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News articles on tropical forests
Mongabay.com news articles on tropical forests in blog format. Updated regularly.
Helping orangutans survive: new project aims to connect habitat fragments in Kalimantan (PART II)
(10/08/2014) Two decades ago, a project to convert one million hectares of forest to rice paddies was undertaken by the Indonesian government in southern Kalimantan. The project was a massive failure and was eventually abandoned, but not before it destroyed critical orangutan habitat. Now a new project is trying to knit together what's left and turn the area's isolated orangutan populations into one of Borneo's largest.
Marooned in shrinking forests, Bornean orangutans hang on as disaster looms (PART I)
(10/07/2014) The great apes are among some of the most endangered species on Earth, the targets of poachers and the victims of deforestation. However, from time-to-time there comes news of hope. A study published recently describes the dire situation faced by Bornean orangutans, as well as an ambitious project to help save them.
An impossible balancing act? Forests benefit from isolation, but at cost to local communities
(10/07/2014) The indigenous people of the Amazon live in areas that house many of the Amazon’s diverse species. The Rupununi region of Guyana is one such area, with approximately 20,000 Makushi and Wapishana people living in isolation. According to a recent study published in Environmental Modelling & Software, a simulation model revealed a link between growing indigenous populations and gradual local resource depletion.
Will 'Asia's unicorn' survive? Hunting and deforestation continue in Vietnam biosphere reserve PART II
(10/02/2014) Encompassing 1.3 million hectares, Western Nghe An Biosphere Reserve the largest such reserve in all of Southeast Asia. Because of the biological importance of the region, it was designated a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 2007. But deforestation and bushmeat hunting continue, begging the question: is the wildlife of Western Nghe An Biosphere Reserve truly protected?
The largest biosphere reserve in Southeast Asia: Vietnam’s success story or a conservation failure? PART I
(09/30/2014) In 2010, poachers shot and killed the last Javan rhino in Vietnam, wiping out an entire subspecies. The Sumatran rhino, the Malayan tapir and the civet otter, too, have disappeared from the country. Moreover, charismatic species like tigers, elephants, gibbons and the secretive saola discovered recently in Vietnam’s forests are at risk of extinction in the coming decades as threats to wildlife continue unabated in the country.
Studying common birds could help save rare species in Vietnam
(09/30/2014) Studies in conservation biology often focus on rare, threatened species faced with impending extinction, but what about common animals of least concern? Could they too help conservationists fine-tune their approach? Doctoral researcher Laurel Yohe not only claims that they can, but demonstrates how in a new study. She and five other researchers compared ranges of five babblers with development across Vietnam.
Armed conflict decimates tigers, rhinos, and swamp deer in Indian park
(09/30/2014) The human cost of war is horrendous. However, while most attention is focused on the suffering caused to people—and rightly so—an understudied element is the impact on wildlife conservation. This is worrying given that many of the world’s conflict zones are situated in biodiversity hotspots.
A weed by any other name: remnant shrubs and trees play vital role in regenerating forests
(09/29/2014) Tropical forest restoration projects are exciting research sites for scientists studying factors that affect ecosystem recovery. Here, scientists are trying to understand plant community succession, i.e. the process of recovery after cleared lands are abandoned and allowed to regrow naturally. One of the most important components of this recovery process is seed dispersal, since seeds from nearby forests allow a deforested habitat to become populated again by native plants and trees.
Climate change to boost farmland, diminish harvests, says new study
(09/29/2014) Climate change is likely to alter how we humans grow adequate amounts of food for a swelling global population. Assessing just how much and where those changes will occur has been difficult. But a new study takes aim at those very questions and could provide a guide for the debate over feeding the planet while also preserving biodiversity and the forests that filter out the carbon we produce.
Diverse, deceptive, declining: orchids threatened by deforestation in South America
(09/26/2014) Pushing past a thick fern leaf, Crain stopped short, overcome by joy. As he broke into dance, his assistant peered curiously at the tiny lentil-shaped fruit dangling from a stem, and resolutely decided Crain was mad. After more than two years studying a rare Puerto Rican endemic orchid species, Crain had finally found his first specimen bearing fruit.
Reintroduction program ups Mexico's scarlet macaw population by 34 percent in one year
(09/25/2014) While listed as Least Concern by the IUCN, the scarlet macaw has disappeared from almost all of its native range in Mexico, is very rare in most Central America countries, and is locally extinct in El Salvador. A new paper published this week finds a reintroduction program was hugely successful in its first year of operation, with a 92 percent survival rate for released birds.
Four countries pledge to restore 30 million hectares of degraded lands at UN Summit
(09/25/2014) In 2011, Germany and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature launched the Bonn Challenge, which pledged to restore 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested lands by 2020. Several countries have already made commitments—including the U.S.—but this week at the UN Climate Summit four more jumped on board.
