No. 6/10

Welcome to FAO’s NWFP-Digest-L, a free e-mail journal that covers all aspects of non-wood forest products. Back issues of the Digest may be found on FAO's NWFP home page: www.fao.org/forestry/site/12980/en.

You can take part in contributing to the continued success of this newsletter by sharing with the NWFP community any news that you may have regarding research, events, publications and projects. Kindly send such information to NWFP-Digest-L@mailserv.fao.org. We also appreciate any comments or feedback.

A special thank you to all those who have sent me links to information and also to Giulia Muir for her help with this issue.

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IN THIS ISSUE:

PRODUCTS

  1. Bamboo: Labelling and marketing bamboo textiles
  2. Bamboo in Kenya: now the plant of choice
  3. Bamboo in Nepal: bamboo houses could help alleviate poverty
  4. Bamboo key resource for Bale monkey
  5. Bushmeat: Scientists say tests show dangers in so-called bushmeat
  6. Chestnuts: United States growers see a future for chestnuts
  7. Ferns: Breakthrough breast cancer treatment
  8. Fungi: Rare fungus on Tibetan Plateau face extinction
  9. Honey grows scarce as bees abandon Ethiopia’s parched peaks
  10. Medicinal plants: 93 percent of Ayurvedic medicinal plants threatened
  11. Moringa oleifera: Poor missing out on moringa seeds’ water-purifying powers
  12. Palm Fronds: Local churches in the USA and Palm Sunday
  13. Shea production vital to women's incomes
  14. Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana): EU could approve stevia sweetner by 2011
  15. Truffles serve up environmental information
  16. Wattle (Australian acacias) comes to Africa
  17. Wildlife: Hope for animals and their world

COUNTRY INFORMATION

  1. Bhutan: Agarwood is “wood of the gods”
  2. Brunei: Sultanate must guard against illegal wildlife trafficking
  3. Cameroon: Honey trade prospects
  4. China: Forest management ‑ villagers introduce new way to make a living
  5. China: Sustainable management of natural forests - a “green great wall”
  6. Democratic Republic of Congo: New gorilla rescue centre to open
  7. Ecuador: Environmental inspection in Yasuni Park
  8. Haiti: FAO launches fruit tree initiative
  9. Nigeria: Researchers explore nutritional value of local insects
  10. Nigeria: the potential of neem
  11. Paraguay: Bamboo against deforestation
  12. Peru: Rainforest vine may yield drug treatment medication
  13. Tanzania: Saving the nation’s mountain forests
  14. United States: Hoping to save dozens of native plants Eastern U.S. forests declining after decades of recovery, study says
  15. United States: Eastern U.S. forests declining after decades of recovery, study says

NEWS

  1. Ecologists unveil plan for “barometer of natural life”
  2. Exodus of rural Amazonians threatens rainforest
  3. How interfering humans helped Amazon diversity
  4. Mapping the landscape of NGOs working to protect forests  
  5. Networks emerge as key actors in community forestry
  6. Poor nations “most at risk” from plant loss
  7. Rush for REDD could undermine local forest rights
  8. Tensions remain over biological access protocol

REQUESTS

  1. Request for contributions: Conserving biodiversity through certification

EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES

  1. Center for Sustainable Development launches online courses

EVENTS

  1. Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC) Stakeholder Dialogue
  2. Apiculture: Stock-taking and projecting the honey value chain into the future in West and Central Africa

LITERATURE REVIEW AND WEBSITES

  1. Atlas of Global Conservation: maps planet’s animals, plants, habitats
  2. Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) publishes assessment report
  3. Wildlife group identifies the planet's most endangered species
  4. Other publications of interest
  5. Websites

MISCELLANEOUS

  1. Brazilian cattle giants move toward zero deforestation in the Amazon
  2. Self-pollinating almond trees may replace California beehives
  3. UK holds first cherry tree census

 

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PRODUCTS

  1. Bamboo: Labelling and marketing "bamboo" textiles

Source: INBAR, 15 April 2010

Bamboo is becoming more popular in commercial usage and is often marketed as a "sustainable" and "green" product in many countries. There are now a lot of clothing and other textile products - such as towels, socks and T-shirts on the market - which hail the virtues of bamboo and are labelled "made from bamboo."
However, with the increase of such products, the scrutiny of the labels and claims made about the origins of the fibre has increased, and in many cases authorities have concluded that such claims or labelling practices do not comply with the relevant laws and regulations.
Bamboo fabric can be produced from bamboo fibres. If the natural fibres are used and made into yarn, it is made from bamboo and in some countries can be labelled as such.
However, most "bamboo fabric" is actually viscose or rayon, a regenerated cellulose fibre which is chemically manufactured from bamboo, by a very similar process used to make rayon from wood or other biomass and waste by-products.
In the biggest markets for these textile products - the EU, USA and Canada - the authorities have all issued specific rules on the labelling and marketing of "bamboo" textiles. For the EU market, the European Commission has issued a directive on textile names. The Directive, published on 14 January 2009, addresses labelling requirements and textile fibre names, describing conditions and rules for the labelling of textile products to be placed in the EU market: (http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/textile/intlmarket.htm).
Also in the United States of America, the Federal Trade Commission, the USA's consumer protection agency, has ruled that that unless a product is made directly with bamboo fibre — often called "mechanically processed bamboo" — it cannot be called "bamboo".  This means that if the product is not made directly of bamboo fibre— but is a manufactured fibre for which bamboo was the plant source — it should be labelled and advertised using the proper generic name for the fibre such as rayon.
In Canada, the Canadian Competition Bureau (CCB) requires importers and retailers to comply with the country's Textile Labelling Act (TLA) and the Textile Labelling and Advertising Regulations (TLAR).
The correct generic name depends on which cellulose process was used. If the product is made of man-made rayon fibres derived from bamboo, the generic fibre name must first make reference to either "rayon" or the corresponding process outlined in the TLAR, followed by the words "from bamboo:" (http://competitionbureau.gc.ca/eic/site/cb-bc.nsf/eng/home.
For full story, please see:
www.inbar.int/show.asp?BoardID=83&NewsID=595

 

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  1. Bamboo in Kenya: now the plant of choice

Source: Daily Nation (Kenya), 19 April 2010

Farmers who heeded a government order to uproot eucalyptus trees on river banks are replacing them with a fast-maturing bamboo variety.
Anticipating increased demand in bamboo, the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (Kefri) and other groups have been training farmers on how to grow the plant.
Last month, Kefri said fibre-rich bamboo shoots could be used as food.
In Thika, farmers have started planting the fast-maturing giant bamboo Dendrocalamus giganteus that can reach a height of 20 metres a year. One specimen in this family is known to grow as much as 121cm in 24 hours, making it the world’s strongest and fastest growing woody plant.
Farmers still have the option of growing the fast-maturing eucalyptus trees, but away from river banks.
The Tree Biotechnology Trust, a quasi-government agency, has received Sh280 million from former UK minister for Science and Technology, Lord David Sainsbury.
People living next to the Aberdares Forest, who had to uproot their eucalyptus trees, are now planting bamboo.
Mr Kirubi Kamau, a director with Aberdares Green Earth said over 200 000 bamboo seedlings had been distributed. “We are encouraging them to plant bamboo on river banks where they had initially planted eucalyptus,” he said.
Kangema environment officer Isaiah Gichuru said the removal of eucalyptus is bearing fruit as water levels in rivers and springs in the region have risen.
www.nation.co.ke/News/-/1056/898146/-/vshwlf/-/

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  1. Bamboo in Nepal: bamboo houses could help alleviate poverty

Source: Himalayan News Service, 18 April 2010

Along with providing low cost and environment-friendly houses, construction of houses made of bamboo could potentially lead to poverty reduction and employment generation in Nepal.
Agro Enterprise Centre (AEC), affiliated to Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FNCCI), has entered into an agreement with International Centre for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) for the promotion of bamboo house construction in Nepal. These projects will be undertaken with the financial aid of the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC).
These pre-fabricated bamboo houses are affordable, quick to construct and durable. They can also provide cheap shelter to the relatively poor population of Nepal.
Bamboo houses require minimum technology. Most of the bamboo houses are based on existing local technology, which does not require high-tech tools for construction.
Similarly, these houses can help generate employment opportunities as a greater number of locals can be engaged in their production - from the plantation of bamboo to the construction of houses.
The promoters have also emphasized that such houses can decrease the dependency on the foreign materials used for construction. Currently, most of the raw materials required for the building of a house are imported from foreign countries.
These bamboo structures use local materials that do not harm human health and the environment, employing energy-efficient designs, and also employ more people.
Since bamboo can be used as a substitute of timber, it will also help decrease deforestation. Moreover, bamboo is highly sustainable as it can be regenerated within two to three years, while timber could take longer than 25 years.
For full story, please see: www.thehimalayantimes.com/fullNews.php?headline=Bamboo+houses+could+help++alleviate+poverty&NewsID=239749

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  1. Bamboo: key resource for Bale monkey

Source: BBC News, 1 April 2010

Ethiopia's mysterious Bale monkey eats almost nothing but bamboo, according to the first study of the primate. Discovered in 1902, little is known about the monkey, named after the region in Africa in which it lives. But scientists have now discovered it spends most of its life in the trees of a bamboo forest, eating young leaves to avoid getting poisoned.
Very few primates depend on bamboo, and the Bale monkey's reliance on it makes the primate vulnerable to extinction.
Researchers from Ethiopia, US and Norway describe the behaviour of the Bale monkey for the first time in the International Journal of Primatology.
The Bale monkey (Chlorocebus djamdjamensis) is an arboreal and enigmatic primate restricted to the forests of the Bale Massif and Hagere Selam regions of southeastern Ethiopia.
Little information has been available on how this mysterious primate lives.
"They were always considered by scientists to be “too difficult to study” due to the rough mountainous terrain and foggy conditions in the forests where they occur," says Dr Peter Fashing from California State University, Fullerton, California, US, one of the co-authors of the study.
Between 2007 and 2008 the team studied two neighbouring groups of Bale monkeys in the Obobullu forest in southeastern Ethiopia, which lies to the east of the Bale mountains.
"We found Bale monkeys to be highly specialised primates, relying entirely on the bamboo forest to meet their needs," says Mr Addisu Mekonnen from Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, who led the study.
The monkeys feed on just 11 plant species.
However, of those bamboo leaves account for a remarkable 77 percent of their diet.
Most other forest monkeys eat far richer diets, typically consuming between 50 and 100 different plant species or more, says Dr Fashing.
Bale monkeys also consume mainly young bamboo leaves, perhaps to avoid being poisoned by cyanide that accumulates in mature leaves.
Food for thought
Only one type of primate is known to rely more heavily on bamboo than Bale monkeys - the bamboo lemurs of Madagascar, of which there are three species, each consuming a diet that is 90 bamboo.
"Bamboo is a key resource for the existence of Bale monkeys," says Mr Mekonnen.
Yet bamboo in the Bale Massif is being commercially harvested.
"The loss of this resource would have [an equally profound] adverse effect on the long-term survival of this species."
For full story, please see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-

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  1. Bushmeat: Scientists say tests show dangers in so-called bushmeat

