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.

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Indonesian mosques to take up the mantle of fighting climate change [11/21/2017]
Indonesia will establish 1,000 “eco-mosques,” the country’s vice president announced at this month’s UN climate summit in Bonn. The Southeast Asian nation is home to some 260 million people, fourth after China, India and the U.S. Nearly 90 percent of them identify as Muslim, according to 2010 census data. Indonesia also has some of the […]

Chocolate makers agree to stop cutting down forests in West Africa for cocoa [11/21/2017]
- At COP23, the UN climate talks in Bonn, Germany that wrapped up last week, top cocoa-producing countries in West Africa announced new commitments to end the massive deforestation for cocoa that is occurring within their borders.
- Ivory Coast and Ghana are the number one and number two cocoa-producing nations on Earth, respectively. Together, they produce about two-thirds of the world’s cocoa, but that production has been tied to high rates of deforestation as well as child labor and other human rights abuses.
- The so-called “Frameworks for Action” that were announced by the two countries last Thursday not only aim to halt the clearing of forests for cocoa production, especially in national parks and other protected areas, but to restore forest areas that have already been cleared or degraded.


Guyana seeks offshore oil wealth in a green economy [11/21/2017]
- ExxonMobil expects to produce some 2-2.5 billion oil-equivalent barrels from Guyanese waters, which could add up to more than $100 billion.
- Given the fact that Guyana’s Gross National Income is $4,250 per capita, the promises of oil are causing a stir in the political landscape.
- Although the amount of oil that reaches the Guyana coast from a spill may be small, the country’s Environmental Protection Agency notes it would impact marine resources.


Experience or evidence: How do big conservation NGOs make decisions? [11/21/2017]
- Scientists have been urging conservation NGOs to make decisions based on scientific evidence.
- However, the big conservation NGOs run into many problems in trying to use the available science. Doing impact evaluations of their own projects is also hard and expensive, sources from the big conservation NGOs say.
- For their work to be effective, the conservation community needs to develop a common understanding of what credible evidence means, how to best use different strands of evidence, and how organizations can evaluate their work and create evidence that others can use, experts across the conservation spectrum seem to agree.
- This story is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness.”


Pyrrhic victory for Keystone XL as Nebraska nixes preferred pipeline route [11/21/2017]
- On Monday, the Nebraska Public Service Commission (NPSC) released its decision regarding the permitting of the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline through the Midwest state. The NPSC rejected the company’s preferred route, but permitted an alternate route.
- While major media outlets hailed the decision as a victory for TransCanada, and for President Trump who has reversed Barack Obama’s rejection of the project, activists believe the NPSC action has the potential to long delay or even kill Keystone, which would bring Alberta Tar Sands bitumen south into the U.S. to link up with other lines going to the Gulf Coast and foreign markets.
- Activists point out that the selection of the alternate route means that TransCanada must go back to the drawing board, spending more money on years of planning, negotiating with landowners, and bucking new legal opposition in a political climate where public opposition to tar sands pipelines by activist coalitions as diverse as cattle ranchers and Indian nations has turned fierce.
- The Nebraska decision was made within days of a TransCanada pipeline spill in South Dakota that dumped 5,000 barrels of bitumen, though the NPSC said that the spill had no influence on their decision. TransCanada says it will announce its future plans for Keystone XL in late November or December.


As Indonesia pushes flagship land reform program, farmers remain wary [11/21/2017]
- Under a flagship agrarian reform program, the Indonesian government aims to give indigenous and other rural communities greater control over 127,000 square kilometers of land.
- President Joko Widodo earlier this month handed out 35-year land leases to farmers across Java as part of the social forestry program.
- The farmers, however, are concerned about the sustainability of the program, citing worries about getting bank loans, as well as a lack of maps and planning.


