Newsletter 2023-02-09


Podcast: Moths vs. mines in Ecuador’s astounding biodiversity hotspot by Mike DiGirolamo — February 8, 2023


– The Intag Valley in the tropical Andes region of Ecuador is among the world’s most biodiverse places in the world, with more than half of its species found nowhere else.
– This rich cloud forest has also been targeted by mining companies seeking its vast mineral resources, like copper.
– Local communities have been organizing to protect the region from such threats for decades, in what has become the longest-continuing resistance to mining in Latin America.
– Mongabay’s associate digital editor Romi Castagnino joins the podcast this week to discuss her recent reporting trip to the valley with staff writer Liz Kimbrough, detailing the immense biodiversity, community resistance, and efforts to challenge the planned mine they witnessed.

Sustainable fish farming & agroecology buoy Kenyan communities by David Njagi — February 8, 2023


– In Kenya, small-scale onshore aquaculture combined with sustainable agroecology practices is boosting food security and incomes for smallholder farmers.
– Though most of these farms are quite small, a large amount of protein can be raised in fish ponds filled with rainwater.
– Fed with combinations of food waste and crop residues from agroforestry and organic farming, fish like tilapia can be raised sustainably and profitably.
– Nine counties have invested in supporting such aquaculture projects, with an estimated 300 fish farmers in the Gatunga region of central Kenya alone.

Electricity day and night: Solar power is changing isolated Amazon communities by Ignacio Amigo, Sam Cowie and Avener Prado — February 6, 2023


– The Amazon region produces more than a quarter of the energy in Brazil. Still, hundreds of thousands of families are off the grid and rely on expensive diesel generators to produce electricity.
– Solar panels and other renewable energies can greatly improve the lives of people in these regions and help create jobs.
– NGOs and governments have implemented renewable energy plans in different communities in the Amazon with positive results.
– Experts agree that public policies to provide electricity in the region should also be designed to help generate new sources of income for these communities.

An El Niño is forecast for 2023. How much coral will bleach this time? by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — February 2, 2023


– Forecasts suggest that an El Niño climate pattern could begin later this year, raising sea temperatures at a time when global temperatures are already higher than ever due to human-driven climate change.
– If an El Niño develops and it becomes a moderate to severe event, it could raise global temperatures by more than 1.5°C (2.7°F) above pre-industrial levels, the threshold set by the Paris Agreement.
– An El Niño would generate many impacts on both terrestrial and marine ecosystems, including the potential for droughts, fires, increased precipitation, coral bleaching, invasions of predatory marine species like crown-of-thorns starfish, disruptions to marine food chains, and kelp forest die-offs.


‘If Brazil starts with us, why did we arrive last?’: Q&A with Indigenous lawmaker Célia Xakriabá by Karla Mendes — February 8, 2023
– Indigenous lawmaker Célia Xakriabá says the fight for the climate emergency was key to her election to Brazil’s Congress last year, which drew votes from people with a completely different political party alignment.
– “We were not only elected by progressive people [voting]. It is the environmental issue, the issue for life, the issue of the right to water, the issue of the right to food without poison [pesticides]” — issues that she tells Mongabay must go beyond the progressive parties.
– In this video interview, Célia Xakriabá says one of her priorities in Congress is to create a secretariat for Indigenous education within the Ministry of Education, and establish quotas for Indigenous people at several levels, including Indigenous professors in universities and job posts in embassies.
– Another priority is an update to the statute on Indigenous peoples, which she says is still written “in a racist way and in a retrograde way.” Change is already coming on this front: on its first day in office, the new government changed the name of the federal Indigenous affairs agency from the National Indian Foundation to the National Foundation of Indigenous Peoples.

X-Press Pearl salvage continues as study shows toxic effects of disaster by Malaka Rodrigo — February 8, 2023
– Salvage operations of the sunken MV X-Press Pearl freighter off Sri Lanka’s west coast has made some progress with the rear section of the wreck successfully raised off the seabed.
– Meanwhile, a new study highlights how the marine disaster significantly impacted the coastal environment, water quality and, in turn, the ocean’s biodiversity, fisheries, seafood industry and the livelihoods of the fishing communities.
– The study records biotoxins produced by harmful algae from sample locations closer to the sunken freighter, a possible reason for a spate of turtle deaths and other marine animals following the MV X-Press Pearl disaster.
– As the environmental impacts were being published through the new study, the second interim report on the environmental damage due to maritime disaster was submitted to the Attorney General’s Department, the chief legal adviser to the government of Sri Lanka, which is expected to file a compensation claim in Singapore.

