conservation news and environmental science news.
Economic crisis hits conservation but may offer opportunities, says TNC president
(03/03/2009) In 2008 The Nature Conservancy (TNC) surprised the conservation world when it selected Mark Tercek, an investment banker from Goldman Sachs, as its new president and CEO. But for people who have worked with Tercek, the move made strategic sense – Tercek was a leading figure in the Goldman's effort to improve its environmental record. In 2005 Tercek was appointed to head up the firm's Environmental Strategy Group, which develops and implements its environmental policy, and its Center for Environmental Markets, an initiative that examines market-based solutions to environmental challenges. In that role Tercek worked with pioneers in ecosystem services science, including Gretchen Daily of Stanford University; John Holdren, the former director of the Woods Hole Research Center and currently President Obama's chief scientific adviser; and Peter Kareiva, chief scientist at TNC.
Cameroon may liquidate rainforest reserve if conservationists don't step forward
(03/02/2009) The opportunity to conserve a one million hectare tract rainforest in Cameroon is fast dwindling due financial pressures in the Central African country, reports a bulletin from the Ngoyla Mintom Foundation. In 2002 the government of Cameroon suspended logging rights and extended an offer to protect Ngoyla Mintom — a forest reserve that houses 4,000 lowland gorillas, 1,500 endangered chimpanzees, 3,000 forest elephants and an important population of vulnerable Mandrills — provided someone step forward to pay for it. To date there have been no takers. Now facing a mounting economic crisis, the government of Cameroon says it will soon concession Ngoyla Mintom for logging.
Aquatic animals emit powerful greenhouse gas
(03/02/2009) A number of water-dwelling species emit the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide, researchers announced today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences . Although nitrous oxide is low in concentration globally, it is considered the fourth largest contributor to climate change. This is due to its potency: in a hundred year period nitrous oxide by weight packs 310 times more punch as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
Time to give up on Tasmanian tiger, says DNA expert
(03/02/2009) Money and energy spent on finding the Tasmanian tiger should be used for other conservation purposes, according to Dr. Jeremy Austin from the University of Adelaide’s Centre for Ancient DNA. The Tasmanian tiger, or Thylacine, has captured the imagination of cryptozoologists ever since the last known individual died in the 1936 in the Hobart Zoo, which closed the next year. There have been several unreported sightings throughout the island since the 1930s, including inconclusive photos taken by German tourists.
Largest US protest on climate change today
(03/02/2009) At 1 PM EST activists from across the US plan to engage in civil disobedience at Capitol Power Plant in Washington DC. Organizers from 90 different groups estimate that more than 2,500 people will be joining in the protests making it the largest US protest on climate change to date. Owned by congress, Capital Power Plant is seen by activists as a longtime symbol of the US government’s consistent support for the use of coal, the leading source of CO2 emissions in the US.
14,000-barrel oil spill in the Ecuadorean Amazon
(02/27/2009) A ruptured oil pipeline caused 14,000 barrels of crude to spill into a river in the Napo region in northeast Ecuador, an area known for its high biological diversity, reports Reuters.
Deforestation blamed for tiger maulings in Sumatra
(02/27/2009) WWF has attributed six recent killings of villagers by tigers to deforestation in Sumatra. Habitat loss — together with prey depletion by hunting — is believed to be driving tiger-human conflict on the Indonesia island.
Massive freshwater stingray takes 13 men to pull it ashore in Thailand
(02/27/2009) It took ninety minutes and thirteen men to reel in an astounding specimen of giant freshwater stingray on the Ban Pakong River in Thailand. At seven feet wide and weighing an estimated 580-770 pounds (265-350 kilograms), the monstrous fish is thought to be the largest freshwater fish ever caught with a rod and line, according to Fishsiam, a company that provides fishing tours in Thailand.
China's emissions rise 45%, but Western demand accounts for 30% of increase
(02/26/2009) Thirteen-and-a-half percent of China's 45 percent rise in greenhouse gas emissions between 2002 and 2005 can be attributed to export production for Western countries, reports a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters. In other words, outsourcing of manufacturing by American and European firms accounted for larger share of carbon dioxide emission growth than rising domestic consumption in China (which made of 7 percent of the figure). The results, which indicate that Western companies are effectively outsourcing emissions along with manufacturing, have implications for future climate treaties, says one of the authors.
Could America’s 700 billion stimulus have saved life on earth?
(02/26/2009) In a January op-ed in Science, ecologist Jaboury Ghazoul wistfully and wittily ponders how far the 789 billion stimulus bill recently passed by the US Congress could go toward saving our planet's embattled life-forms. In his essay, Ghazoul suggests we put the 700 billion “in the context of the species extinction crisis”. According to various scientific analyses the extinction rate is currently 100 to 1,000 times the average. Such a catastrophic loss of species—while making the world a lonelier and less interesting place—will unpredictably reshape ecosystems we depend on, causing social, political, and economic upheaval.
