conservation news and environmental science news.
Facing cash crunch, will Madagascar's politicians sanction rainforest plunder?
(01/07/2010) Facing a severe cash crunch in the aftermath of a March military coup which triggered donor governments to suspend aid and crippled its economy, Madagascar's top politicians are reportedly mulling the export of tens of millions of dollars' worth of precious hardwoods illegally logged from the country's rainforest parks, according to high-placed sources in the Indian Ocean island nation.
Could space technology save our planet?
(01/06/2010) A new book, Paradise Regained: the Regreening of Earth argues that the solutions to the world’s current environmental crises—including climate change—could be lying far beyond our planet.
Starving hyenas kill and eat 12-foot-long python during drought
(01/05/2010) Members with the conservation group Lion Guardians stumbled on a rare site in the Amboseli area of Kenya recently: six hyenas and a number of jackals were attacking and eating a 12-foot-long python. On their blog at WildlifeDirect, Lion Guardians describe the attack: "[the hyenas and jackals] tore into its body from the back, and were taking their share while the upper part of the python was still alive! The Lion Guardian team was shocked and surprised at the same time, having never seen anything like it before."
Housing developments choking wildlife around America's national parks
(01/05/2010) Housing developments within 50 kilometers (31 miles) of America's national parks have nearly quadrupled in sixty years, rising from 9.8 million housing units to 38 million from 1940 to 2000. The explosion of housing developments adjacent to national parks threatens wildlife in a variety of ways, according to a new study in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). "We are in danger of loving these protected areas to death," says co-author Anna Pidgeon as assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Chinese official links extreme snowstorm to global warming
(01/05/2010) Bitter cold and snow have shut down Beijing after it received 4-8 inches (10-20 centimeters) of snow on Sunday, the largest snowfall since 1951, according to the Sydney Morning Hearld. Guo Hu, the head of the Beijing Meteorological Bureau linked the storm to global climate change.
Underwater rocks could be used for massive carbon storage on America's East Coast
(01/05/2010) Considering it is unlikely that global carbon emissions will start dropping anytime soon, researchers are beginning to look at other methods to combat climate change. One of these is to hook polluting power plants up to massive carbon sinks where instead of the carbon going into the atmosphere it would be stored away in rocks. The process is known as carbon capture and storage or CCS. But before one can even debate the pros and cons of setting up CCS, scientists must see if high-quality sites exist.
A 'dangerous world' for migratory birds, an interview with Sarah Lehnen
(01/04/2010) Sarah Lehnen has worked with America's rich birdlife for a decade: she has studied everything from songbirds inhabiting dwindling shrub land in Ohio to shorebirds stopping over in the Mississippi Rive alluvial valley, always with an eye towards conservation. Most recently she has been involved in testing migratory birds for avian flu. It may come as a surprise, but American birds are in serious decline. In March of last year, US Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, announced that one-in-three American birds are endangered. Even once common birds are showing precipitous declines. Birds face a barrage of threats, which are only complicated—and heightened—for migratory birds.
New fox subspecies uncovered in California
(01/03/2010) Heavily-populated California may be one of the last places one would expect to find a new mammal, but the Sacramento Bee reports that genetic evidence has revealed a new subspecies of red fox.
Gone: a look at extinction over the past decade
(01/03/2010) No one can say with any certainty how many species went extinct from 2000-2009. Because no one knows if the world's species number 3 million or 30 million, it is impossible to guess how many known species—let alone unknown—may have vanished recently. Species in tropical forests and the world's oceans are notoriously under-surveyed leaving gaping holes where species can vanish taking all of their secrets—even knowledge of their existence—with them.
Bridge development in Kalimantan threatens rainforest, mangroves, and coral reef
(01/03/2010) Balikpapan Bay in East Kalimantan is home to an incredible variety of ecosystems: in the shallow bay waters endangered dugong feed on sea grasses and salt water crocodiles sleep; along the bay proboscis monkeys leap among mangroves thirty meters tall and Irrawaddy dolphins roam; beyond the mangroves lies the Sungai Wain Protection forest; here, the Sunda clouded leopard hunts, sun bears climb into the canopy searching for fruits and nuts, and a reintroduced population of orangutans makes their nests; but this wilderness, along with all of its myriad inhabitants, is threatened by a plan to build a bridge and road connecting the towns of Penajam and Balikpapan.
