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News articles on rhett butler
Mongabay.com news articles on rhett butler in blog format. Updated regularly.
(07/16/2014) More than 30 percent of Borneo's rainforests have been destroyed over the past forty years due to fires, industrial logging, and the spread of plantations, finds a new study that provides the most comprehensive analysis of the island's forest cover to date. The research, published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, shows that just over a quarter of Borneo's lowland forests remain intact.
New palm oil sustainability manifesto met with criticism from environmentalists
(07/11/2014) This week several palm oil giants announced new environmental criteria for palm oil production. The companies say the initiative goes beyond the industry-leading standard set by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), but two prominent environmental groups quickly disagreed, arguing the measure has substantial loopholes that will allow growers to continue destroying forests.
APP won't acquire companies that continue to destroy forests
(07/08/2014) Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) will not acquire companies that continue to destroy forests, according to a new procedure for association introduced by the Indonesian forestry giant. The procedure, developed after months of consultations with NGOs, effectively closes a loophole some environmentalists feared would allow APP to sidestep its zero deforestation commitment by acquiring companies that continued to clear forest after its February 5, 2013 deadline.
Despite moratorium, Indonesia now has world's highest deforestation rate
(06/29/2014) Despite a high-level pledge to combat deforestation and a nationwide moratorium on new logging and plantation concessions, deforestation has continued to rise in Indonesia, according to a new study published in Nature Climate Change. Annual forest loss in the southeast Asian nation is now the highest in the world, exceeding even Brazil.
Despite early headwinds, Indonesia's biggest REDD+ project moves forward in Borneo
(06/26/2014) Just over a year ago, the Indonesian government officially approved the country's first REDD+ forest carbon conservation project: Rimba Raya, which aims to protect more than 64,000 hectares of peat forest in Central Kalimantan. The approval came after years of delays from the Ministry of Forestry and a substantial reduction in the project's concession area. But InfiniteEarth, the firm behind the project, pressed on. Now a year later, Rimba Raya's is not only still in business, but is scaling up its operations.
Discarded cell phones to help fight rainforest poachers, loggers in real-time
(06/24/2014) A technology that uses discarded mobile phones to create a real-time alert system against logging and poaching will soon be deployed in the endangered rainforests of Central Africa. Rainforest Connection (RFCx), a San Francisco-based non-profit startup, is partnering with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) to install its real-time anti-deforestation technology at sites in Cameroon. 30 RFCx devices — recycled from old Android handsets — will monitor 10,000 hectares or nearly 40 square miles of rainforest, listening for audio signals associated with logging and poaching.
Protecting rainforests could sequester equivalent of a third of global emissions annually
(06/13/2014) liminating deforestation, peatlands and forest degradation, and forest fires in the tropics could reduce global carbon emissions by two billion tons a year, or nearly a fifth, argues a new study published in Global Change Biology. The research analyzed various emissions sources and sinks across the tropics. They found that carbon emissions from activities that damage and destroy forests are nearly counterbalanced by forest regrowth, reforestation, and afforestation.
In cutting deforestation, Brazil leads world in reducing emissions
(06/05/2014) Brazil's success in reducing deforestation in the world's largest rainforest has been much heralded, but progress may stall unless farmers, ranchers and other land users in the region are provided incentives to further improve the environmental sustainability of their operations, argues a study published this week in the journal Science.
Singapore intercepts massive illegal shipment of Madagascar rosewood
(06/03/2014) Authorities in Singapore have made the largest-ever international seizure of rosewood logs, providing further evidence that industrial-scale smuggling of Madagascar's rainforest timber continues despite an official ban on the trade. Details of the seizure remain sparse since the investigation is still active, but leaked correspondence between officials in Madagascar indicates that the shipment amounts to 3,000 tons, or more than 29,000 illicit rosewood logs.
Logger continues to destroy Indonesian rainforest despite green promises (Photos)
(06/03/2014) Indonesian logging giant Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) is continuing to destroy endangered rainforests on Sumatra despite a high profile commitment to clean up its operations, reveal aerial photos captured by Greenpeace last month.
Indonesian activist: strong company commitments, media push government on forest issues
(05/23/2014) Indonesia has become notorious for its high rate of forest loss, but there are nascent signs of progress. The central government has implemented a moratorium across some 14.5 million hectares of forest and peatlands, while a handful of Indonesian companies have adopted policies that establish social and environmental safeguards.
Intensifying cattle production in Brazil could cut global deforestation emissions 25%, says study
(04/28/2014) Brazil could reduce more than a quarter of emissions linked to deforestation worldwide by intensifying cattle production in the Amazon, argues a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
APP commits to conserve, restore 1M ha of Indonesian forest; WWF pledges support
(04/28/2014) Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), Indonesia's largest pulp and paper company and a long-time target of environmental campaigners, has committed to protect and restore a million hectares of forest across Indonesia. The pledge, which represents an area equivalent to the total plantation area from which it sourced pulp in 2013, was immediately welcomed by WWF, which until today has remained one of APP's staunchest critics.
Earth Day Picture Gallery: Celebrating Indonesia
(04/22/2014) This Earth Day, we've decided to highlight the spectacular natural wonders of Indonesia, which is arguably the most biodiverse country on Earth. Indonesia is rich with wildlife thanks to its geography: some 17,000 islands spanning 1.9 million square kilometers (741,000 square miles) of tropical seas. Accordingly, the country is home to an incredible array of habitats ranging from rainforests to tropical glaciers to coral reefs, which support untold numbers of species.
