The earth has music, for those who will listen


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15th February 2024

Over the past decade, the Dominican Republic has regreened one fifth of the country thanks to the Yaque River basin restoration project. The project, which uses the simple strategy of convincing landowners that reforesting their farms is beneficial for them, has reduced soil degradation by 18%. El País

For the first time in a decade, the EPA has tightened regulations on air pollution, lowering the allowable limit for annual PM2.5 levels from 12 micrograms per cubic meter to 9. The reduction is predicted to reap $46 billion in net health benefits by 2032, including prevention of up to 800,000 asthma attacks and 4,500 premature deaths. NPR

Bhutan has expanded its protected area network with a new biological corridor connecting Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary and Bumdelling Wildlife Sanctuary in the country’s east. The region is home to hundreds of unique flora and fauna species, including the snow leopard, red panda, and Ludlow's Bhutan glory. WWF

As the site of what's been called the 'greatest river recovery in Europe,' the Mersey River is continuing to thrive with sightings of dolphins, harbour porpoises, jellyfish, and five species of sharks. Last year, 45 different kinds of fish were found in the river, triple the amount recorded in 2002. Not bad for a river declared biologically dead 40 years ago. Liverpool World

Chile has formally created the new Valle Cochamó Nature Sanctuary. It is one of the country’s largest protected areas, spanning 14 km2 of forest, glaciers, and million-year-old rocks. The region is home to 12 forest types, 50 animal species, and one of the most important water reserves in the world. Patagon Journal

Photo: Puelo Patagonia

Manglares de Puerto Morelos, in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, will protect 12 km2 of mangroves that contain 23% of the state’s biodiversity. The site is part of a larger wetland complex that includes critical habitats for the monarch butterfly, Yucatán mushroomtongue salamander, snail-eating thirst snake, and collared toucan. El Economista

The US Bureau of Land Management will invest $41 million for ecosystem restoration by supporting 74 projects in 16 states, including restoring abandoned mine lands, protecting wildlife, improving water quality, and strengthening local economies. BLM

Columbia has protected the Las Siete Sabias-Esperanza de Vida in Chocó, 303 km2 of tropical rainforest along the Pacific coast, boosting connectivity within an important biodiversity hotspot. The rainforests are home to threatened species like the Choco broad-nosed bat and the saffron-headed parrot, as well as the Cabí River, a vital water source for approximately 108,000 people. AAF

A $15 million land purchase in Alabama will protect 32 km2 of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, dubbed ‘America’s Amazon’ for its remarkable biodiversity and wildlife. The deal, which is called Land Between the Rivers, is a collaboration between The Nature Conservancy, a private donor, and outdoor clothing company Patagonia. AL

This is one of the most important conservation victories that we’ve ever been a part of. It’s protected a vitally important complex of land, almost 8,000 acres, critically important to the health of the Mobile Delta and then, by extension, Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
Mitch Reid, The Nature Conservancy

After years of dwindling numbers for Florida manatees, wildlife officials say numbers are bouncing back thanks to continued efforts by the state. In Tasmania, over 80 critically-endangered orange-bellied parrots have returned to their breeding ground, the highest number in 15 years; and for the first time in 600 years, giant tortoises are roaming Madagascar, thanks to a six-year relocation project.

The Aldabra giant, photographed in the Anjajavy Reserve on 26 August 2022. Credit: Chainsawpunk/Wikimedia Commons

It’s been a busy month for global advocacy group Oceana: new MPAs have been created in Mexico, Chile, the Canary Islands, the Ibiza Channel, and the Strait of Gibraltar. Over the past century, European bison have made an amazing comeback to 7,000 wild animals across the continent. Arizona now uses 3% less water than it did in 1957, despite its population mushrooming more than 555%. The restoration of Yundang Lake in China is a testament to the power of regenerative approaches. A new project is aiming to protect South America's Chaco-Pantanal Wildlands, spanning 1.2 million km2 across Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay. Since 2007, Project Hariyali has planted over 20 million trees in India. A new conservation strategy in Africa is reversing the trend of illegal wildlife trafficking by transforming reformed poachers into wildlife advocates. The US military is taking on forever chemicals. Northwestern University chemists have developed a new catalyst that completely breaks down the plastic used by fishing nets in minutes. New research has found 8,481 potential transboundary conservation areas in Africa, covering an area of nearly 2 million km2—half the size of the EU.

