conservation news and environmental science news.
Authorities in Madagascar conduct raids to uncover illegal rosewood
(11/24/2009) Authorities in Madagascar over the weekend launched a series of raids to uncover rosewood and other precious hardwoods illegally logged from the country's national parks in the aftermath of a March military coup.
REDD may not be enough to save Sumatra's endangered lowland rainforests
(11/24/2009) A prominent REDD project in Aceh Indonesia probably won't be enough to save Northern Sumatra's endangered lowland rainforests from logging and conversion to oil plantations and agriculture, report researchers writing in Environmental Research Letters. The study highlights the contradiction between the Ulu Masen conservation project; which involves Flora and Fauna International, Bank of America, and Australia-based Carbon Conservation, a carbon trading company and the continuing road expansion, and establishment of oil palm plantations in the region.
Efforts to slow climate change may put indigenous people at risk
(11/24/2009) Efforts to slow climate change are putting indigenous people at risk, warns a new report published by Survival International, an indigenous rights' group.
Transmitters implanted in orangutans for tracking after release into the wild
(11/23/2009) For the first time transmitters have been implanted in orangutans to track their daily movements. The Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) has implanted transmitters into three orangutans that have been released back into the wild from Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center in the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo.
India scraps plan to build physics lab in tiger reserve
(11/23/2009) Indian officials have decided against a plan to built a Neutrino Observatory, an underground experimental physics laboratory, in Mudumulai Tiger Reserve, an area conservationists say serves as an important corridor for elephants and other wildlife.
Videos and Photos: over 17,000 species discovered in waters beyond the sun's reach
(11/23/2009) Deep, deep below the ocean's surface, in a world of ever-present darkness, one would expect few, if any, species would thrive. However, recent expeditions by the Census of Marine Life (CoML) have found an incredible array of strange, diverse, and amazing creatures. To date a total of 17,650 species are now known to live in frigid, nearly lightless waters beyond the photic zone—where enough light occurs for photosynthesis—approximately 200 meters deep. Nearly 6,000 of these occur in even harsher ecosystems, below depths of 1,000 meters or 0.62 miles down.
Photo of new chameleon species discovered in Tanzania
(11/23/2009) Researchers have discovered a new species of chameleon in southern Tanzania.
Global warming will increase likelihood of civil war in Africa by 55 percent
(11/23/2009) There have been many warnings by policymakers that rising temperatures in Africa could lead to civil conflict, however a new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is the first to uncover empirical evidence for these warnings and quantify them. The results—that higher temperatures increased the likelihood of civil war in sub-Saharan Africa by over 50 percent—took aback even the researchers.
Reforestation: Challenges and Opportunities
(11/23/2009) Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is a timeless issue that has been propounded into the public knowledge sphere since I was a child. Always eager to learn the actuality of environmental propaganda, I have been tracking reforestation practices since 2001. I first ground-truthed the realities of sustainable development in Costa Rica the summer after my freshman year at Vassar. We visited various national parks throughout the country and had the opportunity to conduct interviews with locals surrounding Monteverde on the impacts of ecotourism. This program was conducted through the School for Field Studies. My impressions were of surprise and delight at how eco-conscious Ticos appeared to be.
Google – the new eye in the sky for protecting forests?
(11/22/2009) Google looks set to play a part in a called-for "new environmental world order" by satellite-monitoring the rates of deforestation of tropical rainforests and pinpointing illegal logging and land misuse, Google’s Northern and Central Europe head Philipp Schindler has revealed. Schindler made the announcement in London on November 19 at a meeting at St James's Palace hosted by the Prince's Rainforests Project about a new climate change reduction mechanism, REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation). An inter-governmental report produced this month by an Informal Working Group (IWG) for Interim Funding of REDD has outlined an initiative to save the CO2 equivalent of the annual emissions of the US over five years by rewarding developing countries for reducing deforestation, with payments on a performance basis.
U.S. pledges $275M to rainforest conservation
(11/20/2009) The U.S. pledged $275 million to efforts to reduce deforestation in developing countries, reports Reuters.