Scientists predict tree death from drought in California’s Sierra Nevadas [11/20/2017]
- A study in the Sierra Nevada mountains in California shows that remotely-measured changes in the canopy water content (CWC) of conifers can be used to forecast tree mortality.
- Water content in tree canopies can be remotely monitored using laser-based images from aerial surveys.
- Changes in the CWC in conifer forests during droughts correlate well with tree mortality.
- After estimating canopy water content from past years using a deep learning model, researchers were able to accurately predict tree death during a recent drought.


From friends to strangers: The decline of the Irrawaddy dolphin (commentary) [11/20/2017]
- Now critically endangered, the last of the Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) are concentrated in nine deep-water pools over a 190-kilometer stretch of the Mekong between Cambodia’s Sambor district and Khone Falls on the Lao border.
- Today the Mekong’s dolphins face a new threat. The proposed Sambor Dam on the river’s mainstream would catalyze the extinction of the remaining dolphin population and have disastrous consequences for many other fish species, as well as the communities that depend on them.
- Can Cambodia bring this river dolphin back from the brink of extinction?
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Trump puts controversial decision allowing elephant trophy imports ‘on hold’ [11/20/2017]
- Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allowed elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia to be imported to the U.S., lifting a previous ban under former President Barack Obama.
- This move sparked criticism not only from conservationists and animal rights activists, but also from some President Trump supporters.
- Following the widespread criticism, Trump tweeted that he would announce his decision on trophy imports next week.


New research projects two percent increase in global emissions in 2017 [11/17/2017]
- A new report from the Global Carbon Project and the University of East Anglia projects that emissions will have risen about two percent by the time 2017 draws to a close.
- According to the report, global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry will reach about 37 billion metric tons in 2017, setting a new record. Emissions from all human activities, including fossil fuel use, industry, and land-use change, is projected to be about 41 billion metric tons, close to the record set in 2015.
- Emissions growth in China and other developing countries is largely to blame for the overall increase in 2017, the report states.


To feed a growing population, farms chew away at Madagascar’s forests [11/17/2017]
- In Madagascar, farmers are cutting down forests and burning them to make way for rice cultivation.
- The practice is traditional but now illegal because of the harm it causes to natural areas. Many species are already threatened with extinction due to forest loss.
- With the country’s population expected to double by 2060, the pressure is likely to intensify.


COP23: Leaders vie for protection of ‘incredibly important’ African peatland [11/17/2017]
- The presence of the world’s biggest tropical peatland was recently confirmed in Central Africa. It is the size of England and straddles the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Congo (ROC).
- However, conservationists and scientists worry it may be at risk from logging and development. They caution its destruction could release “vast amounts” of carbon emissions. Others say the threats are overblown.
- Conservation leaders and representatives gathered this week at COP23 in Bonn, Germany, say protections could exist through REDD+ projects that could give local communities management rights and provide financial incentives for leaving the peat forest intact.


COP23: Alliance pledges an end to coal; other key summit goals unmet [11/17/2017]
- As COP23 comes to a close in Bonn, 19 nations including Canada and the United Kingdom agreed to stop using coal to generate power by 2030.
- Major coal producing and using nations, including Australia, India, Germany and the United States, did not join in the new Global Alliance to Power Past Coal.
- Participants in COP23 find it to have largely been a disappointment, with developed nations failing to promise to ramp up their Paris carbon emission reduction targets – vital if the world is to stop a catastrophic rise in temperatures above 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Likewise, efforts to find clear pathways by which developed nations will raise the tens of billions needed for vulnerable developing nations to deal with climate change were blocked – primarily by the United States. Now, policymakers are putting their hopes on COP24 in Katowice, Poland, in December 2018.


