Borneo, a look into a disappearing world

(02/23/2007) Borneo, the third largest island in the world, was once covered with dense rainforests. With swampy coastal areas fringed with mangrove forests and a mountainous interior, much of the terrain was virtually impassable and unexplored. Headhunters ruled the remote parts of the island until a century ago. In the 1980s and 1990s Borneo underwent a remarkable transition. Its forests were leveled at a rate unparalleled in human history. Borneo's rainforests went to industrialized countries like Japan and the United States in the form of garden furniture, paper pulp and chopsticks. Initially most of the timber was taken from the Malaysian part of the island in the northern states of Sabah and Sarawak. Later forests in the southern part of Borneo, an area belonging to Indonesia and known as Kalimantan, became the primary source for tropical timber. Today the forests of Borneo are but a shadow of those of legend and those that remain are highly threatened by the emerging biofuels market, specifically, oil palm.   [ Borneo | Indonesia | Malaysia]

Balloon technology could cut cost of solar energy 90% by 2010

(02/21/2007) Inflatable mirrors for capturing sunlight could reduce the cost of solar power to 29 cents by 2010, making the solar energy cost competitive with traditional fossil fuels. The "tensegrity-based concentrated photovoltaic system" could produce a solar farming revolution where farmers would produce both agricultural products and clean energy. "In short we are developing free-market-hyper-competitive renewable energy with the mission of reaching global carbon neutrality," Dr. Eric B. Cummings, founder of California-based CoolEarth Solar, told mongabay.com. "We are working to reduce the cost of solar electricity by a factor of 25, making it cheaper to produce than energy from coal or other non-renewable sources. By developing a solution from minimal, low-cost materials, we aim to make solar generation as profitable as today's best investment options."   [ Energy | Solar Power | Technology]

Traveling through Myanmar, the country better known as Burma

(02/18/2007) Special to mongabay.com: Edda Ehrke documents her travels in Myanmar. The recent history of Myanmar is rather grim. After gaining independence from the British in 1948, the country suffered a series of military takeovers, and has basically been under the dictatorship of a military junta for the past 50 years. At several points during this time, the people have taken to the streets to peacefully protest the military regime. The last major fight for democracy occurred in 1988, and climaxed with the first democratically held election since independence. The National League for Democracy (NLD), spearheaded by the charismatic Aung San Suu Kyi, won by an overwhelming 84% of the vote. Sadly, regardless of their promises, the military junta had no intention of relinquishing their power, and imprisoned the major leaders of the NLD.   [ Travel | Burma]

"Ark" aims to save amphibians from extinction

(02/15/2007) Scientists are meeting in Atlanta is discuss last minute efforts to save disappearing amphibians from extinction. A mysterious outbreak of fungal disease has wiped out an estimated 170 species in the past decade, and put more than one-third of the world's remaining amphibians at risk. The group, calling itself Amphibian Ark, aims to save threatened amphibians by asking zoos, aquariums, and botanical gardens to act as sanctuaries for disappearing frogs, salamanders, newts, and caecilians. These facilities would serve as a proverbial "ark" to protect amphibians until scientists figure out a way to stop the killer chytrid fungus. While such efforts are already under way with a handful of species at the Bronx Zoo in New York (Kihansi Spray Toad) and the Houston Zoo (Panamanian Golden Frog), the expanded effort for hundreds of species is expected to cost $400-500 million. Organizers are preparing to launch a massive fundraising campaign to create an endowment.   [ Extinction | Amphibians]

Just how bad is the biodiversity extinction crisis?

Projected extinction in Africa: 2030
(02/06/2007) In recent years, scientists have warned of a looming biodiversity extinction crisis, one that will rival or exceed the five historic mass extinctions that occurred millions of years ago. Unlike these past extinctions, which were variously the result of catastrophic climate change, extraterrestrial collisions, atmospheric poisoning, and hyperactive volcanism, the current extinction event is one of our own making, fueled mainly by habitat destruction and, to a lesser extent, over-exploitation of certain species. While few scientists doubt species extinction is occurring, the degree to which it will occur in the future has long been subject of debate in conservation literature. Looking solely at species loss resulting from tropical deforestation, some researchers have forecast extinction rates as high as 75 percent. Now a new paper, published in Biotropica, argues that the most dire of these projections may be overstated. Using models that show lower rates of forest loss based on slowing population growth and other factors, two respected scientists say that species loss may be more moderate than the commonly cited figures. While some have criticized their work as "overly optimistic," prominent biologists say that their research has ignited an important discussion and raises fundamental questions about future conservation priorities and research efforts. This could ultimately result in more effective strategies for conserving biological diversity, they say.   [ Featured| Extinction| Biodiversity]

Feral beasts threaten lemurs in Madagascar:
An interview with lemur expert Dr. Michelle Sauther

