Chocolate makers agree to stop cutting down forests in West Africa for cocoa [11/21/2017]
- At COP23, the UN climate talks in Bonn, Germany that wrapped up last week, top cocoa-producing countries in West Africa announced new commitments to end the massive deforestation for cocoa that is occurring within their borders. - Ivory Coast and Ghana are the number one and number two cocoa-producing nations on Earth, respectively. Together, they produce about two-thirds of the world’s cocoa, but that production has been tied to high rates of deforestation as well as child labor and other human rights abuses. - The so-called “Frameworks for Action” that were announced by the two countries last Thursday not only aim to halt the clearing of forests for cocoa production, especially in national parks and other protected areas, but to restore forest areas that have already been cleared or degraded.
Experience or evidence: How do big conservation NGOs make decisions? [11/21/2017]
- Scientists have been urging conservation NGOs to make decisions based on scientific evidence. - However, the big conservation NGOs run into many problems in trying to use the available science. Doing impact evaluations of their own projects is also hard and expensive, sources from the big conservation NGOs say. - For their work to be effective, the conservation community needs to develop a common understanding of what credible evidence means, how to best use different strands of evidence, and how organizations can evaluate their work and create evidence that others can use, experts across the conservation spectrum seem to agree. - This story is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness.”
To feed a growing population, farms chew away at Madagascar’s forests [11/17/2017]
- In Madagascar, farmers are cutting down forests and burning them to make way for rice cultivation. - The practice is traditional but now illegal because of the harm it causes to natural areas. Many species are already threatened with extinction due to forest loss. - With the country’s population expected to double by 2060, the pressure is likely to intensify.
It is time to recognize the limits of certification in agriculture (commentary) [11/16/2017]
- In early 2017, the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) decided that it was going to stop working with certification in agriculture. - It was actually a fairly easy and straightforward decision: After working with this tool for over 20 years, we could look back and conclude that certification was not the best approach to improve the sustainability of most farmers in the world, especially when considering the huge challenges we face from climate change, poverty, deforestation, soil and water contamination, and human rights violations. - In our history, we have seen many positive impacts from certification for workers, producers and the environment. But we have also increasingly come to recognize the limitations of certification as a tool to drive change in agricultural production systems at scale. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Scientists give humanity ‘second notice’ to shape up or suffer the consequences [11/15/2017]
- In a paper published this week in Bioscience, scientists issue a second warning to humanity to adopt more sustainable practices and check in on how the world has fared since the first warning was published in 1992. - They found most environmental problems have gotten far worse during the past 25 years. - The paper puts forth ways in which humanity could improve its relationship with the natural world. If we don’t, the scientists warn we are “jeopardizing our future.” - More than 15,000 scientists from 180 countries have signed the paper in support.
$2 billion investment in forest restoration announced at COP23 [11/15/2017]
- Last Thursday, at the UN climate talks in Bonn, Germany (known as COP23), the World Resources Institute (WRI) announced that $2.1 billion in private investment funds have been committed to efforts to restore degraded lands in the Caribbean and Latin America. - The investments will be made through WRI’s Initiative 20×20, which has already put 10 million hectares (about 25 million acres) of land under restoration thanks to 19 private investors who are supporting more than 40 restoration projects. - There’s a plethora of recent research showing that, while halting deforestation is of course critical, the restoration of degraded forests and other landscapes are a vital component to meeting the Paris Agreement’s target of keeping global warming below two degrees Celsius.
More big mammals found in high-carbon forests, says new study [11/15/2017]
- The researchers used satellite data to measure forest carbon values and camera trap photographs to tally the mammal species present in forests and oil palm plantations. - Finer-scale data did reveal that high-carbon areas do support more species of medium and large mammals that are threatened with extinction. - Experts say that this research validates the high carbon stock approach for identifying priority areas for conservation. - Still, further research is required to better understand the role of connectivity between high-carbon forests in supporting biodiversity.
Indonesian agribusiness giant APRIL outed in Paradise Papers [11/13/2017]
- Leaked corporate records reveal the offshore dealings of APRIL, one of Indonesia’s largest pulp and paper companies. - APRIL is one of 12 Asian forest-products giants that appear in the Paradise Papers. - APRIL is owned by the super-rich Tanoto family.
Madagascar petitions CITES to sell millions in stolen rosewood [11/13/2017]
- The Madagascar government has petitioned wildlife regulators under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) for permission to sell its stockpiles of seized rainforest wood. - Some campaigners warn that traffickers stand to benefit from any such sale and fear it could herald a “logging boom” in the country’s remaining rainforests. - The CITES committee will consider the proposal at the end of this month.
A forgotten promise to forests? (commentary) [11/13/2017]
- In 2016, global tree cover loss spiked 51 percent over the previous year — resulting in a loss of forests the size of New Zealand. Needless to say, losing enough trees to cover the entirety of New Zealand in one year is worrisome for the climate. - To follow through on their promise to protect forests and end climate change, countries can and must do more to reverse these trends. Although many countries allude to their intentions to reduce emissions from forests in their official contributions to the Paris Agreement, too few include explicit or ambitious goals to do so. - It should go without saying that developed countries have the responsibility to lead by example. This makes the European Union’s recent decision allowing members to increase forest harvests all the more concerning. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Indonesia tries to learn from Brazil’s success in REDD+ [11/10/2017]
- Indonesia and Brazil both have billion-dollar REDD+ agreements with Norway to reduce deforestation and cut carbon emissions in exchange for funding. - While Brazil has succeeded, Indonesia has not, and has even seen deforestation rates climb, surpassing those in Brazil. - Fundamental differences in the way the two countries deal with forest issues, particularly in law enforcement and land reform, help explain their different outcomes. - The Indonesian government hopes to breathe new life into its flagging REDD+ program by emulating the Brazilian model, and speed up the disbursal of funds from Norway by next year.
New research shows why forests are absolutely essential to meeting Paris Climate Agreement goals [11/09/2017]
- It’s widely acknowledged that keeping what’s left of the world’s forests standing is crucial to combating climate change. But a suite of new research published last week shows that forests have an even larger role to play in achieving the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement than was previously thought. - In order to meet those goals, the global economy will have to be swiftly decarbonized. According to a new report from the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC), by taking aggressive action to protect and rehabilitate tropical forests, we could buy ourselves more time to make this transition. - Deforestation is responsible for about 10 percent of global emissions, but removing that source of emissions is only half the value of forests to global climate action. Other research shows that planting trees and rehabilitating degraded forests is just as critical to climate efforts as stopping deforestation, because of how reforestation efforts can enhance forests’ role as a carbon sink.
‘Much deeper than we expected’: Huge peatland offers up more surprises [11/09/2017]
- Scientists recently discovered the world’s biggest tropical peatland in the Congo Basin rainforest of Central Africa. The peatland straddles the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo. - Roughly the size of England, the massive peatland is estimated to contain more than 30 billion metric tons of carbon — equivalent to three years of global fossil fuel emissions. - When the scientists went back to investigate the peatland further, they discovered the peat along its edges is deeper than they thought. This means it may contain more peat — and, thus, more carbon — than they originally thought. - The scientists are racing to learn more about the peatland as loggers move to fell and drain the forests above it to make way for roads and developments like palm oil plantations. Meanwhile, local communities are hoping for greater protection of the region as government officials try to drum up more support for conservation initiatives at this week’s UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany.
From carbon sink to source: Brazil puts Amazon, Paris goals at risk [11/09/2017]
- Brazil is committed to cutting carbon emissions by 37 percent from 2005 levels by 2025, to ending illegal deforestation, and restoring 120,000 square kilometers of forest by 2030. Scientists warn these Paris commitments are at risk due to a flood of anti-environmental and anti-indigenous measures forwarded by President Michel Temer. - “If these initiatives succeed, Temer will go down in history with the ruralistas as the ones who put a stake in the beating heart of the Amazon.” — Thomas Lovejoy, conservation biologist and director of the Center for Biodiversity and Sustainability at George Mason University. - “The Temer government’s reckless behavior flies in the face of Brazil’s commitments to the Paris Agreement.” — Christian Poirier, program director at Amazon Watch. - “There was, or maybe there still is, a very slim chance we can avoid a catastrophic desertification of South America. No doubt, there will be horrific damage if the Brazilian government initiatives move forward in the region.” — Antonio Donato Nobre, scientist at INPA, the Institute for Amazonian Research.
Logjam: Inside Madagascar’s illegal-rosewood stockpiles [11/08/2017]
- Over the past six years, Madagascar has spent millions of dollars and devoted countless person hours to figuring out how to dispose of vast stockpiles of highly valuable, illegally logged rosewood, much of it cut from the country’s rainforests following a 2009 coup. - To do so, the government must conduct a comprehensive inventory of the stockpiles, among other requirements issued by CITES. - The World Bank has supported the effort with at least $3 million to $4 million in murky ad hoc loans. - The current state of affairs, with untold thousands of rosewood logs still unaccounted for, and tens of thousands more stacked outside government offices, is widely seen as facilitating continued corruption and illicit activity.
As negotiators meet in Bonn, Brazil’s carbon emissions rise [11/07/2017]
- Brazil pledged in Paris to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 37 percent by 2025 over 2005 levels. But its emissions shot up 8.9 percent in 2016, largely due to deforestation and agriculture. That increase threatens Brazil’s Paris goal. - Pará, in the heart of the Amazon, was the highest carbon emitter state, with 12.3 percent of the national total (due almost exclusively to deforestation and poorly managed industrial agriculture), followed by Mato Grosso state (9.6 percent of national emissions), which has converted much forest to soy production. - Experts say that this emissions trend could be reversed through sustainable forestry and more efficient agricultural practices. However, the dominance of the elite ruralist faction in Congress and in the Temer administration is preventing progress toward achieving Brazil’s carbon pledge.
Indigenous lands at risk, as Amazon sellout by Brazil’s Temer continues (commentary) [11/06/2017]
- Brazilian president Michel Temer has twice survived National Congress votes to initiate impeachment against him on extensive corruption charges. - Temer did so by selling out the environment, particularly the Amazon, to the ruralists who largely control the assembly. - Among the concessions made or promised to ruralists are presidential decrees to allow agribusiness to rent indigenous lands, forgiving unpaid environmental fines owed by landowners, and ending any enforcement of restrictions on labor “equivalent to slavery.” - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Indigenous forests could be a key to averting climate catastrophe [11/06/2017]
- A new study finds the world’s tropical forests may no longer be carbon sinks, with a net loss of 425 million tons of carbon from 2003 to 2014. Also, 1.1 billion metric tons of carbon is emitted globally from forested areas and land use annually — 4.4 billion metric tons are absorbed by standing forests on managed lands, but 5.5 billion metric tons are released via deforestation and degradation. - As a result, curbing deforestation and degradation is now seen by scientists as a vital strategy for nations to meet the carbon reduction goals set in Paris in 2015, and of averting a catastrophic 2 degree Celsius rise in temperatures by the end of the century. - Other new research finds that indigenous and traditional community management of forests could offer a key to curbing emissions, and give the world time to transition to a green energy economy. In a separate study, Amazon deforestation rates were found to be five times greater outside indigenous territories and conservation units than inside. - “We are a proven solution to the long-term protection of forests, whose survival is vital for reaching our [planetary] climate change goals,” said an envoy of a global indigenous delegation in attendance at COP23 in Bonn, Germany. The delegation wants the world’s nations to protect indigenous forests from an invasion by global extraction industries.
