Welcome to FAO’s NWFP-Digest-L, a free e-mail journal that covers all aspects of non-wood forest products. Back issues of the Digest may be found on FAO's NWFP home page: www.fao.org/forestry/site/12980/en.
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A special thank you to all those who have sent me links to information and to Giulia Muir for her help with this issue.
2011 International Year of Forests
The United Nations General Assembly declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests to raise awareness on sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests.
www.un.org/en/events/iyof2011/ or www.fao.org/forestry/en
IN THIS ISSUE:
- Bamboo: First UK built bamboo bike unveiled
- Baobab fruits: New study shows positive attributes
- Bushmeat: Where will the next pandemic come from?
- Ecotourism can play a vital role in maintaining healthy forests
- Ecotourism: 3rd World Ecotourism Conference held in Cambodia
- Edible insects: Are they the new sushi?
- Frankincense (Boswellia sp.) “database” soon
- Fruits: Five fruits that are helping to end hunger
- Fungi: Caterpillar fungus transforms Tibet with huge cash influx
- Honey boosts memory: too good to be true?
- Medicinal plants: Trick or treat?
- Neem’s mystery decoded
- Wildlife: Horror of Elephants butchered for their ivory
- Wildlife: Mountain gorilla making a comeback
- Afghanistan: Cease-fire for pine-nut harvests offers respite
- Argentina: Jaguars cling to survival in forests
- Brazil: Creation of indigenous reserves, conservation units does not stop loggers
- Cameroon: Gorilla poachers threaten forest rangers and wildlife
- Democratic Republic of Congo: Study confirms its potential as world environmental powerhouse but warns of critical threats
- Ethiopia: Beekeeping for youths
- Indonesia food security project threatens Papuan way of life
- Indonesia: Papua’s forests face serious threat
- Indonesia’s leader says he will dedicate final years of presidency to protect rainforest
- Nigeria: Ministry of Women to create more jobs with moringa plant
- Peru: Rising gold prices drive rampant clearing of Peruvian Amazon
- Russia: Mysterious virus killing Siberian amur tigers
- UK: Scientists probe link between diesel and bee decline
- USA: Chestnut — New hope for a vanished giant
- Fewer farms = More forest = Less biodiversity?
- Forest certification: A small step towards sustainability
- Forest policies in Rwanda, United States and Gambia win UN-backed awards
- GBIF, Encyclopaedia of Life launch collaboration to improve biodiversity data-sharing
- In the battle against desertification, solutions exist
- Toy company cuts cord with Asia Pulp to preserve rainforests
- Bandung Declaration: Global youth statement on sustainable development in view of Rio+20
- REMINDER: 2nd Asia-Pacific Forestry Week: New Challenges, New Opportunities
- Conference on NWFPs for Sustained Livelihoods
- Livelihood Alternatives for the Unsustainable Use of Bushmeat
- FAO publishes journal on forests for students
- New study on Access and Benefit Sharing
- UNEP releases report on Orangutan and Economics of Forest Conservation in Indonesia
- Other publications of Interest
- Web sites and E-zines
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Source: BBC News, 7 October 2011
The first UK-built mountain bike made out of bamboo has been unveiled at a major cycling exhibition. Its designers, from Oxford Brookes University, say the natural material has the strength of steel but the responsiveness of carbon fibre.
The bikes, built by Yorkshire-based Raw Bikes, will cost from £1 750. Co-designer James Broughton, head of Brookes' Joining Technology Research Centre, said the idea of using bamboo started out as just a possible exercise for the centre's students to test alternative materials.
"Bamboo has a genuine performance benefit where it has this ability to dampen frequencies quite nicely," he told BBC News. "In terms of ride quality, we thought that it might have nice characteristics."
Dr Broughton said his colleague and co-designer, Shpend Gerguri, thought the giant grass could offer a different experience for a bike rider from standard frame materials.
"Particularly hard frames like carbon fibre, where the material is so stiff, means you feel everything from the road," he explained. "This can be very advantageous; you make things stiff because then all the power you put in through your legs goes straight into turning the wheels round, it does not go into bending the frame.”
"However, when you go to longer distances then the (frequency) feedbacks that the bike gives to the rider can be quite detrimental as they build up and result in rider fatigue."
The environmental merits of bamboo as a fast growing, carbon absorbing, sustainable construction material did offer an extra dimension.
Dr Broughton explained that one of the main challenges was finding the right sort of bamboo. "You have to be quite specific in what you select, and then be quite thorough when conditioning the bamboo to make sure it dries out and has the right moisture content."
The researchers identified a particular kind of bamboo from the estimated 1 500 species growing on the planet, as well as a certain grade of the harvested grass, that was best for the job.
For full story, please see: www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15198952
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Source: The Citizen (Tanzania), 7 October 2011
The fruits of the baobab tree have tremendous health and nutritional benefits. A group called Mildor, which is based in Tanzania’s capital Dar es Salaam, is working to earn income by selling products made from the baobab fruits, while at the same time enhancing the health of its customers.
The group, established early this year, is making and selling baobab by-products from the seeds.
The group developed knowledge on making baobab products through training offered by the Small Industries Development Organization (SIDO). Christine Masasa, a member of Mildor, says the baobab has many health benefits. “The oil and the powder have plenty of nutritional and medicinal properties,” she says.
Baobab powder looks pale in colour and has a unique tangy taste, which is described as “caramel pear with subtle tones of grapefruit”. The powder forms naturally inside the hard-shelled fruit of the tree. According to Christine, the powder makes a tasty beverage, after soaking in water or milk.
She adds that the powder has amazingly high nutritional contents. It has more vitamin C than oranges, and more calcium than milk.
The fruit powder is also said to be rich with antioxidant elements, more than double the figures reported for pomegranates and cranberries, and more than three times the reported figure for blueberries. It contains more potassium than apricots, bananas, peaches and apples, and also has magnesium content above that of bananas, apricots, peaches and apples.
The powder has higher antioxidant levels compared to other fruits including apples, apricots, bananas and peaches. It contains more iron than spinach and apples, in addition to containing higher levels of dietary fibre than most fruits including apples, peaches, apricots and bananas.
Pectin is one source of fibre in baobab and has been reported to have a role in reduction of total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which might cause blockage of blood vessels.
In other countries in Africa and Europe baobab products, such as jams, teas, nutrition bars and powder ingredient mixes are already available.
Additionally, baobab leaves can be consumed as a meal, can heal stomach ulcers and typhoid, and act as an instant energy booster.
Mildor also extracts oil by cold-pressing the seeds of baobab. The semi-fluid golden coloured oil has a gentle scent and is rich in Vitamin A, B, C, D and F, and can be used as medicine for treatment of several diseases. It increases body cells, body CD4, and builds a healthy liver and kidney. It also helps to remove cholesterol, body poison and reduce body weight.
A study conducted in 2000 by Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), department of forestry, titled “Potentials of NWFPs in Household Food Security in Tanzania” revealed that NWFPs such as baobab fruits are of vital importance as tools for coping with food shortage and famines.
For full story, please see: http://thecitizen.co.tz/business/13-local-business/15876-new-study-shows-positive-attributes-of-baobab-fruit.html
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Source: Dr. Wolfe, Visiting Professor in Human Biology at Stanford University, Wall Street Journal (USA), 8 October 2011
Since pandemics were first recognized as a serious public-health problem a century ago, the usual approach has been reactive: throw everything you have got at the disease du jour. When there is an influenza threat, drop everything and focus on risks from influenza pandemics. When SARS spreads, focus on unknown respiratory diseases.
This approach helps to quell public concern, but it is a hugely inefficient way to deal with future risks, especially at a time when lethal microbes are frequent fliers. It does nothing to deal with the next unknown viral agent.
We need a different approach, based on the growing capacity to predict the most serious threats and to keep them from spreading. Pandemics do not occur randomly. From malaria and influenza to AIDS and SARS, the lethal microbes have come, in the first instance, from animals, especially wild animals. And we increasingly know which parts of the world pose the greatest risk for future incursions.
One of the keys to surveillance is to focus on perhaps the most direct interface between humans and wild animals: "bushmeat." Where domestic protein sources are scarce, animals ranging from guinea fowl and pythons to monkeys and porcupines often take their place. Collectively, these wild animals harbour an enormous universe of microbes, which can provide fodder for pandemics.
Progress has been encouraging. New microbes are regularly detected which allows us to identify and follow people who have been infected and might launch new epidemics. But efforts are still piecemeal in relation to the scope of the threat. Organizations like Google have built tools for gathering and sorting information that one could barely have dreamt of a few decades ago. Similar innovations are needed in global health. If Google, as some have said, has helped to create a global nervous system, our aim is to build a global immune system.
Though some of these tools are beginning to come together in organizations, this scenario is still largely wishful thinking. But such a system is exactly what we need — an innovative group devoted entirely to understanding and analyzing biological threats and catching them before they become disasters.
For full story, please see: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203476804576615133333388072.html
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Source: FAO Newsroom, 27 September 2011
The continuing boom in ecotourism has the potential to save endangered forests or destroy them, depending on how effectively tourism expansion is managed, an international partnership for forest conservation and improvement cautioned today.
The Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF), comprising 14 international organizations and secretariats, including FAO, issued its view on the relationship between ecotourism and forestry today as the world celebrates the World Tourism Day and the International Year of Forests.
Tourism has demonstrated resiliency in the face of the global economic downturn. Globally, the tourism industry generated more than US$1 trillion in 2010, according to the World Tourism Organization (WTO). And the share of tourism in developing countries is steadily rising, up from 31 percent in 1990 to 47 percent in 2010.
"Sustainable tourism has proven one of the most effective ways of providing economic and employment opportunities for local communities while protecting the world's natural resources," said Taleb Rifai, WTO's Secretary-General.
Ecotourism, characterized by responsible travel to natural areas that promotes conservation of the environment, is one of the fastest growing segments of tourism worldwide, and is growing at a pace of more than 20 percent annually — two to three times faster than the tourism industry overall.