8th February 2024

Over the past 25 years, small towns across Bolivia have protected over 100,000 km2 of the Amazon, creating a 'conservation mosaic' almost the size of Iceland. Recently, the community of Sena has added another piece to the puzzle with the Gran Manupare Integrated Management Natural Area, 4526 km2 of lowland rainforest that is home to the endangered giant otter. Conservation International

Piece by piece, we are knitting together the fabric of conservation in the Amazon. Local communities have kept their eyes on the prize. They are having a big impact on the Amazon, for the benefit of us all.
Eduardo Forno, Vice President, Conservation International - Bolivia

Spain has designated seven new marine protected areas across the country’s three marine regions: the Mediterranean, Macaronesia, and the Atlantic. The designation will increase Spain’s area of ocean protection from 12% to 21%, safeguarding the habitat for threatened species, including deep seamounts and a large migratory corridor for birds. Oceana

Canada will provide federal funding to 42 Indigenous-led conservation projects across Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, and Saskatchewan, adding to the $202 million already allocated to Indigenous communities. In Bangladesh, Indigenous communities have reversed the decline of the endangered putitor mahseer fish by protecting the headwater forests that support breeding and population growth. 

A great example of how saving one species can have a domino effect on the restoration of a whole ecosystem. In California’s Monterey Bay, efforts to bolster sea otter populations are saving local salt marshes because the otters feast on the burrowing crabs that cause erosion. The sea otters have consumed enough of the crabs to slow the erosion almost to a halt. ABC

A Southern Sea Otter floats on its back in Elkhorn Slough near Monterey, California. Credit: Getty Images

The first-ever snow leopard survey in India has confirmed the country is home to 718 big cats, roughly 10-15% of the global population. The survey reported that understanding the precise population is important because as the apex predator, the leopard indicates the health of—and challenges facing—the entire Himalayan ecosystem. BBC

Ecosia, the German-based search engine that uses advertising revenue to fight climate change, has reached an impressive milestone of 200 million trees planted. The organisation has also invested in climate tech solutions, set up an incubator for regenerative agriculture, and has created enough solar plants since 2020 to power all Ecosia searches twice over.

California’s landmark plastic reduction law, SB 54, will dramatically alter how plastic and packaging waste is managed. All single-use packaging and plastic food service-ware will have to be recyclable or compostable by 2032, with a 65% recycling rate for these materials. Companies that don’t comply will face steep fines up to $50,000 per day for each violation—and it's already working. EHN

In 2022, Yvon Chouinard, the founder of outdoor apparel brand Patagonia, declared that all future profits of the company would be used to protect the environment. Since that date, $71 million of earnings have funded the protection of 658 km2, and there are plans to protect another 13,000 km2, much of it in Australia and Indonesia. NYT

Plan A: Raise taxes on hedge fund billionaires to fund climate action. Plan B: Sell vests to hedge fund bros and use the profits to fund climate action.

Chile and Palau have become the first two of 80 countries required to ratify the UN’s landmark High Seas Treaty. New Zealand will be the first country to ban the use of forever chemicals in cosmetics from 2026. After a 30-year absence, the endangered Guam Kingfisher will soon return to the wild. The Pench Tiger Reserve has become India’s first Dark Sky Reserve (the lack of light pollution makes it ideal for astronomy enthusiasts). Against all odds, it looks like jaguars are making a return to the United States. Turtle nests have been found off the coast of Cambodia, sparking hopes for endangered hawksbill and green turtles. The UK is delivering on measures to protect its oceans with a permanent closure of the sandeel fisheries and a targeted ban on bottom trawling in an additional 13 MPAs. An enzyme used in laundry detergent has been found to break down single-use plastics within 24 hours, 84 times faster than the 12-week-long industrial composting process. Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of the Congo just marked its first year without any elephant poaching.