Jane Goodall interview: ‘The most important thing is sharing good news’ [11/17/2017]
- Celebrated conservationist and Mongabay advisor Jane Goodall spoke with Mongabay founder and CEO Rhett A. Butler for the podcast just before departing for her latest speaking tour (she travels 300 days a year raising conservation awareness). Here we supply the full transcript.
- This wide-ranging conversation begins with reaction to the science community’s recent acceptance of her six decade contention that animals are individuals with personalities, and moves on to discuss trends in conservation, and she then provides an update on the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI)’s global projects.
- She also challenges trophy hunting as an effective tool for funding conservation (“It’s rubbish,” she says), shares her positive view of China’s quickly growing environmental movement, talks about the key role of technology in conservation, and discusses a range of good news, which she states is always so important to share.
- Amazingly, Dr. Goodall reports that JGI’s youth program Roots & Shoots now has perhaps as many as 150,000 chapters worldwide, making it probably the largest conservation movement in the world, with many millions having been part of the program. An effort is now underway to document them all.


Can agroforestry propel climate commitments? Interview with Peter Minang [11/16/2017]
- In the Paris agreement, most developing countries identified agroforestry as a key part of their climate strategy.
- Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs, are the main tool for defining countries’ contributions to the Agreement.
- The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), just released a policy brief on agroforestry’s central role in governmental efforts to achieve their NDCs.
- Author Peter A. Minang explains how agroforestry’s contribution to climate goals could be enhanced.


An early warning system for locating forest loss [11/16/2017]
- The Global Land Analysis & Discovery (GLAD) alert system accessed in Global Forest Watch uses satellite imagery to detect forest loss in areas as small as 30 m x 30 m.
- The system accesses and analyzes Landsat imagery for a subscriber’s area of interest, every week, and sends alerts of tree cover loss via email that enable users to respond to deforestation while it is still in its early stages.
- The alert system is now available for 16 countries and will expand to remaining humid tropical forests in the coming months.


Forests can beat humans at restoration, new study finds [11/16/2017]
- An analysis of 133 studies found natural regeneration was more effective than active, human-driven restoration at restoring tropical forests.
- The study refutes conventional wisdom that holds that actively restoring a forest is better than letting it grow back by itself.
- The authors say previous research didn’t control for key factors, which skewed results and made it seem like natural regeneration was less effective than it actually may be.
- The say large-scale restoration projects, which tend to favor active restoration, should consider natural regeneration as a way to more effectively achieve their goals while saving money that could be used to scale-up forest restoration worldwide.


The uncertain future of Bogotá’s shantytowns [11/16/2017]
- Colombia’s massive population of internally displaced is second only to Syria, and thousands fleeing violence make homes in the forests outside of cities.
- Outside of Colombia’s capital of Bogotá, thousands live in groups of makeshift homes that form a range of communities from villages to shanytowns.
- The shanytowns present worsening health and public safety problems, and have a devastating impact on the forests where communities are established and growing.


Alliance of the Bear: Native groups stymie Trump, tar sands pipelines [11/16/2017]
- When Big Oil and Gas invaded rural North America to frack, drill and dig the Alberta tar sands, the firms were met by a scattered opposition from Native peoples who developed a novel strategy: oppose new pipelines to keep fossil fuels from getting to market.
- Gradually, First Nations resistance groups in Canada’s East and West joined up with Western U.S. Native groups. Last July, many of their leaders met at a Rapid City, South Dakota Holiday Inn to sign a treaty of alliance against the fossil fuel companies and their ongoing projects.
- In recent months, oil and gas projects that indigenous organizers had risen against began to fold, including the Petronas liquid natural gas refinery project in British Columbia, and TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline.
- In June, the Trump administration removed Endangered protection status for the Greater Yellowstone River Valley grizzly population. The powerful Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion vowed resistance, viewing delisting as both an attack on the sacred bear and as a means of exposing the land over which the bear roams to mining and drilling.


