Search

 

Cablegate: Amazon Forest Stressed by Fire and Climate Change

VZCZCXRO0068
RR RUEHAST RUEHHM RUEHLN RUEHMA RUEHPB RUEHPOD RUEHTM
DE RUEHBR #0922/01 1911035
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 091035Z JUL 08 ZDS
FM AMEMBASSY BRASILIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2069
INFO RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 0327
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN 0346
RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK 0502
RUEHUP/AMEMBASSY BUDAPEST 0320
RUEHCP/AMEMBASSY COPENHAGEN 0364
RUEHOR/AMEMBASSY GABORONE 0323
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 0329
RUEHLC/AMEMBASSY LIBREVILLE 0330
RUEHSJ/AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE 0850
RUEHSV/AMEMBASSY SUVA 0309
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 0545
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 5678
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 0471
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ 6378
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA 3896
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 2549
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 4658
RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 6953
RUEHGE/AMEMBASSY GEORGETOWN 1540
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 7461
RUEHPO/AMEMBASSY PARAMARIBO 1594
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 4183
RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 8252
RUEHSO/AMCONSUL SAO PAULO 2386
RUEHRI/AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO 6385
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RHEBAAA/DOE WASHDC
RUEHC/DOI WASHDC
RUEAWJA/DOJ WASHDC
RUEAEPA/HQ EPA WASHDC
RUEANAT/NASA HQ WASHDC
RUCPDC/NOAA WASHDC
RUMIAAA/USCINCSO MIAMI FL
RUEHRC/USDA WASHDC
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 09 BRASILIA 000922

SIPDIS

DEPT PASS USAID LAC/RSD,LAC/SAM,G/ENV,PPC/ENV
TREASURY FOR USED IBRD AND IDB AND INTL/MDB
USDA FOR FOREST SERVICE: LIZ MAHEW
USDA FOR FOREIGN AGRICULTURE SERVICE:CJACKSON
INTERIOR FOR DIR INT AFFAIRS: KWASHBURN
INTERIOR FOR FWS: TOM RILEY
INTERIOR FOR NPS: JONATHAN PUTNAM
INTERIOR PASS USGS FOR INTERNATIONAL:JWEAVER
JUSTICE, ENVIRONMENT NATURAL RESOURCES:JWEBB
EPA FOR INTERNATIONAL: CAM HILL-MACON
USDA FOR ARS/INTERNATIONAL RESEARCH: GFLANLEY
NSF FOR INTERNATIONAL: HAROLD STOLBERG

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV EAGR EAID TBIO ECON XR BR
SUBJECT: AMAZON FOREST STRESSED BY FIRE AND CLIMATE CHANGE

BRASILIA 00000922 001.2 OF 009

1. SUMMARY. This is the second in a two-part series addressing the
impacts of climate change and fire (Part 2), and agricultural
expansion and infrastructure integration (Part 1) on Amazon
rainforest vulnerability and conservation. Most climate change
models predict a 21st century warming and drying trend for the
southern Amazon basin. In combination with forest fragmentation,
this warming trend will create a feedback loop of increasing forest
vulnerability to fire, drought, and continued climate change.
Researchers predict that Amazon rainforest vulnerability is
approaching an ecological "tipping point" that could result in a
climate-driven transition from rainforests to savannah and semi-arid
vegetation. However, collaborative, Amazon basin governance efforts
could reduce forest degradation via regional fire prevention
strategies to prevent and control undesirable fires, creation of
protected areas in the path of expanding agricultural frontiers, and
creation of market mechanisms to balance drivers of extractive
deforestation. END SUMMARY.

INFLUENCE OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON FOREST RESILIENCE

2. While there is variation among climate change models predicting
the future of the Amazon rainforest, the highly-regarded Hadley
Centre model (HadCM3LC) simulations indicate that the 21st century
will bring increased Amazon warming and dryness, particularly
southern parts of the Amazon rainforest. HadCM3LC, a fully coupled
land-atmosphere global climate model incorporating plant physiology
and photosynthetic response, further suggests that future decades
will bring a climate-driven substitution of forests by savannah and
semi-arid vegetation, described as an Amazon forest 'dieback', a
term originally coined by Carlos Nobre, of the Brazilian Institute
for Space Research (INPE). Regions predicted to be most affected by
climate change and reduced precipitation include: the eastern,
southeastern, and southwestern Amazon basin, in particular the
tri-border region with Brazil, Bolivia, and Peru. The northwest
Amazon basin (Colombia, Ecuador, and northern Peru) is likely to
maintain high rainfall levels owing to the collision (rise and
condensation) of trade winds with the north central Andean chain.

