Newsletters 2018-12-20


‘Death by a thousand holes’: Scientists race to avert a salamander crisis by Benji Jones [12/19/2018]

– A deadly fungus called Bsal decimated salamander populations in Europe, and scientists are very worried that it will soon invade North America.
– North America – and the U.S. in particular – is the world’s hotspot of salamander diversity, hosting about a third of all species. Researchers think half of U.S. species may be susceptible to Bsal.
– Scientists say it may be only a matter of time before Bsal gets to North America. And when it does, they warn that it could mean devastation for salamanders and even drive some species to extinction.
– In an effort to head off the threat, scientists and government officials created the Bsal Task Force in 2015. Next month they intend to release their strategic plan, the culmination of years of collaboration and research, which provides a roadmap for what to do in the event Bsal is detected in North America.

Pressure mounting for the home of wild coffee and Ethiopian wolves by Nathan Siegel [12/18/2018]

– The region of Bale Park is vital to the survival of endemic flora and fauna, like the mountain nyala (Tragelaphus buxtoni), a large antelope, and some of the planet’s last wild coffee
– Bale is also home to other ancient forms of livelihood, such as traditional beekeeping.
– Now there’s a mounting battle to preserve the park, a crucial part of southern Ethiopia’s ecosystem and a watershed source for 12 million people.

Bolsonaro shapes administration: Amazon, indigenous and landless at risk by Sue Branford; Thais Borges; and Mauricio Torres [12/18/2018]

– President-elect Jair Bolsonaro has chosen Ricardo Salles as Brazil’s environment minister. The former São Paulo state government environment secretary is under investigation for allegedly redrawing maps allowing protected lands to be developed for mining and factories. His statements are heavily pro-agribusiness and sometimes espouse violence.
– The selection of ruralist Tereza Cristina as agriculture minister, and Ernesto Araújo as foreign minister, also almost certainly signals difficult days ahead for Brazil’s environment. Cristina has pushed hard for fast track approval of toxic pesticides. Araújo calls climate change a “Marxist” conspiracy.
– Analysts say that, by choosing ministry appointees who hold extreme views on the environment, Bolsonaro is making Brazil vulnerable to economic reprisals from the international community – especially from developed nations and companies responding to voters and consumers who oppose harm to the Amazon and indigenous groups.
– Former army officer Bolsonaro has chosen six retired generals to head ministries; other military men join him as VP and chief of staff. Activists fear these appointments will have a chilling effect on Brazilian democracy, leading to repression. Deforestation and violence against activists since the campaign, including assassinations, continue rising in Brazil.

Bird business: The man who taught his tribe to profit from conservation by Shreya Dasgupta [12/18/2018]

– Indi Glow, a revered member of the Bugun indigenous group in Arunachal Pradesh, India, has been instrumental in making conservation community-friendly.
– When astronomer-turned-ecologist Ramana Athreya approached the Buguns in 2003 with an idea for a community bird ecotourism venture, Indi agreed to give it a go, taking on the management of the business over the next few years.
– Today, the bird tourism venture is profitable and has sparked other conservation initiatives on the Bugun community lands.

A Māori community leans on tradition to restore its forest by Monica Evans [12/17/2018]

– Deep in New Zealand’s vast Te Urewera forest, which is famously endowed with a legal personality, the Māori community in Ruatāhuna is working to restore and sustain its forests and way of life.
– Having regained control of their land after decades of logging by outside interests, members of the Tūhoe community are trying to bring back conifers in the Podocarpaceae family, which they refer to as the chiefs of the family of Tāne, the god of forests and birds.
– Other initiatives include controlling invasive species, developing a community-based forest monitoring system centered on traditional values and knowledge, establishing a “forest academy” for local youth, and setting up a profitable honey enterprise to provide jobs and eventually fund forest restoration.
– This is the first part of Mongabay’s three-part profile of the Ruatāhuna community’s effort to restore its ancestral forest.

