FEATURED ARTICLES [Latest news updates]
A New Idea to Save Tropical Forests Takes Flight
(06/29/2009) In late 1991, I had just finished my undergraduate degree in forest economics at the University of Vermont. The Rio Earth Summit was approaching and everyone seemed to be wearing "Save the Rainforest" T-shirts. So, being 22 years old and green in more ways than one, I decided to hitchhike across Africa and see the rainforest myself. After a summer working in an Alaska salmon cannery to save some money and thumbing my way back across America in station wagons and 18 wheelers, I grabbed a $199 one-way flight to Spain. I crossed the Strait of Gibraltar on a ferry and proceeded to get solidly conned my first night in Morocco by one of Tangiers’ world-famous touts. I then got sick in the Sahara and stranded during a coup in Algeria. I stayed with a one-eyed farmer (Jo-Man) in Niger, and floated down the Niger River into northwestern Nigeria on a pirogue. I wandered around the notoriously difficult nation for a few weeks and then headed southeast to make my way into Cameroon. In Cameroon, I knew, I could see some real rainforests.
With the clearing of forests, baby orangutans are marooned [Yale e360]
(06/25/2009) The orangutans at the Nyaru Menteng center, run by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOS), are mainly “oil palm orphans” whose forest habitats were destroyed — and parents killed — by the swiftly spreading oil palm industry in Indonesia. BOS hopes to eventually release all of these orangutans back into their natural habitat — the majestic rainforests and swampy peat lands of central Kalimantan. But for many, this is a fate that may never be realized, and instead they may be relegated to a life in captivity. The reason? Suitable habitat in Borneo and Sumatra — the two islands that are home to the world's entire population of wild orangutans — is being deforested so rapidly that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find locations for reintroduction.
Proving the ‘shifting baselines’ theory: how humans consistently misperceive nature
(06/24/2009) The theory of shifting baselines was first elucidated by scientists exploring urban children’s perception of nature in 1995. In the same year, marine biologist Daniel Pauly coined the term ‘shifting baselines’. Since then the idea of humans perceiving nature inaccurately, through ‘shifting baselines’, has taken the conservation world by storm: the theory appeared to describe a commonly noticed problem regarding people’s view of the natural world around them. However, the theory had yet to be tested in a scientific manner: were people actually undergoing shifting baselines or was something else going on? For the first time a new paper in Conservation Letters empirically tests the shifting baselines theory.
War and conservation in Cambodia
(06/21/2009) The decades-long conflict in Cambodia devastated not only the human population of the Southeast Asian country but its biodiversity as well. The conflict led to widespread declines of species in the once wildlife-rich nation while steering traditional society towards unsustainable hunting practices, resulting in a situation where wildlife is still in decline in Cambodia, according to a new study from researchers with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Cameroon rainforest given 30 days to be conserved or sold off for logging
(06/18/2009) An 830,000-hectare tract of rainforest in Cameroon has been granted a 30-day reprieve from logging following a 4-week exploratory expedition that turned up large populations of lowland gorillas, forest elephants, mandrills, and chimpanzees, according to expedition leader Mike Korchinsky, founder of the conservation group Wildlife Works. The Cameroonian government has given Wildlife Works, which pioneered the first forest-based carbon project in Kenya, 30 days to come up with a competitive proposal to logging. The group is now scrambling to secure necessary funding to finance the early stages of the project.
Will jellyfish take over the world?
(06/16/2009) It could be a plot of a (bad) science-fiction film: a man-made disaster creates spawns of millions upon millions of jellyfish which rapidly take over the ocean. Humans, starving for mahi-mahi and Chilean seabass, turn to jellyfish, which becomes the new tuna (after the tuna fishery has collapsed, of course). Fish sticks become jelly-sticks, and fish-and-chips becomes jelly-and-chips. The sci-fi film could end with the ominous image of a jellyfish evolving terrestrial limbs and pulling itself onto land—readying itself for a new conquest.
Amazon deforestation doesn't make communities richer, better educated, or healthier
(06/11/2009) Deforestation generates short-term benefits but fails to increase affluence and quality of life in the long-run, reports a new study based an analysis of forest clearing in 286 municipalities across the Brazilian Amazon. The research, published in Friday's issue of the journal Science, casts doubt on the argument that deforestation is a critical step towards development and suggests that mechanisms to compensate communities for keeping forests standing may be a better approach to improving human welfare, while simultaneously sustaining biodiversity and ecosystem services, in rainforest areas.
10 years of mongabay
(06/10/2009) Today marks the 10th birthday of mongabay.com. Originally launched as an online version of a manuscript about tropical rainforests (A Place Out of Time), the site has grown over the years to encompass a wide range of topics. The seeds for mongabay were sewn by two places: the Ecuadorean Amazon and Malaysian Borneo. While I was blessed with the good fortune to travel to many places starting from a young age (thanks to a travel agent mother and a father who racked up a lot of airline miles), these two places left a lasting impression, not because of the time I spent in their majestic forests but because the fate that befell them after I departed. In the case of the Ecuadorean Amazon, it was an oil spill; in the case of Sabah (Malaysia), it was logging. Both broke my heart.
Marine scientist calls for abstaining from seafood to save oceans
(06/08/2009) In April marine scientist Jennifer L. Jacquet made the case on her blog Guilty Planet that people should abstain from eating seafood to help save life in the ocean. With fish populations collapsing worldwide and scientists sounding warnings that ocean ecosystems—as edible resources—have only decades left, it is perhaps surprising that Jacquet’s call to abstain from consuming seafood is a lone voice in the wilderness, but thus far few have called for seafood lovers to abstain.
