10-second nature news digest

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

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



The global community should address environmental issues as human rights issues (commentary) [12/18/2018]
- We do not need to search too far to find a roadmap for a global New Deal for Nature and People.
- By not viewing environmental issues as human rights issues, gross human rights abuses can occur while weakening humanity’s ability to combat climate change.
- If the global community is to make progress on linking the health of nature with the health of people and the collective future of humankind, then environmental issues like climate change must be framed within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Pressure mounting for the home of wild coffee and Ethiopian wolves [12/18/2018]
- The region of Bale Park is vital to the survival of endemic flora and fauna, like the mountain nyala (Tragelaphus buxtoni), a large antelope, and some of the planet’s last wild coffee
- Bale is also home to other ancient forms of livelihood, such as traditional beekeeping.
- Now there’s a mounting battle to preserve the park, a crucial part of southern Ethiopia’s ecosystem and a watershed source for 12 million people.


Christmas ad conundrum: Is a palm oil boycott the way to save apes? [12/18/2018]
- British supermarket chain Iceland attempted to run a television advertisement highlighting the link between palm oil and the destruction of the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra.
- Deemed too political to air due to its links with campaigning group Greenpeace, the advertisement has been viewed online more than 70 million times, reigniting a debate on whether consumers should boycott products containing palm oil.
- Many wildlife NGOs argue that calling for a blanket ban on palm oil could do more harm than good. Instead, they urge concerned consumers to pressure the industry to clean up its practices.
- However, critics of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the industry’s leading standards council, say RSPO-certification has so far failed to stamp out deforestation and other harmful practices among member companies.


Relative of ‘penis snake’ amphibian named after Donald Trump [12/18/2018]
- EnviroBuild, a construction materials company based in the U.K., paid $25,000 for naming rights to the amphibian in a charity auction benefitting the Rainforest Trust, a conservation group.
- EnviroBuild choose the name as a cheeky way to spur awareness about President Trump’s climate policies.
- Little else was revealed about the new species, including where or when it was discovered.


Bolsonaro shapes administration: Amazon, indigenous and landless at risk [12/18/2018]
- President-elect Jair Bolsonaro has chosen Ricardo Salles as Brazil’s environment minister. The former São Paulo state government environment secretary is under investigation for allegedly redrawing maps allowing protected lands to be developed for mining and factories. His statements are heavily pro-agribusiness and sometimes espouse violence.
- The selection of ruralist Tereza Cristina as agriculture minister, and Ernesto Araújo as foreign minister, also almost certainly signals difficult days ahead for Brazil’s environment. Cristina has pushed hard for fast track approval of toxic pesticides. Araújo calls climate change a “Marxist” conspiracy.
- Analysts say that, by choosing ministry appointees who hold extreme views on the environment, Bolsonaro is making Brazil vulnerable to economic reprisals from the international community – especially from developed nations and companies responding to voters and consumers who oppose harm to the Amazon and indigenous groups.
- Former army officer Bolsonaro has chosen six retired generals to head ministries; other military men join him as VP and chief of staff. Activists fear these appointments will have a chilling effect on Brazilian democracy, leading to repression. Deforestation and violence against activists since the campaign, including assassinations, continue rising in Brazil.


Bird business: The man who taught his tribe to profit from conservation [12/18/2018]
- Indi Glow, a revered member of the Bugun indigenous group in Arunachal Pradesh, India, has been instrumental in making conservation community-friendly.
- When astronomer-turned-ecologist Ramana Athreya approached the Buguns in 2003 with an idea for a community bird ecotourism venture, Indi agreed to give it a go, taking on the management of the business over the next few years.
- Today, the bird tourism venture is profitable and has sparked other conservation initiatives on the Bugun community lands.


