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Help improve rural health and conserve forests in Borneo

(12/08/2008) Health In Harmony was awarded mongabay.com's annual "Innovation in Conservation Award" for its unique approach to conservation which combats illegal logging by providing healthcare and sustainable livelihoods to communities living around Gunung Palung National Park in Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo. If you plan to contribute to conservation this holiday season, please consider supporting Health In Harmony.


FEATURED ARTICLES   [Latest news updates]

As Rain Forests Disappear, A Market Solution Emerges [external]

(12/11/2008) Despite the creation of protected areas in the Amazon and other tropical regions, rain forests worldwide are still being destroyed for a simple reason: They are worth more cut down than standing. But with deforestation now a leading driver of global warming, a movement is growing to pay nations and local people to keep their rain forests intact. Posted at the Yale School of Forestry's e360, a site that offers opinion, analysis, reporting, and debate on leading environmental issues.   [Yale Environment 360]


How youth in Kenya's largest slum created an organic farm
An interview with an organic pioneer, Su Kahumbu


(12/09/2008) Kibera is one of the world's largest slums, containing over a million people and 60 percent of Nairobi's population. With extremely crowded conditions, little sanitation, and an unemployment rate at 50 percent, residents of Kibera face not only abject poverty but also a large number of social ills, including drugs, alcoholism, rape, AIDS, water-borne diseases, and tensions between various Kenyan tribes. However, the majority of Kibera's residents are just trying to live as well as possible under daunting circumstances. Proving that optimism and entrepreneurship are very much alive there, in July of this year the slum's only organic farm began selling its first harvest of ripe green spinach and kale, while sunflowers unfurl upward from soil that had once been a garbage dump. The idea of the farm came from boys and girls in Kibera's Youth Reform Program. They had the vision and the ambition, but in order to make their dream a reality they needed help. Su Kahumbu, a tireless advocate of organic farming in Kenya, was quickly enlisted. Her participation came with one request: it must be an organic farm.   [Interviews | Kenya | Organic farming]


Linking rural health care to forest conservation proving a success in Borneo

(12/09/2008) Located in West Kalimantan, the 90,000-hectare Gunung Palung is comprised of diverse array of habitats including mangrove forests, peat swamps, montane forests, and lowland Dipterocarp forests, a type of forest that is increasingly rare in Borneo due to industrial logging and conversion to oil palm plantations. It is one of the few places on Earth where orangutans can still be observed in the wild. But Gunung Palung has barely escaped the fate of other Bornean lowland forests. Illegal logging, encroachment, and escaped agricultural fires from neighboring plantations continue to chew away at its edges and much of the reserve's buffer zone has now been destroyed. Gunung Palung is increasingly an island in a deforested landscape. Health In Harmony is working to break this cycle by offering healthcare rewards to encourage the villagers to protect the national park, rather than log it. The effort seems to be paying off: since launching a 'forests-for-healthcare' incentive program in September, 18 of 21 communities have signed a memorandum of understanding with Health In Harmony's local partner Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) agreeing to participate. ASRI has also established an alternative work program whereby anyone who cannot pay cash at the ASRI clinic can instead work on conservation-promoting projects, including an organic farm and seedling nursery, which is growing trees to be used in reforestation efforts.   [Interviews | Borneo | Health]


Drought and deforestation in southeast Asia linked to climate change

(12/09/2008) Researchers have linked drought and deforestation in southeast Asia to climate change. Analyzing six years of climate and fire data from satellites, Guido van der Werf and colleagues report that burning of rainforests and peatlands in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea released an average of 128 million tons of carbon (470 million tons of carbon dioxide - CO2) per year between 2000 and 2006. Fire emissions showed highly variability during the period, but were greatest in dry years, such as those that occur during El Niño events. Borneo was the largest source of fire emissions during the period, averaging 74 million tons per year, followed by Sumatra, which showed a doubling in emissions between 2000 and 2006. Both islands are experiencing rapid forest destruction due to logging and conversion to industrial oil palm plantations.   [Deforestation | Carbon emissions]


