---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 13 Jan 1998 09:01:00 +0900 (JST)
From: James Albert <albert at nms.ac.jp>
To: nia-net at inpa.gov.br
Subject: [nia-net] Bad Amazon News
Bad Amazon News: Deforestation Up 21% in Rondonia & Fires Intensify
OVERVIEW, SOURCE & COMMENTARY
Following are two items that relay more bad news for the Amazon. The first
by State Environmental Secretariat of the State of Rondonia (SEJUP) reveals
that deforestation in Rondonia State has increased by 20.6% during the last
two years. The second reports data from by the National Institute for
Space Research (INPE) are compiled daily from the Advanced Very High
Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR). These maps from may be found at
<http://condor.dsa.inpe.br/mapas_que>. These data demonstrate that fires
are rapidly becoming as great a threat to the biological integrity of the
Amazon as is deforestation. In addition, the Woods Hole IMAZON project
reports that CO2 emissions from Amazon fires have heretofore been
underestimated by as much as 30%. Recent long-term research on forest
fragments in the Amazon shows that up to 36% of biomass is lost in
fragments within 100 meters of edges in the first 10 -17 years after
fragmentation. The authors conclude that decline in biomass in forest
fragments could be a significant, and uncounted, source of greenhouse gases
such as CO2. The article also summarizes data from 1996 and1997 by month
on the number of fires counted
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) use these data to show that the number
of fires in the Brazilian Amazon between July and November increased by mor
than 50% between 1996 and 1997. Persistent and sizable changes are
occurring in the Amazon basin. JSA
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ITEM #1 Title: Deforestation in Rondonia increases by 20.6% Source: SEJUP
Status: Distribute freely with accreditation Date: December 4, 1997
Deforestation in Rondonia increases by 20.6%
According to data of the State Environmental Secretariat of the State of
Rondonia quoted in the 'Folha de Sao Paulo' on November 30, deforestation
in the state has increased by 20.6% during the last two years. Until 1994,
4267228 hectares had been deforested there. At the end of 1996 the area
with forest cleared in the state amounted to 5149386 hectares or 21.6% of
the area of the entire state.
''By the end of the current year we expect that the total area
deforested will reach 5.4 million hectares which is 22.7% of the state....
There is a tendency for the deforestation rate to even out but the problem
is that this stabilization is taking place when deforestation rates are
very high'' commented forester Ernaldo Matricardi, a functionary of the
State Secretariat, in the Folha report. He forecasts that approximately
270 thousand hectares (1.1% of the total area of the state) will be
deforested during the current year - a figure close to that of last year.
According to Mr. Matricardi the worse period of deforestation was between
1993 and 1995 when the Brazilian economy showed a renewed growth - ''During
this period deforestation was significantly higher when compared to
previous years'' he commented.
A number of reasons seem to be largely responsible;e for the high rates
of deforestation at that time - the increase in cattle ranching and the
occupation of new areas along the BR-429 and BR- 421 highways. Another
reason was that a number of ranchers cleared large areas on their
properties at the time in order to escape having their lands classified as
unused and there apt for exappropriation for agrarian reform projects.
The Folha article quotes Roberto Smeraldi, director of the Brazilian
office of the Friends of the Earth as commenting that what is happening in
Rondonia indicates that the same is happening in other Amazonian states.
The conclusions of the Rondonia State Secretariat were based on data taken
from the Landsat satellite.
Meanwhile the National Institute of Space Surveys (INPE) announced that
new deforestation data referring to the Amazonian region for 1995 and 1996
due to be publish last week would be ready by mid December. A spokesperson
for the Institute commented that the delay was due to difficulties in
analyzing some of the
images sent by the Landsat satellite. The spokesperson denied that the
Institute was delaying publication of the data until after the Kyoto
International Convention which finishes on December 10. Some environmental
activists suspect that if the data were released before the Convention
Brazil would be suspected to very severe criticism for the increasing rate
of deforestation in the Amazonian region.
ITEM #1 Title: Fires in the Amazon: an analysis of NOAA-12 satellite data
Source: Environmental Defense Fund Status: Distribute freely with
accreditation Date: December 1, 1997
ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE FUND 1875 Connecticut Ave., NW, 10th Fl.
Washington, D.C. 20009
Telephone: (202) 387-3500 Facsimile: (202) 234-6049; steves at edf.org
Fires in the Amazon: an analysis of NOAA-12 satellite data, 1996 - 1997.
Stephan Schwartzman December 1, 1997
The number of fires in the Brazilian Amazon between July and November
increased over 50% between 1996 and 1997. The NOAA-12 satellite recorded
29,571 fires in the Amazon region on 136 days between July 1, 1996 and
November 30, 1996 and 44,734 fires on 118 days between July 1, 1997 and
November 22, 1997, an increase of over 50% from 1996 to 1997, even though
data are available for fewer days in 1997 than in 1996. The average
number of fires per day increased 75%, from 217 in 1996, to 379 in 1997. A
previous analysis, based on a more limited sample earlier in the year, had
shown a smaller increase.
The data are generated by the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer
(AVHRR) on the NOAA-12 weather satellite, which detects thermal anomalies,
and passes over the Amazon daily. Fires are mapped and counted by the
National Institute for Space Research (INPE) in Brazil
The largest differences between the two years occurred in November and
October, and result from increased economic activity, particularly
burning of cattle pasture. The difference also reflects the extended dry
season of 1997 caused by El Nino. Normally seasonal rains start in late
September or early October in most of the Amazon, curtailing fires. 5/ In
1997, airports were still closing because of thick haze in November. The
satellite recorded 2,638 fires in 22 days in November 1997, as opposed to
1,542 in 27 days in November 1996, an increase of 71%, over fewer days.
