Dams and biodiversity

Photo credit: bluechannel24

Balbina Dam has hit populations of mammals, large gamebirds and tortoises, researchers say, warning against hydro push.
Widely hailed as ‘green’ sources of renewable energy, numerous hydroelectric dams have been built worldwide, but research reveals they are far from environmentally friendly.

Brazil: Hydroelectric dams drastically reduce tropical forest biodiversity

A study puiblished in online journal PLOS ONE from the University of East Anglia (UEA) has revealed the drastic effects of the major Amazonian Balbina Dam on tropical rainforest biodiversity. The research reveals a loss of mammals, birds and tortoises from the vast majority of islands formed by the creation of the vast Balbina Lake, one of the world’s largest hydroelectric reservoirs.

Lead author and UEA graduate Dr Maíra Benchimol, of the Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz, Bahia, Brazil, said: “Hydroelectric dams have been thought to be an environmentally friendly source of renewable power, and in recent years have been built to supply the burgeoning energy demands of emergent tropical countries.

Previous studies have shown that large dams result in severe losses in fishery revenues, increases in greenhouse gas emissions and socioeconomic costs to local communities. Our research adds evidence that forest biodiversity also pays a heavy price when large dams are built.

Read the full article: bluechannel24

Amazon resettlement areas with disproportionate amount of deforestation

Photo credit: SciDevNet

Copyright: Flickr/Neil Palmer/CIAT

Amazon settlement study disputes deforestation claims

“Deforestation rates within the settlements are following the same rates that apply outside the settlements since 2004” – Pedro Bruzzi,  Brazil’s National Institute for Colonisation and Agrarian Reform (INCRA)

by Gareth Willmer

Speed read

  • About 1.2 million have migrated to Amazon through official programmes
  • The government says most tree loss occurs before smallholders arrive
  • But resettlement areas found to cause disproportionate amount of deforestation

The resettlement of smallholder farmers in Brazil has spurred deforestation in the Amazon, according to fresh research on nearly 2,000 settlements in the region.

The findings undermine government claims that most deforestation occurs through logging before resettlement takes place. A study funded by Brazil’s National Congress published in PLOS One yesterday found that resettlement areas account for 13.5 per cent of deforestation in Brazilian Amazonia since the 1970s, despite covering only 5.3 per cent of the land.
Around 1.2 million people have been resettled since the 1970s, when the government encouraged migration into the Amazon. Other resettlement programmes aimed to give more land to the poor and reduce wealth disparities, but these have exacerbated deforestation as settlers clear jungle for farmland, the paper says.

The two researchers behind the study looked at satellite data of settlements and their wider environmental impact through farming as well as construction of infrastructure such as roads. Study author Maurício Schneider, a researcher at the National Congress, says deforestation rates are worse in settlements created between 2000 and 2010.

Read the full article: SciDevNet

An agroecological family farm in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Photo credit: Google

“Muito mais que alimentos, ela tem gerado muito aprendizado sobre como a agricultura pode gerar, além da colheita, um ambiente mais rico do que era antes” – www.fazendadatoca.com.br

How to Create Abundance Without Destroying the Planet

by Sarah Small

In a recent video by Agenda Gotsch, the success of Fazenda da Toca’s Burrow Farm- an organic, agroecological family farm in Sao Paulo, Brazil covering 2,130 football fields- is highlighted. “I believe it is possible to create abundance without destroying the planet. We could thrive with it instead,” explained Pedro Diniz, founder of Fazenda da Toca.

Fazenda da Toca uses methods from applied research in agroforestry systems oriented for large-scale production according to agroecologist Ernst Gotsch’s principles. Gotsch developed complex crop systems in the 1970s by experimenting with multi-species consortia, such as planting corn with beans or apples with cherries. His methods restore degraded soils, produce high yields, and eliminate the use of pesticides.

Read the full article: FoodTank

Drought and thirst in Brazil

Photo credit: IPS

A puddle is all that is left in one of the reservoirs of the Cantareira System, which normally supplies nearly half of the São Paulo metropolitan region. Courtesy of Ninja/ContaDagua.org

Brazil – from the Droughts of the Northeast to São Paulo’s Thirst

By Mario Osava

“Life in the Northeast has gotten easier. With the government’s social benefits, people aren’t suffering the same deprivations as before, even during the current drought, one of the worst in history.” — Luciano de Almeida

A rural settlement in the northeast Brazilian state of Pernambuco, where water tanks have been installed to collect and store rainwater and make it fit for drinking. Initiatives like this one have modified the local population’s relationship with the recurrent drought in the semi-arid region. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS - http://cdn.ipsnews.net/Library/2015/03/Brazil-2.jpg
A rural settlement in the northeast Brazilian state of Pernambuco, where water tanks have been installed to collect and store rainwater and make it fit for drinking. Initiatives like this one have modified the local population’s relationship with the recurrent drought in the semi-arid region. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS – http://cdn.ipsnews.net/Library/2015/03/Brazil-2.jpg


Six million people in Brazil’s biggest city, São Paulo, may at some point find themselves without water. The February rains did not ward off the risk and could even aggravate it by postponing rationing measures which hydrologists have been demanding for the last six months.

