No. 4/11

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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. or













  • Bamboo: African nations ride the possibilities of home-grown bamboo bicycles

Source: AFP in the Vancouver Sun, 12 February 2011

The sight of tall, green bamboo stalks swaying above the dusty lands of his West African country led Ibrahim Djan Nyampong to an unusual conclusion: bicycles.
Under the shade at a workshop in Ghana, young artisans are making them — from mountain racers to cargo bamboo bikes — to suit needs of customers, now as far afield as the United States and Europe.
"The beginning was not easy as people thought it was a joke to make bicycles from bamboo," Nyampong said as he supervised work at the small factory outside Accra. "Now people are warming towards the bamboo bike."
With bamboo a strong, affordable and environmentally friendly material readily available to manufacturers, African countries including Ghana, Uganda and Zambia have seen the start of production of such bicycles.
It has not gone unnoticed. The Ghana initiative is one of 30 recipients of the 2010 UNEP SEED awards for projects that tackle poverty while promoting the sustainable use of resources.
American engineer Craig Calfee, among those credited with introducing the sturdy bicycles to Africa's rugged terrain, said he developed the technique in 1995. It was not until 10 years later that he perfected the art and got his first bamboo bike on the market. The idea of joining bamboo tubes with epoxy-soaked fibre crossed his mind when he was thinking of a "fun bike to draw publicity at a trade show."
Bamboo grows quickly and has been popular with furniture crafters, among other industries, but it is now winning the hearts of environmentalists seeking sustainable building materials. Bamboo bicycles can be designed to suit individual needs, including "school bus bikes" with multiple seats. Able to handle shocks and vibrations as well as heavy loads, the bikes have been seen as a potential solution for rural farmers — though the US$150 price for the labour-intensive product has limited sales locally.
"My friends have been using the bikes for a long time and they are still strong," said 60-year-old farmer Kofi Kugbelenu, who travelled 320 km from the Volta Region to place an order. "I am buying one for myself and one for my son."
After harvesting, stalks are smoked and heat-treated to prevent splitting. The tubes are then tacked with adhesive and wrapped using epoxy-impregnated fibre. While frames are moulded from bamboo, pedals, wheels and saddles are made of conventional materials. Nyampong said his organization is trying to develop its own bamboo bike handles and crash helmets.
Export demand has surged since the bikes were exhibited during President Barack Obama's visit to Ghana in 2009. "Business is now booming, especially in the area of export," said Nyampong. He said his company expects to sell about 300 bikes this year, mostly for export to the United States and Austria.
Producing the bikes does not require costly infrastructure, but takes a large amount of time and effort. "You do not need to import the bamboo. There are plenty in the bush. Without electricity you can manufacture a bike," said apprentice Prince Addo-Asante at the factory in Sowutuom, a town on the fringes of the capital Accra.
For full story, please see:



  • Bamboo: In Bali, bamboo is the bricks and mortar

Source: The New York Times, 10 March 2011

Three dozen buildings will ultimately form the “Green Village,” which is going up on 3 ha of land. One has been completed, and its owner is moving in next week. A second is expected to be finished in a few weeks and several more in the next few months. Five homes have been sold already and the sales of at least four more are being negotiated.
Each one boggles the mind, pleasantly, doing things with bamboo that you would never think bamboo could do.  “We are taking bamboo to a different level,” said Ms. Macarena Chiriboga, an architect who is from Ecuador. “Where I come from, in South America, bamboo is seen as a poor man’s material. If you are rich, you will not use it to build a house. When I show people pictures of what we are doing here, they are amazed. They never thought you could do these things with bamboo.”
Each of the houses is unique, fitted around the plot on which it is built, said Elora Hardy, Creative Director at Ibuku, the building company designing the “Green Village”.
Possibly the most unusual aspect of the Ibuku houses — apart from the fact that they are 98 percent bamboo — is that their sides are largely open to the elements. Beneath the canopy-like roofs, which are in turn overshadowed by the jungle, there are only floors and the bamboo support pillars. The houses have 150 to 300 m² of living space, but no walls, no windows. That may sound unbearably hot and steamy, but there generally is a gentle breeze blowing through the structures.
Buyers can opt to have parts of their houses enclosed — with bamboo walls — so the areas can be cooled and dehumidified. But most areas are free of energy-guzzling air-conditioning and costly insulation materials. Ibuku also plans to take the whole “village” off Bali’s electric grid, providing power from biomass, the energy given off by decaying natural materials — all in line with the green, environmentalist philosophy that pervades the development.
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  • Bushmeat in the Republic of Congo: Gorilla poaching still a massive threat

Source:, 10 March 2011

Gorilla poaching in the Republic of the Congo continues unabated according to the latest research. The most recent known death was a female gorilla killed near Ndinga Village in November; gorilla meat meanwhile is still for sale in food markets of Pointe Noire, the Republic's second largest city.
During December 2010 and February 2011, Endangered Species International (ESI) undertook several field expeditions in the deep rainforest between Loaka and Boungolo in the Kouliou region of the Republic of Congo to locate remaining western lowland gorillas. Bushmeat remains the biggest threat to the gorillas' survival. The ESI team also held conservation awareness programmes throughout the villages.
During the field surveys, ESI discovered and followed a previously unidentified group of gorillas. Approaching them was extremely difficult because the gorillas strongly feared humans, confirming that hunting pressure is high. The group was found in Marantaceae swampy forest making it difficult to follow them closely. ESI observed the gorillas from a distance of about 20 m throughout the thick vegetation.
Although there is delight on the discovery of gorillas between Loaka and Boungolo, this is tempered by fears that many more gorillas may be taken each year outside the region pushing their populations closer to extinction. Other threats include forest destruction and diseases such as Ebola.
In August 2009, ESI revealed that western lowland gorillas were sold as bushmeat in Kouliou of the Republic of Congo. Gorilla meat is sold pre-cut and smoked for about US$6 per “hand-sized” piece. A subsequent expedition to find the source of the meat found that two gorillas had been killed in just over a week. To this day, gorilla meat is still for sale and strong local conservation and livelihood activities are urgently needed to save remaining gorillas.
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  • Bushmeat in Ecuador: Market in the rainforest thrives

Source: The World, 15 March 2011

At an open-air market on the bank of the Napo River in eastern Ecuador, a group of men bid on smoked wild animal parts offered for sale by four native Huaorani women. The women have just arrived here in the village of Pompeya by motorized canoe from their territory across the Napo. Within a day or two, the meat from their rainforest home will be served in restaurants across Ecuador’s Amazonia region.
The Pompeya market is the only regular bushmeat bazaar in Ecuador, and business is brisk. A recent report estimated that about 12 tons is sold here every year. Quito-based Biologist Esteben Suarez, who wrote the report, says nearly 50 species are traded at the market, including the agouti — a large local rodent — wild pigs, birds, reptiles and fish. Suarez says the numbers are growing, and the hunting is starting to take a toll.
“They are pretty much catching every single monkey that they can get their hands on,” Suarez says. He is worried about the impact on animal local populations, but he is more concerned about the overall health of the forest. Big mammals like the agouti perform critical jobs in a rainforest, like dispersing seeds and controlling seed-eating rodents. A forest without its big mammals could be an ecosystem in trouble.
The problem is especially acute because of where the Huaorani live. Their forest territory is in what is now the Yasuni National Park, which harbours among the greatest variety of animal and plant life on Earth. Among its hundreds of animals species are troops of common howler monkeys and rare mammals such as jaguars and pumas.
The Huaorani have hunted in this forest for centuries but until recently only to feed themselves. What is happening now is different.  “It is totally illegal,” says Ecuadorean wildlife official Javier Vargas. Vargas says the Huaorani have the right to hunt, but only for subsistence. Commercial hunting is not permitted, which may be why it is difficult to find any Huaorani willing to talk about the bushmeat trade.
            The Huaorani have been selling bushmeat to outsiders since the 1960s, when Ecuador began to open its Amazonian lowlands to oil drilling. The Huaorani developed an appetite for modern goods, and hunting earned them cash.
It was a new road, however, that turned the new commercial hunting from a small problem into a big one. The road was built by an oil Company in the 1990s, and was touted at the time as ecologically friendly, because access would be tightly controlled. That has mostly prevented the kinds of problems that have followed new forest roads elsewhere, such as homesteading and clearing of the forest by outsiders. But it seems no one foresaw that the road would become a bushmeat superhighway. It created an easy route out of the forest for Huaorani hunters, including free transportation. Any Huaorani can hitch a ride on an oil company vehicle. Biologist Suarez says that means hunters can bring out a lot more meat.
Vargas says the Government has already tried seizing all the animals in similar markets elsewhere, and that does not work. Instead, he says the environment ministry plans to join forces with other institutions to help to fight the issue in a more strategic way. Among other things, they are trying to develop ecotourism and other sources of income for the Huaorani,
Wildlife scientist Esteban Suarez is cautiously optimistic about such plans. But he says the Ecuadorean Government will need to work creatively to protect the forest and its wildlife while also respecting the rights of the people who live there.
For full story, please see:



  • Cork: Wine drinkers now have directory of wines with cork

Source:, February 2011

100% Cork — a US-based campaign to educate wine consumers about the benefits of choosing wine with real cork because of cork’s environmental, technical and societal advantages — announced the launch this month of CorkWatch, an on-line directory of more than 1 500 wines that indicates which ones are sealed with natural cork.
“U.S. wine drinkers overwhelmingly prefer wine with cork, but it has been difficult for them to determine if a bottle is sealed with a cork or a plastic stopper,” said Peter Weber, Executive Director of the Cork Quality Council. “CorkWatch lifts the veil on wine closures by providing definitive information about whether a bottle of wine is finished with real cork or not.”
            CorkWatch can be accessed at the campaign’s Facebook page. The resource was launched with 1 540 wines of top selling premium brands.  More than 50 wineries made entries to CorkWatch on the first day they were offered the opportunity to do so. 
For more information, please see:



  • Maple syrup: Snow helps and hampers maple syrup producers

Source: The Associated Press in Bloomberg news, 10 February 2011

The mountains of snow that have buried the Northeast U.S. this winter will have a sweet — and just slightly bitter — taste for the region's maple syrup producers. Sweet because an abundance of snow actually helps with the production of the sap that is boiled down to produce syrup; but bitter because too much snow is just as much a chore for maple syrup producers to deal with as it is for the rest of us.
Nevertheless, generally speaking, "snow is considered a good thing," says Steve Childs, New York state maple specialist with Cornell University. It moderates the temperature in the woods, keeping it cool if the air warms up, which is good for maple. The snow layers also insulate the ground, keeping it from freezing too deep so trees can draw up moisture during sap flow, which can start in February, or earlier if there is a thaw.
"So we like to see some snow," he said. "Of course, if it gets deeper than what maple tubing lines are then it gets to be quite a problem, but I do not think we are there in most places.”
"The deep snow will keep the ground thawed out so sap will start when the air temperature is ready," said David Silloway, 65, a syrup producer and dairy farmer. "The deep snow will keep the sap cool, air cool, so that it will make lighter syrup."
Lighter syrup is typically produced early in the season when it is colder. As it warms up the syrup tends to get darker with a more robust flavour as microorganisms feed on the sugar coming out of the tree.
"It is kind of like cheese. The flavour is dictated by the microorganisms," said Timothy Perkins, director of the University of Vermont Proctor Maple Research Centre.
Thanks to all that snow, the whole process could take three to four days, rather than one to two when there is not much left on the ground. "It just gets harder to work in the woods," said Winton Pitcoff, coordinator for the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association. His advice: wait. "The snow will compact eventually," he said.
Last year, spring came on fast in New England, warming up too much and cutting the season short for some, particularly those who collect sap in buckets hanging from trees. That prompted more producers to install vacuum lines, which actually pull the sap from the tree.
"Particularly after last year the evidence was really there that it makes a huge difference," said Pitcoff. "You get more sap, significantly more sap."
However, it all comes down to the weather during those several weeks of sugaring season. That is the period when temperatures rise above freezing enough for trees to run sap and before it is warm enough for them to push out leaves.
Warm days followed by below freezing nights is prime sugaring weather, so that frozen trees full of sap thaw out and push out sap through holes and then freeze up at night and suck in moisture from the ground for more sap production.
The previous spring and summer also play a role. Vermont — the country's maple syrup giant, which produced 890 000 gallons in 2010 — had a good growing season last year. With ample moisture and plenty of sunshine the trees were able to produce enough sugar through photosynthesis.
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  • Maple Syrup: Tapping an urban source of maple syrup

Source: Boston Globe (USA), 2 March 2011 are no picturesque cabins tucked into snowy woods on the streets of Somerville and Medford, Massachusetts, USA. But there is sap from maples. And urban trees can yield sweet results. The Somerville Maple Syrup Project taps trees in both cities and will turn the sap into syrup at its annual boil down this weekend.
“Doing urban agriculture is a whole different beast from doing rural agriculture,’’ says Groundwork Somerville Gardens Coordinator Tai Dinnan, who heads the project. The effort is coordinated by her group, a non-profit organization that takes a creative approach to community development. Its members want to raise awareness about urban agriculture and healthy eating.
The effort is not without obstacles. “Things that are easy to do in a rural area, like building a wood fire, are illegal to do in a city.’’ says Dinnan. But you need fire to boil syrup, so the group will use a wood stove, built by a Somerville High School class. Sap comes only from healthy trees not directly exposed to road salt or car pollution. Residents with sugar maples in their yards are invited to donate the use of their trees. Tufts University students volunteer for the project, and several trees on the campus are tapped.
Project members went into second-grade classrooms to talk about syrup, beginning with where it comes from. “[Volunteers] go through a series of lessons with the children, even mapping a weather chart, so it touches curriculum across the boards.’’
Katie Gradowski, one of the volunteers from Somerville, travels the city on a bike cart, collecting gallons of maple sap. “We had a tree tapping event last Saturday, and there were probably 50 people that came out to tap the trees for the first time,’’ she says.
The boil down typically yields only a few gallons of syrup, which is given to volunteers and sold at the Groundwork Somerville booth at the Union Square farmers’ market. The impact of the project is less easily measured. “Our goal is to produce a food item. But really the project is more about changing people’s perspectives,’’ says Dinnan. “It gets a lot of people to think about urban trees in a different way.’’
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  • Medicinal plants in Peru: The Maca root and biopiracy in Peru

Source: Traditional knowledge Bulletin, 16 March 2011

The Maca root(Lepidium meyenii) is an herbaceous, perennial, cultivated crop that is native to the Andes in Peru. Maca plants have medicinal values that include increasing stamina, fertility, and alleviating insomnia. The market for maca is large in Peru.
For centuries, the people in the Andes have been using the maca root for its medicinal properties and now maca is exported around the world. The Peruvian people’s use of maca for medicinal purposes is an example of valuable traditional knowledge.
The Commission for the Promotion of Exports (PROMPEX) indicates that maca exports have grown in the U.S. from US$1 056 287 in 1998 to US$3 016 240 in 2002. The main markets are Japan (with almost 50 percent of maca exports) the United States, Venezuela and Hungary. In 2002, 13 557 metric tons of maca extracts were exported to the U.S., valued at US$863 094.
Concern about possible biopiracy of the maca root is one reason why Peru established the National Anti-Biopiracy Commission, to develop ways to identify, prevent, and avoid acts of biopiracy.
Moreover, the National Institute for the Defence of Competition and Intellectual Property (INDECOPI) is a Peruvian government agency charged with the responsibility of market promotion and protection of consumer rights, as well as ensuring honest competition while protecting all forms of intellectual property. INDECOPI discovered that there were over 100 patents directed to inventions related to Peruvian indigenous plants, the maca root or that included maca derivatives in the patent claims.
The Peruvian Working Group, headed by INDECOPI, decided to first focus on U.S. patents directed to extracts of maca plants. In particular, the U.S. patents prevented Peruvian farmers from exporting maca extracts to the U.S. The Working Group’s strategy was to first challenge the validity of the patents to clear the way for Peruvian farms to export maca and maca products into the U.S. as well as other countries. If this strategy for challenging the U.S. patents works, challenges to other patents issued in other countries will follow.
For more information, please see:



  • Medicinal plants in Egypt under threat

Source:, 2 March 2011

Since prehistoric times, people all over the planet have used plants’ curative properties as medicinal remedies for various ills. More than half a million species of plants have been identified on earth, of which approximately 10 percent, mostly growing in the wild, are used for medicinal purposes.
Egypt, due to its strategic location at the junction of four bio-geographical regions, is home to a wide variety of flora. Medicinal plants in Egypt have been part of the country’s natural and cultural heritage for thousands of years. In desert countries like Egypt, communities live far away from each other, and thus many are almost deprived of proper medical infrastructure, which contributes to the major role played by traditional healers even now.
Today, Egypt is home to 384 different species of medicinal plants found in the Mediterranean coastal region. The area of Saint Catherine is one of Egypt’s most fertile grounds for medicinal plants, and no less than 102 species are to be found in this 4 000 km² protectorate. But here plant life is facing various threats, and a decline in the variety of species has been observed. What’s more, 16 of the 102 medicinal plant species found in the southern part of the Sinai Peninsula are endemic, which means that they have to be protected, collected and replanted in order to avoid their complete disappearance.
In order to preserve this natural and cultural heritage, the NGO Medicinal Plants Conservation Project, supported by the National Conservation Sector, was created in 2003 in Saint Catherine to protect native medicinal plants and also include the local Bedouin communities.
The project's manager, Adel Abd Alla Soliman, says its goal is to “develop and empower the local communities to conserve these plants, use them in a sustainable way and benefit from them.” He adds that medicinal plants have been traditionally used by local Bedouin communities as a source of affordable and accessible health care. As a consequence, some of the elderly possess an immense amount of knowledge regarding the properties of these plants and their curative values.
Educating young people on the use of medicinal plants to keep traditional knowledge alive is one aspect of the NGO’s work on the ground; they also carried out a threat analysis and threat reduction assessment for the plants in the governorate. Soliman explains that the result of this survey was unexpected: “We discovered that the main cause for the reduction in medicinal plants was the feral donkey, which eats whatever plant it finds and uproots the plant completely before swallowing it.”
Because of the severe drought in the area of Saint Catherine and the rarefaction of plants in general, these feral donkeys, whose population is estimated at 215, became the number one threat for medicinal plants. “We encouraged Bedouins to help us catch these donkeys, we would give them a LE150 compensation for each donkey caught, and then we started giving them to the Giza Zoo,” Soliman says.
The second major threat to the plants was destructive harvesting habits by the Bedouins that prevent re-growth. The NGO organized lectures and educational programs to address this issue. The other threats, according to Soliman, were “overgrazing of sheep and goats, tourist intrusions which crushed plants and unregulated collection of plants by scientific researchers.”
In order to preserve the wide variety of medicinal plants present in Saint Catherine, especially the 16 endemic species, the NGO has applied in-situ and ex-situ conservation.
There is a third aspect to conservation efforts called the “restoration program,” which consists of replanting medicinal plant species in areas where they previously thrived but are no longer found. Seeds from some of the medicinal plants are sealed in tubes and protected at the gene banks in Cairo and in El-Arish so the species are not lost with time. “We preserve 411 specimens representing 170 medicinal plant species in the Cairo Gene Bank, and 16 specimens in El-Arish,” says Soliman.
In 2007, the NGO decided to improve the quality of the products, mainly the dry processed medicinal plants, in order to bring revenue to the communities involved in the project. “At first, the Bedouin sold 1 kg of dry herbs for LE15, but it was dusty and filled with wood chips. So I offered the idea of producing smaller quantities of much higher quality, which they could sell for LE400/kg” The NGO applied for an official certification for organic production and then got a licence from the Ministry of Solidarity allowing them to market the products.
“With these products, we improve the livelihood of the people while conserving the natural resources,” says Soliman.
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  • Monkey Kola: Underutilized fruits of Nigeria

Source: Platform for Agrobiodiversity Research Newsletter, 16 March 2011

West and Central subregions of Sub-Saharan Africa have been known to hold great array of Cola species among which are the commercial varieties Kola nuts (C. acuminate and C. nitida). Monkey Kola is a common name given to certain wild Cola spp relatives of the subregions. They include the Cola pachycarpa K.Schum (White Monkey kola), C. lateritia K.Schum (Red Monkey kola) and C. lepidota K.Schum (Yellow Monkey kola). All these yield edible fruits of varying characteristics and sweetness.  The species are known in southern Nigeria, where they are common sights in local markets during the peak fruiting season by June to November. 
All of the species are identified by various local names in southeastern Nigeria: “Achicha” or “Ochiricha” in Igbo and Ndiyah in Efik as well as Ibibio. As underutilized indigenous fruit trees, there is scanty research and information on the monkey kola species.  However, the nutritional value of the fruits have been evaluated and quantified by the authors.
Monkey kola fruits have long been among the primary NTFPs of the humid forest belt of southeastern Nigeria.  The produce are consumed by men, women and children alike because of their natural tasty pulp, especially that of the species C. lepidota and C. pachycarpa.  The value of these underutilized indigenous fruit trees (UIFT) in meeting the micro nutrient needs of local people, in alleviating food insecurity and as a source of income for resource-poor farmers cannot be over stressed.  The World Agroforestry Centre states that African indigenous fruit trees constitute one of the best tools readily available for preventing diseases caused by the lack or insufficient supply of vitamins in the diet. 
Domestication efforts focusing on finding the most productive species/varieties of these indigenous fruit trees with high nutritive value and good market potential should be researched further. 
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  • Moringa: Miracle tree in Asia

Source: The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka), 13 February 2011

