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Tropical ecologist: Australia must follow U.S. and EU in banning illegally logged wood
(02/09/2012) Australia should join the widening effort to stamp out illegal logging, according to testimony given this week by tropical ecologist William Laurance with James Cook University. Presenting before the Australian Senate's rural affairs committee, Laurance argued that the massive environmental and economic costs of illegal logging worldwide should press Australia to tighten regulations against importing illegally logged timber at home.
Humans drove rainforest into savannah in ancient Africa
(02/09/2012) Three thousand years ago (around 1000 BCE) several large sections of the Congo rainforest in central Africa suddenly vanished and became savannah. Scientists have long believed the loss of the forest was due to changes in the climate, however a new study in Science implicates an additional culprit: humans. The study argues that a migration of farmers into the region led to rapid land-use changes from agriculture and iron smelting, eventually causing the collapse of rainforest in places and a rise of grasslands. The study has implications for today as scientists warn that the potent combination of deforestation and climate change could flip parts of the Amazon rainforest as well into savannah.
Green groups: government moving too slowly on protecting Canada's Great Bear rainforest
(02/08/2012) Three environmental groups have submitted a letter to British Columbia Premier, Christy Clark, to ask the government to speed up the process of implementing the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement, which is meant to ensure 70 percent of old-growth forest is maintained.
Another food crisis looming in Africa: nearly 5 million South Sudanese lacking food
(02/08/2012) The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP) have warned that South Sudan is facing a food crisis and that immediate action is needed to stave off a disaster. Currently 4.7 million people do not have enough to eat in South Sudan, while one million of these face severe food shortages. That number, however, could double if on-going conflict in the region continues and food prices continue rising, says the UN agencies.
Majority of protected tropical forests "empty" due to hunting
(02/08/2012) Protected areas in the world's tropical rainforests are absolutely essential, but one cannot simply set up a new refuge and believe the work is done, according to a new paper in Bioscience. Unsustainable hunting and poaching is decimating tropical forest species in the Amazon, the Congo, Southeast Asia, and Oceana, leaving behind "empty forests," places largely devoid of any mammal, bird, or reptile over a few pounds. The loss of such species impacts the whole ecosystems, as plants lose seed dispersers and the food chain is unraveled.
Black Swans and bottom-up environmental action
(02/08/2012) The defining events shaping the modern world - economic, social, environmental, progressive and disruptive - are frequently characterized as "Black Swans."The Black Swan term and theory were characterized by author and analyst Nassim Nicholas Taleb who explains, "What we call here a Black Swan (and capitalize it) is an event with the following three attributes. First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme impact. Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable." Taleb identifies the emergence of the internet, the attacks of September 11, 2001, the popularity of Facebook, stock market crashes, the success of Harry Potter, and World War I as among Black Swan events.
More big companies disclosing impacts on forests
(02/07/2012) More companies are reporting on the impact of their operations on global forests, finds a new report. Eighty-seven global corporations disclosed their "forest footprint" in 2011, according to the third Forest Footprint Disclosure (FFD), which asks companies to report on their impact on forests based on their use of five commodities: soy, palm oil, timber and pulp, cattle, and biofuels. This is a 11 percent rise from the companies that reported in 2010, including the first reports by companies such as the Walt Disney Company, Tesco UK, and Johnson & Johnson. However a number of so-called "green" companies continue to refuse to disclose, including Patagonia, Stonyfield Farms, and Whole Foods Markets Inc.
Teaching Sustainability/Teaching Sustainably: Book Review
(02/07/2012) In Teaching Sustainability/Teaching Sustainably, Danielle Lake writes the best sentence I have ever read summarizing sustainability: "Understanding sustainability as a wicked problem, and recognizing how an egoist ethic otherizes the environment and is thus in large part responsible for the abuses that have led to a number of current environmental and social problems, are central to the resolution of this pressing situation."
Sumatran rhino pregnant: conservationists hope third time's the charm
(02/07/2012) Ratu, a female Sumatra rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis), is in the eleventh month of her third pregnancy raising hopes for a successful birth of one of the world's most imperiled big mammals. Ratu suffered two prior miscarriages, but researchers believe the current pregnancy—which still has four to five months to go (for a total term of around 15-16 months)—could produce what Indonesian officials have long hoped for: a bundle of joy at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Sumatra. With only around 200 Sumatran rhinos surviving today in Indonesia and Bornean Malaysia, many conservationists see such breeding efforts as the last and best chance to save the Critically Endangered species from extinction.
