Brazil’s deforestation “sheriff” has been fired [04/28/2017]
- A little more than a year after being named Brazil’s deforestation “sheriff,” Thelma Krug has reportedly been fired after a dispute over how trends in forest destruction are monitored in the country. - Climate Home’s Claudio Angelo reports from Brasilia that government officials told members of the press that Krug had “expressed her interest in leaving” in order to “dedicate more time to her attributions at IPCC” — but that sources say Krug's dismissal was actually the result of a dispute with vice-minister Marcelo Cruz, who questioned the deforestation data produced by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), where Krug is a senior scientist. - Brazil has already named Krug’s replacement: Jair Schmitt, a biologist with the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA), Brazil’s equivalent of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where he oversees the agency’s environmental inspections.
Cross River superhighway changes course in Nigeria [04/28/2017]
- The 260-kilometer (162-mile) highway is slated to have six lanes and would have run through the center of Cross River National Park as originally designed. - The region is a biodiversity hotspot and home to forest elephants, drills, Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees and Cross River gorillas. - The proposal shifts the route to the west, out of the center of the national park, which garnered praise from the Wildlife Conservation Society. - The route still appears to cut through forested areas and protected lands.
Singapore convicts rosewood trader in historic CITES seizure [04/26/2017]
- Late last month a high court in Singapore found Wong Wee Keong guilty of importing rosewood from Madagascar in 2014 in violation of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). - Environmental groups are heralding the ruling, which reversed the decision of a lower court and sidestepped conflicting claims about the legality of the shipment by Malagasy authorities. - The outsized shipment to Singapore was larger than all of the other seizures of rosewood in the world, combined, over the past decade.
Canceled: Plans for a bridge in a critical wildlife area in Borneo have been scrapped [04/20/2017]
- Plans for the Sukau Bridge, crossing the Kinabatangan River near a wildlife sanctuary in Malaysian Borneo, raised a global outcry. - "We are not going ahead with the bridge," Sabah Forest Department Chief Conservator Sam Mannan announced at an event in London. - In explaining his decision, Mannan reportedly cited a recent letter by celebrated naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough, as well as concerns expressed by scientists, NGOs and corporations.
Study finds there are ways to mitigate deforestation risks of palm oil expansion in Africa [04/20/2017]
- It’s been estimated that, over the next five years, as much as 22 million hectares (or more than 54 million acres) of land in Central and West Africa could be converted to oil palm plantations. - Seven African nations signed a pledge dedicating themselves to the sustainable development of the palm oil sector, known as the Marrakesh Declaration, at the UN climate talks in Marrakesh, Morocco last November. - According to a study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters earlier this month, those seven nations, which collectively represent 70 percent of Africa’s tropical forests, have good reason to be proactive when it comes to managing the rollout of oil palm operations within their borders. But there is also reason to hope that oil palm expansion in Africa will be done more sustainably in Africa.
‘We can save life on Earth’: study reveals how to stop mass extinction [04/18/2017]
- Researchers analyzed 846 regional ecosystem types in 14 biomes in respect to the "Nature Needs Half" scientific concept that states proper functioning of an ecosystem requires at least half of it to be there. - They found 12 percent of ecoregions had half their land areas protected while 24 percent had protected areas and native vegetation that together covered less than 20 percent. - The study indicates the tropical dry forest biome is the most endangered. Closely behind it are two others: the tropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome, and the Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub biome. All are highly biodiverse, providing habitat for many species. - The researchers say while many ecosystems have been highly degraded, achieving 50 percent protection is still possible – if current conservation goals are scaled up.
Governments must do more to help companies end deforestation in commodities supply chains, companies say [04/11/2017]
- Fern conducted interviews with and policy reviews of 15 companies, from major consumer-facing companies like IKEA, Nestlé, and Unilever, to producers and traders such as APP (Asia Pulp and Paper), Cargill, Golden Agri-Resources, and Sime Darby. - One overriding message emerged, Fern reports: companies see government policies and actions — or lack thereof — as one of the main obstacles to cleaning up their supply chains. - Many companies view the governments of countries where commodities production occurs as having a crucial role to play in “creating an enabling framework of rules, regulations and effective administration without which private sector commitments to tackle deforestation can only have limited impact,” the report states.
Land titling for indigenous communities leads to forest protection, peer-reviewed study finds [04/10/2017]
- Deforestation is responsible for as much as 10 percent of total global carbon emissions, which means that finding effective means of keeping forests standing is crucial to global efforts to halt climate change. - Previous studies have found that securing indigenous land rights is a successful path to keeping forests and the carbon sinks they represent intact, but the full effects of land titling for indigenous communities are still unclear. - Now the authors of a peer-reviewed study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last week say they found that forest clearance is actually reduced by more than three-quarters and forest disturbance by roughly two-thirds over the two-year timespan immediately following the granting of land title to an indigenous community.
Brazil slashes environment budget by 43% [04/07/2017]
- Brazil accounts for nearly two-thirds of the Amazon rainforest, the world's largest tropical forest. - After several years of decline, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is on the rise again. - Environmentalists say that the budget cut will "profoundly [impact] deforestation -- and, consequently, Brazil's climate targets."
Rotten beef and illegal deforestation: Brazil’s largest meatpacker rocked by scandals [04/05/2017]
- On March 17, agents with Brazil’s Federal Police raided facilities belonging to JBS and another food processing giant, BRF, as well as several smaller companies. - The raids were the culmination of a two-year investigation, called “Operation Weak Flesh,” into an alleged scheme by which JBS, BRF, and others were bribing government officials to look the other way as they sold and exported rotten and salmonella-tainted beef, pork, and poultry. - Just four days after its plants were raided as part of the corruption probe, JBS found itself embroiled in another scandal. On March 21, as part of a three-year operation code-named “Cold Meat,” Brazil’s environmental protection agency, Ibama, raided two JBS meatpackers in the state of Pará that are accused of having purchased thousands of heads of cattle raised on illegally deforested land in the Amazon.
Forest fragmentation may be releasing much more carbon than we think [03/31/2017]
- Many tropical forests around the world have been severely fragmented as human disturbance split once-contiguous forests into pieces. Previous research indicates trees on the edges of these fragments have higher mortality rates than trees growing in the interiors of forests. - Researchers used satellite data and analysis software they developed to figure out how many forest fragments there are, and the extent of their edges. They discovered that there are around 50 million tropical forest fragments in the world today; their edges add up to about 50 million kilometers – about a third of the way from the earth to the sun. - When they calculated how much carbon is being released from tree death at these edges, they found a 31 percent increase from current tropical deforestation estimates.
Three new frog species found in disappearing Atlantic Forest [03/30/2017]
- The new species are of the Chiasmocleis genus of humming frogs. They spend most of their life underground, coming out only a few weeks a year for "explosive breeding." - The frogs look similar to species already known to science, but have distinct genes and minute physical differences that researchers used to set them apart. - They were found in the Atlantic Forest, which has been heavily degraded by agriculture. As little as 3.5 percent of the biome may remain today.
Al Gore and Bangladesh PM spar over coal plants in the Sundarbans [03/30/2017]
- Bangladesh is building two large power plants just upstream from the Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest and UNESCO World Heritage Site. - According to government officials, the power plants are intended to bolster Bangladesh's meager energy reserves. - The project has attracted criticism from concerned citizens in Bangladesh and around the world, as well as scientists and UNESCO, who say the plants will jeopardize human and ecological health. - At the January 2017 session of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Al Gore and Sheikh Hasina disagreed about the project's potential environmental consequences.
Indigenous peoples in Colombia play crucial role in the fight against climate change [03/30/2017]
- Research shows that the rights of the numerous indigenous groups in the Amazon are crucial to help curb global warming. - Trading in CO2 emissions prevented by protecting forests instead of cutting them down has been possible since 2008 under a UN mechanism called REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries), but there are complications. - Marked by lackluster regulation for years, since the CO2 market under REDD+ (or its predecessor REDD) was introduced, “carbon cowboys” have popped up in the remotest corners of the tropics, trying to profit from the growing trade in CO2 emissions.
Almost 1M hectares ‘missing’ from land holdings of major palm oil companies [03/29/2017]
- Palm oil is a major driver of tropical deforestation. The report was produced by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), which looked at information publicly disclosed by 50 of the most major palm oil production companies. - Its findings indicate that while most companies disclose the area of planted land they manage, many fail to reveal the size, location, and use of many other areas in their portfolio, defying corporate accountability and concealing potential social and environmental risks. - A supply chain expert says failures to disclose information don't necessarily signal ill will on the part of the companies. Instead, it may be the result of unclear expectations, definitions, and protocols for reporting. - The Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the world's leading palm oil certification body, is reportedly working to improve the reporting process of its member companies.
In Tanzania, a surge in sesame farming poses threat to natural forest [03/29/2017]
- Trees in Tanzania’s southeast region are being burned down, sometimes illegally, to make way for sesame farms. - In one small village with a thriving community-owned forest project, sesame cultivation has become the leading cause of deforestation. - The particularly destructive cultivation of sesame often involves cultivators burning huge swaths of forests to create farmland that is only used for two or three seasons.
New study provides a blueprint for engaging indigenous peoples in REDD+ forest monitoring [03/28/2017]
- According to the authors of the study, using well-trained indigenous technicians is more cost-effective, takes less time, and, of course, helps meet the requirement for full and effective participation by indigenous peoples in REDD+ programs. - For the study, a team of thirty indigenous technicians performed a forest inventory in order to measure the forest carbon sequestered in five Emberá and Wounaan territories in Darién, Panama. - The researchers then compared the tree height and diameter data gathered by expert technicians and trained indigenous technicians and found no significant differences. - Meanwhile, access to Darién's forests was only possible because the study was managed by the Organización de Jóvenes Emberá y Wounaan de Panamá (OJEWP) in coordination with traditional indigenous authorities, in accordance with the principle of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent.