(02/07/2007) The lemurs of Madagascar are among the world's most threatened primates. Extensive habitat destruction, hunting, and the introduction of alien species have doomed dozens of species to extinction since humans first arrived on the island within the past 2000 years. Most of the casualties were Madagascar's largest lemurs -- today the biggest lemur is but a fraction of the gorilla-sized giants that once ruled the island. Despite this relative impoverishment of megafauna, Madagascar still boasts nearly 90 kinds of lemurs, all of which are unique to the island. Interest in lemurs has helped Madagascar become a global conservation priority, though they are still at risk. Continued deforestation, scattered hunting, and looming climate change all pose significant threats to some lemur populations. One largely unexamined threat comes from introduced species such as the Indian civet and mongoose, but especially dogs and cats that have become feral. Dr. Michelle Sauther, an anthropologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder, is currently developing a project to assess this threat. Specifically she plans to examine the impact of introduced mammals on the iconic ring-tailed lemurs and Verreaux's sifaka at the Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve in Madagascar. Dr. Sauther answered some questions from mongabay.com about her work.   [ Featured | Interviews | Madagascar]

Dodging leeches in Madagascar's unexplored rainforest

(02/05/2007) Julie Larsen Maher, staff photographer for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has made several trips to Madagascar over the past 30 months. Over the course of her travels she has had many adventures and taken some amazing pictures. Here she describes her visit to Makira, one of Madagascar's newest protected areas. With her field partner, Angelin Razafimanantsoa -- a highly regarded Malagasy guide -- she hiked through some of the island's wildest and least explored forests.   [ Madagascar]

Global warming is a threat to fly fishing:
An interview with George Black, author and articles editor of OnEarth Magazine

(02/01/2007) An estimated thirty-five million Americans fish. George Black is one of them. Black, based in New York City, has written two books on the subject: Casting a Spell: The Bamboo Fly Rod and the American Pursuit of Perfection and The Trout Pool Paradox: The American Lives of Three Rivers. He has also written for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and a number of other publications as well as authoring three books on foreign affairs. In January 2007, Black answered some questions about his passions -- fly fishing, writing, and the environment.   [ Featured | Interviews]


Global warming is causing stronger Atlantic hurricanes finds new study

(02/28/2007) Global warming is fueling stronger hurricanes according to a new Geophysical Research Letters study that revises that database of historic hurricanes. Previously the hurricane database was considered inconsistent for measuring the record of tropical storms since there have been significant improvements in the technology to measure storms since recording-keeping began. Before the development of weather satellites, scientists relied on ship reports and sailor logs to record storms. The advent of weather satellites in the 1960s improved monitoring, but records from newer technology have never been squared with older data. The new study normalizes the hurricane record since 1983.   [ Climate Change | Hurricanes]

Indigenous populations deforested New World rainforests before European contact

(02/28/2007) Indigenous populations used fire to clear large areas of tropical forest well before the arrival of Europeans reports a new study published in Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden. The research has important implications for understanding the impact of present forest development on biodiversity and forest regeneration in the tropics.   [ Conservation | Indigenous People]

Climate change will worsen species extinction in South America

(02/28/2007) The combination of rising levels of carbon dioxide and increasing deforestation could reduce biodiversity in the tropical forests of Northern South America, reports a study published in the current edition of the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography.   [ Climate Change]

Philosophical shift in conservation reintegrates humans in nature

(02/28/2007) Humans are among the most successful of Earth's organisms. Living in every habitable, and sometimes uninhabitable, space, humans dominate the planet's surface and have become a global force that alters natural ecosystems, species distribution, and climate. Virtually no wilderness areas have escaped man's influence. While past conservation efforts have focused on preserving "pristine" wilderness, it is increasingly apparent that few such areas exist. Recognizing this, present conservation efforts are increasingly looking at how human use fits into protected areas management. A new paper published in Biodiversity Conservation traces this shift in conservation philosophy since the 19th century. Reviewing the history of four main conservation approaches, Michelle Kalamandeen, a biologist at the University of Guyana, and Lindsey Gillson, a botanist at the University of Cape Town, conclude that current conservation efforts are integrating elements of each philosophy, resulting in a new conservation ethic that uses alternative criteria for designating and managing protected areas, and recognizes the importance of man's influence in wilderness areas.   [ Conservation]

Global warming could trigger 8-degree temperature rise in Amazon rainforest

(02/28/2007) Tuesday the Brazilian government announced the release of a series of scientific studies, including one by the national space agency (INPE) that projects a 4 to 8 degree-Celcius rise in temperatures in the Amazon Basin by 2100 if nothing is done to combat global climate change. The research, conducted by INPE scientist Jose Marengo, also warned of increasing probability of drought in the northeastern Amazon, with a 15-20 percent drop in rainfall under a pessimistic scenario.   [ Amazon]

New park in French Guiana creates largest Amazon protected area

(02/28/2007) Environmental group WWF has applauded the creation of a new national park in French Guiana, a department of France located in northeaster South America.   [ Conservation]

The Scoop on Penguins - Feathered Fish or Bodacious Bird?

