Tapirs may be key to reviving the Amazon. All they need to do is poop
A Brazilian ecologist is determined to understand the role of tapir dung in forest restoration
Beneath the viridescent understory of the Brazilian Amazon, ecologist Lucas Paolucci has been honing his skills for hunting tapir dung. In this region’s degraded rain forests, he sees the piglike mammal’s enormous piles of poop as a treasure.
Chock full of seeds, the dung from trunk-nosed lowland tapirs (Tapirus terrestris) may be key in regenerating forests that have been hit by intensive logging and slash-and-burn agriculture, says Paolucci, of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute in Brazil.
“Tapirs in Brazil are known as the gardeners of the forests,” he says. Feasting on the fruit of more than 300 plant species, the animals travel through the forest underbrush with their bellies full of seeds. That includes seeds from large, carbon-storing trees like mess apple trees (Bellucia grossularioides) that can’t pass through smaller animals. So the lowland tapir, South America’s largest mammal, is one of the key agents dispersing seeds throughout the Amazon.
Rooting through poop piles in Mato Grosso, a state in west-central Brazil, wasn’t how Paolucci began his career; he studied ants in Brazil’s coastal Atlantic Forest. Later, he began to wonder how forest fires in the Amazon might affect the rain forest’s insect communities. And then, he became intrigued by the monstrous dung piles — each pile “bigger than my head”, he says.
In 2016, Paolucci joined other researchers studying the role of these magnanimous defecators in restoring disturbed forests. The team conducted an experiment in eastern Mato Grosso, where two forest plots had been control burned to varying degrees from 2004 to 2010. One plot was burned every year, and the other every three years. A third plot was left untouched as a control group.
Paolucci’s colleagues walked through the plots, recording the location of 163 dung piles and comparing them with camera-trap recordings of tapirs roaming through the area. Then the team sieved the fecal findings to separate out seeds, counting a total of 129,204 seeds from 24 plant species. The camera traps showed tapirs spending far more time in burned areas than in the pristine forest, perhaps enjoying the sunshine away from the forest canopy, Paolucci says. The animals also deposited more than three times as many seeds per hectare in burned areas as in the untouched forest.
This 13 May 2020 video is called Tapir dung might help restore degraded tracts of the Amazon | Science News.
Just months after the team published those findings in March of 2019 in Biotropica, the Amazon saw one of its most destructive fire seasons in years (SN: 8/23/19). That made Paolucci even more determined to understand tapirs’ role in forests’ recovery. But he knows the tapirs can’t be doing the job alone.
So Paolucci went back to the insects he began his career with, studying how they might be partners in planting new growth. Tapirs may be leaving fecal fortunes on the forest floor, but dung beetles are actually responsible for pushing the poop around. The insects will break off and bury small pieces of dung, including any seeds within, to snack on later. That helps seed germination get going.
In early 2019, Paolucci returned to the Amazon to collect 20 kilograms of tapir dung, which he broke apart and molded into 700-gram clumps. In each clump, he inserted plastic beads as dummy seeds and then returned the poop pellets to the field. After 24 hours, Paolucci collected the dung clumps again and counted how many beads remained. Those missing had presumably been rolled away by the beetles, and, by proxy, indicated how many seeds would potentially grow into plants one day. Paolucci hopes to publish these results in 2021.
This 13 May 2020 video is called How dung beetles are inadvertent gardeners | Science News.
Amazon ranchers are typically required by law to maintain 80 percent of native forest cover on their properties, but many trees have been illegally cleared and need to be replanted. Tapirs could provide cost-effective help with that effort, Paolucci speculates.
But the population of lowland tapirs, the only tapir species that is widespread throughout the Amazon, is decreasing and is now considered vulnerable, due to habitat loss and hunting for meat. Roughly 20 percent of the Amazon has been destroyed, with another 7 percent expected to be gone by 2030 if current deforestation rates continue. If tapirs fail to thrive, future “seed dispersal is expected to rely even more on organisms such as dung beetles,” Paolucci says.
