Help Preserve the Amazon, the Rewards are Global
Desert dust breathes life into Amazon
Huge dust clouds swirling across the Atlantic from northern Africa to South America are pictured in stunning new images released by the US space agency Nasa, illustrating how Earth's largest tropical rainforest relies on its biggest, hottest desert to flourish.
Bianca Jagger: Amazon tribes “under siege” from developers
Last updated on 31 December 2014, 9:02 am
By Ed King
Latin America’s remaining indigenous peoples are “under siege” from rapacious mining, ranching and energy companies, actress turned human rights activist Bianca Jagger has warned.
Earlier this month eight leaders from across the continent announced plans to replant 20 million hectares of forests by 2020, a sign they said of their commitment to protect the region’s precious rainforests from further degradation.
But Jagger said recent history indicated these were likely to be “empty promises”, and would not protect the rights or the future of the 385 indigenous Amazon tribes who rely on the health of their traditional lands to survive.
“My problem is that many of these leaders are talking the talk but not walking the walk. There are a lot of empty promises,” Jagger told RTCC in an interview.
“What I’m seeing in Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil and Nicaragua, it is not a response from Latin American leaders towards their indigenous people. What I see is an irrational course to get more drilling, mining and hydroelectric.”- See more at: http://www.rtcc.org/
São Paulo running out of water as rain-making Amazon vanishes
SAO PAULO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - South America’s biggest and wealthiest city may run out of water by mid-November if it doesn’t rain soon.
São Paulo, a Brazilian megacity of 20 million people, is suffering its worst drought in at least 80 years, with key reservoirs that supply the city dried up after an unusually dry year.
One of the causes of the crisis may be more than 2,000 kilometers away, in the growing deforested areas in the Amazon region.
“Humidity that comes from the Amazon in the form of vapor clouds - what we call ‘flying rivers’ - has dropped dramatically, contributing to this devastating situation we are living today,” said Antonio Nobre, a leading climate scientist at INPE, Brazil’s National Space Research Institute.
The changes, he said, are “all because of deforestation”.
Indigenous Territories and Amazon Protected Areas Officially Designated 1995 – 2014
|Government||Indigenous Territories Officially Designated (#)||Indigenous Territories Officially Designated (Million Hectares)||Amazon Protected Areas Created (#)||Amazon Protected Areas Created (Million Hectares)||MILLION HECTARES — TOTAL|
|Dilma Rouseff (2010 – 2014)||21||3||5||N/A||3|
|Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003 – 2010)||168||32||49||26.3||58.3|
|Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1995 – 2003)||263||77||38||14.8||91.8|
Here's how Brazil's new presidential candidate could help save the planet
Marina Silva has a chance at becoming the first environmentalist to lead a major world economy. Here is what that might look like.
Marina Silva has a chance at becoming the first environmentalist to lead a major world economy. Here is what that might look like.
A blaze in March 2013 in Rio Grande do Sul state, southern Brazil. (Lauro Alves/AFP/Getty Images)
LIMA, Peru — When Brazilian presidential candidate Eduardo Campos’ plane went down near Sao Paulo this month, one of the most improbable consequences may have been to thrust the Amazon center stage in the race.
Yet that’s what is happening now that Campos’ running mate, environmentalist Marina Silva, has taken his place on the ballot for the October vote.
Silva, who learned to read and write only at age 16 after growing up in poverty on a remote jungle plantation, has a certain appeal with disgruntled voters. She even won praise from Greenpeace during her five years as environment minister.
Now a poll predicts 56-year-old Silva will squeeze into the second round of voting and narrowly beat President Dilma Rousseff. It is the first time that Rousseff, 66, has been behind in the polls.
“What happens to Brazil, home of the planet’s great green lungs, matters on a global scale.”
This could make Silva the first environmentalist to lead a major world economy. And what happens to the environment in Brazil, home to the planet’s great green lungs, matters on a global scale.
More from GlobalPost: Calamity Calling: What if we lost the Amazon?
It would also make her the first Afro-Brazilian president, in a country with a huge black population.
(Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)
Brazil dismantles 'biggest destroyer' of Amazon rainforest
The authorities in Brazil say they have dismantled a criminal organisation they believe was the "biggest destroyer" of the Amazon rainforest.
