Conservation newsFounded in 1999, Mongabay is a leading provider of environmental science and conservation news.
'Exporting deforestation': China is the kingpin of illegal logging
(11/29/2012) Runaway economic growth comes with costs: in the case of China's economic engine, one of them has been the world's forests. According to a new report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), China has become the number one importer of illegal wood products from around the world. Illegal logging—which threatens biodiversity, emits carbon, impoverishes local communities, and is often coupled with other crimes—has come under heavy pressure in recent years from the U.S., the EU, and Australia. Each of these has implemented, or will soon implement, new laws that make importing and selling illegal wood products domestic crimes. However, China's unwillingness to tackle its vast appetite for illegal timber means the trade continues to decimate forests worldwide.
Complaint filed with palm oil body over orangutan rescue case
(11/29/2012) Conservationists have filed a complaint against an Indonesian palm oil company for allegedly clearing an area of forest that contained orangutans. Earlier this month, the Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS) filed a complaint against PT Sisirau for allegedly breaching the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil's rules on sparing high conservation value forest. PT Sisirau is a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a multistakeholder body that sets criteria for more environmentally responsible palm oil production.
World has lost half its wetlands
(11/29/2012) Half of the worlds wetlands have been destroyed in just the last 100 years, says a new report. Published by the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), the report found that of the 25 million square kilometers of wetlands that existed in 1900 just 12.8 million square kilometers now remain. The rate of destruction varies geographically with notable loses in East Asia running at 1.6 per cent per year. In places where aquaculture, over-exploitation (e.g. unsustainable harvesting of fish) and storm damage have been severe, the rate of destruction can be as high as 80 percent.
Investors shouldn't ignore financial risk of environmental damage
(11/29/2012) Environmental damage poses a long-ignored risk to sovereign bonds, according to a new report by the UNEP FI (The United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative) and the Global Footprint Network. The report, E-RISC Report, A New Angle on Sovereign Credit Risk, finds that the overuse of natural resources and their degradation has put considerable, and largely unrecognized, risk against national economies.
Birders urge ban on imports of 5 snake species
(11/28/2012) Bird conservationists in the United States are urging Congress to ban imports of five types of snakes that are considered a threat to native birds.
5 years in, debates over REDD+ continue
(11/28/2012) An initiative that aims to slow global warming by paying developing countries to protect and better manage their forests is expected to be an important storyline during climate talks in Doha this week and next. REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), as the mechanism is known, has grown in complexity since it gained momentum during the 2005 climate talks in Montreal, but is arguably moving forward faster than other areas of climate negotiations. Still, many elements of REDD+ continue to be as hotly debated today as they were five years ago when it got the conceptual OK from the U.N. These include the process for establishing baselines to measure reductions in emissions, safeguards to protect against adverse outcomes for biodiversity and forest-dependent communities, and financing and markets.
Reduction in snow threatens Arctic seals
(11/28/2012) Arctic snowfall accumulation plays a critical role in ringed seal breeding, but may be at risk due to climate change, according to a new study in Geophysical Research Letters. Sea ice, which is disappearing at an alarming rate, provides a crucial platform for the deep snow seals need to reproduce. Ringed seals (Phoca hispida) require snow depths of at least 20 centimeters (8 inches): deep enough to form drifts that seals use as birth chambers.
Watery world: sea level rising 60 percent faster than predicted
(11/28/2012) Sea levels are rising 60 percent faster than Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has estimated, according to a new study in the open access Environmental Research Letters. In addition to imperiling coastal regions and islands, global sea level rise is worsening the damage inflicted by extreme weather such as Hurricane Sandy, which recently brought catastrophic flooding to the New Jersey coast and New York City.
E.U. OKs biofuels produced from certified palm oil
(11/28/2012) The European Commission has approved palm oil-based biodiesel for the renewable fuels standard provided it is certified under the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a body that sets social and environmental criteria for palm oil production. The move, which could dramatically boost sales of palm oil in Europe, was sharply criticized by environmental activists, who said that without stronger safeguards, increased palm oil production could increase deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions.
Organic farming keeps carbon out of the atmosphere
(11/28/2012) With the worst effects of climate change, we are seeing how pollution hurts both human health and the environment but there is good news: a new study shows that organic farming stores more greenhouse gases in the soil than non-organic farming. By switching to organic methods, many farmers across the globe may be helping to solve the climate crisis at the same time as they improve soil quality and avoid the use of pesticides.
