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News articles on environment
Mongabay.com news articles on environment in blog format. Updated regularly.
(07/20/2009) Warming climate may favor small species over large ones, reports a study published Monday in the early online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Can non-timber forest products help conserve the Amazon?
(07/20/2009) Industrial-scale logging and resource exploitation continue to plague the South American rainforests, contributing to their systematic destruction. Today, indigenous inhabitants and other local residents of the rainforests and their surrounding areas, faced with the enormous pressures of the global economy, often find themselves in a crucible. Many of their opportunities for supporting themselves and their families financially involve logging or other large-scale operations that deplete and ultimately decimate the forests. In order to make even a marginal living, local people often find themselves forced to participate in the destruction of the very ecosystems that they live in and depend on.
Malaysia's rainforests being insidiously replaced with plantations of clones
(07/20/2009) Rainforests once managed for selective logging in Malaysia are now being are clear-felled and replaced with latex-timber clones, rubber trees that yield latex and can be harvested for timber, reports the Malaysian Star. Up to 80 percent of Malaysia's remaining forest cover could be at risk. Journalist Tan Cheng Li reports that permanent forest reserves in Selandor and Johor have already been cleared for rubber plantations, while other reserves are now being targeted. Permanent forest reserves are forest areas that have been set aside for selective logging under sustainable forest management. They account for 82 percent of Malaysia's remaining forest cover.
Ganges River Dolphin population falls below 300, faces new threat from oil exploration
(07/19/2009) The Ganges River Dolphin faces a high risk of extinction in India's Brahmaputra river system unless critical habitat is protected, report conservationists. Once abundant in the Ganges and Brahmaputra river systems in India and Bangladesh, the population of the Ganges River Dolphins has fallen sharply over the past century due to accidental bycatch by fishermen, direct killing for their meat and oil, and diversion of water for agriculture. Scientists estimate that only 2,000 remain, of which 240-300 survive in the Brahmaputra, according to a new survey by IUCN researchers, who warn the Brahmaputra population is also imperiled by new threats, including dam building and prospecting for oil.
Temperate forests store more carbon than tropical forests, finds study
(07/17/2009) Temperate forests trump rainforests when it comes to storing carbon, reports a new assessment of global forest carbon stocks published July 14th in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The findings have important implications for efforts to mitigate climate change by protecting forests. Sampling and reviewing published data from nearly 100 forest sites around the world, Heather Keith, Brendan G. Mackey, and David B. Lindenmayer of Australian National University found that Australia's temperate Eucalyptus forests are champions of carbon storage, sequestering up to 2,844 metric tons of carbon per hectare, a figure that far exceeds previous estimates. These forests, located in the Central Highlands of Victoria in southeastern Australia, are dominated by giant Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans) trees, which can reach a height of 320 feet and live for more than 350 years. They are also favored by the timber industry. Mountain Ash forests have been widely logged across Australia, with only limited old-growth stands remaining.
U.S. approves logging of 381 acres of primary rainforest in Alaska
(07/17/2009) The Obama administration moved this week to allow clear-cutting of 381 acres (154 ha) of primary temperate rainforest in Alaska's Tongass National Forest, reports the Environmental News Service (ENS).
Smart biofuels that don't hurt people or the environment are possible
(07/16/2009) Sustainable biofuels can be a reality but only in combination with reductions in fuel demand and increased productivity on existing agricultural lands, argue researchers writing in the journal Science. Five years ago biofuels were seen as a panacea for the world's energy hunger and the need to address climate change, but increased production of biofuels soon contributed to a clutch of problems, including competition with food, resulting in rising prices, and large-scale conversion of rainforests and tropical grasslands for feedstocks, resulting in biodiversity loss and increased greenhouse gas emissions. Environmentalists and scientists condemned many biofuels — including ethanol produced from Midwestern corn ethanol and biodiesel generated from European rapeseed and Southeast Asian palm oil — as a short-sighted energy solution. Some biofuels were found to be even worse for the environment, and more costly, than conventional gasoline. However some researchers remain optimistic that smart biofuel production could help meet energy demand without hurting people or the planet. In a Science Policy Forum piece, David Tilman and colleagues explore some of these options, noting that biofuels can be produced in substantial quantities at low environmental cost
Moths defend against bats by 'jamming' sonar
(07/16/2009) Researchers have discovered a species of tiger moth that eludes bats by jamming their echolocation with ultrasonic clicks, a discovery that adds to the list of defensive mechanisms that insects use to defend themselves against bats. The study is published in the journal Science.