Brazil's plan to save the Amazon rainforest
(06/02/2009) Accounting for roughly half of tropical deforestation between 2000 and 2005, Brazil is the most important supply-side player when it comes to developing a climate framework that includes reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD). But Brazil's position on REDD contrasts with proposals put forth by other tropical forest countries, including the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, a negotiating block of 15 countries. Instead of advocating a market-based approach to REDD, where credits generated from forest conservation would be traded between countries, Brazil is calling for a giant fund financed with donations from industrialized nations. Contributors would not be eligible for carbon credits that could be used to meet emission reduction obligations under a binding climate treaty.
Tropical East Asian forests under great threat
(06/02/2009) Tropical East Asia's rapid population growth and dramatic economic expansion over the past half century have taken a heavy toll on its natural resources. More than two-thirds of the region's original forest cover has been cleared or converted for agriculture and plantations, while its flora and fauna have suffered dearly from a burgeoning trade in wildlife products—several charismatic species have gone extinct as a direct consequence of human exploitation. Nevertheless tropical East Asia remains a top global priority for conservation, supporting up to a quarter of the world's terrestrial species.
Orangutan guerrillas fight palm oil in Borneo
(06/01/2009) Despite worldwide attention and concern, prime orangutan habitat across Sumatra and Borneo continues to be destroyed by loggers and palm oil developers, resulting in the death of up to 3,000 orangutans per year (of a population less than 50,000). Conservation groups like Borneo Orangutan Survival report rescuing record numbers of infant orangutans from oil palm plantations, which are now a far bigger source of orphaned orangutans than the illicit pet trade. The volume of orangutans entering care centers is such that these facilities are running out of room for rescued apes, with translocated individuals sometimes waiting several months until suitable forest is found for reintroduction. Even then they aren't safe; in recent months loggers have started clearing two important reintroduction sites. Meanwhile across half a dozen rehabilitation centers in Malaysia and Indonesia, more than 1,000 baby orangutans—their mothers killed by oil palm plantation workers or in the process of forest clearing—are being trained by humans for hopeful reintroduction into the wild, assuming secure habitat can be found. Dismayed by the rising orangutan toll, a grassroots organization in Central Kalimantan is fighting back. Led by Hardi Baktiantoro, the Center for Orangutan Protection (COP) has mounted a guerrilla-style campaign against companies that are destroying orangutan habitat in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo.
Forest Recovery Programs in Madagascar
(06/01/2009) Despite being one of the last habitable land masses on earth to be settled by man, Madagascar has lost more of its forests than most countries; less than 10% of its original forest cover now remains, and much of that is degraded. Political turmoil that erupted earlier this year continues to rumble on and the ensuing lawlessness has created the opportunity for illegal logging syndicates to plunder national parks, most notably Marojejy and Masoala, for valuable hardwoods and wildlife.
NASA images show huge drop in Amazon fires in 2008
(06/30/2009) New NASA research shows a sharp decline in the amount of smoke over the Amazon during the 2008 burning season, coinciding with a drop in deforestation reported last week by Carlos Minc, Brazil's Environment Minister. Analyzing the aerosol concentrations over the Amazon each September from the past four burning seasons using the Ozone Monitoring Instrument on NASA's Aura satellite, atmospheric scientist Omar Torres of Hampton University and several colleagues found a dramatic decline in airborne particular matter in 2008, indicating reduced incidence of fire in the region. Fire in the Amazon is primarily used by humans for land-clearing to establish cattle pasture, which now accounts for the vast majority of land-use change in the world's largest rainforest.
Coastal seagrass disappearing as quickly as coral reefs and rainforests
(06/30/2009) Findings from the first comprehensive global survey of coastal seagrass ecosystems are nothing to cheer about. Fifty-eight percent of seagrass meadows are declining, according to an international team of scientists who compiled data from 215 studies and 1,800 observations of seagrass habitat beginning in 1879. Since that year, 29 percent of seagrass ecosystems have vanished entirely.
U.S. forgives $30M in debt to protect rainforests in Sumatra, Indonesia
(06/30/2009) The United States will forgive nearly $30 million in debt owed by Indonesia in exchange for increased protection of endangered rainforests on the island of Sumatra, reports the Wall Street Journal. The deal is the largest debt-for-nature swap under the U.S. Tropical Forest Conservation Act — unanimously reauthorized this May by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week — and its first such agreement with Indonesia, which has the second highest annual loss of forest cover after Brazil. Under the terms of the pact the government of Indonesia will put $30 million into a trust over the next eight years. The trust will issue annual grants for forest conservation and restoration work in Sumatra, an island that lost nearly half of its forest cover between 1985 and 2007 as a result of logging, conversion for plantations, and forest fires.
Making Trees Work for Us in the U.S.: Let’s Make Money While Saving Trees
(06/29/2009) A lot has been said about how to develop a successful forestry carbon project. Today, I am addressing how both for-profit and not-for-profit businesses can develop successful carbon forestry projects while commenting on some of these opportunities. I will also discuss forestry carbon as an alternative asset class for institutions and individuals. I have been working in this sector since 2006 and so let me share some thoughts and observations from the field.
