Visualizing the impacts of human disturbance on tropical forest biodiversity [07/26/2017]
- Efforts to protect biodiversity often focus on keeping forests and the habitat they represent from being cut down. But research published in the journal Nature last year suggests that forest degradation resulting from human activities is perhaps just as urgent a threat to biodiversity as deforestation. - According to the study, man-made disturbances in Pará’s tropical forests have resulted in levels of biodiversity loss equivalent to clearing 92,000 to 139,000 square kilometers (around 35,500 to 53,700 square miles) of pristine forest. - If that kind of raw data is hard to wrap your brain around, that’s where Silent Forest comes in. Thiago Medaglia described it as “a journalistic data visualization project” in an email to Mongabay.
Working with communities to fight fires in Way Kambas National Park [07/26/2017]
- Way Kambas National Park in southern Sumatra supports populations of Critically Endangered Sumatran rhinos, tigers and elephants, along with hundreds of other species. - In 1997, forest fires hit 70 percent of the park, killing many animals and hampering regeneration in previously logged areas. - Local authorities and conservation groups are now working with residents to prevent and fight fires, with notable success.
Audio: Global megadam activism and the sounds of nature in Taiwan [07/25/2017]
- Activists from around the world attended the conference to strategize around stopping what they see as destructive hydropower projects. As Bardeen relates in her commentary, many attendees at the conference have faced harassment, intimidation, and worse for their opposition to dam projects, but they’re still standing strong in defense of free-flowing rivers. - We also speak with Yannick Dauby, a French sound artist based in Taiwan. Since 2002, Dauby has been crafting sound art out of field recordings made throughout the small country of Taiwan and posting them on his website, Kalerne.net. - In this Field Notes segment, Dauby plays a recording of his favorite singer, a frog named Rhacophorus moltrechti; the sounds of the marine life of the corals of Penghu, which he is documenting together with biologists; the calls bats use to echolocate (slowed down 16 times so they can be heard by human ears!); and more! - All that plus the top news on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast!
Orangutans find home in degraded forests [07/24/2017]
- The study leveraged three years of orangutan observation in the field and airborne mapping of the forest structure using laser-based light detection and ranging (LiDAR) technology. - The research team found that orangutans make use of habitats that have been ‘degraded’ by logging and other human uses. - The research is part of a larger effort in collaboration with the Sabah Forestry Department to map carbon stocks and plant and animal biodiversity throughout the Malaysian state of Sabah with the goal of identifying new areas for conservation.
Mounting outcry over Indonesian palm oil bill as legislators press on [07/21/2017]
- The bill cements the right of oil palm planters to operate on peat soil, at a time when President Joko Widodo is trying to enforce new peat protections to stop another outbreak of devastating fires and haze. - The bill has also been criticized for outlining a variety of tax breaks and duty relief schemes for palm oil investors, although those provisions have been dialed back — but not completely eliminated — in the latest draft. - The bill's main champion in the House of Representatives is the Golkar Party's Firman Soebagyo. He says it will help farmers and protect Indonesian palm oil from foreign intervention. - Responding to mounting public criticism, some cabinet members recently asked the House to abandon the bill, but Soebagyo, who is leading the deliberations, says they will continue.
Big forests, big ag: Are rainforests the right place for industrial agriculture? (commentary) [07/21/2017]
- Gabon remains a relative stronghold for endangered wildlife like chimpanzees and forest elephants. - Singapore-based Olam International, one of the world’s largest agribusinesses, has agreed not to plant palm oil in protected wetlands, and also set aside conservation areas and corridors for wildlife in its concessions in Gabon. - But there is only so much that can be done to minimize the impact of clearing 26,000 hectares in the middle of one of the world’s most forested countries. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Mothers vs. loggers: the destruction of Białowieża Forest splits Poland [07/19/2017]
- A bark beetle outbreak has led Polish officials to begin large-scale logging across old-growth Białowieża Forest, home to bison, wolves and a rich cultural history. - The logging is opposed by everyone from scientists to the UN to the European Commission to a group of mothers concerned about the world their children will inherit. - The European Commission has recently declared that all logging should cease.
Charcoal and cattle ranching tearing apart the Gran Chaco [07/19/2017]
- The year-long probe of Paraguay’s charcoal exports by the NGO Earthsight revealed that much of the product was coming from the Chaco, the world’s fastest-disappearing tropical forest. - Suppliers appear to have reassured international supermarket chains that it was sustainable and that they had certification from international groups such as FSC and PEFC. - But further digging by Earthsight revealed that the charcoal production methods used may not fit with the intent of certification. - Several grocery store chains mentioned in the report have said they’ll take a closer look at their supply chains, and the certification body PEFC is reexamining how its own standards are applied.
As Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem faces multiple threats, local resistance grows [07/17/2017]
- Sumatra’s Leuser Ecosystem covers 2.6 million hectares and is home to some 105 mammal and 382 bird species, many found nowhere else on earth. - The ecosystem is part of a World Heritage Site that has been listed as "In Danger" since 2011 — a designation that was renewed earlier this month. - The local government's plans for the ecosystem include large hydroelectric dams. Deforestation and encroachment for palm oil and pulp and paper production are also major problems for the Leuser. - Local NGOs and community groups are speaking out against large-scale projects in the ecosystem, citing threats to the area's human residents as well as to wildlife.
Transforming business as usual in Indonesia: an interview with Aida Greenbury [07/17/2017]
- Aida Greenbury is the former Chief Sustainability Officer at Asia Pulp & Paper, a forestry giant with extensive operations in Indonesia. - Greenbury was the lead internal architect for APP's 2013 forest conservation policy, which is today one of the most ambitious zero deforestation commitments in the plantation sector. - Greenbury left APP in May and is today working on collaborative initiatives to protect and restore ecosystems.
Colombia expands indigenous reserves near key deforestation hotspot [07/14/2017]
- The Puerto Sabalo - Los Monos and Monochoa indigenous reserves are both located in the province of Caquetá, which has the highest rate of forest loss in Colombia. - The expansion of the two reserves connects Chiribiquete with Predio Putumayo, the country's largest indigenous reserve, creating a conservation corridor slightly larger than the entire country of Honduras. - A recent report by the Mapping the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP) shows that cattle ranching and agricultural development have opened a new deforestation hotspot in Caquetá province’s Amazon rainforests — and that deforestation is expanding towards Chiribiquete National Park.
Soy King Blairo Maggi wields power over Amazon’s fate, say critics [07/13/2017]
- Brazil’s Blairo Maggi made a fortune with vast Mato Grosso soy plantations in Legal Amazonia. Today, Amaggi Group, the family company, dominates the nation’s agribusiness sector — profiting from farm commodities, and the roads, railways, and industrial waterways that transport them. - Maggi rose through Brazilian politics, becoming Mato Grosso’s governor, a senator, and today, the Temer administration’s agriculture minister. He is also a leader of the bancada ruralista, the agribusiness lobby, that dominates Brazilian government. - Once known as the Soy King, Maggi has often pushed anti-environmental agribusiness policies, including those resulting in major Amazon deforestation, ending indigenous land demarcation, and harmful infrastructure projects putting biodiversity at risk. He has also, paradoxically, worked to end illegal logging and to reduce deforestation. - On Monday, 17 July, Maggi will meet with the Trump administration to urge the U.S. to lift its ban on Brazilian beef, a ban prompted by scandal involving a corrupt federal meat inspection service overseen by his ministry. Maggi was recently accused of corruption by federal Lava Jato investigators. He continues to shape Amazon policies.
Temer signs law that could see millions of acres lost in the Amazon [07/13/2017]
- MP 759, signed into law this week by President Temer, and little noticed by the media, significantly alters Brazil’s Terra Legal program, introduced in 2009 by President Lula — a program that has already been hijacked by land thieves, critics say. - The new law introduces further multiple loopholes to allow land thieves, who have illegally occupied and cleared vast areas of public land in the Amazon, to legalize their land holdings, and to do so both easily and cheaply. - MP 759, among other things, increases the land claimable via Terra Legal from 1,500 to 2,500 hectares; allows wealthy land thieves to go on paying very little for land; and offers what in practice is an amnesty for land grabbers who illegally seized public lands between 2004 and 2011. - With government regulatory and enforcement agencies hard hit by massive budget cuts, analysts fear that the passage of MP 759 will result in an alarming increase in rural violence, which is already running at very high levels.
Audio: DJ remixes the sounds of birds, lemurs, and more to inspire conservation [07/12/2017]
- Our first guest is Ben Mirin, aka DJ Ecotone, an explorer, wildlife DJ, educator, and television presenter who creates music from the sounds of nature to help inspire conservation efforts. - In this very special Field Notes segment, Mirin discusses his craft and some of the challenges of capturing wildlife sounds in the field — including why it can be so difficult to record dolphins when all they want to do is take a bow ride on your boat. - We also speak with Cleve Hicks, author of a children’s book called A Rhino to the Rescue: A Tale of Conservation and Adventure, not only to express his love of nature but to help raise awareness of the poaching crisis decimating Africa’s rhino population. - All that plus the top news on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast!
A spotty revival amid decline for China’s endemic leopards [07/07/2017]
- The North China leopard (Panthera pardus japonensis) is one of nine leopard subspecies and an endemic to China. - The cats’ population has shown signs of revival in certain parts of the country in recent years, according to conservation groups - However, industrial development and infrastructure construction remain major threats to the integrity of the leopards’ habitat and conflicts with people over livestock in their mountainous territories are intense.
Amazon infrastructure EIAs under-assess biodiversity; scientists offer solutions [07/06/2017]
- In a new paper, scientists assert that environmental impact assessments (EIAs) for major Brazilian Amazon infrastructure projects often fail in their performance of comprehensive biodiversity evaluations, so underestimate ecosystem risk. - Their proposed solution is the development and use within EIAs of multiple, complementary scientific methods they say would be cost effective, and make more comprehensive biodiversity assessments possible. - These methods include satellite imaging, near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy, and DNA metabarcoding to detect a wider range of species. The scientists propose these methods be implemented to improve pre-construction biodiversity surveys and EIAs. - A major concern by researchers is that Brazil’s Congress is currently considering legislation that would do away with the existing environmental licensing process, and reduce or eliminate existing EIA requirements.
Is Brazil’s Forest Code failing to reduce deforestation? [07/06/2017]
- Engagement with the land registration system that underpins the Forest Code was initially high, but the researchers found that it had little bearing on the amount of illegal deforestation. - Only 6 percent of farmers surveyed said they were actively restoring deforested parts of their land, while 76 percent said that they would only do so if forced by authorities. - After dropping off substantially in the late 2000s, deforestation rates are once again on the rise, reaching their highest levels since 2008 last year.
