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Biofuel aspirations spur 'land grabs' that hurt the poor, says report

(12/14/2011) More than 40 million hectares of land has been acquired in developing countries for biofuel production in the past decade, reports a new study published by the International Land Coalition.


Carbon Coalitions: Business, Climate Politics, and the Rise of Emissions Trading: Book Review

(12/13/2011) Jonas Meckling, PhD., writes the first critical analysis demonstrating how various types of not-for-profit, governmental and for-profit coalitions over the past couple of decades have led to the development of the global carbon market, valued in 2010 at US$ 142 billion.


Paper commitments for the Indonesian industry

(12/13/2011) The Indonesian group Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) has been the target of many NGOs for years due to its alleged negative impacts on tropical forests. This culminated in a spectacular campaign launched by Greenpeace in 2011 based on Ken "dumping" Barbie. The rationale was that toy brand Mattel was accused of using APP paper products linked to the clear-cutting of natural forests in the Indonesian archipelago. APP organized a counter-attack in the media with the daily publication of advertisements promoting its sustainable development practices. Journalists from all over the world were also invited to attend guided tours of APP concessions to demonstrate their conservation efforts, and a number of articles were subsequently written.


Giant snakes commonly attacked modern hunter-gatherers in Philippines

(12/13/2011) Humans have an ambivalent relationship with snakes. The legless reptiles are often feared and reviled, becoming stand-ins for the Devil and movie monster characters; yet many people have grown to love snakes, raising large, even dangerous, specimens as pets. Now, new research suggests that the ecological role between snakes and humans, as well as other primates, is more nuanced than expected. After spending decades living among the Agta Negritos people in the Philippines, anthropologist Thomas Headland has found that the hunter gatherer tribes were quite commonly attacked by reticulated pythons (Python reticulatus), while the people themselves had no qualms with hunting, killing, and consuming python.


Interview with conservation legend George Schaller

(12/13/2011) Dr George Schaller is a veteran ecologist affiliated with two conservation organizations in New York, Panthera and the Wildlife Conservation Society. Spending much of his time during the past six decades in various countries of Asia, Africa and South America, he has studied and helped protect species as diverse as the Tiger, Mountain Gorilla, Giant Panda and Tibetan Antelope. In addition, he has promoted the establishment of about 15 protected areas. His studies have been the basis for his scientific and popular writings.


Harsh words for Canada after it abandons Kyoto Protocol

(12/13/2011) Less than two days after signing on to a "road map" agreement at the UN Climate Summit in Durban, South Africa, Canada has announced it is formally withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol after failing to meet its emissions pledges. Although not surprising, reaction from other nations and environmental groups was not only swift, but harsh.


Large tract of old growth redwood forest protected in the San Francisco Bay Area

(12/13/2011) 8,532 acres of redwood forest and wildlife habitat in the Santa Cruz mountains will be protected after a coalition of San Francisco Bay Area conservation groups bought the land — the largest private landholding in in Santa Cruz County — for $30 million from building materials giant CEMEX, reports the San Jose Mercury News.


New species of frog sings like a bird

(12/12/2011) If you're trudging through the high-altitude rainforests of northern Vietnam and you hear bird song, you might want to check the trees for frogs. Yes, that's right: frogs. A new species of tree frog has been discovered in Vietnam that researchers say has a uniquely complex call that makes it sound more like a bird than a typical frog. Discovered in Pu Hoat Proposed Nature Reserve, the new species, dubbed Quang's tree frog (Gracixalus quangi), dwells in the forests at an altitude 600-1,300 meters (nearly 2,000-4,265 feet).


NGOs call for arrest of Malaysian leader for corruption, money laundering

(12/12/2011) A coalition of Malaysian and international NGOs are calling for the arrest of Sarawak chief minister Abdul Taib Mahmud and 14 family members for alleged abused of power, corruption, and money laundering, reports the Bruno Manser Fund, a group that has signed the letter urging action.


Using palm hearts sustainably in Colombia

(12/12/2011) Long eaten by indigenous populations, palm hearts have also popular abroad, usually in fine dining establishments. However, palm hearts are cut-out of the inner core of various palm tree species, in some cases killing the tree. A new study published in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Society looks at the sustainability of palm heart extraction from the palm species Prestoea acuminata in the Colombian Andes. While harvesting from Prestoea acuminata does not kill the host tree, better management is needed to ensure the practice doesn't become unsustainable.


