Region: Central & South America


A Conservationist Sees Signs of Hope for the World’s Rainforests

Opinion

A Conservationist Sees Signs of Hope for the World’s Rainforests

by rhett butler
After decades of sobering news, a prominent conservationist says he is finally finding reason to be optimistic about the future of tropical forests. Consumer pressure on international corporations and new monitoring technology, he says, are helping turn the tide in efforts to save forests from Brazil to Indonesia.
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How Drones Are Emerging <br />As Valuable Conservation Tool

Interview

How Drones Are Emerging
As Valuable Conservation Tool

by crystal gammon
Lian Pin Koh believes drones can be a key part of conservation efforts, particularly in remote regions. In a Yale Environment 360 interview, he talks about how his project, ConservationDrones, is promoting the use of drones for everything from counting orangutans to stopping poaching.
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Primate Rights vs Research: <br /> Battle in Colombian Rainforest

Report

Primate Rights vs Research:
Battle in Colombian Rainforest

by chris kraul
A Colombian conservationist has been locked in a contentious legal fight against a leading researcher who uses wild monkeys in his search for a malaria vaccine. A recent court decision that banned the practice is seen as a victory in efforts to restrict the use of monkeys in medical research.
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Mining Showdown in Andes <br />Over Unique Páramo Lands

Report

Mining Showdown in Andes
Over Unique Páramo Lands

by chris kraul
High-altitude neotropical ecosystems known as páramos are increasingly at risk in Colombia and elsewhere in South America as major mining companies seek to exploit rich deposits of gold and other minerals. Such projects, scientists warn, could have serious impacts on critical water supplies.
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In the Pastures of Colombia, <br />Cows, Crops and Timber Coexist

Analysis

In the Pastures of Colombia,
Cows, Crops and Timber Coexist

by lisa palmer
As an ambitious program in Colombia demonstrates, combining grazing and agriculture with tree cultivation can coax more food from each acre, boost farmers’ incomes, restore degraded landscapes, and make farmland more resilient to climate change.
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In Developing World, A Push to <br />Bring E-Waste Out of Shadows

Report

In Developing World, A Push to
Bring E-Waste Out of Shadows

by mike ives
For decades, hazardous electronic waste from around the world has been processed in unsafe backyard recycling operations in Asia and Africa. Now, a small but growing movement is seeking to provide these informal collectors with incentives to sell e-waste to advanced recycling facilities.
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Microbiomes at the Roots: <br />A New Look at Forest Ecology

Analysis

Microbiomes at the Roots:
A New Look at Forest Ecology

by richard conniff
With advances in genetic sequencing technology, scientists are now able to readily identify the microbes living in and around the roots of trees. This information is proving to have important implications for everything from tropical forest restoration to climate change planning.
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In Galápagos, An Insidious <br />Threat to Darwin's Finches

Report

In Galápagos, An Insidious
Threat to Darwin's Finches

by elizabeth kolbert
The birds that have come to be known as Darwin's finches have long intrigued students of evolution. But now a parasitic fly introduced to the Galápagos Islands is threatening the future of one or more of these iconic finch species.
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Into the Heart of Ecuador’s Yasuni

e360 Video

Into the Heart of Ecuador’s Yasuni

Few places on earth harbor as much biodiversity as Ecuador’s Yasuni Biosphere Reserve, which sits atop vast deposits of oil and now faces intense development pressure. In a Yale Environment 360 video, filmmaker Ryan Killackey travels to the heart of Yasuni with scientists inventorying its stunning wildlife and plants. The researchers hope their work will bolster initiatives to preserve this threatened land.
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Grisly Trend: Green Activists<br /> Are Facing Deadly Dangers

Report

Grisly Trend: Green Activists
Are Facing Deadly Dangers

by fred pearce
With activists killed in Brazil, Cambodia, the Philippines, and elsewhere, 2012 may have been the worst year yet for violence against those working to protect the environment. So far, little has been done to halt this chilling development.
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In the Land of the Maya,<br /> A Battle for a Vital Forest

