First Nations have created a robust conservation economy in Great Bear Rainforest: Report [06/17/2019]
- Over the past decade, First Nations have created a robust conservation economy in Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest, one of the largest old-growth temperate rainforests left in the world, through investments in sustainable development and environmental stewardship projects that link the health of nature to the wellbeing of indigenous communities, according to a new report. - The report was issued last week by Coast Funds, an Indigenous-led conservation finance organization created in the wake of historic land-use agreements signed by First Nations and the Canadian province of British Columbia in 2006. - The nearly $82 million in funding Coast Funds approved for 353 projects between 2008 and 2018 attracted more than $286 million in additional investment in the region, the organization reports. First Nations’ sustainable development projects in the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii have had substantial local economic impacts, leading to the creation of more than 1,000 permanent jobs and the founding or growth of 100 businesses, per the report.
Norway sees sharp drop in palm oil biofuel consumption after ban on government purchasing [06/17/2019]
- Norway saw drop in palm oil consumption following new regulations limiting sales in response to concerns about deforestation for plantations. - The decrease has been lauded by a Norwegian rainforest advocacy group, which called it a “big win for rainforests.” - Indonesia and Malaysia, the world’s two biggest palm oil producers, have warned of retaliation if a Europe-wide phase-out of the commodity from biofuels by 2030 goes ahead.
As Cambodia swelters, climate-change suspicion falls on deforestation [06/17/2019]
- Cambodia has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world, with key drivers including demand for timber products, land-use conversion, and urbanization. - Extreme temperatures have led to public criticism linking deforestation to unusually hot weather. - The Cambodian government has denied this connection, but emerging science provides compelling links between the two issues.
Primates lose ground to surging commodity production in their habitats [06/17/2019]
- “Forest risk” commodities, such as beef, palm oil, and fossil fuels, led to a significant proportion of the 1.8 million square kilometers (695,000 square miles) of forest that was cleared between 2001 and 2017 — an area almost the size of Mexico. - A previous study found that 60 percent of primates face extinction and 75 percent of species’ numbers are declining. - The authors say that addressing the loss of primate habitat due to the production of commodities is possible, though it will require a global effort to “green” the international trade in these commodities.
Deforested areas bleed heat to nearby forests, drive local extinctions [06/17/2019]
- Forests play an important role in cooling the Earth. - Deforestation doesn’t just contribute to temperature increases where it occurs but also in adjacent forests, according to a new study. - This leaking of heat into adjacent forests puts species living there at risk by pushing up temperatures that are already rising due to climate change. - This is bad news for countries like Madagascar, which not only hosts many endemic species with limited habitat, but also has alarming rates of deforestation.
Nearly 600 plant species have gone extinct in last 250 years [06/17/2019]
- At least 571 species of seed-bearing plants have gone extinct around the world in the last two and a half centuries. - This number is nearly four times higher than the previous known estimate and more than twice the number of birds, mammals and amphibians that are known to have gone extinct, researchers say. - The study estimates that plants are now becoming extinct nearly 500 times faster than the background extinction rate for plants. - The geographical pattern of modern plant extinctions resembles that for animals: most plant extinctions occur on islands, in the tropics, and in areas with a Mediterranean climate that are rich in biodiversity.
Exotic pet trade responsible for hundreds of invasive species around the globe [06/14/2019]
- According to a new study, published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment last week, Burmese pythons in Florida are just one example of the hundreds of non-native and invasive species that are harming native species and ecosystems around the world thanks to the multibillion-dollar exotic pet trade. - “The volume of vertebrate animals that are traded worldwide is shocking, even to relatively seasoned invasion biologists,” the study’s lead author, Julie L. Lockwood, a professor at Rutgers University–New Brunswick in the United States, said in a statement. “The market in exotic pets has grown considerably since the 1970s, and so I don’t think most of us fully grasped how expansive the trade has become.” - Lockwood and colleagues note in the study that research has shown that, of the 140 non‐native reptiles and amphibians known to have been introduced in Florida so far, close to 85 percent arrived via the pet trade.
In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, June 14, 2019 [06/14/2019]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover. - Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week. - If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments. - Mongabay does not vet the news sources below, nor does the inclusion of a story on this list imply an endorsement of its content.
