Newsletter 2022-09-15


British Columbia delays promised protections as old growth keeps falling (commentary) by Justin Catanoso — September 14, 2022

– Two years after British Columbia’s majority party promised a logging “paradigm shift” to conserve what’s left of the province’s tall old growth forests, Mongabay observed dramatic clear cutting on Vancouver Island in forests slated for protection. Old growth harvesting continues across British Columbia (BC) today.
– The BC minister of land management told Mongabay that the government, in partnership with First Nations, has deferred logging on 1.7 million hectares of old growth forests. But critics contest those numbers and note that much of these deferrals are for scubby alpine forests that aren’t in danger of being logged.
– First Nation leaders have been tasked by the government to determine which old growth forests to protect. This presents Indigenous communities with an economic conundrum, as many tribes will lose much-needed logging revenue if they choose conservation.
– Today, BC has many second-growth tree plantations that give the appearance of vast wooded expanses. But as Mongabay observed in July, these tree farms are “ecological deserts” that store less carbon than tall tree old growth and harbor little biodiversity as BC experiences intensifying climate impacts partly due to decades of overlogging.
-This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.

‘Viable, just & necessary’: Agroecology is a movement in Brazil by Anna Lappé — September 13, 2022

– Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement (MST) has been organizing landless families to occupy, settle, and farm throughout the country since the dictatorship ended in 1985.
– Agroecology–a highly sustainable form of agriculture–has become increasingly central to their platform of land reform, and it is taught in 2,000 schools that have been established in MST encampments nationwide.
– In the four decades since its creation, MST has organized more than 350,000 families to create communities, cooperatives, farms, small-scale food processing enterprises, and farmers markets increasingly based on this sustainable method of food production, which is also good for the climate and biodiversity.
– In an interview with Mongabay, three leaders of MST’s agroecology education program share their philosophy, accomplishments and goals.

Acid test: Are the world’s oceans becoming too ‘acidic’ to support life? by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — September 13, 2022

– The world’s oceans absorb about a quarter of humanity’s carbon dioxide emissions, buffering us against higher atmospheric CO2 levels and greater climate change. But that absorption has led to a lowering of seawater pH and the acidification of the oceans.
– The process of ocean acidification is recognized as a leading threat to ocean life due to its impairment of calcifying organisms and other marine species. The full impacts of acidification are unknown, but at some point reduced pH could be disastrous biologically.
– Researchers have designated ocean acidification as one of nine planetary boundaries whose limits, if transgressed, could threaten civilization and life as we know it. But there is debate as to whether there is a global boundary for this process, since acidification impacts some regions and species more or less than others, making it hard to quantify.
– Scientists agree that the primary solution to ocean acidification is the lowering of carbon emissions, though some researchers are investigating other solutions, such as depositing alkaline rock minerals into oceans to lower the pH of seawater.

Indigenous Brazilians demand justice as 4 killed in escalating violence by Karla Mendes — September 12, 2022

– Two Indigenous Guajajara men were killed on Sept. 3 in Brazil’s Maranhão state and a 14-year-old Guajajara boy shot and hospitalized, Indigenous leaders and rights groups say.
– The day after, a 14-year-old Indigenous Pataxó boy was also allegedly gunned down and a 16-year-old shot and wounded as they sought to retake a farm that had reportedly been established illegally within their territory in Bahia state.
– On Sept. 11, another Indigenous Guajajara was murdered in Maranhão. In the past 20 years, more than 50 Guajajara individuals have been killed in the state, with none of the alleged perpetrators ever going on trial, advocates say.
– Indigenous groups and advocacy organizations are demanding justice for these and earlier killings, and have raised concerns about escalating violence against native peoples throughout the country.

Indonesia and Norway give REDD+ deal another go after earlier breakup by Hans Nicholas Jong — September 12, 2022

– Indonesia and Norway have embarked on another REDD+ scheme that will see the latter pay the former to keep its forests standing, after a previous attempt failed because of lack of payment.
– Indonesia is home to the third-largest expanse of tropical rainforest in the world, and the bulk of its greenhouse gas emissions comes from land-use change, forest degradation, and deforestation.
– Officials from both countries say it’s of mutual benefit to both countries, and to the world, to preserve Indonesia’s forests boost their capacity to sequester carbon from the atmosphere.
– Under the new deal, payments still outstanding from the previous agreement, which was terminated in 2021, will be honored.