Locals key to saving primate-rich wetlands in Cote D'Ivoire

(12/12/2011) Saved from being converted into a vast palm oil plantation by PALM-CI in 2009, the Ehy Tanoé wetlands and forest in the Cote D'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) is home to three gravely endangered primates and as well as many other species. Since 2006, a pilot community management program has been working to protect the 12,000 hectare area, and a new study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science finds that long-term conservation of the Ehy Tanoé wetlands and forest is, in fact, vital for locals who depend on the area for hunting, fishing, firewood, building materials, and medicinal plants. In addition, the study finds that the ecosystem has special cultural and spiritual importance to locals.


Estimating the rich diversity of galling insects

(12/12/2011) How does one estimate the number of tiny, cryptic "galling" insects without finding and describing every one (a task that could take centuries of taxonomic work)? According to a new paper in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science, you count the plants. Galling insects use plant tissue for development creating a "gall," or abnormal growth on the plant. Such little-known insects include gall wasps, gall midges, aphids, and jumping plant lice. The groups are known to be highly diverse, with over 2,000 species described from the US alone; scientists have previously estimated that there may be as many as 132,000 different species.


Madagascar tree diversity among the highest worldwide

(12/12/2011) In terms of biodiversity, the hugely imperiled forests of Madagascar may be among the world's richest. Researchers estimate that the island off the coast of Africa is home to at least 10,000 tree and shrub species with over 90 percent of them found no-where else in the world. With little baseline data collected on Madagascar's ecosystems, a new study, the first ever of tree diversity in Madagascar lowland rainforests, hopes to begin the process. Published in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science, the new study surveyed tree species in eastern Madagascar's Betampona Special Reserve.


Mixed reactions to the Durban agreement

(12/12/2011) Early Sunday morning over 190 of the world's countries signed on to a new climate agreement at the 17th UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Durban, South Africa. The summit was supposed to end on Friday, but marathon negotiations pushed government officials to burn the midnight oil for about 36 extra hours. The final agreement was better than many expected out of the two week summit, but still very far from what science says is necessary to ensure the world does not suffer catastrophic climate change.


Bushmeat trade driving illegal hunting in Zimbabwe park

(12/12/2011) Bushmeat hunting is one of the major threats to mammals in sub-Saharan Africa. Although widely discussed and recognized as an issues in Central and West Africa, a new study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science describes a pattern of bushmeat hunting that is also occurring in southern Africa. Interviewing 114 locals living adjacent to Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe, Edson Gandiwa with Wageningen University found that the primary drivers of illegal hunting in the park were bushmeat and personal consumption (68 percent).


The Atlas of Climate Change: Mapping the World’s Greatest Challenge – a book review

(12/12/2011) The Atlas of Climate Change: Mapping the World’s Greatest Challenge presents in clear and concise visual form the impacts and effects, solutions and mitigation actions surrounding climate change - which is our greatest global challenge.


Picture of penguins is a prize-winner

(12/10/2011) Carl Safina's picture of King Penguins coming ashore at Salisbury Plain on South Georgia Island was the first winner of mongabay.com's series of photo contests hosted on Facebook.


Controversial pulp and paper companies underwrite Indonesia's climate change pavilion in Durban

(12/10/2011) A 'significant proprtion' of Indonesia's $3.3. million pavilion at climate talks in Durban was funded by Indonesian pulp and paper companies companies, reports Reuters Alertnet.


EPA finds toxic chemicals in water supply near fracking sites in Wyoming

(12/10/2011) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on Thursday it found chemicals used in the process of hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas in water supplies in Wyoming. The preliminary findings seem to confirm the fears of environmentalists that hydraulic fracturing can contaminate aquifers, but the gas industry called the EPA's release of the results "irresponsible" and claimed political motivations for the announcement.


