Newsletter 2022-05-05



A new index measures the human impacts on Amazon waters by Ronaldo Ribeiro, Letícia Klein, Kevin Damasio, Laura Kurtzberg (Ambiental Media) [05/05/2022]

– Based on the best scientific data available, the unprecedented Amazon Water Impact Index draws together monitoring and research data to identify the most vulnerable areas of the Brazilian Amazon.
– According to the index, 20% of the 11,216 Brazilian Amazon micro basins have an impact considered high, very high or extreme; half of these watersheds are affected by hydroelectric plants.
– The same index points out that 323 of the 385 Indigenous Lands in the Brazilian Amazon face a medium to low impact, which demonstrates the fundamental role of these areas in protecting the aquatic ecosystems of the Amazon.
– The Amazon River Basin covers 7 million square kilometers (2.7 million square miles) and contains 20% of all freshwater on the Earth’s surface; still, little is known about the impacts of increased human activity on aquatic ecosystems.

Wonder on wings: The fierce nature and enduring beauty of birds by Mike Gaworecki [05/04/2022]

– This is a busy time of year for birds, so on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast we’re talking about why they deserve your care and attention, plus some recent research findings and conservation measures.
– We welcome back to the program author Sy Montgomery, whose two most recent books are all about our avian comrades. The Hawk’s Way: Encounters With Fierce Beauty is out this week, and The Hummingbird’s Gift: Wonder, Beauty, and Renewal On Wings came out last year. Montgomery tells us why these books speak to our current pandemic times, what she learned from her experiences with falconry and hummingbird rehabilitation, and why she finds birds so fascinating.
– We also speak with Mongabay staff writer Abhaya Joshi about the birdlife of Nepal, a new bird-counting app that’s sparking greater interest in Nepal’s rich avian life, and some of the most recent conservation actions being taken in the country to protect birds.

Indigenous group fights cattle onslaught, defends uncontacted relatives in the Gran Chaco by Liz Kimbrough [05/03/2022]

– The Gran Chaco, a dry forest that stretches across Paraguay, Bolivia, and Argentina, is one of the fastest-disappearing ecosystems on the planet, having lost 20% of forest cover between 2000 and 2019, according to a recent study.
– The Chaco is home to the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode, one of the only known “uncontacted” Indigenous groups in South America outside of the Amazon; in early 2021, members of this group approached a camp of their contacted relatives to express their concerns about escalating forest destruction.
– The contacted Ayoreo-Totobiegosode have been engaged in a legal battle for their traditional homelands for nearly 30 years, and although Paraguay designated this region as a protected area in 2001, several cattle-ranching companies have obtained land titles within the region, with deforestation continuing.
– Last month, the tribe made further appeals to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights requesting the official title to their traditional lands.

Land restoration requires immediate action and Indigenous land rights, says U.N. report by Dimitri Selibas [05/02/2022]

– Global food systems are responsible for 80% of the world’s deforestation, 70% of freshwater use, and contribute to 40% of the planet’s degraded land, according to the latest report by the U.N.’s Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
– For the first time, the report recommends scaling up the land rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLC) to ensure the success of nature and land restoration.
– The cost to restore one billion degraded hectares (2.47 billion acres) of land by 2030 is estimated to be $300 billion annually. Investing in restoration creates benefits that exceed the costs, says the report, as every dollar invested in restoration activities provides a $7-30 return in economic benefits.
– The report was launched in the lead-up to the UNCCD’s COP15 summit which will be held in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, from May 9 to May 20, 2022.

Q&A with Whitley Award winner Sonam Tashi Lama by Abhaya Raj Joshi [05/02/2022]

– Nepali conservationist Sonam Tashi Lama has been named one of six recipients of the Whitley Awards, known as the “Green Oscars,” wins award for his grassroots work within conserving the endangered red panda.
– He says the $5£40,000 cash prize will be invested in improving the animal’s habitat and increasing awareness about poaching.
– It’s estimated one red panda is killed every 10 days, mostly for its pelt, Although research shows there is no market for its pelt, a red panda is killed every ten days in Nepal.



