Brazilian Amazon fires scientifically linked to 2019 deforestation: report by Karla Mendes [09/11/2019]

– A scientific report released today by the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP) reveals critical overlap between deforestation and fire alerts. Mongabay had exclusive access to the report ahead of release.
– At least 40,825 hectares (100,800 acres) of the Brazilian Amazon — the equivalent to 56,000 soccer fields — were cleared through 2019 and then burned in August. The findings offer a base map overlapping 2019 deforestation and fire hotspots, and include 16 high-resolution time lapse videos unveiling newly cleared agricultural lands linked to fire occurrences.
– MAAP’s findings show that the dramatic photos that garnered worldwide attention of smoky fires sweeping the Brazilian Amazon in August do not correspond with burning rainforest, but instead coincide with areas intentionally deforested this year, with the cleared land then set ablaze to finish the agricultural conversion process.
– Although the report didn’t detect major forest fires in Brazil to date, the risk still exists, as the dry season deepens, given that many fire occurrences were detected on agriculture-forest boundaries. The study doesn’t say how much of the 40,825 hectares cleared in the first 8 months of 2019 were illegally deforested.

Into the abyss with deep sea biologist Diva Amon by Erik Hoffner [09/09/2019]

– Dr. Diva Amon was raised on the shores of the Caribbean Sea and has become an expert on what lies deep below its surface, where light refuses to go.
– “We can’t effectively manage what we don’t understand or protect what we don’t know,” she tells Mongabay in a new interview.
– The promise and peril of deep sea mining is just one of the reasons she and her colleagues are working hard to understand the biodiversity of the oceans’ greatest depths.
– Dr. Amon is speaking at the upcoming Jackson Wild Summit in Wyoming later this month.

Fires in Brazil’s Amazon have devastating consequences by Antonio José Paz Cardona [09/06/2019]

– According to Brazil’s space agency, INPE, the number of fires between Jan. 1 and Aug. 20 of this year is up 85 percent from the same period last year.
– It will take from decades to centuries for the forests to recover, and the impact on wildlife specifically is uncertain.
– What’s clear, though, is that the region’s hydrological and climatic status will change drastically if the situation continues to worsen.


Climate adaptation begins with how we manage water (commentary) by Claudia Sadoff [09/12/2019]
– Some 70 percent of the world’s freshwater is used for agriculture, but cities and other sectors have growing demands on the same water resources. To adapt to climate change without undermining food security and farmers’ livelihoods, we will have to fundamentally rethink agricultural water usage, our food systems, and our diets.
– A major new report from the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA) makes this case loud and clear. The report urges us to face the fact that climate change will require ‘massive’ adaptation. It urges us to meet this challenge with urgency and resolve.
– The GCA report paints a sobering picture of our water and food security futures. We can and must adapt more quickly and effectively. Adaptive water management is an important place to start.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

REDD+ more competitive than critics believe, study finds by John C. Cannon [09/12/2019]
– Critics have argued that the strategy known as REDD+, or reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, hasn’t adequately slowed emissions from forest loss in developing countries in the way it was intended.
– Introduced in 2007, REDD+ is meant to help individual countries earn money for development when they lower the amount of released carbon from clearing and degrading forests.
– In a recent paper focused on the South American country of Guyana, a team of researchers argues that the problems with REDD+ stem from its implementation at the project level.
– REDD+ implementation across the jurisdiction of an entire country would address nearly all of the problems with individual REDD+ projects, and societies would benefit more financially than they currently do from commercial forest uses such as gold mining and logging, the researchers say.

New detection devices could record microplastic pollution levels in real time by Erik Hoffner [09/11/2019]
– Microplastic pollution is a threat to marine life and is found in the bodies of animals all along the food chain.
– Detecting microplastic pollution levels in the oceans is becoming increasingly important, in part so that sources can be found and vulnerable species protected if possible.
– Traditional testing via tow nets and lab analysis is slow and expensive, but a new generation of sensors is being developed to measure microplastics faster and at various depths.
– Mongabay spoke with Sheila Hemami, Director of Strategic Technical Opportunities for Massachusetts-based R&D laboratory Draper, which is developing new tools to record microplastic pollution levels in real time.