Moringa oleifera commonly referred to as Murunga in Sinhala, Drumstick Tree in English, and Murungai in Tamil, is known in over 82 countries and by over 200 different names. The Moringa was highly valued by the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians as early as 2000 B.C. for its medicinal properties.
A perennial small shrub or tree that can reach 12m in height at maturity, it can live up to 20 years. It is the fastest-growing of all trees as it can reach 3m in just 10 months after the seed is planted. It has deep roots (thus can survive in dry regions) and a wide-open crown with a single stem. It thrives well in high temperatures and more sunlight.
The immature green pods called “drumsticks” are probably the most valued and widely used part of the tree. They are commonly consumed in Sri Lanka and India, generally prepared like green beans and have a slight asparagus taste. The seeds are sometimes removed from more mature pods and eaten like peas or roasted like nuts. The flowers are edible when cooked, and are said to taste like mushrooms.
The leaves are highly nutritious; they are a significant source of beta-carotene, Vitamin C protein and potassium. The leaves are cooked and used like spinach, salad, greens, pickles, seasonings and in vegetable curries. Also leaves are commonly dried and crushed into powder, and used in soups and sauces. This dried powder can be stored for many months without refrigeration, and without loss of nutritional value.
Moringa leaves and pods are helpful in increasing breast milk in nursing mothers. One tablespoon of leaf powder provides 14 percent of the protein, 40 percent of the calcium, 23 percent of the iron and most of the Vitamin A needs of a child aged one to three. Six tablespoons of leaf powder will provide nearly all of a woman’s daily iron and calcium needs during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
According to Ayurveda, about 300 diseases can be cured with the help of various parts of this tree. Parts of the moringa tree are used to treat anxiety, diarrhoea and inflammation of the colon, skin infections, scurvy, intestinal parasites, venomous bites and many other conditions. Studies have also examined certain compounds of the plant for their cancer prevention potential.
Moringa seeds yield a 38 to 40 percent edible oil called Ben oil. The refined oil is clear, odourless and resists rancidity at least as well as any other botanical oil. The nutritional value of the oil is very similar to olive oil. The seed cake remaining after oil extraction may be used as a fertilizer or as a flocculent to purify drinking water. Two researchers from University of Leicester, England show Moringa oleifera as effective as Aluminium sulphate for water treatment in removing suspended solids from turbid water.
India is the largest producer of Moringa, with an annual production of 1.3 million tons of tender fruits.
In Sri Lanka dry zone areas like Kalpitiya, Jaffna, Monaragala, and Mahiyanganaya are the main areas where Murunga is commonly available. This local variety bears fruit twice a year and prices vary between Rs. 50-100 depending on the supply available in the market.
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  • Rattan: WWF showcases sustainable rattan use amid design revival

Source: WWF, 12 February 2011

Natural rattan belongs to the design classics and it is making a comeback in design circles. Unfortunately, conventional forestry practices may damage tropical forests when the rattan is harvested.
To avoid this forest destruction, WWF has set up an EU-funded programme for sustainable production and processing of rattan in the Mekong region. An innovative collection for rattan home accessories is being showcased this week at the international design fair Ambiente in Frankfurt/Main.
WWF is working with Swedish designers, graduates from Lund University, in cooperation with local companies, to develop rattan products that are suitable for the international market. These products range from doormats made of rattan waste to foldable baskets, and a unique rattan lounge chair.
In addition, the WWF has analysed the worldwide trade flows of rattan. The key points of a scientific study launched today include: between 2006 and 2008, global trade declined by 26 percent due to dwindling rattan resources and forest loss. Indonesia is the most important exporting country in the world, with a market share of 80 percent.
The major buyers are the EU and China. Vietnam plays an essential role for the EU market, exporting mainly to Germany and France. Vietnam is also a major importing country — the suppliers are Laos, India, Cambodia, and the Philippines.
Rattan species are members of the palm family and grow climbing and winding themselves around other vegetation and some varieties can grow to lengths of more than 100 m.  “Forests with such a wide variety of flora and fauna, which have disappeared in other regions of the world, still exist in the Mekong region”, said Thibault Ledecq, WWF Sustainable Rattan Project Manager. More than 1 000 new animal and plant species have been discovered in the Mekong region in the last ten years alone”. But many of these rattan resources are being overexploited, leading to a decline of many rattan species, prompting WWF to create the Sustainable Rattan Programme in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam five years ago.
The objectives of the programme are to manage the tropical forests containing rattan in accordance with the Principles and Criteria of the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), and to promote and implement the United Nations’ principles of “Cleaner Production”. These include the optimization of material and energy flows, minimizing waste and water contamination, and reducing emissions.
“Sustainable rattan only has a chance if there is a market for it and if the forests where the rattan grows are still standing”, explained Ledecq. He is convinced: “With credible forest management, responsible trade, and consumer awareness we can ensure that this fascinating natural raw material has a future”.
The WWF Sustainable Rattan Programme receives 80 percent of the programme’s total budget of € 2.4 million from the EU SWITCH-Asia Programme of the EuropeAid Development and Cooperation. SWITCH-Asia aims at scaling-up environmentally friendly production and consumption practices. The Sustainable Rattan Programme is successfully serving this purpose by reaching-out to all actors along the rattan value chain and encouraging certification. IKEA co-finances the WWF Sustainable Rattan Programme.
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  • Truffles: A tasty fungus stirring dreams in North Carolina, USA

Source: The New York Times, 3 March 2011

Truffle cultivation is not new to the USA. Truffle orchards have sprung up in California, Oregon, Tennessee, and most recently, North Carolina, where growers believe the soil conditions and moderate climate will make the state the truffle capital of the United States. Whilst few growers in North Carolina have yet to dig up many truffles, if the fungus comes, the payoff could be huge. Cultivating the black Perigord truffle (Tuber melanosporum) could bring US$800 a pound. Truffle orchards, moreover, could help replace tobacco as a crop and preserve farmland. Cooks who embrace local food could also stop looking to Europe for their truffle fix.
Nevertheless, even with about 80 orchards making up the tiny North Carolina truffle industry, the harvest this year was probably not even 50 pounds, said Jane Morgan Smith, the recent past president of the North American Truffle Growers Association and one of the first people to grow them successfully in the state.
One acre of trees cultivated to grow high-quality black Perigord truffles (nicknamed the black diamond) can produce at least 75 pounds. Even at a wholesale price of about US$600 a pound, a truffle farmer could earn US$45 000/acre. That is, if the truffles can be coaxed to grow. A US$20 sapling whose roots have been inoculated with truffle spores can take 5 to 10 years to actually produce a truffle. There is weather and disease to contend with.
In France and Italy, the most desirable ones grow wild underground. To find them, truffle hunters use specially trained pigs and dogs who are attracted to the pheromones ripe ones throw off. The very best white ones from Italy can command thousands of dollars a pound, gladly paid by chefs and connoisseurs.
The market is essentially like a Wild West operation, populated with cagey truffle hunters and savvy brokers who set the prices each season. A chef who is not paying attention might get stuck with low-grade Chinese truffles or lesser European versions.
One grower in North Carolina, Franklin Garland, who calls himself “the truffle czar,” has developed a secret method to attach spores carrying the same DNA as the wild French version onto the roots of live oaks and filberts, the kinds of trees truffles prefer. He sells the saplings for about US$20 each to hopeful landowners, who plant them and then have to wait for five years or more before the roots bear fruit.
The regional produce manager of the organic food chain Whole Foods, Brent Demarest, believes that North Carolina truffles will have great appeal to the fast-growing local food movement. And with more people growing them, the price will come down, he said. But that could take years.
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  • Wildlife: Zoo researchers provide African sanctuaries road map

Source:, 15 March 2011

Every year throughout Africa, primate rescue centres are flooded with chimpanzee orphans, primarily victims of the bushmeat trade. When adults are killed for meat the surviving infants are often offered for sale as pets, and those that get confiscated by law enforcement are taken to sanctuaries for care.
A new study, published in the International Journal of Primatology, examines 11 Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA) ( member facilities, predicting their carrying capacity for chimpanzees and provides a roadmap for long term resource, infrastructure and financial planning.
Lead author Lisa Faust, PhD a research biologist with Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo said, "The most sobering part of this study is realizing that most of these institutions already report being at capacity or close to capacity, and yet on average the group of sanctuaries are collectively faced with accepting 56 new chimpanzee arrivals every year, most of them under the age of two to three years old. Because chimpanzees are long-lived, this means that most of the sanctuaries will need to sustain or increase their current size, because they will continue to accept new arrivals as part of their commitment to chimpanzee welfare and law enforcement."
Chimpanzees are an endangered species, and while poaching is illegal it remains a major problem threatening their continued survival. "PASA sanctuaries play a vital role in helping rescue and rehabilitate chimpanzees and other endangered primates, and that is our main objective," said Doug Cress, Executive Director of PASA. "But it is easy to get caught up in the day to day fight for survival and lose perspective. This study is so important because it allows us to step back and see where we will be in the coming years and decades and to plan accordingly. Population modelling on this level is a wonderful tool."
Chimpanzee reintroduction projects currently underway at PASA sanctuaries in the Congo and Guinea have put more than 50 chimpanzees back into the wild, and three Cameroon sanctuaries are preparing to double that number through reintroduction programs in the next few years. But the cost, which can easily double a sanctuary's budget, is just one of the many obstacles to more widespread reintroduction.
"Reintroducing primates is not simple," Cress explained. "Deforestation and poaching make many areas unsuitable for reintroduction, and human encroachment has resulted in communities living in many of the national parks and protected areas. Also, it can be difficult to build a social group of chimpanzees that is physically and emotionally strong enough to survive a reintroduction. That is why the number of released animals remains relatively small compared to the number of orphans in need of care. Lifetime care in sanctuaries is the most frequent option for orphaned primates."
"Our goal with this research is to provide PASA with a road map for the potential future management challenges they may face. It should help long-term planning and increase their ability to be stewards for the apes they take in and advocates for those they work to protect in the wild," explained Faust.
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  • Wildlife: Captive orangutans in Indonesia may be freed

