Newsletter 2019-12-05


World is fast losing its cool: Polar regions in deep trouble, say scientists by Gloria Dickie [12/04/2019]

– As representatives of the world’s nations gather in Madrid at COP 25 this week to discuss global warming policy, a comprehensive new report shows how climate change is disproportionately affecting the Arctic and Antarctic — the Arctic especially is warming tremendously faster than the rest of the world.
– If the planet sees a rise in average temperatures of 2 degrees Celsius, the polar regions will be the hardest hit ecosystems on earth, according to researchers, bringing drastic changes to the region. By the time the lower latitudes hit that mark, it’s projected the Arctic will see temperature increases of 4 degrees Celsius.
– In fact, polar regions are already seeing quickening sea ice melt, permafrost thaws, record wildfires, ice shelves calving, and impacts on cold-adapted species — ranging from Arctic polar bears to Antarctic penguins. What starts in cold areas doesn’t stay there: sea level rise and temperate extreme weather are both linked to polar events.
– The only way out of the trends escalating toward a climate catastrophe at the poles, say scientists, is for nations to begin aggressively reducing greenhouse gas emissions now and embracing sustainable green energy technologies and policies. It remains to be seen whether the negotiators at COP 25 will embrace such solutions.

Water flowing up the mountain: Development devours forest reserve in Zambia by Carien Du Plessis [12/04/2019]

– A forest reserve outside Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, has shrunk to just 716 hectares (1,770 acres) from its original 1,750-hectare (4,320-acre) span to make way for housing and lifestyle developments.
– The developments are also pumping sewage into the Chalimbana River, contaminating the fish and water that local communities rely on, and leading to outbreaks of diarrhea.
– Top government officials have been named among the recipients of some of the plots, including the vice president, chief justice, and ministers.
– Activists mounting a legal challenge to end the construction and restore the forest to its previous state saw an earlier ruling in their favor overturned, and are skeptical about getting justice in what they call “an engineered case.”

Extinct in the wild, a Brazilian bird makes a tentative return to the jungle by Pedro Biondi [12/02/2019]

– Three pairs of Alagoas curassows (Pauxi mitu) were reintroduced in September in a 980-hectare (2,400-acre) area of the Atlantic Forest in the Brazilian state of Alagoas, more than three decades after being declared extinct in the wild due to hunting and habitat loss.
– The feat is the culmination of a project started in 1979, when a businessman rescued five of the remaining individuals of the species from a forest area that was about to be cleared.
– Kept in captivity, these birds and their offspring went on to spawn the nearly 100 Alagoas curassows that exist in Brazil today.
– The six birds released in the wild will be monitored with GPS tags to see how well they adapt to finding food and shelter, breeding, and evading predators in the wild; if they succeed, the plan is to introduce three more pairs a year into the wild until 2024.



Sounds of healthy corals draw in fish to degraded reefs, study finds by [12/05/2019]
– Playing sounds of healthy coral reefs can attract young fish to degraded, abandoned coral reefs in the northern Great Barrier Reef, a new study has found.
– Researchers placed underwater loudspeakers in patches of degraded coral reefs and compared them with two kinds of identical patches: some that had dummy loudspeakers that looked just like the functional loudspeakers, and some without any loudspeakers and sound.
– Coral patches that blared sounds of healthy corals had both greater abundance and variety of reef fish species compared to the other two control groups.
– Boosting fish populations using sounds of healthy coral reefs has the potential to help nurse degraded reefs back to health, researchers say.

New regulations to expand protections for seafloor habitats, reopen fishing grounds off US West Coast by [12/04/2019]
– New regulations for essential fish habitat off the West Coast of the United States that go into effect in 2020 will extend protections for deep-sea habitats and corals while reopening fishing grounds where fish populations have rebounded.
– The new rules were finalized by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (known as NOAA Fisheries) last month, and will go into effect on January 1, 2020.
– About 3,000 square miles that had been closed to bottom trawling for groundfish will be reopened when the changes take effect, including 2,000 square miles of a Rockfish Conservation Area off the coasts of California and Oregon that have been off-limits to groundfish bottom trawling since 2002. The changes will also afford new protections to about 13,000 square miles of deep-sea reefs, corals, and sponges, prohibiting the practice of bottom trawling in those areas because of the severe impacts it can have on sea-floor habitats.

