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News articles on fires
Mongabay.com news articles on fires in blog format. Updated regularly.
(09/19/2014) Indonesia ended 12 years of stalling this week, becoming the last ASEAN nation to ratify an agreement on transboundary haze. As smoke from more than 1,200 fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan pushed air pollution in neighboring Singapore to 'unhealthy' levels, the Indonesian House of Representatives ratified the 2002 ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution (AATHP).
Indonesia cracks down on illegal burning, investigates more suspect companies
(08/14/2014) Every year, thousands of hectares of Indonesian forest are illegally burned by development companies. However, Indonesia’s Minister of Environment, Balthasar Kambuaya, is optimistic that legal charges over such fires can be completed – even though he has just three months left in office.
Singapore to fine domestic, foreign companies for causing haze
(08/07/2014) Singapore's parliament has approved a controversial measure that could penalize companies — both foreign and domestic — that are responsible for causing haze overseas, reports Reuters.
Biomass burning accounts for 18% of CO2 emissions, kills a quarter of a million people annually
(08/05/2014) Biomass burning takes many forms: wildfires, slash-and-burn agriculture, clearing forests and other vegetation, and even industrialized burning for energy production. Yet this burning—mostly manmade but also natural—takes a massive toll both on human health and the environment.
NASA: Sumatra fires in the rise
(07/22/2014) The number of fires burning in Sumatra's Riau Province doubled on Sunday, raising concerns that dry conditions could unleash an especially severe haze this dry season in Indonesia.
'A high price to pay': new Indonesian peatland regulation may do more harm than good
(07/22/2014) The Government Regulation on Peatland Ecosystem Protection and Management, initially drafted by the Ministry of Forestry in 2013, is getting mixed acceptance from civil society. On one hand, the regulation would offer more protection to the country’s vast peatland areas. However, on the other, some NGOs have slammed the draft as a potential source of new conflicts for local people.
Is there hope for bonobos? Researchers, NGOs, gov't officials, local communities band together to save iconic ape (Part III)
(07/18/2014) Sankuru Nature Reserve was established in 2007 primarily for bonobo protection. The largest continuous protected great ape habitat in the world, Sankuru is still losing large swaths of forests to burning and other activities, primarily along roads that transect the center of the reserve. However, hope exists, both from human efforts – and from the apes themselves.
Poaching, fires, farming pervade: protecting bonobos 'an enormous challenge' (Part II)
(07/17/2014) Sankuru Nature Reserve in the DRC was established in 2007 to safeguard the 29,000 to 50,000 bonobos that remain in existence. However, while touted as the largest swath of protected continuous great ape habitat in the world, the reserve is still losing thousands of hectares of forest every year. Burning, bushmeat hunting, and agricultural expansion are taking a large toll on the endangered great ape.
Indonesian presidential candidates ignore environmental concerns as haze returns
(06/24/2014) New data from NASA and the World Resources Institute (WRI) show that peat fires are again burning in Sumatra, yet both leading presidential contenders are ignoring the issue of climate change, says a top official.
Another year of fires, another year of inaction
(06/06/2014) With a 70% chance of an El Niño this year, Indonesia could soon be facing the ire of its nearest neighbors yet again as the dry season approaches with the ever present threat of vegetation fires.
Next big idea in forest conservation? Work locally, relentlessly, and, if necessary, ignore the government
(06/05/2014) In 1997, Gabriella Fredriksson, then a young PhD student, was studying sun bears in East Kalamantan, Indonesia, when massive forest fires broke out in the park. 'It quickly became clear that there was no government agency, NGO, or private company in the area interested in assisting putting out these fires, which were threatening to burn down the entire reserve,' Fredriksson told mongabay.com.
Logging, fires take a hidden toll on Amazon rainforest
(05/28/2014) Selective logging and small sub-canopy fires are degrading vast areas of rainforest across the Brazilian Amazon, contributing to largely hidden carbon emissions, argues a study published today in Global Change Biology. The research found stark differences in carbon storage between primary forests, selectively logged forests, logged and burned forests, and regrowing or secondary forests.
Indonesia president lauds success of logging ban, urges continued action
(05/05/2014) A few months before his administration ends, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono expressed hope that his successor would be able to prolong the ban on new logging and plantation concessions he introduced in 2011. He cited the progress it has made towards more sustainable land-use practices, and subsequent benefits in environmental conditions and public health.
Indonesia sets aside $173M to prepare for El Niño
(05/02/2014) The Indonesian government has set aside 2 trillion rupiah ($173 million) to prepare for the potential impacts of El Niño on food security, reports the Jakarta Post.
Logging giant suspends operations to fend off plantations from fires
(03/15/2014) Indonesian Pulp & paper giant Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) says it has suspended operations at a concession in Riau Province in order to shift staff toward fighting back fires that threaten its plantations. In a statement issued Friday, APRIL said its plantations on Pulau Padang, a peat island off the coast of Sumatra, are at risk due to fires illegally set outside its concessions.
