Newsletter 2022-08-18


Let it grow: Q&A with reforestation and land restoration visionary Tony Rinaudo by Erik Hoffner — August 17, 2022

– Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) is a community-led approach to naturally restoring degraded landscapes and ecosystems, and it’s credited with reforesting many millions of hectares of degraded land, globally.
– Though FMNR has literally sprouted in many places over time, Tony Rinaudo is the best known and most vocal proponent of this technique that’s reforested an estimated six million hectares of Niger alone.
– Encouraging cleared forests to resprout makes resilient, climate-positive agroecology practices like agroforestry possible, as crops grown in the cooling shade of trees also benefit from improved soil health and water levels.
– In a wide-ranging interview, Rinaudo shares his hopes, dreams, and insights about FMNR with Mongabay readers.

An emerald-green hummingbird lost to science reemerges in Colombia by Liz Kimbrough — August 16, 2022

– In the Santa Marta mountains of Colombia, an experienced bird-watcher unexpectedly spotted a Santa Marta sabrewing hummingbird.
– This was only the second time the critically endangered hummingbird has had a documented sighting since 1946. The last bird was spotted in 2010, and the species had long been considered “lost to science.”
– Ornithologists have been on high alert for the Santa Marta sabrewing, which is listed as one of the top 10 most-wanted lost birds by the Search for Lost Birds.
– Only around 15% of forests in the Santa Marta mountains are still standing, and the Santa Marta sabrewing was found in an area of forest with no protection. Experts are calling for more study and protection of this rare bird.

In Sumatra, rising seas and sinking land spell hard times for fishers by Tonggo Simangunsong — August 16, 2022

– Fishers operating near the port of Belawan on the Indonesian island of Sumatra are reporting declining catches and a hit to their livelihoods from tidal flooding.
– The flooding has grown more frequent and severe, exacerbated by rising seas and the clearing of mangrove forests for oil palm plantations.
– Traders who buy local catches have also been affected by the flooding, which can cut off commercial transport routes.
– This region of northern Sumatra is one of the areas targeted by the Indonesian government for mangrove restoration, but until that yields results, the fishers say they’re essentially helpless.

In Brazil’s Pantanal, early flames signal a ‘new normal’ by Ana Ionova — August 15, 2022

– Fresh fires are engulfing swaths of the Pantanal, including Pantanal do Rio Negro State Park, a protected reserve with a rich biodiversity of plant and animal species. The flames have affected at least 10,062 hectares of the 78,302-hectare park.
– These fires follow devastating blazes in 2020 and 2021, which consumed huge parts of the Pantanal, the world’s largest tropical wetlands which straddles the borders of Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia.
– Fire brigades fear more fires may be in store for the Pantanal, as ranchers and farmers continue to use fire to clear agricultural plots of land, despite a ban prohibiting this practice during the region’s dry season.
– Environmentalists warn a changing climate is having a devastating impact on the Pantanal, fueling fires that are more frequent.

Amazon deforestation on pace to roughly match last year’s rate of loss by Rhett A. Butler — August 12, 2022

– Deforestation in Earth’s largest rainforest is on track to rival last year’s 15-year-high according to data released today by the Brazilian government.
– INPE, Brazil’s national space research institute, today published figures from its DETER deforestation alert system, which tracks forest clearing on a near-real time basis. INPE’s system detected 8,590 square kilometers of deforestation between August 1, 2021 and July 31, 2022, 2.3% lower than the previous year, when deforestation hit the highest level since 2006.
– The area of forest affected by degradation and selected cutting, which is typically a precursor to outright deforestation, climbed 15.6% year over year.
– 2022’s tally represents an area nearly the size of Puerto Rico or Cypress. But the actual area of forest loss over the past 12 months is significantly higher: INPE is expected to release its findings from analysis of high resolution satellite imagery in October or November.

Climate change and overfishing threaten once ‘endless’ Antarctic krill by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — August 11, 2022

– Antarctic krill are one of the most abundant species in the world in terms of biomass, but scientists and conservationists are concerned about the future of the species due to overfishing, climate change impacts and other human activities.
– Krill fishing has increased year over year as demand rises for the tiny crustaceans, which are used as feed additives for global aquaculture and processed for krill oil.
– Experts have called on the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), the group responsible for protecting krill, to update its rules to better protect krill; others are calling for a moratorium on krill fishing.
– Antarctic krill play a critical role in maintaining the health of our planet by storing carbon and providing food for numerous species.


