Dear readers around the world,
This is the last issue of the Digest that I will be producing. After almost 34 years of working in FAO, it is time to start another chapter of my life (retirement!).
I would like to thank you all for your inputs and very many kind words over the past 12 years. It is always so encouraging to hear from readers. I would also like to thank Eric Jones of the Institute for Culture and Ecology who originated this list and who donated it to FAO in March 2000.
I wish you all good health and happiness for the future.
Please note that back issues of the Digest may be found on FAO's NWFP home page: www.fao.org/forestry/site/12980/en. You can take part in contributing to the continued success of this newsletter by sharing with the NWFP community any news that you may have regarding research, events, publications and projects. Kindly send such information to [email protected] or to [email protected]. We also appreciate any comments or feedback.
IN THIS ISSUE:
- Bamboo: Bamboo Bikes Initiative wins international award
- Bamboo: Bamboo craft faces threat in India
- Edible insects: How overcoming the yuck factor can help save the world
- Edible insects in the UK: Insect tasting anyone?
- Fiddlehead Ferns: Foraging for fiddleheads?
- Frankincense: Worth its weight in gold
- Fungi: International conference on mushroom uses begins in Namibia
- Fungi: Rare fungi with medical benefits found in Norfolk forest, UK
- Ginseng: American Ginseng may reduce fatigue in cancer patients
- Medicinal plants: New study shows plant extracts have potential for managing diabetes
- Moringa: The tree of life
- Moringa: A miracle tree
- Neem extract may be used as cancer drug
- Rattan: Handicraft makers hit hard by rattan supply shortage
- Stevia: A sweet substitute
- Ecuador: Eco-lodges in the cloud forest
- Ethiopia: Exploring the flavours of Ethiopian honey wine
- Gabon’s President destroys ivory and commits to zero tolerance for wildlife crime
- India: Honey hunters of the Monsoon
- India: Deforestation threatens cockroach survival
- Indonesia: Fires threaten to “extinguish” critical orangutan population
- Madagascar: Cutting-edge research facility opens in rainforest
- Nepal: Drones to be used to prevent poaching of endangered species
- Philippines: From leper colony to global ecotourism city
- UK: DNA barcoding plants and honey
- UK: Finding honey that has been made by London bees
- USA: Honeybee hives get new home on rooftop of iconic New York hotel
- USA: Maple tap act passes as part of Senate Farm Bill
- Zambia: 90 percent of bushmeat in Lusaka is poached
- A step change for biodiversity knowledge
- Africa’s savannas may become forests
- Bees: Parasitic mite found to play key role in collapse of bee populations
- Bees: Research sheds light on human sweet perception, metabolic disorders
- Chimp champ Goodall crusades against deforestation
- Forests fare poorly in outcomes of Rio+20, say CIFOR scientists
- Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom: Her vision for common resource management
- IV International Wildlife Management Congress 2012
- COFO 21 Committee on Forestry: 21st Session/3rd World Forest Week
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- Bamboo: Bamboo Bikes Initiative Wins International Award
Source: www.allafrica.com, 28 June 2012
The Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative is one of eleven award winners at the 2012 World Business and Development Awards (WBDA), for its efforts to improve living standards in some of the world's most disadvantaged communities. The 2012 Awards attracted 115 applications from 38 countries showcasing a variety of inclusive business endeavors undertaken by associations, NGOs and individual companies.
The Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative was recognized at a ceremony which took place during the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), where world leaders along with thousands of participants from governments, the private sector, NGOs and other groups, convened in Brazil. The Awards recognize innovative business models that deliver both commercial success and help improve social, economic or environmental conditions, otherwise known as inclusive business models.
The Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative takes advantage of the abundance of bamboo found in Ghana to design, develop, and market bamboo bikes and frames and related products and services. The initiative also offers basic courses and practical lessons on building bamboo bikes and frames as a way of encouraging entrepreneurship and providing sustainable livelihood job skills.
For full story, please see: http://allafrica.com/stories/201206290122.html
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Source: Times of India, 29 June 2012
From houses to boundary walls, cradles to baskets, the Durua community in Koraput district's Boipariguda block makes virtually every household product from bamboo. Though not as renowned as the craft makers of the Assam and Arunachal Pradesh peoples in the northeast, this community also boasts a strong bamboo craft tradition.
The Duruas earn their living in large part by selling these bamboo products. But with bamboo forests fast depleting in the region, primarily because of the “timber mafia,” the tribals are facing a difficult time these days. Restrictions imposed by the forest department on the felling of bamboo trees further complicates matters.
"We collect bamboo from dense forests for making different products. We sell them in weekly markets at Ramagiri, nearly 15 km from our village. We earn about Rs 100 to Rs 120 every week. But, now, with forest guards becoming stricter on tree felling, we are worried about our future. Even if we manage to survive, what will happen to our children?" asks a visibly worried Sambhu Durua of Sorosapadar village.
"From childhood we were taught how to cut bamboo plants in a way that allows them to grow again. We never destroy the forest. After all, our existence depends on these groves," he added.
Etunu Durua, a resident of Siribeda village, showed the products he had made from bamboo for domestic use. His collection of bamboo items includes karli (small basket), gappa (storage basket), uugal (cradle), kanti (fan), gerriz (umbrella) and trays of different size. The Duruas, locals said, can make about 50 different products from bamboo.
For full story, please see:
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Source: www.slate.com, 25 June 2012
About 200 years ago, the lobster was regarded by most Americans as a filthy, bottom-feeding scavenger unfit for consumption by civilized people. Frequently ground up and used as fertilizer, the crustacean was, at best, poor people’s food. Things have since changed. It is now a gastronomic delicacy, the star of festivals, subject of odes to New England summers, a peer of prime rib.
The story of the rise of lobster is a shining example of triumph over the yuck factor.
Much of the conversation about how to solve the coming food crisis caused by soaring population, diminishing resources, and a warming planet focuses rightly on technology, reducing waste, and improving food access and distribution methods. But equal urgency needs to be devoted to simply broadening our appetites. One food source that strikes many as unpalatable — insects — could play a critical role in not only feeding the 2.5 billion extra humans expected by 2050, but doing so in a green, climate-friendly way.
Insects are overwhelming viewed as filthy, creepy, dangerous, inedible — and not just to vegans. But this prejudice against eating insects — four-fifths of all known organisms on earth — is slowly starting to change. A growing number of people are beginning to recognize that bugs, such as mealworms, grasshoppers, and crickets, may be the ultimate sustainable protein source. In fact, in January 2012, FAO held an insect summit of sorts — 37 international experts gathered in Rome to discuss the role of insects in achieving global food security.
Many insects are what you might call superfood — rich in protein, low in fat and cholesterol, high in essential vitamins and minerals like calcium and iron. More important, insects are green super-foods. Bugs are cold-blooded (they do not waste energy to stay warm), so they are far more efficient at converting feed to meat than cattle or pigs. According to research from Arnold van Huis, an entomologist at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, 10 g of feed produces 1 g of beef or 3 g of pork, but it can yield 9 g of edible insect meat. Yet insects still have virtually the same amount of protein as beef or pork. A 100 g portion of grasshopper meat contains 20.6 g of protein, just 7 g less than an equivalent portion of beef.
According to van Huis’ research, breeding edible insects, like locusts and crickets, emits just 10 percent of the methane from livestock and about 0.3 percent of the nitrous oxide. Insects are also natural recyclers that thrive on paper and industrial wastes — stuff that would normally be trashed.
Insect-eating does not have a yuck factor in most of the world. Venezuelans eat French-fried ants. Ghanaians eat bread made out of termites. Thailand has more than 15 000 locust farmers. As pro-bug people like to point out, 70 percent of the world's population eats more than 1 400 insects.
The European Union has offered €3 million to member states that promote the use of insects in cooking. The Dutch government has given US$ 1.3 million to support insect-husbandry research. A barbecued ant-eating festival in the Netherlands in 2006 attracted more than 20 000. You can now buy mealworms, buffalo worms, and locusts—as well as products containing insects, like Bug Sticks and Bug Nuggets — at Sligro, a popular warehouse in the Netherlands.
For years, a small group of American entomologists have been tireless promoting bug-eating with books like Creepy Crawly Cuisine and The Food Insects Newsletter, but now the foodies and entrepreneurs are helping.
The yuck is not the only challenge to industrial-scale insect farming. You would have to eat roughly 100 grasshoppers to equal the amount of protein in a 12 oz steak. But at a time when one billion people are chronically hungry, and when the raising of livestock already takes up two-thirds of the world’s farmland and generates 20 percent of greenhouse gas emission, class Insecta, subphylum Hexapoda, needs to be more aggressively explored as a food source.
For more information, please see: www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2012/06/edible_insects_and_seaweed_are_the_perfect_sustainable_foods_.single.html
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Source: Harrogate News (North Yorkshire, UK), 27 June 2012
Schoolchildren have been tasting edible insects cooked by a top chef as part of regional celebrations to mark National Insect Week 2012 (25 June-1 July).
Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire hosted the tasting which involved almost 60 children from St Peter’s Primary School, Harrogate, and Markington Primary School. The event — one of scores across Yorkshire — also involved the children taking part in a bug hunt in the grounds of Fountains Abbey, a National Trust property and World Heritage site, led by a team of entomologists.
Before being tempted to try the insects, the children heard from Peter Smithers, an entomologist from Plymouth University, who gave a talk, “Why eat insects. Who does this and why?”
