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News articles on featured
Mongabay.com news articles on featured in blog format. Updated regularly.
(12/05/2006) Tropical deforestation is one of the largest sources of human-produced greenhouse gases yet it has no place in existing climate agreements. This has been a point of contention in negotiations as the United States has objected to some developing countries -- notably Brazil and Indonesia -- to be getting an apparent "free ride" on deforestation-related emissions in addition to emissions from fossil fuel sources. Recent negotiations have looked at this issue from a different perspective, one where developing countries would be paid by industrialized countries for reducing their deforestation rates. Globally the payoff could be immense, extending well beyond helping mitigate global warming emissions to safeguard biodiversity and important ecological services. Leading scientists have called such plans a "win-win" scenario for all parties and even the World Bank and U.N. have voiced support for the concept.
Canopy research is key to understanding rainforests
(11/28/2006) Home to perhaps half the world's terrestrial species, rainforests are the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. However, when one strolls through the forest, this biodiversity is rarely apparent for the simple reason that most activity in the rainforest occurs in the canopy, a layer of overlapping branches and leaves some 60-120 feet off the ground. Here, a wealth of ecological niches creates opportunities for plants and animals, including species generally considered to be ground-dwellers: crabs, kangaroos, and even earthworms. Beyond housing biodiversity, the canopy is the power source of the rainforest, with billions of tree leaves acting as miniature solar panels to convert sunlight into energy through photosynthesis. Since the rate of photosynthesis of canopy trees is so high, these plants generate higher yields of fruits, seeds, flowers, and leaves which attract and support a wide diversity of animal life. Further, as the principal site of the interchange of heat, water vapor, and atmospheric gases, the canopy also plays an important role in regulating regional and global climate.
Fragmentation killing species in the Amazon rainforest
(11/27/2006) Forest fragmentation is rapidly eroding biodiversity in the Amazon rainforest and could worsen global warming according to research to be published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "Rainforest trees can live for centuries, even millennia, so none of us expected things to change too fast. But in just two decades-a wink of time for a thousand year-old tree-the ecosystem has been seriously degraded." said Dr. William Laurance, a scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama and leader of the international team of scientists that conducted the research.
Responsible tourism: How to travel ethically
(11/27/2006) Ecotourism is hot. Travel companies everywhere are slapping eco-friendly labels on their tours and hotels to attract green-minded visitors. Alas some "ecotourism" is not really good for the environment or local people. That three-week round-the-world eco-tour via private jet for just $42,950 will generate a lot of greenhouse gases as you're flying between plush lodges that import food and staff from other places. Likewise those wood carvings purchased in tourist centers may come not from indigenous artisans but a factory turning endangered rainforest hardwoods into throwaway tourist items. Heavy anchors dropped on reefs are good neither for the coral reef ecosystem nor the sustainability of the local tourism industry. So what's a true "ecotourist" to do? Is it really possible to travel without trampling culture and tradition and further soiling the environment?
Mexico's rainforests depend on government conservation efforts
(11/21/2006) Few people realize that Mexico is home to the northernmost extent of rainforests that once extended clear down to the Amazon Basin. Though diminished in extent to about 30 percent of their original range, these rainforests are still characterized by high levels of biodiversity, including such charismatic species as jaguar, howler and spider monkeys, and macaws. These forests are also inhabited by indigenous people who live in ways largely unchanged since the arrival of Columbus in the 15th century. While still threatened by encroachment and illegal activities, in recent years the Mexican government and an assortment of environmental organizations has made progress in protecting these forests. Particularly active in these conservation efforts is the Los Tuxtlas Biological Station (Estacion de Biologia Tropical Los Tuxtlas del Instituto de Biologia Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico) based in Veracruz (southern Mexico). In November 2006, Dr. Alejandro Estrada, senior research scientist at Los Tuxtlas and a leading authority on these forests, answered some questions on Mexico's remaining rainforests and conservation efforts in the country.
