No. 11/11

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

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

A special thank you to all those who have sent me links to information and to Giulia Muir for her help with this issue.
==============================================================
2011 International Year of Forests
The United Nations General Assembly declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests to raise awareness on sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests.
www.un.org/en/events/iyof2011/ or www.fao.org/forestry/en
==============================================================
IN THIS ISSUE:

PRODUCTS

COUNTRY INFORMATION

NEWS

EVENTS

LITERATURE REVIEW AND WEBSITES

MISCELLANEOUS

BACK TO TOP

 

PRODUCTS

  • Berries: The new acai? Sea buckthorn berries

Source: The Independent, 7 August 2011

Sea buckthorn berries (Hippophae rhamnoides), grape-sized orange fruits from a hardy bush that grows in Europe, Asia and the Americas, are being tapped as the next super-food with "huge" potential, scientists say in a new report.
While the berry juice — tart and acidic — is consumed in Russia and other parts of Europe, it is still underused in North America. But in a study published in this month's issue of Food Research International, researchers from the University of Saskatchewan in Canada and the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi found the berries to be nutrient-rich, packed with vitamins A, K, E, C, B1 and B2, fatty acids, lipids, organic acids, amino acids, carbohydrates, folic acid, and flavonoids.
Sea buckhorn oil is currently used to alleviate eczema, sunburns, mouth dryness and ulcers, gastric ulcers, urinary tract inflammations, genital ulcers, sinus inflammation and eye dryness.
Though the fruits are loaded with nutritional potential, researchers also noted that one significant drawback is the short harvesting season and their high moisture content, which make them less flexible to work with.
Recently, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Vice-Chair and Professor of Surgery at Columbia University (New York, USA) also touted the berries for their wide ranging health benefits. The berries were featured as a weight loss supplement and recognized for their ability to aid constipation and prevent acne.
For full story, please see: www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/the-new-acai-sea-buckthorn-berries-2333407.html

BACK TO TOP

 

  • Bushmeat: Campaign to publicize African trade in bonobos reveals surprising results

Source: Reuters, 9 August 2011

Belgian scientists were surprised by the results of an intelligence test which pitted bonobos against chimpanzees as part of a campaign to help publicize the African trade in bonobos as bushmeat.
The bonobos, chimp-like apes who live in matriarchal family groups and frequently use sex to resolve social conflicts, defied expectations by beating the group of chimpanzees in intelligence tests, because the chimps were too busy fighting among themselves for dominance.
"Chimpanzees in the wild use sticks to fish for termites, and bonobos in the wild do not do that ... so we thought that the chimpanzees would be at an advantage," biologist Jeroen Stevens said during a news conference.
The brain test was part of a campaign by the Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp in Belgium to raise cash to tackle the problem of bonobos being captured in the wild and sold as bushmeat.
Bushmeat, which also includes meat from gorillas, chimpanzees and other animals, is considered a delicacy in parts of Africa.
"We think that it can lead to the extinction of apes," said Stevens, who coordinated the research. "There are only about 35 000 bonobos on the central Congo basin, that sounds like a lot but that is actually less than would fit in a football stadium."
For full story, please see: www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/09/us-belgium-bonobos-idUSTRE7784DI20110809

BACK TO TOP

 

  • Cinnamon: The spice of life?

Source: ABC News (USA), 11 August 2011

Scientists are undertaking an ambitious study to find out if cinnamon can help treat multiple sclerosis (MS).
The common spice has a long history as a medicine to treat a variety of disorders including arthritis and sore throats. It may also help tame blood sugar in diabetics and reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering bad cholesterol.
Now, it is being investigated as a possible treatment for multiple sclerosis.
"Cinnamon powder is decreasing clinical symptoms of MS in mice," said Dr. Kali Pahan, a neurological scientist at Rush University Medical Center (Chicago, Illinois, USA).
With a two-year, US$750 000 grant from the National Institutes of Health, Rush University Medical Center is evaluating whether cinnamon can stop the destructive process of MS in mice. What they are seeing so far almost seems too good to be true.
Researchers provided a video of mice with an MS-like disease showing the difference in the mice before and weeks after receiving cinnamon powder.
It is still early, but Pahan says the changes are dramatic. "I did not believe initially we would get this result with just the powder," said Pahan.
MS is an autoimmune inflammatory disease that attacks the central nervous system. It causes damage to the myelin sheath, a fatty tissue that protects nerve cells. When myelin is destroyed, it disrupts the body's ability to send signals to the brain. Resulting symptoms include numbness, paralysis and loss of vision.
Researchers suspect cinnamon has compounds that can block inflammation and protect brain cells responsible for maintaining nerve cells and the myelin sheath.
Rush University Medical Center neurologist Dr. Roumen Balabanov warns that what may seem to work in animals may do nothing for humans. "Active intake of cinnamon for the purposes of controlling the disease — I think that this would be wrong and a premature thing to do," said Balabanov.
The hope is that cinnamon can be used alongside traditional medications as an inexpensive adjunct to help control the disease, but there are still a lot of unknowns.
For full story, please see: http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/health&id=8302693

BACK TO TOP

 

  • Cork: Portugal’s traditional cork industry fights modern challengers

Source: The Associated Press in The Washington Post, 31 July 2011

In the centuries-old cork forests of southern Portugal, locals who for generations have harvested the bark that caps billions of bottles around the world do not think much of the rival plastic stoppers and metal screwcaps threatening their livelihoods.
“Cork is a safer bet,” says Joao Simoes, a 64-year-old, as he peels the bark off a cork oak — a job he has been doing for the past 40 years. “It seals (bottles) better.”
Some of the world’s leading winemakers disagree. Since the turn of the century they have used more and more alternative stoppers in an unprecedented threat for the economy of Portugal, the world’s largest cork producer and one of western Europe’s poorest countries.
The competition compelled Portuguese cork companies, accustomed to a long-standing near-monopoly, to embark on a do-or-die makeover. Now, producers say, their modernization and diversification program is paying off.
They say they have checked the steep drop in the market share for cork stoppers, holding it at around 70 percent for the past two years. And last year cork exports improved for the first time in a decade with growth of more than eight percent, according to National Statistics Institute.
“For the first time in 250 years, the cork industry was actually challenged,” says Antonio Amorim, chairman and CEO of Amorim, Portugal’s oldest and largest cork company. “We would like to ... think that the worst times for the cork industry are behind us.”
Portugal supplies about half of global cork production, and the spongy bark is a major export earner for a national economy that is floundering. Portugal had to ask for a €78 billion (US$112 billion) bailout from its European partners and the International Monetary Fund earlier this year to keep it from going bankrupt.
It went into a double-dip recession last year, and its frail economy is forecast to keep contracting through 2013. The jobless rate has climbed to a record 12.4 percent.
Cork’s recovery illustrates the kind of overhaul which officials say Portuguese businesses need to become more competitive. Modernization “is the path we must take with the utmost urgency,” Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva said last month.
The cork industry ensures the livelihoods of some 10 000 Portuguese workers and their families, most of them in rural areas where jobs are hard to come by.
“The economic importance of the cork industry and of the cork forest is absolutely critical,” says Carlos de Jesus, operational director of the Portuguese cork association Apcor.
The challenge to Portugal’s dominance came from the other side of the globe. Winemakers in Australia and New Zealand were unhappy about what they said was the inconsistent quality of cork stoppers and occasional “cork taint” — the sour, musty taste that spoils a wine and is widely blamed on chemical interaction with the cork. It is what people refer to when they say a bottle of wine is “corked.”
On top of that, a cork stopper costs between €0.25 and €2. Its synthetic rival comes in at €0.15-€0.40.
Most New World producers, who export much of their wine to Britain and the United States, converted to synthetic closures and screwcaps. Some producers on other continents followed suit. Wine experts gave their endorsement for the switch. One anti-cork group staged a mock funeral in New York featuring a cork stopper in a casket.
The Portuguese government, aware the industry is too big to fail, declared its survival “a national cause.”
In a key victory, the cork business earned green credentials from the World Wildlife Fund, which applauded the industry for being renewable, sustainable and environment-friendly. The cork oak’s bark is pried off roughly every nine years, when the inner lining is able to withstand exposure. This happens in a regular cycle for more than a century with each tree.
For full story, please see: www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/portugals-traditional-cork-industry-fights-modern-challengers-in-war-of-the-stoppers/2011/07/31/gIQAsolokI_story.html

BACK TO TOP

 

  • Ecotourism to save ethnic group from extinction

Source: The Brunei Times, 4 August 2011

Iban longhouse community deep in the forests of Bukit Teraja in Brunei could disappear in two decades without the needed intervention, said members of environmental group Panaga Natural History Society (PNHS).
This was among the reasons the group appealed to authorities to classify the forests of Bukit Teraja in Belait as a conservation area.
"This community might die in 20 years if jobs are not provided (there)," said Peter Engbers of PNHS, noting that many have opted to find jobs in other parts of the country.
Gazetting Bukit Teraja forests as a conservation area will allow small-scale development that will provide jobs for members of the ethnic community.
PNHS carried out a survey last year within an area roughly half the size of the adjoining 5 000 ha Teraja Protection Forest. Approved recently by Brunei's Heart of Borneo (HoB) National Council and the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources (MIPR), the new conservation forest boasts 39 waterfalls as well as an array of plants and animals, some of them potentially undocumented and rare.
On the central fringes of the proposed area is the Iban longhouse. Many of its occupants are gone on weekdays to find work in urban areas. "Only in the weekends (do) they come back," said Engbers.
PNHS said that gazetting the currently-unprotected area as a conservation forest instead of being closed off to development as an extension of the existing Teraja Protection Forest was a more viable option for the locals. He explained that in conservation areas, the primary or untouched forests are protected while controlled activities can be carried out there for scientific, educational or ecotourism purposes. The latter could provide the means to keep the Teraja natives living there and attract the others to come back.
"If we want to make it as a sustainable livelihood for the local people (by) opening up small-scale ecotourism, it has to be a conservation forest because in a protection forest you cannot do that."
Income generating opportunities for the locals include working as tour guides and hosting homestay programmes.
For full story, please see: http://news.asiaone.com/News/Latest%2BNews/Asia/Story/A1Story20110804-292691.html

BACK TO TOP

 

  • Edible insects: Eating bugs to save the planet

Source: Goodyear, Dana in The New Yorker, 15 August 2011

Insects were among the original specialty foods in the American gourmet marketplace —inspired, impractical provocations that drove the sales of more basic goods. In the early 1940s, Max Ries came to Chicago and established himself as a purveyor of imported cheese. Alongside tinned tiger and elephant meat, he presented “French-fried ants” from Venezuela and baby bees from Japan.
Insects — part delicacy, part gag — are chic again.             At a Latin restaurant in Los Angeles, the cocktail list features the Donaji, a US$14 drink named after a Zapotec princess, which is made with artisanal Oaxacan mescal and house-made grasshopper salt. At Guelaguetza, a Oaxacan restaurant in Los Angeles, the menu offers a scrumptious plate of chapulines a la Mexicana — grasshoppers sautéed with onions, jalapeños, and tomatoes. The current vogue reflects not only the American obsession with novelty and the upper-middle-class hunger for authenticity but also deep anxiety about the meat we already eat — which is its own kind of fashion.
José Andrés, who this year won the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Chef award, makes a very popular chapulín taco at his Washington, D.C., restaurant. He sees bug-eating as both a gastronomic experience and a matter of survival. “We need to feed humanity in a sustainable way,” he says. “Those who know how to produce protein will have an edge over everyone else.”
Food preferences are highly local, often irrational, and defining. In Santa María Atzompa, a community in Oaxaca, Mexico where grasshoppers toasted with garlic, chile, and lime are a favourite treat, locals have traditionally found shrimp repulsive. Most of the world eats bugs. Besides, as any bug-eater will tell you, we are all already eating bugs, whether we mean to or not. Peanut butter is allowed to have thirty insect fragments/100 g, and chocolate up to 60.
Contemporary Westerners tend to associate insects with filth, death, and decay. Vincent M. Holt, author of the 1885 manifesto “Why Not Eat Insects?,” takes pains to stress that the insects he recommends for eating — caterpillars, grasshoppers, slugs — are pure of this taint.
For full story, please see: www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/08/15/110815fa_fact_goodyear