Florida announces python hunt following snake invasion
(07/16/2009) Florida has authorized a cull of Burmese pythons that have invaded the Everglades and other wetland areas, reports the Associated Press.
Dragonflies migrate 14,000-18,000 km from India to S. Africa
(07/16/2009) Millions of dragonflies migrate thousands of kilometers across the Indian Ocean from southern India to Africa, reports the BBC.
Birdwatching contributes $36 billion annually to U.S. economy
(07/15/2009) One fifth of Americans are birdwatchers, according to a report released today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Indian tiger reserve no longer has tigers
(07/15/2009) Panna National Park, one of India's tiger reserves, no longer supports tigers, reports BBC News.
China to support greener palm oil
(07/15/2009) China-based producers and users of palm oil said they will provide more support for sustainable palm oil, reports WWF. The move could boost efforts to reduce the environmental impacts of the world's most productive oilseed.
Pangolins threatened by illegal trade for traditional Chinese medicine
(07/14/2009) While their trade has been prohibited under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) since 2002, Asian pangolin populations are rapidly declining due to poaching for use in traditional Chinese medicine, report conservationists. Trade has nearly wiped out the species in Cambodia, Viet Nam and Laos, once strongholds for the scaly, toothless anteater.
Protection of land crabs critical to the conservation of coastal tropical forests
(07/13/2009) The impact of land crabs on the near-ocean forests in which they live has long been overlooked, with emphasis placed instead on water levels, salinity, and other abiotic influences. However, a new research synthesis published in Biological Reviews shows that land crab influence is among the most important factors affecting tropical forest growth along coasts, on islands, and in mangroves.
New glass could reduce one billion annual bird deaths from U.S. window collisions
(07/13/2009) The deaths of billions of birds annually due to collision with window glass can be reduced through simple measures including dimming lights in buildings at night, landscaping changes, and using window coverings that make glass more visible to birds, reports a bird expert writing in The Wilson Journal of Ornithology. Conducting experiment with different types of firm on plastics and glass, Daniel Klem Jr., an ornithologist at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, found coverings that create visual "noise" can dramatically reduce bird-window collisions without drastically increasing costs or impeding visibility for humans relative to conventional glass. The most effective covering was a new exterior film with evenly spaced ultraviolet (UV)-reflecting and UV-absorbing patterns, which can be seen by birds but not humans.
Indonesia releases revenue sharing rules for REDD forest carbon projects
(07/13/2009) Indonesia has released revenue sharing rules for forest carbon projects, reports Reuters. According to a document released by the forestry ministry, the profit-sharing depends on the type of forest ownership or permit, ranging from 10 to 50 percent for the government, 20 to 70 percent for local communities, and 20 to 60 percent for developers. Projects in areas classified as "protected forest" would see 50 percent go to the government, 20 percent to local communities, and 30 percent to developers, while for projects in indigenous forest the breakdown would be 10% to the government, 70 percent to the community, and 20 percent to the developer.
Environmental groups increasingly powerful, says researcher
(07/12/2009) With deforestation increasingly driven by industrial actors, rather than subsistence farmers, tropical timber managers should be aware of the growing clout of environmental groups in swaying public opinion, says a forest expert from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, writing in the International Tropical Timber Organization's July Tropical Forest Update.
