conservation news and environmental science news.
Wal-Mart pushes for greener maufacturing in China
(04/07/2008) Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, will hold a meeting of around 1,000 of its Chinese suppliers in an effort to reduce its environmental impact, said Lee Scott, Wal-Mart's CEO, in an interview with the Financial Times.
The FSC responds to its critics
(04/07/2008) Last month, Mongabay.com reported on recent and various criticisms of the FSC (the Forest Stewardship Council). The FSC is an international organization that certifies forest products which, according to their standards, have been harvested in an environmentally-sustainable and socially-responsible manner. Response to the article was significant. It was picked up by the Ecological Internet's email campaign and was mentioned on numerous environmental web sites and blogs. At the time of the publication, the FSC had not responded to requests for comments. But in the following interview, FSC International Communications Manager Nina Haase answers each criticism separately and addresses several other issues, such as the FSC and climate change, the organization's monitoring capabilities, and its adaptation to new environmental concerns. Ultimately she responds to the big question raised by critics: is the FSC stamp still credible?
Poll: Chinese more concerned about the environment than Americans
(04/07/2008) A poll released today found that 10.2 percent of the Chinese population lists environmental concerns as the nation's number one issue. It is the fourth highest concern among the Chinese after health care, employment, and the income-gap. According to the poll, the Chinese view the environment as higher than corruption, social security, housing prices, and the cost of education.
Bats protect crops from insects
(04/04/2008) Bats eat as many insects at night as birds do during the day, according to research published in the journal Science.
Land invasions undermine Amazon forest law
(04/03/2008) Land invasions are undermining a Brazilian law that requires ranchers to keep 80 percent of their land forested, according to reports from the Amazon state of Mato Grosso. A run up in land prices, driven by surging soy and cattle production in the region, combined with a lackadaisical response from law enforcement authorities are blamed for the incursions.
Amazon soy ban seems to be effective in reducing explicit deforestation
(04/03/2008) An industry-led ban on soy production in the Amazon appears to be proving effective at reducing new clearing for explicit soy production, according to a survey published Monday by Greenpeace and the Brazilian Vegetable Oils Industry Association. The moratorium, which was signed by some of the largest soy crushers in the Amazon in response to a campaign by environmental group Greenpeace, went into effect in October 2006. While soy is believed to be having an indirect impact on deforestation by driving up land prices and competing with the dominant form of land use in the Amazon — cattle ranching — the news is a hopeful sign for conservationists.
conservation success story: birds stage dramatic recovery in Cambodia
(04/03/2008) According to a report released today by the Wildlife conservation Society (WCS), several species of rare waterbirds from Cambodia's famed Tonle Sap region have staged remarkable comebacks, thanks to a project involving a single team of park rangers to provide 24-hour protection to breeding colonies. The project pioneered a novel approach: employing former hunters and egg collectors to protect and monitor the colonies, thereby guaranteeing the active involvement of local communities in the initiative.
Bats eat as many insects as birds
(04/03/2008) Bats eat as many insects at night as birds do during the day, according to research published in the journal Science.
Ocean dead zones have nearly quadrupled since 1994
(04/03/2008) Coastal areas worldwide are suffering from over-enrichment of their waters by nitrogen and phosphorus, finds a new study from the World Resources Institute (WRI). This over-enrichment, known as eutrophication, causes numerous environmental problems, eventually devastating coastal environments. In overly nutrient-rich waters phytoplankton, micro- and macroalgae grow to excessive portions; these 'algal blooms' diminish subaquatic vegetation, damage coral reefs, and deplete populations of fish, shellfish, marine mammals, and sea birds. In the worst case scenarios the massive algal blooms form hypoxic or dead zones due to loss of oxygen in the water, essentially condemning the ecosystem.
Investing to save rainforests
(04/02/2008) Last week London-based Canopy Capital, a private equity firm, announced a historic deal to preserve the rainforest of Iwokrama, a 371,000-hectare reserve in the South American country of Guyana. In exchange for funding a "significant" part of Iwokrama's $1.2 million research and conservation program on an ongoing basis, Canopy Capital secured the right to develop value for environmental services provided by the reserve. Essentially the financial firm has bet that the services generated by a living rainforest — including rainfall generation, climate regulation, biodiversity maintenance and carbon storage — will eventually be valuable in international markets. Hylton Murray-Philipson, director of Canopy Capital, says the agreement — which returns 80 percent of the proceeds to the people of Guyana — could set the stage for an era where forest conservation is driven by the pursuit of profit rather than overt altruistic concerns.
Microbes could be the key to coral death
(04/02/2008) Coral reefs could be dying out because of changes to the microbes that live in them just as much as from the direct rise in temperature caused by global warming, according to scientists speaking today at the Society for General Microbiology's 162nd meeting being held this week at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.
