Canaries in the coal mine? North Atlantic right whale use of key habitat changing rapidly [12/06/2019]
- A team of researchers with the Center for Conservation Bioacoustics at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Syracuse University recently published the results of a six-year study that focused on the North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) in Massachusetts Bay, which, together with Cape Cod Bay, comprises one of seven areas in the Gulf of Maine that the whales use during seasonal congregations. - The team used an automated detection algorithm to determine the presence of right whale “up‐calls” in 47,000 hours of recordings made with 19 bioacoustic recording devices deployed across 4,000 square kilometers (about 1,544 square miles) of Massachusetts Bay. - The number of whales present during the peak season increased every year of the study except for 2009-2010, “when acoustic presence was unusually low,” according to the study. But the researchers also detected an increased presence of right whales during parts of what should be their off‐season, from late summer to early fall. That could have serious implications for efforts to conserve the species.
Amazon’s giant South American river turtle holding its own, but risks abound [12/06/2019]
- The arrau, or giant South American River turtle (Podocnemis expansa), inhabits the Amazon and Orinoco rivers and their tributaries. A recent six nation survey assessed the health of populations across the region in Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru. - The species numbered in the tens of millions in the 19th century. Much reduced today, P. expansa is doing fairly well in river systems with conservation programs (the Tapajós, Guaporés, Foz do Amazonas, and Purus) and not so well in others (the Javaés and Baixo Rio Branco, and the Trombetas, even though it has monitoring). - The study registered more than 147,000 females protected or monitored by 89 conservation initiatives and programs between 2012 and 2014. Out of that total, two thirds were in Brazil (109,400), followed by Bolivia (30,000), Peru (4,100), Colombia (2,400), Venezuela (1,000) and Ecuador (6). - The greatest historical threat to the arrau stems from eggs and meat being popular delicacies, which has led to trafficking. Hydroelectric dams and large-scale mining operations also put the animals at risk — this includes mining noise impairing turtle communication. Climate change could be the biggest threat in the 21st century.
Svalbard reindeer rebounding better than hoped after nearly going extinct [12/06/2019]
- The wild Svalbard reindeer (Rangifer tarandus platyrhynchus) seems to be on the path to recovery following near extinction in the early 20th century. - Now, some 22,000 Svalbard reindeer are estimated to occur across the islands, a population size that’s about twice as high as a previous estimate based on opportunistic counts from 1968 to 2008, a new study has found. - The latest estimates also show that the Svalbard reindeer now occupies its entire historical range across Svalbard; areas from where the reindeer was once wiped out by hunting have the potential to support more animals, the researchers estimate. - While Svalbard reindeers are doing better than many of their cousins, the subspecies’ recovery could be under threat from human-induced climate change.
In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, December 6, 2019 [12/06/2019]
- 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.
Protecting living corals could help defend the Great Barrier Reef from ocean acidification for decades [12/06/2019]
- For the first time, researchers have studied the impact of ocean acidification on coral reefs with a device that allows them to increase levels of carbon dioxide on living coral for months at a time. - Corals exposed to higher levels of carbon dioxide sustained more damage than those in aquarium experiments because fish, sponges, and other native organisms grazed on the fragile reefs. - However, living corals were more resilient than scientists expected, providing a promising buffer against the impacts of climate change.
‘A crisis situation’: Extinctions loom as forests are erased in Mozambique [12/05/2019]
- Small mountains called “inselbergs” are scattered widely across the central and northern Mozambique landscape. They are crowned by rainforests, which are homes to species that have evolved in isolation for millennia. - Inselberg forests are Mozambique’s last inland primary forests. But they’re getting smaller and smaller as humans burn them for agriculture and to flush out game animals, and chop them down for lumber and charcoal. - One such inselberg is Mount Nallume, which researchers recently surveyed during a November expedition. While there, they found chameleons that they suspect may be a new species - However, Nallume’s forest is disappearing quickly, with the researchers estimating it may be gone in 10 or 20 years if deforestation continues at its current rate. They urge the government of Mozambique to do more to protect these “islands in the sky” before they, and the unique animals that live in them, disappear forever.
