Oct 27
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In the News: Saving Romania’s untouched beauty

WWF has launched a new campaign in a bid to protect the threatened virgin forests of Romania.

Eurasian wolf pack image

Eurasian grey wolves rely on the forests of Romania.

The Carpathian Mountains of Romania harbour 250,000 hectares of virgin forest, pristine tracts of biodiversity untouched by human activities, which act as a stronghold for a wide variety of species. These unspoilt areas have high scientific, educational and ecological value, yet they equate to less than three percent of the country’s total forest cover.

In this, the International Year of Forests, and with the future of a major part of Europe’s natural heritage at risk, WWF is spearheading a new campaign to obtain total protection for more than 80 percent of Romania’s virgin, or old growth, forest. These areas house iconic species such as the grey wolf, Eurasian lynx and imperial eagle and were historically widespread, but are sadly now severely depleted as a result of poor management.

Eurasian lynx image

The Eurasian lynx is one of many majestic species found in the forests of Romania.

Irreplaceable

Virgin forests are complex, dynamic ecosystems built up of seedlings, young, mature and old trees, as well as dead trees and decaying logs, which provide a diverse range of habitats in which many plant, animal and fungus species thrive.

WWF’s Danube-Carpathian Programme in Romania works to protect all forest types, but the scheme recognises the importance of targeting the conservation of virgin forests. Magor Csibi, Romania’s Country Manager for the programme, highlights the urgency in acting now to save these areas of natural beauty: “We will never be able to rebuild this part of nature. Once lost, it is lost forever.

Historically, Romania’s virgin forests remained untouched, partly as a result of their inaccessibility, and partly due to the low economic value of the wood obtained from old trees. Yet socio-economic pressures in Romania are currently high, and with an ever-increasing demand for wood and development, the country’s virgin forests are becoming more and more vulnerable.

Imperial eagle image

Imperial eagle

Taking action

WWF has written to the Ministry of Environment and Forests in Romania, urging them to make the implementation of effective protection for the country’s remaining virgin forests a priority. The letter also asks for changes to the legislative framework, which would guarantee the protection of this critical ecosystem, as well as compensatory funds for private forest owners.

Magor Csibi is confident that the campaign will be successful: “We expect our initiative to be supported not only by people who wish for a sustainable future, but especially by the authorities who can decide whether to solve this problem or not. I believe that we can obtain 100 per cent protection of our virgin forests.”

An awareness raising campaign for the public has also been launched, which highlights the importance of virgin forests and urges people to sign a petition.

Capercaillie image

The capercaillie is still found in the forests of Romania.

Legend, legacy and life

The forests of Romania, which once inspired the legend of the vampire, are some of the last untouched areas of wilderness in Europe. With their biodiversity, along with their rich and deep-set culture, the loss of these wooded habitats would be a huge blow to the country.

Magor Csibi called upon people to take into account moral, as well as environmental, values: “Considering that we are among the last European nations fortunate enough to have such a treasure, it is our moral obligation to preserve this piece of nature intact and to leave a small piece of wilderness to our children.

Read more on this story at WWF – WWF acts to save Europe’s last remaining virgin forests.

View photos and videos of species from Romania on ARKive.

Find out more about WWF’s forest conservation work.

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Species Text Author

Mar 15
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US National Wildlife Week Kicks Off

How many US species can you name that fly, climb, dig, swim, hop, leap, run or crawl? The upcoming National Wildlife Week in the US will help you do just that and more to encourage kids and adults alike to focus on wildlife around the country with an emphasis on how they move.

Here are a few of our favorite US species on ARKive that do much of the above, as well as some facts you might not have known about the critters that may live in your backyard.

One of the best known flying US species is the monarch butterfly whose spectacular migration from the southern breeding grounds to the wintering grounds, an approximate 3,000 mile journey, requires 5-6 generations of butterflies to complete. Essentially, the migration completed by the newest monarch butterfly was initially begun by its great great grandparent.

Photo of a Monarch butterfly in flight

The pudgy black-tailed prairie dog exhibits an extremely high degree of social organization living in enormous underground dug out colonies known as ‘towns’. The largest recorded colony spanned over 40,000 square miles housing an estimated 400 million critters.