Tesco responds to allegations of causing Amazon deforestation
(06/29/2009) Tesco, one of Europe’s largest retailers, has sent a response to the British newspaper The Guardian in light of the paper's coverage of recent allegations that the chain store sells beef and leather products that caused deforestation of the Amazon.
Saving one of the last tropical dry forests, an interview with Edwina von Gal
(06/29/2009) Often we hear about endangered species—animals or plants on the edge of extinction—however we rarely hear about endangered environments—entire ecosystems that may disappear from Earth due to humankind’s growing footprint. Tropical dry forests are just such an ecosystem: with only 2 percent of the world’s tropical dry forest remaining it is one of the world’s most endangered ecosystems. A newly established organization, the Azuero Earth Project, is working not only to preserve some of the world’s last tropical dry forest on the Azuero peninsula in Panama, but also to begin restoration projects hoping to aid both the forest’s viability and the local people. Edwina von Gal, a landscape designer, is one of the founders of the Azuero Earth Project, as well as president of the organization.
Brazil approves land tenure law that grants 260,000 sq mi of rainforest to settlers, speculators
(06/29/2009) Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva last week signed a controversial law granting 67.4 million hectares (166 million acres) of Amazon rainforest land to more than 1 million illegal settlers, reports Reuters.
Anti-HIV and anti-cancer drugs derived from Borneo rainforest progressing to final development stages
(06/29/2009) Two drugs derived from rainforest plants in Sarawk (Malaysian Borneo) are now in their final stages of development, reports Bernama.
Rainforest discovered via Google Earth to be protected
(06/29/2009) Mozambique has agreed to protect a tract of highland forest discovered by scientists using Google Earth, reports The Guardian.
Implications of the American Clean Energy and Security Act for conservation
(06/26/2009) Following today's passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) by the House of Representatives, The Nature Conservancy released a set of questions and answers with Mark Tercek, its chairman and CEO.
Global warming bill passes the House
(06/26/2009) The U.S. House of Representatives passed the country's first climate change legislation 219-212 on Friday. The vote was highly partisan with Democrats generally supporting the American Clean Energy and Security Act, and Republicans mostly opposing it.
More US students tackling science and engineering
(06/25/2009) In 2007 the number of US students enrolling in graduate programs in either science or engineering rose by 3.3 percent, nearly double the increase from the previous year, according to new data collected by The National Science Foundations Division of Science Resources Statistics (SRS). Science programs, excluding engineering, saw a rise of 2.4 percent and added the most students in absolute numbers.
Tiny bat discovered on islands off Africa
(06/25/2009) The Natural History Museum in Geneva, Switzerland has announced the discovery of a bat species new to science on the Comoros Island arichpelago off the south-east coast of Africa. The bat weighs only 5 grams (0.17 ounces).
Russia pledges to raise carbon emissions to combat global warming
(06/25/2009) In a bizarre announcement that threatens to further weaken the international community's ability to come together on climate change, Russia has said it will reduce its emissions 10-15 percent from 1990 levels by 2020. The problem is that in 1990 Russia's carbon emissions were much higher than they are today, so this 'lowering' of carbon emissions actually means that Russia will raise its emissions by 2 to 2.5 percent annually until 2020.
Over 30 percent of open ocean sharks face extinction
(06/25/2009) The first global study of open ocean (pelagic) sharks and rays found that 32 percent of the species are threatened with extinction largely due to overfishing and bycatch, making pelagic sharks and rays more threatened than birds (12 percent), mammals (20 percent), and even amphibians (31 percent), which are considered to be undergoing an extinction crisis. The situation worsens when only sharks taken in high-seas fisheries are considered: 52 percent of these species are threatened.
Brazilian cattle giant declares moratorium on Amazon deforestation
(06/25/2009) Marfrig, the world's fourth largest beef trader, will no longer buy cattle raised in newly deforested areas within the Brazilian Amazon, reports Greenpeace. The announcement is a direct response to Greenpeace's Slaughtering the Amazon report, which linked illegal Amazon forest clearing to the cattle producers that supply raw materials to some of the world's most prominent consumer products companies. Marfrig was one several cattle firms named in the investigative report.
Brazilian miner Vale signs $500M palm oil deal in the Amazon
(06/25/2009) Vale, the world's largest miner of iron ore, has signed a $500 million joint venture with Biopalma da Amazonia to produce 160,000 metric tons of palm oil-based biodiesel per year, reports Reuters. Vale says the deal will save $150 million in fuel costs starting in 2014, with palm oil biodiesel replacing up to 20 percent of diesel consumption in the company's northern operations. The biodiesel will be produced from oil palm plantations in the Amazon state of Pará. The move is likely to stir up criticism from environmentalists that fear palm oil production could soon become a major driver of deforestation in the region.
Massive deforestation in the past decreased rainfall in Asia
(06/25/2009) Between 1700 and 1850 forest cover in India and China plummeted, falling from 40-50 percent of land area to 5-10 percent. Forests were cut for agricultural use across Southeast Asia to feed a growing population, but the changes from forests to crops had unforeseen consequences. A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences links this deforestation across Southeast Asia with changes in the Asian Monsoon, including significantly decreased rainfall.
Meeting food and energy demands by mid-century will be a challenge, says report
(06/25/2009) Meeting food and energy demands in a world where human population is expected to reach 9 billion by mid-century will require a range of approaches that increase the sustainability of agricultural production, reports a new assessment from Deutsche Bank's Climate Change Advisors (DBCCA).
