Study suggests MPAs and fisheries closures can benefit highly migratory marine species [05/24/2019]
- Conventional wisdom holds that marine protected areas don’t offer much in the way of protections to highly migratory species of marine life, given that those species are unaware of the imaginary borders humans draw on maps to delineate such areas. - New research finds that, to the contrary, large MPAs can confer benefits on migratory marine species — but only when they are carefully designed, strictly enforced, and integrated with sustainable fisheries management. - The study, published last month in the journal Marine Policy, explores whether or not there are any benefits of “targeted spatial protection” measures, including large-scale fisheries closures and marine protected areas (MPAs), for highly migratory species like billfishes (such as swordfish and marlins), pelagic sharks (such as blue, great white, mako, silky, and thresher sharks), and tuna — and highlights ways that spatial protection for migratory pelagic species can be improved.
Where the forest has no name [05/24/2019]
- North America’s temperate rainforest extends some 2,500 miles from California to the Gulf of Alaska, providing important habitat for many species and playing a big role in global carbon sequestration. However, despite its uniqueness, there is no officially recognized name for the whole of the forest. - This forest has been beset by logging over the last century, with little unprotected old growth remaining. The Trump administration’s plans to allow logging in roadless areas in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest could ramp up its loss in the coming years. - Paul Koberstein and Jessica Applegate, editors of Cascadia Times, argue an official name could help galvanize action to save this forest. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.
In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, May 24, 2019 [05/24/2019]
- 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.
Ecuador’s isolated indigenous tribes: Stuck between oil and state neglect [05/24/2019]
- Following the dissolution of Ecuador’s Ministry of Justice, responsibility for the country’s isolated indigenous peoples changed hands. - It’s the latest in a series of shake-ups, yet several experts said the government has not been able to adequately protect vulnerable isolated tribes. - They said the oil industry’s advance into the rainforest remains the greatest threat to these tribes.
Malaysia’s last male rhino is fading fast, officials say [05/24/2019]
- Malaysia’s last male Sumatran rhino, Tam, has experienced an abrupt decline in health due to old age, authorities say. - Veterinarians and rhino keepers at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Sabah state are providing round-the-clock palliative care, but say Tam appears to have suffered multiple organ failure. - If he dies, Malaysia would be left with one last Sumatran rhino, a female, Iman, whose own health has weakened due to a ruptured tumor in her uterus. - Conservationists say stakeholders, including the government of Indonesia, home to most of the remaining Sumatran rhinos on Earth, have been far too slow to work together on efforts to save the species.
Exposing coal-fueled politics: Q&A with investigative journo Dandhy Laksono [05/24/2019]
- In the days leading up to the Indonesian presidential election in April, a documentary film exposed how the two candidates were deeply tied to the country’s coal oligarchs. - The 90-minute film, Sexy Killers, describes the expansion of coal mines in East Kalimantan, the Bornean province known as Indonesia’s coal heartland, and how the industry has wrought environmental, financial and social damages on local communities. - The documentary has racked up more than 22 million views on YouTube since its public release shortly before the April 17 election. - Mongabay recently spoke with Dandhy Laksono, the investigative journalist behind the documentary, about the key revelations it raises regarding Indonesia’s political elite and the coal industry.
Tall and old or dense and young: Which kind of forest is better for the climate? [05/23/2019]
- Scientists say reforestation and better forest management can provide 18 percent of climate change mitigation through 2030. But studies appear to be divided about whether it’s better to prioritize the conservation of old forests or the replanting of young ones. - A closer look, however, reconciles these two viewpoints. While young forests tend to absorb more carbon overall because trees can be crowded together when they’re small, a tree’s carbon absorption rate accelerates as it ages. This means that forests comprised of tall, old trees – like the temperate rainforests of North America’s Pacific coast – are some of the planet’s biggest carbon storehouses. - But when forests are logged, their immense stores of carbon are quickly released. A study found the logging of forests in the U.S. state of Oregon emitted 33 million tons of CO2 – almost as much as the world’s dirtiest coal plant. - Researchers are calling on industry to help buffer climate change by doubling tree harvest rotations to 80 years, and urge government agencies managing forests to impose their own harvest restrictions.
