conservation news and environmental science news.
Amazon deforestation jumps 69% in 2008
(08/31/2008) Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon increased 69 percent in the past 12 months as high commodity prices have driven forest conversion for ranches and cropland, according to preliminary figures released by Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE). The increase comes after three consecutive years of declining deforestation in Brazil.
Indian protesters win land rights battle against Peru's President Garcia
(08/31/2008) Peru's Congress rejected two decrees by President Alan García that made it easier for foreign developers to buy Amazon rainforest land. The repeal came just two days after lawmakers struck a deal with indigenous rights groups whose protests over the law had shut down oil and gas operations. The groups were worried that the laws weakened their land rights in favor of loggers, miners, and drillers.
Sea levels may rise 2-3 times faster than expected
(08/31/2008) Global sea level rise this century from a melting Greenland ice sheet may be two to three times greater than current estimates warn researchers writing in journal Nature Geoscience.
Palm oil producers in Indonesia reject moratorium on forest destruction
(08/28/2008) Palm oil companies operating in Indonesia have rejected a proposed moratorium on clearing forests and peatlands for oil palm plantations, reports the Jakarta Post.
Pre-Colombian Amazonians lived in sustainable 'urban' society
(08/28/2008) Researchers have uncovered new evidence to support the controversial theory that parts of the Amazon were home to dense "urban" settlements prior to the arrival of Europeans in the 15th century. The study is published this Friday in the journal Science. Conducting archeological excavations and aerial imagery across a number of sites in the Upper Xingu region of the Brazilian Amazon, a team of researchers led by Michael Heckenberger found evidence of a grid-like pattern of 150-acre towns and smaller villages, connected by complex road networks and arranged around large plazas where public rituals would take place. The authors argue that the discoveries indicate parts of the Amazon supported "urban" societies based around agriculture, forest management, and fish farming.
Two large populations of endangered monkeys discovered in Cambodia
(08/28/2008) Conservationists have discovered "surprisingly large populations" of two globally threatened primates in a protected area in Cambodia. Surveys by scientists with the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Cambodian government counted 42,000 black-shanked douc langurs and 2,500 yellow-cheeked crested gibbons in Cambodia's Seima Biodiversity Conservation Area.
40% of Australia is undisturbed wilderness
(08/27/2008) More than 40 percent of Australia—three million square kilometers—is undisturbed wilderness, reports a new study by Pew Environment Group and Nature Conservancy. The extent of Australia's wildlands ranks with the Amazon rainforest, Antarctica, Canada's boreal forest, and the Sahara as the largest on the planet.
Saving oceans from acidification requires addressing climate policy
(08/27/2008) Ocean acidification driven by rising carbon dioxide emissions is a great threat to marine ecosystems and needs be addressed through climate policy and conservation measures, said top marine scientists meeting in Hawaii.
China's log imports fall 19% in first half of 2008 due to high prices
(08/27/2008) China's imports of raw logs plunged 18.7 percent by volume for the first half of 2008 due to rising prices and a cooling Chinese economy, reports the International Tropical Timber Organization.
Scientists condemn Bush plan for endangered species
(08/27/2008) The Ecological Society of America has come down handily against the Bush Administration's proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The changes would eliminate the requirement for independent scientific review of federal projects, such as roads, dams, and mines, instead allowing federal agencies to conduct internal evaluations and then proceed as they see fit.
Sea ice extent falls to second lowest on record
(08/27/2008) Arctic sea ice extent presently stands at it second-lowest level on record and could set a new low in coming weeks, reports the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).
Biofuels 200 times more expensive than forest conservation for global warming mitigation
(08/27/2008) The British government should end subsidies for biofuels and instead use the funds to slow destruction of rainforests and tropical peatlands argues a new report issued by a U.K.-based think tank. The study, titled "The Root of the Matter" and published by Policy Exchange, says that "avoided deforestation" would be a more cost-effective way to address climate change, since land use change generates more emissions than the entire global transport sector and offers ancillary benefits including important ecosystem services.