Indonesia races against time to save new orangutan species [11/06/2017]
- With an estimated population of less than 800, the newly described Tapanuli orangutan is already at risk of extinction due to habitat destruction and fragmentation. - The Indonesian government will come up with a strategy to protect the orangutan, including the establishment of protected forest areas and wildlife sanctuaries. - The government will also review a plan to build a hydroelectric plant in an area with the highest known density of Tapanuli orangutans.
Major Dutch timber company found guilty of dealing in illegal teak [11/02/2017]
- The Dutch Food and Safety Authority has ruled Dutch company Boogaerdt Hout in violation of the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) for placing illegal Burmese teak on the EU market. The company has two months in which to clear its supply chain of illegal wood. - The EUTR is part of the EU’s Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) action plan and aims to reduce illegal logging by banning the sale of illicitly sourced timber and timber products in the EU. - While most teak on the market today comes from plantations, some is still illegally sourced from Myanmar. - The extraction of Burmese teak has been denounced by conservationists, who say its trade is helping fuel rampant illegal logging in the country.
Does community-based forest management work in the tropics? [11/02/2017]
- To find out if community-based forest management is effective, we read 30 studies that best represent the available evidence.
(See the interactive infographic below.) - Overall, community-based forest management does not appear to make a forest’s condition worse — and may even make it better. - The evidence on socio-economic benefits is mixed, but what research there is suggests that community-based forest management sometimes aggravates existing inequities within communities. - This story is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness”.
Catastrophic fires sweep through iconic Brazilian national park [11/02/2017]
- Wildfires have consumed more than a quarter of Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park, a much visited and beloved Brazilian preserve known for its biodiversity, spectacular waterfalls and ancient bedrock. - Though 2017 has been a very dry year, authorities suspect arson, with the park’s enlargement from 65,000 to 240,000 hectares earlier this year a possible motive. - Firefighters have now contained the blaze and the park has reopened. - The fire destroyed at least 65,000 hectares of habitat. It will be years before the preserve’s flora and fauna recover, say experts.
Madagascar environmental activist convicted, sentenced — and paroled [11/02/2017]
- At a community meeting on September 27, a farmer named Raleva asked to see the permits of a gold mining company trying to restart work in his village in southeast Madagascar. - He was arrested and held in prison for about one month. On October 26, a judge sentenced him to two years in prison, and then promptly released him on parole. - This follows a recent pattern in the country in which activists are often given suspended sentences, seemingly as a way of keeping them quiet.
Mining activity causing nearly 10 percent of Amazon deforestation [11/02/2017]
- Scientists have learned that nearly 10 percent of the deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon between 2005 and 2015 was due to mining activities. Previously, it was thought to cause just 1-2 percent, but that is because past assessments primarily looked at deforestation caused by the mines themselves, and didn’t account for all the ancillary infrastructure that accompanies the mines. - With mining causing such high levels of deforestation — up to 70 kilometers away from mines — and with the Brazilian government under Michel Temer eager to open vast areas of the Amazon to mining, the researchers say that companies and government need to aggressively address the deforestation issue. - While the new research documented Amazon deforestation due to many ancillary activities, including roads, staff housing and airports, it did not look into the major deforestation brought by
the new hydroelectric dams that often provide energy for mining operations - To address the high level of deforestation caused by mining in the Amazon, Brazil needs to significantly revise its environmental impact assessment process to include ancillary infrastructure up to 70 kilometers away from mines along with related hydroelectric dam construction.
Environmental policy under the Kuczynski Administration: Steps forward for conservation efforts in Peru (commentary) [11/02/2017]
- Many national and foreign initiatives exist to curb deforestation in Peru; these range from the implementation of sustainable management plans to the purchase of carbon credits. Still, domestic environmental policy remains a key factor in preserving biodiversity. - The election of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski in June 2016 held the potential for an improved approach towards environmental conservation. - While it is still too early to determine Kuczynski’s environmental legacy, a recent series of events suggest that Peru is trying to find a balance between its need for development and the protection of its biodiversity. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
The Eighth Great Ape: New orangutan species discovered in Sumatra [11/02/2017]
- A study indicates what was once assumed to be an isolated population of the Sumatran orangutan is in fact a distinct species. - The Batang Toru orangutan differs from the Sumatran orangutan in morphology, behavior and genetics. Genomic analysis suggests it diverged from other orangutan species 3.4 million years ago. - There are fewer than 800 Batang Toru orangutans in existence, making it the rarest of all the great apes. - It is highly threatened by habitat loss. The study says a hydropower plant planned for the area could affect 8 percent of the species’ remaining forest habitat.
Indonesian Supreme Court strikes down regulation on peat protection [11/02/2017]
- Indonesia’s Supreme Court has quashed a ministerial regulation obliging forestry companies to relinquish and protect carbon-rich concessions in protected peat areas. - The regulation was part of a package of new rules meant to prevent a recurrence of the annual fires that burn across Indonesia’s vast peat swamp zones. - Businesses, labor unions and politicians had expressed concern over the regulation, saying that it would result in loss of productivity and massive layoffs. - The government says the court ruling will not hamper the nation’s efforts to protect its peatlands.
Interoceanic Highway incites deforestation in Peru, threatens more to come [11/01/2017]
- Between July and August, 435 hectares of forest were lost around Iberia, a Peruvian town that has been turned into a deforestation hotspot. - The Interoceanic Highway is threatening forests in eastern Peru’s Amazon rainforest where many residents depend on sustainably harvesting rubber for their livelihoods.
Audio: Impacts of gas drilling on wildlife in Peru and a Goldman Prize winner on mercury contamination [11/01/2017]
- On today’s episode: a look at the impacts of drilling for natural gas on birds and amphibians through bioacoustics, and a Goldman Prize winner discusses her ongoing campaign to rid mercury contamination from the environment. - Our first guest on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast is Jessica Deichmann, a research scientist with the Center for Conservation and Sustainability at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. Deichmann led a study that used acoustic monitoring, among other methods, to examine the impacts on wildlife of a gas drilling platform in the forests of southeastern Peru. - Next, we talk with 2009 Goldman Environmental Prize winner Yuyun Ismawati, an environmental engineer from Indonesia who currently lives in the UK. As the founder of an NGO called BaliFokus and a steering committee member of IPEN, a non-profit based in Sweden that works to improve chemicals policies and practices around the world, Ismawati has made it her life’s mission to stop the use of mercury in activities like gold mining that cause the toxin to leach into the environment and thereby threaten human health and wildlife.
Carbon sequestration role of savanna soils key to climate goals [11/01/2017]
- Savannas and grasslands cover a vast area, some 20 percent of the earth’s land surface — from sub-Saharan Africa, to the Cerrado in Brazil, to North America’s heartland. They also offer an enormous and underappreciated capacity for carbon sequestration. - However, the role of forests in storing carbon has long been emphasized over the role of savannas (and savanna soils) by international climate negotiators, resulting in policies such as REDD+ for preserving and restoring forests, with no such incentives for protecting grasslands. - Scientists warn that the planting of trees, such as nonnative eucalyptus in Africa and Brazil, could be counterproductive in the long term, potentially contributing to climate change emissions while harming grassland biodiversity and altering ecosystems. - As participants prepare to meet for the COP23 climate summit in Bonn, Germany next week, grassland scientists are urging that policymakers turn an eye toward savannas, and begin to develop incentives for preserving them and their carbon storing soils. More research is also needed to fully understand the role savannas can play in carbon sequestration.
Temer offers amnesty, erasing up to $2.1 billion in environmental crime fines [10/31/2017]
- 95 percent of fines issued by IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental agency, are never paid. These fines are worth R$11.5 billion (US $3.5 billion). - In a new decree, President Temer has offered offenders — including farmers and ranchers responsible for illegal deforestation —an amnesty of 60 percent of fines, provided the remaining 40 percent is paid into a government environmental fund. - While that fund — if fleshed out — would provide significant amounts of money for environmental agencies, Temer’s decree provides no new and effective means of enforcing the measure. - The amnesty, as seen by critics, is one in a long series of anti-environmental and anti-indigenous decrees made by Temer in order to buy support from congressional deputies and gain their votes to shelve a second round of corruption charges against the president.
Is the Forest Stewardship Council going to stay ‘fit for purpose’ for this century? (commentary) [10/31/2017]
- Reflecting on the General Assembly in Vancouver, held earlier this month, has me questioning whether FSC is going to stay fit for purpose for this century, or whether it is going to be held back by misguided economic self-interest. - The idea is that members of the three FSC chambers – social, environmental, and economic – come together to shape the future of the certification system by discussing and voting on motions that fundamentally affect the way FSC is run. But is that really still the case? - For the first time in the eight FSC general assemblies I’ve attended over the past 20+ years, I wondered whether this is a network with a shared vision that is innovative, adaptive, and progressive. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Parks and reserves ‘significant’ force for slowing climate change [10/30/2017]
- Protecting tropical forests between 2000 and 2012 amounted to a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to a 29 percent cut in deforestation rates. - The authors used statistical models to estimate the amount of CO2 that would have been released if currently protected areas in South America, Asia and Africa had instead been cleared. - The researchers argue that their findings bolster the conservation case for safeguarding tropical forests.
Sumatran region heats up as forests disappear [10/29/2017]
- Average temperatures in the Indonesian province of Jambi have risen amid clearing of vast swaths of forest, a new study show. - Areas that have been clear-cut, mostly for oil palm plantations, can be up to 10 degrees Celsius hotter than forested areas. - The warming could make water more scarce and wildfires more common in the province.
Palm oil mounts ‘new offensive’ in Colombia while workers decry labor conditions [10/27/2017]
- Demobilization of the FARC and other militant groups are opening vast areas of Colombia to new development. - Colombia is Latin America’s biggest palm oil producer. Researchers expect the industry will be expanding into these new territories, and are worried about how Colombia’s native ecosystems will fare against new oil palm plantations and how communities will be treated by the industry. - Advocacy organizations say Colombia is facing a grave security crisis for human rights defenders, unionists, community activists, and indigenous and Afro-Colombian leaders, with more than 120 social leaders reportedly killed so far in 2017. - Mongabay traveled to Magdalena Medio to talk with oil palm plantation workers; they reported dangerous working conditions and deadly retribution from anti-union organizers.
The charcoal hunters [10/27/2017]
- Investigative reporter Emmanuel Freudenthal and photographer and videographer Nathan Siegel take you behind the scenes of their reporting. - The report is one of a multi-part series on illegal logging in Myanmar, published this week by Mongabay. - More reporting, photography, and a short docu-video in this series can be found at Mongabay.com.