Sierra Leone cracks down on illegal logging by banning log exports
(01/02/2010) Sierra Leone has banned the transport and export of logs in an effort to crack down on illegal logging, reports AFP.
Brazil to keep emissions reductions pledge despite failed climate summit
(12/30/2009) Brazil will honor its pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 14-19 percent from 2005 levels despite the failure of this month's climate meeting in Copenhagen to establish binding limits on emissions, reports Reuters.
Shipment of questionable Madagascar rosewood canceled after international outcry
(12/28/2009) A planned shipment of rosewood that had been illegally logged from Madagascar'a rainforest parks has been canceled following international outcry, report sources in Madagascar. The shipment, which would have been transported by Delmas, a French shipping company, had been scheduled for December 21st or 22nd out of the port of Vohemar.
Year in photos: nature & conservation pictures
(12/28/2009) The following 50 photos were taken during the course of my reporting in 2009. I have only included nature and wildlife subjects from Laos, Thailand, Costa Rica, Brazil, Indonesia, California, and Madagascar, although I also took pictures of other subjects and spent time in other countries.
50 conservation photos
(12/28/2009) The following 50 photos were taken during the course of my reporting and research in 2009 [Page 3 of 3].
50 nature photos
(12/28/2009) The following 50 photos were taken during the course of my reporting and research in 2009.
Rainforest conservation: a year in review
(12/27/2009) 2009 may prove to be an important turning point for tropical forests. Lead by Brazil, which had the lowest extent of deforestation since at least the 1980s, global forest loss likely declined to its lowest level in more than a decade. Critical to the fall in deforestation was the global financial crisis, which dried up credit for forest-destroying activities and contributed to a crash in commodity prices, an underlying driver of deforestation.
30 big conservation stories for 2009
(12/27/2009) Between the fallout from Greenpeace's report linking cattle ranching in the Amazon to some of the world's most prominent brands, the continuation of the global financial crisis, the failure of the climate conference in Copenhagen to reach agreement on binding emissions targets, concrete progress on REDD, partnerships between Google and innovative NGOs producing important tools for environmental monitoring and reporting, and falling deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon, 2009 was a big year in conservation and the environment. Focusing primarily on tropical forests, but sometimes straying into other areas, Mongabay.com published nearly 1,400 news articles during the year, of which more than 800 were were authored by Rhett A. Butler and around 450 were written by Jeremy Hance. Other contributors included Nathan Brouwer, Morgan Erickson-Davis, Julie Fischer, Rowan Moore Gerety, Alex Gehrig, Ryan King, Nikolas Kozloff, Hambone Littletail, Sarah Monaghan, Kara Moses, John O. Niles, Tim O'Brien, Rose Picardal, Derek Schuurman, Bhalin Singh, Mark Szotek, Gabriel Thoumi, Alanna Tritt, and Jeff Wise, among others. More than 100 articles were also added in more than a dozen non-English languages by dozens of translators.
Record-breaking snow across the US and climate change
(12/26/2009) Over the past few weeks the United States has been pounded by a number of big snow storms. A week ago Washington DC received 18 inches of snow, setting a number of records. Over Christmas, the middle of the country, from Texas to Minnesota was also hit by record amounts of snow. While snow fall over the East Coast and middle of the country in the United States in December is hardly unusual, a number of record amounts of precipitation may point to a larger shift in the climate. Scientists say that higher temperatures causes more water evaporation, which increases the chances of heavy precipitation events, such as floods and snowstorms.
Ecuador to be paid to leave oil in the ground
(12/23/2009) Ecuador will establish a trust fund for receiving payments to leave oil reserves unexploited in Yasuni National Park, one of the world's most biodiverse rainforest reserves, reports the UN Development Programme, the agency that will administer the fund.
