conservation news and environmental science news.
Picture of the day: emerald-eyed tree frog
(12/09/2011) The emerald eyed tree frog (Hypsiboas crepitans) is found widely across tropical Latin America, ranging from Panama to Peru to Brazil. It is found both in pristine habitats and areas heavily impacted by humans.
Tool to track U.S. REDD+ finance released
(12/09/2011) A new online tool allows anyone to check U.S. government financial pledges made toward reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) programs in developing countries.
Peru's Cocha Cashu biological station changes management
(12/08/2011) The San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy is taking over management of the productive Cocha Cashu field station in Manu National Park, Peru. To date, nearly 600 scientific papers have come out of research conducted at the station, making it among the five most productive research stations in the Amazon and Andes. Located in a part of the Amazon rainforest that has seen little human impact, the station was founded in 1969, four years before Manu National Park was gazetted.
Evidence mounts that Maya did themselves in through deforestation
(12/08/2011) Researchers have garnered further evidence for a smoking gun behind the fall of the great Maya civilization: deforestation. At the American Geophysical Union (AGU) conference, climatologist Ben Cook presented recent research showing how the destruction of rainforests by the Mayan ultimately led to declines in precipitation and possibly civilization-rocking droughts. While the idea that the Maya may have committed ecological-suicide through deforestation has been widely discussed, including in Jared Diamond's popular book Collapse, Cook's findings add greater weight to the theory.
Picture of the day: Blue-and-yellow poison frog
(12/08/2011) The blue-and-yellow poison dart frog (Dendrobates tinctorius) — often called the dyeing dart frog — is found in the rainforests and savannas of Suriname, Guyana, French Guiana, and northern Brazil. Across its range there are several color forms.
Yasuni ITT: the virtues and vices of environmental innovation
(12/07/2011) As the 17th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is taking place in Durban, Ecuador has embarked on the development of a project presented as highly innovative. This project targets Yasuni National Park, which has been protected since 1979. Yasuni is home to several indigenous peoples and is a biodiversity hotspot. But it so happens that the park also sits atop a vast oil field of 846 million barrels, representing about 20 percent of the country’s oil reserves. The acronym Yasuni ITT stands for Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputinin, which are the names of three potential zones for oil extraction.
Agriculture group to spend 10 years on forest research
(12/07/2011) Recognizing the global importance of the world's vanishing forests, a 10-year-long research program will focus on the interconnection between agriculture and forests. Conducted by CGIAR, a global agriculture group concerned with sustainability, the research program will look at ways to decrease forest loss and degradation.
Photos: two new paper clip-sized frogs discovered in Vietnamese mountains
(12/07/2011) Researchers have discovered two new frog species living in the montane tropical forests of Vietnam. Known as moss frogs, these small amphibians employ camouflage as one way to keep predators at bay, in some cases resembling the moss that gives them their name.
Discovery Channel backtracks, promises to air climate change episode of new Frozen Planet series
(12/07/2011) Discovery Channel has announced that it will, in fact, air the last episode of the new series Frozen Planet, which focuses solely on the impact of climate change at the world's poles. By the creators of universally-acclaimed Planet Earth, the full series explores the wildlife and environs of the Arctic and Antarctic, but the Discovery Channel came under fire after it announced it would not air the last episode, called "On Thin Ice", which deals specifically with climate change. A petition on Change.org garnered 75,000 signatures calling on the Discovery Channel to air the full series, before the network caved and announced it would do so.
Brazil passes controversial Forest Code reform environmentalists say will be 'a disaster' for the Amazon
(12/06/2011) The Brazilian Senate tonight passed controversial legislation that will reform the country's 46-year-old Forest Code, which limits how much forest can be cleared on private lands. Environmentalists are calling the move "a disaster" that will reverse Brazil's recent progress in slowing deforestation in the world's largest rainforests.
