Pan Borneo Highway development endangers the Heart of Borneo [09/18/2019]
- The construction of the Pan Borneo Highway in the Malaysian state of Sabah could disrupt the connections between wildlife populations and appears to run counter to the state’s conservation commitments, according to a new study. - Passages under the highway and the rehabilitation of key forest corridors could lessen the impacts of the road, but the authors of the study caution that these interventions are expensive and may not be effective. - They argue that planners should consider canceling certain sections of the road with the greatest potential for damaging the surrounding forest.
A Papuan village finds its forest caught in a web of corporate secrecy [09/16/2019]
- Indonesian companies were given until March this year to disclose their “beneficial owners” under a 2018 presidential regulation, but less than 1 percent have complied. - In the easternmost corner of the country, investors hidden by layers of corporate secrecy continue to bulldoze an intact rainforest and have nearly finished building a giant sawmill. - The government is drafting new regulations to close loopholes in the rules governing anonymous companies, which could yet open a new front in the fight against deforestation and land grabs.
Worldwide deforestation rising despite bold commitments, report finds [09/13/2019]
- In 2014, the New York Declaration on Forests set out bold commitments to stem deforestation, cutting it in half by 2020 and ending it entirely by 2030, along with global forest restoration targets. - But a new assessment finds that, globally, the loss of forests is on the rise, at rates that are around 40 percent higher than five years ago when the agreement was signed. - The report’s authors say that, despite the “sobering” findings, the assessment should serve as a call to action that more needs to be done to address deforestation and forest degradation.
REDD+ more competitive than critics believe, study finds [09/12/2019]
- Critics have argued that the strategy known as REDD+, or reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, hasn’t adequately slowed emissions from forest loss in developing countries in the way it was intended. - Introduced in 2007, REDD+ is meant to help individual countries earn money for development when they lower the amount of released carbon from clearing and degrading forests. - In a recent paper focused on the South American country of Guyana, a team of researchers argues that the problems with REDD+ stem from its implementation at the project level. - REDD+ implementation across the jurisdiction of an entire country would address nearly all of the problems with individual REDD+ projects, and societies would benefit more financially than they currently do from commercial forest uses such as gold mining and logging, the researchers say.
The end of the road: The future of the Pan Borneo Highway [08/30/2019]
- The construction of more than 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) of road for the Pan Borneo Highway across Malaysian Borneo holds the promise of spurring local economies for its proponents. - But from the outset, conservationists and scientists voiced concerns that the road would displace people, harm sensitive environments, and threaten Borneo’s splendid diversity of wildlife. - As construction moves forward, these groups are working with planners to find a way for the highway’s construction to avoid the worst environmental damage.
‘Not a pretty picture’: South China’s forests vanish as tree farms move in [08/29/2019]
- Forests in South China have been increasingly replaced by monoculture ecalyptus plantations grown for wood fiber for the pulp and paper industry. Even forests under official protection haven’t been spared. Xidamingshan Forest Reserve is one of these, losing so much of its native forest over the past decade that it was delisted by the World Database of Protected Areas in 2018. - Central government-led environmental inspections in 2016 found that the Guangxi region lost 6.9 percent of its nature reserve areas over a five year period between 2011 and 2015, with the loss primarily due to unclear borders and the ensuing environmental damage from economic activities such as plantation agriculture and mining. - The Guangxi government set about trying to determine the borders of the Xidamingshan Nature Reserve in 2016, with the final determination coming on Jan. 31, 2019. However, where those borders will actually be depends on the outcomes of negotiations between Guangxi and local governments, and their implementation is at the mercy of a protracted bureaucratic process. - Meanwhile, forests continue to be lost at a fast pace, with satellite data showing large areas of tree cover loss in 2019.
‘We have cut them all’: Ghana struggles to protect its last old-growth forests [08/28/2019]
- Deforestation of Ghana’s primary forests jumped 60 percent between 2017 and 2018 – the biggest jump of any tropical country. Most of this occurred in the country’s protected areas, including its forest reserves. - A Mongabay investigation revealed that illegal logging in forest reserves is commonplace, with sources claiming officers from Ghana’s Forestry Commission often turn a blind eye and even participate in the activity. - The technical director of forestry at Ghana’s Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources said attempts at intervention have met with limited success, and are often thwarted by loggers who know how to game the system. - A representative of a conservation NGO operating in the country says a community-based monitoring project has helped curtail illegal logging in some reserves, but additional buy-in from other communities is needed to scale up its results. Meanwhile, the Ghanaian government is reportedly starting its own public outreach program, as well as coordinating with the EU on an agreement that would allow only legal wood from Ghana to enter the EU market.
The Pan Borneo Highway on a collision course with elephants [08/28/2019]
- Out of the controversy surrounding the Pan Borneo Highway and its potential impacts on the environment has arisen a movement to bring conservationists, scientists and planners together to develop a plan “to maximize benefits and reduce risks” to the environment from the road’s construction. - The chief minister of the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo has called for the highway to avoid cutting through forests. - But a planned stretch would slice through a protected forest reserve with a dense concentration of elephants. - A coalition of scientific and civil society organizations has offered an alternative route that its members say would still provide the desired connection while lowering the risk of potentially deadly human-wildlife conflict.
Indigenous communities, nat’l parks suffer as Malaysia razes its reserves [08/23/2019]
- Forest loss appears to be accelerating in peninsular Malaysia in 2019. Much of this deforestation is happening in “permanent forest reserves,” which are supposed to be under official protection. However, Malaysian state governments have the authority to spontaneously degazette forest reserves for development. Sources say this has created a free-for-all, with loggers rushing to clear forest and sell timber. - Satellite imagery shows logging happening right up to the border of Taman Negara National Park, which lacks the buffer zone typical around national parks in other countries. Researchers say this is likely to have detrimental impacts on the parks’ wildlife. - Sources on the ground say deforestation is also affecting forest-dependent indigenous communities. Residents of one such community say mining – which often follows on the heels of logging in Malaysia – is also harming them. - Earlier this year, 15 Batek residents of the village of Kuala Koh died and more than 100 others were hospitalized due to mysterious illnesses. The government claims the deaths were caused by a measles outbreak, but outside experts say extremely high and unhealthy levels of manganese in their drinking water due to nearby mining may also be to blame. Advocates say the loss of their forests make indigenous communities more vulnerable to disease and illness, referring to the deforestation of their homes as “structural genocide.”
Aimed at linking communities, Malaysian highway may damage forests [08/23/2019]
- Leaders hope that the construction of a road linking the Pan Borneo Highway between the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak will connect remote communities to markets and to each other. - But conservationists warn that the highway will cut through some of the last remaining dense forest in Sarawak. - In addition to the challenges of building in a rainy tropical environment, the mountainous terrain will make construction and maintenance difficult, skeptics of the road say.
The Pan Borneo Highway brings wildlife threats to nat’l park doorstep [08/21/2019]
- The southern terminus of the Pan Borneo Highway in Malaysia extends to the edge of Tanjung Datu National Park in Sarawak. - The highway’s proponents say the road is already bringing more tourists who are eager to see the park’s wildlife to the adjacent communities, helping to boost the local economy. - But one of the world’s rarest primates, the Bornean banded langur, resides in the park, raising concerns in the conservation community that increased access could bring poachers into the park.
On Peru’s border, the Tikuna tribe takes on illegal coca growers [08/20/2019]
- Members of the Tikuna indigenous people in Peru’s border region with Colombia and Brazil have chosen to guard their forests against the rapid expansion of illegal coca crops, the plant from which cocaine is derived. - Equipped with GPS-enabled cellphones and satellite maps, they confront loggers and drug traffickers who have threatened them with death. - The community wants the government to do more to help them, including assisting in their transition to growing food crops from which they can make a legitimate living.
Connecting an island: Traveling the Pan Borneo Highway [08/19/2019]
- The Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah are in the midst of building more than 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) of the Pan Borneo Highway. - The goal is to boost the states’ economies and connect them with the Indonesian provinces on the island of Borneo as part of the Trans Borneo Highway. - Advocates of the highway, including many politicians, say the upgraded, widened and in some places entirely new stretches of highway will link markets and provide a jolt to the promising tourism sector in Malaysian Borneo. - But skeptics, including scientists and conservationists, argue that parts of the highway cut through ecologically sensitive areas and that planning prior to construction didn’t adequately account for the damage that construction could cause.
Gov’t takedown of illegal gold mining in Peru shows promise, but at a cost [08/09/2019]
- Peru’s Madre de Dios region has become a global poster child for deforestation and environmental devastation from an unchecked gold rush. More than 1,000 square kilometers of lowland rainforest has been deforested since 1985, two-thirds of which — an area roughly the size of New York City — has been cleared since 2009. Much of that destruction and gold production has been centered in La Pampa, a makeshift city of more than 25,000 people. - On Feb. 19, hundreds of army commandos and 1,200 police officers raided La Pampa, expelled most of the miners, arrested suspected criminals, and established three military bases to ensure, for now, that the miners don’t return. That said, illegal gold mining elsewhere in Madre de Dios continues as usual. - Luis Hidalgo Okimura, the newly elected governor of Madre de Dios, has pledged his support to the continued battle against illegal gold mining in the region. His plan is to legalize and regulate mining to better control it, as well as incorporate its profits into the tax base. He said he also wants existing mining sites to be mined deeper for missed gold to reduce further tree loss. - However, others say that focusing on reducing mining in the region is just shifting the problem to other areas. Walter Quertehuari Dariquebe, a leader with the indigenous Huachipaire tribe that resides within the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve just west of La Pampa. He told Mongabay that new gold mining and deforestation “have now shown up on our doorstep. The government has simply kicked an ants’ nest. Now ants are running all over, making trouble elsewhere — especially for us.”
Forests and forest communities critical to climate change solutions [08/08/2019]
- A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change highlights the importance of land use in addressing climate change. - The restoration and protection of forests could be a critical component in strategies to mitigate climate change, say experts, but governments must halt deforestation and forest degradation to make way for farms and ranches. - The IPCC report also acknowledges the role that indigenous communities could play. - The forests under indigenous management often have lower deforestation and emit less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Indonesian flooding disaster bears the hallmarks of agriculture and mining impacts [08/07/2019]
- Last June, North Konawe, a land of hills and valleys on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, was struck by devastating floods, displacing thousands of people. - In the wake of the disaster, a public debate has ensued over the cause. Some government agencies have concluded that deforestation by plantation and mining companies exacerbated the floods. - Some villages, including the riverside community of Tapuwatu, were almost completely washed away.
