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Mongabay.com news articles on south america in blog format. Updated regularly.





Only 15 percent of world's biodiversity hotspots left intact

(07/14/2014) The world's 35 biodiversity hotspots—which harbor 75 percent of the planet's endangered land vertebrates—are in more trouble than expected, according to a sobering new analysis of remaining primary vegetation. In all less than 15 percent of natural intact vegetation is left in the these hotspots, which include well-known jewels such as Madagascar, the tropical Andes, and Sundaland.


Downturn in shade-grown coffee putting forests, wildlife, people at risk

(07/11/2014) Growing coffee in the shade of forests allows native vegetation to persist, thereby reducing the impact of agriculture on the natural landscape. While production of shade-grown coffee surged in recent decades, it is now experiencing a decline. A recent study analyzed the situation, finding that the growth of consumer demand and changes in coffee agronomy has caused coffee production and management to change drastically.


Good intentions, collateral damage: forest conservation may be hurting grasslands

(07/10/2014) Trees absorb CO2 and trap carbon molecules, and countless are lost as forests are felled around the world. So why not plant as many as we can? A recent paper suggests otherwise; the planting of more trees through international reforestation schemes may actually be harming tropical grasslands, which harbor endemic species and offer unique ecosystem services.


A garden or a wilderness? One-fifth of the Amazon may have been savannah before the arrival of Europeans

(07/09/2014) The Amazon is the largest tropical forest on the planet, covering about 6.5 million square kilometers, although much has been lost in recent decades.Yet new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) finds that quite recently—just 500 years ago—a significant portion of the southern Amazon was not the tall-canopied forest it is today, but savannah.


Booming populations, rising economies, threatened biodiversity: the tropics will never be the same

(07/07/2014) For those living either north or south of the tropics, images of this green ring around the Earth's equator often include verdant rainforests, exotic animals, and unchanging weather; but they may also be of entrenched poverty, unstable governments, and appalling environmental destruction. A massive new report, The State of the Tropics, however, finds that the truth is far more complicated.


On babies and motherhood: how giant armadillos are surprising scientists (photos)

(07/01/2014) Until ten years ago scientist's knowledge of the reproductive habits of the giant armadillo— the world's biggest— were basically regulated to speculation. But a long-term research project in the Brazilian Pantanal is changing that: last year researchers announced the first ever photos of a baby giant armadillo and have since recorded a second birth from another female.


New report: illegal logging keeps militias and terrorist groups in business

(06/30/2014) Released last week by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) during the first United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya, a new report found that together with other other illicit activities such as poaching, illegal deforestation is one of the top money-makers for criminal groups like Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab.


Is REDD+ bad for wildlife? New study says lowland forest protection bias unfair, urges change

(06/27/2014) A study published this week found tree cover does not necessarily correlate with habitat importance. It suggests that using such a metric may be leading to false assumptions of habitat importance, and that REDD+ and other carbon-centric conservation programs may actually be propelling some species towards extinction.


Size matters: small animals abundant in fragmented forests, large animals not

(06/25/2014) Habitat fragmentation and hunting are both distinct critical issues facing forests today that require their own countermeasures. Yet, much research has chosen to conflate the two, potentially leading to ineffective ecosystem management. According to a new study, the interaction of both factors can contradict the effects of hunting and fragmentation alone, revealing a research and management gap that urgently needs to be filled.


'Hope springs eternal': the anniversary of the death of Lonesome George

(06/24/2014) Today marks the two-year anniversary of the death of Lonesome George, the world’s last Pinta Island tortoise. The occasion calls attention to the declines of many turtle and tortoise species, which together form one of the most swiftly disappearing groups of animals on the planet.


Using Google Earth to protect uncontacted tribes in the Amazon rainforest

(06/19/2014) In 2008, images of an uncontacted tribe in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil created ripples. With bodies painted in bright colors, members of the tribe aimed their arrows at a Brazilian government plane flying overhead, occupants of which were attempting to photograph the tribe to prove their existence. Now, a new study has found another way to survey such tribes safely and remotely—using satellite images.


Fly and wasp biodiversity in Peru linked to strange defense strategy

(06/18/2014) Entomologists working in Peru have revealed new and unprecedented layers of diversity amongst wasps and flies. The paper, published in the journal Science, also describes a unique phenomenon in which flies actually fight back and kill predatory parasitic wasps.


