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The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert | forests | Scoop.it
Elizabeth Kolbert is a staff writer at The New Yorker. She is the author of The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History and Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change
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A paradise being lost: Peru's most important forests felled for timber, crops, roads, mining

A paradise being lost: Peru's most important forests felled for timber, crops, roads, mining | forests | Scoop.it
 

 

In 1988, when British environmentalist Norman Myers first described the concept of a “biodiversity hotspot” - an area with at least 0.5 percent or 1,500 endemic plants that has lost 70 percent of its primary vegetation - he could have been painting a picture of the highly threatened Peruvian Andes mountain range. Today, the Andes are an immediate and looming portent of the fate of the Peruvian Amazon rainforest. 

This year, Peru scored a 45.05 on the Environmental Performance Index (EPI), coming in 110th in the world. The EPI is a metric that analyses the performance of a country with respect to high-priority environmental issues, mainly the protection of human health from environmental harm and the protection of ecosystems themselves. 

 

With approximately 30 million people spread out over 1.3 million square kilometers, Peru scored high (70.36, 68th in the world) on the specific issue of biodiversity and habitat, nearly 14 percent higher than the average country in Latin America and the Caribbean. Recent deforestation assessments, however, indicate that its biodiversity remains threatened by a wide range of factors. 

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Logging of Russian Far East damaging tiger habitat, few intact forests protected (Part I)

Logging of Russian Far East damaging tiger habitat, few intact forests protected (Part I) | forests | Scoop.it

The destruction of Russian forests to supply timber to international markets is becoming one of the biggest threats to the world’s largest cat, the Siberian tiger. Russia has more forests than any other country, representing about one-fifth of the world’s total forest cover and contains more than half of the world’s coniferous forests. However, worldwide demand for high quality timber, along with weak regulations, has led to widespread logging of Russia’s trees. 

The forests of the Russian Far East are of the “mixed boreal” type, where East Asian coniferous–deciduous forests and the boreal forests merge. Originally, the forests were a mixture of Korean pine and deciduous species like birch and aspen; in the north and at high elevations, conifers like spruce, fir and larch were found. The mixed boreal forests form one of the most biologically diverse habitats at high latitudes, supporting a unique mix of southern-evolved fauna like the Siberian tiger, Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) and the Asian black bear (Ursus thibetanus), along with species typical of the northern taiga, like the caribou (Rangifer tarandus) and Ussuri brown bear (Ursus arctos lasiotus). 

 

Human activities such as selective logging of economically valuable Korean pine and disturbances like fire have resulted in the conversion of many of the mixed boreal forests into secondary forests of oak and birch. This habitat poorer quality compared than the original mixed boreal composition, and does not support as many herbivores like deer and wild boar; this, in turn, affects apex carnivores like the tiger. 

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Farm for the Future

 

Wildlife film maker Rebecca Hosking investigates how to transform her family's farm in Devon into a low energy farm for the future, and discovers that nature.

BBC documentary on the precient global farming and food crisis, filmed in the UK. Featuring Martin Crawford (Agroforestry Research Trust), Fordhall Farm, Ric.

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The 90 Percent Diet: reducing our environmental impact by eating less meat

The 90 Percent Diet: reducing our environmental impact by eating less meat | forests | Scoop.it

Not many students in their final year of a PhD program are running press events in Europe for an ice cream-making machine. When I caught up with Brian Machovina he was still jet-lagged from the latest product launch of “Yonanas” in Germany, and girding himself for a return to his desk and his due-in-six-months dissertation.

The press trip might sound like a diversion from Machovina’s studies on the impact of personal food choices on global conservation. But in Machovina’s life, the serendipitous influence of people and places have all contributed to his current passion for inspiring people to eat less meat. With fewer grazing animals, Machovina’s studies show that we could make better conservation and production choices with the additional land available.

Machovina’s conservation plan, “90P,” is based on getting 90 percent of our daily calories from plants instead of meat.

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World's primary forests on the brink

World's primary forests on the brink | forests | Scoop.it

 

The global analysis and map are featured in a paper appearing in the esteemed journal Conservation Letters and reveals that only five percent of the world's pre-agricultural primary forest cover is now found in protected areas.

