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How Genghis Khan cooled the planet

(01/20/2011) In 1206 AD Genghis Khan began the Mongol invasion: a horse-crazed bow-wielding military force that swept through much of modern-day Asia into the Middle East and Eastern Europe. But aside from creating the world's largest empire, the Mongol invasion had another global impact that has remained hidden in history according to new research by Julia Pongratz of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology. Genghis Khan and his empire, which lasted nearly two centuries, actually cooled the Earth.


New hope for rare lemurs in Madagascar

(01/20/2011) A survey of a remote forest area in Madagascar turned up seven new groups of silky sifaka, a critically endangered lemur threatened by habitat destruction. The finding raises hope that the species—which is listed as one of the world's 25 most endangered primates—is surviving in Marojejy National Park despite an outbreak of illegal rosewood logging in 2009 and 2010.


UN and conservation organizations condemn big oil's plan to drill in Virunga National Park

(01/20/2011) WWF, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the UN have all recently expressed concerns about two oil companies' plan to explore for oil in Africa's oldest and famed Virunga National Park. Home to a quarter of the world's mountain gorillas, as well as chimpanzees, hippos, lions, forest elephants, and rare birds Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of Africa's most biodiverse parks and is classified by the UN as a World Heritage Site. But according to WWF plans by oil companies SOCO International and Dominion Petroleum could jeopardize not only the wildlife and ecosystems, but also local people.


World's weirdest aphrodisiac: elephant-digested durian fruit

(01/20/2011) The spiky, odorous, weighty, and almost impenetrable durian fruit is considered by some to be a fine delicacy, but others a putrid horror. Its taste has been described between a delicious custard and old gym socks. Still, even durian lovers may be uncomfortable with the idea of eating the fruit after it has been consumed and expelled by a wild Asian elephant. But according to the New Straits Times recently wealthy businessmen are willing to pay over $300 for a sample of elephant-ingested durian, which they believe acts as an aphrodisiac.


Major conservation biology textbook now free online

(01/20/2011) A highly regarded conservation textbook is now available online for free.


Carbon credits 'stolen'

(01/20/2011) The European Union temporarily shut down its carbon market after a security breach, reports Point Carbon.


NASA images reveal consistent climate warming among different temperature records

(01/19/2011) New images released by NASA illustrate how four different global temperature records show remarkably consistent warming around the world. Currently, global temperatures are analyzed by four major organizations: NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), NOAA National Climatic Data Center, Met Office Hadley Center’s Climatic Research Unit, and the Japanese Meteorological Agency. Although each organization has garnered slightly different results year-to-year, all show a consistent warming trend globally, including that the most recent decade as the warmest since record-keeping began in the late Nineteenth Century.


Last year worst yet for rhino killings in South Africa

(01/19/2011) Three hundred and thirty-three rhinos were killed in South Africa last year, the highest number yet. Ten of the rhino were black rhinos, which are listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List, the rest were white rhinos, listed as Near Threatened. In total South Africa has over 20,000 rhinos.


Africa gains new elephant species

(01/19/2011) DNA evidence has shown that the forest elephant-Africa's smaller, shyer pachyderm-is indeed a separate species from the much more well-known savanna elephant. While scientists have long debated the status of the forest elephant (should it be considered a separate population, a subspecies, or a unique species?) a new study in the open-access journal PLoS Biology finds that genetically the forest elephant is unarguably a new species. If conservation authorities accept the new study, it will change elephant conservation efforts throughout Africa.


Lion poisonings decimating vultures in Kenya

(01/19/2011) It's a common image of the African savanna: vultures flocking to a carcass on the great plains. However, a new study has found that vulture populations are plummeting in Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve, a part of the Serengeti plains, due to habitat loss as well as the illegal killing of lions. Increasingly farmers and livestock owners have targeted lions and other big predators by poisoning livestock carcasses with toxic pesticides, such as Furadan. Not only illegal, such poisonings take their toll on other Serengeti wildlife, including vultures that perish after feeding on the laced carcasses.


Australia's floods threaten Great Barrier Reef

(01/18/2011) The floods ransacking the Queensland coast have cost 20 lives and $500 million worth of property damage. Now, huge volumes of water are pouring into the ocean, threatening the Great Barrier Reef, which extends for thousands of kilometers off the coast. Although it may take years to know the full consequences of the flooding, Australian scientists are already warning of serious damage. For now, the biggest problems are concentrated on the southern part of the reef, where three overflowing rivers—the Burdekin, the Fitzroy, and the Burnett—have released millions of gallons of heavily polluted water into the sea. So far, prevailing winds have confined the majority of the floodwaters to within 65 kilometers of shore. But in time, the damage may grow to affect the entire reef system.


