Newsletter 2022-01-06


Rainforests in 2022: A look at the year ahead by Rhett A. Butler [01/04/2022]

– Between rising deforestation in the Amazon, new financial and political commitments to reduce deforestation, and growing interest in “nature-based solutions” like conservation and reforestation, 2021 may prove to be a fateful year for the world’s tropical rainforests.
– So what should we expect in 2022? Mongabay Founder Rhett A. Butler provides a brief look at what may be some of the major storylines for tropical forests in the coming year.- He picks 12 issues to watch, ranging from the post-COVID recovery to carbon markets to geopolitics.

E.O. Wilson’s last dream by Jeremy Hance [01/03/2022]

– On December 26, 2021, biologist and author Edward O. Wilson died in Burlington, Massachusetts at the age of 92.
– Routinely compared to Darwin E.O. Wilson is renowned for his work on evolution, biogeography, sociobiology and myrmecology—the study of ants.
– Wilson devoted the last few years of this life to the concept of “Half-Earth”, which he saw as a way to stave off mass extinction, ecological collapse, and create a panacea for climate change.
– In this piece, author Jeremy Hance recounts a 2017 conversation with Wilson and what could be his greatest legacy: the idea of protecting half the planet in a natural or regenerating state for the benefit of people and nature.

Endangered chimps ‘on the brink’ as Nigerian reserve is razed for agriculture, timber by Orji Sunday [12/31/2021]

– As rainforest throughout much of the country has disappeared, Nigeria’s Oluwa Forest Reserve has been a sanctuary for many species, including Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees – the rarest chimpanzee subspecies.
– But Oluwa itself has come under increasing deforestation pressure in recent years, losing 14% of its remaining primary forest between 2002 and 2020.
– Oluwa’s deforestation rate appears to be increasing, with several large areas of forest loss occurring in 2021– including in one of the last portions of the reserve known to harbor chimps.
– Agriculture and timber extraction are the main drivers of deforestation in Oluwa; smallholders looking to eke out an existence continue to move into the reserve and illegally clear forest and hunt animals for bushmeat, while plantation companies are staking claims to government-granted concessions.


Across Latin America, palm oil violations abound — with little accountability By: Tras las huellas de la palma alliance [05 Jan 2022]
– Palm oil producers across four countries in Latin America are able to violate environmental safeguards with relative impunity, according to a recent investigation.
– A team of Mongabay Latam journalists, Agencia Ocote (Guatemala), Contracorriente (Honduras) and La Barra Espaciadora (Ecuador) made 70 requests for information to Colombian, Ecuadorian, Honduran and Guatemalan authorities about environmental sanction processes launched against oil palm producers between 2010 and 2020.
– Despite the difficulty of obtaining official information, the investigation revealed that the expansion of oil palm as a profitable industry that provides substantial employment in the region often wins out over complaints about the industry’s environmental problems by communities and NGOs

For species on the very brink of extinction, cloning is a loaded last resort By: Caitlin Looby [05 Jan 2022]
– Extinction is a very real and pressing crisis, threatening biodiversity around the world despite some of the best efforts by conservationists.
– Where conventional conservation methods have fallen short, proponents say biotechnologies like cloning and stem cell technology may be new avenues worth pursuing, including for reviving lost genetic diversity in endangered populations.
– There’s already proof of concept, as scientists have successfully cloned a black-footed ferret and Przewalski’s horse.
– While the topic of cloning has long been an ethical minefield, proponents point out that humans have been intervening in natural selection for thousands of years, and that we should continue to do so, but “in more deliberate, thoughtful, and careful ways.”

Light-fingered monkeys threaten critically endangered Príncipe thrush By: Ryan Truscott [05 Jan 2022]
– Camera traps have confirmed suspicions that mona monkeys are eating the eggs of the critically- endangered Príncipe thrush.
– The monkeys and several other invasive species were brought to the then-uninhabited islands of Príncipe and São Tomé by Portuguese sailors beginning in the 15th century.
– Conservation authorities are considering allowing hunting of the monkeys in Príncipe Natural Park to reduce their numbers, but further research to understand their place in the ecology is needed.

In the Brazilian Amazon, solar energy brings light — and new opportunities By: Ana Ionova [04 Jan 2022]
– A village on the banks of Brazil’s Negro River is running 132 solar panels as part of a pilot project aimed at bringing clean energy and economic opportunity to remote communities in the Amazon.
– The scheme promises to bring reliable energy to the community of Santa Helena do Inglês, in northern Amazonas state, addressing frequent power cuts that have long plagued the remote village and thwarted efforts to develop sustainable income streams.
– The solar energy supply is helping the community — a former logging hub that now lies within a protected reserve — generate income from fishing and ecotourism, without encroaching on the forest.