‘The forest is our life’: Hope for change in Guyana’s forests (commentary) [08/06/2019]
- Forestry is big business in Guyana. The sector contributed 2.27 percent to Guyana’s GDP in 2016, with total forest products exports valued at $41.9 million. Approximately 20,000 people, mainly in the rural and hinterland areas, are employed in the sector. - Guyana’s laws provide for indigenous villages to obtain titles for the land they occupy and, currently, indigenous peoples own 14 percent of the country’s land. However, the process of granting legal ownership has been cumbersome and villages have complained of mining and forest concessions being granted on land they have customarily used for farming, hunting, and other activities, all without them being informed. - Guyana’s forests have sustained people for generations. For this commentary, Gaulbert Sutherland traveled deep into the country’s hinterland to hear of the pressures that locals face, and their hopes for change. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Logging, mining companies lock eyes on a biodiverse island like no other [07/31/2019]
- Woodlark Island sits far off the coast of Papua New Guinea and is swathed in old growth forests home to animals found nowhere else on the planet. However, the island and its unique inhabitants have an uncertain future. Lured by high-value timber, a logging company is planning to clear 40 percent of Woodlark’s forests. Researchers say this could drive many species to extinction. - The company says logging will be followed by the planting of tree and cocoa plantations, and it has submitted to the government a permit application to clear forests as an agricultural development project. However, an independent investigation found this application process “riddled with errors, inconsistencies and false information” and that the company did not properly obtain the consent of landowners who have lived on the island for generations. - It is unclear if the application has been approved, but there are signs that the company may be moving forward with its plans. - Meanwhile, a mining company is pushing forward with its own plans to develop an open-pit gold mine on the island. The mine is expected to result in increased road construction and discharge nearly 13 metric tons of mining waste into a nearby bay.
Forest loss threatens territorial gibbons in southern Borneo [07/31/2019]
- Bornean southern gibbons have the largest territories of any species in their genus, a new study has found. - These large home ranges, combined with the species’ intense territoriality, puts it at particular risk of habitat loss as a result of deforestation and fire. - The findings of this research demonstrate that this endangered species needs large areas of unbroken forest.
Gabonese timber linked to illegal logging seized in Antwerp [07/25/2019]
- Belgian authorities have blocked a shipment of tropical timber from Gabon after a tip-off by Greenpeace. - Under the EU Timber Regulation, European companies have an obligation to conduct proper due diligence on the source of the timber they import. - Greenpeace says this due diligence requirement was not met in this case, as the wood was exported by a Chinese logging firm with previous allegations of illegal logging.
New roads in Papua New Guinea may cause ‘quantum leap’ in forest loss [07/24/2019]
- Papua New Guinea intends to nearly double its existing network of roads between now and 2022. - A new study raises concerns about the impacts of building these roads through tropical forest environments on local communities, sensitive habitats and vulnerable species. - The authors of the paper, published July 24 in the journal PLOS ONE, suggest that the country would reap more benefits and avoid future debt by investing in existing roads, many of which are largely unusable because of flagging maintenance.
Corrupt police caught in bust of Peruvian Amazon drug gang [07/19/2019]
- Three policemen were arrested after a year-long investigation into narco-trafficking in Peru’s Manú Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and top global biodiversity hotspot. - The operation in late June seized over $38,000, more than 290 kilograms (about 640 pounds) of cocaine, a small airplane, and two firearms. A total of 15 people have been arrested for their involvement. - Within the Kosñipata district of Manú, production of coca increased from 338 hectares (835 acres) in 2010 to 1,322 hectares (3,267 acres) in 2014. Coca production throughout this Amazon region has increased by 52 percent.
Orangutan habitats being cleared in areas near palm oil mills, report finds [07/17/2019]
- A new study identifies the palm oil mills in Indonesia with the most clearance of orangutan habitat happening around them. - The top 10 mills are all on the island of Borneo and are producing palm oil that makes its way into the supply chains of consumer goods giants such as Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, Kellogg’s, General Mills, Avon, Mars, Mondelēz and more — companies that promised long ago to stop buying palm oil linked to deforestation. - Just because deforestation is happening around a palm oil mill does not mean it is being done by an entity supplying that mill with palm fruits. But it is a strong red flag that this may be the case. - Several of the consumer goods giants contacted by Mongabay said they were either actively investigating the deforestation or suspending trading with the mills. Others were more vague in their responses.
Chimps in Sierra Leone adapt to human-impacted habitats, but threats remain [07/10/2019]
- Western chimpanzees are adapting to survive in severely degraded habitat, a new study says. - However, the study also finds the abundance of western chimpanzees in Sierra Leone is impacted by even secondary roads. - Ensuring the long-term survival of western chimps calls for changes in agriculture, roads and other development, researchers say.
In Indonesia, a land ‘left behind’ weighs its development alternatives [07/09/2019]
- After defeating a plan to turn much of the Aru Islands into a series of giant sugar plantations, indigenous people in the eastern Indonesian archipelago are mulling how to raise their standard of living without sacrificing their rich environment. - Time may be short: Indonesia’s minister of agriculture appears to be pushing another corporate-backed agribusiness plan in Aru involving Andi Syamsuddin Arsyad, an up-and-coming tycoon better known as Haji Isam. The two visited Aru together last year. - Some Aruese believe development focused on tourism or fisheries would be a better fit for the delicate, small-island ecosystem, home to some of Indonesia’s last best rainforest and famous for its birds-of-paradise.
Peru: Madre de Dios land defenders face trouble whether they report crimes or not [07/05/2019]
- In the buffer zone of Tambopata National Reserve in Peru’s Madre de Dios region, men and women have resisted the threats of mining and illegal logging for 12 years. - Operation Mercury 2019, launched to eradicate illegal gold mining, also increased harassment of these environmental defenders. For this report, Mongabay Latam recorded their stories. - No matter what land defenders do, they still lose: if they report illegal activities on their concessions they are threatened by those who are caught; and when they don’t alert anyone out of fear, the authorities sometimes fine them for not reporting the transgressions.
Lost in translation: Green regulations backfire without local context [07/03/2019]
- Strong green regulations modeled on those in industrialized countries don’t always have the intended effects of reducing conflict and environmental degradation, new research shows. - These rules can place onerous burdens on small-scale producers that ultimately force them to go around the regulations, at times leading to more conflict and harm to the environment. - The study’s author argues that regulations should be flexible enough to accommodate small-scale producers and the unique challenges they face.
An Indonesian forest community grapples with the arrival of the outside world [07/01/2019]
- Siberut Island, part of the Mentawai archipelago in western Indonesia, is recognized as a U.N. Biosphere Reserve due to its outstanding cultural and ecological value. - The traditions of the indigenous Mentawai people, including agroforestry and customary land tenure, have allowed the people of the island live off the forest without depleting it. - Roughly half of the island is protected as a national park. The rest, however, has been parceled out for timber and biomass plantations, road building, and the development of a special economic zone including a yacht marina and luxury resort.
Food choice leaves some lemurs more vulnerable to loss of forest habitat [06/26/2019]
- The gut microbes of some lemur species are specialized to help in digesting food found in their habitats, a new study has found. - Lemurs are only found in Madagascar and the Comoros Islands in the Indian Ocean, and are one of the most threatened primate groups in the world. - The study suggests the mostly leaf-eating group of lemurs known as sifakas, in the genus Propithecus, host gut microbes that are specialized for their diets and therefore less adaptable to food sources found in other habitats. - Madagascar reports alarming rates of deforestation, losing 2 percent of its primary rainforest just last year, the highest rate of any country.
Logging road construction has surged in the Congo Basin since 2003 [06/24/2019]
- Logging road networks have expanded widely in the Congo Basin since 2003, according to a new study. - The authors calculated that the length of logging roads doubled within concessions and rose by 40 percent outside of concessions in that time period, growing by 87,000 kilometers (54,000 miles). - Combined with rising deforestation in the region since 2000, the increase in roads is concerning because road building is often followed by a pulse of settlement leading to deforestation, hunting and mining in forest ecosystems.
Nearly 600 plant species have gone extinct in last 250 years [06/17/2019]
- At least 571 species of seed-bearing plants have gone extinct around the world in the last two and a half centuries. - This number is nearly four times higher than the previous known estimate and more than twice the number of birds, mammals and amphibians that are known to have gone extinct, researchers say. - The study estimates that plants are now becoming extinct nearly 500 times faster than the background extinction rate for plants. - The geographical pattern of modern plant extinctions resembles that for animals: most plant extinctions occur on islands, in the tropics, and in areas with a Mediterranean climate that are rich in biodiversity.
Out on a limb: Unlikely collaboration boosts orangutans in Borneo [06/12/2019]
- Logging and hunting have decimated a population of Bornean orangutans in Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park in Indonesia. - Help has recently come from a pair of unlikely allies: an animal welfare group and a human health care nonprofit. - Cross-disciplinary collaboration to meet the needs of ecosystems and humans is becoming an important tool for overcoming seemingly intractable obstacles in conservation.
Inside an ambitious project to rewild trafficked bonobos in the Congo Basin [06/11/2019]
- A decade ago, a troop of formerly captive bonobos was for the first time reintroduced to the wild in the Democratic Republic of Congo. - Following that successful reintroduction, a new troop of 14 bonobos is now in the process of being released and is anticipated to be fully in the wild by September. - Congolese conservation group Amis des Bonobos du Congo (ABC) is working to make sure the communities surrounding the release site feel invested in the project.
Bumpy ride for conservation in PNG as lack of roads hinders activities [06/10/2019]
- Much of Papua New Guinea remains inaccessible by road and the existing roads are often in poor condition. - While lack of road access has historically helped to keep ecosystems intact, it comes with both social and environmental downsides. - Some communities are negotiating with resource extraction companies who promise to provide roads and other needed services. Lack of infrastructure also hampers efforts to monitor and protect the environment. - Some NGOs, whose work suffers from difficult and expensive travel to project areas, call for carefully planned expansion of the road network.
Indonesian ban on clearing new swaths of forest to be made permanent [06/10/2019]
- A temporary moratorium that prohibits the issuance of new permits to clear primary and peat forests is set to be made permanent later this year. - Though largely ineffective in stemming deforestation in the first few years after its introduction in 2011, the moratorium has since 2016 been shored up by peat-protection regulations that have helped slow the loss of forest cover. - Environmental activists have welcomed the move to make the moratorium permanent, but say there’s room to strengthen it, such as by extending it to include secondary forests. - They’ve also called for the closing of a loophole that allows primary and peat forests to be razed for plantations of rice, sugarcane and other crops deemed important to national food security.
Altered forests threaten sustainability of subsistence hunting [05/29/2019]
- In a commentary, two conservation scientists say that changes to the forests of Central and South America may mean that subsistence hunting there is no longer sustainable. - Habitat loss and commercial hunting have put increasing pressure on species, leading to the loss of both biodiversity and a critical source of protein for these communities. - The authors suggest that allowing the hunting of only certain species, strengthening parks and reserves, and helping communities find alternative livelihoods and sources of food could help address the problem, though they acknowledge the difficult nature of these solutions.