400-million-year-old fish at risk from harbor project
(02/26/2009) A harbor project in Tanzania may put a population of coelacanth at risk, reports Nature News.
Illegal fishing estimated at $10-24B per year
(02/26/2009) Global losses from illegal and unreported fishing are estimated at $10-23.5 billion per year, according to a new study published in PLoS One. Analyzing fishing data from 54 countries, David J. Agnew of Imperial College London and colleagues estimate the "Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated" (IUU) fish catch at 11 to 26 million tons per each year. The authors found a strong link between governance and illegal fishing — illicit practices were most widespread in developing countries with poor monitoring and law enforcement. Estimated catches in West Africa were 40 percent higher than reported catches.
Ecstasy threatens rainforests in Cambodia
(02/25/2009) Authorities, working with conservationists, have raided and closed several 'ecstasy oil' distilleries in Cambodia's Cardamom Mountains. The distilleries posed a threat to the region's rich biological diversity, reports Fauna & Flora International (FFI), the conservation group involved in the operation.
Whole Foods bans unsustainable palm oil from its products
(02/24/2009) America's largest organic grocer has announced its products will no longer use palm oil sourced from unsustainable producers, reports the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), an activist group that has led a campaign against destructive palm oil production. The move adds pressure on the palm oil industry to develop an effective and credible certification system for palm oil.
Carbon dioxide monitoring satellite crashes immediately after launch
(02/24/2009) The Orbiting Carbon Observatory, a $273 million satellite that would have collected measurements of carbon dioxide (CO2) in Earth's atmosphere to help better forecast the climate impacts of changes in CO2 levels, crashed about three minutes after launch, reports NASA. Researchers say the accident is a major setback for science.
YouTube videos may be imperiling cuddly primate
(02/24/2009) Many “cute” and “cuddly” species have gained attention and funds from conservation groups, since the public gravitates toward such attractive species. In fact, cuteness can sometimes mean the difference between conservation attention and extinction. However, for slow lorises being cute may be their downfall. Despite the fact that owning a slow loris as a pet or trading it is illegal in all range countries and “all countries where primates as pets are illegal,” the species is still heavily trafficked, says Dr. Anna Nekaris, an anthropologist who specializes in slow-loris research at Oxford Brookes University. During the past few years videos of pet slow lorises have begun to appear on YouTube. Such videos often include comments from users who push misinformation about the slow loris’s legality and aptitude as pets, raising concerns among conservationists that the videos encourage people to actively pursue the slow loris as a pet.
Photos: Rarest cheetah photographed for the first time
(02/23/2009) With only 250 individuals left the Saharan Cheetah is on the brink of extinction. Little-studied, this imperiled subspecies has been photographed for the fist time by scientists from by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Office du Parc National de l’Ahaggar (OPNA) using camera traps. “The Saharan cheetah is critically endangered, yet virtually nothing is known about the population, so this new evidence, and the ongoing research work, is hugely significant,” said Dr Sarah Durant, a Senior Research Fellow with ZSL.
Box turtles in Asia imperiled by massive trade
(02/23/2009) Massive international trade in Southeast Asian Box Turtles has driven the species to near-extinction in parts of Indonesia, according to a new report by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network.
Biologists warn of rainforest mining threat from Alcoa, Newmont in Suriname
(02/23/2009) A prominent group of biologists are calling for Alcoa, Newmont Mining Corp, and other minerals conglomerates to forgo gold and bauxite mining operations in a biologically-rich zone in the South American country of Suriname.
ACCOR hotel chain linked to destructive logging in Borneo?
(02/23/2009) ACCOR, one of Europe's leading hotel groups, is cooperating with a Malaysian logging company blamed for destructive logging and attacks on Penan indigenous communities in Sarawak, claims an environmental group that has long campaigned on behalf of Borneo's forest people. The Switzerland-based Bruno Manser Fund reports that NOVOTEL is jointly building a 4.5-star hotel in the Sarawak capital of Kuching with the Malaysian tropical timber company, Interhill.
24% of Papua New Guinea's rainforest destroyed or degraded by logging in 30 years
(02/23/2009) Nearly one quarter of Papua New Guinea's rainforests were damaged or destroyed between 1972 and 2002, report researchers writing in the journal Biotopica. The results, which were published in a report last June, show that Papua New Guinea is losing forests at a much faster rate than previously believed. Over the 30-year study period 15 percent of Papua New Guinea's tropical forests were cleared and 8.8 percent were degraded through logging.