Brazilian police nab Amazon timber thieves who faked forest credits [10/27/2017]
- Federal Police arrested and fined participants in an illegal logging and forest credit fraud scheme operating in Pará, Santa Catarina, Paraná and Mato Grosso states. - The timber thieves were aided in this crime by gaps in the government’s licensing program and poor control of the timber production chain in Pará and Mato Grosso; lapses which authorities are now moving to correct. - The timber thieves cut rare ipê trees on the Amazon’s Cachoeira Seca indigenous reserve, then used falsified records and a variety of companies to move the timber to other states and export the wood, used for expensive decking in the U.S., Argentina, Panama, France, Germany, the UK, United Arab Emirates and South Korea. - Fines for illegal timber harvesting are only R$ 5,000 (US$ 1,587) per hectare; and for failing to submit proper reports, between R$ 1,000 and R$ 100,000 (US$ 317 to US$ 31,700), insignificant amounts that do little to deter a crime that can yield very high profits for perpetrators. These fines have not been increased since 2008.
Major global companies commit to halting destruction of Brazilian Cerrado [10/27/2017]
- Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon remains historically low. But much of the agricultural development that didn’t occur in the Amazon, it turns out, was simply shifted over to the Cerrado, a vast and highly biodiverse tropical savannah that is the second-largest ecoregion in Brazil. - In response to the enormous scale of destruction in the Cerrado, more than 40 Brazilian environmental organizations co-signed the Cerrado Manifesto this past September to “call for immediate action in defense of the Cerrado by companies that purchase soy and meat from within the biome.” - Twenty-three global companies, including Carrefour, Marks and Spencer, McDonald’s, Nestle, Unilever, and Wal-Mart, responded to that call to action on Wednesday by issuing a statement saying that they “support the objectives defined in the Cerrado Manifesto and commit to working with local and international stakeholders to halt deforestation and native vegetation loss in the Cerrado.”
RAPP to retire some plantation land in Sumatra amid government pressure [10/27/2017]
- A subsidiary of paper giant APRIL has agreed in principle to retire a large part of its plantations in eastern Sumatra for conservation purposes, following government orders. - The company initially refused to comply with what it saw as an illegal order, and warned of a 50 percent reduction in supply from its concessions. - In giving up part of its concessions, RAPP is demanding to be compensated with new land — something the government has agreed to do in stages.
Supporting conservation by playing a game? Seriously? (commentary) [10/26/2017]
- Can you answer important questions about conservation by playing a game? Yes, and it works. - In August, ForDev, the research team I lead, was invited by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Congo Basin Office to facilitate a workshop of their Regional Working Group on High Conservation Values. FSC’s goal was to define regional indicators for the management of Intact Forest Landscapes (IFLs) within certified forest concessions. - We combined the MineSet role-playing game with facilitation techniques to help members of the Working Group understand each other, integrate research outputs in their discussions, and support the decision-making process. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Lemur species losing favorite food to climate change, new study says [10/26/2017]
- The greater bamboo lemur tends to feed on nutritious bamboo shoots, switching to the woody trunk of the plant only during the dry season. - A longer dry season due to climate change could force them to subsist on this less-than-optimal food source for more of the year, potentially pushing this critically endangered species closer to extinction, according to a new study. - This discovery could have implications for other threatened species, like the giant panda, that depend on one type of food.
Two scientists and a NASA astronaut just biked across the Brazilian Amazon and want to tell you about it [10/25/2017]
- On Sept 26, two scientists and a NASA astronaut completed TransAmazon +25, a bike trek across the Brazilian Amazon. - What makes this trip particularly interesting is that one of the cyclists, Osvaldo Stella, a mechanical engineer with the non-profit Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) in Brazil who works with small-scale farmers and other landowners to preserve and restore forests, did the same ride 25 years ago. - Stella was accompanied on the journey by Paulo Moutinho, a co-founder and senior scientist at IPAM and a Distinguished Policy Fellow at the Woods Hole Research Center in the USA; as well as Chris Cassidy, an astronaut with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Navy SEAL. - “Gold mining, deforestation, and pastures covered many of the areas that were covered with forest 25 years ago,” Stella told Mongabay. ”The cities are larger but have not changed much in their overall appearance. One more sign that the current economic model generates much impact to the environment but little improvement in the quality of life of the people.”
Crackdowns on illegal mining in Colombian Amazon not enough [10/25/2017]
- Illegal mining for gold in Colombia’s Amazon region has destroyed swaths of forest and contaminated the soil and water with mercury. - A military-led crackdown, however, has left locals in the underdeveloped region bereft of a key source of livelihood, driving many into coca cultivation. - In the absence of economic alternatives, ex-guerrillas, organized crime groups and corrupt officials continue to sustain the illegal practice.
FSC mulls rule change to allow certification for recent deforesters [10/24/2017]
- Motion 7 passed at the FSC General Assembly meeting in Vancouver on Oct. 13, indicating that the organization will pursue a change to its rules allowing companies that have converted forests to plantations since 1994 to go for certification. - Current rules do not allow FSC certification for any companies that have cleared forested land since 1994. - Proponents of a rule change say it would allow more companies to be held to FSC standards and could result in the restoration or conservation of ‘millions of hectares’ in compensation for recent deforestation. - Opponents argue that FSC is bending to industry demands and that a rule change will increase the pressure for land conversion on communities and biodiversity.
New study: Risky roads cause more than just environmental harm [10/24/2017]
- Globally, 25 million kilometers (15.5 million miles) of paved roads are planned for construction by 2050. - A new study, published Monday in the journal Current Biology, examines the environmental, socio-political and economic risks that accompany road building, particularly in the developing world. - The authors argue for a more deliberate process to select sites for roads that will produce the most economic benefit while minimizing damage to the environment.
Temer guts Brazil’s slavery law, to the applause of elite ruralists [10/23/2017]
- Brazil has about 155,000 people working in conditions analogous to slavery, many used by elite ruralists who have become wealthy via environmental crime. Slave labor, for example, is often used in the Amazon to keep illegal deforestation and illicit agribusiness hidden and off the books. - President Temer has issued a decree — known as a portaria — narrowing the definition of slavery. Holding people in economic servitude, in conditions analogous to slavery, is no longer illegal. Now slaves must be held against their will, and two government officials must catch the slaveholder in the act. - The easing of the slavery law, experts say, is Temer’s way of rewarding the bancada ruralista, the agribusiness lobby, which includes about 40 percent of the Congress and continues to support Temer and to reject on-going rounds of corruption charges against the president. - Outrage over the weakening of the slavery law is widespread in Brazil and abroad. NOTE: this story was updated on 10-25-17 to report that Brazil’s Supreme Court (STF) has temporarily suspended implementation of Temer’s slavery decree until an STF ruling can be made.
Economic headwinds buffet once-resilient Sumatran forest-farms [10/23/2017]
- Farmers in Indonesia’s Krui region have long cultivated valuable damar resin trees among typical crops such as coconuts and rice. - These agroforests have for more than a century served as an economic bulwark for local communities against the encroachment of palm oil and timber operations. - Since 2000, however, a fifth of the region’s damar agroforests have been razed for sawmills and oil palm plantations, with land grabs and low resin prices driving the decline.
Estonia’s trees: Valued resource or squandered second chance? [10/20/2017]
- Soviet rule in the early 20th century led to the regrowth of many of the country’s forests. Today, Estonia is Europe’s fourth-most forested country. - As private land ownership and industry expand in the country, however, so are the pressures to log. - Estonia’s Ministry of Environment claims that Estonia’s forests are currently expanding in size, but conservation scientists say the opposite is true. Satellite data indicate the country gained 90,000 hectares of tree cover while losing 285,000. - Local conservation organizations are pressing the government to adopt more sustainable practices, including a ban on logging during part of the year and the cessation of a new logging amendment that would lower the felling age of spruce trees.
Another Madagascar environmental activist imprisoned [10/20/2017]
- Malagasy authorities have held Raleva, a 61-year-old farmer, in custody since September 27 after he asked to see a mining company’s permits to operate near his village. - His arrest is at least the sixth such case of authorities targeting those opposed to wildlife trafficking or land grabs. - Environmental activists say they face bribes and threats from traffickers on one side, and jail time and fines from the government on the other.
Could fungi provide an alternative to palm oil? [10/19/2017]
- Palm oil is used in everything from margarine and ice cream to cosmetics and certain fabrics. - But the palm oil industry has a history of association with deforestation and human rights abuses. As oil palm plantations continue to expand to more tropical areas around the world, many are worried they will come at the expense of rainforests. - A biotech startup in the U.S. thinks it has found an alternative to palm oil – fungus that can be grown on food waste. - But while lab experiments have demonstrated some success, it remains to be seen whether fungus-derived oil can be produced in quantities large and cheap enough to compete with palm oil.
Deforestation drops 16% in the Brazilian Amazon [10/19/2017]
- Deforestation in the world’s largest rainforest declined 16% over the past year, reports the Brazilian government. - The decline in deforestation was not unexpected, but the trend isn’t expected to continue into 2018 given the current drought over large expanses of the Brazilian Amazon. - The recent rate of forest loss in the Brazilian Amazon remains well below historic levels.
Amazonian manatee migration at risk from disruption by proposed dams [10/19/2017]
- Amazonian manatees (Trichechus inunguis) spend the high-water season feeding in flooded forests, but migrate to deeper permanent water bodies to see out the dry season. - Researchers have found that as the dry season approaches, manatees time their migration out of the floodplain to avoid bottlenecks that would block their route, and doom them. - But, the scientists warn, those bottlenecks will become far more common, and less predictable, if the hundreds of hydropower dams planned for the Amazon go forward. - The dams, and the bottleneck problem they create, “generates profound concern for the conservation of manatees,” the scientists write.
Seychelles home to new species of caecilian, a legless amphibian [10/19/2017]
- The Petite Praslin caecilian (Hypogeophis pti) is the world’s newest — and possibly the smallest — caecilian, a type of legless amphibian. - Scientists discovered the animal on the island of Praslin in the Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean. - The new species is the seventh caecilian species found in the Seychelles, where the amphibians have been evolving for 64 million years.
Audio: Indonesian rainforests for sale and bat calls of the Amazon [10/18/2017]
- This episode of the Mongabay Newscast takes a look at the first installment of our new investigative series, “Indonesia for Sale,” and features the sounds of Amazonian bats. - Mongabay’s Indonesia-based editor Phil Jacobson joins the Newscast to tell us all about “Indonesia for Sale” and the first piece in the series, “The palm oil fiefdom.” - We also speak with Adrià López-Baucells, a PhD student in bat ecology who has conducted acoustic studies of bats in the central Amazon for the past several years. In this Field Notes segment, López-Baucells plays some of the recordings he used to study the effects of Amazon forest fragmentation on bat foraging behavior.
