10-second nature news digest

Conservation news digest for busy people from @Mongabay. Story summaries that can be read in about ten seconds per post.

Popular topics:: Amazon | Animals | Brazil | Congo | Conservation | Deforestation | Featured | Indonesia | Logging | Malaysia | Oceans | Palm oil | Rainforests | Wildlife

Why did millions of fish turn up dead in Indonesia’s giant Lake Toba? [08/30/2016]
- In May, millions of fish died suddenly in the Haranggaol Bay of Lake Toba, Indonesia's largest lake. Scientists chalked it up to a sudden depletion of oxygen in the water, the result of a buildup of pollutants in the lake, unfavorable weather conditions and unsustainable practices by local aquafarmers.
- The local economy was badly shaken by the incident. Most residents of Haranggaol village rely on the fish farms as their only dependable source of income. Many villagers have had to go into debt to keep their businesses from collapsing.
- Haranggaol residents have since tried to modify their practices to prevent another die-off, but without the resources and know-how of the lake's corporate aquafarmers, they have had a difficult time.
- Meanwhile, the government has big plans for Lake Toba as a tourist destination along the lines of a "Monaco of Asia" — one that might not include the unsightly fish farms.

Protected areas are effective conservation tools, but even they can’t keep out rising temperatures [08/30/2016]
- While there is plenty of good news about the effectiveness of protected areas in combating deforestation and related impacts, they “are not a panacea” and “the current reserve system alone may be insufficient to conserve biodiversity in the face of rapidly rising temperatures,” the authors of a study published this month in the journal Diversity and Distributions write.
- The study finds that somewhere between 19 and 67 percent of Amazon protected areas will not have any temperature analogs by the 2050s, depending on the actual rate of warming and the amount of connectivity between protected areas.
- Since many tropical plant and animal species are not likely to be able to tolerate rising temperatures, they will need to shift their ranges and track the movement of “suitable” climates across the Amazon.

Field Notes: Expedition to Cuba seeks out new and endemic species [08/30/2016]
- As travel restrictions ease up, US citizens are discovering Cuba, an archipelago less than 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Florida. Biological research is also on the upswing, and scientists are working with their Cuban colleagues to assess the rich biodiversity that earned the island its nickname: “Pearl of the Antilles."
- In 2015, a team of US and Cuban scientists traveled to Alejandro de Humboldt National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, as part of Explore21 — an initiative launched by the American Museum of Natural History to apply multidisciplinary approaches and new technology to biological surveys.
- The US and Cuban scientists overcame challenging travel conditions, and once on site, worked around the clock to survey and inventory species –– many unique to Cuba. One of every two plants are endemic, while for amphibians, perhaps 95 percent are endemic. The chance of finding new species is high.
- A search for Cuba’s Ivory-billed woodpecker, extinct in the US but possibly still in Cuba, yielded no positive results, though that search was far from conclusive. With the expedition complete, Porzecanski and the other researchers are now poring over collected specimens, and will likely discover and describe species previously unknown to science.

Cables reveal US gov’t role in Herakles Farms land grab in Cameroon [08/30/2016]
- Sithe Global Sustainable Oils Cameroon (SG-SOC), a subsidiary of U.S. agribusiness Herakles Farms, signed a convention with a Cameroonian government minister in 2009 to develop a large-scale palm oil plantation that included a 99-year lease for 73,086 hectares (about 180,600 acres) of land — which was likely illegal, given that land in excess of 50 hectares can only be granted by presidential decree under Cameroonian law.
- In 2013, President Paul Biya signed three decrees green-lighting the project, though it had been scaled back significantly, from a 99-year lease to a three-year probationary lease for just 19,843 hectares.
- “It was shocking that President Biya signed the decrees despite the mountain of evidence exposing the vast social, economic, and environmental consequences of the project,” Frederic Mousseau, Policy Director at the Oakland Institute, said in a statement. “We now know that behind the scenes, US government officials were applying serious pressure to the Cameroonian government to grant Herakles Farms the land.”

More than 300 reindeer killed by lightning in Norway [08/30/2016]
- The Hardangervidda lightning strike was unusually deadly, officials say.
- The mass death may have occurred because as herd animals, reindeer tend to huddle together during bad weather.
- Officials have sent a team of people to take samples from the bodies and send them to the Norwegian Veterinary Institute for research.

