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News articles on tropical forests

Mongabay.com news articles on tropical forests in blog format. Updated regularly.





Palm oil plantations used to 'reforest' parts of Brazil despite being wildlife deserts

(06/30/2015) A recent study systematically documented bird biodiversity within oil palm plantations, finding they contain fewer species than secondary forest and even cattle pasture. As oil palm grows as a commodity in Brazil – and can legally even be used to "reforest" land – how can a country that has made big gains in reducing deforestation in recent years balance this powerhouse industry with environmental welfare?


Big reserve expansion gives tigers a boost in India

(06/29/2015) A hundred years ago, there were thirteen times as many tigers in the world as there are today, ranging from Turkey across the Eurasian continent to the eastern coast of Russia. The 13 countries that contain the world’s last tigers today - a mere, 2,500 mature individuals - are challenged with increasing protected tiger habitat to prevent crowding and inbreeding, while facing extreme funding and space constraints. One state in India, however, has found a cost-effective way to give tigers more room.


Many tropical species surprisingly resilient, if not actively persecuted

(06/19/2015) Dr. Richard Corlett is the current Director of the Center for Integrative Conservation at the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, which is part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He is also a former president of ATBC, and one of the keynote speakers for this year’s conference in Hawaii. Dr. Corlett recently spoke with Mongabay.com about some of the insights he’s gained from his research in tropical ecology and conservation.


Can we save the Sumatran rhino? Indonesia holds out hope

(06/19/2015) 'One percent of the world's population,' veterinarian Zulfi Arsan says as he nods towards Bina, a 714-kilogram, 30-year-old female Sumatran rhinoceros leisurely crunching branches whole. A gentle and easygoing rhino, pink-hued Bina doesn't seem to mind the two-legged hominids snapping pictures and awing at her every move at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary.


As mangroves disappear at 'an alarming rate,' conservationists urge more protection

(06/04/2015) In 2010, the Jakarta Post reported that, according to a local NGO called People’s Coalition for Justice in Fisheries, Indonesia lost 2.2 million hectares of mangroves in less than 30 years. Conservationists hope Sri Lanka’s move to protect all its mangroves could help push other South and Southeast Asian mangrove range countries in the same direction.


Sri Lanka becomes first country to completely protect mangroves

(06/04/2015) In a press conference held in May 2015 in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, U.S.-based nonprofit Seacology, Sri Lanka-based NGO Sudeesa (formerly known as the Small Fisheries Federation of Sri Lanka) and the government of Sri Lanka announced a joint program that makes Sri Lanka the first country in the world to grant full protection to all its mangrove forests.


Invasive predators, deforestation driving Tasmanian parrot over the edge

(05/29/2015) In the forests of Tasmania lives the swift parrot (Lathamus discolour), a highly threatened bird found nowhere else in the world. New research published recently in Biological Conservation finds they are more at risk of extinction than previously thought, with introduced sugar gliders (Petaurus breviceps) and logging dealing two big blows to their remaining numbers.


First-of-its-kind mapping technique sheds new light on tropical forests

(05/29/2015) Scientists at the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts have developed vegetation height maps for the entire tropics at very fine spatial scales. These first-of its-kind high resolution maps can help researchers estimate forest cover, monitor biodiversity and wildlife habitats, and manage and monitor timber.


Proposed border checkpoint and road threaten critical Cambodian forest and wildlife

(05/28/2015) A proposed border checkpoint at Kbal Damrei, on Cambodia’s border with Vietnam, together with a new road leading up to it, may harm Cambodia’s Mondulkiri Protected Forest. The proposed border crossing is slated to be developed within Mondulkiri Protected Forest, in Eastern Cambodia.


New bird uncovered in South American conflict region, researchers urge protection

(05/28/2015) For many years, study skins of a bird languished in a dusty drawer in the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, classified hurriedly (and erroneously,) as Scytalopus atratus nigricans, a songbird found in lower montane forests. Recently, scientists rediscovered the bird on the Venezuelan slopes of the Perijá Mountains, and were able to use twenty-first century techniques to describe its genetics, ecology and appearance. In doing so, they identified it as a new species: the Perijá tapaculo.


China unveils plans for huge railway in South America

(05/27/2015) China is looking to add another rung to its investment presence in Latin America, with an announcement of plans to build an expansive railway bisecting the continent from Brazil to Peru. The bid has raised the hackles of conservation groups, which are concerned the railway will run through sensitive ecosystems, harm threatened wildlife, and affect indigenous communities.