He was joined by Lionel Strub, chef patron of the Mirabelle restaurant in Harrogate, who cooked some insect dishes for the children involving meal worms and crickets.
National Insect Week ( www.nationalinsectweek.co.uk ) is a biennial initiative run by the Royal Entomological Society. This year’s theme is “Celebrating Great British Insects” — drawing on the celebrations around the London Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee of the Society’s Patron, Her Majesty The Queen.
For full story, please see: www.harrogate-news.co.uk/2012/06/27/insect-tasting-anyone/
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Source: Yahoo (Canada), 7 June 2012
Fiddleheads, also known as ostrich ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris), need to be properly cleaned and cooked to avoid illness. As foodies across Canada pillage their grocery store produce sections for the last remaining fiddleheads of the season, Health Canada reminds consumers to take precautions when preparing the popular delicacy: remove the oxidized brown husks, wash them several times in cold water, then boil them in water for 15 minutes to avoid illness.
The fiddlehead season is "fast and furious," says Nina Secord who, with her husband Nick, owns Norcliff Farms, North America's only fiddlehead farm, based in Port Colborne, Ontario. When the weather is predictable, antioxidant-rich fiddleheads, which are native to New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario, are picked from the third week of April to the first week of June.
But despite recent warnings by Toronto Public Health that fiddleheads may have caused illness in several Toronto residents, Secord says she does not see the connection.
"There have been no studies done regarding toxins and the relationship with fiddleheads," she maintains.
Yet Health Canada maintains there have been a number of outbreaks of foodborne illness from eating raw or undercooked fiddleheads in Canada and the United States since 1994.
Nevertheless, Health Canada hails fiddleheads as a great source of dietary fibre, vitamins A and C, niacin, potassium, phosphorous, iron, and magnesium. "The fiddlehead's total antioxidant activity is twice that of blueberries," says Agri-Food Canada scientist Dr. John DeLong.
Canadian Gardening says if you are interested in hunting down your own wild fiddleheads, be sure to venture out with an expert forager who knows what to look for and the differences between fern plants. "Got a jungle of ferns in your garden? Be sure you know what grows outside your own back door before you pick. Only the ostrich fern is edible," says the site.
For full story, please see:
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Source: wellbeing.com, 2 July 2012
In the ancient world, essential oils such frankincense (and myrrh) were more valuable than gold and precious metals. The frankincense tree (of which there are several species) only grows in certain parts of world: eastern Africa, the southern Arabian peninsula and parts of India. It does not lend itself to mass cultivation and obtaining the resin (from which the essential oil is made) is still performed manually; with resin only being obtainable from the tree at certain intervals during the year. Hence supply of the precious resin is quite limited.
But it is not only scarcity that makes this plant and its oil so valuable. Frankincense resin and oil have remarkable healing properties, something which scientific studies are only now beginning to confirm. Moreover, frankincense has properties that reportedly enhance spiritual awareness and meditation.
There are several species of frankincense, but the ones which have the most therapeutic value are Boswellia carterii and Boswellia sacra. B. carterii is found in east Africa, while B. sacra is only found in Yemen and Oman. Another variety, Boswellia frereana, is highly sought after for its fragrance, but has little therapeutic benefit. B. frereana is found in Somalia. B. sacra, or sacred frankincense, has the highest amount of boswellic acid, the constituent that accounts for much of the oil’s healing properties, which is why it is the primary tree from which the resin is tapped.
Frankincense has various healing properties. It has been used as an anti-depressant and also has anti-tumoral properties. A number of studies have in fact been carried out indicating that frankincense can be effective against cancer cells. In Oman, where local people chew and drink water infused with the frankincense resin, there is very little incidence of cancer. There is also very little incidence of periodontal disease, so this is another promising area for research. Frankincense also has anti-inflammatory and immune stimulating properties.
For full story, please see:
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Source: www.allafrica.com, 26 June 2012
At least 100 delegates from all over the world are meeting in Windhoek, Namibia for the 3rd African Conference on Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms hosted by the University of Namibia.
The conference, being held in Namibia for the first time, brings together scientists, farmers, donors and companies interested in the science of mushroom production from as far afield as Nigeria, Ghana, Togo, Cameroon, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, China, Serbia, Croatia, the United States of America and Japan.
The University of Namibia (Unam) is organizing the conference through its Department of Biological Sciences and the Zero Emissions Research Initiative (Zeri) project. Unam's Dr. Percy Chimwamurombe chairs the local organizing committee for the conference and is the executive secretary of the African Society for Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms (Asemm). He said approximately 40 of the delegates to this conference are from outside Namibia.
Namibia's Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry John Mutorwa is expected to deliver the keynote speech at the conference, whose theme is: “Mushrooms, Food and Nutriceuticals for Africa”. Observers say the theme is relevant given that all over the world food shortages and malnutrition are major problems and mushrooms can provide a cheap way of ensuring that people receive adequate nutrition.
In Namibia, Unam has been working towards promoting production and consumption of mushrooms. In addition to training members of the community to produce mushrooms, Unam has begun work on domesticating wild and medicinal mushrooms.
The Zeri project is now establishing a unique technology park to train farmers and entrepreneurs in the production of capsules of medicinally important mushrooms. The facility, known as the Ganodema Technology Park, is the first such facility in Namibia focusing on medicinal mushrooms in Africa. It uses a mushroom called Ganodema lucidum for training farmers.
Interest in Ganodema has grown over the past few years in southern Africa after it emerged that it has life-prolonging properties. In Namibia, Ganodema naturally occurs in the hardwood forests of the northern parts of the country.
Chimwamurombe said, "Our main objective is to allow networking and the sharing of experiences especially for mushroom practitioners of this region and all the other parts of the world. That sharing of experiences will result in continued collaboration because we will enable people to meet, exchange ideas and establish their own links for further interactions."
For full story, please see: http://allafrica.com/stories/201206260819.html
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Source: BBC, 25 June 2012
The nail fungus (Poronia punctata) had not been recorded in the county since 1944. Medical researchers are interested in its natural antibiotics used to compete with other fungi and bacteria.
Previously, it was only known to exist in the New Forest (Southern England) and researchers are baffled by the discovery made during a routine inspection in Thetford Forest (Eastern England).
Forestry Commission ecologists say they are "delighted" because its presence also shows heathland restoration and grazing by ponies can create the perfect conditions for the rare fungus. Jonathan Spencer, head of environment and planning, said he was "very excited" by the discovery. "It has started to appear in a tiny number of other places where ponies have been used to restore heathland.”
The fungus is drawing serious attention from the world of medicinal research. The peculiar way it competes with other bacteria and fungi in the dung, using antibiotics, is new to science and only just beginning to be explored. "Its use and value could be huge. Fungi have so much to offer in this way as they are key parts of our biodiversity that could hold huge potential for services yet to be realized."
The fungus, named after its distinctive appearance, similar to a flat-headed nail, grows only on dry dung from ponies that have fed on healthy grassland that has not been agriculturally improved. The ponies must also be organically fed and treated only by benign veterinary products. The site, near Hockwold in Norfolk, has been restored to heathland as part of a major plan to link up and expand existing Breckland heaths.
For full story, please see: www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-norfolk-18576389
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Source: Chicago Tribune, 3 July 2012
Already known as a popular herb for its reputed energy-boosting effects, American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) may help reduce symptoms of fatigue for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation, according to a new study.
Mayo Clinic researchers found that after eight weeks of receiving 2 000 mg of ginseng daily, 340 study patients showed a significant decrease in exhaustion compared with participants in a placebo group. Sixty percent of patients had breast cancer. Researchers used capsules with pure, ground American ginseng root for the study because store-bought ginseng can be processed with ethanol.
Study patients were either receiving chemotherapy or radiation or had completed a course of treatment.
"It is actually one of the most common problems for cancer survivors today," said Debra Barton, associate professor of oncology at Mayor Clinic and lead author of the study. "Studies tell us that as much as 100 percent of patients at some point in treatment have a debilitating fatigue and though it does get better once treatment is over, many patients do not get back to their pre-treatment energy level," Barton said.
The study results were presented at an American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago in June.
Barton said patients suffered no "discernible side effects" from the herbal treatment. The findings may be especially helpful to fatigued cancer patients because researchers have not found any other effective treatment for the problem. Some doctors prescribe psychostimulant medications, but Barton said the drugs have side effects and have not proved especially helpful.
The herb could end up being more helpful as a preventive measure against fatigue, rather than a way to fix the problem, Barton speculated.
For full story, please see:
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Source: Science Alert (Australia), 3 July 2012
With the growing worldwide incidence of diabetes, a new study reveals that traditional Aboriginal and Indian plant extracts show potential for managing the disease. Researchers from Swinburne University of Technology have investigated 12 medicinal plant extracts to determine their potential to slow down two key enzymes in carbohydrate metabolism which affect blood sugar and diabetes.
"Diabetes represents a global public health burden, with the World Health Organization estimating that more than 180 million people worldwide currently suffer from the disease," said researcher Associate Professor Enzo Palombo."More than 800 plants are used as traditional remedies in one or other form for the treatment of diabetes, but the management of the disease without any side effects is still a challenge."
He said that modern drug discovery efforts included exploring traditional compounds from natural sources in the treatment of disease. "The results obtained in this study showed that most of the traditional plant extracts have good potential for the prevention and management of diabetes."
The study evaluated the activity of seven Australian aboriginal medicinal plants and five Indian Ayurvedic plants against the metabolic enzymes α-amylase and α-glucosidase that break down carbohydrates from the diet into simple sugars. It also investigated the antioxidant properties of these plants.