Communities conserving local forest in El Salvador vote to ban mining [03/28/2017]
- El Salvador is considered the most-deforested country in Central America, but national efforts to protect remaining forest appear to be on the upswing in the tiny country. - Cinquera, a municipality in northern El Salvador, has created its own forest preserve and attracted the attention of the national government. - In February, residents voted to ban metallic mining in the region. - On March 22, legislator Guillermo Mata announced that the legislative assembly’s multi-partisan environmental committee had approved the text of a law banning metallic mining. The bill is set to go to the floor for a vote this week, according to Mata.
Two new clown tree frogs discovered in the Amazon [03/27/2017]
- Clown frogs are widespread throughout the Amazon region and get their name from their unique, bright coloration. - The two newly discovered clown frogs were previously considered to belong to other species, but researchers were able to show that they are their own distinct species after analyzing their DNA and the calls they make. - According to the international team of researchers who made the discovery, the conservation status of both clown frogs has yet to be determined — but it is likely that the species could already be considered threatened, especially given that both are reported to have particularly small distribution areas that are endangered by habitat destruction.
Cattle ranching threatens core of Biosphere Reserve of Southeast Nicaragua [03/27/2017]
- In the last five years (2011-2016) more than 54,000 hectares of forests were converted to grasslands in the core area of the Biosphere Reserve of Southeast Nicaragua, which represents 19.4 percent of its size. - According to data published by the Nicaraguan Export Processing Centre, last January, beef was Nicaragua's main export product with more than $43.9 million in sales. - Livestock production in Nicaragua typically consists of allocating one block (0.7 hectares) for each head of cattle, which explains, in part, why the development of this industry threatens sites such as the reserve. - The sale of land for agricultural production in southeastern Nicaragua has not only displaced human populations into the depths of the forest, it also makes them migrate to the cities of Nueva Guinea and Bluefields, or Costa Rica, in search of better incomes.
Colombia’s cane industry efficient but potentially damaging [03/27/2017]
- About 80 percent of all sugar cane in Colombia is concentrated in the Pacific coastal state of Valle del Cauca, and cane represents 50 percent of all local agricultural production. - The Afro-Colombian population in the area surrounding the state’s capital city of Cali has seen a heavy impact on their traditional farming practices and the local environment. - The monoculture production of cane has led to deforestation, impacting the health of local flora and fauna, according to research.
New cave catfish threatened by deforestation, mining, pollution [03/23/2017]
- The new catfish, Aspidoras mephisto, is the first completely cave-dependent member of the Callichthyidae family found in South America. - The species has adaptations to living underground, including a lack of pigment and reduced eyes. Researchers think it may use tree roots for shelter and food. - Surveys indicate A. mephisto is restricted to two caves in an area devoid of official protection. Deforestation and mining activities threaten the vegetation around the caves, and sewage from a nearby town may be polluting their water sources.
Aggressive forest protection needed to meet US climate goals [03/21/2017]
- Despite how critical forest protection is to meeting climate goals, it is not currently seen as a climate priority in the U.S. - In fact, the report notes, some government and forestry industry actors even promote increased logging as a solution to climate change, which has led to the forests of the coastal Southern United States becoming the largest source of wood pellet exports to Europe in recent years. - Forest disturbance from logging in the Southern U.S. occurs at four times the rate that it does in the rainforests of South America, the authors of the report discovered, which is reducing the ability of the country’s forests to act as carbon sinks by at least 35 percent.
In defining plantations as forest, FAO attracts criticism [03/21/2017]
- The FAO lumps non-oil palm tree plantations into its definition of forest cover when conducting its Global Forest Resource Assessments. The assessments analyze land cover change in countries around the world using largely self-reported data. - Nearly 200 organizations have signed an open letter authored by the NGO World Rainforest Movement to change how they define forest. - Remote sensing technology currently doesn't provide the ability to differentiate the canopies of forests and tree plantations. But researchers say that within a decade, technological advances will make this a reality. - A representative of FAO said the organization is unlikely to change its definition since it is already well established and accepted by governments and other stakeholders.
The people of DRC’s forests [03/21/2017]
- DRC's unstable political situation, security risks, poverty, and weak governance contribute to putting the country's forests at risk. - Africa's most popular fuel - charcoal - is largely unregulated in DRC and comes at the expense of vast tracts of primary forest. - Some DRC residents have a lifelong connection to the forests and rely on it for their livelihood.
Despite population growth and management challenges, hope for forests in Ethiopia [03/17/2017]
- The country’s capital city of Addis Ababa, already home to about 3.4 million people, is expanding outward and impacting forestland in its periphery. - A legacy of poor forest management has long plagued Ethiopia’s efforts to protect and manage indigenous tree species and the habitat in which they grow. - Poverty is driving the exploitation of woodland resources such as eucalyptus, as the need for charcoal and firewood increases along with population growth.
Clothing giant VF Corporation adopts sustainable forestry policy [03/16/2017]
- The policy, announced late last month, lays out purchasing guidelines for materials that go into the company’s clothing and packaging, especially wood pulp, paper, and wood-based fabrics like rayon and viscose. - It also commits VF Corp to using products made with recycled fiber whenever possible, and to promoting the use of Forest Stewardship Council-certified paper and fiber when sourcing virgin materials. - VF Corp owns such brands as The North Face, Timberland, Vans, and Wrangler, and is said to be the largest clothing conglomerate in the United States, with 2016 revenues topping $12 billion.
Communities in Mexico step up to protect a disappearing forest [03/16/2017]
- Comprising around 1.9 million hectares in Mexico and Guatemala, the Lacandon is regarded as one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world. But Mexico's Lacandon rainforest is experiencing significant deforestation activity, and the Guatemalan side of the ecosystem is even more affected. - In Mexico, communities in and around the Lacandon are developing initiatives to help protect the forest through ecotourism. - Movement leaders say they have seen success from their work in parts of the ecosystem, but they urge the need for institutionalization of their model and more collaboration with Guatemala to protect the Lacandon as a whole.
Americans live increasingly far from forests — which is a problem for wildlife [03/14/2017]
- Giorgos Mountrakis and Sheng Yang of the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry analyzed satellite-derived land cover data in order to look at geographic patterns of forest loss in the continental US during the 1990s. - The average distance from any point in the U.S. to the nearest forest increased some 14 percent just between the years 1990 and 2000 — a difference of about one-third of a mile. - They found that total forest cover loss across the country during that decade was close to 35,000 square miles (a little over 90,000 square kilometers), a decline of about 2.96 percent, or roughly an area the size of the state of Maine.
Big data timber exchange partners with FSC in Brazil [03/13/2017]
- BVRio pulls together data on the pricing, supply chain and certification of timber and wood products through its Responsible Timber Exchange. - Since opening in November 2016, the exchange has fielded more than 400 offers for 5 million cubic meters of timber. - The partnership with the Forest Stewardship Council is aimed at bolstering the market for certified forest products.
Successful forest protection in DRC hinges on community participation [03/12/2017]
- Forest covers at least 112 million hectares of the Democratic Republic of Congo. - Studies from 2013 show that subsistence agriculture and the need for firewood threaten DRC’s forests, and new investments in the countries forests by industrial outfits could contribute to the problem. - DRC’s leaders have signed on to international agreements and have begun to receive millions of dollars to finance projects aimed at keeping DRC’s forests standing, protecting global climate and reducing poverty.
Cattle ranching devours Nicaragua’s Bosawás Biosphere Reserve [03/10/2017]
- The Bosawás Biosphere Reserve is the third largest forest reserve in the world and is home to indigenous people and 21 ecosystem types, which host high levels of biodiversity. - Nicaragua’s booming livestock industry is causing a migration of ranchers to the reserve where they often pay land traffickers to illegally secure title to land. - From 1987 to 2010, more than 564,000 hectares of the reserve were cleared and replaced with ranch lands and farms. 92,000 hectares have been cleared in the last 5 years.
Cattle industry lags behind in addressing impact on deforestation [03/09/2017]
- Supply chain transparency is especially difficult in the cattle industry because cattle frequently change hands, unlike soy or oil palm crops that remain stationary for years. - While some major cattle companies have taken strides toward sustainability, they still lack sufficient support from the industry as a whole. - While consumers are increasingly pushing for deforestation-free palm oil and other products, consumer pressure for change in the cattle industry hasn’t been as significant.
Industry-backed plantation museum opens in Indonesia [03/09/2017]
- The museum was inaugurated by the North Sumatra provincial government last December. - The idea came from the CEO of Bakrie Sumatera Plantations, a major oil palm grower. - It is Indonesia's first plantation museum.
Science needed for more transparency in Paris climate projections [03/06/2017]
- According to a new study, forest-rich nations could play a huge role in keeping the temperature rise under 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels, the key metric agreed to at the 2015 UN climate talks in Paris. - Forests could account for a quarter of emissions reductions to meet targets in the Paris Agreement. - However, the ways that countries measure emissions differ, making it difficult to track progress.
HSBC to stop financing deforestation-linked palm oil firms [03/03/2017]
- A recent Greenpeace report accused the bank of marshalling $16.3 billion in financing for six firms since 2012 that have illegally cleared forests, planted oil palm on carbon-rich peat soil and grabbed community lands. - The investigation prompted scores of people to join a campaign to change the bank’s policies, including thousands of HSBC’s own customers. - The bank's new policy requires HSBC customers to commit to protecting natural forest and peatland by June 30, and provide independent verification of their own NDPE commitments by Dec. 31, 2018.
Newly discovered Tanzanian frog already facing extinction [03/02/2017]
- The new frog was collected in 2001 from Ruvu South Forest Reserve in Tanzania, in habitat atypical for spiny reed frogs. - The scientists who collected it couldn't identify it in the field. Fourteen years later, they sequenced the frog's DNA, which revealed that it was a species previously unknown to science. - The new species is represented by just one museum specimen. Recent attempts to find more in Ruvu South Forest Reserve failed to turn up the sought-after frogs, leaving researchers worried the species is being wiped out by dramatic deforestation affecting the reserve and surrounding areas.
