Conservation newsFounded in 1999, Mongabay is a leading provider of environmental science and conservation news.
Butterfly tricks ants by mimicking their queen’s vocalizations
(02/05/2009) With cohesive hierarchical societies and a number of communication techniques, ants have been able to conquer a wide variety of ecosystems with great success. However, according to a recent paper in Science ants’ highly structured society at times comes with a price. A number of insects have evolved means to covertly infiltrate the ants’ society and live off their work and bounty by closely mimicking various ant communication methods. While scientists believe that these parasitical insects largely mimic ant communications like chemical exchange and physical contact—such as touching antennae—the study, however, discovered a butterfly which succeeds in infiltrating the highest echelons of ant society by vocalizing like a queen.
New York zoos, aquariums saved from funding cut
(02/05/2009) The New York State Legislature has rejected Governor David Paterson's proposal to cut funding for state zoos by 55 percent for 2009 after public uproar.
Global warming to strengthen Arctic storms
(02/05/2009) Arctic storms could worsen due to climate change, putting fisheries, oil and gas exploration, and sea lanes at risk, warn researchers writing in the journal Climate Dynamics.
Brazil to boost spending on infrastructure to counter economic crisis
(02/05/2009) Brazil will increase spending on infrastructure projects by 28 percent to in response to the global financial crisis, reports Bloomberg.
Sustainable farming is the only way to feed the planet going forward
(02/05/2009) Embracing more sustainable farming methods is the only way for the world's farmers to grow enough food to meet the demands of a growing population and respond to climate change, the top crop expert with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today.
Norway to pay Guyana to save its rainforests
(02/05/2009) Norway will provide financial support for Guyana's ambitious plan to conserve its rainforests, reports the Guyana Chronicle. Meeting in Oslo, Norway on Tuesday, Guyana President Bharrat Jagdeo and Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg signed a Memorandum of Understanding agreeing to establish a partnership to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD). The leaders will push for the incorporation of a REDD mechanism that includes low deforestation countries like Guyana in a post-2012 climate change agreement.
Google Earth now allows ocean exploration, tracking of sharks
(02/05/2009) Google Earth now allows users to dive beneath the surface of the world's oceans to see coral reefs, trenches, and other marine wonders. The new version, Google Earth 5, includes layers showing locations of shipwrecks and surf spots; routes for ocean expeditions; the movements of GPS-tracked sea animals; and information (including videos and images) about the ocean environment from sources including National Geographic, the Cousteau Society, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Cap or Tax Carbon Emissions?
(02/04/2009) Debate is raging about the relative merits of a carbon tax or a cap and trade system as the centerpiece of federal legislation to reduce emissions that fuel global warming. Here is why cap and trade must be the U.S. policy instrument of choice.
Monstrous prehistoric snake provides glimpse of warmer tropical forests
(02/04/2009) On Wednesday scientists announced the discovery of the world’s largest snake, a prehistoric beast which preyed on giant turtles and crocodile-like reptiles in South America after the demise of the dinosaurs. As amazing as the discovery is, its greatest importance may be the clues it provides conservationists about the future of tropical forests under various global warming scenarios.
World’s largest snake discovered: prehistoric serpent was twice the size of an anaconda
(02/04/2009) Paleontologists have recently uncovered the world’s largest snake announces a paper in Nature. Measuring an astonishing 42 to 45 feet, the Titanoboa cerrejonensis makes the anaconda look diminutive. In fact the prehistoric serpent even makes once-ridiculous horror movie snakes appear conservative. "Truly enormous snakes really spark people's imagination, but reality has exceeded the fantasies of Hollywood," said Jonathan Bloch, one of the leaders of the party that discovered the prehistoric serpent. "The snake that tried to eat Jennifer Lopez in the movie Anaconda is not as big as the one we found."
Heart of Borneo conservation initiative at risk from Indonesian development plan
(02/04/2009) Indonesia's Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono is pushing a proposal to develop economic zones along the border between Malaysia and Kalimantan "as soon as possible" for national security reasons, reports the Jakarta Globe. The plan — which Juwono claims is to protect Indonesia's sovereignty — would undermine the historic Heart of Borneo conservation initiative signed in 2007 by spurring massive expansion of logging, plantation development, and road construction in the biologically-rich region.
