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News articles on environment
Mongabay.com news articles on environment in blog format. Updated regularly.
(11/13/2009) A new report issued by the The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) initiative makes a strong case for valuing the planet's ecosystem services. The report calls for investments in "ecological infrastructure" to protect wildlands and the services they provide; market-based valuation of ecosystem services; reductions in environmentally harmful subsidies; recognition of the link between environmental degradation and poverty; and a strong climate deal that includes forest carbon.
"Responsible" palm oil producers pledge not to develop endangered Sumatra rainforest
(11/13/2009) Members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an initiative developing criteria to improve the environmental performance of palm oil, agreed to declare the Bukit Tigapuluh Ecosystem in Sumatra a 'high conservation value area'. The decision, voted on by RSPO General Assembly members at the group's annual meeting earlier this month in Kuala Lumpur, effectively bans oil palm development of the endangered forest ecosystem by RSPO members.
Brazil releases official Amazon deforestation figures for 2009
(11/13/2009) Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell nearly 46 percent to the lowest annual loss on record in 2009, reported the Brazilian government Thursday.
Forgotten species: Madagascar's water-loving mammal, the aquatic tenrec
(11/12/2009) There are many adjectives one could attach to the aquatic tenrec: rare, mysterious, elusive, one-of-a-kind, even adorable, though one tries to stray from such value-laden titles since it excludes so many other non-adorable inhabitants of the animal kingdom. This small and, yes, cute insectivore, also known as the web-footed tenrec, lives in Eastern Madagascar where at night it spends the majority of its time swimming and diving in fast-moving streams for insects and tadpoles. It sleeps during the day in small streamside burrows. To date that is about the extent of our knowledge of this species.
Blackwashing by NGOs, greenwashing by corporations, threatens environmental progress
(11/12/2009) Misinformation campaigns by both corporations and environmental groups threaten to undermine efforts to conserve biodiversity and reduce environmental degradation, argues a new paper published in the journal Biotropica. Growing concerns over climate change and unsustainable resource extraction have put companies that exploit the environment in the spotlight. Some firms have responded by taking measures to reduce their environmental impact. Others have alternatively engaged in sophisticated marketing campaigns intended to mislead consumers on their environmental performance, maintaining that environmentally-destructive practices are instead benign. At the same time some activist groups have been guilty of exaggerating claims of environmental misconduct in order to boost support for their campaigns and therefore their fundraising efforts.
New report: boreal forests contain more carbon than tropical forest per hectare
(11/12/2009) A new report states that boreal forests store nearly twice as much carbon as tropical forests per hectare: a fact which researchers say should make the conservation of boreal forests as important as tropical in climate change negotiations. The report from the Canadian Boreal Initiative and the Boreal Songbird Initiative, entitled "The Carbon the World Forgot", estimates that the boreal forest—which survives in massive swathes across Alaska, Canada, Northern Europe, and Russia—stores 22 percent of all carbon on the earth's land surface. According to the study the boreal contains 703 gigatons of carbon, while the world's tropical forests contain 375 gigatons.
Will Brazil's blackout drive a new push for more rainforest dams?
(11/12/2009) The power outage that affected nearly a third of Brazil's population Tuesday could be used by development interests to justify a renewed push for hydroelectric dams in the Amazon rainforest.
Declaration calls for more wilderness protected areas to combat global warming
(11/11/2009) Meeting this week in Merida, Mexico, the 9th World Wilderness Congress (WILD9) has released a declaration that calls for increasing wilderness protections in an effort to mitigate climate change. The declaration, which is signed by a number of influential organizations, argues that wilderness areas—both terrestrial and marine—act as carbon sinks, while preserving biodiversity and vital ecosystem services.
UN singles out US as the most important nation for global warming negotiations
(11/11/2009) Visiting Washington DC, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon stated that the United States was the world's most important actor when it comes to negotiations for a new climate change treaty, while urging the Senate to move forward on legislation.
Costa Rica proposes to downgrade Las Baulas National Park, threatening leatherback sea turtles
(11/11/2009) Costa Rica is considered by many to be a shining example of environmental stewardship, preserving both its terrestrial and marine biodiversity while benefiting from being a popular tourist location. However, a new move by the Costa Rican government has placed their reputation in question. In May of this year the President of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias, presented a law to the legislature that would downgrade Las Baulas from a National Park to a 'mixed property wildlife refuge'. The downgrading would authorize a number of development projects that conservationists say would threaten the park's starring resident: the leatherback turtle.
