Topic: Forests


Eyes in the Sky: Green Groups <br />Are Harnessing Data from Space

Report

Eyes in the Sky: Green Groups
Are Harnessing Data from Space

by jacques leslie
An increasing number of nonprofit organizations are relying on satellite imagery to monitor environmental degradation. Chief among them is SkyTruth, which has used this data to expose the extent of the BP oil spill, uncover mining damage, and track illegal fishing worldwide.
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How Science Can Help to Halt<br /> The Western Bark Beetle Plague

Interview

How Science Can Help to Halt
The Western Bark Beetle Plague

by richard schiffman
Entomologist Diana Six is focused on the beetle infestation that is wiping out conifer forests in western North America. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, she explains why the key to combating this climate-related scourge is deciphering the trees’ genetic ability to adapt.
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Why Brazil’s New Pledges On <br />Carbon Emissions Fall Short

Interview

Why Brazil’s New Pledges On
Carbon Emissions Fall Short

by diane toomey
Brazil has won international acclaim for curbing deforestation. But Brazilian forestry expert Maria Fernanda Gebara says her country has not gone far enough in its pledges to cut carbon emissions and continues to have a dismal record on developing wind and solar power.
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Will Indonesian Fires Spark<br /> Reform of Rogue Forest Sector?

Analysis

Will Indonesian Fires Spark
Reform of Rogue Forest Sector?

by lisa palmer
Massive fires in Indonesia caused by the burning of forests and peatlands for agriculture have shrouded large areas of Southeast Asia in smoke this fall. But analysts say international anger over the fires could finally lead to a reduction in Indonesia’s runaway deforestation.
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How 'Third Way' Technologies <br />Can Help Turn Tide on Climate

Interview

How 'Third Way' Technologies
Can Help Turn Tide on Climate

by richard schiffman
In a Yale Environment 360 interview, Australian scientist and author Tim Flannery explains how the development of technologies that mimic the earth’s natural carbon-removing processes could provide a critical tool for slowing global warming.
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As the Fracking Boom Spreads, <br />One Watershed Draws the Line

Report

As the Fracking Boom Spreads,
One Watershed Draws the Line

by bruce stutz
After spreading across Pennsylvania, fracking for natural gas has run into government bans in the Delaware River watershed. The basins of the Delaware and nearby Susquehanna River offer a sharp contrast between what happens in places that allow fracking and those that do not.
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The Rapid and Startling Decline<br /> Of World’s Vast Boreal Forests

Report

The Rapid and Startling Decline
Of World’s Vast Boreal Forests

by jim robbins
Scientists are becoming increasingly concerned about the fate of the huge boreal forest that spans from Scandinavia to northern Canada. Unprecedented warming in the region is jeopardizing the future of a critical ecosystem that makes up nearly a third of the earth’s forest cover.
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Northern Forests Emerge <br />As the New Global Tinderbox

Report

Northern Forests Emerge
As the New Global Tinderbox

by ed struzik
Rapidly rising temperatures, changes in precipitation, and increased lightning strikes are leading to ever-larger wildfires in the northern forests of Alaska, Canada, and Siberia, with potentially severe ecological consequences.
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How One African Village Learned <br />To Live with Its Wildlife and Prosper

An E360 Video Contest Award Winner

How One African Village Learned
To Live with Its Wildlife and Prosper

The second runner-up in the Yale Environment 360 Video Contest tells the story of the residents of a forest village in central Mozambique who have helped create a tourist destination centered on an elephant population that once wreaked havoc in their community.
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Natura 2000: EU Reserves Are <br />Facing Development Pressures

Report

Natura 2000: EU Reserves Are
Facing Development Pressures

by christian schwagerl
An astonishing 18 percent of the European Union’s land area is protected under a network of preserves known as Natura 2000. Now, at the urging of business interests and farmers, the EU is examining whether regulations on development in these areas should be loosened.
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Global Extinction Rates: Why <br />Do Estimates Vary So Wildly?

