conservation news and environmental science news.
Protesters demand end to controversial Amazon dam
(08/23/2011) Protesters in dozens of cities demanded Brazil abandon a plan to build a dam on one of the Amazon's largest tributaries, reports Amazon Watch, an NGO that helped organize the events.
Madagascar may authorize exports of illegally-logged rosewood
(08/22/2011) A meeting scheduled for August 25th between rosewood traders, the Ministry of Forest and Environment, and other government officials may determine the fate of tens of millions of dollars' worth of rosewood illegally logged from Madagascar's rainforests parks.
Australia passes national carbon trading scheme for agriculture, forestry
(08/22/2011) Australia's parliament passed the world's first national carbon trading scheme for credits generated from farming and forestry, reports Reuters.
Uganda resurrects plan to hand over protected forest to sugar company
(08/22/2011) An environmental issue in Uganda that left three people dead four years ago has reared its head again. The Ugandan government has resurrected plans to give a quarter of the Mabira Forest Reserve to a sugar cane corporation after dropping the idea in 2007 following large-scale protests, including one that left many activists injured and three dead. A pet project of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni the plan would degazette 7,100 hectares of the 30,000 hectare Mabira Forest Reserve for a sugarcane plantation to be run by the Indian-owned company, Mehta Group. However the plan is being heavily attacked by critics.
Tough sentence for ivory smuggler may spell way forward in elephant poaching crisis
(08/22/2011) The Republic of the Congo sentenced an ivory smuggler to an unprecedented four years in prison, proving the government's rising willingness to crack down on poachers. The wildlife trade has been decimating elephant populations in the Congo, while a recent report from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) asserts further stringent measures are needed to counter the globally-linked criminal syndicates that largely responsible for the ivory trade jeopardizing wild elephants.
Over 100 protestors arrested as civil action begins against tar sands pipeline to US
(08/22/2011) In the first two days of a planned two week sit-in at the White House in Washington DC, over 100 activists against the Keystone XL pipeline have been arrested, reports Reuters. If approved by the Obama Administration, the 1,700 mile pipeline would bring around 700,000 barrels of oil daily from Canada's notorious tar sands to oil refineries in Texas.
Amazon rainforest communities added to Google Street View
(08/22/2011) Google is adding addresses along sections of the Amazon River and Rio Negro to its Street View service.
Picture of the day: sunrise over the upper Amazon
(08/21/2011) Sunrise over the Kosñipata Valley, one of the gateways to the Western Amazon, the most biologically-rich area of forest on the planet.
Protected areas that allow local use better at reining in tropical deforestation
(08/21/2011) Protected areas in tropical forests are better at curtailing deforestation if they allow 'sustainable use' by locals, according to a new World Bank study published in the open-access journal PLoS ONE. Looking at every official protected area in the tropics from 2000 to 2008, researchers found that multi-use reserves in Latin America and Asia lowered deforestation rates by around 2 percent more than strict protected areas, though the effect was less visible in Africa.
APP affiliate 'regrets' astroturfing on Indonesia deforestation claims
(08/21/2011) Solaris, an Australian affiliate of Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), has been caught astroturfing an article that repeated criticism of APP from Greenpeace. The article, which appeared on Mumbrella—an Australian media and marketing news site—garnered a multitude of negative comments which were later tracked to IP addresses used by Solaris. Astroturfing is corporate or government messaging falsified as coming from the public or a grassroots movement.
Indigenous protestors embark on 300-mile walk to protest Amazon road in Bolivia
(08/21/2011) Indigenous protesters are targeting a new road in the Bolivian Amazon, reports the BBC. The 190-mile highway under construction in the Bolivian Amazon will pass through the Isiboro-Secure Indigenous Territory and National Park (Tipnis), a 4,600-square mile (11,900 square kilometers) preserve which boasts exceptional levels of rainforest biodiversity, including endangered blue macaws and fresh-water dolphins. Indigenous peoples who live in Tipnis are participating in a month-long protest march against the road, which they claim violates their right to self-governance.