"For many people, there is an attitude of "we had better see it while it is still there to see" when it comes to visiting threatened forests or endangered wildlife," said Patrick Durst, a senior forestry official with FAO, working in Asia.
Ecotourism can provide local communities with motivation to maintain and protect forests and wildlife. When local people get income and employment from ecotourism, they are far less likely to destroy the natural resources through unsustainable exploitation.
"Ecotourism has a far greater potential for contributing to income and livelihoods in poor rural communities than what is realized," noted FAO's Edgar Kaeslin, Forestry Officer in Wildlife and Protected Area Management. "It is crucial that local people are fully involved in the activities and receive sufficient benefits."
The benefits of ecotourism flowing to local businesses are dramatically higher than those from mass tourism. Standard all-inclusive package tours typically deliver just 20 percent of revenue to local companies, while the rest is captured by airlines, hotels and large tour companies, whereas locally-based ecotourism operations that hire locally and are based locally can return as much as 95 percent of earnings into the local economy.
However, failure to limit tourist numbers at popular sites can quickly overload ecosystems and damage fragile natural resources, sometimes permanently.
The best ecotourism programmes strive to regulate against such abuses and guide it toward maximizing local benefits. Training for local people is crucial to ensure they can compete successfully for desirable ecotourism jobs.
For full story, please see: www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/90192/icode/
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Source: Business Ghana, 4 October 2011
Cambodia on Monday hosted the 3rd World Ecotourism Conference, aimed at developing the Asia Pacific region as a leading ecotourism destination.
The three-day conference, under the theme "Charting the Future of Ecotourism in Asia: Asia will dominate global tourism in future", attracted some 300 governmental officials, tourism ministers, deputy ministers, ecotourism specialists, businessmen, representatives from national and international ecotourism associations and communities from 23 countries, mostly in Asia Pacific region.
"The conference is a good opportunity to establish and boost relationship and cooperation on the development of ecotourism in the region in a sustainable and responsible manner," said Cambodian Minister of Tourism Thong Khon at the opening ceremony. "Also, it is time to exchange the best experience and practice related to the ecotourism development in order to ensure the effectiveness and sustainability of natural and environmental conservation."
The Minister said that at the end of the conference, there would be the "Sihanoukville Declaration on Multilateral Cooperation for Ecotourism Development", which would be submitted to the United Nations World Tourism Organization for the final approval.
"The Declaration will be a roadmap for ecotourism development in a sustainable and responsible manner in the whole Asia, particularly in Cambodia," he said.
For full story, please see: www.businessghana.com/portal/news/index.php?op=getNews&news_cat_id=1&id=153687
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Source: Huffington Post (USA), 13 October
Monica Martinez thinks Americans are ready to embrace entomophagy (bug-eating) and she has launched an edible bug food cart (Don Bugito) as well as a home mealworm farm (Wurmhaus) to prove her point.
Before you write off the idea as novelty, consider what most of us in the western world thought of eating raw fish 20 years ago. Why couldn't a cheap, accessible and tasty source of protein become this decade's sushi? High in protein, low in saturated fats, packed with vitamins and minerals, edible bugs could become the next superfood.
Most of our ancestors probably relied on insects for food, and today, 80 percent of the world's nations still count them as a protein source.
Given the expense involved in raising a cow (both the resources required to feed and house it, as well as the hormones and antibiotics used in conventional farming), it would seem that bugs (with the best feed-to-meat conversion ratio of any other edible creature) have an advantage over more traditional sources of protein.
Insect farming is also one of the easiest ways — particularly for urbanites and/or those worried about food safety — to actively get in touch with your protein. Bugs require very little space to live and not a lot of care.
Martinez, also created a home mealworm farm called Wurmhaus as a nod to the Bauhaus humanist approach and a reaction to "contemporary agriculture and the practices of large-scale factory farms".
Mealworms are very low-maintenance livestock: they simply eat oats (or other grains) and they just need pieces of vegetable or fruit for their water needs. Though it does take a year to complete their life cycle stages between egg, larva, pupa and adult beetle and since only the larvae are eaten, this involves some moving of eggs/beetles between homes.
And for those certain they are not interested in giving it a try, Martinez has some words of advice: you are already eating insects. The FDA (U.S. Food & Drug Administration) has established acceptable levels of things like bugs in our food. We all involuntarily and unknowingly consume plenty of bugs per year. According to the calculations of E.J. Levy of the New York Times, our annual intake is roughly two pounds of flies, maggots and mites .
For full story, please see: www.huffingtonpost.com/kirsten-dirksen/edible-bugs_b_1008403.html
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Source: Times of Oman, 23 October 2011
Researchers at Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) in Oman have prepared a detailed research schedule with the aim of establishing a database of the physical, chemical and antimicrobial properties of Omani frankincense resin, oil and smoke.
The study, which covers the entire spectrum of the properties of Omani frankincense, has been undertaken by Dr Ann Mothershaw and Zahra Al Kharousi from the Food Science and Nutrition Department of the College of Agricultural and Marine Sciences.
Highlighting the significance of their work, Dr Ann said: “Although frankincense has a long history of beneficial use there are many aspects concerning its active components and mode of action that remain unclear, for example little is known of the properties and activity of the smoke”.
As part of the project, the researchers will compare the two extreme grades of Omani frankincense resin (Boswellia sacra): the highest quality (Hojari) and the lowest quality (Sha’bi).
The study is in its initial stages. The objective is to identify any potential links between physical properties, grade and use.
So far, some statistically significant and different parameters were identified between the two grades, including the colour attributes, and it was concluded that these physical properties of the oleo-gum have the potential use for standardizing the grading system of Omani frankincense.
For full story, please see: www.timesofoman.com/innercat.asp?detail=51038
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Source: Worldwatch Institute, 4 October 2011
No single fruit can put an end to hunger. But worldwide there are many different fruits and vegetables that are helping to improve nutrition and diets, while increasing incomes and improving livelihoods. Among these:
- Monkey Oranges: Similar in shape and size to apple, pear, and orange trees, Monkey Oranges are a highly coveted African wild fruit tree (Strychnos spinosa), and farmers will often leave them standing when clearing land for cultivation of field crops. It is traditionally eaten raw, or made into jam, juice, or fruit wine. The grapefruit-sized fruit tends to be yellow, orange, or brown, and emits a sweet scent with a touch of clove. They are known for their delicious sweet and sour flavor and are rich in vitamin C and in B vitamins. Monkey Oranges in Action: Monkey oranges are an important indigenous African resource that support farmers in times of crop failure, providing a supplemental food in rural areas. By adding them to crop fields, gardens, parks, fence lines, and street sides they can boost food security and nutrition. They are a source of shade and erosion protection, and the wood is commonly used for firewood, tool handles, and building poles.
- Ackee: The ackee tree (Blighia sapida) is indigenous to the tropical forests of West Africa. Although it is not popularly eaten there, it is cultivated in the region for several non-food uses: immature fruits are used to make soap; the wood from the tree is termite resistant and used for building; extracts from the poisonous seeds are taken to treat parasites and are sometimes used as a fish poison; topical ointment made from crushed ackee leaves is applied to the skin to treat headaches and ulcers. And the Ackee leaves are also good as a fodder for goats. Ackee fruit has a creamy texture and a mild flavour. It is commonly eaten with meat dishes as a side vegetable. It is very nutritious, high in fatty acids and rich in protein, potassium, iron, and Vitamin C. But be careful, both the skin and seeds of the ackee are poisonous. They contain toxic hypoglycins levels and can even be fatal. Care must be taken in harvesting the fruit at the right time and in the preparation of an ackee dish. In tropical West Africa — where ackee trees are indigenous, well-adapted, and utilized for other purposes — the safe preparation and nutritious value of the ackee arils supports food security and rural incomes.
- Wild Ethiopian Coffee: Of the two globally cultivated coffee species (Coffea Arabica and Coffea Canephora) — commonly known as Arabica and Robusta — Arabica is the most admired and dominates 70 percent of all coffee production. The species naturally occurs exclusively in the isolated highland forests of Southern Ethiopia. For thousands of years, people living in the Ethiopian highlands have traditionally been roasting coffee berries and grinding them in a mortar. In 2007, Slow Food International started training 64 gatherers in Herenna, Ethiopia, on improved harvesting and drying techniques. Gatherers are also trained in organizational and business skills. The goal is to help locals produce a consistent, quality product that can then be marketed worldwide as a specialty product. The added economic value will not only improve the incomes of local people, it could also help slow deforestation as gatherers become better stewards to preserve their product.
- Tsamma Melon: The Tsamma Melon (Citrullus ianatus) grows wild in the Kalahari Desert in Southern Africa. Like cacti in the deserts of North America, Tsamma melons can store large amounts of water. Tsamma melons include several varieties that range in flavor and texture. Sweet varieties are eaten raw like watermelons, while the more bitter, tougher varieties are cooked over coals to soften the flesh. Traditionally, they have also been used as a standby source of water in times of drought. Native to the desert, Tsammas are very drought-resistant, a trait many domesticated watermelons now lack. This genetic material, largely lost in commercial varieties is being used in breeding new varieties of watermelon that could help to benefit both farmers and the environment.
- Safou: Native to the humid, tropical forests of West and Central Africa, safou (Dacryodes edulis) is also known as the “butterfruit” for its rich, oily pulp. People in West and Central Africa have been eating safou for centuries as a fresh fruit between meals and cooked as a main course. When roasted or quickly boiled in salted water, the pulp separates from the skin and seed and takes on a buttery texture. In Nigeria, cooked pulp is combined with starchy foods like maize to make a main course. The World Agroforestry Center promotes safou as a key tree species in agroforestry systems that can be intercropped with food crops to provide shade and biomass while also producing edible fruit. And the UK-based International Centre for Underutilized Crops has been searching for varieties that combine high-quality taste, nutrition, and disease-resistance.
