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News articles on biodiversity
Mongabay.com news articles on biodiversity in blog format. Updated regularly.
(08/20/2009) New pictures released by Conservation International depict a troubling development in Madagascar: the emergence of a commercial bushmeat market for lemurs. In the aftermath of a March coup that saw Madagascar's president replaced at gunpoint by the capital city's mayor, Madagascar's reserves — especially in the northern part of the country — were ravaged by illegal loggers. Armed bands, financed by foreign timber traders, went into Marojejy and Masoala national parks, harvesting valuable hardwoods including rosewood and ebonies. Without support from the central government — or international agencies that pulled aid following the coup — there was no one to stop the carnage. But now it emerges that timber wasn't the only target.
World's rarest tree kangaroo gets help from those who once hunted it
(08/17/2009) The world's rarest tree kangaroo is in the midst of a comeback in a remote part of Papua New Guinea. On the brink of extinction in 2001 with a population estimated at fewer than 100 individuals, Scott's Tree Kangaroo (Dendrolagus scottae), or the tenkile, is recovering, thanks to the efforts of the Tenkile Conservation Alliance to motivate local communities to reduce hunting and respect critical forest habitat. The tenkile Conservation Alliance, led by Australians Jim and Jean Thomas, works to provide alternative sources of protein and raise environmental awareness among local communities.
Economic crisis threatens conservation programs and endangered species, an interview with Paula Kahumbu of WildlifeDirect
(08/17/2009) Founded in 2004 by legendary conservationist Richard Leakey, WildlifeDirect is an innovative member of the conservation community. WildlifeDirect is really a meta-organization: it gathers together hundreds of conservation initiatives who blog regularly about the trials and joys of practicing on-the-ground conservation. From stories of gorillas reintroduced in the wild to tracking elephants in the Okavango Delta to saving sea turtles in Sumatra, WildlifeDirect provides the unique experience of actually hearing directly from scientists and conservationists worldwide.
Borneo ablaze: forest fires threaten world’s largest remaining population of orangutans
(08/16/2009) Raging fires have broken out in the peat-swamp forests of Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo, threatening the largest population of orangutans in the world. The fires were started by people but have spread uncontrollably due to the extreme drought that Borneo is currently experiencing as a result of El Niño conditions.
Pesticide use linked to dying frogs in California
(08/13/2009) Pesticides used by farmers in California's Central Valley could be killing frogs in the Sierra mountains, report researchers.
Historical deforestation in Madagascar may not be as bad as commonly believed
(08/12/2009) The long-held assumption that Madagascar has lost 90 percent of its forest cover due to fire and slash-and-burn agriculture may be overstated, argues new research published in Conservation Letters. Analyzing 6000-year pollen records in four sites, Malika Virah-Sawmy of Oxford University found evidence that vegetation in southeast Madagascar has for millennia been a mosaic of forests, woodlands and savannas, rather than continuous forests as generally believed. Virah-Sawmy says the findings demonstrate the importance of conserving Madagascar's remaining ecosystems as a buffer against climate change.
Farmers have poor understanding of role of wildlife in protecting crops
(08/10/2009) Environmental conservation depends, to a large degree, on public acceptance. Understanding people’s opinions on ecosystems and wildlife can be very helpful in designing programs that aim to benefit both the environment and society. A new study, published in Tropical Conservation Science, interviewed organic shade-coffee farmers in Cuetzalan, Mexico, to understand how they perceive the wild animals that live in their fields, as well as their knowledge of the ecological roles these species play in maintaining ecosystem services.
Golden lion tamarins play key role in seed dispersal in Brazil's Mata Atlantica
(08/10/2009) Golden lion tamarins play an important role in seed dispersal in Brazil's Mata Atlantica, report researchers writing in the the journal Tropical Conservation Science.
Priorities in global bird conservation 'misplaced'
(08/10/2009) Bird conservation is misplacing its priorities by focusing on non-threatened bird species in developed countries, rather than threatened species from tropical nations, report researchers writing in Tropical Conservation Science.
