Newsletter 2021-12-30



The year in rainforests 2021 by Rheet A. Butler [12/29/2021]

– 2021 was a year where tropical forests featured more prominently in global headlines than normal thanks to rising recognition of the role they play in addressing climate change and biodiversity loss.
– Despite speculation in the early months of the pandemic that slowing economic activity might diminish forest clearing, loss of both primary forests and tree cover in the tropics accelerated between 2019 and 2020. We don’t yet know how much forest was cut down in 2021, but early indications like rising deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon suggest that forest loss will be on the high end of the range from the past decade.
– The following is a look at some of the major tropical rainforest storylines from 2021. It is not an exhaustive review.

‘Land mafia’ makes its mark in a Sumatran village’s fight against oil palm firm by Hans Nicholas Jong [12/28/2021]

– A government agency in Sumatra issued land titles to villagers in 2020, only to rescind them this year on the grounds that a palm oil company already holds the concession for that land.
– The flip-flop has revealed a litany of irregularities in the land-titling process and strengthened suspicions of a “land mafia” at work securing community-occupied lands for big businesses.
– The National Land Agency says more than 100 of its officials are suspected of being part of this mafia, but has done little to address the problem, and continues to violate a Supreme Court ruling that could bring greater transparency to land ownership across Indonesia.
– Activists say the land mafia have been emboldened by the government’s pro-business policies, including directives to make it easier for investors to secure land for projects.

‘Unprecedented’ fires in Madagascar national park threaten livelihoods and lemurs by Hans Nicholas Jong [12/23/2021]

– Ankarafantsika National Park protects an oasis of dry forest in northern Madagascar, providing vital habitat to critically endangered lemurs and other wildlife.
– In September and October, fires raged across the southern portion of the park, burning more than 40 square kilometers (15 square miles).
– While fire is a natural part of Ankarafantsika’s ecosystems, researchers say fire on this scale is “unprecedented” and amounting to a “conservation crisis.”
– The fires are also drying out the landscape and reducing neighboring communities’ crop yields, which conservationists warn could have knock-on effects for nearby forests as people turn to natural resources to survive.



Mongabay’s Top 10 Indigenous News Stories of 2021 By: Latoya Abulu [30 Dec 2021]
– To date, 2021 has proved to be one of the most consequential years for Indigenous rights and participation in global climate and conservation efforts.
– In some parts of the world, Indigenous communities saw support for their rights increase, while in others, threats to their land rights by extractive industries continued unabated.
– To end the year, Mongabay rounds up the top 10 Indigenous news stories of 2021.

Mongabay’s 10 most popular posts of 2021 By: Isabel Esterman [30 Dec 2021]
– Mongabay will end up publishing about 5,000 posts in 2021.
– These are the 10 most popular posts on, plus summaries of the top stories from Mongabay’s international bureaus.
– Readers spent more time on Mongabay than ever before, with 16.4 million hours on the site in 2021, even as traffic fell to 96 million pageviews, down from 140 million in 2020.

How can illegal timber trade in the Greater Mekong be stopped? By: Sheryl Lee Tian Tong [30 Dec 2021]
– Over the past decade, the European Union has been entering into voluntary partnership agreements (VPAs) with tropical timber-producing countries to fight forest crime.
– These bilateral trade agreements legally bind both sides to trade only in verified legal timber products.
– There is evidence VPAs help countries decrease illegal logging rates, especially illegal industrial timber destined for export markets.
– Within the Greater Mekong region, only Vietnam has signed a VPA.

New shrews just dropped: Sulawesi yields up 14 freshly described species By: Basten Gokkon [30 Dec 2021]
– A new study has described 14 new species of shrew endemic to the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
– The shrews, all from the genus Crocidura, were identified from 1,368 specimens collected from 2010-2018 on 12 mountains and in two lowland areas across Sulawesi.
– This gives the island a much richer diversity of Crocidura shrew life than others in the Indonesian archipelago, which the researchers attribute to the varied landscape.
– They add it’s likely that even more species have yet to be described, and say there needs to be more research into Sulawesi’s biodiversity.

