Conservation news

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Fear and conservation

(12/10/2008) How does fear shape the behavior and conservation of deer, moose and antelope, not to mention carnivores such as wolves, bears, and even tigers? What is the natural state of wildlife, and how do animals know or learn which species to ignore or fear? Should we reintroduce predators to former habitats, even though the prey animals may be unprepared for their return?


Indigenous people win voice in climate negotiations

(12/10/2008) Negotiators at U.N. climate conference have struck a deal to give forest-dependent people a voice in determining the role forest conservation will play future agreements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reports the Associated Press (AP). The agreement clears a key obstacle that had been blocking progress on reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD), a mechanism that would compensate tropical countries for protecting their forest cover.


Macedonians plant six million trees—in one day

(12/10/2008) While the world meets in Poznan, Poland to discuss actions related to global warming, the small Republic of Macedonia has already achieved an impressive goal. On November 19th, thousands of Macedonians took part in planting trees in a massive reforestation effort. Altogether they planted six million trees: three trees for every citizen of the country.


Finland, Sweden push for loophole that would drive destruction of peatlands around the world

(12/09/2008) Finland and Sweden are pushing for a loophole in the E.U.'s Renewable Energy Directive that would open up vast tracts of peatlands around the world to development for biofuels production. The move could have drastic consequences for climate and biodiversity, warns Wetlands International, an environmental group.


Wildlife banking gets a marketplace

(12/09/2008) Ecosystem Marketplace, a site that provides information on markets and payment schemes for ecosystem services, has launched what it is calling the "first information clearinghouse" for the species credit trading industry.


How youth in Kenya's largest slum created an organic farm

(12/09/2008) Kibera is one of the world's largest slums, containing over a million people and 60 percent of Nairobi's population. With extremely crowded conditions, little sanitation, and an unemployment rate at 50 percent, residents of Kibera face not only abject poverty but also a large number of social ills, including drugs, alcoholism, rape, AIDS, water-borne diseases, and tensions between various Kenyan tribes.


Drought and deforestation in southeast Asia linked to climate change

(12/09/2008) Researchers have linked drought and deforestation in southeast Asia to climate change. Analyzing six years of climate and fire data from satellites, Guido van der Werf and colleagues report that burning of rainforests and peatlands in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea released an average of 128 million tons of carbon (470 million tons of carbon dioxide - CO2) per year between 2000 and 2006. Fire emissions showed highly variability during the period, but were greatest in dry years, such as those that occur during El Niño events. Borneo was the largest source of fire emissions during the period, averaging 74 million tons per year, followed by Sumatra, which showed a doubling in emissions between 2000 and 2006.


In Poznan, France pushes initiative to save rainforests

(12/08/2008) As talks for incorporating forest conservation into an international climate treaty stall in Poznan, Poland due to technical debates, France has proposed an aggressive effort to address deforestation and forest degradation through the establishment of a Global Forest Carbon Mechanism (GFCM) and potential inclusion of forestry projects in the E.U.'s emissions trading scheme (ETS) beginning in 2013.


Peru seeks $200 million to save its rainforests

(12/08/2008) Peru is seeking $200 million in international contributions over the next ten years to cut deforestation to zero, reports BBC News.


New standards ensure forest carbon projects protect indigenous people, biodiversity

(12/08/2008) The Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA) has released its second edition of its CCB Standard for certifying land-based carbon offset projects.


Madagascar hit by deadly vanilla-killing fungus

(12/08/2008) Madagascar, the world's largest producer and exporter of vanilla, has been hit by a deadly, incurable fungus that can kill vanilla plants before their pods reach maturity, reports The Associated Press. The development could have dire impacts for the country's vanilla industry which generates hundreds of millions of dollars per year for the impoverished Indian Ocean island nation.


Linking rural health care to forest conservation proving a success in Borneo

(12/08/2008) Health in Harmony was today awarded mongabay.com's annual "Innovation in Conservation" award for its unique approach to conservation which combats illegal logging by providing healthcare and sustainable livelihoods to communities living around Gunung Palung National Park in Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo. The award includes a cash grant and prominent placement on the mongabay.com web site and newsletter for the month of December. Health in Harmony is working to break an impoverishing cycle of illegal logging and deforestation by offering healthcare rewards to encourage the villagers to protect the national park, rather than log it. The effort seems to be paying off: since launching a 'forests-for-healthcare' incentive program in September, 18 of 21 communities have signed a moratorium of understanding agreeing to participate.