Monarch butterfly migration threatened by illegal logging in Mexico
(04/02/2008) Destruction of forests in central Mexico, is putting the Monarch butterfly's annual migration at risk, says a researcher from the University of Kansas.
75% of world population to face water shortages by 2050
(04/02/2008) By 2025 more than half of countries will face freshwater stress or shortages and by 2050 as much as 75 percent of the world's population could face freshwater scarcity, but policy measures and new technologies could help reduce the shortfall, report researchers writing in the journal Nature.
First wolves killed in Wyoming after species loses ESA protection
(04/02/2008) In one of a series of controversial decisions regarding the Endangered Species Act recently, the federal government has dropped the Rocky Mountain grey wolf from the program. The announcement of the de-listing was made in mid-February, but did not go into effect until Friday when the reins of control were handed over from the federal government to the individual states. Over the weekend wolf-hunting began in Wyoming.
Mutant algae may fuel cars
(04/02/2008) Chemically-modified algae may become key to the production of hydrogen gas which seen by researchers as a next-generation fuel source.
Global warming solutions are harming indigenous people, says U.N.
(04/02/2008) Large-scale solutions intended to help mitigate global warming are harming the very indigenous people who are likely to bear the brunt of climate change, warned the United Nations University (UNU) at a conference in Darwin, Australia.
Invasive species cost China $14B per year
(04/01/2008) Rapid economic growth and giant infrastructure projects have allowed invasive species to spread throughout China and inflict more than $14.5 billion of damage to the nation's economy annually, according to a study published in Bioscience. The research warns that the Beijing Olympics may worsen the toll.
Corn planting to drop 8% in 2008
(03/31/2008) The UDSA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) expects American farmers to plant 86 million acres of corn in 2008, down 8 percent from last year. The news comes amid record high prices for competitive crops including soybeans and wheat.
Gore to spend $300 million on global warming ads
(03/31/2008) This week Al Gore will launch a three-year, $300 million campaign to mobilize support for reining in greenhouse gas emissions, reports The Washington Post.
Humans, and global warming, responsible for extinction of mammoths
(03/31/2008) The combination of human hunting pressure and climate change was responsible for the extinction in woolly mammoths, claims new research published in the open-access journal PLoS Biology. Scientists have long debated whether climate change or human hunting were the more important driver in the demise of North America's megafauna towards the end of the last Ice Age. Now new modeling by David Nogues-Bravo, a biologist at the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid, Spain, and colleagues supports the theory that synergistic effects of warming climate and new human predators drove mammoths to extinction.
Regrowing the rainforest
(03/30/2008) Half a century after most of Costa Rica's rainforests were cut down, researchers from the Boyce Thompson Institute took on a project that many thought was impossible - restoring a tropical rainforest ecosystem.
Asia Pulp & Paper destroying rare Sumatra forest
(03/27/2008) Companies linked to timber giant Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) are illegally building a road that runs through highly endangered peatland forest on the island of Sumatra, according to an investigative report published by Eyes on the Forest, a coalition of NGOs in Indonesia. The road would allow APP and its affiliates to log forests for timber and drain peat soil for the establishment of oil palm plantations. The action would release large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from one of the world's largest contiguous tropical peat swamp forests.
Squid beaks may revolutionize engineering
(03/27/2008) When scientists dissect the stomachs of sperm whales, they find the super-hard beaks of squids, the only part of them that is indigestible. Scientists can tell the diet of a whale by the variety of beaks left behind, sometimes numbering in the thousands. But how does a squid, whose body is soft and supple, have a beak that is considered one of the hardest organic materials in natures? Scientists have long pondered this question.
Private equity firm buys rights to ecosystem services of Guyana rainforest
(03/27/2008) A private equity firm has purchased the rights to environmental services generated by 371,000 hectare rainforest reserve in Guyana. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the agreement is precedent-setting in that a financial firm is betting that the services generated by a living rainforest — including rainfall generation, climate regulation, biodiversity maintenance and water storage — will eventually see compensation in international markets.
Scientists mark 50th Anniversary of the Keeling Curve
(03/27/2008) The Keeling Curve, the longest continuous record of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels based on measurements taken atop Hawaii's Mauna Loa, is now 50 years old. The record provided the first compelling evidence that atmospheric CO2 levels have been rising since the mid-20th century.
FSC has 'failed the world's forests' say critics
(03/26/2008) The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has come under increasingly harsh criticisms from a variety of environmental organizations. The FSC is an international not-for-profit organization that certifies wood products: its stamp of approval is meant to create confidence that the wood was harvested in an environmentally-sustainable and socially-responsible manner. For years the FSC stamp has been imperative for concerned consumers in purchasing wood products. Yet amid growing troubles for the FSC, recent attacks from environmental organizations like World Rainforest Movement and Ecological Internet are putting the organization's credibility into question.