Another Indonesian court convicts a company of causing fires [08/30/2016]
- In December 2015, plantation company PT Bumi Mekar Hijau was acquitted in a civil suit the government had filed against it for letting fires ravage its land in 2014.
- Now, an appeals court has reversed that decision, ordering the company to pay $6 million in compensation.
- Environmentalists wished the company had been made to pay a higher penalty, given that the government was asking for more than $600 million. The 2015 Southeast Asian haze crisis cost Indonesia $16 billion, according to the World Bank.

Logging roads have long-lasting impacts on forests [08/29/2016]
- Researchers studied logging roads in the U.S., finding that the roads and log landing areas had far denser soil than even logged parts of a forest.
- Denser soil can make it less likely for water to be absorbed into the ground, reducing water availability for trees and increasing runoff into streams. This can last years after logging stops.
- The authors recommend logging roads be treated and restored after harvest operations end.

Oil pipeline sparks fierce opposition among American tribes and farmers [08/29/2016]
- An estimated 1,500 activists opposing the Dakota Access pipeline have settled in at a camp near the construction site for the pipeline’s Missouri River crossing.
- The Standing Rock Sioux have filed for an injunction against the pipeline, arguing that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued permits for the project without properly evaluating its impacts on water and sites of cultural or historical importance, or listening to the tribe’s concerns.
- Energy Transfer Partners, the pipeline’s Texas-based owner, has suspended construction at the contested site as both sides await the judge's ruling, expected September 9.
- However, work continues elsewhere along the pipeline’s 1,172-mile length.

The biologist terrifying the US Forest Service and the timber and forest fire-fighting industries [08/29/2016]
- In 1993, the Forest Service began managing for spotted owl habitat, implementing standards intended to reduce logging in owl territories, though cutting trees was still allowed. Since then, populations of spotted owls have crashed all across Forest Service lands in California.
- Monica Bond is a wildlife biologist who has spent the past 15 years becoming an expert on spotted owls and forest fires. Earlier this month, she published a paper summarizing all existing science about what happens to spotted owls when forests burn, in the hope of averting a major US forest management policy mistake.
- “Everyone expected fire to be bad for owls, but the data showed no effect on survival, reproduction, or site occupancy,” Bond said. “Our data showed fire wasn’t the owl-eating monster we had all believed it to be.”

US creates world’s largest marine reserve off Hawaii [08/29/2016]
- The monument, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to more than 7,000 marine species, including endangered sea turtles, whales, Hawaiian monk seals, Laysan albatross, Pritchardia palms, and several recently discovered species.
- While non-commercial fishing is allowed in the monument region by permit, commercial fishing and future mineral extraction activities are banned within the expansion area, the White House said.
- The expansion of Papahānaumokuākea is in response to proposals put forward by U.S. Senator Brian Schatz and other native Hawaiian leaders earlier this year.

Detector Dogs sniff out illegal ivory, help nab poacher in Tanzania [08/29/2016]
- Two dogs — Jenny, a Belgian Malinois dog, and Dexter, an English springer spaniel — are members of a new team of specially trained dogs and handlers from Tanzanian National Parks (TANAPA), according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
- Following a tipoff, Jenny and her handler successfully detected four concealed elephant tusks hidden in plastic under a parked vehicle.
- The tusks are small, TANAPA officials report, and have presumably come from “young elephants that had not even reached middle age”.

Yosemite as a case study in protected area downsizing and habitat fragmentation [08/26/2016]
- Legal changes to Yosemite’s boundaries demonstrate that even the U.S.’s national parks are not always safe from protected area downgrading, downsizing, and degazettement — often referred to as PADDD.
- Yosemite National Park was downsized twice and had five additions made between 1905 and 1937, resulting in a nearly 30 percent net reduction in the size of the park.
- Researchers found that PADDD leads to habitat fragmentation, so it’s perhaps good news that the team also found that PADDD is reversible.

Indonesian police arrest hundreds in connection to burning land [08/26/2016]
- Indonesia's top cop on Thursday said the police had arrested 454 individuals over the fires now spreading in Sumatra and Kalimantan.
- The environment minister called on police to “investigate thoroughly” for any links to companies and local government officials.
- Local authorities in some haze-hit areas were assembling makeshift shelters as a precautionary measure to care for people with health problems.