Nations vulnerable to global warming present demands: carbon levels below 350ppm and billions in aid
(11/10/2009) A group of nations especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change have released a declaration calling for developed countries to keep CO2 emission below 350 parts per million (ppm) and to give 1.5 percent of their gross domestic product to aid developing nations in adapting to the myriad impacts of climate change.
Prime Minister of Kenya urged to ban lion-killing pesticide after child dies from ingestion
(11/10/2009) On Monday October 26th a three-year-old girl mistakenly ate the pesticide Furadan (also known as carbofuran) in western Kenya. Her father, a teacher at a primary school, said that he had no knowledge of how dangerous the pesticide was, which he had purchased to kill pests in his vegetable garden.
Palm oil developers push into Indonesia's last frontier: Papua
(11/10/2009) Oil palm developers in the Indonesian half of New Guinea are signing questionable deals that exploit local communities and put important forest ecosystems at risk, alleges a new report from Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Telapak.
How rainforest shamans treat disease
(11/10/2009) Ethnobotanists, people who study the relationship between plants and people, have long documented the extensive use of medicinal plants by indigenous shamans in places around the world, including the Amazon. But few have reported on the actual process by which traditional healers diagnose and treat disease. A new paper, published in the Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, moves beyond the cataloging of plant use to examine the diseases and conditions treated in two indigenous villages deep in the rainforests of Suriname. The research, which based on data on more than 20,000 patient visits to traditional clinics over a four-year period, finds that shamans in the Trio tribe have a complex understanding of disease concepts, one that is comparable to Western medical science. Trio medicine men recognize at least 75 distinct disease conditions—ranging from common ailments like fever [këike] to specific and rare medical conditions like Bell's palsy [ehpijanejan] and distinguish between old (endemic) and new (introduced since contact with the outside world) illnesses. In an interview with mongabay.com, Lead author Christopher Herndon, currently a reproductive medicine physician at the University of California, San Francisco, says the findings are a testament to the under-appreciated healing prowess of indigenous shaman.
40% of lowland forests in Sumatra and Indonesian Borneo cleared in 15 years
(11/10/2009) Forty percent of lowland forests in Sumatra and Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) were cleared from 1990 to 2005, reports a new high resolution assessment of land cover change in Indonesia.
Norway to give Guyana up to $250M for rainforest conservation
(11/09/2009) Norway will provide up to $250 million to Guyana as part of the South American country's effort to avoid emissions from deforestation.
Global warming threatens desert life
(11/09/2009) There have been numerous studies showing how climate change is impacting a variety of environments—from the Arctic to coral reefs to alpine—but how could a warmer world damage deserts, already the world's warmest and driest environments?
Obama slower than Bush in protecting America's endangered species
(11/08/2009) In George W. Bush's eight years as president, he placed 62 species under the protection of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), an average of eight species per year. While, Bush's slow pace in protecting endangered species frustrated environmentalists in light of continued decline among many species, Obama is moving even slower.
Hunting across Southeast Asia weakens forests' survival, An interview with Richard Corlett
(11/08/2009) A large flying fox eats a fruit ingesting its seeds. Flying over the tropical forests it eventually deposits the seeds at the base of another tree far from the first. One of these seeds takes root, sprouts, and in thirty years time a new tree waits for another flying fox to spread its speed. In the Southeast Asian tropics an astounding 80 percent of seeds are spread not by wind, but by animals: birds, bats, rodents, even elephants. But in a region where animals of all shapes and sizes are being wiped out by uncontrolled hunting and poaching—what will the forests of the future look like? This is the question that has long occupied Richard Corlett, professor of biological science at the National University of Singapore.
Developer uses cover of national holiday to clear rainforest near Colon, Panama
(11/06/2009) On Tuesday, November 3rd, while Panamanians celebrated Independence Day Holidays, heavy machinery unexpectedly entered and began cutting down tropical forest and mangroves near Galeta outside of Colon, Panama, report local sources. mongabay.com confirmed that the latest clearing has been carried out "almost in secret during national holidays so there would be no reaction from the public or the media." The clearing, conducted by a transportation cooperative called Serafin Niño, from Colon, is occurring in the buffer zone of the Galeta Protected Landscape and near Galeta Point Marine Laboratory, a facility of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. The land will likely be used to store transportation equipment that moves cargo to and from the ports of Colon and the Free Zone.
