Archive for the ‘ Nature and Adventure ’ Category

Forests Vs. Food?

The story of the world’s forests is usually a depressing one. Tropical rain forests are under pressure in South America, Asia and Africa, threatening habitat for countless species and adding billions of tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year. But while the headlines can be scary, the reality is that the world may be close to turning a corner on deforestation—a change that could pay off for wildlife and the climate. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), there were 4.032 billion hectares of forest standing in the world in 2010. That’s down slightly from 2000, but the good news is that the rate of overall forest loss has slowed considerably, dropping from 8.3 million hectares lost a year in the 1990s to 5.2 million hectares a year, thanks in part to significant reforestation taking place throughout much of Asia.

2011 could be the year the world finally stops losing the fight against deforestation. On February 2 the U.N. launched the International Year of Forests, beginning a series of events meant to raise awareness about the vital importance of forests and generate support for sustainable forestry practices. At December’s U.N. climate summit in the Mexican city of Cancun, governments took the first concrete steps towards creating a system for avoided deforestation, or REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation), which would allow companies and countries to claim carbon credits for maintaining trees. But at the same time, record high food prices could reverse all of that progress, if farmers around the world choose to clear forest to make room for more crops. “In my view, 2011 is going to be the critical year,” says Frances Seymour, the director-general of the Center for International Forestry Research. “This is the year we’ll find out whether we’ll be successful or not.”

First the good news. Most environmentalists believe that REDD offers the best way to generate the billions in finding needed to finally halt deforestation in the tropics, where forests and jungles support a wealth of biodiversity. Right now, a forest only has monetary value when it’s been cleared for farming and sold for logging. Simple economic pressures explain why we’ve already lost so much forest in the world’s poorest countries. But REDD changes that equation. By measuring and creating a market for the billions of tons of carbon contained within trees, REDD could make it economically worthwhile to keep forests standings, by letting tropical countries essentially sell the carbon but keep the trees. Greed could save forests, instead of destroying them.

But for REDD to ever work at scale beyond a few small pilot projects, it would need to be tied to an international climate deal. For most of 2010, in the wake of the Copenhagen summit’s collapse and Congress’s failure to pass a carbon cap, that seemed impossible. Because a carbon market is needed support avoided deforestation, no climate deal, no REDD. Yet at the end of 2010 diplomats in Cancun managed to pull together the beginnings of a global climate agreement that crucially included a framework for REDD funding. That success has paved the way for funders like the Norwegian government, which has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to begin setting up REDD pilot projects in Brazil and most recently Indonesia, which has long suffered some of the worst deforestation in the world. At the UN Forest Forum in New York last week, Rwanda even pledged to restore its degraded landscapes from border-to-border—with the help of REDD funding. “If REDD can really get going in Indonesia, that could be a game changer,” says Seymour.

Still, all this progress could be lost if forests end up pitted against food. According to the FAO, global food prices in February were higher than they have even been before—breaking a record that was only set in January. With demand from the developing world—especially for meat, which requires significant amounts of grain—likely to keep growing, and bad weather in major farming nations keeping yields down, food prices aren’t likely to fall any time soon. At the same time, the decades of steady improvement that has allowed farmers to get more food out of ever acre has plateaued. If the world is going to get more food, it’s going to need to farm more land—and that’s often when forests start getting clear cut. “We’re looking at a perfect storm,” says Seymour. “Farming could be a major driver in forest loss.”

Deforestation isn’t an automatic consequence of high food prices though. Instead of cutting down virgin forest, farmers can look to expand farming to degraded land. Over the longer term, better investment in agricultural research—which has lagged in recent years—can lead to better yields and higher efficiency, reducing the need for more land. And agroforestry can actually combine trees and farming, to the benefit of both. In Africa a growing number of farmers are actually intercropping trees with their farmland, which can cheaply boost nutrients in their soil—certain species of trees actually fix nitrogen, reducing the need for fertilizer—and provide a ready supply of firewood. “Everyone has something to gain from this,” says Dennis Garrity, the director-general of the Nairobi-based World Agroforestry Centre. “People just have to realize this can be done.” That’s the sort of creative thinking that will be needed to make 2011 the year deforestation really ends.

