By Apoorva Joshi
27 January 2015
(mongabay.com) – Since the 1950s, plantations and second-growth forests in China have been locally managed by village communities as collective forests, which today account for 58 percent of China's forestland. Many of these collective forests lie within mountainous rural areas, some of which are also home to the 1,600 or so wild giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) that survive today.
While much of the panda’s habitat – 63 reserves – is protected by the Chinese government, what is left of the endangered conservation icon’s home faces threats from a piece of legislation originally introduced in 2008 that would allow up to 1.8 million square kilometers of forest to be sold, and open as much as 15 percent of the giant panda’s remaining habitat to outside commercial enterprises and unmanaged tourism. These recent forest tenure reform policies could allow commercial logging, increased collection of firewood and non-timber forest products, as well as other industrial development activities by third parties that were previously restrained.
A 2013 letter published in the journal Science was co-authored by President of Conservation International, Dr. Russell Mittermeier and Li Zhang, a scientist with Conservation International China. The new forest tenure reform, the letter said, could open up key areas including panda habitat to commercial logging and increased firewood extraction. It would also make these areas vulnerable to conversion by allowing collectively owned land to be transferred or leased out to third-party commercial enterprises.
All forests in China are state-owned. A 2009 report from the World Forest Institute explains although there are no privately-owned forests in China, villages can allocate the right to use small plots of land within collective forests to individuals and households, who can harvest them for timber, firewood, food, medicine and other products that are essential for the villagers’ livelihoods.
Since the 1980s, China has acted to protect the panda, making it a symbol of conservation success when the species rose from fewer than 1,000 individuals at the time to around 1,600 today, according to the latest estimates. But while communities in the country’s rural areas attempt to manage these second-growth and plantation forests, rapidly expanding timber and paper industries are beginning to encroach on collective forests.
Data from Global Forest Watch show only 6 percent of China’s forests are primary, with 57 percent regenerated and 37 percent planted. China holds the world's top spot not only in population size but also in greenhouse gas emissions. In 2013, China produced 29 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, with 7.2 tons per person compared to the EU's 6.8 tons per person. However, this may be on the decline, with data from the Food and Agriculture Organization indicating land use change and forestry sequestered 2.8 percent of China’s emissions in 2011.
Now extinct in Vietnam and Myanmar, the giant panda's only home is in China’s montane forests. Currently, the species is found in three provinces – Sichuan, Gansu and Shanxi - with 45 percent of wild pandas inhabiting the Minshan Mountains of Shanxi, and another 20 percent in the province's Qinling Mountans. According to the IUCN, restricted and degraded habitat is the greatest threat to the species. Based on data from Global Forest Watch, these provinces collectively lost approximately 157,000 hectares of tree cover from 2001 through 2012 – although some of that loss may be due to plantation harvesting. Panda habitat is also home to a host of other threatened species like the golden snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus roxellana), the endangered crested ibis (Nipponia nippon) and the takin (Budorcas taxicolor). [more]
27 January 2015 (CSIRO) – The rates of sea level rise are not uniform around Australia. Over the period from 1993 when satellite altimeter data are available, the sea level trends are larger than the GMSL trend in northern Australia and similar to the GMSL trend in southern Australia (Figure 8.1.4; White, et al., 2014). The tide gauge and altimeter trends are generally similar, with several exceptions: the tide gauge rates at Hillary’s (northern Perth) and Adelaide are larger because of downward land motion; at the Gold Coast Seaway there is an instrumental issue; and the gauges at Eden and Bunbury have trends that are anomalous compared with nearby locations to the north and south that may be related to unresolved datum or vertical land motion issues. Off south-eastern Australia, the altimeter shows a larger trend offshore than the tide gauge trends. This is thought to be associated with a strengthening of the ocean circulation in the South Pacific Ocean and southward extension of the East Australian Current (Hill, et al., 2011, Deng, et al., 2010), resulting in lower trends at the coast compared with off shore. The larger rates in northern Australia are largely associated with interannual variability and these larger rates are not representative of a longer term trend (Zhang and Church, 2012, White, et al., 2014).