Philippine climate activists fight to make the issue relatable [12/05/2019]
- As one of the world’s most climate-vulnerable countries, the Philippines is known for its active participation in the global climate movement. - Yet, mobilization at the grassroots level suffers from weak numbers. - The key is to explain the issue of climate change in a way locals can relate to, groups say.
Latest UN Emissions Gap Report finds world must ramp up climate ambitions at least threefold to meet Paris goals [12/05/2019]
- The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released its latest Emissions Gap Report on the eve of the climate negotiations that kicked off Monday in Madrid, Spain. According to the report, the nearly 200 countries that signed the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 must boost their emissions-reduction ambitions by at least threefold to meet the targets adopted in the agreement. - The Emissions Gap Report 2019 finds that total greenhouse gas emissions have risen by 1.5 percent per year over the past decade, and that even if all current commitments made under the Paris Agreement were implemented, global temperatures would rise by 3.2°C. - Global greenhouse gas emissions would have to be reduced by some 32 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2030, or 7.6 percent every year between 2020 and 2030, in order to reach the 1.5°C target, the Emissions Gap Report states. That would require a five-fold increase in countries’ emissions reduction commitments. Even limiting global warming to 2°C would require a 15-gigatonnes reduction in emissions, or 2.7 percent per year, by 2030. Countries would have to ratchet up their emissions reductions commitments threefold to meet the 2°C target.
Sounds of healthy corals draw in fish to degraded reefs, study finds [12/05/2019]
- Playing sounds of healthy coral reefs can attract young fish to degraded, abandoned coral reefs in the northern Great Barrier Reef, a new study has found. - Researchers placed underwater loudspeakers in patches of degraded coral reefs and compared them with two kinds of identical patches: some that had dummy loudspeakers that looked just like the functional loudspeakers, and some without any loudspeakers and sound. - Coral patches that blared sounds of healthy corals had both greater abundance and variety of reef fish species compared to the other two control groups. - Boosting fish populations using sounds of healthy coral reefs has the potential to help nurse degraded reefs back to health, researchers say.
New regulations to expand protections for seafloor habitats, reopen fishing grounds off US West Coast [12/04/2019]
- New regulations for essential fish habitat off the West Coast of the United States that go into effect in 2020 will extend protections for deep-sea habitats and corals while reopening fishing grounds where fish populations have rebounded. - The new rules were finalized by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (known as NOAA Fisheries) last month, and will go into effect on January 1, 2020. - About 3,000 square miles that had been closed to bottom trawling for groundfish will be reopened when the changes take effect, including 2,000 square miles of a Rockfish Conservation Area off the coasts of California and Oregon that have been off-limits to groundfish bottom trawling since 2002. The changes will also afford new protections to about 13,000 square miles of deep-sea reefs, corals, and sponges, prohibiting the practice of bottom trawling in those areas because of the severe impacts it can have on sea-floor habitats.
Catching fish to feed fish: Report details ‘unsustainable’ fishmeal and oil industry [12/04/2019]
- Every year almost one-fifth of the world’s wild-caught fish are dried, pressed and ground into oil and meal, the majority of which is then fed to farmed fish and crustaceans that people will eat. - A report released in October by the Netherlands-based Changing Markets Foundation followed fishmeal and fish oil supply chains “from fishery to fork.” - It connected a number of farmed-fish products sold in European supermarkets — often bearing sustainability certifications — to fishing practices the authors deemed “highly unsustainable” in India, Vietnam and the Gambia. - Supermarkets selling the products include big names such as Sainsbury’s, ALDI, Tesco, Iceland, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, REWE and Mercadona.