Palm oil, pulp companies commit to zero-tolerance policy for orangutan killing
(12/06/2011) Two Indonesian plantation companies have signed an agreement to train workers not to kill or injure orangutans and other protected species. The agreement was brokered by the Indonesian government between Orangutan Foundation International (OFI), a non-profit with operations in Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo, and two major plantation firms: PT Smart, one of Indonesia's largest palm oil producers, and PT Lontar Papyrus, which supplies wood-pulp to Asia Pulp & Paper (APP). Both companies are holdings of the Sinar Mas Group. Under the terms of the deal, OFI will assist the companies 'in delivering a best management practices training program on orangutans and endangered species for its employees, affiliates and pulpwood suppliers.'
Picture of the day: Amazonian shaman with hallucinogenic frog
(12/06/2011) The giant monkey frog (Phyllomedusa bicolor) is known for its mind-altering skin secretions. A small handful of tribes deep in the Amazonian rainforest between Peru and Brazil have used this species in hunting rituals.
On the edge of extinction, giant ibis discovered in new region of Cambodia
(12/06/2011) The world's largest ibis, and one of the world's most endangered birds, has received some good news. A giant ibis (Thaumatibis giganteawas) has been photographed in the Kampong Som Valley in Koh Kong Province in Cambodia, the first record from this province in nearly a hundred years. Adults can grow to reach nearly 3.5 feet (106 centimeters) long.
Seismic trails cut by U.S. oil firm in Belizean national park used by illegal loggers
(12/06/2011) In the Belizean rainforest two rangers look up and down a straight path hacked through the jungle and take GPS coordinates, the escorting soldiers lying back in the heat as the coordinates are delivered. These are noted and the patrol resumes, pausing to photograph protected comfra palms that have been cut and laid on the muddy ground, or stretches where the rainforest has been cleared far beyond the permitted width. We are in the Sarstoon-Temash National Park, nearly 42,000 acres of rainforest and red mangrove swamps in southern Belize adjacent to the Guatemalan border, and the park rangers are dealing with a new threat to the biodiversity of the reserve. Rather than searching for illegal loggers from Guatemala, this patrol is monitoring the activities of an American oil company.
Current emission pledges will raise temperature 3.5 degrees Celsius
(12/06/2011) New research announced at the 17th UN Climate Summit in Durban, South Africa finds that under current pledges for reducing emissions the global temperature will rise by 3.5 degrees Celsius (6.3 degrees Fahrenheit) from historic levels, reports the AFP. This is nearly double world nations' pledge to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). The report flies in the face of recent arguments by the U.S. and others at Durban that current pledges are adequate through 2020.
Jump-starting REDD finance: $3 billion Forest Finance Facility needed to halve deforestation within a decade
(12/06/2011) How to finance a means to reduce deforestation, which contributes emissions equivalent to the entire transport sector combined, has had some encouragement at the UN Climate meeting in Durban this week. An à la carte approach, where no source is ruled out, is emerging, leaving the door open to private sector finance for the first time. And with progress imminent in two other crucial areas of safeguards and reference levels, REDD+, a novel mechanism to halt deforestation, is once more likely to be the biggest winner.
Featured video: saving baby orphaned sloths
(12/06/2011) The world's only sloth sanctuary works to save orphaned and injured sloths in Costa Rica. A recent short film (below) by Lucy Cooke highlights a few of the stars of the sloth sanctuary. Cooke has a new hour long film debuting on Animal Planet on December 17th at 8 PM EST, following the adventures of a number of these sloths.
Feeding the world's population and saving forests aren't mutually exclusive
(12/06/2011) The world can simultaneously improve food security and save tropical forests by better optimizing land use, factoring in the true costs of biofuels, boosting yields on existing farmland, encouraging production away from forest frontiers, and supporting efforts to develop more sustainable community roundtables, concludes a new report released Monday by the National Wildlife Federation.
Amazon rainforest loss in Brazil drops to lowest ever reported
(12/05/2011) Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell to the lowest level on record between August 2010 and July 2011 according to preliminary data from Brazil's National Institute of Space Research (INPE).
Picture of the day: Red-eyed tree frog relaxing on a branch
(12/05/2011) In recognition of Amphibian Ark winning mongabay.com's 2011 conservation award, our pictures of the day this week will focus on amphibians.