The gang is accused of invading, logging and burning large areas of public land and selling these illegally for farming and grazing.
In a statement, Brazilian Federal Police said the group committed crimes worth more than $220m (£134m).
A federal judge has issued 14 arrest warrants for alleged gang members.
Twenty-two search warrants were also issued and four suspects are being called in for questioning.
The police operation covers four Brazilian states, including Sao Paulo.
Five men and a woman have already been arrested in Para state in the north of the country, Globo news reported.
Read More at BBC.com
More uncontacted Indians emerge in Brazil – fleeing attacks in Peru 14 August 2014
Peru criticized for failing its most vulnerable citizens
Act now to help the Uncontacted Indians of Brazil
Your support is vital if the Uncontacted Indians of Brazil are to survive. There are many ways you can help.
EDITORIAL: It’s a jungle (aka rain forest) out there
The key to preserving them is taking it away from the government
Environmentalists have sounded the alarm, warning that the rain forests will soon disappear. These unique ecosystems, which include half of the plant and animal species found on Earth, are on the verge of extinction, they say.
Fortunately, deforestation rates in many of the world’s rain forests are dropping dramatically. It’s not government ownership of the jungle keeping more trees standing but increased private-property rights.
Read more at the Washington Times
Biggest fish in Amazon is on the brink of extinction
(Photo : Sergio Ricardo de Oliveira/Virginia Tech)
Read full article at TechTimes
New Website Tracks Deforestation in Near Real-Time
Forests around the world are disappearing at an astonishing rate. But now, these trees won't fall without a sound.
A new map and website called Global Forest Watch provides the first near-real-time look at the planet's forests, using a combination of satellite data and user-generated reports. The website's developers hope that Global Forest Watch will help local governments and companies combat deforestation and save protected areas.
"More than half a billion people depend on [forests] for their jobs, their food, their clean water," said Andrew Steer, the CEO of the World Resources Institute (WRI), which launched the website today (Feb. 20). "More than half of all terrestrial biodiversity lives in forests."
But humans are failing to preserve these crucial ecosystems, Steer told reporters before the launch. The equivalent of 50 soccer fields each minute have fallen every day of the past 13 years. [See Images of the New Deforestation Map]
Guarani leader and film-star murdered 3 December 2013
Guarani Indian leader and film-star Ambrósio Vilhalva was murdered on Sunday night, after decades of campaigning for his tribe’s right to live on their ancestral land.
Ambrósio was reportedly stabbed at the entrance to his community, known as Guyra Roká, in Brazil’s Mato Grosso do Sul state. He was found dead in his hut, with multiple knife wounds. He had been repeatedly threatened in recent months.
Ambrósio starred as the main character in the award-winning feature film Birdwatchers, which portrays the Guarani’s desperate struggle for their land. He traveled internationally to speak out about the tribe’s plight, and to push the Brazilian government into protecting Guarani land, as it is legally obliged to do.
Read more at Survivalinternational.org
How Fast Is The Rainforest Disappearing? Brazil Confirms 28 Percent Increase In Amazon Deforestation Rate
Rainforest treasures – aҫaí berries and caja fruit
September 26, 2013
Last week Peruvian journalist and politician Güido Lombardi directed his audience to video shot from a wingcam aboard the Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO), an airplane used by researchers to conduct advanced monitoring and analysis of Peru's forests. The video quickly received more than 60,000 views on Youtube.
The attention generated by the broadcast is significant because the issue of gold mining in the Peruvian Amazon isn't well known, despite its widening impact.
The Associated Press
BRASILIA, Brazil — The Brazilian government has designated nearly 10,000 square kilometers (3,860 square miles) of land in the Amazon rainforest as a protected area.
That's an area slightly smaller than the nation of Lebanon, and the Brazilian environment ministry said Monday that expanse is now under its protection in a bid to halt deforestation in the area.
The ministry says it will allow sustainable development in the area, as it does in many other parts of the Amazon.
That means letting mostly subsistence farmers use the forest in ways that won't destroy it. Among those are managed forestry for selling timber and modern farming techniques that increase production using less land, ending the need to clear more forest for fields.