Catching fish to feed fish: Report details ‘unsustainable’ fishmeal and oil industry by Monica Evans [12/04/2019]
– Every year almost one-fifth of the world’s wild-caught fish are dried, pressed and ground into oil and meal, the majority of which is then fed to farmed fish and crustaceans that people will eat.
– A report released in October by the Netherlands-based Changing Markets Foundation followed fishmeal and fish oil supply chains “from fishery to fork.”
– It connected a number of farmed-fish products sold in European supermarkets — often bearing sustainability certifications — to fishing practices the authors deemed “highly unsustainable” in India, Vietnam and the Gambia.
– Supermarkets selling the products include big names such as Sainsbury’s, ALDI, Tesco, Iceland, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, REWE and Mercadona.

As nesting season begins, Sri Lanka’s olive ridley turtles face myriad threats by Malaka Rodrigo [12/04/2019]
– With the main nesting season for olive ridley sea turtles getting underway, the species faces a range of threats in the waters and beaches of Sri Lanka.
– The country’s navy recently rescued 32 turtles trapped in shrimp fishing nets in the island’s north.
– Marine turtles in Sri Lankan waters often end up entangled in nets, posing a serious threat to their survival.
– Sea turtles worldwide are seriously affected by the fisheries industry, with millions killed every year.

Indonesia zoning plan hurts fishers, favors coal and oil, activists say by Basten Gokkon [12/04/2019]
– Activists have criticized a draft zoning plan for coastal areas in East Kalimantan province meant to help resolve territorial disputes between local communities and business interests.
– They contend the plan instead benefits the coal, oil and gas, and plantations industries at the expense of fishing communities.
– Among its provisions are generous concessions for coal and oil and gas infrastructure that would require land reclamation in coastal waters currently used by traditional and small-scale fishers.
– The plan also calls for resettling nearly 140,000 households from displaced fishing communities onto an area of land smaller than 50 football fields.

Follow the permits: How to identify corruption red flags in Indonesian land deals by The Gecko Project and Mongabay [12/04/2019]
– Corruption is rife in Indonesia’s plantation and mining sectors, especially when it comes to the issuance of permits.
– For journalists and activists who lack the expansive powers of Indonesia’s law enforcement agencies, finding evidence of corruption in the issuance of licenses can be challenging.
– This article defines a number of red flags we have identified over the past several years, explains what they reveal and details the methods that can be used to identify them.

Indonesian officials charged in $1.6m bribes-for-permits scheme by Hans Nicholas Jong [12/04/2019]
– Two land agency officials have been charged with taking $1.6 million in bribes in exchange for granting oil palm plantation concessions spanning an area of 200 hectares (500 acres) in Indonesian Borneo.
– Investigators from the KPK, Indonesia’s anti-graft commission, are also investigating the businesspeople allegedly involved in the deal.
– KPK deputy chairman Laode Muhammad Syarif says the case highlights the dangers of the government’s continued refusal to allow greater transparency in the permit-issuance process.
– A watchdog group warns that corruption in the palm oil industry could get worse if the KPK is weakened under the purview of a controversial new law.

As hurricane season ends, now is the time to take local action to rebuild and recover (commentary) by Katie Arkema [12/03/2019]
– As the 2019 hurricane season comes to an end, now is the time to consider action on the local scale, in spite of the helplessness we may feel in the face of global change.
– It’s no coincidence that the islands most devastated by Hurricanes Matthew and Dorian were Grand Bahama, Abaco, Andros, and New Providence. Recently published coastal risk maps show these are the islands most exposed to flooding and erosion — which is critical information for recovery and rebuilding efforts.
– In our built world, we often forget about the natural defenses that kept us safe before we started tearing them down. Mangrove forests, coral reefs, and seagrass beds naturally envelop islands, weakening waves and storm surges. Protections are needed for coastal habitats that are still intact, and restoration is needed for degraded shorelines. As developed countries like the United States have learned, it costs millions of dollars more to restore natural defenses than to conserve them wisely in the first place.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Amazon primates face barriers in responding to climate change by Erin Malsbury [12/03/2019]
– Climate change will make the current ranges of most Amazon primates uninhabitable in the coming decades, forcing them to move.
– But primates face barriers to dispersal, such as rivers and deforestation, which can limit their ability to migrate.
– If species aren’t able to find new habitats, the populations, as well as the habitat they support, will suffer.

