Conservation newsFounded in 1999, Mongabay is a leading provider of environmental science and conservation news.
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.
Protecting original wetlands far preferable to restoration
(01/26/2012) Even after 100 years have passed a restored wetland may not reach the state of its former glory. A new study in the open access journal PLoS Biology finds that restored wetlands may take centuries to recover the biodiversity and carbon sequestration of original wetlands, if they ever do. The study questions laws, such as in the U.S., which allow the destruction of an original wetland so long as a similar wetland is restored elsewhere.
Photo of the Day: Critically Endangered brown spider monkey discovered in park
(01/26/2012) Researchers with The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Colombia’s National Parks Unit have located at least two individuals of brown-spider monkey (Ateles hybridus) in Colombia's Selva de Florencia National Park. The discovery is important because its the only known population of this particular subspecies (Ateles hybridus brunneus) in a protected area.
Sustainable Materials With Both Eyes Open: A book review
(01/26/2012) Sustainable Materials With Both Eyes Open: Future Buildings, vehicles, products and equipment – made efficiently and made with less new material is a remarkable popular impartial well-written engineering book that addresses sustainable production of cement, plastic, paper, aluminum and steel and their long-term impacts on the environment. The authors provide a comprehensive background regarding the uses of said materials.
Logging of primary rainforests not ecologically sustainable, argue scientists
(01/25/2012) Tropical countries may face a risk of 'peak timber' as continued logging of rainforests exceeds the capacity of forests to regenerate timber stocks and substantially increases the risk of outright clearing for agricultural and industrial plantations, argues a trio of scientists writing in the journal Biological Conservation. The implications for climate, biodiversity, and local economies are substantial.
Frog perfume? Madagascar frogs communicate via airborne pheromones
(01/25/2012) Researchers have found that some frogs in Madagascar communicate by more than just sound and sight: they create distinct airborne pheromones, which are secreted chemicals used for communicating with others. A paper published in Angewandte Chemie International Edition relates that some male members of the Mantellinae family in Madagascar use large glands on their inner thighs to produce airborne pheromones. Interestingly, the pheromones are structurally similar to those produced by insects. Scientists have identified frogs producing water-borne pheromones before, but this is the first instance of airborne.
U.S. implements snake ban to save native ecosystems
(01/25/2012) Last week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced it was banning the importation and sale across state lines of four large, non-native snakes: the Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus), the yellow anaconda (Eunectes notaeus), and two subspecies of the African python (Python sebae). Although popular pets, snakes released and escaped into the wild have caused considerable environmental damage especially in the Florida Everglades.
Climate and The Oceans - Princeton Primers in Climate: A Book Review
(01/25/2012) Climate and The Oceans by Dr. Geoffrey K. Vallis provides a coherent, well-articulated primer on how the oceans impact the Earth's climate. This easy-to-read illustrated book, filled with both data and accessible mathematical equations demonstrating the impact of the oceans on the Earth's climate, offers practitioners and stakeholders' state-of-the-art scientific analysis of how the oceans and climate interact that is both user friendly to the non-expert yet scientifically rigorous enough as bridge material for graduate students as they grapple with the compelling field of climate science and oceanography.
Photos: 46 new species found in little-explored Amazonian nation
(01/25/2012) South America's tiniest independent nation still hides a number of big surprises: a three week survey to the sourthern rainforests of Suriname found 46 potentially new species and recorded nearly 1,300 species in all. Undertaken by Conservation International's (CI) Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) the survey found new species of freshwater fish, insects, and a new frog dubbed the "cowboy frog" for the spur on its heel. While Suriname may be small, much of its forest, in the Guyana Shield region of the Amazon, remains intact and pristine. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 91 percent of Suriname is covered in primary forests, however this data has not been updated in over two decades.
87 marine mammals still eaten by people
(01/24/2012) Threats to marine mammals usually include climate change, drowning as by-catch, pollution, depletion of prey, but what about eating marine mammals? A new study in Biological Conservation finds that a surprising 87 marine mammals—including polar bears, small whales, and dolphins—have been eaten as food since 1990 in at least 114 countries.
Acid oceans: in some regions acidification a 'hundred times greater' than natural variation
(01/24/2012) Emissions of carbon over the last two centuries have raised the acidity of the oceans to the highest levels in 21,000 years and likely beyond, according to a new study in Nature Climate Change. The change threatens a number of marine species, including coral reefs and molluscs.
Pangolins imperiled by internet trade--are companies responding quickly enough?
(01/24/2012) You can buy pretty much anything on the internet: from Rugby team garden gnomes to Mickey Mouse lingerie. In some places, consumers have even been able to purchase illegal wildlife parts, such as ivory and rhino horn. In fact, the internet has opened up the black market wildlife trade contributing to the destruction of biodiversity worldwide. Pangolins, shy, scaly, anteater-like animals in appearance, have not been immune: in Asia the small animals are killed en masse to feed rising demand for Chinese traditional medicine, placing a number of species on the endangered list.