Source: New York Times (USA), 14 April 2010

Scientists who have begun testing bushmeat - meat from African wild game that is often carried through customs in luggage, or shipped by mail - say they have discovered viruses related to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Dr. William Karesh, a veterinarian in charge of Wildlife Conservation Society health programs in over 50 countries around the world, said the viruses showed up in spot checks of “hundreds of samples” that were only a fraction of the bushmeat that comes into New York. The viruses in question have been shown to infect humans, but Dr. Kristine Smith, another veterinarian from the society, said in a presentation at Rockefeller University on Wednesday that they were not known to cause disease.
Since the study began in 2008, inspection officials and health experts have collected samples of bushmeat from at least 14 species, including apes, monkeys, rodents and bats. Dr. Karesh said that the research completed so far was “just a pilot project” with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The assumption was viruses in this material would be very rare and very difficult to find, but it’s not turning out to be that way, which is scary because a lot of this material is coming into the U.S.”
He said he believed that the preliminary findings made a case for additional study and possibly a risk analysis because “we’re very quickly saying, there are these three viruses, who knows what else is in there.”
The Society said the researchers had found evidence of simian foamy viruses in wildlife brought in as food. The Society said tests showed two different strains, from three different species of monkeys.
Epidemiologists have long been concerned about bushmeat as a source of disease, and conservationists see the trade in bushmeat as a threat to species whose numbers are declining. In 2007, the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force, a nonprofit organization, estimated that 15 000 pounds of bushmeat come to market in this country every month. The authorities seize and destroy only a small amount.
“Most of the bushmeat we see is smuggled,” said Paul Cerniglia, a supervisory wildlife inspector with the federal Fish and Wildlife Service, and most is smoked. He said his agency has only ten inspectors in New York, the largest port in the country.
For full story, please see: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/14/scientists-say-tests-show-dangers-in-so-called-bushmeat/

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  1. Chestnuts: United States growers see a future for chestnuts

Source: www.gainesville.com (USA), 11 April 2010

Chestnut beer is one the commodities the cooperative USA Chestnut Inc. want to market. They currently sell unprocessed chestnuts to retailers, but they are also developing new items such as chestnut stuffing, chestnut flour and chestnut syrup.
USA Chestnut, which is two years old, is one of a growing number of cooperatives, nonprofits and other farming ventures in Florida that exist outside the traditional family farm model, said Allen Wysocki, a University of Florida professor of agricultural economics.
"It was kind of waning for a while, but I think it's on the rise," Wysocki said of growers organized in cooperatives.
USA Chestnut Inc. consists of 10 growers who cultivate 110 acres of chestnut trees between Florida and Georgia, and they produced 23 000 pounds of chestnuts in 2008.
They pay annual dues of US$50 each, which covers the expense of marketing materials, but cannot pay for larger projects. A majority of the co-op members are employed outside agriculture and grow chestnuts as a part-time activity.
Chestnut trees were once commonplace in North America until a diseased Asian variety was introduced to the country in the early 20th century, destroying most of the native stock. The Chinese blight fungus is still cause for concern for growers and scientists who cultivate hybrid varieties to become disease-resistant. Most of the chestnuts now consumed in the United States are imported from Italy and China.
Wysocki says there is opportunity to expand this market at home. "If co-ops can stay current with what the trends are and can find those ways to meet customers' needs, then they're going to find success," he said.
For full story, please see: www.gainesville.com/article/20100410/ARTICLES/100419967?Title=Growers-locally-see-a-future-for-chestnuts

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  1. Ferns: Breakthrough breast cancer treatment

Source: www.wtnh.com, 8 April 2010

The next treatment for breast cancer could stem from a fern. "The fact is ferns had to adapt to land conditions and make some major biochemical adaptations for purposes of protection from predators," explained Dr. Sarah Crawford.
Dr. Crawford oversees the research at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) in New Haven (Connecticut, USA). So far, the medicinal properties of the fern are showing promising results in the fight against aggressive forms of breast cancer.
"What we've found is that our concentrated extract works at least as well, conservatively speaking, if not better than Taxol and some of the standard chemotherapy that are currently used in the treatment of the disease," Dr. Crawford explained.
In short, the highly concentrated fern extract interferes with cancer cells.
"Attachment is essential for viability of the cells, so if the chemicals in the plants interferes with that attachment, that will then start to kill the cancer cells," said Deana Diamond, SCSU.
The evidence is in the tumours, which are grown outside the body in a laboratory practice which is becoming standard. "It actually disrupts the solid mass that we see in the dish, we can actually see it broken apart," said Rafaela Penarreta, SCSU. And it appears the extract has a less toxic side effect.
Next week, Dr. Crawford and her students will travel to Washington, D.C. to present their findings before the American Association for Cancer Research.
For full story, please see: www.wtnh.com/dpp/news/health/health-breast-cancer

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  1. Fungi: Rare fungus on Tibetan plateau faces extinction

Source: China Daily in China Tibet Online, 16 April 2010

Every summer since he was 18, Ma Youcai has combed the craggy, barren slopes of the mountains that surround his village in rural Qinghai province for dongchongxiacao, a rare, insect-like fungus used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
A parasite that attacks and eventually kills moth larvae on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, just a few grams of the fungus can be ground into powder and dissolved to make a tonic that is believed to boost energy.
But as Ma prepares for yet another summer search, the 40-year-old goat herder fears this valuable fungus, which provides almost half of his annual income, is in danger of disappearing forever.
Last year, he found only half as many fungi as he did a decade ago. In some areas, the population has dropped almost tenfold in the last five years, according to Guo Jinling, an expert on medicinal plants and a professor at the Chengdu University of TCM.
"The price is going up and more people want to make money, so more and more people come to dig for it," said Ma. "There are less and less every year. I'm worried that eventually they will disappear completely."
Scientists say the decline is largely due to habitat loss and over-harvesting, which is being driven by skyrocketing demand for costly and exotic herbal remedies among China's growing middle and upper classes. "Animals and plants need time to grow. When demand causes them to be harvested too fast, they can't keep up and their populations decline," said Long Chunlin, a professor at the Kunming Institute of Botany in Yunnan province.
Although classified as a mushroom, caterpillar fungus ‑ or dongchongxiacao, which literally means "winter insect, summer grass" ‑ is a parasite that attacks moth larvae. It slowly grows inside them until it kills and mummifies them, eventually producing a fruiting body that releases spores that infect other caterpillars. The fungus is harvested in May and early June, just before the spores are released. If consumed, it is said to boost stamina, as well as strengthen the immune system, lungs and kidneys.
Caterpillar fungus (Cordyceps sinensis) only grows at high altitudes on the Tibetan plateau in an area that stretches from Nepal, through northern Sichuan province and into Qinghai province. However, warming temperatures and over-harvesting have caused populations to fall by nearly 90 percent in some areas, say experts.
As a result, it is one of the most valuable medicinal products on the market today. One jin -- roughly equal to 500 grams - sells for up to 80 000 yuan (US$12 000), with some experts claiming prices can top 100 000 yuan. The largest markets for the fungus tend to be in South China and around Shanghai.
The problem extends far beyond caterpillar fungus, however. An estimated 15 to 20 percent of plants and animals used in TCM are endangered or near extinction because of over-harvesting and habitat loss, according to a 2008 report by UK-based TRAFFIC, a non-governmental group that tracks wildlife trade.
The industry also has had a considerable impact on China's medicinal plants, which comprise the vast majority of its raw ingredients. (By comparison, just more than half of Western medicine uses chemicals derived directly from plants). The list of endangered plants in China includes licorice root, which is used to treat fatigue and pain; the Chinese yew, an evergreen tree believed to contain chemicals that can help prevent cancer; and wild ginseng, which is said to increase energy and improve circulation. Many other species are also in danger of simply being harvested out of existence to meet growing market demand.
"Originally, Chinese medicine was very localized. Of course, there was some trade, though it was not a lot," said Luo Peng, a professor at the Chengdu Institute for Biology. "But the scale of that trade grew extremely quickly along with domestic demand as China has become market-driven over the last 30 years."
For full story, please see: http://chinatibet.people.com.cn/6953360.html

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  1. Honey grows scarce as bees abandon Ethiopia's parched peaks

Source: Guardian (UK), 18 April 2010

The truffle of the apiary world – rare white honey from Ethiopia's highest peaks – is in danger of disappearing, according to beekeepers in the Tigray region. "No rain for the flowers,'' said Ashenaf Abera as he stood on his rocky, parched slope in the northern Ethiopian region. "The bees need high-altitude flowers for the white honey. When they cannot find them, they go to other plants and produce yellow honey.''
Abera is paid £65 a month to mind 270 hives for the Asira Metira monastery, one of a dozen religious centres in an area whose 4th-century rock churches are among the wonders of the world. "We know about bees,'' said honey seller Sheikh Mohamed Ahamedin. He grips a large screwdriver with both hands to ladle a dollop of thick and lumpy white honey out of a plastic bucket. It is snow-white and tastes sweet and more waxy than yellow honey.
"The price is the highest it has ever been this year, because of scarcity,'' said Ahamedin who sells white honey for £7.75/kg. Last year he charged £4.50/kg. Ethiopia is Africa's biggest honey producer and the world's fourth biggest beeswax exporter. After coffee, gold and cowhide, bee products are major contributors to the economy, especially through exports to Italy, where white honey is considered a delicacy. Bees' products are the only export item produced by Tigray's impoverished 4.6 million people, whose region is said to be one of the worst-hit in the world by climate change.
Such is Ethiopians' love of honey that apitherapy clinics offer treatments for many ailments. The national drink is tej – honey mead.
For full story, please see: www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/apr/18/ethiopia-white-honey-shortage

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  1. Medicinal plants: 93 percent of Ayurvedic medicinal plants threatened

Source: The Economic Times (India), 4 Apr 2010

93 percent of wild medicinal plants used for making ayurvedic medicines are endangered and the Government of India is trying to relocate them from their usual habitat to protect them.
The threat to the plants came to the fore in an assessment exercise in different states carried out by the Botanical Survey of India.
The assessments were done for a total of 359 prioritized wild medicinal plant species. 335 of these have been assigned Red List status ranging from critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable to near-threatened. In addition, a total of 15 such species recorded in trade have been found threatened, officials in the health ministry's Ayush department said.
Some of the rare plants reported to be threatened have been relocated during the last decade, including Utleria salicifolia and Hydnocarpus pentandra in Western Ghats, Gymnocladus assamicus and Begonia tessaricarpa from Arunachal Pradesh and Agapetes Smithiana in Sikkim.
The assessments have involved conducting Conservation Assessment and Management Prioritisation using International IUCN Red List Categories.
The officials said the medicinal plant resources in the country are threatened by over exploitation to meet the demand of herbal industries.
About 95 percent of such plants are harvested from the wild, primarily from forests.
The National Medicinal Plants Board constituted in November 2000 has been implementing a Central sector scheme for development and cultivation of medicinal plants since 2000-01.
States’ forest departments have been given assistance for protection and propagation of such endangered species, especially used by the herbal industries.
For full story, please see: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/environment/flora-fauna/93-of-wild-medicinal-plants-in-endangered-list-Study-/articleshow/5759426.cms

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  1. Moringa oleifera: Poor missing out on moringa seeds’ water-purifying powers