A new gecko emerges from Sri Lanka’s Nilgala savanna forest [05/23/2019]
- A new species of day gecko has been recorded from a savanna forest with rock outcrops and prehistoric granite caves in Sri Lanka. - The Nilgala savanna forest is home to 17 species of geckos, as well as several undescribed species. The discovery here of the Nilgala day gecko (Cnemaspis nilgala) means Sri Lanka is now home to 24 known species in the genus, all of them endemic to the island. - The researchers have called for increased study and conservation of the small and specialized ranges in which these reptiles have evolved and which have contributed to Sri Lanka’s rich biodiversity.
New report examines drivers of rising Amazon deforestation on country-by-country basis [05/23/2019]
- A new report examines the “unchecked development” in the Amazon that has driven deforestation rates to near-record levels throughout the world’s largest tropical forest. - The main drivers of deforestation vary from country to country, according to the report, a collaborative effort by the Inter-American Dialogue and the Andes Amazon Fund. - While the causes of Amazonian forest destruction vary, one thing that is common throughout the region is a lack of adequate resources for oversight and enforcement of environmental regulations. And “signs suggest this problem is only growing,” according to the report.
Plants are working hard to keep pace with increasing carbon dioxide [05/23/2019]
- Global photosynthesis in terrestrial plants, or the amount of atmospheric carbon that plants are absorbing to create organic matter, has increased in nearly constant proportion to the rise in atmospheric CO2 levels, a new study has found. - Using computer models, researchers found that elevated carbon dioxide levels drive increase in leaf area of plants in the tropics. In higher latitudes, though, rising global temperatures appears to be what’s driving increases in both leaf area and growing seasons. - This increase in global photosynthesis will likely slow in the future, the researchers say. - Plants are providing a helping hand by slowing down the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, and we should take advantage of that by reducing emissions and conserving forests, the researchers say.
Ñembi Guasu: Huge new conservation area in Bolivia’s Gran Chaco [05/23/2019]
- The new protected area spans more than 12,000 square kilometers (4,650 square miles) of well-conserved forests and is home to a massive number of animal and plant species. - Among the area’s 300 species of birds and 100 species of mammals are jaguars, pumas and night monkeys. - The protected zone is also home to the Ayoreo indigenous community, which is in a state of voluntary isolation.
Former Brazilian enviro ministers blast Bolsonaro environmental assaults [05/23/2019]
- A new manifesto by eight of Brazil’s past environment ministers has accused the rightist Bolsonaro administration of “a series of unprecedented actions that are destroying the capacity of the environment ministry to formulate and carry out public policies.” - The ministers warn that Bolsonaro’s draconian environmental policies, including the weakening of environmental licensing, plus sweeping illegal deforestation amnesties, could cause great economic harm to Brazil, possibly endangering trade agreements with the European Union. - Brazil this month threatened to overhaul rules used to select deforestation projects for the Amazon Fund, a pool of money provided to Brazil annually, mostly by Norway and Germany. Both nations deny being consulted about the rule change that could end many NGOs receiving grants from the fund. - Environment Minister Riccardo Salles also announced a reassessment of every one of Brazil’s 334 conservation units. Some parks may be closed, including the Tamoios Ecological Station, where Bolsonaro was fined for illegal fishing in 2012 and which he’d like to turn into the “Brazilian Cancun.”
How climate change could throw Māori culture off-balance [05/23/2019]
- Māori culture is at risk due to predicted changes in the ranges of two culturally important native plants, kuta and kūmarahou. - Under projected climate change models, traditional weavers will face a shortage of kuta, a grass-like sedge used for weaving, in their ancestral harvesting sites. - Kūmarahou, a shrub used for medicinal purposes, will become more abundant, devaluing the plant as a form of cultural currency in Māori tradition.
Documentary on world’s rarest ape generates film festival buzz [05/23/2019]
- The first documentary ever made about the Tapanuli orangutan, the world’s rarest and most threatened species of great apes, is racking up awards at film festivals around the world. - U.K.-based filmmaker Matt Senior says his interest in the orangutan, which was only described as a new species in 2017, was piqued by a Mongabay article. - Only 800 of the apes are believed to exist in the Batang Toru forest in northern Sumatra, Indonesia. Their habitat is under threat from a massive Chinese-funded hydropower project being built in the area. - Matt says he hopes the documentary will raise public awareness about this newest species of orangutan and the very real threats pushing it toward extinction.
