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Asia's conversion of forests for industrial rubber plantations hurts the environment

(05/21/2009) Policies promoting industrial rubber plantations over traditional swidden, or slash-and-burn, agriculture across Southeast Asia may carry significant environmental consequences, including loss of biodiversity, reduction of carbon stocks, pollution and degradation of local water supplies, report researchers writing in Science. Conducting field work in the Xishuangbanna prefecture of China's Yunnan province and assessing broader regional trends, Alan Ziegler of the National University of Singapore and colleagues argue that policies favoring agricultural intensification over small-scale slash-and-burn have encouraged the rapid expansion of rubber plantations across more than 500,000 hectares (1,930 square miles) of montane forest in China, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar. Despite widespread perception among authorities that "swidden cultivation is a destructive system that leads only to forest loss and degradation", the researchers found that the transition to industrial plantations has not necessarily been a boon to the environment.


Drought threatens rare desert elephants

(05/21/2009) The worst drought in 26 years is threatening a rare herd of desert elephants in the West African country of Mail, warns the conservation organization Save the Elephants. The herd of 350-450 desert elephants live in the Gourma district of Mali,resting in the Sahel belt that separates the Saharan desert from the Sudan.


85 percent of oyster reefs gone, threatening coastal environments and a favored delicacy

(05/21/2009) The first global report on the state of shellfish was released today at the International Marine Conservation Congress in Washington, DC. Painting a dire picture for shellfish worldwide, the report found that 85 percent of oyster reefs have vanished.


Green groups, corporations call for forest conservation to counter global warming

(05/20/2009) A group of leading U.S. businesses and environmental groups today formed a coalition calling for the inclusion of forest conservation in domestic cap-and-trade legislation. The pact endorses policies that would allow companies to receive credit for reducing emissions by financing activities that protect forests in tropical countries. It also calls for five percent of proceeds from the auctioning of greenhouse gas emissions allowances under a cap-and-trade system to go towards funding forest conservation projects.


Voluntary carbon markets double in 2008

(05/20/2009) Voluntary carbon markets greatly expanded in both transaction volume and value in 2008, providing critical funds for projects aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new report from Ecosystem Marketplace and New Carbon Finance. Fortifying the Foundation: State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets 2009 — a survey of over 190 voluntary carbon credit retailers, brokers, accounting registries, and exchanges — found that voluntary carbon markets transacted 123 million metric tons of carbon credits valued at $705 million in 2008, up from 65 million tons of credits valued at $331 million in 2007.


Global warming estimates double in severity according to new MIT modeling

(05/20/2009) Employing the MIT Integrated Global System Model, scientists have found that global warming could be more than twice as severe as previous estimates six years ago. The MIT Integrated Global Systems Model, which uses computer simulations to analyze the relationship between climatic changes and the global economy, found during 400 runs of the model that there is a 90 percent probability that temperatures will have risen 3.5 to 7.4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.


Study refutes criticism of polar bear listing under the Endangered Species Act

(05/20/2009) In May 2008 the Bush Administration listed the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The listing immediately received allegations of being politically biased and not based on sound science. However, a new paper addresses the allegations point by point and concludes that the decision to add the polar bear under the ESA was not only scientifically sound, but right.


APP, Sinar Mas plan to log habitat of critically endangered orangutans

(05/20/2009) Asia Pulp & Paper and Sinar Mas Group have acquired a license to clear hundreds of hectares of unprotected rainforest near Bukit Tigapuluh National Park on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, report environmental groups who say the activity threatens a population of critically endangered orangutans that have been re-introduced into the wild. The companies intend to log the concession for timber and plant it for industrial timber and oil palm plantations.


UN: Population growth rates fall to 1.1 percent in Asia-Pacific

(05/19/2009) The population growth rate in the Asia-Pacific region has dropped to 1.1 percent, according to the Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific 2008, compiled by the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). The 1.1 percent growth rate is the lowest in the developing world.


Congo biochar initiative will reduce poverty, protect forests, slow climate change

(05/19/2009) An initiative using soil carbon enrichment techniques to boost agricultural yields, alleviate poverty, and protect endangered forests in Central Africa was today selected as one of six projects to win funding under the Congo Basin Forest Fund (CBFF). The scientific committee of the CBFF awarded Belgium's Biochar Fund and its Congolese partner ADAPEL €300,000 to implement its biochar concept in 10 villages in the Equateur Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The approach improves the fertility of soils through the introduction of "biochar" — charcoal produced from the burning of agricultural residues and waste biomass under reduced oxygen conditions — thereby increasing crop yields and reducing the need to clear forest for slash-and-burn agriculture.