3. Climate models such as HadCM3LC do not however, account for the
effects of rapid land-use change, fire-induced forest degradation,
and current localized Amazon rainforest climate change. The
synergistic factors of deforestation, forest fragmentation, fire,

BRASILIA 00000922 002.2 OF 009

1. SUMMARY. This is the second in a two-part series addressing the
impacts of climate change and fire (Part 2), and agricultural
expansion and infrastructure integration (Part 1) on Amazon
rainforest vulnerability and conservation. Most climate change
models predict a 21st century warming and drying trend for the
southern Amazon basin. In combination with forest fragmentation,
this warming trend will create a feedback loop of increasing forest
vulnerability to fire, drought, and continued climate change.
Researchers predict that Amazon rainforest vulnerability is
approaching an ecological "tipping point" that could result in a
climate-driven transition from rainforests to savannah and semi-arid
vegetation. However, collaborative, Amazon basin governance efforts
could reduce forest degradation via regional fire prevention
strategies to prevent and control undesirable fires, creation of
protected areas in the path of expanding agricultural frontiers, and
creation of market mechanisms to balance drivers of extractive
deforestation. END SUMMARY.

and regional climate change suggest that the Amazon biome in the
21st century may be even more vulnerable than climate models
predict, according to Daniel Nepstad (formerly Woods Hole Research
Center, currently Moore Foundation) and colleagues. NOTE: A biome
is defined as a regional ecological community characterized by
distinctive plant and animal species. END NOTE.

4. Recent research by Sampaio and Nobre (INPE) indicates that land
clearing (including land conversion for agricultural use) that
exceeds 30 percent of regional forest area may cause declining
precipitation, resulting in a positive feedback loop that
exacerbates forest drying and increases forest susceptibility to
further degradation. On the shortest time scale, fire may also
inhibit regional rainfall by liberating particulate matter into the
atmosphere, disrupting natural condensation and precipitation
patterns.

DROUGHT AND FIRE AS DRIVERS OF FOREST DEGRADATION

5. With climate models indicating increased air temperatures and
decreased precipitation over the Amazon forest, droughts of greater
frequency, duration, and intensity are predicted. Such droughts
increase forest vulnerability by decreasing water uptake and
increasing the quantity of dry organic material that fuels fires,

BRASILIA 00000922 003.2 OF 009

1. SUMMARY. This is the second in a two-part series addressing the
impacts of climate change and fire (Part 2), and agricultural
expansion and infrastructure integration (Part 1) on Amazon
rainforest vulnerability and conservation. Most climate change
models predict a 21st century warming and drying trend for the
southern Amazon basin. In combination with forest fragmentation,
this warming trend will create a feedback loop of increasing forest
vulnerability to fire, drought, and continued climate change.
Researchers predict that Amazon rainforest vulnerability is
approaching an ecological "tipping point" that could result in a
climate-driven transition from rainforests to savannah and semi-arid
vegetation. However, collaborative, Amazon basin governance efforts
could reduce forest degradation via regional fire prevention
strategies to prevent and control undesirable fires, creation of
protected areas in the path of expanding agricultural frontiers, and
creation of market mechanisms to balance drivers of extractive
deforestation. END SUMMARY.

often pushing forests over a flammability threshold, and creating
conditions that lead to more intense and severe fires. Recent
experiences with regional drought point to the 2005 season in the
southwestern Amazon basin(Bolivia-Brazil-Peru MAP region), that
resulted in the burning of over 300,000 hectares of normally
fire-resistant primary forest due to anthropogenic (human-set)
fires. Over US$50 million in direct economic losses were reported
in the region. NOTE: If these forests are allowed to recuperate
naturally, portions of the burnt forest may recover, reducing net
losses. END NOTE.