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Source: Huffington Post, 10 October 2011
Prices for the rare Cordyceps sinensis, or caterpillar fungus, found only in small swathes of the Tibetan plateaus of the Himalaya Mountains, now reach US$50 000/lb. The fungus is an aphrodisiac as well as a status symbol among wealthy businessmen.
According to Cordyceps expert Daniel Winkler, most caterpillar fungi are harvested by Tibetan nomads and townspeople. They sell their finds, for a few dollars each, to Hui Muslim brokers, who then sell them to consumers in wealthy coastal China and abroad.
The market for Cordyceps sinensis is so lucrative that it accounts for an astounding 8 percent of Tibetan GDP — and far more of the total cash coming into the province. The money has been a huge boon for the Tibetan people. Successful harvesters often make many times as much money as any of their neighbours, allowing them to afford education for their children and Western-made material goods for their families, according to a LA Times report on the fungus. Still, no sudden influx of cash is without its problems. There have been reports of fights and turf wars, some deadly, among Tibetans hoping for control of the market.
The caterpillar fungus has quite a modest origin, considering its massive societal impact. Every year, as winter approaches, ghost moth larvae seek shelter underneath the frigid Tibetan earth. While there, many are devoured by the fungus, which emerges from the caterpillar graves in the spring, to be found by harvesters.
For full story, please see: www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/10/caterpillar-fungus-tibet_n_1003678.html
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Source: Reuters, 14 October 2011
A daily spoonful of Malaysian honey may boost postmenopausal women's memory, researchers say in a new report that aims to provide an "alternative therapy" for hormone-related intellectual decline.
In the study, 102 healthy women were randomly assigned to eat 20 g of honey/day, take hormone-replacement therapy containing estrogen and progesterone or do nothing.
After four months, those who took honey or hormone pills recalled about one extra word out of 15 presented on a short-term memory test.
"The immediate memory improvement in the honey group is probably best explained by improvement in concentration and overall well-being after honey supplement," Dr. Zahiruddin Othman and colleagues from Universiti Sains Malaysia in Kubang Kerian write in the journal Menopause.
The new work is part of a slew of studies from the researchers, who say the honey —from the tropical tualang tree (Koompassia excelsa) — has beneficial effects on anything from scars, to bones, to female reproductive organs and even cancer cells.
And now memory has been added to the list. But women should not get excited just yet, warn U.S. experts, who shot down the new results.
"This is not a scientifically rigorous study," said Dr. Natalie L. Rasgon of the Stanford School of Medicine, who has led government-funded studies on estrogen and cognitive decline in women.
One criticism, she told Reuters Health, is that the study was small and did not last long. What's more, she worried that any effect of honey might simply be a question of increasing blood sugar levels.
"Assuming potential efficacy of the honey, there is no pre-existing knowledge of a mechanism," Rasgon said.
She also explained that estrogen and progesterone have very different effects on the brain, and scientists are still divided on the question of how hormones influence memory.
Another Stanford researcher, Dr. Victor Henderson, added that the Malaysian study was not blinded, meaning that both participants and researchers knew what treatment each woman got.
Both Rasgon and Henderson have received funding or consulting fees from drugmakers selling hormone-replacement therapy. Yet they said that for most menopausal women, real mental decline is not a problem.
For full story, please see: www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/14/us-honey-memory-idUSTRE79D5LH20111014
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Source: The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 October 2011
About two out of three Australians use some form of traditional or alternative medicine — from vitamins and minerals to fish oils, homoeopathic concoctions, and herbs such as St John's wort and evening primrose — and with 10 000 such medicines available it is now a AUD$1.2 billion-a-year business.
Herbal medicines have been with us for millennia, and many are now the basis of our most common and effective mainstream pharmaceuticals. The World Health Organization says at least 25 percent of all modern medicines are derived, either directly or indirectly, from medicinal plants.
Cinchona tree bark was long used by Peruvian Indians to treat malaria but it was not until 1820 that chemists isolated its active component and gave the world quinine.
Willow bark was used against pains and fevers for centuries, based on its active ingredient salicin. But that compound in pure form is toxic and it was not until scientists transformed it into a related molecule, acetylsalicylic acid, that we had aspirin. Now it is estimated that about 95 percent of modern painkillers are based on it or (poppy-derived) opium.
Similarly, the anti-cancer drug taxol comes from the Pacific yew tree; artemisinin, used against malaria, is based on the artemisia shrub, and penicillin, of course, was discovered through a humble mould.
A number of the so-called alternative medicines have also been shown to be beneficial to certain degrees. One of the most popular is St John's wort (Hypericum perforatum), used for centuries against everything from arthritis and diarrhoea to sciatica — and later, and more effectively, against depression. In the mid-1990s, a meta-analysis of 23 studies into the plant concluded there was evidence its extracts were ''more effective than placebo for the treatment of mild to moderately severe depressive disorders''.
As Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst point out in their book Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts About Alternative Medicine, such scientific evidence-based research has made St John's wort one of the biggest sellers in the worldwide multibillion-dollar herbal remedy market and a number of other popular products have also been shown to be effective.
Trials have proved Harpagophytum procumbens (or devil's claw) helps treat musculoskeletal pain; echinacea may reduce the length of common colds; garlic can help with high cholesterol; and kava with anxiety.
Others are more perilous. Ephedra, extracted from a Chinese plant Ma Huang and used to lose weight and improve physique, was linked in 2005 to severe reactions in 19 000 people worldwide, including at least 164 deaths. A Chinese herbal slimming regime, using birthwort or aristolochia, was shown in the mid-1990s to cause kidney failure, with at least 30 fatal cases, and later linked to multiple tumour cancers.
However, deaths in both cases came from misuse. Ma Huang is recommended to treat cold symptoms, but because it increases metabolism and perspiration it was wrongly promoted for weight loss, in large and subsequently toxic doses.
For full story, please see: www.smh.com.au/national/trick-or-treat-20111001-1l2sz.html#ixzz1bPIBubPF
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Source: The Hindu (India), 30 September 2011
Neem (Azadirachta indica) is popularly accepted as nature's pharmacy but very little is known about its specific properties. However, Bangalore-based Ganit Labs, a genome sequencing and translational genomics lab, announced at a press conference on Thursday that it had “completed the first de novo sequencing of neem”. The not-for-profit, government-funded public-private initiative between Institute of Bioinformatics and Applied Biology (IBAB) and Strand Life Sciences, has completed the analysis of the neem plant and has unravelled its genome and coding parts.
Those involved in this study believe that by understanding the molecular architecture of the neem genome, knowledge about this traditional medicine will be enhanced. Announcing their achievement, Binay Panda, head of Ganit Labs said, “We believe our current sequencing study on neem will provide the right scientific impetus for students and young scientists in studying one of the most important plant species of our country.”
For full story, please see: www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Bangalore/article2499971.ece
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Source: The Ecologist, 26 September 2011
A powerful key segment in the new Nat Geo Wild documentary Blood Ivory — which follows the undercover investigations by the Environment Investigation Agency (EIA) — was shot in Kenya. The aim was to document what was happening on the ground.
The carnage is not unique to Kenya, it continues all across Africa. Based on the information EIA has in its database for this year — and that is by no means complete — since 1 January 2011 (worldwide):
• 11 493 kg of ivory have been seized, representing at least 1 149 elephants (based on an average of 10 kg/animal);
• an additional 3 997 tusks (no weight recorded) were seized, so that is at least 1 998 elephants;
• also seized were 1 307 pieces of ivory (worked ivory including statues, chopsticks, “pieces of ivory” with no further description, etc), with no way of knowing what that represents and no weight recorded.
This does not include any of the ivory that went through undetected. So, not counting the “pieces”, that is at least 3 148 dead animals.
If that represents 20 percent of what goes through undetected — although customs will always say they reckon to stop about 10 percent, but let’s be conservative — that means … well, you work it out.
For full story, please see:
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Source: Al Jazeera International, 7 October 2011
Gorillas, once a species at the brink of extinction, are making a remarkable comeback in Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Between 2003 and 2006, their numbers rose by over 25 percent and there are now more than 480 animals living in the Virunga Massif area. This success is partly due to the work of the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP). The organization has played a key role in reducing poaching, disease and other human-wildlife conflict.
The mountain gorilla is one of the rarest mammals on earth. By 1989, poaching and habitat destruction had seen the numbers crash to fewer than 600. Extinction was close at hand.
But the mountain gorilla is making something of a comeback — it is believed that there are now more than 800. And it is all down to a unique conservation effort.
The last refuge of the mountain gorilla lies where the borders of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda meet. The gorillas' range is now tightly squeezed into the boundaries of Bwindi National Park and the Virunga Mountains.
"Because of population pressures, the communities cultivate right up to the park edge and this introduces an element of conflict between man and gorilla," explains Stephen Asuma of the International Gorilla Conservation Programme.
"The gorillas will naturally come for the easy pickings and raid villagers' crops." In the past, the villagers would sometimes seek retribution, killing the culprits. So now a 12 km buffer zone has been established along the fringes of Bwindi National Park. "It incorporates open land which the gorillas do not like to cross," says Asuma.
So the local community is learning to share an overlap of land with the gorillas. But the comeback of these endangered animals is down to more than just compromise.
Some locals have gotten jobs within the conservation programme itself, becoming guides or trackers. Others make money from basket weaving and carvings.
Looking after these iconic animals goes further still. The Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Programme monitors the health of the animals across Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. The “gorilla doctors” only ever intervene and administer medical treatment if it looks as if the animal will otherwise die. And it has worked.
The mountain gorilla is the only one of the five great apes, whose numbers are actually increasing.
For full story, please see: http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/earthrise/2011/10/2011106121535837805.html
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Source: The New York Times, 6 October 2011
In eastern Paktika Province, near the border with Pakistan, September and early October are pine-nut season. Much of the able-bodied population in rural villages is busy gathering cones from forests on mountain slopes.