Deforestation vs. Degradation: How we underestimate tropical forest greenhouse gas emissions [03/02/2017]
- Researchers calculated carbon dioxide emissions from tropical forest degradation from 74 countries focusing on timber harvesting, wood fuel collection, and fires. - They found that emissions from forest degradation amounted to 2.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide — a third of those from tropical deforestation and greater than the emissions from power generation in the USA. - Forest degradation emissions for a third of the countries studied were higher than their emissions from deforestation.
Forests provide a nutritional boon to some communities, research shows [03/02/2017]
- The new study, across 24 countries, shows a wide range in the variability of how communities use forests for food. - The nutrients provided by wild fruits, vegetables, game and fish are critical to the nutritional health of some communities and should play a role in decisions about land usage. - Land-use decisions should factor in the importance of forest foods to some communities, say the authors.
Pressure over water in Brazil puts pulp industry in the spotlight [03/02/2017]
- Brazil is the world's largest producer of eucalyptus-derived pulp and the state of Espírito Santo is one of its biggest production centers. - More than a third of the state, which was once rich in Atlantic Forest, is at risk of becoming desert. - The region faces one of the worst droughts in its history, which is causing billions in losses.
Environmental costs, benefits and possibilities: Q&A with anthropologist Eben Kirksey [02/28/2017]
- The environmental humanities pull together the tools of the anthropologist and the biologist. - Anthropologist Eben Kirksey has studied the impact of mining, logging and infrastructure development on the Mee people of West Papua, Indonesia, revealing the inequalities that often underpins who benefits and who suffers as a result of natural resource extraction. - Kirksey reports that West Papuans are nurturing a new form of nationalism that might help bring some equality to environmental change.
Survival of nearly 10,000 orangutans in Borneo oil palm estates at stake [02/28/2017]
- 10,000 orangutans remain in areas currently allocated to oil palm. These animals can only survive if environmental practices in plantations adhere to standards such as those prescribed by RSPO. - Orangutan rescues should only be allowed when no other solutions exist; otherwise they will aggravate problems of deforestation and orangutan killing. - Further scrutiny of companies and other groups that are at the forefront of these improvements is needed, but increasingly campaigners should focus on the laggards and rogues that cause the greatest environmental damage. - This a commentary - the views expressed are those of the authors.
7 new frogs discovered in India, some smaller than a thumbnail [02/27/2017]
- All the newly described species belong to the genus Nyctibatrachus, commonly known as night frogs. - Apart from being tiny, these frogs live a secretive life under forest leaf litter or marsh vegetation and they sound like insects, making it difficult for researchers to locate them. - But these species seem to be common and abundant in the locations they were found, researchers say. - Despite being commonly encountered, all seven species might be threatened by habitat loss.
The Republic of Congo: on the cusp of forest conservation [02/27/2017]
- The Republic of Congo’s high forest cover and low annual deforestation rates of just over 0.05 percent have led to the country being named as a priority country by the UN’s REDD+ program. - The country has numerous protected areas and has signed agreements to certify the sustainability and legality of its timber industry. - Skeptics caution that more needs to be done to address corruption and protect the country’s forests, a third of which are still relatively untouched.
This new primate is a ‘giant’ among tiny bush babies [02/22/2017]
- The Angolan dwarf galago is about 17 to 20 centimeters in length (with an additional 17 to 24 centimeters long tail). - It has a very distinctive call: a loud chirping crescendo of longer notes, followed by a fading twitter. - Scientists have named the new species Galagoides kumbirensis after the Kumbira forest it was first observed in.
What happens when the soy and palm oil boom ends? [02/21/2017]
- Over the past 30 years demand and production of oils crops like oil palm and soybeans has boomed across the tropics. - This rapid expansion has in some places taken a heavy toll on native, wildlife-rich ecosystems. - Derek Byerlee, co-author of a new book titled The Tropical Oil Crop Revolution, spoke with Mongabay about the tropical oil crop sector and what's to come for the industry.
African bush babies gain a new genus [02/20/2017]
- Genetic data has pointed toward a unique group of dwarf galagos living in Africa for a long time, but the physical similarity between the primates in the Galago family has confounded scientists. - Using these genetic clues as a guide, a team of researchers examined the skulls and teeth of galagos and analyzed their calls. - They concluded that five species previously placed in other genera should be placed in a sixth genus of the family Galagidae. They chose the name ‘Paragalago’ for the new genus.
Protected areas found to be ‘significant’ sources of carbon emissions [02/17/2017]
- The researchers found 2,018 protected areas across the tropics store nearly 15 percent of all tropical forest carbon. This is because protected areas tend to have denser, older forest – thus, higher carbon stocks. - Their study uncovered that, on average, nearly 0.2 percent of protected area forest cover was razed per year between 2000 and 2012. - Less than nine percent of the reserves that the researchers sampled contributed 80 percent of the total carbon emissions between 2000 and 2012, putting this small subset of reserves on par with the UK’s entire transportation sector. - The researchers say their findings could help prioritize conservation attention.
Newly discovered gecko loses scales in ‘really bizarre’ behavior [02/16/2017]
- The new gecko was discovered in a reserve in northern Madagascar, a region threatened by deforestation. - It is a new member of the "fish-scaled" gecko genus. All other species have large, shed-able scales, but G. megalepis has the largest of all. - The geckos so easily shed their scales (along with other tissues) that researchers had to devise a novel way to capture them. - The researchers think another five Geckolepis species may be awaiting discovery in Madagascar.
Latin America palm oil production doubled since 2001 without massive uptick in deforestation [02/14/2017]
- A study published earlier this month in the journal Environmental Research Letters by researchers with the University of Puerto Rico looks at the types of land being converted to oil palm plantations in Latin America. - Much of the land that has been turned over to palm oil production was originally cleared by ranchers so they could graze their cattle on it, according to the study. - If palm oil continues to replace pastures instead of forests, the authors of the study suggest, Latin America may be well positioned as a regional producer of sustainable palm oil.
Loving apes celebrated this Valentine’s Day [02/14/2017]
- The IUCN estimates that as few as 15,000 bonobos remain in the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo. - Bonobos, unlike chimpanzees and humans, live in matriarchal societies and have never been observed killing a member of their own species. - The California Senate passed a resolution stating that Valentine's Day (Feb. 14) would also be known as World Bonobo Day beginning in 2017. - Bushmeat hunting, habitat destruction and the wildlife trade are the greatest threats to the survival of bonobos.
Trees need a little help to reclaim deforested land, study finds [02/14/2017]
- Scientists with the Swiss university ETH Zurich used forensic genetics to determine that seed dispersal and seedling establishment rarely occured more than a few hundred meters from the seed tree in their 216-square-kilometer (about 83-square-mile) study area in an agro-forest landscape in India’s Western Ghats. - The scientists say theirs is the first large-scale, direct estimate of realized seed dispersal of a high-value timber tree — in this case, Dysoxylum malabaricum, or White Cedar, which is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. - That means that many tropical tree species that are important to humanity and for preserving biodiversity, like Dysoxylum malabaricum, are less likely to recover from logging and habitat degradation than we previously thought, according to Dr. Christopher Kettle of ETH Zürich, a co-author of the study.
Investors learning to pay heed to community land rights [02/13/2017]
- Most conflicts besetting private investments in Africa – 63 percent – relate to pushing people off their lands. - These conflicts affect agriculture, mining, and even green energy investments. - In Southern Africa, 73 percent of conflicts turned violent and 73 percent halted work on the developments.
Chain saw injuries in Myanmar tied to illegal logging [02/12/2017]
- The dangers of chain saw use in Myanmar are compounded by a lack of training and protective gear in rural areas where inexperienced loggers can end up seriously injured or dead. - Though a license is required to own a chain saw, one can also be rented fairly easily. - A chain saw can cut down a tree many times faster than a hand-held saw, speeding up the movement of illegal timber from Myanmar to its main export destination, China.
The clouded leopard: conserving Asia’s elusive arboreal acrobat [02/09/2017]
- The clouded leopard is not closely related to the leopard, but has its own genus (Neofelis), separate from the big cats (Panthera). In 2006, the single species of clouded leopard was split in two: Neofelis nebulosa is found on the Asian mainland, while Neofelis diardi, the Sunda clouded leopard, occurs only on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. - Another subspecies native to Taiwan (Neofelis nebulosa brachyura) is believed to be extinct, after none were found in a camera trapping survey conducted between 1997 and 2012. - Originally, researchers found it difficult to breed the animals in captivity, since mates tended to kill each other. A variety of breeding techniques have however allowed zoos around the world to begin mating the animals successfully, to create and maintain a genetically viable captive population. - Clouded leopards are incredibly elusive, and only with the advent of new technology, including camera traps and radio collars, have scientists been able to begin defining clouded leopard ranges, distribution, populations and threats. Public outreach is also helping build awareness around the plight of these Vulnerable wild cats.
Shrugging off the risks, Laos plans to proceed with the Pak Beng dam [02/08/2017]
- The Pak Beng dam is the third of nine mainstream dams planned for the Mekong in Laos, and the second in a cascade of six on the country’s upper stretch of the river. - If built, the 912-megawatt capacity dam will flood 4,178 hectares of land and create a 7,659-hectare reservoir along the river valley. - A suite of project documents was published last month, including impact assessments that conclude the project will lead to loss of agricultural land, forest and fisheries as well as possible contamination. However, the developers claim mitigation measures will be able to overcome the negative social and environmental impacts. - During a visit in January, Mongabay learned that people living in villages around the dam site had not been fully briefed on the project and its potential effects on their lives and livelihoods.
Audio: An in-depth look at Mongabay’s collaboration with The Intercept Brasil [02/07/2017]
- Branford is a regular contributor to Mongabay who has been reporting from Brazil since 1979 when she was with the Financial Times and then the BBC. - One of the articles in the series resulted in an official investigation by the Brazilian government before it was even published — and the investigators have already recommended possible reparations for an indigenous Amazonian tribe. - We also round up the top news of the past two weeks.
