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News articles on environment

Mongabay.com news articles on environment in blog format. Updated regularly.









Involving communities in forest governance boosts biodiversity, local income

(03/24/2011) Involving local communities in the governance of forest resources boosts economic returns and biodiversity relative to areas where locals have little participation, report researchers writing in Science. The findings have implications for efforts to protect and sustainably manage forests under the reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) mechanism.


Pro-deforestation group criticizes palm oil giant for sustainability pact

(03/24/2011) World Growth International, a group that advocates on behalf of industrial forestry interests, has criticized Golden Agri Resources (GAR), Indonesia's largest palm oil producer, for signing a forest policy that aims to protect high conservation value and high carbon stock forest and requires free, prior informed consent (FPIC) in working with communities potentially affected by oil palm development. In a newsletter published March 10, World Growth International claimed that GAR's agreement "could severely hamper the company's growth" by limiting where it can establish new plantations and says that negotiating with multiple stakeholders "will delay and complicate any investment by the company." World Growth International concludes by implying that GAR may renege on its commitment. But Peter Heng, Managing Director, Communications and Sustainability at GAR, disagreed with World Growth International's assessment.


New organization seeks to make biofuels sustainable, but is it possible?

(03/24/2011) Not too long ago policy-makers, scientists, and environmentalists saw biofuels as a significant tool to provide sustainable energy to the world. However, as it became clear that biofuels were not only connected to deforestation, pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions (sometimes exceeding fossil fuels), but also competed with the global food supply and water sources, biofuels no longer seemed like a silver bullet, but a new problem facing the environment and the poor. Still, biofuels have persisted not so much due to perceived environmental benefits, but to entrenched interests by the big agricultural industry, lobbyists, and governments. However, the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB) hopes to begin certifying environmentally friendly biofuels that don't compete with food production or water sources.


New seabird discovered, first in 55 years

(03/23/2011) Stephen Maturin, if he were not fictional, would be delighted. A new seabird has been discovered by an international expedition headed by one of the world's top seabird-experts, Peter Harrison, after he received photos from vacationing birders of an unusual looking storm petrel off the coast of Chile.


Amazon deforestation flat since last year

(03/23/2011) Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is roughly flat for the 7 months ended February 28 relative to the same period last year, reports Imazon, a Brazil-based NGO.


5 million hectares of Papua New Guinea forests handed to foreign corporations

(03/23/2011) During a meeting in March 2011 twenty-six experts—from biologists to social scientists to NGO staff—crafted a statement calling on the Papua New Guinea government to stop granting Special Agricultural and Business Leases. According to the group, these leases, or SABLs as they are know, circumvent Papua New Guinea's strong community land rights laws and imperil some of the world's most intact rainforests. To date 5.6 million hectares (13.8 million acres) of forest have been leased under SABLs, an area larger than all of Costa Rica. "Papua New Guinea is among the most biologically and culturally diverse nations on Earth. [The country's] remarkable diversity of cultural groups rely intimately on their traditional lands and forests in order to meet their needs for farming plots, forest goods, wild game, traditional and religious sites, and many other goods and services," reads the statement, dubbed the Cairns Declaration. However, according to the declaration all of this is threatened by the Papua New Guinea government using SABLs to grant large sections of land without going through the proper channels.


What is the current status of REDD+?

(03/23/2011) The Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) mechanism is supposed to be the great hope for saving the world's forests. Advocates say REDD — now known as REDD+ — could finally create financial incentives for keeping forests standing instead of chopping them down for timber, pulp and paper, cattle, palm oil, and rubber. At the same time, REDD could generate benefits for the rural poor, while safeguarding biodiversity and other ecosystem services. But the devil is in the details. Ensuring that REDD is properly designed, funded, and implemented means that progress has been slower than some supporters have hoped. A poorly designed REDD may be worse than no REDD at all. So where does that leave REDD now? Mongabay asked John-O Niles, the Director of the Tropical Forest Group, for his thoughts on the current status of REDD policy.


Top forest policies recognized

(03/23/2011) 19 forest policies have been nominated for an award by the World Future Council, a global think tank.


Conservationists oppose snow leopard hunt for 'science'

(03/23/2011) Conservationists have come out in opposition against a plan by the Mongolian government to issue four permits to kill snow leopards (Panthera uncia ) for 'scientific research'. The permits were awarded to foreign nationals last month. Snow leopards are listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List with their population declining. "If the planned hunting of snow leopards is allowed to go forward, Mongolia's creditability as a leader in conservation of [snow leopards] and other rare species will be severely tarnished," reads a letter from Tom McCarthy, Executive Director of Panthera's Snow Leopard Program and George Schaller, Vice President of Panthera, to Mongolia's Minister of Nature, Environment, and Tourism.