Source: www.scidev.net, 24 March 2010

Seeds from a tree that grows widely across the developing world could play a key role in water purification — but there is lack of awareness about this application despite a long indigenous history, say researchers.
The Moringa tree — Moringa oleifera — is native to North India but is also found in Indonesia, Latin America, and Sub-Saharan Africa, and is used in many communities mostly for food and folk medicine.
But adding crushed Moringa seeds to water can cut the time taken for bacteria and solids to settle from a full day to just one hour, and has potential for preventing diarrhoea, according to Michael Lea of Clearinghouse, a Canadian organization that investigates low-cost water purification technologies.
Lea has published a step-by-step procedure online that shows how the seeds can be crushed to produce a natural flocculant — a substance that aggregates suspended particles.
He hopes that making the technique freely available in this way will facilitate dissemination to those who need it the most — the role of the seeds in purification has been known for centuries but use has been limited.
Writing in Current Protocols in Microbiology, he said that the seeds can provide a low-cost, accessible purification method for poor communities where diarrhoea caused by water-borne bacteria is the biggest killer of children aged five and under.
Lea noted that the seeds "should not be regarded as a panacea for reducing the high incidence of waterborne diseases" — an additional disinfection process is recommended — but can make a valuable contribution to disease reduction.
"Parts of the world have mobile phone and Internet services but no food and potable water," Lea told SciDev.Net. "These trees are indigenous so the solution is in people's backyards. What is required now is knowledge dissemination.
"M. oleifera is the only indigenous treatment technology that addresses poverty and nutrition while also providing potable water."
Lea said that superstition has sometimes limited its use. For instance, in one area of Africa, more than three Moringa trees in a backyard is seen as a source of misfortune that brings poverty and death.
Vallantino Emongor, a M. oleifera expert at the University of Botswana, said: "What is exciting is that this tree is drought resistant and is accessible throughout Africa and India. Communities need to learn what the seeds can do."
Some countries, including Burkina Faso, Benin, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, have formed associations to facilitate this.
For full story, please see:
www.scidev.net/en/news/poor-missing-out-on-moringa-seeds-water-purifying-powers.html

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  1. Palm fronds: Local churches in the USA and Palm Sunday

Source: www.northjersey.com (USA), 1 April 2010

Christians throughout the world recently celebrated Palm Sunday, and millions of palm fronds were used around the globe to commemorate Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem. Some churches, both globally and locally, are providing parishioners with palms that not only help the environment, but also help the farmers that pick them. The eco-friendly palms now being used by some churches in South Bergen (New Jersey, USA) are harvested in such a way that they protect and maintain palm plants and forests.
In sustainable palm harvesting, palm fronds are harvested by quality, not quantity, so only the best palms are picked by farmers here and abroad. Harvesting palms in a non-sustainable way means many more palms are picked and many are discarded, harming the tree itself and its surrounding eco-system. If they are harvested “sustainably,” the tree is inspected for good palms and only those are taken as not to kill the tree.
The movement toward sustainability has farmers getting paid more for their high-quality palms. St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Rutherford is one of the few churches in the South Bergenite's coverage area now using eco-friendly palms, and has been doing so for approximately 30 years.
The church orders its eco-palms from a local florist, which get them shipped from Florida .The more eco-friendly the palm, the more expensive it is.
Rev. Kimberly Chastain, the pastor at the United Presbyterian Church of Lyndhurst, said the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a nation-wide initiative called the Eco-Palm Project that provides Presbyterian churches throughout the country with sustainable, eco-friendly palms. The palms are harvested in Mexico and Guatemala and brought to the United States. Rev. Chastain said the church began using the sustainable palms from the Eco-Palm Project in 2007, but only recently became aware that the church was using these types of palms. "The parishioners know about it more than I do," Rev. Chastain said.
For full story, please see: www.northjersey.com/news/environment/89660822_Churches_go_eco-friendly_with_Palm_Sunday_services.html

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  1. Shea production vital to women's incomes

Source: Inter Press Service New Agency (IPS), 9 April 2010

Across the semi-arid Sahel region of West Africa, the shea tree is prized by women who produce a butter from its nuts that is a key ingredient in food and cosmetics. However, drought and diseases threaten this source of income.
"Shea represents 80 percent of rural women's income," says Fatoumata Coulibaly, explaining how women go out to collect the nuts and later process them to make shea butter. Coulibaly is a member of La Maison du karité ("the House of Shea"), a women's group in Siby, a village in southern Mali. IPS spoke to the young woman during Global Shea, an international forum on shea trade that took place in mid-March in Bamako, the Malian capital.
Shea trees grow wild in West Africa. According to experts, they take 25 years to reach maturity and their lifetime can span two centuries. In the rainy season, women pick the trees' fruit - a sweet pulp wrapped around an oily kernel. In the dry season, they sell a portion of their nuts to international companies and process the rest themselves for sale on the local market.
In West Africa, shea butter is used in cooking by nearly 80 percent of the rural population. It is also used in traditional medicine, and the wood from the tree is prized as fuel.
The trees’ many uses have assured its protection for centuries by local populations, some of whom even consider it sacred. "We treat shea with respect. That is why we organise ceremonies when shea treas reach maturity," said Nayouma Coulibaly, a woman from Tioribougou, a village in southern Mali.
But now, according to the Albert Schweitzer Ecological Centre, a Swiss-based NGO, shea trees face many threats such as drought, diseases and over-use as a source of firewood.
Not all observers agree that there is a problem. "I don't think there's cause to worry. Actually, the number of shea trees is on the rise, because people have now started planting them. I've done so myself," said Seydou Kone, a trade technician with AMEPROC, Mali's association of exporters of agricultural products, headquartered in Bamako. AMEPROC is combating shea tree disappearance and disease by conducting public education in rural areas where shea trees are threatened, training local populations on shea planting and protection.
Among the roughly 16 countries where shea grows, Burkina Faso, Mali, Benin and Nigeria represent the bulk of world production. Mali occupies an important position in the market.
"With nearly 150 million shea treas, Mali is ranked second largest producer after Burkina Faso with an output of about 60 000 tonnes per year," Kadidiatou Lah told IPS. Lah is a shea butter exporter based in Bamako. She is also the president of Mali's National Federation of Shea Exporters, which trains rural women in shea trea planting.
The growth of international demand for shea outside Africa is explained in part by its expanded use by the food industry in some developed countries. In 2000, a decree came into effect in Europe allowing chocolate manufacturers to use a limited amount of fat other than cocoa butter in their products, up to five percent.
This change in regulations, which had previously been the case in Japan, the United States and Eastern Europe, has opened up new opportunities for shea. "Today countries from all continents import shea butter or shea nuts to extract butter," confirmed Lah.
Local shea producers have no influence over the price fetched by shea nuts and butter internationally. "The prices change frequently on the international market, but at the moment a kilogramme of shea nuts costs between 500 and 600 CFA francs (just over US$1)," said Kone.
Large companies prefer to buy their shea nuts from villages through local buyers who roam the countryside. However, these intermediaries make far more profit from the trade than rural women producers.
For full story, please see: www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=50984

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  1. Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana): EU could approve stevia sweetener by 2011

Source: Reuters, 16 April 2010

Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana), a natural sweetener derived from the sunflower plant, could receive European Union-wide approval for use in food by next year, the EU executive said on Friday.
The European Commission and EU countries will begin discussing whether to authorise stevia in the coming weeks, after an opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on Wednesday said that it was safe for human consumption.
"If everything goes on track, adoption could happen next year," a spokesman for EU Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner John Dalli said in a statement on Friday.
The Commission will "take note" of EFSA's warning that its "acceptable daily intake" level of 4 milligrams per kg of body weight set for stevia could be exceeded by both adults and children if the sweetener is used at the maximum levels proposed by its makers.
The value of the global sweetener market was estimated at about US$58.3 billion in 2009. The current global stevia market is worth about US$500 million, but is expected to reach US$2 billion by the end of 2011. For full story, please see: www.reuters.com/article/idUSLDE63F1VS20100416?type=marketsNews

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  1. Truffles serve up environmental information

Source: Scientific American, 6 April 2010

Truffles play a part in environmental research by attracting animals that scientists need to observe.
Quality truffles can sell for more than a US$1000 a pound.
They’re also valuable in environmental research, work that is discussed in an article called “The Hidden Life of Truffles” in the April issue of Scientific American magazine, by Oregon State University’s James Trappe and Andrew Claridge, visiting fellow at the University of New South Wales in Australia.
Claridge is getting better estimates of Australian endangered species populations, thanks to truffles. Some marsupials are as crazy for truffles as some humans are. Claridge soaked foam pads with olive oil infused with the scent of European black Perigord truffles, and left the pads near motion-sensing cameras. The animals came in droves, with 50 times as many individuals counted as with other techniques. Claridge used the European truffle product because it was easy to get—his team will next see the reaction of native animals to native truffles.
Meanwhile, if you want spotted owls in the Pacific Northwest, you need flying squirrels, the bird’s favorite food. Which means you need an environment rich in the squirrel’s favorite food: truffles.
For full story, please see: www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode.cfm?id=truffles-serve-up-environmental-inf-10-04-06

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  1. Wattle (Australian acacias) comes to Africa

Source: http://eternity.biz, 9 April 2010

A traditional Aboriginal food has become part of the staple diet of African Communities. The seeds of Australian acacias, commonly called wattles, are tasty, high in protein (25 percent) and carbohydrates (40 percent), and easily made into flour.
In the African country of Niger, it has become a local legend. Wattle seeds are used in over 40 local dishes. In Niger villages consumers say that eating acacia increases strength, improves eyesight, cures night blindness and stimulates milk let down in new mothers.
Since the global food crisis of 2008, a heightened sense of urgency has driven the search for better sources of nutrition.
Following a famine in 1984, the Christian organization Serving in Mission (SIM) began a concerted effort to promote acacia growing in Niger.
Acacia seeds became popular in Niger. Between 2006 and 2009, over 50 000 acacia trees were planted on 480 farms in 33 villages and more trees are being planted each year.
World Vision is now promoting wattle seeds in Senegal, Mali and Chad. Many of these acacia projects have been funded through child sponsorship from World Vision Australia.
For full story, please see: http://eternity.biz/news/bush_tucker_comes_to_africa/1004090100/

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  1. Wildlife: Hope for animals and their world