Malaysian government says forest reserve 'plundered' for oil palm development
(02/03/2009) Responding to allegations by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) that indigenous people have been forced from their lands (a charge it denied), the Sabah Forestry Department said that more than 30 percent of Mt. Pock And Tanjong Nagos Forest Reserves were "plundered" by "people with means to plant illegal oil palm including companies" up until 2001. The statement is noteworthy in that leaders of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, the marketing and lobbying arm of the Malaysian palm oil industry, have maintained that oil expansion has not taken place at the expense of natural forest in Malaysia.
Photos of new frogs discovered in Colombia
(02/03/2009) Ten undescribed species of amphibians — including nine frog and one salamander — have been discovered in the mountains of Colombia, report scientists from Conservation International (CI). The "new" amphibians included spiky-skinned, orange-legged rain frog, three poison dart frogs and three glass frogs, named for their transparent skin. The amphibians were discovered during a recent Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) expedition in the Tacarcuna area of the Darien, near the border with Panama.
12 new species of frogs discovered in India
(02/03/2009) A dozen previously unknown species of frogs have been discovered in the forests of Western Ghats according to a paper published in latest issue of Zoological Journal of Linnean Society, London. The 12 species have been identified following a revision of the Philautus genus and are the result of ten years of field study in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka. Goa, Maharashtra, and part of Gujarat, in the Western Ghats. The Western Ghats are considered a global biodiversity hotspot for their species richness and the threats the mountain range faces.
Cellulosic ethanol healthier, better for the environment, than corn ethanol
(02/03/2009) Ethanol produced from switchgrass, prairie biomass, and Miscanthus will reduce the environmental and health impacts of expanded biofuels production relative to using corn as a feedstock, report researchers writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Nemo at risk from CO2 emissions? Ocean acidification may hurt baby fish
(02/02/2009) Increasing carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere may have an unexpected impact on marine ecosystems: disorienting fish larvae. Research published in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) found that ocean acidification disrupts the olfactory sense of clownfish larvae, making it difficult for the fish to find a habitat, which for clownfish is a sea anemone.
Chocolate has been a delicacy north of Mexico for a thousand years
(02/02/2009) Chocolate, produced from cacao beans, has been a part of American culture for a thousand years according to new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Analyzing chemical residue from jars of native peoples in New Mexico, researchers Patricia Crown and Jeffrey Hurst discovered theobromine, a chemical signature of cacao. The jars have been dated from 1000 to 1125 AD, well over three hundred years before Columbus and the earliest recorded discovery of cacao north of Mexico. The cacao jars are from Pueblo Bonito, an archaeological site in Chaco Canyon, which is located in northwestern New Mexico. Chaco Canyon, once home to 2,000-5,000 inhabitants, was composed of a dense group of pueblos, of which Bonito was the largest. Incorporating 800 rooms, Pueblo Bonito was the center of a number of towns and villages in Chaco Canyon.
Seeking out the world’s rarest and most endangered birds
(02/02/2009) For an evolutionary biologist there is no conservation group whose work is more exciting than EDGE, a program developed by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). Unique in the conservation world, EDGE chooses the species to focus on based on a combination of their threat of extinction and evolutionary distinctness. Katrina Fellerman, an evolutionary biologist herself and the EDGE birds’ coordinator, describes the organization as one that focuses on species, which “to put it bluntly, if lost, there would be nothing like them left in the world today”. Explaining further Fellerman says “We use evolutionary distinctiveness (ED) as a species-specific measure of the relative evolutionary value of species - it is a way of apportioning conservation value according to a species’ phylogenetic position. Species with few or no close relatives on the ‘tree of life’ have the highest ED scores.”
Embarking on a career in science? Learn from interviews with young scientists
(02/02/2009) Mongabay.com is excited to announce a new series of interviews with 'young scientists'. These interviews will focus on scientists who while only recently starting their career have already achieved notable success.
