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News articles on technology
Mongabay.com news articles on technology in blog format. Updated regularly.
(09/06/2010) Scientists using a combination of satellite imagery, airborne-laser technology, and ground-based plot surveys to create three-dimensional high resolution carbon maps of the Amazon rainforest have documented a surge in emissions from deforestation and selective logging following the paving of the Trans-Oceanic Highway in Peru. The study, published this week in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveals that selective logging and other forms of forest degradation in Peru account for nearly a third of emissions compared to deforestation alone.
Could camera traps save wildlife worldwide?
(08/31/2010) It's safe to say that the humble camera trap has revolutionized wildlife conservation. This simple contraption—an automated digital camera that takes a flash photo whenever an animal triggers an infrared sensor—has allowed scientists to collect photographic evidence of rarely seen, and often globally endangered species, with little expense and relative ease—at least compared to tromping through tropical forests and swamps looking for endangered rhino scat . Now researchers with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) are taking the utility of the camera trap one step further: a study in Animal Conservation uses a novel methodology, entitled the Wildlife Picture Index (WPI), to analyze population trends of 26 species in Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. While the study found a bleak decline in species, it shows the potential of camera traps for moving conservation forward since it marks the first time researchers have used camera traps to analyze long-term population trends of multiple species.
Coral reef survival depends on the super small, an interview with Forest Rohwer
(08/30/2010) If you take a teaspoon and dip it into the ocean what will you have? Some drops of lifeless water? Only a few decades ago this is what scientists would have said, however, the development of increasingly powerful microscopes have shown us a world long unknown, which has vital importance for the survival of one of the world's most threatened and most treasured ecosystems: coral reefs. A single milliliter of water is now known to contain at least a million living microbes, i.e. organisms too small to see without a microscope. After discovering their super-abundant presence, researchers are now beginning to uncover how these incredibly tiny life-forms shape the fate of the world's coral reefs.
Google Earth animation shows Brazilian plans to turn Amazon into 'series of stagnant reservoirs'
(08/30/2010) The decision last week by the Brazilian government to move forward on the $17 billion Belo Monte Dam on the Xingu river will set in motion a plan to build more than 100 dams across the Amazon basin, potentially turning tributaries of the world's largest river into 'an endless series of stagnant reservoirs', says a new short film released by Amazon Watch and International Rivers.
Jump in fires in Brazil becomes Twitter sensation
(08/27/2010) The number of fires burning in Brazil more than doubled since last year, sparking a Twitter sensation, with more than 120,000 users tweeting messages with the hashtag '#chegadequeimadas' about the fires in a 48 hour window.
146 dams threaten Amazon basin
(08/19/2010) Although developers and government often tout dams as environmentally-friendly energy sources, this is not always the case. Dams impact river flows, changing ecosystems indefinitely; they may flood large areas forcing people and wildlife to move; and in the tropics they can also become massive source of greenhouse gases due to emissions of methane. Despite these concerns, the Amazon basin—the world's largest tropical rainforest—is being seen as prime development for hydropower projects. Currently five nations—Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru—are planning over 146 big dams in the Amazon Basin. Some of these dams would flood pristine rainforests, others threaten indigenous people, and all would change the Amazonian ecosystem. Now a new website, Dams in Amazonia, outlines the sites and impacts of these dams with an interactive map.
Could biochar save the world?
(08/16/2010) Biochar—the agricultural application of charcoal produced from burning biomass—may be one of this century's most important social and environmental revolutions. This seemingly humble practice—a technology that goes back thousands of years—has the potential to help mitigate a number of entrenched global problems: desperate hunger, lack of soil fertility in the tropics, rainforest destruction due to slash-and-burn agriculture, and even climate change. "Biochar is a recalcitrant form of carbon that will stay almost entirely unaltered in soils for very long periods of time. So you can sequester carbon in a simple, durable and safe way by putting the char in the soil. Other types of carbon in soils rapidly turn into carbon dioxide. Char doesn't," managing director of the Biochar Fund, Laurens Rademakers, told mongabay.com in a recent interview.
