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News articles on environment
Mongabay.com news articles on environment in blog format. Updated regularly.
(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.
What is the greatest threat to rainforests: habitat destruction or climate change?
(01/13/2009) A symposium from the Smithsonian Institution meant to debate the level of threat by deforestation posed to the tropics shifted topic slightly near its end as scientists began to discus which was the most significant threat for rainforests and the species that inhabit them: habitat destruction or climate change?
Selective logging occurs in 28 percent of world’s rainforests
(01/13/2009) New satellite research presented for the first time at a symposium entitled “Will the rainforests survive?” showed that selective logging is impacting over a quarter of the world’s rainforests. Gregory Asner from the Carnegie Institution presented the “first true global estimate of selective logging” which showed that 5.5 million square kilometers of the rainforest has already seen selective logging or is slated to be logged in the near future.
NY governor to cut zoo and aquarium budgets 55%
(01/13/2009) New York state's botanical gardens, aquariums, and zoos — including the renowned Bronx Zoo — are facing "devastating" budget cuts unless the public takes immediate action to voice support for the institutions, reports a coalition of the state's "living museums".
Rediscovery of the solenodon, a rare venomous mammal, in Haiti
(01/09/2009) In the journal Oryx researchers from EDGE, a program of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), have announced the rediscovery of a small population of Hispaniolan solenodons in Haiti. At the same time scientists in the Dominican Republic have taken the first ever footage of this endangered mammal.
Bizarre chirruping Purple Frog captured on film for the first time
(01/07/2009) Discovered only in 2003, the unique purple frog has been captured on film for the first time in India’s Western Ghats. A team of biologists from the University of Delhi, led by Dr. Sathyabhama Das Biju, captured several seconds of film of the frog running swiftly while calling for a mate with a distinct squeak.
Newly discovered pink iguana sheds light on Galapagos evolution
(01/06/2009) A newly identified, but already endangered species of pink land iguana may provide evidence of the lizard's evolution on the Galápagos Islands, report researchers writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Infecting mosquitoes with parasite could reduce dengue fever outbreaks
(01/05/2009) With an average of 50 million cases worldwide dengue fever is second only to malaria in terms of concern for mosquito-borne illnesses. Carried primarily by the mosquito species Aedes aegypti, the fever is usually not fatal; however a particular strain of disease can be especially dangerous to children. However, early this year new research brings hope to the tropical areas where dengue fever is prevalent. Scientists have discovered a new possibility in debilitating the mosquitoes carrying dengue fever: the Wolbachia parasite.
Indonesian coral reef recovering after devastating tsunami and years of destructive fishing
(01/05/2009) On December 26th, 2004 an earthquake recorded at a magnitude of 9.3 in the Indian Ocean created a massive tsunami that struck nations across the region. Enormous waves took the lives of nearly 250,000 people while destroying cities and towns in minutes. The tsunami also caused extensive environmental damage, including reef systems along many coastal areas. Four years after the tsunami researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) have returned to site of the disaster to survey the damaged reefs and work with local communities on preserving this important resource. After exploring sixty sites of coral reef off the coasts of Aceh, Indonesia, the scientists report that reefs damaged by the 2004 tsunami are on the path to recovery.
17 new reptile and amphibian species discovered in Tanzania
(01/04/2009) 17 previously unknown species of reptiles and amphibians have been discovered in the rainforests of eastern Tanzania, report Italian and Tanzanian scientists. Conducting surveys of the 'virtually unexplored' forests of the South Nguru Mountains between 2004 and 2006, Michele Menegon of the Natural Science Museum of Trento in Italy and colleagues recorded 92 species of 'herps', of which 17 had never before been documented. The new species — which include chameleons, tree frogs, and snakes, among others — are believed to be endemic to the region.
How to save the Amazon rainforest
(01/04/2009) Environmentalists have long voiced concern over the vanishing Amazon rainforest, but they haven't been particularly effective at slowing forest loss. In fact, despite the hundreds of millions of dollars in donor funds that have flowed into the region since 2000 and the establishment of more than 100 million hectares of protected areas since 2002, average annual deforestation rates have increased since the 1990s, peaking at 73,785 square kilometers (28,488 square miles) of forest loss between 2002 and 2004. With land prices fast appreciating, cattle ranching and industrial soy farms expanding, and billions of dollars' worth of new infrastructure projects in the works, development pressure on the Amazon is expected to accelerate. Given these trends, it is apparent that conservation efforts alone will not determine the fate of the Amazon or other rainforests. Some argue that market measures, which value forests for the ecosystem services they provide as well as reward developers for environmental performance, will be the key to saving the Amazon from large-scale destruction. In the end it may be the very markets currently driving deforestation that save forests.