Cambodia signs REDD agreement
(06/24/2009) Terra Global Capital, a San Francisco-based firm seeking to capitalize on emerging markets for ecosystem services, has signed an avoided deforestation deal with the government of Cambodia.
Saving tigers by counting feces
(06/24/2009) Scientists have been counting tiger populations for decades, using a variety of methods including camera traps and DNA collected from tissue or blood after darting and sedating the world’s largest cat. However, a new method of surveying tiger populations could change scientists’ ability to non-invasively obtain accurate numbers for tiger populations around the world, according to a study in Biological Conservation.
The living dead - Australia's disappearing landscape
(06/24/2009) Gum trees dot the hills and valleys of south-eastern Australia, a vivid fixture of the rolling landscape. But despite the seeming health of these iconic trees, they have earned the morbid nickname "the living dead" among ecologists, who say natural changes and human actions are threatening the next generation of gum trees. The gum trees that are scattered through the landscape are naturally dying off at a rate of one to two percent each year. With no replacement, researchers fear more than 100,000 square kilometers of land could be virtually treeless within the next 100 years.
UK firm plans to log habitat of critically endangered orangutan for palm oil production
(06/23/2009) A Scottish firm has been implicated in funding a plan that would destroy the rainforest habitat of critically endangered orangutans in Sumatra.
First comprehensive study of insect endangerment: ten percent of dragonflies threatened
(06/23/2009) A lot of time, effort, and funds have been spent on programs evaluating the threat of extinction to species around the world. Yet insects have not benefited from these programs, which have largely focused on more 'charismatic' species such as mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles. This gap is clearly shown by the fact that 42 percent of vertebrates have been assessed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and only 0.3 percent of invertebrates.
Wind could power the entire world
(06/22/2009) Wind power may be the key to a clean energy revolution: a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science finds that wind power could provide for the entire world’s current and future energy needs.
Scientists call on Obama for ‘maximum personal leadership’ to combat global warming
(06/22/2009) Twenty leading scientists have called on President Obama “to exercise maximum personal leadership” in tackling the threat posed by climate change.
New Yangtze River dam could doom more endangered species
(06/22/2009) Eight Chinese environmentalists and scientists have composed a letter warning that a new dam under consideration for the Yangtze River could lead to the extinction of several endangered species. The letter contends that Xiaonanhia Dam, which would be 30 kilometers upstream from the city of Chongqing, will negatively impact the river’s only fish reserve. Spanning 400 kilometers in the upper Yangtze, the reserve is home to 180 fish species, including the Endangered Chinese sturgeon, and the Critically Endangered Chinese paddlefish, as well as the finless porpoise.
Mixed signals from the crown? Queen knights logging tycoon while Prince fights deforestation
(06/22/2009) Tiong Hiew King, founder and chairman of the Rimbunan Hijau Group, a Malaysian logging firm notorious for large-scale destruction of rainforests, has been knighted by Queen Elizabeth, a move which environmentalists say directly conflicts with her son's campaign to save global rainforests. Prince Charles established the Prince’s Rainforests Project in 2007 and has become increasingly vocal in his calls to conserve forests.
Amazon deforestation in 2009 declines to lowest on record
(06/22/2009) Annual deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell below 10,000 square kilometers for the first time since record-keeping began, reported Brazil's Environment Minister Carlos Minc. Yesterday Minc said preliminary data from the country's satellite-based deforestation detection system (DETER) showed that Amazon forest loss between August 2008 and July 2009 would be below 10,000 square kilometers, the lowest level in more than 20 years. Falling commodity prices and government action to crack down on illegal clearing are credited for the decline in deforestation rates.
Brazil to pay farmers $50/month to plant trees in the Amazon
(06/22/2009) Brazil will pay small farmers to plant trees in deforested parts of the Amazon under a plan unveiled Friday by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Fish take less than a decade to evolve
(06/22/2009) Evolution is often thought of being a slow-process, taking thousands, if not millions, of years. However a new study in The American Naturalist found that Trinidadian guppies underwent evolution in just eight years, or thirty generations. Less than a decade ago Swanne Gordon, a graduate student at UC Riverside, and her team introduced Trinidadian guppies into the Damier River in the Caribbean island of Trinidad. They placed the guppies above a waterfall to allow them to flourish in a largely predator-free environment.
Record hunger: one billion people are going hungry worldwide
(06/22/2009) A new estimate by the UN FAO estimates that one billion people are currently going hungry: the highest number in history. Largely exacerbated by the global economic crisis, the number of the world’s hungry has risen by 100 million people.
Peru revokes decrees that sparked Amazon Indian uprising
(06/19/2009) Peru's Congress revoked two controversial land laws that sparked violent conflicts between indigenous protesters and police in the country's Amazon region. The move temporarily defuses a two-week crisis, with protesters agreeing to stand down by removing blockades from roads and rivers. Congress voted 82-14 Thursday to overturn legislative decrees 1090 and 1064, which would have facilitated foreign development of Amazon land. Indigenous groups said the decrees threatened millions of hectares of Amazon rainforest and undermined their traditional land use rights.
Despite violent protests and coup, Daewoo continues to hold cropland in Madagascar
(06/19/2009) Despite violent protests that have left more than 100 dead and led to the ouster of a democratically-elected president, Daewoo Logistics Corp. continues to hold 218,000 hectares of cropland in Madagascar, according to a new campaign by Rainforest Rescue.
