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News articles on environment
Mongabay.com news articles on environment in blog format. Updated regularly.
(02/05/2009) With cohesive hierarchical societies and a number of communication techniques, ants have been able to conquer a wide variety of ecosystems with great success. However, according to a recent paper in Science ants’ highly structured society at times comes with a price. A number of insects have evolved means to covertly infiltrate the ants’ society and live off their work and bounty by closely mimicking various ant communication methods. While scientists believe that these parasitical insects largely mimic ant communications like chemical exchange and physical contact—such as touching antennae—the study, however, discovered a butterfly which succeeds in infiltrating the highest echelons of ant society by vocalizing like a queen.
New York zoos, aquariums saved from funding cut
(02/05/2009) The New York State Legislature has rejected Governor David Paterson's proposal to cut funding for state zoos by 55 percent for 2009 after public uproar.
Global warming to strengthen Arctic storms
(02/05/2009) Arctic storms could worsen due to climate change, putting fisheries, oil and gas exploration, and sea lanes at risk, warn researchers writing in the journal Climate Dynamics.
Brazil to boost spending on infrastructure to counter economic crisis
(02/05/2009) Brazil will increase spending on infrastructure projects by 28 percent to in response to the global financial crisis, reports Bloomberg.
Sustainable farming is the only way to feed the planet going forward
(02/05/2009) Embracing more sustainable farming methods is the only way for the world's farmers to grow enough food to meet the demands of a growing population and respond to climate change, the top crop expert with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today.
Google Earth now allows ocean exploration, tracking of sharks
(02/05/2009) Google Earth now allows users to dive beneath the surface of the world's oceans to see coral reefs, trenches, and other marine wonders. The new version, Google Earth 5, includes layers showing locations of shipwrecks and surf spots; routes for ocean expeditions; the movements of GPS-tracked sea animals; and information (including videos and images) about the ocean environment from sources including National Geographic, the Cousteau Society, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Monstrous prehistoric snake provides glimpse of warmer tropical forests
(02/04/2009) On Wednesday scientists announced the discovery of the world’s largest snake, a prehistoric beast which preyed on giant turtles and crocodile-like reptiles in South America after the demise of the dinosaurs. As amazing as the discovery is, its greatest importance may be the clues it provides conservationists about the future of tropical forests under various global warming scenarios.
World’s largest snake discovered: prehistoric serpent was twice the size of an anaconda
(02/04/2009) Paleontologists have recently uncovered the world’s largest snake announces a paper in Nature. Measuring an astonishing 42 to 45 feet, the Titanoboa cerrejonensis makes the anaconda look diminutive. In fact the prehistoric serpent even makes once-ridiculous horror movie snakes appear conservative. "Truly enormous snakes really spark people's imagination, but reality has exceeded the fantasies of Hollywood," said Jonathan Bloch, one of the leaders of the party that discovered the prehistoric serpent. "The snake that tried to eat Jennifer Lopez in the movie Anaconda is not as big as the one we found."
12 new species of frogs discovered in India
(02/03/2009) A dozen previously unknown species of frogs have been discovered in the forests of Western Ghats according to a paper published in latest issue of Zoological Journal of Linnean Society, London. The 12 species have been identified following a revision of the Philautus genus and are the result of ten years of field study in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka. Goa, Maharashtra, and part of Gujarat, in the Western Ghats. The Western Ghats are considered a global biodiversity hotspot for their species richness and the threats the mountain range faces.
Chocolate has been a delicacy north of Mexico for a thousand years
(02/02/2009) Chocolate, produced from cacao beans, has been a part of American culture for a thousand years according to new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Analyzing chemical residue from jars of native peoples in New Mexico, researchers Patricia Crown and Jeffrey Hurst discovered theobromine, a chemical signature of cacao. The jars have been dated from 1000 to 1125 AD, well over three hundred years before Columbus and the earliest recorded discovery of cacao north of Mexico. The cacao jars are from Pueblo Bonito, an archaeological site in Chaco Canyon, which is located in northwestern New Mexico. Chaco Canyon, once home to 2,000-5,000 inhabitants, was composed of a dense group of pueblos, of which Bonito was the largest. Incorporating 800 rooms, Pueblo Bonito was the center of a number of towns and villages in Chaco Canyon.