Of the 12 plant extracts evaluated, Australian sandalwood (Santalum spicatum) and the Indian kino tree (Pterocarpus marsupium) had the greatest effect in slowing down both enzymes. The extracts of Sandhill wattle (Acacia ligulata), pale turpentine bush (Beyeria leshnaultii), velvet bean (Mucuna pruriens) and tar vine (Boerhaavia diffusa) were effective against α-glucosidase only. The study further found that wanderrie wattle (Acacia kempeana) and Sandhill wattle had an antioxidant effect, eliminating free radicals which are heavily implicated in diabetes.
For full story, please see: http://sciencealert.com.au/news/20120207-23523.html
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Source: Annette Frost, NCBA CLUSA International in The Huffington Post, 3 July 2012
In response to the need for resilient and innovative solutions to the crisis in the Sahel, the National Cooperative Business Association's International program (NCBA CLUSA) — the oldest not-for-profit cooperative development organization in the United States — has looked toward the most resilient and innovative resource in agriculture today:
Although few Westerners have ever heard of it, moringa (Moringa oleifera) is potentially one of the planet's most valuable plants, at least in humanitarian terms. Perhaps the fastest growing useful tree, it commonly tops 3 m — or even 5 m — within one year of the seed being placed in the ground. A sort of supermarket on a trunk, it yields at least four different edibles: pods, leaves, seeds, and roots. And beyond edibles, it provides products that make village life more self-sufficient: lubricating oil, lamp oil, wood, paper, liquid fuel, skin treatments, and the means to help purify water, to name but a few. The living tree, itself, also provides such things as shade, landscaping, and shelter from the elements.
Arguably, this multi-tasking species is the most exciting tropical resource still awaiting widespread application.
In Niger, NCBA CLUSA's Moringa VC project is taking full advantage of the benefits this plant has to offer to the people of Niger. The Mission of Moringa VC was to rapidly expand the production of moringa and the marketing, processing, and consumption of moringa leaves in Niger. During the three year duration of the project, at a cost of less than US$1.4 million, Moringa VC managed to double the moringa cultivation in Niger while increasing the annual moringa related incomes per producer by US$117. Women's involvement has been a large focus of NCBA CLUSA staff throughout the project with careful monitoring and evaluation of women's participation. At the project's close in April 2012, there were 6 700 new moringa producers. Women accounted for well over 60 percent of the new producers.
"Focusing on women as a key element in this process ensures food security for the whole family," says Amy Coughenour, NCBA CLUSA's Vice President for International Development.
On average, moringa producers in the program increased their annual moringa-related income from US$23 in 2009 to US$140 by the end of 2011. This represents a 509 percent increase in income, dramatically higher than the project's three-year goal of 75 percent.
The success of NCBA CLUSA's Moringa VC project goes beyond new producers and income generation: 10 400 producers received training in moringa horticulture, 119 producer groups were formed, 63 seed farms were established, and nearly 1 900 individuals and small businesses received loans totalling the equivalent of US$274 000 with a cumulative loan recovery rate of 94 percent. Roughly half of these micro loans went to women. 116 trainers learned how to include moringa in nutritional education courses, 4 700 beneficiaries learned about the role of moringa in family nutrition, and 3 200 people received business skills training.
Moringa, combined with NCBA CLUSA's decentralized, inclusive, and collaborative approach has proven to be a sustainable, resilient and innovative answer to the food crisis across the Sahel. NCBA CLUSA currently works with moringa on two projects in Niger, in addition to projects in Mozambique and Senegal.
Nigeriens are passing along the knowledge they have gained through Moringa VC to their families, neighbours, and friends. The innovation and resiliency of a solution like reshaping the moringa value chain in Niger has transformed thousands of lives, and is an example for all in how to address the Sahelian food crisis today.
For full case study, please see: www.ncba.coop/images/stories/NCBA_CLUSA/CLUSA_Niger_Moringa_Case_Study_2012_Final_online.pdf
For full story, please see: www.huffingtonpost.com/annette-frost/moringa-the-tree-of-life_b_1645858.html
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Source: Times (Swaziland), 2 July 2012
Though well known in some African countries, moringa, (Moringa oleifera) is not yet widely appreciated in Swaziland. This, however, is now changing thanks to the efforts of experts in the health and agriculture sectors.
"Although few people have heard of it, moringa could soon become one of the world’s most valuable plants, at least in humanitarian terms," says Noel Vietmeyer of the US National Academy of Sciences. It is one of the top three most nutritious vegetables in the world and has been identified by the World Health Organization as a famine-busting plant. The edible leaves and seed pods are eaten everyday throughout West Africa, the Caribbean nations, and in many parts of Asia.
The leaves are the most commonly used part of the plant. They can be eaten fresh or cooked, just like spinach. The leaves can also be dried, and ground into a powder, ensuring their usefulness over time.
The health benefits of this plant include:
- strengthening the immune system;
- supporting the treatment of diabetes;
- cleansing the body from toxins and parasites; and
- accelerating healing of wounds/surgery.
Moringa is considered a household necessity in West Africa where it is the first remedy for intestinal cleansing. The leaves also promote lactation and are always used by new mothers to enhance the flow of breast milk.
The moringa tree is a robust perennial and drought resistant tree. It can grow 1.2 m to 1.4 m in six to eight months. Trees take just a few months to produce enough leaves to feed a family.
Moringa is a versatile plant, with benefits for food security, income generation, improved health, and even animal fodder during drought.
For full story, please see: www.times.co.sz/index.php?news=77142
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Source: Times of India, 27 June 2012
A neem extract (Azadirachta indica), which strengthens the immune system helping it fight cancer, could soon be made into a drug.
Developed by scientists at the Chittaranjan National Cancer Research Institute (CNCRI) in Kolkata, India two years ago, the experiment has passed the mandatory stages required for human use and permission will soon be sought from the Drug Controller General of India to use it as a medicine. But it could still take more than a year to complete the formalities, CNCRI authorities said.
If made into a drug, it would be a big step for cancer research in Kolkata. "We are about to prepare an application that will be sent to the Drug Controller. Once they clear it, we shall start approaching manufacturers." said Rathindranath Baral, senior scientific officer at CNCRI who led the research.
A glycoprotein extracted from neem was found to be strengthening the immune system and helping retard the growth of cancerous tumours. It was successfully tried on animals. "We immunized mice with the glycoprotein and then introduced tumours in them. The growth rate of tumours was found to be much slower. While drugs kill cancer cells, this glycoprotein strengthens the immune system by triggering interaction between the cells. It is completely non-toxic and has no side-effects. Our experiments have shown that the immunization helps normalize the micro-environment around the tumour," said Baral. Four different kinds of tumours were introduced in the mice. Each was successfully resisted by the extract.
The neem extract, however, cannot be used as a vaccine. A single vaccine, Baral explained, will not be effective for cancerous growths that could vary according to the place of occurrence. "Vaccines could be either prophylactic or therapeutic. This one would be effective as a therapeutic vaccine. It can be used only after cancer has struck. Since the glycoprotein strengthens immunity, it would be of great help to cancer patients who generally have weak immunity," said Baral.
Oncologist Gautam Mukhopadhyay hailed the experiment. This would be a significant step in cancer treatment, he said. "If it does not have toxicity, then it will surely be of help.”
For full story, please see:
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Source: The Star (Malaysia), 29 June 2012
The most preferred rattan species among handicraft makers, Rotan perdas, is becoming increasingly harder to find as forests make way for oil palm estates.
This is one of the challenges faced by rattan handicraft makers like Mohd Amin Abdullah from Serian District, in eastern Malaysia. “Rotan perdas is thin but solid and handicrafts made from it will last longer. It used to be found abundantly in our forests but when forests are cleared for oil palm estates, we also lose our rattan. We have to economize and make full use of every rattan, so that nothing goes to waste,” he told The Star at the Entrepreneur Expo and Crafts Promotion here yesterday.
According to Amin, to meet the raw material shortage, his cooperative is buying rattan from Negri Sembilan (west Malaysia) and Indonesia in bulk two to three times a year. However, the rattan from Negri Sembilan called semambu, and seja from Indonesia are of different quality and not suitable for all products.
“We use the core of Rotan semambu for weaving, and to do so, the rattan has to be sent to a processing plant to be turned into thin strips.” This is an expensive operation.
Amin said Rotan seja, a softer type of rattan, is sold at RM2.50/kg. Asked on the future of the sector, he said with local supply decreasing and importing so much more expensive, there was uncertainty.
According to Amin, rattan weaving is time consuming because the rattan has to be cleaned, soaked, boiled with diesel to prevent termite attacks and dried before it can be used to make handicrafts and furniture.
For full story, please see: http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2012/6/29/sarawak/11568749&sec=sarawak
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Stevia: A sweet substitute Source: The Star (Malaysia), 24 June 2012
The Malaysian Government is spending millions on trying to educate the public about the dangers of sugar through campaigns and advertisements. For patients with diabetes, sugar raises blood glucose levels, which increases the risk of complications involving the nerves, eyes, kidneys and heart.
Too much salt, fat and cholesterol in your diet can affect your heart, and now the American Heart Association (AHA) has placed added sugars on this list. According to the AHA, a high intake of sugar is associated with poor health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, inflammation, and high triglyceride levels, which are all risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
The non-caloric natural sweetener, stevia extract, however, is a good alternative; it is made from the sweetest part of Stevia rebaudiana’s leaves. Also known as sweet leaf, stevia is about 300 times sweeter than sugar, but contains no calories.