Analysis

Global Extinction Rates: Why
Do Estimates Vary So Wildly?

by fred pearce
Is it 150 species a day or 24 a day or far less than that? Prominent scientists cite dramatically different numbers when estimating the rate at which species are going extinct. Why is that?
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With Warming, a Terrifying <br />New Normal for Firefighters

e360 Video

With Warming, a Terrifying
New Normal for Firefighters

by daniel glick and ted wood
A Yale Environment 360 video goes onto the front lines with Colorado fire crews who have watched as massive, months-long wildfires have become a regular occurrence in their state.
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With Camera Drones, New Tool <br />For Viewing and Saving Nature

e360 Video

With Camera Drones, New Tool
For Viewing and Saving Nature

by diane toomey
Filmmaker Thomas Lennon says camera drones have opened up dramatic new possibilities for seeing the natural world and inspiring the public to protect it. In an e360 interview, he talks about how his drone video from the Delaware River illustrates the potential of this new technology.
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Interview

The High Environmental Cost
Of Illicit Marijuana Cultivation

by diane toomey
Marijuana growers are ravaging forests in northern California to produce their lucrative crop. In a Yale Environment 360 interview, biologist Mary Power talks about the massive ecological footprint of marijuana growing and why nationwide legalization could help alleviate it.
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Resilience: A New Conservation <br />Strategy for a Warming World

Analysis

Resilience: A New Conservation
Strategy for a Warming World

by jim robbins
As climate change puts ecosystems and species at risk, conservationists are turning to a new approach: preserving those landscapes that are most likely to endure as the world warms.
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Interview

A Grassroots Effort to Save
Africa’s Most Endangered Ape

by john c. cannon
The Cross River gorilla population in equatorial Africa has been pushed to the brink of extinction. In a Yale Environment 360 interview, a Nigerian scientist working to save the gorillas describes how local villagers are vital to protecting these apes.
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As Andes Warm, Deciphering <br />The Future for Tropical Birds

Report

As Andes Warm, Deciphering
The Future for Tropical Birds

by daniel grossman
Scientists have theorized that tropical birds in mountainous regions will move uphill as the climate warms. But new research in the Peruvian Andes suggests that the birds will stay put and face a new threat — predator snakes that will climb into their territory to escape the heat.
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Nicaragua Canal: A Giant Project <br />With Huge Environmental Costs

E360 Special Report

Nicaragua Canal: A Giant Project
With Huge Environmental Costs

by chris kraul
Work has already begun on a $50 billion inter-ocean canal in Nicaragua that would cut through nature reserves and bring massive dredging and major ship traffic to Central America’s largest lake. Scientists and conservationists are warning that the project is an environmental disaster in the making.
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Interview

What Lies Behind the Recent
Surge of Amazon Deforestation

by richard schiffman
After declining by more than 70 percent in recent years, deforestation in the Amazon is soaring. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, scientist Philip Fearnside explains what’s driving the clearing of the Amazon and what needs to be done to once again bring deforestation under control.
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In Kenya’s Mountain Forests, <br />A New Path to Conservation

Report

In Kenya’s Mountain Forests,
A New Path to Conservation

by fred pearce
Kenya’s high-elevation forests are the source for most of the water on which the drought-plagued nation depends. Now, after decades of government-abetted abuse of these regions, a new conservation strategy of working with local communities is showing signs of success.
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Wood Pellets: Green Energy or <br />New Source of CO2 Emissions?