Brazil faces two contrasting legacies for the Amazon in October’s elections by Aldem Bourscheit — September 9, 2022

– Polls indicate that Brazil’s presidential election in October will go to a runoff between incumbent Jair Bolsonaro and former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, in a duel likely to decide the fate of the Amazon Rainforest.
– While Bolsonaro doubles down his climate change denialism and anti-Indigenous agenda, Lula vows to tackle deforestation and eject criminals from the Amazon.
– Under Bolsonaro, the Brazilian Amazon has lost an area of forest larger than Belgium and recorded its highest deforestation rate in the last 15 years.
– Lula’s policies helped reduce annual deforestation by 82%, to the lowest rate recorded since satellite monitoring began.


European bill passes to ban imports of deforestation-linked commodities by André Schröder — September 15, 2022
– Imports of 14 types of commodities into the European Union will soon have to be verified for possible association with deforestation in the countries in which they were produced.
– That’s the key provision in a bill passed on Sept. 13 by the European Parliament, which initially targeted soy, beef, palm oil, timber, cocoa, and coffee, but now also includes pork, lamb and goat meat, as well as poultry, corn, rubber, charcoal, and printed paper.
– The bill still needs the approval of the Council of the EU and the national parliaments of the 27 countries in the bloc, but is already considered a historic step against deforestation.
– In Brazil, experts have welcomed the bill as a means of tackling the demand-side pressures driving increasing levels of deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest, while the agribusiness lobby has denounced it as unfair.

Eight new-to-science geckos described from biodiversity haven Madagascar by Liz Kimbrough — September 15, 2022
– Scientists have described eight new-to-science species of geckos from Madagascar, all about the length of your thumb.
– They were elevated to species level following DNA studies of what was, for decades, thought to be a single species group of dwarf gecko, Lygodactylus madagascariensis. They add there could be up to 18 distinct genetic lineages.
– Scientists have found and named at least 150 new-to-science species from Madagascar in the last 30 years, and are still finding more nearly every year. More than 90% of species in Madagascar are endemic, meaning they’re found nowhere else on Earth.
– Given ongoing threats to the forests and ecosystems in Madagascar, scientists say we may not be finding and naming species quickly enough to know what’s being lost.

Indonesia amnesties 75 companies operating illegally inside forest areas by Hans Nicholas Jong — September 15, 2022
– As many as 75 companies that operate illegally inside forest areas in Indonesia have been pardoned under an amnesty scheme.
– These companies paid fines totaling 222.7 billion rupiah ($14.93 million) to receive the pardons.
– Hundreds more plantation and mining companies will be pardoned, officials say, as the government has identified at least 616 companies operating illegally inside forest areas.

Cambodian mega dam’s resurrection on the Mekong ‘the beginning of the end’ by Gerald Flynn and Nehru Pry — September 15, 2022
– Cambodian authorities have greenlit studies for a major hydropower dam on the Mekong River in Stung Treng province, despite a ban on dam building on the river that’s been in place since 2020.
– Plans for the 1,400-megawatt Stung Treng dam have been around since 2007, but the project, under various would-be developers, has repeatedly been shelved over criticism of its impacts.
– This time around, the project is being championed by Royal Group, a politically connected conglomerate that was also behind the hugely controversial Lower Sesan 2 dam on a tributary of the Mekong, prompting fears among local communities and experts alike.
– This story was supported by the Pulitzer Center’s Rainforest Investigations Network where Gerald Flynn is a fellow.

Pioneer agroforester Ermi, 73, rolls back the years in Indonesia’s Gorontalo by Sarjan Lahay — September 15, 2022
– Ermi Mauke, 73, has spent the past 40 years planting a mix of trees on the fringe of Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park in eastern Indonesia’s Gorontalo province.
– Small farmers here have produced palm sugar for centuries using traditional techniques, but their labor-intensive methods face challenges.
– Ermi’s self-taught agroforestry system yields varied food commodities that help meet her family’s daily needs while safeguarding the landscape.