Brazil establishes 20,000 sq mi of new indigenous reserves in the Amazon
(12/23/2009) On Monday, Brazil decreed nine new indigenous reserves covering 51,000 square kilometers (19,700 square miles) of the Amazon rainforest, an areas larger than Denmark or Switzerland, reports the AFP. Five of the reserves are located in the state of Amazonas, two are in Pará, one is in Roraima, and another is in Mato Grosso do Sul. The protected areas house about seven thousand Indians from 29 ethnic groups, according to FUNAI (Fundação Nacional do Índio), Brazil's indigenous affairs agency.
The real Avatar story: indigenous people fight to save their forest homes from corporate exploitation
(12/22/2009) In James Cameron's newest film Avatar an alien tribe on a distant planet fights to save their forest home from human invaders bent on mining the planet. The mining company has brought in ex-marines for 'security' and will stop at nothing, not even genocide, to secure profits for its shareholders. While Cameron's film takes place on a planet sporting six-legged rhinos and massive flying lizards, the struggle between corporations and indigenous people is hardly science fiction.
Unique call gives away new bird species in Laos and Vietnam
(12/21/2009) A beautiful little warbler inhabiting limestone karsts in Vietnam and Laos has been named a new species. When the limestone leaf warbler ( Phylloscopus calciatilis) was first sighted in 1994 it was thought to be a member of the similar-looking species, the sulphur-breasted warbler, but ornithologists began to question that assumption when the bird produced a call significantly different from the sulphur-breasted's.
Guyana to increase oversight of gold mining under deal to save forests with Norway
(12/21/2009) As apart of a deal with Norway to preserve its rainforests, Guyana will step up oversight of its gold mining industry, which has been accused of causing significant environmental damage including deforestation and mercury and cyanide pollution.
Canada at Copenhagen: "delay, obstruction, and total inaction"
(12/21/2009) Canada was the biggest obstructer at the Climate Change conference in Copenhagen, according to the Climate Action Network (CAN) an organization made-up of 450 NGOs. On Friday CAN awarded Canada the 'Colossal Fossil Award' for doing the most to obstruct an ambitious climate change agreement and for doing the least to mitigate climate change.
Brazil: king of conservation, deforestation for the 2000s
(12/21/2009) Brazil set aside more land in protected areas than any other country during the 2000s, accounting for nearly 60 percent of total terrestrial conservation during the decade, according to mongabay.com's analysis of data from the U.N Environment Program and the World Conservation Monitoring Center. Paradoxically, Brazil also lost the most forest of any country during the decade.
Full Text of the Copenhagen Accord
(12/20/2009) We underline that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time. We emphasise our strong political will to urgently combat climate change in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.
Dead REDD? Not quite, but plan to protect forests suffers set back in Copenhagen
(12/20/2009) A plan to reduce tropical deforestation by paying developing countries to protect forests was postponed Saturday after world leaders failed to produce a binding climate agreement, reports the Associated Press.
Coal plant could damage rainforest reserves, coral reefs, palm oil plantations in Malaysian Borneo
(12/20/2009) A proposed coal-fired power plant in Malaysian Borneo could damage the region's world-renowned coral reefs, pollute air and water supplies, open Sabah's biodiverse rainforests to mining, and undermine the state's effort to promote itself as a destination for "green" investment and ecotourism, warn environmentalists leading an effort to block the project. The scheme, which is backed by the federal Tenaga Nasional Berhad and state energy company, Sabah Electricity Sdn. Bhd, has faced strong opposition and already been forced to re-locate twice since it was conceived more than two years ago. The 300-MW plant is now planned for a coastal area that is situated in the middle of the Coral Triangle/Sulu Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion, an area renowned for astounding levels of biodiversity.
Agreement reached in Copenhagen, although 'not sufficient to combat the threat of climate change'
(12/18/2009) On late Friday, US President Barack Obama reached an agreement described as "meaningful" during a meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and South African President Jacob Zuma at the last day of the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.
New tropical wood substitute could save rainforests worldwide
(12/18/2009) One of the main drivers of tropical deforestation is western consumption of hardwoods, more durable and weather-resistant than softwoods. For example, hardwood harvested in Southeast Asia—both legally and illegally obtained—often makes its way to China where it is crafted into cheap outdoor-ready hardwood products, which is then sold to the world's wealthy nations, such as the United States and countries in the EU. The trade releases significant greenhouse gases, threatens indigenous groups, and imperils the region's biodiversity. Yet a new product, apart of an art installation at the Climate Change conference in Copenhagen, may have the capacity to stem the loss of tropical forests for hardwoods.