Deforestation emissions should be shared between producer and consumer, argues study
(11/19/2009) Under the Kyoto Protocol the nation that produces carbon emission takes responsibility for them, but what about when the country is producing carbon-intensive goods for consumer demand beyond its borders? For example while China is now the world's highest carbon emitter, 50 percent of its growth over the last year was due to producing goods for wealthy countries like the EU and the United States which have, in a sense, outsourced their manufacturing emissions to China. A new study in Environmental Research Letters presents a possible model for making certain that both producer and consumer share responsibility for emissions in an area so far neglected by studies of this kind: deforestation and land-use change.
Oil palm workers still below poverty line, despite Minister's statements
(11/19/2009) On October 19th, Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok told parliament that oil palm harvesters and rubber tappers are living above Malaysia's national poverty line, according to a story in the Malaysian Insider. But now representatives of the workers are saying Dompok lied.
After years of controversy: Flores 'hobbits' are a new species of humans
(11/19/2009) When the 'hobbits' were discovered in 2003 they made news worldwide, sparking visions of a world our small relations lived among giant rats, dwarf elephants, and lizards bigger than the Komodo dragon. The small hominin fossils discovered on the island of Flores in Indonesia proved just how little modern humans knew about our deep ancestry. While researchers instantly claimed that the 'hobbits' were a new species of hominin other scientists disagreed: they argued that the 'hobbits' were modern humans that had been dwarfed by disease. A new study inSignificance hopes to put the controversy to rest.
Blackout in Brazil: Hydropower and Our Climate Conundrum
(11/19/2009) It’s everyone’s worst nightmare: being caught in an underground subway in the midst of a power outage. Yet, that is exactly what happened recently when Brazilian commuters in the city of São Paulo were trapped inside trains and literally had to be pulled out of subway cars. In addition to sparking problems in public transport, the blackout or apagão led to hospital emergencies and the shutting down of several airports. In all the power outage darkened approximately half of the South American nation, affecting sixty million people.
REDD may increase the cost of conservation of non-forest ecosystems
(11/19/2009) Policy-makers designing a climate change mitigation mechanism that will reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) aren't doing enough to ensure that the scheme protects biodiversity outside carbon-dense ecosystems, argues an editorial published in Current Biology by a group of scientists.
Indonesian government suspends license of logging company in controversial forest area
(11/19/2009) The Indonesian government today temporarily suspended the license of Asia Pacific Resources International Holding Limited (APRIL) for developing an area of forest and peatland in Sumatra pending a review of the company's permits, reports Greenpeace.
Gibson Guitar under federal investigation for alleged use of illegal rainforest timber from Madagascar
(11/19/2009) Federal agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service raided Gibson Guitar's factory Tuesday afternoon, due to concerns that the company had been using illegally harvested wood from Madagascar, reports the Nashville Post.
Using fish as livestock feed threatens global fisheries
(11/18/2009) Fish doesn't just feed humans. Millions of tons of fish are fed every year to chickens, pigs, and even farmed fish even in the midst of rising concerns over fish stocks collapses around the world. Finding an alternative to fish as livestock feed would go a long way toward preventing the collapse of fish populations worldwide according to a new paper in Oryx.
Oceans' ability to sequester carbon diminishing
(11/18/2009) A new study—the first of its kind—has completed an annual accounting of the oceans' intake of carbon over the past 250 years, and the news is troubling. According to the study, published in Nature, the oceans' ability to sequester carbon is struggling to keep-up with mankind's ever-growing emissions. Since 2000 researchers estimate that while every year the oceans continue to sequester more anthropogenic carbon emission, the overall proportion of carbon taken in by the oceans is declining.
Pygmy hippo shot and killed in…Australia
(11/17/2009) Hunters going after pigs in Australia's Northwest Territories got a big surprise when they shot an animal they mistook for a pig, only to find out it was a pygmy hippopotamus, reports the Northwest Territory News.
Record year for CO2 emissions, even with economic slowdown
(11/17/2009) 8.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide was emitted into the earth's atmosphere in 2008, a growth of 2 percent despite the economic crisis. This averages out to each person contributing a record high of 1.3 tons of carbon, according to a report in the journal Nature Science. While the global recession slowed the growth of fossil fuel emissions for the first time this decade, it did not lower emissions altogether.
