Newsletter 2021-07-15



Reforestation done right, from Haiti to Honduras and Ho Chi Minh City by Mike Gaworecki [07/14/2021]

– Local communities around the world are replanting their forests, and on today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast we take a look at why that’s so important to combating climate change and building a sustainable future for life on Earth.
– Our first guest is Erin Axelrod, project director for Trees For Climate Health, who tells us about the nearly 40 community-based reforestation initiatives the program has funded based on its “right tree, right place, right community” approach.
– We also speak with freelance journalist and Mongabay contributor Mike Tatarski, who tells us about Vietnam’s plans to plant a billion trees by 2025 and the NGOs in the country that are working to make tree-planting more community-centered and sustainable both economically and environmentally.

How to make conservation more effective: Q&A with Nick Salafsky by Rhett A. Butler [07/14/2021]

– The multifaceted nature of most conservation projects means that many factors need to be monitored and evaluated using a range of metrics to determine whether a real impact has been achieved and can be sustained into the future.
– One of the organizations at the forefront of efforts to measure impact in conservation over the past twenty years has been Foundations of Success, which developed its roots in the 1990s out of a need to develop ways to gauge the success of U.S. government-funded conservation projects.
– From his position as the co-founder and Executive Director of Foundations of Success, Nick Salafsky has seen firsthand how organizations and institutions are responding to the growing preponderance of data and the emergence of new technologies and tools in the conservation space. He says that an organization’s receptiveness to change when more effective pathways are identified is important to achieving conservation success.
– “Perhaps the most important predictor of success is the attitude of the people in an organization – whether they are ultimately interested in merely perpetuating their programs and their jobs versus being open and willing to critically examine and learn from their work,“ he told Mongabay’s founder Rhett A. Butler in a recent interview.

Indigenous communities in Brazil reinvent grief in the time of COVID by Maurício Angelo [07/12/2021]

– Indigenous communities across Brazil have had to abandon long-held aspects of their funerary traditions when dealing with the deaths of family members from COVID-19, due to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic.
– Traditional rituals important to Indigenous experience and belief systems, especially those involved with death and grieving, have been affected.
– The imposition of health protocols without accounting for Indigenous traditions is harmful to indigenous peoples’ autonomy and ancestry, leaders say, and compounds the government’s failure protect these vulnerable communities from COVID-19.
– In this special report, Mongabay spoke with leaders of the Yawalapiti in the Xingu; the Xavante in Mato Grosso; the Yanomami in Roraima; the Tupinambá in Bahia; the Guarani Mbya in São Paulo; and theTukano in Amazonas, to learn how they are adapting to the new normal.

The Brooklyn Bridge needs a makeover. Is rainforest lumber still in style? by Ashoka Mukpo [07/08/2021]

– Last year, a proposal to replace the Brooklyn Bridge’s walkway with wooden planks sourced from a Guatemalan rainforest won a City Council-sponsored competition.
– The planks would come from Uaxactun, a community-managed forest concession in the remote northeastern jungles of Petén.
– Set up after Guatemala’s civil war, community concessions in Petén have achieved remarkably low rates of deforestation and have a high prevalence of wildlife.
– Some environmentalists in New York say the proposal is misguided, and that creating any demand for tropical hardwood is a mistake no matter where it’s sourced from.



Local leaders in Indonesia make forest and peatland protection pledge by Taufik Wijaya [15 Jul 2021]
– Nine districts across three islands in Indonesia have pledged to protect 50% of their forests, peatlands and other “important ecosystems” by 2030.
– The pledge encompasses a total of 5.8 million hectares (14.3 million acres) of forest and 1.9 million hectares (4.7 million acres) of peat — a total area the size of South Carolina.
– The declaration mirrors the 2018 Manokwari Declaration by the governors of Papua and West Papua provinces, who pledged to protect 70% of the forestland in those two provinces.