Planned Tapajós industrial waterway a potential environmental disaster [08/26/2016]
- The recent Brazilian government decision to cancel the São Luiz do Tapajós mega-dam was hailed as a victory by indigenous groups and environmentalists. But a new book describes the serious threats still facing the Tapajós basin.
- Brazil’s Tapajós is one of the most biodiverse and culturally rich regions in Amazonia. But it is also an area being aggressively eyed by agribusiness and the mining industry for extensive infrastructure development — to include a vast industrial waterway and major hydropower projects.
- The book, called Ocekadi (meaning “the river of our place” in the Munduruku indigenous language), includes 25 articles by academic researchers, and offers the most comprehensive analysis yet available of Tapajós environmental and social assets, and the threats facing them.
- Ocekadi is being published in Portuguese by International Rivers and Brazil’s Universidade Federal do Oeste do Pará (UFOPA).

New species of extinct, kitten-sized marsupial lion named after David Attenborough [08/26/2016]
- In the Riversleigh World Heritage Area in north-western Queensland, scientists have discovered the fossil remains of a new species of marsupial lion that went extinct about 18 million years ago.
- The lion was tiny, weighing only about 600 grams, scientists say.
- The team has named the new species Microleo attenboroughi, both for its miniature size and in honor of Sir David Attenborough.

Aceh governor eyes geothermal project in Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem [08/26/2016]
- Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah has written to the Environment and Forestry Ministry in Jakarta, asking for part of the core zone of Mount Leuser National Park to be rezoned for geothermal development.
- The plan is for a company owned by Turkish venture capitalist Emin Hitay to explore the area for geothermal resources. Hitay intends to invest billions of dollars in geothermal projects across Indonesia.
- Abdullah argued that the project would support President Joko Widodo's goal of adding a 35,000 megawatts of generating capacity to Indonesia's electrical grid.
- Environmentalists object to the plan because they say it will threaten endangered wildlife and harm local livelihoods.

New ‘sleeping beauty’ frog discovered in fragmented Peruvian forest [08/25/2016]
- The new species belongs to the Pristimantis genus and is named after the central Amazon mountain range in which it was found.
- Scientists found two populations of the frog: one in Tingo Maria National Park and another outside the park in an area heaviy deforested for agriculture.
- The surrounding region has become a hotbed of cattle ranching in recent years, yet has hasn't attracted conservation attention given to other areas of Peru.

Rising sea levels could actually help coral reefs survive global warming: Study [08/25/2016]
- Rising levels of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere will cause significant changes to ocean temperatures and chemistry over the next 100 years, thereby increasing the frequency and severity of mass bleaching and other stresses on coral reefs and reef systems, scientists say.
- The University of Western Australia’s Ryan Lowe led a team of researchers who studied a reef system off the coast of northwestern Australia, as well as other reef systems across the globe, in order to develop a new model for predicting how rapid sea level rise will impact daily water temperature extremes within these shallow reefs over the next century.
- The researchers found that an atmospheric exchange of surface heat drives the greatest temperature fluctuations in reefs located in shallow, low-tide waters. That means that rising sea levels could reduce local reef water temperatures by a substantial amount, helping protect them from becoming stressed and bleaching as a consequence.

Pet trade’s “cute” and “adorable” label endangers the slow loris [08/25/2016]
- The slow loris includes all the species of the genus Nycticebus, which range from Northeast India to Southeast Asia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Much still isn’t known about the genus, including the numbers of animals remaining in the wild. Not even the number of species is certain (the IUCN is raising the count from 8 to 9 this fall).
- These nocturnal primates are highly threatened by trafficking. Lorises are hunted for sale as pets, for traditional medicine, and for photo prop opportunities with tourists. Habitat loss is another leading cause of decline, though lorises have proven to be adaptable. They like forest edges, so can live near human communities successfully if left alone.
- The loris is unusual in that it is a venomous mammal, and its bite is toxic, and can be dangerous to humans. For that reason, traffickers pull the animal’s teeth when captured without use of anesthetics or antibiotics. Many captured for the pet trade die in transit.
- Dr. Anna Nekaris and the Little Fireface Project in Java, Indonesia, are leaders in the underfunded slow loris research and conservation effort. Rescue centers have arisen across Asia to protect the animals. Education is a key tool: Nekaris, for example, suggests not “liking” viral loris youtube videos, but instead offering conservation-related comments.