Indonesia's proposed peat law too weak to protect peatlands, stop haze, says Greenpeace
(03/14/2014) A new regulation aiming to protect peatlands is likely to fall short of its goals, failing to stop peat degradation, emissions, and fires that are driving the current haze crisis in Southeast Asia, asserts a new analysis from Greenpeace.
Sumatra on fire: burning spikes in Indonesia
(03/13/2014) Fires in Sumatra's Riau province have spiked to levels unseen since last June, finds new analysis from the World Resources Institute (WRI) that reveals widespread burning within concessions managed by pulpwood, palm oil, and logging companies.
Does haze from burning forests affect marine life?
(03/10/2014) Two scientists are calling on researchers, NGOs, and governments to begin studying the impact of burning forests and peatlands in Indonesia on the already-threatened marine ecosystems of Southeast Asia. Every year, Indonesian farmers set forests, vegetation, and peatlands alight to clear them for agriculture, often palm oil, and pulp and paper plantations. Not only do these practices destroy hugely-diverse tropical forests, but the resulting haze spreads to many parts of Southeast Asia, threatening regional health and impacting economies. Now, a new paper argues that the sinister impacts of Indonesia's burning may extend as far as the oceans.
Peatlands biosphere reserve facing severe encroachment in Sumatra
(03/06/2014) An important reserve that contains a block of fast-dwindling lowland swamp forest in Riau Province is facing an onslaught of encroachment for illegal oil palm plantations, worsening choking haze in the region, reports Mongabay-Indonesia.
NASA photo reveals ongoing haze problem in Sumatra
(03/01/2014) A new satellite image released by NASA highlights Indonesia's ongoing problem with haze caused by land-clearing fires set across carbon-dense peatlands on the island of Sumatra.
Top 10 Environmental Stories of 2013
(12/10/2013) 1. Carbon concentrations hit 400ppm while the IPCC sets global carbon budget: For the first time since our appearance on Earth, carbon concentrations in the atmosphere hit 400 parts per million. The last time concentrations were this high for a sustained period was 4-5 million years ago when temperatures were 10 degrees Celsius higher. Meanwhile, in the slow-moving effort to curb carbon emissions, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) crafted a global carbon budget showing that most of the world's fossil fuel reserves must be left untouched if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change.
Deforestation may hurt U.S. agriculture, affect monsoon cycle
(11/04/2013) Unchecked deforestation will have far-reaching impacts on temperature, rainfall, and monsoon cycles in regions well outside the tropics, affecting agriculture and water availability, warns a new report published by Greenpeace International. The report is a synthesis of dozens of recent scientific papers that assess the effects of forest cover loss on weather patterns, local climate, and agricultural productivity.
June fires concentrated in peatlands, burned 1,500 sq km in Sumatra
(10/16/2013) Fires that sent a choking haze across Singapore and Malaysia in June burned some 1,500 square kilometers in Riau Province and were predominantly concentrated on peatlands, reports the World Resources Institute (WRI).
500 fires rage across Sumatra
(08/29/2013) Nearly 500 fires are burning across the Indonesian island of Sumatra, raising fears that choking air pollution could return to Singapore and Malaysia.
Fires burning again in Sumatra, triggering haze alerts in Malaysia
(07/23/2013) Deforested areas and degraded peatlands are again burning on the island of Sumatra, triggering haze alerts in nearby Malaysia, despite last week's commitment by regional authorities to address the ongoing fire problem in Indonesia.
Yukon Flats experiencing more wildfires now than in the last 10,000 years
(07/22/2013) The Yukon Flats area of Alaska is today burning more frequently and severely than it has in the last 10,000 years, according to new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Looking at charcoal fragments from 14 deep lakes in the region, scientists were able to reconstruct the fire history of this particular forest, which covers around 2,000 square kilometers. Scientists have long warned that as the temperature worldwide continue to rise from climate change, wildfires are likely to become more common.
Haze summit proposes sharing concession data, but keeping it hidden from the public
(07/17/2013) A high-level meeting to discuss approaches for curbing fires that drive haze over Southeast Asia ended today with a recommendation that governments establish a haze monitoring system that would share detailed land-use and concession maps to help coordinate action against companies that set illegal fires, reports the World Resources Institute (WRI).
Palm oil body, Greenpeace spar over Indonesia fire blame
(07/16/2013) Greenpeace and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a body that sets criteria for greener palm oil production, are caught up in a row over the origin of fires that cast a pall over Sumatra, Singapore, and Malaysia last month. The dispute started when media outlets, based on independent analysis of satellite data, identified several members of the RSPO as possible culprits in the fires in Riau Province. Greenpeace said the findings indicated that the RSPO is failing to hold its members accountable for burning. The activist group also criticized the RSPO for not expressly prohibiting deforestation and conversion of peatlands.
Haze fires concentrated in deforested peatlands, not forest areas, confirms satellite analysis
(07/10/2013) A new mapping tool based on NASA satellite data confirms that the majority of fires that drove the recent haze over Sumatra and Malaysia were concentrated in deforested peatlands and scrub, rather than natural forest areas.
