conservation news and environmental science news.
New prehistoric animal named after Johnny Depp due to its 'scissorhands'
(05/19/2013) Half a billion years after an arthropod with long triple claws roamed the shallow Cambrian seas, scientists have named it after Hollywood movie actor, Johnny Depp: Kooteninchela deppi. Depp, known for his versatility as an actor, played Edward Scissorhands—an artificial man with long scissors for hands—in a popular 1990 film.
Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon pacing 88% higher than last year's rate
(05/18/2013) Satellite analysis by a Brazil-based NGO indicates that deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon continues to pace well ahead of last year, when the government passed a weakened version of its law governing use of forest lands.
Gabon steps in to help protect elephants from ivory poaching at Central African Republic site
(05/18/2013) Gabon has agreed to help battle poaching in protected areas in the Central African Republic following an elephant massacre at a renowned World Heritage site, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
In landmark ruling, Indonesia's indigenous people win right to millions of hectares of forest
(05/17/2013) In a landmark ruling, Indonesia's Constitutional Court has invalidated the Indonesian government's claim to millions of hectares of forest land, potentially giving indigenous and local communities the right to manage their customary forests, reports Mongabay-Indonesia. In a review of a 1999 forestry law, the court ruled that customary forests should not be classified as "State Forest Areas". The move is significant because Indonesia's central government has control over the country's vast forest estate, effectively enabling agencies like the Ministry of Forestry to grant large concessions to companies for logging and plantations even if the area has been managed for generations by local people.
Indigenous association to sue to shut down Panama's REDD+ program
(05/17/2013) Panama's largest association of indigenous people will sue the Panamanian government to shut down the country's Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) program.
Researchers develop highest-resolution global forest cover dataset to date
(05/17/2013) Researchers at the University of Maryland have developed a 30-meter resolution forest cover data set that could boost efforts to track deforestation and forest degradation.
Crazy cat numbers: unusually high jaguar densities discovered in the Amazon rainforest
(05/16/2013) Jaguars (Panthera onca) are the biggest cat in the Americas and the only member of the Panthera genus in the New World; an animal most people recognize, the jaguar is also the third largest cat in the world with an intoxicatingly dangerous beauty. The feline ranges from the harsh deserts of southern Arizona to the lush rainforests of Central America, and from the Pantanal wetlands all the way down to northern Argentina. These mega-predators stalk prey quietly through the grasses of Venezuelan savannas, prowl the Atlantic forests of eastern Brazil, hunt along the river of the Amazon, and even venture into lower parts of the Andes.
Scientists have reached an overwhelming consensus on human-caused climate change
(05/16/2013) Despite outsized media and political attention to climate change deniers, climate scientists long ago reached a consensus that not only is climate change occurring, but it's largely due to human actions. A new study in Environmental Research Letters further strengthens this consensus: looking at 4,000 peer-reviewed papers researchers found that 97 percent of them supported anthropogenic (i.e. human caused) global warming. Climate change denialists, many of them linked to fossil fuel industries, have tried for years—and often successfully—to undercut action on mitigating climate change through carefully crafted misinformation campaigns.
Canadian government drops over $16 million on advertising its tar sands
(05/16/2013) The Canadian government has nearly doubled its advertising spending to promote the Alberta tar sands in an aggressive new lobbying push ahead of Thursday's visit to New York by the prime minister, Stephen Harper. The Harper government has increased its advertising spending on the Alberta tar sands to $16.5m from $9m a year ago.
NGO: conflict of interests behind Peruvian highway proposal in the Amazon
(05/16/2013) As Peru's legislature debates the merits of building the Purús highway through the Amazon rainforest, a new report by Global Witness alleges that the project has been aggressively pushed by those with a financial stake in opening up the remote area to logging and mining. Roads built in the Amazon lead to spikes in deforestation, mining, poaching and other extractive activities as remote areas become suddenly accessible. The road in question would cut through parts of the Peruvian Amazon rich in biodiversity and home to indigenous tribes who have chosen to live in "voluntary isolation."
Analysis: Indonesia renews moratorium on logging, palm plantations
(05/16/2013) Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono made a bold and courageous decision this week to extend the country’s forest moratorium. With this decision, which aims to prevent new clearing of primary forests and peat lands for another two years, the government could help protect valuable forests and drive sustainable development.
Petition targeting plan to open protected forests in Indonesia for mining, logging reaches 1M signatures
(05/15/2013) An AVAAZ petition calling upon Indonesian officials to put a stop to a proposal to open tens of thousands of hectares of protected rainforest to mining, logging, and oil palm plantations has surpassed one million signatures.
