Topic: Forests


Will Increased Food Production <br />Devour Tropical Forest Lands?

Analysis

Will Increased Food Production
Devour Tropical Forest Lands?

by william laurance
As global population soars, efforts to boost food production will inevitably be focused on the world’s tropical regions. Can this agricultural transformation be achieved without destroying the remaining tropical forests of Africa, South America, and Asia?
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On Ravaged Tar Sands Lands, <br />Big Challenges for Reclamation

Report

On Ravaged Tar Sands Lands,
Big Challenges for Reclamation

by ed struzik
The mining of Canada’s tar sands has destroyed large areas of sensitive wetlands in Alberta. Oil sands companies have vowed to reclaim this land, but little restoration has occurred so far and many scientists say it is virtually impossible to rebuild these complex ecosystems.
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Rebuilding the Natural World: <br />A Shift in Ecological Restoration

Analysis

Rebuilding the Natural World:
A Shift in Ecological Restoration

by richard conniff
From forests in Queens to wetlands in China, planners and scientists are promoting a new approach that incorporates experiments into landscape restoration projects to determine what works to the long-term benefit of nature and what does not.
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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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A New Leaf in the Rainforest: <br />Longtime Villain Vows Reform

Report

A New Leaf in the Rainforest:
Longtime Villain Vows Reform

by rhett butler
Few companies have done as much damage to the world’s tropical forests as Asia Pulp & Paper. But under intense pressure from its customers and conservation groups, APP has embarked on a series of changes that could significantly reduce deforestation in Indonesia and serve as a model for forestry reform.
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Wendell Berry: A Strong Voice <br />For Local Farming and the Land

Interview

Wendell Berry: A Strong Voice
For Local Farming and the Land

by roger cohn
For six decades, writer Wendell Berry has spoken out in defense of local agriculture, rural communities, and the importance of caring for the land. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he talks about his Kentucky farm, his activism, and why he remains hopeful for the future.
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Monitoring Corporate Behavior: <br />Greening or Merely Greenwash?

Analysis

Monitoring Corporate Behavior:
Greening or Merely Greenwash?

by fred pearce
Companies with bad environmental records are increasingly turning to a little-known nonprofit called TFT to make sure they meet commitments to improve their practices. It remains to be seen if this is just a PR move or a turning point for corporate conduct.
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In Imperiled Forests of Borneo, <br />A Rich Tropical Eden Endures

Report

In Imperiled Forests of Borneo,
A Rich Tropical Eden Endures

by william laurance
In Borneo's Danum Valley — one of the last, untouched forest reserves in a region ravaged by logging and oil palm cultivation — a team of international and Malaysian scientists is fighting to preserve an area of stunning biodiversity.
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People or Parks: The Human<br /> Factor in Protecting Wildlife

Report

People or Parks: The Human
Factor in Protecting Wildlife

by richard conniff
Recent studies in Asia and Australia found that community-managed areas can sometimes do better than traditional parks at preserving habitat and biodiversity. When it comes to conservation, maybe local people are not the problem, but the solution.
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A Key Mangrove Forest Faces <br />Major Threat from a Coal Plant

The Future of Coal: An e360 Report

A Key Mangrove Forest Faces
Major Threat from a Coal Plant

by jeremy hance
As Bangladesh makes a controversial turn to coal to produce electricity, the construction of a large coal-fired power plant is threatening the fragile ecosystem of the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest.
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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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On a Remote Island, Lessons <br /> In How Ecosystems Function

Analysis

On a Remote Island, Lessons
In How Ecosystems Function

by fred pearce
Transformed by British sailors in the 19th century, Ascension Island in the South Atlantic has a unique tropical forest consisting almost entirely of alien species. Scientists say that what has happened there challenges some basic assumptions about ecosystems and evolution.
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The War on African Poaching: <br /> Is Militarization Doomed to Fail?

Report

The War on African Poaching:
Is Militarization Doomed to Fail?

by adam welz
African countries and private game reserves are engaging in an increasingly sophisticated arms race against poachers, yet the slaughter of elephants and rhinos continues. Some experts argue that the battle must be joined on a far wider front that targets demand in Asia and judicial dysfunction in Africa.
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The Rise of Rubber Takes Toll<br /> On Forests of Southwest China

Report

The Rise of Rubber Takes Toll
On Forests of Southwest China

by mike ives
In one of China’s most biodiverse regions, the spread of rubber plantations to supply the country’s burgeoning automobile industry is carving up habitat and harming watersheds and tropical forest ecosystems.
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Should Wolves Stay Protected <br />Under Endangered Species Act?