The threat is especially frightening for millions of people who have flocked here from Brazil’s poorest region, the semi-arid Northeast, many of whom fled the droughts that are so frequent there.

The Nordestinos did not imagine that they would face a scarcity of water in this land of abundance, where most of them have prospered. The most famous of them, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, became a trade union leader and eventually president of the country from 2003 to 2011.

Many people in this city of 22 million people share his concern about storing more water, especially in the Zona Norte or northern zone of Greater São Paulo, which will be the first area affected by rationing if the state government decides to take measures aimed at guaranteeing water supplies year-round.

The Zona Norte is supplied by the Cantareira system of interconnecting reservoirs which, on the verge of collapse, is still providing water for six million people. It supplied nine million people up to mid-2014, when one-third of the demand was transferred to the other eight systems that provide water in the city.

It is precisely the Zona Norte that is home to many of the Nordestino migrants and their descendants, as reflected by the numerous restaurants that offer typical food from the Northeast, such as carne-de-sol (heavily salted beef cured in the sun), cassava flour and different kinds of beans.

Read the full article: IPS

The Sertão Project for protection of the caatinga biome

Photo credit: Rural Poverty Portal

Sustainable Development Project for Agrarian Reform Settlements in the Semi-Arid North-East – November 2007 ©Ubirajara Machado/MDA/IFAD

Protecting the environment through sustainable production

The Sustainable Land Management in the Semi-Arid Sertão Project was designed as a complement to the IFAD-financed Dom Helder Câmara Project (DHCP), which ran from 1998 to 2007 in various areas of the semi-arid northeastern Brazil. The Sertão Project aimed to address pressing environmental and land degradation issues, and to build resilience to climate change. The project focused on the caatinga — a uniquely Brazilian scrub forest covering approximately 10 per cent of the total area of the country. The caatinga is one of Brazil’s most threatened natural landscapes.

In semi-arid northeastern Brazil, the main causes of land degradation are overgrazing and using of inappropriate agricultural practices such as burning. All that has led to the elevation of the water table and the salinization due to excessive irrigation, the salinization produced by irrigation and the deforestation for crops and livestock-raising. As a result, the caatinga biome’s rapid degradation prevented it from providing natural protection for its unique biodiversity.

The overall goal of the Sertão Project was therefore to minimize the causes and negative impacts of land degradation and to protect the integrity of the caatinga biome, through the implementation of sustainable land use systems.

Results and achievements

Read the full article: Rural Poverty Portal

Rainforest destruction

Photo credit: Google

To save the rainforest, let the locals take control

by Fred Pearce

Global intervention in tropical forests to combat climate change could sideline their most effective guardians

SATELLITE images of the Amazon rainforest are startling. Islands of green are surrounded by brown areas of land cleared for farming. In places, the brown advances, year by year. But in others, the forest holds firm. Why the difference? Mostly, the surviving green areas belong to local tribes.


Brazil’s Kayapo, for instance, control 10.6 million hectares along the Xingu river in the south-eastern Amazon, an area often called the “arc of deforestation”. They held back the invasion that engulfed areas close by, often violently repelling loggers, gold miners, cattle ranchers and soya farmers. The Kayapo have kept deforestation rates “close to zero”, according to Daniel Nepstad, a long-time Amazon researcher now at the Earth Innovation Institute in San Francisco.

In these critical frontier zones, the assumption was that government protection could best halt the onslaught. But there is growing evidence that indigenous peoples often provide a stronger bulwark than state decree. The 300 or so indigenous territories created in the Brazilian Amazon since 1980 are now widely held to have played a key role in a dramatic decline in rates of deforestation there.

Similar effects have been documented in many other parts of the world. Forest dwellers are typically seen as forest destroyers. But the opposite is often the case, says David Bray of Florida International University.

Read the full article: New Scientist

Deforestation in Brazil affects rainfall

Photo credit: Google

WWF warns on looming Amazon deforestation disaster

The science is clear: Forest loss behind Brazil’s drought


New research is showing the effects of forests on rainfall in the Amazon, and as deforestation in the region continues, rainfall in the southern part of Brazil will continue to be affected


The role of tropical deforestation in global climate change has been the subject of much international discussion and debate in the media and in policy forums like the UN Climate Change Convention. However, the role of deforestation in local climate change has received much less attention.

Now, with southern Brazil suffering from unprecedented drought, attention is turning toward more localized impacts of deforestation.  Dr. Antonio Nobre, a scientist at the Brazilian National Space Research Institute, released a report, “The Future Climate of Amazonia,” that linked the current drought to deforestation in the Amazon Basin. Politicians are questioning these conclusions. What does the science say?