Ecuador dumps the Amazon's most biodiverse reserve
Rafael Correa is the Ecuadorean president. It was his political decision on Thursday to suddenly dismantle the flagship ITT Initiative whereby 200,000 hectares of the Amazon rainforest of the Yasuni is kept pristine and governments can pay in donations as part of their carbon mitigation measures. In 2007, this was a magnificent gesture of reducing the environmental maintenance costs of a relatively poor country. The Yasuni Reserve is said to have the world's most renowned biodiversity. The President's plan hoped to raise $3.6bn because of this, but only $116 million was pledged and a mere $13 million actually paid out.
Apart from paying for industrial carbon emissions by other countries, the fact that oil wold remain in the ground is important. If taken, the equivalent of 410 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide would be emitted from the estimated 846 million barrels of heavy crude. This is a big industry and a big loss to the environment. Oil provides 33% of Ecuador's GNP and these 3 new oil fields would account for 20% of its reserves. On the other hand, the loss of such biodiversity could prove a death blow to the whole Amazon's ability to resist more and more drilling and mining.
There has been a kind of hostage situation in terms of these unique forests. The Waorani, Tagaeri and the Taromenane tribes live in the Yasuni area as well as the Waorani reserve itself. Some of these native peoples have never been contacted from the outside, so there is further concern about the preservation of delicate human systems as well as the ecosystems. If money were given to Ecuador alone, to spend as they thought fit, the oil industry was to be kept out. If any organisation wanted to spend or invest in some other way, then the oil companies would also be let in. The President seemed to be saying we should pay or he would drill!
The Amazon as a whole is the earth's greatest supplier of oxygen to us and, sensibly. It also disposes of more carbon dioxide than any other "sink." Italy, with $51 million is the only developed country that so far has donated to the president's governing group rather than the Yasuni people, who have been receiving German aid. According to the President, "The world has failed us with the great hypocrisy of nations who emit most of the greenhouse gases. It was not charity that we sought from the international community, but co-responsibility in the face of climate change."
Now we have to work out whether we were all right to doubt the President. Or should we have backed him and made him appear to be the great environmentalist?
Protection of the Ashaninka Reserve sets important new precedent
Full Story at http://www.rainforestfoundationuk.org/
Pope urges respect, protection of Amazon rainforest
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP)
Pope Francis took on the defense of the Amazon and the environment near the end of his weeklong trip to Brazil, as he donned a colorful Indian headdress Saturday and urged that the rainforest be treated as a garden.
The pontiff met with a few thousand of Brazil’s political, business and cultural elite in Rio de Janeiro’s Municipal Theater, where he also shook hands with Indians who said they were from a tribe that has been battling ranchers and farmers trying to invade their land in northeastern Bahia state.
In a separate speech to bishops, the pope called for “respect and protection of the entire creation which God has entrusted to man, not so that it be indiscriminately exploited but rather made into a garden.”
He also urged attention to a 2007 document by Latin American and Caribbean bishops that he was in charge of drafting, which underscored dangers facing the Amazon environment and the native people living there. The document also called for new evangelization efforts to halt a steep decline in Catholics leaving for other faiths or secularism.
“The traditional communities have been practically excluded from decisions on the wealth of biodiversity and nature. Nature has been, and continues to be, assaulted,” the document reads.
Several of the indigenous people in the audience hailed from the Amazon and said they hoped the pope would help them protect land designated by the government as indigenous reserves but that farmers and ranchers illegally invade for timber and to graze cattle. In fact, grazing has been the top recent cause of deforestation in Brazil.
“We got credentials for his speech and attended so we could tell the pope what’s happening to our people,” said Levi Xerente, a 22-year-old member of the Xerente tribe in Tocantins state in the Amazon, after he attended the pope’s speech. “We hope that he will help intervene with the government and stop all the big public works projects that are happening in the region.”
Xerente, speaking in broken Portuguese, said the biggest threats to Indians in the region were big agribusiness invading land and the government’s own massive infrastructure projects, including the damming of rivers for hydroelectric power generation and roads being carved out of the forest, often to reach giant mines.
