conservation news and environmental science news.
U.N. raises thermostats to cut emissions, save money
(07/31/2008) In a bid lead by example on climate change, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon unveiled "Cool UN," an initiative which seeks to limit the use of air conditioning, slash greenhouse gas emissions and save money.
Chevron lobbies Bush Administration for bail out on lawsuit by Amazon tribes
(07/31/2008) Lobbyists for big oil are working feverishly to persuade the Bush Administration and Congress to let Chevron off the hook for a potential $16 billion liability in an environmental lawsuit.
Bush Administration moves to weaken endangered speices protection
(07/31/2008) The Bush administration's handling of the Endangered Species Act has put the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl in danger of extinction, according to the Centre for Biological Diversity. Even though less than 30 individuals exist in the United States—all in Arizona—the species was removed from the Endangered Species Act in 2006, after nine years of protection.
Photo: World's oldest Fly River Turtle turns 50
(07/31/2008) Last Saturday "Freddy", a Fly River Turtle, turned 50. He is the oldest known individual of his species.
Logging company Danzer accused of tax fraud in the Congo
(07/31/2008) A major European logging company is using an elaborate profit-laundering system to smuggle timber revenue out of Africa and avoid paying taxes to the governments of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Republic of the Congo, alleges a new report published by Greenpeace.
Cane toads are killing crocodiles in Australia
(07/30/2008) The cane toad has been a scourge to Australian wildlife for decades. An invasive species, the cane toad competes with local endemic frog species and due to its high toxicity kills any predator who preys on it, including snakes, raptors, lizards, and the carnivorous marsupial, northern quoll. New research has uncovered another victim of the toad. The freshwater crocodile has suffered massive population declines due to consuming the irascible toad.
Conservation groups could augment poverty alleviation in some remote areas
(07/30/2008) Conservation groups are well-positioned to assist in poverty alleviation efforts in some of the world's poorest and most remote places where they have otherwise been neglected by governments and aid organizations, argues a report published in the journal Oryx.
Ocean acidification may hurt reproduction in marine life
(07/30/2008) Ocean acidification due to rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere may be putting the reproductive capabilities of some marine species at risk, reports a new study published in Current Biology by Swedish and Australian scientists.
Deepest-ever lake dive searches for new energy sources
(07/29/2008) Russian scientists have reached the bottom of Lake Baikal, the world's deepest lake, to take samples of gas hydrate deposits. Russia hopes the methane-rich deposits could someday be exploited as an energy source.
Researchers discover "artistic" moth in Panama
(07/29/2008) Researchers have discovered a new species of Bagworm Moth that wraps its eggs individually in "beautiful cases" fashioned from its golden abdominal hairs, according to a new paper published in the Annals of the Entomology Society of America. The behavior is unique among insects.
Adaptation to climate change will be difficult for Madagascar
(07/29/2008) Madagascar's high levels of endemism coupled with its extensive loss and degradation of ecosystems leave its species particularly vulnerable to climate change. A new paper evaluates these risks and sets forth conservation priorities to best maintain the ecological resilience of the island nation.
Island biogeography theory doesn't explain biodiversity changes in forest fragments
(07/28/2008) Island biogeography theory, the idea that fragmented ecosystems have lower species richness per unit of area compared with contiguous habitats, has served as a useful conceptual model to understand the effects of habitat fragmentation but fails to explain the complexities of change in isolated forest fragments, according to a synthesis published last month in the journal Biological Conservation.
An interview a shaman in the Amazon rainforest
(07/28/2008) Deep in the Suriname rainforest, an innovative conservation group is working with indigenous tribes to protect their forest home and culture using traditional knowledge combined with cutting-edge technology. The Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) is partnering with the Trio, an Amerindian group that lives in the remote Suriname-Brazil border area of South America, to develop programs to protect their forest home from illegal gold miners and encroachment, improve village health, and strengthen cultural ties between indigenous youths and elders at a time when such cultures are disappearing even faster than rainforests. In June 2008 mongabay.com visited the community of Kwamalasamutu in Suriname to see ACT's programs in action. During the visit, Amasina, a Trio shaman who works with ACT, answered some questions about his role as a traditional healer in the village.
