Newsletter 2022-12-22


Podcast: Into the Wasteland, part 3: Buried in Europe’s recycling by — December 20, 2022


– The European Commission estimates that the illegal handling of recycling and other wastes represents around 15-30% of the total EU waste trade, generating EUR 9.5 billion annually.
– Our team visits a facility in Poland that’s supposed to be handling U.K. recycling but finds it shuttered and infested with rats.
– We also speak with the ‘James Bond of waste trafficking’ who reveals that much recycling is being ‘laundered’ via the Netherlands and shipped on to countries where such resources are often dumped, not recycled.
– This is the final episode in Mongabay’s three-part, “true eco-crime” series, where investigative reporters trace England’s — and Europe’s — towering illegal waste problem.

Coffee capsules: Brewing up an (in)convenient storm of waste by Elham Shabahat — December 20, 2022


– Coffee capsules are now ubiquitous: By 2025, the global market for the product is expected to grow to more than $29 billion.
– These mostly plastic pods are currently popular in Europe and North America, but research predicts their popularity is likely to grow in markets in Asia, particularly China and South Korea.
– As the global market for coffee capsules grows, so does the waste associated with it: The global footprint of annual coffee capsule waste is about 576,000 metric tons — the combined weight of about 4,400 school buses.
– Responding to pressure from environmental campaigns like “Kill the K-Cup,” coffee companies have developed capsules made from aluminum or compostable fiber; but progress to ensure that coffee pods don’t contribute to more pollution is still moving at a glacial pace.

Brazil’s Pantanal is at risk of collapse, scientists say by Sharon Guynup — December 20, 2022


– Though the Pantanal is 93% privately owned, this vast Brazilian tropical wetland remains a stronghold for jaguars and untold other species, and connects animals with the Amazon, Cerrado and other biomes.
– A confluence of human activities in Brazil and worldwide — including deforestation and climate change — are heating and drying this watery landscape, threatening the entire ecosystem with drought, wildfires and habitat loss.
– Now, a plan to dredge and straighten the Paraguay River that feeds the Pantanal could serve as the death knell for this vast wetland ecosystem.
– There’s hope that president-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who campaigned on an environmental platform, will initiate stewardship that stops Pantanal deforestation and the waterway project, helping curb greenhouse gas emissions.

In Vietnam, a forest grown from the ashes of war falls to a resort project by Le Quynh — December 19, 2022


– Planted in the 1970s as part of Vietnam’s post-war reforestation program, the Dak Doa forest has become both a burgeoning tourist attraction and a lifeline for ethnic minority farmers living in the district.
– The forest is under threat due to a planned tourism, housing and golf complex slated to cover 517 of the forest’s 601 hectares (1,278 of 1,485 acres).
– Work on the project is currently suspended due to the death of more than 4,500 trees in a botched relocation operation, as well as sanctions imposed on local leaders by central party leadership, which found local officials to have committed a series of violations related to land management.
– While currently suspended, the project could still be revitalized if a new investor takes over.



Mongabay’s ‘Must Listen’ Podcast List for 2022 by Mike DiGirolamo — December 22, 2022
– 2022 was an exciting year for Mongabay’s podcast team, with a brand-new season of the long-form, exploratory series “Mongabay Explores,” diving into the island of New Guinea and its one-of-a-kind biodiversity and cultural richness over seven episodes.
– Regular host of the Newscast, Mike G., took listeners to the sky and sea to highlight Indigenous conservation efforts, bioacoustics, and combining Western science and traditional knowledge for marine conservation efforts.
– The Newscast also explored lesser-examined topics like cryptocurrency and their environmental impact.
– If you’re new to Mongabay’s podcast content or you want a review of some of the best recent episodes from this past year, start here.

