Newsletter 2019-05-16


UK supermarkets implicated in Amazon deforestation supply chain: report by Sarah Sax [05/13/2019]

– Deforestation due to cattle ranching has increased in Brazil since 2014. With between 60 and 80 percent of deforested Amazon lands used for pasture, European retailers who source beef from Brazil risk amplifying Amazonian forest destruction unless international action is taken.
– A report from the UK organization Earthsight finds that UK supermarket chains — including Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons and Lidl — are still importing corned beef from Brazil’s largest beef producer, JBS, despite the company being implicated in a long string of corruption and illegal deforestation scandals over the last decade.
– JBS, one of the largest food companies in the world, has faced multiple corruption charges leading to the arrest of two of its former CEOs and was fined $8 million in 2017 for illegal deforestation in the Amazon.
– Many hope the forthcoming EU Communication on Stepping Up Action to Halt Deforestation will propose legislation to ensure EU companies and suppliers are not contributing to deforestation and human rights abuses. However, experts say such an agreement will only work if corporate standards are mandatory not voluntary.


In Indonesia, a flawed certification scheme lets illegal loggers raze away by Hans Nicholas Jong [05/16/2019]
– The seizure of more than 400 containers of illegally logged timber in a series of busts since last December has shone a spotlight on Indonesia’s mechanism for certifying legal timber.
– Some of the wood has been traced back to companies certified under the country’s SVLK scheme. That’s the same scheme that the EU relies on to ensure that its imports of Indonesian timber are legally harvested.
– The seizures and findings by activists highlight increased illegal logging in the relatively pristine eastern Indonesian regions of Maluku and Papua.
– Companies engaged in illegal logging exploit a variety of methods, from cutting in abandoned concessions to using farmers’ groups and indigenous communities as fronts for harvesting in areas that would otherwise be off-limits for commercial logging.

’Green’ bonds finance industrial tree plantations in Brazil by [05/16/2019]
– The Environmental Paper Network (EPN), a group of some 140 NGOs with the goal of making the pulp and paper industry more sustainable, released a briefing contending that green or climate bonds issued by Fibria, a pulp and paper company, went to maintaining and expanding plantations of eucalyptus trees.
– The report suggests that the Brazilian company inflated the amount of carbon that new planting would store.
– The author of the briefing also questions the environmental benefits of maintaining industrial monocultures of eucalyptus, a tree that requires a lot of water along with herbicides, pesticides and fertilizer that can impact local ecosystems and human communities.

At 2,624 years, a bald cypress is oldest known living tree in eastern North America by [05/16/2019]
– One bald cypress tree (Taxodium distichum) growing along the Black River in the state of North Carolina in the United States is at least 2,624 years old as of 2018, a new study has found.
– This estimate, researchers say, makes it the oldest known living tree in eastern North America; the fifth oldest-known continuously living, sexually reproducing, non-clonal tree species; and the oldest known wetland tree species in the world.
– The trees’ growth rings serve as a valuable record of the region’s climate, including rainfall patterns.
– Large swaths of these ancient bald cypress stands still remain unprotected and need urgent conservation, researchers say.

Climate change may make hurricanes and cyclones deadlier, study finds by Gianluca Cerullo [05/16/2019]
– New research suggests that tropical cyclones may become deadlier under climate change.
– According to simulated estimates of past storm mortality in Mexico, storm-related deaths are projected to increase under five out of six climate change models, in one case by as much as 52 percent.
– In one climate scenario, storm-related mortality may decrease if increases in storm severity are outweighed by storms becoming less frequent.
– Developing nations are especially vulnerable to cyclones exacerbated by climate change due to poverty and poor government coordination.

As Indonesia mulls moving the capital, indigenous groups fear another land grab by Fidelis E. Satriastanti [05/16/2019]
– Indigenous rights advocates worry the president’s plan to relocate Indonesia’s capital to the island of Borneo could result in seizure of lands belonging to local communities.
– The Indigenous Peoples Alliance for the Archipelago, an NGO, is currently working to determine if any indigenous communities would be affected by the plan, though it is difficult to determine until the government’s plans come into sharper focus.
– As potential sites for the new capital, President Joko Widodo has floated Palangkaraya, Gunung Mas and Katingan in Central Kalimantan, and Bukit Suharto in East Kalimantan.