Illegal Amazon timber passed off as eco-certified in massive wood laundering scheme
(07/12/2009) A Brazilian federal prosecutor is leading an investigation into charges that illegal timber from the state of Pará is being laundered as "eco-certified" wood and exported to markets in the United States, Europe, and Asia, reports Sunday's edition of O Globo.
Auckland Zoo bans Cadbury chocolate due to palm oil content
(07/12/2009) Auckland Zoo has pulled Cadbury chocolates from its shops and restaurants following the candy maker's decision to start adding palm oil to its chocolates, reports the Sunday Star Times. The zoo is also removing other products that contain palm oil, due to concerns that its production is driving rainforest destruction across Southeast Asia, putting orangutans and other species at risk. Cadbury said it made the change to palm oil for economic reasons. Palm oil, described as "vegetable fat" on its packaging, is cheaper than cocoa butter.
Photo: the incredible shrinking of the Aral Sea
(07/11/2009) Three satellite images released by the European Space Agency (ESA) reveal a dramatic shrinking of the Aral Sea from 2006 to 2009.
China to establish giant oil palm plantation in DR Congo
(07/10/2009) ZTE Agribusiness Company Ltd, a Chinese firm, plans to establish a one million hectare oil palm plantation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) for biofuel production, reports China state media.
Ebola virus found in pigs
(07/09/2009) A variant of the deadly Ebola virus has turned up in pigs in the Philippines, report researchers writing in the journal Science.
Research into drugs derived from natural products declining
(07/09/2009) Although the majority of drugs available today have been derived from natural products, research into nature-based pharmaceuticals has declined in recent years due to high development costs and the drug approvals process. However this trend is likely to reverse due to new approaches and technologies, according researchers from the University of Alberta.
Credit Suisse, UBS, BNP Paribas to help finance cutting of rainforests for palm oil, say NGOs
(07/09/2009) Swiss banks, Credit Suisse and UBS, together with the French BNP Paribas, are helping Singapore-listed Golden Agri-Resources raise up to 280 million Swiss francs ($258 million) to finance conversion of large areas of rainforest in New Guinea and Borneo for oil palm plantations, reports the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF), a group that campaigns on behalf of forest people in Southeast Asia.
Multinational corporation continues destruction of orangutan habitat in Indonesia
(07/09/2009) A coalition of environmental groups stepped up efforts to stop Astra Agro Lestari (AAL), an Indonesian palm oil company, from continuing to clear orangutan habitat in Aceh province, Indonesia.
India hopes to reintroduce cheetah 60 years after extinction
(07/09/2009) India hopes to reintroduce the world's fastest land animal some 60 years after it went extinct in the country, reports The Independent. India's Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said the government has commissioned a study to determine whether it is possible to reintroduce the cheetah into India by importing pairs from Namibia.
Cutting back on calories extends lifespan of monkeys, finds study
(07/09/2009) A 20-year study on rhesus monkeys found that substantially reducing caloric intake slows the aging process and leads to longer lifespans in primates. The research, published in the journal Science, suggests that a reduced-calorie diet could delay the onset of age-related disorders like cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and brain atrophy in humans.
Rhino poaching rises sharply due to Asian demand for horns
(07/09/2009) Rhino poaching rates have hit a 15-year-high as a consequence of demand for horns for use in traditional medicine, according to new report published by the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC. Asia-based criminal gangs run the illegal trade.
Photo: Salamander is first 4-legged animal discovered in U.S. in 50 years
(07/09/2009) Researchers have discovered one of the world's smallest salamanders in a road-side creek in Georgia. The amphibian is so unique that it represents the first new genus of four-legged animal discovered in the United States in 50 years.
G8 leaders declare support for REDD forest conservation initiative
(07/09/2009) A declaration issued by political leaders meeting at the G8 summit in L’Aquila, Italy, included a strong statement on the need to include forest conservation in a future climate agreement. Deforestation accounts for nearly 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, a larger source of emissions than all the world's cars, trucks, ships, and airplanes combined.