 

Led by Professor Brendan Mackey, Director of the Climate Change Response Program at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, the authors are experts in forest ecology, conservation biology, international policy and practical forest conservation issues.

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Plants may use newly discovered language to communicate

Plants may use newly discovered language to communicate | forests | Scoop.it

A Virginia Tech scientist has discovered a potentially new form of plant communication, one that allows them to share an extraordinary amount of genetic information with one another.

 

The finding by Jim Westwood, a professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, throws open the door to a new arena of science that explores how plants communicate with each other on a molecular level. It also gives scientists new insight into ways to fight parasitic weeds that wreak havoc on food crops in some of the poorest parts of the world.

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China's massive role in illegal logging

China's massive role in illegal logging | forests | Scoop.it

China produces more wood and paper products than any nation on Earth. Sadly, much of it comes from illegal timber. 

 

China's timber is mostly imported from developing nations -- especially from the Asia-Pacific, Africa, and Latin America -- as well as Siberia. 

And much of that timber is illegal -- effectively stolen, because no royalties or taxes are paid.  Or the timber is acquired by bribery.  Or it results from logging in places that shouldn't be logged -- such as national parks and protected areas.

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Socialists Could Turn to Environmentalist after Candidate’s Death

Socialists Could Turn to Environmentalist after Candidate’s Death | forests | Scoop.it

The death of socialist presidential candidate Eduardo Campos opens up an unexpected opportunity for environmental leader Marina Silva to return with renewed strength to the struggle to govern Brazil, offering a “third way” in a highly polarised campaign.

 

Silva, who was environment minister from 2003 to 2008, won 19.6 million votes in the 2010 presidential elections – 19.3 percent of the total – and is seen by many as someone who can breathe new life into the Brazilian political scene.

 

The winding road, littered with tragedy, that led to her nomination as vice presidential candidate on Campos’ ticket could thrust her back to the forefront, with a stronger chance of winning.

She has preserved a large part of the popular support she gained in 2010. In addition, opinion polls show that she was the political leader who benefited the most from the mass protests that shook Brazil’s big cities in June and July 2013, which rejected the political class as a whole.

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Beetle shells could inspire brighter, whiter coatings and materials

Beetle shells could inspire brighter, whiter coatings and materials | forests | Scoop.it
The physical properties of the ultra-white scales on certain species of beetle could be used to make whiter paper, plastics and paints, while using far less material than is used in current manufacturing methods.
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Endangered Species Condoms

Endangered Species Condoms | forests | Scoop.it

The Earth’s population now tops 7 billion people. The rapid growth of our human population is pushing other species off the planet in what most scientists are calling the sixth mass extinction crisis. Yet this population explosion is too often ignored by the public, the media and even the environmental movement, while it continues to drive all the major environmental problems that plague our planet — including climate change, habitat loss, ocean acidification and resource depletion.

 

That’s why the Center for Biological Diversity launched our Endangered Species Condoms project in 2009, and since then has distributed hundreds of thousands of free condoms across the United States. Wrapped in colorful, wildlife-themed packages (with artwork by Roger Peet), Endangered Species Condoms offer a fun, unique way to get people talking about the link between human population growth and the species extinction crisis.

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Rising Temperatures Threaten Tropical Species Most

Rising Temperatures Threaten Tropical Species Most | forests | Scoop.it

Within a few decades even the coldest years will be warm by historical standards. After 2047, the mean air temperature worldwide will exceed even the highest annual temperature from 1860 to 2005 if countries continue to emit carbon dioxide at the rates they do now. That “new abnormal” will begin even sooner than 2047 in certain locations, with the earliest occurrences (dark red) being across the tropics. That is precisely where species are least able to adapt to even small variations “because they are so used to a constant climate,” says Camilo Mora of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, who led the study. Many biodiversity hotspots (yellow)—the places richest in species—lie in the tropics, so temperature rise could threaten a large number of land and ocean animals as soon as the late 2020s.

