New maps reveal industrial fishing in over half of world’s oceans [02/24/2018]
- Researchers poring through billions of ship-tracking data points have found that industrial fishing vessels operated across more than 55 percent of ocean, or over 200 million square kilometers (77 million square miles), in 2016 alone. - While most countries fished predominantly within their own exclusive economic zones, five nations — China, Spain, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea — accounted for more than 85 percent of observed fishing in the high seas. - Mapping the fishing fleets also showed that global fishing patterns were strongly linked to holidays and periods of fishing closures.
DRC breaches logging moratorium for Chinese-owned companies [02/23/2018]
- 6,500 square kilometers of logging concessions in the DRC’s central Congo have been awarded. - The deal – with two Chinese companies – is an apparent violation of a 2002 logging moratorium. - The logging concessions are located on a 145,000 square kilometer tropical peatland complex – the largest in the world.
Conservationist, imprisoned for ‘spying’ with wildlife camera traps, dies in Iranian prison [02/23/2018]
- Kavous Seyed Emami, a professor of sociology and a director of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, died in Tehran’s Evin Prison earlier this month. - Iranian authorities say Seyed Emami committed suicide, an assertion his family doubts. - Seyed Emami’s arrest and suspicious death appear to be part of a wider crack down on environmentalists in Iran. Authorities arrested at least six other conservationists around the same time.
Tropical forest fragmentation nearing ‘critical point,’ study finds [02/23/2018]
- In addition to having severe repercussions for animals like jaguars and tigers that require vast tracts of connected habitat, forest fragmentation has a big carbon footprint. - A new physics-based study finds fragmentation of tropical forests may be reaching a threshold past which fragmentation will shoot up sharply. At this threshold, even a relatively small amount of deforestation could lead to dramatic fragmentation – and significant habitat loss and greenhouse gas emissions. - The team calculated that at current deforestation rates, the number of fragments will increase 33-fold in Central and South America by 2050, and their average size will drop from 17 hectares to 0.25 hectares.
Volunteering on the front lines of rhino conservation (commentary) [02/23/2018]
- Zimbabwe is home to the world’s fourth largest black rhino population after South Africa, Namibia and Kenya. - Author Ed Warner travels there frequently to volunteer with the International Rhino Foundation’s Zimbabwe Lowveld Rhino Program, which conducts monitoring and anti-poaching efforts aimed at treating, rehabilitating, and translocating rhinos as needed. - Here we publish Warner’s diary of six days in the bush supporting the team’s data collection and anti-poaching efforts. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Making mountains out of molehills: system builds public-access big data from many sources [02/23/2018]
- How and where to store, manage, and share increasingly large data sets challenges scientists across disciplines. - Like a library network for scientific data, the Data Observation Network for Earth (DataONE) links member data repositories to ensure open and secure access to well-described and easily discovered Earth observational data. - The network provides guidelines and tools for researchers to document and preserve their data and make them available for future users to expand studies across time periods and locations.
‘Adaptation Bangladesh: Sea Level Rise’ film shows how farmers are fighting climate change [02/22/2018]
- A recent documentary looks at how Bangladeshi farmers are adapting to rising sea levels. - The film documents how Bangladeshi farmers are keeping their farms from flooding by building floating gardens made of water hyacinth and bamboo. - The film won the Best Short Film at the New York WILD Film Festival, which begins on Feb. 22. - Mongabay interviewed cultural anthropologist Alizé Carrère to learn more about why she chose to focus on Bangladesh and why this story is important.
Activists: Palm oil must not get wider access to EU under Indonesia trade talks [02/22/2018]
- The prospect of greater access for Indonesian palm oil to the 28-nation EU market is expected to dominate trade negotiations taking place this week. - Environmental activists from both Indonesia and Europe warn that granting this access could lead to even greater deforestation and more social conflicts in Indonesia, the world’s biggest producer of palm oil. - For its part, the Indonesian government is seeking to push back against EU measures to phase out palm oil for use in biofuels by 2021.
