Dams could permanently damage Amazon

GR: Deforestation on the land and dams on the river are eating away at the Amazon rainforest ecosystem.

EDGARGO LATRUBESSE Image caption The Amazon basin is the largest and most complex river system in the world (Edgargo Latrubesse)

Dams Threaten Amazon Ecosystem

“The Amazon basin could suffer significant and irreversible damage if an extensive dam building programme goes ahead, scientists say. Currently, 428 hydroelectric dams are planned, with 140 already built or under construction. Researchers warn that this could affect the dynamics of the complex river system and put thousands of unique species at risk. The study is published in the journal Nature.

“The world is going to lose the most diverse wetland on the planet,” said lead author Prof Edgargo Latrubesse, from the University of Texas at Austin, US.

Cascading problems for the Amazon

The Amazon basin covers more than 6.1 million sq km, and is the largest and most complex river system on the planet. It has become a key area for hydroelectric dam construction. But this study suggests that the push for renewable energy along the Amazon’s waterways could lead to profound problems. The international team of researchers who carried out the research is particularly concerned about any disruption to the natural movement of sediment in the rivers. This sediment provides a vital source of nutrients for wildlife in the Amazon’s wetlands. It also affects the way the waterways meander and flow. –Rebecca Morelle (Dams could ‘permanently damage Amazon’ – BBC News).

Wild Amazon Faces Destruction as Brazil’s Farmers and Loggers Target National Park

Cattle graze beside the tree stumps that are all that is left of cleared Amazon forest inside the Sierra Ricardo Franco state park. Photograph: Jonathan Watts for the Observer

GR:  A few years ago, Brazil finally realized that cutting down the Amazon rainforest was causing drought, an effect that Alexander Von Humboldt explained two centuries earlier. The country made an effort to preserve its forest. Then we saw oil prices fall, rampant corruption exposed, and the wealthy had to shift their hungry eyes. The oligarchs replaced conservation sentiments with the old standby, harvest and sell natural resources. In Brazil’s case, this has often been irreversible logging or simply clearing for pasture of the ancient rainforest. The loss of indigenous and migratory wildlife is a sad example of how human greed is destroying the natural world.

I used Google Earth’s history function to show the forest’s destruction in around the Serra Ricardo Franco state park. You can see that destruction accelerated after 1993. It slowed between 2003 and 2013, but that’s because not much was left. Nevertheless, efforts are underway today to harvest the remnants.

Google Earth 12-30-1984.

Google Earth 12-30-1993.

Google Earth 12-30-2003.

Google Earth 12-30-2013

The excellent article below describes what’s happening now to the Amazon Rainforest.

“Today, orange dirt roads, cut into the forest by illegal loggers, lead you to the north-western flank of the elevated hilltop. Now called the Serra Ricardo Franco state park, this is nominally a conservation area set up with support from the World Bank. Instead of forest, however, you find swaths of land invaded by farmers, stripped of trees, and turned over to pasture for 240,000 cows. There are even private airfields inside the park’s boundaries, which exist on maps only.

“Far from being an isolated area where a wanderer might starve, this is now – despite its dubious legal status – one of the world’s great centres of food production. In recent months, it has also emerged as a symbol of the resurgent influence of a landowning class in Brazil who, even more than in the US under Donald Trump, are cashing in on the destruction of the wild.

“Locals say a member of President Michel Temer’s cabinet – chief of staff Eliseu Padilha – owns ranches here on hillsides stripped of forest in a supposedly protected park. The municipal ombudsmen told the Observer the cattle raised here are then sold – in contravention of pledges to prosecutors and international consumers – to JBS, the world’s biggest meat-packing company, which is at the centre of a huge bribery scandal.

“These allegations are denied by farmers but there is no doubt the government is easing controls as it opens up more land for ranches, dams, roads and soy fields to meet the growing appetite of China. Last year, Brazil reported an alarming 29% increase of deforestation, raising doubts that the country will be able to meet its global commitments to reduce carbon emissions. Rather than an aberration, this appears to mark a return to historical norms for a country that has been built on 500 years of land seizures that were later legalised by the politicians who benefited from them.

