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Arctic sea ice fell to the lowest volume on record in 2008

(12/17/2008) Arctic sea ice fell to the lowest volume — and second lowest extent — on record, according to the annual World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Statement on the Status of the Global Climate.


Biochar and its Role in Mitigating Climate Change

(12/17/2008) The growing concerns about climate change have brought biochar, a charcoal produced from biomass combustion, into limelight. Biochar is a carbon-rich, fine-grained residue which can be produced either by ancient techniques (such as covering burning biomass with soil and allowing it to smolder) or state-of-the-art modern pyrolysis processes. Combustion and decomposition of woody biomass and agricultural residues results in the emission of a large amount of carbon dioxide. Biochar can store this CO2 in the soil leading to reduction in GHGs emission and enhancement of soil fertility. Biochar holds the promise to tackle chronic human development issues like hunger and food insecurity, low agricultural productivity and soil depletion, deforestation and biodiversity loss, energy poverty, air pollution and climate change. Thus, biochar could make a difference in the energy-starved countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America as well as the industrialized world with its vast array of benefits.


Tool helps overcome miles-per-gallon illusion

(12/17/2008) A new tool helps motorists evaluate the fuel efficiency of their vehicle in terms that more accurately reflect the cost of driving than miles-per-gallon (MPG).


Observed sea level rise, ice melt far outpaces projections

(12/17/2008) Sea levels will rise faster than previously estimated due to rapid melting of glaciers and ice sheets, according to a U.S government report released at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. The report, titled Abrupt Climate Change, incorporates research published since last year's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which drew largely from studies dating up to 2006. Most significantly, Abrupt Climate Change suggests that IPCC estimates for future sea level rise (18-58 cm) are conservative, noting that recent observations on sea level rise and loss of sea ice are far outpacing previous projections.


Greenland melting much faster than last year

(12/16/2008) Greenland is losing ice three times faster than last year, report researchers presenting at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.


Africa eyes geothermal power

(12/15/2008) Geothermal — the tapping of steam from hot underground rocks — could provide a source of clean, renewable energy in parts of Africa where electricity is currently limited, according to an assessment by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF).


Corn expansion is hurting ladybugs

(12/15/2008) Expansion of corn acreage to meet ethanol targets is reducing the ability of beneficial insects to control pests, a loss valued at $58 million in the four states studied (Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin), report researchers writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Climate change, ocean acidification may doom jumbo squid

(12/15/2008) Ocean acidification — driven by rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere — may hurt the Humboldt squid, report researchers writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Photos of new species discovered in the Greater Mekong

(12/15/2008) More than 1,000 previously unknown species have been discovered in the Greater Mekong, a region comprising Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Vietnam and the Yunnan Province of China, in the past decade, according to a new report from WWF.


Neither slow nor stupid, manatees are killed by boats because they can't hear them

(12/12/2008) Last year 73 manatees were killed by boats in Florida, despite two decades of manatee-related protections. In fact, manatee deaths due to boat collisions have only increased since protections were implanted. A recent study at the Florida Atlantic University has finally revealed why boats are so dangerous to manatees: the manatee cannot run from what it does not hear.


Computer hackers are helping illegal loggers destroy the Amazon rainforest

(12/12/2008) Computer hackers are helping illegal loggers destroy the Amazon rainforest by breaking into the Brazilian government's timber tracking system and altering the records so as to increase logging allocations, reports Greenpeace.


Lula pledges big cuts in Amazon deforestation -- after he leaves office

(12/12/2008) Last week Brazil unveiled plans to cut deforestation substantially from a 1996-2005 baseline of 19,533 square kilometers per year. The announcement met a mixed response from conservationists. Some applauded the decision to set hard targets for reducing deforestation, others say the targets were too low and that the country should aim for zero net deforestation by 2015. Nevertheless as more details have emerged, it becomes clear that the onus for reining in deforestation falls on Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's successor.


Rainforests continue to fall but hope may rest in a market solution

(12/11/2008) Environmentalists attempting to preserve the vanishing Amazon rain forest now confront a stark paradox: Never before have they succeeded in protecting so much of the world’s largest tropical forest, yet never before has so much of it simultaneously been destroyed. The key question today is whether new models of conservation — including an increasingly popular, market-based program known as REDD — will be able to reverse the steady loss of tropical forests, not only in the Amazon, but also in Indonesia, Borneo, and Africa’s Congo basin, where virgin woodlands continue to be razed at an unprecedented rate.