6. Most of the forests in the Amazon basin maintain full leaf
canopies during dry seasons of three to five months, indicating a
high tolerance to regularly occurring short-term droughts. After
three or more years of intermittent drought, however, forest
structure begins to breakdown and even large trees begin to die.
Although the response of forests to prolonged drought has the
potential to be slow and gradual, the dynamics of resistance are
fundamentally altered when fire and other disturbances (i.e.,
insects, disease, wind) are brought into the equation. In
particular, the intensive use of fire in preparing land for
agriculture (and the leakage of fire into surrounding forests),
threatens to push the region through a 'tipping point',
transitioning the vegetation to a more rapidly degraded scrub

BRASILIA 00000922 004.2 OF 009

1. SUMMARY. This is the second in a two-part series addressing the
impacts of climate change and fire (Part 2), and agricultural
expansion and infrastructure integration (Part 1) on Amazon
rainforest vulnerability and conservation. Most climate change
models predict a 21st century warming and drying trend for the
southern Amazon basin. In combination with forest fragmentation,
this warming trend will create a feedback loop of increasing forest
vulnerability to fire, drought, and continued climate change.
Researchers predict that Amazon rainforest vulnerability is
approaching an ecological "tipping point" that could result in a
climate-driven transition from rainforests to savannah and semi-arid
vegetation. However, collaborative, Amazon basin governance efforts
could reduce forest degradation via regional fire prevention
strategies to prevent and control undesirable fires, creation of
protected areas in the path of expanding agricultural frontiers, and
creation of market mechanisms to balance drivers of extractive
deforestation. END SUMMARY.

system, according to Nepstad and colleagues. NOTE: Although
slash-and-burn fire setting has been a traditional indigenous
agricultural practice for centuries, broader industrial-scale
burning, in combination with a drier climate, poses a greater risk
to forest health than historically recorded. END NOTE.

7. Beyond regional climate change, Amazon basin land-use changes
from agricultural and infrastructure expansion (Part 1 of this
series) also contribute to increased forest fire susceptibility via
three primary mechanisms: forest fragmentation, selective timber
harvesting, and increase of ignition sources. Fragmented forests
are highly fire vulnerable due to the creation of drier conditions
along forest edges and the rapid growth of grasses, ferns, bamboo,
lianas, and flammable tree species. Uncontrolled selective logging,
which can damage up to 50 percent of the leaf canopy, also increases
forest fire susceptibility. When a tree (old growth) dies, a canopy
gap is created, allowing penetration of sunlight that acts to warm
and dry the forest floor. Tree mortality can be an initial step
that triggers a process of further forest degradation.

8. In modern times, fire has played a significant role in shaping
the forest structure and composition of tropical ecosystems. Most
tropical rainforest trees are poorly adapted to fire stress; even
low-intensity wildfires can lead to unusually high levels of tree

BRASILIA 00000922 005.2 OF 009

1. SUMMARY. This is the second in a two-part series addressing the
impacts of climate change and fire (Part 2), and agricultural
expansion and infrastructure integration (Part 1) on Amazon
rainforest vulnerability and conservation. Most climate change
models predict a 21st century warming and drying trend for the
southern Amazon basin. In combination with forest fragmentation,
this warming trend will create a feedback loop of increasing forest
vulnerability to fire, drought, and continued climate change.
Researchers predict that Amazon rainforest vulnerability is
approaching an ecological "tipping point" that could result in a
climate-driven transition from rainforests to savannah and semi-arid
vegetation. However, collaborative, Amazon basin governance efforts
could reduce forest degradation via regional fire prevention
strategies to prevent and control undesirable fires, creation of
protected areas in the path of expanding agricultural frontiers, and
creation of market mechanisms to balance drivers of extractive
deforestation. END SUMMARY.

mortality. In fact, under conditions of moderate climate change
(warmer and drier conditions) fire is considered a stronger driver
of forest change than long-term drought stress. Fire-induced forest
alterations can drastically change forests by selecting for a suite
of fast-growing pioneer species that mimic a young second-growth
forest stand. The post-fire, second-growth forest stand offers
profound reductions in ecosystem services such as water and nutrient
cycling, as well as carbon sequestration, owing to the fact that
these pioneer species accrue a lower biomass (store less carbon).

