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Russia's plan to mine peatlands for energy could release 113 gigatons of carbon
(09/08/2009) Wetlands International, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving the world's wetlands, has warned of drastic environmental consequences if the Russia government goes ahead with plans to begin large scale peat mining, including the potential release of 113 gigatons of carbon.
Elephants on the rampage in India: 500 homes destroyed, seven people dead
(09/08/2009) A herd of 12-13 elephants has caused havoc in the Kandhamal district of India, reports the BBC. The elephants have completely destroyed 500 homes, left seven dead, and sent another 500 people to camps for shelter.
Discovering nature's wonder in order to save it, an interview with Jaboury Ghazoul
(09/08/2009) Sometimes we lose sight of the forest by staring at the trees. When this happens we need something jarring and eloquent to pull us back to view the big picture again. This is what tropical ecologist Jaboury Ghazoul provided during a talk at the Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) meeting this summer in Marburg, Germany. Throwing out a dazzling array of big ideas and even bigger questions—incorporating natural history, biodiversity, morality, philosophy, and art—the enthusiastic Ghazoul left his audience in a state of wonder.
Activists target Brazil's largest driver of deforestation: cattle ranching
(09/08/2009) Perhaps unexpectedly for a group with roots in confrontational activism, Amigos da Terra - Amazônia Brasileira is calling for a rather pragmatic approach to address to cattle ranching, the largest driver of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. The solution, says Roberto Smeraldi, founder and director of Amigos da Terra, involves improving the productivity of cattle ranching, thereby allowing forest to recover without sacrificing jobs or income; establishing a moratorium on new clearing; and recognizing the economic values of maintaining the ecological functions of Earth's largest rainforest.
Japan throws down gauntlet, vows to cut greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020
(09/07/2009) The new prime minister of Japan, Yukio Hatoyama, has thrown down the gauntlet to other industrialized nations in the lead-up to the UN Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen this December. He had pledged to cut his nation's greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent from 1990 levels (the set date for the Kyoto Treaty) by 2020.
New species everywhere in Papua New Guinea's 'lost' volcano
(09/07/2009) A five week expedition into a remote extinct volcano has uncovered a treasure trove of new species in Papua New Guinea, including what may be the world's largest rat, a fanged frog, and a grunting fish. In all the expedition estimates it may have found around forty species unknown to science. The expedition was undertaken by a BBC film crew and scientists in January. Local trackers led them into the unexplored jungle, hidden beneath the Bosavi volcano's 2,800 meter summit. Six months prior to arrival, fields of spinach and sweet potato were planted to feed the expedition in such a remote area.
Apple's Snow Leopard helps real-life cats
(09/07/2009) Apple's release of its new operating system, dubbed "Snow Leopard", is helping raise awareness of the plight of one of the world's most endangered big cats, reports the Snow Leopard Trust, a group working to protect the real-life snow leopard in its mountainous habitat across Central Asia.
Cartels clear-cutting U.S. national parks for marijuana plantations
(09/07/2009) Marijuana growers are chopping down U.S. national forests to establish plantations for illicit drug production, reports the Wall Street Journal. According to an article written by Stephanie Simon and published September 3rd, the recent border crackdown has pushed marijuana cartels to cultivate crops in the United States rather than risk smuggling from Mexico. National forests are especially targeted, with authorities uncovering marijuana farms in 61 national forests across 16 states so far this year, up from 49 forests in 10 states last year.
20% of land deforested in the Brazilian Amazon is regrowing forest
(09/06/2009) At least 20 percent land deforested in the Brazilian Amazon is regrowing forest, reports Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE).
Van Jones resigns amid controversy
(09/05/2009) Van Jones, an Obama administration official focused on promoting "green jobs", has resigned amid controversy over past statements, according to the White House.
46 rescued orangutans returned to the wild by helicopter in Borneo
(09/05/2009) The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) has successfully released 46 orangutans back into the wild. The orangutans had been rescued from forest fragments and housed for months at the Nyaru Menteng Rescue and Reintroduction Project in Central Kalimantan until suitable — and secure — habitat was located. The release site is a section of rainforest in the upper Barito region of Central Kalimantan, within the Heart of Borneo.