Newly discovered monkey is critically endangered by logging, poaching
(07/28/2008) A newly discovered species of monkey may already be threatened with extinction, according to a study published in the journal Oryx.
Climate change will increase the erosion of coral reefs
(07/28/2008) Coral reefs are particularly susceptible to climate change. Warming waters have been shown to bleach coral, killing off symbiotic algae that provide them with sustenance, and often leading to the death of the coral itself. Much attention has been placed on bleaching coral, but now scientists have discovered an additional danger to coral reefs in a warming world: erosion.
Unlike humans, tree shrews don't get drunk
(07/28/2008) The pentailed treeshrew, sporting a mouse-like body and feathery tail, seems an unlikely drinker. Yet, new research shows that this one-and-half ounce creature's main food source, the nectar of the bertam palm, is highly fermented. The nectar can contain a peak alcohol concentration of 3.8 percent. This is a little less than a Bud Light.
The end of migrations: wildlife's greatest spectacle is critically endangered
(07/28/2008) If we could turn back the clock about 200 years, one could watch as millions of whales swam along their migration routes. Around 150 years ago, one could witness bison filling the vast America prairie or a billion passenger pigeons blotting out the sky for days. Only a few decades back and a million saiga antelope could be seen crossing the plains of Asia.
Monster manta ray species discovered
(07/25/2008) Researchers have discovered a previously unknown species of manta ray. Previously there was believed to be only a single species of ray but genetic analysis now shows there are at least two, and possibly three, species.
Facing criticism, biofuels industry forms new lobby group to influence lawmakers
(07/25/2008) Under attack by politicians, aid groups, and environmentalists for driving up food prices and fueling destruction of ecologically sensitive habitats, some of the world's largest agroindustrial firms have formed a lobby group to influence consumers and lawmakers to support continued subsidies for biofuel production, reports Reuters.
Loggers, palm oil firms eye remote rainforests of Papua for development
(07/25/2008) Commodity producers are eyeing one of the world's last relatively untouched tracts of rainforest for development, reports the Wall Street Journal.
14 countries win REDD funding to protect tropical forests
(07/24/2008) Fourteen countries have been selected by the World Bank to receive funds for conserving their tropical forests under an innovative carbon finance scheme.
Rainforest conservation could offset 500m tons of CO2 emissions at $2/ton
(07/24/2008) Industrialized nations could collectively offset 500 million tons carbon of dioxide emissions at roughly $2 per ton by protecting tropical rainforests, according to estimates published in the online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
New plan would pay tropical countries for saving forests, regardless of level of threat
(07/24/2008) Deforestation and forest degradation account for around a fifth of global carbon emissions from human activities, but new policy measures are focusing reducing such emissions as a cost-effective way to fight global warming. While the concept — known as REDD for "Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation" — has found wide support from politicians, scientists, and environmentalists, there are lingering concerns over how to compensate countries that have extensive forest cover and low rates of annual forest loss, since payments are based on historical deforestation rates. A new proposal seeks to get around this issue by factoring in all the terrestrial carbon in a tropical landscape — regardless of level of threat it faces — and packaging it as a tradable commodity.
Brazil to send more police into the Amazon to fight illegal logging
(07/23/2008) Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva signed two decrees Tuesday to rein in illegal forest clearing in the Amazon, reports the Associated Press (AP).
Fertilizer prices increase 235% over past year
(07/23/2008) Fertilizer prices continue to surge according to data released by the World Bank.
Secret power plan would devastate Sarawak's rainforest with 12 new hydropower plants
(07/23/2008) Environmentalists have called on the Malaysian government to develop a comprehensive energy policy, following the discovery of secret plans to build a network of power plants across interior Sarawak on the island of Borneo.
Leaf-cutter ants test theories about the Amazon's biodiversity
(07/23/2008) No one knows for certain how many insect species reside in the Amazon. One oft-quoted estimate is 30 million, but the actual number could be significantly lower or higher than this. Either way, biologists have long wondered why the richness of insect diversity in the Americas' tropical forests is exponentially higher than temperate forests. Three popular hypotheses have emerged—the theory of refugia, the marine incursion hypothesis, and the riverine barrier hypothesis. To test these theories a group of scientists, headed by Dr. Scott Solomon, studied three species of leaf-cutter ant species from the Amazon.