Wildlife, ecotourism industry at stake in Madagascar’s election, says scientist [12/18/2018]
- Madagascar’s election on Wednesday could have major implications for the future of the island’s environment and wildlife, says a prominent conservation scientist.
- In an op-ed published this week in Al Jazeera, William F. Laurance, a researcher at James Cook University in Australia, warns that if Madagascar chooses former president Andry Rajoelina, the country’s dwindling natural resources could face renewed assault.
- Under Rajoelina’s previous reign, which followed a 2009 coup, Madagascar’s forests, wildlife, and coastal waters were pillaged.
- Laurance contrasts Rajoelina with his opponent, Marc Ravalomanana, who was lauded by conservationists during his tenure for expanding protected areas, banning commercial logging, and taking steps to reduce deforestation.


A Māori community leans on tradition to restore its forest [12/17/2018]
- Deep in New Zealand’s vast Te Urewera forest, which is famously endowed with a legal personality, the Māori community in Ruatāhuna is working to restore and sustain its forests and way of life.
- Having regained control of their land after decades of logging by outside interests, members of the Tūhoe community are trying to bring back conifers in the Podocarpaceae family, which they refer to as the chiefs of the family of Tāne, the god of forests and birds.
- Other initiatives include controlling invasive species, developing a community-based forest monitoring system centered on traditional values and knowledge, establishing a “forest academy” for local youth, and setting up a profitable honey enterprise to provide jobs and eventually fund forest restoration.
- This is the first part of Mongabay’s three-part profile of the Ruatāhuna community’s effort to restore its ancestral forest.


Shorebirds can no longer count on the Arctic as a safe haven for rearing their young [12/17/2018]
- A new analysis of over 70 years’ worth of shorebird population data suggests that climate change has altered the migratory birds’ Arctic safe haven to such a degree that it is now helping drive rapid declines in their numbers.
- After studying data from 38,191 nests found across all seven continents and belonging to 237 populations of 111 different species, an international team led by researchers with the Milner Centre for Evolution at the UK’s University of Bath determined that shorebirds worldwide have experienced a drastic increase in nest predation over the past seven decades.
- The data suggests that nest predation rates have doubled in the North Temperate Zone, which includes Europe and most of Asia and North America. In the Arctic, which migratory shorebirds are used to using as something of a refuge, rates of daily nest predation have tripled.


Photos highlight evolving roles of AI, citizen science in species research [12/17/2018]
- A recent observation by an amateur naturalist of a fiddler crab species hundreds of kilometers north of its known range challenged the complementary strengths of computer vision and human expertise in mapping species distributions.
- The naturalist uploaded this record to the iNaturalist species database used by amateurs and experts to document sightings; expert input correctly identified the specimen after the platform’s computer vision algorithms did not acknowledge the species outside its documented range.
- Citizen naturalist observations can be used to document rapid changes in species distributions. They also can improve modeling and mapping work conducted by researchers and play an increasing prominent role in building environmental databases.


COP24: Summit a step forward, but fails to address climate urgency [12/17/2018]
- COP24 ran into overtime over the weekend as delegates rushed to approve the Paris rulebook to set up a detailed mechanism for accomplishing and gauging the carbon reduction pledges made by the world’s nations in Paris at the end of 2015.
- But considering the urgency of action needed – with just 12 years left to act decisively to significantly cut emissions, according to an October IPCC science report – the COP24 summit proved to be less successful than many participants had hoped.
- On the negative side: the U.S., Russia and Saudi Arabia tried to undermine the gravity of the IPCC science report. Brazil successfully scuttled plans for an international carbon market. And COP24 failed to address the bioenergy carbon counting loophole, which incentivizes the harvesting and burning of trees to make energy by calling the process carbon neutral.
- On the positive side, “1,000 tiny steps” were made, including an improved transparency framework for reporting emissions; regular assessments called Global Stocktake to gauge emissions-reduction effectiveness at national levels starting in 2023; and an agreement to set new finance goals in 2020 to help vulnerable nations adapt to a warming world.


