Newsletter 2020-09-10



The best news of 2020? Humanity may never hit the 10 billion mark by Jeremy Hance [09/10/2020]

– A new study in the Lancet finds our global population may never reach 10 billion.
– A population slowdown will pose challenges, but it could also give us a better chance of avoiding ecological collapse.
– Population slowdown is not a reason for concern, but rather for celebration. Thank birth control and women’s education.

Why the health of the Amazon River matters to us all: An interview with Michael Goulding by Rhett A. Butler [09/09/2020]

– Like the rainforest which takes its name, the Amazon is the largest and most biodiverse river on the planet. The river and its tributaries are a critical thoroughfare for an area the size of the continental United States and function as a key source of food and livelihoods for millions of people. Yet despite its vastness and importance, the mighty Amazon is looking increasingly vulnerable due to human activities.
– Few people understand more about the Amazon’s ecology and the wider role it plays across the South American continent than Michael Goulding, an aquatic ecologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) who has worked in the region since the 1970s studying issues ranging from the impact of hydroelectric dams to the epic migration of goliath catfishes. Goulding has written and co-authored some of the most definitive books and papers on the river, its resident species, and its ecological function.
– In recognition of his lifetime of advancing conservation efforts in the Amazon, the Field Museum today honored Goulding with the Parker/Gentry Award. The Award — named after ornithologist Theodore A. Parker III and botanist Alwyn Gentry who were killed in a plane crash during an aerial survey of an Ecuadorian cloud forest in 1993 — is given each year to “an outstanding individual, team or organization in the field of conservation biology whose efforts have had a significant impact on preserving the world’s natural heritage and whose actions and approach can serve as a model to others.”
– In a September 2020 interview ahead of the prize ceremony, Goulding spoke with Mongabay about his research and the current state of the Amazon.

In bid to protect a Philippine pangolin stronghold, little talk of enforcement by Keith Anthony Fabro [09/09/2020]

– Provincial and municipal authorities on the Philippine island of Palawan are drawing up management plans aimed at boosting protection for the Victoria-Anepahan Mountain Range, a key habitat of the Philippine pangolin.
– The 165,000-hectare (408,000-acre) is not a formally protected area, and suffers from deforestation driven by illegal logging, as well as massive poaching and illegal trade of its wildlife, including pangolins.
– The critically endangered Philippine pangolin (Manis culionensis), found only in Palawan, is one of the most trafficked animals on Earth, with its population declining by up to 95% between 1980 and 2018.
– Critics of the management plan say it will be a bureaucratic waste of resources without efforts to step up enforcement measures to curb the illegal trade of pangolins and other wildlife in the mountain range.

In search of the ‘forest ghost,’ South America’s cryptic giant armadillo by Suzana Camago [09/08/2020]

– Since 2010, the Giant Armadillo Project has been dedicated to researching the world’s largest armadillo, an animal that, despite its size and range across almost every country in South America, is one of the world’s least recognized animals.
– The researchers have made key findings since then, among them: the burrows that the giant armadillo digs, which can be up to 5 meters (16 feet) long, serve as shelter from extreme temperatures for at least 70 other species, including birds, reptiles and mammals.
– The species is categorized as vulnerable, with the advance of agribusiness — and the attendant deforestation and road construction that come with it — the main threat to the giant armadillo.

Experts question integrity of Indonesia’s claim of avoided deforestation by Hans Nicholas Jong [09/08/2020]

– The $103.8 million is payment for 20.3 million tons of avoided emissions from 2014-2016, but observers, including on the GCF board, have questioned the way the Indonesian government arrived at that figure.
– Among the contentious points: a reference level that may be inflated, possible double counting, and persistent state neglect of Indigenous rights.
– The government says the process was transparent, and may be eligible for even more funding once it starts accounting for peatland fires in its baseline calculations.

How do we avert global warming, extinctions and pandemics? New app has answers by Morgan Erickson-Davis [09/04/2020]

– A new online platform shows where best to protect land in order to safeguard biodiversity and stem carbon emissions.
– The Global Safety Net combines six primary data layers: existing protected areas, habitats where rare species live, areas of high biodiversity, landscapes inhabited by large mammals, large areas of intact wilderness and natural landscapes that can absorb and store the most carbon.
– Overall, they found that in addition to the 15.1% of the world’s land already protected, 35.3% will need to be added to fold over the next 10 years. This means that ultimately 50% of the planet’s land area will need to be protected from further degradation to keep the world under the 1.5-degree threshold and stave off ecological collapse.
– The researchers say that reducing deforestation in these areas will also reduce the risk of disease outbreak, which studies have linked to habitat loss.