For Malaysia’s Indigenous Penan, vaccine doubt is part of historic govt distrust by Rachel Donald [15 Jul 2021]
– Decades of marginalization and dislocation have made many of Malaysia’s indigenous Penan people mistrustful of both state and federal officials.
– This mistrust, along with anti-vaccination propaganda and structural issues like lack of identity cards, have led to vaccine hesitancy in Penan communities on the island of Borneo.
– Penan leaders say many in their communities are more concerned with long-term issues, like forest loss and lack of identity cards, than they are with COVID-19.

Brazil’s Amazon is now a carbon source, unprecedented study reveals by Liz Kimbrough [14 Jul 2021]
– According to a study published July 14 in Nature, the Brazilian Amazon is emitting more carbon than it captures.
– This study is the first to use direct atmospheric measurements, across a wide geographic region, collected over nearly a decade that account for background concentrations of atmospheric gases.
– Eastern Amazonia is emitting more carbon than western Amazonia, and southern Amazonia is a net carbon source; Southeastern Amazonia, in particular, switched from being a carbon sink to a carbon source during the study period. The reason: a disruption in the balance of growth and decay and emissions from fires.
– These results have important implications for policy initiatives such as REDD+ that rely on forests to offset carbon emissions: Because different regions of the Amazon differ in their ability to absorb carbon, schemes that use one value for the carbon-capturing ability of the whole Amazon need to be reexamined, scientists say.

A road project in Indonesia’s Gorontalo carves a path of graft and grief by Sarjan Lahay [14 Jul 2021]
– More than 1,000 families were entitled to payments for land needed to construct the Gorontalo Outer Ring Road, a national priority infrastructure project on Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island.
– The road will connect Djalaluddin Airport in the capital of Gorontalo province with the province’s main ferry port.
– Spending on the project reached almost 1 trillion rupiah ($69 million) between 2014 and 2017.
– A senior provincial official and two surveyors have been jailed in connections with corruption in the land acquisition process, while another top official is also standing trial.

Bank risk policies failing to protect Amazon from oil-related threats: Report by Ashoka Mukpo [14 Jul 2021]
– A new report by Amazon Watch and Stand.Earth finds that most banks have failed to implement policies that would prevent the worst impacts of the oil industry in the Amazon.
– Of 14 banks assigned a score in the report, 11 were listed as being at “high” or “very high” risk of contributing to deforestation, corruption, pollution, and the violation of Indigenous rights.
– The report’s authors say a blanket exclusion for any oil-related activities in the Amazon is the only way to ensure its protection.

Building back Miami’s Biscayne Bay: Do natural solutions hold hope? by Marlowe Starling [14 Jul 2021]
– A massive fish kill in August 2020 was a red flag that historically troubled Biscayne Bay in Miami had passed a biodiversity health tipping point.
– Years of scattered efforts and mixed results of various conservation actors working toward the bay’s recovery have begun to fade in favor of more collaborative, inclusive efforts.
– Scientists and citizens are now focusing their efforts on creative ways to restore biodiversity in Biscayne Bay.

Global demand for manganese puts Kayapó Indigenous land under pressure by Naira Hofmeister, Pedro Papini [14 Jul 2021]
– InfoAmazonia’s Amazônia Minada project has found an unusual rise in demand to mine for manganese last year in Brazil, one of the world’s top producers of the metal.
– Previously, only 1% of mining bids on Indigenous lands were for manganese; in 2020, it was with 15% of all requests, second only to gold.
– Some of the richest manganese deposits in the world are in southeast Pará state, overlapping with the territories of the Kayapó Indigenous people, which have been targeted the most by mining applications in general.
– Demand from Asia, particularly China, has increased the price of manganese, driving illegal mining; 300,000 tons of the ore were seized last year in Brazil, including from a company bidding to mine on Indigenous land.