Baltic cod are shrinking due to overfishing
(08/26/2008) By comparing Neolithic cod with contemporary cod, researchers have discovered that the species has evolved over a relatively short period due to overexploitation by humans. According to a paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, contemporary cod attain adulthood earlier and are generally smaller than their ancestors.
Haze risk returns as fires increase in Indonesia
(08/26/2008) The number of forest fires burning in Indonesia is increasing, raising concerns for the potential return of choking haze to the region.
The extinction of the baiji a 'wake-up call' to conserve vaquita and other cetaceans
(08/25/2008) In December of 2006 an expedition spent six weeks surveying the Yangtze River in China for one of the world's rarest cetaceans, the baiji. Also known as 'The Goddess of the Yangtze' the shy river-dolphin had roamed the river for millions of years locating fish with echolocation. The survey came back empty-handed without a spotting a single dolphin. Dr. Jay Barlow, a member of the surveying team, described his emotions on the expedition's findings in an interview with Mongabay.com: "I was stunned. I knew the species was in trouble, but I did not think they were already gone. We really had not seen the extinction of a large mammal species in 50 years, so we grew complacent."
Climate change may increase global conflict
(08/25/2008) The signs of a warming world are everywhere: birds are migrating with changing temperatures; coral reefs are dying out due to bleaching; warmer winters are allowing beetles to devour Canadian forests; and the Northwest Passage has opened for the second year in a row. While scientists work to understand how climate change is affecting the worldÕs ecosystems, others are attempting to predict how societies may respond. Jurgen Scheffran, a scientist with the Program in Arms Control, Disarmament and International Security at the University of Illinois, believes a warmer world will lead to an increase in armed conflicts. He concludes that societies stressed by increased competition for natural resources are more likely to engage in warfare.
How do wind turbines kill bats?
(08/25/2008) Numerous studies have shown that migratory bats are undergoing large fatalities due to wind turbines. Far more bats die due to wind turbines than birds, though they generally receive less attention. Now, researchers writing in Current Biology believe they know why bats are more susceptible to wind turbine fatalities.
Malaysia targets Africa and the Amazon for oil palm expansion
(08/25/2008) Facing land scarcity at home and environmental complaints, Malaysian palm oil producers should look overseas to expand operations, a high-ranking Malaysian agricultural minister said Monday.
Komodo dragon conservation efforts prove controversial in Indonesia
(08/25/2008) Efforts to conserve the world's largest lizard — the Komodo dragon — are proving controversial, and potentially dangerous to villagers, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Google Earth reveals cattle have a built-in compass
(08/25/2008) Cattle, along with grazing deer, tend to align themselves with the Earth's magnetic field lines, in a north-south direction, report researchers writing in the early online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The finding suggests that cows seem to have a built-in magnetic compass.
Malaysian logging scandal may delay trade negotiations with the E.U.
(08/25/2008) Sarawak's Chief Minister, Taib Mahmud, has been linked to a timber trade scheme involving illegal imports of Indonesian logs and which were then re-exported as Malaysian timber to other countries, including China, Taiwan, and Japan, reports the Indonesian newspaper Tribun Pontianak. An environmental group is using the scandal as the basis for a request for the E.U. to delay timber trade talks with Malaysia.
New bird species discovered in rainforest of Gabon
(08/23/2008) DNA analysis has revealed a previously unknown species of bird in the Central African country of Gabon.
Malaysia's rainforest logging plan may proceed despite risk to water supplies
(08/22/2008) Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak, Chief Minister of the Malaysian state of Kedah, is pushing ahead with a plan to log Ulu Muda forest reserve despite concerns that logging could hurt water supplies and threaten biodiversity.
NASA images reveal two massive glaciers breaking apart in Greenland
(08/22/2008) Two of Greenland's largest glaciers are breaking up report researchers monitoring NASA satellite images.
DNA study reveals new 1,000-pound grouper species
(08/21/2008) DNA analysis has revealed that a 1,000-pound grouper found in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans is actually two different species.
