Newsletter 2022-06-16


Sea restoration projects quilt a ‘mosaic of habitats’ with striking results by Elizabeth Claire Alberts [06/15/2022]

– The concept of restoring more than one type of marine habitat at a time — such as oyster reefs, seagrass meadows and salt marshes — is becoming increasingly popular as scientists and conservationists learn about the advantages of this approach.
– Many studies clearly show the mutual benefits that integrated habitats provide to each other, as well as the larger benefits offered to the ecosystem.
– Yet other studies show mixed results, drawing attention to the complex nature of this approach.
– Numerous seascape restoration projects are taking place around the world, including in the coastal bays of Virginia, U.S., the sea off the coast of South Australia, and the estuaries and lochs in the U.K.

‘That’s a scam’: Indian firm’s REDD+ carbon deal in the DRC raises concern by John Cannon [06/14/2022]

– Environmental and human rights advocacy organizations say an Indian company has misled communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, convincing them to sign away the rights to sell carbon credits from the restoration, reforestation or avoided deforestation of locally managed forests.
– These forests, managed under a structure known by the French acronym CFCL, provide communities with control over how land is managed while giving them access to the resources the forests provide, proponents of the initiative say.
– But the contracts, the implications of which were not fairly or adequately explained to community members, may restrict their access to the forests for generations to come, the advocacy groups say.
– These organizations and the communities are now calling on the Congolese government to cancel the contracts.

Coal mining threatens Ethiopia’s ancient coffee forest by Kaleab Girma [06/14/2022]

– The Yayu forest in southwestern Ethiopia is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and one of the world’s only remaining ecosystems in which genetically diverse varietals of arabica coffee grow wild.
– The forest also sits atop a massive deposit of coal, estimated to be enough to meet Ethiopia’s domestic coal demand for 40 years.
– With Ethiopia’s government looking to boost the country’s mining industry, a shuttered mining venture in the forest’s buffer zone is set to be revived.
– Coffee farmers who have carefully managed and protected the forest for generations say a shift to mining will completely change their society, the local economy, and the environment.
– Avocado farms–mostly supplying the U.S. market–dominate water resources in the town of Angahuan, forcing Indigenous P’urhépecha healers to buy clean water by the gallon from shops to keep their medicinal plants alive.

Proposed copper and gold mine threatens the world’s ‘second Amazon’ in PNG by John Cannon [06/13/2022]

– A proposed copper and gold mine threatens the biologically and culturally diverse Sepik River Basin in western Papua New Guinea, according to community leaders and conservationists.
– They’ve raised concerns about the impact that potentially toxic waste from the mine would have on the region’s forests and waterways, which are critical to sustaining human, animal and plant life in this region.
– Proponents of the mine say it would bring jobs, infrastructure and development to the region’s communities.
– Today, a renewed campaign to list the Sepik River Basin as a UNESCO World Heritage Site is gaining momentum and would permanently keep projects like the mine at bay, say organizers of the movement.

World is losing ‘magical’ tradition of human-animal mutualism, study warns by Ryan Truscott [06/13/2022]

– Honey gatherers working with birds to find wild bees’ nests; fishers working with dolphins to trap fish — these are examples of what’s known as mutualism, a practice that’s fast dying out, a new study warns.
– This human-wildlife cooperation was once much more widespread, but is being lost as younger generations in the often Indigenous communities that have long practiced it now eschew it for formal education and farming.
– In losing these age-old practices, conservationists say, we may be losing more than just the material benefits, “but in fact important aspects of the reverence and deep connection with nature.”