Photo of a female black-tailed prairie dog

The horseshoe crab swims off the Atlantic coast of North America from Maine down to Florida. Not a species of crab at all, the horseshoe is most related to arachnids and are considered ‘living fossils’ having remained mostly unchanged since the Triassic period over 230 million years ago.

Photo of horseshoe crabs

The American bison is the largest mammal in the US and used to run vast distances across the great plains during their annual migrations. However, in the last few centuries, major changes in land use and depopulation have halted the migratory behavior of this species.

American bison photo

Find out more about National Wildlife Week and let us know what wildlife you discover in your backyard!

Liana Vitali, ARKive Science, Education and Outreach Officer, Wildscreen USA

Mar 8
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In the News: International Women’s Day – Women have a key role in forest management

Today marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day – a day of celebrations that recognise the economic, political, and social achievements of women past, present, and future.  

With 2011 designated the International Year of Forests, this year’s International Women’s Day presents the opportunity to explore the role of women in forest conservation, and to assess how well we are doing in ensuring that women are well-represented in forest management.

Photo of woman harvesting Madagascar periwinkle

Woman harvesting Madagascar periwinkle.

Women sidelined in decision making 

Women are the main users of forests in developing countries – gathering food and firewood. The sale of non-timber forest products is also vital to the livelihood of many families. This means that women know the value of forests best, and that women have more at stake than men when forests are cut down or forest access is denied. 

“Taking a gender perspective in forestry has nothing to do with political correctness and everything to do with effective development and conservation: an awareness of the dynamics between men and women in forest resources can only help ensure that these resources are used sustainably and equitably,” says Lorena Aguilar, IUCN’s Senior Gender Advisor. 

Research shows that greater involvement of women in forest management usually improves forest condition and sustainability, but also that women continue to be sidelined in decision-making. The needs and concerns of women are often neglected because the ownership of forests is largely under the control of men. 

“It is worrying that despite women’s increasingly recognized contribution to forest management, they are not yet at the forefront of forestry decision-making,” said Esther Mwangi, a scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research.

Photo of Brazil-nut trees left standing amid deforestation

Brazil-nut trees left standing amid deforestation.

Call for women’s needs to be given higher priority 

Some progress has been made in promoting the role of women in forest management at national and international policy levels. However, massive gaps remain in implementing these changes on the ground. In many cases, women’s participation is limited to attendance and passive involvement, with women sitting in silence while men make the calls on forest management. 

The IUCN, as well as the Center for International Forestry Research, are therefore calling for women’s needs to be given higher priority and to form an integral part of the management of forests and their resources. 

“We need to start taking gender issues more seriously, not only to make our work more effective but also to redress gender imbalances by giving women a louder voice, strengthening women’s rights and ensuring that women get their fair share of benefits,” says Stewart Maginnis, Director of IUCN’s Environment and Development Group.

Recognising and incorporating women as key allies in the struggle to protect our environment and dwindling natural resources will pay dividends for many generations to come. Increasing women’s capacity to act on their rights must be strengthened so that they are able to make demands for more involvement in decision-making processes in forest management and to ensure that rules and regulations are enforced.

Read the IUCN press release and the Center for International Forestry Research press release. 

Alex Royan, ARKive Species Text Author

Feb 4
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In the News: Restoring Rwanda’s forests

The Rwandan government announced plans this week to restore the country’s lost forest lands and boost national development.

One of the world’s poorest and most densely populated countries, Rwanda’s forest cover rapidly diminished during the 1990s as a result of poor forest management and land use conflict.

The new country-wide reforestation initiative, which was launched this week at the United Nations Forum on Forests, aims to deal with ecosystem degradation and its impact of the rural poor.

Currently, 85% of Rwanda’s population makes their living from subsistence farming of degraded lands.

Typical mountain gorilla habitat

Typical Rwandan forest habitat, the home of the Critically Endangered mountain gorilla

The IUCN commends the Rwandan government’s plans.