Source: The Washington Post, 6 March 2011

Hundreds of orangutans orphaned after their mothers were shot or hacked to death for straying out of Indonesia's rapidly disappearing forests in search of food might be released in the wild.
No one wants to get them back into the wild as much as Birute Mary Galdikas, who has devoted a lifetime to studying the great red apes, now on the verge of extinction. And for the first time in years, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon, thanks to a Hong Kong-based development company's plans to protect a 91 000 ha peatland forest along Tanjung Puting National Park's eastern edge.
"The problem has been finding a safe place to release them," said the 64-year-old scientist. "Many are ready to go right now."
A half-century ago, more than three-quarters of Indonesia was blanketed in plush tropical rainforest. But in the rush to supply the world with pulp, paper and, more recently palm oil — used in everything from lipstick and soap to "clean-burning" fuel — half those trees have been cleared.
It is here, in scattered, largely degraded forests, that almost all the world's 50 000 to 60 000 orangutans can be found. Another 1 500 live in a handful of crowded rehabilitation centres, many of them rescued after their mothers were killed.
Fadhil Hasan, the head of Indonesia's palm oil association, denied plantation workers were intentionally killing orangutans to protect their crops from raids, saying villagers involved in the illegal wildlife trade pose the greatest threat to the apes. "Sure, maybe it happens occasionally," he said. "But the businessmen who run these plantations, and their workers, understand that these animals are protected."
Young orphaned apes cannot be released directly into parks like Tanjung Puting — home to 6 000 orangutans — because of a 1995 decree that prohibits the release of ex-captives into forests with large wild populations, primarily over fears they will introduce diseases like tuberculosis. But the small patches of trees that remain are inadequate for their breeding needs and massive appetites. In the wild, the giant apes spend almost all of their day looking for fruit, consuming up to 20 percent of their body mass.
"We manage, just barely, to give them what they need for adequate lives," said Galdikas. "The problem is that it is just barely." Some come in traumatized. Others require long-term medical attention after themselves being beaten. And all need to be fed and cared for, taught how to forage for fruit and shown how to build treetop nests for sleeping. That costs hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, money some critics say would better go toward protecting those left in the wild.
"Yes ... but really, what choice do we have?" asks Galdikas, who today spends much of her time, energy and limited funds on the 335 young apes at her own care centre. Because of the species' intense maternal-infant bond, they need help until they are about eight. Around 50 of Galdikas' captives were ready to be released years ago, she said, and another 100 could go now.
"They are in this situation because of what we, humans, have done to them," she said. "We cannot just abandon them ... stand by and watch as they go extinct."
There could be good news ahead for the orangutans, ironically because Indonesia's breakneck pace of deforestation has put it on the front lines of global efforts to fight climate change. Since carbon packed in trees pours into the atmosphere when cut or burned — doing more damage than planes, automobiles and factories combined — the focus has turned to finding ways to pay developing countries to keep trees standing. It is still not clear who will fund the scheme or what the results will be. But a half-dozen rich countries, including Norway, have pledged US$4.5 billion to get things moving. Private investors, too, are trying to convince governments they would make much more from "carbon-trading" than land conversion.
One of the first testing grounds is the island of Borneo — shared between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei — one of the most biologically diverse places on earth. It is the main supplier worldwide of palm oil and home to 90 percent of the orangutans left on this planet.
Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan says he is ready to give the green light to PT Rimba Raya Conservation for what would be the first forestry project in his country to meet all requirements for international accreditation. The Rimba Raya concession, developed by the Hong Kong-based development company InfiniteEarth and Galdikas' own Orangutan Foundation International, would act as a buffer to Tanjung Puting and be the primary release site for her captives.
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  • Brazil: Judge blocks plans for construction of Belo Monte dam

Source: The Ecologist, 28 February 2011

Plans for the construction of the controversial Belo Monte hydroelectric plant in the Amazon rainforest have been suspended by a Brazilian judge over environmental concerns.
The proposal to build Belo Monte, which would be the world's third-largest hydroelectric dam, has sparked protests in Brazil and abroad because of its impact on the environment and native Indian tribes in the area. A federal court in Para state has halted plans for the construction because environmental requirements for the project had not been met. These included contingency plans to assure transportation along rivers where the dam is expected to reduce the water level sharply.
The national development bank, BNDES, has also been prohibited from financing the project by the court. The construction of the dam, in the world's largest rainforest, was to begin soon. The project is estimated as being worth up to US$26 billion. It had angered environmentalists, with hundreds of people taking part in a protest in Brasilia in February. They handed over a petition with 600 000 signatures against the project.
Last week the president of Brazilian firm Energy Research Company (EPE), Maurício Tolmasquim, responsible for electric power projects in Brazil, defended the construction to the international press. He insisted that just a “small minority that does not accept any form of hydroelectric power” was against the construction. He said that the biggest public hearing ever conducted in Brazil's history had taken place during the evaluation of the environmental licence for Belo Monte, and that the inhabitants of Para, in north Brazil, were not opposed to the dam's construction.
“Four technical seminars were conducted in Belém (the state's capital), 30 meetings were held with villages of indigenous people”, he said. The main benefit of Belo Monte, Tolmasquim added, was the clean and cheap energy that would be made available to the Brazilian market.
“Belo Monte enables Brazil to meet two goals: to provide electric power to boost economic growth while at the same time avoiding emissions of greenhouse gases.”
The licence for the building of the dam was granted in early January by IBAMA, the Brazilian environmental agency. If upheld, the Para court ruling would be a serious setback to President Dilma Rousseff's plans for large investment in infrastructure projects.
Public works projects in Brazil often face legal hurdles, although many are overturned quickly. Belo Monte was to be built with a power of 11 000 megawatts, but would generate, on the average, only 40 percent of this.
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  • Brazil: RENCTAS, the NGO on the frontline of the war on animal trafficking

Source: The Ecologist, 11 February 2011

Fifteen years ago, wild animal trafficking was a non-issue in Brazil, a country that accounts for 15 percent of this trade, estimated at 38 million animals being poached every year in Brazil alone. In 2010, a single operation that involved the Brazilian police and the environmental agency IBAMA cracked the biggest animal trafficking gang in the country, arresting 32 people and recovering 10 000 birds and eggs, including many rare macaws that can reach up to £50 000 in Europe.
Behind this and many other successful operations is the tireless work of the Brazilian NGO RENCTAS, the National Network to Fight the Trafficking of Wild Animals. “The beginning was not easy. We soon realized that there was little information about animal trafficking among the population and that the trade network was much bigger and complex than we had imagined,” says chief executive Raulff Lima. “Confronting the animal trafficking in Rio de Janeiro was seen as a huge provocation. We received many serious life threats, but we remained true to our ideals. In 2000, we moved to the capital Brasilia, where we founded RENCTAS. Today, our work is widely recognized, which gives us certain protection against personal threats.”
Lima believes that 40 percent of the animals captured in Brazil end up in foreign countries, such as the US, the UK, Germany, Holland and Japan. But, he recognizes that there is also a big internal demand for wild animal products: “We need to stop this cultural habit of consuming wild animals as a culinary delicacy that many Brazilians still have. We need to stop this ‘cage culture’, this tradition of keeping wild birds in cages as pets,” he says.
In addition to a change in local cultural habits, a more specific environmental legislation, able to punish the big traffickers with more severity, would definitely help to end this illegal trade, says Lima.
Biopiracy accounts for the second biggest international market in the illegal trade of wild animals, targeting insects, spiders, frogs and snakes, which are easier to smuggle than bigger animals. Biopiracy is supported by discrepancies in international accords. Sometimes, animals leave one country illegally but arrive at their final destination legally, because trafficking gangs are often skilled at forging documents, bribing public officials and exploiting the weaknesses of the law.
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  • Cambodia: Koh Kong emerges as an ecotourism destination

Source: New York Times, 4 March 2011

For decades, Koh Kong villages like Chi Phat had little contact with the outside world. Marginalized by a lack of infrastructure, a Khmer Rouge presence that endured into the late 1990s, and some of Southeast Asia’s wildest, least-explored terrain, the region remained virtually forbidden to outsiders.
But new roads now penetrate the jungle and scale the hills; new bridges traverse the area’s numerous rivers. And as Cambodia has achieved a level of political stability, a small but diverse array of Western-run accommodations — including a makeshift restaurant in Chi Phat, part of a project called Community-Based Ecotourism — has opened in the last few years, catering to both backpackers and the well-heeled.
Thanks to this new accessibility, travellers are now discovering the area’s awe-inspiring biodiversity, which includes one of Southeast Asia’s largest tracts of virgin rain forest; some 60 threatened species, including the endangered Asian elephants, tigers, Siamese crocodiles and pileated gibbons; and a virtually untouched 12-island archipelago in the Gulf of Thailand, with sand beaches and crystal-clear aquamarine waters.
The Koh Kong region spans 4 300 miles². But the charms of Cambodian rural life are readily apparent in Chi Phat, home to about 2 500 people. The village sits at the foot of the Southern Cardamom Mountains, about 10 miles inland, up the mangrove- and bamboo-lined Preak Piphot River. Wooden houses on stilts, painted mint green and baby blue and shaded by towering palms, line the main dirt road.
It was not always this peaceful. Chi Phat was once infamous for its abundant poachers, loggers and slash-and-burn farmers, who were forced to turn to illegal practices to make a living. That began to change in 2007, when the conservation group Wildlife Alliance started to work with the community on a project that would turn hunters — who knew the forest’s hidden gems better than anyone — into tour guides, and local families into guesthouse owners.
John Maloy, a spokesman for Wildlife Alliance, explains: “By participating in the ecotourism project, community members would not only receive income that would greatly improve their situation, they would be provided with incentives to protect the forest rather than exploit it in an unsustainable manner.”
So far, the initiatives seem to be working. Last year, Chi Phat welcomed 1 228 visitors, according to the Alliance, an increase of nearly 50 percent from 2009. Residents are receiving much-needed income that allows them to reside year-round in the village, allowing their children to go to school and get to health care.
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  • Democratic Republic of Congo: Government suspends oil exploration in Mountain Gorilla Park

Source: Environmental News Service, 17 March 2011

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has put the brakes on oil exploration activities in Virunga National Park, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site inhabited by some the last endangered mountain gorillas in the world.
Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Tourism Jose E.B. Endundo, issued a letter to the worldwide conservation community clarifying the Government's position on the published intentions of a publicly-traded British oil company, Soco International, to undertake oil exploration in Virunga National Park.
Africa's oldest national park, Virunga is inhabited by approximately 200 of the world's last 780 mountain gorillas as well as a small population of eastern lowland gorillas.
Endundo initiated what he called "a comprehensive, transparent and inclusive" Strategic Environmental Assessment to analyze the best options available to the Congolese people. The assessment will provide recommendations to the Ministry, which will decide "which of the social and economic benefits will ensure true development for the region and its people," said Endundo. In his letter, Endundo states that his Ministry has taken "specific steps, which have led to the suspension of the given oil exploration activities."
Congolese law (Ordonnance Loi 069-041) prohibits oil exploration activities within the national park. Yet company maps indicate Soco intends drilling works throughout the park.
Virunga National Park lies in eastern DR Congo and covers 7 800 km². The park is managed by the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature-ICCN the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature. It contains more species of mammals, reptiles and birds than any other protected area in Africa and has an exceptional diversity of landscapes stretching from the glaciers of the Ruwenzori Mountains, at over 17 000 feet, to impenetrable forests, savannas, rivers, and lake ecosystems.
"The Environment Ministry did the right thing, and what we hope to see next is a firm declaration guaranteeing there would be no exploration in this iconic and fragile park now or in the future," said Natalia Reiter, a spokesperson for the global conservation organization WWF International. WWF calls on the Congolese government to guarantee there will be no oil exploration in the park and asks the company to respect the law and abandon the harmful exploration plans.
In addition to the new threat of oil development in the park, the Virunga subpopulation of mountain gorillas has already suffered numerous impacts from more than a decade of war and instability in the region, according to the IUCN in its Red List of Threatened Species, which classes mountain gorillas as Endangered.
There has also been a resurgence of poaching for the illegal pet trade and bushmeat.
The Virunga Volcanoes region is surrounded by some of the highest human densities in Africa. While a key conservation strategy for mountain gorillas is tourism, there is concern about the risk of disease transmission and disturbance to the gorillas, which could jeopardize these conservation programs.
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  • Kenya: Kenyans swap carbon roles to save forest