Photos: biologists surprised by world's biggest leopard in Afghanistan
(12/05/2011) When biologists with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) reviewed recent photos from camera traps in the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan they were shocked to find a snarling image of the world's largest leopard: the Persian leopard (Panthera pardus saxicolor). Listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List, the subspecies was thought long-vanished from the Hindu Kush. Photos from the camera traps—automated cameras that use an infrared trigger to catch wildlife—also showed lynx (Lynx lynx), wild cat (Felis silvestris), Eurasian wolf (Canis lupus lupus), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), and stone marten (Martes foina).
At least 74 percent of current warming caused by us
(12/05/2011) A new methodology to tease out how much current climate change is linked to human activities has added to the consensus that behind global warming is us. The study, published in Nature Geoscience found that humans have caused at least three-quarters (74 percent) of current warming, while also determining that warming has actually been slowed down by atmospheric aerosols, including some pollutants, which reflect sunlight back into space.
REDD project gets initial go-ahead in Cameroon
(12/05/2011) The government of Cameroon approved a feasibility assessment for the first REDD+ project in the Central African nation, reports the Global Green Carbon Corporation, which is developing the project.
Wildlife official: palm oil plantations behind decline in proboscis monkeys
(12/05/2011) The practice of palm oil plantations planting along rivers is leading to a decline in proboscis monkeys (Nasalis larvatus) in the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo, says the director of the Sabah Wildlife Department, Laurentius Ambu. Proboscis monkeys, known for their bulbous noses and remarkable agility, depend on riverine forests and mangroves for survival, but habitat destruction has pushed the species to be classified as Endangered by the IUCN Red List.
Effort to save world's rarest frogs recognized with conservation award
(12/05/2011) An effort to save the world's most endangered amphibians has won mongabay.com's 2011 conservation award. Amphibian Ark — a joint effort of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the IUCN/SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group, and the IUCN/SSC Amphibian Specialist Group — is working to evaluate the status of threatened amphibians, raise awareness about the global amphibian extinction crisis, and set up captive breeding programs. The initiative is targeting 500 species that will not survive without captive breeding efforts.
Volcano and cloud forests conserved in Ecuador
(12/05/2011) Conservation organizations and the Ecuadorian government have succeeded in securing over 250,000 acres (106,000 hectares) of cloud forest and grasslands surrounding the Antisana Volcano for protection. The area, long-used for cattle ranching, is home to Andean condors (Vultur gryphus), cougars (Puma concolor), Andean fox (Lycalopex culpaeus), silvery grebes (Podiceps occipitalis), black-faced ibis (Theristicus melanopis), spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus), and three species of endangered frogs. The protected area stretches from 3,900 feet (1,188 meters) to 18,700 feet (5,699 meters) above sea level.
Wolverines live up to tough reputation
(12/05/2011) In the first X-Men film, the comic book character Wolverine is asked if it hurts when his claws retract from his knuckles. His unflinching response: "Every time." The real wolverine (Gulo gulo) is just as tenacious with new research proving it is a "winter endurance athlete." Eight years of radio-tracking 30 individual wolverines in the Rocky Mountains has provided an abundance of new data about the world's largest member of the weasel family, including that the feisty mammals survive year-round in harsh, snowy conditions 9,000 feet above see level. Although immeasurably tough, the animal is nearly extinct in the lower 48 states of the U.S.
Little to show for tens of millions spent on tiger conservation, says new National Geographic story.
(12/05/2011) This month's National Geographic features the work of photographer Steve Winter, who spent months on the trail of one of earth's most majestic and endangered beasts the tiger. Winter worked extensively in some of tigers' last strongholds in India, Thailand and Indonesia, capturing rare moments in the daily lives of wild tigers.
Sarawak ruler has acquired billions in 'illicit' assets, alleges investigation
(12/04/2011) The leader of the Malaysian state of Sarawak has acquired billions of dollars' worth of "illicit" assets, alleges a new investigation by the Bruno Manser Fund, which reveals holdings in over 400 companies across two dozen countries.
