Newsletter 2017-12-28

FEATURED

Top 10 HAPPY environmental stories of 2017 by Shreya Dasgupta [12/28/2017]

– Throughout 2017, scientists discovered new populations of rare wildlife, and rediscovered some species that were previously thought to be extinct.
– Some countries created large marine protected areas, while a few others granted land rights to indigenous communities.
– In 2017, we also saw the ever-increasing potential of technology to improve conservation monitoring and efforts.


Photos: Top 20 new species of 2017 by Mike Gaworecki [12/28/2017]

– There’s still so much we don’t know about life on planet Earth that scientists discover new species with whom we share this planet nearly every day.
– For instance, this year scientists described a new species of orangutan in Sumatra — just the eighth great ape species known to exist on planet Earth. And that’s just one of many notable, bizarre, or downright fascinating discoveries made this year.
– Here, in no particular order, we present the top 20 new species discovered in 2017.


Brazil 2017: environmental and indigenous rollbacks, rising violence by Sue Branford and Maurício Torres [12/27/2017]

– The bancada ruralista, or ruralist lobby, in Brazil’s congress flexed its muscles in 2017, making numerous demands on President Michel Temer to make presidential decrees weakening environmental protections and revoking land rights to indigenous and traditional communities in Brazil – decisions especially impacting the Amazon.
– Emboldened ruralists – including agribusiness, cattle ranchers, land thieves and loggers – stepped up violent attacks in 2017, making Brazil the most dangerous country in the world for social or environmental activists. There were 63 assassinations by the end of October.
– Budgets to FUNAI, the indigenous agency; IBAMA, the environmental agency; and other institutions, were reduced so severely this year that these government regulatory agencies were largely unable to do their enforcement and protection work.
– In 2017, Temer led attempts to dismember Jimanxim National Forest and National Park, and to open the vast RENCA preserve in the Amazon to mining – efforts that have failed to date, but are still being pursued. Resistance has remained fierce, especially among indigenous groups, with Temer sometimes forced to backtrack on his initiatives.


Chainsaws imperil an old-growth mangrove stronghold in southern Myanmar by Benjamin Graham [12/27/2017]

– Tanintharyi, Myanmar’s southern-most state, is home to the country’s last remaining old-growth mangrove forest. The trees support village life and a booming fishing industry up and down the coast.
– But logging for charcoal and fuel wood, much of it illegal, is taking a toll. Studies show that roughly two-thirds of the region’s remaining mangrove forests have been degraded, with consequences for people and wildlife.
– Conservationists are attempting to expand community forestry and set up mangrove reserves to combat the widespread degradation.


So long, UNESCO! What does U.S. withdrawal mean for the environment? by Giovanni Ortolani [12/26/2017]

– Since 2011, the U.S. has refused to pay its agreed to share to UNESCO as a Member Nation who has participated in and benefited from the organization’s scientific, environmental and sustainability programs. Now, President Trump has announced U.S. withdrawal from UNESCO, effective at the end of 2018.
– Experts say the pullout won’t in fact do any major damage to the organization, with most of the harm done to UNESCO when the U.S. went into arrears starting in 2011, with unpaid dues now totaling roughly $550 million. However, America’s failure to participate could hurt millions of Americans.
– UNESCO science initiatives are international and deal multilaterally with a variety of environmental issues ranging from basic earth science, climate change, freshwater, oceans, mining, and international interrelationships between indigenous, rural and urban communities.
– Among the most famous of UNESCO science programs are the Man and the Biosphere Programme and the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, now including 669 sites in 120 countries, including the United States.


NEWS

In rural Indonesia, women spearhead the fight to protect nature by Lusia Arumingtyas [12/27/2017]

– This past July, some 50 environmental defenders, most of them women, from across Indonesia’s rural areas gathered for a discussion at an Islamic boarding school in West Java.
– The event highlighted women’s increasingly leading role in the grassroots movement to protect the country’s indigenous cultures, its natural resources and its long-held, but now threatened, traditional wisdoms and customs that champion sustainable development.
– Researchers say these women are at the leading edge of a new wave to defend and protect their homeland.


