conservation news and environmental science news.
Orangutans can survive in timber plantations, selectively logged forests
(09/23/2010) Selectively logged forests and timber plantations can serve as habitat for orangutans, suggesting that populations of the endangered ape may be more resilient than previously believed, reports research published in the journal PlosONE. The study, conducted by a team of researchers led by Erik Meijaard of Jakarta-based People and Nature Consulting International, found roughly equivalent population densities between natural forest areas and two pulp and paper plantation concessions in East Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo.
2 new dinosaur species, including 15-horned beast, discovered in Utah
(09/23/2010) Scientists discovered two previously unknown species of dinosaur in southern Utah, reports the Associated Press.
Free entrance to national parks this Saturday
(09/23/2010) This Saturday, Sept 25, the National Park Service is offering free access to 392 national parks to commemorate National Public Lands Day, reports the America’s Great Outdoors Campaign, a community-based conservation awareness effort.
Another food goliath falls to palm oil campaign
(09/22/2010) One of the world's biggest food makers, General Mills, has pledged to source only sustainable and responsible palm oil within five years time. With this announcement, General Mills becomes only the most recent food giant to pledge to move away from problematic sources of palm oil, which is used in everything from processed foods to health and beauty products. Nestle made a similar pledge earlier this year after a brutalizing social media campaign that lasted for months while Unilever, the world's biggest palm oil buyer, has been working closely with green groups for years.
Plant names cut by over half a million
(09/22/2010) Researchers expect to strike out some 600,000 plant species names from taxonomy lists, representing over half of the names in current lists which stretched to nearly a million. The names cut are duplicate monikers for the same plant: for example, researchers discovered an astounding 800 different names for the tomato (Solanum lycopersicum). Researchers are once-and-for-all weeding out alias names in an attempt to create a single definitive list of plant names.
Will Brazil Change its Forest Code – and Kill the Amazon rainforest?
(09/22/2010) Many credit Brazil’s 75-year old Forest Code with helping to slow destruction of the Amazon Rainforest, but an unlikely amalgamation of right-wing and left-wing politicians are trying to gut the law. In this first of two articles, Ecosystem Marketplace examines the state of the debate. In the second part, Ecosystem Marketplace takes a look at the law's implications for the Amazon – and for the forest-carbon marketplace in Brazil.
Peru weighs deporting rainforest defender after 20 years in the Amazon
(09/22/2010) There are very few times in life that you get to see a priest on a motorcycle. Fewer still that same-said priest zips off from a training session on REDD and forestry law back to his school for Indigenous youths located in the heartland of the Amazon, next to a prison and down the road from the rapidly growing city-center of Iquitos, Peru.
Photos: 'Lost amphibian' search makes good: three 'extinct' species rediscovered
(09/22/2010) A search for 100 of the world's 'lost amphibians'—unseen for decades and in many cases supposed extinct—have turned up three species so far, one of which hasn't been recorded since the Nazis were bombing London. The lost amphibian expeditions, formed by Conservation International (CI) and the IUCN Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG), have found surviving populations of the cave splayfoot salamander (Chiropterotriton Mosaueri) in Mexico, the Mount Nimba reed frog (Hyperolius Nimbae) in the Ivory Coast, and the Omaniundu reed frog (Hyperolius sankuruensis) from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Google Earth launches ocean layer for iPhone, iPad users
(09/21/2010) Google Earth's ocean layer is now available on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, reports Google in a blog post.
An undamaged Amazon produces its own clouds and rain
(09/21/2010) Researchers recently traveled to the remote Brazilian Amazon to investigate how clouds are formed and rain falls in an atmosphere unburdened by human-caused pollution. Studying the atmospheric aerosol particles, which impact cloud formation and particles, above a pristine forests, researchers discovered that when left alone the Amazon acts as its own 'bioreactor': clouds and precipitation are produced by the abundance of plant materials.
New ape species uncovered in Asia
(09/21/2010) Discovering a species unknown to science is a highlight of any biologist's career, but imagine discovering a new ape? Researchers with the German Primate Center (DPZ) announced today the discovery of a new species of ape in the gibbon family, dubbed the northern buffed-cheeked gibbon (Nomascus annamensis), according to the AFP. The new species was discovered in rainforests between the borders of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia: an area that contains a number of gibbon species.
Photos: New species spins the world's strongest and largest spider web
(09/20/2010) A newly discovered species of spider in Madagascar spins the world's longest web, report scientists writing in the Journal of Arachnology and PLoS ONE.
Tigers discovered living on the roof of the world
(09/20/2010) A BBC film crew has photographed Bengal tigers, including a mating pair, living far higher than the great cats have been documented before. Camera traps captured images and videos of tigers living 4,000 meters (over 13,000 feet) in the tiny Himalayan nation of Bhutan.
