conservation news and environmental science news.
Saving 'Avatar Grove': the battle to preserve old-growth forests in British Columbia
(07/23/2012) A picture is worth a thousand words: this common adage comes instantly to mind when viewing T.J. Watt's unforgettable photos of lost trees. For years, Watt has been photographing the beauty of Vancouver Island's ancient temperate rainforests, and documenting their loss to clearcut logging. The photographer and environmental activist recently helped co-found the Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA), a group devoted to saving the island's and British Columbia's (BC) last old-growth while working with the logging industry to adopt sustainable practices. This February the organization succeeded in saving Avatar Grove—which was only discovered in 2009—from being clearcut. The grove, a rare stand of massive and ancient trees named after the popular eco science-fiction movie, has become a popular tourist destination, providing a new economic incentive for communities to protect rather than cut Canada's last great forests.
Smartphones promoted as a tool for indigenous forest protection
(07/23/2012) Smartphones beeping in the woods may be a welcome presence that augurs the increased ability of indigenous communities to be stewards of their own biodiverse forests. Representatives of these communities and their supporters have advocated that international conservation policies like Reduced Emissions through Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) be increasingly managed by the communities themselves.
New Madagascar rainforest park invaded by sapphire miners
(07/23/2012) One of Madagascar's newest national parks has been invaded by miners following the discovery of sapphires, reports AFP.
Indonesia to investigate palm oil company's alleged breach of deforestation moratorium
(07/23/2012) Indonesia's top official charged with implementing the country's moratorium on new concessions in peatlands and primary forest areas is calling for an investigation into alleged violations by a palm oil company operating in Central Kalimantan, reports the REDD+ Task Force.
Chart: Indonesia's forest moratorium
(07/22/2012) Indonesia’s moratorium on new forestry concessions was proposed in 2010 under an agreement with Norway to reduce emissions from deforestation and peatlands degradation. Set to begin Jan 1, 2011, the moratorium was not defined until May 2011 due to battles over what lands would be included. The moratorium was originally expected to include all forest areas, but lobbying by industrial sectors led to significant weakening, resulting in only peatlands and primary forests being included in the moratorium, with loopholes for mining and some energy and food crops.
Deepwater Horizon oil spill may have played role in dolphin deaths
(07/22/2012) In the first four months of 2011, 186 bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) were found dead in the Gulf of Mexico, nearly half of them dolphin calves many of whom were perinatal, or near birth. Researchers now believe a number of factors may have killed the animals. Writing in the open-access journal PLoS ONE, scientists theorize that the dolphins died a sudden influx of freshwater from snowmelt after being stressed and weakened by an abnormally cold winter and the impacts of the BP oil spill.
The Human Quest: Prospering Within Planetary Boundaries – Book Review
(07/22/2012) Icarus, according to ancient Greek myth, attempted to escape Crete by flying using wings that his father constructed from feathers and wax. Icarus willfully flew too close to the sun causing his wings to melt resulting in him falling into the sea and drowning.
Panda vs. orangutans: With native species at risk, Malaysia's panda bear project a boondoggle
(07/20/2012) Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's plan to spend nearly $16 million (50 million Malaysian ringgits) to lease two baby pandas from China for ten years is a waste of money and resources at a time when its own native species are suffering from a range of threats, warned a leading Malaysian conservationist in an open letter.
NASA satellites register deforestation hotspots in Cambodia, Myanmar, Ecuador for Apr-Jun 2012 period
(07/19/2012) NASA satellites picked up extensive signals of potential deforestation across large parts of the tropics between April 1, 2012 and June 30, 2012, according to the latest update on Mongabay.com's Global Forest Disturbance Alert System.
Drought, heat, fires push more Americans to accept reality of climate change
(07/19/2012) Record temperatures, wildfires, drought, and crop failures have is helping convince more Americans that climate change is real and occurring, reports Bloomberg.
China's per capita emissions nearly as high as Europe's
(07/19/2012) The average person in China emitted 7.2 tons of carbon last year, according to new figures from BL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and the European commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC). This means that the average Chinese citizen is now very close to the average European, who emits 7.5 tons, in terms of annual emissions. Having been named the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases in 2009—usurping the U.S. from its long-held position—China continues to lead the pack with emissions that rose 9 percent in 2011.