New rainforest and indigenous reserve established in Peru
(02/07/2012) On February 4th, the Peruvian government and a small indigenous group created a new Amazon reserve, dubbed the Maijuna Reserve. Located in northeastern Peru, the 390,000 hectare (970,000 acres) reserve is larger than California's Yosemite National Park and over three times the size of Hong Kong.
Guyanese tribe maps Connecticut-sized rainforest for land rights
(02/07/2012) In a bid to gain legal recognition of their land, the indigenous Wapichan people have digitally mapped their customary rainforest land in Guyana over the past ten years. Covering 1.4 million hectares, about the size of Connecticut, the rainforest would be split between sustainable-use regions, sacred areas, and wildlife conservation according to a plan by the Wapichan tribe that will be released today. The plan says the tribe would preserve the forest from extractive industries.
Kelly Blynn: activists not "letting the pressure off" on Keystone pipeline
(02/06/2012) Along with Bill McKibben and a small cadre of passionate environmental activists, Kelly Blynn co-founded the climate activism group "350." 350 exemplifies the power of online networks combined with activism and has coordinated some of the largest and most successful environmental protests in history. The 350 team has organized more than 5,200 events in 181 countries around the world. Kelly graduated from Middlebury College with a degree in Geography and Environmental Studies and experience coordinating one of the largest university campus environmental activism groups in the United States. Blynn is currently situated in Washington, D.C.
Jurassic insect sings again
(02/06/2012) Innovative research has made a long-extinct katydid—which inhabited the world of dinosaurs like stegosaurus, allosaurus, and diplodocus—sing again. The discovery of an incredibly well-preserved fossil of a new species of katydid, dubbed Archaboilus musicus, gave biomechanical experts the opportunity to recreate a song not heard in 165 million years according to new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Vampire and bird frogs: discovering new amphibians in Southeast Asia's threatened forests
(02/06/2012) In 2009 researchers discovered 19,232 species new to science, most of these were plants and insects, but 148 were amphibians. Even as amphibians face unprecedented challenges—habitat loss, pollution, overharvesting, climate change, and a lethal disease called chytridiomycosis that has pushed a number of species to extinction—new amphibians are still being uncovered at surprising rates. One of the major hotspots for finding new amphibians is the dwindling tropical forests of Southeast Asia.
Photos of the day: satellite tagging a 12-foot saltwater crocodile
(02/06/2012) Researchers in the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo have successfully satellite-tagged a 3.6 meter (11.8 feet) saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) in an effort to study human-wildlife conflict with the world's largest reptile. As massive, powerful reptiles they are quite capable of injuring and killing adult humans.
Wall Street Journal climate op-ed: the "equivalent of dentists practicing cardiology"
(02/06/2012) Climate scientists have struck back at the Wall Street Journal after it published an op-ed authored by 16 mostly non-climatologists arguing that global warming was not an urgent concern. The response letter, entitled Check With Climate Scientists for Views on Climate, responds that the Wall Street Journal should seek input on global warming from climate scientists. Six of the 16 authors who published the original article have ties to Exxon Mobil and their professions range from engineers to astronauts. In turn the letter to Wall Street Journal was signed by 38 well-noted climatologists.
Jellyfish explosion may be natural cycle
(02/06/2012) Evidence that jellyfish are taking over the oceans is currently lacking, according to a new study published in Bioscience. Complied by a number of marine experts, the study found that while jellyfish have been on the rise in some regions it is likely due to a natural cycle of jellyfish populations and not a global boom. Researchers, including a number of marine biologists, have warned for years that jellyfish numbers may be exploding due to human activities, such as overfishing, warmer oceans due to global climate change, and the rise of oxygen-depleted, so-called "dead zones."
Price of gorilla permit increases to $750/day
(02/05/2012) Rwanda has raised the price of a permit to see mountain gorillas to $750 per day starting June 1, 2012, up from $500.
Indonesia to create the world's largest palm oil and rubber company
(02/04/2012) The Indonesian government plans to create a massive plantation firm next month when it will combine the assets of state-owned rubber and palm oil companies, reports Reuters.