Report

In the Land of the Maya,
A Battle for a Vital Forest

by william allen
In Guatemala’s vast Maya Biosphere Reserve, conservation groups are battling to preserve a unique rainforest now under threat from Mexican drug cartels, Salvadoran drug gangs, and Chinese-backed groups illegally logging prime tropical hardwoods.
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At Edge of Peruvian Andes,<br /> Tracking Impacts of Warming

Report

At Edge of Peruvian Andes,
Tracking Impacts of Warming

by elizabeth kolbert
The Andes in eastern Peru, with steep slopes and remarkable biodiversity, are what one scientist calls a “perfect laboratory” for studying the effects of climate change. E360 contributor Elizabeth Kolbert trekked there with researchers seeking to determine if tree populations can move uphill fast enough to survive warming temperatures.
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The Imperative of Thinking Big<br /> In Global Conservation Efforts

Interview

The Imperative of Thinking Big
In Global Conservation Efforts

by fen montaigne
In his 12 years as president of the Wildlife Conservation Society, Steven E. Sanderson oversaw major projects in Gabon, Chile, South Sudan, and elsewhere. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Sanderson explains why conservation groups need to better coordinate work across large, human-influenced landscapes and more effectively marshal science to fight their battles.
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Looking for Solutions in the<br /> Fight to Preserve Biodiversity

Interview

Looking for Solutions in the
Fight to Preserve Biodiversity

by roger cohn
At the Rio+20 conference this week, conservation biologist Thomas Lovejoy received the prestigious Blue Planet Prize. Before traveling to Brazil, Lovejoy talked with Yale Environment 360 about the loss of biodiversity and about whether it is too late for the world to do something about it.
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Digital Defenders: Tribal People<br /> Use GPS to Protect Their Lands

Report

Digital Defenders: Tribal People
Use GPS to Protect Their Lands

by fred pearce
From the rainforests of central Africa to the Australian outback, indigenous people armed with GPS devices are surveying their territories and producing maps they can use to protect them from logging and other outside development.
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In Fight to Save Coral Reefs,<br /> Finding Strategies that Work

Interview

In Fight to Save Coral Reefs,
Finding Strategies that Work

by kevin dennehy
In four decades as a marine biologist, Nancy Knowlton has played a key role in documenting the biodiversity of coral reefs and the threats they increasingly face. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, she assesses the state of the world’s corals and highlights conservation projects that offer hope of saving these irreplaceable ecosystems.
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On the Road Back to Rio,<br /> Green Direction Has Been Lost

Opinion

On the Road Back to Rio,
Green Direction Has Been Lost

by fred pearce
Twenty years ago, an historic environmental summit in Rio de Janeiro produced groundbreaking treaties and high hopes that pressing issues would be addressed. But as organizers prepare for the Rio+20 conference in June, there is little on the agenda to suggest any substantive action will be taken.
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As Roads Spread in Rainforests,<br /> The Environmental Toll Grows

Opinion

As Roads Spread in Rainforests,
The Environmental Toll Grows

by william laurance
From Brazil to Borneo, new roads are being built into tropical forests at a dizzying pace, putting previously intact wilderness at risk. If we hope to preserve rainforests, a leading researcher says, new strategies must be adopted to limit the number of roads and reduce their impacts.
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A Defender of World’s Whales<br /> Sees Only a Tenuous Recovery

Interview

A Defender of World’s Whales
Sees Only a Tenuous Recovery

by christina m. russo
Biologist Roger Payne played a key role in helping end the wholesale slaughter of whales. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Payne discusses the mysteries of these legendary marine mammals and the threats they continue to face.
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A Rise in Fungal Diseases is<br /> Taking Growing Toll on Wildlife

Report

A Rise in Fungal Diseases is
Taking Growing Toll on Wildlife

by michelle nijhuis
In an increasingly interconnected world, fungal diseases are spreading at an alarming rate and have led to deadly outbreaks in amphibian, bat, and bee populations. And in the last decade, researchers note, some of the most virulent strains have infected people.
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A Revolutionary Technology is<br /> Unlocking Secrets of the Forest

Report

A Revolutionary Technology is
Unlocking Secrets of the Forest

by rhett butler
A new imaging system that uses a suite of airborne sensors is capable of providing detailed, three-dimensional pictures of tropical forests — including the species they contain and the amount of CO2 they store — at astonishing speed. These advances could play a key role in preserving the world’s beleaguered rainforests.
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In Brazil, Palm Oil Plantations<br /> Could Help Preserve the Amazon

