conservation news and environmental science news.
Documentary explores Borneo for possible anti-HIV medicine
(06/27/2006) Rainforest plants have long been recognized for their potential to provide healing compounds. Indigenous peoples of the rainforest have used medicinal plants for treating a wide variety of health conditions while western pharmacologists have derived a number of drugs from such plants.
When elephants attack. Surviving an elephant charge in the Congo rainforest of Gabon
(06/26/2006) The elephant charges. The ground trembles. Hearts racing, we are now sprinting through the forest dodging vegetation as the elephant plows right through it. The problem with being chased by an elephant, aside from their obvious size advantage, is they can run faster than you. While wild elephants can be dangerous animals under the right circumstances, other creatures are responsible for more deaths in Africa. Topping the list is the hippo, whose penchant for capsizing canoes that come too close results in the dumping of passengers who often can't swim. Buffalo, crocodiles, and lions are directly responsible for more deaths and injuries.
Consumers want environmentally friendly computers
(06/26/2006) A study conducted earlier this year by Ipsos-MORI on behalf of Greenpeace found that consumers say they would be willing to pay more for an environmentally friendly computer. The amounts ranged from $59 in Germany, $118 in UK, $199 in China and $229 in Mexico.
Pictures of Gabon: gorillas, rainforest and white sand beaches
(06/26/2006) Mongabay.com, a leading rainforest and environmental web site, today announced the availability of new photos from the Central African country of Gabon. Site founder Rhett A. Butler visited Loango National Park in Gabon in late May and early June.
Buffet to give nearly $31 billion to Gates foundation
(06/25/2006) In an interview with Fortune magazine, Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett announced he will give nearly $31 billion -- most of his wealth -- to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The decision comes shortly after Mr. Gates said he would leave Microsoft to work full time with his philanthropic organization, which is dedicated to bringing innovation to global health and education.
Debt-for-Nature Swap Protects Forest in Cameroon
(06/22/2006) France and Cameroon signed the first ever Central African debt for nature swap today. This agreement will invest at least $25 million over the next five years to protect part of the world's second largest tropical forest, home to elephants, gorillas, hundreds of bird species and indigenous people such as the Ba'Aka pygmies.
Previously undiscovered species found in Tanzania
(06/22/2006) The first field surveys of the Rubeho Mountains in Tanzania revealed over 160 animal species--including a new species of frog and eleven endemic species--according to an article published in the African Journal of Ecology this month. The findings elevate the importance of protecting this biologically-rich wilderness area and the broader Eastern Arc Mountain range from destructive activities underway such as clear-cutting for agriculture, logging and poaching.
Global Warming Fueled Record 2005 Hurricane Season Conclude Scientists
(06/22/2006) Global warming accounted for around half of the extra hurricane-fueling warmth in the waters of the tropical North Atlantic in 2005, while natural cycles were only a minor factor, according to a new analysis by Kevin Trenberth and Dennis Shea of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The study will appear in the June 27 issue of Geophysical Research Letters, published by the American Geophysical Union
World's coral reefs threatened by lack of effective protection
(06/22/2006) Of the 18.7% of tropical coral reefs that lie within "Marine Protected Areas," less than 2% are extended protection complete with regulations on extraction, poaching and other major threats, according to an analysis published in Science Magazine on June 23. The research represents the first global assessment of the extent, effectiveness and gaps in coverage of coral reefs by MPAs. The team built a database of MPAs for 102 countries, including satellite imagery of reefs worldwide, and surveyed more than 1,000 MPA managers and scientists to determine the conservation performance of MPAs.
Earth at Warmest in 400 Years
(06/22/2006) There is sufficient evidence from tree rings, boreholes, retreating glaciers, and other proxies of past surface temperatures to say with a high level of confidence that the last few decades of the 20th century were warmer than any comparable period in the last 400 years, according to a new report from the National Research Council. Less confidence can be placed in proxy-based reconstructions of surface temperatures for A.D. 900 to 1600, said the committee that wrote the report, although the available proxy evidence does indicate that many locations were warmer during the past 25 years than during any other 25-year period since 900. Very little confidence can be placed in statements about average global surface temperatures prior to A.D. 900 because the proxy data for that time frame are sparse, the committee added.
Madagascar's reefs escape damage from global warming
(06/22/2006) A survey of coral along Madagascar's northeast coast suggests that they island's reef may have so far escaped the damaging effects of warmer ocean temperatures attributed to global climate change. Researchers from conservation International (CI), a leading conservation group, found that the region's coral reefs have avoided the bleaching that has affected other Indian Ocean reefs. The scientists believe that cool water currents from adjacent deep ocean areas have helped offset the warming effects of climate change.
