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



Secrets revealed: Researchers explore unique, isolated forest in Mozambique [10/19/2018]
- Researcher Julian Bayliss discovered a forest on Mount Lico by using satellite imagery from Google Earth. In May, Bayliss and a team of more than two-dozen scientists and other experts set out on an expedition to see what kinds of animals and plants lived in the forest.
- According to Bayliss, they found several new species, including a new butterfly.
- Protected by 410-meter cliffs, Mount Lico’s forest is undisturbed by human activity. However, the surrounding lowlands – as well as other nearby mountains – are heavily cleared for agriculture.
- These mountains serve as important habitat for unique species, as well as critical water sources for local communities. However, their soil is very fertile and often targeted for cropland. Bayliss says these mountain forests need more conservation attention, and urges the development of programs aimed at balancing local livelihoods with forest preservation.


Guyana deforestation rate hits 7-year low, officials say [10/19/2018]
- According to data released on Oct. 5 by the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC), the small South American nation’a deforestation rate in 2017 was 0.048 percent.
- Government official say that their new deforestation estimates are the lowest since assessments started back in 1990.
- Environmental advocates say the reduction in timber concession areas has reduced road building by loggers that once facilitated opportunistic mining.


Tropical deforestation now emits more CO2 than the EU [10/18/2018]
- According to a new analysis, tropical forest loss currently accounts for 8 percent of the world’s annual carbon dioxide emissions. If tropical deforestation were a country, it would be the third-biggest emitter globally – ranking just below the U.S. and significantly higher than the EU.
- Between 2015 and 2017, forest-related emissions were 63 percent higher than the average for the previous 14 years, rising from 3 billion to 4.9 billion metric tons per year.
- Researchers say this increase can be traced to three main factors: A growing global middle class, a population boom in Sub-Saharan Africa, and fires and hurricanes that are becoming more intense and destructive due to climate change.
- The analysis finds tropical forests could potentially provide 23 percent of the climate change mitigation needed to keep warming under 2 degrees by 2030. But researchers say increased government intervention and funding are needed in order to more effectively protect them.


Jair Bolsonaro: looming threat to the Amazon and global climate? [10/18/2018]
- Jair Bolsonaro is poised to win the Brazilian presidential runoff on 28 October – currently polling with 58 percent of the vote. He holds strong policy positions in opposition to the environment, indigenous rights and traditional land claims.
- Bolsonaro has pledged to open the Amazon to economic exploitation, greatly expand energy production, abolish Brazil’s environmental ministry, relax environmental licensing and regulation, open indigenous reserves to mining, and back out of the Paris climate accord.
- Moreover, Bolsonaro’s once tiny PSL Party elected 52 new federal deputies and four senators in the 7 October election. It is very likely that these ultra-right PSL representatives will caucus with the right-wing bancada ruralista agribusiness and mining bloc in Congress, giving them a majority.
- As a result, analysts say that if Bolsonaro is elected president, he will probably have the full support of Congress in fulfilling his agenda, with only the Supreme Court likely standing in the way of significant Amazon deforestation and other environmental harm.


In a first, DRC communities gain legal rights to forests [10/18/2018]
- Provincial authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo have approved forest concessions for five communities.
- Following the implementation of a new community forest strategy in June, this is the first time the government has given communities control of forests.
- Sustainable use of the forest is seen by conservation and development organizations as a way to both combat rural poverty and fight deforestation.


Real-time plantation map aims to throttle deforestation in Papua [10/18/2018]
- The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) plans to roll out an interactive map showing the spread of plantations and roads in Indonesia’s Papua region.
- The region is home to some of the last expanses of pristine tropical forest left in the world, but now faces an influx of plantation companies that have already deforested much of Sumatra and Borneo.
- The Papua Atlas is designed to monitor the spread of plantations and road networks in the region, and builds on CIFOR’s earlier Borneo Atlas.
- Crucially this time, the developers are pitching the Papua Atlas to local officials to help inform their policymaking and planning for the region to minimize adverse impacts on the environment and indigenous communities.


Fate of the Amazon is on the ballot in Brazil’s presidential election (commentary) [10/17/2018]
- In the late 20th and early 21st century, Brazil set policies that made it a world leader in reducing deforestation, helping safeguard the Amazon.
- However, the gains made over those years are now at risk due to the proposed environmental policies of far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro, who analysts say is highly likely to become Brazil’s president in a runoff election on 28 October.
- Bolsonaro has pledged to shut down Brazil’s environmental ministry, relax environmental law enforcement and licensing, open indigenous reserves to mining, ban international environmental NGOs such as Greenpeace and WWF from the country, and back out of the Paris climate accord.
- A study by this commentary’s authors estimates that Brazilian deforestation and carbon emissions under Bolsonaro’s policies would cause unprecedented Amazon forest loss, and contribute to destabilizing the global climate. This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.


Is S&P Dow Jones greenwashing conflict palm oil? (commentary) [10/16/2018]
- In its annual listing of sustainable companies released last month, S&P Dow Jones Indices included Golden Agri-Resources, a palm oil company financing operations in Liberia.
- However, reports and complaints about the company’s practices are leading some conservation and human rights organizations to question whether Golden Agri-Resources is operating in a sustainable manner. Accusations include widespread deforestation in Indonesia and Liberia, land grabbing, and violations of international sustainability principles.
- The company’s Liberian arm, Golden Veroleum Liberia, is no longer a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, after the certification body found ongoing violations including the use of coercion and intimidation to pressure villagers to sign agreements with the company, destruction of community sacred sites, and continued development on disputed lands.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Land rights, forests, food systems central to limiting global warming: report [10/15/2018]
- In the wake of the dire, just released UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, a climate advocacy group known as CLARA (Climate, Land, Ambition and Rights Alliance) has published a separate report proposing that the world’s nations put far more effort into land sector measures to store carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- They suggest that these nature-oriented, land-based approaches could be far more effective, and more rapidly implemented, than relying on costly or largely untested high tech solutions such as bioenergy, carbon capture-and-storage, and geoengineering.
- Among the approaches CLARA proposes are the establishment of far stronger land rights for indigenous peoples (who are among the world’s best forest stewards), as well as a serious reduction in deforestation and the restoration of forest ecosystems worldwide.
- The CLARA report also calls for the transformation of agriculture (less tilling, less fertilizers, more support for small farms), and a global revolution in dietary habits, including a reduction in meat consumption and less food waste.


Landless movement leader assassinated in Brazilian Amazon [10/15/2018]
- Landless movement leader Aluisio Sampaio, known as Alenquer, was murdered last Thursday in his home in Castelo de Sonhos in Pará state – an area that has become increasingly violent as land grabbers take over, clear forest, and sell the land for high profits to cattle ranchers.
- When Mongabay interviewed Alenquer late in 2016, he was helping defend the land rights of a peasant settlement along the BR-163 highway. At the time, he had been receiving death threats, and wore a bullet-proof vest provided to him by the government. The peasant settlement was later visited by armed gunman.
- Following that confrontation, Alenquer published a Youtube video accusing two prominent local citizens of threatening to kill him. Authorities have so far arrested two suspects in relation to Alenquer’s murder, while another man was killed in a police shootout on Saturday. The police investigation is on going.
- Alenquer’s murder comes as Brazil sees an uptick in violence that some analysts tie to the strong showing on 7 October of Brazilian far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro, projected to win a 28 October runoff. Bolsonaro, a law-and-order candidate, has made inflammatory statements regarding violence.


Amazonia and the setbacks of Brazil’s political moment (commentary) [10/12/2018]
- In the October 7 Brazilian election, far right candidate Jair Bolsonaro won 46 percent of the vote, not enough to earn the presidency, but triggering a runoff election October 28 with Fernando Haddad who came in second with 29 percent. Analysts say that, barring surprises, Bolsonaro could be Brazil’s next leader.
- Bolsonaro was elected based on several issues, including reaction to government corruption and his stance on crime. However, says analyst Philip Fearnside, Jair’s most lasting impacts will likely be on the environment, especially the Amazon, indigenous and traditional peoples, and destabilization of the global climate.
- The candidate has promised to abolish Brazil’s environmental ministry, expel NGOs such as Greenpeace and WWF from the country, slash science and technology budgets, “sell” indigenous lands, and “relax” licensing for major infrastructure projects such as dams, industrial waterways, roads and railways.
- But his most impactful act could be a pledge to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, ending Brazil’s global commitment to reduce deforestation, triggering massive Amazon forest loss, and possibly runaway climate change. This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Fire fundamentally alters carbon dynamics in the Amazon [10/12/2018]
- With higher temperatures and increasingly severe droughts resulting from climate change, fires are becoming a more frequent phenomenon in the Amazon.
- New research finds that fires fundamentally change the structure of the forest, leading it to stockpile less carbon even decades after a burn.
- The research also shows that the burning of dead organic matter in the understory can release far more carbon into the atmosphere than previously thought.


Second environmental expert sued over testimony against palm oil firm [10/11/2018]
- A palm oil company convicted and fined for negligence over fires in its concession is now suing one of the expert witnesses who testified against it in court.
- Bambang Hero Saharjo, an expert in fire forensics, is the second witness hit with a lawsuit by the company, JJP, which is seeking hefty damages on an apparently trivial technicality.
- The company dropped an earlier lawsuit against another expert who testified against it, but its latest move has sparked concerns among activists about a rising tide of litigation to silence environmental defenders.
- Indonesia has regulations in place to protect environmental defenders and witnesses giving testimony, but critics say there is little awareness among law enforcers about these protections.


It’s déjà vu for orangutans, devastated by climate change and hunting once before [10/11/2018]
- The fossil record shows that orangutan numbers and range declined rapidly in the late Pleistocene area; by 12,000 years ago they remained in only around 20 percent of their original range.
- A recent study concludes that the twin pressures of climate change and human hunting were responsible for this rapid decline.
- The study’s authors say their research indicates that humans and orangutans have co-existed for millennia, and can continue to do so if proper conservation measures are taken.
- Their research suggests that far more attention needs to be paid to the impact human hunting has on modern orangutan populations.


Brazil scraps 11 new Amazon protected areas covering 2,316 square miles [10/08/2018]
- In recent months, the state deputies of the Legislative Assembly of Rondonia had moved to create 11 new protected areas in the Brazilian Amazon, covering about 600,000 hectares (2,316 square miles) of forest.
- However, the bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby, bitterly opposed to the action, launched a counter legislative measure, attaching the scrapping of the protected areas to an emergency state funding bill. On 25 September, that funding bill passed, effectively killing the conserved areas.
- Thirty years ago, only 2 percent of Rondonia’s forested land had been felled. That has increased to 28.5 percent today, the highest level in any Amazonian state due to a massive influx of land-hungry families, relocation encouraged by the government, along with the uncontrolled expansion of logging and land clearing for ranching.
- Conservationists fear that continued illegal incursions into conserved areas could result in escalating violence as land grabbers, illicit loggers and cattlemen conflict with indigenous groups and Brazilian law enforcement over Amazon land claims.


To conserve West Papua, start with land rights (commentary) [10/05/2018]
- West Papua Province in Indonesia retains over 90 per cent of its forest cover, as well as some of the world’s most biologically diverse marine areas.
- The drive to become a conservation province, however, runs the risk of repeating past mistakes that have disadvantaged indigenous communities and left their customary land rights unrecognized.
- We recommend that the recognition of customary land and resource rights should be prioritized, followed by strengthening the management capacity of customary institutions while improving the markets and value for forest-maintaining community enterprise, as we illustrate with the District of Fakfak.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Deforestation surges in Virunga National Park in the wake of violence [10/05/2018]
- In the DRC’s Virunga National Park, rangers and wildlife are caught in the crosshairs of a brutal civil conflict.
- Forest monitoring platform Global Forest Watch detected more than 1,100 hectares (2,718 acres) of tree cover loss from May to September.
- The recent uptick coincides with the temporary closure of the Virunga after rebel forces killed a park ranger and kidnapped two British tourists.
- The primary driver deforestation is likely charcoal production. Illegal logging and land clearing for agriculture are also presumed to play a role.


8,100-square-mile indigenous reserve recognized in Brazilian Amazon [10/05/2018]
- There are 462 government-declared Indigenous Lands (TIs) in Brazil, but of these only 8 percent have been demarcated, a boundary-marking process vital to preventing and to prosecuting illegal incursions by land grabbers, loggers, miners and other outsiders.
- On 19 September the Kaxuyana-Tunayana TI on the border of Pará and Amazonas state received Ministry of Justice approval for demarcation of its 2.1 million hectares (8,108 square miles). However, drastic budget cuts at FUNAI, Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency, leaves the date at which the demarcation process will begin unknown.
- At least 18 different indigenous groups live within the remote Kaxuyana-Tunayana TI, including four isolated uncontacted groups. In the 1960s, the Brazilian government removed many indigenous people forcibly from the region, transporting them in Air Force planes. Some returned, walking all the way back to their home territory.
- Indigenous advocates, and indigenous people living in the Kaxuyana-Tunayana TI, worry that the growing political strength of the bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby in Congress will result in the abolishment of FUNAI and prevent the demarcation process from ever happening. But they remain hopeful.


