Weekly Media Stories

Week of Friday May 8 - 15, 2020


The battle to stop logging of Nambucca State Forest is heating up:

https://www.nambuccaguardian.com.au/story/6757644/logging-operation-starts-in-nambucca-state-forest-protesters-set-up-vigil-photos/

A LOGGING operation in Nambucca State Forest started today and locals, members of the Indigenous community and concerned conservation groups gathered for a roadside protest.

Speaking as a local councillor, Susan Jenvey stressed how important protecting the forest was for the area.

"Scientists have been telling us since the bushfires, that logging dries out forests, that it makes them fire-prone," she said.

"Wildlife also needs space; otherwise, they come into the urban fringe and begin to create safety issues. Nambucca already has a problem with bats in town.

However, Nambucca Valley Conservation Association (NVCA) spokesperson Lyn Orrego says that more needs to be done to protect the forest.

"We oppose the logging of this coastal, public native forest surrounding the town of Nambucca Heads. Instead we support the Community Campaign for Nambucca State Forest to be protected as a National Park for wildlife, recreation and climate," she said.

"Most of the forest avoided last summer's devastating wild fires, this makes it incredibly valuable to protect as habitat for threatened species devastated elsewhere.

"This public native forest must be managed for the public good. It is worth much more kept intact than it is being logged."

The Nature Conversation Council is organising a petition to appose logging in the Nambucca Heads State Forest, for details on how to sign, click here.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/may/15/nsw-south-coast-residents-battling-to-save-unburnt-bushland-ask-sussan-ley-to-intervene

[this story had very extensive coverage]

And there are calls for the state government to order Forestry Corporation to abandon plans to log Nambucca state forest on the NSW north coast.

“Logging these forests after so many were devastated in the summer bushfires is morally indefensible,” said the Nature Conservation Council chief executive, Chris Gambian.

“Trees that are habitat for a wide range of native animals, including the greater glider, sooty owl and koalas, will be cut down to make telegraph poles, pool decking and pallets.”

There are also forest protests in Western Australia over the definition of oldgrowth:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2020-05-15/wa-forestry-industry-lashes-government-over-11th-hour-review/12253752

The WA forestry industry has slammed the State Government's decision to halt a native timber logging operation and initiate a review of the project with just a few hours' notice as "shambolic political interference".

The ongoing standoff between conservationists and the timber industry reached boiling point this week when protestors interrupted operations in the Dalgarup forest near Bridgetown, 250 kilometres south of Perth.

Protestors argue the site is 'old growth' and unsuitable for logging but industry says the classification was set out in WA's Forest Management Plan which was determined by the department.

The ABC understands operations were halted at ministerial request, hours after protestors were moved on by police.

This is a comprehensive article about logging impacts, and while it is focused on Victoria it is applicable to NSW's forests and is worth reading in full (these are lengthy extracts):

https://news.mongabay.com/2020/05/australias-logging-madness-fuels-more-fires-hastens-ecosystem-collapse/

Yet, in Victoria and New South Wales, the two Australian states that were affected the most by the fires, logging companies have continued to saw down swaths of native trees to produce paper pulp for toilet tissue and paper towels. In Victoria, where fires raged through more than 1.2 million hectares (3 million acres) of land, a regional forestry agreement (RFA) was recently renewed for 10 years, allowing the state’s own logging company, VicForests to oversee and manage logging in the state, including logging inside the critically endangered mountain ash forest ecosystem. While the Victorian and federal government in Australia insist that the industry helps preserve jobs and boosts the economy, scientists and conservationists say continued logging doesn’t make economic or environmental sense.

The RFAs, which were established in 1998, excuse logging companies from certain state and federal legislation, such as the Environmental Protection Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, meant to protect vulnerable flora and fauna in Australia’s forests. Despite these exemptions, Victoria’s RFAs pledge to properly and sustainably manage forests in order to protect biodiversity.

Politicians aren’t the only ones dissatisfied with the logging industry’s forest management. In 2019, the Victorian government conducted a public survey to assess how the public would like the state to manage its forests. The majority of respondents said that forests should be used for “conserving plants and animals,” while only a small number of respondents emphasized the importance of “providing jobs and economic benefits from timber and wood products.”

Chris Taylor, a research fellow at the Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University (ANU), said that neither the Andrews government’s 2030 pledge nor the modernization process is doing anything to protect the state’s forests.

“Forest management and logging practices are not being reviewed, amended or revised,” Taylor told Mongabay. “Things are going ahead as business as usual.”

“They’re literally going to run the forest off the edge of the cliff,” Taylor said. “They’re going to exhaust the resource, and that’s their intent. It’ll be highly unlikely that we will even make it to 2030 in terms of the capacity of the forest to supply wood.”

While clear-cutting is commonly practiced in Victoria, loggers also use a technique called selective logging. As its name suggests, workers will select certain trees, while leaving other parts of the forest intact. In theory, selective logging might seem to less destructive than clear-cutting, but environmentalists and scientists warn that this form of logging is just as disruptive to the forest ecosystem, especially since loggers tend to take out the oldest and largest trees, which provide food and shelter for wildlife.

“It’s estimated that there’s less than 2,000 of these little animals in the wild,” Rice said. “The whole time that I’ve been in the Senate, we have been trying to get them to finalize the recovery plan for the leadbeater’s possum, but they haven’t. Even this regional forest agreement would potentially give them [the logging companies] another two years before they finalize the recovery plan. Meanwhile, the forest that they depend upon is being damaged and destroyed, every day of the week.”

Any form of logging also disables a native forest’s ability to produce water, store carbon and support tourism, according to David Lindenmayer, professor at the Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University.

“All of those uses are actually completely incompatible with timber harvesting,” Lindenmayer told Mongabay. “So when you log a forest, you produce huge amounts of carbon emissions, you reduce water production, and not many tourists want to tramp around in a forest that’s just been blitzed by clear-cutting.”

Logging also makes forests drier, and therefore more fire prone, according to James Watson, professor at School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Queensland.

“When you log a tree, you’re opening up the entire ecosystem, which means it gets drier,” Watson told Mongabay. “You’re allowing wind dynamics to start occurring, which dries out the system as well. And you’ve got all this dry wood on the ground — branches, bark, stumps. The fact that you’ve got these saplings over time start growing, which acts like sticks in a fire. All of these things combined mean that you affect the risk of fire flammability massively.”

Younger trees also provide a larger surface area over which a fire can burn, which is why they’re more incendiary, Taylor said.

“It’s a bit like putting straw in your fireplace — you get that flare-up,” Taylor said. “The reason why that happens is because the width of the fuel is much narrower. If you throw a big log onto a fire, you know how it doesn’t burn immediately? That’s because there’s more mass that’s inside the log that isn’t exposed directly to the fire. Whereas if you get a twig, you’ve got a far greater surface area compared to that mass … so the heat of the fire is able to ignite it more rapidly, and you get that explosive flare-up. That’s what happens in a wildfire event.”

“The biggest concern is that it’s a double disturbance,” Lindenmayer said. “These ecosystems that have been burnt are in the process of trying to recover, and then they get smashed again. And so, very few ecosystems around the world are geared to be able to deal with two enormous disturbances in very rapid succession. And ultimately, those effects have enormous long lasting impacts that can last for up to 200 years. And most of our species are just not adapted to be able to deal with this. And it’s not just here in Australia — all of the global reviews that have been done shows that there are problems just about everywhere where salvage logging is conducted. In fact, I don’t even think it should be called salvage logging because really, you’re not salvaging anything — it’s almost all damage.”

Lindenmayer said. “There’s simply too much disturbance over too big an area that’s happening too quickly for systems to continue to be able to deal with this.”