Leopards get a $20m boost from Panthera pact with Saudi prince [06/14/2019]
- Big-cat conservation group Panthera has signed an agreement with Saudi prince and culture minister Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammad bin Farhan Al Saud in which the latter’s royal commission has pledged $20 million to the protection of leopards around the world, including the Arabian leopard, over the next decade. - The funds will support a survey of the animals in Saudi Arabia and a captive-breeding program. - The coalition also hopes to reintroduce the Arabian leopard into the governorate of Al-Ula, which Bader heads and which the kingdom’s leaders believe could jump-start the local tourism sector.
Peruvian communities demanding crude cleanup brace for more oil activity [06/14/2019]
- The Peruvian government is set to announce a new operator for an oil concession that sits in the basins of the Pastaza, Corrientes and Tigre rivers, in the country’s Amazon region. - Indigenous communities living in the affected area must be consulted because their territorial rights will be affected by a new oil contract for Block 192. - These communities are continuing to demand that the Peruvian government fulfill its obligation to clean up the 32 highest-priority spill sites affected by earlier oil exploration and extraction activities that date back to the 1970s. - Among their demands are that the government provide specialist medical services, clean drinking water, and publish the full results from a health study carried out in 2016, which showed excessive levels of toxic heavy metals in the blood of community members.
Predator-free by 2050? High-tech hopes for New Zealand’s big conservation dream [06/13/2019]
- To preserve New Zealand’s remaining native biodiversity, the country has begun an ambitious nationwide program to eliminate its most damaging non-native invasive predators — rats, stoats and possums — by 2050. - To carry out this mammoth task, government and private entities across the country are applying new technologies to existing detection, exclusion, trapping, poisoning and other strategies used to reduce the numbers of harmful predators. - The program has wide public support, though some effective technologies, particularly gene editing, are controversial; recognition of the importance of public support, as well as cost and effectiveness, help guide the program’s development.
Despite a decade of zero-deforestation vows, forest loss continues: Greenpeace [06/13/2019]
- Nearly a decade after the Board of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) passed a resolution to achieve zero net deforestation by 2020 when sourcing commodities such as soya, palm oil, beef, and paper products, these commodities continue to drive widespread deforestation, a new report from Greenpeace says. - Greenpeace contacted 66 companies, asking them to demonstrate their progress in ending deforestation by disclosing their cattle, cocoa, dairy, palm oil, pulp and paper and soya suppliers. Of the companies that did respond, most came back with only partial information. - The report concludes that not a single company could demonstrate “meaningful effort to eradicate deforestation from its supply chain.” - Other experts say that transparency in supply chains is improving, and that measuring compliance to zero-deforestation goals requires more nuanced research.
Innovative methods could transform Vietnam’s robusta farms into carbon sinks [06/13/2019]
- Vietnam is the second-largest producer of coffee in the world, and the largest exporter of robusta beans. - Climate change poses a threat to the country’s coffee sector, while poor farming techniques cause environmental degradation. - A new report has found that intercropping (agroforestry) and decreased fertilizer use can change robusta farms from carbon sources to carbon sinks. - Such practices are present in Vietnam’s small specialty coffee industry, but large-scale commodity producers aren’t as innovative.
CITES to move wildlife trade summit from Colombo to Geneva this August [06/13/2019]
- An international summit on the global wildlife trade will be moved from Sri Lanka to Switzerland, following a lengthy delay sparked by terrorist bombings in the South Asian country during Easter services in April. - The 18th Meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP18) of CITES was originally scheduled to run May 23 to June 3 in Colombo, but will now take place in Geneva from Aug. 17 to 28. - The CITES announcement follows a comprehensive U.N. security assessment that concluded on May 31. - There was pressure to get the summit going with minimal delay, given the number of conservation programs and activities dependent on the outcome of the meeting, for which delegates had proposed increased trade protections for a host of plant and animal species.
