conservation news and environmental science news.
Lack of clarity complicates Indonesia's logging moratorium
(05/27/2011) Lack of clarity makes it difficult to assess whether Indonesia's moratorium on new logging concessions in primary forest areas and peatlands will actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, according to a new comprehensive assessment of the instruction issued last week by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The analysis, conducted by Philip Wells and Gary Paoli of Indonesia-based Daemeter Consulting, concludes that while the moratorium is "potentially a powerful instrument" for achieving the Indonesian president's goals of 7 percent annual growth and a 26 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from a projected 2020 baseline, the language of the moratorium leaves significant areas open for interpretation, potentially offering loopholes for developers.
Salmon-Crested Cockatoo to be protected under ESA
(05/27/2011) The salmon-crested cockatoo is now listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Native to islands in eastern Indonesia, the parrot is at risk due to logging in its lowland rainforest habitat, the conversion of forest to agricultural lands, and the domestic and international pet trade.
Congressman Rohrabacher believes chopping down rainforests will solve global warming
(05/27/2011) Republican House Representative Dana Rohrabacher shocked scientists on Wednesday when he asserted clear-cutting the world's rainforests would be a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reports Politico.
Shareholders to Chevron: company showing 'poor judgment' in Ecuador oil spill case
(05/26/2011) After being found guilty in February of environmental harm and ordered to pay $8.6 billion in an Ecuador court of law, Chevron this week faced another trial: this time by shareholders in its Annual General Meeting in California. While Chevron has appealed the Ecuador case and a US court has put an injunction barring the enforcement of the ruling in the US, notable Chevron investors say the company has gone astray in its seemingly endless legal battle with indigenous groups in the Ecuadorian Amazon.
Restoring forests: an opportunity for Africa
(05/26/2011) Tropical forest news last week was dominated by Indonesia and Brazil. Forest clearing has surged over the past year in parts of the Amazon, the Brazilian Government reported. Meanwhile, Indonesia’s President signed a moratorium on cutting some intact forest areas, as part of a landmark billion-dollar deal with international donors. But new research shows that Africa offers some of the greatest opportunities globally for restoring forests.
Photos: new bat uncovered in the Caribbean
(05/26/2011) Researchers have declared a new species of bat from the Caribbean island of St. Vincent. While the new bat had been documented before, it was long believed to be a member of a similar species that is found throughout South America and a few Caribbean Islands, that is until PhD student Peter Larsen noticed it was far larger than its relative down south.
Green groups to Japan: don't buy illegally logged wood from Indonesia to aid reconstruction
(05/26/2011) Following Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami, it needs to rebuild and do so the battered nation has already turned to a neighbor, Indonesia, for timber. However, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Indonesian NGO, Telapak, warn that much of the timber that reaches Japan's shores from Indonesia could be illegally logged from rainforests, unless Japan pledges to only purchase legally-certified wood under Indonesia's new assurance system.
Amnesty for illegal rainforest loggers moves forward in Brazil
(05/25/2011) A controversial bill environmentalists say could increase deforestation in the Amazon rainforest moved a step forward to becoming law in Brazil after winning approval in Brazil's lower house of Congress. The measure, which has been hotly debated for months, next goes to the Senate where it is expected to pass, before heading to President Dilma Rousseff, who has vowed to veto any bill that grants amnesty for illegal deforestation. The bill includes such a measure, although it could be subject to change before a final decision by the president. The bill aims to reform Brazil's Forest Code, which requires landowners in the Amazon rainforest to maintain 80 percent of their holdings as forest.
Shipping firm pledges to disconnect itself from rainforest destruction
(05/25/2011) The Danish shipping giant Maersk pledged this week to stop purchasing containers with floors made from uncertified tropical hardwood, reports Deutsche Welle press. In an effort to reduce illegal logging and combat climate change, the company will be turning to recycled plastic, bamboo, and tropical wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) for its flooring. The Copenhagen-based firm is the first cargo company to transition to 'green containers' as part of a sustainable business strategy.
Brazil protected areas suffer serious deficiencies, says study
(05/25/2011) Brazil's conservation units are poorly run and in need of better funding, finds a new study published by Brazil's Ministry of the Environment and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). The assessment, released last week, concludes Brazil’s protected areas system should be open to creative management solutions.