Conservation deaths in 2021 By: [30 Dec 2021]
– Between the pandemic, natural disasters worsened by human activities, and violence against environmental defenders, 2021 was another year of significant losses in conservation.
– The following is a list of some of the deaths that occurred in 2021 that were notable to the conservation sector.

Changes to Madagascar’s trawling sector raise questions and hopes By: Edward Carver [29 Dec 2021]
– Madagascar’s auction for nearshore trawling licenses has elicited concern from civil society members, who say it was not conducted transparently and opens the door for environmental mismanagement.
– Two Chinese-backed firms won nearly half of the fishing licenses. One of them has brought in vessels that were caught fishing illegally in West Africa last year, and the other, which was already fishing in Madagascar, may have violated a national fishing regulation this year.
– But observers have also welcomed other aspects of Madagascar’s fisheries management overhaul this year.
– These include the creation of the Ministry of Fisheries and the Blue Economy, the appointment of scientist and civil society member as the new minister and the joining of FiTI, a global fisheries transparency initiative.

Small coffee farmers lay their chips on smart agriculture to overcome climate crisis in the Cerrado biome By: Débora Pinto [29 Dec 2021]
– A long drought followed by a strong freeze in 2020 damaged the coffee harvest in Brazil, the world’s biggest producer and exporter of the crop.
– Small farmers in the Cerrado region who generally don’t use irrigation because of the area’s historically abundant rainfall were hit the hardest.
– To take on the challenges brought on by the changing climate, coffee farmers in the Cerrado have joined a climate-smart agriculture program.
– The strategies adopted for more resilient crops include agroforestry, connected landscapes, and water resource management.

Mongabay’s 10 hardest-hitting investigations of 2021 By: Maxwell Radwin [29 Dec 2021]
– Mongabay published numerous deep-dive investigations this year, some of them data-driven and others relying on on-the-ground interviews, to hold companies and governments accountable.
– The investigations ranged from Brazil to China to Nigeria, covering a wide range of issues, from deforestation to workers’ rights and discrimination against Indigenous peoples.
– In this article, Mongabay looks at some of the most impactful investigations from 2021.

Tiger farms doing little to end wild poaching, Vietnam consumer study shows By: Carolyn Cowan [29 Dec 2021]
– More than 8,000 tigers are kept in captivity in China, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam in commercial facilities ranging from residential basements to licensed venues operating under the guise of tourism, and battery-farm operations holding hundreds of tigers.
– Evidence shows that captive tigers and their body parts enter the legal and illegal trade, where they perpetuate the demand for tiger-based traditional medicines and decorative curios, primarily in China and Vietnam.
– A new study that investigates the motivations of consumers of “tiger bone glue” in Vietnam reveals that consumers prefer products from wild tigers and would carry on purchasing illegal wild products even if a legal farmed trade existed.
– The findings back up calls from conservationists and wildlife trade experts to phase out tiger farming entirely since it doesn’t alleviate pressure on wild tigers, and only encourages the consumption of tiger parts.

Mongabay’s top Amazon stories from 2021 By: Liz Kimbrough [29 Dec 2021]
– The world’s greatest tropical rainforest continued to come under pressure in 2021, due largely to the policies of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
– Deforestation rates hit a 15-year-high, while fires flared up again, combining to turn Brazil’s portion of the Amazon into a net carbon source for the first time ever.
– The rainforest as a whole remains a net carbon sink, thanks to conservation areas and Indigenous territories, where deforestation rates remained low.
– Indigenous communities continued to be hit by a barrage of outside pressure, from COVID-19 to illegal miners and land grabbers, while community members living in Brazil’s cities dealt with persistent prejudice.

Indonesia’s new epicenter of forest fires shifts away from Sumatra and Borneo By: Hans Nicholas Jong [29 Dec 2021]
– Indonesia, a country that suffers from recurring fires every year, saw an increase in land and forest fires this year, with flames burning an area twice the size of London.
– Two-thirds of the burned area was in the provinces of West Nusa Tenggara and East Nusa Tenggara, which until recently experienced much less burning than the islands of Sumatra and Borneo.
– Experts attribute the increase in fires in the two provinces to the lack of firefighting capacity at the local level and the extreme dry weather.