Beehive fences can help mitigate human-elephant conflict by Hannah Thomasy [09/11/2019]
– Crop-raiding by elephants can devastate small farmers, leading to food insecurity, lost opportunity costs, and even death, as well as negative attitudes towards elephants, but finding effective and inexpensive solutions has proven extremely difficult.
– Beehive fences—surrounding crops fields with beehives attached to fence posts and strung together with wires—may serve as a humane and eco-friendly way to protect crops from elephants.
– Repeated farm-level trials have demonstrated benefits to farmers of using beehive fences, including fewer elephants approaching their fields and, for communities willing to manage the bees, production of “elephant-friendly” honey. However, the strategy doesn’t work everywhere: it requires management by farmers and willingness of bees to occupy at least some of the hives, and appropriate length and positioning to dissuade elephants from just walking around them.
– Beehive fences have benefited farmers in several East African countries, and projects elsewhere have begun to test them as well, but several uncertainties, including their success at a scale that doesn’t just displace the elephants to the first unfenced farm, suggest they should still be used with other techniques as part of a toolkit to reduce human-elephant conflict.

Photos: Forest fires rage on Sumatra oil palm concessions by Elviza Diana [09/11/2019]
– As Indonesia’s annual fire season gets underway, swaths of carbon-rich peat forests are being razed, and the subsequent toxic smoke has blanketed parts of Jambi province on the island of Sumatra.
– Dozens of hotspots have been detected on farmland, oi palm concessions, and even inside a protected peat forest in the province, according to the local disaster management agency.
– Mongabay visited one of the burning concessions, where minimally equipped workers are fighting to put out fires that have been burning for days without end.
– The workers deny that the oil palm company set the fire on the concession, claiming it started in a neighboring village. In 2015, three company employees were charged with setting fires on the same concession, though none were ever convicted.

Nepal to conduct, self-fund, rhino census in March 2020 by Abhaya Raj Joshi [09/11/2019]
– In 2019 a planned rhino census in Nepal was called off after wildlife officials failed to raise the necessary funds from donors.
– The country’s finance ministry recently announced that will support a new rhino census, to be held in March 2020. The government has allocated 11 million rupees of the total 16 million rupees ($140,000) the census is estimated to cost.
– Nepal has succeeded in virtually eliminating rhino poaching, but large numbers of rhinos have died of unknown or natural causes in the country’s sanctuaries, adding urgency to calls for a new census to be held.
– The decision to self-fund the census comes as the government is promoting a variety of populist, nationalist projects.

‘Pray & continue’: Death of Philippine ranger is latest in legacy of violence by Leilani Chavez [09/11/2019]
– Forest ranger Bienvinido “Toto” Veguilla Jr. was hacked to death by suspected illegal loggers on the Philippine island of Palawan on Sept. 5.
– He’s the 18th environmental defender slain in the province since 2001, and at least the 31st killed this year in the Philippines, identified in a recent report as the deadliest country for those trying to protect their land and the environment.
– Logging accounts for the third-highest number of deaths related to environmental violations in the Philippines, after mining and agriculture.
– The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has called on Congress to pass legislation that would create an environmental law enforcement bureau to better protect rangers.

Chilean band Newen Afrobeat sings of a future it hopes to see by Erik Hoffner [09/10/2019]
– Santiago, Chile-based band Newen Afrobeat’s songs are infused with themes to do with ecology, indigenous and women’s rights, and cultural understanding.
– Heavily influenced by Afrobeat, the musical style made famous by Nigeria’s Fela Kuti, Newen is fronted by a powerful trio of women singer/songwriters.
– Mongabay interviewed percussionist and Newen co-founder Tomas Pavez from his home in Santiago.

A lifeline for the last leopards (commentary) by Thomas S. Kaplan [09/10/2019]
– From being extinct in the wild, the Arabian oryx was reclassified in 1986 as “Endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species after its reintroduction to Oman, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates. In 2011, with its global numbers increased to thousands, the Arabian oryx was the first animal ever to revert to “Vulnerable” status after having previously been listed as extinct in the wild.
– Today, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) aims to replicate this miraculous turnaround for the Arabian leopard – a little-studied, desert-dwelling subspecies listed as “Critically Endangered” on the IUCN’s Red List – and for leopard populations everywhere with a new $20 million commitment to the Global Alliance for Wild Cats.
– The Arabian Leopard Initiatives will support a holistic and urgent program to rigorously monitor the Arabian leopard’s population and distribution, as well as halt its decline through community conservation projects. The cornerstone will be a captive breeding program dedicated to shoring up Arabian leopard populations and reintroducing them into their former habitats.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Sri Lanka scientists stand by naming of new geckos amid nationalist criticism by Dilrukshi Handunnetti [09/10/2019]
– The recent naming of six day geckos endemic to Sri Lanka after historical figures has sparked controversy, with ultra-nationalist groups alleging malicious intent on the part of the researchers.
– Scientists, however, are standing in solidarity with the research team, supporting the naming of the new species after forgotten heroes as an act to immortalize their legacy in Sri Lankan history.
– A leading researcher says the criticism of the naming is “steeped in politics,” coming as it does amid a climate of nationalist posturing ahead of elections later this year.

