Audio: Exploring humanity’s deep connection to water, plus the sounds of the Sandhill crane migration [03/20/2018]
- On today’s episode, we discuss humanity’s deep connection to water and hear sounds of one of the most ancient animal migrations on Earth, that of the Sandhill crane. - Our first guest today is marine biologist and conservationist Wallace J. Nichols, the author of Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, & Better at What You Do. - Our second guests are Ben Gottesman and Emma Brinley Buckley, researchers who are using bioacoustics to document Sandhill cranes on the Platte River in the U.S. state of Nebraska as the birds make a stopover during their annual migration. We’ll hear recordings of the cranes and other important species in this Field Notes segment.
How one of Indonesia’s biggest companies cut a secret deal to plant oil palm in Borneo [03/20/2018]
In the leadup to the release of the second installment of Indonesia for Sale, Mongabay’s collaboration with The Gecko Project, we are republishing “The Palm Oil Fiefdom,” the first installment in our series examining the corruption behind Indonesia’s deforestation and land-rights crises. This is the first part of the article, which can be read in […]
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.
Radar returns to remote sensing through free, near-real-time global imagery [03/19/2018]
- The European Space Agency’s launch of the Sentinel-1 satellite has made 20-meter resolution radar imagery of the whole planet freely available. - The “all-weather, day-and-night supply of imagery of Earth’s surface” complements standard optical satellite imagery in detecting forest loss, even under heavy cloud cover. - The Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP) demonstrates the benefits of analyzing free radar imagery to accurately quantify wet season loss of rainforest in the Peruvian Amazon.
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.
Oil palm plantations’ dearth of biodiversity rubs off on nearby forests, study shows [03/19/2018]
- Oil palm plantations in Malaysian Borneo host a lower number of frog species than forests in same area. - However, the plantations exhibit an edge effect that extends as far as 4 kilometers, resulting in a decline in the diversity of frog species in adjacent forests. - The researchers suggest that for small forest patches or narrow corridors to be of long-term conservation value in oil palm landscapes, their sizes and widths need to adequately account for these edge effects.
Madagascar: Conservation official arrested for killing 11 endangered lemurs [03/16/2018]
- Two weeks ago, the bodies of 11 critically endangered lemurs were discovered in the Zahamena Ankeniheny Corridor protected area in eastern Madagascar. - The lemurs were allegedly killed by one of the local officials charged with protecting them, to the dismay of conservation leaders. - The alleged poacher was arrested on Feb. 27, and this week the police set out to arrest his suspected accomplices. - The Madagascar government reacted to the poaching incident at the highest level, including pledges by the prime minister and minister of the environment to crack down on poaching.
Better agricultural planning could prevent 88% of biodiversity loss, study finds [03/16/2018]
- Results of a new study reveal that nearly 90 percent of the biodiversity that scientists expect will be lost to future agricultural expansion could be saved if more effective land-use planning directed this expansion to areas with the fewest species. - It found that 10 countries possessed the lion’s share of this potential, and could by themselves reduce the expected loss of the world’s biodiversity by 33 percent. - However, there are caveats. The researchers write that most of these countries are among the “20 worst-ranked” in terms of environmental impacts and have governance and political issues that would impede effective land-use planning at a national level. And they say global land-use optimization aimed at protecting the natural resources of the world’s most biodiverse countries may come “at the expense of their own production opportunities and economic development.” - The researchers write that in order for the world’s most biodiverse countries to reach their full conservation potential while providing for their human communities, global land-use policy and research need to better integrate the governance, political and economic challenges present in these countries.
Save the Sumatran rhino ‘because we can’ (commentary) [03/16/2018]
- Mongabay sent contributing editor Jeremy Hance to Indonesia in 2017 to visit the last remaining Sumatran rhinos in the forests and protected sanctuaries where captive breeding is having some limited success. - Hance argues today in an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald that we should save the Sumatran rhino, not only because losing biodiversity is bad for the health of humanity’s environment, but also “because we can.” - To keep these ‘lovably weird’ rhinos from extinction, the Indonesian government must act, he argues, because even if there’s 100 left, that size population is unlikely to be viable in the long term.
Report finds projects in DRC ‘REDD+ laboratory’ fall short of development, conservation goals [03/16/2018]
- The Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) released a new report that found that 20 REDD+ projects in a province in DRC aren’t set to address forest conservation and economic development — the primary goals of the strategy. - The Paris Agreement explicitly mentions the role of REDD+ projects, which channel funds from wealthy countries to heavily forested ones, in keeping the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius this century. - RRI is asking REDD+ donors to pause funding of projects in DRC until coordinators develop a more participatory approach that includes communities and indigenous groups.
Five years after zero-deforestation vow, little sign of progress from Indonesian pulp giant [03/15/2018]
- Environmental watchdogs have criticized Indonesian paper behemoth Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) for not making good on the zero-deforestation pledge it made five years ago. - The NGOs have highlighted several key problems in the implementation of APP’s Forest Conservation Program, including virtually no progress in addressing longstanding land conflicts with local communities, and the glacial pace of peatland restoration. - APP has acknowledged some of the shortcomings in the implementation of its pledge, but says many of the outstanding issues and complex and that it remains committed to its goal.
Camera traps nab crop-raiding animals near farms in the Amazon [03/14/2018]
- A team of scientists from the U.K. and Brazil used an array of 132 camera traps to snap more than 60,000 photographs around 47 farming communities in the Amazon. - They also conducted 157 interviews with local farmers about the animals that they found most frequently in their fields. - The researchers found that the animals that were most destructive to crops were also among the ones nabbed most frequently by their cameras.
Illegal cattle ranching deforests Mexico’s massive Lacandon Jungle [03/14/2018]
- According to authorities and residents, cattle from Central America are brought to Mexico illegally over the porous border with Guatemala and left to graze in the Lacandon Jungle, a protected area. - The Lacandon Jungle in Chiapas state once covered 1.5 million hectares. Today, it is only a third of that size and continuing to shrink. - A potent mix of poverty, porous borders and lack of government control of protected areas has contributed to the proliferation of small cattle ranches throughout the area, which, combined, have a major impact on the ecosystem.
Two dozen Latin American countries sign agreement to protect environmental defenders [03/14/2018]
- The Principle 10 treaty deals mainly with the defense of environmentalists, promoting transparency in public access to environmental information, and shoring up environmental democracy and justice. - The principles were approved on March 4 in the so-called Escazú Agreement in Costa Rica, by 24 countries from around Latin America and the Caribbean. It must now be ratified by the member countries. - Environmental activists have hailed it as a massive step forward in the protection of environmental defenders, in a region where such advocates face the greatest threats to their lives.
Small hydropower a big global issue overlooked by science and policy [03/13/2018]
- Brazil recently announced an end to its mega-dam construction policy, a strategy other nations may embrace as understanding of the massive environmental and social impacts of big dams grows. - However, a trend long neglected by scientists and policymakers ¬ the rapid growth of small dams – has been spotlighted in a new study. - Nearly 83,000 small dams in 150 nations (with 11 small dams for each large dam), exist globally, while that number could triple if all capacity worldwide is used. More than 10,000 new small dams are already in the planning stages. But small dam impacts have been little studied by scientists, and little regulated by governments. - Environmentalists say that, with the rapid construction of new small dams, it is urgent for researchers to assess the impacts of different types of small dams, as well as looking at the cumulative impacts of many small dams placed on a single river, or on main stems and tributaries within watersheds.
Debates heat up as Indonesian palm oil moratorium is about to be signed [03/13/2018]
- Announced two years ago, a moratorium on new oil palm permits in Indonesia is about to be signed by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. - But a coalition of environmental NGOs has criticized the latest draft of the moratorium, saying it contains many loopholes. - The coalition has submitted a list of recommendations to the government, which has promised to follow up on their concerns.
Video: Rare newborn western lowland gorilla filmed in the wild [03/13/2018]
- The baby gorilla was born on Feb. 17 in the rainforests of Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo, according to WCS. - The infant is the offspring of a female gorilla named Mekome and a male silverback named Kingo, who has been studied by the WCS Congo researchers of the Mondika Gorilla Project for about two decades. - Mekome’s newest baby is her fifth offspring, and represents hope for the species, researchers say.
Sarawak makes 80% forest preservation commitment, but some have doubts [03/12/2018]
- The Malaysian state of Sarawak is committing to the preservation of 80 percent of its land area as primary and secondary forest, according to an announcement by Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg. - According to data, concession boundaries for oil palm and other kinds of tree plantations covered 32.7 percent of Sarawak’s land area as of 2010/11, suggesting that if Sarawak is to fulfill its commitment to preserve 80 percent of its land as primary and secondary forest, then it may need to cancel some of these concessions. - The director of environmental and human rights watchdog organization Earthsight expressed doubts that Sarawak will follow through on the commitment, and recommends the state increase transparency and crack down on illegal logging.
Oil palm, rubber could trigger ‘storm’ of deforestation in the Congo Basin [03/12/2018]
- Earthsight documented approximately 500 square kilometers (193 square miles) of deforestation to clear the way for new rubber and oil palm plantations in Central Africa’s rainforest countries in the past five years. - The team also found that companies in five Central African countries hold licenses for industrial agriculture on another 8,400 square kilometers (3,243 square miles) of land. - The investigators warn that thousands of hectares of forest could fall to industrial agriculture in the COngo Basin, the world’s second-largest rainforest, if governance of the forest doesn’t improve.
How deforestation risks for investors can become opportunities for conservation (commentary) [03/09/2018]
- Deforestation can damage a company’s reputation and business performance, presenting a real risk for investors. - Recent research showcases examples of how companies have suffered from failing to properly manage deforestation-related issues. Impacts include multi-million dollar fines, loss of key customers, falling share prices, and even liquidation. - Investors and companies can reduce these risks by adopting, implementing, and transparently reporting on credible zero-deforestation policies, and joining partnerships to improve production in key landscapes. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.
NGOs seek suspension of forest-related funding to DRC in response to proposed end to logging moratorium [03/08/2018]
- More than 50 conservation and human rights organizations have called on international donors to halt forest conservation-related funding to the Democratic Republic of Congo. - The call comes in response to signals by the country’s leaders of their intention to end a 16-year-old moratorium on new logging licenses in the country, including a secretive push to alter the DRC forest code. - The NGOs argue that opening DRC up to logging will destabilize the country and damage the environment and forest-dependent communities.