Pasture expansion driving deforestation in Brazilian protected area [10/04/2018]
- Climate scientists were wary when the Brazilian government announced in August that its 2020 goals for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions had already been met. Lending credence to those concerns, it appears even protected areas in the country aren’t currently safe from forest destruction.
- Brazil’s Triunfo do Xingu Area of Environmental Protection has become a deforestation hotspot over the past few months, with more than 14,000 hectares of the protected area impacted by the expansion of pasture since May.
- Though deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon peaked around 2004, the Triunfo do Xingu protected area has lost more than 350,000 hectares (nearly 865,000 acres) of tree cover since its founding in 2006.


New tree species from Cameroon is possibly already extinct [10/03/2018]
- Nearly 70 years ago, Edwin Ujor of the Nigerian Forestry Service collected a specimen of a tree from a forest high up in the Bamenda highlands in Cameroon.
- Now, in a new study, researchers have formally described the Ujor specimen as a new species named Vepris bali.
- The researchers believe the species is either critically endangered or already possibly extinct, mainly because it has been found in only one location, and because the higher-altitude regions from which the Ujor specimen was collected have mostly been cleared for agriculture.


Audio: How an African bat might help us prevent future Ebola outbreaks [10/02/2018]
- On this episode, we look at research into an African bat that might be the key to controlling future Ebola outbreaks.
- Our guest is Sarah Olson, an Associate Director of Wildlife Health for the Wildlife Conservation Society. With Ebola very much in the news lately due to a recent outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Olson is here to tell us how research into hammer-headed fruit bats might help us figure out how Ebola is transmitted from animals to humans — and potentially control or prevent future outbreaks of the viral disease.
- The bats don’t contract the disease, but there is evidence that they carry the virus. Olson is part of a study in the Republic of the Congo that seeks to understand how the Ebola virus is transmitted from carriers like hammer-headed fruit bats to other wildlife and humans.


Cerrado towns terrorized to provide toilet paper for the world, say critics [10/02/2018]
- A Mongabay investigation has found that global consumers who buy brand name toilet paper and tissues may unwittingly be fuelling land conflicts, environmental crimes and the loss of native vegetation in Brazil.
- Residents of Forquilha, a traditional community in Maranhão state, allege that an agricultural entrepreneur used armed gunmen to try and force them out in 2014. The businessman took land claimed by the community and converted it to eucalyptus plantations, intending to sell the trees to Suzano, Brazil’s biggest pulp provider.
- Kimberly-Clark confirmed to Mongabay that it sources a significant amount of eucalyptus in Brazil from Suzano and Fibria, with pulp used to make “tissue and towel products like Scott, Cottonelle, Kleenex and Andrex.” Critics dispute industry claims that most pulp used is properly certified to prevent deforestation and protect local communities.
- This year, Suzano moved to buy competitor Fibria. If the deal goes through, Suzano will become the world’s biggest pulp provider. Suzano runs large-scale eucalyptus plantations, and buys trees from suppliers’ plantations, and according to NGOs, has displaced traditional populations, driven land conflicts and cleared large swathes of forest.


Purus-Madeira: journey to the Amazon’s newest deforestation frontier [10/01/2018]
- In August, Mongabay contributor Gustavo Faleiros and filmmaker Marcio Isensee e Sá visited the unique biodiverse Amazon forests located on the divide between the Purus and Madeira river basins, where a decades-delayed plan to improve the BR-319 highway is gaining momentum, bringing environmental transformation.
- The introductory video and story presented here, along with a series of feature articles to follow in coming weeks, shows how federal road improvements are bringing outsiders, entrepreneurs and outlaws to the region — all eager to profit by reducing the forest via logging operations, cattle production and other businesses.
- In this first dispatch, we profile Realidade, a small village in the Brazilian Amazon where loggers, businessmen and land grabbers are still in the early stages of occupation.
- Although deforestation here isn’t yet as fast or serious, as in Pará, Mato Grosso and other states, business growth rates are among Brazil’s highest. With scientists warning that further Amazon deforestation could worsen climate change, bringing extreme drought and a shift from rainforest to savanna in the region, analysts urge that the vast Purus-Madeira moist forest ecoregion be conserved.


Ahead of election, deforestation continues to climb in the Brazilian Amazon [09/30/2018]
- Newly released analysis of satellite data by Imazon, a Brazilian NGO, shows that deforestation in the Amazon is continuing to climb.
- Imazon’s deforestation alert system detected 545 square kilometers of forest clearing in August, a tripling of the area deforested the same month a year ago
- The Brazilian government’s own deforestation detection system, run by the national space research institute INPE, also shows a recent rise in deforestation, albeit a substantially less dramatic increase relative to Imazon.
- The apparent rise in deforestation this year in Brazil is not unexpected due to current political and economic trends.


Massive loss of mammal species in Atlantic Forest since the 1500s [09/28/2018]
- A new study examined the loss of mammal species in the Atlantic Forest, which is currently only about 13 percent of its historical size.
- Forest clearing for agriculture, along with hunting, has cut the number of species living at specific sites throughout the forest by an average of more than 70 percent.
- The researchers call for increased restoration efforts in the Atlantic Forest to provide habitat and allow the recovery of these species.


‘Predatory agribusiness’ likely to gain more power in Brazil election: report [09/28/2018]
- 248 candidates, about two-thirds of federal deputies seeking re-election to the Brazilian congress this October either introduced, or voted for bills harmful to the environment, indigenous peoples, and rural workers, according to a survey conducted by Repórter Brasil.
- The survey compiled the voting records of Brazilian deputies up for re-election, a record then assessed for negative or positive impacts by eight socio-environmental organizations. The results are presented online as the Ruralometer.
- Out of the 248 candidates running for re-election, 138 (or 55 percent) are part of the Parliamentary Agricultural and Livestock Front – the bancada ruralista agribusiness caucus, well known for its strongly negative socio-environmental agenda.
- Analysts say that the current Congress is the most conservative since the end of Brazil’s military dictatorship in 1985, but they expect it will move further right after the 7 October election. Experts blame the conservative makeup of Congress on the wealth and influence of ruralists and agribusiness, and on campaign finance laws.


Deforestation-linked palm oil still finding its way into top consumer brands: report [09/25/2018]
- A new report by Greenpeace finds that palm oil suppliers to the world’s largest brands have cleared more than 1,300 square kilometers (500 square miles) of rainforest — an area the size of the city of Los Angeles — since the end of 2015.
- Greenpeace says palm oil-fueled deforestation remains rampant in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia because global consumer brands like Unilever, Nestlé and PepsiCo continue to buy from rogue producers.
- These brands have failed to commit to their zero-deforestation pledges and are poised to fall short of their own 2020 deadlines of cleaning up their entire supply chain from deforestation, Greenpeace says.
- Greenpeace has called for a transformation in the palm oil industry, particularly in Indonesia, the world’s biggest producer of the commodity.


China’s primates could disappear by end of this century, study warns [09/25/2018]
- China has some 25 species of primates, of which 15 to 18 have fewer than 3,000 individuals surviving in the wild, according to a new study.
- Two species of gibbons have become extinct in China in just the past two decades, while two other species of gibbons have fewer than 30 individuals in the country.
- Researchers warn that primate distributions in China could shrink by 51 percent to 87 percent by the end of this century.
- Expanding suitable habitat for primates is critical, the researchers say, as is prioritizing a network of protected corridors that can connect isolated primate subpopulations.


Chilling images of illegal mining operations in Peru [09/24/2018]
- These images suggest that the operations are being carried out in the communities of Puerto La Pastora, Tres Islas and Kotsimba.
- The result was the destruction of four dredges and other equipment used to extract gold from the rainforest.


Global wildlife trafficking still a ‘lucrative criminal activity,’ expert says [09/20/2018]
- Around the world, wildlife trafficking in animals and natural resources is a major security threat and environmental risk.
- Jessica Graham is a former contract expert for Interpol, and currently president of JG Global Advisory, an environmental security consultancy in Washington, D.C.
- Mongabay talked with Graham recently to get her perspective on the threat convergence of wildlife trafficking and organized crime.


As turtles go, so go their ecosystems [09/19/2018]
- Turtles are among the most threatened of the major groups of vertebrates in the world, a new review paper says, perhaps even more so than birds, mammals, fish or amphibians.
- Of the 356 species of turtles recognized today, about 61 percent are either threatened or have become extinct in modern times.
- Turtles contribute to the health of a variety of environments, including desert, wetland, freshwater and marine ecosystems, and losing these animals could have serious ecological consequences, researchers say.


Connect the dots: Cerrado soy drives inequality to provide EU with chicken [09/19/2018]
- For nearly a century, traditional communities in the Brazilian Cerrado raised small livestock herds and planted sustainably on lands to which they lacked deeds. The savanna was largely ignored by industrial agribusiness, which lacked the technology to farm and water the semi-arid land.
- That changed about 30 years ago, when agricultural advances made large-scale soy production possible there. Wealthy entrepreneurs flocked to the Cerrado and began laying claim to the lands worked by traditional communities. Deprived of their livelihoods, and sometimes forced from their homes, many people moved to cities newly built to service the soy boom.
- Campos Lindos was one of those new cities. While many large-scale soy growers say they’ve brought prosperity to the Cerrado, Campos Lindos has poverty levels far higher than the Brazilian average, lacks many basic social services such as clean water and basic healthcare, and suffers high infant and maternal mortality rates.
- Some blame these worsening social problems on the soy growers, whose crops analysts have traced to transnational commodities companies like Cargill and Bunge, and on to soy-fed chicken in the U.K., retailers like McDonalds, Tesco and Morrisons, and ultimately to consumers in the developed world.


Indonesian province calls time-out on mining [09/19/2018]
- The new government of East Nusa Tenggara, a mineral-rich province in eastern Indonesia, has pledged to reform its mining sector as officials and environmentalists cite the lack of benefits from the extractive industry.
- The administration said it would not accept new mining license applications, and that those awaiting approval would be rejected.
- Some environmental groups have praised the new government’s plan to reform the mining sector, calling it a positive step for sustainability.


Agroforestry ‘a good investment’: Mongabay’s Washington Post op-ed (commentary) [09/18/2018]
- Mongabay’s Erik Hoffner is editing a series on agroforestry, the practice of growing useful trees with shrubs, crops, and herbs in a system that produces food, supports biodiversity, builds soil horizons and water tables, and captures carbon from the atmosphere. 
- Using what he’s learned from editing the series so far, he wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Post’s global edition.
- Below is an excerpt of the feature, arguing for greater investment in and deployment of agroforestry globally to benefit both people and planet.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Brazilian elections and the environment: where top candidates stand [09/17/2018]
- The Brazilian elections are just weeks away, scheduled for 7 October. The five leading candidates are Jair Bolsonaro, Marina Silva, Ciro Gomes, Geraldo Alckmin, and Fernando Haddad, though none appears to have sufficient voter backing to win on election-day. A runoff with the top two will occur on 28 October.
- This story offers an overview of the environmental stance of the top five. Jair Bolsonaro, leader in the polls, would pull Brazil out of the Paris Climate Agreement, abolish the Ministry of the Environment, and open the Amazon and indigenous lands for economic exploitation.
- Marina Silva, a former environmental minister, established policies that reduced Amazon deforestation. She would keep Brazil in the Paris Agreement and use it as a means of shifting the nation’s agribusiness sector to be more sustainable, competitive and equitable. Ciro Gomes supports hydroelectric dams and the Paris Agreement.
- Geraldo Alckmin supports agribusiness over environmental. Little is known of Fernando Haddad’s environmental positions, though he’s a strong proponent of bicycling to reduce car use. As important for the environment: the bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby looks poised to grow stronger in congress in the coming election.


What’s causing deforestation? New study reveals global drivers [09/14/2018]
- Recent advances in satellite-based forest monitoring technology have helped conservationists locate where deforestation may be happening. However, limitations in knowing the causes behind canopy loss have hindered efforts to stop it.
- A new study released this week provides a step forward toward this goal, identifying the major drivers of tree cover loss around the world.
- Overall, it finds 27 percent of all forest loss — 50,000 square kilometers per year — is caused by permanent commodity-driven deforestation. In other words, an area of forest a quarter of the size of India was felled to grow commodity crops over 15 years. The next-biggest driver of forest loss worldwide is forestry at 26 percent; wildfire and shifting agriculture amounting to 23 percent and 24 percent, respectively. The study finds less than 1 percent of global forest loss was attributable to urbanization.
- The study’s authors found commodity-driven deforestation remained constant throughout their 15-year study period, which they say indicates corporate zero-deforestation agreements may not be working in many places. They hope their findings will help increase accountability and transparency in global supply chains.