“The concurrent erosion of legal authority and natural habitat can be seen in many Brazilian states: the newest soy frontiers of Maranhão, Tocantins and Bahia; the hydropower heartland of Pará and the wild west mining and logging regions of Rondônia and Acre. But it is in Mato Grosso that the political forces behind deforestation – associated with corruption, violence, weak regulation and deliberate obfuscation of land ownership – reveal themselves most clearly.” –Jonathan Watts (Continue: Wild Amazon faces destruction as Brazil’s farmers and loggers target national park | World news | The Guardian.)

The endangered Tatu-bola Armadillo, the mascot of the 2014 World Cup is disappearing along with many other inhabitants of the forest (belizar73/Getty Images/iStockphoto).

Hedgehogs now a rare garden sight as British populations continue to decline

GR: Worth noting that even in developed countries with slowing population growth, wildlife decline continues. In Britain, many people do small things to make their gardens more wildlife friendly. However, habitat loss and farming continue to cut carrying capacity for most wildlife species. Hedgehog and other species’ declines are accelerating, suggesting that many wildlife populations are no longer self-sustaining and are falling toward extinction. The Guardian story below includes ideas and links for steps to take to support wildlife. Unfortunately, it does not mention the big step, human population control. Without drastic efforts to cut our needs and begin returning the land and seas to their natural state, most of Earth’s wildlife species will disappear (more on human population impact).

Britain’s hedgehog population has dropped from an estimated 30 million in the 1950s to fewer than one million today. Photograph: Rebecca Cole/Alamy

“The plight of the hedgehog in Britain appears to be worsening, with a new survey revealing a further decline in garden sightings.

“The spiky creature was once a common sight, with the population estimated at 30 million in the 1950s. But that has plummeted to fewer than one million today, with a third of this loss thought to have taken place in the past decade.

“The latest survey, conducted with more than 2,600 people by BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine, found that 51% of people did not see a hedgehog at all in 2016, up from 48% in 2015. Just 12% saw a hedgehog regularly.

“The poll’s result is in line with an in-depth analysis in 2015 by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species which found urban populations of hedgehogs had fallen by up to a third since 2000 and rural populations had declined by at least a half. Results from a citizen science survey run by the RSPB in June 2016 also revealed a falling number of sightings.

“The decline is not entirely understood but the main factors are thought to be the loss of their habitat in Britain’s towns and countryside – where farming has intensified – as well as road deaths. The fragmentation of habitat is also a problem as hedgehogs roam up to a mile every night to look for food and mates. A possible rise in badger numbers, which can eat hedgehogs, has also been suggested as a possible cause.” –Damian Carrington (More: Hedgehogs now a rare garden sight as British populations continue to decline | Environment | The Guardian.)

Human habitat destruction is decimating giraffe populations

GR: The needs and desires of humans cause extinction, pollution, desertification, ocean acidification, and global warming. Failure is certain if we tackle any or all of these without first working to reduce the human population.

“In a year filled with many…memorable…milestones, 2016 closed with a truly depressing one, as giraffes were added to a list of “vulnerable” species headed towards eventual extinction for the first time. Their numbers have declined precipitously over the last three decades, according to a report released by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which maintains endangered species lists.

“The culprit? You guessed it—human population pressures.

“Habitat destruction due to human activity—such as logging, farming, and armed conflicts—is pushing giraffe populations to the breaking point throughout the African continent. An ever-expanding human population, largely unchecked due to a huge unmet need for family planning, is having a frighteningly damaging effect on these majestic animals.

“U.S. funding of international family planning programs has the greatest impact in the developing world, where women desperately want to limit their family size but lack the means to do so. All ten of the countries with the highest total fertility rates are currently located on the African continent. Home to some of the world’s most iconic wildlife, these nations are struggling to meet the needs of their human inhabitants while protecting the natural habitats that these animals depend on.

“And sadly, the implementation of the Global Gag Rule has thrown another huge obstacle into the path of slowing population growth throughout the developing world. It deeply undermines progress made towards smaller families and more sustainable communities. Humans and wildlife alike will suffer the consequences if we don’t keep fighting to make international family planning a funding priority.+ –Natalie Widel (Source: Human habitat destruction is decimating giraffe populations.)