Amazon Indians use Google Earth, GPS to protect forest home
(11/15/2006) Deep in the most remote jungles of South America, Amazon Indians are using Google Earth, Global Positioning System (GPS) mapping, and other technologies to protect their fast-dwindling home. Tribes in Suriname, Brazil, and Colombia are combining their traditional knowledge of the rainforest with Western technology to conserve forests and maintain ties to their history and cultural traditions, which include profound knowledge of the forest ecosystem and medicinal plants. Helping them is the Amazon conservation Team (ACT), a nonprofit organization working with indigenous people to conserve biodiversity, health, and culture in South American rainforests.
Mining in Venezuelan Amazon threatens biodiversity, indigenous people
(11/09/2006) Troubles are mounting in one of Earth's most beautiful landscapes. Deep in the Venezuelan Amazon, among ancient forested tabletop mountains known as tepuis, crystalline rivers, and breathtaking waterfalls, illegal gold miners are threatening one of world's largest remaining blocks of wilderness, one that is home to indigenous people and strikingly high levels of biological diversity. As the situation worsens -- a series of attacks have counted both miners and indigenous people as victims -- a leading scientific organization has called for the Venezuelan government to take action.
Conserving wildlife in Tanzania, Africa's most biodiverse country
(11/09/2006) With ecosystems ranging from Lake Tanganyika to Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania is the most biodiverse country in Africa. Though Tanzania is world famous for its safari animals, the country is also home to two major biodiversity hotspots: coastal forests of Eastern Africa and the montane forests of the Eastern Arc Mountains. Tanzania has set aside nearly a quarter of its land mass in a network of protected areas and more than one-sixth of the country's income is derived from tourism, much of which comes from nature-oriented travel. Despite these conservation achievements, Tanzania's wildlands and biodiversity are not safe. Fueled by surging population growth and poverty, subsistence agriculture, fuelwood collection, and timber extraction have fragmented and degraded extensive areas that are nominally protected as parks. Hunting and unsustainable use of forest products have further imperiled ecosystems and species. In the near future, climate change looms as a major threat not only to Mt. Kilimanjaro's glaciers, which are expected to disappear within ten years, but also to Tanzania's many endemic plants and animals found in its montane forests. Working to better understand these threats and safeguard Tanzania's biodiversity for future generations is Tim Davenport, Country Director for the Wildlife conservation Society (WCS) in Tanzania.
Sri Lanka's rainforests fast-disappearing but hope remains
(11/07/2006) Sri Lanka, an island off the southern-most point of India, is known as a global biodiversity hotspot for its high number of species in a relatively limited area. However this biological richness is highly threatened by one of the highest deforestation rates of primary forests in the world. In that period, the country lost more than 35 percent of its old-growth forest cover, while total forest cover was diminished by almost 18 percent. Worse, since the close of the 1990s, deforestation rates have increased by more than 25 percent. Dr Ranil Senanayake, chairman of Rainforest Rescue International, a grassroots environmental organization based in Sri Lanka, says that the key to saving the island's last forests is to "reintroduce the concept of sustainable livelihood" to the people living in and around the island's rainforests by establishing "commercially viable projects that explore the social and cultural relationships between people and ecology."
Lemur conservation in Madagascar requires poverty alleviation initiatives
(11/05/2006) Madagascar, an island larger than France that lies off the southeastern coast of Africa, is perhaps best known for its lemurs--primates that look something like a cat crossed with a squirrel and a dog. Lemurs, which are found naturally only in Madagascar, serve as a charismatic representation of the island's biodiversity and its problems. Since the arrival of humans some 2000 years ago from southeast Asia, Madagascar has lost all of its mega fauna and more than 90 percent of its wildlands. Today forest clearing for agriculture and hunting continues to put lemurs and other endemic species at risk. The good news is that because of Madagascar's biodiversity, the island has become a top priority for global conservation. At the forefront of these efforts is the Madagascar Fauna Group (MFG), an international consortium of zoos and related organizations that work to protect Madagascar's wildlife and ecosystems, and the Duke University Lemur Center, the one of the world's leading lemur research facilities. Charlie Welch, currently a research scientist at the Duke University Lemur Center, recently answered some questions on his experiences in lemur conservation. Welch, along with his wife Andrea Katz, has worked in Madagascar for 17 years and helped transform conservation efforts in the country.