Bolivia's President blames capitalism for global warming
(12/18/2009) The President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, clearly frustrated with the progression of talks at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, today blamed capitalism for global warming.
Biggest private funder of Amazon conservation teams with Google and scientists to develop earth monitoring platform
(12/18/2009) The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the largest private funder of Amazon rainforest conservation, is playing an unheralded but integral role in the development of the Earth Engine platform, a system that combines the computing power of Google with advanced monitoring and analysis technologies developed by leading environmental scientists. The platform, which was officially unveiled at climate talks in in Copenhagen, promises to enable near real-time monitoring of the world's forests and carbon at high resolution at selected sites before COP-16 in Mexico.
Kenya REDD project becomes first in Africa to win gold-level validation
(12/18/2009) A Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) project in Kenya has become the first in Africa to win GOLD level validation under the Climate Community and Biodiversity (CCB) Alliance's REDD Standard, a certification program to ensure that communities and biodiversity benefit from such projects.
French company CMA-CGM facilitating destruction of Madagascar's rainforests, undermining France's position in Copenhagen
(12/17/2009) Delmas, a subsidiary of French shipping giant CMA-CGM, is facilitating the destruction of Madagascar's endangered rainforests by providing transport for timber illegally logged from the country's national parks, report multiple sources that have been investigating the illegal rosewood trade in the Indian Ocean island nation. The accusations put Delmas directly in conflict with the French government's push at climate talks in Copenhagen to establish stronger safeguards against illegal logging.
Uninhabited tropical island paradise seeks REDD funding to save it from loggers
(12/17/2009) Tetepare may be one of the last tropical island paradises left on earth. Headhunting and a mysterious illness drove its original inhabitants from the island two hundred years ago, making Tetepare today the largest uninhabited island in the tropical Pacific. The 120 square kilometer island (46 square miles), long untouched by industry or agriculture, is currently threatened by logging interests. However, the island is not without champions: in 2002 descendents of the original inhabitants of Tetepare formed the Tetepare Descendents Association (TDA) to preserve the island. Recently they have teamed up with the Solomon Islands Government and the Solomon Islands Community Conservation Partnership to develop financing through REDD.
Malaysia to allow logging in indigenous 'peace park' to proceed
(12/17/2009) Malaysia, the country with the fastest rate of greenhouse gas emissions growth since 1990 among middle and upper income countries, will allow logging to proceed in a contested rainforest area in Sarawak, on the island of Borneo.
Greenpeace cordons off US Chamber of Commerce headquarters as 'global warming crime scene'
(12/17/2009) Activists with Greenpeace surrounded the US Chamber of Commerce headquarters in Washington DC with fake squad cars painted green-and-white and a fake ambulance labeled 'Climate Emergency Response'. Yellow banners made to look like crime scene tape were thrown over the building's façade.
Last breeding northern white rhinos will return to Africa
(12/17/2009) Only eight individual northern white rhinos survive in the world, making it the world's most endangered large mammal. Unfortunately, half of the rhinos are unable to breed. The remaining four—the last hope for the subspecies—will be moved this weekend from Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic to conservancy in Kenya.
US moves talks forward in Copenhagen with pledge of 100 billion fund, now it's China's turn
(12/17/2009) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton brought some much need good news to Copenhagen with her. In an announcement this morning, Clinton announced that the United States was ready to join other industrialized nations in mobilizing 100 billion dollars a year in climate aid for developing and vulnerable nations by 2020 at the Climate Change conference.