Source: The Ecologist, 12 April 2010

The list of endangered species around the world is growing. There is often a sense of hopelessness and doom and gloom surrounding conservation. In her latest book, “Hope for Animals and Their World,” Dr. Jane Goodall takes a more hopeful approach by emphasising the positive.
“It's to try and give hope to the young aspiring biologists so that they don't get persuaded to do something different - because everybody's telling them that what with climate change and everything we're certainly heading for ecological collapse. I do think we are reaching a point of no return - but we haven't got there yet. And the point is, we can't predict the future. For all we know, half the human population on the planet might die of some terrible new disease. We just don't know,” says Goodall.
“Somehow we have to wake people up,” adds Goodall. “What I'm concentrating on is youth. My youth programme, Jane Goodall's Roots & Shoots (for young people of all ages from pre-school through college) is about giving people hope. I think it's criminal not to give children hope because they are born with hope and we have to nurture that.
Also children are brilliant at changing the behaviour of their parents. Of course it's also necessary to work with decision makers and legislators and teachers but it is working with children that gives me the greatest hope.
Asked what the main obstacles facing conservationists trying to save species from extinction, Goodall answers, bureaucracy is one of them. “I have talked with many biologists who have a clear idea as to what should be done to save a species from extinction, but they have to go through trials and tests to get proof. And while they do this, precious individual animals are dying and the overall situation getting grimmer.
Another major obstacle is the constant battle with economic development. Yet another is the lack of understanding of the general public,” she says.
“Overall, though, I've found that the best way for me to change people's attitude is by telling stories. If you can find a story to illustrate how a tiny seemingly insignificant bug can contribute to the health of an eco-system, then that gets through to people.”
Goodall uses the example which most moves her to illustrate her point: the Black Robin. “At one time there was only one fertile female of her species. She and her mate were the Adam and Eve of their species. Now there are about 400. I think that's an amazing story - and it was in the wild, no captive breeding. Don Merton, the biologist who saved them, loves the birds, and he doesn't mind saying he loves them.”
“We have to try to return to some of the old ways. For hundreds of years nature and agriculture lived side by side. And then, with the advent of agribusiness, everything changed. But now, in the UK, farmers are being asked to put their hedges back.
But there are so many problems to overcome as conservation comes up against vested interests. It seems to me that we've lost that wisdom that people used to have, especially the indigenous people. They used to ask: ‘How will this decision that we make today affect our people in the future?' Now we make decisions based on: ‘How does it affect me, now? How does it affect the next shareholders meeting, three months ahead? How does it affect my next political campaign?' “
For more information, please see:
www.theecologist.org/Interviews/461445/dr_jane_goodall_im_not_going_to_fight_for_animal_rights_theres_no_point.html

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COUNTRY INFORMATION

  1. Bhutan: Agarwood is “wood of the gods”

Source: www.kuensenonline.com (Bhutan), 18 April 2010
home
When agarwood (aquillaria tree) - commonly called aloe wood and eaglewood - gets infected, naturally or artificially, it produces a resin with a strong musky smell, which is highly sought in the international market.
Locally called Ogur, agarwood is valued in many cultures because of its distinctive fragrance. From Saudi royalty to Bhutanese monks, it is used widely in perfumes and incense.
An expert from Bhutan ‑ Chang Dorji ‑ calls the tree a treasure. “In Buddhist community, it is known as Ogur Sang Shing (Agur incense wood) and considered wood for the gods,” he said. “The dark wood is used to make special incense that is offered only to Bhutan’s chief protective deity Palden Lham.”
A kg of the infected tree’s chip cost about US$190 (about Nu 8 400), with better grades fetching US$10 000/kg. The cheapest Aoud oil, distilled from agarwood, can cost about US$20/kg, while the finest Oud oils distilled from agarwood can cost as much as US$ 7 000/kg. In Bhutan, the national institute of traditional medicine is the only organization that currently buys agarwood for medicinal use. It costs about Nu 60 for 1kg of agar. According to the pharmacists, they use about two trees.
The aquillaria tree is not new to the world. The Chinese and the Japanese used Agar and obtained it from southeast Asia. It is native to southeast Asia and grows in about eight countries: Myanmar, Bhutan, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, India, and Indonesia. In Bhutan, it grows in the sub-tropical foothills, especially in Samdrupjongkhar, Sarpang, Samtse and Zhemgang.
According to sources, the late Dasho Nishoka accidentally discovered it in the Bhutanese forests. “Two people felling trees illegally in Panbang were caught and, on investigation, they were found smuggling agarwood,” recalled a colleague of the late Dasho.          “Dasho used to say that there was a lot of poaching of the tree in southern Bhutan by people from across the border,” he said. A study carried out by the department of forests, with assistance from the WWF found that the aquillaria trees were almost extinct due to uncontrolled exploitation. “When the late Dasho learnt about the value of these trees, he collected seeds and planted 3 000 of them.”
But agarwood was also not new to Bhutanese living at the foothills. Tenzingla, a Bhutanese expert on plant genetics, recalls how a Bhutanese businessman approached him with an idea of extracting agarwood oil. “I found out that the tree produced the oil as a byproduct of a microbial fungal reaction,” he said. “The trees as such have no value. It becomes valuable only when it gets infected.”
The department of forestry say that the tree is nearing extinction in Bhutan, which Tenzingla said is a result of smuggling. “In Manas, poachers would wait for the monsoon when patrolling is made difficult. Smugglers would sneak across the border, cut down the trees and drag them across the border,” said Tenzingla.
Agarwood has been identified as an endangered species, and because the market for agarwood is increasing, some countries have adapted measures to control the over exploitation of the tree. In anticipation of the growing international market, valued in billions of US dollars, 55 million agar wood trees have been planted in Assam, India, 1.5 million in Laos and 2 million in Thailand.
In 1995, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) listed the aquillaria tree as a potentially threatened species in the world. At the recent CITES conference, the need to protect the Aquillaria trees was also discussed.
For full story, please see: www.kuenselonline.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=15213

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  • Brunei: Sultanate must guard against illegal wildlife trafficking

Source: www.bruneidirect.com, 19 April 2010

Brunei is not spared from illegal wildlife trade, which is rampant in Southeast Asia, said the training and capacity building coordinator of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, a wildlife trade monitoring network.
Claire Beastall , speaker at the Borneo Customs Workshop on Wildlife Crime, said that Brunei is one of the most biodiverse places in the world, but there are people who are exploiting the Sultanate's animals and plants.
Beastall said even though it is difficult to determine the seriousness of illegal wildlife trade in Brunei compared to other countries in the region, illegal wildlife trade happens throughout Southeast Asia.
Unable to comment on the effectiveness of wildlife trade enforcement in Brunei, she urged Bruneians to continue to stay vigilant.
Beastall said the public can help by becoming "more aware and be very careful not to become involved with wildlife trade. For example, if you go overseas and bought souvenirs, make sure you do not buy something that is made from endangered animals or plants."
The two-day workshop (18-19 April), co-organized by Traffic Southeast Asia and Brunei’s Forestry Department, focused on issues such as the Heart of Borneo Network initiative, wildlife trade in Borneo and commonly traded species in Southeast Asia.
The workshop also touched on identifying commonly traded species found in wildlife trade such as green turtles and its eggs, orangutan, pangolin and gaharu tree - best known as the main source of agarwood (fragrant wood).
All of these are either traded in Borneo or they leave the island. This is illegal and unsustainable trade," she said.
Some of the commodities that you find in trade reach quite high prices, which is an incentive for smugglers.
Beastall said that TRAFFIC monitors wildlife trade throughout the region. "We do not just look at the illegal trade, but legal trade as well."
"We have been holding workshops like these for a number of years throughout Southeast Asia. We work closely with Mean Wildlife Enforcement Network (Asean-Wen) for Asean countries," added Beastall.
Asean-Wen coordinates the regional response to illegal trade in protected species, which threatens biodiversity, endangers public health, and undermines economic wellbeing.
For full story, please see:
http://brudirect.com/index.php/2010041819782/Local-News/sultanate-must-guard-against-illegal-wildlife-trafficking.html

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  • Cameroon: Honey trade prospects

Source: Bees for Development Press Release, 13 April 2010

Bees for Development’s Cameroon Honey Trade Project underway in partnership with the Welsh company Tropical Forest Products Ltd. is helping Cameroonian beekeepers produce a Welsh-designed honeycomb separator to improve the quality and yield of their honey and beeswax.
Michael Tchana, the Director of the Cameroonian organization Guiding Hope, visited Wales (UK) in March to work on the honeycomb separator, with the aim of increasing honey and beeswax exports to Wales in the forthcoming months.
With the UK producing less than one third of the honey we eat, honey trade presents a real economic opportunity for people in developing countries endowed with natural resources, but with limited financial capital. Bee diseases are highly prevalent in
industrialized countries and most beeswax produced is contaminated with the chemical
residues of bee medications.
African beekeepers have a strong comparative advantage, as they are custodians of the largest remaining wild honeybee populations in the world, thriving free from introduced pests and diseases.
For more information, please see: www.beesfordevelopment.org

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  • China: Forest management ‑ villagers introduce new way to make a living

Source: Xinhua news agency, 7 April 2010

Tucked away in the hills and valleys of northwest Sichuan Province lies a village called Mouni in Songpan County. Just a couple of thousand of people live there, most of them of the Tibetan and Qiang ethnic groups. Almost all of them once depended on profits from selling firewood, taken from the vast forests of their region, and government subsidies.
Then the great flood of 1998, which caused tremendous economic damage and many deaths, alerted people's attention to the detrimental effects of over-logging in the upper and middle reaches of the Yangtze River. The government banned commercial logging and established the Natural Forest Protection Program (NFPP) to rehabilitate and develop natural forests in 17 provinces and autonomous regions.
Today, Mouni villagers are taking advantage of their unique natural landscape in a different way: villagers now participate in developing the area's ecotourism industry. Since 2006, they have helped to develop activities like hikes and rides in the forests, educational programs that teach tourists how to farm and identify regional flora and fauna, and art exhibits to showcase their crafts.
Mouni is one of 58 villages in Hunan, Sichuan and Hainan provinces that have been developing and testing "alternative livelihood" programs that focus on sustainable management of natural forests. As part of the NFPP, the EU-China Natural Forest Management Project (NFMP) since 2003 has introduced new ways for people to live off their land and diversify their livelihood base while maintaining and preserving the quality of the environment.
"It's not enough that the government just made a policy to ban the cutting," said Peter Hess, the German expert of the NFMP, saying the key is to balance between the environment and social interests.
Besides ecotourism, the EU and China have invested 225 million yuan in the NFMP to develop sustainable local economies focusing on beekeeping, bamboo resources, renewable rural energy technologies, agricultural development and forest pastures.
"All of the projects focus on the sustainable use and development of forests, and they have improved local people's living," said Zhang Junzuo, NFMP's community development coordinator. "All the experiences will be used in large-scale area and contribute to China's natural forest management."
"One of the biggest achievements during the years is that we have changed people's understanding about protecting forests," said Liu Xinjun, from Yanling Forest Bureau of Hunan.
"Many farmers thought we were going to cut into their livings when we started the program," he said. "We worked to change their mind through education and communication. The initiative is essential for the project to keep going in the following years."
For full story, please see: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/travel/2010-04/07/c_13240391.htm

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  • China: Sustainable management of natural forests a “green great wall”