Crystal-clear river becomes first in Madagascar to wins Ramsar protected status
(09/20/2010) The Nosivolo river and its watershed has become Madagascar's first Ramsar site, reports Conservation International.
How the overlooked peccary engineers the Amazon, an interview with Harald Beck
(09/20/2010) When people think of the Amazon rainforest, they likely think of roaring jaguars, jumping monkeys, marching ants, and squeezing anacondas. The humble peccary would hardly be among the first animals to cross their mind, if they even know such pig-like animals exists! Yet new research on the peccary is proving just how vital these species are to the world's greatest rainforest. As seed dispersers and seed destroyers, engineers of freshwater habitats and forest gaps, peccaries play an immense, long overlooked, role in the rainforest. "Peccaries have the highest density and biomass of any Neotropical mammal species. Obviously these fellows have quite an appetite for almost anything, but primarily they consume fruits and seeds. Their specialized jaws allow them to crush very hard seeds. The cracking sounds can be heard through the thick vegetation long before we could see them. As peccary herds bulldoze through the leaf litter in search for insects, frogs, seeds, and fruits, they destroy (i.e. snap and trample) many seedlings and saplings, sometimes leaving only the bare ground behind," Harald Beck, assistant professor at Towson University in Maryland, told mongabay.com in an interview.
Determining which birds cause airplanes to crash: an interview with a feather expert
(09/19/2010) Marcy Heacker, a wildlife forensic scientist at the Smithsonian Institution's Feather Identification Lab in Washington, DC, spoke with Laurel Neme on her 'The WildLife' radio show and podcast about wildlife forensics, bird strikes and feather identification, and how her analyses help airports manage wildlife to enhance airline safety. She also discussed how she and other forensic scientists at this lab helped analyze the crash of U.S. Airways Flight 1549, otherwise known as the 'miracle on the Hudson.'
Scientists warn little known gibbons face immediate extinction
(09/19/2010) It's not easy to be a gibbon: although one of the most acrobatic, fast, and marvelously loud of the world's primates, the gibbon remains largely unknown to the global public and far less studied than the world's more 'popular' apes. This lack of public awareness, scientific knowledge, and, thereby, conservation funding combined with threats from habitat loss to hunting to the pet trade have pushed seven gibbon species, known as 'crested', to the edge of extinction according to scientists attending the 23rd Congress of the International Primatological Society.
Oil palm plantations on peatlands won't get carbon credits under CDM
(09/19/2010) Plantations on peatlands will no longer be supported by the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), a framework for industrialized countries to reduce their emissions via projects in developing countries, reports Wetlands International.
Indonesia's forest carbon negotiator named as corruption suspect
(09/17/2010) Wandojo Siswanto, one of the lead negotiators for Indonesia's climate delegation in Copenhagen and a key architect of its Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) program, has been named as a corruption suspect by the country's anti-corruption agency, KPK, reports Reuters.
Police in eastern Madagascar arrest foreign journalist investigating illegal timber trafficking
(09/17/2010) Authorities in eastern Madagascar arrested a foreign journalist investigating illegal rosewood trafficking. The arrest, which took place twelve days ago, comes as the central government claims to be cracking down on the illicit rosewood trade. The journalist, whose name and nationality is being withheld to protect his identity, had his camera equipment confiscated by the police in Maroantsetra, a town that is the gateway to Masoala National Park, where much of the rosewood logging is occurring. The police, accompanied by rosewood traffickers, forced the journalist to delete images of timber stockpiles from his camera. The journalist and his guide were then released.
Marine managed areas help reverse declining fisheries, create sustainable livelihoods
(09/16/2010) Marine managed areas in developing countries can help reverse declining fisheries while generating long-term benefits for communities, according to a series of reports released by Conservation International (CI). The reports, informed by more than 50 studies and 100 scientists in 23 countries around the world since 2005, evaluate the role of marine managed areas (MMAs) in maintaining ocean health, assess the link between sustainable ocean use and human well-being, and architect what it takes to successfully implement MMAs.
Unknown elephant relative photographed in Kenya
(09/16/2010) Scientists conducting research in the Boni-Dodori forest on the coast of northeastern Kenya may have discovered a new species of giant elephant-shrew, reports the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).
Brazil's cerrado wins protection, but will it be enough to save the wildlife-rich grassland?
(09/15/2010) Brazil announced a plan to protect the cerrado, the vast woody savanna that covers 20 percent of the country but has become the nation's biggest single source of carbon emissions due to conversion for agriculture and cattle pasture, reports Brazil's Ministry of the Environment.
Saving wild tigers will cost $82M/year
(09/15/2010) The cost of maintaining the planet's 3,500 remaining wild tigers is around $80 million a year, according to a new study published in the journal PLoS Biology.
