For Ecuador’s Sápara, saving the forest means saving their language

first_img Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsored The Sápara people of Ecuador, who live in one of the most biodiverse forests in the world, are fighting to retain their traditional language, spoken today by only a handful of native speakers.Tropical rainforests around the world and especially in Latin America are at the forefront of a rapid decline in linguistic diversity, and the traditional ecological knowledge encoded in it.Half of the world’s languages, many spoken by only a few dozen or a few hundred people, are kept alive by only 0.1 percent of the world’s population, and constitute some of the most threatened languages.2019 has been declared the “year of indigenous languages” by the U.N., in recognition of the importance of linguistic diversity around the world and its rapid decline. NAPO, Ecuador — Gloria Ushigua, president of the Sápara women’s association, stops by a large, thin, spindly tree that looks almost dead, and breaks off a thin branch. Running her fingers along it, she finds a small, almost invisible inch-long raised groove and bites into it. Tiny ants swarm out, which she picks off with her teeth. “Ormigas acidas,” or sour ants, she explains in Spanish. “Before my grandparents even heard of limes or lemons, we used these ants to season our dishes when we wanted a sour taste.”This is just one of many examples of how the Sápara, who have inhabited the eastern part of the Ecuadoran Amazon in the Napo eco-region around Yasuni National Park for centuries, have developed a deep local understanding and language for the rainforest they call home — a rainforest that happens to also be one of the most biodiverse places on Earth. But that knowledge is threatened on multiple levels.Gloria shows a fungi commonly used for ear-ache. The cultural and oral traditions of the Sapara are considered an “intangible cultural heritage of humanity” by UNESCO because of the depth of ecological and medicinal knowledge the Sapara have. Image by Sarah Sax for MongabayCurrently, only 400 Sápara, considered the smallest of the Ecuadoran indigenous nations, remain, and only a handful of elders speak Sápara fluently; when they die, many of the stories and traditional ecological knowledge encoded in the language is at risk of extinction. The nation also faces external pressure: their roughly 400,000-hectare (990,000-acre) territory sits on top of six oil concessions, two of which the Ecuadoran government has repeatedly tried to auction off.“It’s a dangerous situation for us, the Sápara,” Ushigua says. “There are so few of us in our territory and there is also petroleum in our territory. We know that if we allowed oil extraction in our territory it would be the end of us for good.”The story of the Sápara’s decline isn’t dissimilar to that of other nations and tribes in the Amazon Basin. Once a nation of around 200,000 people, the Sápara were decimated after contact with outsiders through the rubber trade, enslavement and disease. Now they’re in a race against time to revitalize their dying language. And they’re not alone. At least a quarter of the world’s languages are threatened with extinction, according to a WWF report in 2014, and most of them are indigenous.Language losses in forests worldwideA recent U.N. report on the state of global biodiversity warns that as many as a million species could be at risk from extinction in the coming decades. The U.N. has also designated 2019 the “year of indigenous languages,” to draw attention to the rapid decline in indigenous languages worldwide. Even though indigenous people constitute less than 5 percent of the world’s population, they conserve an estimated 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity.Globally, areas of high biological diversity, largely tropical rainforests, are also areas of high cultural-linguistic diversity. In fact, the three core areas of biocultural diversity are situated in the three largest, most intact tropical rainforests: the Amazon, the Congo Basin, and Southeast Asia.“When you look at distribution of languages around the world, tropical forests really show up as hotspots of linguistic diversity, and overlap with trends in biological diversity,” says Jonathan Loh, an honorary research fellow at the School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent, U.K. “They are also the areas where decline is happening the fastest.”Half of the world’s languages, many spoken by only a few dozen or a few hundred people, are kept alive by only 0.1 percent of the world’s population, according to the WWF report. These are some of the most threatened languages.A young girl participates in the traditional “mono gordo” Sapara festival, which was celebrated for the first time in 30 years in June 2019. Image by Sarah Sax for Mongabay“Most of the world’s 7,000 languages are spoken by indigenous people. When the language is lost, the traditional and ecological knowledge that are encoded in the language [are] also lost,” says Loh, who co-authored the WWF report. “We could be losing a lot of potentially valuable knowledge. Who understands the species and the relationships to the ecosystem better than the people who have lived there for centuries?”The central idea of biocultural diversity is that the diversity of life on Earth is comprised not only of biodiversity but also of cultural and linguistic diversity, “all of which are interrelated (and possibly coevolved), within a complex socioecological adaptive system,” according to The Oxford Handbook of Endangered Languages.