As nesting season begins, Sri Lanka’s olive ridley turtles face myriad threats [12/04/2019]
- With the main nesting season for olive ridley sea turtles getting underway, the species faces a range of threats in the waters and beaches of Sri Lanka. - The country’s navy recently rescued 32 turtles trapped in shrimp fishing nets in the island’s north. - Marine turtles in Sri Lankan waters often end up entangled in nets, posing a serious threat to their survival. - Sea turtles worldwide are seriously affected by the fisheries industry, with millions killed every year.
World is fast losing its cool: Polar regions in deep trouble, say scientists [12/04/2019]
- As representatives of the world’s nations gather in Madrid at COP 25 this week to discuss global warming policy, a comprehensive new report shows how climate change is disproportionately affecting the Arctic and Antarctic — the Arctic especially is warming tremendously faster than the rest of the world. - If the planet sees a rise in average temperatures of 2 degrees Celsius, the polar regions will be the hardest hit ecosystems on earth, according to researchers, bringing drastic changes to the region. By the time the lower latitudes hit that mark, it’s projected the Arctic will see temperature increases of 4 degrees Celsius. - In fact, polar regions are already seeing quickening sea ice melt, permafrost thaws, record wildfires, ice shelves calving, and impacts on cold-adapted species — ranging from Arctic polar bears to Antarctic penguins. What starts in cold areas doesn’t stay there: sea level rise and temperate extreme weather are both linked to polar events. - The only way out of the trends escalating toward a climate catastrophe at the poles, say scientists, is for nations to begin aggressively reducing greenhouse gas emissions now and embracing sustainable green energy technologies and policies. It remains to be seen whether the negotiators at COP 25 will embrace such solutions.
Indonesia zoning plan hurts fishers, favors coal and oil, activists say [12/04/2019]
- Activists have criticized a draft zoning plan for coastal areas in East Kalimantan province meant to help resolve territorial disputes between local communities and business interests. - They contend the plan instead benefits the coal, oil and gas, and plantations industries at the expense of fishing communities. - Among its provisions are generous concessions for coal and oil and gas infrastructure that would require land reclamation in coastal waters currently used by traditional and small-scale fishers. - The plan also calls for resettling nearly 140,000 households from displaced fishing communities onto an area of land smaller than 50 football fields.
Follow the permits: How to identify corruption red flags in Indonesian land deals [12/04/2019]
- Corruption is rife in Indonesia’s plantation and mining sectors, especially when it comes to the issuance of permits. - For journalists and activists who lack the expansive powers of Indonesia’s law enforcement agencies, finding evidence of corruption in the issuance of licenses can be challenging. - This article defines a number of red flags we have identified over the past several years, explains what they reveal and details the methods that can be used to identify them.
Water flowing up the mountain: Development devours forest reserve in Zambia [12/04/2019]
- A forest reserve outside Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, has shrunk to just 716 hectares (1,770 acres) from its original 1,750-hectare (4,320-acre) span to make way for housing and lifestyle developments. - The developments are also pumping sewage into the Chalimbana River, contaminating the fish and water that local communities rely on, and leading to outbreaks of diarrhea. - Top government officials have been named among the recipients of some of the plots, including the vice president, chief justice, and ministers. - Activists mounting a legal challenge to end the construction and restore the forest to its previous state saw an earlier ruling in their favor overturned, and are skeptical about getting justice in what they call “an engineered case.”
Indonesian officials charged in $1.6m bribes-for-permits scheme [12/04/2019]
- Two land agency officials have been charged with taking $1.6 million in bribes in exchange for granting oil palm plantation concessions spanning an area of 200 hectares (500 acres) in Indonesian Borneo. - Investigators from the KPK, Indonesia’s anti-graft commission, are also investigating the businesspeople allegedly involved in the deal. - KPK deputy chairman Laode Muhammad Syarif says the case highlights the dangers of the government’s continued refusal to allow greater transparency in the permit-issuance process. - A watchdog group warns that corruption in the palm oil industry could get worse if the KPK is weakened under the purview of a controversial new law.
