Newsletter 2017-12-21




Agroforestry boosts rice and biodiversity in India by Moushumi Basu [12/19/2017]

– Agroforestry is an ancient agricultural method covering 1 billion hectares globally; it combines trees and woody shrubs with crops to increase food security, mitigate the effects of climate change, and boost biodiversity.
– India has set a goal to increase its tree cover from the present 24 percent to 33 percent of its total area, primarily by promoting agroforestry in croplands.
– In West Bengal, the adoption of useful trees into paddy fields has boosted crop yields and crop diversity, and has also sparked a movement that champions organic cultivation methods.
– Agroforestry has been hailed as one of the top solutions to climate change because it sequesters much carbon dioxide above and below the soil surface.

Do protected areas work in the tropics? by Shreya Dasgupta [12/18/2017]

– To find out if terrestrial protected areas are effective in achieving their environmental and socioeconomic goals, we read 56 scientific studies. (See the interactive infographic below.)
– Overall, protected areas do appear to reduce forest cover loss. But other ecological outcomes of protected areas, like biodiversity or illegal hunting, remain extremely understudied.
– The evidence on socioeconomic impacts is very thin. What limited rigorous research exists shows that protected areas do not exacerbate poverty generally, but anecdotal studies suggest that protected areas could be making other aspects of people’s well-being worse off.
– This is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness”.



Consensus grows: climate-smart agriculture key to Paris Agreement goals by Justin Catanoso [12/21/2017]
– Attendees at the annual Global Landscape Forum conference in Bonn, Germany, this week sought approaches for implementing “climate-smart” agricultural practices to help keep global temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100.
– Some 40 percent of the earth’s surface is used for food production, with 400 million small farmers worldwide, plus industrial agribusiness, so policymakers understand that climate-smart agriculture, practiced broadly, could play a significant role in reducing carbon emissions and helping nations meet their Paris carbon-reduction pledges.
– Numerous agricultural management practices to reduce carbon emissions, enhance food security, productivity and profitability, are available now. They include wider use of cover crops, low and no till techniques, increased application of organic fertilizers such as manure, judicious use of chemical fertilizers, and the growing of crops bred for climate resiliency.
– These techniques are already being embraced to a degree in the U.S. and globally. Land of Lakes and Kellogg’s, for example, are insisting on sustainable farm practices from their suppliers, while John Deere is building low-till equipment that allows for “precision farming,” optimizing returns on inputs while preserving soils and soil carbon.

Palm oil’s ecological footprint extends to distant forests, study finds by Hans Nicholas Jong [12/21/2017]
– A new study has found that the ecological footprint of oil palm plantations on neighboring forests extends beyond just deforestation and is “substantially underestimated.”
– This is based on the discovery of the extensive damage done to forest understory by wild boars that feed on the palm fruit.
– The damage was found to persist more than a kilometer away from oil palm plantations, leading the researchers to call for the establishment of buffer zones as a way to address the problem.

Amazon dam impacts underestimated due to overlooked vine growth: study by Claire Salisbury [12/20/2017]
– New research on the rapid growth of lianas – native woody vines – on the artificial reservoir islands of the Balbina dam in the Amazon finds that forest communities there underwent a transformation as a result of severe habitat fragmentation, resulting in the altering of the carbon sequestration and emission balance.
– Some tree species are severely impacted by this extreme form of habitat fragmentation and die, while native lianas — woody vines that climb to reach the forest canopy — thrive and rapidly fill the biological niche left by failing trees.
– Trees, with their greater biomass, store more carbon in trunks and branches than lianas, so the carbon balance shifts as lianas dominate. Rather than sequestering carbon, these dam-created islands end up emitting carbon as the trees die.
– The rapid growth of lianas further contributes to the degradation of remnant tree communities challenged by fragmentation. Amazon dam environmental impact assessments don’t currently evaluate increased reservoir island carbon emissions.

Know your ESA: an online resource for Endangered Species Act docs and data by Sue Palminteri [12/20/2017]
– The ever-increasing number of species needing protection, inadequate funding, and poor understanding of how and where the US Endangered Species Act (ESA) has been implemented have made it difficult to assess the law’s success.
– A free, online platform offers access to and analyses of troves of ESA-related documents and data—including otherwise unavailable materials—on species, agency consultations, decisions, and effectiveness.
– By making these data more accessible, the platform aims to help the conservation community better understand how the ESA is implemented and where it can improve.

Armed conflict was not always ‘good’ for preventing deforestation in Colombia (commentary) by Augusto Castro-Nuñez [12/20/2017]
– I too used to be part of the camp that worried about the implications of the peace accord for the forests of Colombia. I used to think that the armed conflict did indeed contribute to forest conservation — full stop.
– Today, I have a different view. And I would go even further: I think it is rather misleading to make an umbrella statement that “armed conflict is good for preventing deforestation” in Colombia.
– I’m saying this after doing in-depth studies on the relationship of armed conflict and deforestation in the Latin American country. I, together with my research partners, found that several factors determine the extent of deforestation in Colombia.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Indonesia seeks to slap money-laundering label on illegal fishing by [12/20/2017]
– Indonesia wants to include illegal fishing in a U.N. convention on transnational crime, in order to bring anti-money-laundering tools to bear on the problem.
– The government is intent on ending poaching and unsustainable fishing, and has already made waves for its public policy of seizing and scuttling illegal foreign fishing boats operating in its waters.
– Indonesian waters represent one of the world’s largest capture fisheries.