Resurrected Jeypore ground gecko faces second death sentence [02/07/2017]
- In India — a land that’s home to the regal tiger, the majestic elephant and the flamboyant peacock — gaining the Endangered Species spotlight can be difficult. Equally challenging in a land with 1.3 billion mouths to feed, is the conservation of habitat that is vital to threatened species. - The Jeypore ground gecko (Geckoella jeyporensis) was first noted in India’s Eastern Ghats in 1877, then not seen again and presumed extinct. Rediscovered by scientists in 2010, it exists in just two known areas covering a mere 20 square kilometers (7.7 square miles) of degraded habitat threatened by development. - Conservationists are working with the public and private sectors, and with local communities, urging the creation of “gecko reserves” to protect G. jeyporensis as well as the golden gecko (Calodactylodes aureus). But whether these little reptiles will inspire enough public enthusiasm is anyone’s guess.
Will there really be enough sustainable palm oil for the whole market? [02/07/2017]
- A report by non-profit CDP suggests companies may have a false confidence in their ability to find enough sustainable palm oil to meet their commitments. - Certified sustainable palm oil was in short supply last summer and prices spiked when two major producers were suspended by the industry's main certification association, revealing vulnerabilities in the supply. - Better planning to secure future supply includes working more intensively with suppliers, says CDP.
Expedition sets out to explore isolated, mysterious forest in DRC [02/06/2017]
- Kabobo Massif is a 100-kilometer mountain range in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The area has been little-explored due to conflict. - The expedition consists of researchers and filmmakers who will spend one month surveying wildlife in Kabobo Massif. - Using new technology, they will analyze DNA in the field to determine species. - They hope their survey will bring more protection to the area.
Bright lights, big city, tiny frog: Romer’s tree frog survives Hong Kong [02/03/2017]
- Discovered in the 1950s, Romer’s tree frog has so far been declared extinct, rediscovered, immediately declared Critically Endangered, been seriously threatened by an international airport, and become the focus of one of the first ever successful, wholesale population relocation projects conducted for an amphibian. - At just 1.5 to 2.5 centimeters (0.6 to 1 inch) in length, this little brown frog lives at just a few locations within the sprawl of Hong Kong Island, as well as on a few outlying islands. It lives in moist forest leaf litter on the forest floor, and depends on temporary fish-free pools of water for breeding. - When Hong Kong planned a major new international airport within the shrinking habitat of the Romer’s tree frog, scientists responded quickly, studying the animal’s lifestyle, eating and breeding habits; they then instituted a captive breeding program at the Melbourne Zoo, and launched a restoration program. It worked. - While some restoration site populations have since failed, others continue to thrive. And with new protections now in place, scientists hold out some hope that Romer’s tree frog may be a Hong Kong resident for many years to come.
Birds wanted: Recovering forests need avian assist [02/02/2017]
- Clearing swaths of rainforests can permanently drive away or kill off birds that are important partners in the regeneration of the forest, the study finds. - The study surveyed 330 sites in the Brazilian Amazon, turning up 472 species of birds. - The analyses demonstrate that recovering forests don’t have the diversity of birds needed to ensure their survival. - The authors say that their findings point to a need to preserve standing forests, even if they’re heavily degraded.
The Philippines declares more than 100,000 acres as critical habitat [02/02/2017]
- Critical habitats — portions of land outside protected areas that have known habitats of threatened or endemic species — are usually small, focusing on one or a few species. - The newly declared Cleopatra’s Needle Critical Habitat is the Philippines’ largest, and aims to protect several threatened species. - The declaration of CNCH involved over three years of negotiations with various stakeholders including Indigenous Peoples communities, government agencies, universities, non-government and private-sector organizations.
Introducing Mongabay news alerts [02/01/2017]
Now Mongabay readers can keep up-to-date on the latest conservation and environmental science developments by subscribing to our free topic-based news alerts.
Forest protection funds flow to DRC despite ‘illegal’ logging permits [02/01/2017]
- Since signing agreements with the government of Norway and the Central African Forests Initiative, Greenpeace says leaders in Congo have approved two concessions on 4,000 square kilometers of forest. - DRC expects to receive tens of millions of dollars from CAFI and the Norwegian government for forest protection and sustainable development. - Greenpeace and other watchdog groups have called for an investigation into how these concessions are awarded and an overhaul of donor funding.
Deforestation-free commodities represent a major investment opportunity: Report [01/31/2017]
- Agricultural commodities — especially beef, palm oil, soy, and pulp and paper — have become an increasingly important driver of deforestation over the past couple decades, particularly in the tropics. - While there’s a lot of work left to be done, WEF and TFA 2020 see momentum building toward a sea change in the global supply chain for these much-in-demand commodities. - Overcoming the barriers to sustainable production of the big four commodities and supporting the transition to deforestation-free supply chains represents an investment opportunity that will “roughly total US$ 200 billion annually” by 2020, per the report.
Thap Lan: Thailand’s unsung forest gem under threat, but still abrim with life [01/31/2017]
- Thailand's Thap Lan National Park is part of the Dong Phayayen - Khao Yai Forest Complex (DPKY-FC), designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its importance to global biodiversity. - The DPKY-FC supports 112 species of mammals, 392 species of birds, and 200 species of reptiles and amphibians. - Thap Lan receives few visitors and faces major threats, including poaching, illegal logging and the expansion of a highway leading from Bangkok to the country's northeast. - The park, along with the rest of the DPKY-FC, could be downgraded by UNESCO to inscription on the “List of World Heritage in Danger.”
Norway starts $400-million fund to halt deforestation, help farmers [01/31/2017]
- Norway contributed $100 million, and other donors are expected to contribute the balance of the $400-million commitment by 2020. - The World Economic Forum figures that the financing will help protect 5 million hectares of peatland and forest. - Small-scale farmers should receive support through the fund to increase their yields while avoiding further deforestation and degradation.
A possible undiscovered orangutan population in Borneo? [01/31/2017]
- With funding from National Geographic we are retracing the footsteps of Henry Cushier Raven, a specimen collector who travelled extensively in East Kalimantan, Indonesia between 1912 and 1914. - We want to know which species Raven found and whether we can still find these species today. - In April 2016, we already covered the Berau and East Kutai parts of Raven’s journey. This is the story of his Mahakam travels. - The story is published in four parts. This is the final part.
Deforestation rises with incomes in developing economies [01/30/2017]
- The research pulled together economic data from 130 countries and every border on earth. - For the first time, economic data proves that, in poorer countries, per capita income gains often come at the cost of forest cover. - The researchers also expected that reforestation would occur in richer countries as income levels rose, but their research did not bear that out.
Logging in certified concessions drove intact forest landscape loss in Congo Basin [01/30/2017]
- A study published in the journal Science Advances this month found that, between 2000 and 2013, the global area of intact forest landscape declined by 7.2 percent. - Certification of logging concessions, which aims to ensure sustainable forest management practices, had a “negligible” impact on slowing the fragmentation of intact forest landscapes (IFLs) in the Congo Basin, according to the study. - According to Corey Brinkema, president of the Forest Stewardship Council US, the findings of the study may be noteworthy, but they don’t apply to how FSC operates today.
Despite delays, Kenya and Tanzania continue to push against illegal logging [01/29/2017]
- The MOU is intended to stem the illegal timber trade in East Africa, which is fuelling deforestation in the region. - Several projects included in the MOU, such as increased border patrols and crackdowns on illegal timber transport, are already underway. - Other initiatives, including harmonizing tax customs documents and financing the MOU for its five-year duration, have been delayed. - Local woodcarvers who depend on smuggled wood for their trade are seeing their industry decline as a result of the MOU.
‘Revolutionary’ new biodiversity maps reveal big gaps in conservation [01/27/2017]
- The research uses the chemical signals of tree communities to reveal their different survival strategies and identify priority areas for protection. - Currently, the Carnegie Airborne Observatory’s airplane provides the only way to create these biodiversity maps. But the team is working to install the technology in an Earth-orbiting satellite. - Once launched, the $200 million satellite would provide worldwide biodiversity mapping updated every month.
Conflict erupts between Chinese mining company, government and indigenous communities in Ecuador [01/26/2017]
- In the Amazon region of southern Ecuador, land that some indigenous communities are claiming is ancestral territory has been granted to a Chinese mining company. - Subsequent evictions of area communities by the government has triggered conflict, with community representatives saying the mining project is occurring without consultation with the people who live there. - This conflict prompted the government to declare a state of emergency in December, which was expanded in January. - Representatives from civil society organizations say this state of emergency is effectively suspending the rights of indigenous communities.
Vietnamese luxury wooden furniture makers feel pain of regulations and deforestation [01/26/2017]
- In the small furniture production town of Đồng Ky, many items are carved from species of rosewood and other rare hardwood species now under increased CITES protection, about 70 percent of which are exported to markets in China. - Vietnam sources its rosewood largely from neighboring Southeast Asian countries, where stocks are dwindling and forests are threatened by development. - Customs data compiled by Forest Trends and provided to Mongabay shows that even with increased restrictions, roughly $116 million worth of sawn timber and rosewood logs entered Vietnam from Cambodia between January and October 2016. - Despite an existing legal framework for import and export of timber, enforcement remains a challenge. Vietnam is in the process of negotiating a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union under the EU's Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan, in the hopes of selling its timber products in more-regulated European markets.
Politician’s son named a suspect over illegal land clearing in Leuser Ecosystem [01/26/2017]
- Last October, authorities found three men and an excavator digging a canal through the Singkil Swamp Wildlife Reserve. They appeared to be preparing the land for oil palm cultivation. - This week, the police announced that the son of the head of a local parliament is a suspect in the case. - The reserve lies within the Leuser Ecosystem, the only place where elephants, tigers, rhinos and orangutans still coexist in the wild.
Want to be a responsible palm oil firm? Follow these reporting guidelines [01/25/2017]
- Ceres, Oxfam, Rainforest Alliance and WWF are among the groups behind the guidelines. - Some of the guidelines describe how companies should map and name their suppliers, disclosing the locations of their own operations as well as those of the firms they buy from. - How companies can ensure they aren’t grabbing community lands are another focus of the guidelines.
