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



New initiative aims to jump-start stalled drive toward zero deforestation [07/19/2019]
- Over the past decade there has been a rise in corporate zero-deforestation commitments, but very few companies have shown progress in meeting their goals of reducing deforestation in their supply chains by 2020.
- The Accountability Framework Initiative, launched by a group of 14 civil society organizations, is the latest tool to help companies make progress, and hold them accountable, on their zero-deforestation commitments.
- The Accountability Framework Initiative is expected to be especially important for markets like Europe, where demand for crops like soy has been linked to rising deforestation in places like the Brazilian Cerrado.


Congo government opens Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park to oil exploration [07/18/2019]
- In 2018, the government of the Republic of Congo opened up several blocks of land for oil exploration overlapping with important peatlands and a celebrated national park.
- According to a government website, the French oil company Total holds the exploration rights for those blocks.
- Conservationists were alarmed that the government would consider opening up parks and peatlands of international importance for oil exploration, while also trying to garner funds for their protection on the world stage.


From over 100,000 species assessments in IUCN update, zero improvements [07/18/2019]
- The latest IUCN Red List update, which includes assessments of 105,732 species, lists more than 28,000 species as threatened with extinction.
- The declines of many of these species can be attributed to human overexploitation, according to the IUCN. The red-capped mangabey (Cercocebus torquatus), for example, has moved from vulnerable to endangered in 2019, largely because of threats from illegal hunting for bushmeat and conversion of much of the monkey’s Atlantic coast forest habitat in West Africa to agriculture.
- More than 5,000 trees from 180 countries, and 500 deep-sea bony fish species like the bioluminescent lanternfishes, were also added to the Red List this year.
- No species was assessed as having genuinely improved in status enough to earn it a place in a lower threat category, according to the IUCN.


The frog and the university: Meet the niche new species from Sri Lanka [07/18/2019]
- The recent discovery of a new frog species in a niche habitat in Sri Lanka’s cloud forest has highlighted the need for conserving the Indian Ocean island’s dwindling montane habitats.
- The frog, Lankanectes pera, is named after the University of Peradeniya, the country’s oldest, and dwells only in pristine streams flowing through canopy-covered montane forests in the highest reaches of the Knuckles Mountain Range.
- Researchers are calling for extensive studies to inform conservation actions for the species, which they’ve recommended be classified as critically endangered, given its small range and population.


We are planting trees everywhere: Q&A with Madagascar’s environment minister [07/17/2019]
- Alexandre Georget, a founder of Madagascar’s first green party in 2008, is the country’s new environment minister.
- In an interview with Mongabay, Georget discussed the government’s reforestation plans and outlined how he expected to approach its 2019 goal of reforesting 40,000 hectares.
- He also described the government’s new position on the sale of confiscated illegally harvested precious timber, in advance of the upcoming CITES meeting in August.


Orangutan habitats being cleared in areas near palm oil mills, report finds [07/17/2019]
- A new study identifies the palm oil mills in Indonesia with the most clearance of orangutan habitat happening around them.
- The top 10 mills are all on the island of Borneo and are producing palm oil that makes its way into the supply chains of consumer goods giants such as Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, Kellogg’s, General Mills, Avon, Mars, Mondelēz and more ⁠— companies that promised long ago to stop buying palm oil linked to deforestation.
- Just because deforestation is happening around a palm oil mill does not mean it is being done by an entity supplying that mill with palm fruits. But it is a strong red flag that this may be the case.
- Several of the consumer goods giants contacted by Mongabay said they were either actively investigating the deforestation or suspending trading with the mills. Others were more vague in their responses.


Newly described tree species from Tanzania is likely endangered [07/17/2019]
- Researchers have described a new species of tree from the Usambara mountains of northeastern Tanzania.
- The tree, which grows up to 20 meters (66 feet) in height, has been named Mischogyne iddii after Iddi Rajabu, a resident botanist at the Amani Nature Reserve, where some individuals of the tree can be found.
- The newly described species is known from only two locations in the Usambara mountains, and the researchers estimate that fewer than 50 individuals remain, suggesting a threat category of endangered on the IUCN Red List for the species.


Agriculture, mining, hunting push critically endangered gorillas to the brink [07/16/2019]
- Maiko National Park is one of the most logistically challenging parks in the DRC and one of the most biodiverse. It is one of just two national parks in the world known to contain Grauer’s gorilla, a highly endangered and poorly understood eastern gorilla subspecies, and is also home to the endemic okapi and Congo peafowl, as well as forest elephants, leopards, chimpanzees, and giant pangolins.
- The most major threat to gorillas and other wildlife in Maiko is the bushmeat trade, but this is significantly exacerbated by another threat: artisanal mining. The Second Congo War coincided with a demand spike for a mineral called coltan that forms an essential component of all phones, computers, solar panels, and other electronics.
- Outside of the park, however, there is another threat to wildlife: increasing pressure from rising populations. As villages expand, they require more resources and begin to cut into primary forest to make way for subsistence crops. Satellite imagery show that trees are being cut down near Maiko. As the population expands, such habitat degradation will edge closer to the park itself—bringing even more pressure from the bushmeat trade.
- Villages can be a major threat to wildlife, but they also serve as essential allies to conservation work in the DRC. NGOs working to protect wildlife near Maiko are working closely with local communities to help achieve local buy-in and ensure the long-term sustainable development of the region.


Experts deny alleged manipulation of Amazon satellite deforestation data [07/16/2019]
- The Brazilian National Institute of Space Research (INPE) issues annual Amazon deforestation reports via its PRODES satellite monitoring system (which relies on NASA Landsat satellite imaging), while the DETER system issues monthly deforestation/degradation alerts (which rely on Sino-Brazilian satellites).
- While experts consider INPE’s monitoring systems among the best in the tropics, ministers in the Bolsonaro administration have insinuated that the deforestation data may be manipulated. Experts have denied this, and note that INPE findings align well with those collected by NGOs Imazon and ISA, and Global Forest Watch (GFW).
- All of the data collected so far from various sources show an upswing in deforestation since Jair Bolsonaro’s election win. However, definitive and precise statistics require year-to-year comparisons, not monthly ones, and won’t be available until later in 2019.
- In March, Brazil’s environment minister pressed for a new but costly private deforestation tracking system. In June, the open-access platform MapBiomas — a network of NGOs, universities and tech firms, along with Google — launched a system to compile data from INPE, ISA, Imazon and GFW to produce definitive deforestation data.


Colombia registers first drop in deforestation since 2016 FARC peace deal [07/15/2019]
- Colombia lost 198,000 hectares (489,269 acres) of forest in 2018, according to a report released by the country’s meteorological institute IDEAM. This reduction represents a 10 percent drop compared to 2017 when 220,000 hectares (543,632 acres) were lost.
- Despite slight annual progress, rates of deforestation in Colombia remain stubbornly high, with a sustained increase compared to the low rates the country boasted five years ago.
- While the landmark 2016 FARC peace agreement has opened up parts of Colombia’s remote areas formerly off limits to science, exploration and tourism, it also created a power vacuum exploited by illegal armed groups and wealthy landowners.
- The report points to extensive cattle ranching, coca cultivation related to cocaine production, illegal mining and timber harvesting, unpermitted road construction, burns and extension of the agricultural frontier as the greatest contributors to tropical forest loss in the South American country.


Study finds lemurs in degraded Madagascar forest skinny and stunted [07/15/2019]
- In Madagascar’s Tsinjoarivo rainforest, adults of the critically endangered diademed sifakas living in the most degraded of forest fragments tend to be skinnier, and young individuals show stunting, compared to individuals living in more intact parts of the forest, according to a new study.
- Skinny bodies in adults could mean that their nutritional intake is compromised in the disturbed areas, researchers say, while young sifakas could be growing more slowly in the most disturbed areas in response to reduced nutrition in the diet.
- Sifakas living in less-disturbed forest fragments, however, don’t appear to be in poorer health than those in continuous, intact forests. This could be because the long-lived sifakas are likely resilient to moderate habitat changes, the researchers say.
- But threats could add up and cause local populations to disappear, the researchers add.


Yanomami Amazon reserve invaded by 20,000 miners; Bolsonaro fails to act [07/12/2019]
- An estimated 20,000 illegal goldminers (garimpeiros) have entered Yanomami Park, one of Brazil’s biggest indigenous reserves, located in Roraima and Amazonas states, near the border with Venezuela.
- The miners are well funded, likely by entrepreneurs, who pay workers and provide them with earthmoving equipment, supplies and airplanes. Three illegal air strips and three open-pit goldmines are in operation within the Yanomami indigenous territory.
- Indigenous leaders blame President Bolsonaro, with his incendiary anti-indigenous language, and his administration, with its policies that have defunded and gutted agencies responsible for law enforcement in the Amazon.
- Bolsonaro claims indigenous people want mining and industrial agribusiness on their lands, but the Yanomami vehemently deny such desires. They say they want self-determination over the types of businesses on their lands. One such new, sustainable business is a chocolate concession that would preserve the rainforest and offer income.


Can jurisdictional certification curb palm oil deforestation in Indonesia? (commentary) [07/10/2019]
- In this commentary, Dan Nepstad of Earth Innovation Institute and John Watts and Silvia Irawan of Inovasi Bumi argue that the surge in oil palm expansion in Indonesia since the early 2000s has caused deforestation, environmental degradation and social conflicts; strategies to reduce these negative impacts have seen only modest success.
- The authors say the jurisdictional certification pilots of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) represent a promising new approach to these issues. The RSPO pilot in Seruyan — a district that has experienced many of these problems — has led to several innovations, including an agricultural facility that provides technical support to smallholders while managing funds received from companies, implementation of the “jurisdiction-wide environmental protection plan” regulation, a mechanism for resolving land conflicts, and a method for mapping and registering independent smallholders.
- Deforestation may be on the decline in Seruyan, with the exception of the El Niño related fires of 2015 and 2016. Through jurisdictional certification, there is the potential to protect 480 thousand hectares of standing forests and restore 420 thousand hectares of forests.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Cargill rejects Cerrado soy moratorium, pledges $30 million search for ideas [07/10/2019]
- The 2006 Amazon Soy Moratorium — a voluntary agreement credited with stemming deforestation in the Amazon due to soy growing over the last decade— is the model put forth in the 2017 Cerrado Manifesto, intended to catalyze action to stop rampant clearing of forests and native vegetation in the savanna biome.
- But now Cargill, a trading firm active in the Cerrado, has published an open letter to its Brazilian soy producers avowing that it will not support a soy moratorium in the savanna biome. Bunge, Archer Daniels Midland, Amaggi and other commodities firms have been resistant to the Manifesto’s call to action as well, which could doom it.
- Cargill’s nixing of a Cerrado soy moratorium came after the firm announced its sustainable soy action plan, along with a $30 million fund to limit Cerrado forest loss, and amid international pleas to curb Brazilian deforestation prompted by the new EU / Mercosur (Latin American economic bloc) trade agreement.
- One possible reason Cargill and other commodities firms and producers are resisting the Cerrado Manifesto: under the Amazon Soy Moratorium producers simply moved their operations out of the Amazon and into the Cerrado. But the Cerrado Manifesto would prevent further deforestation for soy in the biome, potentially curbing rapid production expansion there.


Chimps in Sierra Leone adapt to human-impacted habitats, but threats remain [07/10/2019]
- Western chimpanzees are adapting to survive in severely degraded habitat, a new study says.
- However, the study also finds the abundance of western chimpanzees in Sierra Leone is impacted by even secondary roads.
- Ensuring the long-term survival of western chimps calls for changes in agriculture, roads and other development, researchers say.


In Nigeria, a highway threatens community and conservation interests [07/09/2019]
- Activists and affected communities in Nigeria’s Cross River state continue to protest plans to build a major highway cutting through farmland and forest that’s home to threatened species such as the Cross River gorilla.
- The federal government ordered a slew of measures to minimize the impact of the project, but two years later it remains unclear whether the developers have complied, even as they resume work.
- Environmentalists warn of a “Pandora’s box” of problems ushered in by the construction of the highway, including illegal deforestation, poaching, land grabs, micro-climate change, erosion, biodiversity loss and encroachment into protected areas.
- They’ve called on the state government to pursue alternatives to the new highway, including investing in upgrading existing road networks.


As Amazon deforestation rises, sensational headlines play into Bolsonaro’s agenda (commentary) [07/08/2019]
- Deforestation appears to be on the rise in the Brazilian Amazon, but sensational headlines are playing into the Bolsonaro administration’s campaign to undermine science-based monitoring of the Amazon.
- For example, administration officials are actively calling into question Brazilian space agency INPE’s data, according to BBC News, which last week quoted General Augusto Heleno Pereira as saying that data on deforestation rates in the Amazon are “manipulated.” Pereira’s claim is completely unsubstantiated, but is nonetheless consistent with a reported push by the Bolsonaro administration to privatize deforestation monitoring.
- It is critically important that deforestation data is reported accurately by the media. The damage being wrought right now is certainly real and significant. There is no need to embellish or misrepresent the data. Doing so only furnishes the Bolsonaro administration with more ammunition for its war on journalism, science, and the environment.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Environmental defenders in Peru’s Madre de Dios face double jeopardy [07/05/2019]
- In the buffer zone of Tambopata National Reserve in Peru’s Madre de Dios region, men and women have resisted the threats of mining and illegal logging for 12 years.
- Operation Mercury 2019, launched to eradicate illegal gold mining, also increased harassment of these environmental defenders. For this report, Mongabay Latam recorded their stories.
- No matter what land defenders do, they still lose: if they report illegal activities on their concessions they are threatened by those who are caught; and when they don’t alert anyone out of fear, the authorities sometimes fine them for not reporting the transgressions.