“People became interested in biocultural diversity for the same reasons people became interested in global biodiversity: It was starting to decline rapidly,” Loh says. A conservation biologist turned biocultural scientist, Loh became interested in the connection between biological and linguistic diversity when he became aware of the fact that thousands of languages worldwide were spoken by just a few people, largely in the tropics. “It very much reminded me of rare, endemic species distribution. So I started to do research. And here I am.”Biocultural diversity and the SáparaIn 2001, UNESCO recognized the language and traditions of the Sápara as an “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity,” in large part because of their complex oral culture, which is deeply marked by their environment and reflects a profound knowledge of the Amazonian jungle.Walking through the rainforest with a hunting party of Sápara, their deep knowledge of the forest is never far from sight. They bring no water or food with them. A large curuarawangu liana is cut, and from it flows sweet, filtered water. A midday snack of chonta palm and tuco, a grub that lives in the roots of the palm, is produced. A paca, a large forest rodent, is killed, and from the dozens of vines surrounding the hunting party, the sturdiest and most flexible are expertly chosen to tie up the heavy animal and carry it back to the community.The tuco grub, which lives in the roots of the chonta palm is a staple for the Sapara. Image by Sarah Sax for Mongabay.By far the most rapid losses in linguistic diversity have occurred in the Americas, where 60 percent of languages are threatened or have gone extinct since 1970.“There is so much to learn about the different Amazonian languages,” Bernat Bardagil Mas, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, who specializes in Amazonian indigenous languages, tells Mongabay. “What little we do know is this: How rich Amazonian linguistic diversity is, and how endangered most of the languages are.”According to Loh, most of the languages threatened with extinction are evolutionarily quite distinct from the few dominant world languages; they also represent very different cultures and knowledge systems. If trends continue as they have, this vast store of knowledge could largely be lost by the end of this century.“Conservation biologists sadly in the past have just focused on biological diversity,” he says. “But particularly in those biodiversity hotspots that are also linguistic and cultural hotspots, conservation really needs to take into consideration and conserve the whole of biocultural diversity, instead of just the biological diversity.”The Sápara now have a language revitalization plan in place, which includes teaching children the language at school, and developing pedagogical tools to help both children and adults relearn the language. For Ushigua, there is no doubt in her mind that any attempt to revitalize the language will directly impact the Sápara’s ability to also protect their forest.“Years ago I made the point that protecting the integrity of our forest and protecting our culture and language went hand in hand, but there were no spaces to do both, so I chose to fight for our territory,” she says. “But if the forest goes extinct, we as a people are done. And if we were not here, the forest would not exist in the same way it does today. It’s that simple.”The Sapara control 400,000 hectares of rainforest in the Ecuadorian Amazon, most of which sits on top of oil reserves that the Ecuadorian government is considering exploiting. Image by Sarah Sax for Mongabay.Banner Image Caption: The Sapara have been living in the Ecuadorian Amazon for centuries; their language and traditions reflect a deep knowledge of their environment. Image by Sarah Sax for Mongabay.FEEDBACK: Use this form to send a message to the author of this post. If you want to post a public comment, you can do that at the bottom of the page. Article published by Willie Shubertcenter_img Amazon Biodiversity, Amazon Conservation, Anthropology, Biocultural Diversity, Culture, Food, Forests, Human Rights, Indigenous Culture, Indigenous Rights, Language last_img read more

‘Radically changing’ a rare Mauritian plant’s story: Q&A with ecologist Prishnee Bissessur

first_imgArticle published by Shreya Dasgupta Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsored Biodiversity, Conservation, Endangered Species, Environment, Forests, Green, Interviews, Interviews With Young Scientists, Plants, Tropical Forests, Wildlife center_img Roussea simplex, a unique plant that grows only on the mountains of Mauritius, is the only species in its genus, with just 250-odd individuals remaining in the wild.Prishnee Bissessur, a graduate student at the University of Mauritius who has been studying the plant since 2015, has “radically changed what was known of the plant’s ecology so far,” according to one ecologist.Mongabay spoke with Bissessur to learn about her work on Roussea simplex, what makes the plant so fascinating, and the challenges of studying it. The plant Roussea simplex, usually referred to by its scientific name, is one of a kind. It grows only in the mountains of the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius; it’s the only species in the genus Roussea; and the only species in the entire subfamily Rousseoideae. It’s also down to just 250-odd individuals in the wild, which means that most people will likely never encounter it in their lifetime. For Prishnee Bissessur, it was love at first sight.Before 2014, though, Bissessur had never climbed a Mauritian mountain and never seen the plant. But prodded by her professor at the University of Mauritius, who was hoping she would study the rare plant, she hiked up the thumb-shaped Le Pouce mountain in the northwest of the tiny island to see what the fuss was all about. Close to the