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Soybean Planting Hastens Drying Of Amazonia

Around a seventh of the original Brazilian rainforest has been destroyed for agriculture.
by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) April 18, 2007
Chopping down Amazonian rainforest to plant soybeans is even more damaging to the environment than using the land for cattle pasture, according to a study reported on Wednesday. Soybean fields in Brazil reduce local rainfall by four times as much as pasture land, the British weekly New Scientist said.

The reason: soybean fields are light in colour, which means they reflect a lot of solar radiation.

As a result, the surface of the field is heated less, which in turn reduces the amount of warm air convected from the ground. That means fewer clouds form, and ultimately less precipitation falls.

The study, by Federal University of Vicosa researchers in Brazil, appears in a specialist journal, Geophysical Research Letters.

On forest plots that had been cleared for soybean there was a 15.7 percent decrease in rainfall, while the same clearance for pasture produced a 3.9 percent decrease, the scientists found.

Around a seventh of the original Brazilian rainforest has been destroyed for agriculture so far, New Scientist said.

Eighty-five percent of this land use had gone to cattle pasture, and 15 percent to soybean, a crop whose popularity is fast expanding as a food and biofuel.

earlier related report
Latin America at risk from social, economic inequalities: WEF
Geneva (AFP) April 18 - Latin America's economies are less vulnerable to sudden disruption than in previous decades but social and economic inequalities pose a growing concern, the World Economic Forum (WEF) said on Wednesday.

"Perhaps the region's greatest ongoing concerns are social and economic inequalities -- which remain the most significant in the world," the WEF said in a report on risks facing the region.

Latin America is the "most unequal region in the world," where 25 percent of the population lives on less than 2.0 dollars (1.5 euros) per day despite average growth rates of more than 4.0 percent over the past three years.

"Economic inequality and social marginalisation are the greatest risks facing Latin America. These longstanding twin disappointments continue to hamper the region's progress -- social cohesion and inclusive economic development are joined at the hip," the report said.

It called for greater political will to tackle vested interests, adding that the region's business community has the capacity to become a key catalyst for change.

Economic inequalities and perceptions of injustice can feed into political instability and a rise in populism, even though the level of democratic stability over the past two decades in unsurpassed in history, the WEF said.

"The poor and lower middle class in Latin America are still largely disconnected and do not feel the benefits of globalisation and liberalisation. The mismatch of interests and/or perceptions of globalisation could lead to an endogenous backlash, protectionism and political tensions," it warned.

Climate change is another cloud on the horizon with an increased risk of extreme weather, drought, food insecurity, disease and population displacement, the report said.

Illegal logging and deforestation in the Amazon Basin could also have disastrous consequences not only for the region but also the rest of the world, it added.

However, the need for new investments in alternative energy sources such as biofuels could provide opportunities for innovation and economic growth.

"Latin America is well positioned to become the global leader in biofuels and renewable energy," especially due to sugarcane refining in Brazil and soybeans in Argentina, the WEF said.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Related Links
Federal University of Vicosa
Save the Forests at Wood Pile

Greater Use Of Biofuels Threatens Rain Forests
Madrid (AFP) April 18, 2007
Greater use of biofuels as an alternative to fossil fuels will threaten tropical rain forests, biodiversity and food security, environmentalists warned at a two-day summit on biofuels that wrapped up Wednesday in Madrid.

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