Tropical deforestation: the need for a strategy adjustment (commentary) [03/08/2018]
- Ecologist Dan Nepstad is the founder and executive director of the Earth Innovation Institute. - In this commentary, Nepstad makes the case for building stronger government support to end deforestation in tropical countries. - Without this support, it may not be possible to further curb tropical deforestation. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Video: Arkani, the Dayak known as Jenggot Naga — Dragon Beard [03/08/2018]
- “The palm oil fiefdom” is an investigation by Mongabay and The Gecko Project, an initiative of the UK-based research house Earthsight. - The article reveals how Darwan Ali, the former head of Indonesia’s Seruyan district, presided over an elaborate scheme to use shell companies as vehicles to make money from major palm oil firms. - Short films produced in conjunction with the article feature some of those affected by Darwan’s licensing spree, including an indigenous man from Borneo named Arkani.
Brazilian ‘quilombo’ community entitled with 220,000 hectares of rainforest [03/07/2018]
- Longtime residents of one of the country’s thousands of Quilombo communities have been given land titles for the first time. - Quilombo communities are Brazilian peoples of African descent whose ancestors were slaves – they have long lived in rural communities throughout Brazil. - The Cachoeira Porteira quilombo community of 500 people in Brazil’s Pará state was formally entitled with some 220,000 hectares of Amazonian rainforest earlier this month.
Jaguar numbers rising at field sites, WCS says [03/07/2018]
- WCS reports that jaguar numbers have risen by almost 8 percent a year between 2002 and 2016 at study sites in Central and South America. - The sites cover around 400,000 square kilometers (154,440 square miles) of jaguar habitat. - Despite the promising findings, WCS scientists caution that habitat destruction, hunting in response to livestock killings, and poaching for their body parts remain critical threats to jaguars.
Analysis: the Brazilian Supreme Court’s New Forest Code ruling [03/07/2018]
- Last week Brazil’s Supreme Court rejected a legal challenge by environmentalists, upholding the constitutionality of most, though not all, of Brazil’s New Forest Code – legislation crafted in 2012 by the powerful bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby in Congress. - The 2012 code is weaker than the old Forest Code, which was approved in 1965, but never well enforced. - Many environmentalists have expressed concern that the high court ruling endorses legislation that prioritizes the economic importance of industrial agriculture over basic environmental protections. - Conservationists also say that the decision rewards those who have illegally infringed on environmental laws at a time when pressures on forests are growing more intense, especially in the Amazon. This story includes a chart that provides a detailed analysis of the environmental pros and cons of the Supreme Court decision.
Video: Budiardi, labeled a ‘provocateur’ and jailed in a dispute with a palm oil company [03/06/2018]
- “The palm oil fiefdom” is an investigation by Mongabay and The Gecko Project, an initiative of the UK-based research house Earthsight. - The article reveals how Darwan Ali, the former head of Indonesia’s Seruyan district, presided over an elaborate scheme to use shell companies as vehicles to sell plantation licenses to major palm oil firms. - Short films produced in conjunction with the article feature some of those affected by Darwan’s licensing spree, including a Dayak man named Budiardi.
Ecotourism payments for more wildlife sightings linked to conservation benefits in Laos [03/05/2018]
- A four-year research project in a national protected area in Laos established a connection between higher payments for more wildlife sightings and improved protections for wildlife. - Over the course of the study, sightings of common wildlife rose by more than 60 percent. - Payments were funded by the entry fees paid by tourists. - They were placed in village development funds, which would then finance projects like school construction and healthcare.
Amazon forest to savannah tipping point could be far closer than thought (commentary) [03/05/2018]
- In the 1970s, scientists recognized that the Amazon makes half of its own rainfall via evaporation and transpiration from vegetation. Researchers also recognized that escalating deforestation would reduce this rainfall producing effect. - A 2007 study estimated that with 40 percent Amazon deforestation a tipping point could be reached, with large swathes of Amazonia switching from forest to savannah. Two newly considered factors in a 2016 study – climate change and fires – have now reduced that estimated tipping point to 20-25 percent. Current deforestation is at 17 percent, with an unknown amount of degraded forest adding less moisture. - There is good reason to think that this Amazon forest to savannah tipping point is close at hand. Historically unprecedented droughts in 2005, 2010 and 2015 would seem to be the first flickers of such change. - Noted Amazon scientists Tom Lovejoy and Carlos Nobre argue that it is critical to build in a margin of safety by keeping Amazon deforestation below 20 percent. To avoid this tipping point, Brazil needs to strongly control deforestation, and combine that effort with reforestation. This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
In eastern Indonesia, a forest tribe pushes back against miners and loggers [03/05/2018]
- The Forest Tobelo, an indigenous tribe in Indonesia’s North Maluku province, faces constant threat from illegal loggers and the expansion of mining leases. - More than one third of the province’s total area has been allocated for mining leases. - The community has chosen to fight back by drawing up its own maps of the land to which it has long laid claim, and by reporting illegal incursions into its forests.
Mangrove deforestation may be releasing more CO2 than Poland, study finds [03/02/2018]
- A new study calculates that, worldwide, mangroves were storing 4.19 billion metric tons of carbon in 2012, representing a 2 percent loss since 2000. It estimates that number had dropped further to 4.16 billion metric tons by 2017. - In total, the study estimates that this lost carbon translates to as much as 317 million tons of CO2 emissions per year, equivalent to the annual emissions of around 67.5 million passenger vehicles in the U.S. and more than the 2015 emissions of Poland. - The researchers found Indonesia harbors the lion’s share of the world’s mangroves – around 30 percent – while also experiencing the biggest proportion of its 2000-2012 mangrove carbon loss, with deforestation there accounting for more than 48 percent of the global total. Other parts of Southeast Asia, such as Myanmar, are also undergoing high rates of mangrove deforestation, making the entire region a hotspot of global mangrove carbon loss. - Previous research estimates that between 30 and 50 percent of the world’s mangroves have been lost over the past 50 years. Deforestation for shrimp, rice and palm oil are among the biggest drivers of mangrove decline.
Brazil high court Forest Code ruling largely bad for environment, Amazon: NGOs [03/01/2018]
- In a tight decision, the Brazilian Supreme Court (STF) upheld the constitutionality of much of Brazil’s 2012 New Forest Code, that had been created under the powerful influence of the bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby. The upheld 2012 New Forest Code is a weaker body of environmental regulations than the 1965 code created under Brazil’s military government. - The court ruling made constitutional a declared amnesty for those who illegally cleared their Legal Reserves (lands, by law, they must not clear) before 22 July 2008, eliminating required fines and tree replantings. It allows for the reduction of Legal Reserves in states or municipalities largely occupied by indigenous reserves or protected areas. - The STF decision also allows for the reduction in size of APAs (Areas of Permanent Protection), even when considered fundamental by environmentalists for maintaining water supplies and preventing climate disasters such as floods and mudslides. - The ruling allows farmers who have already illegally cleared protected APAs, to get authorization to clear even more land, and approves farming activities on steep slopes and hilltops. Environmentalists were critical of the high court decision, while agribusiness praised it.
Pepsi cuts off Indonesian palm oil supplier over labor, sustainability concerns [03/01/2018]
- PepsiCo has announced the suspension since January 2017 of its business ties with IndoAgri, one of Indonesia’s biggest palm oil producers, citing concerns over the company’s labor rights and sustainability practices. - IndoAgri has been criticized for alleged abuses of workers’ rights in some of its plantations in North Sumatra province. - PepsiCo has demanded that IndoAgri resolve these outstanding issues before its considers resuming their business partnership.
‘S.O.S.’ carved out of former plantation shines a light on palm oil-driven deforestation [03/01/2018]
- A dramatic S.O.S. sign has been carved out of a stand of oil palms on a former plantation in Sumatra, serving to highlight the destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests. - The work is part of a campaign by a Lithuanian artist, a conservation group and a cosmetics firm to raise awareness about palm oil-driven deforestation in Indonesia, the world’s biggest producer of the commodity. - Extensive deforestation has for decades threatened the lives of the island’s native wildlife and the people who depend on the forests for a living.
Javan rhino population holds steady amid ever-present peril [03/01/2018]
- The latest survey from the Indonesian government shows the population of the Javan rhino, one of the world’s most endangered large mammals, holding steady in its last remaining habitat. - While the findings indicate a healthy and breeding rhino population, wildlife experts warn of the dangers looming over the animal’s existence, including human encroachment into its habitat and the ever-present threat of a volcanic eruption and tsunami. - The Javan rhino is one of the last three Asian rhino species — alongside the Sumatran and Indian rhinos — all of which have been pushed to the brink of extinction.
Andes dams twice as numerous as thought are fragmenting the Amazon [02/28/2018]
- A new study identified 142 dams currently in operation or under construction in the Andes headwaters of the Amazon, twice the number previously estimated. An additional 160 are in the planning stages. - If proposed Andes dams go ahead, sediment transport to the Amazon floodplains could cease, blocking freshwater fish migratory routes, disrupting flow and flood regimes, and threatening food security for downstream communities, impacting up to 30 million people. - Most dams to date are on the tributary networks of Andean river main stems. But new dams are planned for five out of eight major Andean Amazon main stems, bringing connectivity reductions on the Marañón, Ucayali and Beni rivers of more than 50 percent; and on the Madre de Dios and Mamoré rivers of over 35 percent. - Researchers conclude that proposed dams should be required to complete cumulative effects assessments at a basin-wide scale, and account for synergistic impacts of existing dams, utilizing the UN Watercourses Convention as a legal basis for international cooperation for sustainable water management between Amazon nations.
Detecting disasters on community lands in the Amazon: film highlights indigenous struggle [02/27/2018]
- For decades, indigenous communities across the western Amazon have protested the contamination of their water, soil and other natural resources by oil companies. - A short film, “Detecting Disasters,” explores the use by the Kukama Kukamiria and other indigenous groups of small drones to strengthen their case to officials and reduce future damage to their health and that of their forest resources. - The successful, consistent use of drones and other new technologies by remote communities requires overcoming several basic challenges, including adequate electricity, training time, and availability of parts to make repairs.
Why intact forests are important [02/26/2018]
- Overall, the world lost more than 7 percent of its intact forest landscapes in just over a decade, a trend that appears to be accelerating. - A new study discusses how intact forests are critically important for mitigating climate change, maintaining water supplies, safeguarding biodiversity and even protecting human health. - However, it warns that global policies aimed at reducing deforestation are not putting enough emphasis on the preservation of the world’s dwindling intact forests, instead relying on a one-size-fits-all approach that may end up doing more harm than good. - The researchers urge more inclusion and prioritization of intact forests in global commitments and policies aimed at curbing deforestation.