Besides tasting good, stevia extract is safe and has no side effects. It has also been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a food additive, and is considered as a dietary supplement.
As the extract has no calories and does not raise blood sugar levels, it is an ideal choice for pre-diabetics and diabetics, as well as those concerned about their health.
For full story, please see: http://thestar.com.my/health/story.asp?file=/2012/6/24/health/11520625&sec=health
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Source: The Guardian (UK), 29 June 2012
In the Mindo cloud forests in the north of the country, moist air from Pacific Ocean clouds trapped on the steep slopes of the Andes has fostered such biodiversity that new species are still regularly being discovered. In this small region alone there are close to 500 varieties of bird, thousands of rare orchids and innumerable other forms of flora and fauna. But this paradise is under constant threat from humans, who have traditionally cleared land for agriculture. In Ecuador alone it is estimated as little as 2 percent of this Pacific coastal forest remains intact.
In the heart of this fragile wilderness a bold new project has begun. Roque Sevilla, a former mayor of Quito tired of hearing chainsaws on his doorstep, has created Mashpi Lodge Biodiversity Reserve. This jaw-dropping 2 600-acre conservation project promises an economic alternative for its inhabitants and a mesmerizing ecolodge for guests.
The minimalist lodge, two-and-a-half hours north-west of Quito, is almost entirely glass: you have forest around you at all times. Staying there is like visiting a lost Jurassic world from inside a Manhattan penthouse. But it works: the interior's contemporary angles accentuate the soft natural shapes of the forest.
From next year, the lodge will run solely on hydroelectric power. It has a resident biologist tasked with promoting greater understanding of the habitat. From November an aerial tram will allow guests to glide silently for 2 km through the canopy, seeing hitherto inaccessible cameos of forest life on the way to scenic spots and hard-to-access trails.
Several other ecolodges are helping to preserve Ecuador's cloud forest, and Mindo is the main base from which to reach them. It is an accessible wilderness, easily added to any Ecuadorian itinerary with minimal fuss or expense.
Half an hour to the north-west above the Tandayapa Valley is one of the region's first ecotourism projects, opened in 1991. Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve and Lodge offers unparalleled views, guided nature trails, petite bamboo suites that would satisfy any tree-house fantasy, and a small restaurant on stilts, all at 2 000m above sea level. Bird watching is the order of the day here too, with many guests coming specifically to tick off endemic species, or making a pre-dawn trek to view a rarely seen lek (mating display) of the Andean cock-of-the-rock.
For full story, please see:
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Source: www.newsdire.com, 23 June 2012
If you thought you loved craft beer, just ask an Ethiopian about tej. A type of honey wine renowned for its spicy-sweetness and potency, the popular drink is integral to Ethiopian culture. Though it is unclear when it all started, mentions of tej in the region appear as far back as the third century A.D. And while the wine was once reserved for emperors, tej is so popular nowadays that it is considered the East African country’s national drink.
Unlike with beer brewing, you do not need any fancy equipment to make tej — just a lot of honey and water, a big container and a pile of gesho, a hoppy buckthorn that gives the wine its kick.
Of course, a number of Ethiopia- and U.S.-based wineries produce tej on a mass scale. But many Ethiopians and tej-loving foreigners prefer to make it themselves. For Harry Kloman, author of the book Mesob Across America: Ethiopian Food in the U.S.A., the home-brewing process is as sweet as tej itself.
“I do it in one-gallon jars in my kitchen, and after about a week-and-a-half to two weeks, you can smell it,” he says. “Every time I walk into my kitchen, I just smell this sweet, pungent aroma of fermentation, and it is just wonderful.”
Techniques vary slightly, but the brewing process basically boils down to a little mixing, some proper timing and a lot of waiting around.
For full story, please see: www.newsdire.com/news/3382-exploring-the-flavors-of-ethiopian-honey-wine.html
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Source: TRAFFIC, 27 June 2012
Today, more than 1 200 ivory tusks plus assorted ivory carvings were burned publicly as Gabon sent out a strong signal demonstrating its commitment to tackle elephant poaching and illegal wildlife trade.
This event follows a period of intense poaching pressure in Central Africa, where the illegal killing of elephants for ivory is at record levels.
A number of dignitaries were present for the historic event, including the President of Gabon, Ali Bongo, who lit the pyre. President Bongo spoke of the importance of inviting the international community to witness the symbolic act of destroying the country’s ivory, noting it was a matter of national security. He told the assembled dignitaries about the special unit Gabon had created within the National Parks Agency to tackle ivory poaching, and how Gabon, as the country with the most elephants in Central Africa, was issuing a strong message to the poachers and traffickers that their actions were unacceptable.
Crucially, President Bongo reiterated that Gabon would work with the Department of Justice to review penalties, and ensure people committing wildlife crimes would be prosecuted and sent to prison. “Gabon has a policy of zero tolerance for wildlife crime and we are putting in place the institutions and laws to ensure this policy is enforced,” he said.
President Bongo also underlined the need for regional cooperation to tackle wildlife crime, whereby anti-poaching measures in one country needed to be followed up by action in neighbouring countries too.
“Today we have witnessed a paramount event for the Central Africa region,” said Stefanie Conrad, WWF Central Africa Regional Office Representative. “It is hugely symbolic that a head of state has taken leadership in sending a signal to the outside world that illegal wildlife trafficking will not be tolerated.”
WWF and TRAFFIC worked with Gabon to independently audit its government-owned ivory stockpile before it was destroyed to ensure that all tusks were accounted for and none had leaked into illegal trade. The audited ivory stock totalled 4 825 kg, including 1 293 pieces of rough ivory mainly composed of tusks and 17 730 pieces of worked ivory.
“TRAFFIC keenly anticipates that other nations will follow Gabon’s lead in dealing with their stockpiled ivory and either take it right out of the equation or put in place robust ivory management systems to ensure it can never leak into illegal trade,” said Tom Milliken, TRAFFIC’s ivory trade expert.
For full story, please see: www.traffic.org/home/2012/6/27/gabons-president-destroys-ivory-and-commits-to-zero-toleranc.html
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Source: Slow Food, 29 June 2012
In the tropical monsoon forests on the slopes of the Nilgiri mountains in southern India, local tribes risk more than a sting when they collect the unique wild honey found in this region. The giant rock bee (Apis dorsata) forms its honeycombs on the high ledges of the mountains’ cliffs, requiring honey hunters to climb down long rope ladders made from tree bark which take them to combs hundreds of feet in the air. A loss of balance or a single misstep can be fatal.
Not surprisingly, the business of collecting honey, locally known as jenu, is a serious activity in these forests, undertaken by men who start learning from chief honey hunters during their adolescence.
When the day arrives, the honey hunter travels to the chosen location with a support team and lowers himself down the cliff, swinging on the ladder and pushing against the rocks with the agility of an acrobat. When he reaches the combs, he burns a bundle of leaves to calm the colony with the smoke while his assistants lower a basket from above. The basket is positioned below the comb and the hunter uses a long spear to cut off a chunk while singing to the bees, telling them that he is just taking a little bit of their honey for his children, and to please not go away.
You can tell an expert honey hunter from an amateur, they say, as he will descend the cliffs in broad daylight. Only the courageous and experienced will do this. A learner will go at night, avoiding the sight of the depth of the valley below him, the absence of safety gear and the buzzing mist of bees surrounding him like a cloud. An expert can also estimate how full a comb is on sight, based on its orientation, thickness and bulge.
On the trip back to the village, the team may encounter bears, leopards and elephants that inhabit the thick forest. The area is a UNESCO biosphere reserve, and one of the richest biodiversity hotspots in the world.
The Irula and Kurumba tribes have been practicing honey hunting in this way for generations. Rock paintings in the area depicting honey hunters are estimated to date back more than 2 000 years. Jenu was once a valuable commodity in the bartering system between tribes, and still now plays an important part in their diet, cuisine and medicine.
Today, little has changed with the practice, but as the outside world encroaches, the continuation of this ancient tradition is at risk. “The area is suffering deforestation and there has been a shift in the type of agriculture in the surrounding areas, from multicropping to monocrop land use, and an increase in tea cultivation, which means a loss of diversity and a higher use of pesticides and fertilizers that directly affects the bee population,” says Robert Leo from the Keystone Foundation, a local NGO that has been working with the tribes for more than 15 years to ensure the preservation of the activity.
Since the Keystone Foundation began working with the tribes, the collaboration has focused on how to allow this tradition to continue in the context of a modern society. Through the project, local production centers have been set up where honey hunters drain, filter and package their honey. They now produce a marketable product sold at a fair price on the shelves in the Keystone Foundation’s network of “Green Shops”. The tribes are now also using the beeswax, previously discarded, to make candles and cosmetics. The Foundation has additionally introduced hive-keeping, so the hunters have a source of income in the honey-hunting off-season. “In the past few years, we have seen many instances of people coming back to forest honey gathering, particularly youth,” says Leo. “One of the reasons is that it is becoming economically viable.”
The wild honey collection still practiced by these tribes is evocative of many of the practices carried out by indigenous peoples across the world — remarkable not only for the traditional knowledge and skills possessed by its practitioners, but for its evolution based on sustainability. Over the years, the hunters have come up with several systems to make the practice sustainable. When they cut the comb, they conserve the brood portion (the beehive’s young) to ensure future generations of bees. They may only take a few combs from a certain area of the cliff, or completely avoid entire cliffs as they are considered holy. “If there are ten colonies, they will leave two untouched,” even in times of hunger, explained Leo. “And if we consider that bees are responsible for pollinating the forest plants, conserving the bees means conserving the forest.”