Flourishing in the wilds of South America is a greater variety of birds than anywhere else on Earth. Like its people, the continent¹s birds are unique and flamboyant. This superbly shot programme, WINGBEATS TO THE AMAZON, captures the more colourful, majestic and bizarre of South America’s birds….the world’s biggest and most colourful parrots, tiny hummingbirds not much larger than a bumblebee and stylish male manakins that perform odd, vibrating dances to entice a female.
This documentary takes viewers on a journey across the bird capital of the planet. Supporting a quarter of all the bird species on Earth, South America is “the world’s biggest aviary”. The programme explains – with graphic vision – that South America’s astonishing diversity of birdlife boils down to geography. From tropical rainforests to snow-capped peaks not far from the shores of Antarctica, South America is a land of extremes.
The journey begins amongst the icy southern peaks of Patagonia. A windswept landscape, Patagonia is renowned for freezing temperatures and breathtaking scenery. Curious, camel-like animals, wander through the valleys and mighty Andean condors, the world’s largest bird of prey, dominate the skies above.
The foothills below support flocks of Upland geese. In the grasslands slightly further north, big birds dominate. Ostrich-like rheas live here, the males engaging in flamboyant displays in a bid to lure as many females as possible into their harem.
Dotted throughout the Pampas and other South American habitats, there are king-sized swamps thronged with ibises, storks and wildfowl. Spread mainly through northern Argentina, Paraguay, and southern Brazil, woodlands are the next major stamping ground for South American birds.
And with sunrise comes the dawn chorus, an inspirational opera featuring close-up views of singing jays, thrushes, sparrows and a host of others. One bird, the oropendola, combines its song with a deep bowing action.
The final destination in this program is the renowned Amazon forest. Here, the greatest variety of animals and plants have come to live. Indeed four out of five of all South American birds survive in rainforests. Beasts and butterflies crowd the river banks, amongst them skimmers, cattle egrets, hoatzins and jacamars. Star is the male manakin – the most flamboyant resident of all, as he slides backwards, his feet never appearing to leave the perch. As well, there’s toucans – with their enormous beaks among the most exotic of South American birds.
The bird-filled landscapes of South America echo to the sounds of literally millions of winged individuals, each taking part in a host of daily rituals. Many such customs may not be quite so spectacular as hundreds of giant macaws picking clay from a riverbank at dawn each day, but they’re all equally important. Over millions of years, the world’s biggest aviary has given rise to some of the most flamboyant members of the bird family – every one of which has carved out their own unique style and associated survival techniques, ideally suited to this vast continent of extremes.
How does habitat fragmentation affect Amazonian birds?
April 8, 2020
The Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project (BDFFP), located near Manaus, Brazil, began in 1979 and is the world’s longest-running experimental study of tropical forest fragments. A new paper in The Condor: Ornithological Applications summarizes four decades of data from the project about how Amazonian bird communities respond to habitat fragmentation, a question as relevant today as ever in light of the recent increase in deforestation in the Amazon.
Louisiana State University’s Phil Stouffer, who authored the new paper, led bird research at the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project from 1991 to 2019. As he describes, studying the changes in bird communities over the forty years following habitat fragmentation led to some surprises. The original plan was to monitor “forest islands” permanently isolated by surrounding cattle pastures, but changes in the Brazilian economy led to the abandonment of the cattle pastures within a few years after their establishment. As trees began to regrow in the areas surrounding the fragments, forest bird species that had initially disappeared began to recolonize the fragments, highlighting the unexpected value of second-growth habitat for rainforest birds. Additional work yielded both good and bad news for fragment-dwelling birds — for example, non-forest bird species typically didn’t invade forest fragments, but even very narrow strips of deforested land could limit the movement of forest-dependent species.