Animal picture of the day: leopard with giant prey
(07/19/2012) It's true: a leopard cannot change its spots—even after eight years! Using a computer program that looks at leopard spot patterns, researchers were able to identify the above leopard, which was snapped by an Indian photographer, with a leopard individual photographed eight years before by camera trap. This Indian leopard (Panthera pardus fusca) is known as BPL-123, and has made its home in India Bandipur Tiger Reserve.
Experts: sustainable logging in rainforests impossible
(07/19/2012) Industrial logging in primary tropical forests that is both sustainable and profitable is impossible, argues a new study in Bioscience, which finds that the ecology of tropical hardwoods makes logging with truly sustainable practices not only impractical, but completely unprofitable. Given this, the researchers recommend industrial logging subsidies be dropped from the UN's Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) program. The study, which adds to the growing debate about the role of logging in tropical forests, counters recent research making the case that well-managed logging in old-growth rainforests could provide a "middle way" between conservation and outright conversion of forests to monocultures or pasture.
Borneo's forests face dire future from global warming
(07/18/2012) Already wracked by extensive deforestation and forest degradation, the future looks grim for Borneo's tropical rainforests, reports a new study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences.
Struggling to conserve seed biodiversity: the gaps and wisdom in current research
(07/18/2012) Biodiversity conservation is huge field, but at its heart we find something very small: the seed. From seeds come the plants we need and food for the animals we hope to conserve as well. Knowledge of seed dispersal, or how seeds are generated and move through the landscape, is essential if we are to understand the influence of human activity on biodiversity.
Better conservation requires better communication
(07/18/2012) Conservation science, though mission driven, often achieves only 'tenuous relevance' to conservation policy, asserts a recent commentary in Biological Conservation.
Scientists: iron fertilization could be a big climate help
(07/18/2012) For a long time, oceanic iron fertilization was seen as a promising mechanism to combat global climate change. But then in 2009 a well-publicized study found that iron fertilization stored 80 times less carbon than expected, dampening enthusiasm and support around the geoengineering scheme. Now, however, the idea of fertilizing the ocean with iron may be back: a new study in Nature reports that iron fertilization, in the right conditions, could store carbon in the deep ocean for centuries.
Pictures of the day: sea turtle and whale shark release in China
(07/18/2012) Earlier this month, Sea Turtles 911, a conservation organization in China, released two green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) and a juvenile whale shark (Rhincodon typus) back into the wild.
Brazil cripples illegal gold mining operations in indigenous territory
(07/18/2012) Brazilian police have arrested 26 people and confiscated gold and aircraft in a coordinated effort to tackle illegal gold-mining in the Yanomami Indigenous Reserve, reports the BBC. Along with illegal miners the year-long investigation also arrested complicit airplane pilots, engineers, and business people in a bid to undercut the trade's funders and infrastructure.
First snow leopards collared in Afghanistan as species faces rising threat from climate change
(07/18/2012) Scientists have captured and collared two snow leopards (Panthera uncia), arguably one of the world's most elusive predators, in Afghanistan for the first time. Undertaken by researchers with Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Afghani vets, the successful operation was conducted as a new study finds that snow leopard habitat could shrink by nearly one-third due to anthropogenic climate change in the Himalayas.
NASA satellite reveals iceberg twice the size of Manhattan breaking off Greenland's ice sheet
(07/18/2012) A 119-square-kilometer (46-square-mile) iceberg twice the size of Manhattan has broken off Greenland's Petermann Glacier, report researchers from the the University of Delaware and the Canadian Ice Service.
First video footage of wild snow leopard cubs in their den in Mongolia
(07/18/2012) Panthera, a wild cat conservation group, and the Snow Leopard Trust have released the first footage of snow leopards with their mothers in their dens in Mongolia.
Northern Hemisphere experiences warmest June on record
(07/17/2012) The Northern Hemisphere suffered its warmest June on record across land and sea, while globally it was the fourth warmest June yet, according to new data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Over 500 dead penguins wash up in Brazil, cause under investigation
(07/17/2012) In recent weeks, 512 Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus) have washed up dead in Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. Although badly composed, researchers do not see any obvious signs why the penguins died, especially in such numbers. Marine biologists are currently performing autopsies on carcasses and hope to determine cause of death within a few weeks.
Industrial logging leaves a poor legacy in Borneo's rainforests
(07/17/2012) For most people "Borneo" conjures up an image of a wild and distant land of rainforests, exotic beasts, and nomadic tribes. But that place increasingly exists only in one's imagination, for the forests of world's third largest island have been rapidly and relentlessly logged, burned, and bulldozed in recent decades, leaving only a sliver of its once magnificent forests intact. Flying over Sabah, a Malaysian state that covers about 10 percent of Borneo, the damage is clear. Oil palm plantations have metastasized across the landscape. Where forest remains, it is usually degraded. Rivers flow brown with mud.