Wilmar to cut off suppliers found to be setting fires
(07/01/2013) Wilmar International Ltd., the world’s largest palm oil trader, will sever ties with any Indonesian suppliers found to be using fire illegal to clear land or manage their plantations, reports Bloomberg.
Indonesia NGOs call on govt to investigate 117 companies for alleged involvement in forest fires
(06/28/2013) As forest fires on the island of Sumatra continue to blanket parts of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore with a thick haze, a coalition of civil society groups has called on Indonesia’s Ministry of the Environment to investigate timber and palm oil companies they believe may be behind the fires.
Indonesia to spend $10M on cloud-seeding scheme to slow haze
(06/27/2013) The Indonesian government will spend 100 billion rupiah — $10 million — on a cloud-seeding scheme to reduce the haze plaguing Sumatra, Singapore, and Malaysia.
Cause of haze? Up to 87% of recent deforestation in fire zone due to palm oil, timber
(06/26/2013) New analysis of land cover in Riau Province reveals the outsized role industrial plantations play in driving deforestation and associated haze. The analysis, conducted by Eyes on the Forest, finds that up to 56% of deforestation in Riau between 2007 and 2012 can be linked to timber plantations for pulp and paper production. The figure for oil palm plantations may be as high as 31%.
Palm oil companies linked to haze see share prices drop
(06/24/2013) Three firms linked to fires in Sumatra saw their share prices decline since the haze crisis worsened a week ago.
Greenpeace releases dramatic pictures of haze and fires in Indonesia (photos)
(06/24/2013) Greenpeace has released a series of photos from the front lines of the peat fires that are casting a pall of haze and triggering health warnings across Singapore and Malaysia. The images were taken by Getty photographer Ulet Infansasti in Sumatra, where the fires are burning. Analysis of NASA hotspot data has revealed that the majority of fires are occurring within plantation concessions operated by palm oil and timber companies.
5 RSPO companies linked to haze
(06/24/2013) Five members of the Roundtable and Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) will be asked to submit digital maps of their plantations after media reports linked them to fires in Sumatra that are driving the haze across Singapore and Malaysia. The RSPO has given the companies — PT Jatim Jaya Perkasa, Tabung Haji Plantations, Sinar Mas, Kuala Lumpur Kepong, and Sime Darby — 48 hours to submit maps of their plantations in Sumatra and Kalimantan so the eco-certification body can compare them to fire hotspot data from NASA and NOAA.
Indonesia drops water bombs on fires, may resort to cloud-seeding
(06/22/2013) In an effort to control peat fires casting a pall of haze over neighboring Singapore and Malaysia, Indonesia is using airplanes to drop water across hotspots in Riau Province on the island of Sumatra, reports AFP. Officials say they may try cloud-seeding — dumping silver iodide at high altitude — if current fire-fighting efforts fall short.
Singapore air pollution hits worst level on record, government blames palm oil and timber plantations in Sumatra
(06/21/2013) Singapore’s Pollutant Standards Index hit the highest level on record Friday as 'haze' driven by fires burning across plantations, peatlands, and forest areas continued to rage across Sumatra. The air pollution gauge touched a record 400 at 11 am local time on Friday, according to the National Environment Agency's website. The level is considered "very unhealthy" with people advised to 'minimize all outdoor exposure' and wear masks when outside.
Singapore chokes on haze from deforestation fires
(06/17/2013) Singapore and Malaysian officials have asked Indonesia to take 'urgent measures' to address forest fires in Sumatra that are sending choking haze northward, reports AFP.
Amazon fire risk on the rise, says NASA
(06/09/2013) The Amazon rainforest is facing a higher risk of fires this dry season, warns a fire prediction system developed by researchers using NASA and NOAA data.
NASA: 3% of Amazon rainforest burned between 1999-2010
(06/08/2013) 33,000 square miles (85,500 square kilometers) or 2.8 percent of the Amazon rainforest burned between 1999-2010 finds new NASA-led research that measured the extent of fires that smolder under the forest canopy.
Scientist: Australia taking 'calculated actions' to push Leadbeater's possum to extinction
(06/06/2013) Australia's leading scientific expert on the endangered Leadbeater's possum has publicly lambasted the Victorian state government, claiming it is the first ever domestic administration to take "calculated actions" that it knew could wipe out a threatened species. In a letter published in the respected journal Science, Prof David Lindenmayer, of the Australian National University, states that "government-sanctioned legal logging of the reserve system will signiﬁcantly increase the chance of extinction of Leadbeater’s possum."
Frequent understory fires change rainforest community composition
(04/24/2013) Frequent understory fires change the composition of rainforest plant communities, potentially altering the capacity of forests to regenerate, finds a study published in special issue of the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.
Burned rainforest vulnerable to grass invasion
(04/24/2013) Rainforests that have been affected by even low-intensity fires are far more vulnerable to invasion by grasses, finds a new study published in special issue of the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. The findings are significant because they suggest that burned forests may be more susceptible to subsequent fires which may burn more intensely due to increased fuel loads.