Feather forensics: scientist uses genes to track macaws, aid bird conservation

(06/17/2014) When a massive road project connected the ports of Brazil to the shipping docks of Peru in 2011, conservationists predicted widespread impacts on wildlife. Roads are a well-documented source of habitat fragmentation, interfering with access to available habitat for many terrestrial and tree-dwelling species. However, it wasn’t clear whether or not birds are able to fly over these barriers.


Camera trap captures first ever video of rarely-seen bird in the Amazon...and much more

(06/17/2014) A camera trap program in Ecuador's embattled Yasuni National Program has struck gold, taking what researchers believe is the first ever film of a wild nocturnal curassow (Nothocrax urumutum). In addition, the program has captured video of other rarely-seen animals, including the short-eared dog and the giant armadillo.


Next big idea in forest conservation? Learning from innovations to make REDD+ work

(06/12/2014) A scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in Brazil, Dr. Amy Duchelle coordinates research on the effectiveness, efficiency, equity, and co-benefits of REDD+ initiatives at the sub-national level in Latin America as part of CIFOR's Gloal Comparative Study on REDD+.


Chile drops hugely controversial mega-dam project in wild Patagonia

(06/12/2014) One of the world's most controversial mega-dam projects met its likely end this week when Chile's Committee of Ministers voted to cancel the permits for the HidroAysén project. Costing around $8 billion and expected to produce about 2.75 gigawatts, the project involved building five large dams on two wild rivers in Chile's famously-unspoiled Patagonia region.


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.


Oil company breaks agreement, builds big roads in Yasuni rainforest

(06/05/2014) When the Ecuadorian government approved permits for an oil company to drill deep in Yasuni National Park, it was on the condition that the company undertake a roadless design with helicopters doing most of the leg-work. However, a new report based on high-resolution satellite imagery has uncovered that the company, Petroamazonas, has flouted the agreement's conditions, building a massive access road.


Intact Amazon forests show possible signs of global warming impact

(06/04/2014) Climate change may be taking a hidden toll on intact rainforests in the heart of the Amazon, finds a new study based on 35 years of observations. The research, published in the journal Ecology, focused on the ecological impacts of fragmentation but unexpectedly found changes in the control forests.


After throwing out referendum, Ecuador approves oil drilling in Yasuni's embattled heart

(06/02/2014) By 2016, oil drilling will begin in what scientists believe is the most biodiverse place on the planet: remote Yasuni National Park. Late last month, Ecuador announced it had approved permits for oil drilling in Yasuni's Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputinin (ITT) block, an untouched swathe of primary rainforest covering around 100,000 hectares or about 10 percent of the park.


Of jaguars and loggers: new film to showcase one of the least-known regions in the deep Amazon

(06/02/2014) In August, three young filmmakers will go on the expedition of a lifetime. They plan to spend six months filming in one of the most remote, most spectacular, and most endangered ecosystems on the planet: the Las Piedras River system. This unprotected swathe of Amazon jungle contains massive anacondas, prowling jaguars, and even uncontacted indigenous people.


Emerald-faced reptile discovered in Ecuador

(05/23/2014) Researchers have discovered a colorful lizard species in the cloud forests of northwestern Ecuador.


Happy Amazon: $215 million raised for world's largest protected area network

(05/21/2014) By all standards the Amazon Region Protected Areas (ARPA) program is gargantuan: the network includes over 90 parks, covers 51 million hectares, and comprises 15 percent of Brazil's Amazon. But protecting an area bigger than Spain isn't cheap or easy. Today, a broad coalition of government donors and private funders have announced $215 million to secure ARPA over the next 25 years.


53 indigenous activists on trial for police-protester massacre in Peru

(05/15/2014) In the summer of 2009, on a highway in Peru known as Devil's Curve: everything went wrong. For months, indigenous groups had protested new laws by then President Alan Garcia opening up the Amazon to deregulated logging, fossil fuels, and other extractive industries as a part of free trade agreements with the U.S.


New report reveals human rights abuses by corporations, governments in the Amazon

(05/14/2014) Regnskogfondet (the Rainforest Foundation of Norway) recently released a 52-page report that gives an in-depth account of the conflicts activists and indigenous peoples (IPs) are having with corporations and governmental agencies. It relays a situation that does not look good.


Not unique to humans: marmoset shows compassion for dying mate (VIDEO)

(05/07/2014) For the first time, researchers have observed an adult marmoset comforting a dying adult family member, behavior that was previously thought to be unique only to humans and chimpanzees. Researchers observed this behavior between a mated pair of common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus) in Brazil, and describe the event in a paper and video published in the journal Primates.


