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News articles on carbon sequestration
Mongabay.com news articles on carbon sequestration in blog format. Updated regularly.
(08/26/2014) There's nothing in the world like a primary forest, which has never been industrially logged or cleared by humans. They are often described as cathedral-like, due to pillar-like trees and carpet-like undergrowth. Yet, the world's primary forests—also known as old-growth forests—are falling every year, and policy-makers are not doing enough to stop it.
Climate-linked drought cutting forests' carbon-storing ability
(07/08/2014) Climate extremes are dramatically cutting the ability of trees to sequester carbon, threatening to convert some forests from carbon sinks into carbon sources, finds a study published this month in Environmental Research Letters.
'Borne by the rest of the world': deforestation has global impact, reduces food security
(06/13/2014) Research indicates that areas with more forest cover tend to have superior food resilience compared to areas with less. In addition, the loss of forest cover to deforestation has long-term impacts not only locally, but also globally. These topics were discussed by international experts during the 2020 Conference on Building Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security, held last month in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Mountain forests store 40 percent more carbon than expected
(06/10/2014) It's not easy to measure carbon in mountain forest ecosystems. But a new review study in Biogeosciences found that many estimates of carbon storage in montane tropical forests have been largely underestimated.
Borneo bests Amazon in terms of giant tree growth rates
(05/11/2014) Trees in the rainforests of Borneo have faster growth rates than those in the Amazon, finds a study published in the Journal of Ecology.
The beef with beef: how 12 strategies could drastically cut agricultural emissions
(04/25/2014) Eating less beef, cutting food waste, and utilizing farm landscapes to sequester carbon are three ways a new report suggests the world could rapidly tackle agricultural emissions. Currently, global agriculture accounts for nearly a fifth of the world's greenhouse gas emissions when agriculturally-linked deforestation is included.
The fungus among us: scientists discover a big player in the global carbon cycle
(03/12/2014) Carbon counters trying to keep tabs on the rising concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere may have missed an important factor for their estimates: fungus. It turns out that when plants partner up with certain types of fungi, they can store up to 70 percent more carbon in the soil according to a paper published last month in Nature by Colin Averill and scientists at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.
Tree growth accelerates with age
(01/15/2014) Old, large trees may be even more important ecologically than long-believed, according to a new study in Nature. Looking at over half a million individual trees from over 400 species (both tropical and temperate), scientists have determined that most trees actually grow faster in their dotage than in their youth.
Reforestation can't offset massive fossil fuels emissions
(12/13/2013) With the Australian, Japanese, and Canadian governments making an about-face on carbon-emissions reduction targets during the Warsaw climate summit, some experts are warning that the global need for solutions offsetting CO2 emissions is passing a "red line." Land-based mitigation practices comprise one of the solutions on the table as a result of both the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol; however, a paper published in Nature Climate Change by an international team led by Brendan Mackey, has raised the looming question of whether or not land-based practices can actually improve CO2 levels as much as hoped.
Not all mangroves are created equal: new map reveals carbon storage hot-spots
(11/26/2013) Mangrove forests are one of the most important weapons in the fight against climate change. Not only do they directly store huge amounts of carbon, but they actively capture additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and sequester it in their soils. When mangroves are destroyed, huge quantities of carbon are released into the atmosphere, significantly contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.
Redeeming REDD: a conversation with Michael Brown
(11/11/2013) In Redeeming REDD: Policies, Incentives and Social Feasibility for Avoided Deforestation, anthropologist Michael Brown relays a constructive critique of the contemporary aims, standards and modalities for mitigating climate change by reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD). Brown advocates for REDD as a viable mechanism for the long-term pro-poor conservation and restoration of tropical forests as well—but only if local forest dwellers and Indigenous. Peoples can join the negotiating table and act as forest stewards. Local people must first be empowered to make 'socially feasible' decisions that are necessary for their livelihoods and well-being. In other words, there can be no environmentalism without credible local leadership, which requires investment in capacity building at the local level for sustainable institutions.
Conserving top predators results in less CO2 in the air
(06/19/2013) What does a wolf in Yellowstone National Park have in common with an ambush spider on a meadow in Connecticut? Both are predators and thus eat herbivores, such as elk (in the case of wolves) and grasshoppers (in the case of spiders). Elk and grasshoppers also have more in common than you probably imagine: they both consume large quantities of plant matter. While scientists have long-known that predators lead to carbon storage by reducing herbivore populations, a new study reveals a novel way in which top predators cause an ecosystem to store more carbon.
Scientists discover that marine animals disperse seagrass
(05/09/2013) Lesser known than coral reefs, marine seagrass ecosystems are rich in biodiversity and are powerhouses when it comes to sequestering carbon dioxide. Yet, much remains unknown about the ecology of seagrass beds, including detailed information on how seagrass spread their seeds and colonize new area. Now a recent study in Marine Ecology Progress Series documents that several species of marine animal are key to dispersing seagrass, overturning the assumption that seagrass was largely dispersed by abiotic methods (such as wind and waves).
Fungi drives carbon uptake by boreal forests
(03/29/2013) Mycorrhizal mycelium, a common fungi that helps plants uptake nutrients from soils, plays a fundamental role in carbon sequestration by boreal forests, reports a study published in this week's issue of the journal Science.
Near-record jump in carbon concentrations in global atmosphere last year
(03/06/2013) Carbon dioxide now makes up around 395 parts per million in the atmosphere, according to new data from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Measuring atmospheric carbon in Mauna Loa, Hawaii, the NOAA notes that last year saw a jump of 2.67 parts per million, second only to a record jump in carbon concentrations in 1998—2.93 parts per million. The news further dampens hopes that nations will stick to their goal of keeping global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.