Land thieves ramp up deforestation in Brazil’s Jamanxim National Forest [07/04/2019]
- Deforestation appears to be rising dramatically in Brazil, with satellite data showing the country’s Amazonian region lost more forest in May than during any other month in the past decade.
- Jamanxim National Forest, in the state of Pará, has been particularly hard hit, losing more than 3 percent of its forest cover in May. Another surge was detected during the last week of June.
- Residents say the pressure facing Jamanxim comes from outsiders who are looking to make a profit by logging trees and then selling the newly cleared land to ranchers.
- Many of those living in protected areas believe that the political climate under President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration is encouraging the invasions by loggers into Brazil’s protected areas.


Study: Vast swaths of lost tropical forest can still be brought back to life [07/03/2019]
- A new study has once again emphasized the importance of restoring degraded tropical forests in the fight against climate change.
- Using high-resolution satellite imagery, the study identifies more than a million square kilometers (386,000 square miles) of lost tropical rainforest across the Americas, Africa and Southeast Asia as having high potential for restoration.
- The researchers say there’s no time to waste on reforestation efforts, but caution that the type of reforestation undertaken must be carefully considered.
- Countries such as China have increased their forest cover through the extensive planting of a single tree species, but studies have shown that monoculture tree plantations are inferior to natural forests when it comes to capturing carbon, hosting wildlife, and providing other ecosystem services.


Lost in translation: Green regulations backfire without local context [07/03/2019]
- Strong green regulations modeled on those in industrialized countries don’t always have the intended effects of reducing conflict and environmental degradation, new research shows.
- These rules can place onerous burdens on small-scale producers that ultimately force them to go around the regulations, at times leading to more conflict and harm to the environment.
- The study’s author argues that regulations should be flexible enough to accommodate small-scale producers and the unique challenges they face.


Amazon REDD+ scheme side-steps land rights to reward small forest producers [07/03/2019]
- To safeguard the almost 90 percent of its land still covered with forest, the small Brazilian state of Acre implemented a carbon credit scheme that assigns monetary value to stored carbon in the standing trees and rewards local “ecosystem service providers” for their role protecting it.
- Acre’s System of Incentives for Environmental Services (SISA) rewards sustainable harvesting of rubber, nuts and other commodities from the forests. Crucially, it doesn’t make land tenure a prerequisite to qualify for incentives such as subsidies and agricultural supplies.
- But a new study criticizes the program for giving state officials the power to determine what counts as “green labor.” The program already promotes intensive agricultural practices and artificial fishponds, and experts warn more damaging practices may be permitted under the control of new state officials.
- There’s also no definitive evidence that the program works to conserve forests, with the rate of deforestation in Acre holding relatively steady since SISA came into effect.


Travelogue: Ground-truthing satellite data in Borneo (Insider) [07/03/2019]
- Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler writes about his visit to Indonesian Borneo last month.
- The goal of the Kalimantan trip was to ground-truth some GPS points that satellite data via Global Forest Watch suggested could be areas of recent deforestation.
- This post is insider content, which is available to paying subscribers.


Madagascar mine ignites protests, community division [07/02/2019]
- An Australian mining company, Base Resources, plans to break ground soon on a mineral sands mining project in southwestern Madagascar.
- Base Resources says the project represents a development opportunity for the region. It has the support of most government officials and local mayors.
- But local opposition groups have called for an end to the project, citing the negative environmental impact it could have and insisting that it’s been made possible only through corrupt land deals.
- The battle over the project has played out in the Malagasy media for several years and is reaching a fever pitch as the project nears fruition. In the latest development, a Madagascar court released nine community members held for six weeks on accusations of participating in the destruction of Base Resources’ exploration campsite.


Amazon rural development and conservation: a path to sustainability? [07/02/2019]
- Oil palm production in Brazil continues to be conducted on a small scale as compared to the nation’s vast soy plantations. Total oil palm cultivation was just 50,000 hectares in 2010. Today, that total has risen to 236,000 hectares, 85 percent of which is in Pará state.
- While environmentalists fear escalated oil palm production could lead to greater deforestation, Brazil possesses 200 million hectares (772,204 square miles) of deforested, degraded lands, three quarters of which is utilized as pasture, most of it with low productivity that could be converted to oil palm.
- The Rurality Project offers an example of sustainable oil palm production through its recruitment of small-scale growers to boost local economies. But, the bulk of Amazon palm oil is produced on large plantations managed by big firms, like Biopalma, many of which have poor socioenvironmental records.
- If oil palm is to become a large-scale reality in Brazil, without major deforestation, growth will need to be backed by strong regulation and enforcement. But critics say the Bolsonaro government is backing weak regulation that encourages land speculation and deforestation.


Casualty of peace? Study shows rise in deforestation after conflicts [07/02/2019]
- A new study records a dramatic increase in the deforestation rate in four countries emerging from years of conflict.
- One of the countries studied, Sri Lanka, saw its deforestation rate in the five years after the end of its quarter-century civil war jump by 31.5 percent compared to the last five years of the conflict.
- Similar surges were seen in the three other countries: Peru, Ivory Coast and Nepal. The four countries saw an average spike in the five-year post-war period of 68 percent, against the world mean rate of 7.2 percent.
- Corruption at different scales, lack of funding for the entities in charge of forest and environmental management, inadequate policies, poor implementation are identified as key drivers of deforestation in these biodiversity hotspots.


An Indonesian forest community grapples with the arrival of the outside world [07/01/2019]
- Siberut Island, part of the Mentawai archipelago in western Indonesia, is recognized as a U.N. Biosphere Reserve due to its outstanding cultural and ecological value.
- The traditions of the indigenous Mentawai people, including agroforestry and customary land tenure, have allowed the people of the island live off the forest without depleting it.
- Roughly half of the island is protected as a national park. The rest, however, has been parceled out for timber and biomass plantations, road building, and the development of a special economic zone including a yacht marina and luxury resort.


Amazon infrastructure puts 68% of indigenous lands / protected areas at risk: report [06/28/2019]
- 68 percent of the indigenous lands and protected natural areas in the nine nations encompassing the Amazon region are under pressure from roads, mining, dams, oil drilling, forest fires and deforestation, according to a new report by RAISG, the Amazonian Geo-referenced Socio-Environmental Information Network.
- Of the 6,345 indigenous territories located within the nine Amazonian countries surveyed, 2,042 (32 percent) are threatened or pressured by two types of infrastructure activities, while 2,584 (41 percent) are threatened or pressured by at least one. Only 8 percent of the total are not threatened or pressured at all.
- In the case of the 692 protected natural areas in the Amazon region, 193 (28 percent) suffer three kinds of threat or pressure, and 188 (27 percent) suffer threats or pressure from two activities.
- “These are alarming numbers: 43 percent of the protected natural areas and 19 percent of the indigenous lands are under three or more types of pressure or threat,” said Júlia Jacomini, a researcher with the ISA, Instituto Socioambiental, an NGO and RAISG partner.


Saving Guatemala’s vanishing macaws: Q&A with veterinarian Luis Fernando Guerra [06/27/2019]
- The northern subspecies of the scarlet macaw (Ara macao cyanoptera) has disappeared from much of its former range in Mexico and Central America due to habitat loss and wildlife trafficking. Researchers estimate there are between 150 and 200 scarlet macaws remaining in Guatemala.
- Fire, used to clear land for agriculture, is the biggest driver of habitat loss in Guatemala. So far this year, NASA satellites have detected more than 40,000 fires in Guatemala, many occurring in scarlet macaw habitat.
- The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is trying to protect Guatemala’s macaws through a program that monitors nest sites and places lab-hatched chicks in adoptive nests.
- Mongabay caught up with WCS Lead Medical Veterinarian Luis Fernando Guerra as he was working in the field in Laguna del Tigre National Park to chat about his work and the outlook for scarlet macaws.


Food choice leaves some lemurs more vulnerable to loss of forest habitat [06/26/2019]
- The gut microbes of some lemur species are specialized to help in digesting food found in their habitats, a new study has found.
- Lemurs are only found in Madagascar and the Comoros Islands in the Indian Ocean, and are one of the most threatened primate groups in the world.
- The study suggests the mostly leaf-eating group of lemurs known as sifakas, in the genus Propithecus, host gut microbes that are specialized for their diets and therefore less adaptable to food sources found in other habitats.
- Madagascar reports alarming rates of deforestation, losing 2 percent of its primary rainforest just last year, the highest rate of any country.


Satellite data suggests deforestation on the rise in Brazil [06/25/2019]
- Newly released data based on analysis of satellite imagery suggests that deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has risen relative to last year.
- On June 21, the Brazil-based research NGO Imazon published its May 2019 deforestation report, showing the area of forest cleared in the Brazilian Amazon over the past 12-months is 43 percent higher than a year ago, according to short-term alert data.
- However, data from Brazil’s National Space Research Institute INPE shows a much-smaller increase of 1 percent for the period.
- Brazil is now entering the peak deforestation season so environmentalists are closely watching to see whether the recent trend continues or accelerates.


Brazil’s Roraima state at mercy of 2019 wildfires as federal funds dry up [06/25/2019]
- Brazil, and particularly the Amazonian state of Roraima, have seen large numbers of forest fires so far this year. From January through May, Brazil recorded 17,913 blazes nationwide, with 11,804 occurring in the nine Amazonian states. Only 2016 saw more harm in the Brazilian Amazon, when 13,663 wildfires burned over the same period.
- From January to May, Roraima registered 4,600 fires, the most numerous of any state for that period (Roraima saw just 1,970 fires during all of last year). The previous annual record for a Brazilian state was set by Mato Grosso, which suffered 4,927 forest fires in all of 2016.
- The uptick in fires is being blamed on a number of factors, including worsening Amazon drought brought by climate change, land theft and illegal deforestation (fire is typically used as a tool to clear rainforest in preparation for use by cattle ranchers and large-scale agribusiness).
- Another contributing factor: federal deforestation and firefighting policies. Since March, the Bolsonaro government has cut $7.3 million slated for fire prevention and environmental inspections to Ibama and ICMBio, Brazil’s two federal environmental agencies.


Belize to protect critical wildlife corridor that’s home to jaguars and more [06/24/2019]
- The government of Belize has approved a proposal to protect the Maya Forest Corridor, a key stretch of jungle linking some of the region’s largest wilderness areas.
- Once the corridor is secured, it will create the largest contiguous block of forest in Central America, experts say.
- The Maya Forest Corridor is home to iconic animals like the jaguar; the critically endangered Central American river turtle; the endangered Central American spider monkey or Geoffroy’s spider monkey; and the endangered Baird’s tapir.
- There is, however, a lot of work to be done before the Maya Forest Corridor gains official legal protection, including securing key privately owned patches of forest in the area.


Logging road construction has surged in the Congo Basin since 2003 [06/24/2019]
- Logging road networks have expanded widely in the Congo Basin since 2003, according to a new study.
- The authors calculated that the length of logging roads doubled within concessions and rose by 40 percent outside of concessions in that time period, growing by 87,000 kilometers (54,000 miles).
- Combined with rising deforestation in the region since 2000, the increase in roads is concerning because road building is often followed by a pulse of settlement leading to deforestation, hunting and mining in forest ecosystems.


Mongabay investigative series helps confirm global insect decline [06/24/2019]
- In a newly published four-part series, Mongabay takes a deep dive into the science behind the so-called “Insect Apocalypse,” recently reported in the mainstream media.
- To create the series, Mongabay interviewed 24 entomologists and other scientists on six continents and working in 12 nations, producing what is possibly the most in-depth reporting published to date by any news media outlet on the looming insect abundance crisis.
- While major peer-reviewed studies are few (with evidence resting primarily so far on findings in Germany and Puerto Rico), there is near consensus among the two dozen researchers surveyed: Insects are likely in serious global decline.
- The series is in four parts: an introduction and critical review of existing peer-reviewed data; a look at temperate insect declines; a survey of tropical declines; and solutions to the problem. Researchers agree: Conserving insects — imperative to preserving the world’s ecosystem services — is vital to humanity.


Science community rallies support to save Madagascar’s natural riches [06/24/2019]
- Madagascar is set to host the Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation’s 56th annual meeting in July.
- The organizers have launched a petition to garner support for urgent actions that must be taken to preserve the island nation’s unique biodiversity.
- The petition will be presented to the country’s president, who has been invited to sign it and recognize it as the Declaration of Ivato, after the site where the meeting will take place.
- The document, available in four languages, can be accessed online until Aug. 2.