Amazon deforestation speeding global warming

(05/27/2015) Human activity has destroyed huge swaths of the Amazon rainforest's biomass as trees are cleared to make way for pasture, soy fields, and other developments. Now, a new study has determined how much that destruction has contributed to climate change.


Timber 'mass graves' uncovered as Malaysian authorities pursue illegal loggers

(05/21/2015) A crackdown on illegal logging in Peninsular Malaysia's largest continuous forest complex has uncovered three timber 'mass graves' – burial sites where valuable logs have been stashed beneath tons of earth to hide evidence. The loggers apparently made haste in fleeing the hilly terrain where they left the timber. A joint operation by Malaysia's antigraft agency and Forestry Department found parts of logs sticking out of the ground and the red earth still unsettled, indications their quarry had hurriedly concealed the felled trees.


Primary rainforest cleared for massive palm oil plantations in Peru

(05/20/2015) More than 9,400 hectares of closed-canopy Amazonian rainforest has been removed for two oil palm plantations in the Peruvian region of Ucayali since 2011, according to scientists working for MAAP, the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project. The two plantations are linked to Czech entrepreneur Dennis Melka.


High pressure: is U.S. policy deterring illegal wood imports?

(05/19/2015) Some countries, such as the U.S., have imposed legislation at the consumer level, banning the import of illegally sourced wood through their borders. A new study finds that such legislation can be effective, with a 2008 amendment to the Lacey Act significantly reducing the influx of illegal wood into the U.S.


China’s investment in Latin America taking toll on the environment, setting the stage for conflict

(05/18/2015) China has been investing heavily in Latin America’s natural resources and crude oil. Recently, the country even pledged to invest $250 billion over the next decade to strengthen its presence in the region, and compete with the U.S. But this increasing Chinese trade and investment in Latin America is also increasing environmental and social conflict, finds a new report published by Boston University.


Satellite images show deforestation on fringes of UNESCO World Heritage Site in Cameroon

(05/14/2015) In the push to become a middle-income country in the next two decades, Cameroon has courted investments in its vast natural resource wealth in the form of mining, logging and large-scale agriculture. But deforestation revealed by a recent Greenpeace Africa investigation highlights a lack of coordination in determining how to use the country’s land.


New mapping project uncovers road networks in Peru’s primary forests

(05/13/2015) A research team unearthed a suspicious network of roads in northern Peru in early 2013. For two years, they watched the network grow to over 150 kilometers in length, split into two networks. The southern part of the network is located entirely in the protected buffer region of the Cordillera de Azul National Park, and is characteristic of roads meant for logging.


Satellite data shows how deforestation is impacting our weather and our food

(05/12/2015) The conversion of forests to cropland can drive local temperatures up or down by as much as a few degrees, according to a new report. Ironically, the authors write that these temperature fluctuations can lead to less productivity from the very same agricultural operations the forests were cleared to make way for.


World's critical habitats lost Connecticut-size area of forest in a decade

(05/08/2015) Many of the world's endangered animals live in only one place, making them hugely susceptible to environmental upset. One fell swoop, and entire species could disappear from existence forever. New analysis shows that possibility may be edging closer and closer to reality in some areas, with forests known to harbor high-risk species losing an area of tree cover the size of Connecticut in a little over a decade.


Researchers find treasure trove of unique, threatened animals in Philippine forest

(05/08/2015) A group of more than 30 researchers is surveying the the forests of Cleopatra's Needle, on the Philippine island of Palawan. They have already found many endemic animals, and hope to use their findings to confer more protection to the region.


Brazilian Amazon nears deforestation threshold past which wildlife may crash, says study

(05/01/2015) A study on the impact of forest loss on biodiversity, recently published in the journal Conservation Biology, shows that one-third of the Brazilian Amazon is headed toward or has just passed a threshold of forest cover beyond which species loss accelerates and is more damaging.


Lost and found, then lost again? Recently rediscovered hummingbird faces extinction

(04/30/2015) No one had seen a single living blue-bearded helmetcrest since 1946, and the species was known only from preserved museum specimens. But that all changed last month when researchers rediscovered the bird in the mountains of Colombia.


Gov't officials permitted deforestation in Dominican Republic national park

(04/29/2015) In late 2014, an irregularity in the issuance of permits for agriculture-related deforestation was brought to light by an environmental conservation association working to curb deforestation within the park. On July 30, the Pedernales office of the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources granted permission to local landowners to deforest an area within the National Park, close to an area that was being assessed for hutia and solenodon presence by a team of researchers.


