Newsletter 2022-07-28


Did Wall Street play a role in this year’s wheat price crisis? by Ashoka Mukpo — July 27, 2022

– In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, global wheat spot and future prices skyrocketed, at one point by as much as 54% in just over a week.
– Wheat prices had already been rising over the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting the World Food Programme to warn that hundreds of millions of people were at risk of going hungry.
– Analysts say the crisis isn’t one of availability but rather one of prices, with some arguing that far too little attention is being paid to the role that speculative gambling by Wall Street has played in pushing up food prices this year.
– As climate change-related droughts and other weather disasters threaten wheat harvests in some countries, food security advocates say it’s time to move to a system that’s less vulnerable to external shocks.

Concerns over transparency and access abound at deep-sea mining negotiations by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — July 26, 2022

– Delegates to the International Seabed Authority (ISA), the U.N.-mandated body responsible for overseeing the development of deep-sea mining in international waters and protecting the ocean, are currently meeting in Kingston, Jamaica, to negotiate a set of regulations that would determine how deep-sea mining can proceed.
– Scientists and conservationists say there are many transparency issues at the current meetings, and that the ISA has restricted access to key information and hampered interactions between member states and civil society.
– However, the ISA has stated that it’s committed to transparency and that attendees have full access to the discussions.
– Deep-sea mining could begin in as little as a year with whatever regulations are currently in place.

Beyond bored apes: Blockchain polarizes wildlife conservation community by Abhishyant Kidangoor — July 26, 2022

– Blockchain technology’s various applications, such as NFTs and smart contracts, are being explored for use in wildlife conservation.
– The technology’s potential might be immense, but downsides such as a massive carbon footprint and the imposition of Western technology to dictate resource management in the Global South raise logistical and ethical questions.
– Most proponents and critics agree on one thing: The technology is still in the early stages for its applications to be fully understood and implemented on the ground.

Palm oil producer mired in legal troubles still razing Sumatran forest by Hans Nicholas Jong — July 26, 2022

– A palm oil company has resumed clearing forest in its concession in Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem, the only place on Earth where tigers, orangutans and rhinos coexist.
– Analysis of satellite imagery by the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) shows the company, PT Cemerlang Abadi (CA), cleared 309 hectares (761 acres) of secondary and regenerating forests between September 2021 and February 2022.
– RAN says it’s possible that palm oil from trees grown on this deforested land may have entered the global supply chain, as CA isn’t blacklisted by any of the major brands or traders that buy palm oil.

Cheetah reintroduction in Malawi brings vultures back to the skies by Ryan Truscott — July 25, 2022

– Four species of critically endangered vulture have been recorded in Malawi’s Liwonde National Park after an absence of more than 20 years.
– Reintroduced cheetahs and lions are credited with the vultures’ return: their prey remains have increased food availability for the scavengers.
– Poisoning and deforestation remain a threat to vultures in Malawi and the region, but better park management and close monitoring provides hope for them and other wildlife.

Stingrays can ‘talk’ when they get riled up, new study suggests by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — July 25, 2022

– A new paper provides the first evidence that wild stingray species produce short, loud clicking sounds.
– While scientists still need to learn how and why stingrays make these noises, they speculate that the clicking sounds are a distress or defense signal.
– The paper documents three instances of this behavior in mangrove whiprays and cowtail stingrays, two species threatened with extinction.

Brazil’s new deforestation data board sparks fear of censorship of forest loss, fires by Sarah Brown — July 22, 2022

– A new council set by the Brazilian government to vet deforestation and forest fire data from the country’s space agency has been widely slammed as a political ploy to aid President Jair Bolsonaro’s reelection bid.
– The National Institute of Space Research (INPE) has provided and analyzed deforestation and forest fire data in the Amazon since 1988 and is globally renowned for its monitoring expertise, but was left out of the new council.
– The Bolsonaro government has questioned the credibility of INPE’s data since taking office in 2019, drawing outrage from scientists and researchers for claiming that data showing a spike in deforestation under Bolsonaro was false.
– Experts have raise concerns that the new council could prevent the release of annual deforestation data, scheduled at the same time as this year’s elections, that are expected to show an alarming increase in both forest loss and fires.


