Conservation newsFounded in 1999, Mongabay is a leading provider of environmental science and conservation news.
Squid beaks may revolutionize engineering
(03/27/2008) When scientists dissect the stomachs of sperm whales, they find the super-hard beaks of squids, the only part of them that is indigestible. Scientists can tell the diet of a whale by the variety of beaks left behind, sometimes numbering in the thousands. But how does a squid, whose body is soft and supple, have a beak that is considered one of the hardest organic materials in natures? Scientists have long pondered this question.
Private equity firm buys rights to ecosystem services of Guyana rainforest
(03/27/2008) A private equity firm has purchased the rights to environmental services generated by 371,000 hectare rainforest reserve in Guyana. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the agreement is precedent-setting in that a financial firm is betting that the services generated by a living rainforest — including rainfall generation, climate regulation, biodiversity maintenance and water storage — will eventually see compensation in international markets.
Scientists mark 50th Anniversary of the Keeling Curve
(03/27/2008) The Keeling Curve, the longest continuous record of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels based on measurements taken atop Hawaii's Mauna Loa, is now 50 years old. The record provided the first compelling evidence that atmospheric CO2 levels have been rising since the mid-20th century.
Fire monitoring by satellite becomes key conservation tool
(03/26/2008) Remote sensing is increasingly used as a tool for conservation management. Beyond traditional satellite imagery popularized by Google Earth, new sensing applications are allowing researchers located anywhere in the world to track fires, illegal logging and mining, and deforestation in some of Earth's most isolated regions using a computer or handheld device. The Fire Alert System is one example of an application that is harnessing the power of satellites to deliver key data to conservation managers. Developed by Madagascar's ministry of Environment, the International Resources Group, conservation International using data from the University of Maryland and NASA, the Fire Alert System enables near real-time monitoring of fires anywhere on the island of Madagascar, a hotspot of biological diversity. The system, which sends subscribers regular email alerts on newly-detected burning, will eventually be expanded to include all the world's protected areas, allowing managers to detect not only fires but potentially related activities like road building, logging, and even hunting.
FSC has 'failed the world's forests' say critics
(03/26/2008) The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has come under increasingly harsh criticisms from a variety of environmental organizations. The FSC is an international not-for-profit organization that certifies wood products: its stamp of approval is meant to create confidence that the wood was harvested in an environmentally-sustainable and socially-responsible manner. For years the FSC stamp has been imperative for concerned consumers in purchasing wood products. Yet amid growing troubles for the FSC, recent attacks from environmental organizations like World Rainforest Movement and Ecological Internet are putting the organization's credibility into question.
Africa's lions are disappearing
(03/25/2008) The lion is Africa's best known carnivore. Once widely abundant across the continent, recent surveys show that lion populations have plunged from over 100,000 individuals to around 23,000 over the past century. The reason? Lions are poisoned, shot, and speared by locals who see them as a threat to livestock. While lion populations in protected areas remain relatively healthy, conservationists say that without urgent measures, lions may disappear completely from unprotected areas. The Kilimanjaro Lion conservation Project is working to avoid this fate by developing practical measures to encourage coexistence between people, livestock and predators. Key to the effort is reducing livestock losses to lions. Leela Hazzah, a field researcher with the project, says the "Lion Guardians" program at Mbirikani Ranch in Kenya has proved remarkably successful: not a single lion has been killed since its inception in November 2006. The program employs Maasai warriors to monitor lions and help local communities prevent attacks on livestock.
No global warming link to dying frogs?
(03/25/2008) Scientists have fired another salvo in the heated debate over the role of climate change in the global decline of amphibians. Writing in the March 25 issue of PLoS Biology, a team of researchers led by Karen Lips of Southern Illinois University-Carbondale report finding "no evidence to support the hypothesis that climate change has been driving outbreaks of amphibian chytridiomycosis" -- a disease blamed for large-scale die-offs of amphibians. Other researchers have argued that climate shifts are worsening the outbreak of the fungal disease.
Photos: Warming triggers massive Antarctic ice shelf collapse
(03/25/2008) Satellites have captured the collapse of a massive ice shelf in Antarctica. At 160 square miles the area of collapsed ice was seven times the size of Manhattan. Scientists say the collapse is the beginning of a "runaway" disintegration of the 13,680 square kilometer (5,282 square mile) Wilkins Ice Shelf on the southwest Antarctic Peninsula. The region has experienced the largest temperature increase on the planet, rising by 0.5 degree Celsius (0.9 degree Fahrenheit) per decade over the past 50 years.