Source: Energy & Enviro Finland Weekly, 5 April 2010

The European Union has been working with China to build a new "green great wall" for the sustainable livelihood of Chinese people, writes People's Daily Online.
The seven-year EU-China Natural Forest Management Project (NFMP) has come to an end, and China is determined to put more efforts into expanding forests.
The project contributed to environmental stability and sustainable development of local communities by testing and demonstrating an increased range of options for sustainable management of natural forest resources for a variety of beneficiaries.
It promoted approaches and technologies for scientific management of natural forests covering 58 villages located in twelve townships in six counties of Sichuan, Hunan and Hainan provinces. Four state forest enterprises and two forest farms are also covered under the project.
According to Zhang Junzuo, Community Development Coordinator of NFMP, one of the highlights of this program is the introduction of the community development concept. She said "policy intervention often has direct impact on livelihood asset building or destruction."
Through this program, villagers have been exposed to increased understanding of the need to conserve natural resources in the interests of livelihood sustainability.
Zhang thinks that village forest management will be more suitable where social capital is solid, especially ethnic minority areas.
"Knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities are essential to effective conservation of biodiversity and culture," she added.
The project started in July 2003 with a planned duration of seven years (2003-2010) and a total financial outlay of EUR22.5 million (RMB 225 million) from the European Union and the Government of China. It is one of the largest EU-China cooperation projects on the environment.
The NFMP project is a technical assistance project in support of the ongoing Natural Forest Protection Program that aims at protecting natural forest resources, increase forest coverage and implement soil and water conservation measures on state-owned, collective and private forests.
Deputy Director of the State Forestry Administration Sun Zagen said the Chinese government's Natural Forest Protection Project is known as the world's largest natural forest ecological protection project.
Sun said from 2011, China will continue to implement new natural forest protection projects to make greater contributions to fight against climate change.
Natural forests make up 70 percent of the forested area in China and are a major source of wood and NWFP, accounting for 90 percent of the stocking volume in all forests.
However, degradation and depletion of the forest resource base over the past 50 years has led to serious environmental issues related to losses of soil, water and biodiversity resources.
For full story, please see: www.energy-enviro.fi/index.php?PAGE=3&NODE_ID=5&LANG=1&ID=3073

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  • Democratic Republic of Congo: New gorilla rescue centre to open

Source: Environmental News Network, 19 April 2010

The first wave of 10 orphaned gorillas rescued from poachers in Rwanda and Congo are getting ready to be airlifted to the Democratic Republic of Congo, (DRC), where they will learn to behave like wild gorillas in the first-ever rescue center for Grauer's (eastern lowland) gorillas. Starting in late April, the U.N. Peacekeeping Force in DRC will begin transporting the young gorillas to the new Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center, called GRACE.
Currently under construction, GRACE, which was initiated by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, will initially house the 10 orphaned gorillas currently living in temporary facilities under the care of the Congolese Park Authority (ICCN), the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), and the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP), as well as the Fossey Fund.
"This facility provides a critical opportunity for us to help many more young gorillas that have been victimized by poaching, armed conflict, or habitat destruction, and also to strengthen our partnership with the people who are the true stewards of the land and the animals," says Fossey Fund President and CEO Clare Richardson. "The gorillas that have come to our care have been traumatized by violence and mistreatment. They need a great deal of attention to help them recover physically and psychologically and to teach them how to survive in the wild."
Grauer's gorillas (Gorilla beringei graueri) are classified as "endangered" by the IUCN Red List, and, like mountain gorillas, are considered at high risk for extinction within several decades. It is estimated that as few as 5 000 Grauer's gorillas may remain in the wild but more data are necessary to determine the true numbers. Years of civil unrest in the region have likely affected gorilla populations in some areas. 
While efforts to protect the gorillas and their natural habitat continue to increase in east Africa, the number of orphaned gorillas has also increased in recent years. In the past, most illegally trafficked gorillas died before they could receive proper care. In addition, it is estimated that for each rescued gorilla, four adults were likely killed during its capture. The existence of the new GRACE center is expected to help end this illegal gorilla trafficking, since local authorities are more likely to rescue captured gorillas if they know there is somewhere they can take them.
The new facility will be large enough to serve up to 30 gorillas when fully completed and will include a center for conservation education and public information.
"A sanctuary in east Africa dedicated to gorillas has been one of PASA's priorities for almost a decade," says Doug Cress, executive director of Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA). "Our member sanctuaries care for almost 100 gorillas, but none in east Africa, and many orphans confiscated over the years in the region died before we got them to safety. We are confident the GRACE center will have a profound impact on conservation efforts in the region."
For full story, please see: www.enn.com/press_releases/3318

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  • Ecuador: Environmental inspection in Yasuni Park

Source: Amazon News, 15 April 2010

Representatives of Ecuador's ombudsman's office and environmental groups have visited the Yasuni National Park, home to some of the world's last indigenous people still living in voluntary isolation, in order to verify reports of illegal activity by oil companies.
Ecuador's new constitution bans oil drilling in the "untouchable zone" declared by the government in the southern part of the park to ensure the survival of the Tagaeri and Taromenane indigenous communities, who have shunned contact with society and are highly vulnerable to introduced diseases.
The untouchable zone, where no logging companies or other extractive industries can operate, was declared in 1999, although the boundaries were not fully defined until 2006.
Despite the ban on activities in the area, construction of an oil pipeline that would connect currently operating oilfields with possible deposits in the park has continued, Esperanza Martínez, head of the Amazonia por la Vida - Salvemos al Yasuní campaign carried out by Acción Ecológica, a local environmental group, told IPS.
Meanwhile, Minister of Non-Renewable Natural Resources Germánico Pinto said that President Rafael Correa had approved the terms of a trust fund to finance the decision to leave the oil underground in the Yasuni park.
Under the innovative plan, the government will issue bonds in exchange for a commitment to forego drilling in Yasuni, where there are an estimated 850 million barrels of crude, and to preserve the park's rainforest, while preventing the release of some 400 million tons of emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas.
The initiative is known as the Yasuni-ITT project because it involves the Ishpingo, Tambococha and Tiputini oilfields, which partly overlap with the untouchable zone in the southern part of the park, one of the most species-rich areas in the world.
The megadiverse Yasuni park, the largest national park in this South American country, was declared a world biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1989.
Pinto added that the trust fund would be negotiated again with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which the government hopes will administer the project. The aim is to sign the agreement "on 22 April, at the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth," in Cochabamba, Bolivia, the minister said.
But a few days ago, Environment Minister Marcela Aguinaga acknowledged that the application for an environmental permit for the Armadillo oilfield, on the national park's border, was being studied.
"Granting a permit for the Armadillo field would pose a real threat to the isolated native groups who are in the area," Martínez said.
Yasuni, declared a national park in 1979, is in the heart of Ecuador's Amazon rainforest, in the eastern provinces of Orellana and Pastaza. More than 1 760 species of trees and bushes have been identified on its 982 000 hectares, but Acción Ecológica estimates that there could be nearly 2 250 species in the park, which has the largest number of species of trees per hectare in the world.
The park is also one of the areas in the world with the greatest variety of bird species, and nearly 40 percent of all species of mammals that inhabit the Amazon jungle can be found in the park.
Martínez applauded Correa's plan to sign the agreement for the trust fund in Cochabamba.
For full story, please see: www.amazonia.org.br/english/noticias/noticia.cfm?id=351712

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  • Haiti: FAO launches fruit tree initiative

Source: FAO Newsroom, 15 March 2010

A significant increase in national food production, rural employment and reforestation are the keys to a greener, more productive Haiti, said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf during a four-day visit to the country to launch with the government the critical spring planting season.
Diouf met with President Rene Preval and other senior government officials, including Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and Minister of Agriculture Joanas Gue.
“Agriculture is the lifeblood of this country,” said Diouf. “We will continue to work with the government so that you have jobs, so that you have income and so that you can provide food for yourselves, your families and for the rest of the country.” 
During his visit, the Director-General planted fruit trees with young people in the community of Croix-des-Bouquets, outside Port-au-Prince.
“Young people are the future, but trees are also the future, because it’s trees that over the long term will transform this mother earth, provide jobs, provide nutritious food for the population, make possible the economic development of the country,” Diouf said to several hundred enthusiastic youth in attendance.
“Not only will you plant trees, you will water them, you will protect them, because the Haiti of your future is a green Haiti,” he added.
Saying it was his dream to see one tree for each Haitian, Diouf pledged FAO’s support to the government’s campaign to plant 10 million trees, starting with fast-growing fruit trees that provide a quicker return on investment, and later including other tree species.
To this end, FAO announced last week the launch of its “Fruit trees for Haiti” initiative to raise funds for fruit trees in school gardens and to build awareness of the role of trees in protecting the environment and reducing risks from hurricanes, flooding and erosion.
“Every crisis situation presents opportunities,” said Diouf. “But one has to seize them.”
For full story, please see: www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/40713/icode/

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  • Nigeria: Researchers explore nutritional value of local insects

Source: www.ngrguardiannews.com (Nigeria), 14 April 2010

Nigerian researchers have confirmed that insects are indeed a good source of protein and other nutrients. They found that edible insects constitute an important part of the daily diet of a large proportion of the population in South-Western Nigeria.
According to a study published in the African Journal of Biotechnology, these insect provide high quality of proteins and supplements (minerals and vitamins) even when dried.
A. D. Banjo, O. A. Lawal; and E. A. Songonuga of the Department of Biological Sciences, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, (Nigeria) wrote: "The consumption of non-toxic insects therefore, should be encouraged. Insects are traditional foods in most cultures, playing an important role in human nutrition and have many nutrients to offer. They can be reared for their high nutritional qualities and sold to the populace that regards them as delicacies. Some of the most sought after species, especially those with high nutritional content, ought to be cultivated with modern techniques to increase their commercial values and availability."
The study is titled: "The nutritional value of 14 species of edible insects in southwestern Nigeria." According to the study, commonly eaten insects in Nigeria are: Termites (winged adults, queen), Macrotermes bellicosus/ Macrotermes notalensis, esusu in Yoruba and aku in Ibo; adult crickets (Brachytrypes spp), ire in Yoruba; Grasshopper (Zonocerus variegates), tata in Yoruba and abuzu in Ibo; adult short horned grasshoppers (Cytacanthacris naeruginosus unicolor), tata in Yoruba and ukpana in Ibo; Rhinoceros beetle larvae (Analeptes trifasciata), ipe in Yoruba and ebe in Ibo; Scarab beetles larvae (Oryctes boas), ogongo in Yoruba; Snout beetles larvae (Rhynchophorus phoenicis), munimuni in Yoruba; eggs, larvae and pupae of honeybee (Apis mellifera), oyin in Yoruba and anwu in Ibo; and larvae of caterpillars (Anaphe spp), ekuku in Yoruba.
The researchers analysed 17 species of edible insects representing nine families from South-Western Nigeria for nutrient composition. They include the orders of Orthoptera, Lepidoptera, Coleoptera, Hymenoptera, and Isoptera. Analeptes trifasciata, Rhynchophorus phoenicis and Zonocerus variegates has the highest crude protein content (29.62, 28.42 and 26.8 percent, respectively).
Hundreds of insect species have been used as human food, some of the more important groups include grasshopper, caterpillars, beetle grubs and sometimes adults, winged termites (some of which are very large in the tropics), bee, wasp and ant brood (larvae and pupae) as well as winged ants, cicadas, and a variety of aquatic insects.
Ordinarily, insects are not used as emergency food during shortages, but are included as a planned part of the diet throughout the year or when seasonally available.
According to a report in Proceedings of The United States National Academy of Sciences, hungry human ancestors living in southern Africa at least a million years ago had a simple approach to putting more protein and fat in their diet: They used sharpened pieces of bone to tear apart termite mounds so that they could gulp down mouthfuls of the edible insects.
The researchers concluded: "This study revealed that some of the insects which are pests also have high nutritional qualities.”
For full story, please see:
www.ngrguardiannews.com/natural_health/article01/150410?pdate=150410&ptitle=Researchers%20explore%20nutritional%20value%20of%20local%20insects