Indonesia implements export ban on non-certified timber
(09/15/2010) Indonesia has begun implementing a ban on exports of illegally harvested timber and wood products, reports The Jakarta Post.
As a tiny island nation makes a big sacrifice, will the rest of the world follow suit?
(09/15/2010) Kiribati, a small nation consisting of 33 Pacific island atolls, is forecast to be among the first countries swamped by rising sea levels. Nevertheless, the country recently made an astounding commitment: it closed over 150,000 square miles of its territory to fishing, an activity that accounts for nearly half the government's tax revenue. What moved the tiny country to take this monumental action? President Anote Tong, says Kiribati is sending a message to the world: 'We need to make sacrifices to provide a future for our children and grandchildren.'
Goats, cats trigger near extinction of Hawaiian bird in past 7 years
(09/14/2010) A new survey by the United States Geological Survey shows the population of the Palila (Loxioides bailleui), a beautiful songbird found only in Hawaii, has fallen from 4,400 birds to 1,200 birds since 2003, a decline of nearly 75 percent. The bird is being driven toward extinction by introduced sheep and goats, which are destroying the Palila's key food source, and feral cats, which are killing off adult birds and hatchlings, according to the American Bird Conservancy.
Indigenous tribes, ranchers team to battle Amazon fires
(09/14/2010) Facing the worst outbreak of forest fires in three years, cattle ranchers and indigenous tribesmen in the southern Amazon have teamed up to extinguish nearly two dozen blazes over the past three months, offering hope that new alliances between long-time adversaries could help keep deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon on a downward trajectory.
Is Amazon.com contributing to forest destruction?
(09/14/2010) Amazon.com ranks dead last in a survey of the sustainability of paper sourcing practices among major retailers and office supply companies.
Population of Asia's rarest waterbird 30% higher than previously thought
(09/13/2010) A record-breaking 429 White-shouldered Ibis (Pseudibis davisoni) were recorded in a new survey in Cambodia, dramatically expanding the known global population of the critically endangered bird species, reports BirdLife International.
Shark attack victims: save sharks!
(09/13/2010) Shark attack survivors urged the United Nations to take measures to protect sharks, which are increasingly threatened by unsustainable fishing practices.
A look at Ecuador's agreement to leave 846 million barrels of oil in the ground
(09/13/2010) Ecuador's pioneering initiative to voluntarily leave nearly a billion barrels of oil under Yasuní National Park, an Amazonian reserve that is arguably the most biodiverse spot on Earth, took a major step forward in early August when the government signed an accord with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for the long-awaited establishment of a trust fund. The signing event generated a wave of international media attention, but there has been very little scrutiny of what was actually signed. Here we present an initial analysis of the signed agreement, along with a brief discussion of some of the potential caveats. Due to the precedent-setting nature of this agreement, attention to the details is now of the utmost importance.
Environmentalists win decades-long war with logger in Tasmania
(09/10/2010) Gunns Limited, an Australian logging company, that has been engaged in a long-running battle with environmentalists over the firm's cutting of old-growth forests on Tasmania, conceded defeat Thursday, reports the Environment News Service.
Photos: the world's most endangered turtles
(09/10/2010) More than 40 percent of the world's freshwater turtle species are threatened with extinction, according to a new assessment by Conservation International. Turtles are threatened primarily by hunting, habitat destruction, and the pet trade, making them among the most endangered groups of animals.
Prince Charles calls for massive rainforest protection project in Africa
(09/10/2010) Prince Charles announced plans to protect an area of African rainforest the size of Wales, reports The Telegraph.
Frogs and friends at risk from booming global wildlife trade
(09/08/2010) Alejandra Goyenechea, International Counsel at Defenders of Wildlife and Chair of the Species Survival Network's (SSN) Amphibian Working Group, spoke with Laurel Neme on her 'The WildLife' radio show and podcast about the global amphibian trade. In her interview, Alejandra Goyenechea discusses the benefits of frogs and the many threats – such as habitat loss, climate change, pollution, invasive species, disease, and overexploitation – to their survival. Did you know frogs indicate environmental quality, like canaries in a coal mine? Or that many have medicinal properties, like the phantasmal poison dart frog which produces a painkiller 200 times the potency of morphine?
Linking satellite and socio-economic data helps explain deforestation, disease trends
(09/08/2010) To better understand what leads to environmental changes on Earth, Stanford's Eric Lambin combines remote satellite data with on-the- ground conversations with local residents. This in-depth knowledge may lead, for example, to less deforestation.