Analysis

In Brazil, Palm Oil Plantations
Could Help Preserve the Amazon

by rhett butler
In recent years, palm oil development in Malaysia and Indonesia has devastated tropical forests there. With Brazil on the verge of its own palm oil boom, can sustainable cultivation of the crop actually help save the rainforest, rather than hastening its destruction?
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The World’s Tropical Forests<br /> Are Already Feeling the Heat

Analysis

The World’s Tropical Forests
Are Already Feeling the Heat

by william laurance
Much attention has been paid to how global warming is affecting the world’s polar regions and glaciers. But a leading authority on tropical forests warns that rising temperatures could have an equally profound impact on rainforests and are already taking a toll on some tropical species.
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The Cerrado: Brazil’s Other<br /> Biodiverse Region Loses Ground

Report

The Cerrado: Brazil’s Other
Biodiverse Region Loses Ground

by fred pearce
While Brazil touts its efforts to slow destruction of the Amazon, another biodiverse region of the country is being cleared for large-scale farming. But unlike the heralded rainforest it borders, the loss of the cerrado and its rich tropical savanna so far has failed to attract much notice.
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A Scientist Extols the Value<br /> Of Forests Shaped by Humans

Interview

A Scientist Extols the Value
Of Forests Shaped by Humans

by john carey
Political ecologist Susanna Hecht has incurred the wrath of some conservationists by arguing that the notion of the primeval forest is largely a myth and that disturbed forests play a vital ecological function. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, she makes the case for a “new rurality” that places less emphasis on protected forests and more on the areas where people live.
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Threat of Mercury Poisoning<br /> Rises With Gold Mining Boom

Report

Threat of Mercury Poisoning
Rises With Gold Mining Boom

by shefa siegel
With high gold prices fueling a global gold rush, millions of people in the developing world are turning to small-scale gold mining. In many countries, including Colombia, miners are putting themselves and those who live nearby at risk by using highly toxic mercury in the refining process.
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Did Cancun Prove the UN<br /> Irrelevant in Tackling Climate?

Opinion

Did Cancun Prove the UN
Irrelevant in Tackling Climate?

by fred pearce
The Cancun conference is being credited with keeping international climate talks alive. But the real potential for bringing emissions under control may lie in a Plan B, with nations acting on their own in moving toward a low-carbon economy.
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Deep in Ecuador’s Rainforest,<br /> A Plan to Forego an Oil Bonanza

Report

Deep in Ecuador’s Rainforest,
A Plan to Forego an Oil Bonanza

by kelly hearn
Ecuador's Yasuni National Park is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth and is home to remote Indian tribes. It also sits atop a billion barrels of oil. Now, Ecuador and the United Nations are forging an ambitious plan to walk away from drilling in the park in exchange for payments from the international community.
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Spurred by Warming World,<br /> Beetles Threaten Coffee Crops

Report

Spurred by Warming World,
Beetles Threaten Coffee Crops

by erica westly
Coffee production has long been vulnerable to drought or excess rains. But recently, a tiny insect that thrives in warmer temperatures — the coffee berry borer — has been spreading steadily, devastating coffee plants in Africa, Latin America, and around the world.
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In the Fight to Save Forests,<br /> Activists Target Corporations

Analysis

In the Fight to Save Forests,
Activists Target Corporations

by rhett butler
Large corporations, not small-scale farmers, are now the major forces behind the destruction of the world’s tropical forests. From the Amazon to Madagascar, activists have been directing their actions at these companies — so far with limited success.
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Will REDD Preserve Forests <br />Or Merely Provide a Fig Leaf?

Analysis

Will REDD Preserve Forests
Or Merely Provide a Fig Leaf?

by fred pearce
The tropical forest conservation plan, known as REDD, has the potential to significantly reduce deforestation and carbon dioxide emissions worldwide. But unless projects are carefully designed and monitored, the program could be undercut by shady dealings at all levels, from the forests to global carbon markets.
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Coping With Climate Change:<br /> Which Societies Will Do Best?

