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Harvard report details the threats faced by New England forests
by Brooks Hays
Washington (UPI) Sep 19, 2017

Threatened Amazon reserve already being mined: Greenpeace
Rio De Janeiro (AFP) Sept 19, 2017 - A huge nature reserve in Brazil's Amazon rainforest that the government wants to open to foreign mining companies already suffers from illegal mining activity, Greenpeace said Tuesday.

The environmental activist group said its investigators had flown over part of the Denmark-sized reserve known as Renca in the eastern Amazon and found at least 14 illegal mines and eight clandestine landing strips used by miners.

Greenpeace said this showed the risks faced by Renca even without President Michel Temer's proposal for ending a ban on large-scale foreign mining in the mineral-rich region.

"We flew over a small part of Renca and found all these places in just one conservation unit. How many more might exist across the region?" asked Marcio Astrin from Greenpeace in a statement.

"If the Brazilian government can't control the illegal activity now, when this area is under protection, what will happen to Renca with commercial exploration?"

Temer's decree signed on August 25 on opening up Renca was suspended days later after an international outcry. The government says it will allow 120 days of debate before taking a decision.

Temer argues that lifting restrictions will allow Brazil to boost its struggling economy and also push the hugely destructive wildcat mining operations out of business.

At the United Nations on Tuesday, Temer told the General Assembly that Brazil plays a leading role in environmental protection.

"Brazil is proud to have the largest coverage of tropical forests on the planet. Deforestation is an issue that concerns us, especially in the Amazon. To this issue we have dedicated attention and resources," he said.

Every day, New England loses an average of 65 acres of forest to development.

The statistic is one of several worrying trends detailed in the newest Wildlands and Woodlands, Farmlands and Communities report, published periodically by Harvard Forest, a research institute at Harvard University.

"The incremental chipping away of forest and farmland by scattered development is hard to see day-to-day but it adds up over time and represents a significant threat to the region," David Foster, director of Harvard Forest, said in a news release. "If we stay on the current path, we'll lose another 1.2 million acres of open land by 2060."

Researchers warn development and deforestation are greater threats to New England's iconic trees than global warming.

"When we look specifically at forests in New England, it is clear that the impacts of land use will be far greater than those of climate change over the next 50 years," said Jonathan Thompson, a senior ecologist at the research institute.

The latest publication is the third edition of the report. Previous iterations have called for the protection of 30 million acres of forest across New England's six states -- 70 percent of the region's land area. The newest edition weighs in on the progress being made toward such a goal.

Some 90 percent of the preserved land would be sustainably managed for timber, wood products and other benefits, while the remaining 10 percent would be conserved as wilderness.

To achieve this goal, researchers say more conservation efforts are necessary. Funding for forest conservation has been cut in half over the last decade. But with increases in conservation, researchers say the goals set forth in the first Harvard Forest report are still achievable.

Authors of the newest report argue public policy officials, forest managers and conservationists must do more to encourage sustainable farming and forestry. The team of Harvard ecologists also argue forest and land conservation needs to be better integrated into urban, suburban and rural planning, as well as economic development projects.

Above all, researchers say, local, state and federal governments and agencies must do more to protect and grow conservation funding.

Researchers discover new tree genus in the Andes
Washington (UPI) Sep 7, 2017
Researchers have discovered a new species and genus of tree hiding in plain sight in Peru's tropical Andes. Every year, the forests of South America yield new species. Just this month, a new study detailed the discovery of 381 new species in the Amazonian forests of Brazil. Most new species, however, are relatively small in stature, living in caves, small streams or especially de ... read more

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