A forest beset by oil palms, logging, now contends with a coal-trucking road [05/28/2019]
- The Harapan forest in southern Sumatra, Indonesia, faces threats from illegal logging, encroachment by oil palm growers, poaching of its wildlife, and the loss of funding for conservation initiatives. - An indigenous community, conservation managers and activists have highlighted another danger that risks fragmenting the biodiverse lowland rainforest: a coal-trucking road that would slice through the area. - Local authorities reviewing the project proposal have called on the company behind it to consider a road that skirts the forest instead, but the company has not yet published a revised plan. - The forest’s Batin Sembilan indigenous group says the creation of a road will increase access into the forest, exacerbating long-simmering tensions with migrant communities they accuse of trying to grab the land.
Where the forest has no name [05/24/2019]
- North America’s temperate rainforest extends some 2,500 miles from California to the Gulf of Alaska, providing important habitat for many species and playing a big role in global carbon sequestration. However, despite its uniqueness, there is no officially recognized name for the whole of the forest. - This forest has been beset by logging over the last century, with little unprotected old growth remaining. The Trump administration’s plans to allow logging in roadless areas in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest could ramp up its loss in the coming years. - Paul Koberstein and Jessica Applegate, editors of Cascadia Times, argue an official name could help galvanize action to save this forest. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.
Tall and old or dense and young: Which kind of forest is better for the climate? [05/23/2019]
- Scientists say reforestation and better forest management can provide 18 percent of climate change mitigation through 2030. But studies appear to be divided about whether it’s better to prioritize the conservation of old forests or the replanting of young ones. - A closer look, however, reconciles these two viewpoints. While young forests tend to absorb more carbon overall because trees can be crowded together when they’re small, a tree’s carbon absorption rate accelerates as it ages. This means that forests comprised of tall, old trees – like the temperate rainforests of North America’s Pacific coast – are some of the planet’s biggest carbon storehouses. - But when forests are logged, their immense stores of carbon are quickly released. A study found the logging of forests in the U.S. state of Oregon emitted 33 million tons of CO2 – almost as much as the world’s dirtiest coal plant. - Researchers are calling on industry to help buffer climate change by doubling tree harvest rotations to 80 years, and urge government agencies managing forests to impose their own harvest restrictions.
Solomon Islanders imprisoned for trying to stop the logging of their forests [05/17/2019]
- A group of residents of Nende Island in the Solomon Islands claim corrupt government practices allowed a logging company to get a license to log the island’s primary forests, as well as cropland. Activists also allege the company, Malaysia-based Xiang Lin SI Ltd, logged outside of its concession area. - The “Nende Five,” as they’ve become known, say they were never given an opportunity to object to the logging of their land, and Xiang Lin proceeded without obtaining the consent of the majority of residents. - The protesters say they tried to stop the logging through legal processes. When heavy equipment was destroyed last year, the Nende Five were taken into custody. However, they say they’re innocent of the charges against them. - Their trial has been adjourned 29 times for lack of evidence, and was recently vacated after two days in court due to allegations that the police had not followed due process in obtaining evidence from one of the defendants. The trial is expected to resume in June. Meanwhile, deforestation is ramping up on Nende as logging roads multiply and displace the island’s old growth rainforest.
A new election brings little hope for Solomon Islands’ vanishing forests [05/17/2019]
- Longstanding allegations of corruption plague forest governance in the Solomon Islands, with residents and NGOs claiming government officials are allowing logging to illegally penetrate primary forests on community and ancestral land. - Satellite data show several surges in deforestation across the country since the beginning of the year. - Many were hoping the Solomon Islands’ recent national election would bring needed change. However, Manasseh Sogavare was elected Prime Minster last month, a move observers say is, at best, an extension of the status quo. - In the meantime, mining companies appear to be moving in to extract mineral resources from areas that have been logged.
In Indonesia, a flawed certification scheme lets illegal loggers raze away [05/16/2019]
- The seizure of more than 400 containers of illegally logged timber in a series of busts since last December has shone a spotlight on Indonesia’s mechanism for certifying legal timber. - Some of the wood has been traced back to companies certified under the country’s SVLK scheme. That’s the same scheme that the EU relies on to ensure that its imports of Indonesian timber are legally harvested. - The seizures and findings by activists highlight increased illegal logging in the relatively pristine eastern Indonesian regions of Maluku and Papua. - Companies engaged in illegal logging exploit a variety of methods, from cutting in abandoned concessions to using farmers’ groups and indigenous communities as fronts for harvesting in areas that would otherwise be off-limits for commercial logging.
’Green’ bonds finance industrial tree plantations in Brazil [05/16/2019]
- The Environmental Paper Network (EPN), a group of some 140 NGOs with the goal of making the pulp and paper industry more sustainable, released a briefing contending that green or climate bonds issued by Fibria, a pulp and paper company, went to maintaining and expanding plantations of eucalyptus trees. - The report suggests that the Brazilian company inflated the amount of carbon that new planting would store. - The author of the briefing also questions the environmental benefits of maintaining industrial monocultures of eucalyptus, a tree that requires a lot of water along with herbicides, pesticides and fertilizer that can impact local ecosystems and human communities.
’Unprecedented’ loss of biodiversity threatens humanity, report finds [05/07/2019]
- The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services released a summary of far-reaching research on the threats to biodiversity on May 6. - The findings are dire, indicating that around 1 million species of plants and animals face extinction. - The full 1,500-page report, to be released later this year, raises concerns about the impacts of collapsing biodiversity on human well-being.
Illegal logging poised to wipe Cambodian wildlife sanctuary off the map [05/02/2019]
- Beng Per Wildlife Sanctuary has lost more than 60 percent of its forest cover since it was established in 1993, with most of the loss occurring since 2010. - A big driver behind the deforestation in Beng Per and in many other Cambodian protected areas was Economic Land Concessions (ELCs), which are areas of land – often in protected areas – allocated by the government to corporations aiming to invest in agriculture for short-term financial gains. Large areas of Beng Per were carved out for ELCs in 2011. - While the Cambodian government stopped officially allocating ELCs in 2012, deforestation is still hitting the park hard as small-scale illegal logging gobbles up remaining forest outside ELC areas. And once the land is denuded, it’s considered fair game for new plantation development. - Experts working on the ground say corruption is fuelling the widespread destruction of Cambodia’s forests, and is deeply entrenched in many different sectors including the federal government and local forest protection agencies.
It’s now or never for Madagascar’s biodiversity, experts say [05/02/2019]
- As Madagascar’s recently elected president completed his first 100 days in office, experts identify five priority areas for conservation. - In a new comment piece in Nature Sustainability, the experts highlight the need for setting conservation goals that are aligned with the sustainable development of the country. - Strengthening the rights of local people and the rule of law is key to successful conservation, the authors say. - Urgent steps include tackling environmental crime, investing in protected areas, and mitigating environmental impacts from infrastructure development.
Western chimp numbers revised up to 53,000, but development threats loom [05/01/2019]
- A new survey of data from the IUCN’s Apes Database indicates that there are nearly 53,000 western chimpanzees in West Africa. - The number is significantly higher than previous estimates, which placed the population closer to 35,000, but the subspecies remains categorized as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. - The authors of the study say their findings can help governments in the region ensure that proposed infrastructure projects do as little harm to the remaining chimpanzee populations as possible.
Audio: Saving forests and biodiversity by providing affordable healthcare [04/30/2019]
- On today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we speak with Kinari Webb, founder of Health in Harmony, an organization using healthcare for humans to save rainforests and their wildlife inhabitants. - In the decade since Heath in Harmony launched its healthcare-for-conservation program in Indonesia’s Gunung Palung National Park, infant deaths in local communities have been reduced by more than two-thirds, the number of illegal logging households in the park has gone down by nearly 90 percent, the loss of forest has stabilized, 20,000 hectares of forest are being replanted, and habitat for 2,500 endangered Bornean Orangutans has been protected. - Webb talks about radical listening, the tremendous impacts for rainforests and orangutans of providing affordable healthcare to local communities, and her plans to expand Health in Harmony’s efforts outside of Indonesia on this episode of the Newscast.
Why Myanmar villagers still engage in illegal logging of mangroves [04/30/2019]
- The Irrawaddy Delta of Myanmar used to be rich in mangroves, but only 20 percent of the original coverage remains today. - Although it’s illegal to log mangrove wood, people who live in villages without electricity still cut the increasingly fragmented mangrove forests of the delta for fuelwood for cooking. - Logging isn’t just physically dangerous; it’s also legally risky. - Fuel-efficient stoves, access to alternative fuels, and opportunities for employment could help reduce the amount of illegal logging of mangroves.
Singapore acquits trader in world’s biggest rosewood bust, worth $50m [04/19/2019]
- On April 8, Singapore’s highest court acquitted a businessman who brought Malagasy rosewood valued at $50 million into the city-state in 2014, one of the largest wildlife seizures in the history of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). - The move reversed the ruling of a lower court that had sentenced the businessman to jail time and imposed $1 million in fines for importing protected wildlife. - The court ordered Singapore authorities to return the rosewood to the businessman and his firm “as soon as practicable.” - Environmental groups have been looking on anxiously as the case wound its way through Singapore’s courts for nearly five years, only to be disappointed by the final verdict.
Peru’s first autonomous indigenous gov’t strikes back against deforestation [04/18/2019]
- The Wampis is an indigenous group comprised of thousands of members whose ancestors have lived in the Amazon rainforest of northern Peru for centuries. - Mounting incursions by loggers, miners and oil prospectors, as well as governance changes that favored industrial exploitation, left the Wampis increasingly worried about the future of their home. Representatives said they realized that only by developing a strong, legal organizational structure would they have a voice to defend their people and the survival of their forest. - After numerous meetings among their leaders, representatives of 27 Wampis communities, with a combined population of 15,000 people, came together in 2015. They invoked international recognition of the rights of indigenous people and on Nov. 29 declared the creation of an autonomous territorial government called the Wampis Nation to defend its territory and resources from the growing pressures of extractive industries. - Wampis Nation territory covers an area of rainforest one-third the size of the Netherlands along northern Peru’s border with Ecuador. Leaders say their newfound autonomy and authority has allowed them to directly expel illegal deforestation activities from their land.
Deforestation diminishes access to clean water, study finds [04/15/2019]
- A recent study compared deforestation data and information on household access to clean water in Malawi. - The scientists found that the country lost 14 percent of its forest between 2000 and 2010, which had the same effect on access to safe drinking water as a 9 percent decrease in rainfall. - With higher rainfall variability expected in today’s changing climate, the authors suggest that a larger area of forest in countries like Malawi could be a buffer against the impacts of climate change.
Trekking the boreal forest for biodiversity (insider) [04/12/2019]
- Sweden is widely considered to be the world’s greenest country, but its surprisingly lax forestry laws often leave decisions about logging to timber companies, and large swaths of biologically-rich boreal forest are being lost. - Federal agencies and certifying bodies such as the Forest Stewardship Council have tried to improve the situation, but activists charge that they are unable to prevent forestry companies from cutting even the most valuable and the oldest forest tracts. I traveled there in 2011 to investigate their claims. - These forest watchdogs have trained themselves to identify rare and endangered species of fungi and lichens, whose presence prevents cutting of those richest tracts, a successful but rugged tactic requiring long days of trekking, climbing, and lifting or turning of many logs. - This post is insider content, which is available to paying subscribers.