Africa's deforestation rate may be underestimated
(06/22/2006) Africa's deforestation rate may be underestimated by satellite imagery according to a researcher at the University of Wisconsin. Holly Gibbs, a Ph.D. candidate at the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment at the University of Wisconsin, presented her findings at a conservation conference held in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar.
3 new lemurs named in Madagascar
(06/21/2006) To recognize an internationally renowned primatologist and champion of Madagascar's unique biodiversity, scientists who discovered three new species of mouse lemur on the island nation have named one in honor of Russell A. Mittermeier, the president of conservation International.
United States economy becomes more carbon efficient
(06/21/2006) The state of Nevada had the largest increase in carbon emissions between 1990 and 2001 according to mongabay.com's analysis of figures released by the Energy Information Administration. Carbon dioxide emissions climbed 47 percent during the period, while the state's economy grew by 85 percent and its population increased by 73 percent. The figures show that Nevada, like the rest of the United States, is becoming getting more out of its carbon dioxide emissions than it did in 1990. Overall the United States was about 20 percent more carbon dioxide efficient in 2001 than in 1990, with each metric ton of carbon dioxide generating from $1,614 to 1,724 worth of gross domestic product.
Mammals in war-torn Virunga National Park recovering finds WCS survey
(06/20/2006) A recent wildlife census conducted in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) revealed that several species of large mammal are now recovering from a decade of civil war and rampant poaching.
Warming could cause rain forests to release more carbon dioxide
(06/20/2006) Extra amounts of key nutrients in tropical rain forest soils cause them to release more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, according to research conducted by scientists at the University of Colorado (CU) - Boulder. Results of the research, conducted by Cory Cleveland and CU scientist Alan Townsend, are published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Growth of cities can affect local weather
(06/19/2006) In the past half-century, cities have begun to expand in some of the Earth's most arid areas. While scientists have known for some time that the so-called "heat-island" effect of large cities such as Atlanta and Houston can affect their weather, they knew less about this effect and other processes in arid cities, such as Phoenix, which have experienced explosive population growth.
The tropics may be expanding due to climate change
(05/26/2006) A new study published in Science by scientists from the University of Utah and the University of Washington indicates that the tropics have expanded farther from the equator since 1979.Analyzing atmospheric temperature measurements by satellites, the researchers say that widening of the tropics amounts to 2 degrees of latitude or 140 miles but are not sure whether the expansion is the result of natural climate variation or by human-induced global warming due to the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The researchers warm that the trend could expand some of the world's driest regions. "It's a big deal. The tropics may be expanding and getting larger," says study co-author Thomas Reichler, an assistant professor of meteorology at the University of Utah. "If this is true, it also would mean that subtropical deserts are expanding into heavily populated midlatitude regions."
Extreme global warming likely by end of century
(05/24/2006) Climate models predicting a 5.6 degrees Celsius increase in Earth's temperature by the end of the century may have underestimated the increase by as much as 2.3C according to researchers at the University of California at Berkeley.
Saving Orangutans in Borneo
(05/24/2006) A look at conservation efforts in Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo. I'm in Tanjung Puting National Park in southern Kalimantan on the island of Borneo. At 400,000 hectares (988,000 acres) Tanjung Puting is the largest protected expanse of coastal tropical heath and peat swamp forest in southeast Asia. It's also one of the biggest remaining habitats for the critically endangered orangutan, the population of which has been great diminished in recent years due to habitat destruction and poaching. And orangutans have become the focus of a much wider effort to save Borneo's natural environment. We are headed to Campy Leakey, named for the renowned Kenyan paleontologist Louis Leakey. Here lies the center of the Orangutan Research conservation Project. Established by Birute Mary Galdikas, a preeminent primatologist and founder of the Orangutan Foundation International (OFI), the project seeks to support the conservation and understanding of the orangutan and its rain forest habitat while rehabilitating ex-captive individuals. The Orangutan Research conservation Project is the public face of orangutan conservation in this part of Kalimantan, the Indonesia-controlled part of Borneo. Borneo, the third largest island in the world, was once home to some of the world's most majestic, and forbidding forests. With swampy coastal areas fringed by mangrove forests and a mountainous interior, much of the terrain was virtually impassable and unexplored. Headhunters ruled the remote parts of the island until a century ago.
Why does Madagascar have so many unique animals?