Hear that? Bioacoustics is having its moment, but the technology still needs tuning by Abhishyant Kidangoor — August 18, 2022
– The use of audio to study, monitor, detect and conserve species has gained popularity in recent years.
– Passive acoustic monitoring has been found to be more efficient than traditional camera traps; however, the use of audio can be data-heavy and laborious to pore through.
– Technological developments such as artificial intelligence have made audio analysis easier, but conservationists say gaps still exist.

Are Bangladesh’s development measures leading to climate change readiness or maladaptation? (commentary) by Saleemul Huq | Savio Rousseau Rozario | Md. Bodrud-Doza — August 18, 2022
– Bangladesh is trying to mainstream climate change adaptation into development measures to address climate change vulnerability and challenges.
– However, the socio-economic context and environmental consequences must be considered while implementing development programs.
– Failure to address local context might result in maladaptive trajectories, but Locally Led Adaptation (LLA) and Nature-based Solutions (NbS) are potential options for effective adaptation to climate change.
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of Mongabay.

Forest fires are getting worse, 20 years of data confirm by Liz Kimbrough — August 17, 2022
– Fires are now causing an additional 3 million hectares (7.4 million acres) of tree cover loss per year than they did in 2001, according to a newly released Global Forest Watch analysis that examined fires that burn all or most of a forest’s living overstory trees.
– The majority of all fire-caused tree cover loss in the past 20 years (nearly 70%) occurred in boreal regions. Although fires are naturally occurring there, they are now increasing at an annual rate of 3% and burning with greater frequency and severity and over larger areas than historically recorded.
– Fires are not naturally occurring in tropical rainforests, but in recent years, as deforestation and climate change have degraded and dried out intact forests, fires have been escaping into standing tropical rainforests. GFW findings suggest fires in the tropics have increased by roughly 5% per year since 2001.
– Researchers say there is no “silver bullet” solution for forest fires, but experts call for more spending on planning and preparation.

Endangered species listing of long-tailed macaques: ‘shocking, painful, predictable’ (commentary) by Sinan Serhadli — August 17, 2022
– “Conservationists such as myself are in shock as it reflects the utter failure of the state of things if even the most opportunistic and adaptable generalist primates such as long-tailed macaques are now being classified as endangered,” writes the author of a new op-ed.
– During its latest assessment in March 2022, the IUCN declared the species as endangered due to the rapid population decline and the prognosis of decline if current trends of exploitation and habitat destruction continue.
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Bad weather knocks down Brazil’s grain production as ‘exhaustively forewarned’ by Shanna Hanbury — August 17, 2022
– Brazil’s agricultural GDP declined by 8% in the first quarter of 2022 due to a severe drought in the country’s south caused by a rare triple-dip La Niña.
– In Rio Grande do Sul, the nation’s southernmost state, 56% of last year’s total soy harvest was lost, harming thousands of farmers.
– Scientists warn that climate change will make Brazil’s southern region, an agribusiness stronghold, widespread crop losses more common.
– Despite warnings, climate denial in the agriculture sector is getting in the way of mitigation efforts as the government of President Jair Bolsonaro and the agribusiness lobby push an anti-environmental agenda.

Crime and no punishment: Impunity shrouds killings of Indigenous Amazonian defenders by Vanessa Romo Espinoza and Gloria Alvitres — August 17, 2022
– According to information collected by 11 environmental and human rights organizations, 58 Indigenous people were killed in the Brazilian, Colombian, Ecuadoran and Peruvian Amazon between 2016 and 2021.
– Most of the investigations are ongoing and lawyers report delays and irregularities in the processes.
– The likely perpetrators in most of the killings are linked to illegal activities such as drug trafficking, mining, land grabbing and illegal logging.
– In the case of Brazil, experts also point to the state as being potentially involved in these murders.

Study tracks global forest decline and expansion over six decades by John Cannon — August 17, 2022
– Globally, there was a net loss of 817,000 square kilometers (315,000 square miles) in forest area between 1960 and 2019, according to a new study. That’s nearly 10% more than the size of Borneo, the world’s third-largest island.
– The study showed that most forest loss occurred in “lower-income” countries as their economies grew, which are found primarily in the tropics. Forests in wealthier countries tended to expand.
– The authors say their findings confirm the forest transition theory, which links countries’ economic development to changes in land use.
– International organizations like the U.N. and rich countries should provide support to less-industrialized, forested countries to allow them to find economically beneficial alternatives to deforestation, the study authors say.