It's in the genes: researchers use DNA to learn about tapir behavior

(05/06/2014) Tapirs are notoriously hard to find and directly observe in the wild. Because of this, little is known about how species behave in their natural habitats. But in a study published in PLOS ONE, researchers found a way around this complication by using tapir DNA to shed light on their behavior.


NASA photographs the amazing 'guitar forest'

(04/30/2014) After his wife died of an aneurysm at the age of 25, Pedro Martin Ureta set about to plant her a legacy: a forest in the shape of a guitar. His wife, Graciela Yraizoz—who gave him four children—suggested the idea shortly before her sudden death in 1977.


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.


Next big idea in forest conservation? Crowdsourced forest monitoring

(04/25/2014) In the Brazilian Amazon, deforestation alerts are being submitted via smartphones. On the ground technicians send alerts to a database stored in 'the cloud.' This information is added to maps, which, along with satellite imagery, are used to inform law enforcement. And the speed of this process is getting real results.


Brazil to test drones in monitoring the Amazon rainforest

(04/24/2014) Brazilian municipalities are planning to use drones to map properties and monitor forest cover as they move to step up enforcement of the country's Forest Code, reports The Financial Times.


Legal logging concessions drive illegal logging in Peru, threatening forests and indigenous people

(04/17/2014) Nearly 70 percent of officially inspected logging concessions in Peru have had their permits canceled or are under investigation for major breaches of forestry laws, finds a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports. Worryingly, the research also concludes that forestry permits are being widely used to launder timber illegally logged from outside concession areas.


Ecuador will have referendum on fate of Yasuni after activists collect over 700,000 signatures

(04/16/2014) In what is a major victory for environmentalists, campaigners with United for Yasuni have collected 727,947 signatures triggering a national referendum on whether or not oil drilling should proceed in three blocs of Yasuni National Park in Ecuador.


Nearly a thousand environmental activists murdered since 2002

(04/15/2014) At least 908 people were murdered for taking a stand to defend the environment between 2002 and 2013, according to a new report today from Global Witness, which shows a dramatic uptick in the murder rate during the past four years. Notably, the report appears on the same day that another NGO, Survival International, released a video of a gunman terrorizing a Guarani indigenous community in Brazil.


Ants plant rainforests, one seed at a time

(04/14/2014) Deforestation is destroying forests around the world, but its effects are especially obvious in the Amazon Basin. Due to cattle ranching, soybean farming, logging, and slash-and-burn agriculture, the rainforest is disappearing at a rapid pace. But a recent study published in the Journal of Ecology offers a unique solution to replanting the deforested landscapes: ants.


Will yellow fever drive brown howler monkeys to extinction in Argentina?

(04/04/2014) The brown howler monkey is listed as Critically Endangered in Argentina, where a small number persist in the northeastern portion of the country. Although habitat loss and other human impacts have contributed to the populations’ decline, a new report indicates that yellow fever outbreaks in the region are primarily to blame.


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.


Featured video: celebrities speak out for Yasuni

(04/02/2014) A group of celebrities, including recent Academy Award winner Jared Leto, Law and Order's Benjamin Bratt, and Kill Bill's Daryl Hannah, have lent their voices to a new Public Service Announcement to raise signatures to protect Ecuador's Yasuni National Park from oil drilling.


Chile turns to owls to combat fatal disease

(04/01/2014) This year the Hanta virus has already caused 15 deaths in Chile, according to reports in The Santiago Times. It isn't always fatal—the 15 deaths were of a total of 36 cases over six months—but the symptoms are severe. Those affected experience flu-like symptoms, as well as nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and trouble breathing. But now Chile is using a novel method to fight the disease: owls.


Brief lives linked to Amazon biodiversity

(03/31/2014) The South American Amazon rainforest is renowned for being one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet, boasting an estimated 16,000 different tree species. However, the distribution of these diverse tree species is curiously uneven. What is the reason behind this irregular diversity? According to a new study, the answer lies within short durations between tree generations.


Revealed for the first time: the surprising biodiversity of algae 'reefs'

(03/28/2014) Most people are familiar with coral reefs, but very few have ever heard of their algal equivalent – rhodolith beds. Yet, these structures provide crucial habitat for many marine species. In the first study of its kind, published in mongabay.com’s Tropical Conservation Science, researchers unveil just how important these beds are for bottom-dwelling organisms, and the species that depend on them.