Carbon release, storage by rainforests may increase by 50b tons for each degree of climate warming in the tropics
(02/08/2013) Faster plant growth due to higher concentrations of carbon dioxide may offset increased emissions from forest die-off in the tropics, claims a new study based on climate modeling.
Biochar: a brief history and developing future
(01/02/2013) Biochar - charcoal produced from pyrolysis of biomass - has received tremendous attention and support in recent years, and championed as one of the potentially most useful techniques for soil restoration and carbon sequestration in the modern era. Although a multitude of initiatives in biochar research and application have sprung into action many critical details remain uncertain.
Climate Summit in Doha characterized by lack of ambition
(12/09/2012) Ahead of the 18th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Doha, Qatar a variety of reports warned that the world was running out of time to avoid dangerous climate change, and that there was a widening gap between what nations have pledged to do and what the science demanded. A landmark report by the World Bank painted an almost apocalyptic picture of a world in which global temperatures have risen 4 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, including unprecedented heatwaves and droughts, rising sea levels, global agriculture crises, and a stunning loss of species. In addition, scientific studies released near the two week conference found that sea levels were rising 60 percent faster than predicted, forests around the world were imperiled by increasing drought, marine snails were dissolving in the Southern Ocean due to ocean acidification, and ice melt in Greenland and Antarctica was on the rise.
Animals dissolving due to carbon emissions
(12/03/2012) Marine snails, also known as sea butterflies, are dissolving in the Southern Seas due to anthropogenic carbon emissions, according to a new study in Nature GeoScience. Scientists have discovered that the snail's shells are being corroded away as pH levels in the ocean drop due to carbon emissions, a phenomenon known as ocean acidification. The snails in question, Limacina helicina antarctica, play a vital role in the food chain, as prey for plankton, fish, birds, and even whales.
World has lost half its wetlands
(11/29/2012) Half of the worlds wetlands have been destroyed in just the last 100 years, says a new report. Published by the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), the report found that of the 25 million square kilometers of wetlands that existed in 1900 just 12.8 million square kilometers now remain. The rate of destruction varies geographically with notable loses in East Asia running at 1.6 per cent per year. In places where aquaculture, over-exploitation (e.g. unsustainable harvesting of fish) and storm damage have been severe, the rate of destruction can be as high as 80 percent.
Organic farming keeps carbon out of the atmosphere
(11/28/2012) With the worst effects of climate change, we are seeing how pollution hurts both human health and the environment but there is good news: a new study shows that organic farming stores more greenhouse gases in the soil than non-organic farming. By switching to organic methods, many farmers across the globe may be helping to solve the climate crisis at the same time as they improve soil quality and avoid the use of pesticides.
Will we need to pull carbon out of the atmosphere to save ourselves?
(10/17/2012) This year saw the Arctic sea ice extent fall to a new and shocking low, while the U.S. experienced it warmest month ever on record (July), beating even Dust Bowl temperatures. Meanwhile, a flood of new research has convincingly connected a rise in extreme weather events, especially droughts and heatwaves, to global climate change, and a recent report by the DARA Group and Climate Vulnerability Forum finds that climate change contributes to around 400,000 deaths a year and costs the world 1.6 percent of its GDP, or $1.2 trillion. All this and global temperatures have only risen about 0.8 degrees Celsius (1.44 degrees Fahrenheit) since the early Twentieth Century. Scientists predict that temperatures could rise between 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) to a staggering 6.4 degrees Celsius (11.5 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century.
Indigenous groups in Panama wait for UN REDD to meet promises
(08/30/2012) A dispute over the implementation of REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) in Panama has pitted the United Nations (UN) against the nation's diverse and large indigenous groups. Represented by the National Coordinator of Indigenous Peoples in Panama (COONAPIP), indigenous groups charge that the UN has failed to meet several pledges related to kick-starting REDD+ with their support, including delaying a $1.79 million payment to the group to begin REDD+-related activities. The on-going dispute highlights the perils and complexities of implementing REDD+, especially concerns that the program might disenfranchise indigenous groups who have long been the stewards of their forest territories.
Earth's ecosystems still soaking up half of human carbon emissions
(08/06/2012) Even as humans emit ever more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, Earth's ecosystems are still sequestering about half, according to new research in Nature. The study finds that the planet's oceans, forests, and other vegetation have stepped into overdrive to deal with the influx of carbon emitted from burning fossil fuels, but notes that this doesn't come without a price, including the acidification of the oceans.
Experts: sustainable logging in rainforests impossible
(07/19/2012) Industrial logging in primary tropical forests that is both sustainable and profitable is impossible, argues a new study in Bioscience, which finds that the ecology of tropical hardwoods makes logging with truly sustainable practices not only impractical, but completely unprofitable. Given this, the researchers recommend industrial logging subsidies be dropped from the UN's Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) program. The study, which adds to the growing debate about the role of logging in tropical forests, counters recent research making the case that well-managed logging in old-growth rainforests could provide a "middle way" between conservation and outright conversion of forests to monocultures or pasture.
Scientists: iron fertilization could be a big climate help
(07/18/2012) For a long time, oceanic iron fertilization was seen as a promising mechanism to combat global climate change. But then in 2009 a well-publicized study found that iron fertilization stored 80 times less carbon than expected, dampening enthusiasm and support around the geoengineering scheme. Now, however, the idea of fertilizing the ocean with iron may be back: a new study in Nature reports that iron fertilization, in the right conditions, could store carbon in the deep ocean for centuries.