PHOTOS: Panama revives stalled dam over strong indigenous opposition [08/25/2016]
- The 28-megawatt Barro Blanco dam in western Panama is nearly complete, but construction has been stalled since February due to opposition by local indigenous communities.
- A ceremony on Monday meant to mark a deal to complete the project between the Panamanian government and leaders of the indigenous Ngäbe community was disrupted by Ngäbe protesters, highlighting a strong division within the indigenous community.
- In a demonstration that erupted into violence, Ngäbe protesters temporarily shut down the ceremony.
- However, the dam will move forward under the signed agreement, which details new economic and oversight concessions for the communities and the ouster of the dam’s controversial owner.

Endangered species often wait 12 years or more to be listed for protection [08/25/2016]
- Researchers analyzed the amount of time it took for 1,338 species to become listed for protection under the ESA between 1973 and 2014.
- The average processing time for species listing was 12 years, the study found, six times that of the mandated timeline. For some species, the processing time was even longer, taking more than 37 years.
- The processing time was also usually shorter for vertebrates (including reptiles, fish, birds, amphibians and mammals) than for invertebrates and flowering plants.

Study explores how new technologies can be linked to benefit conservation efforts [08/24/2016]
- Traditional field inventories and other sampling strategies will always be a crucial tool for ecologists, the researchers note, but field surveys are costly, especially when maintained over many years, and they are difficult to do in the more remote regions of the world.
- New technologies in ecologists’ toolboxes can help overcome these obstacles, especially when used in combination, the researchers said.
- Satellite and airborne remote sensing, drones, camera traps, and data fusion and processing tools like the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) are among the technologies they argue could be linked to increase the “dimensionality” of data collection efforts by ecological researchers and conservationists.

Nixed Bolivian highway offers environmental lessons to big Brazil bank [08/24/2016]
- Bolivia’s TIPNIS Highway, which would have bisected a national park and remote indigenous lands, was to be largely financed by BNDES, Brazil’s development bank. Instead, the project met with intense protests from indigenous groups and environmentalists, and was abandoned.
- The highway project was cancelled in 2011 before BNDES had contributed any money to the project, but after construction had begun.
- Earlier this year, three civil society NGOs sent a joint complaint to BNDES, alleging that it had failed to adequately consider the environmental and human rights impacts of the TIPNIS highway.
- The groups say that the BNDES investment process was not adequately transparent, did not meet social and environmental criteria, or offer a complaint process; and conclude that the bank needs to improve its standards on future projects. The bank refutes these accusations.

END LOOP: Coding to end wildlife trafficking [08/24/2016]
- The first ever Zoohackathon will convene this October 7-9 across six zoos in the US, Europe, Asia and Pacific.
- The hackathon aims to produce tech solutions to the increasingly rampant global challenge of wildlife trafficking.
- Visit www.zoohackathon.com to register or contact schulzedf@state.gov or Zoohackathon@state.gov for more information on getting involved.

Can helping women achieve financial freedom help the environment, too? [08/24/2016]
- Conservation organizations across the board are focusing on women with programs that attempt to achieve social and environmental change in one fell swoop.
- A small subset of these organizations uses the prospect of financial freedom to encourage women to participate in projects that benefit the environment.
- But outcomes are difficult to measure and research into whether the approach actually works is hard to come by, leaving experts to rely more on instinct than hard evidence in evaluating them.

Human impact on environment may be slowing down: new study [08/24/2016]
- While human pressure continues to expand across our planet, the overall rate of its increase is slower than the rates of human population and economic growth, a new study has found.
- However, nearly three-fourths of the earth’s land surface still faces intense, rapidly increasing human pressures.
- Regions that are rich in biodiversity, and have a high proportion of threatened species, are under high human pressure, the study found.

Raging Amazon forest fires threaten uncontacted indigenous tribe [08/23/2016]
- Small groups of Guajajara Indians, the Awá’s neighbors in the Amazon, reportedly battled the blaze for days without the assistance of government agents until Brazil’s Environment Ministry launched a fire-fighting operation two weeks ago.
- Some 50 percent of the forest cover in the territory was destroyed by forest fires started by loggers in late 2015, and the Environment Ministry has warned that the situation is “even worse this year.”
- Despite illegal loggers having destroyed more than 30 percent of the forest in Awá territory, the land contains some of the eastern Amazon’s last remaining patches of rainforest.