STRI goes carbon neutral as Panama indigenous community to see carbon payments from forest conservation
(08/21/2008) The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), the Panama-based branch of the Smithsonian Institution, will offset its carbon dioxide emissions by working with an indigenous community to conserve forests and reforest degraded lands with native tree species. The agreement was announced Sunday, August 17, 2008.
Presidential candidate John McCain's love-hate relationship with bears
(08/21/2008) Senator John McCain has frequently cited an earmark to a bill proving funds for a study of grizzly bears in Montana as an example of the worst pork-and-barrel spending in Washington. The study was included in an ad for McCain entitled "Outrageous" during the primaries. However, according to FactCheck.org, Senator McCain voted for the earmark he now derides.
French birds on the move due to climate change—just not fast enough
(08/21/2008) French ornithologists have discovered, year by year, that French birds are moving north due to the affects of climate change. A recent study of such movements in the Royal Society journal Proceedings B concludes that the birds are not moving fast enough, leading to concern among conservationists.
In Peru, a showdown between the president and tribes over mining and drilling in the Amazon
(08/21/2008) In Peru indigenous rights groups and congressional leaders are pairing up against President Alan Garcia to revoke a controversial land law passed last week, reports Reuters.
Biofuel production in Brazil may not hurt Amazon, food supply
(08/21/2008) Biofuel production in Brazil will not affect food production or the Amazon rainforest in coming years, claimed a study released Tuesday by an economist in Sao Paulo.
Brazil may allow mining on indigenous lands in the Amazon
(08/21/2008) Lawmakers in Brazil are debating whether to allow mining companies to partner with indigenous groups to exploit mineral deposits deep in the Amazon rainforest, reports Bloomberg.
There is enough water for everyone provided it is well-managed and distributed
(08/21/2008) An increasingly-popular view of our future is an exponentially thirsty world where billions lack access to fresh water, leading to widespread famine and wars over water instead of oil. If this sounds like science fiction, the UN has predicted that by 2050 seven billion people will suffer from water scarcity. Putting that number in perspective: today's entire global population is not yet seven billion people.
When the magpie looks in a mirror, it sees itself
(08/20/2008) Unlike Narcissus of Greek mythology--who upon seeing his reflection in water jumped in thinking it was another--magpies have proven they can recognize their own reflections. Until now, only a small number of primates (chimpanzees, pygmy chimps, and orangutans) have displayed this ability, making the magpie the first bird shown to recognize itself.
Mangrove species flourishes in the United Arab Emirates after a century of local extinction
(08/20/2008) A long-absent mangrove species is flowering again in the United Arab Emirates a hundred years since its disappearance. Seeds of the rhizophora mucronata were brought from Pakistan and planted along the coast. The project was a joint venture between the United Arab Emirate's (UAE) Department of President's Affairs and the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi.
Brazil to establish oil palm plantations on degraded Amazon rainforest lands
(08/20/2008) Brazil will allow the establishment of oil palm plantations on degraded lands in the Amazon rainforest under a agreement signed between Brazil's ministers of agriculture and the environment, reports Folha de S. Paulo.
Google, Australia give big boost to geothermal power production
(08/20/2008) Geothermal energy got a big boost this week with Google and the Australian government announcing multi-million initiatives that make use of Earth's heat as a clean and renewable source of power.
Bigfoot "discovery" looks to be a hoax
(08/18/2008) A much-hyped press conference claiming to present evidence of the existence of Bigfoot offered little in the way of proof but a lot of shameless self-promotion by the "discoverers".
The long-ignored ocean emergency and what can be done to address it
(08/18/2008) This year has been full of bad news regarding marine ecosystems: one-third of coral species threatened with extinction, dead-zones spread to 415 sites, half of U.S. reefs in fair or bad condition, increase in ocean acidification, tuna and shark populations collapsing, and only four percent of ocean considered pristine. Jeremy Jackson, director of the Scripps Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at the University of California, San Diego, synthesizes such reports and others into a new paper, published in the journal Proceedings of the Naional Academy of Sciences, that boldly lays out the scope of the oceanic emergency and what urgently needs to be done.