“The long history of the project allowed us to follow changes in the avifauna rather than just trying to interpret what we saw in any particular slice of time,” says Stouffer. “This project was important for stepping away from the idea that habitat fragments are analogous to actual islands — the modern interpretation is a lot more nuanced, and the recovery of birds in second-growth forest provides encouraging evidence that many rainforest birds can use deforested areas that are allowed to regrow. Our challenge now is to determine under what conditions remnant patches and second growth can support rich Amazonian bird communities.” Another issue that the BDFFP hopes to address in the near future is one that didn’t even exist when the project began: what has climate change done to Amazonian birds since 1979, and what does the future hold?
Working in Manaus once meant being isolated from the global scientific community, but no more — BDFFP scientists even hosted an international ornithological conference there in 2015. “On the 40th anniversary of the BDFFP, it seems appropriate to summarize what we’ve learned. It’s also important to reflect on how technical advances that we now take for granted in modern fieldwork were incorporated into the project. For example, digital photography helped resolve criteria for determining the ages of Amazonian birds and GPS technology allows us to determine bird locations and movement with high precision, goals unimaginable when I started at the BDFFP,” says Stouffer.
The best people to protect it are those who call it home, the hundreds of indigenous communities, living under its trees. They’re facing the might of hostile governments, powerful lobbies, and massive mining industries. And indigenous leaders like Sônia Guajajara, Kretã Kaingang, Dinaman Tuxá are our last line of defence in this unequal battle for one of the most precious jewels of life.
If there was ever a moment when they needed our help, it is now. And our movement is perfectly placed to give it: we’re over 50 million members across the planet. If we raise enough, we can support their urgent fight on the ground, and then ramp up our global campaigning to defend the Amazon and secure powerful protections for biodiversity hotspots worldwide.
But we don’t have long! Chip in now, and let’s unleash the magic of our movement behind these courageous forest defenders, all over the Amazon, and for all life on Earth:
Our movement has long led the charge to defend the Amazon and other critical habitats, fighting hand in hand with indigenous leaders to protect their homelands. And, just last year, our community mobilised thousands of donations to help the Waorani people of the Ecuadorian Amazon mount an unprecedented legal challenge against oil drilling on their land — and they won! Now, this rainforest gem is fighting off another existential attack — it’s time to swing into action again!
With hope and determination,
Diego, Mike, Marigona, Christoph, Bert, Laura, Oscar, Martyna and the rest of the Avaaz team …
New research argues that legally protected large territories in Brazil are crucial to protect biodiversity and provide essential conditions for indigenous populations to maintain their traditional livelihoods: here.
A bird found in the Amazon has shattered the record for the loudest call, reaching the same volume as a pneumatic drill. The white bellbird, which lives in the mountains of the north-eastern Amazon, was recorded at 125 decibels (dB), three times louder than the next bird in the pecking order, the screaming piha.
From the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in the USA:
Amazon’s white bellbirds set new record for loudest bird call
Top avian noisemaker
October 21, 2019
Biologist Jeff Podos at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, with Mario Cohn-Haft at the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia, Brazil, report that they have recorded the loudest bird calls ever documented, made by dove-sized male white bellbirds as part of their mating rituals in the mountains of the northern Amazon. Details are in the latest Current Biology.
Now recognized as the loudest in the world, bellbird calls have a sound pressure about three times that of screaming pihas, another Amazon species now demoted to the second loudest bird singer documented, the authors say. Podos says the songs are so deafening they reach decibel levels equal to the loudest human instruments. They measured pressure using a new generation sound level meter. These instruments allow one to take calibrated measures of amplitude with very high temporal precision, he adds. “This allows us to see how ampliutide changes and peaks within individual singing events.”
The researchers note that it’s actually hard to describe how loud the bellbird’s call is, because it’s difficult to compare sounds from different distances. But the calls are so loud, they wonder how white bellbird females listen at close range without damaging their hearing. Calls of howler monkeys and bison are well studied and quite loud, Podos, an expert in bioacoustics, points out, but not nearly as loud as the impressive bellbirds, who weigh about half a pound (1/4 kg) compared to the larger mammals.