Featured video: stemming human-caused fires in the Amazon
(04/09/2013) A new series of 5 films highlights how people use fire in the Amazon rainforest and how such practices can be mitigated. Collectively dubbed "Slash & Burn" each film explores a different aspect of fire-use in the Amazon. In recent years the Amazon has faced unprecedented droughts, possibly linked to climate change and vast deforestation, making the issue of human-started fires even more important.
Forests under fire: Australia's imperiled south west
(03/05/2013) In the far southwestern corner of Western Australia, beyond the famed wineries in the shadow of the Margaret River, lies an ecosystem like no other, the South West ecoregion. This part of Australia has been identified as one of 34 global biodiversity hotspots, home to rare endemic flora and fauna like the Carnaby's black cockatoo, numbat (banded anteaters), woylie (brush-tailed bettong), mainland quokka and over 1500 plant species, most found nowhere else. Unfortunately, this unique habitat is being increasingly fragmented and its inhabitants threatened by a number of forces, including climate change, dieback, fires and logging. And, on the eve of the Western Australia's state elections, the future of the South West hangs in the balance.
Cute koalas have become 'urban refugees'
(01/28/2013) According to Susan Kelly, koalas have become "urban refugees," under siege by expanding cities that bring with them deforestation, dogs, traffic, and other ills for native wildlife. Director of Global Witness, and writer, producer and director of the new documentary Koala Hospital, Kelly has spent 3 years working to understand the rising threats to one of the world's most beloved marsupials. While Koala Hospital highlights the many perils facing koalas, including climate change due to record fires across Australia, it also looks at the efforts of individuals who work to save koalas one—by—one at Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, taking in patients who have been orphaned, hit by cars, scarred in fires, or attacked by dogs.
Australia reels from record heatwave, fires
(01/09/2013) Yesterday Australia recorded its highest average temperature yet: 40.33 degrees Celsius (104.59 Fahrenheit). The nation has been sweltering under an unprecedented summer heatwave that has spawned wildfires across the nation, including on the island of Tasmania where over 100 houses were engulfed over the weekend. Temperatures are finally falling slightly today, providing a short reprieve before they are expected to rise again this weekend.
Fires burn over a third more land than estimated
(01/02/2013) Scientists currently detect fires around the world using moderate resolution satellite imagery, however a new study in the Journal of Geophysical Research finds that this tool misses many of the world's smaller fires, which add up.
Obama breaks climate silence at press conference
(11/14/2012) At a news conference today, a question by New York Times reporter Mark Landler pushed President Obama to speak at some length about climate change. In his answer, Obama re-iterated his acceptance of climate science and discussed how progress on tackling climate change might proceed in his second term, though he also noted that he wouldn't put action on the climate ahead of the economy. President Obama made a small reference to climate change in his victory speech following his historic re-election last Tuesday, but his answer today was the most the president has talked about the issue at any length since at least Hurricane Sandy.
It's not just Sandy: U.S. hit by record droughts, fires, and heatwaves in 2012
(11/05/2012) As the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy—killing over 100 people and producing upwards of $50 billion in damage along the U.S. East Coast—has reignited a long-dormant conversation on climate change in the media, it's important to note that this is not the only weird and wild weather the U.S. has seen this year. In fact, 2012 has been a year of record-breaking weather across the U.S.: the worst drought in decades, unprecedented heatwaves, and monster forest fires. While climatologists have long stated that it is not yet possible to blame a single extreme weather event on climate change, research is showing that rising temperatures are very likely increasing the chances of extreme weather events and worsening them when they occur.
Climate change causing forest die-off globally
(09/09/2012) Already facing an onslaught of threats from logging and conversion for agriculture, forests worldwide are increasingly impacted by the effects of climate change, including drought, heightened fire risk, and disease, putting the ecological services they afford in jeopardy, warns a new paper published in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Pictures of the day: NASA captures stunning images of U.S. wildfires at night
(08/21/2012) NASA is now able to capture satellite images of wildfires—at night. Using the The Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite (S-NPP), which has instruments that are particularly sensitive to light, NASA was able to take images of fires burning nocturnally across the American West in what has been a record year, to date, for fires in the country.
Key mammals dying off in rainforest fragments
(08/15/2012) When the Portuguese first arrived on the shores of what is now Brazil, a massive forest waited for them. Not the Amazon, but the Atlantic Forest, stretching for over 1.2 million kilometers. Here jaguars, the continent's apex predator, stalked peccaries, while tapirs waded in rivers and giant anteaters unearthed termites mounds. Here, also, the Tupi people numbered around a million people. Now, almost all of this gone: 93 percent of the Atlantic Forest has been converted to agriculture, pasture, and cities, the bulk of it lost since the 1940s. The Tupi people are largely vanished due to slavery and disease, and, according to a new study in the open access journal PLoS ONE, so are many of the forest's megafauna, from jaguars to giant anteaters.