How a sheriff in Brazil is using satellites to stop deforestation [04/12/2019]
- When Leonardo Brito became chief of police at the Police Specialized in Crimes Against the Environment (DEMA) in Brazil’s Amapá stated, he noticed that the department hardly ever investigated environmental crimes. The reason: locating isolated illegal deforestation events in Amapá’s Nepal-size rainforest was like finding a needle in a haystack. - So Brito started researching methods to make this easier. In the process, he discovered the online forest monitoring platform Global Forest Watch and its mobile app, Forest Watcher. These tools visualize areas of tree cover loss detected by satellites. - Using Forest Watcher, DEMA has been able to detect 5,000 areas of deforestation in Amapá and conduct more than 50 operations combatting illegal deforestation over the past eight months. - Brito and his team are sharing their knowledge and techniques with environmental police and conservation officials in other states.
Climb confirms that the world’s tallest tropical tree tops 100 meters [04/07/2019]
- A team of scientists has found and mapped the tallest tree on record in the tropics, standing at more than 100 meters (328 feet). - Climber Unding Jami with the South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership scaled the tree and verified its height. - The structure of the tree, determined from airborne lidar surveys as well as laser scans from the ground and drone photographs, provides insight into why these trees grow so high.
Malaysian state chief: Highway construction must not destroy forest [03/26/2019]
- The chief minister of Sabah, one of two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo, said that the Pan Borneo Highway project should expand existing roads where possible to minimize environmental impact. - A coalition of local NGOs and scientific organizations applauded the announcement, saying that it could usher in a new era of collaboration between the government and civil society to look out for Sabah’s people and forests. - These groups have raised concerns about the impacts on wildlife and communities of the proposed path of the highway, which will cover some 5,300 kilometers (3,300 miles) in the states of Sabah and Sarawak.
‘Nothing was left’: Flash floods, landslides hit Indonesia’s Papua region [03/21/2019]
- Flash floods and landslides triggered by torrential rain hit Indonesia’s Cyclops Mountains in Papua province on March 17, killing nearly 90 people and displacing thousands. - The country’s disaster mitigation agency has cited human-caused deforestation as contributing to the scale of the damage. - Indonesia’s environment ministry has called for a review of zoning plans for the housing settlements around the Cyclops Mountains, but denies that massive logging has occurred in the area.
Tapirs could be key in helping degraded rainforests bounce back [03/20/2019]
- A new study has found that lowland tapirs spend more time in degraded forests than in pristine Amazon rainforest. - They also defecate and deposit three times more seeds in these degraded areas. - The results indicate that tapirs may help human-affected forests recover and grow back.
New maps show where humans are pushing species closer to extinction [03/15/2019]
- A new study maps out how disruptive human changes to the environment affect the individual ranges of more than 5,400 mammal, bird and amphibian species around the world. - Almost a quarter of the species are threatened by human impacts in more than 90 percent of their range, and at least one human impact occurred in an average of 38 percent of the range of a given species. - The study also identified “cool” spots, where concentrations of species aren’t negatively impacted by humans. - The researchers say these “refugia” are good targets for conservation efforts.
European Parliament to vote on timber legality agreement with Vietnam [03/11/2019]
- The European Parliament begins debate March 11 on a resolution to consent to the recently signed Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with Vietnam on the trade of timber and timber products from the Southeast Asian country. - The VPA is the result of nearly eight years of negotiations aimed at stopping the flow of illegally harvested timber into the EU. - Members of parliament are expected to vote in favor of the resolution on March 12, though officials in the EU and outside observers have voiced concerns about the legality of the wood imported into Vietnam from other countries, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Guatemala: Proposed new park on indigenous land treads fine ethical line [03/04/2019]
- Community leaders and environmental groups are working to expand protected areas around a mountain cloaked in rare cloud forest in central Guatemala that is home to several indigenous communities. - There are many pitfalls to avoid: Conservation efforts have often historically overlooked the needs of local communities, excluding them from project planning and imposing disagreeable regulations on land use that threaten traditional ways of life. - The NGO leading the effort is taking a two-pronged approach: One entails propping up local communities to reduce their dependence on the forest without altering their customs, and committing to getting their input into the protected area proposal. - But the other entails buying up land in advance of lobbying congress for a new protected area. Because this part of their plan has all the earmarks of traditional “fortress conservation,” some outside experts are expressing concern.
In the Congo Basin, a road cuts through once-untouched ape wilderness [03/01/2019]
- The TRIDOM landscape, encompassing forests in Cameroon, Gabon and the Republic of Congo, is home to more than 40,000 great apes as well as Central Africa’s largest elephant population. - TRIDOM is in the path of a planned road link between Cameroon and Congo. Associated projects include a hydropower dam. - While the project’s environmental impact assessment estimated only 750 hectares (1,850 acres) of woodland would be cleared for the road, on-the-ground observation of work in progress indicates the impact will be much greater. - In addition to the direct impact of forest clearing, conservationists fear the road will increase habitat fragmentation, facilitate hunting and mining, and encourage human migration into the area — something that is already happening.
New study finds young forests have a huge climate impact [02/26/2019]
- A recent study finds young forests sequester more carbon per year than old-growth forests. In total, it estimates that intact, old-growth forests sequestered 950 million to 1.11 billion metric tons of carbon per year while younger forests – those that have been growing less than 140 years – stored between 1.17 and 1.66 billion metric tons per year. - The study also estimates that the world’s regenerating forests stand to uptake a further 50 billion metric tons of carbon as they grow. - These findings upend conventional wisdom that old-growth tropical rainforests are the planet’s biggest carbon sinks. - The authors say their research could be used to improve forest management and help mitigate climate change.
Forest soils take longer to recover from fires and logging than previously thought [02/22/2019]
- Australian National University’s Elle Bowd led a research team that collected 729 soil cores from 81 sites in the mountain ash forests of southeast Australia. The sampling sites had been subjected to nine different types of disturbances, from wildfires to clearcutting and post-fire salvage logging, at different frequencies in the past. - The team used the soil samples to look at 22 different soil measures, including key soil nutrients like nitrate, organic carbon, phosphorus, potassium, and sulfur, and how they’d been impacted by disturbances that occurred 8, 34, 78, and 167 years ago. - Bowd said the team’s findings show that forest soils recover from disturbances slowly over many years — up to 80 years following a wildfire and as many as 30 years after logging, much longer than previously thought.
What the Congo Basin can learn from Filipino community forestry laws (commentary) [02/21/2019]
- More than two-thirds of the Philippine’s forest cover has been lost to logging, agriculture, fuelwood extraction, mining and other human pressures. To tackle forest depletion, the Philippines has adopted a logging ban and promoted a system of community-run natural resource management. As of 2013, about 61 percent of the Philippines’ forests were managed under this scheme. - Nonprofit environmental law organization ClientEarth says that despite some limitations, the legal frameworks establishing community management of forests help reduce deforestation by empowering local people to patrol their forests and carry out both conservation and revenue-generating activities. Another strength of the Filipino community forestry model is that it requires free, prior and informed consent of any indigenous group likely to be affected by the community forest plan. - ClientEarth says lessons learned from the Philippines’ community forestry system can be applied to places that currently lack such legal frameworks, such as countries in the Congo Basin that are reviewing their forests laws. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
In the Solomon Islands, making amends in the name of conservation [02/19/2019]
- The Kwaio people of the Solomon Islands have been working with scientists to protect their homeland from resource extraction and development. - But violent clashes in 1927 between the Kwaio and the colonial government created a rift between members of this tribe and the outside world. - To heal those old wounds and continue with their conservation work, a trio of scientists joined the Kwaio in a sacred reconciliation ceremony in July 2018. - Kwaio leaders say that the ceremony opened the door to a more peaceful future for their people.
Butterfly business: Insect farmers help conserve East African forests [02/08/2019]
- As many as 1,200 people living around the forests of coastal Kenya and Tanzania have turned to butterfly farming to make a living. Many of them were once loggers who now defend the forest. - Three butterfly-farming initiatives aim to conserve forests while generating sustainable incomes for local communities by raising and selling pupae to research institutes and butterfly houses in Europe and Turkey. - The most successful of the initiatives is helping to conserve the 420 square-kilometer (162 square-mile) Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Reserve in Kilifi county, Kenya, the last large remnant of a forest that once stretched from southern Somalia to northern Mozambique. - By contrast, the two Tanzanian projects are currently challenged by a government ban on wildlife exports.
Latam Eco Review: Seeing red over pink dolphins and flamingos [02/01/2019]
The most popular stories published recently by our Spanish-language news service, Mongabay Latam, featured endangered pink Amazon river dolphins, the world’s rarest flamingos, palm oil plantations in Nicaragua, impunity in Peru, and mansions in Colombia. Mercury and accidental capture endanger Amazon river dolphins The Amazon river dolphin (Inia geoffrensis) was recently categorized as endangered in […]
In PNG, a fallen bridge is testament to the chasm in rural development [01/24/2019]
- A year after the collapse of a bridge over the Banab River in northern Papua New Guinea, the crossing is finally on the verge of reopening. - The bridge, a vital link between provincial capital Madang and agricultural areas to the north, has become a symbol of the central government’s neglect of rural areas. - The state’s failure to provide infrastructure has led some communities to welcome extractive industries that promise to build roads, schools and hospitals.
Liberia’s community forestry becoming a front for deforestation: Report [01/23/2019]
- A report released by Global Witness late last year alleges that Liberia’s forestry laws are being “hijacked” by logging companies. - These logging companies can potentially put vast areas of Liberia’s remaining rainforests at risk of large-scale deforestation. - There’s historical precedent for the concerns under the current law: in 2012, Liberia was rocked by a scandal over permits meant to enable private landowners to enter into logging agreements with outside parties.
Saving the forests of the Congo Basin: Q&A with author Meindert Brouwer [01/23/2019]
- Central African Forests Forever, first published in 2017, takes readers to the heart of the continent, introducing them to the people and wildlife of this region. - Its author, independent communications consultant Meindert Brouwer, says the book also functions as a tool for sharing information about efforts to address poverty and environmental issues in the region. - Mongabay spoke with Brouwer to learn more about his motivations and the reception of his work in Central Africa.
Solomon Islands province bans logging in bid to protect environment [01/21/2019]
- The leaders of Central Island province, part of the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific, have decided not to issue new business licenses to logging and mining companies following a local petition and recent reports detailing the lack of sustainability and legality in the country’s logging sector. - Local and international organizations have blamed unsustainable and corrupt logging practices for destroying the islands’ sensitive habitats and creating civil strife among the people who live there. - Provincial governments in the Solomon Islands lack the power to block logging outright, leading Central Island province to take the licensing approach to stop new operations.
