Pangolins reduced to small, isolated populations in Bangladesh: new study [09/20/2017]
- With the help of the Mro tribe in Bangladesh, researchers have found that pangolins do persist in many forested areas of the country, but in small, isolated populations. - Of the four Asian pangolin species, the Chinese pangolin seems to occur most commonly in Bangladesh, while the Indian pangolin is possibly rare or extinct within the country, the researchers say. - The study also found that pangolin hunting has shot up since 2010, most likely due to a sharp rise in the price of pangolin scales.
Audio: Legendary musician Bruce Cockburn on music, activism, and hope [09/19/2017]
- Music has a unique ability to inspire awareness and action about important issues — and we’re excited to welcome a living legend onto the program to discuss that very topic. - Bruce Cockburn, well known for his outspoken support of environmental and humanitarian causes, appears on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast. - Our second guest is Amanda Lollar, founder and president of Bat World Sanctuary, a wildlife rehabilitation center in Texas. - All that plus the top news!
Andes dams could threaten food security for millions in Amazon basin [09/19/2017]
- More than 275 hydroelectric projects are planned for the Amazon basin, the majority of which could be constructed in the Andes whose rivers supply over 90 percent of the basin’s sediments and over half its nutrients. - A new study projects huge environmental costs for six of these dams, which together will retain 900 million tons of river sediment annually, reducing supplies of phosphorus and nitrogen, and threatening fish populations and soil quality downstream. - Accumulating sediments upstream of dams are projected to release 10 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year, significantly contributing to global warming, and would contaminate waters and the aquatic life they support with mercury. - The construction of these dams should be reconsidered to preserve food security and the livelihoods of millions of people in the Amazon Basin.
Belo Monte dam installation license suspended, housing inadequacy cited [09/19/2017]
- A federal court has suspended the installation license of the Belo Monte mega-dam in the state of Pará, Brazil. The dam, slated to have the world’s third-largest generating capacity, became operational in 2015, but won’t see construction finished until 2019. - The court ordered further construction halted until Norte Energia met the commitments it made in 2011 to provide adequate housing for those displaced by the dam, including indigenous and traditional people that had been living along the Xingu River. - Among commitment violations cited were houses built without space for larger families, houses built from different materials than promised, and homes constructed too far from work, schools and shopping in Altamira, a city lacking a robust public transportation system. - The consortium continues to operate the dam, as its operating license has not been suspended.
Indigenous victory: Brazil’s Temer decrees 1.2 million Amazon reserve [09/18/2017]
- In a rare recent victory for Brazil’s indigenous people, President Temer has established the 1.2 million hectare Indigenous Territory of Turubaxi-Téa along the Middle Negro River in Amazonas state. - While NGOs and indigenous groups applaud the move, they note that the region has not been claimed by the Temer-backed ruralists, agribusiness and mining interests, who have aggressively disputed indigenous claims to ancestral lands in the southern Amazon region. - Two weeks ago, Temer reversed a decree establishing the 532-hectare indigenous Territory of Jaraguá in São Paulo state, ancestral home to 700 Guarani Indians. As a result, the indigenous group has now been squeezed into a reserve covering just 1.7 hectares. - Brazil also just established the 5,200-hectare Indigenous Territory of Tapeba, near Fortaleza, the capital of the northeastern state of Ceará. These indigenous victories do not seem to indicate a shift away from Temer’s wave of initiatives undermining indigenous land rights.
Oil palm firms advance into Leuser rainforest, defying Aceh governor’s orders [09/18/2017]
- The government of Indonesia's Aceh province has banned land clearance for oil palm development inside the Leuser Ecosystem. - However, deforestation is still ongoing as some companies ignore the moratorium. - During the first seven months of 2017, Leuser lost 3,941 hectares of forest cover, an area almost three times as large as Los Angeles International Airport, watchdogs say.
Does social forestry always decrease deforestation and poverty? (commentary) [09/17/2017]
- Many governmental and non-governmental organizations see community forestry in Indonesia as a new approach to reducing environmental degradation and increasing social welfare. Despite a decade of experimentation with the concept, very little is known, however, about actual impacts. - Studies by the Monitoring and Evaluation of Social Forestry program (MEPS) reveal that Village Forest (Hutan Desa) areas reduce deforestation in forests allocated for watershed protection and limited timber extraction - In forest allocated to normal timber production and conversion, Hutan Desa areas, however, have higher deforestation than comparable forests not managed by communities. Community forestry can achieve positive outcomes, but not everywhere. The government needs to take this insight on board to help in allocating licenses and investments for this scheme. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author.
Local approaches to conservation may be the most effective, study finds [09/15/2017]
- Researchers compared deforestation and forest degradation rates in areas of the Peruvian Amazon that were unprotected to those protected through government and local management. - They found, on average, locally led conservation initiatives proved more successful in preserving forests than those that are government-managed. - The study adds to mounting evidence that letting local and indigenous communities officially manage their forests may often be a highly effective way to conserve them. - However, official recognition of land rights often stands in the way of community-based conservation initiatives. The researchers urge the process be simplified so that more indigenous territories can be established and managed by the people who live in them.
What works in conservation? In-depth series starts next week [09/15/2017]
- "Conservation Effectiveness" is a multi-part series investigating the effectiveness of some of the most popular strategies to conserve tropical forests around the world. - The series is the result of a collaboration between Mongabay staff reporters Shreya Dasgupta and Mike Gaworecki, and a team of conservation scientists led by tropical forest ecologist Zuzana Burivalova of Princeton University. - Conservation Effectiveness launches next week.
Amazon mining unleashed (commentary) [09/15/2017]
- On August 23, 2017, Brazil’s president Michel Temer issued a decree revoking the RENCA, an area the size of Switzerland in the Amazon. - The Ministry of Environment had not been consulted and Brazil’s environmentalists and public were caught by surprise - A firestorm of criticism in Brazil and abroad led Temer to “revoke” the decree on August 28th and replace it with a new one. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author.
Nicaraguan beef raised illegally in biological reserve mostly exported [09/14/2017]
- Environmental organizations and the indigenous Rama-Kriol Territorial Government in southeastern Nicaragua have reported the invasion and deforestation of the core zone of the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve. - The invasion is caused by the advance of agriculture and the expansion of cattle raising. - Most of the cattle sold in La Maravilla market come from the company’s paddocks. Some of these cattle are raised and fattened inside the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve.
North America’s ash trees, Africa’s antelopes face heightened threat of extinction [09/14/2017]
- The latest update to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, released today, finds that even species once considered so abundant as to be safe have been put at risk of extinction by human activities and their impacts on the environment. - Five of the six most widespread and valuable ash tree species in North America have declined so severely due to an invasive beetle that they have now been entered onto the Red List as Critically Endangered, the last threat level before extinction in the wild. - Five African antelopes also had their threat status upgraded in the latest Red List update, among them the Giant Eland (Tragelaphus derbianus), previously listed as Least Concern but now Vulnerable, and the Mountain Reedbuck (Redunca fulvorufula), also previously listed as Least Concern but now assessed as Endangered.
Ecologist wins Heinz environment prize for airborne mapping that informs policy [09/14/2017]
- Ecologist Greg Asner of the Carnegie Airborne Observatory will receive a $250,000 award from the Heinz Family Foundation for his work to map rainforests and coral reefs around the world. - Lawmakers and other key decision-makers use Asner’s research to guide policy in the United States, South America and Southeast Asia. - Asner said he intends to put the funds toward marine education and outreach in Hawaii, where he began his career.
Communities struggle to save Sabah’s shrinking mangroves [09/13/2017]
- A development plan establishing shrimp farms and timber plantations begun purportedly to reduce poverty in northern Sabah, Malaysia, has attracted criticism from local communities and NGOs, which say the project is ignoring communities’ land rights. - Satellite imagery shows the clearing of large tracts of mangrove forest for shrimp farms. Critics of the development say this is depriving forest-dependent local communities of their livelihoods as well as threatening mangrove wildlife. - Several communities have banded together and are together petitioning the government to officially recognize their rights to the remaining mangroves and prevent further clearing for development.
Palm oil giant FGV will ‘endeavor to rehabilitate’ peatlands it trashed in Borneo [09/13/2017]
- About a year ago, Felda Global Ventures promised to stop clearing rainforests and peatlands to make way for its oil palm estates. - This year, though watchdogs reported that the company had continued to clear over 1,000 hectares of forest and peat in Indonesian Borneo, violating not only its green pledge but also its obligations as a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), as well as a new government regulation. - Last month, FGV renewed its commitment and said it would try to rehabilitate the peatlands it planted since August 2016.
Transformance: Finding common ground in the Amazon (commentary) [09/12/2017]
- The Fórum Bem Viver (Good Life Forum) met earlier this month to bring together indigenous leaders, military police, a federal judge, television actors, musicians, journalists, scientists and activists from eight countries and 14 Brazilian states. - The event, organized by the eco-cultural education nonprofit Rios de Encontro, utilized arts performances and workshops to seek common ground between participants regarding sustainable solutions in the Amazon. - The event was held in Marabá, Pará state, which is home to the Carajás mine, the world’s largest iron ore mine, and the community sits beside the Tocantins River where a dam is proposed upstream. - Participants sought solutions for turning Marabá into an “example of sustainable development for the Amazon, the Americas, and the world.” This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Deforestation in Cambodia linked to ill health in children [09/11/2017]
- A new study has found that the loss of dense forest cover in Cambodia is associated with an increased risk of diarrhea, acute respiratory infection and fever in children younger than five years. - Just a 10 percentage increase in the loss of dense forest around Cambodian households was associated with a 14 percent increase in the rate of diarrhea among children, the researchers found. - In contrast, a higher coverage of protected areas around the households was linked to a lower incidence of diarrhea and acute respiratory infection in children.
A lingering ‘legacy’: Deforestation warms climate more than expected [09/08/2017]
- Tropical deforestation results in the release of not only carbon dioxide but also methane and nitrous oxide, leading to greater-than-anticipated warming of the global climate. - The study compared emissions from land conversion with those from burning fossil fuels for energy and other sources. - The researchers found that tropical deforestation at current rates could cause a 1.5-degree Celsius rise in global temperatures by 2100.
Zero tolerance of deforestation likely only way to save Amazon gateway [09/07/2017]
- In a new paper, conservationists urgently call for a policy of zero deforestation and sustainable agroforestry in Maranhão, one of Brazil’s poorest states, before it’s remaining Amazon forests are lost. - The region’s forests are home to unique and endangered species, including the jaguar (Panthera onca), Black bearded saki (Chiropotes satanas), and kaapori capuchin (Cebus kaapori), one of the world’s rarest primates. - It is also inhabited by some of the most vulnerable indigenous groups in the world, including uncontacted indigenous communities. - Though 70 percent of remaining forest lies within protected areas, illegal logging and slash-and-burn agriculture are persistent problems, threatening already fragmented wildlife habitat and forcing indigenous tribes off ancestral land.
Audio: Technologies that boost conservation efforts right now and in the future [09/06/2017]
- On this episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we take a look at the role technology is playing — and might play in the future — in conservation efforts. - Our first guest is Topher White, the founder of Rainforest Connection, a nonprofit based in San Francisco that has deployed upcycled cell phones in tropical forests around the world to provide real-time monitoring of forests and wildlife. - Our second guest is Matthew Putman, an applied physicist with a keen interest in conservation. Putman is CEO of Nanotronics, a company headquartered in Brooklyn, NY that makes automated industrial microscopes used by manufacturers of advanced technologies like semiconductors, microchips, hard drives, LEDs, and aerospace hardware.