Francis thanked Brazilian bishops for maintaining a church presence in the rugged and vast Amazon, which is about the size of the United States west of the Mississippi River. But he pushed church leaders to refocus energies on the region.
“The church’s work needs to be further encouraged and launched afresh” in the Amazon, the pope said in prepared remarks, urging an “Amazonian face” for the church.
He cited the church’s long history of working in the region.
“The church’s presence in the Amazon basin is not that of someone with bags packed and ready to leave after having exploited everything possible,” he said. “The church has been present in the Amazon basin from the beginning ... and is still present and critical to the area’s future.”
Catholic priests and nuns have taken up the causes of Indians and of poor subsistence farmers in the Amazon, often putting themselves in danger. Violent conflicts over land rights are common in the region, where wealthy farmers and ranchers are known to hire gunmen to intimidate people into leaving land the government has often set aside as reserves for their use.
In 2005, U.S. nun and Amazon land-rights defender Dorothy Stang was murdered by one such gunman in the state of Para. Two ranchers were later convicted of ordering her murder so they could control a parcel of land the government had ceded to a subsistence farming group Stang worked with.
Deforestation rate doubles in the Amazon rainforest
July 19, 2013
Imazon's near real-time deforestation tracking system recorded 1,838 square kilometers of forest clearing between 2012 and June 2013, up from 907 sq km a year earlier.
The Brazilian government has also reported a significant rise in deforestation this year.
Imazon has attributed the increase to last year's revision of the Forest Code, which governs how much forest a private landowner must preserve. Under pressure from the agricultural lobby, Congress relaxed some aspects of the code to the dismay of environmental groups. Macroeconomic trends, including a weakening Brazilian real which makes agricultural exports more profitable for Brazilian farmers, might also be contributing to rising forest loss.
Final figures based on analysis of higher resolution satellite images will be released at the end of the year.
Brazil has experienced a sharp decrease in the annual rate of forest loss since 2004. Increased monitoring and law enforcement, new protected areas, private sector initiatives, and financial incentives for greener agricultural production have been cited for the drop in deforestation.
Among parks, Pacaya Samiria (3,325 ha) in Peru, Imataca (1,356 ha), the Upper Orinoco-Cassiquiare (819 ha) in Venezuela, and Noord Saramaccan (581 ha) in Suriname saw the highest forest loss. The Iquitos várzea — floodplain forest along the main stem of the Amazon — lost the largest area of forest among eco-regions both in 2012 (24,094 ha) and over the nine-year period (151,675 ha).
Satellite images showed 465 square kilometers (180 square miles) of deforestation taking place in May, an almost five-fold increase in forest loss relative to May 2012, Brazil's National Space Research Institute, INPE, stated in a report on Friday.
Brazil accounted for most of the clearing, with 59 percent of the loss in the southern state of Mato Grosso known for its industrial-sized farms and cattle ranching.
The study also revealed a 14-percent increase in deforestation compared to last year.
Scientists and environmentalists said the trend marks a reversal in gains against deforestation in Brazil, though other Amazon countries also witnessed a rise in deforestation since 2011.
The reason is unknown, but experts attribute the deforestation to government infrastructure projects, environmental policy, and a rise in demand for soybeans and other Brazilian farm exports, which encourage ranchers to clear private land in the Amazon.
The Amazon rainforest covers territory belonging to nine nations, with more than 60 percent located in Brazil, followed by Peru with 13 percent, Columbia with 10 percent, and minor amounts in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.
Amazon Wildlfires Lead Cause of Rainforest Destruction: A Study
NASA scientists have determined via an innovative satellite technique that a certain type of wildfire in the Amazon rainforest is responsible for destroying several times more forest than that lost through deforestation in regards to recent years.
Called “understory fires,” they have long remained hidden because of their location far below the forest treetops; however, using a new method, researchers have developed the first regional estimate of understory fire damage across the southern Amazon.
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"Amazon forests are quite vulnerable to fire, given the frequency of ignitions for deforestation and land management at the forest frontier, but we've never known the regional extent or frequency of these understory fires," Doug Morton of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and the study's lead author said in a press release.