World’s first indigenous carbon offset project suspended due to illegal mining [09/11/2018]
- In 2009, the Paiter-Suruí of Brazil became the first indigenous group in the world to design and implement a major forest conservation and carbon storage and offset project, a set of initiatives financed by selling carbon-offset credits..
- On Monday, the Paiter-Suruí announced the project is being suspended indefinitely due to an onslaught of diamond and gold miners and loggers which has caused a dramatic surge in deforestation within their 248,147 hectare (958 square mile) territory.
- In its early years, the project – designed to prevent at least five million tons of carbon emissions in 30 years – was incredibly successful. Illegal logging in the indigenous territory dropped to almost zero from 2009 to 2012, a period during which surrounding regions saw deforestation rates more than double.
- Analysts cite multiple reasons for the project suspension: the intrusion of external, powerful, self-interested actors; the lack of law enforcement in the indigenous territory; and the lack of state investment in indigenous education, health, and livelihood programs that could have alleviated individual economic and social pressures to secure short-term financial gain.


Brazilian legislators break law, attack Amazon, trade freely with world: report [09/11/2018]
- A new Amazon Watch report offers evidence showing that six prominent Brazilian politicians are charged with, and/or guilty of, a variety of environmental, social, and economic crimes. All six are active in the bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby of congress, and all but one are up for election in October.
- According to the report, the six have been strident advocates of the ruralist policies that are slashing environmental protections, exacerbating Amazon deforestation, and rolling back indigenous land rights.
- Yet their agricultural commodities, and those of their political and business allies, are being sold to the U.S. and EU, with importers including soft drinks manufacturers Coca Cola (U.S) and Schweppes (Switzerland), the poultry producer Wiesenhof (Germany) and others.
- The report says that transnational companies and consumers are thus unwittingly empowering the ruralists’ drastic legislative environmental attacks, and it calls for importing countries and companies to take responsibility for their actions. Mongabay profiles two legislators featured in the report: Adilton Sachetti and Nelson Marquezelli.


Land hoarding: what Colombia’s new administration has inherited [09/10/2018]
- Local authorities say that they are no longer as trusting of the actions suggested by the federal government.
- Humberto Sánchez, the mayor of San Vicente del Caguán, says that meetings carried out to stop the problem are completely useless.
- San Vicente del Caguán is the most deforested municipality in Colombia.


Plantations can produce more palm oil if they keep riverbanks forested [09/10/2018]
- Conservationists have long known that keeping riverbanks forested in regions with heavy palm oil development helps protect wildlife and their habitat.
- Now, a recently published study finds there are economic benefits to palm oil producers, as well. It finds oil palm plantations that maintain buffers of forest along rivers can improve their yields because these buffers reduce erosion.
- The team found that a larger buffer has a bigger payoff in the long term, but a forest buffer of 10 to 20 meters could maximize yields even within a ten-year period. Meanwhile, buffers of 30 meters or more could maximize yields in the long term.
- The authors note that their calculations were conservative, meaning that the economic benefits of riparian forest buffers to oil palm plantations may be even higher than their estimates indicate.


Aligning forces for tropical forests as a climate change solution (commentary) [09/08/2018]
- Tropical forest governments need help to achieve their commitments to slow deforestation and are not getting it fast enough; companies could deliver some of that help through strategic partnerships, especially if environmental advocacy strategies evolve to favor these partnerships. Aspiring governments also need a mechanism for registering and disseminating their commitments and for finding potential partners.
- Climate finance is reaching most jurisdictions, but not at the speed or scale that is needed. Tropical forest governments need help making their jurisdictions easier to do business in and more bankable; they are beginning to develop innovative ways to use verified emissions reductions, to create industries and institutions for low-carbon development, and to establish efficient, transparent mechanisms for companies to deliver finance for technical assistance to farmers.
- Partnerships between indigenous peoples and subnational governments have emerged as a promising new approach for both improving representation of forest communities in subnational governance and delivering greater support, unlocking climate finance in the process.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Latam Eco Review: Salmon escape, jungle drones, and a new biosphere reserve [09/08/2018]
The most popular stories last week from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay-Latam, followed farmed salmon escapes in Chile, a new biosphere reserve in Ecuador, and high-tech forest monitoring in Peru. Patagonia’s fragile marine ecosystem reels from influx of escaped farmed salmon A storm battered salmon cages in southern Chile, setting 690,000 of the fish loose into […]

8 species of birds have possibly gone extinct over past few decades [09/06/2018]
- A new study has found that eight species of birds are likely to have completely disappeared in the past couple of decades.
- Researchers recommend that three species currently listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List be reclassified as extinct, while one be treated as extinct in the wild.
- Four more bird species are dangerously close to extinction, if not already there, and should be re-classified as critically endangered (possibly extinct), researchers say.


Audio: The ‘Godfather of Biodiversity’ on why it’s time to manage Earth as a system [09/05/2018]
- On this episode we welcome the godfather of biodiversity, Dr. Thomas Lovejoy, to discuss some of the most important environmental issues we’re currently facing and why he believes the next decade will be the “last decade of real opportunity” to address those issues.
- Lovejoy joined the Mongabay Newscast to talk about how deforestation and the impacts of climate change could trigger dieback in the Amazon and other tropical forests, causing them to shift into non-forest ecosystems, as well as the other trends impacting the world’s biodiversity he’s most concerned about.
- He says it’s time for a paradigmatic shift in how we approach the conservation of the natural world: “We really have got to the point now where we need to think about managing the entire planet as a combined physical and biological system.”


Monitoring the ambitious land restoration commitments in Africa [09/03/2018]
- Announcements by Burkina Faso and Tanzania at the GLF Africa Conference, which took place in Nairobi, Kenya this week, brings restoration commitments under AFR100 to a total of 96.4 million hectares by 27 African countries.
- Making pledges is one thing, however, while monitoring and tracking progress in actually achieving these restoration goals is another. Attendees of the GLF Africa Conference were keenly aware of this challenge, and a variety of tools for monitoring and tracking restoration activities was a topic of much discussion.
- Restoration requires more than the planting of trees, as Charles Karangwa, an IUCN Regional Forest Landscape Restoration Coordinator, noted at the conference: “Countries must enact polices, allocate budget to restoration implementation, track and learn from their progress.”


Farmers see promise and profit for agroforestry in southern Kenya [08/31/2018]
- In Kenya’s Rift Valley, rural communities are implementing agroforestry to boost incomes and forest cover.
- Native plants like enset, a type of wild banana, and trees are being cultivated in combination with crops, which benefit each other and provide a diversity of produce.
- “Farmers are looking for new ways to widen their farm revenue as food markets become unpredictable. They are finding these answers in agroforestry,” says an official with the Kenya Forestry Service.
- Agroforestry is also a main facet of Kenya’s goal to reduce carbon emissions under the Paris climate treaty, since it sequesters a large amount of carbon in woody plants both above and below ground.


The forested path to climate stability (commentary) [08/30/2018]
- Halting and reversing deforestation is critical for climate stability — this alone could reduce the world’s net carbon emissions by up to 30 percent. Furthermore, forests and land offer the most cost-effective way to store more carbon right now.
- In September, leaders from around the world will gather in California for the Global Climate Action Summit. The agenda focuses on the twin truths of climate change: While we are making real progress, we need to move much more ambitiously and quickly to seize the opportunities right in front of us.
- There are many paths to climate stability, and we need to follow all of them. Some of these paths — and particularly those that lead through fields and forests — are less traveled.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Will protecting half the Earth save biodiversity? Depends which half [08/30/2018]
- Adding large swaths of “wild areas” to the current network of protected areas in order to protect half of the Earth doesn’t mean more species will be protected, or that a larger portion of species’ ranges will be covered, a new study has found.
- Researchers say it’s important to not be seduced by the idea of protecting areas simply because they’re big and politically easier to protect, but instead to prioritize areas because they’re special and/or have key species in them.
- The study also revealed a surprising trend: existing protected areas around the world are good at covering at least some of the range of most of the world’s birds, mammals and amphibians.


California’s big climate change opportunity: tropical forests (commentary) [08/29/2018]
- California Governor Jerry Brown has yet to seize one of California’s best opportunities to slow climate change: tropical forests.
- Governor Brown has the opportunity to unleash one of the world’s most cost-effective climate solutions using the global influence of California’s climate policies, increasing the impact of the Action Summit in the process.
- Governor Brown could use California’s global influence to show governments of tropical forest regions that their efforts to slow deforestation and speed forest recovery will be recognized and rewarded.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.


Fires and haze return to Indonesia as peat protection bid falls short [08/29/2018]
- Fires on peatlands on Indonesia’s Borneo and Sumatra islands have flared up again this year after relatively fire-free dry seasons in 2016 and 2017.
- The government has enacted wide-ranging policies to restore peatland following the disastrous fires of 2015 that razed an area four times the size of Grand Canyon National Park.
- However, the fires this year have sprung up in regions that have been prioritized for peat restoration, suggesting the government’s policies have had little impact.
- Officials and activists are also split over who to blame for the fires, with the government citing smallholder farmers, and environmentalists pointing to large plantation companies.


Q&A: Esther Mwangi on why voices of local community members will be featured at GLF Africa conference [08/28/2018]
- The 2018 Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) Africa Conference is set to kick off in Nairobi, Kenya this week, bringing together representatives from both the public and private sectors, as well as scientists, indigenous peoples, youth, and others, in order to bolster efforts to combat deforestation and land degradation on the African continent.
- Mongabay spoke with Esther Mwangi, a principal scientist for forests and governance at CIFOR, who is set to moderate an opening day plenary session titled “Voices of the Landscape” that will be the first time in the five-year history of the GLF that community members have constituted a plenary session.
- Thanks to the efforts of local communities, more than 5 million hectares (about 12.4 million acres) of degraded landscapes have already been successfully restored in countries like Ethiopia, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, and Uganda. The 2018 GLF Africa Conference aims to highlight these kinds of success stories.


Deforestation continues upward trend in Brazil, says NGO [08/28/2018]
- Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon continues to trend higher, reports Imazon, a Brazilian NGO that independently tracks developments in Earth’s largest rainforest.
- Data from Imazon’s monthly deforestation tracking system indicates 778 square kilometers of forest were cleared in July, a 43 percent increase over a year ago.
- Imazon’s findings contrast with official data from Brazil’s national space research agency INPE, which shows a comparably flat trend line.


Brazil’s pesticide poisoning problem poses global dilemma, say critics [08/27/2018]
- Brazil is second only to the U.S. in its use of chemical pesticides, with many of the chemicals sprayed in Brazil on soy and other crops banned by the EU and the United States. Pesticide poisoning is a major Brazilian problem. In 2016, 4,208 cases of intoxication by exposure to pesticides were registered across the nation – the equivalent of 11 per day (killing 355 people).
- The ruralista bancada, the powerful agribusiness lobby, is currently pushing an amendment through congress that would significantly weaken Brazil’s 1989 pesticide law. Analysts say the legislation (6.299/2002), dubbed the “Poison Bill” by critics, would make the approval of new pesticides far easier.
- Brazil’s lax pesticide rules aren’t just a threat to farmworkers. Many toxins are persistent in the environment and in the food we eat. A Brazilian analysis of pesticide residue in foods such as rice, apples and peppers found that of 9,680 samples collected from 2013 to 2015, some 20 percent contained pesticide residues that exceeded allowed levels or contained unapproved pesticides.
- Transnational pesticide makers such as Syngenta, Bayer and BASF produce pesticides in the EU which are considered highly hazardous – so hazardous, they are banned in their countries of origin – but the firms also sell these pesticides in high quantities to Brazil and other developing nations. Experts say that sprayed Brazilian exports of fruit, vegetables and coffee could be contaminated.


Indonesia’s land swap program puts communities, companies in a bind [08/27/2018]
- The Indonesian government has a program in place that requires plantation companies to conserve and restore peatlands within their concessions, in exchange for land elsewhere, as part of a wider program to prevent peat fires.
- But part of the land bank designated for the swap program covers community lands that have also been earmarked for a social forestry program launched much earlier.
- Activists say the communities should not be sidelined at the expense of the plantation firms. The latter have also been wary about taking the land allocated to them by the government, citing the potential for conflicts.
- Activists have also criticized the government for allocating up to two-fifths of the land bank for the swap program from natural forests. They say the government earlier promised the land would come from unused and planned timber concessions.