Fate of world's rainforests likely to be determined in next 2 years
(06/19/2009) The fate of millions of hectares of tropical forests will probably be sealed this year and next year, reports a new set of policy papers detailing an emerging climate change mitigation mechanism known as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD). REDD has been proposed by the U.N. and other entities as a form of carbon finance under which industrialized nations would pay tropical countries for conserving their forest cover.
Commission on Climate and Tropical Forests forms to advise Congress, Obama on forest conservation
(06/18/2009) Leaders in business, government, advocacy, conservation, global development, science and national security have formed a commission to "provide bipartisan recommendations to Congress and the President about how to reduce tropical deforestation through U.S. climate change policies," according to a statement released by the newly established group, named the Commission on Climate and Tropical Forests.
Wolverine Returns to Colorado after 90-year absence
(06/18/2009) A wolverine has been recorded in Colorado for the first time since 1919, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
CO2 currently at highest level in 2.1 million years
(06/18/2009) Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are higher than any point in the last 2.1 million years, report researchers writing in the journal Science.
What is the crop productivity and environmental impact of too much or too little fertilizer?
(06/18/2009) While the use of synthetic fertilizer has greatly increased agricultural production globally—helping to feed a global population that is not slowing down—it has brought with it high environmental costs. Fertilizer runoff has polluted many coastal regions creating ‘dead zones’ where the ocean is starved of oxygen by the influx of nitrogen. Synthetic fertilizers have also polluted the air with ammonia, and sent emissions of nitrous oxide into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.
Malaysian palm oil chief claims oil palm plantations help orangutans
(06/18/2009) Dr. Yusof Basiron, CEO of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, the government-backed marketing arm of the Malaysian palm oil industry, claims on his blog that endangered orangutans benefit from living in proximity to oil palm plantations. Environmentalists scoff at the notion, maintaining that oil palm expansion is one of the greatest threats to orangutans.
Madfish?: scientist warns that farmed fish could be a source of mad cow disease
(06/17/2009) In a paper that shows just how strange our modern world has become, Robert P. Friedland, neurologist from the University of Louisville, warns that farmed fish could be at risk of Creutzfeldt Jakob disease, or mad cow disease.
New report predicts dire consequences for every region in the U.S. from global warming
(06/17/2009) Government officials and scientists released a 196 page report detailing the impact of global warming on the U.S. yesterday. The study, commissioned in 2007 during the Bush Administration, found that every region of the U.S. faces large-scale consequences due to climate change, including higher temperatures, increased droughts, heavier rainfall, more severe weather, water shortages, rising sea levels, ecosystem stresses, loss of biodiversity, and economic impacts.
First captive bonobos released into the wild
(06/16/2009) A group of 17 orphaned bonobos are being released into the wild for the first time this month. Set free by the world’s only bonobo sanctuary, Lola ya Bonobo in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the bonobos will be released into a 50,000 acre (20,000 hectare) forest where the species has been absent for years.
Amazon could lose 60% of forest without triggering catastrophic die-off, claims new study
(06/16/2009) Brazil's setting aside of more than 500,000 square miles (1.25 million square kilometers) of rainforest in protected areas over the past decade may effectively buffer the Amazon from the effects of climate change, preventing Earth's largest rainforest from tipping towards arid savanna in the face of ongoing deforestation and rising temperatures, argues a new paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Photos: treasure trove of new species discovered in Ecuador
(06/16/2009) Near the once-contentious border of Ecuador and Peru in the mountainous forests of the Cordillera del Condor, scientists from Conservation International (CI) conducted a Rapid Assessment Program (RAP), uncovering what they believe are several new species, including four amphibians, one lizard, and seven insects. The team focused on the Upper Nanharitza River Basin, which has been geologically isolated from the rest of the Andes, giving it broad potential for new species.
108 river basins in Indonesia need rehabiltiation
(06/16/2009) The number of river basins in need rehabilitation in Indonesia climbed from 60 to 108 over the past year says the Ministry of Forestry.
Attacking the demand side of deforestation
(06/16/2009) A new UK government-sponsored initiative seeks to address the demand side of deforestation by identifying how an organization's activities and supply chains contribute to forest destruction. The initiative, called the Forest Footprint Disclosure Project (FFD Project), will ask companies to "disclose how their operations and supply chains are impacting forests worldwide, and what is being done to manage those impacts responsibly." The disclosure information will be reported on an annual basis, enabling investors to identify possible risks related to a company’s "forest footprint." Disclosure will also provide consumers with information to make better informed decisions about the products they purchase.
Forest fires burn in Sumatra
(06/15/2009) Fires set by developers in Sumatra are causing a choking haze to spread across the island and over to Malaysia, reducing visibility and raising health concerns, reports Reuters.
High-flying kites could power New York
(06/15/2009) A fleet of kites could harvest enough energy from high-altitude winds to power New York, report researchers from the Carnegie Institution and California State University.
America’s iconic Midwest forests in significant decline
(06/14/2009) Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved series of novels about life in the American frontier begins in Wisconsin with the novel Little House in the Big Woods. Less than a hundred years since its publication, a study in Conservation Biology finds that these Midwestern ‘big woods’ are experiencing a worse-than-expected decline and would likely be unrecognizable to Wilder herself.
Caribou and reindeer population plunges 60 percent in three decades
(06/14/2009) The first ever comprehensive survey of caribou worldwide (known as reindeer in Europe) has found that the species has suffered a staggering decline. Researchers from the University of Alberta discovered that the caribou population has fallen 60 percent in half as many years. The study published in Global Change Biology points to global warming and industrial development as the reasons behind the decline.
