conservation news and environmental science news.
France's Suez liable for illegal deforestation, "dynamite fishing" in the Amazon rainforest
(02/11/2009) A consortium building the Jirau hydroelectric dam in Brazil near the Bolivian border has been ordered to pay roughly $3.5 million in fines for illegally logging nearly 50 acres (18.6 ha) of forest and using dynamite to kill 11 tons of fish in local rivers, reports the Spanish news agency EFE.
Jaguar photographed for the first time in Central Mexico
(02/11/2009) As a result of a research effort by the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico (UAEM) and the University of Alicante (UA), scientists have for the first time photographed a wild jaguar in central Mexico. The sighting has significant conservation implications, showing that the big cat still occurs in central Mexico despite persecution by hunters, habitat destruction, and depletion of prey.
Global warming drives birds north
(02/11/2009) Nearly 60 percent of the 305 species found in North America in winter have shifted their ranges northward by an average of 35 miles, according to an assessment by the Audubon Society.
Global warming may drive the Amazon rainforest toward seasonal forests rather than savanna
(02/11/2009) Changes in rainfall resulting from climate change may drive the parts of Amazon rainforest toward seasonal forests rather than savanna, argue researchers writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Obama blocks offshore oil drilling for now
(02/11/2009) The Obama administration has shelved a plan by the Bush Administration to open U.S. coastal waters to oil and gas drilling. The proposal, put forth on the last business day of the Bush Administration, had been vehemently opposed by environmental groups.
Middle class communities are worst managers of fisheries
(02/11/2009) "Middle class" villages in Africa are more likely to deplete their fisheries than poor- and wealthy communities, reports a new study published in Current Biology.
South American fox confronts prey eight times its size
(02/10/2009) In a paper in Mammalia researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) announce the first observation of South America’s culpeo fox hunting young guanacos, a relative of llamas. In doing so the fox comes head-to-head with aggressive mothers defending their young: researchers were surprised to find the small 30 pound (14 kg) predator facing off a group of 260 pound (120 kg) adult guanacos.
Indonesian ecolabeling initiative providing cover for rainforest destruction
(02/10/2009) The Indonesian Ecolabel Institute is facilitating rainforest destruction by issuing "sustainable forest management certificates" to companies that convert natural and peatlands into industrial timber estates, allege national environmental groups.
Amazon indian tribe accused of killing and eating farmer
(02/10/2009) Five members of the Kulina tribe in the Brazilian Amazon are on the run after allegedly killing and eating a farmer in a "ritual act of cannibalism", reports CNN.
Political violence in Madagascar may lead Daewoo to abandon controversial farm project
(02/10/2009) Political instability and low commodity prices may lead South Korea's Daewoo Logistics to delay or pull out of a controversial agricultural project in Madagascar, reports Reuters.
Kerry, Lugar: U.S. has opportunity to lead on climate, forest conservation
(02/10/2009) The United States can reassert itself as a global leader on the environment by supporting an initiative to fight climate change by protecting forests, said leaders from a broad range of political, environmental, development and business communities at a meeting on Capitol Hill Monday. Joined by senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Richard Lugar, the "Avoided Deforestation Partners" coalition called for Congress to include "strong tropical forest protection measures in U.S. climate change legislation" ahead of this December's climate conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Salamander populations collapse in Central America
(02/09/2009) Salamanders in Central America — like frogs, toads, and other amphibians at sites around the world — are rapidly and mysteriously declining, report researchers writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Disturbingly, salamanders are disappearing from protected areas and otherwise pristine habitats.
408 mammal species discovered since 1993
(02/09/2009) The discovery of 408 species of mammals — the planet's best-known group of animals since 1993 demonstrates our poor understanding of global biodiversity, argue scientists writing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
48 'new' species of dinosaur discovered
(02/09/2009) In just four years a University of Portsmouth palaeontologist has discovered 48 new species from the age of the dinosaurs.
As sea ice retreats, swathe of Arctic closed to fishing
(02/06/2009) The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) voted unanimously to close off more than 150,000 square nautical miles of the Arctic sea to commercial fishing. The decision, welcomed by an array of environmentalists and industry groups, is a preventative measure to protect fisheries that have become more accessible as a result of declining sea ice in the Arctic. It is the first time that the federal government has closed a fishery due to climate change instead of over-fishing, says supporters of the ban.