Fire, cattle, cocaine: Deforestation spikes in Guatemalan national park [06/21/2019]
- Laguna del Tigre, Guatemala’s largest national park, provides habitat for an estimated 219 bird species, 97 butterflies, 38 reptiles and 120 mammals, and is also home to ancient Mayan ruins. But conservationists and archeologists say this biological and cultural wealth is threatened by high levels of deforestation in the park.
- Between 2001 and 2018, Laguna del Tigre lost nearly 30 percent of its tree cover, and preliminary data for 2019 indicate the rate of loss is set to rise dramatically this year. Fire is the dominant driver of deforestation in the park, and is used to clear the land of forest and make it more farmable. Satellite imagery shows vast swaths of recently burned land where old growth rainforest stood less than 20 years ago.
- Authorities blame residents within the park for much of the destruction, as well as industrial cattle operations and cocaine traffickers who set up airstrips on cleared land within the park. But community members have defended what they say is their right to live on the land and to use its resources, in some cases even resorting to violence.
- Wildlife Conservation Society, along with the National Council for Protected Areas, have begun working on peace-building initiatives for the area with international agencies and organizations in the hopes of bridging the gap between environmental protection and human rights. But a lot of work remains.


The mine that promised to protect the environment: A cautionary tale [06/21/2019]
- In 2004, mining behemoth Rio Tinto made a bold commitment not just to protect but to “improve” the environment at its mining sites in ecologically sensitive areas around the world, through a strategy it called “net positive impact.”
- A site in southeastern Madagascar where it was opening an ilmenite mine amid a gravely threatened coastal forest that’s home to unique species found nowhere else on the planet seemed like a good place to start.
- A little more than a decade later, however, the initiative was dead: facing financial headwinds and falling behind on its pledges, Rio Tinto abandoned the NPI strategy in 2016.
- In an article in the July issue of Scientific American, Mongabay contributor Rowan Moore Gerety tells how Rio Tinto came to make that promise and then to renege on it — and describes the result for Madagascar’s coastal forest and the people who live there.


A four-year ox-cart ride around Madagascar: Q&A with Alexandre Poussin [06/20/2019]
- Alexandre Poussin and his family recently completed a 5,000-kilometer (3,100-mile) oxcart ride around Madagascar, visiting sanctuaries for the island’s unique biodiversity that are off the beaten path.
- Poussin witnessed firsthand the destruction of Madagascar’s forests and the threat faced by endemic species found there.
- The French traveler and writer is encouraging tourists to the island to help protect its natural heritage.


’Livestock revolution’ triggered decline in global pasture: Report [06/19/2019]
- Since 2000, the area of land dedicated for livestock pasture around the world has declined by 1.4 million square kilometers (540,500 square miles) — an area about the size of Peru.
- A new report attributes the contraction to more productive breeds, better animal health and higher densities of animals on similar amounts of land.
- The report’s authors say that technological solutions could help meet rising demand for meat and milk in developing countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, without reversing the downward trend.


New tool helps monitor forest change within commodities supply chains [06/18/2019]
- With commercial agriculture driving some 40 percent of tropical deforestation, more than 300 major companies involved in the commodities trade have pledged to avoid deforestation in their supply chains.
- To help the companies and financial institutions adhere to these commitments, Global Forest Watch (GFW) has launched a new forest monitoring tool called GFW Pro.
- Using tree cover change information from GFW’s interactive maps, the new desktop application enables users to observe and monitor deforestation and fires within individual farms and supply sheds or across portfolios of properties and political jurisdictions.
- To encourage use by businesses, the new tool presents the information in graphs and charts to companies for easy and regular monitoring, as they might monitor daily changes in stock prices.


As Cambodia swelters, climate-change suspicion falls on deforestation [06/17/2019]
- Cambodia has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world, with key drivers including demand for timber products, land-use conversion, and urbanization.
- Extreme temperatures have led to public criticism linking deforestation to unusually hot weather.
- The Cambodian government has denied this connection, but emerging science provides compelling links between the two issues.


Deforested areas bleed heat to nearby forests, drive local extinctions [06/17/2019]
- Forests play an important role in cooling the Earth.
- Deforestation doesn’t just contribute to temperature increases where it occurs but also in adjacent forests, according to a new study.
- This leaking of heat into adjacent forests puts species living there at risk by pushing up temperatures that are already rising due to climate change.
- This is bad news for countries like Madagascar, which not only hosts many endemic species with limited habitat, but also has alarming rates of deforestation.


Nearly 600 plant species have gone extinct in last 250 years [06/17/2019]
- At least 571 species of seed-bearing plants have gone extinct around the world in the last two and a half centuries.
- This number is nearly four times higher than the previous known estimate and more than twice the number of birds, mammals and amphibians that are known to have gone extinct, researchers say.
- The study estimates that plants are now becoming extinct nearly 500 times faster than the background extinction rate for plants.
- The geographical pattern of modern plant extinctions resembles that for animals: most plant extinctions occur on islands, in the tropics, and in areas with a Mediterranean climate that are rich in biodiversity.


Despite a decade of zero-deforestation vows, forest loss continues: Greenpeace [06/13/2019]
- Nearly a decade after the Board of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) passed a resolution to achieve zero net deforestation by 2020 when sourcing commodities such as soya, palm oil, beef, and paper products, these commodities continue to drive widespread deforestation, a new report from Greenpeace says.
- Greenpeace contacted 66 companies, asking them to demonstrate their progress in ending deforestation by disclosing their cattle, cocoa, dairy, palm oil, pulp and paper and soya suppliers. Of the companies that did respond, most came back with only partial information.
- The report concludes that not a single company could demonstrate “meaningful effort to eradicate deforestation from its supply chain.”
- Other experts say that transparency in supply chains is improving, and that measuring compliance to zero-deforestation goals requires more nuanced research.


The Great Insect Dying: How to save insects and ourselves [06/13/2019]
- The entomologists interviewed for this Mongabay series agreed on three major causes for the ongoing and escalating collapse of global insect populations: habitat loss (especially due to agribusiness expansion), climate change and pesticide use. Some added a fourth cause: human overpopulation.
- Solutions to these problems exist, most agreed, but political commitment, major institutional funding and a large-scale vision are lacking. To combat habitat loss, researchers urge preservation of biodiversity hotspots such as primary rainforest, regeneration of damaged ecosystems, and nature-friendly agriculture.
- Combatting climate change, scientists agree, requires deep carbon emission cuts along with the establishment of secure, very large conserved areas and corridors encompassing a wide variety of temperate and tropical ecosystems, sometimes designed with preserving specific insect populations in mind.
- Pesticide use solutions include bans of some toxins and pesticide seed coatings, the education of farmers by scientists rather than by pesticide companies, and importantly, a rethinking of agribusiness practices. The Netherlands’ Delta Plan for Biodiversity Recovery includes some of these elements.


Out on a limb: Unlikely collaboration boosts orangutans in Borneo [06/12/2019]
- Logging and hunting have decimated a population of Bornean orangutans in Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park in Indonesia.
- Help has recently come from a pair of unlikely allies: an animal welfare group and a human health care nonprofit.
- Cross-disciplinary collaboration to meet the needs of ecosystems and humans is becoming an important tool for overcoming seemingly intractable obstacles in conservation.


For the Philippine eagle, a shot at survival means going abroad [06/11/2019]
- The Philippines has loaned off two Philippine eagles (Pithecophaga jefferyi) to Singapore for a 10-year breeding agreement, part of wider efforts to protect the species against disease outbreaks and natural calamities.
- Prior to the agreement, the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) managed the only sanctuary of its kind in the world for this critically endangered species.
- Despite rigorous community-oriented programs to protect the eagles, human activity, including hunting and habitat destruction, remains the biggest threat to the Philippine eagles.


Inside an ambitious project to rewild trafficked bonobos in the Congo Basin [06/11/2019]
- A decade ago, a troop of formerly captive bonobos was for the first time reintroduced to the wild in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
- Following that successful reintroduction, a new troop of 14 bonobos is now in the process of being released and is anticipated to be fully in the wild by September.
- Congolese conservation group Amis des Bonobos du Congo (ABC) is working to make sure the communities surrounding the release site feel invested in the project.


Dam in Ethiopia has wiped out indigenous livelihoods, report finds [06/11/2019]
- A dam in southern Ethiopia built to supply electricity to cities and control the flow of water for irrigating industrial agriculture has led to the displacement and loss of livelihoods of indigenous groups, the Oakland Institute has found.
- On June 10, the policy think tank published a report of its research, demonstrating that the effects of the Gibe III dam on the Lower Omo River continue to ripple through communities, forcing them onto sedentary farms and leading to hunger, conflict and human rights abuses.
- The Oakland Institute applauds the stated desire of the new government, which came to power in April 2018, to look out for indigenous rights.
- But the report’s authors caution that continued development aimed at increasing economic productivity and attracting international investors could further marginalize indigenous communities in Ethiopia.


Bumpy ride for conservation in PNG as lack of roads hinders activities [06/10/2019]
- Much of Papua New Guinea remains inaccessible by road and the existing roads are often in poor condition.
- While lack of road access has historically helped to keep ecosystems intact, it comes with both social and environmental downsides.
- Some communities are negotiating with resource extraction companies who promise to provide roads and other needed services. Lack of infrastructure also hampers efforts to monitor and protect the environment.
- Some NGOs, whose work suffers from difficult and expensive travel to project areas, call for carefully planned expansion of the road network.


Brazil guts environmental agencies, clears way for unchecked deforestation [06/10/2019]
- The Bolsonaro administration has launched policies that undermine IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental agency, and ICMBio (The Chico Mendes Institute) which protects the nation’s federal conservation units, by effectively dismantling environmental law enforcement and allowing deforestation to proceed unchecked.
- Fines imposed for illegal deforestation between Jan. 1 and May 15 this year were down 34 percent from the same period in 2018, the largest percentage drop ever recorded. It was also smallest number of fines ever imposed (850), compared to 1,290 in the same period last year.
- Government seizures of illegally harvested timber fell even more precipitously, with just 40 cubic meters (1,410 cubic feet), equal to 10 large trees, confiscated in the first four months of 2019. By contrast, 25,000 cubic meters (883,000 cubic feet) of illegal timber were seized in 2018. IBAMA is now required to announce in advance the time and location of all its planned raids on illegal loggers.
- Bolsonaro has defanged deforestation enforcement further by firing or not replacing top environmental officials. This includes 21 out of 27 IBAMA state superintendents responsible for imposing most of the deforestation fines. Also, 47 of Brazil’s conservation units now lack directors, leaving a combined area greater than the size of England without conservation leadership.


The Great Insect Dying: The tropics in trouble and some hope [06/10/2019]
- Insect species are most diverse in the tropics, but are largely unresearched, with many species not described by science. But entomologists believe abundance is being impacted by climate change, habitat destruction and the introduction of industrial agribusiness with its heavy pesticide use.
- A 2018 repeat of a 1976 study in Puerto Rico, which measured the total biomass of a rainforest’s arthropods, found that in the intervening decades populations collapsed. Sticky traps caught up to 60-fold fewer insects than 37 years prior, while ground netting caught 8 times fewer insects than in 1976.
- The same researchers also looked at insect abundance in a tropical forest in Western Mexico. There, biomass abundance fell eightfold in sticky traps from 1981 to 2014. Researchers from Southeast Asia, Australia, Oceania and Africa all expressed concern to Mongabay over possible insect abundance declines.
- In response to feared tropical declines, new insect surveys are being launched, including the Arthropod Initiative and Global Malaise Trap Program. But all of these new initiatives suffer the same dire problem: a dearth of funding and lack of interest from foundations, conservation groups and governments.


Indonesian ban on clearing new swaths of forest to be made permanent [06/10/2019]
- A temporary moratorium that prohibits the issuance of new permits to clear primary and peat forests is set to be made permanent later this year.
- Though largely ineffective in stemming deforestation in the first few years after its introduction in 2011, the moratorium has since 2016 been shored up by peat-protection regulations that have helped slow the loss of forest cover.
- Environmental activists have welcomed the move to make the moratorium permanent, but say there’s room to strengthen it, such as by extending it to include secondary forests.
- They’ve also called for the closing of a loophole that allows primary and peat forests to be razed for plantations of rice, sugarcane and other crops deemed important to national food security.


The Great Insect Dying: Vanishing act in Europe and North America [06/06/2019]
- Though arthropods make up most of the species on Earth, and much of the planet’s biomass, they are significantly understudied compared to mammals, plants, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish. Lack of baseline data makes insect abundance decline difficult to assess.
- Insects in the temperate EU and U.S. are the world’s best studied, so it is here that scientists expect to detect precipitous declines first. A groundbreaking study published in October 2017 found that flying insects in 63 protected areas in Germany had declined by 75 percent in just 25 years.
- The UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme has a 43-year butterfly record, and over that time two-thirds of the nations’ species have decreased. Another recent paper found an 84 percent decline in butterflies in the Netherlands from 1890 to 2017. Still, EU researchers say far more data points are needed.
- Neither the U.S. or Canada have conducted an in-depth study similar to that in Germany. But entomologists agree that major abundance declines are likely underway, and many are planning studies to detect population drops. Contributors to decline are climate change, pesticides and ecosystem destruction.