COP24: Summit a step forward, but fails to address climate urgency by Justin Catanoso [12/17/2018]

– COP24 ran into overtime over the weekend as delegates rushed to approve the Paris rulebook to set up a detailed mechanism for accomplishing and gauging the carbon reduction pledges made by the world’s nations in Paris at the end of 2015.
– But considering the urgency of action needed – with just 12 years left to act decisively to significantly cut emissions, according to an October IPCC science report – the COP24 summit proved to be less successful than many participants had hoped.
– On the negative side: the U.S., Russia and Saudi Arabia tried to undermine the gravity of the IPCC science report. Brazil successfully scuttled plans for an international carbon market. And COP24 failed to address the bioenergy carbon counting loophole, which incentivizes the harvesting and burning of trees to make energy by calling the process carbon neutral.
– On the positive side, “1,000 tiny steps” were made, including an improved transparency framework for reporting emissions; regular assessments called Global Stocktake to gauge emissions-reduction effectiveness at national levels starting in 2023; and an agreement to set new finance goals in 2020 to help vulnerable nations adapt to a warming world.

Purus-Madeira: Amazon parks and extraordinary biodiversity at risk now by Gustavo Faleiros; images by Marcio Isensee e Sá [12/17/2018]

– The Purus-Madeira interfluvial – an Amazon region running south to north from Rondônia state through Amazonas state – has been little studied by science. It is very high in biodiversity and has been fairly well preserved up until now, thanks mostly to low human occupation and difficulty of access.
– Studies indicate that more than 740 bird species occur regularly in the Madeira-Purus region representing more than 40 percent of all known Brazilian avifauna and approximately 60 percent of known Amazonian bird species. A new species, Campina’s Jay (Cyanocorax hafferi). with gaudy blue plumage, was recently recognized by science.
– Eleven protected areas, including a new national park, created in 2009 to ensure conservation of endemic species near the increasingly improved BR-319 highway, were meant to serve as a buffer against unrestrained development in the Purus-Madeira region.
– However, the Federal Attorneys Office accuses the Brazilian government of creating paper parks, without staffing or management plans. As a result, this diverse ecosystem is starting to see rapid negative change as plans to pave the BR-319 go forward, with the road offering access to illegal loggers, cattle ranchers and land grabbers invading protected areas.

‘Amazon Besieged’: Q&A with Mongabay contributor Sue Branford about new book by Mike Gaworecki [12/14/2018]

– From 2016 to 2017, Mongabay contributors Sue Branford and Maurício Torres traveled to the Tapajós River Basin, in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon, to report on the controversial plan to turn the region into a major commodities export corridor.
– Branford and Torres wrote a 15-part investigative series (published in partnership with The Intercept Brazil) based on what they’d found during their travels for Mongabay in the Tapajós Basin, one of the most biodiverse and culturally rich places on Earth. Now, the reporters have turned those pieces into a book, Amazon Besieged, which was published by Practical Action Publishing this month.
– Mongabay spoke with Sue Branford about what new perspectives she gained on the issues covered in the book while compiling her and Torres’ on-the-ground reporting for publication, what she hopes the average reader takes away from Amazon Besieged, and what she thinks the prospects are for the Amazon under the incoming Bolsonaro Administration.

Super-spreaders: How the curious life of a newt could ignite a pandemic by Rachel Fritts [12/13/2018]

– The eastern U.S. is the world’s salamander hotspot, with more species per area than anywhere else on the planet. Often superabundant, salamanders hold important ecological roles in their habitats.
– Eastern newts (Notophthalmus viridescens) are the second most widely distributed salamander species in the U.S. They’re also incredibly mobile and are able to transition to a toxic, terrestrial form to move between ponds.
– Like many other U.S. salamander species, eastern newts are highly susceptible to a fungal pathogen called Bactrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal). While Bsal has yet to make an appearance in North America, it has wreaked havoc on salamander populations in Europe, and biologists worry its impact in the U.S. will be even worse.
– Their susceptibility to Bsal coupled with their mobility mean eastern newts could act as “super-spreaders” of Bsal if the fungus gets to North America. Researchers worry that not only would the newts themselves face massive die-offs, but also they could quickly spread the disease to other salamander species.

COP24: Nations complicit in ignoring bioenergy climate bomb, experts say by Justin Catanoso [12/13/2018]

– Twenty years ago science told policymakers that bioenergy – the burning of woody biomass – was a sustainable form of energy that was carbon neutral. The current United Nations carbon accounting system follows that guidance. However, new science has found the hypothesis to be wrong: bioenergy has been found to add significantly to carbon emissions.
– However, national delegations at the UN climate summit in Poland, COP24, as they wordsmith the Paris Rulebook, are stonewalling on the matter, doing nothing to close the bioenergy carbon accounting loophole. But nature can’t be fooled, which means that the undercounting of emissions could push the world past a climate catastrophe tipping point.
– Still, with the problem unaddressed, developed nations in the European Union and elsewhere continue burning woody biomass as energy, with the U.S., Canada and other nations happy to profit from the accounting error. Tropical nations like Brazil and Peru are eager to jump on the bioenergy bandwagon, a potential disaster for rainforests and biodiversity.
– Meanwhile, NGOs and scientists at COP24 have sought earnestly to alert the media and COP delegations to the bioenergy climate bomb and its looming risks, even going so far as to write language closing the loophole that could be inserted into the Paris Rulebook now being negotiated, but to no avail.