Better species distribution modeling needed for the tropics
(08/10/2009) In order to conserve the world's biodiversity we need to know where species are found. We also need to predict where they might be found if the climate changes or human activity alters habitats. One way of gaining such knowledge is through field studies. Such work on the ground produces lists of species and adds to museum collections. However many tropical areas have not yet been visited by scientists. Even the most detailed studies from the best known areas of the tropics are far from exhaustive. This means that accurate distribution maps are not available for many tropical species. In order to address the problem increasingly sophisticated computer models have been designed that aim to predict where species might occur based on current knowledge. These models can often add a great deal of value to the limited information available. However, models are only as good as the data from which they are built.
New website consolidates national red lists for endangered species
(08/09/2009) The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) has brought together national red lists from around the world for the first time in one location. From the cliff tiger beetle in the United Kingdom (classified as ‘rare’) to the Asian elephant in Sir Lanka (considered ‘vulnerable’) the website (www.nationalredlists.org) brings together data on over 50,000 species from 40 countries.
Turning wasteland into rainforest
(07/31/2009) The highly touted reforestation project launched by orangutan conservationist Willie Smits in Indonesian Borneo is detailed in this week's issue of Science.
REDD shouldn't neglect biodiversity say scientists
(07/30/2009) Schemes to mitigate climate change by protecting tropical forests must take into account biodiversity conservation, said two leading scientific organizations at the conclusion of a four day meeting in Marburg, Germany.
Photo: First bald Asian songbird discovered
(07/30/2009) Researchers have discovered a bald species of songbird in a remote part of Laos, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society. The "Bare-faced Bulbul" is the first new species of bulbul – a family of about 130 species – described in Asia in over 100 years.
Extinction debt can last millions of years
(07/29/2009) Extinction can be set in motion millions of years before a species' actual demise, suggesting that present-day drivers of habitat destruction and degradation may have already doomed many species to eventual extinction, report researchers writing in Proceedings of the Royal Society B online.
Burning by Asia Pulp & Paper contributes to haze in Indonesia, Malaysia
(07/28/2009) One quarter of fire hotspots recorded in the Indonesia province of Riau on the island of Sumatra in 2009 have occurred in concessions affiliated with Sinar Mas Group's Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), according to new analysis by Eyes on the Forest, a coalition of environmental groups. The fires are contributing to the "haze" that is affecting air quality and causing health problems in Malaysia.
Global warming may reduce lifespan of cold-blooded species
(07/27/2009) Cold-blooded animals, including fish, amphibians, crustaceans, and reptiles, seem to live longer under cooler conditions, suggesting that warming climate could have impacts on the lifespan of creatures whose body temperatures vary with the temperature of their surroundings, report researchers writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Photo: Scientists discover new species of Komodo dragon-like lizard
(07/21/2009) German researchers have discovered a new species of monitor lizard in Indonesia using DNA analysis and morphological characteristics. The species, Varanus lirungensis, is described in the Australian Journal of Zoology.
Global warming may be causing animals to shrink
(07/20/2009) Warming climate may favor small species over large ones, reports a study published Monday in the early online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Malaysia's rainforests being insidiously replaced with plantations of clones
(07/20/2009) Rainforests once managed for selective logging in Malaysia are now being are clear-felled and replaced with latex-timber clones, rubber trees that yield latex and can be harvested for timber, reports the Malaysian Star. Up to 80 percent of Malaysia's remaining forest cover could be at risk. Journalist Tan Cheng Li reports that permanent forest reserves in Selandor and Johor have already been cleared for rubber plantations, while other reserves are now being targeted. Permanent forest reserves are forest areas that have been set aside for selective logging under sustainable forest management. They account for 82 percent of Malaysia's remaining forest cover.