Study: Brazilian mega-dams caused far more flooding than EIA predicted [07/05/2017]
- A satellite study of the Santo Antônio and Jirau dams in the Amazon found the area flooded by their reservoirs to be much greater than projected by the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) done as part of the Brazilian dams’ licensing process. - Satellite images from 2006-2015 were analyzed, spanning the time immediately before, during, and after dam construction, and then these images were compared with the flooding predictions found in the EIA. - The total flooded area upstream of the dams was found to be 69.8 percent larger than projected by the EIA. The area of natural forest flooded exceeded EIA predictions by 52 percent. - Political considerations likely influenced the EIAs gross inaccuracy, with real world results. In 2014, Madeira River floods upriver from the dams impacted 75,000 people, killed a quarter-million livestock and caused over US $180 million in damage.
Photos: Where once were mangroves, Javan villages struggle to beat back the sea [07/03/2017]
- Mangunharjo, Bedono, Sawah Luhur — these are just some of the communities where clear-cutting mangrove forests has caused environmental disaster. - Mangroves are removed to make way for shrimp and fish farms. But without the forests' protection, coastal communities become dangerously vulnerable to erosion and flooding. - In some places, residents have planted new mangroves, and managed to reclaim their home from the sea. But not everywhere.
Unveiled: The unraveling of Nicaragua’s Indio Maíz Biological Reserve (commentary) [06/29/2017]
- There is evidence of disturbing trends in illegal colonization and deforestation inside the IMBR. Satellite images, interviews with locals, and ground-truthing at key locations unveil proof that the Indio Maíz may be destined to unravel. - Deforestation within the boundaries of the IMBR claimed about 2,434 hectares (about 6,015 acres) between 2001-2014. A satellite image analysis shows that deforestation extends approximately 10.3 kilometers (6.1 miles) from the western boundary of the reserve inward. - Nicaragua’s current government has been in power over ten years and has shown increasing disregard for its own environmental laws and the agencies tasked with their enforcement. This is evident in the case of the IMBR. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
New investor guide aims to help navigate social and environmental risks of commodities supply chains [06/28/2017]
- Procuring agricultural commodities has become a much more difficult business function for food makers and agribusiness conglomerates to perform amidst rising global temperatures and unpredictable weather patterns, as well as increasingly widespread groundwater depletion and soil erosion, all of which affect agricultural productivity and raise the cost of sourcing in-demand raw materials. - Engage the Chain offers guidance to investors on how to evaluate the level of risk in their portfolios, and also includes a number of examples of the types of threats these environmental and social impacts can pose to companies that, unwittingly or not, find their supply chains associated with them, from reputational and brand damage to litigation and running afoul of regulators. - Ceres developed the guide through a peer review process that included input from top investors, a number of companies involved in the global commodities trade, and environmental NGOs.
Norway vexed as Brazil sends mixed message on Amazon forest protection [06/27/2017]
- Last week, Brazil’s President Michel Temer fully vetoed MP 756, and partially vetoed MP 758, two provisional measures which he himself introduced and which Congress approved that would have cut conserved Amazon lands by 600,000 hectares (2,316 square miles). - Almost simultaneously, Brazil’s environmental minister, José Sarney Filho, announced urgent plans for the administration to introduce a new bill to Congress to dismember the same conservation units described in the vetoed MP 756. - Also last week, Norway gave a stern warning to Temer on his visit to Oslo, telling him that Brazil could lose millions of dollars from the Amazon Fund if Brazil’s deforestation rates continue rising. - 7,989 square kilometers of Brazilian rainforest were lost between August 2015 and 2016. A rise in annual Amazon deforestation to 8,500 square kilometers would reduce Norway’s funding to Brazil to zero. Brazil defended itself, claiming preliminary annual data shows a recent leveling off of its deforestation rate.
Panama: the ranching industry has moved into Darién National Park [06/26/2017]
- Darién is known as the “forgotten province” in Panama. There is very little presence of government institutions in the province, which borders Colombia. - Conservationists, as well as Panama’s Ministry of the Environment, are especially concerned about Darién National Park in light of the fact that the ranching industry has expanded to some parts of the park, such as Punta Garachiné. - One cause of the expansion is related to settlement by small farmers who convert the land into pastures in order to later sell them to landowners. - The Ministry of the Environment has drafted a bill that proposes the creation of forestry incentives to promote conservation. The legislative initiative establishes a fund of 15 million dollars annually to incentivize the development of conservation or recuperation projects for damaged areas
Logging in Malaysia’s Ulu Muda forest threatens wildlife and water supplies [06/26/2017]
- The Ulu Muda forest is the primary source of water for four million Malaysians, as well as for industry and agriculture. - The forest is also home to a huge diversity of species, including the Asian elephant, Malayan tapir, sambar deer and clouded and spotted leopards. - Although the federal government imposed a ban on logging in the reserve in 2003, local authorities have allowed commercial logging to increase over the past decade.
U.S. bans Brazilian beef imports [06/24/2017]
- The United States has banned fresh beef imports from Brazil due to food safety concerns. - Brazil is one of the world's largest beef exporters and is the fifth biggest supplier of beef to the United States. - Clearing of forests for cattle pasture is the biggest driver of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.
Is intensification of beef production really a solution to Amazonian deforestation? [06/23/2017]
- Beef production has become a major driver of tropical deforestation, responsible for as much as 65 percent of rainforest destruction caused by the global agricultural commodities trade in the first decade of the 21st century, according to a 2015 study. - One proposed means of slowing the rate at which forests are being destroyed to create pastureland for cattle in the Amazon and other tropical regions is intensification, or the adoption of technologies and practices that allow for the production of more beef on less land. - “Based on a historical comparison between the US, a fully intensive system, and Brazil, one moving in that direction, we suggest that cattle ranching will intensify as a result of conservation investments (reductions in capital and land subsidies) rather than intensifying in order to produce conservation results,” the researchers write in the article.
Warnings and protests mark Brazilian President Temer’s trip to Norway [06/22/2017]
- Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon from 2015 to 2016 jumped 29 percent over the previous year, the highest rate of loss recorded since 2008. - In a letter sent to Brazilian Minister of Environment Jose Sarney Filho, Norway's Environment Minister, Vidar Helgesen, noted the "worrying upward trend" in deforestation since 2015 and warned that "Even a fairly modest further increase" in deforestation would mean that no further payments from Norway to Brazil would be forthcoming. - A number of Norwegian environmental and rights-based organizations, including Greenpeace, Norwegian Church Aid, Norwegian Solidarity Committee for Latin America, and Rainforest Foundation Norway, say they are planning a protest in front of the Prime Minister's residence in Oslo on Friday.
Unexamined synergies: dam building and mining go together in the Amazon [06/22/2017]
- 40 large hydroelectric dams are slated for the Amazon basin over the next 20 years, feeding the massive electricity needs of an energy-hungry mining industry — digging, processing and exporting iron, aluminum, manganese and gold. - But mining’s energy needs are rarely linked to plans for new dams or their environmental impact assessments. Amazon mining and dam building have repeatedly in the past resulted in major harmful environmental and social impacts, including displacement of indigenous and traditional communities. - Transnational mining companies and consortiums are major beneficiaries of government largesse through subsidies, tax breaks and the energy obtained from newly commissioned Amazon dams. - Brazilian infrastructure development in the Amazon, including dam building and mining, could — if environmental and social issues are not properly addressed — turn the Amazon into a national sacrifice zone where biological and cultural diversity are drastically diminished.
Illegal logging and hunting threaten Yasuní isolated indigenous groups [06/22/2017]
- A preliminary report on illegal logging in the Tagaeri-Taromenane Intangible Zone reveals a complete law enforcement abandonment of the eastern part of Yasuní National Park. - People living inside Yasuní National Park have denounced the presence of Peruvian timber and bushmeat traffickers in the Ecuadorian Amazon. - Experts fear the constant pressures to which the isolated indigenous groups are subjected in the Intangible Zone will trigger massacres and increase the likelihood of extinction of isolated populations. - Multiple NGOs are preparing to file official complaints against the violation of environmental and human rights by illegal logging and hunting pressures.
New highway brings deforestation near two Colombian national parks [06/21/2017]
- The Marginal de la Selva is a $1 billion dollar highway project would connect Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador without having to enter the Andes mountains. - The unfinished section that would complete the project cuts through a natural corridor between two national parks, which both contain exceptionally high levels of biodiversity — even by Colombia’s standards. - Forest loss in the sensitive ecological area has shot up in anticipation of the highway and as illegal armed groups promote deforestation in the region. - Critics say institutions lack territorial control in the area and are unable to coordinate effectively to ensure environmental laws are enforced.
Brazil evicts 80 rural peasant families, awards land thieves parcel [06/21/2017]
- 80 families, hopeful of being granted land in the Amazon state of Pará, have instead been ordered by a Brazilian court to vacate their camp located on the parcel in just two weeks. - The land will then be turned over to members of the Vilela family, notorious convicted land thieves, illegal forest fellers and members of the wealthy Brazilian rural elite. - The judge’s decision has been called into question. Eliane Moreira, Justice Prosecutor in the Pará Public Ministry, has long criticized authorities for allowing land thieves to use the environmental register to legitimize land grabs, something the judge has now endorsed. - It will be very difficult for the peasant families to appeal the decision, as they don’t have the resources to hire a lawyer and cover other legal expenses.
Religious leaders: Rainforest protection a ‘moral imperative’ [06/20/2017]
- The three-day event, held in Oslo, Norway, includes discussions between NGOs, government agencies, universities, indigenous groups and major religions. - The event marks the launch of the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative, which seeks to build on the moral case for rainforest protection with tangible metrics and goals. - Indigenous and religious leaders from 21 countries attended the event, organized by the UN Development Programme, Rainforest Foundation Norway and Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative.
Borneo’s ‘biocultural holocaust’: an interview with author Alex Shoumatoff [06/19/2017]
- Over the past half century, we've laid waste to the rainforests of Borneo thanks to humanity's demand for food, fuel, and fiber. - The Wasting of Borneo, a new book by Alex Shoumatoff, chronicles some of Borneo's staggering losses - Shoumatoff is a former writer and editor for The New Yorker, Outside, Condé Nast Traveler, and Vanity Fair who Donald Trump once called "the greatest writer in America".