Restore linked habitat to protect tropical amphibians from disease: Study by Sean Mowbray — February 8, 2023
– Amphibians across the tropics are facing a global decline, with disease caused by the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) playing an especially significant role in losses.
– According to recent research, “habitat split” — when different types of habitat, such as terrestrial and freshwater areas, become separated — could play a role in exacerbating disease, potentially altering species’ microbiomes and weakening amphibian resistance.
– According to the study, an amphibian’s journey through altered habitat to complete its life cycle can change the composition of its microbiome (the bacterial makeup of the skin); induce chronic stress; and reduce immune gene diversity — all of which can impact disease resistance.
– Though further studies are needed, this research may offer another persuasive reason to actively restore and reconnect habitats, helping to “prime” amphibian immune systems against disease. There is also a possibility that habitat split findings among amphibians could extend to other families of animals.

Mechanization of illegal gold mining threatens Ghana’s forests by Elodie Toto — February 8, 2023
– In Ghana, illegal miners known as galamseyers are carrying out an increasing share of the country’s gold production.
– In recent years, these miners have been sourcing machinery from China.
– The mechanization of gold mining is accelerating the destruction of forests and farms, as well as polluting waterways in northern and eastern Ghana.

Indigenous women record age-old knowledge of bees in Colombia’s Amazon by Astrid Arellano — February 8, 2023
– A team of Indigenous Yucuna women in the Colombian Amazon are rescuing and documenting the remaining oral knowledge on bees and their roles in the ecosystem, along with the traditional classification system of diverse bee species.
– With the help of nine elders, they are documenting and sketching tales and songs to gather bee names, characteristics, behaviors, roles in their crop fields and the places where bees build beehives.
– Biologists part of a bee inventory program and the women from the reserve are working to compare each other’s findings on bee species in the Indigenous territory, where researchers say bees are better protected than other regions of Colombia.
– Some of the traditional tales and knowledge are even surprising to the women documenting it; they say the details and scientific information will be shared with the communities and local schools to raise awareness on the importance of protecting bees.

‘Not a good sign’: Study shows Greenland temperatures at 1,000-year high by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — February 8, 2023
– New research shows that north-central Greenland experienced the highest temperatures between 2001 and 2011 over a 1,000-year period.
– Scientists came to this conclusion after reconstructing climate conditions over the last millennium by analyzing ice cores from the Greenland ice sheet.
– This study can provide a foundation for future studies on ice melt and sea level rise, the authors say.

Forests & finance: Setbacks for a rare bat, and progress for an oil pipeline by — February 8, 2023
– As much as three-quarters of forests flanking Mozambique’s Mount Namuli have been lost since 2006, researchers say, threatening the newly described Namuli horseshoe bat.
– Environmentalists fear a new pipeline linking oil fields in Niger to the Atlantic coast in Benin will damage forest and wetland habitat along its length.
– Forests & Finance is Mongabay’s bi-weekly bulletin of briefs about Africa’s forests.

Forest loss may push tree-dependent marbled cats into threatened category by Sean Mowbray — February 8, 2023
– Currently considered near threatened on the IUCN Red List, the little-known marbled cat may at greater risk from habitat disturbance than previously thought, a new study says.
– The study authors recommend escalating the species’ conservation status to the threatened category of vulnerable.
– Their findings are based on review of camera-trap data from across the species’ range, which found the small cat is an interior forest specialist and may change its daytime behavior to avoid humans.
– The authors say other semi-arboreal felids, such as the margay, may be similarly impacted.

Pollution and climate change set stage for rise in antimicrobial resistance by John Cannon — February 8, 2023
– A new report from the United Nations Environment Programme illustrates the role that pollution, climate change and biodiversity loss can play in the development of antimicrobial resistance.
– The compounds used to treat bacterial, viral, parasitic and fungal infections have saved countless lives, but their overuse and their presence in the environment from human waste, agriculture and effluent from the pharmaceutical industry and places like hospitals has given rise to resistance to these chemicals in potentially harmful microbes.
– If this resistance continues to increase, experts warn that an additional 10 million people may lose their lives by 2050 — about the same number who died of cancer in 2020.
– The report’s authors recommend stronger safeguards around industrial runoff, better sanitation and more judicious use of antimicrobials to address this potential crisis.

Is El Salvador preparing to reverse its landmark mining ban? by Maxwell Radwin — February 7, 2023
– El Salvador banned all mining of metals in 2017, but environmentalists are concerned that the government is preparing to reverse the decision and bring in international investment.
– The government has created a new agency to oversee extractive industries and begun looking into international agreements that facilitate investment in precious metals.
– Five “water defenders,” who have spent decades speaking out contamination of water sources by mining projects, were arrested in January after mining officials visited their town of Santa Marta.