(05/24/2006) Scientists have developed the first comprehensive theory to explain Madagascar's rich biodiversity. Madagascar, larger than California and about size the size of Texas or France, is the world's fourth largest island. Isolated in the Indian Ocean off the coast of southern Africa, about 70% of the estimated 250,000 species found on the island exist nowhere else on the globe. The island is home to such evolutionary oddities as lemurs, a group of primates endemic to the island; brilliantly colored lizards including geckos and chameleons; tenrecs, spiny hedgehog-like creatures; and the fossa, a carnivorous animal that looks like a cross between a puma and a dog but is closely related to the mongoose.
Venture Capitalists, China and Green Technology
(05/24/2006) A Bay Area venture capitalist with a storied past, has set his sights on "green technology" and ultimately China, after some compelling remarks from state representatives at a recent conference. Early this spring, Chinese officials named solar and clean coal technologies as two of their three pre-eminent priorities for investment and development in the near future. For a country with burgeoning energy needs surpassing what power is presently available, this is both realistic and positive news for environmentalists and economists alike. Hoping to capitalize, John Doerr and his associates are now funneling cash into the emergent green technology sector, which he, and an increasing number of other investors believe to be the next big thing.
Central America agrees to jaguar corridor
(05/23/2006) A group of environment ministers representing the seven nations of Central America and Mexico have agreed to establish a network of protected areas and wildlife corridors to safeguard jaguar populations, according to the New York-based Wildlife conservation Society. The decision was made at the Second Mesoamerica Protected Area Congress held in Panama earlier this month.
14% of children in the United Arab Emirates starving
(05/23/2006) While public attention gravitates towards conflict and natural disaster, many people in countries less affected by such events struggle with some of the same nutrition problems as those in crisis. In The Lancet, Rainer Gross, UNICEF's chief of nutrition, and Patrick Webb, dean for academic affairs at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, discuss five facts about world hunger, children and wasting, a condition that represents severe malnutrition.
First signs of Alzheimer's may be physical not mental
(05/23/2006) The first signs of dementia -- including Alzheimer's disease -- may be physical, rather than mental, according to a joint study between Group Health Cooperative and the University of Washington reported in the May 22 Archives of Internal Medicine. This study followed 2,288 Group Health members age 65 and older for six years. At the start, none showed any signs of dementia or Alzheimer's disease. The researchers contacted the participants every two years, assessing physical and mental functioning. By six years, 319 participants had developed dementia, including 221 with Alzheimer's disease. The participants whose physical function was higher at the start of the study were three times less likely to develop dementia than were those whose physical function was lower.
Ecuador's oil nationalization may hurt environment
(05/23/2006) Last week Ecuador seized Amazon oilfields controlled by Occidental, an American oil firm which produces about 20 percent of the country's oil output and has invested about $1 billion since 1999. The decision will bring a short-term boost in government revenue while appealing to street protestors who have caused havoc for the country's politicians over the past few years. However, looking the beyond the politics, the seizure could have implications for the environment of the country which is home to some of the world's most biodiverse ecosystems.
2006: Expect another big hurricane year says NOAA
(05/22/2006) The 2006 hurricane season in the north Atlantic region is likely to again be very active, although less so than 2005 when a record-setting 15 hurricanes occured, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. On average, NOAA says the north Atlantic hurricane season produces 11 named storms, of which six become hurricanes, including two major hurricanes. In 2005, the Atlantic hurricane season contained a record 28 storms, including 15 hurricanes. Seven of these hurricanes were considered major, of which a record four hit the United States. The warning from NOAA comes after a slew of studies have indicated that climate change could increase the frequency and intensity of powerful storms. Last year, two earlier studies published in the journals Nature and Science found a strong correlation between rising tropical sea surface temperatures and an increase in the strength of hurricanes.
Global warming may be worse than predicted
(05/22/2006) Climate change estimates for the next century may have substantially underestimated the potential magnitude of global warming says a new study from a team of European scientists. The paper, published in the May 26 issue of Geophysical Research Letters, says that warming may be 15-to-78 percent higher than estimates that do not consider the feedback mechanism involving carbon dioxide and Earth's temperature.
Bush Administration misleads public on deforestation effort
(05/21/2006) The Bush Administration is misleading the American public and the United Nations about its efforts to address tropical deforestation according to analysis by the Tropical Forest Group, an environmental advocacy group based in Santa Barbara, California. The Tropical Forest Group alleges that the US Tropical Forest conservation Act (TFCA), a key initiative to reduce carbon emissions and tropical deforestation, has been neglected for a year and a half despite recent claims by the Bush Administration that it was actively supporting the program.
Indonesia to have first biodiesel plant by 2008
(05/21/2006) Indonesia plans first to complete its first biodiesel plant by 2008. The $25 million plant, built by PT Bakrie Sumatera Plantations Tbk (BSP) and PT Rekayasa Industri (Rekin), will have a capacity of 60,000 to 100,000 metric tons a year. The plant will use crude palm oil (CPO) and other feedstock.