BACK TO TOP

 

  • Edible insects: Bug nuggets

Source: The Atlantic (USA), September 2011

Marian Peter’s Bugs Originals, a company based near Amsterdam, The Netherlands, has put freeze-dried locusts and mealworms on the shelves at the 24 outlets of Sligro, the Dutch food wholesaler. It has also developed pesto-flavoured “bugs nuggets” and chocolate-dipped “bugslibars” — chicken nuggets and muesli bars, respectively, infused with ground-up mealworms. Both, like Peter’s chicken-mealworm meatballs, await approval for sale across the EU.
The company’s goal is to get consumers to embrace bugs as an eco-friendly alternative to conventional meat. With worldwide demand for meat expected to nearly double by 2050, farm-raised crickets, locusts, and mealworms could provide comparable nutrition while using fewer natural resources than poultry or livestock. Crickets, for example, convert feed to body mass about twice as efficiently as pigs and five times as efficiently as cattle. Insects require less land and water — and mealworms generate 10 to 100 times less greenhouse gas than pigs, measured per kilogram of edible mass,.
The Netherlands, already one of the world’s top exporters of agricultural products, hopes to lead the world in the production of what environmentalists call “sustainable food,” and the area around the small town of Wageningen, nicknamed “Food Valley,” has one of the world’s highest concentrations of food scientists. It is also home to a tropical entomologist named Arnold van Huis. Van Huis has been lecturing on the merits of insect-eating, officially known as entomophagy, since 1996. “People have to know that it is safe,” said van Huis. “They have to get the idea that it is not wrong.”
Van Huis’s ideas are not unique: scientists have made similar proposals since the 1970s, when fears of global famine surged. But Wageningen has received them with enthusiasm. In 2006, the town rechristened itself the “City of Insects” for a weeklong festival, which attempted to set the world record for simultaneous (and intentional) insect consumption (by 1 747 people).
Marian Peters, who had worked in job-training programs for the unemployed, learned that year of van Huis’s ideas and thought breeding insects could help support struggling Dutch farmers. She founded the Dutch Insect Breeders Association and began working with van Huis to bring bugs to market. The United Nations noticed: van Huis spent three months last year helping FAO develop a policy to promote edible insects. And last April, the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture awarded van Huis’s team nearly US$1.5 million to study insect- rearing and develop purified insect protein for use in processed foods.
Van Huis says that purified insect protein is “the ultimate possibility,” but that isolating it remains difficult.
Peters is working to have bugs officially recognized as livestock. Right now, they are classified as agricultural waste.
Still, both Peters and van Huis say the most obvious potential barrier — disgust — has not been material. Van Huis estimates that 95 percent of people who attend his lectures try the customary mealworm quiche and other hors d’oeuvres, and after a talk last May, 120 people tasted and praised Peter’s full line of prototypes:
For full story, please see: www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/09/bug-nuggets/8599/

BACK TO TOP

 

  • Fungi: The fungi you need to know

Source: The Independent (UK), 10 August 2011

This summer is already producing crops of wild mushrooms — ceps, chanterelles, summer truffles and other delicious kinds, which are appearing in profusion in the warm, damp woodland soil.
More than 100 kinds are good to eat and reasonably easy to recognize — though only a dozen or so are collected commercially. Just as there are plenty of delicious species, there are also lots of poisonous ones.
One sign of toxicity is a bright colour, especially red, and also an evil-looking pointed cap. Poisonous mushrooms, they say, will turn a silver-spoon black. Supposedly mushrooms that grow on wood are safe. At least one is not. Its playful name is "funeral bell" (Galerina marginata) and it is a killer. Serious cases are rare, but close encounters with poisonous fungi seem to be rising. Last year the National Poisons Information Service received 209 enquiries from General Practitioners compared with 123 the previous year. Half of them concerned children. Toddlers are known to eat little brown toadstools on the lawn, some of which are toxic.
Expert-led eco-foraging forays are, well, mushrooming, and there are weekend courses for getting to know wild mushrooms better. As you gain experience you can branch out and discover the delights of mushrooms that few people dare to eat — grisettes, milkcaps and brittlegills.
The mushroom season is just beginning. Given a warm, moist autumn it may last until November.
For full story, please see: www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/features/the-fungi-you-need-to-know-how-to-pick-a-wild-mushroom-that-wont-poison-you-2334861.html

BACK TO TOP

 

  • Fungi: Giant fungus discovered in China

Source: BBC Nature, 1 August 2011

The most massive fruiting body of any fungus yet documented has been discovered growing on the underside of a tree in China. The fruiting body, which is equivalent to the mushrooms produced by other fungi species, is up to 10m long, 80cm wide and weighs half a tonne.
That shatters the record held previously by a fungus growing in Kew Gardens in the UK. The new giant fungus is thought to be at least 20 years old.
The first example of the new giant fungus was recorded by scientists in 2008 in Fujian Province, China, by Professor Yu-Cheng Dai of the Herbarium of biology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shenyang and his assistant Dr Cui. "But the type collection was not huge," Prof Dai told BBC Nature. However, "we found [the] giant one in Hainan Province in 2010."
The researchers were in the field studying wood-decaying fungi when they happened upon the specimen, which they describe in the journal Fungal Biology.
"We were not specifically looking for this fungus; we did not know the fungus can grow so huge," he said. "We were surprised when we found it, and we did not recognize it in the forest because it is too large."
The fungus, Fomitiporia ellipsoidea, is what mycologists call a perennial polypore — otherwise known as a bracket fungus. Being a perennial, it can live for a number of years, which may have enabled it to grow to such large size.
By colonizing the underside of the large fallen tree, the fungus also had a huge amount of dead and decaying wood to feed on, helping to fuel its growth.
Fruiting bodies, such as mushrooms and toadstools, are the sexual stages of a many higher types of fungi, producing seeds or spores that produce further generations. The giant fruiting body of F. ellipsoidea forms a long, brown shape up to 10.85 m long, 82-88 cm wide, and 4.6-5.5 cm thick.
Tests on the density of the fruiting body suggest it weighs 400-500 kg; it is also estimated to hold some 450 million spores.
For full story, please see: www.bbc.co.uk/nature/14294283

BACK TO TOP

 

  • Fungi in Poland: Bumper crop of wild mushrooms stirs concerns

Source: The News (Poland), 9 August 2011

A bumper crop of wild mushrooms is expected in Poland this year following the unusually wet weather this summer — but care must be taken when picking them, say experts.
Poles, who are active edible fungi foragers, are causing sanitary inspectors to issue appeals for caution. The death cap amanita (Amanita phalloides), which is often confused with several species of edible forest mushrooms, has already been spotted in southern Poland.
According to a spokesman for the Chief Sanitary Inspectorate Jan Bondar, 80 people were treated in hospital last year for serious mushroom poisoning, seven of which died.
Mr Bondar says that even experienced mushroom pickers should not feel too safe. Mushrooms should never be fed to little children, sanitary inspectors warn.
The most dangerous mushroom is the amanita death cap, which retains its toxic properties even after storing for 10 years.
For full story, please see: www.thenews.pl/1/9/Artykul/53139,Mushroom-pickers-beware

BACK TO TOP

 

  • Saffron: About saffron

Source: Guardian (UK), 12 August 2011

Saffron is the fine, thread-like stigma of the autumn-flowering Crocus sativus. There are two types of crocus, spring- and autumn-flowering. Autumn crocus hail from places with dry summers and are activated into growth by the wet of autumn and winter. They are sent out now, as the corms begin to form new roots, and need to be planted out immediately.
Saffron can be fickle. Sometimes it will not bloom, but if it does, you get purple-veined flowers with a heady scent and brilliant orange red stigmas to harvest. It hates being overcrowded and needs to be grown deep in well-draining soil.
The stigma are so long that, on a dry day, they flop, which is why they need to be collected early in the morning and brought indoors to dry. The saffron should then be stored in an airtight container out of direct sunlight.
For full story, please see: www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/aug/12/alys-fowler-saffron

BACK TO TOP

 

  • Shea nuts: Ghana may target China as a new market for shea nut exports, group says

Source: Bloomberg, 9 August 2011

Ghana, the world second-largest cocoa producer, may target China as a new market for exports of shea nuts as the West African nation seeks to boost the industry, according to the Integrated Social Development Centre (Isodec), an Accra-based NGO.
Ghana’s annual exports of about 60 000 metric tons of the nuts that are used in foods and cosmetics could increase to 130 000 tons with access to Chinese buyers, said Isodec, which conducted research into the shea nut sector that was funded by U.K.-based advocacy group Oxfam International.
The nuts are currently sold to Europe, the U.S. and Japan, and earn about US$30 million for Ghana each year, said Yakubu Zakaria director of programs at Isodec.
“China alone can absorb all our produce and we can make about US$70 million,” Zakaria said in an interview on 5 August.
Shea trees, which produce the nuts, grow across the Sahelien regions of Africa, including in northern Ghana. Global exports of shea nuts and butter were worth US$120 million in 2010, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Ghana plans to establish a development board for shea that will set prices farmers will be paid for their crop and conduct research, Vice President John Mahama said on 6 April.
For full story, please see: www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-08-09/ghana-may-target-china-as-a-new-market-for-shea-nut-exports-group-says.html

BACK TO TOP

 

  • Wildlife: Can the palm oil we eat ever be wildlife-friendly?

Source: The Ecologist, 12 July 2011

It is in so much of what we eat yet most of us know very little about it. Palm oil has become an incredibly important part of our daily lives yet it is unlikely many people even know where it comes from or how it is made. (It is derived from the crushed nut/fruit of oil palm trees).
The reason it matters so much today is threefold. One, it is now an ingredient in around one-third of all packaged food we eat — from bread and biscuits to soap and shampoo — often listed as “vegetable oil” hence the frequent confusion amongst consumers. A UK study found that large quantities of a by-product of palm oil are also fed to our pets and farm animals.
Two, it is a tropical agricultural crop, growing best in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia with favourable climate and soils but also some of the world's last tropical rainforests. The rush to grow oil palm to feed consumers in Asia, Europe and the US, has seen millions of ha of rainforest chopped down to make way for plantations. More than half of oil palm expansion since 1990 has occurred at the expense of tropical forests. Rich in biodiversity, these forests are home to many endangered species, of which the orangutan is merely the most well known.
Lastly, it is highly successful and profitable for plantation owners, multinationals and the countries involved, producing twice the amount of oil of the next most productive crops, Brazil nut and jathropa. One ha of oil palm is worth around US$2 000/year. Globally, the industry’s earnings are measured in the billions.
As well its importance in food, farming and cosmetics, it is also being touted as a biofuel to power our planes, buses and cars. As such, demand for the oil is only expected to continue upwards.
The problem for conservationists is that this new demand is fuelling the conversion of the world's dwindling amounts of biodiverse-rich rainforest into profitable oil palm plantations.
An estimated 85 percent of the rainforest's biodiversity — amphibians, birds, fish, insects, mammals and plants — is lost during conversion to oil palm plantations.
In Indonesia, which along with Malaysia accounts for almost 90 percent of global production, the land converted to growing oil palm has increased by almost 400 percent in the past decade.
On the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the vast majority of the lowland forest, favoured by palm oil companies, has already been lost to plantations. The fear is that the forests on the island of Borneo, still relatively untouched, will soon go the same way.
Although campaign groups like Greenpeace have focused on the orangutan, a wide variety of mammals, insects, birds and soil micro-organisms — all part of the unique forest ecosystem — are lost during conversion.
A WWF study estimated there were 80 mammal species in Malaysia’s primary forests, just over 30 in its logged forests and only 11 or 12 in its oil palm plantations. Species such as Borneo Gibbons, which rely on the high canopy of tropical forests, are known to come off worst with palm trees reaching no more than 10-20 m in height at full growth.
Much of the attention in recent years has tended to focus on preventing deforestation, with campaigners pressurising multinationals like Nestle and Unilever into cutting off palm oil suppliers found to be taking over rainforests. However, with concessions (government permission to an area of land) still being granted to palm oil companies for forested land rich in biodiversity, some conservationists are arguing for a change of tactics. Rather than just attacking the industry, they want to encourage them to become more wildlife-friendly by preserving patches of forest within their plantations.
Sophie Persey, a biodiversity and oil palm expert from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), argues some of the fragments could provide an important lifeline for forest animals that may otherwise be unable to survive in vast expanses of oil palm monoculture. In effect, the patches of forest could act as “wildlife corridors” to help the animals move between larger continuous areas of forest that they ultimately depend on for survival.
A survey of the biodiversity found within fragments of rainforest surrounded by an oil palm plantation, published last year, found numerous important mammal species including the agile gibbon, banded langur, a rare species of bat and the Ridley's leaf-nosed bat. However, there are still doubts about how the population density compares with large-scale, contiguous forest and whether such species could survive in the fragments in the long-term.
For full story, please see: www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/976417/can_the_palm_oil_we_eat_ever_be_wildlifefriendly.html