Six nations pledge to protect the Coral Triangle

(05/19/2009) Last Friday, six nations signed a pledge launching the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF). Indonesia, the Philippines, Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Malaysia each agreed to protect the Coral Triangle, a region spanning 1.6 billion acres, half the size of the US.


Komodo dragons are venomous

(05/18/2009) The world's largest lizard relies on venom to weaken and immobilize its prey report researchers writing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Until now it was believed that bacteria resident in the Komodo Dragon's mouth were the source of the reptile's toxicity.


Obama to increase fuel economy standard to 35 mpg by 2016

(05/18/2009) The Obama administration will direct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation to raise fuel economy standards of automobiles to 35 miles per gallon by 2016, four years earlier than required under current federal law, reports the Wall Street Journal. The move is part of the administration's effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Transportation accounts for nearly one third of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions.


Scientists find world’s largest leatherback sea turtle population in Gabon

(05/17/2009) Scientists have found the world’s largest population of nesting leatherback sea turtles. On the beaches of Gabon in West Africa land and air surveys estimated the small country’s leatherback population to be between 15,730 and 41,373 individual females. The findings are published in Biological Conservation. Leatherback sea turtles are currently considered critically endangered by the IUCN, however these new numbers may cause marine biologists to reconsider that ranking.


Brazil moves closer to legitimizing illegal land-grab in the Amazon

(05/17/2009) Brazil moved a step closer to approving a controversial law that would grant land title to 300,000 properties illegally established across some 600,000 square kilometers (230,000 square miles) of protected Amazon forest, reports AFP. The move may improve governance in otherwise lawless areas, but could carry a steep environmental cost without safeguards.


Tropical storms may create seeds for reef restoration

(05/16/2009) Tropical reefs are easy to destroy and difficult to fix. It is estimated that global warming, unsustainable fishing, and pollution have already destroyed 20% of the world’s coral reefs. Recently, Virginia Garrison and Greg Ward of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) demonstrated how coral fragments that have broken loose during storms can be used to rebuild reefs. They reported their results in the October issue of Biological Conservation.


U.S. reauthorizes funding for rainforest conservation

(05/16/2009) The Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week unanimously passed the Tropical Forest and Coral Conservation Reauthorization Act of 2009 (S. 345) introduced by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) and Ranking Member Senator Dick Lugar (R-IN). The bill would provide up to $115 million in debt relief to tropical countries in exchange for commitments to conserve forests and coral reefs.


Updated Red-List: 192 birds are Critically-Endangered

(05/14/2009) In this year’s updated IUCN Red List on birds, six species were down-listed from Critically Endangered to Endangered, but eight species were up-listed to Critically Endangered, leading to the highest number of Critically Endangered birds ever on the list. In all 1,227 bird species (12 percent) are currently considered threatened with global extinction.


Global warming pushes mammals north in Michigan

(05/14/2009) A new study shows that mammals in the state of Michigan are moving north because of climate change, pushing out other species on the way. Researchers studied the distribution and population of nine small mammals from live-trapping data over 30 years and notes from research museums covering the past hundred years. They utilized over 14,000 records covering the nine species.


Blue whales return to migration pattern used before commercial whaling

(05/13/2009) The blue whale may be returning to a migration route that it abandoned during commercial whaling. Researchers have discovered whales migrating from California to the coastlines of British Columbia and the Gulf of Alaska for the first time since 1965. Fifteen different cases of whales have been recorded in the north Pacific; four of the whales were individuals who had been viewed off the coast of California, as well.


Near-record flooding in the Amazon

(05/13/2009) Near-record flooding has displaced thousands of people in the Brazilian Amazon, reports the Associated Press.


Consumers show no interest in eco-certified palm oil; WWF threatens naming and shaming campaign

(05/13/2009) Lack of interest in eco-certified palm oil among buyers threatens to undermine efforts to improve the environmental performance of the industry, reports the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).


Successful reintroduction of world’s smallest hog

(05/13/2009) The critically-endangered pygmy hog Porcula salvania is thriving one year after being reintroduced into Sonai Rupai Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam, India. According to researchers with the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (DWCT), surveys and camera traps have shown that two-thirds of the 16 originally released pygmy hogs have survived their first year. One of two pregnant females gave birth successfully with tracks of baby pygmy hogs found in the summer of last year.


Protecting global biodiversity must include islands

(05/12/2009) If the world is to save biodiversity, islands are key, according to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study found that while islands have fewer overall species than continental areas of the same size, they have far more endemic species, i.e. animals and plants that can be found no-where else in the world.


Turkey ignores bluefin tuna quotas, further imperiling critically-endangered species

(05/12/2009) A few weeks into the bluefin tuna fishing season and Turkey has decided to go it alone. Breaking international agreements, the Turkish government has announced that it will ignore agreed-upon bluefin tuna quotas. The news is not good for the survival of the critically-endangered fish species, since Turkey operates the largest Mediterranean fleet for bluefin tuna.


