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News articles on environment
Mongabay.com news articles on environment in blog format. Updated regularly.
(10/07/2010) Deforestation rates in tropical countries dropped significantly during the first decade of the 21st century relative to the 1990s, reveals new data released by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). FAO figures show deforestation across 121 tropical countries averaged 9.34 million hectares per year between 2000 and 2010, down from 11.33 million hectares per year in the 1990s. The decline has accelerated since 2005 due Brazil's dramatic reduction of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, which peaked at 27,772 square kilometers in 2004 but is expected to come in at less than 8,000 for 2010.
Hungary suffers 'ecological tragedy' as aluminum mining sludge reaches Danube
(10/07/2010) Toxic red sludge, a waste product of aluminum production, has reached Europe's Danube River after a spill at a Hungarian factory drowned four people and left over a hundred injured, many with chemical burns. The Hungarian Academy of Sciences says tests show that heavy metals in the Danube due to the spill are currently far from dangerous levels, however other rivers, villages, and farmlands have been devastated by the environmental disaster which released approximately a million cubic meters of sludge over 50 square kilometers.
Environmental destruction undercuts global economy to the tune of $6.6 trillion
(10/06/2010) The cost of environmental damage to the global economy hit 6.6 trillion US dollars—11 percent of the global GDP—in 2008, according to a new study by the Principles for Responsible (PRI) and UNEP Finance Initiative. If business continues as usual, the study predicts that environmental damage will cost 28 trillion dollars by 2050. The new study undercuts the popular belief that environmental health and economic welfare are at odds.
Loss of old growth forest continues
(10/06/2010) A new global assessment of forest stocks by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) shows continuing loss of primary forests since 2005 despite gains in the extent of protected areas. FAO's Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010 reveals some 13 million hectares of forest were cleared between 2000 and 2010, down from around 16 million hectares per year during the 1990s. Loss of primary forest—mostly a consequence of logging—averaged 4.2 million hectares per year, down from 4.7 million hectares per year in the 1990s.
The Nestlé example: how responsible companies could end deforestation
(10/06/2010) The NGO, The Forest Trust (TFT), made international headlines this year after food giant Nestlé chose them to monitor their sustainability efforts. Nestlé's move followed a Greenpeace campaign that blew-up into a blistering free-for-all on social media sites. For months Nestle was dogged online not just for sourcing palm oil connected to deforestation in Southeast Asia—the focus of Greenpeace's campaign—but for a litany of perceived social and environmental abuses and Nestlé's reactions, which veered from draconian to clumsy to stonily silent. The announcement on May 17th that Nestlé was bending to demands to rid its products of deforestation quickly quelled the storm. Behind the scenes, Nestlé and TFT had been meeting for a number of weeks before the partnership was made official. But can TFT ensure consumers that Nestlé is truly moving forward on cutting deforestation from all of its products?
Photos: 200 new species discovered in 60-day expedition in New Guinea
(10/06/2010) A 2009 expedition to Papua New Guinea proves once again that the island-nation is as diverse in life as it is in human cultures. It took researchers with Conservation International (CI) and the local Institute for Biological Research (IBR) just two months to uncover a startling 200 new species: averaging more than 3 a day in the remote Nakanai Mountains and Muller Range rising from the island of New Britain, a part of Papua New Guinea. Half of the new species were spiders, but the team also found two new mammals, nine new plants, two dozen frogs, and multitude of insects. Most surprising was the discovery of at least two species so unique that they are likely to be assigned their own genus.
Number of described marine species climbs from 230,000 to 250,000
(10/05/2010) After a decade of research in oceans around the world, scientists released the final results of the first Census of Marine Life (CoML) on Monday. The research, which involved 2,700 scientists from more than 80 countries, increased the number of known marine species from 230,000 to 250,000.
Compliance with national law not enough to meet int'l market demands
(10/05/2010) A UK-based cosmetics firm is severing ties with its palm oil supplier after a story in The Observer reported the Colombia-based company sought the eviction of peasant farmer families to develop a new oil palm plantation, reports the Guardian.