Ganges River Dolphin population falls below 300, faces new threat from oil exploration
(07/19/2009) The Ganges River Dolphin faces a high risk of extinction in India's Brahmaputra river system unless critical habitat is protected, report conservationists. Once abundant in the Ganges and Brahmaputra river systems in India and Bangladesh, the population of the Ganges River Dolphins has fallen sharply over the past century due to accidental bycatch by fishermen, direct killing for their meat and oil, and diversion of water for agriculture. Scientists estimate that only 2,000 remain, of which 240-300 survive in the Brahmaputra, according to a new survey by IUCN researchers, who warn the Brahmaputra population is also imperiled by new threats, including dam building and prospecting for oil.
Florida announces python hunt following snake invasion
(07/16/2009) Florida has authorized a cull of Burmese pythons that have invaded the Everglades and other wetland areas, reports the Associated Press.
Dragonflies migrate 14,000-18,000 km from India to S. Africa
(07/16/2009) Millions of dragonflies migrate thousands of kilometers across the Indian Ocean from southern India to Africa, reports the BBC.
Pangolins threatened by illegal trade for traditional Chinese medicine
(07/14/2009) While their trade has been prohibited under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) since 2002, Asian pangolin populations are rapidly declining due to poaching for use in traditional Chinese medicine, report conservationists. Trade has nearly wiped out the species in Cambodia, Viet Nam and Laos, once strongholds for the scaly, toothless anteater.
Photo: Salamander is first 4-legged animal discovered in U.S. in 50 years
(07/09/2009) Researchers have discovered one of the world's smallest salamanders in a road-side creek in Georgia. The amphibian is so unique that it represents the first new genus of four-legged animal discovered in the United States in 50 years.
Tiny monkey species discovered in the Amazon rainforest
(07/07/2009) A new species of monkey has been discovered in the Brazilian Amazon, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society. The monkey, a type of saddleback tamarin, has been named Mura's saddleback tamarin (Saguinus fuscicollis mura) after the Mura Indians, the Amerindian ethnic group that lives in the Purus and Madeira river basins where the monkey occurs.
Extinction risk for Amazonian plants may be lower than previously estimated
(07/06/2009) Five to nine percent of the Amazon's 40,000 known species of plants will be at risk of extinction by 2050 should current deforestation trends continue, report researchers writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The estimates are sharply lower than the 20 to 33 percent predicted in other studies.
Birds found to be key protectors of forest in Tanzania
(07/02/2009) Seed-eating birds play a critical role in maintaining forests in the Serengeti by keeping seed-killing beetles in check, report researchers writing in the journal Science. The finding is another example of ecological interdependency between species.
869 species extinct, 17,000 threatened with extinction
(07/02/2009) Nearly 17,000 plant and animal species are known to be threatened with extinction, while more than 800 have disappeared over the past 500 years, reports the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). While these numbers are substantial, they are likely "gross" underestimates since only 2.7 percent of 1.8 million described species have been assessed. The IUCN report warns that governments will miss their 2010 target for reducing biodiversity loss.
A New Idea to Save Tropical Forests Takes Flight
(06/29/2009) Every year, tens of millions of acres of tropical forests are destroyed. This is the most destabilizing human land-use phenomenon on Earth. Tropical forests store more aboveground carbon than any other biome. They harbor more species than all other ecosystems combined. Tropical forests modulate global water, air, and nutrient cycles. They influence planetary energy flows and global weather patterns. Tropical forests provide livelihoods for many of the world’s poorest and marginalized people. Drugs for cancer, malaria, glaucoma, and leukemia are derived from rainforest compounds. Despite all these immense values, tropical forests are vanishing faster than any other natural system. No other threat to human welfare has been so clearly documented and simultaneously left unchecked. Since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit (when more than 100 heads of State gathered to pledge a green future) 500 million acres of tropical forests have been cut or burned. For decades, tropical deforestation has been the No. 1 cause of species extinctions and the No. 2 cause of human greenhouse gas emissions, after the burning of fossil fuels. For decades, a few conservation heroes tried their best to plug holes in the dikes, but by and large the most diverse forests on Earth were in serious decline.
Anti-HIV and anti-cancer drugs derived from Borneo rainforest progressing to final development stages
(06/29/2009) Two drugs derived from rainforest plants in Sarawk (Malaysian Borneo) are now in their final stages of development, reports Bernama.
