Newsletter 2019-06-20


Carbon to burn: UK net-zero emissions pledge undermined by biomass energy by Justin Catanoso [06/19/2019]

– The United Kingdom and the European Union are setting goals to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. But that declaration is deeply flawed, analysts say, due to a long-standing United Nations carbon accounting loophole that turns a blind eye toward the conversion of coal burning power plants to burning wood pellets.
– While the cutting of trees to convert them to wood pellets to produce energy is ultimately carbon neutral — if an equal number of new trees are planted — the regrowth process requires 50 to 100 years. That means wood pellets burned today, and in coming decades, will be adding a massive carbon load to the atmosphere.
– That carbon will add significantly to global warming — bringing more sea level rise, extreme weather, and perhaps, climate catastrophe — even as official carbon counting by the UN provides a false sense of security that we are effectively reducing emissions to curb climate change.
– Unless the biomass loophole is dealt with, the risk is very real that the world could easily overshoot its Paris Agreement targets, and see temperatures rise well above the 1.5 degrees Celsius safe limit. At present, there is no official move to address the biomass loophole.

Sumatran rhinos to get a new sanctuary in Leuser Ecosystem by Basten Gokkon[06/18/2019]

– A third captive-breeding sanctuary for the nearly extinct Sumatran rhino is set to be built in Indonesia, according to a top official.
– The facility, scheduled to open in 2021, will be located within the Leuser Ecosystem in northern Sumatra, home to what’s believed to be one of the largest populations of the critically endangered species.
– Global and local rhino conservation groups have welcomed the plan and pledge to help with financial and technical support for the new facility.
– Indonesia currently has two captive-breeding centers for the rhinos: in Sumatra’s Way Kambas National Park, which holds seven rhinos, and Borneo’s Kelian forest, which has a single rhino.

Shift to renewable energy could have biodiversity cost, researchers caution by Ashley Stumvoll [06/18/2019]

– Climate change has widely reported negative consequences, and innovations in renewable energy technologies are central to achieving the Paris climate treaty goals to mitigate these effects.
– A new report cautions that mining of metals used in manufacturing renewable technologies like wind turbines, solar power, and electric vehicles has costs, including for biodiversity.
– Negative effects from the mining of metals like aluminum, cobalt and rare earths could impact a range of creatures from flamingoes to gorillas, plants, and even deep sea creatures.
– Until widespread recycling and reuse of these materials becomes a feasible alternative to mining, these activities should be monitored and verified via certification schemes such as the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance, researchers say.


A four-year ox-cart ride across Madagascar: Q&A with Alexandre Poussin by Malavika Vyawahare [06/20/2019]
– Alexandre Poussin and his family recently completed a 5,000-kilometer (3,100-mile) oxcart ride around Madagascar, visiting sanctuaries for the island’s unique biodiversity that are off the beaten path.
– Poussin witnessed firsthand the destruction of Madagascar’s forests and the threat faced by endemic species found there.
– The French traveler and writer is encouraging tourists to the island to help protect its natural heritage.

Why sustainability should be on your plate when you travel (commentary) by Isolina Boto [06/19/2019]
– In Vanuatu, as in other popular destinations across Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific, farming and tourism can support one another while making our holidays more sustainable.
– According to one survey, 60 percent of food consumed by tourists in Vanuatu was imported, all of which could have been produced in-country. Food makes up to 35 percent of tourists’ spending.
– So how can we encourage the tourism industry to work with local agriculture to increase demand for regional ingredients and boost farm livelihoods, making both sectors more resilient and sustainable?
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

’Livestock revolution’ triggered decline in global pasture: Report by John C. Cannon [06/19/2019]
– Since 2000, the area of land dedicated for livestock pasture around the world has declined by 1.4 million square kilometers (540,500 square miles) — an area about the size of Peru.
– A new report attributes the contraction to more productive breeds, better animal health and higher densities of animals on similar amounts of land.
– The report’s authors say that technological solutions could help meet rising demand for meat and milk in developing countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, without reversing the downward trend.

Can REDD+ bring more women into forest conservation? by Jennifer Rigby[06/18/2019]
– Women are historically disadvantaged in forest conservation around the world, with patriarchal traditions being a key factor.
– Research is only just beginning to form a detailed picture of their existing roles within forests.
– As such, the benefits – and potential risks – of empowering women in forest conservation remain little understood.

At least one species has been lost on more than half of Earth’s land area by [06/18/2019]
– A study published in the journal Frontiers In Forests And Global Change last week largely supports the conclusions of the IPBES report released last month, determining that there is less intact habitat harboring its original community of life than has previously been estimated. And the authors of the study say their findings show that methods used to determine the most important areas for wildlife conservation using remote sensing and global datasets may not be accurately assessing faunal intactness.
– Researchers found that at least one species has gone extinct on 54.7 percent of our planet’s land area (not including Antarctica), with some sites losing as many as 52 species. Even many forests identified as being intact because they have intact canopies have lost species below the canopy, the researchers found.
– They conclude: “Recent papers have highlighted the small percentage of remaining wilderness or intact sites and yet our results indicate that truly intact sites with a full complement of species are likely to be much rarer still.”