“It’s a really serious issue,” he added. “What happens is that fire and logging beget more fire and logging.”

“Essentially, what’s happening is that the public are paying for the ‘privilege’ of having their forests cut down,” he said. “They don’t get anything in return other than a loss. And you can kind of say, ‘Okay, I’ll get that if you were employing thousands and thousands and thousands of people. But they’re not. There’s less than 350 direct jobs in the state, right across the state for this whole industry. So how does this persist then?”

“Whilst the defendant [VicForests] has demonstrated it will suffer some short-term loss, and that long-term loss may exacerbate any likely shortfall in production, this pales in comparison to the potential threat of irreversible environmental damage to the fire affected threatened species,” Justice Kate McMilan of Victoria’s Supreme Court said in a statement. “All five of the threatened species have been identified by the state government as on the path to extinction. It goes without saying that once these species are extinct, there is no going back.”

[loggers] “They are the people that have precisely the skills that you need to fight fires,” Lindenmayer said. “There are no people with better skills than these harvesting operators, with bulldozers and excavators. They’re precisely the kinds of people that you want to have on your side when you’re protecting communities from wildfires.”

In Victoria there is push-back from academics on phasing out logging of public native forests over the next decade:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-05-09/victorian-forestry-academics-clash-over-sustainable-forestry/12218482

"What we should be thinking about is how we can shift our management towards what is best for the forest and how we can set up forests to be as resilient as possible to the future, because in 10 years we're going to have to walk away from them," Professor Baker said.

FSC certification is one of two certifications used to assess the sustainability of wood harvesting. Officeworks and Bunnings say they will only be sourcing wood from FSC certified businesses by the end of the year.

University of Melbourne Associate Professor Craig Nitschke said the 2030 forestry ban undermined the push for more sustainable harvesting practices.

Professor David Lindenmayer AO said more frequent and severe bushfires caused by native timber harvesting were a reason to speed up the transition to plantations.  

"We need to have a good long look at what's happening in the industry, the resource is declining because of fire and logging, we need to make the transition [to plantation timber] and we need to make it very quickly, otherwise we'll see what happened after the 2009 fires which was that the industry massively overharvested the resource," he said.

[Professor Baker] "The facile notion that you can just stop harvesting native forests and put everything in plantations and that will meet all of our wood supply needs is naïve."

Professor Lindenmayer disagrees.

"Eighty-eight per cent of all sawn timber in Victoria comes from plantations — for roof trusses, for furniture, for floorboards and the like — so it's straightforward to make that transition,” he said.  

"The Victorian Government has set aside $120 million to make that transition, it’s good for rural communities, it’s good for the protection of communities from fire risks, and it gives people good and meaningful to protect communities through firefighting."

Export woodchipping from Eden is on again:

https://www.sunshinecoastdaily.com.au/news/extensive-land-clearing-of-bushfire-regions/4014947/

The woodchip carrier, Cattleya arrived in Eden yesterday to load about 40,000 tonnes of woodchips. It is the first shipment since the summer bushfires. The load will consist of the trees that survived the bushfires. They are felled for spurious hazard reduction.
The government is allowing this to happen to the forests of the NSW South Coast and Northern Victoria.
This is an abomination. As much as 85% of these forests were burnt.

It is now 50 years since the Vietnam War protests, for many of us oldies this was the beginning of our activism, and the mass rallies it culminated in are what we need again to force action on climate change:

https://theconversation.com/50-years-on-the-vietnam-moratorium-campaigns-remind-us-of-a-different-kind-of-politics-137883?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=The%20Weekend%20Conversation%20-%201616115502&utm_content=The%20Weekend%20Conversation%20-%201616115502+CID_e89a9404ae9a377938b1da32947449dc&utm_source=campaign_monitor&utm_term=50%20years%20on%20the%20Vietnam%20moratorium%20campaigns%20remind%20us%20of%20a%20different%20kind%20of%20politics

Fifty years ago this month, hundreds of thousands of Australians assembled across the country to call for an end to the Vietnam War. The first of the moratorium campaigns, the demonstrations of May 8 1970 were the zenith of the anti-war movement in Australia that had been five years in the making.

The largest of the May 8 marches took place in Melbourne, confirming its status as the national capital of protest politics. An estimated 100,000 demonstrators clogged the city’s streets.

The protests expressed a restless mood for change, and represented a key moment in the puncturing of the oppressive Cold War atmosphere that had dominated Australian public life for some two decades.

Third, the success of the May 1970 moratorium was a watershed in legitimising protest in this country. As the anti-war movement developed from the mid-1960s, it found its activities circumscribed by provisions of the Commonwealth Crimes Act, state laws and local government regulations that severely constrained the right to demonstrate.

In that context, the moratorium’s mass occupation tactics struck a mighty blow for the right to public protest and enlarged the space for democratic action. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that demonstrators since, regardless of their cause, have been benefactors of the legacy created by the moratorium campaigners of the early 1970s.

In a parliamentary debate on the moratorium in April 1970, Cairns articulated what was described as the movement’s “manifesto of dissent”:

Some … think that democracy is just Parliament alone … But times are changing. A whole generation is not prepared to accept this complacent, conservative theory. Parliament is not democracy. It is one manifestation of democracy … Democracy is government by the people, and government by people demands action by the people … in public places all around the land.

Extinction Rebellion is going for online disruption:

https://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/extinction-rebellion-goes-for-digital-disruption-amid-pandemic-20200507-p54qsc.html

The campaigners are launching a national "digital rebellion" on Monday to target governments and "climate-complicit industries" while obeying public health laws banning group gatherings and enforcing physical distancing.

Planned events include a "koala rebellion" where people dress up as koalas and film themselves to contribute footage to a protest video highlighting NSW and Victorian logging of unburnt native forests.

The activists will also be tweeting during the ABC’s Q&A on Monday night when the Premiers of NSW, Victoria and Queensland are scheduled to appear, and organising "social media swarms" to encourage divestment from the big four banks. Some plans are secret to keep the element of surprise.

[Mr Dowding] "Just listen to the language that is coming out of government about how we deal with this crisis, particularly around listening to the science. We were able to close down all these things to protect life and we need to put that kind of thinking into the context of the climate emergency."

The Federal Government is spending another $150 million of blood money on fire affected wildlife:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/may/12/government-commits-150m-to-bushfire-affected-wildlife-but-more-action-needed-conservationists-say

The government has been praised for committing an additional $150m for wildlife and habitat recovery after the recent bushfire crisis but conservationists also warn it should be coupled with stronger policy to protect species and address threats related to climate change.

The environment minister, Sussan Ley, said $110m of the new funds would be for on-ground recovery work in fire-affected regions, including in vulnerable areas of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area and in rainforests on the NSW north coast.

The money will be spent over two years from 1 July and is in addition to the initial $50m announced in January to support wildlife recovery.

Ley said it would benefit species including the koala ...

But organisations said funding should be matched by work to improve Australia’s conservation protections. They noted that in the aftermath of the fires unburnt habitat had already been opened up for logging.

“These fires have been the largest single catastrophic event for terrestrial biodiversity in generations and it hasn’t instigated a single change to government policy in how they protect and manage nature,” he said.

Responses to written questions from a Senate estimates committee show the government had spent $18.75m of the initial $50m announced in January for wildlife as at 20 April.

Analysis for the federal government has found 113 vertebrate speciesnearly 200 invertebrates and more than 400 plants need urgent assistance in the aftermath of the fires.

https://www.miragenews.com/funding-for-wildlife-and-habitats-welcomed/

Australian Conservation Foundation’s James Trezise ...“The expert recovery panel has highlighted the need to protect unburnt habitat areas, yet some of these areas are already being opened up for logging, which is heavily subsidised, including with new money announced this week.