Ecological benefits of REDD boosted by inclusion of private landowners, potentially harmed by plantations
(11/17/2009) Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation [REDD] programs that include landowners will conserve more habitat and ensure greater ecosystem services function than programs that focus solely on protected areas, report researchers from the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC), the Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazônia (IPAM), and the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG).
Coastal habitats may sequester 50 times more carbon than tropical forests by area
(11/16/2009) Highly endangered coastal habitats are incredibly effective in sequestering carbon and locking it away in soil, according to a new paper in a report by the IUCN. The paper attests that coastal habitats—such as mangroves, sea grasses, and salt marhses—sequester as much as 50 times the amount of carbon in their soil per hectare as tropical forest. "The key difference between these coastal habitats and forests is that mangroves, seagrasses and the plants in salt marshes are extremely efficient at burying carbon in the sediment below them where it can stay for centuries or even millennia."
Holding the Global North Responsible for Climate Change: What Would Lord Russell Do?
(11/16/2009) If Lord Bertrand Russell were still alive today, he would most likely be appalled by the Global North’s glaring inaction on climate change. One of the twentieth century’s most eminent philosophers, Russell was also an outspoken critic of war and irrationality. In 1966, just as the United States was ramping up the war in Vietnam, Russell helped to establish a novel legal tribunal which condemned war crimes committed in South East Asia.
Extinct goat was "similar to crocodiles"
(11/16/2009) It sounds like something out of Greek mythology: a half-goat, half-reptilian creature. But researchers have discovered that an extinct species of goat, the Balearic Island cave goat or Myotragus balearicus, survived in nutrient-poor Mediterranean islands by evolving reptilian-specific characteristics. The goat, much like crocodiles, was able to grow at flexible rates, stopping growth entirely when food was scant. This adaptation—never before seen in a mammal—allowed the species to survive for five million years before being driven to extinction only 3,000 years ago, likely by human hunters.
Financial Accounting for Forest Carbon Offsets and Assets
(11/16/2009) Poised to wreak havoc on the climate of Earth, our only home, is a phenomenon we’ve been observing for 150 years: an increase in Earth’s mean temperature. To mitigate the global climatic disruption that humans put into motion long ago, the actors in the forest carbon offset market encourage landowners to sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide (the culprit in global temperature increases) in return for a payment for ecosystem service based on financial unit called a metric ton carbon dioxide equivalent (mtCO2e). The regulatory and institutional frameworks of the forest carbon market are developing rapidly, yet one of the most urgent regulatory issues for a viable quality market is forest carbon financial accounting under International Accounting Standards (IAS) and U.S. generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). We predict forest carbon offset assets will become a thriving investment asset class with significant equitable distribution of revenues based in a transparent financial accounting mechanism. This article introduces forest carbon assets as an alternative asset class under IAS and U.S. GAAP.
Asia-Pacific leaders drop emissions cuts from Copenhagen agenda
(11/16/2009) Leaders of the 21-member Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) dropped the reference to greenhouse gas emissions cuts from their declaration released Sunday, reports Reuters.
Actions taken to save sharks 'disappointing'
(11/15/2009) Environmentalists say that the International Commissions for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) did not do enough in their yearly meeting to protect the ocean's sharks.
ICCAT fails to protect critically endangered tuna—again
(11/15/2009) The International Commissions for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) ignored the advice of its scientists to end fishing of the Atlantic bluefin tuna. Instead ICAAT set a quota of 13,500 tons of fish. This is not the first time ICCAT has flouted its own researchers' advice: it has repeatedly set quotas well-above its researchers' recommendations.
Brazil pledges to restrain emissions growth
(11/15/2009) In a move that some observers say could provide a path forward on a future climate agreement that includes emissions cuts in developing countries, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said his country will aim to reduce emissions 14 to 19 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.