The two longest Australian sea level records from Fort Denison Sydney and Fremantle extend back to the late 19th century. The Sydney record appears to contain some anomalous data between 1910 and 1940, with falling sea level near the start of the period and rapidly rising sea level near the end of this period (White et al. 2014). Over the full record from 1886 to 2010, the relative sea level trend at Sydney is 0.65 ± 0.05 mm yr-1, slightly less than the trend of 0.8 mm yr-1 over 1966 to 2010. When this latter period is corrected for GIA and atmospheric pressure changes, the trend is 1.3 mm yr-1, less than the global average trend over 1966 to 2009 of 2.0 mm yr-1. At Fremantle, the relative sea level trend over 1897 to 2010 is 1.6 ± 0.1 mm yr-1, with a trend of 2.2 mm yr-1 over 1920 to 1960, little trend from 1960 to 1990 and 4 mm yr-1 over the last two decades.
29 January 2015 (Tico Times) – Hundreds of protesters gathered Thursday in front of a court complex in the Costa Rican capital to express outrage over a verdict earlier this week that acquitted seven defendants of the 2013 murder of sea turtle conservationist Jairo Mora, who has quickly become an environmental martyr in this small Central American country known for its eco-tourism.
“We’re here to express our indignation, our pain and our rage for what happened with the Jairo Mora case. This assassination is not just any crime, and it’s not just another crime – it’s a political crime,” said former presidential candidate José María Villalta of the Broad Front Party.
A court in the Caribbean port city of Limón, 170 kilometers east of San José, on Monday blamed a shoddy investigation and prosecution that was “imprecise” and full of “ambiguities” in its decision to absolve the seven men of the homicide. Four of the defendants were convicted and sentenced in a previous kidnapping, rape and robbery case on the same beach where Mora was murdered.
“Jairo Mora vive” and “Corrupt prosecutors” were some of the slogans demonstrators used on signs that urged the judicial branch of the government to seek justice in the case, and lawmakers to strengthen sentencing laws for crimes committed against environmental advocates.
“Our legislators are going to present several bills to create special protective jurisdictions for environmentalists, which includes placing them in protective programs with as little as a complaint of threats,” Villalta said.
The United Nations in Costa Rica joined a growing chorus of voices demanding justice in the case. Environmentalists and everyday citizens have called the not-guilty verdict a “national shame,” particularly in a country that makes millions of dollars selling itself as an environmentally friendly tourist destination. [more]
By Victoria Tang
21 January 2015
(Wired) – United States Senators stood up for what they believed in today—and it wasn’t pretty. During a debate over construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, intended to carry oil from Canada to the United States, the Senate voted on an amendment—just for show, really—on whether climate change “is real and not a hoax.” Easy question—everyone said yes, it’s real. (Well, not everyone. Good job, Senator Roger Wicker, Republican from Mississippi. You do not believe science.) But then Brian Schatz, Democrat from Hawaii, decided to push the issue. He introduced another amendment adding that human activity was a significant contributor to the aforementioned climate change. And the Senate voted again.
The results? Ahem. Fifty US senators affirmed that they indeed do believe that the activities of human beings contribute to climate change. OK. But 49 senators—fully half the upper house that represents our grand republic—do not. [more]
Scientists meet to save endangered white rhino – Artificial methods of reproduction are now the only hope0 comments Posted by Jim at Thursday, January 29, 2015
OL PEJETA CONSERVANCY, 28 January 2015 (AFP) – Conservationists and scientists have held talks in Kenya this week to come up with a last-ditch plan to save the northern white rhinoceros from extinction.
There are only five northern whites left on the planet: three live in a 700-acre enclosure on the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in central Kenya, where the emergency meeting was held on Tuesday, while the other two are kept in zoos in the Czech Republic and the US.
"The battle is to work out what is feasible scientifically in the short time still available to us," Richard Vigne, Ol Pejeta's chief executive, told AFP.
