02 Mar 2012:
Some Scandinavian Conifers
Survived the Last Ice Age, Study Says
A new study has found that some Scandinavian conifers were able to survive the harsh conditions of the last Ice Age
, a finding that upends the long-held view that the region’s landscape was wiped clean by a massive blanket of ice. While scientists have long believed contemporary
University of Copenhagen
A Scandinavian pine
Scandinavian forests were populated by tree species that migrated from eastern and southern Europe after temperatures warmed, DNA evidence suggests some species of spruce and pine found refuge for tens of thousands of years. Indeed, the modern forests are comprised of “original” and “introduced” species, the researchers say. According to their study, published in the journal Science
, some tree species may have survived on Andøya Island, located in northwestern Norway, which was ice-free during the last Ice Age. They may also have found refuge in other more hospitable locations, such as atop nunataks — the exposed mountain peaks that protruded from glacial cover — or in more temperate zones along the Atlantic coast. These “original” species were then able to spread once the ice retreated, said Eske Willerslev of the University of Copenhagen.
‘Unprecedented’ Elephant Massacre
Continues in Cameroon Park
Poachers in pursuit of ivory have killed nearly 500 elephants inside a Cameroon national park in the last six weeks, a highly organized slaughter that appears to be one of the worst elephant massacres in recent memory.
An elephant killed at Bouba Ndjida National Park.
Officials at Bouba Ndjida National Park, located in northern Cameroon near the Chad border, said 458 elephant carcasses have been identified, but that number “may be an underestimate.” Bas Huijbregts, regional field program manager for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Cameroon, says that although the official number of dead elephants in the park is still unclear, “I wouldn’t be surprised if in the last six weeks that maybe more than half of the overall savannah elephant population in Cameroon has been killed.” The European Union has called for the Cameroon government to intervene, but so far no effective intervention appears to be occurring. Read more
24 Feb 2012:
Conservationists Launch Drone
To Monitor Forest Loss and Wildlife
A coalition of scientists and environmental advocacy groups has developed a camera-equipped drone they say could become a key conservation tool for monitoring
forest loss and endangered wildlife. The coalition — which includes The Orangutan Conservancy, the Denver Zoo, and two Swiss scientists — has already deployed a remote-control drone to map deforestation and count orangutans in the remote forests of North Sumatra in Indonesia, according to a report in Mongabay
. The drone, which was developed by ecologist Lian Pin Koh at ETH Zürich, is able to travel a pre-programmed flight route and take aerial photos and video footage. During 30 flights so far, it has collected hundreds of photos and hours of video, including images of oil palm plantings along the edge of a river.
21 Feb 2012:
Volcanic Rock Reveals
Composition of Ancient Forest
U.S. scientists say they were able to reconstruct an ancient tropical forest
, including long-extinct plant species, using fossil remains trapped beneath the ash of a volcanic eruption that occurred about 300 million years
ago in northern China. While palaeoecologists typically can only infer the density and composition of ancient forest ecosystems, researchers say the volcanic ash from the ancient eruption preserved the woodland in situ
, a sort of “forest Pompeii” that has revealed a “coal-forming swamp in its prime.” In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
, researchers from several U.S. universities describe a teeming peat forest ecosystem consisting of six plant groups, including trees resembling feather dusters, vines, and three species of a group known as Noeggerathiales — small, spore-bearing trees that may have been relatives of early ferns. “Many of these plant groups we knew from other places, but we had no idea that they actually grew together,” said Robert Gastaldo, a palaeobotanist at Colby College in Maine and a co-author of the study.
17 Feb 2012:
Large Area of New Guinea
Stripped of Protection for Agribusiness
More than 400,000 hectares (1 million acres) of land in Indonesian New Guinea — including 350,000 hectares of carbon-storing peatland — was stripped of its protected status
to facilitate the expansion of a
government-based agribusiness project, according to a new report. In an analysis of revisions to Indonesia’s moratorium
on new forest concessions — including a comparison of maps from when the moratorium was published in May 2011 and after revisions were adopted in November 2011 — the Jakarta-based NGO Greenomics-Indonesia found that 406,718 hectares of previously protected land have been excised for use by The Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE), a massive agricultural project in southwestern New Guinea. While government officials say the project will ensure the nation’s food and energy security, critics say the revised moratorium will mostly benefit agribusiness developers.