Avoided deforestation could send $38 billion to third world under global warming pact
(11/01/2006) Avoided deforestation will be a hot point of discussion at next week's climate meeting in Nairobi, Kenya. Already a coalition of 15 rainforest nations have proposed a plan whereby industrialized nations would pay them to protect their forests to offset greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, last month Brazil -- which has the world's largest extent of tropical rainforests and the world's highest rate of forest loss -- said it promote a similar initiative at the talks. At stake: potentially billions of dollars for developing countries. When trees are cut greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere -- roughly 20 percent of annual emissions of such heat-trapping gases result from deforestation and forest degradation. Avoided deforestation is the concept where countries are paid to prevent deforestation that would otherwise occur. Policymakers and environmentalists alike find the idea attractive because it could help fight climate change at a low cost while improving living standards for some of the world's poorest people and preserving biodiversity and other ecosystem services. A number of prominent conservation biologists and development agencies including the World Bank and the U.N. have already endorsed the idea.
Indians are key to rainforest conservation efforts says renowned ethnobotanist
(10/31/2006) Tropical rainforests house hundreds of thousands of species of plants, many of which hold promise for their compounds which can be used to ward off pests and fight human disease. No one understands the secrets of these plants better than indigenous shamans -medicine men and women - who have developed boundless knowledge of this library of flora for curing everything from foot rot to diabetes. But like the forests themselves, the knowledge of these botanical wizards is fast-disappearing due to deforestation and profound cultural transformation among younger generations. The combined loss of this knowledge and these forests irreplaceably impoverishes the world of cultural and biological diversity. Dr. Mark Plotkin, President of the non-profit Amazon conservation Team, is working to stop this fate by partnering with indigenous people to conserve biodiversity, health, and culture in South American rainforests. Plotkin, a renowned ethnobotanist and accomplished author (Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice, Medicine Quest) who was named one of Time Magazine's environmental "Hero for the Planet," has spent parts of the past 25 years living and working with shamans in Latin America. Through his experiences, Plotkin has concluded that conservation and the well-being of indigenous people are intrinsically linked -- in forests inhabited by indigenous populations, you can't have one without the other. Plotkin believes that existing conservation initiatives would be better-served by having more integration between indigenous populations and other forest preservation efforts.
Bacteria can generate renewable energy from pollution, help fight global warming
(10/26/2006) Currently, most energy production generates carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming and local pollution. At the same time that carbon dioxide concentrations are rising in the atmosphere, fueling higher temperatures, burgeoning population growth of humans and livestock is producing ever-increasing amounts of organic pollution and waste. Now researchers at the Center for Biotechnology at the Biodesign Institute of Arizona State University are working on a way to solve both problems using bacteria to convert organic wastes into a source of electricity. Bruce Rittmann, Director of the Center for Environmental Biotechnology at the Biodesign Institute, and his team of researchers are developing microbial fuel cells (MFC) that can oxidize organic pollutants and create electricity from pollution.
Bacteria can ensure clean water say researchers
(10/24/2006) Water is shaping up to be one of the most critical problems facing humanity. With water consumption far outstripping population growth rates due to surging industrial and agricultural demand, the World Bank estimates that 40 percent of the world's population -- more than 2.5 billion people -- are enduring some form of water scarcity. In China, where massive river relocation projects to shift water from the south to the dry north are under consideration, an official government survey found that some 300 million Chinese drink unsafe water tainted by chemicals and other contaminants, while 90% of China's cities have polluted ground water. Elsewhere, development experts say that access to reliable, safe and affordable water is key to poverty alleviation efforts and that addressing declining groundwater supplies and water pollution is be critical to raising the quality of life in poor regions.