Read the full article: Forests News

Another year of troubling drought conditions for Brazil ?

Photo credit : WVC 2001-07

Farmers Union in the N.E. Brazil

Brazil crops still at risk a year after epic drought

by Adam Novak

Just a year after a record drought hit southeastern Brazil, the region is once again facing water worries, as meteorologists warn it should expect just half of its normal amount of rainfall this winter.

Drinking-water, electricity supplies and crop production are all at risk, as the less than expected rainfall will put further pressure on nearly depleted reservoirs.

January should be the region’s rainiest month.

But an atmospheric blockage is preventing cold air from advancing in the area. The results; the heavy rainfall expected at this time of year has been replaced by limited, scattered showers.

This could greatly affect farming in Brazil, which is the world’s largest exporter of coffee, sugar, soy and beef.

Brazil’s center west soy belt, another important crop for the nation, has also been hit with irregular rainfall, according to local weather forecasters.

The lack of rain could also create power problems for Brazil.

Read the full article: tck tck tck


Key reservoir for Sao Paulo holds just 6% of its capacity

Photo credit: The Guardian

The frame of a car on the cracked earth at the bottom of the Atibainha dam, part of the Cantareira system, in October 2014. Photograph: Andre Penner/AP

Sao Paulo’s water supply in ‘critical’ condition as drought bites

Crucial reservoir is down to 6% of its capacity and experts warn urgent steps must be taken after worst conditions for 80 years

Halfway through the rainy season, the key reservoir for the southern hemisphere’s largest city holds just 6% of its capacity, and experts warned Friday that Sao Paulo’s authorities must take urgent steps to prevent the worst drought in more than 80 years from drying it out.

The system of reservoirs and rivers that provide water to millions in the Brazilian metropolis have received less rainfall than hoped during the first weeks of the wet season, raising fears they will not be replenished as hoped. Rainfall during the first two weeks of January totalled just 7.1 centimetres, well below the historic average for the month of 27.1cm.

The biggest problem is in the Cantareira water system, which is the largest of six reservoirs that provide water to some 6 million of the 20 million people living in the metropolitan area of Sao Paulo city. Cantareira is now down to 6% of its capacity of 1tn litres, the water utility Sabesp said on its website.

Of the remaining five systems, Alto Tiete is at 11% of capacity, Rio Claro 25%, Alto Cotia 30%, Guarapiranga 40% and Rio Grande 70%.

Read the full article: The Guardian

Reservoirs not back to comfortable levels in southeastern Brazil

Photo credit: Reuters

An aerial view of the Atibainha dam, part of the Cantareira reservoir, during a drought in Nazare Paulista, Sao Paulo state, Brazil, November 18, 2014.


Brazil water supply, crops still at risk a year after epic drought


(Reuters) – Southeastern Brazil is getting some rainfall a year after a record drought started, but not enough to eliminate worries about electricity rationing, drinking-water shortages or another season of damaged export crops, meteorologists said.

Record-high temperatures and the most severe drought in at least 80 years punished southeastern Brazil last year, a region accounting for 60 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. Lingering climate challenges could threaten a tepid economic recovery.

Private weather forecaster Somar warned of irregular rainfall in the center-west soy belt as well as the southeast throughout the month as an atmospheric blockage prevents a cold front from advancing over the key producing regions in the world’s largest exporter of coffee, sugar, soy and beef.

That is especially worrisome in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais, which produces half of Brazil’s coffee. Drought there last year wiped out as much as a third of the crop in some areas, causing global arabica prices to rise 50 percent over the year even as most other commodity markets tumbled.

Read the full article: Reuters

Second lowest amount of Amazon deforestation

Photo credit: Pixabay

Spider monkey in Amazon rainforest

Experts question slowing Amazon deforestation trend

Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest fell by 18 per cent this year, according to official government figures, but some experts are surprised by the news and fear the true trend remains upward.

The estimated area of forest cleared in the 12 months to the end of July fell from 5,891 square kilometres in 2013 to 4,848 square kilometres in 2014, an area more than twice the size of London, United Kingdom.

This is the second lowest amount of deforestation recorded since monitoring started in 1988, according to Brazil’s government.

The data, released on 26 November, come from analysis of satellite images taken by the forest clearing detection service Prodes, run by the country’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE).

The lowest figure on record was for the period of 2011-2012, with 4,571 square kilometres of forest cleared. But the following year saw a 29 per cent increase to 5,891 square kilometres.

Nonetheless, the authorities now say the underlying trend is downward, stating that this year, 83 per cent less forest was destroyed than in 2004.

– See more at: http://www.scidev.net/global/forestry/news/slowing-amazon-deforestation-trend.html#sthash.un0jeSsf.dpuf

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