As hurricane season ends, now is the time to take local action to rebuild and recover (commentary) [12/03/2019]
- As the 2019 hurricane season comes to an end, now is the time to consider action on the local scale, in spite of the helplessness we may feel in the face of global change. - It’s no coincidence that the islands most devastated by Hurricanes Matthew and Dorian were Grand Bahama, Abaco, Andros, and New Providence. Recently published coastal risk maps show these are the islands most exposed to flooding and erosion — which is critical information for recovery and rebuilding efforts. - In our built world, we often forget about the natural defenses that kept us safe before we started tearing them down. Mangrove forests, coral reefs, and seagrass beds naturally envelop islands, weakening waves and storm surges. Protections are needed for coastal habitats that are still intact, and restoration is needed for degraded shorelines. As developed countries like the United States have learned, it costs millions of dollars more to restore natural defenses than to conserve them wisely in the first place. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Amazon primates face barriers in responding to climate change [12/03/2019]
- Climate change will make the current ranges of most Amazon primates uninhabitable in the coming decades, forcing them to move. - But primates face barriers to dispersal, such as rivers and deforestation, which can limit their ability to migrate. - If species aren’t able to find new habitats, the populations, as well as the habitat they support, will suffer.
Saving a Philippine tree last seen a century ago [12/03/2019]
- In 1915, a taxonomist formally described a species of tropical hardwood tree, known locally as kaladis narig (Vatica elliptica), which was even then considered nearly extinct. - More than a hundred years later, a corporate social responsibility initiative of the Energy Development Corporation (EDC), the largest producer of geothermal energy in the Philippines, successfully tracked down the fabled species in Zamboanga Sibugay, a province in the main island of Mindanao. - The lack of scientific literature on kaladis narig has made it notoriously challenging to grow the tree from cuttings taken from the wild. In 2018, after almost a decade of trying to save the elusive tree, the EDC team was able to grow a single cutting at its nursery in Antipolo, a city east of the capital Manila. - The company also found 10 other kaladis narig trees in the same area with the help of the community, which passed a local ordinance to recognize and protect the few remaining kaladis narig trees in the world.
Indonesian man jailed for smuggling 7,000 ‘living fossil’ horseshoe crabs [12/03/2019]
- A court in Indonesia has sentenced a boat captain to 15 months in jail and fined him $3,500 for attempting to traffic thousands of dead horseshoe crabs to Thailand. - All three horseshoe crabs found in Indonesian waters are protected under the country’s laws, but conservationists say the illegal trade continues largely unchecked. - Horseshoe crabs have existed for nearly half a billion years, but today face rapidly declining populations across their range as a result of overfishing for use as food and bait, production of biomedical products derived from their blood, and habitat loss from coastal development and erosion.
Warming of Indo-Pacific waters disrupting weather worldwide, report finds [12/03/2019]
- As the latest U.N. climate change summit gets underway in Madrid, a paper published in Nature has drawn attention to the disruptive impact of warming oceans on the weather. - It examines the effect of a swath of warm water in the Indo-Pacific Ocean, which has doubled in size since the turn of the 20th century, on the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO), a system of rain-bearing clouds, winds and pressure fronts that traverses eastward along the equator. - The MJO affects the timing variability and strength of rainfall in many parts of the world, regulating among other things cyclone formation, the monsoon system, and the El Niño cycles. - Changes in the amount of time the system lingers over a region, influenced by the expansion of the warm water pool in the Indo-Pacific, has caused disruptions in rainfall in Asia, Africa, Australia and the Americas.
Analysis: Floating solar power along the dammed-up Mekong River [12/03/2019]
- This year, the first floating solar power generating system in Southeast Asia was deployed on a reservoir in Vietnam. - Floating solar power systems are being written into the energy master plans of Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines as well as Vietnam, and into the calculations of investment banks. - The technology presents an alternative to additional hydroelectric power projects.
