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An upaved road in rural Congo, province of Equateur. guenterguni / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Congo Basin Rainforest Could Be Gone by 2100

By Morgan Erickson-Davis

Africa's Congo Basin is home to the second largest rainforest on the planet. But according to a new study, this may soon not be the case. It finds that at current rates of deforestation, all primary forest will be gone by the end of the century.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland (UMD) in the U.S. who analyzed satellite data collected between 2000 and 2014. Their results were published Wednesday in Science Advances. It reveals that the Congo Basin lost around 165,000 square kilometers (approximately 64,000 square miles) of forest during their study period.

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zodebala / iStock

Investigators Find Slave Labor on Starbucks-Certified Brazil Coffee Plantation

By Daniela Penha and Roberto Cataldo, Translator

This story was produced via a co-publishing partnership between Mongabay and Repórter Brasil and can be read in Portuguese here.

At first sight, the Córrego das Almas farm in Piumhi, in rural Minas Gerais state, seems to be a model property. "No slave or forced labor is allowed," reads one of several signs that display international certifications—including one linked to the U.S. based company Starbucks corporation.

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Climate
The Blue Nile Falls / Tis Abay / Tis Issat near Bahar Dar, Ethiopia, East Africa. Arterra / UIG via Getty Images

Pay More Attention to Forests to Avert Global Water Crisis, Researchers Urge

Australia's Murray Darling basin covers more than a million square kilometers (approximately 386,000 square miles), 14 percent of the country's landmass. It's the site of tens of thousands of wetlands, but increasing demand for water has stretched its resources to the limit.

Many of the basin's wetlands and floodplain forests are declining—several former wetlands and forests have even been consumed by bushfires, which are becoming more frequent every year. Yet when Australian officials sought to introduce strict water allocation rules, they met with fierce resistance from farmers in the region who depend on irrigation for their livelihood.

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Oceans
Accumulated garbage on a beach on Msasani Bay in Tanzania. Loranchet / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

Solution to Ocean’s Plastic Waste Problem ‘Starts With Product Design’

By John C. Cannon

Solving the problem of the growing amount of plastic in the ocean requires rethinking how we use and design plastic products, a group of scientists said at the European Open Science Forum (ESOF18) on July 10.

To address the issue, we need to "properly consider the product's life and its end of life right from the beginning, from the design stage," said Richard Thompson, a marine biologist at the University of Plymouth in the UK.

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Animals
The pumpkin toadlet (Brachycephalus ephippium), endemic to Brazil's Atlantic Forest, is highly susceptible to the hybrid Bd fungus. Gui Becker

Global Frog Pandemic May Become Even Deadlier as Strains Combine

By Morgan Erickson-Davis

A fungus that has decimated frog populations around the world could get even deadlier, according to new research. The study found that hybridization of different types of the fungus creates strains that can cause greater mortality in frogs. And it warns that deforestation could make this impact worse.

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A Bornean orangutan in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo. An endangered species, the ape is threatened by the unbridled expansion of oil palm plantations into their forest homes. Rhett A. Butler / Mongabay

What’s Worse Than Palm Oil for the Environment? Other Vegetable Oils, IUCN Study Finds

By Hans Nicholas Jong

Banning palm oil in favor of other vegetable oils deemed less destructive to the environment could lead to greater biodiversity losses, a new report says.

The report by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) comes amid mounting debate about the use of palm oil, with the European Union seeking to phase out the use of the ubiquitous commodity in biofuels by 2030, citing environmental and human rights violations in the production of the commodity.

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Animals
Tucuxi Amazon river dolphins (Sotalia fluviatilis). Projeto Boto

Hunting, Fishing Cause Dramatic Decline in Amazon River Dolphins

By Claire Asher

Populations of two species of river dolphin in the Amazon are halving every decade, according to the results of a twenty-two year survey.

The Amazon rainforest is home to the Amazon river dolphin, or Boto (Inia geoffrensis) and the Tucuxi (Sotalia fluviatilis). But the results of a long-term study published in PLoS ONE show that both of these once abundant aquatic mammals are now in rapid decline in the Brazilian Amazon, likely due to hunting and fishing.

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Oceans
Seagrass meadows are vital ecosystems for marine animals. P. Lindgren / Wikimedia Commons

There’s Now an App for Mapping Seagrass, the Oceans’ Great Carbon Sink

The launch of an online crowdsourcing database for seagrass hopes to breathe new life into efforts to conserve the underwater flowering plants, which act as both important habitats for marine species and a major store of carbon dioxide.

Patchy mapping of seagrass meadows has hampered efforts to protect the plants (which are distinct from seaweed) from threats such as coastal development, sedimentation, coral farming and sand mining, according to Richard Unsworth, a marine biologist at Swansea University in the UK and co-founder of environmental charity Project Seagrass.

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Animals
vil.sandi / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Sifaka Lemurs Listed as 'Critically Endangered' Amid Mysterious Die-Off

By Edward Carver

Lemurs in Madagascar have been under pressure from deforestation, poaching, drought and other challenges for years. Now, in the much-visited Berenty Reserve near the island's southern tip, one species faces a mysterious new threat.

In the last month and a half, at least 31 Verreaux's sifakas (Propithecus verreauxi) have died in the reserve. Most were found already dead; others were found gravely ill and later died from respiratory failure. Berenty staff and local scientists have reached out to veterinarians and primatologists across the world. The experts believe that a parasite or tick-borne disease is likely to blame, but the exact cause remains unknown.

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