Boy Scouts of America have logged 34,000 acres of forest in 20 years
(02/06/2009) A nationwide review of the Boy Scouts of America by Hearst newspapers has shown that one-third of Boy Scouts’ councils have been involved in logging to raise funds for the beleaguered organization.
New model uses carbon credits, sustainable palm oil to save Indonesia's rainforests
(02/05/2009) The World Resources Institute (WRI) has launched an innovative avoided deforestation model that aims to deter conversion of Indonesian rainforest for oil palm plantations. The project, dubbed "POTICO" (Palm Oil, TImber, Carbon Offsets), integrates sustainable palm oil, FSC-certified timber, and carbon offsets in order to "divert new oil palm plantations onto degraded lands and bring the forests that were slated for conversion into certified sustainable forestry".
Tropical forest tree is source of new mosquito repellent as effective as DEET
(02/05/2009) Isolongifolenone, a natural compound found in the Tauroniro tree (Humiria balsamifera) of South America, has been identified as an effective deterrent of mosquitoes and ticks, report researchers writing in the latest issue of Journal of Medical Entomology.
Gravitational effects may boost sea level rise by 25% along U.S. coast
(02/05/2009) The melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet could cause sea level to rise more than previously predicted for some regions, including the U.S. coastline, report researchers writing in the journal Science.
Frogs can be used to predict biodiversity hotspots
(02/05/2009) Tree frogs may help scientists inexpensively predict biodiversity hotspots for conservation, report researchers writing in the journal Science.
Secretary of Energy warns of dire future for agriculture in California
(02/05/2009) Secretary of Energy Steven Chu warned climate change could severely impact California agricultural industry by the end of the century, reported the Los Angeles Times.
Indigenous rights' groups to oppose effort to certify 'sustainable' aquaculture
(02/05/2009) A coalition of indigenous rights' groups and grassroots environmental organizations will oppose the World Wildlife Fund's move to improve environmental stewardship of the aquaculture industry through a certification system.
Butterfly tricks ants by mimicking their queen’s vocalizations
(02/05/2009) With cohesive hierarchical societies and a number of communication techniques, ants have been able to conquer a wide variety of ecosystems with great success. However, according to a recent paper in Science ants’ highly structured society at times comes with a price. A number of insects have evolved means to covertly infiltrate the ants’ society and live off their work and bounty by closely mimicking various ant communication methods. While scientists believe that these parasitical insects largely mimic ant communications like chemical exchange and physical contact—such as touching antennae—the study, however, discovered a butterfly which succeeds in infiltrating the highest echelons of ant society by vocalizing like a queen.
New York zoos, aquariums saved from funding cut
(02/05/2009) The New York State Legislature has rejected Governor David Paterson's proposal to cut funding for state zoos by 55 percent for 2009 after public uproar.
Global warming to strengthen Arctic storms
(02/05/2009) Arctic storms could worsen due to climate change, putting fisheries, oil and gas exploration, and sea lanes at risk, warn researchers writing in the journal Climate Dynamics.
Brazil to boost spending on infrastructure to counter economic crisis
(02/05/2009) Brazil will increase spending on infrastructure projects by 28 percent to in response to the global financial crisis, reports Bloomberg.
Sustainable farming is the only way to feed the planet going forward
(02/05/2009) Embracing more sustainable farming methods is the only way for the world's farmers to grow enough food to meet the demands of a growing population and respond to climate change, the top crop expert with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today.
Norway to pay Guyana to save its rainforests
(02/05/2009) Norway will provide financial support for Guyana's ambitious plan to conserve its rainforests, reports the Guyana Chronicle. Meeting in Oslo, Norway on Tuesday, Guyana President Bharrat Jagdeo and Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg signed a Memorandum of Understanding agreeing to establish a partnership to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD). The leaders will push for the incorporation of a REDD mechanism that includes low deforestation countries like Guyana in a post-2012 climate change agreement.
Google Earth now allows ocean exploration, tracking of sharks
(02/05/2009) Google Earth now allows users to dive beneath the surface of the world's oceans to see coral reefs, trenches, and other marine wonders. The new version, Google Earth 5, includes layers showing locations of shipwrecks and surf spots; routes for ocean expeditions; the movements of GPS-tracked sea animals; and information (including videos and images) about the ocean environment from sources including National Geographic, the Cousteau Society, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Cap or Tax Carbon Emissions?