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Effect of habitat fragmentation on forest carbon cycle revealed by study

Effect of habitat fragmentation on forest carbon cycle revealed by study | forests | Scoop.it
Drier conditions at the edges of forest patches slow down the decay of dead wood and significantly alter the cycling of carbon and nutrients in woodland ecosystems, according to a new study. It has long been known that so-called ‘edge effects’ influence temperature and moisture (the ‘microclimate’) in woodlands, but the influence on the carbon cycle is largely unknown.
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Q&A: On children’s place — and voice — in environmental planning

Q&A: On children’s place — and voice — in environmental planning | forests | Scoop.it
A new study conducted in part by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) shows that children living in Kalimantan on the island of Borneo had a generally bleak outlook for the future of their forested landscapes.
Asked to draw the present and future of their environment, the children showed a surprising awareness of the natural functions of their surroundings. Overall, their drawings foretold a landscape largely devoid of wildlife and forested area.
Forests News recently spoke with Erik Meijaard, a CIFOR associate and a co-author of the study.
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Norway puts $1.6B into rainforest conservation

Norway puts $1.6B into rainforest conservation | forests | Scoop.it
Since 2008 Norway has been the single largest foreign donor to tropical forest conservation, putting more than 10 billion Norwegian Krone, or $1.6 billion, toward programs in several countries under its International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI). But how effective have those funds been in actually protecting forests? A new assessment by the country's Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) concludes that the program is indeed having an impact despite an inauspicious start.

Norway burst onto the rainforest conservation scene in 2007 when it pledged to allocate up to NOK3 billion per year from its aid budget for programs that reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. The concept, known as REDD+, aims to offer performance-based incentives for environmental stewardship, rather than the traditional conservation model, which often funds projects that lack concrete measures of success.

Norway's first major country-level commitment was a billion dollar pledge to Brazil. That was followed by similar agreements with Guyana, Tanzania, and Indonesia, as well as funds for civil society and initiatives run by the U.N. and the World Bank.
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A Plant that Survives by Stealing Genetic Material

A Plant that Survives by Stealing Genetic Material | forests | Scoop.it
Beneath our feet, plants are locked in a slow-motion struggle for the elements necessary for survival: water, sunlight, and nutrition. But some plants have learned to game the system, stealing water and nutrients from their neighbors. Some of these parasites even steal genetic material.
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Europe's forests 'particularly vulnerable' to rapid climate change

Europe's forests 'particularly vulnerable' to rapid climate change | forests | Scoop.it

Climate change is here, it’s happening now, and for the last few decades it has been demonstrably bad news for many of Europe’s forests.

An international team of researchers say in a report from the European Forest Institute that climate change is altering the environment, and it is long-lived ecosystems like forests that are particularly vulnerable to the comparatively rapid changes occurring in the climate system.

 

The report, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, shows that damage from wind, bark beetles, and wildfires has increased significantly in Europe’s forests in recent years. Windthrow − the wind’s effect in damaging or uprooting trees − is an increasing problem.

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Deforestation ramping up in Yasuni as Ecuador sets to open up national park to drilling

Deforestation ramping up in Yasuni as Ecuador sets to open up national park to drilling | forests | Scoop.it
Yasuni National park has been in the conservation spotlight in recent years, with oil drilling threatening the forests and wildlife of this biodiversity hotspot. Recently, disturbance in the park may have ramped up, with satellite data showing a significant increase in deforestation alerts within Yasuni National Park since 2011.
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Logging by Number

Logging by Number | forests | Scoop.it

A technology borrowed from supermarket checkouts is poised to revolutionize rainforest conservation from Africa to Indonesia to Latin America.

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Four chameleon species discovered in Mozambique's 'sky islands'

Four chameleon species discovered in Mozambique's 'sky islands' | forests | Scoop.it
Expeditions to northern Mozambique's remote mountains have uncovered a wealth of new species, including four pygmy chameleons.
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Thailand Faces Sanctions If It Fails to Stop Ivory Trade

Thailand Faces Sanctions If It Fails to Stop Ivory Trade | forests | Scoop.it

Thailand has until March 2015 to take measures to shut down domestic trade in illegal elephant ivory or it will face trade sanctions under the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), which met in Geneva this week. It must enact legislation to stem the trade of illegal African ivory in the country and implement a registration system for domestic ivory and ivory traders.