summit, R. simplex, a plant with woody vines that scramble atop other trees, was in bloom, displaying its pendulous yellow flowers in full glory. “They were so beautiful that anyone who would see them would fall in love,” Bissessur told Mongabay.Falling in love was one thing, but when Bissessur went back and started digging into the scientific literature on the species, she quickly realized that the plant was more complicated than she’d anticipated. “It’s called Roussea simplex, but it’s more like Roussea complex,” she said.Now a graduate student at the University of Mauritius, Bissessur has been slowly unraveling R. simplex’s mysteries. Her research has even overturned some of the more well-known aspects of the species, named after the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. For instance, for a long time the plant was thought to have just one specialized pollinator and seed disperser: the blue-tailed day gecko (Phelsuma cepediana), a lizard found nowhere else on Earth. But by placing camera traps around the plants, Bissessur’s research showed that the gecko has company, including the Mauritius bulbul (Hypsipetes olivaceus), a bird known only from the island.Her work has also shown that invasive alien ants, previously believed to be a major threat to the plants because they disrupt pollination by the geckos, aren’t as big a menace.“The many findings made with the PhD studies of Prishnee has radically changed what was known of the plant’s ecology so far,” Vincent Florens, an associate professor of ecology at the University of Mauritius, told Mongabay. “It has also equipped us with a much better understanding of the drivers of the species’ decline, which is already informing more impactful conservation.”Blue-tailed day gecko. Image by Jjargoud via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0).Both Florens and Bissessur see R. simplex, locally known as Liane Rousseau, as more than a single species in peril. They say that it will serve as a model species to understand other island plants and the threats that plague them.“I am confident that the story of Roussea can serve more widely as a good example of the fascinating and important discoveries that can be made about a species’ natural history through painstaking yet relatively simple field observation and experimental approaches,” Florens said.However, plants, especially those without any known medicinal value, are challenging to study. There’s very little funding, Bissessur said, and few people want to help during the field work.Mongabay recently spoke with Bissessur to learn about her work on R. simplex, what makes the plant so fascinating, and the challenges of studying it. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.Mongabay: Could you tell us a bit about the plant itself?Prishnee Bissessur: Roussea simplex is a really slow-growing plant that’s epiphytic [grows on the surface of other plants for physical support, not food] and it scrambles, growing into dense canopy. It is protandrous, which means that its flowers transition from male to female. It has sticky pollen and it produces quite a lot of nectar. It flowers all year round, but there are two flowering peaks, one during July to December and then April to June.So if one were to see them in a forest would they be easily identifiable?Yes, very much so. They are shrubs and don’t look like trees. And there are not many similar-looking plants in Mauritius. If it’s flowering, you can definitely not miss it.Prishnee Bissessur with a Roussea simplex plant. Image by Vincent Florens.People are usually interested in animals. What is it about Roussea that fascinated you the most?When you think of it, in terms of the food web, it’s mostly the plants that are at the base, and then you narrow it up to the top predators. For me, studying plants was always interesting because animals depend on plants. And it was not just the plant itself but all the interactions that come with it that was interesting. Roussea is unique in the sense that it was discovered that it’s pollinated by the endemic gecko, and it was also one of the first plants to be discovered with double mutualism; that is, it was considered to be pollinated by the gecko and seed dispersed by the gecko as well. Also, we’re using Roussea as a model island plant. The idea is to use Roussea to identify threats that are causing it to decline and show how by systematically studying the lifestyle stages of a plant you can actually pinpoint where the problem lies, and address them. Because other island plants are also facing similar threats, the results from Roussea are applicable to them as well.Where can one find Roussea simplex?Both the genus Roussea and the family Rousseacea to which Roussea simplex belongs are endemic to Mauritius, so you can’t find them anywhere else on Earth. In Mauritius, Roussea is currently found in only nine locations, mostly concentrated in the southwest and northwest of the island.Finding where it’s now located was the first part of my study. I did a thorough literature review to look for mentions of sightings and locations of Roussea. I also spent a lot of time looking at herbarium specimens and collated information on Roussea’s distribution from those. In the end, we retrieved 18 locations. We did field work to check if the populations were still there, but we were able to retrace only nine of them. So there’s been almost a 50 percent decline in the distribution over the last 250 years. And for the last 20 years, there has been drastic decrease in their population size.In 2004, Dennis Hansen [of the Institute of Environmental Sciences at the University of Zurich in Switzerland] reported that there were only 85 to 90 individuals left, but we did a more comprehensive