But several slopes that yield rich harvests face American military positions, which presents an annual problem: pine-cone pickers risk being caught between two warring sides.
This year, as villagers worked the slopes in front of a new American-Afghan outpost, the risks to civilians were reduced in a starkly practical way — the Taliban and Haqqani fighters declared a unilateral cease-fire, American officers say.
The “pine-nut truce,” as it became known among soldiers who found an unexpected respite from the exhausting grind of daily contact, underscored a pair of simple facts: Waging war requires labour, and when local labour is busy with other work, fighting can subside. In sections of Paktika Province, the decline in violence was clear and steep.
“For two months we basically received contact daily or twice daily,” said Capt. Craig A. Halstead, who commands Company B, Second Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, which rotates platoons through the post.
In the month of August, the company’s data shows, there were only two days when the outpost was not under fire. The fighting continued through 8 September.
On 9 September, the hills were quiet. The company took no fire.
On 10 September, the soldiers intercepted radio chatter, including the voice of one of the fighters talking to others about the harvest. “We will not shoot for 15 days so the people can collect pine cones,” the voice said, according to the translated transcript.
By then, Afghan villagers were visible on the slopes that surround the post.
For three weeks, using long poles that end in hooks to pluck each cone, local men filled sacks with their harvest and brought them down the hills for sale in Orgun, the nearest city, or to Afghan buyers who canvass the harvesters in their villages.
Throughout this time, not a single shot was fired at Observation Post Twins.
Why the Taliban and Haqqani fighters decided to hold their fire is not fully understood.
There are two theories, which are not mutually exclusive.
Captain Halstead said one assumption was that the fighters did not want to start firefights or indirect-fire duels, drawing mortar and artillery barrages, endangering the pine-cone pickers.
The observation post, built late this spring, overlooks the so-called Naka bowl, a small and low-lying agricultural area where several Taliban and Haqqani commanders were born. The insurgent commanders, Captain Halstead said, appeared to be concerned about alienating their neighbours, who did not want to be caught in the daily cross-fire while busy harvesting.
This analysis, and the underlying assumption that Taliban and Haqqani commanders had met with villagers to coordinate the fighting and harvesting schedules, found currency among many of the soldiers.
Another factor behind the cease-fire, the soldiers said, was rooted in temporary manpower shortages. Many of the fighters are local men, the soldiers said, as are many of those who support them. With the harvest demanding as many hands as possible, fewer men were available to plan attacks, to fight, to carry ammunition, or to serve as spotters to watch the Americans’ movements and protect the fighting cells.
A similar pattern has been visible in Afghanistan’s poppy-growing provinces.
Mir Jhan, an elder in nearby Zerok, beside a larger American post, said that that the three villages that make up Zerok had 5 000 people each and that “all of our people are involved in pine nuts.”
The mountain forests, he said, are divided by local agreements and tradition into separate tracts, where each village and each family has plots to harvest.
The nuts, once removed from the cones, fetch 1 500 Pakistani rupees/kg, he said, or roughly US$17.
For full story, please see: www.nytimes.com/2011/10/07/world/asia/harvesting-cease-fire-offers-respite-in-afghanistan.html?pagewanted=all
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Source: Reuters, 11 October 2011
The Iguazu waterfalls that border Paraguay and Brazil mark what is now the outer limit of the jaguar's range. Just 50 of the big cats are estimated to live in the sub-tropical jungle around the famous falls.
Out of sight of the tourist hordes, Argentine scientists have been monitoring one of the nation's last remaining jaguar populations since 2003.
Project Jaguar's aim is to fit the animals with GPS tracking collars in order to observe how they are affected by farming and other activities.
Most years they normally register two or three animals during a month-long tracking campaign, but this time not a single jaguar has been trapped for fitting with a collar so far, team leader Agustin Paviolo told Reuters Television.
"The population risk studies we have conducted in collaboration with the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago indicate that in a medium-term period of between 20 and 30 years, the likelihood of extinction is quite high if we do not take action to reduce the threats to this population," he said.
Argentina's northern forest have been classified as one of the areas where jaguars are least likely to survive, along with parts of Brazil, Venezuela and Guyana and most of its ranges in Central America and Mexico.
The jaguar used to roam up into southern parts of the United States and down to Patagonia, but they now occupy only 40 percent of their historic range.
The WWF estimates that only 15 000 are left in the wild as deforestation deprives them of prey and makes them more vulnerable to hunters.
About 18 000 jaguars were killed globally every year for their fur in the 1960s and 1970s and hunting remains a threat to them today despite anti-fur campaigns.
Red Yaguarete (Jaguar Network), a voluntary group that works to get hunters prosecuted, says there is increasing evidence that foreigners are hunting the animals for sport, though most animals are killed by farmers who lose livestock to the jaguars.
But despite some progress to crack down on poaching, hunters are rarely convicted by over-stretched courts.
In Iguazu, the Project Jaguar team says the forest needs the jaguar as much as the jaguar needs the forest.
"In areas where large predators are disappearing ... the ecosystem starts to lose equilibrium," Paviolo said. "For the jungle to remain as it is, we need to have these predators."
For full story, please see: www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/11/us-argentina-jaguars-idUSTRE79A3CR20111011
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Source: Associated Press in The Washington Post, 7 October 2011
Researchers monitoring the destruction of Brazil’s Amazon forest say the creation of conservation units and indigenous reserves has not been enough to contain deforestation.
The Ministry of Science and Technology’s Prodes Project is analyzing satellite images of the forest. The Brazilian newspaper O Globo says the project reports that deforestation increased 127 percent in the century’s first decade for the 132 conservation units observed.
Brazil’s Ministry of the Environment says 250 000 km² of forest have become part of federal conservation units and 100 000 km² have become indigenous reserves since 2004.
For full story, please see: www.washingtonpost.com/world/americas/creation-of-indigenous-reserves-conservation-units-doesnt-stop-loggers-in-brazil/2011/10/07/gIQAdZfhTL_story.html
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Source: New Scientist, 12 October
David Hoyle, conservation director for WWF Cameroon, says poaching is on the increase. One reason, he says, is that the average jail sentence for trafficking class-A species such as gorillas, chimpanzees and elephants has been going down. "The maximum term in Cameroon is one to three years, but in reality poachers get two to three months, due to leniency at the ministry of justice," he says.
With little risk of capture and relatively short sentences if they are arrested, poaching gangs are professionally organized and operate with impunity, utilizing the knowledge of indigenous people — the Baka pygmies of Gabon and Cameroon. "The Baka live sustainably in the forest, but they are being exploited by the gangs, who bribe them with whisky to guide the hunters," says Hoyle.
"We need governments to crack down on the network of professional traffickers that are operating in Cameroon and Central African Republic," he says.
Lobéké National Park covers an area of some 217 000 ha, extending close to the border with Central African Republic. There are 22 "ecoguards" assigned to patrol this area, but the border region is extremely porous and the gangs operate from a variety of countries: poaching is difficult to prevent and occurs within park boundaries as well as in the surrounding forest, says Hoyle.
For full story, please see: www.newscientist.com/article/dn21038-gorilla-poachers-kill-forest-ranger-in-cameroon.html
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- Democratic Republic of Congo: Study confirms its potential as world environmental powerhouse but warns of critical threats
Source: African Press Organization, 11 October 2011
With half of Africa's forests and water resources and trillion-dollar mineral reserves, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) could become a powerhouse of African development provided multiple pressures on its natural resources are urgently addressed.
A major Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment of the DRC by UNEP underlines the global significance and extraordinary potential of the country's natural and mineral resources.
However, the study warns of alarming trends including increased deforestation, species depletion, heavy metal pollution and land degradation from mining, as well as an acute drinking water crisis which has left an estimated 51 million Congolese without access to potable water.
Conducted in conjunction with the DRC's Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Tourism, the assessment highlights successful initiatives and identifies strategic opportunities to restore livelihoods, promote good governance and support the sustainability of the DRC's post-conflict economic reconstruction, and reinforce ongoing peace consolidation.
The study's good news is that most of the DRC's environmental degradation is not irreversible and there has been substantial progress in strengthening environmental governance.
For example, through steps such as regular anti-poaching patrols, the Congolese Wildlife Authority has secured the Virunga National Park, which at the peak of the DRC's crisis was losing the equivalent of 89 ha of forest each day due to illegal fuelwood harvesting.
However, the country's rapidly growing population of nearly 70 million people — most of whom directly depend on natural resources for their survival — and intense international competition for raw materials are adding to the multiple pressures on the DRC's natural resource base.
For key findings and full story, please see: www.starafrica.com/en/news/detail-news/view/unep-study-confirms-dr-congos-potential-195324.html
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Source: IISD Reporting Services, 14 October 2011
UNEP has reported that the Climate Change Adaptation Initiative (CC DARE), jointly implemented with the UNDP, with funding from the Danish Government, has trained 600 unemployed youths in beekeeping in an effort to address climate change impacts and food insecurity.
CC DARE seeks to facilitate opportunities for community climate change adaptation projects in Sub-Saharan African countries and small island developing States (SIDS). According to UNEP, while beekeeping has historically been one of the most important regional income-generating activities, land degradation and climate change is threatening the business. The CC DARE initiative included the planting of 1 000 multi-purpose trees and shrubs species critical for bee forage.
The project also involved training of farmers and unemployed youths in the beekeeping business, and producing honey, hives and wax. In response to the project’s success, the Ethiopian Environment Protection Authority has committed to scale up the project, replicating the activities across the country.
For full story, please see: http://biodiversity-l.iisd.org/news/cc-dare-supports-bee-keeping-in-ethiopia/?utm_source=lists.iisd.ca&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Biodiversity+Update+-+17+October+2011+-+Biodiversity+Policy+%26+Practice
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Source: Reuters Alertnet in People and Forest E-news (RECOFTC), September 2011
Indigenous Papuans are at risk of further marginalization and the forests and ecosystems on which they rely face destruction due to an ambitious food security project by the Indonesian government, activists say.
