Conservation newsFounded in 1999, Mongabay is a leading provider of environmental science and conservation news.
Earth Day pictures: International Year of Forests
(04/22/2011) In my nearly 12 years of running mongabay.com, I have had the good fortune to visit spectacular forests around the world. So this Earth Day, instead of writing something pithy (Jeremy has done a fine job in his Earth Day post recognizing the value of what nature gives us), I'm just posting some of my favorite forest pictures I've taken in my travels.
What does Nature give us? A special Earth Day article
(04/22/2011) There is no question that Earth has been a giving planet. Everything humans have needed to survive, and thrive, was provided by the natural world around us: food, water, medicine, materials for shelter, and even natural cycles such as climate and nutrients. Scientists have come to term such gifts 'ecosystem services', however the recognition of such services goes back thousands of years, and perhaps even farther if one accepts the caves paintings at Lascaux as evidence. Yet we have so disconnected ourselves from the natural world that it is easy—and often convenient—to forget that nature remains as giving as ever, even as it vanishes bit-by-bit. The rise of technology and industry may have distanced us superficially from nature, but it has not changed our reliance on the natural world: most of what we use and consume on a daily basis remains the product of multitudes of interactions within nature, and many of those interactions are imperiled. Beyond such physical goods, the natural world provides less tangible, but just as important, gifts in terms of beauty, art, and spirituality.
Warmer temperatures may be exterminating pika populations one-by-one
(04/21/2011) The last decade has not been a good one for the American pika (Ochotona princeps) according to a new study in Global Change Biology. Over the past ten years extinction rates have increased by nearly five times for pika populations in the Great Basin region of the US. Examining extinctions of pike populations in the region over the past 110 years, researchers found that nearly half of the extinction events occurred since 1999.
RSPO: Labeling palm oil as an ingredient is fine, provided other oils are labeled too
(04/21/2011) The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a body that sets criteria for social and environmental certification of palm oil, weighed in on the debate on Australia's proposal to require listing of palm oil as an ingredient on package labels. At the same time the RSPO announced its own labeling initiative to distinguish products that use RSPO-certified palm oil from those that do not.
Protected areas cover 44% of the Brazilian Amazon
(04/20/2011) Protected areas now cover nearly 44 percent of the Amazon — an area larger than Greenland — but suffer from encroachment and poor management, reports a new study by Imazon and the Instituto Socioambiental (ISA). The report, published in Portuguese, says that by December 2010, protected areas in the Brazilian Amazon amounted to 2,197,485 square kilometers. Conservation units like national parks accounted for just over half the area (50.6 percent), while indigenous territories represented 49.4 percent.
Forest carbon map released for the US
(04/20/2011) The Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) has released the first hectare-scale map displaying aboveground woody biomass and forest carbon in US forests. The map, which also shows canopy heights, is known as the National Biomass and Carbon Dataset (NBCD).
Demand for gold pushing deforestation in Peruvian Amazon
(04/19/2011) Deforestation is on the rise in Peru's Madre de Dios region from illegal, small-scale, and dangerous gold mining. In some areas forest loss has increased up to six times. But the loss of forest is only the beginning; the unregulated mining is likely leaching mercury into the air, soil, and water, contaminating the region and imperiling its people. Using satellite imagery from NASA, researchers were able to follow rising deforestation due to artisanal gold mining in Peru. According the study, published in PLoS ONE, Two large mining sites saw the loss of 7,000 hectares of forest (15,200 acres)—an area larger than Bermuda—between 2003 and 2009.
Richard Branson's pet lemur project won't help save wildlife in Madagascar
(04/19/2011) Richard Branson's plan to introduce lemurs on one of his private islands in the Caribbean is a terrible idea if his aim is really to protect the primates from extinction. Beyond the much-discussed ecological impact of bringing in non-native primates, Branson's scheme risks undermining conservation efforts where lemurs actually exist in the wild: Madagascar.
Major paper company clear-cutting key tiger habitat
(04/19/2011) A pulp supplier for a major paper company is clearing natural forest in a wildlife corridor in central Sumatra, alleges a new investigation conducted by Eyes on the Forest, a coalition of environmental groups.
