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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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Bird brains more precise than humans'

Bird brains more precise than humans' | forests | Scoop.it
(Phys.org) —Birds have been found to display superior judgement of their body width compared to humans, in research to help design autonomous aircraft navigation systems.
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The cheap option on climate change: recognize indigenous rights to forests

The cheap option on climate change: recognize indigenous rights to forests | forests | Scoop.it

Since 2008, governments have invested $1.64 billion in funds to kick-start REDD+, or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, the global effort to conserve the world's forests in order to better mitigate climate change. However, a new report by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) finds that same amount of money could have secured the legal rights of indigenous and local people to 450 million hectares of forest, an area 40 percent larger than India. 

"Securing the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities is a necessary precursor for REDD+ to be successful, and unfortunately, REDD+ has not yet substantially driven progress in forest tenure—-either in law or on the ground," Bryson Ogden, an analyst with RRI, told mongabay.com. 

Research has increasingly shown that indigenous people and local communities are often the strongest protectors of their forests, yet land rights for locals continues to move not only slowly, but haphazardly around the world. 

"The amount of forest land secured for community ownership since 2008 is less than 20 percent of that secured in the previous six years, despite decisions by countries to implement REDD+ initiatives which often talk of tenure security as a key requirement for success," said Ogden. "These findings indicate that...REDD+ initiatives are not yet translating into globally significant increases in the area under the ownership and control of indigenous peoples and local communities on the ground.

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Study traces ecological collapse over 6,000 years of Egyptian history

Study traces ecological collapse over 6,000 years of Egyptian history | forests | Scoop.it

epictions of animals in ancient Egyptian artifacts have helped scientists assemble a detailed record of the large mammals that lived in the Nile Valley over the past 6,000 years. A new analysis of this record shows that species extinctions, probably caused by a drying climate and growing human population in the region, have made the ecosystem progressively less stable.

The study, published September 8 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), found that local extinctions of mammal species led to a steady decline in the stability of the animal communities in the Nile Valley. When there were many species in the community, the loss of any one species had relatively little impact on the functioning of the ecosystem, whereas it is now much more sensitive to perturbations, according to first author Justin Yeakel, who worked on the study as a graduate student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and is now a postdoctoral fellow at the Santa Fe Institute.

Around six millennia ago, there were 37 species of large-bodied mammals in Egypt, but only eight species remain today. Among the species recorded in artwork from the late Predynastic Period (before 3100 BC) but no longer found in Egypt are lions, wild dogs, elephants, oryx, hartebeest, and giraffe.

"What was once a rich and diverse mammalian community is very different now," Yeakel said. "As the number of species declined, one of the primary things that was lost was the ecological redundancy of the system. There were multiple species of gazelles and other small herbivores, which are important because so many different predators prey on them. When there are fewer of those small herbivores, the loss of any one species has a much greater effect on the stability of the system and can lead to additional extinctions."

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Harness the power of marketing for conservation

Harness the power of marketing for conservation | forests | Scoop.it

In the Biblical tale of David and Goliath, David, the underdog, uses his wit and cunning to overcome the brute force of the giant Goliath, ultimately declaring victory. Just last year, the immensely popular pop-science and psychology writer Malcom Gladwell's released the book: David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, which became his fifth best selling book to deal with, among other things, the art of marketing. This particular book speaks to the advantage that perceived "underdogs" have in a fight, but the overall popularity of Gladwell's books also underlines the importance of good marketing in getting people "on board" for making changes. 

As a whole, conservationists, the veritable underdogs in both science and pop-culture, have been slow to adapt the strategies of marketing or to market conservation at all. Dr. Diogo Veríssimo, a researcher who works at the interface between social and natural sciences, with a focus on behavior change and evidence-based conservation, thinks this needs to change. 

"Commercial marketers have for over a century used the latest developments in academic disciplines such as psychology, sociology and economics to influence the purchasing behavior of consumers worldwide." Veríssimo told mongabay.com. "These efforts have generated a vast amount of knowledge about human behavior and how to influence it…In contrast, the conservation field has lagged behind in the adoption of these techniques."