Seeking out the world’s rarest and most endangered birds
(02/02/2009) For an evolutionary biologist there is no conservation group whose work is more exciting than EDGE, a program developed by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). Unique in the conservation world, EDGE chooses the species to focus on based on a combination of their threat of extinction and evolutionary distinctness. Katrina Fellerman, an evolutionary biologist herself and the EDGE birds’ coordinator, describes the organization as one that focuses on species, which “to put it bluntly, if lost, there would be nothing like them left in the world today”. Explaining further Fellerman says “We use evolutionary distinctiveness (ED) as a species-specific measure of the relative evolutionary value of species - it is a way of apportioning conservation value according to a species’ phylogenetic position. Species with few or no close relatives on the ‘tree of life’ have the highest ED scores.”
Amazon scientists awarded 'Nobel Prize' of conservation
(02/01/2009) Thomas Lovejoy of the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment and William F. Laurance of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) have been awarded one of ecology's most coveted prizes for their work to understand and conserve the Amazon rainforest. The €400,000 BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Ecology and Conservation Biology is given annually to "honor contributions which significantly advance the stock of knowledge in this area for reasons of their importance and originality."
Wind energy jobs now exceed coal mining jobs
(02/01/2009) Wind industry jobs now outnumber those in coal mining, reports CNNMoney.
Giant population of lions could live war-torn region
(01/30/2009) The war-torn frontier between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo has prey to support more than 900 lions, but conservationists must act soon to protect the big cats from poaching and poisoning by livestock herders, report researchers writing in the journal Oryx. The study, which was conducted by Adrian Treves of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and colleagues from Wildlife Conservation Society and the Panthera Foundation, relied on aerial surveys of lion prey — buffalo, warthog, waterbuck and other ungulates — which were then used to estimate the region's potential lion population.
Glaciers decline in ice mass for 18th straight year
(01/30/2009) Glaciers worldwide lost ice mass for the 18th consecutive year due to warming temperatures and reduce snowfall, reports the University of Zurich’s World Glacier Monitoring Service. Alpine glaciers lost on average 1.3 meters of thickness in 2006 and 0.7 meters in 2007, extending an 11.3-meter (36-foot) retreat since 1980.
California faces severe drought
(01/30/2009) California appears to be on track for its worst drought since the early 1990s, warned the state's Department of Water Resources (DWR) following its survey of snowpack and other water resources.
Gore pushes for avoided deforestation to save rainforests during testimony
(01/29/2009) In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, former Vice President Al Gore urged lawmakers to move swiftly on a cap-and-trade climate bill as well as the economic stimulus package. Among many recommendations, Gore repeatedly emphasized the importance of forest conservation in fighting climate change, mentioning "deforestation" more than a dozen times.
Beef drives 80% of Amazon deforestation
(01/29/2009) Nearly 80 percent of land deforested in the Amazon from 1996-2006 is now used for cattle pasture, according to new maps released today in a report by Greenpeace at the World Social Forum in Belem, Brazil. The report, Amazon Cattle Footprint: Mato Grosso: State of Destruction, confirms that cattle ranching is the primary driver of deforestation in Earth's largest rainforest: the Brazilian Amazon.
Iron fertilization of oceans may be ineffective in fighting global warming
(01/29/2009) Schemes to promote increased carbon uptake by plankton via iron fertilization of oceans will be less effective than previously believed, report researchers writing in the journal Nature.