Madagascar’s next president to take office, bears suspect eco record [01/18/2019]
- Andry Rajoelina is set to be sworn in as president of Madagascar tomorrow, Jan. 19. - Many conservationists and civil society representatives were disappointed by his election. - Rajoelina had served as de facto president from 2009 to early 2014 after a coup d’état carried him to power. - His past administration faced charges of corruption, especially regarding natural resource management. Top officials, including Rajoelina himself, were rumored to be involved in the illegal rosewood trade, which flourished during his time in office.
The biggest rainforest news stories in 2018 [12/30/2018]
- This is our annual rainforests year in review post. - Overall, 2018 was not a good year for the planet’s tropical rainforests. - Rainforest conservation suffered many setbacks, especially in Brazil, the Congo Basin, and Madagascar. - Colombia was one of the few bright spots for rainforests in 2018.
Devastating Laos dam collapse leads to deforestation of protected forests [12/28/2018]
- The collapse of a dam in southern Laos released five billion cubic meters of water, killing dozens, devastating communities, and forcing thousands to flee. - The collapse also flooded areas of protected forest. In early September, the Global Land Analysis and Discovery Lab at the University of Maryland began detecting tree cover loss along a 22-mile length of the river. By December 7, more than 7,500 deforestation alerts had been recorded. - An investigation by Mongabay revealed collateral damage is also taking place as residents harvest wood from both downed trees and living forests in an effort to make ends meet. - One of the companies involved with the dam reportedly blamed heavy rain and flooding for the collapse, but many have questioned their liability and believe the companies should be providing compensation.
New roads for PNG: Path to progress or to environmental devastation? [12/27/2018]
- The Papua New Guinea government plans to build more than 3,000 kilometers in new roads in the next five years, with a focus on connecting remote rural areas. - New roads can help improve services in rural areas and enable farmers bring their crops to market. But some critics say the government’s road-building plans are more focused on allowing extractive industries into remote areas. - Illegal logging is already a serious problem in PNG, and experts fear that poorly planned roads could increase deforestation in ecologically significant tracts of rainforest. - China’s growing role in financing infrastructure projects in PNG has also raised concerns.
What makes a forest healthy? Māori knowledge has some answers. [12/21/2018]
- Working with its elders and other traditional knowledge holders, the Māori community of Ruatāhuna, New Zealand, has articulated its own, culturally relevant system for monitoring the health of the ancient Te Urewera temperate rainforest it calls home. - For instance, the community regards the size of flocks of kererū or wood pigeon (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae) as a key indicator of forest health, and assesses it by the amount of awe an observer feels when witnessing a large flock at close range. - The community feels a sense of urgency to document this kind of traditional knowledge before the elders who hold much of it pass on. - This is the second part of Mongabay’s three-part profile of the Ruatāhuna community’s effort to restore its ancestral forest.
Wildlife, ecotourism industry at stake in Madagascar’s election, says scientist [12/18/2018]
- Madagascar’s election on Wednesday could have major implications for the future of the island’s environment and wildlife, says a prominent conservation scientist. - In an op-ed published this week in Al Jazeera, William F. Laurance, a researcher at James Cook University in Australia, warns that if Madagascar chooses former president Andry Rajoelina, the country’s dwindling natural resources could face renewed assault. - Under Rajoelina’s previous reign, which followed a 2009 coup, Madagascar’s forests, wildlife, and coastal waters were pillaged. - Laurance contrasts Rajoelina with his opponent, Marc Ravalomanana, who was lauded by conservationists during his tenure for expanding protected areas, banning commercial logging, and taking steps to reduce deforestation.
A Māori community leans on tradition to restore its forest [12/17/2018]
- Deep in New Zealand’s vast Te Urewera forest, which is famously endowed with a legal personality, the Māori community in Ruatāhuna is working to restore and sustain its forests and way of life. - Having regained control of their land after decades of logging by outside interests, members of the Tūhoe community are trying to bring back conifers in the Podocarpaceae family, which they refer to as the chiefs of the family of Tāne, the god of forests and birds. - Other initiatives include controlling invasive species, developing a community-based forest monitoring system centered on traditional values and knowledge, establishing a “forest academy” for local youth, and setting up a profitable honey enterprise to provide jobs and eventually fund forest restoration. - This is the first part of Mongabay’s three-part profile of the Ruatāhuna community’s effort to restore its ancestral forest.
Challenging the illegal logging regime in Madagascar (insider) [12/16/2018]
- Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler writes about his expose into rosewood logging in the aftermath of Madagascar’s coup in 2009. - Andry Rajoelina, the man who took power after the coup and was linked by NGOs to illegal rosewood trafficking, is running in Madagascar’s election next week. - Back in 2010, Rajoelina had harsh words for Mongabay after it reported on his administration’s ties to the rosewood business. - This post is insider content, which is available to paying subscribers.
Forestry reforms could fall short without PM’s backing in Ukraine [11/28/2018]
- Ukraine’s prime minister called for “a massive crackdown” on his country’s timber sector after allegations of widespread corruption and illegality. - The London-based NGO Earthsight first revealed the potential illegalities in a July 2018 report, and since then, independent investigations from WWF Ukraine and the EU’s Technical Assistance and Information Exchange have corroborated Earthsight’s findings. - A reform package that would allow for independent enforcement of Ukraine’s forestry laws and increased transparency has been approved by the country’s cabinet of ministers, but it still lacks the signature and public backing of Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman.
The secret deal to destroy paradise [11/28/2018]
- “The secret deal to destroy paradise” is the third installment of Indonesia for Sale, an in-depth series on the opaque deals underpinning Indonesia’s deforestation and land-rights crisis. - The series is the product of 22 months of investigative reporting across the Southeast Asian country, interviewing fixers, middlemen, lawyers and companies involved in land deals, and those most affected by them. - “The secret deal to destroy paradise” is based on a cross-border collaboration between Tempo, Malaysiakini, Mongabay and Earthsight’s The Gecko Project.
Stop importing illegal timber, PNG activists tell China at APEC Summit [11/22/2018]
- Environmental and community groups from Papua New Guinea issued a letter for Chinese President Xi Jinping during the recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in the capital, Port Moresby. - In the letter, the authors asked that China, the destination for the bulk of PNG’s timber exports, regulate imports to discourage the illegality that plagues PNG’s forestry sector. - They highlight the negative effects that rampant logging has had on the country’s ecosystems and forest-dependent communities.
Brazil could lose Nepal-size area of rainforest due to policy revision [11/16/2018]
- Brazil’s Forest Act requires landowners living in the country’s Amazon region set aside 80 percent of their private land for native vegetation. But when the law was revised in 2012, a paragraph was added that says this 80 percent requirement can be relaxed to 50 percent if a state protects more than 65 percent of its public land. - A new study finds that this revision means that an area of the Brazilian Amazon between 65,000 and 154,000 square kilometers in size could lose its protected status. - Most of the area under threat is comprised of primary forest with high levels of biodiversity and massive stores of carbon. Researchers warn the legal deforestation of these private forest reserves could stand in the way of the country’s emissions reduction targets. - The study’s authors recommend the paragraph be revised, adjusted or removed before it has a chance to take effect and result in deforestation.
Latam Eco Review: Rampant roadkill and shrinking seaweed stocks [11/16/2018]
The top stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam, investigated Colombia’s roadkill rates; Chile’s marine forests; and Chinese energy projects in Ecuador. Mammals pay highest toll on Colombia’s highways Plans to double Colombia’s highway network by 2035 represent a major threat to wildlife conservation. A roadkill app and research have documented some 11,000 roadkill incidents, […]
End of funding dims hopes for a Sumatran forest targeted by palm oil growers [11/09/2018]
- The Harapan lowland rainforest in Sumatra, one of only 36 global biodiversity hotspots, could be lost to oil palm plantations within the next five years. - The Danish government, which since 2011 has funded efforts to restore the forest and keep out encroaching farmers, will cease its funding at the end of this year. No other sources of funding are in sight to fill the gap. - The Danish ambassador to Indonesia says local authorities need to take on more of the responsibility of protecting the forest. - He says relying on donor funding is unsustainable over the long term, and has called for greater emphasis on developing ecotourism and trade in non-timber forest products.
Latam Eco Review: Hungry manatees and grand theft tortoise [11/09/2018]
The recent top stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam, concerned hungry manatees in Venezuelan zoos; giant tortoises stolen from the Galápagos Islands; and a ban on free, prior and informed consent in Colombian extractive projects. Venezuelan zoos struggle to feed their animals Venezuela’s ongoing economic crisis is affecting the ability of researchers and zoo […]
The ongoing trade in conflict timber (commentary) [11/06/2018]
- Last year, the 28 Member States of the European Union imported €260 million-worth (about $296 million-worth) of timber from countries that the World Bank considers to be fragile and conflict-affected, according to those countries’ own statistics. That’s an increase of almost 20 percent in reported trade since 2014. - While there is no doubt that countries in these desperate states are in need of income and investment, there is also an extremely high risk that the revenues associated with the sale and export of natural resources, including timber, are used to finance and exacerbate conflict. - In an attempt to take responsibility for the role of European companies in the cycle of conflict in many forest countries, the European Commission has recently published a Guidance Document for importers that is designed to ensure that companies are mitigating the risk of buying illegal timber in conflict situations and of exacerbating conflict in their day-to-day business. Let’s hope that the new EUTR Guidance Document can help push companies to meet this responsibility. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.
Call to protect dwindling wilderness ‘before it disappears forever’ [11/01/2018]
- Just 23 percent of wilderness on land and 13 percent of wilderness at sea remains, according to new maps of global human impacts. - Five countries — Russia, Canada, Australia, the United States and Brazil — contain 70 percent of the remaining wilderness. - The authors of the suite of studies argue that wilderness protection should move to the forefront of the conservation agenda.
The legal institutionalization of FSC certification in Gabon (commentary) [10/31/2018]
- Gabon’s President Ali Bongo announced on September 26, during a visit to a Rougier wood processing plant, that all forest concessions in Gabon will have to be certified with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standard by 2022. - Unlike its neighbors, Gabon has never shown any interest in the European proposal for a Voluntary Partnership Agreement, probably because its timber exports are increasingly focused on Asia. If other countries follow Gabon’s lead and make private certification mandatory (the Congo-Brazzaville is considering this in its forestry law under preparation), the European strategy, which gives only a secondary place to private certification, will probably have to be reviewed. - The future will tell us whether the Gabonese decision is the first step in consecrating the power of private governance in an area that has long remained particularly sovereign, or whether the conversion of a voluntary instrument into a legal prerequisite is turning against the FSC by undermining its credibility. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
CITES rejects another Madagascar plan to sell illegal rosewood stockpiles [10/24/2018]
- At a meeting in Sochi, Russia, earlier this month, CITES’s standing committee rejected Madagascar’s latest plan to sell off its stockpiles of illegally harvested rosewood, largely because the plan called for local timber barons to be paid for their troves of wood. - Environmental groups argued that operators who logged illegally should not be rewarded for it, and delegations from several African countries reportedly opposed the plan because they feared their own timber barons would learn the wrong lesson from the deal. - Madagascar’s environment ministry released a statement after the meeting indicating that it would take the recommendations made by the CITES committee into account in revising the plan for submission again in 2019.
