By Mike Gaworecki
Today we take a look at efforts to protect the Cross River gorilla, one of the world's rarest great ape subspecies, which include a radio program broadcast to nearly 4 million Nigerians that is helping to address the attitudes and knowledge gaps that lead to the human behaviors threatening the gorillas' survival.
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By Claire Turrell
Languishing in the soft, silty mud, the living fossil looked as if it didn't have a care in the world as it feasted on the fish left stranded in the tidal mangrove pools of the Sungei Buloh wetlands. However, the saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) might have been a little less at ease if it knew nearly 90% of its mangrove habitat in Singapore has been lost over the past century.
Smooth-coated otters (Lutrogale perspicillata) have a midday snack at Jurong Eco Garden, Singapore. JJ Harrison / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0
A marsh sandpiper (Tringa stagnatilis) at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. Lip Kee / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0
Singapore retains very little of its mangrove forests. In contrast, there are still large tracts of mangroves just across the strait in Malaysia.
A Malayan water monitor (Varanus salvator) ponders the future of its habitat. Yeowatzup / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0
One of the many denizens of Singapore's forests is the mangrove pitta (Pitta megarhyncha). JJ Harrison / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0
A tree-climbing crab (Episesarma spp.) and a couple common nerite snails (Nerita lineata) sale a mangrove tree during high tide, with a giant mudskipper (Periophthalmodon schlosseri) close behind. Sundar / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0<p>When it comes to gauging the success of reforestation projects like One Million Trees, Jurgenne Primavera, former co-chair of the IUCN Mangrove Specialist Group, prefers to focus on science and ecology rather than targets or quotas. She said that problems with reforestation projects often arise when the wrong species are planted at the wrong sites. But she adds there are key signs when reforestation has been done effectively.</p><p>"High survival and growth rates and healthy forests of the correct trees species," Primavera told Mongabay. "For mangroves, for example, these would be <em>Avicennia marina </em>and<em> Sonneratia alba </em>along coastlines facing the open sea<em>. </em>For terrestrial species these would be native species and not exotics."</p><p>To safeguard the trees, NParks carries out regular inspections and offers best-practice workshops to organizations across the island. But Adrian Loo said that for the One Million Trees project to be considered effective, everyone needs to be involved: "The success of the project is also measured by our ability to instill a sense of stewardship among Singaporeans — towards our trees and environment."</p>
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By Tony Carnie
South Africa is home to around 1,300 of the world's roughly 7,100 remaining cheetahs. It's also the only country in the world with significant cheetah population growth, thanks largely to a nongovernmental conservation project that depends on careful and intensive human management of small, fenced-in cheetah populations. Because most of the reserves are privately funded and properly fenced, the animals benefit from higher levels of security than in the increasingly thinly funded state reserves.
Vincent van der Merwe at a cheetah translocation. Endangered Wildlife Trust
Under Pressure<p>Cheetah populations elsewhere in Southern Africa have not prospered over the past 50 years. In Zimbabwe, cheetah numbers have crashed from 1,500 in 1975, to just 170 today. Botswana's cheetah population has held steady at around 1,500 over the same period, but illegal capture for captive breeding and conflicts with farmers and the growing human population are increasing. In Namibia, there were an estimated 3,000 cheetah in in 1975; roughly 1,400 remain today.</p><p>In contrast, South Africa's cheetah numbers have grown from about 500 in 1975 to nearly 1,300 today. Van der Merwe, who is also a Ph.D. student at the University of Cape Town's Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa (iCWild), says he's confident that South Africa will soon overtake Namibia and Botswana, largely because the majority of South African cheetahs are protected and managed behind fences, whereas most of the animals in the neighboring countries remain more vulnerable on mainly unfenced lands.</p><p>Wildlife researchers Florian Weise and colleagues have reported that private stock owners in Namibia still trap cheetahs mainly for translocation, but there are few public or private reserves large enough to contain them. Weise says that conservation efforts need to focus on improving tolerance toward cheetahs in commercial livestock and game farming areas to reduce indiscriminate trapping.</p><p>Van der Merwe says fences can be both a blessing and a curse. While these barriers prevent cheetahs and other wild animals from migrating naturally to breed and feed, they also protect cheetahs from the growing tide of threats from humanity and agriculture.</p><p>To simulate natural dispersion patterns that guard against inbreeding, the trust helps landowners swap their animals with other cheetah reserves elsewhere in the country. The South African metapopulation project has been so successful in boosting numbers that the trust is having to look beyond national boundaries to secure new translocation areas in Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique.</p><p>Cheetah translocations have been going on in South Africa since the mid-1960s, when the first unsuccessful attempts were made to move scores of these animals from Namibia. These relocations were mostly unsuccessful.</p>
Charli de Vos uses a VHF antenna to locate cheetahs in Phinda Game Reserve. Tony Carnie for Mongabay
Swinging for the Fences<p>But other wildlife conservation leaders have a different perspective on cheetah conservation strategy.</p><p>Gus Mills, a senior carnivore researcher retired in 2006 from SANParks, the agency that manages South Africa's national parks, after a career of more than 30 years in Kalahari and Kruger national parks. He says the focus should be on quality of living spaces rather than the quantity of cheetahs.</p><p>Mills, who was the founder of the Endangered Wildlife Trust's Carnivore Conservation Group in 1995, and who also spent six years after retirement studying cheetahs in the Kalahari, says it's more important to properly protect and, where possible, expand the size of existing protected areas.</p><p>He also advocates a triage approach to cheetah conservation, in which scarce funds and resources are focused on protecting cheetahs in formally protected areas, rather than diluting scarce resources in an attempt to try and save every single remaining cheetah population.</p><p>"People have an obsession with numbers. But I believe that it is more important to protect large landscape and habitats properly," Mills said.</p><p>He suggests that cheetahs enclosed within small reserves live in artificial conditions: "It's almost like glorified farming."</p><p>"In the long run we have to focus on consolidating formally protected areas," he added. "Africa's human population will double by 2050, so cheetah populations in unfenced areas will become unsustainable if they are eating people's livestock."</p>
A Japanese ship that wrecked off the coast of Mauritius in July and sparked one of the worst environmental disasters in the country's history may have run aground because of birthday celebrations on board at the time.