Long and thin with a big head: new snake adds diversity to a bizarre group (photo)
(11/28/2012) There's no question that blunt-headed vine snakes are an odd lot: a thin body tapers into an even thinner neck which expands suddenly into a broad head with massive eyes. Until now only six species were recognized from this genus, known as Imantodes, but a new study in Zookeys describes a seventh species: Imantodes chocoensis from the Chocó Forests in northeastern Ecuador.
Brazil's deforestation at record low from 2011-2012
(11/27/2012) Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell to the lowest rate since annual record-keeping began in 1988 according to provisional data released Tuesday by Brazil's National Space Research Agency (INPE). 1,798 square miles (4,656 square kilometers) of Amazon forest was chopped down during the 12 months ending July 31, 2012, 27 percent less than the year earlier period.
Photos: Chinese leopard wins camera trap contest
(11/27/2012) The third annual BBC Wildlife Magazine Camera Trap Photo of the Year contest has produced some stunning and surprising images, including a snow leopard sticking its tongue out, a rare giant pangolin, and wrestling monitor lizards. But the winner this year was the perfect shot of a young leopard in China.
Featured video: how locals depend on Kalimantan's vanishing forests
(11/27/2012) A new video explores local indigenous views of the forests of Kalimantan or Indonesian Borneo. Having depended on the rainforest ecosystems for centuries, indigenous groups now find themselves under pressure to exploit forest for logging, coal mining, or industrial plantations. While biodiversity, carbon sequestration, and other ecosystem services are at stake, the forests are also deeply intertwined with the culture and way-of-life for indigenous group.
Legislation leaves future of world's largest temperate rainforest up in the air
(11/27/2012) Although unlikely to pass anytime in the near term, recurring legislation that would hand over 80,000 acres of the Tongass Rainforest to a Native-owned logging corporation has put local communities on guard in Southeast Alaska. "The legislation privatizes a public resource. It takes land that belongs to all of us, and that all of us have a say in the use and management of, and it gives that land to a private for-profit corporation," Andrew Thoms, Executive Director of the Sitka Conservation Society, told mongabay.com in a recent interview.
Photos reveal destruction of Cameroon rainforest for palm oil
(11/26/2012) Newly released photos by Greenpeace show the dramatic destruction of tropical forest in Cameroon for an oil palm plantation operated by SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon (SGSOC), a subsidiary of the U.S. company Herakles Farm. The agriculture company is planning to convert 73,000 hectares to palm oil plantations on the edge of several protected areas, but has faced considerable opposition from environmentalists and some local communities. In addition to the aerial photos, Greenpeace alleges that ongoing forest clearing by Herakles is illegal since the companies 99-year lease has yet to be fully approved by the Cameroonian government.
Could marine cloud machines cool the planet?
(11/26/2012) In 1990, British cloud physicist John Latham published a paper arguing he could cool global climate by brightening clouds over the ocean. Most colleagues ignored the paper, titled 'Control global warming?'—probably because this thing called global warming was not yet a hot topic. Now, more than two decades later, Latham continues to develop what has become one of the most promising and controversial ideas in climate control. 'Marine cloud brightening' might sound benign, but hairs rise when it’s called 'geoengineering.'
Could rebuilding global fisheries save hundreds of billions of dollars?
(11/26/2012) Global fisheries are gutting the world economy by US$13 billion annually, according to an economic analysis published July 13 in the journal PLoS ONE. National subsidies that encourage overfishing cause the most losses, the analysis claims. However, researchers believe that allowing fish stocks to rebuild and making fishing more efficient could reverse these losses, leading to net gains of US$600 to US$1,400 billion within 50 years. Such savings won’t come cheaply, the analysis suggests. Rebuilding fisheries worldwide could cost US$130 to US$292 billion, the researchers estimate. Most of the cost would go toward retraining or retiring nearly half of the world’s 35 million fisheries workers.