For full story, please see: www.slowfood.com/international/food-for-thought/focus/138718/honey-hunters-of-the-monsoon/q=573936?-session=query_session:42F948B60f5c01B025tl70BBA550
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Source: Deccan Chronicle, 26 June 2012
The loss of forest cover in India is threatening the survival of not only big animals, but also small creepy creatures like cockroaches, which play a vital role in recycling nutrients in the woods. According to Dr Srini Kambhampati, Hyderabad-born American biologist, cockroaches are fast losing their natural habitat in the country, and this threatens their very survival. Dr Srini is at the Department of Biology, University of Texas at Tyler, US.
He explains: “Considering that there is very little forest left in India, two issues are of concern. First, cockroach habitat is being destroyed and they, like many other species, are either threatened or endangered. Second, the role of cockroaches in recycling nutrients in forests becomes even more critical to maintain the health of the remaining forest”. Dr Srini says that India has a remarkable diversity of cockroach species like many tropical countries. Of the few thousand species of cockroaches, only four have become a major nuisance for human beings.
He points out, “Unfortunately, little research has been done on Indian species. Almost all the research is on a handful of species that are associated with humans — such as American, German, and Oriental cockroaches — all of which are thought to have originated in Africa.” Dr Srini stresses the importance of cockroaches in the ecology of forests and the survival of animals and human beings.
For full story, please see: www.deccanchronicle.com/channels/cities/hyderabad/deforestation-threatens-cockroach-survival-051
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Source: The Guardian (UK), 29 June 2012
The world's densest population of orangutans is set to be "extinguished" by a massive new wave of fires that is clearing large tracts of a peat swamp forest in the Indonesian island of Sumatra, conservationists have warned.
Environmentalists claim that satellite images show a huge surge in forest blazes across the Tripa peat swamp in order to create palm oil plantations, including areas that have not been permitted for clearing.
Tripa is home to a tight-knit enclave of around 200 critically endangered orangutans. However, this number has plummeted from an estimated population of 3 000. Just 7 000 orangutans remain in Sumatra, with rampant forest clearing for palm oil cultivation blamed for their decline.
Ian Singleton, head of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP), said that the Tripa orangutans are being "extinguished."
"The situation is indeed extremely dire," he said. "Every time I have visited Tripa in the last 12 months I have found several orangutans hanging on for their very survival, right at the forest edge. When you see the scale and speed of the current wave of destruction and the condition of the remaining forests, there can be no doubt whatsoever that many have already died in Tripa due to the fires themselves, or due to starvation as a result of the loss of their habitat and food resources."
Felling trees from Tripa's carbon-rich peat also triggers the release of large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. Indonesia has been named as the third highest emitter of CO2 emissions in the world when deforestation is a factor, although the country disputes this.
Environmentalists have lodged a lawsuit against PT Kallista Alam, one of the five palm oil firms operating in Tripa, and Irwandi Yusuf, the former governor of Aceh, over the approval of a permit for the 1 600 ha palm oil plantation.
Irawardi, previously styled as a "green" governor, says he granted the permit due to delays in the UN's Redd+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) programme, which has seen Norway pledge US$1 billion to Indonesia to reduce deforestation.
"The international community think our forest is a free toilet for their carbon," Irawardi said in April. "Every day they are saying they want clean air and to protect forests … but they want to inhale our clean air without paying anything."
SOCP and lawyers representing Tripa's local communities have called upon the Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to bypass an ongoing government investigation into the forest clearing and immediately halt the razing of the area.
For full story, please see: www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/jun/29/fires-indonesia-orangutan
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Source: www.mongabay.com, 3 July 2012
The facility, known as the Centre Valbio, will support efforts to study Madagascar's unique wildlife, deliver health care to impoverished communities, and understand links between the environment and the rural economy. The project was led by Patricia Wright, a Stony Brook University (USA) biologist whose 1986 discovery of the golden bamboo lemur led to the protection of a large swathe of rainforest known as Ranomafana. The park has since become a model for conservation across Madagascar and other parts of Africa.
Work on Centre Valbio began nearly a decade ago and culminated this week with the completion of NamanaBe Hall, a 15 500 ft² building that houses a scientific laboratory outfitted to study biodiversity and infectious diseases. NamanaBe Hall employs a “green” design and construction, including use of local materials, renewable energy, waste-water management, natural cooling, and roof-top gardens.
Centre Valbio is expected to become a hub for scientific research in Madagascar, which is one of the world's poorest, yet most biologically diverse countries. The region around Centre Valbio and Ranomafana exemplifies some of the broader challenges facing conservation and sustainable development in Madagascar. While Ranomafana itself is well-protected, in neighboring areas poor farmers routinely clear forests for subsistence agriculture and cattle grazing, informal miners and loggers exploit gold and valuable hardwoods, and poachers hunt endangered wildlife. Wright and other conservationists hope to take the Ranofamana model, where livelihoods are derived from ecotourism and related activities, and apply it in other areas, boosting local incomes and access to healthcare as well as protection of wildlife and ecosystems.
For full story, please see: http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0702-centre-valbio.html
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Source: Yale Environment News 360, 21 June 2012
In Nepal, conservationists will soon begin launching low-cost, remote-controlled drones to prevent the poaching of endangered species. Developed by the WWF, the technology is seen as an inexpensive way to monitor the protection of species, including rhinos and tigers, which are being slaughtered even within national park boundaries. While the drones are still being refined, current models are light enough to be launched by hand and can travel programmed routes greater than 12 miles, collecting video and photographs from the ground below.
“We hope these drones will be useful in detecting poachers as they enter the parks,” Serge Wich, a University of Zurich biologist who helped develop the project, said. “If they see poachers in the area, they can send out a team to catch them.” The lightweight drones, which cost about US$2 500 each, have been used to track poachers in Indonesia and could soon be deployed in other developing nations, including Tanzania and Malaysia.
For full story, please see: http://e360.yale.edu/digest/drones_to_be_used_to_prevent_poaching_of_endangered_species_in_nepal/3517/
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Source: www.abs-cbnnew.com, 7 July 2012
Thousands of people climbed the mountains of Irawan to plant trees as part of the celebration of the city's "Pista Y Ang Cagueban"(Feast of the Forest) last Saturday. Led by Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward Hagedorn, around 50 000 joined in planting the 2-millionth tree, marking the 21st year of the feast celebration.
The event sought to rehabilitate over 200 ha of ravaged forest cover of Barangays Irawan and Sta. Lourdes by planting more than 1 000 fast-growing and fruit-bearing trees to prevent its soils from eroding.
Irawan is a watershed area that serves as a major source potable water of the city.
More than 20 years ago, Puerto Princesa city was known for its leper colony and for being an island inhabited by criminals. When Puerto Princesa City Mayor Edward S. Hagedorn took over the helm of the city as the first non-Puerto Princesa-born mayor, he was also the first to take the lead in protecting and conserving the environment and rehabilitating the ravaged natural resources of the city, transforming it into a global ecotourism city.
To promote the rehabilitation and conservation of Puerto Princesa's forests and marine ecology, the city initiated Bantay Puerto or Puerto Princesa Watch, composed mainly of civilian volunteers and employees, supported by police personnel handpicked for their integrity.
Puerto Princesa City is the first city in the country and in Southeast Asia to be declared as carbon-neutral using the international guidelines set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
For full story, please see: www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/regions/07/03/12/puerto-princesa-leper-colony-global-eco-tourism-city
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Source: BBC News, 26 June 2012
Wales has recorded the DNA of all its native flowering plants, which has the potential to help conservation and develop new drugs to fight illnesses. The National Botanic Garden of Wales says it is the first country in the world to create the database. Wales has about 75 percent of UK flowering plants, and the database has 1 143 plants and conifers.
Barcodes are short DNA sequences and plants can be identified from pollen grains, seed pieces, or roots and wood. Other plants introduced by humans will form the next phase of the three-year project.
PhD student Jenny Hawkins is working on a joint project between the garden and the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Cardiff University to DNA barcode honey.
She has collected honey from across the UK and is testing its ability to kill hospital acquired infections such as MRSA (Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus superbug). She will then DNA barcode the honey to find out what plants bees visited to make it. Ms Hawkins said: "By DNA barcoding the honey, we are looking for links between honey with good medicinal properties and particular plant species. If we find it, we might be able to make a super honey by allowing bees to forage on plants that provide high antibacterial properties."
The Barcode Wales project has been led by Dr Natasha de Vere, head of conservation and research from the National Botanic Garden in Carmarthenshire. She said: "Wales is now in the unique position of being able to identify plant species from materials which in the past would have been incredibly difficult or impossible. Through the Barcode Wales project, we have created a powerful platform for a broad range of research from biodiversity conservation to human health."
The Welsh flora DNA barcodes are available on the Barcode of Life Database (BOLD) for use by researchers throughout the world.
DNA barcoding may be able to help in the crisis facing pollinating insects such as bees, according to Dr. de Vere. She is working with PhD student Andrew Lucas from the Swansea Ecology Research Team (SERT) at Swansea University to investigate the role hoverflies play in pollination. Research will find out where hoverflies go by DNA barcoding the pollen carried on their bodies.
For full story, please see: www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-18590298
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Source: The Telegraph (UK), 1 July 2012
As one of the greenest capital cities in the world, London has a diverse range of parks and fields from which bees can collect their nectar — meaning the range of home-produced honeys is similarly varied.
