conservation news and environmental science news.
Palm oil companies propose satellite monitoring of their plantations to ensure sustainability
(11/05/2008) The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is considering a proposal to use satellite imagery to enforce criteria that high value conservation areas are not converted to oil palm plantations, reports Ian Wood of the Telegraph. The move would boost RSPO's credibility at a time when the industry-lead sustainability initiative is under fire from environmentalists who say its performance to date suggests it is merely an exercise in greenwashing.
Brazil triples endangered species list
(11/05/2008) Brazil has nearly tripled the number of species on its endangered list due to development, overfishing, pollution, wildlife trafficking and deforestation, reports the Associated Press.
Louisiana cypress mulch industry devastates old-growth forests
(11/05/2008) The cypress forests of Louisiana have suffered much devastation from human development, coastal erosion, and exploitation by the lumber industry. Now, vast tracts are being clear cut for the production of cypress mulch. A new online campaign — saveourcypress.org — is seeking to reform the Louisiana cypress mulch industry.
Forest certification system needs reform to ensure sustainability - report
(11/04/2008) Demand for wood products is ultimately one of the largest drivers of global deforestation through both direct clear-cutting and selective logging, which increases a forest's vulnerability to fire and subsequent clearing and disturbance by other actors, including hunters, subsistence farmers, land speculators, ranchers and agro-industrial firms. Reducing the detrimental environmental impacts of meeting wood demand is critical to protecting the world's forests as healthy, productive and resilient ecosystems.
Review of the indoor rainforest at San Francisco's new Academy of Sciences
(11/04/2008) As a longtime resident of San Francisco's Inner Sunset district, I am quite familiar with the Academy of Sciences which is a short walk from my domicile. While I had visited it many times in its previous incarnation, the old (now demolished) museum was a far cry from the new high-tech building that opened this Fall. Both as someone who has traveled extensively in the tropics, and as the author of a number of travel guides which cover tropical rainforests and their ecosystems as well, I was looking forward to one of its most highly touted new features: the "rainforest dome."
Ugandan president continues to undermine national forest reserves
(11/04/2008) Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni — a leader who has repeatedly sought to hand forest areas over to industrial developers and undermine the sanctity of reserves — is now blaming the country's forestry agency for deforestation in Uganda.
New process may fight climate change by storing billions of tons of CO2 in rock
(11/04/2008) Researchers may have devised a way to store massive amounts of carbon dioxide in rock through a relatively simple process. The finding is described in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Rainforest agriculture preserves bird biodiversity in India
(11/04/2008) Conservation of biodiversity and agriculture have long been considered conflicting interests. Numerous studies have shown that when agricultural replaces a forest, biodiversity greatly suffers. However a new study finds it doesn't have to be that way.
Rainforest fungus generates biodiesel, may drive energy of the future
(11/04/2008) A fungus recently discovered in the Patagonian rainforest has shocked biologists and environmentalists: the fungus produces gas almost identical to diesel. In a paper announcing the discovery in Microbiology, scientists state that they believe the fungus, called Gliocladium roseum, could become an incredibly efficient green energy source.
Endangered wildlife in Malaysia falls victim to rampant poaching due to 'outdated' laws
(11/04/2008) In the face of rampant poaching of endangered animals, conservationists are calling for Malaysia to reform its 36-year-old wildlife protection law.
Forests for Climate initiative launches in Indonesia
(11/04/2008) Greenpeace has officially launched its Forests for Climate initiative (FFC), a non-market avoided deforestation scheme that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by slowing forest destruction.
Rise of industrial chicken farming imperils genetic stock of the industry
(11/03/2008) Industrial poultry farming is reducing the genetic diversity of chickens, putting them at greater risk of disease, report researchers writing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The authors propose interbreeding commercial chickens with indigenous stocks to restore greater diversity within the industry.
Brazil charges 81 with illegal Amazon deforestation
(11/02/2008) Brazil will file charges against 81 people accused of being the biggest destroyers of the Amazon rainforest, reports the Associated Press.
Two new species of gecko discovered in Australia
(10/31/2008) Two species of gecko have been discovered in the southern deserts of Western Australia and South Australia, report researchers from the Western Australian Museum.
