conservation news and environmental science news.
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.
NASA Photos: beyond Mississippi flood, southern Africa sees record deluges
(05/12/2011) While record crests of the Mississippi River are creating havoc in the southern US, this is not the only region in the world facing unprecedented flooding. Huge rain events have produced floods in southern Africa as well, impacting Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa. Since last year rainfall has been above average in much of these regions, including a record deluge this month in Namib Desert, where more rain fell in just one day in than usually does in an entire year.
North America's tiniest turtle vanishing
(05/12/2011) Despite decades of conservation work, populations of North America's smallest turtle, the bog turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergii), is continuing to decline. Habitat destruction, invasive plants, road-kill, and the illegal pet trade have all played a role in the bog turtle historic decline, but researchers are now reporting increased mortalities across bog turtle populations, bringing fears of disease or an as-yet-unnamed environmental issue.
Burning up: warmer world means the rise of megafires
(05/12/2011) Megafires are likely both worsened by and contributing to global climate change, according to a new United Nations report. In the tropics, deforestation is playing a major role in creating giant, unprecedented fires.
ConocoPhillips withdraws from oil exploitation in uncontacted indigenous territory
(05/11/2011) ConocoPhillips has announced it is withdrawing from its 45% share of oil drilling in Block 39 of Peru's Amazon rainforest. The withdrawal comes after pressure from indigenous-rights and environmental groups to leave two Peruvian oil blocks—39 and 67—alone, due to the presence of indigenous people who have chosen to remain uncontacted. ConocoPhillips and other companies have been warned they will 'decimate' tribes if they remain. However, Spanish oil company Repsol-YPF still operates in block 39 and is currently doing seismic testing for oil reserves in the untouched region. ConocoPhillips has not divulged what company is taking their place.
Cambodia's wildlife pioneer: saving species and places in Southeast Asia's last forest
(05/11/2011) Suwanna Gauntlett has dedicated her life to protecting rainforests and wildlife in some of the world’s most hostile and rugged environments and has set the trend of a new generation of direct action conservationists. She has designed, implemented, and supported bold, front-line conservation programs to save endangered wildlife populations from the brink of extinction, including saving the Amur Tiger (also known as the Siberian Tiger) from extinction in the 1990s in the Russian Far East, when only about 80 individuals remained and reversing the drastic decline of Olive Ridley sea turtles along the coast of Orissa, India in the 1990s, when annual nestings had declined from 600,000 to a mere 8,130. When she first arrived in Cambodia in the late 1990s, its forests were silent. 'You couldn’t hear any birds, you couldn’t hear any wildlife and you could hardly see any signs of wildlife because of the destruction,' Gauntlett said. Wildlife was being sold everywhere, in restaurants, on the street, and even her local beauty parlor had a bear.
Belief and butchery: how lies and organized crime are pushing rhinos to extinction
(05/11/2011) Few animals face as violent, as well organized, and as determined an enemy as the world's rhinos. Across the globe rhinos are being slaughtered in record numbers; on average more than one rhino is killed by poachers everyday. After being shot or drugged, criminals take what they came for: they saw off the animal's horn. Used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, which claims that it has curative properties, rhino horn is worth more than gold and cocaine on the black market. However, science proves all this cash and death is based on a lie. 'There is no medicinal benefit to consuming rhino horn. It has been extensively analyzed in separate studies, by different institutions, and rhino horn was found to contain no medical properties whatsoever,' says Rhishja Larson.
Distressed Place and Faded Grace in North Sulawesi
(05/10/2011) The Nantu Wildlife Reserve is located in northern Sulawesi’s Minehasa Peninsula, in Gorontalo Province. Sulawesi is among the largest of Indonesia’s some seventeen thousand islands. Its shape is bizarre: a sinuous sprawling monkey, with lavish tail, poised to leap the straits of Makassar. Sulawesi lies to the north of Bali and Lombok and to the east of Borneo. Alfred Russell Wallace, the nineteenth century English explorer and natural scientist of broad expertise, spent a lot of time in Sulawesi’s northern peninsula, casting his curiosity and observation with such singular acuity that his mind apprehended “Darwin’s theory of evolution” independently from and possibly before Darwin. His work described the zone of transition between the Asian and Australian zoographic regions and was so accurate and thorough in its logic that today, some one-hundred and fifty years later, the zone is named Wallacea.
Liberia fights illegal logging through agreement with EU
(05/10/2011) The tiny West African nation of Liberia (about the size of the US state of Virginia) is the most recent country to work with the European Union (EU) on ending the illegal logging trade. Yesterday the EU and Liberia signed a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) that would make certain no raw wood or wood products exported from Liberia to the EU would have been illegally cut.