Cebu Flowerpecker is world’s icon for biodiversity

Scientists thought this colorful local songbird was extinct, so when birdwatchers spotted the Cebu Flowerpecker again in 1992 in a mountain

village in Cebu City, the birding world rejoiced.

But no photograph has ever been taken of the bird, making it the “holy grail” of bird watchers here and abroad.

Only a painting and artist’s sketches give others visual clues of what the Cebu Flowerpecker looks like.

The bird, endemic to Cebu, rose to international prominence in August 2009 when it was chosen as the flagship species of BirdLife International, a group dedicated to conservation.

“The rediscovery of the Cebu Flowerpecker has given us Cebuanos a second chance to conserve the natural heritage of Cebu,” said Davao-born Lisa Marie Paguntalan, an ornithologist and conservation biologist.

The Cebu Flowerpecker was chosen over other species from countries like Colombia, Brazil and Indonesia because it is “critically endangered” in a country suffering rapid loss of biodiversity, Paguntalan said.

The selection was made during the annual British Birdwatching Fair held in 2009 in Rutland, England, which drew 20,000 bird enthusiasts from around the globe.

Less than 100 Cebu Flowerpeckers are believed to have survived the loss of its normal forest habitats.

The bird, which is found only in Cebu, is strikingly handsome, Paguntalan said.

Its scientific name, Dicaeum quadricolor, refers to its multicolored plumage (quadricolor means four colors): bluish black on the head and wings, grayish white on the underside, red on a V-shaped patch on its back and greenish yellow on its rump.

This bird feeds on insects on tree barks and in the leaves, nectar of flowers, berrylike fruits, ripe fruits of the Ficus (balete trees in the forest). It has also been observed eating spiders, Paguntalan said.

The bird “has an extremely small population and very small, severely fragmented range owing to catastrophic deforestation,” says the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) based in Gland, Switzerland.

The Cebu Flowerpecker was feared to have become extinct when all of Cebu’s forests were thought to have been destroyed, the IUCN says. In 1992, it was sighted again in Cebu City’s Tabunan forest. Barangay Tabunan is one of the city’s mountain villages.

Since 1992, the bird was seen again in three other sites—Nug-as forest in Alcoy town, Mount Lantoy, the highest peak in Argao town and Dalaguete town, all in southern Cebu.

“The maximum number seen together at any of these four sites is just four birds,” the IUCN says, “and the current population is estimated at 100 individuals, with 50 to 60 at Nug-as, 25 to 30 at Tabunan, and 10 to 15 at Dalaguete.”


Philippines hailed as ‘country to explore’ in 2011

The Philippines was recently cited as the “country to explore” in 2011 by Ireland’s leading newspaper, The Irish Times.

The daily broadsheet based in Dublin, Ireland, said the Philippines’ pristine beaches and first-class diving sites were the main reasons the country was chosen over other well-known tourist attractions in the region.

In an article published in T.I.T’s January 8, 2011 weekend supplement entitled “What’s Hot for 2011,” writer Alanna Gallagher was all praises for two “stand-out yet accessible” tourist attractions to visit in the Philippines: the islands of Cebu; and Boracay island in Malay, Aklan.

“It (Cebu and Boracay) offers first-class diving and beaches like Thailand had 20 or 30 years ago before it was over-developed,” Gallagher’s article read.

With these distinctions, aside from many other more tourist attractions to see and experience, Gallaghar says, “the new country to explore in Asia is the Philippines.”

The Irish Times, which was established in 1859, is Ireland’s quality daily newspaper with news reports coming from throughout Ireland and from a comprehensive network of foreign correspondents, as well as sports and business coverage, features and arts sections, lifestyle, jobs and property.

Each issue contains well-informed background analysis and assessment of the events of the day, and diversity of debate in the daily opinion columns.

Alanna Gallagher is a freelance journalist who contributes to publications such as the Irish Times and Sunday Times. She has also recently started her own weekly e-zine (electronic-magazine), The Weekly Edit, which gives Alanna’s top picks in fashion, beauty, interiors, and things to do that week.

See Ms. Gallagher’s article here

“You’ve attended full moon parties in Thailand and roasted your bones in Denang on China Beach in Vietnam but the new country to explore in Asia is the Philippines.