Ecuador promises more openness of fisheries information under new initiative By: Yalilé Loaiza [05 May 2022]
– Ecuador has committed to greater transparency in its fishing industry, under a new global initiative aimed at sustainability through better management.
– Under its commitment to the Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI), Ecuador must grant public access to information related to the management of the country’s marine resources.
– Journalists, civil society groups and even other government agencies have long had their information requests to the fisheries ministry rejected or ignored, and say they hope this will now change.

Amid war, Ukrainians are tracking Russia’s crimes against the environment By: Rachel Teng Ruiqi [05 May 2022]
– With civilian and political welfare as the Ukrainian government’s number one priority, environmental destruction has largely been overlooked during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
– But civilians and experts alike have rallied together to record more than 100 separate instances of “crimes against the environment,” with the aim of bringing Russia to justice under international courts after the war.
– From the destruction of fuel and gas depots to the long-term effects of ecosystem services on Ukraine, known as the “breadbasket of the world,” environmental impacts can also become humanitarian crises, activists warn.

Putin’s financial interest in Brazil’s Amazon highways (commentary) By: Philip M. Fearnside [04 May 2022]
– Rosneft, a giant Russian government oil and gas company, has bought drilling rights to 16 blocks in the vast area of intact rainforest in the western part of Brazil’s Amazon region. A planned highway would give access directly to three of these blocks, and branch roads would be likely to be built to the other Rosneft blocks, opening the area to invasion by landgrabbers, squatters, loggers and others.
– Vladimir Putin appointed as Rosneft’s CEO a close friend who is considered to be the most powerful person in Russia after Putin himself. Putin views Rosneft as his personal property according to the exiled oligarch who had formerly been “Putin’s banker.”
– Building the BR-319 and AM-366 highways would financially benefit Putin’s associates (and either directly or indirectly Putin himself). Rosneft is capable of influencing Brazilian authorities to prioritize these highways. It is unknown what was discussed about “energy” when Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro met with Putin in Moscow for three hours just before the invasion of Ukraine.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Community-led coral restoration project is rare hit amid slew of misses in Indonesia By: Aimee Gabay [04 May 2022]
– A recent review published in Marine Policy documented 533 new coral reef restoration projects in Indonesia over the past three decades, signaling a large rise in coral reef restoration projects.
– Although Indonesia’s legal policy framework encourages wide participation in restoration activities, scientists say many of these projects have failed because they lack important monitoring or long-term evaluation.
– In Lombok, a successful community-led reef restoration project has proved to be an outlier, demonstrating the importance of community involvement and post-monitoring care for the corals.

Indonesia to probe scale of tax-dodging illegal oil palm plantations By: Hans Nicholas Jong [04 May 2022]
– Indonesian lawmakers have demanded an accounting of the illegal palm oil plantations that continue to operate in the country, after the government revealed it had missed out on at least $3 billion in taxes from these companies in 2021.
– That figure itself is likely an underestimate, with a previous audit putting the lost revenue from just one province, Riau, at $7.4 billion.
– Lawmakers have given the environment ministry until the end of July to collect data on illegal plantations, including the identities of their owners, in Riau and Central Kalimantan provinces; the two provinces account for two-thirds of the illegal plantation area in Indonesia.
– Experts say uncovering the true identities of the plantation owners is the first step to addressing the problem, and should be followed up by an evaluation and improvement in the management of the palm oil industry.

Surge in deforestation as Brazil pushes to pave a forgotten Amazon road By: Naira Hofmeister [04 May 2022]
– The rate of deforestation and the incidence of fire both surged in 2021 in an expanse of the Amazon where the Brazilian government plans to pave an abandoned road.
– BR-319 was built in the 1970s to connect the Amazonian cities of Manaus and Porto Velho, but fell into disrepair within a few years and was abandoned.
– Successive governments have called for reviving it by paving a 400-km (250-mi) section of dirt track, but it’s only under the current administration of President Jair Bolsonaro that the plan appears likely to go ahead.
– This prospect of the road being paved has driven a surge of forest clearing and fires by land grabbers near the road, including in Indigenous territories and conservation units, with the situation continuing to worsen.