Drought-driven wildfires on rise in Amazon basin, upping CO2 release [02/22/2018]
- Despite a 76 percent decline in deforestation rates between 2003 and 2015, the incidence of forest fires is increasing in Brazil, with new research linking the rise in fires not only to deforestation, but also to severe droughts. - El Niño, combined with other oceanic and atmospheric cycles, produced an unusually severe drought in 2015, a year that saw a 36 percent increase in Amazon basin forest fires, which also raised carbon emissions. - Severe droughts are expected to become more common in the Brazilian Amazon as natural oceanic cycles are made more extreme by human-induced climate change. - In this new climate paradigm, limiting deforestation alone will not be sufficient to reduce fires and curb carbon emissions, scientists say. The maintenance of healthy, intact, unfragmented forests is vital to providing resilience against further increases in Amazon fires.
Seychelles announces two new marine protected areas the size of Great Britain [02/22/2018]
- The government of Seychelles has announced the creation of two new marine protected areas covering 210,000 square kilometers, the size of the island of Great Britain. - The first marine protected area includes 74,400 square kilometers of waters surrounding the extremely isolated Aldabra archipelago that is home to the world’s largest population of rare giant tortoises. - The second marine protected area covers 136,000 square kilometers of a commercially important stretch of ocean between the Amirantes group of islands and Fortune Bank. - The creation of the marine protected areas is part of a debt-for-nature deal that will allow the Seychelles to restructure its national debt in exchange for protecting 30 percent of its exclusive economic zone.
Land plants may have evolved much earlier than we thought [02/21/2018]
- The results of a new study push back the date of emergence of land plants around 80 million years to approximately 500 million years ago. - This new date coincides with the emergence of the first land animals. - The study also finds the earliest land plants may have had roots. Plant roots are a powerful erosive force, and the researchers believe these plants could have had a big impact on the Earth’s climate.
DJ and ornithologists create wildlife music game [02/21/2018]
- Wildlife DJ Ben Mirin has teamed up with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Cornell Hip Hop Collection on a new online game that uses wildlife recordings. - Players take sound recordings of wild creatures and transform them into loops, creating a wide variety of song clips. Players also learn about the animals and the habitats they live in. - Mirin was also a guest on Mongabay’s podcast in 2017.
Audio: Exploring the minds and inner lives of animals [02/20/2018]
- On this episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we speak with an author of a new book about the minds and lives of animals – about their amazing memories and minds, how they dream, and more – and we’ll also learn what Mongabay’s newest bureau just launched in India is reporting about. - Our first guest is Sy Montgomery, the author of two dozen books for adults and kids about animals. She recently teamed up with her friend and fellow animal writer Elizabeth Marshall Thomas to write Tamed and Untamed: Close Encounters of the Animal Kind, and is here to share a few of the fascinating stories from the book with us. - Our second guest today is Sandhya Sekar, program manager for Mongabay India, who’s here to tell us about the environmental challenges India is facing and what kinds of coverage you’ll find at india.mongabay.com.
Brazil’s fundamental pesticide law under attack [02/20/2018]
- In 2008, Brazil became the largest pesticide consumer in the world – the dual result of booming industrial agribusiness and ineffective environmental regulation. - In 1989, the country established one of the then toughest pesticide laws in the world (7,802/1989), which included the precautionary principle in its pesticide evaluation and registration standards. However, limited staffing and budget has made the law very difficult to implement and enforce. - With its increasing power after 2000, the bancada ruralista, the agribusiness lobby, has worked to overthrow that law, an effort thwarted to date but more likely to succeed under the Temer administration and the current ruralista-dominated Congress. - Lax pesticide use regulation and education have major health and environmental consequences. Farmers often use pesticides without proper safety gear, while children are often in the fields when spraying occurs. Some experts blame pesticides partly for Brazil’s high cancer rate – cancer is the nation’s second leading cause of death.
Study delves into overlooked community perceptions of conservation impact [02/20/2018]
- A new study measures the impacts of conservation projects on people’s lives by letting the people define what matters to them. - The study has adapted the Global Person Generated Index (GPGI), an index that has previously been used in the health sector to see what people consider important for their quality of life, and lets the people rate the performance of those domains. - The study found that overall, the local people were most commonly concerned with agriculture, health, livestock, education, jobs, and family-related activities, but more than 50 percent of the people who were interviewed said that the conservation projects had had no significant impacts on these aspects of their well-being.
