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Top 10 Environmental Stories of 2010
(12/20/2010) Below is a quick review of some of the biggest environmental stories of 2010: Climate change rears it ugly head; Oil spill in the Gulf; Agreement to save global biodiversity; Illegal logging crisis in Madagascar; REDD kicks off in Indonesia; Brazil deforestation falls to its lowest level; Hungary's red sludge; Nestle caves to social media activists; New mammals galore' and Global climate framework back on the table?
Biodiversity and slash-and-burn agriculture in Papua New Guinea
(12/20/2010) As pressures increase on the rich forests of Papua New Guinea, how will biodiversity fare? A new study in mongabay.com's Tropical Conservation Science attempts to answer this question by looking at how bird species are impacted by slash-and-burn agriculture. While locals have been practicing such agriculture for 5,000 years, rising populations and societal changes are expected to increase the pressure of slash-and-burn agriculture on forests and the species that live there.
Groups call on KFC to end greenwashing
(12/19/2010) A coalition of environmental groups is calling on Kentucky Fried Chicken to end its use of products carrying the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certification label.
Rainforest information for kids in Finnish
(12/19/2010) With the help of Juha Honkala, Mongabay.com's rainforest information site for children is now available in Finnish.
Lack of price premium for certified palm oil endangers sustainability initiative
(12/19/2010) The palm oil industry's sustainability initiative is making considerable progress toward improving its environmental performance, but needs to do more to accelerate the adoption of responsible practices, argue researchers writing in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science.
Using water bodies to track Asian elephants
(12/19/2010) One would think that it would be easy to track Asia's largest land animal, but in fact Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) are generally shy, mostly nocturnal, and stick to the forest whenever possible. Yet, it's vital for conservationists to track the herd, if they are to keep them safe from poaching and protect both elephants and locals from potential conflict. However, a new study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science has developed a unique strategy to track elephant herds in Sri Lanka by sticking to the water.
The hair-snare: non-invasive animal research technique makes good in Mexico
(12/19/2010) It's not easy or cheap to catch an elusive wild cat, and trapping such an animal can prove harmful to the individual. With such factors in mind, researchers are consistently turning to non-invasive methods of gathering data about species, including collecting feces and the increasingly popular camera trap. But one method rarely gets mentioned: the humble hair-snare. A new study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science has demonstrated the success of hair-snare in gathering data about mammals in Mexico, including the first successful hair catch of two rarely seen cat species, the jaguarundi (Puma yagouaroundi) and the margay (Leopardus wiedii).
Climate change could cut premontane forests of Argentina and Bolivia in half
(12/19/2010) A new study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science finds that the premontane forests of Argentina and Bolivia are susceptible to large-scale shifts due to climate change, losing over half of the ecosystem to warmer temperatures. Apart of the Yungas tropical forests, premontane forests are the lowest in the Andes, covering hills and flatland; these forests harbor significant biodiversity, yet many of those species may become threatened as the world warms.
Local rules trump regulations imposed by outsiders in Madagascar
(12/19/2010) Unwritten rules and social norms can be an effective means to manage protected areas in rural parts of Madagascar, reports a new study published in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science.
Forest fragment climate not driven by edge-effect
(12/19/2010) Examining ten forest fragments in Brazil's Atlantic Forest, researchers have undercut the theory that the climate of forest fragment' is driven by the edge-effect. Writing in mongabay.com's open source journal Tropical Conservation Science, researchers found that edge-effect was too simple to explain the microclimate of isolated forest fragments from 3 to 3,500 hectares large, each at least 80-years-old.
Prominent indigenous leader gets death threats in Guyana
(12/17/2010) Environmental groups have written to Guyana president Bharrat Jagdeo over recent threats against Tony James, the President of the Amerindian Peoples Association in Guyana.
Year-end highlights: environment pictures
(12/17/2010) Over the course of another busy year of reporting for mongabay.com, I spent nearly four months on the road, visiting nine countries and adding more than 10,000 new photos to the site. Most of my pictures this year are from Indonesia (two trips: North Sulawesi, Sumatra, and Bali in May and Papua, West Papua, and Bali in July and August), Colombia (Amazon, Darien, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Tayrona, and Chicaque in March), Mexico (COP16 in Cancun and nearby areas in December), Kauai (November), and California (various trips around the Bay Area throughout the year).
Lack of schools, trade drive exodus from remote parts of the Amazon
(12/17/2010) Lack of school access and higher costs of trade are driving an exodus from remote areas in the Amazon, a new study published in Population & Environment reveals. The research sheds light on to why people are leaving remote forest areas. It follows an earlier publication indicating that migration away from remote rural areas may have repercussions on deforestation.
New hope for polar bears
(12/17/2010) Once thought of as a doomed species, new research published in the journal Nature and conducted by scientists from several institutions, including the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Geological Survey, finds that polar bears could be saved from extinction - if certain measures are taken.