Purus-Madeira: Amazon parks and extraordinary biodiversity at risk now [12/17/2018]
- The Purus-Madeira interfluvial – an Amazon region running south to north from Rondônia state through Amazonas state – has been little studied by science. It is very high in biodiversity and has been fairly well preserved up until now, thanks mostly to low human occupation and difficulty of access.
- Studies indicate that more than 740 bird species occur regularly in the Madeira-Purus region representing more than 40 percent of all known Brazilian avifauna and approximately 60 percent of known Amazonian bird species. A new species, Campina’s Jay (Cyanocorax hafferi). with gaudy blue plumage, was recently recognized by science.
- Eleven protected areas, including a new national park, created in 2009 to ensure conservation of endemic species near the increasingly improved BR-319 highway, were meant to serve as a buffer against unrestrained development in the Purus-Madeira region.
- However, the Federal Attorneys Office accuses the Brazilian government of creating paper parks, without staffing or management plans. As a result, this diverse ecosystem is starting to see rapid negative change as plans to pave the BR-319 go forward, with the road offering access to illegal loggers, cattle ranchers and land grabbers invading protected areas.


Pumas engineer their environment, providing habitat for other species [12/17/2018]
- A new study finds that mountain lions in the western United States change their surroundings and as a result are “ecosystem engineers.”
- A team of scientists tracked 18 lion kills in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in Wyoming and identified 215 species of beetles living in, on and off the carcasses — that is, the kills provided habitat as well as food for scavengers.
- The work demonstrates the critical role mountain lions play in providing resources to other species in the ecosystems in which they live.


Indigenous peoples denounce ongoing land rights violations in Ecuador [12/17/2018]
- Indigenous leaders in Ecuador say that a lack of progress toward addressing key issues stands in the way of their fundamental territorial rights.
- Concerns include resource extraction projects initiated without proper prior consent and consultation, as well as the activation of several mining and oil concessions in Ecuador.
- The outcry comes at a time when indigenous peoples are increasingly being recognized as key partners in ensuring the protection of the world’s tropical forests.


Deforestation in Brazil’s cerrado falls [12/16/2018]
- Deforestation in Brazil’s cerrado, a wooded grassland that covers more than two million square kilometers and is the country’s second largest biome, fell 11 precent relative to a year ago.
- According to analysis by Brazil’s national space research institute INPE, deforestation in the cerrado amounted to 6,657 square kilometers for the twelve months ended July 31, 2018, which beat out 2016 as the lowest annual forest loss since at least 2001.
- Last year 7,474 square kilometers of cerrado was cleared.
- By contrast, deforestation in the Amazon has been trending upward since 2012, including a 14 percent rise this year.


Challenging the illegal logging regime in Madagascar (insider) [12/16/2018]
- Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler writes about his expose into rosewood logging in the aftermath of Madagascar’s coup in 2009.
- Andry Rajoelina, the man who took power after the coup and was linked by NGOs to illegal rosewood trafficking, is running in Madagascar’s election next week.
- Back in 2010, Rajoelina had harsh words for Mongabay after it reported on his administration’s ties to the rosewood business.
- This post is insider content, which is available to paying subscribers.


Latam Eco Review: Jaguar protection plan signed by 14 Latin countries [12/15/2018]
A 14-country jaguar conservation plan, efforts to protect the last 7 female southern right whales in Peru and Chile, and unexpected biodiversity discovered along Chile’s north coast were among the top stories last week by our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam. Jaguar protection plan signed by 14 Latin countries Fourteen countries launched a plan to secure […]

COP24: Sitting down to take a stand for real climate action [12/15/2018]
- Greta Thunberg, 15, has captured worldwide attention and sparked a youth movement with her no-nonsense demands for world leaders to finally start taking meaningful action to combat climate change.
- Thunberg accuses the current generation of leaders of sacrificing the future of today’s youths, and says that change is coming, whether they like it or not.
- Her protests and presence at the U.N. climate talks in Katowice, Poland, have inspired young people in countries around the world to take a similar stand for climate action.


Dutch banks’ customers ‘unknowingly’ profit from palm oil companies [12/15/2018]
- A new report highlights the role of investment funds offered by Dutch banks in financing destructive oil palm expansion.
- Customers of the funds aren’t properly informed of the companies they’re invested in, the report says.
- A legislative proposal for a more sustainable investment policy is now being discussed by the European Union.


