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Brazil's minister of ideas, nemesis of former environmental minister, resigns

(06/29/2009) Brazil's minister of strategic affairs, Roberto Mangabeira Unger, will resign his post in the next few days and resume his teaching career at Harvard, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva announced Monday.


A New Idea to Save Tropical Forests Takes Flight

(06/29/2009) Every year, tens of millions of acres of tropical forests are destroyed. This is the most destabilizing human land-use phenomenon on Earth. Tropical forests store more aboveground carbon than any other biome. They harbor more species than all other ecosystems combined. Tropical forests modulate global water, air, and nutrient cycles. They influence planetary energy flows and global weather patterns. Tropical forests provide livelihoods for many of the world’s poorest and marginalized people. Drugs for cancer, malaria, glaucoma, and leukemia are derived from rainforest compounds. Despite all these immense values, tropical forests are vanishing faster than any other natural system. No other threat to human welfare has been so clearly documented and simultaneously left unchecked. Since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit (when more than 100 heads of State gathered to pledge a green future) 500 million acres of tropical forests have been cut or burned. For decades, tropical deforestation has been the No. 1 cause of species extinctions and the No. 2 cause of human greenhouse gas emissions, after the burning of fossil fuels. For decades, a few conservation heroes tried their best to plug holes in the dikes, but by and large the most diverse forests on Earth were in serious decline.


Making Trees Work for Us in the U.S.: Let’s Make Money While Saving Trees

(06/29/2009) A lot has been said about how to develop a successful forestry carbon project. Today, I am addressing how both for-profit and not-for-profit businesses can develop successful carbon forestry projects while commenting on some of these opportunities. I will also discuss forestry carbon as an alternative asset class for institutions and individuals. I have been working in this sector since 2006 and so let me share some thoughts and observations from the field.


Tesco responds to allegations of causing Amazon deforestation

(06/29/2009) Tesco, one of Europe’s largest retailers, has sent a response to the British newspaper The Guardian in light of the paper's coverage of recent allegations that the chain store sells beef and leather products that caused deforestation of the Amazon.


Saving one of the last tropical dry forests, an interview with Edwina von Gal

(06/29/2009) Often we hear about endangered species—animals or plants on the edge of extinction—however we rarely hear about endangered environments—entire ecosystems that may disappear from Earth due to humankind’s growing footprint. Tropical dry forests are just such an ecosystem: with only 2 percent of the world’s tropical dry forest remaining it is one of the world’s most endangered ecosystems. A newly established organization, the Azuero Earth Project, is working not only to preserve some of the world’s last tropical dry forest on the Azuero peninsula in Panama, but also to begin restoration projects hoping to aid both the forest’s viability and the local people. Edwina von Gal, a landscape designer, is one of the founders of the Azuero Earth Project, as well as president of the organization.


Brazil approves land tenure law that grants 260,000 sq mi of rainforest to settlers, speculators

(06/29/2009) Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva last week signed a controversial law granting 67.4 million hectares (166 million acres) of Amazon rainforest land to more than 1 million illegal settlers, reports Reuters.


Anti-HIV and anti-cancer drugs derived from Borneo rainforest progressing to final development stages

(06/29/2009) Two drugs derived from rainforest plants in Sarawk (Malaysian Borneo) are now in their final stages of development, reports Bernama.


Rainforest discovered via Google Earth to be protected

(06/29/2009) Mozambique has agreed to protect a tract of highland forest discovered by scientists using Google Earth, reports The Guardian.


Implications of the American Clean Energy and Security Act for conservation

(06/26/2009) Following today's passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) by the House of Representatives, The Natury Conservancy released a set of questions and answers with Mark Tercek, its chairman and CEO.


Global warming bill passes the House

(06/26/2009) The U.S. House of Representatives passed the country's first climate change legislation 219-212 on Friday. The vote was highly partisan with Democrats generally supporting the American Clean Energy and Security Act, and Republicans mostly opposing it.


More US students tackling science and engineering

(06/25/2009) In 2007 the number of US students enrolling in graduate programs in either science or engineering rose by 3.3 percent, nearly double the increase from the previous year, according to new data collected by The National Science Foundations Division of Science Resources Statistics (SRS). Science programs, excluding engineering, saw a rise of 2.4 percent and added the most students in absolute numbers.


Tiny bat discovered on islands off Africa

(06/25/2009) The Natural History Museum in Geneva, Switzerland has announced the discovery of a bat species new to science on the Comoros Island arichpelago off the south-east coast of Africa. The bat weighs only 5 grams (0.17 ounces).