In Indonesia’s Sulawesi, a community works to defuse blast-fishing crisis By: Riza Salman [04 Jan 2022]
– Decades of blast fishing have destroyed much of the coral reefs off Indonesia’s Lora village, reducing fish catches.
– Increased law enforcement and advocacy by NGOs has helped roll back these destructive practices, but other threats loom, including increasingly unpredictable weather and competition from large trawlers.
– A community organization is seeking to have the region zoned as a conservation area.

Community control of forests hasn’t slowed deforestation, Indonesia study finds By: Hans Nicholas Jong [04 Jan 2022]
– A new study has found that Indonesia’s social forestry program, which gives local communities access to manage the country’s forests, hasn’t led to a reduction in overall deforestation.
– The study found that forest loss in community-titled forests aimed at conservation actually increased.
– Possible explanations include lack of capacity and resources for communities to manage their forests, as well as lack of financial incentives for them to not clear their forests.

More Zoom, less climate gloom as conferences move online, study finds By: Elizabeth Claire Alberts [04 Jan 2022]
– A new study found that moving conferences online can reduce the carbon footprint by 94% and energy use by 90%.
– It also found that hybrid events, in which some participants attend in person while others attend online, could reduce carbon footprint and energy by two-thirds by taking measures like carefully choosing a location and only serving plant-based foods.
– While some professionals are dissatisfied with online conferences, mainly due to poor networking opportunities, others have expressed satisfaction with these formats’ accessibility, and the lowering of carbon footprints and costs.

As temperatures rise, so does risk of kidney disease, study finds By: Suzana Camargo [04 Jan 2022]
– A new study crossed data between high temperatures and increased hospitalizations of patients with kidney disease in 1,816 Brazilian municipalities.
– It found that from 2000-2015, the estimated risk of hospitalization of up to seven days due to kidney disease rose by 0.9% with every 1°C (1.8°F) rise in temperature.
– The researchers say heat-induced perspiration and the resulting dehydration play a vital role in the development of kidney disease.
– They add the risk is higher in women, children under the age of 4, and people over the age of 80.

Farmers in Brazil’s Cerrado cotton on to the benefits of agroecology By: Luiz Fellipe Silva and Fellipe Abreu [04 Jan 2022]
– At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, 46 cotton-farming families in Brazil’s Minas Gerais began practicing agroecology, a sustainable farming approach that works with nature.
– Working with a sustainable farming NGO, the farmers plant secondary and tertiary fruit and vegetable crops alongside their primary cotton crops, and eschew chemical fertilizers and pesticides in favor of organic alternatives.
– They’ve had two harvests since they started, and in that short time have seen their cotton output triple and their yields of other crops increase by as much as seven times.
– The agroecology project has also helped revive the area’s cotton-spinning tradition, which was slowly dying out as agrochemical-tainted cotton triggered allergic reactions in the local artisans.

Mongabay’s What-To-Watch list for January 2022 By: [03 Jan 2022]
– In December, the Mongabay video team covered news about illegal timber activities in Mekong, pollution and sacred groves in India, the importance of the Congo Basin peatlands, and the sea turtles’ battle against climate change.
– The premiere of our series Chasing Deforestation looked closely into the deforestation in Nigeria’s Cross River, home to critically endangered apes.
– Get a peak into the various segments of the environment across the globe. Add these videos to your watchlist for the month and watch them for free on YouTube.

Groups welcome decline in deforestation in Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem By: Hans Nicholas Jong [03 Jan 2022]
– Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem experienced a decline in deforestation in 2021, after an increase in forest loss in 2020 linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a satellite analysis by local forest watchdog HAkA.
– Leuser, known for being the last place on Earth where critically endangered Sumatran rhinos, tigers, elephants and orangutans coexist, lost 4,472 hectares (11,051 acres) of its forests as of November 2021, compared to 7,331 hectares (18,115 acres) in 2020.
– Conservationists attribute the decline to an increase in monitoring efforts as well as greater scrutiny of palm oil producers operating in the landscape, by brands and buyers with zero-deforestation commitments.
– Despite the drop in deforestation, experts warn against complacency, noting that forest clearing is still taking place inside oil palm concessions, and areas of primary forest are still zoned for production, which means they can still be legally cleared.