Regents Park Honey is among the finest, sourced only from bees kept by Toby Mason in Regents Park. The wide variety of flowers and trees ensure that flavours evolve season by season. Demand however is high and the honey is in limited supply.
Hackney may seem an unlikely source for local honey, but thanks to the Golden Company — who take an inclusive, educational approach to beekeeping — young Londoners learn new skills and produce fine honey. Their produce can be found at Borough Market on the last Saturday of every month.
Steve Benbow’s London Honey Company, meanwhile, grew from a single hive in the lift shaft of his home in a London tower block. He now supplies honey to Harrods, Fortnum and Mason (he has a hive on the shop's roof) and The Savoy.
For would-be beekeepers, The North London Beekeepers offer expertise and advice, as well as a range of local honeys.
For more information, please see:
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Source: Associated Press in The Daily Mail (UK), 7 June 2012
An iconic hotel in the heart of midtown Manhattan is buzzing with thousands of tiny new visitors. Honeybees have taken up residence at the Waldorf-Astoria New York, one of New York City's most famous institutions and a favourite stopover for many U.S. presidents.
The hotel plans to harvest its own honey and help pollinate plants in the skyscraper-heavy heart of the city, joining a mini beekeeping boom that has taken over hotel rooftops from Paris to Times Square.
“Today about half the population of each hive, the foragers, are flying mostly in the direction of Central Park,” explained Andrew Cote, the Waldorf's beekeeper-in-residence, on a recent sunny afternoon as he inspected each hive. “They are plucking up pollen, nectar, water. They are bringing it back to their hives, to their homes.”
Beekeeping is a natural fit for hotels trying to keep up with industry-wide pressure to “go green,” whether it is retrofitting their buildings to make them energy efficient or simply adopting environmentally conscious practices.
Enter urban beekeeping, a buzz-worthy pastime nowadays in light of the mysterious disappearance of honeybees in recent years, which led some state agriculture departments to encourage hobby beekeeping. About one-third of the nation's diet benefits from honeybee pollination, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In New York City, the bees will help pollinate new trees that have taken root as part of the city's plan to plant one million trees over the next decade.
“In terms of sustainability, it is not only giving back to the environment,” said Andrew Gajary, general manager of the Intercontinental New York Times Square, which recently installed its first beehive, following in the footsteps of its counterpart in Boston, where a veritable colony of bees has been growing for the past year. “I am no longer having to go out and get packaged honey from hundreds of miles away.”
Bee fever has even infected hotels beyond American shores. In Paris, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel ensconced its first hive this year and plans to hand out little honey pots as gifts for guests. At the Waldorf, the insects are visible from certain rooms, and guests can sign up for tours of the hives.
Cote is something of a celebrity in the beekeeping world, having waged a successful campaign against the city's ban on keeping bees, which was lifted in 2010. He sells jars of honey at green markets throughout the city, tends hundreds of hives from Connecticut to Manhattan and founded the non-profit Bees Without Borders and the New York City Beekeepers Association.
If all goes well, there could be as many as 300 000 bees camping out at the Waldorf this summer. Cote could not resist sampling some of the honey before finishing up his hive inspections. The prognosis? “Nectar of the gods,” he said.
For full story, please see:
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Source: Empire State News (New York, USA), 23 June 2012
The Maple Tapping Access Program (Maple TAP) Act, has passed the Senate as part of the 2012 Farm Bill. This legislation would provide grants to states that create programs to help maple farmers access trees that are currently untapped on private lands. The bill creates grants to states to support the domestic maple syrup industry through the promotion of related research, education, natural resource sustainability and marketing, as well as the expansion of maple-sugaring activities.
New York currently taps less than 1 percent of the state’s nearly 300 million maple trees, forcing the U.S. to import four times as much maple syrup as it produces. The state has not been able to take full advantage of its maple resources in part because nearly three quarters of the tappable maple trees are on privately owned land, potentially leaving over US$80 million worth of maple sap inside the trees. Despite having 200 million fewer maple trees than New York, the Canadian province of Quebec taps roughly one-third of its maple trees and is able to put out over 40 million more maple taps every year, cementing its standing as the world’s leader in syrup production. This Senate-passed bill will encourage private land owners to open their lands to maple tapping, while also encouraging market promotion, research and education surrounding the industry, all while helping to create jobs in New York and provide an economic boost to the region.
“The passage of the Maple TAP Act as part of the Senate’s Farm Bill is a sweet success for Upstate New York and Hudson Valley maple producers as well as the local economy and jobs in the maple-rich region,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, who proposed the legislation. “Upstate New York and the Hudson Valley stand ready and able to unleash the untapped potential of its maple syrup industry, and this legislation would help them do just that. Hundreds of millions of untapped trees are just sitting there, full of a lucrative natural resource that could propel New York to the top of the maple industry, and that is why this legislation, which provides grants to help open up private lands for tapping, and for research and education in syrup production, further bolsters our efforts to make sure that New York’s agricultural market can reap the benefits of its natural resources.”
According to a Cornell University analysis of U.S. Forest Service data, New York currently has approximately 280 000 000 potential maple taps, while actual taps are at 1 860 000.
For full story, please see: www.empirestatenews.net/News/20120623-7.html
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Source: The Post Zambia, 3 July 2012
Elephant Charge Committee member Jo Pope has warned that the country is headed towards a major crisis in the conservation of animals. Elephant Charge is an organization that raises funds for conservation of animals in Zambia.
In an interview, Pope said an estimated 90 percent of the bushmeat consumed in Lusaka and the Copperbelt was illegally poached. "The increase in poaching is due to demand for bushmeat in Lusaka and the Copperbelt provinces as people in these areas provide ready market," Pope said.
She called for sensitization of communities on the importance of conserving animals which were a major tourism attraction. She said if people continue to poach and snare at the current rate, then the country would run out of wildlife thereby affecting tourists' inflow.
"In 20 years time, there will be very little game here and that is a national asset that will have been lost. So a conservation message is very, very important to get through to everybody in Zambia," Pope said.
And South Luangwa Conservation Society (SLCS) chief executive officer Rachael McRobb said her organization faced challenges in their operations due to human/wildlife conflict particularly Elephants that destroyed peoples crops.
She said tourism was the mainstay of the economy of places such as Mfuwe hence wildlife should be protected to ensure employment was secured for the local people.
"If you put yourself in the community's position, elephants can wipe out a huge field of crops overnight and a farmer will look to anyone involved in wildlife conservation for solutions and some form of compensation and no one is offering compensation at this point but we are working together to come up with ways of mitigating the human wildlife conflict," said McRobb.
For full story, please see:
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Source: Julia Marton-Lefevre, IUCN Director General, IISD Reporting Services, 3 July 2012
After years of international negotiations, the world has just seen the establishment of the Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), a top global platform that is to regularly assess the state of biodiversity, our fragile ecosystems and the essential services they provide to all of us.
The hopes are high for IPBES to become an authoritative global mechanism recognized by scientists and policy makers alike to pull together dispersed information, syntheses and analyses on biodiversity and ecosystems. By building on existing processes and initiatives, and only creating new ones as a last resort in case of glaring gaps, the intention is that decisions and research investment will be more efficient.
There is no question that there is an impressive amount of knowledge already out there — generated by a wide variety of actors, including governments, academia, NGOs and indigenous communities.
As a Union comprising government and civil society Members, the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is well placed to bring together key actors at all levels. IUCN is a leading provider of biodiversity knowledge, tools and standards used to influence policy, undertake conservation planning and guide action on the ground.
IUCN is offering its best-known knowledge products — such as the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ and Protected Planet (including the World Database on Protected Areas), as well as emerging ones, such as the IUCN standard for identification of areas of global significance for biodiversity, and the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems — to IPBES as a contribution to establishing a firm strategic partnership, supporting the development of the IPBES work plan and thereby delivering crucial information to decision makers.
Of course, the biggest challenge for IPBES remains bridging the gap between science and policy makers. As we have seen in the climate change arena, unless we actually follow the recommendations of scientific bodies, we have little hope of tackling the accelerating worldwide loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystem services. Only then can we truly achieve a step change in the way we generate, distribute and use biodiversity knowledge.
For full story, please see: http://biodiversity-l.iisd.org/guest-articles/a-step-change-for-biodiversity-knowledge/
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Africa's savannas may become forests Source: Science Daily in Environmental News Network, 29 June 2012
A new study published today in Nature by authors from the Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre and the Goethe University in Frankfurt suggests that large parts of Africa's savannas may well be forests by 2100. The study suggests that fertilization by atmospheric carbon dioxide is forcing increases in tree cover throughout Africa. A switch from savanna to forest occurs once a critical threshold of CO2 concentration is exceeded, yet each site has its own critical threshold. The implication is that each savanna will switch at different points in time, thereby reducing the risk that a synchronous shock to the earth system will emanate from savannas.
Experimental studies have generally shown that plants do not show a large response to CO2 fertilization. "However, most of these studies were conducted in northern ecosystems or on commercially important species" explains Steven Higgins, lead author of the study from the Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre and Goethe-University. "In fact, only one experimental study has investigated how savanna plants will respond to changing CO2 concentrations and this study showed that savanna trees were essentially CO2 starved under pre-industrial CO2 concentrations, and that their growth really starts taking off at the CO2 concentrations we are currently experiencing."
