conservation news and environmental science news.
Arctic sea ice is 'toast' as old record shattered
(09/19/2012) Some twenty days after breaking the record for the lowest sea ice extent, the Arctic sea ice has hit a new rock bottom and finally begun its seasonal recovery. In the end, the Arctic sea ice extent fell to just 3.4 million square kilometers (1.32 million square miles) when only a few months ago scientists were wondering if it would break the 4 million square kilometers. The speed of the sea ice decline due to climate change has outpaced all the computer models, overrun all expert predictions, and shocked even the gloomiest scientists.
Conflict and perseverance: rehabilitating a forgotten park in the Congo
(09/19/2012) Zebra racing across the yellow-green savannah is an iconic image for Africa, but imagine you're seeing this not in Kenya or South Africa, but in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Welcome to Upemba National Park: once a jewel in the African wildlife crown, this protected area has been decimated by civil war. Now, a new bold initiative by the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS), dubbed Forgotten Parks, is working to rehabilitate Upemba after not only decades of conflict but also poaching, neglect, and severe poverty.
NGO: Malaysian leader worth $15 billion despite civil-servant salary; timber corruption suspected
(09/19/2012) Abdul Taib Mahmud, who has headed the Malaysian state of Sarawak for over 30 years, is worth $15 billion according to a new report by the Bruno Manser Fund. The report, The Taib Timber Mafia, alleges that Taib has used his position as head-of-state to build up incredible amounts of wealth by employing his family or political nominees to run the state's logging, agriculture, and construction businesses. Some environmental groups claim that Sarawak has lost 90 percent of its primary forests to logging, while indigenous tribes in the state have faced the destruction of their forests, harassment, and eviction.
Cute picture of the day: armadillo carrying baby
(09/19/2012) A rare image of a female six-banded armadillo (Euphractus sexcinctus) moving her image was captured by the Embiara Lodge in Brazil's Pantanal.
Another mishap kills Shell's Arctic oil drilling for the year
(09/18/2012) Following global protests, a series of embarrassing mishaps, and a lengthy regulatory process, Dutch Royal Shell has announced it is abandoning its hugely controversial off-shore oil drilling in the Arctic—this year. The announcement came after the company damaged a containment dome meant to cap an oil spill. The incident was the latest in a series of delays and problems that oil the giant faced in its $4 billion plan to drill in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.
Scientists name new snake species to criticize mine plans in Panama (photos)
(09/18/2012) While scientists increasingly name new species after celebrities in order to gain much-needed attention for the world's vanishing biodiversity, researchers describing a new snake species from Panama have taken a different route. Dubbing the new serpent, Sibon noalamina ('no to the mine!' in Spanish), the scientists are hoping the multicolored snake's unusual name will draw attention to mining and deforestation issues in Panama's remote Tabasará mountains.
Learning to live with elephants in Malaysia
(09/18/2012) Humans and elephants have a lot in common: both are highly intelligent, intensely social, and both are capable of having a massive impact on their local environments. Given their similarities, it might not be surprising that elephants and human have often run afoul of one another. Conflict between these two great species has probably been going on for thousands of years, but as human populations have grown dramatically, elephant populations have been crippled and forced into smaller-and-smaller pockets. No-where is this more true than in Southeast Asia.
Wildlife trade bans may be worsening trafficking of some species, argues paper
(09/18/2012) While founded with good intentions, wildlife trade bans may in some cases be worsening the plight of some endangered species, argues a commentary published in the journal Tropical Conservation Science.
Method to estimate primate abundance falls short
(09/17/2012) Counting wildlife may sound straight-forward, but achieving accurate estimates has plagued scientists for centuries, especially in difficult and dense environments like rainforest. Recently, one method to estimate leaf-eating primates was to look at leaf quality in a particular habitat, particularly the ratio of protein to fiber in leaves. However, a new study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science adds to growing concerns regarding this model by finding that it doesn't accurately predict abundance of red colobus (Procolobus rufomitratus) in Uganda's Kibale National Park.
Arachnopocalypse: with birds away, the spiders play in Guam
(09/17/2012) The island of Guam is drowning in spiders. New research in the open-access journal PLOS ONE has found that in the wet season, Guam's arachnid population booms to around 40 times higher than adjacent islands. Scientists say this is because Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific, has lost its insect-eating forest birds. Guam's forests were once rich in birdlife until the invasion of non-native brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis) in the 1940s decimated biodiverse bird communities. Now, the island is not only overrun with snakes, but spiders too.