Climate change caused by deforestation triggers species migration

(03/23/2011) Local climate shifts caused by deforestation and land cover change are causing insects to migrate to higher — and cooler — habitats, reports a new study published in the journal Biotropica. The research has implications for predicting how species will respond to climate change.


PUMA goes carbon neutral by protecting lions in Kenya

(03/23/2011) PUMA, the sporting goods brand, and its parent company PPR will offset their 2010 carbon dioxide emissions by purchasing carbon credits generated through conservation of wildlife habitat in Kenya.


Photos: penguins devastated by oil spill

(03/22/2011) Disturbing photos show northern rockhopper penguins (Eudyptes moseleyi) hit hard by an oil spill from a wrecked cargo ship on Nightingale Island in the Southern Atlantic. Already listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List, the oil spill threatens nearly half of the northern rockhopper population according to BirdLife International. Already conservation workers say 'hundreds' of penguins have been oiled. Located the remote Southern Atlantic, Nightingale Island is a part of the UK's Tristan da Cunha archipelago. The island's are home to a variety of birdlife, including species that survive no-where else but on the archipelago.


US approves first deepwater drilling in Gulf since BP disaster as oil tar balls reappear on coast

(03/22/2011) Yesterday the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement awarded Royal Dutch Shell PLC the first deep-water exploration permit since the BP disaster last year, which sent some 4.9 million barrels of oil and up to 500,000 tons of methane into the Gulf of Mexico over three months.


Hundreds of endangered penguins covered in oil after remote spill

(03/21/2011) Conservation workers have found hundreds of oiled northern rockhopper penguins (Eudyptes moseleyi) after a cargo vessel wrecked on Nightingale Island, apart of the UK's Tristan da Cunha archipelago. Northern rockhopper penguins are listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List. According to a press release by BirdLife International, the spill threatens nearly half of the world's northern rockhopper population.


Palm oil company gives up land contested by local communities as part of sustainability pledge

(03/21/2011) An Indonesia palm oil company has relinquished part of its plantation concession to communities that traditionally use the land as part of its commitment to sustainability principles under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), reports the Forest Peoples Programme. The move is a response to a new procedure that could reduce conflict between palm oil developers and forest-dependent communities.


Controversial logging company seeks to raise $450 million in China

(03/21/2011) Asia Pulp & Paper (China) Investment aims to raise up to 3 billion renminbi ($457 million) through a bond issue, reports IFR Asia.


Expedition granted?: Indonesia's 'paper parks' targeted in National Geographic contest

(03/21/2011) Twenty-five year old Trevor Frost wants to save parks in Indonesia under attack by illegal logging, mining, and poaching. A lack of infrastructure, support, and funds has left many protected areas around the world to be dubbed 'paper parks', protected on paper, but not in reality. Frost, who is currently running in National Geographic's contest Expedition Granted, hopes to study the problem in Sumatra—among the world's most imperiled forests and wildlife—and show the world what we are losing even in National Parks.


Want water? save forests

(03/21/2011) The UN-backed Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) is urging nations to conserve their forests in a bid to mitigate rising water scarcity problem.


India government: forest target 'unrealistic'

(03/20/2011) Not long ago much of India was covered in vast and varied forests. Today just over one-fifth (21%) of the nation remains under forest cover, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) but an ambitious plan hopes to bring the forest cover percentage to 33%, or one third of the country. However that goal has been dubbed 'unrealistic' by India's influential Minister for Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh, as reported by The Hindu.


Pet trade, palm oil, and poaching: the challenges of saving the 'forgotten bear'

(03/20/2011) Siew Te Wong is one of the few scientists who study sun bears (Ursus malayanus). He spoke with Laurel Neme on her "The WildLife" radio show and podcast about the interesting biological characteristics of this rare Southeast Asian bear, threats to the species and what is being done to help them. Sun bears are the smallest of the eight bear species. They’re about half the size of a North American black bear and typically sport a tan crescent on their chests. Similar to the "moon bear," or Asian black bear, the sun bear’s name comes from this marking, which looks like a rising or setting sun.


Earthquake shifted peninsula in Japan 17 feet

(03/20/2011) The massive March 11 Tōhoku earthquake shifted Japan's Oshika Peninsula 5.3 meters (17 feet) in a east-southeasterly direction toward the epicenter, reports Kyodo.