The toughest snake on Earth lives in central Africa and eats baby rodents by Alex Fox [12/19/2017]
– The skin of the Calabar burrowing python is 15 times thicker and orders of magnitude harder to pierce than the average snake. The skin’s puncture resistance is owed to its layered sheets of collagen fibers.
– Scientists think the snake’s tough skin may have evolved to protect the snake from the bites of mother rodents defending their young, which make up the entirety of the Calabar’s diet.
– The snake’s skin is flexible despite being thick and nearly impenetrable. This unique combination of qualities has already intrigued a pharmaceutical company hoping to mimic its structure to create puncture-resistant medical gloves that don’t restrict movement.

Mine tailings dam failures major cause of environmental disasters: report by Zoe Sullivan [12/19/2017]
– Between 2008-2017 it’s estimated that more than 340 people died, communities have been ravaged, property ruined, rivers contaminated, fisheries wrecked and drinking water polluted by mining tailings dam collapses. Estimates from the year 2000 put the total number of tailings dams globally at 3,500, though there are likely more that have not been counted.
– A new United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report states that as mining production escalates globally to provide the minerals and metals required for a variety of industrial needs, including green technologies, it is urgent that nations and companies address tailings dam safety.
– The UNEP report recommends that mining companies strive for a “zero-failure objective” in regard to tailings dams, superseding economic goals. UNEP also recommends the establishment of a UN environmental stakeholder forum to support stronger international regulations for tailings dams, and the creation of a global database of mine sites and tailings storage facilities to track dam failures.
– One idea would be to eliminate types of tailings dams that are just too dangerous to be tolerated. For example, mining experts say there is no way to insure against the failure of “wet tailings disposal” dams, like the Samarco dam that failed in 2015 – Brazil’s worst environmental disaster ever. As a result, they recommend storing all future tailings waste via “dry stock disposal.”

For indigenous kids in Indonesian Borneo, an early start to forest stewardship by Yovanda [12/19/2017]
– A Dayak indigenous tribe in Indonesian Borneo has been campaigning for years to protect its forest, its main source of food and sustenance.
– A competition by an NGO hopes to impress upon the village’s children the importance of the forest to the community, through an understanding of where its food comes from.
– After fending off plantation and mining interests, the villagers have won recognition for their land rights from the district administration and are now awaiting acknowledgement from Jakarta.

Zanzibar’s red colobus monkeys much more numerous than thought by [12/18/2017]
– The team logged 4,725 hours over 2 years tracking down more than 4,000 individual Zanzibar red colobus monkeys (Piliocolobus kirkii).
– Protected areas house nearly 70 percent of the monkeys they found, where monkey groups tended to be larger and to have more females than those outside of parks and reserves.
– The team also found that a relatively small number of young monkeys survive to adulthood, and they concluded that the overall population might be declining.

EU-LatAm trade deal good for agribusiness; bad for Amazon, climate – analysis by Sue Branford [12/18/2017]
– The EU-Mercosur trade deal, being concluded this month by the European Union and the South American trade bloc (Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay) is being negotiated in secret. However, part of the document has been leaked to Greenpeace, alarming environmentalists.
– The leaked secret trade documents show that the accord would encourage the export of high-value goods, like automobiles, from Europe to Latin American, while encouraging the export of huge amounts of low-value products – including beef and soy – from South America.
– This emphasis on production and international consumption could greatly increase the need for agricultural land in Latin America, and result in a major increase in deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon and Cerrado, and Argentine Chaco.
– The conversion of forests to crop and range lands could significantly decrease carbon storage, leading to a rise in carbon emissions that could help push global temperatures more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century, with potentially catastrophic results for ecosystems and civilization.

Malaysia’s last female Sumatran rhino falls ill by [12/17/2017]
– Malaysia’s last female Sumatran rhino, which was captured from the wild for a captive-breeding program to save the species, has fallen ill from a ruptured tumor in her uterus.
– Veterinarians have been unable to provide the necessary medical treatment because of the rhino’s behavior and adverse conditions on the ground.
– The captive-breeding program was dashed by the death of the only other female Sumatran rhino in Malaysia earlier this year and the refusal of the Indonesian government to share a frozen sperm sample for artificial insemination.



Building a refuge where trawlers now ravage Cambodia’s marine life by Matt Blomberg [12/14/2017]

Mining concessions in Ecuador stalled over compliance with indigenous rights by Kimberley Brown [12/13/2017]

Brazil / UK push offshore oil pact, a potential climate change disaster by Jenny Gonzales [12/13/2017]

CITES rejects Madagascar’s bid to sell rosewood and ebony stockpiles by Edward Carver [12/12/2017]

As 2017 hurricane season ends, scientists assess tropical forest harm by Claire Salisbury [12/11/2017]

Abandoned by their sponsors, Madagascar’s orphaned parks struggle on by Rowan Moore Gerety [12/08/2017]