Urban sprawl could doom some biodiversity hotspots by 2030
(09/17/2012) Projected urban expansion could consume hundreds of thousands of hectares' worth of key biodiversity hotspots over the next twenty years, triggering the release of some 5 billion tons of carbon dioxide from direct land use change and further endangering hundreds of species, warns a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Turtle knowledge in Africa shows significant gaps
(09/17/2012) Sometimes turtles fall through the cracks: a new study in the open access journal Tropical Conservation Science, has uncovered a number of 'gap species' in the turtle families inhabiting Africa. 'Gap species' are those that are recorded in one country or another, but not in adjacent countries which could be due to a lack of data, a change in ecosystems, or human impacts.
Bushmeat consumption differs between communities in Tanzania
(09/17/2012) Bushmeat consumption depends on the make-up of individual communities, according to a new study in the open access journal Tropical Conservation Science. By interviewing indigenous groups and refugees living near two protected areas in western Tanzania, researchers found that consumption rates differed significantly, likely based on costliness and access.
Wax palm can be sustainably harvested
(09/17/2012) The wax palm can be harvested sustainably with just a few management restrictions, according to a new study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science (TCS). Found only in the Peruvian and Ecuadorian Andes, the leaves of the wax palm (Ceroxylon echinulatum) are used to make Easter handicrafts. But the practice has caused fears that the species, which is currently categorized as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List, is being overexploited.
Rare birds abound in Brazil's Acre state
(09/17/2012) The Brazilian state of Acre has had little attention by bird-lovers and bird scientists, though it lies deep in the Amazonian rainforest. Now a new survey in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science by ornithologist, John J. DeLuca, works to build a better picture of rare birds in this largely-neglected region. The work is all the more important as the Brazil-Peru Interoceanic Highway could bring massive changes to the region.
Buffer zones key to survival of maned wolf
(09/17/2012) Known for its abnormally long lanky legs, its reddish-orange coat, and its omnivorous diet, the maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) is one of the more beautiful and bizarre predators of South America. However its stronghold, the Brazilian Cerrado, is vanishing rapidly to industrialized agriculture and urban development. Now, a new study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science reveals the key role of buffer zones and unprotected areas in keeping the maned wolf from extinction in the Cerrado savannah, where only 2 percent of the ecosystem is under protection.
Local knowledge matches scientific data on wildlife abundances
(09/17/2012) How far can scientists trust local knowledge when it comes to ecosystems? This is a question that is undergoing heavy debate in scientific circles. A new study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science contributes to the debate by finding that basic local knowledge of animal abundance in Gonarezhou National Park, Zimbabwe aligned closely with scientific surveys.
Rodents have lowest diversity in primary forests in the Congo
(09/17/2012) For many animal families, diversity and abundance rises as one moves away from human-impacted landscapes, like agricultural areas, into untouched places, such as primary rainforests. However, a new study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science, shows that the inverse can also be true. In this case, scientists working in the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) Maskao Forest found that both rodent diversity and abundance was lowest in primary forest.
Extremely rare plant region left unprotected in the Yucatan Peninsula
(09/17/2012) For the first time, scientists have identified the areas of the Yucatan Peninsula that hold the highest concentrations of endangered woody plants, which includes trees, shrubs, and lianas. In doing so they uncovered four key regions, but also noted that the region with the highest concentration of extremely rare plants was left unprotected, according to a new paper in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science.
Over 80 species targeted by hunters in Brazil's northeast
(09/17/2012) A new survey of hunting in Brazil's northeastern state of Paraíba, finds that hunters target, often illegally over 80 species for food, the pet trade, medicine, leather, fur, and ornaments. Over half of the species, mainly birds and mammals, are targeted for food, according to the research published in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science.
The rainforest visited by Prince William and Kate (pictures)
(09/17/2012) On Saturday Prince William and his wife Catherine visited Danum Valley Conservation Area in Sabah, Malaysia as part of the Queen's diamond jubilee celebrations. In so doing, the royal couple saw one of the last surviving tracts of relatively pristine lowland rainforest in Borneo.
Religious fervor drives elephant slaughter
(09/14/2012) The legal ivory trade is failing to protect elephants which are being slaughtered en mass across the African continent to meet demand for religious trinkets, argues a new investigative report published in National Geographic by Bryan Christy.
Talisman abandons Amazon oil development in Peru's rainforest
(09/13/2012) Talisman Energy (TLM) is abandoning oil exploration in a block of forest in the Peruvian Amazon, reports Amazon Watch, an activist group that has campaigned against the driller since 2004.