Brazil’s Congress reverses Bolsonaro, restores Funai’s land demarcation powers [06/05/2019]
- On May 22, 2019, the lower house of Congress voted to maintain Funai, Brazil’s indigenous agency, under the Ministry of Justice, as well as affirm Funai’s land demarcation powers. The decision was endorsed by the Senate on May 28 and now the text has to be endorsed by President Jair Bolsonaro by June 14. According to rights groups and politicians, Bolsonaro is not likely to make changes regarding Funai
- Funai existed within the Ministry of Justice from 1967, but was placed under the new Ministry of Human Rights, Family and Women created by President Bolsonaro through a provisional measure, MP 870, on the first day of his presidency. Such measures must be approved within 120 days by Congress to become law or they become null.
- MP 870 transferred decision-making power over the demarcation of indigenous reserves from Funai to the Ministry of Agriculture.
- Changes to Funai’s decision-making authorities and position triggered outcry from rights groups and justices, who claimed conflicts of interest and said it was a strategy to weaken Funai.


Climate change threatens to water down Cerrado’s rich biodiversity: Study [06/04/2019]
- The new study by researchers in Brazil shows that climate change will lead to local extinctions of several mammal species throughout the Cerrado, the vast tropical savanna biome.
- Immigration of species from other biomes, including the Amazon and the Atlantic Forest, will be higher than regional extinctions. But because these species are commonly found, it will still lead to an overall loss in biodiversity in most regions of the Cerrado.
- The widespread erosion of differences between ecological communities is one of the main drivers of loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services.
- Future distributions of species based on climate change must be considered in conservation decisions and the development of protected areas in the Cerrado, the researchers say.


The Sateré-Mawé move to reclaim Amazon ancestral lands from invaders [06/04/2019]
- The Andirá-Marau Indigenous Reserve in Brazil’s Amazonas state — in a remote part of the Amazon basin — covers 7,885 square kilometers (3,044 square miles), and is occupied by 13,350 Sateré-Mawé indigenous people who live sustainably off the rainforest.
- However, an area of Sateré-Mawé ancestral land along the Mariaquã River lies outside the demarcated reserve. It was abandoned by the Sateré-Mawé due to an epidemic. The Indians have renewed their claim to the territory since 2002 but FUNAI, Brazil’s indigenous agency, has not yet sorted the situation out.
- But the Mariaquã lands are now in dispute, as illegal loggers and land grabbers invade and threaten the indigenous people living in the area around the village of Campo Branco. Dozens of outsiders have made land claims to CAR, Brazil’s Rural Environmental Registry, and allegedly threatened the Indians if they don’t vacate.
- Mongabay’s reporting team joined a small group of Sateré-Mawé as they travelled to Campo Branco to strengthen their indigenous land claim. The Sateré fear that President Bolsonaro’s pledge to pass a law allowing Brazilians with “official” land claims to use arms to evict indigenous “invaders” could be used against them.


The Great Insect Dying: A global look at a deepening crisis [06/03/2019]
- Recent studies from Germany and Puerto Rico, and a global meta-study, all point to a serious, dramatic decline in insect abundance. Plummeting insect populations could deeply impact ecosystems and human civilization, as these tiny creatures form the base of the food chain, pollinate, dispose of waste, and enliven soils.
- However, limited baseline data makes it difficult for scientists to say with certainty just how deep the crisis may be, though anecdotal evidence is strong. To that end, Mongabay is launching a four-part series — likely the most in-depth, nuanced look at insect decline yet published by any media outlet.
- Mongabay interviewed 24 entomologists and researchers on six continents working in over a dozen nations to determine what we know regarding the “great insect dying,” including an overview article, and an in-depth story looking at temperate insects in the U.S. and the European Union — the best studied for their abundance.
- We also utilize Mongabay’s position as a leader in tropical reporting to focus solely on insect declines in the tropics and subtropics, where lack of baseline data is causing scientists to rush to create new, urgently needed survey study projects. The final story looks at what we can do to curb and reverse the loss of insect abundance.


Chinese banks risk supporting soy-related deforestation, report finds [05/30/2019]
- Chinese financial institutions have little awareness about the risks of deforestation in the soy supply chain, according to a report released May 31 from the nonprofit disclosure platform CDP.
- China imports more than 60 percent of the world’s soy, meaning that the country could play a major role in halting deforestation and slowing climate change if companies and banks focus on stopping deforestation to grow the crop.
- Around 490 square kilometers (189 square miles) of land in Brazil was cleared for soy headed for China in 2017 — about 40 percent of all “converted” land in Brazil that year.
- As the trade war between the U.S. and China continues, China may increasingly look to Latin America for its soy, potentially increasing the chances that land will be cleared to make way for the crop.


Land grabbing, cattle ranching ravage Colombian Amazon after FARC demobilization [05/30/2019]
- In 2017, the first year following the disarmament of the FARC rebel group, deforestation in the Colombian Amazon region exploded, more than doubling from 70,074 hectares (173,000 acres) the year before to 144,147 hectares (356,000 acres), according to climate monitoring agency IDEAM.
- The rampaging devastation shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. Satellite data show nearly 267,000 deforestation alerts were recorded in the departments of Caquetá, Guaviare and Meta in a single week in February.
- Absent the threat of the FARC, land values have skyrocketed by as much as 300 percent in San Vicente del Caguán since the peace deal was signed. The capital infusion has helped to improve the economy, which is based primarily on cattle ranching for milk and cheese production, but has created a booming speculative market that rewards land grabbing. Colonizers are also displacing indigenous groups from their ancestral land.
- While Colombian authorities have targeted small farmers in and around national parks, large-scale deforesters have yet to face serious consequences.


Altered forests threaten sustainability of subsistence hunting [05/29/2019]
- In a commentary, two conservation scientists say that changes to the forests of Central and South America may mean that subsistence hunting there is no longer sustainable.
- Habitat loss and commercial hunting have put increasing pressure on species, leading to the loss of both biodiversity and a critical source of protein for these communities.
- The authors suggest that allowing the hunting of only certain species, strengthening parks and reserves, and helping communities find alternative livelihoods and sources of food could help address the problem, though they acknowledge the difficult nature of these solutions.


A forest beset by oil palms, logging, now contends with a coal-trucking road [05/28/2019]
- The Harapan forest in southern Sumatra, Indonesia, faces threats from illegal logging, encroachment by oil palm growers, poaching of its wildlife, and the loss of funding for conservation initiatives.
- An indigenous community, conservation managers and activists have highlighted another danger that risks fragmenting the biodiverse lowland rainforest: a coal-trucking road that would slice through the area.
- Local authorities reviewing the project proposal have called on the company behind it to consider a road that skirts the forest instead, but the company has not yet published a revised plan.
- The forest’s Batin Sembilan indigenous group says the creation of a road will increase access into the forest, exacerbating long-simmering tensions with migrant communities they accuse of trying to grab the land.


Earth’s hidden tree-microbe network mapped for the first time ever [05/27/2019]
- For the first time ever, researchers have mapped the underground network of microbes connecting forest trees around the world using an enormous data set of more than 1.1 million forest plots.
- Mapping the forest microbe network required global collaboration and high computing capabilities.
- The new maps confirm patterns that have been long suspected. For example, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi dominate forests in the warmer tropics while ectomycorrhizal fungi are more widespread in colder boreal and temperate forests.
- The predicted maps are, however, limited by the geographic coverage and sampling density of trees across the world. While the coverage is good in developed countries, it is relatively poor in developing countries like India, China and countries in the tropical region, the researchers say.


Where the forest has no name [05/24/2019]
- North America’s temperate rainforest extends some 2,500 miles from California to the Gulf of Alaska, providing important habitat for many species and playing a big role in global carbon sequestration. However, despite its uniqueness, there is no officially recognized name for the whole of the forest.
- This forest has been beset by logging over the last century, with little unprotected old growth remaining. The Trump administration’s plans to allow logging in roadless areas in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest could ramp up its loss in the coming years.
- Paul Koberstein and Jessica Applegate, editors of Cascadia Times, argue an official name could help galvanize action to save this forest.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.


New report examines drivers of rising Amazon deforestation on country-by-country basis [05/23/2019]
- A new report examines the “unchecked development” in the Amazon that has driven deforestation rates to near-record levels throughout the world’s largest tropical forest.
- The main drivers of deforestation vary from country to country, according to the report, a collaborative effort by the Inter-American Dialogue and the Andes Amazon Fund.
- While the causes of Amazonian forest destruction vary, one thing that is common throughout the region is a lack of adequate resources for oversight and enforcement of environmental regulations. And “signs suggest this problem is only growing,” according to the report.


Plants are working hard to keep pace with increasing carbon dioxide [05/23/2019]
- Global photosynthesis in terrestrial plants, or the amount of atmospheric carbon that plants are absorbing to create organic matter, has increased in nearly constant proportion to the rise in atmospheric CO2 levels, a new study has found.
- Using computer models, researchers found that elevated carbon dioxide levels drive increase in leaf area of plants in the tropics. In higher latitudes, though, rising global temperatures appears to be what’s driving increases in both leaf area and growing seasons.
- This increase in global photosynthesis will likely slow in the future, the researchers say.
- Plants are providing a helping hand by slowing down the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, and we should take advantage of that by reducing emissions and conserving forests, the researchers say.


Former Brazilian enviro ministers blast Bolsonaro environmental assaults [05/23/2019]
- A new manifesto by eight of Brazil’s past environment ministers has accused the rightist Bolsonaro administration of “a series of unprecedented actions that are destroying the capacity of the environment ministry to formulate and carry out public policies.”
- The ministers warn that Bolsonaro’s draconian environmental policies, including the weakening of environmental licensing, plus sweeping illegal deforestation amnesties, could cause great economic harm to Brazil, possibly endangering trade agreements with the European Union.
- Brazil this month threatened to overhaul rules used to select deforestation projects for the Amazon Fund, a pool of money provided to Brazil annually, mostly by Norway and Germany. Both nations deny being consulted about the rule change that could end many NGOs receiving grants from the fund.
- Environment Minister Riccardo Salles also announced a reassessment of every one of Brazil’s 334 conservation units. Some parks may be closed, including the Tamoios Ecological Station, where Bolsonaro was fined for illegal fishing in 2012 and which he’d like to turn into the “Brazilian Cancun.”


Documentary on world’s rarest ape generates film festival buzz [05/23/2019]
- The first documentary ever made about the Tapanuli orangutan, the world’s rarest and most threatened species of great apes, is racking up awards at film festivals around the world.
- U.K.-based filmmaker Matt Senior says his interest in the orangutan, which was only described as a new species in 2017, was piqued by a Mongabay article.
- Only 800 of the apes are believed to exist in the Batang Toru forest in northern Sumatra, Indonesia. Their habitat is under threat from a massive Chinese-funded hydropower project being built in the area.
- Matt says he hopes the documentary will raise public awareness about this newest species of orangutan and the very real threats pushing it toward extinction.


For India’s imperiled apes, thinking locally matters [05/23/2019]
- Northeastern India is home to two ape species: eastern and western hoolock gibbons.
- Populations of hoolock gibbons in India are both protected and harmed by practices and beliefs specific to the human communities with whom they share their habitats.
- In several gibbon habitats, local indigenous people are leading conservation efforts that are deeply informed by local circumstances.
- The fortunes of different gibbon populations within India show that there is no one-size-fits-all conservation strategy for apes.


Indonesia calls on palm oil industry, obscured by secrecy, to remain opaque [05/21/2019]
- The Indonesian government has called on the country’s palm oil companies to refrain from releasing their plantation data, citing national security, privacy and competition reasons.
- The publication of the data is a necessary part of sustainability certification under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).
- Activists say they fear that withholding the information will further damage the reputation of Indonesia’s palm oil industry, which is already beset by allegations of deforestation, land grabbing, and labor rights abuses.
- The government has for years sent out mixed messages about whether it will make available the plantation data, which activists say is crucial in helping resolve the hundreds of land disputes across Indonesia, most of them involving palm concessions.


Bauxite mining and Chinese dam push Guinea’s chimpanzees to the brink [05/21/2019]
- Guinea is home to about half of the world’s critically endangered western chimpanzees.
- A bauxite mining boom is driving the chimpanzees from their habitats in Guinea’s Boké region. To compensate, two mining firms agreed in 2017 to fund the establishment of Moyen-Bafing National Park, home to an estimated 5,300 chimpanzees.
- The national park is itself threatened by a bauxite mine and a proposed hydroelectric dam — projects that could kill as many as 2,800 of the great apes.


‘Resisting to exist’: Indigenous women unite against Brazil’s far-right president [05/20/2019]
- Brazil today is home to 900,000 indigenous people, speaking 274 languages and with widely differing cultural traditions. Indigenous rights were enshrined in Brazil’s 1988 constitution, including the demarcation and protection of indigenous ancestral lands.
- But indigenous people have felt seriously threatened since Jair Bolsonaro took office in January, as illegal invasions of indigenous territories have rapidly escalated, and as the administration threatens to put policies in place to limit further indigenous demarcations, eliminate indigenous comments on infrastructure projects, and cut back on health services.
- Many of the leaders in the fight against Bolsonaro’s policies are women; in this story, they give voice to their outrage at the danger to their homelands, communities and families.