study. For now, we estimate there are around 250 individuals on the whole island. But the population trend is still constantly declining. If we were to Red List it according to IUCN, it would be considered as endangered.Where are the nine locations where Roussea simplex can still be found?About 95 percent of the plants occur in protected areas, that is, nature reserves, national parks, and mountain reserves at high elevations. But only one of the sites, a conservation management area, is currently being actively managed. So the managers do active weed control, and the area is fenced.What are some unusual tools you’ve used to study Roussea?So the most interesting one, I think, is the Bushnell trail camera. I wanted to look at animals that visit Roussea flowers because the only reported ones were the grey white-eye [Zosterops mauritianus] and the Phelsuma geckos. But the Bushnell cameras revealed interactions that had not been observed earlier, and which we would have missed. For example, black rats are a big problem for Roussea. They are eating a lot of these flowers. They usually make holes at the base of the flower to get to the nectar and even chop whole flowers. That’s one of the interactions that I’m going to study next. But they are nocturnal and we wouldn’t have seen them in action if there were no camera there. We also caught monkeys [long-tailed macaques, Macaca fascicularis] on the cameras.If you sit and observe the plants, it can probably change the behavior of animals. The cameras helped us to do it in a way such that the animal was not aware that it was being observed. For my next study, I’m going to use rat traps to see if controlling rats has an impact on flower production.Black rats often make holes at the base of Roussea flowers, damaging them. Image by Vincent Florens.A monkey caught on camera trap feeding on a Roussea plant. Image courtesy of Prishnee Bissessur.You found that the blue-tailed day gecko is not the only pollinator of Roussea as previously thought. Could you tell us about some of your findings?[Using camera traps, Bissessur and team found that Roussea flowers were visited by three endemic birds — the Mauritius bulbul, the grey white-eye, and the olive white-eye, Zosterops chloronothos — as well as two endemic reptiles: the blue-tailed day gecko and the ornate day gecko, Phelsuma ornata. Three species not native to the island, the long-tailed macaque, red-whiskered bulbul and the black rat, visited the flowers too.]We found that the Mauritius bulbul visits the flowers quite frequently and on camera footage we could see that the bulbul could carry pollen, which is quite sticky, on its beak. What we did was to see whether it could be a more efficient pollinator than the gecko because it’s a bird, so it can fly to longer distances and do cross-pollination of the plant. We carried out a series of experiments including pollinator exclusion experiments. For the latter, we used three treatments: we placed metallic cages around some flowers to exclude the birds, giving only geckos access to the flowers; we bagged some flowers with nylon bags, so neither gecko nor the bird could have access to the flowers; and some of flowers were left completely open for both pollinators to access. Then we looked at the seed set of fruits that developed post these three different treatments.In the end, we found that the bulbul was a more efficient pollinator than the gecko.Interestingly, Hansen and Müller showed that when the great white-eye, which is a smaller bird and has a short beak, goes into a flower for nectar, the pollen sticks to the bird’s feathers on its head. When it then goes from flower to flower, it is not able to transfer the pollen. But the Mauritius bulbul has a longer beak, so the pollen is deposited on the beak instead of the feathers, and when it goes from flower to flower, it can actually deliver the pollen successfully.A Mauritius bulbul feeding on the nectar from a Roussea flower. Image by Jean Michel Probst.You have also been looking at threats to Roussea from invasive alien ants. Could you talk about that?Hansen and Müller showed that these ants infest the flowers for nectar, and they make these ant galleries around the flower in the corolla. So when the ants are present, the geckos don’t visit the flowers. And due to lower frequency of visits by the geckos, there’s lower pollination, and then lower seed sets. What I was interested to see is whether this disruption is something that occurs all year round, or it varies through time, and across sites.I looked at around 1,468 flowers over two consecutive years, and I found that a very low number of flowers were actually infested by ants — only 6 percent of the flowers. And most of the infested flowers were found below one-meter [3 feet] height. So what we find is that when there are invasive plants like strawberry guava (Psidium cattleyanum) and Clidemia hirta [commonly called soapbush], Roussea collapses to the ground, and this makes it more accessible to the ant.Why does the presence of invasive plants cause Roussea to move closer to the ground?Roussea is epiphytic, so when the host tree has to compete with other invasive plants, and it dies, Roussea just collapses to the ground as well.So far, it had been shown that ants are a big problem for Roussea. But it seems like their effect is quite negligible. Instead, when you look at the bigger picture, it’s actually invasion by alien plants that is having a bigger impact. I’m now looking at the competition between Roussea and invasive plants.Roussea simplex. Image by Vincent Florens.What are some of the biggest challenges in studying Roussea? And is it hard to get funding?I presume that’s one of the problems of every researcher, but I