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El Niño in Venezuela: Hugo Chávez’s "Katrina" Moment?

(03/22/2010) Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has been in power for more than ten years, during which time he has deflected numerous electoral challenges, a recall effort, a coup d’etat and even an oil lock out. A politically adroit statesman, he has demonstrated enormous staying power throughout all these political crises. Yet, Chávez’s luck may have finally run out: a devastating El Niño-linked drought has recently ravaged Venezuela and the government has been forced to undertake conservation measures for water and electricity. Hardly amused, some are holding Chávez responsible for the energy crunch and the drought could exact a heavy toll on the Venezuelan president in September’s legislative elections.


Falklands Dispute: Argentine Sovereignty Won’t Solve the Problem

(03/15/2010) With Britain now moving to explore for oil and gas in the Falkland Islands, Argentina has cried foul. Buenos Aires claims that the Falklands, or the Malvinas as Argentines refer to the islands, represent a "colonial enclave" in the south Atlantic. The islands have been a British possession since 1833, and the local inhabitants consider themselves thoroughly British. Yet, Argentina claims the Malvinas as the country inherited them from the Spanish crown in the early 1800s. In 1982 Argentina seized the islands but was later expelled by a British naval force. The war was short but bloody, costing 650 Argentine and 250 British lives.


Secrets of the Amazon: giant anacondas and floating forests, an interview with Paul Rosolie

(03/10/2010) At twenty-two Paul Rosolie has seen more adventure than many of us will in our lifetime. First visiting the Amazon at eighteen, Rosolie has explored strange jungle ecosystems, caught anaconda and black caiman bare-handed, joined indigenous hunting expeditions, led volunteer expeditions, and hand-raised a baby giant anteater. "Rainforests were my childhood obsession," Rosolie told Mongabay.com. "For as long as I can remember, going to the Amazon had been my dream […] In those first ten minutes [of visiting], cowering under the bellowing calls of howler monkeys, I saw trails of leaf cutter ants under impossibly large, vine-tangled trees; a flock of scarlet macaws crossed the sky like a brilliant flying rainbow. I saw a place where nature was in its full; it is the most amazing place on earth."


Why seed dispersers matter, an interview with Pierre-Michel Forget, chair of the FSD International Symposium

(03/07/2010) There are few areas of research in tropical biology more exciting and more important than seed dispersal. Seed dispersal—the process by which seeds are spread from parent trees to new sprouting ground—underpins the ecology of forests worldwide. In temperate forests, seeds are often spread by wind and water, though sometimes by animals such as squirrels and birds. But in the tropics the emphasis is far heavier on the latter, as Dr. Pierre-Michel Forget explains to mongabay.com. "[In rainforests] a majority of plants, trees, lianas, epiphytes, and herbs, are dispersed by fruit-eating animals. […] As seed size varies from tiny seeds less than one millimetres to several centimetres in length or diameter, then, a variety of animals is required to disperse such a continuum and variety of seed size, the smaller being transported by ants and dung beetles, the larger swallowed by cassowary, tapir and elephant, for instance."


Guyana bans gold mining in the 'Land of the Giants'

(03/01/2010) Guyana has banned gold dredging in the Rewa Head region of the South American country after pressure from Amerindian communities in the area. A recent expedition to Rewa Head turned up unspoiled wilderness and mind-boggling biodiversity. The researchers, in just six weeks, stumbled on the world's largest snake (anaconda), spider (the aptly named goliath bird-eating spider), armadillo (the giant armadillo), anteater (the giant anteater), and otter (the giant otter), leading them to dub the area 'the Land of the Giants'. "During our brief survey we had encounters with wildlife that tropical biologists can spend years in the field waiting for. On a single day we had two tapirs paddle alongside our boat, we were swooped on by a crested eagle and then later charged by a group of giant otters."


Savior of endangered crocodiles dies of malaria

(02/25/2010) Crocodile-expert and conservationist, Dr. John Thorbjarnarson, died of falciparum malaria in India on February 14th at the age of fifty-two. While many conservationists work with publicly popular animals like tigers and whales, Thorbjarnarson’s passion was for crocodiles. A Senior Conservation Scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Thorbjarnarson proved instrumental in saving both the Orinoco crocodile and the Chinese crocodile from extinction.