In October 1997, 10,305 fires appear in 28 days, over three times more than
the 3,119 counted for 26 days in October 1996.
The actual number of fires in the Amazon in both years is considerably
higher than the totals obtained by the NOAA-12 satellite, for two reasons.
The NOAA satellites, because of their trajectories and the locations of
current receiving stations, cover the northern and western Amazon poorly.
In addition, the NOAA-12 satellite passes over the region at night, when
the number of fires is lower than during the day. INPE stopped analyzing
NOAA-14 images, taken during the day, for the burning season of 1996,
arguing that solar reflection on hot days could be confused with fires by
the satellite's sensors and inflate the number of fires. While the
NOAA-12 images thus under-count fires, comparison of data sets from
different years does show changes in the level of burning.
New research from the region strongly suggests that fires themselves
are rapidly becoming at least as great a threat to the biological
integrity of the Amazon as is deforestation, as well as increasing
Brazil's contribution to global CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions.
Fires are set in the Amazon to burn off cleared primary forest, and also
to burn old cattle pastures and secondary forest areas. Deforestation per
se accounts for only a relatively small part of the fires every year.
Some 70% of the fires burn on land already deforested.
The Woods Hole Research Center and the Institute for Amazonian
Environmental Research (IPAM) have shown that selective logging and
ground fires - fires that burn largely undetected by the satellites,
beneath the forest canopy - are degrading an area approximately equal to
the area deforested annually in recent years. Selective logging, as
studies by the Institute for Man and Nature in the Amazon (IMAZON) show,
contributes to the flammability of the forest through opening up the canopy
and leaving combustible material behind. 3/ Ground fires, often in
previously logged areas or areas bordering already deforested lands, in
conjunction with dry weather, are making the forest dryer. The increased
burning this year means that ground fires, which may cover hundreds or even
thousands of square kilometers, also increased, even though they do not
appear in the satellite images. Deforestation, according to INPE's last
figures (for 1994), was about 15,000 square kilometers a year. This
means that a similar area, unrecorded by satellite images, is being
degraded through selective logging and ground fires annually.
The Woods Hole, IMAZON and other new findings indicate that CO2
emissions and other global climatic effects of Amazon fires have
heretofore been underestimated, by as much as 30%. Recent long- term
research on forest fragments in the Amazon shows that up to 36% of biomass
is lost in fragments within 100 meters of edges in the first 10 - 17 years
after fragmentation. The authors conclude that decline in biomass in
forest fragments could be a significant, and uncounted, source of
greenhouse gases such as CO2.
The Woods Hole Research Center/IPAM research on fires has identified an
alarming new trend. Much of the forest of the eastern and southern
Amazon, which depends on deep-soil water reserves to stay green in the dry
season, is becoming flammable because of logging and drought. Hitherto,
virgin forest has prevented the spread of fires because it was too moist
to burn. Should large parts of the intact forest dry out enough to burn,
as appears to be occurring, much quicker and larger scale destruction of
the forest becomes possible, in a vicious circle of drying - larger fires
- more drying. The Woods Hole group set an experimental fire in intact
closed forest in Par? state for the first time this year. These results
show that the rate of deforestation of formerly intact primary forest, as
measured by analysis of Landsat images - formerly considered the central
indicator of forest destruction -- is no longer the only significant, or
even the most urgent, threat to the forest. Should intact closed forest
begin to burn, a previously incremental process (the loss of 0.4%, or
0.5% of the forested area of the Amazon to deforestation yearly, as was
the case in the 1980s and 1990s) could become a catastrophic positive
feedback loop. Climate models predict a slightly drier climate in
tropical areas under global warming.
While increased burning involves hundreds of thousands of actors spread
across a continental region, much can be done to address the problem. One
half of the area burned in 1994 and 1995 resulted from accidental fires .
These fires have substantial costs for small and large farmers alike and
benefit no one. Efforts to assist rural Amazonians to prevent accidental
fires (through fire breaks or enforcing compensation for fires that
damage others' property), and to rely less on the use of fire for
agriculture (through mechanization) would make a difference. In addition,
passage of the Environmental Crimes Act, currently stalled in the
Brazilian House of Representatives, would give the Brazilian
environmental agency, IBAMA, statutory authority to enforce the law,
including restrictions on burning and deforestation, for the first time
Whether or not deforestation rates have increased in the Amazon will
only be known with the release of INPE's analysis of Landsat images. INPE
has promised to release data for 1995 and 1996 by end of the year.
Increased burning, and new research results on the effects of fire,
however, unequivocally demonstrate that the rate of deforestation is no
longer the only important indicator of threat to the biological integrity
of the Amazon forest. Under current conditions of drought stress, fire
itself may rapidly become the vector of greater and much quicker
destruction than previously imagined possible, with potentially enormous
1. Fires in the Amazon - an analysis of NOAA 12 satellite data 1996 -
1997. Environmental Defense Fund, September 23, 1997.
2. Fires in the Brazilian Amazon: The Story from the Ground. November
1997. Woods Hole Research Center.
3 Fire as a recurrent event in tropical forests of the eastern Amazon.
Mark Cochrane and M. Schulze, in press. Biotropic.
4. Biomass collapse in Amazonian forest fragments. W.F. Laurance et
al, Science, Vol. 278, 7 November 1997 pp 1117- 1118.
5. Fires in Brazilian Amazonia: The story from the ground. Ibid.
Summary of Analysis for 1996
Actual Fires Counted 29571
Number of Days in Period 153
Data Days Available 136
Average No. Counted per day 217
Summary of Analysis for 1997
Actual Fires Counted 44734
Number of Days in Period 153
Data Days Available 118
Average No. Counted per day 379
Note: Daily fire totals broken down by state are available on
request for July-November for 1996 and 1997.
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Nippon Medical School