China's timber imports surge in 2006
(05/21/2006) According to China Customs, China's timber imports surged during the first quarter of 2006. Log imports increased 18 percent to 8.1 million cubic meters. China customs valued these imports at $897.42 million. Most of the log imports (64 percent) consisted of softwood logs from Russia. Sawnwood imports amounted to 1.45 million cubic meters worth some $385.72 million. Separately, the ITTO Tropical Timber Market Report reported that paper multinationals are aggressively investing in China's paper industry.
Shippers in Indonesia fight decree on illegal logging
(05/21/2006) According to a report from the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), shippers in Indonesia are threatening to stop transporting logs if the government insists on enforcing a new decree on the transportation of illegal timber. The Indonesian National Ship-owners Association says that the Indonesian government's proposal to impound ships carrying illegal timber would cause massive losses to the local shipping industry, according to the ITTO Tropical Timber Market Report. The association contends that authorities should only confiscate illegal wood, not the ships.
High School Students Compete in National Entrepreneurship Tournament
(05/19/2006) More than 100 high school students from six states will be traveling to New York next week to try to become the USA SAGE champion and earn an invitation to represent their country at the SAGE World Cup in Shanghai.
Scientists endorse plan to save rainforests through emissions trading
(05/19/2006) The Association for Tropical Biology and conservation (ATBC), the world's largest scientific organization devoted to the study and wise use of tropical ecosystems, has formally endorsed a radical proposal to help save tropical forests through carbon trading. Under the initiative proposed by an alliance of fifteen developing countries led by Papua New Guinea and Costa Rica, tropical nations that show permanent reductions in deforestation would be eligible to receive international carbon funds from industrial nations who could purchase carbon credits to help them meet their emissions targets international climate agreements like the Kyoto Protocol.
'Extinct' frog rediscovered in Colombia
(05/18/2006) Researchers exploring a Colombian mountain range found surviving members of a species of Harlequin frog believed extinct due to a killer fungus wiping out amphibian populations in Central and South America. The discovery of what could be the last population of the painted frog (Atelopus ebenoides marinkellei) indicates the species has survived the fungus, providing hope that other species also might avoid elimination from the epidemic caused by a pathogenic fungus of unknown origin.
Rare Chinese alligators sent to China
(05/17/2006) The U.S. made a slight dent in the trade deficit today when a dozen rare Chinese alligators were shipped from the Wildlife conservation Society's (WCS) headquarters at the Bronx Zoo directly to China, as part of an international effort to restore populations of these highly endangered reptiles
India's Himalayan forests disappearing
(05/17/2006) A new report says Himalayan forests are disappearing at such a high rate that they could be gone by the end of the century. In the May 20 issue of New Scientist Magazine Maharaj Pandit of the University of Delhi and a team of researchers report that widespread deforestation in the Indian Himalaya region threatens the region's biodiversity which includes tigers, black bears, musk deer, leopards, golden eagles and bearded vultures.
New York at high risk of flooding from climate change
(05/17/2006) For many, sea-level rise is a remote and distant threat faced by people like the residents of the Tuvalu Islands in the South Pacific, where the highest point of land is only 5 meters (15 feet) above sea level and tidal floods occasionally cover their crops in seawater.
Exxon Valdez oil spill more damaging to wildlife finds study
(05/16/2006) New evidence suggests that oil from the Exxon Valdez may still causing damage to Alaska's Prince William Sound, 17 years after the ship ran aground. The study, by chemist Jeffrey Short and colleagues at the National Marine Fisheries Service in Juneau, Alaska, appears today on the Web site of the American Chemical Society's journal.
Congress deals blow to bioenergy market
(05/16/2006) In a set back to the growing biofuels market and American energy consumers, House Majority Leader John Boehner said Monday he will not push legislation to reduce the U.S. tariff on ethanol imports. Thus, the United States will keep its 54-cent-a-gallon tariff on imported ethanol despite a warning from the Department of Energy that domestic ethanol supplies will fall short this summer and will need to reply on foreign fuel.
Global warming may cause permanent damage to coral reefs
(05/15/2006) Global warming has had a more devastating impact on coral reefs than previously believed says a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research, the first to show the long-term impact of rising sea temperatures on coral and fish communities, suggests that "large sections of coral reefs and much of the marine life they support may be wiped out for good," according to a news release from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, an institution involved in the project.