Galapagos fur seals exploit warmer waters to establish colony off Peru

(02/25/2010) As suggested by their name, the Galapagos fur seals were once endemic to the Galapagos island chain off the coast of Ecuador. But in a warming world species are on the move, and the Galapagos fur seal is no exception. According to a recent story in Reuters the Galapagos fur seals have established what appears to be a permanent colony off the coast of Peru, 900 miles from their home.


Illegal logging rampant in Peru

(02/15/2010) A survey of 78 forestry concessions in Peru found that 46 (59 percent) were in breach of their concession contracts, reports the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO).


Amazon rainforest will bear cost of biofuel policies in Brazil

(02/08/2010) Business-as-usual agricultural expansion to meet biofuel production targets for 2020 will take a heavy toll on Brazil's Amazon rainforest in coming years, undermining the potential emissions savings of transitioning from fossil fuels to biofuels, warns a new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The research suggests that intensification of cattle ranching, combined with efforts to promote high-yielding oil crops like oil palm could lessen forecast greenhouse gas emissions from indirect land use in the region.


New spiny pocket mouse discovered in the mountainous rainforests of Venezuela

(02/08/2010) Researchers have discovered a new species of spiny mouse that lives on four mountainous forests in the Cordillera de la Costa mountain range of Venezuela.


Birder captures first footage ever of long whiskered owlet, one of the world's rarest birds

(02/04/2010) It was any birders dream come true: not only to see one of the world's rarest birds, but to discover a new unknown population. Israeli birder, Shachar Alterman, was surveying birds with the UK organization Neotropical Primate Conservation in Peruvian cloud forest when he heard and then saw the long whiskered owlet.


The Amazongate fiasco

(02/03/2010) A claim published in the Sunday Times over the veracity of a statement published in an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report may land the British newspaper in hot water. On Sunday, Jonathan Leake, Science & Environment Editor of the Sunday Times, accused the IPCC of making a "bogus rainforest claim" when it cited a report warning that up to 40 percent of the Amazon could be "drastically" affected by climate change. Climate change skeptics immediately seized on "Amazongate" as further evidence to discredit the IPCC just two weeks after it was found to be using shoddy glacier data in its 2007 climate assessment.


Environmentalists and indigenous groups decry approval of massive dam in Amazon

(02/02/2010) The approval of the hydro-electric Belo Monte Dam from the Brazilian environmental agency, IBAMA, has raised condemnations from environmentalists and indigenous groups. The dam will divert the flow of the Xingu River, a tributary of the Amazon River, which runs through the Amazon in northeast Brazil. According to critics the dam will destroy vast areas of pristine rainforest, disrupt sensitive ecosystems, and relocate 12,000 people.


Farmers drive deforestation in Rondonia, in the Brazilian Amazon

(01/31/2010) Small-scale farmers who lease land from the Brazilian government are very much responsible for deforestation in the Brazilian state of Rondonia in the Amazon area. In most areas with agrarian projects, more than fifty percent of the land has been cleared of forests, while the Brazilian Forestry Code permits farming concerns in the Amazon to clear only twenty percent of the land.


Giant guano outcroppings win protection as bird habitat in Peru

(01/25/2010) The Peruvian government has moved to protect 33 guano sites—both islands and peninsulas—as well as surrounding waters in a bid to save declining bird populations.


Forest-bulldozing ranchers win 'Greenwashing Award' for claiming they are creating a 'nature reserve'

(01/20/2010) Indigenous rights organization, Survival International, has awarded Brazilian cattle company, Yaguarete Porá S.A., its 'Greenwashing Award 2010' for destroying indigenous peoples' forest—including uncontacted natives—and calling it conservation.


Photos: park in Ecuador likely contains world’s highest biodiversity, but threatened by oil

(01/19/2010) In the midst of a seesaw political battle to save Yasuni National Park from oil developers, scientists have announced that this park in Ecuador houses more species than anywhere else in South America—and maybe the world. "Yasuní is at the center of a small zone where South America's amphibians, birds, mammals, and vascular plants all reach maximum diversity," Dr. Clinton Jenkins of the University of Maryland said in a press release. "We dubbed this area the 'quadruple richness center.'"