Source: AFP, 9 March 2011

Mwakitau Kaleghe used to scratch out a living from burning charcoal, culled from trees whose felling helped turn a rich tropical woodland in southern Kenya into a desolate mosaic.
Today, Kaleghe, 65, enlisted in an environmental war, is a captor of carbon rather than an emitter, as well as a custodian of Rukinga forest. Kaleghe nurtures tree seedlings that he then sells to a UN-backed project carbon-credit project. Trees suck up carbon dioxide (CO2), the principal greenhouse gas that traps solar heat. Under the REDD initiative, CO2 emitters in industrialized countries can "offset" their pollution by conserving tropical forests or replanting cleared or damaged areas.
Wildlife Works, a US conservation group, says 30 000 ha of forest are under its wing in the Rukinga REDD scheme. It has sealed a deal with South Africa's Nedbank group, keen to establish "carbon-neutral" credentials, for the sale of 200 000 tonnes of CO2 for around US$1 million dollars.
Some of the proceeds are earmarked for local projects to give the community alternative sources of income other than clearing land for subsistence farming and charcoal burning.
"If they buy the seedlings at a good price, I think we can make ends meet," said Kaleghe."I used to make good money from selling charcoal but I will not start making charcoal again because that is destroying the forest."
Apart from tree planting, the project also runs a garment factory that sells clothes for export and plans to pipe water to the community.
"With the projects lined up, the community is very happy. At the moment we are living in hope," said James Mwakina Mboga, the local councillor, who sounds however a note of caution. "If the promises do not materialize, then we will go back to our old ways," he said, referring to the rampant charcoal burning and subsistence farming that denuded and exhausted the soil.
The Rukinga carbon credits are a milestone, though. They are the first to be issued under a new benchmark, called the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS), which seeks to uphold criteria of sustainability, ecological soundness and help for the local community.
Eventually, 30 million tonnes of CO2 will be saved over 20 years, Wildlife Works hopes. Reforestation should also be a boon for biodiversity. The forest straddles the east and west sides of Tsavo National Park, Kenya's largest, and its renewal eventually will provide a corridor for migrating wildlife.
The strategy also involves the community, which forms committees to choose the most important projects they want funded. In this arid region, water tops the list, then roads, education or health.
Rob Dodson, who heads Rukinga Wildlife Works, said he saw widespread support from local people who had been aware, bit by bit, of the degradation of the forest and its impact on their lives.
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  • Kenya: Coast mango and neem trees are endangered

Source:, 14 March 2011

Mango and neem trees in Malindi and Magarini districts are endangered following mass cutting for commercial purposes. The owners of the trees sell them for timber and firewood, a trend that is worrying the Malindi District Environmental Committee.
The committee blamed salt firms for the continuous destruction claiming they were using firewood from the two types of trees for their activities. Prof Mansur Naji, a member of the District Environmental Committee said mango trees were under threat of extinction due to continuous timber harvesting in the two districts.
Bernard Orinda the Kenya Forest Service Zonal Manager said if action is not taken there would be no mangoes to sell or neem trees to make soap."Salt firms should come with a plan on how to sustain their industry without destroying trees which have taken many years to mature," said Orinda.
Orinda said the continuous destruction of the trees was also a threat to the food situation as they contributed heavily to deforestation. He said KFS was unhappy with the rate at which farmers were seeking authority to be allowed to cut down their trees. "About 80 acres of plantation forests have been destroyed in the past one year. It is time all stakeholders took responsibility to reverse this trend," he said.
Orinda said the wood carving was a threat to indigenous trees including the Muhuhu which were being poached from gazetted forests and trust land in the area.



  • Laos: Insect farming aims to end food insecurity

Source: www.SciDev.Net, 16 March 2011

What is the best way to raise and cook crickets, mealworms, palm weevils and weaver ants? A research and demonstration site in Laos aims to find out, as part of a push to provide food security in the country. Laotian farmers will be taught how to rear and process the insects, in the hope of turning a food source that is largely foraged into one that is farmed instead.
Food insecurity is widespread in Laos, and sustainable insect farming will provide income for farmers as well as food, according to the site's sponsor, FAO. Insects are just as nutritious as cattle and poultry, according to FAO, and farming them could also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, say researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.
The demonstration site, to be launched this month (28–30 March) at the National University of Laos in Vientiane, will research the best ways of raising and cooking crickets, mealworms, palm weevils and weaver ants.
Approximately 95 percent of Laotians already eat insects, according to FAO, and the practice is culturally acceptable. “Many people in developing countries already eat insects, but they usually collect them from the wild,” said Yupa Hanboonsong, FAO's Chief Technical Officer for the edible-insect project and entomology professor at Khon Kaen University in Thailand. “It would be better if they grew insects in their gardens.”
But there are many gaps in agricultural knowledge of how best to farm them that the research will attempt to address. Research will focus on reducing production costs, assessing nutritional content and developing food-safety standards, Hanboonsong told SciDev.Net, noting that researchers will strike a balance between cooking insects and preserving taste.
The researchers will also explore ways of grinding insects into baking powder, she said, because some consumers “do not like to see the legs” of the insects they eat.
Establishing food safety guidelines would help Laotians sell their insects both domestically and abroad, Hanboonsong said, adding that insects are already sold commercially in Thailand.
Growing insects on 20 m² of land could net a Laotian farmer US$100/month, said Krilert Tawekul, professor of sustainable agriculture and food security at Khon Kaen University. And insects require much less start-up investment than chickens or cows, he added. Tawekul said that rearing insects is a simple technology that should be promoted in other developing countries. Khon Kaen University will host 20 African agricultural experts for a five-week study tour of Thai insect farms this spring.
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  • Malaysia: Japan's earthquake disaster may boost rainforest logging in Borneo

Source: in Environmental News Network, 14 March 2011

Malaysian loggers say Japan's recovery from last week's devastating earthquake and tsunami will boost demand for rainforest timber, reports the Borneo Post. AmResearch, an investment research firm based in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, said logging companies that export plywood to Japan are poised to benefit from reconstruction.
"We have contacted timber players, who are also unsure of the extent of damage stemming from the latest earthquake and the aftershocks," AmResearch is quoted as saying.
"One timber player rules out a 30-40 percent jump in exports' to Japan — which mostly buys plywood from Malaysia — but expects a probable steady rise in demand from Japan to help in the reconstruction process, depending on the extent of the damage to buildings."
AmResearch told the Borneo Post Japan accounted for 46 percent of Sarawak's (one of two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo) total wood panel exports by volume from January 2010 to November 2010.
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  • Slovakia: Ecotourism and wild animals

Source: The Ecologist in Environmental News Network, 14 March 2011

Slovakia's Tatras Mountains are home to some of Europe's last brown bears as well as the critically endangered Tatra chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra tatrica or mountain goat). Tourism has not always been kind to the furry inhabitants of destinations but that is changing, with holiday companies realizing that their businesses depend on the wellbeing of their destination's animal attractions. Now, Hands Up Holidays are taking this trend a step further, and offering green travellers the chance to combine a family holiday with helping researchers preserve these magnificent mammals.
The company takes its guests deep in to the woods surrounding the Tatras Mountains in search of bears, wolves and chamois. While hiking through the stunning mountain ranges, tourists contribute to the essential monitoring work needed to keep tabs on local bear and chamois populations.
Most trips also include a visit to the Tatras Foundation, an NGO established to raise awareness of environmental issues in the local area.
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  • UK: Top foods to forage

Source: The Ecologist, 18 March 2011

Thanks to modern agricultural methods, foraging — once a part of the majority’s daily life — has faded away, replaced by regular trips to the supermarket instead. Recently, however, there has been a revival of interest in raiding nature’s larder thanks to increased awareness of the health benefits of wild food.
But for the beginner, foraging should come with a health warning as it is easy to mistake a deadly fungus for an innocent field mushroom. While wild food is generally good for you, taking precautions and getting some tips and advice from experienced foragers is essential.         

  • Mushrooms: Neither animal nor vegetable, mushrooms are a type of fungi and the largest living organisms on Earth, some reaching three miles in length. Wild mushrooms grow across most of the UK and parks and woodlands are a good place to start; the New Forest is said to be particularly rich. Thanks to the diversity of the UK’s native mushroom species, there are always some varieties in season, but autumn is the prime mushroom picking time, as September and October are the months when most of the good edible varieties appear.
  • Wild Garlic: Widespread and abundant across much of the UK, it is easily harvestable throughout the year and is versatile and delicious. It tastes much like regular garlic but has a milder flavour than cultivated cloves. The flowers appear in spring and can be used in much the same way, adding a flash of colour at the same time. Bulbs can be harvested year-round, but this is best done when the plant is dormant between July and December. Wild garlic is easily identifiable, forming lush green carpets in woodlands close to bluebells, and emitting a distinctive garlicky smell. Like its cultivated cousin, wild garlic has numerous health benefits, including helping to reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It is also good for gardens thanks to its ability to ward off pests and diseases, and the juice can even be used a household disinfectant.
  • Elder: There are more uses for elderflowers than for any other type of blossom. The aromatic blooms can be eaten raw, cooked, dried or powdered, and added to cordials, wine, salads, fritters, ice-cream, cakes, biscuits, jellies, jams, sweets, tea and meat dishes, as well as to beauty products such as skin lotion and eye cream. Elder bushes are usually covered in sweet-smelling flowers by the end of June, followed by berries between August and October. Elderberries can be put to many of the same uses as the flowers but the leaves and stems are poisonous. Elder is widespread and abundant in hedgerows, woods and roadsides.
  • Dandelion: They might have a reputation for being obstinate garden weeds, but dandelions are versatile, healthy and are freely available throughout the country for most of the year. The whole plant can be eaten: leaves in salads, sandwiches or pies, while flowers (in bloom between February and November) can be used in anything from risotto to omelettes. The roots can also be thrown into stir-fries or added to vegetable dishes.
  • Nettles: Another plant pariah, nettles tend to be avoided thanks to their well-known propensity for leaving painful welts on the hands of the picker. Among other things, they can be used be make tea, soup, beer and even haggis. Boiling will get rid of the sting. Packed with vitamins and minerals, nettles contain more vitamin C than oranges. Nettles should be harvested before the flowers appear in early spring and only the youngest leaves should be chosen; mature leaves can damage the kidneys. Find them in gardens, woodlands, pastures and orchards.
  • Hawthorn: Hawthorn used to be referred to as “bread and cheese,” as the leaves sandwiched between slices of bread were once a staple food in the spring. The leaves can also be added to salads, made into a tea or munched straight off the branch, while the roasted seeds make a good coffee substitute. Hawthorn berries, bountiful in autumn, make a tasty jam or fruit bread. Hawthorn also has medicinal benefits and can help treat heart and circulation disorders. Powerful bioflavinoids present in the fruit stimulate blood flow to the heart and regulate the heartbeat.
  • Berries: Abundant, tasty and packed with vitamin C, berries are one of the easiest foods to forage. They often abound in accessible areas and there is so much variety. Among the most common are blackberries, raspberries, mulberries and sloes, and uses range from juices and cordials to jams and jelly, pies and cakes, wine and gin, and ice cream. Look for berries in woodlands, hedgerows, and parks from late summer.
  • Nuts: Nuts are a rich source of protein and energy for hungry foragers, but bear in mind that nuts are relied on by many birds and animals, so do not overharvest. Forage for nuts in the autumn, keeping them dry and warm once picked. Eat them as they come or roasted. Most nuts can also be used as a replacement for protein, so work well in nut roasts and nut breads, or mixed into salads and stir-fries for extra crunch. Favourites include chestnuts, beechnuts, hazelnuts, and walnuts. Grubbing for pignuts was once a popular past time but is now illegal without the landowner’s permission.
  • Mallow: Mallow leaves have a mild flavour and a distinctive gummy, glutinous texture, making them good for bulking up salads. By the same virtue they can be used to treat constipation and diarrhoea, soothing the digestive tract, as well as helping a dry throat or chesty cough. The mauve flowers have a similar flavour and texture to the leaves and are also a good addition to the salad bowl. Mallow is widespread from spring to midsummer in open and sunny habitats such as roadsides and pastures.