Solomon Islanders imprisoned for trying to stop the logging of their forests [05/17/2019]
- A group of residents of Nende Island in the Solomon Islands claim corrupt government practices allowed a logging company to get a license to log the island’s primary forests, as well as cropland. Activists also allege the company, Malaysia-based Xiang Lin SI Ltd, logged outside of its concession area.
- The “Nende Five,” as they’ve become known, say they were never given an opportunity to object to the logging of their land, and Xiang Lin proceeded without obtaining the consent of the majority of residents.
- The protesters say they tried to stop the logging through legal processes. When heavy equipment was destroyed last year, the Nende Five were taken into custody. However, they say they’re innocent of the charges against them.
- Their trial has been adjourned 29 times for lack of evidence, and was recently vacated after two days in court due to allegations that the police had not followed due process in obtaining evidence from one of the defendants. The trial is expected to resume in June. Meanwhile, deforestation is ramping up on Nende as logging roads multiply and displace the island’s old growth rainforest.


A new election brings little hope for Solomon Islands’ vanishing forests [05/17/2019]
- Longstanding allegations of corruption plague forest governance in the Solomon Islands, with residents and NGOs claiming government officials are allowing logging to illegally penetrate primary forests on community and ancestral land.
- Satellite data show several surges in deforestation across the country since the beginning of the year.
- Many were hoping the Solomon Islands’ recent national election would bring needed change. However, Manasseh Sogavare was elected Prime Minster last month, a move observers say is, at best, an extension of the status quo.
- In the meantime, mining companies appear to be moving in to extract mineral resources from areas that have been logged.


Red colobus conservation in Zanzibar: A cautiously optimistic tale [05/17/2019]
- Jozani-Chwaka Bay National Park was established in 2004 to protect the endangered Zanzibar red colobus.
- Initially met with conflict and resistance, the conservation project has now been embraced by local communities because they directly share in half of all tourism revenues.
- This kind of community forest management could prove a successful model for other conservation sites in Tanzania and beyond.


In Indonesia, a flawed certification scheme lets illegal loggers raze away [05/16/2019]
- The seizure of more than 400 containers of illegally logged timber in a series of busts since last December has shone a spotlight on Indonesia’s mechanism for certifying legal timber.
- Some of the wood has been traced back to companies certified under the country’s SVLK scheme. That’s the same scheme that the EU relies on to ensure that its imports of Indonesian timber are legally harvested.
- The seizures and findings by activists highlight increased illegal logging in the relatively pristine eastern Indonesian regions of Maluku and Papua.
- Companies engaged in illegal logging exploit a variety of methods, from cutting in abandoned concessions to using farmers’ groups and indigenous communities as fronts for harvesting in areas that would otherwise be off-limits for commercial logging.


’Green’ bonds finance industrial tree plantations in Brazil [05/16/2019]
- The Environmental Paper Network (EPN), a group of some 140 NGOs with the goal of making the pulp and paper industry more sustainable, released a briefing contending that green or climate bonds issued by Fibria, a pulp and paper company, went to maintaining and expanding plantations of eucalyptus trees.
- The report suggests that the Brazilian company inflated the amount of carbon that new planting would store.
- The author of the briefing also questions the environmental benefits of maintaining industrial monocultures of eucalyptus, a tree that requires a lot of water along with herbicides, pesticides and fertilizer that can impact local ecosystems and human communities.


At 2,624 years, a bald cypress is oldest known living tree in eastern North America [05/16/2019]
- One bald cypress tree (Taxodium distichum) growing along the Black River in the state of North Carolina in the United States is at least 2,624 years old as of 2018, a new study has found.
- This estimate, researchers say, makes it the oldest known living tree in eastern North America; the fifth oldest-known continuously living, sexually reproducing, non-clonal tree species; and the oldest known wetland tree species in the world.
- The trees’ growth rings serve as a valuable record of the region’s climate, including rainfall patterns.
- Large swaths of these ancient bald cypress stands still remain unprotected and need urgent conservation, researchers say.


Canopy-dwelling rainforest mammals most sensitive to human disturbance [05/15/2019]
- New research using arboreal camera traps finds that canopy-dwelling mammals are particularly sensitive to the impacts of human disturbance in rainforests and that these effects are easily missed by more traditional survey methods.
- Large-bodied arboreal species like the endangered Peruvian woolly monkey and the endangered black-faced spider monkey were found to be most impacted by forest disturbance, according to the study, published in the journal Diversity and Distributions last week.
- These larger primates are important seed dispersers for hardwood trees, which contribute disproportionately to the biomass of tropical forests. The loss of these species could thus lead to cascading ecosystems effects that might pose a significant threat to the carbon storage potential of degraded tropical forests.


An urban ‘butterfly experience’ in Sri Lanka [05/15/2019]
- A private sector initiative is setting up urban butterfly gardens in Sri Lanka, creating butterfly sanctuaries.
- The creator of the urban butterfly habitats is proposing the replication of his conservation model to support the survival of butterfly populations.
- Though there is high endemism, Sri Lanka’s butterflies are threatened by multiple causes including habitat loss, deforestation, climate change and increase in alien species.


The heat is on: Amazon tree loss could bring 1.45 degree C local rise [05/14/2019]
- A new modeling study finds that largely unrestricted “business-as-usual” Brazilian Amazon and Cerrado deforestation could result in the loss of an estimated 606,000 square kilometers of forest by 2050, leading to local temperature increases of up to 1.45 degrees Celsius, in addition to global rises in temperature.
- Under a Brazil Forest Code enforcement model, researchers predict deforestation would be limited to 79,000 square kilometers, with reforestation occurring over 110,000 square kilometers, leading to an average local increase of just 0.02 degrees Celsius.
- Researchers say loss of tree cover must be halted and reforestation program begun to protect people and wildlife, and curb regional warming.
- Reptiles and amphibians would be especially vulnerable to deforestation-triggered temperature rises and loss of humidity.


UK supermarkets implicated in Amazon deforestation supply chain: report [05/13/2019]
- Deforestation due to cattle ranching has increased in Brazil since 2014. With between 60 and 80 percent of deforested Amazon lands used for pasture, European retailers who source beef from Brazil risk amplifying Amazonian forest destruction unless international action is taken.
- A report from the UK organization Earthsight finds that UK supermarket chains — including Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons and Lidl — are still importing corned beef from Brazil’s largest beef producer, JBS, despite the company being implicated in a long string of corruption and illegal deforestation scandals over the last decade.
- JBS, one of the largest food companies in the world, has faced multiple corruption charges leading to the arrest of two of its former CEOs and was fined $8 million in 2017 for illegal deforestation in the Amazon.
- Many hope the forthcoming EU Communication on Stepping Up Action to Halt Deforestation will propose legislation to ensure EU companies and suppliers are not contributing to deforestation and human rights abuses. However, experts say such an agreement will only work if corporate standards are mandatory not voluntary.


Lions vs. porcupines: A thorny tale with a moral about man-eaters [05/10/2019]
- African lions do not usually feed on porcupines. However, in the absence of preferred prey like wildebeests, zebras and other ungulates, they can turn to the prickly rodents.
- Many of these encounters, according to a new study that documented 50 of them, don’t end well for the lions, which can be wounded or die from the quills.
- A lion wounded in a porcupine encounter, and thus impaired from hunting and feeding, may turn to hunting softer targets such as humans and cattle.
- The choice of porcupine as food also suggests the absence of other prey which may also lead a lion to prey on humans.


A Malagasy community races the timber mafia to save its forest [05/10/2019]
- The Vohibola forest is one of the last remaining primary forests along Madagascar’s eastern coast, supporting a large variety of endemic species found nowhere else on Earth.
- Under a renewed contract finalized this week the responsibility for its management was delegated to Razan’ny Vohibola, an association of volunteers from four surrounding villages.
- The task of protecting the forest, which is rapidly disappearing because of illegal logging, pits the local protectors against not just the timber mafia but also officials whom the villagers allege are complicit.
- Members of Razan’ny Vohibola were arrested in April on charges of aiding the illegal logging allegedly at the behest of corrupt officials, but released after the central environment ministry intervened.


Pressure mounts on EU to curb Brazilian deforestation, human rights abuses [05/09/2019]
- Concern is rising among Brazilian socioenvironmental NGOs and internationally over the new threats to indigenous people and rising deforestation seen under President Jair Bolsonaro — his administration completed its first 100 days in office in April.
- The EU is Brazil’s second largest trading partner, but currently lacks any binding trade regulations on agricultural goods linked to eliminating deforestation, reducing environmental degradation, and protecting against human rights violations.
- A new report by more than 20 NGOs — including FERN, Forest Peoples Programme, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, and Amazon Watch — is calling on the EU to include provisions in trade agreements now under negotiation, such as the EU/MERCOSUR agreement, that would fully protect forests and indigenous rights.


Dismantling of Brazilian environmental protections gains pace [05/08/2019]
- In his first 100 days in office, Jair Bolsonaro has moved fast to change personnel and reduce the authority of IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental agency, and ICMBio, which manages its conservation areas. His actions are seen as most benefiting ruralists — wealthy elite agribusiness and mining interests.
- Presidential Decree No. 9,760 creates “conciliation centers” to investigate environmental fines, and provides multiple new ways for appealing fines, while also preventing funds gathered via penalties from being distributed to NGOs for environmental projects.
- Some worry the government may use the new decree as a precedent for forgiving the hefty R$250 million (US$63.4 million) fine imposed by IBAMA on Brazil’s gigantic Vale mining company for environmental law infractions related to the Brumadinho tailings dam disaster, in which 235 people died.
- A large number of IBAMA staff have been fired, including 21 of its 27 regional superintendents, responsible for combating deforestation. Many of Bolsonaro’s replacements within the top ranks of the Environment Ministry, IBAMA and ICMBio are coming from the military.


‘To save a forest you have to destroy a nicer one’: U.S. Marines target forest in Guam [05/08/2019]
- The U.S. Marine Corps is building a base on Guam that will destroy 400 hectares (1,000 acres) of limestone forest, habitat for numerous endangered species.
- As mitigation, the military is funding forest “enhancement” to remove invasive species from fenced zones and restore seed dispersal by native birds.
- The fence’s success depends on maintenance into perpetuity, but biologists on Guam question how long funding will really last.


’Unprecedented’ loss of biodiversity threatens humanity, report finds [05/07/2019]
- The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services released a summary of far-reaching research on the threats to biodiversity on May 6.
- The findings are dire, indicating that around 1 million species of plants and animals face extinction.
- The full 1,500-page report, to be released later this year, raises concerns about the impacts of collapsing biodiversity on human well-being.


China, EU, US trading with Brazilian firms fined for Amazon deforestation: report [05/06/2019]
- Soy, cattle, timber and other commodity producers fined for Amazon illegal deforestation in Brazil continue to sell their products to companies in China, the European Union and United States according to a new report. The document names 23 importing companies, including giants Bunge, Cargill and Northwest Hardwoods.
- Large international investment firms, such as BlackRock, also continue to pump money into Brazilian firms, despite their being fined for illegal Amazon forest loss by the Brazilian government, according to the report. Many Brazilian producers deny the accuracy of the Amazon Watch document.
- Forest losses in the Brazilian Amazon jumped 54 percent in January 2019 compared to a year ago, and are expected to increase under the Bolsonaro administration which has announced plans for extensive environmental deregulation, and is making an aggressive push to develop the Amazon rainforest for agribusiness and mining.
- With Brazilian government checks on deforestation diminishing, many analysts feel that the only way to limit the loss of Amazon forests now will be to shed a bright light on global commodities supply chains in order to make consumers worldwide aware of the participation of international companies in deforestation.


Malaysia calls on Southeast Asia to back palm oil against ‘unfair’ claims [05/03/2019]
- The Malaysian government has called for support from fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to support the region’s palm oil industry in the wake of a European Union policy to stop recognizing the commodity as a biofuel.
- Malaysia and fellow ASEAN member Indonesia supply more than 80 percent of the world’s palm oil, while Singapore, another ASEAN state, is home to some of the world’s biggest palm oil companies and the banks that finance the industry.
- Malaysia’s minister of primary industries, Teresa Kok, says there’s a global campaign to portray the production of palm oil as exceptionally destructive, which she calls “extremely provocative and belittling.”
- While both the Malaysian and Indonesian governments have instated policies to curb the clearing of rainforest for palm plantations, there still remain challenges to ensuring sustainability across the wider industry, environmental activists say.


In Indonesia, bigger catches for a fishing village protecting its mangroves [05/03/2019]
- For years, weak law enforcement and low public awareness meant environmentally dangerous practices were commonly employed in countries like Indonesia.
- But local and national government reforms, combined with customary traditions and ambitious NGO programs, are beginning to address the problem.
- One village in western Borneo has seen a dramatic recovery in fish stocks after temporary fisheries closures were enacted.