An elusive lizard thought to live only in India makes an appearance in Nepal by Abhaya Raj Joshi — August 17, 2022
– Researchers have confirmed the presence of the Sikkim grass lizard in eastern Nepal, nearly 100 kilometers from its known range in India’s Sikkim state.
– The species was last year classified as endangered on the IUCN Red List because of its limited distribution and threats to its habitat from farming and a hydropower dam.
– Herpetologists say the discovery should prompt more research into Nepal’s little-studied reptile and amphibian life, with the potential for more species coming to light.

Nearness to roads and palm oil mills a key factor in peatland clearing by smallholders by Hans Nicholas Jong — August 16, 2022
– A new study in Indonesia’s palm oil capital of Riau has found that proximity to roads and processing mills are key factors determining whether small farmers expand their cultivation into peat swamp forests.
– This is because of the need to transport freshly harvested palm fruit to mills quickly: without the transport infrastructure that large plantations enjoy, easy access to roads and mills is paramount for smallholders.
– The study also identified zoning and geographic factors as other important drivers of smallholder oil palm expansion into peatland, along with the presence of large concessions.
– The study’s authors say the findings can help inform policies targeting areas of peatland for protection, and on helping small farmers improve their income without clearing more land to plant oil palms.

In Bolivian Amazon, oil blocks encroach deep into protected areas by Iván Paredes Tamayo — August 16, 2022
– Investigative journalism alliance ManchadosXelPetróleo has found that oil blocks auctioned off by the Bolivian government overlap with protected areas in the country’s Amazonian region, in some cases up to 100%.
– Oil exploration blocks currently overlap with 21 of the 53 national and subnational protected areas located in the Bolivian Amazon.
– While there haven’t been any oil spills, exploration activities have nevertheless caused environmental damage in the region.
– The Tacana Indigenous peoples in Madidi National Park are among those affected by these activities, and warn of even greater damage to come.

Aziil Anwar, Indonesian coral-based mangrove grower, dies at 64 by Agus Mawan — August 16, 2022
– Aziil Anwar, a civil servant turned award-winning mangrove restorer, has died from diabetes-related complications.
– Aziil gained prominence in the 1990s by pioneering a way to boost the success of mangrove planting in coral damaged by blast fishing on the island of Baluno in Indonesia’s West Sulawesi province.
– With the help of local children, he managed to plant some 100 hectares (nearly 250 acres), fully covering the island and extending the mangrove forest out toward the mainland.

Sand mining a boon for illegal industry at expense of Bangladesh’s environment by Abu Siddique — August 16, 2022
– Demand from Bangladesh’s construction industry for sand has led to a boom in unregulated and illegal mining from rivers, activists say.
– An estimated 60-70% of the mined sand in the country is assumed to be illegally mined, extracted from rivers nationwide without any environmental or hydrological considerations.
– Excessive sand mining is destroying the ecology of river systems as well as their biodiversity, and increasing the risk of river erosion, a study says.
– A 2010 law meant to keep sand mining in check has instead allowed the illegal industry to thrive, critics say, thanks to weak punishment, lax enforcement, and the involvement of politically connected players in the business.

FSC-certified paper plantation faces farmer backlash in Colombia by Natalia Torres — August 15, 2022
– Smurfit Kappa Cartón de Colombia (SKCC), a paper company with multiple plantations certified by the FSC ethical wood label, is facing backlash from Indigenous and local farmers over land disputes and environmental impacts.
– Communities living close to the company’s paper plantations say they are to blame for water shortages and a decrease in biodiversity and soil fertility. Mongabay was able to confirm three cases of plantations violating Colombia’s legal forest code.
– There is little agreement over the effects of these plantations on water availability, but many activists and academics say agroforestry or silvopasture systems can be alternative solutions to increase biodiversity and contribute to farmers’ livelihoods.
– A SKCC forestry division manager said SKCC carries out rigorous legal and background analyzes of the properties to operate according to the law and practices respect for the environment.