Environmental law landmark: island nation challenges faraway coal plant for climate impact
(05/25/2011) The far-flung Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), located in the Pacific Ocean, has created legal history by challenging the decision to extend the life of a massive coal plant in the Czech Republic. The over 600-island nation, Micronesia, argues that greenhouse gas emissions from the Czech plant are impacting the way of life in Micronesia, many of whose islands are facing submersion under rising sea levels.
Killing in the name of deforestation: Amazon activist and wife assassinated
(05/24/2011) José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife, Maria do Espírito Santo da Silva, were gunned down last night in an ambush near their home in the Brazilian state of Pará. Da Silva was known as a community leader and an outspoken critic of deforestation in the region. Police believe the da Silvas were killed by hired assassins because both victims had an ear cut off, which is a common token for hired gunmen to prove their victims had been slain, according to local police investigator, Marcos Augusto Cruz, who spoke to Al Jazeera. Suspicion immediately fell on illegal loggers linked to the charcoal trade that supplies pig iron smelters in the region.
iPhone app uses Google Earth to track climate change impact on redwoods
(05/24/2011) The Save the Redwoods League is partnering with Google Earth Outreach and iNaturalist.org to connect citizens and scientists in an effort to track the effects of climate change on redwood trees and forests.
Authorities launch stealth operation in Amazon after satellite images reveal deforestation
(05/24/2011) Brazil’s environmental enforcement agency busted an illegal logging ring following analysis of satellite imagery, reports Globo.
Redwood Watch project connects citizens with scientists to save redwoods
(05/24/2011) The Save the Redwoods League is partnering with Google Earth Outreach and iNaturalist.org to connect citizens and scientists in an effort to track the effects of climate change on redwood trees and forests.
10 former environment ministers ask Brazil to hold off on Forest Code vote
(05/24/2011) Ten former environment ministers weighed in on Brazil's looming vote on the forest code governing land use in the Amazon rainforest.
On the edge of extinction, Philippine eagles being picked off one-by-one
(05/23/2011) Down to a few hundred individuals, every Philippine eagle is important if the species is to survive. However, the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) has recently announced that people continue to illegally trap and keep eagles captive. Since December the organization has taken-in four confiscated Philippine eagles (Pithecophaga jefferyi), according to The Philippine Star. One died of a fungal infection after confiscation, while two others has suffered serious injuries.
Prosperity without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet
(05/23/2011) Prosperity without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet challenges us to imaging a world where growth and unmitigated consumption do not equal development. In fact, as clearly described throughout, countries with unmitigated consumption are the underdeveloped countries of the 21st Century expanding our global ecological debt at the expense of countries who are more sophisticated in their development practices with similar prosperity levels while incurring less "national" ecological debt.
Indonesia's moratorium allows mining in protected forests
(05/23/2011) Indonesia's mining industry expects the just implemented moratorium on new forestry concessions in primary forests and peatlands to open up protected areas to underground coal and gold mining, reports the Jakarta Globe.
Photos: the top ten new species discovered in 2010
(05/23/2011) If we had to characterize our understanding of life on Earth as either ignorant or knowledgeable, the former would be most correct. In 250 years of rigorous taxonomic work researchers have cataloged nearly two million species, however scientists estimate the total number of species on Earth is at least five million and perhaps up to a hundred million. This means every year thousands of new species are discovered by researchers, and from these thousands, the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University selects ten especially notable new species.
Nobel laureates: 'we are transgressing planetary boundaries that have kept civilization safe for the past 10,000 years'
(05/23/2011) Last week the 3rd Nobel Laureates Symposium on Global Sustainability concluded with participants—including 17 past Nobel Prize winners and 40 other experts—crafting and signing the Stockholm Memorandum. The document calls for emergency actions to tackle human pressures on the Earth's environment while ensuring a more equitable and just world.
Locals clash with 'sustainable' FSC logging company in the Congo
(05/22/2011) Two separate protests against logging companies by local communities have turned violent in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), leaving at least one dead. According to Greenpeace, one of the companies involved in the violence, Sodefor, is sustainably certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Given that the industry in DRC is rife with social conflict and corruption, Greenpeace is advocating that FSC place a moratorium on certifying new industrial-style logging concessions in the central African nation.
