Ecuador authorities are keeping tabs on a fleet of roughly 260 fishing boats near the Galapagos Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ecuadorian boats are patrolling to try to stop the fishing boats from entering the area, according to Reuters.
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By Harry Kretchmer
Since its launch in 2016, over half a billion people have used Ant Forest to convert lower-carbon activities such as using public transport into real trees.
The world is getting greener, with China and India leading the way. NASA / Nature Sustainability
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The Trump administration began the formal process of withdrawing from the World Health Organization (WHO), a White House official said Tuesday, even as coronavirus cases continue to surge in the country.
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A herdsman in the Chinese autonomous region of Inner Mongolia was diagnosed with the bubonic plague Sunday, The New York Times reported.
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Scientists in China have identified a strain of H1N1 that is rapidly spreading amongst workers in the country's pig farms. They warn that the fast spreading strain of swine flu has pandemic potential, if it is not contained quickly, according to The New York Times.
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By Chris Arsenault
A first ever study has provided detailed estimates of greenhouse gas emissions across the entire soy producing agribusiness sector in Brazil. The study, published in the journal Global Environmental Change, found that countries and companies in the European Union and China importing soy from Brazil have driven deforestation there, causing a marked increase in greenhouse gas emissions, particularly when the soy came from certain regions.
A soy plantation in the Brazilian Cerrado. Alicia Prager / Mongabay.
A tractor works to turn deforested land into a soy field in São Desidério, Bahia state, Brazil in 2017. Jim Wickens Ecostorm / Mighty Earth
“Underground Forest”<p>Lucia von Reusner, campaign director at Mighty Earth, a U.S.-based environmental NGO, said the study is crucial for highlighting deforestation risks in Brazil's Cerrado. "It's one of the world's most biodiverse savannas and a huge concern for people who care about some of the world's most beautiful and threatened species." Also, "Deforestation is one of the biggest drivers of climate change."</p><p>The region has been dubbed an "underground forest" due to the complex root systems of shrubs and small trees, which retain soil and sequester tremendous sums of carbon, she added in an interview with Mongabay. "When the soy industry moves in, all of that is ripped up and burned. All the carbon stored in the roots, trees and soils is burned and released into the atmosphere."</p><p>The Cerrado, dubbed "Brazil's last agricultural frontier" has some of the highest deforestation rates in Latin America, von Reusner said, with only 50% of its native vegetation remaining. The greatest CO2 emissions occurring in the Cerrado during the 2010-15 study period arose in the so-called MATOPIBA region, comprising the states of Maranhão, Tocantins, Piauí, and Bahia. Though the study offered no current deforestation or carbon emission data, MATOPIBA continues to be an agribusiness powerhouse today, a <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2020/01/communities-in-brazilian-cerrado-besieged-by-global-demand-for-soy/" target="_blank">center of soy production and deforestation</a>.</p>
This map shows total carbon dioxide emissions embedded in Brazilian soy imports for different regions between 2010 and 2015. The European Union imported 67.6 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions embodied in Brazilian soy, while China imported 118.1 million tons of emissions. Escobar, N. et al.
This graph shows total carbon dioxide emissions embodied by Brazil soy imports in major soy importing countries from 2010 to 2015. Escobar, N. et al.
Examining Total Emissions From Soy<p>The study is the first to provide an estimate of greenhouse gas emissions across the entire soy sector in Brazil with such a high level of detail. To come to their conclusions, researchers analyzed data from 90,000 different soy supply chains between 2010 and 2015.</p><p>Soy is the most internationally traded agricultural commodity on earth, so analyzing data and strategies to reduce its impact on climate change is crucial for policymakers who want to preserve forests while simultaneously reducing emissions.</p><p>"This study does a good job in noting where along the supply chain we can pinpoint to reduce emissions," said University of California, Santa Barbara, land systems scientist Robert Heilmayr. He researches deforestation in Brazil and was not involved in the recent study.</p><p>The depth of the paper's data helps underscore how the Cerrado is "a new frontier in deforestation," he added, and establishes the importance of including the savanna in any plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions, as compared to other soy producing regions of Brazil.</p><p>In the Amazon rainforest, a moratorium on clearing new lands for soy was launched in 2006, which <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2015/01/brazils-soy-moratorium-dramatically-reduced-amazon-deforestation/" target="_blank">greatly reduced</a> the conversion of rainforests to make way for new soy plantations. The moratorium continues to work, though <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2020/06/14-straight-months-of-rising-amazon-deforestation-in-brazil/" target="_blank">Amazon deforestation is increasing</a> due to intense cattle ranching and mining pressures. One study found that the slowing of soy growth in Amazonia, merely <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2018/11/saving-the-amazon-has-come-at-the-cost-of-cerrado-deforestation-study/" target="_blank">shifted and intensified</a> soy production in the Cerrado.</p><p>Extending the Amazon Soy Moratorium into the Cerrado, via the so-called <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2018/03/cerrado-manifesto-could-curb-deforestation-but-needs-support-experts/" target="_blank">Cerrado Manifesto</a> or <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2020/06/14-straight-months-of-rising-amazon-deforestation-in-brazil/" target="_blank">other initiatives</a> — something transnational commodities companies have strongly resisted — could help reduce deforestation related to soy there, Heilmayr and <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2018/08/more-companies-sign-on-to-cerrado-manifesto/" target="_blank">others contend</a>.</p>
Data was gathered from 90,000 soy supply chains and shows how the amount of greenhouse gases released from soy production, processing and export varies between Brazilian municipalities, and from year to year. This map indicates carbon dioxide emissions from soy exports from around Brazil between 2010-15. Escobar, N. et al.