California approves cap-and-trade under global warming law
(12/17/2010) The California Air Resources Board voted 9-1 to adopt cap and trade regulations for AB32, California's 2006 climate law. The move, which establishes the first compliance carbon trading system in the United States, opens the door for carbon offsets generated via forest conservation projects.
How cannibal crickets choose their victims
(12/17/2010) Social interactions influence cannibalistic behavior among migratory bands of crickets, finds a new study published in the Public Library of Science. Cannibalism in turn is a major driving force behind the nature and direction of cricket swarms.
Australia cracks down on illegal timber
(12/16/2010) The Australian government has announced the creation of new legislation which will put further restrictions on the import of foreign wood products in effort to halt the flow of illegally logged timber. Taking effect next year, the laws will require importers to disclose the sources of all timber products, even paper.
Teaching orangutans to be wild – orangutan rehabilitation
(12/15/2010) Michelle Desilets, Executive Director of the Orangutan Land Trust, spoke with Laurel Neme on her 'The WildLife' radio show and podcast about the process of rehabilitating orphaned orangutans and teaching them to be wild. This is the second in a two-part interview. The first part covered orangutan biology, habits and the interconnected threats, from the pet trade to habitat loss and expansion of oil palm plantations, facing these creatures. This second part focuses on what happens to surviving orangutans.
New data shows REDD+ is succeeding
(12/15/2010) Amid the whirlwind of climate change news before and after the Cancún climate conference, including a landmark agreement on REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation, and related pro-forest actions), an important story seems to have passed by with little notice. Over the past two months, several new analyses have given clear evidence that deforestation has gone down over the past several years. In fact, the drop is quite impressive, and shows that of all the approaches to avoiding the worst consequences of global warming, reducing tropical deforestation is the one that has contributed by far the most to date.
Primatologists: the best hope for apes is the best hope for us
(12/15/2010) Distinguished conservation luminaries, eminent primate experts, ape-suited bucket wielders, a group of African drummers and nearly 1,500 people gathered in London last week for an evening of talks to shine the spotlight on the plight of apes and the forests in which they live, sending a strong message to the climate negotiators hammering out a REDD+ mechanism in Cancun. Hosted by conservation heavyweight Sir David Attenborough, Hope 4 Apes was something of a reunion of the first Hope 4 Apes event that took place ten years ago to raise awareness of -- and funding for -- ape conservation.
Emissions from deforestation slow
(12/15/2010) A dip in forest clearing in Brazil combined with rising levels of industrial emissions have reduced the share of carbon dioxide emissions from deforestation to around 9 percent, according to research published last month in Nature Geoscience.
Picture: New lemur in Madagascar
(12/15/2010) Researchers have discovered a new species of lemur in Madagascar.
Deforestation sparks giant rodent invasions
(12/15/2010) Capybara are expanding into areas of deforestation throughout South America, reports a new study conducted by Kansas State University researchers and published in the journal of Global Change Biology. The study is the first to report capybara populations invading historically arid regions and finds that the presence of invasive capybara can hinder habitat restoration.
NASA image reveals worst drought on record for the Amazon river
(12/15/2010) A new image released by NASA reveals the impact of the worst drought on record on the world's largest river.
NASA releases global warming map
(12/15/2010) NASA has released a new analysis of temperature change.
Carbon sequestration: Underground storage of carbon dioxide may trigger earthquakes
(12/14/2010) Underground storage of carbon dioxide may trigger earthquakes which could allow the gas to seep back into the atmosphere, rendering the emissions mitigation approach ineffective, warns Stanford geophysicist Mark Zoback.
Finland forest protected: 80,000 hectares of green cover rescued from industrial logging
(12/14/2010) In a significant win for environmental activists, 80,000 hectares of forests in Finland have been won protection under a landmark deal.
The secrets of animal TV: many nature shows rely on unethical tactics
(12/14/2010) Classic animal series like Shark Week hosted by the Discovery Channel and Wild America by Marty Stouffer have captivated audiences for years, bringing them closer than ever to nature from the comfort of their living room. Unfortunately what the audience doesn’t know is that many of those wildlife films incorporate unethical behavior including animal harassment, staged scenes, and the use of trained animals. These claims come from Chris Palmer, a veteran wildlife filmmaker with over 300 hours of original programming for prime time television and the giant screen, director of the Center for Environmental Filmmaking at American University and author of Shooting in the Wild: An Insider’s Account of Making Movies in the Animal Kingdom (Sierra Club Books, 2010). Palmer concedes that his films have used these unethical techniques and that significant proportion of the wildlife programming we find ourselves enthralled with is as fake and scripted as any Hollywood movie.