Madagascar site for kids now in Croatian
(06/14/2009) The Madagascar site for children is now available in Croatian thanks to Dean Baric. The site, which provides information on Madagascar's geography, people, wildlife, ecosystems, and environment, is also available in English, French, German, Russian, Slovak, Spanish, and Ukranian,
World Bank revokes loan to Brazilian cattle giant accused of Amazon deforestation
(06/13/2009) The Work Bank's private lending arm has withdrawn a $90 million loan to Brazilian cattle giant Bertin, following Greenpeace's release of a report linking Bertin to illegal deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, report environmental groups, Friends of the Earth-Brazil and Greenpeace. The loan, granted by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) in March 2007, was to expand Bertin's meat-processing in the Brazilian Amazon. At the time, the IFC promoted the loan as a way to promote environmentally responsible beef production in the Amazon, although environmental groups — including Friends of the Earth-Brazil and Greenpeace — criticized the move.
Conservation success in Madagascar proves illusory in crisis
(06/12/2009) Despite the popularity he enjoyed abroad, domestic support for ousted president Marc Ravalomanana eroded rather quickly last February when he went head to head with Andry Rajoelina, the rookie mayor of Madagascar's capital. Rajoelina rallied disparate opposition groups to the cause and soon toppled the incumbent to become, at his own proclamation, President of the "High Authority of Transition." For the country as a whole, the results have not been encouraging. The tourism industry has shriveled to a shadow of itself, important donors have suspended non-humanitarian aid, and a power vacuum has set in in remote regions of the island, wreaking havoc on some of its most fragile and prized ecosystems.
Wal-Mart bans beef illegally produced in the Amazon rainforest
(06/12/2009) Brazil's three largest supermarket chains, Wal-Mart, Carrefour and Pão de Açúcar, will suspend contracts with suppliers found to be involved in Amazon deforestation, reports O Globo. The decision, announced at a meeting of the Brazilian Association of Supermarkets (Abras) this week, comes less than two weeks after Greenpeace's exposé of the Amazon cattle industry. The report, titled Slaughtering the Amazon, linked some of the world's most prominent brands — including Nike, Toyota, Carrefour, Wal-Mart, and Johnson & Johnson, among dozens of others — to destruction of the Amazon rainforest for cattle pasture.
Photo: brilliant pink moth discovered in Arizona
(06/11/2009) A new species of moth with brilliantly-colored pink wings has been discovered at 7,700 feet in the Chiricahua Mountains of southern Arizona. "This large moth flew in and we didn't think much of it because there is a silk moth very much like it, a Doris silk moth that feeds on pines that has dark wings with pink on the hind wings. It's fairly common there," said University of Arizona biologist, Bruce Walsh, who discovered the species.
Range extended for world’s most mysterious gorilla
(06/11/2009) The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) announced yesterday the discovery of eastern lowland gorilla nests in an unexplored area of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), expanding the range of this little-known subspecies by 30 miles (50 kilometers). The eastern lowland gorilla, also known as Grauer’s gorilla, is currently listed as Endangered in the IUCN Red List. Scientists estimate that the gorilla has as few as 8,000 individual left. Although closely related to mountain gorillas, the eastern lowland gorilla is the world’s largest living primate, weighing over 500 pounds at maximum, and is endemic to the DRC.
Frogs species discovered living in elephant dung
(06/10/2009) Three different species of frogs have been discovered living in the dung of the Asian elephant in southeastern Sri Lanka. The discovery—the first time anyone has recorded frogs living in elephant droppings—has widespread conservation implications both for frogs and Asian elephants, which are in decline. "I found the frogs fortuitously during a field study about seed dispersal by elephants," Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz, a research fellow from the University of Tokyo, told Monagaby.com.
Photo: guano stains helps researchers track penguins by satellite
(06/10/2009) Researchers from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) have uncovered a novel way to locate the world’s largest penguin’s breeding sites, employing satellite imagery they seek out Emperor penguin guano, droppings which show up starkly on the otherwise unsullied white sea ice of Antarctica. Searching for the penguins themselves had proven too difficult, since the birds’ black-and-white coloring allowed them to blend in with the shadows made by the ice. The penguin droppings however are light-brown—a colors that has no other source on sea ice, besides guano.
Climate pact must not allow carbon credits for forest conservation, says green coalition
(06/09/2009) A global framework on climate change must immediately halt deforestation and industrial logging of the world's old-growth forests, while protecting the rights of forest communities and indigenous groups, said a broad coalition of activist groups in a consensus statement issued today at U.N. climate talks in Bonn Germany. The statement said the successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol should not include mechanisms that allow industrialized countries to "offset" their emissions by purchasing carbon credits from reducing deforestation in developing countries, a position that puts the coalition at odds with larger environmental groups who say a market-based approach with tradable credits is the only way to generate enough money fund forest protection on a global scale.
NASA photos reveal destruction of 99% of rainforest park in Rwanda
(06/09/2009) Satellite images released by NASA show nearly complete destruction of Rwanda's Gishwati Forest between 1986 and 2001. Deforestation of the forest reserve is largely the result of subsistence harvesting and cultivation by refugees in the aftermath of the country's 1994 genocide. Overall only 600 hectares of Gishwati's original 100,000 hectares of forest remain, a loss of 99.4 percent.