Healthy soils can boost food security and climate resilience for millions (commentary) [09/06/2017]
- Drylands take centre stage this week as world leaders gather in Ordos, in the Inner Mongolia region of China, for the thirteenth session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD COP13). - The health of many dryland ecosystems has declined dramatically over recent decades, largely due to unsustainable farming methods, increasing drought, deforestation, and clearance of natural grasslands. - Changing the way drylands are farmed to conserve life underground is the only way of restoring these ecosystems and the agricultural outputs they sustain. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
A global view from a mountain town: how conservation became ingrained in Monteverde [09/06/2017]
- Beginning with Quakers arriving in the 1950s, Monteverde has become a distinct community in Central America. - In 1972, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve was established, securing a home for many rare species. - Today, many locals take conservation as a way of life, from organic farming to scientific endeavors to mitigating the impacts of climate change.
Indigenous communities resist Chinese mining in Amazonian Ecuador [09/05/2017]
- Last weekend, a tribunal held by indigenous communities in Gualaquiza, in the Amazon headwaters region of Ecuador, accused the nation’s first large scale mining operation of major human and environmental abuses. - The Mirador and Panantza-San Carlos open-pit copper mines are run by Ecuacorriente S.A. (ECSA) and owned by the Chinese consortium CRCC-Tongguan. The two mines are located in the Cordillera del Cóndor region and within the Shuar indigenous territory. - Charges lodged against the government and Chinese consortium include displacement of 116 indigenous people, the razing of the town of San Marcos de Tundayme, escalating violence including the death of Shuar leader José Tendetza, discrimination, intimidation, threats, and worsening environmental degradation. - President Lenin Moreno’s administration has so far made no response to the Gualaquiza accusations or the demand for redress of grievances filed by the tribunal’s leaders.
Saving the Serranía de San Lucas, a vital link in the ‘jaguar corridor’ [09/01/2017]
- The Serranía de San Lucas in Colombia’s department of Bolivar is an area of renowned biodiversity. Due to the country’s long-running conflict the region has not yet been fully explored and scientists believe a “treasure trove” of undiscovered species may be lying in wait. - The mountain massif is also key to the “jaguar corridor,” a habitat link that connects Central American jaguar populations to those in South America. - But San Lucas is also home to some of Latin America’s richest deposits of gold. Mining for gold has damaged the region’s lowlands, releasing mercury into the surrounding environment. In 2014, two jaguar canines were found to contain mercury. - The race is on to protect the area through establishing it as a national park. Proponents of the initiative say doing to would help maintain its rich biodiversity and ensure it retains viable habitat for jaguars and other wildlife.
Philippine palm oil plan ‘equals corruption and land-grabbing,’ critics say [08/31/2017]
- With its renewed promotion of what it calls the “Sunshine Industry,” the Philippine government is looking to cultivate another one million hectares of oil palm, 98 percent of which would be on the island of Mindanao. - Proponents say increasing palm oil production will alleviate poverty and armed conflict through large investments from Malaysian, Indonesian and Singaporean firms and other foreign and domestic companies, and tout potential revenue brought by palm oil’s increasing demand as a food and cosmetic ingredient and biofuel. - But critics worry expansion of the country’s palm oil industry will benefit large companies at the expense of small farmers, forests, and water quality.
‘Ecological disaster’: controversial bridge puts East Kalimantan’s green commitment to the test [08/30/2017]
- Work is currently underway on a bridge and access road that will connect the fast-growing city of Balikpapan with its rural outskirts. - The project is part of a broader government program to transform Indonesian Borneo into an economic powerhouse. - Conservationists have opposed the project since it was launched in 2008, fearing it will disrupt marine life, cut a crucial wildlife corridor and spark land speculation and encroachment along a protected forest.
Temer’s Amazon mining decrees derided by protestors, annulled by judge [08/30/2017]
- In a seeming win for Canadian and Brazilian mining companies, President Michel Temer on August 23rd abolished a vast Amazonian national reserve — the Renca preserve, covering 4.6 million hectares — and opened the region up to mining. - The reserve, straddling Pará and Amapá states, contains large preserved areas and indigenous communities. Temer’s original Amazon mining decree was met with widespread condemnation, resulting in a second clarifying decree on August 28th. - On August 29th, federal judge Ronaldo Spanholo annulled both decrees, citing Brazil’s 1988 constitution, and ruling that the Renca preserve may not be abolished by presidential order but only legislative action. The Brazilian Union´s General Advocate said it will appeal the judge´s decision. - BBC Brasil reported that Canadian mining companies, who would likely profit from the Renca preserve´s abolishment, were notified that the region was going to be opened up for prospecting last March, five months before the original decree was issued.
Bats and viruses: Beating back a bad reputation [08/29/2017]
- Ecologist Merlin Tuttle argues that too much research and media attention is focused on bats based on tenuous links to deadly disease-causing viruses such as Ebola. - Live Ebola virus has never been found in bats, and virologists acknowledge that other animals may be involved. - But scientists have plucked live strains of other dangerous viruses from bats, and researchers argue that continuing to study the association between viruses and bats (as well as other animals) will ultimately help us better prepare for future disease outbreaks.
Intact forests crucial to Amazon ecosystem resilience, stable climate [08/28/2017]
- Three recent South American studies emphasize the importance of intact forests to healthy habitat and a stable climate — both locally, and at a great distance. - The first study found that forest integrity is crucial for habitat stability and resilience. Degradation makes it harder for Brazil’s Caatinga forest to recover from intensifying drought due to climate change. Protected forests are more resilient against drought. - Another study showed that intense land use change in central Brazil and northern Argentina has resulted in the dry season becoming warmer across South America, with changes in Amazon plant productivity 500 kilometers from the disturbed area. - A third study’s modelling found that major future deforestation anywhere in the Amazon will dramatically reduce rainfall in the Amazon’s southwest — accounting for about 25 percent of the Amazon basin — and the La Plata basin.
Quilombolas’ community land rights under attack by Brazilian ruralists [08/25/2017]
- Four million African slaves were transported to Brazilian plantations. Many fled into the wild, some as far as the Amazon, and established quilombos — runaway slave communities long ignored by the federal and state governments. - Brazil’s 1988 constitution gave the quilombos legal land rights, which were not, however, recognized by the ruralists, an elite of wealthy landholders that coveted the land for agribusiness, mining and other development purposes. - In 2003, the “marco temporal,” requiring Quilombolas to prove that they occupied the land they are claiming both in 1888 (the year slavery was abolished) and in 1988 (the year of the new constitution) was overturned. Quilombos were granted inalienable community land rights. - Now, a long dormant court challenge by the DEM political party has reached Brazil’s Supreme Court, threatening the 2003 landmark ruling, again putting the Quilombolas at risk. Meanwhile, violence is up, with 13 people living in quilombos assassinated this year.
Temer pays back ruralists: opens Brazil, Amazon to mining, say critics [08/24/2017]
- In a victory for transnational and Brazilian mining companies, President Michel Temer this week decreed the opening of a vast national reserve covering 4.6 million hectares in the Amazon to mining. The region contains large conserved areas as well as indigenous communities. - Late last month, Temer also decreed a new Brazilian mining code. Though the code still needs to be approved by Congress, it shifts responsibility for monitoring environmental standards away from government and to the mining companies — a move that risks major mining accidents. - It also replaces the National Department of Mineral Production with a new regulatory agency, the National Mining Agency — a bureau that critics say lacks the teeth and personnel to do the job. - Mining code opponents are also concerned it could weaken protections against mining on indigenous lands. They say that the new mining code and green lighting of mining in the Amazon is pay back for a House of Deputies vote in August to close a criminal investigation of the president for corruption.
These 3 companies owe Indonesia millions of dollars for damaging the environment. Why haven’t they paid? [08/23/2017]
- The Indonesian government has been trying to collect penalties from three companies found guilty of damaging the environment. - One of the companies is PT Kallista Alam, an oil palm plantation firm convicted of cut-and-burning rainforest in the Leuser Ecosystem. - Another is PT Merbau Pelalawan Lestari, a timber plantation firm that was ordered to pay more than a billion dollars for illegal logging. - The government plans to establish a task force for the express purpose of collecting the penalties.
Deforestation from gold mining in Peru continues, despite gov’t crackdowns [08/22/2017]
- A team of scientists from the Carnegie Institution for Science found that, between 1999 and 2016, gold mining expansion cost the region 4,437 hectares (10,964 acres) of forest loss per year. - Miners were working an area in 2016 that was 40 percent larger than it was in 2012. - The findings, along analyses by ecologists at the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project, indicate that increased enforcement by the Peruvian government has slowed the rate of deforestation.
Protests over geothermal development heat up in Central Java [08/22/2017]
- The people of Karangtengah Village in Central Java learned in January one of their key sources of freshwater had been contaminated by debris from the development of a planned $1 billion geothermal energy plant at a nearby volcano. - Indonesia, which is estimated to have the largest geothermal capacity in the world, is eager to tap into the renewable energy source. - The government says work will continue despite mounting demands from locals to stop the project over claims it has contaminated rivers, cleared forests and damaged the local tourism industry.
Doubts cloud Kenya’s renewed palm oil ambitions [08/21/2017]
- Kenya is looking to increase its own production to reduce reliance on imports. Officials say producing palm oil domestically would reduce importation costs while opening new income streams for farmers. - Kenya is also looking to cash in on the industry’s profitability and efficiency as global demand for palm oil rises. - But critics worry that increasing palm oil production in Kenya may come at a cost. They say smallholder farmers could lose out to industrial producers, and clearing land for oil palm plantations could increase deforestation and carbon emissions.
Indigenous groups win key land rights victory in Brazil’s Supreme Court [08/17/2017]
- In a victory for Brazil’s indigenous groups, the Supreme Court Wednesday decided against the claims of Mato Grosso state, which wanted compensation for Indian reserves established in that state by the federal government. - Mato Grosso argued that the land on which the reserves were established belonged to the state, but the Court decided on the side of indigenous people, noting in one case that the Indians had been living on the territory that became a reserve for 800 years. - Indirectly, this week’s court decisions undermine a measure recently signed by President Temer, and backed by the bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby, known as the “marco temporal.” - The marco temporal sets an arbitrary 1988 date for Indian occupations as a legal basis for all indigenous land claims. The court, in its rulings, based its decision on far longer ancestral territory occupation. It’s likely Temer and the rural caucus will continue pushing marco temporal, or similar strategies to delegitimize indigenous land claims.
Mammal numbers high in logged tropical forests, study finds [08/16/2017]
- The study quantified mammal numbers in forests and landscapes with varying degrees of human impact in Malaysian Borneo. - Across 57 mammal species recorded with live and camera traps, the average number of all animals combined was 28 percent higher in logged forests -- where hunting wasn’t an issue -- compared to old-growth forests. - The findings demonstrate the importance of conserving degraded forests along with more pristine areas.