Canopy-dwelling rainforest mammals most sensitive to human disturbance by [05/15/2019]
– New research using arboreal camera traps finds that canopy-dwelling mammals are particularly sensitive to the impacts of human disturbance in rainforests and that these effects are easily missed by more traditional survey methods.
– Large-bodied arboreal species like the endangered Peruvian woolly monkey and the endangered black-faced spider monkey were found to be most impacted by forest disturbance, according to the study, published in the journal Diversity and Distributions last week.
– These larger primates are important seed dispersers for hardwood trees, which contribute disproportionately to the biomass of tropical forests. The loss of these species could thus lead to cascading ecosystems effects that might pose a significant threat to the carbon storage potential of degraded tropical forests.

An urban ‘butterfly experience’ in Sri Lanka by Dilrukshi Handunnetti [05/15/2019]
– A private sector initiative is setting up urban butterfly gardens in Sri Lanka, creating butterfly sanctuaries.
– The creator of the urban butterfly habitats is proposing the replication of his conservation model to support the survival of butterfly populations.
– Though there is high endemism, Sri Lanka’s butterflies are threatened by multiple causes including habitat loss, deforestation, climate change and increase in alien species.

Public education could curb bushmeat demand in Laos, study finds by [05/15/2019]
– A recent survey of markets in Laos found that the demand for bushmeat in urban areas was likely more than wildlife populations could bear.
– The enforcement of Laos’s laws controlling the wildlife trade appeared to do little to keep vendors from selling bushmeat, but fines did appear to potentially keep consumers from buying bushmeat.
– The researchers also found that consumers could be turned off of buying bushmeat when they learned of specific links between species and diseases.

On the island of Java, a social forestry scheme creates jobs at home by Nuswantoro [05/15/2019]
– Indonesian President Joko Widodo has pledged to transfer 127,000 square kilometers of state land to communities, but progress has been slow.
– In Kalibiru, outside the central Javan city of Yogyakarta, one community forest management program has generated impressive revenues for local governments and incomes for community members.
– Some locals say they’re now less likely to migrate away from Kalibiru for higher pay.

Models, maps, and citizen scientists working to save the Great Barrier Reef by Marianne Messina [05/14/2019]
– As global warming drives more events that impact coral reefs, managing the Great Barrier Reef’s resilience demands comprehensive and detailed mapping of the reef bed.
– Available surveys and maps with geographically referenced field data have been limited and fragmented.
– A diverse research team recently demonstrated a successful approach, applying statistics to image data to build predictive models, integrate diverse datasets on reef conditions, and provide a comprehensive map of the Reef that informs reef management decisions.

Audio: Exploring a hidden rainforest on an isolated mountain in Mozambique by Mike Gaworecki [05/14/2019]
– On today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we speak with Julian Bayliss, a conservation scientist and explorer who recently discovered a hidden rainforest on top of an isolated mountain in Mozambique.
– Like many other mountains in eastern Africa, Mount Lico is what’s known as an “inselberg” — a German word that means “island mountain.” Bayliss initially spotted the forest atop Mount Lico using Google Earth. He then confirmed its existence via drone reconnaissance, before mounting a campaign to actually scale Mount Lico’s sheer, 410-foot cliffs and explore the forest firsthand.
– On this episode, Julian Bayliss discusses what it was like to behold the unspoiled forest atop Mount Lico for the first time, the new species he found there, and the significance of the pottery he discovered in the rainforest even though no locals have ever been to the top of the mountain.

Penguin and seal poop powers life in Antarctica, study finds by [05/14/2019]
– In Antarctica, where colonies of penguins and elephant seals aggregate, their droppings, rich in nitrogen, enrich the soil and support thriving communities of mosses, lichens and invertebrates, a new study has found.
– Ammonia released from penguin and elephant seal feces can influence an area up to 240 times the size of the animal colony, the researchers found.
– These findings can be used to create maps of Antarctica’s biodiversity hotspots, the researchers say.