Thailand’s contentious plan to curtail bottom trawling unfolds in slow motion by Kannikar Petchkaew — September 14, 2022
– To rebuild its dwindling fish stocks, Thailand has implemented a series of reforms to its fishing sector since 2015, reining in illegal fishing while curtailing catches and the size of its commercial fishing fleet.
– In July, the Thai government announced a ban on new registrations for bottom trawlers, a particularly destructive and indiscriminate kind of fishing vessel, coupled with a $30 million buyout program for them and other gear types.
– Small-scale fishers say the reforms don’t go far enough to protect fish stocks, while commercial fishers say the new rules are hobbling their industry and should be scrapped.

Industrial mining’s tropical deforestation footprint spills beyond concessions by Malavika Vyawahare — September 14, 2022
– Indonesia, Brazil, Suriname and Ghana account for 80% of all tropical deforestation linked directly to industrial mining, a new study has found.
– In two out of three tropical countries, large-scale mineral extraction leads to forest loss when effects over a wider area, beyond formal mining concessions, are considered.
– “We have to look beyond the mine fence,” Stefan Giljum, the lead author of the paper, said. “What is needed is a forest conservation plan for a whole region integrating all the activities that are going on.”
– It’s difficult to quantify forest destruction linked to the mining sector as a whole because both the indirect effects on surrounding areas and the impacts of artisanal mining are hard to pin down.

Sri Lanka eyes major compensation case over X-Press Pearl sinking by Malaka Rodrigo — September 14, 2022
– Sri Lanka has received $2.5 million in the third interim payment for the sinking of the X-Press Pearl cargo ship in June 2021, giving it a total of just $7.85 million for the worst maritime disaster in the country’s history.
– These payments from the Singapore-flagged vessel’s insurer are mainly to reimburse the government for the cost of the emergency response operations and for direct damages and cleanup.
– Environmental lawyers say the government can and should pursue a much larger compensation claim for the environmental damage wrought.
– The X-Press Pearl sank off Sri Lanka’s western coast after catching fire, in the process spilling its cargo of hazardous chemicals and billions of plastic pellets that continue to dot the country’s beaches.

Vietnam’s Human Rights Council bid under fire after environmentalists jailed by — September 14, 2022
– Fifty-two winners of the Goldman Environmental Prize have signed on to a letter calling on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to vote against Vietnam’s bid for membership.
– The letter cites the imprisonment of Nguy Thi Khanh, founder of Hanoi-based GreenID and Vietnam’s first Goldman Prize winner, on tax evasion charges, as well as the case of Dang Dinh Bach, an environmental lawyer and former director of the Law and Policy of Sustainable Development Research Center, also imprisoned on tax-related charges.
– Noting that the UN General Assembly has declared a clean, healthy and sustainable environment to be a universal human right, the letter asks how Vietnam will uphold this right with these experts behind bars and many in civil society concerned about the possibility of more arrests.

Latest water-sharing deal between Bangladesh, India is ‘drop in the ocean’ by Abu Siddique — September 14, 2022
– Bangladesh and India share 54 rivers that flow down from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, chief among them the Ganges and the Brahmaputra.
– Managing the flow of water both upstream and down is crucial for agriculture, navigation, inland fisheries, and keeping saltwater intrusion at bay in Bangladesh, but is undermined by a lack of water-sharing agreements.
– The Bangladeshi and Indian prime ministers recently signed an agreement on sharing water from the Kushiara River for irrigation, but experts say this is nothing special in the grand scheme of things.
– They’ve called on the governments of both countries to push for securing long-term treaties on water sharing from major rivers like the Ganges and the Teesta, which in the latter case has been hobbled by local politics in India.