Nation's wealth does not guarantee green practices
(08/11/2010) Developing countries are not the only ones that could benefit from a little environmental support. Wealthier countries may need to 'know themselves' and address these issues at home too. According to a recent study in the open access journal PLoS ONE, wealth may be the most important factor determining a country’s environmental impact. The team had originally planned to study "country-level environmental performance and human health issues," lead author Corey Bradshaw, Director of Ecological Modeling and professor at the University of Adelaide, told mongabay.com. Once they began looking at the available indexes, however, they saw the need for a purely environmental analysis.
Camp merges technology and conservation for local students
(08/03/2010) From July 23-25, Taiwanese undergraduates held a camp in Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, that taught local high school students to use technology as a conservation tool. The Taiwanese volunteers aimed to help local people in this popular rainforest tourism destination to use the Internet to research and promote sustainable tourism practices. The high school students, who had no formal training in using the Internet, learned to use email, produce a blog, conduct research, and use GPS devices to create a map of part of the local trail system.
New NASA image reveals the oceans' dead zones
(07/22/2010) A new image by NASA reveals the extent of the world's marine dead zones, which a study in 2008 found were doubling every decade. At that time 415 dead zones had been identified worldwide. Dead zones are regions of the ocean where dissolved oxygen has fallen to such low levels that most marine species can no longer survive. Such conditions are often seasonal.
30 frog species, including 5 unknown to science, killed off by amphibian plague in Panama
(07/19/2010) With advanced genetic techniques, researchers have drawn a picture of just how devastating the currently extinction crisis for the world's amphibians has become in a new study published in the Proceedings of the Nation Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Studying frog populations using DNA barcoding in Panama's Omar Torrijos National Park located in El Copé researchers found that 25 known species and 5 unknown species have vanished since 1998. None have returned.
Forest loss in India likely worse than conventionally believed
(07/06/2010) Researchers have questioned 2009 findings by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) that found that India's forests were, unlike many tropical Asian nations', on the rebound. According to the FSI, Indian forests had grown by almost five percent from the 1990s. Yet, were these finding too good to be true?
NASA satellite image reveals record low snow for the United States
(06/02/2010) According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, snow cover retreated to its lowest extent ever recorded in North America by the end of this April. Snow cover was 2.2 million square kilometers below average. With records of snow extent beginning in 1967, this is the lowest in 43 years and the largest negative anomaly in the past 521 months.
NASA, Google Earth catch North Korea logging protected area
(05/18/2010) Employing satellite data from NASA and Google Earth, Guofan Shao, a professor of geo-eco-informatics at Purdue University, has established that North Korea is logging Mount Paekdu Biosphere Reserve. Since North Korea is off-limits to most researchers, Shao has turned to open-access satellite data to monitor deforestation on the UN designated Man and Biosphere region.
A nation of tragedies: the unseen elephant wars of Chad
(05/12/2010) Stephanie Vergniault, head of SOS Elephants in Chad, says she has seen more beheaded corpses of elephants in her life than living animals. In the central African nation, against the backdrop of a vast human tragedy—poverty, hunger, violence, and hundreds of thousands of refugees—elephants are quietly vanishing at an astounding rate. One-by-one they fall to well-organized, well-funded, and heavily-armed poaching militias. Soon Stephanie Vergniault believes there may be no elephants left. A lawyer, screenwriter, and conservationist, Vergniault is a true Renaissance-woman. She first came to Chad to work with the government on electoral assistance, but in 2009 after seeing the dire situation of the nation's elephants she created SOS Elephants, an organization determined to save these animals from local extinction.
The good old days: 17 times easier to catch fish in 1889
(05/05/2010) It is widely recognized that fish populations have dropped drastically over the past century, but a new study in Nature Communications shows the decline may be worse than expected. Research from the University of York and the Marine Conservation Society has discovered that it was 17 times easier in the UK to catch fish in 1889—when ships were powered by sail—than it is today using high-powered motor boats with technological advances.
US emissions from coal could be stopped in 20 years
(05/03/2010) A new study in Environmental Science and Technology (ES&T) concludes that the US could stop all emissions from coal-fired plants within 20 years time using only existing technologies and some that will be ready within the next decade. Such an accomplishment would go a long way toward lowering the US's carbon emissions and mitigating the impact of climate change, according to the researchers.