The honeybee can count
(01/29/2009) Plato once said: “numbers are the highest degree of knowledge: it is knowledge itself.” By Plato’s standards researchers have just discovered that the honey bee is a knowledgeable insect indeed. The honey bee can count to three in an instant according to a new study in the online journal PLoS ONE. Using dots and other abstract symbols, scientists from the Vision Centre in Australia tested whether the honey bees had the ability to count items in their environment.
Iceland raises whale killing quota to 150 fin whales, 100 minkes per year
(01/28/2009) The outgoing administration in Iceland has substantially raised the country's whaling quota, reports the BBC.
Biochar and reforestation may offer better global cooling potential than ocean fertilization
(01/28/2009) The first comprehensive assessment of the climate cooling potential of different geoengineering schemes has been conducted by researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA). The results are published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions
Many global warming impacts may be irreversible in next 1000 years
(01/27/2009) Even if greenhouse gas emissions were to cease today, many of the forecast impacts of climate change are already irreversible for at least the next 1000 years, report researchers writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Mountain gorilla population in DR Congo increases 12.5%
(01/27/2009) The population of critically endangered mountain gorillas in Democratic Republic of Congo's Virunga National Park increased 12.5 percent in the past 16 months according to a census conducted by the Congolese Wildlife Authority (ICCN). 81 gorillas now live permanently in the park, up from 72 in August 2007.
Saving leatherback turtles in South America’s smallest country, Suriname: An interview with Liz McHuron
(01/27/2009) After a year studying marine biology at Moss Landing Marine Labs, Liz McHuron headed off to the little-known nation of Suriname to monitor leatherback sea turtles. Her responsibilities included implementing a conservation strategy for a particular beach, moving leatherback nests in danger of flooding, and educating volunteer workers on the biology, behavior, and conservation efforts of the world's largest, and most unique, marine turtle. I visited McHuron during her time at the beach of Galibi in Suriname; she proved to be the sort of scientist who refused to be deterred: breathtaking humidity or downpours, fer-de-lances on the beach or jaguars, Liz was always on the move, always working to aid the critically-endangered leatherbacks while studying them with the thoroughness inherit in a born scientist.
ADM takes step towards more sustainable soy production in the Amazon
(01/27/2009) Agricultural giant Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM) has partnered with Brazilian nonprofit Aliança Da Terra to promote better environmental stewardship among soybean producers operating in the Amazon, reports the Chicago Tribune.
New global temperature record expected in the next 1-2 years
(01/27/2009) 2008 was the coolest year since 2000 but still ranks in the top ten warmest years since record-keeping began in 1880, reported NASA last week.
Americans building fewer McMansions
(01/27/2009) New home size is shrinking in the U.S., reports the Wall Street Journal.
How to make forest fragments more hospitable to wildlife
(01/27/2009) While deforestation garners more attention from environmentalists, fragmentation of forest habitats is of significant concern to ecologists. As forest is fragmented into islands by logging, roads, agriculture, and other disturbances, edge effects alter the structure, microclimate and species composition of the forest patches, usually reducing the overall number of species. Forest specialists are most likely to suffer, losing out to "weedier" generalists and species that can tolerate forest "edge" conditions. A new study, conducted in the Brazilian Amazon, takes a detailed look at the types of birds that are likely to persist, and even thrive, in forest fragments.
Logging may be linked to landslide deaths in Malaysia says environmental group
(01/27/2009) Three people were killed and seven injured when a landslide swept through a logging camp in the Upper Limbang region of the Malaysian state of Sarawak. The Bruno Manser Fund, an NGO that campaigns on behalf of Sarawak's indigenous people, links the landslide to logging.
Obama pushes for better mileage standards
(01/27/2009) President Obama has moved to allow states set automobile emission rules, opening the door for more fuel efficient vehicles. Monday Obama signed a memorandum requiring the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reconsider California's application to set tighter auto emissions and fuel efficiency standards than required under federal law. Should the waiver be granted, automakers would be forced to sell more fuel efficient vehicles if they want to do business in the state.
What does slowing economy mean for rainforest conservation?