2017’s top 10 ocean news stories by Douglas McCauley and Paul DeSalles [12/27/2017]

– Marine scientists from the University of California, Santa Barbara, share their list of the top 10 ocean news stories from 2017.
– Huge new ocean protected areas and steps toward an international treaty to protect the high seas brought hope.
– Meanwhile, the U.S.’s decision to drop out of the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and an intensely destructive Atlantic hurricane season spotlighted the unfolding threat of climate change.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.


Brazil 2017: environmental and indigenous rollbacks, rising violence by Sue Branford and Maurício Torres [12/27/2017]

– The bancada ruralista, or ruralist lobby, in Brazil’s congress flexed its muscles in 2017, making numerous demands on President Michel Temer to make presidential decrees weakening environmental protections and revoking land rights to indigenous and traditional communities in Brazil – decisions especially impacting the Amazon.
– Emboldened ruralists – including agribusiness, cattle ranchers, land thieves and loggers – stepped up violent attacks in 2017, making Brazil the most dangerous country in the world for social or environmental activists. There were 63 assassinations by the end of October.
– Budgets to FUNAI, the indigenous agency; IBAMA, the environmental agency; and other institutions, were reduced so severely this year that these government regulatory agencies were largely unable to do their enforcement and protection work.
– In 2017, Temer led attempts to dismember Jimanxim National Forest and National Park, and to open the vast RENCA preserve in the Amazon to mining – efforts that have failed to date, but are still being pursued. Resistance has remained fierce, especially among indigenous groups, with Temer sometimes forced to backtrack on his initiatives.


Prince Harry becomes president of conservation group by Mongabay.com [12/27/2017]

– Prince Henry of Wales – better known as Prince Harry – is joining African Parks as President of the South Africa-based wildlife conservation organization.
– Prince Harry has been working with African Parks since July 2016.
– Prince Harry will work closely with the leadership of African Parks.
– The news comes just a month after Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle announced their engagement.


The top 6 moments from the Mongabay Newscast in 2017 by Mike Gaworecki [12/27/2017]

– Now that we’ve arrived at the end of 2017, we’ve decided to take a break from our regular production schedule and instead take a look back at some of the most compelling conversations we featured on the Mongabay Newscast this year.
– From world-famous conservationists like Jane Goodall and E.O. Wilson to renowned musicians like Paul Simon and best-selling authors like Margaret Atwood, we welcomed a lot of truly fascinating people onto our podcast in 2017.
– Here are six of our favorite quotes from the Newscast this year, which will hopefully provide jumping off points for you to dig in more deeply.


Roads, dams and railways: Ten infrastructure stories from Southeast Asia in 2017 by Mongabay.com [12/27/2017]

– Southeast Asia is one of the epicenters of a global “tsunami” of infrastructure development.
– As the countries in the region work to elevate their economic standing, concerns from scientists and NGOs highlight the potential pitfalls in the form of environmental degradation and destruction that roads, dams and other infrastructure can bring in tow.
– Mongabay had reporters covering the region in 2017. Here are 10 of their stories.


Chainsaws imperil an old-growth mangrove stronghold in southern Myanmar by Benjamin Graham [12/27/2017]

– Tanintharyi, Myanmar’s southern-most state, is home to the country’s last remaining old-growth mangrove forest. The trees support village life and a booming fishing industry up and down the coast.
– But logging for charcoal and fuel wood, much of it illegal, is taking a toll. Studies show that roughly two-thirds of the region’s remaining mangrove forests have been degraded, with consequences for people and wildlife.
– Conservationists are attempting to expand community forestry and set up mangrove reserves to combat the widespread degradation.


Glimmer of hope as Malaysia’s last female Sumatran rhino shows signs of recovery by Basten Gokkon [12/27/2017]

– The worst appears to be over for Iman, Malaysia’s last female Sumatran rhino, after she suffered massive bleeding from a ruptured tumor in her uterus earlier this month.
– Veterinarians and rhino experts are hopeful but cautious about Iman’s recovery prospects, and continue to provide around-the-clock care.
– The rhino is Malaysia’s last hope for saving the nearly extinct species, which is thought to number as few as 30 individuals in the world.