Global warming could cause catastrophic die-off of Amazon rainforest by 2080
(10/23/2006) For the Amazon, there is an immense threat looming on the horizon: climate change could well cause most of the Amazon rainforest to disappear by the end of the century. Dr. Philip Fearnside, a Research Professor at the National Institute for Research in the Amazon in Manaus, Brazil and one of the most cited scientists on the subject of climate change, understands the threat well. Having spent more than 30 years in Brazil and now recognized as one of the world's foremost experts on the Amazon rainforest, Fearnside is working to do nothing less than to save this remarkable ecosystem. Fearnside believes saving the Amazon will require a fundamental shift in perception where the Amazon is recognized as an asset beyond the current price of mahogany, soybeans, or cattle, where its value is only unlocked by its destruction. The Amazon is far worth more than this he says. It can play a key role in fighting climate change while providing economic sustenance for millions through sustainable agriculture and rational utilization of its renewable products. It can serve as a storehouse for biodiversity while at the same time ensuring reliable water supplies and moderating regional temperature and precipitation. In short, maintaining the Amazon as a viable ecosystem makes sense economically and ecologically -- it is in our best interest to preserve this resource while we still can.
Traditional customs pit young versus old in Indonesia's Torajaland
(10/19/2006) Cultural Bankruptcy: Maintaining History at a Tremendous Cost in Sulawesi's Torajaland. The Torajanese people of Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, have long been renown for their extravagant celebrations of the dead in their funerals, graves and effigies. Just outside of Rantepao, the regional capital of Torajaland, ostentatious, costly and increasingly generationally divisive funerals take place on a regular basis. Like other indigenous cultures around the world, a growing rift between the young and old generations is calling the foundations of tradition into question.
In search of rare, high elevation monkeys in China
(10/19/2006) High in the cloud-shrouded Yunling mountains of northwestern Yunnan and southeastern Tibet (southwestern China) lives one of the world's most elusive monkeys, the Yunnan golden or snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus bieti). Despite dwelling the most extreme environment of any monkey species -- high-altitude evergreen forests at elevations from 3000 - 4500 m (9800 - 14,800 feet) where temperatures may fall below freezing for several months in a row -- today there are less than 2000 of Yunnan snub-nosed monkeys remaining. Hunting and habitat loss has brought the species, which is limited to a single mountain range and fragmented into 15 small sub-populations at risk to genetic bottlenecks and inbreeding depression, to the brink of extinction.
Rainforests face myriad of threats says leading Amazon scholar
(10/17/2006) The world's tropical rainforests are in trouble. Spurred by a global commodity boom and continuing poverty in some of the world's poorest regions, deforestation rates have increased since the close of the 1990s. The usual threats to forests -- agricultural conversion, wildlife poaching, uncontrolled logging, and road construction -- could soon be rivaled, and even exceeded, by climate change and rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Understanding these threats is key to preserving forests and their ecological services for current and future generations. William F. Laurance, a distinguished scholar and president of the Association for Tropical Biology and conservation (ATBC) -- the world's largest scientific organization dedicated to the study and conservation of tropical ecosystems, is at the forefront of this effort.
Forest fires result from government failure in Indonesia
(10/16/2006) Indonesia is burning again. Smoke from fires set for land-clearing in South Kalimantan (Borneo) and Sumatra are causing pollution levels to climb in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Bangkok, resulting in mounting haze-related health problems, traffic accidents, and associated economic costs. The country's neighbors are again clamoring for action but ultimately the fires will burn until they are extinguished by seasonal rains in coming months
Photos from Xinjiang, a Muslim region in western China
(10/09/2006) Xinjiang, China's largest and western-most province, is one of the planet's most remote and desolate regions. Covering more than one-sixth the country's territory, Xinjiang borders Tibet, Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and is dominated by ethnic minorities, notably the Muslim Uyghurs who make up nearly half the 18 million who live in the province. Xinjiang's ethnic mix reflects its historical importance as a central part of the Silk Road, a trading route used since ancient times to transport good between East and West.
A look at the biodiversity extinction crisis
(10/07/2006) As tropical forests -- the world's biological treasure troves -- continue to dwindle, biologists are racing to devise ways to save them and their resident biodiversity. While many conservation biologists talk about population viability analysis and intricacies of reserve layouts, David L. Pearson, a research professor at the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University (ASU) in Tempe, Arizona, focuses on a different approach: education.
Privatize the Amazon rainforest says UK minister
(10/02/2006) At a summit this week in Mexico, David Miliband, Britain's Environment Secretary, will propose a plan to "privatize" the Amazon to allow the world's largest rainforest to be bought by individuals and groups, according to a report in the Telegraph newspaper online. The scheme, which has been endorsed by Prime Minister Tony Blair, would seek to protect the region's biodiversity while mitigating greenhouse gas emissions to fight global warming.
