No. 5/10

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:

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 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 his help with this issue.



  1. Agarwood needs protection
  2. Bamboo: Philippines turns taxis green
  3. Candelilla wax: regulating trade
  4. Cinnamon: More cinnamon, less Cancer
  5. Cinnamon: Here’s why you should have cinnamon
  6. Cork(Quercus suber): Safer, greener cars ‑ cork may be better than polymer foam
  7. Ginseng: Wonder of the world
  8. Maple Syrup: Scientists highlight health benefits of pure maple syrup
  9. Medicinal Plants: Human health linked directly to forest health
  10. Medicinal plants: The benefits of Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)
  11. Medicinal plants: Unlocking keys to herbal medicines
  12. Moringa (Moringa oleifera): Fight malnutrition by eating moringa
  13. Mushrooms: Cordyceps sinensis is an effective cancer treatment, says new research
  14. Sea buckthorn leaves (Hippophae rhamnoides) may help treat liver disease
  15. Truffles: Researchers unlock truffle genome
  16. Vegetable ivory: Nutty jewellery


  1. Armenia: How trees are restoring hope
  2. Canada: Increasing recognition of value of NTFPs
  3. Cambodia: Villagers turn from hunting to ecotourism
  4. China’s illegal wildlife trade in tigers, turtles and timber
  5. Congo Basin: Rare animals being “eaten to extinction”
  6. Ethiopia: The economic potential of ecotourism
  7. Guatemala: Rainforest Alliance's certification more effective than protection
  8. Indonesia: Customary laws protect forest better than government does, says study
  9. Tajikistan: Mulberry ‑ On the roof of the world
  10. Trinidad and Tobago: Forests…much more than timber
  11. United States: The trouble with Oregon’s truffles
  12. Vietnam: Illegal bushmeat, wildlife trafficking at alarming levels


  1. African resilience to climate change: biodiversity conservation and enhancing traditional knowledge
  2. ICIMOD Photo Contest – Mountain Biodiversity
  3. Internet is biggest threat to endangered species, say conservationists
  4. Saving forests, cultures and carbon dioxide
  5. Smallholder and community forestry: forests may depend on survival of native people
  6. The keys to forest conservation
  7. UNECE and FAO Launch Data Collection on Europe’s Forests


  1. Forestry, Biomass and Sustainability 2010
  2. IX Congreso Internacional de Manejo de Fauna de la Amazonía y América Latina
  3. Restoring the world’s forests and tackling climate change
  4. International Conference on Biodiversity Conservation in Transboundary Tropical Forests


  1. FAO publishes key findings of global forest resources assessment
  2. Indian University catalogues rare medicinal plants
  3. Mushrooms ‑ edible and medicinal
  4. Research into Use (RIU): Managing Africa’s Medicinal Plants
  5. Other publications of interest
  6. Web sites and e-zines


  1. International Mountain Day theme 2010: Call for proposals


  1. Eggshell of extinct giant bird provides ancient DNA
  2. Culture not clear-cuts are forests’ biggest threat
  3. Nobel Laureate Maathai warns on forest destruction
  4. Rise in poaching pushes CITES to vote “no” to ivory sales





  1. Agarwood needs protection

Source: The Peninsula (Qatar), 15 March 2010

The GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries should take the right choice immediately to protect the depleting Agarwood resources. The Agarwood trade industry with its billion dollar value is in high need of proper management for its sustainable continuation, according to an expert.
“The CITES conference is an important turning point for Agarwood conservation and trade as some of the major consumers are in the region,” said James Compton, Asia-Pacific Programme Coordinator for TRAFFIC - a wildlife trade monitoring network.
“There should be a collaborative management between both the consumer counties and the producers. If consumer countries like GCC states, Taiwan (Republic of China), Japan and others make the right choice and commitment now, a long lasting change will happen. If something is not done in five years the chance for a sustainable trade is very low,” he told The Peninsula.
Agarwood, an aromatic wood, is at threat of depletion in the wild. In 1995, one species of Agarwood was listed in CITES Appendix II, meaning that trade could continue, but a CITES export permit is required. Later in 2004, all the Agarwood species were also added to the list.
Although overall trade volumes of the wood may appear small in “timber trade” terms, they are not small in monetary terms. Agarwood chips and segments may sell for several hundred to several thousand US dollars per kg. In Qatari market, 18g of the wood can cost QR500. The wood is mainly used to make customary perfume and for other cultural purposes in the region. The demand for the wood is high due to its medicinal, religious, cultural and aromatic value throughout the world, mainly within Asia.
“The trade history of the wood goes back centuries, and hence there is a huge mis-management as it does not look into having a trade system which can ensure the conservation of the Agarwood reserves. This is a key CITES issue,” said Compton.
Also the quality and quantity of the Agarwood from the wild is going down due to extreme exploitation. “People are looking to make money out of this kind of harvesting; hence that is also another challenge for CITES to differentiate between wild and the domestic species,” he said.
Consumer countries including Qatar should work together with the producers to ensure an Agarwood industry which encourages legal and sustainable trade and curbs the black market.
For full story, please see:



  1. Bamboo: Philippines town turns taxis green

Source:, 19 March 2010

The Philippine town of Tabontabon, in the province of Leyte, has commissioned taxis whose bodies are made of indigenous bamboo. Not only, they burn biodiesel fuel made from locally available nut oils. The “ECO taxis” built by Tabontabon Organic Transport Industry [TOTI] come in two sizes: ECO1 seats 20, while ECO2 carries eight passengers. Each runs for eight hours on a gallon of biodiesel, such as coconut oil.
Tabontabon mayor Rustico Balderian is the inspiration behind the unusual vehicles, which are 90 percent bamboo. They provide employment opportunities for local youth, and safer transport for families who otherwise ride four or five together on a single motorcycle. A third vehicle, ECO3—which will also be derived from indigenous bamboo—is now under construction.
For full story, please see:



  1. Candelilla wax: regulating trade

Source: Gulf Times (Qatar), 15 March 2010

Top experts attending the ongoing triennial CITES meeting will consider how best to regulate trade in wild plants and products made out of them.
Musical instruments, cancer medicines, emulsions, polishes, gums, cosmetics and many other products contain wild plants protected by CITES, including the big-leaf mahogany.
The CITES member-states will also discuss the merits of removing the controls for lipsticks and other products containing candelilla wax(Euphorbiaceae family).
Products containing candelilla wax are traded in enormous quantities through a complex supply chain. Relaxing the current controls on finished products containing candelilla would allow enforcement officers to focus on the smuggling of illegal timber and other endangered plants from their natural habitats.
Candelilla is a shrubby plant whose natural range extends from the southwest of the US (New Mexico and Texas) to Mexico, having densely clustered stems that yield the multipurpose candelilla wax. Its distinct properties make it an essential raw material in a wide array of cosmetics (especially lipsticks), inks, dyes, adhesives, coatings, emulsions, polishes, pharmaceutical products and gum base.
To date, Mexico seems to be the only country exporting candelilla wax. However, some of the wax is exported to the US, from where traders re-export it to Europe or the Far East, sometimes without the mandatory CITES re-export certificates.
For full story, please see:



  1. Cinnamon: More cinnamon, less cancer

Source: The Toronto Sun (Canada), 22 March 2010 

Several types of spices contain large amounts of cancer-fighting compounds that could help in the prevention of the disease.
In addition to the well-known health properties of tumeric and ginger, a recent study suggests that cinnamon could be equally useful in reducing tumour growth by blocking the formation of new vessels using a process called angiogenesis.
The spice is made from the inner skin of the Cinnamonum verum, a shrub that belongs to the laurel family. To harvest the spice, the skin of the young plant is detached from the branch, forming fine cinnamon sticks.
The highest quality cinnamon is known to come from plants in Sri Lanka, where it has a pale yellow-brown colour, a strong odour and a very flavourful taste. In North America, the cinnamon generally hails from the Cinnamonum cassia, a plant from the same family but that comes from China and that is thicker and has a darker brown colour.
Cinnamon has one of the highest antioxidant contents of the entire vegetable world, a property that is linked in large part to the spice’s huge content of complex polyphenols called proanthocyanidin. Cinnamon’s level of these polyphenols is 25 times higher than what is found in wild blueberries.
Cancers cannot progress without being adequately fed by a network of blood vessels that provide the disease with the elements it needs to grow. This process, called angiogenesis, is caused by chemical signals secreted by cancer cells that attract nearby cells from blood vessel.
Research done in recent years shows that certain compounds in food, notably the blueberry’s delphinidin, green tea’s EGCG or the ellagic acid found in strawberries, have the ability to impede the formation of these new vessels by blocking the activity of VEGFR-2, a protein essential to the angiogenesis process. Because all types of cancer are completely reliant on this blood support, these compounds could therefore play a critical role in cancer prevention.
Research recently published has suggested that cinnamon could also possess preventative properties caused by its ability to block angiogenesis. The researchers show that, at low doses, an extract of the spice deactivated the VEGFR-2, which blocked the formation of new blood vessels created by tumours.
The discovery of cinnamon’s anti-angiogenic properties illustrates once again the variety of helpful compounds found in the vegetal world that can have positive effects on our health.
For full story, please see:



  1. Cinnamon: Here's why you should have cinnamon

Source: Hindustan Times (India), 20 March 2010

Cinnamon or dalchini is a spice that has many qualities. Cinnamon is the sweet bark of the Cinnamon tree. Not only does it add flavour to food, it is also considered medicinally beneficial. Among the many benefits of Cinnamon include:
1. If you have dental caries, you can chew a small piece of cinnamon to act upon the bacteria and control infections.
2. Cinnamon is good for diabetics because it stabilizes blood sugar thanks to its effects on the hormone insulin.
3. Taken as a decoction, cinnamon controls gas production and build-up in the intestines.
4. It controls nausea among pregnant women and children. It is mild, so it can be used frequently, but should be taken in moderation in the hot season.
5. Breads baked with cinnamon have a longer shelf life and the same applies to other foods.
6. Urinary tract infections are very common among women and cinnamon can help prevent and control them.
7. Add cinnamon powder to your face pack to control acne infections.
8. If you suffer from arthritis with inflammation, take cinnamon as a decoction and in your food. The application of oils with added cinnamon can be useful.
9. It has anti-clotting properties, so it’s beneficial if you have deep vein thrombosis.
10. It also controls cholesterol build-up.
For full story, please see:



  1. Cork(Quercus suber): Safer, greener cars ‑ cork may be better than polymer foam

Source: ScienceDaily, 12 March 2010

Crash-test dummies could soon be facing vehicle collision tests in cars padded with cork rather than traditional materials such as polymer foams or porous aluminium metal, according to Portuguese engineers writing in the International Journal of Materials Engineering.
Synthetic cellular materials, polymeric and metallic foams, have been extensively used in energy-absorbing systems for decades. They are commonly lightweight, stiff, and can absorb energy well. However, they suffer from some drawbacks when compared to natural materials, namely cost and unsustainability.
Cork, the bark of the cork oak tree, Quercus suber, is one such cellular natural material. It can be compacted to form a micro-agglomerated material that rivals aluminium foam for its ability to absorb the energy of an impact. Now, Mariana Paulino of the University of Aveiro (Portugal), and colleagues there and at the University of Coimbra, have pitted cork against metal foams, polymer padding and a novel polymer foam material to see which might make the optimal vehicle safety material.
The results obtained in energy-absorption tests indicate that polyurethane foam performs the worst of all the materials tested, despite its widespread use as an impact safety material in vehicles. Aluminium foam can absorb the most energy, marginally beating cork.
As an impact protection material for car bumpers, doors, headliners, knee bolsters and door pillars, cork even outperforms the novel material IMPAXX 300 in terms of the value of impact acceleration peak. Indeed, at higher energies, which would equate to a high-speed collision, cork has the best acceleration peak value.
Aside from its well-known application as a bottle stopper material, cork is already widely used as a thermal and sound insulator and in various energy-absorbing applications including packaging and footwear. It is often used as damping pads under the keys in wind instruments such as clarinets and saxophones. However, its potential as a safety material for vehicles is only now emerging.
The researchers conclude that while aluminium foam marginally performs better than micro-agglomerated cork, cork could be a much better choice for future vehicle design as it is less costly and much easier to process than metal foam.
For full story, please see:



  1. Ginseng: Wonder of the world

Source: Epoch Times (USA), 23 February 2010 

Ginseng has always been shrouded in folklore and magic. Like the rich mountain forests where it grows naturally, its use dates back to antiquity. Ginseng is a perennial herb belonging to the genus Panax, which is derived from the Greek word Panakos, or panacea in English, meaning an all-healing remedy.
Both the Asian and American varieties are employed medicinally, sharing the same growth habits and virtually the same appearance, with the only difference being that the Asian variety is larger.
American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is found throughout the deciduous mountain forests of Central and Eastern North America. The first specimens of American ginseng were transported to Europe in 1704.
It should come as no surprise that the North American Indians also knew of and utilized ginseng root for its medicinal qualities. They called it Garantoquen, which translates as "like a man," in reference to its forked root structure, which closely resembles the shape of a man.
American Indians have a particular method of harvesting the root whereby it is only harvested after the red fruit of the plant has reached maturity. They then bend the stem down to the ground before proceeding to dig the root. This method reportedly increases the germination rate and provides for a greater future yield.
The Sioux Indian women had especially well-developed ways of cleaning and processing ginseng, and were said to collect the finest root of all the tribes.
Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) is found primarily in the Northern Hemisphere and mainly in China, Tibet, Mongolia, and Korea. The Korean and Manchurian species are traditionally considered the most highly prized. Wealthy Chinese will pay up to US$200 000 for the vitality-enhancing properties of a premium grade ginseng root.
These highly prized roots are found growing wild in the mountainous regions of Korea and the Changbai and Xiaoxinganling Mountains in China’s northeast. They grow on steep slopes at heights between 500 meters to 1 100 meters above sea level.
Wild ginseng growing in ancient forests with deep loamy soil and moisture-laden air is found to have a much greater potency than ginseng grown commercially out of its natural environment.
Ginseng is indeed the most highly valued of all herbs by Chinese physicians and its use dates back at least 5 000 years.
For full story, please see:



  1. Maple Syrup: Scientists highlight health benefits of pure maple syrup

Source:, 22 March 2010

Scientists have revealed that pure maple syrup is good for health, encouraging its use.
Researcher Navindra Seeram from the University of Rhode Island (United States), who specializes in research of medicinal plants, has discovered that there are over 20 compounds in Canadian maple syrup which can be directly linked to human health, with 13 of these compounds being discovered for the first time ever. Also, eight of the said compounds have been discovered in the Acer (commonly maple) family for the first time.
Many of these antioxidant compounds that have been discovered in maple syrup reportedly contain anti-cancer, anti-bacterial and anti-diabetic properties as well.
"We are proud that our producers are generously supporting this research, bringing to light a greater understanding of the gastronomic and health benefits of maple products. It is not just for Canada, but for the welfare of consumers around the world", said President of the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, Serge Beaulieu, while stressing that Mr. Seeram's laboratory is just one of the sources which is now working towards expansion of a multi-national network of research facilities contributing to the study of Canada's maple products.



  1. Medicinal plants: Human health linked directly to forest health

Source:, 22 March 2010

Environmental degradation is causing serious detrimental health impacts for humans, but protecting natural habitats can reverse this and supply positive health benefits, according to a new WWF report.
“Our research confirms what we know instinctively: Human health is inextricably linked to the health of the planet,” says Chris Elliot, WWF's Executive Director of Conservation.
“Vital Sites: The Contribution of Protected Areas to Human Health” notes that the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates between 23 and 25 percent of the global disease burden could be avoided by improved management of environmental conditions. The report singles out deforestation for its key impacts on human health.
“Deforestation is a double blow to human health,” says Elliot. 'It increases the spread of certain diseases while destroying plants and animals that may hold the key to treating illnesses that plague millions of people.”
Protecting natural landscapes can contribute positively to human health through protecting future medicinal resources, reducing the impacts of pollution, toxins and weather extremes and providing recreational places that support physical and mental well-being.
In the forests of Borneo alone in the past decade, WWF reports discoveries of trees and shrubs that may be used to treat cancer, HIV and malaria. In all, 422 new plant species have been discovered in Borneo in the last 25 years, but deforestation puts them and others waiting to be discovered at risk.
“When WWF stresses the importance of biodiversity, it's not just because we enjoy a variety of trees or frogs in a forest. It's because the science tells us that those trees and frogs are vital to the forest's health, and the forest's health is vital to our health,'” says Elliot.
The report stresses that while people are good at cultivating plants whose value is known, we have a poor track record at conserving those seen as having little use for humans. The problem is, habitat destruction is eliminating potentially valuable species before they can even be discovered, let alone tested.
“Most people think of protected areas like national parks and nature reserves as tools for wildlife conservation, but by protecting whole habitats and ecosystems the world's protected areas offer us some very practical social benefits as well,” writes Dr Kathy MacKinnon, lead biodiversity specialist for the World Bank, in the report's foreword.
For full story, please see:



  1. Medicinal plants: The benefits of Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)

Source: NaturalNews, 24 March 2010

Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is a strongly aromatic perennial herb, originally from the mountainous regions of the Balkan Peninsula but now spread throughout temperate climates worldwide. Feverfew has a multitude of small, daisy-like flowers with white petals around a yellow centre and is often confused with Chamomile. The leaves have been used in traditional medicine throughout history for various ailments, reducing fever and treating headaches, toothache, arthritic pain, digestive problems, insect bites, infertility, and problems with menstruation and with labour during childbirth.
Feverfew is probably best known for its therapeutic effect on migraines. Studies done in Great Britain in the 1980s suggested that Feverfew taken daily as dried leaf capsules may reduce the incidence of attacks in patients who experience long-term migraine headaches.
The active compound in Feverfew called parthenolide occurs in a variety of medicinal plants used in traditional medicine. It seems to block substances in the body that widen and constrict blood vessels and cause inflammation leading to migraines.
Feverfew has also been used for centuries for arthritis. It is thought to hinder the production of prostaglandins, which are hormone-like substances that cause pain and inflammation. This anti-inflammatory action has led to Feverfew being used to treat the inflamed, sore joints that occur with rheumatoid arthritis. Some studies have found that the anti-inflammatory effects of this herb are greater than those achieved by Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Feverfew may also inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
Historically Feverfew was used to treat a number of external ailments including scabies, fleas and lice, when applied as a lotion.
For full story, please see:



  1. Medicinal Plants: Unlocking keys to herbal medicines

Source: University of Maryland, 26 March 2010

A team of researchers at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, United States (UMB), writing in the science journal PLoS ONE, have developed a biologic method to tease out which compounds from herbal medicines and medicinal herbal mixtures produce their reputed medicinal benefits.
"This provides the first step to find, from all of the hundreds of compounds in herbs, which ones have potential for medicinal purposes. And you can do this very quickly and efficiently," says co-author Laura Dosanjh, graduate student with the School of Pharmacy at UMB.
Science has not been very helpful in determining the efficacy of herbal medicines in the United States. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for example, has so far sided with science only once to approve an herb-based treatment with multiple active ingredients – an ointment for genital warts made from green tea leaves.
Now, using tiny worms that live only 20 days, the team sorted out which compounds found in two common Chinese herbal formulations showed the most potential for their stated purpose: extending life expectancy.
Cinnamon and ginseng won, showing the most promise.
A team led by Yuan Luo, PhD, MS, associate professor at the School, conducted a first-of-its-kind, "systematic evaluation" of a mixture of 10 herbs called Shi-Quan-Da-Bu-Tang (SQDB), reportedly effective for fatigue and energy; and an 11-herb formula called Huo Luo Xiao Ling Dan (HLXL) used as a treatment of arthritic joint pain. Both mixtures are reputed to have benefits for healthy living and longevity in humans.
The researchers tested the mixtures, as well as each separate herb in them, on the laboratory worm model C. elegans. This particular worm – which biochemists often use as their “lab rat” – shares genes for aging and other traits with humans and other organisms.
Cinnamon bark (Cinnamomum cassia) from HLXL extended the life span of the worms by 14.5 percent and cinnamon bark from SQDB extended the life 10.8 percent. Ginseng root (Panax ginseng) from SQDB extended life span by 7.7 percent.   Significantly, cinnamon, ginseng, and SQDB also thinned out levels of hydrogen peroxide, which can destroy cells. They each also enhanced expression of small heat shock proteins, an indicator for cellular response to stress that plays an important role in maintenance of cell functions.
Herbal medicines are usually mixtures of herbs. That presents a severe challenge for the FDA to understand which compounds or combinations of compounds in the herbs are effective or not effective.
"Because it's very difficult to sort out so many herbs with so many constituents together, we needed to find a model. And there is a high level of [common genetic origins] with the nematode and humans," says Dosanjh.
Luo adds, "To isolate a single compound from an herb and test it for a medical condition often doesn't work; not like the whole herb works."
C. elegans is valuable to science because its very short life cycle is suitable for conducting rapid experiments and between 60 to 80 percent of the 20 000 genes in C. elegans genome have similar origins to human genes. The genes are found consistently along the evolutionary paths including the worms and humans.
For full story, please see:



  1. Moringa (Moringa oleifera): Fight malnutrition by eating moringa

Source: Central Chronicle (India) 12 March 2010

Veena S Rao, a former secretary to the Government of India, in her book "Malnutrition, an emergency: what it costs the nation" estimated that malnutrition has led to a loss of 4 percent in GDP of India. Stressing that malnutrition was a huge human resource calamity, she called for making "high-energy, low-cost food" available to the poor.
This is precisely where Moringa (Moringa oleifera), the "Miracle Tree", our humble drumstick tree, has a role. The Moringa tree is increasingly considered as one of the world's most valuable natural resources, as the main constituents of the tree have several nutritive ingredients. Its leaves, pods and flowers are considered good sources of vitamins A, B, B2, B3, B6 and C, folic acid, ascorbic acid, beta-carotene, calcium, iron, and amino acids.  More importantly, its leaves are highly nutritious, being a significant source of beta-carotene, vitamin C, protein, iron and potassium.
It has been claimed that the Moringa tree provides seven times the Vitamin C in oranges, four times the calcium in milk and Vitamin A in carrots, two times the protein in milk, and three times the potassium in bananas.
A versatile plant with a multitude of natural attributes, Moringa is great food for humans and animals alike. Its leaves, flowers and fruits, all are edible. Its leaves, dried and powdered, when added to the diet of undernourished children enhance their appetite and increase their weight.  Among the nursing mothers it markedly increases lactation providing greater nutrition for infants. It also makes great fodder for cattle.
Studies have revealed that the weight of livestock increased up to 32 percent through Moringa feed, increasing their milk by 43 percent. 
Native of India and widely distributed in the country in virtually every region, it can grow fast and in any condition. It is drought-resistant and has remarkable survival instincts.  Moringa can also grow in green the semi-arid regions of the country rendering several benefits to the local communities.
For full story, please see:



  1. Mushrooms: Cordyceps sinensis is an effective cancer treatment, says new research

Source: NaturalNews, 19 March 2010

Researchers from the University of Nottingham have found that a rare, wild mushroom called Cordyceps sinensis, is an effective treatment for cancer. Commonly used in Chinese medicine, the Cordyceps fungi inhibits the growth, division, and proliferation of cancer cells in the body.
Cordyceps was originally formulated into a cancer drug called cordycepin in the 1950s. Though the drug version was ultimately found to be ineffective because of rapid degradation inside the body once it was administered, the active components from the mushroom continue to be effective cancer fighters.
Depending upon dosage levels, Cordyceps mushroom extracts directly impact the process of cell protein development, impeding the production of the mRNA molecules that create them. At high doses, Cordyceps inhibits protein development directly, essentially eliminating the ability of cancer cells to function and survive.
Though the research focused primarily on cordycepin, it ultimately revealed the powerful effects of Cordyceps in preventing and treating cancer. The study is set to be published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry and its authors hope that the findings will spark further research into the potential uses for cordyceps as a cancer treatment.
For full story, please see:



  1. Sea buckthorn leaves (Hippophae rhamnoides) may help treat liver disease

Source:, 22 March 2010

Indian scientists have found that leaves of sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) berries can help protect against liver disease.
Sea buckthorn is well known for its capacity to combat cholesterol, but an Indian research team suggests that its leaves are also rich in antioxidants and may help ward off liver disease.
Indigenous to the mountainous regions of China and Russia, sea buckthorn has been shown to be rich in vitamin C, vitamin E, flavonoids and essential fatty acids. The leaves are also used to make a tea.
In a clinically controlled study on rats, scientists looked at whether the leaves had any protective effects by testing a group of rats, some of whom were given the leaf extract before being administered with a liver damage agent, carbon tetrachloride (CCI4).
The results showed that the leaf extract appeared to confer a protective mechanism on the liver. The rats given CCI4 minus the leaf extract had sustained significant liver damage compared to the control group that did not receive CCI4. In comparison, liver damage was severely restricted in the rats given leaf extract at 100mg and 200mg and CCI4.
The study is due to be published in the Society of Chemical Industry's (SCI) Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.
For full story, please see:



  1. Truffles: Researchers unlock truffle genome

Source:, 29 March 2010

The genome of the black, golf ball-sized edible mushroom known as the Perigord truffle (Tuber melanosporum) has been successfully decoded by French and Italian researchers, a step that experts believe will cut down in fraudulent sales of Tuber melanosporum imposters.
In a 28 March press release, officials from the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), who worked alongside officials from the Universities of Lorraine and the Mediterranean and scientists at laboratories in Turin, Parma, Urbina, Rome, and elsewhere in Italy, announced that they had published a paper discussing the sequencing and decoding of the "black diamond" fungus.
The paper, which was published online in Nature, found that 6 000 of the truffle's 7 500 protein-coding genes were similar to other mushrooms, but that "several hundred genes are unique to the truffle and play a fundamental role in mushroom formation and symbiosis with the host plant."
"Studying them will reveal the mechanisms behind the formation of this peculiar underground fructification," INRA officials said in their press release.
"The relevance of the study goes beyond the purely academic," the researchers claim. "Full sequencing of the black Perigord truffle genome has also allowed the development of specialised diagnostic tools for genetic polymorphism of this valuable product."
"DNA sequencing also made it possible to spot several thousand genetic markers in the genome. About a dozen of these are currently being used to create a DNA fingerprint file of some fifty populations of Tuber melanosporum from Italy, Spain, and France," they added. "The DNA fingerprints make it easier to carry out 'typing' of the geographic origin of harvested truffles, and allow the use of product certification and fraud detection tools."
Truffles can reach prices of more than US$1 300 per pound, and they are often the target of fraud as individuals try to pass off cheap imitations as the immensely valuable Tuber melanosporum.
For full story, please see:



  1. Vegetable ivory: Nutty jewellery

Source: The Day (USA), 21 March 2010 

In the village of Ivoryton (United States), small images of elephants adorn shop signs. For almost 100 years, some 90 percent of all the ivory imported to the United States from Africa was shipped to factories in Ivoryton or nearby Deep River.
By 1850, a few small companies were using the elephant tusks to make combs, toiletries, billiard balls and sewing implements. The business grew into making piano keys, fuelled by a national demand for a piano in every parlour during the Victorian period.
These days, plastic materials have replaced ivory in manufacturing many of those products, but consumer demand for ivory remains in some parts of the world. Although the international commercial ivory trade was banned in 1989, poaching continues to threaten the endangered animals.
Ivoryton resident Desiree Richardell could help change that. Originally from Ecuador, Richardell is part of a family business that's marketing "vegetable ivory" as an alternative to the real thing.
Richardell makes jewelry from the tagua palm tree (Phytelephas aequatorialisa) that grows in the forests of South America. It is the only plant product that produces a material so white, durable and pure, she says. The plant version, however, is lighter, harder and less porous than real ivory. During the first and second world war, tagua was used for buttons on U.S. army uniforms, making it a major industry in Colombia and Ecuador. It, too, fell out of use in lieu of plastic, but it is coming back into use for various crafts.
When Richardell's family came to the United States about 10 years ago, her aunt wanted to start a business that would also help their home country. She discovered the tagua nut.
Her extended family, along with six other families, lives in the rainforest and collects the tagua seeds, which fall naturally so the harvest does not harm the trees. The seeds then have to dry in the sun for six to 10 months.
The nuts are sent to her aunt, whose husband is a woodcarver. He carves the plant into pieces, polishing some, dyeing some and leaving others in a natural form.
Richardell then turns the pieces into chunky bracelets, necklaces, earrings and rings, some wrapped in wire designs.
Richardell said the families in Ecuador are paid a salary, rather than per pound, so they have a monthly income, which is important to her because the poverty rate in her home country is about 38 percent.
"I know I'm not changing the world, but this is something that can help," Richardell said.
For full story, please see:




  1. Armenia: How trees are restoring hope

Source: National Geographic Online, 13 March 2010

Armenia has learned the hard way what it means for a country to lose its forests—and the huge backbreaking effort required to replant them. But in its struggle and determination to restore its trees, Armenia is an inspiration for the rest of the planet.
The endeavour to bring trees back to Armenia is thanks mostly to an initiative called the “Armenia Tree Project,” a programme supported by the international conservation charity WWF and BMU/KfW, the German Development Bank.
The Armenia Tree Project has been raising and planting trees throughout the country for almost 16 years. Last year one million trees were planted, a record that brings the total of trees planted over the life of the project to about 3.5 million. All of this is done by individuals determined that their trees will become forests that will sustain livelihoods and restore a vibrant environment to Armenia.
What happened to Armenia and its trees, and what's being done to reverse the devastation of its forests?
Jason Sohigian, deputy director of the Armenia Tree Project, says the lack of alternate fuel sources caused the loss of Armenia's forests, especially during the years after independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, when people had no other way to keep warm than to cut down trees for fuel.
Ideally, forest should cover 25 percent of Armenia, Sohigian said. But now, even after a big replanting effort, the country's tree cover is in the range of only 7 or 8 percent.
Where the trees have been cut, the land is often degraded and desertification has set in as topsoil washes away.
To make matters worse, the changing global climate threatens the last fragments of forest, especially if rainfall declines.
"One of our goals is to try to tip the balance back to where forests can regenerate naturally, which we can do provided we don't continue to lose trees," Sohigian said.
"We're trying to get young people involved in investing in Armenia's future," Sohigian said. "This programme is also a way for Armenians outside the country to build the future of Armenia. We encourage Armenians—and others—to support us with the future of the country in mind. It's why we're calling this initiative ‘Trees of Hope.'’”
Trees of Hope is one way to get involved, by sponsoring the program to plant trees. Another way is to support the Armenia Tree Project's focus on education.
"Education is a big focus for us this year," Sohigian said. "We're working with teachers to educate children about the environment, and we've partnered with the Yale University Global Institute of Sustainable Forestry to provide sustainable forestry training for adults.
The Armenia Tree Project works to afforest Armenia with natural forests, planting a mixture of native trees that should in time expand and regenerate forests naturally. "We are really trying to recreate natural forests, rather than plantations for harvesting," Sohigian said.          The partnership with Yale is focused on training foresters to plant, maintain and harvest such "natural" forests sustainably. Part of the training initiative is the production of a sustainable forestry manual.
Fruit and nut trees are also provided by the Armenia Tree Project to people in urban areas, so that individuals may plant trees on the streets or in their yards. This provides food to eat and trade as well as a more pleasant, landscaped environment.
The massive tree planting program has also stimulated employment for Armenians, from the cultivation of seedlings to planting to protection of the nascent forests.
For full story, please see:


  1. Canada: Increasing recognition of value of NTFPs

Source: (Canada), 23 March 2010

Randy Moody from Royal Roads University (RRU) ‑ during a presentation of a study on Non Timber Forest Products (NTFP) conducted by the RRU in 2009 ‑ said that the cultivation of NTFP's including raspberries, huckleberries, soap berries, balsam sap, cranberries, saskatoons, rosehips, mushrooms, juniper, and birch, was receiving increased recognition in British Columbia.
Plants such as these could be used for a food source, traditional uses and commercial uses.
"The forest manager will only consider these species as viable for growth in a forest if there can be a value attached to them. These species can coexist with timber species and be grown as a value added resource," Moody said.
"Community members often know where the very best producing berry patches are," said Moody who also argues that constant variables determine the areas of growth for various species native to the local area.
Moody also pointed out that the study had identified that plant quality was more important to people than plant quantity.
"Harvesters will always search out the best berries, there may only be one or two berry bushes in this location, but they will produce the biggest and juiciest berries year after year," he said.
We have made the variables available to the Burns Lake Community Forest (British Colombia) and they can all be addressed at the community forest level," Moody added.
According to Moody people want to have NTFP management as a component of forest management.
"People do not want sites wiped out of all species, and growing NTFPs would probably help generate tourism. If you attach a value to NTFPs, then you can manage for them. We know that soap berry and huckleberry are two species that are affected by clear cutting."
"We are hoping that silviculture surveyors and foresters become aware of site characteristics for berry production and will consider that there are other values out there."
For full story, please see:



  1. Cambodia: Villagers turn from hunting to ecotourism

Source: Phnom Penh Post, 22 March 2010

Biodiversity in Southeast Asia suffers from an onslaught of habitat loss, climate change and overexploitation; a few organizations are determined to develop strategies aimed at helping people live in better harmony with nature.
One of these groups is the Siem Reap-based Sam Veasna Centre (SVC), which manages bird-watching day trips and itineraries to eight Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) conservation projects across Cambodia.
Nick Butler, the coordinator of the centre, said one of their main strategies for saving Cambodia’s wilderness areas is promoting ecotourism.
“Ecotourism works by providing local communities with alternative and sustainable livelihoods, linking education, as well as no-hunting and land use agreements, with the conservation of their local environment,” he said.
Butler said the involvement of local communities at a very early stage in developing ecotourism projects was crucial. “We do two things. The first is that we manage the ecotourism business by trying to get international bird watchers to visit the WCS project sites across Cambodia,” he said.
“The second part of our business is to train villagers who live near the conservation area in the provision of ecotourism services. The result is that villagers are able to make an income by providing accommodation, food and guiding services for visitors. In return, they sign agreements not to hunt animals, not to cut down the forest and not to harm their environment.”
An article released by UNESCO at the beginning of the year said the rate of biodiversity was accelerating mainly due to habitat loss, climate change, invasive species, overexploitation and pollution. The article said underlying causes for this loss included poor governance and poor understanding of the importance of biodiversity conservation for society’s well-being and prosperity in the long term.
As part of their effort to help maintain biodiversity in Cambodia, SVC has developed a flagship project in Tmatboey village in Preah Vihear province, where the signing of successful no-hunting and land conservation agreements between the WCS and the village committee has made it a model of community-based ecotourism.
Mr Butler said the main objective of the project was to conserve critically endangered bird species breeding in the area.
In 2007 Tmatboey village, which consists of 220 families, won the Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Award, a Malaysia-based social enterprise working to support environmental and social initiatives in Asia. Tmatboey was also the joint winner in 2008 of the Equator Prize, awarded to projects that link poverty reduction to biodiversity, and last year it won the Prestigious Ecotourism Project Award from the Cambodian Ministry of Environment.
From 2003 to 2008, the local population of critically endangered white-shouldered ibises has increased from one nest and two adults, to six nests and 23 adults. The same period saw the doubling of the number of giant ibis nests.
Another WCS conservation site where SVC manages ecotourism services is the Prek Toal core area of the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve in Battambang province. Seven water bird species of “global significance” have been found breeding in the area.
Nick Butler said the project – in which the WCS has assisted efforts by the Cambodian government to conserve local bird colonies – has given villagers greater awareness of the environment.
“As long as the community maintains the area’s biodiversity and environment, the tourists will continue to come,” he added.
For full story, please see:



  1. China’s illegal wildlife trade in tigers, turtles and timber

Source: ENS-Newswire, 17 March 2010

"Porous borders" are allowing vendors in Myanmar to offer a door-to-door delivery service for illegal wildlife products such as tiger bone wine to buyers in China, finds the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC's latest look into China's wildlife trade.
Rare and endangered wild animal and plant species are poached in Myanmar, or sourced from neighbouring countries, and then smuggled into China through many small trails without checkpoints, TRAFFIC researchers report.
"China's border areas have long been considered a hotbed for illegal trade, with remote locations often making surveillance a difficult problem in sparsely populated areas," said Professor Xu Hongfa, director of TRAFFIC's program in China.
The report, "State of Wildlife Trade in China 2008," was released Tuesday at the ongoing triennial meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Over-exploitation of wildlife for trade has affected many species and is stimulating illegal trade across China's borders, concludes the TRAFFIC report, the third in an annual series on emerging trends in China's wildlife trade.
In December 2008 TRAFFIC investigators conducted market surveys of illegal trade in towns on the Myanmar side of the China-Myanmar border and in three cities on the Chinese side. The surveys found no illegal trade in endangered wild species in the three Chinese cities of Yunnan Province, or in Muse market in Myanmar. However, many wildlife products were found for sale in Mongla, Myanmar, which is opposite Daluo port in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan Province, China.
In the Mongla agricultural produce market, close to the China-Myanmar border checkpoint, outdoor stalls selling wildlife products were mostly ethnic Chinese. Products of endangered species identified in the survey included: a clouded leopard skin, pieces of elephant skin, bear bile, a bear paw, pangolin scales, a silver pheasant and a monitor lizard foot.
China joined the CITES treaty in 1981. It imposed a ban on the harvesting of tiger bones and outlawed all trade in tiger body parts in 1993. In China, only about 20 tigers are thought to be left in the wild.
TRAFFIC's 2008 wild meat market surveys identified 26 species of turtles for sale and warns that the emergence of a greater variety of turtle species in farms is cause for concern.
The majority of turtles were claimed by vendors to be supplied from freshwater turtle farms, many of which do not practice closed-cycle captive breeding and therefore rely on wild-sourced breeding stock.
"If no action is taken, sourcing from the wild coupled with increased captive production to meet an expanding market demand will pose a serious threat to wild species through unsustainable harvesting from wild populations in China and beyond," warned Professor Xu.
Other topics covered include sustainable utilization of traditional medicinal plants, tackling cross-border illegal wildlife trade on the China-Nepal border, stopping illegal wildlife trade online, and the illegal coral trade in East Asia.
For full story, please see:



  1. Congo Basin: Rare animals being “eaten to extinction”

Source: Telegraph (UK), 23 March010

Research in the Congo Basin in Africa found more than three million tonnes of bushmeat is being extracted from the area every year, the equivalent of butchering 740 000 bull elephants.
Most of the animals are small antelopes like blue duiker or rodents like the porcupine but larger mammals like monkeys and even gorillas are also taken.
The study published in Mammal Review found the rate of hunting is higher than ever because of malnutrition in the area and is calling for more funding to help the local community find alternative sources of food.
Bushmeat is one of the most important sources of protein for many people around the world, especially in Africa.
But in a 500 million acre region of the Congo Basin stretching into eight countries, hunting has reached an unprecedented scale.
Researchers from the Overseas Development Institute calculated that 3.4 million tonnes of bushmeat is removed every year from that area alone, equivalent to the weight of 40.7 million men.
John Fa, chief conservation officer at Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and a visiting professor at Imperial College London, said it was "unsustainable". He pointed out that illegal logging is also destroying habitat and predators like leopards will be unable to survive without prey.
"People are taking rare animals out of the forest at an enormous rate yet we know very little about them," he said.
The animals most vulnerable to extinction by hunting include: Drill baboon, Red colobus monkey, Black colobus monkey, Preuss's guenon monkey, Moustached guenon monkey, Crowned guenon monkey, Gorilla, and Chimpanzee.
For full story, please see:


  • Ethiopia: The economic potential of ecotourism

Source:, 30 March 2010

The little-known lush Lepis woodland has the potential to transform the lives of the 2 000 community members in its midst if they can successfully develop a sustainable community tourism business as other communities have done in Ethiopia. The site is one of the Rift Valley's best kept secrets.
Until the USAID-funded Ethiopian Sustainable Tourism Alliance (ESTA) was tipped off by the Arsi Negele Concern for Environment Development Association (ANCEDA) and until ESTA brought various stakeholders in the tourism industry to Lepis, many of the community members had no idea that they were sitting on a potential income-generating resource.
ESTA took Lepis community members to Adaba Dodola, which has already been developed into a successful sustainable community tourism project with the help of GTZ. They were then able to see for themselves the benefits of protecting and utilizing such natural resources.
Sustainable tourism expert Brad Weiss has been working with ESTA for almost a year and a half. "We do not want to tell the communities what to do. We just guide and facilitate the process," he said. "It has to be their project from the start."
ESTA has currently identified six potential communities to work with for the rest of the five-year programme. It is currently developing business plans for two of them, including Lepis.
Lizzie Weber and Ryan Foster from George Washington University came to Ethiopia for two weeks ending today, 28 March, 2010, to guide the business proposal creation process for the community at Lepis and write up the things the community discussed and decided on during their meetings at the edge of the towering forest.
Another important part of the business proposal was the mission statement for the eco-trekking community venture, said Sintayehu Gurmessa, student head of Academic Affairs and graduating class member of Hawassa University's Hotel and Tourism Management School.
"The mission statement reads, 'By conserving our natural environment and using it for ecotourism development, we will improve the livelihoods of our community,'" he said.
"Africa was the only world region to experience tourism growth in 2009 with international arrivals increasing by five percent," says Weber.
For full story, please see:



  • Guatemala: Rainforest Alliance's certification most effective form of protection