Indonesia must do more to protect whale sharks, conservationists say [08/23/2016]
- Most whale sharks live in the Indo-Pacific, where Indonesia lies.
- The giant fish is a protected species in Indonesia, but that hasn't stopped poachers from hunting it for its fins, skin and oil.
- Advocates want the Indonesian government to crack down on traffickers and do more to promote sustainable ecotourism that contributes to the creature's conservation.

What conservation isn’t: Eating endangered lemurs to save them [08/23/2016]
- Richard Bangs, Editor-at-Large for Expedia.com and a travel writer for the New York Times, Slate, and the Huffington Post, wrote a detailed account for the Huffington Post in which he described his quest to find and eat a Critically Endangered species, the red-ruffed lemur (Varecia rubra).
- The wildlife trade represents the third-largest illegal trade in the world following the arms and drugs trades, and it threatens to wipe out numerous and diverse species across the globe.
- Lemurs, endemic to Madagascar, now represent the most endangered group of mammals on Earth with more than 90 percent of the 113 species being threatened with extinction. Thus, lemurs are illegal to capture, kill, sell, or eat in Madagascar.

Dams inevitably result in species decline, losses on reservoir islands [08/23/2016]
- Hydropower is being pushed hard in the Americas, Africa, Asia and Europe by dam developers who say it is an environmentally friendly form of alternative energy, but a recent study finds an unforeseen environmental impact for dams the world over.
- Islands created by reservoirs are often claimed as wildlife sanctuaries by dam proponents, but the study shows that such islands owe a big “extinction debt”, and see a slow but inexorable extinction of species, along with biodiversity impoverishment, over time.
- The meta-analysis evaluated data from 100 studies of reservoir islands at 15 dams in North, Central and South America, Europe and Asia. In more than 75 percent of cases, dams had an overall negative impact on reservoir island species, affecting species population density, ecological community composition, and species behavior.
- Reservoir islands have often been flaunted for their potential as conservation areas by dam developers. But the researchers recommend that islands no longer be counted as viable habitat or potential conservation areas in future dam proposals.

Atauro island has highest average reef fish diversity in the world [08/23/2016]
- Conservation International’s (CI’s) Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) conducted a week-long survey was conducted in Atauro Island in July.
- During the course of the survey, CI’s team recorded a total of 642 reef fish species around the island.
- In one site, the team identified 315 species, which is the third highest globally, the researchers say.

Scientists have just discovered the first endemic bird species to go extinct on the Galápagos Islands [08/22/2016]
- The researchers used molecular data from samples of museum specimens housed at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco to sequence the DNA and piece together an evolutionary history of two subspecies of Vermilion Flycatcher.
- The two subspecies were found to be so genetically distinct that the researchers elevated them to full species status and gave them the names Pyrocephalus nanus and Pyrocephalus dubius.
- Pyrocephalus dubius is found only on the island of San Cristóbal — or, at least, it was. The species, commonly known as the San Cristóbal Vermilion Flycatcher, hasn’t been seen since 1987.

Two new species of glowing spook fish discovered [08/22/2016]
- Barreleyes, with their large transparent heads, are one of the rarest and "most peculiar and unknown fish groups in the deep-sea pelagic realm", researchers say.
- Some barreleyes have special organs on their bellies called "soles", covered with pigmented scales, that reflect light emitted from luminous organs inside their bellies.
- By comparing the pigment patterns on the soles of barreleyes fish collected near American Samoa and New Zealand with long-preserved specimens previously caught near the mid-Atlantic ridge and Australia, researchers found that two species are new to science.

Watch how corals ‘violently’ bleach as sea temperatures rise [08/22/2016]
- Researchers placed individuals of the solitary coral, Heliofungia actiniformis, into a 10-litre aquatic tank and began heating the water up.
- Within the first two hours of raising the water temperature, the H. actiniformis began expelling Symbiodinium, the tiny algae that lives inside its tissues, in a process called pulsed inflation.
- The intensity and magnitude of the expansion-contraction pulses increased with time, with the coral inflating to up to 340 percent of its original state.