Climate change will transform the chemical-makeup of the ocean

(12/11/2008) By studying the ocean’s past, scientists have discovered that climate change has a much larger affect on ocean chemistry than expected. The study, published in Science, reveals that 13 million years ago climate change significantly altered the chemical composition of the oceans. Such changes in the ocean’s chemical makeup today could have a great impact on marine life, already stressed by overfishing and pollution.


Chad's elephant population falls by two-thirds in two years

(12/11/2008) Civil strife of Chad — a consequence of the calamity in Darfur — is taking a toll on the country's elephant population, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) which has launched an emergency appeal for funds to support conservation efforts in the country.


Deal on forests falls short

(12/11/2008) A deal reached Wednesday in Poznan to include forests in future climate treaties is a positive step but falls short of the progress needed to get the REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation) mechanism on track for incorporation into the framework that will succeed the Kyoto Protocol, say environmentalists speaking from the talks.


Elephants die significantly earlier in zoos than in wild

(12/11/2008) A new study from Science provides disturbing evidence that one of the zoos’ most popular animals, the elephant, faces a far shorter lifespan in captivity than in the wild. The findings raise new ethical and scientific questions regarding the rightness of keeping elephants in captivity and the causes of their shorter life-spans.


Africa calls for "full-range" of bio-carbon as climate solution

(12/10/2008) A coalition of 26 African countries is calling for the inclusion of carbon credits generated through afforestation, reforestation, agroforestry, reduced soil tillage, and sustainable agricultural practices in future climate agreements.


Why do different species of bird lay different numbers of eggs?

(12/10/2008) Clutch size varies greatly between bird species. Researchers now have a better idea why. Analyzing data on clutch size, biology, and habitat for 5,290 species of birds, a team of biologists — Walter Jetz (UC San Diego), Cagan H. Sekercioglu (Stanford University), and Katrin Böhning-Gaese (Johannes Gutenberg-Universität) — developed a model to predict variations in the number of eggs a species lays. They found clutch sizes are consistently largest in cavity nesters and in species occupying seasonal environments. The findings add depth and complexity to previous research that has shown short-lived species — ones that face high predation or have low survival rates among offspring — tend to lay more eggs than longer-lived species, which invest more resources in raising their offspring.


What allows rainforests to grow so wildly?

(12/10/2008) Molybdenum, a rare trace element, is the secret to rainforests' lush growth, reports research published in the journal Nature Geoscience.


Tropical species face high extinction risk

(12/10/2008) Tropical plant species face an inherently high extinction risk due to small populations and restricted ranges relative to temperate species, reports research published in PLoS ONE. These traits leave them vulnerable to habitat disturbance and climate change.


Fear and conservation

(12/10/2008) How does fear shape the behavior and conservation of deer, moose and antelope, not to mention carnivores such as wolves, bears, and even tigers? What is the natural state of wildlife, and how do animals know or learn which species to ignore or fear? Should we reintroduce predators to former habitats, even though the prey animals may be unprepared for their return?


Indigenous people win voice in climate negotiations

(12/10/2008) Negotiators at U.N. climate conference have struck a deal to give forest-dependent people a voice in determining the role forest conservation will play future agreements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reports the Associated Press (AP). The agreement clears a key obstacle that had been blocking progress on reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD), a mechanism that would compensate tropical countries for protecting their forest cover.


Macedonians plant six million trees—in one day

(12/10/2008) While the world meets in Poznan, Poland to discuss actions related to global warming, the small Republic of Macedonia has already achieved an impressive goal. On November 19th, thousands of Macedonians took part in planting trees in a massive reforestation effort. Altogether they planted six million trees: three trees for every citizen of the country.


Finland, Sweden push for loophole that would drive destruction of peatlands around the world

(12/09/2008) Finland and Sweden are pushing for a loophole in the E.U.'s Renewable Energy Directive that would open up vast tracts of peatlands around the world to development for biofuels production. The move could have drastic consequences for climate and biodiversity, warns Wetlands International, an environmental group.


Wildlife banking gets a marketplace

(12/09/2008) Ecosystem Marketplace, a site that provides information on markets and payment schemes for ecosystem services, has launched what it is calling the "first information clearinghouse" for the species credit trading industry.