Paper giant and its ‘suppliers’ are essentially one and the same, investigation finds by Michael Disabato [12/26/2017]

– A new investigation reveals intimate connections between Asia Pulp & Paper, which is Indonesia’s largest paper producer, and 25 of the plantation companies that supply it with pulpwood.
– The firm has always claimed the suppliers are “independent” entities, separate from Asia Pulp & Paper itself. But the investigation suggests that that they are all part of the same conglomerate.
– The supplier companies are often linked to deforestation, haze-causing fires, and conflict with indigenous communities.


Fighting climate change with bioenergy may do ‘more harm than good’ by Morgan Erickson-Davis [12/26/2017]

– A new study finds land-use like grazing and managing forests for resource extraction may have released more carbon than previously thought. Its results indicate the world’s terrestrial vegetation is currently sequestering less than half its full carbon-storage potential.
– Of that missing half, the researchers discovered 42 to 47 percent is attributed to land uses that don’t technically change the vegetation cover type. The researchers say that climate change mitigation strategies often focus on reducing intensive land-use like deforestation, with less-intensive uses that don’t change cover type largely overlooked and under-researched.
– One of these less-intensive uses is managing forests for biomass energy production. Many countries are trying to replace fossil fuels with biomass energy in-line with international climate agreements like the Paris Accord.
– The researchers warn that strategies developed under the assumption that producing biomass energy doesn’t come at a carbon cost could harm efforts to fight climate change. They urge that in addition to stopping deforestation, the protection of forest functions, like carbon stocks, should be moved more into focus when it comes to land-use and climate change planning.


UN General Assembly adopts resolution to move forward with high seas treaty negotiations by Mike Gaworecki [12/26/2017]

– The General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution on Sunday to convene negotiations for an international treaty to protect the marine environments of the high seas.
– Earth’s high seas represent about two-thirds of the oceans, but are not governed by any one international body or agency and there is currently no comprehensive management structure in place to protect the marine life that relies on them.
– According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, the treaty would be the first international agreement to address the impacts of human activities like fishing and shipping on the high seas.


So long, UNESCO! What does U.S. withdrawal mean for the environment? by Giovanni Ortolani [12/26/2017]

– Since 2011, the U.S. has refused to pay its agreed to share to UNESCO as a Member Nation who has participated in and benefited from the organization’s scientific, environmental and sustainability programs. Now, President Trump has announced U.S. withdrawal from UNESCO, effective at the end of 2018.
– Experts say the pullout won’t in fact do any major damage to the organization, with most of the harm done to UNESCO when the U.S. went into arrears starting in 2011, with unpaid dues now totaling roughly $550 million. However, America’s failure to participate could hurt millions of Americans.
– UNESCO science initiatives are international and deal multilaterally with a variety of environmental issues ranging from basic earth science, climate change, freshwater, oceans, mining, and international interrelationships between indigenous, rural and urban communities.
– Among the most famous of UNESCO science programs are the Man and the Biosphere Programme and the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, now including 669 sites in 120 countries, including the United States.


Combining computing power and people power to identify key deforestation hotspots by Sue Palminteri [12/26/2017]

– Technology now allows us to remotely locate and monitor areas of forest loss, creating the challenge of responding to areas with rampant deforestation.
– The Global Forest Watch platform has launched Places to Watch, a feature that highlights key areas of recent deforestation, especially near intact and protected forests.
– An automated process selects deforestation hotspots, which are then filtered and prioritized by experts using satellite imagery and locally-derived reports to select 10 “Places” each month.
– The GFW team aims to provide journalists, activists, and concerned citizens and government, with curated deforestation information to encourage action that prevents further loss in priority areas.


Video: Power lines killing the last remaining Great Indian Bustards in India by Shreya Dasgupta [12/26/2017]

– Of the 160-odd great Indian bustards remaining in the wild, about 140 occur in the Thar desert in Rajasthan, India.
– The bird’s prime habitat in Thar, however, is being taken over by a growing, dense network of wind turbines and electric power lines that have become a death trap for the birds.
– Even a few accidental deaths due to collisions could lead to extinction of the species, according to experts.
– Conservationists and forest department officials have recommended mitigation measures, but nothing has been implemented on ground.