Loggers close in on one of the world’s oldest biosphere reserves by Gloria Pallares [06/13/2022]

>- An EL PAÍS/Planeta Futuro investigation exposes plans to open timber transport roads in a tropical forest connected to the Yangambi Man and Biosphere Reserve. The area, in northeastern DRC, is a wildlife corridor and a haven for chimpanzees, pangolins and Afrormosia, an endangered tree species traded in global markets.
– The timber, including hardwoods regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), is exported to the EU and the US.
– UNESCO is preparing an audit to salvage DRC’s three Man and Biosphere Reserves through better governance arrangements. They will also review the zoning of the Yangambi Biosphere Reserve to preserve high-conservation value areas.
– Mongabay has partnered with EL PAÍS/Planeta Futuro to publish this work in English. This story was produced with the support of the Rainforest Investigations Network (RIN) of the Pulitzer Center.

Ray care center: Indonesia’s Raja Ampat a key nursery for young reef mantas by Basten Gokkon [06/09/2022]

– Scientists have published new evidence confirming that Wayag Lagoon in Indonesia’s Raja Ampat archipelago is a globally rare nursery for juvenile reef manta rays (Mobula alfredi).
– Visual observations from 2013 to 2021 show that juvenile reef manta rays are repeatedly encountered in the small, shallow and sheltered lagoon, without the presence of adult individuals; the young rays spend months at a time inside the lagoon, never venturing out.
– The findings have prompted marine authorities in Indonesia to start revising the management of the lagoon to safeguard the manta nursery zone, with regulations being drawn up to limit disturbances to the young rays.
– Both oceanic and reef manta rays are protected species under Indonesian law, which prohibits their catch and the trade of any of their body parts.

New near-real-time tool reveals Earth’s land cover in more detail than ever before by Carolyn Cowan [06/09/2022]

– A new tool co-developed by Google Earth Engine and the World Resources Institute is being billed as the planet’s most up-to-date and high-resolution global land cover mapping data set, giving unprecedented levels of detail about how land is being used around the world.
– The launch of the tool this week marks a big step forward in enabling organizations and governments to make better science-based, data-informed decisions about urgent planetary challenges, the developers say.
– Named Dynamic World, it merges cloud-based artificial intelligence with satellite imagery to give near-real-time global visualizations of nine types of land use and land cover.
– The tool is likely to be important for a variety of purposes, the developers say, such as monitoring the progress of ecosystem restoration goals, assessing the effectiveness of protected areas, creating sustainable food systems, and alerting land managers to unforeseen land changes like deforestation and fires.


World’s worst air pollution slashes 7 years off life expectancy in Bangladesh By: Mahadi Al Hasnat [16 Jun 2022]
– Air pollution in Bangladesh is the worst in the world, a new study shows, reducing the average Bangladeshi’s life expectancy by 6.7 years.
– Another study estimates there were 24,000 premature deaths as a result of air pollution in the country’s capital, Dhaka, from 2005 to 2018.
– Brick-burning kilns, vehicle exhausts, various industries, open waste burning, and large-scale construction work are key sources of air pollution, according to the Department of Environment.
– The draft Clean Air Act 2019 has yet to be enacted into law, which proponents say is needed to boost institutional action to tackle the air pollution problem.

Podcast: New whale calls and dolphin behaviors discovered with bioacoustics By: Mike Gaworecki [15 Jun 2022]
– On today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we take a look at two stories that show how bioacoustics research is helping us better understand the lives of marine mammals — and we take a listen to some of the recordings informing that research.
– Our first guest is Erin Ross-Marsh, the lead researcher behind a study of humpback whales at the Vema Seamount in the South Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South Africa. Ross-Marsh tells us about the study’s finding that these humpbacks were making gunshot calls, a type of non-song call that was previously unknown in these particular whales, and plays some humpback songs, non-song calls, and gunshot calls for us to listen to.
– We also speak today with Sarah Trabue, a research assistant with the Wildlife Conservation Society who is the lead author of a recently published paper detailing the findings of a bioacoustic study of bottlenose dolphins in and around New York Harbor. Trabue tells us what the study reveals about dolphin behavior in the highly trafficked waters around New York City and plays for us some of the dolphin vocalizations recorded as part of the study.