Camera trap study reveals Amazon ocelot’s survival strategies by Claire Asher [09/10/2019]
– Ocelots suffered severe declines in the 1960s and 70s due to hunting, but populations have rebounded since the international fur trade was banned. Now, heavy deforestation and increasing human activity across their range threaten to put this elegant creature back on the endangered list.
– Researchers collected images from hundreds of camera traps set across the Amazon basin and analyzed the effect of different habitat characteristics on the presence of ocelots. Statistical modeling revealed the cat’s preference for dense forests and a dislike of roads and human settlements.
– Experts say ocelots may also be responding to human activity and forest degradation in ways that camera traps cannot easily detect, such as changing how and when they use a particular habitat. The study looked at ocelot behavior in protected and forested habitat, not in degraded landscapes.
– Ocelots are considered ambassador species for their forest ecosystem, and studies like this give support to maintaining protected areas, which are increasingly under threat from agricultural expansion and other human activities.

Malawi sentences pangolin smugglers, cracks down on wildlife crime by Mongabay.com [09/10/2019]
– Two Malawian nationals arrested in May and suspected of being part of one of Africa’s largest transnational wildlife trafficking syndicates have now been sentenced to three years in prison by a Malawian court.
– The suspected kingpin of the trafficking network, a Chinese national named Yunhua Lin, was arrested in August this year following a three-month manhunt and is scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 11.
– Lin’s wife, Qin Hua Zhang, and eight others who had been arrested during the May raids are due in court on Sept. 12, and further hearings have been scheduled throughout the month.

Uncovered coal barges are polluting North Sumatra’s waters by Ayat S. Karokaro [09/10/2019]
– Coal is brought by ship to fuel a power plant in the Pangkalan Susu area of Indonesia’s North Sumatra province.
– Mongabay observed ships waiting for days to be unloaded, moored in the Malacca Strait with piles of coal exposed to the open air.
– The strait ecosystem, including the fish and shrimp that local communities rely on for their sustenance and livelihood, is threatened by exposure to toxins from both the coal and ash settling in the water.
– The local community and fishermen have reported decreased catches and failed fish farm harvests, and attributed these to the operation of the Pangkalan Susu power plant.

Pro-deforestation policies could be ruinous for farmers (commentary) by Rhett A. Butler [09/10/2019]
– Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro claims to be a champion of farmers and ranchers, but his policies in the Amazon could be ruinous for them in the long-run, argues Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler.
– While large-scale deforestation in Earth’s largest rainforest may offer short-term opportunities for ranchers and farmers to expand their holdings, scientists say the approach is a risky proposition in the long-term given the role the Amazon plays in sustaining Brazilian agribusiness through the rainfall it affords.
– Note: this commentary was originally written August 27, 2019. Minor modifications have been made to reflect the discrepancy between time of writing and publishing.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

New UN report takes stock of renewable energy’s decade-long growth spurt by Mongabay.com [09/09/2019]
– 2018 was the ninth year in a row in which renewable energy capacity investments exceeded $200 billion and the fifth year in a row in which they exceeded $250 billion, according to a report released by the UN ahead of the Climate Action Summit to be held in New York City later this month.
– That means that, by the time it’s over, the current decade — 2010 to 2019 — will have seen a total of $2.6 trillion in renewable energy investments and a four-fold increase in global renewable energy capacity (excluding large hydroelectric dams, i.e. those with electricity generation capacity of 50 megawatts or more).
– Of all the major generating technologies, including those that burn fossil fuels, solar accounts for 638 GW of new power capacity installed since 2010, the largest single share claimed by any technology. Coal-fired power comes in second at 529 GW, wind in third at 487 GW, and gas in fourth at 438 GW.