The Great Insect Dying: How to save insects and ourselves [06/13/2019]
- The entomologists interviewed for this Mongabay series agreed on three major causes for the ongoing and escalating collapse of global insect populations: habitat loss (especially due to agribusiness expansion), climate change and pesticide use. Some added a fourth cause: human overpopulation. - Solutions to these problems exist, most agreed, but political commitment, major institutional funding and a large-scale vision are lacking. To combat habitat loss, researchers urge preservation of biodiversity hotspots such as primary rainforest, regeneration of damaged ecosystems, and nature-friendly agriculture. - Combatting climate change, scientists agree, requires deep carbon emission cuts along with the establishment of secure, very large conserved areas and corridors encompassing a wide variety of temperate and tropical ecosystems, sometimes designed with preserving specific insect populations in mind. - Pesticide use solutions include bans of some toxins and pesticide seed coatings, the education of farmers by scientists rather than by pesticide companies, and importantly, a rethinking of agribusiness practices. The Netherlands’ Delta Plan for Biodiversity Recovery includes some of these elements.
Out on a limb: Unlikely collaboration boosts orangutans in Borneo [06/12/2019]
- Logging and hunting have decimated a population of Bornean orangutans in Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park in Indonesia. - Help has recently come from a pair of unlikely allies: an animal welfare group and a human health care nonprofit. - Cross-disciplinary collaboration to meet the needs of ecosystems and humans is becoming an important tool for overcoming seemingly intractable obstacles in conservation.
Is REDD ready for its closeup? Reports vary [06/12/2019]
- As the world’s governments look to curb global warming, protecting what’s left of Earth’s tropical forests is crucial. That means REDD+ could have a huge role to play — but debate is currently raging as to whether or not REDD-based projects can actually deliver the level of emissions reductions necessary to avert runaway global climate change. - Many REDD+ projects are built around the idea of carbon offsetting. In a recent investigative article, ProPublica’s Lisa Song writes that, despite their enormous appeal, carbon offsetting programs don’t always lead to the emissions reductions they’re meant to produce. - In “case after case,” Song writes, she found “carbon credits hadn’t offset the amount of pollution they were supposed to, or they had brought gains that were quickly reversed or that couldn’t be accurately measured to begin with.” - However, the ProPublica report has been criticized by advocates of carbon credit schemes who say that Song has failed to tell the whole story.
Did efforts to protect DRC’s elephants and bonobos leave a trail of abuses? [06/12/2019]
- New research shows encouraging results for the number of forest elephants and bonobos inside Salonga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a major conservation site. - But the findings come amid reports that park rangers, who accompanied the researchers during the field surveys, have committed severe abuses against villagers in the region, including extrajudicial killings. - As conservation increasingly becomes militarized, advocates say Salonga is a case study about the need for accountability.
Audio: Bronx Zoo director says zoos are more relevant to conservation than ever [06/12/2019]
- On this episode of the Mongabay Newscast we speak with Jim Breheny, director of the Bronx Zoo in New York City, about the contributions zoos make to the cause of global biodiversity conservation. - Breheny is well aware that a large contingent of the population questions the relevance of zoos in the 21st century. But he says that, as mankind’s influence extends ever farther and habitat for wildlife continues to shrink, zoos are more relevant than ever, as they preserve for the future the diversity of species who share the planet with us today. - On today’s episode of the Newscast, Breheny tells us about the evolution of zoos and aquariums that he’s witnessed over his 40-plus-year career; how zoos not only preserve species for the future but support field work to protect species in the wild, as well; and about his experience attempting to tell the story of zoos through the Animal Planet TV show ‘The Zoo.’
Arctic sea ice extent just hit a record low for early June; worse may come [06/12/2019]
- The lowest Arctic sea ice extent in the 40-year satellite record for this time of year was set on June 10 with just 10.901 million square kilometers of ice remaining, dipping just below the previous record set in 2016 of 10.919 million square kilometers. This year’s record is likely to deepen at least for the coming days. - Some scientists theorize that declining Arctic summer sea ice extent, which has fallen by roughly half since 1979, could be generating a cascade of harmful effects: as the Arctic melts, the heat differential between the Far North and temperate zone lessens, causing the jet stream (high altitude Northern Hemisphere winds), to falter. - As the polar jet stream loses energy, it can fail to hug the Arctic Circle. Instead it starts to dip deeply into the temperate zone forming great waves which can block and stall weather patterns there, bringing long punishing bouts of rain and floods like those seen in the Midwest this spring, or extended heatwaves and drought. - Arctic weather variations are too complex to predict in advance, but 2019 has made a strong start toward possibly beating 2012 for the lowest annual ice extent record. Records aside, the Arctic sea ice death spiral and the extreme weather it can trigger are adversely impacting agriculture, infrastructure, economics and human lives.
