Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Study: Amazon dams are disrupting ecologically vital flood pulses

by  on 10 January 2018

Critically endangered monkeys found in Ghana forest slated for mining

By Morgan Erickson-Davis On 11 January 2018

  • Researchers were surprised to discover white-naped mangabeys (Cercocebus lunulatus) while reviewing camera trap footage captured in Ghana’s Atewa mountain range.
  • The white-naped mangabey has declined by more than 50 percent in less than three decades and is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN. Habitat loss and hunting are its major threats. The camera trap footage is the first record of the species in eastern Ghana.
  • threatened by bauxite mining. Deposits of bauxite, from which aluminum is produced, underlie Atewa’s forests. The Ghanaian government is reportedly gearing up to develop mining operations and associated infrastructure for bauxite extraction, refinement and export.
  • Conservation organizations and other stakeholders are urging the government to cease its plans for mining and more effectively protect Atewa by turning the region into a national park.
While surveying the rainforests of eastern Ghana’s Atewa mountain range, scientists stumbled upon a surprise as they were checking footage from their camera traps: monkeys with long tails and distinctive, dark, sideburn-like markings on their faces.
The monkeys, to the scientists’ amazement, were white-naped mangabeys (Cercocebus lunulatus), a species of ground-dwelling primate listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN. White-naped mangabeys are known to exist in a handful of forests in the western part of the country, as well as eastern Code d’Ivoire and southern Burkina Faso. But never before had scientists recorded them in eastern Ghana.
The discovery was made by researchers with A Rocha International, a network of environmental organizations, during a two-year monitoring survey of Atewa’s forests to determine what species live there and how they are distributed. The photos of the mangabeys were captured in May 2017, but the researchers didn’t realize it until they collected and analyzed the images in December.
Camera trap footage shows a white-naped mangabey (Cercocebus lunulatus) in a forest in the Atewa mountains. Photo courtesy of A Rocha
White-naped mangabeys are mostly ground-dwelling, but will also climb up into trees. Photo courtesy of A Rocha
The discovery is being heralded by conservationists as fodder for hope for a species hovering on the precipice of extinction. According to the IUCN, white-naped mangabeys have declined by at least 50 percent in less than 30 years, with habitat loss and bushmeat hunting their biggest threats.
“White-naped Mangabeys are so rare that I think these may be the first photographs of them in the wild in Ghana,” Andrea Dempsey at West African Primate Conservation Action (WAPCA) said in a statement. “Finding them in Atewa Forest gives hope to our efforts to save them. “
But with this hope is tainted by fear. The forests of the Atewa mountains are earmarked for the mining of bauxite, the ore from which aluminum is produced. Bauxite is found primarily in the top few meters of rock, and conservationists are worried mining will destroy large swaths of the mangabeys’ forest habitat in their search for ore. According to Jeremy Lindsell, director of science and conservation at A Rocha, the bauxite deposits underlie the area’s most intact tracts of forest – which is where the monkeys were recorded.
Officials from the IUCN also contend bauxite mining will irreparably harm Atewa’s forests and wildlife.
“Extracting bauxite from Atewa Forest is incompatible with biodiversity conservation and the ecosystem services that the forest provides. It will spell the end of the unique and irreplaceable species that the forest contains,” said Jan Kamstra of the IUCN Netherlands.
Atewa is part of the Upper Guinean Forest, a once-vast area of rainforest that stretches from Guinea and Sierra Leone east to Ghana and Togo. Today, the Upper Guinean Forest exists largely as shrinking fragments and is considered one of the planet’s most threatened forest systems.
The Atewa range sits near the eastern extent of the Upper Guinean Forest ecoregion and contains an estimated 18 threatened species. Several, such as the critically endangered Togo slippery frog (Conraua derooi), are found nowhere else in the world.
Satellite data show heavy tree cover loss in the Upper Guinean Forest between 2001 and 2016. The forests of the Atewa range, protected as a Forest Reserve, are still relatively intact compared to the surrounding landscape. Data source: Hansen/UMD/Google/USGS/NASA, accessed through Global Forest Watch
Ghana has around 960 million metric tons of bauxite deposits that, if refined, would be worth an estimated $460 billion, according to Gideon Boako, an economic adviser for Ghanaian Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia, as reported by Bloomberg. In addition to mining bauxite, Boako said infrastructure such as refineries and railways will need to be built in order to process and transport mined ore.
In 2017, Ghana reportedly signed a $10 billion memorandum of understanding (MOU) with China towards the development of its bauxite industry. According to Daryl Bosu, deputy national director at A Rocha, technicians from China have visited Atewa in preparation for mining. Bosu said bauxite mining is likely the Atewa white-naped mangabey’s biggest threat, “which without doubt will completely wipe off the forest, leaving no suitable habitat for any species much more the mangabey.”
Mongabay sent requests for comment to Chinese and Ghanaian governments, but had received no response by presstime.
Industrial mining isn’t the only threat to Atewa. Small-scale mining in streams and rivers, poaching and timber harvesting – all illegal – are also big problems, Bosu said. He blames this on what he says is a lack of enforcement and protection.
“The reason why these continue is because enforcement and compliance by the state institutions is just poor,” Bosu told Mongabay. “It is as though the perpetrators of such illegal activities act more smart than the institutions mandated to secure our forests against such unsustainable vices.”
A Rocha staff member Ransford Agyei fixes a camera trap in the forest. Photo by Jeremy Lindsell
Much of the Ateway range is officially designated a Forest Reserve, but stakeholders like A Rocha, IUCN and others are worried this is not enough to protect it from mining and other threats. They are rallying for the area to be upgraded to national park status, a move supported by many local communities and leaders.
“The discovery of White-naped Mangabey in Atewa Forest is of enormous importance for the future of the species, and makes it a matter of some urgency that the forest is properly protected both from hunting and from habitat change,” Russ Mittermeier, chair of the IUCN Primate Specialist Group, wrote in a December letter to Ghana’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo. “When [wildlife conservation is] considered together with the recent demonstration of the forest’s enormous importance to the water supply of millions of people in Accra, the argument for protecting the forest becomes very compelling.
“I urge that Ghana’s commitments to the Convention on Biological Diversity and to the Sustainable Development Goals take precedence in this case and that Atewa Forest is removed from mining plans once and for all and made into a National Park.”
The detection of white-naped mangabeys may also mean more species may be awaiting discovery in Atewa’s forests, said A Rocha Ghana director Seth Appiah-Kubi. He urges Ghana’s government to more effectively protect Atewa and its inhabitants by turning it into a national park and permanently stopping plans to mine bauxite.
“It would be appalling to see a decision taken that would push so many species that much closer to extinction.”
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Article published by Morgan Erickson-Davis
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Indonesian parliament pushes for passage of palm oil legislation this year

by  on 12 January 2018

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