Pulp and paper firm signs carbon deal in Sumatra
(10/05/2010) Indonesian pulp and paper firm Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) has signed a deal to protect 15,640 hectares of peat forest in Sumatra in exchange for carbon payments, reports Reuters.
Losing nature's medicine cabinet
(10/04/2010) In all the discussions of saving the world's biodiversity from extinction, one point is often and surprisingly forgotten: the importance of the world's species in providing humankind with a multitude of life-saving medicines so far, as well as the certainty that more vital medications are out there if only we save the unheralded animals and plants that contain cures unknown. Already, species have provided humankind everything from quinine to aspirin, from morphine to numerous cancer and HIV-fighting drugs. "As the ethnobotanist Dr. Mark Plotkin commented, the history of medicine can be written in terms of its reliance on and utilization of natural products," physician Christopher Herndon told mongabay.com. Herndon is co-author of a recent paper in the journal Biotropica, which calls for policy-makers and the public to recognize how biodiversity underpins not only ecosystems, but medicine.
Yasuni on film: could a documentary save the world's most biodiverse ecosystem?
(10/04/2010) How do you save one of the most biologically and culturally diverse places in the world if most people have never heard of it? If you want a big audience—you make a film. This is what wildlife-filmmaker Ryan Killackey is hoping to do with his new movie Yasuni Man. Killackey says the film will show-off the wonders of Yasuni National Park while highlighting the complexity of its biggest threat: the oil industry. "Conceptually, the film resembles a true-life cross between the documentary Crude and the blockbuster Avatar—except it's real and it's happening now," Killackey told mongabay.com.
Obama science adviser wields evidence to undercut climate change denier
(10/04/2010) US President Barack Obama's science adviser, John Holdren, took on climate change deniers in a comprehensive, data-heavy speech last month at the Kavli Science Forum in Oslo, Norway. Proclaiming that "the earth is getting hotter", Holden went on to enumerate on the causes of climate change (human impacts) and its overall effect (not good), discussing at length the science that underpins the theory of climate change. For environmentalists and international officials frustrated with the US's slow pace on combating climate change—which is decades behind Europe's and many other nations'—Holdren touted that the Obama Administration had made progress on the issue and stated that the administration plans to pursue legislation again after a new congress is elected. However, given current predictions that Republicans will pick up seats in November, comprehensive climate and energy legislation seems unlikely since historically the majority of the GOP has been against tackling climate change.
Unsure of domestic wood origin, some Brazilian furniture makers begin importing U.S. timber
(10/04/2010) Export-oriented Brazilian furniture manufacturers are importing certified timber from the United States rather than using wood of questionable origin produced domestically, reports the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) in its bimonthly update.
Logging generates more income than ranching in the Amazon
(10/04/2010) New research conducted by Brazil's Federal Rural University of Amazonia (UFRA) found that logging generates more income from cattle grazing and agriculture in the Amazon provided landowners operate under existing social and environmental laws, reports the International Tropical Timber Organization in its bimonthly update.
1/3 of Peru's forest concessions under investigation
(10/04/2010) More than one third of forest concessions in Peru are under investigation for violations of regulations, reports the International Tropical Timber Organization in its bimonthly update.
Endangered species listing could hit Malaysian Borneo's timber trade
(10/04/2010) Sarawak fears its timber industry may be adversely affected by a proposal to list three genera of Dipterocarp trees as threatened, reports The Star.