Can Two New Bills Reshape Indigenous Rights and Illegal Gold Mining in Suriname? by Charles Lyons and Charlie Espinosa — September 14, 2022
– Two bills currently before Suriname’s parliament aim to recognize the rights of the country’s Indigenous inhabitants and tackle the forest-poisoning mercury pollution associated with gold mining.
– But both bills face an uphill battle: Suriname has repeatedly refused to recognize Indigenous rights, making it one of the few Amazonian countries to do so, while gold mining is the backbone of the country’s economy.
– A key provision in one of the bills is the right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC), which would make it illegal to open mining concessions on Indigenous land without the community’s consent.
– The other bill, on stopping the illegal mercury trade, threatens to ruffle the feathers of powerful individuals with links to the gold industry, including Suriname’s current vice president.

‘South Asia needs its own tiger plan’: Q&A with Nepal’s Maheshwar Dhakal by Abhaya Raj Joshi — September 14, 2022
– Maheshwar Dhakal, the newly appointed director-general of Nepal’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, says a regional plan is needed to sustain the Bengal tiger population.
– Following the department’s success in nearly tripling Nepal’s tiger population since 2010, Dhakal says other government agencies can also contribute by promoting ecotourism ad boosting local livelihoods.
– He also emphasizes the importance of transboundary conservation action, noting that the punishment for tiger poaching in India, where tigers from Nepal often stray into, is much more lenient than in Nepal.

After 20 years and thousands of trees planted, Kalimantan’s veteran forester persists by Budi Baskoro and Lusia Arumingtyas — September 14, 2022
– Redansyah first began working in conservation around Indonesia’’s Tanjung Puting National Park in the 1980s alongside renowned conservationist Biruté Galdikas.
– In a 20-year career, he has planted tens of thousands of seedlings in a once-pristine landscape beset by logging and fires since the 1990s.
– The 68-year-old has no plans to retire: “I just want to work on the job of introducing trees to this community.”

In the Mekong Basin, an ‘unnecessary’ dam poses an outsized threat by Gerald Flynn and Nehru Pry — September 14, 2022
– A dam being built in Laos near the border with Cambodia imperils downstream communities and the Mekong ecosystem as a whole, experts and affected community members say.
– The Sekong A dam will close off the Sekong River by the end of this year, restricting its water flow, blocking vital sediment from reaching the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, and cutting off migration routes for a range of fish species.
– Experts say the energy to be generated by the dam — 86 megawatts — doesn’t justify the negative impacts, calling it “an absolutely unnecessary project.”
– This story was supported by the Pulitzer Center’s Rainforest Investigations Network where Gerald Flynn is a fellow.

Indonesia urged to update fisher training program to international standards by Basten Gokkon — September 13, 2022
– Many Indonesian seafarers on domestic and foreign boats lack proper training for safety and fishing operations, which experts say leaves them vulnerable to exploitation and endangerment.
– Fisheries and human rights observers are calling for a revamp of the government’s fisher training program ahead of a scheduled evaluation of measures to protect maritime workers at home and overseas.
– Indonesia in 2019 ratified an International Maritime Organization (IMO) convention on the protection of crews working aboard domestic and foreign boats, and its progress on implementing it is due for an assessment in 2024.
– Indonesia, one of the world’s largest fish producers, is home to some 2.3 million people who identify as fishers and boat crews working on domestic and foreign-flagged fleets.

As Brazil ramps up rail projects, wildlife kills remain understudied by Dimas Marques/Fauna News — September 13, 2022
– The impacts of Brazil’s railway network on wildlife are little known to researchers, system operators and the government itself, but the few studies done show high rates of wildlife kills.
– One study estimated that more than 10,000 cane toads die every year on a stretch of the Carajás railway line in the Amazon, while on the same line’s north branch, another study recorded more than 4,000 mammals killed.
– In Mato Grosso state, construction has begun on the first Brazilian railway line designed to reduce impacts on wildlife, featuring 155 crossings, including the first vegetated overpass in the state.
– The country’s rail network is expected to undergo a major expansion in the coming years, with the Ministry of Infrastructure receiving 76 applications for construction and operation of 19,000 kilometers (11,800 miles) of new lines since 2021.