Homestay programs in Nepal’s rhino hub hold promise and pitfalls for locals [06/12/2019]
- When faced with criticism that local people don’t benefit from wildlife tourism to Nepal’s Chitwan National Park, officials and conservationists point to homestay programs set up in communities on the park’s borders. - These homestay programs aim to provide the communities with alternative livelihoods and to create an incentive to protect forests and wildlife. - In the villages of Amaltari and Barauli, two very different homestay programs have been established, catering to different groups of visitors. Both models have their strengths, but also their shortcomings.
Regreening a barren Rohingya refugee camp on Myanmar’s border [06/11/2019]
- Kutupalong, the megacamp that combined with several satellite settlements in the same corner of Bangladesh, is now home to 740,000 refugees. - Along this borderland between Myanmar and Bangladesh, Rohingya refugees are beginning to cultivate some of the fresh food that they consume. - Boosted in part by an April 2018 U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization influx of 25,000 micro-gardening kits, inhabitants are trying to nourish the damaged environment.
New rainforest gecko joins growing list of reptiles unique to Sri Lanka [06/11/2019]
- A new species of day gecko, Cnemaspis godagedarai, has been described in Sri Lanka, bringing the island’s number of endemic geckos in the genus Cnemaspis to 25. - The new gecko, named after a national hero in the fight against British colonial rule, shares its microhabitat with seven other species of endemic reptiles, making the conservation of their habitat critical to their survival. - With more than 80 percent of Sri Lanka’s species being endemic to the island, and a majority of them restricted to the wet zone, the country needs special species conservation mechanisms, researchers say.
For the Philippine eagle, a shot at survival means going abroad [06/11/2019]
- The Philippines has loaned off two Philippine eagles (Pithecophaga jefferyi) to Singapore for a 10-year breeding agreement, part of wider efforts to protect the species against disease outbreaks and natural calamities. - Prior to the agreement, the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) managed the only sanctuary of its kind in the world for this critically endangered species. - Despite rigorous community-oriented programs to protect the eagles, human activity, including hunting and habitat destruction, remains the biggest threat to the Philippine eagles.
Inside an ambitious project to rewild trafficked bonobos in the Congo Basin [06/11/2019]
- A decade ago, a troop of formerly captive bonobos was for the first time reintroduced to the wild in the Democratic Republic of Congo. - Following that successful reintroduction, a new troop of 14 bonobos is now in the process of being released and is anticipated to be fully in the wild by September. - Congolese conservation group Amis des Bonobos du Congo (ABC) is working to make sure the communities surrounding the release site feel invested in the project.
Dam in Ethiopia has wiped out indigenous livelihoods, report finds [06/11/2019]
- A dam in southern Ethiopia built to supply electricity to cities and control the flow of water for irrigating industrial agriculture has led to the displacement and loss of livelihoods of indigenous groups, the Oakland Institute has found. - On June 10, the policy think tank published a report of its research, demonstrating that the effects of the Gibe III dam on the Lower Omo River continue to ripple through communities, forcing them onto sedentary farms and leading to hunger, conflict and human rights abuses. - The Oakland Institute applauds the stated desire of the new government, which came to power in April 2018, to look out for indigenous rights. - But the report’s authors caution that continued development aimed at increasing economic productivity and attracting international investors could further marginalize indigenous communities in Ethiopia.
Canada passes ‘Free Willy’ bill to ban captivity of all whales, dolphins [06/11/2019]
- On June 10, Canada’s House of Commons passed a bill that bans the practice of keeping cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) in captivity in the country. - Bill S-203 also prohibits breeding of the animals and collecting reproductive materials from them. The only exceptions to these provisions will be in cases of rescues and rehabilitation, licensed scientific research, or “in the best interests of the cetacean’s welfare.” - The legislation, also known as the “Free Willy” bill, allows Vancouver Aquarium and Marineland in Niagara Falls, the only two facilities in Canada that still house cetaceans, to continue to keep their animals as long as they do not breed or bring in any new individuals.