Forest Governance Measuring Tools within Collaborative Governance of Tropical Landscapes: Book Review
(04/19/2011) Conservation projects at the landscape level in the tropics often require collaborative governance because there are many factors that may be involved with conserving and enhancing the ecosystem services with a landscape-based project. Yet as eloquently described in Collaborative Governance of Tropical Landscapes, significant issues remain in designing and implementing effective collaborative governance models for tropical landscapes.
Scientists urge Papua New Guinea to declare moratorium on massive forest clearing
(04/19/2011) Forests spanning an area larger than Costa Rica—5.6 million hectares (13.8 million acres)—have been handed out by the Papua New Guinea government to foreign corporations, largely for logging. Granted under government agreements known as Special Agricultural and Business Leases (SABLs), the land leases circumvent the nation's strong laws pertaining to communal land ownership. Now, the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC), the world's largest professional society devoted to studying and conserving tropical forests, is urging the Papua New Guinea government to declare a moratorium on SABLs.
3.8 earthquake shakes San Francisco
(04/18/2011) A short 3.8-magnitude earthquake shook the San Francisco Bay Area Monday afternoon.
Scientists follow rise of mercury pollution in seabird feathers
(04/18/2011) Analyzing the feathers of the black-footed albatross (Phoebastria nigripes) going back to 1880. researchers have uncovered rising levels of the toxic methylmercury in the endangered birds that is generally consistent with rising mercury emissions in the Pacific region. Methylmercury is a more toxic compound than mercury that binds with organic molecules when it is released through industrial processes, such as burning coal and other fossil fuels.
Palm oil lobby attacks World Bank's new social and environmental safeguards
(04/18/2011) Groups funded by the palm oil industry lashed out at the World Bank's new framework to resume lending to the palm oil sector.
The great penguin rescue: far-flung community cooperates, sacrifices to save 4,000 penguins from oil spill
(04/18/2011) One of the world remotest communities, the UK's Tristan da Cunha archipelago, has come together to save 4,000 endangered penguins following a devastating oil spill, reports the Guardian. Last month a freighter ran aground on Nightingale Island releasing 1,500 tons of oil, potentially devastating the local population of northern rockhopper penguins (Eudyptes moseleyi), which are listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List. However, fortunately for the penguins, the tiny community of 260 people living on the Tristan da Cunha archipelago were unwilling to give up on the oiled birds.
Tropical countries aim for global forest pact
(04/18/2011) Representatives from more than 30 countries are expected to hammer out a formal agreement for future discussions on forest and climate issues when they meet next month in the Republic of Congo, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
US wolves lose to politics
(04/17/2011) A 'rider' attached to the most recent budget passed this week in the US congress has stripped gray wolves from the protection of the Endangered Species Act, a first in the law's nearly 40-year-history. The rider, which was signed into law under the budget on Friday by US President Barack Obama, hands gray wolves (Canis lupus) in Montana, Idaho, Utah, Washington, and Oregon from Federal protection to state control. Hunting is expected to begin soon.
Sugar cane cools climate when it replaces cattle pasture
(04/17/2011) Converting cattle pasture and cropland in Brazil to sugar cane helps cool local climate reports research published in Nature Climate Change.
NASA image reveals extent of 2010 Amazon drought
(04/17/2011) NASA has revealed a satellite image of the crippling effect of last year's record-breaking drought on the Amazon ecosystem. For those of you counting, that's two record droughts in the Amazon Basin in 5 years.
Indonesia and the EU reach agreement on illegal wood trade
(04/17/2011) A new agreement will work to keep illegal wood from Indonesia out of European Union markets. The Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) will force Indonesia to only ship wood to the EU that has been approved as legal by a national authority, while EU customs workers are set to send any unapproved wood back to Indonesia. The VPA is a step forward in tackling the illegal timber market in Indonesia that is estimated to be worth $1 billion and has been responsible, in part, for leveling rainforests across the Indonesia islands.
Photo: Population of world's biggest gorilla increases in Congo
(04/15/2011) A population of the world's largest subspecies of gorilla has increased despite ongoing human conflict, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
Brazilian authorities levy $1.2B in fines against beef traders linked to deforestation, slave labor
(04/15/2011) Brazilian authorities are seeking 2 billion reals ($1.2 billion) in fines against 14 companies accused of buying beef sourced from ranches that have illegally cleared Amazon rainforest or exploited workers in the state of Acre, reports AFP.