Photos of newly discovered species in Brazil's Amazon rainforest
(09/28/2006) Brazil has announced the creation of a Amapa State Forest, a 5.7 million acre Amazon protected area larger than the state of New Jersey. According to conservation International (CI), "the designation protects a crucial section of the Amapa Biodiversity Corridor of northern Brazil, which includes some of the most pristine remaining Amazon forest." The Amapa Biodiversity Corridor -- which includes a variety of ecosystems including tropical forests, mangrove swamps, savannah, and wetlands -- is home to more than 1,700 species of animals and plants, including 430 species of birds, 104 species of amphibians, 124 reptile species and 127 mammal species, including 62 bat species, according to biological surveys conducted by conservation International (CI) and the Amapa State Institute for Research. At the core of the Amapa Biodiversity Corridor is Tumucumaque National Park, the world's largest tropical forest park.
Tree rings could settle global warming hurricane debate
(09/20/2006) Scientists have shown that ancient tree rings could help settle the debate as to whether hurricanes are strengthening in intensity due to global warming. By measuring different isotopes of oxygen present in the rings, Professors Claudia Mora and Henri Grissino-Mayer of the University of Tennessee have identified periods when hurricanes hit areas of the Southeastern United States up to 500 years ago. The research could help create a record of hurricanes that would help researchers understand hurricane frequency and intensity. Currently reliable history for hurricanes only dates back a generation or so. Prior to that, the official hurricane records kept by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Atlantic basin hurricane database (HURDAT) are controversial at best since storm data from more than 20 years ago is not nearly as accurate as current hurricane data due to improvements in tracking technology. The lack of a credible baseline makes it nearly impossible to accurately compare storm frequency and strength over the period.
Shift from hard drives to flash may have environmental benefits
(08/29/2006) A leading technology research group says flash, or solid state memory drives may soon replace the standard hard drives in laptops. Over the past few years, flash memory technology has been claiming an increasingly sizeable share of the market, particularly in the form of USB drives. According to the Gartner Group, the NAND flash market has grown from 1.56 billion in 200 to 11.42 billion in 2005, with even higher projections for the next two years. This summer, Samsung set a new bar by releasing computers that utilize flash memory storage, negating the need for traditional magnetic disk media. The implications of a shift for laptops are significant for a number of reasons including changing performance demand, market trends and investment opportunities. Unconsidered at this point, but nonetheless compelling, is the possible environmental impact of such a transition.
Most of world's forests could be gone by 2100
(08/15/2006) New research claims that more than half the world's largest forests will be lost if global temperatures rise by an average of 3 degrees or more by the end of the century.The study, published in the current Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says that a warmer climate also increases the risk of extreme floods, forest fires and droughts.
Hurricane intensity linked to global warming
(08/15/2006) A new study says climate change is affecting the intensity of Atlantic hurricanes and that hurricane damage will likely worsen in coming years due to increasing ocean temperatures. Unlike recent studies that have linked higher sea temperatures to an increase in the number of hurricanes, the new research shows a direct relationship between climate change and hurricane intensity.
Report Warns of Coastal Flooding and Rising Sea Levels in California
(08/14/2006) The California Climate Action Team has released a summary report of 17 scientific studies examining the potential impacts of climate change on California. Today, officials discussed the report, the science and what the state is doing to take action on reducing heat-trapping gases that threaten to cause more frequent coastal floods, rising sea levels, beach erosion and disruptions to wetlands. The presentation was held at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.
1250 bird species may be extinct by 2100
(07/04/2006) Two new studies paint a mixed future for the world's bird populations, one suggesting that 12 percent of existing species could be extinct by 2100 and the other finding shifts in migration patterns among birds that migrate long distances. Researchers at Stanford University, Duke University and the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis examined the extinction record for birds and found that scientists have likely underestimated the number of extinctions.