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  • Nigeria: the potential of neem (Azadirachta indica)

Source: www.allafrica.com, 6 April 2010

The neem tree’s medicinal with economic value remains underexplored. Neem is ubiquitous in Northern Nigeria. The Neem tree popularly referred to in Hausa language as “Dogon Yaro” is a tree in the mahogany family with broad dark brown stem and widely spread branches. It grows above 15-20m and produces evergreen leaves with white fragrant flowers and fruits. It is also drought resistant.
Historically, it is native to tropical and semi-tropical regions with origin in Europe and was later domesticated in Asia. It is one of the legacies of late Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello. He is believed to have brought some seedlings as trials from India during one of his visits and experts have attributed its success to the similarity in climate between Nigeria and India. 
Curiously, the tree is everywhere in the northern part of the country - on streets, around houses and in the forests. Dogon Yaro does not require any special cultivation techniques or efforts because it grows wildly. This single quality makes it an easy cultivation capable of multiplying unobstructed.
The Neem tree has both enormous scientific and traditional uses. Almost every part of it is useful - the seed, leaves, bark and trunk. These parts are used in the manufacture of organic fertilizer, pesticides, pharmaceutical products, cosmetics, traditional herbal medicines and animal feed.
In countries of its adoption like India, it is used for the manufacture of pharmaceutical products to fight parasitic, fungal, bacterial and viral infections. It has also proved successful in the manufacture of drugs for diabetes cure, infertility and skin diseases.
Dr. Yusuf Lawan Idrisa of the Department of Agricultural Economics and Extension Services from the University of Maiduguri is an expert in Technology Adoption and Impact Studies. He said his studies show "it can also be used to control field pests on farms. It only involves drying the leaves and then grinding it into powder and mixing with water," adding that "neem-based pesticides can be used to reduce the incidences of systemic diseases like cancer, kidney and liver diseases that arise as a consequence of using chemical-based (non-decomposing) pesticides that leave behind harmful but unnoticed residues."
Naturally, the Neem-leaf based pesticides are degradable (able to rot or decompose), and have no harmful effects on humans except the bitter taste, which can be washed away with water. Valid research evidences show that for the security of stored produce, once it is made into powdered form and mixed with whatever is to be preserved, the bitter part of it is enough to scare all storage pests.
However, of major importance is the seed from which oil and organic fertilizer can be extracted. The oil can be used in manufacture of pesticides, pharmaceutical products and traditional herbal medicines.
Ibrahim Abba Konto, a chemistry student at the University of Maiduguri, says the Neem tree is also useful in the prevention of Malaria infection. According to him, "If the Neem tree is planted in a place, mosquito infestation is less rampant."
For full story, please see: http://allafrica.com/stories/201004070608.html

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  • Paraguay: Bamboo against deforestation

Source: Tierramerica in Inter Press Service News Agency (IPS), 19 April 2010

Uncontrolled expansion of cattle farming in Paraguay has led to rampant deforestation and introduction of “exotic" varieties says environmentalist Guillermo Gayo. To put a halt to this practice in the southern department of Paraguarí, the foundation he heads has implemented what is known as "permaculture."
A decade ago, the Takuara Renda Foundation ("the bamboo place" in the Guaraní language) settled near the town of Sapucái, on a hilltop that forms part of a remnant of the Atlantic Forest, which extends through parts of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, with just seven percent of its original coverage remaining. The NGO chose an area that had been severely degraded by forest fires and logging.
The Foundation promotes permaculture, which is the design and maintenance of small productive ecosystems, including the harmonic integration of people and their homes, in order to meet their needs in a sustainable way.
This approach utilizes materials like tacuara cane, a type of bamboo, and plant fibres for bioconstruction. "We can't have a house that is our habitat and is aggressive to the environment," environmentalist Takuara Renda director Gayo told Tierramérica.
Renda is not trying to establish bamboo as a crop in the area, but rather is using it to help the degraded forest to recover. "If you cut a branch off the bamboo, another grows in its place. That is how we are replacing the wood," he said.
At the Roke hill project, one will find various species of tacuara cane, which are used in different ways. The Foundation's land holding is just six hectares, but its efforts are felt far beyond.
On 25 surrounding hectares, a process has begun to expand the forest with larger tree and bush species, and an emphasis on preventing fires and halting extensive cattle operations.
The 2008 Agricultural Census found that Paraguarí department, with some 500 000 hectares of forage for cattle, was home to four percent of the 12 million head of cattle in all Paraguay.
Also found in the area are exotic grasses like the Brachiaria (Poaceaefamily) originally from Africa, which pushes out native species like the mbocayá palm (Acrocomia aculeata) as it extends across the terrain.
According to Gayo, the community adopted sustainable farming techniques to grow food, based on their experiences with the foundation, whose own garden includes a variety of food plants, some commonly consumed in the region, and others previously unknown here.
"I was surprised by the house made from tacuara cane and its furniture," said Myriam Ramírez, a young student from a nearby community who visited the foundation with classmates. Ramirez also participated in workshops about bioconstruction, where she learned about building structures out of bamboo,.
For full story, please see: www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=51095

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  • Peru: Rainforest vine may yield drug treatment medication

Source: www.examiner.com, 5 April 2010

Researchers are studying a plant called ayahuasca, and chacruna from the Peruvian rain forest that may one day treat a variety of ailments, including drug addiction according to Voice of America.
Ayahuasca or Banisteriopsis caapi, has long been used in religious rituals by shamans to induce visions, and as medicine in South America. Also known as "vine of the dead," or "soul vine," ayahuasca is combined with chacruna to obtain the active ingredients that produce its psychological, and physiological effects.
Dr. Charles Grob, Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at UCLA School of Medicine stated the plant combination is, "...a very sophisticated form of pharmacology, which somehow the native peoples of the Amazon region have figured out. Ayahuasca is generally a decoction of two plants. Each plant if taken separately has no effects on the human central nervous system, but when taken together there's a very powerful synergy."
The ingredients that are produced in the brew are DMT, a chemical similar to serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter produced in the brain, "...known to influence the functioning of the cardiovascular, renal, immune, and gastrointestinal systems," and, "...been found to be partly responsible for certain manifestations of schizophrenia, depression, compulsive disorders and learning problems," according to Healthscout.
Dr. Grob also says that one advantage is that is does not appear to be addictive, and that no tolerance builds.
The brew also appear to be anti-parasitic, and been found to reduce the symptoms of Parkinson's disease.
Unfortunately, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has classified the active ingredient in ayahuasca as a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning that it is both illegal, and has no medical uses in America. Research on this drug is carried out in South America.
For full story, please see: www.examiner.com/x-8358-Detroit-Substance-Abuse-Examiner~y2010m4d5-Peruvian-rainforest-vine-may-yield-drug-treatment-medication

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  • Tanzania: Saving the nation’s mountain forests

Source: Deutsche Welle, 6 April 2010

Tanzania's unique mountain forests are threatened by large-scale tree-cutting. It's estimated that the eastern African country has already lost a third of its natural forest cover. Now, efforts are on to reverse it.
The thinning of Tanzania's famed mountain forests is one of the main reasons for climate change - a fact that poses a grave risk for the country.
Tanzania's Eastern Arc Mountain range runs through almost the entire country. Some of these peaks have been covered with forests for more than 30 million years. The mountains are known internationally as a "hot spot," which means the forests are home to rare species of plants and animal life, many of which are endangered. More than two thirds of Tanzania's mountain forests are already destroyed.
The forests play a crucial role in the country's irrigation system. They work as a kind of sponge, storing water from the heavy downpours in the monsoon season until there is a dry period. They then let the water flow slowly into the valleys and prevent floods. The mountain forests - like most forests - also trap and store vast amounts of carbon dioxide and thus help in reducing global warming.
But the Eastern Arc Mountains are losing their important carbon storage function through the clearing of large areas of forest cover. As a result, huge quantities of water flow down the mountains in the rainy season, leading partially to a deluge in deeper areas.
On the other hand, the dry seasons are marked by a more frequent and longer-lasting extreme drought. Rivers originating in the mountains are partially silted up. They often don't bring enough water in heavily-populated regions such as Dar es Salaam and Dodoma.
The destruction of Tanzania's forest is man-made. There are two main causes. One is that many people are increasingly expanding their arable land from the lowlands towards the mountains. The second is that Tanzania's energy needs are rising rapidly. Meals are traditionally cooked using charcoal and wood. It's often collected in the mountain forests and sold in the cities. The growing population in the region around the Eastern Arc Mountains explains the expansion of agricultural activity as well as the surging demand for wood and charcoal.
Tanzania's government has recognized the dilemma posed by a growing population and the rising demand for natural resources on the one hand, and the need to protect nature on the other. Most government officials understand that the relentless exploitation of natural resources will destroy the living conditions of humans in the long run.
The government has established the "Eastern Arc Mountains Conservation Endowment Fund" (EAMCEF) to protect the vital range. The foundation's aim is to secure the long-term funding of projects that serve to preserve mountain forests.
But experts say projects financed by the EAMCEF are often too short-lived to halt the destruction of mountain forests, let alone to help in reforestation. Tanzania thus needs more help from the West to tackle the problem.
For full story, please see: www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,5434179,00.html

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  • United States: Hoping to save dozens of native plants

Source: New York Times, 2 April 2010

American colonists once watched for the spring bloom of the Nantucket shadbush, a sign that it was warm enough to bury the winter’s dead.
Today, that shadbush and dozens of other flora native to the New York region face extinction, a result of urban development and the encroachment of invasive plants from foreign lands, scientists from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden report.
Hoping to revive the plants, the scientists recently completed a 20-year project mapping species in every county within a 50-mile radius of New York, providing detailed information on the health of more than 15 000 native and non-native species.
Humans have clearly made their mark. “Plants from other parts of the world are now quite abundant, but there are many others that have been lost due to urbanization,” said Gerry Moore, the botanical garden’s science director.
Dr. Moore said the institution was hoping the maps would inspire city and county officials and local gardeners to begin planting endangered species.
In addition to the Nantucket shadbush, sometimes called the Juneberry for its edible summer-ripening berries, the study found that at least 50 native varieties were in danger of extinction, including the coastal violet, a unique variety of violet with dissected leaves, and the hairy angelica, a small plant with a burst of tiny white flowers.
Because plants are a crucial part of the region’s broader biodiversity, the loss of a native plant could lead to a disappearance of a native insect, bird or other fauna that depend on it for food, Dr. Moore noted.
The introduction of invasive species from Europe and Asia has played a big role in the retreat of some species, including the American bittersweet, a vine valued for its attractive foliage and small inedible orange berries. It was abundant in the region from the 1800s to the early 1900s, according to records. Then the Asian bittersweet, introduced from East Asia in the 1850s, starting taking over.
Gardeners had embraced the Asian variety because it was easier to grow, but it turned invasive, spreading wildly and eliminating other plants.
Other native plants seem to have diminished as housing, roads and other construction carved through meadows, woodlands and sandy shoreland. Historical accounts first describe the coastal violet as a resident bloom on Staten Island in the late 1800s. Today it is found only in coastal areas of Long Island and in Monmouth County, N.J.
Movements have long been under way on the city and county level to revive native plants. The Greenbelt Native Plant Center, a division of New York’s Department of Parks and Recreation, opened 30 years ago and is still planting native species in the city’s parks and gardens.
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s unfolding flora survey has been a critical guide to the center over the years, said Greenbelt’s director, Edward Toth.
“We need to know where to find these things, we need to know where they were historically located, and we need some information on the relative health of these plants,” Mr. Toth said.
Over the last two decades, the botanical garden has relied on dozens of individuals and local botanical groups to survey blocks of land in their neighbourhoods, counting and identifying plants in open fields, vacant lots and even sidewalk cracks.
For full story, please see: www.nytimes.com/2010/04/03/nyregion/03flora.html