“The review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, led by Graeme Samuel, presents an important opportunity for the Morrison Government to build a stronger legal framework with emergency protection for critical habitats to better protect remaining unburnt areas.

“In the 20 years Australia has had a national environment law, an area of threatened species habitat larger than Tasmania has been logged, bulldozed and cleared.

https://www.dailyliberal.com.au/story/6753352/labor-critical-of-bushfire-relief-speed/?cs=9397

Prime Minister Scott Morrison detailed on Monday how $650 million will be spent to help communities recover, with most to be spend on local projects.

About $150 million of that will go towards helping native wildlife and habitat areas devastated by the fires.

https://www.miragenews.com/govt-s-money-for-wildlife-disingenuous/

The Australian Greens MPsGreens Spokesperson for the Environment Senator Sarah Hanson-Young ...

“$50m was never going to cut it and $150m more now still won’t be enough especially when the government is going to allow more damage to the environment with salvage logging and cut to environmental protections.

“The Federal Government announced yesterday the bushfire recovery funding includes $15m for transporting salvaged logs. This is despite the science clearly showing salvage logging will be devastating to bushfire affected areas causing further disturbance to these ecosystems and hampering regeneration and recovery.

“So on the one hand the government says it is putting more money on the table for the environment but on the other hand, they are supporting salvage logging and planning to cut environmental protections.

https://vision.org.au/radio/news/federal-government-allocates-150m-to-wildlife-recovery/

Where would we be without the Federal Government's compassion:

https://independentaustralia.net/environment/environment-display/the-fossil-fuel-industry-has-corrupted-our-democracy,13889

So today, Greenpeace Australia Pacific has launched a sequel investigation: Dirty Power: Burnt Country which exposes the malign effects of the fossil fuel industry on our democracy, even as the nation burned.

During the bushfires, there was a sustained effort by powerful forces to minimise the role played by climate change in creating the conditions for the disaster. Disinformation was used as a political tool by the Morrison government. News Corp systematically downplayed the impact of climate change. Voices of truth and reason were attacked in an effort to silence them.

Meanwhile, as koalas burned alive and Australian children huddled on ash-stained beaches, awaiting evacuation by the Royal Australian Navy, the fossil fuel industry continued to lobby and push for new projects and expansions. Over 100 million tonnes of new coal mining projects were approved during the bushfires — including excavation under Sydney’s precious drinking water catchment.

 

As the fires reached their crescendo, records show that state MPs met with the fossil fuel industry on lobbyists on a weekly basis. In Queensland, the meetings occurred on average every five days. 

The fossil fuel industry persisted with plans for new projects just as if nothing had happened.

More than 30 people were killed directly by the fires and toxic smoke contributed to the deaths of more than 400 others. More than 80% of the Blue Mountains World Heritage area and more than 50% of the Gondwana World Heritage rainforests were destroyed. A billion or more creatures were incinerated.

Australia’s democracy is hostage to dirty power: the institutional corruption of our democracy by the fossil fuel industry and other big polluters. There is urgent work ahead to release the bonds; harnessing the power and determination of the Australian people to reclaim our democracy and create the foundations for a flourishing future.

Even Koalas that escaped the fires are in trouble on the Southern Highlands from drought:

https://www.gizmodo.co.uk/2020/05/australias-wildlife-just-cant-catch-a-break/

the Southern Highlands Koala Sanctuary, located in Canyonleigh, New South Wales ...There’s also drought, which has hit the sanctuary hard.

“A lot of the plants shrivelled up, they dried out, and they died,” Johnson told Gizmodo. “These were previously food sources for the animals.”

New South Wales experienced its second-driest period since 1900 between May 2017 to April 2020. This year has brought some increased rain, but it hasn’t been enough to replenish the drying vegetation the animals eat or the watering holes they drink from. The sanctuary turned to supplementary water to prevent the animals from expending energy to seek water sources. Johnson was particularly concerned to see eucalyptus trees dying, which serve as the primary food source for koalas and as key habitat for the country’s largest owl.

“The eucalyptus have been here for an awful long time and these centuries-old eucalyptus have survived many, many droughts,” she said. “It was devastating to see that happen to these ancient trees that provide so much habitat for the wildlife.”

Mark Graham, an ecologist with the Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales, told Gizmodo he believes we’ll discover many extinctions in the months ahead. The collapse of ecosystems is hard to reverse – and the Australian government isn’t doing enough to repair the damage that’s been done.

“[Australians are] the custodians of the world’s greatest treasure troves of biodiversity, and frankly we failed in our duty to protect and maintain this globally significant legacy,” Graham said. “We haven’t even seen, really, a billion dollars spent on the most critical of infrastructure, which is our natural ecosystems. They are our life support systems. They give us the water we drink, the air we breathe, and they maintain the fertility of the soils that feed us.

Koalas continue to garner attention and help:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2020-05-12/habitat-koalas-wires-landcare-bushfires-drought-nsw-eucalyptus/12196350

With up to 30 per cent of koala habitat destroyed by fire across New South Wales, not-for-profit groups are working hard to restore it to protect remaining koalas.

Science for Wildlife executive director Kellie Leigh said a $20,000 grant for its Blue Mountains Koala Project would be used to identify important koala habitat.

"We were uncovering populations in areas where nobody thought koalas really existed," Dr Leigh said.

The Koala Habitat Planting Map has been released online to assist rural landholders on the state's Mid North Coast to restore critical koala habitat.

Rebecca Montague-Drake from the Koala Recovery Partnership said the map allowed landholders to zoom in on their property anywhere in the Port Macquarie-Hastings and Kempsey local government areas.

"They can click on the area they wish to plant, and a list of the appropriate koala food trees for planting will come up," Dr Montague-Drake said.

A donation of 12,500 koala food trees by the state-owned Forestry Corporation has been snapped up within two days by landholders in the northern rivers region.

Mark Wilson from Friends of the Koala in Lismore, which distributed the mixture of five eucalyptus species, said the response of almost 200 enquiries was incredible.

We don't need homes for little Koalas when we can have more really big Koalas that don't need trees:

https://www.portnews.com.au/story/6750295/koala-project-taken-out-of-funding-mix/

A KOALA Sculpture Park proposal has not been supported by Port Macquarie-Hastings Council for potential government bushfire tourism recovery funding.

The Koala Sculpture Park, incorporating 16 koala sculptures, is a vision of Hello Koalas at $476,000. This also includes a big koala project in Port Macquarie.

A second big koala, the third component of the Hello Koalas project, is envisaged for the Cowarra tourism precinct where the koala hospital will also establish a wild koala breeding program.

Member for Port Macquarie, Leslie Williams said it is disappointing councillors did not support the inclusion of the Hello Koalas Sculpture Park proposal.

https://www.portnews.com.au/story/6747688/hello-koalas-delivers-a-million-smiles-to-sydney/

It's official - Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail's Sydney visit in October-November 2019 brought almost a million visitors to the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney.

Twenty-two of the 74 Hello Koalas sculptures made the journey to Sydney for a mini sculpture trail that led visitors on a treasure hunt through the garden using maps and phones.

The Facebook Event recorded 27,000 interested participants for the Royal Botanic Garden with October visitation up 14 per cent despite the extreme weather conditions and fire dangers.

This was the second official tour for the Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail, with a one-month stay at the Australian National Botanic Gardens in Canberra in March 2019 which also highly successful with a social media reach of 12.89 million and 20 per cent increase in visitation.

If people, climate, fires and bat viruses weren't bad enough, now carpet pythons are threatening Koalas:

https://massivesci.com/notes/butterflies-migration-captivity-conservation/

Between 2013 and 2017, 503 free-living koalas got fitted with telemetry collars, ....