Brazil’s Operation Jaguar: Busting a Poaching Ring
(10/03/2010) Twenty years ago Brazil's most notorious jaguar hunter, Teodoro Antonio Melo Neto, also known as 'Tonho da onça' or 'Jaguar Tony,' swore off poaching after logging 600 kills. The foe turned ally of the jaguar then convinced environmental and research institutes, such as the non-governmental organization Instituto Pró-Carnívoros, of his about face and to employ his tracking skills for conservation. Thus began years of assisting these agencies find the animals so that they could monitor their movements and research their habits. His dramatic change of heart even became the subject of a children’s book titled Tonho da onça, which related a conservation message. But on July 20, 2010, 'Jaguar Tony,' now 71 years old, revealed his true spots when federal agents arrested him along with seven others preparing for another in a long series of illegal hunts.
Wildlife permits revoked for 'Snakes on a Plane' animal trafficker in Malaysia
(10/02/2010) Wildlife smuggler Anson Wong and his wife Cheah Bing Shee had their business licenses and wildlife permits revoked after the notorious trafficker was convicted of attempting to illegally take nearly 100 snakes out of Malaysia, reports the Star.
Video: Forest report for Oct 1, 2010
(10/02/2010) The top forest news story of the week was the deepening conflict between Asia Pulp & Paper, an Indonesia based forestry company, and Greenpeace, an Activist group. On Sunday APP published a report claiming to exonerate it from charges that it illegally cleared rainforest and peatlands in Sumatra.
Most popular environmental news stories from mongabay for September
(10/01/2010) Rhett Butler's interview with Kiribati President Anote Tong about the fate of his country was overwhelmingly the most popular news article on mongabay.com during the month of September, drawing nearly 35,000 page views. Tong's interview was followed by a story on the Department of Agriculture's plan to air-drop tylenol-containing rat carcasses on the island of Guam in an effort to kill an invasive snake; a piece about traditional enemies — indigenous tribes and ranchers — teaming together to fight fires in the Brazilian Amazon; and a report on the arrest of a photojournalist documenting the illegal rosewood trade in Madagascar.
Pictures: Giant prehistoric penguin discovered
(10/01/2010) Paleontologists have unearthed fossil remains of a giant species of penguin that roamed the Earth 36 million years ago, according to research published in Science.
Australia may require labeling of products containing palm oil
(10/01/2010) An Australian senator introduced a legislation that would require manufacturers to specify whether palm oil has been used in their food products, reports the Australian Associated Press. Presently food labeling laws in Australia allow companies to list palm oil as a generic "vegetable oil" on packaging even though it comes from a palm tree.
Hope remains for India's wild tigers, says noted tiger expert
(09/30/2010) As 2010 marks 'The Year of the Tiger' in many Asian cultures, there has been global interest in the long-term viability of tiger populations in the wilds of Asia. Due to increasing pressures on remaining tiger habitats and a surge in demand for tiger parts from traditional medicine trades, many conservation experts consider the current outlook for wild tiger populations bleak. Dr Ullas Karanth of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) India does not share this view. He believes that a collaboration of global and local interests can secure a future for tigers in the wild.
1000 rare tortoises poached each week in Madagascar
(09/30/2010) One thousand endangered tortoises are being illegally collected each week in southern Madagascar, reports WWF.
Photo: six new endangered tiger cubs at the Bronx Zoo
(09/30/2010) Six new tiger cubs are making their first public appearance at the Bronx Zoo, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
The true cost of the Commonwealth Games
(09/30/2010) UK newspapers have been flooded this week and last by reports of the Commonwealth Games' venue literally caving in and collapsing, athletes have deemed their village accommodation "filthy" and terrorists have apparently threatened attacks. Thanks to the late monsoon this year, floods are now a fear, and the Games' venue has been choked by a cloud of toxic insect repellent due to further fears of an outbreak of the potentially fatal dengue fever because of mosquitoes being drawn to the floods’ stagnant water.
Stunning toxic frog protected as a result of drug trafficking conflict
(09/29/2010) A spectacular poison dart frog on the edge of extinction in the wild has been afforded temporary protection by warring drug gangs in Colombia's Chocó region, reports ProAves. The La Brea Poison Frog (Oophaga occultator), a colorful species only documented by scientists in 1975, has suffered from unsustainable collection for the pet trade, severe deforestation for coca cultivation, and aerial spraying for coca eradication, resulting in a substantial population decline. But the species has clung to life in a deforested landscape along the Saija River in Colombian Pacific coast in part due to conflict between three armed groups which has kept collectors out of the area.