BACK TO TOP

 

  • Wildlife: Another inconvenient truth

Source: Conservation Magazine, 24 July 2011

A continuing global failure to crack down on a booming trade in body parts from endangered animals could soon cause some species — including rhinos and tigers — to “wink out” of existence, a conservation advocate warns. But a couple of recent developments, including a recent UN decision to make combating wildlife crime a core concern, and a “potentially powerful” new International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) — could spur needed action.
“In spite of significant recent advances in understanding how to conserve species, we are failing to conserve some of the most beloved and charismatic, with severe population losses, shrinking ranges and extinctions of subspecies,” Elizabeth Bennett of the Wildlife Conservation Society in Bronx, New York writes in Oryx, the International Journal of Conservation. The Sumatran rhinoceros, for instance, “is almost certainly now extinct in Thailand and probably in Peninsular Malaysia,” she writes, and “even formerly seemingly-secure populations are now at risk: South Africa lost almost 230 rhinoceroses to poaching during January–October 2010, one every 30 hours.”
The main reason for the killing, she notes, “is hunting for illegal trade in highly valuable body parts. Such trade is increasingly controlled by organized criminal syndicates with sophisticated smuggling methods and modes of operation.” The smugglers bribe officials, and hide goods in secret compartments in cargo containers carrying legal products. And they are often working for criminal networks that feed demand in wealthy Asian nations, with webs “radiating out across Asia and Africa ultimately link to the markets of East Asia.
And the contraband can be extensive: Last year, for instance, officials seized 239 African elephant tusks at Bangkok International Airport, and in 2007 Russian authorities seized 332 tiger bones, two tiger skulls, 531 saiga antelope horns and 283 Asiatic black bear paws near the Chinese border.
Unfortunately, Bennett writes, “the legislation and methods of addressing illegal wildlife trade in many countries were not developed to tackle this type of organized crime,” which can include things like web sites touting the sale of illegal wildlife products. And enforcement of conservation laws is too often lax or not taken seriously. “To save these species this trade must be treated as serious crime,” she writes, arguing, “we have taken our eye off the ball… Where enforcement is thorough, and with sufficient resources and personnel, it works… But such programs are lamentably rare and resources applied to combating such crime generally grossly inadequate.”
What is needed now is “a total change in the way that wildlife crime is treated by governments and wider society,” she concludes. That means hiring more investigators and providing better training and equipment. And it means taking advantage of the international agreement on wildlife crime to strengthen global partnerships. “Unless we start taking wildlife crime seriously and allocating the commitment and resources appropriate to tackling sophisticated, well-funded, globally-linked criminal operations,” Bennett predicts that “populations of some of the most beloved but economically prized charismatic species will continue to wink out across their range and, appallingly soon, altogether.”
For full story, please see: www.conservationmagazine.org/2011/06/another-inconvenient-truth/

BACK TO TOP

 

  • Wildlife: Why we cannot afford to lose the elephant

Source: The Ecologist, 27 July 2011

In the 1980s, over 600 000 elephants — more than half the total African pachyderm population — were destroyed for the hanko stamps (Japanese stamps) so sought after by Japan. At the height of the slaughter, 70 000/year were being killed. Kenya burned tons of confiscated ivory in 1989 in a gesture of defiance to the rest of the world. The message? The slaughter of the innocents and the ivory trade has to stop. The killing of whales and elephants constitute the twin arms of the crucifix of the greatest non-human genocide of our time.
Today, thanks to the bloodlust for ivory trinkets and statuettes, and the demands of the Asian market, elephants are being decimated again. If this continues the world will see most of its elephant herds gone within 15 years. Civilization may never be the same and the culture of elephants will be gone forever.
There is the ecological element to this story: the African forest elephant fertilizes the Congo rainforest — the second largest (after the Amazon) on earth. Then there is the mythical component of a fellow being who has influenced our history, evolution and our very survival for millennia like no other creature has: we walked out of Africa following ages-old elephant migration paths. But there is also the spiritual element, one that we were privy to thanks to the Samburu of Kenya whose tales are akin to the miraculous, stories that reconfirm our species on the level of mind and heart.
For full story, please see: www.theecologist.org/green_green_living/out_and_about/994574/among_necessary_giants_why_we_cant_afford_to_lose_the_elephant.html

BACK TO TOP

 

  • Wildlife: Cameroon, Chad sign pact to fight elephant poaching

Source: Reuters, 4 August 2011

Cameroon and Chad have signed an accord to ramp up efforts to fight poachers who kill hundreds of elephants a year in a protected park on their common border, ministers from both nations said.
Both central African countries suffer from rampant poaching of elephants and other species for ivory headed mainly to Asian markets and for the bushmeat trade. Observers say the rising wealth of east Asian countries has caused a jump in the price and demand for ivory in recent years.
The protected area is more than 300 000 ha, including Cameroon's Bouba Ndjidda park and Chad's Sena Oura park, Cameroon Forestry and Wildlife Minister Elvis Ngolle Ngolle said late on Tuesday, as he signed the deal with Chad's Environment Minister Hassan Terap. Of that area, the Chadian side makes up only about 70 000 ha but has most of the elephants, numbering around 3 000 Terap said, adding that armed poachers had reduced elephant numbers from 5 000 five years ago. Cameroon's government says Bouba Ndjidda has just 300 elephants left.
Measures include better cooperation between authorities running the parks and boosting numbers of armed rangers. Conservationists say poaching is rife and worsening in both countries.
As well as elephants and the rare black rhino, the parks are also home to monkeys, buffalo, porcupines and two dozen species of antelopes, all of which are poached for their meat.
"We are ... very determined to preserve ... them for the economic and cultural benefits of our people," Ngolle said. "We will do everything to protect them, especially the elephants that are under serious threat from illegal poachers."
He added: "We will need a large number of well-trained and well-armed eco-guards so that they can be able to face the illegal poachers who are operating all over the protected area. Very often, they are well-armed."
For full story, please see: http://af.reuters.com/article/topNews/idAFJOE77303820110804

BACK TO TOP

 

COUNTRY INFORMATION

  • Armenia Tree Project (ATP) creates new green spaces in 112 communities

Source: ATP Press Release, 20 July 2011

ATP has partnered with 112 communities throughout Armenia to plant 30 047 decorative trees, shrubs, and fruit trees this spring. The work was led by the flagship Community Tree Planting Program, which has been operating since ATP's founding in 1994.
"Each season, we try to involve as many new communities as possible," explained Arthur Harutyunyan, head monitor of ATP's Community Tree Planting Program.
ATP has planted trees in over 800 sites throughout Armenia, and every year more communities apply to ATP for trees. "If the site suits our requirements for irrigation, having a gardener, and a commitment to providing ongoing tree care, we collaborate with the community by providing seedlings, training, and professional advice," added Harutyunyan.
Tree planting was implemented this year in the regions of Aragatsotn, Ararat, Armavir, Gegharkunik, Kotayk, Lori, Shirak, Syunik, Tavush, and Vayots Dzor, as well as in Yerevan and Artsakh.
Within the framework of ATP's Building Bridges environmental education program, students from the Hovnanian School in New Jersey met their peers from A Yerevan School to plant trees around the school. Before getting to work, the students made friends by introducing themselves, playing name games, and learning more about each other. This was followed by a short training session on how to plant a tree. After the planting, the local students showed the guests around their school and spent some time together.
Tree planting sessions were organized at several other schools, churches, and orphanages around Armenia this spring.
ATP's mission is to assist the Armenian people in using trees to improve their standard of living and protect the environment, guided by the need to promote self-sufficiency, aid those with the fewest resources first, and conserve the indigenous ecosystem. ATP's three major programs are tree planting, environmental education, and sustainable development initiatives.
For more information, please visit: www.armeniatree.org

BACK TO TOP

 

  • Australia: Indigenous input essential to survival of endangered species

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 25 July 2011

Green turtles and dugongs have been on the global ''red list'' of threatened species for many years, but the situation is looking up for Australian populations as a community-based protection approach evolves.
Hunting is one reason numbers have dropped in parts of Australia. Both species enjoy legal protection nationally but indigenous communities are able to hunt dugongs and turtles for cultural and economic reasons.
"Urban development, fishing impacts and hunting are some factors, but remember indigenous people have a right to hunt and people in Torres Strait Islands have been harvesting dugongs for 4000 years," Helene Marsh, professor of environmental science at James Cook University, said.
Research suggests that harvests in some areas are unsustainable but indigenous communities are key to the solution, joining James Cook University and the government to protect marine life.
"The Australian government has invested large amounts of money in the indigenous ranger programs, and they not only provide valuable training and employment opportunities in remote communities but they also have species conservation benefits," Professor Marsh said.
"I do not think we have an imminent conservation crisis for either the dugong or turtle in Australia. We are lucky we have good stocks, so we need to look after them."
The Department of Sustainability and Environment estimates the dugong population in Australia to be about 57 000, based on figures from 1995 to 2008, but a department spokesman said there were no definitive figures on dugong or turtle numbers.
"The Australian government is part of a national partnership approach for the conservation and protection of turtles and dugongs," the spokesman said. ''There is also state and Northern Territory legislation in place to protect turtles and dugongs."
For full story, please see: www.smh.com.au/environment/indigenous-input-essential-to-survival-of-endangered-species-20110724-1hvef.html

BACK TO TOP

 