Burning forests in Southeast Asia increases mortality rates in the region
(08/13/2012) Clearing forests and other vegetation with fire in Southeast Asia can kill, according to a new study in Nature Climate Change. The research found that fire-induced air pollution, including fine particulates and a rise in ozone, could be linked to thousands of deaths during El Nino years when dry conditions worsen human-set fires. The pollution was found to be worst over Malaysia and Indonesia, the latter where the vast majority of the fires are set.
Hundreds of hotspots burn Tesso Nilo National Park, threatening elephants
(08/08/2012) From June to July, hundreds of fires spread in Tesso Nilo National Park in Indonesia. Based on the data from World Wide Fund for Wildlife (WWF) Program-Riau, fire hotspots reached their peak in the third week of June. As of early July, fires, which were triggered a month earlier, could not be totally extinguished.
Extreme heatwaves 50 to 100 times more likely due to climate change
(08/05/2012) A recent rise in deadly, debilitating, and expensive heatwaves was caused by climate change, argues a new statistical analysis published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Climatologists found that extreme heatwaves have increased by at least 50 times during the last 30 years. The researchers, including James Hansen of NASA, conclude that climate change is the only explanation for such a statistical jump.
NASA images reveal massive forest die-off from tiny beetle
(07/31/2012) Satellite images highlighted by NASA this week reveal a massive forest die-off in Colorado due to severe pine park beetle infestations.
Half of tropical forest parks losing biodiversity
(07/25/2012) Governments have set up protected areas, in part, to act as reservoirs for our Earth's stunning biodiversity; no where is this more true than in the world's tropical forests, which contain around half of our planet's species. However a new study in Nature finds that wildlife in many of the world's rainforest parks remains imperiled by human pressures both inside and outside the reserves, threatening to undercut global conservation efforts. Looking at a representative 60 protected areas across 36 tropical nations, the scientists found that about half the parks suffered an "erosion of biodiversity" over the last 20-30 years.
Map reveals sharp increase in U.S. fires since 2001
(07/24/2012) A new map using NASA data reveals an increase in the severity of fires in the United States since 2000.
Experts: sustainable logging in rainforests impossible
(07/19/2012) Industrial logging in primary tropical forests that is both sustainable and profitable is impossible, argues a new study in Bioscience, which finds that the ecology of tropical hardwoods makes logging with truly sustainable practices not only impractical, but completely unprofitable. Given this, the researchers recommend industrial logging subsidies be dropped from the UN's Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) program. The study, which adds to the growing debate about the role of logging in tropical forests, counters recent research making the case that well-managed logging in old-growth rainforests could provide a "middle way" between conservation and outright conversion of forests to monocultures or pasture.
Deja vu: U.S. undergoes hottest 12 months on record...again and again
(07/12/2012) According to new data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s National Climatic Data Center, the last twelve months have been the warmest on record for the contiguous United States. This record, set between July 2011 through June 2012, beat the last consecutive twelve month record set only a month earlier between June 2011 and May 2012, which in turn beat the previous record holder, you guessed it: May 2011 through April 2012.
As U.S. sees record heat, extreme weather pummels 4 continents
(07/10/2012) It's not only the U.S. that has experienced record-breaking extreme weather events recently, in the last couple months extreme weather has struck around the world with startling ferocity. In addition to the much-covered heatwaves, wildfires, and droughts in the U.S., killer floods struck India, the worst drought yet recorded plagued South Korea, and massive forest fires swept through Siberia to name just a few.
Scientist: 'no doubt' that climate change is playing a role in U.S. fires
(07/02/2012) A noted climate scientist says there is 'no doubt' that climate change is 'playing a role' in this year's series of record fires in the western U.S. A massive wildfire in Colorado has forced the evacuation of 36,000 people, destroyed over 300 homes, and killed two people. The devastation wrought by the Waldo Canyon Fire even prompted a visit form U.S. President Barack Obama. But this is not the only epic fire in the U.S. this year: less than a month before the Colorado disaster, New Mexico experienced its largest fire on record in Gila Nation Forest; the conflagration burned up 247,000 acres (100,000 hectares). Other major wildfires have occurred in Utah and Wyoming, as well as other parts of New Mexico and Colorado.
Despite moratorium and investigation, fires rage in key Sumatran peat swamp
(06/29/2012) Several fires are burning in a contested concession within Aceh Province's Tripa peat swamp raising questions about the efficacy of a high-profile investigation by Indonesian authorities, say environmentalists.
Pictures: Drought, high heat and winds fuel massive fires in Colorado
(06/28/2012) Lightning strikes have blatantly ignored the warnings of park service officials in Colorado, setting off the 87,000 + acre High Park fire, the 20,000 + acre fire near Pagosa Springs, and a more recent wildfire just outside Boulder.
Indonesian fires trigger haze alerts in Malaysia
(06/24/2012) Fires set for land clearing in Indonesia triggered health warnings in Kuala Lumpur and other parts of Malaysia last week, reports the Associated Press.
Fire risk to increase in the Amazon rainforest
(06/20/2012) The risk of fire could increase across large parts of the Amazon rainforest due to increasing incident of drought, expansion of road networks, and rural outmigration, said a scientist speaking at the annual meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) in Bonito, Brazil.