Rainforest discovered via Google Earth to be protected
(06/29/2009) Mozambique has agreed to protect a tract of highland forest discovered by scientists using Google Earth, reports The Guardian.
UK firm plans to log habitat of critically endangered orangutan for palm oil production
(06/23/2009) A Scottish firm has been implicated in funding a plan that would destroy the rainforest habitat of critically endangered orangutans in Sumatra.
New Yangtze River dam could doom more endangered species
(06/22/2009) Eight Chinese environmentalists and scientists have composed a letter warning that a new dam under consideration for the Yangtze River could lead to the extinction of several endangered species. The letter contends that Xiaonanhia Dam, which would be 30 kilometers upstream from the city of Chongqing, will negatively impact the river’s only fish reserve. Spanning 400 kilometers in the upper Yangtze, the reserve is home to 180 fish species, including the Endangered Chinese sturgeon, and the Critically Endangered Chinese paddlefish, as well as the finless porpoise.
Peatlands conversion for oil palm a 'monumental mistake' for Indonesia's long-term prosperity, sustainability
(06/04/2009) Indonesia's decision earlier this year to allow conversion of up to 2 million hectares of peatlands for oil palm plantations is "a monumental mistake" for the country’s long-term economic prosperity and sustainability, argues an editorial published in the June issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.
Tropical East Asian forests under great threat
(06/02/2009) Tropical East Asia's rapid population growth and dramatic economic expansion over the past half century have taken a heavy toll on its natural resources. More than two-thirds of the region's original forest cover has been cleared or converted for agriculture and plantations, while its flora and fauna have suffered dearly from a burgeoning trade in wildlife products—several charismatic species have gone extinct as a direct consequence of human exploitation. Nevertheless tropical East Asia remains a top global priority for conservation, supporting up to a quarter of the world's terrestrial species.
World governments to miss goal protecting 10 percent of every ecoregion by next year
(06/01/2009) It is unlikely that world government will keep their pledge to protect 10 percent of every ecological region by 2010, according to a new study published in Biological Conservation. This goal is just one of many agreed upon by world governments through the Convention on Biological Diversity. With less than a year to the goal’s deadline, the study found that half of the world’s ecoregions are currently below the 10 percent threshold.
Polluted, degraded ecosystems can recover in less than a lifetime
(05/31/2009) Restoration efforts can return polluted or degraded landscapes to previous states in less than a lifetime, according to study Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. The study rebuts a common assumption that ecosystem recovery takes centuries, even millennia.
The unknown role of coextinctions in the current extinction crisis
(05/28/2009) Scientists have long recognized ‘coextinctions’ as a major concern when it comes to the current mass extinction crisis. Despite such recognition, however, the role of coextinctions remains largely mysterious and little-studied. A new paper attempts to address this by settling what is known (and unknown) about the phenomenon of coextinctions and where research needs to go next.
Rich countries buy up agricultural land in poor countries
(05/26/2009) Over two-and-half million hectares in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; half a million hectares in Tanzania; and a quarter of a million hectares in Libya: these figures represent just some of the recent international land deals where wealthy countries buy up land in poorer nations for food, and sometimes biofuel, production. The controversial trend has sparked a recent report from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) highlighting what nations have to gain—and lose—from participating in such deals.
New rainforest reserve in Congo benefits bonobos and locals
(05/25/2009) A partnership between local villages and conservation groups, headed up by the Bonobo Conservation Initiative (BCI), has led to the creation of a new 1,847 square mile (4,875 square kilometer) reserve in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The reserve will save some of the region’s last pristine forests: ensuring the survival of the embattled bonobo—the least-known of the world’s four great ape species—and protecting a wide variety of biodiversity from the Congo peacock to the dwarf crocodile. However, the Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve is worth attention for another reason: every step of its creation—from biological surveys to reserve management—has been run by the local Congolese NGO and villages of Kokolopori.