Pre-industrial deforestation still warming atmosphere
(07/03/2012) Fossil fuels were not burned in massive quantities prior to the Industrial Revolution, but humans were still pumping carbon into the atmosphere due to land use change, especially deforestation. In fact, a new study in Environmental Research Letters finds that deforestation prior to 1850 is still heating up our atmosphere today.
Warmer forests expel carbon from soils creating "vicious cycle"
(06/13/2012) As the world warms, temperate forests could become a source of carbon dioxide emission rather than a sink according to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Scientists found that two forest sites in the U.S. (Wisconsin and North Carolina) emitted long-stored carbon from their soils when confronted with temperatures 10-20 degrees Fahrenheit (5.5-11.1 degrees Celsius) higher than average.
Massive algae bloom in Arctic like "finding the Amazon rainforest in the Mojave Desert"
(06/11/2012) Given everything marine researchers know about phytoplankton, a type of algae, no one expected to find some of the world's largest blooms beneath Arctic sea ice. But this is exactly what scientists stumbled on during an ICESCAPE expedition in the Chukchi Sea, which is examining the massive impacts of climate change in the region. Researchers recorded a 100 kilometer (62 miles) long bloom underneath the Arctic ice pack that was four times richer than adjacent ice-free waters.
Highest priority conservation sites provide essential services for people too
(06/05/2012) Preventing the extinction of the world's most imperiled species would also bring untold benefits to people according to new research in the open-access journal PLoS ONE. Looking at the world's nearly 600 Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) sites, the study found that preserving these ecosystems would benefit humans even beyond preserving biodiversity, including safeguarding freshwater, carbon storage, and protecting cultural diversity. AZE sites are identified as habitats containing one or more species listed as Endangered or Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List, in which the survival of the species is highly dependent on the conservation of the ecosystem in question.
Carbon dioxide hits 400 parts per million in Northern Hemisphere
(05/31/2012) Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have risen above 400 parts per million (ppm) in recording stations across the Arctic going as far south as Mongolia, reports the Associated Press. Such levels have not been seen in at least 800,000 years according to researchers. Carbon levels fluctuate depending on the region and the season and scientists say global concentrations will likely remain at around 395 ppm for the time being.
IKEA logging old-growth forest for low-price furniture in Russia
(05/30/2012) A new campaign is targeting IKEA, the world's biggest furniture retailer, for logging old-growth forests in the Karelia region of Russia. An alliance of groups, headed by the Swedish NGO Protect the Forest, allege that IKEA's subsidiary, Swedwood, is clearcutting thousands of hectares of old and biodiverse forests. But, Swedwood's 300,000 hectare concession is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), generally considered the world's strongest forestry certifier.
Seagrass beds store 20 billion tons of carbon
(05/22/2012) Just below the ocean's surface lies a carbon powerhouse: seagrass meadows. New research in Nature Geoscience estimates that the world's seagrass meadows conservatively store 19.9 billion metric tons of carbon, even though the threatened marine ecosystems make up only 0.2 percent of Earth's surface. The findings lend support to the idea that seagrass protection and restoration could play a major role in mitigating climate change.
Can loggers be conservationists?
(05/10/2012) Last year researchers took the first ever publicly-released video of an African golden cat (Profelis aurata) in a Gabon rainforest. This beautiful, but elusive, feline was filmed sitting docilely for the camera and chasing a bat. The least-known of Africa's wild cat species, the African golden cat has been difficult to study because it makes its home deep in the Congo rainforest. However, researchers didn't capture the cat on video in an untrammeled, pristine forest, but in a well-managed logging concession by Precious Woods Inc., where scientist's cameras also photographed gorillas, elephants, leopards, and duikers.
Featured video: How to save the Amazon
(04/22/2012) The past ten years have seen unprecedented progress in fighting deforestation in the Amazon. Indigenous rights, payments for ecosystem services, government enforcement, satellite imagery, and a spirit of cooperation amongst old foes has resulted in a decline of 80 percent in Brazil's deforestation rates.
For Earth Day, 17 celebrated scientists on how to make a better world
(04/22/2012) Seventeen top scientists and four acclaimed conservation organizations have called for radical action to create a better world for this and future generations. Compiled by 21 past winners of the prestigious Blue Planet Prize, a new paper recommends solutions for some of the world's most pressing problems including climate change, poverty, and mass extinction. The paper, entitled Environment and Development Challenges: The Imperative to Act, was recently presented at the UN Environment Program governing council meeting in Nairobi, Kenya.
Scientists say massive palm oil plantation will "cut the heart out" of Cameroon's rainforest
(03/15/2012) Eleven top scientists have slammed a proposed palm oil plantation in a Cameroonian rainforest surrounded by five protected areas. In an open letter, the researchers allege that Herakles Farm, which proposes the 70,000 hectare plantation in southwest Cameroon, has misled the government about the state of the forest to be cleared and has violated rules set by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), of which it's a member. The scientists, many of whom are considered leaders in their field, argue that the plantation will destroy rich forests, imperil endangered species, and sow conflict with local people.
Tar sands emit more carbon than previously estimated
(03/12/2012) Environmentalists have targeted the oil-producing tar sands in Canada in part because its crude comes with heftier carbon emissions than conventional sources. Now, a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) has found an additional source of carbon that has been unaccounted for: peatlands. Mining the oil in the tar sands, dubbed "oil sands" by the industry, will require the wholesale destruction of nearly 30,000 hectares of peatlands, emitting between 11.4 and 47.3 million metric tons of additional carbon.
NASA satellite image shows extent of logging in Pacific Northwest
(02/22/2012) New satellite and space radar images by NASA shows the decline of forests in the Pacific Northwest, specifically in Washington and Oregon. Lost to development, agriculture, and large-scale logging, the maps apart of the National Biomass and Carbon Dataset (NBCD) show the patchy, fragmented nature of the forests in the two U.S. states.