An interview with Tropical Salvage's Tim O'Brien:
Salvage logging offers hope for forests,
communities hurt by industrial logging


(12/04/2008) As currently practiced, logging is responsible for large-scale destruction of tropical forests. Logging roads cut deep into pristine rainforests, opening up once remote areas to colonization, subsistence and industrial agriculture, wildlife exploitation, and other forms of development. Timber extraction thins the canopy, damages undergrowth, and tears up soils, reducing biodiversity and leaving forests more vulnerable to fire. Even selective logging is damaging. Nevertheless demand for wood products continues to grow. China is expected to import more than 100 million cubic meters of industrial roundwood by 2010, much of which will go into finished products shipped off to Europe and the United States. As much as 60 percent of this is illicitly sourced. Meanwhile in Brazil domestic hunger for timber is fueling widespread illegal logging of the Amazon rainforest. Armed standoffs between environmental police and people employed by unlicensed operators are increasingly common. Tropical Salvage, a Portland, Oregon-based producer of wood products, is avoiding these issues altogether by taking a different approach to meet demand for products made from high-quality tropical hardwoods. The company salvages wood discarded from building sites, unearthed from mudslides and volcanic sites, and dredged from rivers in Indonesia and turns it into premium wood products. In the process, Tropical Salvage is putting formers loggers to work and supporting a conservation, education and reforestation project on Java.   [Interviews | Logging | Indonesia]


Degraded grasslands better option for palm oil production relative to rainforests, finds study

(12/02/2008) Producing biofuels from oil palm plantations established on degraded grasslands rather than tropical rainforests and peat lands would result in a net removal of carbon from the atmosphere rather than greenhouse gas emissions, report researchers writing in Conservation Biology. The results confirm that benefits to climate from biofuel production depend greatly on the type of land used for feedstocks.   [Palm oil | Biofuels]


Latest issue of Tropical Conservation Science published

(12/01/2008) The December 2008 issue of Tropical Conservation Science is now online. The issue features a special section on the conservation of Neotropical reptiles and amphibians (lack of information on threatened species, amphibians in Peru, niche-based distribution modeling, and reptile biodiversity in tropical dry forest fragments in Colombia) as well as articles on the ecological impact of rural depopulation, conservation of manatees in southern Mexico, and co-management approaches to conservation in Tanzania. The next issue of mongabay.com's open-access scientific journal will be published in March 2009.   [Tropical Conservation Science]


Brazil to cut Amazon deforestation to 5,000 sq km per year to fight global warming

(12/01/2008) Brazil will aim to cut its deforestation rate to 5,000 square kilometers (1,900 square miles) per year by 2018 under its plan to reduce emissions from forest clearing, said Environment Minister Carlos Minc. For comparison, forest loss for the August 2007-July 2008 period was 11,968 square kilometers (4,621 square miles).   [Brazil | Amazon]




Most popular mongabay.com news articles for December 2008

(12/31/2008) Traffic to mongabay.com grew significantly in 2008. According to Google Analytics the average number of unique monthly visits rose to 1.65 million from 1.07 million for the prior 12-month period. Most of this growth can be attributed to an expansion of the non-English language content (Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, French, German, Brazilian Portuguese, Bahasa Indonesia, and Kids' site - international version) as well as the addition of more than 1,100 news articles and 6,000 photos during the year.   [Most popular news articles]


China delays massive water scheme to redirect rivers from south to north

(12/31/2008) China will delay ambitious plans to divert billions of water to its arid north amid environmental concerns, reports the Wall Street Journal.   [China | Water]


Rancher accused of ordering murder of American nun is arrested in Brazil

(12/30/2008) The rancher suspected of ordering the killing of an American nun in the Brazilian Amazon has been arrested and detained at his home in the state of Pará, reports the Associated Press (AP).   [Brazil | Amazon]


Did cheetah come from China?