Carpet pythons seem to kill more koalas than they can swallow. In most cases attributed to carpet python mortality (62%), koalas were killed by asphyxiation with evidence of attempted ingestion, but the koala carcass was ultimately abandoned.

... We now know that carpet pythons are the second biggest predator of wild koalas, behind wild dogs (dingo relatives, not to be confused with the dogs we keep as pets).

Captive breeding is increasingly used as our solution to destroying animals habitats, though what if Koalas start losing their grip:

https://massivesci.com/notes/butterflies-migration-captivity-conservation/

Monarch butterflies are a key pollinator and complete an arduous migration as part of their life cycle. Conservationists worry about their rapidly declining numbers, as the butterflies battle against climate change and pesticides. To tackle this, people are breeding them in captivity, and releasing them when they are fully grown.

To the untrained eye, captive butterflies are just as beautiful as wild ones. Scientists know that their migration skills aren’t as fine tuned as their wild counterparts – a process which is essential for the butterflies to successfully lay their eggs.

Both captive and wild butterflies performed a grip test. By measuring the force needed for the butterflies to release their grip on a branch, researchers discovered that the captive butterflies strength was not up to wild standard. Captive butterflies also have much paler and shorter wings than wild butterflies.

More evidence that we need to protect forests for fish:

https://www.cifor.org/knowledge/forests-news/65435

a new report published in the journal Bioscience.

“We found strong evidence that forests have a central function in maintaining the diversity of freshwater fish,” Lo said.

Riparian forests that run alongside streams and rivers are an important supply of woody debris and leaf litter, creating a range of habitat spaces conducive to fish diversity. These small niches also act as nursing grounds and refuges to hide away from predators.

More than half of the studies reviewed demonstrated that forests contributed to freshwater habitats by controlling sedimentation and siltation.

A build-up of silt and sediment is typical in freshwater systems without riparian forests or where deforestation has occurred, leading to more homogenous and less varied habitats with fewer bottom-feeding fish species and a less diverse fish population overall. Studies demonstrated that shrimp and fish quantities dropped when sedimentation caused by ecosystem degradation increased.

“Forests are inextricably interlinked with fish in freshwater ecosystems, providing regulatory and provisioning functions that support a healthy aquatic habitat, water quality and food to sustain them,” Lo said

The loggers are now claiming they are the true heroes of the pandemic (like they were of the bushfires) because they went on cutting down trees regardless of their personal safety:

https://www.miragenews.com/forest-industries-launch-digital-campaign-to-thank-those-on-covid-19-frontline/

The Chief Executive of AFPA Ross Hampton said, “These frontline workers are truly heroes. Whilst many of us have been quarantining, they’ve been going to work every day to make sure we have food on our tables and health care when we need it. We are proud that the men and women who work in forest industries right around Australia, have also kept turning up through this time. From the forests and plantations, through to the manufacturing plants in regional centres, they have been ensuring that the essential products which have underpinned vital parts of the economy have still been there.”

The new video produced as part of the digital campaign shows the many uses paper and wood products are put to in homes, shops and hospitals. It explains that production has not slowed down since the pandemic started.

Scientists are warning the U.S. Congress to change their position on burning forests for electricity:

https://news.mongabay.com/2020/05/scientists-warn-congress-against-declaring-biomass-burning-carbon-neutral/

  • Some 200 U.S. environmental scientists have sent a letter to congressional committee chairs urging they reject new rules proposed in April under the Clean Air Act that would define biomass, when burned to produce energy, as being carbon neutral.
  • The scientists say that biomass burning — using wood pellets to produce energy at converted coal-burning power plants — is not only destructive of native forests which store massive amounts of carbon, but also does not reduce carbon emissions.
  • A long-standing UN policy, recognizing biomass burning as carbon neutral, has caused the U.S. forestry industry to gear up to produce wood pellets for power plants in Britain, the EU, South Korea and beyond. Scientists warn that the failure to count the emissions produced by such plants could help destabilize the global climate.
  • The letter from environmental scientists concludes: “We are hopeful that a new and more scientifically sound direction will be considered by Members [of Congress] that emphasizes forest protections, and a shift away from consumption of wood products and forest biomass energy to help mitigate the climate crisis.”

Currently, biomass producers in the U.S. and Eastern Europe are gearing up to deliver millions of tons of wood pellets to the EU, Great Britain and other nations to meet a rising global demand for biomass burned at industrial-scale levels at power plants, replacing coal. According to the scientists, wood pellets have been erroneously declared carbon neutral by the United Nations, creating what’s been dubbed “a carbon emission accounting loophole” that could help destabilize the global climate.

“The growing consensus of scientific findings is that to effectively mitigate the worst impacts of climate change, we must not only move beyond fossil fuel consumption, but must also substantially increase protection of our native forests in order to absorb more CO2 from the atmosphere and store more, not less, carbon in our forests,” says the two-page letter.”

The text was followed by nine pages listing signatories, including leading names in climate science and conservation. The letter backs up its conclusions with citations to 24 scientific papers — studies measuring carbon sequestration in trees and soils, examining forest management, wildfire suppression and other issues.

However, the scientists behind the congressional letter point to numerous studies that conclude that carbon neutrality, if trees are replanted at all, takes 50 to 100 years — time that the world doesn’t have.

“The only option we have right now to avoid climate disaster is [to conserve] the natural world,” Bill Moomaw, co-author of the letter to Congress and a leading forest ecologist from Tufts University, told Mongabay. “Forests are the one thing we have the greatest potential to protect. If we let them grow, they will store more and more carbon.”

Still, the UN carbon-neutrality policy remains popular with governments, energy companies and investors across the European Union, in the United Kingdom and South Korea. There, burning wood pellets in former coal-fired power plants is a fast-growing energy source that enables countries to claim on-paper-only carbon emission reductions. Recent studies find that burning wood actually produces more emissions than coal.

Not everyone agrees with that optimistic view. Last year, 200 EU climate scientists lobbied European Union officials, saying that no such biomass burning carbon balance is being maintained, that U.S. and Eastern European forests are being destroyed, and that dangerous levels of carbon emissions are going uncounted to the detriment of the global climate.

One myth the rebuttal authors strive to bust: the immediacy of carbon storage. Trees, they point out, do not sequester substantial amounts of carbon until they are at least 30 years old, and then keep accumulating carbon for centuries; newly planted trees, which biomass advocates promote as climate savers, do not become significant carbon sinks for decades.

In related news, biomass critics were dealt a setback this week in Europe. A 2019 lawsuit against the European Union ... That suit was dismissed on May 11 by the European General Court in Luxembourg for lack of legal standing.

Yet the industry are promoting converting coal-fired power stations to wood, here is a link to their propaganda:

http://www.biomassmagazine.com/articles/17044/futuremetrics-explains-benefits-of-coal-to-biomass-conversions

FutureMetrics LLC on May 6 published a whitepaper discussing how converting existing coal-fired power plants to be fueled with wood pellets offers a low cost, easy-to-deploy way to generate low-carbon electricity.

“Wood pellets produced from sustainably managed forestry operations, when used to produce power, do not increase the net stock of CO2 in the atmosphere,” Strauss wrote. “The basic necessary condition for an area of managed forests is if forest growth rate equals or exceeds the harvest rate then the net stock of carbon held in the forest is constant or growing. Thus, the CO2 released in combustion is contemporaneously absorbed by the new growth and no net new CO2 is added to the atmosphere.”