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Bolivian vice president proposes unprecedented agricultural expansion (PART 1)

Bolivian vice president proposes unprecedented agricultural expansion (PART 1) | forests | Scoop.it

Photo: Courtesy of Amy Duchelle, Cifor

On August 14, the Bolivian Vice President, Alvaro Garcia Linera, made astartling announcement: by 2025, Bolivia was going to make two striking developments - first, it would expand all cultivated land to 2.5 times its present area, and second, it would triple food production from 15 to 45 million tons. 

This announcement has come as somewhat of a shock to most, particularly when considered in light of Bolivia’s strong stance on sustainable land use – Bolivia is famous for refusing to commercialize climate change, with President Evo Morales opposing even the marketing of carbon stocks through REDD+ programs. 

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Illegal land clearing for commercial agriculture responsible for half of tropical deforestation

Illegal land clearing for commercial agriculture responsible for half of tropical deforestation | forests | Scoop.it
A comprehensive new analysis released today says that nearly half (49%) of all recent tropical deforestation is the result of illegal clearing for commercial agriculture.
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FSC meeting weighs old-growth forest protection, smallholder participation

FSC meeting weighs old-growth forest protection, smallholder participation | forests | Scoop.it
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a body that sets social and environmental certification criteria for forestry products, is weighing measures that could step up protection for old-growth forests and make it easier for indigenous people and traditional forest communities to qualify for certification. The measures are set for a vote this week at the body's General Assembly, which is held every three years to establish and revise criteria that underpin the standard.

The motions — two of 43 proposed for the meeting — are significant because they target two controversial areas under the certification standard. On the social front, some groups have complained that the cost of FSC certification effectively excludes smallholder participation, making it difficult for community forestry projects to sell certified products which typically earn a premium to non-certified goods. According to the motion, that constituency is important: 40% of remaining native forests are in indigenous territories. [Update: this motion passed on 9/11].

FSC's certification of logging operations in old-growth forests has also been highly controversial among environmentalists. While FSC bars conversion of forests classified as having "high conservation value" (HCV) — including "rare old growth" — green activists have been campaigning for years to broaden the definition to include forests that haven't been previously logged. Motion 65 — set for vote today or tomorrow — was proposed by Greenpeace to add "intact forest landscapes", defined by the NGO as "remaining large unfragmented areas within the forest zone, undisturbed by roads or other significant human infrastructure", to FSC's definition of HCV. To pass, the motion would need support from FSC members across the body's three chambers - social, environmental, and economic.
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Study shows rhinoceros beetle horns evolved to accommodate species-specific fighting styles

Study shows rhinoceros beetle horns evolved to accommodate species-specific fighting styles | forests | Scoop.it

Photo Credit: Kevin Jones

Male rhinoceros beetles have elaborate horns, which they use when fighting for mates. The shape and number of horns differ from species to species. Erin McCullough of the University of Montana at Missoula and her colleagues have discovered that horns evolved to have shapes that best suit each species' fighting style. The research appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

 

Considered the strongest animals in the world, male rhinoceros beetles compete for females by attempting to remove their opponents from trees and shoots and throw them onto the ground. They use their horns as weapons. Horns come in a wide variety of shapes.

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Dramatic erosion of world's last intact forests

Since 2000, more than 100 million hectares of the world's surviving intact forests have been seriously degraded -- by logging, road building, fragmentation, and other disturbances. That's an area three times the size of Germany.
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New study shows how conversion of forests to cropland affected climate

New study shows how conversion of forests to cropland affected climate | forests | Scoop.it

The conversion of forests into cropland worldwide has triggered an atmospheric change that, while seldom considered in climate models, has had a net cooling effect on global temperatures, according to a new Yale study.

 

Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change, Professor Nadine Unger of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) reports that large-scale forest losses during the last 150 years have reduced global emissions of biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOCs), which control the atmospheric distribution of many short-lived climate pollutants, such as tropospheric ozone, methane, and aerosol particles.