Bumpy ride for conservation in PNG as lack of roads hinders activities [06/10/2019]
- Much of Papua New Guinea remains inaccessible by road and the existing roads are often in poor condition. - While lack of road access has historically helped to keep ecosystems intact, it comes with both social and environmental downsides. - Some communities are negotiating with resource extraction companies who promise to provide roads and other needed services. Lack of infrastructure also hampers efforts to monitor and protect the environment. - Some NGOs, whose work suffers from difficult and expensive travel to project areas, call for carefully planned expansion of the road network.
Brazil guts environmental agencies, clears way for unchecked deforestation [06/10/2019]
- The Bolsonaro administration has launched policies that undermine IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental agency, and ICMBio (The Chico Mendes Institute) which protects the nation’s federal conservation units, by effectively dismantling environmental law enforcement and allowing deforestation to proceed unchecked. - Fines imposed for illegal deforestation between Jan. 1 and May 15 this year were down 34 percent from the same period in 2018, the largest percentage drop ever recorded. It was also smallest number of fines ever imposed (850), compared to 1,290 in the same period last year. - Government seizures of illegally harvested timber fell even more precipitously, with just 40 cubic meters (1,410 cubic feet), equal to 10 large trees, confiscated in the first four months of 2019. By contrast, 25,000 cubic meters (883,000 cubic feet) of illegal timber were seized in 2018. IBAMA is now required to announce in advance the time and location of all its planned raids on illegal loggers. - Bolsonaro has defanged deforestation enforcement further by firing or not replacing top environmental officials. This includes 21 out of 27 IBAMA state superintendents responsible for imposing most of the deforestation fines. Also, 47 of Brazil’s conservation units now lack directors, leaving a combined area greater than the size of England without conservation leadership.
The Great Insect Dying: The tropics in trouble and some hope [06/10/2019]
- Insect species are most diverse in the tropics, but are largely unresearched, with many species not described by science. But entomologists believe abundance is being impacted by climate change, habitat destruction and the introduction of industrial agribusiness with its heavy pesticide use. - A 2018 repeat of a 1976 study in Puerto Rico, which measured the total biomass of a rainforest’s arthropods, found that in the intervening decades populations collapsed. Sticky traps caught up to 60-fold fewer insects than 37 years prior, while ground netting caught 8 times fewer insects than in 1976. - The same researchers also looked at insect abundance in a tropical forest in Western Mexico. There, biomass abundance fell eightfold in sticky traps from 1981 to 2014. Researchers from Southeast Asia, Australia, Oceania and Africa all expressed concern to Mongabay over possible insect abundance declines. - In response to feared tropical declines, new insect surveys are being launched, including the Arthropod Initiative and Global Malaise Trap Program. But all of these new initiatives suffer the same dire problem: a dearth of funding and lack of interest from foundations, conservation groups and governments.
Indonesian ban on clearing new swaths of forest to be made permanent [06/10/2019]
- A temporary moratorium that prohibits the issuance of new permits to clear primary and peat forests is set to be made permanent later this year. - Though largely ineffective in stemming deforestation in the first few years after its introduction in 2011, the moratorium has since 2016 been shored up by peat-protection regulations that have helped slow the loss of forest cover. - Environmental activists have welcomed the move to make the moratorium permanent, but say there’s room to strengthen it, such as by extending it to include secondary forests. - They’ve also called for the closing of a loophole that allows primary and peat forests to be razed for plantations of rice, sugarcane and other crops deemed important to national food security.