Scientists uncover six potentially new species in Peru, including bizarre aquatic mammal (photos)
(09/25/2014) A group of Peruvian and Mexican scientists say they have uncovered at least six new species near South America's most famous archaeological site: Machu Picchu. The discoveries include a new mammal, a new lizard, and four new frogs. While the scientists are working on formally describing the species, they have released photos and a few tantalizing details about the new discoveries.
In the shadows of Machu Picchu, scientists find 'extinct' cat-sized mammal
(09/25/2014) Below one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world, scientists have made a remarkable discovery: a living cat-sized mammal that, until now, was only known from bones. The Machu Picchu arboreal chinchilla rat (Cuscomys oblativa) was first described from two enigmatic skulls discovered in Inca pottery sculpted 400 years ago.
Termites suffer in logged forests and palm oil plantations
(09/25/2014) Ants appear more resilient to forest degradation than termites. Scientists have long studied how birds, mammals, and amphibians respond to forest degradation, but what about the most abundant animals in the forest? Insects. A new study in Biodiversity and Conservation looks at how ants and termites reacted to forest changes in Malaysian Borneo.
Turning point for Peru's forests? Norway and Germany put muscle and money behind ambitious agreement
(09/24/2014) From the Andes to the Amazon, Peru houses some of the world's most spectacular forests. Proud and culturally-diverse indigenous tribes inhabit the interiors of the Peruvian Amazon, including some that have chosen little contact with the outside world. And even as scientists have identified tens-of-thousands of species that make their homes from the leaf litter to the canopy.
Scientists use genes, feces to study disappearing monkeys
(09/24/2014) Human pressures through tree clearing and poaching are reducing both forest and fauna in West Africa. In response to dwindling primate populations, scientists used genetics techniques to examine their makeup and outlook – demonstrating the usefulness of such methods in the study of animals that are becoming ever-fewer in number and ever-harder to find.
Norway to pay Liberia to stop deforestation
(09/23/2014) In one of the many major announcements that have come out of the UN Climate Summit in New York this week, Norway says it will pay Liberia to stop cutting down its forests. Norway’s payment will come on the form of development aid for the war-torn, impoverished, and now Ebola-ridden West African nation.
Fragmented forests hurt some bat species, may benefit others
(09/23/2014) Development of roads and other structures disturb large, continuous patches of habitat for wildlife. This habitat fragmentation is one of the biggest contributors to species extinction, as the local ecology and species interactions are altered. A new study finds that leaf-nosed bat abundances in Mexico are closely linked to how sensitive each species is to habitat fragmentation.
Dissolving pulp: the threat to Indonesia’s forests you’ve probably never heard of
(09/23/2014) If the term “dissolving pulp” evokes nothing for you, you’re not alone. Not many people have heard of it, and the very term “dissolving pulp” is so generic it’s hard to imagine it could be a threat to anything.
Extinction island? Plans to log half an island could endanger over 40 species
(09/22/2014) Woodlark Island is a rare place on the planet today. This small island off the coast Papua New Guinea is still covered in rich tropical forest, an ecosystem shared for thousands of years between tribal peoples and a plethora of species, including at least 42 found no-where else. Yet, like many such wildernesses, Woodlark Island is now facing major changes: not the least of them is a plan to log half of the island.
Legislation protecting Indonesia's indigenous communities is not good enough, says advocacy group
(09/18/2014) Approaching final legalization, an advocacy group for Indonesia’s indigenous communities has asked to postpone passing a bill granting protections to indigenous people, stating some demands still need to be addressed.
The cheap option on climate change: recognize indigenous rights to forests
(09/18/2014) Since 2008, governments have invested $1.64 billion in funds to kick-start REDD+, or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, the global effort to conserve the world's forests in order to better mitigate climate change. However, a new report by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) finds that same amount of money could have secured the legal rights of indigenous and local people to 450 million hectares of forest, an area 40 percent larger than India.
'The green Amazon is red with indigenous blood': authorities pull bodies from river that may have belonged to slain leaders
(09/17/2014) Peruvian authorities have pulled more human remains from a remote river in the Amazon, which may belong to one of the four murdered Ashaninka natives killed on September 1st. It is believed the four Ashaninka men, including renowned leader Edwin Chota Valera, were assassinated for speaking up against illegal logging on their traditional lands.
From 'production' forests to protected forests, groups work to save Sumatran orangutan habitat. But will it be enough?
(09/16/2014) The orangutan is native exclusively to the islands of Borneo and Sumatra — two regions that have seen the brunt of Indonesia's recent forest destruction due primarily to logging and plantation development. Although there are anywhere from 45,000 to 69,000 Bornean orangutans remaining in the wild, the Sumatran species numbers only about 7,300 according to a 2004 survey, and is dwindling further every year.