Swan finds love with paddleboat
(03/25/2008) In a bizarre story out of Muenster, Germany, a black swam will be reunited with its companion — a paddleboat shaped like an outsized white swan, reports the Associated Press.
U.S. furniture demand drives illegal logging in Laos
(03/24/2008) In Vietnam the illegal timber trade continues unabated, in many ways due to the Southeast Asian country's growing economy and wealthy nations' insatiable demand for cheap furniture. Since 2000 Vietnam has seem a ten-fold increase in their furniture industry, a rise that is leading to large-scale illegal deforestation in the Mekong region, according to a report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Telapak Indonesia.
Ants first farmed well before humans
(03/24/2008) Ants began farming some 50 million years ago, far before the first humans developed agriculture, reports a new study based on DNA analysis of the "evolutionary tree" of fungus-growing ants.
Global warming could trigger dramatic Lake Tahoe changes within 10 years
(03/24/2008) Warming temperatures may cloud Lake Tahoe's legendary clear waters and put the lake's native species at risk, reports a new study from the University of California, Davis.
Black carbon pollution has big impact on climate
(03/24/2008) Black carbon, a form of particulate air pollution most often produced from biomass burning, cooking with solid fuels and diesel exhaust, has a warming effect in the atmosphere three to four times greater than prevailing estimates, according to scientists in an upcoming review article in the journal Nature Geoscience.
Railroad could reduce Amazon deforestation relative to proposed highway
(03/24/2008) Building a railroad instead of improving a major highway could reduce deforestation and biodiversity loss in the heart of the Amazon rainforest says an Brazilian environmental group.
Giant sea creatures discovered in Antarctica
(03/21/2008) An eight week long survey of New Zealand's Antarctic waters has turned up giant creatures including jellyfish with 12-foot tentacles and 2-foot-wide starfish, as well as up to eight previously undiscovered species of mollusc, reports the Associated Press (A.P.).
U.S. flooding to continue well into spring
(03/21/2008) Flooding in the American Midwest is likely to continue, said the U.S. National Weather Service.
Markets could save forests: An interview with Dr. Tom Lovejoy
(03/20/2008) Market mechanisms are increasingly seen as a way to address environmental problems, including tropical deforestation. In particular, compensation for ecosystem services like carbon sequestration — a concept known by the acronym REDD for "reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation" — may someday make conservation a profitable enterprise in which carbon traders are effectively saving rainforests simply by their pursuit of profit. Protecting rainforests and their resident biodiversity would be an unintentional, but happy byproduct of profit-seeking endeavors.
Titan may have a hidden ocean
(03/20/2008) An ocean may lie under the surface of Saturn's moon Titan, according to research published this week in the journal Science.
Ecosystems in the Philippines bounce back from the brink
(03/19/2008) The Philippines has often been an example for the worst-case-scenario in environmental degradation. Some scientists have even concluded that environmental efforts should put elsewhere, claiming the Philippines to be a lost cause. In his book Requiem for Nature John Terborgh writes the "overpopulated... Philippines are already beyond the point of no return." However, a recent paper entitled "Hope for Threatened Tropical Biodiversity: Lessons from the Philippines" argues that there are enough positive environmental and conservation trends in the Philippines to have hope and continue working for a better tomorrow.
Illegal wildlife trade worth $20B/yr
(03/19/2008) The illegal wildlife trade generates $5 to $20 billion annually, making it the largest illicit market after guns and drugs trafficking, reports a study released by the Congressional Research Service.
Perennial ice disappearing in the Arctic receives little attention from the media
(03/19/2008) A big story came out on the loss of perennial ice in Arctic from NASA on Wednesday — and was mostly ignored by the media. Despite a colder winter than usual, the Arctic is losing its perennial ice (ice that lasts longer than a season) making the region even more susceptible to global warming. Perennial ice used to cover 50-60 percent of the Arctic. Results from this year's satellites show that perennial ice has decreased to less than 30 percent. In addition ice older than six years has declined from 20 percent in the eighties to six percent today.
Do parks worsen deforestation through 'leakage'?
(03/17/2008) The creation of protected reserves may be pushing development to neighboring areas, confounding overall conservation efforts in regions where development pressures are high. Such "leakage" -- as the displacement is called -- makes it difficult to assess the effectiveness of protected areas strategies.