Belo Monte legacy: harm from Amazon dam didn’t end with construction (photo story) [02/26/2018]
- The controversial Belo Monte dam, operational in 2016 and the world’s third biggest, was forced on the people of Altamira, Pará state, and is now believed to have been built largely as payback to Brazil’s construction industry by the nation’s then ruling Workers’ Party for campaign contributions received. - The dam was opposed by an alliance of indigenous and traditional communities, and international environmentalists, all to no avail. Today, the media coverage that once turned the world’s eyes toward Belo Monte, has gone away. But that hasn’t ended the suffering and harm resulting from the project. - Tens of thousands of indigenous and traditional people were forced from their homes, and had to give up their fishing livelihoods. Meanwhile, the city of Altamira endured boom and bust, as workers flooded in, then abandoned it. The Belo Sun goldmine, if ever built, also continues to be a potential threat. - In this story, Mongabay contributor Maximo Anderson and photographer Aaron Vincent Elkaim document the ongoing harm being done by the giant dam. Belo Monte, today, stands as a warning regarding the urgent need to properly assess and plan for mega-infrastructure projects in Amazonia.
Scientists aim to give engineers the tools for ecologically sensitive development [02/26/2018]
- EIAs, or environmental impact assessments, are notoriously flawed and don’t always provide an accurate assessment of the risks of development projects. - A recent article by a team of scientists is part of a larger effort to give planners and engineers the data for more environmentally sensitive development. - The article appears in the February issue of Jurutera: The Journal of Malaysian Engineers.
DRC breaches logging moratorium for Chinese-owned companies [02/23/2018]
- 6,500 square kilometers of logging concessions in the DRC’s central Congo have been awarded. - The deal – with two Chinese companies – is an apparent violation of a 2002 logging moratorium. - The logging concessions are located on a 145,000 square kilometer tropical peatland complex – the largest in the world.
Tropical forest fragmentation nearing ‘critical point,’ study finds [02/23/2018]
- In addition to having severe repercussions for animals like jaguars and tigers that require vast tracts of connected habitat, forest fragmentation has a big carbon footprint. - A new physics-based study finds fragmentation of tropical forests may be reaching a threshold past which fragmentation will shoot up sharply. At this threshold, even a relatively small amount of deforestation could lead to dramatic fragmentation – and significant habitat loss and greenhouse gas emissions. - The team calculated that at current deforestation rates, the number of fragments will increase 33-fold in Central and South America by 2050, and their average size will drop from 17 hectares to 0.25 hectares.
Activists: Palm oil must not get wider access to EU under Indonesia trade talks [02/22/2018]
- The prospect of greater access for Indonesian palm oil to the 28-nation EU market is expected to dominate trade negotiations taking place this week. - Environmental activists from both Indonesia and Europe warn that granting this access could lead to even greater deforestation and more social conflicts in Indonesia, the world’s biggest producer of palm oil. - For its part, the Indonesian government is seeking to push back against EU measures to phase out palm oil for use in biofuels by 2021.
Drought-driven wildfires on rise in Amazon basin, upping CO2 release [02/22/2018]
- Despite a 76 percent decline in deforestation rates between 2003 and 2015, the incidence of forest fires is increasing in Brazil, with new research linking the rise in fires not only to deforestation, but also to severe droughts. - El Niño, combined with other oceanic and atmospheric cycles, produced an unusually severe drought in 2015, a year that saw a 36 percent increase in Amazon basin forest fires, which also raised carbon emissions. - Severe droughts are expected to become more common in the Brazilian Amazon as natural oceanic cycles are made more extreme by human-induced climate change. - In this new climate paradigm, limiting deforestation alone will not be sufficient to reduce fires and curb carbon emissions, scientists say. The maintenance of healthy, intact, unfragmented forests is vital to providing resilience against further increases in Amazon fires.
DJ and ornithologists create wildlife music game [02/21/2018]
- Wildlife DJ Ben Mirin has teamed up with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Cornell Hip Hop Collection on a new online game that uses wildlife recordings. - Players take sound recordings of wild creatures and transform them into loops, creating a wide variety of song clips. Players also learn about the animals and the habitats they live in. - Mirin was also a guest on Mongabay’s podcast in 2017.
Audio: Exploring the minds and inner lives of animals [02/20/2018]
- On this episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we speak with an author of a new book about the minds and lives of animals – about their amazing memories and minds, how they dream, and more – and we’ll also learn what Mongabay’s newest bureau just launched in India is reporting about. - Our first guest is Sy Montgomery, the author of two dozen books for adults and kids about animals. She recently teamed up with her friend and fellow animal writer Elizabeth Marshall Thomas to write Tamed and Untamed: Close Encounters of the Animal Kind, and is here to share a few of the fascinating stories from the book with us. - Our second guest today is Sandhya Sekar, program manager for Mongabay India, who’s here to tell us about the environmental challenges India is facing and what kinds of coverage you’ll find at india.mongabay.com.
‘It’s our home’: Pygmies fight for recognition as forest protectors in new film [02/20/2018]
- A recent short film, Pygmy Peoples of the DRC: A Rising Movement, tracks the push for the recognition of indigenous land rights in the DRC. - The film catalogs the importance of the forest to pygmy groups, as well as their role as stewards of the forest. - A raft of recent research has shown that indigenous groups around the world often do a better job of protecting forests than parks and reserves.
Scientists from Indonesia, Germany and the Netherlands win Indonesian Peat Prize [02/20/2018]
- A team of scientists from Indonesia, Germany and the Netherlands has won the Indonesian Peat Prize for coming up with a fast, accurate and cost-effective way to map Indonesia’s vast tropical peatlands. - The judges praise the winning methodology’s versatility, speediness and accuracy in mapping peatlands. - Indonesia will have two years to fully adapt the winning methodology into the new peat-mapping standard, although some government agencies are clamoring to start adopting the system immediately.
As Indonesia gears up for elections, activists brace for an environmental sell-off [02/19/2018]
- This year, Indonesia will hold elections for governors, district heads and mayors across 171 regions, many of them home to vast natural resources. - Environmental activists are worried that, as in previous election years, the campaigning this year will be rife with corruption, as candidates take kickbacks from plantation and mining operators in a quid pro quo for permits and other favors once in office. - A key factor in the issue is the greater autonomy that local leaders enjoy managing their lands and resources, to the extent that they can even skirt some of the controls imposed by the central government. - The central government has made assurances that its processes now are more transparent and accountable, making potential abuses at the local level less likely. Activists, though, are unconvinced, citing a longstanding lack of strong enforcement.
Protected areas with deforestation more likely to lose status in Brazilian state [02/18/2018]
- A recent study finds that ineffective protected areas stand a lower chance of surviving if deforestation has occurred within their boundaries. - The research took place in the state of Rondônia in the Brazilian Amazon. - The team of scientists also found that protected areas that work are less likely to be carved up for development. - The authors argue that removing safeguards, even from degraded areas, does not take into account the benefits that we may derive from existing protected areas, including carbon storage and clean water.
Deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon dropped 13 percent in 2017 [02/16/2018]
- A new analysis of satellite imagery and data finds 143,425 hectares of forest were lost in the Peruvian Amazon in 2017, down 13 percent from 2016. - The analysis identified newly deforestation hotspots in the San Martín and Amazonas regions. - The main causes of the loss of forest in the Amazon appear to be cultivation of crops, small- and medium-scale ranching, large oil palm plantations and gold mining.
East Africa’s Albertine Rift needs protection now, scientists say [02/15/2018]
- The Albertine Rift in East Africa is home to more than 500 species of plants and animals found nowhere else on the planet. - Created by the stretching apart of tectonic plates, the unique ecosystems of the Albertine Rift are also under threat from encroaching human population and climate change. - A new report details a plan to protect the landscapes that make up the Rift at a cost of around $21 million per year — a bargain rate, scientists argue, given the number of threatened species that could be saved.
Brazilian Supreme Court ruling protects Quilombola land rights for now [02/13/2018]
- Brazil’s Supreme Court has soundly rejected a lawsuit filed in 2003 by a right wing political party that would have drastically limit the ability of quilombolas (former slave communities) to legitimize claims to their traditional lands. - There are 2,962 quilombolas in Brazil today, but just 219 have land titles, while 1,673 are pursuing the process of acquiring legal title. Titled quilombola territories include 767,596 hectares (1.9 million acres); these settlements have a good record of protecting their forests. Brazil’s total quilombola population includes some 16 million people. - While advocates for quilombola rights cheered the Supreme Court decision, major threats to the communities loom: successive administrations have drastically slashed the budget for titling quilombola lands, almost completely stalling the demarcation process. Also, a constitutional amendment, PEC 215 is moving through Brazil’s Congress. - PEC 215 would shift authority from the Executive branch to Congress for giving out land titles to quilombolas, recognizing indigenous claims to ancestral lands, and creating protected areas. With Congress dominated by the ruralist caucus and agribusiness, PEC 215 threatens Brazilian forests and indigenous and traditional communities.
Bridgestone aims for full sustainability by 2050 [02/13/2018]
- Bridgestone is the world’s largest tire and rubber manufacturer. - The company joins Pirelli and Michelin in committing itself and its suppliers to a sustainable supply chain by 2050. - The move could be particularly beneficial in places like Cambodia, where deforestation has closely tracked the global price for rubber.
Ecuador votes to reduce oil exploitation in Yasuní National Park [02/12/2018]
- In a recent referendum, 67.5 percent of Ecuador’s voting population voted in favor increasing Yasuní National Park’s Intangible Zone by at least 50,000 hectares and reducing the oil extraction area in the park from 1,030 to 300 hectares. - Ishpingo Field, which forms part of Block 43 of the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) Initiative, is the only field that has not yet been exploited. Drilling was slated to begin there in mid-2018, but the referendum’s “yes” vote may prevent exploitation. - Ishpingo is located on Yasuni’s Intangible Zone, which protects Indigenous communities living in voluntary isolation. Environmentalists hope that a technical commission will be formed to define where the Intangible Zone will expand.
Scientists discover 18 new spider-hunting spiders from Madagascar [02/09/2018]
- Researchers have added 18 new species to the assassin spider family, upping the total number of known Eriauchenius and Madagascarchaea species to 26. - Assassin spiders, also known as pelican spiders, have special physical and behavioral adaptations that allow them to hunt other spiders. - The new species were discovered in Madagascar’s forests and through examination of previously collected museum specimens. - Madagascar is currently experiencing high levels of deforestation. Researchers say the loss of Madagascar’s forests is putting the new assassin spiders – as well as many other species – at risk of extinction.
Cattle invade Colombian national park [02/08/2018]
- An analysis of satellite data shows incursions into La Paya National Park in southern Colombia. - The data indicate La Paya lost around 9,500 hectares of rainforest between 2001 and 2016. - Researchers say satellite imagery show evidence that these clearings are being used for cattle pasture. - Conservationists worry deforestation will continue to rise with the demobilization of Colombia’s FARC rebel group, whose presence in the country’s forests kept logging and agriculture at bay for decades.
Faith in the forest helps Indonesia’s Dayaks keep plantations, loggers at bay [02/08/2018]
- Indigenous Dayak tribes of Borneo have longstanding traditions of performing various rituals throughout the agricultural cycle. - These rituals keep communities united in protecting their forests, with which the Dayak maintain a reverential relationship — not just as a resource for food and livelihood, but also for spiritual fulfillment. - The rituals also help ensure that the bounty of harvests is shared among all members of the community, even those who have experienced a poor yield.
