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News articles on conservation
Mongabay.com news articles on conservation in blog format. Updated regularly.
(08/25/2008) In December of 2006 an expedition spent six weeks surveying the Yangtze River in China for one of the world's rarest cetaceans, the baiji. Also known as 'The Goddess of the Yangtze' the shy river-dolphin had roamed the river for millions of years locating fish with echolocation. The survey came back empty-handed without a spotting a single dolphin. Dr. Jay Barlow, a member of the surveying team, described his emotions on the expedition's findings in an interview with Mongabay.com: "I was stunned. I knew the species was in trouble, but I did not think they were already gone. We really had not seen the extinction of a large mammal species in 50 years, so we grew complacent."
Komodo dragon conservation efforts prove controversial in Indonesia
(08/25/2008) Efforts to conserve the world's largest lizard — the Komodo dragon — are proving controversial, and potentially dangerous to villagers, reports the Wall Street Journal.
STRI goes carbon neutral as Panama indigenous community to see carbon payments from forest conservation
(08/21/2008) The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), the Panama-based branch of the Smithsonian Institution, will offset its carbon dioxide emissions by working with an indigenous community to conserve forests and reforest degraded lands with native tree species. The agreement was announced Sunday, August 17, 2008.
The long-ignored ocean emergency and what can be done to address it
(08/18/2008) This year has been full of bad news regarding marine ecosystems: one-third of coral species threatened with extinction, dead-zones spread to 415 sites, half of U.S. reefs in fair or bad condition, increase in ocean acidification, tuna and shark populations collapsing, and only four percent of ocean considered pristine. Jeremy Jackson, director of the Scripps Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at the University of California, San Diego, synthesizes such reports and others into a new paper, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that boldly lays out the scope of the oceanic emergency and what urgently needs to be done.
Markets could save rainforests: an interview with Andrew Mitchell
(08/17/2008) Markets may soon value rainforests as living entities rather than for just the commodities produced when they are cut down, said a tropical forest researcher speaking in June at a conservation biology conference in the South American country of Suriname. Andrew Mitchell, founder and director of the London-based Global Canopy Program (GCP), said he is encouraged by signs that investors are beginning to look at the value of services afforded by healthy forests.
Indonesia's Riau bans destruction of rainforests and peatlands for palm oil
(08/15/2008) The Indonesian province of Riau on the island of Sumatra has pledged to stop destruction of its forests and carbon-rich peatlands in an effort to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation by 50 percent by 2009.
No scientists necessary: Bush administration's new plans regarding endangered species
(08/13/2008) I would have thought it difficult after eight years to still be surprised by any presidential administration, but the Bush administration has proven unique. After years of delisting endangered species, refusing to list others, and slowly watering down the landmark Endangered Species Act, the Bush administration has finally come out and said it: scientists are superfluous when it comes to saving endangered species. Despite eight years of belittling scientists, I was still surprised they would insult them so blatantly.
Investors seek profit from conserving rainforest biodiversity
(08/13/2008) An investment firm has launched the first tropical biodiversity credits scheme. New Forests, a Sydney, Australia-based company, has established the Malua Wildlife Habitat Conservation Bank in Malaysia as an attempt to monetize rainforest conservation. The "Malua BioBank" will use an investment from a private equity fund to restore and protect 34,000 hectares (80,000 acres) of formerly logged forest that serves as a buffer between biologically-rich forest reserve and a sea of oil palm plantations. The conservation effort will generate "Biodiversity Conservation Certificates", the sales of which will endow a perpetual conservation trust and produce a return on investment for the Sabah Government and the private equity fund.
How sustainable is your canned tuna? It depends on the retailer
(08/13/2008) To aid concerned tuna-lovers, Greenpeace has ranked eight of the top canned tuna retailers in order from most sustainable to least. Canned tuna from John West, the biggest retailer of tuna in the UK, proves to be the worst of the lot, whereas Sainsbury's is the most environmentally-friendly. In a press release Greenpeace said that Sainsbury's is "the only tinned tuna brand that is fished using sustainable methods".
Greenpeace drops boulders on sea floor to disrupt bottom trawling
(08/12/2008) Greenpeace dropped hundreds of tons of granite boulders on the sea floor in the German North Sea in order to stop bottom trawling in an area that is designated as a 'Special Area of Conservation' by the EU.
"Turtle carbon" could help protect rainforests and save endangered sea turtles
(08/12/2008) Using carbon credits to promote rainforest conservation could help protect endangered sea turtles in some parts of the world, argues a carbon finance expert.