Chinese demand wiping out forests in the Solomon Islands: New report [10/22/2018]
- Logging companies are harvesting timber from the forests of the Solomon Islands at about 19 times the sustainable rate, according to an analysis by the watchdog NGO Global Witness. - More than 80 percent of the Solomons’ log exports go to China. - Global Witness is calling on China to build on its efforts to develop its “Green Supply Chain” by requiring companies to verify that the timber they import comes from sustainable and legal sources.
In a first, DRC communities gain legal rights to forests [10/18/2018]
- Provincial authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo have approved forest concessions for five communities. - Following the implementation of a new community forest strategy in June, this is the first time the government has given communities control of forests. - Sustainable use of the forest is seen by conservation and development organizations as a way to both combat rural poverty and fight deforestation.
Fire fundamentally alters carbon dynamics in the Amazon [10/12/2018]
- With higher temperatures and increasingly severe droughts resulting from climate change, fires are becoming a more frequent phenomenon in the Amazon. - New research finds that fires fundamentally change the structure of the forest, leading it to stockpile less carbon even decades after a burn. - The research also shows that the burning of dead organic matter in the understory can release far more carbon into the atmosphere than previously thought.
To conserve West Papua, start with land rights (commentary) [10/05/2018]
- West Papua Province in Indonesia retains over 90 per cent of its forest cover, as well as some of the world’s most biologically diverse marine areas. - The drive to become a conservation province, however, runs the risk of repeating past mistakes that have disadvantaged indigenous communities and left their customary land rights unrecognized. - We recommend that the recognition of customary land and resource rights should be prioritized, followed by strengthening the management capacity of customary institutions while improving the markets and value for forest-maintaining community enterprise, as we illustrate with the District of Fakfak. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Scientists urge greater protection of Brazil’s secondary forests [10/04/2018]
- New research indicates that even after 40 years of recovery, fast-growing tropical forests in Brazil house far fewer species and sequester less carbon than their primary counterparts. - The study finds the most-recovered secondary forests surveyed had around 80 percent the biodiversity and carbon of nearby primary forests. - To allow greater recovery of secondary forests and the wildlife and carbon they house, the researchers say policies should be put in place to better protect these forests and give them the time they need to mature properly. - However, they caution that enacting policy is only one part of the solution, and urge more funding and attention be given to monitoring and enforcement of forest protection regulations.
Massive loss of mammal species in Atlantic Forest since the 1500s [09/28/2018]
- A new study examined the loss of mammal species in the Atlantic Forest, which is currently only about 13 percent of its historical size. - Forest clearing for agriculture, along with hunting, has cut the number of species living at specific sites throughout the forest by an average of more than 70 percent. - The researchers call for increased restoration efforts in the Atlantic Forest to provide habitat and allow the recovery of these species.
World Gorilla Day: good news and grave threats [09/23/2018]
- September 24 marks World Gorilla Day, when humanity celebrates one of its closest relatives. - All species of gorillas are critically endangered, but that does not mean there’s no hope for these animals. - New populations have recently been discovered, and programs to care for orphaned and injured ones are growing.
Activists blast Myanmar timber deal: ‘There is no transparency at all’ [09/21/2018]
- The London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is sounding the alarm over what it calls a “shadowy agreement” made by the Myanmar government to allow the export of 5,000 tons of hardwood timber, including 3,000 tons of highly prized teak. - In a statement, the EIA says that the timber deal, first reported by local media in Myanmar’s Kayah State, “will further undermine the Myanmar Government’s stated policy of improving forest governance after decades of mismanagement which have led to the country suffering one of the highest rates of forest loss in the world” should it be allowed to go through. - The 5,000 tons of timber to be harvested will be on top of Myanmar’s Annual Allowable Cut, meaning the timber deal appears to violate the country’s own forestry regulations.
Conservation groups herald protection of tiger habitat in Malaysia [09/11/2018]
- The state government of Terengganu has set aside more than 100 square kilometers (39 square miles) for critically endangered Malayan tigers and other wildlife in Peninsular Malaysia. - The state’s chief minister said the newly created Lawit-Cenana State Park’s high density of threatened species made the area a priority for protection. - The park is home to 291 species of birds and 18 species of mammals, including elephants, tapirs and pangolins.
Brazil hits emissions target early, but rising deforestation risks reversal [08/23/2018]
- The decline in deforestation between 2016 and 2017 saved emissions of the equivalent of 610 million metric tons (672 million tons) of carbon dioxide from the Brazilian Amazon and 170 million metric tons (187 million tons) from the Cerrado, Brazil’s wooded savanna, according to the Brazilian government. - The emissions reductions, announced Aug. 9, eclipsed the targets that the Brazilian government set for 2020. - However, amid rising deforestation over the past few years, particularly in the Amazon, experts have expressed concern that the reductions in emissions might not hold.
Is Indonesia’s celebrated antigraft agency missing the corruption for the trees? [08/22/2018]
- Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission is perhaps the most trusted institution in a country plagued with graft. But the KPK, as it is known, has prosecuted only a handful of cases in the plantation sector. - Corruption in the plantation sector is a principal underlying cause of Indonesia’s deforestation and land-rights crisis. Our analysis found a range of obstacles preventing the KPK from taking action against corrupt politicians and the unscrupulous companies engaging in large-scale land deals. - This article is part of the Indonesia for Sale series, produced through a collaboration between Mongabay and The Gecko Project, an initiative of the London-based investigations house Earthsight.
Fake logging permits undermine Amazonian conservation, say experts [08/17/2018]
- System in Brazil for issuing permits found to intentionally overestimate high-value timber species. - The system for issuing these fraudulent permits has created a fake “surplus” of licensed timber. - Experts now say that the falsified numbers are contributing to the widespread forest degradation that comes with illegal logging and the overexploitation of Amazonian timber species.
Colombia: Govt rushes to save national park from rampant deforestation [08/16/2018]
- Reports find more than 3 percent of Tinigua’s forest cover was cleared between February and April 2018. Officials worry the situation will worsen in the near future. - The Secretary of Environment of the Colombian region of Meta says that the government and other entities are preparing combat deforestation. - Tinigua Park is the only place in Colombia that connects the Orinoquía, the Andes and the Amazon. The park serves as a corridor for animals such as jaguars, mountain lions and brown woolly monkeys.
‘High risk’ that China’s timber from PNG is illegal: New report [08/09/2018]
- China, as the main destination for Papua New Guinea’s timber, could help tackle illegality in PNG’s forestry sector with stricter enforcement, according to a new report from the watchdog NGO Global Witness. - The report contends that companies operating in Papua New Guinea continue to harvest timber unsustainably, often in violation of the laws of a country that is 70 percent forest. - Global Witness calls for a moratorium on logging operations and a review of permits to harvest timber. - The organization also argues that Chinese companies should increase their own due diligence to avoid purchasing illegally sourced timber.
Madagascar proposes paying illegal loggers to audit or buy their rosewood [08/08/2018]
- In June, the World Bank facilitated a workshop to discuss what Madagascar should do with its stockpiles of illegally logged rosewood. - Madagascar has been grappling with the question for years, but has been unable to make a proper inventory of the stockpiled wood or control illegal exports. - The rosewood could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars on the international market, but the country cannot sell it until it shows progress in enforcing its own environmental laws. - At the workshop, Madagascar’s government proposed a radical solution: paying loggers for access to their illicit stockpiles in order to keep tabs on the wood, or even buying the wood back from them directly.
Study links US demand for Chinese furniture to deforestation in Africa [08/03/2018]
- Recent research links the U.S. demand for furniture made in China to tree cover loss in Africa’s Congo Basin. - Between 2001 and 2015, China became the largest export market for timber from the Congo Basin, and over that same time period, the share of imports of furniture from China to the U.S. grew from 30 percent to 50 percent. - The researchers suggest that public awareness campaigns aimed at curbing the demand for such furniture could be a boon for the Congo Basin’s forests.
Tracking the shift of tropical forests from carbon sink to source [07/31/2018]
- Improved maps of carbon stocks, along with a better understanding of how tropical forests respond to climate change, are necessary to meet the challenge of keeping the global temperature below a 2-degree-Celsius (3.6-degree-Fahrenheit) rise, according to scientist Edward Mitchard of the University of Edinburgh. - Currently, tropical forests take up roughly the same amount of carbon as is released when they’re cleared or degraded. - But climatic changes, which lead to more droughts and fires resulting in the loss of tropical trees, could shift the balance, making tropical forests a net source of atmospheric carbon.
Indonesia forest assessment casts an optimistic light on a complex issue [07/30/2018]
- Indonesia, home to the world’s third-largest span of tropical rainforest, has published its first ever report on the state of its forests. - The reckoning is largely positive, highlighting declines in both the deforestation rate and forest fires in 2016 and 2017, thanks to policies spurred by devastating blazes in 2015. - Chief among these is a program banning the clearing of peatlands and ordering plantation companies to restore and conserve areas of peat within their concessions. - However, the rate of progress on the peat protection program, as well as community forest management reform, remains slow and underfunded. Experts also warn that the progress recorded over the past two years aren’t necessarily sustainable.
Community groups in Cambodia say logging surged with approaching election [07/29/2018]
- Cambodia’s general election campaign has been accompanied by illegal logging, local leaders say, which can be a way for political parties to fund their activities. - Facing scant and fractured opposition, the Cambodian People’s Party and its leader, Hun Sen, who has served as prime minister for 33 years, were expected to win. - Community forestry leaders noted an uptick in felled trees and suspected collusion between the enforcement rangers and the illegal loggers, particularly in July.
Indigenous stewardship is critical to success of protected areas (commentary) [07/25/2018]
- A recent article in Science reports that, while the portion of the world’s terrestrial surface allocated to protected areas has grown to around one-sixth of the area available, a significant number of these areas are so compromised by human pressures that they may be unable to meet their conservation goals. - What we increasingly understand is that if we are to address the threats posed by activities ranging from logging and mining to agriculture and urbanization effectively, we must seek out local solutions where possible. That means drawing on the knowledge of Indigenous Peoples and safeguarding their rights. - In case after case, the world’s remaining strongholds of biodiversity remain intact thanks to the stewardship of the people living there. That is why conservation organizations have supported Indigenous Peoples and local communities as they negotiate with governments to win recognition of resource rights. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Audio: Shadow companies and the Indonesian land crisis [07/24/2018]
- On today’s episode, new revelations about “shadow companies” and how they factor into Mongabay’s ongoing investigation into the corruption fueling Indonesia’s deforestation and land rights crisis. - Our guest today is Mongabay’s Indonesia-based editor Phil Jacobson, who recently uncovered evidence that one of the biggest pulp and paper companies in the world might be using “shadow companies” to hide its connections to deforestation. - Phil previously appeared on the Newscast back in October 2017 to discuss “Indonesia For Sale,” an investigative series Mongabay is publishing in partnership with The Gecko Project. He explains how these new revelations fit into the larger corruption issues tracked by “Indonesia For Sale,” how Indonesia’s forests are being impacted, and why everyone should be paying attention to these stories, whether they’re in Indonesia or not.