COP23: U.S., wealthy nations curtail climate aid for developing world [11/16/2017]
- The small U.S. delegation sent by President Trump to the COP23 climate summit in Bonn has apparently led a successful effort to obstruct significant, much needed, climate change adaptation financing and loss-and-damage financing for the developing world.
- Over the past two weeks in Bonn, the U.S. provided cover for the other developed countries, especially coal-producing Australia, tar sands-producer Canada, and the European Union, as they curtailed offering financial climate aid to the world’s developing nations, including island nations whose existence is at risk from rising oceans.
- One victory: delegates agreed to draft language for Pre-2020 Ambitions, a measure requiring that developed countries be transparent about their current emissions and describe voluntary steps they will take prior to 2020 to further reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
- It is now hoped by some that the issue of adaptation financing and loss-and-damage financing to the developing world will be finally effectively addressed at COP24 in Poland in December 2018.


It is time to recognize the limits of certification in agriculture (commentary) [11/16/2017]
- In early 2017, the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) decided that it was going to stop working with certification in agriculture.
- It was actually a fairly easy and straightforward decision: After working with this tool for over 20 years, we could look back and conclude that certification was not the best approach to improve the sustainability of most farmers in the world, especially when considering the huge challenges we face from climate change, poverty, deforestation, soil and water contamination, and human rights violations.
- In our history, we have seen many positive impacts from certification for workers, producers and the environment. But we have also increasingly come to recognize the limitations of certification as a tool to drive change in agricultural production systems at scale.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


A tranquilizer shortage is holding back rhino management plans in India [11/16/2017]
- Conservationists rely on a semi-synthetic opioid called Etorphine HCl to tranquilize rhinos for veterinary care, translocation and other critical interventions.
- Due to export regulations in South Africa, and red tape at home, Indian states face a critical shortage of the drug.
- The lack of Etorphine is already holding up translocation plans in several protected areas, and preventing veterinarians from caring for injured animals.


Video: Thousands of illegally caught African gray parrots being rehabilitated [11/16/2017]
- The Wildlife Conservation Society has released a video showing seized African gray parrots being treated at a rescue facility built specially for the rehabilitation of these birds.
- The birds were collected from the wild in the Republic of the Congo, and were most likely being smuggled to markets in Europe and the Middle East.
- So far, the WCS team has rehabilitated and released almost 900 parrots back into the wild.


Government revokes 406 mining permits in Indonesia’s East Kalimantan [11/16/2017]
- Local authorities have revoked 406 coal-mining permits in East Kalimantan province, with another 403 permits to be revoked in the future.
- East Kalimantan is the heart of Indonesia’s coal-mining industry, with over half of the province’s land area allocated for mining concessions.
- The revocation is a part of a nationwide effort to stamp out irregularities in the the country’s mining sector, which has long been plagued by corruption, legal violations, and environmental and social damage.


Scientists give humanity ‘second notice’ to shape up or suffer the consequences [11/15/2017]
- In a paper published this week in Bioscience, scientists issue a second warning to humanity to adopt more sustainable practices and check in on how the world has fared since the first warning was published in 1992.
- They found most environmental problems have gotten far worse during the past 25 years.
- The paper puts forth ways in which humanity could improve its relationship with the natural world. If we don’t, the scientists warn we are “jeopardizing our future.”
- More than 15,000 scientists from 180 countries have signed the paper in support.


Lemur on the menu: most-endangered primates still served in Madagascar [11/15/2017]
- Officials in Madagascar’s northeastern Sava region say lemur is served illegally in restaurants.
- One conservationist says people use a code to order lemur meat.
- More than 90 percent of lemur species are threatened, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.


$2 billion investment in forest restoration announced at COP23 [11/15/2017]
- Last Thursday, at the UN climate talks in Bonn, Germany (known as COP23), the World Resources Institute (WRI) announced that $2.1 billion in private investment funds have been committed to efforts to restore degraded lands in the Caribbean and Latin America.
- The investments will be made through WRI’s Initiative 20×20, which has already put 10 million hectares (about 25 million acres) of land under restoration thanks to 19 private investors who are supporting more than 40 restoration projects.
- There’s a plethora of recent research showing that, while halting deforestation is of course critical, the restoration of degraded forests and other landscapes are a vital component to meeting the Paris Agreement’s target of keeping global warming below two degrees Celsius.