Behind the scenes of Showtime's blockbuster series on climate change
(04/18/2014) For years climate change activists and environmentalists have been clamoring for a high-profile, high-impact TV series about climate change to make Americans more aware of an issue that will affect billions of people around the globe in coming decades. This week they finally got it when Showtime released the first episode of Years of Living Dangerously, a big-budget TV series featuring a number of Hollywood's biggest stars as reporters and corespondents.
Cargill commits to zero deforestation, but environmentalists have questions
(04/09/2014) After years of criticism from environmental groups, Cargill says it will establish policies to eliminate deforestation, peatlands conversion, and social conflict from its palm oil supply chain. But activists aren't yet sure what to make of the agribusiness giant's pledge. On Tuesday Cargill released a letter it sent to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a body that sets eco-certification standards, in response to a Greenpeace Report linking it to deforestation.
Saving rainforests by buying them
(04/04/2014) For more than twenty five years, an international non-profit known as the World Land Trust has been working to protect tropical forests through land purchase and partnerships with local groups. Last year, the U.S. arm of the group decided to rebrand itself as the Rainforest Trust to better convey its core mission to the outside world. Since then, the Rainforest Trust has launched its most ambitious project yet: conserving 5.9 million acres of tropical forest in Peru.
Community's push to clear forest for plantation challenges efforts to conserve in Indonesia
(03/20/2014) In the swampy peatlands of Basilam Baru in Sumatra's Riau Province a conflict between a community and a woodpulp company is illustrating some of the intractable challenges of conserving forests and addressing deforestation in Indonesia. On first glance the story seems depressingly familiar. One actor wants to preserve the forest, which serves as critical habitat for endangered Sumatran tigers and clouded leopards. The other wants to clear it for a plantation.
APP pledges to restore forests, if given the opportunity
(03/18/2014) Over the past 20 years, Sumatra's lowland rainforests have been destroyed at a virtually unmatched rate and scale. Since 1990, the island's primary forests shrank by 40 percent while its overall forest cover declined by 36 percent, mostly the result of logging, agricultural expansion, and conversion for oil palm and timber plantations. What little forest does survive is often degraded — today less than 8 percent of Sumatra retains primary forest.
Will zero deforestation commitments save Indonesia's forests?
(03/17/2014) Skirting the Malacca Strait near the Indonesian city of Dumai the air is thick with haze from peat fires burning below. As the sky clears, a landscape of sharply-cut geometric shapes becomes apparent. What was once carbon-dense peat forests and rainforests are today massive oil palm and wood pulp plantations.
After GAR expands policy, over 50% of world's palm oil bound by zero deforestation commitments
(03/03/2014) Over half the world's palm oil traded internationally is now bound by zero deforestation commitments after Singapore-based Golden-Agri Resources (GAR) extended its forest conservation policy across all palm oil it produces, sources and trades. In a filing posted Friday Singapore Stock Exchange, GAR announced its breakthrough forest conservation policy now applies to all the palm oil it trades.
Procter & Gamble's palm oil suppliers linked to deforestation (photos)
(02/26/2014) A year-long investigation by Greenpeace has found companies that supply Procter & Gamble (P&G) (NYSE:PG) with palm oil are engaged in clearing of rainforests and peatlands in Indonesia, suggesting that Head & Shoulders shampoo and other consumer products made by the company may be linked to forest destruction.
Revolutionary Google-backed system unlocks power of 'big data' to save forests
(02/20/2014) World Resources Institute (WRI) today announced the release of a tool that promises to revolutionize forest monitoring. The platform, called Global Forest Watch and developed over several years with more than 40 partners, draws from a rich array of big data related to the word's forests and translates it into interactive maps and charts that reveal trends in deforestation, forest recovery, and industrial forestry expansion. Global Forest Watch is the first tool to monitors global forests on a monthly basis, allowing authorities and conservationists to potentially take action against deforestation as it is occurring.
APP, environmentalists talk future of Indonesia's forests
(02/20/2014) In February 2013, one of the world's most notorious forestry companies announced it would no longer chop down rainforests and peatlands to produce pulp and paper. The move was met with considerable skepticism by critics who had seen the company break previous high profile commitments to end deforestation. Why would this time be any different?
Helping the Amazon's 'Jaguar People' protect their culture and traditional wisdom
(02/11/2014) Tribes in the Amazon are increasingly exposed to the outside world by choice or circumstance. The fallout of outside contact has rarely been anything less than catastrophic, resulting in untold extinction of hundreds of tribes over the centuries. For ones that survived the devastation of introduced disease and conquest, the process of acculturation transformed once proud cultures into fragmented remnants, their self-sufficiency and social cohesion stripped away, left to struggle in a new world marked by poverty and external dependence
Rainforest Alliance to independently audit APP's zero deforestation commitment
(01/29/2014) The Rainforest Alliance has agreed to conduct an audit of Asia Pulp & Paper's progress in implementing the zero deforestation policy the forestry giant signed last year. The deal, announced Thursday in Jakarta, could help boost the credibility of APP's policy, which while heralded as a breakthrough by several environmental groups, is still viewed with skepticism by some prominent critics, who remember past broken commitments from the paper producer.