Avon commits to greener palm oil
(04/15/2011) The beauty products giant Avon will purchase enough GreenPalm certificates to meet 100 percent of its palm oil use.
Pro-deforestation group calls for weakening of U.S. law against illegal logging
(04/14/2011) A group that lobbies on behalf of forestry conglomerates in Indonesia and Malaysia is calling on the U.S. to roll back legislation intended to fight illegal logging. World Growth International, a Washington D.C.-based group that portrays itself as a humanitarian organization, yet consistently pushes policies that favor industrial forestry interests over those of rural communities, has submitted formal comments to the United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's (APHIS) review of the implementation of the revised Lacey Act provisions that prohibit trade in illegally logged wood products, including timber and paper.
Vietnam creates reserve for newly-discovered, nearly-extinct mammal, the saola
(04/14/2011) The Vietnam government and local people have approved a Saola Natural Reserve to protect one of the world's most endangered—and most elusive—mammals. Only discovered by the outside world in 1992, the saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis) inhabits the lush forests of the Annamite Mountains. No one knows how many saola remain, but it has been classified as Critically Endangered as it is likely very few. Recently, conservationist William Robichaud told mongabay.com that the saola was "perhaps the most spectacular zoological discovery of the 20th century", comparing it only to the discovery of the okapi in central Africa in 1900.
From the Serengeti to Lake Natron: is the Tanzanian government aiming to destroy its wildlife and lands?
(04/14/2011) What's happening in Tanzania? This is a question making the rounds in conservation and environmental circles. Why is a nation that has so much invested in its wild lands and wild animals willing to pursue projects that appear destined not only to wreak havoc on the East African nation's world-famous wildlife and ecosystems, but to cripple its economically-important tourism industry? The most well known example is the proposed road bisecting Serengeti National Park, which scientists, conservationists, the UN, and foreign governments alike have condemned. But there are other concerns among conservationists, including the fast-tracking of soda ash mining in East Africa's most important breeding ground for millions of lesser flamingo, and the recent announcement to nullify an application for UNESCO Heritage Status for a portion of Tanzania's Eastern Arc Mountains, a threatened forest rich in species found no-where else. According to President Jakaya Kikwete, Tanzania is simply trying to provide for its poorest citizens (such as communities near the Serengeti and the Eastern Arc Mountains) while pursuing western-style industrial development.
World Atlas of Mangroves: A Book Review
(04/14/2011) Because recent research has shown that it is often the case that mangroves store more carbon than tropical forests--from 90 tons to 588 tons carbon from above-ground and below-ground biomass combined with net primary productivity of 7 to 25 tons carbon annually--while providing an estimated ecosystem services value of up to US$ 9270 per hectare per year, the timely publication of the World Atlas of Mangroves is an excellent reference for those of us working to protect mangroves globally. With information sourced from 1400 literature references, the atlas gives the reader the information they need so as to further understand mangrove ecosystems, and the opportunities to develop mangrove ecosystem conservation and carbon projects.
Election cycle linked to deforestation rate in Indonesia
(04/14/2011) Increased fragmentation of political jurisdictions and the election cycle contribute to Indonesia's high deforestation rate according to analysis published by researchers at the London School of Economics (LSE), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and South Dakota State University (SDSU). The research confirms the observation that Indonesian politicians in forest-rich districts seem repay their election debts by granting forest concessions.
Indonesia can meet low carbon goals without sacrificing economic growth, says UK report
(04/14/2011) Indonesia can meet its low carbon development goals without sacrificing economic growth, reports an assessment commissioned by the British government.
Opposition rises against Mekong dam as governments ponder decision
(04/13/2011) As the governments of Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam ready to meet on April 19th to decide whether or not to move forward on the Xayaburi Dam, critics of Mekong River hydroelectric project have warned that the dam will devastate freshwater biodiversity and impact the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands, if not more. Last month a coalition of 263 organizations from 51 countries released a letter in opposition of the dam’s construction.
Gas from 'fracking' not climate friendly
(04/13/2011) It appears every time a fossil fuels industry claims its energy is 'green' or 'climate-friendly', scientists discover this just isn't so. The most recent culprit is natural gas produced by an already controversial method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracing, which extracts the gas from shale basins. A new study in Climatic Change has found that the process of fracing is worse than coal over a 20-year period and about equal over 100-years. Coal had long been considered the worst climate offender of all energy options.