‘Lost’ Amazonian cities hint at how to build urban landscapes without harming nature By: Kimberley Brown [15 Jun 2022]
– Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a Pre-Columbian urban settlement that spans more than 4,500 square kilometers (1,737 square miles) in Bolivia’s Llanos de Mojos region, in the Amazon rainforest.
– This is the latest proof that large, complex urban societies existed in the Amazon before the arrival of the Spanish, challenging the idea that the rainforest was always a pristine, untouched wilderness.
– Some experts say we could learn from these Indigenous urban planning strategies, which, with a sophisticated land and water management system, show us how cities and the rainforest once co-existed without degrading the environment.

Brazil shows no progress in response to U.N. calls on Indigenous rights By: Carla Camargo Fanha [15 Jun 2022]
– Brazilian civil society groups say the government has failed to implement any of the 34 recommendations on Indigenous rights made by a U.N. council in 2017.
– Those suggestions were part of a larger set of 242 human rights recommendations, of which Brazil has fully implemented just one, according to the civil society coalition.
– Indigenous rights advocates say the fact that the government is highlighting its distribution of food aid to Indigenous communities in its report shows just how little it has done in terms of actual policy.
– A similar analysis by a congressional group also concluded that the government had failed to implement any recommendations on Indigenous rights.

Draining tropical peatlands for oil palms isn’t just bad — it’s unnecessary, study shows By: Hans Nicholas Jong [15 Jun 2022]
– Oil palms growing in rewetted peatlands show no decline in palm fruit yields compared to those in drained peatlands, a new study shows.
– This debunks the long-held thinking in the palm oil industry that draining the carbon-rich peat soil is necessary to maintain yields on peatlands.
– Instead, rewetting peatlands should have net positive effects for smallholders by reducing the risk of fires that can damage property, plantations and human health.
– The study also finds that conserving peatland forests supports bird biodiversity, as a richer variety of bird life is found in peat forests than in adjacent oil palm plantations.

Nepal conservationists work to overturn ‘all snakes are venomous’ mindset By: Abhaya Raj Joshi [15 Jun 2022]
– Snake conservation in Nepal is hampered by both a lack of research and poor awareness among the public and the government about the country’s snake species.
– Only about 20 of the 70-odd snake species found in Nepal are venomous, but deaths from snakebites have fueled perceptions that most are dangerous.
– The government’s approach to the problem is to treat all snakebites as toxic, but conservationists say a better understanding of the snakes involved would be more effective.
– Organizations like the Nepal Toxinology Association use different media such as street plays, social media posts and videos to spread awareness about snake conservation in the country.

Maasai protesters shot, beaten as Tanzania moves forward with wildlife game reserve By: Latoya AbuluLaurel Sutherland [14 Jun 2022]
– Tanzanian police officers and authorities have shot and beaten about 31 Maasai villagers, including children, during early June protests over the demarcation of ancestral land for a trophy hunting and safari game reserve. One Maasai man and one police officer have been killed.
– At least 700 Maasai villagers from Tanzania’s Loliondo division of Ngorongoro have fled across the border to Kenya, seeking humanitarian and medical aid.
– According to government spokesperson, Gerson Msigwa, authorities were sent to demarcate the land, not pursue evictions. The government will take legal action against people who interfere with the demarcation process or incite hostility between pastoralists and security forces, he says.
– Human rights groups say the Tanzanian government and authorities are violating a 2018 East African Court of Justice (EACJ) injunction on the land dispute by intimidating, harassing and attacking villagers.

Mahogany, a pillar of the rainforest, needs support (commentary) By: Sheam Satkuru [14 Jun 2022]
– Mahogany has been the wood of choice for furniture and cabinetry for centuries, and is highly sought by guitar makers for its strength and resistance to changes in humidity and temperature.
– But when it was last assessed in 1998, biologists categorized the tree as “vulnerable to extinction” — the same category as cheetahs and polar bears, iconic species that are well known to be threatened.
– Economics must play a leading role in protecting mahogany, and all the species that depend on it, if we are to turn the tide on its decline and slow tropical deforestation, a new op-ed argues.
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.