More trees means healthier bees, new study on air pollution shows By: Luís Patriani [03 Jan 2022]
– Scientists analyzed levels of chemical pollutants in native jataí bees across eight landscapes in Brazil’s São Paulo state.
– They found that in landscapes with more vegetation, the bees had fewer pollutants, at lower levels, indicating that the plants act as a filter and protective barrier
– The findings add to the growing scientific evidence about the importance of afforestation in urban areas, including creating ecological corridors to connect separate landscapes.
– Air pollution is the world’s top driver of illness and death from chronic noncommunicable diseases.

In round 2 of Philippine geothermal project, tribes dig in for a greater say By: Bong S. Sarmiento [31 Dec 2021]
– Mount Apo National Park on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao is home to the country’s highest peak and is also a sacred area for the Manobo Indigenous people.
– Plans in the 1980s to establish a geothermal power plant there faced fierce resistance at first.
– But a royalty agreement with Manobo landowners and a long list of environmental and economic commitments by the plant developer has since seen the project become a model of success.
– Now, tribal leaders say the developer is looking to expand the project onto more ancestral lands, for which the tribes want a greater say in steering governance and development initiatives.

As its topsoil washes away, the Corn Belt is losing yields — and carbon By: Liz Kimbrough [31 Dec 2021]
– Scientists have found that the Corn Belt region of the U.S. Midwest, which produces 75% of U.S. corn, has lost around 35% of its most fertile topsoil since European colonization in the 1600s.
– This was the first study to use satellites and lidar to estimate the relationship between soil loss and the topography of the land, verified by on-the-ground soil samples. Hilltops were often completely denuded of topsoil and soil in low-lying areas was prone to erosion.
– When soil is lost, so is the carbon stored in the ground. Globally, more carbon is stored in the soil than in all the Earth’s plants and the atmosphere combined.
– Bringing soil back to the Corn Belt, experts say, will require a combination of regenerative agriculture and managing farms at the landscape level, planting in areas with high average yield and restoring other areas to pasture or using soil-building methods such as cover cropping.

Dual pressures of hunting, logging threaten wildlife in Myanmar, study shows By: Sheryl Lee Tian Tong [31 Dec 2021]
– Combating illegal logging in Myanmar’s Rakhine state helps preserve wildlife populations, but is insufficient without addressing unsustainable local hunting pressures, according to new research.
– Researchers used camera trap data from between 2016 and 2019 to investigate the effects of environmental and human factors on medium to large mammals.
– Common species regularly targeted for bushmeat were negatively affected by increased human presence, they found, highlighting the pressures of illegal hunting on their populations.
– By contrast, threatened species were generally unaffected by human presence, but were positively linked to continuous stretches of evergreen forest, indicating their vulnerability to illegal logging, deforestation and habitat loss.

Getting African grasslands right, for people and wildlife alike: Q&A with Susanne Vetter By: Kang-Chun Cheng [31 Dec 2021]
– Africa’s vast grasslands are well known for their iconic wildlife, but far less appreciated for the other ecosystem services they provide, including sequestering immense amounts of carbon and supporting millions of people practicing the ancient occupation of livestock herding.
– Susanne Vetter, a plant ecologist at Rhodes University in South Africa, studies the roles not only of plants but also of people in these landscapes.
– Through her work she has gained a rosier view of pastoralism, and its ability to coexist with wildlife, than many conservationists and policymakers hold.
– Mongabay recently interviewed Susanne Vetter via email about common misconceptions of African grasslands and the pastoralist communities who depend on them.

Urban ecology that saved Argentina’s Rosario held up as a model for others By: Christa Avampato [31 Dec 2021]
– The Argentine city of Rosario has over the past two decades developed private-public partnerships to set aside land for farming and create a network of local markets where farmers locally sell their crops.
– Local sustainable farming is seen as a solution to mitigate climate change and promote biodiversity, and Rosario’s urban agriculture program does this by growing food for domestic consumption.
– This reduces greenhouse gas emissions from food transportation, boosts the amount of green space within the city to reduce the urban heat island effect, and allows diverse wildlife populations to thrive alongside crops.
– Rosario’s detailed maps identified vacant land unsuitable for other purposes and reimagined that land to create farms within the city, while collaboration with neighboring jurisdictions has led to the development of an agricultural green belt surrounding Rosario.