‘It’s our home’: Pygmies fight for recognition as forest protectors in new film [02/20/2018]
- A recent short film, Pygmy Peoples of the DRC: A Rising Movement, tracks the push for the recognition of indigenous land rights in the DRC. - The film catalogs the importance of the forest to pygmy groups, as well as their role as stewards of the forest. - A raft of recent research has shown that indigenous groups around the world often do a better job of protecting forests than parks and reserves.
Scientists from Indonesia, Germany and the Netherlands win Indonesian Peat Prize [02/20/2018]
- A team of scientists from Indonesia, Germany and the Netherlands has won the Indonesian Peat Prize for coming up with a fast, accurate and cost-effective way to map Indonesia’s vast tropical peatlands. - The judges praise the winning methodology’s versatility, speediness and accuracy in mapping peatlands. - Indonesia will have two years to fully adapt the winning methodology into the new peat-mapping standard, although some government agencies are clamoring to start adopting the system immediately.
Red Cloud’s Revolution: Oglalla Sioux freeing themselves from fossil fuel [02/19/2018]
- Henry Red Cloud, like so many Oglalla Sioux young men, left the reservation to work in construction. When he returned home in 2002, he needed a job, and also wanted to make a difference. He attended a solar energy workshop and saw the future. - Today, Red Cloud runs Lakota Solar and the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center, which have become catalysts for an innovative new economic network – one that employs locals and connects tribes, while building greater energy independence among First Nations. - The company is building and installing alternative energy systems, and training others to do the same, throughout remote areas of U.S. reservations, thus allowing the Sioux and others to leap past outdated fossil fuel technology altogether. - Henry Red Cloud’s company has another more radical purpose: it helps provide energy to remote Water Protector camps, like the one at Standing Rock protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Solar power and other alternative energy sources are vital at such remote sites, as they power up cellphones, connecting resistors to the media and outside world.
Films celebrate big cats on World Wildlife Day [02/19/2018]
- Big cats is the theme of the global celebration of this year’s World Wildlife Day on March 3. - A big cats film festival hosted by CITES and Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival at the UN headquarters in New York City will screen 16 films selected as finalists. - Big cats are key apex predators that keep ecosystems healthy, and eight species are being celebrated for the event: the clouded leopard, jaguar, cheetah, leopard, lion, snow leopard, tiger and puma.
Coral reef monitoring takes to the skies: drone-mounted hyperspectral cameras help scientists assess health of coral reefs [02/19/2018]
- Hyperspectral images taken from cameras on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are helping scientists survey the composition and health of coral reefs under the water. - These images capture information from visible (light) and non-visible sections of the electromagnetic spectrum thereby offering information the human eye can’t see. - When paired with UAVs or satellites, hyperspectral images allow researchers to survey the reef habitats–including coral, sand, and algae–over large areas as well as monitor the health of individual corals.
As Indonesia gears up for elections, activists brace for an environmental sell-off [02/19/2018]
- This year, Indonesia will hold elections for governors, district heads and mayors across 171 regions, many of them home to vast natural resources. - Environmental activists are worried that, as in previous election years, the campaigning this year will be rife with corruption, as candidates take kickbacks from plantation and mining operators in a quid pro quo for permits and other favors once in office. - A key factor in the issue is the greater autonomy that local leaders enjoy managing their lands and resources, to the extent that they can even skirt some of the controls imposed by the central government. - The central government has made assurances that its processes now are more transparent and accountable, making potential abuses at the local level less likely. Activists, though, are unconvinced, citing a longstanding lack of strong enforcement.
Protected areas with deforestation more likely to lose status in Brazilian state [02/18/2018]
- A recent study finds that ineffective protected areas stand a lower chance of surviving if deforestation has occurred within their boundaries. - The research took place in the state of Rondônia in the Brazilian Amazon. - The team of scientists also found that protected areas that work are less likely to be carved up for development. - The authors argue that removing safeguards, even from degraded areas, does not take into account the benefits that we may derive from existing protected areas, including carbon storage and clean water.