Sustainable timber in Tanzania experiences huge growth

(01/18/2011) The level of Tanzanian timber forest certified as sustainable increased by 700 percent earlier this month. The certification not only represents an environmental win, but is expected to bring opportunities and money to the communities which exist within and around the forests.


American cougars on the decline: 'We’re running against the clock,' says big cat expert

(01/17/2011) It holds the Guinness World Record for having the most names of any animal on the planet, with 40 in English alone. It's also the widest-ranging native land animal in the Americas, yet is declining throughout much of its range. Mongabay talks with big cat expert Dr. Howard Quigley about the status and research implications of the elusive, enigmatic, and unique cougar.


Amount of carbon absorbed by ecosystems each year is grossly overstated, says new study

(01/17/2011) According to a new paper published in Science, current carbon accounting methods significantly overstate the amount of carbon that can be absorbed by forests, plains, and other terrestrial ecosystems. That is because most current carbon accounting methods do not consider the methane and carbon dioxide released naturally by rivers, streams, and lakes. This new paper suggests that rivers, streams, and lakes emit the equivalent of 2.05 billion metric tons of carbon every year. (By comparison, all the terrestrial ecosystems on the world’s continents are thought to absorb around 2.6 billion metric tons of carbon each year). This is, as the lead author of the paper said, is a “major accounting error”.


Italy and Panama continue illegal fishing, says new report

(01/15/2011) On Wednesday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued its biennial report identifying six countries whose fisheries have been engaged in illegal, unreported, or unregulated (IUU) fishing during the past two years. The report comes at a time when one-fifth of reported fish catches worldwide are caught illegally and commercial fishing has led to a global fish stock overexploitation of an estimated 80 percent.


Picture: rare cat photographed in Borneo not believed to be extinct

(01/15/2011) Camera traps have photographed a rare small cat species in Borneo, but contrary to claims in The Telegragh, which reported on the story, the Bornean bay cat was not believed to be extinct, only rare.


Brazil's environment chief resigns over controversial Amazon dam

(01/14/2011) The president of Brazil's environmental agency IBAMA has resigned over pressure to grant a license for the Belo Monte dam, a hydroelectric project on the Xingu River that faces strong opposition from environmental groups and indigenous tribes, reports O Globo.


Indonesia to open protected forests to geothermal power

(01/14/2011) The Indonesian government will soon issue a decree allowing geothermal mining in protected forests, reports The Jakarta Post.


2010 ties for the warmest year on record

(01/14/2011) 2010 tied 2005 as the warmest year on record, according to separate analyses by NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).


Hyenas discovered in Armenia? Researchers find carcass, tracks

(01/14/2011) On October 1, 2010, the carcass of a striped hyena was found entangled in barbed wire surrounding an orchard in southern Armenia. The find represents the region's first confirmed hyena observation in over 60 years.


Pictures: Scientists discover carnivorous pygmy dinosaur

(01/13/2011) Scientists have announced the discovery of a new species of carnivorous dinosaur which lived 230 million years ago in what is today Argentina.


Does chopping down rainforests for pulp and paper help alleviate poverty in Indonesia?

(01/13/2011) Over the past several years, Asia Pulp & Paper has engaged in a marketing campaign to represent its operations in Sumatra as socially and environmentally sustainable. APP and its agents maintain that industrial pulp and paper production — as practiced in Sumatra — does not result in deforestation, is carbon neutral, helps protect wildlife, and alleviates poverty. While a series of analyses and reports have shown most of these assertions to be false, the final claim has largely not been contested. But is conversion of lowland rainforests for pulp and paper really in Indonesia's best economic interest?


Agricultural innovation will reduce poverty, help stabilize climate change according to new report

(01/12/2011) With nearly a billion people people going hungry in the world today as 40 percent of the global food stock is wasted before it is consumed, many are seeking ways to increase the efficiency of the world's food system. Worldwatch Institute, an environmental sustainability and social welfare research organization, today released State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, which highlights recent successes in agricultural innovation and outlines ways to reduce global hunger and poverty while at the same time minimizing the impact of agriculture on the environment.


Pictures: 6 'lost' frog species discovered in Haiti

(01/12/2011) On the eve of the anniversary of last year's destructive earthquake, scientists have announced a bit of positive news out of Haiti: the rediscovery of six species of frogs.


New Zealand: Can you sink a rainbow?