Within the paper, Strauss describes arguments made by those who oppose the use of wood pellets for power generation and debunks their claims. “There is no rational logic that can show the use of materials from responsibly and sustainably managed forests can result in a net addition of CO2 to the atmosphere,” he said. “As climate change consequences exponentially increase even nations like the United States will see the value in converting some existing high-efficiency coal fueled power stations to use wood pellets.

A full copy of the whitepaper can be downloaded from the FutureMetrics website.

Yet more claims that COVID-19 has been a boon for wildlife, this time from France:

https://www.connexionfrance.com/French-news/Deconfinement-Extra-care-needed-on-forest-walks-after-May-11-in-France

National forest office ONF says wild animals have got used to living in a calm forest during the confinement period plus they are already more sensitive during spring as it is the birth season.

During confinement, the calm and the absence of noise have made wild animals “less shy” and “therefore more sensitive”, says the ONF and bird protection charity Ligue pour la protection des oiseaux (LPO).

The two organisations report having been able to hear many birds and amphibians in forests recently and say they have noted an increased presence of animals in the daytime during the two months of confinement.

The ONF also warns people to be careful on the road to avoid hitting deer which are no longer used to the dangers of the road.

The spread of COVID-19 and related viruses due to deforestation continues to raise concerns:

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/covid-19-why-saving-our-forests-can-help-stop-next-pandemic-12688524

BANGKOK: Preventing the further destruction of Southeast Asia’s forests will be a critical step to stopping the spread of future deadly viruses similar to COVID-19, according to leading experts studying the risk factors that have contributed to the current global pandemic.

“Pandemic risk is linked to habitat loss and exploitation of wildlife. Spillover of zoonotic viruses is more common than we realise and is happening at a rate that is faster than ever, said Christine Johnson, a professor of epidemiology and ecosystem health at the University of California, Davis. 

“As natural habitat is diminished, wildlife often redistribute into marginal habitats in closer and more frequent contact with people,” she said. 

The professor has directed animal and human surveillance activities for PREDICT, part of USAID’s Emerging Pandemic Threats project, which recently uncovered previously undetected strains of coronavirus in bats in Myanmar.

“Protection of natural habitats for wildlife and restriction of the live animal wildlife trade are going to be essential for mitigating disease emergence, which is the establishment of new viruses from animals into susceptible human populations, and, if viruses are human-to-human transmissible, can cause pandemics,” she said.

That project aimed to put an economic cost on deforestation when linked with the spread of infectious diseases, notably Malaria, in Sabah, Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak, and Thailand. In a final report, it concluded that net present value loss between 2015 and 2030 would exceed US$4.35 trillion if deforestation continues at business-as-usual rates.

[David Ganz] “I talk about bundling ecosystem services; we need to value not just the carbon but the water, the pollination values, the recreation values. You have to have full natural capital accounting so forests are really seen for their full value,” he added.

“The health of the forest is tied to the health of human civilisation and the health of the planet. “The more large tracts of healthy forest that we keep as is, the better off we are. The more we displace animals by fragmenting the forest, the worse off it is,” he said.

https://truthout.org/articles/deforestation-and-monoculture-farming-spread-covid-19-and-other-diseases/

Carlos Zambrana-Torrelio, the associated vice president for conservation and health at the EcoHealth Alliance, analyzed over 704 different infectious disease outbreaks between the years 1940 and 2008, and found that measuring the rate of deforestation in a given area was the number one predictor of where the next pandemic will occur. “Scientists have been sending out warnings about this for years now,” Zambrana-Torrelio told Truthout. “We can’t keep encroaching upon the natural habitats of wildlife without taking into consideration what deadly diseases might spill over from that wildlife into the neighboring humans.”

Regions of the Amazon with increased rates of deforestation have concurrently experienced increased rates of malaria in humans. As climate change withers away the canopy of trees that act as the “ceiling” of the rainforest, puddles of stagnant water are becoming increasingly common on the ground. Mosquitos, particularly the kind that carry malaria, love to breed in this murky standing water. This increase in mosquito population in deforested areas is going largely unchecked due to their natural predators, mainly frogs and dragonfliesdying off in the destroyed habitat.

“The drought caused mass forest fires that swept the region. These fires created a huge smog that prevented the plants from growing fruit,” said Amy Vittor, an assistant professor at the University of Florida’s Emerging Pathogens Institute told Truthout. “This forced the flying fox bats of the rainforest to migrate to the towns of Malaysia.”

Some of these bats flocked to Malaysian pig farms, where the first cases of Nipah virus were reported. Bats would bite into fruit that the pigs ate, causing the virus to spread to the pigs. Humans caught the virus when they came in contact with the pigs.

https://ensia.com/features/the-worst-may-be-yet-to-come-5-ways-new-diseases-emerge-and-what-we-can-do-about-them/

Raina Plowright, a bat specialist at the Bozeman disease ecology lab at Montana State University.
“We need a global pandemic policy. Ecological security needs to become one of the tenets of biosecurity. I would work urgently to preserve continuous landscapes of habitat for wild animals and do everything we can to limit our encroachment on what is left,” she says.

“We are playing a Ponzi scheme with the ecosystems that allow our planet to survive. We know what needs to be done to move towards more sustainable food systems that do not regularly spill out novel diseases and lead to an ever-increasing prevalence of non-communicable disease. All we lack is the political commitment,” she says.

Intensive farming of wildlife, especially in Southeast Asia and China, concerns experts as well. Instead of farming a small range of animals like cattle, sheep, goats, poultry and pigs — to whose diseases humans have over centuries become partly immune — farmers are now breeding hundreds of different animals for both food and medicine with potential risk of pandemics. ....

“We need to shift away from an ambulance-style, doctor-driven, reactive response to the pandemics that predictably appear and towards a proactive response that will build safe food systems. We are losing too many species, too many natural landscapes. We are intensifying agriculture in ways that are inhumane and unsustainable. The rich turn a blind eye, the poor bear the brunt of unsustainable systems,” Randolph says. “This is a time of reckoning, of hard choices and new directions. Things that cannot go on forever will stop  — often abruptly and nastily.”

https://desertification.wordpress.com/2020/05/12/wildlife-habitat-destruction-and-deforestation-will-cause-more-deadly-pandemics-like-coronavirus-scientists-warn/

https://whatsupnewp.com/2020/05/how-the-lyme-disease-epidemic-is-spreading-and-why-ticks-are-so-hard-to-stop/

In the 1970s, an epidemic of mysterious arthritis-like symptoms began spreading among children in the lushly wooded area around Lyme, Connecticut. Scientists traced the cause to tick bites and named it Lyme disease, but why it had suddenly appeared there was a mystery.

Without deer, deer ticks, also known as black-legged ticks, were rare, and the bacterium that causes Lyme disease was contained in isolated tick populations, primarily in northern Wisconsin and on Long Island.

That changed when deer were reintroduced for hunting in the Northeast during the early 1900s and began to repopulate new forests.

An assessment in India claims that the extent of COVID-19 is related to a lack of forest cover:

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/more-forests-less-covid19-impact-claims-mp-forest-dept-1677781-2020-05-14

The Madhya Pradesh forest department has attempted to study the connection between the forest area in a district and the number of Covid-19 cases.

The study found that in districts such as Indore, Ujjain, Bhopal, and Morena, which have the highest number of Covid-19 cases, the availability of forest is less than 100 sq km per 1,000 people.

In contrast, districts such as Betul and Chhindwara, which have a much higher availability of forest area, have fewer cases of Covid-19 even though they are located on the Maharashtra border.

Maharashtra is one of the worst-affected states.