1st February 2024

Mexico has announced 20 new protected areas, which will cover roughly 23,000 km2, stretching across 12 states and both the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf of California. The areas will preserve critical land and marine habitats for species including whale sharks, Mexican prairie dogs, and jaguars. Mongabay

Ireland has designated more than 3,000 km2 of ocean off the coast of Wexford as a Special Protection Area. The area adjoins eight existing SPAs and will boost protections for over 20 species of rare and threatened birds, including the Common Scoter, Red-throated Diver, and Black-backed Gull. Irish Independent

China’s efforts to protect panda habitats are paying off, with the wild population of giant pandas increasing from 1,100 in the 1980s to 1,900 today. The Giant Panda National Park, established in 2021, is home to around 72% of the wild giant panda population, securing a status change for the species from 'endangered' to 'vulnerable.' Straits Times

The world’s forests are doing better than we think. England now has more forest than it did during the Black Death, covering 13,000 km2 of the country; China’s forest area has increased by about 607,000 km2 since 1992, and the combined tree-planting efforts of India and the United States would cover Bangladesh in an unbroken canopy of leaves. Bloomberg 🎁

'We should celebrate our success in slowing a pattern of human deforestation that’s been going on for nearly 100,000 years. Nothing about the damage we do to our planet is inevitable. With effort, it may even be reversible.'
Credit: Nat Bullard

The first-ever platypus translocation program has introduced ten furry trailblazers into Sydney’s Royal National Park after a 50-year absence, with hopes they will breed in the area. Over the past three decades, the areas where platypuses live in Australia have shrunk by 22%, but early reports from the program say the animals are adapting well. Concrete Playground

Composting is now mandatory in France, with households and businesses required to sort out bio-waste such as food scraps and garden waste, and in California, consumers and businesses have cut food waste by 10% since 2016. Tighter restrictions are aiming to cut organic waste by 75% by 2025, in addition to recovering 20% of edible food waste in order to address food insecurity.

The EU is tackling greenwashing, with new legislation banning misleading marketing claims like 'environmentally friendly' and 'biodegradable' on product packaging unless there is concrete evidence for the claims. It is also continuing its crackdown on microplastics by forcing beauty companies to cover the extra costs needed to get rid of the pollutants in urban wastewater.

Colombia has created a new national park by turning local ranchers into rangers. After a decade of negotiations, Parque Nacional Natural Serranía de Manacacías now spans 680 km2 of tropical savanna that provides a crucial link to the Amazon. 'The hope is that by protecting this small puzzle piece of savanna, a whole lot more can be saved.' NYT

Clockwise from top left: a giant anteater, a caiman, egrets, and the Manacacías River. Credit: Federico Rios

After two years of negotiations, Belgium has banned the import of hunting trophies from endangered species. Heralded as a 'momentous' triumph for wildlife conservation, the legislation will protect vulnerable animals such as hippopotamuses, cheetahs, and polar bears. World Animal News

Over the past several years, American cities and states have passed over 500 policies restricting single-use plastic bags, and a new report says these laws have prevented billions of bags from being used. 'The bottom line is that plastic bag bans work.' Grist

Lagos State, in Nigeria, has announced an immediate ban on single-use plastics and styrofoam to deal with escalating pollution. It follows the lead of African countries like Tanzania, Botswana, Uganda, and South Africa that have either banned single-use plastics or placed a high tax on them. Ecowatch

Brazil’s footwear industry is aiming to become more sustainable by switching to vegan materials. In Scotland, a fierce competition ensues between glens, lochs, and isles to become the country’s next national park; in Devon, an ancient rainforest will be restored with 100,000 new trees across 50 hectares; in Wisconsin, the largest land conservation purchase in the state's history will protect 70,000 acres of the Pelican River Forest. Could 2024 be the turning point for unregulated fishing? Communities in northeastern Brazil have rallied to protect 100,000 acres of Caatinga dry forest, and volunteer efforts to remove purple urchins are saving California’s kelp forests. Have you ever wondered how cities like London and Paris make car-free zones popular? It has something to do with the Goodwin Curve. 'When I first set foot in the Klamath watershed as a scientist back in 2008, dam removal seemed little more than a dream. Fast forward 15 years and I’m on the edge of my seat as three dams on the Klamath River see their final days, with a fourth already removed.'