 

“WWF welcomes this decision and applauds the key role of the US delegation in holding Thailand accountable for their lack of progress since 2013 when it pledged to shut down its ivory market,” said Leigh Henry, WWF’s Senior Policy Advisor at the meeting. “Elephants across Africa and Asia are being slaughtered for ivory and illegal markets in countries like Thailand are allowing wildlife crime to flourish.”

 

Possible sanctions would impact Thailand’s trade in species covered by the convention, including ornamental plants, such as orchids, and reptile leather. Trade suspensions would, for example, prevent exports of orchids, which would result in a loss of more than $80.7 million in annual sales based on the 2013 value of this trade. The economic impact would be significant as the value of just some of Thailand’s CITES-listed export items was estimated at $157 million in 2012.

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Brazil’s “Dalai Lama of the Rainforest” Faces Death Threats

Brazil’s “Dalai Lama of the Rainforest” Faces Death Threats | forests | Scoop.it

Davi Kopenawa, the leader of the Yanomami people in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, who is internationally renowned for his struggle against encroachment on indigenous land by landowners and illegal miners, is now fighting a new battle – this time against death threats received by him and his family.

 

“In May, they [miners] told me that he wouldn’t make it to the end of the year alive,” Armindo Góes, 39, one of Kopenawa’s fellow indigenous activists in the fight for the rights of the Yanomami people, told IPS.

Kopenawa, 60, is Brazil’s most highly respected indigenous leader. The Yanomami shaman and spokesman is known around the world as the “Dalai Lama of the Rainforest” and has frequently participated in United Nations meetings and other international events.

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Elephant poaching soars as Sumatran forests turn into plantations

Elephant poaching soars as Sumatran forests turn into plantations | forests | Scoop.it
There has been a spike in elephant deaths in Sumatra this year, and conversion of rainforest to plantations is one of the main causes. The number of Sumatran elephants poached in the province of Riau so far this year is staggering, with 22 reported kills in the first six months of 2014 compared to 14 for the entirety of 2013.
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Habitat fragmentation disrupts forest carbon cycles

Habitat fragmentation disrupts forest carbon cycles | forests | Scoop.it

Photo Credit: NPS Climate Change Response

We all know that fragmenting forests is bad for biodiversity. But it's also bad for the planet -- because it screws up carbon cycles, makes forests more likely to burn, and promotes global warming.

 

Prior studies, including those led by ALERT director Bill Laurance and ALERT member Tom Lovejoy, have shown that fragmented forests in the Amazon lose a lot of their carbon.  This is evidently because the hot, dry conditions near forest edges kill many trees.  Additional trees are snapped or toppled by wind gusts near edges.

 

This is bad news because the carbon stored in the trees eventually decomposes and ends up as carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. 

 

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How Much Logging Can Tropical Forests Withstand?

How Much Logging Can Tropical Forests Withstand? | forests | Scoop.it

Photo Credit: Rainforest Action Network

It is universally agreed in conservation circles that when forests are razed to make room for roads or agriculture, the consequences for biodiversity are dire. But there are other forms of timber harvest, like selective logging, for which the consequences are either mixed or uncertain.

 

In selective logging, only a certain amount of timber may be harvested from a given area. Some studies have reported that selective logging results in decreased biodiversity, as you might expect, while others report that selective logging actually leads to increases in biodiversity.

 

To try to see the forest for the trees, graduate student Zuzana Burivalova from ETH Zurich in Switzerland gathered up 48 studies that assessed the impacts of selective logging on biodiversity in tropical areas of South America, Africa, Eastern Asia, and the Pacific Islands.

What they found, perhaps surprisingly, was that species richness is slightly higher for mammals, amphibians, and invertebrates in “lightly logged forests” than in “primary forests” that remain undisturbed. But as logging intensity goes up, diversity for those three taxonomic groups goes down.

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Over a million pangolins slaughtered in the last decade

Over a million pangolins slaughtered in the last decade | forests | Scoop.it
One of the world's most bizarre animal groups is now at risk of complete eradication, according to an update of the IUCN Red List. Pangolins, which look and behave similarly to (scaly) anteaters yet are unrelated, are being illegally consumed out of existence due to a thriving trade in East Asia.
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