Can markets protect nature?
(05/03/2010) Over the past 30 years billions of dollars has been committed to global conservation efforts, yet forests continue to fall, largely a consequence of economic drivers, including surging global demand for food and fuel. With consumption expected to far outstrip population growth due to rising affluence in developing countries, there would seem to be little hope of slowing tropical forest loss. But some observers see new reason for optimism—chiefly a new push to make forests more valuable as living entities than chopped down for the production of timber, animal feed, biofuels, and meat. While are innumerable reasons for protecting forests—including aesthetic, cultural, spiritual, and moral—most land use decisions boil down to economics. Therefore creating economic incentives to maintaining forests is key to saving them. Leading the effort to develop markets ecosystem services is Forest Trends, a Washington D.C.-based NGO that also organizes the Katoomba group, a forum that brings together a wide variety of forest stakeholders, including the private sector, local communities, indigenous people, policymakers, international development institutions, funders, conservationists, and activists.
Analysis shows Borneo can say 'no' to coal power
(03/17/2010) Plans for a coal power plant in the Malaysian state of Sabah in northern Borneo have run into stiff opposition. Environmentalists say the coal plant could damage extensive coral reef systems, pollute water supplies, open rainforests to mining, and contribute to global climate change, undercutting Sabah's image as a 'green' destination. The federal government contends that the coal plant is necessary to fix Sabah's energy problems. However, a recent energy audit by the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) at the University of California Berkeley shows that pollution-intensive coal doesn't have to be in Sabah's future.
Photos: Madagascar's wonderful and wild frogs, an interview with Sahonagasy
(03/03/2010) To save Madagascar's embattled and beautiful amphibians, scientists are turning to the web. A new site built by herpetologists, Sahonagasy, is dedicated to gathering and providing information about Madagascar's unique amphibians in a bid to save them from the growing threat of extinction. "The past 20 years have seen resources wasted because of a poor coordination of efforts," explains Miguel Vences, herpetologist and professor at the Technical University of Braunschweig. "Many surveys and reports have been produced that were never published, many tourists found and photographed amphibians but these photos were not made available to mapping projects, many studies carried out by Malagasy students did not make use of literature because it was not available."
Google Earth boosts deforestation monitoring capabilities
(02/07/2010) Google has taken a step towards ramping up the deforestation monitoring capabilities the Google Earth Engine by contracting Massachusetts-based Clark Labs to develop an online version of its Land Change Modeler application.
India to track every tiger death on-line
(02/07/2010) Due to increased problems with poaching, the conservation organization TRAFFIC has joined with the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to begin tracking every tiger mortality in India with a new website called Tigernet.
China leaves US (and Europe) in the dust on renewable energy
(02/01/2010) This year China has become the world's largest manufacturer of solar panels and wind turbines, doubling its wind capacity since 2005. The economically booming nation—and the world's most populous—has also invested heavily in nuclear power and the world's most efficient coal plants, according to the New York Times.
Scientists call for research on geoengineering scheme to block sunlight
(01/27/2010) The idea goes something like this: nations would send megatons of light-scattering aerosol particles into the globe's upper atmosphere, significantly reducing sunlight reaching the earth and thereby immediately cooling the Earth. While the idea may sound like science-fiction—or desperate, depending on your opinion—researchers writing in Science say that it may be one of the best ways to lower the Earth's temperature. They argue that international research and field testing of the idea, known as solar-radiation management (SRM), should begin immediately.
New report: world must change model of economic growth to avert environmental disaster
(01/25/2010) For decades industrialized nations have measured their success by the size of their annual GDP (Gross Domestic Product), i.e. economic growth. The current economic model calls for unending growth—as well as ever-rising consumerism—just to remain stable. However, a new report by the New Economics Foundation (nef) states that if countries continue down a path of unending growth, the world will be unable to tackle climate change and other environmental issues.
Could space technology save our planet?
(01/06/2010) A new book, Paradise Regained: the Regreening of Earth argues that the solutions to the world’s current environmental crises—including climate change—could be lying far beyond our planet.