80% of wars between 1950-2000 took place in biodiversity hotspots
(02/22/2009) 80 percent of the world's major armed conflicts between 1950 and 2000 occurred in biodiversity hotspots, reports a study published in the journal Conservation Biology.
New fire record for Borneo, Sumatra shows dramatic increase in rainforest destruction
(02/22/2009) Destruction of rainforests and peatlands is making Indonesia more susceptible to devastating forest fires, especially in dry el Niño years, report researchers writing in the journal Nature Geoscience. Constructing a record of fires dating back to 1960 for Sumatra and Kalimantan (on the island of Borneo) using airport visibility records to measure aerosols or "haze" prior to the availability of satellite data, Robert Field of the University of Toronto and colleagues found that the intensity and scale of fires has increased substantially in Indonesia since the early 1990s, coinciding with rapid expansion of oil palm plantations and industrial logging.
Photos of '100-foot monster snake' surface
(02/20/2009) A photo of '100-foot monster snake' that has surfaced on the Internet and is certainly fake has stirred up a lot of interest in recent days, reports the Telegraph Online.
Clinton, Obama botch opportunity on climate, forest conservation
(02/20/2009) The Obama administration squandered a chance this week to show U.S. leadership on climate and forest conservation issues, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during a visit to Jakarta, failed to bring up a new Indonesian government decree allowing conversion of carbon-rich peat forests to oil-palm plantations.
Wild jaguar outfitted with radio-collar in U.S. for first time
(02/20/2009) The Department of Fish and Game in Arizona captured a jaguar south Of Tucson, Arizona and fitted it with a GPS radio collar. The jaguar, a well-documented male named ‘Macho’, is the first in the US to be fitted with such a collar, providing frequent updates on its movements.
Indonesia confirms that peatlands will be converted for plantations
(02/19/2009) Indonesia's Minister for the Environment has approved a decree that will allow the conversion of carbon-rich peatlands for oil palm plantations, reports The Jakarta Post.
Iceland reaffirms whaling targets for 2009
(02/19/2009) Iceland's interim government will allow whaling to continue through 2009 but left in question whether it would be permitted in the future, reports Reuters.
High ivory prices in Vietnam drive killing of elephants in Laos, Cambodia
(02/19/2009) Indochina's remaining elephants are at risk from surging ivory prices in Vietnam, according to a new report from the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC.
Rainforests absorb 20% of emissions annually
(02/19/2009) Undisturbed tropical forests are absorbing nearly a fifth of carbon dioxide released annually by the burning of fossil fuels, according to an analysis of 40 years of data from rainforests in the Central African country of Gabon. Writing in the journal Nature, Simon Lewis and colleagues report that natural forests are an immense carbon sink, helping slow the rise in atmospheric CO2 levels.
Amazon rainforest in big trouble, says UN
(02/19/2009) Economic development could doom the Amazon warns a comprehensive new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The report — titled GEO Amazonia [PDF-21.3MB] — is largely a synthesis of previously published research, drawing upon studies by more than 150 experts in the eight countries that share the Amazon.
Cameroon gets gorilla park
(02/18/2009) Cameroon has created a new national park to protect a population of 600 gorillas, along with other threatened species such as chimpanzees, forest elephants, buffaloes, and bongo.
Illegal timber trade to face tough penalties in the E.U.
(02/18/2009) Companies dealing in illegal timber may soon face stiff penalties under a proposed E.U. regulation. The European Parliament voted Monday to impose penalties on companies who use or trade illegally sourced timber. National authorities will have the power to impound timber of illegal origin, fine companies, and even shut down particularly egregious violators. Penalties will be "at least five times the value of the timber products" under the proposal, which will be voted on in April at Parliament's plenary session and then later by EU agriculture ministers.
Deforestation jumps 55% in Vietnam province
(02/18/2009) Deforestation increased 55 percent during the past year in Vietnam's Dak Nong province, reports the Vietnam News Agency.
FARC killing Rainforest Indians in Colombia
(02/18/2009) Several members of the Awa indigenous community have been killed by Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas in Nariño, a state bordering Ecuador, reports Human Rights Watch.
Climate change doubles coastal erosion in Alaska over 5-year period
(02/18/2009) Coastal erosion along a 64-kilometer (40-mile) stretch of Alaska's Beaufort Sea doubled between 2002 and 2007, report researchers, who link the development to "declining sea ice extent, increasing summertime sea-surface temperature, rising sea level, and increases in storm power and corresponding wave action."
Universal phone charger to cut e-waste
(02/18/2009) Mobile phone manufacturers will introduce a universal charger for handsets by 2012, reports CNN.
Climate change to have a big impact on marine fisheries
(02/18/2009) Climate change will have a big impact on marine fisheries, report scientists writing in the journal Fish and Fisheries.