Free availability of satellite imagery has boosted deforestation monitoring applications, but risk of data gap looms
(09/29/2010) In recent years there has been an explosion in the number of satellite-based monitoring applications and technologies, which is perhaps best exemplified in the eyes of the public by Google Earth, which allows anyone with a decent internet connection to view overhead images of nearly any place on Earth. But these new applications are also helping scientists more effectively monitor environmental change, including the fluctuations in polar sea ice, shifts in oceanic plankton, and deforestation. An important factor in the expanded use of satellite imagery has been the U.S. government's free Landsat Data Distribution Policy, which allows free or inexpensive access to data captured by Landsat satellites, which have been collected data on a regular basis since 1972. But the Landsat program is not presently operating at its full capacity, increasing the risk of a 'data gap' before a new system is in place in 2012.
Fighting poachers, going undercover, saving wildlife: all in a day's work for Arief Rubianto
(09/29/2010) Arief Rubianto, the head of an anti-poaching squad on the Indonesian island of Sumatra best describes his daily life in this way: "like mission impossible". Don't believe me? Rubianto has fought with illegal loggers, exchanged gunfire with poachers, survived four days without food in the jungle, and even gone undercover—posing as a buyer of illegal wildlife products—to infiltrate a poaching operation. While many conservationists work from offices—sometimes thousands of miles away from the area they are striving to protect—Rubianto works on the ground (in the jungle, in flood rains, on rock faces, on unpredictable seas, and at all hours of the day), often risking his own life to save the incredibly unique and highly imperiled wildlife of Sumatra.
Rivers worldwide in peril: society treats symptoms, ignores causes
(09/29/2010) Dams, agricultural runoff, pesticides, sewage, mercury pollution from coal plants, invasive species, overconsumption, irrigation, erosion from deforestation, wetland destruction, overfishing, aquaculture: it's clear that the world's rivers are facing a barrage of unprecedented impacts from humans, but just how bad is the situation? A new global analysis of the world's rivers is not comforting: the comprehensive report, published in Nature, finds that our waterways are in a deep crisis which bridges the gap between developing nations and the wealthy west. According to the study, while societies spend billions treating the symptoms of widespread river degradation, they are still failing to address the causes, imperiling both human populations and freshwater biodiversity.
Conserving nature with economics
(09/29/2010) While many factors come into consideration when the fate of forests are being determined, economics often play a key role in land use decisions. When the perceived value of forest land is higher as cattle pasture, cropland, or plantation, then trees fall. But what happens when economic assumptions underlying these decisions are wrong? Forests, including the services they provide and the biodiversity they shelter, are lost in vain, much to the detriment of society and the planet. Working to avoid these costly outcomes is the Conservation Strategy Fund (CSF), a California-based nonprofit that trains conservationists to use economics and strategic thinking as assets to conserve natural ecosystems in countries around the globe. CSF runs training programs that help emerging conservation leaders build and strengthen parks, influence policies, and avert damage from infrastructure projects.
Asia Pulp & Paper fumbles response to deforestation allegations by Greenpeace
(09/28/2010) A new audit that seems to exonerate Asia Pulp & Paper from damaging logging practices in Indonesia was in fact conducted by the same people that are running its PR efforts, raising questions about the much maligned company's commitment to cleaning up its operations. The audit slams Greenpeace, the activist group that accused Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) of illegal and destructive logging in Sumatra in its July 2010 report, How Sinar Mas is Pulping the Planet. It runs through each of the claims laid out in the Greenpeace report, arguing some are speculative or improperly cited. But the audit doesn't actually deny that APP is clearing forests and peatlands for pulp plantations. In fact, the audit effectively confirms that the company is indeed engaged in conversion of 'deep' peat areas, but argues that this activity isn't illegal under Indonesian law.