Opinion

Coping With Climate Change:
Which Societies Will Do Best?

by gaia vince
As the world warms, how different societies fare in dealing with rising seas and changing weather patterns will have as much to do with political, social, and economic factors as with a changing climate.
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Controlling the Ranching Boom<br /> that  Threatens the Amazon

Report

Controlling the Ranching Boom
that Threatens the Amazon

by rhett butler
Clearing land for cattle is responsible for 80 percent of rainforest loss in the Brazilian Amazon. But with Amazon ranching now a multi-billion dollar business, corporate buyers of beef and leather, including Wal-Mart, are starting to demand that the destruction of the forest be halted.
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Hailed as a Miracle Biofuel,<br /> Jatropha Falls Short of Hype

Report

Hailed as a Miracle Biofuel,
Jatropha Falls Short of Hype

by jon r. luoma
The scrubby jatropha tree has been touted as a wonder biofuel with unlimited potential. But questions are now emerging as to whether widespread jatropha cultivation is really feasible or whether it will simply displace badly-needed food crops in the developing world.
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Retreat of Andean Glaciers<br /> Foretells Global Water Woes

Report

Retreat of Andean Glaciers
Foretells Global Water Woes

by carolyn kormann
Bolivia accounts for a tiny fraction of global greenhouse gas emissions. But it will soon be paying a disproportionately high price for a major consequence of global warming: the rapid loss of glaciers and a subsequent decline in vital water supplies.
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As Rain Forests Disappear,<br /> A Market Solution Emerges

Report

As Rain Forests Disappear,
A Market Solution Emerges

by rhett butler
Despite the creation of protected areas in the Amazon and other tropical regions, rain forests worldwide are still being destroyed for a simple reason: They are worth more cut down than standing. But with deforestation now a leading driver of global warming, a movement is growing to pay nations and local people to keep their rain forests intact.
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Opinion

Has the Population Bomb Been Defused?

by fred pearce
Paul Ehrlich still believes that overpopulation imperils the Earth’s future. But the good news is we are approaching a demographic turning point: Birth rates have been falling dramatically, and population is expected to peak later this century — after that, for the first time in modern history, the world's population should actually start to decline.
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Global Commodities Boom <br />Fuels New Assault on Amazon

Report

Global Commodities Boom
Fuels New Assault on Amazon

by rhett butler
With soaring prices for agricultural goods and new demand for biofuels, the clearing of the world's largest rain forest has accelerated dramatically. Unless forceful measures are taken, half of the Brazilian Amazon could be cut, burned or dried out within 20 years.
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Opinion

The Ethics of Climate Change

by richard c. j. somerville
When it comes to setting climate change policy, science can only tell us so much. Ultimately, a lead report author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change writes, it comes down to making judgments about what is fair, equitable, and just.
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DNA Technology: <br />Discovering New Species

Report

DNA Technology:
Discovering New Species

by jon r. luoma
By taking bits of a single gene, scientists are using DNA barcoding to identify new species. If a portable hand-held scanning device can be developed, one ecologist says, it could “do for biodiversity what the printing press did for literacy.”
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31 Oct 2014: Giant Galapagos Tortoises Are Making a Strong Comeback, Researchers Say

Giant Galapagos tortoises have made a remarkable comeback over the last five decades, and their

Giant Galapagos tortoise (Chelonoidis hoodensis)
population on the Galapagos island of Española is now secure, according to researchers from the U.S. and Ecuador. Although their global population was down to 15 individuals in the 1960s, after 40 years of captive breeding and reintroduction efforts, the species now numbers roughly 1,000, the study found. About half of the tortoises released on the island since 1975 were still alive in 2007, and they’re now reproducing on their own in the environment. Ecologically, though, the tortoises face some challenges, the study notes. A critical source of food is a native cactus species that was nearly wiped out by feral goats. This likely limits the tortoises' current range, but the reptiles are also aiding the return of the cactus, the scientists say, because they help to spread its seeds.
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11 Sep 2014: Brazilian Amazon Deforestation
Jumps by 29 Percent, Government Says

Brazilian government data show destruction of the Amazon rainforest increased 29 percent over the past