Hobby-grade drones can monitor marine animals beneath the surface [12/14/2018]
- Researchers in The Bahamas have been testing just how good drone videos can be for estimating the abundance and distribution of large marine animals found just beneath the ocean’s surface.
- They flew aerial surveys using commercial-grade drones along six tidal creeks facing high and low human impact, to count sharks, rays, and sea turtles — groups that are both threatened and difficult to monitor. The findings from multiple sites suggest that shoreline development negatively affects the abundance and distribution of various marine species.
- The study also showed that using lower-cost consumer drones equipped with video cameras could help researchers effectively and non-invasively estimate abundance of these marine megafauna in shallow waters and compare data across sites.


‘Amazon Besieged’: Q&A with Mongabay contributor Sue Branford about new book [12/14/2018]
- From 2016 to 2017, Mongabay contributors Sue Branford and Maurício Torres traveled to the Tapajós River Basin, in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon, to report on the controversial plan to turn the region into a major commodities export corridor.
- Branford and Torres wrote a 15-part investigative series (published in partnership with The Intercept Brazil) based on what they’d found during their travels for Mongabay in the Tapajós Basin, one of the most biodiverse and culturally rich places on Earth. Now, the reporters have turned those pieces into a book, Amazon Besieged, which was published by Practical Action Publishing this month.
- Mongabay spoke with Sue Branford about what new perspectives she gained on the issues covered in the book while compiling her and Torres’ on-the-ground reporting for publication, what she hopes the average reader takes away from Amazon Besieged, and what she thinks the prospects are for the Amazon under the incoming Bolsonaro Administration.


Madagascar auctioning a large swath of virgin waters for oil exploration [12/14/2018]
- In September, Madagascar announced the opening of a large area of marine territory to oil exploration: 44 concessions totaling 63,296 square kilometers (24,440 square miles) in the Mozambique Channel off the country’s west coast.
- Members of the hydrocarbon industry expressed excitement about the news, but civil society groups oppose the sale, arguing that the potential projects’ environmental and social impacts have not been evaluated.
- Some of the 44 blocks overlap with a marine protected area, territory marked for potential future marine protected areas, or areas managed by local fishing communities.


COP24: Will they stay or will they go? Brazil’s threat to leave Paris [12/14/2018]
- In October, Brazil elected far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro to the presidency. During the campaign, he threatened to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, implement extreme environmental deregulation policies, and introduce mining into Amazon indigenous reserves, while also using incendiary language which may be inciting violence in remote rural areas.
- Just days before his election, Bolsonaro contradicted his past utterances, saying he won’t withdraw from the Paris accord. At COP24, the Brazilian delegation has fielded questions from concerned attendees, but it appears that no one there knows with certainty what the volatile leader will do once in office. He begins his presidency on the first of the year.
- Even if Bolsonaro doesn’t pull out of Paris, his plans to develop the Amazon, removing most regulatory impediments to mining and agribusiness, could have huge ramifications for the global climate. The Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest, stores massive amounts of carbon. Deforestation rates are already going up there, and likely to grow under Bolsonaro.
- Some in Brazil hope that environmental and economic realities will prevent Bolsonaro from fully implementing his plans. Escalating deforestation is already reducing Amazon rainfall, putting aquifers and agribusiness at risk. Agricultural producers also fear global consumer perceptions of Brazil as being anti-environmental could lead to a backlash and boycotts.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, December 14, 2018 [12/14/2018]
- 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.


Argentina creates two new marine parks to protect penguins, sea lions [12/14/2018]
- Argentina has officially created two large marine protected areas: the Yaganes Marine National Park, lying off the country’s southern tip, and the Namuncurá-Burdwood Bank II Marine National Park in the South Atlantic.
- Together, the two parks cover a total area of about 98,000 square kilometers (37,000 square miles).
- Industrial fishing is both an important source of revenue for Argentina and a threat to the country’s marine life. But the areas destined to become protected areas have had little fishing activity in recent years, which helped move negotiations in favor of the marine parks.


Palm oil giant Wilmar promises to take harder line with errant suppliers [12/14/2018]
- Wilmar International announced some changes to its sustainability policy this week.
- Among the changes, Wilmar will no longer buy palm oil from suppliers found to be violating its policy, but will suspend purchases from them instead.
- Wilmar also appeared to acknowledge the presence of “shadow companies” in Indoensia’s plantation sector.