International investment blamed for violence and oppression in Sarawak [08/15/2017]
- Land rights activist Bill Kayong was shot dead last year in Miri, Sarawak. Representatives of a palm oil plantation company were charged with his murder, but were later acquitted. - Their acquittal was denounced by many observers, who see it as yet another blow against indigenous communities in the fight for their land. - NGOs in Sarawak and around the world report failures by the Sarawak government to uphold indigenous land rights, and failures by international banks and investors to ensure their investments are conflict-free. - Investigators urge more accountability when it comes to international financing of development ventures. They also say retail customers could “act as change agents and raise the bar for banks’ respect for indigenous rights."
Protecting a forest in the land of the Indonesian deer-pig [08/15/2017]
- In a village in the northern part of Indonesia's giant Sulawesi island, hunters pursue rare animals that are protected by the law. - A local affiliate of NGO BirdLife International is working with locals to preserve the Popayato-Paguat forest block — and the dozens of endemic species within. - The NGO is facilitating an ecosystem restoration project in the forest block.
Brazil’s Indians on the march in last ditch effort to stop land theft [08/14/2017]
- Last week, indigenous organizations and civil society bodies demonstrated widely against what they see as the Brazilian government’s on going moves to reduce Indian land rights, and to demand the government open a dialogue with indigenous representatives. - Of greatest concern is President Temer’s recommendation to approve the “marco temporal” a 1988 cut-off date for Indian occupation of traditional lands. - Critics say the marco temporal is designed to deny indigenous land rights guaranteed under Brazil’s 1988 constitution, while legalizing claims of land thieves and wealthy elite ruralists who have long hungered for control of Indian lands. - Brazilian Supreme Court rulings that will help determine the legality of the marco temporal are expected this Wednesday, 16 August.
Land-swap rule among Indonesian President Jokowi’s latest peat reforms [08/11/2017]
- To prevent another round of devastating wildfires, Indonesian President Joko Widodo's administration has issued a series of policies governing the management of peatlands — carbon-rich swamps that have been widely drained and dried by the nation's agribusinesses, rendering them highly flammable. - The administration hopes a new land-swap scheme will help it claw back peat from big oil palm and timber planters, providing a means to supply the firms with additional land elsewhere in the country. - Business associations complain about the new policy, saying it's not feasible for a company in Sumatra to move its operations all the way to Papua. - Environmental pressure groups, meanwhile, call the regulation an unfair boon for large firms, providing a rapacious industry with more land than the vast amounts it already controls.
New study: Climate change shifts timing of floods in Europe [08/10/2017]
- A team of 46 scientists analyzed five decades of data on river flooding in Europe, leading to the strongest evidence yet that climate change affects this important natural process. - In northeastern Europe, where rising temperatures have accelerated snowmelt, the team found earlier flooding at more than 80 percent of the data collection locations. - Across the rest of the continent, the impacts of climate change were less direct. - In some places, such as the Atlantic coast, the researchers found a shift toward earlier flooding. Some parts of Europe near the Mediterranean Sea experienced flooding later in the year.
Brazilian firm wants to build new dams in Amazon’s Aripuanã basin [08/10/2017]
- With the bancada ruralista mining / agribusiness lobby in control of the Temer government and Congress, a Brazilian company, Intertechne Consultores, sees it as an opportune time to revive a shelved plan to build dams in the Amazon’s Aripuanã basin. - The company has asked federal officials to allow viability studies for 3 new dams in this very remote, biodiverse region — the Sumaúma and Quebra Remo dams on the Aripuanã River, and the Inferninho dam on its tributary, the Roosevelt River. - The Inferninho dam, if built, would highly impact the Cinta Larga Indians, the victims of Brazilian-inflicted genocide in the 1960s. The Roosevelt Indigenous Reserve contains one of the world’s five largest diamond reserves, a cause of past violent conflicts. - Moves may be afoot in Congress to end a ban of mining on indigenous lands. If passed, a new law could allow mining on Cinta Larga land, with new mines potentially powered by the new hydroelectric dams. These projects, if built, would likely be a source of intense new controversy and conflict in the Amazon.
Malaysia’s East Coast Rail Link a double-edged sword for environment, wildlife [08/09/2017]
- Work on the East Coast Rail Link, a Chinese-backed cargo and passenger rail project that will connect Peninsular Malaysia's east and west coasts, commenced August 9. - The project aims to shift traffic from roads to rails, but will also lead to habitat loss and fragmentation in the peninsula's forested heart. - Developers have adopted mitigation measures, but areas of ecological significance will still be affected.
In Colombia, deforestation gangs run rampant [08/08/2017]
- In Colombia’s southeast Guaviare department, which includes almost 20 percent of the deforested areas of Colombia, harvested wood rots on the ground while gangs and drug traffickers take over the land for illegal mining and agriculture. - A main objective of the deforestation is to confiscate the lands in order to later extort those who want to use the area for mining, agriculture, or ranching. - The land is also developed, as it was between 2012 and 2015, when the number of hectares of coca planted in Guaviare grew from 3,851 to 5,423, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. - The number of timber confiscations in Colombia is staggering: between January and May 2017, police have seized 36,251 cubic meters of wood.
First real test for Jokowi on haze as annual fires return to Indonesia [08/08/2017]
- Land and forest fires have broken out in pockets of Indonesia since mid-July. - Last year the country caught a break, when a longer-than-normal wet season brought on by La Niña helped mitigate the fire threat. - This year, hotspots have started appearing in regions with no history of major land and forest fires, like East Nusa Tenggara and Aceh. - The government has responded by declaring an emergency status as well as deploying firefighters.
HydroCalculator: new, free, online tool helps citizens assess dams [08/07/2017]
- With mega-dams planned globally, especially in the Amazon and Mekong, the Conservation Strategy Fund (CSF), an NGO, has developed a new free tool for evaluating a planned dam’s economic viability, greenhouse gas emissions and more. - The HydroCalculator estimates the net economic value of a proposed dam, with and without the cost of greenhouse gas emissions factored in, number of years required before a project generates a profit, and years until net emissions become negative. - The tool has been used by CSF, International Rivers, and a development bank and found to be very useful. Its forecasts have been tested against the economic viability and carbon emissions of existing dams, and found accurate. - The HydroCalculator is meant for use by communities, researchers and activists who are often closed out of the technical dam planning process. It is available free online.
Road projects threaten Sumatra’s last great rainforests [08/07/2017]
- Local officials currently have plans to build roads in Mount Leuser, Bukit Barisan Selatan and Kerinci Seblat National Parks in Indonesia's Sumatra Island. - Conservationists fear these plans could accelerate habitat loss and degradation in this highly biodiverse forest complex, which is home to many endangered species. - Proponents of road development cite the need for increased economic opportunities for local people and evacuation routes in case of natural disasters.
Sixth mass extinction ‘tsunami’ coming, but preventable [08/04/2017]
- Biologist Thomas Lovejoy writes in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that we can stop the current spate of biodiversity and species loss that the Earth is experiencing. - Pointing to a recent study showing that many animals are declining in numbers in addition to those facing the imminent risk of extinction, Lovejoy argues that we need to address all of the impacts that humans have on ecosystems. - He calls for the restoration of degraded forests and wetlands — activities in which everyone can participate — to facilitate the movement of wildlife between habitats and bring back the services that ecosystems provide.
Greater collaboration between companies and governments necessary to enhance climate action, report finds [08/03/2017]
- A new report released by the NGOs Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Forest Trends (FT) last week consists of case studies on how companies are working with the governments of Brazil and Indonesia, which together accounted for nearly 40 percent of total tropical deforestation in 2014, to achieve their shared goals around forests and the climate. - The authors of the report write that greater collaboration between corporations, governments, and other stakeholders is crucial to actually meeting climate change mitigation goals: “Considering the common goals of companies, governments, and multi-stakeholder initiatives, it is imperative to identify opportunities for collaboration to harness synergies between initiatives and catalyze action.” - In Brazil, for instance, several companies that have adopted Zero Deforestation Commitments are also collaborating with the government and NGOs in initiatives like Mato Grosso state’s Produce, Conserve, Include (PCI) program, which aims to decrease deforestation levels, boost reforestation efforts, and push for more sustainable agricultural and livestock production.
Five instances in which Peru won the battle against deforestation [08/02/2017]
- The main activities that have threatened forests in these areas include illegal gold mining and the advancement of industrial agriculture. - Satellite images show deforestation for large oil palm and cacao plantations in central and northern Peru is no longer expanding. - Illegal mining-driven deforestation within Amarakaeri Communal Reserve and Tambopata National Reserve has ceased.
Canopy bridges keep rainforest animals connected over gas pipeline [08/02/2017]
- Pipelines, roads, railways and transmission lines cause severe habitat fragmentation in the Amazon rainforest. A new study looked at canopy connectivity for large arboreal mammal populations using natural bridges above a new gas pipeline in Peru. - In 7,102 canopy camera trap nights, the crossing rate of natural bridges in the canopy above a new pipeline was surprisingly high: nearly 200 times that of the ground (3,100+ overhead versus 16 ground occurrences). - Researchers recorded 25 species from 12 mammal families using natural canopy bridges in 3,372 photo events, including night monkeys, kinkajous, olingos, dwarf porcupines, opossums and squirrels. - These results suggest natural and artificial canopy bridges could significantly improve habitat connectivity for rainforest arboreal species when new, or already existing, transportation, mining and energy corridors threaten fragmentation
US retailers halt sales of hardwood flooring linked to illegal logging in PNG [08/01/2017]
- A report released today by London-based NGO Global Witness has prompted major US retailers to discontinue sales of exotic wood flooring linked to illegal logging in Papua New Guinea (PNG). - Global Witness reports that an investigation into the 9,000-mile-long chain of custody that timber travels on its way from PNG to Chinese factories and ultimately store shelves in the United States determined that as much as one-third of the wood exports coming from the South Pacific nation in recent years was produced by clear-cutting rainforest concessions that local communities say were granted to logging companies in violation of their rights under PNG law. - The majority of timber produced in PNG is shipped to China and turned into flooring, furniture, and plywood, among other products, much of which is sold domestically. But the US buys $15 billion-worth of wood products from China every year, more than any other country. - Many Chinese companies don't do their due diligence, Global Witness reports, putting US companies at significant risk of violating the Lacey Act.
Brazil’s Temer threatens constitutional indigenous land rights [08/01/2017]
- President Temer, influenced by the rural lobby in congress whose votes he needs to not be tried by the Supreme Court on corruption charges, has okayed new criteria meant to delegitimize indigenous land boundary claims, legal experts say. - One rule rejects any indigenous demarcation of land where Indians were not physically present on a traditional territory in 1988, which would disqualify many legitimate claims. - Another allows government to undertake “strategic” public works, such as dams and roads, without indigenous consent, violating the International Labor Organization’s 169 Convention, signed by Brazil. - The administration also introduced a bill likely to be passed by congress that reclassifies 349,000 hectares (1,347 square miles) of Jamanxim National Forest in the Amazon, gutting protections, allowing economic activities — logging, ranching, farming and mining — and legitimizing land grabs there.
What happens after a mining rush? Photographs from Madagascar [07/31/2017]
- Precious and semi-precious stone mines, legal or not, are born, die, and spring back to life all over Madagascar. - Much of the gem mining in Madagascar is unofficial and therefore unregulated, so the immediate impacts are high, both envirnmentally and socially. But people seldom examine the long-lasting effects. - Toward the end of 2016, photoreporter Arnaud De Grave spent several months in the country’s eastern Alaotra-Mangoro region, in an area experiencing a mining recession. - His photos show the toll of mining on people’s lives and the landscape.