Peccary’s disappearance foreboding for other Mesoamerican wildlife by [12/20/2018]
– A multinational team of scientists met to discuss the current status and future of the white-lipped peccary, a pig-like mammal that lives in Central and South America.
– White-lipped peccaries no longer live in 87 percent of their former range, driven out largely by hunting and habitat loss.
– The scientists say the disappearance of this species, which requires large tracts of unbroken forest, could portend the extinction of other wildlife.

Scarlet macaws stalked by wildlife traffickers in Guatemala by Rodrigo Soberanes [12/20/2018]
– This at-risk species is fighting for survival in the biological corridor shared by Belize, Guatemala and Mexico. It’s here where wildlife traffickers pluck the chicks from their nests.
– Experts estimate there are fewer than 1,000 scarlet macaws remaining in this corridor.

The long journey to saving the Sumatran rhino, via Borneo (commentary) by Haerudin R. Sadjudin [12/20/2018]
– The presence of near-extinct Sumatran rhinos in Indonesian Borneo was for a long time the stuff of legend, with no hard evidence to support it. Still, wildlife experts spared no effort to investigate every scrap of information.
– Those rumors eventually bore fruit with the capture of two individuals by conservationists in the past two years. The first rhino, however, died of injuries sustained before its capture.
– Today, a facility in eastern Borneo holds the other rhino, a female, with around-the-clock care from vets and experts, as part of a wider effort to kick-start a captive-breeding program.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Deforestation and mining threaten a monarch butterfly reserve in Mexico by Martha Pskowski [12/19/2018]
– Despite their declining number, the annual spectacle of the monarch butterfly migration continues to captivate tourists. Tens of thousands visit Michoacán and the State of Mexico every year to see the sight.
– Extreme weather, deforestation, and herbicides are all reducing the butterfly population in North America. Another challenge is local: Mexico’s biggest mining company hopes to re-open a mine within the Biosphere Reserve, jeopardizing ongoing efforts to preserve the butterfly habitat.
– These latent threats feel far away as we walk through the Sierra Chincua butterfly sanctuary, but the Federal Police pick-up trucks parked at the sanctuary’s entrance are a constant reminder of the powerful interests that could target the monarch’s forest habitat.

The true story of how 96 endangered sea turtle hatchlings survived a New York City beach by Mike Gaworecki [12/19/2018]
– It was a Thursday, so there probably wouldn’t have been too big of a crowd, but luckily there were at least a few beachgoers out at West Beach, near the western tip of the Rockaway Peninsula, when a Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle — a member of a critically endangered species — crawled on shore and started building a nest. Even more luckily, a couple of those beachgoers had the presence of mind to report it to a 24-hour marine wildlife rescue hotline.
– Those calls likely saved the lives of 96 sea turtle hatchlings, all of whom successfully made the trek back out to the ocean a couple months later.
– While human activities are the primary reason Kemp’s Ridleys face an uncertain future — harvesting of adults and eggs, destruction of their coastal nesting habitats, and entanglement in fishing gear are the chief threats to the species — in this case, human intervention was crucial to the turtles’ survival.

PNG farmers use agroforestry to fight crop diseases and reduce labor by Camilo Mejia Giraldo [12/19/2018]
– Papua New Guinea’s predominantly agricultural society practices agroforestry — the cropping of useful fruit and nut trees with understory vines, shrubs and vegetables in a forest-mimicking system — widely.
– The practice produces a wide array of products for farmers, from areca nuts to coconuts and cacao, and is seen as a tool to address the country’s issues of rapid population growth and shrinking land resources.
– Farmers in the eastern province of Morobe are experimenting with different combinations of cash crops and trees to deal with disease challenges and to reduce labor.
– Agroforestry also sequesters carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and provides homes and forage for wild creatures here, ranging from boars to bandicoots.

