Newsletter 2018-04-19


Brazil’s actual forest-related CO2 emissions could blow by Paris pledge by Claire Asher [04/19/2018]

– Brazil is reporting its CO2 emissions within U.N. guidelines, but those rules ignore significant sources of national greenhouse gas emissions ¬by disregarding carbon emitting processes related to forests, say scientists. None of this underreporting is likely unique to Brazil, but it is perhaps more acute there than in other nations due to Brazil’s vast forests.
– The U.N. doesn’t require Brazil and other developing nations to count certain greenhouse gas emissions in detail annually, especially sources it classifies as non-anthropogenic. This, for example, includes CO2 released from wildfires. However, most fires in the Brazilian Amazon are set by people clearing land, so those CO2 emissions are largely human-caused.
– Forest degradation, methane emitted from reservoirs, and carbon released from soils where forests are converted to croplands or pastures go partly or totally untallied in emission reports, sometimes because data is lacking, or because the UN hasn’t included the source in its reporting criteria. Another problem: low-resolution satellite monitoring allows small-scale deforestation to go undetected, so is unreported.
– As a result, Brazil’s actual carbon emissions are almost certainly higher than the figures reported annually to the United Nations — how much higher is unknown. But, experts say, that if this missing carbon were added to Brazil’s yearly reported emissions, the nation would likely not meet its 2025 Paris Climate Agreement goal.

Ghosts in the Machine: The land deals behind the downfall of Indonesia’s top judge by The Gecko Project and Mongabay [04/18/2018]

– This is the second installment of Indonesia for Sale, an in-depth series on the corruption behind Indonesia’s deforestation and land rights crisis.
– Indonesia for Sale is a collaboration between Mongabay and The Gecko Project, an investigative reporting initiative established by UK-based nonprofit Earthsight.
– The series is the product of 16 months of reporting across the Southeast Asian country, interviewing fixers, middlemen, lawyers and plantation companies involved in land deals, and those most affected by them.

Cooperative agroforestry empowers indigenous women in Honduras by Monica Pelliccia [04/16/2018]

– The Lenca indigenous group in a dry region of Honduras has practiced agroforestry for millennia, planting timber and fruit trees over food and medicine crops to provide shade that increases soil humidity.
– Recently a group of women formed a cooperative to market their coffee grown in the shade of these trees as organic and fair trade, and they have enjoyed a sizable price increase.
– The Lencas’ agroforestry system also provides fruit and timber products that are ready for sale or trade during times of the year when the coffee crop is not ripe.
– Agroforestry is beneficial to the climate because it sequesters carbon from the atmosphere, and it also benefits biodiversity: the village has observed an increase in populations of animals like opossums, snakes, hares, armadillos, squirrels, birds and coyotes as the agroforestry plantings expand.

Colombia grants ‘historic’ protections to rainforest, indigenous groups by Morgan Erickson-Davis [04/13/2018]

– In a move described as “unprecedented,” Colombia’s president Juan Manuel Santos announced Tuesday that the country intends to add 8 million hectares (80,000 square kilometers or 31,000 square miles) to its protected areas.
– Santos also signed a decree granting indigenous communities the ability and autonomy to govern their own territories.
– He said the government will be spending the next two weeks defining the bounds of the new protected areas, and that residents of local indigenous communities will be granted land titles giving them the autonomy to manage them.
– Norway has committed $250 million towards Colombia’s initiative.


Unified land-use map for Indonesia nears launch, but concerns over access remain by Hans Nicholas Jong [04/19/2018]

– A unified database integrating all of the land-use maps currently in use in Indonesia is set for an earlier-than-expected launch this August, as the government scrambles to collate outstanding data from various agencies and regions.
– The one-map policy is seen as key to resolving a host of development and planning problems caused by overlapping and often contradictory maps wielded by different agencies, including the issue of plantations being permitted inside forest areas.
– The government, however, says access to the database will be restricted, and is drafting regulations that will govern who gets to see it.

