conservation news and environmental science news.
Peru revokes decrees that sparked Amazon Indian uprising
(06/19/2009) Peru's Congress revoked two controversial land laws that sparked violent conflicts between indigenous protesters and police in the country's Amazon region. The move temporarily defuses a two-week crisis, with protesters agreeing to stand down by removing blockades from roads and rivers. Congress voted 82-14 Thursday to overturn legislative decrees 1090 and 1064, which would have facilitated foreign development of Amazon land. Indigenous groups said the decrees threatened millions of hectares of Amazon rainforest and undermined their traditional land use rights.
Despite violent protests and coup, Daewoo continues to hold cropland in Madagascar
(06/19/2009) Despite violent protests that have left more than 100 dead and led to the ouster of a democratically-elected president, Daewoo Logistics Corp. continues to hold 218,000 hectares of cropland in Madagascar, according to a new campaign by Rainforest Rescue.
Fate of world's rainforests likely to be determined in next 2 years
(06/19/2009) The fate of millions of hectares of tropical forests will probably be sealed this year and next year, reports a new set of policy papers detailing an emerging climate change mitigation mechanism known as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD). REDD has been proposed by the U.N. and other entities as a form of carbon finance under which industrialized nations would pay tropical countries for conserving their forest cover.
Commission on Climate and Tropical Forests forms to advise Congress, Obama on forest conservation
(06/18/2009) Leaders in business, government, advocacy, conservation, global development, science and national security have formed a commission to "provide bipartisan recommendations to Congress and the President about how to reduce tropical deforestation through U.S. climate change policies," according to a statement released by the newly established group, named the Commission on Climate and Tropical Forests.
Wolverine Returns to Colorado after 90-year absence
(06/18/2009) A wolverine has been recorded in Colorado for the first time since 1919, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
CO2 currently at highest level in 2.1 million years
(06/18/2009) Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are higher than any point in the last 2.1 million years, report researchers writing in the journal Science.
What is the crop productivity and environmental impact of too much or too little fertilizer?
(06/18/2009) While the use of synthetic fertilizer has greatly increased agricultural production globally—helping to feed a global population that is not slowing down—it has brought with it high environmental costs. Fertilizer runoff has polluted many coastal regions creating ‘dead zones’ where the ocean is starved of oxygen by the influx of nitrogen. Synthetic fertilizers have also polluted the air with ammonia, and sent emissions of nitrous oxide into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.
Malaysian palm oil chief claims oil palm plantations help orangutans
(06/18/2009) Dr. Yusof Basiron, CEO of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, the government-backed marketing arm of the Malaysian palm oil industry, claims on his blog that endangered orangutans benefit from living in proximity to oil palm plantations. Environmentalists scoff at the notion, maintaining that oil palm expansion is one of the greatest threats to orangutans.
Cameroon rainforest given 30 days to be conserved or sold off for logging
(06/18/2009) An 830,000-hectare tract of rainforest in Cameroon has been granted a 30-day reprieve from logging following a 4-week exploratory expedition that turned up large populations of lowland gorillas, forest elephants, mandrills, and chimpanzees, according to expedition leader Mike Korchinsky, founder of the conservation group Wildlife Works. The Cameroonian government has given Wildlife Works, which pioneered the first forest-based carbon project in Kenya, 30 days to come up with a competitive proposal to logging. The group is now scrambling to secure necessary funding to finance the early stages of the project.
Cattle giant JBS facing corruption probe
(06/17/2009) JBS, the world's largest beef processor, is under investigation by Brazil's federal prosecutor's office for corruption, reports Reuters.
Madfish?: scientist warns that farmed fish could be a source of mad cow disease
(06/17/2009) In a paper that shows just how strange our modern world has become, Robert P. Friedland, neurologist from the University of Louisville, warns that farmed fish could be at risk of Creutzfeldt Jakob disease, or mad cow disease.
New report predicts dire consequences for every U.S. region from global warming
(06/17/2009) Government officials and scientists released a 196 page report detailing the impact of global warming on the U.S. yesterday. The study, commissioned in 2007 during the Bush Administration, found that every region of the U.S. faces large-scale consequences due to climate change, including higher temperatures, increased droughts, heavier rainfall, more severe weather, water shortages, rising sea levels, ecosystem stresses, loss of biodiversity, and economic impacts.