Approximately 200 new frogs discovered in Madagascar threatened by political instability

(05/11/2009) Amid the amphibian extinction crisis—where amphibians worldwide are disappearing due to habitat loss, pollution, and a devastating fungal epidemic—the Spanish Scientific Research Council (CSIC) has announced some good news. In a survey of the island-nation of Madagascar they have identified between 129 and 221 new species of frogs. The discovery of so many new species nearly doubles the island’s total number of frogs.


The EU and Republic of Congo announce system to eradicate illegal logging

(05/11/2009) The Republic of Congo and the EU have announced a new system to ensure that by 2011 no illegal timber will reach European Union member nations from the Republic of Congo. Under the system all wood products will be required to carry a license showing that the timber was obtained legally.


Fish operated on at ZSL London Zoo: Photo

(05/11/2009) A female prickly leatherjacket triggerfish Chaetodermis penicilligerus underwent an operation to remove a benign tumor from her tail at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) Zoo.


As wolves face the gun, flawed science taints decision to remove species from ESA

(05/07/2009) On Monday the gray wolf was removed from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in Idaho and Montana, two states that have protected the wolf for decades. According to the federal government the decision to remove those wolf populations was based on sound conservation science—a fact greatly disputed in conservation circles. For unlike the bald eagle, whose population is still rising after being delisted in 1995, when the wolf is removed from the ESA it will face guns blazing and an inevitable decline.


Secret movements of the basking shark uncovered

(05/07/2009) Researchers with the Massachusetts Mariner Fisheries have uncovered the secret life of the world’s second largest fish, known for its cavernous mouth. The basking shark, which measures over 10 meters and weighs as much as seven tons, has long baffled scientists by disappearing from view half of every year. A new study from Current Biology found that the basking shark spends this time deep in the Atlantic’s tropical waters.


Bioelectricity bests ethanol on two fronts: land use and global warming

(05/07/2009) Yesterday the Obama Administration established a Biofuels Interagency Working Group to oversee implementation of new rules and research regarding biofuels. On the group’s first day of work they would do well to look at a new study in Science Magazine comparing the efficacy of ethanol versus bioelectricity.


Famous elephant matriarch, Echo, dies from old age

(05/06/2009) Subject of several documentaries, Kenya’s most famous elephant, Echo, died last Sunday from old age, likely exasperated by drought conditions in East Africa.


Prince Charles’ new online initiative for rainforests makes media splash

(05/06/2009) Releasing a video with as many species of celebrity as ants in the rainforest, while simultaneously turning to online sites such as MySpace and YouTube, appears to have worked for Prince Charles, a longtime advocate of rainforest conservation. His conservation organization’s new outreach to online users has garnered considerable coverage from the international media.


Chimpanzee population plummets 90 percent in supposedly strong region

(05/06/2009) Chimp populations continue to decline in Africa. A new survey of our closest relatives in the Cote D’Ivoire found that the population fell from an estimated 8,000 to 12,000 individuals to a paltry 800 to 1,200, a decline that took place in less than twenty years.


Not only do fish feel pain, it changes their behavior

(05/06/2009) Just months after a study made a splash in the media that proved crabs experience pain, a new study of goldfish shows that not only do these fish also feel pain, but it changes their future behavior. Published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science the study tested goldfish by slowly raising the temperature in their tank. In the warming tank, researchers administered one group of fish morphine and the other saline.


First-ever photo of jaguar on Barro Colorado Island

(05/04/2009) Researchers have captured the first-ever photo of a jaguar on Barro Colorado Island, a key tropical forest research site in Panama, reports the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI). The picture was snapped by a camera trap set up by Montclair State University zoologist Jackie Willis and her husband Greg. The pair have been using the traps — which use infrared to detect and photograph passing wildlife — for animal surveys on Barro Colorado since 1994.


U.S. imports 1 billion pet animals from the wild between 2000 and 2006

(04/30/2009) Poor regulation of the international wildlife trade has increased the vulnerability of the U.S. to outbreaks of disease and alien invasive species, report researchers writing in Science. Analyzing Law Enforcement Management Information System (LEMIS) data gathered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from 2000 through 2006, Katherine Smith of Brown University and colleagues found that of the more than 1.5 billion live wildlife animals legally imported to the United States during the period, only 14 percent were classified to the level of species despite federal mandates for such labeling. The lack of accurate reporting makes it impossible to "accurately assess the diversity of wildlife imported or the risk they pose as invasive species or hosts of harmful pathogens," they write.