International action a must to stop irreversible harm of Amazon dams, say experts [06/19/2017]
- A study, published in Nature and led by Edgardo Latrubesse of the University of Texas at Austin, went beyond local impacts of individual dams to assess cumulative, basin-wide impacts that planned dams are bringing to 19 major Amazon sub-basins. - The team developed a new metric: the Dam Environmental Vulnerability Index (DEVI) which includes assessments of basin integrity (vulnerability to land use change and erosion, etc.); fluvial dynamics (influence of sediment fluxes and flood pulses); and the extent of the river affected by dams. - A score for each sub-basin from 0-100 was assigned, with higher values indicating greater vulnerability. The Madeira, Ucayali, Marañon and Tapajós sub-basins were found to be most threatened; all had DEVI totals higher than 60. - The researchers say that a collective, cooperative, multi-country Amazon region assessment of dams and their cumulative impacts is urgently needed to get a handle on the true magnitude of the threat to the Amazon, as well as means to a solution.
If Brazil okays Terra Legal changes, land grabbers win, Amazon loses, say environmentalists [06/16/2017]
- Provisional Measure (MP) 759, now converted into a bill called the Conversion Law Project (PLC) 12/16, would significantly alter the successful Terra Legal program, introduced originally in 2009. President Temer has until 22 June to sign the bill or veto it. - The original program enabled peasant families to gain ownership of their small land plots. The new version introduces multiple loopholes to allow big, wealthy land owners to use the program, threatening small land owners and the environment, especially the Amazon. - Analysts say the new law, if passed, will allow another 20 million hectares (77,200 square miles) of the Amazon biome and 40 million hectares (154,440 square miles) of the Cerrado (savanna) to be legally cleared. - The bill ups the acreage claimable via the Terra Legal program, ends a rule allowing peasant families to delay paying for plots until the land is supported by adequate infrastructure, allows one farmer to acquire multiple plots, and ends a rule allowing peasant families to pay far less for their land than big farmers.
Brazil on verge of legitimizing Amazon land theft on a grand scale, warn NGOs [06/15/2017]
- Brazil’s president has until 22 June to approve or veto two bills (PLC 4 and PLC 5) turning over more than 600,000 hectares (2,317 square miles) of federally protected Amazon forest to illegal loggers, illegal miners and land thieves. - The measures, initiated by Temer and already approved by Congress, are seen as a reward to the bancada ruralista (rural lobby of agribusiness and mining) for its aid in bringing Temer to power through the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff in 2016. - Large portions of the Jamanxim National Park and of the National Forest of Jamanxim would have their protections downgraded to an Area of Environmental Protection, where logging, mining and private property are allowed. - Mongabay recently went to the region to observe conditions there: we found major illegal mining operations underway within federal conservation units and interviewed miners who have been exploited by mine “owners” under conditions analogous to slavery.
Mangrove loss threatens migratory shorebird route in North Sumatra [06/15/2017]
- A new study examines the impact of agricultural expansion on an important shorebird habitat in North Sumatra. - Mangrove cover in the Indonesian province has dropped 85 percent in the last 14 years. - The study's authors want the government to issue a regulation to protect shorebirds specifically.
Why losing big animals causes big problems in tropical forests [06/14/2017]
- A team of scientists from Germany and Spain built a mathematical model to test the interplay between plants and animals that results in the distribution of seeds. - Field data collected from Peru’s Manu Biosphere Reserve formed the foundation of the model. - The scientists discovered the importance of matching between the sizes of seeds and the birds in the ecosystem. - As larger birds were removed from the forest, the forest’s biodiversity dropped more quickly.
Norway bans government purchasing of palm oil biofuel [06/13/2017]
- The growth of the palm oil industry has been blamed for a host of damaging environmental impacts, such as deforestation and carbon emissions. - Research indicates that biofuel made with palm oil may be even worse for the climate than fossil fuels. - The Norwegian parliament responded to these impacts by voting in a regulation to its Public Procurement Act to stop using biofuel palm oil-based biofuel. The resolution further stipulates that the "regulatory amendment shall enter into force as soon as possible." - Conservationists laud the move, but say more countries need to follow suit. They recommend the EU's biofuel policy be updated to reflect concerns about palm oil.
Audio: Activists determined to protect newly discovered Amazon Reef from oil drilling [06/13/2017]
- John talks about the discovery of the reef, what it’s like to be one of a few people on Earth who have ever seen it with their own eyes, and what the opposition to plans to drill for oil near the reef will look like should the plans move forward. - We also welcome two staffers from Mongabay Latin America to the show: MariaIsabel Torres and Romi Castagnino. - Mongabay LatAm just celebrated its one-year anniversary recently, so we wanted to take the chance to speak with MariaIsabel and Romi about what it’s like covering the environment in Latin America, what some of the site’s biggest successes are to date, and what we can expect from Mongabay LatAm in the future.
30 years of protecting the mysterious Okapi [06/13/2017]
- The discovery of the elusive okapi, once believed to be a mythical unicorn, was one of the most exciting taxonomic findings of the twentieth century. - To protect this shy, giraffe-like animal, wildlife conservationist John Lukas founded the Okapi Conservation Project (OCP) in 1987. - During the past three decades, the project team has seen both successes and challenges, from political unrest to a brutal rebel attack in 2012 that killed 6 people and 14 okapis.
Tropical forest diversity and carbon richness not linked, study finds [06/12/2017]
- Scientists theorize that increased forest biodiversity also increases productivity (growth), and therefore carbon sequestration. But, a new large-scale study found no consistent relationship in tropical forests studied in the Amazon, Congo and Borneo. - Research by 100+ scientists combines data from 360 1-hectare plots in Amazon, Congo, and Borneo forests, resulting in one of the largest datasets yet to examine the relationship between tropical tree diversity and carbon storage. - Tropical forests differ markedly between continents, researchers found: Borneo forests were a triple hotspot for biodiversity, carbon and threat, making a compelling global case for prioritizing their conservation. African plots tended toward higher carbon stocks and lower diversity; South American plots had lower carbon stocks. - The researchers urge conservationists not to generalize forest attributes when setting conservation strategies, but instead to measure the diversity, productivity, and carbon storage capabilities of each forest in order to make informed conservation decisions. This approach could enhance the success of REDD+ and other programs.
Guatemala provides an example of community forest management for Indonesia [06/12/2017]
- In Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve, 9 community forestry concessions have been managing over 350,000 hectares of forest for more than 15 years. The communities aim to manage the concessions sustainably, earning income from timber and non-timber forest products and tourism. - Indigenous communities in Indonesia are currently in the process of mapping, titling and restoring their customary forests after Indonesian president Joko Widodo pledged to grant 12.7 million hectares for community concessions by 2019. - Representatives travelled to Guatemala to learn how this has been done by communities in the Maya Biosphere Reserve. - The Indonesian representatives hope to use the model of Guatemalan forest communities as a starting point for their own concession management.
‘Give us back our land’: paper giants struggle to resolve conflicts with communities in Sumatra [06/09/2017]
- Plantation firms like Asia Pulp & Paper and Toba Pulp Lestari have a long history of land grabbing, often dating back to the New Order military dictatorship. More recently, they have pledged to eliminate the practice from their supply chains. - Many of the conflicts remain unaddressed. The companies say they are working hard to resolve them. - A new online platform launched by the Rainforest Action Network shows that communities are still suffering the impacts of having their traditional forests and lands seized to make way for plantations.
‘Crunch time for biodiversity’: Farming, hunting push thousands of species toward extinction [06/07/2017]
- Eighty percent of threatened animals are losing ground - literally, in the form of habitat loss - to agriculture. - Up to 50 percent of threatened birds and mammals face extinction at the hands of hunters. - In a study published in the journal Nature, a team of scientists explores solutions to avoid destroying the habitats of these animals, such as increasing yields in the developed world and minimizing fertilizer use.
FSC to investigate Korean conglomerate’s palm oil operations in Indonesia [06/07/2017]
- The group submitted the complaint to the FSC on May 15, 2017, together with evidence that Mighty Earth said showed the Korindo Group has, since 2013, cleared more than 30,000 hectares (over 74,000 acres) of rainforest for palm oil production in the Indonesian provinces of Papua and North Maluku. - “The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has formally accepted a Policy for Association (PfA) complaint submitted by Mighty Earth against Korindo Group (Korindo) for ‘Significant conversion of forests to plantations or non-forest use’,” the certification body confirmed in a statement released today. - In its Policy for the Association of Organizations with FSC (PfA), the certification body lists a number of “unacceptable forest-related activities” in which companies cannot directly or indirectly engage — essentially giving the FSC a means of protecting its reputation and “ability to deliver on its mission” should a company with certified operations be found to be responsible for unsustainable practices in some of its other operations.
One cow per hectare: deforestation in Colombia after FARC’s exit [06/06/2017]
- Caquetá was one of the epicenters of the war against FARC. The exit of FARC, at the end of last year, coincided with an increase in deforestation in the region. - In 2015, only 7,000 hectares were destined for coca crops in Caquetá, and more than 1.5 million for livestock. - To combat deforestation, the government - with the collaboration of other environmental entities - formed the programs "bubble against deforestation" (‘Burbuja contra la deforestación’ in Spanish) and ‘Visión Amazonia.’ - Experts fear that without additional investment, deforestation will be allowed to continue unchecked.
Deforestation in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest increased almost 60 percent in the last year [06/05/2017]
- The Atlantic Forest is one of the richest and most threatened biomes in the world, but only 15 percent of its original extent is preserved. - Although the Atlantic Forest extends over 17 Brazilian states, four of them account for 90 percent of the losses. - Recent changes in legislation and the expansion of agribusiness are noted as among main drivers of deforestation.
Financing sustainable agriculture possible, if terms fit farmers’ needs [06/02/2017]
- Worldwide, more deforestation results from the push for farmland than any other cause. - The Global Canopy Programme reports that funding aimed at encouraging a move away from deforestation-based agriculture and toward more sustainable methods must be designed to address the needs of farmers. - Loans with longer terms and lower interest rates can help farmers who are switching to sustainable agriculture survive the ‘valley of death’ – that is, the first few years of new methods before their production becomes profitable.
Audio: Frances Seymour on why rich nations need to start paying up to protect the world’s tropical forests [05/31/2017]
- Seymour shares her thoughts on why now was such an opportune moment for the publication of the book, whether or not the large-scale investment necessary to protect the world’s tropical forests shows signs of materializing any time soon, and which countries are leading the forest conservation charge. - We also welcome Mongabay editor Glenn Scherer back to the program to answer a question from Newscast listener Brian Platt about which 'good news' stories are worth talking about more in these tough times for environmental and conservation news. - All that and the top news on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast.