Animal picture of the day: flamingos take flight in the Bahamas
(07/17/2012) Scientists have banded nearly 200 American flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber) in the Inagua National Park in the Bahamas in order to monitor the long-term population.
Clever whale shark video goes viral
(07/17/2012) Researchers have a caught a juvenile—though still massive—whale shark on camera sucking fish out of a hole in an Indonesian fishing net. Posted on YouTube.com, the video has gone viral and has been viewed by 1.2 million people to date. The footage was captured during a program to tag 30 whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) in Indonesia's Cendrawasih Bay National Marine Park in order to learn more about the world's largest fish.
Innovative conservation: bandanas to promote new park in the Congo
(07/16/2012) American artist, Roger Peet—a member of the art cooperative, Justseeds, and known for his print images of vanishing species—is headed off to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to help survey a new protected area, Lomami National Park. With him, he'll be bringing 400 bandanas sporting beautifully-crafted images of the park's endangered fauna. Peet hopes the bandanas, which he'll be handing out freely to locals, will not only create support and awareness for the fledgling park, but also help local people recognize threatened species.
Scientists propose a new way forward on orangutan conservation
(07/16/2012) Orangutans are in dire need of a revised conservation approach, according to a new study in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. While the plight of the species is widely recognized within the conservation community—receiving international attention in the form of scientific research, funding, and NGO efforts—the authors argue that "there has been frustratingly little progress."
Cute animal picture of the day: baby bamboo lemur
(07/16/2012) Greater bamboo lemurs (Prolemur simus) are one of over a hundred lemur species found only on the island of Madagascar. Listed as Critically Endangered, there are only around 500 individuals known in the wild, making them one of the world's most imperiled primate species. A new baby was recently born in captivity in the UK's Port Lympne Wild Animal Park.
Strangest island in the Caribbean may be a sanctuary for critically endangered coral
(07/16/2012) Don't feel bad if you‘ve never heard of Navassa Island, even though it's actually part of the U.S. according to the Guano Islands Act of 1856. This uninhabited speck between Haiti and Jamaica, barely bigger than New York City’s Central Park, has a bizarre and bloody history—and may be a crucial refuge for endangered coral in the Caribbean.
'Beautiful' new snake discovered in Cambodia (photo)
(07/16/2012) Scientists have discovered a new snake species in the biodiverse rainforests of the Cardamom Mountains, reports Fauna & Flora International (FFI). The new reddish-hued serpent has been named after its country of origin by native herpetologist Neang Thy: the Cambodian kukri (Oligodon kampucheaensis).
Soccer lights up kids' lives: new technology produces cheap, portable power
(07/16/2012) Recently, Jessica O. Matthews and Julia Silverman, both Harvard graduates, were awarded Harvard Foundation’s Scientists of the Year award for their invention of a soccer ball that converts kinetic energy to electricity. The two women, who were both social science majors, came up with the idea when they were taking an engineering class for non-majors and were required to create a project that would address a social problem.
Indonesia green news: 70% of Indonesia’s coral reefs damaged; Authorities exploring corruption charges in Tripa
(07/15/2012) 70 percent of Indonesia’s coral reefs have some degree of damage found an assessment by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (Lembaga Ilmu Pengetahuan Indonesia or LIPI). Coral reef monitoring carried out in 77 regions across Indonesia found only 30 percent of the archipelago’s coral reefs are in good condition. 37 percent have low levels of damage, while a third are severely damaged. Reef damage is caused by a variety of factors including explosive fishing, mining waste, and bleaching driven by global warming.
Charts: deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia, 2000-2010
(07/15/2012) Indonesia and Malaysia lost more than 11 million hectares (42,470 square miles) of forest between 2000 and 2010, according to a study published last year in the journal Global Change Biology. The area is roughly the size of Denmark or the state of Virginia. The bulk of forest loss occurred in lowland forests, which declined by 7.8 million hectares or 11 percent on 2000 cover. Peat swamp forests lost the highest percentage of cover, declining 19.7 percent. Lowland forests have historically been first targeted by loggers before being converted for agriculture. Peatlands are increasingly converted for industrial oil palm estates and pulp and paper plantations.