When elephants attack. Surviving an elephant charge in the Congo rainforest of Gabon
(06/26/2006) The elephant charges. The ground trembles. Hearts racing, we are now sprinting through the forest dodging vegetation as the elephant plows right through it. The problem with being chased by an elephant, aside from their obvious size advantage, is they can run faster than you. While wild elephants can be dangerous animals under the right circumstances, other creatures are responsible for more deaths in Africa. Topping the list is the hippo, whose penchant for capsizing canoes that come too close results in the dumping of passengers who often can't swim. Buffalo, crocodiles, and lions are directly responsible for more deaths and injuries.
Saving Orangutans in Borneo
(05/24/2006) A look at conservation efforts in Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo. I'm in Tanjung Puting National Park in southern Kalimantan on the island of Borneo. At 400,000 hectares (988,000 acres) Tanjung Puting is the largest protected expanse of coastal tropical heath and peat swamp forest in southeast Asia. It's also one of the biggest remaining habitats for the critically endangered orangutan, the population of which has been great diminished in recent years due to habitat destruction and poaching. And orangutans have become the focus of a much wider effort to save Borneo's natural environment. We are headed to Campy Leakey, named for the renowned Kenyan paleontologist Louis Leakey. Here lies the center of the Orangutan Research conservation Project. Established by Birute Mary Galdikas, a preeminent primatologist and founder of the Orangutan Foundation International (OFI), the project seeks to support the conservation and understanding of the orangutan and its rain forest habitat while rehabilitating ex-captive individuals. The Orangutan Research conservation Project is the public face of orangutan conservation in this part of Kalimantan, the Indonesia-controlled part of Borneo. Borneo, the third largest island in the world, was once home to some of the world's most majestic, and forbidding forests. With swampy coastal areas fringed by mangrove forests and a mountainous interior, much of the terrain was virtually impassable and unexplored. Headhunters ruled the remote parts of the island until a century ago.
2006: Expect another big hurricane year says NOAA
(05/22/2006) The 2006 hurricane season in the north Atlantic region is likely to again be very active, although less so than 2005 when a record-setting 15 hurricanes occured, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. On average, NOAA says the north Atlantic hurricane season produces 11 named storms, of which six become hurricanes, including two major hurricanes. In 2005, the Atlantic hurricane season contained a record 28 storms, including 15 hurricanes. Seven of these hurricanes were considered major, of which a record four hit the United States. The warning from NOAA comes after a slew of studies have indicated that climate change could increase the frequency and intensity of powerful storms. Last year, two earlier studies published in the journals Nature and Science found a strong correlation between rising tropical sea surface temperatures and an increase in the strength of hurricanes.
Scientists endorse plan to save rainforests through emissions trading
(05/19/2006) The Association for Tropical Biology and conservation (ATBC), the world's largest scientific organization devoted to the study and wise use of tropical ecosystems, has formally endorsed a radical proposal to help save tropical forests through carbon trading. Under the initiative proposed by an alliance of fifteen developing countries led by Papua New Guinea and Costa Rica, tropical nations that show permanent reductions in deforestation would be eligible to receive international carbon funds from industrial nations who could purchase carbon credits to help them meet their emissions targets international climate agreements like the Kyoto Protocol.
Global warming may cause permanent damage to coral reefs
(05/15/2006) Global warming has had a more devastating impact on coral reefs than previously believed says a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research, the first to show the long-term impact of rising sea temperatures on coral and fish communities, suggests that "large sections of coral reefs and much of the marine life they support may be wiped out for good," according to a news release from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, an institution involved in the project.
Amazon Stonehenge suggests advanced ancient rainforest culture
(05/14/2006) The discovery of an ancient astrological observatory in Brazil lends support to the theory that the Amazon rainforest was once home to advanced cultures and large sedentary populations of people. Besides the well-known empires of the Inca and their predecessors, millions of people once lived in the forests and shaped the environment to suit their own needs. Archaeologists with the Amapa Institute of Scientific and Technological Research said they uncovered the ruin near Calcoene, 390 kilometers (240 miles) from Macapa, the capital of Amapa state, near Brazil's border with French Guiana.