REGIONAL ACTIONS TO REDUCE FOREST VULNERABILITY AND "TIPPING POINT"
RESPONSE

9. In regions throughout the Amazon biome, sustainable forest
management (an economic alternative to land conversion for
agricultural use) and integrated fire management represent growing
priorities for the Amazon rainforest in terms of forest and habitat
conservation, biodiversity protection, and reduction in greenhouse
gas emissions. COMMENT: Brazil, ranked among the top five
greenhouse gas emitters worldwide, is particularly motivated to
reduce the incidence of Amazon rainforest fire. Currently 75
percent of Brazil's gas emissions are attributed to deforestation
and forest fires. END COMMENT.


BRASILIA 00000922 006.2 OF 009

1. SUMMARY. This is the second in a two-part series addressing the
impacts of climate change and fire (Part 2), and agricultural
expansion and infrastructure integration (Part 1) on Amazon
rainforest vulnerability and conservation. Most climate change
models predict a 21st century warming and drying trend for the
southern Amazon basin. In combination with forest fragmentation,
this warming trend will create a feedback loop of increasing forest
vulnerability to fire, drought, and continued climate change.
Researchers predict that Amazon rainforest vulnerability is
approaching an ecological "tipping point" that could result in a
climate-driven transition from rainforests to savannah and semi-arid
vegetation. However, collaborative, Amazon basin governance efforts
could reduce forest degradation via regional fire prevention
strategies to prevent and control undesirable fires, creation of
protected areas in the path of expanding agricultural frontiers, and
creation of market mechanisms to balance drivers of extractive
deforestation. END SUMMARY.

10. Several actions offer opportunities to conserve Amazon
rainforest by slowing the pace of land conversion, forest
degradation, and dieback:

-- Promoting sound land stewardship among landholders and compliance
with environmental legislation; promoting responsible sourcing of
key Amazon commodities including timber, soy, sugar cane, and palm
oil; specifically promoting low-impact timber harvesting and forest
certification. (Such compliance is necessary for participation in
commodity markets and for access to financing.) NOTE: Bolivia, with
a much smaller portion of Amazon biome land area, has more certified
forest than Brazil. END NOTE.

-- Restricting the advance of cattle ranching and industrial
agriculture into the Amazon biome. (Roughly one-quarter of
previously forested lands in the Brazilian Amazon biome are in some
stage of abandonment; most are degraded cattle pastures.)

-- Adopting an integrated fire management strategy for the
Pan-Amazon basin region that will reduce the use of fire as a land
management tool, reduce the environmental effects of fire use, and
promote investment in fire prevention and control, and in land
restoration. NOTE: recent basin-wide initiatives have met resistance
in Brazil due to concerns over sovereignty and a perceived foreign

BRASILIA 00000922 007.2 OF 009

1. SUMMARY. This is the second in a two-part series addressing the
impacts of climate change and fire (Part 2), and agricultural
expansion and infrastructure integration (Part 1) on Amazon
rainforest vulnerability and conservation. Most climate change
models predict a 21st century warming and drying trend for the
southern Amazon basin. In combination with forest fragmentation,
this warming trend will create a feedback loop of increasing forest
vulnerability to fire, drought, and continued climate change.
Researchers predict that Amazon rainforest vulnerability is
approaching an ecological "tipping point" that could result in a
climate-driven transition from rainforests to savannah and semi-arid
vegetation. However, collaborative, Amazon basin governance efforts
could reduce forest degradation via regional fire prevention
strategies to prevent and control undesirable fires, creation of
protected areas in the path of expanding agricultural frontiers, and
creation of market mechanisms to balance drivers of extractive
deforestation. END SUMMARY.

management of natural resources. END NOTE.

-- Protecting areas in the pathway of the expanding agricultural
frontier via a multiple-stakeholder, participatory regional planning
processes. NOTE: Ecosystem integrity is best maintained via large
protected areas rather than a patchwork quilt of non-contiguous
areas. END NOTE.
-- Creating economic incentives to promote preservation and
restoration of abandoned Amazon forest land, and to reward
reductions in greenhouse gas emissions related to deforestation and
agricultural fires.