Photos: expedition in Ecuador reveals numerous new species in threatened cloud forest

(01/14/2010) An expedition into rainforests on Ecuador's coast by Reptile & Amphibian Ecology International (RAEI) have revealed a number of possible new species including a blunt-snouted, slug-eating snake; four stick insects; and up to 30 new 'rain' frogs. The blunt-snouted snake, which feeds on gastropods like slugs, is especially interesting, as its closest relative is in Peru, 350 miles away. In addition, a fifteen-year-old volunteer with the organization found a snake that specializes on snails. The researchers are unsure of this is a new species: the closest similar snake is 600 miles away in Panama.


Uncontacted natives confirmed in Brazil

(01/10/2010) An uncontacted tribe of about 60 people has been confirmed by FUNAI (Brazil's Indigenous Affairs Department) in the Indigenous Territory of Arariboia, located in the eastern Amazonian state, Maranhao.


Gone: a look at extinction over the past decade

(01/03/2010) No one can say with any certainty how many species went extinct from 2000-2009. Because no one knows if the world's species number 3 million or 30 million, it is impossible to guess how many known species—let alone unknown—may have vanished recently. Species in tropical forests and the world's oceans are notoriously under-surveyed leaving gaping holes where species can vanish taking all of their secrets—even knowledge of their existence—with them.


Brazil to keep emissions reductions pledge despite failed climate summit

(12/30/2009) Brazil will honor its pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 14-19 percent from 2005 levels despite the failure of this month's climate meeting in Copenhagen to establish binding limits on emissions, reports Reuters.


Rainforest conservation: a year in review

(12/27/2009) 2009 may prove to be an important turning point for tropical forests. Lead by Brazil, which had the lowest extent of deforestation since at least the 1980s, global forest loss likely declined to its lowest level in more than a decade. Critical to the fall in deforestation was the global financial crisis, which dried up credit for forest-destroying activities and contributed to a crash in commodity prices, an underlying driver of deforestation.


Ecuador to be paid to leave oil in the ground

(12/23/2009) Ecuador will establish a trust fund for receiving payments to leave oil reserves unexploited in Yasuni National Park, one of the world's most biodiverse rainforest reserves, reports the UN Development Programme, the agency that will administer the fund.


Brazil establishes 20,000 sq mi of new indigenous reserves in the Amazon

(12/23/2009) On Monday, Brazil decreed nine new indigenous reserves covering 51,000 square kilometers (19,700 square miles) of the Amazon rainforest, an areas larger than Denmark or Switzerland, reports the AFP. Five of the reserves are located in the state of Amazonas, two are in Pará, one is in Roraima, and another is in Mato Grosso do Sul. The protected areas house about seven thousand Indians from 29 ethnic groups, according to FUNAI (Fundação Nacional do Índio), Brazil's indigenous affairs agency.


The real Avatar story: indigenous people fight to save their forest homes from corporate exploitation

(12/22/2009) In James Cameron's newest film Avatar an alien tribe on a distant planet fights to save their forest home from human invaders bent on mining the planet. The mining company has brought in ex-marines for 'security' and will stop at nothing, not even genocide, to secure profits for its shareholders. While Cameron's film takes place on a planet sporting six-legged rhinos and massive flying lizards, the struggle between corporations and indigenous people is hardly science fiction.


Guyana to increase oversight of gold mining under deal to save forests with Norway

(12/21/2009) As apart of a deal with Norway to preserve its rainforests, Guyana will step up oversight of its gold mining industry, which has been accused of causing significant environmental damage including deforestation and mercury and cyanide pollution.


Bolivia's President blames capitalism for global warming

(12/18/2009) The President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, clearly frustrated with the progression of talks at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, today blamed capitalism for global warming.


Brazil grants deforestation amnesty for farmers and ranchers

(12/14/2009) A decree issued by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva suspends up to $5.7 billion in fines and gives ranchers and farmers in the Amazon two more years to come into compliance with environmental laws aimed to curtain deforestation, reports the Associated Press.