Brazil’s new cabinet-level post in response to surge in deforestation
(05/21/2011) Prompted by a near sixfold increase in Amazon rainforest clearing over the past year, the Brazilian government will form a cabinet post to monitor and respond to deforestation.
Indonesia's moratorium disappoints environmentalists
(05/20/2011) The moratorium on permits for new concessions in primary rainforests and peatlands will have a limited impact in reducing deforestation in Indonesia, say environmentalists who have reviewed the instruction released today by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The moratorium, which took effect January 1, 2011, but had yet to be defined until today's presidential decree, aims to slow Indonesia's deforestation rate, which is among the highest in the world. Indonesia agreed to establish the moratorium as part of its reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) agreement with Norway. Under the pact, Norway will provide up to a billion dollars in funds contingent on Indonesia's success in curtailing destruction of carbon-dense forests and peatlands.
China failing commitment to save tigers
(05/20/2011) Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao pledged that China would work with other nations to end the trade in tiger parts and revive tiger populations at the Global Tiger Forum last fall, but the country has since fallen short of its commitments, says an environmental group.
Climate change and deforestation pose risk to Amazon rainforest
(05/20/2011) Deforestation and climate change will likely decimate much of the Amazon rainforest, says a new study by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) and the UK's Met Office Hadley Centre. Climate change and widespread deforestation is expected to cause warmer and drier conditions overall, reducing the resistance of the rainforest ecosystem to natural and human-caused stressors while increasing the frequency of extreme rainfall events and droughts by the end of this century. While climate models show that higher temperatures resulting from global climate change will threaten the resilience of the Amazon, current deforestation is an immediate concern to the rainforest ecosystem and is likely driving regional changes in climate.
Uncovering the private lives of Amazon wildlife through camera traps
(05/20/2011) One of the best words to describe Amazon wildlife, including large mammals and birds, is cryptic. A person can spend a day trekking through the dense green and brown foliage of the Amazon and see nothing more than a few insects, maybe a frog here and there if they have good eyes. In fact, researchers have spent years in the jungle and never seen a jaguar, let alone a tapir. Some species like the bushdog and the giant armadillo are even more cryptic. Almost never encountered by people, in some parts of the Amazon they have taken on a mythic status, more rumor around the fire than reality. However, camera traps—automated cameras that take a flash photo whenever an animal triggers an infrared sensor—in the Amazon have begun to reveal long-sought information about the presence and abundance of species, providing new data on range and territories. And even at times giving glimpses into the private lives of species that remain largely shrouded in mystery.
US southern forests face bleak future, but is sprawl or the paper industry to blame?
(05/19/2011) More people, less forests: that's the conclusion of a US Forest Service report for forests in the US South. The report predicts that over the next 50 years, the region will lose 23 million acres (9.3 million hectares) largely due to urban sprawl and growing populations amid other factors. Such a loss, representing a decline of over 10 percent, would strain ecosystem services, such as water resources, while potentially imperiling over 1,000 species. However, Dogwood Alliance, which campaigns for conservation of southern forests criticizes the new report for underplaying the role of clearcutting natural forests for the paper industry in the south.
Indonesia signs moratorium on new permits for logging, palm oil concessions
(05/19/2011) After five-and-a-half months of delay due to political infighting, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono finally signed a two-year moratorium on the granting of new permits to clear rainforests and peatlands, reports Reuters.
New paper stirs up controversy over how scientists estimate extinction rates
(05/19/2011) A new paper in Nature negating how scientists estimate extinction rates has struck a nerve across the scientific community. The new paper clearly states that a mass extinction crisis is underway, however it argues that due to an incorrect method of determining extinction rates the crisis isn't as severe as has been reported. But other experts in the field contacted disagree, telling mongabay.com that the new the paper is 'plain wrong'. In fact, a number of well-known researchers are currently drafting a response to the day-old, but controversial paper.