think for those working on plants, it’s even more challenging because we are not working with charismatic animals like big cats, or cute mammals. My research is partly funded by Mauritius Research Council, but it covers only tuition fees. The rest is all self-funded. I even tried crowdfunding for the rat control study because I had to buy camera traps and rat traps, but so far it’s been funded 12 percent.One of the challenges I face when talking about my plant is that the very first question I get is, “Does it have any medicinal properties?” Or, “Does it cure cancer?” So people are always looking at what the plant can give.It’s also challenging to do field work because it’s quite hard to find assistants or people who can go with me. So, I end up having to rely mostly on family and some friends who can spare some time to accompany me because it’s quite dangerous to go alone.In terms of Roussea, because I have nine locations to work with, I’m quite restricted in terms of where I can set up experiments and my sample sizes, but you can always explain that because there are very few individuals left. So you make do with what you have.How do you think your research can help in the conservation of Roussea?At the end of the study, we will come up with conservation measures to propose to conservation managers. Some of those are very basic in terms of control of invasive plants, or translocation of pollinators like the bulbul to habitats where they are locally extinct. But what I would suggest is to not do micromanagement, because in the case of rare species, while micromanagement can be useful in the short term, it is very unsustainable in the long run. For our case, management would be addressing the invasion of alien plants, and rat control. But you’ll also need to do constant monitoring to see if the conservation measures that have been put in place are still working, or if they need some revision.At the end, we will pose some solutions to conservation managers, but it’s not only going to benefit Roussea itself, it’s going to benefit all the surrounding native plants equally.Roussea flowers damaged by black rats. Image by Vincent Florens.last_img read more

Indonesian court fines palm oil firm $18.5m over forest fires in 2015

first_imgFEEDBACK: Use this form to send a message to the author of this post. If you want to post a public comment, you can do that at the bottom of the page. Banner image: Peat fire in Indonesia. Image by Rhett A. Butler/Mongabay. Note: Mongabay Indonesia reporter Lusia Arumingtyas contributed to this report. An Indonesian court has fined a palm oil company $18.5 million for fires that destroyed 970 hectares (2,400 acres) of forest on its concession in Borneo in 2015.The judgment is the latest in a growing number of cases where courts have taken a zero-tolerance approach that makes concession holders liable for any fires that occur on their land, regardless of whether or not they can be proven to have started the fires.Observers have welcomed the verdict, but say the challenge now will be to compel the company to pay up. Since 2015 the government has won $223 million in judgments in similar cases, but collected just $5.5 million.The company in the latest case, PT Arjuna Utama Sawit, is a supplier to Singapore-based Musim Mas Group, a major oil palm trader whose customers include consumer brands such Unilever. Musim Mas said it was seeking an explanation from PT Arjuna Utama Sawit. JAKARTA — A court in Indonesia has ordered palm oil company PT Arjuna Utama Sawit to pay the equivalent of $18.6 million in fines and damages for fires on its land in Borneo in 2015, in the latest instance of a zero-tolerance enforcement approach against concession holders.The fires razed 970 hectares (2,400 acres) of forest in Katingan district, Central Kalimantan province. The company, a supplier to Singapore-based Musim Mas Group — which has committed to a “no deforestation, no peat and no exploitation” (NDPE) policy to ensure the sustainability of its palm oil supplies — holds a concession to manage 16,600 hectares (41,000 acres) in the district.The Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry sued PT Arjuna Utama Sawit at the court in Palangkaraya, the provincial capital. On Oct. 23, the court found the company violated environmental regulations and ordered it to pay 99.6 billion rupiah ($7.1 million) in fines to the ministry and 162 billion rupiah ($11.5 million) for the environmental damages incurred.Jasmin Ragil Utomo, the ministry’s director of civil litigation, welcomed the ruling, although the judgment awarded was less than the total $25.6 million in fines and damages that the ministry had sought. A lawyer for the company, meanwhile, told local media it would appeal the verdict.The judgment, while far from the largest won by the state, is notable because it marks the latest instance of a growing push by the government and courts to take a zero-tolerance stance against companies with fires on their concessions. Rasio Ridho Sani, the environment ministry’s director-general of law enforcement, praised the Palangkaraya court’s use of the concept of strict liability, under which concession holders are responsible for any fires that occur on their land, regardless of whether or not they can be proven to have started the fires. The concept has been employed successfully in a number of cases since 2015, when fires razed 2.6 million hectares (6.4 million acres) of land — an area larger than the U.S. state of Vermont.“The verdict shows that land and forest fire is an extraordinary crime,” Rasio said in a press statement. “Companies have to take responsibility for fires on their concessions.”With Indonesia experiencing another scorching fire season this year, Rasio said the verdict was an important reminder that companies couldn’t evade liability no matter how long ago the burning occurred.