Click to Enlarge

Amazon deforestation rate
year. Satellites documented the deforestation of over 2,300 square miles in the Brazilian Amazon, reversing highly praised gains in forest conservation since 2004. The largest losses were in the states of Para and Mato Grosso, in central Brazil, which are experiencing widespread agricultural development. The building of new roads and dams, along with illegal logging, also contributed to the rise in deforestation. Brazilian police frequently target illegal logging operations, but environmental groups say more enforcement is needed. Deforestation in Brazil peaked in 2004, when over 11,580 square miles of forest were destroyed. Worldwide, deforestation is responsible for roughly 15 percent of greenhouse gas emissions — more than all types of transportation systems combined.
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30 Jul 2014: New Maps of Peru Forests
Could Help Set Conservation Priorities

New, highly detailed maps of Peru's vegetation show that three-quarters of the country's forests — a biomass

Click to Enlarge

Carbon stocks across Peru
stock that sequesters more carbon than the combined annual CO2 emissions of the U.S. and China — lie outside of protected areas and are vulnerable to deforestation, according to an analysis by researchers in the U.S. and Peru. The maps, which should prove helpful to scientists, conservationists, and policymakers working to protect the forests, offer the most detailed view to date of the different types of vegetative cover and above-ground carbon stocks across Peru, with resolution at the one-hectare scale. The analysis found that the lowlands of southern Peru, which contain extensive bamboo cover, harbor significantly less carbon than other rainforest areas, and forests in active floodplains appear to store half as much carbon as other forests.
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08 Jul 2014: Protection of Parrotfish
Could Slow Decline of Caribbean Reefs

The steady loss of coral reefs in the Caribbean could be partially reversed by taking a number of relatively simple steps, including stronger measures to protect the region’s parrotfish, according to a new study. In a review of trends in Caribbean coral reefs from 1970 to 2012, the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network said that live coral only makes up about 17 percent of the region’s reef surfaces today. If present trends continue, the study said, coral reefs in the Caribbean will “virtually disappear within a few decades” because of foreign pathogens, algae invasions, pollution from tourism development, over-fishing, and warming waters. A key step in halting the decline is protecting parrotfish, which eat the algae that have been smothering coral reefs. The study said conservation measures, such as banning fish traps, have helped parrotfish populations rebound in some parts of the Caribbean, including Belize and the Bahamas.
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06 Jun 2014: Brazil Leads the World
In Cutting Deforestation, Analysis Finds

Brazil has become the world leader in reducing deforestation and, at the same time, has increased its soy and beef production, researchers report in the
Amazon rainforest near Manaus, Brazil

Amazon rainforest near Manaus, Brazil
journal Science. The country has cut its forest loss by 70 percent since 2004, sparing more than 86,000 square kilometers of rainforests and keeping more than 3.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Brazil's decline in deforestation in 2013 alone represented a 1.5 percent reduction in global emissions that year, the report says; globally, tropical forest loss accounts for 15 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. The analysis credits the success to bold government policies, pressure from environmental groups, and market fluctuations in the price of soy and beef, but the authors warn that these wins may be short-lived without more positive incentives for farmers. “These gains are globally significant, but fragile,” one researcher explained. “We’re bumping up against the limits of what can be achieved through punitive measures.”
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23 May 2014: Oil Drilling Permits
Issued for Key Area of Yasuni Park

The Ecuadorean government has issued permits to begin oil drilling in a key area of the Yasuni Biosphere Reserve and National Park, one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. Environment Minister Lorena

Watch e360 Video
Ecaudor's Yasuni Biosphere Reserve and National Park

Yasuni Biosphere Reserve
Tapia said the government had signed permits to begin preparations for drilling in the so-called ITT section of the park, which contains two uncontacted indigenous tribes; drilling itself could begin as early as 2016, the government said. Ecuador’s President, Rafeal Correa, had offered to ban drilling in large sections of the park if the international community raised $3.6 billion to compensate the country for leaving the oil in the ground. But after only $13 million was raised, Correa gave the green light to drilling, saying “the world has failed us.” Oil drilling has already taken place in some areas of the 6,500-square-mile park. As this Yale Environment 360 video shows, Yasuni is home to a remarkable array of species, including roughly 400 species of fish, 600 species of birds, and thousands of species of vascular plants and trees.
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22 May 2014: Donors Commit $220 Million
To Protect and Expand Huge Amazon Reserve