(12/30/2008) The discovery of a fossilized big cat skull in northwestern China provides new evidence that cheetah originated in the Old World, rather than the Americas, report scientists writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.   [Wildlife | Big cats]


The reindeer, a symbol of the holidays, is under increasing threat

(12/27/2008) Reindeer are beloved in the holiday season for the mystical role they play in guiding Santa from the North Pole to the world's chimneys. However, according to a new book, reindeer, more commonly referred to as caribou, face increasing pressures from a variety of sources. The new book entitled, Caribou and the North: A Shared Future, draws an intimate portrait of the only deer species where both male and females sport horns, while outlining the dangers which may lead these unique animal to become globally endangerment.   [Wildlife | Mammals]


Mongabay.com's top pictures of 2008

(12/24/2008) Running mongabay requires the time equivalent of a couple full-time jobs but it also offers opportunities to meet remarkable people and visit some interesting and beautiful places. In addition to writing, I try to take pictures during my travels (when possible). Below are 50 or so of my favorite photos from 2008, although there are many I wasn't able to include. More photos from 2008 and prior years are available at travel.mongabay.com.






































































































  [Travel]


Shade-grown coffee preserves native tree diversity

(12/23/2008) A new study finds that shade-grown coffee protects the biodiversity of tree species, as well as those of birds and bats. Published in Current Biology, the study found that native trees in shade-grown coffee plantations aid the overall species’ gene flow and can become a focal point for reforestation.   [Biodiversity | Agroforestry]


Mirrors in the desert may fight global warming

(12/23/2008) Heat reflecting sheets in arid regions could cool climate by increasing Earth's reflectivity or albedo, argue scientists writing in the International Journal of Global Environmental Issues.   [Geoengineering]


Malaysia seeks to reverse collapse of tiger population due to poaching, logging, palm oil

(12/23/2008) A new law seeks to double Malaysia's tiger population to 1,000 by 2020, reports BBC News.   [Tigers | Malaysia]


Google Earth used to find new species

(12/22/2008) Scientists have used Google Earth to find a previously unknown trove of biological diversity in Mozambique, reports the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew. Scouring satellite images via Google Earth for potential conservation sites at elevations of 1600 meters or more, Julian Bayliss a locally-based conservationist, in 2005 spotted a 7,000-hectare tract of forest on Mount Mabu. The scientifically unexplored forest had previously only been known to villagers. Subsequent expeditions in October and November this year turned up hundreds of species of plants and animals, including some that are new to science.   [Biodiversity | Species discovery | Wildlife | Mozambique]


20 years ago the Amazon lost its strongest advocate

(12/22/2008) Twenty years ago ago today, Chico Mendes, an Amazon rubber tapper, was shot and killed in front of his family at his home. He was 44. His assassination in Xapuri, a remote town in the Brazilian state of Acre, would serve as a catalyst that led to the birth of the movement to protect the Amazon rainforest from loggers, ranchers, and developers. But the movement has stalled. Some would even say it has failed: since 1988 more than 348,000 square kilometers (134,000 square miles) of Amazon rainforest have been leveled.   [Amazon | Brazil]


Visiting New Mexico's Crane festival

(12/21/2008) It's six in the morning; the Southwest sky is rich in hues of yellow and red, yet despite the warm colors the air is cold and brisk enough that my toes have begun to go numb. We have been waiting nearly a half-hour for the light and warmth of morning to wake-up thousands of cranes and tens of thousands of snow geese. But so far, despite the glimmer growing across the sky, there isn't a bird in sight. Every winter cranes and snow geese migrate from Montana, Idaho, Canada, and Alaska to Bosque del Apache, a National Wildlife Refuge in Central New Mexico. For the past twenty-one years the refuge has celebrated the bird migration with a Festival of the Cranes. People travel from around the state (and country) to see the Southwest skies fill with birds. The festival lasts a week and includes educational stands, social gatherings, tours, hikes, and speakers on natural history and the environment. For this one week the small town of Socorro becomes overrun with birders, scientists, and tourists.   [Birds | Wildlife]