California’s network of marine protected areas must be strengthened and expanded (commentary) by Ben Grundy — December 22, 2022
– During December 2022, California is holding its first 10-year review of its marine protected areas network, to be used to inform the network’s future.
– Previously, Gov. Gavin Newsom laid out a goal to protect 30% of the state’s land, water, and sea space over the decade.
– “As state regulators take account of the progress it has made of protecting marine ecosystems and wildlife, California should expand and strengthen upon its MPA success stories to ensure 30% of its state waters are fully protected by 2030,” a new op-ed argues.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Mexican restoration dominated by non-environmental interests by Dimitri Selibas — December 22, 2022
– Mexico is one of the 12 most biodiverse countries in the world, yet more than 50% of the country’s land is degraded and deforested, driven mainly by agricultural expansion, timber extraction and forest fires.
– The Mexican government’s $3.4 billion Sembrando Vida (Sowing Life) reforestation program is supposed to have planted more than 720 million trees since its inception in 2016, yet it has also been criticized for encouraging deforestation and focusing more on social rather than environmental outcomes.
– To obtain funds for Sembrando Vida, the government has been criticized for slashing 75% of funding for the national parks authority, severely limiting its ability to protect the country’s protected natural areas, which cover almost 91 million hectares (225 million acres).
– In April 2021, the Mexican Alliance for Ecosystem Restoration was launched as part of the U.N. Decade for Ecosystem Restoration and seeks to guide private and public sector restoration initiatives and drive investment in ecosystems, aiming to restore 1 million hectares (2.5 million acres) of forest by 2030.

In Liberia, a gold boom leads to unregulated mining and ailing rivers by Varney Kamara — December 22, 2022
– Liberia has abundant mineral resources and legislation aimed at preventing the most environmentally destructive forms of mining but little capacity to enforce those regulations.
– In the gold mining camp of Sam Beach, Mongabay observed damaged forests and rivers as a result of poorly regulated mining operations.
– Traditional landowners say they have little ability to participate in negotiations when mining agreements are made, while the community faces the environmental and social fallout of a mining boom.

Strong marine protected areas credited with manta ray surge in Indonesia by Cassie Freund — December 22, 2022
– Manta ray populations are thriving in Indonesia’s Raja Ampat archipelago, a new population assessment shows, highlighting the importance of marine protected areas to the species’ conservation.
– The study showed that reef manta ray (Mobula alfredi) populations saw up to 10.7% compound annual increase from 2009-2019 in the region, even as global ray and shark populations undergo a sweeping decline.
– The study authors attribute this to well-planned and -implemented conservation measures by Indonesian authorities, conservation groups and local communities.
– The finding chimes with the discovery earlier this year that manta ray populations are also flourishing in Komodo National Park, another tightly regulated protected area in Indonesia.

Landmark bill will ban the shark fin trade in the US by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — December 21, 2022
– On Dec. 15, the U.S. Senate passed legislation that will ban the shark fin trade within the nation.
– It’s estimated that fins from as many as 73 million sharks annually end up in the global market, but it is difficult to fully grasp the size and severity of the shark fin industry since much of it is unregulated.
– This forthcoming ban follows other measures to protect sharks, including the listing of many shark species on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and a ban on gear that is used to target sharks in the Pacific.

Gold mining invades remote protected area in Ecuador by Antonio José Paz Cardona — December 21, 2022
– Due to its isolation in far-northern Ecuador, Cofán Bermejo Ecological Reserve, much of which also functions as an Indigenous territory, has been comparatively spared from the oil-driven deforestation that has affected other nearby protected areas.
– However, satellite data and imagery show clearings proliferating along rivers that form the northern and southern borders of the reserve.
– Conservation organizations, scientists and residents of local communities say illegal gold mining is behind this wave of incursions.
– Legal mining may also be on the horizon in Cofán Bermejo, with several mining concessions within the reserve pending approval by authorities.