  • Brazil: Proposed changes to Forest Code could hurt economy

Source: www.mongabay.com, 14 July 2011

Carlos Alberto de Mattos Scaramuzza, WWF-Brazil's Director for Conservation, says the reform bill currently being evaluated by Brazil's Senate could have unexpected economic implications for Brazilian ranchers and farmers.
"The tendency in the world market is to expand the space for sustainable products, and consumers are increasingly averse to acquiring anything whose production involves the destruction or degradation of nature", said Scaramuzza.
The Brazilian agricultural sector has experienced market backlash to their products before. In 2006 soy crushers were hit by the threat of a boycott by McDonalds due to the fast food chain's concern over being associated with deforestation. In 2009 the Brazilian cattle industry was hit by a Greenpeace campaign that targeted major consumer products brands that source leather from Brazil. In both cases, affected producers moved to adopt stronger safeguards to eliminate deforestation from their production cycle.
Scaramuzza says that the bill, if passed in its current form next month, could also undermine the nascent market for ecosystem services. Brazil, with its ample forests and water resources, is poised to become a giant in the market, which some analysts believe could be worth tens of billions of dollars a year by mid-decade.
“The project completely ignores the possibility of remuneration for the provision of environmental services, thereby slamming the door on an interesting opportunity to diversify income," he said, adding that reforestation of degraded forest areas — as required under the current Forest Code — would both "protect natural resources" and "open up the possibility of new income stemming from the provision of environmental services related to combating climate change and maintaining water supplies for cities and rural areas alike."
Scaramuzza adds that the bill could hurt Brazilian agriculture by degrading the very services upon which farming and ranching depend. For example, the proposed bill would allow clearing of forests on hillsides and mountaintops, while reducing the buffer zone along waterways. Deforestation in these areas would exacerbate soil erosion and reduce the availability of clean water. Erosion could further worsen flooding and reducing power generation from hydroelectric plants, according to Scaramuzza.
"The losses in question transform the issue of approving the Forest Code reform bill into another tremendous loss of an opportunity to guarantee that Brazilian production will be founded on more sustainable bases," he said. "If... our products are to be associated to deforestation and exacerbation of global warming, we will eventually lose access to [international markets]."
WWF is among the groups lobbying for a reappraisal of the bill's text. A broad coalition of environmentalists, scientists, and rural land rights groups have called for a delay in the Forest Code vote to allow more time to conduct a thorough review of its potential implications on the Brazilian economy and environment
For full story, please see: http://news.mongabay.com/2011/0713-wwf_forest_code.html

BACK TO TOP

 

  • Costa Rica: Jaguar Corridor Initiative

Source: Eco-Index monthly update, August 2011http://maps.gstatic.com/intl/en_ALL/mapfiles/transparent.pnghttp://maps.gstatic.com/intl/en_ALL/mapfiles/transparent.pnghttp://maps.gstatic.com/intl/en_ALL/mapfiles/transparent.pnghttp://maps.gstatic.com/intl/en_ALL/mapfiles/transparent.pnghttp://maps.gstatic.com/intl/en_ALL/mapfiles/transparent.pnghttp://maps.gstatic.com/intl/en_ALL/mapfiles/transparent.pnghttp://maps.gstatic.com/intl/en_ALL/mapfiles/transparent.pnghttp://maps.gstatic.com/intl/en_ALL/mapfiles/transparent.pnghttp://maps.gstatic.com/intl/en_ALL/mapfiles/transparent.pnghttp://maps.gstatic.com/intl/en_ALL/mapfiles/transparent.png
http://maps.gstatic.com/intl/en_ALL/mapfiles/mapcontrols2.png
The Jaguar Corridor Initiative is an international project to establish a biological corridor, promoted by Panthera and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), with the objective of facilitating connectivity between several blocks of protected areas and forest zones in Mesoamerica, and more recently in South America, for jaguars (Panthera onca). The project was inspired by the idea that the jaguar is one of the world’s last large carnivores whose populations are dispersed throughout its range.
Based on studies using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and validation in the field (through interviews and observations), it has been possible to identify the most suitable areas for linking jaguar populations and their prey in the region.
In Costa Rica, Panthera has focused on consolidating the Jaguar Corridor Initiative by working mainly in the most vulnerable sites of the country’s Atlantic slope: the connections between the Central Volcanic Cordillera and the Talamanca Cordillera and between the Central Volcanic Cordillera and south-eastern Nicaragua. Pilot projects are being developed in these areas with a view toward implementing them in the other jaguar corridors throughout Mesoamerica.
The project’s main objective includes ensuring connectivity between jaguar populations by means of biological corridors in Costa Rica.
Working with the people who live in the biological corridors is essential to guarantee their functionality.
For full story, please see: http://eco-index.org/search/results.cfm?projectID=167

BACK TO TOP

 

  • Guatemala: Certification Program for Sustainable Tourism

From: Eco-Index monthly update, August 2011

GREAT Green Deal, the sustainable tourism certification program in Guatemala, is an independent certification program that offers the tourism sector a voluntary, third-party evaluation of sustainable performance. This is done through a methodology that is based on continuous management auditing, certification, and monitoring, which aims to recognize businesses whose practices are economically, socially, culturally, and environmentally responsible. The name of the program has its own meaning: GREAT is an acronym for the words Green, Responsible, Exclusive, Amazing, Tourism.
The program offers tourism business owners a complete package of services, including: training, assessments of their operations, and technical assistance on aspects to be evaluated in the certification audits. Technical assistance is coordinated directly with the program but is provided through third-parties (selected professionals and partnering organizations).
The program aims to ensure that the seal awarded to certified enterprises is more than just a “badge” and that it is recognized as a statement supported by an independent, third-party evaluator.
The program’s main objective is to help tour operators improve or maintain their management systems (if these are already in place) in order to guarantee the quality and safety of their products and services, and to initiate or strengthen their corporate responsibility programs in the environmental, social, and cultural areas, creating a competitive advantage for their businesses.
GREAT Green Deal's certification of tour operators is helping support Guatemala’s tourism strategy in terms of quality of service, as promoted by the Guatemalan Tourism Institute (INGUAT).
During the first 18 months of operation, certification was awarded to 15 of the 17 companies that participated in the program. These businesses achieved more than 70 percent compliance with the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria with respect to GREAT’s standards for evaluating more than 300 social, cultural, business, administrative, and environmental indicators.
In Guatemala and in Central America in general, the concept of certification in tourism is still new; therefore voluntary acceptance is low. Major efforts are still required to raise awareness and provide effective training to tourism businesses on sustainability issues.
For more information about the programme, please see:
http://eco-index.org/search/results.cfm?projectID=167

BACK TO TOP

 

  • India: Elephants feed on coffee as resources in Indian forests become scarce

Source: CIFOR, 26 July 26 2011

Elephants foraging for food in the forests of southern India have taken to feasting on coffee berries as increasing tracts of privately controlled forest areas are being overtaken by expanding coffee estates, says a new study.
If this new behaviour spreads through the 9 000-strong Asian elephant population currently living in Kodagu (Karnataka State), one of the world’s largest contiguous population of Asian elephants, it will compound an already severe conflict situation between landholders and the elephants destroying their valuable coffee crops.
Over the past 20 years, liberalization of the coffee sector in India and a rise in the global demand for coffee has seen almost all privately controlled forested areas converted into coffee plantations. The district of Kodagu currently produces 2 percent of the world’s coffee and satellite images show the area under coffee cultivation has doubled over the last 30 years, with coffee estates now making up about one-third of the total land area.
The study, conducted by the French Institute of Pondicherry, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), and the Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement (CIRAD), describes the changes in elephant behaviour and diet as coffee plantations continue to multiply.
As elephants travel along the forest paths that presently make up one-third of Kodagu district’s land area, they have begun to opportunistically forage on ripe coffee berries in adjoining coffee plantations, seemingly favouring the food resources in the coffee plantations over those found in the forests.
The study found that the state controlled teak plantations do not provide adequate fodder according to local stakeholders, and the surrounding natural forests often lack sufficient water during dry months. Jackfruits and mangoes are abundant in the well-irrigated coffee plantations, making them very attractive to travelling elephants.
The combined data from the interviews and documented reports show an intensification of the crop damage caused by elephants toward the end of the 12-year study period.
“Past strategies for keeping elephants out of the plantations, such as electric fences and elephant-proof trenches, have obviously not been effective,” says Claude Garcia, a co-author of the study recently published in Environmental Management, “And it is the local communities and the rural poor that end up bearing the brunt of these conflicts.”
For full story, please see: http://blog.cifor.org/3817/elephants-feed-on-coffee-as-resources-in-indian-forests-become-scarce/

BACK TO TOP

 

  • Kenya: Beehives stop elephant crop-raids

Source: BBC, 15 July 2011

Innovative beehive fences have helped a community in Kenya to successfully protect crops from elephants, according to research.
Scientists found the hives to be a very effective barrier; elephants turned away from them in 97 percent of their attempted raids. Conservationists suggest that elephants' natural fear of bees could settle ongoing conflicts.
The hives' honey also produced additional profits for farmers.
Over the past 20 years, elephant numbers in Kenya have grown to around 7 500 and the population boost is widely heralded as a conservation success story.
However, conflict between elephants and humans, especially farmers, is an ongoing problem. Elephants frequently "raid" farms searching for food such as ripe tomatoes, potatoes and maize.
To protect their livelihoods, some farmers have resorted to extreme measures including poisoning and shooting elephants.
Previous research into natural deterrents showed that elephants avoided African honey bees. In 2009, experts from the University of Oxford, UK, and the charity Save the Elephants set up a trial project to test whether beehives could prevent conflict on farmland boundaries.
After two years of observations, the full results of the trial have now been published in the African Journal of Ecology.
"Finding a way to use live beehives was the next logical step in finding a socially and ecologically sensitive way of taking advantage of elephants' natural avoidance behaviour to bees to protect farmers' crops," said Dr Lucy King, the University of Oxford biologist who led the study.
"It was very exciting to see that our theoretical work has been converted into a practical application," she said.
The bees in Kenya (Apis mellifera scutellata) are small with short tongues and swarm frequently.
Bees cannot sting through elephant hide, but they can and do sting around elephants' eyes and inside trunks.
In 32 attempted raids over three crop seasons, only one bull elephant managed to penetrate the novel defences. The beehives were suspended on wires between posts with a flat thatched roof above to protect from the sun in the traditional Kenyan style. The team created a boundaries for 17 farms, incorporating 170 beehives into 1 700 m of fencing.
"The interlinked beehive fences not only stopped elephants from raiding our study farms but the farmers profited from selling honey to supplement their low incomes," Dr King explained.
"The honey production and consequent income has really incentivised the farmers to maintain the fences."
Conservationists now hope to roll out the scheme to other farming communities.
For full story, please see: www.bbc.co.uk/nature/14106484

BACK TO TOP

 

  • Lebanon: Cedar forests ecotourism boom

Source: CNN, 10 August 2011

Lebanon's 2 000 ha of cedar forest are a peaceful oasis for hikers, mountain bikers and bird-watchers, a world away from the hustle and bustle of Beirut.
In the Shouf Cedar Reserve, the country's largest natural forest, villagers make a living selling home-made jam, honey, pickled olives and wine to tourists. The area was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2005.
While sustainable tourism is booming, the ancient forests are under threat from climate change. Nizar Hani, manager of Shouf Cedar Reserve, said: "Right now we have a new challenge for the cedar forest in Lebanon, which is the climate change. Hani said it also affected the insects of the forest.
"Right now the impact of climate change is under control. Our role, and the role of the scientists in the universities in Lebanon, is to monitor the impact of climate change on cedar forests. We hope in the next year we will have more snow and more rain to minimize that impact," he said.
The reserve is trying to raise awareness of biodiversity among its visitors and the local community, including schools and decision makers.
Hani said: "The ecotourism is to raise the awareness of the visitors, always we talk to them about the importance of the protected areas, the importance of the cedar forest, the importance of biodiversity.”
The reserve had 40 000 visitors last year, 65 percent of them Lebanese and 35 percent foreigners. This year it is expecting to reach 50 000 visitors.
Villagers in the forest benefit from a sustainable tourism program to sell 42 different home-made products, from honey to walnut jam, herbs and olive oil, to tourists.
Hani said: "About 40 women benefit from this program. We increase their income and they work on a seasonal basis to prepare all the products. In addition to the women, we have the beekeepers. They can put their bees in the reserve and at the end of the season promote their honey here."
Cedar trees have a fond place in Lebanese history as well as in the center of the country's flag. Their soft, light wood was highly prized in the ancient world and they featured in the "Epic of Gilgamesh" poem written nearly 3 000 years ago, as well as the Bible.
For full story, please see: www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/meast/08/05/lebanon.cedar.forests/

