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Best of 2012 - Limestone cave in Bonito, Brazil



(12/13/2012) Abismo de Anhumas cavern. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

For the month of December, I'll be posting some of my favorite pictures from 2012. All of these photos were taken during the course of my reporting travels.

This is Abismo de Anhumas cavern near Bonito, Brazil.

Continue reading: Best of 2012 - Limestone cave in Bonito, Brazil




Best of 2012 - Snorkeling in the 'natural aquarium', a freshwater river in Brazil



(12/08/2012) The natural aquarium in Bonito, Brazil. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

For the month of December, I'll be posting some of my favorite pictures from 2012. All of these photos were taken during the course of my reporting travels.

This is the 'natural aquarium' in Bonito, Brazil. Bonito is famous for its clear water rivers, which are a product of the karst rock formations in the region. Rainfall is filtered through limestone, reducing sediment load.

Continue reading: Best of 2012 - Snorkeling in the 'natural aquarium', a freshwater river in Brazil




Best of 2012 - Turquoise water of a collapsed cave in Brazil



(12/01/2012) Turquoise blue water of Bonito's Lagoa Misteriosa, a collapsed limestone cave. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

For the month of December, I'll be posting some of my favorite pictures from 2012. All of these photos were taken during the course of my reporting travels.

This is Lagoa Misteriosa, a collapsed limestone cave near Bonito, Brazil. The visibility here can exceed 40 meters.

Continue reading: Best of 2012 - Turquoise water of a collapsed cave in Brazil




Toad in the hole



(08/05/2010) An unidentified ground toad peeking out in Mato Grosso, Brazil. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler, 2009.

If you have any information on this orb spider species please contact me.

Continue reading: Toad in the hole




The humble, sometimes helpful, sometimes deadly, fly



(08/01/2010) Unidentified red-eyed fly on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. If you have any information on this species please contact me. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

Often despised at best as pesky and at worst as carriers of deadly diseases, flies are rarely favorites in the animal kingdom. Yet flies do play important roles in ecosystems: feeding on feces, dead animals, and other decaying matter flies act as natural decomposers. Some flies also act as pollinators. In addition, a number of other species depend on flies for as prey.

Continue reading: The humble, sometimes helpful, sometimes deadly, fly




Contract awarded for controversial Belo Monte dam in Brazil



(04/21/2010) A Kaiapo man stands with his son in the Brazilian Amazon. Photo by: Sue Wren.

Yesterday amid protests and global criticism, Brazil awarded the contract for the Belo Monte dam to Norte Energia consortium. The dam, long-criticized by environmentalists and indigenous groups in Brazil, has recently come under fire by James Cameron, director of Avatar, who has succeeded in bringing the issue to the wider public. The dam, if built, would flood 500 square kilometers of pristine rainforest, force the removal of 12,000 people, and divert a river that some 45,000 indigenous people, including the Kaiapo, have depended on for millennia. The auction went ahead despite three injunctions laid down by Brazilian courts, all of which were overturned. Indigenous groups plan to continue fighting the dam.



Continue reading: Contract awarded for controversial Belo Monte dam in Brazil




World's largest rodent



(04/14/2010) Weighing well-over 100 pounds, the capybara is the world's largest rodent. It is present in much of South America, including the Amazon rainforest and flooded savannahs. This photograph was taken in the Tambopata rainforest in Peru. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler

Continue reading: World's largest rodent




Fearsome fish



(03/31/2010) This fearsome looking fish is a freshwater species from Brazil. The predatory species—Chafalote (Rhaphiodon vulpinus)—was caught in Mato Grosso, the frontline of deforestation in Brazil. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler, 2009.

Continue reading: Fearsome fish




Livestock and the environment



(03/28/2010) Cattle roam where once the Amazon rainforest stood in Brazil. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler, 2008.

The world's livestock industry has tripled in thirty years according to a new report on the 'livestock revolution'. While a researcher contends that the livestock industry emits a smaller share of greenhouse gases than previously reported, other environmental impacts of the nearly 2 billion livestock in the world include land use, grain-consumption, deforestation, pollution, waste-management, and water issues. Currently, a quarter of the world's land is devoted to raising livestock. While livestock remains an important protein source in poor countries and provides vital small-scale income for many of the world's poor, its consumption is increasing in many parts of the world where incomes are on the rise, such as China and Brazil. The new report estimates that the livestock industry could double by 2050.

Continue reading: Livestock and the environment




Baby bat on a napkin



(03/22/2010) A baby bat in Brazil clinging to a napkin. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler, 2009.

Continue reading: Baby bat on a napkin




Palm oil better option than soy to meet Brazil's biofuel target



(02/09/2010) Palm oil produced from plantations grown in the Amazon is a better option than soy for meeting Brazil's biofuel target, reports an assessment published in PNAS.

Oil palm yields substantially more vegetable oil per acre than other oilseeds, making it attractive as a feedstock for biodiesel production to meet Brazil's fuel mandate for 2020. The researchers, led by David M. Lapola of the University of Kassel (Germany), found that utilizing palm oil as a feedstock rather than soy would result in less deforestation and lower emissions.

'[We] tested different crops that could serve as feedstock to fulfill Brazil’s biodiesel demand and found that oil palm would cause the least land-use changes and associated carbon debt,' they write.

'Because of its high oil yield, oil palm would need only 4,200 sq km to fulfill the 2020 demand for biodiesel in Brazil. In comparison, 108,100 sq km would be needed for soybean.'

While oil palm cultivation will result in lower deforestation than other crops, the research indicates Brazil's biofuel mandate will nonetheless likely be a significant driver of forest loss in the coming decade.

Continue reading: Palm oil better option than soy to meet Brazil's biofuel target




The world's largest parrot



(01/16/2010) The Hyacinth Macaw of central South America is the world's largest parrot (in terms of length--the Kakapo of New Zealand is heavier). The species, which is listed as Endangered by IUCN due to habitat loss and over-collection for the pet trade, attains a length of nearly 1.2 m (4 feet).

Continue reading: The world's largest parrot




Jaguar in the Pantanal



(12/04/2009) This jaguar came a little too close for comfort on a trip to the Pantanal this past April. The big cat emerged from a swampy area shortly after sunset and approached within 2 meters (6 1/2 feet) before bolting off. This photo was taken while the jaguar was still about 20 feet away -- no pictures were taken thereafter. Located in the center of South America, in the Bolivia-Brazil-Paraguay border region, the Pantanal is the world's largest tropical wetland. But the ecosystem is increasingly under threat by cane growers and infrastructure projects. In an effort to protect the Pantanal, the Brazilian government in August proposed banning cane ethanol plants in the region and requiring farmers to use no-till planting methods. Farmers would also be required to eliminate the use of machinery and agrochemicals.

Continue reading: Jaguar in the Pantanal




Soy in the Amazon



(11/28/2009) Soy and Amazon forest in Mato Grosso, Brazil. Since 1988 Mato Grosso has lost more forest than any state in Brazil: 133,352 square kilometers, or more than 35 percent of Amazon clearing.

Mato Grosso's forests have been logged for timber and then primarily converted into cattle pasture — the state has some 26 million head of cattle across 24 million hectares of pasture. Extensive areas have also been planted with mechanized soy farms, as seen in the picture above.

Continue reading: Soy in the Amazon







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