As US Republicans officially dismiss climate change, scientists charge them with 'willful ignorance'

(03/17/2011) US Republican congress members officially rejected the widespread scientific consensus that the world is warming and the cause is primarily greenhouse gas emissions. As Republicans in the US House and Commerce Committee voted to stop the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gas emissions, they were also forced to vote on three Democratic amendments asking congress to confirm the science behind climate change. The amendments failed as all 31 Republicans, representing the majority, voted against every amendment, summarily rejecting decades of climate research. However scientists have responded in a particularly scathing opinion piece in Nature, one of the world's most respected scientific journals.


Pulp and paper firms urged to save 1.2M ha of forest slated for clearing in Indonesia

(03/17/2011) Indonesian environmental groups launched a urgent plea urging the country's two largest pulp and paper companies not to clear 800,000 hectares of forest and peatland in their concessions in Sumatra. Eyes on the Forest, a coalition of Indonesian NGOs, released maps showing that Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) and Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) control blocks of land representing 31 percent of the remaining forest in the province of Riau, one of Sumatra's most forested provinces. Much of the forest lies on deep peat, which releases large of amount of carbon when drained and cleared for timber plantations.


Oil exploration on hold in Virunga National Park—for now

(03/17/2011) The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has suspended oil exploration in Africa's oldest national park, Virunga, until a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is conducted. The move ends oil companies, Soco and Dominion's plans to explore for oil in blocs within the park that were awarded to the companies last year.


Open source forest accounting methodology for REDD projects developed

(03/17/2011) Avoided Deforestation Partners, a forest conservation group, has coordinated the development of an "open source" forest carbon accounting methodology that could help speed projects aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and degradation. The group says the new protocols could substantially reduce the cost of establishing forest carbon conservation projects under the REDD mechanism. Carbon accounting and methodology costs can easily top $100,000, making it difficult for small projects to win certification.


Goodbye national parks: when 'eternal' protected areas come under attack

(03/17/2011) One of the major tenets behind the creation of a national park, or other protected area, is that it will not fade, but remain in essence beyond the pressures of human society, enjoyed by current generations while being preserved for future ones. The protected area is a gift, in a way, handed from one wise generation to the next. However, in the real world, dominated by short-term thinking, government protected areas are not 'inalienable', as Abraham Lincoln dubbed one of the first; but face being shrunk, losing legal protection, or in some cases abolished altogether. A first of its kind study, published in Conservation Letters, recorded 89 instances in 27 countries of protected areas being downsized (shrunk), downgraded (decrease in legal protections), and degazetted (abolished) since 1900. Referred to by the authors as PADDD (protected areas downgraded, downsized, or degazetted), the trend has been little studied despite its large impact on conservation efforts.


Serengeti road project opposed by 'powerful' tour company lobby

(03/16/2011) Government plans to build a road through Serengeti National Park came up against more opposition this week as the Tanzanian Association of Tour Operators (Tato) came out against the project, reports The Citizen. Tato, described as powerful local lobby group by the Tanzanian media, stated that the road would hurt tourism and urged the government to select a proposed alternative route that would by-pass the park. Tato's opposition may signal a shift to more local criticism of the road as opposition against the project has come mostly from international environmentalists, scientists, and governments.


New population discovered of the America's mini snow leopard: the Andean cat

(03/16/2011) The elusive Andean cat (Leopardus jacobita), which until the late 1990s was only known to scientists by a couple photographs, has been discovered beyond the Andes mountain range for which it is named. According to researchers, the wild Andean cat resembles Asia's snow leopard, both in appearance and its habitat above altitudes of 3,000 meters (9,800 feet), only in this case the wild cat is about the size of a domesticated feline. But, scientists have now discovered that the cat, which is listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List, also inhabits the Patagonian steppe at elevations as low as 650 meters (2,100 feet).


Using Google Earth to monitor threats to archeological sites

(03/16/2011) A new alert system uses Google Earth and other satellite-based tools to protect cultural heritage sites from fire, looting, encroachment, destructive tourism, and other threats, says the Global Heritage Fund, the group that launched the initiative.


Coalition calls on Europe to label palm oil on food products

(03/15/2011) Do you have the right to know whether the chocolate bar you're munching on includes palm oil, which is blamed for vast deforestation in Malaysia and Indonesia? How about that frozen pizza? According to a coalition of environmental and conservation groups it's time for food manufacturers to add palm oil to the label in Europe, instead of currently being listed as simply, and erroneously (palm kernels are fruits), 'vegetable oil'.