Study finds widespread degradation, deforestation in African woodlands [08/27/2018]
- New research has found that deforestation rates between 2007 and 2010 in the woodlands of southern Africa were five times greater than previously thought.
- Similarly, carbon losses from the region during that time period were three to six times higher.
- The study used radar data, as opposed to visual satellite imagery, to measure the biomass found in southern Africa’s woodlands.
- Around 17 percent of the region’s area was degraded during the time period, the researchers found.


Rare bird, feared extinct after hurricane, is spotted in Bahamas again [08/27/2018]
- The Bahama nuthatch (Sitta insularis), known only from a small pine forest on the island of Grand Bahama, some 84 kilometers (52 miles) east of Palm Beach, Florida, was thought to have gone extinct after Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
- But two recent, independent expeditions have yielded sightings of the bird again.
- Only a handful of individuals have been spotted, though, and researchers fear that chances of reviving the species’ population look bleak.


Latam Eco Review: Land trafficking in Lima’s hill ecosystems, oil spills in Venezuela, floods in Colombia [08/25/2018]
The most popular stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay-Latam, this past week investigated how land trafficking is destroying Lima’s fragile hill ecosystems; government inaction and oil spills in Venezuela; open borders for wildlife trafficking in Belize and Guatemala; massive floods in Colombia; and community reforestation in Bolivia. Land trafficking erodes Lima’s fragile hill ecosystems Land […]

Colombia’s new president faces daunting environmental challenges [08/24/2018]
- Earlier this month, Iván Duque succeeded Manuel Santos as Colombia’s president.
- Experts highlight the legacy of President Juan Manuel Santos in the declaration and expansion of protected areas and his attempt to strengthen the Ministry of the Environment.
- Among the issues that await the next administration are high rates of deforestation, particularly in the Amazon, and a reduced environmental sector budget.
- Duque will be tasked with managing the tensions between conservation and extraction policies, reforming local environmental authorities, stopping deforestation, and establishing an effective policy for the sustainable use of forests.


Seeing REDD: a database of forest carbon emissions reduction projects [08/24/2018]
- A searchable database of 467 forest carbon emissions reduction (REDD+) initiatives in 57 countries is now available through the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
- The ID-RECCO database gathers in one free online tool over 100 different categories of information – including project partners, activities, and funding sources – on these subnational projects aimed at conserving forests, promoting local economies, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and degradation.
- The tool makes these data and their sources accessible to anyone, with minimal interpretation: while it does not summarize project results, it provides goals, activities, and links to project websites for the reader to learn more.


Brazil hits emissions target early, but rising deforestation risks reversal [08/23/2018]
- The decline in deforestation between 2016 and 2017 saved emissions of the equivalent of 610 million metric tons (672 million tons) of carbon dioxide from the Brazilian Amazon and 170 million metric tons (187 million tons) from the Cerrado, Brazil’s wooded savanna, according to the Brazilian government.
- The emissions reductions, announced Aug. 9, eclipsed the targets that the Brazilian government set for 2020.
- However, amid rising deforestation over the past few years, particularly in the Amazon, experts have expressed concern that the reductions in emissions might not hold.


Murder of activist in India highlights growing risk to environmental defenders [08/23/2018]
- Ajit Maneshwar Naik, a 57-year-old environmental activist who fought against the construction of new dams on the Kali River in the state of Karnataka in India, was killed last month.
- India has one of the highest rates of murders of environmental activists in the world, with 16 activists killed in 2016, up from six in 2015, according to a recent report.
- The city of Dandeli, where Naik worked, is especially notorious for crimes against environmental activists.


Environmental issues to be a focus of Indonesian presidential debates: official [08/21/2018]
- Indonesia is scheduled to hold a presidential election in April next year, and environmental issues have been guaranteed a spot at the debates in the upcoming campaign.
- Much of the corruption that besets the country, particularly at the local level, revolves around the exploitation of natural resources and land, making environmental management a key topic for the candidates to address.
- The April 17 election will be a repeat of the previous vote in 2014, with President Joko Widodo facing off against retired general Prabowo Subianto.


Audio: The superb mimicry skills of an Australian songbird [08/21/2018]
- Today we take a listen to field recordings of the superb lyrebird, an Australian songbird known for its elaborate vocal displays and mimicry of other species’ songs.
- Our guest is Anastasia Dalziell, an ornithologist who has studied the superb lyrebird extensively. Males of the species clear a patch of forest floor for their stage, and sing their complex songs — for which they often borrow the songs of other species — to attract a mate.
- But female superb lyrebirds are also known to sing songs, and to produce calls that capably mimic other species as well as sounds from their environment, such as the creaking of trees blowing in the wind.
- In this Field Notes segment, Anastasia Dalziell tells us all about why scientists think male and female lyrebirds sing their songs and imitate other species — and plays a number of lyrebird songs that she’s recorded out in the field so you can hear their mimicry for yourself.


Fight to protect the world’s most threatened great ape goes to court [08/21/2018]
- Indonesia’s leading environmental watchdog has filed a lawsuit to block a project to build a dam and hydroelectric power plant in the Sumatran habitat of the Tapanuli orangutan, the world’s newest known and most endangered great ape.
- The lawsuit claims a series of administrative oversights in the project’s environmental impact permit, as well as a breach of zoning laws by building along a known tectonic fault line.
- An online petition has also taken off, with more than 1.3 million people signing to call on President Joko Widodo to scrap the project.
- Opposition to the project has also drawn the attention of top scientists from around the world, who last month signed an open letter to the president to press their case for the habitat to be preserved.


Report finds APP and APRIL violating zero-deforestation policies with wood purchases from Djarum Group concessions in East Kalimantan [08/21/2018]
- Paper giants APP and APRIL might have defaulted on their zero-deforestation commitments, a new report by a coalition of NGOs says.
- The report alleges APP and APRIL purchased wood from companies clearing natural forest in Indonesian Borneo.
- Both companies have denied the allegations, with APRIL saying the wood was sourced from non-high conservation value (HCV) areas, and APP saying it received the wood after an administrative lapse and had since quarantined the shipment.


Scientists call on California governor to OK carbon credits from forest conservation [08/21/2018]
- A group of prominent scientists is calling on California governor Jerry Brown to incorporate tropical forest conservation into the state’s cap-and-trade regulation.
- California has been mulling the inclusion of tropical forests in its cap-and-trade regulation, which was authorized by the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB32), for a decade.
- If California were to adopt the tropical forest standard in its climate law, the move would signal to tropical forests nations that industrialized countries are willing to put money into forest conservation efforts as part of their climate change mitigation frameworks, say the scientists.


Fake logging permits undermine Amazonian conservation, say experts [08/17/2018]
- System in Brazil for issuing permits found to intentionally overestimate high-value timber species.
- The system for issuing these fraudulent permits has created a fake “surplus” of licensed timber.
- Experts now say that the falsified numbers are contributing to the widespread forest degradation that comes with illegal logging and the overexploitation of Amazonian timber species.


Latam Eco Review: Hunger for wildlife, mercury rising, and a black jaguar sighting [08/17/2018]
The most popular stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay-Latam, in the last week investigated how human hunger is driving hunting in Venezuela (and danger for zoo animals, pictured above), how gold miners are contaminating Bolivia’s rivers with mercury, and news of Ecuador’s first wildlife corridor. Economic crisis in Venezuela: Hungry citizens hunt wildlife and zoo […]

Colombia: Govt rushes to save national park from rampant deforestation [08/16/2018]
- Reports find more than 3 percent of Tinigua’s forest cover was cleared between February and April 2018. Officials worry the situation will worsen in the near future.
- The Secretary of Environment of the Colombian region of Meta says that the government and other entities are preparing combat deforestation.
- Tinigua Park is the only place in Colombia that connects the Orinoquía, the Andes and the Amazon. The park serves as a corridor for animals such as jaguars, mountain lions and brown woolly monkeys.


Earth has more trees now than 35 years ago [08/15/2018]
- Tree cover increased globally over the past 35 years, finds a paper published in the journal Nature.
- The study, led by Xiao-Peng Song and Matthew Hansen of the University of Maryland, is based on analysis of satellite data from 1982 to 2016.
- The research found that tree cover loss on the tropics was outweighed by tree cover gain in subtropical, temperate, boreal, and polar regions.
- However all the tree cover data comes with an important caveat: tree cover is not necessarily forest cover.


South American soy fed to EU livestock drives Gran Chaco deforestation [08/15/2018]
- European fast food firms and supermarkets often obtain the meat they sell from chickens, pigs, and cows raised in Europe. However, the feed, especially soy, consumed by the livestock often comes from South America, where the Cerrado biome and Gran Chaco ecosystem are rapidly being deforested by soy producers.
- The Gran Chaco is a unique biodiverse region covering 1.28 million square kilometers and encompasses parts of Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia and a tiny portion of Brazil. It is home to an estimated 3,400 plant species, 500 birds, 150 mammals and 220 reptiles and amphibians.
- While many large fast food companies and supermarkets have vowed to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains, these companies still buy soy grown with large amounts of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and often grown on South American land recently converted from forest and native vegetation.
- The soy grown in the Gran Chaco and Cerrado is purchased by Bunge, ADM, Cargill and other transnational and Brazilian commodities traders who then sell most of it to the EU and China. While the 2006 Amazon Soy Moratorium largely eliminated new deforestation due to soy in the Amazon, no such agreement protects the Gran Chaco.


When it comes to carbon storage, not all mangroves are equal [08/14/2018]
- Where a mangrove forest grows determines how much carbon gets stored in its soil, a new study has found.
- The study found that past research underestimated the amount of carbon stored in forests growing on limestone or carbonate soils by up to 50 percent, and overestimated blue carbon stored in deltaic settings by up to 86 percent.
- These differences in carbon density among the various mangrove ecosystems come down to the soils in which they grow, researchers say.


Ruralists in Brazilian congress put nation’s protected areas at risk [08/14/2018]
- Bill PL 3,751 / 2015, moving through the Brazilian congress, would set a five-year deadline for the resolution of land issues and disputes, such as land ownership conflicts, in protected areas. If issues were not resolved within that timeframe, a protected area could have its protected status removed.
- There are currently more than 100 protected areas that have not had their permanent status implemented, and they would all be at risk. If this bill was applied retroactively to these areas, over 17 million hectares (roughly 66,000 square miles) — over half of all currently protected areas in Brazil — would be threatened.
- In a letter published in Science, Brazilian scientists denounced the bill, calling it an attack on the networks of conserved lands that support biodiversity and arguing that the legislation conflicts with the Brazilian constitution.
- The bill has passed in the Brazilian Environment Committee and awaits a vote in the Finance and Taxation Committee. Though presidential elections could delay the process, it is likely the committee vote will occur in 2018. Analysts think passage is likely, which could threaten preserved areas in the Amazon, Cerrado, Atlantic Forest, Pantanal, and Caatinga.


Ecology monks in Thailand seek to end environmental suffering [08/13/2018]
- At a time when Pope Francis is calling upon religious leaders to step up as environmental advocates, Thai Buddhist monks are answering the call. Through rituals like tree ordinations, monks are integrating Buddhist principles into the environmental movement in order to garner support from their followers and encourage sustainable practices.
- Although Buddhism is typically a religion famed for its detachment from society, ecology monks believe that their religion is inherently tied to nature.
- With such an immense amount of influence in villages throughout Thailand, Buddhist monks are utilizing their position to add a unique moral dimension to the environmental movement. However, rituals alone are not enough.


Trase.earth tracks commodities, links supply chains to deforestation risk [08/13/2018]
- Launched in 2016, Trase is an innovative Internet tool, available to anyone, which tracks commodities supply chains in detail from source to market, and can also connect those chains to environmental harm, including deforestation. Until the advent of Trase, knowledge of supply chains was sketchy and difficult to obtain.
- The Trase Yearbook 2018 is the first in an annual series of reports on countries and companies trading in such commodities as soy, sugarcane and maize, which also assesses the deforestation risk associated with those crops, making it a vital tool for environmentalists, governments, investors and other interested parties.
- The Yearbook shows that in 2016 the Brazilian soy supply chain was dominated by just six key players – Bunge, Cargill, ADM, COFCO, Louis Dreyfus and Amaggi – accounting for 57 percent of soy exported. In the past ten years, these six firms were also associated with more than 65 percent of the total deforestation in Brazil.
- Trase shows that zero-deforestation commitments (ZDCs) have so far not resulted in greatly reduced deforestation risk for the commodities companies and countries making them. Between 2006 and 2016, soy traders with ZDCs, as compared to non-committed firms, were associated with similar levels of deforestation risk.