Opinion

Should Wolves Stay Protected
Under Endangered Species Act?

by ted williams
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has stirred controversy with its proposal to remove endangered species protection for wolves, noting the animals’ strong comeback in the northern Rockies and the Midwest. It’s the latest in the long, contentious saga of wolf recovery in the U.S.
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The Surprising Role of CO2 in<br /> Changes on the African Savanna

Report

The Surprising Role of CO2 in
Changes on the African Savanna

by adam welz
Recent studies show that many of the world’s savannas, including famed southern African landscapes, are experiencing significant change as rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere favor the growth of trees over grasslands.
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Ginkgo: The Life Story of<br /> The Oldest Tree on Earth

Interview

Ginkgo: The Life Story of
The Oldest Tree on Earth

by roger cohn
Revered for its beauty and its longevity, the ginkgo is a living fossil, unchanged for more than 200 million years. Botanist Peter Crane, who has a written what he calls a biography of this unique tree, talks to Yale Environment 360 about the inspiring history and cultural significance of the ginkgo.
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Fires Burn More Fiercely<br /> As Northern Forests Warm

Report

Fires Burn More Fiercely
As Northern Forests Warm

by dylan walsh
From North America to Siberia, rising temperatures and drier woodlands are leading to a longer burning season and a significant increase in forest fires. Scientists warn that this trend is expected continue in the years ahead.
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Giant Sequoias Face Looming<br /> Threat from Shifting Climate

Analysis

Giant Sequoias Face Looming
Threat from Shifting Climate

by bruce dorminey
The world’s largest living species, native to California’s Sierra Nevada, faces a two-pronged risk from declining snowpack and rising temperatures. The threat to sequoias mirrors a growing danger to trees worldwide, with some scientists saying rapid warming this century could wipe out many of the planet’s old trees.
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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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Biodiversity in Logged Forests<br /> Far Higher Than Once Believed

Analysis

Biodiversity in Logged Forests
Far Higher Than Once Believed

by fred pearce
New research shows that scientists have significantly overestimated the damage that logging in tropical forests has done to biodiversity, a finding that could change the way conservationists think about how best to preserve species in areas disturbed by humans.
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As Myanmar Opens to World,<br /> Fate of Its Forests Is on the Line

Report

As Myanmar Opens to World,
Fate of Its Forests Is on the Line

by charles schmidt
Years of sanctions against Myanmar’s military regime helped protect its extensive wild lands. But as the country’s rulers relax their grip and welcome foreign investment, can the nation protect its forests and biodiversity while embracing development?
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For Wolves on the Brink,<br /> A Hobbled Recovery Plan

Analysis

For Wolves on the Brink,
A Hobbled Recovery Plan

by caroline fraser
Few creatures in the United States have come as close to extinction as the Mexican wolf, which was wiped out in the U.S. by 1970. Now, scientists and conservationists contend, federal officials are caving into political pressure and failing to implement a legally mandated reintroduction plan.
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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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Gauging the Impact of Warming<br /> On Asia’s Life-Giving Monsoons

Report

Gauging the Impact of Warming
On Asia’s Life-Giving Monsoons

by christina larson
In Mongolia, U.S. scientists are studying climate clues in ancient tree rings to help answer a crucial question: How will global warming affect Asia’s monsoon rains, which supply water for agriculture and drinking to half the world’s population?
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In Ghana’s Forests, Should<br /> Chainsaw Loggers be Legalized?

Analysis

In Ghana’s Forests, Should
Chainsaw Loggers be Legalized?

by fred pearce
The West African nation of Ghana prohibits small operators using chainsaws from logging its forests, but it permits the export of timber cut at large sawmills. Now, some analysts are questioning whether such laws simply benefit powerful business interests without helping local communities or the forest.
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Dreaming of a Place<br /> Where the Buffalo Roam

Interview

Dreaming of a Place
Where the Buffalo Roam

by hillary rosner
Former Silicon Valley entrepreneur Sean Gerrity is trying to turn a swath of northeastern Montana into a prairie reserve teeming with herds of bison. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Gerrity talks about the challenges of reclaiming a landscape long dominated by agriculture.
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Oh Canada: The Government’s<br /> Broad Assault on Environment

Analysis

Oh Canada: The Government’s
Broad Assault on Environment

by ed struzik
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has been weakening Canada’s environmental regulations and slashing funds for oversight and research — all while promoting aggressive resource development. Critics warn these unprecedented actions pose a major threat to the nation’s vast natural heritage.
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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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A Desperate Effort to <br />Save the Rainforest of Borneo

Report

A Desperate Effort to
Save the Rainforest of Borneo

by rhett butler
The once-magnificent tropical forests of Borneo have been decimated by rampant logging and clearing for oil palm plantations. But in the Malaysian state of Sabah, a top official is fighting to reverse that trend by bringing sustainable forestry to the beleaguered island.
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Global Scarcity: Scramble for<br /> Dwindling Natural Resources

Interview

Global Scarcity: Scramble for
Dwindling Natural Resources

by diane toomey
National security expert Michael Klare believes the struggle for the world’s resources will be one of the defining political and environmental realities of the 21st century. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he discusses the threat this scramble poses to the natural world and what can be done to sustainably meet the resource challenge.
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Fighting A Last-Ditch Battle<br /> To Save the Rare Javan Rhino

Report

Fighting A Last-Ditch Battle
To Save the Rare Javan Rhino

by rhett butler
Rhinoceroses worldwide are under siege as their habitat shrinks and poachers slaughter hundreds annually for their valuable horns. Now, in Indonesia, conservation groups are engaged in a desperate struggle to save the last 40 Javan rhinos on earth.
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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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Busting the Forest Myths:<br /> People as Part of the Solution

Analysis

Busting the Forest Myths:
People as Part of the Solution

by fred pearce
The long-held contention that rural forest communities are the prime culprits in tropical forest destruction is increasingly being discredited, as evidence mounts that the best way to protect rainforests is to involve local residents in sustainable management.
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Monitoring A Grim Rise<br /> In the Illegal Ivory Trade

Interview

Monitoring A Grim Rise
In the Illegal Ivory Trade

by christina m. russo
For two decades, TRAFFIC’s Tom Milliken has tracked the illicit ivory trade that has led to the continued slaughter of Africa’s elephants. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Milliken talks about the recent increase in ivory seizures and the criminal gangs that supply Asia’s black market for ivory.
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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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China’s Reforestation Programs:<br /> Big Success or Just an Illusion?