Amazon rainforest damage surges 67% in 2008

(12/20/2008) The area of rainforest in the process of being deforested — razed but not yet cleared — surged in the Brazilian Amazon during 2008, according to new figures released by Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE). The announcement comes shortly after the Brazilian government reported a 4 percent increase in forest clearing for the year. Using an advanced satellite system that tracks changes in vegetation cover INPE found that 24,932 square kilometers of Amazon forest was damaged between August 2007 and July 2008, an increase of 10,017 square kilometers — 67 percent — over the prior year. The figure is in addition to the 11,968 square kilometers of forest that were completely cleared, indicating that at least 36,900 square kilometers of forest were damaged or destroyed during the year. The sum does not include areas that may have been selectively logged for commercial timber.   [Deforestation | Brazil | Amazon]


Will 'peak oil' spur expanded coal use? And what does it mean for climate?

(12/19/2008) The world must phase out emissions from coal by 2030 to avert dangerous climate change, said scientists speaking at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. Arguing that the planet will face environmental constraints well before fossil fuel resources are exhausted, scientists including Jim Hansen, Pushker Kharecha, and Ken Caldeira urged leaders to take bold action to leave coal in the ground and promote the development of low-carbon energy sources including wind, solar, and geothermal.   [Pollution | Coal | Energy]


Peak coal to follow peak oil?

(12/19/2008) Governments have greatly overestimated global coal reserves according to estimates presented by a geologist at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.   [Fossil fuels | Coal | Energy]


China successfully cut pollution during Olympics finds NASA

(12/18/2008) China's efforts to clean up Beijing's skies during the Olympics seemed to have worked, reports NASA.   [Pollution | China]


Green-blooded, blue-boned frog discovered in Cambodia

(12/18/2008) Researchers have discovered a previously unknown species of frog in Cambodia. The amphibian is unusual in that is has green blood and turquoise-colored bones, a result of its transparent skin and a pigment that may make the species unpalatable to predators, according to Fauna & Flora International (FFI).   [Specie discovery | Cambodia | Frogs | Herps]


Obama pick supports 'Green Jobs' initiative to rebuild economy

(12/18/2008) President-elect Barack Obama's choice of California congresswoman Hilda Solis to head the Labor Department is a boost to the effort to launch a national "Green Jobs" initiative reports The Wall Street Journal.   [Politics]


European conquest of the Americas may have driven global cooling

(12/18/2008) Recovery of forests following the collapse of human populations in the Americas after the arrival of Europeans may have driven the period of global cooling from 1500-1750 known as the Little Ice Age, report researchers speaking at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. By some estimates, diseases introduced by Europeans may have killed more than 90 percent of population on the New World within a century of first contact. The rapid depopulation led to large-scale abandonment, and subsequent reforestation, of agricultural lands in the Americas. Analyzing charcoal found in soils and lake sediments at sites across the Americas, Richard Nevle and Dennis Bird found evidence to suggest that this forest regeneration sequestered enough carbon to trigger global cooling.   [Reforestation | Ancient civilizations]


Wood chemistry used to track origin of timber

(12/18/2008) A researcher is using carbon and oxygen isotopes to track the origin of timber as part of a worldwide effort to develop methods to combat illegal logging.   [Forestry | Logging]


Japanese scientists use goldfish to screen for freshwater pollution

(12/18/2008) Coal miners used canaries to warn them of noxious gases for generations. Today's substitute may be the everyday goldfish: It can act as an aquatic canary to warn scientists when something bad is brewing in the waters, according to new research.   [Water | Pollution]


Arctic sea ice fell to the lowest volume on record in 2008

(12/18/2008) Arctic sea ice fell to the lowest volume — and second lowest extent — on record, according to the annual World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Statement on the Status of the Global Climate.   [Sea ice | Greenland-Arctic]