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By Morgan Erickson-Davis
As the world heads towards 2021 with COVID-19 still raging overhead, it might be easy to forget about the other global crises. But a new app, debuted today, aims to light the way to a brighter future, showing how we can stop global warming, halt extinctions and prevent pandemics – all in one fell swoop.
‘Conserve at Least Half and in the Right Places’<p>The Global Safety Net combines six primary data layers: existing protected areas, habitats where rare species live, areas of high biodiversity, landscapes inhabited by large mammals, large areas of intact wilderness and natural landscapes that can absorb and store the most carbon.</p>
Areas of the terrestrial realm where increased conservation action is needed to protect biodiversity and store carbon. Numbers in parentheses show the percentage of total land area of Earth contributed by each set of layers. Unprotected habitats drawn from the 11 biodiversity data layers underpinning the Global Safety Net augment the current 15.1% protected with an additional 30.6% required to safeguard biodiversity. Additional CSAs add a further 4.7% of the terrestrial realm. Also shown are the wildlife and climate corridors to connect intact habitats (yellow lines). Data are available for interactive viewing at www.globalsafetynet.app. Dinerstein et al., 2020.<p>In a study accompanying the release of the platform published today in <a href="https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/36/eabb2824" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Science Advances</em></a>, the researchers describe what we need to do in order to stave off the worst effects of global warming and extinction. Overall, they found that in addition to the 15.1% of the world's land that is already protected, 35.3% will need to be added to fold over the next 10 years. This means that ultimately 50% of the planet's land area will need to be protected from further degradation to keep it under the 1.5-degree threshold and stave off ecological collapse.</p><p>The researchers were surprised how well their numbers lined up with <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Half-Earth" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">previous estimates</a> of how much of the planet needs to be set aside for nature.</p><p>"Without trying, the analysis landed on 50.4% of the terrestrial surface requiring protection," said study coauthor Karl Burkart, managing director of the NGO One Earth. "Of course conservation is much more nuanced now and strictly protected areas are just one type of land designation that can contribute towards this goal."</p><p>Zooming in, the study finds 30% of land area is of "particular importance for biological diversity." An additional 20% of land area is needed to maintain ecosystem intactness and provide additional carbon storage and absorption. The authors also note that restoration of degraded areas could help meet carbon sequestration and wildlife conservation goals.</p>
Somalia has large areas inhabited by rare species – but very few protected areas. Global Safety Net<p>It should be noted that these rankings do not take into consideration deforestation within protected areas. If so, countries like <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2020/05/takeover-of-nigerian-reserve-highlights-uphill-battle-to-save-forests/" target="_blank">Nigeria</a> and <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2020/08/brazilian-amazon-protected-areas-in-flames-as-land-grabbers-invade/" target="_blank">Brazil</a>, where protected areas are increasingly beset by illegal clearing, might not rank so high on the list. Still, the researchers say protected areas provide needed accountability and a metric with which to measure conservation effort.</p><p>"Protected Areas (or area-based targets) are certainly no guarantee of conservation outcome, as we can see with the fires burning in Brazil as we speak," Burkart told Mongabay via email. "But without them we are lost at sea."</p><p>Both Burkart and Dinerstein view area-based targets as the "North Star" of biodiversity preservation and climate protection, and say they are an important part of creating a framework for action that civil society can use to help motivate and mobilize conservation efforts.</p><p>"We've got to take conservation out of the ivory towers of academic institutions (or basements of government ministries)," Burkart said. "It is the public good we're talking about, so we need an open and transparent stocktaking of where we are right now, and what we need to immediately prioritize. Area-based targets are just the beginning, a 'blueprint' if you will of the cathedral we need to build."</p>
Will It Happen in Time?<p>If more than tripling the amount of land under official, effective protection in less than 10 years sounds daunting, you're not alone. But Dinerstein and his colleagues say it is possible.</p><p>One avenue they recommend is safeguarding Indigenous territories. The Global Safety Net shows important conservation areas often overlap with areas occupied by Indigenous communities or regarded as ancestral land, which previous research indicates contain around 80% of the planet's remaining biodiversity and contribute significantly to carbon storage. Putting land under the management of Indigenous and local communities has been shown to <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2014/07/true-stewards-new-report-says-local-communities-key-to-saving-forests-curbing-global-warming/" target="_blank">be an effective way</a> to protect it.</p><p>"Addressing indigenous land claims, upholding existing land tenure rights, and resourcing programs on indigenous-managed lands could help achieve biodiversity objectives on as much as one-third of the area required by the Global Safety Net," the researchers write in their study. "Simultaneously, this focus would positively address social justice and human rights concerns."