Under MIFEE (Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate) plans, 1.63 million ha of forest which forms the basis of life for some 200 000 indigenous people in the Merauke area would be used to grow rice, palm oil, soya bean and corn among other crops.
Indonesia is seen as a key player in the fight against climate change and is under intense international pressure to curb its rapid deforestation rate and destruction of carbon-rich peatlands.
Activists accuse the authorities of not sufficiently consulting the Malind Anim people about the project, which they say pose a double threat to local Papuans. Not only would they lose their customary lands, but they would also face an influx of migrants from the rest of Indonesia — further marginalizing communities that feel disenfranchised by what they say is the government's exploitation of natural resources at their expense.
The transition from forest to farm and plantation land would have a "tremendous" impact on natural ecosystems, Carlo Nainggolan from Indonesian rights group Sawit Watch, said.
Despite being home to a mine with the world's largest gold and recoverable copper reserves, Papua is one of the least developed regions in Indonesia. According to the UN, 40 percent of Papuans live below the poverty line of US$1.25/day, compared to the national average of 18 percent.
Both the central and regional governments have hailed MIFEE as the answer not only to Indonesia's growing concerns about food shortages but as a source of exports. The project is expected to produce close to 2 million tonnes of rice, almost 1 million tonnes of corn, 2.5 million tonnes of sugar and close to 1 million tonnes of crude palm oil, according to local media reports.
However, activists point out that the staple food for Papuans is sago, a starch derived from sago palm, not rice. And they say there has been discontent in some areas where compensation from companies clearing and managing the land was deemed insufficient.
The massive scale of the project and nature of the indigenous people's skills — many make a living hunting and gathering rather than farming — means a huge workforce is likely to be imported from outside Papua, activists say.
For full story, please see: www.trust.org/alertnet/news/indonesia-food-security-project-threatens-papuan-way-of-life-activists/?utm_source=People+and+Forests+E-News&utm_campaign=0414023b85-People_and_Forests_E_News_September_20119_2_2011&utm_medium=email
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- Indonesia: Papua's forests face serious threat
Source: http://ibnlive.in.com/, 11 October 2011
Papua’s forests are facing a great threat due to continued land takeovers and forest clearing, a Greenpeace campaigner for Papua, Ricarth Tawaru said. "Almost 9 million ha of forests in Papua have been identified by the government as expendable in the interest of development of large scale industries," he said.
The average acreage of forest lost every year in Papua has reached 300 00 ha. Almost 2 million ha of forests had been allocated for the development of food industries and estates.
"Experience in various other regions show that the changing of forest areas into palm oil plantations and timber estates have created serious social problems, including environmental problems," Ricarth added.
To prevent damage being done to Papua's forests, Ricarth reminded all parties, including the government, businesses and the people that Papua's forest were the only forests in Indonesia that still remained to help reduce global warming. He said that gradually destroying Papua forests is equal to destroying the sources of the Papuan people's cultural inspirations.
For full story, please see: http://ibnlive.in.com/generalnewsfeed/news/papuas-forests-in-indonesia-face-serious-threat/853089.html
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Source: CIFOR Blog, 27 September 2011
Indonesia’s President has vowed to dedicate the last three years of his administration to safeguarding his nation’s rainforests — a pledge that received broad support at a major conference in Jakarta.
Hosted by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the conference provided a platform for 1 000 leaders of Indonesia’s government, business community and civil society, as well as foreign donors, to discuss the future of the forests, the third-largest tropical forest in the world.
“I will continue my work and dedicate the last three years of my term as President to deliver enduring results that will sustain and enhance the environment and forests of Indonesia,” Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said at the conference. “If it were not for the benefits that our forests provide, then our way of life, our people, our economy, our environment and our society would be so much the poorer.”
“Our success in managing our forests will determine our future and the opportunities that will be available to our children.”
According to independent sources, Indonesia is losing about 1.1 million ha of its forests/year. Most of it is due to unsustainable logging that includes the conversion of forests to plantations for palm oil and the pulp and paper industry. It is also partly due to large-scale illegal logging, which is estimated to cost Indonesia about US$4 billion annually.
In his speech, the president reiterated a 2009 pledge to cut Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions by up to 41 percent from business-as-usual levels by 2020 — a vow only achievable if the forests are safeguarded.
Norway has committed up to US$1 billion to help Indonesia meet its emissions reduction target, and in May this year the Indonesian government issued a two-year moratorium on new forestry concessions.
“I call upon our business leaders, particularly those in the palm oil, pulp wood and mining sectors, to partner with us by enhancing the environmental sustainability of their operations,” the President said. “I ask you to join me in pledging to safeguard this national treasure for the sake of our children.”
For full story, please see:
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Source: www.allafrica.com, 18 October 2011
Plans are underway in Nigeria under the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development and a government agency, the National Medicinal Plants Development Company (NMPDC) to maximize the potentials of a medicinal plant (Moringa oleifera) in creating jobs and stepping down maternal and child mortality in the country
In a statement, the Ministry said it will partner with the agency to mobilize and sensitize over 70 percent of women in the country, especially rural farmers, to cultivate and process the moringa plant and other 8 000 species of medicinal plants, to provide health, nutrition and economic empowerment for them.
The Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajiya Zainab Maina, said Nigeria is a country blessed with abundant human and natural resources which are yet to be fully tapped.
She commended the Federal Government for creating the National Medicinal Plants Development Company, which she noted, would ensure that the benefits of herbs in the country are fully exploited.
The Managing Director of NMPDC, Hajiya Zainab Shariff, said the organization plans to harness the potentials of Nigerian medicinal plants for health, nutritional and socio-economic benefit of Nigerians and the people of other countries.
"It also seeks to improve the health indices of the country through the integration of herbal medicine into the maternal healthcare delivery system," she said.
For full story, please see: http://al]lafrica.com/stories/201110180448.html
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Source: Yale Environment News 360, 11 October 2011
The spread of illegal gold mining in southern Peru has driven a growth in deforestation so rampant that government officials may declare an environmental emergency, according to a news report. As the global price of gold has climbed, mining operations in the Amazon have extended into the fringes of Tambopata Nature Reserve, an important region for ecotourism, with miners beginning operations without necessary permits. In some cases, miners have started operations within the reserve itself, using dredges and massive suction equipment to search for gold in rivers and creeks. Ecologists warn that enormous swaths of remote and biodiverse forest are being cleared before scientists have even been able to completely assess their value.
“This [area] is often blanketed in clouds. It is poorly known to science. There are only a few places where roads exist,” said tropical ecologist Gregory Asner of the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University. “We do not know the composition of the ecosystems.” The spread of new mining operations has mirrored the rise in gold prices, with prices rising from under US$400 an ounce in the late 1990s to a peak of about US$1 900 per ounce in August.
For full story, please see: http://e360.yale.edu/digest/rising_gold_prices_drive_rampant_clearing_of_peruvian_amazon/3161/
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From: Environmental News Network, 3 October 2011
The Amur tiger has an extremely small population in the Russian Far East. However due to conservation efforts, that population has remained stable at around 350 individuals living in the wild. Recent reports have shown the population declining further, and one of the causes taken into consideration is a virus known as distemper. Distemper can afflict many wildlife species including domesticated dogs. For the Amur tiger, this disease, also known as cat plague, affects the white blood cell count. It is highly contagious and often fatal. With the situation growing more urgent, Russian and US veterinarians are now collaborating to understand this mysterious disease.
The collaboration of Russian and US veterinarians and health experts is taking place at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) Bronx Zoo. Their findings have been recently presented at a symposium on wildlife diseases held at the Russian Far East town of Ussurisk. Their work will hopefully allow conservationists to create health measures to counter the deadly threat to the Amur tiger.
The first documented appearance of distemper for the tiger occurred in 2003. "With all the threats facing Siberian tigers from poaching and habitat loss, relatively little research has been done on diseases that may afflict tigers," said Dale Miquelle, WCS Director of Russia Programs.
Understanding whether disease is a major source of mortality for Siberian tigers is crucial for future conservation efforts."
For full story, please see: For more information: www.enn.com/top_stories/article/43342
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Source: BBC, 7 October 2011
A University of Southampton study will investigate whether tiny particles from diesel engines could be affecting bees' brains and their navigation. The three-year study will look into whether it is one of the factors affecting bee numbers. Colony collapse disorder has hit large numbers of hives in Europe and North America in recent years.
Biologists, nanotechnology researchers and ecologists at the university will test the behaviour and neurological changes in honey bees when they are exposed to diesel nanoparticles.
Ecologist Professor Guy Poppy said: "Diesel road-traffic is increasing in the UK and research from the US has shown that nanoparticles found in its fumes can be detrimental to the brains of animals when they are exposed to large doses.
"We want to find out if bees are affected in the same way — and answer the question of why bees are not finding their way back to the hive when they leave to find food," he added.
Chemical ecologist Dr Robbie Girling, said: "The diesel fumes may have a dual affect in that they may be mopping up flower smells in the air, making it harder for the bees to find their food sources."
The collapse of bee populations has been recorded around the world although extensive research has yet to identify the cause of the decline.
Bees are estimated to contribute £430m a year to the UK alone, by pollinating crops and producing honey, the researchers said.
For full story, please see: www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-15215693
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Source: Charlotte Observer (USA), 17 October 2011
The American chestnut tree was among the tall stalwarts of the Appalachian forest for centuries. Its rot-resistant wood was used in barns, railroad ties and telephone poles; its nuts fed people, farm animals and wildlife; its canopy offered shade and mopped up a growing country's pollution.
Accounting for one out of every four hardwood trees in its Maine-to-Alabama range, it was a king of the forest: fast-growing, straight-grained, and in some areas, an economic lifesaver.
"The people in Canton, North Carolina never knew the Depression. They were making money hand over fist," says Paul Sisco, president of the Carolinas chapter of the Asheville-based American Chestnut Foundation (TACF).
