Small farmers cause substantial damage in the Amazon rainforest

Small farmers are less likely than large landowners to maintain required forest cover on their property in the Brazilian Amazon, worsening the environmental impact of their operations, reported a researcher presenting at the annual meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) in Bonito, Brazil. Fernanda Michalski, an ecologist with the University of São Paulo and the Pro-Carnivores Institute, analyzed forest cover trends on properties of various sizes in Alta Floresta in the southern Amazon and conducted interviews with farmers on the presence of wildlife on their holdings. She found that small properties (under 440 ha) tend to have less forest cover. Riparian zones are less likely to be maintained, reducing the connectivity of what forest patches do survive, making it more difficult for wildlife to move. Smaller forest blocks were affected by edge effects, leaving them without the cool, dark, stable conditions of the forest interior that some species require. Accordingly large-bodied mammals, birds, and reptiles are scarce on smallholder properties.

Atrazine to be Banned? Frogs will be happy!

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will weigh a ban on Atrazine, a widely used herbicide linked to sex reversal and other reproductive problems in amphibians and fish. The chemical, which is manufactured by Syngenta, has been banned in the European Union since 2004 but some 80 million pounds Atrazine are applied to corn, sugarcane, sorghum and rice in the United States each year. Environmentalists say the effects of Atrazine on wildlife make its use unacceptable and are pushing the EPA to ban the chemical. The agency will be holding a Scientific Advisory Panel public meeting June 12th to discuss the ecological risks of Atrazine. Save The Frogs, a group that works to protect amphibians, welcomed the move.

Rangers now allowed to shoot tiger poachers on sight in Indian state

In the wake of a surge in tiger poaching, the state government of Maharashtra, India will no longer consider the shooting of wildlife poachers by forest rangers a crime, reports the Associated Press.

Palm oil is a major driver of peatlands destruction in Indonesian Borneo

Developers in Indonesian Borneo are increasingly converting carbon-dense peatlands for oil palm plantations, driving deforestation and boosting greenhouse gas emissions, reports a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research concludes that nearly all unprotected forests in Ketapang District in West Kalimantan will be gone by 2020 given current trends. The study, which was led by Kim Carlson of Yale and Stanford University, is based on comprehensive socioeconomic surveys, high-resolution satellite imagery, and carbon mapping of the Ketapang, which is home to some of the most biodiverse forests on the planet including those of Gunung Palung National Park.

Greenpeace calls for zero deforestation globally by 2020

Greenpeace reiterated its call for an end to deforestation in Brazil by 2015 and globally by 2020 during its launch of an awareness-raising expedition down the Amazon River aboard the Rainbow Warrior.

Deforestation and forest degradation down in the Brazilian Amazon since August

Deforestation and forest degradation are down moderately from August through October 2011 relative to the same period a year ago, reports a satellite-based assessment released today by Imazon, a Brazilian group. Imazon's near-real time system, which tracks change in forest plots 25 hectares (62 acres) or larger, found that 512 square kilometers of rainforest were cleared between August 2011 and October 2011, the first three months of the deforestation calendar year, which runs from August 1 through July 31 to coincide with the dry season when it is easiest to measure forest cover. The figure represents a 4 percent decline from the 533 square kilometers cleared in 2010.

40% of Madagascar’s reptiles at risk of extinction

40 percent of Madagascar's terrestrial reptiles are threatened with extinction due to habitat loss and over-collection for the pet trade, reports the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in its latest update of the Red List of Threatened Species. Experts from around the world conducted the assessment of 370 native terrestrial reptile species found in Madagascar, including snakes, lizards, crocodiles, turtles, and tortoises. Overall 22 were found to be critically endangered, or at immediate risk of going extinct.

New ‘demon’ bat discovered in Vietnam

Scientists have discovered three previously unknown bat species in southern Indochina, reports Fauna & Flora International. Researchers from Hungarian Natural History Museum (HNHM) and Fauna & Flora International (FFI) described the new species, which belong to a group known as tube-nosed bats.

Scientists discover massive underground river 13,000 feet beneath the Amazon

Researchers at Brazil's National Observatory have discovered evidence of a massive underground river flowing deep beneath the Amazon River, reports the AFP. Presenting this week at the 12th International Congress of the Brazilian Geophysical Society in Rio de Janeiro, Elizabeth Tavares Pimentel reported the existence of a 6,000-kilometer-long (3,700-mile) river flowing some 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) under the Amazon.

Proposed changes to Brazil’s Forest Code could hurt economy

Proposed changes to Brazil's Forest Code will hurt Brazilian agriculture, argues a leading conservationist. Carlos Alberto de Mattos Scaramuzza, WWF-Brazil's director for conservation, says the reform bill currently being evaluated by Brazil's Senate could have unexpected economic implications for Brazilian ranchers and farmers. Scaramuzza says a bill that grant amnesty for illegal deforesters and sanctions expanded destruction of the Amazon rainforest would make Brazilian agricultural products less attractive in foreign markets.