How youth in Kenya's largest slum created an organic farm

(12/09/2008) Kibera is one of the world's largest slums, containing over a million people and 60 percent of Nairobi's population. With extremely crowded conditions, little sanitation, and an unemployment rate at 50 percent, residents of Kibera face not only abject poverty but also a large number of social ills, including drugs, alcoholism, rape, AIDS, water-borne diseases, and tensions between various Kenyan tribes.


Drought and deforestation in southeast Asia linked to climate change

(12/09/2008) Researchers have linked drought and deforestation in southeast Asia to climate change. Analyzing six years of climate and fire data from satellites, Guido van der Werf and colleagues report that burning of rainforests and peatlands in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea released an average of 128 million tons of carbon (470 million tons of carbon dioxide - CO2) per year between 2000 and 2006. Fire emissions showed highly variability during the period, but were greatest in dry years, such as those that occur during El Niño events. Borneo was the largest source of fire emissions during the period, averaging 74 million tons per year, followed by Sumatra, which showed a doubling in emissions between 2000 and 2006.


In Poznan, France pushes initiative to save rainforests

(12/08/2008) As talks for incorporating forest conservation into an international climate treaty stall in Poznan, Poland due to technical debates, France has proposed an aggressive effort to address deforestation and forest degradation through the establishment of a Global Forest Carbon Mechanism (GFCM) and potential inclusion of forestry projects in the E.U.'s emissions trading scheme (ETS) beginning in 2013.


Peru seeks $200 million to save its rainforests

(12/08/2008) Peru is seeking $200 million in international contributions over the next ten years to cut deforestation to zero, reports BBC News.


New standards ensure forest carbon projects protect indigenous people, biodiversity

(12/08/2008) The Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA) has released its second edition of its CCB Standard for certifying land-based carbon offset projects.


Madagascar hit by deadly vanilla-killing fungus

(12/08/2008) Madagascar, the world's largest producer and exporter of vanilla, has been hit by a deadly, incurable fungus that can kill vanilla plants before their pods reach maturity, reports The Associated Press. The development could have dire impacts for the country's vanilla industry which generates hundreds of millions of dollars per year for the impoverished Indian Ocean island nation.


Linking rural health care to forest conservation proving a success in Borneo

(12/08/2008) Health in Harmony was today awarded mongabay.com's annual "Innovation in Conservation" award for its unique approach to conservation which combats illegal logging by providing healthcare and sustainable livelihoods to communities living around Gunung Palung National Park in Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo. The award includes a cash grant and prominent placement on the mongabay.com web site and newsletter for the month of December. Health in Harmony is working to break an impoverishing cycle of illegal logging and deforestation by offering healthcare rewards to encourage the villagers to protect the national park, rather than log it. The effort seems to be paying off: since launching a 'forests-for-healthcare' incentive program in September, 18 of 21 communities have signed a moratorium of understanding agreeing to participate.


Little progress on avoided deforestation at climate meeting in Poland

(12/05/2008) Climate talks in Poland are failing to make progress on a proposed mechanism to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, reports a forest policy group from the negotiations.


REDD faces challenges but can succeed, says report

(12/05/2008) The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), a forest policy think tank, today released its assessment on the proposed REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation) mechanism for slowing climate change.


Salvage logging offers hope for forests, communities devastated by industrial logging

(12/04/2008) As currently practiced, logging is responsible for large-scale destruction of tropical forests. Logging roads cut deep into pristine rainforests, opening up once remote areas to colonization, subsistence and industrial agriculture, wildlife exploitation, and other forms of development. Timber extraction thins the canopy, damages undergrowth, and tears up soils, reducing biodiversity and leaving forests more vulnerable to fire. Even selective logging is damaging. Nevertheless demand for wood products continues to grow. China is expected to import more than 100 million cubic meters of industrial roundwood by 2010, much of which will go into finished products shipped off to Europe and the United States. As much as 60 percent of this is illicitly sourced. Meanwhile in Brazil domestic hunger for timber is fueling widespread illegal logging of the Amazon rainforest. Armed standoffs between environmental police and people employed by unlicensed operators are increasingly common. Tropical Salvage, a Portland, Oregon-based producer of wood products, is avoiding these issues altogether by taking a different approach to meet demand for products made from high-quality tropical hardwoods. The company salvages wood discarded from building sites, unearthed from mudslides and volcanic sites, and dredged from rivers in Indonesia and turns it into premium wood products. In the process, Tropical Salvage is putting formers loggers to work and supporting a conservation, education and reforestation project on Java.