Can the Solomon Islands’ Gold Ridge Mine serve as a new model for resource extraction in the South Pacific? [11/15/2017]
- After 17 years of foreign ownership and a checkered environmental history, the Solomon Islands’ Gold Ridge mine is now being led by a local landowner-driven joint venture.
- The company saw its first major test in April 2016, when rainfall triggered a spillover from the mine’s tailing dam. However, independent tests found the water quality downstream remained safe.
- Though concerns still remain, the new ownership structure could be a model for mining operations elsewhere in the region.


Should I stay, or should I go: is U.S. facing a climate scientist brain drain? [11/15/2017]
- When Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Agreement last June, French President Emmanuel Macron offered U.S. climate scientists refuge to continue their research. So did Germany. Several hundred answered that call, though many others are in a wait-and-see holding pattern.
- With Trump proposing major budget cuts to scientific programs, and an “anti-science” mantra resounding throughout the new administration, young scientists face a difficult climb up the career ladder. Some are actively looking for research opportunities in the private sector or abroad, while others are staying put in the U.S. and stepping up to resist Trumpian anti-science policies.
- Some experts warn that a decline in U.S. political openness and Trump’s closing of the door to immigrants, who often staff research positions, could pose greater problems for science in the U.S. than any outflow of researchers. Einstein, Enrico Fermi, and many other scientists were immigrants to the U.S. and provided some of the nation’s greatest scientific advances.


Audio: Dr. Jane Goodall on being proven right about animals having personalities, plus updates direct from COP23 [11/15/2017]
- On today’s episode, we speak with the legendary Jane Goodall, who truly needs no introduction, and will have a direct report from the United Nations’ climate talks happening now in Bonn, Germany.
- Just before Mongabay founder and CEO Rhett Butler was scheduled to speak with Goodall recently, research came out that vindicated her contention, which she’s held for nearly 60 years, that animals have personalities just like people. So we decided to record her thoughts about that for the Mongabay Newscast.
- Our second guest today is Mongabay contributor and Wake Forest University journalism professor Justin Catanoso, who appears on the podcast direct from COP23 to tell us how the UN climate talks are going in Bonn, Germany, what the mood is like amongst delegates, and how the US delegation is factoring into the talks as the Trump Administration continues to pursue a pullout from the Paris Climate Agreement.


More big mammals found in high-carbon forests, says new study [11/15/2017]
- The researchers used satellite data to measure forest carbon values and camera trap photographs to tally the mammal species present in forests and oil palm plantations.
- Finer-scale data did reveal that high-carbon areas do support more species of medium and large mammals that are threatened with extinction.
- Experts say that this research validates the high carbon stock approach for identifying priority areas for conservation.
- Still, further research is required to better understand the role of connectivity between high-carbon forests in supporting biodiversity.


Videos detail corruption in massive illegal Peruvian timber case [11/14/2017]
- New video shows Peruvian timber executives knew they might be trafficking illegal timber out of the country aboard one of the largest captured shipments of illegal timber in Peru’s history, the Yacu Kallpa.
- The video, released by NGO Global Witness, shows that despite public claims, exporters often know that documents do not guarantee legal origin of timber.
- The videos include representatives from three of the exporting companies involved in the Yacu Kallpa case: Corporación Industrial Forestal, Inversiones WCA, and Sico Maderas.


COP23: Trump team leads ‘surreal’ coal-gas-nuke climate summit panel [11/14/2017]
- The only U.S. presentation to be offered at the COP23 climate summit was led by Trump administration energy advisors, along with coal, natural gas and nuclear industry representatives.
- The panel argued that fossil fuel production at high, subsidized levels is vital to “energy security and economic development.” Panel members made only infrequent references to climate change, and they made no mention of the dire impacts from burning fossil fuels.
- The presentation was likely one of the most uproarious in the history of COP. Two U.S. state governors burst in at the start to give impromptu speeches, attacking Trump’s climate denialist policies.
- A memorable highlight occurred when a chorus of young people arose en masse during the panel’s opening remarks, and to the tune of Lee Greenwood’s patriotic hit “God Bless the USA” sang: “So you claim to be an American. But we see right through your greed.” Their song lasted seven minutes, after which they peacefully departed the hall.