COP24: Fossil Fuel Inc.’s outsize presence at talks reflects its influence [12/14/2018]
- A confrontation between activists and an oil executive at the U.N. climate talks has highlighted just how much influence fossil fuel producers continue to have over global climate policies.
- The confrontation involved the same Shell executive who, days earlier, boasted about the company influencing one of the key provisions in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
- Fossil fuel companies, from oil producers to coal operations, are enjoying a prominent presence at the climate talks in Poland, including as sponsors and as speakers at events throughout the summit.
- Activists have blasted the U.N. for giving the companies such an important platform, saying that it only confirms their long-held suspicions that the very corporations contributing to the climate crisis are the same ones pushing supposed solutions to the problem.


Indonesian court throws out lawsuit against green expert’s testimony [12/13/2018]
- A court in Indonesia has thrown out a lawsuit against an environmental expert whose testimony was instrumental in the conviction of a governor over a mining scandal.
- The governor, Nur Alam, had sued Basuki Wasis, an environmental degradation expert, over his assessment of the damage caused by illegal mining resulting from his improper issuance of mining licenses.
- It’s the second lawsuit Basuki has faced and overcome in connection with his role as a government witness in environmental cases. Fellow expert Bambang Hero Saharjo faces a near-identical lawsuit, which is also widely expected to fall flat.
- The judges in Basuki’s case emphasized the need to protect the testimonies of expert witnesses, to allow them to do their job without fear of a legal backlash.


One map to rule them all: Indonesia launches unified land-use chart [12/13/2018]
- The Indonesian government has launched a long-awaited unified map of land-use cover across the country, in an effort to resolve overlapping claims that have led to conflict, human rights abuses and environmental damage.
- With more than 17,000 islands and a combined land and sea area that is the seventh-largest in the world, Indonesia has a wide range of official maps, including for mining permits, free-trade zones, oil and gas blocks, and forestry areas.
- The unified land-use map, accessible online, is still missing maps of indigenous territories, while closely held maps of oil palm plantations are being added.


Satellite trackers help fight vultures’ extinction in southern Africa [12/13/2018]
- Vultures in southern Africa are being killed, mainly by eating carcasses poisoned by farmers, and in collisions with power lines and wind turbines.
- Concerned about population declines, the Maloti-Drakensberg Vulture Project began tracking vulture movements with small GPS transmitters, only to find them dying at a rapid rate.
- The three-dimensional tracking data showing the overlap between vulture breeding and roosting areas resulted in cancellation of a pair of proposed wind farms in Lesotho and a call for more ecologically informed siting of needed renewable energy infrastructure.


Dam drove ‘collapse’ of rainforest bird populations in Thailand [12/13/2018]
- A 165-square-kilometer (64-square-mile) reservoir in the lowland rainforest of Thailand has led to the “collapse” of the region’s bird populations, according to recent research.
- Built in 1986, the Ratchaprapha dam altered the habitat and led to deforestation, resulting in the decline of many species and the local extinction of perhaps five.
- The authors of the study say their findings highlight concerns about whether hydroelectric dams “are worth the environmental costs.”


Super-spreaders: How the curious life of a newt could ignite a pandemic [12/13/2018]
- The eastern U.S. is the world’s salamander hotspot, with more species per area than anywhere else on the planet. Often superabundant, salamanders hold important ecological roles in their habitats.
- Eastern newts (Notophthalmus viridescens) are the second most widely distributed salamander species in the U.S. They’re also incredibly mobile and are able to transition to a toxic, terrestrial form to move between ponds.
- Like many other U.S. salamander species, eastern newts are highly susceptible to a fungal pathogen called Bactrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal). While Bsal has yet to make an appearance in North America, it has wreaked havoc on salamander populations in Europe, and biologists worry its impact in the U.S. will be even worse.
- Their susceptibility to Bsal coupled with their mobility mean eastern newts could act as “super-spreaders” of Bsal if the fungus gets to North America. Researchers worry that not only would the newts themselves face massive die-offs, but also they could quickly spread the disease to other salamander species.