Amazon forests not changing fast enough to keep up with climate change: study by Claire Asher [12/19/2018]
– Researchers analyzed three decades of Amazon basin data collected by a long-term international collaboration known as RAINFOR which individually monitors each tree in hundreds of forest plots across the region.
– They found that over the past 30 years water-loving plants in the most drought-prone regions have been slowly replaced by trees that are better adapted to drier weather.
– Of concern: these changes in tree composition lag about two orders of magnitude behind the change in climate. This suggests that the Amazon rainforest may struggle to adapt, and keep up with, ongoing, escalating shifts in climate.
– In addition, some areas are seeing more drought, and more floods, creating multiple stressors. If the Amazon is to adapt to rapid climatic shifts, then forest fragmentation must be limited to allow species movement. However, croplands and pastures are shattering habitat connectivity, especially in the southern Amazon.

Deep-sea survey of Australian marine parks reveals striking species by [12/19/2018]
– A monthlong survey of deep-sea seamounts in and around Australia’s Huon and Tasman Fracture marine parks has revealed a spectacular range of species, from feathery corals and tulip-shaped glass sponges to bioluminescent squids and ghost sharks.
– Researchers surveyed 45 seamounts and covered 200 kilometers (124 miles), collecting 60,000 stereo images and some 300 hours of video.
– Close to the surface, they recorded data on 42 seabird species and eight whale and dolphin species. The researchers also used a net to collect some animals from the seamounts for identification, many of which are potentially new to science.

U.S. whale entanglement figures steady in 2017 by [12/19/2018]
– The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recorded 76 whale entanglements in U.S. waters in 2017.
– Floating fishing gear and other trash in the sea can impede a whale’s ability to feed and swim.
– Humpback were most often seen entangled; historically, the species usually accounts for about two-thirds of reports in a given year.
– Despite North Atlantic right whales only having been involved in two known entanglements in 2017, scientists say that any run-in with gear or trash threatens the recovery of the species, which now numbers around 450 animals.

The global community should address environmental issues as human rights issues (commentary) by Dr. David Ganz and Jeffrey Williamson [12/18/2018]
– We do not need to search too far to find a roadmap for a global New Deal for Nature and People.
– By not viewing environmental issues as human rights issues, gross human rights abuses can occur while weakening humanity’s ability to combat climate change.
– If the global community is to make progress on linking the health of nature with the health of people and the collective future of humankind, then environmental issues like climate change must be framed within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Christmas ad conundrum: Is a palm oil boycott the way to save apes? by James Fair [12/18/2018]
– British supermarket chain Iceland attempted to run a television advertisement highlighting the link between palm oil and the destruction of the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra.
– Deemed too political to air due to its links with campaigning group Greenpeace, the advertisement has been viewed online more than 70 million times, reigniting a debate on whether consumers should boycott products containing palm oil.
– Many wildlife NGOs argue that calling for a blanket ban on palm oil could do more harm than good. Instead, they urge concerned consumers to pressure the industry to clean up its practices.
– However, critics of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the industry’s leading standards council, say RSPO-certification has so far failed to stamp out deforestation and other harmful practices among member companies.

Relative of ‘penis snake’ amphibian named after Donald Trump by [12/18/2018]
– EnviroBuild, a construction materials company based in the U.K., paid $25,000 for naming rights to the amphibian in a charity auction benefiting the Rainforest Trust, a conservation group.
– EnviroBuild chose the name as a cheeky way to spur awareness about President Trump’s climate policies.
– Little else was revealed about the new species, including where or when it was discovered.

Wildlife, ecotourism industry at stake in Madagascar’s election, says scientist by [12/18/2018]
– Madagascar’s election on Wednesday could have major implications for the future of the island’s environment and wildlife, says a prominent conservation scientist.
– In an op-ed published this week in Al Jazeera, William F. Laurance, a researcher at James Cook University in Australia, warns that if Madagascar chooses former president Andry Rajoelina, the country’s dwindling natural resources could face renewed assault.
– Under Rajoelina’s previous reign, which followed a 2009 coup, Madagascar’s forests, wildlife, and coastal waters were pillaged.
– Laurance contrasts Rajoelina with his opponent, Marc Ravalomanana, who was lauded by conservationists during his tenure for expanding protected areas, banning commercial logging, and taking steps to reduce deforestation.