Underwater rocks could be used for massive carbon storage on America's East Coast
(01/05/2010) Considering it is unlikely that global carbon emissions will start dropping anytime soon, researchers are beginning to look at other methods to combat climate change. One of these is to hook polluting power plants up to massive carbon sinks where instead of the carbon going into the atmosphere it would be stored away in rocks. The process is known as carbon capture and storage or CCS. But before one can even debate the pros and cons of setting up CCS, scientists must see if high-quality sites exist.
New tropical wood substitute could save rainforests worldwide
(12/18/2009) One of the main drivers of tropical deforestation is western consumption of hardwoods, more durable and weather-resistant than softwoods. For example, hardwood harvested in Southeast Asia—both legally and illegally obtained—often makes its way to China where it is crafted into cheap outdoor-ready hardwood products, which is then sold to the world's wealthy nations, such as the United States and countries in the EU. The trade releases significant greenhouse gases, threatens indigenous groups, and imperils the region's biodiversity. Yet a new product, apart of an art installation at the Climate Change conference in Copenhagen, may have the capacity to stem the loss of tropical forests for hardwoods.
Biggest private funder of Amazon conservation teams with Google and scientists to develop earth monitoring platform
(12/18/2009) The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the largest private funder of Amazon rainforest conservation, is playing an unheralded but integral role in the development of the Earth Engine platform, a system that combines the computing power of Google with advanced monitoring and analysis technologies developed by leading environmental scientists. The platform, which was officially unveiled at climate talks in in Copenhagen, promises to enable near real-time monitoring of the world's forests and carbon at high resolution at selected sites before COP-16 in Mexico.
Google's Earth Engine to help tropical countries monitor forests
(12/16/2009) A powerful forest monitoring application unveiled last week by Google will be made freely available to developing countries as a means to build the capacity to quality for compensation under REDD, a proposed climate change mitigation mechanism that would pay tropical countries for protecting forests, according to a senior Google engineer presenting at a side event at COP15 in Copenhagen.
United States to speed up green technology patents
(12/11/2009) Green technology patents will see a year shaved off the average forty month wait time to approve new patents in the US. The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is implementing a one-year pilot program to push green technology patent applications through the process more quickly, so that the technologies can reach the market faster.
Global forest map moves forward
(12/11/2009) A plan to create a pan-tropical map of forest cover and carbon stocks is moving ahead with data now available on Google Earth, reports the Woods Hole Research Center.
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.
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.
Blogging wildlife rangers drive microconservation
(12/01/2009) Wildlife Direct, a group that promotes conservation through blogging by rangers and scientists, has won mongabay.com's "Innovation in Conservation Award" for 2009. The prize, which includes a cash donation and and prominent placement on the mongabay.com web site and newsletter for the month of December, is granted each year to an organization using an unconventional and highly effective approach to conserving forests and biodiversity.
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.
Transmitters implanted in orangutans for tracking after release into the wild
(11/23/2009) For the first time transmitters have been implanted in orangutans to track their daily movements. The Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) has implanted transmitters into three orangutans that have been released back into the wild from Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center in the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo.
Google partners with Amazon tribe
(10/29/2009) The story of an indigenous Amazon tribe that has embraced technology in its fight to protect its homeland and culture is now highlighted as a layer in Google Earth.
Satellite lasers show melting of Greenland, Antarctic worse than expected
(09/23/2009) Resaerchers examining 43 million satellite measurements of Antarctica's thinning ice sheets and 7 million of Greenland's, show that the ice is melting faster than expected. Published in Nature the research is the most comprehensive picture to date of the melting glaciers, allowing scientists to better predict how sea levels may rise.
Saving gorillas by bringing healthcare to local people in Uganda, an interview with Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka
(09/16/2009) How can bringing healthcare to local villagers in Uganda help save the Critically Endangered mountain gorilla? The answer lies in our genetics, says Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, wildlife veterinarian and director of Conservation through Public Health (CTPH). "Because we share 98.4% genetic material with gorillas we can easily transmit diseases to each other." Therefore, explains Kalema-Zikusoka "our efforts to protect the gorillas will always be undermined by the poor public health of the people who they share a habitat with. In order to effectively improve the health of the gorillas we needed to also improve the health of the people, which will not only directly reduced the health threat to gorillas through improvement of public health practices, but also improved community attitudes toward wildlife conservation."