Caribbean nations boost protection for extremely rare largetooth sawfish [06/08/2019]
- On June 5, Caribbean countries agreed to boost protection for the largetooth sawfish by adding it to Annex II of the Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) Protocol under the Cartagena Convention. - Plants and animals added to Annexes I and II of the SPAW Protocol are afforded the highest levels of protection, with countries falling within the Caribbean region committing to ban the collection, possession or killing of the species, prohibit their commercial trade, and take steps to reduce disturbances to the species. - Experts have welcomed the measure, but say that SPAW countries must “follow through with their obligations to implement protections.” - Legal protection aside, education and local community involvement is key to giving species like sawfish “a fighting chance,” experts say.
New pilot whale subspecies revealed: Q&A with marine biologist Amy Van Cise [06/07/2019]
- For centuries, Japanese seafarers have noted two distinct types of pilot whale in their waters: One with a squarish head and dark body, the other a bit bigger with a round head and a light patch on its back. - The two types have long been officially classified simply as forms of the same species, short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus), but a new genetic study finds that they are actually distinct subspecies. - The finding is just the latest shake-up of the cetacean family tree after the discoveries of new whale species in recent years. - Mongabay spoke with the new study’s lead author, Amy Van Cise, a marine biologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, about the science of whale taxonomy and what her team’s discovery means for the conservation of short-finned pilot whales.
In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, June 7, 2019 [06/07/2019]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover. - Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week. - If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments. - Mongabay does not vet the news sources below, nor does the inclusion of a story on this list imply an endorsement of its content.
Healthy reefs, healthy people: Community-based marine conservation in Papua New Guinea (commentary) [06/07/2019]
- Marine resources play a vital role in food security for coastal communities across Papua New Guinea, which, after Australia, is the largest and most populated country in Oceania. The maintenance of marine ecosystem integrity (the health of these habitats) ensures the provision of the goods and services communities rely on, including seafood, medicine, coastal protection, and carbon capture. - Today, these ecosystem services are in jeopardy — but a solution exists in working with local communities to reverse destructive trends. - Although this community-focused approach takes time, effort, and money, it represents our best chance for long-term success. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Microplastics a key factor in Sri Lanka’s plunging fish stocks, survey shows [06/07/2019]
- Microplastics and overfishing are the leading causes of extensive marine pollution in Sri Lanka, a new survey has found. - The survey, the first of its kind carried out in 40 years, showed that the island’s fish stock had dropped drastically by about 80 percent, in part due to high levels of microplastic contamination. - The island’s northwestern seas recorded the highest levels of marine pollution, while seas to the east remain rich with marine life and should be made a conservation priority, researchers say.
Alliance launches plan to save the planet [06/07/2019]
- Healthy and productive ecosystems sustain life on Earth, but face accelerating threats from human behavior. - A new initiative however aims to counter that trend by fundamentally transforming food, city, energy, and production and consumption systems. - The Global Commons Alliance, launched this week at the Ecosperity 2019 conference in Singapore, will do this through an approach that leverages the best science to provide actionable guidance to businesses, governments, and the general public. - Over 500 companies have committed to set science-based targets to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Twice as many fishing vessels now, but it’s harder to catch fish [06/06/2019]
- The global fishing fleet has more than doubled from about 1.7 million boats harvesting fish in 1950 to 3.7 million fishing vessels in 2015. - More fishing vessels have become motorized as well: while only 20 percent of the world’s fishing vessels were powered by motors in 1950, this number rose to 68 percent in 2015. - The growing fishing fleet is, however, catching less seafood for the same effort. - There are geographic variations: while Asia’s fishing fleet has dramatically increased over the past decades, catching fewer fish for the same effort, fleet sizes in North America and Western Europe shrank slightly, accompanied by an increase in fish catch per unit effort.
Researchers and customs officials unite to fight wildlife trafficking using eDNA [06/06/2019]
- A novel, fast-acting eDNA test can help airport customs officials identify illegally trafficked European eels, which as juveniles cannot be visually distinguished from legally-traded species. - Although international treaties have historically provided a framework for imposing restrictions when nations violate agreements, enforcement remains a challenge in part because many trafficked specimens go unnoticed. - Where enforcement proves difficult, technology such as this fast-acting eDNA test can improve monitoring of illegally traded flora and fauna.
