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The week in environmental news – March 11, 2016

  • The U.S. and Canada have announced an agreement between the two countries on steps they will take to fight climate change together.
  • Conservationists warn that if a Baltic Sea proposal allowing overfishing were approved, some species would be at risk.
  • A UK zoo celebrates the birth of an endangered bonobo ape.

Researchers discovered the first ever bacterium to feed on plastic [NPR]

A plastic chomping bacterium has been discovered in the debris fields around a recycling plant in Japan. Having the ability to feed off of common types of plastics used in clothing, plastic bottles and food packaging, this new species offers hope for an alternative when recycling isn’t possible.

The U.S. and Canada agree on ways to combat climate change together [Reuters]

This week, Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, joined President Barak Obama in the White House to announce an agreement between Canada and the United States on steps the two countries will be taking together in order to fight climate change.

A European commission plan that would allow overfishing has been leaked [Guardian]

Conservationists warn that if a Baltic Sea proposal allowing overfishing were approved, some species would be at risk. Also, if authorized, the blueprint for the proposal could be soon applied to the North Sea too, potentially threatening the future of some cod species.

Fishing cutter in the sound between the Ertholmene islands in the Baltic Sea. Photo by a.poll_o/ CC BY-SA 2.0.

A new conservation unit could push residents of this Amazonian region from their lands [Mongabay]

The recently created Estaçāo Ecológica da Terra do Meio (EsecTM, Terra do Meio Ecological Station) covers 3.4 million hectares (over 13,000 square miles), between the Amazon basin’s Xingu and Iriri rivers, and was created to discourage land grabs and violence. But the preserve has accidentally threatened the livelihoods and homes of families living there.

Biggest nature survey along Britain’s coast reveals rare wildlife [Guardian]

More than 3,400 species were recorded at 25 National Trust locations along the coastline of England, Wales and Northern Ireland in the charity’s largest ever wildlife survey. A handful have either been seen in a new habitat for the first time or “rediscovered” after going unseen for many years.

Using ‘Radical Conservation’ to save black rhinos [Discover]

Today, the black rhinoceros is listed as “critically endangered” according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. However, a former geologist and natural gas executive has begun a new career as a philanthropic conservationist is producing some positive results by using his philosophy of “radical conservation.”

Female black rhino, photo by Rhett Butler.

How planting trees can reduce flooding [BBC]

A study for the Environment Agency suggests that planting trees around rivers could reduce the level of flooding in towns by up to twenty percent. But while there has been an influx of interest in using natural methods, the study also warns that natural flood prevention methods are not always reliable.

This snake discovery highlights how little we know about biodiversity in some regions of India [Mongabay]

India is home to about 280 species of snakes, and it is generally assumed that the reptiles of India had been thoroughly documented decades ago. A new snake belonging to the Colubridae family has been found in Gujarat, India and researchers say it not only represents a new species but also a new genus.

A UK zoo celebrates the birth of an endangered bonobo ape [BBC]

The newborn is one of only 11 births of the endangered animal in zoos across the world in the last year. The newborn, which does not yet have a name, is said to be developing well.

Bonobo (Pan paniscus), photo by Rhett Butler.


For the first time, Gorillas in this threatened forest are caught on film

Camera traps deployed by the Clubs des Amis des Gorilles (Gorilla Guardian Clubs), a community-based conservation program launched by the Ebo Forest Research Project, captured three individual gorillas in the footage, two juveniles and one pregnant female.

A convicted police officer and illegal logger is on the run once again

The convicted officer, Labora Sitorus, was originally charged in early 2014 with a number of crimes, including illegal logging and money laundering, but was found guilty of just the illegal logging charge and sentenced to a mere two years in prison and a small fine.

Kwamalasamutu, Sipaliwini district Suriname, photo by Rhett Butler.

Indigenous rights win big against mining in Suriname

For many years, Suriname gave out land titles to non-indigenous individuals and gave mining concessions in the region, without consulting nor getting the consent of indigenous peoples. Following the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights decision, there is hope that the country will adopt its own legislation in defense of indigenous peoples.

Australia introduces ‘Brian,’ a new spider species

Unlike most Brians, this Brian isn’t a human. No, Brian is the nickname of a species of water spider discovered recently in the northern Australian state of Queensland and announced yesterday at the World Science Festival in Brisbane.