DRC set to reclassify national parks for oil, open rainforest to logging [07/19/2018]
- An investigation by Greenpeace finds that since February, DRC’s environment ministry has handed over control of three logging concessions in Congo Basin rainforest to Chinese-owned logging companies. Two of these concessions are located in a massive peatland – the largest in the tropics – that was discovered last year. - Fourteen more concessions are expected to be awarded to companies in the coming months. - The DRC government is also reportedly planning to declassify large portions of Salonga and Virunga national parks to allow oil exploration. Virunga is one of the last bastions of critically endangered mountain gorillas. - These moves threaten a long-standing logging moratorium in the country, as well as forest protection agreements between the DRC and other countries.
EU demand siphons illicit timber from Ukraine, investigation finds [07/17/2018]
- Corrupt management of Ukraine’s timber sector is supplying the EU with large amounts of wood from the country’s dense forests. - The London-based investigative nonprofit Earthsight found evidence that forestry officials have taken bribes to supply major European firms with Ukrainian wood that may have been harvested illegally. - Earthsight argues that EU-based companies are not carrying out the due diligence that the EU Timber Regulation requires when buying from “high-risk” sources of timber.
Protecting PNG’s oceans: Q&A with marine activist John Aini [07/16/2018]
- John Aini is a prominent indigenous leader in his native Papua New Guinea who has won multiple awards for his grassroots activism in marine conservation. - In a recent speech Aini outlined a number of threats to the country’s environment and indigenous peoples, including logging, mining, palm oil plantations and, most recently, the world’s first underwater mining operation, which is slated to begin production next year. - This is the second of Mongabay’s two-part interview with Aini at the recent International Marine Conservation Congress in Malaysia.
Extractive industries threaten a million square kilometers of intact tropical forests around the globe [07/12/2018]
- According to a recent report, mining companies currently have claims on 11 percent of all intact rainforests left in the world, meaning 590,000 square kilometers (227,800 square miles) of pristine tropical forest ecosystems are at risk. That’s an area larger than France. - Oil and gas concessions, meanwhile, cover 8 percent of tropical intact forest landscapes (IFLs). That’s another 408,000 square kilometers (157,529 square miles), roughly the size of the US state of California. - The report, issued by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) last month, assesses the threats from extractive industries to the 5.2 million square kilometers, or just over 2 million square miles, of tropical IFLs left in the world. In total, nearly one million square kilometers (386,000 square miles) of those intact tropical forests are potentially threatened by extractive activities.
Backfire: How misinformation about wildfire harms climate activism (commentary) [07/10/2018]
- In this commentary, Douglas Bevington argues that climate activists may be inadvertently hurting their cause when they repeat erroneous claims about forest fires in the American West. - Bevington says that fire suppression has caused an ecologically harmful shortage of fire in western forests. - He adds that forest fire policy is being used as a pretext for logging and biomass energy production. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Smartphone app helps indigenous communities fight deforestation [07/02/2018]
- Using a system called ForestLink developed by Rainforest Foundation UK, members of the Masenawa community documented the presence of an illegal gold mining camp in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. - The police then responded by destroying the mining equipment at the camp and arresting five people suspected of participating in illegal mining. - The biodiverse Madre de Dios region of the Amazon has been besieged by illegal gold mining, which has caused widespread deforestation.
After logging, activists hope to extend protections for Bialowieza Forest [06/28/2018]
- Bialoweiza Forest straddles Poland and Belarus and is Europe’s largest remaining lowland old growth forest, home to wildlife that has disappeared from much of the rest of Europe. In March 2016, the government approved a plan to triple industrial logging in Poland’s Bialoweiza forest. The government argued it was the only way to combat a spruce bark beetle outbreak, but environmentalists believed that was largely an excuse to give access to the state-run logging regime. - According to watchdog organizations, loggers cut 190,000 cubic meters of wood in 2017. This amounts to around 160,000-180,000 trees and affects an area of about 1,900 hectares. It also represents the most trees cut in the forest in any one year since 1987 when Poland was under a communist government. - In May 2018, Europe’s highest court ruled the logging illegal, noting that the government’s own documents showed that logging was a bigger threat than the beetles, which are a part of natural, cyclical process that is likely exacerbated by climate change. Poland, threatened with high fines, backed down—and the logging stopped. - Activists and environmentalists are calling for expanding national park status – which currently applies to just a small portion of Poland’s portion of the forest – over its entirety. But they worry a government panel of experts will once again push to open Bialoweiza to logging.
Logging roads drive loss of intact forest in FSC-certified logging concessions [06/27/2018]
- Logging roads in Central Africa cause greater loss of intact forest landscapes, or IFLs, on certified timber concessions compared to non-certified concessions, an analysis shows. - Certified timber companies typically build more robust road networks that are more apt to show up on satellite imagery than non-certified companies. - The findings highlight an apparent contradiction between certification for logging and the protection of IFLs, leading some critics to argue that IFL protection should not be part of the Forest Stewardship Council’s standards.
DRC adopts a strategy that will bolster community forestry, conservation group says [06/25/2018]
- A new community forestry strategy in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) could help provide Congolese communities with a say in the management of the country’s forests. - A group of local and international organizations, government agencies and community groups developed the strategy to strengthen the capacity of provincial authorities and ensure that the country’s community forestry laws do in fact include and benefit communities. - The plan calls for an “experimental phase” over the next five years to gradually provide access to areas of the roughly 700,000 square kilometers (more than 270,000 square miles) of available forest through community management permits.
Orangutan forest school in Indonesia takes on its first eight students [06/21/2018]
- A forest school in Indonesia’s East Kalimantan province, funded by the Vienna-based animal welfare organization Four Paws and run by the local organization Jejak Pulang, has just started training its first eight orangutan orphans to learn the skills they need to live independently in the forest. - Borneo’s orangutans are in crisis, with more than 100,000 lost since 1999 through direct killings and loss of habitat, particularly to oil palm and pulpwood plantations. - Security forces often confiscate juvenile orangutans under 7 years of age, and without their mothers to teach them the skills they need, they cannot be released back into the forest. - Jejak Pulang’s team of 15 orangutan caretakers, a biologist, two veterinarians and the center’s director aim to prepare the orphaned orangutans for independence.
Madagascar: Yet another anti-trafficking activist convicted [06/19/2018]
- Christopher Magnenjika, an activist working to stem corruption and wildlife trafficking in northeastern Madagascar, was tried, convicted, fined $9 and released earlier this month. - The charges against Magnenjika include “rebellion” and insulting local officials. - Magnenjika’s supporters say his arrest and conviction were a pretext for keeping him quiet about the illicit trade in rosewood, a valuable tropical hardwood. - Magnenjika is one of at least ten Malagasy activists who have faced imprisonment in recent years.
Facebook video shows orangutan defending forest against bulldozer [06/15/2018]
- Dramatic footage released last week by an animal welfare group shows a wild orangutan trying in vain to fight off destruction of its rainforest home in Borneo. - The video, filmed in 2013 but posted on Facebook on June 5th for World Environment Day by International Animal Rescue (IAR), was shot in Sungai Putri, a tract of forest in Indonesia’s West Kalimantan province. - Sungai Putri is one of the most important refuges for orangutans left in Indonesian Borneo. According to orangutan expert Erik Meijaard, Sungai Putri may be home to over 1,000 orangutans.
The diversity of biodiversity: Connecting shrews, ants and slime molds with carbon storage [06/14/2018]
- Research has shown that, in some cases, high-carbon forests support high levels of biodiversity. - But a recent study, which looked at a wide variety of species groups, demonstrates that regrowth forests can support a greater number of representatives of some species groups. - The findings support the conclusion that recovering forests should be included in conservation planning alongside old-growth forests.
As biomass energy gains traction, southern US forests feel the burn [06/11/2018]
- An estimated 50 to 80 percent of southern wetland forest is now gone, and that which remains provides ecosystem services totaling $500 billion as well as important wildlife habitat. Logging is considered one of the biggest threats to the 35 million acres of remaining wetland forest in the southern U.S., and conservation organizations are saying this threat is coming largely from the wood pellet biomass industry. - Touted as a renewable energy source, research shows wood pellets release more carbon dioxide than coal per megawatt of electricity produced and industry critics worry that incentivizing this energy source could actually be accelerating climate change. - Experts argue that biomass energy effectively acts as a loophole for countries to under-report their carbon emissions and give a false impression of meeting Paris Agreement objectives. Research indicates pellet production plants also have a negative impact on air and water quality. - But industry proponents say biomass energy is an important component of mitigating climate change and that regulations will ensure its sustainability.
Illegal logging persists in Borneo orangutan habitat despite government ban [06/07/2018]
- Illegal logging continues inside an orangutan habitat in Borneo that the Indonesian government had decreed off-limits last year, an investigation by Greenpeace has found. - The group reported at least six logging camps in the concession held by a timber company, but noted that it was unclear whether the company itself, PT Mohairson Pawan Khatulistiwa (MPK), was engaged in the illegal logging. - This is the second time Greenpeace has found indications of commercial exploitation in the area since the government ordered PT MPK to halt its operations last year.
Scientists find Europe’s last primary forests [06/06/2018]
- A study finds 3.4 million acres (13,760 square kilometers or 5,313 square miles) in Europe fit the definition of primary forest set by the FAO. - These forests are scattered around Europe and provide important habitat for wildlife. - But the researchers warn that less than half are strictly protected, meaning that logging is legal in the majority. - They urge the EU to increase the official level of protection granted to these forests.
Hunters are wiping out hornbills in Ghana’s forests [05/23/2018]
- According to a new study, Ghana is losing hornbill species to “uncontrolled” hunting, mostly for meat, from its forested parks and reserves. - The researchers found that the five largest species of hornbills in the Bia Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, have disappeared in recent decades. - The authors of the paper suggest that increased enforcement will help protect threatened hornbills, as well as other wildlife species, in areas under intense pressure from humans.
Humans are leaving their mark on the world’s protected areas, study finds [05/17/2018]
- About one-third of the world’s total protected area — around 6 million square kilometers (2.3 million square miles) — bears the scars of substantial degradation at the hands of humans, according to research published in the journal Science. - The researchers found that large parks and reserves held to the toughest standards are doing significantly better than those with laxer controls. - The authors argue that assessments of the effectiveness of protected areas should be considered, especially as governments try to meet one of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets calling for protecting 17 percent of the Earth’s land area by 2020.