New meteorological theory argues that the world's forests are rainmakers
(02/01/2012) New, radical theories in science often take time to be accepted, especially those that directly challenge longstanding ideas, contemporary policy or cultural norms. The fact that the Earth revolves around the sun, and not vice-versa, took centuries to gain widespread scientific and public acceptance. While Darwin's theory of evolution was quickly grasped by biologists, portions of the public today, especially in places like the U.S., still disbelieve. Currently, the near total consensus by climatologists that human activities are warming the Earth continues to be challenged by outsiders. Whether or not the biotic pump theory will one day fall into this grouping remains to be seen. First published in 2007 by two Russian physicists, Victor Gorshkov and Anastassia Makarieva, the still little-known biotic pump theory postulates that forests are the driving force behind precipitation over land masses.
Bad feedback loop: climate change diminishing Canadian forest's carbon sink
(01/30/2012) Climate change, in the form of rising temperatures and less precipitation, is shrinking the carbon sink of western Canada's forest, according to a new study released today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Tree mortality and a general loss of biomass has cut the carbon storage capacity of Canada's boreal forests by around 7.28 million tons of carbon annually, equal to nearly 4 percent of Canada's total yearly carbon emissions.
Protecting original wetlands far preferable to restoration
(01/26/2012) Even after 100 years have passed a restored wetland may not reach the state of its former glory. A new study in the open access journal PLoS Biology finds that restored wetlands may take centuries to recover the biodiversity and carbon sequestration of original wetlands, if they ever do. The study questions laws, such as in the U.S., which allow the destruction of an original wetland so long as a similar wetland is restored elsewhere.
Acid oceans: in some regions acidification a 'hundred times greater' than natural variation
(01/24/2012) Emissions of carbon over the last two centuries have raised the acidity of the oceans to the highest levels in 21,000 years and likely beyond, according to a new study in Nature Climate Change. The change threatens a number of marine species, including coral reefs and molluscs.
Economic slowdown leads to the pulping of Latvia's forests
(01/23/2012) The economic crisis has pushed many nations to scramble for revenue and jobs in tight times, and the small Eastern European nation of Latvia is no different. Facing tough circumstances, the country turned to its most important and abundant natural resource: forests. The Latvian government accepted a new plan for the nation's forests, which has resulted in logging at rates many scientists say are clearly unsustainable. In addition, researchers contend that the on-the-ground practices of state-owned timber giant, Latvijas Valsts meži (LVM), are hurting wildlife and destroying rare ecosystems.
How lemurs fight climate change
(01/09/2012) Kara Moses may have never become a biologist if not for a coin toss. The coin, which came up heads and decided Moses' direction in college, has led her on a sinuous path from studying lemurs in captivity to environmental writing, and back to lemurs, only this time tracking them in their natural habitat. Her recent research on ruffed lemurs is attracting attention for documenting the seed dispersal capabilities of Critically Endangered ruffed lemurs as well as theorizing connections between Madagascar's lemurs and the carbon storage capacity of its forests. Focusing on the black-and-white ruffed lemur's (Varecia variegata) ecological role as a seed disperser—animals that play a major role in spreading a plant's seeds far-and-wide—Moses suggests that not only do the lemurs disperse key tree species, but they could be instrumental in dispersing big species that store large amounts of carbon.
Yasuni ITT: the virtues and vices of environmental innovation
(12/07/2011) As the 17th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is taking place in Durban, Ecuador has embarked on the development of a project presented as highly innovative. This project targets Yasuni National Park, which has been protected since 1979. Yasuni is home to several indigenous peoples and is a biodiversity hotspot. But it so happens that the park also sits atop a vast oil field of 846 million barrels, representing about 20 percent of the country’s oil reserves. The acronym Yasuni ITT stands for Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputinin, which are the names of three potential zones for oil extraction.
Carbon debt for some biofuels lasts centuries
(11/30/2011) It has long been known that biofuels release greenhouse gas emissions through land conversion like deforestation. But an innovative new study by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) published in Ecology and Society has computed how long it would take popular biofuel crops to payoff the "carbon debt" of land conversion. While there is no easy answer—it depends on the type of land converted and the productivity of the crop—the study did find that in general soy had the shortest carbon debt, though still decades-long, while palm oil grown on peatland had the longest on average.
Deforestation could be stopped by 2020
(11/28/2011) If governments commit to an international program to save forests known as REDD+, deforestation could be nearly zero in less than a decade, argues the Living Forests Report from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). REDD+, which stands for Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, is a program that would pay developing nations to preserve forests for their ability to sequester carbon. Government officials begin meeting tomorrow in Durban, South Africa for the 17th UN climate summit, and REDD+ will be among many topics discussed.
Critically Endangered lemurs disperse seeds, store carbon
(11/13/2011) Many tropical plants depend on other species to carry their progeny far-and-wide. Scientists are just beginning to unravel this phenomenon, known as seed dispersal, which is instrumental in supporting the diversity and richness of tropical forests. Researchers have identified a number of animal seed dispersers including birds, rodents, monkeys, elephants, and even fish. Now a new study in the Journal of Tropical Ecology adds another seed disperser to that list: the Critically Endangered black-and-white ruffed lemur (Varecia variegata). Capable of dispersing big tree species, the black-and-white ruffed lemur may even play a big role in carbon sequestration.