Australia rejects forest biomass in first blow to wood pellet industry by Justin Catanoso — December 21, 2022
– On December 15, Australia became the first major economy worldwide to reverse itself on its renewable classification for woody biomass burned to make energy. Under the nation’s new policy, wood harvested from native forests and burned to produce energy cannot be classified as a renewable energy source.
– That decision comes as the U.S., Canada, Eastern Europe, Vietnam and other forest nations continue gearing up to harvest their woodlands to make massive amounts of wood pellets, in order to supply biomass-fired power plants in the UK, EU, Japan, South Korea and elsewhere.
– In the EU, forest advocates continue with last-ditch lobbying efforts to have woody biomass stripped of its renewable energy designation, and end the ongoing practice of providing large subsidies to the biomass industry for wood pellets.
– Science has found that biomass burning releases more carbon dioxide emissions per unit of energy produced than coal. Australia’s decision, and the EU’s continued commitment to biomass, creates a conundrum for policymakers: How can major economies have different definitions of renewable energy when it comes to biomass?

Crafting Nepal’s conservation success: Q&A with Sharad Chandra Adhikary by Abhaya Raj Joshi — December 21, 2022
– Sharad Chandra Adhikary, a PR veteran who has also worked with Nepal’s anti-corruption commission, now serves as member secretary of the National Trust for Nature Conservation, an organization that works with the government of Nepal.
– The NTNC manages some of the most important conservation areas across Nepal to protect biodiversity, focusing on activities inside protected areas, research by wildlife expert scientists, and helping the government formulate conservation policies.
– The organization works with local communities trying to bring a balance between the local Nepali people’s aspiration for development and keeping the ecological integrity of the areas, encouraging local entrepreneurs in tourism.

From bombs to seasonal closure, Indonesian fishers move toward sustainability by Wahyu Chandra — December 21, 2022
– Kahu-Kahu village on Sulawesi’s Selayar Island is implementing its first season- and location-based fishery closure.
– The three-month closure of a 6-hectare (15-acre) stretch of coastal water is intended to replenish local octopus populations by reducing fishing pressure.
– Local fishers will install and plant artificial reefs in the area during the closure.

Wildlife at risk in Bangladesh as roads run rampant through protected forests by Maksuda Aziz — December 21, 2022
– Mongabay has identified 1,618 kilometers (1,005 miles) of roads in 38 restricted forests in Bangladesh using remote sensing data, with many of these routes passing through important national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.
– Unlike in neighboring India, where the formal guidelines ensure the environment ministry has a say in infrastructure projects running through forested areas, Bangladesh lacks such provisions, allowing for the proliferation of roads, railways and power lines.
– In addition to killing animals, this linear infrastructure also encouraged illegal logging, mining, hunting and poaching, the introduction of exotic species, pollution, and illegal settlements.
– Experts say it should be “common sense” to account for the needs of wildlife when planning infrastructure, and recent projects are starting to incorporate canopy bridges and over- and underpasses to accommodate animal movement.

Plastic pellet pollution can end through coordinated efforts, report shows by Jewel S. Cabrera — December 21, 2022
– Tiny plastic pellets called nurdles are a major source of global pollution, littering waterways, harming ecosystems and threatening marine life.
– But plastic pellet pollution is preventable, according to a new report by the international conservation group Fauna & Flora International (FFI), and it’s one piece of the global plastic problem that can and should be tackled.
– Solving the problem will require coordinated efforts by companies, governments and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), according to FFI.

Half of tropical forestland cleared for agriculture isn’t put to use, research shows by Calvin Rock Odhiambo — December 21, 2022
– Agriculture is the primary driver of tropical deforestation, accounting for 90% or more of forest loss, yet researchers have found that only about half of total land cleared is put into active agricultural production.
– The gap between what’s cleared and what’s used for agriculture shows that “we have to fix agriculture and we have to fix deforestation,” according to one of the researchers.
– Tropical deforestation is a major contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, but the research shows there is no simple fix, as humanity’s increasing food needs coincide with the need for conservation.