Scientists stumble upon hundreds of octopus moms in the deep sea by [04/19/2018]

– Scientists have discovered a large nursery of octopus mothers some 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) deep in the Pacific Ocean.
– The octopuses are an unknown species of the genus Muusoctopus, a group of deep-sea octopuses generally known to lead solitary lives.
– The octopuses and their eggs will likely not survive, researchers say, because the animals are exposed to warmer temperatures than they are used to.
– But the presence of this large, “suicidal” population of octopuses suggests that there must be many more octopuses living in cooler, more livable crevices on the seafloor, researchers add.

eDNA may offer an early warning signal for deadly frog pathogen by Sue Palminteri [04/18/2018]

– Scientists sampling water for the environmental DNA of fish had the unique opportunity to test the potential of using eDNA to detect the presence of a fungus deadly to frogs while the animals are still healthy.
– The Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd, or chytrid) fungus has decimated frog populations across the world and is very difficult to detect until the frogs of a newly infected population start to die.
– The research suggests that eDNA could help managers predict which lakes and other water bodies harbor the chytrid fungus and take action to protect surviving amphibian populations.

Indonesia to punish state firm over litany of failures behind Borneo oil spill by Hans Nicholas Jong [04/18/2018]

– An official investigation into an oil spill last month in Indonesian Borneo found a lack of warning systems that would have alerted state oil company Pertamina to the leak hours earlier.
– The government has also found omissions in the company’s environmental impact assessment, and is preparing to impose a series of administrative sanctions as well as fines.
– Police are carrying out a criminal investigation in parallel to determine who was responsible for the spill, amid reports that a foreign-flagged coal ship may have cause the pipeline damage leading to the leak.

Anglo American iron ore pipeline suffers second rupture in Brazil by Jenny Gonzales [04/18/2018]

– A rupture of an Anglo American Brasil pipeline in Minas Gerais state spilled 318 tons of iron ore on 12 March. That has been followed by a second spill of 647 tons of mining material on 29 March into the Santo Antônio do Grama River and nearby pastureland.
– The pipeline is currently waiting for licensing approval in order to begin expansion of the Sapo iron mine, part of the Minas-Rio Project.
– The 529 kilometer (328 mile) mineral duct links the Sapo mine, located near the town of Conceição Mato Dentro, to the Atlantic Ocean export terminal Port of Açu, in São João da Barra, Rio de Janeiro.
– IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental agency, has charged the company with several environmental violations and slapped it with a fine of R$ 72.6 million (US$ 21.1 million). The duct is currently shut down pending a report from Anglo American certifying the operation’s safety.

Earth Day founder calls for an end to plastic pollution by Erik Hoffner [04/18/2018]

– Denis Hayes was the principal national organizer of the first Earth Day in 1970, and he took the event to the international stage in 1990.
– Earth Day 2018 is slated for April 22 and focuses on plastic pollution, so Mongabay asked him about this event and what else is on the mind of this key leader of the international environmental movement.
– Earth Day is said to be the most widely observed secular holiday in the world, with activities happening in most countries around the world.
– Hayes is also active in sustainability issues in the Pacific Northwest region of the U.S. and his work is housed in one of the greenest office buildings in the world.

Conservationist known as a caretaker for Kenya’s orphaned elephants dies at 83 by [04/18/2018]

– Conservationist Daphne Sheldrick died of breast cancer on April 12, according to the conservation organization she founded.
– Born in Kenya, she spent her life working to care for orphaned elephants in Kenya and fighting to save the species through her advocacy.
– She started the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, named for her husband, in 1977.
– The organization runs an orphan elephant project, as well as de-snaring and veterinary care teams.

It’s time to confront the collusion between the palm oil industry and politicians that is driving Indonesia’s deforestation crisis (commentary) by Tom Johnson [04/18/2018]

– An investigation released today by Mongabay and Earthsight’s The Gecko Project reveals the deep connections between the international palm oil industry and the corruption of Indonesian democracy.
– Some of the biggest firms in the industry, that are supplying supermarkets in the EU and U.S., are buying palm oil from plantations linked to corrupt politicians.
– Six million hectares of rainforest and carbon-rich peatlands remains in licenses issued in opaque circumstances. If the role of corruption is confronted, through action in Indonesia, by overseas consumer companies and the international community, much of this forest could be saved.