Audio: E.O. Wilson talks about Half-Earth, Trump, and more [01/24/2017]
- We also welcome back to the Newscast Mongabay founder and CEO Rhett Butler, who will be answering a reader question about the sounds you can hear in the background at the start of every episode. - Want to write about Central America for Mongabay? Inquire within! - All that plus the top news on this episode of the Newscast.
Bridge through Borneo wildlife sanctuary moving forward [01/22/2017]
- For more than a year, scientists and conservationists have argued that the 350-meter (1,148-foot) Sukau bridge crossing the Kinabatangan River in the Malaysian state of Sabah would hurt wildlife populations and a blossoming ecotourism market more than it would boost local economies. - The paved road that would accompany the bridge would cut through the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, home to Borneo elephants and 11 species of primates including orangutans. - A government official responded to recent reports about the bridge’s construction, saying that it would not begin until the environmental impact assessment has been completed.
Then and now: 100 years of wildlife loss and deforestation in Borneo [01/22/2017]
- With funding from National Geographic we are retracing the footsteps of Henry Cushier Raven, a specimen collector who travelled extensively in East Kalimantan, Indonesia between 1912 and 1914. - We want to know which species Raven found and whether we can still find these species today. - In April 2016, we already covered the Berau and East Kutai parts of Raven’s journey. This is the story of his Mahakam travels. - The story is published in four parts. This is part III.
Scientists ‘impressed and delighted’ by animals found in remnant forests [01/21/2017]
- A new study finds promising conservation value in forest corridors along rivers in Sumatra's plantation-dominated landscape. - But government regulations require areas of forest that border rivers -- called "riparian" forests – be left standing to safeguard water quality for downstream communities. - In the first study of its kind conducted in the tropics, researchers set camera traps in riparian forests through tree plantations near Tesso Nilo National Park. They found a significant mammal presence, including tapirs, tigers, bears, pangolins, and elephants. - The researchers say their findings indicate Sumatra's forest remnants could help keep wildlife populations afloat in areas with lots of habitat loss. However, they caution that these corridors are threatened by lax regulation enforcement, and can only work in tandem with larger forested areas.
‘Running out of time’: 60 percent of primates sliding toward extinction [01/19/2017]
- The assessment of 504 primate species found that 60 percent are on track toward extinction, and the numbers of 75 percent are going down. - Agricultural expansion led to the clearing of primate habitat three times the size of France between 1990 and 2010, impinging on the range of 76 percent of apes and monkeys. - By region, Madagascar and Southeast Asia have the most species in trouble. Nearly 90 percent of Madagascar’s more than 100 primates are moving toward extinction. - Primates also face serious threats from hunting, logging and ranching.
HSBC financing tied to deforestation, rights violations for palm oil in Indonesia [01/18/2017]
- HSBC has helped several palm oil companies accused of community rights violations and illegal deforestation pull together billions in credit and bonds, according to research by Greenpeace. - The bank has policies that require its customers to achieve RSPO certification by 2018 and prohibiting the bank from ‘knowingly’ engaging with companies that don’t respect sustainability laws and regulations. - Greenpeace contends that HSBC, as one of the world’s largest banks, should commit to a ‘No deforestation, no peat, no exploitation’ policy and should hold its customers accountable to the same standard.
A trip on Borneo’s Mahakam River in search of forgotten wildlife [01/16/2017]
- With funding from National Geographic we are retracing the footsteps of Henry Cushier Raven, a specimen collector who travelled extensively in East Kalimantan, Indonesia between 1912 and 1914. - We want to know which species Raven found and whether we can still find these species today. - In April 2016, we already covered the Berau and East Kutai parts of Raven’s journey. This is the story of his Mahakam travels. - The story is published in four parts. This is part II.
Nutella manufacturer: Palm oil in product is ‘safe’, despite cancer concerns [01/15/2017]
- In May 2016, the European Food Safety Authority recommended limitations on the consumption of foods containing several compounds found commonly in products that use refined palm oil, such as baby formula. - The refining process results in the formation of several potentially carcinogenic esters in many types of vegetable oils, but the average levels in palm oils and fats were substantially higher than those found in other types of oil. - Ferrero, the Italian manufacturer of Nutella, said that the palm oil its product contains is processed at ‘controlled temperatures’ and is ‘safe.’
‘Last frontiers of wilderness’: Intact forest plummets globally [01/13/2017]
- More than 7 percent of intact forest landscapes, defined as forest ecosystems greater than 500 square kilometers in area and showing no signs of human impact, disappeared between 2000 and 2013. - In the tropics, the rate of loss appears to be accelerating: Three times more IFLs were lost between 2011 and 2013 as between 2001 and 2003. - The authors of the study, published January 13 in the journal Science Advances, point to timber harvesting and agricultural expansion as the leading causes of IFL loss.
NASA releases images of dramatic deforestation in Cambodia [01/13/2017]
- Cambodia lost around 1.59 million hectares of tree cover between 2001 and 2014, and just 3 percent remains covered in primary forest. - This deforestation has led to the decline of wildlife habitat and the disappearance of tigers from the country – as well as the release of millions of tons of CO2. - The NASA imagery shows the rapid development of rubber plantations over the past decade. - Research attributes the jump in Cambodian deforestation rates primarily to changes in the global rubber price and an increase in concession deals between the government and plantation and timber companies.
New study analyzes biggest threats to Southeast Asian biodiversity [01/12/2017]
- Deforestation rates in Southeast Asia are some of the highest anywhere on Earth, and the rate of mining is the highest in the tropics. - The region also has a number of hydropower dams under construction, and consumption of species for traditional medicines is particularly pronounced. - A new study published in the journal Ecosphere analyzing all of the threats to Southeast Asia’s biodiversity concludes that the region “may be under some of the greatest levels of biotic threat.”
World’s most endangered fruit bat could soon be extinct due to rapid forest loss [01/10/2017]
- The rare bat is found only on two small islands of Anjouan and Mohéli in the Comoros archipelago, off the southeast coast of Africa. - Around 19 of the 21 remaining bat roost sites have been affected either by tree cutting, agricultural encroachment or soil erosion. - This bat may possibly have the lowest population estimate among all fruit bats, researchers suggest.
Fragmentation boosts carbon storage along temperate forest edges [01/09/2017]
- A study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Science reports that trees on the edges of temperate forests in eastern Massachusetts grow nearly 90 percent faster than those on the interior, in contrast with the declines documented in tropical and boreal forest edges. - The increased growth rates and biomass production could translate into a 13-percent boost in carbon uptake and a 10-percent bump in carbon storage over current estimates in the region. - However, these edges are more sensitive to higher temperatures, and as the climate warms, their growth rates will likely drop off more quickly than those further into the forest.
Following in Raven’s Footsteps: 100 years of wildlife loss on Borneo [01/06/2017]
- With funding from the National Geographic Society we are retracing the footsteps of Henry Cushier Raven, a specimen collector who travelled extensively in East Kalimantan, Indonesia between 1912 and 1914. - We want to know which species Raven found and whether we can still find these species today. - In April 2016, we already covered the Berau and East Kutai parts of Raven’s journey. This is the story of his Mahakam travels. - The story is published in four parts. This is part 1.
An ‘infrastructure tsunami’ for Asia: Q&A with researcher William Laurance [01/06/2017]
- The world is in the grips of an infrastructure development boom, which threatens to cause enormous damage to vital ecosystems. - The "global roadmap" project led by William Laurance aims to show where roadbuilding can have the greatest benefits or the greatest harm. - Now, researchers are trying to map at a much finer scale in crucial zones in Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea.
‘Racing against time’ to save the taguá and its vanishing Chaco home [01/05/2017]
- Taguá are one of three peccary species living in the Americas and are the only ones found nowhere else but the Gran Chaco. - Scientists say that the Chaco is disappearing at an alarming rate – with nearly a million hectares of tree cover loss as recently as 2008 – due in large part to soy cultivation and cattle ranching. - The destruction of the taguá’s habitat, along with hunting, have caused its numbers to drop, say scientists, far below the estimated 5,000 alive during the 1990s.
Smuggled to death: how loopholes and lax enforcement have sealed the fate of Siamese rosewood [01/05/2017]
- Thailand's Thap Lan National Park is on the frontline of the deadly battle against the illegal rosewood trade, but the root cause of the problem lies outside the park's borders. - Siamese rosewood has been listed under CITES Appendix II since 2013, but loopholes in trade rules and poor oversight allowed the trade to persist. - A key loophole was closed at last year’s CITES CoP17. Now, campaigners fear for the future of lookalike species like Burmese rosewood and padauk.
What to expect for rainforests in 2017 [01/05/2017]
- Will deforestation continue to rise in Brazil? - Will Indonesia continue on a path toward forestry reform? - What effect will Donald Trump have on rainforest conservation?
No let-up in Thailand’s relentless, violent Siamese rosewood poaching [01/04/2017]
- Rosewood, famed for its blood red hue, is the world's most trafficked wildlife product. It accounts for a third of all seizures recorded by the UNODC from 2005-2014. - Most of the valuable Siamese rosewood has already been logged out in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, leaving Thailand's remaining stands prey to cross-border incursions by poaching gangs. - Seven wildlife rangers died in 2015 in incidents related to the Siamese rosewood trade, along with an unknown number of poachers, but the trade continues unabated.
Sudden sale may doom carbon-rich rainforest in Borneo [01/02/2017]
- Forest Management Unit 5 encompasses more than 101,000 hectares in central Sabah, a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo. - The area’s steep slopes and rich forests provide habitat for the Bornean orangutan and other endangered species and protect watersheds critical to downstream communities. - Conservation groups had been working with the government and the concession holder to set up a concept conservation economy on FMU5, but in October, the rights were acquired by Priceworth, a wood product manufacturing company.
The year in tropical rainforests: 2016 [01/01/2017]
- After 2015's radical advancements in transparency around tropical forests between improved forest cover monitoring systems and corporate policies on commodity sourcing, progress slowed in 2016 with no major updates on tropical forest cover, resistance from several governments in releasing forest data, and some notable backtracking on zero deforestation commitments. - But even without the pan-tropical updates, we know that deforestation increased sharply in the Brazilian Amazon, which accounts for the world's largest area of tropical forest. - Low commodity prices may have bought some relief for forests.