Analysis

China’s Reforestation Programs:
Big Success or Just an Illusion?

by jon r. luoma
China has undertaken ambitious reforestation initiatives that have increased its forest cover dramatically in the last decade. But scientists are now raising questions about just how effective these grand projects will turn out to be.
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Sweden’s Green Veneer Hides<br /> Unsustainable Logging Practices

Report

Sweden’s Green Veneer Hides
Unsustainable Logging Practices

by erik hoffner
Sweden has a reputation as being one of the world’s most environmentally progressive nations. But its surprisingly lax forestry laws often leave decisions about logging to the timber companies — and as a result, large swaths of biologically-rich boreal forest are being lost.
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China’s Appetite for Wood<br /> Takes a Heavy Toll on Forests

Analysis

China’s Appetite for Wood
Takes a Heavy Toll on Forests

by william laurance
More than half of the timber now shipped globally is destined for China. But unscrupulous Chinese companies are importing huge amounts of illegally harvested wood, prompting conservation groups to step up boycotts against rapacious timber interests.
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Military Bases Provide Unlikely<br /> Refuge For South’s Longleaf Pine

Report

Military Bases Provide Unlikely
Refuge For South’s Longleaf Pine

by bruce dorminey
The expanses of longleaf pine forest that once covered the southeastern United States have been whittled away to just 3 percent of their original range. But as scientists are discovering, this threatened forest ecosystem has found a sanctuary in an unexpected place — U.S. military installations.
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Killing Wolves: A Product of<br /> Alberta’s Big Oil and Gas Boom

Report

Killing Wolves: A Product of
Alberta’s Big Oil and Gas Boom

by ed struzik
The development of the tar sands and other oil and gas fields in Alberta has carved up the Canadian province's boreal forest, threatening herds of woodland caribou. But rather than protect caribou habitat, officials have taken a controversial step: the large-scale killing of the wolves that prey on the caribou.
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Can Wildlife Corridors<br /> Heal Fragmented Landscapes?

Report

Can Wildlife Corridors
Heal Fragmented Landscapes?

by jim robbins
Conservationists have long called for creating ecological corridors that would enable large mammals and other wildlife to roam more freely across an increasingly developed planet. But now scientists are taking a closer look at just how well these corridors are working and what role they might play in a warming world.
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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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The Big Payback from<br /> Bringing Back Peat Bogs

Report

The Big Payback from
Bringing Back Peat Bogs

by fred pearce
The draining and burning of peat bogs is a major global source of CO2 emissions. Now, a pilot project in Russia — where wildfires burned vast areas of dried-out bogs last summer — is looking to re-flood and restore tens of thousands of acres to their natural state.
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The Crucial Role of Predators:<br /> A New Perspective on Ecology

Analysis

The Crucial Role of Predators:
A New Perspective on Ecology

by caroline fraser
Scientists have recently begun to understand the vital role played by top predators in ecosystems and the profound impacts that occur when those predators are wiped out. Now, researchers are citing new evidence that shows the importance of lions, wolves, sharks, and other creatures at the top of the food chain.
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A Huge Oil Palm Plantation<br /> Puts African Rainforest at Risk

Report

A Huge Oil Palm Plantation
Puts African Rainforest at Risk

by rhett butler and jeremy hance
As global agricultural companies turn to Africa, a U.S. firm is planning a massive oil palm plantation in Cameroon that it says will benefit local villagers. But critics argue that the project would destroy some of the key remaining forests in the West African nation and threaten species-rich reserves.
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Saving Ancient Walnut Forests<br /> In the Valleys of Central Asia

Report

Saving Ancient Walnut Forests
In the Valleys of Central Asia

by mike ives
The former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan is home to some of the world’s largest remaining forests of walnut and wild fruit trees. In an effort to sustainably manage this global resource, an international project has focused on ending Soviet-style management and giving power — and a profit incentive — to local farmers.
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Tapping Social Media’s Potential<br /> To Muster a Vast Green Army

Report

Tapping Social Media’s Potential
To Muster a Vast Green Army

by caroline fraser
A rapidly expanding universe of citizens’ groups, researchers, and environmental organizations are making use of social media and smart phone applications to document changes in the natural world and to mobilize support for taking action.
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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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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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As Larger Animals Decline,<br /> Forests Feel Their Absence

Report

As Larger Animals Decline,
Forests Feel Their Absence

by sharon levy
With giant tortoises, elephants, and other fruit-eating animals disappearing from many of the world’s tropical woodlands, forests are suffering from the loss of a key function performed by these creatures: the dispersal of tree seeds. But a new experiment shows that introduced species may be able to fulfill this vital ecological role.
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A Fierce Advocate for Grizzlies<br /> Sees Warning Signs for the Bear

Interview

A Fierce Advocate for Grizzlies
Sees Warning Signs for the Bear

Doug Peacock has been tireless defender of the Yellowstone grizzly for decades, but he believes the bear may now be facing its toughest threat yet. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Peacock talks about the insect infestation that is destroying a key food source for grizzlies and recalls some of his closest encounters with the bears.
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Indonesia’s Corruption Legacy<br /> Clouds a Forest Protection Plan

Analysis

Indonesia’s Corruption Legacy
Clouds a Forest Protection Plan

by rhett butler
Norway and other nations have vowed to invest billions of dollars to help preserve Indonesia’s remaining tropical forests. But can foreign involvement stem the tide of graft and uncontrolled logging that has steadily decimated one of the world’s largest areas of rainforest?
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Sustainable Palm Oil:<br /> Rainforest Savior or Fig Leaf?