Zoo animals not immune to Sri Lanka’s economic rout as food prices surge By: Malaka Rodrigo [14 Jun 2022]
– Skyrocketing food prices that have plunged Sri Lankans into hardship look set to affect the 4,500 animals at the country’s main zoo.
– Dehiwala Zoo in Colombo has been hit by both runaway inflation and a plunge in visitor revenue, leaving it scrambling for options to keep its animals fed.
– One measure under consideration is to release some of its deer, while a more immediate plan is to replace increasingly expensive imported fruit with local produce, and to grow more food on site.
– With its charismatic species — elephants and big cats — accounting for the lion’s share of the food cost, the zoo also plans a foster parent program where members of the public can “adopt” these animals by contributing to their upkeep.

Latest ‘plan for the planet’ calls for protecting 44% of land, home to 1.8b humans By: Malavika Vyawahare [14 Jun 2022]
– A new study says 44% of Earth’s terrestrial area needs conservation attention to halt the runaway destruction of the natural world.
– The figure is significantly higher than the goal currently under discussion as part of the global post-2020 agenda, which is to protect 30% of land and ocean by 2030.
– The area identified for protection by the new study is home to 1.8 billion people, almost a quarter of the human population.
– The study authors suggest prioritizing biologically rich regions at the highest risk of being converted for human use by 2030, most notably in Africa.

Indonesia issues long-delayed rules to protect migrant fishing workers By: Basten Gokkon [14 Jun 2022]
– Indonesia has issued a much-anticipated decree to boost the protection of Indonesian deckhands working aboard foreign commercial and fishing vessels.
– Former migrant deckhands have previously described conditions in which they experienced overwork, withholding of wages, debt bondage, and physical and sexual violence.
– The decree was supposed to have been issued in March, but was held up for want of signatures; it was finally issued this month ahead of a lawsuit against the government over the delay.
– Marine activists have welcomed the decree, which they say should help improve the global fisheries sector, given that vessels where worker abuse is rife also tend to be engaged in illegal fishing activities.

‘GPS’ bird points to the sweet spot: Q&A with honey hunter Eliupendo Laltaika By: Ryan Truscott [13 Jun 2022]
– In northern Tanzania, a handful of communities still practice the long-running tradition of honey hunting: calling out to a honeyguide bird, and following it to a wild beehive.
– It’s “an amazing interaction,” says Eliupendo Laltaika, a former honey hunter who’s now the director of the Ngorongoro Biodiversity Conservation Project.
– But Laltaika warns the practice is dying out — his own Maasai people, he says, have large-ly abandoned it in favor of farmed honey and sugar — and younger generations are mostly unaware of it.
– In an interview with Mongabay, Laltaika talks about how different communities practice honey hunting, what social changes have meant for the tradition, and why it’s worth saving.

In Indonesian Borneo, a succession of extractive industries multiplies impacts, social fractures By: Elizabeth Fitt [13 Jun 2022]
– Much of the landscape of Indonesia’s East Kalimantan province has been transformed, its formerly vast forests razed for logging, monocrop agriculture and open-cast coal mining.
– A recently published study analyzes how waves of extractive industries have affected the inhabitants of one village in the province
– The cumulative impacts of these industries were found to be severe, but also to vary depending on multiple factors including ethnicity, gender, wealth and age. Women, young people and recently arrived migrants were found to be disproportionately affected.

Overexploited and underprotected: Study urges action on Asia’s rosewoods By: Carolyn Cowan [13 Jun 2022]
– Rosewood is one of the world’s most trafficked wildlife products: The value of the trade, driven by demand from luxury furniture markets, exceeds that of ivory.
– Despite increased legal protections and export bans in recent years, illegal logging and cross-border trade continues to decimate rosewood populations across Asia, Africa and Latin America.
– A new study reveals the threats facing isolated and fragmented populations of three rosewood species in the Greater Mekong region and identifies where conservation and restoration action could have the most benefits.
– The study recommends a variety of approaches to protect the viability of remaining natural populations and their genetic diversity, including community forestry, smallholder planting initiatives, agroforestry, and storing seeds in gene banks.

