Crossposted at Daily Kos, European Tribune and My Left Wing

They say when it rains, it pours… except not in the Brazilian tropical rainforest. Today we get this piece from The Independent. (Pictures and captions from Greenpeace).

A small stream runs through what was once a huge lake. In an area used to ample rainfall a drought as severe as this in the Amazon basin is having dramatic and devastating effects on the wildlife and people of this unique region. The mighty Amazon River is being reduced to a trickle in places, grinding the entire region to a halt. The people of the Amazon rely on the river and its many tributaries for everything from food to transportation.

More below the fold…

The Amazon rainforest is being destroyed twice as quickly as previously estimated, according to a satellite survey of the region.

Scientists have discovered that previous satellite photographs of the Amazon have missed a form of surreptitious logging that is equally destructive, but not as apparent from space.

Now a team of American and Brazilian specialists have for the first time been able to assess from space the damage done by “selective logging”, when one or two trees are removed leaving surrounding trees intact.

Images continue to show that the sheer scale of this environmental disaster is unparalled.

Illegal deforestation and land grabbing (grilagem) in the Middle Land, State of Pará.

“People have been monitoring large-scale deforestation in the Amazon with satellites for more than two decades, but selective logging has been mostly invisible until now,” said Dr Asner, a researcher at the Carnegie Institution in Washington and Stanford University in California.

“With this new technology, we are able to detect openings in the forest canopy down to just one or two individual trees,” he said. Conventional satellite images have revealed that an area of about 5,800 square miles of the Amazon rainforest is burnt or cleared each year to make way for cattle ranching, farming or other development.

However, when the scientists used the new satellite technique to estimate the area being destroyed by selective logging they found it was comparable – indicating that the overall rate of destruction was twice as high as previously thought.

The total volume of carbon released into the atmosphere as a result of selective logging between 1999 and 2002 is between about 10 and 15 million tons, the scientists estimated. This represents a 25 per cent increase in the overall flow of carbon from the Amazonian forests into the atmosphere.

And new studies are a major slap in the face to George Bush and his Administration’s “Healthy Forests Initiative”, a government program that used America’s tragic fires of 2002 as an excuse to rape this country’s forests and reward corporate logging companies for their generous donations.

“Logged forests are areas of extraordinary damage. A tree crown can be 25 meters. When you knock down a tree it causes a lot of damage in the understory. It’s a debris field down there,” he said.

Studies of area subjected to selective logging have revealed that light penetrates to the understory and dries out the forest floor, making it vulnerable to fires.

This fire was set by soya farmers to clear forest in 2003. But now wildfires are taking hold in the unusually dry forest and destroying thousands of hectares of forest. Smoke rising from huge fires has periodically closed airports in the region.

The story goes on to state how scientists have confirmed the extent of the environmental disaster:

Over the course of four years, the scientists amassed the first full survey of selective logging across the Amazon basin. “We found much more selective logging than we or anyone else had expected – between 4,600 and 8,000 square miles every year of forest spread across five Brazilian states,” said Dr Asner.

To make sure their assessments were correct, the scientists went out into the field to compare their satellite data to what they could observe from the ground.

The findings confirmed their worst suspicions – that conventional satellite photography has missed about half of the damage caused by illegal logging.

Please visit one of the following organizations to find out more:


Rainforest Relief

Rainforest Action Network

Monga Bay

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