Little progress on avoided deforestation at climate meeting in Poland

(12/05/2008) Climate talks in Poland are failing to make progress on a proposed mechanism to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, reports a forest policy group from the negotiations.


REDD faces challenges but can succeed, says report

(12/05/2008) The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), a forest policy think tank, today released its assessment on the proposed REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation) mechanism for slowing climate change.


Salvage logging offers hope for forests, communities devastated by industrial logging

(12/04/2008) As currently practiced, logging is responsible for large-scale destruction of tropical forests. Logging roads cut deep into pristine rainforests, opening up once remote areas to colonization, subsistence and industrial agriculture, wildlife exploitation, and other forms of development. Timber extraction thins the canopy, damages undergrowth, and tears up soils, reducing biodiversity and leaving forests more vulnerable to fire. Even selective logging is damaging. Nevertheless demand for wood products continues to grow. China is expected to import more than 100 million cubic meters of industrial roundwood by 2010, much of which will go into finished products shipped off to Europe and the United States. As much as 60 percent of this is illicitly sourced. Meanwhile in Brazil domestic hunger for timber is fueling widespread illegal logging of the Amazon rainforest. Armed standoffs between environmental police and people employed by unlicensed operators are increasingly common. Tropical Salvage, a Portland, Oregon-based producer of wood products, is avoiding these issues altogether by taking a different approach to meet demand for products made from high-quality tropical hardwoods. The company salvages wood discarded from building sites, unearthed from mudslides and volcanic sites, and dredged from rivers in Indonesia and turns it into premium wood products. In the process, Tropical Salvage is putting formers loggers to work and supporting a conservation, education and reforestation project on Java.


Rainforest canopy-penetrating technology gets boost for forest carbon monitoring

(12/04/2008) A tool for monitoring tropical deforestation has gotten a boost from the one of the world's largest supporters of Amazon conservation. The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has awarded the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology with a $1.6-million grant to expand and improve its tropical forest monitoring tool known as the Carnegie Landsat Analysis System Lite (CLASLite).


TV footage leads to discovery of strange and rare monkey

(12/04/2008) After showing archival TV footage of a critically endangered species of primate to local villagers, conservationists have discovered a previously unknown population of the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey in a remote forested area of northern Vietnam. The find the offers new hope for the species, which is down to 200 individuals in two of Vietnam's northern-most provinces — Tuyen Quang and Ha Giang.


Saline agriculture may be the future of farming

(12/04/2008) Accessible and unpolluted freshwater is a necessity for every nation's stability and well-being. Yet, while the demand for freshwater continues to rise, its sources face increasing threats from salinization, a process whereby the salt content of fresh water rises until the water becomes undrinkable and unusable in agriculture: the more salt in the soil, the lower the crop yield.


Bank of America will no longer finance mountaintop removal coal mining

(12/04/2008) Bank of America will phase out financing for companies that practice mountaintop removal coal mining, a destructive and controversial method of coal extraction, according to a statement from the banking giant. The policy comes the day after the Environmental Protection Agency — at the behest of the Bush administration — approved a rule that will make it easier for coal companies to dump waste from mountaintop removal mining operations into streams and valleys.


WWF criticizes Brazil's plan to cut Amazon deforestation

(12/04/2008) WWF criticized Brazil's plan to reduce Amazon deforestation to 5,740 square kilometers per year as being "short on ambition and detail". In a statement issued Wednesday, WWF said that Brazil's proposed fund for conserving the Amazon would still result in the annual loss of an area forest the size of Rhode Island.


Degraded grasslands better option for palm oil production relative to rainforests, finds study

(12/03/2008) Producing biofuels from oil palm plantations established on degraded grasslands rather than tropical rainforests and peat lands would result in a net removal of carbon from the atmosphere rather than greenhouse gas emissions, report researchers writing in Conservation Biology. The results confirm that benefits to climate from biofuel production depend greatly on the type of land used for feedstocks.