A coalition of private donors and government funders has pledged $220 million over the next 25 years to better protect the Amazon Region Protected Areas (ARPA), the world’s largest protected area network. WWF, the World Bank, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Inter-American Development Bank, and more than a dozen other donors are contributing funds to the initiative, which also will add another 8.9 million hectares of Amazon rainforest to the ARPA program, driving the total to more than 60 million hectares. That’s 232,000 square miles, an area larger than France. Most of the funds will be used to better police and enforce environmental laws on ARPA territory, which includes 90 parks and comprises 15 percent of the Brazilian Amazon. "The explosion in demand for natural resources has made our parks and world heritage sites vulnerable," said WWF president Carter Roberts. The initiative is also upgrading long-neglected parks and creating sustainable-use reserves for local communities and indigenous people.
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06 May 2014: Darwin's Finches Fight Off
Parasitic Maggots with Treated Nest Fibers

Researchers apparently have discovered a unique way to help Darwin's finches on the Galápagos Islands fight off the parasitic maggots threatening their survival, according to a new report in the journal Current Biology. While working in the Galápagos, scientists
Darwin's finch with treated cotton
A Darwin's finch collects treated cotton for its nest
from the University of Utah noticed that the finches often collected cotton and other fibers to weave into their nests. The researchers decided to provide the birds with cotton treated with permethrin — a mild pesticide, commonly used to treat head lice in children, that is safe for birds — hoping the finches would incorporate the fibers in their nests. Finches near the test sites did just that, and their "self-fumigated" nests contained about half as many parasitic maggots — which infest and can kill newly-hatched chicks — compared to nests with untreated cotton. Darwin's finches and other bird species in the Galápagos have suffered steep population declines since the flies showed up in large numbers in the 1990s.
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10 Feb 2014: New Plant Found in Andes
Supports up to 50 Species, Researchers Say

Researchers working in the Ecuadorian Andes have discovered a new species of black pepper plant that is a nexus of biodiversity. The plant, named Piper kelleyi, supports roughly 40 to 50 insect species, the scientists estimate, many of which are entirely dependent on the
P. kelleyi caterpillar
Specialist herbivore Eios feeds on P. kelleyi
plant for survival. P. kelleyi produces chemical compounds that are known to deter most herbivores, but a single type of caterpillar has adapted to overcome the toxicity of the plant's defenses. That caterpillar, in turn, is preyed upon by species of wasps and flies dependent on that specific caterpillar species — and ultimately the plant — for survival. Altogether, an assemblage of up to 50 species of herbivorous and predatory insects are dependent on P. kelleyi, the researchers report in the journal PhytoKeys.
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06 Feb 2014: Maps Show Tropical Corridors
Important to Wildlife As Climate Changes

A new set of maps highlights the importance of habitat corridors in helping wildlife deal with the effects of climate change and deforestation. The series of maps shows more than 16,000 habitat corridors— swaths of

Click to Enlarge
South America habitat corridors

Protected areas and corridors in South America
land that connect forests or protected areas and allow animals to move between them — in tropical regions of Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America. High-resolution data on biodiversity, endemism, and vegetation density allowed the researchers, led by Patrick Jantz of the Woods Hole Research Center, to determine which corridors are most important for maintaining biodiversity under changing climate conditions. The maps also highlight which corridors are most important for sequestering carbon and averting carbon emissions associated with deforestation. Researchers hope the findings will help guide wildlife protection plans and serve as a framework prioritizing the conservation of habitat corridors.
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28 Jan 2014: Peru Park Holds Record
Reptile and Amphibian Diversity, Study Finds