The study, published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, demonstrates that, in years with the most understory fire activity, such as 2005, 2007 and 2010, the area of forest affected was several times greater than the area affected by deforestation for expansion of agriculture.
Moreover, the study goes further, pointing to climate conditions - not deforestation - as the most important factor in determining fire risk in the Amazon at a regional scale.
Fires in the Amazon's savanna areas can burn quickly, spreading up to 330 feet per minute, according to the researchers, with grasses and shrubs in these ecosystems typically surviving low-intensity surface fires.
In contrast, understory fires appear "unremarkable when you see them burning," given that the flames reach on average only a few feet high. Capable of lasting for several weeks, they spread only a few feet per minute.
Despite this seemingly low-key presence, however, understory fires can damage large areas because Amazon trees are not adapted to fire and the long, slow burn can claim anywhere from 10 to 50 percent of the burn area's trees. Furthermore, the recovery that follows is a long, slow process.
In all, the study shows that between 1999 and 2010, understory forest fires burned more than 33,000 square miles (85,500 square kilometers), or 2.8 percent of the entire forest.
Meanwhile, results showed no correlation between understory fires and deforestation; in fact, as the pressure for clearing led to the highest deforestation rates ever seen from 2003 to 2004, adjacent forests had some of the lowest rates of fires.
"You would think that deforestation activity would significantly increase the risk of fires in the adjacent forested area because deforestation fires are massive, towering infernos," Morton said. "You make a bonfire that is a square kilometer in size, throwing ash and live cinders and preheating the adjacent forest. Why didn't we have more understory fires in 2003 and 2004, when deforestation rates were so high?"
As an answer, the researchers point to climate as the reason that fire-driven deforestation didn;t burn more surrounding forests in these years as frequent understory fire activity coincided with low nighttime humidity, as measured by the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument aboard NASA's Aqua satellite.
"You can look within an indigenous reserve where there is no deforestation and see enormous understory fires," Morton said. "The human presence at the deforestation frontier leads to a risk of forest fires when climate conditions are suitable for burning, with or without deforestation activity."
These human sources could include cooking, camping, cigarettes and cars, among other things.
Going forward, this new understanding regarding the scope of understory fires could have implications for estimates of carbon emissions from disturbed forests, according to the scientists.
"We don't yet have a robust estimate of what the net carbon emissions are from understory fires, but widespread damages suggest that they are important source of emissions that we need to consider," Morton said.
Currently, researchers are looking into the climate mechanisms that, given an ignition source from humans, predispose the southern Amazon to burn.
Among the leading suspects is soil moisture, report scientists at the University of California, Irvine, who are using new information derived from satellite-based measurements of the region that indicate that the amount of water in the ground may be a leading cause for flammability.
Heading the search is Yang Chen and his colleagues who, in a recent study, were able to show that water storage estimates from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, or GRACE, satellites allow monitoring of the evolution of dry conditions during the fire season.
Published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, the study shows how low water storage in the soil leads to a drier near-ground atmosphere, resulting in drier, more flammable vegetation alongside increases in plant litter and fuel availability.
"A severe fire season in the Amazon is often preceded by low water storage in the soil, and this water deficit in the soil can be detected by the satellites several months before the fire season," Chen said.
Speed of Amazon deforestation increased by 88% in 2012
Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest has continued to increase, accelerating by 88% in 2012 according to satellite analysis.
Brazilian NGO Mongabay’s deforestation tracking system, SAD, detected that 1,570 square kilometres (sq km) of forest was lost between August 2012 and April 2013.
However, SAD, which is operational in Google Earth, also detected a decline in forest degradation by almost a quarter.
Earlier this month, Brazil’s National Space Research Agency (INPE) released figures estimating forest loss within the same period. Results showed a much lower rate of deforestation, with 1,864 sq km lost in 2012 – 14% higher than the previous year.
If deforestation continues to rise, by the end of this year, Brazil will fail in limiting forest clearing to 8,000 sq km – a target set for 2013 to conserve the 5.4m sq km that was left of the Amazon in 2012.
A recent study by NASA suggested that rapid degradation of the Amazon rainforest in 2005 could be attributed to climate change.