Amazon scientists awarded 'Nobel Prize' of conservation
(02/01/2009) Thomas Lovejoy of the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment and William F. Laurance of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) have been awarded one of ecology's most coveted prizes for their work to understand and conserve the Amazon rainforest. The €400,000 BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Ecology and Conservation Biology is given annually to "honor contributions which significantly advance the stock of knowledge in this area for reasons of their importance and originality."
Wind energy jobs now exceed coal mining jobs
(02/01/2009) Wind industry jobs now outnumber those in coal mining, reports CNNMoney.
Giant population of lions could live war-torn region
(01/30/2009) The war-torn frontier between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo has prey to support more than 900 lions, but conservationists must act soon to protect the big cats from poaching and poisoning by livestock herders, report researchers writing in the journal Oryx. The study, which was conducted by Adrian Treves of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and colleagues from Wildlife Conservation Society and the Panthera Foundation, relied on aerial surveys of lion prey — buffalo, warthog, waterbuck and other ungulates — which were then used to estimate the region's potential lion population.
Photo of new bird species discovered in China
(01/30/2009) A previously unknown species of babbler has been discovered in China's Guangxi province near the border with Vietnam, reports Birdlife International.
Glaciers decline in ice mass for 18th straight year
(01/30/2009) Glaciers worldwide lost ice mass for the 18th consecutive year due to warming temperatures and reduce snowfall, reports the University of Zurich’s World Glacier Monitoring Service. Alpine glaciers lost on average 1.3 meters of thickness in 2006 and 0.7 meters in 2007, extending an 11.3-meter (36-foot) retreat since 1980.
California faces severe drought
(01/30/2009) California appears to be on track for its worst drought since the early 1990s, warned the state's Department of Water Resources (DWR) following its survey of snowpack and other water resources.
Gore pushes for avoided deforestation to save rainforests during testimony
(01/29/2009) In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, former Vice President Al Gore urged lawmakers to move swiftly on a cap-and-trade climate bill as well as the economic stimulus package. Among many recommendations, Gore repeatedly emphasized the importance of forest conservation in fighting climate change, mentioning "deforestation" more than a dozen times.
Beef drives 80% of Amazon deforestation
(01/29/2009) Nearly 80 percent of land deforested in the Amazon from 1996-2006 is now used for cattle pasture, according to new maps released today in a report by Greenpeace at the World Social Forum in Belem, Brazil. The report, Amazon Cattle Footprint: Mato Grosso: State of Destruction, confirms that cattle ranching is the primary driver of deforestation in Earth's largest rainforest: the Brazilian Amazon.
Iron fertilization of oceans may be ineffective in fighting global warming
(01/29/2009) Schemes to promote increased carbon uptake by plankton via iron fertilization of oceans will be less effective than previously believed, report researchers writing in the journal Nature.
The honeybee can count
(01/29/2009) Plato once said: “numbers are the highest degree of knowledge: it is knowledge itself.” By Plato’s standards researchers have just discovered that the honey bee is a knowledgeable insect indeed. The honey bee can count to three in an instant according to a new study in the online journal PLoS ONE. Using dots and other abstract symbols, scientists from the Vision Centre in Australia tested whether the honey bees had the ability to count items in their environment.
Iceland raises whale killing quota to 150 fin whales, 100 minkes per year
(01/28/2009) The outgoing administration in Iceland has substantially raised the country's whaling quota, reports the BBC.
Biochar and reforestation may offer better global cooling potential than ocean fertilization
(01/28/2009) The first comprehensive assessment of the climate cooling potential of different geoengineering schemes has been conducted by researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA). The results are published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions
Photo: Indigenous leaders form giant human banner to protest Amazon destruction
(01/28/2009) Gathering at the World Social Forum in Belem, Brazil, indigenous people from across Latin America today called upon world leaders to protect the Amazon rainforest which is under continued threat from loggers, ranchers, and agroindustrial companies. Nearly 12,000 square kilometers (4,600 sq miles) of Amazon rainforest were destroyed last year while another 25,000 square kilometers were damaged or degraded. More than 1000 forum participants formed a human banner that spelled out the message "SALVE A AMAZONIA" ("Save the Amazon" in Portuguese) around a silhouette of an indigenous warrior taking aim with a bow and arrow.