Canada expands park: over three times larger than Yellowstone
(06/09/2009) The government of Canada and the Dehcho First Nation announced today the expansion of Nahanni National Park from 1,865 square miles (4,830 square kilometers) to 12,000 square miles (31,080 square kilometers), over six times its original size.
Photos: camera traps capture snow leopards in Afghanistan
(06/09/2009) It has been estimated that Afghanistan only has 100 snow leopards left, however photos from camera traps placed by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) show that there may be hope for snow leopards in the war-torn nation after all. Working in Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor, WCS set up five camera traps. Four of the five camera traps took photos of snow leopards, including 22 images in total.
UN calls for global ban on plastic bags to save oceans
(06/09/2009) The UN’s top environmental official called for a global ban on plastic bags yesterday. "Single use plastic bags which choke marine life, should be banned or phased out rapidly everywhere. There is simply zero justification for manufacturing them anymore, anywhere," said Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program.
Lear’s Macaw: back from the brink
(06/09/2009) The 2009 IUCN Red List for birds broke records by listing more Critically Endangered birds than ever before. Despite this, there were individual species that bucked the global trend: Lear’s Macaw Anodorhynchus leari, a bright blue parrot from northeastern Brazil, was one of these. Due to effective conservation measures the parrot’s population has reached nearly a thousand birds (up from a low of just a hundred individuals in 1989), and therefore was moved down the list, from Critically Endangered to Endangered.
World’s rarest tortoises stolen
(06/08/2009) Four of the world’s rarest tortoises have been stolen from a captive breeding program in Madagascar. The critically endangered animals were part of a group of 44 due for release by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and were being held in pre-release enclosures at a secret location.
Kenya moves forward to ban the pesticide Furadan after it is used to kill 76 lions
(06/08/2009) After highly-publicized poisonings of lions in Kenya’s national parks, the Kenyan Parliament has begun addressing longstanding concerns regarding the pesticide Furadan. Since 1995 Furadan has been used to illegally kill 76 lions, 15 hyenas, 24 hippos, over 250 vultures, and thousands of other birds in Kenya. These numbers are likely low due to under-reporting, according to Kenya-based conservation organization, Wildlife Direct.
International community calls for action against gangs’ illegal logging in Madagascar
(06/08/2009) Six nations and three conservation organizations have issued a statement calling for action against illegal logging in Madagascar’s protected areas.
Malaysian palm oil firms seek 100,000 ha in the Philippines
(06/08/2009) Malaysian oil palm developers are looking to establish a a 100,000-hectare palm oil plantation and extraction facility on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines, reports Business Mirror, a Philippine business publication.
10 ways you can help protect oceans
(06/08/2009) Monday June 8th, 2009 is World Ocean Day, which the United Nations launched to raise awareness about oceans and coastal ecosystems. Roughly 80 percent of life on Earth depends on oceans and coasts, while more than a third of the humanity lives in coastal areas or on small islands. Oceans provide mankind with more than $21 trillion annually in goods and services, including food, energy, transportation, and recreation. But oceans and coastal ecosystems are increasingly under threat from pollution, unsustainable fishing practices, destruction of habitats, and the effects of increased carbon dioxide emissions (warmer temperatures and ocean acidification). In recognition of the importance of maintaining healthy marine ecosystems, The Nature Conservancy is offering a set of ten tips to help to protect these resources for future generations.
In the dark, bats identify each other by voice
(06/08/2009) Individual bats have the ability to tell the difference between other bats just by the sound of their voice, according to a study published in PLoS Computational Biology. Researchers from the University of Tuebingen, Germany found that the greater mouse-eared bat could distinguish between their fellows’ echolocation calls. A subject bat was tested by having to select between two others depending on their calls. The subject bats chose correctly over 80 percent of the time.
Another milestone in Afghanistan: listing of endangered species
(06/08/2009) Thirty-three species are included in Afghanistan’s first-ever listing of protected wildlife. Well-known animals like the snow leopard, wolves, and brown bears received full legal protection from hunting and harvesting alongside lesser-known species like the paghman salamander, goitered gazelle, and Himalayan elm tree. The protected species list consists of twenty mammals, seven birds, four plants, one amphibian, and one insect.
Brazil to sanction illegal colonization in 230,000 sq mi of Amazon rainforest
(06/08/2009) Brazil moved a step closer to passing a controversial law that would allow landowners who illegally deforested land in the Amazon to get legal title to these holdings. Environmentalists say HB 458 — which now only needs the signature of President Lula, an avid supporter — will legitimize years of illegal colonization and may promote new deforestation.
Oil or Death in the Amazon
(06/06/2009) More than 70% of the Peruvian Amazon has been allocated for oil and gas extraction, and the current government of Alan Garcia has been pushing for more. Unfortunately, as usual, these policies are promoted by and only benefit a handful of people, but negatively impact the lives of many. However, Garcia’s government did not foresee the potential consequences of their actions.
Peruvian police kill 22 Indians in battle over Amazon oil drilling
(06/06/2009) At least 30 are dead following a clash between police and Indians protesting oil development in Peru's Amazon region.
Forest degradation is huge source of CO2 emissions
(06/05/2009) Selective logging, understory fires, fuelwood harvesting, and other forms of forest degradation are a substantial source of greenhouse has emissions, reports a policy brief issued by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) at U.N. climate talks in Bonn, Germany.