COP24: Nations complicit in ignoring bioenergy climate bomb, experts say [12/13/2018]
- Twenty years ago science told policymakers that bioenergy – the burning of woody biomass – was a sustainable form of energy that was carbon neutral. The current United Nations carbon accounting system follows that guidance. However, new science has found the hypothesis to be wrong: bioenergy has been found to add significantly to carbon emissions.
- However, national delegations at the UN climate summit in Poland, COP24, as they wordsmith the Paris Rulebook, are stonewalling on the matter, doing nothing to close the bioenergy carbon accounting loophole. But nature can’t be fooled, which means that the undercounting of emissions could push the world past a climate catastrophe tipping point.
- Still, with the problem unaddressed, developed nations in the European Union and elsewhere continue burning woody biomass as energy, with the U.S., Canada and other nations happy to profit from the accounting error. Tropical nations like Brazil and Peru are eager to jump on the bioenergy bandwagon, a potential disaster for rainforests and biodiversity.
- Meanwhile, NGOs and scientists at COP24 have sought earnestly to alert the media and COP delegations to the bioenergy climate bomb and its looming risks, even going so far as to write language closing the loophole that could be inserted into the Paris Rulebook now being negotiated, but to no avail.


Global agreement on ‘conserved areas’ marks new era of conservation (commentary) [12/13/2018]
- Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity have adopted the definition of a new conservation designation: ‘other effective area-based conservation measures’ (known informally as ‘conserved areas’).
- It represents a transformative moment in international biodiversity law and enables a greater diversity of actors — including government agencies, private entities, indigenous peoples, and local communities – to be recognized for their contributions to biodiversity outside protected areas.
- The ‘protected and conserved areas’ paradigm offers the global community an important means through which to respect human rights and appropriately recognize and support millions of square kilometers of lands and waters that are important for biodiversity, ecosystem processes, and connectivity — including in the Global Deal for Nature (2021-2030).
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.


From a new bird to a new community reserve: India’s tribe sets example [12/13/2018]
- In 2006, the discovery of the Bugun liocichla, a new species of bird, near Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh, India, brought the area’s small tribe of Buguns into the international spotlight. It prompted both a community bird ecotourism business, and a series of small conservation actions to protect the forest that harbors the rare bird.
- In 2013, the idea to protect the Bugun liocichla’s home took a more definitive shape, culminating in a community reserve. The reserve was formally created in 2017 after several rounds of discussions between the Buguns, researchers working in the area, and the local forest department.
- Today, the community reserve is more effectively patrolled by a Bugun team than the sanctuary it abuts.
- A few teething troubles remain to be worked out, but the researchers hope to streamline the running of the reserve in the coming years, so that the community takes center stage in the reserve’s management, while others step back.


A Zambian sanctuary finds caring for chimps is a lifetime commitment [12/13/2018]
- Home to more than 130 apes, Zambia’s Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage is one of the world’s oldest and largest chimpanzee sanctuaries.
- Chimpanzees can live for 50 years or more, so each new animal the center takes in will require decades of care and financial support.
- With an ever-growing number of chimps in need of a home, simply financing daily operations is a challenge for this award-winning facility.


COP24: Tropical deforestation risks undermining 1.5-degree warming limit [12/13/2018]
- Maintaining forests is a key tactic in the fight against catastrophic climate change, one that could help significantly reduce global carbon dioxide emissions.
- But of the six countries that account for the greatest expanses of tropical rainforest, only Indonesia is on track to reduce its current rate of deforestation by 2030. The five others — Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, Peru and Myanmar — look set to maintain or even increase their deforestation rates.
- The findings are based on an analysis of each country’s climate action pledges within their National Determined Commitments, or NDCs.
- Researchers say these countries can do more to both tamp down deforestation and boost their emissions reduction targets.