Biochar and its Role in Mitigating Climate Change

(12/18/2008) The growing concerns about climate change have brought biochar, a charcoal produced from biomass combustion, into limelight. Biochar is a carbon-rich, fine-grained residue which can be produced either by ancient techniques (such as covering burning biomass with soil and allowing it to smolder) or state-of-the-art modern pyrolysis processes. Combustion and decomposition of woody biomass and agricultural residues results in the emission of a large amount of carbon dioxide. Biochar can store this CO2 in the soil leading to reduction in GHGs emission and enhancement of soil fertility. Biochar holds the promise to tackle chronic human development issues like hunger and food insecurity, low agricultural productivity and soil depletion, deforestation and biodiversity loss, energy poverty, air pollution and climate change. Thus, biochar could make a difference in the energy-starved countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America as well as the industrialized world with its vast array of benefits.   [Biochar | Carbon sequestration | Terra preta]


Tool helps overcome miles-per-gallon illusion

(12/17/2008) A new tool helps motorists evaluate the fuel efficiency of their vehicle in terms that more accurately reflect the cost of driving than miles-per-gallon (MPG).   [Oil | Fuel efficiency]


Observed sea level rise, ice melt far outpaces projections

(12/16/2008) Sea levels will rise faster than previously estimated due to rapid melting of glaciers and ice sheets, according to a U.S government report released at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. The report, titled Abrupt Climate Change, incorporates research published since last year's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which drew largely from studies dating up to 2006. Most significantly, Abrupt Climate Change suggests that IPCC estimates for future sea level rise (18-58 cm) are conservative, noting that recent observations on sea level rise and loss of sea ice are far outpacing previous projections.   [Sea levels | Climate change]


Photos of new species discovered in the Greater Mekong

(12/15/2008) More than 1,000 previously unknown species have been discovered in the Greater Mekong, a region comprising Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Vietnam and the Yunnan Province of China, in the past decade, according to a new report from WWF.   [Species discovery | Asia | Biodiversity]


Climate change, ocean acidification may doom jumbo squid

(12/15/2008) Ocean acidification — driven by rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere — may hurt the Humboldt squid, report researchers writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.   [Squid | Oceans | Impact of climate change]


Corn expansion is hurting ladybugs

(12/15/2008) Expansion of corn acreage to meet ethanol targets is reducing the ability of beneficial insects to control pests, a loss valued at $58 million in the four states studied (Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin), report researchers writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.   [Corn | Insects]


Africa eyes geothermal power

(12/15/2008) Geothermal — the tapping of steam from hot underground rocks — could provide a source of clean, renewable energy in parts of Africa where electricity is currently limited, according to an assessment by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF).   [Africa | Energy | Geothermal energy]


Neither slow nor stupid, manatees are killed by boats because they can't hear them

(12/12/2008) Last year 73 manatees were killed by boats in Florida, despite two decades of manatee-related protections. In fact, manatee deaths due to boat collisions have only increased since protections were implanted. A recent study at the Florida Atlantic University has finally revealed why boats are so dangerous to manatees: the manatee cannot run from what it does not hear.   [Marine mammals | Oceans | Conservation]


Lula pledges big cuts in Amazon deforestation -- after he leaves office

(12/12/2008) Last week Brazil unveiled plans to cut deforestation substantially from a 1996-2005 baseline of 19,533 square kilometers per year. The announcement met a mixed response from conservationists. Some applauded the decision to set hard targets for reducing deforestation, others say the targets were too low and that the country should aim for zero net deforestation by 2015. Nevertheless as more details have emerged, it becomes clear that the onus for reining in deforestation falls on Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's successor.   [Brazil | Deforestation | Amazon]