Important safeguards to protect rainforests lacking in REDD negotiating text
(11/06/2009) Important safeguards to protect natural forests are still lacking in negotiating text on REDD, a proposed mechanism for mitigating climate change by paying developing countries to keep trees standing, reports an alliance of activist groups.
Fossil fuel subsidies "bringing us closer to irreversible climate change"
(11/06/2009) The Green Economy Coalition is urging G20 finance ministers to rapidly put an end to fossil fuel subsidies. In a letter to the ministers the coalition argues that these subsidies are contributing directly to climate change and making it difficult for the world to transition to a greener economy.
World's first video of the elusive and endangered bay cat
(11/05/2009) Rare, elusive, and endangered by habitat loss, the bay cat is one of the world's least studied wild cats. Several specimens of the cat were collected in the 19th and 20th Century, but a living cat wasn't even photographed until 1998. Now, researchers in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, have managed to capture the first film of the bay cat (Catopuma badia). Lasting seven seconds, the video shows the distinctly reddish-brown cat in its habitat.
Kihansi spray toad goes extinct in the wild
(11/04/2009) This year's IUCN Red List has updated its assessment of the Kihansi spray toad, moving the species from Critically Endangered to Extinct in the Wild. With that another amphibian species has been lost to a combination of habitat loss and the devastating amphibian disease, the chytrid fungus. The Kihansi spray toad Nectophrynoides asperginis, which still survives in a number of zoos in the United States, had lived on just two hectares along the Kihansi gorge in Tanzania. The toad was specially adapted to the spray region of the Kihansi waterfall, which kept its small environment at a constant temperature and humidity.
Reptiles underrepresented on the IUCN Red List
(11/04/2009) Currently there are an estimated nearly 9,000 reptiles in the world, while the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List has assessed all of the world's described mammals, birds, and amphibians, reptiles have yet to be fully assessed, leaving herpetologists with an unclear picture of how reptiles are faring in the world. Currently, 1,677 reptiles have been assessed (less than 20 percent of the total number of reptile species known) with 293 added this year.
Governments, public failing to save world's species
(11/04/2009) According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) 2008 report, released yesterday, 36 percent of the total species evaluated by the organization are threatened with extinction. If one adds the species classified as Near Threatened, the percentage jumps to 44 percent—nearly half.
House resolution condemns plunder of natural resources in Madagascar
(11/04/2009) A House of Representatives resolution introduced by Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) condemns the illegal plundering of natural resources in Madagascar, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
Photos: Palm oil threatens Borneo's rarest cats
(11/04/2009) Oil palm expansion is threatening Borneo's rarest wild cats, reports a new study based on three years of fieldwork and more than 17,000 camera trap nights. Studying cats in five locations—each with different environments—in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, researchers found that four of five cat species are threatened by habitat loss due to palm oil plantations. "No other place has a higher percentage of threatened wild cats!" Jim Sanderson, an expert on the world's small cats, told Mongabay.com. Pointing out that 80 percent of Borneo's cats face extinction, Sanderson said that "not one of these wild cats poses a direct threat to humans."
Conservation and Carbon in Borneo’s Heart and Ours
(11/04/2009) My friend Rezal Kusumaatmadja contacted me in July to ask if I could join him and some of his associates for a couple of days in the village Mendawai, located along the Katingan River in south central Kalimantan. The purpose of the gathering was to bring everyone in the group up to date on progress and challenges related to the Katingan Peat Conservation Project, as well as to give the group an opportunity to meet one another. The Katingan Project aims to create a forest-based carbon containment facility defined and guided by REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Destruction in the developing world) principles and methodology. Currently, nearly 25% of human-generated greenhouse gas emissions are caused by felling, burning and converting the world’s remaining primary forests. While areas surrounding the Katingan peat forest vividly express this statistic, Katingan is part of a growing strategy to reverse the trend. The Katingan project endeavors to transform conservation into a product that might offer strong competition against illegal logging and expansion of industrial agricultural plantations - whose practices cause enormous emissions of greenhouse gasses, as well as destroying biodiversity, depleting and polluting watersheds and corroding native cultures.
