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Foster Brown, "Maintaining Forest Cover and Biodiversity in Amazonia"
Changing water and fire cycles
in Southwestern Amazonia
RESTORING WATER CYCLES TO
REVERSE GLOBAL WARMING
18 OCTOBER 2015
MEDFORD, MA, USA
The Amazon is big – 6 million square
kilometers - but how big is that?
The Amazon is
the size of the
Perhaps it helps
to talk about
P. Lefevbre, WHRC
One of those: The
Bolivia, Brazil, and
Peru meet –
the MAP Region,
the size of New
New Jersey, and
P. Lefevbre, WHRC
MAP Region map
Madre de Dios, Peru
The trinational MAP Region
A land of climate extremes in the
last ten years 2005-2015
Severe droughts and forest fires: 2005 and 2010
Flooding: State of Emergency in Rio Branco:
2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, the last
Flooding in Madeira River in 2014: reduced truck
traffic by 90% during two months.
Heat wave in 2015: July-August-September 30+
days with peak temperatures above 35º C (95º
F) in Rio Branco, Acre.
2005 and 2010: two ´one-in-a-century´ droughts
with epicenters in southwestern Amazonia.
In 2005, the prolonged drought
changed the forests from fire
barriers to kindling.
Results for old-growth rainforests with canopy-damage:
1. Acre, Brazil - more than 3,000 square kilometers
2. Pando, Bolivia - more than 1,000 square kilometers
3. Madre de Dios, Peru more than 200 square kilometers
Extensive fires in pastures, agricultural lands and agroforestry
Noon, Acrelândia, Acre 17Sep05
Fire propagating within the forest
Example of what happened in 2005, 27Sep05
How to fight these fires?
Near Xapuri, Acre
A forest with its canopy affected by fire
Xapuri, Acre 21Aug05
Before fire propagated into the forest
Eastern Acre, Oct 2005: >
300,000 ha of forests
impacted by fires.
These fires can last for weeks and produce their own fuel.
Triunfo, Plácido de Castro, Acre, 09Sep06.
Forest ready for a
Acrelândia, Acre. 17Sep05
Hot coals can last for days/weeks in
Smoke concentrations in late September 2005 >> 25 ug m-3
Lessons from 2005 and past droughts
for fire cycles
2-3 months without significant rain can allow forest fires
to advance into old-growth rainforests.
This time is apparently becoming shorter due to higher
The 1925-26 drought lasted for 7-8 months in Acre. A
repeat would be disastrous with the greater number of
ignition points set by slash-and-burn agriculturalists and
We need to change human behavior in relation to fire
during prolonged droughts or face wide-spread forest
fires in southwestern Amazonia.
Photo: Sergio Vale
BR-364, Rondonia, Brazil
And then there were floods.
THE MAJOR HIGHWAY, BR-364, CONNECTING THE
MAP REGION AND SOUTHERN BRAZIL IN 2014
In the last seven years, Rio Branco has
declared states of emergency in every one
of them for flooding.
But the most dramatic have been in 2012
2015 was a repeat of 2012, but on steroids.
Flood in Iñapari, Madre de Dios, Peru, 16 Feb 2012.
The headwaters of the Acre River.
Iñapari, 17:25, 16feb12
Via Mercedes Perales.
Impact in Brasileia, Acre. 2012
Foto: Carlos Portela
A Gazeta, 28fev12.
“Acre faces its worst natural disaster in its history”, declares
[Senator] Jorge Viana. That was in 2012, it got worse in
Paradigm shift from building to rebuilding/recovery.
This the second floor of a house in Brasileia, Acre. 24feb15
Marcus Alexandre, Mayor of Rio Branco on 28 Mar13: “We
haven’t recovered from last year’s flooding and now with have
another.” = loss of Resilience
After the flood of 2015 – “it will take 5 years to recover.” (but it
floods every year.)
Then in 2014, the flooding of the
Madeira River isolated the MAP
Region from southern Brazil for two
Where did the wáter come from?