Chainsaw Milling: Domestic Unregulated Deforestation Agents or Local Entrepreneurs?
(05/10/2011) Chainsaw milling: supplier to local markets, provides a much needed insight into the generally unregulated on-site conversion of logs into lumber using chainsaws for tropical in-country domestic markets. Tropical forest chainsaw milling juxtaposes local economic benefit with lack, unregulated oversight.
A new front in the war over palm oil?
(05/09/2011) A new study for the U.K. government found that in 2009 Britain imported at least 1.65 million metric tons of palm oil-related products for production of food, fuel, and cosmetics. Notably, the DEFRA study concluded Britain's consumption of palm kernel — typically considered a byproduct of palm oil production — was actually higher than its palm oil demand and accounted for roughly 10 percent of global palm kernel output.
Beaver dam lessens impact of massive oil spill in Canada
(05/09/2011) The Canadian province of Alberta has suffered its worst oil spill in 35 years with 28,000 barrels of oil (over a million gallons) spilling from a ruptured pipeline operated by Plains Midstream Canada in the Canadian boreal forest. The spill has sullied wetlands near Peace River.
No limbs or sight needed: bizarre new lizard uncovered in Cambodia
(05/09/2011) A new species of legless lizard has been discovered in Cambodia. Herpetologist Neang Thy uncovered, literally, the new species when he turned over a log in the species-rich Cardamom Mountains. While the new lizard looks like a snake or a big earthworm, it is in fact a lizard belong to the Dibamidae family. These bizarre reptiles spend much of their lives burrowing underground for insects, which has allowed them to lose the need for limbs.
Camera traps capture tiger bonanza in Sumatra forest slated for logging
(05/09/2011) Camera traps set in an area of forest slated for logging for paper production captured photos of a dozen critically endangered Sumatran tigers, reports the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF).
Fight for flamingos: Tanzania to mine in world's most important flamingo breeding ground
(05/09/2011) It's not easy to find a single word to describe witnessing hundreds of thousands of flamingos filling up a shallow lake in the Great Rift Valley of East Africa. 'Spectacle' comes to mind, but even this is not wholly accurate for the surreal pink crowd. However one describes it, this biological wonder may be under threat as Tanzania plans to mine in a flamingo breeding ground that is not only regionally important, but globally. Astoundingly, over half of the world's lesser flamingos (between 65-75%) are born in a single lake in northern Tanzania: Lake Natron.
Over a thousand geckos freed from criminal taxi
(05/08/2011) Over a thousand tokay geckos (Gekko gecko) were found in a single trunk of a taxi by the Wildlife Rapid Response Team (WRRT), forestry officials, and military police in Cambodia. WRRT is wildlife-crimes program run by Wildlife Alliance. Boxes filled the taxi’s trunk. In the boxes were bags stuffed with 1,027 tokay geckos, of which nineteen had perished.
Papua New Guinea suspends controversial grants of community forest lands to foreign corps
(05/06/2011) The government of Papua New Guinea yesterday suspended its controversial Special Agricultural and Business Leases program which has granted logging and plantation development concessions to mostly foreign corporations across 5.2 million hectares of community forest land, reports the Courier-Post
April in review: Greenwashing, the soala, and Tanzania's assault on the environment
(05/06/2011) A review of mongabay.com's April 2011 stories.
Brazil's forest code debate may determine fate of the Amazon rainforest
(05/05/2011) Brazil's forest code may be about to get an overhaul. The federal code, which presently requires landowners in the Amazon to keep 80 percent of their land forest (20-35% in the cerrado), is widely flouted, but has been used in recent years as a lever by the government to go after deforesters. For example, the forest code served as the basis for the "blacklists" which restricted funds for municipalities where deforestation has been particularly high. To get off the blacklist, and thereby regain access to finance and markets, a municipality must demonstrate its landowners are in compliance with environmental laws.
China's log, sawnwood imports jump
(05/05/2011) China imported $6.1 billion worth of logs in 2010, a 22.4 percent increase over 2009, according to the country's customs bureau.
7 conglomerates control 9M ha of land in Indonesia
(05/05/2011) Efforts to slow deforestation in Indonesia should include curtailing further expansion of forestry holdings by giant conglomerates, says an Indonesian activist group. Analyzing data from the Ministry of Forest's Production Forest Utilization Quarterly Report, Jakarta-based Greenomics-Indonesia found that seven conglomerates in Indonesia control more than 9 million hectares of land, including large forest concessions that will likely be exempt from any moratorium on forest clearing established under the country's Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) program. The extent of holdings could complicate Indonesia's efforts to reduce emissions from logging and plantation development.