Sarawak to cut down 1 million ha of rainforest for palm oil
(12/14/2010) The government of Sarawak aims to convert more than 1 million hectares (2.5 million acres) of tropical forest by 2020, according to the Malaysian state's Land Development Minister, James Masing.
Climate agreement reached in Cancun
(12/13/2010) Ministers meeting in Cancun, Mexico reached a series of agreements that include measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a goal of limiting the global average temperature increase to 2°C, greater protections for forests, and a new U.N.-administered climate fund finance mitigation and adaptation activities in developing countries. While the 'Cancun Agreement' doesn't set any binding targets, it lays the groundwork for a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.
The problem-solving ape: what makes orangutans special and why they are threatened
(12/13/2010) Michelle Desilets, Executive Director of the Orangutan Land Trust, spoke with Laurel Neme on her “The WildLife” radio show and podcast about orangutans. In the first part of her interview, they discussed orangutan biology, habits and the interconnected threats, from the pet trade to habitat loss and expansion of oil palm plantations, facing these creatures. The second part covers the process of rehabilitating orangutans and teaching them to be wild.
World leaders: take action now to save forests
(12/10/2010) Gathering at a side event hosted by Avoided Deforestation Partners, global leaders called on delegates meeting at U.N. climate talks in Cancun to come to a formal decision on REDD+, a mechanism that could compensate developing countries for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation. REDD+ is one of the few areas where negotiations have been progressing.
Logging, palm oil giant hires U.S. ambassador as lobbyist
(12/09/2010) Sinar Mas Group, the sprawling Indonesian conglomerate that has interests in coal mining, logging and wood-pulp production, palm oil plantations, real estate, and other industries, has hired Cameron Hume, the former U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, as an adviser, according to Detik.com. Ambassador Hume stepped down from his post at the embassy in August.
George Soros: save Indonesia's peatlands, rainforests
(12/09/2010) Speaking at a high-level event on the sidelines of climate talks in Cancun, Mexico, financier and philanthropist George Soros made an impassioned call to protect Indonesia's peatlands, the destruction and degradation of which are the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions across the Southeast Asian nation.
Guyana: where's the money pledged for saving rainforests?
(12/09/2010) Funds ostensibly set aside to reward tropical countries for protecting their rainforests are being held up, threatening to exhaust the political capital needed to advance the proposed reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) mechanism before it even gets off the ground, warned the president of Guyana during a lively panel organized by Avoided Deforestation Partners on the sidelines of UN climate talks in Cancun, Mexico.
Sulawesi groups recognized for efforts to save endangered wildlife, forests
(12/08/2010) Two groups working with local communities to conserve forests in Sulawesi have won mongabay.com's 2010 Conservation Award. The Alliance for Tompotika Conservation (AlTo), which works in Central Sulawesi, and the Nantu Forest Conservation Program, which operates in North Sulawesi, were recognized for their efforts to protect endangered forests on the Indonesian island, which is known for its high levels of endemic species.
Mountain gorilla population up by 100 individuals
(12/07/2010) Conservation appears to be working for the Critically Endangered mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) in the Virunga massif region, as a new census shows an additional 100 individuals from the last census in 2003, an increase of over a quarter. The Virunga massif is a region in three nations—Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda—and covering three protected area.
Extinct giant stork towered over 'hobbits' on Flores
(12/07/2010) Scientists have discovered an extinct massive stork, standing nearly 6 feet tall (1.8 meter) and weighing 35 pounds (15 kilograms), which would have shared the island of Flores with the 'hobbits'—dwarf hominin species known as Homo floresiensis—reports the BBC. According to the researchers the meat-eating stork was big enough to prey on young Homo floresiensis, and stood about 2 and a half feet (0.8 meters) above adult hobbits.
Can RED Hot California Heat Up A Sedated Cancun?
(12/07/2010) In his concession speech after the 2010 mid-term elections, President Obama said that prospects for meaningful U.S. climate change legislation are doubtful and will be for years. With the US and the international community unable to take even modest steps to combat global warming, the State of California has stepped up in a big, big way. Despite record unemployment rates, deficits and unemployment, California voters trounced a measure that would have suspended AB 32, California's landmark climate change law. California's AB 32 cap and trade program will soon be the biggest market for compliance emission reductions outside of Europe. In the wreckage of the Copenhagen talks and the new political landscape in America, California is the most dynamic jurisdiction for climate change implementation.
Forgotten species: the plummeting cycad
(12/06/2010) I have a declarative statement to make: cycads are mind-blowing. You may ask, what is a cycad? And your questions wouldn't be a silly one. I doubt Animal Planet will ever replace its Shark Week with Cycad Week (perhaps the fact that it's 'animal' planet and not 'plant' planet gave that away); nor do I expect school children to run to see a cycad first thing when they arrive at the zoo, rushing past the polar bear and the chimpanzee; nor do I await a new children's book about a lonely little anthropomorphized cycad just looking for a friend. In the world of species-popularity, the cycad ranks pretty low. For one thing, it's a plant. For another thing, it doesn't produce lovely flowers. And for a final fact, it looks so much like a palm tree that most people probably wouldn't know it wasn't. Still, I declare the cycad to be mind-blowing.