As Bolivia plans dramatic agro-expansion, forests may pay the price (PART II)
(09/12/2014) In an August 14 announcement, Bolivian Vice President, Alvaro Garcia Linera, laid out an ambitious plan to increase the country’s cropland by 250 percent, and triple its agricultural output. The proposal is touted as way to increase both food and economic security for the inland South American country, but what will it mean for its forests?
WCS-led raids lead to six arrests near Mozambique’s largest reserve
(09/12/2014) A joint force of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and government authorities are in the midst of carrying out a series of raids against poachers in Mozambique aimed at halting the illegal killing of elephants in Niassa National Reserve, the country’s largest protected area. Six men, thought to be responsible for killing 39 elephants in 2014, were arrested in an early morning bust in the town of Marrupa, just south of the park.
Next big idea in forest conservation? Harness the power of marketing
(09/11/2014) As a whole, conservationists have been slow to adapt the strategies of marketing or to market conservation at all. Dr. Diogo Veríssimo, a researcher who works at the interface between social and natural sciences, with a focus on behavior change and evidence-based conservation, thinks this needs to change.
Bolivian vice president proposes unprecedented agricultural expansion (PART 1)
(09/10/2014) On August 14, the Bolivian Vice President, Alvaro Garcia Linera, made a startling announcement: by 2025, Bolivia was going to make two striking developments - first, it would expand all cultivated land to 2.5 times its present area, and second, it would triple food production from 15 to 45 million tons.
Elephants pay the price for palm oil in Malaysian Borneo, impact may reach far beyond reported kills
(09/10/2014) More than a dozen elephant kills were reported in Sabah in 2013 alone, but it is unknown exactly how many have lost their lives in recent years as palm plantations encroach further and further into the rainforest. What is clear is that if the loss of their forest habitat continues to drive conflicts with humans at the rate it is now, Borneo elephants’ long-term survival may be in jeopardy.
Canada, Russia, Brazil lead world in old-growth forest loss
(09/05/2014) Every day, the world loses about 50,000 hectares of forest to agricultural clearing, road development, and other human activities, constricting true wilderness into smaller and smaller areas – along with the species that inhabit them. New analysis and maps released this week show these last vestiges are disappearing at a quick pace, with more than 104 million hectares degraded from 2000 to 2013.
REDD+ versus indigenous people? Why a tribe in Panama rejected pay for their carbon-rich forests
(09/04/2014) There isn’t a word or phrase in the Kuna language for "carbon trading,” and much less for something as complex as REDD+. Standing for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, REDD+ is the worldwide UN-backed climate change mitigation scheme that relies on carbon trading within forest landscapes to fund forest conservation programs. And yet, since 2008, the Kuna people have been hearing lots about it and referring to it often in their private conversations.
Mongabay founder, Rhett Butler, wins Field Museum's top conservation prize
(09/03/2014) The Field Museum has honored Rhett A. Butler, the founder of mongabay.com, with this year's prestigious Parker/Gentry Award. The award is giving annually to an 'individual, team or organization whose efforts have had a significant impact on preserving the world's rich natural heritage and whose actions can serve as a model to others,' according to the museum.
'A global tragedy' in the making? Thailand plans highway expansion through World Heritage Site
(08/29/2014) Dong Phayayen Khao Yai Forest Complex (DPKY-FC) is the largest tract of surviving forest in central Thailand, renowned for its biodiversity. Now, the Thai government is planning major expansions to a road that bisects the complex – which scientists say will bar animal movement throughout their natural ranges, result in higher rates of road kill, and give hunters and loggers increased access to the forest.
Authorities stop 'greatest destroyers of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest'
(08/28/2014) A criminal organization involved in the illicit deforestation of large portions of Brazil's forests has been stopped, with at least six members of the organization arrested as of Aug. 28 and warrants issued for others. The gang has been accused of committing crimes worth over $220 million.
Saving the Atlantic Forest would cost less than 'Titanic'
(08/28/2014) Want to save the world's most imperiled biodiversity hotspot? You just need a down payment of $198 million. While that may sound like a lot, it's actually less than it cost to make the film, Titanic. A new study published today in Science finds that paying private landowners to protect the Atlantic Forest would cost Brazil just 6.5 percent of what it currently spends ever year on agricultural subsidies.
Meeting an Illegal Logger
(08/27/2014) 'I make six times the amount of money logging as I would working my small plot of land or even working legally in a pulp and paper or palm oil plantation.' An illegal logger explains the economic conditions in South Sumatra. Mongabay Special Reporting Fellow Robert S. Eshelman interviews an illegal logger in Indonesia on the topic of cleaning up commodity supply chains.