‘Rampant forest destruction’ wracks reserve as cattle ranching advances in Brazilian Amazon By: Ana Ionova [29 Dec 2021]
– The Terra do Meio Ecological Station comprises some 3.37 million hectares in the Brazilian Amazon state of Pará, and is home to hundreds of species – including some that are threatened with extinction.
– But despite its protected status, Terra do Meio has come under growing pressure, with satellite data showing deforestation doubling in 2021.
– Environmentalists say the destruction within Terra do Meio is being driven by illegal loggers, cattle ranchers and land speculators spilling over from the neighboring Área de Proteção Ambiental (APA) Triunfo do Xingu, a sustainable use reserve that has become the most deforested slice of the Brazilian Amazon in recent years.
– Pending legislation could make it even easier to legalize illegitimate land claims, providing hope to land speculators and cattle ranchers that they could soon receive land titles for land they have deforested and occupied illegally.

Madagascar’s small fishers cheer new trawl-free zone, but do trawlers obey it? By: Edward Carver [28 Dec 2021]
– Madagascar in July imposed a prohibition on industrial trawlers fishing in waters within 2 nautical miles (3.7 kilometers) of the country’s coast.
– Small-scale fishers, who for years have clashed with the industrial vessels, welcomed the new rule, but say the trawlers are largely ignoring it.
– Vessel-tracking data appear to corroborate their claims, with at least 14 trawlers apparently fishing in the prohibited zone along the west coast in recent months.
– An industry executive said that any incursions by his company were uncommon and accidental. Regulators say penalties will be imposed based on the severity of the violations.

Mongabay’s 10 most watched videos of 2021 By: Nanditha Chandraprakash [28 Dec 2021]
– Here we rewatch the ten top most watched videos of 2021 on Mongabay’s YouTube channel.
– This year, our video coverage ranged from Indigenous stories, animals caught on camera traps, explainers making environmental issues more understandable, governments and politics, climate change effects, agroecology, extractive projects, and much, much more.
– Mongabay launched a new video series on YouTube in 2021, “Problem Solved,” where we explore big, systemic, environmental issues and exa k e potential pathways to addressing them.

2021’s top ocean news stories (commentary) By: Callie Steffen, Douglas McCauley, Emma Critchley, Molly Morse [28 Dec 2021]
– Marine scientists from the University of California, Santa Barbara, share their list of the top 10 ocean news stories from 2021.
– Hopeful developments this year included big investments pledged for ocean conservation, baby steps toward the reduction of marine plastic pollution, and the description of two new whale species, Rice’s whale (Balaenoptera ricei) and Ramari’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon eueu).
– At the same time, rising ocean temperatures, a byproduct of climate change, had profound effects on marine species up and down the food chain, and action on key measures to maintain ocean resilience in the face of multiple threats hung in the balance.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.

Kenya court orders return of $13m in seized rosewood to suspected traffickers By: Malavika Vyawahare [28 Dec 2021]
– In November, a Kenyan court ordered the release of 646 metric tons of Malagasy rosewood (Dalbergia spp.), worth up to $13 million, to a Hong Kong-based company from which it had been seized in 2014 by Kenyan authorities.
– Lawyers for the Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS), which filed a case against the consignment owners, argued that trade in rosewood was banned under CITES, the international wildlife trade convention; however, the judge in the case disagreed.
– Juan Carlos Vasquez, who heads the legal affairs unit of CITES, confirmed to Mongabay that Malagasy rosewood was listed in Appendix II of the international convention on June 12, 2013.
– Since trade in Malagasy rosewood is banned under CITES today, legally moving the wood out of Mombasa will be tricky for the defendants; conservationist Chris Morris says the company is using false documentation to ship the rosewood from Kenya to Taiwan.