Shorebirds can no longer count on the Arctic as a safe haven for rearing their young by [12/17/2018]
– A new analysis of over 70 years’ worth of shorebird population data suggests that climate change has altered the migratory birds’ Arctic safe haven to such a degree that it is now helping drive rapid declines in their numbers.
– After studying data from 38,191 nests found across all seven continents and belonging to 237 populations of 111 different species, an international team led by researchers with the Milner Centre for Evolution at the UK’s University of Bath determined that shorebirds worldwide have experienced a drastic increase in nest predation over the past seven decades.
– The data suggests that nest predation rates have doubled in the North Temperate Zone, which includes Europe and most of Asia and North America. In the Arctic, which migratory shorebirds are used to using as something of a refuge, rates of daily nest predation have tripled.

Photos highlight evolving roles of AI, citizen science in species research by David Klinges [12/17/2018]
– A recent observation by an amateur naturalist of a fiddler crab species hundreds of kilometers north of its known range challenged the complementary strengths of computer vision and human expertise in mapping species distributions.
– The naturalist uploaded this record to the iNaturalist species database used by amateurs and experts to document sightings; expert input correctly identified the specimen after the platform’s computer vision algorithms did not acknowledge the species outside its documented range.
– Citizen naturalist observations can be used to document rapid changes in species distributions. They also can improve modeling and mapping work conducted by researchers and play an increasing prominent role in building environmental databases.

Pumas engineer their environment, providing habitat for other species by John C. Cannon [12/17/2018]
– A new study finds that mountain lions in the western United States change their surroundings and as a result are “ecosystem engineers.”
– A team of scientists tracked 18 lion kills in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in Wyoming and identified 215 species of beetles living in, on and off the carcasses — that is, the kills provided habitat as well as food for scavengers.
– The work demonstrates the critical role mountain lions play in providing resources to other species in the ecosystems in which they live.

Indigenous peoples denounce ongoing land rights violations in Ecuador by Taran Volckhausen [12/17/2018]
– Indigenous leaders in Ecuador say that a lack of progress toward addressing key issues stands in the way of their fundamental territorial rights.
– Concerns include resource extraction projects initiated without proper prior consent and consultation, as well as the activation of several mining and oil concessions in Ecuador.
– The outcry comes at a time when indigenous peoples are increasingly being recognized as key partners in ensuring the protection of the world’s tropical forests.

Deforestation in Brazil’s cerrado falls by [12/16/2018]
– Deforestation in Brazil’s cerrado, a wooded grassland that covers more than two million square kilometers and is the country’s second largest biome, fell 11 precent relative to a year ago.
– According to analysis by Brazil’s national space research institute INPE, deforestation in the cerrado amounted to 6,657 square kilometers for the twelve months ended July 31, 2018, which beat out 2016 as the lowest annual forest loss since at least 2001.
– Last year 7,474 square kilometers of cerrado was cleared.
– By contrast, deforestation in the Amazon has been trending upward since 2012, including a 14 percent rise this year.

Latam Eco Review: Jaguar protection plan signed by 14 Latin countries by [12/15/2018]
A 14-country jaguar conservation plan, efforts to protect the last 7 female southern right whales in Peru and Chile, and unexpected biodiversity discovered along Chile’s north coast were among the top stories last week by our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam. Jaguar protection plan signed by 14 Latin countries Fourteen countries launched a plan to secure […]

COP24: Sitting down to take a stand for real climate action by Hans Nicholas Jong [12/15/2018]
– Greta Thunberg, 15, has captured worldwide attention and sparked a youth movement with her no-nonsense demands for world leaders to finally start taking meaningful action to combat climate change.
– Thunberg accuses the current generation of leaders of sacrificing the future of today’s youths, and says that change is coming, whether they like it or not.
– Her protests and presence at the U.N. climate talks in Katowice, Poland, have inspired young people in countries around the world to take a similar stand for climate action.

Dutch banks’ customers ‘unknowingly’ profit from palm oil companies by Thessa Lageman [12/15/2018]
– A new report highlights the role of investment funds offered by Dutch banks in financing destructive oil palm expansion.
– Customers of the funds aren’t properly informed of the companies they’re invested in, the report says.
– A legislative proposal for a more sustainable investment policy is now being discussed by the European Union.