287 amphibian and reptile species in Peruvian park sets world record (photos)
(01/28/2014) It's official: Manu National Park in Peru has the highest diversity of reptiles and amphibians in the world. Surveys of the park, which extends from high Andean cloud forests down into the tropical rainforest of the Western Amazon, and its buffer zone turned up 155 amphibian and 132 reptile species, 16 more than the 271 species documented in Ecuador's Yasuní National Park in 2010.
Norwegian insurance giant blacklists palm oil companies
(01/27/2014) Storebrand, one of Norway's largest life insurance and pension savings companies, has sold off holdings in eleven palm oil companies due to environmental concerns. In a statement issued last week, Storebrand said it divested after it found the companies had breached its sustainability standards.
New dolphin discovered in the Amazon surprises scientists
(01/23/2014) Researchers have discovered a new species of river dolphin from the Amazon. Writing in the journal Plos One, scientists led by Tomas Hrbek of Brazil's Federal University of Amazonas formally describe Inia araguaiaensis, a freshwater dolphin that inhabits the Araguaia River Basin. It is the first true river dolphin discovered since 1918.
Land conflicts complicate effort to spare forests from palm oil in Borneo
(01/17/2014) A widely-heralded effort to spare carbon-dense rainforests and peatlands from palm oil development in Indonesian Borneo is facing new criticism after an investigation by rights groups found evidence of unresolved conflicts over community land. The report, published Friday by the Forest Peoples Program and TUK-Indonesia, looked at a carbon conservation pilot project run by Golden Agri Resources (GAR), a Singapore-based agribusiness giant that is one of Indonesia's largest palm oil producers.
In precedent-setting case, palm oil company fined $30M for destroying orangutan forest
(01/09/2014) In a precedent-setting case, an Indonesian court has found a palm oil company guilty of violating environmental laws and ordered it to pay $30 million in fines and reparations for clearing an area of protected peat forest that is a stronghold for endangered orangutans in Indonesia's Aceh Province. In a ruling handed down Wednesday, the Meulaboh district court concluded that PT Kallista Alam illegally cleared and burned forest within the the protected Tripa peat swamp in northwestern Sumatra.
Most popular eco news articles of 2013
(01/01/2014) The most popular environmental news article on mongabay.com during 2013 was a story about the recovery of the endangered Huemul deer (Hippocamelus bisulcus) in Chile. The story, written by Alexander Holmgren, was visited 308,000 times, due largely to Reddit.
Rainforest news review for 2013
(12/26/2013) 2013 was full of major developments in efforts to understand and protect the world's tropical rainforests. The following is a review of some of the major tropical forest-related news stories for the year. As a review, this post will not cover everything that transpired during 2013 in the world of tropical forests. Please feel free to highlight anything this post missed via the comments section at the bottom. Also please note that this review focuses only on tropical forests.
Our favorite nature pictures from 2013
(12/24/2013) With 2013 drawing to a close, here are 100 nature pictures taken during my various Mongabay reporting trips in 2013, including Indonesia, the Pacific Northwest, Costa Rica, Namibia, and South Africa. Overall I added more than 15,000 new images — spanning rainforests, deserts and oceans — to the photo section of the site during the year.
Biggest new animal discoveries of 2013 (photos)
(12/23/2013) Thousands of species were scientifically described for the first time in 2013. Many of these were 'cryptic species' that were identified after genetic analysis distinguished them from closely-related species, while others were totally novel. Below are some of the most interesting "new species" discoveries that took place or were formally announced in 2013.
Top 10 HAPPY environmental stories of 2013
(12/19/2013) China begins to tackle pollution, carbon emissions: As China's environmental crisis worsens, the government has begun to unveil a series of new initiatives to curb record pollution and cut greenhouse emissions. The world's largest consumer of coal, China's growth in emissions is finally slowing and some experts believe the nation's emissions could peak within the decade. If China's emissions begin to fall, so too could the world's.
Ongoing deforestation reported in Borneo concession held by APP supplier
(12/18/2013) Up to 1,400 hectares of forest have been cleared in a concession belonging to an Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) supplier in Borneo, potentially putting the company in breach of the forestry giant's zero deforestation commitment, reports a coalition of local NGO's. In a report released Tuesday, Relawan Pemantau Hutan Kalimantan (RPHK), a coalition of NGO's in part supported by WWF-Indonesia, said that blocks of natural forest have been cleared in a concession belonging to PT Daya Tani Kalbar (DTK), an APP supplier. The clearing has taken place since APP's moratorium went into effect February 1, 2013.
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.
World's biggest palm oil company makes zero deforestation commitment
(12/05/2013) Wilmar, the world's largest palm oil trader and a long-time target of environmentalists, has signed a landmark policy that commits the company to eliminate deforestation from its supply chain. The deal, if fully implemented, has the potential to transform the palm oil industry, which has emerged over the past decade as one of the world's most important drivers of tropical forest destruction.
Malaysia has the world's highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest map
(11/15/2013) Malaysia had the world's highest rate of forest loss between 2000 and 2012, according to a new global forest map developed in partnership with Google. Malaysia's total forest loss during the period amounted to 14.4 percent of its year 2000 forest cover. The loss translates to 47,278 square kilometers (18,244 square miles), an area larger than the country of Denmark.
Deforestation accelerates in Indonesia, finds Google forest map
(11/14/2013) Forest loss in Indonesia has sharply risen over the past 12 years, reports a new study published in the journal Science. The study, led by Matt Hansen of University of Maryland, finds that Indonesia lost 15.8 million hectares between 2000 and 2012, ranking it fifth behind Russia, Brazil, the United States, and Canada in terms of forest loss. Some 7 million hectares of forest regrew during the period.