Report

Wood Pellets: Green Energy or
New Source of CO2 Emissions?

by roger real drouin
Burning wood pellets to produce electricity is on the rise in Europe, where the pellets are classified as a form of renewable energy. But in the U.S., where pellet facilities are rapidly being built, concerns are growing about logging and the carbon released by the combustion of wood biomass.
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Giving Local Women a Voice <br />In Grass-Roots Conservation

Interview

Giving Local Women a Voice
In Grass-Roots Conservation

by diane toomey
As “gender advisor” at Conservation International, Kame Westerman seeks to include local women’s perspectives and priorities into the planning of projects in developing countries. This approach, she says, can be critical in determining whether a project succeeds or fails.
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A Decade After Asian Tsunami, <br />New Forests Protect the Coast

Report

A Decade After Asian Tsunami,
New Forests Protect the Coast

by fred pearce
The tsunami that struck Indonesia in 2004 obliterated vast areas of Aceh province. But villagers there are using an innovative microcredit scheme to restore mangrove forests and other coastal ecosystems that will serve as a natural barrier against future killer waves and storms.
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In Romania, Highway Boom Poses Looming Threat to Bears

Report

In Romania, Highway Boom Poses Looming Threat to Bears

by alastair bland
Romania, one of Europe’s poorest nations, badly needs a modern highway system. But conservationists warn that unless the movements of wildlife are accommodated, a planned boom in road construction could threaten one of the continent’s last large brown bear populations.
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A Conservationist Sees Signs of Hope for the World’s Rainforests

Opinion

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

by rhett butler
After decades of sobering news, a prominent conservationist says he is finally finding reason to be optimistic about the future of tropical forests. Consumer pressure on international corporations and new monitoring technology, he says, are helping turn the tide in efforts to save forests from Brazil to Indonesia.
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Electric Power Rights of Way: <br />A New Frontier for Conservation

Report

Electric Power Rights of Way:
A New Frontier for Conservation

by richard conniff
Often mowed and doused with herbicides, power transmission lines have long been a bane for environmentalists. But that’s changing, as some utilities are starting to manage these areas as potentially valuable corridors for threatened wildlife.
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Badru’s Story: Early Warnings From <br />Inside an Impenetrable African Forest

e360 Video

Badru’s Story: Early Warnings From
Inside an Impenetrable African Forest

"Badru’s Story," which documents the work of researchers in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, is the first-place winner of the Yale Environment 360 Video Contest. Filmmakers Benjamin Drummond and Sara Joy Steele trek along with scientist Badru Mugerwa and his team as they monitor the impact of climate change on one of Africa’s most diverse forests and its extraordinary wildlife.
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Fate of the Passenger Pigeon <br />Looms as a Somber Warning

Essay

Fate of the Passenger Pigeon
Looms as a Somber Warning

by joel greenberg
This September 1 marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Martha, the last known passenger pigeon on earth. The extinction of this once-abundant North American bird still stands as a cautionary tale.
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How Drones Are Emerging <br />As Valuable Conservation Tool

Interview

How Drones Are Emerging
As Valuable Conservation Tool

by crystal gammon
Lian Pin Koh believes drones can be a key part of conservation efforts, particularly in remote regions. In a Yale Environment 360 interview, he talks about how his project, ConservationDrones, is promoting the use of drones for everything from counting orangutans to stopping poaching.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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As Rain Forests Disappear,<br /> A Market Solution Emerges

Report

As Rain Forests Disappear,
A Market Solution Emerges

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


11 Jan 2016: Scientists Warn of Biodiversity
Impacts of Major Hydropower Projects

Hydropower is considered by many to be a key ingredient to reducing carbon emissions and meeting global climate goals,

The Belo Monte dam under construction in the Amazon
but it comes at a great cost to biodiversity, particularly in tropical rainforests, according to a new report published in the journal Science. “Far too often in developing tropical countries, major hydropower projects have been approved and their construction begun before any serious assessments of environmental and socioeconomic impacts had been conducted,” says the report's lead author Kirk Winemiller, an aquatic ecologist at Texas A&M University. The dam-building rush, with more than 450 dams planned for the Amazon, Congo, and Mekong river basins alone, impedes tropical fish migration and vastly expands deforestation due to road construction, according to the authors. Other concerns include development of previously inaccessible terrain, as well as methane emissions from newly built reservoirs.
PERMALINK

 

