Topic: Forests


In a Troubled African Park, <br />A Battle Over Oil Exploration

Report

In a Troubled African Park,
A Battle Over Oil Exploration

by fred pearce
Congo's Virunga National Park has long been known for its mountain gorillas and for the lawless militias that operate there. But the recent shooting of the park warden and plans to begin oil exploration in the park have sparked concern about the future of this iconic World Heritage Site.
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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.
READ MORE

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


28 Jul 2014: Trees Save Lives and Billions in
Health Costs Annually, Forest Service Finds

Trees are saving more than 850 human lives each year and preventing 670,000 cases of acute respiratory symptoms in the U.S., according to the first broad-scale

Click to Enlarge
Pollution removal by trees

Pollution removal by trees
estimate of trees' air pollution removal by U.S. Forest Service researchers. Looking at four common air pollutants — nitrogen dioxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter with a diameter less than 2.5 microns — researchers valued the human health benefits of the reduced air pollution at nearly $7 billion annually in a study published in the journal Environmental Pollution. The benefits of trees vary with tree cover across the nation, the researchers note. Tree cover in the United States is estimated at 34.2 percent overall, but varies from 2.6 percent in North Dakota to 88.9 percent in New Hampshire. While the pollution-removal capabilities of trees led to an average air quality improvement of less than 1 percent, the impacts are substantial, the study found.
PERMALINK

 

24 Jul 2014: Protecting Community Forests
Is a Major Tool in Climate Fight, Study Says

Expanding and strengthening the community forest rights of indigenous groups and rural residents can make a major contribution to sequestering carbon and

The Brazilian Amazon
reducing CO2 emissions from deforestation, according to a new report. The World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Rights and Resources Initiative said that indigenous people and rural inhabitants in Latin America, Africa, and Asia have government-recognized rights to forests containing nearly 38 billion tons of carbon, equal to 29 times the annual emissions of all the world’s passenger vehicles. By enforcing community rights to those forests, the study said, governments can play a major role in tackling climate change. In the Brazilian Amazon, for example, deforestation rates are 11 times lower in community forests than in forests outside those areas. In areas where community forest rights are ignored, deforestation rates often soar. The report made five major recommendations, from better enforcement of community forest zones to compensating communities for the benefits their forests provide.
Read more.
PERMALINK

 

Earth Observation Satellites Help
Scientists Understand Global Change


Global warming is affecting more than just atmospheric temperatures — it is also changing water cycles, soil conditions, and animal migrations. Earth observation satellites aid scientists in measuring and monitoring these changes so societies can better adapt. Although there are well over 1,000 active orbiting satellites, less than 15 percent are used to monitor Earth’s environment. Yale Environment 360 presents a gallery of satellites that scientists are using to better understand how the planet is changing.
View the gallery.
PERMALINK

 

03 Jul 2014: Human Activity Has Boosted
Plant Growth Globally, NASA Data Show

On a global scale, the presence of people corresponds to more plant growth, according to an analysis of three decades of global vegetation greenness data from

Agriculture has increased global vegetative cover.
satellites. More than 20 percent of global vegetation change can be attributed to human activities, such as agriculture, nitrogen fertilization, and irrigation, rather than climate change, researchers report in the journal Remote Sensing. The findings suggest that global climate change models, which typically don't consider human land use, should take into account the relatively large impact human settlements can have on vegetative cover, the researchers say. From 1981 to 2010, areas with a human footprint saw plant greenness and plant productivity increase by up to 6 percent, while areas with a minimal human footprint, such as rangelands and wildlands, saw almost no change. Most increases in growth and greenness were seen near rural areas and villages, where agriculture is more intense.
PERMALINK

 

How Citizen Scientists Are Using
The Web to Track the Natural World


By making the recording and sharing of environmental data easier than ever, web-based technology has fostered the rapid growth of so-called citizen scientists — volunteers who collaborate with scientists to collect and interpret data. Numerous Internet-based projects now make use of citizen scientists to monitor environmental health and to track sensitive plant and wildlife populations. From counting butterflies, frogs, and bats across the globe, to piloting personal drones capable of high-definition infrared imaging, citizen scientists are playing a crucial role in collecting data that will help researchers understand the environment. Here is a sampling of some of these projects.
View the gallery.
PERMALINK

 

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.”
PERMALINK

 