Endangered muriqui monkeys in Brazil full of surprises
(11/26/2012) On paper, the northern muriquis (Brachyteles hypoxanthus) look like a conservation comeback story. Three decades ago, only 60 of the gentle, tree-dwelling primates lived in a fragment of the Atlantic Forest along the eastern coast of Brazil. Now there are more than 300. But numbers don’t tell the whole story, according to anthropologist Karen Strier and theoretical ecologist Anthony Ives of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The pair analyzed 28 years of data on the demographics of the muriquis, one of the longest studies of its kind. They found surprising patterns about birth and death rates, sex ratios, and even how often the monkeys venture out of their trees. These findings raise questions about the muriquis’ long-term survival and how best to protect them, the scientists wrote in the Sept 17 issue of PLoS ONE.
Hopes pinned on Obama again as Doha Climate Summit opens
(11/26/2012) A number of observers have expressed hope that the Obama Administration, fresh from a re-election victory in the U.S., will take a more active and ambitious role at this year's UN Climate Summit, held in Doha, Qatar. The summit opens amid fresh—and increasingly dire—warnings over climate change from the World Bank, the International Energy Agency, and the UN itself.
Unique program to leave oil beneath Amazonian paradise raises $300 million
(11/26/2012) The Yasuni-ITT Initiative has been called many things: controversial, ecological blackmail, revolutionary, pioneering, and the best chance to keep oil companies out of Ecuador's Yasuni National Park. But now, after a number of ups and downs, the program is beginning to make good: the Yasuni-ITT Initiative has raised $300 million, according to the Guardian, or 8 percent of the total amount needed to fully fund the idea.
China and India plan 818 new coal plants
(11/26/2012) Even as the clamor to reduce greenhouse gas emissions reaches a new high—echoed recently by such staid institutions as the World Bank and the International Energy Agency (IEA)—a new analysis by the World Resources Institute (WRI) finds that 818 new coal-fired plants are under proposal in China and India. In all 1,199 new coal-fired plants are currently planned worldwide, according to the report, totaling 1.4 million megawatts of energy.
As Doha Climate Summit kicks off, more ambitious cuts to greenhouse gas emissions needed
(11/26/2012) As the 18th meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) kicks off this morning in oil and gas rich Qatar, the world body warns that much more ambitious greenhouse gas cuts are needed to keep catastrophic climate change at bay. A new report by the UN Environment Program (UNEP) and the European Climate Foundation finds that even if all current emissions pledges are kept, the world will still spew 8 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent above what is needed by 2020, putting the globe on a fast-track to dangerous climate change.
Forestry Minister: Indonesia should extend forest moratorium
(11/23/2012) Indonesia should extend its two-year moratorium on new concessions in some 64.8 million hectares of forests and peatlands until its next presidential election in 2014, said the country's top forest official.
Forests worldwide near tipping-point from drought
(11/23/2012) Forests worldwide are at 'equally high risk' to die-off from drought conditions, warns a new study published this week in the journal Nature. The study, conducted by an international team of scientists, assessed the specific physiological effects of drought on 226 tree species at 81 sites in different biomes around the world. It found that 70 percent of the species sampled are particularly vulnerable to reduction in water availability. With drought conditions increasing around the globe due to climate change and deforestation, the research suggests large swathes of the world's forests — and the services they afford — may be approaching a tipping point.
Australia outlaws illegally-logged wood from abroad
(11/21/2012) In another blow to illegal loggers, Australia has passed the Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill, joining the U.S. in outlawing the importation of illegal logged timber from abroad. The new legislation makes it a criminal offense for Australian businesses to import timber from illegal operations. The Australian government estimates that $400 million worth of illegal timber products are sold in the country each year often as outdoor furniture and wood for decks
A new way to rescue Africa’s struggling soils: Planting perennials with crops
(11/20/2012) It sounds counter-intuitive: Grow more food by planting less. But it’s a plan that scientists think will produce enough crops to feed Africa’s quickly expanding population. African farmers who sow food crops mixed with plants called perennials—which live two years or more—can enrich nutrient-poor soils and increase their bounty, argue scientists in the Sept. 20 issue of Nature.
Wolves, mole rats, and nyala: the struggle to conserve Ethiopia's highlands
(11/20/2012) There is a place in the world where wolves live almost entirely off mountain rodents, lions dwell in forests, and freshwater rolls downstream to 12 million people, but the place—Ethiopia's Bale Mountains National Park—remains imperiled by a lack of legal boundaries and encroachment by a growing human population. "Much of the land in Africa above 3,000 meters has been altered or degraded to the point where it isn’t able to perform most of the ecosystem functions that it is designed to do. Bale, although under threat and already impacted to a degree by anthropogenic activities, is still able to perform its most important ecosystem functions, and as such ranks among only a handful of representative alpine ecosystems in Africa."