The curious case of the Sri Lankan national flower that wasn’t By: Malaka Rodrigo [11 Jun 2022]
– In 1986, Sri Lanka named a native blue water lily, known locally as nil manel, as its national flower, but a mistake in the official declaration meant an introduced species, violet in color and known as dam manel, has since been widely promoted as the national flower.
– Presidential greeting cards, postage stamps and school textbooks are among the official publications that propagated the mistaken identity, despite consensus from the scientific community on what the true species is, and despite later government efforts to correct the mistake.
– A 2017 study shows the blue and violet lilies are naturally hybridizing, further complicating efforts to disentangle the two, and prompting calls to select a new national flower.
– Several eye-catching candidates have been proposed, including the pink-and-crimson Vesak orchid (Dendrobium maccarthiae), binara (Exacum trinervium), and ma rath mal (Rhododendron arboreum zeylanicum).

For companies shopping for quality carbon credits, a new guide offers help By: Maxwell Radwin [10 Jun 2022]
– The newly published Tropical Forest Credit Integrity (TFCI) guide aims to help companies looking to make smarter purchases of tropical forest credits, one strategy for lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
– Tropical forests carbon credits allow companies to offset their carbon emissions by paying for the conservation of forests.
– The guide says companies should make sure they’re purchasing high-quality credits that contribute to real-world reductions of deforestation in tropical forests.
– It also urges them to be transparent about carbon credit purchases and establish a good-faith relationship with local and Indigenous communities.

Even Antarctic snow can’t escape the plastic peril, study shows By: Elizabeth Claire Alberts [10 Jun 2022]
– A study presents new evidence that microplastics are present in snow in Antarctica, one of the remotest places on Earth.
– Researchers collected snow samples at 19 sites across the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica, and found 29 microplastic particles per liter of melted snow — a higher amount than what was found in marine samples in Antarctica.
– The microplastics found in samples close to research stations were three times higher than what was found at other locations, prompting researchers to conclude that much of the plastic was coming from local clothing and equipment.

Report clears Kenyan conservancy of community abuse, but advocates cry foul By: Ashoka Mukpo [10 Jun 2022]
– In November 2021, the Oakland Institute released a report accusing the Kenya-based Northern Rangelands Trust of ties to intracommunal violence and extrajudicial killings.
– On June 9 this year, an independent review commissioned by The Nature Conservancy, one of NRT’s funders, to investigate the allegations found “strikingly little evidence” that they were true.
– The Oakland Institute called the review a “sham investigation” and said its author had failed to properly engage with tribal authorities or track down the families of alleged abuse victims.

For Thai fishers facing dwindling catches, a Lao dam looms large By: Tom Fawthrop [10 Jun 2022]
– Laos plans to build a $2 billion, 684-megawatt dam on the Mekong River, just 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) from the Thai border.
– The proposed Sanakham dam is the latest in a cascade of more than a dozen dams operating on the Mekong mainstream in China and Laos.
– Fishers in Thailand say they’ve already seen their catches decimated with each new dam built upstream, in particular the Xayaburi dam that went online in Laos in 2019.
– The Sanakham project is still in a “prior consultation” process with the Mekong River Commission, an advisory intergovernmental agency.

Illegal mining threatens one of the last forest links between the Andes and Ecuador’s Amazon By: Jackeline Beltrán [10 Jun 2022]
– Legal and illegal mining is destroying Alto Nangaritza, one of the last well-preserved forest links between the Andes and Ecuadorian Amazon.
– After the construction of roads connecting remote Indigenous communities to the broader provincial network, miners quickly moved into the resource-rich region with illegal materials and pollutants to dredge rivers and extract gold.
– Monitoring environmental damage and mining is difficult and rare due to the high level of conflict preventing authorities and environmental watchdogs from entering the area, says the ministry of the environment.
– Some Indigenous Shuar people who live in the upper region of the Nangaritza River have also started to extract gold in order to increase their income.