For India’s imperiled apes, thinking locally matters [05/23/2019]
- Northeastern India is home to two ape species: eastern and western hoolock gibbons. - Populations of hoolock gibbons in India are both protected and harmed by practices and beliefs specific to the human communities with whom they share their habitats. - In several gibbon habitats, local indigenous people are leading conservation efforts that are deeply informed by local circumstances. - The fortunes of different gibbon populations within India show that there is no one-size-fits-all conservation strategy for apes.
Laurel Chor on photojournalism and Hong Kong’s ‘incredible biodiversity’ [05/22/2019]
- Hong Kong is a city of 7.3 million people and isn’t known for its biodiversity, but journalist Laurel Chor has made it her mission to educate people about their natural heritage - A photojournalist and filmmaker, she has traveled the world covering stories with images and words, from Iceland to the DRC. - In conjunction with Ecosperity Week and World Environment Day, Laurel will be speaking at a special edition of Ecosperity Conversations on June 7. She is also a judge for the photo competition Shoot for Sustainability.
For migrating songbirds, ‘baby shark’ is more than just an annoying tune [05/22/2019]
- Researchers who opportunistically examined the stomach contents of tiger sharks in the northern Gulf of Mexico over eight years found that the sharks had been eating land-dwelling songbirds. - The months during which the researchers encountered tiger sharks with birds in their guts coincided with the peak timings for coastal bird sightings for 11 species of songbirds, suggesting that the shark-bird interactions could be linked to the annual migration of these terrestrial birds. - Surprisingly, most of the recorded shark-bird interactions occurred during the fall, when the migrating songbirds are about to start crossing the Gulf of Mexico and are presumably well-rested. - The researchers speculate that unpredictable storms could be forcing the migratory birds to the water, making them easy prey, especially for baby tiger sharks that are yet to learn how to forage.
The health of penguin chicks points scientists to changes in the ocean [05/22/2019]
- A recent closure of commercial fishing around South Africa’s Robben Island gave scientists the chance to understand how fluctuations in prey fish populations affect endangered African penguins (Spheniscus demersus) absent pressure from humans. - The researchers found that the more fish were available, the better the condition of the penguin chicks that rely on their parents for food. - This link between prey abundance in the sea and the condition of penguin chicks on land could serve as an indicator of changes in the ecosystem.
Wildlife trade summit may move to Geneva amid Colombo security concerns [05/22/2019]
- A month after the devastating Easter Sunday terrorist bombings in Sri Lanka that resulted in the postponement of the 18th Meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP18) of CITES, the Geneva-based secretariat appears likely to hold the meeting in its home city. - The meeting, originally scheduled for May 23 to June 3 in Colombo, was postponed indefinitely amid security concerns following the April 21 series of bombings at churches and hotels that claimed more than 250 lives in the Indian Ocean island. - A U.N. security assessment is currently underway in Sri Lanka, with the findings expected to be submitted to the CITES Secretariat by May 31. - Conservationists say the delay will affect much-needed funding and activities to protect species from the international wildlife trade.
World Agroforestry Congress gathers huge group of global boosters in France [05/21/2019]
- The 4th World Agroforestry Congress is this week and aims to bridge the gap between agroforestry science and its practical implementation worldwide. - Over 1,200 attendees from all over the world are here presenting new research and sharing ideas for implementation of this agricultural technique that is good for food security, biodiversity, the climate, and more. - One topic gaining extra attention at this Congress is the involvement of the private sector in boosting agroforestry’s implementation worldwide, because it can be quite profitable to do so while also supporting people and planet. - Agroforestry combines trees alongside shrubs, crops and livestock in systems that produce food, support biodiversity, build soil horizons and water tables, and sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Mongabay has been publishing a special series on its implementation and impact worldwide.
Indonesia calls on palm oil industry, obscured by secrecy, to remain opaque [05/21/2019]
- The Indonesian government has called on the country’s palm oil companies to refrain from releasing their plantation data, citing national security, privacy and competition reasons. - The publication of the data is a necessary part of sustainability certification under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). - Activists say they fear that withholding the information will further damage the reputation of Indonesia’s palm oil industry, which is already beset by allegations of deforestation, land grabbing, and labor rights abuses. - The government has for years sent out mixed messages about whether it will make available the plantation data, which activists say is crucial in helping resolve the hundreds of land disputes across Indonesia, most of them involving palm concessions.