Mass extinction fears widen: 22 percent of world's plants endangered
(09/28/2010) Scientific warnings that the world is in the midst of a mass extinction were bolstered today by the release of a new study that shows just over a fifth of the world's known plants are threatened with extinction—levels comparable to the Earth's mammals and greater than birds. Conducted by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; the Natural History Museum, London; and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the study is the first time researchers have outlined the full threat level to the world's plant species. In order to estimate overall threat levels, researchers created a Sampled Red List Index for Plants, analyzing 7,000 representative species, including both common and rare plants.
U.S. government bombs Guam with frozen mice to kill snakes
(09/28/2010) In a spectacularly creative effort to rid the island of Guam of an invasive species, the US Department of Agriculture is planning to 'bomb' the rainforests with dead frozen mice laced with acetaminophen. The mice-bombs are meant to target the brown tree snake, an invasive species which has ravaged local wildlife, and angered local residents, since arriving in the 1940s.
Discovery of new population boosts almost-extinct Colombian bird
(09/28/2010) The Baudo oropendola (Psarocolius cassini) has gone from less than a dozen known individuals to nearly a hundred due to the discovery of two new colonies in northwestern Colombia by local conservation group, Fundación ProAves. However, the new colonies are located in an unprotected area currently being impacted by deforestation. George Fenwick, president of American Bird Conservancy which focuses on bird conservation, said in a press release that his organization "is thrilled to have helped fund the research expedition that led to this stunning discovery of these two new colonies of this rare bird. Now we need to work with ProAves to conserve and protect them."
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).
Traveler caught with 200 pounds of elephant ivory in four suitcases
(09/27/2010) Customs officials found 16 pieces of cut ivory on searching a 62-year-old Malaysian man at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Thailand in August. Recently released information shows that the traveler was carrying nearly 200 pounds (90 kilograms) of ivory in four suitcases after arriving from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Could industrial interests ruin payments for environmental services?
(09/27/2010) One of the biggest ideas in the conservation world over the past decade is Payments for Environmental Services, known as PES, whereby governments, corporations, or the public pays for the environmental services that benefit them (and to date have been free), i.e. carbon, biodiversity, freshwater, etc. For example, Reducing Emissions through Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) is the largest such proposed PES concept, yet many others are emerging. However, a new study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science argues that in order for PES to be effective—and not perversely lead to further harm—decision-makers must consider the danger of paying industrial and commercial interests versus financially supporting local populations, as originally conceived, to safeguard the environment.
Ugandan forest being stripped for fuel wood
(09/27/2010) A new study in the open access journal of Tropical Conservation Science finds that the Kasagala forest reserve in central Uganda is losing important tree species and suffering from low diversity of species. Researchers believe that forest degradation for charcoal and firewood has put heavy pressure on this ecosystem.
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.
The effect of forest regeneration strategies on beetles
(09/27/2010) As conservationists attempt to find the best way to re-establish forests in abandoned areas, a new study in the open-access journal Tropical Conservation Science compares the impacts on bess beetles of different method to regeneration forest. Bess beetles are important dead wood-recyclers in the forest. Looking at three different forests in the Colombian Andes—natural regeneration, monoculture reforestation, and an old-growth forest as a baseline—researchers found that old-growth and natural regeneration had the highest diversity of bess beetles, while old-growth sported the greatest abundance of beetles.
Threatened on all sides: how to save the Serengeti
(09/27/2010) Tanzania's plan to build a road through the Serengeti has raised the hackles of environmentalists, conservationists, tourists, and wildlife-lovers worldwide, yet the proposed road is only the most recent in a wide variety of threats to the Serengeti ecosystem. A new study in mongabay.com's open-access journal Tropical Conservation Science looks at the wide variety of issues facing the Serengeti and how to save one of the world's most beloved landscapes and wildlife communities.