Podos says, “We were lucky enough to see females join males on their display perches. In these cases, we saw that the males sing only their loudest songs. Not only that, they swivel dramatically during these songs, so as to blast the song’s final note directly at the females. We would love to know why females willingly stay so close to males as they sing so loudly,” he says. “Maybe they are trying to assess males up close, though at the risk of some damage to their hearing systems.”
For this work supported by a Fulbright scholarship to Podos, he and Cohn-Haft used high-quality sound recorders plus special sound-level meters and high-speed video to slow the action enough for study.
Among other goals, they tried to identify adaptations such as breathing musculature, head and beak size, the shape of the throat and how these may influence the unusual aptitude the birds have for long-distance song transmission, a topic that has been very poorly studied, Podos says. “We don’t know how small animals manage to get so loud. We are truly at the early stages of understanding this biodiversity.”
One of the new things the researchers learned is that there seems to be a trade-off at work for this behavior — as bellbird and piha songs get louder, they get shorter, they report. This may be because the birds’ respiratory systems have a finite ability to control airflow and generate sound.
Podos says the national institute in the Amazon’s largest city Manaus, is a global hub for studying biodiversity. His co-author, Cohn-Haft, who grew up in Williamsburg, Mass., not far from the UMass Amherst campus, is curator of birds at the national institute and a world expert on Amazonian birds and their identification. Cohn-Haft has been leading expeditions for years into remote Amazon areas to find and characterize bird species, habitats, behavior and vocalizations, which still are little known.
In these earlier expeditions, Cohn-Haft noticed that the bellbirds had some interesting anatomical features, including unusually thick, well-developed abdominal muscles and ribs, but science knew almost nothing about this, which led to the expedition. Podos says their recent discoveries in bellbirds in this rarely studied area of body structures shaped by natural selection provides new information, and an example of the consequences of sexual selection, which drives the evolution of exaggerated traits such as loud singing.
Podos says their studies also contribute important new findings about bird communication and song, “the glue that holds bird societies together”, and how they diverged morphologically by natural selection that changes the kind of songs they can sing and their social interactions. In future studies, Cohn-Haft says, he wants to further explore “the physical and anatomical structures and behaviors that allow bellbirds to produce such loud sounds and to endure them without hearing damage.”
The regrowth of Amazonian forests following deforestation can happen much slower than previously thought, a new study shows. The findings could have significant impacts for climate change predictions as the ability of secondary forests to soak up carbon from the atmosphere may have been over-estimated. The study, which monitored forest regrowth over two decades, shows that climate change, and the wider loss of forests, could be hampering regrowth in the Amazon: here.
The arapaima, pirarucu, or paiche (Arapaima) is a genus of bonytongue native to the Amazon and Essequibo basins in South America. They are the largest freshwater fish of South America, and among the largest freshwater fish in the world. Here I address the top 5 facts you may not have known about this freshwater giant.
What gives a 3-meter-long Amazonian fish some of the toughest scales on Earth
October 16, 2019
Arapaima gigas is a big fish in a bigger river full of piranhas, but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy meal. The freshwater giant has evolved armor-like scales that can deform, but do not tear or crack, when a piranha — which has one of the animal kingdom’s most powerful bites — attacks. Researchers from UC San Diego and UC Berkeley describe the unique properties of the Amazonian Arapaima skin and its potential for human-made materials October 16 in the journal Matter.
Arapaima’s adaptation naturally solves a problem that engineers face when attempting to develop synthetic armors. Arapaima’s scales have a tough, yet flexible, inner layer bound by collagen to its mineralized outer layer of scales. Similarly, bullet-proof vests are made of several layers of flexible webbing sandwiched between layers of hard plastic. But human-made materials are bound using a third adhesive material, whereas the fish’s scales are bound on an atomistic level; they grow together, weaving into one solid piece.