Puerto Maldonado, Peru upstream Madre de Dios
River – Worst flooding in 50 years. 6fev14.
Rains in the Beni, Bolivia. Loss of 100+
thousand head of cattle.
Beni, Bolivia – This water drained into the Madeira River
Highway Br-364 in late march 2014
Carretera BR-364 Rondonia
Reduction of transportation up to 90%
Sergio Vale, ASCOM-AC, mar14
Things are serious when it is necessary to
Supermercado Mesquita, Conj. Tucumã, RB. 13Apr14.
We have a lot of problems in the
MAP Region related to climate
already and more on the way.
Proliferating dams in
150 planned dams of
>2 MW over next 20
Finer, Matt, and Clinton N. Jenkins. “Proliferation of Hydroelectric
Dams in the Andean Amazon and Implications for Andes-
Amazon Connectivity.” PLOS ONE 7, no. 4 (April 18, 2012).
Nature 502, no. 7470 (October 10, 2013):
…”Here we present a new index of the year when the projected mean climate of a given
location moves to a state continuously outside the bounds of historical variability under
alternative greenhouse gas emissions scenarios. Using 1860 to 2005 as the historical
period, this index has a global mean of 2069 (±18 years s.d.) for near-surface air
temperature under an emissions stabilization scenario and 2047 (±14 years s.d.) under a
‘business-as-usual’ scenario. Unprecedented climates will occur earliest in the tropics and
among low-income countries,…”
Rio Branco: departure date: 2019-2024
or 5 to 10 years.
The MAP Region has departure dates
for a ‘new climate’ in a few years.
Acre and the MAP Region will become
a Amazonian epicenter for climate
change and impacts
ACRE AS THE CANARY IN THE
AMAZONIAN CLIMATE MINE.
Abstract submitted to AGU Session on Extreme events
in Amazonia: how to adapt and mitigate –
December 205, San Francisco, CA, USA
The Challenges from Extreme Climate Events for
Sustainable Development in Amazonia: the Acre
Dra. Maria de Nazareth Araújo Lambert, Vice-Governor, State of Acre
”… For the last 17 years, successive state administrations have been
implementing a socio-environmental model of development that strives to link
sustainable economic production with environmental conservation, particularly
for small communities. In this context, extreme climate events have interfered
significantly with this model, increasing the risks of failure. …”
A little side track into philosophy
Problemology and Solutionology
My training and its underlying paradigms
are in problemology – defining the
It is an essential step, but an incomplete
one. Society wants solutions.
Nevertheless, how you define problems
affects how you look for solutions.
model, (…) prototype, archetype
"why should your sets of values be the paradigm
for the rest of us?"
a typical example or pattern of something; a model.
Paradigms are part of our world view. They are inventions of the human
mind. What paradigms do que need to change? What are enduring?
Note that the world didn´t change, only the chick´s perception of it.
Central to this Conference:
restoration of small water cycles
and climate – a paradigm shift.
A phrase attributed to G.E.
Hutchinson by Tom Lovejoy:
“What is right about this paper?”
And what applies to the Amazon?
Arraut et al. 2011. Aerial Rivers and
Lakes: looking at large scale moisture
transport, its relation to Amazonia and
to Subtropical Rainfall in South
America. Journal of Climate.
Biotic Pump Concept – Submitted to
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics
in 2010, published in 2013.
But not without controversy – a rare
editor comment published with the
Editor Comment. The authors have presented an entirely new view
of what may be driving dynamics in the atmosphere. This new
theory has been subject to considerable criticism … (3) The handling
editor (and the executive committee) concluded to allow final
publication of the manuscript in ACP, in order to facilitate further
development of the presented arguments, which may lead to
disproof or validation by the scientific community.
Dry season: pasture lower evapotranspiration
than the forests
Leste do Acre
Water vapor from forest
Water vapor from pasture
Regional climate change where rains are reduced by
deforestation. Maintain forests is to maintain
evapotranspiration, an ecosystem service.