</p><p>Protecting such a large amount of land will take a lot of money. But researchers say that the COVID-19 pandemic is showing just how quickly countries can allocate large amounts of resources if needed. And since <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02341-1" target="_blank">research shows</a> deforestation can increase the risk of outbreak of deadly diseases like Ebola and COVID-19, Dinerstein and his colleagues say there is added incentive for funding such efforts.</p><p>"The need for an ambitious global conservation agenda has taken on a new urgency in 2020 after the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus," they write in their study.</p><p>The researchers were surprised to find that only 2.3% of the planet's land area would needed to be further protected to safeguard the species most at risk of extinction. This, they say, could be accomplished within five years.</p><p>Overall, they say the investment spent on preserving these important areas of land would be offset by the trillions of dollars worth of benefits provided by a healthy environment.</p><p>"Literally billions of dollars are being spent trying to invent technologies to remove carbon from the atmosphere with very little to show for it. Meanwhile we can protect the spectacular diversity of life on this planet while simultaneously providing all the ecosystem services humanity needs by protecting and conserving the 50% of lands identified in the GSN," Burkart said. "Based on a new economic analysis, we estimate that the global safety net would cost about $200 [billion per year] to manage. This is a tiny investment for a massive return, as nature provides $33 trillion in ecosystem services every year."</p><p>For their part, Dinerstein, Burkart and their colleagues are continuing to improve the GSN, and are planning on releasing an updated version next year that will include more data layers and higher resolution. They are also developing technology to help monitor elephant populations in the hopes of reducing human-elephant conflict and prevent poaching, as well as a system that detects logging trucks before they get a chance to start cutting down trees.</p><p>"Protecting forests begins with early detection and then enforcement," Dinerstein said. "We think our ForestGuard AI is an important piece of this."</p><p>But the main thing, the researchers say, is that governments must act – and soon.</p><p>"Human societies are late in the game to rectify impending climate breakdown, massive biodiversity loss, and, now, prevent pandemics," they write. "The Global Safety Net, if erected promptly, offers a way for humanity to catch up and rebound."</p>
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By Rosamaria Loures and Sarah Sax
On an early December morning last year in the state of Maranhão, Brazil, half a dozen members of the Indigenous Guajajara people packed their bags with food, maps and drone equipment to get ready for a patrol. They said goodbye to their children, uncertain when, or whether, they would see them again. Then, they hoisted their bags over their shoulders and set out to patrol a section of the 173,000 hectares (428,000 acres) of the primary rainforest they call home.
Women warrior Rosilene Guajajara sits in her home village. Sarah Shenker / Survival<p>"Why did we take the initiative? Because we are mothers. If we don't act, there would be no forest standing," said Paula Guajajara, one of the "women warriors of the forest," in a public event last year.</p><p>Called <em>guerreiras da floresta</em> in Portuguese, this is the name these women have given themselves. They are in many ways an embodiment of what policymakers, politicians and scholars around the world say is a necessary shift toward gender equality in environmental movements. And they are contributing not just womanpower to the patrols — they are also helping to diversify the tactics and forge new partnerships.</p><p>In Brazil in particular, where protecting intact forests is one of the cheapest, easiest and most effective solutions for<a href="https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rstb.2019.0126" target="_blank"> combating climate change</a>, the work they are doing is literally saving the world.</p>
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Creating a Space and Finding Their Voice<p>Actively patrolling their land for invaders is nothing new to the Guajajara; Indigenous people have more than 500 years of experience in this. Today, they use satellite technology and coordinate efforts with outside law enforcement to achieve their goals. This approach is relatively new, but its use has been on the rise in recent years.</p><p>"Across the country more of these groups are forming because of government inaction — or worse, because the government is actively trying to exploit their lands," Sarah Shenker, campaign coordinator for Survival International's <a href="https://www.survivalinternational.org/uncontactedtribes" target="_blank">Uncontacted Tribes team</a>, said in an interview. These groups are primarily men, although women are sometimes included in the patrols. But according to Shenker, as well as other experts interviewed for this article, to have "forest guardian" groups made up solely of women is unique.</p><p>The women warriors were formed six years ago, an offshoot of a program developed by Indigenous organizations and the Brazilian government and implemented by the Ministry of the Environment to enhance the territorial and cultural protection of Indigenous people, called Projeto Demonstrativo de Povos Indígenas (PDPI) in Portuguese. At the time, the predominantly male forest guardians were attempting to end illegal logging and the sale of wood from their territory — a task that was proving extremely difficult. Seeing this, the women stepped in and formed their own group consisting originally of 32 women.