Russia pledges to raise carbon emissions to combat global warming

(06/25/2009) In a bizarre announcement that threatens to further weaken the international community's ability to come together on climate change, Russia has said it will reduce its emissions 10-15 percent from 1990 levels by 2020. The problem is that in 1990 Russia's carbon emissions were much higher than they are today, so this 'lowering' of carbon emissions actually means that Russia will raise its emissions by 2 to 2.5 percent annually until 2020.


Over 30 percent of open ocean sharks and rays face extinction

(06/25/2009) The first global study of open ocean (pelagic) sharks and rays found that 32 percent of the species are threatened with extinction largely due to overfishing and bycatch, making pelagic sharks and rays more threatened than birds (12 percent), mammals (20 percent), and even amphibians (31 percent), which are considered to be undergoing an extinction crisis. The situation worsens when only sharks taken in high-seas fisheries are considered: 52 percent of these species are threatened.


Meeting food and energy demands by mid-century will be a challenge, says report

(06/25/2009) Meeting food and energy demands in a world where human population is expected to reach 9 billion by mid-century will require a range of approaches that increase the sustainability of agricultural production, reports a new assessment from Deutsche Bank's Climate Change Advisors (DBCCA).


Brazilian cattle giant declares moratorium on Amazon deforestation

(06/25/2009) Marfrig, the world's fourth largest beef trader, will no longer buy cattle raised in newly deforested areas within the Brazilian Amazon, reports Greenpeace. The announcement is a direct response to Greenpeace's Slaughtering the Amazon report, which linked illegal Amazon forest clearing to the cattle producers that supply raw materials to some of the world's most prominent consumer products companies. Marfrig was one several cattle firms named in the investigative report.


Brazilian miner Vale signs $500M palm oil deal in the Amazon

(06/25/2009) Vale, the world's largest miner of iron ore, has signed a $500 million joint venture with Biopalma da Amazonia to produce 160,000 metric tons of palm oil-based biodiesel per year, reports Reuters. Vale says the deal will save $150 million in fuel costs starting in 2014, with palm oil biodiesel replacing up to 20 percent of diesel consumption in the company's northern operations. The biodiesel will be produced from oil palm plantations in the Amazon state of Pará. The move is likely to stir up criticism from environmentalists that fear palm oil production could soon become a major driver of deforestation in the region.


Massive deforestation in the past decreased rainfall in Asia

(06/25/2009) Between 1700 and 1850 forest cover in India and China plummeted, falling from 40-50 percent of land area to 5-10 percent. Forests were cut for agricultural use across Southeast Asia to feed a growing population, but the changes from forests to crops had unforeseen consequences. A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences links this deforestation across Southeast Asia with changes in the Asian Monsoon, including significantly decreased rainfall.


Cambodia signs REDD agreement

(06/24/2009) Terra Global Capital, a San Francisco-based firm seeking to capitalize on emerging markets for ecosystem services, has signed an avoided deforestation deal with the government of Cambodia.


Saving tigers by counting feces

(06/24/2009) Scientists have been counting tiger populations for decades, using a variety of methods including camera traps and DNA collected from tissue or blood after darting and sedating the world’s largest cat. However, a new method of surveying tiger populations could change scientists’ ability to non-invasively obtain accurate numbers for tiger populations around the world, according to a study in Biological Conservation.


The living dead - Australia's disappearing landscape

(06/24/2009) Gum trees dot the hills and valleys of south-eastern Australia, a vivid fixture of the rolling landscape. But despite the seeming health of these iconic trees, they have earned the morbid nickname "the living dead" among ecologists, who say natural changes and human actions are threatening the next generation of gum trees. The gum trees that are scattered through the landscape are naturally dying off at a rate of one to two percent each year. With no replacement, researchers fear more than 100,000 square kilometers of land could be virtually treeless within the next 100 years.


Proving the ‘shifting baselines’ theory: how humans consistently misperceive nature

(06/24/2009) The theory of shifting baselines was first elucidated by scientists exploring urban children’s perception of nature in 1995. In the same year, marine biologist Daniel Pauly coined the term ‘shifting baselines’. Since then the idea of humans perceiving nature inaccurately, through ‘shifting baselines’, has taken the conservation world by storm: the theory appeared to describe a commonly noticed problem regarding people’s view of the natural world around them. However, the theory had yet to be tested in a scientific manner: were people actually undergoing shifting baselines or was something else going on? For the first time a new paper in Conservation Letters empirically tests the shifting baselines theory.


UK firm plans to log habitat of critically endangered orangutan for palm oil production

(06/23/2009) A Scottish firm has been implicated in funding a plan that would destroy the rainforest habitat of critically endangered orangutans in Sumatra.