Visions of a post-supply chain society (commentary) By: Nikolas Kozloff [27 Dec 2021]
– For the past several months, Americans have been hearing about, and experiencing firsthand, supply chain disruptions.
– Nikolas Kozloff, a writer who authored No Rain in the Amazon: How South America’s Climate Change Affects the Entire Planet, asks whether we need to be thinking about a post-supply chain society.
– “Now that the pandemic has exposed underlying weaknesses in the system, there will undoubtedly be a reckoning by some,” Kozloff writes. “But perhaps the real question is whether we have wrestled with more severe challenges like climate change, which will disrupt lives to an even greater degree. Indeed, if consumers thought COVID-19 posed a headache for holiday shopping, imagine how rising sea levels, massive increases in temperature, severe wildfires and flooding will place additional stress on orderly supply chains.”
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Edward O. Wilson, prominent biologist and author, has died at 92 By: Rhett A. Butler [27 Dec 2021]
– Edward O. Wilson, a prominent biologist and prolific author who help raise global awareness and understanding about biodiversity and conservation, has died.
– Wilson began his career studying the biology and social structures of ants which led him to develop expansive theories on evolution and humanity’s relationship with the planet.
– While Wilson’s research was highly influential in scientific circles and won numerous recognitions, he was mostly widely known for his accessible writing, including articles and best-selling books which introduced concepts like biodiversity to the masses.
– Wilson was an outspoken advocate for global conservation efforts.

Mongabay’s coverage of palm oil in 2021 By: Ashoka Mukpo [27 Dec 2021]
– In 2021, supply shortages partially caused by lockdowns and other COVID-19 measures sent the price of palm oil higher than ever before, reflecting a continued strong global demand for the commodity.
– In March, Mongabay published the results of an 18-month investigation into the impact of palm oil cultivation in the Brazilian Amazon.
– Mongabay also covered the end of Indonesia’s moratorium on permits for new plantations, and investigated allegations of abuse and land grabs at a plantation in Nigeria.

The Congo Basin’s 10 most consequential stories from 2021 By: John C. Cannon [27 Dec 2021]
– For the Congo Basin, 2021 proved to be an up-and-down year.
– Funding commitments totaling in the billions of dollars were announced that would help forested countries preserve some of the highest-quality tropical rainforest left on the planet.
– Research into the world’s largest tropical peatland, which is found in the Congo Basin, continues to expand […].

As its glaciers melt, Nepal is forced into an adaptation not of its choosing By: Johan Augustin [27 Dec 2021]
– Climate change is causing the glaciers in Nepal’s Himalayan region to melt at an alarming rate, threatening fragile ecosystems, vulnerable communities, and billions of people downstream who rely on the rivers fed by the ice pack.
– If global greenhouse gas emissions continue on a business-as-usual trajectory and average global temperatures rise by more than 4°C (7.2°F) by 2100, the Himalayan region could lose up to two-thirds of its glaciers, a study shows.
– For farming communities, this means water shortages, less feed for their livestock, and increased risks of natural disasters such as landslides and glacial lake flash floods.
– The Himalayas are, at present, heating up at rates up to 0.7°C (1.3°F) higher than the global average, and poor communities are already feeling the impacts.

Myanmar teak is tainted. Time to jettison it, some yacht-making insiders say By: Malavika Vyawahare [27 Dec 2021]
– As founder Jeff Bezos looks set to take possession of the world’s biggest sailing yacht in 2022, activists are raising questions about yacht makers continued use of teak from Myanmar, which returned to repressive military rule this year.
– Bezos, the world’s second-richest person, entered the league of big-ticket environmental funders in 2020, announcing a $10 billion “Earth fund,” of which $2 billion is pledged for land restoration, including forests.
– Oceanco, the Dutch company reportedly making Bezos’s yacht, defended its use of teak in its projects, saying it was legally sourced. The EU imposed sanctions in June effectively make it illegal for businesses in the bloc to import teak from Myanmar, where harvesting and export of timber is under state control.
– “We need a PETA-like campaign, supermodels with their bloody fur coats, but a teak equivalent,” says Jessie Rogers, part of a family-run boatyard in the U.K. “You need people to be ashamed of having teak.”