</p><p>"In order not to let the project end, we, the Guajajara women, entered and took over the project," Cícera Guajajara da Silva, one of the women warriors, said in an interview.</p><p>But the path to being taken seriously and treated as equals has been long.</p><p>"To seek partnership, we walked, talked, slept on the floor — all in order to seek improvement for our community," Paula Guajajara said, recalling the initial difficulty in being heard and taken seriously inside and outside of the communities. Their patience has paid off, and the women are quick to point out the support and close collaboration of the male forest guardians that has allowed them to combat the greater goal of stopping illegal logging. "Today we have the women warriors who work together with the forest guardians," Paula Guajajara said. "We've already evicted a lot of loggers. If we hadn't acted, there would be no forest standing."</p><p>Many of the married women had already been acting independently, accompanying their husbands in some activities, according to Gilderlan Rodrigues da Silva, the Maranhão coordinator of the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI), a Catholic Church-affiliated organization, who has worked with the women warriors. "But, from the moment they created the women's group, they gained strength and visibility," he said in an interview. "Once they were formed, there was this very strong change. Both in the context of decreasing the invasions and waking up to the collective awareness to protect the territory."</p>
Why Women Are Key to Forest Conservation<p>In Brazil, and around the world, <a href="https://catarinas.info/43-mulheres-indigenas-do-brasil-e-da-america-latina-para-se-inspirar/" target="_blank">Indigenous women</a> are increasingly at the forefront of environmental movements.</p><p>"The struggle of Indigenous women happens in different ways, day by day. If I am here today, I am the fruit of the women who came in front of me," Taynara Caragiu Guajajara, a member of the Indigenous women's collective AMIMA, said during a live online event in April. "In the context of the world we live in today, we have been conquering space inside and outside the community. We Indigenous women have not always had that voice … but today the struggle is driven by Indigenous women, we are the ones who are in charge of the struggle."</p>
Maisa Guajajara, march of indigenous women, Brasilia, 2019. Marquinho Mota / FAOR<p>Women are increasingly leading the struggle on issues like climate change, but <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2019/02/gender-bias-persists-international-reporting-atlantic/582235/" target="_blank">their voices are heard much less often then men's </a>— to the detriment of everyone. This is partially a byproduct of <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2019/02/gender-bias-persists-international-reporting-atlantic/582235/" target="_blank">gender bias</a> in <a href="https://www.fastcompany.com/90401548/theres-a-gender-crisis-in-media-and-its-threatening-our-democracy" target="_blank">journalism itself</a>.</p><p>In 2015, of every four people interviewed, mentioned or seen in the news worldwide, only one was a woman, according to a report by the <a href="http://whomakesthenews.org/gmmp" target="_blank">Global Media Monitoring Project</a>, which releases its findings every five years. A closer look at the data shows that even when women are interviewed, it is for personal quotes, rather than for their expertise. It's a figure that <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2019/02/gender-bias-persists-international-reporting-atlantic/582235/" target="_blank">seems to have barely budged</a> over the past few years, although some newsrooms are starting to actively change that.</p><p>Studies show that, in general, women receive <a href="https://niemanreports.org/articles/where-are-the-women/" target="_blank">greater exposure in newspaper</a> sections led by female editors, as well as in newspapers whose editorial boards have higher female representation. But men are <a href="https://www.poynter.org/business-work/2017/women-dominate-journalism-schools-but-newsrooms-are-still-a-different-story/" target="_blank">disproportionately represented</a> from editors through to reporters, meaning that critical issues for women often go unreported. One of these areas is precisely the connection between conservation solutions and gender equality.</p><p>Women are disproportionately affected by climate change and <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/30/asia/environment-gender-violence-study-intl-hnk/index.html" target="_blank">environmental degradation</a>. <a href="https://www.unenvironment.org/resources/report/global-gender-and-environment-outlook-ggeo" target="_blank">Mounting evidence </a>shows that gender gaps and inequalities, such as inequitable land tenure and women's reduced access to energy, water and sanitation facilities, negatively impact human and environmental well-being. The climate crisis will only make <a href="https://www.unwomen.org/en/digital-library/publications/2020/03/womens-rights-in-review" target="_blank">gender disparities worse</a>.</p><p><a href="https://justassociates.org/sites/justassociates.org/files/jass_mch6._rethinking_protection_power_movements_4.pdf" target="_blank">Gender-based violence</a> against women environmental human rights defenders in particular is <a href="http://im-defensoras.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/283951300-Informe-2012-2014-de-Agresiones-contra-Defensoras-de-DDHH-en-Mesoamerica.pdf" target="_blank">on the</a> <a href="https://defenddefenders.