As Colorado and New Mexico burn, scientists say prepare for more
(06/12/2012) A massive wildlife in Colorado still burns after it has killed one person and damaged or destroyed over a hundred structures. The fire, the third largest in Colorado's history, has burned 39,500 acres (16,000 hectares) to date. Meanwhile in central New Mexico, another wildfire has damaged or destroyed 35 structures and burned 34,500 acres (14,000 hectares). This comes just weeks after New Mexico's largest wildfire ever—still going—burned up over 247,000 acres (100,000 hectares) of the Gila Forest. Weeks of heroic efforts by thousands of firefighters have contained this megafire by only 37 percent to date. Now, a new scientific study in Ecospshere has found that North America and Europe must prepare for even more fires as global temperatures continue to rise from climate change.
NASA image: New Mexico suffers record megafire
(06/04/2012) To date, around 250,000 acres (101,000 hectares) of the Gila Forest in New Mexico have burned in the state's largest fire ever recorded. Begun on May 16th due to lightning strikes, the unprecedented fire has likely been made possible by a combination of land-use changes, unflagging drought, and climate change.
Can loggers be conservationists?
(05/10/2012) Last year researchers took the first ever publicly-released video of an African golden cat (Profelis aurata) in a Gabon rainforest. This beautiful, but elusive, feline was filmed sitting docilely for the camera and chasing a bat. The least-known of Africa's wild cat species, the African golden cat has been difficult to study because it makes its home deep in the Congo rainforest. However, researchers didn't capture the cat on video in an untrammeled, pristine forest, but in a well-managed logging concession by Precious Woods Inc., where scientist's cameras also photographed gorillas, elephants, leopards, and duikers.
Oil company blamed for fire in Belize national park
(05/01/2012) At the end of March in southern Belize the sun beats down through blackened trees onto what was the only known low-lying sphagnum moss bog in Central America. Now it is an expanse of ash and pale crusts of burned moss onto which dragonflies settle briefly before passing on. Fire spread through the area at the end of February 2012, and since then reeds have begun to sprout, but otherwise it remains a scene of devastation with no sign that the moss is regenerating.
Fires raging in peat forest at center of legal case in Indonesia
(03/27/2012) Fires are burning in a peat forest that is the center of contentious court case.
Humans killed off magnificent Australian megafauna, flipping rainforest into savannah
(03/27/2012) The theory that humans, and not climate change, was primarily responsible for the extinction of giant marsupials in prehistoric Australia takes another step forward with a new study in Science. Exploring sediment cores for past evidence of big herbivores, researchers found that the arrival of humans coincided with the loss of a menagerie of magnificent beasts, from giant kangaroos to fearsome marsupial lions and monster birds to Komodo dragon-like reptiles. The decline of this megafauna ultimately led to ecological changes that may have caused Australia's rainforest to become savannah.
Picture of the day: the world's largest bromeliad
(01/30/2012) Found in the Andes of Peru and Bolivia, the world's biggest bromeliad Puya raimondii is imperiled by climate change and human disturbances.
Is the Russian Forest Code a warning for Brazil?
(12/19/2011) Brazil, which last week moved to reform its Forest Code, may find lessons in Russia's revision of its forest law in 2007, say a pair of Russian scientists. The Brazilian Senate last week passed a bill that would relax some of forest provisions imposed on landowners. Environmentalists blasted the move, arguing that the new Forest Code — provided it is not vetoed by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff next year — could undermine the country's progress in reducing deforestation.
Killer Russian heatwave product of climate change
(10/26/2011) Last year's Russian heatwave and drought resulted in vast wildfires and a morality rate that was 56,000 people higher than the same period in 2009. Now, researchers have published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that finds the heatwave would very likely have never happened if not for climate change. The study flies in the face of previous research by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that concluded the heatwave was simply due to natural variation and not a warming world.
Restoring tropical forests by keeping fire far away
(09/26/2011) Keeping fire at bay could be key to reforesting abandoned land in the tropics, according to a new study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science. Measuring the recovery of regenerating forests in Kibale National Park in Uganda, the study found that suppressing fire allowed the forest to come back over a period of decades. Given the role rainforests play in sequestering carbon and safeguarding biodiversity, the study argues that reforesting abandoned land in the tropics should be a global policy and controlling fire may be an simple and largely inexpensive method to achieve the goal.
Repeated burning undercuts Amazon rainforest recovery
(09/26/2011) The Amazon rainforest can recover fromlogging, but has a far more difficult time returning after repeated burning, reports a new study in mongabay.com's open-access journal Tropical Conservation Science. In areas where the Amazon had been turned to pasture and was subject to repeated burning, Visima trees become the dominant tree inhibiting the return of a biodiverse forest. The key to the sudden domination of Visima trees, according to the study, is that these species re-sprout readily following fires; a capacity most other Amazonian trees lack.