Ecuador’s Rafael Correa: Copenhagen Climate Hero or Environmental Foe?

(12/14/2009) As climate change negotiations continue full force in the Danish city of Copenhagen, Latin American countries are hoping the Global North will commit to its “climate debt” by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing resources to poor nations. It’s certainly an understandable aspiration: Latin America only produces five per cent of global emissions of carbon dioxide, a chief greenhouse gas, yet the region has borne the brunt of extreme weather ranging from droughts to flooding.


Amazon cattle ranching accounts for half of Brazil's CO2 emissions

(12/12/2009) Cattle ranching accounts for half of Brazil's greenhouse gas emissions according to a new study led by scientists from Brazil's National Space Institute for Space Research (INPE).


Google Earth to monitor deforestation

(12/10/2009) It what could be a critical development in helping tropical countries monitor deforestation, Google has unveiled a partnership with scientists using advanced remote sensing technology to rapidly analyze and map forest cover in extremely high resolution. The effort could help countries detect deforestation shortly after it occurs making it easier to prevent further forest clearing.


Brazil allocates first funds under plan to save the Amazon

(12/10/2009) Brazil's development bank BNDES has announced the first five recipients of grants under the South American country's ambitious Amazon Fund, which aims to reduce deforestation by 70 percent over the next decade.


Cattle company bulldozing UNESCO site, threatening uncontacted natives

(12/09/2009) A Brazilian ranching company is bulldozing land within UNESCO Chaco Biosphere Reserve in Paraguay, home to the only uncontacted natives outside of the Amazon in South America. While the UNESCO status provides no legal protections to the area, it is meant as an international marker to protect the tribe of the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode and the forest they inhabit.


New tree species discovered in Guyana is rich source of oil

(12/09/2009) Botanists working have described a new species of tree with commercial significance in Guyana. The discovery is published in Brittonia, a journal put out by the New York Botanical Garden.


Brazilian tribe owns carbon rights to Amazon rainforest land

(12/09/2009) A rainforest tribe fighting to save their territory from loggers owns the carbon-trading rights to their land, according to a legal opinion released today by Baker & McKenzie, one of the world’s largest law firms. The opinion, which was commissioned by Forest Trends, a Washington, D.C.-based forest conservation group, could boost the efforts of indigenous groups seeking compensation for preserving forest on their lands, effectively paving the way for large-scale indigenous-led conservation of the Amazon rainforest. Indigenous people control more than a quarter of the Brazilian Amazon.


Copenhagen and Brazilian Megalomania

(12/07/2009) When people think about preserving the Amazon rainforest, captivating animals may come to mind such as the jaguar, toucan or manatee. But while wildlife must be safeguarded there are now other urgent reasons to protect the jungle. The seriousness of the problem was recently brought home to me when I visited the Amazonian city of Manaus.


Eco-label for rainforest products could boost sustainability

(12/06/2009) Tropical forests around the world continue to fall, largely the result of logging and conversion to agriculture. But new hope for forests has emerged under a scheme that would reward countries for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and degradation. Some variations of the concept, which is known as REDD, would allow for "sustainable forest management" (SFM), that is, reduced impact logging of forests, as well as harvesting of non-wood forest products (NWFPs) like seeds, fruit, and game. But the extent to which this harvesting affects forest ecology, and therefore carbon sequestration, is still poorly understood.


Extinctions on the rise in the Galapagos: fishing and global warming devastating islands' species

(12/03/2009) We may never see again the Galapagos black-spotted damselfish, the beautiful 24-rayed sunstar, or the Galapagos stringweed. These species from Galapagos waters may all very well be extinct. Other species are on the brink, such as the Galapagos penguin and the Floreana cup coral. A new report in Global Change Biology reveals that in just a matter of decades, overfishing and climate change has devastated the Galapagos' unique and famous ecosystems.


Brazil could halt Amazon deforestation within a decade

(12/03/2009) Funds generated under a U.S. cap-and-trade or a broader U.N.-supported scheme to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and degradation ("REDD") could play a critical role in bringing deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon to a halt, reports a team writing in the journal Science. But the window of opportunity is short — Brazil has a two to three year window to take actions that would end Amazon deforestation within a decade.