Private sector could play outsized role in Cerrado conservation: study by Sarah Sax [09/09/2019]
– A recent study estimates the impacts of implementing a soy moratorium in the Cerrado savanna, Brazil’s second largest biome, which has already lost half of its native vegetation to agribusiness, much of it due to soy and cattle expansion.
– The Amazon Soy Moratorium, seen as one of the most successful voluntary corporate conservation agreements ever, was implemented in the Amazon biome in 2006, and helped greatly reduce deforestation from soy there.
– Now environmental NGOs and international retailers have called for a similar moratorium in the Cerrado, the biodiverse tropical savanna that borders the Amazon on its south and east.
– Full participation by the private sector in a Cerrado Soy Moratorium starting in 2021 — including resistant companies such a Cargill — could prevent 3.6 million hectares (8.9 million acres) of native vegetation being lost due to soy expansion, an area larger than Belgium, researchers found.

Diplomatic row heats up as haze from Indonesian fires threatens Malaysia by Mongabay.com [09/09/2019]
– The number of fire hotspots in Indonesian Borneo and Sumatra has increased nearly sevenfold in a four-day period in early September.
– The surge has prompted calls from Malaysia, which has historically been affected by haze from fires in Indonesia, for its Southeast Asian neighbor to get the burning under control.
– The Indonesian government has refuted complaints that the recent increase in hotspots has resulted in transboundary haze.
– Indonesia faces what could be the worst fire season since 2015, fanned by an El Niño weather pattern.

Loss of Madagascar’s biodiversity is a loss for Earth, Pope says by Malavika Vyawahare [09/09/2019]
– On a visit to Madagascar this weekend, Pope Francis denounced the “excessive” forest loss in the country.
– He was speaking at the presidential palace, during a courtesy call to President Andry Rajoelina.
– The pope also visited Mozambique before arriving in Madagascar, where he addressed the ecological disaster faced by the African nation after it was hit by two back-to-back cyclones this year.
– His seven-day tour which includes a day trip to Mauritius on Monday comes to a close on Tuesday.

Nail paint helps researchers estimate numbers of rare Cuban bat species by Shreya Dasgupta [09/09/2019]
– Very little is known about the Cuban greater funnel-eared bat (Natalus primus), an extremely rare species known from just a single remote cave in western Cuba.
– Now, following a survey that involved bright nail paints to mark individual bats, researchers have estimated that there are fewer than 750 Cuban greater funnel-eared bats in the the cave locally known as Cueva la Barca.
– What the population number means for the species is, however, hard to say at the moment because of the lack of any previous estimates, researchers say.

State governors support Bolsonaro’s Amazon mining, agribusiness plans by Jenny Gonzales [09/09/2019]
– In a meeting with nine Amazon state governors called by Jair Bolsonaro to discuss the region’s wildfires, the president pushed the states to back his policies which seek to bring major mining and agribusiness operations onto indigenous lands. Doing so would be a direct violation of the 1988 Constitution.
– Backing Bolsonaro were the governors of Acre, Roraima, Tocantins, Rondônia, Amazonas, Mato Grosso and Amapá states. Only the Pará and Maranhão governors opposed opening more forest areas to development and favored upholding current indigenous land use rights.
– Most of the state governors agreed with Bolsonaro that indigenous groups hold control over too much Brazilian land that could be mined or turned over to agribusiness, greatly profiting the nation, while also bringing indigenous people into mainstream Brazilian society.
– The federal Congress is presently crafting legislation that could open indigenous lands to mining and industrial agribusiness. It is also preparing to vote on a bill that seems likely to pass and would allocate R$ 1 billion (US$ 240 million) to combat deforestation and fires in the Amazon and carry out land regularization.