Their land, our future: To arrest the climate crisis, we need a democratic overhaul (commentary) [12/02/2019]
- Both the climate crisis and inequality require a democratic overhaul. And governments globally should start by turning over legal control of land and natural resources to local communities and indigenous land users. Their rights are key to survival for all of us. - Increasing evidence shows that the groups who have the least voice in decisions about natural resources (women, youth, indigenous groups, and smallholder farmers) are best placed to sustainably manage those resources. Local communities and indigenous groups rely directly on forests and agriculture for a living, and manage approximately 65 percent of the world’s land. We cannot address climate change and feed a growing global population without sustainable practices in forestry and soil management. - Humanity’s future depends on those of us with greater power and privilege calling for action — right now — on what is both just and effective: land rights that favor people and planet over profit and power. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Typhoon-prone Philippines gets climate funding for early warning system [12/02/2019]
- The Philippines has secured $10 million in funding from the U.N.’s Green Climate Fund, its first under a scheme to provide financial assistance for adaptation and mitigation in countries vulnerable to climate change impacts. - The funding will go toward establishing a multi-hazard and impact-based forecasting and early warning system in four pilot areas in the country to assist local government units in implementing appropriate early responses to hazard alerts. - The Philippines is one of the countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, which include increasingly more intense storms slamming into the country from the warming Pacific.
Extinct in the wild, a Brazilian bird makes a tentative return to the jungle [12/02/2019]
- Three pairs of Alagoas curassows (Pauxi mitu) were reintroduced in September in a 980-hectare (2,400-acre) area of the Atlantic Forest in the Brazilian state of Alagoas, more than three decades after being declared extinct in the wild due to hunting and habitat loss. - The feat is the culmination of a project started in 1979, when a businessman rescued five of the remaining individuals of the species from a forest area that was about to be cleared. - Kept in captivity, these birds and their offspring went on to spawn the nearly 100 Alagoas curassows that exist in Brazil today. - The six birds released in the wild will be monitored with GPS tags to see how well they adapt to finding food and shelter, breeding, and evading predators in the wild; if they succeed, the plan is to introduce three more pairs a year into the wild until 2024.
Camera traps yield surprises in West Africa’s largest protected area [12/02/2019]
- The first camera study of wildlife in Burkina Faso and Niger has shown that the main human activities in the region’s largest protected area are gathering resources and grazing livestock. - Poaching remains a threat, but it occurs less frequently than other human pressures on the region’s wildlife. - The findings suggest possible changes in management strategies for three national parks in West Africa.
Moon and Earth’s magnetic field guide European eels on their epic migration [12/02/2019]
- European eels use an electromagnetic “sixth sense” to navigate during their long migration, two new studies propose. - The electrical “shadow” of a new moon may help eels cross the continental shelf of Europe to shore. Then, in the brackish waters of an estuary, young eels can imprint on the unique magnetic signature to navigate upstream. - Piecing together the eels’ directional cues could help fisheries managers create more effective conservation plans for this critically endangered species.
COP25 may put climate at greater risk by failing to address forests [12/02/2019]
- COP25, originally slated for Brazil, then Chile, but starting today in Madrid comes as global temperatures, sea level rise, wildfires, coral bleaching, extreme drought and storms break new planetary records. - But delegates have set a relatively low bar for the summit, with COP25’s primary goal to determine rules under Article 6 of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement for creating carbon markets among nations, cities and corporations as a means of incentivizing emission-reduction strategies. - Policy experts warn that global forest conservation is not yet being actively incentivized as part of carbon market discussions, a possible lapse apparently backed by Brazil and the government of Jair Bolsonaro which has declared its plan to develop the Amazon basin — the world’s largest remaining rainforest and vital to sequestering carbon to curb climate change. - COP25 also seems unlikely to address the UN biomass carbon accounting loophole, which allows nations to convert obsolete coal plants to burn wood pellets to produce energy, with the carbon emitted counted as “zero emissions” equivalent to solar and wind. Scientists warn that biomass burning, far from being carbon neutral, is actually worse than burning coal.