Using sophisticated climate modeling, Unger calculated that a 30-percent decline in BVOC emissions between 1850 and 2000, largely through the conversion of forests to cropland, produced a net global cooling of about 0.1 degrees Celsius. During the same period, the global climate warmed by about 0.6 degrees Celsius, mostly due to increases in fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions.

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Tasmanian forests opened for logging despite conservationist efforts

Tasmanian forests opened for logging despite conservationist efforts | forests | Scoop.it

The Tasmanian government has decided to open up 400,000 hectares of previously protected forest to the timber industry, a move that environmentalists say will do serious harm to both the climate and the country’s tourism sector.

 

In 2013, the Australian Labour government added 170,000 hectares of Tasmania’s rainforest to the protected heritage area in a peace deal. The deal banned widespread logging in the area and offered compensation to the timber industry to stay away, but was labelled by the opposition as “job-destroying” and harmful to the economy.

 

After coming to power later that year, Tony Abbot’s Liberal government planned to reopen some of the area to the timber industry. To do so, Abbot also sought to revoke the special protection status afforded to 74,000 hectares of forest, but UNESCO rejected this proposal in June, meaning this area will not be affected.

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How Islam could help save Aceh's forests

How Islam could help save Aceh's forests | forests | Scoop.it
 Aceh, Indonesia has found a new ally in the struggle to protect the province's remaining natural forests: Sharia law.

Last week, the government released a book titled "Guidelines for Forest Management Based on Sharia and Customary Law: Preventing Corruption in the Forestry Sector." The publication is the result of a two-year effort by the Aceh Custom Council (MAA) and SIAP II—a USAID funded collaboration between WWF Indonesia, Transparency International Indonesia, and the Indonesian Working Group on Forest Finance.

Aceh has many positive historical examples of good forest management through customary law that the MAA wished to collect and reapply to the present day, explained Badruzzaman Ismail, the chairman of the MAA. So, they asked over 100 traditional leaders including village heads, forest and animal shamans, scholars, academics, and law enforcement officers to consult the Al-Quran and teachings of Muhammad (Al-Hadist) for good examples of sound forest management, and how it applies to villages bordering natural areas.

 

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Ancient mammal relatives were active at night 100 million years before origin of mammals

Ancient mammal relatives were active at night 100 million years before origin of mammals | forests | Scoop.it

Most living mammals are active at night (or nocturnal), and many other mammal species are active during twilight conditions. It has long been thought that the transition to nocturnality occurred at about the same time as mammals evolved, around 200 million years ago. This thinking was based on on features such as the large brains of mammals (good for processing information from senses like hearing, touch, and smell) and the details of light-sensitive chemicals in the eyes of mammals.

 

It turns out that nocturnal activity might have a much older origin among ancient mammal relatives, called synapsids.

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Krispy Kreme, Dunkin' Donuts to cut palm oil linked to deforestation

Krispy Kreme, Dunkin' Donuts to cut palm oil linked to deforestation | forests | Scoop.it
Two of the world's largest doughnut brands this week committed to sourcing safeguards that move them toward eliminating deforestation from their palm oil supply chains.
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Impact that doomed the dinosaurs helped the forests bloom

Impact that doomed the dinosaurs helped the forests bloom | forests | Scoop.it
Some 66 million years ago, a 10-km diameter chunk of rock hit the Yucatan peninsula with the force of 100 teratons of TNT. It left a crater more than 150 km across, and the resulting megatsunami, wildfires, global earthquakes and volcanism are widely accepted to have wiped out the dinosaurs and made way for the rise of the mammals. But what happened to the plants on which the dinosaurs fed?
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Life forms appeared at least 60 million years earlier than previously thought

Life forms appeared at least 60 million years earlier than previously thought | forests | Scoop.it

Photo Credit: Quentin Crowley

eologists from Trinity College Dublin have rewritten the evolutionary history books by finding that oxygen-producing life forms were present on Earth some 3 billion years ago -- a full 60 million years earlier than previously thought. These life forms were responsible for adding oxygen (O2) to our atmosphere, which laid the foundations for more complex life to evolve and proliferate.