Tiny new private reserve protects endangered bird-rich cloud forest in Peru
(08/21/2011) A new private nature reserve in Central Peru protects endangered high-altitude cloud forest, reports the American Bird Conservancy.
Palm oil to fight drugs in Peru?
(08/21/2011) A private equity firm aims to invest roughly $50 million in new oil palm plantations in Peru, reports Bloomberg.
Animal picture of the day: 18 pound lobster saved from dinner plate
(08/18/2011) Although big, this is not by far the largest American lobster (Homarus americanus) ever found.
New species is eel-equivalent of the coelacanth
(08/18/2011) The ocean holds endless surprises still. In an underwater cave off the Pacific island nation of Palau, reachers have made an astounding discovery: an eel species unknown to science that harkens back 200 million years. The species, described in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B as an 'enigmatic, small eel-like fish', sports anatomical features that differentiate it from the over 800 known species of eel surviving today.
Over 80 percent of rediscovered species still face extinction
(08/18/2011) Imagine if your job was to locate extinct species. In 2010, biologists with The Search for Lost Frogs set out on a tropical mission hoping to confirm the existence of frog species not seen in decades. The team recovered proof of four out of a hundred missing species, including a toad among the expedition's Top Ten Amphibians list. According to a new study study in the open access journal PLoS ONE, such biological surveys are critical conservation tools to prevent the 'romeo error': the abandonment of conservation efforts due to belief that a species is extinct. The study, the first of its kind, found that rediscovered species are especially in danger of vanishing again, this time altogether, without targeted conservation measures.
Ministry of Forestry continues to undermine Indonesia's REDD program, finds Reuters
(08/17/2011) Indonesia's Ministry of Forestry is continuing to undermine the country's ambitious forest protection program in favor of industrial forestry interests, reports Reuters.
Conservation groups kicked out of CITES debate on elephants
(08/17/2011) The Standing Committee of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) tossed conservations NGOs out of the room during a debate on the rise in elephant poaching for illegal ivory. A vote of seven to six sent conservation groups making up the Species Survival Network (SSN) packing, however the groups were allowed back in before the day was over.
Cute animal picture of the day: red panda
(08/17/2011) The red panda is found in China, Bhutan, Nepal, India, and Myanmar. Once believed to be in the bear family (like the giant panda), the species is now has its own genus in the Musteloidea, which represents weasels, raccoons, and skunks.
Cameratraps take global snapshot of declining tropical mammals
(08/17/2011) A groundbreaking cameratrap study has mapped the abundance, or lack thereof, of tropical mammal populations across seven countries in some of the world's most important rainforests. Undertaken by The Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring Network (TEAM), the study found that habitat loss was having a critical impact on mammals. The study, which documented 105 mammals (nearly 2 percent of the world's known mammals) on three continents, also confirmed that mammals fared far better—both in diversity and abundance—in areas with continuous forest versus areas that had been degraded.
Animal picture of the day: the brilliant cock-of-the-rock
(08/16/2011) The Andean cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruvianus) is an unmistakable bird, whose males support such brilliant and bushy head plumage that their beaks are often hidden entirely, giving them a look wholly unique in the animal kingdom.
World nations see six all-time record high temperatures, no lows so far in 2011
(08/16/2011) Eight months into the year, six nations have seen record high temperatures, including Kuwait, Iraq, Armenia, Iran, and Republic of the Congo, reports Jeff Master's Wunderblog. To date no record lows have been recorded in any country in the world so far. This is similar, though not quite as extreme, to last year when twenty countries broke all time highs with none hitting an all time low.
The importance of recognizing viewpoints in a rapidly changing world
(08/16/2011) Is oil palm bad? Is protecting tropical forests more important than converting them for economic development? Should we spike trees to make sure no one cuts them down? Answers to these questions depend on which side of the argument you're on. But often people on either side of debates hardly know what their opponents are thinking.