Shrinking sea ice in the Arctic opens new pathways for animal disease [12/02/2019]
- Scientists have discovered that periods of minimal sea ice in the Arctic between 2001 and 2016 were followed by spikes in a deadly disease that affects seals, sea lions and sea otters. - The team used satellite imagery showing decreases in sea ice combined with GPS collar data tracking animal movements over the 15-year study period. - After periods of sea ice contraction, the odds that a sampled animal would be affected by the disease were more than nine times higher than typical years.
Indonesia ‘must stop building new coal plants by 2020’ to meet climate goals [12/02/2019]
- Indonesia must stop building coal-fired power plants by next year if it’s to keep up its commitments to the Paris climate agreement, according to a new analysis. - The country would also have to stop burning coal by 2048 in order to contribute to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels and achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. - That scenario looks highly unlikely, though, with 39 coal plants under construction and 68 announced, and installed coal-fired capacity set to double over the next decade. - Analysts say a major obstacle to breaking Indonesia’s coal addiction is the lack of policies encouraging investment in renewable energy sources.
Brazilian president claims Leonardo DiCaprio funded Amazon fires [11/30/2019]
- Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro claims actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio funded fire-setting in the Amazon rainforest. - Bolsonaro offered no evidence to support his claims, but his rhetoric echoes comments made in August when he blamed environmental groups for starting fires in the region. - DiCaprio has raised money for NGOs working to protect the Amazon. - Deforestation has increased dramatically since Bolsonaro assumed office.
In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, November 29, 2019 [11/29/2019]
- 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.
Heat stress is causing desert bird populations to collapse [11/29/2019]
- Sites in the Mojave Desert in the western U.S. surveyed by ecologists a century ago have lost an average of 43 percent of their breeding bird species. - New research suggests higher temperatures have increased the daily water needs of birds, which could decimate their populations if climate change worsens. - The most vulnerable birds are larger, carnivorous species such as turkey vultures and prairie falcons that get most of their water from prey.
Lift-off for first African vulture safe zones [11/28/2019]
- Africa’s vulture populations face the prospect of collapsing in much the same way as vulture species in Asia, experts warn, having already declined by an average 62 percent over the past three decades. - Key threats include poisoning by ranchers and poachers and for belief-based use, as well as accidental drowning in farm water reservoirs and ingestion of lead ammunition. - To address the threats, managers of conservation areas and private game reserves in South Africa have agreed to create “vulture safe zones” that will do away with these practices to provide safe havens for existing vulture populations. - Conservationists say it’s also important for managers in South Africa to work with their counterparts in neighboring countries that are part of the vultures’ range, and to tackle the trade in vulture parts used in traditional medicine practices.
Beneficial and harmful fungi are at the root of forest diversity [11/28/2019]
- If there are many trees of a given species in a tract of forest, a new tree of that same species has a harder time thriving in the same area. - This “rare-species advantage” produces diversity in forests. - In a Chinese subtropical forest, researchers showed that the balance between beneficial and harmful soil fungi controls the rare-species advantage. - This study provides the first look into the mechanism behind the strength of the rare-species advantage and adds to an understanding of how all forests develop.
UK supermarkets criticized over pesticide use, lack of transparency [11/28/2019]
- New research suggests UK supermarkets are not doing enough to protect human health and the environment from the most hazardous pesticides in their supply chain. - An analysis of the top 10 retailers in the UK by the Pesticide Action Network UK criticized many supermarket chains for failing to be transparent about their use of pesticides. - Pesticides found in supermarkets’ supply chains include carcinogens, reproductive toxins and endocrine disruptors that interfere with hormones.
It takes a school, and a community, to save this rare Philippine hornbill [11/28/2019]
- The rufous-headed hornbill, known locally as dulungan, is a critically endangered bird found only on the Philippine islands of Panay and Negros. - The species is threatened by poaching and habitat loss, but a grassroots conservation campaign over the past decade has sought to put the community in Panay front and center of efforts to save the bird. - The campaign has focused on schools; by raising awareness and understanding of the species among children, conservationists hope the message ripples out through the community. - Researchers have also emphasized the need to further studies into the dulungan, given how little is known about it, including its flight range and the fruit species it prefers to eat.