How to replant a mangrove forest: local, low-cost initiatives prove most successful
(07/23/2008) Mangrove replanting and rehabilitation has become a widespread and important environmental initiative worldwide. Mangrove forests play key ecological roles, including sustaining fish populations and other wildlife, preventing erosion along coastlines, and acting as an overall carbon sink. Furthermore, mangroves have received attention lately for their role in providing an effective buffer against typhoons. In light of the many replanting initiatives now occurring, researchers J.H. Primavera and J.M.A. Esteban conducted a study of the overall effectiveness of different mangrove rehabilitation schemes. Their findings show that small, local, and generally cheaper initiatives have a higher success rate over large costly government and international programs.
Biofuels can reduce emissions, but not when grown in place of rainforests
(07/22/2008) Biofuels meant to help alleviate greenhouse gas emissions may be in fact contributing to climate change when grown on converted tropical forest lands, warns a comprehensive study published earlier this month in the journal Environmental Research Letters. Analyzing the carbon debt for biofuel crops grown in ecosystems around the world, Holly Gibbs and colleagues report that "while expansion of biofuels into productive tropical ecosystems will always lead to net carbon emissions for decades to centuries... [expansion] into degraded or already cultivated land will provide almost immediate carbon savings." The results suggest that under the right conditions, biofuels could be part of the effort to reduce humanity's carbon footprint.
Population of critically endangered lemurs discovered in Madagascar
(07/22/2008) Scientists in Madagascar have discovered a population of greater bamboo lemurs (Prolemur simus), a critically endangered species of primate, in an area more than 400 kilometers away from its only known refuge, reports conservation International.
Half of the Philippines' endemic wildlife is with extinction
(07/22/2008) More than half the birds, amphibians and mammals endemic to the Philippines are threatened with extinction, according to a statement released by the country's environment and natural resources department and reported by AFP.
Coral susceptibility to bleaching due to small differences in symbiotic relationship
(07/22/2008) Coral reefs are now considered the second most threatened group of animals in the world, with nearly one-third of corals listed as endangered (amphibians retain the dubious honor of being number one). Although corals face many threats, the greatest is bleaching caused by warming oceans due to climate change. However, some coral populations are more susceptible to bleaching than others, even including corals of the same species. New research has uncovered that the reason lies in small differences in the symbiotic relationship between corals and their symbionts, small marine animals and protozoa. Such differences, however miniscule, have a huge impact on the likelihood of a coral's ability to survive warming oceans.
Shell Oil funds "open source" geoengineering project to fight global warming
(07/21/2008) Shell Oil is funding a project that seeks to test the potential of adding lime to seawater as a cost-effective way to fight global warming by sequestering large amounts of carbon dioxide in the world's oceans, reports Chemistry & Industry magazine.
600 species of mushrooms discovered in Guyana
(07/21/2008) In six plots of Guyanese rainforest, measuring only a hundred square meters each, scientists have discovered an astounding 1200 species of macrofungi, commonly known as mushrooms. Even more surprising: they believe over 600 of these are new to science — that's equivalent to a new species every square meter.
Mangroves are key to healthy fisheries, finds study
(07/21/2008) Mangroves serve as a critical nursery for young marine life and therefore play an important role in the health of fisheries and the economic well-being of fishermen, report researchers writing in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Implementing a butterfly farm: Iwokrama reserve's latest sustainable initiative
(07/20/2008) Iwokrama, which lies in the heart of Guyana's rainforest, is known worldwide for its innovative approach to preserving tropical rainforests and creating livelihoods for local communities. Their focus has been to create programs that utilize the forest sustainably, allowing for a mutual benefit between the people and the forest itself. Currently, Iwokrama has a number of initiatives under its umbrella, including eco-tourism, sustainable forestry, on-going research projects, and training programs. Amid these bustling projects, a new one has emerged: butterfly farming.
Destruction of wetlands worsens global warming
(07/20/2008) Destruction of wetland ecosystems will generate massive greenhouse gas emissions in coming years, warn experts convening at an international wetlands conference in Brazil.
Amazon timber industry declares ban on illegal logging
(07/18/2008) The Brazilian state of Pará today announced a ban on the sales of illegally logged timber from the Amazon rainforests.