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/FINAL-REPORT_pdf-3-1.pdf" target="_blank">rise</a>, and increasingly <a href="https://justassociates.org/sites/justassociates.org/files/jass_mch6._rethinking_protection_power_movements_4.pdf" target="_blank">normalized</a> in both public and private spheres, making it more difficult for women to get justice. As Indigenous communities are often on the front lines of defending their territories, resources and rights from extractive projects and corporate interests, Indigenous women in particular face a two-headed beast of gender-based violence and racism.</p><p>"We fought to defend our territory against invasions and we sought this autonomy to fight for rights," Taynara Caragiu Guajajara said in an interview. "Being a woman is difficult within the macho society, but being an Indigenous or black woman becomes even more difficult, because the prejudice is so great."</p><p>Having more women involved in everything from environmental decision-making to climate politics benefits society at large. <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-019-0438-4" target="_blank">Higher female </a>participation in policymaking increases the equality and effectiveness of climate policy interventions;<a href="https://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/reports/271/hdr_2011_en_complete.pdf" target="_blank"> evidence</a> shows that high gender inequality is correlated with higher rates of deforestation, air pollution and other measures of environmental degradation.</p><p>Yet <a href="https://www.greengrants.org/what-we-do/womens-environmental-action/" target="_blank">less than 1% </a>of international philanthropy goes to women's environmental initiatives, and women are continuously<a href="https://genderandenvironment.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/CI-REPORT.pdf" target="_blank"> left out </a>of decisions about land and <a href="https://www.wri.org/publication/making-womens-voices-count" target="_blank">environmental resources</a>.</p><p>"The global community cannot afford to treat nature conservation and the fight for women's equality as separate issues — they must be addressed together," <a href="https://www.iucn.org/news/secretariat/202003/iucn-acting-director-generals-statement-international-womens-day-2020" target="_blank">said</a> Grethel Aguilar, the acting director-general of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), on international women's day this year.</p>
Map of Maranhão state in northeastern Brazil.
Why the Fight for Indigenous Territorial Rights in Brazil Matters to Conservation<p>Tracking tree cover loss in Maranhão over the past two decades shows the crucial importance of Indigenous territories in protecting intact forest. Viewed from space, as the forest cover rapidly disappears, the outlines of Indigenous territories become more and more distinct.</p><p>"These Indigenous territories are islands of green in a sea of deforestation in one of the worst deforested places in Brazil," Shenker said.</p><p>The Caru Indigenous Territory, for example, has seen 4% forest loss in comparison to the state of Maranhão, which has lost almost a quarter of its tree cover since 2000, according to Global Forest Watch data. Alongside the various other benefits that come with forest preservation, the forests in the Caru Indigenous Territory are also home to some of the last uncontacted Awá people; video of of two Awá men taken in the neighboring Araribóia Indigenous Territory <a href="https://www.survivalinternational.org/news/12171" target="_blank">made international headlines last year</a>.</p><p>These patches of intact, tropical forests are also the crux of "natural climate solutions" protection. These solutions essentially entail stopping deforestation, improving management of forests, and restoring ecosystems, and could provide more than one-third of the cost-effective climate mitigation needed between now and 2030 to stabilize warming to below 2° Celsius (3.6° Fahrenheit).</p><p>According to one of the seminal <a href="https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rstb.2019.0126" target="_blank">papers on natural climate solutions,</a> the single most effective approach in the tropics has proven to be actively protecting intact forests. Protecting intact forests offers twice as much of the cost-effective climate mitigation potential as the second best pathway, reforestation. The Amazon as a whole plays a vital role in mitigating climate change by absorbing and storing carbon dioxide in its forests. When cut down, burned, or degraded through logging, the forest not only ceases to fulfill this function, but can become a source of carbon emissions.</p><p>"Protecting and or conserving intact ecosystems is the number-one priority," said <a href="https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/individuals/dr-kate-dooley" target="_blank">Kate Dooley,</a> a research fellow at the Australian-German Climate & Energy College at the University of Melbourne, who has <a href="https://www.iatp.org/documents/missing-pathways-15degc" target="_blank">authored several papers</a> on the potential of forests as a natural climate solution. "Way-way-way down the line is planting trees. And even then, it needs to be the right kind of trees."</p><p>Of all the countries in the world with some kind of tropical rainforest, Brazil holds more mitigation potential than 71 of the 79 countries combined, <a href="https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rstb.2019.0126" target="_blank">according to a recent paper on this topic</a>. It isn't too hyperbolic, then, to say that groups like the women warriors are protecting humanity's last best hope for a livable future.