Consumer pressure to ditch deforestation begins to reach Indonesia’s oil palm plantation giants [12/27/2016]
- Four of Indonesia’s top 10 oil palm growers have improved sustainability practices due to pressure from buyers since June 2015. - But not all have changed their ways. At least one grower has found new customers that haven't promised to eliminate practices like deforestation from their supply chains. - Several major palm oil users with strong sustainability policies continue to buy from the worst of these 10 growers.
How tropical deforestation and land-use change is driving emerging infectious diseases [12/21/2016]
- There are about 250 known human emerging infectious diseases, which are those that have recently appeared within a human population or those with an incidence rate or geographic range that is rapidly increasing. - As noted by the authors of a study published earlier this month in the journal Science Advances, many of the known emerging infectious diseases have been traced to tropical rainforests, especially freshwater aquatic systems. - The study shows that the collapse of a freshwater food-web driven by deforestation and land-use change led to the increased prevalence of a bacterial pathogen called Mycobacterium ulcerans, which causes a skin disease in humans known as Buruli ulcer.
All I want for Christmas… a wildlife researcher’s holiday wish list [12/20/2016]
- They are some of the world’s most unique, beautiful (though sometimes, really ugly), little known, but always seriously threatened species. They’re among the many Almost Famous Asian Animals conservationists are trying to save, and which Mongabay has featured in 2016. - The examples included here are Asia’s urbane fishing cat, Vietnam’s heavily trafficked pangolin, Central Asia’s at risk wild yaks and saiga, and Indonesia’s Painted terrapin. All of these, and many more, could benefit from a holiday financial boost. - Mostly these creatures need the same things: research and breeding facilities; educational workshops; and really cool, high tech, high ticket, radio collars and tracking devices. These items come with price tags ranging from a few hundred bucks, to thousands, to tens of thousands of dollars.
93% of world’s roadless areas are less than half the size of Cincinnati [12/19/2016]
- The study used crowd-sourced data covering 36 million kilometers to map the extent of roads around the world. - The researchers found roads have essentially fragmented the Earth's land surface into 600,000 pieces. Only 7 percent of roadless areas are larger than 100 square kilometers, and only 9 percent of these are protected. - The study's authors and an outside expert caution that the area affected by roads is likely much higher, since some regions are not thoroughly mapped. - The study recommends governments place higher importance on preserving the world's remaining roadless areas.
Palm oil giant defends its deforestation in Gabon, points to country’s ‘right to develop’ [12/19/2016]
- Singapore-headquartered Olam International is the subject of a new report by NGOs Mighty and Brainforest that alleges forest destruction by the company in Gabon. - Olam counters that it is only expanding into Gabon's least valuable forested lands and that the clearance is necessary for Gabon to pull itself out of poverty. - The debate raises questions about what it means for a country to develop sustainably, and whether deforestation should be seen as a means to that end. - Olam has also released a list of its palm oil suppliers in response to the NGOs' allegations that the firm is a "black box" that buys and sells palm oil linked to deforestation and human rights abuses.
Companies are underestimating the risks of deforestation in their commodities supply chains [12/17/2016]
- London-based non-profit CDP, formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project, released a report earlier this month, produced on behalf of 365 investors representing $22 trillion in funds, that analyzes data disclosures by 187 companies regarding their deforestation risk management strategies. - Despite the significant share of their income that is dependent on cattle products, palm oil, soy, and timber products, just 42 percent of the companies surveyed by CDP have evaluated their supply chains in order to determine how their growth strategies for the next five years will be impacted by the availability or quality of those raw materials. - In its third annual ranking of what it calls the “Forest 500,” the UK-based think tank Global Canopy Programme (GCP) determined that, given the current rate of progress, ambitious deforestation targets for 2020 and 2030 such as those committed to by the Consumer Goods Forum and signatories to the New York Declaration on Forests, aren’t likely to be met.
Brazilian state invites private companies to run Atlantic Forest parks [12/15/2016]
- São Paulo — Brazil’s wealthiest state and the country’s industrial powerhouse — has turned over the concessions for 25 state parks to the private sector. The parks protect a large portion of the Atlantic Forest, the most threatened biome in Brazil. - Environmentalists worry that these company concessions, granted for 30 years, will lead to greater deforestation, though the government denies this possibility. - Social advocates say that local people who rely on the parks for ecotourism jobs and other employment could easily be excluded from working in the parks by the for-profit companies. - Critics say the law is unconstitutional because the state did not invite environmentalists and the people that would be impacted by the law to participate in discussions of the legislation before it was enacted.
Researchers say natural regeneration an overlooked but low-cost option for forest restoration [12/13/2016]
- Biotropica, the journal of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, published a special issue in late November dedicated to exploring the natural regeneration of forests and other large landscapes in the tropics. - More than 50 percent of the original extent of the world’s tropical forests has been cleared, while the area of degraded old-growth and second-growth forests in the tropics is estimated at 850 million hectares (about 2.1 billion acres). - The more than one billion hectares of degraded forest and woodlands across the tropics provide opportunities for various forms of restoration, though natural regeneration is often overlooked, according to the co-authors of a synthesis study that summarizes the findings of the 16 studies appearing in the special issue of Biotropica.
Vanishing point: Bumblebee bat is world’s smallest; it’s also at risk [12/13/2016]
- Asia boasts 442 bat species, more than a third of the globe’s 1,200 species total. While many of these bats haven’t even been assessed by the IUCN, 7 are known to be Critically Endangered, 15 are Endangered and 44 are Vulnerable. - The bumblebee bat roosts in caves in Thailand and Myanmar. While population estimates have risen recently due to the discovery of new populations, this small bat is Vulnerable. Its roosting caves and forest habitat are being disrupted by people. - Bats worldwide are understudied and also unloved, partly due to poor public perceptions perpetuated by hundreds of horror movies with their portrayals of bloodsucking bats. The truth is that bats are incredibly beneficial to humans, eating prodigious amounts of insect pests. - One of the most fascinating facts about the bumblebee bat is that its two geographically separated populations in Thailand and Myanmar might currently be undergoing speciation, a process scientists would like to observe. Of course, that won’t happen if nothing is done to keep this tiny mammal from going extinct.
Newscast #7: Undiscovered Sumatran rhinos in the wild in Malaysia? Maybe, maybe not. [12/13/2016]
- Potential new evidence recently emerged that suggests there might be some undiscovered wild Sumatran rhinos in Malaysia, where they were declared extinct in the wild last year -- though not everyone is convinced the new evidence is all that compelling. - We also speak with Richard Bowden, a professor of environmental science at Pennsylvania’s Allegheny College, to answer a reader question: “What are the effects of climate change on phenology, primary production, carbon sequestration, and biotic interactions?” - All that plus the top news and inspiration from nature's front line!
Journalist murdered while investigating illegal logging in Myanmar [12/13/2016]
- A journalist was murdered while investigating illegal logging and timber smuggling in Myanmar. - On Tuesday, Soe Moe Tun, a local reporter with Daily Eleven newspaper, was found "severely beaten" by the side of a highway in the town of Monywa in Myanmar's Sagaing region. - Robbery doesn't appear to be the motive for the killing.
Home for the holidays: Chimp exits war-torn Iraq, lands in Kenya [12/12/2016]
- After years of effort, animal welfare advocates have negotiated the freedom of Manno, a trafficked chimpanzee who had been smuggled out of Syria for $15,000 and into a private zoo in Iraqi Kurdistan. At the zoo, Manno suffered severely cramped conditions; he was fed a steady diet consisting mostly of snack foods. - Freeing the animal involved diplomatic negotiations at the highest level in Iraqi Kurdistan and in Kenya. Manno arrived in Kenya on November 30, and is undergoing a 90-day health quarantine at the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary. - The young chimp still must be accepted into the Sanctuary population. This is a slow, possibly multiyear, process, requiring introduction to a foster mother, followed by introduction to female chimps, then other males in the community. Manno’s long acclimation to humans will not allow him to ever return to the wild. - The chimp’s rescue was facilitated by individuals and organizations including Spencer Seykar, a Canadian high school teacher; Jason Mier, the executive director of Animals Lebanon; Jane Goodall and her institute; Daniel Stiles of the Project to End Great Ape Slavery; Dr. Stephen Ngulu, head wildlife veterinarian at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the staff of Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary, and others.
Community rights: A key to conservation in Central America [12/09/2016]
- The report, released yesterday, highlights several success stories in Central America and Mexico where local communities are running effective conservation programs. - It underlines rights-based conservation as an important tool, but cautions that many indigenous and local communities still lack officially recognized land rights. - The report urges local communities be more involved when conservation programs are proposed for their land. - Mongabay went on-location in Guatemala's Maya Biosphere Reserve, where a community forest concession is experiencing less deforestation than the reserve's core, due in part to an approach that balances conservation with industry.
Green groups raise red flags over Jokowi’s widely acclaimed haze law [12/09/2016]
- Indonesian President Joko Widodo last week codified a much-praised moratorium on peatland development into law. - Though widely reported as a permanent ban on clearing and draining the archipelago's carbon-rich peat swamps, the prohibition will only last until the government finishes mapping and zoning the nation's peatlands, although stronger protections have been put in place. - Norway praised the policy's legalization, announcing it would release $25 million to support the sustainable management of Indonesia's peatlands. - Some environmental groups tell Mongabay that the regulation pays insufficient heed to the scientific evidence of what is required to prevent the wholesale collapse of peatland ecosystems.
FSC puts timber processor on probation after ‘scathing’ investigation [12/09/2016]
- Holzindustrie Schweighofer is an Austrian company that sources timber from Romania, which contains some of Europe's last tracts of primary forest. - An FSC investigation uncovered evidence of Holzindustrie Schweighofer engaging in activities in Romania that went against FSC certification policy, such as sourcing illegally logged timber. - The investigation's conclusions led its panel to recommend that the company be disassociated from the FSC, but the organization chose instead to put the company on a two-month probation during which time it must fulfill certain conditions. - The move has attracted criticism from Environmental Investigation Agency, which called the decision "shocking."