Beyond high food prices, little to show for $11B/yr in biofuel support, says OECD report
(07/17/2008) Government support of biofuel production in rich countries is squandering vast amounts of amounts of money while exacerbating the global food crisis and failing to meaningfully curb greenhouse gas emissions and improve energy security, alleges a new report from the OECD, the club of industrialized nations.
Moving species may be only way to save them from climate change
(07/17/2008) Desperate times call for desperate measures, according to a new paper in Science. conservation scientists from the US, the UK, and Australia are calling for the consideration of a highly controversial conservation technique: assisted migration. According to the policy piece, species would be relocated to sites "where they do not currently occur or have not been known to occur in recent history".
Amazon deforestation forecast for 2008 revised downward
(07/17/2008) Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell sharply in the month of May (1,096 square kilometers) compared to May a year-ago (1,222 square kilometers), according to preliminary satellite data announced by the country's environment minister on Tuesday. Brazilian Environment Minister Carlos Minc said a preliminary analysis by the government's National Space Research Institute (INPE) showed 1,096 square kilometers (423 square miles) of rain forest were cut down in May, down from 1,123 square kilometers (434 square miles) in April.
Orangutans persist in islands amid a sea of oil palm plantations
(07/17/2008) Orangutan are surviving in forest islands in a sea of oil palm plantations in Malaysia, reports a new survey by a government-backed conservation initiative. The finding underscores the need to protect critical forest areas for the endangered primates as forest continues to fall in southeast Asia at a rate that is the highest of any of the world's tropical forest regions.
Gore launches second campaign... for Earth
(07/17/2008) In a speech Thursday, Al Gore challenged the U.S. to generate 100 percent of its electricity from zero carbon emission sources within 10 years. Speaking at Washington's Constitution Hall, Gore said America's security, environmental and economic crises are all related, and that measures to rein in greenhouse gas emissions will make the U.S. stronger, safer, and cleaner. "The survival of the United States of America as we know it is at risk," Gore said. "I don't remember a time in our country when so many things seemed to be going so wrong simultaneously."
Marine no-take zones are succeeding beyond expectations
(07/16/2008) Two recent reports show that marine no-take zones, where fishing is completely prohibited, are helping to rejuvenate commercial species faster than expected.
Forests cover 1/3 of U.S. but are responsible for 2/3 of its water supply
(07/16/2008) The single most important function of U.S. forests is their role in securing the country's freshwater supply at a time when water demand is surging but climate risks to forests are also increasing, say the authors of a new federal report released by the National Research Council.
Madagascar villagers vote to protect sea turtles, see first hatchlings
(07/15/2008) The first hatching of Green Turtles recorded as a direct result of efforts to protect the species in southwest Madagascar has been witnessed by marine conservationists working for British charity, Blue Ventures conservation.
U.S. dead zones may reach record levels this summer
(07/15/2008) "Dead zones" in the Gulf of Mexico and Chesapeake Bay will likely expand to record levels this summer due to rising rising agricultural runoff in part triggered by large-scale flooding in the Midwest, according to a forecast by a researcher from the University of Michigan.
Using farm waste for ethanol may hurt crop yields in some areas
(07/15/2008) Cellulosic ethanol proponents have pushed the idea of using farm waste as a way to boost biofuel production without impacting food crops, but such conversion may carry a hidden cost in areas with insufficient rainfall or lacking irrigation, warns a soil scientist from Washington State University.
Discovery of new leatherback migration route may help save species
(07/15/2008) Scientists have discovered a new migration route for the world's largest turtle, the leatherback. The route takes the 2,000-pound marine turtle from the Playa Grande beaches in Costa Rica to an area deep in the South Pacific.
First carbon map of America released by NASA
(07/15/2008) For the first time, one can have a whole view of America's carbon output: region by region, city by city. The Vulcan Project has undertaken a holistic inventory—including electricity, heat, transportation, and industry—of local carbon emissions across the nation to create the first carbon map of America. Texas leads the fifty states, and the county of Harris, Texas (encompassing Houston) records the nation's largest emissions by county. Although Texas is second in population after California, its massive industry puts it over the top.
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