Massive bat species returns from the brink of extinction
(10/31/2008) A critically endangered bat species has made a dramatic recovery from the brink of extinction, report conservationists.
One-third of global marine catch used as livestock feed
(10/30/2008) Despite continuous warnings of emptying oceans due to overfishing, a new report finds that one-third of the world’s total marine catch is not feeding humans, but livestock. The fish are ground-up into meal and fed to pigs, poultry, and even farm-raised fish.
Elephant ivory auction produces low prices, controversy
(10/30/2008) The first internally-sanctioned auction of elephant ivory since 1999 produced lower-than-expected prices, but plenty of controversy, reports Reuters.
EU moves slowly towards a pact on illegal logging
(10/30/2008) The E.U. is slowly moving towards curtailing the illegal timber trade through import restrictions, reports Reuters.
Ozone hole is second-largest on record in 2008
(10/30/2008) The Antarctic ozone hole reached its second-largest size on record in 2008, reports NASA.
Climate change is a bigger economic risk than banking crisis
(10/30/2008) Unmitigated climate change will hurt the global economy more than the current banking crisis, said a leading environmental economist.
U.S., Mexico, Canada pledge to save the vaquita from extinction
(10/30/2008) The United States, Mexico, and Canada will work together to conserve the vaquita, the world's smallest, and most endangered, species of cetacean.
World military leaders meet in Paris to discuss role in fighting climate change
(10/30/2008) Acknowledging the security threats posed by global warming as well as past successes in controlling emissions of ozone-depleting compounds, military leaders from around the world will convene next week in Paris, France for “The Importance of Military Organizations in Protecting the Climate: 2008. The officials will be joined by a panel of climate experts.
Oil palm expansion in Indonesian Borneo increased 400-fold from 1991-2007
(10/30/2008) Annual forest conversion to palm oil plantations increased 400-fold from 1,163 hectares in 1991 to 461,992 hectares in 2007 in Central Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo, reports a new report published by Forest Watch Indonesia, a local NGO.
Coca-Cola announces water conservation goal
(10/30/2008) Coca-Cola Company has pledged to a 20 percent improvement in water efficiency over 2004 levels in its worldwide operations by 2012, saving some 50 billion liters of fresh water over projected use that year, reports WWF, which negotiated the agreement.
Previously unknown fungus may have triggered mass bat die-offs in the U.S.
(10/30/2008) Researchers have identified the fungus that may have been the culprit in mass dief-offs of bats in the northeastern United States during the winter of 2006-2007. The research is published in this week's issue of Science.
39 rangers missing in Virunga Park after headquarters overtaken by rebels
(10/30/2008) Five days after rebels occupied Virunga Park’s headquarters, thirty-nine wildlife rangers are still unaccounted in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). During the takeover, which included fighting between the Congolese army and the rebels, many of the rangers fled into the forest.
Researchers catch, then release, world's rarest big cat in Russia
(10/30/2008) The world’s rarest big cat is alive and well. At least one of them, that is, according to researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) who captured and released a female Far Eastern leopard in Russia last week. The capture was made in Primorsky Krai along the Russian-Chinese border by a team of scientists from WCS and the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Biology and Soils (IBS). The team is evaluating the health and potential effects of inbreeding for this tiny population, which experts believe contains no more than 10-15 females.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service program restores bird habitat on farms and ranches
(10/28/2008) Matt Filsinger is driving his white pickup headed northeast from Sterling to look at two of his projects. This self-described introvert speaks enthusiastically about his job. “Ducks, ducks, ducks – that’s what I love!” says Filsinger, grinning broadly. Filsinger is a wildlife biologist with the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He works with private landowners to set aside land and create attractive habitat for imperiled species. Specifically, he designs wetlands to attract waterfowl. Partners for Fish and Wildlife is a successful program that has been around since 1987. Landowners, including farmers and ranchers, form partnerships with the program because they reap a variety of benefits from it. Nonprofit organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, Audubon and the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory are also partners. Collaboration between the federal government and private landowners is essential to preserving habitat and species, as 73 percent of the country’s land is privately owned, and most wildlife lives on that land.