The role of wildlife conservation in human health
(09/07/2010) Livestock farming is an important traditional way for communities in sub-Saharan Africa to build and maintain wealth, as well as attain food security. Essentially, the transfrontier or transboundary conservation areas (TFCA) concept and current internationally accepted approaches to the management of transboundary animal diseases (TADs) are largely incompatible. The TFCA concept promotes free movement of wildlife over large geographic areas, whereas the present approach to the control of TADs (especially for directly transmitted infections) is to use vast fences to prevent movement of susceptible animals between areas where TADs occur and areas where they do not, and to similarly restrict trade in commodities derived from animals on the same basis. In short, the incompatibility between current regulatory approaches for the control of diseases of agro-economic importance and the vision of vast conservation landscapes without major fences needs to be reconciled in the interest of regional risk-diversification of land-use options and livelihood opportunities. An integrated, interdisciplinary approach offers the most promising way to address these issues—one where the well-being of wildlife and ecosystems, domestic animals, and Africa's people are assessed holistically, with a "One World – One Health" perspective.
Ecuador's tallest waterfall to be destroyed by Chinese dam
(09/07/2010) San Rafael Falls, Ecuador's tallest waterfall, is threatened by a Chinese-funded hydroelectric project, reports Save America's Forests, an environmental group.
Could forest conservation payments undermine organic agriculture?
(09/07/2010) Forest carbon payment programs like the proposed reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) mechanism could put pressure on wildlife-friendly farming techniques by increasing the need to intensify agricultural production, warns a paper published this June in Conservation Biology. The paper, written by Jaboury Ghazoul and Lian Pin Koh of ETH Zurich and myself in September 2009, posits that by increasing the opportunity cost of conversion of forest land for agriculture, REDD will potentially constrain the amount of land available to meet growing demand for food. Because organic agriculture and other biodiversity-friendly farming practices generally have lower yields than industrial agriculture, REDD will therefore encourage a shift toward from more productive forms of food production.
Despite pledge to crack down, illegal logging continues in Madagascar's rainforest parks
(09/06/2010) Despite government assurances that it would crack down on the rosewood trade, illegal logging continues in Madagascar's rainforest parks, according to new information provided by sources on the ground.
Peru's rainforest highway triggers surge in deforestation, according to new 3D forest mapping
(09/06/2010) Scientists using a combination of satellite imagery, airborne-laser technology, and ground-based plot surveys to create three-dimensional high resolution carbon maps of the Amazon rainforest have documented a surge in emissions from deforestation and selective logging following the paving of the Trans-Oceanic Highway in Peru. The study, published this week in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveals that selective logging and other forms of forest degradation in Peru account for nearly a third of emissions compared to deforestation alone.
'Snakes on a plane' trafficker gets 6 months in jail
(09/06/2010) Notorious wildlife trafficker Anson Wong has been fined 190,000 Malaysian ringgit ($61,000) and sentenced to 6 months in jail for attempting to smuggle 95 boa constrictors, reports the Malaysian Star.
Facing moratorium and criticism in Indonesia, Sinar Mas looks to Liberia for new palm oil opportunities
(09/05/2010) Singapore's Golden Agri-Resources, a holding of the embattled Sinar Mas Group, said it will form a partnership with the government of Liberia to establish a 220,000-hectare plantation in the West African nation, reports the Jakarta Globe.
Is carbon protection the same as biodiversity protection?
(09/05/2010) Protection of forests for their carbon value through Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) schemes has been increasing in recent years. These schemes concentrate on preserving forest cover, and thus have great potential for the conservation of natural biodiversity. Some (REDD+) initiatives already specifically take biodiversity protection into account.
80% of tropical agricultural expansion between 1980-2000 came at expense of forests
(09/02/2010) More than 80 percent of agricultural expansion in the tropics between 1980 and 2000 came at the expense of forests, reports research published last week in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The study, based on analysis satellite images collected by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and led by Holly Gibbs of Stanford University, found that 55 percent of new agricultural land came at the expense of intact forests, while 28 percent came from disturbed forests. Another six percent came from shrub lands.
Vultures rebound in Cambodia; only Asian country with rising population
(09/02/2010) The number of threatened vultures in Cambodia is on the rise according to a new survey by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and other members of the Cambodia Vulture Conservation Project.
Crackdown on illegal wildlife trade in Vietnam
(09/02/2010) A sweep of restaurants in Vietnam's Lam Dong Province turned up hundreds of pounds of illegal wildlife products, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
21% of Africa's freshwater plants and animals threatened
(09/02/2010) 21 percent of African freshwater plant and animal species are threatened with extinction, according to a five year assessment of 5,167 freshwater species by 200 scientists.
Chinese traders fear new import restrictions on illegal timber
(09/02/2010) The China Timber and Wood Products Circulation Association (CTWPCA) is seeking to establish a body to help importers navigate new environmental regulations in the United States and Europe that restrict trade in illegally logged timber, reports the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO).
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