(02/04/2009) Debate is raging about the relative merits of a carbon tax or a cap and trade system as the centerpiece of federal legislation to reduce emissions that fuel global warming. Here is why cap and trade must be the U.S. policy instrument of choice.
Monstrous prehistoric snake provides glimpse of warmer tropical forests
(02/04/2009) On Wednesday scientists announced the discovery of the world’s largest snake, a prehistoric beast which preyed on giant turtles and crocodile-like reptiles in South America after the demise of the dinosaurs. As amazing as the discovery is, its greatest importance may be the clues it provides conservationists about the future of tropical forests under various global warming scenarios.
World’s largest snake discovered: prehistoric serpent was twice the size of an anaconda
(02/04/2009) Paleontologists have recently uncovered the world’s largest snake announces a paper in Nature. Measuring an astonishing 42 to 45 feet, the Titanoboa cerrejonensis makes the anaconda look diminutive. In fact the prehistoric serpent even makes once-ridiculous horror movie snakes appear conservative. "Truly enormous snakes really spark people's imagination, but reality has exceeded the fantasies of Hollywood," said Jonathan Bloch, one of the leaders of the party that discovered the prehistoric serpent. "The snake that tried to eat Jennifer Lopez in the movie Anaconda is not as big as the one we found."
Heart of Borneo conservation initiative at risk from Indonesian development plan
(02/04/2009) Indonesia's Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono is pushing a proposal to develop economic zones along the border between Malaysia and Kalimantan "as soon as possible" for national security reasons, reports the Jakarta Globe. The plan — which Juwono claims is to protect Indonesia's sovereignty — would undermine the historic Heart of Borneo conservation initiative signed in 2007 by spurring massive expansion of logging, plantation development, and road construction in the biologically-rich region.
Malaysian government says forest reserve 'plundered' for oil palm development
(02/03/2009) Responding to allegations by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) that indigenous people have been forced from their lands (a charge it denied), the Sabah Forestry Department said that more than 30 percent of Mt. Pock And Tanjong Nagos Forest Reserves were "plundered" by "people with means to plant illegal oil palm including companies" up until 2001. The statement is noteworthy in that leaders of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, the marketing and lobbying arm of the Malaysian palm oil industry, have maintained that oil expansion has not taken place at the expense of natural forest in Malaysia.
Photos of new frogs discovered in Colombia
(02/03/2009) Ten undescribed species of amphibians — including nine frog and one salamander — have been discovered in the mountains of Colombia, report scientists from Conservation International (CI). The "new" amphibians included spiky-skinned, orange-legged rain frog, three poison dart frogs and three glass frogs, named for their transparent skin. The amphibians were discovered during a recent Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) expedition in the Tacarcuna area of the Darien, near the border with Panama.
12 new species of frogs discovered in India
(02/03/2009) A dozen previously unknown species of frogs have been discovered in the forests of Western Ghats according to a paper published in latest issue of Zoological Journal of Linnean Society, London. The 12 species have been identified following a revision of the Philautus genus and are the result of ten years of field study in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka. Goa, Maharashtra, and part of Gujarat, in the Western Ghats. The Western Ghats are considered a global biodiversity hotspot for their species richness and the threats the mountain range faces.
Cellulosic ethanol healthier, better for the environment, than corn ethanol
(02/03/2009) Ethanol produced from switchgrass, prairie biomass, and Miscanthus will reduce the environmental and health impacts of expanded biofuels production relative to using corn as a feedstock, report researchers writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Nemo at risk from CO2 emissions? Ocean acidification may hurt baby fish
(02/02/2009) Increasing carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere may have an unexpected impact on marine ecosystems: disorienting fish larvae. Research published in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) found that ocean acidification disrupts the olfactory sense of clownfish larvae, making it difficult for the fish to find a habitat, which for clownfish is a sea anemone.