Putting people to work: restoring our ecosystems, sequestering carbon
(10/02/2011) President Obama's sole focus of his September 8th speech to the United States Congress was job creation. He closed his speech by summoning an earlier time of promise: "President Kennedy once said, ' Our problems are man-made—therefore they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants.' These are difficult years for our country. But we are Americans. We are tougher than the times we live in, and we are bigger than our politics have been. So let's meet the moment. Let's get to work..." Inspiration is surely needed because in addition to the United States, where unemployment remains at about 9 percent, severe unemployment is found throughout the world, with Greece, Spain, and South Africa, for example, having 2011 summer unemployment rates at over 16, 20, and 25 percent, respectively.
Atlantic Forest stores less carbon due to drastic fragmentation
(09/26/2011) The Atlantic Forest in Brazil is one of the most fragmented and damaged forests in the world. Currently around 12 percent of the forest survives, with much of it in small fragments, many less than 100 hectares. A new study in mongabay.com's open-access journal Tropical Conservation Science finds that the bloodied nature of the Atlantic Forest impacts its capacity to sequester carbon. The study found that 92 percent of the forest stored only half its potential carbon due to fragmentation and edge-effects, which includes damage due to winds and exposure to drought.
The Global Carbon Cycle: a book review
(09/19/2011) The Global Carbon Cycle, by Dr. David Archer, is an excellent primer on the global carbon cycle. An easily readable format, this lightweight book is an excellent companion to those who need a quick on-the-go reference or for those who need a compendium for their office or lab. With chapters on the basic carbon cycle, geologic carbon cycle, unstable ice age carbon cycle, present and future carbon cycle, and methane, The Global Carbon Cycle is an authoritative book with numerous examples explaining scientific phenomena associated the global carbon cycle.
Lessons from the world's longest study of rainforest fragments
(08/15/2011) For over 30 years, hundreds of scientists have scoured eleven forest fragments in the Amazon seeking answers to big questions: how do forest fragments' species and microclimate differ from their intact relatives? Will rainforest fragments provide a safe haven for imperiled species or are they last stand for the living dead? Should conservation focus on saving forest fragments or is it more important to focus the fight on big tropical landscapes? Are forest fragments capable of regrowth and expansion? Can a forest—once cut-off—heal itself? Such questions are increasingly important as forest fragments—patches of forest that are separated from larger forest landscapes due to expanding agriculture, pasture, or fire—increase worldwide along with the human footprint.
Global forests offset 16% of fossil fuel emissions
(07/14/2011) Between 1990 and 2007 global forests absorbed nearly one-sixth of all carbon released by fossil fuel emissions, reports a new study published in Science. The results suggest forests play an even bigger role in fighting climate change than previously believed.
Decline in top predators and megafauna 'humankind’s most pervasive influence on nature'
(07/14/2011) Worldwide wolf populations have dropped around 99 percent from historic populations. Lion populations have fallen from 450,000 to 20,000 in 50 years. Three subspecies of tiger went extinct in the 20th Century. Overfishing and finning has cut some shark populations down by 90 percent in just a few decades. Though humpback whales have rebounded since whaling was banned, they are still far from historic numbers. While some humans have mourned such statistics as an aesthetic loss, scientists now say these declines have a far greater impact on humans than just the vanishing of iconic animals. The almost wholesale destruction of top predators—such as sharks, wolves, and big cats—has drastically altered the world's ecosystems, according to a new review study in Science. Although researchers have long known that the decline of animals at the top of food chain, including big herbivores and omnivores, affects ecosystems through what is known as 'trophic cascade', studies over the past few decades are only beginning to reveal the extent to which these animals maintain healthy environments, preserve biodiversity, and improve nature's productivity.
Ahead of meeting, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) loses another supporter
(06/19/2011) The forest organization, FERN, has pulled its support from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), reports FSC-Watch. FERN has quit the increasingly troubled organization due to FSC pursuing carbon credits through forestry. The FSC loses FERN just weeks before its 6th General Assembly, in which FSC partners—including private corporations and some environmental groups—will meet to debate current practices.
Despite setbacks, voluntary carbon markets booming
(06/06/2011) The voluntary carbon market posted a 34 percent gain in 2010, trading a record 131 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtC02e). While the US accounted for the majority of trading activity, worth $424 million in total, market growth was strongest in developing countries.
New global carbon map for 2.5 billion ha of forests
(05/31/2011) Tropical forests across Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia stored 247 gigatons of carbon — more than 30 years' worth of current emissions from fossil fuels use — in the early 2000s, according to a comprehensive assessment of the world's carbon stocks. The research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by an international team of scientists, used data from 4,079 plot sites around the world and satellite-based measurements to estimate that forests store 193 billion tons of carbon in their vegetation and 54 billion tons in their roots structure. The study has produced a carbon map for 2.5 billion ha (6.2 billion acres) of forests.
Community Forest Monitoring for the Carbon Market: Opportunities Under REDD
(05/03/2011) With over 200 million forested hectares in 60 countries transferred to community forest management over the past 20 years, this much needed book edited by Margaret Skutsch funded through the Kyoto: Think Global Act Local program (K:TGAL), provides not only various insights into how local communities and indigenous stakeholders can be engaged in community forest carbon project development and monitoring, it furthermore provides a valuable framework and models from which to discuss and analyze successful implementation of community forest carbon projects.
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.
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).
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.
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.
15 conservation issues to watch
(03/14/2011) Deforestation, oil spills, coral acidification: these are just a few examples of ongoing, and well-researched, environmental changes that are imperiling the world's biodiversity. But what issues are on the horizon? At the end of 2010, experts outlined in Trends in Ecology & Evolution 15 issues that may impact conservation efforts this year and beyond, but are not yet widely known. These are issues you may never hear about it again or could dominate tomorrow's environmental headlines. "Our aim was to identify technological advances, environmental changes, novel ecological interactions and changes in society that could have substantial impacts on the conservation of biological diversity […] whether beneficial or detrimental," the authors write in the paper. Experts originally came up with 71 possible issues and then whittled it down to the 15 most important—and least known.