Satellite evidence of deforestation in uncontacted tribe's territory sparks legal action
(04/12/2011) The destruction of 3,600 hectares (8,900 acres) of the Gran Chaco forest in Paraguay by large Brazilian cattle ranching companies has led to a legal complaint filed by a local indigenous-rights organization, since the land in question was one of the last refuges of a group of uncontacted indigenous people in the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode tribe. The loss of the forest was revealed in part by satellite images of the remote area.
Noise in oceans leads to 'severe acoustic trauma' in octopus, squid
(04/12/2011) Researchers have documented for years how noise pollution impacts dolphins in whales, but a new study in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment finds that even low intensity noise can severely injure cephalopods, which include octopus, squid, and cuttlefish. The injuries are bad enough to possibly lead to stranding and death, thereby providing a feasible explanation for a number of recent strandings, including giant squid washing ashore in Spain.
Giant fish help grow the Amazon rainforest
(04/12/2011) A fruit in the flooded Amazon falls from a tree and plops in the water. Before it can even sink to the floor, a 60-pound monster fish with a voracious appetite gobbles it. Nearly a week later—and miles away—the fish expels its waste, including seeds from the fruit eaten long ago and far away. One fortunate seed floats to a particularly suitable spot and germinates. Many years later the new fruit tree is thriving, while the same monster-fish returns from time-to-time, waiting for another meal to drop from the sky. This process is known as seed-dispersal, and while researchers have studied the seed-dispersal capacity of such species as birds, bats, monkeys, and rodents, one type of animal is often overlooked: fish.
Antarctic penguins losing to climate change through 80% krill decline
(04/11/2011) Climate change has hit species of Antarctic penguins by causing a staggering decline in their prey: krill. A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) has found that both chinstrap penguins (Pygoscelis antarcticus) and Adélie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) have seen their populations decline likely do to less krill, instead of habitat changes. Since 1970 krill populations have fallen by 80% in the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica. Because krill require sea ice to reproduce, shrinking sea ice from climate change has made it more difficult for them to breed.
Customs officials confiscate over a thousand monitor lizards headed to China
(04/11/2011) Thai Customs officials have confiscated 1,800 Bengal monitor lizards on the border between Thailand and Malaysia, reports the AFP. Officials said the lizards were likely headed to China for consumption.
A new rhino species?
(04/11/2011) Using genetic data and re-assessing physical evidence, scientists write that they have uncovered a new species of rhino, long considered by biologists as merely a subspecies. Researchers write in an open access PLoS ONE paper published last year that evidence has shown the northern white rhino is in fact a distinct species from the more commonly known—and far more common—southern white rhino. If the scientific community accepts the paper's argument it could impact northern white rhino conservation, as the species would overnight become the world's most endangered rhino species with likely less than ten surviving.
Cambodian prime minister cancels titanium mine project citing impact on biodiversity and local people
(04/11/2011) In a surprise move, the Cambodian Prime Minister, Sandech Hun Sen, has cancelled a titanium strip mine project in one of Southeast Asia’s last great intact forest ecosystems, the Cardamom Mountains. According to a press release sent out by the Cambodian government the mine was canceled due to "concerns of the impact on the environment, biodiversity and local livelihoods" of villagers. The mine, which was planned to sit directly in the migration route for the largest population of Asian elephants in Cambodia, had been largely opposed by locals in the region who spent years developing eco-tourism in the region.
Study calls for REDD+ money to boost yields in West Africa using agrochemicals
(04/10/2011) Small-scale agriculture including cocoa, cassava, and oil palm farming has driven large-scale conversion West Africa tropical forests, reports new research published in the journal Environmental Management.
Conversion of Brazil's cerrado slows
(04/08/2011) Destruction of Brazil's cerrado, a woody savanna that covers 20 percent of the country, slowed during the 2008-2009, reports Brazil's Ministry of Environment.
KFC dumps palm oil due to health, environmental concerns
(04/08/2011) KFC Corporation, the fast food giant, will stop using palm oil in its deep friers, reports The Independent.