EU is 2nd largest source of peat emissions after Indonesia, finds global peat survey
(11/04/2009) The EU is the world's second largest source of carbon dioxide emissions from peatlands drainage, after Indonesia, reports the first country-by-country assessment of peat stocks. The study, conducted by Wetlands International and Greifswald University, found that drainage of wetlands for agriculture, forestry and peat extraction causes 1.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. Emissions from fires and peat mining (for horticulture and fuel) amount to another 700,000 million tons per year.
Non-Malaysian and Indonesian palm oil producers pledge not to develop peatlands for plantations
(11/04/2009) Palm oil producers outside of Malaysia and Indonesia pledged to stop developing new plantations on peatlands, circumventing an impasse that developed between palm oil producers and environmental groups meeting this week at the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil in Kuala Lumpur. The factions deadlocked over plans to account for emissions from plantation development, delaying the criteria for a year.
Emissions from deforestation overestimated; 12% rather than 17%
(11/04/2009) Greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation are lower than previously believed, according to a new study published in Nature Geoscience. The findings mean that developing countries may see less money under Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, a proposed climate change mitigation mechanism.
Impasse over palm oil emissions at RSPO meeting
(11/04/2009) Environmentalists and palm oil producers meeting at the annual Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) were locked in an impasse over how to account for emissions from converting forests and peatlands to oil palm plantations, report conference attendees.
California's great white sharks are a distinct population
(11/04/2009) Researchers have long thought that white sharks migrated across oceans, but a new study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B shows that the population in the northeastern Pacific Ocean, along California, hasn't mixed with other white sharks for tens of thousands of years.
REDD in Colombia: using forests to finance conservation and communities in Colombia's Choco, a former war zone
(11/03/2009) Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), a climate change mechanism proposed by the U.N., has been widely lauded for its potential to simultaneously deliver a variety of benefits at multiple scales. But serious questions remain, especially in regard to local communities. Will they benefit from REDD? While much lip-service is paid to community involvement in REDD projects, many developers approach local communities as an afterthought. Priorities lie in measuring the carbon sequestered in a forest area, lining up financing, and making marketing arrangements, rather than working out what local people — the ones who are often cutting down trees — actually need in order to keep forests standing. This sets the stage for conflict, which reduces the likelihood that a project will successfully reduce deforestation for the 15-30 year life of a forest carbon project. Brodie Ferguson, a Stanford University-trained anthropologist whose work has focused on forced displacement of rural communities in conflict regions in Colombia, understands this well. Ferguson is working to establish a REDD project in an unlikely place: Colombia's Chocó, a region of diverse coastal ecosystems with some of the highest levels of endemism in the world that until just a few years ago was the domain of anti-government guerrillas and right-wing death squads.
Gucci drops APP in pledge to save rainforests
(11/03/2009) One of the world's largest and most prestigious fashion brands has stated it will stop sourcing paper from Indonesian forests and will drop Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) as a supplier, which has become notorious for tropical deforestation. The move comes after pressure from the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) on the fashion industry to stop sourcing paper from threatened rainforests for their shopping bags.
Palm oil lobby group launches public relations push to counter environmental complaints
(11/02/2009) A report released by World Growth International in late September claimed that environmentalists are waging a “morally indefensible” campaign against palm oil. The report accurately highlighted the high productivity of oil palm — the world's highest-yielding commercial oilseed — and noted that the crop has created jobs and driven rural development in Malaysia and Indonesia. Critically, World Growth also downplayed chief concerns about the rapid expansion of oil palm cultivation across southeast Asia, notably worries that palm oil production is contributing to deforestation, putting endangered wildlife like the orangutan at risk, and adversely affecting climate. To make its case, the report made some questionable claims, asserting that oil palm plantations sequester more carbon than natural forests and that deforestation is driven by poverty rather than industrial activities.
Wolves keep forests nutrient-rich
(11/02/2009) As hunting wolves is legal again in two American states, Montana and Idaho, researchers have discovered an important role these large predators play in creating nutrient hotspots in northern forest environments. Researchers from Michigan Technological University found that when wolves take down their prey—in this case moose—they do more than simply keep a check on herbivore populations. The corpses of wolf-hunted moose create hotspots of forest fertility by enriching the soil with biochemicals. Due to this sudden up-tick in nutrients, microbial and fungal growth explodes, in turn providing extra nutrients for plants near the kill.