In Congo, a carbon sink like no other risks being carved up for oil by John Cannon — July 28, 2022
– New research has revealed that the peatlands of the Congo Basin are 15% larger than originally thought.
– This area of swampy forest holds an estimated 29 billion metric tons of carbon, which is the amount emitted globally through the burning of fossil fuels in three years.
– Beginning July 28, the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where two-thirds of these peatlands lie, will auction off the rights to explore for oil in 27 blocks across the country.
– Scientists and conservationists have criticized the move, which the government says is necessary to fund its operations. Opponents say the blocks overlap with parts of the peatlands, mature rainforest, protected areas, and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Rains quell fire risk around Cambodia’s Tonle Sap, but the future looks fiery by Danielle Keeton-Olsen — July 27, 2022
– Cambodia has received an unusually high volume of rain since December, generally the start of the dry season, which has led to a relative lull in fire activity.
– According to NASA satellite data, there were only two high-confidence fire alerts reported in the forested area around Tonle Sap, Cambodia’s largest lake, between April 1 and July 1 this year, compared to 45 such alerts recorded during the same period in 2021.
– This year’s heavy rain, while a welcome respite, isn’t expected to last as temperatures rise and droughts increase in frequency due to climate change.
– Tonle Sap’s water levels have already been dropping for years, according to authorities; to mitigate future threats, the Department of Fisheries Conservation is rolling out provincial-level plans to respond to forest fires in the lake’s drying floodplain.

Giant kangaroo fossil points to previously unknown species in New Guinea by Jim Tan — July 27, 2022
– Paleontologists have described a new genus of giant fossil kangaroo, named Nombe after the Nombe Rockshelter archaeological site where the fossil was originally found in Papua New Guinea.
– The finding was a chance discovery as Ph.D. candidate Isaac Kerr was reexamining a jawbone bone found in the 1970s and originally believed to belong to the extinct genus Protemnodon, the cousin of the modern day eastern gray and red kangaroos that are found in Australia.
– There has only been limited archaeological research on the island of New Guinea to date, and the fossil record is patchy.
– The team say they hope further research will offer insights into how the island’s extraordinary modern-day biodiversity, much of which is endemic, evolved.

For residents of Jakarta’s port district, coal is the neighbor no one wants by Fadiyah Alaidrus — July 27, 2022
– Residents, officials and experts blame dust from a coal storage facility in Jakarta’s port district for a spate of health problems in a neighboring community.
– Children in Marunda ward have been hit particularly hard, suffering from eye and skin problems and respiratory infections, in a city already notorious for its dirty air.
– City authorities inspecting the facility run by KCN, a public-private joint venture, have found several violations and revoked the company’s environmental permit.
– While KCN has offered to provide residents with free medical checkups, it has not acknowledged a link between its operation and residents’ health problems.

Nigerian refugees in Cameroon turn biomass into charcoal to spare trees by Amindeh Blaise Atabong — July 27, 2022
– An initiative producing charcoal from food waste aims to ease pressure on forests around the Minawao refugee camp in Cameroon.
– An influx of refugees from neighboring Nigeria fleeing Boko Haram has led to a surge in tree felling for fuelwood and sparked conflict with local residents.
– The eco-charcoal initiative relies on feedstock such as corn cobs, groundnut shells, rice husks, grass, fallen tree leaves, and other organic household waste to make the briquettes.
– The program has also trained at least 8,000 families to make their own eco-charcoal, but getting it to a price that’s competitive with firewood and ensuring a sustainable supply of feedstock remain challenges.

As the Amazon burns, only the weather can ward off a catastrophe, experts say by Juliana Ennes — July 26, 2022
– The Brazilian Amazon saw the highest number of fires for the month of June in 15 years, with 2,562 major fires detected, an increase of 11.14% over 2021.
– The first half of the year had 7,533 major fires, the most since 2019, according to data from the national space research institute.
– On June 23, the Brazilian government issued a decree banning the use of fires to manage forests throughout the country for the next 120 days.
– Experts say they’re skeptical about this ban, noting that similar measures failed to stop the burning in previous years, and say the weather is the only thing that can help curb the increase in fires as the dry season unfolds.

Podcast: Mexico’s Maya Train chugs forward, but at what cost to habitats and communities? by Mike DiGirolamo — July 26, 2022
– On this episode of the Mongabay Newscast we discuss a massive new railway project, the Maya Train, in Mexico.
– Stretching 1,525 kilometers (958 miles) across five states in the Yucatán peninsula, the project has faced dozens of legal roadblocks for its alleged impact on the environment and lack of thorough, free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) from local and Indigenous communities.
– Mongabay’s Mexico City-based staff writer Max Radwin joins the podcast to discuss the current status of this project, its environmental and social impacts, and the president’s overall approach to infrastructure planning for Mexico.