Munduruku standoff against Amazon dam builders potentially explosive [10/17/2017]
- On 13 October, eighty Munduruku warriors and shamans tried to occupy the São Manoel dam on the Teles Pires River in one of the most remote parts of the Amazon. But the government and construction companies had been tipped off in advance. - Thirty armed Public Security National Force police had been flown in and blocked them from entering the site. The Munduruku were met by teargas and flash bombs. They have since left the immediate vicinity, but their demands remain unresolved. - The Munduruku say that the construction firms, to end a July occupation of the dam, had agreed to a September meeting and to apologize for the destruction of two of their most sacred sites — one of them the equivalent of Christian Heaven — and to apologize for collecting and storing sacred urns without proper rituals. - According to the Indians, the performance of these apology rituals is now vital to the survival of the Munduruku as a people, and to the survival of the Amazon itself, but the companies remain adamant in their denial of wrongdoing. Tensions remain high, and many fear more violence could erupt.
Indonesia to miss carbon emissions target under existing climate policies: study [10/16/2017]
- Unless Indonesia takes more drastic measures, it will miss the emission reduction target it has set for itself. - Current policies are a decent starting point, but they could be strengthened to meet or even surpass the emissions-reduction target. - The best thing Indonesia can do is strengthen forest licensing moratorium, which has done little to curb deforestation in off-limits areas.
Farming and forest loss: study exposes malaria’s best friends [10/16/2017]
- The study compared the rates of forest loss and malaria prevalence across 67 countries, revealing a positive association between deforestation and malaria transmission. - Researchers also considered the socio-economic context behind the environmental trends, highlighting that poverty and poor public health promoted malaria vulnerability while deforestation was driven by large rural populations. - Researchers recommend focusing measures to prevent malaria in areas where deforestation is severe, practicing more tree-friendly agriculture.
‘Then they shot me’: Land conflict and murder in Ucayali, Peru [10/12/2017]
- In September, six people were murdered in Bajo Rayal, Peru. - A conflict over the possession of 450 hectares of forest appears to be the motive behind the killings. - Mongabay Latam went to Bajo Rayal to investigate, and discovered around 300,000 hectares of forest in the region are under dispute and being considered for agricultural conversion.
Cash for conservation: Do payments for ecosystem services work? [10/12/2017]
- What can we say about the effectiveness of payments for ecosystem services (PES) based on the available scientific literature? To find out, we examined 38 studies that represent the best evidence we could find. - The vast majority of the evidence in those 38 studies was still very weak, however. In other words, most of the studies did not compare areas where PES had been implemented with non-PES control areas or some other kind of countervailing example. - On average, the more rigorously designed studies showed very modest reductions in deforestation, generally of just a few percentage points. Meanwhile, the majority of the available evidence suggests that payments were often too low to cover the opportunity costs of agricultural development or other profitable activities that the land could have been used for. - This is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness.”
Trump’s global resorts put profit first, environment last, critics say [10/11/2017]
- Donald Trump’s negative environmental record in Scotland and elsewhere has conservationists concerned in Bali, where Trump firms are developing a major resort and golf facility known as Trump International Hotel & Tower Bali. - Another resort under development, the Trump International Hotel & Tower Lido, a 700-hectare facility including a six-star luxury resort, theme park, country club, spa, villas, condos and 18-hole golf course threatens the nearby Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park, one of Java’s last virgin tropical forests. - Mongabay looked into Trump’s claims that he is an environmentalist, winning “many, many environmental awards.” We were able to locate just two — one a local New York award, and another granted by a golf business association. The Trump Organization did not respond to requests to list Mr. Trump’s awards. - Trump’s environmental record as president, and as a businessman, is abysmal, say critics. His attempt to defund the U.S. Energy Star program, they say, is typical of a compulsion to protect his self interest: Energy Star has given poor ratings to nearly all Trump’s hotels, which experts note has possibly impacted his bottom line.
Eat less meat, save species and ecosystems, says WWF UK [10/11/2017]
- Crops for livestock feed damage ecosystems and threaten wildlife, says WWF UK. - The conservation NGO estimates that just the UK’s livestock industry has caused the extinction of 33 species worldwide. - However, if people lower their protein intake to recommended amounts, farmers would need 13 percent less land to produce feed for livestock and farmed fish, saving an area 1.5 times the size of the EU.
Myanmar caves yield up 19 new gecko species [10/11/2017]
- Scientists have discovered 19 new species of strikingly patterned geckos within a small area of 90 kilometers by 50 kilometers in Myanmar. - These geckos are most likely restricted to the limestone hills and towers within which they were found. - Conservationists hope that these newly discovered animals can serve as “ambassadors” for the limestone hills, especially since many of these hills are being mined by cement companies.
The palm oil fiefdom [10/10/2017]
- This is the first installment of Indonesia for Sale, an in-depth series on the corruption behind Indonesia’s deforestation and land rights crisis. - Indonesia for Sale is a collaboration between Mongabay and The Gecko Project, an investigative reporting initiative established by UK-based nonprofit Earthsight. - The series is the product of nine months’ reporting across the Southeast Asian country, interviewing fixers, middlemen, lawyers and companies involved in land deals, and those most affected by them.
Birdwatching poised to take flight in Colombia, study reveals [10/10/2017]
- A new study identifies 67 communities with high potential for developing birdwatching ecotourism in Colombia. - The country is home to more than 1,900 bird species, including 443 rare birds ‘highly valued by bird watchers.’ - The authors present ecotourism as an alternative to mining and logging as rural communities look for ways to develop economically after a decades-long conflict.
Experts seek ways to mitigate environmental impacts of infrastructure boom in Asia Pacific [10/09/2017]
- More than 22 million kilometers of new roads are projected to be built in highly biodiverse tropical and developing countries by 2050. - Direct habitat loss, illegal logging, increased poaching and encroachment and animal road kill are some of the environmental risks associated with road development. - Last week, a conference of experts, officials and activists from the Asia-Pacific region discussed ways to maximize the socio-economic benefits of infrastructure development while mitigating the environmental risks.
Colombia, an example to world, balances conservation and development [10/09/2017]
- Colombia, under the leadership of President Juan Santos, has more than doubled its national conserved area — from 13 million hectares (50,193 square miles) in 2010, to 28.4 million hectares (109,653 square miles) today — an extraordinary achievement for any country.* - In an exclusive interview with Mongabay, Luis Gilberto Murillo, Colombia’s minister of the environment and sustainable development, tells how that goal was achieved, and what it will take to keep those conserved lands and waters protected for all time. - The country, first off, has a constitutional provision which assures that protected areas can’t be dismembered by future incoming administrations. The Santos administration has protected many areas that once were FARC rebel strongholds during the 50-year civil war. - Colombia will need significant international financial assistance if it is to continue conserving land, and also enforcing protections. But, says Murillo, that is only proper since the entire world benefits from Colombia’s efforts to conserve forests, which sequester carbon.
Conserving habitat not enough to help species cope with climate change [10/09/2017]
- New research finds that habitat-based conservation strategies don’t adequately compensate for the range that species in three groups stand to lose due to climate change. - The team of scientists based in Austria looked at the effects of climate change on 51 species of grasshoppers, butterflies and vascular plants living in central Europe. - Habitat-based conservation can provide a lifeline, but their model predicts that it won’t be enough to prevent some species from regional extinction.
Trending tree cover loss spikes again in Queensland [10/08/2017]
- A government analysis of Landsat satellite imagery found that 395,000 hectares (976,000 acres) of tree cover was cleared between 2015 and 2016 — nearly a 33 percent bump over the same time period in 2014-2015. - Forty percent of that clearing — some 158,000 hectares (390,000 acres) — occurred in the Great Barrier Reef catchment. - The latest year’s clearing is the highest rate in a decade and represents the sixth consecutive year in which rates in Queensland have risen.
UNEP official calls for ‘coherent planning’ as Aichi falters in Africa [10/05/2017]
- International agreements are increasingly looking at conserving forests as a way to mitigate global warming, preserve biodiversity and safeguard human communities from environmental disasters. - An assessment by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has found many forest-related Aichi Targets of the Convention of Biological Diversity will not achieve their goals at their current rates of progress. - Over the past few years, more forest-conservation goals have been adopted by UN member countries. But a UNEP official says this duplication of efforts may actually be derailing forest conservation. - He recommends a more streamlined approach focused on the Aichi Targets and Sustainable Development Goals.
Pandas losing ground to hungry livestock in Chinese nature reserve [10/05/2017]
- A new study finds that a 9-fold uptick in livestock near Wanglang National Nature Reserve has diminished giant panda habitat by more than a third. - More than half of the panda’s range is protected in China, but overlap with grazing livestock, which eat bamboo leaves, maybe putting pressure on the country’s national symbol. - The study’s authors call for investment in alternative livelihoods, in sectors such as tourism and forest management, to steer people away from livestock rearing.
Amazon deforestation linked to McDonald’s and British retail giants [10/04/2017]
- British fast food restaurants and grocery chains, including Tesco, Morrisons and McDonald’s, buy their chicken from Cargill, which feeds its poultry with imported soy, much of it apparently coming from the Bolivian Amazon and Brazilian Cerrado — areas rapidly being deforested for new soy plantations. - A decade ago, Cargill and other global commodities companies agreed to stop buying soy from the Brazilian Amazon and established a Soy Moratorium in the region. - But a recent study showed that Cargill and other companies simply began sourcing their soy purchases from nearby areas, including the Bolivian Amazon and Brazilian Cerrado, a vast area of savanna, part of which is included in Brazil’s definition of Legal Amazonia. - That shift has resulted in rapid deforestation in both areas; a Mighty Earth report revealed that U.S. soy distributor Cargill is a major soy buyer there. Efforts to extend the soy moratorium to the Bolivian Amazon and Brazilian Cerrado have long been opposed by Cargill, despite calls to do so by NGOs, scientists and the Brazilian environment minister.
Audio: Is forest certification an effective strategy? Plus acoustic ecology of the Javan rhino [10/03/2017]
- We take a closer look at the evidence for the effectiveness of forest certification schemes on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast. - Mongabay recently kicked off a new in-depth series called “Conservation Effectiveness” that looks at the scientific literature examining how well various conservation types work, from forest certification to payments for ecosystem services and community forestry. The first installment is out now, and Zuzana Burivalova, a tropical forest ecologist at Princeton University who did the research analysis that the article was based on, is here to speak with us about what she found. - We also speak with Steve Wilson, who is currently working on a PhD at the University of Queensland on Javan rhino ecology and conservation. This is our latest Field Notes segment, in which Wilson will play for us three different Javan rhino vocalisations and fill us in on what the rhinos use these calls for.