Partnering with farmers is key to land restoration success (commentary) By: Ermias Betemariam, Marcela Quintero [03 May 2022]
– The UN declared 2021–2030 to be the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, but global initiatives aiming to tackle land degradation run the risk of failing unless they shift their approach to include farmers.
– Agricultural techniques that restore land such as agroforestry boost crop production and also positively contribute ‘ecosystem services’ such as fuelwood production, habitat creation, carbon sequestration and erosion control.
– We must acknowledge that local people have a wealth of knowledge about where they live, so tapping into this knowledge and gaining their partnership is key to long-term restoration goals, a new op-ed argues.
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of Mongabay.

Sri Lanka’s environmentalists brace for economic meltdown’s toll on nature By: Malaka Rodrigo [03 May 2022]
– The deepening economic crisis in Sri Lanka is expected to hit the environment and biodiversity conservation hard, experts warn.
– Acute fuel shortages mean the Department of Wildlife Conservation having to ration out fuel, when it can get it, for its patrol vehicles, while its revenue from tourism receipts at national parks has evaporated.
– Experts warn that skyrocketing prices of food and other essentials could push a growing number of desperate Sri Lankans into environmental crimes such as illegal logging for firewood, poaching for meat, and sand mining.
– The crisis also threatens to undo hard-earned gains and undermine future commitments, such as programs on emissions reduction, ending deforestation, and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Saving the near-extinct estuarine pipefish means protecting estuary health By: Sean Mowbray [03 May 2022]
– The critically endangered estuarine pipefish is known to inhabit only two estuaries on the eastern coast of South Africa.
– Recent studies are uncovering how the health of its estuarine habitat rests on a dynamic balance between freshwater inflows that support the food change, and salinity levels that promote growth of eelgrass habitat for pipefish and other species.
– Genetic analysis of the remaining estuarine pipefish populations has found low genetic diversity, highlighting a further risk to its conservation.
– Conservationists are working toward a plan to protect the species and the wider ecology of the estuaries it inhabits.

To secure a future for wildlife, look to their distant past, study says By: Suzana Camargo [03 May 2022]
– A new study maps out the original distribution of 145 large mammal species, showing how their ranges have been reduced, sometimes to just 1% of their original extent, by human activity.
– In South America, the marsh deer and the jaguar are among the species that lost the most distribution, at 76% and 40% of their original range, respectively.
– Some species, like the Javan rhino, confined to a single humid forest in Indonesia, are considered “climate refugees” because their current range is different from the habitats they historically roamed.
– The study’s authors say these changes in historical distribution areas must be considered when planning conservation actions or reintroducing locally extinct species back into the wild.

Mongabay’s What-To-Watch list for May 2022 By: [03 May 2022]
– Mongabay’s April videos show why Indigenous communities in Brazil turned to videography and graffiti to raise awareness, how wind farms in India have their downsides, and what journalists can do to cover reforestation better.
– Watch camera trap footage of Côte d’Ivoire’s chimpanzees’ unique way of drinking water using sticks during the dry season, and videos of the elusive caracal that are not so elusive anymore in South Africa.
– 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.

A seagrass restoration project to preserve the past may also protect the future By: Basten Gokkon [03 May 2022]
– Linani Arifin, 40, is a resident of West Yensawai village in Indonesia’s Raja Ampat archipelago, where the coastal ecosystem has been declining due to climate change impacts and development.
– Almira Nadia Kusuma is a young marine scientist who has studied seagrass for years.
– Together, they lead a group of teenagers in West Yensawai in a project to replant seagrass, aiming to protect the village from coastal erosion.
– Globally, seagrasses are disappearing at rates that rival those of coral reefs and tropical rainforests, and Indonesia is considered an important country for seagrass conservation.

With protections restored, tribal council charts new path for Bears Ears By: Caitlin Looby [02 May 2022]
– In October 2021, President Joe Biden restored protections to Bears Ears National Monument in southeast Utah after it was drastically reduced in size by his predecessor, Donald Trump.
– The monument is known for its scenic views as well as thousands of sacred, cultural and archaeological sites.
– Now, the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition — made up of leaders from the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni and Ute Indian Tribe — is working on a land management plan that keeps the interests of each tribe in mind as the federal government moves forward with its own plan.
– Co-chair Carleton Bowekaty says he hopes the plan will be a “living document” that will be used even when administrations change and that the efforts will keep the land intact for future generations.