Ethiopia: Khat farming threatens food security, biodiversity, women, and agroforestry [12/12/2018]
- Southern Ethiopia has long been a stronghold of an ecologically sound version of agriculture, agroforestry, which yields food and medicine crops year round while benefiting a diversity of wild species.
- In recent decades farmers have moved toward growing only khat, a drug banned in most countries but still legal in Ethiopia and neighboring countries, on their small farms.
- The transition has led to greater farmer incomes but also declines in food security, biodiversity, soil health, and women’s empowerment.
- Researchers and activists are advocating for returning such farms at least to modified agroforestry systems of khat intercropped with food crops in the event of a massive crop failure or outright ban of the drug.


Birds on Broadway: A Q&A with the Audubon Mural Project’s Avi Gitler [12/12/2018]
- A public art project is bringing new bird life to uptown Manhattan in John James Audubon’s old neighborhood in New York City.
- The Audubon Mural Project is an ongoing collaboration between the National Audobon Society and Gitler &____ Gallery. So far, 80 murals of 101 bird species have been painted, spanning 133rd to 165th street on Broadway. The project will eventually end at 193rd street, at the end of Audubon Avenue.
- In this Q&A, Avi Gitler, co-producer of the Audubon Mural Project and founder of Gitler &____ Gallery, talks about the impetus for the public art project, which focuses on birds threatened by climate change, how he has enlisted the participating artists, and what he hopes public art about climate change-threatened birds can achieve.


Guatemala: An indigenous community rejects, then accepts, a protected area [12/12/2018]
- When the Guatemalan government designated the Río Sarstún Multiple Use Area in 2005, the local people said it never properly contacted or consulted the indigenous Q’eqchi’ living in the area.
- The Q’eqchi’ initially opposed the designation, and vociferously, for fear it would infringe on their rights to the land.
- Eventually, the government gave them a role managing the zone.
- Now, more than a decade after the Río Sarstún Multiple Use Area came into being, the relationship between the Guatemalan government and local communities is settling into a symbiotic groove, and conservation initiatives are having a noticeable effect on the forests and wildlife.


Feed a fishery, starve a seabird [12/12/2018]
- Industrial fisheries increased their share of fish taken by 10 percent, while seabirds’ take dropped by nearly 20 percent, between 1970-1989 and 1990-2010, new research has found.
- The study mapped out 40 years of data comparing the takes of seabirds and fisheries during that timeframe.
- Scientists say that seabirds, which also face threats from pollution, plastic garbage and possible entanglements, could also face starvation as a result of the competition with large-scale fisheries for the same resource.


‘We see its value’: Ugandan communities benefiting from agroforestry [12/11/2018]
- Farming communities in the western Ugandan highlands of Butanda have for generations practiced agroforestry, intercropping fruit, grains and vegetables with medicinal plants, trees and grasses on their land.
- The practice allows them to harvest food throughout the year, both for sustenance and to sell, provides them with timber and other resources, and prevents soil erosion while boosting water conservation.
- A local NGO is working to promote the practice to other communities in the region, including to cattle farmers, who have often overlooked the importance of trees in providing shade and protection for their herds.
- Experts say there’s much to learn from the indigenous communities that have long practiced some form of agroforestry, and have stressed the importance of heeding this valuable store of knowledge.


Scientists team up with indigenous, faithful to fight for forests [12/11/2018]
- Colombia’s deforestation rate has been accelerating since the country’s peace accord in 2016, which formally ended a more than 50-year civil conflict.
- The Interfaith Rainforest Initiative in Colombia was launched in November to bring together scientists, development experts, indigenous peoples and religious leaders.
- The aim is to use their combined expertise to reduce deforestation via public policy and grassroots action.
- The initiative hopes to expand its activities in Peru, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.


Audio: The true story of how 96 critically endangered sea turtle hatchlings survived New York City [12/11/2018]
- On this episode, the true story of how 96 critically endangered sea turtles survived a New York City beach — with a little help from some dedicated conservationists.
- This past summer, beachgoers in New York City spotted a nesting Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle on West Beach, which is on National Park Service land.
- Luckily, two of those beachgoers had the presence of mind to call the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation’s 24-hour hotline to report the nesting turtle — which very likely saved the lives of 96 Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle hatchlings.