REDD may harm forest people, alleges report

(12/02/2008) A new report finds that the World Bank is not doing enough to protect indigenous rights under its mechanism to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD).


Agricultural firms cut incentives for Amazon deforestation

(12/02/2008) As grain prices plummet and concerns over cash mount, agricultural giants are cutting loans to Brazilian farmers, reports the Wall Street Journal. Tighter farm credit may be contributing to a recent slowing in deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, where agriculture is an increasingly important driver of forest clearing.


Fall in palm oil price may lead to industry consolidation

(12/02/2008) A dramatic fall in palm oil prices may provide an opportunity for plantation giants to add to their holdings, reports Reuters.


HSBC to cut lending to questionable oil palm and logging companies

(12/02/2008) HSBC will cut lending to oil palm developers and logging companies in Malaysia and Indonesia due to environmental concerns, reports Reuters.


Insect intelligence: paper wasps display strong long-term memory

(12/01/2008) A recent study in Current Biology finds that paper wasps are capable of remembering rivals a week after initially meeting. As a highly social insect, the discovery proves that the paper wasps' social interactions are based on applied memory rather than simple instinct. The finding overturns many ideas about the intelligence of insects.


2008 Atlantic hurricane season second costliest on record

(12/01/2008) Yesterday marked the end of the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season, which goes down as the second costliest (in nominal terms) on record at $54 billion, according to the National Climatic Data Center. The damages trail only 2005 — the year that Hurricane Katrina and other storms caused $128 billion in damages.


Niche-based distribution modeling may help improve effectiveness of protected areas

(12/01/2008) Niche-based distribution modeling may help researchers evaluate the effectiveness of protected areas, especially in regions lacking comprehensive databases of species distribution, reports a new analysis published in the December issue of Tropical Conservation Science.


Tropical dry forest fragments important to conserving reptile biodiversity in Colombia

(12/01/2008) An important task in tropical conservation is to understand which species are particularly vulnerable to extinction, and identify the characteristics that put them at risk. Because habitat loss and fragmentation are at the root of the global extinction crisis, an extensive collection of literature has developed around profiling species assemblages in fragmented landscapes. It is also clear that species may respond differently to fragmentation, but many species experience direct or indirect negative effects, sometimes resulting in local extirpation in habitat patches.


Lack of information may slow conservation response to amphibian crisis

(12/01/2008) The Neotropics harbor between 30-50% of the world's reptiles and amphibians, but dramatic declines in both groups have been observed over recent decades. While a number of factors have been cited, many of the causes of reptile and amphibian declines are still poorly understood. The situation is paralleled by a lack of information of the natural history, ecology, and behavior of many species.


The number of endangered amphibians in Peru may be underestimated

(12/01/2008) The number of threatened amphibian species in Peru may be significantly underestimated, increasing the risk that conservation decisions will fail to account for their needs, report researchers writing in the December issue of Tropical Conservation Science.


Manatees become conservation symbol for communities in Mexico

(12/01/2008) Local conservation efforts are helping protect endangered manatees in Chiapas, Mexico, report researchers writing in the December issue of Tropical Conservation Science.


Rural depopulation to have biodiversity impacts

(12/01/2008) Urbanization -- and accompanying rural abandonment -- may have profound implications for global biodiversity and therefore should factor into conservation planning, argue researchers writing in the December issue of Tropical Conservation Science.


Co-management of conservation areas offers multiple benefits

(12/01/2008) The Serengeti (Tanzania, East Africa)—one of the flagship conservation areas of the world—is the focus of a new paper published in the December issue of Tropical Conservation Science by Jafari R Kideghesho and Paul E Mtoni. The authors argue that conservation in the Serengeti needs to be approached as co-management involving sharing of power, responsibilities, and rights and duties between the government and local resource users. They advocate for intensive community involvement and reactivation of local traditional institutions in co-management approaches.


Rangers return to Virunga and begin gorilla census

(12/01/2008) After fifteen months rangers have been allowed to return to Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). A deal was worked out between insurgents and the government to allow rangers to return and begin overseeing the park's operations and monitoring its wildlife once again. Virunga is famous as one of the world's last stands for the mountain gorilla.