CO2 levels rise to a new record
(02/17/2009) Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations climbed 2.28 parts-per-million (ppm) in 2008 to the highest level in at least 650,000 years — and possibly 20 million years — reports NOAA.
Little-known flatback sea turtle receives extra attention at symposium in Australia
(02/17/2009) Beginning today in Brisbane, Australia, the 29th annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation will feature the flatback sea turtle, native to Australia and probably the least-studied of the marine turtle species. For a hundred years biologists debated as to how closely the flatback marine turtle was related to the green sea turtle. Several unique attributes of the flatback came to the forefront. The name ‘flatback’ describes the turtle’s distinct flattened carapace. The species also lays the largest eggs of any sea turtles, proportional to their size. However, perhaps most distinctly the flatback is the only marine turtle to call one nation home. The flatback forages, mates, and lays eggs along Australia’s coats; its penchant for swimming, rather than riding oceanic currents, keeps it from migrating across oceans as other turtle do.
Photos: 13,000 species found in Arctic, Antarctic Oceans
(02/16/2009) A marine census has documented more than 13,000 species in the Arctic and Antarctic Oceans, including several hundred that may be new to science. Conducted over a two-year period under often perilous conditions — including monster waves and dangerous polar bears — the series of 18 surveys turned up a wealth of information on the diversity, distribution and abundance of marine life. The research will also help establish a baseline for measure changes in polar ecosystems.
Burning rainforests, melting tundra could accelerate global warming well beyond current projections
(02/16/2009) Projections by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) likely underestimate the scale and rapidity of climate change, warned a Stanford University scientist presenting Saturday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Chicago.
Beef consumption fuels rainforest destruction
(02/16/2009) Nearly 80 percent of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon results from cattle ranching, according to a new report by Greenpeace. The finding confirms what Amazon researchers have long known – that Brazil's rise to become the world's largest exporter of beef has come at the expense of Earth's biggest rainforest. More than 38,600 square miles has been cleared for pasture since 1996, bringing the total area occupied by cattle ranches in the Brazilian Amazon to 214,000 square miles, an area larger than France. The legal Amazon, an region consisting of rainforests and a biologically-rich grassland known as cerrado, is now home to more than 80 million head of cattle. For comparison, the entire U.S. herd was 96 million in 2008.
Pricing emissions from farming, logging could shift land use towards conservation
(02/15/2009) Putting a price tag on carbon dioxide emissions resulting from various land use practices could dramatically change the way that land is used, including reducing deforestation and limiting agricultural expansion on carbon-rich lands, said a researcher presenting at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Mass media ‘screwing up’ global warming reporting says renowned climatologist
(02/15/2009) Stanford scientist and climate-specialist Stephen Schneider has called out media organizations for the quality of their reporting on climate change and other scientific issues. "Business managers of media organizations,” he said, “you are screwing up your responsibility by firing science and environment reporters who are frankly the only ones competent to do this."
80% of agricultural expansion since 1980 came at expense of forests
(02/15/2009) More than half of cropland expansion between 1980 and 2000 occurred at the expense of natural forests, while another 30 percent of occurred in disturbed forests, reported a Stanford University researcher presenting Saturday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Chicago.
Japanese paper firms contribute to destruction of old-growth forests in Tasmania
(02/15/2009) A new report released by Australian conservation groups The Wilderness Society and Still Wild, Still Threatened shows that despite claims to the contrary, Japanese paper manufacturers are the purchasers of wood chips derived from the destruction of Tasmania’s old growth forests.
Indonesia may allow conversion of peatlands for palm oil
(02/15/2009) The Indonesian government will allow developers to convert millions of hectares of land for oil palm plantations, reports The Jakarta Post. The decision threatens to undermine Indonesia's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from land use and fashion itself as a leader on the environment among tropical countries.
Love puppet used to teach bird how to find mate
(02/14/2009) At the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo Paprika, a male red bird of paradise, presented a challenge for senior wild animal keeper, Patti Cooper. Upon his return from another zoo, Paprika came back with increased human imprinted behaviors, including speaking some English words. While entertaining to some, this wasn't helping him attract a female of his species. Not wanting to give up on him, Patty enlisted the aid of Carolyn Fuchs in WCS’s exhibit shop. Together Patty and Carolyn came up with the idea to create a female red bird of paradise puppet to broaden Paprika’s horizons and give him another chance at love.
Fishermen - not whales as claimed by Japan - are the cause of fisheries depletion
(02/12/2009) Fishermen calling for a resumption of whaling to restore commercial fish stocks are taking the wrong approach, argue researchers writing in the journal Science. Analyzing data on fish catch and whale abundance off the coast of northwestern Africa and the Caribbean, Leah R. Gerber and colleagues show that fishermen remove far more fish than whales consume, undermining the agreement by whaling nations that whales are driving depletion of fisheries.
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