Companies benefit from reducing conflict with local people
(07/08/2009) Mechanisms to mitigate disputes with local communities, can reduce risk for companies seeking to profit from forest use while at the same time helping protect rights of forest people, argues a new report published today by the The Forests Dialogue (TFD), an international group of forest experts from business, environmental, academic and human rights groups.
Failure to support greener palm oil may lead industry to abandon environmental measures
(07/08/2009) Consumer apathy towards eco-certified palm oil have undermined efforts to improve the environmental performance of the industry, a top industry official told Reuters.
Age of the Amazon River estimated at 11 million years
(07/08/2009) A new study, published in the journal Geology, estimates the age of the Amazon river at 11 million years.
NASA reveals dramatic thinning of Arctic sea ice
(07/07/2009) Arctic sea ice thinned dramatically between the winters of 2004 and 2008, with thin seasonal ice replacing thick older ice as the dominant type of sea ice for the first time on record, report NASA researchers. Scientists from NASA and the University of Washington used observations from NASA's Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) to make the first Arctic Ocean basin-wide estimate of the thickness and volume of sea ice cover. The researchers found that overall Arctic sea ice thinned about 17.8 centimeters (7 inches) a year, for a total of 67 cm (2.2 feet) over the four winters from 2004 to 2008. The total area covered by thick older ice that survives one or more summers ("multi-year ice") shrank 42 percent or 1.54 million square kilometers (595,000 square miles), leaving thinner first-year ice ("seasonal ice") as the dominant type of ice in the region.
Did fish poisoning drive Polynesian colonization of the Pacific?
(07/07/2009) The reasons behind the colonization of the Pacific islands have long been sources of controversy and fascination. Now a new study looks into toxic fish poisoning as a possible migration catalyst. Between AD 1000 and 1450, Polynesian colonization of the South Pacific flourished. The voyages that were undertaken in the discovery of these new lands were very dangerous and the people who conducted them undoubtedly had good reasons to do so. Researchers from the Florida Institute of Technology have performed research which shows that toxic ciguatera fish poisoning would provide sufficient impetus for such risky voyages.
Extinction risk for Amazonian plants may be lower than previously estimated
(07/06/2009) Five to nine percent of the Amazon's 40,000 known species of plants will be at risk of extinction by 2050 should current deforestation trends continue, report researchers writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The estimates are sharply lower than the 20 to 33 percent predicted in other studies.
Parks in Sumatra may reduce deforestation in adjacent unprotected areas
(07/06/2009) The establishment of protected areas on the Indonesian island of Sumatra may have helped reduce deforestation in adjacent unprotected areas, reports new research published in Journal of Biogeography. The results run counter to recent studies elsewhere that suggest the establishment of nature reserves attracts development projects and migrants to surrounding areas, undermining overall conservation efforts.
Best Buy to sell electric bicycles
(07/06/2009) Best Buy will soon start selling "green" vehicles, reporting the Wall Street Journal.
Birds found to be key protectors of forest in Tanzania
(07/02/2009) Seed-eating birds play a critical role in maintaining forests in the Serengeti by keeping seed-killing beetles in check, report researchers writing in the journal Science. The finding is another example of ecological interdependency between species.
869 species extinct, 17,000 threatened with extinction
(07/02/2009) Nearly 17,000 plant and animal species are known to be threatened with extinction, while more than 800 have disappeared over the past 500 years, reports the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). While these numbers are substantial, they are likely "gross" underestimates since only 2.7 percent of 1.8 million described species have been assessed. The IUCN report warns that governments will miss their 2010 target for reducing biodiversity loss.