Zero net deforestation is the wrong target, warn experts
(11/14/2013) Environmental initiatives that target zero net deforestation may miss their mark when it comes to slowing climate change and protecting biodiversity, warns a commentary published in this week's issue of the journal Science. While zero net deforestation may seem like a worthy target in efforts to curb forest loss, Sandra Brown and Daniel Zarin argue that the goal is at best, ambiguous, and at worst, may lead to perverse outcomes for the world's forests.
Powered by Google, high resolution forest map reveals massive deforestation worldwide
(11/14/2013) Researchers today released a long-awaited tool that reveals the extent of forest cover loss and gain on a global scale. Powered by Google's massive computing cloud, the interactive forest map establishes a new baseline for measuring deforestation and forest recovery across all of the world's countries, biomes, and forest types. The map has far-reaching implications for efforts to slow deforestation, which accounts for roughly ten percent of greenhouse gas emissions produced by human activities, according to the authors of the paper that describes the tool and details its first findings.
3.5 million ha of Indonesian and Malaysian forest converted for palm oil in 20 years
(11/12/2013) Some 3.5 million hectares (8.7 million acres) of forest in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea was converted for oil palm plantations between 1990 and 2010, finds a comprehensive set of assessments released by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The research, conducted by an international team of scientists from a range of institutions, is presented in a series of seven academic papers that estimate change in land use and greenhouse gas emissions from oil palm expansion in the three countries, review the social and environmental impacts of palm oil production, forecast potential growth in the sector across the region, and detail methods for measuring emissions and carbon stocks of plantations establishing on peatlands.
Palm oil giant to forgo development of New Guinea rainforest
(11/06/2013) Palm oil giant Golden-Agri Resources (GAR) will forgo development of an oil palm plantation in an area of rainforest in Indonesian New Guinea in order to comply with its forest conservation policy. The decision by GAR — which is the parent company for PT SMART, one of Indonesia's largest private palm oil companies — was disclosed in a report on its high carbon stock pilot project, which is a key component of the company's forest conservation policy (FCP).
Thought-to-be-extinct 'halloween' frog rediscovered in Costa Rica
(11/04/2013) A breeding population of a critically endangered harlequin toad thought to be extinct in Costa Rica has been discovered in a tract of highland forest in the Central American country, reports a paper published in Amphibia-Reptilia. Atelopus varius, an orange-and-black harlequin toad, was once relatively common from central Costa Rica to western Panama. But beginning in the 1980's the species experienced a rapid population collapse across most of its range.
Gold mining in the Amazon rainforest surges 400%
(10/28/2013) The extent of gold mining in the Peruvian Amazon has surged 400 percent since 1999 due to rocketing gold prices, wreaking havoc on forests and devastating local rivers, finds a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The assessment, led by Greg Asner of the Carnegie Institution for Science, is based on a combination of satellite imagery, on-the-ground field surveys, and an advanced airplane-based sensor that can accurately measure the rainforest canopy and sub-canopy vegetation at a resolution of 1.1 meters (42 inches).
Illegal logging remains rampant in Brazil
(10/23/2013) Illegal logging remains pervasive in the Brazilian state of Pará, finds an assessment released Monday by Imazon.
Nature tours in Costa Rica: an economic alternative to palm oil?
(10/16/2013) Oil palm plantations have been rapidly expanding across the tropics for the better part of the past twenty years due to high returns from palm oil production. But palm oil isn't necessarily the most profitable form of land use in wildlife-rich areas, as one conservation entrepreneur is demonstrating in Costa Rica.David Lando Ramirez, a landowner in Sarapiqui, northeastern Costa Rica, has converted a small patch of oil palm into a thriving ecotourism business centered around people's love of the Central American nation's stunning diversity of birds.
Environmental journalism: rich with stories but 'extremely under-resourced'
(10/15/2013) Erik Hoffner is an environmental journalist and photographer whose work has appeared in a wide range of publications, including Orion, The Sun, Northern Woodlands, Yale Environment 360, Earth Island Journal, and World Ark. Recently two of his stories triggered strong public reactions: an exposé on damaging logging practices in Sweden and a photo feature on suburban fracking in Colorado. In an October interview with Mongabay.com, Hoffner discusses the fallout from these stories as well as his career in environmental journalism.
Large-scale opposition among Borneo villagers to deforestation
(09/10/2013) Nearly two-thirds of villagers surveyed across rainforests in Indonesian and Malaysian Borneo are against large-scale deforestation due to the adverse impacts on livelihoods and the environment, finds a comprehensive new study across 185 communities. The research, conducted over a one-year period by an international team of scientists, is published in this week's issue of the journal PLOS ONE. The study found that people who live near forests place the greatest value on the benefits they afford, including medicinal plants, game, clean water, and fiber.
Indonesia should convert logging concessions to protected areas to stop deforestation for plantations, argues study
(09/05/2013) Reclassifying logging concessions as permanent forest estates and thereby barring them from conversion to industrial plantations would be an effective strategy for helping conserve Indonesia's fast-dwindling forests, argues a new study published in PLoS ONE. The study analyzed forest loss in areas zoned for different uses in Indonesian Borneo. It found that deforestation rates in timber concessions and protected areas were 'not significantly different' provided logging concessions were not reclassified as industrial plantation concessions.