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  • USA: Agreement on protecting rare forest species

Source: Associated Press in the Seattle Times, 4 March 2011

Conservation groups and the U.S. Forest Service have agreed to a new rule for protecting hard-to-find but ecologically important species in Northwest forests such as snails and mushrooms.
Pete Frost, a lawyer for the conservation groups, said Friday the agreement would exempt restoration projects, such as thinning young stands of trees, from the so-called survey and manage rule, while maintaining the protections for old growth forests.
The agreement must be approved by a federal judge.
The Bush administration had tried to dismantle the rule to allow more logging, but it was reinstated by a federal judge. The rule was part of the Northwest Forest Plan, which cut logging on national forests in Oregon, Washington and Northern California to protect salmon, the northern spotted owl and other species.



  • Vietnam: Help with forest management from FAO

Source: Voice of Vietnam News, 3 March 2011

FAO has offered US$2.7 million over a period of three years, starting in 2011 to help Vietnam develop its capacity for assessing the forest and tree resources. An agreement to this effect was signed in Hanoi by Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Hua Duc Nhi and FAO Representative in Vietnam Yuriko Shoji on 4 March.
The National Forest Assessment project is part of a global programme entitled “Sustainable Forest Management in the Changing Climate” launched by FAO. It will cost almost US$3.2 million, of which US$489 300 will come from the Vietnamese side.
The project aims to enhance the capacity of the Vietnam Forestry Administration, especially the Forestry Inventory and Planning Institute, and to introduce appropriate new technologies.  It will also help Vietnam review its forest inventory parameters in accordance with national and international reporting requirements, consolidate and update information on forests and trees and review the forestry policy in light of the results of the forest resources assessment.
According to Deputy Minister Nhi, the project will help the country meet the demands for sustainable forest management, as well as to cope with the adverse impacts of climate change. It will also help Vietnam protect biodiversity and celebrate the United Nations International Year of Forests, 2011.
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  • Biodiversity panel will put species loss in the spotlight

Source: Tierramérica network in, 8 March 2011

After five years of preparation the international community is expected to launch the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services this year. For some of its proponents, even the decisions of the World Trade Organization (WTO) should be subject to its analysis.
IPBES would be analogous to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), but focused on biological diversity. The idea behind this effort is that decisions by all levels of government are largely responsible for the decline in species and ecosystems that support life on the Earth. To put an end to species decline, governments need an independent, authoritative scientific body that can assess the impacts of proposed policies and decisions that biodiversity experts have long recommended.
"People generally have yet to appreciate the importance of biodiversity and ecosystem services, and how much is at stake in biodiversity loss," Charles Perrings, Professor of Environmental Economics at Arizona State University in the U.S. southwest, told Tierramérica.
"Biodiversity" is the term used to describe the wide variety of living things that comprise the planet's biological infrastructure and provide us with health, wealth, food, water, fuel and other vital services.
Several reports, including last year's Global Biodiversity 3, show that policy decisions and failures to enforce regulations have put the biological infrastructure in jeopardy.
Many people fail to understand how much humans rely on the many natural services provided by nature and how fast this is changing, said Perrings. "Decisions taken today that change the biosphere will have profound implications for humanity's welfare. They must be well informed by science," he said.
IPBES will not only raise awareness about the importance of biodiversity among decision makers, it will provide them with authoritative projections of the effects of their policies, according to Connie Martinez, senior policy officer at the IUCN in Gland, Switzerland.
"Officials in all departments (ministries) need a better understanding of how economic development can impact biodiversity," Martinez told Tierramérica.
As such, IPBES would not just inform environment ministers, it would look at all major policy decisions with the potential to affect ecosystems, said Perrings, who has worked for years to establish such an organization. Perrings says there is also an urgent need to understand the consequences of the rapid changes in biodiversity occurring over recent decades.
It is not solely a matter of conservation, because natural ecosystems provide a huge range of valuable economic services to humans, write Perrrings and Harold Mooney of Stanford University, co-authors of a recent paper on IPBES in the 18 February edition of the journal Science. For example, forests and wetlands prevent flooding. An average 1 ha of coral reef provides services to humans valued at US$130 000/year, and in some places as much as US$1.2 million/year.
The European Union has urged that IPBES become operational as quickly as possible to demonstrate that "the international community is determined to tackle the grand challenge of biodiversity loss."



  • Forests are key for high quality water supply

Source: FAO Newsroom, 18 March 2011

By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in regions with absolute water scarcity and two-thirds of the world's population may experience water-stressed conditions. Forests capture and store water and can play an important role in providing drinking water for millions of people in the world's mega-cities. In light of this, the members of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF), international organizations involved in forests, call upon countries to pay more attention to forest protection and management for the provision of clean water.
"Forests are part of the natural infrastructure of any country and are essential to the water cycle", said Eduardo Rojas-Briales, Assistant Director General of FAO’s Forestry Department. "They reduce the effects of floods, prevent soil erosion, regulate the water table and assure a high quality water supply for people, industry and agriculture." 
Forests are in most cases an optimal land cover for catchments supplying drinking water. Forest watersheds supply a high proportion of water for domestic, agricultural, industrial and ecological needs.  
"The management of water and forests are closely linked and require innovative policy solutions which take into account the cross-cutting nature of these vital resources", said Jan McAlpine, Director of the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat.  "The International Year of Forests, 2011 provides a unique platform to raise awareness of issues such as the water-soil-forests nexus, which directly affect the quality of people's lives, their livelihoods and their food security."
Moreover, forests and trees contribute to the reduction of water-related risks such as landslides, local floods and droughts and help prevent desertification and salinization.
Today, at least one-third of the world's biggest cities, such as New York, Singapore, Jakarta, Rio de Janeiro, Bogotá, Madrid and Cape Town draw a significant portion of their drinking-water from forested areas. If properly utilized, forest catchment areas can provide at least a partial solution for municipalities needing more or cleaner water.
Topics related to forest and water interactions have gained international attention in recent years. Based on the outcomes of numerous conferences, a set of practical actions on forests and water supply are currently being developed for policy-makers and technicians.
Work is also continuing at the project level, particularly in transboundary water courses. One very prominent example is the "Fouta Djallon Highlands (FDH) Integrated Natural Resources Management Project" in West Africa. This ten-year project, supported by the Global Environment Facility and jointly implemented by FAO, UNEP and the African Union, involves eight countries (Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and Sierra Leone). The Fouta Djallon Highlands are the point of origin of a number of international water courses, notably the Gambia, Niger and Senegal rivers. Shifting agriculture and tree felling for charcoal production led to heavy deforestation and depleted water resources in the area. In order to improve local livelihoods and water resources, the project aims to ensure the conservation and sustainable management of natural resources through the restoration of forest cover.
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  • Need for women to take greater role in forest management, experts say

Source: Morung Express (India), 8 March 2011

Women are the main users of forests in developing countries — gathering food and firewood — but they continue to be sidelined in how the forests are managed despite years of efforts to mainstream their involvement, experts said ahead of International Women's Day on 8 March. Research shows that greater involvement of women in forest management usually improves the condition and sustainability of the forests.
"It is worrying that despite women's increasingly recognized contribution to forest management, they are not yet at the forefront of forestry decision-making," said Esther Mwangi, a scientist at the Centre for International Forestry Research.
The United Nations has declared 2011 the International Year of Forests, which provides an excellent platform to revisit the challenges of promoting women's involvement in forestry, she said. "As governments rearrange their policies and create new regulations ahead of the implementation of programs for REDD+, women's involvement in decision-making in forest management and conservation should be a top priority."
Climate change and deforestation have increased the workload of rural women, who are the primary users of forests and use them to source natural medicines as well as fuel-wood, food and water.
"The first challenge is to recognize women as agents of change. They cannot be seen only as users but as major decision-makers when it comes to conservation and sustainable use of forest," said Lorena Aguilar, Global Senior Gender Advisor at the IUCN.
While significant progress has been made in promoting the role of women in forest management at national and international policy levels, massive gaps remain in implementing these changes on the ground.
Still, there are signs of hope. Participation of women has risen, as shown by an example from Nepal where the percentage of women and marginalized groups involved in community committees has grown from 27 percent to 45 percent. However, in many cases participation is limited to attendance and passive involvement with women sitting in silence while men make the calls on forest management.
An extensive review of gender and agroforestry in Africa, to be published by the World Agroforestry Centre in April 2011, found that women farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are still trapped at the production end of the value chain and it recommended governments, NGOs and the private sector to foster women entrepreneurs and strengthen their participation in farmers' groups.
The experts also said that it was important to increase the number of women in decision-making positions from the village level, through to local governments, central governments and forest-related agencies. It is also crucial to build and support networks and alliances among rural women, national and international advocacy groups.
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  • Pollination and bees: UN alarmed at huge decline in bee numbers

Source: AFP in Yahoo News, 10 March 2011

The UN on Thursday expressed alarm at a huge decline in bee colonies under a multiple onslaught of pests and pollution, urging an international effort to save the pollinators that are vital for food crops.
Much of the decline, ranging up to 85 percent in some areas, is taking place in the industrialized northern hemisphere due to more than a dozen factors, according to a report by the UN's environmental agency.
They include pesticides, air pollution, a lethal pinhead-sized parasite that only affects bee species in the northern hemisphere, mismanagement of the countryside, the loss of flowering plants and a decline in beekeepers in Europe.
"The way humanity manages or mismanages its nature-based assets, including pollinators, will in part define our collective future in the 21st century," said UNEP executive Director Achim Steiner.
"The fact is that of the 100 crop species that provide 90 percent of the world's food, over 70 species are pollinated by bees," he added. Wild bees and especially honey bee colonies from hives are regarded as the most prolific pollinators of large fields or crops.
Overall, pollinators are estimated to contribute US$212 billion worldwide or 9.5 percent of the total value of food production, especially fruit and vegetables, according to the report.
Honey bee colony declines in recent years have reached 10 to 30 percent in Europe, 30 percent in the United States, and up to 85 percent in Middle East, said scientist Peter Neumann, one of the authors of the first ever UN report on the issue.
But in South America, Africa and Australia there were no reports of high losses. "It is a very complex issue. There are a lot of interactive factors and one country alone is not able to solve the problem, that is for sure. We need to have an international network, global approaches," added Neumann of the Swiss government's Bee Research Centre.
Some of the mechanisms behind the four-decades-old trend, which appears to have intensified in the late 1990s, are not understood. UNEP warned that the broad issue of countryside management and conservation was involved.
"The bees will get the headlines in this story," UNEP spokesman Nick Nuttall told journalists. "But in a sense they are an indicator of the wider changes that are happening in the countryside but also urban environments, in terms of whether nature can continue to provide the services as it has been doing for thousands or millions of years in the face of acute environmental change," he added.
Nonetheless, scientists have been unable so far to quantify the direct impact of bee decline on crops or plants, and Neumann insisted that some of the impact was qualitative.
Citing British research, the report estimated that pollination by managed honey bees is worth € 22.8 billion to € 57 billion in terms of crop yields, and that some fruit, seed and nut crops would decrease by more than 90 percent without them.
One key driving force behind bee destruction in Europe and North America has been a type of mite, the varroa destructor pest, which attacks bees and that beekeepers struggle to control, Neumann said.
"It is quite shocking how little we know about this essential pest of honey bees although it has caused havoc in agriculture for more than 20 years."
"African bees are tolerant, we do not know why," he added. Meanwhile, frequent changes in land use, degradation and fragmentation of fields, trade carrying hostile species such as the Asian hornet into France or virulent fungi, chemical spraying and gardening insecticides as well as changing seasons due to climate change have added to the hostile environment for bees.
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  • Pollination and bees: Researchers seek causes of honeybee colony collapse