“A window may appear strong and solid, but it has no give. If something attempted to puncture it, the glass would shatter,” says senior author Robert Ritchie, a materials scientist at UC Berkeley. “When nature binds a hard material to a soft material, it grades it, preventing this shattering effect. And in this case, the binding structure is mineralized collagen.”
Other fish use collagen like Arapaima does, but the collagen layers in Arapaima scales are thicker than in any other fish species. The scales alone are each as thick as a grain of rice. Co-authors Yang, Quan, Meyers, and Ritchie hypothesize that this thickness is the secret to the fishes’ defense.
They tested this by soaking cracked Arapaima scales in water for 48 hours, then slowly pulling the edges apart while adding pressure to a central point. As they added pressure, they observed that the part of the mineralized, hard outer layer expanded, cracked, then gradually peeled off. The scales then localized the crack, containing it and preventing damage from spreading in the twisting structural collagen layer. If the pressure did break through to the collagen, it deformed the layer instead of breaking it.
If humans can develop a flexible hierarchical structure that behaves like the collagen layer in the fish scales, Ritchie says that better, potentially impermeable, synthetic armors can be made. But he also acknowledges that this reality may be a number of years down the line.
Until then, Ritchie’s team will investigate how Arapaima’s scales have adapted to prevent penetration from piranha bites as well as how nature behaves this way in other species.
“We have to preserve the correct amount (of forest). The government has to help the small farmers, prioritise the (forest) reserves, take care of the reserves, because people do more illegal things in the big reserves …”, said 30-year old farmer, Willian Sabara Dos Santos.
While much of the world has been gripped by the accelerating surge of deforestation and wildfires in the Amazon rainforest and its implications for the global environment, the Brazilian and international ruling classes have sought to exploit the fires to gain advantage in the geopolitical and trade disputes that divide them.
The wildfires in both the Amazon—covering roughly a third of South America and stretching across all of its countries except for Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay—and in the contiguous Pantanal wetland ecosystem in Paraguay and Bolívia surged in August. Simultaneous states of emergency and alerts were declared across several regions in both Peru and Brazil, while ashes descended over large areas of southern Brazil. Combined with a cold front coming from the south, the ashes blotted out the sun in the southeast of the country.
The August fires are the culmination of a protracted attack on Brazilian environmental and labor regulations. This process accelerated after the world economic crisis hit Brazil’s economy with full force from 2013 on, causing landowners to employ more destructive methods in order to lower production and labor costs, particularly by clearing new swaths of land at the edge of the rainforest or along the roads and waterways that run through it.
Deforestation was up by no less than 278 percent in July over the same period in 2018, while wildfires in the country were up 84 percent over last year. May through September is the dry season throughout the center of South America, and is also the time for seasonal agricultural burn-offs for both peasants and plantations.
Amazon deforestation, however, is not merely an incremental phenomenon: having lost 17 percent of its original extension, the forest is predicted to collapse if this loss reaches 25 percent, at which point irreversible damage would result in its desertification and transformation into a savannah. The Amazon forest is a huge carbon dioxide sink, with experts estimating that its biomass holds the equivalent of a hundred years of current levels of US carbon emissions.
With the desertification of the forest, most of these emissions would be released into the atmosphere, making even more difficult the already herculean task of reducing current emissions to contain global warming. Based on the average deforestation rate of recent years, experts estimated that such a collapse would come in 20 years, but the escalation of deforestation rates this year could bring such a point forward to within five years.
A prominent role in the increased fires is certainly played by global warming, which is lengthening the dry season. Its most immediate trigger, however, has been the concerted campaign by both Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro and Amazonian state governors in pushing through deregulation and turning a blind eye to the destruction of the forest.
For their part, local governments have defunded the work of—and security for—rangers with the National Environmental and Renewable Resources Institute (IBAMA), exposing them to the violent retaliation of private mercenary armies working for big landowners, effectively blocking the enforcement of anti-deforestation laws.