 

Working with Professors Joydip Mukhopadhyay and Gautam Ghosh and other colleagues from the Presidency University in Kolkata, India, the geologists found evidence for chemical weathering of rocks leading to soil formation that occurred in the presence of O2. Using the naturally occurring uranium-lead isotope decay system, which is used for age determinations on geological time-scales, the authors deduced that these events took place at least 3.02 billion years ago. The ancient soil (or paleosol) came from the Singhbhum Craton of Odisha, and was named the 'Keonjhar Paleosol' after the nearest local town.

 

The pattern of chemical weathering preserved in the paleosol is compatible with elevated atmospheric O2 levels at that time. Such substantial levels of oxygen could only have been produced by organisms converting light energy and carbon dioxide to O2 and water. This process, known as photosynthesis, is used by millions of different plant and bacteria species today. It was the proliferation of such oxygen-producing species throughout Earth's evolutionary trajectory that changed the composition of our atmosphere -- adding much more O2 -- which was as important for the development of ancient multi-cellular life as it is for us today.

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4 Ashaninka tribesmen killed by loggers in Peru

4 Ashaninka tribesmen killed by loggers in Peru | forests | Scoop.it

Photo Credit: Asier Solana Bermejo

One of those killed was Edwin Chota, the leader of the Alto Tamaya-Saweto indigenous community who won fame for fighting illegal loggers. As such, Chota was a top target for assassination, according to a conservationist familiar with the situation. 

Details about the other victims weren't immediately available. 

The murders occurred on September 1, but the remoteness of the area delayed the news, which was first reported by Reyder Sebastián Quinticuari, the president of Aconamac or La Asociación de Comunidades Nativas Asháninkas de Masisea y Callería.

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As Bolivia plans dramatic agro-expansion, forests may pay the price (PART II)

As Bolivia plans dramatic agro-expansion, forests may pay the price (PART II) | forests | Scoop.it
In an August 14 announcement, Bolivian Vice President, Alvaro Garcia Linera, laid out an ambitious plan to increase the country’s cropland by 250 percent, and triple its agricultural output. The proposal is touted as way to increase both food and economic security for the inland South American country, but what will it mean for its forests?
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Canada, Russia, Brazil lead world in old-growth forest loss

Canada, Russia, Brazil lead world in old-growth forest loss | forests | Scoop.it
Every day, the world loses about 50,000 hectares of forest to agricultural clearing, road development, and other human activities, constricting true wilderness into smaller and smaller areas – along with the species that inhabit them.
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5 consumer products linked to illegal rainforest destruction

5 consumer products linked to illegal rainforest destruction | forests | Scoop.it

Tropical rainforests are home to rich indigenous cultures and amazing biodiversity. They also play an important role in stabilizing the climate and sequestering carbon. However, tropical deforestation continues to happen around the world at an alarming rate. This loss generates almost 50 percent more greenhouse gases than the world’s entire transportation sector, according to the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

A large amount of tropical deforestation is driven by the creation of agricultural land, but a new report from Forest Trends finds that nearly half of all conversion from primary rainforest to agricultural use happens illegally. A few key agricultural products drive most of the deforestation, and are largely produced for export.

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World's Great Animal Migrations

World's Great Animal Migrations | forests | Scoop.it

When Sarah Rayner hiked into Mexico's El Rosario Butterfly Sanctuary earlier this year, she thought she knew what to expect. The Baton Rouge biology teacher was making a long-awaited trip to see the millions of monarch butterflies that migrate there each winter. But nothing had prepared her for the moment when she entered a sun-dappled oyamel grove and was suddenly surrounded by butterflies—in the sky, on every tree, even alighting on her head and shoulders.

 

Spotting even a single wild creature in its natural habitat is memorable. So it's that much more inspirational to see multitudes—whether in herds, flocks, or colonies—all gathered together and moving forward for a common purpose. Sure, it takes some planning to get the timing right, but experiencing an animal migration is often the highlight of a trip, if not its sole purpose.

 

Animal migrations happen all over the world, usually for a creature's survival. Whale sharks off Mexico's Caribbean coast follow the climatic patterns that sustain their supply of food and water. Others, including green sea turtles in Costa Rica, travel vast distances each year to return to ancestral breeding or birthing grounds. These creatures migrate en masse not only because of their communal instincts, but because it provides safety from predators.