Audio: The cutting-edge technologies allowing us to monitor ecosystems like never before [02/06/2018]
- On today’s episode, we discuss the cutting-edge remote sensing technologies used to monitor ecosystems like rainforests and coral reefs. We also listen to a few ecoacoustic recordings that are used to analyze species richness in tropical forests. - Our first guest today is Greg Asner, who leads the Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO) at Stanford University’s Carnegie Institution for Science. Asner invented a technique he calls “airborne laser-guided imaging spectroscopy” that utilizes imaging spectrometers mounted on the Carnegie Airborne Observatory airplane to produce highly detailed data on large and complex ecosystems like tropical forests. - Our second guest is Mitch Aide, the principal investigator at the University of Puerto Rico’s Tropical Community Ecology Lab. In this Field Notes segment, Aide will play us a few of the audio recordings he’s uploaded to Arbimon as part of his recent research and will explain how these recordings are used to examine species richness in tropical forests.
Scientists find ‘surprising’ connections between tropical forests [02/05/2018]
- For a new study, researchers genetically analyzed the evolutionary relatedness of tree species that live in tropical and sub-tropical forests around the world. - Their results indicate the world’s tropical forests are divided into two main “floristic regions,” one that comprises most of Africa and the Americas and another in the Indo-Pacific region. - The analysis also indicates dry tropical forests around the world – from Madagascar and India to Africa and South America – are unexpectedly similar to one another. - The findings go against traditional assumptions about the relationships between tropical forests, and the researchers believe they could aid the development of more region-appropriate responses to climate change.
Carbon pricing could save millions of hectares of tropical forest: new study [02/05/2018]
- Recently published research in the journal Environmental Research Letters found that setting a price of $20 per metric ton (about $18/short ton) of carbon dioxide could diminish deforestation by nearly 16 percent and the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere by nearly 25 percent. - The pair of economists calculated that, as things currently stand, the world stands to lose an India-size chunk of tropical forest by 2050. - In addition to carbon pricing, stricter policies to halt deforestation, such as those that helped Brazil cut its deforestation rate by 80 percent in the early 2000s, could save nearly 1 million square kilometers (386,000 square miles).
Amazon rainforest hit by surge in small-scale deforestation, study finds [02/02/2018]
- A recent study used high-resolution satellite imagery to analyze deforestation events in Amazonia, uncovering a shift from large- to small-scale deforestation events across the region. Protected areas also appear to be affected. - The results indicate big new deforestation hotspots are opening up in Peru and Bolivia, likely caused by industrial agriculture. - The researchers found 34 percent of forest loss patches in the Brazilian Amazon were smaller than 6.25 hectares, which is the smallest size detectable by the Brazilian government’s deforestation monitoring system. - The researchers say higher-resolution monitoring systems are needed to combat the rising tide of small-scale deforestation.
Indonesian palm, pulp companies commit to peatland restoration [02/02/2018]
- Some 125 palm oil and pulp companies have committed to restoring a combined 14,000 square kilometers (5,400 square miles) of degraded peatlands that fall within their leases over the next eight years. - The move is part of government-driven efforts to prevent a repeat of the massive land and forest fires that flared up in 2015, largely as a result of peatlands being drained for planting and rendered highly combustible. - At the heart of the rehabilitation work is the extensive blocking of drainage canals, which aims to restore moisture to the peat soil.
Venezuela: can a failing state protect its environment and its people? [02/01/2018]
- Venezuela is fast becoming a failed state, with 11.4 percent of its children malnourished, 10.5 percent of its workforce unemployed, and an annual inflation rate of roughly 2,700 percent for 2017. - Serious food, fuel and medicine shortages have in recent months resulted in mobs raiding stores and shops, fishing boats, even the stoning of a cow to death where it stood in a field, in order for people to be able to provide for their families. - Meanwhile, Pres. Maduro has sought to save his nation from economic ruin by selling off its natural resources, opening the Arco Minero in Bolívar state to mining – 112,000 square kilometers, more than 12 percent of the country. He has also announced the creation of the Petro cryptocurrency, backed by the nation’s oil and possibly minerals. - Mongabay correspondent Bram Ebus, in partnership with InfoAmazonia, recently traveled to the remote Arco Minero and reported firsthand on the chaotic political and social situation, where indigenous communities and the environment are put at risk by economic hardship, a corrupt military, armed gangs and guerrilla bands.
Zero-deforestation pledges need help, support to meet targets, new study finds [02/01/2018]
- The study’s authors reviewed previous research to understand the impact that zero-deforestation commitments are having on reducing the loss of forests. - Nearly 450 companies made 760 such commitments by early 2017. - These pledges can reduce deforestation in some cases, but in others, they weren’t effective or had unintended effects, according to the study. - The authors advocate for increased public-private communication, more support for smallholders, and complementary laws that support these pledges.
More murders: Conservationists allegedly killed by soldiers in Cambodia [01/31/2018]
- Three people have been shot and killed by soldiers in northeastern Cambodia, apparently in retaliation for seizing equipment from illegal loggers. - A police report names three individuals as responsible for the killings: a border police officer and two border military officers. - Illegal logging and timber smuggling is commonplace between Cambodia and Vietnam, and officials from both countries are often complicit. - Around 200 land activists were murdered worldwide in 2016, up from 185 in 2015.
Is a plantation a forest? Indonesia says yes, as it touts a drop in deforestation [01/31/2018]
- Indonesia has reported a second straight year of declining deforestation, and credited more stringent land management policies for the trend. - However, the government’s insistence on counting pulpwood plantations as reforested areas has once again sparked controversy over how the very concept of a forest should be defined. - Researchers caution that the disparity between Indonesia’s methodology and the standard more commonly used elsewhere could make it difficult for the government to qualify for funding to mitigate carbon emissions from deforestation.
New study suggests Borneo’s had elephants for thousands of years [01/31/2018]
- The research, published in January in the journal Scientific Reports, used genetic information and changes to the topography of the region to surmise that Asian elephants arrived in Borneo between 11,000 and 18,000 years ago. - The authors hypothesize that elephants moved from nearby islands or the Malaysian peninsula to Borneo via land bridges. - It’s an indication that the elephants are ‘native’ to Borneo, the scientists argue, and points to the need to bolster conservation efforts.
Environmental reporting in Vietnam often a comedy of errors [01/30/2018]
- Vietnam’s global press freedom ranking is one of the lowest in the world. - Reporters Without Borders ranks Vietnam 175 0f 180 in its 2017 annual press freedom index. - Environmental journalists in Vietnam, including citizen journalists and bloggers, routinely face roadblocks and sometimes jail time.
Camera trap captures spotted hyena in Gabon national park, the first in 20 years [01/29/2018]
- The spotted hyena was thought to be extinct in Gabon’s Batéké Plateau National Park for 20 years as a result of wildlife poaching. - But the camera trap image captured has given conservation groups hope that protection of the park is working and allowing wildlife to return. - Camera traps have also recently snagged images of a lion, a serval and chimpanzees.
Fang trafficking to China is putting Bolivia’s jaguars in jeopardy [01/26/2018]
- Residents in Bolivia’s Sena community say that they can sell a jaguar canine for about $215 on the Chinese market. - According to Bolivian authorities, the fangs are valued in the Asian market at prices as high as cocaine. - Between 2013 and 2016, 380 jaguar canines were seized by Bolivian authorities, which correlates to 95 jaguars killed. - Residents say an influx of Chinese companies to build roads and bridges in Bolivia is contributing to increased trafficking of jaguar parts. However, authorities deny these claims.
Indonesian ruling rings alarms over criminalization of environmental defenders [01/26/2018]
- A court in Indonesia has sentenced an anti-mine activist to 10 months in jail on a rarely used charge of promoting communism. - The ruling is just the latest in a series of controversial prosecutions of environmental activists and protesters based on draconian or obscure laws, which critics say is meant to silence dissent against politically connected developers. - The environment ministry says it wants fewer cases going to court, but activists say the biggest perpetrators of what they deem the criminalization of criticism are the police and district attorneys.
Maduro seeks sell off of Venezuela’s natural resources to escape debt – analysis [01/25/2018]
- With Venezuela’s hyperinflation rate soaring to an estimated 2,700 percent in 2017, corruption and looting rife, and food and medicine in short supply nationwide, President Nicolás Maduro is desperate to find solutions to the country’s deepening economic crisis. - Many of the president’s solutions, including the Arco Minero and the Petro cryptocurrency, could end up selling off Venezuela’s mineral wealth while devastating indigenous territories and the environment, including the Venezuelan Amazon. - The Arco Minero, announced by Maduro in 2016, would open 112,000 square kilometers, more than 12 percent of the country, to mining. And while Maduro has invited transnational companies to do the work, most mining that is currently being done is controlled by corrupt elements of the military and organized armed gangs. - In December, Maduro announced the Petro cryptocurrency, another scheme likely meant to help ease Venezuela’s debt. The new virtual currency would either be backed by the country’s untapped oil wealth or mineral wealth, including gold, coltan and diamonds. The fear is that none of these policies will prevent Venezuela from becoming a failed state.
Biofuel boost threatens even greater deforestation in Indonesia, Malaysia: Study [01/25/2018]
- A new report projects the global demand for palm oil-based biofuel by 2030 will be six times higher than today if existing and proposed policies in Indonesia, China and the aviation industry hold. - That surge in demand could result in the clearing of 45,000 square kilometers (17,374 square miles) of forest in Indonesia and Malaysia, the world’s biggest palm oil producers, and the release of an additional 7 billion tons of CO2 emissions a year — higher than current annual emissions by the U.S. - That impact could be tempered to some degree by the European Union, which plans to phase out all use of palm oil in its biofuel over the next three years, citing environmental concerns.
Smallest wild cat in the Americas faces big problems — but hope exists [01/24/2018]
- The güiña (Leopardus guigna) is the smallest wild cat species in the Americas. It lives in the temperate rainforests of Chile and western Argentina. The species is listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with habitat loss and illegal killing considered the major causes of its decline. - Scientists from institutions around the world interviewed residents and surveyed güiña habitat using camera traps and remote-sensed imagery to model the drivers of local extinction in the Chilean portion of the species’ range. - They found the biggest threat to the güiña in Chile is agricultural land subdivision, which is causing habitat fragmentation. However, the study also revealed that the güiña appears to be able to tolerate a fair amount of habitat loss. - But as agricultural land is subdivided, understory forest — important habitat for the güiña — is being cleared. The researchers write it’s important to build spatial plans for this species at the landscape scale and incentivize farmers to manage their lands in a güiña-friendly way.