New rating systems seeks to promote sustainable landscapes from shopping malls to city parks
(11/15/2009) The Sustainable Sites Initiative has developed the United States' first rating system for the design, construction, and on-going maintenance of a wide-variety of landscapes, both with and without buildings, including shopping malls, subdivisions, university campuses, corporate buildings, transportation centers, parks and other recreation areas, and single-family homes.
DNA uncovers nearly extinct Siamese crocodiles in captivity
(11/15/2009) The Critically Endangered Siamese crocodile, once believed to be extinct in the wild, received some uplifting news this week. DNA testing of 69 rescued crocodiles at Phnom Tama Wildlife Rescue Center (PTWRC) in Cambodia found 35 purebred Siamese crocodiles.
Finnish paper company to sever ties with logging firm linked to rainforest destruction in Indonesia
(11/13/2009) Finnish paper company UPM-Kymmene will stop buying paper pulp from Asia Pacific Resources International Holding Limited (APRIL) due to concerns over the company's poor environmental record, reports Greenpeace. UPM-Kymmene contact's represents 4 percent of APRIL's total pulp production, worth over US$55 million annually, according to the environmental group.
Countries that invest in conservation will see higher financial returns, argues report
(11/13/2009) A new report issued by the The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) initiative makes a strong case for valuing the planet's ecosystem services. The report calls for investments in "ecological infrastructure" to protect wildlands and the services they provide; market-based valuation of ecosystem services; reductions in environmentally harmful subsidies; recognition of the link between environmental degradation and poverty; and a strong climate deal that includes forest carbon.
"Responsible" palm oil producers pledge not to develop endangered Sumatra rainforest
(11/13/2009) Members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an initiative developing criteria to improve the environmental performance of palm oil, agreed to declare the Bukit Tigapuluh Ecosystem in Sumatra a 'high conservation value area'. The decision, voted on by RSPO General Assembly members at the group's annual meeting earlier this month in Kuala Lumpur, effectively bans oil palm development of the endangered forest ecosystem by RSPO members.
Brazil releases official Amazon deforestation figures for 2009
(11/13/2009) Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell nearly 46 percent to the lowest annual loss on record in 2009, reported the Brazilian government Thursday.
Forgotten species: Madagascar's water-loving mammal, the aquatic tenrec
(11/12/2009) There are many adjectives one could attach to the aquatic tenrec: rare, mysterious, elusive, one-of-a-kind, even adorable, though one tries to stray from such value-laden titles since it excludes so many other non-adorable inhabitants of the animal kingdom. This small and, yes, cute insectivore, also known as the web-footed tenrec, lives in Eastern Madagascar where at night it spends the majority of its time swimming and diving in fast-moving streams for insects and tadpoles. It sleeps during the day in small streamside burrows. To date that is about the extent of our knowledge of this species.
Blackwashing by NGOs, greenwashing by corporations, threatens environmental progress
(11/12/2009) Misinformation campaigns by both corporations and environmental groups threaten to undermine efforts to conserve biodiversity and reduce environmental degradation, argues a new paper published in the journal Biotropica. Growing concerns over climate change and unsustainable resource extraction have put companies that exploit the environment in the spotlight. Some firms have responded by taking measures to reduce their environmental impact. Others have alternatively engaged in sophisticated marketing campaigns intended to mislead consumers on their environmental performance, maintaining that environmentally-destructive practices are instead benign. At the same time some activist groups have been guilty of exaggerating claims of environmental misconduct in order to boost support for their campaigns and therefore their fundraising efforts.
New report: boreal forests contain more carbon than tropical forest per hectare
(11/12/2009) A new report states that boreal forests store nearly twice as much carbon as tropical forests per hectare: a fact which researchers say should make the conservation of boreal forests as important as tropical in climate change negotiations. The report from the Canadian Boreal Initiative and the Boreal Songbird Initiative, entitled "The Carbon the World Forgot", estimates that the boreal forest—which survives in massive swathes across Alaska, Canada, Northern Europe, and Russia—stores 22 percent of all carbon on the earth's land surface. According to the study the boreal contains 703 gigatons of carbon, while the world's tropical forests contain 375 gigatons.
Will Brazil's blackout drive a new push for more rainforest dams?