Hobby-grade drones can monitor marine animals beneath the surface by Sue Palminteri [12/14/2018]
– Researchers in The Bahamas have been testing just how good drone videos can be for estimating the abundance and distribution of large marine animals found just beneath the ocean’s surface.
– They flew aerial surveys using commercial-grade drones along six tidal creeks facing high and low human impact, to count sharks, rays, and sea turtles — groups that are both threatened and difficult to monitor. The findings from multiple sites suggest that shoreline development negatively affects the abundance and distribution of various marine species.
– The study also showed that using lower-cost consumer drones equipped with video cameras could help researchers effectively and non-invasively estimate abundance of these marine megafauna in shallow waters and compare data across sites.

Madagascar auctioning a large swath of virgin waters for oil exploration by Edward Carver [12/14/2018]
– In September, Madagascar announced the opening of a large area of marine territory to oil exploration: 44 concessions totaling 63,296 square kilometers (24,440 square miles) in the Mozambique Channel off the country’s west coast.
– Members of the hydrocarbon industry expressed excitement about the news, but civil society groups oppose the sale, arguing that the potential projects’ environmental and social impacts have not been evaluated.
– Some of the 44 blocks overlap with a marine protected area, territory marked for potential future marine protected areas, or areas managed by local fishing communities.

COP24: Will they stay or will they go? Brazil’s threat to leave Paris by Justin Catanoso [12/14/2018]
– In October, Brazil elected far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro to the presidency. During the campaign, he threatened to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, implement extreme environmental deregulation policies, and introduce mining into Amazon indigenous reserves, while also using incendiary language which may be inciting violence in remote rural areas.
– Just days before his election, Bolsonaro contradicted his past utterances, saying he won’t withdraw from the Paris accord. At COP24, the Brazilian delegation has fielded questions from concerned attendees, but it appears that no one there knows with certainty what the volatile leader will do once in office. He begins his presidency on the first of the year.
– Even if Bolsonaro doesn’t pull out of Paris, his plans to develop the Amazon, removing most regulatory impediments to mining and agribusiness, could have huge ramifications for the global climate. The Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest, stores massive amounts of carbon. Deforestation rates are already going up there, and likely to grow under Bolsonaro.
– Some in Brazil hope that environmental and economic realities will prevent Bolsonaro from fully implementing his plans. Escalating deforestation is already reducing Amazon rainfall, putting aquifers and agribusiness at risk. Agricultural producers also fear global consumer perceptions of Brazil as being anti-environmental could lead to a backlash and boycotts.

In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, December 14, 2018 by [12/14/2018]
– 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.

Argentina creates two new marine parks to protect penguins, sea lions by [12/14/2018]
– Argentina has officially created two large marine protected areas: the Yaganes Marine National Park, lying off the country’s southern tip, and the Namuncurá-Burdwood Bank II Marine National Park in the South Atlantic.
– Together, the two parks cover a total area of about 98,000 square kilometers (37,000 square miles).
– Industrial fishing is both an important source of revenue for Argentina and a threat to the country’s marine life. But the areas destined to become protected areas have had little fishing activity in recent years, which helped move negotiations in favor of the marine parks.

Palm oil giant Wilmar promises to take harder line with errant suppliers by [12/14/2018]
– Wilmar International announced some changes to its sustainability policy this week.
– Among the changes, Wilmar will no longer buy palm oil from suppliers found to be violating its policy, but will suspend purchases from them instead.
– Wilmar also appeared to acknowledge the presence of “shadow companies” in Indoensia’s plantation sector.

COP24: Fossil Fuel Inc.’s outsize presence at talks reflects its influence by Hans Nicholas Jong [12/14/2018]
– A confrontation between activists and an oil executive at the U.N. climate talks has highlighted just how much influence fossil fuel producers continue to have over global climate policies.
– The confrontation involved the same Shell executive who, days earlier, boasted about the company influencing one of the key provisions in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
– Fossil fuel companies, from oil producers to coal operations, are enjoying a prominent presence at the climate talks in Poland, including as sponsors and as speakers at events throughout the summit.
– Activists have blasted the U.N. for giving the companies such an important platform, saying that it only confirms their long-held suspicions that the very corporations contributing to the climate crisis are the same ones pushing supposed solutions to the problem.