World's most endangered primate still losing habitat
(12/04/2011) Just twenty-three Hainan gibbons (Nomascus hainanus) survive in the world. Confined to a single protected area on a lone island, Hainan gibbons are losing their habitat at a steady rate of 20 hectares per day finds a new study by Greenpeace. In all, nearly a quarter of the Critically Endangered lesser ape's habitat has been lost since 2001.
Global carbon emissions rise 49 percent since 1990
(12/04/2011) Total carbon emissions for the first time hit 10 billion metric tons (36.7 billion tons of CO2) in 2010, according to new analysis published by the Global Carbon Project (GCP) in Nature Climate Change. In the past two decades (since the reference year for the Kyoto Protocol: 1990), emissions have risen an astounding 49 percent. Released as officials from 190 countries meet in Durban, South Africa for the 17th UN Summit on Climate Change to discuss the future of international efforts on climate change, the study is just the latest to argue a growing urgency for slashing emissions in the face of rising extreme weather incidents and vanishing polar sea ice, among other impacts.
China's imports of hardwood chips hit record volume
(12/04/2011) Chinese pulp mills are importing record amounts of hardwood chips from Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia, reports the Wood Resource Quarterly, an industry trade journal.
Protections for indigenous rights, biodiversity weakened in latest REDD+ text
(12/04/2011) Safeguards to ensure forest carbon projects protect biodiversity and respect the rights of local and indigenous communities were weakened in the latest draft text on REDD+ at climate talks in Durban, reports CIFOR, a forest policy and research institution. The draft text, which will now move forward to a plenary session for approval, also dropped any decision on financing of REDD+ projects.
Global map of REDD+ projects released
(12/03/2011) The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) on Saturday released a comprehensive map of the world's REDD+ programs. The map includes 340 REDD+ projects, programs, and policies in 52 countries.
REDD+ text for saving forests released in Durban
(12/03/2011) An initial draft text on REDD+ — a proposed mechanism to compensate tropical countries for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation — has moved forward for discussion and approval at climate talks in Durban.
Sierra Leone creates rainforest park
(12/03/2011) Sierra Leone, one of Africa's poorest countries, today announced the establishment of Gola Rainforest National Park (GRNP), an area of forest home to chimpanzees, a key population of pygmy hippo, and hundreds of bird species, reports the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
Deforestation and forest degradation slows in Brazil's Amazon since August
(12/02/2011) Deforestation and forest degradation are down moderately from August through October 2011 relative to the same period a year ago, reports a satellite-based assessment released today by Imazon. Imazon's near-real time system found that 512 sq km of rainforest were cleared between Aug 2011 and Oct 2011, the first three months of the deforestation calendar year, which runs from August 1 through July 31. The figure represents a 4 percent decline from the 533 sq km cleared in 2010
Yeti crab cultivates bacteria on its claws to feed itself
(12/02/2011) A species of deep-sea crab found in hydrothermal vents off Costa Rica cultivates "gardens" of bacteria on its claws to feed itself, reports Nature News.
Environmental news in review: Keystone pipeline delayed, Dole exits banana project, a rhino goes extinct
(12/02/2011) November 2011 was a big month for environmental news stories. Topping the list was the Obama Administration's decision to delay the controversial Keystone pipeline which would have carried tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast. The scheme was vehemently opposed by environmental groups which turned the issue into a litmus test for Obama, whose campaign platform included a promise to take action on greenhouse gas emissions. More than 1,200 protesters were arrested in demonstrations leading up to Obama's decision.
Africa, China call out Canada for climate betrayal
(12/01/2011) Purchasing a full page ad in the Canadian paper the Globe and Mail, a group of African leaders and NGOs is calling on Canada to return to the fold on climate change. Canada has recently all-but-confirmed that after the ongoing 17th UN Summit on Climate Change in Durban, South Africa, it will withdraw entirely from the Kyoto Treaty. The country has missed its targets by a long-shot, in part due to the exploitation of its tar sands for oil, and is increasingly viewed at climate conferences as intractable and obstructive. In the eyes of those concerned about climate change, Canada has gone from hero to villain. Yet notable African activists, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, are pushing back.