Lomborg calls for a carbon tax
(06/17/2009) Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish business school professor and author who has riled environmentalists by arguing that addressing climate change should be a lesser priority than health and nutrition initiatives, is calling for a $7 per ton tax on carbon dioxide emissions, reports the Wall Street Journal.
First captive bonobos released into the wild
(06/16/2009) A group of 17 orphaned bonobos are being released into the wild for the first time this month. Set free by the world’s only bonobo sanctuary, Lola ya Bonobo in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the bonobos will be released into a 50,000 acre (20,000 hectare) forest where the species has been absent for years.
Amazon could lose 60% of forest without triggering catastrophic die-off, claims new study
(06/16/2009) Brazil's setting aside of more than 500,000 square miles (1.25 million square kilometers) of rainforest in protected areas over the past decade may effectively buffer the Amazon from the effects of climate change, preventing Earth's largest rainforest from tipping towards arid savanna in the face of ongoing deforestation and rising temperatures, argues a new paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Photos: treasure trove of new species discovered in Ecuador
(06/16/2009) Near the once-contentious border of Ecuador and Peru in the mountainous forests of the Cordillera del Condor, scientists from Conservation International (CI) conducted a Rapid Assessment Program (RAP), uncovering what they believe are several new species, including four amphibians, one lizard, and seven insects. The team focused on the Upper Nanharitza River Basin, which has been geologically isolated from the rest of the Andes, giving it broad potential for new species.
108 river basins in Indonesia need rehabiltiation
(06/16/2009) The number of river basins in need rehabilitation in Indonesia climbed from 60 to 108 over the past year says the Ministry of Forestry.
Attacking the demand side of deforestation
(06/16/2009) A new UK government-sponsored initiative seeks to address the demand side of deforestation by identifying how an organization's activities and supply chains contribute to forest destruction. The initiative, called the Forest Footprint Disclosure Project (FFD Project), will ask companies to "disclose how their operations and supply chains are impacting forests worldwide, and what is being done to manage those impacts responsibly." The disclosure information will be reported on an annual basis, enabling investors to identify possible risks related to a company’s "forest footprint." Disclosure will also provide consumers with information to make better informed decisions about the products they purchase.
Will jellyfish take over the world?
(06/16/2009) It could be a plot of a (bad) science-fiction film: a man-made disaster creates spawns of millions upon millions of jellyfish which rapidly take over the ocean. Humans, starving for mahi-mahi and Chilean seabass, turn to jellyfish, which becomes the new tuna (after the tuna fishery has collapsed, of course). Fish sticks become jelly-sticks, and fish-and-chips becomes jelly-and-chips. The sci-fi film could end with the ominous image of a jellyfish evolving terrestrial limbs and pulling itself onto land—readying itself for a new conquest.
Forest fires burn in Sumatra
(06/15/2009) Fires set by developers in Sumatra are causing a choking haze to spread across the island and over to Malaysia, reducing visibility and raising health concerns, reports Reuters.
High-flying kites could power New York
(06/15/2009) A fleet of kites could harvest enough energy from high-altitude winds to power New York, report researchers from the Carnegie Institution and California State University.
Caribou and reindeer population plunges 60 percent in three decades
(06/14/2009) The first ever comprehensive survey of caribou worldwide (known as reindeer in Europe) has found that the species has suffered a staggering decline. Researchers from the University of Alberta discovered that the caribou population has fallen 60 percent in half as many years. The study published in Global Change Biology points to global warming and industrial development as the reasons behind the decline.
America’s iconic Midwest forests in significant decline
(06/14/2009) Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved series of novels about life in the American frontier begins in Wisconsin with the novel Little House in the Big Woods. Less than a hundred years since its publication, a study in Conservation Biology finds that these Midwestern ‘big woods’ are experiencing a worse-than-expected decline and would likely be unrecognizable to Wilder herself.
