News Roundup

Leaves and Twigs: A Roundup of the Best Sustainability Stories on the Web

Last week, the news was mixed for the world’s forests. In California, scientists welcomed reports that climate change had triggered a growth spurt in coast redwoods and giant sequoias. In Europe, researchers revealed that many of the continent’s forests are approaching their carbon saturation point.


Climate Change May Be Speeding Coast Redwood, Sequoia Growth,” Los Angeles Times

Finally, some good news about the effects of climate change. It may have triggered a growth spurt in two of California’s iconic tree species: coast redwoods and giant sequoias. Since the 1970s, some coast redwoods have grown at the fastest rate ever, according to scientists who studied corings from trees more than 1,000 years old. ‘That’s a wonderful, happy surprise for us,’ said Emily Burns, science director at the Save the Redwoods League, which is collaborating on a long-term study with university researchers on the effect of climate change on redwoods, the world’s tallest trees, and giant sequoias, the largest living things by total mass.

European Forests Near Carbon Saturation Point,” BBC News

Since 2005, the amount of atmospheric CO2 absorbed by the continent’s trees has been slowing, researchers reported. Writing in Nature Climate Change, they said this was a result of a declining volume of trees, deforestation and the impact of natural disturbances. Carbon sinks play a key role in the global carbon cycle and are promoted as a way to offset rising emissions. Many of Europe’s forests are reaching an age where growth, and carbon uptake, slows down. Writing in their paper, the scientists said the continent’s forests had been recovering in recent times after centuries of stock decline and deforestation.


Ecuador Scraps Plan to Block Rainforest Oil Drilling,” National Geographic

The decision by Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa to abandon a plan to spare the species-rich Yasuní rain forest in eastern Ecuador from oil development has dashed hopes for what environmentalists had hailed as a historic approach to weaning industrial society from its dependence on fossil fuels.’Ecuador and the world have lost an opportunity to shape a revolutionary initiative,’ said Alberto Acosta, Ecuador’s former minister of energy and mines, and one of the chief architects of the so-called Yasuní-ITT Initiative, which Correa unveiled to the international community in 2007. ‘It was a giant step on the road toward post-extractivism.’

With Deforestation Rising, Brazil Sends More Police to the Amazon,” Mongabay

With deforestation pacing more than 90 percent ahead of last year’s rate according to an estimate released today, Brazil said it has increased the number of environmental inspectors in the Amazon rainforest. Speaking at a seminar last week, Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said the federal government has sent a record number of inspectors into the Amazon region as part of an effort to combat surging deforestation. Authorities are working with the national police, intelligence agencies, the military, environmental police, and local forces to curb illegal forest clearing, according to Teixeira. Teixeira added that some landowners appear to have adopted new strategies for avoiding detection, clearing patches of land too small to be tracked by the government’s satellite-based deforestation monitoring system.


Indian Farmers Cope with Climate Change and Falling Water Tables,” National Geographic

To understand how farmers are affected by changes in climate, I am interviewing 750 farmers across centralGujarat, India, for three years. I hope to identify how farmers respond to changes in climate and whether these responses reduce the negative impacts of climate variability on their yields. My surveys show that farmers might switch the crops that they plant or delay the date of planting to better match with the rainfall in a given year.

Population Plus Climate: Why Coastal Cities Will Face Increased Risks From Floods,” Time

Living in New York, it’s easy to forget that the ocean is right on our doorsteps. This isn’t Miami with its beachesor Venice with its canals or New Orleans with its history of storms and floods. New York has always been a supremely self-involved city—this famous magazine cover pretty much sums it up—and though Manhattan is an island, it’s one that has its eyes turned inward, not out toward the water that rings it. Hurricane Sandy ended that illusion last year. The storm surge flooded tunnels, subway lines and apartment buildings; swamped power lines and transformers caused a blackout over much of Manhattan that lasted for days. Altogether Sandy cost the city of New York some $19 billion in public and private losses, nearly all of it due to the water.


Notorious Ivory Trafficker Arrested in Africa,” Nature World News

A notorious ivory trafficker was arrested this week in Gabon for the third time in as many years, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Messimo Rodrigue is allegedly responsible for the deaths of “hundreds of elephants,” the WWF reports, adding that Rodrigue was arrested in the southeastern city of Franceville along with three accomplices. The suspects were in possession of enough ivory to fetch tens of thousands of dollars on the black market. “Messimo Rodrigue was arrested this Sunday along with three accomplices in possession of 10 elephant tusks weighing a total of 93 kilograms,” Gilbert Barangolo, according to the chief prosecutor of Franceville, told the WWF.

Tell us what stories captivated you in the comments!

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