10 Feb 2012:
Early Humans Played Role in
Central African Deforestation, Study Says
A new study says that the activities of early humans — and not simply a dramatic shift in climate — played a significant role in transforming the ancient rainforests of Central Africa into savanna
. In an analysis of sediment cores taken from the mouth of the Congo River, a team of scientists found evidence that weathering of clay sediment samples, which had been consistent for thousands of years, intensified abruptly about 3,000 years ago, indicating a significant increase in deforestation. According to their study, published online in Science
, this shift coincided with the arrival of Bantu-speaking farmers from present-day Nigeria and Cameroon. While this forest disturbance was likely triggered by prolonged dry spells that destroyed rainforest, as previous research has concluded, the Science
study indicates that climate change was exacerbated by human land use, including the clearing of forests for farming and iron-smelting. Germain Bayon, of the French Research Institute for Exploration of the Sea and lead author of the study, said the findings illustrate how a combination of climate and human activity can affect the environment. “Humans can have a huge impact on natural processes,” he said.
02 Feb 2012:
Harsh Roadside Environments
Creating Hardy Salamanders, Study Suggests
The old adage — “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” — seems to apply to salamanders evolving to survive in contaminated environments near roads
. Yale University researcher Steven Brady compared
Steven Brady/Yale University
A spotted salamander
salamanders breeding in roadside ponds with those breeding in woodland ponds, and he found that the roadside salamanders have a tough life. Only 56 percent of salamander eggs in roadside ponds survive the first 10 weeks, compared with an 87 percent survival rate for salamander eggs in woodland ponds. The roadside salamanders also experience higher mortality, grow at a slower rate, and are more likely to develop L-shaped spines and other disfigurements — all likely linked to roadside contaminants, especially concentrations of salt. Still, Brady found that when he transferred eggs from roadside ponds and woodland ponds to a neutral environment, the roadside eggs out-survived those of their forest cousins. “These animals are growing up in harsh environments where they face a cocktail of contaminants, and it appears that they are evolving to cope with them,” said Brady, whose study was published
in the journal Scientific Reports
01 Feb 2012:
New Gorilla Habitat
Discovered Using Satellite Images
Satellite and land surveys of the mountainous terrain along the Nigeria-Cameroon border have revealed that the world’s rarest gorilla, the Cross River gorilla, has access to more suitable habitat than previously believed
, including vital corridors that allow the gorillas to move
A Cross River gorilla
between regions in search of mates. Using satellite imagery and ground surveys, a team of researchers was able to map areas preferred by the critically endangered gorilla. To their surprise, researchers found evidence that the Cross River gorilla dwells in areas where there had been no recorded sightings, expanding their known occupied range by more than 50 percent. The study also found a high degree of connectivity between 11 areas where the gorillas are known to live. “The good news for Cross River gorillas is that they still have plenty of habitat in which to expand, provided that steps are taken to minimize threats to the population,” said the Wildlife Conservation Society's Andrew Dunn, co-author of the study, published in the journal Oryx
. The Cross River gorilla is considered the rarest of the four sub-species of gorilla, with fewer than 300 living in the wild.
31 Jan 2012:
Tropics Store More Carbon
Than Previously Believed, Study Says
A new analysis calculates that vegetation in the world’s tropical regions stores about 229 billion tons of carbon
, which is about 21 percent more carbon than previously
Click to enlarge
Woods Hole Research Center
Biomass in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
believed. Using remote sensing satellite data — including cloud-penetrating LiDAR — and field observations from forests, woodlands and savannas across Africa, Asia, and South America, researchers say they were able to create the first “wall-to-wall” map depicting carbon density. According to their results, Brazilian rainforests store about 53.2 billion tons of carbon, followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (22 billion) and Indonesia (18.6). “For the first time we were able to derive accurate estimates of carbon densities using satellite LiDAR observations in places that have never been measured,” said Alessandro Baccini of the Woods Hole Research Center
the lead author of the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change
. The results could help improve the accuracy of reporting carbon emissions as part of the UN-based REDD initiative, which provides incentives to developing nations to prevent large-scale deforestation.
27 Jan 2012:
Wide Variety of Threats
Wiping Out World’s Big Trees, Expert Says
A litany of environmental threats, from forest fragmentation and logging to climate change and disease, are wiping out the world’s biggest trees
, according to a published report. In forest ecosystems worldwide, research shows that giant trees have become particularly vulnerable to a changing environment, ecologist and tropical forest expert William Laurance
writes in New Scientist
magazine. Increased fragmentation has left big trees exposed to stronger winds, while dry conditions and warming temperatures have forced the giants of the forest to consume more energy simply to survive, allowing less energy for growth, Laurance writes. Climate change is also promoting the spread of exotic pathogens, such as Dutch Elm disease, which are devastating native forests. “The decline of big trees foretells a different world where ancient behemoths are replaced by short-lived pioneers and generalists that can grow anywhere, where forests store less carbon and sustain fewer dependent animals, where giant cathedral-like crowns become a thing of the past,” Laurance writes.
