology nonprofit Rainforest Connection, aims to make the analysis of bioacoustics data easier and more accessible.