Amazon community on Tapajós River invaded by wildcat miners [10/02/2017]
- The Brazilian community of Montanha-Mangabal made up of beiradeiros —riverside peasant farmers and traditional fishermen — has been invaded and threatened by angry wildcat miners. - The beiradeiros community spread for miles along the Tapajós River in Pará, worked for decades to establish its legal land rights, achieved in 2013 when Brazil’s National Colonization and Agrarian Reform Institute (INCRA) turned the land into a 550 square kilometer Agro-Extractive Settlement (PAE). - However, the federal government failed to meet its obligation to demarcate the land. As a measure of last resort, Montanha-Mangabal and Munduruku indigenous allies began marking the land’s boundaries in September using GPS and signs. - This self-demarcation process apparently led to the miners’ invasion, as they illegitimately claim some of the community’s land. The beiradeiros, Munduruku, and other indigenous groups see the invasion as part of a bigger threat by Brazilian ruralists and the government to develop the Amazon.
Two new ‘birdcatcher’ trees described from Puerto Rico [10/02/2017]
- The two newly described trees have been named Pisonia horneae and Pisonia roqueae after two women who spent several decades trying to document plants of Puerto Rico. - The trees belong to the genus Pisonia, a group of “birdcatcher trees” known to produce sticky seeds that can entangle (and sometimes kill) birds. - However, whether Pisonia horneae and Pisonia roqueae use birds to disperse their fruits is currently unknown, the researchers say.
Brazil: a world champion in political and environmental devastation (commentary) [09/29/2017]
- Brazil, the fifth largest country in the world is heir to a fabulously rich heritage in its natural wealth and natural wonders. - It is also heir to a corrupt colonial tradition that today still rewards the nation’s wealthiest most privileged elites, as they overexploit forests, rivers, soils and local communities in the name of exorbitant profits. - These vast profits are made via intense deforestation, cattle ranching, mining, agribusiness, dam and road building and other development, with little or no regard for the wellbeing of the environment or the people. - Brazil’s landed elites, known today as ruralists, are well protected by state and federal governments, and remain largely exempt from prosecution for crimes against the environment and public good. This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
New research suggests tropical forests are now a net source of carbon emissions [09/28/2017]
- Whether or not our planet’s rainforests are a net sink of carbon — meaning they sequester more than their destruction by human activities causes them to emit — is a much-debated issue. - Research released today suggests an answer, however: due to deforestation and forest degradation and disturbance, tropical forests in Africa, the Americas, and Asia now emit more carbon into the atmosphere than they sequester on an annual basis, according to scientists with the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) and Boston University. - Over the study period, the rainforests of Africa, the Americas, and Asia were found to have gained approximately 437 teragrams of carbon every year, but to have lost about 862 teragrams of carbon. That means they were a net source of some 425 teragrams of carbon annually.
Temer walks back plan to open Denmark-sized area of Amazon to mining [09/27/2017]
- Brazilian president Michel Temer this Tuesday published a new decree reversing his August 23rd order to open a vast national reserve in the Amazon to mining. - The reserve, known as RENCA, contains nine conserved areas as well as two indigenous reserves. Environmentalists and indigenous leaders were concerned that the opening of the region to large scale mining would put protected areas at risk. - Temer’s original Amazon mining decree was met with worldwide condemnation from environmentalists, indigenous groups, scientists, artists and the general public. - RENCA encompasses 4.6 million hectares (17,800 square miles). Only 0.3 percent of the entire reserve is deforested, making it one of the Amazon’s most intact regions.
Giant tree-dwelling rat discovered in the Solomon Islands [09/27/2017]
- The Uromys vika is the first new rodent species to be described from the Solomon Islands in 80 years. - The elusive rat was finally discovered when an 18-inch, orange-brown individual fell out of a tree that had been cut down by a logging company. - The researchers think that the rat should be listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List because the rat appears to be rare, and its rainforest habitat is rapidly being logged away.
Liberian park protects Critically Endangered western chimpanzees [09/22/2017]
- The establishment of Grebo-Krahn National Park in southeastern Liberia was approved by the country’s legislature in August 2017. - The 961-square-kilometer (371-square-mile) park is home to an estimated 300 western chimpanzees. - There are about 35,000 Critically Endangered western chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) left in the wild, and Liberia is home to 7,000 of them.
Poor grade for Malaysia, Singapore brands in palm oil sustainability: WWF [09/22/2017]
- Two out of three companies in Malaysia and Singapore are not transparent about their palm oil use, the World Wildlife Fund contends. - Most of these companies do not source palm oil that has been certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. - Malaysia and Singapore’s brands have lower sustainability grades compared to global brands.
Temer uses controversial deforestation data in speech to UN [09/21/2017]
- In his speech to the 72nd General Assembly of the United Nations in New York on Monday, Brazil’s president Michel Temer referred to preliminary data showing reduced deforestation that critics say may not be accurate. - Critics also refute other aspects of his speech, including his touting of Brazil’s renewable energy movement. Hydropower is the country’s largest source of renewable energy, which scientists say can have a huge carbon footprint. - A protest comprised of representatives from more than 150 organizations gathered in Brasilia on Tuesday in reaction to Temer’s speech.
Does forest certification really work? [09/21/2017]
- Based on a review of 40 studies of variable quality, we found that certified tropical forests can overall be better for the environment than forests managed conventionally. - But there wasn’t enough evidence to say if certified tropical forests are better than, the same as, or worse than conventionally managed tropical forests when it comes to people. - We also found that profits and other economic benefits can be hard to come by for certified logging companies working in tropical forests. - This is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness”.
When will cattle ranchers be proud to show their farms in the Amazon? (commentary) [09/21/2017]
- Consumers increasingly seek information on the origin of products. In Brazil, though, many cattle ranchers are reluctant to reveal the source of their cattle. - Environmental, labor, and fiscal problems explain this resistance. Currently, however, there is a battle to increase transparency about the farms to eliminate these problems, especially in the Amazon, which is responsible for 40 percent of the country’s cattle herd. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.
Pangolins reduced to small, isolated populations in Bangladesh: new study [09/20/2017]
- With the help of the Mro tribe in Bangladesh, researchers have found that pangolins do persist in many forested areas of the country, but in small, isolated populations. - Of the four Asian pangolin species, the Chinese pangolin seems to occur most commonly in Bangladesh, while the Indian pangolin is possibly rare or extinct within the country, the researchers say. - The study also found that pangolin hunting has shot up since 2010, most likely due to a sharp rise in the price of pangolin scales.
Audio: Legendary musician Bruce Cockburn on music, activism, and hope [09/19/2017]
- Music has a unique ability to inspire awareness and action about important issues — and we’re excited to welcome a living legend onto the program to discuss that very topic. - Bruce Cockburn, well known for his outspoken support of environmental and humanitarian causes, appears on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast. - Our second guest is Amanda Lollar, founder and president of Bat World Sanctuary, a wildlife rehabilitation center in Texas. - All that plus the top news!
Andes dams could threaten food security for millions in Amazon basin [09/19/2017]
- More than 275 hydroelectric projects are planned for the Amazon basin, the majority of which could be constructed in the Andes whose rivers supply over 90 percent of the basin’s sediments and over half its nutrients. - A new study projects huge environmental costs for six of these dams, which together will retain 900 million tons of river sediment annually, reducing supplies of phosphorus and nitrogen, and threatening fish populations and soil quality downstream. - Accumulating sediments upstream of dams are projected to release 10 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year, significantly contributing to global warming, and would contaminate waters and the aquatic life they support with mercury. - The construction of these dams should be reconsidered to preserve food security and the livelihoods of millions of people in the Amazon Basin.
Belo Monte dam installation license suspended, housing inadequacy cited [09/19/2017]
- A federal court has suspended the installation license of the Belo Monte mega-dam in the state of Pará, Brazil. The dam, slated to have the world’s third-largest generating capacity, became operational in 2015, but won’t see construction finished until 2019. - The court ordered further construction halted until Norte Energia met the commitments it made in 2011 to provide adequate housing for those displaced by the dam, including indigenous and traditional people that had been living along the Xingu River. - Among commitment violations cited were houses built without space for larger families, houses built from different materials than promised, and homes constructed too far from work, schools and shopping in Altamira, a city lacking a robust public transportation system. - The consortium continues to operate the dam, as its operating license has not been suspended.
Indigenous victory: Brazil’s Temer decrees 1.2 million Amazon reserve [09/18/2017]
- In a rare recent victory for Brazil’s indigenous people, President Temer has established the 1.2 million hectare Indigenous Territory of Turubaxi-Téa along the Middle Negro River in Amazonas state. - While NGOs and indigenous groups applaud the move, they note that the region has not been claimed by the Temer-backed ruralists, agribusiness and mining interests, who have aggressively disputed indigenous claims to ancestral lands in the southern Amazon region. - Two weeks ago, Temer reversed a decree establishing the 532-hectare indigenous Territory of Jaraguá in São Paulo state, ancestral home to 700 Guarani Indians. As a result, the indigenous group has now been squeezed into a reserve covering just 1.7 hectares. - Brazil also just established the 5,200-hectare Indigenous Territory of Tapeba, near Fortaleza, the capital of the northeastern state of Ceará. These indigenous victories do not seem to indicate a shift away from Temer’s wave of initiatives undermining indigenous land rights.
Oil palm firms advance into Leuser rainforest, defying Aceh governor’s orders [09/18/2017]
- The government of Indonesia’s Aceh province has banned land clearance for oil palm development inside the Leuser Ecosystem. - However, deforestation is still ongoing as some companies ignore the moratorium. - During the first seven months of 2017, Leuser lost 3,941 hectares of forest cover, an area almost three times as large as Los Angeles International Airport, watchdogs say.
Does social forestry always decrease deforestation and poverty? (commentary) [09/17/2017]
- Many governmental and non-governmental organizations see community forestry in Indonesia as a new approach to reducing environmental degradation and increasing social welfare. Despite a decade of experimentation with the concept, very little is known, however, about actual impacts. - Studies by the Monitoring and Evaluation of Social Forestry program (MEPS) reveal that Village Forest (Hutan Desa) areas reduce deforestation in forests allocated for watershed protection and limited timber extraction - In forest allocated to normal timber production and conversion, Hutan Desa areas, however, have higher deforestation than comparable forests not managed by communities. Community forestry can achieve positive outcomes, but not everywhere. The government needs to take this insight on board to help in allocating licenses and investments for this scheme. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author.
Local approaches to conservation may be the most effective, study finds [09/15/2017]
- Researchers compared deforestation and forest degradation rates in areas of the Peruvian Amazon that were unprotected to those protected through government and local management. - They found, on average, locally led conservation initiatives proved more successful in preserving forests than those that are government-managed. - The study adds to mounting evidence that letting local and indigenous communities officially manage their forests may often be a highly effective way to conserve them. - However, official recognition of land rights often stands in the way of community-based conservation initiatives. The researchers urge the process be simplified so that more indigenous territories can be established and managed by the people who live in them.
What works in conservation? In-depth series starts next week [09/15/2017]
- “Conservation Effectiveness” is a multi-part series investigating the effectiveness of some of the most popular strategies to conserve tropical forests around the world. - The series is the result of a collaboration between Mongabay staff reporters Shreya Dasgupta and Mike Gaworecki, and a team of conservation scientists led by tropical forest ecologist Zuzana Burivalova of Princeton University. - Conservation Effectiveness launches next week.