24th January 2024

After last year's record fall in the rate of deforestation, Lula has kicked off 2024 vowing to keep up the pressure on environmental criminals devastating Indigenous lands in the Amazon. 'We cannot lose a war to illegal miners, we cannot lose a war to illegal loggers and we cannot lose a war to people who are breaking the law.' Guardian

Plastic bags are the number one contaminant found in Colorado’s rivers and streams—but last year, thanks to the imposition of statewide fees, between 1.5 billion and 1.8 billion fewer plastic bags were used, and an even greater reduction is expected this year, as businesses phase out their use too. ABC Denver

Last month marked the 50th anniversary of the US Endangered Species Act. For decades it has protected nature with bipartisan support, rescued hundreds of species of animals and plants from annihilation, transformed the US Fish and Wildlife Service from a wildlife killing service to a wildlife recovery service, and helped birth the global science of restoration ecology. Time

Youth activists in Norway have won a major legal victory, after a court in Oslo found the approvals of three new oil and gas fields invalid and issued an injunction forbidding the state from granting any new permits necessary for construction and production there. 'This is an important victory for current and future generations and the environment.' Greenpeace

One of the most underrated ecological phenomena of our time is the regeneration of abandoned farmlands, thanks to the more efficient land use of modern agriculture. Since the 1990s, the EU has reforested an area the size of Portugal, the United States uses 40% less cropland than in 1960, and globally, an area of farmland half the size of Australia is abandoned every year. Legendes Carto

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French forests: 18th century (13%) vs 2020 (31%).

China reforested or restored 83,300 km2 of land in 2023, thanks to hundreds of ecological restoration, land afforestation, rare tree cultivation, and wetland protection and restoration projects. It's also setting up a national ecological monitoring network across 44 key regions, covering forests, wetlands, grasslands, deserts, oceans, cities, and farmlands. 

It's reforestation week! Sri Lanka's cabinet just approved a plan to increase forest cover to 32% by 2032, the Dominican Republic is roping in the military to help with its reforestation plans, in Brazil drones are reforesting the hills around Rio, and the Philippines just passed laws requiring parents to plant two trees for every child—and requiring students to plant two trees when they graduate.

An international effort to protect endangered river dolphins is gathering steam. Known as the "Global Declaration for River Dolphins," it commits 14 of the animals’ range countries to implement specific actions and strengthen regional and national initiatives. So far, nine countries have signed the declaration. China, Indonesia, Myanmar, Peru, and Pakistan are pending. Mongabay

In the UK, the Cornish chough, once extinct in Cornwall, has been re-wilded and has started to move inland in what wildlife experts say is a sign of its 'flourishing' recovery. In the United States, the Eastern monarch butterfly, long thought to be in peril, is not in decline after all, and well-meaning efforts by the public may actually be doing more harm than good.

In an unexpected display of rationality, the French government has listened to the advice of scientists instead of the fishing industry and temporarily banned all fishing in the Bay of Biscay. From Finistere in the extreme west of Brittany to the Spanish border, fishing will cease almost entirely until the 20th of February. France24

According to a new study, humpback whale numbers in Cumberland Bay of the island of South Georgia have nearly recovered to pre-whaling levels, last seen in 1904. The rewilding of South Georgia amounts to 'the single most uplifting environmental story in the world.' Hakai

Ringed by dramatic mountains, Cumberland Bay, on the coast of South Georgia, is home to whales, seabirds, penguins, and elephant seals. The island draws scores of sightseeing cruises each summer. Photo by David Tipling Photo Library/Alamy Stock Photo

Canadian beef farmers say they're on track to meet their goal of cutting emissions by a third before 2030. Did you know that the US Department of the Interior directed over $2 billion of investments to restore the nation’s lands and waters last year? Yeah, us neither (it's almost like news organisations didn't bother reporting it). Make America Rake Again. The state of Maryland has planted half a million trees in the last two years, getting it 10% of the way to its 5 million target by 2031. New York is getting in on the tree-planting action, too. What if we told you 2023 was actually a pretty great year for conservation in Texas? ‘The wildlife that has come is phenomenal’—British farmers are holding off floods by planting trees, creating floodplains, and rewilding rivers. The Pacific Coast’s real native oyster is making a comeback, with a little help from some friends. A revolutionary way to feed the world that's actually very old.

18th January 2024

The most comprehensive analysis of Africa’s elephant population to date has found numbers have increased annually by 0.16% over the past 25 years, with the current population estimated to be 415,000. The most stable populations were mostly found in large, protected lands that were connected to buffer areas rather than isolated 'fortress' parks. Guardian

For decades, news from southern Africa was dominated by waves of poaching and other threats. But there’s been a lot of good work done that has basically turned the tide and that story has never really been told.
Dr Robert Guldemond, University of Pretoria

The new Island Lake Wilderness Area in Nova Scotia will protect 3,937 hectares of land, wetlands, and water in the St. Margarets Bay area, which is critical habitat for the endangered mainland moose. The area is one of 23 new designations for the Canadian province, tallying an additional 14,000 hectares of protected wilderness (and counting).

