Newsletter 2022-03-03


Revealed: Timber giant quietly converts Congo logging sites to carbon schemes by Gloria Pallares [03/03/2022]

– An investigation by El País/Planeta Futuro has found evidence of irregularities in the allocation of “conservation concessions” and carbon-trading schemes in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
– The investigation uncovered allegations that concessions covering millions of hectares were illegally reassigned in 2020 and converted to carbon credit projects without public oversight. The Portuguese-owned titles overlap with a protected area and Indigenous lands.
– The boom in opaque “conservation” titles controlled by foreign investors raises concerns over the potential for future carbon offset abuses.
– Mongabay has partnered with El País/Planeta Futuro to publish this investigation in English. This story was produced with the support of the Rainforest Journalism Investigations Network (RIN) of the Pulitzer Center.

‘I am pro-mining’: Indigenous opposition to Philippine mine project falters by Bong S. Sarmiento [02/28/2022]

– A planned $5.9 billion copper and gold mine in the southern Philippines has faced opposition since reserves were first confirmed in the 1990s, with more than two dozen people killed since then in conflicts relating to the project.
– Most affected by the conflict are the Indigenous Blaan; the planned mine project stretches across the ancestral lands of five tribal councils, and will require the eviction of around 5,000 people.
– For decades, clans and even families have been split over their opposition or support for the mining company, which has promised to support education, health, livelihood and development projects in affected communities.
– With the national government in Manila pushing pro-mining policies to jump-start the pandemic-hit economy, and as pressure mounts within families and communities, some of the mine’s staunchest opponents are reconsidering their stance.

Bridges in the sky carry sloths to safety in Costa Rica by Monica Pelliccia [02/28/2022]

– The Sloth Conservation Foundation, created by British zoologist Rebecca Cliffe, is working to preserve the future of the world’s slowest mammals in Costa Rica.
– The group is building rope bridges to allow the arboreal animals to cross cleared patches of forest safely.
– Without these bridges, the sloths would have to come down to the ground to cross from one tree to another, putting them at risk of being run over by a car or attacked by dogs, or else they could be electrocuted going over power lines.
– The bridges are a temporary solution while the organization works on reforestation measures to ensure there’s sufficient suitable habitat for sloths.

In a biodiversity haven, mining drives highest ever recorded levels of mercury by John C. Cannon [02/28/2022]

>- A recent study has found that forests in the southwestern Peruvian Amazon collect mercury from the atmosphere that’s used in artisanal small-scale gold mining in the Madre de Dios region
.- The study’s authors found “the highest ever recorded” levels of mercury from the “throughfall” that ends up on the forest floor when the leaves fall or rain washes the mercury from their surfaces.
– Mercury is highly toxic, causing neurological and reproductive problems in humans and other animals.
– Organizations are looking at different ways to reduce or even eliminate the use of mercury, which miners use to bind the flecks of gold found in the region’s riverine silt.


Colombian palm oil company under investigation for polluting rivers By: Alianza periodística tras las huellas de la palma [02 Mar 2022]
– Oro Rojo began extracting palm oil in 2013 and was granted three environmental permits by environmental authority Corporación Autónoma de Santander (CAS), two of which are currently under investigation.
– Complaints have been filed alleging Oro Rojo discharged waste into nearby waterways.
– According CAS, the company has also been fined for violations relating to air pollution.

A marine mystery unfolds with the discovery of nitrogen-fixing plankton By: [02 Mar 2022]
– Researchers recently discovered two new phytoplankton species: Epithemia pelagica and Epithemia catenata.
– The species were found to carry out nitrogen fixation, which can help support productivity in nutrient-poor parts of the ocean.
– While there is much to learn about these new species and the ecological processes they play in the ocean, researchers are excited about their ability to “self-fertilize” and sustain the marine food web.

Chasing Deforestation: Reporter Ana Ionova finds a water buffalo ‘frenzy’ in Autazes By: Romina Castagnino [02 Mar 2022]
– Every month, Mongabay brings you a new episode of Chasing Deforestation, our digital series that explores the world’s most threatened forests through satellite data and reporters on the ground.
– In this episode, reporter Ana Ionova takes us to Autazes, a municipality in the Brazilian Amazon that is experiencing a spike in deforestation.
– Stretches of land are being razed for pasture for herds of domestic water buffaloes.
– The deforestation is now encroaching into protected reserves that are home to the Mura Indigenous group, with devastating environmental and social consequences.