Philippines’ rich bird life is more threatened than we thought, study says by Carolyn Cowan [14 Jul 2021]
– The Philippines supports extraordinary avian diversity: 86 new endemic bird species have been described in the country in just the last decade.
– Nevertheless, the country’s currently known 594 bird species depend on forests, grasslands and wetlands that are rapidly disappearing.
– A new study suggests that even more species are at risk than previously thought, finding 84 species are at greater risk than indicated by their current IUCN Red List status.
– Results also indicate that endemism, narrower elevational range, high forest dependency, and larger body size make it likelier that a species will go extinct.

Reconciliation through ecological collaboration (Commentary) by William F. Laurance [13 Jul 2021]
– Last fall, Azerbaijan and Armenia fought the Nagorno-Karabakh war, which claimed several thousand lives in an escalation of a long-running territorial conflict between the two countries.
– William Laurance, a Distinguished Research Professor at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia, argues ecological cooperation could be a means to catalyze the ongoing peace process between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
– “Trust between the two nations remains precarious, but collaboration on waterways could be an easy first step toward wider cooperation,” writes Laurance. “These problems affect communities in both Azerbaijan and Armenia, and so both have a clear incentive to address it.”
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Top brands failing to spot rights abuses on Indonesian oil palm plantations by Hans Nicholas Jong [13 Jul 2021]
– A new report highlights systemic social and environmental problems that continue to plague the Indonesian palm oil industry and ripple far up the global palm oil supply chain.
– The report looked at local and Indigenous communities living within and around 10 plantations and found that their human rights continued to be violated by the operation of these plantations.
– The documented violations included seizure of community lands without consent; involuntary displacement; denial of fundamental environmental rights; violence against displaced Indigenous peoples and communities; harassment; criminalization; and even killings of those trying to defend their lands and forests.
– The problems have persisted for decades due to ineffective, and sometimes lack of, due diligence by buyers and financiers along the global supply chain, the report says.

Indonesian fishers seize dredging boat in protest against offshore tin mining by Basten Gokkon [13 Jul 2021]
– Hundreds of Indonesian fishers have seized a dredging vessel from state-owned PT Timah in protest against offshore tin mining in what they say is their fishing zone.
– The incident on July 12 is the latest development in a standoff that has been simmering since 2015, when fishers began opposing the mining in the Bangka-Belitung Islands off Sumatra.
– Tin mining is the biggest industry in Bangka-Belitung, which accounts for 90% of the tin produced in Indonesia, with the metal winding up in items like Apple’s iPhone, among others.
– But mining here, both onshore and offshore, has resulted in extensive forest degradation and deforestation, been associated with worker fatalities and child labor, and been tainted with corruption.

For Africa’s great apes, even ‘best-case’ climate change will decimate habitat by Shreya Dasgupta [13 Jul 2021]
– Africa’s great apes stand to lose up to 94% of their current suitable habitat by 2050 if humanity makes no effort to slow greenhouse gas emissions, a new study warns.
– Even under the “best-case” scenario, in which global warming can be slowed, gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos would still lose 85% of their range.
– The apes’ habitat is under pressure from human encroachment, clearing of wild areas, and climate change impacts that are rendering existing habitats no longer suitable.
– Researchers say there’s a possibility of “range gain,” where climate change makes currently unsuitable areas habitable for the apes, but warn it could take the slow-adapting animals thousands of years to make the move — much slower than the rate at which their current habitat is being lost.

Armed with data and smartphones, Amazon communities boost fight against deforestation by Sheryl Lee Tian Tong [12 Jul 2021]
– Equipping Indigenous communities in the Amazon with remote-monitoring technology can reduce illegal deforestation, a new study has found.
– Between 2018 and 2019, researchers implemented technology-based forest-monitoring programs in 36 communities within the Peruvian Amazon.
– Compared with other communities where the program wasn’t implemented, those under the program saw 52% and 21% less deforestation in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
– The gains were concentrated in communities at highest risk of deforestation due to threats like logging and illegal mining.