A new study crowns Peru's Manu National Park as the place with the world's most diverse collection of reptiles and amphibians — 287 species in all. The park's 155 amphibian and 132 reptile species outnumber those in Ecuador's Yasuní National Park, which, with 271 reptile
Manu glass frog
Alessandro Catenazzi
A glass frog from Manu's cloud forests
and amphibian species, was previously believed to contain the world's most diverse collection of reptiles and amphibians. Although Manu National Park represents only 0.01 percent of the world's land area, it houses 2.2 percent of all amphibian species and 1.5 percent of all reptile species, the researchers note. They attribute the rich diversity to the park's elevation gradient, which spans the Western Amazon's tropical rainforest up through high Andean cloud forests, providing a wide range of habitats. Manu also has record bird diversity — with 1,000 species, or 10 percent of the world's total species — and tremendous butterfly diversity, with 1,200 species. Scientists say the inventory of the national park's richness is far from complete. DNA analyses, frog call studies, and other techniques will likely reveal even more diversity, the authors note in the journal Biota Neotropica.
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15 Nov 2013: Groundbreaking Mapping Project
Depicts Forest Change Around the Globe

Scientists from Google, U.S. universities, and federal agencies have for the first time produced a high-resolution global map showing in striking detail the extent of deforestation across the globe. The project — which relied heavily on expertise from the computing

View Animation
Indonesia forest loss

Hansen, et al./Science
Forest loss in Indonesia
center Google Earth Engine — documents a loss of 888,000 square miles of forest between 2000 and 2012, along with a gain of 309,000 square miles of new forest. The rate of deforestation is equal to losing 68,000 soccer fields of forest every day for the past 13 years, or 50 soccer fields every minute, says the World Resources Institute. Brazil, once responsible for a majority of the world's tropical forest loss, is now the global leader in scaling back forest destruction, cutting its deforestation rate in half over the past decade, researchers report in Science. Over the same period, Indonesia has more than doubled its annual rate of forest loss, despite a supposed 2011 Indonesian government moratorium on new logging licenses.
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22 Oct 2013: Southern Amazon Rainforest
In Danger as Dry Season Expands, Study Says

The dry season in the southern part of the Amazon rainforest is lasting three weeks longer than it did 30 years ago, putting the forest at higher risk for fires and tree mortality, according to new research from the University of Texas. The most likely culprit is global

Click to Enlarge
Amazon vegetation index

Myneni/Bi/NASA
Amazon vegetation index
warming, says lead researcher Rong Fu. Even if future wet seasons become wetter, rainforest soil can only hold so much water, Fu explained. That water must sustain the forest throughout the entire dry season, and as the dry season lengthens the rainforest becomes increasingly stressed, vegetation growth slows, and the risk of fire rises. During a severe drought in 2005, the Amazon actually released a large amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, rather than acting as a net carbon sink. Should dry seasons continue to expand, conditions like those in 2005 could become the norm, accelerating the buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere, the researchers wrote in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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07 Oct 2013: Nutrient Recycling by Sponges
Is Vital in Sustaining Reefs, Study Says

Sponges are the unsung heroes of coral reefs, helping the vibrant ecosystems thrive in the marine equivalent of a desert, a Dutch team working in the Caribbean has found. Scientists had long questioned how reefs, some
Caribbean sponges
NOAA
of the most productive communities on earth, were able to survive in low-nutrient tropical seas. Bacteria help recycle some nutrients, but the so-called "microbial loop" can't account for the high rates of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorous recycling needed to maintain a coral reef, researchers say. Sponges fill that void by drawing in plankton and organic matter expelled by the corals and shedding cells that other reef organisms ingest as food, the researchers report in Science. The "sponge loop," as the Dutch team calls the process, recycles 10 times more organic material than bacteria do and produces as many nutrients as all other primary producers in a coral reef combined, they say.
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Yale Environment 360 Articles Are
Now Available in Spanish and Portuguese

Yale Environment 360 has increased its international reach with a new partnership launched this month with Universia, a Spanish online education network. As part of this joint effort, Universia will translate selected Yale Environment 360 articles into Spanish and Portuguese
e360 Universia banner
and feature them on its website, which has more than 10 million unique viewers each month. The articles will be featured on a special e360 page on the Universia site at e360yale.universia.net. Universia is an institutional network of 1,242 universities in Spain, Portugal, and 21 countries throughout Latin America, and through this partnership, Yale Environment 360 will significantly expand its international audience and influence. You can find the new e360/Universia page at e360yale.universia.net.
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20 Aug 2013: Google ‘Street View’ Will
Document Changes to World's Coral Reefs

Marine biologists are teaming up with Google to photograph detailed 360-degree panoramas of coral reefs around the globe. Using technology similar to