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  • United States: Eastern U.S. forests declining after decades of recovery, study says

Source: Yale Environment News 360, 8 April 2010

Forest cover in the eastern U.S. has declined in recent decades after a period of recovery that marked much of the 20th century, according to a new study. For several decades beginning in 1920, eastern forests expanded steadily as fields previously used for agriculture were abandoned and trees grew, researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey found. But that trend has reversed since the early 1970s, with a 4.1 percent decline in forest cover from 1973 to 2000, according to a report published in the journal BioScience.
Using remote sensing imagery, statistical data, field notes, and photographs, researchers calculated that more than 9 million acres were cleared from 1973 to 2000. While abandoned fields and pastures continue to become woodlands, the study said that increases in timber production, urban expansion, mountaintop removal mining, and reservoir construction have created a net forest loss that “has important implications for sustainability, future carbon sequestration, and biodiversity.”
For full story, please see: http://e360.yale.edu/content/digest.msp?id=2357

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NEWS

  • Ecologists unveil plan for “barometer of natural life”

Source: Guardian (UK), 8 April 2010

An ambitious project to create a "barometer of life" to track the changing fortunes of the natural world will be set out tomorrow by some of the world's leading ecologists.
The plan is for thousands of scientists to collect information on 160 000 of the world's nearly 2 million known species - from great mammals, fish and birds to obscure insects and fungi - chosen to be representative of life on Earth.
The index would more than triple the scope of what is already the world's biggest scheme - the "red list" of extinct and endangered species published by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) - and would be updated every five years.
The cost of building the database would be about US$60m (£39.3m), but this would be "one of the best investments for the good of humanity," says the proposal, published in the journal Science and co-authored by the great American ecologist and writer Prof Edward O Wilson at Harvard University.
"The more we learn about indicator species (which can provide information on the quality of the environment around them), the more we know about the status of the living environment that sustains us all," said Wilson. "Threatened species, in particular, need to be targeted to enable better conservation and policy decisions."
The figures could be used to help companies carry out environmental impact assessments, allow national and international organizations to prioritize spending, and draw public attention to problems as a way of building support for policies to protect and improve biodiversity, said Simon Stuart, chair of the IUCN's species survival commission, and the paper's lead author.
"Just think of the other uses US$60m are put to by the world, and the amount of money spent on wars or banks, or advertising," Stuart told the Guardian. "We can put our hands on our hearts and say this would be better for the good of humanity. First of all it's an indicator of the health of the planet. Secondly in many parts of the world people depend on biodiversity for food or clean water or living wages. Thirdly I'd say because of their intrinsic value: there's something inspirational about ecosystems and species being in good shape, and the diversity of it."
The idea – informally titled the "barometer of life" – is supported by the IUCN and nine partner organizations, including Kew Gardens in London, and the Zoological Society of London.
Scientists have so far described 1.9 million of the estimated up to 10 million species of vertebrates, invertebrates, plants, fungi and other groups on Earth, and possibly tens of millions more bacteria and archeans.
For full story, please see: www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/apr/08/barometer-of-life

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  • Exodus of rural Amazonians threatens rainforest

Source: MediaGlobal, 15 April 2010

The exodus of rural Amazonians may be leaving areas of the Amazon rainforest vulnerable. The Ribeirinhos (which means “river dwellers”) have begun migrating from the rainforest to urban cities in search of better opportunities.
“Rural people serve both as informal monitors of land invasions… and serve as the political justification for the protection of forests,” Dr. Luke Parry, researcher at the Lancaster Environment Centre, told MediaGlobal. “The loss of the rural population may thus reduce both the monitoring in remote areas and the long-term viability of some types of reserve creation.”
A desire to access education is the main cause of the exodus, said Parry. “One of the main attractions of an education is that it broadens the opportunities open to a young adult.” Even if more schools are built, teachers are reluctant to spend long periods of time in isolated settlements, and improving the education still would not prevent migration, explained Parry. “It is likely that many people would use that education and leave to an urban area anyway, and maybe have a better chance of accessing the urban job market,” said Parry.
The Ribeirinhos, who practice many forest and river-based livelihoods, often take their taste for wild foods, such as turtles and hunted forest animals, with them to the cities. “The commercial pressure to harvest this wildlife for urban populations could be exerting negative effects of exploited plant and animal populations,” explained Parry.
“We observed a very great spatial extent of commercial harvesting, often hundreds of kilometres beyond the last household on a given river.” Parry added, “ River-dwellers reported the growth in the scale and intensity of commercial harvesting, particularly for turtles, over time, and in many cases indicated that they perceived this had led to a decline in the abundance of some species.”
Parry observed the cost to the environment of extensive commercial harvesting of vulnerable plant and animal populations while conducting an 11-month survey to study the impact of rural-to-urban migration in the Amazon. The results of the study were published in an article in the latest issue of Conservation Letters titled “Rural – urban migration brings conservation threats and opportunities to Amazonian watersheds.” The study was counterintuitive in that it found that potential conservation benefits would be gained from rural migration because of a subsequent reduction in forest and aquatic subsistence harvesting from the Ribeirinhos.
However, abandoning the forest by the rural Amazonians also opens up the threat of future deforestation, due to a loophole in Brazilian policy. It is possible to gain property by showing occupation of the land. “Deforesting areas is a common method of demonstrating occupation and “improvement” of that land,” said Parry. “The abandonment of large areas of forest in remote headwaters means that there is a lot of unclaimed land and a high chance of land-grabbing in those areas become bisected by new highways and link-roads.”
Ribeirinhos struggle to find support from conservation groups. As the mixed descendants of indigenous people, European colonists, and escaped African slaves, the Ribeirinhos are frequently overlooked by the conservation and development community, explained Parry. “In my opinion indigenous groups have got stronger support from the media and NGOs than the non-tribal Ribeirinhos of Amazonia.”
For full story, please see: http://mediaglobal.org/article/2010-04-15/exodus-of-rural-amazonians-threatens-rainforest

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  • How interfering humans helped Amazon diversity

Source: New Scientist, 13 April 2010

Human activity may not be all bad news for the Amazon. A study of South American savannahs suggests that even before Europeans arrived, farmers were changing ecosystems with a landscaping method previously unrecognised in the region. What's more, the pre-Columbian alterations may have increased biodiversity.
"Human actions cannot always be characterised as bad for biodiversity," says Doyle McKey of the University of Montpellier 2, France. "Some might be good."
McKey and his colleagues came to their conclusion after studying some strange features of the savannahs of French Guiana. These plains are flooded during the rainy season, dry and parched in the summer, and often burned by fires. It was while walking through this landscape that McKey started wondering about undulations in the terrain.
It turned out that they are mounds, mostly about 1.5 metres across and 30 centimetres high. McKey thinks that pre-Columbian farmers made them as beds for crops that drained well in the rainy season. Sure enough, when the team tested the mounds' drainage capacity, they found it was nine times as high as the seasonally flooded savannah.
Once these fields were abandoned between 800 and 400 years ago, plants and animals colonised the mounds, creating a new ecosystem. Specifically, McKey's team found that the leaf-cutter ant Acromyrmex octospinosus, the predatory ant Ectatomma brunneum and the Nasutitermitinae subfamily of termites preferred to build their nests on the raised beds.
The Acromyrmex, which are fungus-growing ants, even transported large quantities of organic matter to their nest. This in turn has caused the plants on the mounds to grow bigger and their roots deeper. The consequent structural integrity of the mounds and their excellent permeability to water has protected them from erosion by flood waters.
McKey expects that the alterations have been beneficial for the biodiversity of the area. "It's clear that a savannah with this heterogeneity will have a higher biodiversity than just a flat savannah," he says.
Besides French Guiana, such mounds can be found in Surinam, Belize, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Mexico. The new study is bound to further fuel the debate over whether most of the Amazon rainforest and the associated savannahs are pristine ecosystems. "To my mind, the debate has been too black-and-white," says McKey. "Nature and culture are interacting to produce interesting things, and maybe that is the way this debate should go."
For full story, please see: www.newscientist.com/article/dn18762-how-interfering-humans-helped-amazon-diversity.html

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  • Mapping the landscape of NGOs working to protect forests 

Source: Amazon News, 1 April 2010

A new report published by the UK Environmental Funders Network maps out the civil society organizations working to address deforestation.
The report, “Saving the Rainforests: Civil Society Mapping,” profiles 65 environmental and social justice organizations, enabling readers to identify gaps and overlaps in the landscape of groups working to reduce global forest loss.  The report specifically aims to inform grantmakers providing funds to civil society organizations.
“The mapping was inspired by the observation that good philanthropy is similar to acupuncture – philanthropic grants may be small in size compared to the body politic, but when inserted in the right place they can have enormous impact," said Harriet Williams, lead author of the report. "The methodology that we’re developing is applicable to any complex environmental issue."
The report — together with a map, published separately — classifies NGOs into nine "storylines" to categorize organizational culture: "Knowledge Builders", "Peoples Heroes", "Institution Watchers", "Finance Pioneers", "Standard Setters", "Parks Rangers", "Brand Attackers", "Critical Friends", and "Consumer Guides".  For example, the report distinguishes between groups that often work with business ("Critical Friends") to those who expose environmental transgressors amoung corporations ("Brand Attackers").
The map evaluates the stance of various organizations on issues including carbon offsets, REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), and certification schemes for forest products.
“Although there is broad consensus on the urgency of protecting tropical forests, and the critical role of NGOs in the collective effort, we actually know very little about the non-profit landscape: what are the specializations, and who is doing what?"
"With so many different approaches and roles among forest focused NGOs, it is wonderful to have a useful map of some of the players and approaches," added David Rothschild, Senior Programme Officer at the Skoll Foundation, in the statement.  "The presentation encourages strategic thinking about many of the inputs needed for increased impact, and how we are going to get there."
For full story, please see: www.amazonia.org.br/english/noticias/noticia.cfm?id=349744
amazon news

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  • Networks emerge as key actors in community forestry