4 sperm whales dead after mass stranding in Sumatra [11/14/2017]
- A pod of 10 sperm whales beached earlier this week in shallow waters in western Indonesia.
- Despite attempts by authorities and residents to push the animals back out into deeper water, four of the whales died after being stranded overnight.
- Experts are looking into what caused the whales to swim so close to shore.


Indonesia coal power push neglects rural households, chokes urban ones [11/14/2017]
- The Indonesian government’s push to generate an additional 35 GW of electricity capacity by 2019 relies heavily on building new coal-fired power plants.
- Observers say the program focuses too much on the already saturated Java-Bali grid, while ignoring millions of households in more remote areas.
- The preference for generating power from coal could also threaten the health of up to 30 million people living in areas slated for power plant construction, a recent study from Greenpeace says.


Indonesian agribusiness giant APRIL outed in Paradise Papers [11/13/2017]
- Leaked corporate records reveal the offshore dealings of APRIL, one of Indonesia’s largest pulp and paper companies.
- APRIL is one of 12 Asian forest-products giants that appear in the Paradise Papers.
- APRIL is owned by the super-rich Tanoto family.


VaquitaCPR ends capture program in Gulf of California after vaquita dies in captivity [11/13/2017]
- VaquitaCPR, the emergency conservation team pulled together by the Mexican government in a desperate attempt to save the vaquita from extinction, announced last Friday that its capture program had come to an end.
- Just two of the marine mammals were taken into captivity by VaquitaCPR’s scientists, and neither was able to adapt to human care. The second, a breeding-age female that was not pregnant or lactating, responded poorly to being under the care of humans and died as the team was attempting to return her to the wild.
- With the vaquita population continuing to plummet, a prohibition on the use of gillnets adopted by the Mexican government does not appear to have made much difference thus far — but environmentalists say that much tougher enforcement of the ban is the only way to save the vaquita at this point.


Madagascar petitions CITES to sell millions in stolen rosewood [11/13/2017]
- The Madagascar government has petitioned wildlife regulators under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) for permission to sell its stockpiles of seized rainforest wood.
- Some campaigners warn that traffickers stand to benefit from any such sale and fear it could herald a “logging boom” in the country’s remaining rainforests.
- The CITES committee will consider the proposal at the end of this month.


COP23: Voices from America’s Pledge; in their own words [11/13/2017]
- A U.S. non-federal delegation led by Gov. Jerry Brown of California and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and including 15 U.S. states, 455 cities, 1,747 businesses and 325 universities, represents nearly half the United States economy.
- This U.S. subnational delegation is at COP23 in Bonn, Germany, to commit to keeping the U.S. Paris Agreement emissions reduction goal set by the Obama administration in Paris in 2015 – a commitment made in defiance of President Donald Trump.
- On Saturday, a standing-room-only event was held at COP23 where Bloomberg, Brown, Gore, and others spoke rousingly of emission cut achievements so far, and to come. Their words and photos are presented here.