Click to enlarge
Google coral reef street view

Google
Google takes Street View to coral reefs.
Google’s Street View feature, users will be able to survey coral reefs much like they might scope out a city block. The project, Google Street View Oceans, has already surveyed a 150-kilometer stretch of the Great Barrier Reef and is now working on reefs in the Caribbean. "Only 1 percent of humanity has ever dived on a coral reef, and by making the experience easily accessible the survey will help alert millions of people around the world to the plight of coral reefs," said Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a marine biologist at the University of Queensland in Australia who is leading the survey. Image recognition software will log the distribution and abundance of marine organisms, and the researchers hope "citizen scientists" viewing the reefs will help assess other key measures of reef health.
PERMALINK

 

16 Aug 2013: Ecuador Abandons Moratorium
On Oil Drilling in Biodiverse Yasuni Park

The Ecuadorian government has abandoned its moratorium on oil drilling in Yasuni National Park as a proposal to protect the park with the help of international donations fell apart. In a nationally televised speech, President Rafael Correa blamed the failure of the ambitious conservation plan on a lack of funds, saying that a UN-administered trust fund had raised only $13 million of the $3.6 billion target. Located in eastern Ecuador, where the Amazon basin ascends into the Andes, Yasuni is home to an unprecedented number of animal and plant species. According to a 2010 study, one section of the park held at least 200 species of mammals, 247 amphibian and reptile species, and 550 species of birds. But Yasuni also sits atop an estimated 1 billion barrels of oil. Correa had said Ecuador would forego oil income and protect the park if foreign donors would contribute billions of dollars to compensate for the loss of oil revenue.
PERMALINK

 

01 Jul 2013: Climate Change Driving
More Active El Niño Cycles, Study Says

A new analysis of tree-ring data indicates that the climate cycle known as the El Niño – Southern Oscillation (ENSO) has been more active during the latter part of the 20th century than at any other time during the past seven centuries, suggesting that global warming is affecting this climate phenomenon. Using data from 2,222 tree-ring chronologies from the tropics and mid-latitudes in both the northern and southern Hemispheres, a team of scientists determined that ENSO-related behavior in the late 20th century was far greater than the natural variability reflected in data going back to 1300. A naturally occurring climate cycle, ENSO is characterized by warmer ocean temperatures off the west coast of South America, a phenomenon that can cause major droughts, floods, and extreme weather across the Pacific. According to Jinbao Li, a scientist at the University of Hawaii and lead author of the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, greenhouse gases are altering the planet’s radiation balance and thus intensifying ENSO cycles.
PERMALINK

 

28 Jun 2013: Global Biodiversity Maps
Show Species Health Down to Local Level

U.S. researchers have published a series of data-rich maps that identify the world’s conservation priority

View gallery
Global biodiversity map

Saving Species/Globaïa
Density of biodiversity, South America
hotspots with a level of detail they say is 100 times finer than previous assessments. Using the latest data on more than 21,000 species of mammals, amphibians, and birds, the maps produced by North Carolina State University researchers provide a snapshot of biodiversity health at a 10-kilometer-by-10-kilometer scale, comparable to the geographic scale at which critical conservation decisions are made. The color-coded maps reveal patterns of biodiversity for the different types of species. Researchers hope the information will help policymakers make best use of scarce conservation resources to protect the world’s most vulnerable species. The paper was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
PERMALINK

 

26 Jun 2013: Exposure to Lead Costs
Developing Nations $1 Trillion Annually

The exposure of children to toxic lead, and the subsequent declines in IQ and earning potential, costs the developing world nearly $1 trillion annually, according to a new report. Based on the average lead levels in children under the age of 5, researchers from New York University found that Africa suffers the greatest costs from lead exposure, losing an estimated $137.7 billion annually, or about 4 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP). In Latin America, the costs are about $142.3 billion, the study found, while in Asian nations the costs are about $699.9 billion. By comparison, the annual costs in the U.S. and Europe, where exposure to lead has decreased significantly in recent decades, are about $50 billion and $55 billion, respectively. The report said lead consumption has increased worldwide since the early 1970s, largely because of rising demand for lead batteries. The study was published in Environmental Health Perspectives.
PERMALINK

 

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