Newsletter 2023-01-05


Mongabay’s most impactful investigations of 2022 by — December 30, 2022

– Mongabay published more than a dozen in-depth investigations in 2022 to hold companies and governments accountable for their actions.
– The investigations ranged from the Amazon to the forests of Central Africa and the Pacific Ocean, covering numerous issues, from illegal logging to threats to environmental defenders and shark finning.
– In this article, Mongabay takes a look back at some of the most impactful investigations from 2022.

Top mangrove news of 2022 by Morgan Erickson-Davis — December 30, 2022

– Mangroves are unique forests adapted to live along the coasts in mostly tropical and subtropical areas of the world.
– Mangroves are in danger as they are cleared to make room for farms, mines, and other human developments.
– Mangroves provide a bevy of important ecosystem services such as flood and erosion control and greenhouse gas storage, and they provide habitat for many species.
– Below are some of the most notable mangrove news items of 2022.

From declining deforestation to quitting coal, Indonesia marks a pivotal 2022 by Isabel Esterman — December 30, 2022

– 2022 saw a continued decline in deforestation in Indonesia, as well as financing deals for forest conservation and phasing out fossil fuels, and a scramble to keep up with changing EU timber regulations.
– The year also saw the passage of controversial amendments to Indonesia’s criminal code, friction between the government and researchers, and increasing concerns about the environmental cost of the country’s nickel boom for electric vehicle batteries.
– Here are some of the top environment stories and trends of 2022 from one of the world’s most important tropical forest countries.

In Brazil’s Amazon, land grabbers scramble to claim disputed Indigenous reserve by Ana Ionova — December 29, 2022

– The Apyterewa Indigenous Territory has been under federal protection since 2007, but in recent years has become one of the most deforested reserves in Brazil, as loggers, ranchers and miners have invaded and razed swaths of forest.
– As President Jair Bolsonaro prepares to leave office, land grabbers are rushing to “deforest while there is still time,” advocates say, with forest clearing in Apyterewa on track to hit new highs this year.
– The surge in invasions has aggravated a decades-long tussle for land between Indigenous people and settlers, who first started trickling into Apyterewa in the 1980s and have since built villages, schools and churches within the reserve.
– The Parakanã people say the outsiders, new and old, are polluting their water sources, depleting forest resources, and threatening their traditional way of life.

Top 15 species discoveries from 2022 (Photos) by Liz Kimbrough — December 29, 2022

– A resplendent rainbow fish, a frog that looks like chocolate, a Thai tarantula, an anemone that rides on a back of a hermit crab, and the world’s largest waterlily are among the new species named by science in 2022.
– Scientists estimate that only 10% of all the species on the planet have been described. Even among the most well-known group of animals, mammals, scientists think we have only found 80% of species.
– Unfortunately, many new species of plants, fungi, and animals are assessed as Vulnerable or Critically Endangered with extinction.
– Although a species may be new to science, it may already be well known to locals and have a common name. For instance, Indigenous people often know about species long before they are “discovered” by Western Science.

What happened in the world’s rainforests in 2022? by Rhett A. Butler — December 29, 2022

– There were some hopeful developments for tropical rainforest conservation in 2022.
– But the outlook for tropical forests nonetheless remains tenuous.
– The following is a look at some of the major tropical rainforest storylines and developments in 2022.



For restoration, microbes below ground are just as crucial as the plants above by Hans Nicholas Jong — January 5, 2023
– Planting soil microbiome like fungi together with trees as a part of ecosystem restoration could lead to an average 64% increase in plant growth, a new study has found.
– The research suggests that managed landscapes like farmland and forestry plantations have the greatest potential for restoration using soil organisms as they cover half of Earth’s habitable land area.
– Southeast Asia, in particular, presents an interesting case study for incorporating microbial communities in forest restoration, as it has vast swaths of degraded land that could be restored.

Dollars and chainsaws: Can timber production help fund global reforestation? by Gianluca Cerullo — January 5, 2023
– As global reforestation commitments grow, how will companies, governments and communities pay to restore forest ecosystems and help sequester carbon over the long-term?
– One option: Grow and sell timber on the same plots of land where reforestation work is underway, as exemplified by pioneering restoration projects in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, where a single harvest of fast-growing eucalyptus grows up amid restored native trees. Eucalyptus sales then help pay for long-term restoration.
– Another approach is to concurrently grow tree plantations and forest restorations on separate, often adjacent, plots of land, with a large portion of the profits from timber harvests going to support the long-term management of the reforestation projects.
– But some scientists and forest advocates worry that projects or businesses that become overreliant on timber revenues to finance restoration could undermine an initiative’s environmental benefits, and lock in unintended harvesting within native ecosystems. Experts ask: Can we truly pay for new trees by cutting others down?