Where should the roads go? New map offers a solution to the 'Pandora's Box of environmental problems'
(08/27/2014) Roads make it possible to bring goods to market, to get to the office, to log a forest, to hunt its wildlife. Without roads, human society as we know it could not exist. However, to build roads, trees must be cleared and swamps drained, shrinking valuable wildlife habitat and fragmenting populations in the process. A new study unveils an innovative map that defines which areas of the world would be best used to build roads – and which should be left alone.
The Gran Canal: will Nicaragua's big bet create prosperity or environmental ruin?
(08/27/2014) A hundred years ago, the Panama Canal reshaped global geography. Now a new project, spearheaded by a media-shy Chinese millionaire, wants to build a 278-kilometer canal through Nicaragua. While the government argues the mega-project will change the country's dire economic outlook overnight, critics contend it will cause undue environmental damage, upend numerous communities, and do little to help local people.
How do we save the world's vanishing old-growth forests?
(08/26/2014) There's nothing in the world like a primary forest, which has never been industrially logged or cleared by humans. They are often described as cathedral-like, due to pillar-like trees and carpet-like undergrowth. Yet, the world's primary forests—also known as old-growth forests—are falling every year, and policy-makers are not doing enough to stop it.
What lies within, we may never know: deforestation threatening Sulawesi’s unique wildlife
(08/26/2014) For 10 million years the Indonesian island of Sulawesi has been disconnected from other landforms, almost inviting evolution to color outside the lines. Despite a growing population and limited space, Sulawesi has managed to provide a safe haven to hundreds of unique species as they evolved over millennia. But that haven may soon be lost to uncontrolled extraction of forest products from Sulawesi’s many pristine ecosystems.
Can it be stopped? Ghana's forests 'could completely disappear in less than 25 years'
(08/25/2014) Ghana contains forests that are biologically unique and important both for the wildlife they contain and the human communities that depend on them. However, the country is experiencing one of the greatest rates of deforestation in West Africa. At its current rate of forest loss, a study estimates that Ghana could be devoid of major forest cover in less than a quarter-century.
Have scientists discovered a new primate in the Philippines?
(08/21/2014) Despite some media reports, scientists have not yet discovered a new species of big-eyed, nocturnal primate—known as tarsiers—in the Philippines. Instead what they have discovered is an intriguing population that is genetically-distinct even from nearby relatives, according to a new open-access paper in PLOS ONE.
Running to reforest: communities, NGOs work to save Ugandan reserve in the midst of massive deforestation
(08/21/2014) Stung by massive loss of forest cover in Bugoma central forest reserve, part of a vast chimpanzee habitat in the western part of Uganda, seven private local and international organizations in the east African country have joined hands to raise awareness of forest issues and money for reforestation efforts -- by launching a conservation-themed quarter-marathon.
Next big idea in forest conservation? DNA fingerprinting trees to stem illegal logging
(08/21/2014) As a professor at Texas Tech, Dr. Chuck Cannon has been, among other things, working to create a system of DNA fingerprinting for tropical trees to undercut the global illegal logging trade. 'If we just enforced existing laws and management policies, things would be pretty good, but unfortunately, that is where things fall apart in many tropical countries,' Cannon said.
Looming mining ‘tsunami’ set to take Africa by storm
(08/20/2014) Africa remains something of an untapped mineral resource, as the vast majority of extraction occurs elsewhere. However, a new report documents a surging tide of foreign interest in mining in Africa and cautions that the sector’s unchecked development and expansion could devastate the environment.
Challenging the 'tragedy of the commons': new documentary explores how humans and nature can coexist (VIDEO)
(08/20/2014) In Guatemala, a vast community forest has prospered for centuries despite an ever-growing population, challenging the idea that human inhabitation of an area will inevitably lead to its ecological degradation.
Elephant poaching soars as Sumatran forests turn into plantations
(08/14/2014) There has been a spike in elephant deaths in Sumatra this year, and conversion of rainforest to plantations is one of the main causes. The number of Sumatran elephants poached in the province of Riau so far this year is staggering, with 22 reported kills in the first six months of 2014 compared to 14 for the entirety of 2013.
Indonesia cracks down on illegal burning, investigates more suspect companies
(08/14/2014) Every year, thousands of hectares of Indonesian forest are illegally burned by development companies. However, Indonesia’s Minister of Environment, Balthasar Kambuaya, is optimistic that legal charges over such fires can be completed – even though he has just three months left in office.
'Natural Reserves' no more: illegal colonists deforest huge portions of Nicaraguan protected areas
(08/13/2014) In southeastern Nicaragua, abutting the coastal Caribbean town of Bluefields, lie two nature reserves - Cerro Silva and Punta Gorda - that are embroiled in a bitter battle for survival against the speedily encroaching agricultural frontier. The forest is all but decimated here, with disconnected patches whose very existence rests precariously in the hands of its occupiers - both legal and illegal.
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