Pressure builds on palm oil firm Goodhope after RSPO sanction [05/31/2017]
- The RSPO ordered Goodhope to freeze its operations in Indonesia earlier this month amid allegations of land grabbing and forest destruction. - Goodhope said recently that it needed more time than the RSPO had given it to bring its operations into compliance with the roundtable's standards. - The company says it is working with credible auditors to conduct new assessments of its concessions, after the RSPO deemed previous audits the firm had commissioned as lacking in credibility.
Governor halts work on coal railway being built without permits in Indonesian Borneo [05/30/2017]
- During a field visit to Katingan Regency in Central Kalimantan, Mongabay-Indonesia observed that developers of a coal-transport rail line had already cleared forest land and constructed around two kilometers of track. - Government sources confirmed the developer did not have the necessary permits to begin work on the project. - On May 23, the Central Kalimantan governor announced that work on the project had been suspended, although he did not signal any intent to initiate law-enforcement actions against the developer.
The resistance of Peruvian coffee [05/30/2017]
- Yellow rust and other diseases attack the crops of what is considered some of the best coffee in the world. - Farmers in the southern Peru’s Sandia Valley are now beginning to realize that coca leaf is more profitable than customary coffee and citrus. - About 500 hectares (1235 acres) have been deforested and destined for coca production in Bahuaja-Sonene National Park. - There are 4,468 hectares (11,000 acres) of coca plantations in Puno, with an annual growth of 10 percent, according to the 2015 Peru Coca Survey submitted in July 2016.
Not out of the woods: Concerns remain with Nigerian superhighway [05/26/2017]
- The six-lane highway was shifted in April to the west so that it no longer cuts through the center of Cross River National Park, a ‘biological jewel’ that is home to 18 primate species. - In a new study, scientists report that multiple alternative routes exist that would still provide the intended economic connections and avoid harming the environment in the area. - However, Nigerian conservation and community rights group worry that the state government won’t follow through on its promises.
On the road to ‘smart development’ [05/25/2017]
- Ecologist Bill Laurance and his team are looking at development projects across Southeast Asia in Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. - The scientists are traveling throughout the regions to better understand the needs of planners, and to impart lessons about ‘smart development’ based on decades of research in the tropics. - In Malaysia, they are focusing on finding solutions that preserve the repository of forests and biodiversity there in a way that also looks out for the country’s human residents.
Communities band together to protect El Salvador’s last mangroves [05/24/2017]
- Jiquilisco Bay is home to about half of El Salvador's remaining mangroves. But many mangrove tracts were nearly wiped out by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, and siltation from upstream deforestation and controlled flooding were damaging the rest. - In response, local communities formed a coalition, called the Mangrove Association, to help protect and expand the region's mangroves. - Around 80 communities are involved in the Mangrove Association. They work to restore damaged areas, and have re-planted hundreds of acres of mangrove forest.
Experts explore sustainable infrastructure amid major development needs [05/23/2017]
- The Asia-Pacific region's biological wealth and rapid development makes it a highly vulnerable and critical part of Earth's overall health, notes expert William Laurance. - Laurance, a distinguished research professor at Australia’s James Cook University, noted that 95 percent of illegal deforestation takes place within 3.4 miles of a road. - Southeast Asia, with the most wood per hectare of forests in the world and home to numerous developing nations, is particularly at risk.
Big animals can survive reduced-impact logging — if done right [05/22/2017]
- Employing camera traps to survey Amazonian mammals in Guyana, researchers found that large mammals and birds did not see a lower population of target species in reduced-impact logging areas as compared to unlogged areas. For some species, like jaguars and pumas, population numbers actually rose. - The research was conducted in an unusually managed swath of forest: Iwokrama. Spreading over nearly 400,000 hectares (close to 990,000 acres) – an area a little smaller than Rhode Island – Iwokrama Forest is managed by the not-for-profit Iwokrama organization and 16 local Makushi communities. - Looking at 17 key species in the area – including 15 mammals and two large birds – the researchers found that populations didn’t change much between logged and unlogged areas, a sign that Iwokrama’s logging regime is not disturbing the area’s larger taxa.
New soy-driven forest destruction exposed in South America [05/22/2017]
- Mighty Earth looked at updated satellite imagery from 28 sites in the Cerrado in Brazil and the Gran Chaco and the Amazon in Bolivia. - They found evidence of 60 square kilometers of land clearing for soy production since their September 2016 investigation. - Bunge and Cargill, the two companies that figure prominently in Mighty Earth’s latest report, argue that they are working to eradicate deforestation from their supply chains.
Colombia’s constitutional court grants rights to the Atrato River and orders the government to clean up its waters [05/22/2017]
- The Atrato River and its tributaries are among the most polluted in Colombia. - Semi-industrialized mining operations with illegal excavators and dredges are one of the main drivers of deforestation in Colombia's Chocó Department, where the Atrato River lives. - In 2014, Colombia's ombudsman declared a humanitarian emergency in Chocó due to social, economic and environmental problems. - Most threats to the environment were imposed by deforestation, active timber mafias and erosion in the Atrato watersheds.
Indonesian governor asks president to let timber firms drain peat in his province [05/20/2017]
- West Kalimantan Governor Cornelis asked President Joko Widodo to let some timber plantation companies drain peatlands, even though Jakarta banned the practice last year. - In a letter to the president dated Apr. 25, Cornelis makes an economic argument for allowing the companies to proceed as usual. - Cornelis is a member of an international consortium of governors dedicated to fighting climate change; Greenpeace said his request to the president amounted to a "double standard." - His request came just days after Jakarta sanctioned a timber firm in his province for building an illegal canal through the Sungai Putri peat swamp forest.
Rebel road expansion brings deforestation to remote Colombian Amazon [05/19/2017]
- The 138-kilometer road was carved illegally through rainforest and used by the FARC rebel group to transport coca, from which cocaine is produced. - Officials from city governments have begun a project to widen and pave the road, saying it will help communities transport agricultural goods to markets. - Conservationists decry the move, citing research finding road expansion opens “a Pandora’s box of environmental evils” that includes land-grabbing, illegal road development and accelerated deforestation. - A Colombian governmental agency recently ordered all construction on the road stop until further environmental studies could be performed and greater restrictions applied. However, an official said construction activity has not ceased.
Guatemalan authorities destroy secret airstrip in Laguna del Tigre National Park [05/19/2017]
- Clandestine landing strips are often built in forest reserves by cattle ranchers who are actually working for drug traffickers. - After Mongabay-Latam and Plaza Pública reported on the runway’s existence, the Guatemalan Army was ordered to destroy it. - It is unclear if the strip was abandoned or under construction, but such structures pose a threat to the health of Laguna del Tigre National Park
A Whitley Award winner’s 20-year battle to save the world’s largest eagle in Venezuela [05/18/2017]
- The Whitley, which has been nicknamed “the Green Oscars,” is one of the biggest and most important awards in the conservation world. - Alexander says he is honored to have received such recognition for his work: “I have devoted my entire life as a student and, after that, in the professional field, to the conservation of the biological diversity and to the dissemination of its importance and role as an essential element of the planet.” - Alexander studied veterinary medicine and was determined to specialize in working with wild animals. It was while rehabilitating harpy eagles at a Venezuelan zoo that he had his first contact with these magnificent birds of prey.
A new secret runway found in Laguna del Tigre National Park in Guatemala [05/18/2017]
- Such clandestine landing strips are often built in forest reserves by people who claim to be cattle ranchers, but are actually working for drug traffickers. - These illegal structures pose a threat to the Laguna del Tigre National Park. - What does the head of Guatemala’s anti-drug unit think about this new secret runway that has just been discovered?
Peru lost more than 1 million hectares of Amazon forest over a period of 15 years [05/18/2017]
- 1.8 million hectares of Amazonian forests were lost between 2001 and 2015 with peaks of loss occurring in 2005, 2009 and 2014. - The main causes of forest loss are deforestation and soil degradation, small and medium scale agriculture, large-scale agriculture, pasture for livestock, gold mining, coca cultivation and road construction, according to a MAAP report. - Deforestation hotspots are concentrated in Peru’s central Amazon, in Huánuco and Ucayali, but there are also other important hotspots located in Madre de Dios and San Martín, according to a MAAP.
Goddesses of the wind: How researchers saved Venezuela’s harpy eagles [05/17/2017]
- Venezuelan scientist Eduardo Álvarez Cordero is not only a man who knows harpy eagles: having started one of the biggest and oldest studies about the species, and taken part in the training of many of the world’s harpy specialists, he is a man to whom we owe a lot of what humankind knows about this fascinating animal. - Currently a professor at the City College of Gainesville, Florida, Eduardo has monitored harpy eagles in Venezuela and Panama since the late 80s with a sense of urgency. - Eduardo's PhD work, begun in 1988, eventually led to the creation of the Harpy Eagle Conservation Program. It was also the beginning of another story of unthinkable bravery, in which an ecotourism program built a more prosperous scenario for harpies, locals, and the forests upon which they both rely.
Audio: Bill Laurance on the “infrastructure tsunami” sweeping the planet [05/17/2017]
- We recently heard Bill argue that scientists need to become more comfortable with expressing uncertainty over the future of the planet and to stop “dooming and glooming” when it comes to environmental problems. - We wanted to hear more about that, as well as to hear from Bill about the “global road map” he and his team recently released to help mitigate the environmental damage of what he calls an “infrastructure tsunami” breaking across the globe. - We also welcome to the program Michelle LaRue, a research ecologist with the University of Minnesota’s Department of Earth Sciences. Her current work is focused on using high-resolution satellite imagery to study the population dynamics of Weddell seals in Antarctica’s Ross Sea. - In this Field Notes segment, Michelle will also play for us some of the calls made by adult Weddell seals and their pups, which couldn’t be more different from each other and are really quite remarkable, each in their own way. But you really have to hear them to believe them.
Kenya cracks down on illegal trade in rare and venomous vipers [05/16/2017]
- Early this year Kenyan authorities placed tight new restrictions on the trade and export of several snake species, including the Kenya horned viper (Bitis worthingtoni) and the Mt. Kenya Bush Viper (Atheris desaixi). - The two snake species are regularly trafficked abroad for the pet trade as well as for luxury food and medical reseach. - Authorities say criminal networks regularly bribe officials and are investigating whether politicians may be involved in the trade. - Nevertheless, the Kenyan government appears to be taking a hard line against viper traffic, cracking down on smugglers and ramping up international cooperation to fight viper traffic.
Burning wood: Can the EU see the forest for the trees? [05/16/2017]
- A new report argues that forests need more protection from the biomass industry in the EU, which is deforesting the American south to produce energy abroad. - EU policy considers burning woody biomass as carbon neutral, even though other countries and many scientists say that doesn’t add up. - Demand for wood pellets in the EU is growing: last year, the UK imported 8 million tons. This demand is leading to high quality wood – not waste – being burned.