Northern white rhinos have suffered from the loss of their traditional rangelands in Central African Republic, Chad, north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, nations that have been hit by decades of chronic conflict, lawlessness and misrule that made conservation impossible.
Poachers have also taken their toll, killing the animals for their horn — long prized for making ceremonial dagger handles in Yemen and, more recently, to be ground into a powder for medicine in Asia.
Rhino horn is worth more than $65,000 per kilo on the black market, more than gold or wholesale cocaine.
The remaining northern white rhinos are all elderly or incapable of natural reproduction, so artificial methods are now the only hope.
The best chance is the creation of a "test tube rhino" by in-vitro fertilisation. [more]
Drought may force Brazil’s biggest city to cut back water service to 2 days a week – ‘The water is at its end, our patience too’1 comments Posted by Jim at Thursday, January 29, 2015
São Paulo, January 28, 2015 (Associated Press) – The worst drought to hit Brazil's biggest city in decades may leave residents with water service only two days a week.
São Paulo water utility company Sabesp says a five days-off, two days-on system would be a last-ditch effort to prevent the collapse of the Cantareira water system.
The reservoir is the largest of six that provide water to some 6 million of the 20 million people living in the metropolitan area of São Paulo city. The utility says Cantareira is now down to 5.1 percent of its capacity of 264 billion gallons (1 trillion liters).
Sabesp official Paulo Massato Yoshimoto said Wednesday that "rationing could happen if rainfall does not increase in the reservoir area soon."
By Jeremy Hance
28 January 2015
(mongabay.com) – The world's migrating monarch butterfly population has bounced back slightly from its record low last year, but the new numbers are still the second smallest on record. According to WWF-Mexico and the Mexican government, butterflies covered 2.79 acres (1.13 hectares) in nine colonies this year in the Mexican forests where the insects overwinter. This is a 69 percent increase from last year's nadir of just 1.65 acres (0.67 hectares), however, the new numbers remain hugely concerning.
"The population increase is welcome news, but the monarch must reach a much larger population size to be able to bounce back from ups and downs," said researcher Tierra Curry with the Center for Biological Diversity, adding that "this much-loved butterfly still needs Endangered Species Act protection to ensure that it's around for future generations."
Last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it would consider adding the vanishing insect under the country's Endangered Species Act. Currently, the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is not at risk of extinction, but its migration is. Monarch butterflies in the Eastern U.S. are famous for their epic migration spanning some 1,900 to 4,500 kilometers (1,200 to 2,800 miles) from Canada to the mountains of central Mexico every year. Each migration takes several monarch generations to complete, often three to four.
In the 1990s—when scientists first started counting the area filled by migrating monarch butterflies in Mexico—the overwintering habitat never dipped below 13 acres (five hectares). The largest population covered 44.95 acres (18.19 hectares) in 1993. But the trend over the last decade has been one of extensive decline, with various rises and falls.
A decade ago, conservationists were largely concerned with deforestation and illegal logging in Mexico's overwintering forests. However, due to work by indigenous groups, locals, and the Mexican government that threat has been largely neutralized, at least for the time being. Today the biggest threat is the loss of food and habitat across the U.S. and Canada due to herbicides and increasingly intensified agriculture.
According to WWF, herbicide use in the U.S. for soy and corn killed off 58 percent of the country's milkweed from 1999 to 2010, resulting in a monarch decline of 81 percent. The development of genetically modified crops has exacerbated the situation as these crops are resistant to the popular herbicide, Roundup. However, Roundup and other herbicides containing glyphosate decimate milkweed populations. Monarch butterfly caterpillars feed solely on milkweed, meaning the species requires a road of milkweed from Canada through Eastern and Central U.S. down to Mexico in order to survive. But agriculture policy in the last couple decades, especially in the U.S., has resulted in a massively fragmented milkweed route. [more]
27 January 2015 (WWF) – A new survey of migratory monarch butterflies at their wintering habitat shows a 69% increase in the area they occupied this winter in relation to last year’s winter. Yet this is still the second smallest area occupied by these butterflies in Mexican sanctuaries since 1993.