Mystery cat discovered in Ecuador is likely a pampas cat according to expert
(10/28/2008) Two years ago a mysterious wild cat was spotted in Peru. The cat was photographed recently by Aldo Sornoza of Fundacion Jocotoco (FJ) in Ecuador's Jorupe Reserve, close to the Peruvian border.
How to Save Snow Leopards
(10/28/2008) The snow leopard (Panthera uncia) is one of the rarest and most elusive big cat species with a population of 4,500 to 7,500 spread across a range of 1.2 to 1.6 million kilometers in some of the world's harshest and most desolate landscapes. Found in arid environments and at elevations sometimes reaching 18,000 feet (5,500 meters), the species faces great threats despite its extreme habitat. These threats vary across its range, but in all countries where it is found — Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Nepal, Mongolia, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and possibly Myanmar — the species is at risk. In some countries snow leopard are directly hunted for their pelt, in others they are imperiled by depletion of prey, loss of habitat, and killing as a predator of livestock. These threats, combined with the cat's large habitat requirements, means conservation through the establishment of protected areas alone may not be enough save it from extinction in the wild in many of the countries in which it lives. Working to stave off this fate in half a dozen of its range countries is the Snow Leopard Conservancy. Founded by Dr. Rodney Jackson, a biologist who has been studying snow leopard in the wild for 30 years, the Conservancy seeks to conserve the species by "promoting innovative grassroots measures that lead local people to become better stewards of endangered snow leopards, their prey, and habitat."
Yellowstone amphibians in decline due to climate change
(10/27/2008) Climate change appears to be responsible for a "marked drop" in the population of three of four species of amphibian once common to Yellowstone National Park, report researchers writing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Air travel may be powered by biofuels in 3-5 years
(10/27/2008) Boeing says biofuel-powered planes are only three-to-five years away from being a reality, reports The Guardian.
Forest elephants learn to avoid roads, behavior may lead to population decline
(10/27/2008) Forest elephants in the Congo Basin have developed a new behavior: they are avoiding roads at all costs. A study published in PLoS One concludes that the behavior, which includes an unwillingness to cross roads, is further endangering the rare animals which are already threatened by poaching, development, and habitat loss. By avoiding roads, the elephants are increasingly confining themselves to smaller areas lacking enough habitat and resources.
Costa Rica protects green macaw by banning logging of mountain almond tree
(10/27/2008) Costa Rica's high court has prohibited the cutting of a certain species of tree, in part because a highly endangered type of parrot uses the tree almost exclusively for nesting.
Shell, HSBC put $665,000 toward Borneo rainforest conservation project
(10/26/2008) Brunei Shell Petroleum (Shell Oil) and HSBC have donated 500,000 Brunei dollars ($333,000) each to conserve forests on the island of Borneo, reports the Borneo Bulletin.
Gorilla refuge falls into rebel hands in Congo; Park HQ seized
(10/26/2008) Rebels in Democratic Republic of Congo seized the headquarters of Virunga National Park — a refuge home to 200 of the world's 700 remaining endangered mountain gorillas — according to a statement by park officials. Some 50 rangers fled into the forests and abandoned the park station after intense fighting between the Congolese army and the rebels loyal to dissident General Laurent Nkunda.
Clean Development Mechanism - An Important Tool to Reduce GHG Emissions
(10/26/2008) The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), is a mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol for promoting technology transfer and investment from industrialized countries to the developing world for projects focussed on mitigating emissions of greenhouse gases. It provides for industrialized countries to invest in emission-reducing projects in developing countries and to use the resulting Certified Emissions Reductions (CER) credits towards their own compliance with the emission limitation targets set forth by the Kyoto Protocol.