(02/28/2007) Penguins are birds that can toboggan on ice using their webbed feet to propel them. The fastest penguin, the gentoo, can swim about 15 miles per hour, faster than long-distance runners. Penguins can also dive very deep, some to depths of about 1,750 feet. They use their wings (which are really like flippers) to propel themselves in the water. It looks as if they are "flying" underwater, something they cannot do in the air.   [ Birds]

New shark species discovered in Indonesia

(02/28/2007) Scientists discovered at least 20 previously unknown species in the first comprehensive survey of Indonesia's sharks and rays in nearly 150 years. Six of their discoveries have now been formally described, while the others will be documented in forthcoming scientific papers   [ Sharks | Species Discovery]

Orangutans and tigers become playmates

(02/28/2007) A pair of month-old Sumatran tiger twins have befriended a pair of young orangutans reports the Associated Press (AP). The animals share a room in the nursery at Taman Safari zoo in Sumatra. The AP reports that the animals, which were orphaned, 'cuddle' and play together.   [ Strange]

Alien water weed re-invades Lake Victoria

(02/27/2007) Water hyacinth has re-invaded Lake Victoria, choking thousands of acres (hectares) of the lake's surface in Kenya, according to satellite pictures released by NASA.   [ Africa]

Sea turtles use Earth's magnetic field to return to nesting beaches

(02/27/2007) New research suggests that sea turtles use a "relatively simple navigation system" involving the Earth's magnetic field to return to the same beaches to lay their eggs, even after venturing across thousands of miles of open ocean without visible landmarks.   [ Sea turtles | Oceans]

200+ news feeds now available for mongabay.com

(02/26/2007) I have expanded the number of xml feeds for mongabay.com to more than 200. If you don't know what an XML or RSS feed is, you still might be interested in the topic-specific news. For example if you want to see only the positive and upbeat environmental news from mongabay, you could visit / subscribe to the happy-upbeat environmental news page.

China drives elephant poaching for ivory trade

(02/26/2007) Thousands of African elephants are being killed for their ivory tusks, according to a new study led by a biologist from the University of Washington. In a paper published in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Samuel Wasser, director of the University of Washington Center for Conservation Biology, shows that elephants are being slaughtered at the highest rate since the international ban on the ivory trade took effect in 1989.   [ Africa| Mammals]

Biologists record call of rare Sumatran ground cuckoo for first time

(02/26/2007) A team of biologists with the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) have recorded for the first time the call of the extremely rare Sumatran ground cuckoo, found only on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. Known only by a handful of specimens collected over the past century, the Sumatran ground cuckoo is considered to be one of the world's rarest, most secretive birds, and is restricted to Sumatra's deep jungles and rainforests. In fact, ornithologists believed the bird was extinct until 1997, when a single individual was briefly seen. Last year a second bird was photographed by a remote camera trap. It is now believed to be critically endangered.   [ Birds| Indonesia]

Brazil to allow large-scale monitored harvesting of the Amazon

(02/25/2007) The International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) reports the Brazilian government plans to allow large-scale monitored harvesting of the Amazon rainforest. The new plan expands on an initiative proposed last year by Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva that would allow sustainable logging across 3 percent of the Amazon rain forest. Critics of the plan say it will open up more of the Amazon to clearing, which already claims thousands of square kilometers (miles) of forest each year. In total, Brazil has lost more than 650,00 square kilometers (250,000 square miles) or 18 percent of the Amazon rainforest since the early 1970s, mostly as a result of cutting for cattle pasture, agriculture, infrastructure development, and resettlement initiatives.   [ Amazon| Brazil]

Giant squid use bioluminescence to hunt prey, communicate

(02/23/2007) A day after the first live colossal squid sighting, Japanese researchers published a paper documenting the behavior of the giant squid. They report squid are fast-moving and aggressive hunters that use bioluminescent flashes to stun their prey. They also note that giant squid are apparently intimidated by blue light, repeatedly attacking their underwater blue-filtered halogen light.   [ Oceans]

Sharks increasingly endangered

(02/23/2007) Scientists added several species of pelagic sharks to IUCN Red List of Threatened Species after research found them to be more endangered than previously thought. Three species of thresher sharks were listed as Vulnerable globally, while the shortfin mako was upgraded (or downgraded depending on one's perspective) from Near Threatened in 2000 to Vulnerable and the scalloped hammerhead shark was moved from Near Threatened to Endangered. The decisions are based on work by the IUCN SSC Shark Specialist Group.   [ Oceans | Sharks]

Beaver returns to New York

(02/23/2007) Beavers have returned to New York City for the first time since colonial days when the animals were hunted to extinction for their pelts. Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) discovered a beaver in the Bronx River.   [ Happy-Upbeat Environmental]