How falling a gecko lands on its feet
(03/17/2008) According to new research the gecko may have the most dynamic tail in the natural world. Two researchers from UC Berkley have discovered that the gecko uses its tail to keep itself from falling off slippery vertical surfaces and when falling to rapidly right itself. So, like a cat, it always lands on four feet.
Papua New Guinea to ban log exports by 2010
(03/17/2008) Papua New Guinea (PNG) will phase out log exports by 2010 said Forest Minister Belden Namah last month. The move comes as the country seeks to gain greater control over illegal logging and promote expansion of oil palm cultivation.
Rwanda launches reforestation project to protect chimps, drive ecotourism
(03/17/2008) conservationists in Rwanda have launched an ambitious reforestation project that aims to create a forest corridor to link an isolated group of chimpanzees to larger areas of habitat in Nyungwe National Park. The initiative, called the Rwandan National conservation Park, is backed by the Rwandan government, the Great Ape Trust of Iowa, and Earthpark, a group seeking to build an indoor rainforest in the U.S. Midwest.
Satellite could help reindeer in the Arctic
(03/17/2008) Researchers have used satellite data to detect Arctic conditions that cause mass starvation of hoofed animals depended on by native peoples. Some 20,000 musk oxen died on Canada's far-northern Banks Island because of such conditions during the winter several years ago. Yet, their deaths went unnoticed until the next spring. The new satellite-detection method could provide an early warning to native people, giving them a realistic chance of getting food to herds to prevent mass starvation.
Amazon environmentalist gunned down in Peru
(03/14/2008) After reporting a truck loaded with mahogany illegally logged from the Amazon rainforest, Don Julio Garcia Agapito, a Peruvian environmentalist was gunned down by unknown assailants on February 26th, 2008. He is survived by his family.
New bird species discovered in Indonesia
(03/14/2008) A previously unknown species of bird has been discovered near a remote archipelago in Indonesia, reported a taxonomist writing in the March edition of The Wilson Journal of Ornithology.
Fast-growing coral may help reefs survive global warming
(03/13/2008) Two fast-growing coral species may hold the key to Caribbean reefs surviving global warming, report researchers writing in the journal Science.
Dams mask sea level rise
(03/13/2008) Water held in man-made reservoirs is masking the true extent of sea level rise from melting ice and thermal expansion, report scientists writing in the journal Science. The researchers, from the National Central University in Taiwan, calculate that sea levels would be 30 mm (1.2 inches) higher without water stored behind dams.
DEET repellent works by blocking human odor from mosquitoes
(03/13/2008) DEET, a potent insect repellent, works by blocking the aroma of human sweat, report researchers writing in the journal Science. The discovery could lead to the development of new repellents that have fewer health risks.
India has 1400 tigers -- not 3500
(03/13/2008) A census of India's reserves found 1,411 tigers rather than the 3,508 estimated previously, according to the State Ministry of Environment and Forests.
Rare jewel-colored frog rediscovered in Colombia
(03/13/2008) A brilliantly-colored frog has been rediscovered 14 years after its last sighting in a remote mountainous region in Colombia.
Predator of the world's largest macaw key to its survival
(03/13/2008) In a bizarre biological twist, a new study shows that the Hyacinth Macaw depends on its greatest predator, the Toco Toucan, for continued survival.
Merrill Lynch invests $9M in rainforest conservation, expects profit
(03/12/2008) Merrill Lynch's investment in a rainforest conservation project in the Indonesian province of Aceh is worth $9 million over four years, reports Thomas Wright of The Wall Street Journal.
Industry-driven road-building to fuel Amazon deforestation
(03/12/2008) Unofficial road-building will be a major driver of deforestation and land-use change in the Amazon rainforest, according to an analysis published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. Improved governance, as exemplified by the innovative MAP Initiative in the southwestern Amazon, could help reduce the future impact of roads, without diminishing economic prospects in the region.
Photos of rare pygmy hippo in Liberia
(03/12/2008) It's almost as though this normally shy mammal were posing for the camera. The black-and-white image of a pygmy hippopotamus half-facing the camera is the first ever of a pygmy hippopotamus in Liberia. Perhaps even more astonishing EDGE, the organization that accomplished the photo, believes the image to be only the second photographic evidence of the animal in the wild (the first was taken in 2006 in Sierra Leone). This incredibly secretive animal is usually known through its prints and dung.