Tropical mammals under rising chemical pollution pressure, study warns By: Sean Mowbray [02 May 2022]
– Pesticides, pharmaceuticals, plastics, nanoparticles, and other potentially toxic synthetic materials are being released into the environment in ever greater amounts. A recent study warns that action is needed to better monitor and understand their impacts on terrestrial mammals in the tropics.
– Mortality and mass die offs could result, but sublethal effects — such as reduced fitness or fertility — are perhaps of greater concern in the long-term, warn experts.
– In the research, scientists raise concerns over an increasing load of chemicals released into the tropical environment, with little monitoring conducted to understand the impacts on wildlife.
– Another study released this year reported that the novel entities planetary boundary has been transgressed. Novel entities include pesticides and other synthetic substances. The boundary was declared breached because scientific assessments can’t keep up with new chemicals entering the environment.

In Mexico, a divine bird inspires a community’s sustainable forestry efforts By: Juan Mayorga [02 May 2022]
– The communally managed forest of Nuevo Bécal in Mexico’s Campeche state has shown that forest management can improve both quality of life and the conservation of wild animals and their habitats.
– The community has dedicated 427 hectares (1,055 acres) of its land as a sanctuary for one of the most impressive birds of prey in the Americas: the king vulture.
– They’ve also set aside more than 99% of their territory as a voluntarily conserved area, the largest of its kind in Mexico.

Why are Florida manatees showing up in Cuba and Mexico? By: Maxwell Radwin [29 Apr 2022]
– Over the last 15 years, Florida manatees have started appearing in distant parts of Cuba and Mexico, surprising researchers who have long believed the animals wouldn’t cross large bodies of water to reach other suitable habitats.
– The sightings have several still-unproven explanations, including that degraded habitats on the Florida coast are forcing the animals to move elsewhere in the region.
– Others say cell phone technology is allowing people to capture manatee behavior that has always existed.

‘Enough is enough’: California subpoenas ExxonMobil over plastic pollution By: Elizabeth Claire Alberts [29 Apr 2022]
– California Attorney General Rob Bonta has subpoenaed ExxonMobil as part of an investigation into the role fossil fuel and petrochemical industries have played in the widening plastics crisis.
– The California Department of Justice is looking into whether ExxonMobil deliberately misled the public about the harmful effects of plastic and the difficulties of recycling it.
– In response, ExxonMobil has said the company shares society’s concerns about the plastics crisis, and that it is working to address the issue with advanced recycling technology.
– Environmental experts have welcomed the investigation, saying it’s time for the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries to be held accountable for the role they have played in this environmental issue.

Scaling Palauan tradition to regional fisheries: Q&A with Noah Idechong By: Shreya Dasgupta [29 Apr 2022]
– After training as a traditional hunter and fisherman in his village in Palau as a boy, Noah Idechong has since become a “bit of a legend” in Pacific marine conservation.
– He has been a government official, an activist, a politician, a legislator, and the founder of a domestic conservation NGO. Currently, he’s the executive director for Micronesia and Polynesia at the international conservation NGO The Nature Conservancy.
– In all of these roles, Idechong has focused on one main thing: championing the traditional systems the communities of Palau employ to protect and conserve the archipelago’s rich marine biodiversity and domestic fisheries.
– Today, he’s applying that ethos at a regional scale as he helps build more sustainable regional tuna fisheries that benefit the Pacific island nations in whose waters the tuna swim, rather than foreign fishing enterprises.

Conservation costs are rarely reported, making it difficult to prioritize funding By: Liz Kimbrough [29 Apr 2022 ]
– The costs of conservation actions are rarely reported, making it difficult to decide on the best ways to protect and restore nature, a new study shows.
– It looked at nearly 2,000 peer-reviewed papers on wildlife conservation action and found that only 13.3% reported costs, and only 8.8% reported total costs.
– Even then, there was a lack of consistency and standardization in the reporting, making it hard to compare the cost-effectiveness of different conservation actions.
– The study authors say the situation is frustrating, given the urgent need to optimize the limited funding available for conservation to reverse the current rate of global biodiversity loss.