Interview: Monitoring Grim Rise
In the World’s Illegal Ivory Trade
Last year was the worst year for ivory seizures since an international ivory ban went into effect in 1989. During 2011, authorities seized more than 23 tons of ivory,
which represented about 2,500 individual elephants killed. At the forefront of efforts to track this grim data is Tom Milliken, the elephant expert for TRAFFIC, the group that monitors the international trade in wildlife under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). Milliken attributes the spike in ivory seizures to a seemingly insatiable demand for ivory in Asia and the increasingly sophisticated network of criminal gangs that are feeding the market. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, he talked about the factors leading to the continued slaughter of Africa’s elephants and about the lack of strong law enforcement against traffickers.
Read the interview
20 Jan 2012:
Value of Conserving Habitats
Could be Worth $500B to World’s Poor
A new study says that compensating the world’s poorest communities for helping conserve the planet’s most vital habitats would help solve two major challenges: biodiversity loss and poverty. In fact, if global leaders were to put an economic value on the preservation of the world’s biodiversity hotspots
— including such benefits as providing food and water and absorbing carbon emissions — it could be worth more than $500 billion annually for 330 million of the world’s poorest people. Since the people who live near these resources typically don’t have the means to protect them, the urgency for such economic mechanisms becomes increasingly critical, according to the study, published in the journal BioScience
. “Developed and developing economies cannot continue to ask the world’s poor to shoulder the burden of protecting these globally important ecosystem services for the world’s benefit,” said Will Turner, vice president of Conservation International and lead author of the study.
10 Jan 2012:
Brazil Gains in Food Production
Coincided With Drop in Deforestation
A new study of land use in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso shows that deforestation rates decreased significantly from 2006 to 2010 even as agricultural production in the region reached an all-time high
. The study found that growers in Mato Grosso, where more than a third of forest loss in the Brazilian Amazon occurred in the 1980s, have increasingly used previously cleared pasture land. Using satellite data and government statistics on deforestation and production, researchers from Columbia University calculated that 26 percent of the increase in soy production within Mato Grosso from 2001 to 2005 was the result of cropland expansion into forested areas, accounting for 10 percent of total deforestation; during the second half of the decade, however, soy expansion accounted for just 2 percent of total deforestation. According to the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
, this shift coincided with a drop in commodity markets, as well as a series of high-profile policy initiatives to reduce deforestation and improved methods in monitoring illegal clearing, including satellite-based tracking systems.
09 Jan 2012:
Mountain Plants Disappearing
As The Climate Warms, New Study Says
A new study says that a warming climate is having a more profound effect on the world’s mountain vegetation than previously believed and that some alpine meadows could vanish altogether
within a few
The alpine species Nevadensia purpurea
decades. After comparing vegetation samples from 60 mountain summits in 13 European nations — collected in 2001 and then again in 2008 — a team of scientists found that cold-loving plants are being pushed out by plants that thrive in warmer temperatures. While earlier studies have made this conclusion at regional levels, researchers say this is the first time the phenomenon has been shown on a continental scale. And they say it is happening more quickly than expected. “Many cold-loving species are literally running out of mountain,” said Michael Gottfried, of the Austria-based Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments
, which coordinated the study, which was published in the journal Nature Climate Change
Interview: Putting a Price
On the Real Value of Nature
How do you put a price on the value of nature? That’s the question Indian banker Pavan Sukhdev and
his colleagues are seeking to answer in their international project on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), which published its latest report last month
. The challenge, as Sukhdev sees it, is how to address the “economic invisibility of nature.” In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, he cited crucial benefits from nature that are often overlooked, including the capacity of wetlands for filtering water, the role of forests in preventing erosion and flooding, and the importance of bees in pollinating crops. “When did the bees last send you an invoice for pollination?” he asks.
