conservation news and environmental science news.
Picture gallery of the day: Day geckos
(01/07/2013) Day geckos are the jewels of the gecko family.
Between Two Worlds: Tears for the Unheeded Wisdom of Elders
(01/06/2013) It was September 1990 and I was flying, blissfully high on a sea of books, their rich smells, colors and textures heady like incense, in Blackwell’s Bookshop on Broad Street, Oxford. I had been thrilled just to arrive in Oxford a week before, fresh from the forests of northeastern Tasmania. I had won a scholarship to study at the Oxford Forestry Institute and here I was, ready and eager but frustrated that the course didn’t begin for another week. Grown from humble beginnings, Oxford was a whole new world to me, one of potential, of learning, history, of new experiences promised, new thinking to embrace.
Animals of the Masai Mara - book review
(01/06/2013) Animals of the Masai Mara is the first illustrated guidebook to the Masai Mara region along the Kenya and Tanzania border. This is the world famous region of wildebeest migrations, large felines, towering African elephants, fascinating cultures, and great flora and fauna diversity. This is the guidebook for every child, and child inside of us, between the ages of 5 and 105 that has ever dreamt of learning about the fascinating animals seen on a safari in Africa.
Photo: Bluefin tuna sells for record $1.76 million in Japan
(01/05/2013) A bluefin tuna sold for a record $1.76 million at an auction in Tokyo, Japan Saturday, reports the Associated Press.
Scientists work to discover watermelon's lost genetic diversity
(01/04/2013) A hard, white, and bitter watermelon has plant geneticists licking their lips with anticipation. The size of tennis balls, wild watermelons grow natively in southern and western Africa. Geneticists cracked open this small relative to the juicy, summertime treat to extract ancient genetic material. They are mining the fruit’s DNA for useful traits such as disease resistance that cultivated, or domesticated, watermelons have lost.
An avalanche of decline: snow leopard populations are plummeting
(01/03/2013) The trading of big cat pelts is nothing new, but recent demand for snow leopard pelts and taxidermy mounts has added a new commodity to the illegal trade in wildlife products, according to the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). Traditionally, the market for large cat products has centered around tiger bones and parts for traditional Chinese medicine. Snow leopards (Uncia uncia), however, are a novel trend in the illegal wildlife trade arena and skins and taxidermy mounts are the most recent fad in luxury home décor.
Scientists: bizarre mammal could still roam Australia
(01/03/2013) The continent of Australia is home to a wide variety of wonderfully weird mammals—kangaroos, wombats, and koalas among many others. But the re-discovery of a specimen over a hundred years old raises new hopes that Australia could harbor another wonderful mammal. Examining museum specimens collected in western Australia in 1901, contemporary mammalogist Kristofer Helgen discovered a western long-beaked echidna (Zaglossus bruijnii). The surprise: long-beaked echidnas were supposed to have gone extinct in Australia thousands of years ago.
Mountain pine beetle threatening high-altitude, endangered trees
(01/02/2013) In the western U.S., few trees generally grow in higher altitudes than the whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis). Providing shelter and food for bears, squirrels and birds, the whitebark pine ecosystems also help regulate water flow from snowmelt. But, according to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), climate change has produced a novel threat for these high-altitude forests : mountain pine beetles (Dendroctonus ponderosae).
Fires burn over a third more land than estimated
(01/02/2013) Scientists currently detect fires around the world using moderate resolution satellite imagery, however a new study in the Journal of Geophysical Research finds that this tool misses many of the world's smaller fires, which add up.
Arctic oil rig runs aground
(01/02/2013) On Monday night, an oil drilling rig owned by Dutch Royal Shell ran aground on Sitkalidak Island in southern Alaska, prompting fears of an oil spill. As of yesterday no oil was seen leaking from the rig according to the Coast Guard, but efforts to secure the rig have floundered due to extreme weather. The rig, dubbed Kulluk, contains over 140,000 gallons of diesel fuel.
Solving complex problems through simple physics - book review
(01/02/2013) Guesstimation 2.0 Solving Today's Problems on the Back of a Napkin succeeds where most popular science literature so often fails. This is because it provides its readers with a scientific tool they can use immediately in their everyday lives.
Scientists nearly double the number of biogeographic realms
(01/02/2013) In 1876, British biologist Alfred Russell Wallace published a map of the world that outlined how related animals were spread over the Earth. For example, Wallace was the first to publicize that North American biodiversity was substantially different from South America, and that an invisible line separated Southeast Asian biodiversity from that of Australia, New Guinea, and nearby islands. With Wallace's research came the founding of biogeography, or the study of species in relation to geography. Today, scientists with the University of Copenhagen have updated Wallace's map—nearly doubling the number of biogeographic realms—with support from data on over 21,000 species.
Biochar: a brief history and developing future
(01/02/2013) Biochar - charcoal produced from pyrolysis of biomass - has received tremendous attention and support in recent years, and championed as one of the potentially most useful techniques for soil restoration and carbon sequestration in the modern era. Although a multitude of initiatives in biochar research and application have sprung into action many critical details remain uncertain.