Africa's glaciers gone by 2025
(05/15/2006) Fabled equatorial icecaps will disappear within two decades, because of global warming, a study British and Ugandan scientists has found. In a paper to be published 17 May in Geophysical Research Letters, they report results from the first survey in a decade of glaciers in the Rwenzori Mountains of East Africa. An increase in air temperature over the last four decades has contributed to a substantial reduction in glacial cover, they say.
What do bikini models and Merrill Lynch have to do with deforestation?
(05/14/2006) Last week a bikini-clad woman made international news wires when she disrupted a group photo shoot at a business summit in Vienna, Austria. The woman -- identified as Evangelina Carrozo, a beauty queen from Gualeguaychu, Argentina -- protesting the construction of two wood pulp plants under construction in Uruguay on the border with Argentina. The $1.8 billion project is the largest investment deal in the history of Uruguay, but has strained relations between Uruguay and Argentina, which says the plant may pollute downstream areas. Earlier this month, Argentina announced it had filed a claim against its neighbor before the International Court of Justice at the Hague, arguing that Uruguay failed to conduct a thorough environmental impact study.
Amazon Stonehenge suggests advanced ancient rainforest culture
(05/14/2006) The discovery of an ancient astrological observatory in Brazil lends support to the theory that the Amazon rainforest was once home to advanced cultures and large sedentary populations of people. Besides the well-known empires of the Inca and their predecessors, millions of people once lived in the forests and shaped the environment to suit their own needs. Archaeologists with the Amapa Institute of Scientific and Technological Research said they uncovered the ruin near Calcoene, 390 kilometers (240 miles) from Macapa, the capital of Amapa state, near Brazil's border with French Guiana.
US has low-cost alternatives to oil; peak oil frenzy and human-induced climate change avoidable says Columbia University
(05/14/2006) Surging oil prices have fueled calls for the United States to develop new sources of affordable and secure domestic energy. While renewable energy -- especially biofuels, wind power, and solar technologies -- is an area of particular interest, researchers from the Earth Institute at Columbia University say that the U.S. already has relatively low-cost alternatives to imported oil, including coal, tar sands, and oil shale. These resources can be extracted and used at a lower cost to the environment than some might expect. In a report published in the most recent issue of Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Klaus S. Lackner and Jeffrey D. Sachs argue that "coal alone could satisfy the country's energy needs of the twenty-first century." They say that "coal liquefaction, or the process of deriving liquid fuels from coal, is already being used in places and with expanded infrastructure could provide gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel at levels well below current prices." Further, Sachs and Lackner suggest that "environmental constraints such as increased carbon dioxide emissions arising from greater use of coal and other fossil fuels could be avoided for less than 1 percent of gross world product by 2050," a sum far less than others have estimated.
Droughts in India to worsen with climate change -- study
(05/12/2006) India could face worse droughts according to a new study by scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. In a study published in the May 15 issue of Journal of Climate, Chul Eddy Chung and V. Ramanathan of Scripps Oceanography say that cooler-than-normal temperatures in the northern part of the Indian ocean have weakened the region's natural climate circulation and monsoon conditions, resulting in reduced rainfall over India and increased rainfall over the Sahel area south of the Sahara in Africa,
Carbon savings from biofuels quantified
(05/12/2006) A British fuels company has quantified carbon dioxide emission savings made through the sale of biofuels. Greenergy Fuels Ltd, which supplies biofuels retailed through supermarket forecourts, said it supplied 17.1 million liters of bioethanol and biodiesel, saving more than 40,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions during the first quarter of 2006. The firm compared this savings to taking more than 50,000 average family cars off the road for three months.
Private sector trying to improve environmental, social performance says UN report
(05/11/2006) A growing number of business and industry groups are making efforts to improve their environmental and social performance, especially in such fields as global warming, but more still needs to be done, according to a new United Nations report released today.
More iPod capacity? Just Add Water, say Drexel researchers
(05/11/2006) Imagine having computer memory so dense that a cubic centimeter contains 12.8 million gigabytes (GB) of information. Imagine an iPodTM playing music for 100 millennia without repeating a single song or a USB thumb-drive with room for 32.6 million full-length DVD movies. Now imagine if this could be achieved by combining a computing principle that was popular in the 1960s, a glass of water and wire three-billionths of a meter wide. Science fiction? Not exactly.
China and India show rapid increase in global warming emissions
(05/10/2006) Carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise with a mix of old and new polluters, according to the Little Green Data Book 2006, launched today on the occasion of the Fourteenth Session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. An annual publication of the World Bank, according to this year?s edition, CO2 emissions worldwide have now topped 24 billion metric tons, an increase of 15 percent compared to the 1992 levels.
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