The science of forest biomass: Conflicting studies map the controversy by Justin Catanoso [12 Jul 2021]
– A major political and environmental dispute is heating up as the forestry industry and governments promote forest biomass — cutting trees, turning them into wood pellets, and burning them to make electricity. They claim the science shows biomass to be sustainable, with the energy produced resulting in zero emissions.
– Forest advocates and many researchers sit squarely on the other side of the argument, providing evidence that forest biomass is destructive to forests and biodiversity, is dirtier than coal, and destabilizing for the climate. Moreover, they say, the carbon neutrality claim is an error that will greatly increase carbon emissions.
– These diverging viewpoints are colliding this week as the European Commission wrangles with revisions to its legally binding Renewable Energy Directive (REDII), with recommendations to the European parliament due this Wednesday, July 14, Analysts say the EU rules counting biomass as carbon neutral are unlikely to change.
– In this exclusive story, Mongabay provides a review of the science on both sides of the forest biomass debate, summarizing key studies and reports, and providing links to these primary sources to help readers decide for themselves.

‘Red-carded’ Australian miner signals intention to play on in Greenland by Jenny Denton [12 Jul 2021]
– The advancement of a huge rare earths and uranium mining project in Greenland sparked a snap election in April that saw a green party elected and a new government formed that is opposed to the mine.
– The Kvanefjeld project, developed by small Australian mining company Greenland Minerals Limited, with Chinese partner Shenghe Resources, would exploit one of the world’s largest deposits of rare earth metals and uranium near the small township of Narsaq and increase Greenland’s greenhouse gas emissions by 45%.
– While new coalition partners Inuit Ataqatigiit (Party for the People) and Naleraq campaigned against the mine and have a written agreement opposing any uranium mining in Greenland, the consultation process for Kvanefjeld is continuing, and NGOs are concerned that Greenland Minerals will try to pressure the new government to agree to the project in some form.
– In early July, Greenland’s Ministry of Mineral Resources released a draft bill banning uranium mining and exploration and limiting the amount of uranium present as a by-product in any mining operations to 100 parts per million — which would prevent the Kvanefjeld operation going ahead.

Soy and cattle team up to drive deforestation in South America: Study by Liz Kimbrough [12 Jul 2021]
– Between 2000 and 2019, the production of soybean in South America has doubled, covering an area larger than the state of California.
– Soybean farms are typically planted in old cattle pastures, and as soy encroaches, pasture is forced into new frontiers, driving deforestation and fires.
– Although soy was found to be largely an indirect driver of deforestation, policies addressing deforestation have to consider multiple commodities at once, such as the relationship between beef and soy.
– Increased commitments by companies to source from “zero-deforestation” supply chains are a promising strategy, but in order to work, the market needs to be more transparent.

Dugong deaths in Sri Lanka lend urgency to calls for stronger protections by Malaka Rodrigo [12 Jul 2021]
– Recent reports of dead dugongs washing up in Sri Lanka have shone a spotlight on stalled efforts to conserve the increasingly rare and threatened sea mammal.
– The main threats to dugongs are hunting for their meat, accidental and deliberate killing by blast fishing, and entanglement in fishing nets.
– A 2015-2018 project to draft action plans for the conservation of dugongs and their seagrass habitats called for creating marine protected areas, but this hasn’t been implemented yet.
– In an acknowledgement of the severity of the threats facing the species, Sri Lanka is set to declare the dugong critically endangered for the first time in its updated national red list of threatened species.

Indonesia bets on biofuels over oil, but EVs could render both moot by Hans Nicholas Jong [12 Jul 2021]
– Increased adoption of electric vehicles could render redundant Indonesia’s biofuel infrastructure, which the government is touting as its chosen alternative to fossil fuels.
– A new report projects demand for biofuel more than halving as EVs take hold, even as the government continues to invest heavily in refineries and other infrastructure for producing and distributing palm oil-based biodiesel.
– The report calls for a long-term plan for biofuel that takes into account the rapid development of EVs and that doesn’t rely solely on palm oil for feedstock.