Computer hackers are helping illegal loggers destroy the Amazon rainforest

(12/12/2008) Computer hackers are helping illegal loggers destroy the Amazon rainforest by breaking into the Brazilian government's timber tracking system and altering the records so as to increase logging allocations, reports Greenpeace. The Brazilian environment ministry requires all timber shipments from the state of Pará to have a transport permit, which is tracked via an online system introduced two years ago. The volume of each shipment is logged in a database and deducted from a company's annual timber allocation set under its management plan. But hackers are apparently gaming the system, modifying the records for at least 107 logging and charcoal companies.   [Brazil | Deforestation | Logging | Amazon]


Mongabay welcomes Biopact readers

(12/12/2008) Biopact, a site that has provided exceptional coverage of bioenergy and related issues for the past five years, yesterday announced it will no longer be updating its web site. The founders, who are moving on to pursue other noble projects, have graciously directed the site's readers to mongabay. While our sites differ in focus and perspective, we share a similar philosophy and Mongabay will do its best to carry on Biopact's legacy.   [Bioenergy]


Deal on forests falls short

(12/11/2008) A deal reached Wednesday in Poznan to include forests in future climate treaties is a positive step but falls short of the progress needed to get the REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation) mechanism on track for incorporation into the framework that will succeed the Kyoto Protocol, say environmentalists speaking from the talks.   [REDD | Avoided deforestation | Politics]


Chad's elephant population falls by two-thirds in two years

(12/11/2008) Civil strife of Chad — a consequence of the calamity in Darfur — is taking a toll on the country's elephant population, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) which has launched an emergency appeal for funds to support conservation efforts in the country.   [Elephants | Poaching]


Elephants die significantly earlier in zoos than in wild

(12/11/2008) A new study from Science provides disturbing evidence that one of the zoos’ most popular animals, the elephant, faces a far shorter lifespan in captivity than in the wild. The findings raise new ethical and scientific questions regarding the rightness of keeping elephants in captivity and the causes of their shorter life-spans.   [Elephants | Wildlife]


Climate change will transform the chemical-makeup of the ocean

(12/11/2008) By studying the ocean’s past, scientists have discovered that climate change has a much larger affect on ocean chemistry than expected. The study, published in Science, reveals that 13 million years ago climate change significantly altered the chemical composition of the oceans. Such changes in the ocean’s chemical makeup today could have a great impact on marine life, already stressed by overfishing and pollution.   [Ocean acidification | Impact of climate change | Oceans]


Macedonians plant six million trees—in one day

(12/10/2008) While the world meets in Poznan, Poland to discuss actions related to global warming, the small Republic of Macedonia has already achieved an impressive goal. On November 19th, thousands of Macedonians took part in planting trees in a massive reforestation effort. Altogether they planted six million trees: three trees for every citizen of the country.   [Europe | Happy-upbeat environmental | Reforestation]


Indigenous people win voice in climate negotiations

(12/10/2008) Negotiators at U.N. climate conference have struck a deal to give forest-dependent people a voice in determining the role forest conservation will play future agreements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reports the Associated Press (AP). The agreement clears a key obstacle that had been blocking progress on reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD), a mechanism that would compensate tropical countries for protecting their forest cover.   [Avoided deforestation | Happy-upbeat environmental | REDD | Indigenous people]


Why do different species of bird lay different numbers of eggs?

(12/10/2008) Clutch size varies greatly between bird species. Researchers now have a better idea why. Analyzing data on clutch size, biology, and habitat for 5,290 species of birds, a team of biologists — Walter Jetz (UC San Diego), Cagan H. Sekercioglu (Stanford University), and Katrin Böhning-Gaese (Johannes Gutenberg-Universität) — developed a model to predict variations in the number of eggs a species lays. They found clutch sizes are consistently largest in cavity nesters and in species occupying seasonal environments. The findings add depth and complexity to previous research that has shown short-lived species — ones that face high predation or have low survival rates among offspring — tend to lay more eggs than longer-lived species, which invest more resources in raising their offspring.   [Birds | Biodiversity]


Tropical species face high extinction risk

(12/10/2008) Tropical plant species face an inherently high extinction risk due to small populations and restricted ranges relative to temperate species, reports research published in PLoS ONE. These traits leave them vulnerable to habitat disturbance and climate change.   [Rainforests | Biodiversity]


What allows rainforests to grow so wildly?