Tom Lovejoy, prominent conservation biologist, dies at 80 By: Rhett A. Butler [25 Dec 2021]
– Tom Lovejoy, a prominent and influential conservation biologist who helped catalyze a global movement to save life on Earth as we know it, has died. He was 80.
– Lovejoy was known as a pioneer of modern conservation efforts, a passionate advocate for wildlife and wild places, and a big thinker who proposed daring and innovative ideas.
– Lovejoy is credited with coining the term “biological diversity”, developing the concept of “debt-for-nature” swap programs, and being one of the earliest to sound the alarm about the global extinction crisis.
– “Tom was a beloved icon in the conservation field: a mentor to many, a friend to all,” said conservation biologist and ethnobotanist, Mark Plotkin. “He fought for biodiversity and against climate change through his ideas, writings, projects, initiatives and all he trained and inspired.”

Indonesia’s three most consequential forestry stories of 2021 By: Philip Jacobson [24 Dec 2021]
– 2021 marked an inflection point for the fate of Indonesia’s rainforests, the largest expanse outside the Amazon and the Congo Basin.
– The year started out with news of a record drop in the deforestation rate in 2020, which the government attributed to its policies but which experts say was due more to outside factors such as the pandemic.
– This was also the year that a moratorium on issuing licenses for new oil palm plantations came to an end, with experts warning of an impending wave of forest clearing now that the policy has expired.
– Land conflicts pitting local and Indigenous communities against agribusiness companies and developers saw an increase despite the pandemic-driven economic slowdown, with observers pointing to a lack of effective conflict-resolution mechanisms.

10 notable books on conservation and the environment published in 2021 By: John C. Cannon [24 Dec 2021]
– The books chosen for 2021 revolve around the central theme of not just cataloging declines and degradation, but how we as a species work to live with, mitigate and reverse those changes.
– The list below features a sample of the important literature on conservation and the environment released this year.
– Inclusion in this list does not imply Mongabay’s endorsement of a book’s content; the views in the books are those of the authors and not necessarily Mongabay.

Australia’s rainforest species gain ground through landscape linkages By: Amanda Freeman [24 Dec 2021]
– Corridors of planted rainforest trees — landscape linkages — are a straightforward, but costly, on-ground action that can repair past damage and bolster ecosystem resilience in Australia’s Wet Tropics region.
– In the Atherton Tablelands wildlife corridors, now in their third decade, the diversity of naturally regenerating plant species has increased, with trees, vines, rattans, shrubs, palms, ferns and orchids colonizing the planted sites.
– The corridors are providing connectivity and additional habitat for a range of rainforest wildlife, including some threatened by climate change.
– To thoroughly measure the biodiversity outcomes of the linkages, monitoring would need to be more regular, and target a broader range of taxa.

California is the world’s number one importer of Amazonian oil, report finds By: Victoria Schneider [23 Dec 2021]
– California is the biggest importer of oil from the Amazon rainforest, with Ecuador being the largest exporter, a report from Stand.Earth and Amazon Watch finds.
– The report comes months after Indigenous organizations filed a motion to protect 80 percent of the Amazon by 2025 and the Ecuadorian president announced plans to double the country’s oil production.
– Ecuador’s ministry of the environment and water told Mongabay that it is “encouraging extractive activities to compensate for biodiversity loss” and that it is adapting secondary legislation to further comply with Indigenous rights and environmental regulation.

As the Amazon burns, its Indigenous inhabitants choke on the haze By: Valéria Santana and Juliana Ennes [23 Dec 2021]
– Forest fires in the Brazilian Amazon increased this year, with much of the smoke generated concentrating in the state of Acre and disproportionately affecting the health of Indigenous people.
– At the peak of the fires, in July and August, a total of 88,400 hectares (218,400 acres) of land burned, a 20% increase from the 76,400 hectares (188,800 acres) burned in the same period in 2020.
– Recorded cases of respiratory disease increased by almost 8% from June to September 2021 over the previous year, according to data from the Acre state health department.
– Indigenous people, who have lower immunity and a higher incidence of pre-existing medical conditions, are among the most at-risk groups to the smoke pollution, compounded by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The Top Positive Environmental News Stories from 2021 By: Mike DiGirolamo [23 Dec 2021]
– 2021 saw what many would consider the most important Conference of the Parties on climate change (known as COP 26). While still not yet enough to bring us to net-zero emissions by 2030, there were significant commitments made that undoubtedly bring us closer if they are adhered to.
– An amazing amount of species recovered–including some iconic ones–making hopeful population rebounds after years of conservation efforts and policies.
– New technologies show promise of slashing ⅓ of global greenhouse gas emissions in just a couple of decades in the agriculture sector, playing a pivotal role in combatting climate change.
– Indigenous groups and organizations achieved some major victories and achievements inspiring some of the boldest commitments to protect tropical forest cover.