The governor of Acre, Brazil’s westernmost state at the border with Bolivia, told supporters at a rally in late May not to pay environmental fines. Thumping his chest, he added that landowners who received fines should personally contact him. At the eastern edge of the forest, in the state of Pará, Governor Helder Barbalho enacted a law in early July vastly widening the conditions for the legalization of private ownership of public land.
Ostensibly directed at giving property rights to peasants who settled public lands after being displaced from other regions by either political or economic pressures, such laws have been used in Brazil for almost two centuries to fraudulently transfer property to big landowners. Barbalho has now scrapped the requirement that the claimant to the property actually settle it, requiring instead that merely the “intention” of settling it be presented. Estimates are that no less than 15 percent of the state’s territory will now be up for grabs.
Pará leads the growth in Amazon deforestation, and local newspapers reported on August 5 that owners of large farms on the edges of the BR-163 national road were organizing a “fire day” for August 10, reportedly to “show Bolsonaro they were willing to work” and felt “supported” by him.
The news of the accelerated destruction of the Amazon has provoked justifiable anger and revulsion in Brazil and around the world under conditions of increasing hostility to the inaction of world governments over global warming. Large demonstrations have been held in major Brazilian cities as well as across Europe and internationally.
However, the debate over the Amazon situation has also exposed the grave dangers for workers and youth around the world stemming from the attempt to corral the fight against global warming behind a renewed push for a “green” rehabilitation of capitalism.
For months, the Bolsonaro administration had been sparring with the governments of Germany and Norway, which were major donors for the so-called “Amazon Fund” set up under the government of Workers Party (PT) president Lula da Silva in 2008. The Fund was created to help in reducing deforestation and fires, but in May, Bolsonaro disbanded its board of oversight by decree, partly in retaliation against the NGOs that constituted part of it. Both countries then announced the suspension of funding.
The saber-rattling escalated after Foreign Policy published an article conjecturing that doctrines such as “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) could be evoked in the near future by major world powers to take control of the Amazon. It added that Brazil was “fragile enough” to bow to pressures, with its control of the rainforest due solely to “purely historical reasons.”
Finally, on August 22 a tweet by French President Emmanuel Macron, declaring he would propose an “international discussion” on the Amazon at the G-7 meeting over the weekend, provoked a furious reaction from the Bolsonaro government. One of his intelligence advisers, retired Army Gen. Eduardo Villas Bôas went so far as to quote Ho Chi Minh and cite the devastation of French Pacific colonies by nuclear tests in order to question France’s “moral authority.” …
On Monday night, the Brazilian government doubled down on the rhetoric, refusing to accept the paltry $20 million offered by the G7 countries to help fight the fires. On Tuesday, Bolsonaro told reporters in Brasilia that he would take the money only if Macron withdrew “the insults he made against me.”
Macron’s main worry is not the destruction of the Amazon, but rather making his own nationalist appeal to French farmers opposed to the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement that is being voted upon by the parliaments of both bloc’s countries. The French president threatened to veto the deal unless Brazil takes more decisive action to protect the Amazon.
In the long term, imperialist powers have definite strategic interests in relation to the Amazon, which contains 20 percent of the world’s fresh water as well as some of the world’s largest rare earths reserves and is the site of a veritable “gold rush” for intellectual property over compounds that may be extracted from the rainforest’s 3 million species.
With its [automobile] industry standing to benefit from the free trade pact, Germany expressed reservations over Macron’s rhetoric, while other EU countries highly dependent on agriculture, such as Ireland, vocally sided with Macron. Most of the EU governments, however, declined to take an aggressive tone, fearing the agreement could be put in danger, together with the profits expected from the general lowering of wages that will follow the imposition of savage competition imposed upon the workers of both continents with the approval of the deal. …
The assumption that an intervention over the Amazon by major imperialist powers is to be naively accepted as legitimate plays directly into the hands of Bolsonaro and Villas Bôas, with their “anti-imperialist” posturing and newly-discovered quotes from Ho Chi Minh. …
A progressive answer to the immense dangers caused by the burning of the Amazon rainforest is impossible under a system founded upon brutal exploitation and massive social inequality defended by Bolsonaro and Macron alike. It can come only out of the struggle of the working class for the overthrow of capitalism and the abolition of the profit system.