Chimps hunt bush babies with spears

(02/22/2007) Researchers have observed wild chimpanzees in Senegal hunting bush babies with spears, according to a paper published in the March 6 edition of the journal Current Biology. The study is the first to report primates using tools for hunting other vertebrates. Anthropologists Jill Pruetz and Paco Bertolani documented 22 cases of chimps "fashioning tools to use in hunting smaller primates in cavities of hollow branches or tree trunks" around their research site in Fongoli, Senegal.   [ Primates | Animal Behavior]

Doctor performs kidney surgery on egg-eating snake

(02/22/2007) In early February Dr. Robert Moore performed microsurgery on an adult African egg-eating snake at the Bronx Zoo's Animal Health Center in New York. Physical examination and radiographs showed that one of the snake's kidneys was abnormal so Dr. Moore surgically removed a portion of the kidney. An adult African egg-eating snake is about the thickness of an adult's pinkie finger, and has highly flexible jaws that allows the snake to swallow quail-sized eggs, up to three times the size of its head. It is one of only two groups of snakes known to feed exclusively on eggs.   [ Strange]

Global warming, cod collapse cause changes in Atlantic ecosystem

(02/22/2007) North Atlantic ecosystems are undergoing rapid change due to overfishing and global warming reports a Cornell University oceanographer in the February 23 issue of the journal Science. Charles Greene, director of the Ocean Resources and Ecosystems Program in Cornell's Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, says that while other scientists have argued that ecosystem change is the result of the population crash of cod, be has found evidence that climate change is playing a significant role in the region.   [ Oceans | Climate Change]

First living colossal squid captured

(02/22/2007) Fishermen in New Zealand may have captured the largest Colossal squid ever recorded. It may be the first time a Colossal squid has been seen alive. The beast, weighing 450 kilograms (990 pounds), was eating a Patagonian toothfish (Chilean sea bass) hooked by fishermen when it was captured in the deep, frigid waters in the Ross Sea near Antarctica. The squid was reported to be 10 meters (33 feet) in length and took more than two hours to land.   [ Biodiversity | Oceans]

Newly tapped Alaska energy source could potentially replace oil

(02/22/2007) Researchers in Alaska have successfully drilled gas hydrates -- frozen methane deposits that could someday replace petroleum as a key energy source, but threaten to worsen global warming.   [ Energy]

Middle East oil less important than African oil for US

(02/22/2007) Preliminary data from the Energy Information Administration indicate that U.S. crude oil imports from Africa exceeded supplies from the Middle East in 2006 for the first time in 21 years.   [ Energy]

Balloon technology could cut cost of solar energy 90% by 2010

(02/21/2007) Inflatable mirrors for capturing sunlight could reduce the cost of solar power to 29 cents by 2010, making the solar energy cost competitive with traditional fossil fuels. The "tensegrity-based concentrated photovoltaic system" could produce a solar farming revolution where farmers would produce both agricultural products and clean energy. "In short we are developing free-market-hyper-competitive renewable energy with the mission of reaching global carbon neutrality," Dr. Eric B. Cummings, founder of California-based CoolEarth Solar, told mongabay.com. "We are working to reduce the cost of solar electricity by a factor of 25, making it cheaper to produce than energy from coal or other non-renewable sources. By developing a solution from minimal, low-cost materials, we aim to make solar generation as profitable as today's best investment options."   [ Energy | Solar Power | Technology]

High fashion driving conservation efforts of rare species?

(02/21/2007) Whimsical tastes of the fashion industry are sometimes blamed for the depletion of rare wildlife. The shatoosh craze of the 1980s and 1990s led to severe declines in population of the Tibetan antelope or chiru, while a current resurgence in tiger fur fashions in China has put further pressure on the endangered cat. Demand for rhinoceros horn to adorn decorative dagger handles in Yemen and Oman has driven some wild rhino populations to the brink of extinction. Further, rare animals are in some countries viewed as a delicacy: hence the consumption of clouded leopard and sun bear in China and gorilla in African cities. With this dismal record, Is it possible that fashion could ever drive the recovery of a species? A new article in The Wall Street Journal suggests this may be occurring in South America with the vicuña, a diminutive llama that lives high in the Andes.   [ Peru | Conservation]

Green construction booms as housing market tanks

(02/21/2007) While the residential housing market goes bust, the green construction sector is weathering the storm nicely, according to an article in today's Wall Street Journal Sellers of materials used in green construction "are continuing to see gangbuster sales, almost as though the housing boom that ended a year ago were still at full tilt," writes Jim Calton. Meanwhile, sales of some traditional building materials fell during 2006. The U.S. Census Bureau projects a 12 percent decline in sales of lumber and construction materials for in December 2006 relative to a year ago.   [ United States | Green Design]