11. Integrated forest fire management (prevention, control,
incident-response, and managed fire use) may play an important role
in maintaining the integrity of the Amazon biome. For Brazil in
particular, fire reduction is a critical step in reducing national
greenhouse gas emissions. Research by Nepstad and colleagues
suggests that during periods of drought, simple forest conservation
and elimination of direct deforestation may not be sufficient;
active forest fire management, prevention and control may also be
needed, as was pioneered in the Brazilian states of Mato Grosso in
2002 and Acre during the drought of 2005, when national, state, and
municipal efforts were coordinated to deploy authorities and fire
fighting units.

BRASILIA 00000922 008.2 OF 009

1. SUMMARY. This is the second in a two-part series addressing the
impacts of climate change and fire (Part 2), and agricultural
expansion and infrastructure integration (Part 1) on Amazon
rainforest vulnerability and conservation. Most climate change
models predict a 21st century warming and drying trend for the
southern Amazon basin. In combination with forest fragmentation,
this warming trend will create a feedback loop of increasing forest
vulnerability to fire, drought, and continued climate change.
Researchers predict that Amazon rainforest vulnerability is
approaching an ecological "tipping point" that could result in a
climate-driven transition from rainforests to savannah and semi-arid
vegetation. However, collaborative, Amazon basin governance efforts
could reduce forest degradation via regional fire prevention
strategies to prevent and control undesirable fires, creation of
protected areas in the path of expanding agricultural frontiers, and
creation of market mechanisms to balance drivers of extractive
deforestation. END SUMMARY.


NEED FOR INTEGRATED FOREST FIRE MANAGEMENT

12. A missing element in the current development model for the
Amazon rainforest is adequate agricultural and forestry extension
assistance and community provision of information on land use, fire
management, and seasonal weather patterns. Amazon regions with high
migrant populations also have extremely high turnover rates among
farmers and ranchers. Newcomers to the region lack nuanced
understandings of the local climate, ecosystem, agricultural
practices, and sustainable forestry methods, exacerbating the
vulnerability of their lands to extreme weather events, droughts,
and flooding.

13. Opportunities are ripe for USG collaboration on integrated fire
management themes including: development of fire management
strategies and policies for the Amazon basin, capacity building and
interagency coordination, remote monitoring, incident command
training, fire prevention and management, management of slash and
burn, ecosystem restoration, and environmental education.

14. The US Forest Service and the US Office of Foreign Disaster
Assistance (OFDA) have long histories of collaboration and capacity
building in the Amazon basin region, touching on themes including:

BRASILIA 00000922 009.2 OF 009

1. SUMMARY. This is the second in a two-part series addressing the
impacts of climate change and fire (Part 2), and agricultural
expansion and infrastructure integration (Part 1) on Amazon
rainforest vulnerability and conservation. Most climate change
models predict a 21st century warming and drying trend for the
southern Amazon basin. In combination with forest fragmentation,
this warming trend will create a feedback loop of increasing forest
vulnerability to fire, drought, and continued climate change.
Researchers predict that Amazon rainforest vulnerability is
approaching an ecological "tipping point" that could result in a
climate-driven transition from rainforests to savannah and semi-arid
vegetation. However, collaborative, Amazon basin governance efforts
could reduce forest degradation via regional fire prevention
strategies to prevent and control undesirable fires, creation of
protected areas in the path of expanding agricultural frontiers, and
creation of market mechanisms to balance drivers of extractive
deforestation. END SUMMARY.

integrated forest fire management, remote monitoring, fire
prevention, and forest fire fighting.

15. This cable was coordinated and cleared with Embassies in Lima,
La Paz, Quito, and Bogota, and USAID and USFS in Washington.

SOBEL

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>

Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>

ALSO:

Another US Court: Fourth Circuit Rules Muslim Ban Discriminatory

ACLU: Step by step, point by point, the court laid out what has been clear from the start: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and his executive orders are an attempt to do just that. More>>

ALSO:

 
 
 
 
 
 
  • Pacific.Scoop
  • Cafe Pacific
  • PMC