Rwanda’s announcement is the biggest commitment a country can make to restoring degraded landscapes – investing in nature and lifting people out of poverty,” says Julia Marton-Lefèvre, IUCN Director General. “If other countries follow Rwanda’s leading example, we could be witnessing the beginning of the largest natural restoration initiative the world has ever seen, bringing us a step closer to realizing our vision of a greener world economy.”

The aim of Rwanda’s Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative is to achieve a country-wide reversal of the current degradation of soil, water, land and forest resources by 2035, developing functioning ecosystems which will provide numerous services and new employment opportunities.

The future

Over the next few decades, the Rwandan government, IUCN, the Secretariat of the UN Forum on Forests and others will work together to restore the degraded Rwandan forests. They aim to achieve sustainable agricultural production, low carbon economic development, adequate water and energy supplies, and new opportunities for rural livelihoods.

Protecting the nation’s rich wildlife, such as the Critically Endangered mountain gorilla, will also be central to the initiative.

Photo of mountain gorilla silverback

The mountain gorilla is found in the Virunga Volcanoes region, situated on the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in south-western Uganda.

Urging other countries to follow suite

The IUCN wants other countries to recognize the potential of healthy forests for sustainable economic growth.

Recent data indicates that Africa and Asia hold particular promise for forest landscape restoration, in areas where forest restoration could be carried out without impacting agricultural activities. Worldwide, it is estimated that there are approximately 1.5 billion hectares which would be suitable areas for similar initiatives.

According to the IUCN, large scale restoration of the world’s forests will result in huge benefits worldwide, such as removing CO2 from the atmosphere, helping lift people out of poverty and safeguarding biodiversity.

Urging other countries to follow in Rwanda’s footsteps, the IUCN highlights that “What makes Rwanda exceptional is the country’s willpower to rebuild people’s lives, restore their land and show the world that restoring damaged ecosystems is possible.”

Photo portrait of L'Hoests monkey

The little known L’Hoest’s monkey occurs in Rwanda’s forests

Explore Rwandan species on ARKive.

Read the IUCN Press Release

Read the statement by the Rwanda Minister of Environment and Lands to the UN Forum on Forests.

Helen Roddis, ARKive Species Text Author

Feb 3
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In the News: Global forest loss slows

Forest loss across the world has slowed down, largely due to a switch from felling to planting in Asia, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) State of the World’s Forests report.  

Forested areas have increased in size in China, Vietnam, the Philippines and India, while there have also been gains in Europe and North America. But forests are being lost in Africa and Latin America due to rising demand for food and firewood. 

Photo of European larch forest from above

A net loss of forest in Asia during the period 1990-2000 has been transformed into a net gain in the decade since.

International Year of Forests 

The launch of the report coincides with the start of the UN’s International Year of Forests, which aims to raise awareness of forest conservation. The FAO is urging governments to explore ways of generating income from forests that do not depend on chopping trees down.  

The report cites that although 52,000 sq km of forest was lost per year between 2000 and 2010, this was a marked improvement on the annual figure of 83,000 sq km seen during the previous decade. Forests now cover about 40 million sq km – just less than one third of the Earth’s land surface.  

“China has increased its forest by three million hectares (30,000 sq km) per year – no country has ever done anything like this before, it’s an enormous contribution,” said Eduardo Rojas-Briales, assistant director-general of the FAO’s forestry department. 

Photo of Yunnan snub-nosed monkey male

There are concerns forests are being conserved simply because they store carbon, without taking account of their immediate benefits to wildlife and local people.

Old forests disappearing

However, the report does not distinguish between the growth of old forests and plantations, and environmental groups are warning that priority needs to be given to old forests and the biodiversity they maintain. In Asia, South America and Africa, the area covered by deliberately planted forests is increasing, which could mean that old-growth forests continue to disappear while plantations spread. 

Photo of ancient sessile oak tree covered with ferns and lichens

Old forests support greater biodiversity than plantations.

Conservation International is one of several environment groups pressing for increased attention on these areas and their special importance for nature. They are highlighting the 10 places in the world where forests of iconic importance are under threat. All of which currently cover less than 10% of their original range.  

View and download the full report.  

Alex Royan, ARKive Species Text Author

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