Mystery animal in Borneo not such a mystery after all, or is it?
(11/20/2012) An unknown mammal was recently killed in the Malaysian State of Sarawak. According to the Borneo Post, a Sarawak newspaper, this animal, described as mixture between a bear and a boar, had attacked two people on two different occasions before it was killed. Local people had never seen it before and had no idea what it could be. The news even made it onto the popular Discovery news website. Comments following the article made various suggestions as to the animal’s identity. These ranged from binturong, the large frugivorous civet of Bornean forest to what was jokingly referred to as 'Beaboar'. A few commentaries got it right. The animal was indeed a Sunda Stink-badger, or Mydaus javanensis
Hotter and hotter: concentrations of greenhouse gases hit another new record
(11/20/2012) As expected, greenhouse gas concentrations in the Earth's atmosphere hit another record last year, according to a new UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases means that radiative forcing—changes in the atmosphere's energy balance that leads to warming—has jumped 30 percent in the last twenty years.
Oil drilling approved for national park in Belize
(11/20/2012) The Belizean government has approved an application by US Capital Energy to drill exploratory wells for oil in the Sarstoon Temash National Park in southern Belize. The decision is believed to have been taken on November 1st by the National Environmental Assessment Committee (NEAC) of the Department of Environment, but the exact terms of the settlement have not yet been made public. The oil company, backed by US energy investment group Aspect Holdings, has applied to drill at five points in the Sarstoon Temash National Park and adjacent areas.
World Bank: 4 degrees Celsius warming would be miserable
(11/20/2012) A new report by the World Bank paints a bleak picture of life on Earth in 80 years: global temperatures have risen by 4 degrees Celsius spurring rapidly rising sea levels and devastating droughts. Global agriculture is under constant threat; economies have been hampered; coastal cities are repeatedly flooded; coral reefs are dissolving from ocean acidification; and species worldwide are vanishing. This, according to the World Bank, is where we are headed even if all of the world's nations meet their pledges on cutting greenhouse gas emissions. However, the report also notes that with swift, aggressive action it's still possible to ensure that global temperatures don't rise above 4 degrees Celsius.
Climate activists march on White House again to oppose Keystone XL pipeline
(11/19/2012) Yesterday, climate activists marched around the White House in opposition against the Keystone XL pipeline, which if built will carry tar sands from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico and an international market. The protest, which included over 3,000 people according to organizing groups, is an opening salvo in activists' battle to convince the Obama Administration to turn down the pipeline for good.
Great apes suffer mid-life crisis too
(11/19/2012) Homo sapiens are not alone in experiencing a dip in happiness during middle age (often referred to as a mid-life crisis) since great apes suffer the same according to new research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). A new study of over 500 great apes (336 chimpanzees and 172 orangutans) found that well-being patterns in primates are similar to those experience by humans. This doesn't mean that middle age apes seek out the sportiest trees or hit-on younger apes inappropriately, but rather that their well-being starts high in youth, dips in middle age, and rises again in old age.
BP fined $4.5 billion for Gulf of Mexico oil spill, but company may spend more buying its own stocks
(11/19/2012) Last week the U.S. federal government fined BP $4.5 billion for the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, which killed 11 workers and leaked nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The oil giant also plead guilt to 12 felonies and two misdemeanors. However, even this fine—the largest in U.S. history—failed to dampen shareholder support of BP: stocks actually rose one percent following the announcement. Meanwhile, according to the Sunday Times, BP plans to spend $5.9 billion (over a billion more than the fine) buying back its own shares in order to boost stock prices.
Mr. Jeremy Grantham and Extreme Weather and The Financial Markets: Opportunities in Commodities and Futures
(11/19/2012) Mr. Jeremy Grantham, co-chair of the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment and co-founder and chief investment strategist at GMO, published an online column November 14, 2012 in Nature asking scientists to speak out forcefully, publicly and directly on strategies to mitigate climate change. Mr. Grantham’s column titled Be persuasive. Be brave. Be arrested (if necessary) is a clear clarion call for action. As a fellow natural resources scientist, I agree with Mr. Grantham’s intent.