Greenpeace says McKinsey's REDD+ work could encourage deforestation
(04/07/2011) One of the world's top consultancies, McKinsey & Co., is providing advice to governments developing 'Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation' (REDD+) programs that could increase risks to tropical forests, claims a new report published by Greenpeace. The report, Bad Influence – how McKinsey-inspired plans lead to rainforest destruction, says that McKinsey’s REDD+ cost curve and baseline scenarios are being used to justify expansion of industrial capacity in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Guyana.
New method to measure threat of extinction could help conservationists prioritize
(04/07/2011) Researchers have developed a new method to predict how close species are to extinction. Dubbed SAFE (Species Ability to Forestall Extinction) the researchers believe the new tool, published in the Frontiers in Ecology and Environment, should help conservationists select which species to focus on saving and which, perhaps controversially, should be let go.
More biodiversity equals cleaner water, but why?
(04/07/2011) A new landmark study not only proves that adding more species to a freshwater stream linearly increases the ecosystem's ability to clean pollutants, but also shows why. The study, published in Nature found that by increasing the biodiversity of a lab controlled mini-stream from one algae species to eight caused the ecosystem to soak up nitrate pollution 4.5 times faster on average. To conduct the experiment, researchers used plastic to create 150 mini model streams. Molding the plastic, they recreated real stream-like habitats such as pools, runs, and eddies. Different species of algae gravitated toward particular mini-habitats, creating special ecological niches and allowing more of the stream to be utilized by the algae for soaking up the nitrate pollution. Less utilization of the available habitats resulted in a dirtier river and vice-versa.
Indigenous group claims Ecuadorian government complicit in 'genocide'
(04/06/2011) Ecuador's paramount indigenous organization has filed a legal complaint against the government, including President Rafael Correa, for allegedly participating in 'genocide' against indigenous people in the Amazon. The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) is arguing that expanding oil exploration and mining is imperiling the lives of uncontacted tribes that have chosen voluntary isolation known as the Tagaeri and the Tarmenane, reports the AFP.
Malaysian palm oil giant in fight with forest people gets rebuke from RSPO
(04/06/2011) A Malaysian palm oil company facing criticism for a land use dispute with forest people in Borneo has been suspended from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an eco-certification body.
The value of the little guy, an interview with Tyler Prize-winning entomologist May Berenbaum
(04/06/2011) May Berenbaum knows a thing or two about insects: in recognition of her lifelong work on the interactions between insects and plants, she has had a character on The X-Files named after her, received the Public Understanding of Science and Technology Award for her work in making science accessible to the public, and this year has been awarded the prestigious Tyler Environmental Prize. "Winning the Tyler Prize is an incredible honor—most of my scientific heroes have been Tyler Prize winners and I’m exceedingly grateful to be considered worthy of being included among their ranks," Berenbaum told mongabay.com in an interview. "The Prize is also tremendously enabling—because the money is unrestricted I can use it to carry out projects that have been difficult to fund."
Japan disaster to put logging pressure on rainforests in Indonesia, Malaysia
(04/05/2011) The tragic earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan last month is likely to boost wood imports into the recovering nation, adding increased pressure on the already imperiled rainforests of Southeast Asia. Even before the disaster, Japan was the world's number one importer of wood chips and plywood and the second largest importer of logs. Japan usually imports plywood from China, Malaysia, and Indonesia, however the forests of Southeast Asia are facing tremendous loss due to logging and clearing for industrial-scale agriculture, such as palm oil.
Vanishing mangroves are carbon sequestration powerhouses
(04/05/2011) Mangroves may be the world's most carbon rich forests, according to a new study in Nature Geoscience. Measuring the carbon stored in 25 mangrove forests in the Indo-Pacific region, researchers found that mangroves forests stored up to four times as much carbon as other tropical forests, including rainforests. "Mangroves have long been known as extremely productive ecosystems that cycle carbon quickly, but until now there had been no estimate of how much carbon resides in these systems. That's essential information because when land-use change occurs, much of that standing carbon stock can be released to the atmosphere," explains co-author Daniel Donato, a postdoctoral research ecologist at the Pacific Southwest Research Station in Hilo, Hawaii.
Iconic cheetah, Chewbaaka, dies
(04/05/2011) The symbol of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), a male cheetah named Chewbaaka has passed away. At the age of 16, Chewbaaka outlived most cheetahs in the wild, but was killed from wounds suffered after a rabid kudu leapt into his enclosure.
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