Roads tied to bushmeat hunting in Africa
(05/09/2006) A new study ties the presence of roads to bushmeat hunting in the Congo rainforest and also raises important questions on global conservation approaches. The study, published in the current edition of conservation Biology, found roads and associated hunting pressure reduced the abundance of a number of mammal species including duikers, forest elephants, buffalo, red river hogs, lowland gorillas and carnivores. The research suggests that even moderate hunting pressure can significantly affect the structure of mammal communities in central Africa. The researchers, lead by William F. Laurance of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, raise an interesting point with considerably wider implications for global conservation efforts, arguing that "as a multinational conglomerate, Shell-Gabon?s interests in environmental management at Rabi... largely reflect their sensitivity to international opinion and pressures from consumers." Drawing on their personal experiences in Africa and Latin America, the team writes "smaller corporations based in developing nations are sometimes less interested and often less capable of financially investing in environmental protection." This observation leads the researchers to ask, "As conservationists, do we pressure large, multinational corporations based in industrial nations to forego major projects in developing countries in an effort to limit environmental degradation, or do we favor such firms over smaller, national companies in the hope that they will be more sensitive to international pressures?" While their question us especially pertinent to Central Africa, it really applies to conservation on a worldwide scale. Multinational corporations can be particularly sensitive to criticism on their environmental policy and, as a result, can actually serve as competent stewards of the environment is some cases. Thus pressure exerted by green groups on large corporations may be an effective means for achieving conservation goals.
High oil prices fuel bioenergy push
(05/09/2006) High oil prices and growing concerns over climate change are driving investment and innovation in the biofuels sector as countries and industry increasingly look towards renewable bioenergy to replace fossil fuels. Bill Gates, the world's richest man, has recently invested $84 million in an American ethanol company while global energy gluttons ranging from the United States to China are setting long-term targets for the switch to such fuels which potentially offer a secure domestic source of renewable energy and fewer environmental headaches. Biofuels are fuels that are derived from biomass, including recently living organisms like plants or their metabolic byproducts like cow manure. Unlike fossil fuels -- like coal, petroleum, and natural gas, which are finite resources -- biofuels are a renewable source of energy that can be replenished on an ongoing basis. In general, biofuels are biodegradable and, when burned, have fewer emissions than traditional hydrocarbon-based fuels. Typically, biofuels are blended with traditional petroleum-based fuels, though it is possible to run existing diesel, engines purely on biodiesel, something which holds a great deal of promise as an alternative energy source to replace fossil fuels. Further, because biofuels are generally derived from plants which absorb carbon from the atmosphere as they grow, biofuel production offers the potential to help offset carbon dioxide emissions and mitigate climate change.
Why is palm oil replacing tropical rainforests?
(04/25/2006) In a word, economics, though deeper analysis of a proposal in Indonesia suggests that oil palm development might be a cover for something more lucrative: logging. Recently much has been made about the conversion of Asia's biodiverse rainforests for oil-palm cultivation. Environmental organizations have warned that by eating foods that use palm oil as an ingredient, Western consumers are directly fueling the destruction of orangutan habitat and sensitive ecosystems. So, why is it that oil-palm plantations now cover millions of hectares across Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand? Why has oil palm become the world's number one fruit crop, trouncing its nearest competitor, the humble banana? The answer lies in the crop's unparalleled productivity. Simply put, oil palm is the most productive oil seed in the world. A single hectare of oil palm may yield 5,000 kilograms of crude oil, or nearly 6,000 liters of crude.
Is Earth Day a waste of time?
(04/22/2006) So today is Earth Day. You may look at Earth Day as another useless "holiday" that appears on your calendar, yet does not warrant an actual vacation day, where people parade around about trees or not driving, CEOs stand up to talk about their environmental stewardship as a PR strategy and Hallmark, ironically, sells more cards. Another gimmick day full of false promises and empty pledges to make real environmentally-motivated change, while everything remains regretfully the same. Well, perhaps this Earth Day you should pause for a little reflection. Step back, watch the kids dressed up as butterflies and trees dancing in your city park or main street while adults drink their organic wine and eco-friendly microbrewed beers, and think about what you can and will honestly do to reduce the weight of your impact on the world around you. Maybe you will make more of an effort to recycle those bottles and cans that sometimes end up in your trash or actually take the time to cut those six pack plastic rings, because you have seen those pictures of sea creatures, and it hurt you to look at them.