Indonesian parliament to investigate fire-linked firms in Riau [08/20/2016]
After police in the province closed cases against 15 companies linked to burning.

Five tools are better than one: determining deforestation drivers from above [08/19/2016]
- In part II of our interview with Matt Finer of the MAAP project at Amazon Conservation Association, he explains some of the rapid advances in remote sensing data becoming increasingly available to research and conservation practitioners.
- These advances have allowed the MAAP team to not only detect and monitor deforestation hotspots, but also determine the drivers of forest loss.
- Adapting monitoring procedures and taking advantage of opportunities to use and integrate new tools has allowed the project to remain well-informed of the complex array of drivers causing forest loss in the western Amazon.

Sarawak establishes 2.2M acres of protected areas, may add 1.1M more [08/19/2016]
- The state will open a Department of National Parks and Wildlife by January of next year, and is in the process of creating several new protected areas that encompass all of its orangutan habitat.
- The new department’s responsibilities will include managing and conserving wildlife, creating new totally protected areas (TPAs), and halting illegal hunting and the sale of bushmeat.
- Since July 2016, Sarawak has gazetted a total area of 903,769 hectares (more than 2.2 million acres) comprising 43 national parks, 14 natural reserves, and six wildlife sanctuaries, and is in the process of creating another 31 new TPAs with a combined area of 451,819 hectares (more than 1.1 million acres).

Deforestation has been occurring continuously in New England since the 1980s [08/19/2016]
- New England, which includes the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont, is often considered a prime example of a so-called “forest transition,” in which forest regions recover from widespread historical deforestation as economic development activities, especially farming and forestry operations, diminish.
- Researchers found that, while New England did undergo a forest transition phase prior to 1985, it has been in a secondary phase of deforestation ever since.
- Their results showed that more than 385,000 hectares (more than 950,000 acres) of forest has been lost since 1985 — five percent of New England's total forest area.

New species of extinct dolphin discovered in museum collection [08/19/2016]
- The fossil, an incomplete skull about nine inches long, was discovered by geologist Donald J Miller in 1951 in Alaska.
- For the next six decades, the skull remained in Smithsonian's collection, until researchers decided to examine it.
- The researchers have found that the dolphin skull is among the oldest fossils from Platanistoidea, a group that once included a large, diverse family of marine mammals, but is now represented by a single freshwater river species, the South Asian river dolphin Platanista gangetica.

Timber from Peru 90 percent illegal, finds report issued by U.S. gov’t [08/18/2016]
- The report, released yesterday, found shortcomings of implementation and enforcement of Peru's conservation laws majorly contributed to the export of illegal wood.
- The report comes after multiple shipments of illegal timber destined for the U.S. were intercepted.
- U.S. officials and conservationists urge Peru's new government to increase efforts to stem the flow of illegally harvested timber.

Indonesia’s peat restoration chief calls for protection of all peat domes [08/18/2016]
The Indonesian agency set up to prevent a recurrence of last year’s devastating forest and peatland fires is calling for all peat domes in the country to be designated as protected areas. Indonesian law already prohibits development on deep peatlands, where the carbon-rich peat soil can extend for many meters below the surface. But the country’s vague peat […]

Three murders highlight troubles of Iran’s park rangers [08/18/2016]
- In the final days of June, three Iranian park rangers were shot by poachers, bringing the tally of rangers killed in such instances in the country to 119.
- At least eight rangers have spent years behind bars after being convicted of murder for killing poachers while on the job.
- The Iranian Department of Environment claims the rangers were released during the last year. But the conditions of their release concern environmentalists, who point to flaws in the system meant to protect both rangers and the country’s rich biodiversity.

July was hottest month ever recorded and 15th consecutive record-breaking month [08/18/2016]
- July 2016 was the 15th record-breaking month in a row, going all the way back to May 2015, NOAA data shows.
- NASA, which uses different measures than NOAA to track global temperatures, has July as just the 10th consecutive hottest month, going back to October 2015 — which also happened to be the first month in NASA’s dataset that was more than 1˚C warmer than the 1950 to 1980 global average.
- But July, no matter how you measure it, didn’t just keep the streak alive. Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, reported that it was “absolutely the hottest month since the instrumental records began.”