How cities can lead the fight against climate change using urban forestry and trees (commentary) [11/27/2019]
- Comprehensive urban forestry planning can influence the everyday lives of citydwellers by reducing storm water runoff, decreasing wildfire risk and severity, reducing urban heat islands, decreasing utility costs, increasing economic growth, and providing clean drinking water. - Urban trees also have the ability to sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and serve as long-term carbon sinks. However, cities seem to be lacking in language and planning to link together various mitigation and adaptation strategies specifically to sequester and store CO2 within urban trees. - While there are examples of cities incorporating forest carbon storage and sequestration policies into their planning, these are limited, and often only in our largest cities. Many cities have excellent programming to encourage tree plantings and green space but are not quite comfortable taking a leap into climate mitigation claims and calculations. Here’s a look at what cities are doing. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
‘Everything is dying’: Q&A with Brazilian indigenous leader Alessandra Munduruku [11/27/2019]
- Alessandra Munduruku recently spoke at the Global Climate Strike and presented the Munduruku Consultation Protocol to the European Parliament, tabling complaints about rights violations faced by indigenous peoples in Brazil. - While in Berlin, the Brazilian indigenous leader told Mongabay about the on-the-ground impacts of agribusiness expansion and infrastructure development in the Amazon.
Brazil investigates agribusiness bribes to judges for favorable land rulings [11/27/2019]
- Brazil’s Federal Police have launched an investigation, dubbed “Operation Far West,” to crack down on an alleged massive land grab by an agribusiness collective in western Bahia, one of Brazil’s largest soy producing regions. - The case centers on alleged corruption involving judges, lawyers and farmers, who stand accused of conspiring to secure favorable court rulings to legitimize the grabbing of some 800,000 hectares (2 million acres) of land from local communities. - Sérgio Humberto Sampaio, one of the judges involved, was responsible for a ruling that benefitted the Estrondo megafarm collective over traditional communities, by reducing the area claimed by the communities from 43,000 to 9,000 hectares (106,000 to 22,000 acres) in 2018. - Agribusiness mogul Walter Horita, one of Estrondo’s main tenants, is also cited in the investigation for allegedly paying millions in bribes and overseeing the movement of 22 billion reais ($5.2 billion) between 2013 and 2019, with 7.5 billion reais ($1.8 billion) unaccounted for.
$10M in prize money for mapping rainforest biodiversity [11/27/2019]
- XPRIZE has established a $10 million prize to support the development of technology that enables rapid assessment of rainforest biodiversity. - XPRIZE hopes the initiative will help address the perceived value gap between living and felled rainforest. - Current efforts to survey rainforest biodiversity often employ a combination of technology — like camera traps, audio sensors, and remote sensing from drones to airplanes to satellites — and old-fashioned boots-on-the-ground surveys. - But approaches have been limited by the challenge of hot and humid conditions, dense canopy cover, remoteness, and the sheer diversity of species of tropical rainforests.
Indonesia’s new fisheries minister may go easy on trawl nets, poachers’ boats [11/27/2019]
- Edhy Prabowo, Indonesia’s new fisheries minister, has planned a revision on banning unsustainable fishing gear and sinking foreign poaching boats. - Both policies were enacted in 2014-2015 by former fisheries minister Susi Pudjiastuti who said the efforts would recover Indonesia’s marine resources and protect the ecosystem. - Edhy’s plans, however, have met backlash from maritime observers saying the move would only benefit large-scale fishery instead of small-scale fishers that make up much of Indonesian fisheries. - Environmentalists also say relaxing these regulations could reintroduce the pressures of overfishing and foreign poaching to Indonesian waters.