Sea levels set to rise as Arctic warming replaces millennia long natural cooling cycle
(09/03/2009) According to a new study published in Science the Arctic should be cooling, and in fact has been cooling for millennia. But beginning in 1900 Arctic summer temperatures began rising until the mid-1990s when the cooling trend was completely overcome. Researchers fear that this sudden up-tick in temperatures could lead to rising sea levels threatening coastal cities and islands. "Scientists have known for a while that the current period of warming was preceded by a long-term cooling trend," said lead author Darrell Kaufman of Northern Arizona University. "But our reconstruction quantifies the cooling with greater certainty than ever before."
New non-invasive painkiller developed for the world's biggest cats
(09/01/2009) The world's big cats are not easy patients, especially when trying to give them pain killers after a procedure. They will tear off transdermal patches; they are too powerful to restrain for easy—and safe—injections or pills; and when in pain they generally refuse food, making it impossible to hide the drugs in their dinner. Now, however, veterinarian researchers from Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo and the University of Tennessee believe they have found a solution: a surgically implanted, mini-pump that provides pain relief, and can be easily removed after the patient makes a full recovery.
Solar powered conservation
(08/25/2009) Electricity can be a difficult commodity to procure in the remote areas where conservationists often work. Typically field researchers and wildlife rangers rely on gas-powered generators, which require imported fuel, often produce noxious fumes and disruptive noise, and can be costly to maintain. A better option, especially in sun-drenched parts of the world, is solar. Clean and silent, with no need for supplemental fuel, solar seems like an ideal fit for conservation work except for one major drawback: cost. But Stephen Gold – Solar and Technology Manager for Wildlife Conservation Network has been working to overcome that obstacle.
Environmental disappointments under Obama
(08/24/2009) While the President has been bogged down for the last couple months in an increasingly histrionic health-care debate-which has devolved so far into ridiculousness that one doesn't know whether to laugh or cry-environmental decisions, mostly from the President's appointees have still been coming fast and furious. However, while the administration started out pouring sunshine on the environment (after years of obfuscated drudgery under the Bush administration), they soon began to move away from truly progressive decisions on the environment and into the recognizable territory of playing it safe-and sometimes even stupid.
Examining monkey tools: archaeology expands to include non-human primates
(08/17/2009) Archaeology, the study of ancient cultures and their artifacts, has always been confined to the technology of humans and direct human ancestors. However, a new study recently published in the journal Nature examines the benefits of expanding the field of archaeology to include non-human primates.
Da Vinci’s lion comes back to life
(08/17/2009) In 1515 Leonardo Da Vinci, artist and engineer, invented a mechanical lion that was given as a gift to Francois I, then King of France. The original was lost, but a new model has been crafted in Amboise, France by Renato Boaretto.
Will hydrocarbon biofuels replace gasoline and ethanol?
(08/13/2009) In a Perspectives piece in Science, John R. Regalbuto argues that the world will soon see a revolution in biofuels, but not those made from corn. Instead Regalbuto, program director of Catalysis and Biocatalysis at the National Science Foundation, says that the future of biofuels is in substances that can be converted into hydrocarbons, such as switch grass, woody biomass, corn stover, and even algae.
Northern India’s water is vanishing due to agriculture, human consumption
(08/12/2009) It’s a disaster in the making: a new study by NASA and UC Irvine has found that the groundwater beneath northern India has been vanishing at a rate of a foot per year during the last decade. In total 109 cubic kilometers (26 cubic miles) has been lost in six years time—three times the size of Lake Mead in the United States.
New website consolidates national red lists for endangered species
(08/09/2009) The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) has brought together national red lists from around the world for the first time in one location. From the cliff tiger beetle in the United Kingdom (classified as ‘rare’) to the Asian elephant in Sir Lanka (considered ‘vulnerable’) the website (www.nationalredlists.org) brings together data on over 50,000 species from 40 countries.
Research into drugs derived from natural products declining
(07/09/2009) Although the majority of drugs available today have been derived from natural products, research into nature-based pharmaceuticals has declined in recent years due to high development costs and the drug approvals process. However this trend is likely to reverse due to new approaches and technologies, according researchers from the University of Alberta.
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