Bauxite mining and Chinese dam push Guinea’s chimpanzees to the brink [05/21/2019]
- Guinea is home to about half of the world’s critically endangered western chimpanzees. - A bauxite mining boom is driving the chimpanzees from their habitats in Guinea’s Boké region. To compensate, two mining firms agreed in 2017 to fund the establishment of Moyen-Bafing National Park, home to an estimated 5,300 chimpanzees. - The national park is itself threatened by a bauxite mine and a proposed hydroelectric dam — projects that could kill as many as 2,800 of the great apes.
Interest in protecting environment up since Pope’s 2015 encyclical [05/21/2019]
- New research into the usage of environmentally related search terms on Google suggests that interest in the environment has risen since Pope Francis released Laudato Si’ in 2015. - Laudato Si’, a papal encyclical, argues that it is a moral imperative for humans to look after the environment. - Researchers and scholars believe that the pope’s support for protecting the environment could ripple well beyond the 16 percent of the world’s population that is Catholic.
Bolivia: Nature rights tribunal condemns TIPNIS project [05/20/2019]
- Bolivia has “violated the rights of nature and of indigenous peoples as defenders of Mother Earth and have failed to comply with its obligation to respect, protect, and guarantee the rights of Mother Earth…” the International Rights of Nature Tribunal has ruled. - In 2018, a delegation from the tribunal was refused entry to the Isiboro Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory. The group was trying to assess the claims of communities affected by the project, but they were blocked from entering the area.
‘Resisting to exist’: Indigenous women unite against Brazil’s far-right president [05/20/2019]
- Brazil today is home to 900,000 indigenous people, speaking 274 languages and with widely differing cultural traditions. Indigenous rights were enshrined in Brazil’s 1988 constitution, including the demarcation and protection of indigenous ancestral lands. - But indigenous people have felt seriously threatened since Jair Bolsonaro took office in January, as illegal invasions of indigenous territories have rapidly escalated, and as the administration threatens to put policies in place to limit further indigenous demarcations, eliminate indigenous comments on infrastructure projects, and cut back on health services. - Many of the leaders in the fight against Bolsonaro’s policies are women; in this story, they give voice to their outrage at the danger to their homelands, communities and families.
Volunteers find bones of new species of extinct heron at Florida fossil site [05/20/2019]
- Two volunteers assisting researchers of the Florida Museum of Natural History have found bones that belong to a previously undescribed species of extinct heron, according to a new study. - The Montbrook site, a large fossil excavation site located a 45-minute drive south of Gainesville, Florida, where the volunteers were working, is estimated to be 5 million to 5.5 million years old. - Researchers have named the now-extinct heron species Taphophoyx hodgei or Hodge’s tiger heron, after property owner Eddie Hodge, who contacted the Florida Museum of Natural History and allowed them to excavate the site after his granddaughter discovered fossils there in 2015. - Based on their examination of the bones, the researchers say the extinct species is likely closely related to today’s tiger herons (Tigrisoma spp.), which live in Mexico and Central and South America.
Monitoring hack shines a light on fishing boats operating under cover of dark [05/17/2019]
- A new report shows that many of the fishing vessels that operate at night in Indonesian waters don’t broadcast their location, masking a potentially massive problem of illegal and undocumented fishing. - Though many of these boats fall below the 30 gross tonnage threshold for which the use of the vessel monitoring system (VMS) is required, the study highlights the indication of “dark vessels” where larger boats have switched off the tracking device, likely to avoid detection. - The researchers suggest that if the matching of two data sets in near real time becomes available, it would greatly help authorities identify these dark vessels and crack down on illegal fishing.
Extreme weather puts traditional livelihoods in peril in Sri Lanka, studies warn [05/17/2019]
- New assessments identify Sri Lanka’s northern region as a hotspot for climate change impacts, with the district of Jaffna named the top hotspot. - The Global Climate Risk Index 2019 lists Sri Lanka as the second most impacted country in 2017 for having faced extensive losses due to climate catastrophes in a single year. - With extreme weather events predicted to increase with rising levels of impact, the assessments call for rapid adaptation, particularly in terms of livelihoods vulnerable to an increasingly unpredictable climate.