Shell spills over 50,000 gallons of oil off Scotland
(08/16/2011) Yesterday, Royal Dutch Shell estimated that to date 54,600 gallons of oil had spilled into the North Sea off the east coast of Scotland, spreading some 19 miles wide (30 kilometers) at its maximum. While the company stopped the initial leak on Thursday, it has now announced that the oil has found a 'second pathway' and is still leaking into the sea around 84 gallons a day.
Featured video: WWF's Astonish Me
(08/16/2011) Highlighting new species recently discovered around the world, the short film Astonish Me, was created as apart of a happy 50th birthday celebration for conservation organization WWF.
Picture of the day: African costume you can't miss
(08/15/2011) Benin is a small country on the west coast of Africa. It achieved independence from France in 1960 and democracy in 1989.
Lessons from the world's longest study of rainforest fragments
(08/15/2011) For over 30 years, hundreds of scientists have scoured eleven forest fragments in the Amazon seeking answers to big questions: how do forest fragments' species and microclimate differ from their intact relatives? Will rainforest fragments provide a safe haven for imperiled species or are they last stand for the living dead? Should conservation focus on saving forest fragments or is it more important to focus the fight on big tropical landscapes? Are forest fragments capable of regrowth and expansion? Can a forest—once cut-off—heal itself? Such questions are increasingly important as forest fragments—patches of forest that are separated from larger forest landscapes due to expanding agriculture, pasture, or fire—increase worldwide along with the human footprint.
Animal picture of the day: ninja lemurs
(08/14/2011) On the ground Verreaux's Sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi) move in sideways jumps giving them the appearance of elegant dancers or dangerous ninjas.
Dole destroying forest in national park for bananas
(08/14/2011) Dole Food Company, a US-based corporation famous for its tropical fruit products, is allegedly destroying rainforest in Somawathiya National Park in Sri Lanka for a banana plantation reports local press. The 4,700 hectare (11,600 acre) plantation, reportedly handed to local company Letsgrow by Sri Lanka's military, imperils an elephant migration route and a number of tropical species. Letsgrow has partnered with Dole on the plantation work, already clearing almost half the area, described as 'thick jungle'. Sri Lanka, which has only come out of a decades-long civil war in 2009, is currently seeking a rise in agricultural development.
WWF to investigate program that partners with notorious loggers
(08/14/2011) The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has announced an independent review of its Global Forest and Trade Network (GFTN) following a report from Global Witness that criticized the conservation organization for working with a number of logging companies that destroy forests, imperil species, and abuse human rights. While WWF's GTFN is meant to support companies in changing their ways, Global Witness' report argued that it led to greenwashing forest destruction, including illegal logging.
China opens trade in 'legal' tiger skins
(08/14/2011) The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has warned the US, the UK, and all tiger-range nations that China has re-opened the trade in wild cat skins—including tigers—ahead of a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting this week in Geneva, Switzerland. According to the EIA, China has reinitiated a Skin Registration Scheme that allows the trade of big cat skins from legal sources, such as captive-bred cats and controversial tiger farms, however the NGOS argues the scheme lacks transparency, providing an easy cover for the sale of skins taken from big cats poached in the wild.
Picture of the day: the high price of gold for the Amazon rainforest
(08/11/2011) The surging price of gold is impacting some of the world's most important ecosystems: tropical forests.
The glass is half-full: conservation has made a difference
(08/11/2011) Don't despair: that's the message of a new paper in Trends in Ecology and Evolution, which argues that decades of conservation actions at multiple scales have had a positive impact for many of the world's endangered species. While such actions have not yet turned back the tide of the current mass extinction crisis, they have achieved notable successes which often get lost in the gloom-and-doom news stories on biodiversity declines. According to the paper, conservation actions take place on three scales. Microscale conservation focuses on a single species or ecosystem; mesoscale means conservation cooperation between a number of countries, such as efforts to curb the illegal wildlife trade or protect wide-ranging species; and finally macroscale means global organizations or campaigns, such as those that pressure multinational corporations to become more biodiversity-friendly.