Conservation community failing to use evidence to make decisions, scientists say [07/31/2017]
- In a new article, scientists have coined the term “evidence complacency” to highlight the persistence of a culture in which, “despite availability, evidence is not sought or used to make decisions, and the impact of actions is not tested.” - This complacency can not only lead to a wastage of money, time and opportunities, but also show conservation as an unjustifiable investment, the researchers say. - Conservation practitioners say that scientists need to collaborate more with decision makers and look at evidence more broadly than just peer-reviewed studies.
Is Norwegian money funding Congo deforestation? [07/28/2017]
- A recent report by conservation NGO Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) is decrying what they say is Norwegian government complicity in funding a project they allege could result in the clearance of vast tracts of Congo rainforest and the release of billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere. - RFUK's report spotlights a project funded through Norway's Central Africa Forest Initiative (CAFI) that would increase the area comprised by logging concessions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) by 20 million hectares. Its analysis found the concessions stand to include 10,000 square kilometers of peat swamp, and if actively logged, could release as much as 3.8 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere. - Norway's Ministry of Climate and Environment says the report is overblown and the situation more complicated than RFUK contends. - Per F. I. Pharo, director of the Government of Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative, said an amended project proposal is under review and will not be accepted unless various conditions are met: "Among the key recommendations Norway has made to the program document is the importance that the program document should not conclude on important policy choices that should be the product of a thorough and inclusive process at country level."
Amazonian city drags down fish stocks in 1,000-kilometer shadow [07/28/2017]
- A study of tambaqui, a popular table fish, in the Brazilian Amazon found that fish caught near the city of Manaus are half the size of those upriver. - Boats that buy the fish have brought the demand into the forest surrounding the city, and with holds full of ice, they’re able to travel further to bring tambaqui back to Manaus’ markets. - The fishers living in the relatively pristine forest along the Purus River reported that tambaquie are smaller and harder to catch than they were previously, a trend extended 1,000 kilometers from Manaus, the researchers found.
First ‘intrusions’ into unbroken forests drive pulses of biodiversity loss [07/28/2017]
- The study examined ‘initial intrusions’ into tropical forests and their effect on the threat status of species. - The researchers found that deforestation at current rates in high-priority areas such as Borneo, the Congo Basin, and the Amazon could push 121 to 219 species closer to extinction in the next 30 years. - While the authors point out that their conclusions are not a call to protect only intact landscapes, the data could help policymakers working with limited resources to decide where to place new protected areas.
Randomized controlled trial in Uganda finds that paying people not to cut down trees works [07/27/2017]
- Researchers with Northwestern University in the United States conducted a randomized controlled trial involving 121 villages in a region with high rates of deforestation and forest degradation. - Sixty villages participated in the PES scheme from 2011 to 2013 and were paid 70,000 Ugandan shillings (currently worth slightly less than $20, but worth $28 in 2012 dollars) per hectare to conserve their forests, while 61 formed the control group and received no compensation. - The researchers found that, during the study period, tree cover declined by 4.2 percent in villages that were part of the program, less than half of the 9.1 percent tree cover loss in control villages.
Study links most Amazon deforestation to 128 slaughterhouses [07/27/2017]
- A new study by the NGO Imazon finds that just 128 slaughterhouses process 93 percent of cattle raised in the Brazilian Amazon. The areas of influence supplying the herds to those plants coincide with where the most Amazon deforestation occurs. - The total pasture area, or zone of influence, corresponding to the 128 slaughterhouses provided an 88 percent match with the deforested area that occurred in the Amazon between 2010 and 2015. - Based on a probability map created by the study, a 90 percent match was also found between the 128 slaughterhouse zones of estimated cattle supply and the Amazon areas projected to have a higher risk of new deforestation in future. - The study adds weight to the idea that the most effective deforestation enforcement strategy is not to regulate the Amazon’s 400,000 ranchers and farmers, but for government to enter into effective deforestation enforcement partnerships with the slaughterhouses.
Rare bird not seen in 60 years rediscovered [07/27/2017]
- The Táchira antpitta (Grallaria chthonia) was first recorded during an expedition in the mid-1950s. - In June last year, scientists decided to look for the bird again. - During the expedition, the team obtained the first ever photographs and sound recordings of a living Táchira antpitta.
Visualizing the impacts of human disturbance on tropical forest biodiversity [07/26/2017]
- Efforts to protect biodiversity often focus on keeping forests and the habitat they represent from being cut down. But research published in the journal Nature last year suggests that forest degradation resulting from human activities is perhaps just as urgent a threat to biodiversity as deforestation. - According to the study, man-made disturbances in Pará’s tropical forests have resulted in levels of biodiversity loss equivalent to clearing 92,000 to 139,000 square kilometers (around 35,500 to 53,700 square miles) of pristine forest. - If that kind of raw data is hard to wrap your brain around, that’s where Silent Forest comes in. Thiago Medaglia described it as “a journalistic data visualization project” in an email to Mongabay.
Working with communities to fight fires in Way Kambas National Park [07/26/2017]
- Way Kambas National Park in southern Sumatra supports populations of Critically Endangered Sumatran rhinos, tigers and elephants, along with hundreds of other species. - In 1997, forest fires hit 70 percent of the park, killing many animals and hampering regeneration in previously logged areas. - Local authorities and conservation groups are now working with residents to prevent and fight fires, with notable success.
Audio: Global megadam activism and the sounds of nature in Taiwan [07/25/2017]
- Activists from around the world attended the conference to strategize around stopping what they see as destructive hydropower projects. As Bardeen relates in her commentary, many attendees at the conference have faced harassment, intimidation, and worse for their opposition to dam projects, but they’re still standing strong in defense of free-flowing rivers. - We also speak with Yannick Dauby, a French sound artist based in Taiwan. Since 2002, Dauby has been crafting sound art out of field recordings made throughout the small country of Taiwan and posting them on his website, Kalerne.net. - In this Field Notes segment, Dauby plays a recording of his favorite singer, a frog named Rhacophorus moltrechti; the sounds of the marine life of the corals of Penghu, which he is documenting together with biologists; the calls bats use to echolocate (slowed down 16 times so they can be heard by human ears!); and more! - All that plus the top news on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast!
Orangutans find home in degraded forests [07/24/2017]
- The study leveraged three years of orangutan observation in the field and airborne mapping of the forest structure using laser-based light detection and ranging (LiDAR) technology. - The research team found that orangutans make use of habitats that have been ‘degraded’ by logging and other human uses. - The research is part of a larger effort in collaboration with the Sabah Forestry Department to map carbon stocks and plant and animal biodiversity throughout the Malaysian state of Sabah with the goal of identifying new areas for conservation.
Mounting outcry over Indonesian palm oil bill as legislators press on [07/21/2017]
- The bill cements the right of oil palm planters to operate on peat soil, at a time when President Joko Widodo is trying to enforce new peat protections to stop another outbreak of devastating fires and haze. - The bill has also been criticized for outlining a variety of tax breaks and duty relief schemes for palm oil investors, although those provisions have been dialed back — but not completely eliminated — in the latest draft. - The bill's main champion in the House of Representatives is the Golkar Party's Firman Soebagyo. He says it will help farmers and protect Indonesian palm oil from foreign intervention. - Responding to mounting public criticism, some cabinet members recently asked the House to abandon the bill, but Soebagyo, who is leading the deliberations, says they will continue.
Big forests, big ag: Are rainforests the right place for industrial agriculture? (commentary) [07/20/2017]
- Gabon remains a relative stronghold for endangered wildlife like chimpanzees and forest elephants. - Singapore-based Olam International, one of the world’s largest agribusinesses, has agreed not to plant palm oil in protected wetlands, and also set aside conservation areas and corridors for wildlife in its concessions in Gabon. - But there is only so much that can be done to minimize the impact of clearing 26,000 hectares in the middle of one of the world’s most forested countries. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Mothers vs. loggers: the destruction of Białowieża Forest splits Poland [07/19/2017]
- A bark beetle outbreak has led Polish officials to begin large-scale logging across old-growth Białowieża Forest, home to bison, wolves and a rich cultural history. - The logging is opposed by everyone from scientists to the UN to the European Commission to a group of mothers concerned about the world their children will inherit. - The European Commission has recently declared that all logging should cease.
Charcoal and cattle ranching tearing apart the Gran Chaco [07/19/2017]
- The year-long probe of Paraguay’s charcoal exports by the NGO Earthsight revealed that much of the product was coming from the Chaco, the world’s fastest-disappearing tropical forest. - Suppliers appear to have reassured international supermarket chains that it was sustainable and that they had certification from international groups such as FSC and PEFC. - But further digging by Earthsight revealed that the charcoal production methods used may not fit with the intent of certification. - Several grocery store chains mentioned in the report have said they’ll take a closer look at their supply chains, and the certification body PEFC is reexamining how its own standards are applied.
As Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem faces multiple threats, local resistance grows [07/17/2017]
- Sumatra’s Leuser Ecosystem covers 2.6 million hectares and is home to some 105 mammal and 382 bird species, many found nowhere else on earth. - The ecosystem is part of a World Heritage Site that has been listed as "In Danger" since 2011 — a designation that was renewed earlier this month. - The local government's plans for the ecosystem include large hydroelectric dams. Deforestation and encroachment for palm oil and pulp and paper production are also major problems for the Leuser. - Local NGOs and community groups are speaking out against large-scale projects in the ecosystem, citing threats to the area's human residents as well as to wildlife.
Transforming business as usual in Indonesia: an interview with Aida Greenbury [07/17/2017]
- Aida Greenbury is the former Chief Sustainability Officer at Asia Pulp & Paper, a forestry giant with extensive operations in Indonesia. - Greenbury was the lead internal architect for APP's 2013 forest conservation policy, which is today one of the most ambitious zero deforestation commitments in the plantation sector. - Greenbury left APP in May and is today working on collaborative initiatives to protect and restore ecosystems.
Colombia expands indigenous reserves near key deforestation hotspot [07/14/2017]
- The Puerto Sabalo - Los Monos and Monochoa indigenous reserves are both located in the province of Caquetá, which has the highest rate of forest loss in Colombia. - The expansion of the two reserves connects Chiribiquete with Predio Putumayo, the country's largest indigenous reserve, creating a conservation corridor slightly larger than the entire country of Honduras. - A recent report by the Mapping the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP) shows that cattle ranching and agricultural development have opened a new deforestation hotspot in Caquetá province’s Amazon rainforests — and that deforestation is expanding towards Chiribiquete National Park.