Mali’s centuries-old pastoralist traditions wilt as the climate changes By: Malavika Vyawahare [31 Dec 2021]
– As the world rediscovers the ingenuity of nature-based solutions, a detailed FAO report published this year highlights the traditions of nomadic pastoralists in Mali who have sustained an eco-friendly lifestyle over centuries.
– The Kel Tamasheq people, living amid the Saharan sands near Timbuktu, eat primarily local produce, generate little waste, and boast a negligible carbon footprint.
– The community’s world revolves around a transhumance tradition that follows seasonal movement; during the dry season, which lasts for more than six months of the year, the pastoralists migrate south with their livestock in search of grazing land and water.
– Climate change and increasing desertification have heavily impacted the food system of the Kel Tamasheq, especially the withering of Lake Faguibine, intensifying the community’s dependence on markets.

China’s building spree in Nepal casts shadow over Himalayan ecosystem By: Johan Augustin [31 Dec 2021]
– China’s role in Nepal has intensified in the period since the 2015 earthquake, mostly in the form of investments in rebuilding projects. In 2019 alone, China initiated a series of projects, including factories and hydropower plants, worth $2.4 billion in Nepal.
– Many of the infrastructure projects run through sensitive environments, including national parks, and the construction of hydropower plants has been criticized by environmental organizations and local communities for destroying river ecosystems.
– For example, work on the Rasuwagadhi hydroelectric project, part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, resumed in 2016, despite protests from locals who blamed the dam for mass fish deaths.

Court order blocks Shell’s seismic surveys off South Africa’s Wild Coast By: [31 Dec 2021]
– A petition by environmentalists, Indigenous groups and fisheries organizations succeeded in temporarily halting oil giant Shell’s plans to conduct seismic surveys off South Africa’s Wild Coast to prospect for oil and gas reserves below the seabed.
– Conservation groups cited the potential impact on the breeding grounds of southern right whales and humpback whales, and the effect on the local fisheries sector.
– The recent order hinges on whether affected communities that hold traditional rights, including fishing rights in the waters, were properly consulted.
– The judge ruled that they were not, while also noting that concerns about irreversible harm to marine life were “reasonable.”

Sinkholes emerge in rural Kenya after series of floods, droughts By: Kang-Chun Cheng [30 Dec 2021]
– In recent years, a number of sinkholes have emerged in Baringo county, a geologically active region in western Kenya’s Great Rift Valley.
– According to geologists, their appearance can be linked both to the worsening impacts of climate change through floods and droughts, and local communities drilling boreholes along precarious fault lines to access more water.
– According to members of the community, the sinkholes have yet to spur the county or the government into action, with food aid currently provided by local human rights organizations.
– Increases in floods are driving human-wildlife conflict for space, and pastoralists are having difficulty adapting to environmental changes.

Burnt pellets complicate impact of plastic spill off Sri Lanka, study finds By: Malaka Rodrigo [30 Dec 2021]
– Volunteers cleaning up after the sinking of the X-Press Pearl in Sri Lanka say they’ve encountered a lot of burnt nurdles, the basic building block of plastic products, during the initial stages of the cleanup operation.
– A newly published paper highlights how burnt nurdles complicate the environmental challenges — making cleanup operations harder and much more complex, besides proving highly detrimental to marine life.
– The Sri Lankan government has called on the international community to enact new regulations in shipping transportation, landing and loading in order to reduce the risk of accidents like the X-Press Pearl disaster.

Agricultural frontier advances in Nicaraguan biosphere reserve By: Leonardo Guevara [30 Dec 2021]
– The Río San Juan Biosphere Reserve in Nicaragua encompasses some 1.8 million hectares, as well as smaller protected areas such as Indio Maíz Biological Reserve, Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge, the Fortress of the Immaculate Conception, Bartola Nature Reserve, and the Solentiname Islands.
– The Río San Juan Biosphere Reserve lost around 600,000 hectares of forest between 2011 and 2018.
– Satellite data show forest loss has intensified in the northern and central parts of the reserve since 2018, and only fragmented portions of primary forest remain.
– Sources said that the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and the National Forestry Institute are responsible for ensuring the effective conservation of the country’s protected areas, but that they are not currently fulfilling their monitoring duties.

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.


The year in rainforests 2021 by Rheet A. Butler [12/29/2021]
‘Land mafia’ makes its mark in a Sumatran village’s fight against oil palm firm by Hans Nicholas Jong [12/28/2021]
‘Unprecedented’ fires in Madagascar national park threaten livelihoods and lemurs by Hans Nicholas Jong [12/23/2021]