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Timber harvested illegally under fraudulent permits is undercutting conservation efforts in the Brazilian Amazon, new research by an international collaboration shows.
The findings represent a troublesome counterpunch to an overall decline in deforestation rates in the region and indicate high-value timber species such as ipê may be at risk of overexploitation.
Study - Today - Science - Advances
The study appeared today in Science Advances.
At 2.1 million square miles, the Amazon Rainforest is the world's largest intact forest, with the majority of it in Brazil.
Amazon - Basin - Percent - Plant - Species
The Amazon Basin is home to 10 percent of all known plant and animal species and stores 100 billion metric tons of carbon—greater than 10 times the amount emitted each year from the use of fossil fuels.
Over the last four decades, more than 18 percent of the Brazilian Amazon—picture an area roughly the size of California—has been lost to illegal logging, soy plantations and cattle ranches, though at a decelerating pace; the rate of deforestation went down 76 percent from 2004 to 2017.
Research - Scientists - Oregon - State - University
However, research by scientists at Oregon State University and in Brazil suggests another, possibly widespread threat: the practice of falsifying timber inventory data to provide legal cover to transport and market illegally harvested trees.
"If a company receives permits to extract and transport more timber than exists on the property covered by the permits, wood harvested illegally from other areas can be sold as if it came from the permitted property," said study co-author Mark Schulze, faculty member in OSU's College of Forestry and director of the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest.
Schulze - Author - Pedro - Brancalion - University
Schulze, corresponding author Pedro Brancalion of the University of Sao Paulo and Brazilian colleagues analyzed discrepancies between estimated timber volumes in a national forest inventory and volumes of logging permits. They found a strong and deliberate "overestimation bias" of high-value species—that means there weren't as many of those trees as had been estimated, or...
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