Many global warming impacts may be irreversible in next 1000 years
(01/27/2009) Even if greenhouse gas emissions were to cease today, many of the forecast impacts of climate change are already irreversible for at least the next 1000 years, report researchers writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Mountain gorilla population in DR Congo increases 12.5%
(01/27/2009) The population of critically endangered mountain gorillas in Democratic Republic of Congo's Virunga National Park increased 12.5 percent in the past 16 months according to a census conducted by the Congolese Wildlife Authority (ICCN). 81 gorillas now live permanently in the park, up from 72 in August 2007.
Camera trap photos reveal bushmeat hunting threat to jaguars in Ecuador
(01/27/2009) Jaguars are the largest cats of the Americas and third largest cats in the world. The primary rainforest in the Amazon region of Ecuador is among their last remaining strongholds. Jaguars are listed as “vulnerable” in Ecuador, and Santiago Espinosa, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) fellow, PhD candidate from University of Florida/Gainesville, and WWF fellow, wants to know just how many jaguars are left in his home country. He is developing strategies to protect them by determining their numbers and the factors that threaten them through a unique method of non-invasive photography.
Global warming may doom emperor penguins to extinction
(01/27/2009) Disappearing sea ice around Antarctica may put emperor penguins at risk of extinction within the next century, warn scientists writing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Saving leatherback turtles in South America’s smallest country, Suriname: An interview with Liz McHuron
(01/27/2009) After a year studying marine biology at Moss Landing Marine Labs, Liz McHuron headed off to the little-known nation of Suriname to monitor leatherback sea turtles. Her responsibilities included implementing a conservation strategy for a particular beach, moving leatherback nests in danger of flooding, and educating volunteer workers on the biology, behavior, and conservation efforts of the world's largest, and most unique, marine turtle. I visited McHuron during her time at the beach of Galibi in Suriname; she proved to be the sort of scientist who refused to be deterred: breathtaking humidity or downpours, fer-de-lances on the beach or jaguars, Liz was always on the move, always working to aid the critically-endangered leatherbacks while studying them with the thoroughness inherit in a born scientist.
ADM takes step towards more sustainable soy production in the Amazon
(01/27/2009) Agricultural giant Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM) has partnered with Brazilian nonprofit Aliança Da Terra to promote better environmental stewardship among soybean producers operating in the Amazon, reports the Chicago Tribune.
New global temperature record expected in the next 1-2 years
(01/27/2009) 2008 was the coolest year since 2000 but still ranks in the top ten warmest years since record-keeping began in 1880, reported NASA last week.
Americans building fewer McMansions
(01/27/2009) New home size is shrinking in the U.S., reports the Wall Street Journal.
How to make forest fragments more hospitable to wildlife
(01/27/2009) While deforestation garners more attention from environmentalists, fragmentation of forest habitats is of significant concern to ecologists. As forest is fragmented into islands by logging, roads, agriculture, and other disturbances, edge effects alter the structure, microclimate and species composition of the forest patches, usually reducing the overall number of species. Forest specialists are most likely to suffer, losing out to "weedier" generalists and species that can tolerate forest "edge" conditions. A new study, conducted in the Brazilian Amazon, takes a detailed look at the types of birds that are likely to persist, and even thrive, in forest fragments.
Logging may be linked to landslide deaths in Malaysia says environmental group
(01/27/2009) Three people were killed and seven injured when a landslide swept through a logging camp in the Upper Limbang region of the Malaysian state of Sarawak. The Bruno Manser Fund, an NGO that campaigns on behalf of Sarawak's indigenous people, links the landslide to logging.