Ocean acidification is killing the Great Barrier Reef
(01/01/2009) Since 1990 the growth of coral in Australia's Great Barrier Reef has slowed its lowest rate in at least 400 years as a result of warming waters and ocean acidification, report researchers writing in Science. The finding portends a bleak near-term future for the giant reef ecosystem as well as calcifying marine organisms around the world.
Rainforest conservation more important than developing electric cars
(01/01/2009) For all the fuss that is made about Tesla and the coming generation of electric cars, policy-makers should not overlook the importance of tropical forest conservation.
Rancher accused of ordering murder of American nun is arrested in Brazil
(12/30/2008) The rancher suspected of ordering the killing of an American nun in the Brazilian Amazon has been arrested and detained at his home in the state of Pará, reports the Associated Press (AP).
Did cheetah come from China?
(12/30/2008) The discovery of a fossilized big cat skull in northwestern China provides new evidence that cheetah originated in the Old World, rather than the Americas, report scientists writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Reindeer, a symbol of the holidays, is under increasing threat
(12/26/2008) Reindeer are beloved in the holiday season for the mystical role they play in guiding Santa from the North Pole to the world’s chimneys. However, according to a new book, reindeer, more commonly referred to as caribou, face increasing pressures from a variety of sources. The new book entitled, Caribou and the North: A Shared Future, draws an intimate portrait of the only deer species where both male and females sport horns, while outlining the dangers which may lead these unique animal to become globally endangered.
Shade-grown coffee preserves native tree diversity
(12/23/2008) A new study finds that shade-grown coffee protects the biodiversity of tree species, as well as those of birds and bats. Published in Current Biology, the study found that native trees in shade-grown coffee plantations aid the overall species’ gene flow and can become a focal point for reforestation.
Mirrors in the desert may fight global warming
(12/23/2008) Heat reflecting sheets in arid regions could cool climate by increasing Earth's reflectivity or albedo, argue scientists writing in the International Journal of Global Environmental Issues.
China successfully cut pollution during Olympics finds NASA
(12/18/2008) China's efforts to clean up Beijing's skies during the Olympics seemed to have worked, reports NASA.
Obama pick supports 'Green Jobs' initiative to rebuild economy
(12/18/2008) President-elect Barack Obama's choice of California congresswoman Hilda Solis to head the Labor Department is a boost to the effort to launch a national "Green Jobs" initiative reports The Wall Street Journal.
European conquest of the Americas may have driven global cooling
(12/18/2008) Recovery of forests following the collapse of human populations in the Americas after the arrival of Europeans may have driven the period of global cooling from 1500-1750 known as the Little Ice Age, report researchers speaking at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. By some estimates, diseases introduced by Europeans may have killed more than 90 percent of population on the New World within a century of first contact. The rapid depopulation led to large-scale abandonment, and subsequent reforestation, of agricultural lands in the Americas. Analyzing charcoal found in soils and lake sediments at sites across the Americas, Richard Nevle and Dennis Bird found evidence to suggest that this forest regeneration sequestered enough carbon to trigger global cooling.
Wood chemistry used to track origin of timber
(12/18/2008) A researcher is using carbon and oxygen isotopes to track the origin of timber as part of a worldwide effort to develop methods to combat illegal logging.
Japanese scientists use goldfish to screen for freshwater pollution
(12/17/2008) Coal miners used canaries to warn them of noxious gases for generations. Today's substitute may be the everyday goldfish: It can act as an aquatic canary to warn scientists when something bad is brewing in the waters, according to new research.
Arctic sea ice fell to the lowest volume on record in 2008
(12/17/2008) Arctic sea ice fell to the lowest volume — and second lowest extent — on record, according to the annual World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Statement on the Status of the Global Climate.