The destruction of nature in S. Sumatra has given rise to a criminal generation (commentary) [05/16/2018]
- Reports of criminal activity have increasingly trickled out of Indonesia’s South Sumatra province. - Could these incidents of violence, lawbreaking and general lack of respect for order be related to diminishing natural resources and destruction of the landscape? This article explores this idea. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author alone.
Study links malaria to deforestation in the Amazon [05/15/2018]
- A study published recently adds evidence to the argument that deforestation aids the spread of malaria. - Researchers compared deforestation patterns to malaria rates in nine states in the Brazilian Amazon. They found that places with the highest incidences of malaria were impacted forest patches between 0.1 and 5 square kilometers in size. - The researchers write that these forest patches contain the shaded, watery, forest-edge habitat preferred by the mosquitos that transmit malaria. - To keep malaria from becoming an even bigger threat, the authors call for better monitoring of mosquito populations, land planning, and income generation schemes for forest-dwelling communities.
Sifaka lemurs listed as “critically endangered” amid mysterious die-off [05/15/2018]
- In the last month and a half, at least 31 Verreaux’s sifakas (Propithecus verreauxi) have died in Berenty Reserve near Madagascar’s southern tip. - It’s one of the largest lemur die-offs scientists can remember. - Experts believe that a parasite or tick-borne disease is likely to blame, but the exact cause remains unknown. - At a large IUCN meeting held last week in Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital, primate specialists decided to uplist all nine sifaka species from endangered to critically endangered.
More gorillas and chimpanzees living in Central Africa’s forests than thought [04/27/2018]
- A study led by WCS researchers pulled together wildlife survey data collected between 2003 and 2013 at 59 sites in five countries across western Central Africa. - They then developed mathematical models to understand where the highest densities of gorillas and chimpanzees are and why, as well as broader trends in the populations. - They found that more than 361,000 western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) and almost 129,000 central chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes troglodytes) inhabit these forests — about 30 percent more gorillas and 10 percent more chimpanzees than previously estimated. - The team’s analyses also demonstrate that western lowland gorilla numbers are slipping by 2.7 percent a year.
‘Shocking and worrying’: Selective logging has big, lasting impact on fish [04/26/2018]
- A new study finds nearly as few fish species in selectively logged forests as they did in forests clear-cut for plantations. Both selectively logged and clear-cut areas had around half the number fish species present in protected, intact forests. - These findings run counter to conventional wisdom that holds selective logging is not as ecologically destructive as complete deforestation. - The study also found a similar number of fish species in streams in oil palm plantations with and without remnant forest buffers, which are often mandated in the hopes of safeguarding biodiversity. - The study’s authors say their findings underline the importance of protecting remaining primary forest.
Restoring flagging oil palm plantations to forest may benefit clouded leopards, study finds [04/24/2018]
- A team of biologists fitted four clouded leopards in the Kinabatangan region of Malaysian Borneo with satellite collars, and they gathered several months of data on the animals’ movements. - They found that the cats stuck to areas with canopy cover, and they avoided land cleared for oil palm. - Converting underperforming oil palm plantations back to forest could help the clouded leopard population with minimal impact on the state’s production of palm oil, the authors predict.
Conservation Effectiveness series sparks action, dialogue [04/23/2018]
- Our in-depth series examined the effectiveness of six common conservation strategies: Forest certification, payments for ecosystem services, community-based forest management, terrestrial protected areas, marine protected areas, and environmental advocacy. - We also examined how four of the biggest groups that dominate today’s conservation landscape — The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Conservation International (CI), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) — make decisions about which conservation strategy to employ. - Our series generated a lot of discussion and attracted a wide variety of feedback. - We hope to keep our databases of scientific studies and our infographics alive and relevant by developing a platform that allows researchers to update them by adding studies. We welcome ideas on this effort.
Island logging must go beyond current ‘best practices’ to avoid erosion: New study [04/23/2018]
- In a new study, a team of ecologists modeled what would happen if companies were allowed to log the forests of Kolombangara Island under several management scenarios, including those designed to minimize soil erosion and protect water quality. - As the model simulated higher proportions of land clearance, the most stringent methods couldn’t stop the soil erosion that would foul clean water and agricultural land for the island’s people, as well as the habitats of local aquatic plants and animals. - The Kolombangara Island Biodiversity Conservation Association is spearheading an effort to get intact forests at elevations higher than 400 meters (1,310 feet) designated as a national park on the island.
Ghosts in the machine: the land deals behind the downfall of Indonesia’s top judge [04/18/2018]
- This is the second installment of Indonesia for Sale, an in-depth series on the corruption behind Indonesia’s deforestation and land rights crisis. - Indonesia for Sale is a collaboration between Mongabay and The Gecko Project, an investigative reporting initiative established by UK-based nonprofit Earthsight. - The series is the product of 16 months of reporting across the Southeast Asian country, interviewing fixers, middlemen, lawyers and plantation companies involved in land deals, and those most affected by them.
India’s new forest policy draft draws criticism for emphasis on industrial timber [04/12/2018]
- The Draft National Forest Policy 2018 is now open for public comments, and will replace the older 1988 policy once it comes into force. - Critics are apprehensive about how the draft policy deals with community participation and industrial forestry. - The current draft is bereft of knowledge-driven solutions, some experts say.
Indonesia land swap, meant to protect peatlands, risks wider deforestation, NGOs say [04/09/2018]
- Under a government program, pulpwood and logging companies in Indonesia are eligible for a land swap if their existing concessions include at least 40 percent protected peatland. - However, a lack of transparency over how the substitute areas are selected has led to fears that up to half the land that could potentially be awarded may be natural forest, thereby speeding up deforestation in the name of protecting peatland. - There are also fears that granting eligible companies these substitute areas, which the government says will be on abandoned or undeveloped timber concessions, will reignite conflicts with local communities. - The government has promised to publish a map of the land swap areas, adding it wants to ensure the new lands don’t include natural forests and won’t spark conflicts with local communities.
Audio: Maroon 5’s James Valentine on why he’s working to stop illegal logging [04/03/2018]
- On today’s episode, we speak with multiple-Grammy-winning musician James Valentine about his work to stop illegal logging and make concert tours more environmentally friendly. - As lead guitarist of Maroon 5, Valentine has traversed the globe numerous times on tour, taking the band’s music around the world. But late last year, Valentine went to Peru with a much different mission: he was part of a group of musicians who spoke in Lima in support of the “No More Blood Wood” campaign. He also visited a sustainable logging operation in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve in 2016. - Valentine is here to tell us about his experiences in Peru and Guatemala and to tell us all about the work he and Reverb are doing to keep illegal wood out of musical instruments, lower the environmental impact of touring, and engage music fans in environmental action.
Indonesia’s dying timber concessions, invaded by oil palms, top deforestation table [04/03/2018]
- A study shows that selective-logging leases accounted for the highest rate of deforestation in three provinces studied from 2013 to 2016. - While the discovery came as a surprise, the researchers attributed part of that deforestation to the illegal encroachment of oil palm plantations into many of these timber concessions. Another factor is the cutting of more trees than permitted by logging operators. - Environmentalists warn the problem could get even worse if the government follows through on plans to lift a ban on exports of unprocessed logs, which has been in place since 1985 (with a brief hiatus from 1997 to 2001).
Greenpeace International ends its Forest Stewardship Council membership [03/30/2018]
- Greenpeace International announced on March 26 that it would not renew its membership with the FSC. - The environmental organization says the FSC is not meeting its aims of protecting forests and ensuring that human rights are respected. - Greenpeace and the FSC both say they intend to continue to engage with each other, despite the end of a long formal relationship.
Do environmental advocacy campaigns drive successful forest conservation? [03/29/2018]
- How effective are advocacy campaigns at driving permanent policy changes that lead to forest conservation results? We suspected this might be a difficult question to answer scientifically, but nevertheless we gamely set out to see what researchers had discovered when they attempted to do so as part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness.” - We ultimately reviewed 34 studies and papers, and found that the scientific evidence is fairly weak for any claims about the effectiveness of advocacy campaigns. So we also spoke with several experts in forest conservation and advocacy campaigns to supplement our understanding of some of the broader trends and to fill in some of the gaps in our knowledge. - We found no evidence that advocacy campaigns on their own drive long-term forest conservation, though they do appear to be valuable in terms of raising awareness of environmental issues and driving people to take action. But it’s important to note that, of all the conservation interventions we examined for the Conservation Effectiveness series, advocacy campaigns appear to have the weakest evidence base in scientific literature.
The wind of change blowing through Ghana’s villages (commentary) [03/23/2018]
- For generations, those who lived by Ghana’s forests invariably saw their lives get tougher when timber companies arrived in their areas: access to the forests they relied on was restricted, while the wealth generated from the logging eluded them. - Overhauling Ghana’s forest laws has meant trying to resolve this through new regulations that require companies to negotiate Social Responsibility Agreements (SRAs) with the communities living within a five-kilometer radius of their logging concessions. Under these agreements, the timber companies must share the benefits of the forests they exploit with the people who live there. - In the past, any agreements between timber companies and local people would be conducted by the local chief. This left the door open to chiefs enriching themselves by capturing rents at the expense of their communities. But an SRA needs the consent of the entire community, and when people have a voice in the decisions that effect their lives, the power starts to spread. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Company outed for fires in Indonesian palm lease still clearing forests in timber concession, NGO finds [03/22/2018]
- Agribusiness conglomerate Korindo has since 2017 implemented a moratorium on forest clearing in its oil palm concessions, after it was found to be burning forests in Indonesia’s Papua province. - A new report indicates that since then, the company may have degraded more than 30 square kilometers of pristine forest to build logging roads in one of its timber concessions — an area excluded from the self-imposed moratorium. - The NGO Mighty Earth has called on the company to extend both the forest clearing moratorium and a high carbon stock approach, which it employs on its oil palm concessions, to its timber operations.
Sarawak’s Penan now have detailed maps of their ancestral homeland [03/20/2018]
- Some 63 Penan communities came together to create 23 maps of their territory in central Borneo over the past 15 years. - For three days in late November 2017, the Penan of the region celebrated the completion of the maps. - The Penan now believe they are armed with the information that will help them hold on to their land in the face of pressure from outside timber and industrial agriculture interests.
FSC-certified timber importer failed to check legality of shipment from Cameroon [03/19/2018]
- Hardwood Dimensions, a timber importer in the U.K., violated the EU Timber Regulation by not properly verifying the legality of a shipment of Cameroonian ayous in January 2017. - A judge ordered Hardwood Dimensions to pay 4,000 pounds ($5,576) plus court costs in the case. - The case calls into question the effectiveness of Forest Stewardship Council certification, which Hardwood Dimensions has held since 2000.