‘Boom and bust’ cycle of deep-sea trawling unsustainable, study finds by Shreya Dasgupta [04/18/2018]

– Researchers have built a global picture of deep-sea fish catches from bottom trawling from 1950 to 2015.
– Deep-sea trawling can be extremely destructive for fish populations, while providing minimal economic benefits, the study found.
– Researchers also found that large quantities of fish caught in the deep sea go unreported.

Audio: Impacts of agriculture on Brazil’s Cerrado region by Mike Gaworecki [04/17/2018]

– On today’s episode: the impacts of agriculture on Brazil’s Cerrado region. Incredibly biodiverse, the region supports more than 10,000 plant species, 900 birds, and 300 mammals. But it has long been overlooked by scientists and environmentalists alike, and as protecting the Amazon has become more of a priority, much agricultural production in Brazil has moved from the rainforest to the vast Cerrado savannah.
– In February, Mongabay sent journalists Alicia Prager and Flávia Milhorance to the Cerrado region of central Brazil to report on the impacts of this rapid expansion of agribusiness on the region’s environment and people.
– Prager and Milhorance filed a series of six reports and they’re here to tell us what they found.

Suspected poisoning takes down 11 lions in Uganda park by John C. Cannon [04/17/2018]

– Eight cubs and three female lions have been found dead, apparently from eating poisoned meat in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
– Lions, along with other predators, have been in decline across Uganda since the 1970s.
– Recent studies indicate that the country’s growing human population has driven lions out of their former habitats and that the big cats are killed to defend the livestock of local communities.

Response to critique on Conservation Effectiveness series (commentary) by Zuzana Burivalova [04/17/2018]

– The team behind Mongabay’s Conservation Effectiveness series appreciates the feedback on our series offered by Madeleine McKinnon and her colleagues. We believe that we and the authors of the commentary share the common goals of encouraging and enabling conservation actions based on the available scientific evidence, and increasing the standard of scientific studies that evaluate the impact of conservation.
– Importantly, our goal was not to carry out a systematic review — an intensive, sometimes years-long process beyond the scope of our resources. We believe that systematic reviews are invaluable and crucial for answering specific, relatively narrow research questions. At the same time, they are not suitable for providing an overview of evidence of a wide range of outcomes, across a broad spectrum of evidence types, as we have tried to do with this series.
– We cannot identify an example of our series challenging the findings of existing systematic reviews, as McKinnon and co-authors imply it does. We strongly agree that there are opportunities for improvement. One of the main improvements we hope to make next is turning our database into a dynamic, growing, open contribution platform.

Seek higher standards to honestly assess conservation effectiveness (commentary) by Madeleine McKinnon | Samantha Cheng | Lynn Dicks | Ruth Garside | Andrew Pullin | Claudia Romero [04/17/2018]

– Scientists are keen to get better data and evidence into the hands of decision-makers and the public in general. However, systematically sorting, assessing, and synthesizing scientific data from reams of journal articles takes time and resources.
– In an effort to get faster results, rapid methods for evidence synthesis are desirable, but their use can have substantial drawbacks and limitations that ultimately affect the accuracy and validity of findings.
– We applaud the launch of the Conservation Effectiveness series on Mongabay and its spotlight on the effects and effectiveness of prominent conservation strategies to a broad readership. However, some of the compromises made in expediting and simplifying their approach to synthesis have implications for replicability of the methods and confidence in the final results.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.

India: This draft national forest policy too gives short shrift to grasslands by Bhanu Sridharan [04/17/2018]

– The Draft National Forest Policy 2018, which is open for public comments till April 14, has initiated discussions and debates across the country.
– If this draft becomes policy, it will replace the National Forest Policy of 1988. Both the versions give importance to increasing forest and tree cover in the country.
– Experts rue that this draft also misses the opportunity to give importance to grasslands that are home to much biological diversity and support important ecosystem services.