Death foretold? A courageous Amazon peasant couple resists illegal loggers [08/10/2018]
- The Terra do Meio (Land in the Middle) is a continuous mosaic of protected areas, 20 indigenous territories and 10 conservation units covering 28 million hectares in the heart of the Amazon and intended as a buffer against illegal deforestation and land theft. As big as Colorado, it represents one of the world’s largest areas of conserved tropical rainforest.
- Today, this vast conserved area in Pará state is under great pressure from organized crime and illegal loggers, with the Riozinho do Anfrísio Extractivist Reserve one of the most assaulted by illicit timber harvesters in all of Amazonia. The Areia settlement, created by the National Institute of Agrarian Reform (INCRA) in 1988, lies adjacent to the reserve.
- Areia’s residents have suffered for decades from threats of violence and murder from the illegal loggers, with many locals abandoning their land or giving in to the criminals. Organic farmers Osvalinda Maria Marcelino Pereira and Daniel Pereira have resisted, holding onto their plot, with Osvalinda founding the Association of the Women of Areia.
- Hounded by hired gunmen and threatened with death, the two have become isolated and are now seeking outside support for their cause. Federal agencies have offered little help, and there are allegations that the illegal loggers are being shielded from prosecution. Similarly desperate situations are occurring among peasant farmers across Amazonia.


Rare mountain-dwelling Nilgiri tahr could lose 60% of habitat as climate warms [08/10/2018]
- The shy, elusive Nilgiri tahr once occurred over a large area in the Western Ghats, a biodiversity hotspot in India, but its distribution has shrunk considerably since the 1950s.
- Currently, about 3,000 individuals are known to occur in isolated groups that are restricted to the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, covering less than 10 percent of their former range.
- Extreme global warming could slash by 60 percent the amount of available habitat that’s suitable for the tahr, a new study has found.


‘High risk’ that China’s timber from PNG is illegal: New report [08/09/2018]
- China, as the main destination for Papua New Guinea’s timber, could help tackle illegality in PNG’s forestry sector with stricter enforcement, according to a new report from the watchdog NGO Global Witness.
- The report contends that companies operating in Papua New Guinea continue to harvest timber unsustainably, often in violation of the laws of a country that is 70 percent forest.
- Global Witness calls for a moratorium on logging operations and a review of permits to harvest timber.
- The organization also argues that Chinese companies should increase their own due diligence to avoid purchasing illegally sourced timber.


‘I can’t get out’: Farmers feel the pressure as Ecuador’s palm oil sector grows [08/08/2018]
- The first commercial oil palm trees were planted in 1953. Since then, Ecuador has become Latin America’s second largest producer of oil palm, and the world’s sixth largest.
- The region comprising the canton of La Concordia is one of the country’s primary centers of production. Here, oil palm plantations were cultivated on land already degraded as small farmers sought a more profitable crop.
- But a volatile market and a deadly disease are cutting deep into the pockets of oil palm farmers in La Concordia who, because of oil palm’s long harvest cycle, worry they’re locked into a doomed investment.
- Meanwhile, conservationists are racing to protect rainforest as oil palm plantations expand in other parts of Ecuador.


Madagascar proposes paying illegal loggers to audit or buy their rosewood [08/08/2018]
- In June, the World Bank facilitated a workshop to discuss what Madagascar should do with its stockpiles of illegally logged rosewood.
- Madagascar has been grappling with the question for years, but has been unable to make a proper inventory of the stockpiled wood or control illegal exports.
- The rosewood could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars on the international market, but the country cannot sell it until it shows progress in enforcing its own environmental laws.
- At the workshop, Madagascar’s government proposed a radical solution: paying loggers for access to their illicit stockpiles in order to keep tabs on the wood, or even buying the wood back from them directly.


Africa’s biggest cobra is five species, not one, study finds [08/08/2018]
- Africa’s largest true cobra is not one, but five separate species, a new study has confirmed.
- Two of these species, the black forest cobra (N. guineensis) and the West African banded cobra (N. savannula), are new to science.
- As a single species, forest cobras were not considered threatened. But with the splitting of the cobra into five species, some species could be more vulnerable to forest loss and bushmeat hunting than others.
- The occurrence of five forest cobra species also has implications for the development of antivenom to treat forest cobra bites, researchers say.


Myanmar’s milling industry devastated by new logging policies [08/07/2018]
- According to domestic media reports in Myanmar, about 80 percent of Burmese logging mills have shut down amid stricter logging policies.
- Myanmar recently ended a one-year ban on domestic logging for export on anything other than certified and stockpiled wood.
- The government logging oversight entity, Myanmar Timber Enterprise (MTE), claims a drastic reduction in the illegal harvest and export of both teak and non-teak wood, which is part of why mills are now shutting down.


Audio: Beavers matter more than you think [08/07/2018]
- We discuss one of the world’s most overlooked keystone species, the beaver, on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast.
- Environmental journalist and writer Ben Goldbarb is a big proponent of giving beavers far more attention than they’re paid. His latest book is fittingly called Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter.
- Today, the North American beaver population is on the rebound thanks to conservationists who are helping bring this keystone species back to habitat across the continent. Goldfarb tells us all about these efforts and just why beavers’ role as “ecosystem engineers” is so crucial.


Alan Rabinowitz, big cat evangelist and voice of the wild, dies at 64 [08/07/2018]
- Alan Rabinowitz, a U.S. zoologist dubbed the “Indiana Jones of wildlife protection” by Time Magazine, died of cancer on Aug. 5 at the age of 64. He leaves behind a legacy of more than three decades of unceasing efforts to protect big cats and other wildlife at risk of extinction.
- Rabinowitz was instrumental in the creation the world’s first jaguar sanctuary, the Cockscomb Basin Jaguar Preserve in Belize, as well the creation of protected areas in Thailand and Myanmar, and the discovery of new species.
- In 2006, Rabinowitz co-founded Panthera, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation the world’s 40 wild cat species and the vast landscapes that hold them, along with his close friend Thomas S. Kaplan, a U.S. entrepreneur and philanthropist.


More companies sign on to Cerrado Manifesto [08/06/2018]
- APG and Robeco are two of the most recent companies to sign on to the Cerrado Manifesto, which calls for an end to deforestation in Brazil’s Cerrado biome.
- The Manifesto is a two-page document that puts the onus on soy and meat producers and traders, as well as other companies in the commodities supply chain, to prevent runaway destruction of the Cerrado savannah.
- According to experts, about half of the biome’s native forests and vegetation have already been cleared for agricultural expansion.
- While more than 70 companies have signed the Cerrado Manifesto, including large fast food companies and supermarkets like McDonalds and Walmart, experts say the initiative won’t likely be successful without participation by large commodities firms, such as Cargill, ADM and Bunge.


Study links US demand for Chinese furniture to deforestation in Africa [08/03/2018]
- Recent research links the U.S. demand for furniture made in China to tree cover loss in Africa’s Congo Basin.
- Between 2001 and 2015, China became the largest export market for timber from the Congo Basin, and over that same time period, the share of imports of furniture from China to the U.S. grew from 30 percent to 50 percent.
- The researchers suggest that public awareness campaigns aimed at curbing the demand for such furniture could be a boon for the Congo Basin’s forests.


Belt and Road Initiative could doom the world’s rarest ape (commentary) [08/02/2018]
- When Chinese President Xi Jinping extolls China’s Belt & Road Initiative, he uses words like “green”, “low carbon” and “sustainable”. Is this reality or just ‘greenwashing’?
- In Sumatra, Indonesia, a key element of the Belt & Road would greatly imperil the rarest species of great ape in the world.
- The Batang Toru hydro-project is shaping up as an acid test of the Belt & Road Initiative. Because if China and its Indonesian partners will press ahead with this project despite all the scientific evidence that it is a terrible idea, then how can we believe any of China’s promises about a “sustainable” Belt & Road?
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


95 percent of all lemur species face high risk of extinction, experts say [08/02/2018]
- More than 50 experts in primate conservation from around the world recently convened in Antananarivo to review the conservation status of the 111 species and subspecies of lemurs, all endemic to Madagascar, and provide updated threat assessments for the IUCN Red List.
- They found that 105 lemurs — 95 percent of all known lemur species and subspecies — might qualify as critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable to extinction in the wild.
- The updated assessments produced by the IUCN Species Survival Commission Primate Specialist Group must still undergo a review process before they are fully validated, but the group’s findings would increase the number of lemurs listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List from 24 to 38.


In Peru, a new president is faced with old conservation challenges [08/02/2018]
- Vizcarra has inherited the task of making critical decisions on the long-term, global benefit of an intact Amazon against short-term profits from mining, extraction and both legal and illegal logging.
- Nowhere is this struggle for balance more critical than in the country’s nature reserves and national parks such as Manu National Park.
- Manu is renowned as one of the world’s richest biodiversity hotspots, with greater numbers of certain plants and animals than any other park on the planet.
- Critics cite a legacy of neglect and question whether the Vizcarra administration will do any better enforcing the nation’s environmental protection laws.


Chinese / Western financing of roads, dams led to major Andes Amazon deforestation [08/01/2018]
- International development finance institutions (DFIs) invested heavily in large-scale infrastructure projects that triggered significant deforestation in the Andes Amazon especially within the nations of Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia between 2000 and 2015, according to recent research published by Boston University’s Global Development Policy Center.
- Using satellite data, the study analyzed 84 large infrastructure projects and determined that the area around them experienced tree cover loss at a rate of over four times the average seen in comparable areas without such projects in those countries. That’s a forest carbon-sink loss equivalent to the combined annual CO2 emissions of Colombia, Chile and Ecuador.
- Infrastructure now accounts for 60 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, yet DFIs want to increase future lending from billions to trillions to meet global demand. This could imperil national Paris Climate Agreement goals (which in countries like Brazil are linked to preventing deforestation), and also could add to potentially catastrophic global carbon emission levels.
- The study isn’t merely academic: More than $70 billion in infrastructure projects, supported by development banks and the private sector, are planned for the Amazon basin between now and 2020. The researchers hope lessons learned from past infrastructure projects and highlighted in their study will improve future project oversight to help curb deforestation.


Tracking the shift of tropical forests from carbon sink to source [07/31/2018]
- Improved maps of carbon stocks, along with a better understanding of how tropical forests respond to climate change, are necessary to meet the challenge of keeping the global temperature below a 2-degree-Celsius (3.6-degree-Fahrenheit) rise, according to scientist Edward Mitchard of the University of Edinburgh.
- Currently, tropical forests take up roughly the same amount of carbon as is released when they’re cleared or degraded.
- But climatic changes, which lead to more droughts and fires resulting in the loss of tropical trees, could shift the balance, making tropical forests a net source of atmospheric carbon.


Researchers are looking into the past to help ensure a future for tropical forests [07/30/2018]
- As we seek to reverse global trends of deforestation and forest degradation, researchers are peering into the past to help chart a course forward for imperiled tropical forests.
- A study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution earlier this month found that, prior to the arrival of European colonists, indigenous peoples in the cloud forests of Ecuador cleared even more of the forests than we have cleared today.
- By studying this history, researchers hope to aid in the restoration of the forests that have once again been degraded for human purposes.


Indonesia forest assessment casts an optimistic light on a complex issue [07/30/2018]
- Indonesia, home to the world’s third-largest span of tropical rainforest, has published its first ever report on the state of its forests.
- The reckoning is largely positive, highlighting declines in both the deforestation rate and forest fires in 2016 and 2017, thanks to policies spurred by devastating blazes in 2015.
- Chief among these is a program banning the clearing of peatlands and ordering plantation companies to restore and conserve areas of peat within their concessions.
- However, the rate of progress on the peat protection program, as well as community forest management reform, remains slow and underfunded. Experts also warn that the progress recorded over the past two years aren’t necessarily sustainable.


Community groups in Cambodia say logging surged with approaching election [07/29/2018]
- Cambodia’s general election campaign has been accompanied by illegal logging, local leaders say, which can be a way for political parties to fund their activities.
- Facing scant and fractured opposition, the Cambodian People’s Party and its leader, Hun Sen, who has served as prime minister for 33 years, were expected to win.
- Community forestry leaders noted an uptick in felled trees and suspected collusion between the enforcement rangers and the illegal loggers, particularly in July.


Deforestation for rubber ramps up near UNESCO site in Cameroon [07/27/2018]
- A new report by Greenpeace Africa finds this future-plantation has grown by 2,300 hectares in one year between April 2017 and April 2018. In total, Greenpeace estimates around 10,050 hectares have been deforested since clearing began in 2011, and warns that 20,000 more hectares of rainforest are slated for clearing in the coming years.
- The 45,000-hectare (450-square kilometer) concession is owned by China-owned Sud Cameroun Hévéa (Sudcam), and is located less than one kilometer from Dja Faunal Reserve. The reserve is inhabited by at least 107 mammal species, including critically endangered western lowland forest gorillas. The reserve is also home to the indigenous Baka people.
- Watchdog and scientific organizations like Greenpeace Africa and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) warn rubber expansion threatens the integrity of Dja and the future of its wildlife.
- According to the Greenpeace Africa report, Sudcam’s concession violates a number of established rules and agreements, including the rubber sourcing policies of several companies that buy from it.