Disaster strikes in Bolivia as fires lay waste to unique forests by Carolina Méndez, Isabel Mercado [09/06/2019]
– Fires are raging in Bolivia, hitting particularly hard the Chiquitano dry forests of the country’s southern Santa Cruz region.
– Officials say the fires are largely the result of intentional burning to convert forest to farmland. Sources say this practice has recently intensified after Bolivian president Evo Morales signed a decree in July expanding land demarcated for livestock production and the agribusiness sector to include Permanent Forest Production Lands in the regions of Beni and Santa Cruz.
– Satellite data indicate 2019 may be a banner year for forest loss, with tree cover loss alerts spiking in late August to levels more than double the average of previous years. Most of these alerts are occurring in areas with high fire activity, with data from NASA showing August fire activity in Santa Cruz was around three times higher than in years past.
– Human communities are suffering due to the fires, with reports of smoke-caused illnesses and drinking water shortages. Meanwhile, biologists are worried about the plants and animals of the Chiquitano dry forests, many of which are unique, isolated and found nowhere else in the world.

Asian otters gain protection from the pet trade by Erik Hoffner [09/06/2019]
– The smooth-coated otter and the Asian small-clawed otter are now on the CITES list of animals with the highest level of protection from the wildlife trade.
– Asian small-clawed otters are particularly sought after as domestic pets and for ‘otter cafés,’ where wild otters are forced to interact with paying customers.
– Conservationists say that a trade ban was vital for the survival of the two species, whose numbers in the wild have fallen by at least 30% in the past 30 years.

How rubber farmers can reduce risk and help the environment (commentary) by Arlene Chang [09/06/2019]
– Since the cost of natural rubber, unlike synthetic rubber, is determined by markets and mostly driven by commodity exchanges like that of Singapore, Tokyo, and Shanghai, Thailand’s rubber farmers – mostly made up of small landowners who hold 95 percent of the planting area – don’t have safeguards against the seesawing econometrics of the business.
– They have also traditionally cultivated rubber as a monoculture – a practice often criticized for its environmental effects on soil, fauna population, quality, and productivity. So, diversifying the scope of their lands and livelihoods is an option that only makes sense.
– Gaining certification through organizations like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) helps them transition through that diversification, widening the possibilities of income and teaching them more sustainable ways to manage their operations.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Amazon deforestation and development heighten Amazon fire risk: study by Sarah Sax [09/06/2019]
– The current fires burning in the Brazilian Amazon are helping confirm the findings of a new study published this July which shows a major connection between land use and fire incidence — with deforestation and development contributing more to fire occurrence than climate change.
– New research shows that unrestrained deforestation, along with the construction of new highways, could expand wildfire risk in the Amazon by more than 70 percent by 2100, even inside protected areas and indigenous reserves that have relatively intact forests.
– Scientist suggest that efforts to improve sustainable land management and reduce future deforestation and development could offer the best defenses against the escalating threat wildfires pose due to the increased heat and drought brought by escalating climate change.

In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, September 6, 2019 by Mongabay.com [09/06/2019]
– 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.

Connected forests key to more sustainable palm oil industry: report by Lauren Crothers [09/05/2019]
– A new report says stronger criteria are needed to ensure that high-quality forested areas remain intact.
– Keeping other forested areas connected while encouraging the movement of vulnerable species is crucial, say the researchers.
– The key, they say, is to involve the palm oil industry – worth billions of dollars – particularly in high-producing countries with tropical forest like Indonesia.

Sri Lanka scales up its domestic campaign to protect sharks with a global push by Malaka Rodrigo [09/05/2019]
– With the killing of sharks and rays on the rise, Sri Lanka played a lead role in pushing three proposals to extend global protection to 18 species at the recently concluded CITES wildlife trade summit in Geneva.
– Sixty-three sharks and 42 ray species are found in Sri Lankan waters, and are threatened by overexploitation driven by an ever-increasing demand for sharks fins, meat, and liver oil.
– While five species of sharks currently enjoy legal protection against the species trade in Sri Lanka, conservationists see an urgent need to extend protection to all reef sharks and other endangered shark and ray species.


Transforming African conservation from old social cause into next-gen growth market by Rhett A. Butler [09/03/2019]
Giant Norway pension fund weighs Brazil divestment over Amazon deforestation by Zoe Sullivan [09/03/2019]
A tiger refuge in Sumatra gets a reprieve from road building by Rod Harbinson [08/31/2019]
Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires grows by Sue Branford [08/30/2019]
‘Not a pretty picture’: South China’s forests vanish as tree farms move in by Michael Standaert [08/29/2019]
A remote Indonesian district juggles road building with nature conservation by Basten Gokkon [08/29/2019]
Latin America saw most murdered environmental defenders in 2018 by Yvette Sierra Praeli [08/29/2019]



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