'Deforestation fronts' revealed

(04/27/2015) Environmental group WWF has released a new report projecting where the organization believes the bulk of global deforestation is likely to occur over the next 15 years. The analysis, published today, highlights eleven regions where 'the bulk of global deforestation is projected to take place' by 2030.


Report: Borneo could save billions while still meeting conservation and development goals

(04/27/2015) The three nations that share Borneo could save themselves $43 billion by more closely coordinating their environmental conservation and economic development efforts, according to a report published in the journal Nature Communications.


$100M study to look at how rainforests respond to climate change

(04/27/2015) A new $100 million research project will examine how tropical forests interact with the planet's climate system.


Conservation in Myanmar: a cause for optimism?

(04/24/2015) Fifty years of relative political and economic isolation have yielded slow economic growth and contributed to the conservation of many of Myanmar’s native species. However, the dissolution of Myanmar’s military junta in 2011 marked the beginning of a new age of increasing political and economic liberalization and international engagement. Many experts fear that possible rapid development fueled by international investment, improved infrastructure and expanded transport networks, pose a grave risk to Myanmar’s biodiversity and forests.


Officials: Sumatran rhino is extinct in the wild in Sabah

(04/23/2015) There are no Sumatran rhinos left in the wild in the Malaysian state of Sabah, confirmed Masidi Manjun, the Tourism, Culture and Envi­ronment Minister, over the weekend. In 2008, conservationists estimated there were around 50 rhinos in the state. Five years later, it dropped that estimate to just ten. Now, it's admitted the awful truth: the wild rhino is very likely gone.


Photo essay: the flying fox show

(04/22/2015) Rain or clear, wind or still, full moon or no. Every night thousands of flying foxes rise from a small mangrove island among the lesser Sunda islands of Indonesia. Around sunset the Sunda flying fox begin to stir in their roots—their stomachs waking them—until the boldest among them takes off into the sky.


Can shade-grown cocoa help conserve sloths?

(04/22/2015) Tropical forests support the greatest diversity of species in the world, yet we are rapidly destroying them. Most deforestation in the tropics is due to agricultural development and livestock production, the two greatest causes of declines in terrestrial biodiversity. However, one strategy that has been gaining attention for its potential to preserve biodiversity is shade-grown agriculture.


Recently discovered 'punkrocker' frog changes skin texture in minutes

(04/17/2015) In 2006, two scientists discovered a tiny new frog species in the Reserva Las Gralarias, a nature reserve in north-central Ecuador. They took its photograph and nicknamed it the "punkrocker" frog because of spine-like projections coming out of its skin. For the next three years, they did not find the punkrocker again. But when they did re-discover it in 2009, the team found that the punkrocker had more tricks up its sleeve.


Court rules deforestation of Peruvian rainforest for chocolate was legal

(04/16/2015) A regional court in Loreto, Peru recently ruled that the clearing of more than 2,000 hectares of forest by Cacao del Peru Norte for a plantation to grow cacao, the raw material behind chocolate, was legal, reported the investigative news site OjoPúblico on April 9. The ruling rejects contentions brought by Forestry Department that the company should have sought approval to clear the trees.


Expedition in the Congo rediscovers lost primate

(04/14/2015) The last time there was a sighting of Bouvier's red colobus disco was all the rage, the Internet was non-existent, and Madonna still referred solely to the mother of God. But then the African monkey vanished and conservationists feared it had gone extinct—a victim of the bushmeat trade. For years, research groups called for an expedition to find out if Bouvier's red colobus still survived.


Scientists find new monkey with unique penis

(04/10/2015) Researchers were in for a surprise when they viewed footage from a remote and little-explored area of southeastern Tibet. Among the more than 700 photos of macaques, they spotted several with physical characteristics that hadn't been documented before; namely, genitals that were shaped and colored differently than other known macaques in the region. The scientists say these differences may make these macaques a new species.


Condition of tropical forests 'worsening', could become 'critical'

(04/07/2015) World leaders are continuing to overlook the worsening condition of tropical forests despite the biome's vast potential to help mitigate climate change, support local livelihoods and ecosystem services, and stabilize global agriculture, warns a comprehensive review published by a body founded by Prince Charles.


Palm oil companies, NGOs endorse new deforestation-limiting toolkit

(04/06/2015) Forests not only house many of the world's species, but also much of its carbon. Now, a toolkit has been developed by a group of companies and organizations with the aim of helping other companies and NGOs identify High Carbon Stock (HCS) forests. The toolkit was endorsed last week by major NGOs and plantation companies in Singapore.