Mercury from gold mining contaminates Amazon communities’ staple fish by Fernanda Wenzel [09/03/2020]

– The four species of fish most commonly consumed by Indigenous and riverine people in the Brazilian state of Amapá contain the highest concentrations of mercury.
– In some species, researchers found levels of mercury four times in excess of World Health Organization recommendations.
– The mercury comes from gold-mining activity, where it’s used to separate gold from ore before being burned off and washed into the rivers.
– The health impacts of mercury contamination are well-documented, and include damage to the central nervous system, potentially resulting in learning disabilities for children and tremors and difficulty walking for adults.



Howling in the dark: Shining a light on a newly remembered wolf by John Wendle [10 Sep 2020]
– The African golden wolf was only recently designated as a species in its own right, after decades of being conflated with the golden jackal.
– The patchy taxonomic record means little is known about the species, including its behavior, range and population, leaving researchers without a baseline for determining its conservation status. But pioneering work in Morocco by Liz Campbell, a researcher at the University of Oxford, is starting to paint a picture of this enigmatic species, seen by local shepherds as a major threat to their livestock.
– Campbell’s surveys and interviews show that this fear appears to be overblown, with far more sheep dying from cold weather or disease than predator attack, and half of the witnessed attacks carried out by feral wild dogs.

Latin America has twice the plant life of Africa, SE Asia by [09 Sep 2020]
– Latin America has more than twice as many plant species as tropical Africa and Southeast Asia and accounts for about a third of global biological diversity, concludes a new study published today in the journal Science Advances.
– Using botanical databases, researchers led Missouri Botanical Garden President Emeritus Peter Raven by found Latin America has 118,308 known species of vascular plants, the Afrotropical region has 56,451, and Southeast Asia has about 50,000.
– Latin America and the Afrotropical region are roughly equivalent in size, meaning that the Americas south of the Mexico-U.S. border have about twice the richness of species on a per-unit basis. But Southeast Asia, which is only a quarter the size of the other two regions, takes the biodiversity crown in terms of the density of species.
– The authors say that their research will be helpful in prioritizing conservation efforts, but that future data collection will be increasingly challenged by rapid habitat loss.

Global wildlife being decimated by human actions, WWF report warns by Malavika Vyawahare [09 Sep 2020]
– Between 1970 and 2016, wild populations of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish shrank by 68% on average, according to a new report by WWF and the Zoological Society of London.
– The most catastrophic declines were documented from Latin America and the Caribbean, where populations of monitored species contracted by more than 90% during that 46-year period.
– Among the 3,741 populations of freshwater species they tracked, the researchers found overall declines of more than 80%, underlining the threat from excessive extraction of freshwater, pollution and the destructive impacts of damming waterways.
– The assessment aims to grab the attention of world leaders who will gather virtually for the U.N. General Assembly that kicks off Sept. 15.

BlackRock silent on livestock in latest global warming policy by André Campos and Piero Locatelli – Repórter Brasil [09 Sep 2020]
– In July, BlackRock, the world’s largest investment fund manager, said it would take concrete action against at least 53 companies for their inaction regarding global warming and place 191 others under observation.
– But the announcement left out one of the major drivers of global warming: the meat industry, which is the main cause of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon.
– In May, Blackrock became the third-biggest shareholder in JBS, the world’s largest meatpacker, which was at the centre of a series of allegations this year of illegal deforestation in its supply chain.

In Indonesia’s coastal villages, the plastic crisis is both homegrown and invasive by Basten Gokkon [09 Sep 2020]
– Proper management of plastic waste is lacking in Indonesia’s coastal communities, where the use of plastics is outpacing mitigation efforts, according to a newly published study.
– The paper found that nearly 6,700 households in the Selayar and Wakatobi island chains had relatively low knowledge about plastic and how to manage it properly, while their use of it, particularly, single-use plastic packaging, was growing.
– The researchers have called for producers to take greater responsibility for managing the waste generated by their products, and for a transition to a circular economy.
– Indonesia is the second-biggest contributor of the plastic waste in the world’s oceans, behind only China.

No, ‘regenerative ranching’ is not good for grassland birds (commentary) by Jennifer Molidor [08 Sep 2020]
– The benefits of regenerative plant agriculture are being co-opted by the ranching industry to inaccurately claim that ranching is the best solution to protect wild birds.
– Livestock grazing is actually one of the leading factors threatening and endangering populations of birds and other wildlife in the U.S. and globally, from habitat loss and degradation to water drainage and stream impacts, greenhouse gases, and the spread of invasive weeds.
– The best conservation principles will prioritize conserving nature and natural resources for wildlife over private industrial interests.
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

How do Southern sea otters use tools? Candid Animal Cam heads to the ocean by [08 Sep 2020]
– Every Tuesday, Mongabay brings you a new episode of Candid Animal Cam, our show featuring animals caught on camera traps around the world and hosted by Romi Castagnino, our writer and conservation scientist.