For full story, please see: www.enn.com/top_stories/article/44604
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Source: Yale Environment News 360, 8 June 2012
Extensive research in Hawaii has shown that a major cause of so-called colony-collapse disorder, which has sharply reduced bee populations in many parts of the world, is related to the spread of the parasitic varroa mite. Scientists at the University of Sheffield in England were able to track the arrival and spread of the varroa mite, Varroa destructor, on Oahu Island in Hawaii.
Within one year of the blood-sucking mite’s arrival in 2007, 65 percent of the 419 bee colonies on Oahu were wiped out, according to the research, published in the journal Science.
The following year the mites reached the big island of Hawaii and devastated bee colonies there, the study said. The Sheffield scientists said the mites spread a devastating ailment called deformed wing virus, which rapidly spread through bee colonies, killing nearly all the bees. The scientists said other factors also may be playing a role in the collapse of bee colonies worldwide, including the use of pesticides and the loss of flowering plants.
For full story, please see: http://e360.yale.edu/digest/parasitic_mite_found_to_play_key_role_in_collapse_of_bee_populations/3504/
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Source: www.phys.org, 29 June 2012
By experimenting with honey bee genetics, researchers have identified connections between sugar sensitivity, diabetic physiology and carbohydrate metabolism. Bees and humans may partially share these connections.
In a study published in the open-access journal PLoS Genetics (Public Library of Science), Gro Amdam, an associate professor, and Ying Wang, a research scientist, in the School of Life Sciences in Arizona State University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, explain how for the first time they have successfully inactivated two genes in the bees’ “master regulator” module that controls food-related behaviours. By doing so, researchers discovered a possible molecular link between sweet taste perception and the state of internal energy.
“A bee’s sensitivity to sugar reveals her attitude towards food, how old the bee is when she starts searching for nectar and pollen, and which kind of food she prefers to collect,” said Wang, the lead author of the paper. “By suppressing these two ‘master’ genes, we discovered that bees can become more sensitive to sweet taste. But interestingly, those bees also had very high blood sugar levels, and low levels of insulin, much like people who have Type 1 diabetes.”
“Now, if one can use the bees to understand how taste perception and metabolic syndromes are connected, it is a very useful tool,” said Amdam, who also has a honey bee laboratory at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences.
The researchers are now considering how, exactly, the bees’ sweet taste was enhanced by the experiment. The most metabolically active tissue of the bee, called the fat body, may hold the key. The fat body is similar to the liver and abdominal fat in humans, in that it helps store nutrients and create energy.
Amdam explains that taste perception evolved as a survival mechanism, for bees as well as for people. For example, bitter foods may be poisonous or sweet taste may signal foods rich in calories for energy. For all animals, taste perception must communicate properly with one’s internal energetic state to control food intake and maintain normal life functions. Without this, poorly functioning taste perception can contribute to unhealthy eating behaviours and metabolic diseases, such as diabetes and obesity.
“From this study, we realized we can take advantage of honey bees in understanding how food-related behaviours interact with internal metabolism, as well as how to manipulate these food-related behaviours in order to control metabolic disorders,” added Amdam.
For full story, please see: http://phys.org/news/2012-06-bee-human-sweet-perception-metabolic.html
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Source: Associated Press in the Huffington Post, 22 June 2012
Even in the UN’s largest-ever conference, it is safe to assume that Jane Goodall was the only one speaking chimpanzee. "Ooh, ooh, ooh, ah, ah," the iconic British conservationist chanted into the microphone, delivering a series of melancholic bursts she said roughly translated as "please help."
"I think that is what chimpanzees would be saying if they could articulate it that way," Goodall told participants at a meeting Thursday of the conservationist umbrella group Avoided Deforestation Partners. The event took place on the margins of the U.N.'s Rio+20 mega-conference on sustainable development, which has drawn an estimated 50 000 diplomats, environmentalists, policy makers and concerned citizens from across the globe to Rio de Janeiro.
The world's forests are among the crucial, life-sustaining environmental systems scientists say are teetering on the brink of a tipping point. UNEP warned earlier this month that the planet's systems — which also include air, land and oceans — “are being pushed towards their biophysical limits,” after which sudden and catastrophic changes could ensue.
Environmentalists had cast Rio+20 as the last, best chance to avert such a scenario, but the three-day conference was beset by bickering between rich and poor countries, and environmental protection groups have lashed out in chorus against the event's final document, which they say is grossly inadequate.
Goodall, a Cambridge University-trained ethnologist who's among the top advocates for the chimps she has studied for more than half a century, spoke movingly of the deforestation that has encroached on Tanzania's Gombe National Park, where she began studying chimps. The chimpanzee population of equatorial Africa once numbered in the millions, but deforestation and other threats have slashed their numbers to an estimated 170 000-300 000, making the chimp an endangered species.
Goodall said a recent flight over Gombe, a tiny 30-mile² sliver of a park perched on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, brought the devastation of the surrounding landscape into sharp relief.
"The trees were gone, the hills were bare," she said. Outside the park, trees had been cut down by the impoverished locals for firewood and for plots of land on which to eke out a living. She said both the kind of "desperate poverty" that surrounds Gombe and, on the other end of the spectrum, the unquenchable appetites for consumer goods in wealthy countries, were to blame for deforestation.
"The unsustainable lifestyles of those not living in poverty is leading to the actions ... of the big mining companies, the big petroleum companies and the big logging companies" – the enemies of forests worldwide, she said.
Goodall also singled out spiralling population growth as another of the main culprits driving deforestation, which organizers of Thursday's conference say results in the loss of 1 acre of forest every second.
For full story, please see: www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20120622/lt-brazil-rio20-protecting-forests
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Forests fare poorly in outcomes of Rio+20, say CIFOR scientists
Source: CIFOR Blog, 26 June 2012
Forests have been largely ignored or ambiguously mentioned in the Rio+20 outcome document (www.uncsd2012.org/thefuturewewant.html), yet again postponing progress on integrating forests into sustainable development objectives, said CIFOR scientists at the conclusion of the Rio+20 summit last week.
“If you look at this document as providing some sort of guidepost for making decisions or taking actions in the future, the positions that are taken do not actually provide any specificity,” said Peter Cronkleton, Senior Scientist at CIFOR’s Peru office.
Louis Verchot, Principal Scientist at CIFOR agrees but added: “When you look who attended Rio+20, it is ministers of environment and foreign affairs, not ministers of finance, and these are the people who you need to make the national commitments.”
The outcome document’s section on Forests specifically calls for urgent implementation of the Non-Legally Binding Instrument on All Types of Forests (NLBI) adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2007. The purpose of the instrument to strengthen political commitment and action to implement sustainable forest management to achieve internationally agreed development goals.
“The plan to move forward with NLBI was something that was decided on many years ago and it still has not given the expected results,” Verchot said. “There was some progress in the early stages of the agreement, but because of lack of long term commitment by countries, the progress has slowed.”
While the level of frustration and cynicism about the Rio+20 process is abound, this frustration may actually lead to civil society efforts to define actions at the regional and national level, Cronkleton said. “I see hope in local and national processes. I think that is where there is clarity in the decisions that need to be made because the debates are more grounded in reality,” he said.
Verchot agrees: “I think that future action is going to be led by civil society. Civil society has a great power to influence the national and subnational level whereas the international coordination is where the multilateral process should be important. Unfortunately it is just not living up to what people need and many have lost confidence in the processes.”
One area where there could be clear commitments is in the clarification of commercial and community rights over forest, Cronkleton suggested. In many countries around the world, deforestation and forest degradation occurs in open-access forests that are often under state control. However state agencies usually lack sufficient resources and personnel for effective governance of these areas, says Cronkleton, creating a “free-for-all” situation. At the same time there are people who live in and depend on those forests who don’t have rights over the basic resources that support their livelihoods. “Without mandating what people do, you could easily establish clear guidelines in terms of steps that could be taken to clarify forest property rights.”
In the case of Africa, countries with the same programs and the same type of governance structure are already working together to influence national and regional decision-making on forest management through south-south exchange, explained Richard Eba’a-Atyi, CIFOR’s Regional Coordinator for Central Africa.
“People can learn from experiences where forest governance has improved, where more equitable access to forest resources has taken place, where more efficient and effective technologies have been developed. I see this taking place in a piecemeal fashion without any coordination.”
For full story, please see: http://blog.cifor.org/9945/forests-fare-poorly-in-outcomes-of-rio20-say-cifor-scientists/
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Source: CIFOR Blog, 15 June 2012
By the time Nobel Economics Laureate Elinor Ostrom died of pancreatic cancer earlier this week at age 78, she had already gone a long way to redefine the way social scientists and policymakers think about common resources, including CIFOR’s research focus on forests and other jointly exploited resources such as fisheries or pastureland.
Back in the 1940s, when Ostrom was pursuing her political science doctorate at the University of California in her native Los Angeles, conventional wisdom maintained that, left to their own devices, individual users of such shared resources would inevitably deplete them. This concept was later coined “Tragedy of the Commons,” in a seminal 1968 article by ecologist Garrett Hardin. The only remedy was to turn over the “commons” to either private or governmental control.
Ostrom nurtured a lifelong suspicion of a one-size-fits-all “panaceas.” For her, each type of “commons” called for its own set of governance regimens, which would vary according to the social and ecological context. The stakeholders in each “commons” had every reason to evolve such governance regimens on their own, if given a chance, Ostrom argued. Under their stewardship, the “commons” would fare as well or better than under private or government ownership.