The Great Insect Dying: Vanishing act in Europe and North America [06/06/2019]
- Though arthropods make up most of the species on Earth, and much of the planet’s biomass, they are significantly understudied compared to mammals, plants, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish. Lack of baseline data makes insect abundance decline difficult to assess. - Insects in the temperate EU and U.S. are the world’s best studied, so it is here that scientists expect to detect precipitous declines first. A groundbreaking study published in October 2017 found that flying insects in 63 protected areas in Germany had declined by 75 percent in just 25 years. - The UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme has a 43-year butterfly record, and over that time two-thirds of the nations’ species have decreased. Another recent paper found an 84 percent decline in butterflies in the Netherlands from 1890 to 2017. Still, EU researchers say far more data points are needed. - Neither the U.S. or Canada have conducted an in-depth study similar to that in Germany. But entomologists agree that major abundance declines are likely underway, and many are planning studies to detect population drops. Contributors to decline are climate change, pesticides and ecosystem destruction.
‘You don’t find orchids; they find you’: Q&A with botanist Edicson Parra [06/06/2019]
- Edicson Parra has not only discovered more than 20 new species of orchids in his home country of Colombia, but has also used his expertise in orchid diversity to help halt development, road and mining projects that would have otherwise threatened their forest habitats. - But studying orchids can be a dangerous challenge in Colombia, due to drug traffickers and threats to environmentalists in the country. - Parra says orchids could be “one of the most sensitive of all Earth’s taxa.” Orchids are particularly vulnerable and fragile to deforestation, including edge effects, making protecting large tracts of forests key to their survival.
Why more women should be included in the leadership of Virunga National Park (commentary) [06/05/2019]
- Since 2014, the number of female park guards serving in Virunga National Park, located in war-ridden eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, has been gradually increasing. Today, 29 women serve in the ranks of this 731-strong force. - There has been a flurry of international media attention to the women who chose the ranger profession. But so far, nobody has looked at how the presence of these women affects the functioning of the ranger force, and the relations between the park and the population living in its vicinity. - While gender equality is not a guarantee for improving park-people relations, we believe the integration of women in Virunga’s administrative and security structures needs to be reinforced, in particular at the higher echelons. Gender equality is not only of inherent importance, but — as our research indicates — also corresponds to a strong demand among the population living around the park. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Congo’s hidden crisis: Snakebites and envenomation [06/05/2019]
- Sub-Saharan and Central Africa are key case study areas for a health crisis now receiving international attention from health authorities. - Lack of funding for an issue that isn’t immediately perceivable means relevant and potentially life-saving anti-venom programs aren’t present in vulnerable communities. - Existing medical infrastructure and local health care teams could potentially be deployed to dispense anti-venoms. However, rural isolation and lack of funding for expensive and specialized anti-venoms are the two main factors that have created a crisis. - The travel for this story was funded by the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting.
Brazil’s Congress reverses Bolsonaro, restores Funai’s land demarcation powers [06/05/2019]
- On May 22, 2019, the lower house of Congress voted to maintain Funai, Brazil’s indigenous agency, under the Ministry of Justice, as well as affirm Funai’s land demarcation powers. The decision was endorsed by the Senate on May 28 and now the text has to be endorsed by President Jair Bolsonaro by June 14. According to rights groups and politicians, Bolsonaro is not likely to make changes regarding Funai - Funai existed within the Ministry of Justice from 1967, but was placed under the new Ministry of Human Rights, Family and Women created by President Bolsonaro through a provisional measure, MP 870, on the first day of his presidency. Such measures must be approved within 120 days by Congress to become law or they become null. - MP 870 transferred decision-making power over the demarcation of indigenous reserves from Funai to the Ministry of Agriculture. - Changes to Funai’s decision-making authorities and position triggered outcry from rights groups and justices, who claimed conflicts of interest and said it was a strategy to weaken Funai.
For artisanal fishers, fish fences are an easy, but problematic, option [06/05/2019]
- The widespread use of fish fences by fishing communities in tropical countries leads to extensive economic, social and environmental damage, a new study finds. - The technique involves stringing a net along stakes typically set in an intertidal flat, where it traps fish as the tide goes out. But the practice results in the indiscriminate catch of juvenile fish, threatening the sustainability of fish stocks. - In the area studied, in eastern Indonesia, the fences are also a source of social tension, where they’re the exclusive domain of the island-based ethnic group and denied to the seafaring Bajo community. - The researchers have called for restrictions on the use of fish fences, but acknowledge that getting fishermen to start going out to sea to fish will be difficult, given the low risk and high convenience that fish fences afford.