Brazilian regulators deny French oil giant Total license to drill near Amazon Reef [12/11/2018]
- Brazil’s environmental regulatory agency, Ibama, announced last Friday that it was denying French oil company Total license to drill for oil near the Amazon Reef.
- Greenpeace announced earlier this year that a team of scientists onboard one of the environmental group’s ships had documented a reef formation under one of Total’s drilling blocks, contradicting Total’s Environmental Impact Assessment, which stated that the closest reef formation was 8 kilometers away.
- In a statement about the rejection of the environmental licenses Total was seeking in order to begin drilling in the Foz do Amazonas Basin, Ibama president Suely Araújo said that there were “deep uncertainties related to the Individual Emergency Plan (PEI) of the enterprise, aggravated by the possibility of eventual oil leakage affecting the biogenic reefs present in the region and marine biodiversity more broadly.”


A monitoring network in the Amazon captures a flood of data [12/11/2018]
- Cameras and microphones are capturing images and sounds of the world’s largest rainforest to monitor the Amazon’s species and environmental dynamics in an unprecedented way.
- The Providence Project’s series of networked sensors is aimed at complementing remote-sensing data on forest cover change by revealing ecological interactions beneath the forest canopy.
- Capable of continuously recording, processing and transmitting information to a database in real time, this high-tech experiment involves research institutions from three countries and the skills of biologists, engineers, computer scientists and other experts.
- The monitoring system will connect to a website to disseminate the forest biodiversity data interactively, which the researchers hope will contribute to more effective biodiversity conservation strategies.


COP24: Europe looks to fill the leadership void left by the U.S. [12/11/2018]
- The withdrawal from the Paris Agreement of the United States — the world’s second-biggest CO2 emitter and also its main source of climate funding — has left the global community without a clear leader on climate action.
- The European Union has emerged as a potential successor, following the publication of proposal that aims to see the bloc go carbon-neutral by 2050.
- But observers say the EU’s own targets need to be more aggressive, while the union’s chief says other countries will also need to step up their own climate goals.
- There are also concerns that the EU’s 2050 carbon-neutral plan relies heavily on so-called renewable gas, a source of methane — a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2.


COP24: Trumpers tout clean coal; protesters call it ‘climate suicide’ [12/11/2018]
- As in 2017, the Trump administration delegation was again at COP, seriously praising coal as a climate solution in a public presentation Monday – but behind the scenes the U.S. delegation is reportedly less incendiary and more cooperative. The Polish government is also heavily promoting the dirtiest of fossil fuels at the two-week-long Katowice event.
- But protestors, subnationals and NGOs are having none of it. COP24 participants treated the Trump administration coal public presentation with outrage, as a freakish sideshow and a joke. They used the event to send the message that decarbonization is the only way forward – as a means of curbing climate change, while boosting local economies and creating jobs.
- “It’s ludicrous for Trump officials to claim that they want to clean up fossil fuels, while dismantling standards that would do just that,” said Dan Lashof, director, World Resources Institute US.
- “More and more companies are committing to renewable energy, reducing emissions, and striving for a just [energy] transition that protects the wellbeing of all workers,” said Aron Cramer, CEO of BSR, a sustainability consulting firm in San Francisco.


New species of giant salamander described after decades of mystery [12/11/2018]
- Scientists have described a new species of giant salamander that grows up to 60 centimeters (2 feet) long and is a type of siren, a group of eel-like salamanders that have only front limbs, and large, frilled gills behind their heads.
- The formal description of the species, named the reticulated siren, comes after decades of surveys and exploration.
- The researchers do not have a complete understanding of the reticulated siren yet, but given that much of its habitat lies in wetlands within the endangered longleaf pine ecosystem, the species is of conservation concern, they say.


In eastern Indonesia, a bird-trafficking hotspot flies under the radar [12/11/2018]
- Indonesia, one of the most biodiverse countries on Earth, is a major hub of the illegal bird trade. Demand comes from both inside and outside its borders.
- Aru, a remote archipelago near the giant island of New Guinea, is a major supplier of cockatoos and other exotic birds.
- The relevant government agency is too understaffed to keep up with traffickers, officials say.




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