Legal recognition in the works for communities occupying Indonesia’s conservation areas [01/23/2018]
- The Indonesian government plans to formally recognize the occupation and use of land inside conservation areas, including national parks, by local and indigenous communities. - The program will grant these communities access to clearly defined areas within these conservation zones, in exchange for managing these areas responsibly and sustainably, and not expanding their encroachment. - However, the program could clash with a 2017 presidential regulation that emphasizes resettlement as a solution to human encroachment in conservation areas.
Pope’s message to Amazonia inspires hope, but will it bring action? [01/22/2018]
- On 19 January, Pope Francis spoke to a crowd of thousands, including many indigenous people, in Puerto Maldonado, Peru, the capital of Madre de Dios state in the Amazon, a region that has seen significant deforestation (62,500 hectares between 2012 and 2016), and significant violence due to illegal mining. - Latin American analysts, while excited about the pope’s visit, and appreciative of his spotlighting of illegal mining in Madre de Dios and other environmental problems across Amazonia, expressed doubt that the papal visit will have much impact in the long run. - The pope singled out large corporations in his address: “[G]reat business interests… want to lay hands on [the Amazon’s] petroleum, gas, lumber, gold and other forms of agro-industrial monocultivation,” he said. “We have to break with the historical paradigm that views Amazonia as an inexhaustible source of supplies for other countries without concern for its inhabitants.” - The pope invited a top-down and bottom-up response by Catholics to the Amazon crisis, calling on indigenous people “to shape the culture of local churches in Amazonia,” and announcing next year’s first-ever Synod for Amazonia – a gathering of global bishops who will put papal doctrine such as Laudato Si, his landmark 2015 papal encyclical, into action.
Outrage and conspiracy claims as Indonesia, Malaysia react to EU ban on palm oil in biofuels [01/19/2018]
- Indonesian and Malaysian ministers have derided as unfair and misguided the European Parliament’s vote to approve the phase-out of palm oil from biofuels by 2021. - The vote Wednesday, over concerns about the environmental and social impacts of the palm oil industry, still needs to be ratified by the European Commission and member governments. - Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur have filed official notes of protest, claiming a protectionist conspiracy to promote other vegetable oil producers, but activists say the EU’s concerns, including about deforestation, are valid and the ban justified.
Pope set to visit site of deforestation, indigenous struggle in Peru [01/19/2018]
- Pope Francis plans to visit Puerto Maldonado in the Peruvian region of Madre de Dios Friday morning on his trip to South America. - He will speak with indigenous communities in a coliseum. - Madre de Dios had the second-highest rate of deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon in 2017, with 208 square kilometers (80 square miles) of forest cover loss as a result of farming, logging and mining.
New satellite data reveals forest loss far greater than expected in Brazil Amazon [01/18/2018]
- The Brazilian Amazon lost 184 km2 of forest in December 2017, 20 times more than was recorded in December 2016 (9 km2). - The massive increase reflects Brazil’s use of a more accurate satellite monitoring system that incorporates radar, which can see land cover at night and through clouds, and suggests prior deforestation rates were likely underestimates. - As the cost of radar and other satellite data decreases, continuous monitoring will enable officials and civil society to more accurately monitor and quantify forest loss over a broad range of spatial scales.
680000 acres of Amazon rainforest may be lost to Peru’s new roads [01/18/2018]
- The Peruvian government has green-lighted the construction of a volley of new roads along its border with Brazil in the Ucayali and Madre de Dios regions. - The most major of these roads would span 172 miles through the Amazon rainforest, connecting the towns of Puerto Esperanza and Iñapari. - A new analysis finds around 680,000 acres (2,750 square kilometers) of primary rainforest will likely be put at risk from the road construction – an area the size of the country of Samoa. - The proposed route of the main road would also cross two indigenous reserves and a national park.
Record Amazon fires, intensified by forest degradation, burn indigenous lands [01/18/2018]
- As of September 2017, Brazil’s Pará state in the Amazon had seen a 229 percent increase in fires over 2016; in a single week in December the state saw 26,000 fire alerts. By year’s end, the Brazilian Amazon was on track for an all-time record fire season. - But 2017 was not a record drought year, so experts have sought other causes. Analysts say most of the wildfires were human-caused, set by people seeking to convert forests to crop or grazing lands. Forest degradation by mining companies, logging and agribusiness added to the problem. - Huge cuts made by the Temer administration in the budgets of Brazilian regulatory and enforcement agencies, such as FUNAI, the nation’s indigenous protection agency, and IBAMA, its environmental agency, which fights fires, added to the problem in 2017. - The dramatic rise in wildfires has put indigenous communities and their territories at risk. For example, an area covering 24,000 hectares (59,305 acres), lost tree cover within the Kayapó Indigenous Territory from October to December, while the nearby Xikrin Indigenous Territory lost roughly 10,000 hectares (24,710 acres) over the same period.
Study reveals forests have yet another climate-protection superpower [01/16/2018]
- Scientists looked at reactive gases emitted by trees and other vegetation, finding they have an overall cooling effect on the atmosphere globally. - As forests are cleared, emissions of these cooling reactive gases are reduced. The researchers estimate the loss of this function this may contribute 14 percent towards deforestation-caused global warming. - The authors write that effective climate policies will require a “robust understanding” of the relationship between land-use change like deforestation and climate, and urge more research be done toward this goal.
Ancient human sites may have distorted our understanding of the Amazon’s natural ecology [01/16/2018]
- Scientists have traditionally based their knowledge of the Amazon rainforest on surveys from fewer than 1,000 plots of land, which they had assumed were representative of the rest of the forest. - Research now shows that many of these sites were occupied and modified by ancient peoples, and the trees are still regrowing from those disturbances. - These recovering trees absorb carbon at a faster rate than mature trees, so estimates of how well the rainforest can absorb carbon dioxide may be too high.
Venezuela’s Mining Arc boom sweeps up Indigenous people and cultures [01/15/2018]
- In 2016, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro declared the opening of the Arco Minero, which sprawls in an east-to-west crescent across 112,000 square kilometers (43,243 square miles) mostly in Bolívar state, south of the Orinoco River and in the Venezuelan Amazon. - Indigenous communities within the Arco Minero were given no say in the development of mining in their region or near their territories, a clear violation of the International Labour Organization’s 169 Convention, an agreement to which Venezuela is a party. - Mining is not only spreading in Bolivar’s Mining Arc, where armed gangs and the military compete for gold, diamond and coltan claims, but also into Venezuela’s Amazonas state to the south. Indigenous men and women leave their ancestral communities and small farms to do backbreaking and dangerous work in the mines for little money. - Violence against, and conflicts with, indigenous communities can be expected to escalate as Venezuelan armed gangs and military organizations, and Colombian guerrilla groups continue to expand their presence in the region, and flex their muscles in the mining areas.
Indonesian parliament pushes for passage of palm oil legislation this year [01/12/2018]
- Indonesian legislators have prioritized deliberations of a bill regulating the country’s palm oil industry, hoping to have it passed this year. - The bill in its current form conflicts with the government’s own recently adopted measures to protect peatlands, a point that legislators have acknowledged must be addressed. - While its proponents say the bill is needed to protect the industry, citing a Western conspiracy against Indonesian palm oil, environmental activists say it will do little to address the ills attributed to the industry.
Indonesia’s Aceh extends moratorium on new mining sites [01/12/2018]
- The governor of Indonesia’s Aceh province has extended for another six months a moratorium on issuing new mining permits. - The government says it will use the extended moratorium period to review and improve the management of the province’s mining sector. - The freeze has been in place since 2014, and has been credited by activists with saving hundreds of thousands of hectares of forest in Aceh — home to critically endangered Sumatran orangutans, tigers, rhinos and elephants — from being cleared.
Critically endangered monkeys found in Ghana forest slated for mining [01/11/2018]
- Researchers were surprised to discover white-naped mangabeys (Cercocebus lunulatus) while reviewing camera trap footage captured in Ghana’s Atewa mountain range. - The white-naped mangabey has declined by more than 50 percent in less than three decades and is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN. Habitat loss and hunting are its major threats. The camera trap footage is the first record of the species in eastern Ghana. - Deposits of bauxite, from which aluminum is produced, underlie Atewa’s forests. The Ghanaian government is reportedly gearing up to develop mining operations and associated infrastructure for bauxite extraction, refinement and export. - Conservation organizations and other stakeholders are urging the government to cease its plans for mining and more effectively protect Atewa by turning the region into a national park.
Study: Amazon dams are disrupting ecologically vital flood pulses [01/10/2018]
- Flood pulses are critical to the way the Amazon, its tributaries and other tropical rivers function – and these seasonal flood pulses are a huge driver of ecological productivity and diversity. - Floodplain forests depend upon annual flood pulses to bring nutrients and sediment from river channels out into the surrounding terrestrial habitat. - Reductions to flood pulses, brought by Amazon dams both large and small, could lead to shifts in tree species diversity and composition, with implications for carbon storage and emissions. - Unreliable flood regimes, as created by dams of all sizes, significantly impact Amazon river systems and species’ life cycles, population dynamics, food sources, and habitats above and below the water line.
Illegal Burmese wood used in British boats, says organization [01/09/2018]
- The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) says decking on luxury yachts made in the UK have illegal wood on them. - EU rules dictate that point of origin in the chain of sale must be legally-sourced teak from Myanmar. - Princess Yachts International and Sunseeker International, both singled out by the EIA in their statement, will be at the London Boat Show this week.
Brazil 2018: Amazon under attack, resistance grows, courts to act, elections [01/09/2018]
- While forecasts are always difficult, it seems likely that Brazilian President Michel Temer will remain in power for the last year of his term, despite on-going corruption investigations. - Elections for president, the house of deputies, and most of the senate are scheduled for October. Former President Lula has led the presidential polls, though right wing candidate Jair Bolsonaro has grown strong. Lula’s environmental record is mixed; Bolsonaro would almost certainly be bad news for the environment, indigenous groups and the Amazon. - During 2018, Temer, Congress and the bancada ruralista (a lobby representing agribusiness, cattle ranchers, land thieves and other wealthy rural elites) will likely seek to undermine environmental laws and indigenous land rights further. Potential paving of the BR 319 in the heart of the Amazon is considered one of the biggest threats. - However, grassroots environmental and indigenous resistance continues to grow, and important Brazilian Supreme Court decisions are expected in the weeks and months ahead, which could undo some of the major gains made by the ruralists under Temer.
Reliance on natural healing cultivates respect for nature in Indonesian village [01/09/2018]
- A small village in the Indonesia island of Sulawesi is keeping alive a tradition of healing based on remedies derived from locally grown herbs and other plants. - The importance of traditional medicine to the community means the villagers have long been diligent about protecting the forest in which the plants grow. - This has translated into hefty fines for unregulated logging or poaching of local wildlife, including the maleo, a bird found only in Sulawesi.