Amazon cloud forests need protection (commentary) by Enrique Ortiz — August 15, 2022
– Where the Andes meet the Amazon, you will find one of the earth’s richest and most important biomes but its role has been largely overlooked in our efforts to mitigate climate change impacts, argues Enrique G. Ortiz of the Andes Amazon Fund.
– After 40 years working in tropical forests, Ortiz says the Amazon cloud forest is his favorite type of forest. In this commentary, he makes the case for why their protection should be a priority for conservation efforts.
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.

As stronger storms hit Bangladesh farmers, banks are climate collateral damage by Maksuda Aziz — August 15, 2022
– Farmers in coastal areas of Bangladesh are increasingly defaulting on their loans due to climate change-driven storms that are destroying the farms they put up as collateral.
– Agricultural loans for the year to May 2022 amounted to the equivalent of $3 billion, or a fifth of the value of all loans distributed in Bangladesh.
– Increasingly frequent and severe storms therefore pose as much of a threat to the country’s financial sector as to farming communities and the environment.
– The warming of the sea in the Bay of Bengal as a result of climate change is supercharging storms, giving them more energy, helping them to drive tidal surges farther inland and dump larger volumes of rain than before.

Australian miner threatens lawsuit against PNG for scrapping carbon scheme by Rachel Donald — August 15, 2022
– Australian mining and energy firm Mayur Resources announced in July that it would scrap plans to build a planned coal-fired power plant in Papua New Guinea, instead focusing on carbon offset projects in the country.
– Soon after, PNG authorities issued a public notice saying Mayur’s carbon offset project was canceled because of breaches of the country’s forestry laws.
– Mayur is now threatening to sue the PNG government for canceling the carbon scheme.

Mexico court drops injunctions, paving way for controversial Tren Maya railway by Maxwell Radwin — August 15, 2022
– The nearly $15 billion Tren Maya railway will run 1,500 kilometers (950 miles) across five states in Mexico: Quintana Roo, Campeche, Chiapas, Tabasco and Yucatán.
– Line 5 of the project, which will run between Cancún and Playa del Carmen, poses a serious threat to local ecosystems and subterranean habitats, according to injunctions filed in a federal court.
– In July and August, a judge began lifting suspensions on the project, claiming it met the environmental and legal standards to continue.

Bolivia’s former ‘death road’ is now a haven for wildlife by Liz Kimbrough — August 12, 2022
– A steep and narrow road north from La Paz once claimed an average of 300 lives per year. However, since the construction of a safer road in 2007, traffic has dropped 90% and wildlife has returned.
– Scientists placed camera traps on and around the road and spotted 16 species of medium and large mammals including the Andean bear and the dwarf brocket deer, and 94 species of birds.
– For wildlife, roads increase roadkill, noise, and chemical pollution, and hinder animals’ ability to move safely across the landscape.
– All of these threats have decreased significantly on the former death road and the situation for wildlife is much better. “There are no reports of animals being run over or species being captured for pets,” said the lead researcher.

Drawing the wrong lessons from Sri Lanka’s organic farming experience (commentary) by Nethmi S. Perera Bathige and William G. Moseley — August 12, 2022
– Long-standing organic farmers have performed well in the past two years even though conventional farmers in Sri Lanka suffered due to a sudden ban on the import of chemical fertilizers.
– The real lesson to be learned from the Sri Lankan economic crisis is that good governance matters for the health and nutrition of a nation.
– Researchers say that a more diverse set of farming approaches can make Sri Lanka less vulnerable to the next crisis.
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of Mongabay.

In a hotter, drier climate, how serious is fire risk to island seabirds? by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — August 12, 2022
– A new study suggests that fires on remote islands in southwest Australia pose a rising threat to short-tailed shearwaters and other seabirds as climate change creates hotter and drier conditions.
– In 2021, a research team led by Jennifer Lavers surveyed an island in Western Australia’s Recherche Archipelago a year after a fire event, and found little evidence that short-tailed shearwaters had successfully bred after the fire, ignited by a lightning strike, had swept over most of the island.
– Lavers and her research team suggest that Indigenous-led methods of controlled burning could help reduce the risk of catastrophic fires that would endanger seabirds.
– However, a seabird and island expert not connected with the study disagrees that fire currently poses a major threat, since seabirds have been known to rebound from fires, even after the loss of their fledglings and burrows.