Sri Lanka seeks peace with pachyderms as human-elephant conflicts escalate by Malaka Rodrigo [10 Jul 2021]
– Sri Lankan authorities have declared the establishment of a managed elephant reserve (MER) in the southern district of Hambantota in an effort to tackle the worsening problem of human-elephant conflicts (HEC).
– The MER was initially proposed in 2009, but not implemented since then, allowing human encroachment onto land that was supposed to have been preserved as elephant habitat.
– With the MER in force, human activity inside elephant habitat will be minimized, in a bid to reduce the rate of human-elephant conflicts.
– However, a leading conservationist warns the MER will only stop the conflicts from getting worse, but won’t reduce them, for which further containment measures will be needed.

Colombia brings landmark rulings of importance closer to Indigenous communities by Nicolás Bustamante Hernández [09 Jul 2021]
– The “Rights in the Territory” project, developed by the Amazon Conservation Team and the Colombian Constitutional Court, has translated and adapted five of the court’s judgments pertaining to Indigenous peoples into 26 Indigenous languages.
– In its 30 years, the Constitutional Court has issued more than 19,000 judgments, whose technical language can often be difficult to comprehend, even for Spanish speakers.
– Key challenges in the translation process included adapting the translations in such a way that they can be understood and contextualized, and also accounting for the fact that Indigenous languages are a mostly oral tradition and not a written one.
– The results of the translation project can be found online at (in Spanish).

Our World Heritage is deeply tied to rivers and they need protection from dams (commentary) by Gary Lee | Sarinee Achavanuntakul | Eugene Simonov [09 Jul 2021]
– This month’s World Heritage meeting represents a critical opportunity for the UNESCO World Heritage Committee (WHC) to protect rivers and the World Heritage sites and cultures that depend on them.
– The WHC is charged with protecting sites around the world deemed of the highest cultural and natural values. The increasing impact of dams on World Heritage sites has prompted global outcry, most recently in the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania and Luang Prabang in Laos.
– Beyond the WHC’s role in protecting existing sites from harm, governments, financiers and the hydropower industry must adopt clear ‘No-Go’ zones in, near or with impact on our World Heritage sites.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Amazon deforestation rises modestly in June by [09 Jul 2021]
– Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon continued on an upward trajectory in June, reports the country’s national space research institute INPE.
– INPE’s satellite-based forest monitoring system detected 1,062 square kilometers of deforestation during June, an area 311 times the size of New York City’s Central Park.
– The forest clearing represents a 2% rise over June a year ago. Deforestation has now risen three consecutive months in the region, but is pacing 11% behind last year’s rate, when forest loss in Earth’s largest rainforest reached a 12-year high.

Environmental defenders in Ecuador aren’t safe, new report shows by Kimberley Brown [09 Jul 2021]
– A new report by Ecuador’s Alliance for Human Rights examines abuses against environmental rights defenders over the past 10 years, and finds 449 defenders subjected to intimidation, threats, harassment, persecution, and assassination.
– The report concludes that not only has the Ecuadoran state failed to protect rights defenders, but it has also been directly responsible for some of the abuses, like the concerning number of persecutions and prosecutions of rights defenders.
– Three environmental rights defenders have been murdered in Ecuador over the past 10 years — Andres Durazno, Freddy Taish and José Tendetza — with no one brought to justice for the crimes.