Video Report: Americans on the
Front Lines of Climate Change


A fire chief in Colorado whose department is battling increasingly intense blazes in the American West. A Texas rancher struggling to operate in the face of years of drought. Oyster farmers in Washington state scrambling to adapt to increasingly acidic waters that are damaging their harvests. These Americans are the subjects of videos created by The Story Group, a non-profit journalism initiative. The videos are meant to put a human face on the science behind the recently released National Climate Assessment, which stressed that global warming is already having a major impact on the United States.
Watch the videos.
PERMALINK

 

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.
PERMALINK

 

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.
PERMALINK

 

20 May 2014: Widespread Greenland Melting
Due to Forest Fires and Warming, Study Says

Rising temperatures and ash from Northern Hemisphere forest fires combined to cause large-scale surface melting of the Greenland ice sheet in 2012, an

Click to Enlarge
NASA Greenland Ice Melt July 2012

Extent of Greenland ice melt, July 8-12, 2012
echo of a similar event that occurred in 1889, a new study finds. The massive Greenland ice sheet — the second largest ice body in the world after the Antarctic ice sheet — experiences annual melting at low elevations near the coastline, but surface melt is rare in the dry snow region in its center. In July 2012, however, satellites observed for the first time surface melt across more than 97 percent of the ice sheet, generating reports that the event was almost exclusively the result of climate change. In the new report, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found that in both 2012 and 1889 exceptionally warm temperatures combined with black carbon sediments from Northern Hemisphere forest fires to darken the surface of the ice sheet to a critical albedo threshold, causing the large-scale melting events. Since Arctic temperatures and the frequency of forest fires are both expected to rise with climate change, large-scale melt events on the Greenland ice sheet may begin to occur almost annually by 2100, the researchers say.
PERMALINK

 

09 May 2014: Biodiversity, But Not Community
Composition, Surprisingly Stable Over Time

A major turnover of species in habitats around the globe is underway, resulting in the creation of novel biological communities, but overall species diversity is much more

Click to Enlarge
Biodiversity studies around the globe

Locations of biodiversity surveys across the globe
stable than scientists had believed, according to a new report in the journal Science. In a survey of 100 long-term biodiversity monitoring projects in a variety of habitats around the world, the authors found that the majority of those studies (59 percent) documented increasing species richness. Biodiversity declined in 41 percent of the studies, but, in all cases the overall change in biodiversity was modest, the researchers said. When looking at changes in the species constituting those communities, however, the researchers found a surprisingly high rate of change — an average of about 10 percent change per decade. "A main policy application of this work is that we're going to need to focus as much on the identity of species as on the number of species," one of the study's authors said. "The number of species in a place may not be our best scorecard for environmental change."
PERMALINK

 

05 May 2014: New European Satellites
To Give More Detailed Views of Earth

The European Space Agency has begun launching a series of satellites designed to collect detailed environmental data around the globe — from radar-based, high-definition imagery to information about the

Click to Enlarge
ESA satellite image of Brussels

Land use near Brussels, Belgium.
atmosphere's chemical composition. The first satellite in the ESA's Copernicus program, the Sentinel 1A, was launched last month and has already returned many striking images based on radar data, such as this view of Brussels, Belgium, in which the dense urban area contrasts with the city's heavily vegetated surroundings. Once Sentinel satellite 1B is launched next year, the two will be able to map the entire globe in six days, giving researchers and conservationists a powerful way to monitor both short- and long-term changes in the environment. Four additional groups of satellites are set to launch this year. Those arrays will focus on high-resolution photo imagery, topography, surface temperatures, and atmospheric chemistry.
PERMALINK

 

25 Apr 2014: Soils Release Far More CO2
Than Previously Thought, Researchers Find

As atmospheric CO2 levels rise, soils will likely store less carbon than scientists and climate models had predicted, according to new research published in Science. Scientists have long understood that rising carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere spur
Soil carbon storage
photosynthesis and plant growth, adding more carbon to the soil. Scientists had thought this soil carbon was relatively stable and could remain locked away for centuries. But the new study, from researchers at Northern Arizona University shows that increasing soil carbon actually spurs microbes to produce more CO2. Higher atmospheric CO2 levels added roughly 20 percent more carbon to the soil, through increased photosynthesis, but they also increased carbon turnover by microbes by 16.5 percent. Many climate models had assumed that far more of the carbon absorbed by soils stayed there for long periods of time. "Our findings mean that nature is not as efficient in slowing global warming as we previously thought," the lead researcher said.
PERMALINK

 

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

 

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Photographer Peter Essick documents the swift changes wrought by global warming in Antarctica, Greenland, and other far-flung places.
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