Taking corporate sustainability seriously means changing business culture
(08/11/2011) As more and more people demand companies to become sustainable and environmentally conscious, many corporations are at a loss of how to begin making the changes necessary. If they attempt to make changes—but fall short or focus poorly—they risk their actions being labeled as 'greenwash'. In addition, if they implement smart changes and self-regulations, but their employees don't buy-in to the process, all their investments will be for nothing. This is where Accountability Now, a young, fresh social responsibility agency, comes in. Clare Raybould, director of Accountability Now, believes companies—large and small—have the potential to change the world for the better, but they simply need a guiding hand to change not just the way a company works, but its culture.
A modest proposal for wealthy countries to reforest their land for the common good
(08/11/2011) The Coalition of Financially Challenged Countries with Lots of Trees, known as "CoFCCLoT", representing most of the world's remaining tropical forests is asking wealthy nations to share global responsibilities and reforest their land for the common good of stabilizing climate and protecting biodiversity.
Animal picture of the day: the jaws of the piranha
(08/10/2011) Few fish have a more fearsome reputation than the piranha. Yet recent research has shown that attacks on humans are rare and often accidental, though they do eat their prey alive and are capable of stripping a cattle carcass bare (though it doesn't happen instantaneously).
Arctic sea ice in free fall: new record low for July
(08/10/2011) Average Arctic sea ice extent hit a new record low for July according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).If the melt continues apace, the sea ice extent could hit its lowest point since record keeping by satellite began 32 years ago. However, ice loss slowed through the second half of July as weather grew colder in the Arctic, and by the end of the month was slightly above conditions in 2007, in which the lowest sea ice extent ever was measured.
Congo to 'reforest' with plantations across one million hectares
(08/10/2011) The Republic of the Congo has announced a new program to create plantations across one million hectares (2.47 million acres) of degraded forest lands. The program, known as the national program of afforestation and reforestation (RAN), is being pushed to support various industries, carbon sequestration and to take pressure off native forests. According to Reuters, the Republic of the Congo is seeking donor and international investment of $2.6 billion for the initiative. However, plantations are controversial in conservation-terms as they store significantly less carbon and support little biodiversity when compared to natural forest.
Photos: 10 new frogs discovered in India's great rainforest
(08/09/2011) Ten new species of frog have been discovered in India's Western Ghats according to two new papers in Biosystematica. Although human populations have farmed in the Western Ghats for centuries, the new discoveries prove that the rainforest still holds many surprises. The Western Ghats lie along India's west coast and have been dubbed one of the world's biodiversity hotspots, but the rich wildlife is imperiled by rising human impacts.
Uncontacted tribe missing after armed drug dealers storm their forest
(08/09/2011) Concern is rising for the welfare of uncontacted natives in the Brazilian Amazon after armed marauders stormed the area where they were last documented. Last week men with rifles and machine guns, believed to be drug traffickers from Peru, overran a remote government guard post run by FUNAI (Brazil's Indigenous Affairs Department) on the Envira River, near the uncontacted indigenous people's location on the border of Brazil and Peru. The uncontacted indigenous people in question made headlines worldwide earlier this year after photos and film of them were released from flyovers.
Picture of the day: faces of the indigenous, celebrating the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples
(08/09/2011) Today, August 9th, is the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples. To help celebrate the world's indigenous cultures, mongabay.com has put together this collection of photos.
Science has been nearly silent in Brazil’s Forest Code debate
(08/09/2011) A recent push to revise Brazil’s forest code has emerged as one of the more contentious political issues in the country, pitting agribuisness against environmentalists trying to preserve the Amazon rainforest. Historically, the forest code has required private landowners to maintain a substantial proportion of natural forest cover on their properties, though the law has often been ignored. While both sides claim to be basing their recommendations on the 'best science' available, Brazilian scientists say they haven’t had much of a voice in the debate. In fact, says Antonio Donato Nobre, a researcher at the Amazon Research Institute and Brazil’s National Space Research Institute, 'throughout the development of the said revisions, Congress has neither invited nor commissioned a coordinated and serious contribution from the scientific community.'