USA: ADMINISTRATION DIDN’T AGREE TO AMAZON AID The Trump administration did not agree to a $20 million aid package proposed at G-7 to help Brazil fight the fires in the Amazon rainforest. The White House National Security Council said that the U.S. didn’t commit because of a lack of coordination with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. [HuffPost]
GLOBAL ECONOMY COMPLICIT IN AMAZON’S DESTRUCTION Name any fast-food restaurant, personal care product or home good you have bought recently, and chances are it contributed to the deforestation of the Amazon. Now name a big bank ― any big bank, really. More than likely it has helped finance that destruction. [HuffPost]
The loss of forest cover in the Amazon has a significant impact on the local climate in Brazil, according to a new study: here.
DEFORESTATION CRISIS: GROUND ZERO Nearly a decade ago, the Brazillian municipality of Altamira sat at the center of another major environmental dispute, over the construction of a massive hydroelectric dam on the Amazon River. The dam led to a boom in construction, but indigenous tribes and scientists warned that Altamira would one day become ground zero in an Amazonian crisis. [HuffPost]
The world’s tropical forests store huge quantities of carbon in their biomass and thus constitute an important carbon sink. However, current estimates of the amount of carbon dioxide stored in tropical forests of the Amazon vary largely. Scientists at the UFZ have developed an approach that uses recent satellite data to provide much more precise estimates of the amount of biomass in tropical forests than in the past. This makes it possible to obtain a more exact picture of the consequences of droughts and forest fires for the Amazon: here.
The Brazilian government refuses the millions in aid from the G7 countries to fight the Amazon fires. At the G7 summit in Biarritz, the US, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom and Canada offered EUR 18 million.
“France must first comply with the points in the Paris Climate Agreement,” the Brazilian Foreign Ministry writes in a communiqué, “before launching unnecessary initiatives”. The Brazilians point out that in the Climate Agreement, billions were promised to prevent deforestation, but “those agreements are not being met”.
The Brazilian refusal is surprising: Environment Minister Salles had previously said that the aid would be very welcome. But President Bolsonaro was sceptical from the start. …
Moreover, the Brazilian government considers all attention to the fires to be very exaggerated. It is just the dry season and there are always fires, that is not very special, says the government. “But according to the figures, that is not entirely justified,” says [NOS coprrespondent] Bessems. “NASA said it’s the worst fires since 2010.” …
[French President] Macron and Bolsonaro clashed more than once in recent days.
It is basically a pot calling the kettle black situation.
Minister Onyx, the right-hand man of President Bolsonaro, now suggests that the G7 money could be better used “to reforest Europe”. According to Brazilian media, he added that Macron should not lecture the Brazilians, “because he could not even prevent the fire in Notre Dame.”
Remarkably, Germany and Norway recently suspended their support for the Amazon Fund, which is intended to protect Brazil against deforestation. Norway has invested a billion euros in the fund over the past ten years, making it the largest contributor. According to both countries, the Bolsonaro government is making the work of the fund impossible and therefore it makes no sense to spend money on it.
TRUMP TRADE WAR LINKED TO RAINFOREST DESTRUCTION As U.S. soybeans lie unsold, Brazilian farmers and corporations scramble to satisfy the voracious Chinese market. The push to break new ground amid President Donald Trump’s trade war with China is putting increasing pressure on the Amazon rainforest and is likely linked to the region’s devastating fires. [HuffPost]
CHINA FOREIGN MINISTRY REP. ‘UNAWARE’ OF CALLS TO U.S. Shortly after Trump said Monday in France that Chinese officials had reached out by phone to restart trade talks, a representative of China’s Foreign Ministry said he was “not aware” of any such calls. [HuffPost]