Guyanese project to bolster Indigenous land rights draws funding — and flak By: Carinya Sharples [23 Dec 2021]
– The Amerindian People’s Association (APA) in Guyana has received 252,500 euros ($285,300) in funding from the French government for a project to strengthen Indigenous councils and leaders in upholding the rights of Guyana’s Amerindian people.
– Land rights, and how titles should be awarded, remain a highly contested issue in the South American country, with one court case dragging on for 23 years without an end in sight.
– The funding hasn’t been universally welcomed, however, with some saying that NGOs like the APA “own no land and have no say in what happens in Amerindian communities.”
– The APA says its ultimate goal is pushing for a revision of Guyana’s 2006 Amerindian Peoples Act and calling for recognition of Indigenous traditional customary land rights.

‘We scientists engage in soft diplomacy’: Q&A with Christine Wilkinson By: Caitlin Looby [23 Dec 2021]
– Christine Wilkinson is a carnivore ecologist, National Geographic Explorer and postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, who uses technology to examine interactions between humans and wildlife in East Africa and California.
– Her work is interdisciplinary, using participatory mapping to include local communities in her work and learn about how peoples’ perceptions about carnivores affects conflicts with them.
– Wilkinson also notes that human-wildlife conflicts areas are rooted in human-human conflict, often based in socioeconomic and sociopolitical contexts as well as histories.
– Wilkinson spoke with Mongabay about why hyenas get such a bad rap, her dream of a solar-powered camera-trap grid, and her work bringing together other African American scientists in mammalogy.

Reclaiming tradition: Amazonian women ditch mining for biocosmetics By: Carolina Pinheiro [23 Dec 2021]
– After an illegal mine in the Upper Araguari area of the northern Amazon was shut down in 2009, local riverine communities had to find a new source of income.
– Nearly 30 women from the community turned to their past traditions by collecting seeds, fruits and other plant material from the forest around them to produce soaps, ointments and fresh oils.
– The women are supplementing this traditional knowledge with Western science, tapping into a growing market for sustainably sourced Amazonian forest products such as biocosmetics.
– Proponents of the initiative say there needs to be more government support for such efforts, including funding for processing equipment and investments in education and health care for the communities.

How does political instability in the Mekong affect deforestation? By: Sheryl Lee Tian Tong [23 Dec 2021]
– Myanmar’s return to military dictatorship earlier this year has sparked worries among Indigenous communities of possible land grabs.
– It has also ignited concerns about a return to large-scale natural resource extraction, which has historically been an important source of funding for the junta.
– In the months since the coup, many of the country’s environmental and land rights activists have either been arrested or gone into hiding.
– The military has bombed forests and burned down Indigenous villages in Karen state, forcing minorities to flee to neighboring Thailand.

What has the pandemic done to forest policies? (commentary) By: Aida Greenbury [23 Dec 2021]
– Aida Greenbury, the former Managing Director of Sustainability at APP Group and currently a board member and advisor to several organizations including Mongabay, raised concerns about recent high-level commitments from governments.
– Greenbury says that fuzzy definitions on what constitutes “forest” and “deforestation” leave plenty of loopholes for countries to dodge meaningful action on protecting natural forests. She cites Indonesia, where there’s a renewed push to classify industrial oil palm plantations as forests, as an example.
– “Creating vague definitions for ‘forest’ is a common tactic by policy makers and corporations. It could be used to change the perception of deforestation being associated with palm oil,” she said. “Categorizing oil palm plantations as ‘forest’ could be used to lower the country’s official deforestation rate, as well as make them eligible for carbon offsets. It would probably even legalize oil palm plantation development in protected forest areas.”
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Slashed forest protections ignites land grabbing frenzy in Brazilian Amazon By: Ana Ionova [22 Dec 2021]
– Earlier this year, Rondônia’s legislative assembly voted to pass a law that reduced the extent of Guajará-Mirim State Park by roughly 50,000 hectares and reduced another nearby reserve to a sliver.
– The move effectively removed protections from nearly a quarter of the park, and critics say it “gave a free pass” to outsiders to move in, deforest and lay claim to land.
– Rondônia’s top court annulled the law in November, ruling the reduction of the park’s limits to be unconstitutional.
– But sources say the invasions into the park are continuing, and are inching closer to vulnerable Indigenous and traditional communities in neighboring reserves.