Chocolate has been a delicacy north of Mexico for a thousand years
(02/02/2009) Chocolate, produced from cacao beans, has been a part of American culture for a thousand years according to new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Analyzing chemical residue from jars of native peoples in New Mexico, researchers Patricia Crown and Jeffrey Hurst discovered theobromine, a chemical signature of cacao. The jars have been dated from 1000 to 1125 AD, well over three hundred years before Columbus and the earliest recorded discovery of cacao north of Mexico. The cacao jars are from Pueblo Bonito, an archaeological site in Chaco Canyon, which is located in northwestern New Mexico. Chaco Canyon, once home to 2,000-5,000 inhabitants, was composed of a dense group of pueblos, of which Bonito was the largest. Incorporating 800 rooms, Pueblo Bonito was the center of a number of towns and villages in Chaco Canyon.
Seeking out the world’s rarest and most endangered birds
(02/02/2009) For an evolutionary biologist there is no conservation group whose work is more exciting than EDGE, a program developed by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). Unique in the conservation world, EDGE chooses the species to focus on based on a combination of their threat of extinction and evolutionary distinctness. Katrina Fellerman, an evolutionary biologist herself and the EDGE birds’ coordinator, describes the organization as one that focuses on species, which “to put it bluntly, if lost, there would be nothing like them left in the world today”. Explaining further Fellerman says “We use evolutionary distinctiveness (ED) as a species-specific measure of the relative evolutionary value of species - it is a way of apportioning conservation value according to a species’ phylogenetic position. Species with few or no close relatives on the ‘tree of life’ have the highest ED scores.”
Embarking on a career in science? Learn from interviews with young scientists
(02/02/2009) Mongabay.com is excited to announce a new series of interviews with 'young scientists'. These interviews will focus on scientists who while only recently starting their career have already achieved notable success.
Amazon scientists awarded 'Nobel Prize' of conservation
(02/01/2009) Thomas Lovejoy of the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment and William F. Laurance of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) have been awarded one of ecology's most coveted prizes for their work to understand and conserve the Amazon rainforest. The €400,000 BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Ecology and Conservation Biology is given annually to "honor contributions which significantly advance the stock of knowledge in this area for reasons of their importance and originality."
Wind energy jobs now exceed coal mining jobs
(02/01/2009) Wind industry jobs now outnumber those in coal mining, reports CNNMoney.
Giant population of lions could live war-torn region
(01/30/2009) The war-torn frontier between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo has prey to support more than 900 lions, but conservationists must act soon to protect the big cats from poaching and poisoning by livestock herders, report researchers writing in the journal Oryx. The study, which was conducted by Adrian Treves of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and colleagues from Wildlife Conservation Society and the Panthera Foundation, relied on aerial surveys of lion prey — buffalo, warthog, waterbuck and other ungulates — which were then used to estimate the region's potential lion population.
Photo of new bird species discovered in China
(01/30/2009) A previously unknown species of babbler has been discovered in China's Guangxi province near the border with Vietnam, reports Birdlife International.
Glaciers decline in ice mass for 18th straight year
(01/30/2009) Glaciers worldwide lost ice mass for the 18th consecutive year due to warming temperatures and reduce snowfall, reports the University of Zurich’s World Glacier Monitoring Service. Alpine glaciers lost on average 1.3 meters of thickness in 2006 and 0.7 meters in 2007, extending an 11.3-meter (36-foot) retreat since 1980.
California faces severe drought
(01/30/2009) California appears to be on track for its worst drought since the early 1990s, warned the state's Department of Water Resources (DWR) following its survey of snowpack and other water resources.
Gore pushes for avoided deforestation to save rainforests during testimony
(01/29/2009) In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, former Vice President Al Gore urged lawmakers to move swiftly on a cap-and-trade climate bill as well as the economic stimulus package. Among many recommendations, Gore repeatedly emphasized the importance of forest conservation in fighting climate change, mentioning "deforestation" more than a dozen times.
Beef drives 80% of Amazon deforestation
(01/29/2009) Nearly 80 percent of land deforested in the Amazon from 1996-2006 is now used for cattle pasture, according to new maps released today in a report by Greenpeace at the World Social Forum in Belem, Brazil. The report, Amazon Cattle Footprint: Mato Grosso: State of Destruction, confirms that cattle ranching is the primary driver of deforestation in Earth's largest rainforest: the Brazilian Amazon.
Iron fertilization of oceans may be ineffective in fighting global warming
(01/29/2009) Schemes to promote increased carbon uptake by plankton via iron fertilization of oceans will be less effective than previously believed, report researchers writing in the journal Nature.
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