Analysis

Sustainable Palm Oil:
Rainforest Savior or Fig Leaf?

by fred pearce
The push to promote sustainable palm oil is turning into a test case for green consumerism. The outcome could help determine the future of the rainforests of Asia and Africa — and whether consumer pressure can really sway corporate giants.
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With Tigers Near Extinction,<br /> A Last-Ditch Strategy Emerges

Report

With Tigers Near Extinction,
A Last-Ditch Strategy Emerges

by caroline fraser
In the past century, populations of wild tigers have plummeted from 100,000 to 3,500. Now the World Bank and conservationists have launched an eleventh-hour effort to save this great predator, focusing on reining in the black market for tiger parts and ending the destruction of tiger habitat.
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In War-Scarred Landscape,<br /> Vietnam Replants Its Forests

Report

In War-Scarred Landscape,
Vietnam Replants Its Forests

by mike ives
With large swaths of forest destroyed by wartime defoliants, and even larger areas lost to post-war logging, Vietnam has set an ambitious goal for regenerating its woodlands. But proponents of reintroducing native tree species face resistance from a timber industry that favors fast-growing exotics like acacia.
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Opinion

Hungary’s Red Sludge Spill:
The Media and the Eco-Disaster

by elisabeth rosenthal
The sludge spill in Hungary dominated world news for days, as horrific images of red-mud rivers appeared nonstop on the Internet, newspaper front pages, and TV screens. Yet other environmental threats — less visible, but potentially more devastating — often go largely unnoticed.
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Forging a Landmark Agreement<br /> To Save Canada’s Boreal Forest

Interview

Forging a Landmark Agreement
To Save Canada’s Boreal Forest

Last spring, conservation groups and timber companies signed an historic agreement to protect a large swath of Canada’s boreal forest. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, the Pew Environment Group's Steven E. Kallick, a key player in the agreement, explains why the accord is integral to a larger plan to eventually preserve half of Canada’s extensive boreal forests.
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A Troubling Decline in the<br /> Caribou Herds of the Arctic

Report

A Troubling Decline in the
Caribou Herds of the Arctic

by ed struzik
Across the Far North, populations of caribou — an indispensable source of food and clothing for indigenous people — are in steep decline. Scientists point to rising temperatures and a resource-development boom as the prime culprits.
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In Scotland’s Search for Roots, <br />A Push to Restore Wild Lands

Report

In Scotland’s Search for Roots,
A Push to Restore Wild Lands

by caroline fraser
As Scotland asserts its identity and its autonomy, environmentalists are working to restore its denuded landscape – planting native forests, creating wildlife corridors, and reintroducing species that were wiped out centuries ago.
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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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As Madagascar is Plundered,<br /> A Staunch Defender Fights Back

Interview

As Madagascar is Plundered,
A Staunch Defender Fights Back

by steven kotler
Primatologist Patricia Wright has spent the past 25 years studying — and protecting — Madagascar’s rich yet highly threatened biodiversity. Now, as many of the island’s remaining forests are being felled in the wake of a 2009 coup, Wright describes how she is helping organize the local residents and international conservation organizations to fight back.
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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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What’s Killing the Great<br /> Forests of the American West?

Report

What’s Killing the Great
Forests of the American West?

by jim robbins
Across western North America, huge tracts of forest are dying off at an extraordinary rate, mostly because of outbreaks of insects. Scientists are now seeing such forest die-offs around the world and are linking them to changes in climate.  
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Arctic Tundra is Being Lost<br /> As Far North Quickly Warms

Report

Arctic Tundra is Being Lost
As Far North Quickly Warms

by bill sherwonit
The treeless ecosystem of mosses, lichens, and berry plants is giving way to shrub land and boreal forest. As scientists study the transformation, they are discovering that major warming-related events, including fires and the collapse of slopes due to melting permafrost, are leading to the loss of tundra in the Arctic.
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Madagascar’s Political Chaos<br /> Threatens Conservation Gains

Report

Madagascar’s Political Chaos
Threatens Conservation Gains

by rhett butler
Since the government's collapse after a coup last March, Madagascar's rainforests have been plundered for their precious wood and unique wildlife. But now there are a few encouraging signs, as officials promise a crackdown on illegal logging and ecotourists begin to return to the island.
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In Japan’s Managed Landscape,<br /> a Struggle to Save the Bears

Report

In Japan’s Managed Landscape,
a Struggle to Save the Bears

by winifred bird
Although it is a heavily urbanized nation, fully two-thirds of Japan remains woodlands. Yet many of the forests are timber plantations inhospitable to wildlife, especially black bears, which are struggling to survive in one of the most densely populated countries on Earth.
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The Spread of New Diseases<br /> and the Climate Connection

Report

The Spread of New Diseases
and the Climate Connection

by sonia shah
As humans increasingly encroach on forested lands and as temperatures rise, the transmission of disease from animals and insects to people is growing. Now a new field, known as “conservation medicine,” is exploring how ecosystem disturbance and changing interactions between wildlife and humans can lead to the spread of new pathogens.
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Leveling Appalachia: The Legacy<br /> of Mountaintop Removal Mining

e360 Video

Leveling Appalachia: The Legacy
of Mountaintop Removal Mining

During the last two decades, mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia has destroyed or severely damaged more than a million acres of forest and buried nearly 2,000 miles of streams. Leveling Appalachia: The Legacy of Mountaintop Removal Mining, a video report produced by Yale Environment 360 in collaboration with MediaStorm, focuses on the environmental and social impacts of this practice and examines the long-term effects on the region’s forests and waterways.