7 steps to solve the global biodiversity crisis
(08/11/2008) Many biologists believe Earth is entering a sixth mass extinction event, one that has is the direct of human activities, including over-exploitation, habitat destruction and introduction of alien species and pathogens. Climate change — largely driven by anthropogenic forces — is expected to soon increase pressure on Earth's biodiversity. With population and per-capita consumption expected to grow significantly by the mid 21st century, there seems little hope that species loss can be slowed. Nevertheless, writing in the journal PNAS, Stanford biologists Paul R. Ehrlich and Robert M. Pringle suggest seven steps to help improve the outlook for the multitude of species that share our planet.
Dell becomes carbon neutral by saving endangered lemurs
(08/06/2008) Dell, the world's largest computer maker, announced it has become the first major technology company to achieve carbon neutrality.
Human-testing for animal medications?
(08/06/2008) Medical advances for humans have largely been dependent on other species: deriving chemical compounds from plants, employing molds for vaccines, or testing drugs on mammals. However, in an intriguing twist the Wildlife Conservation Society has adapted a test used on humans for primates in the Bronx Zoo.
Australia declares its largest tropical rainforest park
(08/06/2008) Autralia will protect its most pristine rainforest a nearly twenty year battle between conservationists and land owners, according to a statement from the government of Queensland.
Private equity firm to sell biodiversity offsets from rainforest conservation
(08/06/2008) An investment firm has launched the first tropical biodiversity credits scheme. New Forests, an Australia-based company, has established the Malua Wildlife Habitat Conservation Bank in an attempt to monetize rainforest conservation. The "Malua BioBank" will use an investment from a private equity fund to restore and protect 34,000 hectares (80,000 acres) of formerly logged forest that serves as a buffer between biologically-rich forest reserve and a sea of oil palm plantations.
Shift from poverty-driven to industry-driven deforestation may help conservation
(08/06/2008) A shift from poverty-driven deforestation to industry-driven deforestation in the tropics may offer new opportunities for forest conservation, argues a new paper published in the journal Trends in Evolution & Ecology.
48% of primates threatened with extinction
(08/05/2008) 48 percent of the world's primate species are at risk of extinction, according to the first comprehensive review of the world's primates since 2003. The results were released as an update to the IUCN Red List at the 22nd International Primatological Society Congress in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Massive gorilla population discovered in the Congo
(08/05/2008) The world's known population of critically endangered western lowland gorillas has more than doubled following a new census that revealed some 125,000 in the Republic of Congo.
Often overlooked, small wild cats are important and in trouble
(08/05/2008) While often over-shadowed by their larger and better-known relatives like lions, tigers, leopards, and jaguars, small cats are important indicators of the health of an ecosystem, says a leading small cat expert who uses camera traps extensively to document and monitor mammals in the wild. Dr Jim Sanderson, a scientist with the Small Cat Conservation Alliance and Conservation International, is working to save some of the world's rarest cats, including the Andean cat and Guigna of South America and the bay, flat-headed, and marbled cats of Southeast Asia. In the process Sanderson has captured on film some of the planet's least seen animals, including some species that have never before been photographed. He has also found that despite widespread criticism, some corporate entities are effectively protecting remote wilderness areas.
Corporations become prime driver of deforestation, providing clear target for environmentalists
(08/05/2008) The major drivers of tropical deforestation have changed in recent decades. According to a forthcoming article, deforestation has shifted from poverty-driven subsistence farming to major corporations razing forests for large-scale projects in mining, logging, oil and gas development, and agriculture. While this change makes many scientists and conservationists uneasy, it may allow for more effective action against deforestation. Rhett A. Butler of Mongabay.com, a leading environmental science website focusing on tropical forests, and William F. Laurance of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama believe that the shift to deforestation by large corporations gives environmentalists and concerned governments a clear, identifiable target that may prove more responsive to environmental concerns.
Developing the world's most sophisticated program for mapping endangered species
(08/04/2008) It was big news in April when a comprehensive map of Madagascar's rich and unique biodiversity was unveiled. The project managed to map ranges of 2,315 species across an island larger than France. Such detailed mapping could not have happened without the aid of Steve Phillips. A researcher at AT&T, Phillips developed the software that made such detailed and expansive mapping possible.
Scientists discover world's smallest snake species
(08/03/2008) If one wanted to overcome their fear of snakes, they may want to start with the newly discovered Leptotyphlops carlae. Measuring less than four inches long, even stretched out this new species of threadsnake can't compete with the average pen or pencil.
Brazil asks rich countries to fund Amazon conservation
(08/02/2008) Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva officially unveiled plans to raise a $21 billion fund for protecting the Amazon rainforest. The plan, which was originally announced several months ago, aims to be funded by foreign donations. Contributors will not be eligible for carbon credits that may be generated by reductions in deforestation.