Global ayahuasca trend drives deforestation in Brazil’s Acre state By: Matthew Meyer [22 Dec 2021]
– The growing popularity and increased commercialization of ayahuasca, a psychoactive brew, may be harming the Amazon forest where its two key ingredients grow.
– In the Brazilian state of Acre, regulations in place since 2010 have done little to curb the threats to the native Psychotria viridis shrub and the Banisteriopsis caapi vine.
– Traditional proponents of ayahuasca say the absence of meaningful environmental safeguards leaves the authorities powerless to act against the outside forces clearing rainforest for these increasingly rare and valuable plants.

Secrecy shrouds new gold mining deal in Guyana’s Marudi mountains By: Laurel Sutherland [22 Dec 2021]
– A gold mining deal between the government of Guyana and a group of small-scale miners has stirred up controversy as it permits mining on a mountain range that sustains river ecosystems that Indigenous Wapichan communities depend on.
– According to Wapichan leaders, who learned of the deal in a Facebook post, the government violated their right to free, prior and informed consent by issuing the permit without proper consultation and ignoring cases of prior environmental destruction from gold mining.
– Guyana’s Ministry of Natural Resources says at least four consultations were held with Wapichan communities before the agreement was signed.
– The terms of the agreement have not been made public, leaving Indigenous leaders and the deputy speaker of the National Assembly pointing to possible political motives behind the mining deal.

Global ecosystem restoration progress: How and who’s tracking it? By: Mike Gaworecki [22 Dec 2021]
– Nature-based climate solutions currently being widely touted include the restoration of the world’s degraded forests and other ecosystems in order to store more carbon. But while many restoration pledges have been made by many nations via many initiatives, the monitoring and tracking of their success remains murky.
– That’s because, while deforestation can easily be seen from satellites, effective and accurate ecosystem restoration tracking requires systems for long-term ground-truthing, for measuring carbon storage over decades, and for improvements in biodiversity and the boosting of local economies.
– Among the many ecosystem restoration initiatives now underway are the 2021 Glasgow Forest Declaration and the Bonn Challenge, along with the restoration commitments made as part of national emissions reductions plans under the Paris Climate Agreement (nationally determined contributions or NDCs).
– Strides toward better restoration tracking are being made by initiatives like the Bonn Challenge’s Restoration Barometer and the Brazilian Restoration and Reforestation Observatory — though more work is needed to secure globally accurate tracking.

Could the Blockchain help save the Amazon? (commentary) By: Sophia Wood [22 Dec 2021]
– The blockchain is a relatively new technology best known for its role as the backbone of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. So far there have been few clear applications of the technology in the daily lives of most people, but investors and entrepreneurs are only beginning to explore the potential applications of blockchain technology in other fields.
– Sophia Wood, a political scientist and investor turned conservation manager who works with Operation Wallacea, argues that blockchain technologies could be leveraged to help protect the Amazon rainforest.
– “The cause of deforestation in the Amazon is multi-faceted, but it comes down to a single issue: many governments, businesses, and stakeholders on the ground believe the Amazon Rainforest is currently considered to be worth more cut down than preserved and standing,” Wood writes. “However, new technologies like Web3 and the blockchain, which enables rapid and transparent sharing of information and funds across borders – with no government interference – may offer a breakthrough in backing financial incentives across the whole region that would encourage and enforce forest protection.”
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.


Top 15 species discoveries from 2021 (Photos) by Liz Kimbrough [12/21/2021]
Indigenous leader sues over Borneo natural capital deal by John C. Cannon [12/17/2021]
The past, present and future of the Congo peatlands: 10 takeaways from our series by John C. Cannon [12/16/2021]