World Bank revokes loan to Brazilian cattle giant accused of Amazon deforestation
(06/13/2009) The Work Bank's private lending arm has withdrawn a $90 million loan to Brazilian cattle giant Bertin, following Greenpeace's release of a report linking Bertin to illegal deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, report environmental groups, Friends of the Earth-Brazil and Greenpeace. The loan, granted by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) in March 2007, was to expand Bertin's meat-processing in the Brazilian Amazon. At the time, the IFC promoted the loan as a way to promote environmentally responsible beef production in the Amazon, although environmental groups — including Friends of the Earth-Brazil and Greenpeace — criticized the move.
Wal-Mart bans beef illegally produced in the Amazon rainforest
(06/12/2009) Brazil's three largest supermarket chains, Wal-Mart, Carrefour and Pão de Açúcar, will suspend contracts with suppliers found to be involved in Amazon deforestation, reports O Globo. The decision, announced at a meeting of the Brazilian Association of Supermarkets (Abras) this week, comes less than two weeks after Greenpeace's exposé of the Amazon cattle industry. The report, titled Slaughtering the Amazon, linked some of the world's most prominent brands — including Nike, Toyota, Carrefour, Wal-Mart, and Johnson & Johnson, among dozens of others — to destruction of the Amazon rainforest for cattle pasture.
Conservation success in Madagascar proves illusory in crisis
(06/12/2009) Despite the popularity he enjoyed abroad, domestic support for ousted president Marc Ravalomanana eroded rather quickly last February when he went head to head with Andry Rajoelina, the rookie mayor of Madagascar's capital. Rajoelina rallied disparate opposition groups to the cause and soon toppled the incumbent to become, at his own proclamation, President of the "High Authority of Transition." For the country as a whole, the results have not been encouraging. The tourism industry has shriveled to a shadow of itself, important donors have suspended non-humanitarian aid, and a power vacuum has set in in remote regions of the island, wreaking havoc on some of its most fragile and prized ecosystems.
Peru suspends decree that triggered bloody conflict between Indians and police
(06/11/2009) Peruvian lawmakers yesterday suspended a controversial decree that contributed to a bloody conflict between police and indigenous protesters in the country's Amazon region, reports the AFP.
Photo: brilliant pink moth discovered in Arizona
(06/11/2009) A new species of moth with brilliantly-colored pink wings has been discovered at 7,700 feet in the Chiricahua Mountains of southern Arizona. "This large moth flew in and we didn't think much of it because there is a silk moth very much like it, a Doris silk moth that feeds on pines that has dark wings with pink on the hind wings. It's fairly common there," said University of Arizona biologist, Bruce Walsh, who discovered the species.
Amazon deforestation doesn't make communities richer, better educated, or healthier
(06/11/2009) Deforestation generates short-term benefits but fails to increase affluence and quality of life in the long-run, reports a new study based an analysis of forest clearing in 286 municipalities across the Brazilian Amazon. The research, published in Friday's issue of the journal Science, casts doubt on the argument that deforestation is a critical step towards development and suggests that mechanisms to compensate communities for keeping forests standing may be a better approach to improving human welfare, while simultaneously sustaining biodiversity and ecosystem services, in rainforest areas.
Range extended for world’s most mysterious gorilla
(06/11/2009) The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) announced yesterday the discovery of eastern lowland gorilla nests in an unexplored area of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), expanding the range of this little-known subspecies by 30 miles (50 kilometers). The eastern lowland gorilla, also known as Grauer’s gorilla, is currently listed as Endangered in the IUCN Red List. Scientists estimate that the gorilla has as few as 8,000 individual left. Although closely related to mountain gorillas, the eastern lowland gorilla is the world’s largest living primate, weighing over 500 pounds at maximum, and is endemic to the DRC.
10 years of mongabay
(06/10/2009) Today marks the 10th birthday of mongabay.com. Originally launched as an online version of a manuscript about tropical rainforests (A Place Out of Time), the site has grown over the years to encompass a wide range of topics. The seeds for mongabay were sewn by two places: the Ecuadorean Amazon and Malaysian Borneo. While I was blessed with the good fortune to travel to many places starting from a young age (thanks to a travel agent mother and a father who racked up a lot of airline miles), these two places left a lasting impression, not because of the time I spent in their majestic forests but because the fate that befell them after I departed. In the case of the Ecuadorean Amazon, it was an oil spill; in the case of Sabah (Malaysia), it was logging. Both broke my heart.