Soy King Blairo Maggi wields power over Amazon’s fate, say critics [07/13/2017]
- Brazil’s Blairo Maggi made a fortune with vast Mato Grosso soy plantations in Legal Amazonia. Today, Amaggi Group, the family company, dominates the nation’s agribusiness sector — profiting from farm commodities, and the roads, railways, and industrial waterways that transport them. - Maggi rose through Brazilian politics, becoming Mato Grosso’s governor, a senator, and today, the Temer administration’s agriculture minister. He is also a leader of the bancada ruralista, the agribusiness lobby, that dominates Brazilian government. - Once known as the Soy King, Maggi has often pushed anti-environmental agribusiness policies, including those resulting in major Amazon deforestation, ending indigenous land demarcation, and harmful infrastructure projects putting biodiversity at risk. He has also, paradoxically, worked to end illegal logging and to reduce deforestation. - On Monday, 17 July, Maggi will meet with the Trump administration to urge the U.S. to lift its ban on Brazilian beef, a ban prompted by scandal involving a corrupt federal meat inspection service overseen by his ministry. Maggi was recently accused of corruption by federal Lava Jato investigators. He continues to shape Amazon policies.
Temer signs law that could see millions of acres lost in the Amazon [07/13/2017]
- MP 759, signed into law this week by President Temer, and little noticed by the media, significantly alters Brazil’s Terra Legal program, introduced in 2009 by President Lula — a program that has already been hijacked by land thieves, critics say. - The new law introduces further multiple loopholes to allow land thieves, who have illegally occupied and cleared vast areas of public land in the Amazon, to legalize their land holdings, and to do so both easily and cheaply. - MP 759, among other things, increases the land claimable via Terra Legal from 1,500 to 2,500 hectares; allows wealthy land thieves to go on paying very little for land; and offers what in practice is an amnesty for land grabbers who illegally seized public lands between 2004 and 2011. - With government regulatory and enforcement agencies hard hit by massive budget cuts, analysts fear that the passage of MP 759 will result in an alarming increase in rural violence, which is already running at very high levels.
Audio: DJ remixes the sounds of birds, lemurs, and more to inspire conservation [07/12/2017]
- Our first guest is Ben Mirin, aka DJ Ecotone, an explorer, wildlife DJ, educator, and television presenter who creates music from the sounds of nature to help inspire conservation efforts. - In this very special Field Notes segment, Mirin discusses his craft and some of the challenges of capturing wildlife sounds in the field — including why it can be so difficult to record dolphins when all they want to do is take a bow ride on your boat. - We also speak with Cleve Hicks, author of a children’s book called A Rhino to the Rescue: A Tale of Conservation and Adventure, not only to express his love of nature but to help raise awareness of the poaching crisis decimating Africa’s rhino population. - All that plus the top news on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast!
A spotty revival amid decline for China’s endemic leopards [07/07/2017]
- The North China leopard (Panthera pardus japonensis) is one of nine leopard subspecies and an endemic to China. - The cats’ population has shown signs of revival in certain parts of the country in recent years, according to conservation groups - However, industrial development and infrastructure construction remain major threats to the integrity of the leopards’ habitat and conflicts with people over livestock in their mountainous territories are intense.
Amazon infrastructure EIAs under-assess biodiversity; scientists offer solutions [07/06/2017]
- In a new paper, scientists assert that environmental impact assessments (EIAs) for major Brazilian Amazon infrastructure projects often fail in their performance of comprehensive biodiversity evaluations, so underestimate ecosystem risk. - Their proposed solution is the development and use within EIAs of multiple, complementary scientific methods they say would be cost effective, and make more comprehensive biodiversity assessments possible. - These methods include satellite imaging, near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy, and DNA metabarcoding to detect a wider range of species. The scientists propose these methods be implemented to improve pre-construction biodiversity surveys and EIAs. - A major concern by researchers is that Brazil’s Congress is currently considering legislation that would do away with the existing environmental licensing process, and reduce or eliminate existing EIA requirements.
Is Brazil’s Forest Code failing to reduce deforestation? [07/06/2017]
- Engagement with the land registration system that underpins the Forest Code was initially high, but the researchers found that it had little bearing on the amount of illegal deforestation. - Only 6 percent of farmers surveyed said they were actively restoring deforested parts of their land, while 76 percent said that they would only do so if forced by authorities. - After dropping off substantially in the late 2000s, deforestation rates are once again on the rise, reaching their highest levels since 2008 last year.
Study: Brazilian mega-dams caused far more flooding than EIA predicted [07/05/2017]
- A satellite study of the Santo Antônio and Jirau dams in the Amazon found the area flooded by their reservoirs to be much greater than projected by the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) done as part of the Brazilian dams’ licensing process. - Satellite images from 2006-2015 were analyzed, spanning the time immediately before, during, and after dam construction, and then these images were compared with the flooding predictions found in the EIA. - The total flooded area upstream of the dams was found to be 69.8 percent larger than projected by the EIA. The area of natural forest flooded exceeded EIA predictions by 52 percent. - Political considerations likely influenced the EIAs gross inaccuracy, with real world results. In 2014, Madeira River floods upriver from the dams impacted 75,000 people, killed a quarter-million livestock and caused over US $180 million in damage.
Photos: Where once were mangroves, Javan villages struggle to beat back the sea [07/03/2017]
- Mangunharjo, Bedono, Sawah Luhur — these are just some of the communities where clear-cutting mangrove forests has caused environmental disaster. - Mangroves are removed to make way for shrimp and fish farms. But without the forests' protection, coastal communities become dangerously vulnerable to erosion and flooding. - In some places, residents have planted new mangroves, and managed to reclaim their home from the sea. But not everywhere.
Unveiled: The unraveling of Nicaragua’s Indio Maíz Biological Reserve (commentary) [06/29/2017]
- There is evidence of disturbing trends in illegal colonization and deforestation inside the IMBR. Satellite images, interviews with locals, and ground-truthing at key locations unveil proof that the Indio Maíz may be destined to unravel. - Deforestation within the boundaries of the IMBR claimed about 2,434 hectares (about 6,015 acres) between 2001-2014. A satellite image analysis shows that deforestation extends approximately 10.3 kilometers (6.1 miles) from the western boundary of the reserve inward. - Nicaragua’s current government has been in power over ten years and has shown increasing disregard for its own environmental laws and the agencies tasked with their enforcement. This is evident in the case of the IMBR. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
New investor guide aims to help navigate social and environmental risks of commodities supply chains [06/28/2017]
- Procuring agricultural commodities has become a much more difficult business function for food makers and agribusiness conglomerates to perform amidst rising global temperatures and unpredictable weather patterns, as well as increasingly widespread groundwater depletion and soil erosion, all of which affect agricultural productivity and raise the cost of sourcing in-demand raw materials. - Engage the Chain offers guidance to investors on how to evaluate the level of risk in their portfolios, and also includes a number of examples of the types of threats these environmental and social impacts can pose to companies that, unwittingly or not, find their supply chains associated with them, from reputational and brand damage to litigation and running afoul of regulators. - Ceres developed the guide through a peer review process that included input from top investors, a number of companies involved in the global commodities trade, and environmental NGOs.
Norway vexed as Brazil sends mixed message on Amazon forest protection [06/27/2017]
- Last week, Brazil’s President Michel Temer fully vetoed MP 756, and partially vetoed MP 758, two provisional measures which he himself introduced and which Congress approved that would have cut conserved Amazon lands by 600,000 hectares (2,316 square miles). - Almost simultaneously, Brazil’s environmental minister, José Sarney Filho, announced urgent plans for the administration to introduce a new bill to Congress to dismember the same conservation units described in the vetoed MP 756. - Also last week, Norway gave a stern warning to Temer on his visit to Oslo, telling him that Brazil could lose millions of dollars from the Amazon Fund if Brazil’s deforestation rates continue rising. - 7,989 square kilometers of Brazilian rainforest were lost between August 2015 and 2016. A rise in annual Amazon deforestation to 8,500 square kilometers would reduce Norway’s funding to Brazil to zero. Brazil defended itself, claiming preliminary annual data shows a recent leveling off of its deforestation rate.
Panama: the ranching industry has moved into Darién National Park [06/26/2017]
- Darién is known as the “forgotten province” in Panama. There is very little presence of government institutions in the province, which borders Colombia. - Conservationists, as well as Panama’s Ministry of the Environment, are especially concerned about Darién National Park in light of the fact that the ranching industry has expanded to some parts of the park, such as Punta Garachiné. - One cause of the expansion is related to settlement by small farmers who convert the land into pastures in order to later sell them to landowners. - The Ministry of the Environment has drafted a bill that proposes the creation of forestry incentives to promote conservation. The legislative initiative establishes a fund of 15 million dollars annually to incentivize the development of conservation or recuperation projects for damaged areas
Logging in Malaysia’s Ulu Muda forest threatens wildlife and water supplies [06/26/2017]
- The Ulu Muda forest is the primary source of water for four million Malaysians, as well as for industry and agriculture. - The forest is also home to a huge diversity of species, including the Asian elephant, Malayan tapir, sambar deer and clouded and spotted leopards. - Although the federal government imposed a ban on logging in the reserve in 2003, local authorities have allowed commercial logging to increase over the past decade.
U.S. bans Brazilian beef imports [06/24/2017]
- The United States has banned fresh beef imports from Brazil due to food safety concerns. - Brazil is one of the world's largest beef exporters and is the fifth biggest supplier of beef to the United States. - Clearing of forests for cattle pasture is the biggest driver of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.
Is intensification of beef production really a solution to Amazonian deforestation? [06/23/2017]
- Beef production has become a major driver of tropical deforestation, responsible for as much as 65 percent of rainforest destruction caused by the global agricultural commodities trade in the first decade of the 21st century, according to a 2015 study. - One proposed means of slowing the rate at which forests are being destroyed to create pastureland for cattle in the Amazon and other tropical regions is intensification, or the adoption of technologies and practices that allow for the production of more beef on less land. - “Based on a historical comparison between the US, a fully intensive system, and Brazil, one moving in that direction, we suggest that cattle ranching will intensify as a result of conservation investments (reductions in capital and land subsidies) rather than intensifying in order to produce conservation results,” the researchers write in the article.
Warnings and protests mark Brazilian President Temer’s trip to Norway [06/22/2017]
- Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon from 2015 to 2016 jumped 29 percent over the previous year, the highest rate of loss recorded since 2008. - In a letter sent to Brazilian Minister of Environment Jose Sarney Filho, Norway's Environment Minister, Vidar Helgesen, noted the "worrying upward trend" in deforestation since 2015 and warned that "Even a fairly modest further increase" in deforestation would mean that no further payments from Norway to Brazil would be forthcoming. - A number of Norwegian environmental and rights-based organizations, including Greenpeace, Norwegian Church Aid, Norwegian Solidarity Committee for Latin America, and Rainforest Foundation Norway, say they are planning a protest in front of the Prime Minister's residence in Oslo on Friday.
Unexamined synergies: dam building and mining go together in the Amazon [06/22/2017]
- 40 large hydroelectric dams are slated for the Amazon basin over the next 20 years, feeding the massive electricity needs of an energy-hungry mining industry — digging, processing and exporting iron, aluminum, manganese and gold. - But mining’s energy needs are rarely linked to plans for new dams or their environmental impact assessments. Amazon mining and dam building have repeatedly in the past resulted in major harmful environmental and social impacts, including displacement of indigenous and traditional communities. - Transnational mining companies and consortiums are major beneficiaries of government largesse through subsidies, tax breaks and the energy obtained from newly commissioned Amazon dams. - Brazilian infrastructure development in the Amazon, including dam building and mining, could — if environmental and social issues are not properly addressed — turn the Amazon into a national sacrifice zone where biological and cultural diversity are drastically diminished.