Deforestation surges as Ecuador kills Amazon protection plan
(09/04/2013) Data released this week by Terra-i, a collaborative mapping initiative, shows that deforestation in Ecuador for the first three months of 2013 was pacing more than 300 percent ahead of last year's rate. The report comes shortly after Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa killed off a proposed plan to prohibit oil drilling in Yasuni National Park in exchange for payments equivalent to half the value of the park's unexploited oil.
Palm oil now biggest cause of deforestation in Indonesia
(09/03/2013) Conversion of forests for palm oil production now appears to be the single largest driver of deforestation in Indonesia, accounting for roughly a quarter of forest loss between 2009 and 2011, asserts a new Greenpeace report that accuses the sector's main certification standard of failing to stop forest destruction. The report, titled Certifying Destruction, uses satellite imagery, government concession data, field investigations, and third party analysis to conclude that several recent and current members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) — the industry's chief eco-certification body — are continuing to buy or trade palm oil produced via the conversion of rainforests and carbon-dense peatlands in the Southeast Asian nation.
Palm oil licenses provide cover for logging in New Guinea
(08/14/2013) Developers are seeking palm oil concessions to as a means to circumvent restrictions on industrial logging in Papua New Guinea, finds a new study published in the journal Conservation Letters. The research, led by Paul Nelson and Jennifer Gabriel of James Cook University, is based on analysis of 36 proposed oil palm concessions covering nearly 950,000 hectares in PNG. The study assessed the likelihood of the concessions coming to fruition. It found that only five concessions, covering 181,700 ha, are likely to be developed.
Palm oil drives Malaysian rainforest tree to extinction
(07/30/2013) Oil palm plantations have extinguished the last habitat of a rainforest tree in Malaysia. Last week the Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM), a state agency, announced that the last stands of keruing paya (Dipterocarpus coriaceus) in Peninsular Malaysia were wiped out when Bikam forest reserve in Perak was cleared for oil palm plantations.
Engaging the public on green issues via environmental cartoons
(07/29/2013) Engaging the general public on issues like extinction, climate change, habitat destruction, and pollution can be a challenge due to the generally downbeat nature of environmental problems. But an illustrator in Nagpur, India is taking a different approach: cartoons. Rohan Chakravarty, a designer, artist, and ardent wildlife enthusiast, has been posting environmental-themed cartoons on his blog, Green Humour, since 2009. His work has garnered wide attention, including publication in several wildlife and environment magazines and web sites as well as accolades in the form of the Sanctuary Asia Young Naturalist Award 2012 and winning a climate change cartoon contest sponsored by the U.N. Development Program (UNDP).
Near real-time deforestation monitoring system to go global
(07/25/2013) A near real-time deforestation monitoring system will soon cover all the world's tropical forests, report the researchers behind the initiative.
Oil palm genome mapped, could boost yields, reduce pressure on rainforests
(07/25/2013) A team of Malaysian and American researchers have mapped the genome of the oil palm, the oilseed that is widely used as a cooking oil and in cosmetics, cleaning products, and processed foods. The genome sequencing, which was published today in the journal Nature, identified the gene responsible for regulating the crop's oil yield. The results could be used to boost palm oil yields, thus potentially reducing the need to clear wildlife-rich rainforests and carbon-dense peat swamps for plantations.
Madagascar occupied by humans 2,500 years earlier than previously thought
(07/22/2013) New research indicates that Madagascar was occupied some 2,500 years earlier than previously established. The findings, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests a more complex view of the human role in the extinction of the island's mega-fauna. A large body of research holds that village communities began to appear in Madagascar around 500 AD. These were established by people of Indonesian and East African heritage, according to past studies that found linguistic similarities between the Malagasy languages of southeastern Borneo as well as genetic markers tying modern-day Malagasy people to both Indonesia and East Africa. But there have been plenty of hints that people came to the world's third largest island well before 500 AD.
Deforestation rate falls in Congo Basin countries
(07/22/2013) Deforestation has fallen in Congo Basin countries over the past decade despite a sharp increase in the rate of forest clearing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to a new study published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B as part of a set of 18 papers on the region's tropical forests. The special issue, which was put together by Oxford University's Yadvinder Malhi, covers a range of issues relating to the rainforests of the Congo Basin, including deforestation, the impacts of global change, the history and key characteristics of the region's forests, and resource extraction, among others.
80% of rainforests in Malaysian Borneo logged
(07/17/2013) 80 percent of the rainforests in Malaysian Borneo have been heavily impacted by logging, finds a comprehensive study that offers the first assessment of the spread of industrial logging and logging roads across areas that were considered some of Earth's wildest lands less than 30 years ago. The research, conducted by a team of scientists from the University of Tasmania, University of Papua New Guinea, and the Carnegie Institution for Science, is based on analysis of satellite data using Carnegie Landsat Analysis System-lite (CLASlite), a freely available platform for measuring deforestation and forest degradation. It estimated the state of the region's forests as of 2009.
Scientists build app to automatically identify species based on their calls
(07/16/2013) New technology makes it possible to automatically identify species by their vocalizations. The platform, detailed in the current issue of the journal PeerJ, has been used at sites in Puerto Rico and Costa Rica to identify frogs, insects, birds, and monkeys. Many of the animals identified by the system are typically difficult to spot in their natural environment, but audio recordings of their calls reveal not only their presence but also their activity patterns.