Geoengineering schemes need ranking system to avoid wasting money, destroying the planet
(10/26/2008) Schemes to alter Earth's climate on a planetary scale should be ranked according to their efficacy, cost, risks and their rate of mitigation, argues a new editorial published in Nature Geoscience. With so-called geoengineering proposals proliferating as concerns over climate change mount, Philip Boyd of New Zealand's NIWA warns that "no geo-engineering proposal has been tested or even subjected to preliminary trials". He says that despite widespread media attention, scientists have yet to even come up with a way to rank geoegineering schemes for their efficacy, cost, associated risk, and timeframe. Thus is it unclear whether ideas like carbon burial, geochemical carbon capture, atmospheric carbon capture, ocean fertilization, cloud manipulation, "space sunshades", or strategically-placed pollution can be effective on a time-scale relevant to humankind, economical, or even safe.
Solar cells, flat-panel screens are source of potent greenhouse gas
(10/23/2008) Atmospheric concentrations of nitrogen trifluoride — a gas used in the manufacture of liquid crystal flat-panel displays, thin-film photovoltaic cells and microcircuits — are at least four times higher than previously estimated, reports a new study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Rare bird rediscovered on 'most pristine' island in southeast Asia
(10/23/2008) Scientist have rediscovered the endangered Wetar Ground-dove (Gallicolumba hoedtii), one of the world's least known birds, 100 years after it was last seen on the remote Indonesian island of Wetar, reports Columbidae Conservation, a UK-based conservation group.
Despite financial crunch, donors pledge $100M for rainforest conservation
(10/23/2008) Donors meeting this week in Washington D.C. pledged more than $100 million to the World Bank's new initiative for conserving tropical forests. In addition to the $100 million in donations, the World Bank announced that more than forty developing countries have asked to join the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility — the Bank's foray into the emerging market for forest carbon credits. 25 countries have so far been selected to participate in the initiative, which builds capacity for countries to earn compensation through the carbon markets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by reducing deforestation and forest degradation (REDD). Experts say the mechanism could eventually lead to the transfer of billions of dollars per year to fund conservation and rural development in tropical countries, while at the same time helping fight climate change. Deforestation and land use change presently accounts for around a fifth of anthropogenic emissions.
Rich countries driving pollution in poor countries
(10/22/2008) Rich countries are driving pollution in poor countries through mining of raw materials and outsourcing of industrial manufacturing, reports a new report from environmental NGOs Blacksmith and Green Cross Switzerland.
Peru gets $25M in debt relief to fund rainforest conservation
(10/22/2008) The U.S. government has agreed to forgive $25 million of Peru's debt in exchange for protecting the country's tropical forests, according to a statement released Monday by the State Department.
Organic farming could break cycle of famine and poverty in Africa
(10/22/2008) Organic farming may offer Africa the best opportunity to break out of the devastating cycle of poverty and malnutrition parts of the continent have faced in recent decades, according to a new report from the United Nations.
Borneo logging road puts rainforest, indigenous communities at risk
(10/22/2008) A 186-mile (300-km) logging road to the top of the Bario highlands in northern Sarawak puts the state's increasingly rare natural forest at risk, warns the Borneo Resources Institute, a grassroots environmental group.
Peru's uncontacted Amazon tribes under attack
(10/22/2008) Illegal logging in the Peruvian Amazon is driving uncontacted tribes into Brazil where they are in conflict over food and resources with other uncontacted groups, according to a Reuters interview with a leading expert on indigenous tribes.
Green New Deal will spark global economy, create jobs
(10/22/2008) A "Global Green New Deal" that focuses the world economy "towards investments in clean technologies and 'natural' infrastructure such as forests and soils is the best bet for real growth, combating climate change and triggering an employment boom," according to a new initiative led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
7 new species of frog discovered in Ecuador
(10/22/2008) Seven previously unknown species of frog discovered over the past two years by Ecuadorian researchers are already under threat from habitat loss, reports a newsletter from the IUCN Amphibian Specialist Group.
U.S. pledges $40M toward coral reef conservation.
(10/22/2008) The U.S. government has pledged almost $40 million to protect biologically-rich coral reefs in Southeast Asia, according to the U.S. embassy in the Philippines.
Rainforest biodiversity results from habitat specialization rather than chance
(10/22/2008) The rich diversity of trees in tropical forests may be "the result of subtle strategies that allow each species to occupy its own ecological niche" rather than random dispersal, report researchers writing in the journal Science.
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