Ebola-like African primate viruses ‘poised for spillover’ to humans, study finds by Mactilda Mbenywe — December 21, 2022
– A family of viruses that causes Ebola-like symptoms in African primate populations is “poised for spillover” to humans, a new study shows.
– Researchers say these arteriviruses, already a threat to macaques, use a specific receptor to enter and invade the body; humans have a similar form of the receptor, called CD163.
– Although there is no evidence of these viruses infecting humans to this point, researchers say they found similarities to the viruses that gave rise to HIV.
– Conservationists say the risks of animal-human disease transmission increase as human populations continue to encroach on wild animal spaces.

Extinct sea cow’s underwater engineering legacy lives on today, study finds by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — December 20, 2022
– In a new study, scientists said that the extinct Steller’s sea cow impacted kelp forests in the North Pacific by browsing at the surface, which would have encouraged the growth and strengthening of the algal understory.
– Not only would sea cows have positively impacted kelp forests in the past, but they may have also enhanced their resilience into modern times, according to the authors.
– Globally, kelp forests face many threats, including ocean warming, which can lead to an overabundance of predatory urchins.
– The authors suggest that it might be possible for humans to reproduce the species’ impact on the canopy of kelp forests to enhance kelp forest resilience.

Better livestock health reduces carbon emissions (commentary) by Carel du Marchie Sarvaas — December 20, 2022
– One direct, humane, and cost-effective way to bring down carbon emissions associated with livestock that few people are talking about is improving animal health.
– Lethal or not, diseases are directly responsible for driving up emissions from animal agriculture because farmers wind up raising more animals and using more resources to produce the same amount of food, fuel or fiber.
– Healthy animals can act as a potent tool in our global response to climate change – but only if policymakers act to better integrate animal health into climate strategies under the interconnected principles of ‘One Health,’ a new op-ed argues.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Video: Stolen Quilombola cemeteries in the Amazon, and the probe that revealed it all by Karla Mendes — December 20, 2022
– Palm oil is a ubiquitous ingredient in products ranging from chocolate to cookies to lipstick, but its production in a corner of the Brazilian Amazon may be linked to a land grab from traditional communities, including cemeteries, a year-long investigation by Mongabay’s Karla Mendes has revealed.
– Prosecutors in Pará state have cited the Mongabay investigation in their procedures looking into the conflicts between Quilombola communities seeking recognition of their territory and areas occupied by Agropalma, the country’s second-largest palm oil exporter.
– In November 2021, Mendes went to Pará’s Alto Acará region to investigate these land-grabbing claims, and shares her reporting journey in this behind-the-scenes video, including witnessing a historical Day of the Dead celebration at a cemetery that the Quilombolas say they were locked out of by Agropalma.
– Mendes also witnessed another cemetery hemmed in by Agropalma’s oil palms, where Quilombolas accuse the company of planting the trees over the graves of their loved ones, and investigated other palm oil-linked issues reported by local communities, including water pollution and the threat of displacement from the paving of a trucking road.

Nations adopt Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework by Latoya Abulu and Sahana Ghosh — December 20, 2022
– After multiple delays due to COVID-19, nearly 200 countries at the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) in Montreal sealed a landmark deal to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030.
– The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), with four goals and 23 action-oriented targets, comes after two weeks of intense negotiations at COP15, in Montreal, Canada. This agreement replaces the Aichi Biodiversity Targets set in 2010.
– Among the 2030 goals, countries pledged to protect at least 30% of terrestrial and marine areas, while also recognizing Indigenous and traditional territories.
– Concerns have been raised about the ambitions of the framework, with many criticizing the agreement for its corporate influence, vague language and watered-down targets, many of which are not quantitative.