Source: Reuters, 5 March 2011

Birds do it, fleas do it but when bees do it, the value is US$212 billion to the world economy.
That is why scientists are seeking a way to stem mass deaths of the world's primary pollinator — the honeybee — which affect more than 30 percent of bee colonies in the United States and more than 20 percent in some European countries.
Researchers have identified some probable causes of colony collapse disorder (CCD), including blood-feeding parasites, bee viruses, fungi, pesticide exposure and decreased plant diversity causing poor nutrition for honeybees, experts say.
"It is a complex interaction of several different factors that are causing bees to die, resulting in quick colony decline," said Jeff Pettis, entomologist and chief researcher at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Bee Research Lab in Beltsville, Maryland.
Losses are alarming not just for honey lovers but for a huge chunk of the global agricultural market as well. Some 52 of the world's 112 leading crops — from apples and soybeans to cocoa and almonds — rely on pollination. One 2009 study by economists put the value of insect pollination, mainly by bees, at about US$212 billion.
And with human population increasing quickly, observers worry that the bee decline will deepen a global crisis unfolding from limited crops and soaring food prices.
The threat to bees is international. England lost more than half its hives in the last two decades, and baffling bee losses are occurring in Asia, South America and the Middle East.
A single silver bullet to end the problem is still out of reach. But recent discoveries are shedding light on possible answers to the puzzle.
Some scientists blame commercial agricultural pesticides such as clothianidin, which has been linked to millions of bee deaths near farming areas in different countries. Banned in some European countries, clothianidin remains EPA-approved and is commonly used on U.S. crops such as corn, wheat and soy.
Another bee threat is parasites such as the varroa destructor, which clings to a bee as it feeds on hemolymph, or bee's "blood," and spreads dangerous viruses. Major infestations will typically wipe out beehives, said Keith Delaplane, entomology professor at the University of Georgia.
Finally, another possible cause for bee deaths is a combination of a virus and a fungus, which was found in all collapsed colonies in a U.S. study last year. The viral-fungal duo may destroy bees' memory or navigation functions and contribute to colony collapse.
Commercial apiaries are far harder hit than independent honey producers, said small producer Dan Conlon, who owns 700 hives at Warm Colors Apiary in South Deerfield, Massachusetts. His bees tend to be resilient, living in a rural, diverse habitat. "Most of those reporting heavy losses run large operations and are focused on migratory pollination for their income," Conlon said.
Early bee reports are poor throughout the United States this winter, including Georgia, which appears to be losing about one-third of its colonies, said Delaplane.
Managed U.S. hives numbered 2.68 million last summer, USDA said. That is only about half of the nation's five million hives tallied back in the 1940s.The nation produced 176 million pounds of honey last year, with wholesale prices reaching a record US$1.603/pound, the USDA said.
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  • Pollination and birds: Scientists record “biodiversity breakdown” in New Zealand

Source: BBC News, 4 February 2011

Scientists in New Zealand say they have linked the modern-day decline of a common forest shrub with the local extinction of two pollinating birds over a century ago. They say the disappearance of two birds — the bellbird and stitchbird — from the upper North Island of the country has lead to a slow decline in common plants, including the forest shrub New Zealand gloxinia.
Ship rats and stoats imported into the country around the year 1870 are blamed for the birds' demise. The researchers claim the study, published in the journal Science, offers rare experimental proof of a breakdown in a local ecosystem.
New Zealand gloxinia or Rhabdothamnus solandri is a gangly forest shrub, which grows in the shade to about 2 m high and produces an orange tubular flower. It depends on three birds for pollination — the bellbird, stitchbird and the tui. While the latter now seems only to feed higher up in the forest canopy, the former two vanished from upper North Island in the late 19th century. It is thought they were killed off by rats brought in by ships or by stoats introduced to control the local rabbit population.
The researchers wanted to observe the impact on New Zealand gloxinia of these disappearing bird populations and so compared the situation on the mainland with that of three nearby island bird sanctuaries where the birds remain abundant.  What they found was that pollination rates were vastly reduced on the mainland with seed production/flower 84 percent lower compared with the islands.
The researchers could also quantify how often — or how little — birds visited the plant, as birds make distinct markings on the flower as they feed on the nectar.
"This plant is in trouble but it is a slow motion disaster," said Professor Dave Kelly of New Zealand's University of Canterbury, who led the research. "It has not been well pollinated for about the last 140 years — that is about when these birds disappeared off the North Island. In that time there have not been enough seedlings coming through and so the plant is quietly crumbling away, fading away."
It is not just gloxinia which is feeling the effects of these disappearing birds. An estimated 49 percent of all land birds have been lost in New Zealand, say the researchers, and the consequences of that are far greater than those outlined in this study.
A recent survey of all the country's bird-pollinated plants found only a fraction were pollinating normally. Species of mistletoe have been linked to the decline in bird species. "Certain mistletoes have large red attractive flowers and they are quite widespread though the South Island and up into the lower North Island," says Dr Kelly.
The disappearance of the bellbird from parts of New Zealand's North Island, has taken its toll on flora
Professor Stephen Hopper, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, said the work was an elegant piece of research which "highlights the cascading effects of extinction".
Nor was he surprised by the long lag between the disappearance of the birds and the effects on plant life.
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  • Plants' roles in ecosystems seen as vital

Source: United Press International, 7 March 2011

A scientific study published in a U.S. journal says loss of plant biodiversity disrupts the fundamental services ecosystems provide humanity.
Researchers say plant communities — threatened by development, invasive species, climate change and other factors — provide humans with food, help purify water supplies, generate oxygen, and supply raw materials for building, clothing, paper and other products.
The researchers analyzed the results of 574 field and laboratory studies conducted on five continents during the last 20 years that measured the changes in productivity resulting from loss of plants species. "The idea that declining diversity compromises the functioning of ecosystems was controversial for many years," Emmett Duffy of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science said. "This paper should be the final nail in the coffin of that controversy. It is the most rigorous and comprehensive analysis yet, and it clearly shows that extinction of plant species compromises the productivity that supports Earth's ecosystems."
The researchers' findings, reported in the American Journal of Botany, showed consistency among plant communities both on land and in fresh- and saltwater, suggesting plant biodiversity is of fundamental importance to the functioning of the Earth's entire biosphere, an institute release said Monday.
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  • World’s sixth mass extinction may be underway: study

Source: Vancouver Sun (Canada), 2 March 2011
Mankind may have unleashed the sixth known mass extinction in Earth’s history, according to a paper released on Wednesday by the science journal Nature. Over the past 540 million years, five mega-wipeouts of species have occurred through naturally-induced events.
But the new threat is man-made, inflicted by habitation loss, over-hunting, over-fishing, the spread of germs and viruses and introduced species and by climate change caused by fossil-fuel greenhouse gases, says the study.
Evidence from fossils suggests that in the "Big Five" extinctions, at least 75 percent of all animal species were destroyed. Palaeobiologists at the University of California at Berkeley looked at the state of biodiversity today, using the world’s mammal species as a barometer.
Until mankind’s big expansion some 500 years ago, mammal extinctions were very rare: on average, jut two species died out every million years. But in the last five centuries, at least 80 out of 5 570 mammal species have bitten the dust, providing a clear warning of the peril to biodiversity.
"It looks like modern extinction rates resemble mass extinction rates, even after setting a high bar for defining ‘mass extinction," said researcher Anthony Barnosky.
This picture is supported by the outlook for mammals in the "critically endangered" and "currently threatened" categories of the Red List of biodiversity compiled by IUCN.
On the assumption that these species are wiped out and biodiversity loss continues unchecked, "the sixth mass extinction could arrive within as little as three to 22 centuries," said Barnosky. Compared with nearly all the previous extinctions this would be fast-track.
Four of the "Big Five" events unfolded on scales estimated at hundreds of thousands to millions of years, inflicted in the main by naturally-caused global warming or cooling.
The most abrupt extinction came at the end of the Cretaceous, some 65 million years ago when a comet or asteroid slammed into the Yucatan peninsula, in modern-day Mexico, causing firestorms whose dust cooled the planet.
An estimated 76 percent of species were killed, including the dinosaurs. The authors admitted to weaknesses in the study. They acknowledged that the fossil record is far from complete, that mammals provide an imperfect benchmark of Earth’s biodiversity and further work is needed to confirm their suspicions. But they described their estimates as conservative and warned a large-scale extinction would have an impact on a timescale beyond human imagining.
"Recovery of biodiversity will not occur on any timeframe meaningful to people," said the study. "Evolution of new species typically takes at least hundreds of thousands of years, and recovery from mass extinction episodes probably occurs on timescales encompassing millions of years."
Even so, they stressed, there is room for hope. "So far, only one to two percent of all species have gone extinct in the groups we can look at clearly, so by those numbers, it looks like we are not far down the road to extinction. We still have a lot of Earth’s biota to save," Barnosky said.
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  • Vines are overtaking trees across American tropics, study says

Source: Yale Environment News 360, 14 February 2011

Fast-growing vines are overtaking trees in tropical forests across the Americas, a trend that could affect biodiversity and carbon storage in forest ecosystems, new research shows. After analyzing data from several studies, scientists at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the University of Wisconsin (USA) say that vines make up an ever-large percentage of total forest biomass from the Brazilian Amazon to the forests of South Carolina.
On Panama’s Barro Colorado Island, for example, the proportion of vines in tree crowns has doubled over the last 40 years. In French Guyana, vines increased 60 percent faster than trees from 1996 to 2002. “We are witnessing a fundamental structural change in the physical make-up of forests that will have a profound impact on the animals, human communities and businesses that depend on them for their livelihoods,” said Stefan Schnitzer, a professor at the University of Wisconsin.
While there is no scientific consensus on why vines are thriving at the expense of trees, researchers say the plants may be more resistant to seasonal droughts that have become more common and may recover more quickly from major disturbances, such as hurricanes, logging, and industrialization.
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REMINDER: Forest-Europe Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe
14-16 June 2011
Oslo, Norway
The Forest-Europe Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe represents a major European contribution to the International Year of Forests. At this Ministerial Conference, European countries will take decisions aimed at the preservation of forests and the safeguarding of their environmental, societal and economic benefits for present and future generations. Ministers are expected to adopt a vision, goals and targets for Europe’s forests and address ways to strengthen cooperation on sustainable forest management in Europe. In this context, they will consider opening negotiations on a legally binding agreement on forests and their management in Europe.
For more information, please contact:
Kristin Dawes
Communications and Public Affairs, Forest-Europe
Liaison Unit Oslo
Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe
P.O. Box 115
NO-1431 Aas, Norway
Tel: +47 64 94 89 30
Fax: +47 64 94 89 39
E-mail: [email protected]