Videos unlock secrets of jellyfish as deep-sea killers by Mongabay.com [12/24/2017]

– Scientists have for the first time captured extensive visual documentation of deep-sea food webs using 27 years’ worth of video observations from remotely operated vehicles run by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI).
– The research greatly enhances scientists’ understanding of deep-sea food webs by documenting the importance of soft-bodied predators like jellyfish.
– Until now, our understanding of food webs in the deep ocean have been limited by what can be captured by net and whose bodies survive a journey to the survey.


Scientists determine there are seven species of silky anteater, not one by Mike Gaworecki [12/22/2017]

– A study published earlier this month in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society describes six distinct new species of silky anteater, meaning there are now officially seven species of the elusive mammal, not just one.
– Silky anteaters are small, nocturnal animals that live in the canopies of trees in the tropical forests of South and Central America. They are known as very discreet and thus difficult to find, which helps explain why Cyclopes didactylus, the common anteater, was one of the least studied anteaters in the world and had been considered to be a single species up until now.
– The common silky anteater is listed as a species of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, but that may not pertain to all of the newly discovered species.


Selective logging reduces biodiversity, disrupts Amazon ecosystems: study by Claire Asher [12/22/2017]

– Reduced-impact logging, also called selective logging, which gained popularity in the 1990s, aims to balance biodiversity impacts with global demand for timber by extracting fewer trees. But the success of this approach is coming under increasing scrutiny.
– A new study in the Brazilian Amazon found that dung beetle communities, and their important role as “ecosystem engineers,” is severely disrupted by even low-level timber extraction, with sharp reductions in species richness.
– Multitudes of studies on birds, mammals, amphibians and invertebrates around the globe demonstrate the same finding: that even low-levels of timber extraction have significant impact on species diversity.
– This extensive research suggests that selective logging techniques should be shelved in favor of “land-sparing” timber extraction strategies, which create a patchwork of highly logged sites and intact forest reserves.


Paper giant RAPP bows to peat-protection order after Indonesia court defeat by Hans Nicholas Jong [12/22/2017]

– A court has invalidated a bid by Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP) to overturn a government order obliging it to conserve peatlands that fall within its concessions.
– The ruling means the company will have to submit revised work plans to the government, in which peat areas that it had previously earmarked for development would be conserved and rewetted to prevent fires.
– The government has also mulled the possibility of auditing RAPP and parent company APRIL to get a clearer picture of their operations on the ground.


Musicians and Indigenous communities join to fight illegal logging in Peru by Yvette Sierra Praeli [12/21/2017]

– Artists from the United States, Scotland and Peru traveled to Amazonian communities as part of the “No More Blood Wood” campaign.
– The campaign hopes to raise awareness about the often-illegal origins of the resources that are used to create musical instruments.


Ecuador eases restrictions on environmental organizations by Daniela Aguilar [12/21/2017]

– One of the organizations dissolved under the previous regulations, the Pachamama Foundation, recovered its legal status after the Ministry of the Environment recognized that its right to defense had been violated.
– Although the enactment of a new regulatory order gives a break to social organizations, critics claim that there are still unconstitutional habits that should be corrected to guarantee free association.
– Stakeholders say the government’s excessive control over the actions and finances of organizations has been reduced, but problems remain.


Experts to China: cooperate or South China Sea fisheries may collapse by David Brown [12/21/2017]

– More than half the fishing vessels in the world operate in the South China Sea, where sovereign rights have been an object of fierce contention among bordering countries.
– Scientists have been warning that the sea is fast becoming the site of an environmental disaster, the impending collapse of one of the world’s most productive fisheries.
– Now a group of experts that includes geopolitical strategists as well as marine biologists is calling on the disputing parties to come together to manage and protect the sea’s fish stocks and marine environment.
– Effective management hinges on China’s active participation, but it remains unclear whether that country, now the dominant power in the sea with a big appetite for seafood, will cooperate.


PREVIOUS FEATURES

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”.


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.


MONGABAY.ORG

Mongabay investigation makes “Best Nonprofit Journalism of 2017” list [12/26/2017]