04 Jan 2016: How Science Can Help to Halt
The Western Bark Beetle Plague

Tens of millions of acres of pine and spruce trees have died in western North America in recent
Diana Six
Diana Six
years as a result of bark beetle infestations spawned by a hotter, drier climate. University of Montana entomologist Diana Six has been working to understand why the genetics of some individual trees enable them to survive even as whole forests around them are turning brown and perishing. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Six explains the root causes of the beetle infestations, discusses why U.S. Forest Service policies may be making the problem worse, and describes why the best hope for Western forests will come from the trees’ capacity to genetically adapt to a new climate regime. Read the interview.
PERMALINK

 

Iberian Lynx Is Back from Brink,
But Still Faces Major Challenges

Efforts to help restore the endangered population of the Iberian lynx are showing signs of success. Chief among them are the captive breeding program, which has
Iberian lynx

An Iberian lynx in the wild
helped increase the animal’s numbers from a critical low of less than 100 individuals to 160 today. The elegant 25-pound predator, a close relative of the American bobcat, still faces a number of challenges including habitat loss of 95 percent, a high vehicular mortality rate, and a genetic exchange stymied by a lack of wildlife corridors. It remains uncertain, as well, if the lynx can acclimate quickly enough to life at higher, cooler climes, where its main prey, the European rabbit, is already beginning to relocate due to climate change.
Read more.
PERMALINK

 

11 Dec 2015: NASA Detects Carbon Monoxide
Plume as Indonesian Forest Fires Burn

This fall tens of thousands of fires in Indonesia released clouds of particulate matter and toxic gases over the region — a

Enlarge

Carbon monoxide plumes detected over Indonesia
process that repeats itself year after year as property owners clear their land of debris for farming. This year, however, saw significantly more fires than usual, and many of those fires escaped their handlers and burned uncontrollably for weeks or months. The fires produced a massive plume of carbon monoxide (CO) — a toxic gas that affects both human health and the climate — that could be detected by NASA satellites. “The 2015 Indonesian fires produced some of the highest concentrations of carbon monoxide that we have ever seen with MOPITT,” the satellite technology that detected the gas, said Helen Worden, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Typically, CO concentrations in that region are roughly 100 parts per billion. Some parts of Borneo, however, saw CO levels of nearly 1,300 parts per billion in September and October.
PERMALINK

 

07 Dec 2015: Paris COP21 — How ‘Landscape
Carbon’ Can Be Part of a Solution on Climate

A group led by the World Resources Institute has unveiled plans in Paris for a grand restoration of Africa's landscapes that includes

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Nigerian finance minister
replanting forests and reviving soils. The group, which includes the World Bank and the African Union's New Partnership for Africa's Development are seeking $2 billion a year to restore 100 million hectares of Africa by 2030 — an area three times the size of Germany. The plans were announced to some 3,000 delegates attending a Global Landscapes Forum in Paris on Sunday. "We need landscape restoration for development and for climate," said Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former Nigerian finance minister. Some African countries said they are already at work. Ethiopian ministers told the forum they had restored a million hectares of farm soils in the drought-hit Tigray region and elsewhere in the past 20 years, through terracing, irrigation and other activities.
Read more
PERMALINK

 

01 Dec 2015: Paris COP21: To Save Forests,
A Combination of Carrots and Sticks

Forests must be saved and restored if the world community hopes to slow global warming. That's a given at the Paris climate

Indigenous leaders at a forestry session in Paris.
conference. But how? It's a tough issue for many environment ministers, who know that back home their agriculture, mining, and even forestry ministers have other plans for forest lands. In nations such as Peru and Indonesia, the gap between aspirations for slowing deforestation and the reality on the ground is huge. How to close that gap is a major topic of discussion in Paris, with countries, business groups, and conservationists proposing a combination of carrots and sticks to spur reform. And advocates say that returning many forests to indigenous groups is a key part of any solution.
Read more.
PERMALINK

 