Copenhagen Climate Summit: Hugo Chávez is an Inappropriate Environmental Messenger
(12/17/2009) Like him or not, one thing is for sure: the flamboyant Hugo Chávez has never shied away from the limelight. I was therefore somewhat surprised to read some initial press accounts suggesting that the Venezuelan leader might stay away from the United Nations climate summit being held in Copenhagen, Denmark. "If it's to go and waste time, it’s better I don't go," he said. "If everything is already cooked up by the big [nations], then forget it." Chávez however hinted that he might change his mind if ALBA nations could reach some type of common position towards the Copenhagen summit. ALBA, an initiative designed to facilitate trade and reciprocity amongst like minded progressive regimes in Latin America, has taken up the issue of climate justice as of late. Two months ago Bolivian President and ALBA ally Evo Morales called for the creation of an actual climate justice tribunal. The Global North, Morales said, should indemnify poor nations for the ravages of climate change.
More than half world's science academies support call to save rainforests
(12/17/2009) More than half world's science academies have signed a statement supporting a plan to save tropical forests as a means to fight climate change, reports the Global Canopy Program, an initiative that has worked closely with Prince Charles to promote rainforest conservation. The statement argues that tropical forest protection is a critical strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions over the next 15-20 years. It calls upon world leaders to reach a consensus on a path forward for a funding package that would support the infrastructure needed to develop an effective reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) mechanism.
U.S. pledges $1B towards rainforest conservation
(12/17/2009) The U.S. will contribute $1 billion towards an effort to reduce emissions from deforestation, according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Catastrophic sea level rise could occur with only two degrees Celsius warming
(12/17/2009) Allowing the climate to rise by just two degrees Celsius—the target most industrialized nations are currently discussing in Copenhagen—may still lead to a catastrophic sea level rise of six to nine meters, according to a new study in Nature. While this rise in sea levels would take hundreds of years to fully occur, inaction this century could lock the world into this fate.
Google's Earth Engine to help tropical countries monitor forests
(12/16/2009) A powerful forest monitoring application unveiled last week by Google will be made freely available to developing countries as a means to build the capacity to quality for compensation under REDD, a proposed climate change mitigation mechanism that would pay tropical countries for protecting forests, according to a senior Google engineer presenting at a side event at COP15 in Copenhagen.
Is the US sinking climate change talks at Copenhagen?
(12/16/2009) While it's difficult to know what's truly going on inside the Bella Center at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, a pattern seems to be emerging of the United States being unwilling to compromise on, well, anything.
Jane Goodall Institute hosts the 'Academy Awards' of conservation
(12/16/2009) From the menu that featured organic, local and sustainable vegetarian fare to a celebrity reception on the green carpet, the 2009 Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) Global Leadership Awards Celebration offered a progressive spin on the traditional big Hollywood awards gala. Hosted by Jill St. John and Robert Wagner, with a special musical performance by Ben Harper, celebrity attendees included Rachelle Carson and Ed Begley, Jr., Jim Belushi, Craig Ferguson, Jordana Brewster, Frances Fisher, Betty White, and The Honorable Antonio R. Villaraigosa, mayor of Los Angeles (also the winner of the 2009 Jane Goodall Global Leadership Award for Excellence in Public Policy). This article is an interview with Mary Norman, senior vice president for development at the Jane Goodall Institute in Arlington, Va. Ms. Norman and her team are the force behind the Jane Goodall Institute Global Leadership Awards Celebration.
World's rarest gorilla caught on film
(12/16/2009) The first ever professional footage of the world's rarest gorilla, the Cross River gorilla ( Gorilla gorilla diehli), has been shot deep in the forested mountains of Cameroon. The only other existing footage of this Critically Endangered subspecies was taken from far away by a field researcher in 2005.
Climate change protestors vowing 'people's assembly' beaten back with batons, tear gas in Copenhagen
(12/16/2009) Some 1,500 protestors attempting to enter the Bella Center in Copenhagen, where officials are trying to put together an international deal to combat climate change, were beaten back by police with batons and tear gas.
Major international banks, shipping companies, and consumers play key role in Madagascar's logging crisis
(12/16/2009) In the midst of cyclone season, a 'dead' period for tourism to Madagascar's east coast, Vohémar, a sleepy town dominated by the vanilla trade, is abuzz. Vanilla prices have scarcely been lower, but the hotels are full and the port is busy. "This afternoon, it was like a 4 wheel drive show in front of the Direction Regionale des Eaux & Forets," one source wrote in an email on November 29th: "Many new 4x4, latest model, new plane at the airport, Chinese everywhere."
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