Amazon mining unleashed (commentary) [09/15/2017]
- On August 23, 2017, Brazil’s president Michel Temer issued a decree revoking the RENCA, an area the size of Switzerland in the Amazon. - The Ministry of Environment had not been consulted and Brazil’s environmentalists and public were caught by surprise - A firestorm of criticism in Brazil and abroad led Temer to “revoke” the decree on August 28th and replace it with a new one. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author.
Nicaraguan beef raised illegally in biological reserve mostly exported [09/14/2017]
- Environmental organizations and the indigenous Rama-Kriol Territorial Government in southeastern Nicaragua have reported the invasion and deforestation of the core zone of the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve. - The invasion is caused by the advance of agriculture and the expansion of cattle raising. - Most of the cattle sold in La Maravilla market come from the company’s paddocks. Some of these cattle are raised and fattened inside the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve.
North America’s ash trees, Africa’s antelopes face heightened threat of extinction [09/14/2017]
- The latest update to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, released today, finds that even species once considered so abundant as to be safe have been put at risk of extinction by human activities and their impacts on the environment. - Five of the six most widespread and valuable ash tree species in North America have declined so severely due to an invasive beetle that they have now been entered onto the Red List as Critically Endangered, the last threat level before extinction in the wild. - Five African antelopes also had their threat status upgraded in the latest Red List update, among them the Giant Eland (Tragelaphus derbianus), previously listed as Least Concern but now Vulnerable, and the Mountain Reedbuck (Redunca fulvorufula), also previously listed as Least Concern but now assessed as Endangered.
Ecologist wins Heinz environment prize for airborne mapping that informs policy [09/14/2017]
- Ecologist Greg Asner of the Carnegie Airborne Observatory will receive a $250,000 award from the Heinz Family Foundation for his work to map rainforests and coral reefs around the world. - Lawmakers and other key decision-makers use Asner’s research to guide policy in the United States, South America and Southeast Asia. - Asner said he intends to put the funds toward marine education and outreach in Hawaii, where he began his career.
Communities struggle to save Sabah’s shrinking mangroves [09/13/2017]
- A development plan establishing shrimp farms and timber plantations begun purportedly to reduce poverty in northern Sabah, Malaysia, has attracted criticism from local communities and NGOs, which say the project is ignoring communities’ land rights. - Satellite imagery shows the clearing of large tracts of mangrove forest for shrimp farms. Critics of the development say this is depriving forest-dependent local communities of their livelihoods as well as threatening mangrove wildlife. - Several communities have banded together and are together petitioning the government to officially recognize their rights to the remaining mangroves and prevent further clearing for development.
Palm oil giant FGV will ‘endeavor to rehabilitate’ peatlands it trashed in Borneo [09/13/2017]
- About a year ago, Felda Global Ventures promised to stop clearing rainforests and peatlands to make way for its oil palm estates. - This year, though watchdogs reported that the company had continued to clear over 1,000 hectares of forest and peat in Indonesian Borneo, violating not only its green pledge but also its obligations as a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), as well as a new government regulation. - Last month, FGV renewed its commitment and said it would try to rehabilitate the peatlands it planted since August 2016.
Transformance: Finding common ground in the Amazon (commentary) [09/12/2017]
- The Fórum Bem Viver (Good Life Forum) met earlier this month to bring together indigenous leaders, military police, a federal judge, television actors, musicians, journalists, scientists and activists from eight countries and 14 Brazilian states. - The event, organized by the eco-cultural education nonprofit Rios de Encontro, utilized arts performances and workshops to seek common ground between participants regarding sustainable solutions in the Amazon. - The event was held in Marabá, Pará state, which is home to the Carajás mine, the world’s largest iron ore mine, and the community sits beside the Tocantins River where a dam is proposed upstream. - Participants sought solutions for turning Marabá into an “example of sustainable development for the Amazon, the Americas, and the world.” This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Deforestation in Cambodia linked to ill health in children [09/11/2017]
- A new study has found that the loss of dense forest cover in Cambodia is associated with an increased risk of diarrhea, acute respiratory infection and fever in children younger than five years. - Just a 10 percentage increase in the loss of dense forest around Cambodian households was associated with a 14 percent increase in the rate of diarrhea among children, the researchers found. - In contrast, a higher coverage of protected areas around the households was linked to a lower incidence of diarrhea and acute respiratory infection in children.
A lingering ‘legacy’: Deforestation warms climate more than expected [09/08/2017]
- Tropical deforestation results in the release of not only carbon dioxide but also methane and nitrous oxide, leading to greater-than-anticipated warming of the global climate. - The study compared emissions from land conversion with those from burning fossil fuels for energy and other sources. - The researchers found that tropical deforestation at current rates could cause a 1.5-degree Celsius rise in global temperatures by 2100.
Zero tolerance of deforestation likely only way to save Amazon gateway [09/07/2017]
- In a new paper, conservationists urgently call for a policy of zero deforestation and sustainable agroforestry in Maranhão, one of Brazil’s poorest states, before its remaining Amazon forests are lost. - The region’s forests are home to unique and endangered species, including the jaguar (Panthera onca), Black bearded saki (Chiropotes satanas), and kaapori capuchin (Cebus kaapori), one of the world’s rarest primates. - It is also inhabited by some of the most vulnerable indigenous groups in the world, including uncontacted indigenous communities. - Though 70 percent of remaining forest lies within protected areas, illegal logging and slash-and-burn agriculture are persistent problems, threatening already fragmented wildlife habitat and forcing indigenous tribes off ancestral land.
Audio: Technologies that boost conservation efforts right now and in the future [09/06/2017]
- On this episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we take a look at the role technology is playing — and might play in the future — in conservation efforts. - Our first guest is Topher White, the founder of Rainforest Connection, a nonprofit based in San Francisco that has deployed upcycled cell phones in tropical forests around the world to provide real-time monitoring of forests and wildlife. - Our second guest is Matthew Putman, an applied physicist with a keen interest in conservation. Putman is CEO of Nanotronics, a company headquartered in Brooklyn, NY that makes automated industrial microscopes used by manufacturers of advanced technologies like semiconductors, microchips, hard drives, LEDs, and aerospace hardware.
Healthy soils can boost food security and climate resilience for millions (commentary) [09/06/2017]
- Drylands take centre stage this week as world leaders gather in Ordos, in the Inner Mongolia region of China, for the thirteenth session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD COP13). - The health of many dryland ecosystems has declined dramatically over recent decades, largely due to unsustainable farming methods, increasing drought, deforestation, and clearance of natural grasslands. - Changing the way drylands are farmed to conserve life underground is the only way of restoring these ecosystems and the agricultural outputs they sustain. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
A global view from a mountain town: how conservation became ingrained in Monteverde [09/06/2017]
- Beginning with Quakers arriving in the 1950s, Monteverde has become a distinct community in Central America. - In 1972, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve was established, securing a home for many rare species. - Today, many locals take conservation as a way of life, from organic farming to scientific endeavors to mitigating the impacts of climate change.
Indigenous communities resist Chinese mining in Amazonian Ecuador [09/05/2017]
- Last weekend, a tribunal held by indigenous communities in Gualaquiza, in the Amazon headwaters region of Ecuador, accused the nation’s first large scale mining operation of major human and environmental abuses. - The Mirador and Panantza-San Carlos open-pit copper mines are run by Ecuacorriente S.A. (ECSA) and owned by the Chinese consortium CRCC-Tongguan. The two mines are located in the Cordillera del Cóndor region and within the Shuar indigenous territory. - Charges lodged against the government and Chinese consortium include displacement of 116 indigenous people, the razing of the town of San Marcos de Tundayme, escalating violence including the death of Shuar leader José Tendetza, discrimination, intimidation, threats, and worsening environmental degradation. - President Lenin Moreno’s administration has so far made no response to the Gualaquiza accusations or the demand for redress of grievances filed by the tribunal’s leaders.
Saving the Serranía de San Lucas, a vital link in the ‘jaguar corridor’ [09/01/2017]
- The Serranía de San Lucas in Colombia’s department of Bolivar is an area of renowned biodiversity. Due to the country’s long-running conflict the region has not yet been fully explored and scientists believe a “treasure trove” of undiscovered species may be lying in wait. - The mountain massif is also key to the “jaguar corridor,” a habitat link that connects Central American jaguar populations to those in South America. - But San Lucas is also home to some of Latin America’s richest deposits of gold. Mining for gold has damaged the region’s lowlands, releasing mercury into the surrounding environment. In 2014, two jaguar canines were found to contain mercury. - The race is on to protect the area through establishing it as a national park. Proponents of the initiative say doing to would help maintain its rich biodiversity and ensure it retains viable habitat for jaguars and other wildlife.
Philippine palm oil plan ‘equals corruption and land-grabbing,’ critics say [08/31/2017]
- With its renewed promotion of what it calls the “Sunshine Industry,” the Philippine government is looking to cultivate another one million hectares of oil palm, 98 percent of which would be on the island of Mindanao. - Proponents say increasing palm oil production will alleviate poverty and armed conflict through large investments from Malaysian, Indonesian and Singaporean firms and other foreign and domestic companies, and tout potential revenue brought by palm oil’s increasing demand as a food and cosmetic ingredient and biofuel. - But critics worry expansion of the country’s palm oil industry will benefit large companies at the expense of small farmers, forests, and water quality.
‘Ecological disaster’: controversial bridge puts East Kalimantan’s green commitment to the test [08/30/2017]
- Work is currently underway on a bridge and access road that will connect the fast-growing city of Balikpapan with its rural outskirts. - The project is part of a broader government program to transform Indonesian Borneo into an economic powerhouse. - Conservationists have opposed the project since it was launched in 2008, fearing it will disrupt marine life, cut a crucial wildlife corridor and spark land speculation and encroachment along a protected forest.
Temer’s Amazon mining decrees derided by protestors, annulled by judge [08/30/2017]
- In a seeming win for Canadian and Brazilian mining companies, President Michel Temer on August 23rd abolished a vast Amazonian national reserve — the Renca preserve, covering 4.6 million hectares — and opened the region up to mining. - The reserve, straddling Pará and Amapá states, contains large preserved areas and indigenous communities. Temer’s original Amazon mining decree was met with widespread condemnation, resulting in a second clarifying decree on August 28th. - On August 29th, federal judge Ronaldo Spanholo annulled both decrees, citing Brazil’s 1988 constitution, and ruling that the Renca preserve may not be abolished by presidential order but only legislative action. The Brazilian Union´s General Advocate said it will appeal the judge´s decision. - BBC Brasil reported that Canadian mining companies, who would likely profit from the Renca preserve´s abolishment, were notified that the region was going to be opened up for prospecting last March, five months before the original decree was issued.