Study on economic loss from Indonesia’s peat policies criticized [01/08/2018]
- A recent study estimates that Indonesia’s various peat-protection policies could lead to $5.7 billion in economic losses. - Those losses arise mainly from the pulp and palm oil industries, which are now obliged to conserve and restore peatlands that fall within their concessions. - Researchers and officials have criticized the study, saying it fails to make a holistic accounting of the environmental, social, health and climate costs from the continued destruction of carbon-rich peat areas. - They warn the study’s findings could be used to undermine policies aimed at preventing a repeat of the 2015 fires that cost Indonesia an estimated $16 billion from economic disruption.
Scientists surprised by orchid bee biodiversity near oil palm plantations [01/04/2018]
- A recent study finds orchid bee diversity is supported by forest patches along rivers near oil palm plantations in Brazil. - The study lends evidence that remnant patches of forest support the movement and survival of plant and animal species in deforested landscapes. - Brazil’s new forest code revisions greatly reduce or eliminate the requirement for some agricultural producers to maintain river forest patches.
Rainforests: the year in review 2017 [01/04/2018]
- 2017 was a rough year for tropical rainforests, but there were some bright spots. - This is Mongabay’s annual year-in-review on what happened in the world of tropical rainforests. - Here we summarize some of the more notable developments and trends for tropical forests in 2017.
Indonesia in 2017: A fighting chance for peat protection, but an infrastructure beatdown for indigenous communities [01/04/2018]
- 2017 brought a mix of good and bad news from Indonesia, pertaining primarily to its forest-protection efforts, its recognition of indigenous rights and its balancing of infrastructure needs with local livelihoods. - Policies issued in the wake of the devastating 2015 forest fires led to a significant decrease in hotspots and burned area in 2017, but face opposition from industry, parliament and even government officials. - The government is hopeful it can halve the number of annual hotspots by 2019 from business-as-usual levels, even as the weather agency warns of drier conditions this year. - Efforts to recognize indigenous people’s rights continued at a glacial pace, and frequently clashed with the government’s ambitious infrastructure-building push.
Brazil announces end to Amazon mega-dam building policy [01/03/2018]
- Brazil’s government this week announced a major shift away from its policy of building mega-dams in the Brazilian Amazon – a strategy born during the country’s military dictatorship (1964-1985) and vigorously carried forward down to the present day. - The Temer government claims the decision is a response to intense resistance from environmentalists and indigenous groups, but while that may be part of the reason, experts see other causes as well. - The decline in political influence of Brazil’s gigantic construction companies caused by the Lava Jato (Car Wash) corruption investigation is likely a major cause of the change in policy. So is the current depressed state of Brazil’s economy, which makes it unlikely that Brazil’s huge development bank (BNDES) will invest in such multi-billion dollar projects. - While environmentalists and indigenous groups will likely celebrate the shift away from the mega-dam policy, experts warn that many threats to the Amazon remain, including pressure by Brazil’s ruralist lobby to open up conserved areas and indigenous lands to agribusiness, along with threats posed by new road, rail, waterway and mining projects.
Former Mongabay intern, now pop star, launches Amazon-friendly perfume [01/02/2018]
- Heather D’Angelo, a member of the pop band Au Revoir Simone, just introduced her fragrance line, Carta. - Inspired by her love of mixing scents and conserving tropical rainforests, D’Angelo created an Amazon-friendly and inspired scent. - The former tropical ecologist hopes to create an example for conservation success with her Peru-based NGO partner, Camino Verde.
Top 20 forest stories of 2017 [12/29/2017]
Mongabay published hundreds of stories on forests in 2017. Here are some of our favorites. 1. Rebel road expansion brings deforestation to remote Colombian Amazon With the demobilization of Colombia’s FARC militant group, the country is expanding agriculture and infrastructure in places in the country once too dangerous to develop. One of these areas is […]
Indonesia unveils plan to halve forest fires by 2019 [12/29/2017]
- The Indonesian government has launched a plan to cut down land and forest fire hotspots by nearly half, in part by protecting peat forests. - The program, which calls for $2.73 billion in funding, aims to ensure that 121,000 square kilometers of land, a fifth of it peat forest, will be fire-free by 2019. - The move comes as the government anticipates drier weather conditions than usual next year in perennial hotspot regions like West Kalimantan.
Brazil 2017: environmental and indigenous rollbacks, rising violence [12/27/2017]
- The bancada ruralista, or ruralist lobby, in Brazil’s congress flexed its muscles in 2017, making numerous demands on President Michel Temer to make presidential decrees weakening environmental protections and revoking land rights to indigenous and traditional communities in Brazil – decisions especially impacting the Amazon. - Emboldened ruralists – including agribusiness, cattle ranchers, land thieves and loggers – stepped up violent attacks in 2017, making Brazil the most dangerous country in the world for social or environmental activists. There were 63 assassinations by the end of October. - Budgets to FUNAI, the indigenous agency; IBAMA, the environmental agency; and other institutions, were reduced so severely this year that these government regulatory agencies were largely unable to do their enforcement and protection work. - In 2017, Temer led attempts to dismember Jimanxim National Forest and National Park, and to open the vast RENCA preserve in the Amazon to mining – efforts that have failed to date, but are still being pursued. Resistance has remained fierce, especially among indigenous groups, with Temer sometimes forced to backtrack on his initiatives.
Roads, dams and railways: Ten infrastructure stories from Southeast Asia in 2017 [12/27/2017]
- Southeast Asia is one of the epicenters of a global “tsunami” of infrastructure development. - As the countries in the region work to elevate their economic standing, concerns from scientists and NGOs highlight the potential pitfalls in the form of environmental degradation and destruction that roads, dams and other infrastructure can bring in tow. - Mongabay had reporters covering the region in 2017. Here are 10 of their stories.
Selective logging reduces biodiversity, disrupts Amazon ecosystems: study [12/22/2017]
- Reduced-impact logging, also called selective logging, which gained popularity in the 1990s, aims to balance biodiversity impacts with global demand for timber by extracting fewer trees. But the success of this approach is coming under increasing scrutiny. - A new study in the Brazilian Amazon found that dung beetle communities, and their important role as “ecosystem engineers,” is severely disrupted by even low-level timber extraction, with sharp reductions in species richness. - Multitudes of studies on birds, mammals, amphibians and invertebrates around the globe demonstrate the same finding: that even low-levels of timber extraction have significant impact on species diversity. - This extensive research suggests that selective logging techniques should be shelved in favor of “land-sparing” timber extraction strategies, which create a patchwork of highly logged sites and intact forest reserves.
Paper giant RAPP bows to peat-protection order after Indonesia court defeat [12/22/2017]
- A court has invalidated a bid by Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP) to overturn a government order obliging it to conserve peatlands that fall within its concessions. - The ruling means the company will have to submit revised work plans to the government, in which peat areas that it had previously earmarked for development would be conserved and rewetted to prevent fires. - The government has also mulled the possibility of auditing RAPP and parent company APRIL to get a clearer picture of their operations on the ground.
Palm oil’s ecological footprint extends to distant forests, study finds [12/21/2017]
- A new study has found that the ecological footprint of oil palm plantations on neighboring forests extends beyond just deforestation and is “substantially underestimated.” - This is based on the discovery of the extensive damage done to forest understory by wild boars that feed on the palm fruit. - The damage was found to persist more than a kilometer away from oil palm plantations, leading the researchers to call for the establishment of buffer zones as a way to address the problem.
Amazon dam impacts underestimated due to overlooked vine growth: study [12/20/2017]
- New research on the rapid growth of lianas – native woody vines – on the artificial reservoir islands of the Balbina dam in the Amazon finds that forest communities there underwent a transformation as a result of severe habitat fragmentation, resulting in the altering of the carbon sequestration and emission balance. - Some tree species are severely impacted by this extreme form of habitat fragmentation and die, while native lianas — woody vines that climb to reach the forest canopy — thrive and rapidly fill the biological niche left by failing trees. - Trees, with their greater biomass, store more carbon in trunks and branches than lianas, so the carbon balance shifts as lianas dominate. Rather than sequestering carbon, these dam-created islands end up emitting carbon as the trees die. - The rapid growth of lianas further contributes to the degradation of remnant tree communities challenged by fragmentation. Amazon dam environmental impact assessments don’t currently evaluate increased reservoir island carbon emissions.
Zanzibar’s red colobus monkeys much more numerous than thought [12/18/2017]
- The team logged 4,725 hours over 2 years tracking down more than 4,000 individual Zanzibar red colobus monkeys (Piliocolobus kirkii). - Protected areas house nearly 70 percent of the monkeys they found, where monkey groups tended to be larger and to have more females than those outside of parks and reserves. - The team also found that a relatively small number of young monkeys survive to adulthood, and they concluded that the overall population might be declining.
Do protected areas work in the tropics? [12/18/2017]
- To find out if terrestrial protected areas are effective in achieving their environmental and socioeconomic goals, we read 56 scientific studies. (See the interactive infographic below.) - Overall, protected areas do appear to reduce forest cover loss. But other ecological outcomes of protected areas, like biodiversity or illegal hunting, remain extremely understudied. - The evidence on socioeconomic impacts is very thin. What limited rigorous research exists shows that protected areas do not exacerbate poverty generally, but anecdotal studies suggest that protected areas could be making other aspects of people’s well-being worse off. - This is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness”.
EU-LatAm trade deal good for agribusiness; bad for Amazon, climate – analysis [12/18/2017]
- The EU-Mercosur trade deal, being concluded this month by the European Union and the South American trade bloc (Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay) is being negotiated in secret. However, part of the document has been leaked to Greenpeace, alarming environmentalists. - The leaked secret trade documents show that the accord would encourage the export of high-value goods, like automobiles, from Europe to Latin American, while encouraging the export of huge amounts of low-value products – including beef and soy – from South America. - This emphasis on production and international consumption could greatly increase the need for agricultural land in Latin America, and result in a major increase in deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon and Cerrado, and Argentine Chaco. - The conversion of forests to crop and range lands could significantly decrease carbon storage, leading to a rise in carbon emissions that could help push global temperatures more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century, with potentially catastrophic results for ecosystems and civilization.
Colombian community leader allegedly murdered for standing up to palm oil [12/15/2017]
- Colombian community leader Hernan Bedoya, who defended collective land rights for Afro-Colombian farmers as well as local biodiversity in the face of palm oil and industrial agriculture expansion, was allegedly assassinated by a neo-paramilitary group on Friday, Dec. 5. - Bedoya was owner of the “Mi Tierra” Biodiversity Zone, located in the collective Afro-Colombian territory of Pedeguita-Mancilla. The land rights activist stood up to palm oil, banana and ranching companies who are accused of engaging in illegal land grabbing and deforestation in his Afro-Colombian community’s collective territory in Riosucio, Chocó. - According to the Intercelestial Commission for Justice and Peace in Colombia (CIJP), a Colombian human rights group, Bedoya was heading home on horseback when two members of the neo-paramilitary Gaitánista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC) intercepted him on a bridge and shot him 14 times, immediately killing him. - According to Foundation for Peace and Reconciliation (PARES), 137 social leaders have been killed across Colombia in 2017. Other observers have found lower numbers, but most track over 100 killed over the course of the year.