Podcast: The Trans-Papua Highway could lose billions and deforest millions of hectares By: Mike DiGirolamo [02 Mar 2022]
– Set to run some 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) and being built over the course of decades, the Trans-Papua Highway cuts across the entire length of Indonesian New Guinea’s two provinces.
– While nearly complete, it has not yet fully interlinked major cities, and has raised concerns among experts that it could open up the world’s third-largest swath of tropical rainforest to further deforestation. Tanah Papua has already lost 750,000 hectares of forest cover (1.85 million acres) over the past 20 years.
– A study published last September warns that if the Trans-Papua Highway spurs a similar spate of development on Papua as the Trans-Kalimantan Highway did on Borneo, the region could lose up to an additional 4.5 million hectares (11.12 million acres) of forest cover by 2036.
– For this episode of the Mongabay Explores podcast, we interview David Gaveau, who founded The TreeMap (a forest loss monitoring platform), and distinguished professor at James Cook University, Bill Laurance to discuss the impacts the Trans-Papua Highway could have for Indonesian New Guinea.

Brazil’s agroforestry farmers report many benefits, but challenges remain By: Claire Asher [02 Mar 2022]
– Researchers asked agroforestry and conventional smallholder farmers in São Paulo state, Brazil for their views on the benefits of agroforestry — a farming technique that combines native vegetation with fruit trees, crops and sometimes livestock — and what they see as the barriers to switching.
– Consistent with benefits identified in past ecological studies, agroforestry farmers ranked bird abundance and soil moisture higher than conventional farmers and reported that trees on their farms cooled the air and reduced storm damage. These farmers were also more likely to be self-sufficient.
– Many smallholders who still rely on conventional crop and cattle monocultures say a lack of knowledge is holding them back from switching over to agroforestry, but technical support and environmental education could encourage them to adopt this restorative approach.
– Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s laser focus on offering support for large-scale commercial agribusiness has left smallholder farmers lacking in financial and technical assistance to make the switch to agroforestry. It also limits their access to markets for their diverse harvests.

Mongabay’s What-To-Watch list for March 2022 By: [02 Mar 2022]
– In February, Mongabay covered agroforestry among Costa Rica’s Indigenous people, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, the environmental problems of human sewage, and the unanticipated downsides of the solar energy sector in India.
– Watch a rare video where chimpanzees are seen being medical practitioners, and how dedicated rangers are protecting endangered apes in the forests along the Nigeria-Cameroon border.
– Get a peek 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.

Latest seismic survey blocked in South Africa court on fishers’ challenge By: Victoria Schneider [02 Mar 2022]
– A South African court has blocked the continuation of a seismic survey for oil and gas off the country’s west coast.
– The judge agreed with fishing communities and civil society organizations that Australian geoscience company Searcher’s consultation process excluded fishing communities.
– The ruling is the latest successful challenge to a prospecting permit on the basis that it denied local communities their right to participate in environmental decisions.

A community in Mexico reforests its land against the advance of illegal logging By: Flavia Morales [02 Mar 2022]
– A community in rural Mexico has for the past 15 years led the conservation of the forest on its communally managed land, or ejido, in a region wracked by illegal logging.
– The Nueva Vaquería forestry program near Pico de Orizaba National Park has seen the community reforest nearly 500 hectares (more than 1,200 acres), in stark contrast to the deforestation unfolding inside the park and neighboring communities.
– The ejido members are doing this with barely any government support, and have called on the authorities to do more to help, including cracking down on illegal logging in the region.
– “We try not to demolish the forest,” says a community member, “but I feel that the government does not see this; it does not help us to further conserve the forest, to give an example to our people.”

Loss of Sumatran rhinos leaves several plant species without a seed disperser By: Anna Nordseth [02 Mar 2022]
– The critically endangered Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) plays a unique role in dispersing seeds in Southeast Asian forests, and its disappearance from these landscapes is already affecting the composition of the forests.
– Many plant species in this region evolved alongside large animals like rhinos and elephants, developing large, fleshy fruits to entice megafauna to eat and disperse them.
– A new study shows that Sumatran rhinos play this key role for an estimated 79 plant species.
– Despite some overlap in dispersal with Sumatran elephants (Elephas maximus sumatranus) and other smaller animals, the study found that several plant species have no other known dispersers than rhinos.