</p><p>"Plenty of research showing that forests are more intact in collectively held lands," Dooley said. "With or without secure land tenure those lands are more intact and less degraded." According <a href="https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rstb.2019.0126" target="_blank">to a report in 2018 by the Rights and Resources Initiative</a>, almost 300 <em>billion metric tons of carbon</em> are stored in collectively managed lands across all forest biomes, and <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2016/10/protecting-indigenous-land-rights-makes-good-economic-sense" target="_blank">numerous</a> <a href="https://rightsandresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Toward-a-Global-Baseline-of-Carbon-Storage-in-Collective-Lands-November-2016-RRI-WHRC-WRI-report.pd" target="_blank">studies</a> have found that the best way to protect forests is to empower the people who live in them, granting them land rights and legal standing.</p><p>This is <a href="https://blog.globalforestwatch.org/people/geospatial-data-indigenous-community-land-forest-management?utm_campaign=BLOG:+LandMark+Data&utm_medium=bitly&utm_source=MonthlyRecap" target="_blank">especially true for Indigenous-held lands in places like Brazil</a>. Between 2000 and 2015, legally designated Indigenous territories in Brazil <a href="http://www.edf.org/sites/default/files/indigenous-territories-barrier-to-deforestation.pdf" target="_blank">saw a tenth </a>the amount of forest loss than non-Indigenous territories. Brazil is home to approximately 900,000 Indigenous citizens from 305 peoples, most of who live in Indigenous territories. Even so, more than half of the locations claimed by Indigenous groups have not yet received formal government recognition.</p><p>"Surveillance and inspection by Indigenous peoples is extremely important, as they are the ones who know the territory and the region best," Rodrigues da Silva said. "On the other hand, unfortunately they are left alone, the Indigenous body responsible for inspection ends up not fulfilling the role and leaving only the Indigenous people."</p>
Prevailing Amid Growing Threats<p>Despite an increasingly hostile government, the women warriors say they are committed to continuing their monitoring, surveillance and educational activities, and are hoping to inspire other groups to do the same.</p><p>"Today women act 100% in defense of the territory," Paula Guajajara said. "Today we are serving as an example."</p><p>But the work is daunting.</p><p>Brazil has the rights of Indigenous people written into its constitution of 1988, and is a signatory to the International Labour Organization's (ILO) <u>Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention.</u> Yet, the current administration of President Jair Bolsonaro has made it clear that Indigenous peoples won't be allowed to<a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2019/01/bolsonaro-government-reveals-plan-to-develop-the-unproductive-amazon/" target="_blank"> comment</a> on infrastructure projects<a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2019/03/brazil-to-build-long-resisted-amazon-transmission-line-on-indigenous-land/" target="_blank"> affecting</a> Indigenous territories in the Amazon. Bolsonaro's administration has also <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2020/02/bolsonaro-sends-congress-bill-to-open-indigenous-lands-to-mining-fossil-fuels/" target="_blank">proposed opening up</a> Indigenous territories to extractive activities — something the constitution specifically prohibits.</p><p>Hundreds of people have been killed during the past decade in the context of conflicts over the use of land and resources in the Amazon — many by people involved in illegal logging — according to the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), a Catholic Church-affiliated nonprofit that follows land conflicts.</p><p>But perpetrators of violence in the Brazilian Amazon are rarely brought to justice.</p><p>Of the more than <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/11/15/brazils-amazon-and-its-defenders-are-under-attack-illegal-loggers" target="_blank">300 killings that the CPT</a> has registered since 2009, only 14 ultimately went to trial. Maranhão, where the Guajajara live, is among the most dangerous states for Indigenous people in Brazil: more <a href="https://www.cptnacional.org.br/" target="_blank">attacks on Indigenous groups</a> were reported here than anywhere else in 2016, according to data from the CPT.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/feature/2020/05/11/coronavirus-Latin-America-Amazon-indigenous-communities" target="_blank">coronavirus poses an additional threat</a> to Indigenous peoples throughout the Amazon and especially in Brazil, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/23/world/coronavirus-indigenous-death-apib-intl/index.html" target="_blank">where the death rate from COVID-19</a> is much higher than the national rate.</p><p>"The surveillance expeditions are stopped by the pandemic, we are not doing surveillance, to care for everyone in the village," Cícera Guajajara da Silva said. "Especially in order to protect our health, because nobody knows who the types of people [invaders] are inside the forest, they may even be infected with the virus, the invader himself can bring the virus to our territory, and that's why we stopped [the expeditions], we are now only sheltering in the village."</p><p>But despite the mounting difficulties, the women warriors are committed to continuing their work.</p><p>"We have the courage to defend our territory," Maisa Guajajara said. "I am a woman and I will fight against all the threats that are in our territory."</p>
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By Elizabeth Claire Alberts
There are trillions of microplastics in the ocean — they bob on the surface, float through the water column, and accumulate in clusters on the seafloor. With plastic being so ubiquitous, it's inevitable that marine organisms, such as sharks, will ingest them.