Son Doong Cave: Tourism and conservation coexist in one of Vietnam’s largest national parks [05/16/2017]
- Home to the world's largest cave, Son Doong, the park gets thousands of visitors per year. - Tourism in the area has also benefited the local economy, leading to a decrease in unsustainable use of area resources such as timber. - Despite government plans to install a cable car for tourists, area guides remain optimistic about the future of the park and the cave.
Drylands greener with forests than previously thought [05/12/2017]
- The new study, published Thursday in the journal Science, increases global forest cover estimates by 9 percent. - Using very high resolution imagery, the team calculated that dryland forest cover was 40 to 47 percent higher above current totals. - The researchers calculate that 1.1 million hectares (4,247 square miles) of forest covers the Earth’s drylands.
Industry-NGO coalition releases toolkit for making ‘No Deforestation’ commitments a reality on the ground [05/10/2017]
- Numerous companies involved in the global palm oil supply chain, from producers and traders to consumer companies that use the commodity in their products, have adopted Zero Deforestation commitments — but pledging to address the deforestation and human rights abuses associated with palm oil supply chains is one thing, while making those commitments a reality on the ground is another. - Companies have said they need more support from governments of tropical forest nations to make their Zero Deforestation commitments a reality, citing a maze of administrative and regulatory frameworks across palm oil producing countries as hampering their efforts. - The new HCS Approach Toolkit might help address this very issue, however, as it is intended to standardize the methodology for protecting tropical forests and identifying suitable landscapes for the sustainable production of palm oil. - The revised HCS Approach Toolkit lays out the fundamental elements of a methodology for protecting high carbon stock (HCS) forests and other high conservation value (HCV) areas such as peatlands. Simply achieving “no deforestation” is not the only goal of the revised HCS Approach, though.
‘Killed, forced, afraid’: Philippine palm oil legacy incites new fears [05/09/2017]
- Following a rush of corporate investment in the 1960s, agroindustry company NDC-Guthrie set up camp on the Philippine island of Mindanao. The company hired a private security force dubbed the "Lost Command" to protect its oil palm plantations. - Sources say the Lost Command used violence to expand NDC-Guthrie's land holdings in the 1980s, with allegations ranging from forcibly displacing residents of local communities and extorting business-owners to looting, rape, and even murder. - In the 1990s NDC-Guthrie was bought by Filipinas Palm Oil Plantations Inc. (FPPI), which continues to operate in the region today. A company representative said "issues have been blown up" and that FPPI is interested in expanding further in Mindanao. - The administration of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (2001-2010) touted oil palm propagation as a way to elevate the national economy and even stem armed conflict. But industry watchdog groups disagree, saying palm oil's track record of conflict in the Philippine archipelago does not bode well for the future.
Anti-trafficking activist held without trial in Madagascar [05/08/2017]
- Clovis Razafimalala has been working to end rosewood trafficking in Madagascar since 2009. - He has been imprisoned since September on charges of unauthorized rebellion and burning state files and property during a protest he maintains he did not participate in. - No trial date has been announced, although one is supposed to be set by May 26. - Activists say his case raises concern for the civil rights of Malagasy environmental activists.
Guaviare: Colombia’s frontline in the country’s battle to stop deforestation in the Amazon [05/08/2017]
- Almost 90 percent of the municipalities that have been deemed as needing special attention post-conflict are home to national parks, forest reserves, or have other environmental restrictions within the territory. - FARC jungle and mountain strongholds in the most rural parts of the country are home to what experts describe as a “significant share of the country’s natural resources.” - In Chiribiquite National Park, one of the most important ecological zones in the world, human impact is starting to take its toll.
New report details enormous corruption, illegal logging along Vietnamese border with Cambodia [05/08/2017]
- The findings are based on months of undercover field research made public by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). - Approximately 300,000 cubic meters of logs have been smuggled from Cambodia and legalized in Vietnam through these quotas since last November, with kickbacks as high as $13 million. - The related report from the EIA comes on the eve of Vietnam's bid for a FLEGT agreement on timber with the EU.
Study finds hundreds of thousands of tropical species at risk of extinction due to deforestation [05/05/2017]
- Scientists have long believed that the rate at which we are destroying tropical forests, and the habitat those forests represent, could drive a global mass extinction event, but the extent of the potential losses has never been fully understood. - John Alroy, a professor of biological sciences at Australia’s Macquarie University, examined local-scale ecological data in order to forecast potential global extinction rates and found that hundreds of thousands of species are at risk if humans disturb all pristine forests remaining in the tropics. - Mass extinction will occur primarily in tropical forests because Earth’s terrestrial biodiversity is so heavily concentrated in those ecosystems, Alroy notes in the study.
Indigenous lands ‘critical’ to forest protection in Peru, biodiversity maps show [05/05/2017]
- Indigenous lands account for 36 percent of protected forests in Peru. - In total, 42.6 percent of Peru's forest fall under some sort of protection, and the new biodiversity maps highlight forest types that are underrepresented in that figure. - The forests in the transition zone between the Andes and the Amazon appear to be the most in danger, as the forest types in this area are found at some of the lowest levels in Peru's parks, reserves and concessions. This area also faces some of the highest deforestation rates in the country.
Over the bridge: The battle for the future of the Kinabatangan [05/03/2017]
- Proponents of the project contend that a bridge and associated paved road to Sukau would have helped the town grow and improve the standard of living for its residents. - Environmental groups argue that the region’s unrealized potential for high-end nature tourism could bring similar economic benefits without disturbing local populations of elephants, orangutans and other struggling wildlife. - The mid-April cancellation of the bridge was heralded as a success for rainforest conservation, but bigger questions loom about the future of local communities, the sanctuary and its wildlife.
Delicate Solomon Island ecosystem in danger of heavy logging [05/01/2017]
- Foreign and domestic companies are making a push – at times using allegedly unethical means – for the timber found on the island of Nende in the Santa Cruz chain of the Solomon Islands. - The island’s old-growth forests are home to animals like the Santa Cruz shrikebill, which is found nowhere else on Earth. - Concerns have been voiced that logging could wreak havoc on the ecosystem, from the watersheds in the mountains down to the coral reefs ringing the island, if large-scale logging is allowed to proceed.
Corruption drives dealings with logging companies in the Solomon Islands [05/01/2017]
- The old-growth forests on the island of Nende anchor a unique ecosystem that hold creatures found nowhere else and that have supported communities for centuries. - Logging companies are eager to harvest the island’s timber, which could be worth as much as SI$10 million ($1.26 million). - Scientists worry that logging would destroy everything from the mountain sources of the island’s fresh water to the reefs where sedimentation as a result of logging could kill coral. - Conservation groups and sources from within the provincial government have charged that the companies are using coercion and bribes to convince landowners and development organizations to back their plans to log Nende’s forests.
Brazil’s deforestation “sheriff” has been fired [04/28/2017]
- A little more than a year after being named Brazil’s deforestation “sheriff,” Thelma Krug has reportedly been fired after a dispute over how trends in forest destruction are monitored in the country. - Climate Home’s Claudio Angelo reports from Brasilia that government officials told members of the press that Krug had “expressed her interest in leaving” in order to “dedicate more time to her attributions at IPCC” — but that sources say Krug's dismissal was actually the result of a dispute with vice-minister Marcelo Cruz, who questioned the deforestation data produced by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), where Krug is a senior scientist. - Brazil has already named Krug’s replacement: Jair Schmitt, a biologist with the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA), Brazil’s equivalent of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where he oversees the agency’s environmental inspections.
Cross River superhighway changes course in Nigeria [04/28/2017]
- The 260-kilometer (162-mile) highway is slated to have six lanes and would have run through the center of Cross River National Park as originally designed. - The region is a biodiversity hotspot and home to forest elephants, drills, Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees and Cross River gorillas. - The proposal shifts the route to the west, out of the center of the national park, which garnered praise from the Wildlife Conservation Society. - The route still appears to cut through forested areas and protected lands.
Singapore convicts rosewood trader in historic CITES seizure [04/26/2017]
- Late last month a high court in Singapore found Wong Wee Keong guilty of importing rosewood from Madagascar in 2014 in violation of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). - Environmental groups are heralding the ruling, which reversed the decision of a lower court and sidestepped conflicting claims about the legality of the shipment by Malagasy authorities. - The outsized shipment to Singapore was larger than all of the other seizures of rosewood in the world, combined, over the past decade.
Canceled: Plans for a bridge in a critical wildlife area in Borneo have been scrapped [04/20/2017]
- Plans for the Sukau Bridge, crossing the Kinabatangan River near a wildlife sanctuary in Malaysian Borneo, raised a global outcry. - "We are not going ahead with the bridge," Sabah Forest Department Chief Conservator Sam Mannan announced at an event in London. - In explaining his decision, Mannan reportedly cited a recent letter by celebrated naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough, as well as concerns expressed by scientists, NGOs and corporations.
Study finds there are ways to mitigate deforestation risks of palm oil expansion in Africa [04/20/2017]
- It’s been estimated that, over the next five years, as much as 22 million hectares (or more than 54 million acres) of land in Central and West Africa could be converted to oil palm plantations. - Seven African nations signed a pledge dedicating themselves to the sustainable development of the palm oil sector, known as the Marrakesh Declaration, at the UN climate talks in Marrakesh, Morocco last November. - According to a study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters earlier this month, those seven nations, which collectively represent 70 percent of Africa’s tropical forests, have good reason to be proactive when it comes to managing the rollout of oil palm operations within their borders. But there is also reason to hope that oil palm expansion in Africa will be done more sustainably in Africa.
‘We can save life on Earth’: study reveals how to stop mass extinction [04/18/2017]
- Researchers analyzed 846 regional ecosystem types in 14 biomes in respect to the "Nature Needs Half" scientific concept that states proper functioning of an ecosystem requires at least half of it to be there. - They found 12 percent of ecoregions had half their land areas protected while 24 percent had protected areas and native vegetation that together covered less than 20 percent. - The study indicates the tropical dry forest biome is the most endangered. Closely behind it are two others: the tropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome, and the Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub biome. All are highly biodiverse, providing habitat for many species. - The researchers say while many ecosystems have been highly degraded, achieving 50 percent protection is still possible – if current conservation goals are scaled up.