Before-and-after tsunami satellite pictures

(03/15/2011) Google released satellite images revealing the devastation caused by the March 11 tsunami in Japan.


New road project to run through Laos' last tiger habitat

(03/15/2011) A new road project in Laos will run through the nation's only protected area inhabited by breeding tigers, Nam Et Phou Louey National Park, reports the Vientiane Times. With only about two dozen tigers (Panthera tigris) left in the nation, conservationists fear that the road will harm the fragile population, which is known to be breeding. However, local officials say the road is necessary to improve access to remote villages and alleviate poverty in the region, which is among the worst in the province.


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.


Regulators Learning From Voluntary Carbon Markets

(03/14/2011) The global carbon markets began quietly in the late 1980s as part of a voluntary effort to save rainforests, but these small, voluntary efforts were quickly eclipsed – and often dismissed – when the Kyoto Protocol ushered in compliance markets a decade later.  Now, however, it’s the compliance markets that are turning to the voluntary markets for guidance as regulators and voluntary market players rush to meet halfway.


CEO sentenced for smuggling elephant ivory into US

(03/14/2011) A judge sentenced Pascal Vieillard, CEO of A-440 Pianos Inc., to 3 years probation for illegally smuggling elephant ivory into the US, while the Georgia-based company has been fined $17,500. Vieillard had earlier pleaded guilty to importing pianos with ivory parts.


Fearful Symmetry—Man Made, an interview with John Vaillant, author of The Tiger

(03/14/2011) In The Tiger, John Vailliant weaves a haunting and compelling true narrative of men who live—or die—with tigers. No doubt the story itself is on-the-edge of your seat reading. As well, the book provides factual information on the 400 or so Amur Tigers remaining, and the raw milieu that is Primorye, Far East Russia—a wilderness and people unto their own. What is special, transcendent even in this story, however, murmurs uncomfortably in the background. Questions emerge from deep taiga snow, not unlike the unseen Panchelaza Tiger. What exactly is our relationship with apex predators? How do people live with them? How would you live with them in your backyard? What if your pet dog disappeared? As we ourselves are apex predators, are we wise enough, tolerant enough, compassionate enough to share this planet with them? Evidence today points to the contrary, but this can change.


'Cute' umbrella video of slow loris threatens primate

(03/13/2011) A new video of a slow loris holding an umbrella in a pet store has been viewed nearly a million and a half times, yet such viral videos may imperil these 'cute' and endangered primates by encouraging an illegal and often cruel pet trade. "Most people who see them in this setting want one, too!" says Angelina Navarro-Montes, a graduate student at Oxford Brookes University who has conducted studies of the slow-loris Internet trade, told mongabay.com in 2009. "There is also a big misconception on [YouTube] and a lot of viewers think it’s perfectly legal to have them as pets."


Congo legalizes 15 logging concessions, prompting concern that moratorium will be lifted next

(03/13/2011) The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has legalized 15 logging concessions that were previously listed as illegal under an effort to clean up the industry of widespread corruption. The environmental group, Greenpeace, fears that the move precedes an announcement to lift the DRC's moratorium on granting any new logging concessions, which would open the Congo Basin to widespread logging.


Japan's earthquake disaster may boost rainforest logging in Borneo

(03/13/2011) Malaysian loggers say Japan's recovery from last week's devastating earthquake and tsunami will boost demand for rainforest timber, reports the Borneo Post.


Cambodia approves rubber plantation—in national park

(03/13/2011) The Cambodian Prime Minister, Hun Sen, has approved a 9,000 hectare (22,200 acre) rubber plantation in Virachey National Park despite its status as a protected area, reports the Phnom Penh Post. The park is also listed as an ASEAN Heritage Park.


Into Colombia's Sierra Nevada

(03/11/2011) The highest coastal mountain on the planet rises 18,942 feet (5,775-meters) above the Caribbean Sea; it’s snow-capped peaks piercing through the clouds some 24 miles from an idyllic tropical beach. But to the casual visitor, the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta in Colombia does not seem so grandiose. It slopes up and down until it disappears into the clouds, jealously concealing its tropical glacier. Somewhere up there, shrouded in mystery, like an ancient treasure, hides the most impressive summit in the Caribbean. People living along this part of the coastline say the snows of the Sierra are visible from some beaches, but to me they remain elusive even after many trips to the region. To catch a glimpse of the snows from the Caribbean would be a welcoming gift, but I have really come here to experience the Sierra, whatever it would reveal.