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Finding Common Ground on<br /> Protecting Montana Wilderness

Opinion

Finding Common Ground on
Protecting Montana Wilderness

by rick bass
In the Yaak Valley of Montana, environmentalists have been talking to loggers, snowmobilers and other longtime opponents of wilderness protection about the future of public lands. Their accord is part of a cooperative effort that could lead to the first wilderness-area designation in the state in a quarter century.
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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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Mountaintop Mining Legacy:<br /> Destroying Appalachia’s Streams

Report

Mountaintop Mining Legacy:
Destroying Appalachia’s Streams

by john mcquaid
The environmental damage caused by mountaintop removal mining across Appalachia has been well documented. But scientists are now beginning to understand that the mining operations’ most lasting damage may be caused by the massive amounts of debris dumped into valley streams.
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With the Clearing of Forests,<br /> Baby Orangutans Are Marooned

Report

With the Clearing of Forests,
Baby Orangutans Are Marooned

by rhett butler
As Borneo's rain forests are razed for oil palm plantations, wildlife centers are taking in more and more orphaned orangutans and preparing them for reintroduction into the wild. But the endangered primates now face a new threat — there is not enough habitat where they can be returned.
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A Plea to President Obama: <br/>End Mountaintop Coal Mining

Opinion

A Plea to President Obama:
End Mountaintop Coal Mining

by james hansen
Tighter restrictions on mountaintop removal mining are simply not enough. Instead, a leading climate scientist argues, the Obama administration must prohibit this destructive practice, which is devastating vast stretches of Appalachia.
READ MORE

Yellowstone’s Grizzly Bears<br /> Face Threats on Two Fronts

Opinion

Yellowstone’s Grizzly Bears
Face Threats on Two Fronts

by doug peacock
The magnificent creature at the heart of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem now confronts two grave perils: the loss of its key food source because of rising temperatures, and increased killing by humans. A renowned grizzly expert argues that it’s time to once again protect Yellowstone’s grizzlies under the Endangered Species Act.
READ MORE

The Razing of Appalachia:<br /> Mountaintop Removal Revisited

Report

The Razing of Appalachia:
Mountaintop Removal Revisited

by john mcquaid
Over the past two decades, mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia has obliterated or severely damaged more than a million acres of forest and buried more than 1,000 miles of streams. Now, the Obama administration is showing signs it plans to crack down on this destructive practice.
READ MORE

Laos Emerges as Key Source <br />in Asia’s Illicit Wildlife Trade

Report

Laos Emerges as Key Source
in Asia’s Illicit Wildlife Trade

by rhett butler
Long an isolated land with abundant forests and biodiversity, Laos is rapidly developing as China and other Asian nations exploit its resources. One of the first casualties has been the wildlife, now being rapidly depleted by a thriving black-market trade.
READ MORE

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.
READ MORE

Offshore Drilling in Alaska:<br /> Time to Slow the Rush

Opinion

Offshore Drilling in Alaska:
Time to Slow the Rush

by margaret williams
In the last eight years, vast areas of offshore Alaska have been opened to oil drilling. Now, a conservationist argues, the Obama administration must reverse the Bush-era policies if the state is to avoid irreparable harm to Arctic wildlife and to some of the most biologically productive waters on earth.
READ MORE

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.
READ MORE

e360 digest

RELATED e360 DIGEST ITEMS


24 Apr 2014: Browning of Congo Rainforest
Is Depicted in NASA Satellite Data

Persistent drought has taken a major toll on Africa's Congo rainforest, with large-scale browning intensifying and affecting a growing portion of the forest over the past decade, an analysis of NASA satellite data shows. A

Click to Enlarge
Browning of Congo rainforest

Browning of Congo rainforest
browning trend significantly dwarfed smaller areas of "greening" — a satellite-derived indicator of forest health — during April, May, and June each year from 2000 to 2012, according to research published in Nature. The browning of Congo's rainforest is significant, researchers said, because most climate models forecast that tropical forests may face increasing stress and rainfall shortages in a warmer and drier 21st century. A continued drying trend might alter the composition and structure of the Congo rainforest, affecting its biodiversity and carbon storage, according to the study. "Recent climate anomalies as a result of climate change and warming of the Atlantic Ocean have created severe droughts in the tropics, causing major impacts on forests," a NASA researcher said.
PERMALINK

 

10 Apr 2014: Mapping Program Helps
Cities See Money Saved by Planting Trees

New open-source software is helping cities better understand the benefits trees provide by calculating the value of the trees' ecosystem services, such as air quality improvements and CO2 storage. More than a dozen