But by the mid-1940s, scarcely a mature tree was left standing: A blight that arrived from Asia about 1900 took a disastrous toll. It attacked through cracks in bark until it girdled a tree with a ring that nutrients could not penetrate. Roots remained, continuing to produce young trees that also were doomed.
The last big trees had hardly fallen before scientists and chestnut-loving lay people started looking to create a chestnut tree that could withstand blight. In the years since, various groups have planted more than a half-million experimental trees, usually mixing stock from the doomed young trees with that of blight-resistant foreign trees.
Now, two groups think they are close to success. They are the traditional cross-breeders of TACF, who in 2009 started planting their most advanced American-Chinese crosses in forests to propagate on their own, and biotechnologists, who hope that a genetically engineered Chinese-American seedling will prove its resistance by 2013.
Ornamental Chinese trees are short, bushy and slow-growing, but have resistance built up over centuries of coexisting with blight. TACF's goal was to create a tree with 94 percent commercially valuable American characteristics and a minimum of Chinese traits.
The current biotech effort, known as the Forest Health Initiative, brings together scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Clemson University, the State University of New York's College of Environmental Science and Forestry, the University of Georgia, and Pennsylvania State University.
Those advocating both approaches are encouraged by what has happened so far.
The culmination of 25 years of TACF cross-breeding — 4 500 "final generation" trees — are now growing in national forests in Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee.
As for the biotech advocates, "There are a lot of breakthroughs that we have gone through," says SUNY's Dr. William Powell. "Just the ability to put genes in a tree took a long, long time."
Yet neither group is ready to say it has found the Holy Grail.
The creation of TACF's national forest trees is being replicated on farms across the chestnut's former range, including 40 in North Carolina, as volunteer orchardists and researchers work to come up with trees suited to a variety of growing climates. The organization has 6 000 members in 20 states.
No one knows whether crossbreeding or biotech ultimately will prevail as the favoured weapon against the enemies of the chestnut. Success could come even from a combination of the two approaches.
For full story, please see: www.charlotteobserver.com/2011/10/17/2698532/new-hope-for-a-vanished-giant.html#ixzz1bDP4YlMi
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Source: Christine Padoch, Director, Forests and Livelihoods Programme, CIFOR, 30 September 2011
If clearing tropical forests for agriculture is a major cause of the ongoing catastrophic decline in biodiversity, conventional thinking would have us believe that reducing the number of farms and allowing the forests to expand should help reverse that decline, at least locally. However, a recent article by researchers James P. Robson and Fikret Berkes of the University of Manitoba suggests that this assumption may not invariably be true. Their paper, published in the journal Global Environmental Change, is based on field research in Mexico’s Oaxaca State, a region of both exceptionally high biological and cultural diversity. The two indigenous communities they studied in depth are losing farms and gaining forests as residents leave their fields and orchards to move to cities or seek off-farm sources of income. But, the authors argue, the community territories may actually be getting less biologically diverse as well.
The key to this apparent paradox lies in the kind of resource management that was traditionally practiced in the region and is now being lost. Agriculture in the Oaxacan highlands, Robson and Berkes contend, was highly dispersed, rotational and yet low-intensity; fields were small and temporary, crop diversity high and farming was interrelated with natural ecosystems in multiple ways. These patterns resulted in “pronounced spatial heterogeneity in forest structure and composition, and created a high biodiversity forest–agriculture mosaic”. Interviews the researchers conducted with village residents suggested that those practices are now rapidly changing. As much as 60 percent of agricultural lands in the two communities have been abandoned over the past 30 – 40 years, reflecting a similar fall in the number of village residents.
Far less collecting of both wood and NWFPs goes on in local forests, reflecting an aging village population that is less apt to engage in strenuous activities, as well as an emerging preference for modern, store-bought goods.
Understanding the complexity and the consequences of the intertwined changes occurring in Oaxaca — demographic, ecological, cultural and economic — calls for a sustained longitudinal research effort.
Rapid urbanization, simplified agricultural systems and abandonment of local resource use traditions are sweeping across the forested tropics. This paper therefore offers lessons for policymakers far beyond Mexico’s borders. Those who make both conservation and agricultural policy have long tended to assume that agriculture is the enemy of conservation (and vice versa). As this example points out, the obvious may prove to be inaccurate.
For full story, please see: http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?llr=lkucu6dab&v=001TJF9TTZcRzXTiP84q7ML3W_k8yTCPNSAkYSt2if_AWk4Wn7-lx8ff6kdceYYHwJwdK4XzxgqsGAu9xdrRMX5oGSNBuMS7XwzVXUNx4LCjC5JgLEniVHF5Q%3D%3D
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Source: People and Forests E-news (RECOFTC), September 2011
It can be hard to know whether the forest products you buy have been produced sustainably. Forestry certifications were established to give a bit more certainty, but what do they really mean? When you buy a certified product, are you necessarily helping the environment?
The two international forestry certifications – Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certifications (PEFC) – have had an interesting history over the past 20 years. There are often clouded interpretations and misinterpretations of how each came about. Regardless, forestry certifications have been a powerful and leading force in the battle for the environment.
According to environmental NGOs, governments failed to agree on how to address rapid deforestation, mostly in the tropics. As a result NGOs stepped up and created what they believe to be a workable global certification system: FSC.
Yet another account is that the economically poor but forest-rich tropical nations refused to bow to western NGO pressure, forcing them to take up a forestry standard that could be used as some form of trade barrier.
Scholars question the role and effectiveness of international forest certifications. They say the vast majority of forest certificates issued are in the economically rich temperate and boreal forest nations, not the poor tropical nations where most deforestation occurs.
There are only two international forestry schemes. The first and original is FSC. It was started in 1992 mostly by a group of North American environmental groups with WWF in the USA as the driving force. FSC, generally speaking, is a top down approach to forestry certification. Corey Brinkema – US President of FSC – said that aggressive action from NGOs such as WWF and the Nature Conservancy puts pressure on commercial organizations to take up the FSC scheme.
PEFC has also been around since the mid 1990s. PEFC was originally called the Pan European Forestry Certification, but in 1998 changed its name to reflect its growing international role and the method. PEFC is a set of principles on sustainable forestry practices. Rather than being a certification, PEFC is a meta-standard that verifies the quality of any national forestry certification schemes. PEFC endorses national schemes that can achieve a high level of performance, based on the principles set out by PEFC in Geneva.
The one overriding difference is that FSC attempts to have a single standard that is applied globally, while PEFC is flexible to national characteristics by certifying existing national schemes. In terms of size, PEFC has more than twice as much forest area under its certification than FSC.
The truth is that forests around the world are not all the same. Forestry practices in the extremely cold boreal forests, where long-fibre softwood trees grow very slowly, are completely different to those in the tropics, where fast growth hardwood short-fibre varieties are the norm.
However, despite the vast differences in forest management techniques across the world the two schemes appear to successfully satisfy the requirements of sustainable forestry.
For full story, please see:
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Source: UN News, 21 September 2011
Rwanda today won a UN-backed gold award for its forest promotion policies. Policies from the United States and Gambia were runners-up, winning joint silvers in the Future Policy Award announced at UN Headquarters in New York by the World Future Council (WFC), a group of 50 respected personalities from all five continents representing governments, parliaments, the arts, civil society, science and business world.
The annual awards celebrate policies that create better living conditions for current and future generations, and seek to raise global awareness and speed up action towards just, sustainable and peaceful societies. This year’s topic was forests, with 16 entries from 20 countries, and the announcements took place under the sponsorship of FAO.
“Despite the genocide and continuing population and land pressures, Rwanda is one of only three countries in Central and Western Africa to achieve a major reversal in the trend of declining forest cover and is on course to achieving its goal of forest cover of 30 percent of total land area by the year 2020,” WFC Director Alexandra Wandel said in announcing the gold medal for the country’s national forest policy, initiated in 2004.
“The Government of Rwanda has taken a lead in developing visionary forest policy but also biodiversity conservation, ecotourism, green jobs.”
Forest cover has increased by 37 percent since 1990, massive reforestation and planting that promote indigenous species and involve the local population have been undertaken, and new measures such as agro-forestry and education have been implemented.
One silver award went to the US Lacey Act amendment of 2008 which prohibits all trade in wood and plant products that are knowingly illegally sourced from a US state or any foreign country, forcing importers to take responsibility for their wood products.
The second silver went to Gambia's Community Forestry Policy, put in place with FAO support, the first in Africa to provide local populations with secure and permanent forest ownership rights. Transferring forest tenure from state ownership to management by local communities enables them to reduce illegal logging and forest fires, slow desertification and benefit from the forest products.
“The success of the Gambia's Community Forest Policy proves that even in the world's poorest countries, with the right policies and legal framework in place, rural populations can benefit economically from forests and significantly improve their food security and environment,” FAO's Assistant Director-General for Forestry Eduardo Rojas-Briales said of the tiny West African country.
For full story, please see: www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=39661&Cr=&Cr1=&utm_source=People+and+Forests+E-News&utm_campaign=dd33d4c39c-People_and_Forests_E_News_October_201110_3_2011&utm_medium=email#
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Source: IISD Reporting Services, 29 September 2011
The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) has collaborated with the Encylopedia of Life (EOL) to promote efficient sharing of biodiversity data for science and society.
Under the collaboration, the EOL will be able to "harvest" information from content partners using data standards compatible with, and derived from, those used by the GBIF.
The aim of the collaboration is to enable institutions to use a single publication process to make their data accessible through both of these platforms. This is expected to streamline the information publication process, and help the two institutions make their data simultaneously available to a wide spectrum of users.
For more information, please see:
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Source: William Dar, DG of the ICRISAT in Reuters, 21 October 2011
While 193 nations party to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) gather in Changwon, Korea to discuss what can be done to stop rapid global land degradation, we need to do more to follow the pioneering example of Wangari Maathai, founder of Kenya’s Green Belt Movement, which has planted millions of trees, who passed away on 25 September 2011.