Brazil confirms big jump in Amazon deforestation
(05/18/2011) New data from the Brazilian government seems to confirm environmentalists' fears that farmers and ranchers are clearing rainforest in anticipation of a weakening of the country's rules governing forest protection. Wednesday, Brazil's National Space Research Agency (INPE) announced a sharp rise in deforestation in March and April relative to the same period last year. INPE's rapid deforestation detection system (DETER) recorded 593 square kilometers of forest clearing during the past two months, a 473 percent increase over the 103.5 sq km chopped down from March-April 2010.
3,000 amphibians, 160 land mammals remain undiscovered—that is if they don't go extinct first
(05/18/2011) Remote little-explored rainforests probably harbor the majority of undiscovered amphibians and land mammals according to a new study in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The study calculated that it's likely 33% of the world's amphibians and 3% of terrestrial mammals still remain unknown. However, the paper also found that these undiscovered species are likely in worse peril of extinction than already-described species.
Debate over rainforest conservation gets heated
(05/18/2011) A debate over the need to conserve forests versus converting them for industrial use grew heated last week at Australian National University (ANU). A forum brought together policy experts, scientists, and a forestry lobbyist to discuss Australia's role in overseas forestry. But an exchange between William F. Laurance, an ecologist at James Cook University, and Alan Oxley, a former former Australian trade ambassador who lobbies on behalf of forestry interests, became the focus of the event.
Red rodent shows up at Colombian nature lodge after 113 years on the lam
(05/18/2011) The red-crested tree rat (Santamartamys rufodorsalis) had not been recorded since 1898 and was thought possibly extinct—that is until one showed up at 9:30 PM on May 4th at a lodge in El Dorado Nature Reserve in northern Colombia. 'He just shuffled up the handrail near where we were sitting and seemed totally unperturbed by all the excitement he was causing,' said Lizzie Noble, a British volunteer with Fundacion ProAves.
Under pressure from rising deforestation, Brazil’s IBAMA establishes ‘Zero Deforestation Policy’ in the Amazon
(05/17/2011) IBAMA, Brazil’s equivalent of the EPA, is suspending 1,300 planned operations for 2011 in order to concentrate on curbing a spike in regional deforestation through a two-pronged strategy of greater institutional presence and reciprocal agreements with local municipal governments. Following a series of meetings in the Amazonian states of Pará, Mato Grosso, and Amazonas between IBAMA and political leaders, landowners, ranchers, and environmentalists, IBAMA announced a “Zero Deforestation Pact” last Wednesday in cooperation with the Federal Public Ministry (Ministério Público Federal). The increased emphasis on Amazonian forest protection follows the release of an IBAMA document obtained by Folha revealing a jump in Amazonian deforestation that the government believes is related to proposed changes to relax the Forest Code, a debate which has given confidence to those deforesting.
Has the green energy revolution finally arrived?
(05/17/2011) When historians look back at the fight to combat climate change—not to mention the struggle to overcome our global addiction to fossil fuels—will 2011 be considered a watershed moment? Maybe. In the last couple months, three countries—each in the top ten in terms of GDP—have suddenly made major renewable energy promises. Germany, Japan, and, just today, Britain are giving speeches and producing plans that, if successful, could be the global tipping point needed to move beyond fossil fuels to, one day, a world run entirely on green.
Huge surge in Amazon deforestation
(05/17/2011) Analysis by Imazon, a research institute, has confirmed a huge surge in deforestation in a critical part of the Brazilian Amazon.
Down to 50, conservationists fight to save Javan Rhino from extinction
(05/17/2011) Earlier this year, the International Rhino Foundation launched Operation Javan Rhino to prevent the extinction of the critically endangered Javan Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus), formerly found in rain forests across Southeast Asia. Operation Javan Rhino is a multi-layered project which links field conservation, habitat restoration, and management efforts with the interests of local governments and communities. The following is an interview with Susie Ellis, Executive Director of the International Rhino Foundation.
Bear bile trade, both legal and illegal, ubiquitous in Asia
(05/16/2011) Surveying 13 nations and territories in Asia, the wildlife trade organization TRAFFIC found that the bear bile trade remains practically ubiquitous in the region. In many cases the trade, which extracts bile from captive bears' gall bladders for sale as a pharmaceutical, flouts both local and international law, including Appendix I of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES ).
Information leak: Amazon deforestation increases sharply while forest code debated
(05/16/2011) Deforestation has increased sharply in Mato Grosso over the past nine months according to information leaked to Folha.com.