Caution urged in sale of Madagascar's illegal timber stockpiles
(02/03/2012) Confiscated timber stocks in Madagascar must be managed in a "transparent manner" to deter future illegal logging and boosting demand for endangered rainforest timber, says a letter published by a coalition of NGOs.
5 shot in conflict over oil palm plantation in Sumatra
(02/03/2012) Five villagers were shot in Indonesia's Riau Province on the island of Sumatra during a clash in a land dispute over an oil palm plantation, reports The Jakarta Post and Republika.
Environmental news - month in review: setbacks for the palm oil industry, climate outlook darkens
(02/02/2012) Here mongabay.com provides a quick review of forest-related news for January 2012.
Photos of the day: a celebration of wetlands (for World Wetlands Day)
(02/02/2012) Forget the groundhogs, February 2nd is also World Wetland Day, commemorating the historic convention of wetlands in Ramsar, Iran in 1971. The Ramsar Treaty was an international agreement meant to address the loss and degradation of wetlands worldwide.
Supernatural beliefs keep hunting sustainable on Indonesian island
(02/02/2012) How do indigenous communities hunt without pushing target species to local extinction? In other words, how have communities retained sustainable practices over countless generations. One answer is given in a new study by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the Center for International Research in Agronomy and Development (CIRAD): supernatural beliefs. Looking at a community of indigenous people on the Indonesian island of Seram, researchers found that supernatural hunting beliefs ensured animals never vanished for good.
Fungus from the Amazon devours plastic
(02/02/2012) Students from Yale University have made the amazing discovery of a species of fungus that devours one of the world's most durable, and therefore environmentally troublesome, plastics: polyurethane. The new species of fungus, Pestalotiopsis microspora, is even able to consume polyurethane in zero-oxygen (anaerobic) conditions, which would be important in eating plastics in the deep dark layers of landfills where little sunlight, water, or oxygen is found.
Photo of the day: super-abundance of life found in Amazon park
(02/02/2012) Surveying a little-explored park in the Peruvian Amazon has paid off in dividends: researchers with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) have cataloged 365 species that had not yet been recorded in Bahuaja Sonene National Park. The never-before recorded species included two bats, thirty birds, and over two hundred butterflies and moths.
10 rules for making REDD+ projects more equitable
(02/02/2012) The International Institute for Environment and Development has published a new report on benefit distribution under Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) programs. The report includes a top ten list of recommendations to ensure REDD+ works for poor communities that live in and around forests.
Indonesia to require loggers prove their concessions free of overlapping claims
(02/02/2012) Applicants for forest concessions in Indonesia will soon be required to prove there aren't overlapping claims on their holdings, reports The Jakarta Globe. The move, which offers the potential to reduce land disputes between forest developers and local communities, could complicate investments in the forestry sector in Indonesia.
Majority of Andes' biodiversity hotspots remain unprotected
(02/01/2012) Around 80 percent of the Andes' most biodiverse and important ecosystems are unprotected according to a new paper published in the open-access journal BMC Ecology. Looking at a broad range of ecosystems across the Andes in Peru and Bolivia, the study found that 226 endemic species, those found no-where else, were afforded no protection whatsoever. Yet time is running out, as Andean ecosystems are undergoing incredible strain: a combination of climate change and habitat destruction may be pushing many species into ever-shrinking pockets of habitat until they literally have no-where to go.
Atlantic sturgeon gains protection under the Endangered Species Act
(02/01/2012) The U.S. federal government has listed the massive and bizarre Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus) under the protection of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Historically overfishing decimated the Atlantic sturgeon, while on-going threats include pollution and infrastructure, like dams and bridges that destroy habitat. Fishing for the Atlantic sturgeon has been banned since 1998, they are still caught as bycatch.
Group releases close-up photos of 'uncontacted' tribe in Peru
(02/01/2012) New photos provide visual evidence of just how close the long-isolated tribe of Mashco-Piro people in the Amazon rainforest are to being contacted by the outside world—a perilous moment for tribes highly susceptible to disease and likely to defend their people and territory with weapons. According to indigenous rights NGO Survival International, the Maschco-Piro tribe has been seen more frequently outside of their forest home in Manu National Park in recent years. Some experts blame illegal logging in the park and helicopters used in oil and gas projects for the sightings.