Protected areas that allow local use better at reining in tropical deforestation
(08/21/2011) Protected areas in tropical forests are better at curtailing deforestation if they allow 'sustainable use' by locals, according to a new World Bank study published in the open-access journal PLoS ONE. Looking at every official protected area in the tropics from 2000 to 2008, researchers found that multi-use reserves in Latin America and Asia lowered deforestation rates by around 2 percent more than strict protected areas, though the effect was less visible in Africa.
Chart: US suffers record drought
(08/01/2011) An exceptional drought is still scorching major parts of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. A new report from the National Drought Mitigation Center finds that over July, nearly 12 percent of the US saw exceptional drought conditions, the highest record since monitoring began a dozen years. Exceptional drought is the worst possible on a 5-scale drought scale.
Adaptation, justice and morality in a warming world
(07/28/2011) If last year was the first in which climate change impacts became apparent worldwide—unprecedented drought and fires in Russia, megaflood in Pakistan, record drought in the Amazon, deadly floods in South America, plus record highs all over the place—this may be the year in which the American public sees climate change as no longer distant and abstract, but happening at home. With burning across the southwest, record drought in Texas, majors flooding in the Midwest, heatwaves everywhere, its becoming harder and harder to ignore the obvious. Climate change consultant and blogger, Brian Thomas, says these patterns are pushing 'prominent scientists' to state 'more explicitly that the pattern we're seeing today shows a definite climate change link,' but that it may not yet change the public perception in the US.
Yellowstone burning: big fires to hit world's first national park annually by 2050
(07/25/2011) An icon of conservation and wilderness worldwide, Yellowstone National Park could see its ecosystem flip due to increased big fires from climate change warn experts in a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS). A sudden increase in large fires—defined as over 200 hectares (500 acres)—by mid-century could shift the Yellowstone ecosystem from largely mature conifer forests to younger forests with open shrub and grasslands.
Decline in top predators and megafauna 'humankind’s most pervasive influence on nature'
(07/14/2011) Worldwide wolf populations have dropped around 99 percent from historic populations. Lion populations have fallen from 450,000 to 20,000 in 50 years. Three subspecies of tiger went extinct in the 20th Century. Overfishing and finning has cut some shark populations down by 90 percent in just a few decades. Though humpback whales have rebounded since whaling was banned, they are still far from historic numbers. While some humans have mourned such statistics as an aesthetic loss, scientists now say these declines have a far greater impact on humans than just the vanishing of iconic animals. The almost wholesale destruction of top predators—such as sharks, wolves, and big cats—has drastically altered the world's ecosystems, according to a new review study in Science. Although researchers have long known that the decline of animals at the top of food chain, including big herbivores and omnivores, affects ecosystems through what is known as 'trophic cascade', studies over the past few decades are only beginning to reveal the extent to which these animals maintain healthy environments, preserve biodiversity, and improve nature's productivity.
Ant surprises on Murciélago Islands in Costa Rica
(06/28/2011) The Murciélago Islands are seven small islands off the northwest coast of Costa Rica in the Area de Conservación Guanacaste (ACG), home to one of the largest intact dry tropical forests in Central America. Despite this, few scientists have studied the biodiversity of these small uninhabited islands. A new study in the open access journal Tropical Conservation Science has attempted to rectify this gap by conducting the first survey of insects, specifically ants, on the islands. Researchers were surprised at the richness of ant species on the island: 50 species were documented, only two of which were invasive species.
How do Lebombo ironwood trees fare against elephants and fire?
(06/27/2011) A new study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science found that Lebombo ironwood (Androstachys johnsonii) forests are showing signs of decline due to elephant damage and fires in Zimbabwe's Gonarezhou National Park. The Lebombo ironwood is the only tree in the genus Androstachys.
NASA picture of largest fire in Arizona history
(06/14/2011) NASA released a satellite image of the Wallow Fire that has become the largest fire in Arizona history.
Climate change and deforestation pose risk to Amazon rainforest
(05/20/2011) Deforestation and climate change will likely decimate much of the Amazon rainforest, says a new study by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) and the UK's Met Office Hadley Centre. Climate change and widespread deforestation is expected to cause warmer and drier conditions overall, reducing the resistance of the rainforest ecosystem to natural and human-caused stressors while increasing the frequency of extreme rainfall events and droughts by the end of this century. While climate models show that higher temperatures resulting from global climate change will threaten the resilience of the Amazon, current deforestation is an immediate concern to the rainforest ecosystem and is likely driving regional changes in climate.
US southern forests face bleak future, but is sprawl or the paper industry to blame?
(05/19/2011) More people, less forests: that's the conclusion of a US Forest Service report for forests in the US South. The report predicts that over the next 50 years, the region will lose 23 million acres (9.3 million hectares) largely due to urban sprawl and growing populations amid other factors. Such a loss, representing a decline of over 10 percent, would strain ecosystem services, such as water resources, while potentially imperiling over 1,000 species. However, Dogwood Alliance, which campaigns for conservation of southern forests criticizes the new report for underplaying the role of clearcutting natural forests for the paper industry in the south.