Locals fear for their lives over planned dam in Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem [12/14/2017]
- Plans to build a hydroelectric power plant in northern Sumatra call for the flooding of large swath of the Leuser Ecosystem, an ecological hotspot home to critically endangered tigers, rhinos and orangutans. - For residents, the fear is that the dam, to be built in a geologically unstable area, will collapse. - Local communities reliant on fishing also worry that the damming of rivers to fill the reservoir will hurt their livelihoods.
For Papuan villagers practicing conservation, a bid to formalize the familiar [12/14/2017]
- Indigenous Papuans of Saubeba village last month gave their support for a government-backed program to designate Tambrauw district, rich in biodiversity, a conservation zone. - The villagers already practice sustainable management of the district’s lush forests and its resources, on which their lives depend. - The discussion also sought to find solutions for land conflicts that often put legally vulnerable ethnic groups in peril as Tambrauw district pushes for the passage of an indigenous rights bill. - One anticipated outcome of all this is the prospect of developing an ecotourism industry centered on the region’s natural riches, including its birds-of-paradise.
Mining concessions in Ecuador stalled over compliance with indigenous rights [12/13/2017]
- The announcement is especially meaningful for indigenous groups that are directly impacted by extractive projects. - By law, indigenous groups have the right to free and prior consultation before extractive projects take place near their land. - Over 3,000 indigenous peoples from across the country marched to the presidential palace in Quito to demand action.
Companies still not doing enough to cut deforestation from commodities supply chains: report [12/12/2017]
- The latest “Forest 500” rankings are out from the Global Canopy Programme (GCP), and the main takeaway is that the global companies with the most influence over forests still aren’t doing enough to cut tropical deforestation out of their supply chains. - Just five companies improved their policies enough over the last year to score a perfect five out of five in the 2017 rankings. Commitments to root deforestation out of timber and palm oil supply chains did increase, according to the report, but less than one-fourth of the Forest 500 companies have adopted policies to cover all of the commodities in their supply chains. - Progress among financial institutions also continues to be sluggish, the GCP’s researchers found, with just 13 financial institutions scoring four out of five and 65 scoring zero. No financial institutions have received the maximum possible score.
Latin America-Europe trade pact to include historic indigenous rights clause [12/12/2017]
- The Mercosur trade bloc (Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay) and the European Union are expected to conclude trade negotiations and put finishing touches on a trade agreement by the end of this year. - That pact will include landmark indigenous human rights clauses meant to protect indigenous groups from violence, land theft and other civil rights violations. - The human rights guarantees institutionalized in the trade agreement, if violated, could potentially lead to major trade boycotts, and are particularly important to indigenous groups in Brazil, where the agribusiness lobby known as the bancada ruralista wields tremendous political power. - Brazil’s ruralist elite has been engaged in a decades-long effort to deny indigenous groups rights to their ancestral lands. Violence by large scale farmers and land thieves has seriously escalated under the Temer administration, which strongly backs the ruralist agenda.
Saving Sumatran orchids from deforestation, one plant at a time [12/12/2017]
- Conversion of forest for agriculture is an ever-present threat in Sumatra, even in protected areas like Kerinci Seblat National Park. Palm oil, acacia, rubber and other plantation crops pressure the park from the outside, while poaching endangers the fauna within. - Scientists estimate there are between 25,000 and 30,000 species of orchid in the world, with many yet to be discovered. Around 1,000 species are listed as threatened by the IUCN. Sumatra is one of the world’s orchid hot spots. - Conservationist Pungky Nanda Pratama is trying to save at-risk orchids by transplanting them from threatened areas in and around Kerinci Seblat to a nursery where he is aiming propagate them and re-plant them in nearby protected areas. - Pratama is also hoping to start an educational center where people can learn about Sumatra’s native plants.
Audio: Amazon tribe’s traditional medicine encyclopedia gets an update, and conservation effectiveness in Madagascar examined [12/12/2017]
- On today’s episode, we’ll get an update on an ambitious effort to document traditional indigenous healing and medicinal practices in the Amazon and speak with the reporter behind Mongabay’s popular new series on conservation efforts in Madagascar. - Our first guest on today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast is Christopher Herndon, who, as co-founder and president of the group Acaté Amazon Conservation, has supported the Matsés people in planting healing gardens, which are basically living pharmacies as well as classrooms, and to document their traditional healing and plant knowledge in an encyclopedia. - Our second guest is Mongabay contributor Rowan Moore Gerety, the writer behind our recent series on the effectiveness of conservation interventions in Madagascar.
Study: RSPO certification prunes deforestation in Indonesia — but not by much [12/12/2017]
- Oil palm plantations certified as sustainable by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil had less deforestation than non-certified plantations, according to a new analysis. - Certification’s effect on the incidence of fires and the clearing of forest from peatlands was not statistically significant. - The research demonstrates that while certification does reduce deforestation, it has not protected very much standing forest from being cut down.
CITES rejects Madagascar’s bid to sell rosewood and ebony stockpiles [12/12/2017]
- The standing committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) had its annual meeting in Geneva November 27 through December 1. - The committee rejected Madagascar’s petition to sell its stockpiles of seized rosewood and ebony that had been illegally cut from the country’s rainforests. - CITES delegates agreed that while a future sale of the stockpiles might be possible, Madagascar was not yet ready for such a risky undertaking, which could allow newly chopped logs to be laundered and traded overseas. - Other notable outcomes of the CITES meeting dealt with the sei whale (Balaenoptera borealis), pangolins, and the critically endangered vaquita porpoise (Phocoena sinus).
New study: Gorillas fare better in logged forests than chimps [12/11/2017]
- A study in the northern Republic of Congo found that gorillas and chimpanzees both became scarcer at the onset of logging. - However, gorillas move backed into logged areas more readily, while chimpanzees were more likely to stay away. - The researchers believe that gorillas are better able to cope with logging because they’re not as territorial as chimps and they seem to be more flexible in their eating habits.
Papua New Guinea gets its largest-ever conservation area [12/08/2017]
- On November 29, government officials declared the establishment of the Managalas Conservation Area. It is Papua New Guinea’s largest conservation area, encompassing 3,600 square kilometers of rainforest. - Local communities, with the support of governments and non-profit organizations, have been working towards its incorporation as a protected area for 32 years. - Managalas Conservation Area will be protected from large-scale agricultural and logging operations while allowing the communities that live there to use forest resources and grow crops in a sustainable manner. - But stakeholders say mining is not officially excluded from the Conservation Arena’s management plan, and are worried about future encroachment by mining companies.
Forest Code falls short in protecting Amazonian fish [12/07/2017]
- A team of scientists reports that Brazil’s Forest Code doesn’t address significant impacts that agriculture can have on fish habitat in the rainforest’s streams and tributaries. - The study cataloged more than 130 species of fish, some of them new to science, in Brazil’s eastern Amazon. - The authors argue for protections that encompass entire basins and the complex drainage networks that together form the lifeblood of the Amazon rainforest.
Militarization and mining a dangerous mix in Venezuelan Amazon [12/07/2017]
- Venezuela today is gripped by a catastrophic economic crisis, born out of corruption on a vast scale, government mismanagement and a failed petro-economy. - In 2016, President Nicolás Maduro announced the opening of the Orinoco Mining Arc, a vast region in the southern part of the nation perhaps boasting $100 billion in untapped gold, diamonds and coltan, as well as being one of the most biodiverse parts of the Amazon. - Maduro also created an “Economic Military Zone” to protect the region. Today, the army has a huge presence there, ostensibly to reduce the influence of organized gangs doing illegal mining. - In reality, the military is heavily involved in mining itself, often allegedly competing with gangs for resources, with violent conflict a result. Small-scale miners, indigenous and traditional communities, and the environment could be the big losers in this struggle for power and wealth.
Camera traps reveal surprises in Peru [12/06/2017]
- Scientists set 72 camera traps and audio recorders to compare biodiversity across certified forested areas and forests that are not certified for sustainable use. - The first few images reveal the presence of jaguars, pumas, jaguarundis, tapirs, red deer, tufted capuchins and even bush dogs, which are elusive and difficult to find.
Here’s a great way to visualize the huge potential of forest conservation and restoration as ‘natural climate solutions’ [12/06/2017]
- Recent research found that 20 different “natural climate solutions” have the potential to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 23.8 billion metric tons every year — and that nearly half of that potential, or some 11.3 billion metric tons of emissions, represent what the study’s authors call “cost-effective climate mitigation.” - The World Resources Institute’s Susan Minnemeyer, a co-author of the study, noted in a blog post that halting deforestation, restoring forests that have already been logged or degraded, and improving forest management could cost-effectively remove seven billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from Earth’s atmosphere every year, which is equivalent to the annual emissions generated by 1.5 billion cars. - This study joins a growing body of research that demonstrates just how crucial forests will be to our efforts to halt global warming.
Deforestation in Sumatra carves up tiger habitats into ever smaller patches [12/05/2017]
- Twelve years of deforestation in Sumatra have broken the habitats of its native big cat into smaller fragments, a new study says. - Only two of the remaining tiger forest landscapes in Sumatra are believed to have populations that are viable for the long term, both of which are under threat from planned road projects. - The researchers are calling for a complete halt to the destruction of tiger-occupied forests in Sumatra and the poaching of the nearly extinct predator.
Mammal diversity may increase carbon storage in rainforests [12/05/2017]
- Having a diverse mix of mammals may play a more pivotal role than expected in the carbon cycle of tropical forests, by feeding microbes that lock the carbon from food scraps in the soil. - Hundreds of indigenous research technicians collected data for this study across an area roughly the size of Costa Rica. - Conserving mammal species will become increasingly important in efforts to protect the health of rainforest ecosystems, researchers suggest.
Ferrogrão grain railway threatens Amazon indigenous groups, forest [12/04/2017]
- Michel Temer’s administration is fast tracking the Ferrogrão (Grainrail), a 1,142 kilometer railway to link grain-producing midwest Brazil with the Tapajós River, a major tributary of the Amazon, in order to more economically and efficiently export soy and other commodities to foreign markets. - The railway is seen as vital to Brazil’s agribusiness-centric economy, especially considering the country’s current economic crisis, but indigenous groups say they’ve not been consulted in project planning as stipulated by International Labour Organization Convention 169. - The railway will come near several indigenous groups: the Kaiabi in Indigenous Territory of Batelão, the Pankararu in Indigenous Territory of Pankararu, the Kayapó in Indigenous Territory of Kapot-Nhinore, and the Panará in Indigenous Territory of Baú. These groups say they’ve not been properly consulted by the government. - Ferrogrão will also pass near Jamanxim National Park and cut through Jamanxim National Forest, where the government is seeking diminished protections to benefit elite land thieves. Scientists worry that deforestation brought by the loss of these conserved lands, plus the railway, could significantly reduce the Amazon’s greenhouse gas storage capacity.