Illegal logging and hunting threaten Yasuní isolated indigenous groups [06/22/2017]
- A preliminary report on illegal logging in the Tagaeri-Taromenane Intangible Zone reveals a complete law enforcement abandonment of the eastern part of Yasuní National Park. - People living inside Yasuní National Park have denounced the presence of Peruvian timber and bushmeat traffickers in the Ecuadorian Amazon. - Experts fear the constant pressures to which the isolated indigenous groups are subjected in the Intangible Zone will trigger massacres and increase the likelihood of extinction of isolated populations. - Multiple NGOs are preparing to file official complaints against the violation of environmental and human rights by illegal logging and hunting pressures.
New highway brings deforestation near two Colombian national parks [06/21/2017]
- The Marginal de la Selva is a $1 billion dollar highway project would connect Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador without having to enter the Andes mountains. - The unfinished section that would complete the project cuts through a natural corridor between two national parks, which both contain exceptionally high levels of biodiversity — even by Colombia’s standards. - Forest loss in the sensitive ecological area has shot up in anticipation of the highway and as illegal armed groups promote deforestation in the region. - Critics say institutions lack territorial control in the area and are unable to coordinate effectively to ensure environmental laws are enforced.
Brazil evicts 80 rural peasant families, awards land thieves parcel [06/21/2017]
- 80 families, hopeful of being granted land in the Amazon state of Pará, have instead been ordered by a Brazilian court to vacate their camp located on the parcel in just two weeks. - The land will then be turned over to members of the Vilela family, notorious convicted land thieves, illegal forest fellers and members of the wealthy Brazilian rural elite. - The judge’s decision has been called into question. Eliane Moreira, Justice Prosecutor in the Pará Public Ministry, has long criticized authorities for allowing land thieves to use the environmental register to legitimize land grabs, something the judge has now endorsed. - It will be very difficult for the peasant families to appeal the decision, as they don’t have the resources to hire a lawyer and cover other legal expenses.
Religious leaders: Rainforest protection a ‘moral imperative’ [06/20/2017]
- The three-day event, held in Oslo, Norway, includes discussions between NGOs, government agencies, universities, indigenous groups and major religions. - The event marks the launch of the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative, which seeks to build on the moral case for rainforest protection with tangible metrics and goals. - Indigenous and religious leaders from 21 countries attended the event, organized by the UN Development Programme, Rainforest Foundation Norway and Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative.
Borneo’s ‘biocultural holocaust’: an interview with author Alex Shoumatoff [06/19/2017]
- Over the past half century, we've laid waste to the rainforests of Borneo thanks to humanity's demand for food, fuel, and fiber. - The Wasting of Borneo, a new book by Alex Shoumatoff, chronicles some of Borneo's staggering losses - Shoumatoff is a former writer and editor for The New Yorker, Outside, Condé Nast Traveler, and Vanity Fair who Donald Trump once called "the greatest writer in America".
International action a must to stop irreversible harm of Amazon dams, say experts [06/19/2017]
- A study, published in Nature and led by Edgardo Latrubesse of the University of Texas at Austin, went beyond local impacts of individual dams to assess cumulative, basin-wide impacts that planned dams are bringing to 19 major Amazon sub-basins. - The team developed a new metric: the Dam Environmental Vulnerability Index (DEVI) which includes assessments of basin integrity (vulnerability to land use change and erosion, etc.); fluvial dynamics (influence of sediment fluxes and flood pulses); and the extent of the river affected by dams. - A score for each sub-basin from 0-100 was assigned, with higher values indicating greater vulnerability. The Madeira, Ucayali, Marañon and Tapajós sub-basins were found to be most threatened; all had DEVI totals higher than 60. - The researchers say that a collective, cooperative, multi-country Amazon region assessment of dams and their cumulative impacts is urgently needed to get a handle on the true magnitude of the threat to the Amazon, as well as means to a solution.
If Brazil okays Terra Legal changes, land grabbers win, Amazon loses, say environmentalists [06/16/2017]
- Provisional Measure (MP) 759, now converted into a bill called the Conversion Law Project (PLC) 12/16, would significantly alter the successful Terra Legal program, introduced originally in 2009. President Temer has until 22 June to sign the bill or veto it. - The original program enabled peasant families to gain ownership of their small land plots. The new version introduces multiple loopholes to allow big, wealthy land owners to use the program, threatening small land owners and the environment, especially the Amazon. - Analysts say the new law, if passed, will allow another 20 million hectares (77,200 square miles) of the Amazon biome and 40 million hectares (154,440 square miles) of the Cerrado (savanna) to be legally cleared. - The bill ups the acreage claimable via the Terra Legal program, ends a rule allowing peasant families to delay paying for plots until the land is supported by adequate infrastructure, allows one farmer to acquire multiple plots, and ends a rule allowing peasant families to pay far less for their land than big farmers.
Brazil on verge of legitimizing Amazon land theft on a grand scale, warn NGOs [06/15/2017]
- Brazil’s president has until 22 June to approve or veto two bills (PLC 4 and PLC 5) turning over more than 600,000 hectares (2,317 square miles) of federally protected Amazon forest to illegal loggers, illegal miners and land thieves. - The measures, initiated by Temer and already approved by Congress, are seen as a reward to the bancada ruralista (rural lobby of agribusiness and mining) for its aid in bringing Temer to power through the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff in 2016. - Large portions of the Jamanxim National Park and of the National Forest of Jamanxim would have their protections downgraded to an Area of Environmental Protection, where logging, mining and private property are allowed. - Mongabay recently went to the region to observe conditions there: we found major illegal mining operations underway within federal conservation units and interviewed miners who have been exploited by mine “owners” under conditions analogous to slavery.
Mangrove loss threatens migratory shorebird route in North Sumatra [06/15/2017]
- A new study examines the impact of agricultural expansion on an important shorebird habitat in North Sumatra. - Mangrove cover in the Indonesian province has dropped 85 percent in the last 14 years. - The study's authors want the government to issue a regulation to protect shorebirds specifically.
Why losing big animals causes big problems in tropical forests [06/14/2017]
- A team of scientists from Germany and Spain built a mathematical model to test the interplay between plants and animals that results in the distribution of seeds. - Field data collected from Peru’s Manu Biosphere Reserve formed the foundation of the model. - The scientists discovered the importance of matching between the sizes of seeds and the birds in the ecosystem. - As larger birds were removed from the forest, the forest’s biodiversity dropped more quickly.
Norway bans government purchasing of palm oil biofuel [06/13/2017]
- The growth of the palm oil industry has been blamed for a host of damaging environmental impacts, such as deforestation and carbon emissions. - Research indicates that biofuel made with palm oil may be even worse for the climate than fossil fuels. - The Norwegian parliament responded to these impacts by voting in a regulation to its Public Procurement Act to stop using biofuel palm oil-based biofuel. The resolution further stipulates that the "regulatory amendment shall enter into force as soon as possible." - Conservationists laud the move, but say more countries need to follow suit. They recommend the EU's biofuel policy be updated to reflect concerns about palm oil.
Audio: Activists determined to protect newly discovered Amazon Reef from oil drilling [06/13/2017]
- John talks about the discovery of the reef, what it’s like to be one of a few people on Earth who have ever seen it with their own eyes, and what the opposition to plans to drill for oil near the reef will look like should the plans move forward. - We also welcome two staffers from Mongabay Latin America to the show: MariaIsabel Torres and Romi Castagnino. - Mongabay LatAm just celebrated its one-year anniversary recently, so we wanted to take the chance to speak with MariaIsabel and Romi about what it’s like covering the environment in Latin America, what some of the site’s biggest successes are to date, and what we can expect from Mongabay LatAm in the future.
30 years of protecting the mysterious Okapi [06/13/2017]
- The discovery of the elusive okapi, once believed to be a mythical unicorn, was one of the most exciting taxonomic findings of the twentieth century. - To protect this shy, giraffe-like animal, wildlife conservationist John Lukas founded the Okapi Conservation Project (OCP) in 1987. - During the past three decades, the project team has seen both successes and challenges, from political unrest to a brutal rebel attack in 2012 that killed 6 people and 14 okapis.
Tropical forest diversity and carbon richness not linked, study finds [06/12/2017]
- Scientists theorize that increased forest biodiversity also increases productivity (growth), and therefore carbon sequestration. But, a new large-scale study found no consistent relationship in tropical forests studied in the Amazon, Congo and Borneo. - Research by 100+ scientists combines data from 360 1-hectare plots in Amazon, Congo, and Borneo forests, resulting in one of the largest datasets yet to examine the relationship between tropical tree diversity and carbon storage. - Tropical forests differ markedly between continents, researchers found: Borneo forests were a triple hotspot for biodiversity, carbon and threat, making a compelling global case for prioritizing their conservation. African plots tended toward higher carbon stocks and lower diversity; South American plots had lower carbon stocks. - The researchers urge conservationists not to generalize forest attributes when setting conservation strategies, but instead to measure the diversity, productivity, and carbon storage capabilities of each forest in order to make informed conservation decisions. This approach could enhance the success of REDD+ and other programs.
Guatemala provides an example of community forest management for Indonesia [06/12/2017]
- In Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve, 9 community forestry concessions have been managing over 350,000 hectares of forest for more than 15 years. The communities aim to manage the concessions sustainably, earning income from timber and non-timber forest products and tourism. - Indigenous communities in Indonesia are currently in the process of mapping, titling and restoring their customary forests after Indonesian president Joko Widodo pledged to grant 12.7 million hectares for community concessions by 2019. - Representatives travelled to Guatemala to learn how this has been done by communities in the Maya Biosphere Reserve. - The Indonesian representatives hope to use the model of Guatemalan forest communities as a starting point for their own concession management.
‘Give us back our land’: paper giants struggle to resolve conflicts with communities in Sumatra [06/09/2017]
- Plantation firms like Asia Pulp & Paper and Toba Pulp Lestari have a long history of land grabbing, often dating back to the New Order military dictatorship. More recently, they have pledged to eliminate the practice from their supply chains. - Many of the conflicts remain unaddressed. The companies say they are working hard to resolve them. - A new online platform launched by the Rainforest Action Network shows that communities are still suffering the impacts of having their traditional forests and lands seized to make way for plantations.
‘Crunch time for biodiversity’: Farming, hunting push thousands of species toward extinction [06/07/2017]
- Eighty percent of threatened animals are losing ground - literally, in the form of habitat loss - to agriculture. - Up to 50 percent of threatened birds and mammals face extinction at the hands of hunters. - In a study published in the journal Nature, a team of scientists explores solutions to avoid destroying the habitats of these animals, such as increasing yields in the developed world and minimizing fertilizer use.
FSC to investigate Korean conglomerate’s palm oil operations in Indonesia [06/07/2017]
- The group submitted the complaint to the FSC on May 15, 2017, together with evidence that Mighty Earth said showed the Korindo Group has, since 2013, cleared more than 30,000 hectares (over 74,000 acres) of rainforest for palm oil production in the Indonesian provinces of Papua and North Maluku. - “The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has formally accepted a Policy for Association (PfA) complaint submitted by Mighty Earth against Korindo Group (Korindo) for ‘Significant conversion of forests to plantations or non-forest use’,” the certification body confirmed in a statement released today. - In its Policy for the Association of Organizations with FSC (PfA), the certification body lists a number of “unacceptable forest-related activities” in which companies cannot directly or indirectly engage — essentially giving the FSC a means of protecting its reputation and “ability to deliver on its mission” should a company with certified operations be found to be responsible for unsustainable practices in some of its other operations.