Read the interview
03 Jan 2012:
Return of Wolves Has Helped
Ecosystem Recovery in Yellowstone Park
The return of wolves to Yellowstone National Park has caused significant ecosystem recovery
by curbing populations of elk that for decades had over-browsed
U.S. Fish & Wildlife
young aspen and willow trees, according to a new study. In an analysis conducted by Oregon State University
, researchers found that tree stands and shrubs have recovered along some streams, improving habitat for beaver and fish and providing more food sources for birds and bears. In the 15 years since wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone after being killed off last century, northern elk populations have decreased from more than 15,000 to about 6,000, according to the study published in Biological Conservation
. By 2006, some aspen trees had grown tall enough that they were no longer susceptible to browsing by elk. As a result, along four streams in the Lamar River basin, less than 20 percent of the tallest young aspen sprouts were being browsed last year compared with 100 percent in 1998.
From NASA Satellites: The Year in Images
The past year will go down as one in which extreme weather, and major natural disasters, took a heavy toll
across the globe. Some of the most unforgettable images of these events — and of the planet’s natural cycles — were taken high above Earth by NASA satellites. In March, satellite photos captured the devastation of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Satellites also documented the continued melting of polar ice, the ever-widening footprint of human civilization, the beauty of a 500-mile-long phytoplankton bloom, and the enduring forces that have shaped the planet for eons, from volcanoes to wind storms. View some of the memorable images of 2011
Video Footage Shows Success
Of Thailand's Anti-Poaching Fight
Conservationists say video footage from a series of camera traps in western Thailand confirm that recent anti-poaching efforts are working in the biodiverse region. The footage, taken at several locations over the
last year, provides an intimate glimpse of numerous rare species within the region’s Western Forest Complex, including video of a tigress and her cubs feeding on a kill, the elusive clouded leopard, and a group of Asian elephants rumbling within inches of the camera. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which set up the cameras in coordination with the Thai government, said that the sheer quantity of footage shows that Thailand’s anti-poaching efforts have been making progress. Earlier this year, WCS trained and equipped park rangers who were able to arrest poachers found with cellphone images of a dead tiger. When the poachers said the tiger was captured in another country, WCS was able to use camera trap footage to show that the animal had lived in Thailand’s forests. The 18,000-square-kilometer Western Forest Complex, which contains 17 contiguous protected areas, is home to an estimated 125 to 175 tigers and one of the most endangered elephant populations in Southeast Asia.
19 Dec 2011:
Brazil's Forest Code Will Lead
To Rise in Deforestation, Critics Say
Environmental advocates say a controversial overhaul of Brazil’s Forest Code will lead to an increase in illegal deforestation
and send a mixed message about Brazil’s commitment to preserving its rainforests. While advocates of the legislation approved by the Senate last week say it will require property owners to preserve 80 percent of their forested land, opponents say loopholes will allow farmers to clear a significantly larger portion of forest and to replace as much as 50 percent of illegally cleared forest with exotic species rather than native trees. Nationwide, opponents predict, farmers will be required to restore only about half of the 212,000 square miles of forest they would have been required to restore under the current law. The changes come as Brazil pledges to reduce carbon emissions by nearly 40 percent below projected levels by 2020. “Brazil has positioned itself as a country that’s committed itself to saving the forest cover to the benefit of the world,” Christian Poirier, the Brazil director for Amazon Watch, told the Washington Post
. “The new forest code flouts all that.” According to a pair of Russian scientists, similar revisions to Russia’s forest code in 2007 produced a spike in illegal deforestation
08 Dec 2011:
Rampant Marijuana Cultivation
Is Damaging U.S. National Forests
U.S. officials say widespread marijuana cultivation in national forests has caused “severe” damage to some ecosystems and wildlife in 20 states. In testimony before the U.S. Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, U.S. Forest Service Director of Law Enforcement David Ferrell said federal officials have uncovered large-scale marijuana operations in 67 different national forests across the U.S. At these sites — which typically cover 10 to 20 acres and include armed guards and counter-surveillance methods — operators usually clear large areas of native vegetation; spray voluminous amounts of herbicides, rodenticides, and pesticides; and divert thousands of gallons of water daily from streams, lakes, and drinking water supplies. In California alone, Ferrell said, the Forest Service has removed more than 130 tons of trash, 300 pounds of pesticides, and nearly 260 miles of irrigation piping from 335 illegal cultivation sites. Cleaning and restoring the sites costs about $15,000 per acre, Ferrell says.