To assess the comparative health of “commons” under different types of management, Ostrom used research methods ranging from grassroots field interviews with individual stakeholders, about their governance solutions, to eye-in-the-sky satellite imagery. Frowned upon by some and lauded by others, her methods were at odds with the increasingly mathematical nature of 1970s economics research methodology.
Nevertheless, her approach attracted a growing circle of adherents, especially after the publication of her discipline-altering book, Governing the Commons (1990). Eventually it gave rise to a school of economic thought in its own right— “Institutional Economics.” At Indiana University, where she taught for the past 47 years, Ostrom and her husband, political scientist Victor Ostrom jointly founded a Workshop on Political Theory and Analysis to advance their ideas.
“Institutional Economics” has proven a powerful analytic tool for approaching forest issues. As early as 1992, at the behest of the FAO, Ostrom pioneered a multi-country research project with the International Forestry Resources and Institutions Program (IFRI). Using satellite imagery to assess how governance arrangements shape forest degradation, Ostrom showed new ways to weigh trade-offs for forest conservation, carbon sequestration and the promotion of forest-dwellers’ livelihoods.
Although leery of “panaceas,” Ostrom did recognise eight guiding principles that seem to recur in successful governance regimens for sustainable resources:
- Clear rules for inclusion of stakeholders
- Locally appropriate rules for resource apportionment
- Inclusive and transparent decision-making mechanisms
- Effective monitoring
- Appropriate and enforceable sanctions for violators
- Realistic and accessible conflict-resolution procedures
- Official recognition of stakeholders’ collective rights
- Interlocking echelons of stake-holder governance, as needed, from the micro- to the macro-level
For full story, please see: http://blog.cifor.org/9749/nobel-laureate-elinor-ostrom-her-vision-for-common-resource-management/
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IV International Wildlife Management Congress 2012
Durban, South Africa
9-12 July 2012
As the world’s population increases, so does competition for resources and space between humans and wildlife. Today, human-wildlife interactions are more common than ever before. In an effort to retain vital biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, we need to explore ways to live and flourish together with wildlife.
The theme for this year’s conference is “Cooperative Wildlife Management across Borders: Learning in the Face of Change.” The IV IWMC’s scientific program will include keynote addresses from leading wildlife conservation and management experts, panel discussions on critical issues — such as Africa’s rhino crisis and other illegal trade concerns across the world — workshops, and symposia. In addition, the IWMC will offer an exhibition component, where delegates can network with like-minded professionals from other countries.
For more information, please contact:
Phindile Madlala (Registration Administrator)
13 Claribel Road
PO Box 47156
KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Tel: +27 31 303 9852
Fax: +27 31 303 9529
E-mail: [email protected]
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COFO 21 Committee on Forestry: 21st Session/3rd World Forest Week
24-28 September 2012
World leaders at Rio+20 agreed that forests have a significant role to play in addressing many sustainable development challenges. To help fulfil this role, COFO 2012 will focus on translating the results of Rio+20 into action and strengthening forestry’s many cross-sectoral linkages under the following key topics:
- Integrating forests with environmental and land use policies at all levels
- Forests, trees and people together in a living landscape: A key to rural development
- Broadening the financial basis for sustainable forest management: wood and NWFPs, services, innovations, markets, investments and international instruments
- Sound information and knowledge base for better policies and good governance
The 2012 State of the World’s Forests report will also be released at COFO. It will make the case that better and more sustainable use of forestry resources can make a significant contribution to meeting many of the core global challenges including poverty and hunger, climate change, and more sustainable sources of bio-products and bio-energy for human use.
For the third time, COFO will be held in conjunction with World Forest Week — a series of meetings and events sponsored by FAO and its partner organizations and institutions. The events of the Week are organized around the key topics of COFO shedding more light on key issues and allowing for a more detailed discussions. The World Forest Week is an opportunity for sharing state-of-the-art knowledge and major accomplishments and achievements.
For more information, please contact:
Peter Csoka, Senior Forestry Officer
Forestry Department, FAO
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
00153, Rome, Italy
E-mail: [email protected]
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Araújo, F.R., and Lopes, M.A. 2012. Diversity of use and local knowledge of palms (Arecaceae) in eastern Amazonia. Biodivers. Conserv. 21(2):487-501.
Armstrong, A.H., Shugart, H.H., and Fatoyinbo, T.E. 2011. Characterization of community composition and forest structure in a Madagascar lowland rainforest. Trop. Conserv. Sci. 4(4):428-444.
Baker, J., Milner-Gulland, E.J., and Leader-Williams, N. 2012. Park gazettement and integrated conservation and development as factors in community conflict at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda. Conserv. Biol. 26(1):160-170
Brito, D., Moreira, D.O., Coutinho, B.R., and Oprea, M. 2012. Ill nature: disease hotspots as threats to biodiversity. J. Nature Conserv. 20(2):72-75.
FAO, CIFOR and People & Plants International. 2011. Frutales y plantas útiles en la vida amazónica. Non-Wood Forest Products Series, No.20. FAO: Rome, Italy.
Festa-Bianchet, M. 2012. Rarity, willingness to pay and conservation. Anim. Conserv. 15(1):12-13.
Hecht, S.B. 2012. From eco-catastrophe to zero deforestation? Interdisciplinarities, politics, environmentalisms and reduced clearing in Amazonia. Environ. Conserv. 39(1):4-19.
Seales, L. and Stein, T. 2012. Linking commercial success of tour operators and agencies to conservation and community benefits in Costa Rica. Environ. Conserv. 39(1):20-29.
Sunderland, T.C.H. 2012. A taxonomic revision of the rattans of Africa (Arecaceae: Calamoideae).New Zealand: Magnolia Press.
Abstract: The rattans of Africa are represented by the endemic palm (Arecaceae) genera Laccosperma, Eremospatha and Oncocalamus, as well as by a single species of the otherwise Asian genus Calamus. These climbing palms occur in a wide range of ecological conditions within the lowland tropical forests of the continent and, throughout their range, play a significant role in the forest economy of the region through the utilization of their stems, or cane. Despite this economic importance, until recently the taxonomy of this group has been unclear. Based on recent fieldwork as well as thorough examination of herbarium records, a taxonomic treatment of all African rattans is presented. This paper recognizes 22 species in the four genera, including four recently described species.
Sutherland, W.J., Aveling, R., Bennun, L., Chapman, E., Clout, M., Côté, I.M., Depledge, M.H., Dicks, L.V., Dobson, A.P., Fellman, L., Fleishman, E., Gibbons, D.W., Keim, B., Lickorish, F., Lindenmayer, D.B., Monk, K.A., Norris, K., Peck, L.S., Prior, S.V., Scharlemann, J.P.W., Spalding, M., and Watkinson, A.R. 2012. A horizon scan of global conservation issues for 2012. Trends Ecol. Vol.27(1):12-18.
Venturella, G., Altobelli, E., Bernicchia, A., Di Piazza, S., Donnini, D., Gargano, M.L., Gorjón, S.P., Granito, V.M., Lantieri, A., Lunghini, D., Montemartini, A., Padovan, F., Pavarino, M., Pecoraro, L., Perini, C., Rana, G., Ripa, C., Salerni, E., Savino, E., Tomei, P.E., Vizzini, A., Zambonelli, A., and Zotti, M. 2011. Fungal biodiversity and in situ conservation in Italy. Plant Biosyst. 145(4):950-957.
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From: FAO’s NWFP Programme
The Food Insects Newsletter
This web site hopes to become among the most important sources in the world for useful information about the sustainability, and the economic and nutritional value of using insects as food for humans and other animals.
Forest Certification — Steps Towards Sustainability
Documentary about the work of the Asia Network for Sustainable Agriculture and Bioresources (ANSAB) to introduce Forest Certification for NTFPs in Nepal's community forestry.
Melbourne City Rooftop honey
We are Beekeepers with a vision of bringing bees back to the city and the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. The aim is to be part of the greater world wide effort to help save the honey bee from the various threats of disease and human habitation.
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It is 20 million years ago in the forests of Argentina, and Homunculus patagonicus is on the move. The monkey travels quickly, swinging between tree branches as it goes. Scientists have a good idea of how Homunculus got around thanks to a new fossil analysis of its ear canals and those of 15 other ancient primates. These previously hidden passages reveal some surprises about the locomotion of extinct primates — including hints that our own ancestors spent their lives moving at a higher velocity than today's apes.
Wherever skeletons of ancient primates exist, anthropologists have minutely analyzed arm, leg, and foot bones to learn about the animals' locomotion. Some of these primates seem to have bodies built for leaping. Others look like they moved more deliberately. But in species such as H. patagonicus, there is hardly anything to go on aside from skulls.
That is where the inner ear canals come in. "The semicircular canals function essentially as angular accelerometers for the head," helping an animal keep its balance while its head jerks around, says Timothy Ryan, an anthropologist at Pennsylvania State University, University Park. In the new study, he and colleagues used computed tomography scans to peer inside the skulls of 16 extinct primates, spanning 35 million years of evolution, and reconstruct the architecture of their inner ears.
Also called the bony labyrinth, the area in question is a set of three twisting cavities, one oriented along each axis of the body. The sloshing of fluid inside the canals provides information for an animal's system of balance. An earlier study of living and recently extinct mammals showed that more agile or acrobatic animals have bigger semicircular canals relative to their body size. A sedentary sloth, for example, has small and insensitive canals. A gibbon needs larger, more sensitive canals to keep its head and gaze stabilized while it trapezes through the tree branches.
For full story, please see: www.enn.com/wildlife/article/44579
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