Mongabay’s satellite analysis follows research by scientists that links rainforests to the productivity of hydroelectricity generation. The study warned that if deforestation continues, the amount of energy produced by Belo Monte – one of the world’s biggest dams – could be reduced by over a third.
‘Lost’ report exposes Brazilian Indian genocide 25 April 2013
A shocking report detailing horrific atrocities committed against Brazilian Indians in the 1940s, 50s and 60s has resurfaced – 45 years after it was mysteriously ‘destroyed’ in a fire.
The Figueiredo report was commissioned by the Minister of the Interior in 1967 and caused an international outcry after it revealed crimes against Brazil’s indigenous population at the hands of powerful landowners and the government’s own Indian Protection Service (SPI). The report led to the foundation of tribal rights organization Survival International two years later.
The 7,000-page document, compiled by public prosecutor Jader de Figueiredo Correia, detailed mass murder, torture, enslavement, bacteriological warfare, sexual abuse, land theft and neglect waged against Brazil’s indigenous population. Some tribes were completely wiped out as a result and many more were decimated.
The report was recently rediscovered in Brazil’s Museum of the Indian and will now be considered by Brazil’s National Truth Commission, which is investigating human rights violations which occurred between 1947 and 1988.
One of the many gruesome examples in the report describes the ‘massacre of the 11th parallel’, in which dynamite was thrown from a small plane onto the village of ‘Cinta Larga’ Indians below. Thirty Indians were killed – just two survived to tell the tale.
Other examples include the poisoning of hundreds of Indians with sugar laced with arsenic, and severe methods of torture such as slowly crushing the victims’ ankles with an instrument known as the ‘trunk’.
Figueiredo’s findings led to an international outcry. In a 1969 article ‘Genocide’ in the British Sunday Timesbased on the report, writer Norman Lewis wrote, ‘From fire and sword to arsenic and bullets – civilisation has sent six million Indians to extinction.’ The article moved a small group of concerned citizens to set up Survival International the same year.
As a result of the report, Brazil launched a judicial enquiry, and 134 officials were charged with over 1,000 crimes. Thirty-eight officials were dismissed, but no-one was ever jailed for the atrocities.
The SPI was subsequently disbanded and replaced by FUNAI, Brazil’s National Indian Foundation. But while large swathes of Indian land have since been demarcated and protected, Brazil’s tribes continue to battle the invasion and destruction of their lands by illegal loggers, ranchers and settlers and the loss of land from the government’s aggressive growth program which aims to construct dozens of large hydroelectric dams and open up large-scale mining in their territories.
Survival International’s Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘The Figueiredo report makes gruesome reading, but in one way, nothing has changed: when it comes to the murder of Indians, impunity reigns. Gunmen routinely kill tribespeople in the knowledge that there’s little risk of being brought to justice – none of the assassins responsible for shooting Guarani and Makuxi tribal leaders have been jailed for their crimes. It’s hard not to suspect that racism and greed are at the root of Brazil’s failure to defend its indigenous citizens’ lives.’
Note to editors:
- Extracts from the report are available on request.
Photos available for download:
|Umutima shaman in 1957. In 1969 most of the Umutima were wiped out by a flu epidemic. |
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Credit: © José Idoyaga/Survival
|Atrocities against the Cinta Larga tribe were exposed in the Figueiredo report. After shooting the head off her baby, the killers cut the mother in half. |
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Credit: © Survival
|A Karajá couple with their baby, who has died of flu.|
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Credit: © Jesco von Puttkamer/ IGPA archive
Ecuador to China Oil Barons: Amazon Rainforest for Sale
INDIGENOUS GROUPS NOT HAPPY
by Staff Writers
Ann Arbor MI (SPX) Mar 13, 2013
Strictly protected areas such as national parks and biological reserves have been more effective at reducing deforestation in the Amazon rainforest than so-called sustainable-use areas that allow for controlled resource extraction, two University of Michigan researchers and their colleagues have found.
In addition, protected areas established primarily to safeguard the rights and livelihoods of indigenous people performed especially well in places where deforestation pressures are high.
The U-M-led study, which found that all forms of protection successfully limit deforestation, is scheduled for online publication March 11 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The lead author is Christoph Nolte, a doctoral candidate at the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment. Co-authors include Arun Agrawal, a professor of natural resources at SNRE.