Save the frogs, save ourselves
(09/04/2009) Amphibians are going extinct around the globe. As a scientist specializing in frogs, I have watched dozens of species of these creatures die out. The extinction of frogs and salamanders might seem unimportant, but the reality couldn't be farther from the truth. Indeed, from regulating their local ecosystems, to consuming and controlling the population of mosquitoes and other insects that spread disease, to potentially pointing the way to new drugs for fighting diseases such as cancer or HIV-AIDS, the fate of these creatures is inexorably linked to our own.
Photo: baby mongoose born at the Bronx Zoo
(09/04/2009) Three dwarf mongoose were recently born at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo.
Critically-endangered turtle seen in the wild for the first time by scientists
(09/03/2009) Scientists have stumbled on the Arakan forest turtle for the first time in the wild, according to a report by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). One of the world's rarest turtles, the Arakan forest turtle was thought to be extinct for 86 years, before being discovered in an Asian food market in 1994. It has never before been observed in the wild by scientists. A team with WCS found five of the Critically Endangered turtles in a wildlife sanctuary in Myanmar (also known as Burma). The rarely-visited sanctuary was originally created to protect Asian elephants.
Sea levels set to rise as Arctic warming replaces millennia long natural cooling cycle
(09/03/2009) According to a new study published in Science the Arctic should be cooling, and in fact has been cooling for millennia. But beginning in 1900 Arctic summer temperatures began rising until the mid-1990s when the cooling trend was completely overcome. Researchers fear that this sudden up-tick in temperatures could lead to rising sea levels threatening coastal cities and islands. "Scientists have known for a while that the current period of warming was preceded by a long-term cooling trend," said lead author Darrell Kaufman of Northern Arizona University. "But our reconstruction quantifies the cooling with greater certainty than ever before."
Investing in conservation could save global economy trillions of dollars annually
(09/03/2009) By investing billions in conserving natural areas now, governments could save trillions every year in ecosystem services, such as natural carbon sinks to fight climate change, according to a European report The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB).
Last chance to save a 'singular beauty' of Asia: the shy soala
(09/03/2009) Only discovered in 1992, the reclusive and beautiful saola Pseudoryx nghetinhensis may soon vanish from the Earth, if rapid action isn't taken to save one of Asia's most enigmatic and rare mammals. Listed as Critically Endangered, the species has experienced a sharp decline since its discovery due largely to poaching. "The animal's prominent white facial markings and long tapering horns lend it a singular beauty, and its reclusive habits in the wet forests of the Annamites an air of mystery," says Barney Long, of the IUCN Asian Wild Cattle Specialist Group.
Plastic pollution in oceans inspires international event
(09/03/2009) For the past decade, an annual volunteer drive involving thousands of divers from all over the world has taken place in an effort to lessen the plastic content of the ocean. This year's International Cleanup Day is scheduled for September 19th and registration is open to certified divers and other volunteers who would like to do their part to save a choking ocean.
Power, profit, and pollution: dams and the uncertain future of Sarawak
(09/03/2009) Sarawak, land of mystery, legend, and remote upriver tribes. Paradise of lush rainforest and colossal bat-filled caves. Home to unique and bizarre wildlife including flying lemurs, bearcats, orang-utans and rat-eating plants. Center of heavy industry and powerhouse of Southeast Asia. Come again? This jarring image could be the future of Sarawak, a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo, should government plans for a complex of massive hydroelectric dams comes to fruition. The plan, which calls for a network of 12 hydroelectric dams to be built across Sarawak's rainforests by 2020, is proceeding despite strong opposition from Sarawak's citizens, environmental groups, and indigenous human rights organizations. By 2037, as many as 51 dams could be constructed.
Amazon tribes have long fought bloody battles against big oil in Ecuador
(09/03/2009) The promotional efforts ahead of the upcoming release of the film Crude have helped raise awareness of the plight of thousands of Ecuadorians who have suffered from environmental damages wrought by oil companies. But while Crude focuses on the relatively recent history of oil development in the Ecuadorean Amazon (specifically the fallout from Texaco's operations during 1968-1992), conflict between oil companies and indigenous forest dwellers dates back to the 1940s.