Interview: Why Brazil’s Pledges On
Carbon Emissions Are Not Enough

In recent years, Brazil has been widely praised for reducing deforestation in the Amazon by 75 percent from 2005 to 2014.
Maria Fernanda Gebara
Maria Fernanda Gebara
But analysts are now taking a closer look at Brazil’s pledges to cut deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions, with some saying there is less there than meets the eye. One of the more outspoken critics of the country’s CO2-reduction policies is Brazilian political scientist Maria Fernanda Gebara. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Gebara, a research associate in the Department for International Development at the London School of Economics, says Brazil’s policies will do little more than stabilize emissions for the next 15 years, will fail to clamp down on illegal logging, and will continue the nation’s dismal record of developing solar and wind power.
Read the interview.
PERMALINK

 

20 Nov 2015: Global Forest Cover Estimates
Vary Widely Based on Definition, Study Says

Measurements of global forest cover can vary widely — by as much as 6 percent of the planet's land area, a swath equal in size

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Forest cover calculations
to China, according to research from the University of Maryland. The reason behind the discrepancy actually lies in how different researchers and organizations define forest cover, the researchers note. Geographers have long called for the definition to be standardized, but until now, no one had quantified the scope of the variance. The largest ambiguities in forest calculations are driven by uncertainties near savannas, shrublands, mountain ridge forests, and other areas with intermediate tree cover. “It’s not technology’s fault” that forest maps are inconsistent, said lead author Joseph Sexton. But until the definitions are standardized, he said, it will be difficult to properly assess land cover or conservation measures related to climate change and biodiversity.
PERMALINK

 

10 Nov 2015: New Online Tool Maps Lands
Managed and Protected by Indigenous People

Indigenous people have historically demarcated their ancestral lands in a variety of ways, from rudimentary agreements and maps to,

Enlarge

A new online tool maps native lands.
more recently, drone surveys. But until now, there has been no systematic way of recording the actual boundaries and legal status of each swath of land managed by native peoples, who, as research shows, often do a better job of protecting their lands than local or national governments. LandMark, a new tool launched today by a broad partnership including the World Resources Institute (WRI), is the first online, interactive platform for mapping lands managed by native communities. It was created to fill a critical gap in indigenous and community rights and make clear that these lands are not vacant, idle, or available to outsiders for exploitative development such as mining, palm oil plantations, or timber concessions. But Abdon Nababan, secretary general of the Indonesia's Indigenous Peoples' Alliance, cautioned that “these maps do us no good unless they become public knowledge and indigenous rights are recognized by all who have ambitions to grab our lands.”
PERMALINK

 

23 Oct 2015: Powerful Foreign Companies
Behind Much of Laos' Illegal Deforestation

Industrial-scale illegal logging is routine in Laos, a southeast Asian nation which has seen its dense forest cover decline from

Illegal logging in Laos by a large Vietnamese company
29 to 8.2 percent over the past decade, and the practice is gaining momentum under the guise of special infrastructure projects, according to information obtained by the London-based advocacy group Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). In 2013, Laos exported 1.8 million cubic yards of timber to Vietnam and China — more than 10 times the country’s official harvest, EIA found. Trade data also show that in 2014 China received $1 billion in illegal timber from Laos — a 22-fold increase from 2008. The high figures imply that the bulk of this timber is composed of valuable rosewood species, which are supposedly protected under Lao law. Virtually all logging operations are linked to infrastructure projects, especially hydropower dams, roads, mining, and agricultural plantations, EIA says.
PERMALINK

 

09 Oct 2015: ‘Land Grabbing’ Is Accelerating
As Pressure on Agriculture Resources Grows

An area about the size of Japan — roughly 140,000 square miles — has been purchased or
A land-grabbing operation in Uganda
leased by foreign entities for agricultural use during the last 15 years, according to a report by the Worldwatch Institute. An additional 58,000 square miles are under negotiation, the report found. “Land grabbing,” a term for the purchase or lease of agricultural land by foreign interests, has emerged as a threat to food security in several nations. Globally, over half of this land is in Africa, especially in water-rich countries like the Congo. The largest area acquired in a single country is in Papua New Guinea, with nearly 15,500 square miles (over 8 percent of the nation’s total land cover) sold or leased to foreign entities. Foreign purchase of land in developing countries has surged since 2005 in response to rising food prices and growing biofuel demand in the U.S. and the European Union, as well as droughts in the U.S., Argentina, and Australia. “Essentially no additional suitable [agricultural] land remains in a belt around much of the middle of the planet,” writes Gary Gardner, a contributing author to the report.
PERMALINK