New meteorological theory argues that the world's forests are rainmakers
(02/01/2012) New, radical theories in science often take time to be accepted, especially those that directly challenge longstanding ideas, contemporary policy or cultural norms. The fact that the Earth revolves around the sun, and not vice-versa, took centuries to gain widespread scientific and public acceptance. While Darwin's theory of evolution was quickly grasped by biologists, portions of the public today, especially in places like the U.S., still disbelieve. Currently, the near total consensus by climatologists that human activities are warming the Earth continues to be challenged by outsiders. Whether or not the biotic pump theory will one day fall into this grouping remains to be seen. First published in 2007 by two Russian physicists, Victor Gorshkov and Anastassia Makarieva, the still little-known biotic pump theory postulates that forests are the driving force behind precipitation over land masses.
Belgium to source only RSPO-certified palm oil by 2015
(01/31/2012) Belgium will source only palm oil certified under the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) by 2015 under a pledge by an alliance of major processors, manufacturers, and industry associations, reports the RSPO.
Wall Street Journal under attack for climate op-ed
(01/31/2012) The Wall Street Journal is under attack for publishing an op-ed attacking climate science last Friday, while turning down another op-ed explaining climate change and signed by 255 researchers with the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, which was eventually published in the journal Science. The op-ed last Friday first garnered attention because it was signed by 16 scientists, however other journalists have shown that most of these signatories are not climatologists (the list includes an astronaut, a physician, and an airplane engineer), many are well-known deniers, and at least six have been tied to the fossil fuels industry.
Forgotten species: the wild jungle cattle called banteng
(01/31/2012) The word "cattle," for most of us, is the antithesis of exotic; it's familiar like a family member one's happy enough to ignore, but doesn't really mind having around. Think for a moment of the names: cattle, cow, bovine...likely they make many of us think more of the animals' byproducts than the creatures themselves—i.e. milk, butter, ice cream or steak—as if they were an automated food factory and not living beings. But if we expand our minds a bit further, "cattle" may bring up thoughts of cowboys, Texas, herds pounding the dust, or merely grazing dully in the pasture. But none of these titles, no matter how far we pursue them, conjure up images of steamy tropical rainforest or gravely imperiled species. A cow may be beautiful in its own domesticated sort-of-way, but there is nothing wild in it, nothing enchanting. However like most generalizations, this idea of cattle falls to pieces when one encounters, whether in literature or life, the banteng.
Brazilian mining company connected to Belo Monte dam voted worst corporation
(01/31/2012) The world's second largest mining company, Vale, has been given the dubious honor of being voted the world's most awful corporation in terms of human rights abuses and environmental destruction by the Public Eye Awards. Vale received over 25,000 votes online, likely prompted in part by its stake in the hugely controversial Brazilian mega-dam, Belo Monte, which is being constructed on the Xingu River. An expert panel gave a second award to British bank Barclay's for speculation on food prices, which the experts stated was worsening hunger worldwide.
Rainforests store 229 billion tons of carbon globally finds new 'wall-to-wall' carbon map
(01/30/2012) Tropical rainforests store some 229 billion tons of carbon in their vegetation — about 20 percent more than previously estimated — finds a new satellite-based assessment published in the journal Nature Climate Change. The findings could help improve the accuracy of reporting CO2 emissions reductions under the proposed REDD program, which aims to compensate tropical countries for cutting deforestation, forest degradation, and peatlands destruction.
Saving the world's biggest river otter
(01/30/2012) Charismatic, vocal, unpredictable, domestic, and playful are all adjectives that aptly describe the giant river otter (Pteronura brasiliensis), one of the Amazon's most spectacular big mammals. As its name suggest, this otter is the longest member of the weasel family: from tip of the nose to tail's end the otter can measure 6 feet (1.8 meters) long. Living in closely-knit family groups, sporting a complex range of behavior, and displaying almost human-like capricious moods, the giant river otter has captured a number of researchers and conservationists' hearts, including Dutch conservationist Jessica Groenendijk.