The heat is on: Amazon tree loss could bring 1.45 degree C local rise by James Fair [05/14/2019]
– A new modeling study finds that largely unrestricted “business-as-usual” Brazilian Amazon and Cerrado deforestation could result in the loss of an estimated 606,000 square kilometers of forest by 2050, leading to local temperature increases of up to 1.45 degrees Celsius, in addition to global rises in temperature.
– Under a Brazil Forest Code enforcement model, researchers predict deforestation would be limited to 79,000 square kilometers, with reforestation occurring over 110,000 square kilometers, leading to an average local increase of just 0.02 degrees Celsius.
– Researchers say loss of tree cover must be halted and reforestation program begun to protect people and wildlife, and curb regional warming.
– Reptiles and amphibians would be especially vulnerable to deforestation-triggered temperature rises and loss of humidity.

Coops, community, and agroforestry: Q&A with coffee entrepreneur Dean Cycon by Erik Hoffner [05/13/2019]
– Agroforestry is an agricultural technique that combines trees with shrubs, crops and livestock in a system that produces food, supports biodiversity, builds soil horizons and water tables, and sequesters 45 gigatons of carbon from the atmosphere worldwide.
– Dean’s Beans Organic Coffee has become a successful marketer of organic beans grown in agroforestry systems across the tropics, and has won several international sustainability awards for its direct, people-centered approach to development.
– The company sources organic beans from farmer cooperatives who have implemented agroforestry systems that provide shade for the coffee plus fruit and timber trees that are also useful to people, bugs, birds, and other animals.
– The 2019 World Agroforestry Congress in Montpellier, France, from May 20-22, aims to bridge the gap between agroforestry science and its practical implementation worldwide.

Climate change spurs deadly virus in frogs in the U.K. by [05/13/2019]
– As temperatures climb, ranaviruses cause more frog deaths over a longer part of the year, according to a new study.
– The researchers combined data from outbreaks of disease caused by ranaviruses in common frogs (Rana temporaria) with laboratory investigations.
– They say that shaded areas and deeper ponds could provide refuges for afflicted animals that might slow the spread of the virus, but they also caution that this “short-term solution” is only a stopgap as the warming climate continues to make life difficult for amphibians.

Hunting for rare plants in inaccessible spots: Q&A with drone pilot Ben Nyberg by Shreya Dasgupta [05/13/2019]
– For decades, botanists at the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG) in Hawaii have rappelled down dangerously steep cliff faces using ropes, hung out of helicopters and walked through some very remote valleys to look for, and conserve, rare, native plants. Several cliffs and valleys, however, have remained inaccessible.
– Drones are now helping the NTBG staff access and survey some of these difficult-to-reach parts of the Hawaiian islands.
– Mongabay recently spoke with Ben Nyberg, a GIS coordinator and drone specialist at NTBG, about the use of drones for plant conservation.

Reptile haven of Sri Lanka yields up new species of rough-sided snake by Dilrukshi Handunnetti [05/11/2019]
– A newly discovered “rough-sided” snake in Sri Lanka’s Knuckles Massif bears testimony to the island’s unique reptile life and also highlights how habitat loss is threatening species survival, a new paper says.
– A unique feature of Aspidura desilvai is its unusual color pattern, which reflects the soil color of its habitat and gives it the look of a well-preserved wine.
– The new species faces multiple threats, ranging from significant habitat loss through forest fragmentation, illegal cardamom plantations, uncontrolled gem mining, forest fires, and the introduction and spread of invasive alien species.

Global warming is exacerbating global economic inequality: Study by [05/10/2019]
– New research finds that global warming has exacerbated global economic inequality, making already-wealthy nations even richer while slowing economic growth in poorer countries.
– According to the study, published in PNAS late last month, between 1961 and 2010 rising temperatures led to a 17 to 30 percent decrease in per-capita wealth in the world’s poorest countries. Meanwhile, the wealthy countries that are the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters have seen their per-capita GDP grow about 10 percent higher today than they would have in a world without warming.
– Poor countries that, by and large, have not enjoyed the benefits of fossil fuel energy have been made relatively poorer by the energy consumption of wealthy countries — but renewable energy sources might offer a partial solution to both the climate crisis and global inequality.