(11/12/2009) The power outage that affected nearly a third of Brazil's population Tuesday could be used by development interests to justify a renewed push for hydroelectric dams in the Amazon rainforest.
Declaration calls for more wilderness protected areas to combat global warming
(11/11/2009) Meeting this week in Merida, Mexico, the 9th World Wilderness Congress (WILD9) has released a declaration that calls for increasing wilderness protections in an effort to mitigate climate change. The declaration, which is signed by a number of influential organizations, argues that wilderness areas—both terrestrial and marine—act as carbon sinks, while preserving biodiversity and vital ecosystem services.
UN singles out US as the most important nation for global warming negotiations
(11/11/2009) Visiting Washington DC, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon stated that the United States was the world's most important actor when it comes to negotiations for a new climate change treaty, while urging the Senate to move forward on legislation.
Costa Rica proposes to downgrade Las Baulas National Park, threatening leatherback sea turtles
(11/11/2009) Costa Rica is considered by many to be a shining example of environmental stewardship, preserving both its terrestrial and marine biodiversity while benefiting from being a popular tourist location. However, a new move by the Costa Rican government has placed their reputation in question. In May of this year the President of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias, presented a law to the legislature that would downgrade Las Baulas from a National Park to a 'mixed property wildlife refuge'. The downgrading would authorize a number of development projects that conservationists say would threaten the park's starring resident: the leatherback turtle.
Nations vulnerable to global warming present demands: carbon levels below 350ppm and billions in aid
(11/10/2009) A group of nations especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change have released a declaration calling for developed countries to keep CO2 emission below 350 parts per million (ppm) and to give 1.5 percent of their gross domestic product to aid developing nations in adapting to the myriad impacts of climate change.
Prime Minister of Kenya urged to ban lion-killing pesticide after child dies from ingestion
(11/10/2009) On Monday October 26th a three-year-old girl mistakenly ate the pesticide Furadan (also known as carbofuran) in western Kenya. Her father, a teacher at a primary school, said that he had no knowledge of how dangerous the pesticide was, which he had purchased to kill pests in his vegetable garden.
Palm oil developers push into Indonesia's last frontier: Papua
(11/10/2009) Oil palm developers in the Indonesian half of New Guinea are signing questionable deals that exploit local communities and put important forest ecosystems at risk, alleges a new report from Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Telapak.
Coral reef troubles indicate broader ecological problems
(11/10/2009) Today, many of our planet's natural areas are seriously threatened by human incursion, overexploitation and global warming: Less than a fifth of the world's original forest cover remains in unfragmented tracts, while just one-third of coastal mangroves survive to protect coastlines from storms and erosion. But none of these are declining as rapidly as coral reefs. By revealing what could be in store for other natural systems, reefs resemble the proverbial canary in a coal mine.
How rainforest shamans treat disease
(11/10/2009) Ethnobotanists, people who study the relationship between plants and people, have long documented the extensive use of medicinal plants by indigenous shamans in places around the world, including the Amazon. But few have reported on the actual process by which traditional healers diagnose and treat disease. A new paper, published in the Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, moves beyond the cataloging of plant use to examine the diseases and conditions treated in two indigenous villages deep in the rainforests of Suriname. The research, which based on data on more than 20,000 patient visits to traditional clinics over a four-year period, finds that shamans in the Trio tribe have a complex understanding of disease concepts, one that is comparable to Western medical science. Trio medicine men recognize at least 75 distinct disease conditions—ranging from common ailments like fever [këike] to specific and rare medical conditions like Bell's palsy [ehpijanejan] and distinguish between old (endemic) and new (introduced since contact with the outside world) illnesses. In an interview with mongabay.com, Lead author Christopher Herndon, currently a reproductive medicine physician at the University of California, San Francisco, says the findings are a testament to the under-appreciated healing prowess of indigenous shaman.
40% of lowland forests in Sumatra and Indonesian Borneo cleared in 15 years
(11/10/2009) Forty percent of lowland forests in Sumatra and Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) were cleared from 1990 to 2005, reports a new high resolution assessment of land cover change in Indonesia.
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