Brazil to push for 10% limit on REDD carbon offsets

(12/02/2009) Brazil will propose limiting the amount of carbon an industrialized country can offset via a proposed forest conservation initiative to ten percent of their emissions, reports Bloomberg.


World’s smallest orchid discovered in Ecuador

(11/30/2009) Measuring just 2.1 millimeters wide, the world’s smallest orchid has been discovered hiding in the roots of another plant, reports the Independent.


Ethnographic maps built using cutting-edge technology may help Amazon tribes win forest carbon payments

(11/29/2009) A new handbook lays out the methodology for cultural mapping, providing indigenous groups with a powerful tool for defending their land and culture, while enabling them to benefit from some 21st century advancements. Cultural mapping may also facilitate indigenous efforts to win recognition and compensation under a proposed scheme to mitigate climate change through forest conservation. The scheme—known as REDD for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation—will be a central topic of discussion at next month's climate talks in Copenhagen, but concerns remain that it could fail to deliver benefits to forest dwellers.


Guyana expedition finds biodiversity trove in area slated for oil and gas development, an interview with Robert Pickles

(11/29/2009) An expedition deep into Guyana's rainforest interior to find the endangered giant river otter—and collect their scat for genetic analysis—uncovered much more than even this endangered charismatic species. "Visiting the Rewa Head felt like we were walking in the footsteps of Wallace and Bates, seeing South America with its natural density of wild animals as it would have appeared 150 years ago," expedition member Robert Pickles said to Mongabay.com.


No-shows among South American leaders at Amazon summit

(11/27/2009) A summit between South American leaders to devise a plan to save the Amazon, failed to come up with a "common stance" on deforestation, as five of the eight invited leaders failed to show up to the meeting, reports Al Jazeera.


High gold prices, army collaboration, play role in mining invasion in southern Venezuela

(11/25/2009) Illegal gold mining involving wildcat miners, the Venezuelan army, and indigenous groups is threatening one of the country's most biodiverse river basins, according to local sources.


Ecological benefits of REDD boosted by inclusion of private landowners, potentially harmed by plantations

(11/17/2009) Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation [REDD] programs that include landowners will conserve more habitat and ensure greater ecosystem services function than programs that focus solely on protected areas, report researchers from the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC), the Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazônia (IPAM), and the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG).


Brazil releases official Amazon deforestation figures for 2009

(11/13/2009) Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell nearly 46 percent to the lowest annual loss on record in 2009, reported the Brazilian government Thursday.


Will Brazil's blackout drive a new push for more rainforest dams?

(11/12/2009) The power outage that affected nearly a third of Brazil's population Tuesday could be used by development interests to justify a renewed push for hydroelectric dams in the Amazon rainforest.


How rainforest shamans treat disease

(11/10/2009) Ethnobotanists, people who study the relationship between plants and people, have long documented the extensive use of medicinal plants by indigenous shamans in places around the world, including the Amazon. But few have reported on the actual process by which traditional healers diagnose and treat disease. A new paper, published in the Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, moves beyond the cataloging of plant use to examine the diseases and conditions treated in two indigenous villages deep in the rainforests of Suriname. The research, which based on data on more than 20,000 patient visits to traditional clinics over a four-year period, finds that shamans in the Trio tribe have a complex understanding of disease concepts, one that is comparable to Western medical science. Trio medicine men recognize at least 75 distinct disease conditions—ranging from common ailments like fever [këike] to specific and rare medical conditions like Bell's palsy [ehpijanejan] and distinguish between old (endemic) and new (introduced since contact with the outside world) illnesses. In an interview with mongabay.com, Lead author Christopher Herndon, currently a reproductive medicine physician at the University of California, San Francisco, says the findings are a testament to the under-appreciated healing prowess of indigenous shaman.


Norway to give Guyana up to $250M for rainforest conservation

(11/09/2009) Norway will provide up to $250 million to Guyana as part of the South American country's effort to avoid emissions from deforestation.



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