Brazil pledges ‘largest restoration commitment ever made’ [12/08/2016]
- Proponents of the pledge believe the restoration will help the country meet climate change and conservation targets as well as Brazil’s economy through the development of more productive agricultural lands and new jobs. - Twelve million hectares of forest land is slated for restoration, along with 10 million hectares of farmland and pastures. - The announcement follows a recent uptick in deforestation in the country, which contains 60 percent of the Amazon Rainforest. Deforestation levels in 2015-2016 were up 75 percent over the three-decade low reached in 2012.
Study points to El Niño-like global connections between forests [12/07/2016]
- A team of scientists from the University of Washington, the University of Arizona, Michigan State University and the Universidad de Antioquia in Colombia modeled climate simulations comparing what would happen as the result of die-offs and deforestation in the Amazon and western North America to other forests. - In isolation, a forest die-off in North America would lead to slower growth in northern Asia’s forests and a drier climate in the southeastern United States. However, the loss of forests in both North America and the Amazon could make the American Southeast’s forests more productive. - The authors say that the 'teleconnections' between forests separated by huge distances revealed by their research indicates a need for globally coordinated forest management.
‘My spirit is there’: life in the shadow of the Mong Ton dam [12/07/2016]
- The Mong Ton dam will provide 90% of its hydroelectricity to China and Thailand, leaving ethnic minority communities in Myanmar's Shan state to bear the costs. - Tens of thousands of people will be displaced when dam's 640-square kilometer reservoir fills, and habitat will be lost for endangered species like the clouded leopard and Sunda pangolin. - Even before the dam is complete, its construction has accelerated deforestation and resource extraction in the area.
Chimps help farmers ‘plant’ cacao in Guinea [12/06/2016]
- Researchers examined the seed-dispersing behavior of western chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) in southeastern Guinea while interviewing area farmers. - They found that chimps feeding at cacao plantations in turn "planted" cacao seeds in agricultural fields and forests when they deposited them in their feces. - Farmers in the region were observed expressing annoyance at chimps feeding on their crops, but also tended cacao established by them. - The researchers say this behavior could be economically beneficial to farmers and discourage retaliation against chimps.
From loathed to loved: Villagers rally to save Greater Adjutant stork [12/06/2016]
- The Greater Adjutant stork (Leptoptilos dubius) could once be found from India to Southeast Asia in the hundreds of thousands. Long despised and treated as a pest, this giant, ungainly bird is Endangered by habitat loss, with just 1,000 remaining by the 1990s. - Purnima Devi Barman fell in love with the species. But with most of the remaining birds living on private property, how to save it? She launched a one-woman campaign to teach local villagers in India’s Assam to value L. dubius, showing them it can enhance their livelihoods. - Arvind Mishra transformed another Indian community’s disgust for the huge storks into a strong desire to preserve them. With a Bihar community’s help, he’s established a rescue and rehabilitation center devoted exclusively to the care of downed Greater Adjutant chicks. - Barman and Mishra both serve as vibrant examples of how the unflinching commitment of just one person to a species can make the difference between conservation and extinction, and how engaged local communities can make the difference.
Sapphire boom propels thousands into Madagascar rainforest [12/01/2016]
- An estimated 45,000 miners – and possibly more since mining began in October – are working the soil and in some cases tearing up trees to find valuable sapphires. - Concerns about environmental degradation in the protected forest have surfaced from Madagascan scientists. - Conditions in the makeshift camp have apparently deteriorated, with reports of violence and disease among the miners present.
Vietnam faces dilemma on forests as climate change threatens coffee crops [12/01/2016]
- Research shows that Vietnam may lose 50 percent of its current Robusta coffee production areas by 2050. - 550,000 smallholder farmers supply over 95 percent of Vietnam’s coffee, while another 500,000 people are engaged in seasonal work in the industry. - In order to continue growing this crop, the country can cut down forests to make space, or embrace them.
Brazil: deforestation in the Amazon increased 29% over last year [11/30/2016]
- Deforestation in the world’s largest rainforest jumped 29 percent over last year. - Deforestation from 2015-2016 reached the highest level since 2008. - Relaxed environmental regulation, dry conditions, and Brazil's economy may be factors in the rising rate of forest loss.
‘We need more knowledge and more control’: Palm oil expands in Ecuador [11/30/2016]
- In 2012, the government simplified procedure to obtain permission to plant oil palm in areas less than 50 hectares. - This simplified process may have led to a ramp-up in palm oil expansion in recent years, with smaller plantations being cleared from forest near large, established oil palm plantations. - Local governments do not monitor or have much control over land-use. In the province Orellana, the Ministry of Environment has only one forest control point for a province 21,730 square kilometers in size.
Which tropical forest conservation strategies are proving most effective? [11/30/2016]
- A multitude of conservation strategies are currently deployed across the tropics in order to curb deforestation, preserve biodiversity, and mitigate global warming. - But conservationists and researchers often point to a need for more and better evaluations of the effectiveness of this diversity of conservation initiatives in order to determine what actually works and what doesn’t. - The latest assessment by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization found that Earth’s overall natural forest cover continues to shrink, though at a slower annual rate than in the past.
New drone analysis highlights conservation challenges in Myanmar [11/30/2016]
- Conducted by Fauna & Flora International, the survey found that the mangrove breeding ground is actually mostly covered with Phoenix paludosa, or Mangrove date palm. - Some areas within the sanctuary with endangered mangrove tree species have been identified and therefore have a higher chance of being protected from illegal logging and experts contend that a new, detailed restoration plan is needed to save MKWS. - The MKWS finding highlights challenges to conservation work in Myanmar, which are often long and difficult to implement, and susceptible to unstable political and ethnic conflict.
NYT explores life and impact of Chico Mendes, “a Fighter for the Amazon” [11/28/2016]
- The NYTimes has released a video looking back on Mendes’ life and untimely death, which, as the newspaper notes, is widely credited with having marked “a turning point in Brazil’s environmental consciousness.” - In the 1980s, the Amazon was being burned to make way for pastureland and other economic development projects at an alarming rate — the NYTimes video features one scientist showing off the latest remote sensing technology and noting that it allows researchers to track as many as 7,000 fires per day. - Two Brazilian men — a local rancher and his 23-year-old son — were convicted of murdering Mendes and sentenced to 19 years in prison in 1990.
Top scientists: Amazon’s Tapajós Dam Complex “a crisis in the making” [11/28/2016]
- BRAZIL’S GRAND PLAN: Build 40+ dams, new roads and railways at the heart of the Amazon to transport soy from the interior to the coast and foreign markets, turning the Tapajós Basin and its river systems into an industrial waterway, leading to unprecedented deforestation, top researchers say. - ECOSYSTEM IMPACTS: “The effects would clearly be devastating for the ecology and connectivity of the greater Tapajós Basin,” says William Laurance, of James Cook University, Australia; a leading rainforest ecology scientist. “It is not overstating matters to term this a crisis in the making.” - HUMAN IMPACTS: The dams would produce “A human rights crisis, driven by the flooding of indigenous territories and forced relocation of indigenous villages… [plus] the loss of fisheries, reduced fertility of fertile floodplains, and polluting of clean water sources,” says Amazon Watch’s Christian Poirier. - CLIMATE IMPACTS: “The worst-case scenario… over 200,000 square kilometers of deforestation,” says climatologist Carlos Nobre, which would be “very serious” and create “regional climate change.” Tapajós deforestation could even help tip the global scales, as the Amazon ceases being a carbon sink, and becomes a carbon source — with grave consequences for the planet.
Timber trading platform aims to increase transparency, legality [11/24/2016]
- The Responsible Timber Exchange, launched November 23 by the organization BVRio, provides buyers with pricing, supply chain and certification information on timber and wood products coming from several countries, as well as FSC- and PEFC-certified suppliers. - It builds on BVRio’s other risk assessment tools, available since 2015 in the form of mobile applications and online software. - The platform’s creators say it will help diminish illegality in the timber sector, which may taint 90 percent of all timber sold.
Peru rainforest lost to illegal gold mining eclipses 10 Manhattans [11/24/2016]
- Most mining-related deforestation is occurring in southern Peru's Madre de Dios Department, but is moving northward. In addition to the loss of forest, gold mining activities have shifted the course and nature of rivers and released toxic levels of mercury into the surrounding environment. - In total, 62,500 hectares of forest were lost to illegal gold mining between 2012 and 2016. Researchers found forest loss from illegal mining activities peaked between 2010 and 2012, and has since been declining. They attribute this to an uptick in government interventions. - However, their analysis highlights several recent incursions into protected areas and primary forest. - Conservationists and scientists warn of the impacts of continued illegal mining, and say it's not likely to end any time soon.
Damming the Salween: what next for Southeast Asia’s last great free-flowing river? [11/24/2016]
- In accordance with deals signed under military rule, Myanmar plans to build five major hydroelectric dams on its stretch of the Salween River. - The majority of the power produced will go to China and Thailand. Critics say consumers in these countries will benefit while people in Myanmar's ethnic border states pay the price. - The dams threaten the river's ecology and the livelihoods of riverine communities, and could exacerbate conflict between the army and non-state ethnic armed groups.
American retirement funds contribute to deforestation and climate change [11/23/2016]
- Last July, two US-based NGOs, Friends of the Earth and As You Sow, launched a “transparency tool,” called Deforestation Free Funds, to help investors find information on which global mutual funds have holdings in palm oil producers with links to deforestation. - As of June 2016, Friends of the Earth and As You Sow said in a statement, U.S. mutual funds had a net investment of more than $5 billion dollars in palm oil producers. - A focus of the groups’ campaign is one of the largest investment firms in the U.S., TIAA (formerly known as TIAA-CREF), which manages retirement funds for many academic and cultural institutions, from museums and universities to nonprofits and unions.