Four dead and dozens trapped after collapse at Freeport mine in Papua
(05/15/2013) Four workers were found dead and 10 rescued after the collapse of a tunnel at Freeport-McMoran’s Grasberg mine in the highlands of Indonesia’s Papua province on Tuesday.
Gabon convicts environmentalist of defamation in palm oil case
(05/15/2013) An environmental activist in Gabon is facing jail time and a $10,000 fine over his campaign against a Singaporean agroindustrial giant's plan to develop tens of thousands of hectares in oil palm, timber, and rubber plantations in the Central African nation.
Rhino populations in Sumatra, Borneo should be combined to save Sumatran rhino from extinction
(05/15/2013) A new study argues for treating endangered Sumatran populations in Borneo and Sumatra as 'a single conservation unit', lending academic support to a controversial proposal to move wild rhinos from Malaysia to Indonesia.
Leonardo DiCaprio raises over $38 million for conservation
(05/15/2013) Film actor, Leonardo DiCaprio, raised a stunning $38.8 million for global conservation efforts Monday night through an all-star art auction. Commissioning 33 works of art, the A-list actor raised record funds for saving species from extinction and protecting natural habitats.
How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature - An interview with Mark Tercek
(05/15/2013) In 2008, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) surprised the conservation world when it selected Mark Tercek, an investment banker at Goldman Sachs, as its new president and CEO. For people familiar with Tercek, however, the move made perfect sense: he was a leading figure in Goldman's efforts to pursue new environmental policies. While at the helm of TNC, Mark Tercek has continued his focus on ecosystem services or attributing economic value to nature. In his new book, Nature’s Fortune, Mark discusses the fruit of this work.
Pacific islanders are the 'victims of industrial countries unable to control their carbon dioxide emissions'
(05/15/2013) With islands and atolls scattered across the ocean, the small Pacific island states are among those most exposed to the effects of global warming: increasing acidity and rising sea level, more frequent natural disasters and damage to coral reefs. These micro-states, home to about 10 million people, are already paying for the environmental irresponsibility of the great powers.
Indonesia officially extends forestry moratorium
(05/15/2013) The Indonesian government has officially extended its moratorium on new logging and plantation concessions in 65 million hectares of forests and peatlands for another two years. The move, which had been expected, was announced Wednesday by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Photo: Stunning new pit-viper discovered in Honduras
(05/15/2013) A stunning new species of pit-viper has been discovered in the cloud forest of Honduras. The venomous snake is described in the journal ZooKeys.
Paper giant APRIL to restore peat forest in Sumatra, but green groups say it continues to deforest
(05/14/2013) Pulp and paper giant Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) has launched a $7 million ecosystem restoration project to restore and protect over 20,000 hectares of peat forest in Indonesia’s Riau province, Mongabay-Indonesia reported last week.
Industrialized fishing has forced seabirds to change what they eat
(05/14/2013) The bleached bones of seabirds are telling us a new story about the far-reaching impacts of industrial fisheries on today's oceans. Looking at the isotopes of 250 bones from Hawaiian petrels (Pterodroma sandwichensis), scientists have been able to reconstruct the birds' diets over the last 3,000 years. They found an unmistakable shift from big prey to small prey around 100 years ago, just when large, modern fisheries started scooping up fish at never before seen rates. The dietary shift shows that modern fisheries upended predator and prey relationships even in the ocean ocean and have possibly played a role in the decline of some seabirds.
Amazon's flood/drought cycle becoming more extreme, less predictable
(05/14/2013) The Amazon River's hydrological cycle has become more extreme over the past two decades with increasing seasonal precipitation across much of the basin despite drier conditions in the southern parts of Earth's largest rainforest, finds a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters. The research analyzed monthly Amazon River discharge at Óbidos, a point that drains 77 percent of the Amazon Basin, and compared it with regional precipitation patterns.
Five percent of ploughshare tortoise population perishes after botched smuggling attempt
(05/14/2013) In March, two people were caught attempting to smuggle 54 ploughshare tortoises (Astrochelys yniphora) into Thailand. Listed as Critically Endangered, the tortoises' wild population is down to approximately 400-500 animals in its native Madagascar, meaning the smugglers were attempting to move over 10 percent of the total population. Now, the Scientific American blog Extinction Countdown reports that nearly half of the smuggled tortoises have died of unknown causes.