Coral reef loss in Caribbean leads to ongoing fish declines

(04/30/2009) Analyzing 48 surveys of Caribbean fish populations over fifty years, from 1955-2007, a new meta-study has found that fish populations in the famously clear waters began to drop in the mid-90s, leading to a consistent decline that hasn’t stopped. The study published in Current Biology discovered a region-wide decline of about 3-6 percent per year in three out of six trophic groups of fish, i.e. groupings of species categorized by their place on the food chain. The declines didn’t show major differences between species targeted by fishermen and those that are not, implying that overfishing isn’t the only cause of the decline in the Caribbean.


Birds can dance, proving humans aren't the only ones with rhythm

(04/30/2009) Another ability long-thought to belong solely to humans, like tool-use or counting, does in fact occur in other species, according to two new studies. In this case, it is the capacity to move rhythmically with music. Studying two different birds the research groups found that the birds weren’t just moving randomly or mimicking owners, but actually changing the tempo of their movement to match the music—in other words, dancing.


Canada and Britain abandon conventional coal

(04/29/2009) In an effort to curb climate change, both Britain and Canada have announced plans to stop building new conventional coal power plants, a move long-advocated by environmentalists. Both nations have turned their sights to the possibility of clean coal, a controversial and still unproven method that has divided environmentalists, scientists, and policy makers.


Huge cache of smuggled ivory represents up to 40 elephants

(04/29/2009) On April 25th two men were pursued by wildlife rangers from the Amboseli-Tsavo Game Scouts Association in Tanzania. The men escaped across the border to southern Kenya where they were caught by police, who had been tipped off by the wildlife scouts. The two men’s SUV contained 1,550 lbs (703 kilograms) of elephant tusks, representing a total of up to forty individuals according to the Kenyan Wildlife Service. This is considered the largest seizure in the region since the ivory smuggling boom of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The ivory is estimated at a value of $750,000 (or 60 million Kenyan shillings).


Obama administration overturns rule that weakened Endangered Species Act

(04/28/2009) Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced today that the Obama administration will reverse an Endangered Species Act (ESA) regulation that allowed federal agencies to go ahead with actions that may impact endangered species without consulting with experts, essentially circumventing the role of conservation scientists in such decisions.


New park in United Arab Emirates to protect rare mammals

(04/28/2009) With only 2,500 individuals in the wild, the Arabian tahr is certainly in need of the sanctuary just established by the United Arab Emirates. The country’s first mountain reserve, Wadi Wurayah Fujairah covers 129 square kilometers (80 square miles).


Bronx zoo closes exhibits, evicts hundreds of animals following budget crisis

(04/28/2009) Following a budget shortfall of 15 million dollars, the Bronx Zoo has announced that it will be closing several exhibits and sending away hundreds of animals.


Tropical storms affect carbon sinks by knocking down forests

(04/27/2009) Studying nearly a hundred and fifty years of tropical storm landfalls in the United States, researchers have discovered that the storm systems have a sizable impact on forest carbon sinks due to the large-scale destruction of trees.


New protections for coral reefs and dwindling fish species in Belize

(04/27/2009) Coral reefs in Belize, considered to be some of the most pristine in the west, have secured additional protections. Rene Montero, the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, signed a set of new laws this month to protect Belize’s coral reefs and the fish that inhabit them. The additional laws protect increasingly overfished species, ban spearfishing in marine reserves, and create no-take zones, according to a press release from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).


Starving vultures in Europe allowed to feast again

(04/26/2009) European vultures have been thrown a lifeline. Last week, Members of the European Parliament voted to change a law that had banned farmers across the continent from leaving dead livestock in the field, a major source of food for vultures.


The story of ‘Save the Frogs Day’, April 28th, An Interview with Kerry Kriger

(04/26/2009) Founder and director of SAVE THE FROGS!, Dr. Kerry Kriger is responsible for the first annual Save The Frogs Day on Tuesday, April 28th with events planned worldwide from the United States to Nepal, and Australia to China. “I’m continually amazed at the positive response it’s gotten. I thought of Save The Frogs Day one night last December when I was the only full-time SAVE THE FROGS! employee and I only had a couple part-time volunteers,” Kriger explains.


Environmental campaign blocks palm oil project in Cote d' Ivoire wetland

(04/25/2009) Environmentalists have thwarted plans to establish an oil palm plantation in the Tanoe forest wetlands of southern Cote d' Ivoire (Ivory Coast), reports AFP.


Fire contributes 20% of global warming emissions

(04/23/2009) Fire accounts for roughly half of greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and about twenty percent of total emissions from human activities, report researchers writing in the journal Science. The estimates — based on analysis of fire's impact on emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane; albedo or the reflectivity of Earth's surface; and release of aerosols and other particulates — suggest fire plays a major large role in climate than conventionally believed.



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