Coal burning may make food supplies toxic
(08/18/2008) Coal burning is contaminating the Arctic, and may be affecting human health and polar ecosystems, warn scientists writing in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
New tree species discovered in Amazon biodiversity hotspot
(08/17/2008) I was walking down the Anaconda Trail at the Madre Selva Biological Station with botanist Rodolfo Vasquez when he suddenly stopped, stared at the bark of a 120-foot tree, and started searching the ground. Odd behavior? Perhaps, but when you're with Peru's top field botanist, odd behavior is forgivable, since it means that something interesting is probably afoot.
Markets could save rainforests: an interview with Andrew Mitchell
(08/17/2008) Markets may soon value rainforests as living entities rather than for just the commodities produced when they are cut down, said a tropical forest researcher speaking in June at a conservation biology conference in the South American country of Suriname. Andrew Mitchell, founder and director of the London-based Global Canopy Program (GCP), said he is encouraged by signs that investors are beginning to look at the value of services afforded by healthy forests.
Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon won't increase significantly for 2008
(08/15/2008) Brazilian Environment Minister Carlos Minc said Thursday that Amazon deforestation for the 2007-2008 year will likely be comparable to the prior year. The announcement marks an abrupt turn-around for the Brazilian government which in April said that forest destruction was expected to increase for the first time since 2004.
Indonesia's Riau bans destruction of rainforests and peatlands for palm oil
(08/15/2008) The Indonesian province of Riau on the island of Sumatra has pledged to stop destruction of its forests and carbon-rich peatlands in an effort to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation by 50 percent by 2009.
Algae could yield 30 times more biofuel than soybeans, while cleaning the environment
(08/15/2008) Algae could be used as a biofuel while simultaneously cleaning up the environment, report researchers at the University of Virginia.
PG&E will build the world's largest solar power plant
(08/15/2008) California electricity producer PG&E Thursday announced a plan to build two giant solar photovoltaic power plants that will cover 12.5 square miles and have a peak generating capacity of 800 megawatts.
Marine 'dead zones' double every decade
(08/14/2008) Dead zones have spread across the ocean at alarming rates. Currently 415 sites, usually along coastlines, have shown signs of seasonal to persistent hypoxia—a severe lack of oxygen. In a new essay in Science, researchers Robert Diaz and Rutger Rosenberg argue that marine dead zones have "become a major worldwide environmental problem". Marine dead zones now occupy a portion of the ocean equal to that of the United Kingdom and continue to grow, doubling every decade since the 1960s and showing no sign of abating.
Smoke from Amazon fires reduces local rainfall
(08/14/2008) Smoke released by fires set to clear the Amazon rainforest inhibit the formation of clouds, thereby reducing rainfall, report researchers writing in the journal Science. The study provides clues on how aerosols from human activity influence cloud cover and ultimately affect climate.
High mineral prices drive rainforest destruction
(08/13/2008) The surging price of minerals is contributing to degradation and destruction of rainforests worldwide, warns a researcher writing in the current issue of New Scientist.
No scientists necessary: Bush administration's new plans regarding endangered species
(08/13/2008) I would have thought it difficult after eight years to still be surprised by any presidential administration, but the Bush administration has proven unique. After years of delisting endangered species, refusing to list others, and slowly watering down the landmark Endangered Species Act, the Bush administration has finally come out and said it: scientists are superfluous when it comes to saving endangered species. Despite eight years of belittling scientists, I was still surprised they would insult them so blatantly.
Investors seek profit from conserving rainforest biodiversity
(08/13/2008) An investment firm has launched the first tropical biodiversity credits scheme. New Forests, a Sydney, Australia-based company, has established the Malua Wildlife Habitat Conservation Bank in Malaysia as an attempt to monetize rainforest conservation. The "Malua BioBank" will use an investment from a private equity fund to restore and protect 34,000 hectares (80,000 acres) of formerly logged forest that serves as a buffer between biologically-rich forest reserve and a sea of oil palm plantations. The conservation effort will generate "Biodiversity Conservation Certificates", the sales of which will endow a perpetual conservation trust and produce a return on investment for the Sabah Government and the private equity fund.
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