Polyproylene fibers found in one of the sampled sharks. Kristian Parton
Spiny dogfish. NOAA / Wikimedia Commons<p>"There appear to be two routes for these particles to end up in the sharks," Parton said. "The first through their food source [such as] crustaceans. Their prey may already contain these fibers, and consequently it's passed to the shark through bioaccumulation up the food chain. The second pathway is direct ingestion from the sediment. As these sharks feed, they'll often suck up sediment into their mouths, some of this is expelled straight away, although some is swallowed, therefore fibers and particles that may have sunk down into the seabed may be directly ingested from the surrounding sediment as these sharks feed."</p><p>Some sharks only contained a few plastic particles, but others contained dozens. The larger the shark, the more plastic was in it, the findings suggested. The highest number of microplastics was found in an individual bull huss, which had 154 polypropylene fibers inside its stomach and intestines.</p><p>"It's perhaps likely this individual shark had swallowed a larger piece of fishing rope/netting and this has broken down during digestive processes within the shark, and also broken down into smaller pieces during our analysis," Parton said.</p>
Lesser-spotted dogfish caught as bycatch. Kristian Parton<p>While this study only examined the stomach and digestive tracts of demersal sharks, Parton says it's possible that plastic would be present in other parts of the sharks' bodies, such as the liver and muscle tissue. However, more research would be needed to prove this.</p><p>At the moment, there is also limited understanding of how microplastic ingestion would impact a shark's health, although microplastics are known to negatively influence feeding behavior, development, reproduction and life span of zooplankton and crustaceans.</p><p>"If we can show that these fibers contain inorganic pollutants attached to them, then that could have real consequences for these shark species at a cellular level, impacting various internal body systems," Parton said.</p>
Parton in the lab. Kristian Parton<p>This new study demonstrates how pervasive and destructive plastic pollution can be in the marine environment, according to Will McCallum, head of oceans for Greenpeace U.K.</p><p>"Our addiction to plastics combined with the lack of mechanisms to protect our oceans is suffocating marine life," McCallum said in a statement. "Sharks sit on top of the marine food web and play a vital role in ocean ecosystems. Yet, they are completely exposed to pollutants and other human impactful activities. We need to stop producing so much plastic and create a network of ocean sanctuaries to give wildlife space to recover. The ocean is not our dump, marine life deserves better than plastic."</p>
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By Arkilaus Kladit
My name is Arkilaus Kladit. I'm from the Knasaimos-Tehit tribe in South Sorong Regency, West Papua Province, Indonesia. For decades my tribe has been fighting to protect our forests from outsiders who want to log it or clear it for palm oil. For my people, the forest is our mother and our best friend. Everything we need to survive comes from the forest: food, medicines, building materials, and there are many sacred sites in the forest.
Map of the Knasaimos traditional lands.
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By Sharon Guynup
The Brazilian Amazon is hemorrhaging illegally traded wildlife according to a new report released Monday. Each year, thousands of silver-voiced saffron finches and other songbirds, along with rare macaws and parrots, are captured, trafficked and sold as pets. Some are auctioned as future contestants in songbird contests. Others are exported around the globe.
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By Stuart Chapman
The goal set 10 years ago to double the number of wild tigers by 2022 remains one of the most ambitious conservation goals ever for a single species. Currently home to the vast majority of the world's remaining tigers, well-resourced protected areas are a cornerstone of this goal. Tigers are a conservation-dependent species and the persistence of tigers relies on well-funded and well-protected conservation areas.
A Bengal tiger in the Khata Forest, which 10 years ago was a degraded patch of land. This image was captured by a camera trap between November 2019 and March 2020 by WWF-Nepal.
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By Shanna Hanbury
With the Amazon rainforest predicted to be at, or very close to, its disastrous rainforest-to-savanna tipping point, deforestation escalating at a frightening pace, and governments often worsening the problem, the need for action to secure the future of the rainforest has never been more urgent.
Reversing the Amazon Tipping Point<p>Over the last five decades, the Amazon rainforest lost almost a fifth of its forest cover, putting the <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2019/12/the-tipping-point-is-here-it-is-now-top-amazon-scientists-warn/" target="_blank">biome on the edge</a> of a dangerous cliff. <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2020/01/impending-amazon-tipping-point-puts-biome-and-world-at-risk-scientists-warn/" target="_blank">Studies show</a> that if 3 to 8% more forest cover is lost, then deforestation combined with escalating climate change is likely to cause the Amazon ecosystem to collapse.</p><p>After this point is reached, the lush, biodiverse rainforest will receive too little precipitation to maintain itself and quickly shift from forest into a degraded savanna, causing enormous <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2020/02/amazon-tipping-point-puts-brazils-agribusiness-energy-sector-at-risk-top-scientists/" target="_blank">economic damage</a> across the South American continent, and releasing vast amounts of forest-stored carbon to the atmosphere, further destabilizing the global climate.</p><p>Amazon researchers are now taking a proactive stance to prevent the Amazon Tipping Point: "Our message to political leaders is that there is no time to waste," Nobre wrote in the SPA's press release.</p><p>Amid escalating forest loss in the Amazon, propelled by the anti-environmentalist agenda of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2020/04/satellite-data-show-amazon-rainforest-likely-drier-more-fire-prone-this-year/" target="_blank">experts fear</a> that this year's burning season, <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2020/07/fires-rage-in-the-amazon-despite-official-ban-greenpeace-photos-reveal/" target="_blank">already underway</a>, may exceed the August 2019 wildfires that shocked the world. Most Amazon basin fires are not natural in cause, but <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2019/09/brazilian-amazon-fires-scientifically-linked-to-2019-deforestation-report/" target="_blank">intentionally set</a>, often by land grabbers invading indigenous territories and other conserved lands, and causing massive deforestation.</p>