Activists raise alarm over park that will dispossess Borneo tribe of land
(07/10/2013) Rights activists are warning that a proposal to classify islands forming in the midst of the Bakun Dam reservoir will further deprive indigenous forest people of their traditional land.
Palm oil lobby group misleads on origin of haze, fires
(07/09/2013) World Growth International, a group that lobbies on behalf of industrial forestry and palm oil companies, is clouding the origin of the fires that triggered 'haze' air pollution alerts across Singapore and Malaysia last month.
Rainforests will survive extreme global warming, argues study
(06/02/2013) Rainforests in South America have endured three previous extreme global warming events in the past, suggesting they will survive a projected 2-6 degree rise in temperatures over the coming century, reports a study published in the Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Science. The research, published by Carlos Jaramillo and Andrés Cárdenas of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama, reviewed some 3,800 published estimates of temperature over the past 120 million years and compared them to the existence of tropical plants in the fossil record.
Data from NASA's Landsat 8 now freely available
(06/02/2013) Data from NAA's Landsat 8 is now freely available, enabling researchers and the general public to access images captured by the satellite within twelve hours of reception. Landsat 8 launched this February and has been capturing images since April. The satellite orbits Earth every 99 minutes and captures images of every point on the planet every 16 days, beaming 400 high resolution images to ground stations every 24 hours.
Luxury nature travel with a philanthropic twist
(05/23/2013) A hundred years ago, nature-oriented travel to places like tropical Africa and Asia was often associated with big game hunting. Today cameras have mostly replaced guns as nature-lovers travel to the far-reaches of the globe to see wildlife, experience rugged mountains, and explore remote beaches. But nature-based travel isn't necessarily ecotourism — there can be detrimental social and environmental impacts from tourism. While most people associate these problems with mass-market tourism, they can also result from low-volume, high-end travel that fails to respect local customs, supports abusive practices, or encourages wantonly wasteful resource consumption.
Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon pacing 88% higher than last year's rate
(05/18/2013) Satellite analysis by a Brazil-based NGO indicates that deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon continues to pace well ahead of last year, when the government passed a weakened version of its law governing use of forest lands.
In landmark ruling, Indonesia's indigenous people win right to millions of hectares of forest
(05/17/2013) In a landmark ruling, Indonesia's Constitutional Court has invalidated the Indonesian government's claim to millions of hectares of forest land, potentially giving indigenous and local communities the right to manage their customary forests, reports Mongabay-Indonesia. In a review of a 1999 forestry law, the court ruled that customary forests should not be classified as "State Forest Areas". The move is significant because Indonesia's central government has control over the country's vast forest estate, effectively enabling agencies like the Ministry of Forestry to grant large concessions to companies for logging and plantations even if the area has been managed for generations by local people.
Indonesian palm oil giant cutting deforestation from supply chain
(05/13/2013) Indonesian palm oil giant Golden Agri-Resources (GAR) is continuing to reduce deforestation under its 2011 forest conservation policy despite ongoing forest destruction by other palm oil producers in the sector, finds a new assessment by Greenomics, an Indonesian activist group. However the report finds GAR's operations are not completely deforestation-free.
For Mother's Day, pictures of mama animals with babies
(05/12/2013) One of the highlights of traveling to exotic planes is seeing mother animals with their babies so here is a collection of a some pictures I've taken over the years. They range from amphibians in Panama to orangutans in Borneo. I hope you enjoy. Happy Mother's Day!
Debate heats up over California's plan to reduce emissions via rainforest protection
(05/07/2013) As the public comment period for California's cap-and-trade program draws to a close, an alliance of environmental activists have stepped up a heated campaign to keep carbon credits generated by forest conservation initiatives in tropical countries out of the scheme. These groups say that offsets generated under the so-called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) mechanism, will undermine efforts to cut emissions as home, while potentially leading to abuses abroad. However supporters of forest conservation-based credits say the program may offer the best hope for saving the world's beleaguered rainforests, which continue to fall at a rate of more than 8 million hectares per year.
Indonesian palm oil industry would support land swaps to protect forest, while expanding production
(04/19/2013) Indonesian palm oil companies would support land swaps as a means to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation while simultaneously expanding production, representatives from the country's largest association of palm oil producers told mongabay.com in an interview last month.
To win concessions in Aceh, mining company hires official being investigated for graft
(04/18/2013) A Toronto Stock Exchange-listed mining company has hired an official being investigated for corruption under its effort to convince the Aceh provincial government to re-zone protected forest areas for a gold mine on Indonesia's Sumatra island, according to an alliance of Indonesian environmentalists. The official, former Golkar Deputy Chairman Fadel Muhammad, has been retained by East Asia Minerals to help it win a carve-out for its Miwah project, a 30,000-hectare concession atop a forested mountain in Aceh.
Mining company working with Indonesian govt to strip forest of protected status
(04/16/2013) A Toronto-listed mining company says it is working closely with the Indonesian government to strip the protected status of some 1.2 million hectares of forest on the island of Sumatra. In a statement issued Tuesday, East Asia Minerals Corporation (TSX:EAS) claimed it is actively involved in the process of devising a new spatial plan for Aceh province, Sumatra's western-most province. The proposed changes to the spatial plan, which governs land use in the province, would re-zone large areas of protected forest in Aceh for industrial activities.