Green peafowl flourish in Thailand’s northern forests, but conflict looms by Carolyn Cowan [09 Jul 2021]
– Green peafowl (Pavo muticus) are thought to occur across 16% of their former range in mainland Southeast Asia, confined to a handful of isolated forests by a legacy of forest habitat loss, overhunting, and conflict with humans.
– A new study documents a thriving population in a network of four protected areas in Phayao province in northern Thailand; it is the largest population yet recorded in mainland Southeast Asia.
– While the green peafowl population in Phayao’s protected forests appears to be thriving, the new study spotlights growing conflict with farmers as peafowl venture into adjacent cropland to raid rice and maize.
– Local partners are leveraging the green peafowl’s popularity with bird-watchers to improve local perceptions of the birds.

‘Technical problems’ holding up enforcement of rulings in Indonesian fire and haze cases, official says by Yoga Eki Saputra [08 Jul 2021]
– Plantation companies convicted of causing fires in Indonesia owe the government the equivalent of $233 million in unpaid fines, according to the environment ministry.
– The ministry is pushing courts to enforce their rulings but is facing difficulties on several fronts.

As Arctic melt sets early July record, hard times lie ahead for ice: Studies by Gloria Dickie [08 Jul 2021]
– Arctic sea ice fell to its lowest extent on record for this time of year on July 5, even though the spring had so far been relatively cool and stormy — conditions that, in the past, would have protected the ice.
– Three new studies help explain why. One found that increasing air temperatures and intrusion of warm water from the North Atlantic into the Barents and Kara Seas — a climate change-driven process known as Atlantification — are overpowering the ice’s ability to regrow in winter.
– Another study found that sea ice in coastal areas may be thinning at up to twice the pace previously thought. In three coastal seas — Laptev, Kara, and Chukchi — the rate of coastal ice decline increased by 70%, 98%, and 110% respectively when compared to earlier models.
– A third study found accelerated sea ice loss in the Wandel Sea, pointing to a possible assault by global warming on the Arctic’s Last Ice Area — a last bastion of multi-year sea ice which stretches from Greenland along the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Combined, this research shows Arctic ice may be in worse trouble than thought.

Seafloor microbes hoover up methane, keeping global warming in check by Elizabeth Claire Alberts [08 Jul 2021]
– A new study found that carbonate rock mounds on the ocean floor host communities of microbes that actively consume methane, a greenhouse gas that is particularly potent if released into the atmosphere.
– The researchers found that rock-inhabiting microbes consumed methane 50 times faster than microbes that live in sediment.
– These microbes therefore play a crucial role in regulating the Earth’s temperature by consuming methane before it travels up into the water column and into the atmosphere.

Overcoming community-conservation conflict: Q&A with Dominique Bikaba by Rhett A. Butler [08 Jul 2021]
– Kahuzi-Biega National Park in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is renowned for its biodiversity. The area is also home to the Batwa people, who are highly dependent on its forests for their livelihoods and cultural traditions.
– Efforts to protect these forests are challenged by conservation’s mixed record: Kahuzi-Biega’s expansion in the 1970s forced the displacement of thousands of local people, turning them into conservation refugees and sowing distrust in conservation initiatives.
– One of the local organizations leading efforts to overcome these challenges is Strong Roots Congo, which was co-founded by Dominique Bikaba in 2009. Strong Roots Congo puts the needs of local people at the center of its strategy to protect endangered forests and wildlife in eastern DRC.
– “Strong Roots’ approach to conservation is bottom-up, collaborative, and inclusive,” Bikaba said during a recent conversation with Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler.



Overcoming community-conservation conflict: Q&A with Dominique Bikaba by Rhett A. Butler [07/08/2021]
Playing the long game: ExxonMobil gambles on algae biofuel by Carly Nairn [07/06/2021]
Biofuel in Mexico: Uphill battle against bureaucracy, organized crime by Sandra Weiss [07/02/2021]
Myanmar’s warring military and rebels find common ground in corrupt jade trade by Andrew Nachemson and Kyaw Hsan Hlaing [07/02/2021]
Carving up the Cardamoms: Conservationists fear massive land grab in Cambodia by Gerald Flynn, Andrew Ball, Phoung Vantha [07/01/2021]