Eat insects to mitigate deforestation and climate change
(05/14/2013) A new 200-page-report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) urges human society to utilize an often-ignored, protein-rich, and ubiquitous food source: insects. While many in the industrialized west might turn up their noses at the idea of eating insects, already around 2 billion people worldwide eat over 1,900 species of insect, according to the FAO. Expanding insect-eating, the authors argue, may be one way to combat rising food needs, environmental degradation, and climate change.
Rainforest tribe urges Norwegian king to recall energy executive
(05/13/2013) In an unusual bid to stop a series of dams that will flood their rainforest home, a group of tribesmen in Borneo are urging King Harald V of Norway to call one of his subjects home. The subject is Torstein Dale Sjøtveit, a Norwegian citizen who is the CEO of Sarawak Energy, a Malaysian firm that is building several dams in the state of Sarawak. The hydroelectric projects are controversial because they require the forced displacement of indigenous communities and will flood large tracts of rainforest.
Mount Everest glaciers have shrunk 13% in 50 years
(05/13/2013) Glaciers in the Mount Everest region have shrunk by 13 percent and the snow-line has shifted 180 meters (590 feet) higher during the past 50 years, according to a study that will be presented this week at a conference organized by the American Geophysical Union.
Deforestation will undercut effectiveness of rainforest dams
(05/13/2013) Deforestation may significantly decrease the hydroelectric potential of tropical rainforest regions, warns a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. The study, used climate, hydrological, and land use models to forecast the impact of potential forest loss on hydropower generation on the Xingu River, a major tributary of the Amazon where the world's third largest dam — Belo Monte — is currently under construction.
Nearly a million people face food crisis in Niger
(05/13/2013) Around 800,000 people in Niger face food insecurity in coming months, according to the UN's Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Rising food prices and refugees from Mali, which is plagued by conflict, have made access to food difficult in the west African country.
Climate change to halve habitat for over 10,000 common species
(05/13/2013) Even as concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in human history last week, a new study in Nature Climate Change warns that thousands of the world's common species will suffer grave habitat loss under climate change.
Why responsible tourism is the key to saving the mountain gorilla
(05/13/2013) The sunlight poured through the canopy, casting dappled shade over Makara, a large silverback mountain gorilla, as he cast his eyes around the forest clearing, checking on the members of his harem. A female gorilla reclined on a bank of dense vegetation of the most brilliant green, clutching her three day old infant close to her chest, and elsewhere, two juvenile gorillas played around a small tree, running rings around it until one crashed into the other and they rolled themselves into a roly-poly ball of jet black fluff that came to a halt a few meters in front of our delighted group.
Palm oil company violated RSPO standards, evicted from sustainability body
(05/13/2013) The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has evicted Indonesian palm oil giant Dutapalma Nusantara for violating key principles for sustainability.
Indonesian palm oil giant cutting deforestation from supply chain
(05/13/2013) Indonesian palm oil giant Golden Agri-Resources (GAR) is continuing to reduce deforestation under its 2011 forest conservation policy despite ongoing forest destruction by other palm oil producers in the sector, finds a new assessment by Greenomics, an Indonesian activist group. However the report finds GAR's operations are not completely deforestation-free.
For Mother's Day, pictures of mama animals with babies
(05/12/2013) One of the highlights of traveling to exotic planes is seeing mother animals with their babies so here is a collection of a some pictures I've taken over the years. They range from amphibians in Panama to orangutans in Borneo. I hope you enjoy. Happy Mother's Day!
Last time CO2 hit 400 ppm, temperature was 8C warmer, seas 40m higher than today
(05/12/2013) The future of a globally warmed world has been revealed in a remote meteorite crater in Siberia, where lake sediments recorded the strikingly balmy climate of the Arctic during the last period when greenhouse gas levels were as high as today.
A new world?: carbon dioxide concentrations in atmosphere hit 400 ppm
(05/11/2013) For the first time since homo sapiens evolved, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have struck 400 parts per million (ppm) due to burning fossil fuels. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that readings of carbon dioxide at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii hit the symbolic number on Thursday and are expected to continue rising in coming years. The last time concentrations were this high for a sustained period was 4-5 million years ago when sea levels were 5-40 meters higher than today and the poles were 10 degrees Celsius hotter. During this epoch, forests grew along the shores of the Arctic Ocean and coral reefs were almost wholly absent.
Google Time-lapse offers view of Earth over 3 decades
(05/10/2013) Google has released a series of time-lapse images showing global change between 1984 and 2012. The images are sourced from NASA's Landsat mission, a series of Earth-observation satellites that have orbited the planet since 1972, providing scientists, policymakers, and the general public with a wealth of data and imagery used for a wide range of applications.