A forgotten promise to forests? (commentary) [11/13/2017]
- In 2016, global tree cover loss spiked 51 percent over the previous year — resulting in a loss of forests the size of New Zealand. Needless to say, losing enough trees to cover the entirety of New Zealand in one year is worrisome for the climate.
- To follow through on their promise to protect forests and end climate change, countries can and must do more to reverse these trends. Although many countries allude to their intentions to reduce emissions from forests in their official contributions to the Paris Agreement, too few include explicit or ambitious goals to do so.
- It should go without saying that developed countries have the responsibility to lead by example. This makes the European Union’s recent decision allowing members to increase forest harvests all the more concerning.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


U.S. subnationals shoulder climate role in Bonn, Trump sidelined [11/13/2017]
- The United States government under Donald Trump now stands alone, a rogue nation. Aligned against it at COP23 in Bonn, Germany, is every other nation in the world – all committed to meeting national emissions goals set in Paris in 2015.
- Completely bypassing Trump and the federal government at COP23 is the U.S. subnational delegation, led by Gov. Jerry Brown of California and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
- The U.S. subnational delegation in Bonn represents non-federal actors in 15 states, 455 cities, 1,747 businesses and 325 universities. Combined they represent nearly half the U.S. economy. It remains to be seen if the delegation will be formally seated at COP23 as negotiators – a potential slap in the face to Trump’s tiny U.S. State Department delegation.
- The U.S. subnationals are committed to keeping America’s Paris goal of a 28 percent reduction in carbon emissions (over 2005 levels) by 2025. Supporters of America’s Pledge say they’re nearly halfway there. But it will take a far bigger push, and deeper cuts, to avoid the threat of escalating climate change, as heatwaves, extreme storms, and sea levels surge.


Indonesian president recognizes land rights of nine more indigenous groups [11/12/2017]
- Indonesian President Joko Widodo last month gave several indigenous communities back the land rights to the forests they have called home for generations.
- The total amount of customary forests relinquished to local groups under this initiative remains far short of what the government has promised, and looks unlikely to be fulfilled before the next presidential election in 2019.
- At a recent conference in Jakarta, a senior government official said the president would sign a decree to help more communities secure rights.


In Vietnam, small farmers and timber magnates forge uneasy alliance [11/10/2017]
- Vietnam plans to certify as sustainable some 5,000 square kilometers (1,930 square miles) of production forests in the country and boost timber export value to $8 billion by 2020.
- Nearly a quarter of the country’s forests are managed by smallholders, whose subsistence lifestyle often compels them to harvest their timber too young to be used for furniture or as quality wood products.
- An initiative by WWF looks set to change this by training smallholders in sustainable farming methods under FSC standards, which is hoped to also boost their income over the long term.
- Local wood processors and exporters are also pushing for higher domestic supply as they look for a more viable alternative to costly imported timber.


Citizen scientists around the world are monitoring elephants in Gabon via camera traps — and you can too [11/10/2017]
- Camera traps have proven to be a powerful tool in conservationists’ arsenal for monitoring forests and wildlife. But the mountains of data they capture need to be sifted through in order to be useful, which often presents a significant challenge for cash-strapped conservationists and researchers.
- To meet this challenge, a team led by Anabelle Cardoso, a PhD candidate at Oxford University in the UK, has turned to another promising new method that is reshaping the way research is done in modern times: citizen science.
- Slow population growth and the ivory poaching crisis have driven down the numbers of African forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) in recent years. “We want to conserve these beautiful creatures, but to do that effectively we need to know where these elephants are and how many of them there are, so we can pick the best places to focus our efforts,” Cardoso and her colleagues write.


Trump family planning policy may up population, hurt women, environment [11/10/2017]
- In January, U.S. President Donald Trump reinstated the global gag rule, first introduced under Ronald Reagan. It requires foreign NGOs receiving U.S. global family planning assistance to certify that they will not “perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning” with non-U.S. funds.
- According to Marie Stopes International (MSI), the gag rule could result in a minimum of 2.2 million abortions from 2017-2020, with 21,700 women dying as a result. And that only accounts for services lost from MSI.
- Research shows that the gag rule is also likely to increase population growth in the developing world by reducing the ability of organizations to provide family planning services. This could endanger the environment in a variety of ways. For example, population growth puts more pressure on forests and wildlife.
- A lack of family planning can lead to large families, with women spending more of their time on childrearing, largely leaving them out of any active role in community sustainability and conservation projects, as well as education programs that train them in sustainable livelihoods.