Even without human-driven deforestation, climate change threatens some forests by Ashoka Mukpo — September 13, 2022
– In a study published in Science, researchers analyzed a set of climate and ecosystem models to predict the risks that climate change poses to forests.
– The models displayed consistent risks to forests in western North America, drier tropical forests like the southeastern Amazon, and northern boreal forests.
– Researchers say their findings speak to the need to be careful when evaluating the role trees can play as a climate solution.

Bolsonaro trails in polls, but his base in Congress looks likely to persist by Sarah Brown — September 13, 2022
– With Brazil’s presidential election scheduled for Oct. 2, environmental activists have expressed hope that a turning point in favor of nature could be just weeks away if Jair Bolsonaro loses.
– But two-thirds of the current lower house of Congress voted for anti-environmental bills, and experts predict that the profile of the lawmakers will remain right-wing and pro-agribusiness.
– Deforestation in the Amazon rose to its highest levels in 10 years under Bolsonaro, who vowed to open up the rainforest to agriculture and mining.
– However, experts say a greener agenda could be possible depending on who is appointed the next lower and upper house presidents, a decision that will be made early next year.

‘Mind-blowing’ marine heat waves put Mediterranean ecosystems at grave risk by John Cannon — September 13, 2022
– A recent study reveals the widespread effects of climate change-driven marine heat waves on the ecological communities of the Mediterranean Sea.
– Rises in sea surface temperatures as high as 5° Celsius (9° Fahrenheit) above normal have caused die-offs in 50 different taxonomic groups of animals from around the Mediterranean Basin.
– These far-reaching impacts of the warming sea could devastate the fisheries on which many of the Mediterranean region’s 400 million people rely.
– Researchers advocate bolstering and expanding marine protected areas. Although they can’t hold back the warmer waters that have proven deadly to the sea’s rich biodiversity, these sanctuaries can help ensure that these species don’t have to cope simultaneously with other pressures, such as overfishing or pollution.

As poachers poison wildlife, Zimbabwe finds an antidote in tougher laws by Ryan Truscott — September 12, 2022
– Poisons like cyanide can be a deadly weapon for poachers, allowing them to kill dozens of animals without needing access to firearms or the backing of criminal syndicates.
– Wildlife poisoning is on the rise across Africa, targeting elephants as well as pushing endangered vultures toward extinction.
– A new study says Zimbabwe, which a decade ago witnessed some of the deadliest mass poisonings of elephants, has developed a sound basis for curbing poisonings by tightening laws to criminalize intent to use poison to kill wildlife.
– In addition to laws and renewed efforts to improve intelligence gathering, private players are pushing to ensure better law enforcement, resulting in more prosecutions and deterrent sentences.

Education can change local perception of bats, help conserve species, study says by Sean Mowbray — September 12, 2022
– Researchers in North Sumatra found that local farmers’ awareness of bats’ role in pollinating durian crops was low.
– Some bat species are in decline in the study area, partly due to hunting.

As a Cameroon palm oil firm gets RSPO certified, it’s also found in breach by Victoria Schneider — September 9, 2022
– A verification assessment launched by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil has acknowledged breaches around the plantations of Cameroonian palm oil producer Socapalm.
– Despite allegations against Socapalm and subsidiaries of holding company Socfin in other countries, the RSPO recently issued certification status to multiple plantations, saying verification and certification don’t contradict each other.
– Local and international organizations are calling for Socapalm’s RSPO certifications to be rescinded due to the ongoing irregularities.

Tiny new tree frog species found in rewilded Costa Rican nature reserve by Liz Kimbrough — September 9, 2022
– On a private nature reserve in Costa Rica, Donald Varela-Soto searched for the source of a shrill frog call for six months. What he found turned out to be a new species, a tiny green tree frog that has been named Tlalocohyla celeste.
– Scientists think the Tapir Valley tree frog may be critically endangered. Its only known habitat is the 8-hectare (20-acre) wetland within the Tapir Valley Nature Reserve, which adjoins Tenorio Volcano National Park.
– Varela-Soto and a partner bought the reserve, a former cattle pasture, to protect and restore forest and provide habitat connectivity for wildlife, including the native Baird’s tapir. The reserve has since become a living laboratory for different restoration techniques.
– Today, the Tapir Valley Nature Reserve hosts species such as jaguars, collared peccaries, and tapirs, and many birds. Ecotourism provides income for Varela-Soto’s family and others. The reserve has been hailed as “a great example of how wildlife and humans can co-exist.”