Click to Enlarge
San Diego trees

San Diego's mapped trees
cities have undertaken tree inventory initiatives, thanks to the OpenTreeMap software, and residents have helped map more than 1.1 million trees worldwide. In addition to plotting a tree's location, users record its size, species, and other parameters that allow the software to calculate the tree's ecological value in terms of dollars saved through such benefits as cleaner air. San Diego's more than 340,000 mapped trees, for example, are estimated to provide the city more than $7 million in benefits each year, including $4 million in air quality benefits and $2 million in reduced energy costs. In the coming months, the software will allow city managers to decide where to plant trees for maximum environmental benefit.
PERMALINK

 

On Far-Flung Wrangel Island,
A Scientist Sizes up Muskoxen

As a field biologist for the University of Montana and the Wildlife Conservation Society, Joel Berger has been to his share of end-of-the-earth places. But few have

Joel Berger Arctic Field Notes

Joel Berger Arctic Field Notes
Muskoxen on Wrangel Island
rivaled Wrangel Island, the rugged, frozen outpost located 300 miles above the Arctic Circle in Russia’s extreme Far East. In the first of three reports for Yale e360, Berger describes the arduous trip to Wrangel and the scientific work that has taken him there — research with Russian colleagues on the island’s 900 muskoxen, a shaggy beast that is a relic from the Pleistocene era. In subsequent reports, Berger will describe the motley assortment of wildlife that has colonized Wrangel and the contrasting impacts of climate change on eastern Siberia and Arctic Alaska.
Read more.
PERMALINK

 

08 Apr 2014: 'Living Fences' Dramatically
Cut Livestock and Lion Killings in Tanzania

A novel, low-tech idea is helping Tanzania's lion population rebound: So-called "living fences" — which enclose livestock and are constructed of actively growing trees and chain-link fencing — have cut lion
“Masai
A Masai villager installs a living fence.
attacks and retaliatory killings by more than 85 percent in the areas they've been installed, the Guardian reports. Traditionally, the Masai have built livestock enclosures out of thorny acacia trees, but those fences are relatively fragile. Chain-link fencing alone is more durable, but leopards and small lions can scale the fences, and hyenas can tunnel in below. By interweaving actively growing African myrrh trees with the chain link fencing, the Masai have created a barrier that lions can't climb over, and their root systems prevent predators from digging under the fence. Because livestock predation has been cut, communities that had been killing six or seven lions annually now kill, on average, less than one, leading to a rebound in lion populations.
PERMALINK

 

A Personal Note on Peter Matthiessen,
Who Wrote Eloquently of the Natural World

For an editor, the prospect of working with Peter Matthiessen was intimidating. He was one of our finest writers, and he wrote with such poetic precision and lyrical grace that at first it felt presumptuous to propose
Peter Matthiessen
Peter Matthiessen
any changes to his writing at all. That feeling was heightened by his strong physical presence — an odd mix of Manhattan patrician, rugged outdoorsman, and Zen priest (all of which he was). And yet when I worked as his editor on several magazine articles in the 1990s, it was an immensely satisfying experience. He listened Zen-like, carefully considering all my editing suggestions (with him, they were suggestions only), and to my delight, accepted almost all of them. Matthiessen died on April 5 at the age of 86, near the Long Island waters he so loved to fish. Read more of e360 editor Roger Cohn’s appreciation of Matthiessen.
PERMALINK

 

E360 Announces Contest
For Best Environmental Videos

Yale Environment 360 is holding a contest to honor the best environmental videos. Entries must be videos that focus on an environmental issue or theme, have not been widely viewed online, and are a maximum of 15 minutes in length. The first-place winner will receive $2,000, and two runners-up will each receive $500. The winning entries will be posted on Yale Environment 360. The deadline for entries is June 6, 2014. Read further contest information.
PERMALINK

 

03 Apr 2014: Deforestation of Sandy Soils
Increases the Release of CO2, Study Finds

The texture of the soil that microbes live in determines how much carbon they release after deforestation, with sandy soils sending the most carbon into the atmosphere, according to research led by Yale scientists.
Soil susceptibility to deforestation
Soils most affected by forest loss in red; least in yellow.
Subterranean microbes regulate carbon emissions from soil, and drastic changes to the microbial community, such as those that follow deforestation, can allow more CO2 to escape into the atmosphere and exacerbate global warming. The texture of soil, rather than such factors as temperature or nutrient concentrations, was the most important factor governing the release of CO2, the researchers found. Muddy, clay-like soils provide the most stable environment for microbial communities, likely because they're better at retaining nutrients than loose, sandy soils. The team used the findings to map areas in the U.S. where soil microbial communities would be most and least affected by deforestation, which could help inform land management practices.
PERMALINK

 

25 Mar 2014: Consumer Products Giants
Commit to Deforestation-Free Palm Oil

Two major consumer products companies — General Mills and Colgate-Palmolive — have committed to using palm oil in their products that does not come from lands cleared from tropical forests, adding to the wave
Deforestation in Malaysian Borneo
Mongabay.com
of corporations that have pledged measures to protect southeast Asian rainforests. The consumer giants' new policies go beyond standards set by the industry's main certification body and include provisions to protect wildlife-rich rainforests, carbon-dense peatlands, and the rights of local communities. Environmental groups are welcoming the commitments, though some believe the companies' pledges should go further. The Union of Concerned Scientists questions General Mills' definition of "high carbon stock" forests, while Greenpeace is urging Colgate-Palmolive to move implementation up to 2015 from 2020. Environmental groups are hopeful that new commitments will pressure Proctor & Gamble, the last remaining consumer products giant without a similar pledge, to adopt deforestation-free palm oil policies.
PERMALINK