“Even if the land and forest fires happened a long time ago, they will still be prosecuted,” he said. “We can track traces [of fires] and evidence of past forest fires with the support of experts and technology.”More fires broke out on PT Arjuna Utama Sawit’s concession again earlier this year, prompting the environment ministry to seal off the affected area.Smoke rises from an oil palm plantation on a peatland in Sumatra. Image by Rhett A. Butler/Mongabay.Trouble collectingWinning a judgment is one thing; collecting the fines, though, could prove difficult. Prior to the PT Arjuna Utama Sawit, Indonesia had won judgments against nine companies in forest fire cases since 2015. Those companies were ordered to pay a combined 3.15 trillion rupiah ($223 million) in fines, but only one has paid its tab of 78 billion rupiah ($5.5 million).Greenpeace Indonesia forest campaigner Arie Rompas said the government faced the same challenge this time around. He also called on the environment ministry to revoke the company’s permit immediately to prevent it carrying out any more activities, including burning, on the land.Arie said Musim Mas, one of the world’s biggest oil palm traders whose customers include major consumer brands such as Unilever, should also be held responsible for the burning, given that it sourced some of its palm oil from PT Arjuna Utama Sawit. He noted Singapore’s transboundary haze pollution act of 2014 that allows the country to take legal action against locally registered companies or citizens who commit fire violations in other countries that result in pollution in Singapore. The 2015 fires led to haze spreading beyond Indonesia to Singapore, Malaysia and even Thailand.Responding to the verdict, Musim Mas said it was carrying out an investigation in accordance with its grievance mechanism.“We have immediately reached out to Arjuna Utama Sawit for more information and are currently waiting for their response,” the company told Mongabay.Peatlands buring in Indonesia in 2014 to make way for oil palm. Image by Rhett A. Butler/Mongabay.‘Risky acquisition’In its lawsuit against PT Arjuna Utama Sawit, the environment ministry had asked the court to prohibit the company from selling its assets or otherwise undergoing any kind of change in ownership. But the court rejected that request, leaving open the possibility that the company could be sold off without paying the fines.Singapore-listed crushed limestone producer GCCP Resources recently announced a plan to fully acquire PT Arjuna Utama Sawit in a reverse takeover deal worth S$220 million ($162 million) that would see the Indonesian company take over the former’s board listing.The acquisition is pending GCCP Resources’ due diligence on the financial, business and legal aspects of PT Arjuna Utama Sawit and approval from its shareholders.But the acquisition could allow the owners of the palm oil company to evade responsibility for paying the fines, said Reynaldo Sembiring, the deputy director of the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL).“One of the methods of corporate crime is to shift responsibility,” he said. “It can be done in two ways: through a change in the board of directors, or through an acquisition.”If GCCP Resources proceeds with the takeover knowing that there’s a court judgment against PT Arjuna Utama Sawit, “then it’s a risky acquisition.”“[The assets] that it acquires could be seized by the state,” Reynaldo said. “And GCCP Resources will have no excuse for running away from its responsibility” to pay the fines after the takeover.Regardless of the change in ownership of PT Arjuna Utama Sawit, the ultimate owners of the company still have to pay up, Arie said.“The beneficial ownership has to be made clear so that they are legally responsible,” he said. “We have to target the owners, or the group, which must be held responsible.”Reynaldo said there was a concern that PT Arjuna Utama Sawit could quietly sell off assets such as equipment pending the appeal. To prevent unknowing buyers from shelling out money for assets that could later be seized by the state, he said the environment ministry should work closely with local prosecutors and financial regulators to ensure no assets change hands.He also called on the ministry to draw up plans for rehabilitating the burned areas. “The restoration plan will be the basis for how the fines will be utilized,” Reynaldo said. “As such it can be used to justify the monitoring of the company’s financial transactions and assets.”Fires in Samboja, East Kalimantan. Image by Yovanda for Mongabay.History of violationsThe 2015 fires aren’t the only troubles in which PT Arjuna Utama Sawit is embroiled. In 2013, the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) accused the company of violating a number of regulations by operating on peatland despite a government moratorium banning such practices.Walhi also found out that the company hadn’t acquired a forest conversion permit, which is required to clear forests for oil palm plantations, or an environmental impact assessment. It also alleged the company’s operations had polluted a local lake.“Based on our monitoring, this company has had a lot of problems since the beginning, when it started operating even though it didn’t have the necessary permits,” said Greenpeace’s Arie, who previously worked at Walhi and authored the report. “Furthermore, the company operated on peatland and on moratorium area.”He added that fires on PT Arjuna Utama Sawit’s concession were a recurring event.