BACK TO TOP

 

  • Mexico: Barcoding biodiversity not free of risks, activists say

Source: International Press Service, 28 July 2011

As the Barcode of Life project continues the work of sequencing specific segments of genes in Mexican animals and plants, there are some concerns about how to safeguard the biological samples collected from the threat of commercial exploitation.
Supporters of the initiative argue that the information gathered can lead to the discovery of new varieties, and to better protection of biodiversity. But critics say big pharmaceutical and synthetic biology companies, which produce organisms with specific functions through genetic engineering, could exploit the data in the service of their own economic interests.
The barcoding project is helping to document the country's biodiversity, so that better conservation management plans can be designed. If we do not know what species exist, we will not know what to protect," researcher Lidia Cabrera of the Biology Institute at the state National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), who is also on the thematic network committee of Barcode of Life in Mexico (MexBOL), told IPS.
The initiative is being undertaken by a conglomerate of academic institutions, created in 2009 and made up of the UNAM Biology Institute, the state-run Southern Border College (ECOSUR) and the Northwest Biological Research Centre, as well as the National Commission for Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO).
Mexico, one of the five most biodiverse countries in the world, is home to 108 519 species, including 72 327 animals, 29 192 plants, and 7 000 fungi. But less than one percent have been "barcoded".
Barcoding is a method that isolates and amplifies a short, specific stretch of an organism's DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, that is unique to the species it belongs to, and can be used to identify, document and catalogue living organisms.
"Fast, reliable species identification will revolutionize our concept of our natural surroundings, and the sciences that study it: ecology, taxonomy, and so on," Manuel Elías, an expert at ECOSUR and a member of the network, told IPS.
The project has already produced barcode sequences for about 20 percent of fish species, 70 percent of birds and close to 10 percent of plant species. Mexican scientists barcoded 6 000 samples in 2010.
The international Barcode of Life project was launched in 2003 by the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario at the University of Guelph, in Canada. The following year, a consortium for the project was created, made up of organizations from 43 countries. Mexico joined in 2009.
"The basic problem is that although it is presented as simply scientific research, the barcode initiative is classifying a large number of organisms that are of interest to transnational corporations, like pharmaceutical companies and synthetic biology firms," said Silvia Ribeiro, the Latin America head of the Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC).
"There are no safeguards whatsoever that apply to this area," she complained to IPS. She was referring to the fact that the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity lacks any regulations about artificial creations based on biological materials.
For full story, please see: http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=56669

BACK TO TOP

 

  • South Africa: Fracking controversy emerges

Source: Yale Environment 360, 4 August 2011

The contentious practice of “hydrofracking” to extract underground natural gas has now made its way to South Africa's Karoo, a semi-desert known for its stark beauty and indigenous plants. But opposition is growing amid concern that fracking will deplete and pollute the area's scarce water supplies.
On a cool day in May, Jonathan Deal, the 52-year-old owner of an ecotourism farm called Gecko Rock, leads a few visitors on an all-day hike across his 10 000-acre property in the South African bush.  He steps onto boulders covered in red lichen and points out — in Latin, Afrikaans, and English — the species of the indigenous flora called fynbos, whose flowers and shoots colour this vast semi-desert of the Karoo.
The issue is that a group of global energy companies have leased rights to an immense shale field that runs across the country's midsection. The companies have promised billions in revenue, much-needed jobs, and energy security for all. The problem — as in similar natural gas-rich shale fields in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere — is largely over how the gas is harvested, namely a process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which uses a combination of water, sand, and chemicals to crack the subterranean rock where gas (and oil) are trapped. And as intensifying publicity about the environmental risks of fracking has spread from the United States to South Africa, opposition to hydrofracturing in the Karoo has grown, prompting the South African government to place a moratorium on all future fracking permits until the practice's environmental impacts can be evaluated.
The controversy has put the government in a tough spot. Seventeen years after the end of apartheid, the African National Congress-led government is under pressure to deliver jobs, services, and greater prosperity to the country's largely impoverished and increasingly impatient population. The sparsely populated, semi-desert Karoo has a mixed-ethnic population of 300 000, including native Khoisan people, other black Africans, and white farmers. Many of the region's residents live in squalid settlements that are a remnant of the apartheid era, and the government clearly hoped that a hydrofracturing boom would bring jobs and greater prosperity to the region.
Opposition to fracking in the Karoo has been centred not in the black settlements, but more among the white farmers and landowners who fear that the industry will pollute and deplete already scarce water supplies in this rain-starved region. Each fracking drilling well requires millions of litres of water and produces large quantities of tainted wastewater that must be treated.
In February, Deal, along with an environmentalist named Lewis Pugh, formed Treasure the Karoo Action Group, or TKAG, to organize opposition. The two men say they have spent a combined US$60 000 of their own money, plus another US$26 000 raised in small donations.
Shell and other oil and gas companies say that hydrofracturing can be done in an environmentally safe way, and would bring jobs and lease income to the people of the Karoo. But Pugh and other opponents counter that the wells will produce for as few as five years, so the jobs and the benefits will be temporary. The damage, however, will be permanent, says Pugh, including the infrastructure required to retrieve the gas and the heavy trucks and equipment that will rumble through, turning parts of one of the planet's most pristine and biodiverse environments into an industrial zone.
For full story, please see: http://e360.yale.edu/feature/in_arid_south_african_lands_fracking_controversy_emerges/2430/

BACK TO TOP

 

  • UK: The beginner’s guide to late summer foraging

Source: The Ecologist, 2 August 2011

With wild berries and verdant greens all abundantly available, late summer and early autumn are peak season for foragers.
“Wild food plants can be found in the most unlikely locations, including in built-up urban environments if you have the knowledge,” says forager Fergus Drennan. And the best way to accumulate a stock of foraging wisdom is to get out there and experience it for yourself, as books and guides can only take you so far. A short course such as the one run by Fergus is a good way to get started but there is nothing wrong with getting out there on your own, as long as you have familiarized yourself with the species to avoid before you start picking. With foraging, the devil really is in the details. Many species of plants are strikingly similar, especially when they are growing together in close quarters, so getting out there and learning to recognize the small differences is essential.
So what is on offer during the late summer months? According to Fergus, summer is the prime time for hunting for seaweed along the coast and also for checking out the hedgerows for blackberries, cherry plums and wild damsons. Along with hedgerows, the edges of fields and woodland, and wasteland are great for elderberries, rosehips and crab apples as well as blackberries. What’s more, fungi fans will be spoilt for choice. “Giant puffball, summer truffle, chanterelle, parasol, fairy ring and jelly ear are just some the mushrooms to look out for at this time of year,” says Fergus. Woodland, arable land, parks and gardens are also good places to start your mushroom mission.
For full story, please see: www.theecologist.org/green_green_living/food_and_drink/1000281/the_beginners_guide_to_late_summer_foraging.html

BACK TO TOP

 

  • USA: What goes into the making of local honey

Source: The Washington Post, 14 July 2011

The Riningers, both in their early 40s, describe themselves as hobbyist beekeepers. Interested in bees since he was a boy, Michael Rininger bought his first three colonies in 2004. Now he and his wife maintain 17 colonies: a dozen on their five-acre property at Fern Hill Apiary in Marshall and five others placed with friends around Fauquier County (Virginia).
Before heading to the colonies, Rininger points out the basics. First, he notes that there are two ways to acquire bees. You can buy packages that include three pounds of random bees (about 10 000), sugar syrup and a random queen, but he prefers the other approach — getting miniature working colonies from a local producer — because the bees are acclimated to local conditions and to each other.
Rininger advocates raising bees naturally, meaning he does not use chemicals, such as miticides. Even so, “there is no such thing as “organic” honey,” he says. “We do not use any chemicals in our colonies, but bees forage. Who knows what the bees are getting at the neighbours’?”
In Rininger’s opinion, the fact that bees forage within a three-mile radius of their colony means that most honey would rightly be deemed wildflower honey, as Fern Hill’s is, unless producers have so much land planted with one nectar source (a little over 8 000 acres’ worth, he estimates) that they can know a honey’s precise provenance.
The taste of wildflower honey changes from year to year, depending on climate conditions and the nectar flows of the various flora that endow a honey with a distinctive imprimatur. Black locust, clover, autumn olive, dandelion, chicory, Joe-Pye weed and tulip poplar are among the plants that influence their honey’s flavour profile.
A colony in the middle of summer, says Rininger, numbers 60 000 to 80 000 bees, 98 percent of which are worker bees. Workers bring nectar, pollen and water to the hive, guard it, scout new locations, make wax, feed developing larvae and keep the hive cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
In a good year, a colony can yield 200 pounds of honey; 100 is the norm. But, says Rininger, 60 pounds of it must be left behind to get the bees through the winter without starving or freezing.
On their Web site, www.FernHillApiary.com, the Riningers say there is anecdotal evidence that continuing consumption of unpasteurized honey might provide relief from seasonal allergies, provided the honey comes from your locality.
For full story, please see: www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/sourced-what-goes-into-the-making-of-local-honey/2011/07/14/gIQAR3MlNI_story.html

BACK TO TOP

 

  • USA: San Francisco restaurant scene buzzing over rooftop beehives

Source: Associated Press in The Washington post, 27 July 2011

A good restaurant is always a buzz of activity, but some chefs are taking the concept literally, installing rooftop beehives.
The idea appears to be mainly to give the ailing bee population a boost, something that became a concern with reports of colony collapse disorder a few years back. Though having a ready supply of the sweet stuff for use in the restaurant below is a good thing, too.
“The honey part of it is a bonus,” says Bill Clarke, owner of Mission Beach Cafe, which has four hives on its roof.
At Zen Compound, which is home to Temple night club and Ki restaurant in San Francisco (California), rooftop bees have been a fixture since 2009. Mike Zuckerman, Director of sustainability at Zen Compound, oversees the bees along with an apiarist. They have two hives and harvest between 30 and 40 lbs of honey/season, which is used to sweeten tea and as a garnish for cheese plates.
Rooftop beehives can be found in several cities, but seem to be particularly hot in San Francisco, where a number of restaurants have embraced the locavore movement.
“They love our location,” says Clarke, who has a southern exposure. While obtaining honey is not his chief objective, he has some ideas for where it might go, including a honey ice cream and a honey and peach-glazed chicken.
Bees have also been in residence at the Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill for a little over a year, sitting in the restaurant’s culinary garden. The bees were installed by executive chef J.W. Foster in partnership with Marshall’s Farm and there are about 200 000 honey bees now in the hives. The honey they provide is used in salad dressings, pastries, ice cream, cocktails and as part of the hotel’s afternoon tea service.
Bees, however, require observation and close management. For instance, too many hives in the same area will lead to food shortages. Meanwhile, swarming is a natural part of the bee life cycle, but it does not work well in an urban setting. So responsible keepers have to deter swarming activity. Also problematic is the hobbyist who starts a hive, then abandons it.
For full story, please see:
www.washingtonpost.com/business/industries/san-francisco-restaurant-scene-buzzing-over-rooftop-beehives/2011/07/27/gIQAX2mKdI_story.html

BACK TO TOP

 