Carbon offset schemes damage environment says report

(02/21/2007) Existing carbon offset schemes are confusing and may be damaging the environment rather than helping fight climate change says a new report by the Transnational Institute, a Dutch pressure group that runs carbontradewatch.org.   [ Carbon Dioxide]

Corporations agree to cut global warming emissions

(02/20/2007) More than 100 top executives from the private sector and leaders of international governmental and non-governmental organizations unveiled a plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions. They said governments need to take immediate steps to stop global warming.   [ Africa | Species Discovery]

Agriculture modeled on biological systems may better cope with global warming

(02/20/2007) Complex farming systems could be less energy intensive, reduce risk from climate change, and out-produce industrial monocultures says a noted researcher from Iowa State University.   [ Agriculture]

Organic food may not be sustainable says UK-report

(02/20/2007) Organic farming is not necessarily sustainable reports Britain's environmental protection agency, DEFRA (the Department of Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs), in a new study conducted by the Manchester Business School.   [ Agriculture]

New monkey species in Uganda

(02/19/2007) Uganda may soon have a new species of monkey according to a report published in Kampala's New Vision newspaper. Dr. Colin Groves of the Australian National University told New Vision that the local population of the gray-cheeked mangabey (Lophocebus albigena) will soon be designated as a unique species, the Ugandan gray-cheeked mangabey (Lophocebus ugandae). The timing of the decision is noteworthy as the species' habitat has recently been targeted for clearing. Against the wishes of the National Forest Authority (NFA), Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni granted a 7,000 hectare concession in Mabira forest, a reserve since 1932, to the owners of a Uganda-based sugar firm.   [ Africa | Species Discovery]

Largest tropical glacier retreating at 200 feet per year in Peru

(02/19/2007) Peru's largest glacier is melting rapidly and could complete disappear by 2012 says a glaciologist from Ohio State University. Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco last week, Dr. Lonnie Thompson said that Peru's Qori Kalis glacier is melting at a rate of some 60 meters (200 feet) per year. Qori Kalis glacier is part of the Quelccaya Ice Cap, the largest body of ice in the tropics.   [ Climate Change]

Climate change is a "threat to society" says largest scientific body

(02/18/2007) The world's largest scientific society today voiced concern over global warming, calling it a "threat to society." It was the first consensus statement of the board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) on climate change. The announcement comes sixteen days after the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its most recent report on global change.   [ Climate Change]

15 'new' bird species revealed in North America, 6 new bats in Guyana

(02/18/2007) DNA testing has revealed 15 "new" species of birds in North America and six "new" species of bats from the South American country of Guyana, according to a paper appearing in the British journal Molecular Ecology Notes. Examining 643 bird species, an international team of scientists were surprised to find look-alike birds are actually separate species that do not interbreed.   [ Species Discovery]

10 commandments could save world fisheries

(02/18/2007) Global fisheries are in decline. Now a team of scientists have proposed a set of ten commandments to protect the world's marine fish populations while ensuring ongoing production of sea food in a sustainable manner. They presented their work Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco.   [ Oceans | Fishing]

Government subsidies drive deep-sea fish depletion

(02/18/2007) An international team of economists and scientists called Saturday for a ban on government subsidies that drive deep-sea trawling. Biologists say the practice is destroying the world's fisheries.   [ Oceans | Fishing]

Robots aid in search for Ivory-billed woodpecker

(02/17/2007) Scientists have installed robotic cameras to help in the search of the world's most elusive bird, the Ivory-billed woodpecker. The high-resolution intelligent robotic video system was developed by researchers from the University of California at Berkeley and Texas A&M University and put into place in the Bayou DeView area of the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas, historic habitat for the bird which some ornithologists claim to have sighted over the past 3 years despite its apparent extinction 1944 due to widespread destruction of its hardwood swamps and pine forest habitat in the southern United States. These claims have been met with heated debate in the birding community with some arguing that the biologists are mistaking a closely related species with the Ivory-billed.   [ Endangered Species]

Ethanol always not as green as some believe

(02/16/2007) Ethanol is generally not as green as some people believe says to Bruce Dale, Michigan State University professor of chemical engineering and materials science. Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in San Francisco, Dale says that while corn ethanol produces less greenhouse gases than gasoline, it can cause other detrimental environmental effects if not carefully managed.   [ Biofuels]

Weedy grass could free U.S. of foreign oil dependence says biologist

(02/16/2007) A weedy grass may hold the key to domestic energy security and mitigating emissions of greenhouse gasese, said a Stanford University plant biologist speaking Friday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco.   [ Biofuels]

Giant carbon sequestration project begins in Australia

(02/16/2007) The largest carbon burial experiment in the world got underway yesterday in Australia with the drilling of a 2100-meter (6825 meter) well in the Otway Basin. If there are no signs of leaks, researchers from the Canberra-based Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies (CO2CRC) will begin injecting carbon dioxide into the well in July according to an article from the NewScientist.com news service.   [ Carbon Sequestration]