Here’s where tropical forests have been destroyed for palm oil over the past 25 years [08/18/2016]
- A new study led by researchers at Duke University that was published last month in the journal PLOS ONE looked at high-resolution imagery from 20 countries to determine where oil palm plantations have destroyed tropical forests over the past quarter century and where oil palm might threaten rainforests in the future.
- The researchers found that existing plantations drove high levels of deforestation between 1989 and 2013, with Southeast Asia accounting for 45 percent of forest destruction for oil palm expansion and South America accounting for just over 30 percent.
- Their analysis showed that all of the countries with a high percentage of deforestation within current oil palm plantations had more than 30 percent unprotected forests that are suitable for oil palm, suggesting great potential for further deforestation in those countries in the future.

China jails 7 people, including airport employee, for smuggling rare tortoises [08/18/2016]
- The defendants would reportedly transport the illegally caught tortoises from Madagascar to China onboard a commercial flight.
- Once the tortoises arrived in China, the defendants would hand the animals over to an airport employee who worked at the Guangzhou Baiyun Airport who would then help the defendants get the tortoises out without a customs inspection.
- The smuggling racket was finally busted on 3 February 2015 when Chinese authorities caught the airport employee with 316 tortoises stuffed inside two knapsacks.

Researchers say addressing the second D in REDD can benefit the climate while ensuring timber harvests [08/17/2016]
- An international team of researchers analyzed the potential for timber production and carbon emission reductions under two logging techniques over a 40-year period of selective logging.
- They published their results this month in the journal Frontiers in Environmental Science along with their recommendations that the world address tropical forest degradation — the second “D” in the UN’s REDD+ program (which stands for Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation).
- Tropical deforestation is responsible for 10 percent of manmade greenhouse gas emissions every year — but that doesn’t include emissions from unnecessarily destructive logging, which also reduces commercial timber stocks and makes forests more prone to burning and clearing, the authors of the study wrote.

Smoke from Indonesia’s fires begins to drift into Malaysia [08/17/2016]
- The number of Indonesian fires and hotspots in the 2016 dry season has so far been lower than last year.
- The director of law enforcement at Indonesia’s environment ministry said the ministry accepted the unpopular decision by Riau Police to close the pending cases on the 15 companies under investigation.
- Kalyana Sundram from the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) said companies liable for fires in Malaysia would have licenses immediately revoked by the central government.

Pulling the stunningly unique painted terrapin back from the brink [08/17/2016]
- The Critically Endangered painted terrapin (Batagur borneoensis) is one of the 25 most endangered tortoises and freshwater turtles on earth, according to the Turtle Survival Coalition — with surviving numbers in Indonesia and Malaysia unknown.
- The species is under tremendous pressure from poaching for eggs and by agroindustry which is degrading and converting its river and ocean beach and mangrove habitat for fish and shrimp aquaculture and oil palm production.
- Joko Guntoro and the Satucita Foundation — with help from the UK’s Chester Zoo, the Houston Zoo in Texas, and the Turtle Survival Alliance — have built a head starting facility in Indonesia and successfully incubated more than six hundred hatchlings which are scheduled for release this autumn.
- A mysterious species, scientists know next to nothing about painted terrapin migration, juvenile and adult behaviors — key to conservation. Unfortunately, under-funded researchers lack the money for satellite tracking of the species.

In search of a lost species: the Santa Marta Toro [08/17/2016]
- Nicolette (Nikki) Roach, a PhD Student at Texas A&M University, is on a mission to find the elusive Santa Marta Toro again.
- The tiny rodent was last spotted in 2011, for the first time in 113 years.
- Roach says that finding and gathering data on the Toro would be a huge symbol of hope for conservation.

‘All they need is a head start’: reforesting India’s Western Ghats [08/16/2016]
- The Western Ghats mountain chain lines South India's west coast and provides important habitat for many unique species. But development pressure has led to the loss of large areas of forest within and around the range.
- One area that has been particularly hard-hit is the Nilgiris District, in the state of Tamil Nadu. Two centuries of land conversion for timber, tea, and other plantations has displaced much of the region's native forests and grasslands.
- A team of conservationists is hoping to reverse the deforestation by restablishing native vegetation on degraded land.
- However, the effort is not without its critics who say that it may be more effective to simply let forests come back by themselves.

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