Dogs in India are a problem for wildlife, study finds by Sahana Ghosh [04/16/2018]

– India is home to an estimated 60 million dogs, the fourth highest in the world.
– In a pan-India online survey, people reported domestic dogs attacking 80 species of Indian wildlife, of which 31 are listed under a threatened category on the IUCN Red List.
– Some experts have called for rethinking both dog population management and dog ownership policies in India, and addressing the threat of dogs as a conservation problem for wildlife.

Small farmers not ready as Indonesia looks to impose its palm oil sustainability standard on all by Hans Nicholas Jong [04/13/2018]

– The Indonesian government plans to make its sustainable palm oil certification scheme, the ISPO, mandatory for small farmers by 2020. These farmers account for 40 percent of the total oil palm plantation area nationwide, but were exempted from the initial ISPO rollout.
– A recent study shows that these smallholders are not ready to adopt the standard. They face a variety of challenges, largely stemming from the tenuous nature of their land ownership claims.
– The Ministry of Agriculture fears that under the existing ISPO compliance regulation, many farmers will end up in prison for failing to comply by the deadline. The government is now drafting an updated ISPO regulation.

Certified weaknesses: The RSPO’s Liberian fiasco (commentary) by Gaurav Madan [04/13/2018]

– On February 13, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, the industry certification system for production of conflict-free palm oil, confirmed what many in Liberia’s rural Sinoe County have been saying all along: Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL), a palm oil company operating since 2010, did not properly receive the consent of local communities to acquire their traditional lands.
– The charges against GVL are not new. The first complaint filed against GVL with the RSPO came in 2012. Over the years, multiple civil society reports have documented GVL’s land grabbing, human rights violations, and environmental degradation. In 2015, a riot erupted on GVL’s plantation. Six years and various investigations by the RSPO later, the situation for these communities is largely the same.
– It’s striking that, given the resources and responsibilities of both the company and the certification body, neither GVL nor the RSPO had chosen to communicate with these communities about the remedies GVL was directed to pursue by the RSPO. This begs the question: What is the value of corporate commitments and industry standards if those messages never reach the people they intend to benefit, let alone are translated into tangible actions?
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Understanding bird behavior key to developing risk reduction technologies by Danielle Bettermann [04/13/2018]

– Billions of birds collide with man-made structures and aircraft every year, which devastates bird populations and harms companies that must pay the cost of damages.
– John Swaddle, professor of biology at the College of William & Mary, and his team have developed two technologies to help reduce the risk of collision, the Sonic Net and the Acoustic Lighthouse.
– The team applied an understanding of birds’ communication and migration behaviors to develop strategies that successfully reduce collision risk.

In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, April 13, 2018 by [04/13/2018]

– There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
– Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
– If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.

Population of world’s rarest giant turtle rises to 4 with new discovery by Shreya Dasgupta [04/13/2018]

– Some experts have now confirmed the presence of a Yangtze giant softshell turtle in Vietnam, increasing the total known population of the turtle to four individuals.
– Researchers matched environmental DNA collected from water samples from Xuan Khanh Lake in Vietnam to known samples from the species, and confirmed that the giant turtle living in the lake was most likely the Yangtze giant softshell turtle.
– Threats remain for the recently identified Yangtze giant softshell turtle. Xuan Khanh Lake is not protected, and commercial fishing is allowed there.

Most Popular Stories from Mongabay Latam, April 2 – 8 by Mongabay Latam [04/13/2018]

These are the most popular stories at Mongabay Latam from April 2 – 8. The oil spill in Colombia is an ongoing environmental disaster. The search for the causes of the tragedy and the work to save affected animals were the most read stories of the week. The image above, a spectacular vista of the […]


India’s new forest policy draft draws criticism for emphasis on industrial timber by S. Gopikrishna Warrier [04/12/2018]

A wish list for an environmentally friendly NAFTA by Jennifer Huizen [04/11/2018]

Animal trainers are teaching wildlife to conserve themselves by Linda Lombardi [04/10/2018]

Rubber plantation in Cameroon edges closer to UNESCO World Heritage Site by Rachel Fritts [04/06/2018]


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