No. 11/10

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 to Giulia Muir for her help with this issue.
Please read about FAO's new campaign to reduce hunger and sign the petition:














  • Brazil nut: Students research one way to protect the rainforest

Source: Wake Forest University (USA) News, 4 October 2010

Brazil nut harvesting provides more than half the yearly income for thousands of families in the Amazon. Two Wake Forest seniors, Cate Berenato and Katherine Sinacore, spent four weeks in Peru this summer working with the Amazon Conservation Association (ACA) to determine which programs are best at helping sustain Brazil nut harvesters, their families and the rainforest.
Results from Berenato’s and Sinacore’s research have far-reaching implications for managing forested areas at risk of being destroyed by logging, mining and land clearing.
The ACA provides harvesters with information on how to care for trees and increase yield. The more income generated by Brazil nut harvesting, the more likely the trees will remain standing.
“It is one thing to read about the Amazon and conserving rainforests but another to understand the impact first-hand,” says Berenato. “Sustainable efforts have to strike a balance between the natural world and human relations. If the rainforest disappears that is bad for the environment, but people also rely on these trees to feed their families. Good programs need to offer win-win solutions.”
Berenato studied the sociological aspects of the programs to find out if Brazil nut harvesters and their families are receiving helpful information through appropriate channels.
“The ACA publishes booklets meant to provide general information about the Brazil nut, tips on respecting the environment and methods for improving harvesting techniques,” says Berenato. “My research indicates that the vast majority of Brazil nut harvesters read these publications. I also found that harvesters listen to radio programs that provide similar information, while also providing details on the state of the Brazil nut market. Both harvesters that fall under the ACA and the non-ACA harvesters use these materials, so preliminary results show the ACA should continue to spend money producing them.”
Sinacore focused on assessing the impact of harvesting methods. Her data on juvenile trees will help determine how Brazil nut trees are regenerating in the different areas.
“My research compares the percentage of juvenile trees in areas where harvesters are receiving training and information under ACA direction with the percentage of juvenile trees in areas where harvesters are working independently,” she says. “A higher percentage of juvenile trees in a given area indicate the forest is rejuvenating more quickly, and it is a way to gauge whether ACA-sponsored programs are making a difference.”
Data collection is continuing under the Ministry of Environment in Peru. Associate Professor of Biology Miles Silman, who is mentoring the students with their projects, describes the backbreaking work of harvesting Brazil nuts. The Brazil nut tree, one of the largest trees in the Amazon at 100-150ft, drops its fruit during a five- to six-month rainy season. Each fruit, which resembles a coconut, contains about 10 to 20 seeds or “nuts.” The harvesters break open the pods and carry the nuts in sacks on their backs to drying facilities outside of the forest.
“Harvesters know every tree on their land, visiting them every year and carrying the nuts to market,” he says. “The state is working to support and promote this activity as an income-generating business by giving Brazil nut harvesters titles, or land concessions, to harvest certain areas of the forest.”
Some harvesters who work these concessions agree to use the land for Brazil nut harvesting only, and they receive assistance from NGOs, such as the ACA. The data Berenato and Sinacore gathered compares ACA-assisted concessions with non-ACA-assisted concessions to help determine what incentives and programs work.
For full story, please see:



  • Brazil nut: Measuring the resilience of Brazil nut production to landscape-level change

Source: Eco-Index Monthly Update, October 2010

Understanding complex linkages between social and ecological systems and their resilience to external shocks is essential to promote the sustainable management of natural resources.      A recent Project, “Measuring the resilience of Brazil nut production to landscape-level change,” directed by a graduate student researcher at the University of Florida, explored the resilience of Brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa) production to landscape-level change in the “MAP” region, comprised of the states of Madre de Dios, Peru; Acre, Brazil; and Pando, Bolivia. The development of the Inter-oceanic highway will change the nature of this formerly remote region in the western Amazon by providing regional access to Pacific ports. In this dynamic context, Brazil nut productivity is a key indicator of the environmental and socioeconomic changes caused by road development.
The primary differences between the three primary protected areas in the MAP region are: degree of road development and deforestation; access to and control of resources; and forest policies/markets affecting Brazil nut production. Under what conditions is Brazil nut production resilient to landscape-level change?
The objectives of the project were to: (1) measure Brazil nut collection and management in forest communities in the tri-national frontier region (MAP); (2) assess the relationships between forest policies (including property rights), rural livelihoods, and Brazil nut management in the region. (3) create 20-year land use cover change trajectories for Brazil nut-producing communities located within and outside of protected areas, and along rivers or roads using remote sensing and GIS; (4) conduct a value-chain analysis of Brazil nut production; (5) reforest abandoned pastures with Brazil nut seedlings in a participatory experiment with Brazilian farmers; and (6) disseminate results to relevant stakeholders.
Among the lessons learned of this project were: forming and nurturing regional partnerships is the key to success in conservation research; sharing research ideas with as many people as you can ‑ from local producers to university professors in both formal and informal settings ‑ will improve your project; and that comparative research is rich in opportunity to facilitate the exchange of ideas.
For more information, please see:



  • Bushmeat: Addressing the crisis through certification

Source: ETFRN News (51), September 2010

The following is an extract from an article by T. Christophersen, C. Belair and R. Nasi in ETFRN News 51 on “Biodiversity Conservation in Certified Forests”:
Forestry operations in the tropics have been linked to promoting unsustainable levels of hunting for consumption or trade by increasing access to and human densities in remote forest areas. The unsustainable hunting of bushmeat has been shown to create “empty forests”. This has grave consequences for the food security and livelihoods of many forest-dependent people. It also affects important fauna-dependent ecological processes such as pollination and seed dispersal. Among the various recommendations or guidelines put forward to mitigate the negative impacts of hunting, forest certification appears to be a promising but overlooked measure in the context of production forests. Indeed, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) recently recognized the importance of appropriate voluntary market-based certification schemes to the conservation and sustainable use of forest biodiversity (decision IX/5).
This article briefly reviews the recent inclusion of bushmeat-related provisions in the certification schemes of the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). It also examines the coherence of these provisions with CBD Bushmeat Liaison Group’s recommendations of 2009, and the potential of certification schemes to contribute to national and international implementation of these recommendations.
Timber operations facilitate access to remote forests by opening roads in previously isolated areas. Roads provide access to markets and bushmeat can become a commodity, transforming hunting from a largely subsistence activity into a commercial one. Infrastructure and equipment linked to logging, such as camps, cars and trucks, have in several instances been used for the commercial trade of hunted species, often protected ones.
Settlements and camps linked to forestry company infrastructure attract large numbers of people (workers, family members and traders) to areas that were formerly sparsely populated. Logging in remote areas has been shown to drive human population growth in those areas, with increased immigration intensifying the bushmeat trade.
A recent study estimates that 29 percent of forested areas in central Africa are likely to have increased wildlife hunting pressures due to the access and market opportunities provided by new logging towns.
Although the negative impacts of timber operations on forest biodiversity are well documented, the potential of well-managed logging concessions to be “wildlife reservoirs” ‑ compared with unsustainably managed forests ‑ is also increasingly recognized. Forest industries can promote the sustainable use of biodiversity and human livelihoods by engaging in sustainable practices that explicitly consider the direct and indirect effects of their activities on wildlife. Forest industries can mitigate the negative impacts of their operations on wildlife by controlling and managing bushmeat hunting in their concessions.
Forest certification has the potential to contribute to the conservation and sustainable management of species presently hunted at unsustainable levels in tropical forests. The most widely used forest certification systems, PEFC and FSC, include several provisions related to mitigating the effects of logging on bushmeat hunting. Both these systems are currently revising their criteria and indicators, and it is recommended that they both apply the CBD Bushmeat Liaison Group recommendations during this process.
Research and data collection on the hunting of wildlife in certified and uncertified production forests, by identifying effective provisions, would help further improve certification systems to better address the unsustainable use of wildlife.
For full article, please see:



  • Chestnuts (Castanea sativa): A gourmet feast

Source: (County Mayo, Ireland), 12 October 2010

The last of the nuts to ripen is the edible chestnut (Castanea sativa). Uncommon in Mayo, edible chestnuts can sometimes be found on the old estates, where they were planted as a status symbol in colonial times. Centuries of careful selection by chestnut growers have led to the development of hundreds of distinct named varieties of the chestnut. Some of these, particularly those originating in the west of France, are suitable for growing in Ireland. Viable nuts of a reasonable size found under mature trees growing near Westport in 2009 (after a very poor summer) confirm that chestnuts have the potential to do well in the west of Ireland.
The named varieties of chestnut, which are propagated through layering or grafting, produce much heavier, more viable crops, and will begin cropping at a much earlier age than trees raised from nuts. Although chestnuts raised from nuts will grow into fine trees, nut production is extremely uncertain.
Sweet chestnuts are normally not eaten raw but generally baked, boiled, roasted or used in confectionary. Chestnuts have also been used to make flour and for animal feed. The nuts normally ripen between late September and early November.
Chestnuts prefer a deep, well drained, loamy but slightly acid soil. They are intolerant of poor drainage, heavy clay and also dislike alkaline soils. In particular, waterlogged soil increases the risk of fungal or bacterial infections and other tree-health problems. Sunny but sheltered sites are best. The trees will eventually grow quite large so should be given plenty of room. Rotted bark or leaf mould added to the soil will prove beneficial.
Bare-rooted trees should be planted between November and the end of April, but not at times when the ground is either frozen or very wet. Spacing between trees should be 8-12m, with the narrower spacing for more exposed sites.
Cold or wet weather at flowering time (mid June to mid July) can lead to very poor pollination. However, the presence of plentiful bees and other insects will improve the outcome. For this reason, it is recommended that chestnuts are under-planted with flowering plants known to attract bees. Clovers and other “nitrogen-fixers” are particularly recommended. Sheltered sites will also prove more attractive to bees. Where shelter does not exist, it can be created by planting shelter belts of alder.
The edible chestnut is sometimes confused with the unrelated but superficially similar Horse Chestnut — Aesculus hippocastanum. The Horse Chestnut is very common in Mayo. It produces the familiar conkers in September and early October. The nuts are not edible, though have been eaten in desperation in times of famine.
For full story, please see:



  • Medicinal plants: Losing nature's medicine cabinet

Source:, 4 October 2010

In all the discussions of saving the world's biodiversity from extinction, one point is often and surprisingly forgotten: the importance of the world's species in providing humankind with a multitude of life-saving medicines so far, as well as the certainty that more vital medications are out there if only we save the unheralded animals and plants that contain cures unknown.
Already, species have provided humankind everything from quinine to aspirin, from morphine to numerous cancer and HIV-fighting drugs.
"As the ethnobotanist Dr. Mark Plotkin commented, the history of medicine can be written in terms of its reliance on and utilization of natural products," physician Christopher Herndon told Herndon is co-author of a recent paper in the journal Biotropica, which calls for policy-makers and the public to recognize how biodiversity underpins not only ecosystems, but medicine.
"Our dependence today on nature for health has not diminished as significantly as commonly presumed. Over the past quarter century, more than half of all pharmaceuticals brought to market were directly derived from or modelled after compounds from other species," Herndon explains. “However, the ecosystems that have yielded some of the world's most important and promising drugs — such as rainforests and coral reefs — are also among the most endangered. The world's rainforests, for example, continue to vanish at astounding rate, estimated at 32 300ha every day due to commercial agriculture, livestock, logging, slash-and-burn farming, and massive development projects.”
In face of such destruction, Herndon says it is truly difficult to know how many species have been tested for medicinal properties, or for that matter how many have already been lost forever.
"Scientists generally estimate that less than one percent of all species has been fully examined for medical potential. We are only just beginning to appreciate the staggering biodiversity of our planet. A significant portion remains to be discovered by mankind."
Making conservation even trickier, most of nature's medicine cabinet is not stored in big charismatic mammals, such as tigers and elephants, but among the unsung heroes of world's ecosystems: plants, fungi, and invertebrates.
"They are often toxic or inhabit the extraordinary microcosms that exist below the limits of the naked eye and the scope of appreciation for many. To save their medical potential, we need to preserve entire ecosystems ‑ we simply cannot predict which species and in what ways they will yield medical breakthroughs," Herndon says.
So, why has everyone — policy-makers, conservationists, doctors, and drug-companies included — failed  to recognize this hugely compelling reason to preserve the world's ecosystems?
"Generally speaking, there is a prevailing misconception that biotechnology and synthetic chemistry has somehow supplanted our dependence on the natural world. The potential of nature has not diminished — arguably, it has only enhanced as we gain the technological tools to more efficiently access and utilize its potential for our benefit," Herndon says.
For full interview, please see:



  • Medicinal plants: Butterflies choose medicinal plants

Source: United Press International, 7 October 2010

Monarch butterflies appear to use medicinal plants to treat their offspring, choosing certain ones to lay their eggs on, a U.S. study shows.
Researchers at Emory University in Atlanta found female butterflies, known for long-distance migration from the United States to Mexico each year, seem to prefer to lay eggs on a species of milkweed that is toxic to a parasite infecting some butterflies that can then infect their larvae and caterpillars, a university release said Monday.
Females infected with the parasites preferred to lay eggs on a toxic species of milkweed, rather than a non-toxic species, while uninfected female monarchs showed no preference, the study found.
"We have shown that some species of milkweed, the larva's food plants, can reduce parasite infection in the monarchs," Jaap de Roode, the evolutionary biologist who led the study, said. "And we have also found that infected female butterflies prefer to lay their eggs on plants that will make their offspring less sick, suggesting that monarchs have evolved the ability to medicate their offspring."
"The results are also exciting because the behaviour is trans-generational," Thierry Lefevre, a postdoctoral fellow in de Roode's lab, said. "While the mother is expressing the behaviour, only her offspring benefit."
The findings may have implications for human health, University of Michigan chemical ecologist Mark Hunter, who collaborated on the research, says.
"When I walk around outside, I think of the plants I see as a great, green pharmacy," Hunter says. "Studying organisms engaged in self-medication gives us a clue as to what compounds might be worth investigating for their potential as human medicines."
For full story, please see:



  • Mushrooms: A short history

Source: Guardian (UK), 5 October 2010

Around the world at least 120 000 species of mushrooms plump themselves and batten on rotting vegetation or as parasites on trees, and perhaps 1 800 of these are worth considering as food. Most mushrooms either taste bitter or of nothing at all, and a mercifully small number are deadly.
Unlike plants and animals, whose reproduction makes some sense even to fairly primitive people, for a long time nobody could work out how mushrooms grew. When Linnaeus first systematised the natural world in the middle of the 18th century, he applied the bewildered and defeatist label "Chaos" to the fungi. Their curious appearance and apparition, the way they sprout seemingly from nowhere and in great profusion after the rains, their lack of fruit and flower and their notorious reputation of being potentially lethal, have always associated them with magic and sorcery. Alchemists in the middle ages sought to find the secret of creation from mushrooms. Sprouting as they do from rot and waste, the sightless, silent things seem to spin life from death itself.
Evidence around Palaeolithic lakeside sites in Switzerland, Germany and Austria suggests that humans were gathering puffballs at least 10 000 years ago, but just because mushrooms do not appear on cave paintings it does not mean they never featured in stone age diets. In fact, given that they have always been the pre-eminent gathered foods, they very likely did.
An interesting feature of mushrooms is that, when man first roamed across the northern hemisphere, the fungi he knew in former lands would often have met him in new ones. Unlike fruit seeds, which are heavy and not particularly susceptible to being carried by the wind, a mushroom's spores will whip in their billions across continents to suitable sites. Ceps, among the princes of mushrooms (known to the Italians and a tellingly large number of Brits as “porcini”, although in English they are called penny buns) grow from as far north as Finland to as far south as Mexico, and all terrestrial latitudes between.
The British have historically been among the most sceptical. Field mushrooms aside, most dismissed them as "toadstools", a fanciful name rooted in the toad's reputation as a poisonous creature.
In France and Germany, in Scandinavia and especially in Russia, an appreciation for mushrooms is more common, indeed part of the national identity. The American banker turned mycologist R Gordon Wasson wrote a whole book on the Russian relationship with mushrooms, which runs as deep with them as within the vast, shadowy forests of the continent.
Of course, tasteless ones are the least of it. The matter-of-factly named death cap accounts for 90 percent of serious mushroom poisonings in the UK.
For full story, please see:



  • Mushrooms in the USA: Autumn opens its doors

Source: Seattle Times (Washington, USA), 9 October 2010

Fall opens the door to all kinds of outdoor opportunities, and mushroom foraging in the woods is a top contender.
As the first heavy rainfalls of autumn arrive many will head out in search of the matsutake (Japanese pine mushrooms), boletes and chanterelles, and a variety of other edible mushrooms that call the Pacific Northwest home.
Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of a fungus. Most area fungi that attract local mushroom hunters grow in a symbiotic relationship with our region's wide variety of plants and trees.
Areas dense with Douglas firs, Ponderosa pine, white and red firs, and mountain and western hemlocks are breeding grounds for a variety of popular mushrooms. Their habitat is usually confined to a small area around tree-covered areas.
Other good sources for mushrooms to breed are huckleberry and rhododendrons that create shading, forest duff like fern and moss, leaves and dense soil that retain water from rain.
There are many areas of the Cascade and Olympic mountains that are host for mushrooms, but it is not unusual to find edible mushrooms within the city or in outlying rural areas covered with trees.
Some of the best places to find matsutake are east side slopes in the Cascades and Olympics, where Douglas fir forests start to mix with Ponderosa and where other pines of Central Washington start to take over.
Typically the ideal time to find mushrooms is in the fall after the first heavy rainfall under moderate temperatures around 50 to 60ºF, coupled with a gradual cooling. Once the first frost occurs, many mushroom species will begin to die off.
By far one of the most popular mushrooms to harvest are the Japanese matsutake (Armillaria ponderosa), which has a distinct smell, and an ivory cap with tan and brownish fibers. Chanterelles also are found in good numbers before and after the start of the matsutake season.
Often times the matsutake are covered by duff and are hard to find without considerable practice. In some cases as it grows, it pushes up the soil and duff creating raised areas or bumps. These bumps will need to be looked at by lifting the cover, and sometimes requires to get on your hands and knees.
Matsutake-gathering regulations vary from forest to forest.
For full story, please see:



  • Saffron: It is the season for saffron in Spain

Source: The Olive Press (Andalucia, Spain), 10 October 2010

It is often said to be worth its weight in gold. And the arrival of autumn means only one thing for many of the inhabitants of Castilla-La-Mancha (Andalucia, Spain): time to harvest its ever precious saffron.
This month the historic town of Consuegra is holding its annual Saffron Rose Festival.
Organized to coincide with the harvest, the festival celebrates all things Manchego. Visitors can enjoy the competition in which nimble-fingered locals separate the saffron spice from the flower or take a trip to the Molienda de Paz to watch wheat flour being made at the old Sancho windmill.
But the star of the show is of course the purple saffron flower. With the searing summer heat having passed, villagers will flock to nearby fields and begin the arduous task of plucking purple crocus heads.
These blooms contain striking red stigmas that, when dried, become the much sought after saffron ‑ the world’s most expensive spice.
Only after having gathered about 14 000 stigmas will there be enough to make just 28g of the spice. 250 000 flowers are needed to produce just 1kg of dry saffron. But with the price to the farmer standing at €1200/kg, it is worth the 40 hours of manual labour that it takes to produce 1kg of the prized spice.
So delicate are the stigmas that the production of saffron is now one of the few food processes that are still completely non-mechanized. The whole chain — from harvesting and drying, right up to packaging — is done by hand for fear of damaging the delicate stigmas.
For every hour that passes from when it is harvested, the intensity of the colour and the flavour diminishes as well as the value of the spice. Whole villages therefore fight the back-breaking conditions to collect as much saffron as possible during the three week harvest period.
Once in bloom the flowers are picked — always before sunrise to reduce any potential damage to the stigma as the petals are still closed. Working against the clock, the stigmas are immediately cut out and dried in baskets above a heat source. Thanks to specialist knowledge handed down over generations, the Castilla-La-Mancha harvesters are highly skilled at ensuring their export loses minimal value during the production journey.
Nowadays there are about 400 saffron farmers, known as “azafranaleros” within the region, although this is a fraction of what it once was.
Just 30 years ago, villagers joined to pluck, cut and dry enough stigmas to produce a mind-boggling 50 tonnes of saffron annually. In fact, around 70 percent of the world’s saffron once came exclusively from Spain. A decade ago this had slumped to just 100kg, as saffron made in the Middle East engulfed the market and left Spanish growers unable to compete.
Today Spain is the second largest saffron producer in the world, after Iran.
Demand is rising among Spaniards for their own domestic saffron once again, and well-respected chefs are putting speciality dishes containing the spice back to the top of their menus.
The Saffron Rose Festival 2010 will take place from 20 to 31 October.
For full story, please see:



  • Wildlife: Boost for UK ape projects

Source: BBC News, 1 October 2010

The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) is bringing together zoos across the world to contribute to the continued survival of wild apes. The campaign aims to create a €1 million fund, part of which will supply Twycross Zoos’ (Leicester, UK) two projects working with bonobos and cao vit gibbons.
In the wild, ape numbers are threatened by hunting, deforestation and disease. Nearly every species of ape, from gorillas to gibbons, are classed as either endangered or critically endangered.
Both projects are designed to investigate ways in which threatened ape species can be better protected in their native habitat and co-exist more successfully with the local population.
Sharon Redrobe, Director of Life Sciences at Twycross Zoo said it was great to have the added financial backing. "It is all about conserving their natural habitat and keeping these animals out in the wild." Twycross is the only zoo in Britain which cares for bonobos, the rare pygmy chimpanzees which are the closest living relatives to humans.
Since 2008, the Zoo has invested £140,000 to support the conservation of the species. One of the EAZA's chosen organizations is Awely, which supported by Twycross, runs the “Green Gap” campaign in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the only country where wild bonobos can still be found. Rangers have been working with local people to teach them about the threats faced by the bonobos and to helping to introduce new farming methods to reduce their dependency on the trade in bushmeat.
Due to Awely's support, bonobos can now live naturally in a 12 000km² area of unprotected dense forest.
The second project chosen by EAZA is involved in the conservation of one of the world's most endangered primates in China and Vietnam: the cao vit gibbons. There are just over 100 left in the wild. Twycross Zoo has been involved in the Fauna & Flora International project to protect the gibbons. This has involved carrying on population surveys, providing protected living areas and working with local communities to lessen the damage to the apes' habitat.
For full story, please see:



  • Wildlife: 50th anniversary of Goodall’s pioneering chimpanzee research

Source: Japan Times, 10 October 2010

Jane Goodall, indisputably one of the world's foremost authorities on chimpanzees and founder of the Jane Goodall Institute for wildlife research and conservation, was in Japan last month as a part of the institute's celebration of her 50th anniversary of pioneering chimpanzee research in Tanzania.
During her stay, the 76-year-old primatologist visited Yokohama International School and talked about the fieldwork she undertook in her younger days, chimpanzees and the institute's program for youth.
Goodall started her speech to an excited young audience assembled in the school's gymnasium by saying that although she strives constantly to reach people in many countries, she would love it if she could speak different languages.
"But I do know one language that I can share with you," she told the crowd. "It is the greeting you would hear if you came with me to Gombe National Park in Tanzania and climbed up the hills in the morning, hoping to hear the chimpanzees greeting the day: 'Hoo, hoo, hohohohohohooh! Hooh! Hoooh! Hello!' "
The researcher then talked about her childhood in England. At 10, she said, she read "Tarzan of the Apes" and had a dream of living with wild animals in Africa. However, those were different times. Africa was known as the "dark continent," World War II was raging across Europe, and women had different roles in society.
"The worst problem I had to face at that time was that I had the wrong sex," she explained, saying that "back then in the U.K. girls did not do that sort of thing." Only her mother supported her, she said, recalling how "she would say, 'If you really want something, and you work hard and you take advantage of the opportunities, and you never give up, you (can) find the way. And that is the message I want to share with you young people here," she proclaimed.
When she graduated from high school, Goodall told how she took a secretarial course before being invited to Kenya by a friend whose parents had a farm there. To save money to make the trip—which in those days was by ship—she worked as a waitress before setting off on her adventure at the age of 23.
In Kenya, Goodall met world- renowned anthropologist and paleontologist Louis Leakey, who was researching fossils of humankind's Stone Age ancestors in the Serengeti plains and was looking for somebody to study chimpanzees ‑ our closest living relatives ‑ in Tanzania. Leakey sensed Goodall's avid interest in animals and asked her to go and learn about the chimps.
"And of course it was beyond my wildest dreams," Goodall said. "First of all, who would give money to this young girl with no university degree?"
A year later, Leakey found a wealthy American businessman prepared to fund Goodall's research for six months. However, the authorities were not prepared to take responsibility for a young woman venturing into potentially dangerous forests alone. Leakey would not give up and eventually authorities relented, but they had one condition: Goodall must travel with a companion. Who was that companion? The students listened intently as the researcher revealed the answer: "My amazing mother."
In July 1960, Goodall and her mother arrived in Gombe, western Tanzania ‑ a known chimpanzee habitat ‑ and camped out in the forests.
Then, every morning, Goodall would climb into the mountains and spend whole days trying to get close enough to the chimps to study their behaviour.
"Day after day after day, I was getting a little bit closer to the chimpanzees, but they ran away because they had never seen a 'white ape' before," Goodall said, explaining how desperate she felt to make closer contact. However, with her mother's unflagging encouragement, Goodall gradually learned more and more about their diets and how they travel and interact in small groups.
Then, in autumn 1960 ‑ shortly after her mother left Gombe ‑ Goodall made a breakthrough observation. As she walked through the undergrowth that day, she recounted, she saw a chimpanzee she had named David Greybeard, because of his white facial hair.
"I spied the chimpanzee, which turned out to be David, crouched over a termite mound. I saw a hand reach out and pick a piece of grass and I saw the grass pushed into the termite mound, left for a moment and then slowly pulled out. Then, David picked the termites (off it) with his lips," Goodall said.
She also saw him pick a leafy twig and strip the leaves off, making a tool to "fish" for the termites. "It was thought at that time that only humans were capable of making and using tools," she said. "And so when I showed (pictures of) David using and making tools to Louis Leakey, that enabled him to go to the National Geographic Society of America and get money for me to continue to study."
The discovery could not have come at a better time. The original six-month funding from the U.S. businessman was starting to run out. Taking this news to National Geographic would in essence secure the team's funding for the duration of their research.
After the observation, Goodall said that David effectively introduced her to the other chimpanzees in his group ‑ enabling her to become the first Western person ever to enter that other great ape's world.
Often smiling, and speaking in a quiet and friendly tone of voice, the primatologist emphasized how alike humans and chimpanzees are. Biologically, chimpanzees are closer to humans than they are to other great apes, she explained, and because the DNA of humans and chimpanzees differs by only a little more than 1 percent, chimps can intellectually do things that humans formerly thought only they could do.
While Goodall focused on researching chimpanzee behavior and society for more than two decades, she left Gombe after 1986 when she attended an international congress of chimpanzee researchers and learned that the population of chimps had declined to 300 000 from 2 million in 1960. At the congress, the researchers showed slides of destroyed forests, chimpanzees caught in wire snares and others shot along with many other animals for "bushmeat."
"So these amazing chimpanzees who help us to understand our precious nature are disappearing," Goodall said. "Human populations are growing and the forests are being cut down."
The tone in the room took a more serious, and broader, turn as Goodall pointed out that in many rural areas in Africa, humans too are suffering ‑ mainly due to severe poverty, a problem that plagues many developing countries around the world. Meanwhile, people in developed countries have unsustainable lifestyles, which are damaging the global environment, Goodall warned.
It was this concern for the environment as a whole that prompted the creation of the "Roots and Shoots" program for young people at the Jane Goodall Institute in 1991. She explained that in every Roots and Shoots group, children choose three kinds of projects to make the world better: one that will benefit people, one that will benefit animals, and one contributing to a better environment for all.
For full story, please see:



  • Wildlife: New discoveries in the Greater Mekong highlight the need for urgent action