Recreational divers help researchers track movements of rare stingray by [06/18/2019]
– The smalleye stingray, thought to be widely distributed across the Indo-West Pacific, is rarely seen and is listed as “data deficient” on the IUCN Red List.
– By compiling photographs and videos of the stingrays taken opportunistically by both research teams and recreational divers over the last 15 years off the coast of Mozambique, the only place the giant rays are regularly spotted, researchers have created a photographic database of the animals.
– This database is now helping researchers gain some of the first insights into this elusive species. For example, researchers found that a female stingray had made a 400-kilometer (250-mile) round trip to birth her pups.

New tool helps monitor forest change within commodities supply chains by Sue Palminteri [06/18/2019]
– With commercial agriculture driving some 40 percent of tropical deforestation, more than 300 major companies involved in the commodities trade have pledged to avoid deforestation in their supply chains.
– To help the companies and financial institutions adhere to these commitments, Global Forest Watch (GFW) has launched a new forest monitoring tool called GFW Pro.
– Using tree cover change information from GFW’s interactive maps, the new desktop application enables users to observe and monitor deforestation and fires within individual farms and supply sheds or across portfolios of properties and political jurisdictions.
– To encourage use by businesses, the new tool presents the information in graphs and charts to companies for easy and regular monitoring, as they might monitor daily changes in stock prices.

First Nations have created a robust conservation economy in Great Bear Rainforest: Report by [06/17/2019]
– Over the past decade, First Nations have created a robust conservation economy in Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest, one of the largest old-growth temperate rainforests left in the world, through investments in sustainable development and environmental stewardship projects that link the health of nature to the wellbeing of indigenous communities, according to a new report.
– The report was issued last week by Coast Funds, an Indigenous-led conservation finance organization created in the wake of historic land-use agreements signed by First Nations and the Canadian province of British Columbia in 2006.
– The nearly $82 million in funding Coast Funds approved for 353 projects between 2008 and 2018 attracted more than $286 million in additional investment in the region, the organization reports. First Nations’ sustainable development projects in the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii have had substantial local economic impacts, leading to the creation of more than 1,000 permanent jobs and the founding or growth of 100 businesses, per the report.

Norway sees sharp drop in palm oil biofuel consumption after ban on government purchasing by Lauren Crothers [06/17/2019]
– Norway saw drop in palm oil consumption following new regulations limiting sales in response to concerns about deforestation for plantations.
– The decrease has been lauded by a Norwegian rainforest advocacy group, which called it a “big win for rainforests.”
– Indonesia and Malaysia, the world’s two biggest palm oil producers, have warned of retaliation if a Europe-wide phase-out of the commodity from biofuels by 2030 goes ahead.

As Cambodia swelters, climate-change suspicion falls on deforestation by Michael Tatarski [06/17/2019]
– Cambodia has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world, with key drivers including demand for timber products, land-use conversion, and urbanization.
– Extreme temperatures have led to public criticism linking deforestation to unusually hot weather.
– The Cambodian government has denied this connection, but emerging science provides compelling links between the two issues.

Primates lose ground to surging commodity production in their habitats by [06/17/2019]
– “Forest risk” commodities, such as beef, palm oil, and fossil fuels, led to a significant proportion of the 1.8 million square kilometers (695,000 square miles) of forest that was cleared between 2001 and 2017 — an area almost the size of Mexico.
– A previous study found that 60 percent of primates face extinction and 75 percent of species’ numbers are declining.
– The authors say that addressing the loss of primate habitat due to the production of commodities is possible, though it will require a global effort to “green” the international trade in these commodities.

Deforested areas bleed heat to nearby forests, drive local extinctions by Malavika Vyawahare [06/17/2019]
– Forests play an important role in cooling the Earth.
– Deforestation doesn’t just contribute to temperature increases where it occurs but also in adjacent forests, according to a new study.
– This leaking of heat into adjacent forests puts species living there at risk by pushing up temperatures that are already rising due to climate change.
– This is bad news for countries like Madagascar, which not only hosts many endemic species with limited habitat, but also has alarming rates of deforestation.

Nearly 600 plant species have gone extinct in last 250 years by[06/17/2019]
– At least 571 species of seed-bearing plants have gone extinct around the world in the last two and a half centuries.
– This number is nearly four times higher than the previous known estimate and more than twice the number of birds, mammals and amphibians that are known to have gone extinct, researchers say.
– The study estimates that plants are now becoming extinct nearly 500 times faster than the background extinction rate for plants.
– The geographical pattern of modern plant extinctions resembles that for animals: most plant extinctions occur on islands, in the tropics, and in areas with a Mediterranean climate that are rich in biodiversity.

Exotic pet trade responsible for hundreds of invasive species around the globe by [06/14/2019]
– According to a new study, published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment last week, Burmese pythons in Florida are just one example of the hundreds of non-native and invasive species that are harming native species and ecosystems around the world thanks to the multibillion-dollar exotic pet trade.
– “The volume of vertebrate animals that are traded worldwide is shocking, even to relatively seasoned invasion biologists,” the study’s lead author, Julie L. Lockwood, a professor at Rutgers University–New Brunswick in the United States, said in a statement. “The market in exotic pets has grown considerably since the 1970s, and so I don’t think most of us fully grasped how expansive the trade has become.”
– Lockwood and colleagues note in the study that research has shown that, of the 140 non‐native reptiles and amphibians known to have been introduced in Florida so far, close to 85 percent arrived via the pet trade.