Four Indonesian farmers charged in killing of orangutan that was shot 130 times [02/18/2018]
- Police in Indonesia have arrested four farmers for allegedly shooting a Bornean orangutan whose body was found riddled with 130 air gun pellets. - The suspects claimed to have killed the animal because it had encroached onto their pineapple farm and ruined the crop. - The killing was the second such case reported this year in Indonesia, where orangutans are ostensibly protected under the conservation act. But lax enforcement means few perpetrators ever face justice for killing or trading in these great apes.
Deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon dropped 13 percent in 2017 [02/16/2018]
- A new analysis of satellite imagery and data finds 143,425 hectares of forest were lost in the Peruvian Amazon in 2017, down 13 percent from 2016. - The analysis identified newly deforestation hotspots in the San Martín and Amazonas regions. - The main causes of the loss of forest in the Amazon appear to be cultivation of crops, small- and medium-scale ranching, large oil palm plantations and gold mining.
Watch: A minke whale’s view of the Antarctic [02/16/2018]
- Scientists in Antarctica have attached a “whale cam” to the back of a southern minke whale for the very first time. - The video footage is giving scientists a sneak peek into a day in the life of a minke, one of the most poorly understood baleen whales. - At one point, the camera slid down the side of the animal and this side view ended up capturing remarkable footage of the whale feeding.
Queen conch dying out in the Bahamas despite marine parks [02/16/2018]
- There has been a major decline in the population of protected queen conchs in the Bahamas’ Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park over the last 20 years. - The most recent survey found predominantly older queen conchs, with a shortage of juveniles to replace them. - Researchers believe overfishing in upstream areas has depleted the park’s larval supply. Increased predator density within the park may also be a problem for juveniles. - Queen conch fisheries outside protected areas in the Bahamas are experiencing intense fishing pressure and are near collapse.
Borneo, ravaged by deforestation, loses nearly 150,000 orangutans in 16 years, study finds [02/15/2018]
- A new study calculates that the island of Borneo lost nearly 150,000 orangutans in the period between 1999 and 2015, largely as a result of deforestation and killing. There were an estimated 104,700 of the critically endangered apes left as of 2012. - The study also warns that another 45,000 orangutans are doomed by 2050 under the business-as-usual scenario, where forests are cleared for logging, palm oil, mining and pulpwood leases. Orangutans are also disappearing from intact forests, most likely being killed, the researchers say. - The researchers have called for more effective partnerships between governments, industries and local communities to ensure the Bornean orangutan’s survival. Public education and awareness will also be key.
East Africa’s Albertine Rift needs protection now, scientists say [02/15/2018]
- The Albertine Rift in East Africa is home to more than 500 species of plants and animals found nowhere else on the planet. - Created by the stretching apart of tectonic plates, the unique ecosystems of the Albertine Rift are also under threat from encroaching human population and climate change. - A new report details a plan to protect the landscapes that make up the Rift at a cost of around $21 million per year — a bargain rate, scientists argue, given the number of threatened species that could be saved.
Webs under water: The really bizarre lives of intertidal spiders [02/15/2018]
- Scientists have discovered a 15th species of intertidal spider, a family of unusual arachnids that live in coastal habitats that are submerged during high tides. - The newest species, named after singer Bob Marley, was discovered living on brain coral off the Australian coast. - Scientists know that some species create air pockets with their hairs, while others build waterproof webs, but little is known about most of these fascinating spiders. - Intertidal spiders face a number of threats, including rising sea levels due to climate change, and pollution.
Drones enable fast, accurate wildlife counts, study shows [02/14/2018]
- Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have great potential for surveying wildlife, especially species that assemble in large numbers and that are easily disturbed by human presence. - Scientists creatively combined high-tech UAVs and computer-vision algorithms with rubber ducks to assess the potential of aerial imagery to count seabirds relative to traditional survey methods. - They found that both human and semi-automated computer counts of colony-nesting birds from UAV-derived images were more accurate and less variable than counts made by observers on the ground. - Combining UAV-derived imagery with artificial intelligence can help scientists more accurately estimate population sizes with less variability.