Forest carbon offsets are a tool, not a silver bullet (commentary) by Robert Nasi and Pham Thu Thuy — February 7, 2023
– The Guardian recently published an article questioning the effectiveness of forest carbon offsets, immediately followed by another in Die Zeit about ‘phantom offsets.’
– These criticisms are not without precedent: carbon offsetting is often presented either as a panacea or as corporate greenwashing that distracts from the difficult task of reducing actual greenhouse gas emissions.
– But as two leaders from CIFOR-ICRAF argue in a new commentary, “It is neither one nor the other. It is a tool. No particular policy instrument stands out as a ‘silver bullet,’ but improving the coherence and complementarity of the policy mix across government levels can enhance the effectiveness of policies.”
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of Mongabay.

Critics allege EU’s ‘toxic collusion’ with fishing lobbies is damaging Indian Ocean tuna by Malavika Vyawahare — February 7, 2023
– Members of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) agreed to reduce the use of drifting fish-aggregating devices (FADs) and to impose three-month closures on the devices, despite opposition from the European Union.
– The EU dominates Indian Ocean tuna fisheries; its fleet of industrial fishing vessels has long reeled in the lion’s share of tuna, including yellowfin, a stock that is now perilously close to collapse.
– Through their sheer numbers and influence in EU delegations, industrial fishing lobbyists have stymied efforts to impose appropriate catch quotas and limit the use of destructive fishing gear like FADs used extensively by EU vessels, an investigation by the French NGO BLOOM Association found.
– In a statement, the European Commission denied the NGO’s allegations that lobbyists shape its positions at IOTC talks, noting that the pandemic led to increased participation from stakeholders and that these stakeholders were observers and not authorized to negotiate on the commission’s behalf.

Forest modeling misses the water for the carbon: Q&A with Antonio Nobre & Anastassia Makarieva by Judith D. Schwartz — February 7, 2023
– An expanded understanding of forests’ role in moisture transport and heat regulation raises the stakes on the health of the Amazon Rainforest and the need to stop cutting trees.
– The biotic pump theory, conceived by scientists Anastassia Makarieva and the late Victor Gorshkov, suggests that forests’ impact on hydrology and cooling exceeds the role of carbon embodied in trees.
– In an interview with Mongabay, Makarieva and Brazilian scientist Antonio Nobre explain how the theory makes the case for a more urgent approach by Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to protect the Amazon.

Amazonian countries must act together to reverse rainforest loss, experts say by Jenny Gonzales — February 7, 2023
– A group of researchers from the Science Panel for the Amazon, an initiative dedicated to the region, says reversing the destruction of the rainforest needs to be done through large-scale restoration.
– They prescribe tailored action that unlocks different benefits in areas with high deforestation rates and forest degradation, and those experiencing climate change impacts.
– So-called arcs of reforestation would need to be created across Bolivia, Colombia, Peru and Brazil, while conservation work would seek to stop further deforestation.
– According to the experts, with the exception of Brazil, Amazonian countries lack forest data for effectively running restoration actions.

When nature gives them a chance to collab, jaguars aren’t so solitary after all by Ruth Kamnitzer — February 7, 2023
– A collaborative study has documented male jaguars engaging in cooperative behavior and forming multiyear partnerships in prey-rich areas in Venezuala’s Llanos and Brazil’s Pantanal.
– Though these partnerships remain rare, evidence of this and other cooperative behaviors challenges the notion that all felids, except for lions and cheetahs, are strictly solitary.
– The research reinforces the value of long-term studies using data from multiple sources to give a fuller understanding of a species’ ecology and behavior.

Illegal mines and “floating towns” on the Puré River leave uncontacted Indigenous peoples at risk by Pilar Puentes — February 6, 2023
– The Yurí-Passé are at risk of coming into contact with illegal miners and drug traffickers, which violates their right and deliberate decision to live in isolation from the Western world.
– According to one study, mercury levels in the blood of communities living along the Caquetá river and its tributaries, such as the Puré River, are much higher than the average.
– Although the Puré River area is located in a protected area, mining activity has increased following a number of threats made against park rangers and an arson attack on a cabin belonging to Colombia’s Natural National Parks authority (PNN) by FARC dissidents. Despite military operations, mining activities continue, with dozens of dredgers thought to be operating on the river.

Tide Island: seven decades of environmental racism in Salvador by Rafael Martins — February 6, 2023
– Since the 1950s, an area with one of the largest Black populations in the state capital of Bahia has suffered damages to the health of its people and ecosystem as a result of nearby operations of a port, an industrial complex and an oil refinery.
– Many of the approximately 4,000 residents make their living from fishing and shellfish gathering — activities directly affected by contamination of waters and destruction of mangroves.
– Recent research has detected levels of heavy metals such as cadmium and lead in the children from Ilha de Maré, or Tide Island, four times higher than World Health Organization (WHO) standards.