Nearly extinct vaquita mothers with calves spotted in recent expeditions [11/27/2019]
- The latest expeditions in the Gulf of California, Mexico, to survey the vaquita, the world’s smallest cetacean, have yielded sightings of both vaquita mothers and calves. This, researchers say, indicates that the mammals are still reproducing despite threats. - In a survey carried out between August and September, researchers spotted what they say were likely six distinct individual vaquitas. - During a subsequent expedition in October, researchers say they spotted vaquitas several times, including six different vaquitas in two groups, and three pairs of mothers and calves. - This news is hopeful, but the mammal’s future is still perilous due to the continued use of illegal fishing nets in its habitat, experts say.
Nepal won its first climate grant; now comes the hard work of making it count [11/27/2019]
- Nepal is set to receive its first grant under the U.N.’s Green Climate Fund, a mechanism established under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to help developing countries cope with the impacts of climate change. - The funds will go to support the people of Nepal’s Churia region cope with and recover from the shocks and stresses of a changing climate; the area is particularly vulnerable to floods, landslides and soil erosion. - The proposal focuses on agroforestry and was developed by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Local interest groups were consulted during the process, but some activists argue that some perspectives were sidelined in what was essentially a top-down process.
In Indonesia, a project meant to boost livelihoods has left locals behind [11/27/2019]
- In Indonesia’s North Sulawesi province, work is underway to develop a special economic zone (SEZ) that will connect this remote region to the global economy. - Plans for the SEZ include a highway linking the port of Bitung to the provincial capital, Manado; a seaport expansion to rival Jakarta’s; an industrial zone; and an airport. - The development risks fragmenting the habitat of endangered and endemic species like the black macaque. Hundreds of families have also been relocated without compensation to make way for the project.
South Korea funding coal plants overseas that would be banned at home [11/27/2019]
- South Korean government-owned financial institutions are funding the construction of coal-fired power plants across less-developed countries that wouldn’t meet the stringent pollution standards imposed domestically. - That’s the finding of a new Greenpeace report, which also warns that pollution from these plants could lead to up to 150,000 premature deaths over the life cycle of the plants. - Domestically, South Korea has banned the construction of new coal plants and is moving toward phasing out existing ones. - The report’s authors have denounced the double standard and called on the governments in countries hosting these new plants to eschew coal altogether and invest in renewable energy.
Iran sentences eight conservationists convicted of spying [11/26/2019]
- A court in Tehran last week delivered a guilty verdict in the case of eight Iranian conservationists accused of spying, with sentences ranging from four to 10 years. - The eight were all affiliated with the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, a Tehran-based conservation organization that works to save the critically endangered Asiatic cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus) and other species. The charges appear to be related to allegations that the conservationists used wildlife camera traps for the purpose of espionage. - The eight conservationists have been imprisoned since their arrests in January 2018. A colleague arrested at the same time died in custody. - Rights groups and conservation organizations have condemned the verdict, alleging serious flaws in the judicial process.
Audio: How listening to individual gibbons can benefit conservation [11/26/2019]
- On today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast we speak with Dena Clink, a scientist studying individuality and variation within Bornean gibbon calls. She’s here to play us some of the recordings of gibbons that she’s made in the course of her research. - We’ve heard a wide variety of bioacoustic recordings here on the Mongabay Newscast, but they’re usually used to study wildlife at the population level, or even to study whole ecosystems. It turns out that studying how calls vary from gibbon to gibbon can not only help us learn about their behaviors but also to better protect them in the wild. - On today’s episode, Dena Clink, a post-doctoral researcher with the Center for Conservation Bioacoustics at the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, tells us why it’s important to study the calls of individual gibbons, how she’s going about studying individuality and variation in gibbon calls, and how that can help inform conservation strategies for the primates.
Elephant seal native to Antarctica spotted for first time in tropical Sri Lanka [11/26/2019]
- A juvenile southern elephant seal from the Antarctic region was recently spotted off Sri Lanka’s southern coast. - The seal appeared exhausted, and while there have been calls to capture it to assess its health and/or raise it in captivity, experts recommend leaving it alone and giving it time to find its way back home. - The species has rarely been recorded venturing into tropical waters. - In its native habitat, it’s threatened by the melting of the pack ice on which it breeds, as a result of global warming.