Mexico dismantles illegal fishing cartels killing off rare vaquita porpoise by Maxwell Radwin — January 5, 2023
– At a press conference, a top navy official confirmed that the Mexican government has arrested members of criminal groups dedicated to illegally fishing totoaba in the Gulf of California.
– Totoaba bladders can go for as much as $80,000 per kilo, earning them the nickname “the cocaine of the sea.”
– Illegal totoaba fishing practices have contributed to the drastic population decline of vaquita, a small porpoise on the brink of extinction.
– Although the government’s arrests could slow the threats against the vaquita, other criminal groups are also interested in trafficking totoaba, suggesting that the fight to conserve marine populations in the gulf isn’t over.

President Lula’s first pro-environment acts protect Indigenous people and the Amazon by Karla Mendes — January 4, 2023
– Effective Jan. 2, Brazil’s President Lula issued six decrees revoking or altering anti-environment-and-Indigenous measures from his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro, acts highly celebrated by environmentalists and activists.
– One of the decrees annuls mining in Indigenous lands and protected areas, another resumes plans to combat deforestation in the Amazon and Cerrado biomes, and a third reinstates the Amazon Fund, a pool of funding provided to Brazil by developed nations to finance a variety of programs aimed at halting deforestation that was stalled under Bolsonaro.
– Right afterward, Norway announced the immediate release of already available funding for new projects as “President Lula confirmed his ambitions to reduce deforestation and reinstated the governance structure of the Amazon Fund.”
– In an unprecedented act in Brazil’s history, Lula also created the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples, complying with his promise to native people who supported his candidacy “to combat 500 years of inequality.”

On climate & biodiversity, where are we, post-COP15? (commentary) by Zoë Quiroz Cullen — January 4, 2023
– There are many connections between climate change and biodiversity loss, and many of the actions needed to meet the 2030 action targets around biodiversity loss can also work toward climate change targets.
– One of the things that stood out about the COP27 climate treaty decision text, though, was that it did not reference the subsequent conference on biodiversity – COP15 – hence failing to ‘join up’ the conferences in a meaningful way, a new op-ed argues.
– If we hope to both reduce emissions by at least 45% and put biodiversity on a path to recovery, coherent approaches must be applied, writes Fauna & Flora International’s director of Climate & Nature Linkages.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

For Indonesian smallholders, EU deforestation rule is a threat — and an opportunity by Hans Nicholas Jong — January 4, 2023
– Small farmers in Indonesia could be excluded from the European palm oil supply chain under a new EU deforestation regulation because they’re far from being able to comply, a new survey shows.
– The main challenges they face are in meeting traceability, legality and sustainability requirements, given the largely informal nature of transactions at the farm level and the lack of awareness about the need for documents like land titles and plantation certificates.
– The country’s main oil palm smallholder union has called on the EU to provide support for small farmers to be able to comply, such as setting a premium price for certified legal and deforestation-free palm oil.

Climate crisis puts Indigenous Amazonians’ Quarup funeral ritual at risk by Maria Fernanda Ribeiro — January 4, 2023
– The inhabitants of the Xingu Indigenous Territory have had to adapt their Quarup funeral ceremony to avoid fires and guarantee enough food for all visitors.
– The climate crisis has left the forests drier and more flammable: over the past 20 years, 1,890 square kilometers (730 square miles) of protected forest in the Xingu have been lost to fires.
– Deforestation because of soy and corn monocultures in neighboring regions has muddied rivers and caused wild pigs to invade traditional vegetable gardens.
– The loss of rivers makes it difficult to properly store the pequi fruits needed during Quarup, while drought and wild pigs are damaging yucca harvests, also threatening a staple serving for the ceremony.

Sharks received landmark protection to combat fin trade, but the culling must stop (commentary) by Trang Chu Minh — January 3, 2023
– CITES CoP19 marked a historic win for shark conservation and the fight against the global trade in shark fins and meat, but an equally critical issue that must be tackled is shark culling.
– For many decades, popular culture and media, through the choice of words and visual depictions, have portrayed sharks as a threat to humans. Several countries actively kill sharks in mass numbers to control their presence near beaches.
– While shark nets and drumlines can separate the sharks from the humans at beaches, they aren’t fully effective. There are new methods that use technology, like electric shark repellents and magnetic and visual stimuli, work better to prevent human-shark encounters.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Indonesian ‘island auction’ to go ahead despite concerns over permits by Basten Gokkon — January 3, 2023
– Shares of a private company with the rights to develop tourism facilities within a marine reserve in Indonesia have reappeared for auction later this month despite the government’s plan to annul an agreement with the firm.
– The government plans to revoke developer PT LII’s 2015 memorandum of understanding with local authorities, including the rights to develop the Widi Islands for 35 years with a possible extension of another 20 years.
– The company’s plan has met mounting concerns in Indonesia, with experts saying it would be essentially selling the islands off to foreigners and cutting off local fishing communities from a key source of livelihood.
– The Widi Islands are also part of a marine reserve in the Pacific Coral Triangle, a region that’s home to the highest diversity of corals and reef fishes in the world.