  • USA: I will borrow your farm, you keep my bees

Source: The New York Times, 5 August 2011

The couple who own Tassot Apiaries (New Jersey, USA), Jean-Claude and Beatrice Tassot, may not have the biggest or flashiest stall at the Princeton or Morristown farmers’ market. But without them, the pickings at those and the four other markets where they regularly set up shop might be quite a bit slimmer.
The Tassots sell wildflower honey that they bottle and distribute from their 10-acre Buzzing Acres Farm here. In addition to the liquid kind, they make whipped, spreadable and flavoured honeys.
Along with their bee-derived products, which are also sold through retailers at 40 gourmet shops in New Jersey, Manhattan and Pennsylvania, the Tassots are the indirect providers of a lot of the produce that surrounds them at farmers’ markets.
Their nearly 300 hives at farms in Hunterdon, Morris and Somerset Counties pollinate local peaches, tomatoes and cucumbers for the summer harvest. And in the fall, they can take some of the credit for the bounty of apples, pumpkins and squash.
“The farmers need the bees to pollinate, and we need the land for the bees,” Mr. Tassot said, so the farmers keep most of the Tassots’ bees, and he takes care of them. “Everybody is happy.”
Mr. Tassot, who has been keeping bees as a hobby since he was a child in Burgundy, France, said he produced about 10 000 pounds of honey each year.
Farmers have been relying on beekeepers to supply insects for their crops since modern transportation allowed such an arrangement, according to David Mendes, president of the American Beekeeping Federation, based in Atlanta.
In New Jersey, the practice has become increasingly common in recent years: since 2008, membership in the New Jersey Beekeepers Association has doubled, according to its president, Seth Belson. The group, which is based in Hightstown, currently numbers 900.
Two thousand registered beekeepers tend hives in New Jersey, according to Tim Schuler of the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, who is the state’s official apiarist. The practice benefits not only honey lovers but almost anyone with an appetite, he said.
For more information, please see: www.nytimes.com/2011/08/07/nyregion/beekeepers-partner-with-farmers-in-new-jersey.html?_r=1

BACK TO TOP

  1. Vietnam: Largest population of rare gibbon discovered

Source: Environmental News Network, 19 July 2011

The largest known remaining population of the northern white-cheeked gibbon has been discovered in Vietnam, bringing new hope for this Critically Endangered primate.
Scientists from Conservation International made the discovery in Pu Mat National Park, near the Vietnam-Laos border, in an area of remote, dense forest that has been largely isolated from human activity. By recording the gibbons' loud, territorial “songs”, the team were able to confirm a population of 130 groups, or 455 gibbons in total.
Previous work by Conservation International in other parts of north-central Vietnam had found no population of the northern white-cheeked gibbon larger than a dozen groups. The newly discovered population at Pu Mat National Park is therefore all the more important, as it represents over two-thirds of the total population of this species in Vietnam and may be the only viable population left in the world.
The northern white-cheeked gibbon has undergone a precipitous decline over recent decades. The main causes of this decline are deforestation and hunting for food, the pet trade and traditional medicine. Once found in China, Vietnam and the Lao People's Democratic Republic, it may now be extinct in China, and its status in Lao PDR is not well known. In Vietnam, there may be as few as 200 groups remaining.
Speaking about the newly discovered population, Dr Russell A. Mittermeier, Chair of the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group and President of Conservation International, said, "All of the world's 25 different gibbons are threatened, and none more so than the Indochinese crested gibbons, eight of which, including the northern white-cheeked gibbon, are now on the brink of extinction."
For full story, please see: www.enn.com/top_stories/article/42950

BACK TO TOP

 

NEWS

  1. A modest proposal for wealthy countries to reforest their land for the common good

Source: Guest commentary, www.mongabay.com, 11 August 2011

The Coalition of Financially Challenged Countries with Lots of Trees, known as "CoFCCLoT", representing most of the world's remaining tropical forests, is asking wealthy nations to share global responsibilities and reforest their land for the common good of stabilizing climate and protecting biodiversity.
"We are willing to play our part, but we require a level playing field in which we all commit to equal sacrifices," a coalition spokeswoman says.
"Returning forest cover in the G8 countries and the EU back to historic levels will benefit all of us in the long-term."
75 percent of Europe was once forested. Now it is 45 percent. Some countries such as Ireland saw their forest cover reduced to near zero. Most forest cover in the developed world is now often planted with stands of alien trees, turning them into deserts for biodiversity. Remaining natural forests are often highly fragmented and have few native species.
"For all the forests we in Indonesia, Brazil or Central Africa do not cut down, G8 countries should reforest a similarly-sized area," says the CoFCCLoT spokeswoman. "Too many agricultural areas in Europe and the US are only kept in business because of tariffs and subsidies."
CoFCCLoT members also ask why they are criticized for developing oil palm plantations, even though these produce much more biofuel and oil per unit area than temperate crops such as maize — and thus require much less land to satisfy global demands.
CoFCCLoT points out that nature in wealthy nations needs urgent attention. "Large areas are degraded. Soils are compacted, soil faunas depleted, and their hydrology disrupted and contaminated."
The coalition says that if wealthy nations restore their forests, they can help slow climate change by absorbing atmospheric carbon and provide people with clean water and healthy soils. It also highlights the benefits for species diversity and environmental services. CoFCCLoT notes the opportunities to reintroduce bears, lynx, wolves, beavers and other threatened animals that have been decimated or driven to extinction by rampant exploitation of natural forests in much of the industrialized world.
It says, too, that in the longer-term, ongoing climate change and reforestation may permit tropical mega-fauna to thrive in temperate countries. Lions could be reintroduced to Greece, CoFCCLoT suggests and gorillas might thrive in Spain. Both countries face economic challenges that could be reduced by the revenues from ecotourism.
The coalition acknowledges that their demands will meet some resistance. People might be scared to live near large forests with wild animals and may be resentful of not being allowed access to forest resources. "But people will get used to it," explains the spokeswoman. "It is time to share these global responsibilities," she adds. "The G8 cannot have their cake and eat it too".
For full story, please see: http://news.mongabay.com/2011/0811-cofcclot.html

BACK TO TOP

 

  1. Debt-for-Nature swaps

Source: The Environmental Magazine, 31 July 2011

The debt-for-nature swap concept, whereby a portion of a developing nation’s foreign debt is forgiven in exchange for local investments in environmental conservation measures, dates back to the mid-1980s when Thomas Lovejoy of the non-profit World Wildlife Fund (WWF) first proposed it as a way to deal with the problems of developing nations’ indebtedness and the negative consequences for their natural resources and diverse environments.
The theory goes that if a country with, say, valuable tropical rainforests, is up to its ears in debt, it will sell off or otherwise deplete those natural resources, instead of protecting or conserving them, in order to raise the money needed to pay off its debts. Debt-for-nature swaps can therefore be useful financial mechanisms for helping countries reduce debt without destroying their most valuable natural resources.
Since the first swap was brokered with Bolivia (to protect its Beni Biosphere Reserve and adjacent areas) by the non-profit Conservation International in 1987, many national governments and conservation groups have engaged in similar types of debt-for-nature swap negotiations, especially in tropical countries which contain diverse and threatened species of flora and fauna. Costa Rica has exchanged tens of millions of dollars in debt to protect some of its most pristine and biologically productive rainforests.
In 1998 the U.S. government passed the Tropical Forest Conservation Act to codify debt-for-nature swaps, including formally welcoming non-profit groups like Conservation International, the Nature Conservancy, WWF and others to help arrange the deals and oversee implementation of local initiatives.
But far fewer deals are occurring today for a number of reasons. For one, says the Congressional Research Service, other agreements for debt restructuring and cancellation have reduced developing nations’ debt by significantly more than debt-for-nature swaps can. Another is that the concept has fallen somewhat out of favour. Some experts argue that the financial benefits are overstated, that funds are misdirected to less needy countries, that external debt is not a primary driver of deforestation and other environmental ills, and that funding does not necessarily equate to effective implementation of conservation strategies.
Criticism aside, some deals are still getting done. In 2008, France forgave US$20 million in debt owed by Madagascar to help the biodiversity-rich nation triple the size of its protected areas to better protect its native flora and fauna. In 2010, the U.S. forgave US$21 million in Brazilian debt to fund several ecosystem protection initiatives in Brazil’s still vanishing tropical rainforests. The U.S. has also forgiven debt from the Philippines, Guatemala and Peru in recent years in exchange for on-the-ground conservation efforts. Germany and the Netherlands have each forgiven some of their foreign debt to tropical nations for forest protection as well. So while debt-for-nature swaps are not as popular as they once were, they are still a key tool in the toolbox of environmentalists looking to promote conservation in tropical countries.
For full story, please see: www.emagazine.com/earth-talk/debt-for-nature-swaps/

BACK TO TOP

 

  1. In the management of forests, gender matters

Source: Terry Sunderland in CIFOR, 23 July 2011

At the recent Poverty and Environment Network (PEN) Conference in London, “Counting on the Environment”, some interesting results related to the gender differentiation of roles related to rural livelihoods were presented. Aggregating global data from 36 long-term studies of forest proximate communities in 25 countries, representing more than 8 000 households, it was possible to determine just who does what in contributing to the family’s well-being and what value forest products represent in the livelihood strategies of local people.
There are many assumptions about the role of men and women in contributing to the household economy in many rural societies. The first of these is that men are more likely to be engaged in the generation of cash income from NTFPs while women tend to collect forest products for direct household use. As such, it is therefore assumed that women rely far more on forest products than their male relatives. But is this really the case?
In order to understand the importance of gender, the PEN global data set was used to assess within-household gendered differences, i) in the consumption and sale of forest products and, (ii) in the reliance of processed and unprocessed forest products.
This was able to be done accurately because during the data collection process, information was gathered on who collected what (e.g. male, female, child) and what forest product was actually harvested. To check whether patterns of forest product use are consistent across regions, the analysis was conducted at the global and regional levels. Taken together, the results are somewhat surprising.
Almost without exception, the most able-bodied members of the household (men, women and children) do indeed participate in the collection and processing of forest resources. These include a wide range of products from rattan to resin, fruits to forage, medicines to matting. However, what is surprising is the level of gender specialization in the collection and processing of forest products: put simply, men and women tend to collect different forest products.
Contrary to popular wisdom, the value of forest products collected by men surpasses the value of forest products collected by women. It was also found that women tend to specialize in the collection and processing on forest products that are used for subsistence, whereas men tend to specialize in the harvest of forest products for sale.
There are important regional differences to this overall pattern. In the Latin American cases, the value of unprocessed forest products collected by men considerably surpasses the value of forest products collected by women. In the Asian cases, the value of unprocessed forest products collected by men and women is less marked and in the African cases, the value of unprocessed products collected by women is larger than the value of unprocessed products collected by men. On all three continents, however, men tend to play a more predominant role in the processing and sale of forest products and generate the greatest income. Despite assertions to the opposite, the male members of rural households really are doing their bit for the household economy!
So what does this all mean? The regional differences suggest there is no neat “one-size fits all” policy fit for gender-oriented research or NTFP-focused development interventions. The highly specialized gender differentiation evident from this research suggests that locally focused gender-responsive forestry policies and programs should explicitly take into account the opinions, needs, and interests of both genders.
For full story, please see: http://blog.cifor.org/3803/in-the-management-of-forests-gender-matters/

BACK TO TOP

 

