The earth has music, for those who will listen


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14th March 2024

China's National Greening Commission just announced that it increased its greening efforts last year with 39,998 kmof forest planted, 43,790 kmof degraded grassland restored, and 19,050 kmof sandy and stony land treated. The country is notoriously unreliable with big data like this, but even if the numbers are half of that, it's incredibly good news. Xinhua

The US Department of the Interior just announced the establishment of a new 16,187 kmconservation area in the Everglades in southwest Florida. The area will provide crucial protected wildlife corridors, enhance outdoor recreation access to the public, and bolster climate resilience in southwest Florida. FWS

South Africa is set to transform the Loskop Dam Nature Reserve into a massive 1,000 kmprotected area. The project, a collaboration between the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency and The Aspinall Foundation, is not only expected to become a sanctuary for over 30 endangered wildlife species, including the black rhino, but also to offer economic upliftment to surrounding communities. Discover

In 2014, Australian conservationists completed one of the largest publicly-funded conservation investments in history, successfully clearing Macquarie Island of non-native cats, rats, rabbits, and other animals. Now their work is paying off—a new study has shown that populations of petrels, a group of highly specialised seabirds, are recovering. Conversation

A researcher identifies a soft-plumaged petrel (Pterodroma mollis) in their spotlight while surveying at night. Credit: Jeremy Bird

For nine years, the Gomeroi people of New South Wales have been campaigning to put a stop to Santos' A$3.6 billion fossil gas project on their traditional lands. Last Thursday, they won an appeal to halt work, with a federal court ruling that climate change impacts had not been adequately considered. 'To say that I was excited is an understatement. It was an overwhelming feeling of happiness and pride.' ABC

A conservation milestone for India in Gujurat, home to the only population of Asiatic lions in the world. The IUCN just recategorized the species from endangered to vulnerable, and there may be even more good news coming, with the state forest department proposing a new 30,000 kmsanctuary for the apex predator. Times of India

India’s cheetah reintroduction programme just celebrated the birth of five cubs in Kuno National Park. 'This takes the tally of Indian born cubs to 13. This is the fourth cheetah litter on Indian soil' since the beginning of the programme, and the first litter by a South African cheetah in India. This is a really big milestone, especially after the programme's difficult start. Times of India

The EU has agreed on a provisional deal to create a new law to cut packaging waste and ban single-use plastics used for supermarket fruit and vegetables. Negotiators agreed on targets to reduce overall packaging by 5% by 2030 and 15% by 2040, and that all packaging should be recyclable by 2030.

According to the latest statistics from the US Department of Agriculture, more than 40% of hens used for eggs in the United States are now cage-free, and 11 states have banned the practice of caging hens. Just 15 years ago, that number was only 3%. While free-range is still the only genuinely humane way to farm chickens, this does represent progress towards that goal. Humane Society

Following the success of the High Line and years of community advocacy, New York is poised for a unprecedented year of urban greening, with the opening of around 60 km of citywide 'greenways.' 'I don’t think there’s been a year like this, from a standpoint of greenways, and so much kind of focus and effort going into greenway planning.' Inside Climate News

The largest tuna fishery in the world, created by the Nauru Agreement (PNA) in 1982, is also the world's most sustainable. 'By imposing a limit, all of a sudden the onus is on the harvesters. They have to manage themselves within the quota that we've imposed. That raises the revenue, it supplements building roads, hospitals, schools, job creation and economic development for the islands.' Euronews

Top: the Parties to the Nauru Agreement. Bottom: the newly-established Vessel Monitoring System operations centre in the Marshall Islands. Credit: Euronews

Bald eagles have returned to Toronto, suggesting the city's regreening efforts are working. 'A very special day,' as Darwin's finches are reintroduced to one of the Galapagos Islands. Mexican wolf populations in Arizona and New Mexico increase for the eighth year in a row. In Italy, efforts to build a viable population of Marsican brown bears are underway.The Wyoming toad leaps towards recovery. Nearly 12,140 kmof grassland ranches in the United States have now been certified by the Audubon Society as bird-friendly. Restoring peatland is easily the cheapest form of carbon sequestration, and Scotland has already restored over 100 km2. Canada just banned strychnine for poisoning, hailed as a major victory by animal protection and environmental groups. Hundreds of baby sea turtles were recently released by conservationists off the coast of Nicaragua.

Quite literally a green shoots story, and probably the best one you'll hear this year.

Chris Trimmer, the man who runs the secret high-security greenhouse in Devon and was responsible for grafting the Sycamore Gap tree.

7th March 2024

Europe's new nature restoration law is a big deal. By 2030 it will legally require the restoration of 20% of land and sea and overall protection of 30%, aim for 30% of EU species and habitats to reach 'a favourable conservation status,' and restore at least 25,000 kilometres of free-flowing rivers. Carbon Brief

The Saksfjed Wilderness is one of the largest and most aspirational rewilding initiatives in Denmark. Since January 2023, a foundation has been working to actively rewild the area into open grassland, with scattered vegetation, open forests, and wetlands, grazed by bovines and wild horses, and now it's been added to the European Rewilding Network.