Next big idea in forest conservation? Quantifying the cost of forest degradation

(03/27/2014) How much is a forest really worth? And what is the cost of forest degradation? These values are difficult to estimate, but according to Dr. Phillip Fearnside, we need to do a better job. For nearly forty years, Fearnside has lived in Amazonia doing ecological research, looking at the value of forests in terms of environmental or ecosystem services such as carbon storage, water cycling, and biodiversity preservation. Fearnside then works to convert these services into a basis for sustainable development for rural populations.


Bizarre, endangered bird discovered in high densities

(03/24/2014) The turkey-sized, noisy, fruit-feasting guans are arguably one of the strangest wildlife sightings in the tropical forests of Central and South America. Ancient animals, these birds are members of the Cracidae family—which also include equally-odd currasows and chachalacas—and are actually distantly related to megapode, or mound-building, birds of Australiasia. A new study in mongabay.com's open-access journal Tropical Conservation Science looks at a particularly endangered guan: the Cauca gaun (Penelope perspicax).


Sloths, moths and algae: a surprising partnership sheds light on a mystery

(03/22/2014) While it spends the majority of its time in the safety of tree canopies, the three-toed sloth regularly places itself in mortal danger by descending to the forest floor to defecate. For years, scientists have been trying to figure out what is driving this peculiar and risky behavior. Now, Jonathan Pauli from the University of Wisconsin-Madison believes his team of researchers has found an important clue to this mystery involving an unusual and beneficial relationship among sloths, moths and algae.


Scientist discovers a plethora of new praying mantises (pictures)

(03/19/2014) Despite their pacific name, praying mantises are ferocious top predators with powerful, grasping forelimbs; spiked legs; and mechanistic jaws. In fact, imagine a tiger that can rotate its head 180 degrees or a great white that blends into the waves and you'll have a sense of why praying mantises have developed a reputation. Yet, many praying mantis species remain little known to scientists, according to a new paper in ZooKeys that identifies an astounding 19 new species from the tropical forests of Central and South America.


Several Amazonian tree frog species discovered, where only two existed before

(03/18/2014) We have always been intrigued by the Amazon rainforest with its abundant species richness and untraversed expanses. Despite our extended study of its wildlife, new species such as the olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina), a bear-like carnivore hiding out in the Ecuadorian rainforest, are being identified as recently as last year. In fact, the advent of efficient DNA sequencing and genomic analysis has revolutionized how we think about species diversity. Today, scientists can examine known diversity in a different way, revealing multiple 'cryptic' species that have evaded discovery by being mistakenly classified as a single species based on external appearance alone.


Mother of God: meet the 26 year old Indiana Jones of the Amazon, Paul Rosolie

(03/17/2014) Not yet 30, Paul Rosolie has already lived a life that most would only dare dream of—or have nightmares over, depending on one's constitution. With the Western Amazon as his panorama, Rosolie has faced off jaguars, wrestled anacondas, explored a floating forest, mentored with indigenous people, been stricken by tropical disease, traveled with poachers, and hand-reared a baby anteater. It's no wonder that at the ripe age of 26, Rosolie was already written a memoir: Mother of God.


Photos: Weird aquatic lizard discovered in mountain streams of Peru

(03/13/2014) A 'new' species of lizard has been described from the cloud forests of Peru's Manu National Park, reports SERNANP, the Peruvian National Park Service.


From theory to deadly reality: malaria moving upslope due to global warming

(03/06/2014) Malaria is a global scourge: despite centuries of efforts to combat the mosquito-borne disease, it still kills between 660,000 to 1.2 million people a year, according to World Health Organization data from 2010. Astoundingly, experts estimate that around 300 million people are infected with the disease every year or about 4 percent of the world's total population. And these stats may only get worse. For years scientists have vigorously debated whether or not malaria will expand as global warming worsens, but a new study in Science lays down the first hard evidence.


Scientists uncover new species of Andean marsupial frog

(03/05/2014) The term marsupial frog sound like a hoax, but, believe it or not, it's real. Recently, herpetologists welcomed a new species, known as Gastrotheca dysprosita and described in the journal Phyllomedusa. Unlike mammal marsupials, which typically carry their young in pouches on their torsos and are found primarily in Australia, the Gastrotheca genus of frogs, which contains 62 species, is found in the Andes region on South America and sport their pouches on their backs (also called a "dorsal brood pouch").



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