REMINDER: INBAR Course on Integrated Sustainable Development in Mountain Areas and NTFPs Industrial and Commercial Development
6-26 September 2011
Zhejiang Province, China
Mountain areas cover 20 percent of the world’s land area and are rich in resources, including forests and minerals, and are the source of much of the world’s freshwater. Forests in mountain areas provide essential ecosystem services, protect biodiversity and are essential for the mitigation of and to adaptation to climate change. In many countries, especially in developing countries, mountain areas are home to a disproportionately high percentage of poor people who depend on these resources for their lives and livelihoods. However, in many countries, especially in developing nations, these regions are homes to large populations of relatively poor people, whose lives and livelihoods depend on effective and appropriate management of the natural resources around them. How to make a balance between ecosystem and forest conservation and local economic and livelihood development, and achieve sustainability in both aspects has been a long standing problem that needs urgent solutions. To date, the utilization and development NTFPs is identified and considered to be one of the most important feasible solutions for forest sustainable management and local community sustainable development.
This workshop will be held in Lin’an and Anji, both locations are commonly recognized in China and the international community as successful examples of integrated sustainable development in mountain areas. The well-developed NTFPs industries and ecotourism, the affluent and modern mountain villages, the beautiful forest environments, are all signs of success.
This workshop will provide a platform for people from various levels and fields of works who are concerned with mountainous development, rural development, environmental protection and natural resource management, and so on to share and explore the best practices in sustainable and integrated development in mountainous regions, especially, the technologies and products of NTFPs.
The training workshop is designed to provide a platform for participating countries to share and exchange the best practices and experiences in mountain sustainable development, as well as experiences in NTFPs industrialization and commercialization.
For more information, please contact:  
Ms. JIN Wei
Public Awareness Coordinator
Development and Communications Unit
8, Futong Dong Da Jie, Wangjing, Chaoyang District
P. O. Box 100102-86, Beijing 100102, P. R. China
Tel: +86-10-64706161, ext. 310
Fax: +86-10-64702166
Email: [email protected]




39.       Msc in Forestry (via distance learning): Scholarships available
From: Dr James Walmsley, Bangor University, 10 March 2011

The School of the Environment, Natural Resources and Geography at Bangor University (North Wales, UK) is pleased to offer a postgraduate distance-learning course in Forestry, which is aimed specifically at international students who have been awarded a scholarship by the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission (CSC). Up to 10 scholarships are available for applicants from the following developing Commonwealth countries to study for our MSc Forestry by distance learning: Bangladesh, Botswana, Cameroon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guyana, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
The scholarships are worth £12,000 to cover tuition fees plus a £2,000 bursary to enable scholars to attend a study tour which will be held overseas in July/August. The scholarships are currently only available for entrants in September 2011.
The course starts 1st September 2011.
Deadline for applying to the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission is 31 May 2011.
For more information, please contact:
School of Environment, Natural Resources and Geography
Bangor University, Deiniol Road
Bangor, Gwynedd, LL57 2UW, UK
E-mail: [email protected] or  [email protected]




40.       Request for information on: Oregon grape/Barberrry (Mahonia spp.): Market Data and Contacts Needed
From: Eric Jones, Institute for Culture and Ecology, 9 March 2011

The Institute for Culture and Ecology is conducting a market analysis on the medicinal plant, Oregon grape or Barberry (e.g. Mahonia aquifolium, Mahonia nervosa). Our research team is looking for any international import/export data and contacts to brokers and wholesalers anywhere in the world.  If you have any suggestions or information please email [email protected].




41.       The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity in National and International Policy Making: Addressing the Challenges for Policy Makers
From: Earthscan, February 2011

The invisibility of nature’s contribution to the creation of wealth and wellbeing has contributed to the degradation of ecosystems and loss of biodiversity. The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity in National and International Policy Making, now available from Earthscan, is an inspirational source of information and case studies that show how the value of nature can be made visible and brought into the mainstream.
This volume, part of the landmark study into The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) has drawn on the expertise of over 100 authors, contributors and reviewers from across the globe and is edited by Patrick ten Brink of IEEP. The TEEB study is led by Pavan Sukhdev.
For more information on this book and other volumes from the TEEB collection please see the TEEB web page:



  • Other Publications of Interest

From: FAO’s NWFP Programme

Brooks, E.G.E., Roberton, S.I., and Bell, D.J. 2010. The conservation impact of commercial wildlife farming of porcupines in Vietnam. Biol. Conserv. 143(11):2808-2814.

Calama, R., Tome, M., Sanchez-Gonzalez, M., Miina, J., Spanos, K., and Palahi, M. 2010. Modelling non-wood forest products in Europe: a review. (Special Issue: Trends in modeling to address forest management and environmental challenges in Europe.) Forest Systems 19: Special Issue, 69-85.

El-Ghazali, G. E., Al--Khalifa, K. S., Saleem, G. A., & Abdallah, E. M. 2010. Traditional medicinal plants indigenous to Al-Rass province, Saudi Arabia. Journal of Medicinal Plants Research. 4: 24, 2680-2683.

Marx, E. 2010. The fight for Yasuni. Science 330(6008):1170-1171.

Maso, D., Matilainen, A., and Pettenella, D. 2011. The role of networks in non-wood forest products and services market development. Innovation in forestry: territorial and value chain relationships. 154-168. 20

Mishra, M. and P C Kotwal. 2009. Unripe fruit collection of Baibirang (Embelia ribes) fruits and its impact on raw material quality: a case of Dhamtari forest division, Chattisgarh, India. International Journal for Forest Usufructs Management. Vol. 10 (2): 45-52.

Mishra, M. and P C Kotwal. 2009. Quality of Satawar (Asparagus racemosus) wild roots in the market of Central India.: a case of Katni forest division, Madhya Pradesh. Vaniki Sandesh. Vol. 33(4):1-8.

Mishra, M. and P C Kotwal. 2010. Unripe collection of Musli (Chlorophytum spp) and it impact on raw material quality: a case of Dhamtari forest, Chattisgarh, India. Life Sciences Leaflets 3: 79-89.

Mishra, M., R Prasad and P C Kotwal. 2010.Socio-economic issues in wild edible fruit collection o Aonla (Emblica officinalis Gaertn) in the tropical dry forests of central India. Search & Research. Vol.I. No.(3).67-77.

Muthukumar, K., & Samuel, A. S. 2010. Traditional herbal medicines of the coastal diversity in Tuticorin District, Tamil Nadu, India. Journal of Phytology. 2: 8, 38-46.

Nayar, A. 2010. World gets 2020 vision for conservation. Nature 468(7320):14.

Neilson, D. & Manners, G. 2008. The International Tree-Based Carbon Emissions Trading Industry. New Zealand: Dana Publishing.

Padal, S. B., Murty, P. P., Rao, D. S, &. Venkaiah, M. 2010. Ethnomedicinal plants from Paderu division of Visakhapatnam District, A.P, India. Journal of Phytology. 2: 8, 70-91.

Pai, A., and McCarthy, B.C. 2010. Suitability of the medicinal plant, Acorus calamus L., for wetland restoration. Nat. Areas J. 30(4):380-386.

Phelps, J., Webb, E.L., Bickford, D., Nijman, V., and Sodhi, N.S. 2010. Boosting CITES. Science 330(6012):1752-1753.

Singh, S.P, Mishra, M. and D Tripathi. 2009. Sustainable desertification management through ecological indicators: a study of Gwalior Division. International Journal of Rural Development and Management Studies. Vol. 3 (1): 65-93.

Tewari, D. D. & Mahapatra, A. K. 2011. Global income and employment generation impacts of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) and their poverty mitigation potential: reflections based on worldwide evidences. Indian Forester. 137: 1, 3-17. 49.




From: FAO’s NWFP Programme

Natural Solutions
The Joint Nature Conservation Committee’s web site highlights the concrete benefits of biodiversity:

Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA)
PASA sanctuaries across Africa care for orphaned chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, drills, baboons and other endangered primates.




  • WWF’s Earth Hour evolves beyond the hour, beyond the light switch

Source: WWF, 2 March 2011

Earth Hour Co-Founder and Executive Director, Andy Ridley, today announced a series of high profile and individual environmental actions, and a new dynamic online platform, to mark the global launch for Earth Hour, Beyond the Hour.
Beyond the Hour marks the start of a new phase for the Earth Hour movement. In 2010 hundreds of millions of people across the world took part in Earth Hour, but switching off the lights was only the beginning. This year Earth Hour asks people to commit to an action, big or small, that they will sustain for the future of our planet.
Jim Leape, Director General of WWF, who addressed media at the launch said: “The challenges that face our planet are immense, but never underestimate the possibility for change when we face these challenges with true common purpose. Hundreds of millions of people around the globe have given us a glimpse of what is possible. It is now time to go beyond the hour and show what can be done — by the people for the planet."
An online platform that captures and allows individuals, governments and organizations across the globe to share their actions, will act as the tool to showcase and inspire commitments to protect the one thing we all have in common — the planet.
“The Beyond the Hour platform has been built with social media at its core,” Ridley said. “Social media will play a crucial role for Earth Hour 2011, allowing us to connect with millions of people who are committed to taking lasting action for the planet.”
The platform is translated into 11 languages, and integrated with most major social networks including. Over 1 000 actions have already been shared on the dynamic online platform.
“Everyone has the power to make change: a CEO can change an organization, a 7-year-old can change a classroom, and a president can change a country. What we are announcing today is just the beginning,” Ridley said. “It is through the collective action of individuals and organizations that we will be able to truly make a difference, which is why we are urging people across the planet to share how they will go beyond the hour this Earth Hour.”
Actions announced at today’s global launch included the following high-profile and individual commitments:

  • The Government of Nepal has made a commitment to put a complete stop to tree-felling in the Churiya Range, a vital ecological and sociological forest area spanning more than 23 000 km².
  • Nathi Mzileni, a 15-year-old boy from Swaziland, was inspired to take action in 2010 when he realized his town did not participate in Earth Hour. He started a group at his High School called Green Enviro to educate people about climate change, and this year will single-handedly make Earth Hour a reality in his town of Shimunye, Swaziland.
  • Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore MP, has committed to: another six separated cycleways, installing LED lights in parks and streets, and endorsing a tri-generation plant to provide low carbon energy.
  • Chloe Nicol, a 7-year-old girl from Australia, is guiding her school to increase recycling and reduce energy waste. The school now also shuts their blinds instead of using air-conditioning to cool the rooms.
  • Parrys Raines, a 15-year-old Australian girl, has convinced her school to install water filling stations and provide each student and teacher with a reusable stainless steel drinking bottle to reduce plastic bottle waste.

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last updated:  Monday, April 30, 2012