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David Ledig / BLM

Otters, Polar Bears and Abraham Lincoln: The Best New Environmental Books of December

By John R. Platt

It's the last month of the year, which means holidays galore—and, of course, plenty of reasons to give (and receive) books. Here are our picks for the eight best new environmental books coming out in December, with titles covering a range of challenging topics, delightful creatures and painful histories. Whether you're giving or receiving (or just buying copies for yourself), these are all books that should help to inform and energize any reader for the coming year ahead.

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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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Animals
The fishing vessel Vema, arrested for shark finning. Sea Shepherd Global

Commercial Fishing Vessel Busted in Africa for Shark Finning

On Sept. 22, local authorities from the Central African island state of São Tomé and Príncipe boarded the Senegalese-flagged, but Spanish-linked, long-line fishing vessel Vema in a joint operation with Sea Shepherd marine conservationists and Gabonese law enforcement officers called Operation Albacore III.

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Residents stand in a long queue to fill water containers on May 27 in Shimla, India. Deepak Sansta / Hindustan Times / Getty Images

World Peace Requires Access to Safe Water

International Peace Day is Sept. 21. Mekela Panditharatne, attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, submitted the following op-ed to EcoWatch in commemoration.

In drought-ravaged East Africa, the cracks in the plains echo the fault lines splitting tribes.

Across the globe, the devastation of deadly brawls is being exacerbated by tensions over access to water. Water crises, often worsened by governance failures, can portend warning signs for instability and conflict. This year, the World Resources Institute cautioned that water stress is growing globally, "with 33 countries projected to face extremely high stress in 2040." The effects of such water stress span the gamut from civil unrest to open warfare.

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Animals
Elephants in Botswana, Chobe National Park. i_pinz / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

87 Elephants Killed for Ivory Near Botswana Sanctuary

Update, Sept. 13: The bottom of this article has been updated with a statement from the Botswana government.

At least 87 elephants were killed for their tusks near the Okavango Delta wildlife sanctuary in Botswana—the largest scale of poaching deaths ever seen in Africa, according to conservation nonprofit Elephants Without Borders.

They "discovered the alarming rate while flying the Botswana government aerial [elephant] census," the organization said in a Facebook post.

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A baobab in Tanzania. Yoky / GNU Free Documentation License

Africa’s Iconic Baobabs Are Dying, Including World's OIdest Flowering Tree

When researchers set out to investigate the structure, growth and age of Africa's iconic baobab trees—the largest and longest-living flowering trees in the world—they received a devastating surprise. Many of the oldest, largest baobabs were dead or dying.

The final study, published in Nature Plants Monday, reported that nine of the 13 oldest and five of the six largest African baobabs had entirely or partly died during the research period from 2005 to 2017. The oldest was 2,500 years old.

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Animals
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Can We Protect Elephants by Eavesdropping on Their Underground Messages?

By Jason Bittel

In the late 1990s, scientists discovered that elephants had a secret way of communicating, a vocalization so low in frequency it is imperceptible to the human ear. It's called infrasound. The ponderous pachyderms transmit these secret messages at least partly through the ground. When an elephant really lets loose, its infrasound can reverberate almost four miles through the rocks and sands of the savanna.

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Train Carrying 250,000 Liters of Fuel Derails on Kenyan Coast

A cargo train carrying 250,000 liters (66,000 gallons) of super petroleum, or unleaded gasoline, derailed off its tracks after taking a sharp turn along Kenya's eastern coast, forcing the closure of a major highway over the weekend, according to local reports.

The accident occurred early Sunday in Kibarani in Mombasa County, and prompted authorities to completely close off Makupa Causeway, the main link between the mainland and Mombasa Island, fearing a fire would break out after spillage of the highly flammable liquid, The Star, Kenya reported.

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Climate
Tadrart Acacus desert in western Libya, part of the Sahara. Luca Galuzzi - www.galuzzi.it / Wikimedia Commons

World's Largest Desert Growing Even Larger, Partly Due to Climate Change

The Sahara Desert—which takes up about 3.6 million square miles of northern Africa—is growing ever larger, signaling daunting news for people living in the Sahel border region who stand to lose valuable arable land to the expanding desert.

The boundaries of the world's largest hot desert, already around the size of China or the continental U.S, have grown roughly 10 percent since 1920 due to natural climate cycles as well as man-made climate change, according to a new study by National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded scientists at the University of Maryland.

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