Shade-grown coffee won’t support all birds, but adding a forest helps: Study by Liz Kimbrough — July 26, 2022
– The Smithsonian Bird Friendly certification promotes shade-grown coffee where the canopy has at least 40% cover provided by diverse native plants, among other research-based criteria.
– A recent study examined what types of conservation actions on coffee farms would conserve birds as well as or better than the current certification standards — an increasingly relevant question as coffee now grows on an area of agricultural land that could cover one-tenth of the U.S.
– The researchers found that while growing coffee under the shade of a diverse tree canopy protects more habitat-generalist and nonbreeding birds, setting aside intact forest and farming coffee in the open conserves more forest-specializing and breeding birds.
– The Smithsonian plans to update its certification criteria based on these results, though researchers say it still remains the “gold standard.” For coffee drinkers without access to Smithsonian Bird Friendly coffee, researchers suggest any certified organic options.

Deforestation in Borneo threatens one in four orangutans, study says by Basten Gokkon — July 26, 2022
– Deforestation in Borneo will destroy the habitat of more than 26,000 orangutans, a quarter of the population of the critically endangered species, by 2032, a new study says.
– Researchers used historical data and modeling with known drivers of deforestation to project that orangutan habitat a tenth the size of Italy could be lost over the next decade.
– Forests at highest risk of deforestation include those near areas that have already experienced forest loss, as well as industrial timber and oil palm plantation concessions.
– The study suggests the largest immediate conservation gains could come from curbing deforestation in and around plantation landscapes, through efforts such as zero-deforestation pledges, sustainability certification, ecosystem restoration, and a halt on clearing land.

Indonesia’s mangrove restoration bid holds huge promise, but obstacles abound by Warief Djajanto Basorie — July 26, 2022
– Indonesia has more mangrove forests than any other country, but much of it has been degraded for fish and shrimp farms.
– The government aims to restore 600,000 hectares of mangroves by 2024, but questions remain about its stated progress toward that goal.
– If Indonesia can completely stop mangrove destruction, it can meet one-fourth of the government’s 29% emissions reduction target for 2030.

‘Monument trees’ underpin Alaska Native cultural resilience: they must be protected (commentary) by Audrey Clavijo — July 25, 2022
– Access to ancient cedar trees for cultural purposes is key to Southeast Alaska Native peoples, both for their heritage and community resilience.
– Carving and weaving traditions require straight-grained, slow-growth red and yellow cedar trees 450 years and older with few branches or defects. These rare forest giants are referred to as ‘monument trees,’ and many are contained in the Tongass National Forest.
– Despite its significance, the Tongass continues to be threatened by forest management pressures, climate change, and political shifts: more than 1 million acres of forest have been clearcut since it was declared a national forest.
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.

Can a country have too many tigers? Nepal is about to find out by Abhaya Raj Joshi — July 25, 2022
– Nepal is expected to announce a much-anticipated doubling of its tiger population to 250 of the big cats from 12 years ago, on International Tiger Day (July 29).
– But critics say the country’s singular focus on increasing the tiger population has overlooked the impacts on communities living near national parks and wildlife reserves, who have suffered an increase in human-tiger encounters.
– They say the country has exceeded the population of tigers that it can comfortably accommodate, even as the government says it has room for up to 400 of the big cats.
– Officials say there are various options to address a tiger surplus, including housing “problem tigers” in zoos, gifting the animals to foreign governments as a form of diplomacy, and, as a last resort, culling the cats.

Industrial soy drives deforestation spike in southeastern Brazil, satellite images show by Maxwell Radwin — July 22, 2022
– A new report from NGO Amazon Conservation analyzed satellite data from the University of Maryland and the World Resource Institute’s Global Forest Watch platform. It found that deforestation is rising in the southeastern state of Mato Grosso, due in large part to industrial soy production.
– The report said there has been at least 42,000 hectares (over 100,000 acres) of “direct” soy deforestation in Mato Grosso since 2020, meaning primary forest in those areas was cleared with fire for the sole purpose of cultivating soy.
– The findings suggest that a moratorium on soy grown on land that was deforested after 2008 needs to be improved to better track who is clearing the forest and where.