Direct air capture of CO2 to fight global warming is too expensive to be feasible

(12/09/2011) Using existing technology to 'scrub' carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere is far costlier than capturing emissions directly from the smokestacks of coal-burning power plants, reports a paper published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Picture of the day: the endangered Toad Mountain Harlequin Toad

(12/09/2011) Atelopus certus is an endangered species of harlequin toad that is endemic to the Darien region of eastern Panama. It is primarily at risk from the spread of chytridiomycosis, a deadly fungal disease, that has been killing amphibians through Central America and other parts of the world.


Picture of the day: emerald-eyed tree frog

(12/09/2011) The emerald eyed tree frog (Hypsiboas crepitans) is found widely across tropical Latin America, ranging from Panama to Peru to Brazil. It is found both in pristine habitats and areas heavily impacted by humans.


Tool to track U.S. REDD+ finance released

(12/09/2011) A new online tool allows anyone to check U.S. government financial pledges made toward reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) programs in developing countries.


Peru's Cocha Cashu biological station changes management

(12/08/2011) The San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy is taking over management of the productive Cocha Cashu field station in Manu National Park, Peru. To date, nearly 600 scientific papers have come out of research conducted at the station, making it among the five most productive research stations in the Amazon and Andes. Located in a part of the Amazon rainforest that has seen little human impact, the station was founded in 1969, four years before Manu National Park was gazetted.


Evidence mounts that Maya did themselves in through deforestation

(12/08/2011) Researchers have garnered further evidence for a smoking gun behind the fall of the great Maya civilization: deforestation. At the American Geophysical Union (AGU) conference, climatologist Ben Cook presented recent research showing how the destruction of rainforests by the Mayan ultimately led to declines in precipitation and possibly civilization-rocking droughts. While the idea that the Maya may have committed ecological-suicide through deforestation has been widely discussed, including in Jared Diamond's popular book Collapse, Cook's findings add greater weight to the theory.


Picture of the day: Blue-and-yellow poison frog

(12/08/2011) The blue-and-yellow poison dart frog (Dendrobates tinctorius) — often called the dyeing dart frog — is found in the rainforests and savannas of Suriname, Guyana, French Guiana, and northern Brazil. Across its range there are several color forms.


Yasuni ITT: the virtues and vices of environmental innovation

(12/07/2011) As the 17th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is taking place in Durban, Ecuador has embarked on the development of a project presented as highly innovative. This project targets Yasuni National Park, which has been protected since 1979. Yasuni is home to several indigenous peoples and is a biodiversity hotspot. But it so happens that the park also sits atop a vast oil field of 846 million barrels, representing about 20 percent of the country’s oil reserves. The acronym Yasuni ITT stands for Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputinin, which are the names of three potential zones for oil extraction.


Agriculture group to spend 10 years on forest research

(12/07/2011) Recognizing the global importance of the world's vanishing forests, a 10-year-long research program will focus on the interconnection between agriculture and forests. Conducted by CGIAR, a global agriculture group concerned with sustainability, the research program will look at ways to decrease forest loss and degradation.


Photos: two new paper clip-sized frogs discovered in Vietnamese mountains

(12/07/2011) Researchers have discovered two new frog species living in the montane tropical forests of Vietnam. Known as moss frogs, these small amphibians employ camouflage as one way to keep predators at bay, in some cases resembling the moss that gives them their name.


Discovery Channel backtracks, promises to air climate change episode of new Frozen Planet series

(12/07/2011) Discovery Channel has announced that it will, in fact, air the last episode of the new series Frozen Planet, which focuses solely on the impact of climate change at the world's poles. By the creators of universally-acclaimed Planet Earth, the full series explores the wildlife and environs of the Arctic and Antarctic, but the Discovery Channel came under fire after it announced it would not air the last episode, called "On Thin Ice", which deals specifically with climate change. A petition on Change.org garnered 75,000 signatures calling on the Discovery Channel to air the full series, before the network caved and announced it would do so.


Brazil passes controversial Forest Code reform environmentalists say will be 'a disaster' for the Amazon

(12/06/2011) The Brazilian Senate tonight passed controversial legislation that will reform the country's 46-year-old Forest Code, which limits how much forest can be cleared on private lands. Environmentalists are calling the move "a disaster" that will reverse Brazil's recent progress in slowing deforestation in the world's largest rainforests.