Indonesian court throws out lawsuit against green expert’s testimony by Basten Gokkon [12/13/2018]
– A court in Indonesia has thrown out a lawsuit against an environmental expert whose testimony was instrumental in the conviction of a governor over a mining scandal.
– The governor, Nur Alam, had sued Basuki Wasis, an environmental degradation expert, over his assessment of the damage caused by illegal mining resulting from his improper issuance of mining licenses.
– It’s the second lawsuit Basuki has faced and overcome in connection with his role as a government witness in environmental cases. Fellow expert Bambang Hero Saharjo faces a near-identical lawsuit, which is also widely expected to fall flat.
– The judges in Basuki’s case emphasized the need to protect the testimonies of expert witnesses, to allow them to do their job without fear of a legal backlash.

One map to rule them all: Indonesia launches unified land-use chart by Basten Gokkon [12/13/2018]
– The Indonesian government has launched a long-awaited unified map of land-use cover across the country, in an effort to resolve overlapping claims that have led to conflict, human rights abuses and environmental damage.
– With more than 17,000 islands and a combined land and sea area that is the seventh-largest in the world, Indonesia has a wide range of official maps, including for mining permits, free-trade zones, oil and gas blocks, and forestry areas.
– The unified land-use map, accessible online, is still missing maps of indigenous territories, while closely held maps of oil palm plantations are being added.

Satellite trackers help fight vultures’ extinction in southern Africa by Munyaradzi Makoni [12/13/2018]
– Vultures in southern Africa are being killed, mainly by eating carcasses poisoned by farmers, and in collisions with power lines and wind turbines.
– Concerned about population declines, the Maloti-Drakensberg Vulture Project began tracking vulture movements with small GPS transmitters, only to find them dying at a rapid rate.
– The three-dimensional tracking data showing the overlap between vulture breeding and roosting areas resulted in cancellation of a pair of proposed wind farms in Lesotho and a call for more ecologically informed siting of needed renewable energy infrastructure.

Dam drove ‘collapse’ of rainforest bird populations in Thailand by [12/13/2018]
– A 165-square-kilometer (64-square-mile) reservoir in the lowland rainforest of Thailand has led to the “collapse” of the region’s bird populations, according to recent research.
– Built in 1986, the Ratchaprapha dam altered the habitat and led to deforestation, resulting in the decline of many species and the local extinction of perhaps five.
– The authors of the study say their findings highlight concerns about whether hydroelectric dams “are worth the environmental costs.”

Super-spreaders: How the curious life of a newt could ignite a pandemic by Rachel Fritts [12/13/2018]
– The eastern U.S. is the world’s salamander hotspot, with more species per area than anywhere else on the planet. Often superabundant, salamanders hold important ecological roles in their habitats.
– Eastern newts (Notophthalmus viridescens) are the second most widely distributed salamander species in the U.S. They’re also incredibly mobile and are able to transition to a toxic, terrestrial form to move between ponds.
– Like many other U.S. salamander species, eastern newts are highly susceptible to a fungal pathogen called Bactrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal). While Bsal has yet to make an appearance in North America, it has wreaked havoc on salamander populations in Europe, and biologists worry its impact in the U.S. will be even worse.
– Their susceptibility to Bsal coupled with their mobility mean eastern newts could act as “super-spreaders” of Bsal if the fungus gets to North America. Researchers worry that not only would the newts themselves face massive die-offs, but also they could quickly spread the disease to other salamander species.

Global agreement on ‘conserved areas’ marks new era of conservation (commentary) by Harry D. Jonas and Holly C. Jonas [12/13/2018]
– Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity have adopted the definition of a new conservation designation: ‘other effective area-based conservation measures’ (known informally as ‘conserved areas’).
– It represents a transformative moment in international biodiversity law and enables a greater diversity of actors — including government agencies, private entities, indigenous peoples, and local communities – to be recognized for their contributions to biodiversity outside protected areas.
– The ‘protected and conserved areas’ paradigm offers the global community an important means through which to respect human rights and appropriately recognize and support millions of square kilometers of lands and waters that are important for biodiversity, ecosystem processes, and connectivity — including in the Global Deal for Nature (2021-2030).
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.


From a new bird to a new community reserve: India’s tribe sets example by Shreya Dasgupta [12/13/2018]
‘We see its value’: Ugandan communities benefiting from agroforestry by Deusdedit Ruhangariyo [12/11/2018]
‘Light for everyone’: Indigenous youth mount a solar-powered resistance by Ethan Bien [12/10/2018]
‘There are no laws’: Cattle, drugs, corruption destroying Honduras UNESCO site by Taran Volckhausen [12/06/2018]