Solomon Islanders imprisoned for trying to stop the logging of their forests [05/17/2019]
- A group of residents of Nende Island in the Solomon Islands claim corrupt government practices allowed a logging company to get a license to log the island’s primary forests, as well as cropland. Activists also allege the company, Malaysia-based Xiang Lin SI Ltd, logged outside of its concession area. - The “Nende Five,” as they’ve become known, say they were never given an opportunity to object to the logging of their land, and Xiang Lin proceeded without obtaining the consent of the majority of residents. - The protesters say they tried to stop the logging through legal processes. When heavy equipment was destroyed last year, the Nende Five were taken into custody. However, they say they’re innocent of the charges against them. - Their trial has been adjourned 29 times for lack of evidence, and was recently vacated after two days in court due to allegations that the police had not followed due process in obtaining evidence from one of the defendants. The trial is expected to resume in June. Meanwhile, deforestation is ramping up on Nende as logging roads multiply and displace the island’s old growth rainforest.
A new election brings little hope for Solomon Islands’ vanishing forests [05/17/2019]
- Longstanding allegations of corruption plague forest governance in the Solomon Islands, with residents and NGOs claiming government officials are allowing logging to illegally penetrate primary forests on community and ancestral land. - Satellite data show several surges in deforestation across the country since the beginning of the year. - Many were hoping the Solomon Islands’ recent national election would bring needed change. However, Manasseh Sogavare was elected Prime Minster last month, a move observers say is, at best, an extension of the status quo. - In the meantime, mining companies appear to be moving in to extract mineral resources from areas that have been logged.
In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, May 17, 2019 [05/17/2019]
- 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.
Red colobus conservation in Zanzibar: A cautiously optimistic tale [05/17/2019]
- Jozani-Chwaka Bay National Park was established in 2004 to protect the endangered Zanzibar red colobus. - Initially met with conflict and resistance, the conservation project has now been embraced by local communities because they directly share in half of all tourism revenues. - This kind of community forest management could prove a successful model for other conservation sites in Tanzania and beyond.
In Indonesia, a flawed certification scheme lets illegal loggers raze away [05/16/2019]
- The seizure of more than 400 containers of illegally logged timber in a series of busts since last December has shone a spotlight on Indonesia’s mechanism for certifying legal timber. - Some of the wood has been traced back to companies certified under the country’s SVLK scheme. That’s the same scheme that the EU relies on to ensure that its imports of Indonesian timber are legally harvested. - The seizures and findings by activists highlight increased illegal logging in the relatively pristine eastern Indonesian regions of Maluku and Papua. - Companies engaged in illegal logging exploit a variety of methods, from cutting in abandoned concessions to using farmers’ groups and indigenous communities as fronts for harvesting in areas that would otherwise be off-limits for commercial logging.
’Green’ bonds finance industrial tree plantations in Brazil [05/16/2019]
- The Environmental Paper Network (EPN), a group of some 140 NGOs with the goal of making the pulp and paper industry more sustainable, released a briefing contending that green or climate bonds issued by Fibria, a pulp and paper company, went to maintaining and expanding plantations of eucalyptus trees. - The report suggests that the Brazilian company inflated the amount of carbon that new planting would store. - The author of the briefing also questions the environmental benefits of maintaining industrial monocultures of eucalyptus, a tree that requires a lot of water along with herbicides, pesticides and fertilizer that can impact local ecosystems and human communities.
At 2,624 years, a bald cypress is oldest known living tree in eastern North America [05/16/2019]
- One bald cypress tree (Taxodium distichum) growing along the Black River in the state of North Carolina in the United States is at least 2,624 years old as of 2018, a new study has found. - This estimate, researchers say, makes it the oldest known living tree in eastern North America; the fifth oldest-known continuously living, sexually reproducing, non-clonal tree species; and the oldest known wetland tree species in the world. - The trees’ growth rings serve as a valuable record of the region’s climate, including rainfall patterns. - Large swaths of these ancient bald cypress stands still remain unprotected and need urgent conservation, researchers say.
Climate change may make hurricanes and cyclones deadlier, study finds [05/16/2019]
- New research suggests that tropical cyclones may become deadlier under climate change. - According to simulated estimates of past storm mortality in Mexico, storm-related deaths are projected to increase under five out of six climate change models, in one case by as much as 52 percent. - In one climate scenario, storm-related mortality may decrease if increases in storm severity are outweighed by storms becoming less frequent. - Developing nations are especially vulnerable to cyclones exacerbated by climate change due to poverty and poor government coordination.