Amazon deforestation in Brazil booms in August by — September 9, 2022
– Rainforest destruction in the Brazilian Amazon jumped 11% in August with deforestation reaching 1,661 square kilometers (641 square miles) — an area more than 28 times the size of Manhattan — according to data released today by Brazil’s national space research agency, INPE.
– The tally brings rainforest clearing detected in the Brazilian Amazon since the beginning of the year by INPE’s deforestation alert system to 7,135 square kilometers, the highest on record dating back to 2008.
– About 80% of August’s deforestation occurred in just three states: Para (41%), Mato Grosso (20%), and Amazonas (19%).
– Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has been trending higher since 2012 and has especially accelerated since 2019, when Jair Bolsonaro became president.

Warming has set off ‘dangerous’ tipping points. More will fall with the heat by — September 9, 2022
– A new study warns that multiple tipping points will be triggered if global warming exceeds 1.5°C (2.7°F) above pre-industrial levels.
– The researchers say humanity is already at risk of passing five tipping points, including the melting of the Greenland and West Antarctica ice sheets and the mass die-off of coral reefs, at the current levels of warming, and that the risk will increase with each 0.1°C (0.18°F) of warming.
– While many nations have committed to the 2015 Paris Agreement, which stipulates that warming should be limited to 1.5°C, it’s unclear whether this goal will be achieved.

Illegal logging and trade in fine wood threaten Wampis communities in the Peruvian Amazon by Enrique Vera — September 9, 2022
– More than 20,000 board feet of protected forest species, such as cedar and mahogany, are being lost from forests inhabited by Wampis communities every month, according to estimates by community leaders.
– The extraction and sale of these fine woods have increased since the start of 2022 after two Wampis communities obtained permits for the use of certain forest resources.
– According to Wampis leaders, since the issuing of the permits to the two communities, loggers have been able to cut down and transport cedar and mahogany wood, despite these trees being protected species.

For lightning-prone communities in Bangladesh, new warning system may not be enough by Rafiqul Islam — September 9, 2022
– An average of four people a week are killed by lightning in Bangladesh, and the problem is expected to get worse as climate change increases the frequency of lightning strikes.
– Most of the victims tend to be farmers and fishers, who, like members of other poor communities around the world, are bearing the brunt of climate change impacts.
– The Bangladesh Meteorological Department has rolled out an early-warning system, based on modeling developed in collaboration with NASA, that it says will provide up to 54 hours’ warning of potential lightning strikes.
– But experts say the communities most in need of these alerts are those who don’t have access to the technology, and have called for other measures, such as building lightning arresters in open fields and wetlands, to protect vulnerable communities.

Human pressures strain Lake Tanganyika’s biodiversity and water quality by Robert Bociaga — September 9, 2022
– As fishing pressure has increased on Lake Tanganyika, its level has also been rising, inundating shoreline communities.
– Sedimentation as a result of farming, infrastructure projects and deforestation is causing the water level to rise and the lake to expand.
– This has not led to an increase in fish populations, however, and what little data exist suggest that the lake’s overall biodiversity–probably including hippos and Nile crocodiles–is declining.
– An EU-funded plan to coordinate management of the lake by all countries that share it aims to address some of the knowledge gaps, but is itself hobbled by budget constraints.


Wildlife lover and artist records 5 decades of change on iconic U.K. river by Rebecca Branford and Sue Branford — September 7, 2022
In Indonesia’s West Sumbawa, tide turns on taste for turtle eggs by Fathul Rakhman — September 7, 2022
Podcast: With less than 10 years to save Sumatran elephants, what’s being done? by Mike DiGirolamo — September 6, 2022
On the frontlines of drought, communities in Mexico strive to save every drop of water by Monica Pelliccia — September 6, 2022