Source: Thinking beyond the canopy, 26 March 2010

Community networks have emerged as an important force in enhancing forest tenure security and livelihood benefits for forest-dependent communities.
In many countries, such networks have become part of the forest tenure reform process. They develop at the grassroots level, and are proving to be effective agents for collective action.
The Federation of Community Forest User Groups, Nepal (FECOFUN), is one of the largest of such organizations. It emerged along with the growth of community forestry in Nepal in the 1990s, and today represents more than 14 000 community forest user groups (CFUGs) across the country.
FECOFUN has supported CFUGs by, for example, developing and implementing management plans, staging rallies, running media campaigns and offering legal support and education. Its nationwide network and the broad populace it represents have helped it to challenge power imbalances between the forest bureaucracy and local communities. It has also increased user groups’ sense of security over their forest rights.
“FECOFUN educated us about national forest policies and other legal issues that affect our relationship with the forest,” says Hemraj Kafle, a community member in Nepal’s Jhapa district. “Their guidance has helped us to reclaim access to diverse forest products.”
FECOFUN is one of three community networks featured in a new book that offers an in-depth case study analysis of community forestry across the globe. “Forests for People: Community Rights and Forest Tenure Reform,” is the culmination of a three year study in ten countries in three regions of the world – Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The research project, led and coordinated by CIFOR (Centre for International Forestry Research), examined 30 sites of differing size and characteristics.
Anne Larson, CIFOR associate and co-editor of “Forests for People,” notes that networks such as FECOFUN and the Association of Forest Communities of Petén (ACOFOP) in Guatemala have become key actors in the forest policy process.
“These organizations have been important not only for the defence of community rights but also for opening communication between communities and the state forestry administration on a new level,” she says.
In recent years, governments in developing countries have transferred at least 200 million hectares of forests to communities living in and around them. Now, more than a quarter of forests in developing countries are owned by or assigned to communities.
For full story, please see: www.cifor.cgiar.org/Headlines/Networks+emerge+as+key+actors+in+community+forestry.htm

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  • Poor nations “most at risk” from plant loss

Source: www.france24.com, 24 March 2010

Global warming could reduce the range of plant biodiversity by more than nine percent by century's end, and poor countries least to blame for the problem will be worst hit, a study published on Wednesday says.
German biologists used the UN climate panel's computer models for possible temperature rise, and crunched through data on "capacity for species richness," or CSR, meaning the likely count of plant species per area.
In 13 out of 18 scenarios, global CSR "declined significantly" by 2100, by an average of 4.9 percent.
Under "B1," the most optimistic scenario used by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the global average temperature would rise by 1.8 degrees Celsius (3.24 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100.
As a result, there would be a tiny gain of 0.3 percent in global CSR, as flora benefited from rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels.
But under the A1F1 scenario ‑ viewed by many experts as a grim but realistic prospect - temperatures would rise by 4ºC. In such a case, CSR would fall by an average 9.4 percent.
Change, though, would be unequal.
In far northerly latitudes, land locked in permafrost would open up to vegetation through warming, which implies uninhabited tracts of Canada or Siberia could be opened up to agriculture.
But deserts, savannahs, moist tropical forests and other habitats where humidity holds the key to species survival would be damaged by water stress. The Amazonian rainforest would be the most vulnerable of all.
One consequence is that "generalist" species that can adapt to change could expand at the expense of less versatile native plants that can only survive in a narrow temperature range, says the study. These could become rarer and even become extinct.
"While in most temperate and Arctic regions a CSR increase is expected, the projections indicate a strong decline in most tropical and subtropical regions," say the researchers, led by Jan Henning Sommer of the University of Bonn.
The paper is published by a British journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
For full story, please see: www.france24.com/en/20100324-poor-nations-most-risk-plant-loss

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  • Rush for REDD could undermine local forest rights

Source: Reuters, 16 April 2010

A U.N.-backed forest preservation scheme could become too valuable and complex, raising the risk local communities, the very people seen as key to the scheme's success, could be shut out, scientists say.
Reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation, or REDD, has already attracted billion of dollars of funding pledges from rich nations keen to see the scheme established as part of a broader global climate pact from 2013.
REDD would allow developing nations to earn valuable carbon offsets for projects that preserve or rehabilitate forests, which soak up planet-warming carbon dioxide as they grow.
Rich nations would buy the offsets to help them meet emissions reduction goals at home. That demand would underpin forest investments that could reach US$30 billion a year by 2020, the United Nations has estimated.
That same demand could also undermine a major shift in the way forests have been managed in poorer nations, where cash-strapped national governments have given local communities and administrations more rights and powers to run their forests.
Such "decentralized" management has been shown to boost forest carbon storage and result in better incomes in a number of developing nations, say Edward Webb and Jacob Phelps of the National University of Singapore.
The scientists, along with co-author Arun Agrawal of the University of Michigan, in a study published in Friday's issue of the Journal Science, looked at how the rush for REDD could affect local management and governance of forests.
"One of the issues has been people's rights for use and management of forests because there has been a decentralization trend over the past two or three decades," Edwards told Reuters.
The risk, they say, is that by monetizing forest carbon, REDD would substantially increase the market value of forests, including those previously considered marginal, prompting central governments to increase control.
A performance-based payment mechanism would pressure governments to avoid the risk of non-payment resulting from local failures, the authors say in the study.
"With billions of dollars at stake, governments could justify recentralization by portraying themselves as more capable and reliable than local communities at protecting national interest," the authors say.
Deforestation is responsible for nearly a fifth of mankind's greenhouse gas emissions and curbing forest loss is regarded as a key way to brake the pace of global warming.
The key is incentivizing major forest nations such as Indonesia and Brazil, which have already attracted investment to create REDD pilot projects. Indonesia has more than a dozen.
Globally, there is now widespread support for an enhanced form called REDD-plus that also covers sustainable management of forests, conservation and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.
For full story, please see: http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKTRE63F0SC20100416

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  • Tensions remain over biological access protocol

Source: Scidev.net, 2 April 2010

After nine years of meetings about international rules on providing equitable resources, a major step was reached at the end of March (22–28 March) with agreement on a draft text that is intended to form the basis of a protocol on access and benefit sharing.
At the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group on Access and Benefit-sharing of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which met in Cali, Colombia, representatives from 193 countries agreed to use the draft as the basis of a protocol to be submitted to the tenth Conference of the Parties to the CBD, which will be held in October in Nagoya, Japan.
The UN hailed the meeting as a great step forward in the quest to use the world's biodiversity fairly.
"Cali has entered history as the birthplace of the draft Nagoya Protocol on access and benefit sharing," said Ahmed Djoghlaf, the UN's executive secretary to the CBD.
But the draft remains highly controversial, and participants have been forced to arrange a further, week-long meeting to take place in Canada in July to prepare the draft for October's meeting in Nagoya.
Agreeing a protocol is one of the three objectives of the CBD. The goal is to ensure that benefits arising from the use of genetic resources from plants, animals or microorganisms are shared in a fair and equitable way with local communities or countries that provide them.
"We expected a bigger step, but undoubtedly Cali's text is a step forward," said Oscar Lizarazo, legal consultant for GeBiX, the Colombian Centre for Genomics and Bioinformatics of Extreme Environments.
Krystyna Swiderska, a senior researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development in the United Kingdom, told SciDev.Net: "The real negotiations on a draft protocol only started on Thursday and I was not entirely surprised to hear that the negotiations broke down on Friday evening, given the very divergent positions between parties."
"The industrialised countries want easy access to genetic resources in other countries," she said. "If they have their way, the protocol will at most require compliance with existing legislation in the developing countries.
"On the other hand the biodiversity-rich developing countries want to assert national sovereignty over biological resources, and to ensure that the protocol binds industrialised countries to sharing any benefits."
Industrialised countries also want the protocol to focus only on genetic resources, while developing countries want to ensure that derivatives and traditional knowledge are included, added Swiderska.
"And industrialised nations want compliance with the protocol to be enforced through individual contracts for example between drug companies and governments while developing nations want to include [legal] measures for compliance with the protocol itself," she said.
For full story, please see: www.scidev.net/en/news/tensions-remain-over-biological-access-protocol.html

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REQUESTS

  • Request for contributions: Conserving biodiversity through certification

Source: Forest Policy Information Mailing List, 9 April 2010

Forest certification is widely advocated as a strategy to conserve the world’s forests and the biodiversity contained in them. More than 15 years have passed since the first forest certificate was issued, and it should now be possible to evaluate if certification has had an impact on biodiversity by looking at the performance of certified forests compared to forests which conduct business as usual.
The European Tropical Forest Research Network (ETFRN) plans to disseminate ETFRN News about experiences and best practices regarding forest management certification and the conservation of forest biodiversity.
The objective is to contribute to the debate on the effectiveness of forest certification as a tool for biodiversity conservation in tropical forests. More specifically the idea is to bring together practical experiences and learn lessons.
The Newsletter is also an opportunity to showcase work and to contribute to the discussions on the best policies and practices for forest certification. The ETFRN is inviting colleagues and organizations involved in the theme to submit a short article (maximum 2000 words) on their work and experiences. The article could include, amongst others, a brief description of practical experiences and pragmatic solutions addressing the successes and failures of conserving biodiversity through certification, the monitoring of biodiversity, the development of appropriate standards, and perspectives grounded in sound information, from researchers, certifiers, forest managers, interest groups and other practitioners. The ETFRN intends to focus on native forest biodiversity in managed natural forests in the tropics, and different forest management certification systems.
The Newsletter is scheduled for publication in September 2010.
To contribute, please contact:
Mr. Douglas Sheil (d.sheil@cgiar.org )
For more information, please see: www.etfrn.org/etfrn/call-contributions.html

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EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES

  • Center for Sustainable Development launches online courses

Source: Tim Magee, Executive Director, 13 April 2010

The Center for Sustainable Development has launched key courses on adapting to climate change, impact analysis, project design, community participation, and funding inexpensively online.
The Online Learning Catalogue of Courses for Summer/Fall 2010 is now available at: www.csd-i.org/online-learning/
For more information, please contact:
Tim Magee
Executive Director
Center for Sustainable Development
724 Via Santo Tomas
Claremont, CA  91711
Tel. 909-532-5135
E-mail: Tim.Magee@csd-i.org
Website: www.csd-i.org/

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EVENTS

Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC) Stakeholder Dialogue
26 May 2010
Geneva, Switzerland
The opportunities that forest certification provide in improving and verifying sustainable forest management are enormous, though the barriers to a further expansion are increasing. With many of the forests in countries with well-designed and well-enforced forest laws, long traditions of forest management, and good governance certified to one of the two global forest certification systems, there is a real need to revisit forest certification requirements in detail and ensure their applicability in countries with less favourable structures, especially in the tropics, in Asia, South America and Africa.
Ultimately, mainstreaming forest certification is required to safeguard forests as the world's most valuable terrestrial ecosystem, with global and local stakeholders joining forces to further develop certification systems such as PEFC to fully utilize the potential it offers.
PEFC, as the world's largest forest certification system, works throughout the entire forest supply chain to promote good practice in the forest and to ensure that timber and non-timber forest products are produced with respect for the highest ecological, social and ethical standards.
Over the past two years, forest stakeholders have collaborated to revise part of PEFC's Sustainability Benchmarks. As the new standards will impact the management of the majority of the world's certified forests, PEFC has organized a number of seminars and workshops during the revision process to gather stakeholder input, which will culminate in a Stakeholder Dialogue on 26 May 2010 in Geneva to provide opportunities to gather additional feedback, input and suggestions from all interested parties.
For more information, please contact:
PEFC Council,
World Trade Center 1,
10 Route de l’Aeroport
PO Box 636, 1215,
Geneva, Switzerland
Tel. +41 22 799 450
Website:

last updated:  Thursday, May 3, 2012