Sumatran elephant population plunges; WWF calls for moratorium on deforestation
(01/24/2012) The Sumatran elephant subspecies (Elephas maximus sumatranus) was downgraded to critically endangered on IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species on Tuesday, prompting environmental group WWF to call for an immediate moratorium on destruction of its rainforest habitat, which is being rapidly lost to oil palm estates, timber plantations for pulp and paper production, and agricultural use.
The Cryosphere-Princeton primers in climate: A Book Review
(01/23/2012) The Cryosphere by Dr. Shawn J. Marshall, Canada Research Chair in Climate Change, University of Calgary, is an excellent book because it summarizes leading scientific research into easily accessible chapters each one on a different component of the cryosphere. The cryosphere, which incorporates the Earth's snow and ice mass including seasonal snow, permafrost (both land-based permafrost and below water permafrost), river and lake ice, sea ice, glaciers, ice sheets, and ice shelves, is intrinsically related to global climate change. Hence, understanding how the cryosphere interacts with and is at risk because of climate change and its greenhouse gases is fundamental to developing effective policy mechanisms that mitigate climate change.
Leatherback sea turtles granted massive protected area along U.S. west coast
(01/23/2012) The U.S. federal government has designated 108,556 square kilometers (41,914 square miles) as critical habitat for the leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), the largest of the world's marine turtles and one of the most endangered. The protected area, around the size of Guatemala, spans coastal sea waters from California to Washington state, but does not protect the migration routes environmentalists hoped for.
Picture of the Day: Happy Year of the Dragon
(01/23/2012) Today marks the start of Chinese New Year, which this year is represented by the dragon, one of twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac.
Economic slowdown leads to the pulping of Latvia's forests
(01/23/2012) The economic crisis has pushed many nations to scramble for revenue and jobs in tight times, and the small Eastern European nation of Latvia is no different. Facing tough circumstances, the country turned to its most important and abundant natural resource: forests. The Latvian government accepted a new plan for the nation's forests, which has resulted in logging at rates many scientists say are clearly unsustainable. In addition, researchers contend that the on-the-ground practices of state-owned timber giant, Latvijas Valsts meži (LVM), are hurting wildlife and destroying rare ecosystems.
NASA: 2011 ninth warmest year yet
(01/23/2012) Despite being a strong La Niña year, which tends to be cooler than the average year, 2011 was the ninth warmest year on record and the warmest La Niña yet, according to a global temperature analysis by NASA. To date, nine of the world's ten warmest years have occurred since 2000 according to data going back to 1880.
Hugh Powell: birds lend invaluable insight into ecosystems
(01/23/2012) Hugh Powell is science editor at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology as well as a contributor to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution's Oceanus and other publications. He's traveled extensively while writing, including stints in Antarctica for WHOI's Live from the Poles. Before finding his niche as a science writer, Hugh studied the interconnections between black-backed woodpeckers, insects, and forest fires in Montana. He currently resides in Ithaca, New York.
Featured video: music in Madagascar to protest illegal logging
(01/22/2012) A new video highlights the plight of Madagascar's protected tropical forests, which are falling prey to illegal logging and foreign contractors. Featuring Razia Said, Malagasy singer and songwriter, the video shows concerts to raise awareness about illegal logging, especially near Maosala National Park.
Biofuel breakthrough: kelp could power cars
(01/20/2012) Scientists have devised a new way to produce ethanol directly from seaweed, offering the potential to generate biofuels that don't compete with terrestrial food production and won't suck up scarce freshwater, reports a study published today in Science.
Recognizing value of nature could boost income for the world's poor
(01/20/2012) The rural poor would substantially boost their income if the ecological services of the ecosystems they steward were valued and compensated by the rest of the world, claims a new study published in the journal Bioscience.
Feared extinct, obscure monkey rediscovered in Borneo
(01/20/2012) A significant population of the rarely seen, little-known Miller's grizzled langurs (Presbytis hosei canicrus) has been discovered in Indonesian Borneo according to a new paper published in the American Journal of Primatology. Feared extinct by some and dubbed one of the world's 25 most threatened primates in 2005 by Conservation International (CI), the langur surprised researchers by showing up on camera trap in a region of Borneo it was never supposed to be. The discovery provides new hope for the elusive monkey and expands its known range, but conservationists warn the species is not out of the woods yet.
Scientists discover over 19,000 new species in 2009
(01/19/2012) In 2009 researchers described and named 19,232 species new to science, pushing the number of known species on Earth to just under two million (1,941,939 species), according to the State of Observed Species (SOS). Discoveries included seven new birds, 41 mammals, 120 reptiles, 148 amphibians, 314 fish, 626 crustaceans, and 9,738 insects.
National Association of Music Merchants does 'disservice' to members by misleading them on illegal logging law, says letter
(01/19/2012) The National Association of Music Merchants is doing a 'disservice' to its members by misrepresenting the provisions and spirit of the Lacey Act, a law that aims to curb illegal logging abroad, states a letter published by a coalition of environmental groups. The letter, issued Thursday, urges the National Association of Music Merchants to reconsider its support for the RELIEF Act (HR 3210), introduced by Representatives Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), and Jim Cooper (D-TN) last October. The RELIEF Act would weaken key provisions of the Lacey Act aimed to ensure that illegally sourced wood products aren't imported into the United States.
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