New population of extremely rare ‘red handfish’ discovered off Tasmania [02/14/2018]
- Last month, divers discovered a new population of the critically endangered red handfish off Tasmania’s coast. - The new site, currently undisclosed, potentially harbors about 20 to 40 individuals, doubling the number of known red handfish on Earth. - The new population is helping scientists understand the rare fish better.
‘Eye of Papua’ shines a light on environmental, indigenous issues in Indonesia’s last frontier [02/14/2018]
- For decades the Papua region in Indonesia has remained the country’s least-understood, least-developed and most-impoverished area, amid a lack of transparency fueled by a strong security presence. - Activists hope their new website, Mata Papua, or Eye of Papua, will fill the information void with reports, data and maps about indigenous welfare and the proliferation of mines, logging leases and plantations in one of the world’s last great spans of tropical forest. - Companies, with the encouragement of the government, are fast carving up Papua’s land, after having nearly depleted the forests of Sumatra and Indonesian Borneo.
Duterte orders navy to fire on foreign poachers in Philippine waters [02/14/2018]
- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has called on the navy to open fire at foreign vessels suspected of poaching or extracting natural resources in the Southeast Asian nation’s exclusive waters. - Duterte made the decision to address concerns about territorial rights over Benham Rise, an undersea plateau off the country’s northeastern coast believed to be rich in oil, gas and fisheries. - A number of Southeast Asian nations, notably Indonesia, have recently taken a tough stance against marine poaching in the region, which is home to some of the world’s richest underwater ecosystems and threatened by overfishing.
Restoration optimism: Bringing nature back (commentary) [02/13/2018]
- As we hear tales of environmental destruction from across the world, some conservationists are working not just to conserve what is left, but to put back what has been lost. - A new website, www.restorationevidence.org, is working to gather the evidence for what works (and what doesn’t) to restore habitats and biodiversity globally. Run by the Endangered Landscape Programme and the Conservation Evidence project (where I work), the website aims to support decision-making by conservationists by providing them with concise summaries of scientific work. - This will help those planning and implementing restoration projects globally to make the best possible decisions about how to spend restoration funds. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Environmental defenders increasingly targeted, data shows [02/13/2018]
- Around the world, 197 people were killed in 2017 for defending or protecting land. - A partnership between The Guardian and international NGO Global Witness has been tracking and compiling data on the deaths of land defenders since 2002. - Land defenders are often private individuals and activists protecting nature reserves, natural wealth, and stand up against those who harm the environment.
Brazilian Supreme Court ruling protects Quilombola land rights for now [02/13/2018]
- Brazil’s Supreme Court has soundly rejected a lawsuit filed in 2003 by a right wing political party that would have drastically limit the ability of quilombolas (former slave communities) to legitimize claims to their traditional lands. - There are 2,962 quilombolas in Brazil today, but just 219 have land titles, while 1,673 are pursuing the process of acquiring legal title. Titled quilombola territories include 767,596 hectares (1.9 million acres); these settlements have a good record of protecting their forests. Brazil’s total quilombola population includes some 16 million people. - While advocates for quilombola rights cheered the Supreme Court decision, major threats to the communities loom: successive administrations have drastically slashed the budget for titling quilombola lands, almost completely stalling the demarcation process. Also, a constitutional amendment, PEC 215 is moving through Brazil’s Congress. - PEC 215 would shift authority from the Executive branch to Congress for giving out land titles to quilombolas, recognizing indigenous claims to ancestral lands, and creating protected areas. With Congress dominated by the ruralist caucus and agribusiness, PEC 215 threatens Brazilian forests and indigenous and traditional communities.
Bridgestone aims for full sustainability by 2050 [02/13/2018]
- Bridgestone is the world’s largest tire and rubber manufacturer. - The company joins Pirelli and Michelin in committing itself and its suppliers to a sustainable supply chain by 2050. - The move could be particularly beneficial in places like Cambodia, where deforestation has closely tracked the global price for rubber.
Moment of truth: Study reveals high percentage of illegal Peruvian timber exports [02/13/2018]
- Research has shown that the origin of most of the wood that leaves Peru is unknown. - A new report reveals that most of the wood exported from Peru in 2015 was of illegal or unknown origin. - Published by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), the report says that the amount of illegally-sourced wood bound for export remains extremely high three years after a major bust.