Around the world, a fire crisis flares up, fueled by human actions by Liz Kimbrough [04 Sep 2020]
– An increase in fire alerts this year compared to last year could have dire consequences for health, biodiversity and the economy, according to a newly released report by WWF and Boston Consulting Group.
– Though some wildfires are triggered naturally, humans are responsible for an estimated 75% of all wildfires.
– In the Northern Hemisphere, this is attributed to negligence, while in the tropics, fires are often set intentionally to clear land for agriculture.
– The report suggests several urgent actions to address fires, including investing in fire prevention, halting deforestation, raising national goals for emission reductions, bringing fire back to fire-dependent landscapes, clarifying governance and coordinating policies, bringing the private sector on board, and relying on science.

‘Tamper with nature, and everyone suffers’: Q&A with ecologist Enric Sala by John C. Cannon [04 Sep 2020]
– Marine ecologist and National Geographic explore-in-residence Enric Sala has written a new book, The Nature of Nature: Why We Need the Wild, published Aug. 25.
– The book is a primer on “ecology for people in a hurry,” Sala writes, revealing the startling diversity of life on our planet.
– It also serves as a warning, calling out the impacts we humans are having on the global ecosystem, as well as solutions, such as protecting half of the Earth for nature, to address these problems.

New paper highlights spread of organized crime from global fisheries by Basten Gokkon [04 Sep 2020]
– A recently published paper by the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy highlights the extent of transnational organized crimes associated with the global fisheries sector.
– Besides illegal fishing, these crimes include fraud, money laundering, corruption, drug and human trafficking, and they occur globally throughout the entire fisheries value chain: onshore, at sea, in coastal regions, and online, the paper says.
– The paper calls for an intersectional, transboundary law enforcement by governments around the world to combat these “clandestine” crimes in the global fisheries industry.

Research behind award-winning documentary film reveals new species by [03 Sep 2020]
– In one of the most biodiverse spots on earth–the Yasuní Biosphere Reserve in Yasuní National Park – species are still being discovered.
– A first-of-its-kind study was conducted in the area was captured in the film “Yasuní Man,” released in 2017, which can now be found on streaming services. The zone where they filmed is set aside for the Tagaeri and Taromenane, two Waorani clans living in voluntary isolation.
– The region in which the survey was carried out is largely unexplored, and is in a transition zone between bird faunas in northern Peru between the Marañon/Amazon river and the Pastaza/Napo drainages.
– While there are research stations in the northern part of the area, the southern edge of the park and the intangible zone are difficult to access.

Filling the vacuum: How civil society is battling COVID-19 in Cameroon (commentary) by Madeleine Ngeunga [03 Sep 2020]
– As of August 20, there have been 408 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 in Cameroon and more than 18,000 reported infections, making it the country worst hit by the pandemic in Central Africa.
– While urban populations were swiftly informed of COVID-19 restrictions and prevention measures, in rural areas, where more than 40% of the population reside and where government services are lacking, information about the disease has been scarce.
– Cameroonian NGOs have been quick to fill this gap, and have to created communication and distribution networks across the country’s hinterlands.
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

$154b in capital has gone to 300 forest-risk companies since the Paris Agreement by Ashoka Mukpo [03 Sep 2020]
– A database of global capital flows into forest-risk companies has been published by Forest and Finance, a joint project of six research and environmental advocacy groups.
– More than 50,000 financial deals were analyzed, showing that at least $153.9 billion in loans and investment were provided to 300 companies in Southeast Asia, Brazil, and West and Central Africa since 2016.
– Of the 15 banks with the largest overall loan portfolios in forest-risk industries, eight are signatories to the U.N.’s Principles for Responsible Banking, which calls for a halt to deforestation.



Discovery of threatened species drives bid to protect Vietnam forest by Michael Tatarski [09/01/2020]
Under cover of COVID-19, loggers plunder Cambodian wildlife sanctuary by Chris Humphrey [08/31/2020]
Fishing for change: Local management of Amazon’s largest fish also empowers women by Claudia Geib [08/31/2020]
Officials quash plan, for now, to develop Philippines’ biggest copper mine by Bong S. Sarmiento [08/30/2020]
Park rangers, the guardians of Ecuador’s biodiversity, face job insecurity by Domenica Montano [08/28/2020]