 

30 Sep 2015: New Agreement Yields Hope for
Saving World's Second-Largest Rainforest

In advance of the Paris climate talks, European and African countries announced an initiative to stem the rising tide of forest destruction in Central Africa, one of the world’s last large expanses of rainforest. Norway is the first country to pledge funds to the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI) — up to $47 million dollars per year through 2020 — to support the program. The agreement calls for the six participating Central African countries — Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the Republic of Congo — to devise national investment plans that will tackle complex factors leading to deforestation, and it prioritizes long-term solutions over short-term, one-time actions. Central Africa is home to the world's second-largest tropical forest, but the region is increasingly under threat, mostly from small-scale slash-and-burn agriculture. Its preservation is key to global efforts to slow climate change, scientists say.
PERMALINK

 

17 Sep 2015: Chaotic Illegal Timber Trade
Threatens Crucial Forests in Southeast Asia

A murky, illegal timber trade enabled by systemic corruption exists between China and Myanmar and is worth hundreds of millions of

Illegal log trucks in Kachin wait to cross into China.
dollars annually, making it one of the world's largest illegal timber schemes, according to a new analysis by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). At stake are some of the most ecologically important remaining forests in Southeast Asia, EIA says. The report documents how Chinese businesses pay in gold bars for the rights to log entire mountains and smuggle timber out of Myanmar's conflict-torn state of Kachin. The stolen timber, primarily high-value species of rosewood and teak, is increasingly being sourced from deeper within Myanmar to feed factories in south and east China. The trade appeared to have peaked in 2005, when 1.3 million cubic yards of logs crossed the border. A brief hiatus then occurred when Chinese authorities intervened, but the scale is once again nearing peak levels, the EIA says.
PERMALINK

 

10 Sep 2015: Developing Nations Take Lead In
Cutting Forestry and Agriculture Emissions

Countries with the most potential to slash emissions from agriculture and forestry are skimping on climate commitments, while some developing countries are making the boldest and most detailed pledges for cutting land-use-related emissions. That is the conclusion of a new analysis of climate pledges from China, Canada, Ethiopia, and Morocco by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Major opportunities to cut forestry and farming emissions exist for Canada and, especially, China, the report says. For example, UCS recently found that China could cut CO2 emissions by 1.2 gigatons per year by 2020, but its climate pledge fails to indicate how the country would do that. Canada’s climate pledge is also vague and unambitious, the report says. In contrast, Ethiopia and Morocco have released detailed and ambitious pledges, especially regarding agricultural emissions. An earlier UCS analysis also found that Mexico’s land-use-related climate pledges exceed those from the European Union and the United States.
PERMALINK

 

04 Sep 2015: Maya Permanently Altered Land
To Respond to Climate Change, Study Says

Mayan activity more than 2,000 years ago contributed to the decline of Central America's tropical lowlands and continues to influence the land and environment today, say researchers at the University of Texas at Austin. Evidence shows that during the "Mayacene" — a period from 3,000 to 1,000 years ago when humans began greatly affecting the environment — the Maya's advanced urban and rural infrastructure altered tropical forest ecosystems. Clay and soil sequences indicate erosion and land-use changes, and sediments near wetlands reveal chemical signatures of agriculture, says the study, which was published in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews. The researchers say features such as constructed wetlands, vast field systems, and terraces show that the Maya managed land and water to adapt to climate change and rising sea levels. "Though it has no doubt accelerated in the last century, humans' impact on the environment has been going on a lot longer," said lead researcher Tim Beach.
PERMALINK

 