Illegal logging poised to wipe Cambodian wildlife sanctuary off the map [05/02/2019]
- Beng Per Wildlife Sanctuary has lost more than 60 percent of its forest cover since it was established in 1993, with most of the loss occurring since 2010.
- A big driver behind the deforestation in Beng Per and in many other Cambodian protected areas was Economic Land Concessions (ELCs), which are areas of land – often in protected areas – allocated by the government to corporations aiming to invest in agriculture for short-term financial gains. Large areas of Beng Per were carved out for ELCs in 2011.
- While the Cambodian government stopped officially allocating ELCs in 2012, deforestation is still hitting the park hard as small-scale illegal logging gobbles up remaining forest outside ELC areas. And once the land is denuded, it’s considered fair game for new plantation development.
- Experts working on the ground say corruption is fuelling the widespread destruction of Cambodia’s forests, and is deeply entrenched in many different sectors including the federal government and local forest protection agencies.


Changing energy use in rural Africa with power from solar, clean stoves…and women [05/02/2019]
- Widespread use of fuelwood and charcoal for cooking and heating is a notable barrier to achieving development and conservation goals in sub-Saharan Africa, yet previous attempts at introducing better fuel technologies have largely failed.
- To address energy use at the source, recent efforts are underway that seek to improve adoption of new technologies, such as solar-powered equipment or efficient cookstoves, in rural communities.
- Rather than impose a new method or technology onto a community, encouraging behavior change by wrapping the technology in a collaborative or entrepreneurial envelope could encourage longer-lasting change.


It’s now or never for Madagascar’s biodiversity, experts say [05/02/2019]
- As Madagascar’s recently elected president completed his first 100 days in office, experts identify five priority areas for conservation.
- In a new comment piece in Nature Sustainability, the experts highlight the need for setting conservation goals that are aligned with the sustainable development of the country.
- Strengthening the rights of local people and the rule of law is key to successful conservation, the authors say.
- Urgent steps include tackling environmental crime, investing in protected areas, and mitigating environmental impacts from infrastructure development.


Huge rubber plantation in Cameroon halts deforestation following rebuke [05/01/2019]
- A massive rubber plantation operated by rubber supply group Halcyon Agri through its subsidiary Sudcam has come under fire in recent years for what many say are unsustainable environmental practices, lack of transparency, and negative impacts on local communities. Reports document the displacement of indigenous communities to make way for development, and felling has occurred right up against the intact rainforest of Cameroon’s Dja Faunal Reserve.
- Initially silent about the rebuke of Sudcam, Halcyon unveiled a number of sustainability measures late last year and has actively sought to open a dialogue with NGOs. In response to criticisms, the company issued a “cease and desist” order on logging in Sudcam, developed a Sustainable Natural Rubber Supply Chain Policy, and created an independent Sustainability Council.
- Satellite imagery indicates no further clearing has happened since the deforestation ban was issued in Dec. 2018.
- Representatives of conservation NGOs that have been critical of the plantation in the past say they are pleased with Halcyon Agri’s response, and hope that the company will continue to improve conditions at its Sudcam plantation.


Controversial aquaculture projects threaten Myanmar’s remaining mangroves [05/01/2019]
- Business tycoons have illegally obtained land permits to develop aquaculture in Tanintharyi without consulting the forestry department for input.
- Villagers living nearby say the aquaculture facilities impact water quality and their ability to fish.
- Authorities are looking more closely at the development of aquaculture in Tanintharyi following a visit in March by the state counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi, who spoke with locals complaining about the impacts of the industry on their daily lives.


Western chimp numbers revised up to 53,000, but development threats loom [05/01/2019]
- A new survey of data from the IUCN’s Apes Database indicates that there are nearly 53,000 western chimpanzees in West Africa.
- The number is significantly higher than previous estimates, which placed the population closer to 35,000, but the subspecies remains categorized as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.
- The authors of the study say their findings can help governments in the region ensure that proposed infrastructure projects do as little harm to the remaining chimpanzee populations as possible.


Why Myanmar villagers still engage in illegal logging of mangroves [04/30/2019]
- The Irrawaddy Delta of Myanmar used to be rich in mangroves, but only 20 percent of the original coverage remains today.
- Although it’s illegal to log mangrove wood, people who live in villages without electricity still cut the increasingly fragmented mangrove forests of the delta for fuelwood for cooking.
- Logging isn’t just physically dangerous; it’s also legally risky.
- Fuel-efficient stoves, access to alternative fuels, and opportunities for employment could help reduce the amount of illegal logging of mangroves.


Amazon fish kill at Sinop spotlights risk from 80+ Tapajós basin dams [04/29/2019]
- Evidence shows that a 2019 fish kill in which 13 tons of dead fish were found in Brazil’s Teles Pires River was likely caused by anoxia (lack of oxygen) created by the filling of the Sinop dam’s reservoir by the Sinop HPP consortium (which includes French and Brazilian firms responsible for construction and operation).
- Scientists and environmentalists had warned of this and other ecological risks, but their calls for caution were ignored by regulators and resisted by the builder. Only 30 percent of vegetation was removed from the area of the reservoir, rather than the 100 percent required by law, which helped cause the die-off.
- The concern now is that similar incidents could occur elsewhere. There are at least 80 hydroelectric plants planned for the Juruena / Teles Pires basin alone — one of the Brazilian Amazon’s most important watersheds.
- Of immediate concern is the Castanheira dam on the Arinos River to be built by the federal Energy Research Company (EPE). Critics fear that, under the Jair Bolsonaro government, environmental licensing and construction will advance despite serious threats posed to indigenous reserves and the environment.


Meet the winners of the 2019 Goldman Environmental Prize [04/29/2019]
- This year is the 30th anniversary of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize.
- Also called the Green Nobel Prize, the annual award honors grassroots environmental heroes from six continental regions: Europe, Asia, North America, Central and South America, Africa, and islands and island nations.
- This year’s winners are Alfred Brownell from Liberia, Bayarjargal Agvaantseren from Mongolia, Ana Colovic Lesoska from North Macedonia, Jacqueline Evans from the Cook Islands, Alberto Curamil from Chile, and Linda Garcia from the United States.


Brazil Supreme Court land demarcation decision sparks indigenous protest [04/26/2019]
- On January 1, the first day of his presidency, Jair Bolsonaro issued a provisional measure (MP 870) shifting decision-making power regarding indigenous reserve demarcations from Funai, Brazil’s indigenous agency, to the Ministry of Agriculture.
- MP 870 was quickly challenged as unconstitutional in Brazil’s Supreme Court, but on April 24 Supreme Court Justice Roberto Barroso rejected that challenge, though he did agree that if the Agriculture Ministry failed to carry through with indigenous demarcations in future, further legal action could go forward at that time.
- At their annual encampment in Brasilia from April 24-26, approximately 4,500 indigenous people from across Brazil protested Barroso’s demarcation decision by marching on the Supreme Court building. During the three-day encampment, indigenous groups also protested Bolsonaro’s plan to allow mining and agribusiness within indigenous reserves.
- Of special concern to indigenous people is the administration’s move toward adopting a policy of assimilation, which could result in the erosion of indigenous autonomy within ancestral reserves, and the absorption of indigenous cultures and traditions into Brazil’s predominant culture.


That Malagasy forest featured in Netflix’s ‘Our Planet’? It’s vanishing fast [04/26/2019]
- Parts of the Netflix series “Our Planet,” released this month, were shot in Kirindy Forest in the Menabe Antimena protected area in western Madagascar.
- It’s a biodiversity-rich area that supports plant and animal species found nowhere else, including baobabs, lemurs and fossas.
- Between the shooting for the series in 2016 and its release in 2019, a large patch of the forest was lost, including areas where filming took place.
- This reflects a larger trend of deforestation in the area and in Madagascar, which is experiencing massive deforestation pressure.


Stinging ants: Amazon indigenous group girds itself to hold ancestral lands [04/25/2019]
- The ancestral home of the Sateré-Mawé indigenous group is the Andirá-Marau Indigenous Reserve, an officially demarcated, heavily forested region covering 780,000 hectares (3,011 square miles) in Amazonas and Pará states, Brazil.
- The reserve itself — along with indigenous villages around it that were not included in the demarcated area — are increasingly under attack from illegal loggers and land grabbers.
- To steel themselves against the challenges posed by invading outsiders, and to create unity among their tribal groups, Sateré young men participate in a ritual known as Waumat, in which they endure the painful bites of stinging ants.
- They also renew their commitment to active resistance through dances and songs that celebrate myths, past wars, victories, losses, and terrible exploitation by the colonial Portuguese. The Sateré are feeling especially challenged today by the anti-indigenous rhetoric and policies of the rightist Bolsonaro administration.


The world lost a Belgium-size area of old growth rainforest in 2018 [04/25/2019]
- Newly released data indicate the tropics lost around 120,000 square kilometers (around 46,300 square miles) of tree cover last year – or an area of forest the size of Nicaragua.
- The data indicate 36,400 square kilometers of this loss – an area the size of Belgium – occurred in primary forest. This number is an increase over the annual average, and the third-highest amount since data collection began.
- Indonesia primary forest loss dropped to the lowest level recorded since 2002. Brazil’s numbers are also down compared to the last two years, but still higher than the 18-year average.
- Meanwhile, primary rainforest deforestation appears to be on the rise elsewhere. Colombia recorded the highest level since measurement began at the beginning of the century. Madagascar had the highest proportion of its tropical forest lost in 2018; Ghana experienced the biggest proportional change over 2017.


Bolsonaro draws battle lines in fight over Amazon indigenous lands [04/24/2019]
- Parintins, site of Brazil’s big annual indigenous festival, is typical of towns in the Brazilian Amazon. The Sateré, and other indigenous groups living or working there, often endure discrimination and work analogous to slavery. Civil rights are few and indigenous populations inhabit the bottom rung of the economic ladder.
- Now more than ever, indigenous groups fear the loss of their cultural heritage and land rights as guaranteed under the 1988 Brazilian Constitution. New president Jair Bolsonaro wants to achieve indigenous societal “assimilation,” a process by which an ethnic minority group’s traditional way of life and livelihoods is erased.
- The strongest advocates of indigenous assimilation are the ruralistas, rural wealthy elites and agribusiness producers, who have the most to gain via access to the timber, land and mineral wealth found within indigenous territories. The bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby is strong in Congress, and it supports Bolsonaro.
- The Sateré, along with other indigenous groups, have endured a long history marked by extermination and exploitation. Brazil’s 900,000 indigenous people are increasingly joining together to fight the anti-indigenous policies proposed by the Bolsonaro administration and supported by the ruralists.


Not in my backyard: Indonesian official fights corrupt palm concession [04/24/2019]
- A district chief in Indonesia is seeking to overturn a decision by the environment ministry to approve a request that would allow a palm oil company to clear forest for plantation in Buol district, on the island of Sulawesi.
- The case has been controversial since the start, with the company initially being awarded the concession after bribing the previous district chief for the permit.
- The recent approval also goes against a moratorium issued last year on the issuance of permits for new plantations.
- However, the environment minister exploited loopholes in a pair of regulations to push through the approval, despite the opposition of the Buol administration and residents.


Camera trap study finds a threatened high-elevation mammal community in Peru [04/23/2019]
- A new camera trap study, the results of which were published in the journal Oryx last week, seeks to fill in the gaps in our knowledge of the Cerros del Sira’s mammalian inhabitants.
- An international team of scientists from Peru and the UK led by Ruthmery Pillco Huarcaya, a biologist at Peru’s National University of Cusco, deployed 45 camera traps from 2015 to 2016 in the Sira Communal Reserve, part of the Oxapampa-Asháninka-Yánesha Biosphere Reserve.
- Aside from revealing the distribution of and threats to the Cerros del Sira’s mammal community, the results of the camera trap survey led to a number of other insights.


Peat protection rule may be a double-edged sword for Indonesia’s forests [04/22/2019]
- A government regulation issued in 2016 requires logging companies to restore peat with protected status in their concessions, mostly in Sumatra, and prohibits them from developing on it.
- But activists say this prohibition threatens a massive supply shortfall for two of the world’s biggest paper producers, which they warn could push the companies to source wood from unprotected forests in other parts of Indonesia.
- Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) and Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) face a supply crunch of up to 30 percent and 25 percent respectively, according to an analysis by NGOs.
- Both companies dispute this finding, saying their supplies remain secure even as they seek to boost their output.


Singapore acquits trader in world’s biggest rosewood bust, worth $50m [04/19/2019]
- On April 8, Singapore’s highest court acquitted a businessman who brought Malagasy rosewood valued at $50 million into the city-state in 2014, one of the largest wildlife seizures in the history of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES).
- The move reversed the ruling of a lower court that had sentenced the businessman to jail time and imposed $1 million in fines for importing protected wildlife.
- The court ordered Singapore authorities to return the rosewood to the businessman and his firm “as soon as practicable.”
- Environmental groups have been looking on anxiously as the case wound its way through Singapore’s courts for nearly five years, only to be disappointed by the final verdict.


Rise in crocodile sightings linked to habitat degradation in Indonesia [04/18/2019]
- The capture of a saltwater crocodile by Indonesian villagers last February was the latest in a series of increasingly frequent — and occasionally deadly — sightings of the reptiles near human settlements.
- The animal was eventually released by the local conservation agency into an unsettled area.
- Conservation officials say the destruction of the crocodiles’ habitat by blast fishing and conversion of coastal areas into farms may be driving the animals out of the wild and closer to villages.
- Officials have called on villagers not to harm the animals if they catch them, given that they’re a protected species under Indonesian law.