Biochar and its Role in Mitigating Climate Change
(12/17/2008) The growing concerns about climate change have brought biochar, a charcoal produced from biomass combustion, into limelight. Biochar is a carbon-rich, fine-grained residue which can be produced either by ancient techniques (such as covering burning biomass with soil and allowing it to smolder) or state-of-the-art modern pyrolysis processes. Combustion and decomposition of woody biomass and agricultural residues results in the emission of a large amount of carbon dioxide. Biochar can store this CO2 in the soil leading to reduction in GHGs emission and enhancement of soil fertility. Biochar holds the promise to tackle chronic human development issues like hunger and food insecurity, low agricultural productivity and soil depletion, deforestation and biodiversity loss, energy poverty, air pollution and climate change. Thus, biochar could make a difference in the energy-starved countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America as well as the industrialized world with its vast array of benefits.
Tool helps overcome miles-per-gallon illusion
(12/17/2008) A new tool helps motorists evaluate the fuel efficiency of their vehicle in terms that more accurately reflect the cost of driving than miles-per-gallon (MPG).
Observed sea level rise, ice melt far outpaces projections
(12/17/2008) Sea levels will rise faster than previously estimated due to rapid melting of glaciers and ice sheets, according to a U.S government report released at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. The report, titled Abrupt Climate Change, incorporates research published since last year's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which drew largely from studies dating up to 2006. Most significantly, Abrupt Climate Change suggests that IPCC estimates for future sea level rise (18-58 cm) are conservative, noting that recent observations on sea level rise and loss of sea ice are far outpacing previous projections.
Greenland melting much faster than last year
(12/16/2008) Greenland is losing ice three times faster than last year, report researchers presenting at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.
Africa eyes geothermal power
(12/15/2008) Geothermal — the tapping of steam from hot underground rocks — could provide a source of clean, renewable energy in parts of Africa where electricity is currently limited, according to an assessment by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
Corn expansion is hurting ladybugs
(12/15/2008) Expansion of corn acreage to meet ethanol targets is reducing the ability of beneficial insects to control pests, a loss valued at $58 million in the four states studied (Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin), report researchers writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Climate change, ocean acidification may doom jumbo squid
(12/15/2008) Ocean acidification — driven by rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere — may hurt the Humboldt squid, report researchers writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Photos of new species discovered in the Greater Mekong
(12/15/2008) More than 1,000 previously unknown species have been discovered in the Greater Mekong, a region comprising Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Vietnam and the Yunnan Province of China, in the past decade, according to a new report from WWF.
Neither slow nor stupid, manatees are killed by boats because they can't hear them
(12/12/2008) Last year 73 manatees were killed by boats in Florida, despite two decades of manatee-related protections. In fact, manatee deaths due to boat collisions have only increased since protections were implanted. A recent study at the Florida Atlantic University has finally revealed why boats are so dangerous to manatees: the manatee cannot run from what it does not hear.
Computer hackers are helping illegal loggers destroy the Amazon rainforest
(12/12/2008) Computer hackers are helping illegal loggers destroy the Amazon rainforest by breaking into the Brazilian government's timber tracking system and altering the records so as to increase logging allocations, reports Greenpeace.
Lula pledges big cuts in Amazon deforestation -- after he leaves office
(12/12/2008) Last week Brazil unveiled plans to cut deforestation substantially from a 1996-2005 baseline of 19,533 squaure kilometers per year. The announcement met a mixed response from conservationists. Some applauded the decision to set hard targets for reducing deforestation, others say the targets were too low and that the country should aim for zero net deforestation by 2015. Nevertheless as more details have emerged, it becomes clear that the onus for reining in deforestation falls on Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's successor.
Rainforests continue to fall but hope may rest in a market solution
(12/11/2008) Environmentalists attempting to preserve the vanishing Amazon rain forest now confront a stark paradox: Never before have they succeeded in protecting so much of the world’s largest tropical forest, yet never before has so much of it simultaneously been destroyed. The key question today is whether new models of conservation — including an increasingly popular, market-based program known as REDD — will be able to reverse the steady loss of tropical forests, not only in the Amazon, but also in Indonesia, Borneo, and Africa’s Congo basin, where virgin woodlands continue to be razed at an unprecedented rate.
Climate change will transform the chemical-makeup of the ocean
(12/11/2008) By studying the ocean’s past, scientists have discovered that climate change has a much larger affect on ocean chemistry than expected. The study, published in Science, reveals that 13 million years ago climate change significantly altered the chemical composition of the oceans. Such changes in the ocean’s chemical makeup today could have a great impact on marine life, already stressed by overfishing and pollution.