Americans believe in global warming but don't want to make changes

(02/16/2007) Most Americans believe global warming is real but view it as a distant threat according to comments by Anthony Leiserowitz, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Oregon, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco.   [ Global Warming]

Biofuels, logging may spur deforestation in Guyana

(02/15/2007) Growing timber exports and rising interest in biofuels are raising concerns that deforestation could accelerate in the South American country of Guyana. Guyana is a small, lightly populated country on the north coast of South America. About three-quarters of Guyana is forested, roughly 60 percent of which is classified as primary forest. Guyana's forests are highly diverse: the country has some 1,263 known species of amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles, and 6,409 species of plants.   [ Deforestation | Amazon]

$100 laptop for poor children will cost $130

(02/15/2007) The $100 laptop designed for poor children in developing countries looks like it will cost $130, at least initially, according to the computer's manufacturer, Quanta Computer Inc. In a statement Thursday, Quanta said it ship between 5 million to 10 million units this year as part of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, an effort launched by Nicholas Negroponte of the MIT Media Laboratory.   [ Technology]

Slurp gun used to capture hermaphrodite from hydrothermal vent

(02/15/2007) Researchers used an "Alvin Slurp Gun" to capture a hagfish from a deep sea hydrothermal vent. It is the first time that a member of the jawless fishes (agnathans) have been captured from a hydrothermal vent site. The results are published in the current edition of the journal Biology Bulletin.   [ Species Discovery]

Data centers use at least $7.2 billion in electricity globally

(02/15/2007) U.S. data centers consume 45 billion kilowatts of energy per year, according to a new study, commissioned by computer chip maker AMD. Jonathan Koomey, a staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories and a consulting professor at Stanford University, calculated that in 2005 total data center electricity consumption in the U.S., including servers, cooling and auxiliary equipment, was approximately 45 billion kWh, resulting in total utility bills amounting to $2.7 billion. Globally, data centers used $7.2 billion in electricity.   [ United States | Technology]

Chili peppers came from Ecuadorian rainforests 6,100 years ago

(02/15/2007) Chili peppers were first cultivated 6,100 years in South America according to research published in the current edition of the journal Science.   [ Agriculture]

Antarctic Peninsula warming affects penguins, krill

(02/15/2007) While much of Antarctica has cooled over the past decade, a warming trend in the Antarctic Peninsula may indicate what the future holds for the rest of the icy continent's wildlife. Researchers at Ohio State University say that higher temperatures have already forced penguin populations to migrate south and may have reduced the availability of krill that serve as the based of the Antarctic food chain.   [ Antarctica]

Antarctic temperatures are not rising

(02/15/2007) Every year millions of acres of forests in the southern United States are cut to fuel the pulp and paper industry. Nearly 25 percent of this demand comes from paper packaging, which usually ends up in landfills after a brief life as a disposable product. To support this industry, millions of acres of natural forest have been converted into fast-growing pine plantations -- in fact, the U.S. Forest Service estimates that nearly twenty percent of Southern forests are now pine plantations. Nationwide the United States lost an average of 831 square miles of old-growth forest per year according to official figures, the seventh highest loss in the world.   [ Antarctica]

Antarctic subglacial lakes plumbed by satellite

(02/15/2007) The discovery of a network of rapidly filling and emptying lakes lying beneath at least two of West Antarctica's ice streams suggests that change in the Antarctic could be more rapid than previously believed, according to a team of scientists writing in Friday's edition of the journal Science.   [ Antarctica]

U.S. forests suffer from beauty products packaging

(02/14/2007) Every year millions of acres of forests in the southern United States are cut to fuel the pulp and paper industry. Nearly 25 percent of this demand comes from paper packaging, which usually ends up in landfills after a brief life as a disposable product. To support this industry, millions of acres of natural forest have been converted into fast-growing pine plantations -- in fact, the U.S. Forest Service estimates that nearly twenty percent of Southern forests are now pine plantations. Nationwide the United States lost an average of 831 square miles of old-growth forest per year according to official figures, the seventh highest loss in the world.   [ United States]

Search problems on travel and rainforest sites

(02/14/2007) I've been receiving complaints on the search function of the travel/photo site (travel.mongabay.com) and the rainforests site (rainforests.mongabay.com). For whatever reason, Google has dropped large sections of these sites from its index so searches aren't turning up the results that would usually appear. I apologize but this is out of my control. Hopefully the next index update will re-include these pages. The drop occurred on Feb 1, 2007.