Source: WWF International, 6 October 2010

A seven meter tall carnivorous plant, a fish with vampire fangs, and a frog that sounds like a cricket are among 145 new species described last year in the Greater Mekong, reaffirming the region as a one of the most significant biological hotspots on the planet ahead of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan.
“New Blood: Greater Mekong new species discoveries 2009,” reveals an average of three new species recorded by science each week including Asia’s only bald songbird, the Bare-faced bulbul, and the uniquely adapted Sucker-fish, which uses its body to sucker onto rocks in fast flowing waters to move upstream.
“This rate of discovery is simply staggering in modern times,” said Stuart Chapman, Conservation Director of WWF Greater Mekong. “Each year, the new species count keeps going up, and with it, so too does the responsibility to ensure this region’s unique biodiversity is conserved,” he said.
The report says while these discoveries highlight the Greater Mekong’s immense biodiversity it also pinpoints the fragility of this region’s diverse habitats and species. The likely local extinction of the Javan rhino in Vietnam is one tragic indicator of the decline of biodiversity in recent times.
Other new species standouts that were discovered in this region that comprises Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the southern province of Yunnan in China include five new mammals, two bats and three shrews, a poisonous pit viper and an entirely new genus of fang-less snake.
The report highlights the opportunity for governments of the Greater Mekong to use financing through the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the global financing mechanism for the CBD, to leverage large-scale resources to conserve species, biodiversity and healthy ecosystems across the region.
“Biodiversity is not evenly distributed around the globe. These new species are a timely reminder of the extraordinary biodiversity in the Greater Mekong,” said Mr Chapman. “Therefore a greater allocation of funds is needed to ensure these valuable ecosystems are conserved.”
At the CBD, WWF will promote opportunities for the Global Environment Facility to provide financing for a trans-boundary programme in the Greater Mekong that recognizes the role of biodiversity and healthy ecosystems.
For full story, please see:




  • Armenia: ATP to partner with American Forests' Global ReLeaf Programme

Source: Armenia Tree Project Press Release, 11 October

Armenia Tree Project (ATP) has been working on an exciting new partnership with the American Forests' Global ReLeaf Campaign for the fall planting season. The partnership with American Forests involves planting 175 000 new tree seedlings in the Getik River Valley of northern Armenia, where ATP has been working since 2004.
The seedlings will be purchased from families growing trees as part of ATP's Backyard Nursery Micro-Enterprise Program. The Backyard Nursery Program is a unique initiative that addresses the interrelated challenges of poverty and deforestation.
"ATP partners with rural subsistence farmers who propagate tree seedlings in backyard nurseries. Each family grows 500 to 1 000 seedlings which ATP purchases when they are ready to be replanted in the forest, providing desperately needed income," notes ATP Executive Director Jeff Masarjian. "This model rewards families for their hard work throughout the year since we only purchase the trees that are healthy and ready for transplanting."
"American Forests will provide a grant of US$70,000 if ATP can raise the remainder of the funds required to implement the project," explains Masarjian. "Our Backyard Nursery Program received the National Energy Globe Award for Sustainability at the European Parliament in 2008 and we are grateful that an international organization like American Forests has decided to initiate this partnership in recognition of our efforts."
American Forests is the oldest nonprofit citizens' conservation organization in the United States. Citizens concerned about the waste and abuse of the nation's forests founded the organization in 1875 and one of its goals has been to assist communities in planning and implementing tree and forest actions to restore and maintain healthy ecosystems and communities.
American Forests' Global ReLeaf Campaign has been planting native trees in rural and urban ecosystem restoration projects around the world. The organization plans to plant 4.8 million trees this year in 14 states and 10 countries to help restore forests important for endangered wildlife, clean water, and carbon sequestration. Since the planting of the first Global ReLeaf project 20 years ago, more than 30 million native trees have been planted in over 600 restoration projects.
"Our goal is to raise these matching funds in order to purchase tree seedlings and tools, in addition to hiring workers to install fencing to protect the new trees and maintain the site in the first few years while the seedlings become established," explains Masarjian. "The trees are all grown from seeds collected locally in the nearby forests but they do require some nurturing and care while they grow into a young forest."
Since 1994, Armenia Tree Project has planted and restored more than 3 500 000 trees at over 800 sites around the country and created hundreds of jobs for impoverished Armenians in tree-regeneration programs. The organization's three tiered initiatives are tree planting, environmental education, and poverty reduction.
For more information, please see:



  • Brazil: Amazon forest to be privately managed

Source: Reuters, 11 October 2010

Brazil will auction large swaths of the Amazon forest to be managed by private timber companies and cooperatives to help reduce demand for illegal logging, a top official told Reuters on Monday.
After years of legal battles and political opposition, the government is reviving concessions for private companies to log its national forests.
"The future of the Amazon — combating deforestation and climate change — is strengthening forest management. I do not see any other solution," Antonio Carlos Hummel, head of Brazil's National Forestry Service, said at the Reuters Global Climate and Alternative Summit.
The government will grant private companies logging concessions for nearly 1 million ha by year-end and, within four to five years, nearly 11 million ha. Existing concessions total only 150 000 ha.
Unlike the illegal slash and burn practice that has already destroyed nearly 20 percent of the world's largest rainforest, managed logging extracts only as many trees as the forest can naturally regenerate.
When the government began preparing for concessions in 2003, it faced stiff opposition from conservative politicians who called it privatization of public assets. "Back then we did not explain the process well. Now, it is all cleared up. There has not been a questioning of privatization for over a year," said Hummel.
Concessions actually helped establish more state control in the often lawless Amazon region, where settlers and speculators often illegally occupied public lands, he added.
While illegal logging usually produces wealth for only a few, forest concessions, at least on paper, generate lasting jobs and tax revenues for the government.
Aware of failed private timber concessions in Africa and parts of Asia, Brazilian lawmakers took certain safeguards. "We included a series of community control mechanisms," said Hummel, referring to NGOs that participate in public audits of concessions.
Deforestation rates in Brazil's Amazon, the world's largest rainforest, have fallen to their lowest in two decades after the government stepped up policing in recent years. Authorities have fined illegal cattle ranchers and loggers, confiscated their products, and cut off bank loans to them.
But unless such tough controls are maintained, illegal logging could undermine demand for more expensive timber from managed forests, said Hummel. "If next year controls ease off and the market is flooded with cheap wood, forestry concessions will suffer."
The potential for forest management is huge with state governments and private entrepreneurs also beginning to jump on the band wagon.
In addition, traditional forest dwellers have rights to about 19 million ha and resettled peasants hold 21 million ha in the Amazon. Currently only two cooperatives of traditional forest dwellers have a federal license to log.
"Everything in this country is an incentive for deforestation, for developing destroyed forest. So we are having to change the paradigm ‑ finance standing forests," he said.
For full story, please see:



  • Brazil: Securing a future for Amazonian rubber-tappers

Source: The Ecologist, 8 September 2010

Amazonian indigenous peoples have transformed the white sap of the rubber tree into utensils since primeval times. But with the arrival of European colonisers, the natives gradually started to lose their land, cultural identity and the ancient knowledge of using the latex.
Since 2002, however, an initiative in Brazil has aimed to reintroduce this traditional indigenous technique. “Encauchados de Vegetais da Amazônia” is a project developed by the local NGO Poloprobio that has already involved more than 600 indians and rubber-tappers in Amazonian communities. The initiative, given a prize in 2008 by UNDP, is generating better income and quality of life for the forest people, while preventing deforestation by the expansion of cattle and crop farming.
Francisco Samonek is the man behind the idea. A researcher at the University of Acre (Brazil) and the founder of Poloprobio, he explains how the project began:
“I started to research a new method of processing the rubber latex without the use of electricity and machinery, back in the 1980s. In those days, rubber-tappers and indigenous people were suffering from the lack of government subsidies, many abandoning the forest and causing an increase in poverty numbers in nearby cities. Rubberised textiles were already being produced there, but through a process that involved the smoke-curing of the rubber. Apart from being dangerous to the health, this method was not economically viable.”
After joining scientific research with the rubber-tappers' empirical knowledge, Samonek was able to develop a rubberised textile that avoids smoke-curing. The latex was simply applied to industrialised fabric and left to dry naturally in the sun. Later, in 2002, vegetal fibres collected locally were added to the latex, and this made it possible to eliminate the use of the industrialized fabric.
The new technique enabled the creation of artefacts of all shapes and sizes. By then, Samonek knew that he had the key to a better life for many people. But only in 2004 did he find written evidence of a similar technique once used by the natives to create utensils. At the time, he realised that the artisanal use of the latex could not only promote social inclusion through a sustainable activity, but also recover the indigenous technique of encauchados, which had been completely lost. It was then that the project started to take shape.
Making an encauchado is not difficult. The latex of the rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis, native of the Amazon) is extracted by making shallow diagonal cuts in the bark. Then a collecting can is attached to the trunk. Once collected, the latex is sieved, mixed with ash and heated for an hour, in a process that will prevent coagulation and bacterial contamination.
Later, natural fibres and pigments found in the forest are added. This paste, applied in several coats to moulds of various shapes and sizes, is left to dry in the sun, being transformed into more than 20 different items, such as bags, pots, rugs, tablecloths, boxes and even tiles. The objects are later decorated with indigenous motifs using pigmented latex, which can also be applied to T-shirts, caps, towels and other textiles.
By producing their own goods instead of simply selling the rubber to a middle-man, indigenous peoples and rubber-tappers are preserving the local culture in a sustainable way, but also avoiding exploitation. According to Samonek, the differences in income are astonishing: “To give an idea, the rubber processed by conventional methods is commercialised at the equivalent of £0.65/kg. When processed as an encauchado, 1kg of rubber is worth as much as £18. This makes a huge difference in the lives of these people, who now can afford a more comfortable life without changing their own lifestyle. They still hunt, fish and collect fruit as they have always done, but now they feel socially included, they have better self-esteem. And the forest stays standing up.”
The products are directly sold in the community centres of nearby villages and towns. In Rio Branco, capital city of Acre state, there is a co-operative that also takes the products to local fairs and events. “The gains are managed by the communities, as they wish,” explains Samonek. “Soon we will also be placing the products for sale to distributors on our website, which is under construction.”
“In the next two years, our plan is to extend the project across the four states, to 10 indigenous groups. This will bring to 1 000 the total of indigenous people involved. We also want to take the project to other rubber-tapping communities and to increase the range of products manufactured,” says Samonek.
For full story, please see:



  • Cambodia: Monks Community Forestry Group wins UN Equator Prize

Source: Pact News, 1 October 2010

The Monks Community Forestry (MCF), a group of Buddhist monks in northwest Cambodia, has won the prestigious United Nations sponsored Equator Prize celebrating outstanding community efforts to conserve biodiversity and reduce poverty. Among this year’s 25 Equator Prize winners, only four other communities have received this special recognition.
Since 2001, the monks of the Samraong Pagoda, located in Oddar Meanchey Province near Cambodia’s border with Thailand, have been protecting 18 261 hectares of forest from illegal clearing and incursion. It is now one of Cambodia’s largest and best protected community forests (MCF).
Pact (a US-based non-profit organization working to empower communities) and the Cambodian Forestry Administration have provided support to help the MCF establish community forestry legal status in Cambodia. Pact is now working with the MCF, the Cambodian Government, and with 12 other community forests in the area, on one of Cambodia’s first climate change mitigation and carbon offset projects. The project will earn carbon credits from the voluntary market to support forest protection efforts and contribute to improving local livelihoods.  According to Pact’s Program Director, Amanda Bradley, “The MCF has collaborated effectively with local communities to turn an area of uncontrolled logging into an excellent example of best practice in conservation.  We are very excited about the potential of the carbon markets to reinforce and support these local efforts.”
Appalled at the ongoing destruction of his country’s forests, MCF’s Venerable Bun Saluth initiated protection of this area in 2001. With few resources, he and the monks of his pagoda have proven themselves to be powerful conservationists: they have demarcated forest boundaries, raised environmental awareness among local communities, developed co-management committees with local villagers, linked with government authorities and NGOs, and significantly reduced forest crime in the MCF through the development of unique approaches to law enforcement based on Buddhist principles.
The example of the MCF has demonstrated that Buddhist monks can be important allies for the conservation community: they have proven effective at deterring forest crime and can be powerful messengers for environmental protection. Their impressive achievements sprang from the monks’ belief that by protecting the MCF they are following the Buddha’s example and the principles he set out in his teachings to eliminate the suffering of all beings and to live ethically. 
This small forest community in northwest Cambodia is now linked with 128 other Equator Prize winners from around the world who have been chosen as representatives of best practices in grassroots movements that combine biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction. Venerable Bun Saluth joined 25 of this year’s winners to receive the prize and US$5 000 in an award ceremony in New York on 20 September.
For full story, please see:



  • China pledges to end species extinction by 2020

Source: Nature Online, 29 September 2010

The central government of China has released the country’s first nationwide conservation strategy in 16 years. “China’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan” both assesses the progress of China's environmental initiatives over the last two decades and sets out an ambitious agenda for future conservation, including a halt to the loss of all biodiversity in China by 2020.
“China contains a wealth of plants and wildlife that are found nowhere else on Earth. But with a population of more than 1.3 billion people, China is developing rapidly and that progress could completely decimate its environment if it does not proceed in smart, sustainable ways,” says Zhang Shuang, director of The Nature Conservancy’s China program.
With this plan, China is demonstrating its commitment to a greener future and significant advances in the protection of treasured species like the Yunnan golden monkey, the black-necked crane and giant panda. The plan, which identifies 32 priority areas totalling 20 percent of China’s land mass, aims to:
• protect 90 percent of China’s protected species and key ecosystems through nature reserves;
• halt the loss of biodiversity in China by 2020;
• create new trans-boundary nature reserves and strengthen the country’s existing nature reserves;
• and produce action plans at the provincial level (the first in Sichuan has a proposed 1 billion Yuan budget for the creation of five new nature reserves and a wide range of other conservation actions).
For nearly a decade, The Nature Conservancy has been working with the Chinese government to advance large scale conservation. “Together, we have made significant progress in creating more efficient protected areas, protecting the Yangtze River and lessening the impacts of climate change,” says Shuang.
The “National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan” goes a step further and ties the future work of China’s environmental agencies to the same set of priorities that Conservancy’s scientists developed through the massive, years-long “Blueprint project.” Both efforts not only take stock of China’s ecological makeup but also identify the resources and natural benefits that people and wildlife need most.
“Conservation is a global issue and like the United States, China’s influence is felt around the world,” said Glenn Prickett, Director of external affairs for The Nature Conservancy. “With China's Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan and President Obama's “Great Outdoors Initiative”, which aims to reconnect Americans to nature and promotes innovative community-level conservation efforts, we have the makings of real global leadership.”
For full story, please see:



  • Cyprus: Truffles to be cultivated

Source:, 10 October 2010

Cypriot farmers could soon be preparing the ground for truffle cultivation after the mycological association verified locally grown samples of the fungus last month.
The association’s chairman Thomas Kyriacou said that they hoped to begin cultivation as soon as they have prepared the trees in which the truffles grow. He explained that the trees and truffles live in a symbiotic relationship with the fungi. “We have to cultivate trees whose roots have been innoculated with the truffle fungi,” he said.
If these early attempts at cultivation are successful, the association plans to carry out the project throughout the island, mainly in areas where there is limestone soil and arid conditions. This method has already been successful in other countries with similar climates, such as Spain and Italy.
“Equipment must not be used to try and dig up the truffles as they will more than likely be ruined in this way,” said Kyriacou. “Once they are found not much more than a knife is necessary to remove them,” he said.
Theologis Alexandris of the Mycological association, who discovered a truffle a few months ago in Cyprus, urged the public to collect the edible mature mushrooms and not destroy the rest.
“The only way is through dogs that are especially trained to find them,” said Kyriacou, adding that the breed of the dog is not significant only that it is trained to find the truffles.
Out of the 70 types of truffle that exist, less than 10 of them are valuable. Six of these types have been found in Cyprus, including the black summer truffle, the white truffle and the Italian white truffle.
For full story, please see:



  • Guinea-Bissau: Bushmeat demand fuelling secretive trade of primates

Source: The Ecologist, 29 September 2010

The shocking reality of Africa’s bushmeat crisis has been revealed by an Ecologist investigation into the highly secretive and frequently illicit trade in primates in Guinea-Bissau.
In a remarkable dispatch from the tiny west African nation, one of the world’s most impoverished countries, reporter Dawn Starin investigates the mechanics of the “chain” that sees a vast number of primates — some of them endangered — before ending up on dinner plates in the capital Bissau.
Interviewing monkey meat consumers, butchers and restaurant owners, as well as primate hunters, Starin uncovers how a network of corrupt officials and destruction of the country’s forests for logging, mining and agriculture — which is increasingly opening up previously inaccessible areas — is fuelling the trade, believed to be responsible for thousands of Guinea-Bissau’s primates being slaughtered annually.
Although the country has officially outlawed the hunting of many primate species —including red colobus, black and white colobus and chimpanzees — and restricted the killing of others, widespread bribery, a lack of enforcement infrastructure and frequently chaotic governance means that the slaughter often continues with impunity, a government official and conservationists tell the Ecologist.
Despite much of Guinea-Bissau’s bushmeat, including primates, being consumed in rural areas, where it is seen as a ready, and relatively cheap source of protein, a growing taste for monkey meat amongst better-off diners in urban areas is driving a more commercial trade, Starin finds.
Conservationists argue that such commercial trades are often the most unsustainable, not only for threatened species but for people too: “The loss of wildlife in forests threatens the livelihoods of forest peoples, and the food security of the frequently poor rural people who rely on bushmeat as a safety net when crops and livestock fail,” according to the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force.
The African bushmeat trade is prevalent, according to campaigners, in Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Congo, Ivory Coast, Gabon and Liberia amongst others. The multi-million dollar trade has surpassed habitat loss as the greatest threat to tropical wildlife, conservationists believe.
Campaigners and academics admit that very little is currently known about Guinea-Bissau’s primate trade or wider bushmeat consumption. A four-month study by primatologists, Dr. Catarina Casanova and Dr. Claudia Sousa, from the University of Lisbon, recently confirmed “heavy bushmeat trade” in the country and reported that “primates in national parks and reserves” are hunted.
Sousa told the Ecologist: “In Guinea-Bissau almost all the non-human primate species are hunted… the most hunted is the baboon.” Heather Eves from Bushmeat Crisis Task Force said: “It does appear that [bushmeat] hunting is severely impacting wildlife populations [in Guinea-Bissau].” Primate specialists say they are currently working to build a more definitive picture of what is happening in the country.
For full story, please see:



  • Japan warns on pace of biodiversity loss

Source: AFP, 12 October 2010

At the opening of a UN conference on the safe use of modern biotechnology, Japan warned that the diversity of life on Earth is being lost at the fastest rate ever seen.
The five-day meeting in the central Japanese city of Nagoya comes ahead of a major international conference on biodiversity next week and focuses on how genetically-modified organisms are threatening plant and animal species.
The talks, which include more than 190 countries and NGOs, are expected to agree that a country can seek compensation for damage to biodiversity caused by imports of genetically-modified organisms from other countries or companies.
"The loss of biodiversity is developing at the fastest pace ever," Japanese Farm Minister Michihiko Kano said at the opening of the talks. "It is our responsibility to carry over a rich biodiversity to the next generation," he said.
The meeting comes ahead of a conference of the 193-nation Convention on Biological Diversity from 18 October in Nagoya due to discuss how to pay for the "equitable sharing" of the benefits from natural resources.
The biodiversity talks will also discuss a fresh target of preserving animal and plant species that are disappearing mostly as a result of human activity.
Species under threat include 21 percent of all known mammals, 30 percent of known amphibians and 12 percent of known birds, according to the IUCN.
Scientists warn that wildlife habitat destruction is destroying ecosystems that give humans "environmental services" such as clean water and air and are vital for climate control.
For full story, please see:



  • South Africa: First licence granted under Biodiversity Act

Source: Times (South Africa), 3 October 2010

The San inhabitants of the Northern Cape (South Africa) have known for centuries that they can relax by chewing the indigenous succulent Sceletium tortuosum.
Now a local South African company, HGH Pharmaceuticals, has signed an agreement with US-based firm PL Thomas to market a sedative derived from the plant, patented as Zembrin.
In a ceremony outside Cape Town on Friday, the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Buyelwa Sonjica, handed HGH a bioprospecting licence to go ahead with its plans.
The licence is the first granted under the Biodiversity Act that came into force nearly three years ago.
It requires companies exploiting indigenous plants to sign benefit-sharing agreements with the "traditional knowledge-holders" who first identified uses for the plants. Sceletium is known in Namaqualand as “kougoed” (chewing stuff). 
But HGH director Nigel Gericke said Zembrin was not targeted at this market. "In terms of its real potential for the average person managing the stress of work, the particular economic environment we have and so on, we see huge potential," Gericke said.
He said HGH, with financial backing from Mpumalanga-based agriculture giant HL Hall & Sons, had conducted extensive tests on Zembrin and had completed a clinical trial to demonstrate its safety.
It is due to go on sale both in the US and South Africa in the first half of next year.
Even inhabitants of quiet, peaceful Namaqualand sometimes need tranquillisers, he said. "It helps with insomnia, and when your nerves are on edge."
Marianna Lot, Ecologist from Paulshoek, South Africa, said “kougoed” was mixed into mother's milk to soothe babies with colic and help them to sleep. Adults relied on the succulent to ease the stress caused by unemployment and having to subsist on welfare grants, she added.
Gericke said HGH had been careful not to create unrealistic expectations of sudden, immense wealth — as happened with hoodia, a succulent once touted as a blockbuster slimming aid but which has failed to make a market impact.
The award of the bioprospecting licence to HGH reignited the controversy surrounding the Biodiversity Act, which has been criticised for raising obstacles to the commercial exploitation of South Africa's plants.
"The Department (of Environmental Affairs) is desperate for success because any logical person would see the difficulties in applying that law, in finding the owners of traditional knowledge," said Ben-Erik van Wyk, a professor of botany at the University of Johannesburg.
"On paper it sounds quite nice, but in reality there are lots of difficulties. One should be careful not to make impediments to development."
For full story, please see:



  • Russia: Fresh hope for Europe’s most extensive collection of fruits and berries

Source:, 12 October 2010

In 1926, Russian Botanist Nikolai Vavilov, founded the Pavolvsk Research Station 30km outside St Petersburg. Pavolysk— a living repository of trees and bushes — hosts Europe's most extensive collection of fruits and berries. It has since grown to become the largest collection of its type in the world with over 5 000 types of berries and fruits. The site spans some 500 ha; 90 percent of its collection cannot be found in any other research station or gene bank in the world. Despite this, property developers are keen to destroy the facility to make way for upmarket country retreats or Dachas for the St Petersburg elite to retire to at the weekend.
The announcement of Pavlovks's impending doom, in the early Summer of this year, startled the world's scientific community. A social media campaign urged people to send messages to Russian president Dmitry Medvedev. A more conventional petition also circulated by email and the media got behind the campaign applying further pressure on the Russian Government.
Unlike many research facilities and seed banks, the Pavlovsk facility is a field genebank, so its collection sits, lives and grows in the ground. This makes transporting or moving it elsewhere a painstaking and expensive challenge which the facilities Director claims could take up to 15 years to complete.
Giving into the global pressure, President Medvedev ordered an inspection of the facility and the proposed plots to be auctioned off on 23 September. On 31August, the facility was visited without warning by a range of government officials, representing the Russian Housing Development Foundation (who own the land and want to sell it), The Public Chamber and the Accounts Chamber. As a result of their impromptu inspection, the team conceded that the land which they intended to sell did in-fact house some of the Vavilov botanical collection and agreed to postpone their auction, which had been schedule for late September.
Letters have been written to President Medvedev by world leading scientists, agriculturalists and botanists and the organizations which they represent.
Still, the ultimate fate of the facility has not yet been determined and a “final push” is expected to gather pace in the weeks ahead to keep the Pavlovsk issue on the agenda of the most senior figures in the Russian government.
For full story, please see: and



  • UK: September was foraging month

Source: Independent (UK), 18 September 2010

For food foragers, September is a terrific month. Blackberries, elderberries, rowan berries. Chanterelles, inkcaps, chicken of the woods. Hops and crab apples. Cobnuts and hazelnuts.
"It's all very well," said a city friend bitterly, "but where am I supposed to forage? Among the children's swings and slides in Grafton Square (London)?"
For city dwellers, there is some hope: Paul Barney set up “Edulis” —a nursery — in the Nineties. He reckons that "adventurous allotmenteers" are now his core customers. "People who like growing food are much more adventurous than they used to be. Szechuan pepper. American mandrake. Yacon. They are not frightened to try these things."
A really ambitious yacon tuber can weigh as much as 1kg and Barney says it is equally good raw or cooked like water chestnut. In Peru, it is used as a liver tonic. It is sweet, but not in the way that matters to diabetics. Dried, it is being used as a sugar substitute in muesli.
His most recent foraging trip was to Mizoram, a strange finger of northeast India that drops down between Bangladesh and Burma. "Incredible markets," he said. "It is what I most love about travelling. The character of a nation is right there in its markets." From Mizoram, he brought back an unnamed allium, which the locals use as we might a spring onion. But the leaves are as broad as agapanthus and the flower head like a white globe thistle.
For full story, please see:



  • UK: Spread of alien moth puts Britain's conker trees at risk

Source: The Independent (UK), 3 October 2010

The future of Britain's conker crop is at risk from an "alien invader" that is attacking horse chestnut trees (Aesculus hippocastanum) across the country. New research has found that the leaf miner moth, which weakens trees by making them shed their leaves early, is spreading faster than feared and has now hit as far west as Cornwall and as far north as the York moors.
Biologists fear the moth, first found in Greece, makes horse chestnuts more susceptible to the fatal bleeding canker disease, which causes trees to lose branches and bark and already affects more than half of all chestnut trees in some parts of the UK.
Nurseries have stopped planting horse chestnut saplings because there is no cure for infected trees - which means that as the trees die they are being replaced with different species. Great avenues of horse chestnuts, including one at Barrington Court, near Ilminster in Somerset, have already been cut down and replanted with a variety of oak.
Experts have compared the threat from the outbreak to Dutch elm disease, which all but wiped out Britain's elms in the 1970s. Guy Barter, the Royal Horticultural Society's chief adviser, said the leaf miner moth, which first emerged on a tree in a garden in Wimbledon, west London, in 2002, was "here to stay". He added: "In all likelihood there will not be an unaffected tree in Britain. It is unlikely there will be any way of remedying this infestation, which might render trees more susceptible to other problems like canker, which is potentially fatal." Michael Pocock, an ecologist at the University of Bristol who is studying the leaf miner outbreak, warned the moths "may cause trees to die prematurely".
Mike Glover, the managing director of Barcham Trees, which plants more young trees than any other nursery in Europe, said he had stopped growing the most popular conker species, the white flowering tree found across Britain. "It is a complete disaster. They are so susceptible to disease that we just do not recommend them in any circumstance," he added. His nursery used to plant 5 000 conker saplings a year.
Mr Barter warned that conker games, including those due to be played at this Sunday's World Conker Championships near Ashton, Northamptonshire, might have to be played with "synthetic or virtual conkers" in the future. Organizers of this year's championships are already struggling to find enough conkers for the 450 competitors who travel from around the world to take part. A spokesman said they were short of at least 1 000 conkers and urged anyone within a 20-mile radius of Ashton to donate any decent ones that they could find.
The average conker has shrunk during the past few decades. Keith Flett, from the Campaign for Real Conkers, said conkers had halved in size during his lifetime.
The leaf miner moth is spreading at a rate of around 40km (25 miles) a year. What most concerns scientists is that there is no natural predator. The RHS advises gardeners to collect and burn all the fallen leaves at the end of autumn to help to contain the outbreak because the moth pupae overwinter in the piles.