In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, June 14, 2019 by [06/14/2019]
– 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.

Leopards get a $20m boost from Panthera pact with Saudi prince by John C. Cannon [06/14/2019]
– Big-cat conservation group Panthera has signed an agreement with Saudi prince and culture minister Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammad bin Farhan Al Saud in which the latter’s royal commission has pledged $20 million to the protection of leopards around the world, including the Arabian leopard, over the next decade.
– The funds will support a survey of the animals in Saudi Arabia and a captive-breeding program.
– The coalition also hopes to reintroduce the Arabian leopard into the governorate of Al-Ula, which Bader heads and which the kingdom’s leaders believe could jump-start the local tourism sector.

Peruvian communities demanding crude cleanup brace for more oil activity by Barbara Fraser [06/14/2019]
– The Peruvian government is set to announce a new operator for an oil concession that sits in the basins of the Pastaza, Corrientes and Tigre rivers, in the country’s Amazon region.
– Indigenous communities living in the affected area must be consulted because their territorial rights will be affected by a new oil contract for Block 192.
– These communities are continuing to demand that the Peruvian government fulfill its obligation to clean up the 32 highest-priority spill sites affected by earlier oil exploration and extraction activities that date back to the 1970s.
– Among their demands are that the government provide specialist medical services, clean drinking water, and publish the full results from a health study carried out in 2016, which showed excessive levels of toxic heavy metals in the blood of community members.

Predator-free by 2050? High-tech hopes for New Zealand’s big conservation dreamby Monica Evans [06/13/2019]
– To preserve New Zealand’s remaining native biodiversity, the country has begun an ambitious nationwide program to eliminate its most damaging non-native invasive predators — rats, stoats and possums — by 2050.
– To carry out this mammoth task, government and private entities across the country are applying new technologies to existing detection, exclusion, trapping, poisoning and other strategies used to reduce the numbers of harmful predators.
– The program has wide public support, though some effective technologies, particularly gene editing, are controversial; recognition of the importance of public support, as well as cost and effectiveness, help guide the program’s development.

Despite a decade of zero-deforestation vows, forest loss continues: Greenpeace by Shreya Dasgupta [06/13/2019]
– Nearly a decade after the Board of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) passed a resolution to achieve zero net deforestation by 2020 when sourcing commodities such as soya, palm oil, beef, and paper products, these commodities continue to drive widespread deforestation, a new report from Greenpeace says.
– Greenpeace contacted 66 companies, asking them to demonstrate their progress in ending deforestation by disclosing their cattle, cocoa, dairy, palm oil, pulp and paper and soya suppliers. Of the companies that did respond, most came back with only partial information.
– The report concludes that not a single company could demonstrate “meaningful effort to eradicate deforestation from its supply chain.”
– Other experts say that transparency in supply chains is improving, and that measuring compliance to zero-deforestation goals requires more nuanced research.

Innovative methods could transform Vietnam’s robusta farms into carbon sinks by Michael Tatarski [06/13/2019]
– Vietnam is the second-largest producer of coffee in the world, and the largest exporter of robusta beans.
– Climate change poses a threat to the country’s coffee sector, while poor farming techniques cause environmental degradation.
– A new report has found that intercropping (agroforestry) and decreased fertilizer use can change robusta farms from carbon sources to carbon sinks.
– Such practices are present in Vietnam’s small specialty coffee industry, but large-scale commodity producers aren’t as innovative.

CITES to move wildlife trade summit from Colombo to Geneva this August by Dilrukshi Handunnetti [06/13/2019]
– An international summit on the global wildlife trade will be moved from Sri Lanka to Switzerland, following a lengthy delay sparked by terrorist bombings in the South Asian country during Easter services in April.
– The 18th Meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP18) of CITES was originally scheduled to run May 23 to June 3 in Colombo, but will now take place in Geneva from Aug. 17 to 28.
– The CITES announcement follows a comprehensive U.N. security assessment that concluded on May 31.
– There was pressure to get the summit going with minimal delay, given the number of conservation programs and activities dependent on the outcome of the meeting, for which delegates had proposed increased trade protections for a host of plant and animal species.


The Great Insect Dying: How to save insects and ourselves by Jeremy Hance[06/13/2019]
Out on a limb: Unlikely collaboration boosts orangutans in Borneo by Nina Finley[06/12/2019]
Regreening a barren refugee landscape on Myanmar’s border by Kaamil Ahmed[06/11/2019]
Inside an ambitious project to rewild trafficked bonobos in the Congo Basin by Christopher Clark [06/11/2019]
The Great Insect Dying: The tropics in trouble and some hope by Jeremy Hance[06/10/2019]
The Great Insect Dying: Vanishing act in Europe and North America by Jeremy Hance [06/06/2019]