Rich plant diversity leads to increased productivity, ecosystem services
(03/08/2011) A new study finds that diversity of plant species matters—big time. Analyzing nearly 600 research studies, the meta-study in the American Journal of Botany found that productivity in biodiverse plant ecosystems was 1.5 times higher than in monocultures. In other words, a prairie is more productive than a cornfield and forest more productive than a rubber plantation. The researchers warn that eroding plant diversity threatens essential ecosystems services such as food, water purification, oxygen production, carbon sequestration, and the availability of raw materials.
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”.
Carbon sequestration: Underground storage of carbon dioxide may trigger earthquakes
(12/14/2010) Underground storage of carbon dioxide may trigger earthquakes which could allow the gas to seep back into the atmosphere, rendering the emissions mitigation approach ineffective, warns Stanford geophysicist Mark Zoback.
Tropical agriculture "double-whammy": high emissions, low yields
(11/02/2010) Food produced in the tropics comes with high carbon emissions and low crop yields, according to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). In the most comprehensive and detailed study to date looking at carbon emissions versus crop yields, researchers found that food produced in the tropics releases almost double the amount of carbon while producing half the yield as food produced in temperate regions. In other words, temperate food production is three times more efficient in terms of yield and carbon emissions.
Farms in the sky, an interview with Dickson Despommier
(10/12/2010) To solve today's environmental crises—climate change, deforestation, mass extinction, and marine degradation—while feeding a growing population (on its way to 9 billion) will require not only thinking outside the box, but a "new box altogether" according to Dr. Dickson Despommier, author of the new book, The Vertical Farm. Exciting policy-makers and environmentalists, Despommier's bold idea for skyscrapers devoted to agriculture is certainly thinking outside the box.
Indonesia is the 3rd largest GHG emitter but reducing deforestation offers big opportunity, says government
(09/28/2010) Indonesia's greenhouse gas emissions reached 2.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2005, making it the world's third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, but offering opportunities to substantially reduce emissions through forest conservation, reduced use of fire, protection of peatlands, and better forest management, reports a series of studies released earlier this month by the country's National Climate Change Council (DNPI).
Nearly half of the world's wetlands used for crops
(09/27/2010) Wetlands used for crops have expanded significantly over the past eighty years. According to a new study in the open-access journal Tropical Conservation Science, wetlands being utilized for crop production has jumped from 25 percent in 1926 to 43 percent in 2006 of the world's wetlands as identified by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.
Satellites show mangrove forest loss even worse than estimated
(08/19/2010) New satellite data shows that human actions are wiping out mangrove forests even faster than previous bleak estimates. Conducted by the US Geological Survey and NASA, the researchers found that mangroves comprise 12.3 percent less area than previously estimated. In total, satellites reveal that mangrove forests cover approximately 53,290 square miles (137,760 square kilometers). "Our assessment shows, for the first time, the exact extent and distribution of mangrove forests of the world at 30 meters spatial resolution, the highest resolution ever," said Dr Chandra Giri from USGS.
Could biochar save the world?
(08/16/2010) Biochar—the agricultural application of charcoal produced from burning biomass—may be one of this century's most important social and environmental revolutions. This seemingly humble practice—a technology that goes back thousands of years—has the potential to help mitigate a number of entrenched global problems: desperate hunger, lack of soil fertility in the tropics, rainforest destruction due to slash-and-burn agriculture, and even climate change. "Biochar is a recalcitrant form of carbon that will stay almost entirely unaltered in soils for very long periods of time. So you can sequester carbon in a simple, durable and safe way by putting the char in the soil. Other types of carbon in soils rapidly turn into carbon dioxide. Char doesn't," managing director of the Biochar Fund, Laurens Rademakers, told mongabay.com in a recent interview.
Reforestation of rainforests sequesters more carbon than plantations
(08/03/2010) A new study in Ecological Management & Restoration has found that reforesting rainforest captures more carbon than monoculture plantation and even mixed species plantations. The research tested three projects in north-eastern Australia: a rainforest reforesting project using a variety of native trees, a mixed species plantation, and a monoculture plantation of conifers.
A fifth of the world's mangroves gone in 30 years
(07/18/2010) A new report by the United Nation Environment Program (UNEP) and the Nature Conservancy has found that mangrove forests are being lost at staggering rates worldwide: since 1980 one fifth of the world's mangroves have been felled.
Illegal logging declining worldwide, but still 'major problem'
(07/15/2010) A new report by the Chatham House finds that illegal logging in tropical forest nation is primarily on the decline, providing evidence that new laws and international efforts on the issue are having a positive impact. According to the report, the total global production of illegal timber has fallen by 22 percent since 2002. Yet the report also finds that nations—both producers and consumers—have a long way to go before illegal logging is an issue of the past.
Conservation photography: on shooting and saving the world's largest temperate rainforest, an interview with Amy Gulick
(07/11/2010) Most of the US's large ecosystems are but shadows of their former selves. The old-growth deciduous forests that once covered nearly all of the east and mid-west continental US are gone, reduced to a few fragmented patches that are still being lost. The tall grassy plains that once stretched further than any eye could see have been almost wholly replaced by agriculture and increasing suburbs. Habitats, from deserts to western forests, are largely carved by roads and under heavy impact from resource exploitation to invasive species. Coastal marine systems, once super abundant, have partially collapsed in many places due to overfishing, as well as pollution and development. Despite this, there are still places in the US where the 'wild' in wilderness remains largely true, and one of those is the Tongass temperate rainforest of Southeast Alaska.