First comprehensive study of insect endangerment: ten percent of dragonflies threatened

(06/23/2009) A lot of time, effort, and funds have been spent on programs evaluating the threat of extinction to species around the world. Yet insects have not benefited from these programs, which have largely focused on more 'charismatic' species such as mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles. This gap is clearly shown by the fact that 42 percent of vertebrates have been assessed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and only 0.3 percent of invertebrates.


Wind could power the entire world

(06/22/2009) Wind power may be the key to a clean energy revolution: a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science finds that wind power could provide for the entire world’s current and future energy needs.


Scientists call on Obama for ‘maximum personal leadership’ to combat global warming

(06/22/2009) Twenty leading scientists have called on President Obama “to exercise maximum personal leadership” in tackling the threat posed by climate change.


New Yangtze River dam could doom more endangered species

(06/22/2009) Eight Chinese environmentalists and scientists have composed a letter warning that a new dam under consideration for the Yangtze River could lead to the extinction of several endangered species. The letter contends that Xiaonanhia Dam, which would be 30 kilometers upstream from the city of Chongqing, will negatively impact the river’s only fish reserve. Spanning 400 kilometers in the upper Yangtze, the reserve is home to 180 fish species, including the Endangered Chinese sturgeon, and the Critically Endangered Chinese paddlefish, as well as the finless porpoise.


Mixed signals from the crown? Queen knights logging tycoon while Prince fights deforestation

(06/22/2009) Tiong Hiew King, founder and chairman of the Rimbunan Hijau Group, a Malaysian logging firm notorious for large-scale destruction of rainforests, has been knighted by Queen Elizabeth, a move which environmentalists say directly conflicts with her son's campaign — the Prince’s Rainforests Project — to save global rainforests. Prince Charles established the project in 2007 and has become increasingly vocal in his calls to conserve forests.


Amazon deforestation in 2009 declines to lowest on record

(06/22/2009) Annual deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell below 10,000 square kilometers for the first time since record-keeping began, reported Brazil's Environment Minister Carlos Minc. Yesterday Minc said preliminary data from the country's satellite-based deforestation detection system (DETER) showed that Amazon forest loss between August 2008 and July 2009 would be below 10,000 square kilometers, the lowest level in more than 20 years. Falling commodity prices and government action to crack down on illegal clearing are credited for the decline in deforestation rates.


Brazil to pay farmers $50/month to plant trees in the Amazon

(06/22/2009) Brazil will pay small farmers to plant trees in deforested parts of the Amazon under a plan unveiled Friday by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.


Fish take less than a decade to evolve

(06/22/2009) Evolution is often thought of being a slow-process, taking thousands, if not millions, of years. However a new study in The American Naturalist found that Trinidadian guppies underwent evolution in just eight years, or thirty generations. Less than a decade ago Swanne Gordon, a graduate student at UC Riverside, and her team introduced Trinidadian guppies into the Damier River in the Caribbean island of Trinidad. They placed the guppies above a waterfall to allow them to flourish in a largely predator-free environment.


Record hunger: one billion people are going hungry worldwide

(06/22/2009) A new estimate by the UN FAO estimates that one billion people are currently going hungry: the highest number in history. Largely exacerbated by the global economic crisis, the number of the world’s hungry has risen by 100 million people.


War and conservation in Cambodia

(06/21/2009) The decades-long conflict in Cambodia devastated not only the human population of the Southeast Asian country but its biodiversity as well. The conflict led to widespread declines of species in the once wildlife-rich nation while steering traditional society towards unsustainable hunting practices, resulting in a situation where wildlife is still in decline in Cambodia, according to a new study from researchers with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).


Father's Day Photo: Male lion with daughter

(06/19/2009) To celebrate Father's Day, the Wildlife Conservation Society released this photo of the lion, "M’wasi", and his daughter Moxie taken at the Bronx Zoo by photographer Julie Larsen Maher.


Peru revokes decrees that sparked Amazon Indian uprising

(06/19/2009) Peru's Congress revoked two controversial land laws that sparked violent conflicts between indigenous protesters and police in the country's Amazon region. The move temporarily defuses a two-week crisis, with protesters agreeing to stand down by removing blockades from roads and rivers. Congress voted 82-14 Thursday to overturn legislative decrees 1090 and 1064, which would have facilitated foreign development of Amazon land. Indigenous groups said the decrees threatened millions of hectares of Amazon rainforest and undermined their traditional land use rights.


Despite violent protests and coup, Daewoo continues to hold cropland in Madagascar

(06/19/2009) Despite violent protests that have left more than 100 dead and led to the ouster of a democratically-elected president, Daewoo Logistics Corp. continues to hold 218,000 hectares of cropland in Madagascar, according to a new campaign by Rainforest Rescue.