Indonesia signs agreement with EU to end the sale of illegally logged wood
(05/04/2011) The EU and Indonesia today signed an agreement in Jakarta that aims to keep illegally logged wood from reaching the European market. This is the first Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) signed by an Asian nation with the EU and is seen as a considerable step forward on the fight against the illegal logging trade worldwide.
Girls Scouts censors Facebook page after coming under criticism for product linked to rainforest loss
(05/04/2011) Girls Scouts USA has censored its Facebook page after receiving comments criticizing the organization, according to Rainforest Action Network (RAN). RAN along with Change.org and two Girl Scout activists, Rhiannon Tomtishen and Madison Vorva, declared today a social media day of activism against the Girl Scouts for using palm oil in their popular cookies. The oil has been linked to rainforest destruction in Indonesia and Malaysia.
NASA image reveals extent of deforestation in western Brazil
(05/04/2011) The Brazilian state of Rondônia has undergone tremendous change over the past decade as revealed by the NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Terra satellite. A hotspot for recent deforestation, Rondônia was once home to over 50 million acres (208,000 square kilometers of forest). By 2003 nearly a third of the rainforest in the state was gone and deforestation continues although at a slower pace. The state has the dubious honor of undergoing the highest percentage of forest loss in the Brazilian Amazon.
Forgotten species: the endearing Tenkile tree kangaroo
(05/03/2011) With their long snout, furry body, soft eyes, and, at times, upright stance, tree kangaroos often remind me of the muppets. Of course, if there were any fairness in the world, the muppets would remind me of tree kangaroos, since kangaroos, or macropods, have inhabited the Earth for at least 5 million years longer than Jim Henson’s muppets. But as a child of the 1980s, I knew about muppets well before tree kangaroos, which play second fiddle in the public imagination to their bigger, boxing cousins. This is perhaps surprising, as tree kangaroos possess three characteristics that should make them immensely popular: they are mammals, they are monkey-like (and who doesn't like monkeys?), and they are desperately 'cute'.
Road building plan in Sumatran park threatens Critically Endangered tigers
(05/03/2011) A plan to build four wide roads through Kerinci Seblat National Park in the Indonesian island of Sumatra threatens one of the world's most viable populations of the Critically Endangered Sumatran tiger subspecies (Panthera tigris sumatrae), reports the AP. Less than 500 Sumatran tigers remain in the wild with the population continuing to decline due to habitat loss from palm oil and paper plantations, poaching, and prey declines.
REDD project developer Carbon Conservation partly acquired by mining company
(05/03/2011) East Asia Minerals Corporation, an Asian mining company, has acquired a 50% stake in Carbon Conservation, a Australian company that developed one of the world's first forest conservation projects funded by carbon credits, for $500,000, according to a press release from the mining company.
Al Gore compares climate change deniers to 'birthers'
(05/03/2011) Former US Vice President, Al Gore, stated in a Time Magazine interview and in a recent presentation that climate change deniers and the so-called birthers—those who refuse to accept that President Obama was born in the US despite clear evidence—are similar. The implication being that both groups are denying clear evidence and creating a "struggle over what is a fact and what is not".
Community Forest Monitoring for the Carbon Market: Opportunities Under REDD
(05/03/2011) With over 200 million forested hectares in 60 countries transferred to community forest management over the past 20 years, this much needed book edited by Margaret Skutsch funded through the Kyoto: Think Global Act Local program (K:TGAL), provides not only various insights into how local communities and indigenous stakeholders can be engaged in community forest carbon project development and monitoring, it furthermore provides a valuable framework and models from which to discuss and analyze successful implementation of community forest carbon projects.
Left alive and wild, a single shark worth $1.9 million
(05/02/2011) For the Pacific island nation of Palau, sharks are worth much more alive than dead. A new study by the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) has found that one reef shark during its full life is worth $1.9 million to Palau in tourism revenue. Sold for consumption the shark is worth around $108. In this case a shark is worth a stunning 17,000 times more alive than dead.
Conservation organizations ask Tanzania to reconsider UNESCO status for Eastern Arc Mountains
(05/02/2011) Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete has recently stated he would withdraw the application to list two Eastern Arc Mountains as UNESCO World Heritage sites: Udzungwa and Uluguru Mountains. However, ten NGOS, both local and international, have asked the president to reconsider, according to The Citizen.
Controversial Brazilian mega-dam receives investment of $1.4 billion
(05/02/2011) Brazil's most controversial mega-dam, Belo Monte, which is moving full steam ahead against massive opposition, has received an extra infusion of cash from Vale, a Brazilian-run mining company.
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