Most popular environmental news articles of 2012
(01/01/2013) The most popular environmental news article on mongabay.com during 2012 was a post about the so-called "penis snake" discovered in a Brazilian river. The article, which explained that the creature was actually an amphibian and that its habitat was being destroyed by a hydroelectric dam, was viewed 238,000 times.
This is a test
(01/01/2013) Part of it was environmental education at a young age. The other part was going to Punjab when I was young and seeing, basically, the trees didn’t look like the trees I saw growing up in the United States. The land really looked like it was stripped of a lot of its natural beauty. There weren’t birds. A lot of the wildlife described in the Guru Granth Sahib [Sikh scriptures] isn’t there anymore. Something had really been taken, something had been removed from this land that I felt was such a piece of what [the land] was — in my own understanding, through my family’s knowledge, through the Guru Granth Sahib. That’s when I really started to think, this is the issue I want to work on for the rest of my life.
The year in rainforests
(12/31/2012) 2012 was another year of mixed news for the world's tropical forests. This is a look at some of the most significant tropical rainforest-related news stories for 2012. There were many other important stories in 2012 and some were undoubtedly overlooked in this review. If you feel there's something we missed, please feel free to highlight it in the comments section. Also please note that this post focuses only on tropical forests.
Becky Tarbotton, head of the Rainforest Action Network, dies in accident in Mexico
(12/28/2012) Rebecca Tarbotton, the executive director of the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) died Wednesday. She was 39. Tarbotton died in rough surf off a beach in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico where she was vacationing with her husband and friends. Tarbotton was born in Vancouver, British Columbia on July, 30, 1973. She assumed the leadership role of the activist group in August 2010 after three years with the organization.
Photos: the top new species discoveries in 2012
(12/26/2012) Thousands of species were described for the first time by scientists in 2012. Some of these were 'cryptic species' that were identified after genetic analysis distinguished them from closely related species, while others were totally novel. Either way, here are some of the "new species" highlights from 2012.
Paper giant breaks pledge to end rainforest logging in Sumatra, says group
(12/26/2012) Pulp and paper giant Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) continues to destroy large areas of rainforests and peatlands despite a commitment to end natural forest logging by 2009, says a new report issued by a coalition of Indonesian environmental groups. The Eyes on the Forest report finds that APRIL and its suppliers cleared at least 140,000 hectares (346,000 acres) of natural forest between 2008 and 2011 in Riau, accounting for 27 percent of all forest loss in the province during the period. Some of the area cleared by APRIL and its subsidiaries consisted of deep peat swamp forest, which stores massive amount of carbon.
Making the connection: environmentalism as a family value
(12/26/2012) Passing values from one generation to the next is a central theme for most families. For career conservationists, Chip and Jill Isenhart, passing along a passion for the environment to their children took more than just lectures, and their efforts offer insights into furthering the cause of global environmental education.
Pictures: Christmas-colored animals
(12/25/2012) There are a surprising number of Christmas-colored animals. Below is a small set of red-and-green creatures photographed by Rhett A. Butler during his reporting travels.
Amazon rainforest failing to recover after droughts
(12/24/2012) The impact of a major drought in the Amazon rainforest in 2005 persisted far longer than previously believed, raising questions about the world's largest tropical forest to cope with the expected impacts of climate change, reports a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Amazon deforestation obliterates soil biodiversity, with wider ecological implications
(12/24/2012) Deforestation in the Amazon leads to a substantial loss in microbial biodiversity potentially reducing the ecological resilience of affected areas, report researchers writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Our favorite nature photos of 2012
(12/24/2012) In the course of reporting for Mongabay.com, I spent time in several countries in 2012, including Indonesia, Brazil, Madagascar, and Malaysia, among others. The following are some of my favorite nature pictures I took in the field. Overall I added more than 20,000 images to the site in 2012. For more, check out travel.mongabay.com, which now has nearly 100,000 captioned photos.
Norway to send Guyana $45m for maintaining low deforestation rate
(12/24/2012) Norway will pay Guyana $45 million for maintaining its low deforestation rate under a climate partnership between the two countries.
Photo: New spider species named after Obama
(12/24/2012) One of 33 newly described species of trapdoor spiders is named after President Barack Obama, reports Wired.
Temperature in West Antarctica rising twice as fast as previously thought, finds study
(12/23/2012) The West Antarctic Ice Sheet is warming twice as fast as previously believed, spurring new concerns about broader melting in Antarctica and associated sea level rise, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Geoscience.
Ivory smuggling surged in 2011
(12/23/2012) Ivory smuggling surged in 2011, reaching its highest levels in nearly 20 years, says a new report released by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Mystery surrounds disappearance of prominent environmental activist in Laos
(12/23/2012) Questions surrounding the disappearance of 60-year-old Sombath Somphone deepened after the government of Laos denied kidnapping and holding the prominent social activist, reports the Associated Press.
Photos: one of the world's rarest turtles hatches at the Bronx Zoo
(12/21/2012) Turtle conservationists received some good news this week when five critically endangered Chinese yellow-headed box turtles hatched at Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo.
Lessons From Sandy: extreme weather will be the new normal
(12/21/2012) In a recent forum held at the Harvard School of Public Health four expert panelists discussed the most important lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy.