(01/26/2009) Plunging commodity prices may offer a reprieve for the world's beleaguered tropical forests. The global economic downturn has caused demand for many commodities to plummet. The resulting decline in the prices of timber, energy, minerals and agricultural products may do what conservationists have largely failed to achieve in recent years: slow deforestation. Fueled by surging demand from China and other emerging economies, and boosted by the convergence of food and energy markets in response to American and European incentives for biofuels, the worldwide commodity boom over the past few years helped trigger a land rush that precipitated the conversion of natural forests for farms, plantations, and ranches. At the same time, high prices for metals, fossil fuels, and other industrial resources drove a global search for exploitable reserves, many of which lie in tropical forest countries. Now that the bonanza is unwinding, with prices for everything from palm oil to bauxite to crude oil cratering, the incentives to clear forests are retreating. Developers large and small are abandoning projects and forgoing planned expansion around the world.
Deadly ‘brown cloud’ over South Asia caused by wood and dung burning
(01/23/2009) Long a subject of debate, the cause of the infamous brown cloud that hovers over the Indian Ocean and South Asia every winter has finally been discovered. Researchers led by Dr Orjan Gustafsson from the University of Stockholm in Sweden announced in Science that 70 percent of the cloud is made up of soot from the burning of biomasses, largely wood and animal dung used for cooking.
Guidelines on how to establish an avoided deforestation project
(01/22/2009) Deforestation presently accounts for nearly 20 percent of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions — a share larger than that from the global transportation sector. Given this contribution, reducing deforestation is widely seen as a key component in plans to slow climate change and a number of proposals to include forestry in a post-Kyoto climate agreement are presently on the table. Anticipating the emergence of a market for forest carbon as a result of this framework, 'avoided deforestation' projects are already sprouting up in tropical countries around the world. Supporters say these initiatives offer the potential to protect forests and biodiversity while simultaneously delivering benefits to rural communities that have so far been lost out while their natural resources have been plundered by developers. While avoided deforestation seems to offers great promise, developing a project that meets still emerging standards is a complex and costly endeavor. A new book, published in five languages, seeks to untangle the forest carbon market and thereby facilitate new avoided deforestation projects.
High coffee prices spurred deforestation in Sumatra but effective law enforcement slowed forest loss
(01/22/2009) Law enforcement efforts can significantly deter deforestation in protected areas despite high pressure from agricultural expansion, reports a new study that assessed the effectiveness of conservation in Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park in southern Sumatra, Indonesia. However the research suggests that conservation needs extend beyond law enforcement to be effective in the long-run.
Climate change killing forests in the western U.S.
(01/22/2009) Tree death rates in old-growth forests of the western United States have more more than doubled in recent decades likely because of regional climate warming, report researchers writing in the journal Science.
Antarctica shows net warming over past 50 years
(01/22/2009) Despite a cooling trend in the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, Antarctica has experienced net warming over the past 50 years, report researchers writing in the January 22 edition of Nature. Analyzing data from satellites and weather stations authors led by Eric Steig of the University of Washington (UW) found that "warming in West Antarctica exceeded one-tenth of a degree Celsius per decade for the last 50 years and more than offset the cooling in East Antarctica", according to a statement from UW.
Indonesia lifts ban on logging of natural forests for pulp and paper
(01/22/2009) Indonesia has reversed a ban on paper and pulp companies from harvesting wood from natural forests, reports the International Tropical Timber Organization in its Tropical Timber Market Report for Jan 1-15.
97% of climatologists say global warming is occurring and caused by humans
(01/22/2009) A new poll among 3,146 earth scientists found that 90 percent believe global warming is real, while 82 percent agree that human activity been a significant factor in changing mean global temperatures.
Carbon market collapse claims another casualty
(01/22/2009) A recent collapse in carbon prices has triggered CantorCO2e — a carbon broker — to scale back on new clean energy projects, reports Reuters.