To cut emissions from cattle ranching, beef up the soil, study says by Shanna Hanbury — December 20, 2022
– A pilot project funded by the World Bank in Colombia’s Vichada municipality found that land management techniques paired with the implementation of a tropical grass species increased carbon storage in the soil by more than 15%, while also avoiding the need for cyclical burning of the savanna.
– Improving the productivity of inefficient ranching practices can boost profits for ranchers while combating growing food insecurity in Colombia, say the authors of a recent study documenting the pilot project.
– The study comes amid relative silence at the COP27 climate summit about the role of livestock in climate change: A quarter of all global emissions come from the livestock industry, yet serious measures to reduce or improve these systems are not being discussed enough, experts say.
– Scientists not involved with the pilot project have welcomed the findings but note that biodiversity indicators also need to be measured to compare the improved pastures to natural savanna.

Global study reveals widespread salt marsh decline by Sean Mowbray — December 19, 2022
– The world lost 1,453 square kilometers (561 square miles) of salt marsh between 2000 and 2019, an area twice the size of Singapore, according to a new study based on satellite imagery.
– In addition to providing wildlife habitat and numerous ecosystem services, salt marshes store a great deal of carbon.
– Salt marsh loss resulted in 16.3 teragrams, or 16.3 million metric tons, of carbon emissions per year, according to the study. That’s the rough equivalent of the output of around 3.5 million cars.
– Climate change is one of the greatest threats to marshes. Other contributors to their global decline include conversion to aquaculture, coastal erosion, eutrophication, drainage, mangrove encroachment and invasive species.

Mongabay’s Conservation Potential series investigates: Where do we need to protect biodiversity? by Liz Kimbrough — December 19, 2022
– Leaders and decision-makers are recognizing the urgency of protecting the world’s remaining biodiversity, but investing in conservation requires these actors have access to reliable and actionable information about ongoing conservation projects.
– Mongabay is launching a series of stories called “Conservation Potential,” in which we investigate conservation efforts in high-priority biodiversity areas in tropical forests across the globe.
– To introduce this series, we look at what some experts say about where to prioritize biodiversity conservation, what are some popular approaches to conservation, and what makes conservation projects successful.
– Approaches to conservation vary according to priorities, and there are even debates over what it means to protect biodiversity. This introduction is not meant to be an exhaustive review of the dozens of plans and schemes for preserving biodiversity, but it offers a conceptual starting point for our series.

‘Bizarre’ newly classified scorpionfly shines light on Nepal’s insect diversity by Abhaya Raj Joshi — December 17, 2022
– After closely examining long-held specimens of insects from Nepal, University of Göttingen zoologist Rainer Willmann has newly described and classified a previously unknown genus of scorpionfly he named Lulilan.
– These scorpionflies have an extremely long abdomen and tail and large genital structure that the male uses to grasp the female during copulation.
– Researchers say the presence of scorpionflies, which are threatened by development, insecticides and disease, indicate a healthy environment — and could be a positive sign for the diversity of Nepal’s insect life.

COP15 deal needs a ‘holistic approach to conservation’: Q&A with Joan Carling and Ramiro Batzin by Dimitri Selibas — December 16, 2022
– At the U.N. biodiversity talks, known as COP15, the target to protect 30% of land and ocean by 2030 is seen by many negotiators as the cornerstone of a successful deal to protect nature, and a target that should include Indigenous lands rights.
– But Indigenous leaders at the conference say that several other issues in the deal also concern their communities and should be emphasized for a strong deal, namely direct financing, sustainable agriculture and eliminating subsidies to industries driving biodiversity loss.
– Mongabay speaks with two Indigenous negotiators at COP15, Ramiro Batzin and Joan Carling, to unpack all the issues affecting Indigenous communities in the biodiversity deal and to understand what’s stalling negotiators from agreeing to their proposals.

Emmanuel Macron’s “Biodiversity Credits”: What are we talking about? by Alain Karsenty — December 16, 2022
– Carbon credits have long been a part of the climate change discourse and so the universe of different types of carbon credits is fairly well understood. What about biodiversity credits, at the heart of an initiative announced by Emmanuel Macron at COP27?
– Broadly speaking, two cases can be distinguished: on the one hand, regulatory or voluntary biodiversity offset systems with offsets, based on the “no net loss” principle associated with the avoid-reduce-compensate (ARC) sequence. On the other hand, credits not intended for offsetting, modeled on voluntary carbon credits, which are, above all, financing vehicles for actions in favor of biodiversity.
– Alain Karsenty, an economist at CIRAD, explores their interest and limits in relation to systems already in place or proposed elsewhere.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.