Saving a Philippine tree last seen a century ago by Jen Chan [12/03/2019]
– In 1915, a taxonomist formally described a species of tropical hardwood tree, known locally as kaladis narig (Vatica elliptica), which was even then considered nearly extinct.
– More than a hundred years later, a corporate social responsibility initiative of the Energy Development Corporation (EDC), the largest producer of geothermal energy in the Philippines, successfully tracked down the fabled species in Zamboanga Sibugay, a province in the main island of Mindanao.
– The lack of scientific literature on kaladis narig has made it notoriously challenging to grow the tree from cuttings taken from the wild. In 2018, after almost a decade of trying to save the elusive tree, the EDC team was able to grow a single cutting at its nursery in Antipolo, a city east of the capital Manila.
– The company also found 10 other kaladis narig trees in the same area with the help of the community, which passed a local ordinance to recognize and protect the few remaining kaladis narig trees in the world.

Indonesian man jailed for smuggling 7,000 ‘living fossil’ horseshoe crabs by Ayat S. Karokaro [12/03/2019]
– A court in Indonesia has sentenced a boat captain to 15 months in jail and fined him $3,500 for attempting to traffic thousands of dead horseshoe crabs to Thailand.
– All three horseshoe crabs found in Indonesian waters are protected under the country’s laws, but conservationists say the illegal trade continues largely unchecked.
– Horseshoe crabs have existed for nearly half a billion years, but today face rapidly declining populations across their range as a result of overfishing for use as food and bait, production of biomedical products derived from their blood, and habitat loss from coastal development and erosion.

Warming of Indo-Pacific waters disrupting weather worldwide, report finds by [12/03/2019]
– As the latest U.N. climate change summit gets underway in Madrid, a paper published in Nature has drawn attention to the disruptive impact of warming oceans on the weather.
– It examines the effect of a swath of warm water in the Indo-Pacific Ocean, which has doubled in size since the turn of the 20th century, on the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO), a system of rain-bearing clouds, winds and pressure fronts that traverses eastward along the equator.
– The MJO affects the timing variability and strength of rainfall in many parts of the world, regulating among other things cyclone formation, the monsoon system, and the El Niño cycles.
– Changes in the amount of time the system lingers over a region, influenced by the expansion of the warm water pool in the Indo-Pacific, has caused disruptions in rainfall in Asia, Africa, Australia and the Americas.

Analysis: Floating solar power along the dammed-up Mekong River by David Brown [12/03/2019]
– This year, the first floating solar power generating system in Southeast Asia was deployed on a reservoir in Vietnam.
– Floating solar power systems are being written into the energy master plans of Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines as well as Vietnam, and into the calculations of investment banks.
– The technology presents an alternative to additional hydroelectric power projects.

Their land, our future: To arrest the climate crisis, we need a democratic overhaul (commentary) by Musimbi Kanyoro and Beth Roberts [12/02/2019]
– Both the climate crisis and inequality require a democratic overhaul. And governments globally should start by turning over legal control of land and natural resources to local communities and indigenous land users. Their rights are key to survival for all of us.
– Increasing evidence shows that the groups who have the least voice in decisions about natural resources (women, youth, indigenous groups, and smallholder farmers) are best placed to sustainably manage those resources. Local communities and indigenous groups rely directly on forests and agriculture for a living, and manage approximately 65 percent of the world’s land. We cannot address climate change and feed a growing global population without sustainable practices in forestry and soil management.
– Humanity’s future depends on those of us with greater power and privilege calling for action — right now — on what is both just and effective: land rights that favor people and planet over profit and power.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Typhoon-prone Philippines gets climate funding for early warning system by [12/02/2019]
– The Philippines has secured $10 million in funding from the U.N.’s Green Climate Fund, its first under a scheme to provide financial assistance for adaptation and mitigation in countries vulnerable to climate change impacts.
– The funding will go toward establishing a multi-hazard and impact-based forecasting and early warning system in four pilot areas in the country to assist local government units in implementing appropriate early responses to hazard alerts.
– The Philippines is one of the countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, which include increasingly more intense storms slamming into the country from the warming Pacific.

Camera traps yield surprises in West Africa’s largest protected area by Jerimiah Oetting [12/02/2019]
– The first camera study of wildlife in Burkina Faso and Niger has shown that the main human activities in the region’s largest protected area are gathering resources and grazing livestock.
– Poaching remains a threat, but it occurs less frequently than other human pressures on the region’s wildlife.
– The findings suggest possible changes in management strategies for three national parks in West Africa.

Moon and Earth’s magnetic field guide European eels on their epic migration by Amanda Heidt [12/02/2019]
– European eels use an electromagnetic “sixth sense” to navigate during their long migration, two new studies propose.
– The electrical “shadow” of a new moon may help eels cross the continental shelf of Europe to shore. Then, in the brackish waters of an estuary, young eels can imprint on the unique magnetic signature to navigate upstream.
– Piecing together the eels’ directional cues could help fisheries managers create more effective conservation plans for this critically endangered species.