Governments must do more to help companies end deforestation in commodities supply chains, companies say [04/11/2017]
- Fern conducted interviews with and policy reviews of 15 companies, from major consumer-facing companies like IKEA, Nestlé, and Unilever, to producers and traders such as APP (Asia Pulp and Paper), Cargill, Golden Agri-Resources, and Sime Darby. - One overriding message emerged, Fern reports: companies see government policies and actions — or lack thereof — as one of the main obstacles to cleaning up their supply chains. - Many companies view the governments of countries where commodities production occurs as having a crucial role to play in “creating an enabling framework of rules, regulations and effective administration without which private sector commitments to tackle deforestation can only have limited impact,” the report states.
Land titling for indigenous communities leads to forest protection, peer-reviewed study finds [04/10/2017]
- Deforestation is responsible for as much as 10 percent of total global carbon emissions, which means that finding effective means of keeping forests standing is crucial to global efforts to halt climate change. - Previous studies have found that securing indigenous land rights is a successful path to keeping forests and the carbon sinks they represent intact, but the full effects of land titling for indigenous communities are still unclear. - Now the authors of a peer-reviewed study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last week say they found that forest clearance is actually reduced by more than three-quarters and forest disturbance by roughly two-thirds over the two-year timespan immediately following the granting of land title to an indigenous community.
Brazil slashes environment budget by 43% [04/07/2017]
- Brazil accounts for nearly two-thirds of the Amazon rainforest, the world's largest tropical forest. - After several years of decline, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is on the rise again. - Environmentalists say that the budget cut will "profoundly [impact] deforestation -- and, consequently, Brazil's climate targets."
Rotten beef and illegal deforestation: Brazil’s largest meatpacker rocked by scandals [04/05/2017]
- On March 17, agents with Brazil’s Federal Police raided facilities belonging to JBS and another food processing giant, BRF, as well as several smaller companies. - The raids were the culmination of a two-year investigation, called “Operation Weak Flesh,” into an alleged scheme by which JBS, BRF, and others were bribing government officials to look the other way as they sold and exported rotten and salmonella-tainted beef, pork, and poultry. - Just four days after its plants were raided as part of the corruption probe, JBS found itself embroiled in another scandal. On March 21, as part of a three-year operation code-named “Cold Meat,” Brazil’s environmental protection agency, Ibama, raided two JBS meatpackers in the state of Pará that are accused of having purchased thousands of heads of cattle raised on illegally deforested land in the Amazon.
Forest fragmentation may be releasing much more carbon than we think [03/31/2017]
- Many tropical forests around the world have been severely fragmented as human disturbance split once-contiguous forests into pieces. Previous research indicates trees on the edges of these fragments have higher mortality rates than trees growing in the interiors of forests. - Researchers used satellite data and analysis software they developed to figure out how many forest fragments there are, and the extent of their edges. They discovered that there are around 50 million tropical forest fragments in the world today; their edges add up to about 50 million kilometers – about a third of the way from the earth to the sun. - When they calculated how much carbon is being released from tree death at these edges, they found a 31 percent increase from current tropical deforestation estimates.
Three new frog species found in disappearing Atlantic Forest [03/30/2017]
- The new species are of the Chiasmocleis genus of humming frogs. They spend most of their life underground, coming out only a few weeks a year for "explosive breeding." - The frogs look similar to species already known to science, but have distinct genes and minute physical differences that researchers used to set them apart. - They were found in the Atlantic Forest, which has been heavily degraded by agriculture. As little as 3.5 percent of the biome may remain today.
Al Gore and Bangladesh PM spar over coal plants in the Sundarbans [03/30/2017]
- Bangladesh is building two large power plants just upstream from the Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest and UNESCO World Heritage Site. - According to government officials, the power plants are intended to bolster Bangladesh's meager energy reserves. - The project has attracted criticism from concerned citizens in Bangladesh and around the world, as well as scientists and UNESCO, who say the plants will jeopardize human and ecological health. - At the January 2017 session of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Al Gore and Sheikh Hasina disagreed about the project's potential environmental consequences.
Indigenous peoples in Colombia play crucial role in the fight against climate change [03/30/2017]
- Research shows that the rights of the numerous indigenous groups in the Amazon are crucial to help curb global warming. - Trading in CO2 emissions prevented by protecting forests instead of cutting them down has been possible since 2008 under a UN mechanism called REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries), but there are complications. - Marked by lackluster regulation for years, since the CO2 market under REDD+ (or its predecessor REDD) was introduced, “carbon cowboys” have popped up in the remotest corners of the tropics, trying to profit from the growing trade in CO2 emissions.
Almost 1M hectares ‘missing’ from land holdings of major palm oil companies [03/29/2017]
- Palm oil is a major driver of tropical deforestation. The report was produced by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), which looked at information publicly disclosed by 50 of the most major palm oil production companies. - Its findings indicate that while most companies disclose the area of planted land they manage, many fail to reveal the size, location, and use of many other areas in their portfolio, defying corporate accountability and concealing potential social and environmental risks. - A supply chain expert says failures to disclose information don't necessarily signal ill will on the part of the companies. Instead, it may be the result of unclear expectations, definitions, and protocols for reporting. - The Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the world's leading palm oil certification body, is reportedly working to improve the reporting process of its member companies.
In Tanzania, a surge in sesame farming poses threat to natural forest [03/29/2017]
- Trees in Tanzania’s southeast region are being burned down, sometimes illegally, to make way for sesame farms. - In one small village with a thriving community-owned forest project, sesame cultivation has become the leading cause of deforestation. - The particularly destructive cultivation of sesame often involves cultivators burning huge swaths of forests to create farmland that is only used for two or three seasons.
New study provides a blueprint for engaging indigenous peoples in REDD+ forest monitoring [03/28/2017]
- According to the authors of the study, using well-trained indigenous technicians is more cost-effective, takes less time, and, of course, helps meet the requirement for full and effective participation by indigenous peoples in REDD+ programs. - For the study, a team of thirty indigenous technicians performed a forest inventory in order to measure the forest carbon sequestered in five Emberá and Wounaan territories in Darién, Panama. - The researchers then compared the tree height and diameter data gathered by expert technicians and trained indigenous technicians and found no significant differences. - Meanwhile, access to Darién's forests was only possible because the study was managed by the Organización de Jóvenes Emberá y Wounaan de Panamá (OJEWP) in coordination with traditional indigenous authorities, in accordance with the principle of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent.
Communities conserving local forest in El Salvador vote to ban mining [03/28/2017]
- El Salvador is considered the most-deforested country in Central America, but national efforts to protect remaining forest appear to be on the upswing in the tiny country. - Cinquera, a municipality in northern El Salvador, has created its own forest preserve and attracted the attention of the national government. - In February, residents voted to ban metallic mining in the region. - On March 22, legislator Guillermo Mata announced that the legislative assembly’s multi-partisan environmental committee had approved the text of a law banning metallic mining. The bill is set to go to the floor for a vote this week, according to Mata.
Two new clown tree frogs discovered in the Amazon [03/27/2017]
- Clown frogs are widespread throughout the Amazon region and get their name from their unique, bright coloration. - The two newly discovered clown frogs were previously considered to belong to other species, but researchers were able to show that they are their own distinct species after analyzing their DNA and the calls they make. - According to the international team of researchers who made the discovery, the conservation status of both clown frogs has yet to be determined — but it is likely that the species could already be considered threatened, especially given that both are reported to have particularly small distribution areas that are endangered by habitat destruction.
Cattle ranching threatens core of Biosphere Reserve of Southeast Nicaragua [03/27/2017]
- In the last five years (2011-2016) more than 54,000 hectares of forests were converted to grasslands in the core area of the Biosphere Reserve of Southeast Nicaragua, which represents 19.4 percent of its size. - According to data published by the Nicaraguan Export Processing Centre, last January, beef was Nicaragua's main export product with more than $43.9 million in sales. - Livestock production in Nicaragua typically consists of allocating one block (0.7 hectares) for each head of cattle, which explains, in part, why the development of this industry threatens sites such as the reserve. - The sale of land for agricultural production in southeastern Nicaragua has not only displaced human populations into the depths of the forest, it also makes them migrate to the cities of Nueva Guinea and Bluefields, or Costa Rica, in search of better incomes.
Colombia’s cane industry efficient but potentially damaging [03/27/2017]
- About 80 percent of all sugar cane in Colombia is concentrated in the Pacific coastal state of Valle del Cauca, and cane represents 50 percent of all local agricultural production. - The Afro-Colombian population in the area surrounding the state’s capital city of Cali has seen a heavy impact on their traditional farming practices and the local environment. - The monoculture production of cane has led to deforestation, impacting the health of local flora and fauna, according to research.
New cave catfish threatened by deforestation, mining, pollution [03/23/2017]
- The new catfish, Aspidoras mephisto, is the first completely cave-dependent member of the Callichthyidae family found in South America. - The species has adaptations to living underground, including a lack of pigment and reduced eyes. Researchers think it may use tree roots for shelter and food. - Surveys indicate A. mephisto is restricted to two caves in an area devoid of official protection. Deforestation and mining activities threaten the vegetation around the caves, and sewage from a nearby town may be polluting their water sources.
Aggressive forest protection needed to meet US climate goals [03/21/2017]
- Despite how critical forest protection is to meeting climate goals, it is not currently seen as a climate priority in the U.S. - In fact, the report notes, some government and forestry industry actors even promote increased logging as a solution to climate change, which has led to the forests of the coastal Southern United States becoming the largest source of wood pellet exports to Europe in recent years. - Forest disturbance from logging in the Southern U.S. occurs at four times the rate that it does in the rainforests of South America, the authors of the report discovered, which is reducing the ability of the country’s forests to act as carbon sinks by at least 35 percent.
In defining plantations as forest, FAO attracts criticism [03/21/2017]
- The FAO lumps non-oil palm tree plantations into its definition of forest cover when conducting its Global Forest Resource Assessments. The assessments analyze land cover change in countries around the world using largely self-reported data. - Nearly 200 organizations have signed an open letter authored by the NGO World Rainforest Movement to change how they define forest. - Remote sensing technology currently doesn't provide the ability to differentiate the canopies of forests and tree plantations. But researchers say that within a decade, technological advances will make this a reality. - A representative of FAO said the organization is unlikely to change its definition since it is already well established and accepted by governments and other stakeholders.
The people of DRC’s forests [03/21/2017]
- DRC's unstable political situation, security risks, poverty, and weak governance contribute to putting the country's forests at risk. - Africa's most popular fuel - charcoal - is largely unregulated in DRC and comes at the expense of vast tracts of primary forest. - Some DRC residents have a lifelong connection to the forests and rely on it for their livelihood.