‘They want to occupy and take our land’: Land conflicts increase in Brazil [12/01/2017]
- Rondônia is one of the most-deforested states in the Brazilian Amazon, with vast tracts cleared for agriculture. - An investigation reveals that as deforestation of protected areas has risen in the state, so have allegations of attacks against the Indigenous communities. - As budget cuts deplete resources aimed at protecting these communities, many are worried this violence stands to worsen in the months and years to come.
Forced out or killed: rare chimps go missing from Cameroon mountain forest [12/01/2017]
- The Endangered Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes ellioti) is the least numerous subspecies of chimpanzee, with a total population almost certainly less than 9,000, and probably less than 6,000 individuals. - The estimated population is far smaller in Cameroon, where just four known populations number some 250 individuals, all located in the Northwest region. - One of those groups, known as “The Great Apes of Tubah” was until recently found in the unprotected Kejom-Keku Mountain Forest. - But the chimps haven’t been seen in three years, and conservationists fear they’ve been killed or forced to move on. A new road into the Kejom-Keku area has resulted in the loss of half its forest, as herders, farmers, loggers and poachers move in.
Indonesians race to save their disappearing lakes, before it’s too late [11/30/2017]
- Seventeen lakes in the Southeast Asian nation are in “critical” condition. One of them, Lake Limboto in northern Sulawesi, is shrinking rapidly and could disappear by 2025. - Recently, government officials and researchers from across Indonesia gathered on Lake Limboto’s shores, declaring that a national agency should be established to handle the issue. In December they will meet again, hoping to attract the attention of President Joko Widodo. - One of the most pressing problems at Limboto is the lake’s shrinking increases the risk of flooding in nearby Gorontalo city.
Tropical deforestation is getting bigger, study finds [11/29/2017]
- An analysis of satellite data reveals the proportion of tropical deforestation comprised of medium, large and very large clearings increased between 2001 and 2012. - These larger clearing sizes are generally attributed to industrial agriculture like palm oil production. - South America and Southeast Asia had the biggest increases, with the exception of Brazil where large-scale clearing took a downturn during the study period. - The researchers say this downturn was the result of successful deforestation reduction policies, which may offer potential solutions to other countries with high rates of large-scale clearing.
Carbon dreams: Can REDD+ save a Yosemite-size forest in Madagascar? [11/29/2017]
- When Makira Natural Park launched in 2005, it seemed to present a solution to one of the most intractable problems in conservation: finding a source of funding that could be counted on year after year. - The sale of carbon offset credits would fund the park itself as well as development projects aimed at helping nearby communities improve their standard of living and curtail deforestation. - But more than a decade later, carbon buyers are scarce and much of the funding for community development has been held up. And although deforestation has slowed considerably in and around Makira, it is falling well short of deforestation targets set at the outset of the project. - This is the seventh story in Mongabay’s multi-part series “Conservation in Madagascar.”
Among global companies, efforts on deforestation lag [11/29/2017]
- A recent report found that out of 201 companies, a mere 13 percent surveyed have adopted zero net deforestation policies. - Adopting zero deforestation policies is a critical step in stopping global forest loss. - The adoption of zero deforestation policies by a few big companies like the McDonald’s Corporation has not had a major trickle-down impact on other companies following suit.
New carbon maps of Sabah’s forests guide conservation in Borneo [11/29/2017]
- Airborne LiDAR mapping combined with satellite imagery analysis has provided scientists, government agencies and NGOs with a “wall-to-wall” account of the carbon held in Sabah, a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo. - The study, led by ecologists from the Carnegie Airborne Observatory, revealed that more than 40 percent of the forests with the highest carbon stocks aren’t covered by the state’s most stringent protections. - The findings give wildlife biologists the chance to examine how carbon stocks correlate with the presence of biodiversity; NGOs the opportunity to identify new high-carbon areas to set aside under oil palm certification schemes; and the Sabah government the information to determine which forests are the most valuable and therefore need further protections.
Indonesia to kick off 10-year plan to save critically endangered helmeted hornbill [11/28/2017]
- The Indonesian government is currently drafting a 10-year master plan to protect the endangered helmeted hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil), set to be launched in 2018. - The program will comprise five action plans: research and monitoring; policies and law enforcement; partnerships; raising public awareness; and funding. - The helmeted hornbill has been driven to the brink of extinction by poaching for its distinctive scarlet casqued beak, which is pound-for-pound three times as valuable as elephant ivory.
In search of the fireface: The precarious, scandalous lives of the slow lorises of Java [11/26/2017]
- Cute and fuzzy but also vicious and venomous, Javan slow lorises have been driven to the brink of extinction by habitat destruction and the illegal pet trade. - The Little Fireface Project in West Java is the first long-term research project focusing on the critically endangered primate. - In addition to making strides toward understanding how to care for and reintroduce lorises to the wild, the project has revealed new details about the species’ complex, and often reality-show-worthy social behavior.
Brilliant blue tarantula among potentially new species discovered in Guyana [11/24/2017]
- In the forests of the Potaro plateau of Guyana, scientists have discovered a bright blue tarantula that is likely new to science. - The discovery was part of a larger biodiversity assessment survey of the Kaieteur Plateau and Upper Potaro area of Guyana, within the Pakaraima Mountains range. - Overall, the team uncovered more than 30 species that are potentially new to science, and found several species that are known only from the Kaieteur Plateau-Upper Potaro region and nowhere else.
Culture keeps cattle ranching going in the Brazilian Amazon [11/23/2017]
- A recent study finds that financial incentives to move people away from cattle ranching don’t address cultural and logistical hurdles to changing course. - Even though ranchers could earn four times as much per hectare farming soy or up to 12 times as much from fruit and vegetable farming, many stick with cattle as a result of cultural values. - Ranchers, along with small-scale farmers, could benefit from targeted infrastructure investments to provide them with easier access to markets, according to the study. - The researchers argue that their findings point to the need for policies that take these obstacles into account.
Chocolate makers agree to stop cutting down forests in West Africa for cocoa [11/21/2017]
- At COP23, the UN climate talks in Bonn, Germany that wrapped up last week, top cocoa-producing countries in West Africa announced new commitments to end the massive deforestation for cocoa that is occurring within their borders. - Ivory Coast and Ghana are the number one and number two cocoa-producing nations on Earth, respectively. Together, they produce about two-thirds of the world’s cocoa, but that production has been tied to high rates of deforestation as well as child labor and other human rights abuses. - The so-called “Frameworks for Action” that were announced by the two countries last Thursday not only aim to halt the clearing of forests for cocoa production, especially in national parks and other protected areas, but to restore forest areas that have already been cleared or degraded.
Experience or evidence: How do big conservation NGOs make decisions? [11/21/2017]
- Scientists have been urging conservation NGOs to make decisions based on scientific evidence. - However, the big conservation NGOs run into many problems in trying to use the available science. Doing impact evaluations of their own projects is also hard and expensive, sources from the big conservation NGOs say. - For their work to be effective, the conservation community needs to develop a common understanding of what credible evidence means, how to best use different strands of evidence, and how organizations can evaluate their work and create evidence that others can use, experts across the conservation spectrum seem to agree. - This story is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness.”
To feed a growing population, farms chew away at Madagascar’s forests [11/17/2017]
- In Madagascar, farmers are cutting down forests and burning them to make way for rice cultivation. - The practice is traditional but now illegal because of the harm it causes to natural areas. Many species are already threatened with extinction due to forest loss. - With the country’s population expected to double by 2060, the pressure is likely to intensify.
COP23: Leaders vie for protection of ‘incredibly important’ African peatland [11/17/2017]
- The presence of the world’s biggest tropical peatland was recently confirmed in Central Africa. It is the size of England and straddles the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Congo (ROC). - However, conservationists and scientists worry it may be at risk from logging and development. They caution its destruction could release “vast amounts” of carbon emissions. Others say the threats are overblown. - Conservation leaders and representatives gathered this week at COP23 in Bonn, Germany, say protections could exist through REDD+ projects that could give local communities management rights and provide financial incentives for leaving the peat forest intact.
Jane Goodall interview: ‘The most important thing is sharing good news’ [11/17/2017]
- Celebrated conservationist and Mongabay advisor Jane Goodall spoke with Mongabay founder and CEO Rhett A. Butler for the podcast just before departing for her latest speaking tour (she travels 300 days a year raising conservation awareness). Here we supply the full transcript. - This wide-ranging conversation begins with reaction to the science community’s recent acceptance of her six decade contention that animals are individuals with personalities, and moves on to discuss trends in conservation, and she then provides an update on the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI)’s global projects. - She also challenges trophy hunting as an effective tool for funding conservation (“It’s rubbish,” she says), shares her positive view of China’s quickly growing environmental movement, talks about the key role of technology in conservation, and discusses a range of good news, which she states is always so important to share. - Amazingly, Dr. Goodall reports that JGI’s youth program Roots & Shoots now has perhaps as many as 150,000 chapters worldwide, making it probably the largest conservation movement in the world, with many millions having been part of the program. An effort is now underway to document them all.
Can agroforestry propel climate commitments? Interview with Peter Minang [11/16/2017]
- In the Paris agreement, most developing countries identified agroforestry as a key part of their climate strategy. - Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs, are the main tool for defining countries’ contributions to the Agreement. - The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), just released a policy brief on agroforestry’s central role in governmental efforts to achieve their NDCs. - Author Peter A. Minang explains how agroforestry’s contribution to climate goals could be enhanced.
Forests can beat humans at restoration, new study finds [11/16/2017]
- An analysis of 133 studies found natural regeneration was more effective than active, human-driven restoration at restoring tropical forests. - The study refutes conventional wisdom that holds that actively restoring a forest is better than letting it grow back by itself. - The authors say previous research didn’t control for key factors, which skewed results and made it seem like natural regeneration was less effective than it actually may be. - The say large-scale restoration projects, which tend to favor active restoration, should consider natural regeneration as a way to more effectively achieve their goals while saving money that could be used to scale-up forest restoration worldwide.
Lemur on the menu: most-endangered primates still served in Madagascar [11/15/2017]
- Officials in Madagascar’s northeastern Sava region say lemur is served illegally in restaurants. - One conservationist says people use a code to order lemur meat. - More than 90 percent of lemur species are threatened, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.