Fighting deforestation—and corruption—in Indonesia
(04/11/2013) The basic premise of the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) program seems simple: rich nations pay tropical countries for preserving their forests. Yet the program has made relatively limited progress on the ground since 2007, when the concept got tentative go-ahead during U.N. climate talks in Bali. The reasons for the stagnation are myriad, but despite the simplicity of the idea, implementing REDD+ is extraordinarily complex. Still the last few years have provided lessons for new pilot projects by testing what does and doesn't work. Today a number of countries have REDD+ projects, some of which are even generating carbon credits in voluntary markets. By supporting credibly certified projects, companies and individuals can claim to "offset" their emissions by keeping forests standing. However one of the countries expected to benefit most from REDD+ has been largely on the sidelines. Indonesia's REDD+ program has been held up by numerous factors, but perhaps the biggest challenge for REDD+ in Indonesia is corruption.
Entire planet will soon have rapid deforestation detection system
(04/09/2013) World Resources Institute (WRI) today previewed a long-awaited tool that could revolutionize global forest monitoring, reports the UN Forum on Forests, which is meeting this week in Istanbul, Turkey.
Investigation clears APP of deforestation allegations in Borneo
(04/04/2013) Two logging companies that supply Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) with timber have not violated the Indonesian forestry giant's new zero deforestation commitment, according to a field investigation by The Forest Trust, a conservation group. The investigation was a direct response to allegations raised in a report published last week by Relawan Pemantau Hutan Kalimantan (RPHK), a consortium of local NGOs in West Kalimantan, the western-most province in Indonesian Borneo. The RPHK report found evidence of active clearing within two concession areas linked to Asia Tani Persada (ATP) and Daya Tani Kalbar (DTK), companies that supply APP with timber for its pulp mills.
APP conservation policy came after it pulped most of its forests
(03/19/2013) Asia Pulp & Paper's widely heralded forest conservation policy came after the forestry giant had already cleared nearly all of the legally protected forests within its concessions in Sumatra, alleges a new report published by Greenomics, an Indonesian environmental group.
Improving community healthcare helps protect rainforests in Borneo
(03/14/2013) Providing high quality healthcare to communities around a rainforest park in Indonesian Borneo may be helping reduce chronic illegal logging, suggests a new assessment published by a conservation group. The five-year impact assessment published by Indonesia-based Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) is based on surveys of nearly 1,500 households and 6,345 people living around Gunung Palung National Park in West Kalimantan. The study compares key health, economic, and conservation indicators to a baseline survey taken in 2007, prior to the launch of the project.
Indonesian governor proposes opening protected areas to logging
(02/12/2013) The governor of Indonesia's Aceh Province on the island of Sumatra has proposed opening up more than 50,000 hectares of protected forest to logging, according to a new analysis by an Indonesian environmental group.
After Indonesian paper giant commits to no deforestation, pressure mounts on its biggest competitor
(02/12/2013) After Indonesian paper giant Asia Pulp & Paper's announcement last week that it will no longer source fiber produced from destruction of tropical rainforests, environmental groups are now urging Indonesia's other major paper company to make a similar commitment. On Tuesday, WWF echoed Greenpeace's call for Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) to eliminate deforestation from its supply chain. Like APP, APRIL has been linked to large-scale conversion of Sumatra's endangered rainforests for industrial tree plantations to produce pulp and paper.
Activists blast World Bank on continued support of industrial rainforest logging
(02/11/2013) Two environmental activist groups blasted the World Bank over its reported decision to block a probe into its support of industrial-scale rainforest logging.
Amazon river ecosystems being rapidly degraded, but remain neglected by conservation efforts
(02/08/2013) The world's largest river system is being rapidly degraded and imperiled by dams, mining, overfishing, and deforestation, warns a study published last week by an international team of scientists.
China's forest privatization move threatens pandas
(02/08/2013) China's decision to open up collective forest for sale by individuals to outside interests will put 345,700 hectares or 15 percent of the giant panda’s remaining habitat at risk, warns a letter published in the journal Science.
Carbon release, storage by rainforests may increase by 50b tons for each degree of climate warming in the tropics
(02/08/2013) Faster plant growth due to higher concentrations of carbon dioxide may offset increased emissions from forest die-off in the tropics, claims a new study based on climate modeling.
Amphibian, tapir paradise in Honduras being ravaged by illegal deforestation
(02/06/2013) Located in a mountainous area near the border with Guatemala, Cusuco National Park in Honduras is recognized by researchers as a critical refuge for endangered amphibians in a country that has suffered from widespread deforestation. But while the park largely escaped the devastation that has affected other protected areas in Honduras, the situation seems to be changing: since 2010 there has been a sharp increase in deforestation. Poachers, small farmers, and cattle ranchers are moving into the park using a network of research trails and camps established by Operation Wallacea, a British conservation science NGO.
The beginning of the end of deforestation in Indonesia?
(02/05/2013) Asia Pulp & Paper, a forestry giant that has been widely criticized for its role in driving deforestation and contributing to social conflict in Indonesia, today announced a zero deforestation policy that could have a dramatic impact on efforts to slow the Southeast Asian nation's high rate of deforestation. The policy, which went into effect February 1, is ambitious enough that one of APP's most vocal critics and agitators, Greenpeace, will suspend its highly-damaging campaign against the paper giant. The campaign against APP has cost the paper giant tens of millions of dollars in lost business since 2009. The new policy targets several of the major criticisms against APP, including deforestation, degradation of high carbon peatlands, conservation of critical wildlife habitat, and social conflict with local communities.