“Our monitoring indeed shows that the company burns [its land] every year,” Arie said. “Fire spots keep being detected, and because the concession is on peatland, clearing keeps happening.”In 2017, a number of villagers reportedly confronted PT Arjuna Utama Sawit for allegedly seizing 300 hectares (740 acres) of their customary lands. The villagers also complained that the company hadn’t fulfilled a promise to allocate 20 percent of its concession for local farmers.In 2019, U.S.-based environmental campaign organization Mighty Earth lodged a grievance report against PT Arjuna Utama Sawit at Musim Mas. It accused PT Arjuna Utama Sawit of clearing 33 hectares (82 acres) of forest and preparing to raze another 94 hectares (232 acres) between November 2018 and February 2019.In April, Musim Mas engaged with PT Arjuna Utama Sawit to verify the allegations. PT Arjuna Utama Sawit told Musim Mas that the clearance area was outside of its concession.Arie said the company shouldn’t have been allowed to start operating in the first place, given its lack of necessary permits. “The main problem is that the regulations aren’t enforced consistently, especially the regulation on peatland moratorium,” he said. “The company clearly operated without following the procedures, but instead the forestry ministry in 2013 decided to issue it with a permit to convert the peatland.” Article published by Hans Nicholas Jong Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsored Deforestation, Dry Forests, Environment, Environmental Crime, Environmental Law, Fires, forest degradation, Forest Destruction, Forest Fires, Forests, Law, Law Enforcement, Oil Palm, Palm Oil, Peatlands, Rainforest Deforestation, Rainforest Destruction, Rainforests last_img read more

Heat stress is causing desert bird populations to collapse

first_imgSites in the Mojave Desert in the western U.S. surveyed by ecologists a century ago have lost an average of 43 percent of their breeding bird species.New research suggests higher temperatures have increased the daily water needs of birds, which could decimate their populations if climate change worsens.The most vulnerable birds are larger, carnivorous species such as turkey vultures and prairie falcons that get most of their water from prey. As the Mojave Desert in California and Nevada becomes hotter and drier, birds need more water to stay cool. Species that can’t get enough water are rapidly declining in this iconic desert ecosystem, ecologists reported recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.Some birds may die solely from overheating, but a more serious problem facing most species is how much time they must spend trying to cool down. This decreases their time spent breeding, leading to smaller population sizes.Heat-stressed individuals “may survive, but ultimately the population is doomed,” said Barry Sinervo, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and co-author of the paper. The study was led by postdoctoral researcher Eric Riddell of the University of California, Berkeley.Cactus wrens are adapted to life in the dry Mojave desert, getting water from cactus fruits and insects. Photo by Sean PetersonThe study focuses on sites in the Mojave that were surveyed a century ago by UC Berkeley biologist Joseph Grinnell. This arid ecosystem, which includes Death Valley National Park, is rich with wildlife, including bighorn sheep, desert tortoises, and burrowing owls. Temperatures there have risen about 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since Grinnell’s original fieldwork, data suggests. The team’s “resurveys” show these sites have lost an average of 43 percent of their breeding bird species. The hottest, driest sites have sustained the biggest declines.To understand how climbing temperatures affect birds, Riddell and his colleagues created simulations of 50 different species. These “virtual birds” included each species’ size, feather color and shape, and shade-seeking behavior. The species that have declined the most matched the ones the simulation indicated would require the most extra water to stay cool on the hottest days.Birds cool themselves by panting or vibrating their throat muscles. Both of these actions consume water. Past research has suggested that the species most vulnerable to heat stress are smaller birds, which lose water more quickly than larger species — just as an ice cube melts faster than a large block. However, this study indicated the opposite: larger birds saw greater reduction in ranges.“The surprising conclusion is that it’s not only size, but also diet” that impacts the ability of birds to cool themselves, said Donald Miles, a vertebrate biologist at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.Birds that eat grains or plants, such as mountain chickadees, drink water directly from pools and streams. If they overheat, they can easily drink more water to compensate. However, larger meat-eating birds like prairie falcons get all their water from the insects and animals they eat. When temperatures rise, they can’t easily increase their water consumption. Climate change has made these daily challenges steeper — and deadlier, the study shows.Large, carnivorous birds, such as turkey vultures, get all of their water from the animals they eat. As temperatures rise, these species face the most difficulty consuming enough water to stay cool. Photo by Sean PetersonAlthough other studies have documented species declines, prior to this new paper “there really wasn’t a mechanism to explain why a bird would succumb to climate change,” said Miles, who was not involved with the research.