Latam Eco Review: Witchcraft and wildlife trafficking in Peru [07/27/2018]
Among the most read stories at our Spanish-language service, Mongabay-Latam, this past week were articles about a hydropower project in one of Bolivia’s most diverse protected areas; Colombian Air Force drones that revealed alarming deforestation in Tinigua Park; and wildlife trafficking and witchcraft in Peru. Bolivia’s Ivirizu hydroelectric project threatens the biodiversity of Carrasco National […]

Why mangroves matter: Experts respond on International Mangrove Day [07/26/2018]
- July 26 is International Mangrove Day, dedicated to the unique forests that survive at the interface of land, river and sea.
- Mangroves protect coastlines from storm surges, filter out pollutants, and are home to a wide array of diverse life.
- However, mangroves have declined rapidly around the world, losing out to shrimp farms, tourist resorts, agricultural and urban land over the past decades.
- What does the disappearance of this special forest ecosystem mean for our planet? Experts respond.


Deforestation skyrockets in the Amazon rainforest [07/25/2018]
- Deforestation is mushrooming in the Brazilian Amazon, according to Imazon.
- Imazon’s data shows deforestation hit 1,169 square kilometers in June 2018, the highest level since the NGO began monthly tracking in April 2007.
- While month-to-month data from short-term deforestation tracking systems is notoriously variable, June’s number comes on the heels of 634 square kilometers of forest loss in May.
- Scientists have warned that Brazil seems to be reversing course after a historic drop in deforestation.


Forest communities pay the price for conservation in Madagascar [07/25/2018]
- In a two-year investigation of a REDD+ pilot project, a team of researchers spoke with more than 450 households affected by the establishment of a large protected area called the Ankeniheny-Zahamena Corridor, a 3,820-square-kilometer (1,475-square-mile) tract of rainforest in eastern Madagascar.
- The REDD+ project, supported by Conservation International and the World Bank, was aimed at supporting communities by providing support for alternative livelihoods to those communities near the Ankeniheny-Zahamena Corridor protected area.
- They found that the REDD+ project’s preliminary studies identified less than half of those negatively affected by the Corridor’s designation.
- The team also discovered that the value of the one-off compensation, in the form of support to pursue other livelihoods, fell far short of the opportunity costs that the communities are likely to face as a result of losing access to the forest in the coming decades.


Audio: Shadow companies and the Indonesian land crisis [07/24/2018]
- On today’s episode, new revelations about “shadow companies” and how they factor into Mongabay’s ongoing investigation into the corruption fueling Indonesia’s deforestation and land rights crisis.
- Our guest today is Mongabay’s Indonesia-based editor Phil Jacobson, who recently uncovered evidence that one of the biggest pulp and paper companies in the world might be using “shadow companies” to hide its connections to deforestation.
- Phil previously appeared on the Newscast back in October 2017 to discuss “Indonesia For Sale,” an investigative series Mongabay is publishing in partnership with The Gecko Project. He explains how these new revelations fit into the larger corruption issues tracked by “Indonesia For Sale,” how Indonesia’s forests are being impacted, and why everyone should be paying attention to these stories, whether they’re in Indonesia or not.


Temer’s deforestation policies put Paris goals at risk, scientists warn [07/24/2018]
- A letter in the journal Nature Climate Change penned by ten prominent Brazilian scientists is making a splash in major Brazilian media outlets. They warn that weak environmental governance by the Temer administration and the bancada ruralista, agribusiness and mining lobby, is resulting in policies that are increasing deforestation.
- The scientists especially singled out Temer, noting that: “the President of Brazil has signed provisional acts and decrees lowering environmental licensing requirements, suspending the ratification of indigenous lands, reducing the size of protected areas and facilitating land grabbers to obtain the deeds of illegally deforested areas.”
- The scientists say that these policies are undermining attempts to reduce deforestation and the CO2 emissions that clear cutting causes. As a result, Brazil may need to spend US$2-5 trillion additionally to curb its carbon emissions by other means in order to hit the nation’s Paris Climate Agreement targets.
- The warning comes as Brazil gears up for October national elections. Environmental issues rarely have a great influence on Brazilian voters, but the scientists hope that knowledge of the severe and costly consequences of the current government’s policies could help better inform Brazilians as they go to the polls.


Colombia pledges to produce deforestation-free chocolate [07/23/2018]
- On July 17, Colombia signed up to the Cocoa and Forests Initiative, an effort that aims to achieve deforestation-free cocoa production, becoming the first Latin American country to make this commitment.
- One of the country’s largest chocolate manufacturing companies, Casa Luker, and the members of the National Cocoa Federation have also joined Colombia in this pledge.
- The Colombian government has been working to boost cocoa production to improve the country’s competitiveness as a cocoa producer internationally and is looking at cocoa as a potential replacement for crops like coca, the plant used to make cocaine.


India’s pre-election changes to green laws draw criticism [07/19/2018]
- In the final year of its tenure, the Indian government is making a dash to revamp the country’s major environmental laws meant to protect forests, coasts and wildlife, and tackle air pollution.
- Environmentalists say that the hasty changes seem to have been proposed in quick succession to avoid wider and detailed consultations with all concerned stakeholders.
- They also allege that the proposed changes to existing environmental laws are not focused on protecting and conserving the environment, but aim to ease the growth of industries — a promise made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi just before the 2014 general elections.


Southeast Asian deforestation more extensive than thought, study finds [07/18/2018]
- Researchers analyzed a suite of satellite imagery products and found much greater deforestation than expected since 2000 in the highlands of Southeast Asia.
- Much of the 82,000 square kilometers (31,700 square miles) they estimate to have been developed into croplands in the region’s highlands reflects previously undocumented conversion of forest, including primary and protected forests, to agriculture.
- Through a sample-based verification process, the authors found that 93 percent of the pixels from areas allocated to areas of net forest loss by the authors’ model were confirmed as net forest loss, and 99 percent of the pixels delineated as other areas were accurately labelled as non-net forest loss.
- The findings contrast with previous assumptions about land-cover trends currently used in projections of global climate change and future environmental conditions in Southeast Asia.


New report spotlights financiers of palm oil giant clearing Liberia’s forests [07/17/2018]
- A new report by Friends of the Earth highlights deforestation by Golden Veroleum Liberia, an arm of the billionaire Widjaja family’s conglomerate.
- The largest financiers of Golden Veroleum’s parent company include U.S. financial firms Vanguard, BlackRock, Kopernik Global Investors, Dimensional Fund Advisors, Northern Trust and CitiGroup; Dutch firms Robeco and Rabobank; and Asian firms China Merchants Bank, Maybank Indonesia and Bank Mandiri.
- Golden Veroleum cleared some 150 square kilometers of land between 2010 and 2016, according to the report.


EU demand siphons illicit timber from Ukraine, investigation finds [07/17/2018]
- Corrupt management of Ukraine’s timber sector is supplying the EU with large amounts of wood from the country’s dense forests.
- The London-based investigative nonprofit Earthsight found evidence that forestry officials have taken bribes to supply major European firms with Ukrainian wood that may have been harvested illegally.
- Earthsight argues that EU-based companies are not carrying out the due diligence that the EU Timber Regulation requires when buying from “high-risk” sources of timber.


Soy giant Louis Dreyfus pledges deforestation-free supply chain [07/16/2018]
- The Louis Dreyfus Company (LDC), a global commodities trader, has announced a plan to eliminate the destruction of native vegetation from its soy supply chain in Brazil and across Latin America. Particularly important to environmentalists, LDC pledges to avoid buying soy from producers who have caused new deforestation in the Cerrado biome.
- The Amazon Soy Moratorium, instituted in 2006 via an agreement between Greenpeace and global commodities companies, has been credited with vastly reducing the cutting of forests to make way for soy planting there. But the companies, until now, have resisted making a similar commitment in the Cerrado, where soy-caused deforestation is rampant.
- Many environmentalists are hailing LDC’s new deforestation commitment, though they note that the pledge has yet to be backed by implementation and timeline details.
- Tesco, the UK’s biggest supermarket chain, has also just announced the planned launch this year of a certification system that will only source soy from areas that have been certified as deforestation-free. From 2025 onward, the company also plans to transition to sourcing only from “zero deforestation areas.”


Mangroves and their deforestation may emit more methane than we thought [07/13/2018]
- A recently published study finds mangroves release more methane than previously estimated.
- Methane packs much more of a global warming punch than carbon dioxide, and the study indicates this methane could be offsetting around 20 percent of a mangrove’s soil carbon storage rate.
- Deforestation of mangroves releases much of the carbon stored by mangroves, including methane.


Angry farmers set fire to offices of Madagascar eco group, gov’t agency [07/13/2018]
- Large swaths of forest inside northwestern Madagascar’s Bongolava Forest Corridor, a protected area, have been burned to make way for commercial corn farming, raising the fortunes of many residents accustomed to living on the edge of subsistence.
- Last month, angry farmers armed with sticks and machetes stormed into the northwestern city of Boriziny, also known as Port–Bergé, to demand the release of people arrested for illegally clearing farmland inside the protected area.
- The group destroyed the offices of the local nonprofit that manages the protected area and set fire to the building it shares with an outpost of the environment ministry, as well as to the homes of the group’s coordinator and the government administrator for the area.
- The episode highlights the difficulty of achieving meaningful conservation in an area where the populace largely views ecological goals as conflicting with an important source of income.


Scientists urge Indonesian president to nix dam in orangutan habitat [07/13/2018]
- Twenty-five of the world’s top environmental scientists have sent a letter to Indonesia’s president, seeking a halt to a planned hydroelectric dam in the only known habitat of the Tapanuli orangutan, the rarest species of great ape on Earth.
- The scientists also slammed the Chinese government for funding the project as a part of its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, saying it has disregarded the environmental consequences of building and operating the dam.
- The developers of the project have dismissed the criticism, saying they will enforce strong environmental safeguards to protect the critically endangered Tapanuli orangutan.


After devastating floods in 2013, an Indian state ignores the lessons [07/13/2018]
- In 2013, the state of Uttarakhand in northern India witnessed one of the biggest natural disasters in independent India’s history when heavy rains and flash floods resulted in the destruction of thousands of lives and property.
- According to experts, the disaster’s impacts were exacerbated by unabated illegal construction on river floodplains and the government’s relentless pursuit of hydropower projects.
- Five years since the floods, the state is continuing to push for hydropower projects, which has residents and experts worried.
- Mongabay-India staff writer Mayank Aggarwal and video editor Kartik Chandramouli traveled to Uttarakhand to see how the state has dealt with the disaster’s aftermath.


Extractive industries threaten a million square kilometers of intact tropical forests around the globe [07/12/2018]
- According to a recent report, mining companies currently have claims on 11 percent of all intact rainforests left in the world, meaning 590,000 square kilometers (227,800 square miles) of pristine tropical forest ecosystems are at risk. That’s an area larger than France.
- Oil and gas concessions, meanwhile, cover 8 percent of tropical intact forest landscapes (IFLs). That’s another 408,000 square kilometers (157,529 square miles), roughly the size of the US state of California.
- The report, issued by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) last month, assesses the threats from extractive industries to the 5.2 million square kilometers, or just over 2 million square miles, of tropical IFLs left in the world. In total, nearly one million square kilometers (386,000 square miles) of those intact tropical forests are potentially threatened by extractive activities.


RSPO fails to deliver on environmental and social sustainability, study finds [07/11/2018]
- The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is widely considered the strongest certification scheme for the commodity, which is grown largely on plantations hacked out of tropical forests that are home to critically endangered species such as orangutans.
- A new study has found that RSPO-certified plantations perform no better than non-RSPO estates on a series of sustainability metrics, including species and habitat conservation, as well as social benefits to local communities.
- The researchers attributed the scheme’s shortcomings to a lack of clarity on its central objectives, as well as weak environmental safeguards.
- For its part, the RSPO has disputed the study’s findings, citing other reports that it says highlight a net positive impact to the environment and communities from certification.


Revealed: Paper giant’s ex-staff say it used their names for secret company in Borneo [07/10/2018]
- Last December, it came to light that a plantation company clearing forest in Indonesia was owned by two employees of Asia Pulp & Paper, a giant firm that has promised to stop deforesting.
- APP claimed the employees had set up the company on their own, without management knowing. But an investigation by Mongabay provides evidence that contradicts APP’s story.
- The findings place APP squarely in the middle of an emerging debate about the presence of “shadow companies” among the holdings of the conglomerates that dominate Indonesia’s plantation sector.