In Spain, a landmark €1.4bn deal will safeguard the Doñana in western Andalucía, one of Europe’s most important wetlands. The agreement will diversify the local economy and stop farmers using aquifers to irrigate fruit crops. 'There’s more of a future than strawberries and raspberries and anyway, if you don’t look after the water, there will be no more strawberries or raspberries.' Guardian

Pink flamingos fly over a lake at Doñana National Park in Huelva Province, Andalucía. Photograph: Mara Brandl/Getty Images/Image Broker RF

A historic win for Indigenous land rights in Ecuador, with Siekopai communities regaining ownership of 42,360 hectares of their ancestral Amazonian homeland, 80 years after they were displaced. It’s the first time an Indigenous community has received title to land within a nationally protected area. Mongabay

Poland’s new climate minister, Paulina Hennig-Kloska, has taken the first step to stemming biodiversity loss, with a six-month moratorium on logging in 10 of the country’s most ancient forests. She also announced plans to create a constitution for Białowieża National Park, a UNESCO heritage site on the border of Poland and Belarus. Guardian

The United States finished 2023 on a high note for environmental protection, with a 70% increase in criminal investigations of polluting industrial sites and a renewed push to limit logging and conserve old growth forests. This will include the first nationwide amendment to US Forest Service management plans in the agency’s 118-year history. Euro News

China’s stricter regulations on chemical particulates that can be easily inhaled and passed into the human bloodstream have shown remarkable success in clearing up its skies. Concentrations of PM2.5, a major cause of heart and respiratory diseases, has fallen across most major cities, especially Beijing. Bloomberg

Annual average levels of PM2.5 in Beijing are now not far below the exceptional readings recorded during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, when swaths of industry were temporarily shut down to disguise the scale of pollution in the city.

The Sucúa Municipal Conservation and Sustainable Use Area in Ecuador will protect 17,741 hectares of threatened Amazonian ecosystems in Morona Santiago, preserving water sources for over 30,000 people and critical habitat for the endangered Humboldt’s Woolly Monkey. Andes Amazon Fund

Good news for animal rights. A new law in South Korea will make the sale of dog meat illegal from 2027, ending centuries of the practice, and after a multi-year campaign by animal rights organisations, Chile has banned cosmetic testing on animals, including the manufacturing, import, and marketing of cosmetics tested on animals elsewhere in the world.

The ulūlu, also known as Hawaii’s millerbird, is no longer critically endangered thanks to efforts by conservationists to reintroduce the bird to its restored island of Laysan; and in Chad, an ambitious recovery project has reversed the fate of the mythical-looking scimitar-horned oryx after it was declared extinct in the wild in 2000.  

There are now 600 scimitar-horned oryx living in the wild.

Conservationists in British Columbia have bought the hunting rights in the Great Bear Rainforest to protect wildlife. The United States is bringing back nature's best firefighters: beavers. In 2023, deforestation in Brazil's Amazon fell by nearly 50%, resulting in the lowest deforestation rate in the last five years. An international court has ruled in favour of the Indigenous Q’eqchi’ people in Guatemala, to stop mining on their lands. How a conservation group in Ecuador protects 10% of the world's bird species. The first-ever US Ocean Justice Strategy will advance environmental justice for communities that rely on the ocean and the Great Lakes. How one of Uganda’s smallest national parks became a powerful model for the future of sustainable conservation. New York has become the tenth US state to ban wildlife killing contests, and its Birds and Bees Protection Act just came into effect, prohibiting neonicotinoid pesticides. The 12 tribes of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville in Washington State are restoring the lands of their ancestors. Why 2023 was a year of real progress in environmental protection and scientific cooperation. 

'I don’t work in a vacuum, only looking at lynx and lynx habitat, but recognizing that all of the animals are important, and part of the picture and part of that balance that we’re trying to restore.' -Rose Piccinini, Sanpoil District, Confederated Tribes of the Colville

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