Obama triples area of protected California coastline
(12/20/2012) Today President Obama announced the government would add almost 3,000 square miles of California coastline to the National Marine Sanctuary system, roughly tripling its size, reports the Sierra Club.
RSPO rules against palm oil company in controversial deforestation case
(12/20/2012) The body that sets social and environmental criteria for greener palm oil production has taken action against a palm oil accused of clearing community forest in Indonesian Borneo, reports the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).
DR Congo gets first validated and verified REDD+ project
(12/20/2012) The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has its first Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) project validated and verified under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS).
Brazil launches forest trading system
(12/19/2012) Brazil has launched a new platform that enables farmers and ranchers who have cleared forest beyond the legal minimum to come into compliance by purchasing forest 'quotas' from landowners who have more than the mandated level of forest cover, reports the Associated Press. The system could spur increased compliance with the country's Forest Code, according to some experts.
Photos: 3 colorful lizard species discovered in Australia
(12/19/2012) Researchers in Australia have described three new lizard species from the northwestern part of the continent.
Congo ranger ambushed and killed defending wildlife
(12/18/2012) Atamato Madrandele, Chief Warden of Upemba National Park, was ambushed and killed December 16, 2012 by Mai Mai militia in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, reports the Upemba Conservation Project.
Top 10 Environmental Stories of 2012
(12/18/2012) Below is a quick review of some of the biggest environmental stories of 2012. The 'top stories' are listed in no particular order. Climate change, overpopulation, consumption, and ecological destruction is pushing planet Earth toward a tipping point according to a major study in Nature released over the summer. This could result in a new 'planetary state' that would be far harsher and bleaker than the current one (beginning around 12,000 years ago), which saw the rise and success of human society.
2 small companies recognized for tropical forest-friendly approaches
(12/18/2012) Two Latin American companies have won the WWF Switzerland Tropical Forest Challenge, a competition that aims to highlight and support for-profit entities that have a positive impact on conserving tropical forests.
Pictures: 126 new species discovered in Greater Mekong region last year
(12/18/2012) Some 126 new species were described in Asia'a Mekong region last year, notes a new report published by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Indonesia's big REDD+ project announcement "premature", but moving forward
(12/18/2012) The Indonesian government's announcement at climate talks in Doha that it had approved the country's forest conservation project under its Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) program was premature, argues a new report from an Indonesian environmental group.
Google puts $5M toward anti-poaching drone technology
(12/18/2012) Google.org, Google Corp's philanthropic arm, earlier this month pledged $5 million toward efforts combat wildlife poaching.
From catastrophic to the sustainable: the flight of the Amur Falcon
(12/17/2012) It is said that the price of 'freedom and justice' is constant vigilance. It seems the same can be said of conservation and sustainability in our ever changing world. In a story and allegory appropriate for many of the challenges that face our global environment, two Indian conservation champions, Shashank Dalvi and Ramki Sreenivasan (both protégés and associates of famed conservation leader, Dr Ullas Karanth of the WCS India), have stepped to work with a host of international and local interests to help save one species of beleaguered bird, the Amur Falcon of Eurasia.
Brazil sues to block unlicensed REDD deal between Irish company and indigenous group
(12/17/2012) Brazil's Attorney General Office has filed a lawsuit against an Irish company and an indigenous group for unlicensed sales of carbon credits generated from an reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD+) project, reports Reuters Point Carbon.
Some Amazon trees more than 8 million years old
(12/14/2012) Some Amazon rainforest tree species are more than eight million years old found a genetic study published in the December 2012 edition of Ecology and Evolution.
Indonesian NGO voluntarily joins lawsuit as co-defendant in palm oil deforestation case
(12/14/2012) An Indonesian environmental group has taken the unusual step of asking to be named as a co-defendant in a case brought against the Aceh government by a palm oil company over the governor's decision to cancel a controversial concession in a peat forest on the island of Sumatra.
Cutting through the rhetoric on palm oil production
(12/14/2012) Palm oil is widely acknowledged as one of the most important drivers of deforestation and forest diminishment in Southeast Asia. Conversion of forests and peatlands for oil palm plantations is both a substantial source of greenhouse gas emissions and a major threat to biodiversity — one study called palm oil the 'single most immediate threat to the greatest number of species'.
Children's Christmas books published by HarperCollins linked to deforestation in Indonesia, says group
(12/14/2012) Fancy Nancy’s Splendiferous Christmas and other children's books sold by publisher HarperCollins show traces of rainforest fiber and are therefore linked to deforestation in Indonesia, says the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), an environmental activist group.
New species of cute, but venomous, primate discovered in Borneo
(12/13/2012) Researchers have described a new species of slow loris, a type of primate that is imperiled by the pet trade.
Rainforests teem with insects, most of which are unknown, finds study
(12/13/2012) Researchers in Panama have published the results of the most comprehensive survey of arthropods in a small area of tropical rainforest. At a high level, the findings surprise no one: the Panamanian rainforest is full of insects, spiders, and crustaceans. Yet the results also show how little is known about this large group of organisms — 60-70 percent of the species are thought to be new to science.
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