Mainstream science, but not incorporated in Brazilian public
Is this already occurring?
Increased flow from the Araguaia River 25% in two
decades 80/89 a 90/99 - 2/3 due to deforestation
(note paradigm change)
2011 Biogeochemistry DOI 10.1007/s10533-011-9582-2
A paradigm shift for Amazonia –
loss of forest = loss of rainfall = loss
of agricultural productivity.
Current state of knowledge: don´t
deforest or you lose water.
But message is seeping in slowly to
policy makers and the public.
Biotic pump concept will take even
estimates of deforested
area in Amazonia.
About 6 million square kilometers of forest
Loss from 1970 to 2013: 13% of the forest, but
at an accelerating rate from 2000.
In other words, most of the Amazon forest is still
there – a focus on preservation/conservation
But what about restoration, is there a place in
A place for restoration? Yes!
13 percent of 6 million square kilometers is
780,000 km2, about the combined size of
California and Montana. And the area is
growing every year.
Eastern Acre, Brazil,
deforested area is
the size of
Everything Should Be Made as Simple as
Possible, But Not Simpler. – Attributed to
Albert Einstein, but apparently simplified*.
A synonym for Holistic is complex.
For climate change there is no
*Probably derived from: “It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make
the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the
adequate representation of a single datum of experience.” (1933, Herbert Spencer Lecture.
71% of the Earth, the ocean, is already
<16% -croplands, savannas, shrublands where
hydration of landscapes are possible (Loveland et
Surface area of Earth in millions km2
oceans Crops/Sav Forests/ice
T. R. Loveland , B. C. Reed , J. F. Brown , D. O. Ohlen , Z.
Zhu , L. Yang & J. W. Merchant (2000) Development of a
global land cover characteristics database and IGBP
DISCover from 1 km AVHRR data, International Journal of
Remote Sensing, 21:6-7, 1303-1330, DOI:
The impact of terrestrial water storage
on sea-level rise 3.2 cm (1961-2003)
…We find that, together, unsustainable groundwater use, artificial
reservoir water impoundment, climate-driven changes in terrestrial
water storage and the loss of water from closed basins have
contributed a sea-level rise of about 0.77 mm yr−1 between 1961 and
2003, about 42% of the observed sea-level rise. We note that, of
these components, the unsustainable use of groundwater represents
the largest contribution.
Pokhrel, Yadu N., Naota Hanasaki, Pat J-F. Yeh, Tomohito J. Yamada,
Shinjiro Kanae, and Taikan Oki. “Model Estimates of Sea-Level Change due
to Anthropogenic Impacts on Terrestrial Water Storage.” Nature Geosci 5,
no. 6 (June 2012): 389–92. doi:10.1038/ngeo1476.
Who is doing holistic thinking
at a global scale?
Who could bring together
the links of a chain,
emissionaries, wáter cyclists,
A former bouncer once
known as Jorge Bergoglio
has come up with
O Pensador, Rodin
Paragraph 3. “Now, faced as we are with global environmental
deterioration, I wish to address every person living on this planet… In this
Encyclical, I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our
I am not Catholic, but felt included.
We need to join the links, Pope
14. I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the
future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the
environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and
affect us all.
…Regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis
have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also
because of a more general lack of interest.
…We require a new and universal solidarity.
…All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each
according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents.
The most important links in the chain are
not the strongest ones, but the ones that
are missing or weak.
What ones are lacking for climate
change and rehydrating landscapes?
Conclusions and ruminations
The Amazon basin is big, diverse, and with growing extreme climate
As a consequence, the Amazon is in both the preservation and
Paradigm shifts are occurring that change the framing of problems
Water is better than carbon to mobilize local and regional efforts to
address climate change.
Small water cycle paradigm is critical, but can create expectations
of a silver bullet, it is part of a bigger effort.
Big problems need big ideas for solutions: Laudato Si – an example.
We are together on this journey.
Going up Envira River