For the last 15 years, environmentalists and the Penobscot Indian Nation have been restoring the Penobscot River in Maine. As a result, thousands of kilometres of habitat along the river and its tributaries has been re-opened, fish populations have skyrocketed, and alewives could soon be returning to Maine’s Mattamiscontis Lake. Nature Conservancy

When these fish get into the smaller streams and there are hundreds of thousands of them, you can’t miss seeing them. When I first saw them in these numbers, it was a mind-blowing, guttural emotional response.
Dan McCaw, Fisheries Biologist, Penobscot Nation
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Dan McCaw searches for salmon within the Penobscot River watershed. Through the removal of dams and other barriers, salmon are making a recovery and accessing high-quality habitat in the Penobscot River. Credit: TNC

Thailand just achieved a significant environmental milestone with the first sighting of Siamese crocodile babies in Beung Boraphet, the country's largest freshwater swamp and lake. The return of crocodiles to the area suggests that decades of conservation and restoration efforts are starting to pay off. Pattay Mail

The Australian saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) was driven to the edge of extinction in the mid-20th century, with an estimated 3,000 individuals left by the 1970s. Now, after decades of protection, they have achieved 'full recovery,' with an estimated 100,000 individual crocodiles in Australia today. Science Direct

Sarah and Mark Tompkins founded the Samara Karoo Reserve in South Africa in 1997. Since then, they have successfully restored 271 km2 of land, reintroduced the area's first cheetah, black rhino, elephant, and lion in over a century—and kicked off a campaign to create South Africa’s third largest protected area, covering 12,140 km2. Geographical

When the Florida golden aster (Chyrsopsis floridana) was listed as endangered in 1986, only nine clusters of the yellow daisy-like perennial herb could be found growing in Hillsborough County, Florida. Now, 37 years later, 30 populations have spread across five counties in West Central Florida, and it's just been taken off the endangered list by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

How's this for progressive taxation? The US Fish and Wildlife Service just announced over $1.3 billion of new conservation funding, supported by excise taxes paid in the United States last year on ammunition, firearms, archery and angling equipment, and a fuel and small engine tax. FWS

In the last decade, anti-poaching measures have been put in place in almost 100 global biodiversity sites, and poaching is now falling in 20 of them, affecting species from the desert-adapted elephants of Mali to Sumatran tigers and rhinoceros in Indonesia. In Ethiopia, 90% of illegal wildlife trade cases now end in convictions, and demand for ivory and tiger amulets in Thailand has fallen by 30%. World Bank

Bucking the global trend, Pakistan's mangrove forests saw a three-fold expansion between 1986 and 2020, from 483 km2 to 1,439 km2, according to an analysis of satellite data in 2022. Experts attribute this success to massive mangrove planting and conservation programs, as well as concerted community engagement. Mongabay

The Butterfly Redemption:

Recognizing the need for urgent action, the Oregon Zoo began a captive breeding program for the species in 2003. In 2011, the zoo helped establish the breeding program at Mission Creek as part of The Evergreen State College and Washington State’s Sustainability in Prisons Project. Since then, the work undertaken by these incarcerated women has become one of the last best hopes for the species’ survival. Hakai
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After a feeding, a captive-bred Taylor’s checkerspot takes a ride on a cotton swab. Credit: Sustainability in Prisons Project

Medellín's Green Corridors is arguably the best urban restoration project in the world right now. Since 2016, 2.5 million plants and 880,000 trees have been planted in 30 'corridors,' reducing pollution and bringing temperatures down by 2°C in a city of 2.5 million people. Other cities are following suit, including Bogotá, Barranquilla, and São Paulo, the largest city in South America. RTBC

The Biden Administration has announced $195 million in funding to spend on climate projects in US national parks. It will support more than 40 projects, from restoring coastal marsh systems in the Northeastern corner of the United States to promoting native fire management in the Pacific Northwest and developing conservation plans for bison in a dozen parks. National Parks Traveler

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault just received deposits from 23 seedbanks—with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cameroon, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria, and Zambia depositing for the first time. Reuters

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Representatives from multiple countries arriving at Svalbard's global seed vault in Longyearbyen, Norway, 25th February 2020. Credit: NTB Scanpix/Lise Aserud/Reuters

In the space of a few weeks, judges in Idaho, Nevada, and Montana just altered the landscape for conserving water in the western United States. The successful rehabilitation of Harpy Eagles in Bolivia is a ray of hope for a species that's lost vast stretches of its historical habitat. Taiwan's FDA just banned animal testing for iron supplements. The US FDA is banning forever chemicals in food packaging like fast-food wrappers, microwave popcorn bags, and takeout pizza boxes. How recycled oyster shells are restoring the Alabama coast. Ireland has launched an ambitious new national waste management plan. Efforts are now underway to restore populations of the American marten to forest areas across Pennsylvania. What if all the best jobs in 2030 were ones that regenerated the world? It's not naive. Many inspiring people are already doing it—soil doctors, river guardians, seaweed farmers, river restoration engineers, and food waste hackers, among others.