Tigers successfully reintroduced in Indian park
(09/27/2010) Poachers killed off the last Bengal tiger in India's Sariska Tiger Reserve in 2004. Four years later, officials transferred three tigers from Ranthambhore National Park to Sariska in an attempt to repopulate the park with the world's biggest feline. A new study in mongabay.com's open-access journal Tropical Conservation Science evaluates the reintroduction by tracking radio-collared tigers and studying their scat.
Financial crisis pummels wildlife and people in the Congo rainforest
(09/27/2010) Spreading over three central African nations—Cameroon, Central African Republic, and Republic of Congo—the Sangha tri-national landscape is home to a variety of actors: over 150,000 Bantu people and nearly 20,000 pygmies; endangered species including forest elephants and gorillas; and, not least, the Congo rainforest ecosystem itself, which here remains largely intact. Given its interplay of species-richness, primary rainforest, and people—many of whom are among the poorest in the world—the landscape became internationally important in 2002 when under the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) conservation groups and development agencies agreed to work together to preserve the ecosystems while providing development in the region.
Indian carnivore eats mostly fruit
(09/27/2010) When is a carnivore no longer a carnivore? A new study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science has found that the brown palm civet (Paradoxurus jerdoni), a cat-sized tree-loving carnivore, lives almost entirely off fruit and seeds. Studying over a 1000 feces from the brown palm civet during three years, researchers found that 97 percent of its diet was composed of plants, not meat. Given its penchant for fruit, researchers argue that the brown palm civet is an important disperser of tropical plants, playing a vital ecological role rarely connected to civets.
Is Brazil’s Sustainable Development Really Sustainable?
(09/26/2010) Sustainable development seems to have left the realms of institutional debate in Brazil and has emerged into a reality for businesses to remain competitive in their markets. It is also being used as a tool to stimulate the country’s economic growth. A notable example of this is hydroelectricity, as the country has strived for many years to generate electricity in innovative ways, rather than relying on the use of fossil fuels. Companies are also voluntarily signing up and engaging in Brazil’s GHG Protocol Program with a view to reduce carbon emissions and businesses large and small are leading on sustainable business practices. While Brazil has received a lot of respect for this forward thinking approach to sustainability, they have also been heavily criticized for hydro projects since the 1980s; in recent months the target has notably been the decision to move forward with the plan to build 3 dams on the Xingu River, which lies in the Amazon Basin.
Into the Congo: saving bonobos means aiding left-behind communities, an interview with Gay Reinartz
(09/23/2010) Unlike every other of the world's great apes—the gorilla, chimpanzee, and orangutan—saving the bonobo means focusing conservation efforts on a single nation, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. While such a fact would seem to simplify conservation, according to the director of the Bonobo and Congo Biodiversity Initiative (BCBI), Gay Reinartz, it in fact complicates it: after decades of one of world's brutal civil wars, the DRC remains among the world's most left-behind nations. Widespread poverty, violence, politically instability, corruption, and lack of basic infrastructure have left the Congolese people in desperate straits.
Eco-friendly palm oil initiative censures company linked to deforestation
(09/23/2010) The Roundtable On Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a body the sets standards for eco-friendly palm oil production, on Thursday said Indonesian palm oil producer Sinar Mas Agro Resources and Technology (SMART) breached its sustainability criteria and faces expulsion, reports AFP.
Colossal coral bleaching kills up to 95 percent of corals in the Philippines
(09/23/2010) It is one of the most worrisome observations: fast massive death of coral reefs. A severe wide-scale bleaching occurred in the Philippines leaving 95 percent of the corals dead. The bleaching happened as the result of the 2009-2010 El Niño, with the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia waters experiencing significant thermal increase especially since the beginning of 2010.
Why biodiversity is worth saving
(09/23/2010) In recognition of the United Nations' declaration of 2010 as the 'International Year of Biodiversity', the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) has included a special section on the biodiversity in its September 2010 issue of Biotropica.
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