"Perhaps the biggest surprise is the finding that indigenous lands perform the best when it comes to lower deforestation in contexts of high deforestation pressure," Agrawal said.
"Many observers have suggested that granting substantial autonomy and land rights to indigenous people over vast tracts of land in the Amazon will lead to high levels of deforestation because indigenous groups would want to take advantage of the resources at their disposal.
"This study shows that - based on current evidence - such fears are misplaced," he said.
Preventing deforestation of rainforests is a goal for conserving biodiversity and, more recently, for reducing carbon emissions in the Brazilian Amazon, which covers an area of nearly 2 million square miles.
After making international headlines for historically high Amazon deforestation rates between 2000 and 2005, Brazil achieved radical reductions in deforestation rates in the second half of the past decade.
Although part of those reductions were attributed to price declines of agricultural commodities, recent analyses also show that regulatory government policies - including a drastic increase in enforcement activities and the expansion and strengthening of protected-area networks - all contributed significantly to the observed reductions.
In their study, the U-M researchers and their colleagues used new remote-sensing-based datasets from 292 protected areas in the Brazilian Amazon, along with a sophisticated statistical analysis, to assess the effectiveness of different types of protected areas. They looked at three categories of protected areas: strictly protected areas, sustainable use areas and indigenous lands.
Strictly protected areas - state and national biological stations, biological reserves, and national and state parks - consistently avoided more deforestation than sustainable-use areas, regardless of the level of deforestation pressure. Sustainable-use areas allow for controlled resource extraction, land use change and, in many instances, human settlements.
"Earlier analyses suggested that strict protection, because it allows no resource use, is so controversial that it is less likely to be implemented where deforestation pressures are high - close to cities or areas of high agricultural value, for example," Nolte said.
"But we observed that recent designations of the Brazilian government placed new strictly protected areas in very high-pressure areas, attenuating this earlier argument," he said.
Hundreds of millions of people in the tropics depend on forests for their subsistence. Forest products that households rely on include firewood, fodder for livestock and timber for housing.
Co-authors of the PNAS paper are Kirsten M. Silvius of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and Britaldo S. Soares-Filho of the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Brazil.
Amazon Rainforest Under Pressure
How Genetically Engineered Soy Threatens Ecological Stability
Special report Revealed: how our shoes are linked to deforestation and slavery in the Amazon
Ida Dalgaard Steffensen, DanWatch
26th October, 2012
Europe is the world's largest importer of leather shoes but much of the leather itself comes from cattle farms deep in the Brazilian Amazon, where farms use slave labourers and where slaughterhouses do not respect workers' safety. Ida Dalgaard Steffensen reports
The air surrounding the 17 men at SENAI's school of construction in Cuiabá, capital of the state Mato Grosso in Western Brazil, is thick with dust. The work is done with a mixture of concentration and smiles as jokes are traded back and forth. Two months ago none of the men here had reason to smile. Why? Because they were working as slave labourers on Brazil’s cattle farms. As former slave, 27-year-old Daniel Moraes Ferreira, says: ’This is a new beginning.’
Daniel Moraes Ferreira came to Cuiabá a few weeks ago with his friend, Rodrigues Gomes Guimarães. They worked at the same farm in Mato Grosso, where they were kept in slave-like conditions. Mato Grosso is the biggest cattle producing state in Brazil, and as a result, the place where the most slaves are to be found. Daniel is nervous. His eyes flicker and he laughs nervously while telling his story. ‘This story needs to be told to the world,’ he says. ‘Many workers are afraid to talk about their experiences, [so] this is why I talk. I don’t wish for anyone to go through the same.’
The two men escaped from a cattle farm where they worked clearing the Amazon forest to prepare new grassland for the cattle. They were taken hundreds of miles from civilisation. They slept on the ground in self-made shacks. There was no toilet. They had to hunt for their own food, as their employer did not provide them with any, and soon they realised that they were drinking out of the same muddy puddles as the cows. They did not have any protective equipment. And they did not get paid.
Cattle ranching in Brazil has been linked to modern day slavery practices.
Read more: TheEcologist.com