Forest clearing for crop program in Papua may unleash massive emissions By: Hans Nicholas Jong [02 Mar 2022]
– An area nearly the size of Belgium will be cleared in Indonesia’s Papua province to grow food crops under a government program.
– A new analysis shows that this conversion alone could result in the release of 616 million metric tons of greenhouse gases — a third of what Indonesia as a whole currently emits in a year, or the same as Australia’s annual emissions.
– A government official says the program will try to minimize the area of forest required for the plantations and will prioritize the use of already degraded areas.
– But plans for how much forest will have be cleared remain vague, prompting a call for the government to reconsider the food crop program in light of its potential harms.

To save the oceans, we need MPAs that emphasize actual protection of marine ecosystems (commentary) By: Enric Sala [01 Mar 2022]
– Saving the ocean is possible but it requires getting serious about stopping its destruction, not everywhere, but especially in designated places called marine protected areas, a new op-ed argues.
– But for MPAs to work, “protected” has to mean what it says. There should be no halfway measures, no empty promises, no conservation that happens only on paper.
– There have been several opportunities in recent months to take action on such measures, including at the current UN Environment Assembly, which ends on March 2.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Researchers puzzle over sea-crossing migration of crimson rose butterflies By: Malaka Rodrigo [01 Mar 2022]
– A recently observed migration of a large swarm of crimson rose butterflies from India to Sri Lanka has highlighted how little we still know about this natural phenomenon.
– Unlike the better-known migration of the monarch butterfly in North America, the movements of the crimson rose are meandering and dispersed, often triggered by the start of rains following a long dry spell.
– Researchers have called for more studies to be done to better understand the phenomenon, including through contributions from citizen scientists in both Sri Lanka and India.

In Brazil, evicted Indigenous residents fight to reclaim their community By: Ana Ionova [01 Mar 2022]
– Some 2,260 families, many of them Indigenous, were displaced in March 2020 when authorities dismantled the Monte Horebe informal settlement on the outskirts of Manaus, in the Brazilian state of Amazonas.
– Two years later, many of the displaced residents continue to struggle with precarious housing, deepening poverty and the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, Indigenous leaders say.
– The Indigenous community is now fighting to reclaim the Monte Horebe settlement, asking a court to order authorities to compensate residents and allow them to return to the area.
– Informal settlements provide a lifeline for vulnerable Indigenous people forced to cities in search of employment, education or health care, but a crackdown by the authorities on these settlements threatens Indigenous people’s right to housing, community leaders say.

Chocolate frog? New burrowing frog species unearthed in Amazon’s rare peatlands By: Liz Kimbrough [28 Feb 2022]
– Researchers dug up a new-to-science species of burrowing frog in the Peruvian Amazon that resembles chocolate. The frog has been nicknamed the tapir frog for its distinctive-looking snout.
– Herpetologists used the frog’s call to locate and dig up three individual frogs. DNA analyses confirmed that, although the species was known to locals, it had not yet been described by science.
– The team found the small frogs in one of the rarest habitats in the Amazon rainforest, the Amazon peatlands. A past study found that peatlands in the Peruvian Amazon store 10 times the amount of carbon as nearby undisturbed rainforest.
– The discovery was made during a rapid inventory of the Lower Putumayo Basin. A conservation area is proposed for the region and researchers say the tapir frog is yet another reason to conserve this peatland and the surrounding area.

Climate change a threat to human well-being and health of the planet: New IPCC report By: John C. Cannon [28 Feb 2022]
– The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report on the impacts of climate change on people, detailing areas of vulnerability and steps for adaptation to the changes brought about by Earth’s warming temperatures.
– The report, the second of three that will be part of the IPCC’s sixth assessment, highlights the importance of Indigenous and local knowledge in grappling with climate change and its effects on weather, water availability and food sources.
– It also notes that some segments of society, especially the most vulnerable, will bear a disproportionate burden as a result of climate change.
– The authors of the report and other climate researchers emphasize that urgent action is needed, both to address the causes of climate change and improve the capability of people to adapt to it.