Satellites show deforestation surging in Indonesia’s Tesso Nilo National Park By: Zamzami|Morgan Erickson-Davis [09 Jun 2022]
– Tesso Nilo National Park is a refuge for Sumatran wildlife, including critically endangered tigers and elephants.
– But the park lost 67% of its primary forest between 2010 and 2021, with the deforestation rate in 2021 nearly triple that of 2020 and the highest it has been since 2016. Satellite imagery shows further clearing of primary forest in 2022.
– Much of the deforestation of Tesso Nilo is due to the illegal development of large-scale plantations to grow oil palm and other tree crops.
– In early 2022, park officials distributed a circular to surrounding communities that reiterated the ban on plantation agriculture in the park, but conservationists say more concerted enforcement action is necessary to curb deforestation.

In Sri Lankan waters, endangered but unprotected rays encounter a killing field By: Malaka Rodrigo [09 Jun 2022]
– Sri Lanka’s artisanal fishers are catching more manta and devil rays every year, including endangered species, than all global large industrial purse seine fisheries combined, a study shows.
– Manta and devil rays, collectively known as mobulid rays, have slow reproductive rates, so even low to moderate levels of bycatch can have major impacts on their populations.
– Driving their overexploitation is increased demand for their gill plates, prized in traditional Chinese medicine; before 2010, mobulid rays caught as bycatch were often released at sea due to lack of demand, but with the growth of the gill plate trade, they are increasingly brought to shore.
– ll the six species of mobulid rays found in Sri Lanka are endangered under the IUCN Red List, but none of them receive legal protection, even though Sri Lanka is a signatory to international treaties that require measures to protect these species.

Environmental paradise or dystopian debacle? Promise and peril of futuristic island communities (commentary) By: Nikolas Kozloff [09 Jun 2022]
– Today’s utopianists believe we should build structures that float on the ocean instead of continuing to build on land and modern-day “aquapreneurs” say we can solve housing problems by spreading out across the water.
– There’s a surge in floating settlements in places like the Netherlands where it’s already a reality, and the U.N., too, is discussing these probabilities to solve housing shortages and rising sea levels among other issues.
– Nikolas Kozloff, an American academic, author and photojournalist, brings up the drawbacks of the housing’s high price on these islands, the use of environmentally-destructive crypto-currency, anti-vaxxers finding these islands advantageous, and the push for right-wing libertarian “techno” vision of societies.
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.

At 30, Brazil’s Yanomami reserve is beset by mining, malaria and mercury By: Peter Speetjens [09 Jun 2022]
– When the Yanomami Indigenous Territory, the world’s biggest, was designated 30 years ago, the Brazilian army cleared out the illegal gold miners operating there.
– Today, miners are back in force, encouraged by the anti-Indigenous and anti-environment rhetoric of President Jair Bolsonaro, who has vowed to open up the reserves to mining.
– The illegal activity has destroyed forests and contaminated rivers with mercury and has also brought with it violence, disease and death for the 27,000 Yanomami living in the heart of the Amazon.
– As it marks the 30th anniversary of its establishment, the Yanomami reserve faces of the prospect of losing up to a third of its area to mining — a very real prospect if a key Bolsonaro bill clears Congress.


Indigenous agroforestry dying of thirst amid a sea of avocados in Mexico by Monica Pelliccia [06/08/2022]
Can conservation technology help save our rapidly disappearing species? | Problem Solved by Mike DiGirolamo [06/08/2022]
‘Tendrils of hope’ for the ocean: Q&A with conservationist Charles Clover by Elizabeth Claire Alberts [06/08/2022]
Can wonder plant spekboom really bring smiles back to sad South African towns? by Anna Majavu [06/07/2022]
First Nation reclaims territory by declaring Indigenous protected area in Canada by Erica Gies [06/06/2022]
A return to agroecology traditions points the way forward for Malawi’s farmers by Charles Mpaka [06/03/2022]