03 Sep 2015: Tropical Tree Cover Loss
Accelerated in 2014, Satellite Analysis Finds

More than 45 million acres of trees were cut down last year — an area twice the size of Portugal — according to an analysis

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Tropical tree cover loss
by the University of Maryland and Google. Tropical nations lost more than half of that total — nearly 25 million acres of tree cover, an area roughly the size of South Korea. Brazil and Indonesia, the two countries most often associated with deforestation, had been making gains toward stemming the problem, but 2014 saw an uptick in tree cover loss in both countries. The situation is especially concerning in Cambodia, where deforestation is accelerating faster than anywhere else in the world due to the development of rubber plantations. Last year Cambodia lost three times more tree cover than in 2001, the analysis found.
PERMALINK

 

25 Aug 2015: Endangered Chimp Population
Much Larger Than Estimated, Study Shows

A population of endangered eastern chimpanzees in Uganda is actually significantly larger than scientists had thought, new research

Eastern chimpanzee
from the University of Southern California shows. Using DNA from fecal samples, the scientists estimated the size of the chimp population living in two reserves in western Uganda to be 250 to 320 chimps, divided among at least nine communities, whereas previous estimates had pegged the total at roughly 70. Because the forest they live in is not protected, however, the chimpanzees have been heavily impacted by forest fragmentation, and the fruit trees they rely on are rapidly being cut down, the researchers say. The eastern chimp population that lives in this region is important because it represents the growing status quo for this species, the researchers note — they no longer inhabit unbroken swaths of forest, but instead carve out an existence in shrinking forest patches.
PERMALINK

 

24 Aug 2015: Research Links Amazon
Fires and North American Hurricanes

After studying decades of data on hurricanes, sea surface temperatures, and Amazon fire frequency, researchers have concluded

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North Atlantic surface temperatures
that years in which warm North Atlantic waters create powerful hurricanes are followed by periods of drought and fire in the Amazon rainforest. University of California, Irvine scientists say their research has shown that frequent and powerful North Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes tend to pull a large belt of tropical rainfall to the north, drawing moisture away from the Amazon. The resulting dry spells lead to an increase in severity and duration of fires, which tend to be set in the Amazon by humans clearing land for agriculture. The research is expected to enable meteorologists to better understand seasonal outlooks for drought and fire risk in the Amazon, which could help reduce the extensive rainforest fires that emit large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.
PERMALINK

 

31 Jul 2015: Severe Droughts Affect Forests
And CO2 Storage for Years, Study Shows

Severe drought can affect a forest's growth for up to four years, a period during which it is less effective at removing carbon
Times Square ivory crush

A stressed forest in the southwestern United States
from the atmosphere, a new study reports in the journal Science. Standard climate models have assumed that forests and other vegetation bounce back quickly from extreme drought, but that assumption is far off the mark, the researchers say. Looking at data from more than 1,300 forest sites dating back to 1948, they found that living trees took an average of two to four years to recover and resume normal growth rates after droughts ended. Frequent droughts in places like the western U.S. could significantly impact the ability of forests to sequester carbon, the study found. Researchers aren't sure how drought causes these long-lasting changes, but they say there are likely three causes: Loss of carbohydrate and foliage reserves may impair growth; pests and diseases may accumulate in drought-stressed trees; and lasting damage to vascular tissues impairs water transport.
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Interview: The High Environmental
Cost of Illicit Marijuana Cultivation

As some U.S. states move to legalize marijuana, one issue has been largely ignored in the policy debates: the serious
Mary Power
Mary Power
environmental effects of the marijuana industry. A new paper co-authored by ecologist Mary Power details many of those impacts by focusing on marijuana cultivation in California, where most of the marijuana consumed in the U.S. is grown. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Power describes how California growers siphon off scarce water resources, poison wildlife, and erode fragile soils. What’s needed, she contends, is legalization of marijuana at the federal level, which would likely drive down marijuana prices. “As long as there is a market that will pay enough to compensate for the brutally hard work they do to grow this stuff in forested mountains,” she says, “then it will keep growing.”
Read the interview.
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