Fire monitoring by satellite becomes key conservation tool
(03/26/2008) Remote sensing is increasingly used as a tool for conservation management. Beyond traditional satellite imagery popularized by Google Earth, new sensing applications are allowing researchers located anywhere in the world to track fires, illegal logging and mining, and deforestation in some of Earth's most isolated regions using a computer or handheld device. The Fire Alert System is one example of an application that is harnessing the power of satellites to deliver key data to conservation managers. Developed by Madagascar's ministry of Environment, the International Resources Group, conservation International using data from the University of Maryland and NASA, the Fire Alert System enables near real-time monitoring of fires anywhere on the island of Madagascar, a hotspot of biological diversity. The system, which sends subscribers regular email alerts on newly-detected burning, will eventually be expanded to include all the world's protected areas, allowing managers to detect not only fires but potentially related activities like road building, logging, and even hunting.
Africa's lions are disappearing
(03/25/2008) The lion is Africa's best known carnivore. Once widely abundant across the continent, recent surveys show that lion populations have plunged from over 100,000 individuals to around 23,000 over the past century. The reason? Lions are poisoned, shot, and speared by locals who see them as a threat to livestock. While lion populations in protected areas remain relatively healthy, conservationists say that without urgent measures, lions may disappear completely from unprotected areas. The Kilimanjaro Lion conservation Project is working to avoid this fate by developing practical measures to encourage coexistence between people, livestock and predators. Key to the effort is reducing livestock losses to lions. Leela Hazzah, a field researcher with the project, says the "Lion Guardians" program at Mbirikani Ranch in Kenya has proved remarkably successful: not a single lion has been killed since its inception in November 2006. The program employs Maasai warriors to monitor lions and help local communities prevent attacks on livestock.
No global warming link to dying frogs?
(03/25/2008) Scientists have fired another salvo in the heated debate over the role of climate change in the global decline of amphibians. Writing in the March 25 issue of PLoS Biology, a team of researchers led by Karen Lips of Southern Illinois University-Carbondale report finding "no evidence to support the hypothesis that climate change has been driving outbreaks of amphibian chytridiomycosis" -- a disease blamed for large-scale die-offs of amphibians. Other researchers have argued that climate shifts are worsening the outbreak of the fungal disease.
Photos: Warming triggers massive Antarctic ice shelf collapse
(03/25/2008) Satellites have captured the collapse of a massive ice shelf in Antarctica. At 160 square miles the area of collapsed ice was seven times the size of Manhattan. Scientists say the collapse is the beginning of a "runaway" disintegration of the 13,680 square kilometer (5,282 square mile) Wilkins Ice Shelf on the southwest Antarctic Peninsula. The region has experienced the largest temperature increase on the planet, rising by 0.5 degree Celsius (0.9 degree Fahrenheit) per decade over the past 50 years.
Swan finds love with paddleboat
(03/25/2008) In a bizarre story out of Muenster, Germany, a black swam will be reunited with its companion — a paddleboat shaped like an outsized white swan, reports the Associated Press.
U.S. furniture demand drives illegal logging in Laos
(03/24/2008) In Vietnam the illegal timber trade continues unabated, in many ways due to the Southeast Asian country's growing economy and wealthy nations' insatiable demand for cheap furniture. Since 2000 Vietnam has seem a ten-fold increase in their furniture industry, a rise that is leading to large-scale illegal deforestation in the Mekong region, according to a report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Telapak Indonesia.
Ants first farmed well before humans
(03/24/2008) Ants began farming some 50 million years ago, far before the first humans developed agriculture, reports a new study based on DNA analysis of the "evolutionary tree" of fungus-growing ants.
Global warming could trigger dramatic Lake Tahoe changes within 10 years
(03/24/2008) Warming temperatures may cloud Lake Tahoe's legendary clear waters and put the lake's native species at risk, reports a new study from the University of California, Davis.
Black carbon pollution has big impact on climate
(03/24/2008) Black carbon, a form of particulate air pollution most often produced from biomass burning, cooking with solid fuels and diesel exhaust, has a warming effect in the atmosphere three to four times greater than prevailing estimates, according to scientists in an upcoming review article in the journal Nature Geoscience.
Railroad could reduce Amazon deforestation relative to proposed highway
(03/24/2008) Building a railroad instead of improving a major highway could reduce deforestation and biodiversity loss in the heart of the Amazon rainforest says an Brazilian environmental group.