Cute animal picture of the day: spotted hyena cub
(07/15/2012) Spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) are found across sub-Saharan Africa. Adept hunters, hyenas can also survive by scavenging and opportunism. They form the largest packs of any carnivore, which are run by matriarchs. Although, they resemble dogs, the hyena is actually more closely related to cats and weasels.
Controversial Xayaburi dam in Laos officially suspended
(07/15/2012) Work on the controversial Xayaburi dam in the People's Democratic Republic of Lao has been suspended, reports Reuters.
Apple reverses course, rejoins green tech registry
(07/14/2012) Facing criticism from customers and potential loss of government contracts, computer giant Apple rejoined a green product registry it abandoned earlier this month.
Marijuana farms poisoning carnivorous fishers in California, finds study
(07/13/2012) An illegal pesticide used by marijuana growers to kill rodents is poisoning weasel-like fishers in California, reports a new study published in the journal PLoS ONE.
KFC-Indonesia suspends purchases from Asia Pulp & Paper due to deforestation, says Greenpeace
(07/13/2012) The Indonesian arm of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) has suspended purchases from Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) due to concerns over deforestation, says Greenpeace, which is campaigning to reform the paper giant's forestry practices and fiber sourcing policy.
91% of Madagascar's lemurs threatened with extinction
(07/13/2012) 94 of the world's 103 lemur species are at risk of extinction according to a new assessment by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) released by the group's Species Survival Commission during a workshop this week. Lemurs, a group of primates that is endemic to the island of Madagascar, are threatened by habitat destruction and poaching for the bushmeat trade.
Republican stalwart calls global warming 'a matter of fact', pushes for carbon tax
(07/13/2012) Former Secretary of State George Shultz is calling for a carbon tax to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and oil consumption, according to an interview released today by Stanford University.
Guilty pleas in NYC ivory bust
(07/13/2012) Two ivory dealers pled guilty to trafficking some $2 million worth of elephant ivory.
Deja vu: U.S. undergoes hottest 12 months on record...again and again
(07/12/2012) According to new data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s National Climatic Data Center, the last twelve months have been the warmest on record for the contiguous United States. This record, set between July 2011 through June 2012, beat the last consecutive twelve month record set only a month earlier between June 2011 and May 2012, which in turn beat the previous record holder, you guessed it: May 2011 through April 2012.
Scientists slam Telegraph blogger's claims that climate change will be good for the Amazon
(07/12/2012) Recent blog posts on The Telegraph and the Register claiming that tropical rainforests like the Amazon are set to benefit from climate change are 'uninformed' and 'ridiculous' according to some of the world's most eminent tropical forest scientists. The posts, published Sunday and Monday by Tim Worstall, a Senior Fellow at London's Adam Smith Institute, asserted that a new Nature study indicates that 'climate change will mean new and larger tropical forests.' But some of the world's leading tropical forest experts took aim at Worstall's logic, noting the limitations of the study as well as the other factors that are endangering rainforests.
Still time to save most species in the Brazilian Amazon
(07/12/2012) Once habitat is lost or degraded, a species doesn't just wink out of existence: it takes time, often several generations, before a species vanishes for good. A new study in Science investigates this process, called "extinction debt", in the Brazilian Amazon and finds that 80-90 percent of the predicted extinctions of birds, amphibians, and mammals have not yet occurred. But, unless urgent action is taken, the debt will be collected, and these species will vanish for good in the next few decades.
Despite moratorium, Indonesia failing to take action on illegal palm oil plantations
(07/12/2012) Indonesian authorities are failing to take action against a palm oil company that is operating illegally in Central Kalimantan, alleges a new report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Telapak.
Indigenous tribes end occupation of Belo Monte
(07/12/2012) After occupying the construction site of the massive Belo Monte dam for 21 days, some 300 indigenous people have left and gone home. The representatives from nine Amazonian tribes abandoned their occupation after two days of meeting with the dam's builder, the Norte Energia consortium.
Animal picture of the day: the greater roadrunner
(07/12/2012) Charging at speeds up to 26 miles an hour (42 kilometers), the greater roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) chases down prey like lizards and snakes. It is listed as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List, and is found across the Southwestern U.S. Although the greater roadrunner is capable of flight, it prefers racing along the ground.
Proliferation of mountain roads a hazard to the environment in SE Asia
(07/12/2012) Mountain roads in rural Southeast Asia are providing market access for remote communities but causing significant environmental harm, including deforestation, landslides, and soil erosion, sometimes undermining the benefits they offer, warns a commentary published in Nature Geoscience.
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