Frogs species discovered living in elephant dung
(06/10/2009) Three different species of frogs have been discovered living in the dung of the Asian elephant in southeastern Sri Lanka. The discovery—the first time anyone has recorded frogs living in elephant droppings—has widespread conservation implications both for frogs and Asian elephants, which are in decline. "I found the frogs fortuitously during a field study about seed dispersal by elephants," Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz, a research fellow from the University of Tokyo, told Monagaby.com.
Photo: guano stains helps researchers track penguins by satellite
(06/10/2009) Researchers from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) have uncovered a novel way to locate the world’s largest penguin’s breeding sites, employing satellite imagery they seek out Emperor penguin guano, droppings which show up starkly on the otherwise unsullied white sea ice of Antarctica. Searching for the penguins themselves had proven too difficult, since the birds’ black-and-white coloring allowed them to blend in with the shadows made by the ice. The penguin droppings however are light-brown—a colors that has no other source on sea ice, besides guano.
NASA photos reveal destruction of 99% of rainforest park in Rwanda
(06/09/2009) Satellite images released by NASA show nearly complete destruction of Rwanda's Gishwati Forest between 1986 and 2001. Deforestation of the forest reserve is largely the result of subsistence harvesting and cultivation by refugees in the aftermath of the country's 1994 genocide. Overall only 600 hectares of Gishwati's original 100,000 hectares of forest remain, a loss of 99.4 percent.
Climate pact must halt deforestation and industrial logging of old-growth forests, exclude carbon credits for forest conservation, say activists
(06/09/2009) A global framework on climate change must immediately halt deforestation and industrial logging of the world's old-growth forests, while protecting the rights of forest communities and indigenous groups, said a broad coalition of activist groups in a consensus statement issued today at U.N. climate talks in Bonn Germany. The statement said the successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol should not include mechanisms that allow industrialized countries to "offset" their emissions by purchasing carbon credits from reducing deforestation in developing countries, a position that puts the coalition at odds with larger environmental groups who say a market-based approach with tradable credits is the only way to generate enough money fund forest protection on a global scale.
Canada expands park: over three times larger than Yellowstone
(06/09/2009) The government of Canada and the Dehcho First Nation announced today the expansion of Nahanni National Park from 1,865 square miles (4,830 square kilometers) to 12,000 square miles (31,080 square kilometers), over six times its original size.
Photos: camera traps capture snow leopards in Afghanistan
(06/09/2009) It has been estimated that Afghanistan only has 100 snow leopards left, however photos from camera traps placed by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) show that there may be hope for snow leopards in the war-torn nation after all. Working in Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor, WCS set up five camera traps. Four of the five camera traps took photos of snow leopards, including 22 images in total.
UN calls for global ban on plastic bags to save oceans
(06/09/2009) The UN’s top environmental official called for a global ban on plastic bags yesterday. "Single use plastic bags which choke marine life, should be banned or phased out rapidly everywhere. There is simply zero justification for manufacturing them anymore, anywhere," said Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program.
Lear’s Macaw: back from the brink
(06/09/2009) The 2009 IUCN Red List for birds broke records by listing more Critically Endangered birds than ever before. Despite this, there were individual species that bucked the global trend: Lear’s Macaw Anodorhynchus leari, a bright blue parrot from northeastern Brazil, was one of these. Due to effective conservation measures the parrot’s population has reached nearly a thousand birds (up from a low of just a hundred individuals in 1989), and therefore was moved down the list, from Critically Endangered to Endangered.
World’s rarest tortoises stolen
(06/08/2009) Four of the world's rarest tortoises have been stolen from a captive breeding program in Madagascar. The critically endangered animals were part of a group of 44 due for release by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and were being held in pre-release enclosures at a secret location. The Trust fears the stolen ploughshare tortoises are destined for Europe, USA or Asia where collectors will pay thousands of dollars for individuals due to the rarity of the species. It is estimated that only 500 adults remain in the wild and they are only found in Baly Bay national park, where the tortoises were taken from. After extensive investigations in the area arrests have been made but the tortoises are yet to be recovered.