Conservation of Mexico's ungulate species explored
(05/25/2009) Nearly one third of the New World's 32 species of ungulates are found in Mexico, which serves as an important biological transition zone between temperate North America and tropical Central and South America. While few of these species are at risk of extinction, their ecological and economic importance makes them a significant conservation concern. As such, a special issue of Tropical Conservation Science, mongabay.com's open access journal, takes a closer look at Mexico's ungulates.
Photos: top 10 species discovered in 2008
(05/22/2009) Scientists documented 18,516 previously unknown species in 2007, report researchers from the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University, who also unveiled the "top 10 new species" described in 2008. The "top 10" species include a pea-sized seahorse, caffeine-free coffee, bacteria that live in hairspray, a tiny snake, a two foot long insect from Malaysia, a fossilized specimen of the oldest known live-bearing vertebrate, a snail whose shell twists around four axes, a ghost slug from Wales, a deep blue damselfish, and a palm that flowers itself to death.
Komodo dragons are venomous
(05/18/2009) The world's largest lizard relies on venom to weaken and immobilize its prey report researchers writing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Until now it was believed that bacteria resident in the Komodo Dragon's mouth were the source of the reptile's toxicity.
Protecting global biodiversity must include islands
(05/12/2009) If the world is to save biodiversity, islands are key, according to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study found that while islands have fewer overall species than continental areas of the same size, they have far more endemic species, i.e. animals and plants that can be found no-where else in the world.
First-ever photo of jaguar on Barro Colorado Island
(05/04/2009) Researchers have captured the first-ever photo of a jaguar on Barro Colorado Island, a key tropical forest research site in Panama, reports the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI). The picture was snapped by a camera trap set up by Montclair State University zoologist Jackie Willis and her husband Greg. The pair have been using the traps — which use infrared to detect and photograph passing wildlife — for animal surveys on Barro Colorado since 1994.
U.S. imports 1 billion pet animals from the wild between 2000 and 2006
(04/30/2009) Poor regulation of the international wildlife trade has increased the vulnerability of the U.S. to outbreaks of disease and alien invasive species, report researchers writing in Science. Analyzing Law Enforcement Management Information System (LEMIS) data gathered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from 2000 through 2006, Katherine Smith of Brown University and colleagues found that of the more than 1.5 billion live wildlife animals legally imported to the United States during the period, only 14 percent were classified to the level of species despite federal mandates for such labeling. The lack of accurate reporting makes it impossible to "accurately assess the diversity of wildlife imported or the risk they pose as invasive species or hosts of harmful pathogens," they write.
The story of ‘Save the Frogs Day’, April 28th, An Interview with Kerry Kriger
(04/26/2009) Founder and director of SAVE THE FROGS!, Dr. Kerry Kriger is responsible for the first annual Save The Frogs Day on Tuesday, April 28th with events planned worldwide from the United States to Nepal, and Australia to China. “I’m continually amazed at the positive response it’s gotten. I thought of Save The Frogs Day one night last December when I was the only full-time SAVE THE FROGS! employee and I only had a couple part-time volunteers,” Kriger explains.
100 nature images for Earth Day
(04/22/2009) Biodiversity - from tigers in Bhutan to gila monsters in the United States to Horned beetles in Africa to tube worms in hydrothermal vents in the deep ocean to sea cucumbers living on the coral reefs of Madagascar to the mites on your cheese - is makes life on Earth livable for our species. By extinguishing hotbeds of biodiversity - rainforests, wetlands, coral reefs, and grasslands - we are destroying a part of ourselves. Biodiversity will recover after humanity is gone, but in the meantime, the continuing loss of our fellow species will make Earth an awfully crowded, but lonely place.
Earth Day photos reflecting our world's beauty
(04/22/2009) With Earth Day fast becoming just another commercial holiday — albeit one where most people still have to go to the work — mongabay is taking a visual approach to capture the beauty that surrounds us. Here are around 120 photos I've taken at sites around the world, most of which were snapped in the past five years. The animals pictured are in their natural settings — no zoo or aquarium specimen are included. I've done my best to name most of the creatures pictured, although I haven't been able to identify many of the insects.
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