COP25 may put climate at greater risk by failing to address forests by Justin Catanoso [12/02/2019]
– COP25, originally slated for Brazil, then Chile, but starting today in Madrid comes as global temperatures, sea level rise, wildfires, coral bleaching, extreme drought and storms break new planetary records.
– But delegates have set a relatively low bar for the summit, with COP25’s primary goal to determine rules under Article 6 of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement for creating carbon markets among nations, cities and corporations as a means of incentivizing emission-reduction strategies.
– Policy experts warn that global forest conservation is not yet being actively incentivized as part of carbon market discussions, a possible lapse apparently backed by Brazil and the government of Jair Bolsonaro which has declared its plan to develop the Amazon basin — the world’s largest remaining rainforest and vital to sequestering carbon to curb climate change.
– COP25 also seems unlikely to address the UN biomass carbon accounting loophole, which allows nations to convert obsolete coal plants to burn wood pellets to produce energy, with the carbon emitted counted as “zero emissions” equivalent to solar and wind. Scientists warn that biomass burning, far from being carbon neutral, is actually worse than burning coal.

Shrinking sea ice in the Arctic opens new pathways for animal disease by [12/02/2019]
– Scientists have discovered that periods of minimal sea ice in the Arctic between 2001 and 2016 were followed by spikes in a deadly disease that affects seals, sea lions and sea otters.
– The team used satellite imagery showing decreases in sea ice combined with GPS collar data tracking animal movements over the 15-year study period.
– After periods of sea ice contraction, the odds that a sampled animal would be affected by the disease were more than nine times higher than typical years.

Indonesia ‘must stop building new coal plants by 2020’ to meet climate goals by Indra Nugraha [12/02/2019]
– Indonesia must stop building coal-fired power plants by next year if it’s to keep up its commitments to the Paris climate agreement, according to a new analysis.
– The country would also have to stop burning coal by 2048 in order to contribute to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels and achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
– That scenario looks highly unlikely, though, with 39 coal plants under construction and 68 announced, and installed coal-fired capacity set to double over the next decade.
– Analysts say a major obstacle to breaking Indonesia’s coal addiction is the lack of policies encouraging investment in renewable energy sources.

Brazilian president claims Leonardo DiCaprio funded Amazon fires by [11/30/2019]
– Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro claims actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio funded fire-setting in the Amazon rainforest.
– Bolsonaro offered no evidence to support his claims, but his rhetoric echoes comments made in August when he blamed environmental groups for starting fires in the region.
– DiCaprio has raised money for NGOs working to protect the Amazon.
– Deforestation has increased dramatically since Bolsonaro assumed office.

In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, November 29, 2019 by [11/29/2019]
– 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.

Heat stress is causing desert bird populations to collapse by Jesse Kathan [11/29/2019]
– Sites in the Mojave Desert in the western U.S. surveyed by ecologists a century ago have lost an average of 43 percent of their breeding bird species.
– New research suggests higher temperatures have increased the daily water needs of birds, which could decimate their populations if climate change worsens.
– The most vulnerable birds are larger, carnivorous species such as turkey vultures and prairie falcons that get most of their water from prey.

Lift-off for first African vulture safe zones by Fred Kockott and Tony Carnie [11/28/2019]
– Africa’s vulture populations face the prospect of collapsing in much the same way as vulture species in Asia, experts warn, having already declined by an average 62 percent over the past three decades.
– Key threats include poisoning by ranchers and poachers and for belief-based use, as well as accidental drowning in farm water reservoirs and ingestion of lead ammunition.
– To address the threats, managers of conservation areas and private game reserves in South Africa have agreed to create “vulture safe zones” that will do away with these practices to provide safe havens for existing vulture populations.
– Conservationists say it’s also important for managers in South Africa to work with their counterparts in neighboring countries that are part of the vultures’ range, and to tackle the trade in vulture parts used in traditional medicine practices.



‘Everything is dying’: Q&A with Brazilian indigenous leader Alessandra Munduruku by Camila Nobrega [11/27/2019]
Brazil investigates agribusiness bribes to judges for favorable land rulings by Maurício Angelo [11/27/2019]
In Indonesia, a project meant to boost livelihoods has left locals behind by Ian Morse [11/27/2019]
Audio: How listening to individual gibbons can benefit conservation by Mike Gaworecki [11/26/2019]
Malaysia’s last Sumatran rhino dies, leaving Indonesia as the final refuge by Basten Gokkon [11/25/2019]