Scientists warn that Malaysia is converting tropical forests to rubberwood plantations
(06/24/2010) The Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) has condemned Malaysia's booming practice of converting tropical forests into rubberwood plantations, arguing that the conversion threatens Malaysia's biodiversity, endangered species, and releases significant greenhouse gas emissions.
Rainforest scientists urge UN to correct "serious loophole" by changing its definition of 'forest'
(06/24/2010) The Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) has released a resolution urging the UN to change its definition for 'forest', before the controversial definition undermines conservation efforts, biodiversity preservation, carbon sequestration, and the nascent REDD (Reducing Emissions through Deforestation and forest Degradation).
A total ban on primary forest logging needed to save the world, an interview with activist Glen Barry
(06/02/2010) Radical, controversial, ahead-of-his-time, brilliant, or extremist: call Dr. Glen Barry, the head of Ecological Internet, what you will, but there is no question that his environmental advocacy group has achieved major successes in the past years, even if many of these are below the radar of big conservation groups and mainstream media. "We tend to be a little different than many organizations in that we do take a deep ecology, or biocentric approach," Barry says of the organization he heads. "[Ecological Internet] is very, very concerned about the state of the planet. It is my analysis that we have passed the carrying capacity of the Earth, that in several matters we have crossed different ecosystem tipping points or are near doing so. And we really act with more urgency, and more ecological science, than I think the average campaign organization."
Big compromise reached on Canada's Boreal by environmental groups and forestry industry
(05/19/2010) In what is being heralded as the 'world's largest conservation agreement' 20 Canadian forestry companies and nine environmental organizations have announced an agreement covering 72 million hectares of the Canadian boreal forest (an area bigger than France). Reaching a major compromise, the agreement essentially ends a long battle between several environmental groups and the companies signing on, all members of the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC).
World failing on every environmental issue: an op-ed for Earth Day
(04/22/2010) The biodiversity crisis, the climate crisis, the deforestation crisis: we are living in an age when environmental issues have moved from regional problems to global ones. A generation or two before ours and one might speak of saving the beauty of Northern California; conserving a single species—say the white rhino—from extinction; or preserving an ecological region like the Amazon. That was a different age. Today we speak of preserving world biodiversity, of saving the 'lungs of the planet', of mitigating global climate change. No longer are humans over-reaching in just one region, but we are overreaching the whole planet, stretching ecological systems to a breaking point. While we are aware of the issues that threaten the well-being of life on this planet, including our own, how are we progressing on solutions?
Close to a billion species: ocean exploration reveals shocking diversity of tiny marine life
(04/19/2010) Biologists worldwide may have to start re-evaluating their estimates of the number of species on Earth, since expeditions documenting the oceans' tiniest species have revealed shocking diversity: in the tens of millions of species, at least, and according to one researcher "closer to a billion". Fourteen field projects sent out by the Census of Marine Life focused on the oceans' smallest inhabitants: microbes, zooplankton, and tiny burrowing species inhabiting the deep sea bed. What they found was astounding.
Cochabamba Climate Conference: the Coca Contradiction
(04/11/2010) In the high stakes game of geopolitics, the small and economically disadvantaged Andean nation of Bolivia has little clout. Now, however, the country’s indigenous president Evo Morales wants to establish more of a significant voice on the world stage. Recently, he has turned himself into something of a spokesperson on the issue of climate change. Decrying the failure of world leaders to come to a satisfactory agreement on global warming, he is intent on shaming the Global North into addressing climate change. Whatever Bolivia lacks in terms of political and economic muscle, Morales would like to offset through skilled use of moral persuasion.
16 percent of mangrove species threatened with extinction
(04/11/2010) The first ever assessment of mangrove species by the IUCN Red List found 11 out of 70 mangrove species threatened with extinction, including two which were listed as Critically Endangered. Threats include coastal development, logging, agriculture, and climate change.
Half of Indonesia's mangroves gone in less than thirty years
(03/23/2010) The Jakarta Post reports that, according to the local NGO People’s Coalition for Justice in Fisheries (Kiara), Indonesia's has lost 2.2 million hectares of mangroves in less than thirty years, going from covering 4.2 million hectares in 1982 to just 2 million hectares today.
Scientists: new study does not disprove climate change threat to Amazon
(03/19/2010) Recently, Boston University issued a press release on a scientific study regarding the Amazon's resilience to drought. The press release claimed that the study had debunked the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) theory that climate change could turn approximately 40 percent of the Amazon into savanna due to declining rainfall. The story was picked up both by mass media, environmental news sites (including mongabay.com), and climate deniers' blogs. However, nineteen of the world's top Amazonian experts have issued a written response stating that the press release from Boston University was "misleading and inaccurate".
Amazon confusion: new research shows forest is resilient to drought, but is this the whole picture?
(03/15/2010) A drought that happens once in a hundred years had little negative or positive effect on the Amazon rainforest according to a NASA funded study in Geophysical Research Letters. "We found no big differences in the greenness level of these forests between drought and non-drought years, which suggests that these forests may be more tolerant of droughts than we previously thought," said Arindam Samanta, the study's lead author from Boston University.