Lions vs. porcupines: A thorny tale with a moral about man-eaters by Malavika Vyawahare [05/10/2019]
– African lions do not usually feed on porcupines. However, in the absence of preferred prey like wildebeests, zebras and other ungulates, they can turn to the prickly rodents.
– Many of these encounters, according to a new study that documented 50 of them, don’t end well for the lions, which can be wounded or die from the quills.
– A lion wounded in a porcupine encounter, and thus impaired from hunting and feeding, may turn to hunting softer targets such as humans and cattle.
– The choice of porcupine as food also suggests the absence of other prey which may also lead a lion to prey on humans.

In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, May 10, 2019 by [05/10/2019]
– 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.
– Mongabay does not vet the news sources below, nor does the inclusion of a story on this list imply an endorsement of its content.

Wariness over Indonesian president’s vow to get tough on land disputes by Hans Nicholas Jong [05/10/2019]
– President Joko Widodo says land claimed by both companies and local communities should be given to the latter, especially if they have occupied the territory for a long time.
– The statement is a radical departure from the Indonesian government’s record of siding with companies and moving slowly to recognize community land rights.
– But any benefits promised look to be undercut by another administration announcement, just days later, that plantation permit data will not be made publicly accessible — thus denying claimants a way to see if their land rights have been violated.
– The latter policy shores up an earlier prohibition on sharing permit data that Indonesia’s Supreme Court ruled illegal. Activists have filed a police report against the land minister over his refusal to comply.

A Malagasy community races the timber mafia to save its forest by Malavika Vyawahare [05/10/2019]
– The Vohibola forest is one of the last remaining primary forests along Madagascar’s eastern coast, supporting a large variety of endemic species found nowhere else on Earth.
– Under a renewed contract finalized this week the responsibility for its management was delegated to Razan’ny Vohibola, an association of volunteers from four surrounding villages.
– The task of protecting the forest, which is rapidly disappearing because of illegal logging, pits the local protectors against not just the timber mafia but also officials whom the villagers allege are complicit.
– Members of Razan’ny Vohibola were arrested in April on charges of aiding the illegal logging allegedly at the behest of corrupt officials, but released after the central environment ministry intervened.

Wild Kingdom’s Jim Fowler has died by [05/09/2019]
– Jim Fowler, a zoologist best known for hosting Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, has died.
– Fowler won four Emmy awards and found cross-over success as a wildlife correspondent for the ‘Today’ show and a frequent guest of Johnny Carson’s ‘Tonight’ show
– After Wild Kingdom ended in 1988, Fowler continued his conservation education work, winning a number of accolades for his efforts.

Social media enables the illegal wildlife pet trade in Malaysia by John C. Cannon [05/09/2019]
– Conservationists say that prosecuting wildlife traffickers in Malaysia for trading in protected species isn’t easy, as traders have several loopholes to aid their efforts.
– One wildlife trafficker known as Kejora Pets has been operating in Peninsular Malaysia for years, selling “cute” pets to individuals through social media.
– Malaysia’s wildlife act doesn’t address the posting of protected animals for sale on social media, and operators like Kejora Pets appear to avoid ever being in possession of protected animals, allowing them to skirt statutes aimed at catching illicit traders.
– Proposed changes to Malaysia’s wildlife act could offer some relief to besieged populations of protected species by making it easier to prosecute online trafficking of protected animals.


Dismantling of Brazilian environmental protections gains pace by Sue Branford and Thais Borges [05/08/2019]
In Ethiopia, a community leans on customs to save an antelope from extinction by Maheder Haileselassie Tadese [05/06/2019]
China, EU, US trading with Brazilian firms fined for Amazon deforestation: report by Karla Mendes [05/06/2019]
Most communities not seeing promised oil palm payoff in Borneo, study finds by Loren Bell [05/06/2019]
In Indonesia, bigger catches for a fishing village protecting its mangroves by Aseanty Pahlevi [05/03/2019]
Illegal logging poised to wipe Cambodian wildlife sanctuary off the map by Chris Humphrey [05/02/2019]