Illegal deforestation driven by EU appetite for beef, palm oil, soy, say new reports

(04/01/2015) A new report finds that the European Union is driving international trade in commodities grown on land cleared outside of the law. In 2012 alone, the report says, the EU imported $6.5 billion worth of illegally sourced beef, leather, palm oil and soy, which amounts to nearly one-fourth of all global trade and some 2.4 million hectares (59.3 million acres) of forest illegally cleared.


Tropical soundscapes offer clues to forest and animal community health

(04/01/2015) Marine biologists were the first to continuously eavesdrop on marine mammals using a technique called passive acoustic monitoring (PAM). By simply listening to these animals' sounds, researchers could collect valuable information about animal population density and distribution, population health, and responses to human disturbance. Given the challenges of studying animal communities as they migrate across the sweep of the world's oceans, acoustic surveys gained popularity as a tool for gathering data from otherwise inaccessible study sites.


Pollution from East Asia affecting air quality in Borneo's rainforests

(04/01/2015) A study published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics finds that industrial activities in East Asia are polluting the air in the rainforests of Borneo and that, once there, the pollutants could be traveling into the upper atmosphere and impacting Earth’s ozone layer.


Large animals invaluable for tree-seed dispersal and regeneration of tropical forests

(03/30/2015) Nearly two-thirds of tropical forests in Southeast Asia have been degraded by logging, agriculture and other human uses, and their fauna have been decimated by hunting and the bushmeat trade. But if those degraded tropical forests are to recover naturally, they will need to rely on their remaining large wild animals to disperse large tree seeds, according to a new study.


Just how useful is forest restoration? New study seeks to find out

(03/27/2015) Across the world, scientists estimate there are about two billion hectares of degraded forestland. In Indonesia alone, 25 million hectares of former logging concessions currently have no management, according to research. A study recently published in mongabay.com’s open access journal Tropical Conservation Science suggests this may represent an important opportunity for biodiversity conservation through restoration.


Mexico’s club mosses at risk of extinction

(03/26/2015) All nine species of the club moss genus Phlegmariurus found in the state of Veracruz in eastern Mexico are at risk of extinction, according to a new study published in the journal Tropical Conservation Science. One of these species, P. orizabae, has not been recorded in the wild since 1854.


Photos: expedition to Amazon’s white sands may have found new primate

(03/24/2015) Most people think of the Amazon rainforest as one massive, homogenous ecosystem—a giant castle of green. However, within the Amazon rainforest lie a myriad of distinct ecosystems, sporting unique characteristics and harboring endemic species. One of the rarer ecosystems in the Amazon is the white sands forest.


Reforestation programs may help reduce illegal logging in Indonesian Borneo

(03/24/2015) Can the act of planting a tree change one’s attitude towards forests and conservation? Erica Pohnan, Hotlin Ompusunggu, and Campbell Webb, from the conservation NGO Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI), set out to answer this question by evaluating the effectiveness of reforestation programs in and around Gunung Palung National Park in West Kalimantan, Indonesia.


Study finds roads in Southeast Asia may be devastating forests, wildlife

(03/20/2015) Habitat loss and illegal hunting are leading drivers behind mammal population decline and extinction in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia. But what's driving these drivers? Road infrastructure, according to research. Researchers conducted the first-ever comprehensive study examining the impacts of road infrastructure on mammal populations in Southeast Asia; their findings were recently published in PLOS One.


Discovery of 'Lost City' spurs conservation pledge

(03/18/2015) Earlier this month, National Geographic made big news: the discovery of what it called a 'lost city' below the thick jungles of Honduras. While the coverage has led to scientists crying sensationalism, it also resulted this week in a commitment of protection by the Honduras President, Juan Orlando Hernández, for a long-neglected portion of the country.


Road rage: scientists denounce $60 trillion infrastructure expansion

(03/14/2015) Last November, at the annual G-20 summit - for the 20 wealthiest of the world’s nations - in Brisbane, Australia, a staggering commitment was made to invest $60 to $70 trillion worldwide in new infrastructure over the next 15 years. This is akin to doubling the current value of all global infrastructure put together.


Scientists warn of global warming threat to temperate rainforests

(03/13/2015) In a new study published recently in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences, researchers warn that temperate rainforests may be in for big changes in the face of global warming, and they recommend reducing greenhouse gas emissions before it's too late.


Indigenous leaders present plan to gov't for Suriname's largest official protected area

(03/13/2015) Indigenous leaders from southern Suriname took the first steps toward creating the South American country’s largest recognized protected area with a declaration to parliament on March 5.



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