A Tasmanian tragedy? : How the forestry industry has torn an island apart
(07/02/2009) This is by no means a new battle: in fact, Tasmanian industrial foresters and environmentalists have been fighting over the issue of clearcutting the island’s forests for decades. The battle—some would probably prefer 'war'—is over nothing less than the future of Tasmania. Some Tasmanians see the rich forests that surround them in terms of income, dollars and cents; they see money literally growing on trees, or more appropriately growing on monoculture plantations and government owned native forests. They see the wilderness of Tasmania as an exploitative resource.
REDD readiness plans for Panama, Guyana approved but rejected for Indonesia
(07/02/2009) The World Bank's Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) has approved REDD readiness plans (R-Plans) for Panama and Guyana, and rejected a plan for Indonesia, reports the U.N. and the Bank Information Center, an advocacy group.
Brazil's development bank to require beef-tracking system to avoid illegal Amazon deforestation
(07/01/2009) Responding to allegations that major Brazilian cattle producers are responsible for illegal forest clearing in the Amazon, Brazil's development bank BNDES will soon require processors to trace the origin of beef back to the ranch where it was produced in order to qualify for loans, reports Brazil's Agencia Estado. The traceability program aims to ensure that cattle products do not come from illegally deforested land.
NASA satellite photos reveal Yellowstone's recovery from fires
(06/30/2009) Satellite images released by NASA show a gradual recovery of forests affected by massive fires during the summer of 1988 in Yellowstone National Park. Fires during that hot and dry summer burned nearly 36 percent of the park — some 793,000 of the park's 2,221,800 acres.
NASA images show huge drop in Amazon fires in 2008
(06/30/2009) New NASA research shows a sharp decline in the amount of smoke over the Amazon during the 2008 burning season, coinciding with a drop in deforestation reported last week by Carlos Minc, Brazil's Environment Minister. Analyzing the aerosol concentrations over the Amazon each September from the past four burning seasons using the Ozone Monitoring Instrument on NASA's Aura satellite, atmospheric scientist Omar Torres of Hampton University and several colleagues found a dramatic decline in airborne particular matter in 2008, indicating reduced incidence of fire in the region. Fire in the Amazon is primarily used by humans for land-clearing to establish cattle pasture, which now accounts for the vast majority of land-use change in the world's largest rainforest.
Coastal seagrass disappearing as quickly as coral reefs and rainforests
(06/30/2009) Findings from the first comprehensive global survey of coastal seagrass ecosystems are nothing to cheer about. Fifty-eight percent of seagrass meadows are declining, according to an international team of scientists who compiled data from 215 studies and 1,800 observations of seagrass habitat beginning in 1879. Since that year, 29 percent of seagrass ecosystems have vanished entirely.
U.S. forgives $30M in debt to protect rainforests in Sumatra, Indonesia
(06/30/2009) The United States will forgive nearly $30 million in debt owed by Indonesia in exchange for increased protection of endangered rainforests on the island of Sumatra, reports the Wall Street Journal. The deal is the largest debt-for-nature swap under the U.S. Tropical Forest Conservation Act — unanimously reauthorized this May by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week — and its first such agreement with Indonesia, which has the second highest annual loss of forest cover after Brazil. Under the terms of the pact the government of Indonesia will put $30 million into a trust over the next eight years. The trust will issue annual grants for forest conservation and restoration work in Sumatra, an island that lost nearly half of its forest cover between 1985 and 2007 as a result of logging, conversion for plantations, and forest fires.
Brazil's minister of ideas, nemesis of former environmental minister, resigns
(06/29/2009) Brazil's minister of strategic affairs, Roberto Mangabeira Unger, will resign his post in the next few days and resume his teaching career at Harvard, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva announced Monday.
Tesco responds to allegations of causing Amazon deforestation
(06/29/2009) Tesco, one of Europe’s largest retailers, has sent a response to the British newspaper The Guardian in light of the paper's coverage of recent allegations that the chain store sells beef and leather products that caused deforestation of the Amazon.
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