Where do the guitarfish go? Scientists and fishers team up to find out by Mike DiGirolamo — July 22, 2022
– In late March and early April of this year, a team of researchers and local fishers caught, sampled and released more than 50 sharks and rays in the Bijagós Archipelago of Guinea-Bissau, including several threatened species.
– A first for conservation, researchers tagged members of a critically endangered ray species, the blackchin guitarfish (Glaucostegus cemiculus), with satellite transmitters.
– Team leader Guido Leurs says the research will provide crucial information for policymakers to better protect sharks and rays in Guinea-Bissau.
– Fisheries management within the archipelago, which spans 12,950 square kilometers (5,000 square miles) and 88 islands, is a challenge for the West African nation.

Tigers may avoid extinction, but we must aim higher (commentary) by John Goodrich — July 22, 2022
– “I was extremely skeptical that the world could achieve the grandly ambitious goal set at the 2010 Global Tiger Summit of doubling tiger numbers, or reaching 6,000 individuals, by 2022,” the author of a new op-ed states.
– But because of the overly ambitious goal set in 2010, the world is cautiously celebrating a win for the species, with the IUCN recently estimating the species’ numbers have increased by 40% during that time, from 3,200 in 2015 to 4,500 this year.
– When tiger range states and scientists gather for the second Global Tiger Summit this year, they must take stock of this unusual success and work to give tigers space, protect said spaces from poaching, and scale-up efforts.
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.

‘Only a tribe can speak for a tribe’: Q&A with Native conservationists on Biden’s 30 by 30 project by Evan Bourtis — July 22, 2022
– In the 1800s, several Native American tribes were forced to adapt to a new climate when the government removed them from their ancestral lands and forced them to migrate thousands of kilometers away, to the South Central U.S.
– Many tribes in the South Central U.S. are once again preparing to adapt to a changing climate with the support of tribal liaisons at the South Central Climate Adaptation Science Center.
– President Joe Biden announced that collaboration with tribal nations will play an important role in his commitment to the worldwide 30 by 30 initiative, which seeks to use nature conservation to address climate change and protect biodiversity.
– Two tribal liaisons and tribal citizens spoke to Mongabay about how federal agencies could collaborate with tribes on these conservation projects while respecting tribal sovereignty.

Turkey’s authoritarian development ignores planetary boundaries by Clément Girardot — July 21, 2022
– Turkey, an increasingly autocratic country since Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his AKP political party came to power in 2002, was the very last G20 nation to ratify the Paris climate agreement, doing so in October 2021. It has failed so far to take meaningful action against the steady increase of its greenhouse gas emissions.
– Turkey may also be exceeding limits to many of the nine planetary boundaries critical to the survival of civilization. In addition to unregulated carbon emissions, experts are concerned over the nation’s worsening air and plastic pollution, altered land use due to new mega-infrastructure projects, and biodiversity harm.
– For the past two decades, Turkey’s economic growth has been based on carbon-intensive sectors — including fossil fuel energy, transportation, construction, mining and heavy industry — all heavily supported by the state via subsidies, questionable public-private partnerships, and lax environmental laws.
– Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s authoritarianism has undermined checks and balances which might otherwise enhance environmental governance. As activists and academics criticize the lack of transparency regarding environmental data, they face rising governmental pressures and repression.

Monarch butterflies are officially endangered by Liz Kimbrough — July 21, 2022
– The iconic monarch butterfly has been listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, meaning the species is likely to go extinct without significant intervention.
– The number of migratory monarch butterflies has dropped more than 95% since the 1980s, according to counts at overwintering sites in California and Mexico.
– Renowned for their impressive migrations of more than 6,400 kilometers (4,000 miles) over several generations, the monarch decline is driven by habitat loss, herbicide and pesticide use, logging at overwintering sites in Mexico, urban development and drought.
– Experts say that planting milkweed, reducing pesticides and protecting overwintering sites for butterflies are measures needed to protect this beloved species.



Sri Lankan environmental policy failures helped fuel people power revolution by Malaka Rodrigo — July 19, 2022
Between six ferns: New tropical fern species described by science by Liz Kimbrough — July 19, 2022
Wildlife ‘rehabbers’ wage herculean fight for a noble cause by Grace Hansen — July 19, 2022
Scientists call for end to violence against Amazon communities, environmental defenders by Sandra Cuffe — July 15, 2022
Young Māori divers hunt invasive crown-of-thorns starfish to save coral reefs by Monica Evans — July 15, 2022
In world convulsed by climate-driven conflict, are peace parks an answer? by Saul Elbein — July 14, 2022