Four new MPAs in Maluku boost Indonesia’s bid to protect its seas By: Luh De Suriyani [28 Feb 2022]
– Indonesia’s Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries designated four new marine protected areas in the country’s east in January.
– The new conservation areas are in the waters surroundsingthe islands of Tanimbar, Damer, Mdona Hiera, Lakor, Moa, Letti and the Romang in Maluku province.
– The newly designated MPAs are home to threatened and protected species, including the green turtle, the scalloped hammerhead shark, and an abundance of coral reefs and other marine ecosystems.
– The four new MPAs bring the Indonesian government two-thirds of the way toward its goal of ensuring “effective management” of 10% of national waters by 2030.

For fire-ravaged northern Thailand, there’s now an app to battle the blaze By: Sheryl Lee Tian Tong [28 Feb 2022]
– Thai researchers incorporating remote-sensing technology into smartphone applications are helping to reduce the severity of forest fires in the country’s northern Chiang Rai province.
– In the past, only local officials had access to hotspot data from satellites; now, whenever a new hotspot is identified, firefighters and nearby communities alike receive notifications on their mobile apps.
– The app has enabled villagers, firefighters, NGOs and scientists to “join forces” in fighting forest fires, and encouraged communities to police and reduce unregulated burning of agricultural land.
– The researchers are currently working on a second app that aims to help local communities transition toward more sustainable ways of clearing and fertilizing their land than burning.

Threatened wetlands in Paraguay’s Lake Ypacaraí raise legal questions By: Maxwell Radwin [25 Feb 2022]
– Wetlands surrounding the protected Lake Ypacaraí in Paraguay are being filled in to allow for the construction of housing and tourism projects.
– In addition to providing habitats for countless species of flora and fauna, the wetlands act as a filter for freshwater and help control flooding and erosion.
– The projects were approved by the Ministry of Environment, sparking outcry from congressmen who want to know if protected area laws are being ignored in favor of urban development.

Indigenous knowledge ‘gives us a much richer picture’: Q&A with Māori researcher Ocean Mercier By: Monica Evans [25 Feb 2022]
– The Māori, the Indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand, have extensive knowledge about oceans and marine environments, which has not always been valued or recognized.
– In recent decades, Māori researchers and knowledge holders have elevated the position of mātauranga (Māori traditional knowledge) about oceans in academic and community contexts.
– Ocean Mercier is an Indigenous researcher who works at the interface of mātauranga and Western science, on issues such as marine and freshwater conservation and management.
– She recently spoke with Mongabay about the benefits, challenges and “crunchy bits” of working across knowledge systems in this way.

Pay or punish? Study looks at how to engage with farmers deforesting the Cerrado By: Sarah Sax [25 Feb 2022]
– Businesses and countries are renewing their commitments to reducing deforestation in supply chains, but disagreements still exist over what the most effective, efficient and equitable tools are to make that happen.
– In the Brazilian Cerrado, the world’s most biodiverse savanna, soybean production is one of the key industries driving rampant deforestation and conversion of native vegetation.
– While some observers favor the “carrot” approach of paying farmers not to deforest, others advocate for a “stick” approach that would cut market access for farmers who deforest.
– A new study says that in the case of the Cerrado, just using a stand-alone policy that pays farmers not to deforest would be expensive, inefficient and inequitable, and that some measure of market exclusion is also needed.

Refuge of endangered ‘African unicorn’ threatened by mining, poaching, deforestation By: Morgan Erickson-Davis [25 Feb 2022]
– Okapi Wildlife Reserve in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) shelters some 470 mammal and bird species, including up to 20% of the world’s remaining endangered okapi (Okapia johnstoni), which are related to giraffes.
– While Okapi Wildlife Reserve has escaped much of the environmental destruction affecting surrounding areas, satellite data show deforestation has been increasing in the reserve in recent years.
– Satellite imagery shows the expansion of what appear to be gold mines in the latter half of 2021.
– Conservationists say illegal mining is attracting more people to the reserve, which in turn increases poaching and deforestation.