Audio: How to use drones without stressing wildlife [07/10/2018]
- On today’s episode, we discuss the increasing use of drones by wildlife lovers, researchers, and businesses, how that might be stressing animals out, and how drone hobbyists can actually make a meaningful contribution to science while avoiding the harassment of wildlife.
- Our guest is Alicia Amerson, a marine biologist, drone pilot, and science communicator. She tells us why it’s critical that we have best practices for drones in place before we allow companies like Amazon and Uber to deploy fleets of drones in our skies.
- “I want to hit the panic button and create policy” before we have drone-based delivery services by companies like Amazon and Uber “and look and collect data to make sure that we understand what populations are using the skies before we release all of these drones into our world. And so you have to create best practices and policies before all this really gets out of control.”


Palm oil firms using ‘shadow companies’ to hide their links to deforestation: report [07/09/2018]
- A new report highlights the use of opaque corporate structures by some of the world’s largest palm oil firms, allegedly to conceal their ties to destructive practices such as rainforest and peatland clearance.
- The report focuses on Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea. The firms it flags include Sawit Sumbermas Sarana, Gama, Bintang Harapan Desa, and the Fangiono, Tee, and Salim family business groups.
- Also last week, Martua Sitorus, co-founder of palm oil giant Wilmar International, resigned from the firm after he was shown to be running a second firm, Gama, with his brother that has cleared an area of rainforest twice the size of Paris since 2013. Wilmar promised to stop deforesting that same year.
- “We are particularly concerned about this ‘shadow company’ issue as it really threatens NDPE policies, by allowing growers to continue to deforest, and allowing them to still find a market with companies with [zero-deforestation] policies,” said a researcher who worked on the report.


Brazil’s political storm driving Amazon deforestation higher [07/09/2018]
- Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon was dramatically reduced between 2005 and 2015, surged in 2016, then fell in 2017. Preliminary figures from IMAZON suggest the trend has now reversed, with deforestation up 22 percent between August 2017 and May 2018, compared to the same period the prior year. But, so far, official confirmation from INPE of this surge is lacking.
- Experts say the source of the uptick lies with land-grabbers emboldened by the bancada ruralista, the agribusiness lobby, which has won many recent legislative and administrative victories, drastically cutting environmental and indigenous agency budgets, and pushing bills to shrink conservation units and erode indigenous land rights.
- A recent Forest Code Supreme Court ruling may have further encouraged wealthy land-grabbers, when it granted billions in amnesty, forgiving fines against many guilty of illegal deforestation. Today, Pará’s Triunfo Xingu Area of Environmental Protection and the Indigenous Territory of Apyterewa are especially threatened by land-grabbing.
- So is Pará’s Jamanxim National Forest; land thieves there hope congress will pass a bill to dismember the preserve, along with other Brazilian conservation units. Environmentalists worry that the election of right-wing populist Jair Bolsonaro as president, dubbed “Brazil’s Trump,” in October could send deforestation rates soaring.


Peru: How chocolate saved a community and a protected area from the drug trade [07/06/2018]
- In the forests surrounding Río Abiseo National Park, in the Peruvian Amazon region of San Martín, a burgeoning chocolate industry is gaining traction.
- After dedicating more than twenty years to the cultivation of coca to supply cocaine trafficking, today the community of Mariscal Cáceres is committed to legal production of cacao that allows them to protect more than 300,000 hectares of forest.
- Cacao growers in the community are partnering with Swiss dairy farmer to produce high-quality chocolate for markets in Europe and the U.S.


And then there were 12: Why don’t we hear about extinction until it’s too late? (commentary) [07/06/2018]
- Species threatened with extinction often don’t get the public’s attention until they no longer exist.
- The author, zoologist Sam Turvey, argues that more attention to these critical cases is required.
- Ahead of International Save the Vaquita Day on July 7, Turvey points out that the world’s most endangered marine mammal is dangerously close to extinction, and it’s not alone.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Cerrado: traditional communities win back land from agribusiness firm [07/05/2018]
- Traditional communities, which have inhabited rural lands sometimes for centuries but without land deeds, are protected under Brazilian law. However, a variety of elite land grabbers, ranging from cattle ranchers to large agribusiness companies, have used intimidation and other methods to seize community lands.
- Rural communities in Formosa do Rio Preto in Bahia state are a case in point. They are in conflict with Agronegócio Estrondo, an agribusiness firm which the communities say illegally seized their lands on the Black River. A state court has now ruled in the communities’ favor, ordering the land returned and fines paid.
- However, the communities say Estrondo, which has a documented history in Bahia as a land grabber, has continued its tactics of intimidation, recently digging a 1.8-mile trench to hinder movement of local people and livestock, and using a private security force and police to seize the rural community of Cachoeira’s cell phone tower.
- Also, in Cachoeira, in June, local police and private security, allegedly from Estrondo, entered the home of Adão Batista Gomes, arrested, then released him. He is the community leader whose name appears first on the judicial action against the agribusiness firm. Estrondo seems likely to appeal the court ruling.


New research calculates full carbon cost of oil palm cultivation in Indonesia’s forests [07/05/2018]
- Researchers found that each hectare of rainforest converted to oil palm monoculture creates 174 tons of carbon emissions, most of which will find their way into the atmosphere and contribute to global climate change.
- After oil palm is harvested, the amount of biomass returned to the soil to feed living organisms underground can be 90 percent lower than in a functional, healthy rainforest. Since the soil in oil palm plantations is repeatedly cleared and treated with pesticides, very little natural litter like dead leaves and wood goes back into the ground.
- The research team said that their findings show that figures used by bodies like the IPCC and the RSPO to calculate the carbon cost of oil palm cultivation should be updated and that belowground carbon losses must be accounted for.


Global frog pandemic may become even deadlier as strains combine [07/03/2018]
- Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis – Bd for short – causes a disease called chytridiomycosis that affects a frog’s ability to absorb water and electrolytes through its skin. By 2007, Bd had spread around the world and had been implicated in the decline or extinction of some 200 species.
- A new study finds that hybridization between a native strain of Bd and the one that’s caused the global pandemic can lead to greater infection rates and illness strength than either can alone.
- It was conducted by researchers from universities in Brazil and the U.S. who looked at infection in several frog species in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest. They chose that region because of its high amphibian biodiversity (despite being one of the most deforested ecosystems on the planet), as well as because it is the only known region in the world where multiple strains of Bd coexist and hybridize.
- The researchers say their results indicate frogs may face a future even more dire than anticipated as different strains of Bd spread around the world and combine into more harmful forms. They call for increasing global monitoring efforts to detect these shifts before they lead to new outbreaks.


‘Saving the rainforest 2.0:’ New report makes recommendations for improving forest protection [07/02/2018]
- Over the past decade, Norway has spent $3 billion to support efforts to keep forests standing in all of the world’s major rainforest countries, helping to elevate forest protection as a globally important cause (and climate solution) in the process.
- But it’s time to take stock of what’s worked and what hasn’t, in terms of both tropical forest protection in general and Norway’s particular role in facilitating forest conservation, and chart a new course forward — that’s the premise of a new report from Rainforest Foundation Norway titled “Saving the rainforest 2.0.”
- The report, released last week as hundreds of policymakers and conservationists met at the Oslo Tropical Forest Forum hosted by Norway, identifies key barriers to stopping the destruction of the world’s forests and offers several recommendations for how the world can more successfully combat deforestation.


Smartphone app helps indigenous communities fight deforestation [07/02/2018]
- Using a system called ForestLink developed by Rainforest Foundation UK, members of the Masenawa community documented the presence of an illegal gold mining camp in the Madre de Dios region of Peru.
- The police then responded by destroying the mining equipment at the camp and arresting five people suspected of participating in illegal mining.
- The biodiverse Madre de Dios region of the Amazon has been besieged by illegal gold mining, which has caused widespread deforestation.


Investing in indigenous communities is most efficient way to protect forests, report finds [07/02/2018]
- A new report adds to the growing body of evidence that indigenous peoples are the best protectors of the forests they call home.
- The report compares conservation outcomes in lands controlled by indigenous groups against those in government-managed “protection zones” in 28 countries.
- The rate of deforestation on customary lands is half what it is elsewhere, the report finds.


What’s worse than palm oil for the environment? Other vegetable oils, IUCN study finds [07/02/2018]
- A new IUCN report shows that while palm oil leads to deforestation and biodiversity losses, replacing it with other types of vegetable oils might be even worse for the environment.
- The key factor is the high yield of oil palms, with other oil crops requiring up to nine times as much land to produce the same volume of vegetable oil. Transitioning to the latter would shift the deforestation associated with palm oil production to other regions such as South America, a major producer of soy.
- The report found that by far the biggest gains for biodiversity in an oil palm context are through avoiding further deforestation, which can be achieved through improved planning of new plantations and better management of forest patches left untouched in plantations.


After logging, activists hope to extend protections for Bialowieza Forest [06/28/2018]
- Bialoweiza Forest straddles Poland and Belarus and is Europe’s largest remaining lowland old growth forest, home to wildlife that has disappeared from much of the rest of Europe. In March 2016, the government approved a plan to triple industrial logging in Poland’s Bialoweiza forest. The government argued it was the only way to combat a spruce bark beetle outbreak, but environmentalists believed that was largely an excuse to give access to the state-run logging regime.
- According to watchdog organizations, loggers cut 190,000 cubic meters of wood in 2017. This amounts to around 160,000-180,000 trees and affects an area of about 1,900 hectares. It also represents the most trees cut in the forest in any one year since 1987 when Poland was under a communist government.
- In May 2018, Europe’s highest court ruled the logging illegal, noting that the government’s own documents showed that logging was a bigger threat than the beetles, which are a part of natural, cyclical process that is likely exacerbated by climate change. Poland, threatened with high fines, backed down—and the logging stopped.
- Activists and environmentalists are calling for expanding national park status – which currently applies to just a small portion of Poland’s portion of the forest – over its entirety. But they worry a government panel of experts will once again push to open Bialoweiza to logging.


Plant response to rising CO2 levels may alter rainfall patterns across tropics [06/28/2018]
- Stomata – the tiny pores through which plants take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen and water – are closing up everywhere on earth as atmospheric CO2 levels rise. This change in plant structure results in more water being stored within plants, and less being released to the atmosphere.
- In a recent study scientists posit that the reduction in water released by stomata through transpiration will result in changing rainfall patterns across the tropics. Researchers used climate models to test the hypothesis, noting that while reduced transpiration will occur everywhere, tropical climates in different regions respond differently.
- In South America, rainfall patterns are strongly influenced by changes in the amount of water that local plants release to the atmosphere. So if plants there retain more water, deeper droughts could result, consistent with most models. But Africa and Southeast Asia are protected from this atmospheric drying effect.
- Forests in Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea are encircled by humid air over warm oceans. Reduced transpiration means more warm air rising from the islands, which draws in moist ocean air, increasing rainfall even as plants release less moisture. Some scientists dispute the study conclusions, noting that climate models poorly simulate water cycling.


A most unlikely hope: How the companies that destroyed the world’s forests can save them (commentary) [06/28/2018]
- In the age of Trump, lamenting the lassitude of governments may be satisfying, but it does little to solve our planet’s foremost existential crisis. It is for this reason that the hopes of billions of people now depend on the very companies most responsible for environmental destruction.
- We’ve come to a pretty sorry pass if we’re depending in significant measure on these corporations to get us out of this mess. But it’s the pass we’re at, and there’s actually reason to hope that the same companies that got us into this mess can get us out.
- In this commentary, Mighty Earth CEO Glenn Hurowitz writes that he feels confident these companies can make a difference because they’ve done it before.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


The world lost an area of tropical forest the size of Bangladesh in 2017 [06/27/2018]
- According to new data, tropical countries lost 158,000 square kilometers (39 million acres) of tree cover in 2017 – an area the size of Bangladesh. The 2017 number is the second highest since the dataset began in 2001, and only a bit lower than the record high in 2016.
- Brazil came out on top for the most tree cover lost of any tropical country, a reversal from the country’s deforestation reductions over the past 14 years. Tree cover loss also rose dramatically in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Colombia. However, Indonesia’s numbers dropped by nearly half between 2016 and 2017.
- Experts attribute the upward trend in tree cover loss primarily to continued land clearing for agricultural purposes.
- The new dataset was discussed at the Oslo Tropical Forest Forum, which is taking place this week in Norway.


PepsiCo to probe deforestation in palm oil supplier’s Leuser Ecosystem concession [06/27/2018]
- PepsiCo has launched an investigation into reports of deforestation in one of its supplier’s oil palm plantations, located in the Leuser Ecosystem, a biodiversity hotspot that is home to some of the last Sumatran tigers, rhinos, orangutans and elephants left on Earth.
- The investigation comes in response to a complaint from the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), which says the company has failed to act since the deforestation allegations were first reported four years ago.
- For its part, the supplier alleges that the deforestation was carried out by local villagers encroaching into its concession, and that it is in discussions with them on resolving the long-running dispute over the land tenure.
- Separately, PepsiCo has also recently updated and expanded its policy on sustainable palm oil, which has been criticized by RAN for failing to ensure the elimination of labor rights violations and forest destruction from the company’s extensive supply chain.