Religion, Chinese government drive global elephant slaughter
(01/24/2013) By some estimates, more than 30,000 elephants were slaughtered across the savannas and forests of Africa and Asia for the ivory trade during 2012. The carnage represents as much as 4 percent of the world's elephant population. Accordingly, some conservationists are warning that elephants face imminent extinction in some of their range countries. While the plight of elephants is increasingly visible due to media coverage, less widely understood is the role religion plays in driving the ivory trade. This issue was explored at length in an explosive cover story published in National Geographic by Bryan Christy last October. The story, titled Blood Ivory, detailed how demand for religious trinkets is driving large-scale killing of Earth's largest land animal.
Can ranchers co-exist with jaguars?
(01/17/2013) Jaguar once roamed from the United States to Argentina, but today they've been eliminated from several range countries, including the United States. The chief reasons are habitat loss and direct killing by humans, putting ranchers and farmers at the heart of the issue. Both ranchers and farmers convert key jaguar habitat and kill the big cats as a threat to their livestock. However in parts of Brazil's Pantanal, some ranchers are going about their business without killing jaguars. My Pantanal, a film by Andrea Heydlauff, Vice President of the wild cat conservation group Panthera, takes a look at one particular ranch that is helping prove that jaguars and ranchers can co-exist.
Saving manta rays from the fin trade
(01/15/2013) Tens of millions of sharks and rays are killed each year to meet demand for shark fin, a delicacy across East Asia. But while the plight of sharks has gained prominence in international environmental circles in recent years, the decline in rays has received considerably less attention. A new film, Manta Ray of Hope, aims to change that. Produced by cinematographer, scuba diver, and marine conservationist Shawn Heinrichs, Manta Ray of Hope offers a look at the mysterious and magnificent world of the world's largest ray, the manta ray. The film highlights both the threats mantas face as well as some of the people who are working to save them.
Saving the Arabian leopard, the world's smallest leopard
(01/14/2013) Today most people are more likely to associate Yemen with warfare and bizarre terrorism plots rather than wildlife. But Yemen is home to a surprising diversity of animals, including a population of the world's smallest leopard: The Arabian leopard (Panthera pardus nimr). Native to the Arabian Peninsula, the Arabian leopard is today extremely rare — less than 200 animals are thought to survive in the wild. Despite the cat's precarious position, there is relatively little local enthusiasm to protect a species that is widely seen as a threat to livestock. Nevertheless one man in Yemen is trying to boost the value of leopard in the eyes of local people. David Stanton, an American teacher living in Yemen, had devoted his life to saving the Arabian leopard.
Photos: the top new species discoveries in 2012
(12/26/2012) Thousands of species were described for the first time by scientists in 2012. Some of these were 'cryptic species' that were identified after genetic analysis distinguished them from closely related species, while others were totally novel. Either way, here are some of the "new species" highlights from 2012.
Paper giant breaks pledge to end rainforest logging in Sumatra, says group
(12/26/2012) Pulp and paper giant Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) continues to destroy large areas of rainforests and peatlands despite a commitment to end natural forest logging by 2009, says a new report issued by a coalition of Indonesian environmental groups. The Eyes on the Forest report finds that APRIL and its suppliers cleared at least 140,000 hectares (346,000 acres) of natural forest between 2008 and 2011 in Riau, accounting for 27 percent of all forest loss in the province during the period. Some of the area cleared by APRIL and its subsidiaries consisted of deep peat swamp forest, which stores massive amount of carbon.
Our favorite nature photos of 2012
(12/24/2012) In the course of reporting for Mongabay.com, I spent time in several countries in 2012, including Indonesia, Brazil, Madagascar, and Malaysia, among others. The following are some of my favorite nature pictures I took in the field. Overall I added more than 20,000 images to the site in 2012. For more, check out travel.mongabay.com, which now has nearly 100,000 captioned photos.
Google puts $5M toward anti-poaching drone technology
(12/18/2012) Google.org, Google Corp's philanthropic arm, earlier this month pledged $5 million toward efforts combat wildlife poaching.
Cutting through the rhetoric on palm oil production
(12/14/2012) Palm oil is widely acknowledged as one of the most important drivers of deforestation and forest diminishment in Southeast Asia. Conversion of forests and peatlands for oil palm plantations is both a substantial source of greenhouse gas emissions and a major threat to biodiversity — one study called palm oil the 'single most immediate threat to the greatest number of species'.
Advanced technology reveals massive tree die-off in remote, unexplored parts of the Amazon
(12/12/2012) Severe drought conditions in 2010 appear to have substantially increased tree mortality in the Western Amazon, a region thought largely immune from the worst effects of changes occurring in other parts of the world's largest rainforest, reported research presented last week at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). The findings suggest that the Amazon may face higher-the-expected vulnerability to climate change, potentially undercutting its ability to help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions by absorbing carbon dioxide through faster growth.
Uncontacted tribes still exist, but extinction threat looms
(12/11/2012) The world is more interconnected than ever. Globally, there are six billion cell phone subscribers and 900 million Facebook users. Nearly 32 million people follow Lady Gaga on Twitter. Given this content it may seem hard to believe that there remain people who have never had contact with the outside world. Yet such people do exist today. Most of them live in the most remote parts of the world's wildest forests. One of this year's best paperback books takes a close look at one uncontacted group — the Arrow People of the Brazilian Amazon. Written by veteran journalist Scott Wallace, The Unconquered is a gripping first-person account of a journey to learn more about this little-known tribe.
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