Series of small dams pose big cumulative risk to Amazon’s fish and people by Sarah Brown — January 3, 2023
– Small hydropower plants and small-scale fish farming in the Brazilian Amazon basin are often thought to cause negligible environmental harm, yet a new study reveals their cumulative damage is greatly underestimated and can be more impactful than large dams.
– Dwindling fish populations caused by the construction of thousands of small dams has impacted the livelihoods of millions of Indigenous and riverside people who depend on fishing for food, income and culture.
– Small hydropower plants and aquaculture farming are encouraged through economic incentives, simple licensing procedures, and loose requirements for environmental impact assessments before construction.
– More than 350 dam proposals in the Amazon basin are under consideration and 98 medium-sized dams will be prioritized in Brazil as of next year, ensuring the construction of hydropower plants will continue.

New app tells donors what communities need to stop deforestation: Q&A with Health in Harmony by Abhishyant Kidangoor — January 2, 2023
– Nonprofit organization Health in Harmony has been working with rainforest communities to improve access to health care, education and alternative sources of income, and now has a new app to directly connect donors to communities.
– The organization aims to work on intersectional solutions to help communities improve their lives while also weaning them off practices that drive deforestation.
– Health in Harmony’s new app, which includes images and video, enables people from around the world to make donations to implement community-driven solutions.

Democratizing the deep sea: Q&A with Ocean Discovery League’s Katy Croff Bell by Abhishyant Kidangoor — January 2, 2023
– The current expense of studying the deep seas stymies many research initiatives, so scientists have developed a low-cost imaging and sensor device to make access to the deep sea more equal.
– Developed using off-the-shelf hardware, “Maka Niu” can capture images and collect data on temperature and salinity down to a depth of 1,500 meters, or nearly a mile.
– Scientists in countries like the Maldives, Seychelles and South Africa are now deploying prototypes to provide feedback for the final product.

Element Africa: Deadly violence and massive graft at Tanzania and DRC mines by — December 31, 2022
– Environmental concerns are mounting as the Nigerian National Petroleum Company begins drilling for oil in a new field in the north of the country.
– Video testimony has emerged about alleged police killings of five villagers near Canadian miner Barrick Gold’s mine in Tanzania.
– A local official has absconded with $14.5 million in mining royalties intended to fund community development in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Lualaba province.
– Element Africa is Mongabay’s bi-weekly bulletin rounding up brief stories from the commodities industry in Africa.

Degraded soil threatens to exacerbate Bangladesh food crisis by Abu Siddique — December 30, 2022
– Excessive use of chemical fertilizers is causing soil health degradation in Bangladesh, putting the country’s food security at risk.
– The degradation of soil health has been attributed to higher crop removal due to increasing crop intensity, use of modern crops (high-yielding varieties and hybrids), soil erosion, soil salinity, soil acidity, deforestation, nutrient leaching and minimum manure application, according to numerous studies.
– Chemical fertilizers are mostly imported, and as a result of global price volatility, food prices have shot up in Bangladesh.
– Some farmers are now switching to organic fertilizers to improve the soil health of their agricultural land.

Restoring Hong Kong’s oyster reefs, one abandoned oyster farm at a time by Peter Yeung — December 30, 2022
– Conservationists and researchers are teaming up to restore oyster reefs across Hong Kong.
– At one site, they are repurposing concrete posts from an abandoned oyster farm that made use of traditional oyster cultivation methods dating back hundreds of years.
– Hong Kong’s oysters, and its oyster farmers, are threatened by development, warming and acidifying marine waters brought on by climate change, and toxic algae blooms due to pollution.
– By restoring the reefs, conservationists and scientists hope they can improve water quality, stabilize shorelines, and provide habitat for the city’s surprisingly rich marine wildlife.

Indonesia’s ‘essential’ mangroves, seagrass and corals remain unprotected by Basten Gokkon — December 30, 2022
– Much of Indonesia’s mangrove forests, seagrass beds and coral reefs fall outside protected areas, according to a recently published report.
– Indonesia currently has 284,000 square kilometers (110,000 square miles) of marine area under protection, and plans to expand the size of its MPAs to 325,000 km2 (125,000 mi2) by the end of this decade, or 10% of its total territorial waters.
– Less than half of seagrass and coral reefs, and less than a fifth of mangroves, lie within currently protected areas, which experts say could thwart efforts at effective marine conservation.
– The country is home to some of the most diverse marine life on the planet, especially in its eastern region that falls within the Pacific Coral Triangle, an area renowned for its richness of corals and reef fish.



Mongabay’s top 10 stories of 2022 by Isabel Esterman — December 29, 2022
Podcast: A bittersweet bioacoustics bonanza by Mike Gaworecki — December 27, 2022
The Netherlands to stop paying subsidies to ‘untruthful’ biomass firms by Justin Catanoso — December 23, 2022