The study also found that districts such as Panna, Balaghat, Umaria, Shahdol, and Anuppur have witnessed the inflow of a large number of migrant workers in the last two months. These districts have large forest areas and have not seen a significant spike in Covid-19 cases

"Deputy Conservator of Forests, Rajneesh Singh said while a lot is not known about Covid-19 and a lot is being discovered, it is clear that areas with fewer forests are badly affected by Covid-19."

Singh said that the reason for this is that forests act as a natural barrier to the increase in the human population in a given area, due to which the spread of disease is controlled.

"The simple reason for this is, with low forest cover, urbanisation and density of population are higher which is contributing to the spread of the disease. One must keep in mind that forests protected under law act as a natural barrier to the increase in human population in a given area," he said.

Singh added that governments can keep the deterrence value of forests in mind while planning for the future and controlling Covid-19.

"In areas with fewer forests and more pollution, respiratory systems are adversely impacted making people more vulnerable to Covid. Areas with more forests also have a higher incidence of malaria which seems to have shown a positive pattern in so far as Covid-19 impacting populations is concerned," he said.

And we are breeding mosquitoes to prefer human blood:

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/05/mosquitoes-taste-human-blood-may-grow-african-cities-expand

In most of the world, the Aedes aegypti mosquito is notorious for biting humans and spreading dengue, Zika, and other viruses. But in Africa, where the mosquito is native, most Aedes prefer to suck blood from other animals, such as monkeys and rodents. A new study suggests, though, that their taste for humans may rapidly expand—and with it their ability to spread disease.

By surveying the range of Aedes biting preferences across Africa, the study shows that dryness and dense populations favor strains that target people. Those conditions are likely to intensify in Africa with climate change and increasing urbanization, though not everywhere.

Bats are blamed for the disease and are being targeted for retribution, though its not their fault that we are cutting down their eucalypt feed trees:

https://news.mongabay.com/2020/05/bats-resistant-to-viruses-but-not-to-humans/?utm_source=Mongabay+Newsletter&utm_campaign=ac274e277e-Newsletter_2020_04_30_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_940652e1f4-ac274e277e-77229786

Yet specialists agree that the fact that a variety of coronaviruses related to SARS-CoV-2 have been found in bats and pangolins does not make them guilty of unleashing this pandemic on the world.

“The enemy is neither the bat nor the virus,” Suzán said. “It is our own failure to maintain a healthy relationship with nature.”

“We are dealing with viruses that we’ve never come into contact with before. We are invading places where these viruses are evolving with their host species. We are invading these niches,” he said.

In the case of bats, if their populations were to decrease or any of their species were to go extinct, there would be severe consequences for the planet

For example, insectivorous bats control pests that affect various crops, including cotton, corn, beans and rice.

Bats are also important seed dispersers. Luis Aguirre said they are “natural forest regenerators” because scientists estimate that more than 500 species of plants depend on bats to spread their seeds. Of these, an estimated 300-plus plant species depend exclusively on bats to be pollinated.

https://www.msn.com/en-au/news/australia/fear-of-flying-foxes-coronavirus-is-topping-off-a-bad-year-for-australias-bats/ar-BB13NMPs

Australia’s bats are turning up in increasing numbers in city suburbs. But as they search for food, they’re bringing for some a newfound paranoia thanks to a global pandemic that likely sprang from one of their overseas relatives.

Dr Pia Lentini, one of Smith’s constituents and a bat expert, says: “Every context is different but the concerns are always the same – they’re noisy, the smell is overwhelming, ‘my car is covered in sh**’, ‘I can’t dry my clothes outside’, or ‘I’m worried about diseases’.”

As our human settlements get bigger, we’re encroaching further into bushland where bats live. At the same time, bats have been hit by droughts, habitat clearing and bushfires that put pressure on their food supplies.

Lentini is studying conflict between bats and human populations and she says the incidence of bats turning up in large numbers in towns is on the rise.

“Now we have flying foxes becoming increasingly urban because they’re losing habitat. There’s now also a great diversity of trees in our cities. They are becoming more urban and the camps are becoming more prominent.

“They are in our cities because they are starving.”

Dr David Westcott of the CSIRO is an ecologist who has studied bats for more than 20 years and says 2019 was “a bad year for bats.”

“We had extreme heat and droughts and bushfires and all kinds of misery for flying foxes.”

The most recent count in February, after the bushfires, suggests grey-headed flying-fox numbers are down by about a third based on an average count for that time of year, but he says they “may have moved to places we don’t know about”.

“We shouldn’t pretend that flying foxes are not vectors for some nasty diseases,” says Westcott. But getting a virus from a bat “generally requires us to have intimate contact with an animal” and, with flying foxes, “we don’t do that”.

Trust Trump's America to have a solution to bats, though they will get more mosquitoes (the worry is it spreading to Australia):

https://www.redoakexpress.com/content/webinar-series-discuss-forest-management-bats

The causes of the declines in bats – forest habitat loss and an exotic deadly disease called White Nose Syndrome ...

However, some species’ populations have declined steadily since the early 2000s, when an exotic fungal disease was introduced from Eurasia that has decimated populations across the eastern United States. That disease, along with the degradation of forests by invasive species and poor management, has made it hard to be a bat in Iowa.

Some bats are fighting back:

https://news.mongabay.com/2020/05/endangered-bats-are-evolving-to-fight-off-an-exotic-fungal-disease/?utm_source=Mongabay+Newsletter&utm_campaign=ac274e277e-Newsletter_2020_04_30_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_940652e1f4-ac274e277e-77229786

  • Little brown bats, an endangered species, have declined by more than 90% due to white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that causes bats to wake up from hibernation, and consequently drains their essential fat reserves.
  • A new study uses genetics to determine that little brown bats with certain genetic traits are more likely to survive the disease.

I read of forests the world over being devastated by alien pests and diseases, here we are being invaded by Myrtle Rust:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/may/14/australias-native-guava-plant-close-to-being-wiped-out-by-invasive-disease-study

An invasive plant disease may be ready to claim its first victim in the wild with Australia’s native guava now almost extinct, a study has found.

Monitoring of 66 populations of native guava in Queensland and New South Wales has found 23% “could not be located” with another 61% reduced only to root suckers below a dead canopy.

“They are the living dead,” he said. “I’m shocked because I don’t like to see things going extinct.”

The fungal plant disease myrtle rust was first detected in Australia in 2010, but already has more than 350 known hosts across the country.

“It is particularly catastrophic for many rainforest species like the native guava, and could change the nature of some of our rainforests.”

“The loss of native guava and replacement by lantana will increase the flammability of rainforests,” the study said.

Local extinctions of native guava would have a knock-on effect on more than 100 species of insects and their interactions with flowering plants.

As loggers deplete stored carbon they are hastening climate changes. Climate is changing and the impacts are confounding:

https://phys.org/news/2020-05-longer-seasons-limited-effect-combating.html

Climate warming is leading to early springs and delayed autumns in colder environments, allowing plants to grow for a longer period of time during each growing season. Plants are absorbing more carbon dioxide (CO2) as a result of this longer growing season.

The PlantWatch data show the average date the first flower blooms in 19 plant species has advanced by about nine days for each corresponding rise of one degree Celsius in air temperature. The bloom dates of the earliest-blooming species—such as trembling aspen and prairie crocus—advanced by two weeks during the past seven decades of the past century.

As a consequence of warming temperatures, leaf senescence (leaf colouring and leaf fall) in autumn is also delayed. Researchers using 54 years data records in Japan and South Korea found that autumn leaf fall is occurring later. Long-term satellite data also show delayed leaf senescence for the majority of temperate and boreal plants.

A longer growing season may also increase CO2 release from ecosystems by prolonging the period during which soils decompose. In order for the land to remain a strong carbon sink, the balance of CO2 gain from the lengthening growing season must outweigh the associated increase in CO2 release.