Court setback doesn’t sway Indonesian villagers fighting a mining firm By: Hans Nicholas Jong [29 Apr 2022]
– Residents of remote Sangihe Island in Indonesia will mount an appeal after their lawsuit against a company planning to mine gold on their island was thrown out by a court on a technicality.
– Their case centered on concerns that the operations of PT Tambang Mas Sangihe (TMS), linked to Canada-based Baru Gold Corp., would cause widespread destruction on their island home.
– They alleged in their lawsuit that there were several administrative violations that should have nullified the contract issued to TMS by the government, but the court said the matter was out of its jurisdiction.
– The same court issued a similar dismissal in a previous case involving a coal-mining company, but an appeal by the plaintiffs in that instance led to the company’s permit being revoked; given that precedent, the Sangihe islanders say they still have a fighting chance.

Reframing trophy hunting’s socio-economic benefits in Namibia (commentary) By: Frowin Becker [28 Apr 2022]
– Namibia is often cited as a case study to make arguments for trophy hunting, a morally contentious practice that has been adapted into a conservation strategy there by various stakeholders including community-based conservancies.
– But a 2016 study of the total revenue generated by trophy hunting revealed that 92% went to ‘freehold’ landowners, over 70% of whom are white, while less than 8% went to communal conservancies.
– If we are sincere about aligning environmental and social justice, then centering trophy hunting related debates in Namibia around racial inequalities would be an essential and meaningful step, a new op-ed argues.
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.

To stop plastic pollution, we must stop plastic production, scientists say By: [28 Apr 2022]
– A team of scientists working in the field of plastics has published a letter in Science, calling for the cessation of new plastic production in order to solve the plastic pollution issue.
– Plastic is not only an issue when it comes to its disposal, but its production generates large volumes of greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to the climate crisis, they argue.
– Earlier this year, countries agreed to adopt a global treaty to stop plastic pollution, but the details for this agreement have yet to be determined.
– Negotiators will begin working on a draft of the agreement next month.

Better deep-bore wells aim to stop Indonesia’s groundwater waste By: A. Asnawi [28 Apr 2022]
– Farmers in Pasuruan have long dug deep wells for irrigation, relying on the region’s volcanic aquifer to keep supplying plentiful water.
– But the wells are crude structures that lack a shutoff valve, meaning they discharge water nonstop.
– Researchers have developed an improved well system that can be shut off when not needed, but its cost is a potential downside for local farmers.

Boats behaving badly: New report analyzes China’s own fisheries data By: Elizabeth Fitt [28 Apr 2022]
– China’s distant-water fishing fleet, which operates on the high seas and in other countries’ waters, is far bigger and catches far more seafood than those of other nations.
– As a result, and also because of numerous high-profile cases of illegal behavior, the Chinese fleet receives intense scrutiny from international NGOs and the media.
– A new report, based mainly on data China released since enacting transparency measures in 2017 as well as a database of global fisheries violations and crew interviews, identified hundreds of fisheries offenses committed by the fleet between 2015 and 2019, and details a range of human rights abuses and environmentally destructive fishing practices.
– However, some experts say that although the Chinese fleet is by far the biggest, vessel for vessel its behavior isn’t all that different from other fleets, and that all share responsibility to reform.



Cradle of transformation: The Mediterranean and climate change by John Cannon [04/28/2022]
Where satellites come up short, drones can fill in a picture of our oceans by Shreya Dasgupta [04/27/2022]
Freshwater planetary boundary “considerably” transgressed: New research by Petro Kotzé [04/27/2022]
Unseen crisis: Threatened gut microbiome also offers hope for world by Claire Asher [04/26/2022]
With record $5.3B in pledges, GEF aims for more flexible environmental funding by Rhett A. Butler [04/26/2022]
Troubled waters: A massive salmon farm off the coast of Maine is stalled by Caitlin Looby [04/25/2022]
Côte d’Ivoire’s chimp habitats are shrinking, but there’s hope in their numbers by Manon Verchot [04/25/2022]
Brazil bill seeks to redraw Amazon borders in favor of agribusiness by Jenny Gonzales [04/25/2022]
Brazil’s Mato Grosso do Sul mobilizes to reduce wildlife massacre on its roads by Dimas Marques/Fauna News [04/25/2022]