Palm oil, pulp companies commit to zero-tolerance policy for orangutan killing

(12/06/2011) Two Indonesian plantation companies have signed an agreement to train workers not to kill or injure orangutans and other protected species. The agreement was brokered by the Indonesian government between Orangutan Foundation International (OFI), a non-profit with operations in Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo, and two major plantation firms: PT Smart, one of Indonesia's largest palm oil producers, and PT Lontar Papyrus, which supplies wood-pulp to Asia Pulp & Paper (APP). Both companies are holdings of the Sinar Mas Group. Under the terms of the deal, OFI will assist the companies 'in delivering a best management practices training program on orangutans and endangered species for its employees, affiliates and pulpwood suppliers.'


Picture of the day: Amazonian shaman with hallucinogenic frog

(12/06/2011) The giant monkey frog (Phyllomedusa bicolor) is known for its mind-altering skin secretions. A small handful of tribes deep in the Amazonian rainforest between Peru and Brazil have used this species in hunting rituals.


On the edge of extinction, giant ibis discovered in new region of Cambodia

(12/06/2011) The world's largest ibis, and one of the world's most endangered birds, has received some good news. A giant ibis (Thaumatibis giganteawas) has been photographed in the Kampong Som Valley in Koh Kong Province in Cambodia, the first record from this province in nearly a hundred years. Adults can grow to reach nearly 3.5 feet (106 centimeters) long.


Seismic trails cut by U.S. oil firm in Belizean national park used by illegal loggers

(12/06/2011) In the Belizean rainforest two rangers look up and down a straight path hacked through the jungle and take GPS coordinates, the escorting soldiers lying back in the heat as the coordinates are delivered. These are noted and the patrol resumes, pausing to photograph protected comfra palms that have been cut and laid on the muddy ground, or stretches where the rainforest has been cleared far beyond the permitted width. We are in the Sarstoon-Temash National Park, nearly 42,000 acres of rainforest and red mangrove swamps in southern Belize adjacent to the Guatemalan border, and the park rangers are dealing with a new threat to the biodiversity of the reserve. Rather than searching for illegal loggers from Guatemala, this patrol is monitoring the activities of an American oil company.


Current emission pledges will raise temperature 3.5 degrees Celsius

(12/06/2011) New research announced at the 17th UN Climate Summit in Durban, South Africa finds that under current pledges for reducing emissions the global temperature will rise by 3.5 degrees Celsius (6.3 degrees Fahrenheit) from historic levels, reports the AFP. This is nearly double world nations' pledge to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). The report flies in the face of recent arguments by the U.S. and others at Durban that current pledges are adequate through 2020.


Jump-starting REDD finance: $3 billion Forest Finance Facility needed to halve deforestation within a decade

(12/06/2011) How to finance a means to reduce deforestation, which contributes emissions equivalent to the entire transport sector combined, has had some encouragement at the UN Climate meeting in Durban this week. An à la carte approach, where no source is ruled out, is emerging, leaving the door open to private sector finance for the first time. And with progress imminent in two other crucial areas of safeguards and reference levels, REDD+, a novel mechanism to halt deforestation, is once more likely to be the biggest winner.


Featured video: saving baby orphaned sloths

(12/06/2011) The world's only sloth sanctuary works to save orphaned and injured sloths in Costa Rica. A recent short film (below) by Lucy Cooke highlights a few of the stars of the sloth sanctuary. Cooke has a new hour long film debuting on Animal Planet on December 17th at 8 PM EST, following the adventures of a number of these sloths.


Feeding the world's population and saving forests aren't mutually exclusive

(12/06/2011) The world can simultaneously improve food security and save tropical forests by better optimizing land use, factoring in the true costs of biofuels, boosting yields on existing farmland, encouraging production away from forest frontiers, and supporting efforts to develop more sustainable community roundtables, concludes a new report released Monday by the National Wildlife Federation.


Amazon rainforest loss in Brazil drops to lowest ever reported

(12/05/2011) Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell to the lowest level on record between August 2010 and July 2011 according to preliminary data from Brazil's National Institute of Space Research (INPE).