Monarch butterflies, which hibernate in Mexico, migrate between 1,200 to 2,800 miles from Canada and the United States to establish their colonies in temperate forests in the outskirts of Michoacán and the State of Mexico. The forest area occupied by these colonies serves as an indirect indicator of the number of butterflies that come to Mexico.
To survey these colonies, biweekly trips were made to colonies with a historic presence of butterflies, and the location and perimeters occupied by monarchs was determined using a spatial analysis software. The study was carried out by the WWF-Telcel Alliance and Mexico’s National Commission of Protected Natural Areas. In total, nine monarch butterfly colonies were recorded, both inside and outside of the Monarch Butterfly Reserve.
“The 2.79 acres occupied by monarchs this season should serve as additional motivation for the leaders of Canada, Mexico, and the United States to translate the commitment they made in Mexico in February 2014, to concrete and immediate actions”, said Omar Vidal, Director General of WWF in Mexico. “It is crucial that we restore and protect the habitat of this iconic species in all three countries, but above all that we limit the use of herbicide and land conversion in the United States and maintain efforts to avoid deforestation in Mexico”, he added.
Across their migratory route, monarch butterflies face many threats to their survival. In the US, a loss in breeding habitat is linked to a decrease of milkweed—the main food source for monarch larvae—due to herbicide use and land conversion. In Mexico, monarch hibernation sites are threatened by illegal logging. And extreme climate conditions in Canada, the US and Mexico all contribute to the dramatic decrease in monarch butterflies that hibernate in Mexico.
Though much must still be done, coordinated efforts in the core zone of the Monarch Butterfly Reserve are making a difference. Deforestation and forest degradation due to illegal logging in the core zone of the Monarch Reserve drastically decreased thanks to the commitment made by the ejidos and indigenous communities of the Reserve, the surveillance efforts and funding for environmental services from Mexican authorities, and the support of philanthropists and Mexican and International companies such as Telcel, the Carlos Slim Foundation and the Yves Rocher Foundation of France, which promote sustainable projects for residents.
South Australia to get much hotter and drier, new climate change report warns – ‘There is very high confidence that hot days will become more frequent and hotter’0 comments Posted by Jim at Tuesday, January 27, 2015
By KATRINA STOKES
27 January 2015
(The Advertiser) – South Australia is only going to get hotter and drier and more prevalent periods of drought and fire-related conditions will continue to increase, a report released today reveals.
The CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology report says what climate change experts have been saying for a long time — climate change is real.
The experts predict Adelaide will experience an increase in the number of days above 35C from 20 in 1995 to 26 in 2030, to between 28 and 47 in 2090.
The report states global warming will push southern Australia into drought for longer periods and droughts across Australia will become more extreme.
Fire weather is also expected to increase, seas will rise further and faster and the water will become more acidic.
In bad news for farmers in South Australia, winter and spring rainfall is projected to decrease and by 2090, the predictions of rainfall decreases are “strongly evident”.
Drought could also increase across the state, with forecasters predicting “high confidence” of this occurring, while projected warming and drying will lead to fire fuel loads that are drier and more ready to burn.
Key predictions from the report include:
WINTER and spring rainfall in southern Australia is projected to decline, while changes in other areas are uncertain
THE time in drought will increase over southern Australia, with a greater frequency of severe droughts
BY 2090, Australian average temperatures are projected to increase by 0.6 to 1.7C for a low emissions scenario, or 2.8 to 5.1C under a high emission scenario
MORE hot days are like to occur as well as harsher fire weather, including an increase in the number of days with a “severe” fire danger rating
Climate Institute chief executive officer John Connor said the report findings demonstrated why it was in Australia’s best interest to “drive ambitious climate action”.
“This new data reinforces earlier analysis for Treasury (the government) that showed large chunks of the Australian economy will be whacked by global warming ... sectors like agriculture, health and ecosystems are hit well beyond their ability to adapt,” he said.