Invasion!: Burmese pythons decimate mammals in the Everglades
(01/30/2012) The Everglades in southern Florida has faced myriad environmental impacts from draining for sprawl to the construction of canals, but even as the U.S. government moves slowly on an ambitious plan to restore the massive wetlands a new threat is growing: big snakes from Southeast Asia. A new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) has found evidence of a massive collapse in the native mammal population following the invasion of Burmese pythons (Python molurus bivittatus) in the ecosystem. The research comes just after the U.S. federal government has announced an importation ban on the Burmese python and three other big snakes in an effort to safeguard wildlife in the Everglades. However, the PNAS study finds that a lot of damage has already been done.
Bad feedback loop: climate change diminishing Canadian forest's carbon sink
(01/30/2012) Climate change, in the form of rising temperatures and less precipitation, is shrinking the carbon sink of western Canada's forest, according to a new study released today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Tree mortality and a general loss of biomass has cut the carbon storage capacity of Canada's boreal forests by around 7.28 million tons of carbon annually, equal to nearly 4 percent of Canada's total yearly carbon emissions.
Picture of the day: the world's largest bromeliad
(01/30/2012) Found in the Andes of Peru and Bolivia, the world's biggest bromeliad Puya raimondii is imperiled by climate change and human disturbances.
California sets tough new clean car standards
(01/30/2012) The U.S. state that takes climate change most seriously—California—has unanimously approved new rules dubbed the Advanced Clean Cars program to lower carbon emissions, reduce oil dependence, mitigate health impacts from pollution, and save consumers money in the long-term. According to the new standards, by 2025 cars sold in California must cut greenhouse gas emissions by 34 percent and smog emissions by 75 percent. The program will also require 15.4 percent of all cars sold in California to be zero or near-zero emissions by 2025.
Featured video: NASA releases shocking 30 second film on climate
(01/30/2012) NASA has created a new animation showing global temperatures on a map of the Earth from 1880-2011. On the map, blues represent temperatures lower than baseline averages, while reds indicate temperatures higher than the average. As the 131 years pass, the map turns from bluish-white to increasingly yellow and red. Caused by the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, agricultural practices, and other human impacts, climate change has currently raised temperatures 0.8 degrees Celsius (1.44 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than the Industrial Revolution average.
Emissions from palm oil biodiesel highest of major biofuels, says EU
(01/30/2012) Greenhouse gas emissions from palm oil-based biodiesel are the highest among major biofuels when the effects of deforestation and peatlands degradation are considered, according to calculations by the European Commission. The emissions estimates, which haven't been officially released, have important implications for the biofuels industry in Europe.
Palm oil does not meet U.S. renewable fuels standard, rules EPA
(01/27/2012) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ruled on Friday that palm oil-based biofuels will not meet the renewable fuels standard due to carbon emissions associated with deforestation.
Group releases photos of Borneo rainforest to be converted for palm plantations
(01/27/2012) The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has released a set of photos from a visit to a contested area of forest set to be converted for oil palm plantations in Indonesian Borneo.
Sinar Mas Group seeks 'backdoor' public listing in Singapore
(01/27/2012) Sinar Mas Group, an Indonesia-based conglomerate, is working on a deal to list its Indonesian coal assets on the Singapore Exchange by swapping shares with a small forestry firm that is already listed on the stock market, reports Reuters. The move would enable Sinar Mas Group to more easily raise capital for expansion.
Big trees, like the old-growth forests they inhabit, are declining globally
(01/26/2012) Already on the decline worldwide, big trees face a dire future due to habitat fragmentation, selective harvesting by loggers, exotic invaders, and the effects of climate change, warns an article published this week in New Scientist magazine. Reviewing research from forests around the world, William F. Laurance, an ecologist at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia, provides evidence of decline among the world's 'biggest and most magnificent' trees and details the range of threats they face. He says their demise will have substantial impacts on biodiversity and forest ecology, while worsening climate change.
U.S. media favored Keystone pipeline in coverage
(01/26/2012) A new report by Media Matters finds that U.S. TV and print media were largely biased toward the construction of TransCanada's Keystone XL Pipeline, which the Obama administration recently turned down. The report finds that guests and quotes were largely in favor of the pipeline in addition to news outlets consistently repeating job figures for the pipeline that have been discredited.
California city bans bullfrogs to safeguard native species
(01/26/2012) Santa Cruz, California has become the first city in the U.S. to ban the importation, sale, release, and possession of the American bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana). Found throughout Eastern and Central U.S., the frogs have become an invasive threat to wildlife in the western U.S. states and Canada.
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