(01/12/2011) In a world wracked by Cold War, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, David Lange defends the country’s fledgling nuclear free policy by refusing the nuclear warship USS Buchanan’s entry into New Zealand’s shores. A historic day. He had received an almost unprecedented standing ovation at the Oxford Union Debate four months earlier where he had successfully argued the proposition that "nuclear weapons are morally indefensible". He was held high in the estimations of dedicated environmental group, Greenpeace for doing this, who were also fighting for the cease of nuclear testing and for New Zealand to be a leader in environmental protection. In addition, he was respected by his country for his bold stand.


Photos: Scientists race to protect world's most endangered corals

(01/11/2011) As corals around the world disappear at alarming rates, scientists are racing to protect the ones they can. At a workshop led by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the world's foremost coral experts met in response to a decade of unprecedented reef destruction to identify and develop conservation plans for the ten most critically endangered coral species.


Wildlife crime goes largely unpunished in Indonesia

(01/10/2011) Indonesia is famed for its wildlife diversity. Straddling the contact zone between Asia and Australia, evolution has created some of the earth’s most remarkable species here. Think babirusa , Komodo dragon, orangutan and birds of paradise, and you get the picture. Indonesia is famed for its wildlife diversity. Straddling the contact zone between Asia and Australia, evolution has created some of the earth's most remarkable species here. Think babirusa, Komodo dragon, orangutan and birds of paradise, and you get the picture. Most of us also know that Indonesia has a major problem maintaining this diversity through effective conservation programs. Not a day goes by without Indonesia appearing somewhere in the world’s media with a negative story on how it is managing its wildlife.


Al Gore thanks Indonesian president for forest, climate commitment

(01/10/2011) Opening a climate summit in Jakarta, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore thanked Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for his commitment to reduce projected greenhouse gas emissions, reports the Jakarta Globe.


Japanese firm is deadliest for marine life, says Greenpeace

(01/10/2011) Greenpeace has ranked the canned tuna corporation Princes as the most environmentally damaging tuna brand in the U.K., citing that the Japanese company uses destructive fishing methods and that its claims of sustainability are blatantly untrue.


Burning up biodiversity: forest fires increase in Madagascar

(01/10/2011) The number of fires burning in and around forests in the northeastern part of Madagascar increased during the 2010 burning season relative the the year before, according to analysis of NASA data by WildMadagascar.org / Mongabay.com. The rise in burning corresponds to an especially dry year and continued illegal logging of the region's biologically-rich rainforests.


Meat producers should replace cattle with insects, scientists say

(01/10/2011) Scientists in the Netherlands have discovered that insects produce significantly less greenhouse gas per kilogram of meat than cattle or pigs. Their study, published in the online journal PLoS One, suggests that a move towards insect farming could result in a more sustainable - and affordable - form of meat production.


Sales of RSPO-certified palm oil surge 225%

(01/10/2011) Sales of palm oil certified under the leading sustainability standard surged 225 percent in 2010, suggesting growing consumer interest in more responsibly-sourced palm oil.


4.1-magnitude quake shakes San Francisco Bay Area

(01/08/2011) A 4.1-magnitude earthquake shook the San Francisco Bay Area Friday afternoon.


Leatherback sea turtles tracked for first time in South Atlantic

(01/07/2011) Leatherback sea turtles undertake one of the longest journeys of any animal as they traverse the oceans in search of food, navigating hazards such as plastic pollution and fishing operations. A new study published in the Royal Society Journal Proceedings B has for the first time mapped their odyssey through the South Atlantic.


Ancient bird evolved "clubs" to beat predators, each other

(01/07/2011) Researchers have discovered that the thick wing bones of an ancient flightless bird which once lived in Jamaica may have been used as clubs to beat predators and even members of its own species.


"End of Days" bird kill just a fraction of real death toll

(01/07/2011) The sudden en-masse deaths of thousands of birds in the Southern U.S. on the night of New Year's Eve have created a frenzy of media attention, but in reality hardly compare to the massive number that die each year because of human activity.


Harpy eagles nest in Belize for the first time in over 60 years (pictures)

(01/06/2011) Scientists have confirmed the presence of a harpy eagle nest in the Maya Mountains of Belize. The discovery represents the most northerly breeding pair in the Americas, and signals a comeback for a species which has become locally extinct in much of Central America due to human activity.


Bluefin tuna gets record price ($396,000) at Japanese auction

(01/06/2011) On Tuesday, a 752-pound Pacific bluefin tuna was sold at Japanese auction for the highest price ever received for raw seafood - $396,000. The price tops the previous record by more than $100,000 and comes at a time when tuna populations around the world are experiencing precipitous declines.