Germany to pay Ecuador $650 million to forgo oil drilling, protect rainforest reserve
(09/03/2009) Germany has apparently agreed to fund a significant portion of Ecuador's scheme to leave Amazon rainforest oil reserves in the ground, according to Business Green.
No killing yet as season begins for dolphin slaughter made famous by The Cove
(09/02/2009) Due to the new documentary The Cove, the town of Taiji, Japan is suddenly famous, or perhaps more aptly, infamous. Winner of the documentary award at the Sundance Film Festival, the film uncovers a cove in Taiji where over two thousand dolphins are slaughtered every year due to the billion dollar dolphin entertainment industry. Their dolphin's meat is then labeled as fish and given to children for school lunches, even though as top level predators the meat is heavily tainted with mercury.
Political heat rising on climate change, but does the United States feel it?
(09/02/2009) The UN Summit on Climate Change isn’t for three months, yet the political temperature has been rising steadily over the summer. The heat is especially focused on the three big players at the summit: China, India, and the United States.
Amazon deforestation to fall 30% in 2009
(09/02/2009) Deforestation is the Brazilian Amazon is likely to fall between 8,500 square kilometers (3,088 square miles) and 9,000 sq km (3,474 sq mi) for the 12 months ended July 31, 2009, a reduction of 29-37 percent from last year, reports Brazil's Environment Minister Carlos Minc. If the estimate is confirmed by high resolution satellite data to be published later this year, the rate of forest loss for 2008-2009 would be the lowest since annual record-keeping began in the 1980s.
Vietnam outsources deforestation to neighboring countries
(09/02/2009) Taking a cue from its much larger neighbor to the north, Vietnam has outsourced deforestation to neighboring countries, according to a new study that quantified the amount of displacement resulting from restrictions on domestic logging. Like China, Vietnam has experienced a resurgence in forest cover over the past twenty years, largely as a result a forestry policies that restricted timber harvesting and encouraged the development of processing industries that turned raw log imports into finished products for export. These measures contributed to a 55 percent of Vietnam's forests between 1992 and 2005, while bolstering the country's stunning economic growth. But the environmental benefit of the increase in Vietnam's forest cover is deceptive: it came at the expense of forests in Laos, Cambodia, and Indonesia. Authors Patrick Meyfroidt and Eric F. Lambin of the Universite Catholique de Louvain in Belgium calculate that 39 percent of Vietnam's forest regrowth between 1987 and 2006 was effectively logged in other countries. Half of the wood imports into Vietnam were illegal.
Saving Africa's 'unicorn', the okapi
(09/02/2009) The giraffe is one of Africa's most recognizable animals, but its shy and elusive forest cousin, the okapi, was so little known that until just over a century ago the western world believed it was a mythical beast, an African unicorn. Today, a shroud of mystery still envelops the okapi, an animal that looks like a cross between a zebra, a donkey, and a giraffe. But what is known is cause for concern. Its habitat, long protected by its remoteness, was the site of horrific civil strife, with disease, famine, and conflict claiming untold numbers of Congolese over the past decade. Now, as a semblance of peace has settled over Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the okapi's prospects have further dimmed, for its home is increasingly seen as a rich source of timber, minerals, and meat to help the war-torn country rebuild. In an effort to ensure that the okapi does not become a victim of economic recovery, the Okapi Conservation Project (OCP) is working to protect the okapi and its habitat. Founded by John Lukas in 1987, well before the conflict, OCP today manages the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, a 13,700-square-kilometer tract of wilderness in the Ituri Forest of northeastern DRC.
Photos of 10 strongest storms of the 2000s
(09/01/2009) NASA has released a collection of satellite images showing the strongest storms of each year over the past decade.
New non-invasive painkiller developed for the world's biggest cats
(09/01/2009) The world's big cats are not easy patients, especially when trying to give them pain killers after a procedure. They will tear off transdermal patches; they are too powerful to restrain for easy—and safe—injections or pills; and when in pain they generally refuse food, making it impossible to hide the drugs in their dinner. Now, however, veterinarian researchers from Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo and the University of Tennessee believe they have found a solution: a surgically implanted, mini-pump that provides pain relief, and can be easily removed after the patient makes a full recovery.