Rainforest canopy-penetrating technology gets boost for forest carbon monitoring

(12/04/2008) A tool for monitoring tropical deforestation has gotten a boost from the one of the world's largest supporters of Amazon conservation. The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has awarded the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology with a $1.6-million grant to expand and improve its tropical forest monitoring tool known as the Carnegie Landsat Analysis System Lite (CLASLite).


TV footage leads to discovery of strange and rare monkey

(12/04/2008) After showing archival TV footage of a critically endangered species of primate to local villagers, conservationists have discovered a previously unknown population of the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey in a remote forested area of northern Vietnam. The find the offers new hope for the species, which is down to 200 individuals in two of Vietnam's northern-most provinces — Tuyen Quang and Ha Giang.


Saline agriculture may be the future of farming

(12/04/2008) Accessible and unpolluted freshwater is a necessity for every nation's stability and well-being. Yet, while the demand for freshwater continues to rise, its sources face increasing threats from salinization, a process whereby the salt content of fresh water rises until the water becomes undrinkable and unusable in agriculture: the more salt in the soil, the lower the crop yield.


Bank of America will no longer finance mountaintop removal coal mining

(12/04/2008) Bank of America will phase out financing for companies that practice mountaintop removal coal mining, a destructive and controversial method of coal extraction, according to a statement from the banking giant. The policy comes the day after the Environmental Protection Agency — at the behest of the Bush administration — approved a rule that will make it easier for coal companies to dump waste from mountaintop removal mining operations into streams and valleys.


WWF criticizes Brazil's plan to cut Amazon deforestation

(12/04/2008) WWF criticized Brazil's plan to reduce Amazon deforestation to 5,740 square kilometers per year as being "short on ambition and detail". In a statement issued Wednesday, WWF said that Brazil's proposed fund for conserving the Amazon would still result in the annual loss of an area forest the size of Rhode Island.


Degraded grasslands better option for palm oil production relative to rainforests, finds study

(12/03/2008) Producing biofuels from oil palm plantations established on degraded grasslands rather than tropical rainforests and peat lands would result in a net removal of carbon from the atmosphere rather than greenhouse gas emissions, report researchers writing in Conservation Biology. The results confirm that benefits to climate from biofuel production depend greatly on the type of land used for feedstocks.


REDD may harm forest people, alleges report

(12/02/2008) A new report finds that the World Bank is not doing enough to protect indigenous rights under its mechanism to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD).


Agricultural firms cut incentives for Amazon deforestation

(12/02/2008) As grain prices plummet and concerns over cash mount, agricultural giants are cutting loans to Brazilian farmers, reports the Wall Street Journal. Tighter farm credit may be contributing to a recent slowing in deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, where agriculture is an increasingly important driver of forest clearing.


Fall in palm oil price may lead to industry consolidation

(12/02/2008) A dramatic fall in palm oil prices may provide an opportunity for plantation giants to add to their holdings, reports Reuters.


HSBC to cut lending to questionable oil palm and logging companies

(12/02/2008) HSBC will cut lending to oil palm developers and logging companies in Malaysia and Indonesia due to environmental concerns, reports Reuters.


Insect intelligence: paper wasps display strong long-term memory

(12/01/2008) A recent study in Current Biology finds that paper wasps are capable of remembering rivals a week after initially meeting. As a highly social insect, the discovery proves that the paper wasps' social interactions are based on applied memory rather than simple instinct. The finding overturns many ideas about the intelligence of insects.


2008 Atlantic hurricane season second costliest on record

(12/01/2008) Yesterday marked the end of the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season, which goes down as the second costliest (in nominal terms) on record at $54 billion, according to the National Climatic Data Center. The damages trail only 2005 — the year that Hurricane Katrina and other storms caused $128 billion in damages.


Niche-based distribution modeling may help improve effectiveness of protected areas

(12/01/2008) Niche-based distribution modeling may help researchers evaluate the effectiveness of protected areas, especially in regions lacking comprehensive databases of species distribution, reports a new analysis published in the December issue of Tropical Conservation Science.


Tropical dry forest fragments important to conserving reptile biodiversity in Colombia

(12/01/2008) An important task in tropical conservation is to understand which species are particularly vulnerable to extinction, and identify the characteristics that put them at risk. Because habitat loss and fragmentation are at the root of the global extinction crisis, an extensive collection of literature has developed around profiling species assemblages in fragmented landscapes. It is also clear that species may respond differently to fragmentation, but many species experience direct or indirect negative effects, sometimes resulting in local extirpation in habitat patches.


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