Bats and viruses: Beating back a bad reputation [08/29/2017]
- Ecologist Merlin Tuttle argues that too much research and media attention is focused on bats based on tenuous links to deadly disease-causing viruses such as Ebola. - Live Ebola virus has never been found in bats, and virologists acknowledge that other animals may be involved. - But scientists have plucked live strains of other dangerous viruses from bats, and researchers argue that continuing to study the association between viruses and bats (as well as other animals) will ultimately help us better prepare for future disease outbreaks.
Intact forests crucial to Amazon ecosystem resilience, stable climate [08/28/2017]
- Three recent South American studies emphasize the importance of intact forests to healthy habitat and a stable climate — both locally, and at a great distance. - The first study found that forest integrity is crucial for habitat stability and resilience. Degradation makes it harder for Brazil’s Caatinga forest to recover from intensifying drought due to climate change. Protected forests are more resilient against drought. - Another study showed that intense land use change in central Brazil and northern Argentina has resulted in the dry season becoming warmer across South America, with changes in Amazon plant productivity 500 kilometers from the disturbed area. - A third study’s modelling found that major future deforestation anywhere in the Amazon will dramatically reduce rainfall in the Amazon’s southwest — accounting for about 25 percent of the Amazon basin — and the La Plata basin.
Quilombolas’ community land rights under attack by Brazilian ruralists [08/25/2017]
- Four million African slaves were transported to Brazilian plantations. Many fled into the wild, some as far as the Amazon, and established quilombos — runaway slave communities long ignored by the federal and state governments. - Brazil’s 1988 constitution gave the quilombos legal land rights, which were not, however, recognized by the ruralists, an elite of wealthy landholders that coveted the land for agribusiness, mining and other development purposes. - In 2003, the “marco temporal,” requiring Quilombolas to prove that they occupied the land they are claiming both in 1888 (the year slavery was abolished) and in 1988 (the year of the new constitution) was overturned. Quilombos were granted inalienable community land rights. - Now, a long dormant court challenge by the DEM political party has reached Brazil’s Supreme Court, threatening the 2003 landmark ruling, again putting the Quilombolas at risk. Meanwhile, violence is up, with 13 people living in quilombos assassinated this year.
Temer pays back ruralists: opens Brazil, Amazon to mining, say critics [08/24/2017]
- In a victory for transnational and Brazilian mining companies, President Michel Temer this week decreed the opening of a vast national reserve covering 4.6 million hectares in the Amazon to mining. The region contains large conserved areas as well as indigenous communities. - Late last month, Temer also decreed a new Brazilian mining code. Though the code still needs to be approved by Congress, it shifts responsibility for monitoring environmental standards away from government and to the mining companies — a move that risks major mining accidents. - It also replaces the National Department of Mineral Production with a new regulatory agency, the National Mining Agency — a bureau that critics say lacks the teeth and personnel to do the job. - Mining code opponents are also concerned it could weaken protections against mining on indigenous lands. They say that the new mining code and green lighting of mining in the Amazon is pay back for a House of Deputies vote in August to close a criminal investigation of the president for corruption.
These 3 companies owe Indonesia millions of dollars for damaging the environment. Why haven’t they paid? [08/23/2017]
- The Indonesian government has been trying to collect penalties from three companies found guilty of damaging the environment. - One of the companies is PT Kallista Alam, an oil palm plantation firm convicted of cut-and-burning rainforest in the Leuser Ecosystem. - Another is PT Merbau Pelalawan Lestari, a timber plantation firm that was ordered to pay more than a billion dollars for illegal logging. - The government plans to establish a task force for the express purpose of collecting the penalties.
Deforestation from gold mining in Peru continues, despite gov’t crackdowns [08/22/2017]
- A team of scientists from the Carnegie Institution for Science found that, between 1999 and 2016, gold mining expansion cost the region 4,437 hectares (10,964 acres) of forest loss per year. - Miners were working an area in 2016 that was 40 percent larger than it was in 2012. - The findings, along analyses by ecologists at the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project, indicate that increased enforcement by the Peruvian government has slowed the rate of deforestation.
Protests over geothermal development heat up in Central Java [08/22/2017]
- The people of Karangtengah Village in Central Java learned in January one of their key sources of freshwater had been contaminated by debris from the development of a planned $1 billion geothermal energy plant at a nearby volcano. - Indonesia, which is estimated to have the largest geothermal capacity in the world, is eager to tap into the renewable energy source. - The government says work will continue despite mounting demands from locals to stop the project over claims it has contaminated rivers, cleared forests and damaged the local tourism industry.
Doubts cloud Kenya’s renewed palm oil ambitions [08/21/2017]
- Kenya is looking to increase its own production to reduce reliance on imports. Officials say producing palm oil domestically would reduce importation costs while opening new income streams for farmers. - Kenya is also looking to cash in on the industry’s profitability and efficiency as global demand for palm oil rises. - But critics worry that increasing palm oil production in Kenya may come at a cost. They say smallholder farmers could lose out to industrial producers, and clearing land for oil palm plantations could increase deforestation and carbon emissions.
Indigenous groups win key land rights victory in Brazil’s Supreme Court [08/17/2017]
- In a victory for Brazil’s indigenous groups, the Supreme Court Wednesday decided against the claims of Mato Grosso state, which wanted compensation for Indian reserves established in that state by the federal government. - Mato Grosso argued that the land on which the reserves were established belonged to the state, but the Court decided on the side of indigenous people, noting in one case that the Indians had been living on the territory that became a reserve for 800 years. - Indirectly, this week’s court decisions undermine a measure recently signed by President Temer, and backed by the bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby, known as the “marco temporal.” - The marco temporal sets an arbitrary 1988 date for Indian occupations as a legal basis for all indigenous land claims. The court, in its rulings, based its decision on far longer ancestral territory occupation. It’s likely Temer and the rural caucus will continue pushing marco temporal, or similar strategies to delegitimize indigenous land claims.
Mammal numbers high in logged tropical forests, study finds [08/16/2017]
- The study quantified mammal numbers in forests and landscapes with varying degrees of human impact in Malaysian Borneo. - Across 57 mammal species recorded with live and camera traps, the average number of all animals combined was 28 percent higher in logged forests — where hunting wasn’t an issue — compared to old-growth forests. - The findings demonstrate the importance of conserving degraded forests along with more pristine areas.
International investment blamed for violence and oppression in Sarawak [08/15/2017]
- Land rights activist Bill Kayong was shot dead last year in Miri, Sarawak. Representatives of a palm oil plantation company were charged with his murder, but were later acquitted. - Their acquittal was denounced by many observers, who see it as yet another blow against indigenous communities in the fight for their land. - NGOs in Sarawak and around the world report failures by the Sarawak government to uphold indigenous land rights, and failures by international banks and investors to ensure their investments are conflict-free. - Investigators urge more accountability when it comes to international financing of development ventures. They also say retail customers could “act as change agents and raise the bar for banks’ respect for indigenous rights.”
Protecting a forest in the land of the Indonesian deer-pig [08/15/2017]
- In a village in the northern part of Indonesia’s giant Sulawesi island, hunters pursue rare animals that are protected by the law. - A local affiliate of NGO BirdLife International is working with locals to preserve the Popayato-Paguat forest block — and the dozens of endemic species within. - The NGO is facilitating an ecosystem restoration project in the forest block.
Brazil’s Indians on the march in last ditch effort to stop land theft [08/14/2017]
- Last week, indigenous organizations and civil society bodies demonstrated widely against what they see as the Brazilian government’s on going moves to reduce Indian land rights, and to demand the government open a dialogue with indigenous representatives. - Of greatest concern is President Temer’s recommendation to approve the “marco temporal” a 1988 cut-off date for Indian occupation of traditional lands. - Critics say the marco temporal is designed to deny indigenous land rights guaranteed under Brazil’s 1988 constitution, while legalizing claims of land thieves and wealthy elite ruralists who have long hungered for control of Indian lands. - Brazilian Supreme Court rulings that will help determine the legality of the marco temporal are expected this Wednesday, 16 August.
Land-swap rule among Indonesian President Jokowi’s latest peat reforms [08/11/2017]
- To prevent another round of devastating wildfires, Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s administration has issued a series of policies governing the management of peatlands — carbon-rich swamps that have been widely drained and dried by the nation’s agribusinesses, rendering them highly flammable. - The administration hopes a new land-swap scheme will help it claw back peat from big oil palm and timber planters, providing a means to supply the firms with additional land elsewhere in the country. - Business associations complain about the new policy, saying it’s not feasible for a company in Sumatra to move its operations all the way to Papua. - Environmental pressure groups, meanwhile, call the regulation an unfair boon for large firms, providing a rapacious industry with more land than the vast amounts it already controls.
New study: Climate change shifts timing of floods in Europe [08/10/2017]
- A team of 46 scientists analyzed five decades of data on river flooding in Europe, leading to the strongest evidence yet that climate change affects this important natural process. - In northeastern Europe, where rising temperatures have accelerated snowmelt, the team found earlier flooding at more than 80 percent of the data collection locations. - Across the rest of the continent, the impacts of climate change were less direct. - In some places, such as the Atlantic coast, the researchers found a shift toward earlier flooding. Some parts of Europe near the Mediterranean Sea experienced flooding later in the year.
Brazilian firm wants to build new dams in Amazon’s Aripuanã basin [08/10/2017]
- With the bancada ruralista mining / agribusiness lobby in control of the Temer government and Congress, a Brazilian company, Intertechne Consultores, sees it as an opportune time to revive a shelved plan to build dams in the Amazon’s Aripuanã basin. - The company has asked federal officials to allow viability studies for 3 new dams in this very remote, biodiverse region — the Sumaúma and Quebra Remo dams on the Aripuanã River, and the Inferninho dam on its tributary, the Roosevelt River. - The Inferninho dam, if built, would highly impact the Cinta Larga Indians, the victims of Brazilian-inflicted genocide in the 1960s. The Roosevelt Indigenous Reserve contains one of the world’s five largest diamond reserves, a cause of past violent conflicts. - Moves may be afoot in Congress to end a ban of mining on indigenous lands. If passed, a new law could allow mining on Cinta Larga land, with new mines potentially powered by the new hydroelectric dams. These projects, if built, would likely be a source of intense new controversy and conflict in the Amazon.
Malaysia’s East Coast Rail Link a double-edged sword for environment, wildlife [08/09/2017]
- Work on the East Coast Rail Link, a Chinese-backed cargo and passenger rail project that will connect Peninsular Malaysia’s east and west coasts, commenced August 9. - The project aims to shift traffic from roads to rails, but will also lead to habitat loss and fragmentation in the peninsula’s forested heart. - Developers have adopted mitigation measures, but areas of ecological significance will still be affected.
In Colombia, deforestation gangs run rampant [08/08/2017]
- In Colombia’s southeast Guaviare department, which includes almost 20 percent of the deforested areas of Colombia, harvested wood rots on the ground while gangs and drug traffickers take over the land for illegal mining and agriculture. - A main objective of the deforestation is to confiscate the lands in order to later extort those who want to use the area for mining, agriculture, or ranching. - The land is also developed, as it was between 2012 and 2015, when the number of hectares of coca planted in Guaviare grew from 3,851 to 5,423, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. - The number of timber confiscations in Colombia is staggering: between January and May 2017, police have seized 36,251 cubic meters of wood.