CO2 loss from soil decomposition from autumn warming may be greater than the increased CO2 absorption by delayed senescence. In other words, the delayed autumn brings little or no benefit to ecosystem CO2 storage. In addition, in many northern ecosystems, the benefits of warmer springs on increased CO2 absorption is offset by the accumulation of seasonal water deficits.

With increasing warming throughout the growing season, summer moisture stress may be exacerbated in the future in temperate, boreal and Arctic ecosystems.

Climate change is leading to warmer and longer growing seasons, reduced snow pack in winter, earlier spring snow melt and soil water depletion. This in turn increases moisture stress on plants and makes forests more susceptible to severe wildfire, which already becoming increasingly frequent and severe in large parts of Canada. Severe fires can release huge amounts of CO2, not only from the burning plant tissues but also from top soils and peat lands.

Though the evidence from the Amazon is that it parts of it are already at the tipping point where forests stop mopping up our excess carbon from the atmosphere (as the drought, clearing, logging and fires have made our forests into carbon sources), I found this article profoundly disturbing until I found that only part of the Amazon has tipped over:

https://buffalonews.com/2020/05/13/carbon-dioxide-briefly-falls-then-accelerates/

There is growing evidence tropical rainforests are beginning to show signs of becoming carbon sources (sources for additional carbon emissions) instead of performing as carbon sinks (sinks absorb carbon dioxide). If this process continues, it would be the first time in thousands of years the tropical forests switch from carbon sink to source. In an article published by the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, the changes are being documented.

Atmospheric chemist Luciana Gatti reported to Yale aircraft measurements over the Amazon actually detect more carbon dioxide emission than absorption. Some of this is due to deforestation, mainly in Brazil, but some of it is due to warming feedback already present in the air. In the past, additional carbon dioxide in the air fed more growth in the rainforests. Now, excessive warming from the greenhouse effect has slowed the growth rate of foliage, outstripping its capacity to absorb as a carbon sink.

“We have hit a tipping point,” Gatti said.

Her earlier work had noted these impacts mainly in drought years, when forest fires multiplied. Now, her team has found the same shift from sink to source is being observed in wet years as well. This may be critical in the rate of a mean warming climate going from bad, but more manageable, to worse and much less manageable.

Current climate models work on a premise of stability in the role of tropical rainforests performing as carbon sinks, which is part of the foundation necessary to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

Gaitti said the most immediate step to slow this alarming trend would be for Brazil and other nations to act more aggressively in countering deforestation.

The next problem to recalculate is the volume of powerful greenhouse gas methane in the atmosphere. Originally, the total amounts were expected to remain stable. Now, it is known that more trapped methane from ocean beds, agriculture, fracking and the melting permafrost is being released, but more reliable estimates on future volume of methane releases are not yet available for the new models.

This article provides the qualifications, while we still have time it is fast running out:

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-51464694

Every two weeks for the past 10 years, a team of scientists led by Prof Luciana Gatti, a researcher at Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE), has been measuring greenhouse gases by flying aircraft fitted with sensors over different parts of the Amazon basin.

What the group found was startling: while most of the rainforest still retains its ability to absorb large quantities of carbon dioxide - especially in wetter years - one portion of the forest, which is especially heavily deforested, appears to have lost that capacity.

Gatti's research suggests this south-eastern part of the forest, about 20% of the total area, has become a carbon source.

"Each year is worse," she told Newsnight.

For decades, scientists have warned of an "Amazon tipping-point": the point at which the forest loses its ability to renew itself and begins to emit more carbon than it absorbs.

"[The Amazon] used to be, in the 1980s and 90s, a very strong carbon sink, perhaps extracting two billion tonnes of carbon dioxide a year from the atmosphere," says Prof Nobre, who is also a researcher at the University of Sao Paulo's Institute for Advanced Studies and Brazil's leading expert on the Amazon.

"Today, that strength is reduced perhaps to 1-1.2bn tonnes of carbon dioxide a year."

To put that in context, a billion tonnes of carbon dioxide is almost three times what the UK said it officially emitted in 2018.

And deforestation in the Amazon is accelerating:

https://www.ecowatch.com/deforestation-in-the-brazilian-amazon-increases-for-13th-month-in-a-row-2645970207.html?rebelltitem=3#rebelltitem3

INPE's deforestation monitoring system, DETER, detected 406 square kilometers of forest loss in the "legal Amazon" during the month of April. That brings the extent of deforestation measured by the system to 9,320 square kilometers for the year ended April 30, 2020, 40% higher than where it stood a year ago and more than twice as high as it was in April 2018.

According to a 2014 study published in the journal Science, the drop in deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon between 2004 and 2013 avoided the greenhouse gas emissions equivalent of taking all cars off American roads for three years — 3.2 billion tons.

The rise in deforestation has been particularly sharp since Jair Bolsonaro assumed the presidency in January 2019. Bolsonaro has rolled back environmental regulations, granted amnesty from fines for illegal deforestation, cut budgets for environmental law enforcementdiminished the role of scientists in the government, blamed environmental NGOs for deforestation and claimed without evidence that Leonardo DiCaprio funded last year's fires in the Amazon, and opened protected areas and prospective indigenous territories for extractive industries and agribusiness. He's openly called for more deforestation in the Amazon, while his administration has sacked officials charged with protecting forests and indigenous peoples against illegal land invasions.

Accelerating deforestation, forest degradation, and drought in the Amazon is of great concern to scientists who warn that the entire biome may be near a tipping point where large areas of wet rainforest could transition to dry tropical woodlands and savanna.

We are eating away at the life that makes the earth habitable:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/20/opinion/sunday/amazon-earth-rain-forest-environment.html?ref=oembed

Every year the nearly 400 billion trees in the Amazon rain forest and all the creatures that depend on them are drenched in seven feet of rain — four times the annual rainfall in London. This deluge is partly due to geographical serendipity. Intense equatorial sunlight speeds the evaporation of water from sea and land to sky, trade winds bring moisture from the ocean, and bordering mountains force incoming air to rise, cool and condense. Rain forests happen where it happens to rain.

But that’s only half the story. Life in the Amazon does not simply receive rain — it summons it. All of that lush vegetation releases 20 billion tons of water vapor into the sky every day. Trees saturate the air with gaseous compounds and salts. Fungi exhale plumes of spores. The wind sweeps bacteria, pollen, leaf fragments and bits of insect shells into the atmosphere. The wet breath of the forest, peppered with microbes and organic residues, creates ideal conditions for rain. With so much water in the air and so many minute particles on which the water can condense, rain clouds quickly form.

The Amazon sustains much more than itself, however. Forests are vital pumps of Earth’s circulatory system. All of the water that gushes upward from the Amazon forms an enormous flying river, which brings precipitation to farms and cities throughout South America. Some scientists have concluded that through long-range atmospheric ripple effects the Amazon contributes to rainfall in places as far away as Canada.

If Earth breathes, sweats and quakes — if it births zillions of organisms that ceaselessly devour, transfigure and replenish its air, water and rock — and if those creatures and their physical environments evolve in tandem, then why shouldn’t we think of our planet as alive?

Humans are the brain — the consciousness — of the planet. We are Earth made aware of itself. Viewed this way, our ecological responsibility could not be clearer. By fuming greenhouse gases, we have not simply changed the climate; we have critically wounded a global life form and severely disrupted its biological rhythms. No other member of this living assembly has our privileged perspective. No one else can see the sinews and vessels of our planetary body. Only we can choose to help keep Earth alive.