Balancing agriculture and rainforest biodiversity in India’s Western Ghats
(08/08/2011) When one thinks of the world's great rainforests the Amazon, Congo, and the tropical forests of Southeast Asia and Indonesia usually come to mind. Rarely does India—home to over a billion people—make an appearance. But along India’s west coast lies one of the world's great tropical forests and biodiversity hotspots, the Western Ghats. However it's not just the explosion of life one finds in the Western Ghats that make it notable, it's also the forest's long—and ongoing—relationship to humans, lots of humans. Unlike many of the world's other great rainforests, the Western Ghats has long been a region of agriculture. This is one place in the world where elephants walk through tea fields and tigers migrate across betel nut plantations. While wildlife has survived alongside humans for centuries in the region, continuing development, population growth and intensification of agriculture are putting increased pressure on this always-precarious relationship. In a recent paper in Biological Conservation, four researchers examine how well agricultural landscapes support biodiversity conservation in one of India's most species-rich landscapes.
Arctic open for exploitation: Obama administration grants Shell approval to drill
(08/08/2011) Less than a year and a half after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration has bucked warnings from environmentalists to grant preliminary approval to oil giant, Royal Dutch Shell, to drill off the Arctic coast. Exploratory drilling will occur just north of the western edge of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in the Beaufort Sea, home to bowhead and beluga whales, seals, walruses, polar bears, and a wide variety of migrating birds.
Featured video: Trouble in Lemur Land
(08/08/2011) A new film, Trouble in Lemur Land, showcases the Critically Endangered silky sifaka (Propithecus candidus). With only some 300 silky sifaka's surviving in the wild, this large and distinct lemur is considered one of the top 25 most endangered primates in the world.
Oil horror in Nigeria: 30 years, one billion dollars to clean-up
(08/08/2011) Fifty years of oil spills in Nigeria's now infamous Ogoniland region will take up to three decades and over a billion dollars ($1 billion for just the first five years) to restore environments to healthy conditions, according to a new independent report by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). The most thorough study to date has found that widespread pollution has hit the Niger Delta even harder than assumed with devastating impacts on fishing grounds and community health. Last week Shell, one of the biggest operators in Nigeria, admitted to two massive oil spills in 2008 totaling 11 million gallons of crude.
Cute animal picture of the day: tufted deer fawn
(08/07/2011) Native to China and, perhaps, Myanmar (Burma), the tufted deer lives in mountainous damp forests.
Fuji Xerox Australia dumps paper supplier accused of rainforest destruction
(08/05/2011) Fuji Xerox Australia have severed ties with Asia Pacific Resources International (APRIL), an paper products giant accused of illegally clearing rainforests in Sumatra for pulp and paper production, reports Nine News.
Little-known animal picture of the day: the velvet asity
(08/04/2011) The velvet asity is a small bird endemic to Madagascar. The species is a part of a family of birds that only includes four species, all native to Madagascar.
Famine spreads: 29,000 young children perish
(08/04/2011) As the UN announces that famine has spread in Somalia to three additional regions (making five in total now), the US has put the first number to the amount of children under 5 who have so far perished from starvation in the last 90 days: 29,000. Nearly half of the total population of Somalia is currently in need of emergency food assistance. Yet, the al Qaeda-linked group al-Shabaab, which controls parts of Somalia, has made bringing assistance to many of the malnourished incredibly difficult, if not impossible. The famine in Somalia has been brought-on by lack of governance combined with crippling droughts throughout East Africa, which some experts have linked to climate change. High food prices worldwide and a lagging response by the international community and donors have made matters only worse.
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