“It offers first-class diving and beaches like Thailand had 20 or 30 years ago before it was over-developed. Fly to Abu Dhabi and on to Manila.

“There are two stand-out yet accessible names to drop: the islands of Cebu; and Boracay. Cebu is where Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan first planted the Cross of Christianity in the name of Spain in 1521.

“A nine-night package including seven nights BB at the five-star Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa (on Mactan Island just off the coast of Cebu) and two nights, room only four-star Park Lane Hotel, Hong Kong costs €1,679pps. This price includes return flights with Cathay Pacific via London and Hong Kong to Cebu and is valid from May 5th to June 16th through Trailfinders.” 🙄

International Year of Bats launched in Samal City

ISLAND GARDEN CITY OF SAMAL, Philippines, – The 2011 International Year of Bats, a global campaign to promote the conservation, research and education about the world’s only flying mammal, was celebrated at the Monfort Eco-Tourism Park (METP) here from January 25 to 28.

Bat Conservation International (BCI) executive director Nina Fascione flew in from Austin, Texas for the launching together with 11 other scientists and biologists who are conducting a series of lectures and workshops until Sunday on the conservation and protection of the endangered species.

Fascione said they see a marked improvement in the preservation and protection of the bat caves within the METP since their last visit in 2006.

She said the awareness of people around the world continue to improve as the endangered mammal has been surrounded before with superstitious beliefs and some other misconceptions.

“The negative perception is universal except for the Chinese who consider the bats to also bring luck. I think it is only the Chinese who give bats good impression while the rest of the people in the world have that wrong notion about the mammal,” she said.

She said there are important things that we should learn about bats and she does a lot of lobbying among politicians in Washington, DC for the passage of laws and policies especially on the bats’ role in the environment and the economy.

“Aside from being pollinator they also help in seed dispersal thus greening the forests and protecting the environment. They ate insect pests which is also a big help in the economy, helping the farmers get rid of pests that destroy crops,” she said.

She said advocacy on bats could be also anchored on economic benefits in line with tourism.

The International Year of the Bat also highlights the need for conservation efforts to ensure the survival of the world’s only flying mammal that unfortunately rank among the Earth’s least understood and most rapidly declining and endangered animals.

Several activities conducted here include the four-day Cave Bats Workshop attended by students, environmentalists, and the academe; and the teachers’ workshop themed, “Educators for Bat Education in Mindanao and Bat Conservation Forum, Biodiversity and Conservation Exposition.”

Other activities were the “Together with Bats” bonfire, the Bat Emergence Night Tour, Bike for Bats Fun Ride, Volleybats, henna painting, teens camp, art workshop, Kids Bat Club Day, Bat Concert and tree planting.

METP trustee Norma Monfort said their four-year conservation efforts at the estate is still a work in progress that needs to be supported by everyone as “a legacy of peace for the children of the world.”

BCI founder and president Dr. Melvin Tuttle, who visited the Monfort bat caves in 2006, said that you can see the bats up close and can learn about them easily at the METP.

Tuttle said that of the 1,100 kinds of bats in the world, around 70 of them are found in the Philippines including the two largest bats with wingspan of up to six feet are found in the Malagos watershed in Calinan, Davao. These are the Aceradon jubatus and Pterapus vampyrous or commonly known as the flying fox.

The Monfort Eco Tourism Park sits in a 24-hectare property in Barangay Tambo, Island Garden City of Samal. It has seven bat caves and was recognized last year by the Guinness World Records as having the world’s largest colony of fruit bats or Geoffroy’s Rousette (Rousettus amplexicaudatus) which is estimated to reach to almost two million.

The International Year of the Bat is supported by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species, EURBATS as well as other numerous partner organizations around the world.🙄

Hermanus Whale Festival

The Hermanus Whale Festival, the only Enviro-Arts festival in South Africa, is held annually to celebrate the return of the Southern Right whales to the waters of Walker Bay, our magnificent environment and the arrival of Spring!

Hermanus, known as the best land based whale watching destination in the world, plays host to thousands of visitors who flock to the seaside resort to exhilarate in the unique natural environment, watch whales, join in the world’s only Welcome Whales Wave and revel in music, comedy, cabaret and African rhythms every night during the Festival.