Elephants massacred for ivory in Central African Republic
(05/10/2013) Dozens of elephants have been slaughtered in the Dzanga Bai World Heritage Site in the Central African Republic just days after conservationists warned about an impending threat from the movement of 17 heavily armed poachers. The massacre occurred at a site renowned as 'village of elephants', where tourists and scientists have for decades observed wild elephants congregating at a large clearing to feed on minerals.
Aquarium launches desperate search to save a species down to 3 individuals
(05/10/2013) Aquarists at ZSL London Zoo have launched a worldwide appeal to find a female mate for a fish species that is believed to have gone extinct in the wild.
New endangered list for ecosystems modeled after 'Red list' for species
(05/09/2013) The IUCN has unveiled the first iteration of its new Red List of Ecosystems, a ranking of habitats worldwide.
Continued deforestation in the Amazon may kill Brazil's agricultural growth
(05/09/2013) Continuing deforestation in the Amazon rainforest could undermine agricultural productivity in the region by reducing rainfall and boosting temperatures, warns a new study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
Microsoft puts price on carbon, buys credits from forest conservation project
(05/09/2013) Microsoft is 'offsetting' some of its greenhouse gas emissions by buying credits generated by a forest conservation project in Kenya.
Indonesia welcomes Greenpeace ship 3 years after eviction
(05/09/2013) Indonesia has welcomed Greenpeace's ship, the Rainbow Warrior, back into its waters for the first time since deporting the vessel in October 2010. The Rainbow Warrior arrived today in Jayapura, a major port in Indonesian New Guinea, as the first leg of a tour to raise environmental awareness across the archipelago, according to the activist group.
Scientists discover that marine animals disperse seagrass
(05/09/2013) Lesser known than coral reefs, marine seagrass ecosystems are rich in biodiversity and are powerhouses when it comes to sequestering carbon dioxide. Yet, much remains unknown about the ecology of seagrass beds, including detailed information on how seagrass spread their seeds and colonize new area. Now a recent study in Marine Ecology Progress Series documents that several species of marine animal are key to dispersing seagrass, overturning the assumption that seagrass was largely dispersed by abiotic methods (such as wind and waves).
Common moth can hear higher frequencies than any other animal on Earth
(05/09/2013) A common little moth turns out to have the best ears in the animal kingdom. According to a new study in Biology Letters, the greater wax moth (Galleria mellonella) is capable of hearing frequencies up to 300,000 hertz (300kHz), which is 15 times the frequency humans can hear at their prime, around 20 kHz.
Featured video: saving sea turtles in Mexico's Magdalena Bay
(05/09/2013) A new short film, Viva la tortuga documents the struggle to save loggerhead and green sea turtles in Magdalena Bay, Mexico. Once a region for a massive sea turtle meat market, the turtles now face a new threat: bycatch. Loggerhead sea turtles are drowning in bottom-set gillnets, unable to escape from the nets once entangled. The issue has even raises threats of trade embargoes from the U.S.
U.S. loses nearly a third of its honey bees this season
(05/09/2013) Nearly a third of managed honeybee colonies in America died out or disappeared over the winter, an annual survey found on Wednesday. The decline—which was far worse than the winter before—threatens the survival of some bee colonies. The heavy losses of pollinators also threatens the country's food supply, researchers said. The US Department of Agriculture has estimated that honeybees contribute some $20bn to the economy every year.
New UN report gives Indonesia low marks in forest governance
(05/09/2013) A new UN report exposes serious flaws in Indonesia’s forest governance, serving as a wake up call to policy makers aiming to conserve forests in the country, which boasts the third largest area of tropical forest coverage in the world. On Monday, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) together with the Government of Indonesia launched a comprehensive forest governance index, which evaluates forest governance at the central, provincial and district levels and offers policy recommendations designed to better equip the country to conserve forests and peatlands.
Brazil's satellite monitoring reduced Amazon deforestation by 60,000 sq km in 5 years
(05/08/2013) Brazil's advanced satellite monitoring system, coupled with increased law enforcement, was responsible for nearly 60 percent of the 101,000 square kilometer-drop in deforestation observed between 2007 and 2011, argues a new study published an international think tank.
Are seagulls killing whales in Patagonia?
(05/08/2013) It sounds ludicrous, but it could just be true: scientists say seagulls may be responsible for hundreds of southern right whale moralities off the Argentine coastline. Since 2003, scientists have documented the deaths of 605 southern right whales (Eubalaena australis) near Península Valdés which the whales use as a nursery. Notably, 88 percent of these were newborn calves. The death rate is so high that researchers now fear for the whales' long-term survival.
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