06 Dec 2011:
Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon
Dropped to Record Low Last Year
Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon dropped to a new record low during the year ending in July
, according to preliminary government data. About 2,408 square miles (6,238 square kilometers) of rainforest were cleared from August 2010 to July 2011, a 10.9 percent reduction from the previous year, when about 2,700 square miles of forest were destroyed, an analysis of satellite data from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research shows. While Brazilian leaders attributed the trend to stricter enforcement of logging rules and sustainable development initiatives, analysts said slow economic growth was also a factor. The results reflect the continuation of a trend of significantly declining deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, where forest destruction peaked at about 9,650 square miles (25,000 square kilometers) annually in 2003 and 2004. The new findings come as Brazilian lawmakers prepare to vote on legislation that would ease the nation’s Forest Code, which requires property owners in the Amazon to maintain 80 percent of their holdings as forest.
23 Nov 2011:
Court Restores Protections
For Yellowstone Park’s Grizzly Bears
A federal appeals court has ruled that Yellowstone National Park’s population of 600 grizzly bears was improperly removed from the endangered species list, saying the bears face an unprecedented threat from the widespread die-off of a key food source
, the white bark
pine. A three judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said that the massive loss of white bark pine
was due to climate change, since warmer winters have enabled the larvae of a major pest — the pine beetle — to survive and destroy or damage 40 percent of Yellowstone’s white bark pine trees. The ruling makes the Yellowstone grizzly population only the second wildlife species, after the polar bear, to earn protection under the Endangered Species Act because of climate change. Grizzly bears eat the nuts of the white bark pine, and the appeals court panel agreed with conservationists that the loss of the trees at high elevations could drive the grizzly bears to lower, more populous areas
, increasing bear/human confrontations.
17 Nov 2011:
Camera Traps Document
Wild Cats in Unprotected Sumatran Forest
Using a network of camera traps, researchers captured images of five wild cat species
within the same Sumatran forest corridor, an unprotected area rich in biodiversity but threatened by industrial logging and
Camera trap images of wild cats in Sumatra
clear-cutting for illegal palm oil development. During a three-month survey in a region known as Bukit Tigapuluh, or Thirty Hills, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the World Wildlife Fund collected more than 400 photos of wild cats, including the Sumatran tiger, the Sunda clouded leopard, the marble cat, the Asian golden cat, and the leopard cat. All of the cats were found within a stretch of forest linking the Bukit Tigapulu forest and the Rimbang Baling Wildlife sanctuary in Riau Province. Four of the species are protected by the Indonesian government and listed as threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, said Karmila Parakkasi, coordinator of WWF-Indonesia’s Tiger Research Team.
17 Nov 2011:
Deforestation in Boreal Region
Has Net Cooling Effect, Study Says
While deforestation is considered a critical factor in global warming since it causes the release of carbon, scientists say that in northern latitudes tree loss may actually have a net cooling effect
. In an analysis of temperature data collected from Florida to Manitoba, researchers from 20 institutions found that in the boreal region — north of 45 degrees latitude — the surface temperatures in open grassy areas were cooler than in adjacent forests because the snow reflected the sun’s rays back into space. In those areas, researchers say, the darker forests absorbed the sun’s heat. “The cooling effect is linear with latitude, so the farther north you go, the cooler you get with deforestation,” said Xuhui Lee, a professor of meteorology at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and the lead investigator of the study, published in the journal Nature
. For instance, in regions north of Minnesota (45 degrees latitude) temperatures in deforested areas decreased by an average of 1.5 degrees F, while in areas south of North Carolina (35 degrees latitude), deforestation appeared to cause warming.
03 Nov 2011:
Mass Change in Tree Species
Occurring in Western North America, Study Says
A huge shift in tree species
is taking place across the western United States and Canada as global warming, drought, insect infestations, and fire are driving certain species out of some regions and allowing new species to take their place. Using remote sensing data, U.S and Canadian scientists analyzed the condition of 15 coniferous tree species in 34 different “eco-regions.” The study found that once-common tree species, such as lodgepole pine and Engelmann spruce, are being replaced by species that can survive in warmer, drier conditions, such as ponderosa pine and Douglas fir. The most intense shifts are occurring in the northern and southern extremes of western North America. In central California, for example, half of the species now present are not expected to survive future climate conditions, with temperatures expected to rise by 5 to 9 degrees F this century, according to the study, published in the journals Ecological Modelling
and Remote Sensing of Environment
. Already, more than 70,000 square miles of forest in the western U.S. and Canada have been destroyed by outbreaks of beetles that thrive in warmer temperatures.
“Some of these changes are already happening pretty fast and in some huge areas,” said lead author Richard Waring of Oregon State University. “The forests of our future are going to look quite different.”
31 Oct 2011:
Maps Depict Changes
In Ranges of Trees in Eastern U.S.