One cow per hectare: deforestation in Colombia after FARC’s exit [06/06/2017]
- Caquetá was one of the epicenters of the war against FARC. The exit of FARC, at the end of last year, coincided with an increase in deforestation in the region. - In 2015, only 7,000 hectares were destined for coca crops in Caquetá, and more than 1.5 million for livestock. - To combat deforestation, the government - with the collaboration of other environmental entities - formed the programs "bubble against deforestation" (‘Burbuja contra la deforestación’ in Spanish) and ‘Visión Amazonia.’ - Experts fear that without additional investment, deforestation will be allowed to continue unchecked.
Deforestation in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest increased almost 60 percent in the last year [06/05/2017]
- The Atlantic Forest is one of the richest and most threatened biomes in the world, but only 15 percent of its original extent is preserved. - Although the Atlantic Forest extends over 17 Brazilian states, four of them account for 90 percent of the losses. - Recent changes in legislation and the expansion of agribusiness are noted as among main drivers of deforestation.
Financing sustainable agriculture possible, if terms fit farmers’ needs [06/02/2017]
- Worldwide, more deforestation results from the push for farmland than any other cause. - The Global Canopy Programme reports that funding aimed at encouraging a move away from deforestation-based agriculture and toward more sustainable methods must be designed to address the needs of farmers. - Loans with longer terms and lower interest rates can help farmers who are switching to sustainable agriculture survive the ‘valley of death’ – that is, the first few years of new methods before their production becomes profitable.
Audio: Frances Seymour on why rich nations need to start paying up to protect the world’s tropical forests [05/31/2017]
- Seymour shares her thoughts on why now was such an opportune moment for the publication of the book, whether or not the large-scale investment necessary to protect the world’s tropical forests shows signs of materializing any time soon, and which countries are leading the forest conservation charge. - We also welcome Mongabay editor Glenn Scherer back to the program to answer a question from Newscast listener Brian Platt about which 'good news' stories are worth talking about more in these tough times for environmental and conservation news. - All that and the top news on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast.
Pressure builds on palm oil firm Goodhope after RSPO sanction [05/31/2017]
- The RSPO ordered Goodhope to freeze its operations in Indonesia earlier this month amid allegations of land grabbing and forest destruction. - Goodhope said recently that it needed more time than the RSPO had given it to bring its operations into compliance with the roundtable's standards. - The company says it is working with credible auditors to conduct new assessments of its concessions, after the RSPO deemed previous audits the firm had commissioned as lacking in credibility.
Governor halts work on coal railway being built without permits in Indonesian Borneo [05/30/2017]
- During a field visit to Katingan Regency in Central Kalimantan, Mongabay-Indonesia observed that developers of a coal-transport rail line had already cleared forest land and constructed around two kilometers of track. - Government sources confirmed the developer did not have the necessary permits to begin work on the project. - On May 23, the Central Kalimantan governor announced that work on the project had been suspended, although he did not signal any intent to initiate law-enforcement actions against the developer.
The resistance of Peruvian coffee [05/30/2017]
- Yellow rust and other diseases attack the crops of what is considered some of the best coffee in the world. - Farmers in the southern Peru’s Sandia Valley are now beginning to realize that coca leaf is more profitable than customary coffee and citrus. - About 500 hectares (1235 acres) have been deforested and destined for coca production in Bahuaja-Sonene National Park. - There are 4,468 hectares (11,000 acres) of coca plantations in Puno, with an annual growth of 10 percent, according to the 2015 Peru Coca Survey submitted in July 2016.
Not out of the woods: Concerns remain with Nigerian superhighway [05/26/2017]
- The six-lane highway was shifted in April to the west so that it no longer cuts through the center of Cross River National Park, a ‘biological jewel’ that is home to 18 primate species. - In a new study, scientists report that multiple alternative routes exist that would still provide the intended economic connections and avoid harming the environment in the area. - However, Nigerian conservation and community rights group worry that the state government won’t follow through on its promises.
On the road to ‘smart development’ [05/25/2017]
- Ecologist Bill Laurance and his team are looking at development projects across Southeast Asia in Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. - The scientists are traveling throughout the regions to better understand the needs of planners, and to impart lessons about ‘smart development’ based on decades of research in the tropics. - In Malaysia, they are focusing on finding solutions that preserve the repository of forests and biodiversity there in a way that also looks out for the country’s human residents.
Communities band together to protect El Salvador’s last mangroves [05/23/2017]
- Jiquilisco Bay is home to about half of El Salvador's remaining mangroves. But many mangrove tracts were nearly wiped out by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, and siltation from upstream deforestation and controlled flooding were damaging the rest. - In response, local communities formed a coalition, called the Mangrove Association, to help protect and expand the region's mangroves. - Around 80 communities are involved in the Mangrove Association. They work to restore damaged areas, and have re-planted hundreds of acres of mangrove forest.
Experts explore sustainable infrastructure amid major development needs [05/23/2017]
- The Asia-Pacific region's biological wealth and rapid development makes it a highly vulnerable and critical part of Earth's overall health, notes expert William Laurance. - Laurance, a distinguished research professor at Australia’s James Cook University, noted that 95 percent of illegal deforestation takes place within 3.4 miles of a road. - Southeast Asia, with the most wood per hectare of forests in the world and home to numerous developing nations, is particularly at risk.
Big animals can survive reduced-impact logging — if done right [05/22/2017]
- Employing camera traps to survey Amazonian mammals in Guyana, researchers found that large mammals and birds did not see a lower population of target species in reduced-impact logging areas as compared to unlogged areas. For some species, like jaguars and pumas, population numbers actually rose. - The research was conducted in an unusually managed swath of forest: Iwokrama. Spreading over nearly 400,000 hectares (close to 990,000 acres) – an area a little smaller than Rhode Island – Iwokrama Forest is managed by the not-for-profit Iwokrama organization and 16 local Makushi communities. - Looking at 17 key species in the area – including 15 mammals and two large birds – the researchers found that populations didn’t change much between logged and unlogged areas, a sign that Iwokrama’s logging regime is not disturbing the area’s larger taxa.
New soy-driven forest destruction exposed in South America [05/22/2017]
- Mighty Earth looked at updated satellite imagery from 28 sites in the Cerrado in Brazil and the Gran Chaco and the Amazon in Bolivia. - They found evidence of 60 square kilometers of land clearing for soy production since their September 2016 investigation. - Bunge and Cargill, the two companies that figure prominently in Mighty Earth’s latest report, argue that they are working to eradicate deforestation from their supply chains.
Colombia’s constitutional court grants rights to the Atrato River and orders the government to clean up its waters [05/22/2017]
- The Atrato River and its tributaries are among the most polluted in Colombia. - Semi-industrialized mining operations with illegal excavators and dredges are one of the main drivers of deforestation in Colombia's Chocó Department, where the Atrato River lives. - In 2014, Colombia's ombudsman declared a humanitarian emergency in Chocó due to social, economic and environmental problems. - Most threats to the environment were imposed by deforestation, active timber mafias and erosion in the Atrato watersheds.
Indonesian governor asks president to let timber firms drain peat in his province [05/20/2017]
- West Kalimantan Governor Cornelis asked President Joko Widodo to let some timber plantation companies drain peatlands, even though Jakarta banned the practice last year. - In a letter to the president dated Apr. 25, Cornelis makes an economic argument for allowing the companies to proceed as usual. - Cornelis is a member of an international consortium of governors dedicated to fighting climate change; Greenpeace said his request to the president amounted to a "double standard." - His request came just days after Jakarta sanctioned a timber firm in his province for building an illegal canal through the Sungai Putri peat swamp forest.
Rebel road expansion brings deforestation to remote Colombian Amazon [05/19/2017]
- The 138-kilometer road was carved illegally through rainforest and used by the FARC rebel group to transport coca, from which cocaine is produced. - Officials from city governments have begun a project to widen and pave the road, saying it will help communities transport agricultural goods to markets. - Conservationists decry the move, citing research finding road expansion opens “a Pandora’s box of environmental evils” that includes land-grabbing, illegal road development and accelerated deforestation. - A Colombian governmental agency recently ordered all construction on the road stop until further environmental studies could be performed and greater restrictions applied. However, an official said construction activity has not ceased.
Guatemalan authorities destroy secret airstrip in Laguna del Tigre National Park [05/19/2017]
- Clandestine landing strips are often built in forest reserves by cattle ranchers who are actually working for drug traffickers. - After Mongabay-Latam and Plaza Pública reported on the runway’s existence, the Guatemalan Army was ordered to destroy it. - It is unclear if the strip was abandoned or under construction, but such structures pose a threat to the health of Laguna del Tigre National Park
A Whitley Award winner’s 20-year battle to save the world’s largest eagle in Venezuela [05/18/2017]
- The Whitley, which has been nicknamed “the Green Oscars,” is one of the biggest and most important awards in the conservation world. - Alexander says he is honored to have received such recognition for his work: “I have devoted my entire life as a student and, after that, in the professional field, to the conservation of the biological diversity and to the dissemination of its importance and role as an essential element of the planet.” - Alexander studied veterinary medicine and was determined to specialize in working with wild animals. It was while rehabilitating harpy eagles at a Venezuelan zoo that he had his first contact with these magnificent birds of prey.
A new secret runway found in Laguna del Tigre National Park in Guatemala [05/18/2017]
- Such clandestine landing strips are often built in forest reserves by people who claim to be cattle ranchers, but are actually working for drug traffickers. - These illegal structures pose a threat to the Laguna del Tigre National Park. - What does the head of Guatemala’s anti-drug unit think about this new secret runway that has just been discovered?
Peru lost more than 1 million hectares of Amazon forest over a period of 15 years [05/18/2017]
- 1.8 million hectares of Amazonian forests were lost between 2001 and 2015 with peaks of loss occurring in 2005, 2009 and 2014. - The main causes of forest loss are deforestation and soil degradation, small and medium scale agriculture, large-scale agriculture, pasture for livestock, gold mining, coca cultivation and road construction, according to a MAAP report. - Deforestation hotspots are concentrated in Peru’s central Amazon, in Huánuco and Ucayali, but there are also other important hotspots located in Madre de Dios and San Martín, according to a MAAP.
Goddesses of the wind: How researchers saved Venezuela’s harpy eagles [05/17/2017]
- Venezuelan scientist Eduardo Álvarez Cordero is not only a man who knows harpy eagles: having started one of the biggest and oldest studies about the species, and taken part in the training of many of the world’s harpy specialists, he is a man to whom we owe a lot of what humankind knows about this fascinating animal. - Currently a professor at the City College of Gainesville, Florida, Eduardo has monitored harpy eagles in Venezuela and Panama since the late 80s with a sense of urgency. - Eduardo's PhD work, begun in 1988, eventually led to the creation of the Harpy Eagle Conservation Program. It was also the beginning of another story of unthinkable bravery, in which an ecotourism program built a more prosperous scenario for harpies, locals, and the forests upon which they both rely.