Climate change threatens population of Earth’s largest sea turtle
(11/19/2012) A drier, hotter climate in Central America could wipe out the population of leatherback sea turtles from the eastern Pacific Ocean by the year 2100, according to a grim projection published on July 1 in Nature Climate Change. Already critically endangered from fisheries by-catch and historic egg poaching, leatherbacks can hardly accommodate another human-related threat. Yet scientists still hold out hope for interventions that could save the turtles.
Cell phones help decipher malaria transmission in Kenya
(11/19/2012) Malaria parasites can stow away silently in a person’s bloodstream. Without any symptoms to betray them, their human host can unwittingly transport the parasites hundreds or thousands of miles. Tracking them has been nearly impossible, especially in poor countries. Now, researchers have harnessed a new tool: the burgeoning number of cell phone users in Africa, which help trace how malaria spreads.
Population of rare island-bound jay in California is on the rebound
(11/18/2012) A rare jay found on an island off the California coast may be endangered, but its population is rebounding due to conservation efforts, reports a new study published in the journal Ecological Applications.
Hong Kong authorities intercept shipment with 200 dead elephants' worth of ivory
(11/18/2012) Officials in Hong Kong have made a second major ivory bust in less than a month, reports the Associated Press.
Good Derivatives: A Story of Financial and Environmental Innovation – Book Review
(11/18/2012) In Good Derivatives: A Story of Financial and Environmental Innovation, Richard Sandor, PhD has written a rich compelling first-person narrative of the development of financial futures and environmental markets over the past 40 years. With personal stories describing both failures and successes, Dr. Richard Sandor engages us with details that expand our knowledge of the capacities and limitations capital markets present to us in our efforts to finance climate change mitigation and natural resources conservation.
Indian coal giant targets forests
(11/18/2012) The world’s largest coal producer, the state-run Coal India Ltd., plans to massively expand mining in forest areas to help meeting surging demand for electricity, reports The Wall Street Journal.
Activists protesting controversial Cameroon palm plantation arrested
(11/17/2012) Activists protesting conversion of rainforest to an oil palm plantation have been arrested in Cameroon, reports Greenpeace.
Colombia gets world's first VCS validated and verified REDD project on collective lands
(11/16/2012) A conservation project in Colombia has broken new ground in the world of forest carbon credits. The project, run as partnership between an Afro-indigenous community and a Colombian company, is the first REDD+ project certified under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) in Colombia. More importantly, it is also the first certified REDD+ project on community-owned, collectively-titled land.
Rights groups, environmentalists aim to block funding for new Sumatran pulp mill
(11/16/2012) A coalition of more than 60 civil society groups has warned bankers and insurers not to invest in a massive new mill slated for construction on the island of Sumatra. The NGOs say the mill will drive deforestation and increase conflict in a region already wracked with social and environmental problems.
Asian cities face high disaster risk with 650,000 killed in 2000s
(11/16/2012) Asia's cities are increasing vulnerable to natural disasters due to climate change, urban expansion, and poor planning, warns a report published this week by the Asian Development Bank. Disasters risk undermining recent economic gains in the region.
Amazon deforestation tracking higher in Brazil
(11/16/2012) Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon continues to rise off historic lows according to satellite data released this week by Imazon, a Brazil-based NGO.
REDD+ must consider biodiversity, forest livelihoods to have any chance of success
(11/16/2012) Safeguarding biodiversity is a critical component in any plan to mitigate climate change through forest protection, argues a comprehensive new assessment published by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO), the world’s largest network of forest scientists.
Canadian ice sheet responded rapidly to ancient climate change
(11/16/2012) Even as glaciers retreat from rising temperatures worldwide, new research says they could bounce back just as suddenly. The study, published Sept. 14 in Science, shows that both small mountain glaciers and large ice sheets grew considerably during a short, 150-year cold spell in Canada 8,200 years ago. The results suggest that massive ice sheets are surprisingly sensitive to brief shifts in seasonal temperatures.
Obama criticized for lack of urgency on climate change
(11/15/2012) Following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy—which many scientists say was likely worsened by climate change—and a long silence on the issue of global warming during the Presidential campaign, environmentalists yesterday were disappointed when re-elected President Barack Obama seemingly put action on climate change on the back burner.
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