Mysterious outbreak killing millions of bees

(02/14/2007) An mysterious outbreak is causing the deaths of millions of honeybees in 22 states according to an entomologist from the University of Montana. Jerry Bromenshenk says that Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is "causing agricultural honeybees nationwide to abandon their hives and disappear."   [ United States]

Blind pink snake discovered in Madagascar

(02/14/2007) A pink worm-like snake has been rediscovered in Madagascar more than 100 years after it was first found. The snake, which is blind and measures about ten inches long, is described in the February 1, 2007 edition of Zootaxa, a leading taxonomic journal. The snake was captured during a 2005 expedition in the arid northern part of the country. The snake, named Xenotyphlops mocquardi, is one of 15 blind snakes species known from Madagascar.   [ Madagascar | Species Discovery]

Global warming may worsen droughts in U.S. Southwest, Middle East

(02/14/2007) A new NASA study says that global warming could increase droughts in southwest United States, Mexico, parts of North Africa, the Middle East, and Australia -- areas already stressed by periodic water shortages.   [ Climate Change]

U.S. leads world in shark attacks in 2006

(02/13/2007) The United States led the world in shark attacks in 2006, according to figures released from the University of Florida's International Shark Attack File. The U.S. had 38 shark attacks, down from 40 in 2005. Globally there were 62 known shark attacks in 2006, an increase of 1 from 2005, but well below the 79 attacked recorded in 2000.   [ Oceans]

China misses pollution targets

(02/13/2007) China's environmental protection agency said that the country failed to meet any of its 2006 pollution control goals according to its web site. The State Environmental Protection (SEPA) admitted that economic growth actually caused the country to fall well behind its environmental targets, but still claimed it was optimistic that goals for 2007 would be met.   [ China]

2006 was fifth warmest year on record

(02/13/2007) Last week NASA scientists announced that 2006 was the fifth-warmest year in the past century, after 2005, 1998, 2002, and 2003 (in descending order by warmest year). According to Dr. James Hansen, Director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, "2007 is likely to see warmer temperatures than 2006 and could prove to be the warmest on record, thanks to an El Niño and continued emissions of greenhouse gases." Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide are currently at their highest levels in at least 650,000 years.   [ Climate Change]

Rare giant bat eats night-flying birds

(02/13/2007) A new study published in PLoS ONE, an open online journal, reports that nocturnally migrating songbirds are preyed upon by giant bats. The findings go against the belief that night-flying birds lacked predators.   [ Animal Behavior]

Salamander diversity tied to elevation in the tropics

(02/13/2007) Scientists have long documented high levels of biodiversity at mid-elevation ecosystems in the tropics, but no one has ever conclusively determined the underlying causes of this species richness. A new study, which examined 13 genera and 137 species of tropical salamanders ("olitoglossine plethodontids"), suggests that this pattern may result from the time when the habitats were first colonized.   [ Amphibians | Biodiversity]

Kids' site now in Italian

(02/13/2007) Thanks to Gioia Gange, founder and editor of Zoe Magazine, the kids' rainforest site is now available in Italian.   [ mongabay in other languages]

Borneo's rainforest protected

(02/12/2007) An agreement to protect large areas of forest in central Borneo was officially signed by three governments that share the island. Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia will "conserve and sustainably manage" the so-called "Heart of Borneo", one of the most biodiverse, and threatened, tropical rainforests in the world. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) played a critical role in the initiative's creation. Overall Borneo lost nearly 17 million hectares (42 million acres) of forest between 1985 and 2002. In recent years deforestation rates have since accelerated due large-scale land clearing for oil palm plantations and massive fires, pollution from which regularly fouls air quality as far away as Thailand and Australia.   [ Borneo | Conservation]

HSBC gives Smithsonian $8 million to study global warming impact on forests

(02/12/2007) HSBC, one of the world's largest banks, today announced an $8 million grant to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) to fund the world's largest field experiment on the long-term effects of climate change on forest dynamics. The grant will enable STRI to expand the research capability of its Center for Tropical Forest Science, a network of tropical forest research stations across 20 sites in 17 countries. The grant, which is the largest ever corporate donation to STRI, was announced today by HSBC Group Chairman, Stephen Green, during his visit to Panama.   [ Happy-Upbeat Environmental | Green Business]

$25 million prize to fight global warming

(02/12/2007) Friday Sir Richard Branson and Al Gore announced the establishment of a $25 million prize for the development of a technology that fights global warming by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The prize follows in the footsteps of the X Prize, a contest that was won by the SpaceShipOne rocket plane as the first privately developed craft to reach the boundary of outer space. Branson, a billionaire entrepreneur from Britain, and a panel five judges -- Al Gore, Sir Crispin Tickell, Tim Flannery, Jim Hansen and James Lovelock -- will determine the winner.   [ Borneo | Conservation]

House Hearing on Global Warming Features Politics, Research, and Flatulent Dinosaurs [external]

(02/09/2007) The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on a heated hearing on global warming in the House Committee on Science and Technology. Apparently some representatives looked pretty silly as they questioned scientists on the IPCC report.