McDonald's launches new sourcing policy for palm oil, paper, beef to reduce global environmental impact

(03/11/2011) McDonald's announced a far-reaching sourcing policy that could significantly reduce the fast-food giant's impact on the environment, including global forests. Yesterday McDonald's unveiled its Sustainable Land Management Commitment, a policy that requires its suppliers to use 'agricultural raw materials for the company's food and packaging that originate from sustainably-managed land'.


Is Japan's tsunami linked to climate change?

(03/11/2011) Could the earthquake that triggered Japan's devastating tsunami be linked to climate change? The short answer is probably not, but recent research suggests that changing climate has the potential to influence earthquakes in some parts of the world


Cambodians prevented from protesting destruction of their forest

(03/10/2011) Cambodian villagers fighting to save their forest from rubber companies have been rebuked by the local government. Two days in a row local authorities prevented some 400 Cambodian villagers from protesting at the offices of the Vietnam-based CRCK Company, which the villagers contend are destroying their livelihoods by bulldozing large swaths of primary forests. Authorities said they feared the villagers would have grown violent while protesting.


Critically endangered capuchins make tools to gather termites

(03/10/2011) Less than 200 blond capuchins (Cebus falvius) survive in the highly-fragmented habitat of Brazil's Atlantic Forest. But this tiny group of monkeys, only rediscovered in 2006, is surprising scientists with its adept tool-using abilities. Displaying similar behavior to that which made the chimpanzees of Gombe famous worldwide, the blond capuchins modify sticks to gather termites from trees; however, according to the study published in Biology Letters the blond capuchins use two techniques never witnessed before: twisting the stick when inside the termite nest and tapping the nest before inserting the stick.


Fighting illegal logging in Indonesia by giving communities a stake in forest management

(03/10/2011) Over the past twenty years Indonesia lost more than 24 million hectares of forest, an area larger than the U.K. Much of the deforestation was driven by logging for overseas markets. According to the World Bank, a substantial proportion of this logging was illegal. Curtailing illegal logging may seem relatively simple, but at the root of the problem of illegal logging is something bigger: Indonesia's land policy. Can the tide be turned? There are signs it can. Indonesia is beginning to see a shift back toward traditional models of forest management in some areas. Where it is happening, forests are recovering. Telapak understands the issue well. It is pushing community logging as the 'new' forest management regime in Indonesia. Telapak sees community forest management as a way to combat illegal logging while creating sustainable livelihoods.


Report: corruption in Sarawak led to widespread deforestation, violations of indigenous rights

(03/10/2011) At the end of this month it will be 30 years since Abdul Taib Mahmud came to power in the Malaysian state of Sarawak. Environmentalists are using the occasion, along with new revelations, to highlight corruption and nepotism they say have characterized his regime. Chief Minister Taib and his decades-long administration are no strangers to such allegations, but a new report from the indigenous-rights group Bruno Manser Fund (BMF)—amid criticism from independent media sources, such as Sarawak Report and Radio Free Sarawak—are adding fuel to the fire. Most recently, the report describes in great detail how the tropical timber trade in Sarawak has undercut indigenous groups while toppling some of the world's greatest rainforests, all at the expense of the Sarawak people.


Mitsubishi and Walmart agree to clean up fish sourcing practices

(03/09/2011) Two big players in seafood today announced that they are changing the way their fish are caught. Mitsubishi, which owns the UK's most popular brand for tuna in a tin, Princes, and Walmart, which owns Asda, have agreed to stop buying from fishermen who use purse seines fishing in conjunction with fish aggregating devices (FADs) by 2014. These methods have been blamed in part for the vast overfishing of the world's tuna and helping to decimate other species, such as sharks and rays, as bycatch.


Photos: two new freshwater stingrays discovered in the Amazon

(03/09/2011) Few people probably realize that in the rivers and lakes of the Amazon rainforest large stingrays glide, searching for crustaceans and small fish. Equipped with a powerful barbed tail they are often feared by locals. However, even as big as these fish are, new species continue to be described. Recently, scientists have identified two new species of Amazonian freshwater stingray near Iquitos, Peru. The new stingrays are unique enough to be placed in a new genus (the taxonomic level above species) called Heliotrygon, the first new Amazonian stingray genus to be described in nearly 25 years.


Republicans believe in climate change but not global warming

(03/09/2011) A new study finds that self-described Republicans are less skeptical of "climate change" than "global warming", reports Miller-McCune.



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