Brazil to cut Amazon deforestation by 70% to fight global warming

(12/01/2008) Brazil will aim to cut its deforestation rate by 70 percent by 2018 under its plan to reduce emissions from forest clearing, Environment Minister Carlos Minc.


Living up to the Pope's words: the Vatican turns to solar power

(11/28/2008) In his three years since being inaugurated, Pope Benedict XVI has made the environment one of his central issues, proclaiming that "God entrusted man with the responsibility of creation". He has described the need to confront climate change as a “moral obligation” and spoken eloquently on the destruction of arable soil, forests and marine life.


Japanese scientists clone embryo of vanishing 'living fossil'

(11/28/2008) With less than 5,000 Amami rabbits left in Japan, scientists have implanted a cloned embryo of the species into a common rabbit according to a recent entry in the EDGE blog. The scientists hope that the Amami will come to full-term, but warned that the possibility of pregnancy was only 10 percent—not uncommon with other cloned animals.


New hope of curing amphibian plague

(11/28/2008) Amphibians worldwide are in trouble. One of the most endangered animal groups, amphibians are increasingly threatened by habitat loss, pollution, and climate change. However the largest threat is chytridiomycosis, a devastating disease caused by a parasitic chytrid fungus known as Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, otherwise known as Bd.


Germany meets Kyoto target for CO2 emissions

(11/28/2008) Germany has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions below levels mandated under the Kyoto Protocol reports Bloomberg.


Climate change will damage forests, creating hardship for rural communities

(11/28/2008) Climate change will transform forests that directly sustain nearly one billion people, warns a report to be released next week at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Poznán, Poland.


A new reason to ban whaling: your health

(11/28/2008) Health officials have recommended a ban on the eating of pilot whales, a traditional food source, in the Faroe Islands, reports New Scientist. The build-up of toxins — which bioaccumulate up the food chain as predators feed on tainted organisms — have rendered whale meat harmful to humans.


Invasive ant interferes with gecko's role in pollinating endangered plant

(11/28/2008) Invasive ants are destroying the symbiotic relationship between a colorful gecko and a critically endangered flower on the island of Mauritius, reports New Scientist citing research published by Dennis Hansen and Christine Müller in the journal Biotopica.


Amazon deforestation rises slightly to 4,600 square miles in 2008

(11/28/2008) Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon increased slightly for the August 2007-July 2008 period, reports the country's National Institute of Space Research (INPE). The rise is the first since 2004 when 27,379 square kilometers were destroyed.


Captive breeding of monster Amazon fish could feed people and save it from depletion

(11/26/2008) A new technique for sexing a giant Amazon fish may help create a sustainable source of protein in South America, report researchers writing in Fish Physiology and Biochemistry.


Guide to reducing emissions through forest conservation released

(11/26/2008) Ahead of next week's climate meeting in Poznań, Poland, the Global Canopy Programme — an alliance of 37 scientific institutions in 19 countries — has launched a layman's guide to a proposed mechanism for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by reducing deforestation. Deforestation and land use change accounts for roughly 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions — a larger share than all the world's cars, trucks, ships, and airplanes combined.


Carbon market could pay poor farmers to adopt sustainable cultivation techniques

(11/26/2008) The emerging market for forest carbon could support agroforestry programs that alleviate rural poverty and promote sustainable development, states a new report issued by the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF).


Cameroon moves to protect rarest gorilla

(11/26/2008) The government of Cameroon has created a national park to help protect the world's most endangered great ape: the Cross River gorilla, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), a group that provided scientific and technical support for the initiative.


Brazil moves to protect and restore endangered Atlantic rainforest

(11/22/2008) Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has signed a decree to protect and restore critically endangered rainforest along the country's Atlantic coast, reports the Associated Press.


Madagascar denies 'land grab' by South Korean conglomerate

(11/22/2008) Officials from Madagascar are denying they have reached an agreement to turn over half the island nation's arable land to a South Korean corporation for food production, reports Reuters. The controversial deal — which would have paid Madagascar nothing and turned over 1.3 million hectares to produce corn and palm oil for export at a time when one-third of country's children are malnourished — was reported last week by the Financial Times.


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