Peruvian Melka group palm oil production company withdraws from RSPO [11/22/2016]
- The withdrawal letter was sent via email on October 12. - Juan Carlos Ruiz Molleda, the complainants’ lawyer, points out that the Melka Group "have unmasked their true self” by withdrawing from the group of companies that advocated sustainable practices. - 38,000 hectares are in dispute with Plantaciones de Pucallpa SAC and Andean migrant farmers, according to Roberto Guimaraes, president of the Federation of Native Communities of Ucayali (Feconau). - Satellite images show that the Melka Group company cleared more than 5,000 hectares of forest inside indigenous territory between 2010 and 2015.
If you’re in the U.S., your ramen noodles might become a lot safer for forests [11/21/2016]
- Scott Paul, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Forest Heroes Campaign, says that instant ramen noodles contain more palm oil by weight than any other product on the market. That means that ramen noodles are having a major impact on rainforests. - But it looks like that’s about to change, at least when it comes to ramen in the U.S. In September, AAK, a producer of “value added vegetable oils” headquartered in Sweden, acquired California Oils, a major supplier of palm oil in the United States. - AAK subsequently announced that its No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation (NDPE) palm oil sustainability policy will be applied to its new subsidiary — which supplies palm oil to the manufacturers of as much as 84 percent of the ramen noodles sold in the U.S.
Major Congo Basin forest conference convenes in Rwanda [11/21/2016]
- The 85-member consortium has met annually since it was first launched in 2002 by then-US Secretary of State Colin Powell. - Congo Basin forests hold more than 25 billion tons of carbon and thousands of plant and animal species. - As the human population grows from the current figure of around 30 million people, more solutions are required to harmonize their needs with those of the plant and animal life that share the space.
Tracking down logging roads in the Congo Basin [11/20/2016]
- Launched in 2015, the Logging Roads Initiative mines 13 years of satellite data in the six countries that hold the Congo Basin – Cameroon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo. - Contributors need only have an Internet connection to plot the locations of roads through timber concessions. - After analysis by volunteers, the data is added to Global Forest Watch as the platform's logging roads layer.
Where have all the lutungs gone? Mystery monkeys fast disappearing [11/18/2016]
- Asia boasts 16 species of lutung, in two ranges, one in south central and Southeast Asia (northeast India, southern China, Taiwan, Borneo, Thailand, Java and Bali), and the other at the southern tip of India and on Sri Lanka. - Lutungs are tree dwellers, threatened by a rapid loss of tropical forests due to oil palm plantations, logging, and human population growth; the animals are also illegally hunted for bushmeat, traditional medicine and the pet trade. - Like so many Almost Famous species, lutungs suffer from a lack of publicity, research, funding and local concern. Except for a few species, most are protected accidentally, when a forest in which lutungs live is preserved by a government or NGO trying to protect charismatic megafauna. - Of the 16 lutung species, the IUCN assesses 4 as Vulnerable, 2 as Near Threatened, 7 as Endangered, 2 as Critically Endangered, and one as suffering from insufficient data for a conservation assessment. While surveys are lacking, all lutungs are known to be in decline, some alarmingly.
Seven African countries pledge to protect their tropical forests from unsustainable oil palm development [11/16/2016]
- Together, those seven countries comprise more than 250 million hectares (about 618 million acres) of tropical forest, 70 percent of the tropical forests in Africa and 13 percent of the world’s total. - Global demand for palm oil has skyrocketed over the past several years, and Africa is expected to be the next big expansion opportunity for the industry. - Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, co-chair of the International Indigenous People’s Forum on Climate Change, the indigenous peoples’ caucus to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said the declaration would protect the livelihoods of local and indigenous communities.
Illegal logging ‘ravaging’ Myanmar’s Indawgyi Lake Wildlife Reserve [11/16/2016]
- Indawgyi is Myanmar's most important wetland site and under consideration as a biosphere reserve and a Natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its global biodiversity value. - Myanmar’s timber is worth about $550 million a year on the international market, according to the World Bank. A country-wide logging ban has increased concerns over illegal logging activity in certain parts of the country. - The domestic energy market that uses timber for fuel is a key driver of deforestation in Myanmar, particularly in the region of Indawgyi.
Forest advocates say zero-carbon goals too reliant on unrealistic tech [11/15/2016]
- To reduce their carbon footprints, some international energy companies are promoting bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS). - However, critics say BECCS techniques are land-intensive and that carbon capture is costly and largely unproven. They urge more attention be paid to phasing out fossil fuels instead of uncertain carbon capture technology. - Industry reps say they are working such strategies into their own models regarding carbon-emission reductions and identifying land for forest growth and carbon storage.
New report: Brazil’s Cerrado could sidestep conversion for agriculture [11/13/2016]
- Home to almost half of Brazil’s agriculture, the country’s leaders are looking toward the Cerrado to accelerate economic development. - The Cerrado is also home to indigenous communities and traditional societies, such as the quilombolas, descendants of escaped African slaves. - The report argues for a more inclusive process that preserves traditional farming practices, intensifies existing large-scale agriculture and protects the Cerrado’s water, habitat and biodiversity.
Gold mining invades new areas of Peruvian Amazon [11/11/2016]
- Gold mining – much of it illegal – is commonplace in several spots in southern Peru's Made de Dios Department. The practice has resulted in vast deforestation and river degradation, and released harmful levels of mercury into water sources. - A recent analysis of satellite data indicates gold mining is spreading northwards, with three operations spotted in the Amazonas and Huánuco regions. Two of these are mining illegally in protected areas. - So far, the researchers estimate around 44 hectares of rainforest have been displaced by these operations. They write that there's still time to stop them before they get larger.
Industry, NGOs agree to single approach to eliminating deforestation from palm oil supply chain [11/10/2016]
- Prior to this announcement, there were essentially two competing methodologies for determining what constitutes a “High Carbon Stock” landscape and setting rules for conversion of land to oil palm plantations in a sustainable manner: the High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA), and another known as HCS+. - But now the HCS Convergence Working Group, which includes major players in the palm oil industry as well as NGOs, announced in Bangkok on Tuesday that they will be releasing a revised HCSA toolkit that represents convergence between the HCSA and HCS+ approaches. - Tropical forests, where most oil palm is grown due to the fact that the humid tropics are the species’ natural range, sequester large amounts of carbon and harbor much of Earth’s biodiversity, in addition to providing livelihoods, food, and medicine to millions of indigenous peoples and local communities.
Another 700 hectares of Bolivian rainforest lost to sugarcane surge [11/10/2016]
- About about 24 soccer fields of forest were cleared per day since the end of September. - Clearing began in 2015, with large, new, cleared areas appearing in intact forest in July. - A representative of the company behind the project said that they expect to cultivate sugarcane on 11,700 hectares by 2023. - The plantations are located 12 kilometers from Madidi National Park, and members of local communities report damaging environmental impacts.
Hunting stymies rainforest regrowth, says a new study [11/10/2016]
- The study compared sites with different degrees of hunting pressure, ranging from a national park to timber concessions. - Areas with fewer large mammals tended to have more rodents, which in turn ate and destroyed more seeds of tree species valuable to the timber industry. - The findings suggest that regulating hunting on timber concessions may help to encourage the regeneration of economically valuable trees.
‘A man schooled in the Amazon:’ Q&A with director of new feature film about the fight to save the rainforest [11/09/2016]
- Carter is the founder of Aliança da Terra (Land Alliance), a Brazilian non-profit organization that works directly with ranchers in the Amazon to reduce the environmental and social impact of their operations. - Wortman, who previously won an Emmy for his documentary Nefertiti Resurrected, intends to cast “real life characters,” such as John Carter himself, alongside professional actors in order to tell the true story of “Those fighting to save [the Amazon] and those fighting to take it.” - As much as it’s a Western and a love story, Wortman says the film is “a snapshot of what is going on in Brazil right now, which is the first wave that comes through. That’s why it’s called Frontier."
For the palm oil industry, ‘engagement’ means turning a blind eye to deforestation [11/07/2016]
- Regardless of who they trade with, palm oil producers should be hearing the same message: clearing rainforests doesn’t pay. Yet that message is not getting through. - Greenpeace has just concluded an investigation into environmental and human rights abuses in the global palm oil trade. What we uncovered incriminates almost all of the major palm oil traders. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Massive hydroelectricity project planned for Indonesian Borneo [11/07/2016]
- A $17 billion hydroelectricity project on the Kayan River is slated to begin construction in early 2017. - Experts fear the project, which is expected to affect 184,270 hectares, will have a severe impact on the area's ecosystem and indigenous people. - There has been little opposition to the project, with local leaders saying they believe it will bring economic development to the region.
Restoring degraded land could mean big financial gains for Latin America [11/04/2016]
- The report, produced by the World Resources Institute, finds big financial rewards for restoration. - Landowners could increase their incomes by using restoration to replenish agricultural yields and bolster food security, sell forest products, and earn money from ecotourism. - Restoration could also have big rewards in terms of carbon storage, with WRI researchers estimating 5 billion metric tons of CO2 could be sequestered over 50 years if 20 million hectares is restored.
Are global commodities producers living up to their climate promises? [11/04/2016]
- A new report by Amsterdam-based research think tank Climate Focus and a coalition of 12 other research organizations and civil society groups examines the progress made so far on implementing supply chain commitments to meet the second of ten goals laid out in the 2014 New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF). - Goal two of the NYDF calls on companies to end deforestation associated with the production of key agricultural commodities. Halting deforestation is one of the key tactics embedded in the Paris Climate Agreement for drawing down the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. - The Climate Focus report analyzes 600 companies involved in the production of the “big four” globally traded commodities — cattle, palm oil, soy, and wood — and finds that progress is being made, but calls the pace of progress too gradual.
Higher incomes driving Indonesian smallholders to oil palm and rubber [11/03/2016]
- Interviews with more than 460 farming households led the scientists to conclude that farmers making the switch to a single crop chasing better incomes. - More than 40 scientists from Indonesia, Switzerland, New Zealand and Germany were involved in the research. - The research is part of the EFForTS project, based at the University of Göttingen in Germany.