Penan tribe to continue blockade against loggers with blowpipes and spears
(09/01/2009) A meeting between the Penan indigenous tribe, Malaysian government officials, and representatives of a logging company ended without an agreement on Friday. After the meeting, a Penan spokesman declared that the group's blockade would continue. Blockaders, dressed in traditional garb, have armed themselves with blowguns and spears.
Maldives president tells world: 'please, don’t be stupid' on climate change
(09/01/2009) "Please, don't be stupid," Mohamed Nasheed told the world regarding the need to act decisively against climate change. To underlie his message, Nasheed announced that his country will become carbon neutral in ten years.
Three new species discovered in mile-long underwater cave
(09/01/2009) There are few places in the world more remote, more dangerous, and more unexplored than underwater caves. Cave diving—exploring these unknown abysses—has yielded many strange species unknown to science. A recent expedition to an underwater cave on Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands, was no exception. Researchers discovered two species of worm smaller than a grain of rice and a primitive poisonous crustacean.
Summer sea ice likely to disappear in the Arctic by 2015
(08/31/2009) If current melting trends continue, the Arctic Ocean is likely to be free of summer sea ice by 2015, according to research presented at a conference organized by the National Space Institute at Technical University of Denmark, the Danish Meteorological Institute and the Greenland Climate Center.
Air pollution in China reduces rainfall
(08/31/2009) Air pollution in eastern China over the past half century has reduced rainfall and exacerbated the risk of drought and crop failures, reports a study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.
Greenhouse gas emissions drop in the EU for the fourth year in a row
(08/31/2009) In 2008 greenhouse gas emissions in the EU fell 1.3 percent, the European Environment Agency (EEA) said today. This figure measures only the emissions in the 15 EU countries that have commitments to reduce emissions, however when all 27 members of the EU are included, greenhouse gas emissions actually fell further: 1.5 percent.
Destructive farming practices of early civilization may have altered climate long before industrial era
(08/31/2009) William Ruddiman has become well known for his theory that human-induced climate change started long before the Industrial Age. In 2003 he first brought forth the theory that the Neolithic Revolution-when some humans turned from hunter-gathering to large-scale farming-caused a shift in the global climate 7,000 years ago.
Amid price cuts, companies struggle to make bottled-water profitable
(08/31/2009) Bottled-water makers have cut prices to win back consumers who have switched to tap water as a way to save money and reduce waste, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Photos: snow leopard in Afghanistan
(08/31/2009) Using camera traps, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has captured the elusive and rare snow leopard on film in Afghanistan for a second time. The feline was caught on film in the Sast Valley in Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor. The snow leopard is currently listed as Endangered by the IUCN. The cat is also listed as protected under Afghanistan's new endangered species list, which outlaws hunting it. The IUCN estimates that only 100-200 snow leopards still survive in Afghanistan.
Oil spill off Australia potential 'disaster' for marine wildlife
(08/30/2009) Oil is leaking from an offshore drilling rig in the Timor Sea near Australia's Northwest coast. Authorities say it will be weeks before the leak is plugged: they are awaiting the arrival of a drilling rig from Singapore to plug the leak.
Mining and biodiversity offsets in Madagascar: Conservation or 'Conservation Opportunities?'
(08/30/2009) Rio Tinto's ilmenite mine in southeastern Madagascar is among the largest on the planet. At peak capacity, its owners say, it could produce as much as 2 million tons of the stuff—worth roughly $100 a ton—each year, to be shipped off and smelted abroad. What's left of it after refining—some 60 percent of the ore that arrives from Madagascar—will be sold for $2000 a ton as titanium dioxide, a pigment used in everything from white paint and tennis court lines to sunscreen and toothpaste. At current levels of demand, the Fort Dauphin mine will provide 9 percent of the world supply over the next 40 years, amounting to more than $60 billion of titanium dioxide. Even that is a conservative estimate: demand for ilmenite has been growing at 3-5 percent annually, with major mines slated to close in coming years and few untapped sources known worldwide.
New Amazonian reserve saves over a million acres in Peru
(08/30/2009) On August 27th Peru's Ministry of the Environment approved the creation of the Matses National Reserve to protect the region's biodiversity, ensure its natural resources, and preserve the home of the Matses indigenous peoples (known as the Mayorunas in Brazil). The park is 1,039,390 acres (or 420,626 hectares) of lowland Amazonian rainforest in eastern Peru. The park is the culmination of over a decade of work by the local non-profit CEDIA (the Center for the Development of the Indigenous Amazonians) funded in part by the Worldland Trust.