Complicated Supply Chains<p>Deforestation isn't the only cause of soy-related emissions, Escobar explained. Transportation of soy from remote rural production areas to the South American coast especially by truck is another significant driver of carbon emissions.</p><p>In some inland communities in Brazil's center-west region, where poor infrastructure means soy needs to be trucked over long distances, transportation accounts for about 60% of total carbon emissions, especially from export-oriented municipalities in Goiás and Mato Grosso states. This has in part justified vigorous efforts to construct less carbon intensive <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2018/10/grainrail-2nd-revolution-in-brazilian-agribusiness-and-amazon-threat/" target="_blank">rail lines</a> and <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2017/01/battle-for-the-amazon-tapajos-basin-threatened-by-massive-development/" target="_blank">industrial waterways</a> connecting Brazil's interior with its coastal ports — though environmentalists worry about the deforestation such infrastructure might bring with it.</p><p>The global trade in agricultural food products more than doubled between 2000 and 2015, from US$600 billion to over US$1,300 billion, according to data from the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). But most of the soy exported from Brazil isn't actually eaten by people, explained Reusner; it's primarily used for animal feed or biodiesel.</p><p>To produce enough food for a growing global population, she said transnational companies should incentivize producers to not clear forests for new plantations, but plant soy on land that's already been degraded. <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2018/05/brazil-has-the-tools-to-end-amazon-deforestation-now-report/" target="_blank">Studies have shown</a> that Brazil has plenty of degraded land to meet global commodity demands, without causing any new deforestation.</p><p>"There is enough degraded land across Latin America to meet the needs of global markets to avoid compromising some of our last remaining ecosystems," she said.</p>
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By Neil Carter
Tigers are one of the world's most iconic wild species, but today they are endangered throughout Asia. They once roamed across much of this region, but widespread habitat loss, prey depletion and poaching have reduced their numbers to only about 4,000 individuals. They live in small pockets of habitat across South and Southeast Asia, as well as the Russian Far East — an area spanning 13 countries and 450,000 square miles (1,160,000 square kilometers).
Letting Humans In<p>Road construction <a href="http://tigers.panda.org/news/asias-infrastructure-development-threatens-worlds-tigers/" target="_blank">worsens existing threats to tigers</a>, such as poaching and development, by paving the way for human intrusion into the heart of the tiger's range. For example, in the Russian Far East, roads have led to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7998.2008.00458.x" target="_blank">higher tiger mortality</a> due to increased collisions with vehicles and more encounters with poachers.</p><p>To assess this threat across Asia, we focused on areas called Tiger Conservation Landscapes — 76 zones, scattered across the tiger's range, which conservationists see as crucial for the species' recovery. For each zone we calculated road density, distance to the nearest road and relative mean species abundance, which estimates the numbers of mammals in areas near roads compared to areas far from roads. <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1522488113" target="_blank">Mean species abundance</a> is our best proxy for estimating how roads affect numbers of mammals, like tigers and their prey, across broad scales.</p><p>We also used <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aabd42" target="_blank">future projections of road building</a> in each country to forecast the length of new roads that might be built in tiger habitats by 2050.</p>
More Roads, Fewer Animals<p>We estimated that more than 83,300 miles (134,000 kilometers) of roads already exist within tiger habitats. This is likely an underestimate, since many logging or local roads are missing from the global data set that we used.</p><p>Road densities in tiger habitat are one-third greater outside of protected areas, such as national parks and tiger reserves, than inside of protected areas. Non-protected areas averaged 1,300 feet of road per square mile (154 meters per square kilometer), while protected areas averaged 980 feet per square mile (115 meters per square kilometer). For tiger populations to grow, they will need to use the forests outside protected areas. However, the high density of roads in those forests will jeopardize tiger recovery.</p><p>Protected areas and priority conservation sites — areas with large populations of tigers — are not immune either. For example, in India — home to more than <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/07/29/746237332/census-finds-nearly-3-000-tigers-in-india" target="_blank">70% of the world's tigers</a> — we estimate that a protected area of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiger_reserves_of_India" target="_blank">500 square miles, or 1,300 square kilometers</a>, contains about 200 miles (320 kilometers) of road.</p><p>Road networks are expansive. More than 40% of areas where tiger breeding has recently been detected — crucial to tiger population growth — is within just 3 miles (5 kilometers) of a nearby road. This is problematic because <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2010.02.009" target="_blank">mammals often are less abundant</a> this close to roads.</p><p>In fact, we estimate that current road networks within tiger habitats may be reducing local populations of tigers and their prey by about 20%. That's a major decrease for a species on the brink of extinction. And the threats from roads are likely to become more severe.</p>