Giant sea creatures discovered in Antarctica
(03/21/2008) An eight week long survey of New Zealand's Antarctic waters has turned up giant creatures including jellyfish with 12-foot tentacles and 2-foot-wide starfish, as well as up to eight previously undiscovered species of mollusc, reports the Associated Press (A.P.).
U.S. flooding to continue well into spring
(03/21/2008) Flooding in the American Midwest is likely to continue, said the U.S. National Weather Service.
Markets could save forests: An interview with Dr. Tom Lovejoy
(03/20/2008) Market mechanisms are increasingly seen as a way to address environmental problems, including tropical deforestation. In particular, compensation for ecosystem services like carbon sequestration — a concept known by the acronym REDD for "reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation" — may someday make conservation a profitable enterprise in which carbon traders are effectively saving rainforests simply by their pursuit of profit. Protecting rainforests and their resident biodiversity would be an unintentional, but happy byproduct of profit-seeking endeavors.
Titan may have a hidden ocean
(03/20/2008) An ocean may lie under the surface of Saturn's moon Titan, according to research published this week in the journal Science.
Ecosystems in the Philippines bounce back from the brink
(03/19/2008) The Philippines has often been an example for the worst-case-scenario in environmental degradation. Some scientists have even concluded that environmental efforts should put elsewhere, claiming the Philippines to be a lost cause. In his book Requiem for Nature John Terborgh writes the "overpopulated... Philippines are already beyond the point of no return." However, a recent paper entitled "Hope for Threatened Tropical Biodiversity: Lessons from the Philippines" argues that there are enough positive environmental and conservation trends in the Philippines to have hope and continue working for a better tomorrow.
Illegal wildlife trade worth $20B/yr
(03/19/2008) The illegal wildlife trade generates $5 to $20 billion annually, making it the largest illicit market after guns and drugs trafficking, reports a study released by the Congressional Research Service.
Perennial ice disappearing in the Arctic receives little attention from the media
(03/19/2008) A big story came out on the loss of perennial ice in Arctic from NASA on Wednesday — and was mostly ignored by the media. Despite a colder winter than usual, the Arctic is losing its perennial ice (ice that lasts longer than a season) making the region even more susceptible to global warming. Perennial ice used to cover 50-60 percent of the Arctic. Results from this year's satellites show that perennial ice has decreased to less than 30 percent. In addition ice older than six years has declined from 20 percent in the eighties to six percent today.
Do parks worsen deforestation through 'leakage'?
(03/17/2008) The creation of protected reserves may be pushing development to neighboring areas, confounding overall conservation efforts in regions where development pressures are high. Such "leakage" -- as the displacement is called -- makes it difficult to assess the effectiveness of protected areas strategies.
How falling a gecko lands on its feet
(03/17/2008) According to new research the gecko may have the most dynamic tail in the natural world. Two researchers from UC Berkley have discovered that the gecko uses its tail to keep itself from falling off slippery vertical surfaces and when falling to rapidly right itself. So, like a cat, it always lands on four feet.
Papua New Guinea to ban log exports by 2010
(03/17/2008) Papua New Guinea (PNG) will phase out log exports by 2010 said Forest Minister Belden Namah last month. The move comes as the country seeks to gain greater control over illegal logging and promote expansion of oil palm cultivation.
Rwanda launches reforestation project to protect chimps, drive ecotourism
(03/17/2008) conservationists in Rwanda have launched an ambitious reforestation project that aims to create a forest corridor to link an isolated group of chimpanzees to larger areas of habitat in Nyungwe National Park. The initiative, called the Rwandan National conservation Park, is backed by the Rwandan government, the Great Ape Trust of Iowa, and Earthpark, a group seeking to build an indoor rainforest in the U.S. Midwest.
Satellite could help reindeer in the Arctic
(03/17/2008) Researchers have used satellite data to detect Arctic conditions that cause mass starvation of hoofed animals depended on by native peoples. Some 20,000 musk oxen died on Canada's far-northern Banks Island because of such conditions during the winter several years ago. Yet, their deaths went unnoticed until the next spring. The new satellite-detection method could provide an early warning to native people, giving them a realistic chance of getting food to herds to prevent mass starvation.
Amazon environmentalist gunned down in Peru
(03/14/2008) After reporting a truck loaded with mahogany illegally logged from the Amazon rainforest, Don Julio Garcia Agapito, a Peruvian environmentalist was gunned down by unknown assailants on February 26th, 2008. He is survived by his family.
New bird species discovered in Indonesia
(03/14/2008) A previously unknown species of bird has been discovered near a remote archipelago in Indonesia, reported a taxonomist writing in the March edition of The Wilson Journal of Ornithology.
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