In Kenya, a community regrew its forest — and redefined reforestation success By: Jackson Okata [24 Feb 2022]
– What started as a group effort to find a solution to deforestation has seen a rural community in Kenya successfully regenerate 50% of their once denuded forest by planting at least 300,000 trees in just five years.
– The efforts of the Mirema Community Forest Association (CFA) caught the attention of the Kenya Forest Service, which stepped in to offer technical and management support.
– Key to the initiative’s success has been the combination of natural regeneration of existing trees in the forest, and the planting of native, nursery-grown seedlings.
– The KFS says it now expects the entire 810 hectares (2,000 acres) of the Mirema Forest to be restored by 2027, and is working on exporting the community’s methods to other reforestation projects across Kenya.

Will the U.S. Congress act to regulate big cats kept in captivity? (commentary) By: Monique Sosnowski and Sarika Khanwilkar [24 Feb 2022]
– Americans may think that the illegal trade in tiger parts is half a world away but in reality, the U.S. is a large part of this lucrative global market.
– Recent research indicated the amount of tiger parts entering the U.S is likely much larger than previously reported, and raises questions about the demand for tiger parts within the U.S. plus the role of captive U.S. ‘pet’ tigers in the trade.
– The Big Cat Public Safety Act being debated in the Congress revises restrictions regarding the possession and exhibition of big cats in the country and should be supported, the authors argue: “It’s just a matter of time until the next pet tiger escapes and causes serious harm or death.”
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of Mongabay.

Latest Nigeria oil spill highlights ‘wretched’ state of the industry By: Mongabay [24 Feb 2022]
– An oil production vessel exploded just off the coast of Nigeria on Feb. 3, killing seven of 10 crew members on board.
– Nigeria’s monitoring of and response to oil industry incidents is poor: three weeks later, the size and impact of the spill is still unknown.
– This is the second major incident reported in the past three months, and highlights potential problems as oil majors sell aging infrastructure to locally owned companies that are ill-equipped to operate them safely.

Call for COVID rules that reduced infections in gorilla parks to remain By: Ryan Truscott [24 Feb 2022]
– Respiratory infections recorded among mountain gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park dropped from a pre-pandemic average of 5.4 outbreaks among family groups to just 1.6 per year since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.
– Conservation group Gorilla Doctors, whose Rwanda team recorded the decrease in infections, says the decline correlates with lower visitor numbers to the park as well as masking requirements and an increase in the distance tourists must stay from habituated apes.
– In a recent letter in the journal Nature, Gorilla Doctors and the park’s chief warden called for these stricter measures to be kept in place permanently.

Illegal mining fuels social conflict in Indonesian tin hub of Bangka-Belitung By: Nopri Ismi and Taufik Wijaya [24 Feb 2022]
– Tin mining in one of the world’s main producers of the metal has sparked the latest in a series of conflicts between illegal miners and traditional fishers in Indonesia.
– The incident stemmed from a fisher-activist’s social media posts criticizing the environmental damage wrought by mining in the Bangka-Belitung Islands’ Kelabat Bay, where mining is banned.
– Tin mining is the backbone of the Bangka Belitung economy, but has also proven deadly for workers and damaging to coral reefs, mangrove forests and local fisheries.

‘Everything is on fire’: Flames rip through Iberá National Park in Argentina By: Elizabeth Claire Alberts [24 Feb 2022]
– Fires in the central Corrientes province of northeast Argentina have burned through nearly 60% of Iberá National Park, home to protected marshlands, grasslands and forests that hosts an array of species.
– Many of the fires originated from nearby cattle ranches, and spread across significant portions of the park due to a prolonged drought.
– Conservationists are working to relocate a number of reintroduced species, including giant river otters and macaws, to places of safety.
– While experts say they expect a substantial loss to biodiversity, they add that the park should mount a rapid recovery thanks to all the rewilding work already done.


Sabino Gualinga, Amazon shaman and defender of the ‘living forest,’ passes away by Kimberley Brown [02/22/2022]
From Wall Street to the Amazon: Big capital funds mining-driven deforestation by Jenny Gonzales [02/22/2022]
Caffeine: Emerging contaminant of global rivers and coastal waters by Sean Mowbray [02/22/2022]
Palm oil firm hit by mass permit revocation still clearing forest in Indonesia by Asrida Elisabeth & Philip Jacobson [02/22/2022]
Ten unexpected edibles from our oceans by Shreya Dasgupta [02/22/2022]
The small cats nobody knows: Wild felines face intensifying planetary risks by Sean Mowbray [02/17/2022]