The U.S. Forest Service has released a series of maps showing, under different emissions scenarios, how the ranges of various tree species in the eastern U.S. may shift as the climate warms
. Forest types traditionally
associated with particular regions will migrate north, shifting the ecosystems they support. Beyond impacting the foliage that attracts tourists during the fall season, the researchers say the shifts will also affect local biodiversity in unpredictable ways. The maple, beech, and birch forests that characterize New England, New York, and Pennsylvania will give way to oak/hickory-dominated forests, squeezing fauna that depend on the former, and changing the overall character of the landscape. The picturesque paper birches, aspens, spruces, and firs that dominate far-northern portions of the east will also retreat, with the southern tail of the spruce/fir range crossing into Canada completely. The models predict a number of scenarios for changing forests, with the worst-case showing a near-total takeover by oak and hickory by 2100.
28 Oct 2011:
Film of Extinct Woodpecker
Unearthed by Cornell Researchers
U.S. scientists searching for the rare imperial woodpecker, once considered the world’s largest woodpecker species but now thought to be extinct, have
Cornell Lab of Ornithology
unearthed an 85-second film of the bird in its long-vanished habitat. It is the only known footage of the bird, which was two feet high and the closest relative of the ivory-billed woodpecker, which is also believed to be extinct. The 16mm color film — shot in 1956 by Pennsylvania dentist and amateur ornithologist William Rhein in Durango, Mexico’s old-growth pine forest — captures an adult female as she quickly scales the trunk of a pine tree, takes four pecks at the tree, and then launches into flight. The film was discovered by Martjan Lammertink, a researcher at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology
who has authored a new paper in the journal The Auk
about a 2010 expedition to the same region of Durango in search of the imperial woodpecker.
25 Oct 2011:
More than 3.8 Million Trees
Cut Annually for Disposable Chopsticks
A published report calculates that about 3.8 million trees in China are cut annually for the production of disposable chopsticks
, contributing to the loss of China’s
regional forests. According to a report in the New York Times
’ Green blog, about half of those chopsticks are used in China, 39 percent in Japan, 12 percent in South Korea, and 1 percent in the United States. Environmental activists say that wooden utensils can be phased out, and China has taken steps to discourage their use, imposing a tax on disposable chopsticks in 2007. In addition, more than 2,000 restaurants in Beijing and Guangzhou have stopped using wooden chopsticks in favor of reusables, which have a lifespan of about 130 meals. Last year, students from 200 Chinese universities built a series of “trees
” using 80,000 discarded chopsticks and displayed them in a busy Beijing mall to call attention to the issue. In Japan, however, many restaurants have resisted switching to reusable chopsticks.
13 Oct 2011:
Five-point Plan Proposed
To Feed World in a Sustainable Fashion
An international team of scientists has unveiled a plan that they say would double food production by 2050
while reducing the global environmental impact of agriculture
. Reporting in the journal Nature
, scientists from the U.S., Canada, Sweden, and Germany said that the only way the world community could sustainably feed the estimated 9 billion to 10 billion people expected on the planet later this century would be by taking the five following steps: halt expansion of farmland into tropical forests and wild lands; more efficiently use large swaths of underutilized farmland in Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe, boosting current food production by nearly 60 percent; make more efficient use of water, fertilizers, and chemicals, which are currently overutilized in some areas and underutilized in others; shift diets, especially in the developed world, from excessive meat consumption; and reduce the amount of food that is discarded, spoiled, or eaten by pests, which currently amounts to about a third of the food supply. “For the first time we have shown that it is possible to both feed a hungry world and protect a threatened planet,” said the study's lead author, Jonathan Foley
, of the University of Minnesota.
11 Oct 2011:
Rising Gold Prices Drive
Rampant Clearing of Peruvian Amazon
The spread of illegal gold mining in southern Peru has driven a growth in deforestation so rampant that government officials may declare an environmental emergency, according to a news report
. As the global
price of gold has climbed, mining operations in the Amazon have extended into the fringes of Tambopata Nature Reserve, an important region for ecotourism, with miners beginning operations without necessary permits, according Mongabay.com
. In some cases, miners have started operations within the reserve itself, using dredges and massive suction equipment to search for gold in rivers and creeks. Ecologists warn that enormous swaths of remote and biodiverse forest are being cleared before scientists have even been able to completely assess their value. “This [area] is often blanketed in clouds. It’s poorly known to science,” said ecologist Gregory Asner
of the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University. “We don’t know the composition of the ecosystems.”