Environmental journalist investigating illegal logging murdered in Cambodia
(09/13/2012) Less than five months after high-profile forest activist, Chut Wutty, was killed in Cambodia, an environmental journalist, Hang Serei Oudom, has been found slain in the trunk of his car, possibly murdered with an ax, reports the AFP. Oudum, who worked at the local paper Vorakchun Khmer Daily, was known for writing stories on epidemic of illegal logging in Cambodia, often linking the crime to business people and politicians. The car and body were found in a cashew nut plantation in Ratanakiri province, an area rife with logging.
Bird diversity at risk if 'agroforests' replaced with farmland
(09/13/2012) Agroforests contain much higher levels of bird diversity than their open agricultural counterparts, according to new research from the University of Utah. If large forests and agroforests continue to be replaced by simple open farms, bird communities will become much less specialized and entire groups may become extinct. Important roles for birds, such as pollination, pest control or seed dispersal, may remain unfilled if ongoing trends toward open agriculture continues and biodiversity decreases.
E.U. may eliminate subsidies for crop-based biofuels
(09/13/2012) The European Union may cap the use of crop-based biofuels over fears they can drive up food prices and aren't effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions relative to conventional fuels, reports Reuters.
Remarkable new monkey discovered in remote Congo rainforest
(09/12/2012) In a massive, wildlife-rich, and largely unexplored rainforest of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), researchers have made an astounding discovery: a new monkey species, known to locals as the 'lesula'. The new primate, which is described in a paper in the open access PLoS ONE journal, was first noticed by scientist and explorer, John Hart, in 2007. John, along with his wife Terese, run the TL2 project, so named for its aim to create a park within three river systems: the Tshuapa, Lomami and the Lualaba (i.e. TL2), a region home to bonobos, okapi, forest elephants, Congo peacock, as well as the newly-described lesula.
Pictures: Bolivian park may have the world's highest biodiversity
(09/12/2012) With over 90 species of bat, 50 species of snake, 300 fish, 12,000 plants, and 11 percent of the world's bird species, Madidi National Park in Bolivia may be the world's most biodiverse place, according to new surveys by the the Bolivian Park Service (SERNAP) with aid from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
NASA image shows why San Francisco is foggy
(09/12/2012) The short answer to why San Francisco, California is foggy? The Pacific Ocean's marine layer. A new image by NASA's Earth Observing-1 satellite shows the marine layer—cool, heavy air produced by a colder ocean surface meeting warmer air—encroaching on the metropolis. Western winds push the marine layer over the city, which brings dense cloud cover over the city, and often engulfs buildings, bridges, and people in fog.
Coral reefs in Caribbean on life support
(09/11/2012) Only 8 percent of the Caribbean's reefs today retain coral, according to a new report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). With input and data from 36 scientists, the report paints a bleak picture of coral decline across the region, threatening fisheries, tourism, and marine life in general.
Featured video: Chasing Ice trailer
(09/11/2012) A new film, opening in the U.S. in November, follows the exploits of National Geographic photographer, James Balog, as he attempts to photograph the end of glaciers and great ice sheets, which are diminishing and, in some cases, collapsing under the heat of global climate change. The film, which won a cinematography award at Sundance, documents the lengths one person will go to capture images of a vanishing world.
Vote for the world's seven wonders of vanishing species
(09/11/2012) The seven wonders of the world is an ancient tradition going back to the 2nd Century BCE. But where those first lists focused on manmade marvels, many 'seven wonders' today also take note of the natural world. Now, a new program by the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) hopes to use the 'seven wonders' concept to highlight imperiled species by allowing people to vote for their favorites.
Wind can power the world, says two new studies
(09/10/2012) Wind power is up to the challenge of providing more-than-enough energy for global society, according to two new and unrelated studies. Both studies, one published in Nature Climate Change and the other in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), found that wind power from surface winds alone could produce hundreds of terrawatts (TW) meanwhile current global society uses around 18 TW.
Photos: camera traps capture wildlife bonanza in Borneo forest corridor
(09/10/2012) Camera traps placed in a corridor connecting two forest fragments have revealed (in stunning visuals) the importance of such linkages for Borneo's imperiled mammals and birds. Over 18 months, researchers with the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) have photographed wildlife utilizing the corridor located in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Malaysian Borneo.