  1. Organizations working with REDD+ forget women

Source: CIFOR, 10 August 10 2011

The exclusion of women is widespread in the forestry sector even though women are primary users and managers of forests and depend on NTFPs in many Asian countries, says a new study.
Jeannette Gurung, Executive Director of Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management (WOCAN) spoke about this “woman oversight” during the two-day Second Regional Forum for People and Forests in Bangkok this week.
In an assessment study for USAID on the gender impact of REDD+ projects in several Asian countries, Gurung and colleagues found that organizations, including UN agencies, had forgotten to include gender issues in crucial REDD+ decisions, even when women have taken on strong roles in forest protection in some areas.
She said that excluding women is widespread in the forestry sector in terms of governance systems, benefits sharing, policy making, capacity building opportunities, education and jobs.
“For a USAID assessment, we interviewed community groups and organizations implementing REDD+ projects in Vietnam, Indonesia, Nepal, Cambodia and Thailand about gender impacts. Almost all the organization officers we talked to had not considered gender issues or women’s roles,” said Gurung. “While the bad news is that everybody seemed to neglect it, the good news is that there was a lot of interest to do something about it,” she added.
Moreover, “We do not see much presence of women in decision-making forums. We have been struggling to get a designated seat for women’s representation in the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility and the Forest Investment Program (World Bank-managed funding mechanisms), so far with little success. Indigenous people are well represented and recognized in these meetings and other high-level bodies that are actually making decisions about where the funding goes for REDD+ readiness, for example. But the same level of recognition and respect for women as a stakeholder is not there,” she said. “The biggest risk is that the REDD+ planners are designing programs that in many ways are going to restrict women’s access to forests. They are looking at carbon, timber and NTFPs and not looking at reliance of women and households on the forest to meet basic subsistence needs, for fuel wood, for example. It could spell disaster.”
The impact for women if they do not get on “that train” is going to extend the hardship of women’s already extremely hard existence. “If the nearby forest is closed off, women will have to search further afield. Or maybe they will have to go out in the middle of the night, which is scary for women.”
What’s more, if women are going to be excluded from these decisions and benefit-sharing mechanisms, they will have no option but to be illegally harvesting NTFPs upon which their families and own livelihoods depend, argues Gurung. “There have to be safeguards that recognize that women have unique roles and constraints in relation to forest management.”
For full story, please see: http://blog.cifor.org/3936/organizations-working-with-redd-forget-women/

BACK TO TOP

 

  1. UN urges greater appreciation of culture and creativity of indigenous peoples

Source: UN News, 9 August 2011

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged the world to recognize the right of indigenous peoples to control their intellectual property, saying they needed help to protect, develop and receive fair compensation for their cultural heritage and traditional knowledge.
“Indigenous peoples face many challenges in maintaining their identity, traditions and customs, and their cultural contributions are at times exploited and commercialized, with little or no recognition,” Mr. Ban said in a message to mark the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples.
“I encourage all Member States to take concrete steps to address the challenges facing indigenous peoples — including marginalization, extreme poverty and loss of lands, territories and resources. Countries should also commit to ending the grave human rights abuses that indigenous peoples encounter in many parts of the world,” he said.
He noted that there were 5 000 distinct groups of indigenous peoples in some 90 countries, who make up more than five percent of the world's population — some 370 million people in total. They are custodians of valuable and often fast-disappearing cultural heritage, the Secretary-General said.
In her statement to mark the Day, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, noted that indigenous peoples around the world have lost, or are under imminent threat of losing, their ancestral lands, territories and natural resources as a result of unfair exploitation for the sake of “development.”
She said natural resource extraction projects such as mining are land-intensive and water-intensive and often directly affect the collective rights of indigenous peoples to their lands and territories.
“All too often we see conflict between corporations, indigenous peoples and the State over development projects which are initiated without consultation or consent of the very people who are dispossessed of their land,” said Ms. Pillay.
Achim Steiner, the Executive Director of UNEP, said the agency was partnering with indigenous peoples in various places — including the Arctic, Africa and so-called small island developing States — to highlight the fact that more than two-thirds of the Earth's biological resources are also the traditional territories of most indigenous peoples.
The Executive Secretary of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity,
Ahmed Djoghlaf, and Jan McAlpine, the Director of the UN Forum on Forests Secretariat, also highlighted the important role that indigenous communities play in global conservation efforts.
For full story, please see: www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=39258&Cr=indigenous&Cr1=

BACK TO TOP

 

  1. Why the BBC is wrong to scrap its Wildlife Fund

Source: Rob St. John, Researcher, Oxford University School for Geography and the Environment, 3 August 2011

It was recently announced that the BBC intends to close its Wildlife Fund, a charity established in 2007 to gather donations to conserve the environments made famous by its wildlife documentary films. Since its inception, the Fund has raised nearly £3 million in donations, the entirety of which is used to support 87 global conservation projects, where an emphasis is placed on sustainable management which links conservation with the economic wellbeing of local communities.
Following UK Chancellor George Osborne’s decision in autumn 2010 to freeze the licence fee for six years, the BBC is seeing its budget fall by 16 percent, with resulting cuts to services.
A petition has been set up in response to the decision, and has gathered 1700+ signatures since 27 July. The petition captures a key, current debate over the appropriate role of wildlife film-making in society. Wildlife film-making has been a source of debate lately as a result of One Life and WWF’s Astonish Me films, with commentators discussing their value in both economic and environmental terms. The arguments are likely to be familiar: do wildlife films portray a realistic representation of wildlife and their environments? Is there a risk of anthropomorphising animals through films? What do these questions mean for how the people engage with (and potentially support) the natural world?
There are at least two arguments that can be pulled out of this current debate to support the continuation of the BBC Wildlife Fund. First, whilst debates over the framing of wildlife in such films are likely to never resolve, the Wildlife Fund gives an opportunity to foster positive action for wildlife conservation through film, regardless of whether there is consensus on its appropriate representation of wildlife. For many people, wildlife films are the primary point of education about the natural world and with this engagement comes an opportunity to provide support for conservation initiatives.
The idea of how best to communicate environmental issues is a debate in flux. The success of environmental messages rooted in “doom and gloom” imagery is on the wane (see, for example last year’s disastrous 10:10 No Pressure campaign), with public surveys revealing fatigue in the relentless communication of negative environmental messages. Despite their potential flaws, wildlife films may provide a positive alternative: encouraging the people to care about (and for) the environment by evoking wonder, awe and curiosity.
Second, and following on from this, the wildlife filmmaking industry may also be criticized for rarely providing adequate financial support for conservation initiatives in the locations used for filming. In other words, wildlife film makers “free-ride” by making a profit on films in locations maintained by others, with little or none of this profit translating back to conservation. It could therefore be argued that by giving the viewer an opportunity to translate the virtual enjoyment of an environment into a donation towards its upkeep, the BBC Wildlife Fund already addresses this growing critical debate.
This argument is not perfect: it is uncertain whether donations received as a result of a particular film will be directly translated back into the featured environment’s conservation; and it does not solve the underlying issue of “free riding” film makers. However, what is clear is that the continuation of the BBC Wildlife Fund allows an — admittedly imperfect — wildlife film-making industry to encourage the conservation of environments it features, so promoting a more sustainable industry.
With this in mind, it seems short-sighted to close the Fund.   To step back to this article’s wider point: the closure of the BBC Wildlife Fund represents the premature end of a model for how the BBC and other wildlife film-making organizations can support the environments they film through conservation initiatives. Wildlife films — from Planet Earth to Springwatch — provide an important, hopeful means for the public to engage with nature, and the Wildlife Fund provides a clear, innovative means of translating this engagement into tangible, cost-effective support for biodiversity conservation.
For full story, please see: www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/commentators/other_comments/1002653/why_the_bbc_is_wrong_to_scrap_its_wildlife_fund.html

BACK TO TOP

 

  1. Wildlife conservation projects achieving success worldwide, study says

Source: Yale Environment 360, 11 August 2011

Conservation efforts to save endangered species worldwide, from the creation of protected areas to campaigns against the illegal trade of wildlife, have had some positive impacts, a new study says.
According to the paper, published in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, a wide range of projects have in many cases reversed extinction rates of endangered species, from the U.S. bald eagle, to wild ungulates in Nepal, to mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, and Rwanda. And at least 16 bird species from five continents are still surviving that would have gone extinct without direct conservation efforts. The paper categorized conservation efforts in three scales: microscale, in which efforts focus on a single species or ecosystem; mesoscale, which occur at regional levels or between nations; and macroscale, which target global organizations and corporations.
One notable success has been the establishment of more than 100 000 protected areas — including national parks, wildlife reserves, and marine protected areas — that now cover more than 7.3 million miles² worldwide. Despite the success stories, however, the authors say such projects require more long-term funding and increased popular and political support.
For full story, please see: http://e360.yale.edu/digest/wildlife_conservation_projects_achieving_success_worldwide_study_says/3079/

BACK TO TOP

 

EVENTS

Restoring Forests for Communities, Biodiversity, and Ecosystem Services
Bogor, Indonesia
12-13 September 2011
Indonesia has tens of millions of ha of degraded land resulting from unsustainable land use practices. From colonial times on, the government has implemented a wide variety of reforestation projects, but typically with limited success due to an array of technical, social and institutional problems.
This conference examines some of the more innovative reforestation approaches being conducted in Indonesia and across the Asia-Pacific region and looks at their (wider) applicability to Indonesia. The conference is followed by a small workshop designed to determine how best to facilitate the adoption of more ecologically- and socially-sound forms of reforestation in Indonesia.
The objectives of the conference include: (1) increasing awareness of the need for forest reforestation as a means to benefit communities, conserve biodiversity, and restore environmental services; (2) introducing different forest restoration approaches with reference to initial social and ecological site conditions and management objectives; and (3) examining the obstacles to and opportunities for more effective forest restoration in Indonesia.
The conference is free and open to the public, though prior registration is required. The workshop is by invitation only.
For more information, please contact:
Environmental Leadership and Training Initiative
Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
205 Prospect Street
New Haven, CT 06511
Tel: (1) 2034369139
E-mail: restorasihutan.sec@gmail.com or elti@yale.edu

BACK TO TOP

 

REMINDER: “Who Will Own the Forest?”
Portland, Oregon (USA)
19-21 September 2011
The World Forestry Center is a non-profit educational organization whose mission is to educate and inform people about the world's forests and trees, and environmental sustainability. This conference will discuss the unique opportunities and challenges of investing in forest lands. Pensions, endowments, and other investors are allocating part of their portfolios to forestland as they seek diversification, inflation protection, and potentially higher rates of return than the bond or equity markets.
The “Who Will Own the Forest?” conference series has become the largest event of its kind in North America, and is considered by many to be the premier forestland investing event. It will offer ample networking and learning opportunities including continuing education credits for appraisers, attorneys, foresters, among others.
For more information, please see:
http://wwotf.worldforestry.org/wwotf7/index.html

BACK TO TOP

 

LITERATURE REVIEW AND WEB SITES

41.       New edition of Nature and Faune available online
From: Ada NdesoAtanga, Deputy Editor of Nature & Faune, August 2011

The most recent edition of Nature & Faune magazine (Vol.25, Issue No.2) is now available online.
This issue examines the “Economic and social significance of forests for Africa’s sustainable development”. You can read in these pages about efforts of African nations to sustainably manage their forests. Authors share cases and experiences highlighting efforts of forest and natural resource managers to develop innovative partnerships with new stakeholders outside the traditional forest sector. As you delve into the magazine, you will find out where to obtain information on the contribution of wildlife to national economies.
The regular feature “Country Focus” shines the spotlight on Lesotho. The special article features the socioeconomic value of forests in Rwanda where wood for fuel and other uses are harvested from man-made forests, while natural forests are protected. On the menu are eleven other articles presenting diverse and rich views from Zambia, Gabon, South Africa, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, and sub-regional perspectives from West and Central Africa. These articles and features are set within the context of International Year of the Forests 2011.
The theme of the next issue is “The forest sector in the green economy in Africa”; articles and suggestions can be sent to nature-faune@fao.org / Ada.Ndesoatanga@fao.org
For more information, please see: ww.fao.org/africa/publications/nature-and-faune-magazine/

BACK TO TOP

 

42.       Integrating NTFPs into Forest Planning and Practices in British Columbia
From: Centre for Livelihoods and Ecology, Royal Roads University (British Columbia, Canada), July 2011