Despite population growth and management challenges, hope for forests in Ethiopia [03/17/2017]
- The country’s capital city of Addis Ababa, already home to about 3.4 million people, is expanding outward and impacting forestland in its periphery. - A legacy of poor forest management has long plagued Ethiopia’s efforts to protect and manage indigenous tree species and the habitat in which they grow. - Poverty is driving the exploitation of woodland resources such as eucalyptus, as the need for charcoal and firewood increases along with population growth.
Clothing giant VF Corporation adopts sustainable forestry policy [03/16/2017]
- The policy, announced late last month, lays out purchasing guidelines for materials that go into the company’s clothing and packaging, especially wood pulp, paper, and wood-based fabrics like rayon and viscose. - It also commits VF Corp to using products made with recycled fiber whenever possible, and to promoting the use of Forest Stewardship Council-certified paper and fiber when sourcing virgin materials. - VF Corp owns such brands as The North Face, Timberland, Vans, and Wrangler, and is said to be the largest clothing conglomerate in the United States, with 2016 revenues topping $12 billion.
Communities in Mexico step up to protect a disappearing forest [03/16/2017]
- Comprising around 1.9 million hectares in Mexico and Guatemala, the Lacandon is regarded as one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world. But Mexico's Lacandon rainforest is experiencing significant deforestation activity, and the Guatemalan side of the ecosystem is even more affected. - In Mexico, communities in and around the Lacandon are developing initiatives to help protect the forest through ecotourism. - Movement leaders say they have seen success from their work in parts of the ecosystem, but they urge the need for institutionalization of their model and more collaboration with Guatemala to protect the Lacandon as a whole.
Americans live increasingly far from forests — which is a problem for wildlife [03/14/2017]
- Giorgos Mountrakis and Sheng Yang of the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry analyzed satellite-derived land cover data in order to look at geographic patterns of forest loss in the continental US during the 1990s. - The average distance from any point in the U.S. to the nearest forest increased some 14 percent just between the years 1990 and 2000 — a difference of about one-third of a mile. - They found that total forest cover loss across the country during that decade was close to 35,000 square miles (a little over 90,000 square kilometers), a decline of about 2.96 percent, or roughly an area the size of the state of Maine.
Big data timber exchange partners with FSC in Brazil [03/13/2017]
- BVRio pulls together data on the pricing, supply chain and certification of timber and wood products through its Responsible Timber Exchange. - Since opening in November 2016, the exchange has fielded more than 400 offers for 5 million cubic meters of timber. - The partnership with the Forest Stewardship Council is aimed at bolstering the market for certified forest products.
Successful forest protection in DRC hinges on community participation [03/12/2017]
- Forest covers at least 112 million hectares of the Democratic Republic of Congo. - Studies from 2013 show that subsistence agriculture and the need for firewood threaten DRC’s forests, and new investments in the countries forests by industrial outfits could contribute to the problem. - DRC’s leaders have signed on to international agreements and have begun to receive millions of dollars to finance projects aimed at keeping DRC’s forests standing, protecting global climate and reducing poverty.
Cattle ranching devours Nicaragua’s Bosawás Biosphere Reserve [03/10/2017]
- The Bosawás Biosphere Reserve is the third largest forest reserve in the world and is home to indigenous people and 21 ecosystem types, which host high levels of biodiversity. - Nicaragua’s booming livestock industry is causing a migration of ranchers to the reserve where they often pay land traffickers to illegally secure title to land. - From 1987 to 2010, more than 564,000 hectares of the reserve were cleared and replaced with ranch lands and farms. 92,000 hectares have been cleared in the last 5 years.
Cattle industry lags behind in addressing impact on deforestation [03/09/2017]
- Supply chain transparency is especially difficult in the cattle industry because cattle frequently change hands, unlike soy or oil palm crops that remain stationary for years. - While some major cattle companies have taken strides toward sustainability, they still lack sufficient support from the industry as a whole. - While consumers are increasingly pushing for deforestation-free palm oil and other products, consumer pressure for change in the cattle industry hasn’t been as significant.
Industry-backed plantation museum opens in Indonesia [03/09/2017]
- The museum was inaugurated by the North Sumatra provincial government last December. - The idea came from the CEO of Bakrie Sumatera Plantations, a major oil palm grower. - It is Indonesia's first plantation museum.
Science needed for more transparency in Paris climate projections [03/06/2017]
- According to a new study, forest-rich nations could play a huge role in keeping the temperature rise under 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels, the key metric agreed to at the 2015 UN climate talks in Paris. - Forests could account for a quarter of emissions reductions to meet targets in the Paris Agreement. - However, the ways that countries measure emissions differ, making it difficult to track progress.
HSBC to stop financing deforestation-linked palm oil firms [03/03/2017]
- A recent Greenpeace report accused the bank of marshalling $16.3 billion in financing for six firms since 2012 that have illegally cleared forests, planted oil palm on carbon-rich peat soil and grabbed community lands. - The investigation prompted scores of people to join a campaign to change the bank’s policies, including thousands of HSBC’s own customers. - The bank's new policy requires HSBC customers to commit to protecting natural forest and peatland by June 30, and provide independent verification of their own NDPE commitments by Dec. 31, 2018.
Newly discovered Tanzanian frog already facing extinction [03/02/2017]
- The new frog was collected in 2001 from Ruvu South Forest Reserve in Tanzania, in habitat atypical for spiny reed frogs. - The scientists who collected it couldn't identify it in the field. Fourteen years later, they sequenced the frog's DNA, which revealed that it was a species previously unknown to science. - The new species is represented by just one museum specimen. Recent attempts to find more in Ruvu South Forest Reserve failed to turn up the sought-after frogs, leaving researchers worried the species is being wiped out by dramatic deforestation affecting the reserve and surrounding areas.
Deforestation vs. Degradation: How we underestimate tropical forest greenhouse gas emissions [03/02/2017]
- Researchers calculated carbon dioxide emissions from tropical forest degradation from 74 countries focusing on timber harvesting, wood fuel collection, and fires. - They found that emissions from forest degradation amounted to 2.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide — a third of those from tropical deforestation and greater than the emissions from power generation in the USA. - Forest degradation emissions for a third of the countries studied were higher than their emissions from deforestation.
Forests provide a nutritional boon to some communities, research shows [03/02/2017]
- The new study, across 24 countries, shows a wide range in the variability of how communities use forests for food. - The nutrients provided by wild fruits, vegetables, game and fish are critical to the nutritional health of some communities and should play a role in decisions about land usage. - Land-use decisions should factor in the importance of forest foods to some communities, say the authors.
Pressure over water in Brazil puts pulp industry in the spotlight [03/02/2017]
- Brazil is the world's largest producer of eucalyptus-derived pulp and the state of Espírito Santo is one of its biggest production centers. - More than a third of the state, which was once rich in Atlantic Forest, is at risk of becoming desert. - The region faces one of the worst droughts in its history, which is causing billions in losses.
Environmental costs, benefits and possibilities: Q&A with anthropologist Eben Kirksey [02/28/2017]
- The environmental humanities pull together the tools of the anthropologist and the biologist. - Anthropologist Eben Kirksey has studied the impact of mining, logging and infrastructure development on the Mee people of West Papua, Indonesia, revealing the inequalities that often underpins who benefits and who suffers as a result of natural resource extraction. - Kirksey reports that West Papuans are nurturing a new form of nationalism that might help bring some equality to environmental change.
Survival of nearly 10,000 orangutans in Borneo oil palm estates at stake [02/28/2017]
- 10,000 orangutans remain in areas currently allocated to oil palm. These animals can only survive if environmental practices in plantations adhere to standards such as those prescribed by RSPO. - Orangutan rescues should only be allowed when no other solutions exist; otherwise they will aggravate problems of deforestation and orangutan killing. - Further scrutiny of companies and other groups that are at the forefront of these improvements is needed, but increasingly campaigners should focus on the laggards and rogues that cause the greatest environmental damage. - This a commentary - the views expressed are those of the authors.
7 new frogs discovered in India, some smaller than a thumbnail [02/27/2017]
- All the newly described species belong to the genus Nyctibatrachus, commonly known as night frogs. - Apart from being tiny, these frogs live a secretive life under forest leaf litter or marsh vegetation and they sound like insects, making it difficult for researchers to locate them. - But these species seem to be common and abundant in the locations they were found, researchers say. - Despite being commonly encountered, all seven species might be threatened by habitat loss.
The Republic of Congo: on the cusp of forest conservation [02/27/2017]
- The Republic of Congo’s high forest cover and low annual deforestation rates of just over 0.05 percent have led to the country being named as a priority country by the UN’s REDD+ program. - The country has numerous protected areas and has signed agreements to certify the sustainability and legality of its timber industry. - Skeptics caution that more needs to be done to address corruption and protect the country’s forests, a third of which are still relatively untouched.
This new primate is a ‘giant’ among tiny bush babies [02/22/2017]
- The Angolan dwarf galago is about 17 to 20 centimeters in length (with an additional 17 to 24 centimeters long tail). - It has a very distinctive call: a loud chirping crescendo of longer notes, followed by a fading twitter. - Scientists have named the new species Galagoides kumbirensis after the Kumbira forest it was first observed in.
What happens when the soy and palm oil boom ends? [02/21/2017]
- Over the past 30 years demand and production of oils crops like oil palm and soybeans has boomed across the tropics. - This rapid expansion has in some places taken a heavy toll on native, wildlife-rich ecosystems. - Derek Byerlee, co-author of a new book titled The Tropical Oil Crop Revolution, spoke with Mongabay about the tropical oil crop sector and what's to come for the industry.
African bush babies gain a new genus [02/20/2017]
- Genetic data has pointed toward a unique group of dwarf galagos living in Africa for a long time, but the physical similarity between the primates in the Galago family has confounded scientists. - Using these genetic clues as a guide, a team of researchers examined the skulls and teeth of galagos and analyzed their calls. - They concluded that five species previously placed in other genera should be placed in a sixth genus of the family Galagidae. They chose the name ‘Paragalago’ for the new genus.
Protected areas found to be ‘significant’ sources of carbon emissions [02/17/2017]
- The researchers found 2,018 protected areas across the tropics store nearly 15 percent of all tropical forest carbon. This is because protected areas tend to have denser, older forest – thus, higher carbon stocks. - Their study uncovered that, on average, nearly 0.2 percent of protected area forest cover was razed per year between 2000 and 2012. - Less than nine percent of the reserves that the researchers sampled contributed 80 percent of the total carbon emissions between 2000 and 2012, putting this small subset of reserves on par with the UK’s entire transportation sector. - The researchers say their findings could help prioritize conservation attention.