Shell begins offshore drilling in the Alaskan Arctic
(09/10/2012) With the approval of the Obama Administration, Royal Dutch Shell began drilling into the ocean floor of the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska yesterday morning. The controversial operation, which has been vehemently opposed by environmental and Native groups, will likely only last a few weeks this year until the Arctic winter sets in. The U.S. government has said that Shell must complete operations by September 24th, however the oil giant has asked for an extension.
Picture of the day: baby Grevy's zebra
(09/10/2012) Not only is the Grevy's zebra (Equus grevyi) the biggest of the three zebra species, it is also the world's largest wild horse species. Once roaming throughout the horn of Africa, today the species is confined to a few populations in Kenya and Ethiopia.
Teetering on the edge: the world's 100 most endangered species (photos)
(09/10/2012) From the Baishan fir (five left in the world) to the Sumatran rhino (around 250), a new report highlights the world's top 100 most endangered species, according to the the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). The list spans the taxonomic gamut, from fungi (Cryptomyces maximus) to amphibians (the Table Mountain ghost frog) to flowers (the Cayman Islands ghost orchid) and much more (see full list at the end of the article).
Climate change causing forest die-off globally
(09/09/2012) Already facing an onslaught of threats from logging and conversion for agriculture, forests worldwide are increasingly impacted by the effects of climate change, including drought, heightened fire risk, and disease, putting the ecological services they afford in jeopardy, warns a new paper published in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Tiny new frog discovered in India bypasses the free-swimming tadpole stage
(09/07/2012) A tiny new frog species has been discovered in the rainforests of India's Western Ghats.
Mangrove deforestation 3x worse for climate than rainforest loss
(09/07/2012) Degradation and destruction of the world's seagrasses, tidal marshes, and mangroves may generate up to a billion tons in carbon dioxide emissions annually, reports a new study.
Diversity helps ecosystems cope with stress
(09/07/2012) Ecosystems with higher levels of biodiversity tend to better cope with more stress than those with less biodiversity, finds a new study published in Ecology Letters.
Mangroves protect coastal areas against storm damage
(09/07/2012) Mangroves reduce wave height by as much as 66 percent over 100 meters of forest providing a vital buffer against the impacts of storms, tsunamis, and hurricanes, according to a new report published by The Nature Conservancy and Wetlands International.
Yuppies are killing rhinos, tigers, elephants
(09/07/2012) Yuppies, not elderly rural consumer, are driving the trade that is decimating some of the world's most iconic endangered species, including tigers, elephants, rhinos, pangolins, and bears, said experts meeting at a workshop in Vietnam.
A bold design for conservation
(09/07/2012) Carlos and his wife Nancy come from a line of artisans, and like their parents, they began working in handicrafts at a young age in their native Ecuador. This husband-wife duo spent most of their lives traveling long distances to and from Otavalo, an Andean crossroads about an hour outside of the capital Quito, to sell their jewelry at the daily market.
APP establishes deforestation moratorium in Jambi; greens remain skeptical
(09/06/2012) Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) has established a moratorium on natural forest conversion in Jambi province on the island of Sumatra, according to a report issued by the Indonesian forestry giant.
Controversial palm oil license issued in Indonesian orangutan forest revoked
(09/06/2012) An Indonesian court has instructed the governor of Aceh province to revoke a controversial license owned by a palm oil company accused of destroying orangutan habitat and carbon-rich peatlands on the island of Sumatra, reports The Jakarta Post.
Timber, paper demand contributing to destruction of rainforests
(09/06/2012) Demand for timber and paper is contributing to destruction of the world's most biodiverse rainforests and worsening climate change, argues a new report issued Tuesday by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
Human rights key to rainforest conservation, argues report
(09/06/2012) Recognizing the rights of forest people to manage their land is critical to reducing deforestation rates and safeguarding global forests, argues a new report published by Rainforest Foundation Norway.
Amazon deforestation could trigger drop in rainfall across South America
(09/06/2012) Deforestation could cause rainfall across the Amazon rainforest to drop precipitously, warns a new study published in the journal Nature. Using a computer model that accounts for forest cover and rainfall patterns, Dominick Spracklen of the University of Leeds and colleagues estimate that large-scale deforestation in the Amazon could reduce basin-wide rainfall 12 percent during the wet season and 21 percent in the dry season by 2050. Localized swings would be greater.
Spike in glacier melt across Patagonia since 2000
(09/05/2012) The rate of glacier melt across Patagonia has accelerated since 2000, reports a new study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
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