Shade or sun? Forest structure affects tree responses to Amazon drought [04/17/2019]
- Large-scale satellite data has shown that while large trees expand their crown during the dry season, small trees drop leaves – possibly due to limited light availability in the shaded understory. A new study finds that tree response to dry weather is far more complex, influenced by exposure to the sun and root depth.
- Detailed measurements of leaf growth and leaf loss during the annual dry season and extreme drought events shows that small trees respond differently to water deprivation depending on their surrounding environment – shaded trees gain leaves but exposed trees tend to lose them, a possible sign of dehydration stress.
- Two novel study approaches revealed a complex pattern of leaf growth and loss in response to dry weather: ground-based lidar imaging that produced high-resolution 2D image slices of forest structure, and statistical division of data based on an understory tree’s distance from the canopy top, rather than from the ground up.
- Losing leaves could spell death for individual trees, but these small-scale changes can also impact transpiration and have consequences for regional weather patterns and regional climate change. Also, importantly, degraded forests, with many open clearings, could be less resilient to worsening Amazon drought.


IUCN calls for moratorium on projects impacting rarest great ape species [04/17/2019]
- The IUCN has cited “ongoing and new threats” to the Tapanuli orangutan, found in a single forest ecosystem in northern Sumatra, to call for a suspension and reassessment of projects being undertaken within the ape’s habitat.
- With a population of no more than 800 individuals, the Tapanuli orangutan is the world’s rarest and most threatened great ape species.
- Roads through the Batang Toru ecosystem where it lives have fragmented the orangutan’s population.
- The most high-profile threat is a planned hydropower plant and dam in the ape’s habitat, which scientists and conservationists have increasingly called to be halted.


A park in Bolivia bears the brunt of a plan to export electricity [04/17/2019]
- A 290-megawatt hydroelectric dam is under construction in Bolivia’s highly biodiverse Carrasco National Park.
- The project is one of several intended to create energy for export, likely to Brazil and Argentina.
- Experts have questioned whether approval should have been given to build a dam in a protected area, especially given the fact that 500 hectares (1,235 acres) of land are due to be cleared.
- The area is home to as many as 700 bird and 3,000 plant species.


Amazon could be biggest casualty of US-China Trade war, researchers warn [04/16/2019]
- The US is the world’s largest soy producer and historically has exported the majority of its soybeans to China.
- But after President Donald Trump’s high China tariffs resulted in a Chinese retaliation of a 25 percent import tariff on US agricultural goods last year, United States soy exports to China dropped 50 percent, and Chinese imports of Brazilian soybeans increased significantly.
- Soy production has been linked to large-scale deforestation in the Amazon rainforest and Cerrado savanna — Brazil’s two largest and ecologically most important biomes.
- If the US/China trade war continues, new research suggests that the amount of land dedicated to soy production in Brazil could increase by up to 39 percent in order to fill Chinese demand, causing new deforestation by up to 13 million hectares (50,139 square miles) of forest, an area the size of Greece, researchers estimate.


Deforested habitats leave migratory birds ill-prepared for journey north [04/15/2019]
- Migratory birds are experiencing precipitous population declines due to land-use change in Central and South America.
- These birds rely on forested areas in their southern overwintering grounds for sustenance, but these have been widely replaced by less hospitable agricultural landscapes.
- Some vulnerable migratory birds use tropical hardwood plantations at the same rate as forests, making these for-profit agricultural lands an attractive prospect for conservation, especially in contrast with poorer habitats like cattle pasture.
- Agroforestry solutions, such as the retention of tall trees, can also provide habitat for at-risk species like the golden-winged warbler while providing ecosystem services to farmers.


Palm oil, logging firms the usual suspects as Indonesia fires flare anew [04/15/2019]
- Fires have flared up once again on concessions held by palm oil and logging companies in Riau province on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
- For many of the companies involved, this isn’t the first time fires have sprung up on their land, prompting activists to question the government’s ability to enforce its own regulations against slash-and-burn forest clearing.
- Much of the affected area is peat forest, some of it being developed in violation of a ban on exploiting deep peatland, whose burning releases massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
- A failure by the government to collect on fines levied against the few companies prosecuted for setting fires on their concessions means there’s little deterrent effect for other companies that see slash-and-burn as the cheapest way to raze forests for plantations.


Deforestation diminishes access to clean water, study finds [04/15/2019]
- A recent study compared deforestation data and information on household access to clean water in Malawi.
- The scientists found that the country lost 14 percent of its forest between 2000 and 2010, which had the same effect on access to safe drinking water as a 9 percent decrease in rainfall.
- With higher rainfall variability expected in today’s changing climate, the authors suggest that a larger area of forest in countries like Malawi could be a buffer against the impacts of climate change.


How a sheriff in Brazil is using satellites to stop deforestation [04/12/2019]
- When Leonardo Brito became chief of police at the Police Specialized in Crimes Against the Environment (DEMA) in Brazil’s Amapá stated, he noticed that the department hardly ever investigated environmental crimes. The reason: locating isolated illegal deforestation events in Amapá’s Nepal-size rainforest was like finding a needle in a haystack.
- So Brito started researching methods to make this easier. In the process, he discovered the online forest monitoring platform Global Forest Watch and its mobile app, Forest Watcher. These tools visualize areas of tree cover loss detected by satellites.
- Using Forest Watcher, DEMA has been able to detect 5,000 areas of deforestation in Amapá and conduct more than 50 operations combatting illegal deforestation over the past eight months.
- Brito and his team are sharing their knowledge and techniques with environmental police and conservation officials in other states.


‘It’s getting worse’: National parks in Honduras hit hard by palm oil [04/11/2019]
- Production of oil palm has risen by nearly 560 percent in Honduras over the past two decades, making the country the eighth-largest producer worldwide and number three in the Americas.
- By 2010, Jeanette Kawas National Park, which sits along the coast in northern Honduras, had lost approximately 40 square kilometers (15 square miles) to oil palm plantations. Nearby Punta Izopo National Park and Cuero y Salado National Park lost more than 8 percent and 4 percent of their tree cover, respectively, between 2001 and 2017.
- Small-scale farmers, some living legally within park borders, are clearing deeper and deeper sections of forest. A growing number of residents are cultivating small-scale oil palm plantations and have become off-the-books suppliers for companies operating in the area, which has become a source of serious concern for conservation organizations.
- Local officials say that due to bureaucratic red tape, cutting down even illegally planted oil palm trees can put them at risk of legal repercussions, making it difficult to restore forest after it’s been converted to oil palm plantations.


Scientists urge overhaul of the world’s parks to protect biodiversity [04/11/2019]
- A team of scientists argues that we should evaluate the effectiveness of protected areas based on the outcomes for biodiversity, not simple the area of land or ocean they protect.
- In a paper published April 11 in the journal Science, they outline the weaknesses of Aichi Biodiversity Target 11, which set goals of protecting 17 percent of the earth’s surface and 10 percent of its oceans by 2020.
- They propose monitoring the outcomes of protected areas that measure changes in biodiversity in comparison to agreed-upon “reference” levels and then using those figures to determine how well they are performing.


EU consumption drives ‘import’ of tropical deforestation [04/11/2019]
- A new study has calculated that one-sixth of the carbon footprint of the average diet in the EU can be directly linked to deforestation in tropical countries.
- Although many developed countries have achieved stable forest cover, researchers found that one-third of net forest gains in these “post-forest transition” countries were offset by imports of commodities causing deforestation elsewhere.
- In the face of growing criticism, the EU is preparing to launch a new initiative to tackle imported commodities directly linked to deforestation.


Indonesia’s threat to exit Paris accord over palm oil seen as cynical ploy [04/11/2019]
- A top Indonesian minister says the country may consider pulling out of the Paris climate agreement in retaliation for a European policy to phase out palm oil from biofuels by 2030.
- Luhut Pandjaitan, the coordinating minister for maritime affairs, says Indonesia, the world’s biggest producer of palm oil, can follow in the footsteps of the United States, which has declared its withdrawal from the climate pact, and Brazil, which is considering doing the same.
- The threat is the latest escalation in a diplomatic spat that has also seen Indonesia and Malaysia, the No. 2 palm oil producer, threaten retaliatory trade measures against the European Union.
- The EU says its policy is driven by growing consumer concerns about the sustainability of palm oil, which in Indonesia is often grown on plantations for which vast swaths of rainforest have had to be cleared.


Madagascar: Rio Tinto mine breaches sensitive wetland [04/09/2019]
- A large mineral sands mine in southeastern Madagascar has trespassed into a “sensitive zone,” violating national law and raising the possibility that radionuclide-enriched tailings could enter a lake that local people use for drinking water, two recent studies confirm.
- Rio Tinto, the London-based multinational that owns the mine, acknowledged the breach for the first time in a March 23 memo, more than five years after the breach initially occurred.
- Rio Tinto will hold its annual general meeting April 10 in London.
- The director of an NGO that commissioned one of the studies is a shareholder and said she hopes to speak about what’s happened at the lake.


Natural forests best bet for fighting climate change, analysis finds [04/09/2019]
- Natural forests store more carbon for longer compared to plantations and agroforestry.
- The carbon sequestration potential of natural forests is 40 times greater than that of plantations, a new analysis has found.
- But countries like Brazil, China and Indonesia are relying more on expanding plantations to meet their regreening goals.
- About 66 percent of forest restoration commitments in tropical and subtropical countries involve planting some kind of agricultural crop.


3 massacres in 12 days: Rural violence escalates in Brazilian Amazon [04/08/2019]
- The Amazon has seen 3 probable massacres in 12 days — likely a record for the region — as violence has exploded in areas of heavy deforestation where the building of large dams has brought a capital infusion, sent land prices soaring, and invited land speculation by land grabbers, loggers and ranchers.
- A Brazilian landless movement peasant leader and a leading dam activist are among those killed. The attacks have been concentrated in areas centered around the Belo Monte mega-dam; in the Madeira basin near the Jirau dam; and near the Tucuruí dam on the Tocantins River in Pará state.
- Investigations are ongoing, but early reports are that at least 9 people are dead, with some witnesses saying more have been killed, especially rural landless peasant workers. Before becoming president, Jair Bolsonaro expressed strong hostility against the landless peasant movement (Movimento dos Sem Terra, or MST).
- The Bolsonaro Administration has yet to condemn or comment significantly on the recent wave of killings. As of this article’s publication, the international community has taken little notice of the spike in violence.


Study concludes that nature benefits when more women make land management decisions [04/08/2019]
- A study led by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) and published in the journal Nature Climate Change last month explored whether or not gender quotas for local governing bodies could help reduce deforestation while addressing local inequalities at the same time.
- For the study, researchers traveled to 31 villages near collectively managed forests in three developing countries — Indonesia, Peru, and Tanzania — and asked 440 forest users in those communities to play a tabletop simulation game in which they had to make decisions about how many trees to harvest from a shared forest. The participants were divided into groups of eight, and half the groups were required to have women as 50 percent of their members. The other half of the groups had no gender quotas.
- The authors write in the study that their results “show that gender quotas make interventions more effective and lead to more equal sharing of intervention benefits.”


Climb confirms that the world’s tallest tropical tree tops 100 meters [04/07/2019]
- A team of scientists has found and mapped the tallest tree on record in the tropics, standing at more than 100 meters (328 feet).
- Climber Unding Jami with the South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership scaled the tree and verified its height.
- The structure of the tree, determined from airborne lidar surveys as well as laser scans from the ground and drone photographs, provides insight into why these trees grow so high.


Brazil soy trade linked to widespread deforestation, carbon emissions [04/03/2019]
- Recent data released by the Brazilian government’s Prodes deforestation satellite monitoring system found that 220,000 square kilometers in the Amazon and Cerrado biomes were deforested between 2006 and 2017.
- Roughly 10 percent of that land was then used to grow soy, a native vegetation conversion of at least 21,000 square kilometres (with over 17,000 of that in the Cerrado), according to the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and Global Canopy’s Trase platform, which analyze commodities supply chains.
- Clearing native vegetation releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, while crop plantations store less CO2 – a one-two punch hindering efforts to curb climate change. About 140,000 square kilometers of Cerrado were lost from 2006-2017, releasing 210 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions (CO2e).
- The majority of Brazil’s soy is produced for export. So experts say the best way to protect the Cerrado under the Bolsonaro administration will be for commodities companies and NGOs to create market incentives. Plans now under consideration suggest momentum is building to protect Brazil’s most vulnerable ecoregion.


Video: Scientists surprised to discover tiny toadlets can glow [03/29/2019]
- Pumpkin toadlets (Brachycephalus ephippium) inhabit Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, where they crawl through the leaf litter in search of mates.
- However, researchers found that they can’t hear their own high-frequency mating calls.
- While investigating how they communicate to find mates, the researchers unexpectedly discovered that the frogs fluoresce when exposed to UV light.
- The researchers aren’t sure why they do this, but say it could be a way to avoid predation or attract mates.