Ontario to preserve area of forest the size of Uganda
(07/31/2008) The government of Ontario has announced it will preserve 56 million acres of boreal forest from all types of development. The reasons for such a large conservation plan are numerous: preservation of the forest will benefit the world as a massive carbon storehouse; the area is a major source of freshwater; and home to over 200 species, many of which are threatened, such as polar bears, wolverines, and caribou. The area will be open to eco-tourism, but will be closed to mining, logging, and gas exploration.
Cane toads are killing crocodiles in Australia
(07/30/2008) The cane toad has been a scourge to Australian wildlife for decades. An invasive species, the cane toad competes with local endemic frog species and due to its high toxicity kills any predator who preys on it, including snakes, raptors, lizards, and the carnivorous marsupial, northern quoll. New research has uncovered another victim of the toad. The freshwater crocodile has suffered massive population declines due to consuming the irascible toad.
Conservation groups could augment poverty alleviation in some remote areas
(07/30/2008) Conservation groups are well-positioned to assist in poverty alleviation efforts in some of the world's poorest and most remote places where they have otherwise been neglected by governments and aid organizations, argues a report published in the journal Oryx.
Adaptation to climate change will be difficult for Madagascar
(07/29/2008) Madagascar's high levels of endemism coupled with its extensive loss and degradation of ecosystems leave its species particularly vulnerable to climate change. A new paper evaluates these risks and sets forth conservation priorities to best maintain the ecological resilience of the island nation.
Island biogeography theory doesn't explain biodiversity changes in forest fragments
(07/28/2008) Island biogeography theory, the idea that fragmented ecosystems have lower species richness per unit of area compared with contiguous habitats, has served as a useful conceptual model to understand the effects of habitat fragmentation but fails to explain the complexities of change in isolated forest fragments, according to a synthesis published last month in the journal Biological Conservation.
An interview a shaman in the Amazon rainforest
(07/28/2008) Deep in the Suriname rainforest, an innovative conservation group is working with indigenous tribes to protect their forest home and culture using traditional knowledge combined with cutting-edge technology. The Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) is partnering with the Trio, an Amerindian group that lives in the remote Suriname-Brazil border area of South America, to develop programs to protect their forest home from illegal gold miners and encroachment, improve village health, and strengthen cultural ties between indigenous youths and elders at a time when such cultures are disappearing even faster than rainforests. In June 2008 mongabay.com visited the community of Kwamalasamutu in Suriname to see ACT's programs in action. During the visit, Amasina, a Trio shaman who works with ACT, answered some questions about his role as a traditional healer in the village.
Newly discovered monkey is critically endangered by logging, poaching
(07/28/2008) A newly discovered species of monkey may already be threatened with extinction, according to a study published in the journal Oryx.
Climate change will increase the erosion of coral reefs
(07/28/2008) Coral reefs are particularly susceptible to climate change. Warming waters have been shown to bleach coral, killing off symbiotic algae that provide them with sustenance, and often leading to the death of the coral itself. Much attention has been placed on bleaching coral, but now scientists have discovered an additional danger to coral reefs in a warming world: erosion.
The end of migrations: wildlife's greatest spectacle is critically endangered
(07/28/2008) If we could turn back the clock about 200 years, one could watch as millions of whales swam along their migration routes. Around 150 years ago, one could witness bison filling the vast America prairie or a billion passenger pigeons blotting out the sky for days. Only a few decades back and a million saiga antelope could be seen crossing the plains of Asia.
Monster manta ray species discovered
(07/25/2008) Researchers have discovered a previously unknown species of manta ray. Previously there was believed to be only a single species of ray but genetic analysis now shows there are at least two, and possibly three, species.
14 countries win REDD funding to protect tropical forests
(07/24/2008) Fourteen countries have been selected by the World Bank to receive funds for conserving their tropical forests under an innovative carbon finance scheme.
Rainforest conservation could offset 500m tons of CO2 emissions at $2/ton
(07/24/2008) Industrialized nations could collectively offset 500 million tons carbon of dioxide emissions at roughly $2 per ton by protecting tropical rainforests, according to estimates published in the online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
New plan would pay tropical countries for saving forests, regardless of level of threat
(07/24/2008) Deforestation and forest degradation account for around a fifth of global carbon emissions from human activities, but new policy measures are focusing reducing such emissions as a cost-effective way to fight global warming. While the concept — known as REDD for "Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation" — has found wide support from politicians, scientists, and environmentalists, there are lingering concerns over how to compensate countries that have extensive forest cover and low rates of annual forest loss, since payments are based on historical deforestation rates. A new proposal seeks to get around this issue by factoring in all the terrestrial carbon in a tropical landscape — regardless of level of threat it faces — and packaging it as a tradable commodity.