No need to dam free-flowing rivers to meet world’s climate and energy targets [06/04/2019]
- In a comment article published in the Nature last month, scientists argue that an “energy future in which both people and rivers thrive” is possible with better planning. - The hydropower development projects now underway threaten the world’s last free-flowing rivers, posing severe threats to local human communities and the species that call rivers home. A recent study found that just one-third of the world’s 242 largest rivers remain free-flowing. - The benefits of better planning to meet increasing energy demands could be huge: A report released by WWF and The Nature Conservancy ahead of the World Hydropower Congress, held in Paris last month, finds that accelerating the deployment of non-hydropower renewable energy could prevent the fragmentation of nearly 165,000 kilometers (more than 102,500 miles) of river channels.
Climate change threatens to water down Cerrado’s rich biodiversity: Study [06/04/2019]
- The new study by researchers in Brazil shows that climate change will lead to local extinctions of several mammal species throughout the Cerrado, the vast tropical savanna biome. - Immigration of species from other biomes, including the Amazon and the Atlantic Forest, will be higher than regional extinctions. But because these species are commonly found, it will still lead to an overall loss in biodiversity in most regions of the Cerrado. - The widespread erosion of differences between ecological communities is one of the main drivers of loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. - Future distributions of species based on climate change must be considered in conservation decisions and the development of protected areas in the Cerrado, the researchers say.
Colombia’s El Paujil Reserve expands in dying Magdalena Valley [06/04/2019]
- The U.S.-based Rainforest Trust and its Colombian partner, Fundación ProAves, bought 477 hectares (1,178 acres) of land around El Paujil Nature Reserve, expanding the protected area to 3,983 hectares (9,843 acres). - El Paujil Nature Reserve in Colombia’s Magdalena Valley is one of the last bits of remaining lowland rainforest in the region. - The Magdalena Valley, sandwiched between the Chocó and Amazon rainforests, is rich in biodiversity and home to several endemic species, many of which are endangered. - It has lost almost 98 percent of its forest area over the years, due to logging, coca production, cattle ranching and other agriculture activities. These threats have only increased since the end of a decades-long insurgency in 2016.
Study reveals a fragile web of knowledge linking plants to people [06/04/2019]
- To understand how indigenous knowledge is structured, researchers chose to focus on communities’ use of palm plants, which are used across the world for a range of economically important needs — from medicine to rituals, roofing to flooring, hair products to handy tote bags. - The primary goal of the research was not to document the uses of the palms, but to study how knowledge is held in communities and how it might change. - The team concluded that cultural heritage is just as important as the plants themselves in our realization of nature’s services.
The Sateré-Mawé move to reclaim Amazon ancestral lands from invaders [06/04/2019]
- The Andirá-Marau Indigenous Reserve in Brazil’s Amazonas state — in a remote part of the Amazon basin — covers 7,885 square kilometers (3,044 square miles), and is occupied by 13,350 Sateré-Mawé indigenous people who live sustainably off the rainforest. - However, an area of Sateré-Mawé ancestral land along the Mariaquã River lies outside the demarcated reserve. It was abandoned by the Sateré-Mawé due to an epidemic. The Indians have renewed their claim to the territory since 2002 but FUNAI, Brazil’s indigenous agency, has not yet sorted the situation out. - But the Mariaquã lands are now in dispute, as illegal loggers and land grabbers invade and threaten the indigenous people living in the area around the village of Campo Branco. Dozens of outsiders have made land claims to CAR, Brazil’s Rural Environmental Registry, and allegedly threatened the Indians if they don’t vacate. - Mongabay’s reporting team joined a small group of Sateré-Mawé as they travelled to Campo Branco to strengthen their indigenous land claim. The Sateré fear that President Bolsonaro’s pledge to pass a law allowing Brazilians with “official” land claims to use arms to evict indigenous “invaders” could be used against them.