(12/10/2008) Molybdenum, a rare trace element, is the secret to rainforests' lush growth, reports research published in the journal Nature Geoscience.   [Rainforests | Biodiversity]


Africa calls for "full-range" of bio-carbon as climate solution

(12/10/2008) A coalition of 26 African countries is calling for the inclusion of carbon credits generated through afforestation, reforestation, agroforestry, reduced soil tillage, and sustainable agricultural practices in future climate agreements. The African Climate Solution — a partnership launched at the current climate talks in Poznan, Poland — seeks payments from industrialized nations for efforts by developing countries to sequester carbon through land use practices. The initiative goes beyond the proposed reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) mechanism that is currently under debate at the Poznan conference.   [Carbon sequestration | Africa]


Finland, Sweden push for loophole that would drive destruction of peatlands around the world

(12/08/2008) Finland and Sweden are pushing for a loophole in the E.U.'s Renewable Energy Directive that would open up vast tracts of peatlands around the world to development for biofuels production. The move could have drastic consequences for climate and biodiversity, warns Wetlands International, an environmental group.   [Biofuels | Europe]


Biochar could help tropical forest conservation (external)

(12/08/2008) I'm a little late on this, but Biopact has an insightful post on the potential for biochar to reduce rural conflict, improve livelihoods, and protect forests. The article also highlights Mark Dowie's forthcoming book Conservation Refugees - The Hundred-Year Conflict between Global Conservation and Native Peoples. The folks behind Biopact recently launched a "Biochar Fund" to help poor farmers improve their quality of life without hurting the environment. The Biochar Fund is promoting small-scale biochar, not the large-scale biochar that some fear could use carbon credits to subsidize large-scale destruction of forests for industrial agriculture.   [Biopact]


Peru seeks $200 million to save its rainforests

(12/08/2008) Peru is seeking $200 million in international contributions over the next ten years to cut deforestation to zero, reports BBC News.   [Peru | Avoided deforestation]


In Poznan, France pushes initiative to save rainforests

(12/08/2008) As talks for incorporating forest conservation into an international climate treaty stall in Poznan, Poland due to technical debates, The European Union Council, under France's leadership, has proposed aggressive EU legislation to address deforestation and forest degradation. The EU council conclusions of December 4, recommend the inclusion of forestry projects in government compliance targets, the establishment of a Global Forest Carbon Mechanism (GFCM) and potential inclusion of forestry projects in the E.U.'s emissions trading scheme (ETS) after 2012.   [REDD | Europe]


Madagascar hit by deadly vanilla-killing fungus

(12/08/2008) Madagascar, the world's largest producer and exporter of vanilla, has been hit by a deadly, incurable fungus that can kill vanilla plants before their pods reach maturity, reports The Associated Press. The development could have dire impacts for the country's vanilla industry which generates hundreds of millions of dollars per year for the impoverished Indian Ocean island nation.   [Madagascar]


New standards ensure forest carbon projects protect indigenous people, biodiversity -- 12/08/2008
The Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA) has released its second edition of its CCB Standard for certifying land-based carbon offset projects.   [REDD | Avoided deforestation]


REDD faces challenges but can succeed, says report

(12/05/2008) The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), a forest policy think tank, today released its assessment on the proposed REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation) mechanism for slowing climate change.   [REDD | Forestry]


Little progress on avoided deforestation at climate meeting in Poland

(12/05/2008) Climate talks in Poland are failing to make progress on a proposed mechanism to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, reports a forest policy group from the negotiations.   [REDD | Politics]