Kenya moves forward to ban the pesticide Furadan after it is used to kill 76 lions
(06/08/2009) After highly-publicized poisonings of lions in Kenya’s national parks, the Kenyan Parliament has begun addressing longstanding concerns regarding the pesticide Furadan. Since 1995 Furadan has been used to illegally kill 76 lions, 15 hyenas, 24 hippos, over 250 vultures, and thousands of other birds in Kenya. These numbers are likely low due to under-reporting, according to Kenya-based conservation organization, Wildlife Direct.
Malaysian palm oil firms seek 100,000 ha in the Philippines
(06/08/2009) Malaysian oil palm developers are looking to establish a a 100,000-hectare palm oil plantation and extraction facility on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines, reports Business Mirror, a Philippine business publication.
10 ways you can help protect oceans
(06/08/2009) Monday June 8th, 2009 is World Ocean Day, which the United Nations launched to raise awareness about oceans and coastal ecosystems. Roughly 80 percent of life on Earth depends on oceans and coasts, while more than a third of the humanity lives in coastal areas or on small islands. Oceans provide mankind with more than $21 trillion annually in goods and services, including food, energy, transportation, and recreation. But oceans and coastal ecosystems are increasingly under threat from pollution, unsustainable fishing practices, destruction of habitats, and the effects of increased carbon dioxide emissions (warmer temperatures and ocean acidification). In recognition of the importance of maintaining healthy marine ecosystems, The Nature Conservancy is offering a set of ten tips to help to protect these resources for future generations.
Marine scientist calls for abstaining from seafood to save oceans
(06/08/2009) In April marine scientist Jennifer Jacquet made the case on her blog Guilty Planet that people should abstain from eating seafood to help save life in the ocean. With fish populations collapsing worldwide and scientists sounding warnings that ocean ecosystems—as edible resources—have only decades left, it is perhaps surprising that Jacquet’s call to abstain from consuming seafood is a lone voice in the wilderness, but thus far few have called for seafood lovers to abstain.
International community calls for action against gangs’ illegal logging in Madagascar
(06/08/2009) Six nations and three conservation organizations have issued a statement calling for action against illegal logging in Madagascar’s protected areas.
Brazil to sanction illegal colonization in 230,000 sq mi of Amazon rainforest
(06/08/2009) Brazil moved a step closer to passing a controversial law that would allow landowners who illegally deforested land in the Amazon to get legal title to these holdings. Environmentalists say HB 458 — which now only needs the signature of President Lula, an avid supporter — will legitimize years of illegal colonization and may promote new deforestation.
In the dark, bats identify each other by voice
(06/08/2009) Individual bats have the ability to tell the difference between other bats just by the sound of their voice, according to a study published in PLoS Computational Biology. Researchers from the University of Tuebingen, Germany found that the greater mouse-eared bat could distinguish between their fellows’ echolocation calls. A subject bat was tested by having to select between two others depending on their calls. The subject bats chose correctly over 80 percent of the time.
Another milestone in Afghanistan: listing of endangered species
(06/08/2009) Thirty-three species are included in Afghanistan’s first-ever listing of protected wildlife. Well-known animals like the snow leopard, wolves, and brown bears received full legal protection from hunting and harvesting alongside lesser-known species like the paghman salamander, goitered gazelle, and Himalayan elm tree. The protected species list consists of twenty mammals, seven birds, four plants, one amphibian, and one insect.
Oil or Death in the Amazon
(06/06/2009) More than 70% of the Peruvian Amazon has been allocated for oil and gas extraction, and the current government of Alan Garcia has been pushing for more. Unfortunately, as usual, these policies are promoted by and only benefit a handful of people, but negatively impact the lives of many. However, Garcia’s government did not foresee the potential consequences of their actions.
Peruvian police kill 10 Indians in battle over Amazon oil drilling
(06/06/2009) At least 30 are dead following a clash between police and Indians protesting oil development in Peru's Amazon region.
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