How to establish a REDD project
(01/22/2009) New guide offers insight on establishing projects for the emerging avoided deforestation or REDD market.
Could engineering rainforests save the planet from global warming?
(01/21/2009) At the Smithsonian symposium entitled “Will the Rainforests Survive?”, leading tropical biologists vigorously debated current threats to the rainforest and what the future may hold. While climate change was identified as a leading threat to rainforests, many of the scientists argued that the tropics may also be the key to mitigating the impact of global warming.
One billion frogs harvested as food per year
(01/21/2009) The consumption of up to one billion frogs per year to satisfy human appetite for frog flesh is adding to the litany of pressures on global amphibian populations, write researchers in the upcoming issue of Conservation Biology.
Congo cancels logging contracts covering 13M hectares
(01/21/2009) Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) canceled nearly 60 percent of the country's timber contracts following a review of 156 logging concessions granted in recent years, reports Reuters. The anti-corruption probe found that 91 deals covering nearly 13 million of hectares of forest were granted under questionable circumstances or during a moratorium on logging contracts following the 1998-2003 civil war.
Nickle mine in Madagascar may threaten lemurs, undermine conservation efforts
(01/21/2009) One of the world's largest nickel mines will have adverse impacts on a threatened and biologically-rich forest in Madagascar, say conservationists. The $3.8 billion mining project, operated by Canada's Sherritt, will tear up 1,300 to 1,700 hectares of primary rainforest that houses nearly 1,400 species of flowering plants, 14 species of lemurs, and more than 100 types of frogs. Many of the species are endemic to the forest. While Sherritt says on its web site that is working to minimize its environmental impact, including moving endangered wildlife, replanting trees, and establishing buffer zones near protected areas, conservationists say that efforts are falling short.
Fish may help fight ocean acidification
(01/19/2009) Fish are a major source of calcium carbonate production in marine ecosystems, a finding that has implications for ocean acidification, report scientists writing in the journal Science.
Wildlife trade creating “empty forest syndrome” across the globe
(01/19/2009) For many endangered species it is not the lack of suitable habitat that has imperiled them, but hunting. In a talk at a Smithsonian Symposium on tropical forests, Elizabeth Bennett of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) outlined the perils for many species of the booming and illegal wildlife trade. She described pristine forests, which although providing perfect habitat for species, stood empty and quiet, drained by hunting for bushmeat, traditional medicine, the pet trade, and trophies.
Secondary forest should become new conservation initiative
(01/19/2009) “I want to convince you we need to go beyond primary forests to preserve biodiversity”, Robin Chazdon told an audience at the National Natural History Museum during a symposium on the tropics. Chazdon, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Connecticut, has been studying secondary growth forests for over eighteen years. Secondary forests are those forests in the process of regrowth after being used for agriculture or logging. In her study area of NE Costa Rica, many of these forests were converted to pastures in the 1970s and 1980s, but have since been abandoned. In her presentation Chazdon argued that to preserve biodiversity numerous types of human-impacted landscapes, such as secondary forest, require attention by the conservation community.
Symposium tackles big question: how many species will survive our generation
(01/16/2009) Nine scientists dusted off their crystal balls Monday at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC, weighing in on the future of the world’s tropical forest. Despite the most up-to-date statistics, prognosis for the future of tropical forests varied widely. In the last few years a schism has occurred among biologists regarding the future of the tropics. No tropical scientist denies that rainforests and the species which inhabit them face unprecedented threats; neither do they argue that some of these forested regions and species will likely not survive the next fifty years. What has sparked debate, sometimes heated, is how bad will is it really? When the dust settles, what percentage of species will survive and how much forest will remain?
Population of Asian elephants discovered in Malaysian park
(01/15/2009) A population of 631 Asian elephants has been documented in Malaysia's Taman Negara National Park, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The population may be the largest in Southeast Asia. Scientists from WCS and Malaysia's Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) counted elephant dung piles to estimate the protected area's population size. There were no previous scientific population surveys for elephants in the park.
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