WWF criticizes Brazil's plan to cut Amazon deforestation

(12/04/2008) WWF criticized Brazil's plan to reduce Amazon deforestation to 5,740 square kilometers per year as being "short on ambition and detail". In a statement issued Wednesday, WWF said that Brazil's proposed fund for conserving the Amazon would still result in the annual loss of an area forest the size of Rhode Island.   [Amazon | Brazil]


Bank of America will no longer finance mountaintop removal coal mining

(12/04/2008) Bank of America will phase out financing for companies that practice mountaintop removal coal mining, a destructive and controversial method of coal extraction, according to a statement from the banking giant. The policy comes the day after the Environmental Protection Agency — at the behest of the Bush administration — approved a rule that will make it easier for coal companies to dump waste from mountaintop removal mining operations into streams and valleys.   [Coal | Energy]


Saline agriculture may be the future of farming

(12/04/2008) Accessible and unpolluted freshwater is a necessity for every nation's stability and well-being. Yet, while the demand for freshwater continues to rise, its sources face increasing threats from salinization, a process whereby the salt content of fresh water rises until the water becomes undrinkable and unusable in agriculture: the more salt in the soil, the lower the crop yield.   [Agriculture | Water]


TV footage leads to discovery of strange and rare monkey

(12/04/2008) After showing archival TV footage of a critically endangered species of primate to local villagers, conservationists have discovered a previously unknown population of the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey in a remote forested area of northern Vietnam. The find the offers new hope for the species, which is down to 200 individuals in two of Vietnam's northern-most provinces — Tuyen Quang and Ha Giang.   [Happy-upbeat environmental | Primates | Wildlife | Vietnam]


Rainforest canopy-penetrating technology gets boost for forest carbon monitoring

(12/04/2008) A tool for monitoring tropical deforestation has gotten a boost from the one of the world's largest supporters of Amazon conservation. The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has awarded the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology with a $1.6-million grant to expand and improve its tropical forest monitoring tool known as the Carnegie Landsat Analysis System Lite (CLASLite).   [Remote sensing | Forests]


Most popular news articles for November

(12/03/2008) Corn was king for the month of November. A post on the dominance of corn as an ingredient in fast food was mongabay's most popular news article in November, drawing more than 70,000 reads.   [Most popular news articles for November]


Agricultural firms cut incentives for Amazon deforestation

(12/02/2008) As grain prices plummet and concerns over cash mount, agricultural giants are cutting loans to Brazilian farmers, reports the Wall Street Journal. Tighter farm credit may be contributing to a recent slowing in deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, where agriculture is an increasingly important driver of forest clearing. According to the Wall Street Journal, a weakening global economy is making it more difficult for Brazilian farmers to get loans to cover the cost of fertilizers, pesticides and seed as well as finance capital equipment. The development is an abrupt turn from Brazil's agricultural boom, which saw rapid expansion of soy, corn, cotton, and cane plantings, and turned the country into the world's largest exporter of many farm products.   [Brazil | Amazon]


HSBC to cut lending to questionable oil palm and logging companies

(12/02/2008) HSBC will cut lending to oil palm developers and logging companies in Malaysia and Indonesia due to environmental concerns, reports Reuters.   [Palm oil | Malaysia | Indonesia]


Fall in palm oil price may lead to industry consolidation

(12/02/2008) A dramatic fall in palm oil prices may provide an opportunity for plantation giants to add to their holdings, reports Reuters.   [Palm oil | Malaysia | Indonesia]


REDD may harm forest people, alleges report

(12/02/2008) A new report finds that the World Bank is not doing enough to protect indigenous rights under its mechanism to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD). The report — titled "Cutting Corners: World Bank's forest and carbon fund fails forests and peoples" — was issued by the Forests and the European Union Resource Network (FERN) and the Forest Peoples Program (FPP) at the start of UN climate negotiations in Poznan, Poland.   [Indigenous people | REDD | Deforestation]





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