Seen through the lens of Gaia, the Amazon’s plight is the draining of our communal veins and arteries. We must learn to feel its thirst viscerally. “We are a part of this Earth and we cannot therefore consider our affairs in isolation,” Dr. Lovelock wrote. “We are so tied to the Earth that its chills or fevers are our chills and fevers also.”

A different take on deforestation rates:

https://forestsnews.cifor.org/65499/qa-the-year-deforestation-was-supposed-to-be-chopped-in-half?fnl=en

Robert Nasi, the director general of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)

“The world has lost 420 million ha of mostly intact forests since 1990, although the rate of deforestation is slowing in some regions, significantly in South America. The world was losing 16 million ha annually between 1990 and 2000 compared to 11 million annually between 2010 and 2020, about a 31 percent decrease in the annual deforestation rate.

The world gained about 242 million ha of forests during the 1990-2020 period, and triangulating the available data, it appears that 111 million ha was gained from regrowth and secondary forests and another 131 million ha of the increase is due to a growing number of planted forests representing 3 percent of the world’s forests.

But plantations, while supplying critical wood and fibre, are not intact forests, which generate vital planetary biodiversity and ecosystem services. Therefore, the “net forest loss” data in the FAO report raise some questions, appearing to mix apples (intact natural forests) with oranges (regrowth, secondary forests) and bananas (plantations).

https://news.globallandscapesforum.org/44355/4-06-billion-remaining-hectares-and-other-new-numbers-on-forests-but-what-do-they-mean/

Logging also engenders domestic violence:

https://news.mongabay.com/2020/05/gender-based-violence-shakes-communities-in-the-wake-of-forest-loss/

  • Women in the province of East New Britain in Papua New Guinea say they have faced increasing domestic violence, along with issues like teenage pregnancy and drug abuse, in their communities as logging and oil palm plantations have moved in.
  • Traditionally, women have been the stewards of the land and passed it down to their children, but they say they’ve felt sidelined in discussions about this type of land “development.”
  • Experts say that the loss of forest for large-scale agriculture and extractive industries goes hand in hand with violence against women globally, linked with the colonial and patriarchal paradigms associated with these uses of the land.
  • In Papua New Guinea and elsewhere, women are working to protect themselves, their families and their forests from these changes.

Around the world, the “colonial” approach aimed at extracting valuable resources has destroyed “traditional and customary social relations” in local communities, Jeanette Sequeira, vice director and gender program coordinator at the Global Forest Coalition, said in a telephone interview.

“Deforestation and climate change and environmental degradation do lead to an increase in violence against women,” Sequeira said. “I think that’s a claim we can make more and more.”

Along with the evaporation of the trees, the rights of women to determine what happens to the land they depend on have likewise vanished, Monica Yongol said, as the other women in the room nodded in agreement. The changes have jolted their communities. They’ve made it harder to provide for their families. And problems like teenage pregnancy, drug use and domestic violence in their communities have cropped up that the women say didn’t exist before.

... Suka said. But, he added, the temptation to turn land rights, however spurious, into upfront cash and other benefits for certain members has changed the respect for other customs, such as that of matrilineal inheritance. And it’s led some men to assume the roles of brokers in which they speak for entire communities.

Something for the pets:

https://theconversation.com/one-cat-one-year-110-native-animals-lock-up-your-pet-its-a-killing-machine-138412?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20May%2014%202020%20-%201621115555&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20May%2014%202020%20-%201621115555+CID_8567779f94474da3002dda5b59ed1c9c&utm_source=campaign_monitor&utm_term=One%20cat%20one%20year%20110%20native%20animals%20lock%20up%20your%20pet%20its%20a%20killing%20machine

We know feral cats are an enormous problem for wildlife – across Australia, feral cats collectively kill more than three billion animals per year.

Cats have played a leading role in most of Australia’s 34 mammal extinctions since 1788, and are a big reason populations of at least 123 other threatened native species are dropping.

On average, each roaming pet cat kills 186 reptiles, birds and mammals per year, most of them native to Australia. Collectively, that’s 4,440 to 8,100 animals per square kilometre per year for the area inhabited by pet cats.

A radio tracking study in Adelaide found that of the 177 cats whom owners believed were inside at night, 69 cats (39%) were sneaking out for nocturnal adventures.

On average, an individual feral cat in the bush kills 748 reptiles, birds and mammals a year – four times the toll of a hunting pet cat.

So while each pet cat kills fewer animals than a feral cat, their high urban density means the toll is still very high. Per square kilometre per year, pet cats kill 30-50 times more animals than feral cats in the bush.

Keeping your cat securely contained 24 hours a day is the only way to prevent it from killing wildlife.

Something for you, there's nothing like a forest bath to get rid of the anxiety you feel from reading this:

https://www.thrillist.com/travel/nation/what-is-forest-bathing-how-to-guide

I’m attempting the art of shinrin-yoku: forest bathing. ... Leading forest-therapy expert Dr. Qing Li has been researching shinrin-yoku for decades.

The premise of shinrin-yoku seems pretty self-explanatory: spend some time in nature, feel better. But Dr. Li laid out some specific guidelines: Sessions should last for at least two hours, though longer is better. Cameras and phones should ideally be left at home, but books are OK, since they are free of what Dr. Li calls "technostress." This is not about exercise: In a two-hour visit you should only walk about 1.5 miles, taking the time to pause and absorb your surroundings. “It is simply being in nature, connecting with it through our sense of sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch."

“Aromas from trees have the main effect,” he says. His studies have supported this, showing increased immune system activity for not only subjects who spent time in forests, but those who were exposed to cyprus essential oils for consecutive periods indoors.

After forest bathing was introduced to the masses, the ministry launched a series of studies to back its benefits with science. Dr. Li cited the reduction of stress hormones like cortisol, and the alleviation of "fight or flight" response in favor of the "rest and recover" alternative. Subjects exhibited lowered blood pressure and better sleep, with increased immune-system activity for up to 30 days after their sessions. Further studies showed improvements in friendliness along with a reduction in anxiety, hostility, and acute stress.

Along with Dr. Li, researchers have been conducting studies to test the efficacy of sessions spent in slightly more accessible areas. They found that two-hour strolls in city parks still measurably reduced stress, anxiety, and depression. Dr. Li’s simple rules of slow-paced walking, stopping to rest, and focusing on the five senses can be applied to any green space: It just takes a little practice.

Garden-therapy can work in a similar way, while house plants provide the same stimulating sights and smells even when you’re stuck inside.

And something for the kids:

https://zeemarathi.zee5.com/heres-how-bablu-dablu-on-zee5-kids-will-inspire-your-child-to-save-the-environment/

ZEE5 Kids is an ideal destination for any parent who wants to keep their child engaged during the lockdown. Apart from a variety of entertaining animated filmsthere are several other popular shows that your kids would love to watch on the platform. One of the most highly rated TV shows that we would recommend is Bablu Dablu. The show is based on the life of two bear brothers Bablu and Dablu who desperately try to save their forest from Lakha, a wicked logger. Bablu Dablu also subtly try to inculcate certain important environmental values and will inspire your kids to save nature. Sounds like the perfect show, doesn’t it?

The logger uses heavy machinery to cut the forest but is defeated by Bablu-Dablu’s tact and intelligence. These bears will surely inspire your kid to unite and save the environment from the evil forces

http://grdg.uk.com/family/things-to-do/forest-school-activities-542107

So what is a forest school? A forest school is a programme of teaching that uses the natural world, often forests and other green rural spaces, to teach kids personal and social skills that they would otherwise learn at school, but in a more exciting and dynamic way. Forest school encourages children to connect with the natural world, take calculated risks and aims to help them develop independence, confidence and creative thinking skills.

According to the Forest School Association, forest school activities offer kids “opportunities to achieve and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environment with trees”.


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