World's rarest duck flies closer to extinction's edge
(08/27/2009) The Madagascar pochard, the world's rarest duck, was already thought to be extinct once. After a last sighting in 1991 the species was thought to have vanished until nine adults and four hatchlings were discovered in 2006. However, conservationists have begun to fear that the species will never recover after a survey this year found only six females.
Retailers Costco and Amazon.com flunk sustainable paper use, WalMart and Target fare little better
(08/27/2009) Every year forests are destroyed for the production of paper: habitat is lost, greenhouse gases are released, species are impacted, and fresh water sources damaged. Some companies have begun to move towards more sustainable paper production, seeking paper sources stamped by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and increasing the use of recycled paper, however other companies in the industry have yet to change their way. The 3rd annual report card conducted by Dogwood Alliance and Forest Ethics focuses both on the companies who continue to make progress toward sustainable paper production—and those who don't.
Cost of climate change adaptation to be 2-3 times higher than current estimates
(08/27/2009) The cost of adapting to climate change will be significantly higher than estimated by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) warns a new report published by the International Institute for Environment and Development and the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London.
The mysterious, fascinating, and lightning-quick mantis shrimp: An Interview with Maya deVries
(08/26/2009) If you have never heard of the mantis shrimp, don’t feel bad. Berkeley graduate student Maya deVries, who is becoming an expert on these small crustaceans (related neither to shrimp or preying mantis) admits that until she began her graduate studies mantis shrimp were also unknown to her: "I did not even learn what a mantis shrimp was until I applied to work with my current Ph.D. advisor, Dr. Sheila Patek, at UC Berkeley". But Maya's first look at the mantis shrimp on her advisor's website left an impression: "I was struck by the amazing capacity of mantis shrimp to capture fish and smash shells with only a few powerful blows, something a fish could only dream of doing."
The Pope: "creation is under threat"
(08/26/2009) Pope Benedict XVI spoke today on environmental issues, singling out the importance of a September U.N. summit in New York to work on negotiations for an international framework to tackle climate change, preparing for the U.N. Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen in December.
Trees sprout across farmland worldwide
(08/26/2009) Half the planet's farmed landscapes have significant tree cover, reports a new satellite-based study. The research, conducted by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research's World Agroforestry Centre found that tree cover exceeds 10 percent on more than 1 billion hectares of farmland, indicating that agroforestry is a "vital part" of worldwide agricultural production. 320 million hectares of forested agricultural land are found in Latin America, 190 million hectares in sub-Saharan Africa and 130 million hectares in Southeast Asia.
Snails learn from fear
(08/26/2009) We all know that frightening experiences give us powerful memories. Now, researchers at the University of Calgary have demonstrated that an invertebrate is also capable of learning from fear. They published their findings in The Journal of Experimental Biology earlier this month.
Start your engines with watermelon juice
(08/25/2009) Rejected watermelons that are currently plowed back into the field due to blemishes or misshapenness—and therefore deemed unsalable—could be used to drive your car. Results published in the open access journal Biotechnology for Biofuels show that the juice from these culled watermelons can either be efficiently turned into ethanol or used as a diluent for other biofuel crops.
World's largest bat threatened with extinction due to legal hunting
(08/25/2009) Under the current legal hunting rate scientists predict that the world's largest bat, the aptly-named large flying fox or Pteropus vampyrus, faces extinction in six to 81 years. Increasing the urgency to save the large flying fox is the vital role it plays as an ecosystem engineer (a species whose behavior can shape an ecosystem); the species maintains Southeast Asian forests by dispersing a wide variety of seeds over distances farther than most birds and other mammals.
Tiger brutally killed in zoo, body parts taken to sell for Chinese medicine
(08/25/2009) Poachers broke into the Jambi Zoo on Saturday morning in Indonesia. Using meat they drugged a female Sumatran tiger named Sheila and then skinned her in the cage. They left behind very little of the great cat: just her intestines and a few ribs. Authorities suspect that the tiger's body parts will be sold in the thriving black market for Chinese medicines where bones are used as pain killers and aphrodisiacs.
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