Toxic rare earth mines fuel deforestation, rights abuses in Myanmar, report says by Carolyn Cowan — August 12, 2022
– Highly toxic rare earth mining has rapidly expanded in northern Myanmar, fueling human rights abuses, deforestation and environmental contamination, an investigation by the NGO Global Witness has found.
– People living near mining sites have seen surrounding land polluted and waterways contaminated by the chemicals used to extract the rare earth minerals that are used in smartphones, home electronics and clean energy technology, such as electric cars and wind turbines.
– The investigation found that China has outsourced much of its rare earth mining industry to Myanmar’s Kachin state, where more than 2,700 heavy rare earth mines have proliferated over an area the size of Singapore since 2016.
– There is a risk of minerals mined illegally in Myanmar making their way into products manufactured by several global brands, the investigation says.

‘Protection too small, pressure too high’ for tree species globally, study finds by Liz Kimbrough — August 11, 2022
– Researchers looked at the distributions of more than 46,000 tree species around the world and found that more than 13% have no protection. For all species examined, at least half of their distribution lacks protection.
– Further, almost 15% of all species are exposed to high or very high human pressure and 68% to moderate pressure.
– The study goes beyond this assessment to explore which areas need to be protected worldwide to provide maximum benefit for tree diversity.
– Researchers found that the existing plan that would most effectively protect tree diversity is The Global 200, a list of ecoregions identified as priorities for conservation by WWF.

Drought-beset South African city taps aquifer, shirks long-term solutions: Critics by Anna Majavu — August 11, 2022
– A major coastal city located in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province is facing a total water cutoff for about 500,000 residents, almost half its population, following a prolonged drought.
– Disaster relief hydrologists have begun drilling boreholes to access groundwater so that hospitals and schools can stay open during the emergency in Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality.
– But critics say the city administration has failed to develop a long-term plan to support water harvesting from intermittent rains and construction of desalination plants.
– They also point out that overreliance on boreholes drilled near the sea could lead to saline water intrusion into the aquifer, contaminating groundwater and rendering borehole water undrinkable.

‘The water is brown’: Community in Guyana rings the alarm over unsustainable mining near river by David Papannah and Laurel Sutherland — August 11, 2022
– Medium-scale mining operations occurring in a tiny riverine community in northwest Guyana has led to deforestation and discoloration in vital waterways after tailing ponds spilled into creeks and a river.
– The conflict between locals and miners began after the Guyanese mining body issued mining permits on land that was already titled to the Carib Indigenous community – without consulting the village council. After trying to walk back on these issued permits, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) dismissed the case.
– The CCJ and subsequent rulings are being used to prevent locals from traversing on their titled lands. Community members are not able to receive royalties and mine at the site, a practice they have sustainably done for generations.
– Vickram Bharrat, the country’s Minister of Natural Resources, says that the government must comply with the CCJ ruling but intends to investigate threats to the lives of community members as they attempt to find a workable solution.

Indigenous lands, knowledge are essential for saving primates from extinction, says new study by Kimberley Brown — August 11, 2022
– A new study in Science Advances finds that primate species found on Indigenous people’s land face significantly less threats to their overall survival compared to species found on non-Indigenous lands. To guarantee the survival of primates, we must guarantee Indigenous people’s autonomy over their territory, says the paper.
– The population of non-human primates – like monkeys, apes, tarsiers or prosimians – are declining rapidly around the world. At least 68% are in danger of extinction, while 93% have declining populations globally.
– Traditional Indigenous beliefs, practices and knowledge systems reflect the need to exploit resources in the environment, but in sustainable ways that do not also deplete resources primates depend on.
– The largest threat to primates is their loss of habitat due to large-scale deforestation for the sake of large infrastructure projects, roads and rail lines as well as the expanding agriculture frontier that decreases forest cover.


Photos: Meet the Indonesians on the front lines of human-elephant conflict in Sumatra by by Fieni Aprilia — August 11, 2022
‘Chased from every side’: Sumatran elephants pinned down by forest loss by by Dyna Rochmyaningsih — August 10, 2022
‘Birds are messengers’, says BirdLife’s Patricia Zurita by by Rhett A. Butler — August 10, 2022
Podcast: Blockchain for conservation? Maybe, but leave the crypto out by by Mike DiGirolamo — August 8, 2022
Saving Sumatran elephants starts with counting them. Indonesia won’t say how many are left by by Dyna Rochmyaningsih — August 8, 2022
Jumbo task as Malawi moves 263 elephants to restock a degraded national park by by Charles Mpaka — August 5, 2022