  • USA expands efforts to combat “funny honey”

Source: Associated Press, 24 September 2010

You might call them the Honey Police - beekeepers and honey producers ready to comb through North Carolina to nab unscrupulous sellers of sweet-but-bogus "funny honey."
North Carolina is the latest state to create a standard that defines "pure honey" in a bid to curb the sale of products that have that label but are mostly corn syrup or other additives. Officials hope to enforce that standard with help from the 12 000 or so Tar Heel beekeepers.
"The beekeepers tend to watch what is being sold, they watch the roadside stands and the farmer's markets," said John Ambrose, an entomologist and bee expert at North Carolina State University who sits on the newly created Honey Standards Board.
Florida was the first state to adopt such standards in 2009. It has since been followed by California, Wisconsin and North Carolina. Similar efforts have been proposed in at least 12 other states, including North and South Dakota, the nation's largest producers of honey, together accounting for roughly one-third of U.S. output.
Beekeepers and honey packers around the country are fuming about products masquerading as real honey, and they hope the state-by-state strategy will secure their ultimate goal: a national rule banning the sale of any product as pure honey if it contains additives.
Americans consume about 350 million pounds of honey per year, but just 150 million pounds are made domestically, creating a booming market for importers and ample temptation to cut pure honey with additives such as corn syrup that are far less expensive to produce.
This month, the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago announced the indictments of 11 German and Chinese executives and six companies on charges that they avoided nearly US$80 million in honey tariffs and sold honey tainted with banned antibiotics.
The scale of the problem nationwide is hard to gauge. It is largely a concern for the big producers who make most of America's honey, said Bob Bauer, vice president of the National Honey Packers and Dealers Association.
"The honey industry is looking to be proactive and take whatever steps are necessary not only to keep it from becoming a widespread problem, but to get rid of it entirely," he said.
The most passionate supporters of the laws tend to be beekeepers and other small producers outraged at what they see as the corruption of their craft.
"They are trading on the good name of honey to sell their product," Kenosha, Wis., beekeeper Tim Fulton said of phony honey peddlers.
"You can go to roadside stands throughout the western part of the state and they will try to sell you Karo syrup and swear it is sourwood honey," said Charles Heatherly, a North Carolina beekeeper.
Sourwood — Heatherly calls it "the Cadillac of North Carolina honey" — is mostly found in the state's mountainous west. It can cost up to US$10 a pound, making it an attractive target for adulteration.
It was a similar impersonation of local honey that provoked Nancy Gentry, a beekeeper who owns Cross Creek Honey in Interlachen, Florida, to launch a bid to get a honey standard not just in her home state, but around the country.
Agencies have been reluctant to create standards for honey ever since a Michigan jury in 1995 found in favour of a honey processing firm that had been accused of cutting the product with an additive. The jurors said there were not enough regulations governing honey to make the charge stick and that the government failed to identify the additive.
Under the new laws, it is not necessary to know what is being added to honey. Any additive, from cane sugar to corn syrup, deprives it of the label "pure honey."
For full story, please see:




  • African countries to set up wildlife research body

Source: Reuters-Africa, 18 September 2010

African environment ministers pledged on Friday 17 September to set up an international research body to study and protect the continent's wildlife, aiming to reverse the loss of its biodiversity.
Africa is famed for the lions, elephants, rhinos and leopards that attract millions of tourists each year, but its wildlife is threatened by population pressure, poaching and deforestation.
A declaration late on Friday at the end of a week-long conference on biodiversity in Gabon's capital Libreville said the proposed body would draw on scientists from around Africa.
It would "gather knowledge about biodiversity and its protection...research into the migration routes of key wildlife species and their habitats and areas vulnerable to climate change ..."
They also pledged to improve cooperation across borders. UNEP says Africa houses 1 229 species of mammal, a quarter of all mammals on earth, and about 2 000 bird species, a fifth of the world total.
The Congo basin is the world's second largest rainforest, after the Amazon.
For full story, please see:


  • Assessment confirms EU has missed 2010 biodiversity target

Source: Gozo News (Malta), 8 October 2010 

A report published today confirms that the EU has missed its target of halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010. The assessment of implementing the Commission’s Biodiversity Action Plan shows that Europe’s biodiversity remains under severe threat from the excessive demands we are making on our environment, such as changes in land use, pollution, invasive species and climate change. Nevertheless, the assessment reveals that significant progress has been made over the last two years. Important lessons learned from implementing the action plan will underpin the EU’s post-2010 strategy.
EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik said, “We have learned some very important lessons and managed to raise biodiversity to the top of the political agenda. But we need everyone on board and not just in Europe. The threat around the world is even greater than in the EU. That is why it is imperative that Nagoya delivers a strong global strategy on the protection of biodiversity and ecosystems.”
The Biodiversity Action Plan was launched in 2006 with the aim of halting biodiversity loss in the EU by 2010. Today’s assessment of progress made on some 150 different actions concludes that while significant progress has been made in a number of areas, the overall 2010 biodiversity target has not been reached.
Targeted actions to reverse the decline of endangered species and habitats have been successful. The Natura 2000 network has been significantly extended and now comprises around 26 000 sites, covering 18 percent of the EU’s land territory.
The work of the ongoing study on the economics of ecosystems and biodiversity (TEEB) has led to the increased recognition of the economic value of nature’s assets. TEEB is already helping decision makers to recognise the value of investing in natural capital.
The Biodiversity Action Plan has helped increase understanding of the drivers of biodiversity loss (such as climate change), how biodiversity and other sectoral activities are interlinked and the important role of ecosystems such as for mitigating and adapting to climate change.
Lessons learned will be invaluable in ensuring that renewed efforts to halt biodiversity loss are successful. In March, the EU committed to a new target: to halt the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services in the EU by 2020, restore them in so far as feasible, while stepping up the EU contribution to averting global biodiversity loss.
The new strategy will benefit from a significantly strengthened knowledge base, including a biodiversity baseline that will allow trends beyond 2010 to be clearly established and measured.
Outside the EU, the situation is even more worrying as pressures on biodiversity continue to intensify. Between 12 and 55 percent of selected vertebrate, invertebrate and plant groups are threatened with extinction at global level. The international community has failed to achieve the global target of significantly reducing biodiversity loss worldwide by 2010. New global targets for biodiversity will be discussed at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan, from 18-29 October.
For full story, please see:


  • Bees: Scientists and soldiers solve a bee mystery

Source: The New York Times, 7 October 2010

Since 2006, 20 to 40 percent of the bee colonies in the United States alone have suffered “colony collapse.” Suspected culprits ranged from pesticides to genetically modified food. Now, a unique partnership ‑ of military scientists and entomologists ‑ appears to have achieved a major breakthrough: identifying a new suspect, or two.
A fungus and a virus have apparently interacted to cause the problem, according to a paper by Army scientists in Maryland and bee experts in Montana in the online science journal PLoS One.
Exactly how that combination kills bees remains uncertain, the scientists said - a subject for the next round of research. But there are solid clues: both the virus and the fungus proliferate in cool, damp weather, and both do their dirty work in the bee gut, suggesting that insect nutrition is somehow compromised.
Liaisons between the military and academia are nothing new, of course. A group of scientists led by Jerry Bromenshenk of the University of Montana in Missoula (USA) has researched bee-related applications for the military in the past ‑ developing, for example, a way to use honeybees in detecting land mines.
But researchers on both sides say that colony collapse may be the first time that the defence machinery of the post-11 September Homeland Security Department and academia have teamed up to address a problem that both sides say they might never have solved on their own.
“Together we could look at things nobody else was looking at,” said Colin Henderson, an associate professor at the University of Montana’s College of Technology and a member of Dr. Bromenshenk’s “Bee Alert” team.
One perverse twist of colony collapse that has compounded the difficulty of solving it is that the bees do not just die ‑ they fly off in every direction from the hive, then die alone and dispersed. That makes large numbers of bee autopsies problematic.
Dr. Bromenshenk’s team at the University of Montana and Montana State University in Bozeman, working with the Army’s Edgewood Chemical Biological Center northeast of Baltimore, said in their jointly written paper that the virus-fungus one-two punch was found in every killed colony the group studied. Neither agent alone seems able to devastate; together, the research suggests, they are 100 percent fatal.
“It is chicken and egg in a sense ‑ we do not know which came first,” Dr. Bromenshenk said of the virus-fungus combo ‑ nor is it clear, he added, whether one malady weakens the bees enough to be finished off by the second, or whether they somehow compound the other’s destructive power. “They are co-factors, that is all we can say at the moment,” he said. “They are both present in all these collapsed colonies.”
Research at the University of California, San Francisco, had already identified the fungus as part of the problem. And several RNA-based viruses had been detected as well. But the Army/Montana team, using a new software system developed by the military for analyzing proteins, uncovered a new DNA-based virus, and established a linkage to the fungus, called N. ceranae.
Scientists in the project emphasize that their conclusions are not the final word. The pattern, they say, seems clear, but more research is needed to determine, for example, how further outbreaks might be prevented, and how much environmental factors like heat, cold or drought might play a role.
They said that combination attacks in nature, like the virus and fungus involved in bee deaths, are quite common, and that one answer in protecting bee colonies might be to focus on the fungus ‑ controllable with antifungal agents ‑ especially when the virus is detected.
Still unsolved is what makes the bees fly off into the wild yonder at the point of death. One theory, Dr. Bromenshenk said, is that the viral-fungal combination disrupts memory or navigating skills and the bees simply get lost. Another possibility, he said, is a kind of insect insanity.
In any event, the university’s bee operation itself proved vulnerable just last year, when nearly every bee disappeared over the course of the winter.
For full story, please see:



  • Bees stung by “climate change-linked” early pollination

Source: The Guardian (UK), 8 September 2010

Climate change could be affecting pollination by disrupting the synchronised timing of flower opening and bee emergence from hibernation, suggests new US-based research.
Declining numbers of bees and other pollinators have been causing growing concern in recent years, as scientists fear that decreased pollination could have major impacts on world food supplies.
Previous studies have focused on pollinators and have linked falling populations to the use of pesticides, habitat loss and disease.
However, a 17-year analysis of the wild lily in Colorado by scientists from the University of Toronto, suggests other factors may be at play. The study revealed a long-term decline in pollination, which was particularly pronounced earlier in the season.
Study author James Thomson said while bee numbers had declined at their research site he suspected that a “climate-driven mismatch between the times when flowers open and when bees emerge from hibernation is a more important factor.”
“Early in the year, when bumble bee queens are still hibernating, the fruiting rates are especially low,” he said. “This is sobering because it suggests that pollination is vulnerable even in a relatively pristine environment that is free of pesticides and human disturbance but still subject to climate change.”
Despite the findings, other experts remained cautious about the influence of climate change on bee pollination. Francis Ratnieks, professor of apiculture at the University of Sussex, said the downward trend of pollination observed in the study was not strong enough to extrapolate to any wider issues.
“Who knows the degree to which [this] affects the long term viability of the population?” he said. The study also only looked at one plant species, he added.
The Bumblebee Conservation Trust said the most significant factors driving the decline in pollinators were still unclear. “It is probably a combination of climate change, habitat loss, pesticide use and disease. Unless we act swiftly, these declines threaten both human wellbeing and the survival of natural ecosystems as we know them,” said director Dave Goulson.
Study author Thomson admitted the evidence from the study was still weak but said the results were a warning that the phenomenon “might be widespread and needs more attention.”
For full story, please see:



  • Biodiversity meet needs to chart course for next decade

Source: The Japan Times, 13 October 2010

From 18 to 29 October, Nagoya will be the scene of what is being called by environmentalists and the UN as one of the most important, and urgent, conferences since the Kyoto Protocol — the historic climate change pact that set binding goals for greenhouse gas reductions — was adopted on 11 December 1997.
However, in Nagoya, the issue under discussion is not melting glaciers or brutally hot summers that extend long into autumn due to global warming, but life itself.
The 10th Conference of the Parties (COP10) to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will bring together representatives from more than 190 countries to discuss how biodiversity systems have changed during the past decade and to forge a strategic plan for the next 10 years.
COP10 will be preceded by the fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (COP-MOP5), which runs from 11 to 15 October. The protocol, a part of the CBD, seeks to address concerns over biotechnology having adverse effects on biodiversity and human health.
In addition, the UN hopes COP10 will reach agreement on ensuring that economic benefits that nations, corporations, research institutes, or individuals derive from genetic resources are fairly distributed to those whose knowledge made such benefits possible.
COP10 is, therefore, a milestone in the nearly two-decade effort to address biodiversity loss. The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro gave birth to not only the UN climate change convention but also the CBD, which has three main objectives: (1) to conserve biological diversity; (2) to use biological diversity in a sustainable way; and (3) to share the benefits of biological diversity fairly and equitably.
Conservation efforts, including the question of whether to set aside specific percentages of land and ocean for preservation over the coming decade, will be one of the key areas of discussion at Nagoya.
But before that, delegates will review what has taken place since 2002, when the CBD agreed to "a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level as a contribution to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of all life on Earth."
Unfortunately, scientific studies over the past few years have concluded that the situation for biodiversity systems around the world is getting worse, not better.
The IUCN believes we are witnessing the greatest extinction crisis "since dinosaurs disappeared from our planet 65 million years ago."
Recent data on the state of the world's biodiversity systems reveals a bleak picture. The abundance of all species declined by 40 percent between 1970 and 2000.
Over the past decade alone, nearly 60 million hectares of primary forest (including old-growth trees that provide the basis of many forest ecosystems) have been lost.
"We humans continue to drive species extinct at up to 1 000 times the natural rate, which is undermining the stability of ecosystems across the planet and thereby threatening our own well-being," said Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary of the CBD, at a COP10 preparatory meeting in Spain in mid-September.
"13 million ha of the world's forests are lost due to deforestation each year. Meanwhile, 300 million people worldwide, the majority poor, are estimated to depend substantially on forest biodiversity for their survival and livelihood," Djoghlaf said.
Five main threats to biodiversity have been identified. They include habitat loss and degradation, often due to rapid urbanization but also because of an increased demand worldwide for forest and fishery products.
In order to halt biodiversity loss, COP10 has agreed to set out a strategic plan of action for the coming decade that will likely include, for the first time, numerical targets.
To reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use, the draft text that will be discussed at Nagoya includes the goal of either halving or bringing close to zero the rate of loss, degradation and fragmentation of natural habitats.
Not only how but by how much to conserve biodiversity systems will likely be one, perhaps the most, contentious issue between the COP10 delegates. At any UN conference, the most difficult decisions usually if not always come down to what numbers, scientific and financial, everyone can agree to.
One important thing to keep in mind is that it is not the purpose of COP10 to forge a treaty that aims to protect designated species. Rather, the goal is to protect the biological systems within which those species live.
For full story, please see:



  • Certification of NWFPs

Source: ETFRN News (51), September 2010

The following is an extract from an article by P. Vantomme in ETFRN News 51 on “Biodiversity Conservation in Certified Forests”:
Monitoring biodiversity to determine how management is complying with guidelines is a complex and costly exercise. Not only do habitats and their species differ in many ways; it is generally a challenge to define what exactly needs to be measured, and how and when
to measure it.
In forest habitats, forest inventories provide a useful framework to support biodiversity monitoring (including non-tree species) by including measurements and observations of selected biodiversity indicator species. However, the longer such a list of species becomes the more complex — and more expensive — biodiversity monitoring will be.
The question is: does certifying NWFPs guarantee that biodiversity will be monitored in the habitats where they were collected? In some cases, the answer is yes. The certification of Brazil nuts from Amazon forests in Bolivia or in Acre, Brazil, for example, includes monitoring of the pollinator species (bats) and the small rodents that disperse the seeds, because they contribute to a sustained supply of Brazil nuts and the natural regeneration of the Brazil nut tree.
Several certification schemes address forest management for NWFPs. A good example is provided in the Forest Certification Council (FSC) step-by-step guide to certification requirements. Step three of the guide describes the procedures to monitor the population levels of the NWFP species being harvested and those of other species in the harvested forest.
Although considerable indigenous knowledge often exists for specific NWFPs, formal resource inventory techniques for them are relatively new, especially in tropical countries, and have received little attention to date. The assessment of NWFPs and the resources that support them is a difficult task for several reasons: the number and variety of NWFPs; the multiplicity of interests and disciplines involved in NWFP monitoring; organizational and financial constraints; and the lack of globally or even nationally recognized common terminology and units of measurement.
In response to this situation and to raise awareness of the importance of accurate and precise resource assessments at all levels of forest use for NWFPs, FAO has compiled a technical guidebook. It provides information about the design and selection of appropriate methods of resource quantification for a range of situations and products. It also reviews and analyzes a wide range of approaches developed to measure NWFPs.
Certification of NWFPs is increasing quickly for both global and national markets in developed and developing countries. In addition, technical manuals are becoming available to assess the status of NWFP-producing species. They include information on how to define sustainable harvesting levels for mushrooms, medicinal plants, berries, wild honey, fruits, as well as best-practice guidelines for the certification of NWFPs. It is expected that the growing number of certified NWFP species and their increasing market share will strengthen conservation of these species, and of the general biodiversity of the forests where they were harvested.
For full story, please see:



  • COFO: Summary and analysis

Source: Earth Negotiations Bulletin, 11 October 2010

The twentieth session of FAO’s Committee on Forestry (COFO 2010) convened from 4-8 October 2010 at FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy. The meeting attracted 770 participants from COFO member states, including heads of forestry departments, UN agencies, and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. In plenary sessions held throughout the week, participants discussed: the Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA); forests, biodiversity and water in the context of climate change; emerging opportunities and challenges in forest finance and forest governance; programme priorities for FAO in forestry; communicating the role of forests in sustainable development and preparations for the International Year of Forests 2011 (IYF); and preparations for the XIV World Forestry Congress.
COFO 2010 adopted a final report, in which it, inter alia: recommends that the next FRA be prepared by 2015; requests FAO to support national efforts on strengthening financial support for sustainable forest management (SFM); requests FAO to assist countries in valuing the potential contribution of forests in climate change adaptation and mitigation; and requests FAO to more clearly identify areas of emphasis and work on areas where FAO has a comparative advantage.
For more information, please see:



  • Forest biodiversity and wildlife at risk, but conservation efforts growing, says FAO

Source: FAO Newsroom, 4 October 2010

The world's forest biodiversity is threatened by a high global rate of deforestation and forest degradation as well as a decline in primary forest area. In many countries, however, there is a continued positive trend towards the conservation of forest biological diversity via dedicated conservation areas.
These are some of the key findings of the final report of FAO's Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010 (FRA2010), the most comprehensive assessment of the state of the world's forests ever undertaken. The final report of FRA 2010 was published today at the start of the latest biennial meeting of the FAO' Committee on Forestry and World Forest Week, in Rome.
Globally, around 13 million ha of forests were converted to other uses (including agriculture) or were lost through natural causes each year between 2000 and 2010. That is down from around 16 million ha per year during the 1990s, the report said.
More than one-third of all forests are classified as primary — showing no visible signs of human intervention. Primary forests, in particular tropical moist forests, include some of the world's most species-rich and diverse ecosystems. Primary forests account for 36 percent (1.4 billion ha) of the world's forest area but their area has decreased by more than 40 million ha — at a rate of 0.4 percent annually — over the last ten years.
This does not necessarily mean that these forests have disappeared; rather, in many cases they have been reclassified because selective logging or other human interventions were carried out during the reporting period, FAO said. The UN agency emphasized that forests where humans have intervened can still hold important biodiversity values, contribute significantly to environmental protection, and sustain livelihoods, provided they are well managed.
South America accounted for the largest proportion of the loss in primary forests, followed by Africa and Asia.
Other threats to forest biodiversity include unsustainable forest management, climate change, forest fires, insect pests and diseases, natural disasters and invasive species ‑ all of which are causing severe damage in some countries.
At the same time, the forest area designated for the conservation of biological diversity has increased by more than 95 million ha since 1990, according to FAO's report. The largest portion (46 percent) was designated between 2000 and 2005. Today 12 percent of the world's forests (more than 460 million ha) are designated primarily to conserve biological diversity.
“The world's forests represent a vital source of forest biological diversity. This biodiversity is an important treasure, especially as forests will not just have to adapt to climate change but are also expected to help mitigate it," said FAO Assistant Director-General Eduardo Rojas. "Greater investments in sustainable forest management are urgently required to better conserve and manage forest biodiversity."
FRA 2010 also warned that commercial hunting driven by consumer demand in cities will probably drive many wildlife species to extinction in the near future unless effective measures are implemented soon, including law enforcement, community participation, provision of alternative protein and the establishment of simple and practical wildlife monitoring systems.
For full story, please see:



  • Humans caused US$6.6 trillion in environmental damage

Source: Amazon News, 6 October 2010

According to a recent analysis by Trucost, the estimated cost of environmental damage caused by human activity reached US$6.6 trillion in 2008, or 11 percent of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
To put the loss in perspective, it was 20 percent larger than the US$5.4 trillion loss in the value of pension funds in developed countries caused by the global financial crisis in 2007 and 2008.
The findings of Trucost are included in a new report from the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) and the UNEP Finance Initiative (UNEP FI), "Universal Ownership: Why environmental externalities matter to institutional investors." By 2050, the report continues, "global environmental costs are projected to reach US$28.6 trillion, equivalent to 18 percent of GDP," in a business-as-usual scenario.
Furthermore, according to the report, "environmental costs are likely to be incurred earlier," because "values do not account for growing ecosystem sensitivity, increased natural capital scarcity and potential breaches of thresholds." On the other hand, if renewable and resource-efficient technologies are introduced on a global scale, the cost of environmental externalities could be reduced by 23 percent by 2050.
In a footnote, Trucost states, "Actual values are likely to be higher, since this study takes a global view that simplifies many economic and environmental complexities."  Due to a lack of data, the report excludes most natural resources used, "as well as many environmental impacts including water pollution, most heavy metals, land use change and waste in non-OECD countries."
Citing a 2005 study entitled "A Tale of Two Market Failures: Technology and Environmental Policy," the report asserts, "The costs of addressing environmental damage after it has occurred are usually higher than the costs of preventing pollution or using natural resources in a more sustainable way."
Focusing on the top 3 000 companies by market capitalization, Trucost found that they contributed US$2.15 trillion to environmental costs in 2008.  Trucost also found that the industry sectors most responsible for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions — by far the single largest contributing factor to environmental costs, equalling 7.5 percent of external costs —were the electricity, oil and gas, industrial metals and mining, and construction and materials sectors.
Investors can use resources such as The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) initiative to help them determine their financial exposure to environmental risks.  The TEEB study compares the costs of the loss of biodiversity to the costs of effective conservation and sustainable use, and states, "Making the value of our natural capital visible to economies and society creates an evidence base to pave the way for more targeted and cost-effective solutions."
For full story, please see:



  • One-fifth of world's plants threatened by extinction: study

Source: AFP in the Independent (UK), 3 October 2010

More than one-fifth of the world's plant species faces the threat of extinction, a trend with potentially catastrophic effects for life on Earth, according to research released on Wednesday 29 September.
But a separate study cautioned that extinction of mammals had been overestimated and suggested some mammal species thought to have been wiped out may yet be rediscovered.
Stephen Hopper, director of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, London, said the report on plant loss was the most accurate mapping yet of the threat to the planet's estimated 380 000 plant species.
"This study confirms what we already suspected, that plants are under threat and the main cause is human-induced habitat loss," Hopper said at the launch of the so-called Sampled Red List Index.
The study, carried out by Kew with the Natural History Museum in London and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), set a "major baseline" for future conservation efforts, he said.
"We cannot sit back and watch plant species disappear — plants are the basis of all life on Earth, providing clean air, water, food and fuel. All animal and bird life depends on them, and so do we," Hopper added.
The study comes ahead of a meeting in Nagoya, Japan, from October 18 to 29, where members of the UN's Biodiversity Convention will set new targets to save endangered wildlife.
Craig Hilton-Taylor of the IUCN said he hoped the Nagoya meeting would set the goal of preventing the extinction of any known threatened species by 2020. "We want to make sure that plants will not be forgotten," he said.
In their study, researchers assessed almost 4 000 species, of which 22 percent were classed as threatened, especially in tropical rainforest. Plants were more threatened than birds, as threatened as mammals and less threatened than amphibians or corals, it said. Gymnosperms, the plant group including fir trees, were the most threatened.
The greatest peril came from man-induced habitat loss, mostly the conversion of natural habitats for crops or livestock. Human activity accounted for 81 percent of threats, said Kew researcher Neil Brummitt.
Meanwhile, a study by two Australian authors said Tuesday that fewer mammal species than believed may be extinct, especially those animals threatened by habitat loss.
Diana Fisher and Simon Blomberg of the University of Queensland  (Australia) said they had identified 187 mammals that have been "missing" since 1500, 67 species of which had subsequently been found again. Their paper was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, a journal of Britain's de facto academy of science.
"Extinction is difficult to detect," the study said. "Species with long gaps in their sighting records, that might be considered possibly extinct, are often rediscovered."
Mammals hit by habitat loss were "much more likely to be misclassified as extinct" than those affected by introduced predators and diseases or by overhunting.... Hence impacts of habitat loss on extinction have likely been overestimated, especially relative to introduced species."
The authors said efforts to hunt extinct mammals should be diverted away from often fruitless attempts to rediscover "charismatic" species such as the thylacine, a stripy, carnivorous marsupial, the last known example of which died in 1936 in Tasmania.
Last week, conservationists announced that two species of African frog and a Mexican salamander feared to have become extinct last century had been found again after teams explored remote places, sometimes at great risk to themselves.
For full story, please see:



  • US$5 000 000 000 000: The cost each year of vanishing rainforest

Source: Amazon News, 7 October 2010

British researchers set out the economic impact of species destruction — and their findings are changing the world’s approach to global warming.
British scientific experts have made a major breakthrough in the fight to save the natural world from destruction, leading to an international effort to safeguard a global system worth at least US$5 trillion a year to mankind.
Groundbreaking new research by a former banker, Pavan Sukhdev, to place a price tag on the worldwide network of environmental assets has triggered an international race to halt the destruction of rainforests, wetlands and coral reefs.
With experts warning that the battle to stem the loss of biodiversity is two decades behind the climate change agenda, the UN, the World Bank and ministers from almost every government insist no country can afford to believe it will be unaffected by the alarming rate at which species are disappearing.
The Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan, later this month will shift from solely ecological concerns to a hard-headed assessment of the impact on global economic security.
For full story, please see:



  • Well-organized locals often make the best forest managers, but they need help

Source: The Economist, 23 September 2010

Over 75 percent of Mexico’s forests, which range from temperate spruce and fir to tropical rainforest, are controlled by local communities, either ejidos or indigenous groups. Most were parcelled out in the 1920s, in a spate of land reform after Mexico’s 1910-20 revolution.
Though much of this forest is technically owned by the state, the communities have strong rights to it. They won control of logging permits in the late 1970s after protests by ejidatarios against commercial loggers had brought Mexico’s timber industry to its knees. The communities are not allowed to clear or sell their woods; otherwise they can do with them more or less as they please.
This makes Mexico a remarkable case study in what some consider as the best form of forest management. Most forests are claimed and mismanaged by governments. That can also mean dispossessing local people who, denied ownership of a forest they may have considered their own for centuries, tend to become protagonists in its destruction. An obvious solution is to put the forest back in local hands. Once they have tenure, it is argued, local people will regain their incentive to manage the forest sustainably, and trees and people will both flourish.
This is more radical than it may sound. Not long ago it was widely accepted that communally owned resources inevitably get overexploited because a few spoilers, or even a suspicion of them, are sufficient to make other users abandon prudential rules. Known as the “tragedy of the commons”, after a hugely influential 1968 essay by an American ecologist, Garrett Hardin, this theory was often cited by governments to justify their takeover of forests in the 1970s and 1980s.
But the tide may be turning. In the past two decades the area of forest in developing countries that is wholly or partly controlled locally has more than doubled, to over 400 million ha, or 27 percent of the total. That is partly due to a growing recognition that most governments make lousy forest conservationists, and a corresponding hope that locals will do better. That helps explain why 450 000 ha of Guatemala’s Maya rainforest have been made over to 13 communities living there. But other factors have also contributed to the shift, including efforts to deal with the grievances of dispossessed indigenous people, especially in Latin America, and political decentralisation schemes, especially in Africa and Asia. Tanzania, for example, has devolved rights to about 2 million ha of its dryland forest. And in India a combination of political devolution, tree-hugging judges and activists for tribal folk has helped 275 million people win more rights to their nearby forests.
With such diverse origins, the reforms now in progress vary greatly in scope, design and implementation. Yet most share three features: an emphasis on conserving forest; a prohibition on selling or clearing it; and a tendency to deliver less change than they promise. That is often because governments try to claw back control, in myriad ways. They may restrict forest pursuits such as collecting firewood or hunting. They may make it hard to obtain logging licences and other permits, either through incompetence or spite, or they may invent new ones for fun. In Nepal community foresters are not allowed to sell timber on the open market until they have offered it to neighbouring villagers.
Governments also like to keep the more valuable forests for themselves. In Cameroon this is policy. Moreover, even with strong rights to a potentially rich resource, naive villagers generally need advice, training and access to credit to manage it on a commercial basis, and that is rarely forthcoming. More often the forest’s new owners are undermined by petty officials’ preference for dealing with local elites. In Ghana and Cameroon this has allowed venal village chiefs to steal logging revenues.
            Recent research by CIFOR on community forest management in 11 tropical countries suggests that such outcomes are not uncommon. In most of the examples studied, at least some benefit had accrued to some community members, but local control was not in itself a guarantee of better forest management. Where communities were given degraded forest and instructed to regenerate it, they generally did so. But where devolving forest rights provoked local conflict, as quite often happens, the forest usually suffered.
This does not mean that community forest management is no good. There is rarely a better way to balance the interests of poor people and forests. But to do a good job, communities need strong property rights and often technical help. Such assistance should not stifle their ideas on forest management, which are often, though not always, based on a deep understanding of the local ecosystem. Outcomes that are good for both trees and people will also depend on external factors such as law enforcement and access to timber markets. And in the way of forests, these conditions will vary greatly from place to place.
The state of the Maya forest is a good illustration. Where the local foresters get tourism revenue from Mayan archaeological sites, it is thick with trees. In some other places, where the same indigenous communities have the same legal rights to the same sort of forest, it is degraded. “We should not think there is any optimal form for preserving forests,” says Elinor Ostrom, an American political scientist who won last year’s Nobel prize for economics for her work on common property and collective action. “We find government forests that work and community forests that work and those that don’t,” she adds. “Panaceas, like thinking ‘community forests are always great’, are dangerous.”
For full story, please see:



  • Where on earth is biodiversity?

Source: UNEP Newsdesk, 3 August 2010

Mount Kenya, the second-highest peak in Africa has been renowned for its wide tableau of animal and plant life, from the bamboo zone with its dense stands of bamboo to the upland forest, laden with orchids, ferns, wildflowers and trees.
But according to a new UNEP database, animal and plant species living on the 5 199 m peak are globally threatened.
In collaboration with leading conservation organizations, the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) has devised the Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool (IBAT) for governments, development banks and private sector organizations to access accurate and reliable information on biodiversity and critical natural habitats on a worldwide scale — to answer the seemingly simple question "Where on earth is biodiversity?"
Jon Hutton, Director of UNEP-WCMC said, "In the International Year of Biodiversity, IBAT proves a major stepping stone towards pushing conservation issues higher up the development agenda. Information generated by the tool can be factored into risk assessment reports and national or regional development strategies. It can also assist industries in implementing environmental safeguard policies and industry best practice standards.”
At present, there is an overwhelming amount of information scattered across countless websites, publications and the broader scientific community, but no single, reliable, trusted place to retrieve this information.
However, in the case of IBAT, a family of web-enabled systems synthesise and interpret the most significant biodiversity information available for key decision-makers in the project planning stages when alternatives and changes are most economically viable.
Besides UNEP-WCMC, the IBAT Alliance comprises three other globally-respected international conservation organizations — BirdLife International, Conservation International (CI), and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) — working on a shared programme of work in partnership with leading institutions from the public and private sectors.
The IBAT Alliance represents an unprecedented step towards conservation data sharing and integration, enabling the private and public sectors to incorporate critical biodiversity information at key decision points in the planning and operation of development projects.
To achieve the broader vision of IBAT, the conservation partners are seeking to expand their collaboration to include additional partners from the private, public and community development sectors, particularly those organizations involved in implementing environmental safeguards and screening such as the multilateral development banks.
For more information, please contact:
Maxwell Gomera, Deputy Director
Tel: + 44 (0) 1223 814617
For full story, please see:




  • Fellowships in Sustainability Science

From: Harvard University's Center for International Development

The Sustainability Science Program at Harvard University's Center for International Development invites applications for resident fellowships in sustainability science for the University's academic year beginning in September 2011. The fellowship competition is open to advanced doctoral and post-doctoral students, and to mid-career professionals engaged in research or practice to facilitate the design, implementation, and evaluation of effective interventions that promote sustainable development. Applicants should describe how their work would contribute to "sustainability science," the emerging field of use-inspired research seeking understanding of the interactions between human and environmental systems as well as the application of such knowledge to sustainability challenges relating to advancing development of agriculture, habitation, energy and materials, health and water while conserving the earth's life support systems. This year we will give some preference to applicants whose work addresses challenges of innovation for sustainable development, with special attention to innovation in the energy, health and agricultural sectors. In addition to general funds available to support this fellowship offering, special funding for the Giorgio Ruffolo Fellowships in Sustainability Science is available to support citizens of Italy or developing countries who are therefore especially encouraged to apply.  The Sustainability Science Program is directed by Professors William Clark and Michael Kremer, and Nancy Dickson.
Applications are due 1 December 2010
For more information, please contact: 
Nancy Dickson
Sustainability Science Program
Center for International Development
Harvard University
79 JFK Street
Cambridge, MA 02138 USA



  • Erasmus Mundus: MSc in European Forestry scholarships

From:, 22 September 2010

MSc in European Forestry invites student applications from all over the world. The focus of the MSc EF is on the international dimensions of forest resource management and utilisation, supported by a sound understanding of ecological conditions and their dynamics in Europe. The international environment of the MSc EF invites you to study and to meet friends from all over the world. In addition to receiving a high quality education, you will enjoy the cultural and recreational opportunities of many European cities and nature
Successful candidates must have a BSc or equivalent in forest sciences or related field and have good command of English language. Additional points can be earned through motivation and recommendation letters, international experience and forestry related work experience.
Application deadline for the 2011-2013 study period is 31 December 2010.
For more information, please contact:
Dr. Marjoriitta Möttönen, Planning officer (students and studies)
MSc European Forestry secretariat
University of Eastern Finland
School of Forest Sciences
P.O. Box 111, 80101 Joensuu, FINLAND
Tel: +358 13 251 3643
Fax: +358 13 251 4422
Email: or




Reminder: UN Biodiversity Conference (CBD CoP10)
Nagoya, Japan
18-29 October
The tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP 10) will be held in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, Japan this October. CoP 10 will include a high-level ministerial segment organized by Japan in consultation with the Secretariat and the Bureau.
This meeting will take place during the International Year for Biodiversity (IYB) as declared by the United Nations General Assembly. Strategic Issues for Evaluating Progress and Supporting Implementation of the Convention will be considered. It is anticipated that the negotiations on an International Regime on Access and Benefit-sharing will result in the adoption of an instrument on Access and Benefit-Sharing.
For more information, please contact:
Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity
413, Saint Jacques Street, suite 800
Montreal QC H2Y 1N9
Tel: +15142882220



Saving Plants that Save Lives (CBD CoP-10 Side Event)
Nagoya, Japan
18 & 22 October 2010
TRAFFIC International invites you to join us for two side-events 'Saving Plants that Save Lives' during the CBD CoP-10, on October 18 and 22, 2010.
Sustainable use of wild medicinal and aromatic plants (MAP) supports the conservation of biodiversity through the safeguarding of plant species and contributes to local livelihoods in harvesting areas by providing fair sharing of the benefits from wild plants to the providers of the resource, and by sustaining the traditional knowledge associated with locating, harvesting and processing of the respective plants. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is the major international agreement that supports the development of effective biodiversity conservation frameworks, the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits derived from wild natural resources and promotes international understanding of the value and importance of wild resources conservation.
At the forthcoming Tenth Conference of the Parties to CBD in October 2010, TRAFFIC aims to promote the sustainable use of MAPs harvested from the wild by holding an event to raise awareness among CDB delegates of the importance and value of wild MAP resources and promote the need for standardized FairWild Standard guidelines on the sustainable utilization of wild plant resources.
For details, please contact:
Kahoru Kanari (TRAFFIC Japan)



“Securing wildlife resources to secure protected areas” (CBD CoP10 Side Event)
Nagoya, Japan
19 October
Ensuring functioning protected area systems and the ongoing provision of ecosystem services derived from surrounding environs defines a major sector within biodiversity conservation. Viable protected area networks support the three objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). However, unsustainable and illegal harvest and trade of wild animals and plants remains a major challenge to functional protected areas and ecosystem integrity.
At this side-event, TRAFFIC — the wildlife trade monitoring network — and its partners will depict and discuss support models and tools, including multi-stakeholder networking, to allow resource owners and users to increase the effectiveness of mitigating the overexploitation of wild natural resources to support well-managed protected areas.
For more information, please contact:
William Schaedla TRAFFIC Regional Director, Southeast Asia
TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, Regional Office, Unit 3-2, 1st Floor
Jalan SS23/11, Taman SEA, Petaling Jaya
Selangor, Malaysia
Tel: (603) 7880 3940
Fax: (603) 7882 0171



Reminder: Terra Madre
Turin, Italy
21-25 October
More than 5 000 representatives from the worldwide Terra Madre network will meet in Turin, Italy for the fourth time this October - coinciding once again with the international Slow Food fair “Salone del Gusto.” The five-day meeting will bring together food communities, cooks, academics, youth and musicians from all over the world, who are united in a desire to promote sustainable local food production in harmony with the environment while respecting knowledge handed down over the generations.
A new feature in 2010 will be a focus on cultural and linguistic diversities - in recognition of the need to defend minority ethnic groups and indigenous languages, and with an appreciation of the value of oral traditions and memory. At the opening ceremony, representatives of indigenous communities from all continents across the world will speak to the audience in their native languages.
The second day will be dedicated to examining eight crucial issues for the future of agriculture and the planet (from biodiversity to renewable energies and education to traditional knowledge). On the third day communities will meet in national and regional sessions, while on the fourth day Earth Workshops will be held.
The official closing session of Terra Madre will be marked by the presentation of a program of proposals from the Terra Madre network for a sustainable future.
There will be specific opportunities during the event to receive information, to present projects involving taste education (e.g. gardens, canteen projects etc.) or food biodiversity (e.g. Earth Markets) and to organize Terra Madre Day in your community or country - with the second edition to be held on 10 December 2010 around the world. The Terra Madre youth network will play an important role during the event.
For more information, please contact:



5to Congreso Forestal de Cuba
La Habana, Cuba
25-29 Abril 2011
El Comité Organizador del 5to. Congreso Forestal de Cuba, VI Simposio Internacional sobre Sistemas Agroforestales, V Encuentro Internacional de Jóvenes Investigadores, en el marco del Año Internacional de los Bosques, se complace en invitarle a participar en nuestro evento, que tendrá lugar del 25 al 29 de abril de 2011 en el Palacio de Convenciones de La Habana, Cuba.
Se debatirán las siguientes temáticas: Silvicultura sostenible, Bienes y servicios de los bosques, Tecnología de la Madera y Productos Naturales, Agrosilvicultura, Cambio climático, Protección al Bosque y la Fauna, Forestería Análoga, Café y Cacao y Seguridad alimentaria. 
Para mas información, contacter:
Lic. Marta González Izquierdo
Secretaria Comité Organizador
Instituto de Investigaciones Forestales
Tel: (537) 208 0544
Fax: (537) 208 34 44
Lic. Alicia García González
Organizadora Profesional de Congresos
Palacio de Convenciones de La Habana
Tel: (537) 208 5199
Fax: (537) 202 8382




46.       Request for information: Siltimur (Zanthoxylum oxyphyllum),
From: Prabhat Pal, (through nepaleseforesters list)

I am 1st year student doing Master of Science in Forestry at Institute of Forestry, Pokhara. I am trying to make a monograph for the Siltimur (Zanthoxylum Oxyphyllum), Lek timur, Boke timur and so on. Although I have reviewed numerous sources, I am unable to find much literature on it, as most of the sources focus on Zanthoxylum armatum. If you have any sources related to Zanthoxylum oxyphylum, please do pass them on. Your help on any of the following topics will be greatly appreciated: (a) species description; (b) characteristics; (c) distribution; (d) nursery; (5epropagation; (f) harvesting technique (pre and post); (g) processing; (h) uses; (i) parts use; (j) method of use; (k) ethnobotany.
Prabhat Pal
MSc. Forestry
Institute of Forestry
Pokhara, Nepal



47.       Request for Contributions: World Bank Book on Mountains and Climate change
Source: The Mountain Partnership, 8 October 2010

The World Bank is planning to publish a volume on the challenges of climate change for mountain ecosystems and livelihoods. This book will combine the experiences of World Bank programmes and projects with contributions from experts on mountain development. We would be interested to receive both specific country cases and thematic papers in the following areas:

        • Environment
  • Agriculture & Food Security
  • Biodiversity & Conservation
  • Forced Migration & Displacement
  • Social & Human Resilience
  • Gender
  • Health & Wellbeing
  • Socio-economy & Institutions
  • Built Heritage & Cultural Landscape
  • Tourism & Recreation
  • Water and Natural Resources
  • Natural Disasters

Please send your papers (not more than 10000 words) by 8 January 2011 to:
Hannah Behrendt: OR
Hari Bansha Dulal:




48.       Democratising Agricultural Research for Food Sovereignty in West Africa
From: IIED, 16 October 2010

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, has backed citizens worldwide who are demanding a fundamental shift in food and agricultural research to make them more democratic and accountable to society.
De Schutter outlines his support in the foreword to a multimedia publication that the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) will launch on World Food Day (16 October).
The publication focuses on West Africa and includes video clips and audio files that feature the voices and concerns of food producers from across the region.
A related website ( — also launching on 16 October —brings the concerns of marginalized food producers from West Africa, South Asia, the Middle East and the Andean region of South America to a global audience.
“Food and agriculture policy and research tend to ignore the values, needs, knowledge and concerns of the very people who provide the food we all eat — and often serve instead powerful commercial interests such as multinational seed and food retailing companies,” says project leader Dr Michel Pimbert of IIED.
“Agricultural research and policy must shift to focus on what farming communities and food consumers want and need. Farmers and other citizens must play a central role in defining strategic priorities for agricultural research and food policies.”
The multimedia publication presents the findings of citizens’ juries — held in 2010 —at which farmers, pastoralists, food processors and consumers from Mali, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Benin heard evidence from expert witnesses and made recommendations about the future of agricultural research and its governance.
For more information, please see:


49.       The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity
From: Earthscan, 11 October 2010

Human well-being relies critically on ecosystem services provided by nature. Examples include water and air quality regulation, nutrient cycling and decomposition, plant pollination and flood control, all of which are dependent on biodiversity. They are predominantly public goods with limited or no markets and do not command any price in the conventional economic system, so their loss is often not detected and continues unaddressed and unabated. This in turn not only impacts human well-being, but also seriously undermines the sustainability of the economic system.
It is against this background that The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity project (TEEB) was set up in 2007 and led by UNEP to provide a comprehensive global assessment of economic aspects of these issues. This book, written by a team of international experts, represents the scientific state of the art, providing a comprehensive assessment of the fundamental ecological and economic principles of measuring and valuing ecosystem services and biodiversity, and showing how these can be mainstreamed into public policies.
This volume and subsequent TEEB outputs will provide the authoritative knowledge and guidance to drive forward the biodiversity conservation agenda for the next decade.
For more information, please see:



50.       WWF 2010 Living Planet Report
From: WWF International, 13 October 2010

New analysis shows populations of tropical species are plummeting and humanity’s demands on natural resources are sky-rocketing to 50 percent more than the earth can sustain, reveals the 2010 edition of WWF’s “Living Planet Report” — the leading survey of the planet’s health.
The biennial report, produced in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London and the Global Footprint Network, uses the global Living Planet Index as a measure of the health of almost 8 000 populations of more than 2 500 species. The global Index shows a decrease by 30 percent since 1970, with the tropics hardest hit showing a 60 percent decline in less than 40 years.
“There is an alarming rate of biodiversity loss in low-income, often tropical countries while the developed world is living in a false paradise, fuelled by excessive consumption and high carbon emissions,” said Jim Leape, Director General of WWF International.
While the report shows some promising recovery by species’ populations in temperate areas, thanks in part to greater conservation efforts and improvements in pollution and waste control, tracked populations of freshwater tropical species have fallen by nearly 70 percent — greater than any species’ decline measured on land or in our oceans.
“Species are the foundation of ecosystems,” said Jonathan Baillie, Conservation Programme Director with the Zoological Society of London. “Healthy ecosystems form the basis of all we have — lose them and we destroy our life support system.”
The Ecological Footprint, one of the indicators used in the report, shows that our demand on natural resources has doubled since 1966 and we are using the equivalent of 1.5 planets to support our activities. If we continue living beyond the Earth’s limits, by 2030 we will need the equivalent of two planets’ productive capacity to meet our annual demands.
"The report shows that continuing of the current consumption trends would lead us to the point of no return,” added Leape. “4.5 Earths would be required to support a global population living like an average resident of the of the US."
New analysis in the report also shows that the steepest decline in biodiversity falls in low-income countries, with a nearly 60 percent decline in less than 40 years.
For more information, please see:



51.       Other publications of Interest
From: NWFP Programme

Awasthi, Hari. 2010. “NTFPs Marketing System in the Hills of Nepal: An Empirical Analysis on NTFPs Trade System in the Value Chain Perspectives.” Germany: LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing.
Abstract: The far-west hills of Nepal is a habitat of high value NTFPs. People inhabiting these hills have traditionally been collecting different NTFPs from different types of forests regimes. There are several challenges and constraints in the marketing of collected NTFPs. There is no system for public collection and dissemination of NTFPs market prices in this region. It is difficult to identify different beneficiaries in the trade of these NTFPs. The author analyses the path through which NTFPs pass from cultivation, harvesting, and conservation to the final processor. More than 27 percent of household heads are involved in the collection and marketing of NTFPs to generate nearly 35 percent of their annual income. The export statistics showed that the region stands second in the national export data. The present market chain does not provide equitable share of profits to the collectors, who still depend on a limited number of middlemen. The value chain analysis of high value NTFPs is useful for both researchers and planners to promote this sector as sustainable source of income and employment generation for the rural people.

Casadei, E. and Chikamai, B. 2010. Gums, resins and waxes. UK: CABI.
Gums, resins and waxes represent important natural resources for many countries in different regions of the world due to their demand in international trade. Gums of plant origin consist of mixtures of polysaccharides that are either water-soluble or absorb water and swell to form gel, which on hydrolysis yield simple sugars. This chapter focuses on these non NWFPs presenting the diversity of the products and their applications, plant sources, composition and properties, and marketing and trade.

Cunningham, A.B., and Yang, X (eds). 2010. Mushrooms in Forests and Woodlands: Resource Management, Values and Local Livelihoods. UK: Earthscan.
Abstract: Many mushrooms — or the "fruits of fungi" — are extremely valuable, wild-gathered products which are utilized for both their medicinal properties and as food. In many of the world's tropical and temperate forests, they are the primary source of income for the people who live there.
These forests range from temperate woodlands and small forests to high altitude forests in the Himalaya and tropical miombo woodlands in south-central Africa. In south-west China, over 200 species of wild fungi in 64 genera are commercially traded while in Europe and North America, woodlands and small forests are the source of many highly-prized mushrooms and an essential resource for many small enterprises and collectors. Yet the increased demand for timber has resulted in the rapid expansion of forestry, which in turn has destroyed the natural habitat of many fungi, unbalancing both forest economics and ecology.
Despite the economic, social and cultural values of fungi, there is a general lack of understanding of their importance to local livelihoods and forest ecology. This book aims to fill this gap and extends the People and Plants Conservation Series beyond the plant kingdom into the related world of fungi and mushrooms. It demonstrates the crucial roles that fungi play in maintaining forest ecosystems and the livelihoods of rural people throughout the world while providing good practice guidelines for the sustainable management of this resource and an assessment of economic value. It brings together the perspectives of biologists, anthropologists and forest and woodland managers to provide a unique inter-disciplinary and international overview of the key issues.

Herndon, C. and Butler, R. 2010. Significance of Biodiversity to Health. Biotropica. 42(5).

Singh, A., Duggal, S., and Suttee, A. 2009. Acanthus ilicifolius Linn.-lesser known medicinal plants with significant pharmacological activities. International Journal of Phytomedicine. 1(1).

Smith, J., Crone, L.K., and Alexander, S.J. 2010. A U.S. Forest Service special forest products appraisal system: background, methods, and assessment. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-822. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station.
Abstract: Increasing concern over the management and harvest of special forest products (SFP) from national forest lands has led to the development of new Forest Service policy directives. In this paper, we present a brief history of SFPs in the Western United States, highlighting the issues that necessitated new management direction. The new policy directives that led to the development of a cost appraisal system for SFPs are discussed. The framework, components, and uses of this cost appraisal system are described in detail. An informal assessment of the impact, effectiveness, and value of the cost appraisal system is also included.



52.       Websites and E-zines
From: FAO’s NWFP Programme

IISD E-community
The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is pleased to announce the renaming of BIODIV-L as BIODIVERSITY-L. BIODIVERSITY-L is a free community announcement list for policy makers and practitioners involved in international biodiversity policy. All members of BIODIV-L have been automatically added to BIODIVERSITY-L.
The re-naming of the community list is timed in advance of the fifth meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Conference of the Parties serving as Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol on Biosafety (COP-MOP 5) and the 10th meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP 10) to the CBD, which are convening in Nagoya, Japan, from 11-15 October 2010 and 18-29 October 2010, respectively.
Like each of IISD’s “L” lists, any subscriber to the list may post non-commercial announcements about his or her organization’s activities related to biological diversity policy. BIODIVERSITY-L is not a media list (no press releases, please) and not a discussion list. BIODIVERSITY-L is a free and moderated community communications tool for knowledge-sharing on international biodiversity policy. It is a grassroots, peer-to-peer service meant to advance understanding by allowing subscribers to post announcements related to contributions and activities with a strong focus on biodiversity policy. BIODIVERSITY-L provides an excellent way to circulate cutting edge information on meetings, policy developments, publications, best practices and new initiatives, as well as to keep abreast of the latest biodiversity-related issues, news and events. BIODIVERSITY-L offers users a chance to better publicize and coordinate their efforts through virtual knowledge exchange.
To post to the list, please e-mail:

Adopt a Truffle Tree
Truffle Tree offers individuals the opportunity to have their own truffle-producing oak tree in a French truffle plantation. The adopter makes an initial payment reflecting a share of the cost of establishing the truffière, planting the tree and care for the first year. Then in subsequent years there is a “care and maintenance” charge to cover such items as irrigation, weed control, harrowing, pruning and ultimately harvesting.
Adopters may choose between the evergreen Holm Oak, Quercus ilex, and the white, deciduous Downy Oak, Quercus pubescens. Your tree stands in a 20 sqm plot (4m x 5m) and each adopter will own all the truffles harvested in their area.

Rainforest information now in Vietnamese, a leading forest conservation and environmental science news web site, announced the availability of its rainforest site for children in Vietnamese. Mongabay's rainforest site for kids is now available in 33 languages ‑ each of which has been translated by native speakers. An expanded version for adults is available in English, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Simplified Chinese, French, German, and Japanese.




53.       Millennium development goals in an age of fear and loathing
Source: Jeffrey Sachs in the Guardian (UK), 23 September 2010

The world's continuing dedication to a set of global goals to fight poverty, hunger and disease is no small triumph in an era marked by cynicism, the fraying of social bonds and the widespread fears of economic dislocation. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have come through a week of UN summitry not only intact but invigorated. The goals, it turns out, are doing double duty: helping the poor countries to fight poverty and the rich countries to preserve a sense of social solidarity.
The surprising fact of this year's MDG summit, marking the 10th year of goals with five years left till the target date of 2015, was the widespread social progress that had been made since 2000. Africa, the hot spot of their challenge, is undoubtedly in better shape today than when they were launched. Most of the continent's wars are scaled back or ended. Most of the continent is enjoying economic growth and, for many, at the highest levels since independence. The Aids, TB, and malaria pandemics are at least partly in check. Child mortality rates are declining.
These gains are being achieved despite recession in the US and Europe, which in earlier times might have sent Africa into a tailspin. It used to be said that when the US and Europe caught a cold, the developing world caught pneumonia. No longer. The poor countries are going about their business while the developed economies convalesce.
There are at least four reasons. The first is China. China was everywhere at the MDG summit, with PM Wen Jiabao and team declaring eloquently China's intention to engage deeply with Africa, fighting AIDS, investing in infrastructure and industry, and buying Africa's export commodities. Where China is today, India will follow soon.
The second is technology. When the goals were launched, most rural Africans had never used a phone. Now, mobile telephony is ubiquitous, and wireless broadband not far behind. Medicine, rapid diagnostics, anti-malaria bed nets, improved seeds, low-cost irrigation, and others are driving down poverty.
The third is business. Africa is reaching a point in which large-scale foreign and domestic investments in mining, agriculture, banking and information technologies will begin to promote a virtual circle of self-sustaining growth. Major companies are recognising a real market in Africa and regard the social investments in education and health as areas in which they can and should participate.
The fourth is governance. The MDGs have played a crucial role. Dozens of countries are watching themselves in the mirror on poverty, hunger, disease and infrastructure. They are checking their rankings, the indicators showing their prospects to reach the MDGs, and have revised budgets to expand education and health.
Yet while Norway, in particular, and the UK have been extraordinary in their commitment to the MDGs, the overall rich-world MDG behaviour is no cause for celebration. The rich countries have occasionally innovated, most importantly by creating the Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB, and Malaria, but more often have fallen short on aid commitments, from Monterrey in 2002 to L'Aquila in 2009. There are serious reasons to worry about the successful achievement of the goals by 2015. Africa is buffeted by soaring populations, and climate change could yet make a tragic mockery of the best-laid plans. Yet the main battle may not be technical but ethical. The world is living through a moral crisis, in which our societies are struggling to adapt to new realities of globalisation.
The MDG summit took place as high unemployment, economic uncertainty and political manipulation of the public by various interests threaten our very social stability. For many, Africa is a target of racism and opprobrium, not partnership.
The moral crisis in Europe and the US is even deeper than ethnic and racial divisions. An age when we should be celebrating our unprecedented affluence and productivity has become an age of fear and even loathing, when basic values of social solidarity, compassion, succour for the poor and mutual responsibility are under unprecedented threat. It is all the more remarkable and important that the millennium goals still attract our focus, as an inspiration, challenge, and as a reminder of our common humanity and shared responsibility. They may yet save us all, rich and poor together.
For full story, please see:




This list is for information related to any aspect of non-wood forest products.

Cross-postings related to non-wood forest products are welcome.

Information on this mailing list can be reproduced and distributed freely as long as they are cited.

Contributions are edited primarily for formatting purposes. Diverse views and materials relevant to NWFPs are encouraged. Submissions usually appear in the next issue. Issues are bi-monthly on average.

To join the list, please send an e-mail to: with the message:
subscribe NWFP-Digest-L

To make a contribution once on the list, please send an e-mail to the following address:

To unsubscribe, please send an e-mail to: with the message:
unsubscribe NWFP-Digest-L

For technical help or questions contact


Your information is secure--We will never sell, give or distribute your address or subscription information to any third party.


The designations employed and the presentation of materials in the NWFP-Digest-L do not necessarily imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.


NWFP-Digest-L Sponsor:
Non-Wood Forest Products Programme
Forestry Department
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
00100 Rome, Italy
Fax: +39-06-570-55618
Web site NWFP programme:


last updated:  Thursday, May 3, 2012