Why seed dispersers matter, an interview with Pierre-Michel Forget, chair of the FSD International Symposium
(03/07/2010) There are few areas of research in tropical biology more exciting and more important than seed dispersal. Seed dispersal—the process by which seeds are spread from parent trees to new sprouting ground—underpins the ecology of forests worldwide. In temperate forests, seeds are often spread by wind and water, though sometimes by animals such as squirrels and birds. But in the tropics the emphasis is far heavier on the latter, as Dr. Pierre-Michel Forget explains to mongabay.com. "[In rainforests] a majority of plants, trees, lianas, epiphytes, and herbs, are dispersed by fruit-eating animals. […] As seed size varies from tiny seeds less than one millimetres to several centimetres in length or diameter, then, a variety of animals is required to disperse such a continuum and variety of seed size, the smaller being transported by ants and dung beetles, the larger swallowed by cassowary, tapir and elephant, for instance."
Massive methane leak in Arctic could trigger abrupt warming
(03/04/2010) Methane, a greenhouse gas 30 times more potent than carbon, is spewing from what was believed to be an impermeable barrier in Siberia in amounts equal to methane releases from the world's oceans. The discovery has lead researchers to fear the possibility of abrupt climate warming. According to the study published in Science, subsea permafrost below the East Siberian Arctic Shelf has become compromised, leaking vast amounts of methane into the atmosphere.
Guyana bans gold mining in the 'Land of the Giants'
(03/01/2010) Guyana has banned gold dredging in the Rewa Head region of the South American country after pressure from Amerindian communities in the area. A recent expedition to Rewa Head turned up unspoiled wilderness and mind-boggling biodiversity. The researchers, in just six weeks, stumbled on the world's largest snake (anaconda), spider (the aptly named goliath bird-eating spider), armadillo (the giant armadillo), anteater (the giant anteater), and otter (the giant otter), leading them to dub the area 'the Land of the Giants'. "During our brief survey we had encounters with wildlife that tropical biologists can spend years in the field waiting for. On a single day we had two tapirs paddle alongside our boat, we were swooped on by a crested eagle and then later charged by a group of giant otters."
How that cork in your wine bottle helps forests and biodiversity, an interview with Patrick Spencer
(03/01/2010) Next time you’re in the supermarket looking to buy a nice bottle of wine: think cork. Although it’s not widely known, the cork industry is helping to sustain one of the world’s most biodiverse forests, including a number of endangered species such as the Iberian lynx and the Barbary deer. Spreading across 6.6 million acres in southern Europe (France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy) and northern Africa (Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia) oak cork trees Quercus suber are actually preserved and protected by the industry.
Rainforest expert agrees with IPCC: warns of 'tipping point' for Amazon
(02/03/2010) Amid questions over the Amazon forests' capacity to survive climate change, a renowned tropical biologist says that in fact the fears are real, reports Tierramerica. Speaking at the Biodiversity Science Policy Conference in Paris, Thomas Lovejoy, biodiversity chair at the Washington DC-based Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, and chief biodiversity adviser to the president of the World Bank, described the Amazon rainforest as "very close to a tipping point".
Will it be possible to feed nine billion people sustainably?
(01/28/2010) Sometime around 2050 researchers estimate that the global population will level-out at nine billion people, adding over two billion more people to the planet. Since, one billion of the world's population (more than one in seven) are currently going hungry—the largest number in all of history—scientists are struggling with how, not only to feed those who are hungry today, but also the additional two billion that will soon grace our planet. In a new paper in Science researchers make recommendations on how the world may one day feed nine billion people—sustainably.
Photos: park in Ecuador likely contains world’s highest biodiversity, but threatened by oil
(01/19/2010) In the midst of a seesaw political battle to save Yasuni National Park from oil developers, scientists have announced that this park in Ecuador houses more species than anywhere else in South America—and maybe the world. "Yasuní is at the center of a small zone where South America's amphibians, birds, mammals, and vascular plants all reach maximum diversity," Dr. Clinton Jenkins of the University of Maryland said in a press release. "We dubbed this area the 'quadruple richness center.'"
Saving biodiversity 'on the same scale' as climate change: German Chancellor
(01/11/2010) In a kick-off event for the UN's Year of Biodiversity, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, compared the importance of saving biodiversity to stopping climate change.
Bottom-dwelling sea animals play surprising role in carbon sequestration
(01/07/2010) Researchers have long known that some marine animals, such as plankton, play big roles in the carbon cycle, but a new study shows that a long-ignored family of marine animals, the bottom-dwelling echinoderms, also do their part in the carbon cycle.
Underwater rocks could be used for massive carbon storage on America's East Coast
(01/05/2010) Considering it is unlikely that global carbon emissions will start dropping anytime soon, researchers are beginning to look at other methods to combat climate change. One of these is to hook polluting power plants up to massive carbon sinks where instead of the carbon going into the atmosphere it would be stored away in rocks. The process is known as carbon capture and storage or CCS. But before one can even debate the pros and cons of setting up CCS, scientists must see if high-quality sites exist.
More than half world's science academies support call to save rainforests
(12/17/2009) More than half world's science academies have signed a statement supporting a plan to save tropical forests as a means to fight climate change, reports the Global Canopy Program, an initiative that has worked closely with Prince Charles to promote rainforest conservation. The statement argues that tropical forest protection is a critical strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions over the next 15-20 years. It calls upon world leaders to reach a consensus on a path forward for a funding package that would support the infrastructure needed to develop an effective reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) mechanism.
Unilever suspends palm oil contract after supplier found to be destroying rainforests
(12/12/2009) The world's largest user of palm oil, Unilever, has suspended its $32.6 million contract with the Indonesian group Sinar Mas after an independent audit proved that Sinar Mas is involved in the destruction of rainforest, reports Reuters. The audit was conducted early this year after a report by Greenpeace alleged that Sinar Mas was engaged in deforestation and the draining of peatlands, both of which release significant amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Deforestation across Indonesia and Malaysia, in part for oil palm plantations, has also added pressure on many many endangered species, including orangutans, tigers, elephants, and rhinos.
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