First real test for Jokowi on haze as annual fires return to Indonesia [08/08/2017]
- Land and forest fires have broken out in pockets of Indonesia since mid-July. - Last year the country caught a break, when a longer-than-normal wet season brought on by La Niña helped mitigate the fire threat. - This year, hotspots have started appearing in regions with no history of major land and forest fires, like East Nusa Tenggara and Aceh. - The government has responded by declaring an emergency status as well as deploying firefighters.
HydroCalculator: new, free, online tool helps citizens assess dams [08/07/2017]
- With mega-dams planned globally, especially in the Amazon and Mekong, the Conservation Strategy Fund (CSF), an NGO, has developed a new free tool for evaluating a planned dam’s economic viability, greenhouse gas emissions and more. - The HydroCalculator estimates the net economic value of a proposed dam, with and without the cost of greenhouse gas emissions factored in, number of years required before a project generates a profit, and years until net emissions become negative. - The tool has been used by CSF, International Rivers, and a development bank and found to be very useful. Its forecasts have been tested against the economic viability and carbon emissions of existing dams, and found accurate. - The HydroCalculator is meant for use by communities, researchers and activists who are often closed out of the technical dam planning process. It is available free online.
Road projects threaten Sumatra’s last great rainforests [08/07/2017]
- Local officials currently have plans to build roads in Mount Leuser, Bukit Barisan Selatan and Kerinci Seblat National Parks in Indonesia’s Sumatra Island. - Conservationists fear these plans could accelerate habitat loss and degradation in this highly biodiverse forest complex, which is home to many endangered species. - Proponents of road development cite the need for increased economic opportunities for local people and evacuation routes in case of natural disasters.
Sixth mass extinction ‘tsunami’ coming, but preventable [08/04/2017]
- Biologist Thomas Lovejoy writes in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that we can stop the current spate of biodiversity and species loss that the Earth is experiencing. - Pointing to a recent study showing that many animals are declining in numbers in addition to those facing the imminent risk of extinction, Lovejoy argues that we need to address all of the impacts that humans have on ecosystems. - He calls for the restoration of degraded forests and wetlands — activities in which everyone can participate — to facilitate the movement of wildlife between habitats and bring back the services that ecosystems provide.
Greater collaboration between companies and governments necessary to enhance climate action, report finds [08/03/2017]
- A new report released by the NGOs Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Forest Trends (FT) last week consists of case studies on how companies are working with the governments of Brazil and Indonesia, which together accounted for nearly 40 percent of total tropical deforestation in 2014, to achieve their shared goals around forests and the climate. - The authors of the report write that greater collaboration between corporations, governments, and other stakeholders is crucial to actually meeting climate change mitigation goals: “Considering the common goals of companies, governments, and multi-stakeholder initiatives, it is imperative to identify opportunities for collaboration to harness synergies between initiatives and catalyze action.” - In Brazil, for instance, several companies that have adopted Zero Deforestation Commitments are also collaborating with the government and NGOs in initiatives like Mato Grosso state’s Produce, Conserve, Include (PCI) program, which aims to decrease deforestation levels, boost reforestation efforts, and push for more sustainable agricultural and livestock production.
Five instances in which Peru won the battle against deforestation [08/02/2017]
- The main activities that have threatened forests in these areas include illegal gold mining and the advancement of industrial agriculture. - Satellite images show deforestation for large oil palm and cacao plantations in central and northern Peru is no longer expanding. - Illegal mining-driven deforestation within Amarakaeri Communal Reserve and Tambopata National Reserve has ceased.
Canopy bridges keep rainforest animals connected over gas pipeline [08/02/2017]
- Pipelines, roads, railways and transmission lines cause severe habitat fragmentation in the Amazon rainforest. A new study looked at canopy connectivity for large arboreal mammal populations using natural bridges above a new gas pipeline in Peru. - In 7,102 canopy camera trap nights, the crossing rate of natural bridges in the canopy above a new pipeline was surprisingly high: nearly 200 times that of the ground (3,100+ overhead versus 16 ground occurrences). - Researchers recorded 25 species from 12 mammal families using natural canopy bridges in 3,372 photo events, including night monkeys, kinkajous, olingos, dwarf porcupines, opossums and squirrels. - These results suggest natural and artificial canopy bridges could significantly improve habitat connectivity for rainforest arboreal species when new, or already existing, transportation, mining and energy corridors threaten fragmentation
US retailers halt sales of hardwood flooring linked to illegal logging in PNG [08/01/2017]
- A report released today by London-based NGO Global Witness has prompted major US retailers to discontinue sales of exotic wood flooring linked to illegal logging in Papua New Guinea (PNG). - Global Witness reports that an investigation into the 9,000-mile-long chain of custody that timber travels on its way from PNG to Chinese factories and ultimately store shelves in the United States determined that as much as one-third of the wood exports coming from the South Pacific nation in recent years was produced by clear-cutting rainforest concessions that local communities say were granted to logging companies in violation of their rights under PNG law. - The majority of timber produced in PNG is shipped to China and turned into flooring, furniture, and plywood, among other products, much of which is sold domestically. But the US buys $15 billion-worth of wood products from China every year, more than any other country. - Many Chinese companies don’t do their due diligence, Global Witness reports, putting US companies at significant risk of violating the Lacey Act.
Brazil’s Temer threatens constitutional indigenous land rights [08/01/2017]
- President Temer, influenced by the rural lobby in congress whose votes he needs to not be tried by the Supreme Court on corruption charges, has okayed new criteria meant to delegitimize indigenous land boundary claims, legal experts say. - One rule rejects any indigenous demarcation of land where Indians were not physically present on a traditional territory in 1988, which would disqualify many legitimate claims. - Another allows government to undertake “strategic” public works, such as dams and roads, without indigenous consent, violating the International Labor Organization’s 169 Convention, signed by Brazil. - The administration also introduced a bill likely to be passed by congress that reclassifies 349,000 hectares (1,347 square miles) of Jamanxim National Forest in the Amazon, gutting protections, allowing economic activities — logging, ranching, farming and mining — and legitimizing land grabs there.
What happens after a mining rush? Photographs from Madagascar [07/31/2017]
- Precious and semi-precious stone mines, legal or not, are born, die, and spring back to life all over Madagascar. - Much of the gem mining in Madagascar is unofficial and therefore unregulated, so the immediate impacts are high, both envirnmentally and socially. But people seldom examine the long-lasting effects. - Toward the end of 2016, photoreporter Arnaud De Grave spent several months in the country’s eastern Alaotra-Mangoro region, in an area experiencing a mining recession. - His photos show the toll of mining on people’s lives and the landscape.
Conservation community failing to use evidence to make decisions, scientists say [07/31/2017]
- In a new article, scientists have coined the term “evidence complacency” to highlight the persistence of a culture in which, “despite availability, evidence is not sought or used to make decisions, and the impact of actions is not tested.” - This complacency can not only lead to a wastage of money, time and opportunities, but also show conservation as an unjustifiable investment, the researchers say. - Conservation practitioners say that scientists need to collaborate more with decision makers and look at evidence more broadly than just peer-reviewed studies.
Is Norwegian money funding Congo deforestation? [07/28/2017]
- A recent report by conservation NGO Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) is decrying what they say is Norwegian government complicity in funding a project they allege could result in the clearance of vast tracts of Congo rainforest and the release of billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere. - RFUK’s report spotlights a project funded through Norway’s Central Africa Forest Initiative (CAFI) that would increase the area comprised by logging concessions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) by 20 million hectares. Its analysis found the concessions stand to include 10,000 square kilometers of peat swamp, and if actively logged, could release as much as 3.8 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere. - Norway’s Ministry of Climate and Environment says the report is overblown and the situation more complicated than RFUK contends. - Per F. I. Pharo, director of the Government of Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative, said an amended project proposal is under review and will not be accepted unless various conditions are met: “Among the key recommendations Norway has made to the program document is the importance that the program document should not conclude on important policy choices that should be the product of a thorough and inclusive process at country level.”
Amazonian city drags down fish stocks in 1,000-kilometer shadow [07/28/2017]
- A study of tambaqui, a popular table fish, in the Brazilian Amazon found that fish caught near the city of Manaus are half the size of those upriver. - Boats that buy the fish have brought the demand into the forest surrounding the city, and with holds full of ice, they’re able to travel further to bring tambaqui back to Manaus’ markets. - The fishers living in the relatively pristine forest along the Purus River reported that tambaquie are smaller and harder to catch than they were previously, a trend extended 1,000 kilometers from Manaus, the researchers found.
First ‘intrusions’ into unbroken forests drive pulses of biodiversity loss [07/28/2017]
- The study examined ‘initial intrusions’ into tropical forests and their effect on the threat status of species. - The researchers found that deforestation at current rates in high-priority areas such as Borneo, the Congo Basin, and the Amazon could push 121 to 219 species closer to extinction in the next 30 years. - While the authors point out that their conclusions are not a call to protect only intact landscapes, the data could help policymakers working with limited resources to decide where to place new protected areas.
Randomized controlled trial in Uganda finds that paying people not to cut down trees works [07/27/2017]
- Researchers with Northwestern University in the United States conducted a randomized controlled trial involving 121 villages in a region with high rates of deforestation and forest degradation. - Sixty villages participated in the PES scheme from 2011 to 2013 and were paid 70,000 Ugandan shillings (currently worth slightly less than $20, but worth $28 in 2012 dollars) per hectare to conserve their forests, while 61 formed the control group and received no compensation. - The researchers found that, during the study period, tree cover declined by 4.2 percent in villages that were part of the program, less than half of the 9.1 percent tree cover loss in control villages.
Study links most Amazon deforestation to 128 slaughterhouses [07/27/2017]
- A new study by the NGO Imazon finds that just 128 slaughterhouses process 93 percent of cattle raised in the Brazilian Amazon. The areas of influence supplying the herds to those plants coincide with where the most Amazon deforestation occurs. - The total pasture area, or zone of influence, corresponding to the 128 slaughterhouses provided an 88 percent match with the deforested area that occurred in the Amazon between 2010 and 2015. - Based on a probability map created by the study, a 90 percent match was also found between the 128 slaughterhouse zones of estimated cattle supply and the Amazon areas projected to have a higher risk of new deforestation in future. - The study adds weight to the idea that the most effective deforestation enforcement strategy is not to regulate the Amazon’s 400,000 ranchers and farmers, but for government to enter into effective deforestation enforcement partnerships with the slaughterhouses.
Rare bird not seen in 60 years rediscovered [07/27/2017]
- The Táchira antpitta (Grallaria chthonia) was first recorded during an expedition in the mid-1950s. - In June last year, scientists decided to look for the bird again. - During the expedition, the team obtained the first ever photographs and sound recordings of a living Táchira antpitta.
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.