Scientists Offer Evidence, and Also Solutions.<p>Creating a workable blueprint for the sustainable future of the Amazon rainforest is no simple task. The solutions mapped out, according to the Amazon Panel's scientists, will seek to not only prevent deforestation and curb global climate change, but to generate a new vision and action plan for the Amazon region and its residents — especially, fulfilling development goals via a sustainable standing-forest economy.</p><p>The SPA, Nobre says, will make a critical break with the purely technical approach of the United Nation's IPCC, which banned policy prescriptions entirely from its reports. In practice, this has meant that while contributing scientists can show the impacts of fossil fuels on the atmosphere, they cannot recommend ending oil subsidies, for example. "We inverted this logic, and the third part of the [SPA] report will be entirely dedicated to searching for policy suggestions," Nobre says. "We need the forest on its feet, the empowerment of the traditional peoples and solutions on how to reach development goals."</p><p>Researchers across many academic fields (ranging from climate science and economics to history and meteorology) are collaborating on the SPA Panel, raising hopes that scientific consensus on the Amazon rainforest can be reached, and that conditions for research cooperation will greatly improve.</p>
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By Johan Augustin
In a lab on Australia's east coast, scientists are concocting what they hope will be the solution to the steadily worsening problem of coral bleaching.
A branch of bleached coral. Jonas Gratzer / Mongabay
‘Remarkable Resiliency’<p>Water temperatures this time around didn't reach as high as during the <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2017/03/climate-change-induced-bleaching-decimating-great-barrier-reef/" target="_blank">2016 event</a>, but the bleaching was worse for two key reasons, Cantin says.</p><p>"The first is how soon it follows the 2016 and 2017 back-to-back bleaching events. The second concern is the footprint of heat in 2020," he says.</p><p>That "footprint" refers to the total extent of reef affected by bleaching. While the 2016 event had the most extreme levels of heat, Cantin says, it was limited mostly to the northern part of the Great Barrier Reef, severely bleaching 35% of the total reef area. This time around, the entire length of the reef — a span of 2,300 kilometers (1,300 miles) — was exposed to heat stress "capable of causing bleaching." That resulted in severe levels of bleaching on an additional 25% of the reefs, Cantin says.</p>
Bleached coral on the Great Barrier Reef. Jonas Gratzer / Mongabay
A tank of enhanced coral at the AIMS center being tested for their warm-water tolerance. Jonas Gratzer / Mongabay
Large-Scale Deployment<p>The hybrids have one parent from northern, warmer, parts of the reef and one from the central, cooler, part. The results show that some of the strains have inherited the northern corals' temperature tolerance and can survive when placed in cooler environments. That suggests that over time, as these cooler regions heat up, these corals will be able to tolerate the rising temperatures better than the native corals.</p><p>"We have learned key fundamental biology about coral reproduction and heat tolerance that will be important moving forward in further developing new, scalable coral restoration methods," Quigley says. "We are [also] finding that heat tolerance can be passed from parents to offspring in reproducible, persistent ways."</p><p>These research projects fall under the wider Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program, which Cantin calls "the biggest single effort anywhere in the world to develop options for intervening on the reef to help it adapt and cope better with climate change."</p><p>"These interventions are promising," Cantin adds, "but none are ready to deploy large-scale."<span></span></p><p>For the enhanced corals to have any meaningful effect across a reef that stretches the same distance as New York City to Miami, they will need to be deployed in massive volumes. Another experiment at the AIMS, the Larval Restoration Project, is looking into how to do this, but with naturally occurring warm-adapted corals rather than the gene-edited ones from the AIMS lab. It's the largest coral reseeding project in history, launched in 2016 and funded by the Australian government.</p><p>The idea is that during the annual mass coral spawning, which takes place every year during the November full moon, researchers harvest millions of coral eggs and sperm. They then grow them in enclosures on the reef to produce coral larvae, which are later released onto bleached and damaged sections of the reef to repopulate them.</p><p>The coral species that spawn this year will be the ones that survived the bleaching in March, and therefore those with proven better heat tolerance. The harvest this time around "will allow us to find reefs, populations and individuals that are particularly hardy and that will act as breeding stock for the production of coral offspring able to withstand high heat," Quigley says.</p><p>"The search for hardy and resilient corals continues, but we have already seen some very promising results," she adds.</p>
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By Elizabeth Claire Alberts
When baby sea turtles hatch from their eggs, they skitter across the sand to the shoreline before disappearing into the open ocean. Many years later, by some remarkable feat, female turtles find their way back, sometimes traveling thousands of kilometers, to arrive at the exact beach where they were born. This time, it's to lay their own eggs.
A green turtle in Martinque. Michelle Roux / Coral Reef Image Bank
Green sea turtle. Greg Asner
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