NTFPs are an important forest resource in British Columbia, with the potential to make a significant economic contribution to small, resource-based communities. Integrating NTFPs into Forest Planning and Practices in British Columbia is a follow-up to Canada’s Forest Practice Board's 2004 that examined the topic of NTFPs and opportunities for enhancing NTFPs while managing for timber. The follow-up work found that the Board's original recommendations regarding research and knowledge extension have been implemented to a fair degree, but exploration of regulatory options and development of objectives for NTFPs — with limited exceptions related mostly to cultural heritage resources — have not.
To view full report, please see: www.fpb.gov.bc.ca/SR41_Follow_Up_Integrating_NTFP_into_Forest_Planning_and_Practices_in_BC.pdf

BACK TO TOP

 

43.       Towards a People’s History of the Law: Biocultural Jurisprudence and the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing
From: Traditional Knowledge Bulletin, 26 July 2011

The authors’ analysis of the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS), featured in the July issue Law, Environment and Development Journal, comes from an understanding of the law as a “site of struggle” where different groups lobby for their interests. Some of these groups are clearly more powerful than others, which explains the reticence of State law regarding rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. However, they consider critical to acknowledge that power begets resistance and that indigenous peoples and local communities have not just been passive victims of the law but on the contrary have fought strategic and pitched battles to stem and sometimes turn the legal tide. In this context, the authors analyze the Nagoya Protocol with the aid of three guiding questions: what was the status quo prior to the Nagoya Protocol; what did indigenous peoples and local communities seek to achieve through the Protocol and how did they go about doing this; and what is the outcome of these community efforts in the Nagoya Protocol. In answering these questions, they also attempt to map the emerging biocultural rights of indigenous peoples and local communities under the CBD, as well as their struggles specifically within the CBD Working Groups on ABS and on Article 8(j), aiming to trace the trajectory of the activism of indigenous peoples and local communities in the CBD processes.
To view article, please see: www.lead-journal.org/content/11035.pdf

BACK TO TOP

 

44.       Other publications of Interest
From: FAO’s NWFP Programme

Abson, D.J., and Termansen, M. 2011. Valuing ecosystem services in terms of ecological risks and returns. Conserv. Biol. 25(2):250-258.

Benjamin, A. And McCallum, B. 2011. Bees in the City. UK: Guardian Books.

Brooks, T.M., and Matiku, P. 2011. The science-policy interface for safeguarding key biodiversity areas. Anim. Conserv. 14(2):111-113.

Colyvan, M., Justus, J., and Regan, H.M. 2011. The conservation game. Biol. Conserv. 144(4):1246-1253.

Caro,T. 2011. On the merits and feasibility of wildlife monitoring for conservation: a case study from Katavi National Park, Tanzania. African Journal of Ecology. 49:3. 320-331. 

Dawson, T.P., Jackson, S.T., House, J.I., Prentice, I.C., and Mace, G.M. 2011. Beyond predictions: biodiversity conservation in a changing climate. Science 332(6025):53-58.

Elevitch, C.R. (ed). 2011. Specialty Crops for Pacific Islands. Hawaii: Permanent Agriculture Resources.
Abstract: From bamboo to black pepper, cacao to coconut, tea to taro — Specialty Crops for Pacific Islands provides detailed cultivation, value-added, and marketing information for over two dozen of the most important specialty crops for Pacific Islands and other tropical locations.
Specialty crops provide a rapidly growing economic opportunity for innovative farmers and gardeners who are interested in diversifying their products. The book provides insights into sustainable cultivation and processing techniques for local and export markets with an emphasis on innovating production methods, postharvest processing, and marketing.
Additionally, this is a reference book for gardeners and small farmers throughout the tropics who are interested in new economic opportunities from specialty crops. This new resource book — by 40 contributing experts — covers value-added processing, enterprise development, accessing unique markets, sustainable local food production, economic and ecological viability, multi-crop agroforestry systems and local systems with export potential.
This new book promotes high-quality food, fibre, and health care crops grown in diverse agroforestry systems with an emphasis on providing small farms with opportunities for local consumption and commercial sale.
For more information, please see: www.specialitycrops.info

Fedele, G., Urech, Z. L., Rehnus, M., and Sorg, J. P. 2011. Impact of women's harvest practices on Pandanus guillaumetii in Madagascar's lowland rainforests. Economic Botany. 65: 2, 158-168.

Jew, E. And Bonnington, C. 2011. Socio-demographic factors influence the attitudes of local residents towards trophy hunting activities in the Kilombero Valley, Tanzania. African Journal of Ecology. 49:3.

Kumaraswamy, S., and Udayakumar, M. 2011. Biodiversity banking: a strategic conservation mechanism. Biodivers. Conserv. 20(6):1155-1165.

Lemenih, M. and Kassa, H. (eds) 2011. Opportunities and challenges for sustainable production and marketing of gums and resins in Ethiopia. Indonesia: Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
Abstract: This publication is intended to serve researchers and teachers as well as development practitioners. It was prepared based on requests from CIFOR’s national partners in Ethiopia and the region to compile existing information and help address the lack of documents available for teaching graduate and undergraduate students about the management of forests in dryland areas in general, and the production and marketing of gums and resins in particular. By describing the current status of the dry forest resource base and the production and marketing of gums and resins, this publication contributes toward filling the existing knowledge gap.
Chapter 1 presents an overview of challenges and forest-based opportunities in the drylands of Ethiopia. Chapter 2 describes in detail the resource base of gums and resins as well as the challenges to their productivity. Chapter 3 discusses production, handling and quality control, while Chapter 4 addresses value-added processing and the marketing of gums and resins. Finally, Chapter 5 summarises challenges and opportunities as well as actions for sustainable gum and resin production
Link: www.cifor.org/nc/online-library/browse/view-publication/publication/3478.html

Lima, B., Lopez, S., Luna, L., Aguero, M. B., Aragon, L., Tapia, A., Zacchino, S., Lopez, M. L., Zygadlo, J., and Feresin, G. E. 2011. Essential oils of medicinal plants from the Central Andes of Argentina: chemical composition, and antifungal, antibacterial, and insect-repellent activities. Chemistry & Biodiversity. 8: 5, 924-936. 35 ref.

Maneesha Singh Singay, M. A. 2011. Ethno-botanical survey of medicinal plants among Barso Nallah area in Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir. International Journal of Forest Usufructs Management. 12: 1, 68-76.

Mohammed Alamgir Naser Ahmed Sohel et al. 2011. Forest resources and poor peoples of Bangladesh. International Journal of Forest Usufructs Management. 12: 1, 118-130.

Rahman, M. H., Khan, M. A., Fardusi, M. J., Bishwajit Roy Anik, S. I. 2011. Forest resources consumption by the Patra tribe community living in and around the Khadimnagar National Park, Bangladesh. International Journal of Forest Usufructs Management. 12: 1, 95-111.

Roman, M. de. 2010. Wild edible fungi in Spain: present situation and future perspectives. 555-590. in Martínez-Carrera, D., Curvetto, N., Sobal, M., Morales, P., Mora, V. M. (eds). 2010. Hacia un desarrollo sostenible del sistema de producción-consumo de los hongos comestibles y medicinales en latinoamérica: avances y perspectivas en el siglo XXI. Germany: Universidad de Duisberg-Essen.

BACK TO TOP

 

45.       Web sites and E-zines
From: FAO’s NWFP Programme

FAO STAT
The preliminary 2010 Forest Products Statistics have been just released on the FAO web site:
http://faostat.fao.org/site/630/default.aspx

Forest Products
This web site is dedicated to the Netherlands Development Organization’s work on Forest products in Nepal.
www.snvworld.org/en/countries/nepal/ourwork/Pages/forestry.aspx

 

BACK TO TOP

 

MISCELLANEOUS

  1. Cities could be the key to saving pollinating insects

Source: BBC, 2 August 2011

Professor Memmott and her team, from the University of Bristol, are in a typical residential street just outside of the centre of Bristol. They are gathering data for a Britain-wide survey, which will provide a snapshot of the number of insect pollinators — bees, butterflies, beetles and flies — that can be found in an urban area like this.
To do this, they are sweeping along a transect — a 1 km-long straight line — across the city, and stopping every 10 m to count and identify the number of flowers and pollinators they find.
It does not matter if it is a car park, roundabout or a residential street like the one they are looking at today — every patch that falls along this line is being scrutinized.
This mammoth task is being repeated in 12 cities all over Britain — from Dundee in the north to Southampton in the south.
Then in addition to these urban centres, the team is carrying out exactly the same survey in 12  farmland habitats and 12 nature reserves, also spread out across the length and breadth of Britain.
Dr Katherine Baldock, from the University of Bristol, who is managing the project, says: "The project is probably the largest field study ever of pollinators and their habitats in the UK.
It will show for the first time how these different habitats compare. Professor Memmott explains: "We are asking: where are pollinators in the UK? Are they in urban habitats, are they in farmlands or are they in nature reserves?
"To find this out, you need to really sample all of those habitats in the same way, which together make up about 98 percent of the surface area of the UK."
While the urban sprawl has been linked to declines in wildlife, the researchers suspect that cities may offer an unlikely haven for these essential insects. "Cities can be good because they contain a huge diversity of sites: you have gardens, meadows, and nature reserves," says Professor Memmott. "All of these habitats can add up to a really special resource for pollinators."
Gardeners help too, she says. The residential street in Bristol that is being surveyed reveals an eclectic array of plants — from carefully planted lavender to pockets of weeds like toad-flax - and plenty of insects buzzing about and pollinating them.
In contrast, farmland habitats can offer a feast and famine situation for insects: when a crop such as oil seed rape is in flower, pollinators will flock, but once the bloom is over, there is little there for them.
And in nature reserves, the researchers think that plant choice may be limited too. Professor Memmott explains: "There is a greater diversity and abundance of flowers in cities than there probably is in nature reserves and the countryside.
"The flowering season is longer, because gardeners love things that flower really early and flower really late, so there is forage over a longer period of time. And my gut feeling is that this is probably more of a reliable source of food."
80 percent of British plant species depend on insect pollination — and many of these are key food crops. But there has been a dramatic decline in pollinator numbers in recent years, which has been linked to environmental changes, pests and disease.
One species that has been particularly badly hit is the bee. Tim Lovett, from the British Beekeepers Association, says: "We have concerns about the decline in insect pollinators.
"And if you track it, over the last 30 or 40 years, the number of beekeepers has declined, the number of hives has declined — and there must be a tipping point when you do not have enough pollinators to carry out the job that they do."
The scientists carrying out the survey say that finding out where pollinating insects are doing well could help to boost their numbers. And if it is the city, then the team says there is much that can be done to make our concrete jungles even more attractive to these vital insects.
"We want to make a really big difference to the lives of pollinators: to up their diversity and abundance in cities," explains Professor Memmott."If we know what is limiting them, we stand a chance of fixing that — we can add more food, and more resources to cities to make a difference.
For full story, please see: www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-14309007

BACK TO TOP
 

 

QUICK TIPS AND INFORMATION FOR NWFP-DIGEST-L

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: mailserv@mailserv.fao.org with the message:
subscribe NWFP-Digest-L

To make a contribution once on the list, please send an e-mail to the following address: NWFP-Digest-L@mailserv.fao.org

To unsubscribe, please send an e-mail to: mailserv@mailserv.fao.org with the message:
unsubscribe NWFP-Digest-L

For technical help or questions contact NWFP-Digest-L@mailserv.fao.org

 

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
FAO
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
00100 Rome, Italy
Fax: +39-06-570-55618
Web site NWFP programme: www.fao.org/forestry/foris/webview/fop/index.jsp?siteId=2301&langId=1

 

last updated:  Monday, April 30, 2012