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Brazzil - Ecology - August 2004

Brazil Cracks Down on Amazon Predators

A Brazilian government operation in the Amazon, in three weeks,
has confiscated 1,500 cubic meters of lumber, 2,000 liters of
fuel, 40 power saws, 2 tractors and one truck. The effort
coordinated by Brazil's Environmental Protection Institute
should reduce deforestation in the operation's area by 60 percent.

Bianca Estrella


Picture Brazil's Ibama (Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis—Environmental Protection Institute) is coordinating an operation on the borders of the states of Amazonas, Acre and Rondônia to combat burning, deforestation, commerce in lumber, traffic in wildlife and slave-type labor.

A local Ibama official in Acre, Anselmo Forneck, says the operation is expected to reduce deforestation this year by 60 percent, compared to last year.

During the last three weeks the operation confiscated 1,500 cubic meters of lumber, 2,000 liters of fuel, 40 power saws, 2 tractors and one truck. Inspectors have also apprehended a vast store of camping equipment.

Forneck says the project has been able to head off deforestation before it takes place, citing the case of an area of 5,000 hectares where 150 men had begun clearing the land when inspectors put an end to their efforts.

The operation is scheduled to continue until December. The problem is to find ways to halt the advance of soy and cattle farming. "Deforestation began here in 2001. It has already destroyed 4 percent of the region," says Forneck.

Minister of Environment, Marina Silva, earlier this month, strongly denied reports that the Brazilian government intends to privatize the Amazon region. She called the reports "false and unfair."

And continued: "We are working to halt land grabbing and any other assault on the country's sovereignty in the Amazon region. It is not fair to this government to say anything different. We are committed to defending the Amazon."

Satellite Watch

A new satellite is now orbiting over the Amazon region. It is owned by Hispamar, a Brazilian satellite firm, controlled by the Spanish company, Hispasat, which is the leading satellite telecommunications firm on the Iberian Peninsula.

The new satellite has been named Amazonas. It will cover an area previously dominated by Embratel's Star One and a much wider area, as well.

The Embratel Star One covered only Brazil and its border areas with Bolivia and Paraguay. The Amazonas will cover the Americas from Canada to Patagonia, focusing mainly on Brazil. It will be the first satellite operating on the C and KU bands for all of the Americas, along with parts of Europe and Africa.

The Amazonas will provide commercial and administrative services for the Brazilian government, including the military, but will not provide national security services. Star One provides national security services.

Hispamar invested US$ 320 million in the Amazonas satellite. It will begin providing users with information and services in September.

Burnings and Rain

Deforestation and burnings alter rainfall patterns in the Amazon forest. This is one of the conclusions reached by the Large-Scale Amazônia Biosphere-Atmosphere Experiment's (LBA) Millenium Institute project, coordinated by Paulo Artaxo, a scientist attached to the University of São Paulo's Institute of Physics.

The project involves 120 researchers who study changes in soil use and their impact on the climate. The project is funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology.

The researchers monitored the climate in ten sites scattered east and west in the Amazon region, from Pará to Acre. They have already discovered, for example, that, in the majority of the sites, each hectare of forest absorbs a half ton of carbon annually.

"If this were multiplied by the approximately five million square kilometers of forest, we could assert that Amazônia is, possibly, the largest absorber of the atmosphere's carbon gas," Artaxo observed.

The scientist emphasized, however, that one cannot perform a simple multiplication exercise to calculate carbon absorption, because the forest is heterogeneous, with rainfall and solar radiation patterns that vary according to location.

In Santarém (Pará state), for example, researchers from the Millenium Institute found that there is a net annual loss of carbon on the order of 3 tons per hectare. That is, there is no absorption.

The explanation is that, in this region, the forest is drier and has a very high decomposition rate. There are more dead trees decaying than new ones germinating.

Bianca Estrella works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at lia@radiobras.gov.br.
Translated from the Portuguese by Allen Bennett.

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