“This is one of the first studies that directly ties the increase in physiological demands from a warmer and drier climate to the changes that are taking place in biodiversity,” said vertebrate biologist Steven Beissinger of UC Berkeley, co-author of the paper and leader of the Grinnell Resurvey Project.The results demonstrate that even on protected lands with little human development, animals can’t escape the effects of climate change. The researchers estimate that in the future, Mojave birds will need about 50 percent to 78 percent more water. But many of the desert’s surface sources of water are vulnerable to drying as well, they note.Because rising temperatures are the biggest threat, “reducing the release of carbon is the main avenue in stopping this catastrophe,” says Miles.But Sinervo is more direct. “We’re screwed,” he said. “If we don’t change, all of biodiversity begins to vanish.”Small insect-eating birds, such as the violet-green swallow, have not declined as severely as larger meat-eating birds. However, future warming may further increase water demands and put more species at risk of collapse. Photo by Sean PetersonCitation:Riddell, E., Iknayan, K., Wolf, B., Sinervo, B., Beissinger, S. (2019). Cooling requirements fueled the collapse of a desert bird community from climate change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116(43). doi:10.1073/pnas.1908791116Jesse Kathan (@jessekathan) is a graduate student in the Science Communication Program at the University of California, Santa Cruz. They have previously written for the Monterey County Weekly. Other Mongabay stories produced by UCSC students can be found here http://news.mongabay.com/list/ucsc/. Article published by Rhett Butler Animals, Biodiversity, Biodiversity Crisis, Birds, Climate Change And Extinction, Deserts, Impact Of Climate Change, Sixth Mass Extinction, UCSC, Wildlife center_img Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsoredlast_img read more

Deforestation for potential rubber plantation raises concerns in Papua New Guinea

first_imgThe project, ostensibly for a 125-square-kilometer (48-square-mile) rubber plantation, began in mid-2018.Satellite imagery shows that Maxland, working with a local landowner company, has built logging roads and deforested patches of the Great Central Forest on Manus Island.Like Papua New Guinea as a whole, Manus is home to a wide variety of unique wildlife — just one aspect of the forest on which human communities have depended for thousands of years.Government forestry and environment officials were aware of the importance of the forest and a local forest management committee protested the project before it began, but it’s been allowed to continue anyway. PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea — The upstart deforestation over the past year and a half that’s sidling up to Pochon Lili’s land has him worried.“As a landowner, I’m concerned about the environment in which my land is located and has been affected,” Lili said.The 67-year-old environmental science professor’s property sits just to the southwest of a new “so-called agroforestry project” on Manus Island, part of Papua New Guinea and sitting in the South Pacific’s Bismarck Sea around 320 kilometers (200 miles) from the country’s mainland. The project has already begun to cut into the 700-square-kilometer (270-square-mile) Great Central Forest, one of the last remaining blocks of high-quality forest on Papua New Guinea’s outlying islands.As a leader of the Machom clan, Lili feels obligated to look out for the interests of his fellow community members. His clan did not sign on in support of the project spearheaded by a local landowner company called Pohowa Agriculture Ltd. and its partner, a Malaysian timber outfit called Maxland Ltd. The project is called the Pohowa Integrated Agro-forestry Project, though there are few indications that the “agroforestry” the project intends is the sort that aims to grow a mix of trees and crops in a way that maintains vital ecosystem services.Instead, the loss of forest and replacement with a monoculture of rubber could spell trouble for the communities living nearby, Lili said.“I wanted to see that the project does not end up in all sorts of problems for us,” he said.A mother with her children on Manus Island. Image by Elodie Van Lierde.Crews began clearing the way for a 125-km2 (48-mi2) rubber plantation in mid-2018, an area equal to nearly one-fifth of the Great Central Forest. But since that time, questions have swirled around whether the benefits to the communities that are part of the Pohowa company, such as timber royalty payments, road construction and a lasting source of employment in the form of nursery and plantation jobs, would materialize.The deforestation so far has left behind a patchwork of bare land and splintering logging roads cutting into the Great Central Forest. Though small in comparison to the forests that blanket Papua New Guinea’s mainland, Manus’ forests host a dizzying array of species, many of which live only on the island. They’ve also sustained local communities, like the Machom clan, for generations. The story of how the project has been able to proceed follows a murky trail from Manus’ highlands out to the Topol log pond on the island’s southern coast and through the government offices in the capital city of Port Moresby hundreds of kilometers away.The story’s end? It hasn’t been written yet, as three more years of the project remain. But skeptics remain concerned that the tale will follow a familiar pattern in Papua New Guinea, one in which foreign companies extract and export wholesale the country’s valuable hardwood timber, leaving once-forest-rich communities without the purported economic engine of an agriculture plantation as a replacement. And along the way, opaque legal processes involving the national and provincial governments seem to ease the process for the companies involved.last_img read more