REDD can compete financially with palm oil in Indonesia peatlands while protecting endangered species
(06/04/2009) A new paper by Oscar Venter, a PhD student at the University of Queensland, and colleagues finds that forest conservation via REDD — a proposed mechanism for compensating developing countries for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation — could be economically competitive with oil palm production, a dominant driver of deforestation in Indonesia. The study, based on overlaying maps of proposed oil palm development with maps showing carbon-density and wildlife distribution in Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo), estimates that REDD is financially competitive, and potentially able to fund forest conservation, with oil palm at carbon prices of $10-$33 per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e). In areas with low agricultural suitability and high forest carbon, notably peatlands, Venter and colleagues find that a carbon price of $2 per tCO2e would be sufficient to beat out returns from oil palm.
Peatlands conversion for oil palm a 'monumental mistake' for Indonesia's long-term prosperity, sustainability
(06/04/2009) Indonesia's decision earlier this year to allow conversion of up to 2 million hectares of peatlands for oil palm plantations is "a monumental mistake" for the country’s long-term economic prosperity and sustainability, argues an editorial published in the June issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.
Forests for the Trees (Seed Magazine) [external]
(06/04/2009) Seed Magazine: Five experts discuss paying countries to keep forests intact, what role carbon markets should play, and how to protect the people whose lives depend on trees.
Bill Clinton speaks out for rainforests in Brazil
(06/03/2009) Former US president Bill Clinton spoke out against rainforest destruction on Monday in Brazil. Headlining the Ethanol Summit 2009 in Sao Paulo, Clinton spoke of the positive role ethanol could play in lowering carbon emissions, but not when at the expense of rainforest.
Extinction of Christmas Island Pipistrelle bat predicted in less than six months
(06/03/2009) The Australasian Bat Society predicts that the Christmas Island Pipistrelle bat has less than six months left until extinction, unless measures are taken immediately to set-up a captive breeding population.
Tribes in Peru to get $0.68/acre for protecting Amazon forest
(06/03/2009) Indigenous communities in Peru will be paid 5 soles ($1.70) per hectare ($0.68/acre) of preserved forest under a new conservation plan proposed by Peru's Ministry of Environment, reports the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) in its bi-monthly update.
Migrations of large mammals in serious declines, six have vanished entirely
(06/03/2009) Watch any nature documentary and it’s sure to include pulse-pounding footage of large herbivores migrating across African plains, Asian steppe, or the Arctic tundra. The images have become iconic: wildebeest forging a crocodile-inhabited river, caribou breaking through snow fields, Saiga running over tall grass. Despite such images of plenty, migrations are declining across the world, and in six cases have disappeared entirely.
Network of parks can save Africa’s birds in warmer world
(06/02/2009) As Africa’s birds are forced to move habitats due to climate change, a new study finds that the continent’s current park system will continue to protect up to 90 percent of bird species. "We looked at bird species across the whole network of protected areas in Africa and the results show that wildlife conservation areas will be essential for the future survival of many species of birds,” said Dr. Stephen Willis from Durham University. "Important Bird Areas (IBAs) will provide new habitats for birds that are forced to move as temperatures and rainfall change and food sources become scarce in the areas where they currently occur. Protected areas are a vital conservation tool to help birds adapt to climate change in the 21st century."
Reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries
(06/02/2009) Global forest covers around 30 per cent of the Earth's land surface (nearly 4 billion hectares). Forests provide valuable ecosystem services and goods, serve as a habitat for a wide range of flora and fauna and hold a significant standing stock of global carbon. The total carbon content of forests has been estimated at 638 Gt for 2005, which is more than the amount of carbon in the entire atmosphere. Deforestation, mainly conversion of forests for agriculture activities, has been estimated at an alarming rate of 13 million hectares per year (in the period 1990-2005).
Brazil accounts for 74% of global land area protected since 2003
(06/01/2009) Brazil accounts for nearly three-quarters of land protected in conservation areas established since 2003, according to a new study published in the Biological Conservation.
Political infighting in Brazil threatens the Amazon rainforest
(06/01/2009) Brazil's Environment Minister Carlos Minc accused other government agencies of working to undermine environmental laws in favor of Amazon development projects, report Reuters and the Associated Press. His charge comes a year after his predecessor, Senator Marina Silva, resigned due to the same opposition from development interests.
World governments to miss goal protecting 10 percent of every ecoregion by next year
(06/01/2009) It is unlikely that world government will keep their pledge to protect 10 percent of every ecological region by 2010, according to a new study published in Biological Conservation. This goal is just one of many agreed upon by world governments through the Convention on Biological Diversity. With less than a year to the goal’s deadline, the study found that half of the world’s ecoregions are currently below the 10 percent threshold.
Nike, Unilever, Burger King, IKEA may unwittingly contribute to Amazon destruction, says Greenpeace
(06/01/2009) Major international companies are unwittingly driving the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest through their purchases of leather, beef and other products supplied from the Brazil cattle industry, alleges a new report from Greenpeace. The report, Slaughtering the Amazon, is based on a three-year undercover investigation of the Brazilian cattle industry, which accounts for 80 percent of Amazon deforestation and roughly 14 percent of the world's annual forest loss. Greenpeace found that Brazilian beef companies are important suppliers of raw materials used by leading global brands, including Adidas/Reebok, Nike, Carrefour, Eurostar, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, Toyota, Honda, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada, IKEA, Kraft, Tesco and Wal-Mart, among others.
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