Human ecological footprint to grow 34% by 2015

(02/08/2007) Population size and affluence are driving environmental degradation according to a new study published in the current edition of the journal Frontiers in Ecology. The authors say other that widely cited drivers of environmental stress -- urbanization, economic structure, age distribution -- actually have relatively little impact. They also found that "increased education and life expectancy do not increase environmental stressors, suggesting that some aspects of human well-being can be improved with minimal environmental impact."   [ Sustainable development | Population]

Amazon deforestation affecting critical ecosystem services

(02/08/2007) Human disturbance of the Amazon rainforest is more extensive than previously thought say a team of scientists writing in the current edition of the journal Frontiers in Ecology. Reviewing recent research on the Amazon ecosystem, they note that human activities are affecting the health of the forest and impacting the ecological goods and services the Amazon provides mankind. "Emerging research indicates that land use in the Amazon goes far beyond clearing large areas of forest; selective logging and other canopy damage is much more pervasive than once believed," the authors write.   [ Amazon | Rainforests]

98% of orangutan habitat in Borneo, Sumatra gone by 2022

(02/06/2007) A report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today warns that illegal logging is rapidly destroying the last remaining habitat for orangutans in Borneo and Sumatra. The report says that up to 98 percent may be destroyed by 2022 without urgent action. Over the past five years, logging of rainforests in Borneo and Sumatra has accelerated for timber harvesting and oil palm plantations used for producing palm oil, an increasingly important source of biofuel. The UN report, titled "The last stand of the orangutan: State of emergency", estimates that more than 73 percent of all logging in Indonesia is illegal and that illicit logging is now taking place in 37 of the country's 41 national parks. "At current rates of intrusions, it is likely that some parks may become severely degraded in as little as three to five years, that is by 2012", states the study.   [ Indonesia | Borneo]

Brazil calls out rich countries on global warming

(02/06/2007) Reuters reports that Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva criticized wealthy countries for their contributions to global warming and told them to stay out of Brazil's business when it comes to the fate of the Amazon rainforest. Lula has aggressively stepped up conservation efforts of the world's largest rainforest in recent years, setting aside more than 100 million hectares of the Amazon basin from development and cracking down on illegal activities.   [ Politics | Amazon | Brazil]

Unknown mollusks and crustaceans discovered in the Philippines

(02/05/2007) A French-led marine expedition team may have discovered hundreds of previously unknown species of mollusks and crustaceans around Panglao, an island in the Philippines, according to a report from the Associated Press.   [ Oceans]

13% of Florida's whooping cranes killed in weekend storms

(02/05/2007) 17 whooping cranes were killed in severe storms in Florida according to a report from the Associated Press. The whooping crane, the tallest bird in North America, is one of North America's most endangered birds with a wild population of less than 360.   [ Birds]

Global warming report released in Paris

(02/02/2007) The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) officially unveiled its long-waited report on global climate change. The report was produced by some 600 authors from 40 countries and representatives from 113 governments reviewed and signed off on the report the course of this week. The scientists said global warming was "very likely" -- with a greater than 90 percent level of confidence -- caused by human activity, specifically man's burning of fossil fuels.   [ Climate Change]

Wal-Mart looks to eliminate non-renewable energy product offerings

(02/01/2007) Wal-Mart Stores announced a new environmental initiative on Thursday, encouraging employees, suppliers, communities and customers to reduce the company's direct environmental footprint. Wal-Mart President and CEO Lee Scott said Wal-Mart will start looking at ways to remove non-renewable energy from the products it sells.   [ Green Business]

Tibetan antelope recovering, finds 1,000-mile expedition

(02/01/2007) Once threatened by rampant poaching, the Tibetan antelope or chiru may be recovering according to legendary conservation biologist George Schaller, who just completed a 1,000-mile expedition across Tibet's remote Chang Tang region. Schaller, a biologist with the Bronx-zoo based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), says better law enforcement and growing conservation ethic in local communities may be the reason for the resurgence.   [ Happy-Upbeat Environmental | Conservation]

Global warming may be beneficial to some fishermen

(02/01/2007) Climate change may be a boon to fisheries off northwestern Africa according to research published in Friday's issue of the journal Science. Lead by Dr. Helen McGregor, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Bremen's Research Center Ocean Margins in Germany, a team of scientists using data from sediment cores linked coastal upwelling off the coast of Morocco to 20th century climate warming. The results are significant because coastal upwelling zones, where nutrient-rich waters rise to the ocean's surface, yield roughly 20 percent of the world's fish harvest but represent less than one percent of the world ocean surface area.   [ Happy-Upbeat Environmental | Climate Change]

Scientists criticize climate report on rising sea level projections

(02/01/2007) A group of prominent scientists -- include NASA's James E. Hansen -- criticized the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) climate report due to be released Friday. Writing in Friday's issue of the journal Science, the scientists say the IPCC report understates the risk of rising sea levels by not accounting for melting ice in Antarctica and Greenland.   [ Sea Levels | Climate Change]