Obama pushes for better mileage standards
(01/27/2009) President Obama has moved to allow states set automobile emission rules, opening the door for more fuel efficient vehicles. Monday Obama signed a memorandum requiring the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reconsider California's application to set tighter auto emissions and fuel efficiency standards than required under federal law. Should the waiver be granted, automakers would be forced to sell more fuel efficient vehicles if they want to do business in the state.
What does slowing economy mean for rainforest conservation?
(01/26/2009) Plunging commodity prices may offer a reprieve for the world's beleaguered tropical forests. The global economic downturn has caused demand for many commodities to plummet. The resulting decline in the prices of timber, energy, minerals and agricultural products may do what conservationists have largely failed to achieve in recent years: slow deforestation. Fueled by surging demand from China and other emerging economies, and boosted by the convergence of food and energy markets in response to American and European incentives for biofuels, the worldwide commodity boom over the past few years helped trigger a land rush that precipitated the conversion of natural forests for farms, plantations, and ranches. At the same time, high prices for metals, fossil fuels, and other industrial resources drove a global search for exploitable reserves, many of which lie in tropical forest countries. Now that the bonanza is unwinding, with prices for everything from palm oil to bauxite to crude oil cratering, the incentives to clear forests are retreating. Developers large and small are abandoning projects and forgoing planned expansion around the world.
Palm oil may be single most immediate threat to the greatest number of species
(01/26/2009) Efforts to slow the rapid expansion of oil palm plantations at the expense of natural forests across Southeast Asia are being hindered by industry-sponsored disinformation campaigns, argue scientists writing in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution. The authors, Lian Pin Koh and David S. Wilcove, say that palm oil may constitute the "single most immediate threat to the greatest number of species" by driving the conversion of biologically rich ecosystems — including lowland rainforests and peatlands.
Deadly ‘brown cloud’ over South Asia caused by wood and dung burning
(01/23/2009) Long a subject of debate, the cause of the infamous brown cloud that hovers over the Indian Ocean and South Asia every winter has finally been discovered. Researchers led by Dr Orjan Gustafsson from the University of Stockholm in Sweden announced in Science that 70 percent of the cloud is made up of soot from the burning of biomasses, largely wood and animal dung used for cooking.
Guidelines on how to establish an avoided deforestation project
(01/22/2009) Deforestation presently accounts for nearly 20 percent of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions — a share larger than that from the global transportation sector. Given this contribution, reducing deforestation is widely seen as a key component in plans to slow climate change and a number of proposals to include forestry in a post-Kyoto climate agreement are presently on the table. Anticipating the emergence of a market for forest carbon as a result of this framework, 'avoided deforestation' projects are already sprouting up in tropical countries around the world. Supporters say these initiatives offer the potential to protect forests and biodiversity while simultaneously delivering benefits to rural communities that have so far been lost out while their natural resources have been plundered by developers. While avoided deforestation seems to offers great promise, developing a project that meets still emerging standards is a complex and costly endeavor. A new book, published in five languages, seeks to untangle the forest carbon market and thereby facilitate new avoided deforestation projects.
High coffee prices spurred deforestation in Sumatra but effective law enforcement slowed forest loss
(01/22/2009) Law enforcement efforts can significantly deter deforestation in protected areas despite high pressure from agricultural expansion, reports a new study that assessed the effectiveness of conservation in Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park in southern Sumatra, Indonesia. However the research suggests that conservation needs extend beyond law enforcement to be effective in the long-run.
Climate change killing forests in the western U.S.
(01/22/2009) Tree death rates in old-growth forests of the western United States have more more than doubled in recent decades likely because of regional climate warming, report researchers writing in the journal Science.
Antarctica shows net warming over past 50 years
(01/22/2009) Despite a cooling trend in the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, Antarctica has experienced net warming over the past 50 years, report researchers writing in the January 22 edition of Nature. Analyzing data from satellites and weather stations authors led by Eric Steig of the University of Washington (UW) found that "warming in West Antarctica exceeded one-tenth of a degree Celsius per decade for the last 50 years and more than offset the cooling in East Antarctica", according to a statement from UW.
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