 

Increasingly, however, migrating animals are facing greater threats than beasts of prey. According to David Wilcove, a professor of evolutionary biology at Princeton University and author of No Way Home: The Decline of the World's Great Animal Migrations, climate change, man-made obstacles like roads and dams, and exploitation of natural resources are putting the species involved in these animal migrations at serious risk.

"Great migrations are best viewed as irreplaceable treasures," Wilcove writes, "increasingly scarce reminders of a time when humans did not dominate the earth."

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Managing water resources in forest restoration

Managing water resources in forest restoration | forests | Scoop.it

Photo: Courtesy of Coconino National Forest.

 Hundreds of thousands of acres on the Coconino National Forest are slated for thinning during the next 20 years. Two NAU researchers want the forest restoration efforts to result in better water quality and quantity, a shift that could reduce wildfire risk, prevent post-fire flooding and save cities money in water treatment costs.

 

Sharon Masek Lopez, a watershed restoration research specialist, and post-doctoral scholar Frances O'Donnell, will determine the ideal landscape for supporting forest health. "We want to use our data to make recommendations to people doing the thinning about what kinds of forest treatment intensity and patterns are best for snow and soil moisture," O'Donnell said.

 

Applying water resource management techniques to forest thinning could reduce risk of catastrophic wildfire. Spacing of trees affects the amount of water that stays on the forest, along with evaporation and wind. "The major source of soil moisture is our winter snow and shade is a huge factor in how long the snow pack remains in forest openings," Masek Lopez said.

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Mount Polley mine tailings pond breach followed years of government warnings

Mount Polley mine tailings pond breach followed years of government warnings | forests | Scoop.it

The B.C. Ministry of Environment says it warned Imperial Metals about the level of wastewater in the tailings pond at its Mount Polley mine repeatedly before this week's devastating breach.

 

The breach of the tailings pond dam at the copper and gold mine near Likely, B.C., released 10 billion litres of water and 4.5 million cubic metres of metals-laden fine sand, contaminating several lakes, creeks and rivers in the Cariboo region of central B.C. on Monday.

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Death of Yoda the 650-Year-Old Tree Tells Tale of Southwest Drought

Death of Yoda the 650-Year-Old Tree Tells Tale of Southwest Drought | forests | Scoop.it

A Douglas fir affectionately named Yoda survived many a drought in its six-plus centuries of existence in a rugged lava flow in the El Malpais National Monument area near Grants, New Mexico, but it couldn’t weather the current extreme drought in the parched Southwest.

The recent death of the 7-foot-tall tree, estimated to be more than 650 years old, is a testament to the severity of today's drought, scientists say.

 

A core sample obtained in 1991 established that Yoda had lived at least since 1406, but it likely had been alive since 1350 or so, Henri Grissino-Mayer of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, told NBC News. Yoda had survived a “megadrought” in the 16th century — an intense period of dry weather that plagued Mexico and North America for decades and caused major tree losses.

Today, Grissino-Mayer said, “We’re seeing massive mortality in tree populations that is unprecedented.”

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Study shows wild monkeys can learn new tricks from watching training videos

Study shows wild monkeys can learn new tricks from watching training videos | forests | Scoop.it

A trio of researchers working in a South American jungle has shown that wild monkeys are able to learn how to perform an activity by watching videos of other monkeys performing the task. In their paper published in the journal Biology Letters, Tina Gunhold, Thomas Bugnyar and Andrew Whiten of the Universities of Vienna and St Andrews, respectively, describe how they trained monkeys to perform tasks, videotaped them doing it and then showed the results to wild marmosets living in Pernambuco Brazil, and what they learned as a result of doing so. 

 

Scientists have known for some time that certain captive animals are capable of learning by watching others like them perform tasks that have been video-recorded. In this new effort, the researchers wanted to know if such capabilities would extend to wild animals as well. They chose wild marmosets, which are native to Brazil because they are extremely social, curious and have been seen to learn from one another.

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