Cellulosic energy may trigger dramatic collapse in the Amazon
(03/11/2008) Next generation biofuels may trigger the ecological collapse of the Amazon frontier and could have profoundly unexpected economic consequences for the region, warns a paper published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. Dr. Donald Sawyer writes that "interacting with climate change and land use, the upcoming stage of cellulosic energy could result in a collapse of the new frontier into vast degraded pasture." The shift could increase the incidence and severity of fires, reduce rainfall in key agricultural zones, exacerbate forest die-back and climate change, and worsen social instability. Sawyer says that while difficult to anticipate, the worst outcomes could likely be avoided be promoting "intensified and more sustainable use" of already cleared areas, minimizing new deforestation, and encouraging "sustainable use of natural resources by local communities."
China's emissions growth 2-4 times greater than expected
(03/11/2008) China's carbon dioxide emissions are growing far faster than anticipated according to according to a new analysis by economists at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of California, San Diego. The study, published in the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, estimates China will see an 11 percent annual growth rate in CO2 emissions between 2004 and 2010, two to four times the 2.5 to 5 percent growth rate estimated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
New review system helps companies adapt to ecosystem degradation
(03/11/2008) A new accountability initiative will help companies factor ecosystem degradation into their business decisions.
Deforestation causes snake invasion in the Amazon
(03/11/2008) An official with Brazil's environmental protection agency Ibama claims that snakes are invading the city of Belem due to deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.
Half of Madagascar's amphibians may still await discovery
(03/11/2008) Madagascar is one of the most unique places on Earth for wildlife. When the public thinks of Madagascar's fauna most likely they think of one of the fifty species of lemur. Yet, Madagascar possesses a wealth of endemic wildlife outside of these unique prosimians. For example, to frog-lovers Madagascar is a paradise. The only amphibians living on Madagascar are frogs; the island is devoid of toads, salamanders, or newts. But what it lacks in other amphibians it makes up for in the number and beauty of its frogs. Currently, 240 frogs have been catalogued in Madagascar, 99 percent of which are endemic. Yet, amphibian expert Dr. Franco Andreone believes that, according to recent field studies, this may only be half of the frogs that actually live in Madagascar. Dr. Andreone believes the final tally could reach 500 species!
Skoll Foundation puts $1M toward indigenous groups, conservation in the Amazon
(03/11/2008) The Skoll Foundation has awarded the Amazon conservation Team, an innovative organization the promotes biocultural conservation among indigenous groups in the Amazon, $1,015,000 to map, manage, and protect 100 million acres of rainforest. The award is one of 11 Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship presented by the Skoll Foundation in 2008.
Madagascar's deforestation rate drops 8-fold in parks
(03/10/2008) Madagascar's deforestation rate in protected areas has fallen by eight-fold since the 1990s according to conservation International and the Malagasy government.
Emissions from deforestation offset by increased tree growth in the Amazon
(03/10/2008) An increase in carbon sequestration by trees in the Amazon has roughly offset total emissions from deforestation in the region since the 1980s. A new study, published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, this trend may slow in the future, causing the world's largest rainforest to become a net source of carbon emissions and therefore contributing to climate change.
Eastern Europe could counter high food prices
(03/10/2008) Expansion of agriculture in Eastern Europe could help counter surging food prices said a top official from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Accurate forest data will help guide climate policy
(03/10/2008) As forests are increasingly seen as a means for fighting climate change, proper forest assessment becomes all the more important. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. (FAO) says it will call on member states to provide "accurate data". FAO data has been criticized by analysts for offering an incomplete picture of forest cover and trends.
New rule grants rainforest to mining firms in Indonesia for $80/acre
(03/10/2008) A new Indonesian rule will grant concessions to mining companies operating in rainforests for as little as $200 per hectare ($80/acre) according to Mining Advocacy Network, a conservation group.
Biochar fund to fight hunger, energy poverty, deforestation, and global warming
(03/10/2008) Biopact, a leading bioenergy web site, has announced the creation of a "Biochar Fund" to help poor farmers improve their quality of life without hurting the environment.
Corn ethanol is worsening the Gulf dead zone
(03/10/2008) Proposed legislation that will expand corn-ethanol production in the United States will worsen the growing "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico and hurt marine fisheries, report researchers writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
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