Fires burn in Sumatra, drive air pollution in Malaysia
(05/13/2011) More than 100 Indonesian firefighters are battling peatland fires set by oil palm plantation developers in Riau province on the island of Sumatra, reports the AFP.
Burning up: warmer world means the rise of megafires
(05/12/2011) Megafires are likely both worsened by and contributing to global climate change, according to a new United Nations report. In the tropics, deforestation is playing a major role in creating giant, unprecedented fires.
Cambodia's wildlife pioneer: saving species and places in Southeast Asia's last forest
(05/11/2011) Suwanna Gauntlett has dedicated her life to protecting rainforests and wildlife in some of the world’s most hostile and rugged environments and has set the trend of a new generation of direct action conservationists. She has designed, implemented, and supported bold, front-line conservation programs to save endangered wildlife populations from the brink of extinction, including saving the Amur Tiger (also known as the Siberian Tiger) from extinction in the 1990s in the Russian Far East, when only about 80 individuals remained and reversing the drastic decline of Olive Ridley sea turtles along the coast of Orissa, India in the 1990s, when annual nestings had declined from 600,000 to a mere 8,130. When she first arrived in Cambodia in the late 1990s, its forests were silent. 'You couldn’t hear any birds, you couldn’t hear any wildlife and you could hardly see any signs of wildlife because of the destruction,' Gauntlett said. Wildlife was being sold everywhere, in restaurants, on the street, and even her local beauty parlor had a bear.
Are US floods, fires linked to climate change?
(04/28/2011) The short answer to the question of whether or not on-going floods in the US Midwest and fires in Texas are linked to a warming Earth is: maybe. The long answer, however, is that while it is difficult—some argue impossible—for scientists to link a single extreme weather event to climate change, climate models have long shown that extreme weather events will both intensify and become more frequent as the world continues to heat up. In other words, the probability of such extreme events increases along with global average temperature.
Last year's drought hit Amazon hard: nearly a million square miles impacted
(03/29/2011) A new study on its way to being published shows that the Amazon rainforest suffered greatly from last year's drought. Employing satellite data and supercomputing technology, researchers have found that the Amazon was likely hit harder by last year's drought than a recent severe drought from 2005. The droughts have supported predictions by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) that climate change, among other impacts, could push portions of the Amazon to grasslands, devastating the world's greatest rainforest. "The greenness levels of Amazonian vegetation—a measure of its health—decreased dramatically over an area more than three and one-half times the size of Texas and did not recover to normal levels, even after the drought ended in late October 2010," explains the study's lead author Liang Xu of Boston University.
How to save the Pantanal and increase profits for the cattle industry
(03/28/2011) The Pantanal spanning Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay is the world's largest wetland—the size of Florida—and home to a wide-variety of charismatic species, such as jaguars, capybaras, and giant anteaters. However, the great wetland is threatened by expansion in big agriculture and an increasingly intensive cattle industry. Yet there is hope: a new study by Wildlife Conservation Society of Brazil (WCS-Brazil) researchers has found that cattle and the ecosystem can exist harmoniously. By replacing current practices with rotational grazing, cattle ranchers gain a healthier herd and more profits while safeguarding the ecological integrity and wildlife of the world's largest wetland system. The study published in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science is a rare instance of a win-win situation.
Burning up biodiversity: forest fires increase in Madagascar
(01/10/2011) The number of fires burning in and around forests in the northeastern part of Madagascar increased during the 2010 burning season relative the the year before, according to analysis of NASA data by WildMadagascar.org / Mongabay.com. The rise in burning corresponds to an especially dry year and continued illegal logging of the region's biologically-rich rainforests.
Satellite data reveals fires in region plagued by illegal logging in Madagascar
(12/27/2010) New satellite data reveals active burning in Sava, a region in Madagascar that has been ravaged by illegal logging for rosewood and other valuable rainforest timber.
Unprecedented tundra fire likely linked to climate change
(11/23/2010) A thousand square kilometers of the Alaskan tundra burned in September 2007, a single fire that doubled the area burned in the region since 1950. However, a new study in the Journal of Geophysical Research finds that the fire was even more unprecedented than imagined: sediment cores found that it was the most destructive fire in the area for at least 5,000 years and maybe longer. "If such fires occur every 200 years or every 500 years, it's a natural event," University of Illinois plant biology professor Feng Sheng Hu explains in a press release. "But another possibility is that these are truly unprecedented events caused by, say, greenhouse warming."
Oil palm plantation fires driving air pollution in Singapore
(10/24/2010) Oil palm plantation fires in Sumatra are contributing to air pollution in Singapore, according to Indonesia's forestry minister.
Satellites show fragmented rainforests significantly drier than intact forest
(10/13/2010) A new study in Biological Conservation has shown that edge forests and forest patches are more vulnerable to burning because they are drier than intact forests. Using eight years of satellite imagery over East Amazonia, the researchers found that desiccation (extreme dryness) penetrated anywhere from 1 to 3 kilometers into forests depending on the level of fragmentation.
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