How to replant a mangrove forest: local, low-cost initiatives prove most successful
(07/23/2008) Mangrove replanting and rehabilitation has become a widespread and important environmental initiative worldwide. Mangrove forests play key ecological roles, including sustaining fish populations and other wildlife, preventing erosion along coastlines, and acting as an overall carbon sink. Furthermore, mangroves have received attention lately for their role in providing an effective buffer against typhoons. In light of the many replanting initiatives now occurring, researchers J.H. Primavera and J.M.A. Esteban conducted a study of the overall effectiveness of different mangrove rehabilitation schemes. Their findings show that small, local, and generally cheaper initiatives have a higher success rate over large costly government and international programs.
Biofuels can reduce emissions, but not when grown in place of rainforests
(07/22/2008) Biofuels meant to help alleviate greenhouse gas emissions may be in fact contributing to climate change when grown on converted tropical forest lands, warns a comprehensive study published earlier this month in the journal Environmental Research Letters. Analyzing the carbon debt for biofuel crops grown in ecosystems around the world, Holly Gibbs and colleagues report that "while expansion of biofuels into productive tropical ecosystems will always lead to net carbon emissions for decades to centuries... [expansion] into degraded or already cultivated land will provide almost immediate carbon savings." The results suggest that under the right conditions, biofuels could be part of the effort to reduce humanity's carbon footprint.
Population of critically endangered lemurs discovered in Madagascar
(07/22/2008) Scientists in Madagascar have discovered a population of greater bamboo lemurs (Prolemur simus), a critically endangered species of primate, in an area more than 400 kilometers away from its only known refuge, reports conservation International.
Half of the Philippines' endemic wildlife is with extinction
(07/22/2008) More than half the birds, amphibians and mammals endemic to the Philippines are threatened with extinction, according to a statement released by the country's environment and natural resources department and reported by AFP.
Mangroves are key to healthy fisheries, finds study
(07/21/2008) Mangroves serve as a critical nursery for young marine life and therefore play an important role in the health of fisheries and the economic well-being of fishermen, report researchers writing in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Orangutans persist in islands amid a sea of oil palm plantations
(07/17/2008) Orangutan are surviving in forest islands in a sea of oil palm plantations in Malaysia, reports a new survey by a government-backed conservation initiative. The finding underscores the need to protect critical forest areas for the endangered primates as forest continues to fall in southeast Asia at a rate that is the highest of any of the world's tropical forest regions.
Madagascar villagers vote to protect sea turtles, see first hatchlings
(07/15/2008) The first hatching of Green Turtles recorded as a direct result of efforts to protect the species in southwest Madagascar has been witnessed by marine conservationists working for British charity, Blue Ventures conservation.
Discovery of new leatherback migration route may help save species
(07/15/2008) Scientists have discovered a new migration route for the world's largest turtle, the leatherback. The route takes the 2,000-pound marine turtle from the Playa Grande beaches in Costa Rica to an area deep in the South Pacific.
Birds face higher risk of extinction than conventionally thought
(07/14/2008) Birds may face higher risk of extinction than conventionally thought, says a bird ecology and conservation expert from Stanford University. Dr. Cagan H. Sekercioglu, a senior research scientist at Stanford and head of the world's largest tropical bird radio tracking project, estimates that 15 percent of world's 10,000 bird species will go extinct or be committed to extinction by 2100 if necessary conservation measures are not taken. While birds are one of the least threatened of any major group of organisms, Sekercioglu believes that worst-case climate change, habitat loss, and other factors could conspire to double this proportion by the end of the century. As dire as this sounds, Sekercioglu says that many threatened birds are rarer than we think and nearly 80 percent of land birds predicted to go extinct from climate change are not currently considered threatened with extinction, suggesting that species loss may be far worse than previously imagined. At particular risk are marine species and specialists in mountain habitats.
Wal-Mart to ban sales of wood products from threatened rainforests
(07/14/2008) Wal-Mart, America's biggest retailer, has joined an initiative to conserve the world's most valuable and threatened forests.
Tasmanian devil reproduction adapts to devastating, contagious cancer
(07/14/2008) Tragic circumstances have led to some astounding behvaioral changes in Tasmanian devils. A contagious form of face cancer has engulfed the population, causing the species to be listed as endangered in May. The cancer, which is characterized by large facial tumors, often leads to death by starvation. Casualty rates for infected areas are nearly 90 percent. However, a new study shows that the Tasmanian devils are not taking the disease lying down. The devils, which usually wait until two years for sexual maturity, have begun to breed within their first year of life.
Tiny lemur species discovered in Madagascar
(07/14/2008) Researchers have discovered a previously unknown species of mouse lemur on the island of Madagascar. The find brings the global number of mouse lemurs to 16.
Cuteness determines whether the public will support saving species from extinction
(07/07/2008) How much would you pay to prevent the extinction of the humpback whale? The giant panda? Or how about the red-cockaded woodpecker, the striped shiner, or the water vole? With finite funds and increasing threats to species, should such decision be made on popularity, perceived utility, or ecology?
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