Picture of the day: Red-eyed tree frog relaxing on a branch

(12/05/2011) In recognition of Amphibian Ark winning mongabay.com's 2011 conservation award, our pictures of the day this week will focus on amphibians.


Photos: biologists surprised by world's biggest leopard in Afghanistan

(12/05/2011) When biologists with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) reviewed recent photos from camera traps in the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan they were shocked to find a snarling image of the world's largest leopard: the Persian leopard (Panthera pardus saxicolor). Listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List, the subspecies was thought long-vanished from the Hindu Kush. Photos from the camera traps—automated cameras that use an infrared trigger to catch wildlife—also showed lynx (Lynx lynx), wild cat (Felis silvestris), Eurasian wolf (Canis lupus lupus), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), and stone marten (Martes foina).


At least 74 percent of current warming caused by us

(12/05/2011) A new methodology to tease out how much current climate change is linked to human activities has added to the consensus that behind global warming is us. The study, published in Nature Geoscience found that humans have caused at least three-quarters (74 percent) of current warming, while also determining that warming has actually been slowed down by atmospheric aerosols, including some pollutants, which reflect sunlight back into space.


REDD project gets initial go-ahead in Cameroon

(12/05/2011) The government of Cameroon approved a feasibility assessment for the first REDD+ project in the Central African nation, reports the Global Green Carbon Corporation, which is developing the project.


Wildlife official: palm oil plantations behind decline in proboscis monkeys

(12/05/2011) The practice of palm oil plantations planting along rivers is leading to a decline in proboscis monkeys (Nasalis larvatus) in the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo, says the director of the Sabah Wildlife Department, Laurentius Ambu. Proboscis monkeys, known for their bulbous noses and remarkable agility, depend on riverine forests and mangroves for survival, but habitat destruction has pushed the species to be classified as Endangered by the IUCN Red List.


Effort to save world's rarest frogs recognized with conservation award

(12/05/2011) An effort to save the world's most endangered amphibians has won mongabay.com's 2011 conservation award. Amphibian Ark — a joint effort of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the IUCN/SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group, and the IUCN/SSC Amphibian Specialist Group — is working to evaluate the status of threatened amphibians, raise awareness about the global amphibian extinction crisis, and set up captive breeding programs. The initiative is targeting 500 species that will not survive without captive breeding efforts.


Volcano and cloud forests conserved in Ecuador

(12/05/2011) Conservation organizations and the Ecuadorian government have succeeded in securing over 250,000 acres (106,000 hectares) of cloud forest and grasslands surrounding the Antisana Volcano for protection. The area, long-used for cattle ranching, is home to Andean condors (Vultur gryphus), cougars (Puma concolor), Andean fox (Lycalopex culpaeus), silvery grebes (Podiceps occipitalis), black-faced ibis (Theristicus melanopis), spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus), and three species of endangered frogs. The protected area stretches from 3,900 feet (1,188 meters) to 18,700 feet (5,699 meters) above sea level.


Wolverines live up to tough reputation

(12/05/2011) In the first X-Men film, the comic book character Wolverine is asked if it hurts when his claws retract from his knuckles. His unflinching response: "Every time." The real wolverine (Gulo gulo) is just as tenacious with new research proving it is a "winter endurance athlete." Eight years of radio-tracking 30 individual wolverines in the Rocky Mountains has provided an abundance of new data about the world's largest member of the weasel family, including that the feisty mammals survive year-round in harsh, snowy conditions 9,000 feet above see level. Although immeasurably tough, the animal is nearly extinct in the lower 48 states of the U.S.


Little to show for tens of millions spent on tiger conservation, says new National Geographic story.

(12/05/2011) This month's National Geographic features the work of photographer Steve Winter, who spent months on the trail of one of earth's most majestic and endangered beasts 𔃐 the tiger. Winter worked extensively in some of tigers' last strongholds in India, Thailand and Indonesia, capturing rare moments in the daily lives of wild tigers.


Sarawak ruler has acquired billions in 'illicit' assets, alleges investigation

(12/04/2011) The leader of the Malaysian state of Sarawak has acquired billions of dollars' worth of "illicit" assets, alleges a new investigation by the Bruno Manser Fund, which reveals holdings in over 400 companies across two dozen countries.


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