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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.



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