Newly discovered gecko loses scales in ‘really bizarre’ behavior [02/16/2017]
- The new gecko was discovered in a reserve in northern Madagascar, a region threatened by deforestation. - It is a new member of the "fish-scaled" gecko genus. All other species have large, shed-able scales, but G. megalepis has the largest of all. - The geckos so easily shed their scales (along with other tissues) that researchers had to devise a novel way to capture them. - The researchers think another five Geckolepis species may be awaiting discovery in Madagascar.
Latin America palm oil production doubled since 2001 without massive uptick in deforestation [02/14/2017]
- A study published earlier this month in the journal Environmental Research Letters by researchers with the University of Puerto Rico looks at the types of land being converted to oil palm plantations in Latin America. - Much of the land that has been turned over to palm oil production was originally cleared by ranchers so they could graze their cattle on it, according to the study. - If palm oil continues to replace pastures instead of forests, the authors of the study suggest, Latin America may be well positioned as a regional producer of sustainable palm oil.
Loving apes celebrated this Valentine’s Day [02/14/2017]
- The IUCN estimates that as few as 15,000 bonobos remain in the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo. - Bonobos, unlike chimpanzees and humans, live in matriarchal societies and have never been observed killing a member of their own species. - The California Senate passed a resolution stating that Valentine's Day (Feb. 14) would also be known as World Bonobo Day beginning in 2017. - Bushmeat hunting, habitat destruction and the wildlife trade are the greatest threats to the survival of bonobos.
Trees need a little help to reclaim deforested land, study finds [02/14/2017]
- Scientists with the Swiss university ETH Zurich used forensic genetics to determine that seed dispersal and seedling establishment rarely occured more than a few hundred meters from the seed tree in their 216-square-kilometer (about 83-square-mile) study area in an agro-forest landscape in India’s Western Ghats. - The scientists say theirs is the first large-scale, direct estimate of realized seed dispersal of a high-value timber tree — in this case, Dysoxylum malabaricum, or White Cedar, which is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. - That means that many tropical tree species that are important to humanity and for preserving biodiversity, like Dysoxylum malabaricum, are less likely to recover from logging and habitat degradation than we previously thought, according to Dr. Christopher Kettle of ETH Zürich, a co-author of the study.
Investors learning to pay heed to community land rights [02/13/2017]
- Most conflicts besetting private investments in Africa – 63 percent – relate to pushing people off their lands. - These conflicts affect agriculture, mining, and even green energy investments. - In Southern Africa, 73 percent of conflicts turned violent and 73 percent halted work on the developments.
Chain saw injuries in Myanmar tied to illegal logging [02/12/2017]
- The dangers of chain saw use in Myanmar are compounded by a lack of training and protective gear in rural areas where inexperienced loggers can end up seriously injured or dead. - Though a license is required to own a chain saw, one can also be rented fairly easily. - A chain saw can cut down a tree many times faster than a hand-held saw, speeding up the movement of illegal timber from Myanmar to its main export destination, China.
The clouded leopard: conserving Asia’s elusive arboreal acrobat [02/09/2017]
- The clouded leopard is not closely related to the leopard, but has its own genus (Neofelis), separate from the big cats (Panthera). In 2006, the single species of clouded leopard was split in two: Neofelis nebulosa is found on the Asian mainland, while Neofelis diardi, the Sunda clouded leopard, occurs only on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. - Another subspecies native to Taiwan (Neofelis nebulosa brachyura) is believed to be extinct, after none were found in a camera trapping survey conducted between 1997 and 2012. - Originally, researchers found it difficult to breed the animals in captivity, since mates tended to kill each other. A variety of breeding techniques have however allowed zoos around the world to begin mating the animals successfully, to create and maintain a genetically viable captive population. - Clouded leopards are incredibly elusive, and only with the advent of new technology, including camera traps and radio collars, have scientists been able to begin defining clouded leopard ranges, distribution, populations and threats. Public outreach is also helping build awareness around the plight of these Vulnerable wild cats.
Shrugging off the risks, Laos plans to proceed with the Pak Beng dam [02/08/2017]
- The Pak Beng dam is the third of nine mainstream dams planned for the Mekong in Laos, and the second in a cascade of six on the country’s upper stretch of the river. - If built, the 912-megawatt capacity dam will flood 4,178 hectares of land and create a 7,659-hectare reservoir along the river valley. - A suite of project documents was published last month, including impact assessments that conclude the project will lead to loss of agricultural land, forest and fisheries as well as possible contamination. However, the developers claim mitigation measures will be able to overcome the negative social and environmental impacts. - During a visit in January, Mongabay learned that people living in villages around the dam site had not been fully briefed on the project and its potential effects on their lives and livelihoods.
Audio: An in-depth look at Mongabay’s collaboration with The Intercept Brasil [02/07/2017]
- Branford is a regular contributor to Mongabay who has been reporting from Brazil since 1979 when she was with the Financial Times and then the BBC. - One of the articles in the series resulted in an official investigation by the Brazilian government before it was even published — and the investigators have already recommended possible reparations for an indigenous Amazonian tribe. - We also round up the top news of the past two weeks.
Resurrected Jeypore ground gecko faces second death sentence [02/07/2017]
- In India — a land that’s home to the regal tiger, the majestic elephant and the flamboyant peacock — gaining the Endangered Species spotlight can be difficult. Equally challenging in a land with 1.3 billion mouths to feed, is the conservation of habitat that is vital to threatened species. - The Jeypore ground gecko (Geckoella jeyporensis) was first noted in India’s Eastern Ghats in 1877, then not seen again and presumed extinct. Rediscovered by scientists in 2010, it exists in just two known areas covering a mere 20 square kilometers (7.7 square miles) of degraded habitat threatened by development. - Conservationists are working with the public and private sectors, and with local communities, urging the creation of “gecko reserves” to protect G. jeyporensis as well as the golden gecko (Calodactylodes aureus). But whether these little reptiles will inspire enough public enthusiasm is anyone’s guess.
Will there really be enough sustainable palm oil for the whole market? [02/07/2017]
- A report by non-profit CDP suggests companies may have a false confidence in their ability to find enough sustainable palm oil to meet their commitments. - Certified sustainable palm oil was in short supply last summer and prices spiked when two major producers were suspended by the industry's main certification association, revealing vulnerabilities in the supply. - Better planning to secure future supply includes working more intensively with suppliers, says CDP.
Expedition sets out to explore isolated, mysterious forest in DRC [02/06/2017]
- Kabobo Massif is a 100-kilometer mountain range in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The area has been little-explored due to conflict. - The expedition consists of researchers and filmmakers who will spend one month surveying wildlife in Kabobo Massif. - Using new technology, they will analyze DNA in the field to determine species. - They hope their survey will bring more protection to the area.
Bright lights, big city, tiny frog: Romer’s tree frog survives Hong Kong [02/03/2017]
- Discovered in the 1950s, Romer’s tree frog has so far been declared extinct, rediscovered, immediately declared Critically Endangered, been seriously threatened by an international airport, and become the focus of one of the first ever successful, wholesale population relocation projects conducted for an amphibian. - At just 1.5 to 2.5 centimeters (0.6 to 1 inch) in length, this little brown frog lives at just a few locations within the sprawl of Hong Kong Island, as well as on a few outlying islands. It lives in moist forest leaf litter on the forest floor, and depends on temporary fish-free pools of water for breeding. - When Hong Kong planned a major new international airport within the shrinking habitat of the Romer’s tree frog, scientists responded quickly, studying the animal’s lifestyle, eating and breeding habits; they then instituted a captive breeding program at the Melbourne Zoo, and launched a restoration program. It worked. - While some restoration site populations have since failed, others continue to thrive. And with new protections now in place, scientists hold out some hope that Romer’s tree frog may be a Hong Kong resident for many years to come.
Birds wanted: Recovering forests need avian assist [02/02/2017]
- Clearing swaths of rainforests can permanently drive away or kill off birds that are important partners in the regeneration of the forest, the study finds. - The study surveyed 330 sites in the Brazilian Amazon, turning up 472 species of birds. - The analyses demonstrate that recovering forests don’t have the diversity of birds needed to ensure their survival. - The authors say that their findings point to a need to preserve standing forests, even if they’re heavily degraded.
The Philippines declares more than 100,000 acres as critical habitat [02/02/2017]
- Critical habitats — portions of land outside protected areas that have known habitats of threatened or endemic species — are usually small, focusing on one or a few species. - The newly declared Cleopatra’s Needle Critical Habitat is the Philippines’ largest, and aims to protect several threatened species. - The declaration of CNCH involved over three years of negotiations with various stakeholders including Indigenous Peoples communities, government agencies, universities, non-government and private-sector organizations.
Introducing Mongabay news alerts [02/01/2017]
- Now Mongabay readers can keep up-to-date on the latest conservation and environmental science developments by subscribing to our free topic-based news alerts. - The alerts enable a user to sign up for daily or weekly notifications via email on topics they select. - Our current topic list includes dozens of topics and locations.
Forest protection funds flow to DRC despite ‘illegal’ logging permits [02/01/2017]
- Since signing agreements with the government of Norway and the Central African Forests Initiative, Greenpeace says leaders in Congo have approved two concessions on 4,000 square kilometers of forest. - DRC expects to receive tens of millions of dollars from CAFI and the Norwegian government for forest protection and sustainable development. - Greenpeace and other watchdog groups have called for an investigation into how these concessions are awarded and an overhaul of donor funding.
Deforestation-free commodities represent a major investment opportunity: Report [01/31/2017]
- Agricultural commodities — especially beef, palm oil, soy, and pulp and paper — have become an increasingly important driver of deforestation over the past couple decades, particularly in the tropics. - While there’s a lot of work left to be done, WEF and TFA 2020 see momentum building toward a sea change in the global supply chain for these much-in-demand commodities. - Overcoming the barriers to sustainable production of the big four commodities and supporting the transition to deforestation-free supply chains represents an investment opportunity that will “roughly total US$ 200 billion annually” by 2020, per the report.
Thap Lan: Thailand’s unsung forest gem under threat, but still abrim with life [01/31/2017]
- Thailand's Thap Lan National Park is part of the Dong Phayayen - Khao Yai Forest Complex (DPKY-FC), designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its importance to global biodiversity. - The DPKY-FC supports 112 species of mammals, 392 species of birds, and 200 species of reptiles and amphibians. - Thap Lan receives few visitors and faces major threats, including poaching, illegal logging and the expansion of a highway leading from Bangkok to the country's northeast. - The park, along with the rest of the DPKY-FC, could be downgraded by UNESCO to inscription on the “List of World Heritage in Danger.”