Goodbye, snows of Kilimanjaro
(11/02/2009) The most recent survey among the ice fields atop Mount Kilimanjaro found that the ice atop Africa's most famous mountain could be gone in twenty years—and maybe even sooner. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science the study was conducted by a team of researchers who first measured the glaciers in 2000. They discovered that between 1912 and 2007, 85 percent of the ice that covered Mount Kilimanjaro vanished. When using 2000 as baseline the mountain has lost 26 percent of its ice.
Tsavo lions ate 35 people, not 135
(11/02/2009) A recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has shown that the two man-killing lions of Tsavo very likely did not kill and eat as many people as claimed. Looking at hair and bone samples from the pair of male lions, now resting in the Chicago Field Museum, researchers were able to determine that the Tsavo lions likely killed and ate approximately 35 people, not 135 as claimed by Lieutenant Colonel John H. Patterson. Patterson became famous for shooting and killing the lions in December 1898. For nine months the two lions terrorized a railroad camp in Kenya.
Without reinstatement of key provision, REDD could subsidize large-scale forest destruction
(11/02/2009) The elimination of a key provision from the negotiating text for the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation in developing countries (REDD) mechanism could turn the proposed climate change mitigation scheme into a subsidy for large-scale conversion of natural forests to industrial plantations, warned environmentalists today at the resumption of U.N. climate change negotiations in Barcelona.
Cement mining puts Dominican Republic park at risk
(11/01/2009) A cement mine, granted under questionable circumstances, is putting one the Caribbean's most important forest parks at risk, warns a group working to stop the project.
Tiger rescued from poachers in Malaysia perishes from injuries
(10/29/2009) Rescued in early October from a poacher's snare, a Malayan tiger has died from stress and infection due to its injuries. The 120 kilogram (264 pound) male tiger died on October 19th in the Malacca Zoo after undergoing surgery to amputate its right foreleg, which two weeks before had been caught in a poacher's snare and severely injured. "It broke my heart as I was there during the rescue. Everyone had such high hopes of the tiger being released back into the wild after its treatment at the zoo, and no one spoke of the in-betweens," says Reuben Clements.
China's Pearl River suffers from "almost impossible to remove" pollution
(10/29/2009) A new study by Greenpeace has found high volumes of heavy metals and organic chemicals in China's Pearl River, which provides drinking water for 47 million people.
Google partners with Amazon tribe
(10/29/2009) The story of an indigenous Amazon tribe that has embraced technology in its fight to protect its homeland and culture is now highlighted as a layer in Google Earth.
European companies not supporting 'greener' palm oil
(10/29/2009) Most European consumers of palm oil are failing to buy eco-certified palm oil, undermining efforts to encourage producers to reduce their impact on the environment, reports WWF.
Atlantic bluefin tuna should be banned internationally: ICCAT scientists
(10/29/2009) Scientists with the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) have said in a new report that a global ban on Atlantic bluefin tuna fishing is justified. ICCAT meets in November to decide if they will follow their scientist's recommendations.
Carbon accounting must not neglect emissions from bioenergy production and use
(10/29/2009) Carbon accounting used in the Kyoto Protocol and other climate legislation currently neglects CO2 emissions from the production of biofuels, a loophole that could drive large-scale destruction of tropical forests and exacerbate global warming, warned researchers writing last week in the journal Science.
Language and conservation: why words matter
(10/28/2009) The words we choose matter. Benjamin Lee Whorf, an influential American linguist theorized that the language one speaks directly impacts our thoughts; he is quoted as saying, "language shapes the way we think, and determines what we can think about". If this is the case then those who believe in conservation must select their words wisely. My wife and I recently traveled to Africa where we visited wildlife parks in both Zimbabwe and Botswana. The animals we encountered and the scenes we were fortunate enough to witness proved so beautiful and wondrous that I have a difficult time describing them—at least in any way that accurately depicts the experience.
Brazil to support REDD in Copenhagen
(10/28/2009) Brazil will conditionally support a proposed climate change mitigation scheme that will compensate tropical countries for preserving their forests, reports Reuters.
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