Rwandan people and mountain gorillas face changing climate together [06/27/2018]
- The Critically Endangered mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei), has been brought back from extinction’s brink in Rwanda, with numbers in the Virunga Mountains around Volcanoes National Park estimated at 604 individuals in 2016, up from 480 in 2010. But long-time observers say climate change is bringing new survival challenges to the area.
- Longer and deeper droughts in recent years have caused serious water shortages, which impact both local farmers and the mountain gorillas. People now must often go deep into the park to find clean water, which increases the likelihood of contact with the great apes, which increases the likelihood for the transfer of human diseases to the animals.
- Hotter temps and dryer conditions could also pressure farmers to move into gorilla habitat in future, as they seek more productive cropland at higher altitudes. Also, as the climate changes, bamboo availability may be decreasing, depriving gorillas of a favorite food. This could force troops to forage outside the park in croplands, possibly leading to conflict.
- Forced changes in diet could impact gorilla nutrition, making the great apes more susceptible to disease. A major disease outbreak could be disastrous due to low population numbers. Scientists urge more research to understand how climate change affects human behavior, which then affects gorillas, and how the fate of the two primates intertwines.


Uncertainty around Madagascar mine in wake of cyclone [06/27/2018]
- The Ambatovy mine complex near Madagascar’s eastern city of Toamasina is a massive operation to extract nickel and cobalt from the country’s rich soil.
- The $8 billion complex represents the largest-ever foreign investment in the country.
- Over the years, local residents have suspected the mine of causing environmental and health problems, including air and water pollution.
- Locals now fear that Tropical Cyclone Ava, which hit Toamasina hard in January, may have exacerbated these problems — fears that Ambatovy and local officials assert are unfounded.


Logging roads drive loss of intact forest in FSC-certified logging concessions [06/27/2018]
- Logging roads in Central Africa cause greater loss of intact forest landscapes, or IFLs, on certified timber concessions compared to non-certified concessions, an analysis shows.
- Certified timber companies typically build more robust road networks that are more apt to show up on satellite imagery than non-certified companies.
- The findings highlight an apparent contradiction between certification for logging and the protection of IFLs, leading some critics to argue that IFL protection should not be part of the Forest Stewardship Council’s standards.


Government regulation is the missing ingredient in efforts to end deforestation driven by agriculture (commentary) [06/26/2018]
- Despite countless corporate commitments, tropical deforestation for agriculture remains rampant.
- New research reveals that we need government regulation to achieve meaningful results.
- The European Union, a top importer of products that drive deforestation, must take the opportunity to make a difference, writes Nicole Polsterer, Sustainable consumption campaigner at the NGO Fern.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


‘Screen, not just green’ infrastructure projects to help economies and the environment [06/26/2018]
- Bill Laurance, a tropical ecologist at Australia’s James Cook University, argues that scientists should work to slow the pace of infrastructure development around the world.
- ‘Delaying’ the process of development will allow time for the merits — and the potential dangers to the environment, communities and economies — to be debated publicly.
- While many of these projects are viewed as wholly positive because they’re intended to connect markets and create jobs, a lot of them ‘should not happen,’ Laurance said.


Dutch pension fund divests from Posco Daewoo over deforestation in Indonesia [06/25/2018]
- APB, the Dutch pension fund for government and education employees, announced it would divest 300,000 euros from Posco Daewoo over deforestation in Indonesian Papua.
- Norway’s pension fund divested from Posco Daewoo, and its parent company, Posco, in 2015. APB is still invested in Posco.
- Posco Daewoo is owned by one of South Korean’s largest conglomerates.


Could El Niño and climate change spell the end for tropical forests? [06/25/2018]
- NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) allowed scientists to study the response of the world’s tropical rainforests to the 2015-16 El Niño in more detail than every before, potentially providing insight into the longer-term response of tropical forests to escalating climate change.
- During the El Niño, OCO-2 recorded a sudden global surge in CO2 emissions (above 400 ppm for a full year, the highest in modern history), an effect significantly enhanced by tropical forest emissions in South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia – all responded to the El Niño by temporarily shifting from carbon sink to carbon source.
- However, each region responded differently: El Niño brought extreme drought to South America, and trees there stopped absorbing CO2. In Southeast Asia, major forest fires raged in extremely dry conditions, quickly releasing stored carbon. In Africa, rainfall was normal, but high temperatures drove increased ecosystem respiration.
- Scientists worry that a tipping point could be reached where tropical forests collapse, but more study is needed. Given the great uncertainties as to how tropical forests will respond to a warming world, taking action now to keep forests standing and healthy may offer the single best hope for mitigating negative impacts, say researchers.


In Indonesia’s coal heartland, jaded voters weigh the ‘same old’ candidates [06/25/2018]
- Years of rampant natural resources exploitation and mismanagement in East Kalimantan, the coal-mining heartland of Indonesia, have resulted in voter apathy as the province goes to the polls for a new governor this week.
- All the candidates are veteran local officials, most implicated in corruption cases, fueling a sense that there will be little improvement in the management of the province’s mines, regardless of who wins.
- Environmental activists say none of the candidates appear to be concerned about the environment, with no definitive programs on environmental conservation in any of their stated campaign platforms.


DRC adopts a strategy that will bolster community forestry, conservation group says [06/25/2018]
- A new community forestry strategy in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) could help provide Congolese communities with a say in the management of the country’s forests.
- A group of local and international organizations, government agencies and community groups developed the strategy to strengthen the capacity of provincial authorities and ensure that the country’s community forestry laws do in fact include and benefit communities.
- The plan calls for an “experimental phase” over the next five years to gradually provide access to areas of the roughly 700,000 square kilometers (more than 270,000 square miles) of available forest through community management permits.


Winning farmer support to reduce deforestation (commentary) [06/24/2018]
- It is critical to win farmer support for strategies to address deforestation if they are to succeed; in Brazil, farmers are economically powerful, increasingly sophisticated as a political block, and they own or control half of Brazil’s native vegetation.
- They have grown weary of being vilified as criminals, of unmet promises of positive incentives for shifting to sustainable production systems, and of the chronic challenges of changing and inefficient regulations. To gain the support of conservation-minded, responsible farmers for the deforestation agenda, a new narrative and set of actions is needed that recognizes, applauds and rewards them for their efforts as it effectively includes them in dialogues.
- A shared agenda is needed between environmental groups and farm sectors in Brazil to help restore collaboration; there is strong potential to build that collaboration around core issues faced by the farm sector–transportation infrastructure and inefficient and changing licensing procedures.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Latam Eco Review: Ports imperil Colombian crocodiles [06/23/2018]
Below are summaries of the most popular stories by our Spanish language service, Mongabay Latam, from the week of June 11 – 17. Among the top articles: Port projects in northern Colombia threaten the mangrove habitats of American crocodiles. In other news, the Waorani people of Ecuador use camera traps to record an astonishing diversity […]

Last Glimpses of a Cambodian Paradise? Documenting an area on the eve of its likely destruction (commentary) [06/22/2018]
- The sheer scale of the logging operations in Cambodia’s Virachey National Park makes it a wonder that there’s anything left of the forest, especially as the timber just keeps flowing into Vietnam unabated. In fact, Cambodia has one of the world’s highest deforestation rates.
- Yet there is still plenty of wildlife, at least in Virachey National Park, where I have been part of a team that has been conducting a wildlife survey for four years now.
- All hope could well be lost — man/progress must be served. But are the nails firmly placed in the biodiversity coffin and awaiting final pounding? Perhaps not.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Scientists find surprising genetic differences between Brazil’s mangroves [06/21/2018]
- Mangrove forests occupy tropical costal areas and provide important habitat for wildlife, as well as ecosystem services for human communities. They’re also carbon storage powerhouses, pound-for-pound capable of sequestering four times more carbon than a rainforest.
- Researchers analyzed the genes of mangrove forests along the coast of Brazil. They found that trees in different forests show “dramatic” differences from one another, even when they belong to the same species.
- They think these differences arose because an ocean current separates mangroves in northern and southern Brazil, making it so they can’t exchange genes.
- The researchers suspect the genetic distinctiveness of mangrove populations extends beyond Brazil. They say their results highlight the importance of enacting conservation plans that give a higher priority to the preservation of genetic diversity – an endeavor they say is becoming more and more critical for mangroves as they continue to disappear and climate change ramps up.


US/China trade war could boost Brazil soy export, Amazon deforestation [06/21/2018]
- President Donald Trump is pressing hard for a trade war with China. So far, he has imposed $50 billion in tariffs on the Chinese, and threatened another $200 billion; the Chinese are retaliating. An all-out U.S./China trade war could have serious unforeseen repercussions on the Brazilian Amazon, including increased deforestation, intensified pressures on indigenous groups, and escalated climate change.
- The concern is that China will shift its commodities purchases, including beef and soy, away from the U.S. to Brazil. The Amazon and Cerrado biomes are already major exporters of both commodities, and are creating a boom in infrastructure construction to bring those products to market. Even without a trade war, experts expect Brazil to edge out the U.S. this year as the world´s largest soy producer.
- The U.S. tariffs may already be prompting a shift in trade. Trump first threatened China with tariffs in January. By April, U.S. soy sales to China were down 70,000 metric tons compared to the same period last year. Data also shows a surge in Brazilian Amazon deforestation between February and April of 2018, compared to 2017, a possible response by Brazil soy growers eager to profit from a trade war.
- If the U.S./China trade war results in a significant surge in Brazilian commodities production, deforestation rates there could soar. Scientists worry that Amazon deforestation, now at 17 percent, could be pushed past a 20-25 percent climate tipping point, converting rainforest to savanna, greatly swelling carbon emissions, and potentially destabilizing the regional and even global climate.


Orangutan forest school in Indonesia takes on its first eight students [06/21/2018]
- A forest school in Indonesia’s East Kalimantan province, funded by the Vienna-based animal welfare organization Four Paws and run by the local organization Jejak Pulang, has just started training its first eight orangutan orphans to learn the skills they need to live independently in the forest.
- Borneo’s orangutans are in crisis, with more than 100,000 lost since 1999 through direct killings and loss of habitat, particularly to oil palm and pulpwood plantations.
- Security forces often confiscate juvenile orangutans under 7 years of age, and without their mothers to teach them the skills they need, they cannot be released back into the forest.
- Jejak Pulang’s team of 15 orangutan caretakers, a biologist, two veterinarians and the center’s director aim to prepare the orphaned orangutans for independence.


Commercial values are a key driver of Zero Deforestation policies (commentary) [06/20/2018]
- Zero Deforestation Policies (ZDPs) are mostly developed in response to campaigns and motivated by risk management and protection of commercial values, a new enquiry finds, although personal and company values do factor in.
- ZDP implementation often focuses on integrating commercial values, reflecting a “quick-fix” approach.
- Personal and company values have high potential to influence ZDP implementation, especially when people are genuinely committed to the purpose. People can be genuinely committed when they relate the ZDP to their own personal values or to company values, which they identify with and feel empowered to act on.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Peru’s Bahuaja-Sonene National Park at risk over illegal mining [06/19/2018]
- The illegal mining, which also takes place in the buffer zone of Bahuaja-Sonene National Park and in Tambopata National Reserve, has isolated part of the giant river otter population.
- The current leaders of the Kotsimba indigenous community are creating a plan with the Ministry of Environment to abandon illegal mining, although an environmental disaster from over 10 years ago remains unaddressed.


Madagascar: Yet another anti-trafficking activist convicted [06/19/2018]
- Christopher Magnenjika, an activist working to stem corruption and wildlife trafficking in northeastern Madagascar, was tried, convicted, fined $9 and released earlier this month.
- The charges against Magnenjika include “rebellion” and insulting local officials.
- Magnenjika’s supporters say his arrest and conviction were a pretext for keeping him quiet about the illicit trade in rosewood, a valuable tropical hardwood.
- Magnenjika is one of at least ten Malagasy activists who have faced imprisonment in recent years.


Animals are becoming night owls to avoid humans [06/19/2018]
- By analyzing 76 studies and activity patterns of 62 mammal species, including bears, deer, coyotes and tigers, researchers have found that large mammals are 1.36 times more active at night in areas with high human presence compared to areas with low human presence.
- These results seemed to be consistent across species and continents.
- Animals seem to be becoming more nocturnal not only to avoid direct threats like hunting, but to avoid even recreational human activities like hiking and mountain biking.




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