Elephants die significantly earlier in zoos than in wild
(12/11/2008) A new study from Science provides disturbing evidence that one of the zoos’ most popular animals, the elephant, faces a far shorter lifespan in captivity than in the wild. The findings raise new ethical and scientific questions regarding the rightness of keeping elephants in captivity and the causes of their shorter life-spans.
Chad's elephant population falls by two-thirds in two years
(12/11/2008) Civil strife of Chad — a consequence of the calamity in Darfur — is taking a toll on the country's elephant population, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) which has launched an emergency appeal for funds to support conservation efforts in the country.
Deal on forests falls short
(12/11/2008) A deal reached Wednesday in Poznan to include forests in future climate treaties is a positive step but falls short of the progress needed to get the REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation) mechanism on track for incorporation into the framework that will succeed the Kyoto Protocol, say environmentalists speaking from the talks.
Africa calls for "full-range" of bio-carbon as climate solution
(12/10/2008) A coalition of 26 African countries is calling for the inclusion of carbon credits generated through afforestation, reforestation, agroforestry, reduced soil tillage, and sustainable agricultural practices in future climate agreements.
Why do different species of bird lay different numbers of eggs?
(12/10/2008) Clutch size varies greatly between bird species. Researchers now have a better idea why. Analyzing data on clutch size, biology, and habitat for 5,290 species of birds, a team of biologists — Walter Jetz (UC San Diego), Cagan H. Sekercioglu (Stanford University), and Katrin Böhning-Gaese (Johannes Gutenberg-Universität) — developed a model to predict variations in the number of eggs a species lays. They found clutch sizes are consistently largest in cavity nesters and in species occupying seasonal environments. The findings add depth and complexity to previous research that has shown short-lived species — ones that face high predation or have low survival rates among offspring — tend to lay more eggs than longer-lived species, which invest more resources in raising their offspring.
What allows rainforests to grow so wildly?
(12/10/2008) Molybdenum, a rare trace element, is the secret to rainforests' lush growth, reports research published in the journal Nature Geoscience.
Tropical species face high extinction risk
(12/10/2008) Tropical plant species face an inherently high extinction risk due to small populations and restricted ranges relative to temperate species, reports research published in PLoS ONE. These traits leave them vulnerable to habitat disturbance and climate change.
Fear and conservation
(12/10/2008) How does fear shape the behavior and conservation of deer, moose and antelope, not to mention carnivores such as wolves, bears, and even tigers? What is the natural state of wildlife, and how do animals know or learn which species to ignore or fear? Should we reintroduce predators to former habitats, even though the prey animals may be unprepared for their return?
Indigenous people win voice in climate negotiations
(12/10/2008) Negotiators at U.N. climate conference have struck a deal to give forest-dependent people a voice in determining the role forest conservation will play future agreements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reports the Associated Press (AP). The agreement clears a key obstacle that had been blocking progress on reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD), a mechanism that would compensate tropical countries for protecting their forest cover.
Macedonians plant six million trees—in one day
(12/10/2008) While the world meets in Poznan, Poland to discuss actions related to global warming, the small Republic of Macedonia has already achieved an impressive goal. On November 19th, thousands of Macedonians took part in planting trees in a massive reforestation effort. Altogether they planted six million trees: three trees for every citizen of the country.
Finland, Sweden push for loophole that would drive destruction of peatlands around the world
(12/09/2008) Finland and Sweden are pushing for a loophole in the E.U.'s Renewable Energy Directive that would open up vast tracts of peatlands around the world to development for biofuels production. The move could have drastic consequences for climate and biodiversity, warns Wetlands International, an environmental group.
Wildlife banking gets a marketplace
(12/09/2008) Ecosystem Marketplace, a site that provides information on markets and payment schemes for ecosystem services, has launched what it is calling the "first information clearinghouse" for the species credit trading industry.
Drought and deforestation in southeast Asia linked to climate change
(12/09/2008) Researchers have linked drought and deforestation in southeast Asia to climate change. Analyzing six years of climate and fire data from satellites, Guido van der Werf and colleagues report that burning of rainforests and peatlands in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea released an average of 128 million tons of carbon (470 million tons of carbon dioxide - CO2) per year between 2000 and 2006. Fire emissions showed highly variability during the period, but were greatest in dry years, such as those that occur during El Niño events. Borneo was the largest source of fire emissions during the period, averaging 74 million tons per year, followed by Sumatra, which showed a doubling in emissions between 2000 and 2006.
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