Illegal ‘white gold,’ South Africa’s abalone, pouring into Hong Kong: TRAFFIC [02/13/2018]
- South African abalone imports into Hong Kong have progressively increased from 3,000 tonnes in 2000 to 6,170 tonnes in 2015, according to a new report by TRAFFIC. - During this period, South Africa was the largest source of dried abalone to Hong Kong among other African countries. Much of these imports were illegal, the researchers found. - While most abalone traders in Hong Kong seem to be aware that South African abalone is frequently poached, fewer consumers know about the illegal trade.
Ecuador votes to reduce oil exploitation in Yasuní National Park [02/12/2018]
- In a recent referendum, 67.5 percent of Ecuador’s voting population voted in favor increasing Yasuní National Park’s Intangible Zone by at least 50,000 hectares and reducing the oil extraction area in the park from 1,030 to 300 hectares. - Ishpingo Field, which forms part of Block 43 of the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) Initiative, is the only field that has not yet been exploited. Drilling was slated to begin there in mid-2018, but the referendum’s “yes” vote may prevent exploitation. - Ishpingo is located on Yasuni’s Intangible Zone, which protects Indigenous communities living in voluntary isolation. Environmentalists hope that a technical commission will be formed to define where the Intangible Zone will expand.
Rewriting biological history: Trump border wall puts wildlife at risk [02/12/2018]
- Mexican conservationists are alarmed over Trump’s wall, with the loss of connectivity threatening already stressed bison, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, bears and other animals. - About one-third of the border, roughly 700 miles, already has fencing; President Trump has been pushing a controversial plan to fence the remainder. - A wall running the entire nearly 2,000-mile frontier from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, conservationists warn, would be catastrophic for borderland ecosystems and many wildlife species, undoing years of environmental cooperation between the two countries to protect animals that must move freely or die. - The wall is currently a key bargaining chip, and a sticking point, in ongoing immigration legislation negotiations taking place this week in Congress. Also expected this week: a federal court ruling on whether the administration can legally waive environmental laws to expedite border wall construction.
The ozone layer is still getting thinner, new study finds [02/12/2018]
- A team of scientists measured the total amount of ozone in the atmosphere and found that the overall concentration is about the same as it’s been, despite a measured boost in the upper layer. - That discovery led the team to surmise that the lower level of the ozone layer is still getting thinner. - It could be that climate change is forcing ozone in the atmosphere to spread out more quickly toward the poles. - Another hypothesis is that some of the compounds that have replaced CFCs in the past three decades may similarly be stripping the atmosphere of ozone, just as CFCs did.
Indonesian police bust Chinese nationals with 200 kg of turtle shells [02/12/2018]
- Police in eastern Indonesia have arrested two Chinese men for illegally being in possession of 200 kilos (440 pounds) of turtle shells, which they believe was headed to China. - All turtle species are protected under Indonesian law, and the possession or trade in their parts is punishable by up to five years in prison and $7,000 in fines. The estimated value of the seized shells was $13,200. - The bust highlights the continued role of the city of Makassar as the main gateway for traffickers moving wildlife products out of the biodiversity haven of Papua, where the suspects say they obtained the turtle shells.
Scientists discover 18 new spider-hunting spiders from Madagascar [02/09/2018]
- Researchers have added 18 new species to the assassin spider family, upping the total number of known Eriauchenius and Madagascarchaea species to 26. - Assassin spiders, also known as pelican spiders, have special physical and behavioral adaptations that allow them to hunt other spiders. - The new species were discovered in Madagascar’s forests and through examination of previously collected museum specimens. - Madagascar is currently experiencing high levels of deforestation. Researchers say the loss of Madagascar’s forests is putting the new assassin spiders – as well as many other species – at risk of extinction.
Scorched earth: Colombia’s ‘refugee farmers’ returning to land [02/09/2018]
- Many of those returning are victims of a horrific, days-long massacre amid fighting between the Colombian military and FARC in 2000. - Residents of Montes de Maria now face new threats of deforestation and the impacts of climate change, which has caused wide-scale desertification across the mountainous region. - The region is part of Colombia’s dry forests, an important eco-system which acts as a buffer zone from floods and a nesting ground for many species.