 

19 Mar 2014: CO2 Levels Have Crossed
400 ppm Threshold Far Earlier This Year

Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have reached the 400 parts per million threshold two months earlier this year than last, an indication that the planet will soon experience the 400 ppm level year-round, according to scientists from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. Last year was the first time in hundreds of thousands of years that the 400 ppm threshold was crossed. Scripps scientists expect CO2 levels to hover around 400 ppm for the next two months, when the Northern Hemisphere spring will go into full bloom and plants will suck CO2 from the atmosphere until going dormant in the fall. "It’s just a matter of time before it stays over 400 forever," said Ralph Keeling, who took over the CO2 monitoring program from his father, Charles David Keeling, who started it in 1958. Since then, atmospheric CO2 levels have risen steadily from 313 ppm as the world continues to burn fossil fuels. Scientists estimate it's been 800,000 to 15 million years since the planet has seen concentrations this high.
PERMALINK

 

18 Mar 2014: Wildflower Season in Rockies
Is 35 Days Longer as Climate Warms

A warming climate has extended the wildflower season in the Rocky Mountains by 35 days since the 1970s, according to a 39-year study of more than two million blooms. The bloom season, which used to run from late May to early September, now lasts from late April to late
Rocky Mountain wildflowers
David Inouye
Crested Butte, Colorado
September, the researchers say. Previous, less extensive studies seemed to indicate most wildflowers simply shift their bloom cycles to earlier in the year, but new findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences show that the changes are more complex, with the flowers reaching peak bloom sooner and flowering later in the year. The shift in the timing of blooms could have a major impact on pollinating insects and migratory birds. For example, hummingbirds that summer in the Rocky Mountains time their nesting so that their eggs hatch at peak bloom, when there is plenty of flower nectar for hungry chicks. As the bloom season lengthens, the plants are not producing more flowers. The same number of blooms is spread out over more days, so at peak bloom there may be fewer flowers and less food for hummingbirds, the researchers say.
PERMALINK

 

An e360 Interview with Wendell Berry:
Strong Voice for Local Farms and the Land

Author Wendell Berry wrote about and practiced “sustainable agriculture” long before the term was widely used. His early writings in the 1970s, in which he argued against industrial agriculture and for small-scale, local-based farming, strongly influenced the U.S.
Wendell Berry
© Counterpoint Press
Wendell Berry
environmental movement. At age 79, Berry still speaks eloquently about the importance of local communities and of caring for the land, while warning about the destructive potential of industrialization and technology. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he talked about his Kentucky farm and why he has remained there, why sustainable agriculture faces an uphill battle, and why strong rural communities are important. “A deep familiarity between a local community and a local landscape is a dear thing, just in human terms,” Berry said. “It’s also, down the line, money in the bank, because it helps you to preserve the working capital of the place.”
Read the interview.
PERMALINK

 

03 Mar 2014: Harsh Winter Causing Large
Die-off of Invasive Insects, Researchers Say

As a frigid winter takes a toll on the United States and Canada, invasive insect populations are also taking a hit. The U.S. Forest Service estimates that up to 80 percent of emerald ash borers, which have been decimating ash tree populations, were killed by long
Emerald ash borer
Emerald ash borer
stretches of bitter cold in the the upper Midwest this year. Several other insect pests, many of which have migrated northward because of milder winters in recent years, also are faring poorly this winter, including corn earworms and gypsy moths. Researchers remain skeptical, however, that the die-offs will have lasting effects on pest populations. Emerald ash borers in Chicago, for example, survived the sub-zero weather because Chicago temperatures fell only to -17 degrees F, rather than Minnesota's -20 degrees F, which seems to be a critical temperature threshold for the pests.
PERMALINK

 

27 Feb 2014: Pine Forest Aerosols Play
Significant Role in Climate, Study Says

Pine forest vapors form small aerosol particles that may significantly cool the climate by reflecting the sun's energy back into space, according to new findings. Scientists have known for decades that gases from pine
Finland pine forest
Hyytiälä pine forest in Finland
trees can form particles that grow from just 1 nanometer in diameter to 100 nanometers in about a day. The new research, published in Nature, shows the rapid growth of these particles relies on a chemical chain reaction among pine-scented molecules and atmospheric ozone and oxygen. The growing particle then grabs others like it, eventually snowballing into a 100-nanometer particle — one that's large enough to condense water vapor, prompt cloud formation, and, ultimately, influence climate. Boreal or pine forests give off the largest amount of these compounds, so the finding is especially relevant for the northern parts of North America, Europe, and Russia. But other types of forests emit similar vapors, and the scientists think these may undergo similar rapid chemical reactions.
PERMALINK

 

20 Feb 2014: Global Forest Watch Tool
Allows 'Near-Real Time' Forest Monitoring

A new online tool called Global Forest Watch employs a trove of high-resolution NASA satellite imagery and large amounts of computing power to help governments, conservation organizations, and concerned citizens monitor deforestation in "near-real