Renewed conflict between tribes and oil companies looms in Peru

(01/06/2011) Indigenous peoples and their allies have intensified their fight against two oil companies over contamination in the Peruvian Amazon. Last week, a group of indigenous protesters blockaded portions of the Marañon and Corrientes Rivers in the province of Loreto in northeastern Peru. The protesters were demanding that Pluspetrol, an Argentinean oil company, compensate them for a recent oil spill. As of December 28th, after eight days, the blockade remained unbroken.


With REDD, could financial markets become species' extinction risk?

(01/06/2011) The emergence of a Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) mechanism for protecting forests could introduce new risks for biodiversity by linking conservation finance to exotic financial derivatives, warn researchers writing in the journal Conservation Letters. Jacob Phelps, Edward L. Webb, and Lian P. Koh argue that REDD could effectively link the fate of some species to the short-term whims of the carbon market. Conservation projects funded primarily by REDD are most at risk of being undermined by declining in carbon prices or changing investor preference. The authors add that the short-term nature of REDD—which is seen as a stop gap measure of at most 30 years—may fail deliver benefits over the time-scale need to safeguard biodiversity.


Indonesia delays logging moratorium

(01/05/2011) Bureaucratic confusion has led Indonesia to delay implementation of its two-year moratorium on new logging and plantation concessions in forest areas and peatlands, reports the Jakarta Globe.


U.S. passes legislation to protect sharks

(01/05/2011) The U.S. Senate has passed the Shark Conservation Act, legislation that bans shark finning in U.S. waters.


Sustainability of Antarctic toothfish fishery, legitimacy of Marine Stewardship Council called into question

(01/05/2011) In November of 2010, the Antarctic toothfish fishery was deemed sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. This certification goes against the advice of many marine scientists who claim that insufficient research has been done to determine the full impact of commercial fishing on this enigmatic species.


Mediterranean Sea may be polluted with 250 billion microplastics

(01/05/2011) The 2010 scientific expedition undertaken by the European program called Mediterranean En-Dangered (MED) reveals that 250 billion microplastics could be found in the Mediterranean Sea. The main goal of the program, which will end in 2013, is to quantify the distribution of plastic pollution and better understand its dynamics in the Mediterranean Sea. Microplastics are usually defined as plastic particles smaller than 5 millimeters, so for most part they are invisible to human eyes.


Atlantic ocean warming confirmed by corals

(01/05/2011) A new study investigating the ability of coral to record sea temperatures indicates that the Northwestern Atlantic has experienced unprecedented warming during the past 150 years.


GM crop contamination may be product of sloppy handling, not cross-pollination

(01/04/2011) A recent study has suggested that sloppy seed handling may be partially responsible for the presence of genetically modified plants in conventional fields. For years, farmers have been reporting that fields planted with traditional seeds sometimes yield GM plants. Many scientists believe that this pattern is due to cross-pollination: insects carry pollen from neighboring GM fields into conventional fields, resulting in some GM plants. But a new paper just published in PLoS One argues that the effect of cross-pollination is actually quite small. In the fields tested by the researchers, fewer than 1 percent of all conventional cotton plants produced genetically modified Bt seed as a result of insect cross-pollination.


U.S. bumble bees experiencing significant declines

(01/04/2011) Many US bumble bee populations have declined significantly over the past few decades, with certain species dropping off by as much as 96%. While the decline is linked to low genetic diversity and disease, an underlying cause remains uncertain.


Did Haiti's deforestation, hurricane trigger deadly earthquake?

(01/04/2011) Erosion caused by hurricanes and large-scale deforestation may have contributed to last year's devastating earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people in Haiti, according to a geologist at the University of Miami.


Malaysian customs seizes 1,800 trafficked reptiles

(01/04/2011) Malaysia ended 2010 with the confiscation of 4.3 metric tons of reptiles near the Thai border on December 20th, reports the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network, TRAFFIC. The confiscation was the largest of the year and consisted of over 1,800 monitor lizards, snakes, freshwater turtles, and tortoises.


Lemur poaching continues in Madagascar [warning: graphic pictures]

(01/03/2011) A lemur poacher was intercepted with 32 dead lemurs on New Year's Eve in Madagascar's northeastern town of Vohemar, suggesting that killing of lemurs for the commercial bushmeat trade continues on the island nation, reports Fanamby, a Madagascar-based conservation group.


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