As Indonesia mulls moving the capital, indigenous groups fear another land grab [05/16/2019]
- Indigenous rights advocates worry the president’s plan to relocate Indonesia’s capital to the island of Borneo could result in seizure of lands belonging to local communities. - The Indigenous Peoples Alliance for the Archipelago, an NGO, is currently working to determine if any indigenous communities would be affected by the plan, though it is difficult to determine until the government’s plans come into sharper focus. - As potential sites for the new capital, President Joko Widodo has floated Palangkaraya, Gunung Mas and Katingan in Central Kalimantan, and Bukit Suharto in East Kalimantan.
Canopy-dwelling rainforest mammals most sensitive to human disturbance [05/15/2019]
- New research using arboreal camera traps finds that canopy-dwelling mammals are particularly sensitive to the impacts of human disturbance in rainforests and that these effects are easily missed by more traditional survey methods. - Large-bodied arboreal species like the endangered Peruvian woolly monkey and the endangered black-faced spider monkey were found to be most impacted by forest disturbance, according to the study, published in the journal Diversity and Distributions last week. - These larger primates are important seed dispersers for hardwood trees, which contribute disproportionately to the biomass of tropical forests. The loss of these species could thus lead to cascading ecosystems effects that might pose a significant threat to the carbon storage potential of degraded tropical forests.
An urban ‘butterfly experience’ in Sri Lanka [05/15/2019]
- A private sector initiative is setting up urban butterfly gardens in Sri Lanka, creating butterfly sanctuaries. - The creator of the urban butterfly habitats is proposing the replication of his conservation model to support the survival of butterfly populations. - Though there is high endemism, Sri Lanka’s butterflies are threatened by multiple causes including habitat loss, deforestation, climate change and increase in alien species.
Public education could curb bushmeat demand in Laos, study finds [05/15/2019]
- A recent survey of markets in Laos found that the demand for bushmeat in urban areas was likely more than wildlife populations could bear. - The enforcement of Laos’s laws controlling the wildlife trade appeared to do little to keep vendors from selling bushmeat, but fines did appear to potentially keep consumers from buying bushmeat. - The researchers also found that consumers could be turned off of buying bushmeat when they learned of specific links between species and diseases.
On the island of Java, a social forestry scheme creates jobs at home [05/15/2019]
- Indonesian President Joko Widodo has pledged to transfer 127,000 square kilometers of state land to communities, but progress has been slow. - In Kalibiru, outside the central Javan city of Yogyakarta, one community forest management program has generated impressive revenues for local governments and incomes for community members. - Some locals say they’re now less likely to migrate away from Kalibiru for higher pay.
Models, maps, and citizen scientists working to save the Great Barrier Reef [05/14/2019]
- As global warming drives more events that impact coral reefs, managing the Great Barrier Reef’s resilience demands comprehensive and detailed mapping of the reef bed. - Available surveys and maps with geographically referenced field data have been limited and fragmented. - A diverse research team recently demonstrated a successful approach, applying statistics to image data to build predictive models, integrate diverse datasets on reef conditions, and provide a comprehensive map of the Reef that informs reef management decisions.
Audio: Exploring a hidden rainforest on an isolated mountain in Mozambique [05/14/2019]
- On today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we speak with Julian Bayliss, a conservation scientist and explorer who recently discovered a hidden rainforest on top of an isolated mountain in Mozambique. - Like many other mountains in eastern Africa, Mount Lico is what’s known as an “inselberg” — a German word that means “island mountain.” Bayliss initially spotted the forest atop Mount Lico using Google Earth. He then confirmed its existence via drone reconnaissance, before mounting a campaign to actually scale Mount Lico’s sheer, 410-foot cliffs and explore the forest firsthand. - On this episode, Julian Bayliss discusses what it was like to behold the unspoiled forest atop Mount Lico for the first time, the new species he found there, and the significance of the pottery he discovered in the rainforest even though no locals have ever been to the top of the mountain.
Penguin and seal poop powers life in Antarctica, study finds [05/14/2019]
- In Antarctica, where colonies of penguins and elephant seals aggregate, their droppings, rich in nitrogen, enrich the soil and support thriving communities of mosses, lichens and invertebrates, a new study has found. - Ammonia released from penguin and elephant seal feces can influence an area up to 240 times the size of the animal colony, the researchers found. - These findings can be used to create maps of Antarctica’s biodiversity hotspots, the researchers say.