Nepalis’ love of momos threatens endangered wild water buffaloes by Abhaya Raj Joshi — February 6, 2023
– The most sought-after dumplings (momos) in Nepal are filled with buffalo meat, which commands a higher price if it comes from a crossbreed of wild and domestic buffalo.
– Crossbreeding dometic and endangered wild buffaloes is illegal and can threaten the wild population, but people do it because of the high demand for the meat as well as a belief that crossbred females produce more milk.
– Authorities in the Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve are challenged with controlling the mixing of wild and domestic animals inside the reserve.

Study: Paying fishers to ease off sharks and rays is cost-effective conservation by Cassie Freund — February 6, 2023
– Paying fishers in Indonesia to not catch sharks and rays could be a cost-effective way of conserving these species, a new study suggests.
– Interviews with fishers at two sites shows that payments of $71,408-$235,927 per year could protect up to 18,500 hammerheads and 2,140 wedgefish at those sites.
– Researchers say this money could come from dive tourism levies, and they are already carrying out a pilot project that has seen fishers release more than 150 hammerheads and wedgefish in eight months.
– An independent expert cautions that there need to be safeguards to prevent a perverse incentive where fishers are deliberately catching these species just so they can release them and claim payment.

Good fisheries management, if enforced, can help sharks and rays recover by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — February 3, 2023
– Effective fisheries management, strong regulations, enforcement, and monitoring can help conserve sharks and rays, according to new research.
– Researchers found that some shark populations in the northwest Atlantic recovered after the U.S. implemented a management plan in 1993, despite ongoing fishing, while populations in areas without sufficient management declined.
– A previous study found that overfishing threatens one-third of sharks, rays and chimeras with extinction, making them the second-most endangered vertebrate group, after amphibians.

Mongabay’s What-To-Watch list for February 2023 by — February 3, 2023
– Mongabay’s videos from January show the effects agriculture and food farms have on local populations in Liberia, India and Chile alike. Watch also how climate change is impacting the food systems, and thus farmers and the Indigenous, in India and Brazilian Amazon.
– Mongabay spoke with the newly elected Indigenous representatives in Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva government about how the new developments mark a “new era” for Indigenous populations and the environment.
– Get a peek into the various segments of the environment across the globe. Add these videos to your watchlist for the month and watch them for free on YouTube.

Kenya’s youngest environmental ambassador: Q&A with 10-year-old Karen Kimani by Mactilda Mbenywe — February 3, 2023
– Karen Kimani has spent many of her 10 years working to save the environment in Kenya, planting thousands of trees, speaking out against air pollution and representing her country in international events, including COP27.
– Kimani is also a model and has created clothing from recycled plastics; she uses modeling as an opportunity to spread her message about the environment.
– Kimani hopes to become a doctor and says a better environment will make her work easier, as fewer people will become sick from environmental pollution.

Bolivian national park hit hard by forest fires in 2022, satellite data show by Iván Paredes Tamayo — February 2, 2023
– Noel Kempff Mercado National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Bolivia’s largest parks, encompasses a variety of ecosystems and provides habitat for more than 1,100 vertebrate species.
– According to satellite data, fires burned across a region comprising an estimated 18% of the park’s total area between August and November 2022, and damaged around 200 km2 (77 mi2) of its forests.
– When adding in other forest loss in 2022, the data suggest Noel Kempff Mercado lost a total of 250 km2 (97 mi2) of its tree cover last year, marking a new deforestation record since measurements began at the turn of the century.
– The fires in Noel Kempff Mercado National Park coincide with fire activity outside of the park, where Intentional burning is commonplace as farmers clear land and reinvigorate soil ahead of planting.

Pollinator declines linked to half million early human deaths annually: Study by Jeremy Hance — February 2, 2023
– A new modeling study finds that half a million people are currently dying prematurely every year due to global insect pollinator decline because of lack of availability and/or high price of healthy foods such as nuts, legumes, fruits and vegetables.
– Robust epidemiological research has linked higher fruit, vegetable and nut intake to lowered mortality from many major chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes.
– Researchers assessed the problem nationally: Middle-income countries, including Russia, China and India, are among the hardest hit, as are Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar, though surprisingly, parts of Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa were among the least affected. Wealthy nations were more immune from pollinator decline.
– Experts say multiple solutions are readily available: Wild pollinators can be significantly increased by protecting existing, and creating new, pollinator habitat at the farm and national level, by reducing and eliminating the use of harmful pesticides like neonicotinoids, and by effectively combating climate change.



‘Grumpiest cat’ leaves its calling card on the world’s highest mountain by Abhaya Raj Joshi — January 31, 2023
On Sumatra coast, mangrove clearing sparks scrutiny of loophole by Teguh Suprayitno — January 30, 2023
Liberian courts rubber-stamp export shipment of illegal logs by Ashoka Mukpo — January 27, 2023
Illegal road found in Yanomami land accelerates destruction by Dimitri Selibas — January 26, 2023