Taking Care of Business: Diapers Go Green
(04/02/2006) Every year some 20 billion disposable diapers are dumped into landfills throughout the United States, generating approximately 3.5 million tons of waste which can take 500 years to biodegrade. Besides creating huge amounts of trash, most disposables are made from materials whitened with chlorine in a process that produces dangerous toxins such as dioxin, furans and other organic chlorines. Cloth diapers--often touted as environmentally superior to disposables--have drawbacks as well, requiring large amounts of water and pesticides, in addition to going through a similar bleaching process. So what's the ecologically responsible alternative? Well, it may come from the land down under. An Australian couple has developed a diaper that is not only biodegradable but serves as a benchmark for green design in that it gives more to the environment than it takes. "gDiapers", as the product is known, was recently awarded the prestigious "Cradle to Cradle Design Certification Award" from MBDC, a design consulting organization that stresses green design. The diaper is the first packaged consumer product to be so honored.
Jungle trekking in Malaysia's Taman Negara
(03/21/2006) Taman Negara is Malaysia's largest and best-known national park. Spanning 4343 square kilometers, the protected forest area is home to some of southeast Asia'apos;apos;s rarest creatures including tigers, the Malaysian tapir, forest elephants, and the Sumatran rhino. Scientists believe that these rainforests may be the oldest on Earth. Untouched by glaciers during recent ice ages, Taman Negara'apos;apos;s forests have remained largely the same for some 130 million years. This stability produces some of the highest levels of biodiversity on Earth: more than 350 species of birds, 14000 species of plants, and 210 species of mammals can be found in Taman Negara.
The Greening of Wal-Mart?
(02/08/2006) While Wal-Mart is a favorite target for a broad spectrum of activist groups, the world's largest retailer has taken a number of steps in recent months to improve the environmental sustainability of its operations.
In search of Bigfoot, scientists may uncover unknown biodiversity in Malaysia
(02/01/2006) Malaysian scientists are scouring the rainforests of Johor state in search of the legendary ape-man Bigfoot, supposedly sighted late last year. But they are more likely to encounter some less fantastic but unique creatures that dwell in these still unexplored ecosystems.
Goodbye to West Africa's Rainforests
(01/22/2006) West Africa's once verdant and extensive rainforests are now a historical footnote. Gone to build ships and furniture, feed hungry mouths, and supply minerals and gems to the West, the band of tropical forests that once extended from Guinea to Cameroon are virtually gone. The loss of West Africa's rainforests have triggered a number of environmental problems that have contributed to social unrest and exacerbated poverty across the region.
Climate change is killing frogs finds new research
(01/11/2006) The dramatic global decline of amphibians may be directly connected to global warming warns a new study published in the journal Nature.
Tropical deforestation rates continue to climb
(01/04/2006) Tropical deforestation rates continue to climb according to figures released by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
Russia's folly, an opportunity for renewable energy?
(01/03/2006) With its willingness to use energy as a political instrument, Russia has provided the world with further incentive to pursue renewable energy. The Kremlin has shown it cannot be counted upon as a reliable source of energy and western markets should see this as an opportunity to take a long, thoughtful look at energy security and re-evaluate the benefits of developing renewable energy technologies.
Making wind power less deadly for birds
(12/15/2005) High oil prices and concern over climate change are driving interest in renewable energy technologies. All types of potential power sources -- not limited to the sun, ocean tides and waves, raw sewage, and even insects -- are the focus of media reports, while governments and industry scramble to announce their grand plans for adopting green energy.
Easter Island's demise caused by rats, Dutch traders says new theory
(12/06/2005) Rats and Dutch traders may be responsible for the mysterious demise of Easter Island according to research presented last week during an American Anthropological Association meeting by a University of Hawaii anthropologist.
Amazon deforestation slows in Brazil for 2005
(12/05/2005) Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest fell 37% for the 2004-2004 year according to Brazilian government figures released today. Between July 2004 and August 2005, 7,298 square miles of rainforest (18,900 square kilometers) -- an area almost half the size of Switzerland -- were destroyed. Last year the figure was 10,088 square miles (26,129 sq km kilometers) and since 1978 some 206,250 square miles (534,200 sq km) of forest has been lost.
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