Saving the maleo, a geothermal nesting bird, in Sulawesi
(12/06/2010) More species are threatened with extinction in Indonesia than any other country on Earth. If we are to save them, it will take more protected areas, radical shifts in deforestation, and better anti-poaching efforts, but in many cases it will also take species-specific conservation efforts that work directly with local people. The Alliance for Tompotika Conservation (AlTo) is a model organization for this method, founder Marcy Summers describes it as 'very small, community-based, and efficient, with very low overhead.' By focusing on the wonderfully bizarre maleo, a ground-dwelling bird on the island of Sulawesi, the organization has succeeded in protecting a vital nesting area while initiating a moratorium on the egg-harvesting, which once devastated the species.
Saving Sulawesi's 'pig-deer', the babirusa
(12/06/2010) The babirusa of Sulawesi may be one of the world's oddest looking—and acting—mammals. Literally meaning 'pig-deer' the babirusa, which includes four species, belongs to its own genus 'Babyrousa' in the pig family. Males are especially unique, sporting four tusks, two of which appear to come right out of the animal's snout. To make it to the top of the babirusa hierarchy, males will combat each other in an activity dubbed 'boxing' where they will rear up on their hind legs and club at each other. Despite their many oddities, the babriusa were not formally studied until the late 1980s when Dr. Lynn Clayton spent four years in Sulawesi's forest observing them.
World has run out of fishing grounds
(12/06/2010) The world's oceans can no longer accommodate fisheries expansion, confirms a study conducted by joint effort between the University of British Columbia and the National Geographic Society. The study is the first of its kind to analyze the geographic expansion of global fisheries. Published in the journal PLoS ONE, the study lends additional credence to reports that current fishing practices are unsustainable. Researchers holistically determined the ecological footprint of commercial fisheries by looking at primary production—the tiny organisms that make up the bottom of the food chain—and calculating the amount necessary to support current fishing yields around the world from 1950 to 2005. The study finds that the amount of primary production required to maintain commercial fishing at current levels far exceeds that which exists.
Jane Goodall and David Attenborough: overpopulation must be addressed
(12/06/2010) In a recent interview with The Telegraph world famous primatologist and conservationist, Jane Goodall, and wildlife documentarian Sir David Attenborough agreed that overpopulation must be addressed to protect the global environment.
US most vulnerable to climate change among world's wealthy nations
(12/06/2010) While the US has done little to mitigate climate change, a new report by humanitarian research organization DARA and the Climate Vulnerable Forum states that of all industrialized nations the US will face the most harm from a warming world. Together with Spain, the US's vulnerability to climate change has been listed as High by the newly released Climate Vulnerability Monitor.
Climate change to take the lives of 5 million by 2020, mostly children
(12/06/2010) A new report by humanitarian research organization DARA and the Climate Vulnerable Forum finds that if nations continue to fail at lowering greenhouse gas emissions, five million people—mostly children—are likely to die from climate change impacts over the next 10 years. The report, called the Climate Vulnerability Monitor, predicts, in addition, that by 2030, one million people every year will perish from climate change impacts. The dire predictions come as nations struggle at a UN Climate Summit in Mexico this week to come up with a coordinated response to climate change, although an agreement is not expected this year.
Amazon tribe establishes first indigenous forest carbon fund
(12/04/2010) A half-century ago, Brazil's Suruí people knew little of the world beyond their cluster of villages – and nothing of the European settlers who dominated their continent. By 2006, that world beyond had engulfed them – a fact their young chief, Almir Narayamoga Suruí, saw all too clearly the first time he logged onto Google Earth.
Brazil to help African, Asian countries in satellite-based forest monitoring
(12/03/2010) Brazil will provide technical assistance to help tropical countries improve their forest monitoring capabilities, according to an official with the South American country's satellite agency.
Google lends its massive computing cloud in fight against deforestation
(12/03/2010) Google officially launched Earth Engine, a technology platform that enables scientists using the search giant's massive computing infrastructure to monitor and measure environmental changes. A group of scientific partners is already using the Earth Engine to track deforestation; map vegetation, biodiversity and water resources; and analyze fire patterns, but Google will open the platform to scientists around the world.
2,700 sq km of Brazil's most endangered rainforest destroyed in 8 years
(12/03/2010) 270,000 hectares of the Mata Atlântica, Brazil's most threatened ecosystem, was cleared between 2002 and 2008, reports a new assessment by the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Natural Resources (IBAMA). Less than 8 percent of the Atlantic forest—famed for its biodiversity—remains.
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