Click to Enlarge
Sumatra forest loss since 2000

Forest loss in Sumatra
time." Organized by the World Resources Institute (WRI), Global Forest Watch uses satellite data to track changes in forest cover since 2000. It's the first tool with the capability of monitoring forests on a monthly basis, potentially allowing groups to take action against deforestation while it's in progress. Businesses committed to eliminating deforestation from supply chains can also use the tool to verify that vendors are not engaging in practices that harm forests. A custom alert feature can also notify a user when there are signs of deforestation in a region the user has selected. "Businesses, governments and communities desperately want better information about forests," said WRI president Andrew Steer. "Now, they have it."
PERMALINK

 

18 Feb 2014: Website Allows Whistleblowers
To Report Wildlife and Forest Crimes

A new whistleblower site offers people a secure and anonymous way to report incidents of poaching, wildlife trafficking, and illegal logging around the world. The site is called WildLeaks, a nod to the well-known WikiLeaks site, and it's backed by the California-based Elephant Action League. Users can upload documents, video, or images detailing the crimes, and submissions will be encrypted so data and identities remain secure. The aim is to provide a safe way for citizens to report these illegal activities so that local and federal governments can take action. Prosecuting wildlife crimes and illegal logging is often a low priority in countries where some of the worst offenses occur; moreover, local government corruption often deters people from reporting such crimes, organizers say. "We [will] work to transform this information into a verified and actionable item, a point for launching an investigation or sharing it with the media or, when possible, with selected and trusted law enforcement officers, always aiming at exposing wildlife crimes and bringing the responsible individuals to justice," said the WildLeaks project leader.
PERMALINK

 

13 Feb 2014: Australian Bushfire Has Grown
To Size of Melbourne, NASA Image Shows

A fire rivaling the size of the city of Melbourne is raging in southeastern Australia, as a NASA satellite image taken at night earlier this week shows. The Snowy River Complex Fire, which is burning mountain forests near a

Click to Enlarge
Australian fire the size of Melbourne

Australian bushfire and Melbourne at night
remote national park, is one of three bushfires that flared up last weekend. Fueled by strong winds combined with a heat wave and prolonged dry conditions, the three fires have consumed more than 180,000 hectares (695 square miles), about 100,000 (390 square miles) of which burned in the Snowy River Complex. That fire's dense, opaque smoke is visible from space during night and day, and satellite images show the smoke plume stretching across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand. The Snowy River blaze includes fires that ignited on February 9, as well as fires that were started by lightning in January. Though stunningly large in this view, they do not pose much of a threat to people or infrastructure.
PERMALINK

 

07 Feb 2014: Chimpanzee 'Mega-Culture'
Documented in Remote Forest in Congo

Researchers have documented a huge population of chimpanzees in the Democratic Republic of Congo — a community of perhaps tens of thousands of individuals with its own unique customs and behaviors, the Guardian reports. The so-called "mega-culture," which spans 50,000 square kilometers of virtually untouched

Watch Video
Chimps in DRC

Chimps are thriving in a remote Congo forest.
forest, is thought to be the largest population of chimps in Africa and one of the last remaining continuous populations of chimpanzees in the wild, the scientists report in the journal Biological Conservation. The researchers first reported on this community in 2007, but their new survey includes detailed videos of the thriving population and its unique behaviors, which include feasting on leopards, using tools to harvest giant African snails and swarming insects, and building ground nests far more frequently than other chimps. While the find is heartening in terms of chimpanzee conservation, the researchers and wildlife advocates fear the population could be decimated by habitat loss and poachers, who stand to make huge profits in the bushmeat trade.
PERMALINK

 

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.
PERMALINK

 

05 Feb 2014: Vast Forests and Frequent
Fires Were Key Causes of Ancient Warming

The release of volatile organic compounds from forests and smoke from wildfires had a far greater impact on global warming 3 million years ago than ancient atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, a new study finds. During the mid-Pliocene epoch, forests covered a much larger percentage of the planet, releasing large amounts of volatile organic compounds, according to Nadine Unger of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. Those compounds are precursors to ozone and organic aerosols, which are both potent greenhouse gases. The dark foliage of the planet's abundant forests also absorbed large amounts of solar energy, another reason why the Pliocene was a relatively warm era even though atmospheric levels of CO2 were not exceptionally high. The research — based on earth-system modeling that used a supercomputer capable of processing 52 trillion calculations per second — provides evidence that dynamic atmospheric chemistry played an important role in past warm climates, underscoring the complexity of climate change, the authors write in Geophysical Research Letters.
PERMALINK

 

18 Dec 2013: Mapping Course and Software
Make Forest Monitoring Widely Accessible

Citizen scientists interested in tracking the health of the planet's forests have a new tool at their disposal. New software that uses satellite technology to map and

Watch Video
Forest mapping video

A video explains the mapping software.
monitor changes in forested areas is being made available to the public through a free online course. Users who complete the course, hosted by Stanford University, can receive a license to operate the software, called CLASlite. CLASlite, or the Carnegie Landsat Analysis System lite, is a highly automated system for converting satellite imagery from its original, raw format into maps that can be used to detect deforestation, logging, and other disruptions. It was developed by Carnegie researcher Greg Asner to help governments, nongovernmental organizations, and academic institutions conduct high-resolution mapping and monitoring of forests. "We are making the science of forest monitoring broadly available to people who want and need to participate in tracking and managing the health of their forests," said Asner.
PERMALINK

 

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