Despite successive warnings about the problem and despite tree planting campaigns in the Sahel and other degraded arid-lands regions, desertification is still progressing fast. More than 12 million ha of productive land are lost due to desertification every year, the equivalent of losing all of France’s arable land every 18 months.
The livelihoods of many people depend on that: one third of the world’s population lives in drylands, where land degradation is hurting food supplies, biodiversity, water quality and soil fertility. Many of the world’s poorest and most food-insecure people live off these lands as small-scale farmers and herders. Because they have no fallback options if the land deteriorates, they are the worst hit by desertification.
Solutions exist to help communities improve their livelihoods in harsher environments. The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) is working with local, national and international partners on initiatives that revitalize soils and conserve water, enabling communities to achieve healthy diets and incomes from otherwise degraded or soon-to-become degraded lands.
An effort known as bio-reclamation of degraded lands shows how women’s groups could revitalize barren lands by using simple water and soil conservation techniques such as zai pits (planting holes dug into the soil) to plant drought-tolerant trees and crops, or applying fertilizer by the capfuls to plant roots, a technique known as microdosing.
In West Africa, most women have no or few rights to agricultural land so ICRISAT has been working with local NGOs to help women form associations and gain access to village wasteland which is communal.
Its research shows that degraded lands can be made productive by using a range of simple techniques. Examples of trees planted include the hardy Apple of the Sahel, with 10 times the vitamin C of ordinary apples and rich in calcium, iron, and phosphorus, and Moringa trees, whose leaves contain four times the vitamin A in carrots, four times the calcium and double the protein in milk, and three times the potassium in bananas.
Soil fertility is key, and farmers have been shown how to test their soil's condition and treat it like a living entity- doing a soil health check and then feeding in the nutrients that are missing so the soil recovers before it’s too late. By adding nutrients (like zinc and boron) into exhausted soil, farmers are getting better and more nutritious harvests.
But a global partnership between governments, experts, civil society and local populations is needed to scale up successful projects.
For full story, please see: www.trust.org/alertnet/blogs/climate-conversations/in-the-battle-against-desertification-solutions-exist
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Source: Reuters, 6 October 2011
Mattel, the world's biggest toy manufacturer, has stopped doing business with Asia Pulp & Paper, whose pulpwood suppliers clear ecologically important forests in Sumatra, Indonesia, including areas designated as habitat for critically endangered tigers.
Mattel told suppliers it would not buy wood and paper from Asia Pulp and other companies that destroy rainforests, and it went further — its new policy increases recycled paper and wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) in packaging.
Asia Pulp has been driving the destruction of rainforests in Indonesia for years, including habitat for the last 400 Sumatran tigers.
Mattel was the subject of a Greenpeace campaign because it sourced fibre for disposable packaging from Asia Pulp and Paper.
In response, the company announced it would develop a sustainable procurement policy for all its wood-based product lines, going beyond packaging to toys, books and accessories. Mattel's new policy includes requirements for packaging suppliers to commit to sustainable forestry management practices.
Lego also responded to the campaign, agreeing to stop sourcing from companies involved in deforestation, including Asia Pulp.
For full story, please see: www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/06/idUS182410732320111006
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Source: IISD Reporting Services, 1 October 2011:
UNEP Tunza International Children and Youth Conference concluded with endorsement of a Bandung Declaration, which calls on governments at the Rio+20 meeting to “respond and not ignore the demands of children and youth.” The Conference convened in Bandung, Indonesia from 27 September-1 October 2011.
According to UNEP, the Conference was attended by 1 500 participants from 120 countries, and convened under the theme “Reshaping our Future through a Green Economy and Sustainable Lifestyles.” The conference discussed the role of young people in sustainable development, and agreed to the Bandung Declaration, which represents the global youth statement on sustainable development in the lead up to Rio+20.
The Bandung Declaration includes five sections. On Rio+20 and the promises to this generation, it details the reality of unsustainable development that faces Rio+20 and states that children and young people cannot wait another generation, until a Rio+40. In a section on what children and youth are going to do, it outlines the commitment of children and youth to lobby their respective governments and adopt more sustainable lifestyles. On what green economy means to children and youth, it inidicates that it is an economy that values human well being, social equity, economic growth and environmental protection on an equal basis. It also stresses the need for governments and corporations to come to Rio and deliver, a swift and decisive green economy path toward sustainable development, and presents what governance means to children and youth.
For full story, please see: http://uncsd.iisd.org/news/unep-tunza-conference-develops-bandung-declaration/?utm_source=lists.iisd.ca&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=UNCSD+Update+-+3+October+2011+-+Sustainable+Development+Policy+%26+Practice
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REMINDER: 2nd Asia-Pacific Forestry Week: New Challenges, New Opportunities
7-11 November 2011
FAO and its partners are inviting the forestry sector to come together at the second Asia-Pacific Forestry Week, expected to be the largest and the most important forestry-related event in the region in 2011. The event will bring together some 1500-2000 participants from governments, NGOs, research institutions, regional and international networks, UN agencies and the private sector. High-level forestry officials from throughout the Asia-Pacific region will attend the event. It will provide a unique opportunity for diverse stakeholders and forest managers to share perspectives and seek solutions to the most challenging issues facing forests and forestry today.
For more information, please contact:
Mr. Patrick Durst (Senior Forestry Officer)
FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
39 Phra Atit Road, Bangkok 10200, Thailand
Phone: +66 2 697 4139
Fax: +66 2 697 4445
Email: [email protected]
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Conference on NWFPs for Sustained Livelihoods
17-19 December 2011
The importance of NWFPs to rural livelihoods and alleviating rural poverty is well documented. It is estimated that about 60 million highly forest dependent people in Latin America, West Africa and Southeast Asia, and an additional 400 to 500 million people especially communities living inside and on the fringes of forest areas depend on NWFPs for food, shelter, medicine, cash income etc. Apart from meeting subsistence and cash income needs of the dependent communities, NWFPs also support large number of small to large scale enterprises engaged in processing and/or trading of NWFP and NWFP based products.
While there is growing appreciation of the importance of NWFPs for rural households, especially of the very poor, there are also concerns about the potential impact of NWFP collection on biodiversity.
Nevertheless, many positive developments are happening around the globe in the field of NWFP management. It is against this backdrop that the Minor Forest Produce Federation of Bhopal, India is organizing an international conference on NWFPs .
The conference gives an opportunity for researchers, policy makers, managers, professionals from different private sectors in Asia and other regions of the world to exchange and share methodologies, approaches, information on products, market and lessons learnt from NWFPs conservation and development initiatives.
For more information, please contact:
NWFP Conference Secretariat
Minor Forest Produce Processing and Research Centre
Barkheda Pathani, BHEL Township
Bhopal (M.P.), India
FAX: +91-755-2417670, 2552628
E-mail: [email protected]
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There is compelling evidence that the scale of current hunting is a serious threat to many forest species and ecosystems across the world. This threatens both people and the biodiversity they rely upon. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has identified unsustainable hunting of bushmeat, and its effect on non-target species, as a priority for action, with the development of small-scale alternatives to the unsustainable bushmeat harvest and trade of paramount importance.
However, the fact is, people need to eat to survive, and for some of the poorest people on earth, their only readily accessible source of essential protein is from wild animals. Many of these people are reliant too on wild resources as the primary source for their livelihoods and their healthcare.
This study takes a rational approach to this often emotive issue. It attempts to understand the bushmeat trade and why and how it can become unsustainable, with all the concomitant dangers that poses. It examines the successes and failures of small-scale alternatives to the unsustainable use of bushmeat across a wide range of geographic and local situations and uses them to provide relevant regional and global recommendations on the most effective solutions to the problem.
For more information, please see: www.cbd.int/doc/publications/cbd-ts-60-en.pdf
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The Natural Inquirer is an integrated science education journal for students aged 11-14. The latest edition of the Natural Inquirer presents the results of a worldwide effort to understand the world’s forests. Produced in collaboration with the US Forest Service and based on FAO's Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010 findings, this issue has new comprehensive content, graphs and pictures as well as lesson plans for educators and student exercises. It contains information from 233 countries and territories around the world. The Natural Inquirer is currently only available in English.
For more information, please see: www.fao.org/forestry/29094-01972c285fac04157a542a1fbe2310a6a.pdf
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A new study discussing the experience of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) in linking knowledge with action in developing countries has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and is titled, “Boundary work for sustainable development: Natural resource management at the CGIAR”.
The study features work conducted by ASB Partnership from more than a decade ago and calls for the departure from one-directional transfer models, where the role of science has been to inform decisions on development, to a role where science enrolls itself in a process that identifies appropriate knowledge needed by different groups and also plays a part in providing mechanisms that allow these groups to use the knowledge produced effectively.
The special feature of PNAS on Biodiversity Conservation and Poverty Traps edited by Chris Barrett, Alex Travis and Partha Dasgupta is available free to download at: www.pnas.org/cgi/collection/biodiversity_conservation
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UNEP has released a report under the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP), titled The Orangutan and Economics of Forest Conservation in Sumatra. According to the report, conserving rainforests in Indonesia could generate significant revenues, as well as deliver multiple "green economy" benefits, including combating climate change and securing water supplies.
Key findings from the report include: forested peatlands of Sumatra represent some of the most efficient terrestrial ecosystem carbon store; Indonesia has the world’s third largest area of tropical forest, and fourth largest carbon stock; over the last two decades, forest loss due to illegal logging amounts to 380 000 ha/year, estimated at a value of greater than US$1 billion; and there are 92 percent fewer wild orangutans than there were in 1990.
The report makes recommendations for conserving orangutan populations in Sumatra, including: designating new forested areas in Sumatra for REDD+; further resource development, including that palm oil plantation should be concentrated on land with low current use value; and establishing income-generating alternatives for areas that are important for biodiversity, such as sustainable tourism.