The heat is on: Amazon tree loss could bring 1.45 degree C local rise [05/14/2019]
- A new modeling study finds that largely unrestricted “business-as-usual” Brazilian Amazon and Cerrado deforestation could result in the loss of an estimated 606,000 square kilometers of forest by 2050, leading to local temperature increases of up to 1.45 degrees Celsius, in addition to global rises in temperature. - Under a Brazil Forest Code enforcement model, researchers predict deforestation would be limited to 79,000 square kilometers, with reforestation occurring over 110,000 square kilometers, leading to an average local increase of just 0.02 degrees Celsius. - Researchers say loss of tree cover must be halted and reforestation program begun to protect people and wildlife, and curb regional warming. - Reptiles and amphibians would be especially vulnerable to deforestation-triggered temperature rises and loss of humidity.
Coops, community, and agroforestry: Q&A with coffee entrepreneur Dean Cycon [05/13/2019]
- Agroforestry is an agricultural technique that combines trees with shrubs, crops and livestock in a system that produces food, supports biodiversity, builds soil horizons and water tables, and sequesters 45 gigatons of carbon from the atmosphere worldwide. - Dean’s Beans Organic Coffee has become a successful marketer of organic beans grown in agroforestry systems across the tropics, and has won several international sustainability awards for its direct, people-centered approach to development. - The company sources organic beans from farmer cooperatives who have implemented agroforestry systems that provide shade for the coffee plus fruit and timber trees that are also useful to people, bugs, birds, and other animals. - The 2019 World Agroforestry Congress in Montpellier, France, from May 20-22, aims to bridge the gap between agroforestry science and its practical implementation worldwide.
Climate change spurs deadly virus in frogs in the U.K. [05/13/2019]
- As temperatures climb, ranaviruses cause more frog deaths over a longer part of the year, according to a new study. - The researchers combined data from outbreaks of disease caused by ranaviruses in common frogs (Rana temporaria) with laboratory investigations. - They say that shaded areas and deeper ponds could provide refuges for afflicted animals that might slow the spread of the virus, but they also caution that this “short-term solution” is only a stopgap as the warming climate continues to make life difficult for amphibians.
UK supermarkets implicated in Amazon deforestation supply chain: report [05/13/2019]
- Deforestation due to cattle ranching has increased in Brazil since 2014. With between 60 and 80 percent of deforested Amazon lands used for pasture, European retailers who source beef from Brazil risk amplifying Amazonian forest destruction unless international action is taken. - A report from the UK organization Earthsight finds that UK supermarket chains — including Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons and Lidl — are still importing corned beef from Brazil’s largest beef producer, JBS, despite the company being implicated in a long string of corruption and illegal deforestation scandals over the last decade. - JBS, one of the largest food companies in the world, has faced multiple corruption charges leading to the arrest of two of its former CEOs and was fined $8 million in 2017 for illegal deforestation in the Amazon. - Many hope the forthcoming EU Communication on Stepping Up Action to Halt Deforestation will propose legislation to ensure EU companies and suppliers are not contributing to deforestation and human rights abuses. However, experts say such an agreement will only work if corporate standards are mandatory not voluntary.
Hunting for rare plants in inaccessible spots: Q&A with drone pilot Ben Nyberg [05/13/2019]
- For decades, botanists at the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG) in Hawaii have rappelled down dangerously steep cliff faces using ropes, hung out of helicopters and walked through some very remote valleys to look for, and conserve, rare, native plants. Several cliffs and valleys, however, have remained inaccessible. - Drones are now helping the NTBG staff access and survey some of these difficult-to-reach parts of the Hawaiian islands. - Mongabay recently spoke with Ben Nyberg, a GIS coordinator and drone specialist at NTBG, about the use of drones for plant conservation.
Reptile haven of Sri Lanka yields up new species of rough-sided snake [05/11/2019]
- A newly discovered “rough-sided” snake in Sri Lanka’s Knuckles Massif bears testimony to the island’s unique reptile life and also highlights how habitat loss is threatening species survival, a new paper says. - A unique feature of Aspidura desilvai is its unusual color pattern, which reflects the soil color of its habitat and gives it the look of a well-preserved wine. - The new species faces multiple threats, ranging from significant habitat loss through forest fragmentation, illegal cardamom plantations, uncontrolled gem mining, forest fires, and the introduction and spread of invasive alien species.