Opposition climate change spokesman Mark Butler said the latest report painted a “grim picture” for Australia if the Government did not take significant action on climate change. [more]
27 January 2015 (CSIRO) – CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology today released climate change projections for Australia that provide updated national and regional information on how the climate may change to the end of the 21st century.
The projections are the most comprehensive ever released for Australia and have been prepared with an emphasis on informing impact assessment and planning in the natural resource management sector. Information has been drawn from simulations based on up to 40 global climate models.
CSIRO and Bureau researchers have confirmed that most of the changes observed over recent decades will continue into the future.
“There is very high confidence* that hot days will become more frequent and hotter”, CSIRO principal research scientist, Kevin Hennessy said.
“We also have very high confidence that sea levels will rise, oceans will become more acidic, and snow depths will decline”.
“We expect that extreme rainfall events across the nation are likely to become more intense, even where annual-average rainfall is projected to decline.”
In southern mainland Australia, winter and spring rainfall is projected to decrease, but increases are projected for Tasmania in winter.
For the rest of Australia, naturally occurring fluctuations in rainfall patterns will dominate over trends due to climate change until 2030, after which the trends associated with climate change will begin to emerge.
By 2090, winter rainfall is expected to decrease in eastern Australia.
Southern and eastern Australia are projected to experience harsher fire weather, while tropical cyclones may occur less often, but become more intense.
“This research has been strongly aligned with the needs of Australia’s natural resources sector”, Mr Hennessy said. “Other researchers are using this information to assess potential impacts and management options.”
Projected changes will be superimposed on significant natural climate variability.
Observed climate information indicates that Australian average surface air temperature has increased by 0.9° C since 1910, and many heat-related records have been broken in recent years. Sea level has risen about 20 cm over the past century.
The Bureau of Meteorology has observed that since the 1970s, northern Australia has become wetter, southern Australia has become drier, the number of extreme fire weather days has increased in many places, and heavy rainfall has accounted for an increasing proportion of annual-total rainfall.
Snow depths have declined since the 1950s and cyclone frequency seems to have declined since the 1980s.
The reports can be downloaded from www.climatechangeinaustralia.gov.au.
The new climate change projections for Australia are funded by the Department of the Environment through the NRM Planning for Climate Change Fund with co-funding from CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology.
Learn more about long term trends in Australian climate on State of the Climate 2014 [external link].
Read more media releases in our Media section.
* Further information on how confidence is defined can be found in Chapter 6 of the Projections for Australia’s NRM Regions Technical Report (page 88).
Koch brothers to pour $889 million into 2016 elections – ‘There is no network akin to this one in terms of its complexity, scope and resources’1 comments Posted by Jim at Tuesday, January 27, 2015
By Fredreka Schouten
27 January 2015
WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) – Top officials in the Koch brothers' political organization Monday released a staggering $889 million budget to fund the activities of the billionaires' sprawling network ahead of the 2016 presidential contest.
The budget, which pays for everything from advertising and data-gathering technology to grass-roots activism, was released to donors attending the annual winter meeting of Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, according to an attendee.
Freedom Partners sits at the center of the vast operation, and in 2012 alone, spent nearly $240 million as it funded nearly three dozen organizations, ranging from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to smaller Tea Party groups.
The fundraising target is the latest indication that the industrialists at the center of the network, Charles and David Koch, intend to continue building an operation that could exceed the national political parties in size and scope to help advance their libertarian principles. The spending, unrivaled for an outside organization, represents more than double the nearly $400 million the Republican National Committee (RNC) raised and spent during the 2012 presidential election cycle. […]
During last year's midterm elections, Koch-affiliated groups spent millions in advertising to successfully toss out Democrats from the Senate and put the chamber in Republican control. In all, the Koch network is believed to have spent $290 million to help shape 2014 election results.
"We have never seen this before," Sheila Krumholz, who runs the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, said of the Kochs' planned spending, "There is no network akin to this one in terms of its complexity, scope and resources." [more]