For more information, please see: http://biodiversity-l.iisd.org/news/unep-releases-report-on-orangutan-and-economics-of-forest-conservation-in-indonesia/?utm_source=lists.iisd.ca&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Biodiversity+Update+-+30+September+2011+-+Biodiversity+Policy+%26+Practice
To download publication, please see: www.orangutanreport.un-grasp.org/orangutan-report.html
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Acevedo, M.F. 2011. Interdisciplinary progress in food production, food security and environment research. Environ. Conserv. 38(2):151-171.
Attorre, F., Taleb, N., De Sanctis, M., Farcomeni, A., Guillet, A., and Vitale, M. 2011. Developing conservation strategies for endemic tree species when faced with time and data constraints: Boswellia spp. on Socotra (Yemen). Biodivers. Conserv. 20(7):1483-1499.
Bouché, P., Douglas-Hamilton, I., Wittemyer, G., Nianogo, A.J., Doucet, J.L., Lejeune, P., and Vermeulen, C. 2011. Will elephants soon disappear from West African savannahs? PLoS ONE 6(6):e20619.
Bugalho, M.N., Caldeira, M.C., Pereira, J.S., Aronson, J., and Pausas, J.G. 2011. Mediterranean cork oak savannas require human use to sustain biodiversity and ecosystem services. Front. Ecol. Environ. 9(5):278-286.
Djiam, S.E.Y., Tabuna, H. (ed). 2009. Etude de marche des plants ameliores de la gomme arabique (Acacia sp) et des autres plantes fournissant les produits forestiers non ligneux (PFNL) et les fruits exotiques dans les regions du nord Cameroun. Div. de l’Economie et des Politiques et des Produits Forestiers, FAO, Rome (Italy); Union Europeenne, Brussels (Belgium).
Fynn, R.W.S., and Bonyongo, M.C. 2011. Functional conservation areas and the future of Africa's wildlife. Afr. J. Ecol. 49(2):175-188.
Jordano, P., Forget, P.M., Lambert, J.E., Böhning-Gaese, K., Traveset, A., and Wright, S.J. 2011. Frugivores and seed dispersal: mechanisms and consequences for biodiversity of a key ecological interaction. Biol. Lett. 7(3):321-323.
Leal, A.I., Correia, R.A., Granadeiro, J.P., and Palmeirim, J.M. 2011. Impact of cork extraction on birds: relevance for conservation of Mediterranean biodiversity. Biol. Conserv. 144(5):1655-1662.
L.H., and Robbins, A.M. 2011. Extreme conservation leads to recovery of the Virunga mountain gorillas. PLoS ONE 6(6):e19788.
Oates, John F. 2011. Primates of West Africa: A Field Guide and Natural History. USA: Conservation International.
Robbins, M.M., Gray, M., Fawcett, K.A., Nutter, F.B., Uwingeli, P., Mburanumwe, I., Kagoda, E., Basabose, A., Stoinski, T.S., Cranfield, M.R., Byamukama, J., Spelman, Robson, J.P. and F. Berkes. 2011. Exploring some of the myths of land use change: Can rural to urban migration drive declines in biodiversity? Global Environmental Change 21:844–854.
Swenson JJ, Carter CE, Domec J-C, Delgado CI. 2011. Gold Mining in the Peruvian Amazon: Global Prices, Deforestation, and Mercury Imports. PLoSONE 6(4).
Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity. 2011. Livelihood alternatives for the unsustainable use of bushmeat. Report prepared for the CBD Bushmeat Liaison Group. Technical Serices No. 60, Montreal, SCBD.
Yasmi, Y., Vanhanen, H., Tissari, J., Enters, T., Broadhead, J. (eds). 2010. Asian forests: working for people and nature. FAO, Rome (Italy). Forestry Dept.; International Union of Forestry Research Organizations, Vienna (Austria); The Center for People and Forests, Bangkok (Thailand).
Full text: www.iufro.org/publications/view/article/2010/11/11/asian-forests-working-for-people-and-nature/
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Lincaocnet is a project with participants from ten French-speaking countries. Its aims are to:
- spread information about edible insects on the Internet;
- produce data in a systematic way on the role of insects as (NTFP) for dietary intake, the protection of biodiversity, and the cultural significance of insect consumption;
- and to contribute to better conservation of edible insects.
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“If human beings were to disappear tomorrow, the world would go on with little change,” the biologist E.O. Wilson once wrote. But if invertebrates were to vanish, he said, “I doubt that the human species could last more than a few months.”
Although Dr. Wilson has been appealing for invertebrate conservation for decades, few policy makers or environmental groups have taken heed. But a growing number of scientists are determined to change that.
Among them is Pedro Cardoso, an entomologist at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington and the University of the Azores in Portugal who was the lead author of a recent article addressing the problem in the journal Biological Conservation.
“Nowadays thereis a great concern about biodiversity in general, but this is usually focused on vertebrates, while invertebrates are largely neglected,” he said in an interview. “This is a good time to start changing the current thinking that only some species are worth preserving and start thinking about the smaller components of diversity.”
By smaller, of course, he means physical size — not abundance or importance. Invertebrates are essential for daily activities that Homo sapiens and countless other species rely on. Pollinators like bees and butterflies ensure crop production, oysters and mussels filter water, and invertebrates ranging from mosquitoes to shrimp serve as a major food source.
In the United States, insects alone provide so-called ecosystem services (a growing field of academic study) valued at US$57 billion annually.
Invertebrates spin the web that holds ecological systems together. More than 25 000 species of arthropods occupy a single acre of rain forest in the Amazon. There is more ant biomass in the soil of the Serengeti plains than there is of all surface mammals combined. Some jumping spiders are as smart as mice in the way they learn and memorize. About 80 percent of all known species are invertebrates, with beetles alone accounting for at least 10 times as many species as all vertebrates combined.
For entomologists like Dr. Cardoso, the urgency of calling more attention to invertebrates arises partly from potential extinction crises driven by human activity. Invertebrates are vulnerable to many of the same threats that beloved species like tigers and pandas are, even if the layman understands far less about their ecological functions.
With an estimated 3 000 species being lost each year, or eight species a day, it is conceivable that many will vanish before scientists even know they existed.
Globally, invertebrates are largely neglected in conservation studies and policy-making. In compiling its Red List of Threatened Species, considered the go-to database for animals at risk, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature surveyed less than one-half of 1 percent of arthropods and 4 percent of mollusks. Most vertebrates, on the other hand, have already been assessed.
Given their roles in maintaining a healthy planet, the invertebrates’ relative absence from these lists and the resulting lack of conservation support is “markedly inappropriate,” the researchers write.
So why the lack of love for bugs? For starters, the public is largely unaware of the good things invertebrates do for us. As ushers of plague, famine, and pestilence, insects get a particularly bad rap (bees and butterflies excepted). And public support is vital to fund-raising and the passage of legislation on species protection.
“It is the public who votes on politicians, and politicians who decide what kind of science is or is not funded,” Dr. Cardoso said. “If these problems are solved, the rest will follow.”
The researchers suggest fostering public interest in invertebrates through deeper news coverage, documentary film-making and the dissemination of photographs, books and art.
Aside from pollination, he said in an interview, most people are unaware of roles that insects play, such as managing other pest species and moving the energy that plants capture from the sun into other trophic levels of an ecosystem.
For full story, please see: http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/13/where-is-the-love-for-bugs/
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An Ecologist investigation recently revealed red squirrels are under siege from habitat loss, disease and diminished funding from conservation groups. The species is currently “almost extinct” in England with only a few thousand remaining in Wales.
An estimated 60 percent of grey squirrels, which since 1920 have replaced red squirrels in much of England and Wales, carry the squirrel parapoxvirus, referred to as squirrel pox. Greys very rarely die from this disease as their population has developed immunity over many years. However, they are still carriers of the infection and can spread the disease to red squirrels.
No red squirrels are known to have developed immunity to the disease, and the mortality rate for untreated infected squirrels in the wild appears to be total, most dying within two weeks of being infected. Whole populations can be rapidly wiped out.
Painful lesions develop and spread over the red squirrel, particularly around the eyes and nose. As the disease progresses, reds, crippled and unable to see to feed themselves, starve to death. Some also die from secondary infections contracted through the raw skin.
For full story, please see: www.theecologist.org/how_to_make_a_difference/wildlife/1072121/take_action_to_save_the_red_squirrel.html
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Source: E-Magazine, 13 September 2011
Al Gore is back to explain how climate change has progressed since he came on the scene with An Inconvenient Truth five years ago. The new project is called “24 Hours of Reality” and a video introducing the effort features Gore’s steady voice telling us how “Across the globe, cataclysmic weather events are happening with such regularity that it is being called ‘the new normal.’” It is a message underscored by climate scientists.
All the supposed scepticism about climate change has in fact been the result of the paid efforts of Big Oil and Big Coal, Gore continues. This paying to distort the truth will no longer be allowed to happen in secret, he says, once “24 Hours of Reality” was launched on 14 September.
Gore says in the introduction that the shows will focus the world’s attention on “The full truth, scope and impact of the climate crisis.” Using trained presenters, the videos will explore the latest climate science, the connections to extreme weather and the ways the world needs to work together to find solutions. These will be followed by 30-minute discussion sessions. The hope, of course, is to spark the same kind of national concern about climate change and its already visible threats as An Inconvenient Truth did five years back, when more than 63 percent of Americans saw climate change as a serious threat according to a Gallup poll.
Given the cataclysmic storm events the country has undergone in the past year alone, it would appear that such facts are even more difficult to ignore. There were the tornadoes that levelled parts of the Midwest; there was the historic flooding of the Mississippi River, the punishing drought and wildfires that have gripped Texas this summer — a state experiencing the hottest summer of any state in U.S. history — and the massive damage and flooding that swept the Northeast with Hurricane Irene. Kim Knowlton, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council said in a Huffington Post article, “we are seeing the fingerprint of climate change this year.” ]
For full story, please see: www.emagazine.com/daily-news/al-gore-returns/
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