Meet Mini mum, Mini ature, Mini scule: Tiny new frogs from Madagascar [03/28/2019]
- Researchers have named three previously undescribed, extremely small species of frogs from Madagascar Mini mum, Mini ature, and Mini scule. All of them belong to Mini, a genus that is entirely new to science.
- The new study describes two more species of tiny frogs, Rhombophryne proportionali, and Anodonthyla eximia, both smaller than thumbnails, just like the Minis.
- The newly described frogs from Madagascar are, however, known only from a handful of locations. While the researchers recommend placing three of the species in a threatened category of the IUCN Red List, two species are data deficient.


How land grabbers co-opt indigenous ritual traditions in Papua: Q&A with anthropologist Sophie Chao [03/28/2019]
- Industrial-scale agriculture poses considerable risk to the indigenous peoples of Papua, whose culture and livelihoods are closely linked to the region’s extensive rainforest.
- Last November, Mongabay and The Gecko Project published an investigative article exposing the murky dealings underpinning a mega-plantation project in Papua, as part of our series Indonesia for Sale.
- Anthropologist Sophie Chao has studied the often fraught relationship between Papuans and plantation firms, and the mechanisms through which indigenous people are compelled to give up their land.


New report lays out low-carbon development path for Indonesia [03/28/2019]
- The Indonesian government published a report showing how the country could reap tremendous economic benefits by transitioning to a low-carbon economy.
- According to the report, a low-carbon development path could deliver an average of 6 percent GDP growth per year until 2045, with continued gains in employment, income growth and poverty reduction.
- This strategy would also cut the country’s greenhouse gas emissions nearly 43 percent by 2030, exceeding Indonesia’s international climate target.
- The low-carbon model would require Indonesia to cut its reliance on coal, whereas the government’s current plan is to build more coal-fired power plants.


Leading Amazon dam rights activist, spouse and friend murdered in Brazil [03/27/2019]
- Dilma Ferreira Silva, long time regional coordinator of the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB) in the Tucuruí region of Pará state, was brutally murdered last Friday at her home, along with her husband, Claudionor Costa da Silva, and Hilton Lopes, a friend.
- Silva was one of 32,000 people displaced during the construction of the Tucuruí mega-dam. The internationally recognized activist has in recent years been pushing the Brazilian government to adopt legislation establishing the rights of those displaced by dams, providing them with compensation; the government has so far done little to create such laws.
- The killers of public officials, environmentalists, landless movement and indigenous activists in the Amazon are rarely found or brought to justice. However, in this case, Civil Police have arrested a large landowner, farmer and businessman, Fernando Ferreira Rosa Filho, known as Fernando Shalom.
- While the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and deputies in the Brazilian Congress, have condemned the killing of dam activist Silva, her husband and friend, the Bolsonaro administration has failed to issue a statement of any kind.


No more fires in Indonesia? Blazes on Sumatran peatland say otherwise [03/27/2019]
- Forest fires have flared up in Sumatra again this dry season, belying the government’s claims that it has brought the annual problem under control.
- All of the fires recorded so far have been on peat forests, a carbon-rich terrain that a slew of government policies have specifically targeted for restoration and protection since the disastrous fire season of 2015.
- Environmental activists say there’s no transparency to gauge how well peat restoration efforts are progressing, and little engagement with NGOs on the ground.
- They warn of a continuation of the “business-as-usual” approach that sees the government typically only respond to fires after they’ve broken out.


How digital technologies can transform nature conservation engagement (commentary) [03/26/2019]
- At this crucial time, a digital leap can provide an opportunity to drastically improve individuals’ engagement in nature conservation by addressing the gaps in the current customer experience preventing more people from getting involved.
- Our market research indicates that 82 percent of donors do not fully know where their money is going or whether is having an impact. Donors get frustrated by their inability to track the impact of their donation and select the specific location, project, or wildlife they would like to support. This limited user experience lags behind digital norms and makes it particularly challenging to compel more people to get involved.
- People should not have to sacrifice transparency and ease-of-use to reap the benefits of supporting nature conservation. With advanced consumer demands and technology trends, there is an opportunity for improved engagement models that address the current gaps.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Malaysian state chief: Highway construction must not destroy forest [03/26/2019]
- The chief minister of Sabah, one of two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo, said that the Pan Borneo Highway project should expand existing roads where possible to minimize environmental impact.
- A coalition of local NGOs and scientific organizations applauded the announcement, saying that it could usher in a new era of collaboration between the government and civil society to look out for Sabah’s people and forests.
- These groups have raised concerns about the impacts on wildlife and communities of the proposed path of the highway, which will cover some 5,300 kilometers (3,300 miles) in the states of Sabah and Sarawak.


Sergio Rojas Ortiz, leader of Costa Rica’s indigenous Bribri, slain by gunmen [03/26/2019]
- Sergio Rojas Ortiz, leader of the Bribri indigenous people, was murdered at his home in the indigenous territory of Salitre in Costa Rica on the night of March 18.
- Rojas, who was a coordinator of the Frente Nacional de Pueblos Indígenas, or the National Front of Indigenous People (FRENAPI), was leading a movement to reclaim indigenous land from non-indigenous settlers — a fight that had resulted in numerous death threats to him and others in the past.
- In a statement, FRENAPI said it placed full responsibility for Rojas’s murder on the government of President Carlos Alvarado Quesada, and demanded “an immediate explanation of this latest incident of blood and violence against the Indigenous people of Costa Rica.”


Brazil fails to give adequate public access to Amazon land title data, study finds [03/25/2019]
- Brazil possesses vast tracts of public lands, especially in the Amazon, which exist in the public domain. Traditional peoples, landless movements, quilombolas (communities established more than a century ago by Afro-Brazilian slave descendants), and other homesteaders have the legal right to lay claim to these lands.
- It is the job of state land tenure agencies to keep track of these public lands, regulating the allocation of land and property rights to secure protection for individuals and communities against forcible evictions, and to monitor against illegal deforestation, large illegal land grabs and other illicit activities.
- However, a recent study found that none of eight Amazonian states met all the mandated transparency criteria. Active transparency indicators (data accessible on the internet or via public documents) were missing 56 percent of the time. Passive transparency indicators (data available on request) fared poorly as well.
- The inefficiency of land tenure agencies in providing land titling information contributes to numerous land conflicts, and increases insecurity in the countryside. The lack of transparency also enhances the possibility of fraud. When the poor are deprived of rightful land title data, the wealthy often have the upper hand if land disputes go to court.


Hard news from the Soft Commodities Forum (commentary) [03/21/2019]
- Something very significant for conservation happened recently, but only a few media outlets picked up on it. You can kind of understand why: a commitment by a group of soy traders to “a common framework for reporting, monitoring and progress on transparent and traceable supply chains for soy in Brazil’s Cerrado region” doesn’t exactly set pulses racing.
- Somebody needs to have a word with the communications staff at the companies involved: they would have been better advised to frame it as “Major global soy traders go beyond deforestation commitments to cover all ecosystems for the first time, in a place that actually matters to their business.”
- The commitment in the Cerrado is a big deal, but there is still a lot to be done. Knowing how much a trader is sourcing from the Cerrado is only a first step. The next and more important step is knowing how much of that sourcing is conversion-free and driving that percentage up over time.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


‘Nothing was left’: Flash floods, landslides hit Indonesia’s Papua region [03/21/2019]
- Flash floods and landslides triggered by torrential rain hit Indonesia’s Cyclops Mountains in Papua province on March 17, killing nearly 90 people and displacing thousands.
- The country’s disaster mitigation agency has cited human-caused deforestation as contributing to the scale of the damage.
- Indonesia’s environment ministry has called for a review of zoning plans for the housing settlements around the Cyclops Mountains, but denies that massive logging has occurred in the area.


Companies to miss 2020 zero-deforestation deadline, report says [03/21/2019]
- Major companies around the world with a self-imposed deadline of ending tropical deforestation in their supply chains by 2020 won’t meet the target, a report released for International Forest Day says.
- The “Forest 500” report is an annual assessment of the zero-deforestation commitments made by 350 companies involved in four commodities — cattle, palm oil, soy and timber — and the 150 financial institutions bankrolling them.
- Those commodities are responsible for the bulk of agricultural expansion in Latin America and Southeast Asia. Agricultural expansion, in turn, is responsible for most of the deforestation in these regions.
- The report calls on the companies it assesses to do more to ensure their actions match their rhetoric on ending deforestation, regardless of the unlikelihood of meeting the 2020 deadline.


In Ethiopia, women and faith drive effort to restore biodiversity [03/20/2019]
- In Addis Ababa, approximately 35 percent of the household fuelwood – mainly eucalyptus – is systematically gathered from the Entoto Mountains just outside the city.
- Ethiopia historically planted large areas with fast-growing eucalyptus, a non-native species, to meet the demand for fuelwood. But the trees’ water-hogging nature has had a destructive impact on the land.
- There are efforts to reforest areas with native species, supported by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which has a tradition of maintaining tree gardens throughout the country.


Mongabay’s top 5 forests stories of 2019 (so far) for International Forests Day [03/20/2019]
Rainforest in Malaysian Borneo. Photo by Rhett A. Butler for Mongabay.Forests have been at the core of Mongabay’s coverage since our founding 20 years ago. So for the International Day of Forests 2019, below are the top 5 most read stories about forests published so far this year at our site, in no particular order. You can also read all of our stories about forests […]

Tapirs could be key in helping degraded rainforests bounce back [03/20/2019]
- A new study has found that lowland tapirs spend more time in degraded forests than in pristine Amazon rainforest.
- They also defecate and deposit three times more seeds in these degraded areas.
- The results indicate that tapirs may help human-affected forests recover and grow back.


Bolsonaro on the move: International meetings push agribusiness agenda [03/20/2019]
- On his first trip outside Brazil to meet with a head of state, Jair Bolsonaro met with Donald Trump at the White House this week. Bolsonaro also visited the CIA and dined with Trump former strategist Steve Bannon, believed to have had a role in helping Bolsonaro get elected.
- Bolsonaro and Trump are known to have discussed trade, but their meeting was conducted in secret. Bolsonaro, dubbed the “Trump of the Tropics,” has long expressed his interest in stronger U.S. relations, though Brazil’s agriculture minister is also courting China (U.S./China trade relations remain frosty, and Brazil hopes to sell more of its soy to the Asian nation).
- In a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Bolsonaro stated that the Brazilian government wants more agreements with the United States in a number of areas, especially mining and agriculture. He added that there is much to be discovered in the Amazon, a likely reference to untapped resources and agribusiness possibilities there.
- During the visit, a letter of intent was signed between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Ministry of the Environment (MMA) “to work toward the launch of the first-ever biodiversity-focused impact-investment fund for the Brazilian Amazon,” with the US$100 million fund to be financed largely by the private sector.


Brazil’s key deforestation drivers: Pasture, cropland, land speculation [03/19/2019]
- New research shows that the expansion of cropland (row crops) in Brazil nearly doubled between 2000 and 2014, from 26 million hectares (100,387 square miles) to 46.5 million hectares (179,538 square miles).
- 80 percent of new cropland in Brazil came as a result of the conversion of pastures, while only 20 percent resulted from the direct conversion of native vegetation to croplands, especially soy.
- However, while pastureland “absorbs” cropland expansion, and displaces it away from forests, studies show Brazilian deforestation to be most highly driven by land speculation, whereby land speculators deforest an area, possibly selling off the timber, then converting the land to pasture, and then again quickly selling the land to a soy producer at a much increased price.
- Study data also confirmed a strong correlation between the implementation of the 2006 Amazon Soy Moratorium and declines in forest-to-soy direct conversion. However, Amazon conversion to pasturelands remains high. Meanwhile, the Cerrado savannah has seen rapid deforestation due to both pasturelands and soy plantations.


Super variable California salamander is ‘an evolutionist’s dream’ [03/18/2019]
- The ensatina is a widespread salamander species that can be found in forests along the entire western coast of North America.
- It is one of only two species that broadly lives up to the “ring species” concept: the ensatina is considered to be a single species, but is characterized by a chain of interconnected populations around California’s Central Valley that can look strikingly different. While the intermediate populations can interbreed, the forms at the southern ends of the loop are so different that they can no longer mate successfully everywhere they meet.
- Ensatinas are among the key predators on the forest floors they occupy, and play a critical role in sequestering carbon.
- Researchers are now trying to figure out if ensatinas and other North American salamanders have any natural defenses against the deadly Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans fungus.


Investors warn soy giants of backlash over deforestation in South America [03/18/2019]
- Investors have called on the world’s biggest soy companies to make firm commitments to end deforestation in wildlife-rich areas of South America such as the Cerrado and Gran Chaco.
- Those that fail to do so risk being exposed by environmental activists to consumer boycotts, legal action and falling profits, experts warn.
- Investors are leading the way as companies fail to appreciate the scale of the crisis, campaigners say.


Latam Eco Review: Bolivia’s Batman and Peru’s birdy cave drawings [03/16/2019]
A biologist known as Bolivia’s Batman, ground zero for Amazon deforestation in Peru, and camera traps showing the bird species from ancient cave drawings were among the top stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam. Bolivia’s Batman: “There are many more bat species here” “Colombia gets the gold medal” for having the highest number of […]



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