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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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Aerial view of the Amazon Rainforest, near Manaus, the capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas. Neil Palmer, CIAT / CC BY 2.0

Tropical Forests Lost 40 Football Fields of Tree Cover Per Minute in 2017

New University of Maryland data published by Global Forest Watch (GFW) Wednesday revealed 2017 as the second-worst year on record for tropical tree cover loss, a GFW blog announced.

Tropical tree cover decreased by an area the size of Bangladesh—a total of 39 million acres. That amounts to 40 football fields worth of trees cut every minute of last year in a devastating blow to biodiversity and the global climate.

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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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Climate
Rising carbon dioxide levels could lead to fewer moisture clouds forming over the Amazon rainforest. Ana_Cotta / CC BY 2.0

Climate Change Could Bring Drought to Amazon, Greater Rain to Pacific and African Forests

Scientists have discovered another factor that might interact with rising carbon dioxide emissions to influence climate change—tropical forests.

In a study published in Nature Climate Change Friday, researchers found that the way tropical forests interact with increased atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide could alter rainfall patterns, drying out the Amazon rainforest and increasing precipitation in African and Indonesian forests.

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Climate
Landcover, forest clearance and plantation development in PT Megakarya Jaya Raya palm oil concession. PT MJR is part of the Hayel Saeed Anam group which has a number of palm oil related interests including Pacific Inter-Link which controls HSA's palm oil refining and trading interests. Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace

Exclusive New Video from Greenpeace Reveals Massive Deforestation in Indonesia

A palm oil supplier to Mars, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever is destroying rainforests in Papua, Indonesia, a new investigation by Greenpeace International has revealed. Satellite analysis suggests that around 4,000 hectare of rainforest were cleared in PT Megakarya Jaya Raya concession between May 2015 and April 2017—an area almost half the size of Paris.

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Xinhua

Oil Spill Now Larger Than Paris Ravages Indonesian Island, 5 Dead

By Basten Gokkon

An oil spill in Borneo that began over the past weekend has now spread across an area greater than the city of Paris and is heading out to the open ocean, the Indonesian government said.

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Energy

Deadly Oil Spill Leaves Indonesian Bay 'Like a Gas Station'

Indonesia has declared a state of emergency after a large oil spill ignited and killed at least four people in the port city of Balikpapan off the island of Borneo over the weekend.

The blaze is now under control but the oil continues to spread. According to BBC News, the slick currently covers an area of seven square miles and threatens to further pollute the waters.

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Rich Horner / Facebook

'Plastic, Plastic, So Much Plastic!': Diver Films Sea of Trash Off Bali

British diver Rich Horner posted footage of his plastic-infested swim off Bali's Manta Point on Saturday.

"The ocean currents brought us in a lovely gift of a slick of jellyfish, plankton, leaves, branches, fronds, sticks, etc.... Oh, and some plastic," Horner wrote on Facebook. "Some plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic cups, plastic sheets, plastic buckets, plastic sachets, plastic straws, plastic baskets, plastic bags, more plastic bags, plastic, plastic, so much plastic!"

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Animals
Female Bornean orangutan with offspring. Photo courtesy of Dr. Marc Ancrenaz

Ravaged by Deforestation, Borneo Loses Nearly 150,000 Orangutans in 16 Years

By Basten Gokkon

The world lost nearly 150,000 orangutans from the island of Borneo in the past 16 years due to habitat loss and killing, and is on track to lose another 45,000 by 2050, according to a new paper in the journal Current Biology.

The study, published Feb. 15, observed 36,555 orangutan nests across Borneo, an island that is shared between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, between 1999 and 2015. During that period, the researchers reported a steep decline in the number of nests they encountered over a given distance: the encounter rate more than halved from 22.5 nests per kilometer (about 36 per mile) to 10.1 nests per kilometer. That decline, they calculate, represents an estimated loss of 148,500 individual Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus).

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