Source: Guatemala Times, 18 March 2010  

Rainforest Alliance's FSC forest management certification has proven to conserve the rainforest more effectively than strict protection in Guatemala's Maya Biosphere Reserve.       These are the findings of a new Rainforest Alliance study. The report shows dramatically less forest destruction and fire damage in FSC certified forest concessions compared with other areas within the Maya Biosphere Reserve, even lands designated for strict protection.
The Maya Biosphere Reserve is an area of tropical forest in Guatemala's northern Petén region. By late 2007, nearly 60 percent of the land where timber harvesting is allowed in the reserve was FSC certified. This equals nearly a quarter of the reserve's total area.
The average annual deforestation rate in FSC certified forest concessions between 2002 and 2007 was 20 times lower than the deforestation rate within the protected areas where harvesting of wood and NTFPs is prohibited.
"These numbers show that certification is a real tool for the market and for conservation," said José Román Carrera, Central America coordinator for the Rainforest Alliance's TREES program, which works with communities in Petén. "In these communities, FSC certification has helped strengthen business structures, fire prevention measures and low-impact harvesting practices."
Communities are seeing their businesses grow and livelihoods improve as demand for certified wood and non-timber forest products grows. In 2007, the forest products sector in the reserve supported about 2 500 jobs and sales of FSC certified timber surpassed US$5 million. 
The study also shows a number of other changes forestry communities and companies made to meet FSC certification standards. Amongst these, they have created fire control and prevention plans, improved living and working conditions for workers, increased the use of safety equipment, decreased social conflict as a result of better land-use mapping, and created committees to manage land-use.
The government of Guatemala created the reserve in 1990 to conserve its unique natural and cultural value. With some 2 million hectares, the reserve is rich in biodiversity and home to hundreds of species of animals including jaguars, brocket deer and scarlet macaws. Some environmentalists called for a complete logging ban in the entire reserve.       Besides responsible forest management as defined by FSC standards, the study identifies a number of other enabling circumstances leading to the successful maintenance of forest cover in the FSC concession area. Continued donor support and the activities of numerous government and non-government organizations promoting environmental awareness, community vigilance programs, and responsible economic activities have been the most important.
For full story, please see:



  • Indonesia: Customary laws protect forest better than government does, says study

Source: The Jakarta Post, 20 March 2010 

Research shows customary laws that were implemented by a number of local communities were far more effective than government policies to preserve forest in efforts to deal with climate change.
For local communities, respecting traditional laws means respecting their ancestors. Preliminary research says communities of Baduy in Banten province, Kampung Kuta people in Ciamis, West Java province and Dayak people in Kalimantan are among local communities that issue unwritten laws to preserve environment and protect the forest.
“Though such agreement is not written, local communities comply more with traditional laws than governmental law,” Ali Akbar, University of Indonesia Faculty of Humanities researcher told a workshop on climate change Friday.
“The government’s regulations are not efficiently implemented to preserve forests,” Ali added.
The philosophy of Baduy people among others are mountains and valleys cannot be destroyed and traditional law should not be broken. “Baduy’s sacred responsibility is to guard the environment and spiritual heritage of its ancestors from change.” he said.
There are currently about 8 000 Baduy living in two groups of which each village is led by a supreme leader locally known as Punn. “It is forbidden to take anything from the forest or even enter it, except on Monday and Friday,” he said.
The Alliance of Archipelagic Indigenous People (AMAN) predicted indigenous people had traditionally occupied about 20 million hectares of land, of which most was natural forest. Most indigenous people rely on the forest as a source of livelihood but conflict is on the rise as many forests became valued as business projects such as plantations and mine sites, it said.
For full story, please see:



  • Tajikistan: Mulberry ‑ On the roof of the world

Source: Platform for Agrobiodiversity Research: 5th newsletter, 24 March 2010

There still exist pristine places without industry and pollution where people live in harmony with their environment. One of them is the autonomous province of Gorno-Badakhshan in Tajikistan. Though its area (about 65 000km²) extends over half the country, only 3 percent is habitable. Most of it is covered by the Pamir mountains, sometimes called the “Roof of the World”. The few villages are sited in valleys beside rivers and the population tries to cultivate every piece of available land.
The mulberry is an important food for these valleys. Introduced from China via the Silk Route, it is perfectly adapted to the difficult mountain environment, where it grows between 1100 and 2400 meters (replacing crops such as wheat and barley which cannot be grown at these altitudes).
There are now more than 60 varieties of mulberry in the Pamir region, the result of centuries of selection and adaptation. They can be eaten raw or transformed into jams, syrups or pikht—a flour—which  is usually mixed with other seeds and cereals.
The local inhabitants mainly grow mulberry for family consumption: in summer families put as much as 20-30 sacks of dried mulberry aside as a reserve for the winter. In the local culture the mulberry tree and fruit are associated with beauty: the berries are traditionally given to a couple to make their life sweeter, and before starting to build a new house, a mulberry tree is planted.
During some crisis periods, such as the Second World War or the extended civil war which afflicted the country until 1997, mulberry played a crucial role in providing the main nutrition for the local population. The community of mulberry producers from Khorog has been part of the Terra Madre network (SlowFood) since 2004 and is working to defend the traditional Pamir customs of eating mulberry, which have significantly decreased in recent years with the spread of industrial products.
The Presidium was set up in collaboration with “Bioversity International”, a prominent international organization for the conservation of agricultural biodiversity. It currently includes 23 producers from the four districts of the autonomous province of Gorno-Badakhshan: Shugnan, Rushan, Yazgulyam and Vanch.
For full story, please see:



  • Trinidad and Tobago: Forests…much more than timber

Source: The Guardian (Trinidad and Tobago), 20 March 2010

In an effort to remind communities of the importance of forests and the benefits they receive from them, 21 March is set aside internationally to celebrate World Forestry Day. This concept originated at the 23rd General Assembly of the European Confederation of Agriculture in 1971, and since then, countries around the world have set up programmes and policies aimed at the sustainable management of forest resources to provide for their social, economic, ecological and cultural needs.
In observing World Forestry Day, the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) encouraged the people of Trinidad and Tobago to take time to appreciate the value of the country’s forest resources. Historically, forests have played important social and cultural roles in the lives of many people, especially those of indigenous communities.
Today, many are realizing that forests offer much more than just timber. Forests provide recreational opportunities and contribute to our health and wellbeing, as well as the regulation of local temperatures and protection of drinking water supplies. Trees form the foundations of many natural systems, and as such provide a wide range of products (timber, fruit, medicine, beverages, fodder) and services (carbon sequestration, wind breaks, water quality and quantity control, coastal protection, shade, beautification, erosion control, soil fertility). The forests of Trinidad and Tobago are home to a wide variety of faunal biodiversity which facilitate pollination, seed dispersal and germination.
This internationally-recognized environmental day is also set aside to promote education and awareness of the importance of forests and the benefits of planting trees. Examples of biodiverse forests in this country include Matura National Park, which was declared an environmentally sensitive area in 2004, and Main Ridge Forest Reserve in Tobago, which is the oldest protected watershed in the western hemisphere, declared in 1776.
For these reasons, the EMA embraced the opportunity to collaborate in a project with the Ministry of Planning Housing and the Environment, the Forestry Division of the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Marine Resources, University of the West Indies and the Institute of Marine Affairs, among others, called the Nariva Restoration and Carbon Sequestration and Livelihoods Project.
This project will ultimately see the replanting of 1 300 hectares of the Nariva Swamp, in areas that were formerly deforested by large-scale rice farmers more than a decade ago. Nariva Swamp, the country’s largest and most biodiverse wetland, has been declared an environmentally-sensitive area under the Environmentally-Sensitive Area Rules, 2001. It has the most varied vegetation of all wetlands in Trinidad and Tobago, with distinct zones of tropical rainforest, palm forests, mangroves and grass savanna/marsh.
For full story, please see:



  • United States: The trouble with Oregon's truffles

Source:, 19 March 2010

Truffles and Oregon are becoming synonymous - at least on the West Coast of the United States. This is where many chefs appreciate the culinary value of Oregon truffles – and harvesters their cash value. But is this resource sustainable?
In Oregon and elsewhere across the country, commercial harvesters rake truffles from the soil with a garden cultivator, sometimes called a potato fork, in a mostly indiscriminate fashion. This method procures the most truffles in the shortest amount of time, and with the least effort. But it yields both mature (ripe) and young (not so ripe) truffles. For culinary purposes, only mature truffles are worth their full value, both monetarily and gastronomically.
The reason commercial harvesters use this method is twofold. First, it is about the money -- more truffles means higher cash returns. Second, there is no other method readily available. Unscrupulous truffle hunters hurt the land with their metal forks. A walk through any accessible, coastal tree farm reveals the scars: trenches run deep along tree roots; dirt mounds, piled in high rows, look like a battleground cemetery; the once-sparse vegetation is gone, erosion is severe. In some forest stands, the truffles are gone, too. Decades of abuse have devastated the truffle's mycorrhizal network. That abuse also threatens the continuance of Oregon's truffle industry.
But there is hope. Oregon truffles, despite decades of haphazard harvest methods, finally have reprieve: The increasing use of dogs to locate truffles is replacing the potato fork. Using dogs instead of rakes assures that only truffles at their peak ripeness are dug up.
But the use of dogs to find truffles in the U.S. is in its infancy, and places training and selling dogs for this purpose are scarce. The North American Truffle Society's Web site ( lists only two facilities in the U.S. that train dogs to find truffles, with one of those here in Oregon.
Recent news stories about truffle thieves and the damage they cause to young forest stands highlight the need for state-wide regulation of this resource. Stricter trespassing laws will not help alleviate theft; truffles, apparently, are worth the risk. Nevertheless, new laws and regulations are needed and must focus on truffle buyers, sellers and harvesters.
A state-mandated Oregon truffle season, in tandem with a permitting system akin to hunting and fishing licenses sold by the state, is necessary. Without adequate regulations and enforcement of truffle resources, on both public and private lands, landowners will continue to incur damage to their property and lost revenues in the form of dead trees.
For full story, please see:



  • Viet Nam: Illegal bushmeat, wildlife trafficking at alarming levels

Source: Viet Nam News, 22 March 2010 

Viet Nam's ecosystems are being seriously threatened by the widespread consumption of wild meat and trafficking of wildlife, experts said at a recent conference. Urgent action is needed on several fronts to prevent this destruction of the nation's wildlife and their habitat, they said. They called for strengthened, more effective public awareness campaigns against hunting and trafficking in wild animals and for the inclusion of this subject in the school curriculum, especially in rural areas.
Tom Osbon of the Viet Nam-based Wildlife Management Office stressed the need to legalise multi-sectoral cooperation in preventing, discovering and punishing forest violations in order to protect wild animals effectively.
"It is also very important to establish special inspectors in localities which record a high number of violations," he added.
Dr Scott Roberton, head of Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), said that hunting wild animals for meat and trafficking had been happening in many countries, especially developing ones.
In Viet Nam, hunting and trade in wild animals had been alarming, he said.
A WCS study conducted at 200 restaurants in the central region found they consumed nearly two million wild animals per year. Among them, stag and wild boar accounted for around 70 percent of the consumed meat, followed by turtle, snake, fox and porcupine.
The study estimated the demand of wild animal consumption nationwide at nearly 4 500 tonnes per year.
The Forest Protection Department discovered 1 042 violations of wild animal protection laws last year, a decrease of 400 cases over 2008, the conference heard.
Dr Nguyen Viet Dung, deputy head of the Centre for People and Nature Reconciliation, said that the real number was much higher.
Roberton added that Viet Nam was also an important link in the international wild animal trafficking chain.
Last year, authorities found more than six tonnes of elephant tusks trafficked from Africa to Hai Phong City.
For full story, please see:




  • African resilience to climate change: biodiversity conservation and enhancing traditional knowledge

Source: Traditional Knowledge Bulletin, 10 March 2010

On 3 March 2010, the African Union Commission (AUC) commemorated Africa Environment Day under the theme “African Resilience to Climate Change: Biodiversity Conservation and Enhancing Traditional Knowledge,” in celebrations hosted by the Government of Tanzania.
In a statement to mark the Day, Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), stressed that the negative impacts of climate change on biodiversity have significant economic, ecological and human costs, and disproportionately affect traditional communities. At the same time, he said, communities’ TK, based on life-long observations and interactions with nature can be used in the fight against climate change and biodiversity loss. He urged leaders to continue emphasizing the importance of TK, and to monitor the impacts of climate change on biodiversity in partnership with indigenous and local communities, noting the strong need to enhance links between TK and scientific practices.
Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), said an effective resilience strategy must focus on protecting all forms of biological diversity, in particular soil biodiversity, and must build on Africa’s TK. He also underscored the contribution of African women, who are the primary guardians of TK and the treasure keepers of seeds in their communities.
For more information, please see:



  • ICIMOD Photo Contest – Mountain Biodiversity

Source: Nira Gurung, ICIMOD

This year is the UN International Year of Biodiversity 2010, with the slogan “Biodiversity is life. Biodiversity is our life”. ICIMOD (International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development) is marking the occasion with a Photo Contest on the biodiversity of the Hindu Kush Himalayan region and its role in people’s lives.
The photo contest also reflects the theme for the International Day for Biological Diversity 22 May 2010 ‘Biodiversity, Development and Poverty Alleviation’. The aim is to raise awareness of the vital role that mountain biodiversity plays in sustaining life in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region and beyond.
The photo contest is open to all and runs until 10 May 2010.
Entries can be submitted in any of five categories: 1) mountain agrobiodiversity, 2) livelihoods and ecosystem services related to biodiversity, 3) women and mountain biodiversity, 4) indigenous/traditional knowledge and use associated with mountain biodiversity, and 5) threats to mountain biodiversity.     
Images must be taken within the Hindu-Kush Himalayan portion of ICIMOD's regional member countries – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan. Contestants may submit up to five entries in total, regardless of category. Images must be digital, in JPEG format, and between 1 and 8 MB in size.
The ICIMOD Hindu Kush-Himalayan Prize will be awarded to the overall best entry, and category prizes to the best entry in each category, each with a small cash prize and certificate.
Images will be judged on criteria such as (a) quality/visual appeal, (b) novelty, and (c) overall effectiveness in conveying the thematic category.
For more information, please contact: or visit

last updated:  Thursday, May 3, 2012