Is Indonesia losing its most valuable assets?
(05/16/2011) Deep in the rainforests of Malaysian Borneo in the late 1980s, researchers made an incredible discovery: the bark of a species of peat swamp tree yielded an extract with potent anti-HIV activity. An anti-HIV drug made from the compound is now nearing clinical trials. It could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year and help improve the lives of millions of people. This story is significant for Indonesia because its forests house a similar species. In fact, Indonesia's forests probably contain many other potentially valuable species, although our understanding of these is poor. Given Indonesia's biological richness — Indonesia has the highest number of plant and animal species of any country on the planet — shouldn't policymakers and businesses be giving priority to protecting and understanding rainforests, peatlands, mountains, coral reefs, and mangrove ecosystems, rather than destroying them for commodities?
Violent protests follow approval of massive dam project in Patagonia
(05/16/2011) The wild rivers of Patagonia may soon never be the same. Last week, Chile's Aysén Environmental Review Commission approved the environmental assessment of a five dam proposal on two rivers. The approval, however, is marred in controversy and has set off protests in many cities, including Santiago. Critics say the series of dams will destroy a largely untouched region of Patagonia.
Valuing Ecosystem Services: The Case of Multi-functional Wetlands
(05/16/2011) Valuing Ecosystem Services: The Case of Multi-functional Wetlands provides the clearest guide yet to describing and implementing in a systematic fashion payments for ecosystems services (PES) strategies for wetland protection mechanisms. By focusing initially on frameworks and obstacles to implementation of wetland protection strategies such as property rights, measuring and monitoring, behavior and compensation, cultural barriers and external factors, the authors posit that is possible to effectively value multi-functional wetlands.
Australia forest destruction connected to local products
(05/15/2011) Some of Australia's most popular stores are driving the destruction of native forests, according to a report by a new environmental group Markets for Change (MFC). Furniture, building materials, and paper products were found to be coming at the expense of native forests in Australia and being sold by over 30 businesses in the country, such as Freedom Furniture, Bunnings, Officeworks, Staples, Target, Coles, and Woolsworths.
Ten-year-old takes on KFC for destroying US forests
(05/15/2011) Cole Rasenberger's quest to save forests in the US South started as a school assignment to 'be an activist' about something important to him. However, after learning from Dogwood Alliance that coastal forests in North Carolina are being destroyed to make throw-away paper packaging for big fast food companies—such as McDonalds and KFC—Cole Rasenberger, at the age of 8, became more than an activist; he became an environmental leader! He started by targeting McDonalds directly. With the help of 25 friends, and his elementary school administration, he got every student in his school to sign postcards to McDonalds. In all, Cole sent 2,250 postcards to McDonalds.
Google Earth animation reveals Indonesian forest targeted for destruction by pulp and paper companies
(05/14/2011) A new animation created using Google Earth offers a tour of an area of forest slated for destruction by logging companies. The animation, created by WWF-Indonesia and David Tryse, with technical assistance from Google Earth Outreach, highlights the rainforest of the Bukit Tigapuluh landscape in Sumatra, the only island in the world that is home to Sumatran tigers, elephants, rhinos, and orangutans. All of these species are considered endangered or critically endangered due to habitat destruction or poaching.
Program that cuts illegal logging by providing high quality health care in Borneo wins major conservation award
(05/14/2011) The co-founder of an initiative that discourages illegal logging by bringing affordable, high quality health care to impoverished communities in Indonesian Borneo has been recognized with a prestigious conservation award.
Brazil's forest code vote delayed again
(05/13/2011) Brazil's vote on a revision forest code has been postponed again.
Fires burn in Sumatra, drive air pollution in Malaysia
(05/13/2011) More than 100 Indonesian firefighters are battling peatland fires set by oil palm plantation developers in Riau province on the island of Sumatra, reports the AFP.
Reforestation program in China preventing future disasters
(05/13/2011) China's response to large-scale erosion with reforestation is paying off according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS). The 10-year program, known as Sloping Land Conversion Program (SLCP), is working to turn some 37 million acres back into forest or grasslands after farming on steep slopes in the Yangtze and Yellow River basins had made them perilously susceptible to erosion and flooding.
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