Audio: Bill Laurance on the “infrastructure tsunami” sweeping the planet [05/17/2017]
- We recently heard Bill argue that scientists need to become more comfortable with expressing uncertainty over the future of the planet and to stop “dooming and glooming” when it comes to environmental problems. - We wanted to hear more about that, as well as to hear from Bill about the “global road map” he and his team recently released to help mitigate the environmental damage of what he calls an “infrastructure tsunami” breaking across the globe. - We also welcome to the program Michelle LaRue, a research ecologist with the University of Minnesota’s Department of Earth Sciences. Her current work is focused on using high-resolution satellite imagery to study the population dynamics of Weddell seals in Antarctica’s Ross Sea. - In this Field Notes segment, Michelle will also play for us some of the calls made by adult Weddell seals and their pups, which couldn’t be more different from each other and are really quite remarkable, each in their own way. But you really have to hear them to believe them.
Kenya cracks down on illegal trade in rare and venomous vipers [05/16/2017]
- Early this year Kenyan authorities placed tight new restrictions on the trade and export of several snake species, including the Kenya horned viper (Bitis worthingtoni) and the Mt. Kenya Bush Viper (Atheris desaixi). - The two snake species are regularly trafficked abroad for the pet trade as well as for luxury food and medical reseach. - Authorities say criminal networks regularly bribe officials and are investigating whether politicians may be involved in the trade. - Nevertheless, the Kenyan government appears to be taking a hard line against viper traffic, cracking down on smugglers and ramping up international cooperation to fight viper traffic.
Burning wood: Can the EU see the forest for the trees? [05/16/2017]
- A new report argues that forests need more protection from the biomass industry in the EU, which is deforesting the American south to produce energy abroad. - EU policy considers burning woody biomass as carbon neutral, even though other countries and many scientists say that doesn’t add up. - Demand for wood pellets in the EU is growing: last year, the UK imported 8 million tons. This demand is leading to high quality wood – not waste – being burned.
Son Doong Cave: Tourism and conservation coexist in one of Vietnam’s largest national parks [05/16/2017]
- Home to the world's largest cave, Son Doong, the park gets thousands of visitors per year. - Tourism in the area has also benefited the local economy, leading to a decrease in unsustainable use of area resources such as timber. - Despite government plans to install a cable car for tourists, area guides remain optimistic about the future of the park and the cave.
Drylands greener with forests than previously thought [05/12/2017]
- The new study, published Thursday in the journal Science, increases global forest cover estimates by 9 percent. - Using very high resolution imagery, the team calculated that dryland forest cover was 40 to 47 percent higher above current totals. - The researchers calculate that 1.1 million hectares (4,247 square miles) of forest covers the Earth’s drylands.
Industry-NGO coalition releases toolkit for making ‘No Deforestation’ commitments a reality on the ground [05/10/2017]
- Numerous companies involved in the global palm oil supply chain, from producers and traders to consumer companies that use the commodity in their products, have adopted Zero Deforestation commitments — but pledging to address the deforestation and human rights abuses associated with palm oil supply chains is one thing, while making those commitments a reality on the ground is another. - Companies have said they need more support from governments of tropical forest nations to make their Zero Deforestation commitments a reality, citing a maze of administrative and regulatory frameworks across palm oil producing countries as hampering their efforts. - The new HCS Approach Toolkit might help address this very issue, however, as it is intended to standardize the methodology for protecting tropical forests and identifying suitable landscapes for the sustainable production of palm oil. - The revised HCS Approach Toolkit lays out the fundamental elements of a methodology for protecting high carbon stock (HCS) forests and other high conservation value (HCV) areas such as peatlands. Simply achieving “no deforestation” is not the only goal of the revised HCS Approach, though.
‘Killed, forced, afraid’: Philippine palm oil legacy incites new fears [05/09/2017]
- Following a rush of corporate investment in the 1960s, agroindustry company NDC-Guthrie set up camp on the Philippine island of Mindanao. The company hired a private security force dubbed the "Lost Command" to protect its oil palm plantations. - Sources say the Lost Command used violence to expand NDC-Guthrie's land holdings in the 1980s, with allegations ranging from forcibly displacing residents of local communities and extorting business-owners to looting, rape, and even murder. - In the 1990s NDC-Guthrie was bought by Filipinas Palm Oil Plantations Inc. (FPPI), which continues to operate in the region today. A company representative said "issues have been blown up" and that FPPI is interested in expanding further in Mindanao. - The administration of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (2001-2010) touted oil palm propagation as a way to elevate the national economy and even stem armed conflict. But industry watchdog groups disagree, saying palm oil's track record of conflict in the Philippine archipelago does not bode well for the future.
Anti-trafficking activist held without trial in Madagascar [05/08/2017]
- Clovis Razafimalala has been working to end rosewood trafficking in Madagascar since 2009. - He has been imprisoned since September on charges of unauthorized rebellion and burning state files and property during a protest he maintains he did not participate in. - No trial date has been announced, although one is supposed to be set by May 26. - Activists say his case raises concern for the civil rights of Malagasy environmental activists.
Guaviare: Colombia’s frontline in the country’s battle to stop deforestation in the Amazon [05/08/2017]
- Almost 90 percent of the municipalities that have been deemed as needing special attention post-conflict are home to national parks, forest reserves, or have other environmental restrictions within the territory. - FARC jungle and mountain strongholds in the most rural parts of the country are home to what experts describe as a “significant share of the country’s natural resources.” - In Chiribiquite National Park, one of the most important ecological zones in the world, human impact is starting to take its toll.
New report details enormous corruption, illegal logging along Vietnamese border with Cambodia [05/08/2017]
- The findings are based on months of undercover field research made public by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). - Approximately 300,000 cubic meters of logs have been smuggled from Cambodia and legalized in Vietnam through these quotas since last November, with kickbacks as high as $13 million. - The related report from the EIA comes on the eve of Vietnam's bid for a FLEGT agreement on timber with the EU.
Study finds hundreds of thousands of tropical species at risk of extinction due to deforestation [05/05/2017]
- Scientists have long believed that the rate at which we are destroying tropical forests, and the habitat those forests represent, could drive a global mass extinction event, but the extent of the potential losses has never been fully understood. - John Alroy, a professor of biological sciences at Australia’s Macquarie University, examined local-scale ecological data in order to forecast potential global extinction rates and found that hundreds of thousands of species are at risk if humans disturb all pristine forests remaining in the tropics. - Mass extinction will occur primarily in tropical forests because Earth’s terrestrial biodiversity is so heavily concentrated in those ecosystems, Alroy notes in the study.
Indigenous lands ‘critical’ to forest protection in Peru, biodiversity maps show [05/05/2017]
- Indigenous lands account for 36 percent of protected forests in Peru. - In total, 42.6 percent of Peru's forest fall under some sort of protection, and the new biodiversity maps highlight forest types that are underrepresented in that figure. - The forests in the transition zone between the Andes and the Amazon appear to be the most in danger, as the forest types in this area are found at some of the lowest levels in Peru's parks, reserves and concessions. This area also faces some of the highest deforestation rates in the country.
Over the bridge: The battle for the future of the Kinabatangan [05/03/2017]
- Proponents of the project contend that a bridge and associated paved road to Sukau would have helped the town grow and improve the standard of living for its residents. - Environmental groups argue that the region’s unrealized potential for high-end nature tourism could bring similar economic benefits without disturbing local populations of elephants, orangutans and other struggling wildlife. - The mid-April cancellation of the bridge was heralded as a success for rainforest conservation, but bigger questions loom about the future of local communities, the sanctuary and its wildlife.
Delicate Solomon Island ecosystem in danger of heavy logging [05/01/2017]
- Foreign and domestic companies are making a push – at times using allegedly unethical means – for the timber found on the island of Nende in the Santa Cruz chain of the Solomon Islands. - The island’s old-growth forests are home to animals like the Santa Cruz shrikebill, which is found nowhere else on Earth. - Concerns have been voiced that logging could wreak havoc on the ecosystem, from the watersheds in the mountains down to the coral reefs ringing the island, if large-scale logging is allowed to proceed.
Corruption drives dealings with logging companies in the Solomon Islands [05/01/2017]
- The old-growth forests on the island of Nende anchor a unique ecosystem that hold creatures found nowhere else and that have supported communities for centuries. - Logging companies are eager to harvest the island’s timber, which could be worth as much as SI$10 million ($1.26 million). - Scientists worry that logging would destroy everything from the mountain sources of the island’s fresh water to the reefs where sedimentation as a result of logging could kill coral. - Conservation groups and sources from within the provincial government have charged that the companies are using coercion and bribes to convince landowners and development organizations to back their plans to log Nende’s forests.
Brazil’s deforestation “sheriff” has been fired [04/28/2017]
- A little more than a year after being named Brazil’s deforestation “sheriff,” Thelma Krug has reportedly been fired after a dispute over how trends in forest destruction are monitored in the country. - Climate Home’s Claudio Angelo reports from Brasilia that government officials told members of the press that Krug had “expressed her interest in leaving” in order to “dedicate more time to her attributions at IPCC” — but that sources say Krug's dismissal was actually the result of a dispute with vice-minister Marcelo Cruz, who questioned the deforestation data produced by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), where Krug is a senior scientist. - Brazil has already named Krug’s replacement: Jair Schmitt, a biologist with the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA), Brazil’s equivalent of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where he oversees the agency’s environmental inspections.
Cross River superhighway changes course in Nigeria [04/28/2017]
- The 260-kilometer (162-mile) highway is slated to have six lanes and would have run through the center of Cross River National Park as originally designed. - The region is a biodiversity hotspot and home to forest elephants, drills, Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees and Cross River gorillas. - The proposal shifts the route to the west, out of the center of the national park, which garnered praise from the Wildlife Conservation Society. - The route still appears to cut through forested areas and protected lands.
Singapore convicts rosewood trader in historic CITES seizure [04/26/2017]
- Late last month a high court in Singapore found Wong Wee Keong guilty of importing rosewood from Madagascar in 2014 in violation of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). - Environmental groups are heralding the ruling, which reversed the decision of a lower court and sidestepped conflicting claims about the legality of the shipment by Malagasy authorities. - The outsized shipment to Singapore was larger than all of the other seizures of rosewood in the world, combined, over the past decade.
Canceled: Plans for a bridge in a critical wildlife area in Borneo have been scrapped [04/20/2017]
- Plans for the Sukau Bridge, crossing the Kinabatangan River near a wildlife sanctuary in Malaysian Borneo, raised a global outcry. - "We are not going ahead with the bridge," Sabah Forest Department Chief Conservator Sam Mannan announced at an event in London. - In explaining his decision, Mannan reportedly cited a recent letter by celebrated naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough, as well as concerns expressed by scientists, NGOs and corporations.
Study finds there are ways to mitigate deforestation risks of palm oil expansion in Africa [04/20/2017]
- It’s been estimated that, over the next five years, as much as 22 million hectares (or more than 54 million acres) of land in Central and West Africa could be converted to oil palm plantations. - Seven African nations signed a pledge dedicating themselves to the sustainable development of the palm oil sector, known as the Marrakesh Declaration, at the UN climate talks in Marrakesh, Morocco last November. - According to a study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters earlier this month, those seven nations, which collectively represent 70 percent of Africa’s tropical forests, have good reason to be proactive when it comes to managing the rollout of oil palm operations within their borders. But there is also reason to hope that oil palm expansion in Africa will be done more sustainably in Africa.