Fate of world's rainforests likely to be determined in next 2 years

(06/19/2009) The fate of millions of hectares of tropical forests will probably be sealed this year and next year, reports a new set of policy papers detailing an emerging climate change mitigation mechanism known as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD). REDD has been proposed by the U.N. and other entities as a form of carbon finance under which industrialized nations would pay tropical countries for conserving their forest cover.


Commission on Climate and Tropical Forests forms to advise Congress, Obama on forest conservation

(06/18/2009) Leaders in business, government, advocacy, conservation, global development, science and national security have formed a commission to "provide bipartisan recommendations to Congress and the President about how to reduce tropical deforestation through U.S. climate change policies," according to a statement released by the newly established group, named the Commission on Climate and Tropical Forests.


Wolverine Returns to Colorado after 90-year absence

(06/18/2009) A wolverine has been recorded in Colorado for the first time since 1919, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).


CO2 currently at highest level in 2.1 million years

(06/18/2009) Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are higher than any point in the last 2.1 million years, report researchers writing in the journal Science.


What is the crop productivity and environmental impact of too much or too little fertilizer?

(06/18/2009) While the use of synthetic fertilizer has greatly increased agricultural production globally—helping to feed a global population that is not slowing down—it has brought with it high environmental costs. Fertilizer runoff has polluted many coastal regions creating ‘dead zones’ where the ocean is starved of oxygen by the influx of nitrogen. Synthetic fertilizers have also polluted the air with ammonia, and sent emissions of nitrous oxide into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.


Malaysian palm oil chief claims oil palm plantations help orangutans

(06/18/2009) Dr. Yusof Basiron, CEO of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, the government-backed marketing arm of the Malaysian palm oil industry, claims on his blog that endangered orangutans benefit from living in proximity to oil palm plantations. Environmentalists scoff at the notion, maintaining that oil palm expansion is one of the greatest threats to orangutans.


Cameroon rainforest given 30 days to be conserved or sold off for logging

(06/18/2009) An 830,000-hectare tract of rainforest in Cameroon has been granted a 30-day reprieve from logging following a 4-week exploratory expedition that turned up large populations of lowland gorillas, forest elephants, mandrills, and chimpanzees, according to expedition leader Mike Korchinsky, founder of the conservation group Wildlife Works. The Cameroonian government has given Wildlife Works, which pioneered the first forest-based carbon project in Kenya, 30 days to come up with a competitive proposal to logging. The group is now scrambling to secure necessary funding to finance the early stages of the project.


Cattle giant JBS facing corruption probe

(06/17/2009) JBS, the world's largest beef processor, is under investigation by Brazil's federal prosecutor's office for corruption, reports Reuters.


Madfish?: scientist warns that farmed fish could be a source of mad cow disease

(06/17/2009) In a paper that shows just how strange our modern world has become, Robert P. Friedland, neurologist from the University of Louisville, warns that farmed fish could be at risk of Creutzfeldt Jakob disease, or mad cow disease.


New report predicts dire consequences for every U.S. region from global warming

(06/17/2009) Government officials and scientists released a 196 page report detailing the impact of global warming on the U.S. yesterday. The study, commissioned in 2007 during the Bush Administration, found that every region of the U.S. faces large-scale consequences due to climate change, including higher temperatures, increased droughts, heavier rainfall, more severe weather, water shortages, rising sea levels, ecosystem stresses, loss of biodiversity, and economic impacts.


Lomborg calls for a carbon tax

(06/17/2009) Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish business school professor and author who has riled environmentalists by arguing that addressing climate change should be a lesser priority than health and nutrition initiatives, is calling for a $7 per ton tax on carbon dioxide emissions, reports the Wall Street Journal.


First captive bonobos released into the wild

(06/16/2009) A group of 17 orphaned bonobos are being released into the wild for the first time this month. Set free by the world’s only bonobo sanctuary, Lola ya Bonobo in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the bonobos will be released into a 50,000 acre (20,000 hectare) forest where the species has been absent for years.


Amazon could lose 60% of forest without triggering catastrophic die-off, claims new study

(06/16/2009) Brazil's setting aside of more than 500,000 square miles (1.25 million square kilometers) of rainforest in protected areas over the past decade may effectively buffer the Amazon from the effects of climate change, preventing Earth's largest rainforest from tipping towards arid savanna in the face of ongoing deforestation and rising temperatures, argues a new paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Photos: treasure trove of new species discovered in Ecuador

(06/16/2009) Near the once-contentious border of Ecuador and Peru in the mountainous forests of the Cordillera del Condor, scientists from Conservation International (CI) conducted a Rapid Assessment Program (RAP), uncovering what they believe are several new species, including four amphibians, one lizard, and seven insects. The team focused on the Upper Nanharitza River Basin, which has been geologically isolated from the rest of the Andes, giving it broad potential for new species.


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