Black Sea dolphin deaths prompt ecocide allegations against Russia by Elizabeth Fitt — December 16, 2022
– On Dec. 7, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of ecocide during COP15, the U.N. biodiversity summit in Montreal, following unprecedented reports of dead dolphins and porpoises washing up on Black Sea beaches since Russia invaded Ukraine.
– On Dec. 2, researchers reported the first scientific analysis of changes in cetacean deaths and movement patterns since the war began in February.
– Mounting evidence is slowly painting a clearer picture of the mass mortality of Black Sea cetaceans.
– But estimates of the death toll vary and scientists diverge on whether research has progressed far enough to scientifically conclude the war’s effect.

In Bangladesh, Ecologically Critical Areas exist only on paper by Abu Siddique — December 16, 2022
– Since 1999, Bangladesh has declared 13 biodiversity-rich areas as Ecologically Critical Areas (ECAs) under the Environment Conservation Act.
– The government has failed to conserve the ECAs so far, despite some protection measures undertaken in Saint Martin’s Island, Tanguar Haor, Hakaluki Haor, Cox’s Bazar and Sonadia Island.
– The government has permitted industries to be set up in one of the major ECAs, the Sundarbans, including an oil refinery and coal-fired power plant.
– Authorities blame inadequate budget allocation and staff shortage, which environmentalists describe as a “lack of interest of the government.”

Island shopping: Cambodian officials buy up the Cardamoms’ coast by Gerald Flynn|Andy Ball|Vutha Srey — December 16, 2022
– A buying spree by Cambodia’s wealthy and politically connected elites has put the fate of a string of small islands in the balance, affecting the livelihoods of local fishers.
– Resort developments threaten the Koh S’dach archipelago’s seagrass and coral ecosystems, which harbor rare and threatened marine life.
– Local fishers have also found themselves locked out of their traditional fishing grounds by the developers, leading to a loss of earnings.
– This story was supported by the Pulitzer Center’s Rainforest Investigations Network where Gerald Flynn is a fellow.

Major Brazil palm oil exporter accused of fraud, land-grabbing over Quilombola cemeteries by Karla Mendes — December 15, 2022
– Agropalma, the only Brazilian company with the sustainability certificate issued by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), is accused of a wide range of land-grabbing allegations in Pará state.
– The claims allege that more than half of the 107,000 hectares (264,000 acres) registered by Agropalma was derived from fraudulent land titles and even the creation of a fake land registration bureau, which is at the center of a legal battle led by state prosecutors and public defenders.
– Quilombola communities say that part of the area occupied by Agropalma overlaps with their ancestral land, including two cemeteries visited by Mongabay. In one of them, residents claim that just one-quarter of the cemetery remains and that the company planted palm trees on top of the graves, which the company denies.
– There are also other financial interests in the land at stake, researchers say, pointing to the company’s moves into bauxite mining and the sale of carbon credits in the areas subject to litigation, further intensifying the disputes.



Podcast: Waste crime is ‘the new narcotics’ in the U.K. by — December 13, 2022
Counterintuitive: Large wild herbivores may help slow climate change by Tim Vernimmen — December 13, 2022
How agroforestry can restore degraded lands and provide income in the Amazon by Avener Prado, Ignacio Amigo and Sam Cowie — December 9, 2022
If you build it, the amphibians will come: Swiss researchers show new ponds boost species at risk by Elissa Welle — December 9, 2022
Historic EU law against deforestation-linked imports ignores Brazil’s Cerrado by Alec Luhn — December 8, 2022