Indonesia tries to learn from Brazil’s success in REDD+ [11/10/2017]
- Indonesia and Brazil both have billion-dollar REDD+ agreements with Norway to reduce deforestation and cut carbon emissions in exchange for funding.
- While Brazil has succeeded, Indonesia has not, and has even seen deforestation rates climb, surpassing those in Brazil.
- Fundamental differences in the way the two countries deal with forest issues, particularly in law enforcement and land reform, help explain their different outcomes.
- The Indonesian government hopes to breathe new life into its flagging REDD+ program by emulating the Brazilian model, and speed up the disbursal of funds from Norway by next year.


The fate of the Sumatran rhino is in the Indonesian government’s hands [11/10/2017]
- As the Sumatran rhino edges closer to extinction, aggressive interventions have stalled. Even ongoing efforts like ranger protection have been undercut by lack of government support.
- As of May, conservation groups are united in their calls to ramp up captive-breeding efforts in Indonesia, but the government has not yet responded.
- Frustrated conservationists cite bureaucracy, risk aversion, opaque and arbitrary decisions, and territorial squabbling as barriers to progress — but remain hopeful the government will act in time.


New research shows why forests are absolutely essential to meeting Paris Climate Agreement goals [11/09/2017]
- It’s widely acknowledged that keeping what’s left of the world’s forests standing is crucial to combating climate change. But a suite of new research published last week shows that forests have an even larger role to play in achieving the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement than was previously thought.
- In order to meet those goals, the global economy will have to be swiftly decarbonized. According to a new report from the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC), by taking aggressive action to protect and rehabilitate tropical forests, we could buy ourselves more time to make this transition.
- Deforestation is responsible for about 10 percent of global emissions, but removing that source of emissions is only half the value of forests to global climate action. Other research shows that planting trees and rehabilitating degraded forests is just as critical to climate efforts as stopping deforestation, because of how reforestation efforts can enhance forests’ role as a carbon sink.


‘Much deeper than we expected’: Huge peatland offers up more surprises [11/09/2017]
- Scientists recently discovered the world’s biggest tropical peatland in the Congo Basin rainforest of Central Africa. The peatland straddles the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo.
- Roughly the size of England, the massive peatland is estimated to contain more than 30 billion metric tons of carbon — equivalent to three years of global fossil fuel emissions.
- When the scientists went back to investigate the peatland further, they discovered the peat along its edges is deeper than they thought. This means it may contain more peat — and, thus, more carbon — than they originally thought.
- The scientists are racing to learn more about the peatland as loggers move to fell and drain the forests above it to make way for roads and developments like palm oil plantations. Meanwhile, local communities are hoping for greater protection of the region as government officials try to drum up more support for conservation initiatives at this week’s UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany.


From carbon sink to source: Brazil puts Amazon, Paris goals at risk [11/09/2017]
- Brazil is committed to cutting carbon emissions by 37 percent from 2005 levels by 2025, to ending illegal deforestation, and restoring 120,000 square kilometers of forest by 2030. Scientists warn these Paris commitments are at risk due to a flood of anti-environmental and anti-indigenous measures forwarded by President Michel Temer.
- “If these initiatives succeed, Temer will go down in history with the ruralistas as the ones who put a stake in the beating heart of the Amazon.” — Thomas Lovejoy, conservation biologist and director of the Center for Biodiversity and Sustainability at George Mason University.
- “The Temer government’s reckless behavior flies in the face of Brazil’s commitments to the Paris Agreement.” — Christian Poirier, program director at Amazon Watch.
- “There was, or maybe there still is, a very slim chance we can avoid a catastrophic desertification of South America. No doubt, there will be horrific damage if the Brazilian government initiatives move forward in the region.” — Antonio Donato Nobre, scientist at INPA, the Institute for Amazonian Research.




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