Estimated road densities for 76 tiger conservation landscapes (colored zones), with darker red indicating more roads per unit area. Neil Carter / CC BY-ND
Making Infrastructure Tiger-Friendly<p>Our findings underscore the need for planning development in ways that interfere as minimally as possible with tiger habitat. Multilateral development banks and massive ventures like the Belt and Road Initiative can be important partners in this endeavor. For example, they could help establish an international network of protected areas and habitat corridors to safeguard tigers and many other wild species from road impacts.</p><p>National laws can also do more to promote <a href="https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/27751" target="_blank">tiger-friendly infrastructure planning</a>. This includes keeping road development away from priority tiger populations and other "no go" zones, such as tiger reserves or habitat corridors.</p><p>Zoning can be used around infrastructure to prevent settlement growth and forest loss. Environmental impact assessments for road projects can do a better job of assessing how new roads might exacerbate hunting and poaching pressure on tigers and their prey.</p><p>Funding agencies need to screen proposed road developments using these tiger-friendly criteria before planners finalize decisions on road design, siting and construction. Otherwise, it might be too late to influence road planning.</p><p>There are also opportunities to reduce the negative effects of existing roads on tigers. They include closing roads to vehicular traffic at night, decommissioning existing roads in areas with important tiger populations, adding road signs announcing the presence of tigers and constructing wildlife crossings to allow tigers and other wildlife to move freely through the landscape.</p><p>Roads will become more pervasive features in Asian ecosystems as these nations develop. In my view, now is the time to tackle this mounting challenge to Asian biodiversity, including tigers, through research, national and international collaborations and strong political leadership.</p>
Officials in China have revised the total death toll from the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, the city where the infectious disease was first reported. The new numbers that China released Friday increase the number of COVID-19 deaths by 1,290, or a 50 percent increase, as CNN reported.
By Charli Shield
After the novel coronavirus broke out in Wuhan, China in late December 2019, it didn't take long for conspiracy theorists to claim it was manufactured in a nearby lab.
Deforestation, habitat encroachment<p>As people move further into the territories of wild animals to clear forests, raise livestock, hunt and extract resources, we are increasingly exposed to the pathogens that normally never leave these places and the bodies they inhabit.</p><p>"We're getting closer and closer to wild animals," says Yan Xiang, professor of virology at the University of Texas Health Science Center, "and that brings us into contact with these viruses."</p><p>"As you increase human population density and increase encroachment onto natural habitats, not just by people but by our domesticated animals, you're increasing the rolls on the die," David Hayman, professor of infectious disease ecology at Massey University in New Zealand, told DW.</p><p>But, as well as increasing the likelihood of transfer, ecosystem disruption also has an impact on how many viruses exist in the wild and how they behave.</p>
Wildlife trade<p>So-called "wet markets" selling produce, meat and live animals provide another incubator for the emergence of infectious disease. Scientists <a href="https://www.cell.com/action/showPdf?pii=S0092-8674%2820%2930328-7" target="_blank">believe</a> there's a strong possibility SARS-CoV-2 emerged at a wet market in Wuhan, China.</p><p>Cramming stressed, sick animals into cages together is, in many ways, the "perfect setting" to incubate new pathogens, Spangenberg says, and "an excellent way to transfer diseases from one species to another." For that reason, many scientists, including Spangenberg, say the world needs, at the very least, to introduce strict regulations for live animal markets.</p><p>That's the message from Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, the United Nations' biodiversity chief, who has called for a global ban on wildlife markets.</p><p>But as Mrema also pointed out, millions of people — particularly in low-income communities — rely on the food and income sources these markets provide.</p><p>That's part of what makes solutions to preventing disease outbreak complex, according to Hayman. Animal exploitation is one part of it, he says. But "poverty, access to jobs, how people are treated in remote areas, the way people engage with food" also contribute to conditions that lead to spillovers.</p>
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In a move roundly decried by public health experts, President Donald Trump announced Tuesday he would halt U.S. funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) as his administration investigates the international body's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
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