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Credit: Thomas Liera & Rob Hopkins

29th February 2024

The European Parliament has adopted a law to restore 20% of EU’s land and sea. Under the law, countries must restore at least 30% of habitats in poor condition by 2030, 60% by 2040, and 90% by 2050. Member states will also have to restore at least 25,000 km of rivers to be free-flowing rivers and ensure there is no net loss in the total national area of urban green space and of urban tree canopy cover.

The Terai Arc Landscape initiative, Nepal’s pioneering landscape-level ecosystem restoration project, has led the restoration of 668 km2 of forest and nearly tripled the population of the endangered Bengal tiger. It's just been honoured as a UN World Restoration Flagship, one of the seven best examples of ecosystem restoration around the world.

The Biden administration, governors of Oregon and Washington, and the leaders of four Columbia River Basin tribes have formally launched a $1 billion plan to help recover depleted salmon populations in what was once the world’s greatest salmon-producing river system. AP

This signing ceremony is a historic moment, not just for the tribes, but also for the US government and all Americans in the Pacific Northwest. My heart is big today.
Corinne Sams, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation
Washington Governor Jay Inslee stands with Chair Gerry Lewis of the Yakama Nation as they and others pose for a photo following a ceremonial signing ceremony in Washington on Friday, 23rd Feb. No Republicans attended the ceremony. Credit: AP/Susan Walsh

Twenty years ago, officials closed around 12,000 km2 of ocean waters off Southern California due to overfishing. Since then, nearly all species have achieved full recovery, and the area has been reopened to non-commercial fishing, with some crucial areas still conserved. 'If you leave Mother Nature alone, things can come back and can be more resilient than even we expect.' Santa Barbara Independent

In 2015, McDonald’s—one of the world’s largest and most iconic fast food chains—agreed to switch 100% of the eggs that it purchases to cage-free in the United States by 2025. The Humane Society just revealed that they reached that goal early, at the end of 2023. This is a big deal—McDonald’s purchases nearly 2 billion eggs each year for its US locations. 

French company Carbios says it has commissioned an engineering firm to construct the world’s first biological recycling plant for PET plastic in eastern France. The company’s technology is among the first to offer full circularity for PET, and it claims it will be able to extend its enzymatic approach to many different types of plastic. Recycling Today

During the United State's early colonial history, huge areas of woodland were razed for agriculture and housing, but this trend began to reverse around a century ago. Such large expanses have since been reforested in the eastern United States—enough trees sprouting back to cover an area larger than England—that it has helped stall the effect of global heating. Guardian

Source: Barnes et al., 2024/The Guardian

The EU has upgraded its laws to combat environmental crime more effectively. The new legislation enables criminal prosecution for environmentally-damaging conduct, standardizes penalties—increasing prison sentences for individuals and setting fixed fines for companies—and expands the list of environmental offences. Member states have two years to adopt it into their national laws. Greens

The EU has agreed to set stricter limits on the toxic particles and dangerous gases that dirty its air. The new rules slash the yearly limits for fine particulates known as PM2.5 from 25 µg/m³ to 10 µg/m³, and for nitrogen dioxide, a gas that hurts the lungs, from 40 µg/m³ to 20 µg/m³. 'This is a major step forward for people’s health. It is a once-in-a-generation chance to improve air quality.' Guardian

England has an ambitious new biodiversity credit scheme that will force new road and housebuilding projects to benefit nature rather than damage it. Developers will need to deliver a Biodiversity Net Gain of 10%, meaning if a woodland is destroyed by a road, another needs to be recreated either on site or elsewhere. Guardian

Flooded fields on Iford Estate farm in East Sussex, one of five farms selected as a pilot project for the biodiversity net gain scheme. Photograph: Jill Mead/The Guardian

Belgium becomes the first country in Europe to recognise ecocide as a crime. Environmentalists celebrate the surrender of the last offshore oil permits in British Columbia, a victory decades in the making. Crocodiles are thriving once again in the rivers and wetlands of Costa Rica. Fin whales return to the waters off New York and New Jersey. Earlier this month, as relentless rains pounded Los Angeles, the city’s sponge infrastructure helped gather 8.6 billion gallons of water. Hats off to the people behind Kenya's largest-ever rhino relocation. California just conserved a 27,000-acre parcel of land on its Central Coast, and the Nature Conservancy just bought an 8,000-acre tract at the confluence of the Alabama and Tombigbee Rivers. The EPA will award $4.6 billion to states and cities this year to implement local climate action plans. Say hello to green roads. Utah is about to become the biggest no-kill state in the United States. The population of common cranes, the UK’s tallest bird, is the highest since their reintroduction in 1979. For the first time in a century, the Pilliga Forest, the largest native forest west of the Great Dividing Range in Australia, is crawling with native animals.

A bridled nailtail wallaby in the Pilliga forest, where native species are thriving following the removal of feral invaders. Photograph: Wayne Lawler/AWC

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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