Royal Society offers free special issue on rainforest conservation
(12/01/2011) For one month the Royal Society is offering a special theme issue of its Philosophical Transaction B journal on rainforest conservation for free. Entitled 'The future of Southeast Asian rainforests in a changing landscape and climate', the issue looks largely at studies conducted in Malaysian Borneo's Danum Valley. The issue includes a wide-range of studies, including comparing biodiversity in protected forests versus palm oil plantations, seed dispersal in fragmented forests, and in-depth looks at the chemistry of rainforests.
Community mapping of African rainforests could show way forward for preservation, REDD
(12/01/2011) A new initiative to place community mapping of central African rainforests online could prove key to local rights in the region, says the UK-based NGO Rainforest Foundation. Working with forest communities in five African countries, Rainforest Foundation has helped create digital maps of local forests, including use areas, parks, and threats such as logging and mining. The website, MappingForRights.org, includes interactive maps, photos, and video.
Smelly frogs may be key to fighting antibiotic-resistant infections
(12/01/2011) Foul smelling frogs may save lives, according to new research in the Journal of Proteome Research. Examining nine species of Chinese frogs, known as "odorous" frogs for their off-putting smell, researchers have discovered an astounding variety of antimicrobial peptides, or put simply bacteria-killers.
Eat like an orangutan to save rainforests
(11/30/2011) One doesn't have to be a scientist or a government official to help save the world's vanishing rainforests, one can also be a chef. World-renowned chef Andre Chiang has added a new item to his menu called Orangutan Salad, reports the Wall Street Journal, which he hopes will raise awareness for the endangered apes at his Singapore eatery, Restaurant Andre. The new salad gives restaurant-goers the chance to enjoy all the subtle, earthy tastes of a typical orangutan meal, including ferns, tree fungi, figs, berries, orchid leaves, and durian flowers.
Carbon debt for some biofuels lasts centuries
(11/30/2011) It has long been known that biofuels release greenhouse gas emissions through land conversion like deforestation. But an innovative new study by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) published in Ecology and Society has computed how long it would take popular biofuel crops to payoff the "carbon debt" of land conversion. While there is no easy answer—it depends on the type of land converted and the productivity of the crop—the study did find that in general soy had the shortest carbon debt, though still decades-long, while palm oil grown on peatland had the longest on average.
Global forest cover lower than previously estimated, says UN
(11/30/2011) Global forest cover, as well as forest loss, is lower than previously estimated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), according to a new satellite-based assessment that replaces the self-reporting system previously used by the U.N. agency.
Brazil's Forest Code vote delayed
(11/30/2011) The Brazilian Senate's much-anticipated vote over proposed changes to the country's Forest Code will take place Tuesday December 6, rather than today. The delay will give lawmakers more time to understand pending revisions to the code, which limits the amount of land private landowners can clear and restricts development in ecologically sensitive areas.
Top 20 banks that finance big coal
(11/30/2011) A new report from civil and environmental organizations highlights the top 20 banks that spend the most money on coal, the world's most carbon-intensive fossil fuel. Released as officials from around the world meet for the 17th UN Summit on Climate Change in Durban, South Africa, the report investigated the funding practices of 93 major private banks, finding that the top five funders of big coal are (in order): JPMorgan Chase, Citi, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, and Barclay's.
Another record breaker: 2011 warmest La Niña year ever
(11/30/2011) As officials meet at the 17th UN Climate Summit in Durban, South Africa, the world continues to heat up. The UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has announced that they expect 2011 to be the warmest La Niña year since record keeping began in 1850. The opposite of El Nino, a La Niña event causes general cooling in global temperatures.
Carbon piracy, lack of recognition of indigenous rights undermining REDD in Peru, alleges report
(11/30/2011) Lack of meaningful consultation with indigenous communities over forest carbon projects is causing social conflict and undermining efforts to responsibly reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in Peru under the REDD mechanism, argues a new report released during international climate talks in Durban.
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